The Red House has a scary basement, trust me. While we turn the water off when we’re not in residence and make sure the heat is really low (50 degrees), we still have to go down to the basement each and every time we are there to turn everything on or off again. Inevitably, we also arrive late at night which makes the whole process even scarier. I’m always afraid we’re going to find a dead rodent or something else (raccoon, chipmunk, rabbit) that’s gotten in from outside waiting to pounce on us when we open the basement door… Luckily, it’s just the usual spider webs that greet us.. but still.
When we bought the house, we weren’t sure of the condition of the furnace. That’s the deal with foreclosures; you may be paying close to nothing for a dwelling but once inside, you may find that in fact you just bought the structure and the property – there may be no heat or running water. We were lucky in that we are on a town water and sewer line and the water was just fine. (Exceptional really!) This is also the first house we’ve lived in that had a hot water heater so there would always be an ample supply of hot water to shower in. Heating this house however was a whole other issue.
First of all, the house is not very well insulated coupled with the fact that most of the windows are broken. The house has two separate thermostats and when we walked in the house Friday night, we immediately turned the thermostats up to 70 degrees then went downstairs to turn on the water. Problem is while there are many radiators in the house, and large ones too boot, it takes a long time for those radiators to warm up. And even when they do warm up, they never get really hot, just mildly warm.
That’s why whenever I know we are going up to the Red House on a Friday night and will be arriving late, I try to have a hot soup on hand as a first course that we can heat up.
I’ve also become dependent on my local Stewart’s since I’m a bit lazy in the morning preferring to have breakfast “fixings” on hand rather than have to first go out and get them in the morning. I had heard over the summer that Stewart’s closes around 10 or 10:30 in the winter months but luckily when we drove up Friday night shortly after 10 p.m., it was in fact open until 11:30 every night. Whew! I stocked up on butter, rye bread (in name only, it wasn’t really rye bread it was just a shade darker than the white bread), orange juice, milk and eggs.
After turning the heat and water on and unpacking the car, I warmed up the soup, cut up some leftover French bread to grill and thought about how to warm up the pork tenderloin I had cooked the night before. I decided to cut the tenderloin into thick slices then put it in a large wok-like pan with some olive oil and a little white wine. As it started to warm up, I also threw in the carrots and onions I had roasted and put some fresh cilantro on top of that. Lid on the pan, we were able to have a vodka aperitif as it was warming.
Biggest problem of the evening? The bottle of red wine we opened was nearly too cold to drink. I tried cupping the glass in my hands to warm it up but it didn’t help any. We drank the cold wine anyway, ate quickly, washed the dishes and were thankful we had big heavy quilts to crawl under in the bedrooms upstairs.
Next morning was no different, the living room was pretty cold and when I put my hand up to the window, cold air was rushing in. Perhaps that’s why the previous owners had put a strip of duct tape where the window meets the sill?
While I do miss not having a kitchen, I’ve decided that my first priority for the Red House is new windows followed by an energy efficient furnace. Look at this thing, it’s really scary. It also makes a lot of noise and literally causes the dining room table to vibrate since it’s directly below where we eat.
I do have lots of ideas though about transforming a scary basement into a usable one. The basement has an old stone foundation that curves just so. It will be a great place to store wine; wine that hopefully one day will always be at the proper temperature.