Archive for the ‘Home improvement’ Category

Light Pollution

July 1, 2009

The noise post from a while back got me to thinking about how thecity_at_night_1024 light each of us makes impacts others.   As you can infer from my blog’s tagline, “Suburban survival for the stupid“, I live in the suburbs, so there is a lot of light around here.   To see the Milky Way I need to get into the woods, beach or up to the great north.

If your neighbor has a big motion activated metal halide, that’s going to impact your space.  Your neighbor’s light will prevent you from seeing the night sky like you otherwise could if he didn’t have the gulag light blaring down on you.  Light can even make someone lose sleep.

At night light travels for a real far distance.   So a little light can have a great impact.  If you have a floodlight outside try to have some respect for your neighbors and how your floodlight can impact them.  If you are driving towards people walking at night dim your lights.

When you leave a room shut off the lights.  Shut off any unnecessary lights anytime you can.

Light_pollution_It's_not_prettyThis picture above is the night sky looking at Orion from dark skies and from the Orem/Provo, Utah area. (Courtesy of Light Pollution, Wikipedia.)  You can see how much light interferes with the environment.

Shutting off unnecessary lights also saves energy.  Which saves $.  You look at a picture of a city at night and you know that most of the offices with lights still burning in them are now empty.  The worker bees having left the hive hours ago.

As civilization and urbanization continue to spread the problem has definitely and will continue to get worse.  I wonder if the day may come when our kids’, kids’, kids may not even be able to see the stars at night.  20040921144929!Usa_night

This is a picture of the continental United States at night.  You can see the cities and highways all lit up.  And just because you don’t see your neck of the woods lit up, doesn’t mean that light pollution is not a problem around you. I can’t help but wonder how much of the light is necessary and being used right at the moment this picture was taken.  How much light is the on at dusk off at dawn variety.

city-lights-building-nightThis picture is just over the top.  Chances are fossils fuels were burned to light up this city like that.  And you can be sure that you can’t see s single star at night.

Okay, that was all the neighborly stuff, now for the Suburban Survival stuff.  The other thing about light is that, like water, it will find small opening to seep through.  Light travels out of windows and cracks under doors.  At night people going by your house will be able to see light leaking through small openings.   Light also lets others look into your house and if you look out you won’t be able to see them in the darkness.     Be careful of making yourself a silhouette.  Don’t make yourself a silhouette.  In other words be aware when there is a light behind you.  If the lights ever go out for a long period you best be careful to seal up all the cracks and hang thick blankets over the windows.  Through a towel under the door.  Being the only one in town with lights burning could turn out to be a dangerous thing.  Nothing wrong with having some extra stuff on hand to reduce the amount of light you emit: plywood for windows, duct tape, tarps, maybe some black paint, caulking.  Don’t forget over flat treeless terrain a lighted house can be seen for a very far distanceAnd to someone hungry, cold or hurt light means the end to all of their suffering.   You can also use it to your advantage because light will draw people like moths to a flame.

This last picture was taken during and after a large east coast power outage.  You can see how much of the house w lightnight sky is visible when the power is off, and how much is hidden whan the floodlights and house lights come back on.   If someone were standing in front of the window in that house, you’d be able to see them standing there plain as day.

GET OUTSIDE EVERYDAY!!

P1010001This bunny was even too small to eat.  Then again maybe I just wasn’t hungry enough.  I bet I got within ten feet of him.  What works for me is to not look at an animal as I’m approaching it.  Also, just like when fighting never approach straight direct, move at angles.

Termites Part Dos

June 12, 2009

Got termites?  I hate those little evahl white bastards.  Well what was supposed to be a simple tile change out, you know rip out the old and cement in the new, turned into a major rehab.

P1010050It may be tough to see without clicking on the picture, but in the lower right hand corner you see that stud closest to the right?  No not me that wooden piece of crap hanging from the ceiling.   All the way to the right.  It’s gone.   Imagine our surprise when we ripped out that old vinyl bath liner.   We started at 8AM Sunday and the plan was to rip out everything and rebuild what we needed to all before quitting time that day.  Well the bathroom wall spilled into the drywall in the living room, then the living room floor.  We stopped at 8PM and we were still only 90% done with the demo and didn’t even start reframing.

p1010052You see kind of in the middle of the picture by that single blue tile, so you see all of that chewed up wood that those little evahl white bastards made?  Those studs were like dry newspaper.  You could literally put your finger through the studs.  I’m also happy to get that black mould out of the house.  That can’t be good for you.

