Bob & Ellen's Excellent Adventure

Black Sheep Tower House

Measuring Up

January 24, 2021 While we were enjoying the comforts of a fully furnished home in Maryland, with all the mod-cons, John Tuttle was measuring the unheated, unfinished NH house to create the “as-built” plans. Brrrr. There were architectural house plans created for rebuilding the house after the fire in 2004, but they did not match what is actually there today, as many revisions and flat-out complete changes had occurred. The tower notable among them! We have learned that there were many iterations of its design along the way, some approved by the building inspector, some not…. but what is currently there IS approved. Thank goodness!

John estimated that by mid-February we would be ready to discuss our ideas and changes to the plans. Until then, we would stay in Maryland and hope that all stayed well with 34 Sheep Road. Apparently, during the previous two winters, the house had been broken into, and some items stolen (primarily tools). We were also concerned about heating the spaces sufficiently to keep the pipes from freezing and keeping it in good shape for our return. Being the first winter of our ownership, and only having anecdotes to go on from the previous owners and Dave the ‘caretaker’, it was hard to guess at what temps would be appropriate. We ended up keeping all the garage/basement spaces at 40 degrees and the apartment at 50, and as it turned out, that worked out quite well. You might ask, how much space are we talking about?? The main garage and the middle garage plus entry way, etc. comprise about 2600 sf., plus the basement area (where some of the water lines are) is another almost 2,000 sf, and the apartment is 1,400 sf, so we are talking about a good chunk of real estate! The main house upstairs is unheated. (To see basic house plans, go to the search bar, to search for the blog post House Plans)

The middle garage has radiant heat in the concrete floor, the main garage has electric baseboard (half of which are fused), the main house basement has a “jury-rigged” oil-fired hot water air-handler, and the apartment has oil-fired hot water Runtal baseboard heaters. Quite a mix, but now that we have it mostly figured it out, the garage electric heat is not a player at all. In fact, our January electric bill was only $70. There is an impressive oil furnace, which we had serviced and seems in very good shape – from July 2020 to January 2021 we used approx. 400 gallons, for hot water, and for heating the apartment and the base heat in the garage/basement areas from October onwards. All considered, that seemed reasonable. (What were we thinking? Don’t most people DOWN-size??)

January and February in NH are pretty cold. We were not completely confident in leaving the house for 6 weeks at the mercy of the elements and the Electric Company, because without electricity the furnace cannot run… there will be no heat, the water pipes could freeze, even though they are PEX which are supposed to expand when subject to freezing temps, and so on, and so on, and we could really have bad dreams about winter storms and all that! Many NH and New England folk have lake cabins that they winterize (turn the heat low enough to prevent freezing but yet not break the bank), but for us this was uncharted territory. Than, our neighbor, suggested a temperature sensing alarm light for the window that would alert passersby to potential freezing situations. Here’s the one I ordered in action, (tested on Than’s deck) which provided peace of mind. He also ran the trap line for us, still catching mice, god knows how they get in!! (We have great neighbors!)


  1. Michelle

    Wait, what happened to all the dirt and debris that used to be in that photo?

  2. Comment by post author

    Dang, you caught me out. I used a photo from the future instead of searching through my thousands of photos for one from the past! In the interests of verity, I will look for and replace it with a timely version. ūüôā

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