Personal entry follows.
First off, two significant, unfortunate events occurred this week, both on 1st December. The first was that my tent collapsed under the weight of snow. We had over 12 inches over two days, and although I had been checking to brush the snow off it about once a day, there was a point where I hadn't checked it in 24 hours. The metal pole was bent directly at the joint between the two halves of the pole, and the weight of the snow had shredded the tent at the connection point of the tent stove's chimney and the rain fly. I also assume the canvas tent portion around the chimney was also damaged, though I didn't have as good a look at it. So I dug a lot of the tent out of the snow, and I'll have to deal with it more later this week. I've since re-ordered a replacement tent pole, though there's really no telling when it will arrive (it's coming from - of all places - Belgium).
The second unfortunate thing that happened was a bit later that same afternoon. I suppose I was a bit lost in thought regarding the situation with the tent, and while holding an angle grinder I nicked the tip of my left index finger, dropping the tool and spraying both sparks and blood over the shop floor. My finger bled a lot while I was in the shop, but eventually I contained it. It's ugly and it will take a while to heal. I don't think it needs stitches, as it doesn't re-open whenever I change the dressing. At this point it doesn't appear to be infected. Touching the tip of my finger to anything shoots lances of pain through my hand, which is kind of a bummer. It currently takes a bit of extra time to type anything (including this entry!), as I avoid using my index finger and type with my middle finger in its place, instead.
Meanwhile, I had an enlightening discussion with the eco-institute's manager this morning over breakfast. To sum it up, there's a construction project that has a water pipe coursing through the center of it, and the designer of the building advised we take a load of surplus clothing from our "free shelf" and pile it over top the pipe, insulating it from the blistering-cold temperatures.
I mentioned this option to the manager, and while he agreed that it was a reasonable approach to the issue, it wasn't the best use of the extra clothing. Instead, he suggested a more "biophilic solution" to the dilemma: something that makes use of natural processes, materials, or aesthetics to address the issue. Eventually, we settled on sawdust as an insulator. So long as it stays dry, the sawdust will do the job. There's plenty of it around here, so the materials are abundant. The main upshot is that also the clothing on the free shelf won't be consumed by keeping it in the dirt during the rest of the cold season.
It's a much better way to insulate things, in my opinion, and I agreed that's the way we ought to go. But the discussion assisted me in understanding more of the "bigger picture" round here. I think it would be worth spending just a bit more time reflecting on possible solutions, and emphasizing natural processes with nearly every option, while still factoring in time spent, resources spent, and so on.
The conversation was one of the first events of the day, but I was preoccupied with it through the rest, including now. I think it was a worthwhile moment of learning, and I'm better for it - so long as I remember to keep natural solutions top-of-mind.