So we obviously had to keep ripping out in every direction until we found no more little evahl white bastards.   So now we had the exterminator guy out – cha ching.   Another trip to Big Sucky Orange Store – cha ching.  The plumber – cha ching.  Big Sucky Orange Store – Cha Ching.    Debris disposal – cha ching.  All the tradespeople I know hate the fixtures and supplies that Big Orange Sucky sells.

If you haven’t done the Gee-See thing, general contractor thing that is, then you don’t know how tough it is to coordinate things.   People show up before materials or with the wrong tools.  Surprises come up. E can’t be done until A, B, C and D are finished.

So if you think you have termites, don’t mess around call in a professional.  The little evahl white bastards can wreck your house.

trmvsantWe didn’t get any swarms.  They also say that you can see termites mud tunnels outside of your house.  Termites don’t come for wood; they come for wo0d and water.  So if you have a water leak, or suspect a leak, fix it before the wood frame gets wet and becomes a target for termites.  Make sure there are no wood products like firewood or wood mulch right up against your house.

The exterminator is going to use termite baits dug into the ground.  There are wooden disks made from wood pulp and a insect growth regulator that keeps the little evahl white bastards from reproducing.  The bug killer will also use spray in some areas and drill some holes through the bathroom floor and inject poisons down there too.  The liquid insecticide they use he said was the same as is in Frontline that some folks put on their dogs and cats.  He said the Frontline was at least ten times stronger than what he uses.

The positive thing is that now I’ll have a nice new bathroom.  Plus I was able to take out all of the old fiberglass insulation and replace it with nice new fluffy thick insulation and also get rid of all that black mould.

So this used to be the wall between the bathroom and the living room.

p1010059So it all had to go.  Also had to rip up a wood laminate floor – Pergo by Manning.  Pergo sucks.  Pergo sucks. Pergo sucks.  Don’t buy Pergo.

Then you got the wall all framed out.  Is it me or has l umber gotten real expensive?

P1010064

Which reminds me, going to the bathroom outside sucks.  Plastic bags and buckets suck.  Not having a hot shower sucks.  Think about how your preps are in the bathroom, bucket and shower department.  Maybe you need to plan for these critical areas.  A dirty ass doesn’t only stink; it’s also unhealthy.

Get Outside Everday!!!

P1010042If you had your own field guides you would know that the multitudes of green berries on this plan don’t make it a greenberry plant.  You would know that this is a blueberry with gobs of immature blueberries.  Go ahead and click on the picture to expand it.  Quite a few berries, huh?  Once they ripen and turn blue you can pick them and dry them in the summer sun.   Should be next month when they start to get pickable.  I used to make wild mountain blueberry wine.  It was a deliciously sweet syrupy concoction.  Then you got ya blueberry pancakes, fritters, waffles, crepes, cookies, muffins with duck breast or pork or in a salad.

Assembly Required

June 5, 2009

This blog has to do with suburban survival so I sometimes deal with boring things, like BEING ABLE TO READ AND FOLLOW DIRECTIONS.

Have you ever put a gas grill together?  I bought a relatively cheap gas grill that cost under $100.   The last time I put a grill together I screwed up one of the left legs and one of the right legs and ended up having to take almost the whole thing apart before I put it back together with left and right legs in the appropriate places.   I wasn’t going to let them happen again.

memorial day 0919Here I have everything laid out on the picnic table.  The label on the box said it would take 35-45 minutes to put the grill together.  It took me 20 minutes to unpack and organize everything.

The other thing that helps me when I do some assembly project is to turn the thing the same way as the drawing in the direction.  It makes it easier to make sure that I am putting left where left is and right where right is and front to front and back to back.  Got that?

I also find it helps to  slow down and move deliberately.   The old adage measure twice cut once, holds true.  Read the instructions slowly and carefully.   Then read them again.  You almost want to cross things off as you do them to make sure that you don’t miss anything.

memorial day 0927The fasteners were well organized.  I took a break to go to Home Depot for something else.  Altogether I would say it probably took me between three and four hours from beginning to end.  And you’ll be happy to know that it works fine.

