Next summer when you buy and eat fresh cherries, save the pits. A whole bagful of them. These pits will be around until winter so you might want to clean them to keep insects away. But please don't turn on the hot water faucet to give them a scrubbing; that uses precious fuel.
Next, make a flameproof bag. The book I'm reading, "People Heaters," (Brick House Publishing Co., $4.95) doesn't explain how one is made so you'll have to figure that out yourself. Next winter put the cherry pits in the bag and heat it up. But don't turn on the oven just for this project because that wastes fuel, too. You might try setting the bag of pits on the woodburning stove you undoubtedly will have installed. Then, at last, you will have a cheap, efficient bed warmer. Author Alexis Parks writes that the heated cherry pits act like miniature charcoal briquettes and will radiate heat for hours.
Parks' book is full of old, new and sometimes wacky ideas for warming people and their immediate surroundings instead of heating a whole house or room. Another example is an "anatomically shaped belly warmer resembling an oversize [sic] hip flask." No explanation on how that's made either, but the author's principal message is to use one's imagination.
Yes, she mentions good old-fashioned sex, too, but acknowledges that it might not be an option for everyone. That's where cherry pits, wood-burning stoves and assorted other methods come in. Some may question whether a hot tub in a solarium or a bed built atop flue pipes connected to a lamp stove are practical. Parks acknowledges that the former is for the rich, often experimenters in home technology, and the latter for do-it-yourselfers.
If the bed and heated flue pipes don't appeal to you, how about installing barrels of water in a south-facing window, covering them with a hinged window seat to which a reflective shield is attached . . . oh, never mind.
One of the most humorous sections in the book is the spoof on first-year costs of a wood-burning stove. It's funny because it has the ring of truth. The list, which first appeared in The Washington Post, includes a new four-wheel drive truck to haul logs, booze needed while chopping wood, doctor's fee for removing splinter from eye, repainting the living room because of smoke damage and a divorce settlement -- for a grand total of $36,388.
It doesn't take much imagination to apply the same kind of wit to Parks' suggestion for brewing a hot drink on the trivet set over an oil-fueled Aladdin lamp in the living room -- presumably while sitting by the wood-burning stove and wearing a cloak, bed socks and garden gloves with the finger tips cut off in case you plan to type at home.
All this is done, of course, for the purpose of turning down the thermostat. The 37-year-old Parks says she and her two children did it last winter in their 12-room home in Boulder, Colo., and she vows that much of her advice works. Admittedly, she didn't get around to saving cherry pits last summer as intended so she settled for a conventional hot water bottle this winter. But the hot water was that left over after she and her daughter brewed tea on the above-mentioned Alladin lamp at bedtime. (Her 15-year-old son toughs it out with no bed warmer.)