This is a chronicle of things of interest happening at my house. I started it January 18, 02009, and have back filled from other sources.
I will live greener today, than I did yesterday.
I am often asked if my metal roof is noisy when it rains. I don't think it is; with the windows shut, we sometimes can't tell if it is raining. I am here to say however that hail is a different story...
Caught a swarm of bees, from our own apple tree (the Baldwin, we call 'Alec') and installed them in our top bar hive. The story is here.
Finshed the bee hive, brought it out outside to have it's picture taken (for this article), cleared the vegetation, and refuse from the spot I had planned for it. It is now ready for bees. I have decided not to buy a package of bees this year. They are $100, come from Georgia, and are likely to have most of the problems endemic to commercially grown bees. I will trust to luck, that the Gold Star Honeybees swarm list pans out.
At this years Fedco Tree sale, we got 2 (different) Elderberry trees, a Black Oxford Apple, a Korean Pine (from which comes pine nuts), 2 Fortenac Grapes, 25 Sparkle Strawberries, and 5 pounds of Potatoes.
Last fire of the season. Though with the warm weather we have been having this spring we have only had a few fires since the middle of march. There is still a half a cord of wood in the basement; the first time we have had significant remaining wood.
Shine through day.
Today was our first fire of the season. The span between fires was thus April 8th to October 14th, 187 days with no mechanical comfort improvement.
Two cords are piled in the basement, which should be sufficient to keep us warm all winter. This is equivalent to about 300 gallons of #2 fuel oil. This year the fossil fuel component of that firewood is slightly elevated from normal, since we had elm which stubbornly refuses to be split by hand, so we borrowed a gas powered splitter. Turns out, it also sometimes stubbornly refuses to be split by a 27 ton hydraulic press as well. Next time, slice into thin discs with the chainsaw and be done with it.
After some research on the web, I decided to change over from petroleum based bar & chain oil to vegetable oil (used cooking oil from my brother in law) in my chainsaw. This basically cuts the fossil fuel footprint of my home heating in half. I spent the day sawing up a couple of dead elms, and the saw seemed to be fine if perhaps a trifle hot. I may need to add some additive to thicken the oil a bit. Got about 1 cord chopped, but it will take some more dino juice as elm is a bear to split.
This weekend saw another panic on the they-are-going-to-build-a-highway-through-our-living-room front. However, after much neighborly conspiring, and haranguing of public officials, it seems we are at the place where 1) The bypass is unlikely for at least 10 years (due to lack of funds), 2) There are two routes still on the table and neither of them goes directly thorough our property. One goes across the bay / river and sucks for our view, the other goes behind the hill and ruins some beautiful land up that way. 3) Our town officials are now once again behind the bridge route.
As such, I have decided that (for now) I can stop fretting about the whole thing (for which my stomach will no doubt thank me).
p.s. Sweetie just handed me a bowl of fresh picked strawberries...
Put in a mailbox. We used to have our mail delivered to a box out on the highway, where it was repeatedly hit, and uprooted by snowplows (requiring that we go to the post office to get our mail) This was needless to say not ideal for us (and not safe for either us or the mail carrier). After a number of years of negotiating with the local post office, we finally got them to agree to deliver mail down the street. Two weeks after, they we began complaining that we hadn't put in a box yet. So, I got to work. The post is the top of a telephone pole abandoned on the property, I cut a slot to hold a 2x10, a board for the box to sit on and added some rope to appear to hold it up (and actually to keep it nearby should it be hit). Mainers have a lot of trouble with their mailbox being hit (particularly by snowplows), and invent ingenious methods for reducing that; from swinging, spinning boxes, to cement pigs (with changing outfits) which become local landmarks. This is my entry into that continuing battle.
Friday we went to the annual Fedco Tree sale. We got 1 Montmorency Cherry, 1 Garnet Beauty Peach, 2 Northern Pecan Trees, 21 Annie Golden Raspberries, 3 Cascade Hops Rhizomes, and 5 pounds of Barley. The rest of the weekend was spent putting them all in the ground. Also the vegetable garden got a layer of composted cow manure, and tilled in. Some sprouting onions planted. A bush like tree removed and chopped into firewood, to make room for one of the pecans.
Lovely day. This morning it was 76°F, and that signaled that it was time for window screens. Using the lazy algorithm, I just installed the most desireable ones first. This has the advantage, to me, of leaving the southern facing windows empty in case we should need some more solar for cool days that are sure to follow.