So remember –

1.) Before you start to assemble something new make sure that you take everything out of the packaging, organize the parts and familiarize yourself with them.

2.) As you assemble the thing orient it so that it is turned the same way as the drawing/pictures in the assembly instructions.

3.) Slow down and move deliberately.

4.) Read the instructions slowly and carefully

Get Outside everyday!

You have to know what this is –

memorial day 098

You may notice that it’s starting to look a little dark out in the picture.  Please don’t be afraid to go out walking in the woods at night.  The woods are another world at night.

I don’t do the religion thing.  I don’t care what you do or whether you do anything at all.  But this dandelion flower to me is like Proof of God.  I don’t even like the word “God” because it is too limiting.  But looking at this perfectly symmetrical flower you just know that there has to be a Major Force at play.    It’s like a perfect geodesic dome.  Then you think that it is a way for the plant to propagate.  And in order to do all that it had to look nice enough to attract bees and other buzzies to pollinate it.  Amazing.  There is your Proof.

And since we are on the subject of dandelions you do know that the dandelion is mighty yummy.    The flowers make a brightly colored dandelion wine.  Imagine cracking a bottle of dandelion wine during a cold January day.   I like the young leaves added to salad.  People say dandelion leaves can be bitter, but they’re not as bitter as arugula.  If they’re too bitter for you just boil them a bit.  Some folks dip the flowers in batter and fritter them up.  Root tea has a ton of medicinal uses, but you would know that if you read my entry on field guides and had your own field guides.  And I’ve read that you can roast the root till brown, grind it and use it as a coffee substitute.

Unemployment

February 19, 2009

Okay, let’s say the Boss came into your office or asks you to come into hers and she says, ‘Well, times have been real bad.  We’ve all had to make cutbacks.’   BTW if the Boss ever shows up with someone from Human Resources don’t even wait for them to speak.  Just start packing up.

What do you do next?

I’ve been laid off a number of times.  I hate to say you get used to it.  You don’t.  It’s never easy, but there is something to be said for not being too vested in your job.   There’s also something to be said to burning bridges sometimes.  I mean who would want the bastard to have a way to get over to you.  Some bridges are best burned.  That’s just me though.  And I know it’s bad advice.

I can really feel for people, getting laid off is as shocking to a family as a death or divorce.   If you’ve been working the same job for 15, 20 or 30 years what else do you know.  You’d be like a prisoner who spent his entire adult life in prison and then upon his release steals a pack of gum to get sent back.  If you’ve been somewhere for 15+ years what else do you know?  Then if you have kids and get laid off…

Well what do you do now that you’re driving home and wondering how to tell your husband, wife, parents, girlfriend, boyfriend or roommates? Well in no particular order: collect unemployment, stay positive, assess the situation, network, budget/debt management, look for jobsdevelop a cash business, keep a schedule and exercise.

1. Collect unemployment – first things first.  Get in touch with your state’s department of employment assistance or transitional assistance or whatever government name they have for it and open a file.  if you can do it on-line then do it on-line.  If you need to do it by phone then make sure that your portable phone is fully charged before you call.  Use a speakerphone so that you can do other stuff while you wait on hold for an hour.  If they call, return their phone calls.   If you need to fill out a form or take a class then do it as fast as possible.  Keep track of who you speak with and what was said. You have time now.  If you need to keep a log of your job search then do it.   You’ll need to update your claim every week.  Make sure that you do it.  Otherwise your claim will be closed and you’ll have to start from scratch again.   Don’t ever lie to the unemployment people.  It’s a serious offense and even with everything they got going on now they like nothing better than to screw with you.  Don’t lie to them.  They have secret Government ways of finding out.  So treat collecting unemployment as a job.  You’re lucky to be getting it so make sure you do what they ask of you.  Check out what option you have for health insurance.  Maybe it’s COBRA or some state policy.

