My first night in my house did not pass without incident, I’m sorry to say. Bruce (Alias Captain Nemo, for the maze of copper plumbing and wires in the control room reminiscent of the engine room on a nuclear submarine) worked valiantly until about ten that night, having accomplished a great deal: he filled the solar panels with glycol, put in another pretzel or two into the copper maze, hooked up the computer and mixer which regulate how much boiler water and how much panel water get circulated, wired in a temperature sensor on the north side of the garage, set the toilet, re-plumbed the tub drain (which his assistant had plumbed to the vent by mistake), and, most importantly, made sure that the pesky boiler was doing its job. I appreciated his staying so late, but it was already an hour past my bed time, and I knew it would take me an hour or two more to just settle down before I could go to sleep. Which it did, and I spent almost the entire time wandering around looking for stuff. I’d be on the prowl for the remote for the stereo, when I’d be waylaid by a box containing a soap dish for which I had been looking earlier, and on my way to the bathroom to deposit it by the sink….you get the idea. I did, at last, slumber, and quite well at that.
My new house is blissfully quiet and snug: I’d never know if there was a tornado outside, and without any yard lights in the neighborhood its dark as…well, night. I slept like lamb. Until three; that’s when I woke up to pee, happy for the dim green light from the mandatory, hard-wired smoke detectors lighting my way around the corner, and into the strange new bathroom. Allie padded behind me the thirteen steps there, sure that this was yet another attempt to leave her behind.
Allie has been glued to my side these past few weeks as I steadily divested the old house of objects and installed them in the new. She’s never been fond of the new house, as it was often filled with the sounds of thrumming motors, and strewn with odd-smelling chemicals and workers who showed not even the smallest intention of feeding her. And then the old house was being changed despite the fact that she liked it just fine exactly the way it was, thank you, and her human was demonstrably troubled, shedding stress hormones like a bison sheds fur in spring. Some days, if we drove to the house with a load of crap – er, make that precious possessions – in the back she wouldn’t even get out of the truck. It could have been an act of protest against the house, the change or the grouchiness of her human, or just an expression of intuition that when danger lurks, its best to stay put, preferably in a small, controllable space. More power to her.
So I was staying put, in my small, snug house, probably snoring away until the call of nature trumpeted. Climbing back into bed, I noticed how cool the pillow felt against my cheek. I closed my eyes and snuggled under the covers. Then it occurred to me that when a pillow is cool to the cheek, the room is cool. Noticing a cool room when you live in a house heated by firewood always prompts a little question and answer period in your head, as you lie there awaiting the return trip to the Land of Nod. Is it supposed to be sub-zero tonight? Should I get back up and throw a log on the fire in case it gets really cold? No. What time is it? Maybe I should throw another log on anyway. In this case the conversation quickly zeroed in on the famously persnickety boiler, and even though there was nothing I could do about it, I just kept wondering. Is it really cool in the room? Does it just seem cool? It was 60 before going to bed. It seems cooler than that. Doesn’t it? It’s a good thing I live alone, because if any of that jabbering escaped my head it could drive a person over the edge.
Of course I got up and looked at the thermometer: 54. No matter how cold it is out, there’s no way that it would get colder in here while the slab was heating up. A trip to Captain Nemo’s lair reaffirmed my suspicion: the boiler wasn’t. Boiling. The output temperature which had been 30 degrees Celsius was now 21. I checked the breakers. Yep, sure enough, I have breakers. None broke, though (which begs the question: why do we say that breakers ‘flip’ rather than ‘break’? Someone research this and report back to me.) On the boiler there was one green light, and I remembered the Captain saying that the red, yellow and green lights should all be on, but this did not further my troubleshooting efforts at all. Its like when your check engine light comes on; you check, and by golly, there it is. One engine. Check. Now what? One thing’s for certain – no going back to bed now. So I made coffee, picked up my book and sat for a while not reading. Finally I got the bright idea that I should take my very first really hot bath right there in my beautiful new cast-iron tub from Babb. Splendid idea. Unfortunately it was an idea which failed to reach escape velocity. When I got in the water it felt warm, but not that warm. Like the room, it was suspiciously under-heated. For some reason the tank that supplies domestic hot water was also failing to reach its potential. It has the capability of supplying hot water regardless of the pre-heating by the solar system and the boiler, but it was choosing instead to supply tepid water. You know, come to think of it, “tepid” is about all anything in this project seems to aspire to anymore. Sigh.