The beech tree near the house is finally losing its leaves, another sign of spring.
One of the advantages of living near small farms is that one is close to the actual people who do the work and make the decisions. Today, that means that I was able to borrow a trailer, head off to one of these farms, and get a front-loader scoop of nicely composted cow manure (for $15). I actually got two, one for us, and one for B's mom. Large farms have a huge waste problem, but I bet you can find anyone who is willing to sell you a small amount of that waste.
So, B is moving the strawberries from their spot up near the road, down to a new garden against the south side of the house. This in keeping with the permaculture advice to keep things which need attention in 'zone 1' right near the house. The vacated space will be filled with the new Anne gold raspberries.
Asparagus is poking its head up.
This was the last day of the 02008-02009 heating season for me. The last fire was burned today.
Yesterday was the first 'no heat' day of the oncoming spring. The last fire was Saturday afternoon, yesterday was warmish (low 40s) and VERY windy. The next fire will probably be this evening, as it is 61°F and rising in the house right now (22°F outside). February is the month for solar heat gain here.
The front steps are now clean and dry for the first time in a month.
Today I made two interior storm windows for my basement. The basement is part of the conditioned space (though not currently heated). The third window has the cat access door. Read about how to build these interior storm windows. They work just as well in the main part of your house. Here is a picture showing how much warmer they were than the high-efficiency windows in the rest of the house. Hopefully that is now a thing of the past.
This morning we had ice fog. Not snow as the skies were completely clear, but ice crystals floating around, blocking the view of Wiscasset. Very cool.
Also cold this morning, -10°F, No wood in the stove from 11:00pm last night until 6:00pm this evening, inside temperature at that point 58°F.
Finished adding blown in insulation to the walls where it was missing. I have written up an article describing the experience.
Yesterday was ‘Shine Through Day’ here at Hjälmaren. That is the day when the setting sun shines in the Western windows, though the house, and out the Eastern windows. It also bounces off the Eastern windows back to the Western ones. This is a cause for celebration here, as it is so cool. Sadly, the clouds reduced the full effect, but it was inspirational nonetheless.
Also yesterday, the clock stopped. This is the wind-up clock in the bedroom which chimes the hours. It needs to be wound once a month. I often forget.
These two events brought me to thinking about rhythms, and how they affect us in our lives, and how much they are diminished in modern times. Many people go through their lives without interacting with all but the most blatant of nature’s rhythms. They have HVAC systems which automatically keep their buildings at a constant temperature with no direct effort (though much work to pay for it). They get whatever food they want, regardless of season, from worldwide distribution and heated greenhouses. And so on. For me, I enjoy the rhythms, and the feel that they are reminders of the passage of time, and exhortation to enjoy that time, as it will be gone only too soon. And to celebrate them (no excuse too small).
On Sunday, B's Mom broke her leg (tibia and fibula). She is doing well, but we are having her stay with us for a few days. The Hospital tried to send us home with a 'commode' (ick), but I told them I would just elevate the toilet and add some support bars. They looked at me as if I had a third eye. But we got home, I stuck a wooden box that was lying around the basement, under the toilet; violá.
Now about that ramp.... sigh.
It all started with finding some really cheap marble tiles at Home Despot ($1/ft^2). Three boxes would make up the entire counter around the kitchen sink. But that meant that the electrical would need to be accommodated, so needed to put that in. Which required the wire chase to hold it, and a switch for the overhead lights. Which meant that the window needed to be trimmed out.
That is all done with a lot of what I call boat building. That is, not planning the whole ahead of time, just matching one thing to the previous thing put in, and the next thing to that. For instance the trim boards can't really come down to meet the counter top or they will suck up water, so there needs to be a marble back splash; but the marble isn't as thick as the trim boards, so they need to be beveled down to meet up with the marble.
Anyway, It has gotten the sweetie seal of approval, and awaits a couple of coats of linseed oil, and some thought as to shelves.
Today, saw the last of the wood into the basement. Stacked and everything. This is about average according to my records. The bulkhead is now as sealed as it can get (not very); and the insulation is mostly installed around it. Winter can come now. I'm ready.
After three days of little sun, today we felt the need for the first fire of the year. Tomorrow hopefully will see the remaining 1/2 cord of wood split, lugged and stacked in the basement (earliest for such an occurence).