2. Stay positive – Tough to do when you’re worrying about your next meal, paying the rent or getting necessary medicine, but you have to do your best.  Maybe it’s going to church, temple or the mosque.  For me it’s walking my dog and spending time outside.  I’ve found over my short life that some people, places, events and things are energy vacuums.  You need to avoid energy vacuums.  If you know a particular person is going to give you hard time about something then avoid them.  If your mother or your ex always dumps on you then don’t give them the opportunity.  You don’t want to be sitting around all day with other unemployed people who are negative.  If they are positive and doing and going and making things happy or happening then that’s another story.  Avoid the energy sucks in your life.  You know who or what they are.

3. Assess the situation – Spend some time just figuring out where you are at and how you got there.    Where did you think you would be at this point in your life and where you are at.  What’s changed and what hasn’t.  Should you consider moving someplace different to increase your chance of finding work?  Go to school?  The state may pay.  Get some retraining or learn a new skill maybe.  Maybe you need to change your living arrangements or sell the boat and jet skis.  Don’t become an unwitting observer of your own life.

4. Network – Now is time to get out there.  Have any favors that people owe you or friends in position to hire you?  You need to speak with everyone you meet.  You never know where one simple hello may lead.  The more you do the more people you meet, so do more.  Just because you are unemployed it doesn’t mean that you should sit at home.  Volunteer at the town kennel or the senior center.  The Internet, Facebook and Myspace are great to network.    If you belong to any organizations or associations like the VFW, AmVets, Italian American Club, Masons or Order of the Arrow than work it.  Check on your fraternity brothers or sorority sisters.  Now isn’t the time to be hiding out in your mountain top bunker by yourself.

5. Budget/debt management – You have to try and get your finances in as best shape as possible.  If you have the where with all to write out a budget then do it.  Get an understanding of how much income you are taking in every month and what your monthly expenses are.  If you need to, for a week keep track of every cent you spend and write it down in a little notebook.  Set priorities for your bills and debts.  Make sure you put unsecured creditors last.  That’d be like credit card companies.  Try and figure out where you can cut back.  Forget about the coffee out everyday.   It’s bad for the environment anyways.  Forget about the lottery or going out to eat.  Only you know where you can cut back. Don’t ever go shopping without a listUse coupons if you have the patience.  Make shopping lists.  Sell your junk that is in your shed or closet.    Have a yard sale or post crap on E-Bay.

6. Look for jobs – Personally, I never like job fairs.  It’s like ants at a picnic.  Use the Internet and sites like Craigslist.org.  If you went to college check with the alumni folks at your alma mater.  Check USAjobs.gov.  Most states and municipalities are hurting, but they’re still hiring who they need.  Consider part-time work or a few part-time jobs.  I like the idea of having a number of part-time jobs, diversification of your income is good.    Looking for a job is a job.    You really should try and spend an two or three hours at least five days a week looking for a job.  It takes a lot of time and it sucks.

7. Develop cash business – If you’ve always wanted to “follow your heart” or try something different and never had the balls to actually do it, now may be the time.   I believe just about anyone can accomplish just about anything they set their mind to.  You can too.  If you’ve always wanted to write a book, become a taxidermist or whatever else it is, then think about turning it into a business.  Turn your hobbies into a business.  In our New Economy v.2 having an independent income stream will be a very good thing indeed.   Don’t get all crazy though and start spending a bunch of money you don’t have to make money.  If you plan on “investing” in tools, equipment or such for a new business, don’t do it without first developing a detailed business plan.  That said though, look around your house, you already have the tools for your hobbies, sports and recreational activities.  Teach people to tie flies.  Put in vegetable gardens for people.   Fix bicycles.  Tutor someone’s kids.   Babysit or take care of someone’s elderly parents.  Maybe run errands or clean houses.  Fix cars for folks.  Cook meals for working people so when they get home from work dinner is already made.  Specialize in small engine repair.  Catch fish and sell em to your neighbors.  Set up your own little farm stand or sell bouquets of flowers.  Maybe learn how to homebrew beer and wine.  Mow lawns or trim hedges.  Your imagination and other people’s doubts are your only limitations.  If you’ve had a desk job your whole adult life you’ll be pleasantly surprised how nice it is to do something different and maybe move around for a change.

