It's 4 AM and the camper is freezing. Tara and I are cuddled together under our down comforter, a minuscule bundle of tenuous warmth atop a freezing hill, flanked on either side by the frigid Green and Taconic Mountains. Our camper furnace is running, but it's blasting a subzero wind directly into our bedroom. Tara whimpers quietly as I groggily extract myself from the safety of our bed, trying not to compromise the pocket of warm air we've created.
Stumbling to the camper door, I slip on a pair of shoes, grab a flashlight, and glance at our interior thermometer. It reads 18° F. Outside, the clarity of the night sky is striking—there isn't a speck of light pollution for miles in any direction. Smiling at how lucky I feel to call this place home, I crunch over a thin layer of snow to the pair of 20lb propane tanks mounted near the hitch of our camper.
After our last fill-up, I only re-connected one of them. I wanted to know how long a single tank would last during a cold snap. Now that the verdict is in, and the first tank has successfully been emptied, I realize that I have no basis of reference upon which to glean anything from the information. All I really know is that approximately four gallons of propane will fuel a 10,000 BTU furnace for two days in single digit temperatures, heating a very poorly insulated 16-foot camper to roughly 60° F. Is that good? Is that bad? I have no idea.
Shivering, I open the valve on our second tank, listening intently for a quiet hiss. My flashlight is superfluous for the task at hand; the moon provides more than enough light for this procedure. With a telltale ssssshhh, the propane begins to flow. Now chilled to the bone, I pad my way back to the camper. Inside, as I pry off my freezing boots and drop them to the floor, I take note of our thermometer once more. It now reads 14° F.
It's only a few steps to our bed. Seconds later, my freezing hands are wrapped around Tara and the furnace is blowing hot air again. Laying down, now wide awake after completing my chilly chore, I think about how Tara and I came to this land with a desire to learn about being self-sufficient. Ironically, I've never felt more dependent on fossil fuels in my entire life.