Today I realized that neither of my usual fall indicators has happened yet. We haven't had a frost (nor does one appear in the 5-day forecast), and we have yet to light the first fire (i.e. there has been NO supplemental heat in the house). However, winter is coming, and I expect to be in Boston all of next week. So today, I started getting the wood stacked in the basement. This fortunately did not aggravate my shoulder which has been wonky all week. Perhaps the exercise is good for it.
Leaves are starting to turn; looks to be a good year.
This morning at around 2:00 I was awakened by the sound of slamming doors. There was a wind storm going on and it was blowing my knobless doors all around. Checking this morning there was a spike of 6 degrees at the time (up 6 degrees (or more) and back down over two hours). Weird.
After a month away, it felt really good to get home today. In particular I was surprised at how nice the house looked. Not that it was neat, or felt like home, but rather that it was nicer in space and appearance than I remembered it. Weird feeling, but nice.
Got a tour of the gardens which look to be doing well in my absence. We have peas, and lettuce; daffodils, muscari, and jonquils; strawberry, and cranberry plants; the cherry and apple trees are blooming.
Saturday was shine through day. That is the day that the sunset shines directly through our house. This year it was clear and the result was quite cool.
B and her mom have been baking cookies all afternoon. The sun has been shining. The fire from last night is cold. The temperature inside has gone from 65º to 68º when the outside thermometer stopped at 37º. And those cookies have another chance to keep the house warm when I eat them...
Life is good.
It is 65º inside; 55º outside, and foggy. The North, West, and East windows are fogged up on the outside! Them is windows.
on returning home, my eldest nephew felt in need of exercise, so we zipped through gathering, splitting, moving, stacking, a half cord of firewood (in about 2 hours!). That makes 2 cords in the basement, enough for winter heat. Yippee. Tomorrow I will probably bring in the outdoor furniture and seal up the bulkhead. This is a good two weeks before I have ever gotten to this point. Sealing the bulkhead, fixes the last major bad heat leak; a good thing since the house was 54º when we got back.
Today, two of my nephews and I finished cutting, splitting, and stacking in the basement, the first of two cords of wood. This represents half a winter's worth of heat for the house. Despite feeling tired, tired, tired; it is also a great feeling of accomplishment.
The second one will be harder. sigh.
After what seems weeks of nothing but rain, woke this morning to blue sky. It was warm enough by the time we got up and going, that we could open the windows and get the house warmed up (it was definitely getting chilly, with almost no heat and no sun).
We cultivated the vegi and strawberry gardens, planted two dozen tomato plants, 8 cucumbers, 6 czech black hot peppers, and more amaranth. Cleared some more japanese arrowroot. Then we went to the local ice cream parlor and split a sundae to celebrate B's new job (yay!). Stopped by and played stick ball with my niece and nephews; and planted flowers with my sister and sister-in-law.
When we got home the neighbor offered to mow our lawn (or some of it anyway), thanks dude. After dinner, we went down and watched the sunset over the water. And it started raining... but only a little, and it gave us a nice rainbow.
Went out this afternoon to trim some of the apple trees. Cleared out some dead sumac out of the secret garden (oops, well formerly secret garden :-). Moved decaying tree trunks into places that need dirt (so they will compost). Then B and I went down to the shore and watch seagulls; ducks; and a seal catching fish, followed by a beautiful sunset.
It got down to -13ºF here last night. It was 71º in the house when we put a last couple of logs on the fire and went to bed. This morning 12 hours later, the house is 61º. So, for an 80º differential, the house lost 10º of warmth (with just the heat in the woodstove). That is so cool; I love my house.
I don't normally make resolutions, so this isn't one either, but this year I am endeavoring to finally install a solar water system. I have wanted one since before my house, Hjälmaren was built, and the plans have gone through many incarnations. The current plan is to build a large waterproof tank (several hundred gallons) in the basement. This would NOT be pressurized. The plan is to have a coil of copper pipe connected to several hot water solar panels on the roof. Then separate copper coils to bring the heat to the radiant heat piping in the basement, to the tankless water heater, and possibly to the hot tub outside (this may actually be a requirement in order to deal with all that heat in the summer).
Prerequisites include teaching myself enough applied thermodynamics to be able to compute things like: For a shower at 2.5 gallons per minute, and a tank temperature of 140ºF, an incoming temperature of 50ºF, how much 1/2 inch copper tubing would I need?
Frame Raising. Read about it here