Set Up

With the bitter cold coming in, we’ve made a couple of changes to the set up in the sun room, for the outside cats.

I got a call from my mom on Sunday, asking if I could come out and drive her around. Normally, she would just head out with her walker to run errands, and have things like her groceries delivered later. Sunday had storm warnings, and church was cancelled, as it was too dangerous for the priest to drive in from another down. Though we had blowing snow, we didn’t get any actual storms in our area. Yesterday (Monday) was bright and sunshiny. Cold, but not that much of a problem. I was able to drive my mom around – she got two months of her prescription refills rather than one month, so she wouldn’t have to come back again any time soon! – and got her stocked up on more groceries than she usually gets at once.

I’m glad we were able to do that yesterday, because temperatures plummeted overnight. We were planning to go to the city for our monthly shop, but at the last minute, we decided to stay home. We have only one vehicle that we rely on, and I just didn’t want to risk it. I will forever had, in the back of my mind, something that happened to us many years ago. We had rented a car to drive from Victoria, BC, and surprise our family for a Christmas visit. We stayed the night in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, when a storm blew in. The next morning, we continued the drive, only for the engine to start making alarming noises. We pulled over and turned it off, and it never started again.

Long story short, it turned out the engine block cracked in the cold. We later found out that the wind chill had brought temperatures down to -61C while we slept. The rental car we had did not have a block heater (we asked, but not a single rental company had any cars with block heaters. Some didn’t even know what that was). Several years after this happened, we went to rent a car from the same place for another road trip to visit family. As we chatted with the receptionist, what happened to us came out. Turns out, it had become almost legend by then. Lack of a block heater ultimately cost the owner $5000 – and that was more than 25 years ago! After that, he replaced the entire fleet of rental cars, and block heaters were standard on all of them.

So, even though our van is inside a garage and plugged in, I felt I just could not risk the drive in this cold. In fact, I didn’t even want to risk a local drive. We are just staying home. The monthly shop might get done tomorrow, but right now it looks like tomorrow will be just as cold as today. The cold streak is expected to break on Thursday, so we might have to wait until then.

I had been talking to one of my brothers about our snow blower problems (looks like I am probably right about it being the switch; it should be an easy fix – once it’s warm enough for me to work on it!) and mentioned our plans to go to the city. When plans changed, I emailed him to let him know we wouldn’t be making the trip, so he wouldn’t worry. They live much closer to the city, where they work, and he told me it was a good call not to come in. Even with their much shorter drive, he told me he could hear the cold affecting his own vehicle while driving in.

With the cold, we couldn’t help but be concerned about the cats. So a few changes were made with their set up in the sun room.


You can see both of them in the picture.

My husband set up an electric heating pad on the concrete.

It took them a while, but Big Jim has claimed it!

There is no point putting an actual heater in there, with the doors propped open. We didn’t want to put anything in there, due to the fire risk of having something unattended running in the room, too. The heat pad shuts itself off after 2 hours, so that helps with that concern.

The sun room doesn’t have any outlets. There is a power bar in the Old Kitchen. When we first moved here, there was a household extension cord running through the window, over the door frame, and down where my dad used to sit and enjoy the room, with a clock and a radio plugged in beside him. We’ve left the cord, though it wasn’t plugged in anymore.

To get power for the weed trimmer and the little electric chain saw, however, I needed a 3 prong cord, so I set up one of our outdoor extension cords for that. This is what we’ve been using for the water bowl heater we rigged up.

To set up the heating pad, my husband was going to use the household extension cord, but it wasn’t working, because it is so cold! The water was frozen, even with the heat from below, so he unplugged that and set up the heating pad. Then one of the girls went out and gave the cats fresh warm water.

The heat pad was put directly on the concrete; my thought it, it will warm up the concrete below, which will stay warm a little while longer, even after the heating pad shut itself off. The cats wouldn’t go near it for a while, but I found Jim sniffing at it and batting at it, when I first looked out the bathroom window. The next time I looked, he was sitting on it!

So that’s the most recent change we’ve made in there.

The other, you can see in the picture, above Jim’s head.

The cat cave we made is just an old box covered with a blanket. The cats like to sit ON the box, however, at after a while, one side was just collapsing. That meant having to put the blanket back, over and over, too, because it was sliding off, with them!

So I did something I had thought of before, but rejected.

I borrowed some of my daughter’s gridwall. You can just see the end of it, under the blanket in the photo.

The grid wall is 2ft x 6ft. The reason I didn’t use it before was because it was just too long. What I ended up doing was putting the box from our weed trimmer between the far end and the glass of the window, to remove any risk of it being pushed into the glass, since it’s on a rocking bench at that end. Even with the gridwall extending past the back of the bench at that end, though, there is a lot of overhand at the other end, where it’s supported by the back of my dad’s old bath transfer bench. There is some concern that, if the cats sit on it, their weight will cause it to tip. The one thing that makes me think that shouldn’t happen is that this is actually 2 pieces of gridwall. They are linked together, and I didn’t want to get a screwdriver to take off the joining pieces. Especially since I know that we’d lose track of the little pieces in no time. 😉 So the weight of a cat or two at the end should NOT be heavy enough to tip the weight of 2 pieces of gridwall.

This meant the gridwall formed a roof over the water. Interestingly, when I came out the next morning to change the water, it wasn’t frozen over as it had been the past few days. There would not have been much heat trapped under that overhang, but it was just enough to keep the water liquid; there was just a ring of ice around the edge.

Not that it mattered, today!

We shall see how this works out with the heating pad.

In fact, I think it’s time for me to go check on it again, and see if it needs to be turned back on.

In these temperatures, every little bit of warmth will help.

All of this is stuff we are learning that will be a help when we make decisions in the future about getting chickens or goats or whatever. Any shelter we have for them has to be able to keep them safe in weather like this!

The Re-Farmer

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