8. Keep a schedule – You can’t be sleeping all day.  You may not have a paying job, but you can still be useful and contribute.  Try to wake up and go to bed the same times each day.  Don’t stay up all night playing video games.  Make Mondays be a drag and look forward to Fridays.  Clean the house.  Cook meals.  Go to the library.  Get out.    Keep busy and make your unemployment be like a job.  Make a schedule so you get out of the house everyday to get the newspaper, look for jobs or walk the neighborhood.  Make a list of things that need to be done around your home – filing, painting, cleaning, snaking the drains.   Have meals at regular times.  Set your alarm clock, wake up, shower and shave.  You too ladies.  You can’t start living like a pirate now, no matter how nice it sounds.  Unless of course it’s a pirate you want to be then be the best damn pirate you can, be the captain of other pirates and be a pirate’s pirate.  Anyways…

9. Exercise – This is a biggie.  You have to get some exercise everyday.  You have the time now so there is no excuse.  Exercise will relieve stress, help you sleep better and keep you healthy.  Ideally, You Get Outside Every Day so you get some fresh air and sunshine.  Walking is great exercise.  Explore trails near your house.  Do stuff around your yard.  If you are lying awake in bed at night worrying you aren’t exercising enough.

If you are not laid off yet: don’t get your personal identity from your job, arrive early, don’t surf the Net at work.  Start saving a little cash every pay period.  Pay down your secured debt as much as possible.  Whatever your job is, keep current on new trends or breakthroughs.  Take classes.  Start buying some extra food and other non-perishables like toilet paper, toothpaste, laundry detergent and so on to store.  If you are working and having a tough time meeting your bills then make some changes while you still have steady income.  I’m not telling you what to do, but if you are still contributing to a 401k or 403b really think about what you are doing.  Especially if you are like me and don’t know what you are doing.  The days of buying and holding are behind us.

Get outside everyday!

I was out skiing.  There really isn’t much snow left but I know the last places that melt.

v3

Look how blue that sky is and the way the blue changes from kind of white near the horizon to bright blue of the heavens.  Crazy.  Anyways, this big field is actually sort of a bowl.  It doesn’t look very steep, but I guarantee if you aren’t a good cross country skier you will fall.  So when I ski this area I kind of follow the tree line on the left down to the bottom of the little slope.  At the bottom of this little hill is a good size pond.  It’s out of the picture to the right.  Then I ski back up and ski down again a bunch of times.

So at the bottom of the hill lo n’ behold what do I see………………but a………………

v5Chicken of the Woods! I don’t eat the stuff, but it is a good find nonetheless.  Believe me, what I eat is directly related to my level of hunger.  No offense, but I would eat you too if I was hungry enough.  And I would expect no less from you.  Anyways, Chicken of the Woods is pretty unique looking as far as wild edible mushrooms go.  I’m not one to collect mushrooms, but there really isn’t anything else that looks like this that is poisonous.   They grow on trees, even dead trees.  They’re orange and yellow.  They don’t have gills.  They’re best to eat when young.  You can cut the edges off of them.  That’s where the best taste is.  I read that you should avoid the ones that grow on conifers.  As with all wild edibles, test them first before eating in quantities.

YOU GOTTA DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH though until you are comfortable with what you know.  Don’t Eff around with mushrooms.  You have to put in the research time or you could die, and then what good will all those high capacity magazines do for you? Just kidding.  You  can keep them ………..for now.

v7Here’s another picture.  You’ve seen these haven’t you?  Google Chicken of the Woods and then commit it to memory.

Wood stove

January 15, 2009

For those of you that haven’t used a woodstove this post will be about my woodstove and how I get her going.  Hopefully, it will let you know what I do and don’t like about my stove and also provide the basics about the parts of a stove and how to get one running.

A woodstove is basically a metal box.  They all have a vent where air comes in to burn and then the smoke is vented out the back through the stovepipe.  There aren’t that many moving parts.

  • A “valve” on the stovepipe that controls how much smoke (and heat) goes up and out.
  • A “valve” on the front of the stove that controls how much air is allowed in.  The more air you let in the faster your wood will burn.  There are all sorts of vents.  Some slide and some turn.
  • The firebox.  This is where you load the wood.
  • A handle of some sort to lock the door of the stove closed.

ws13This is my wood stove.  It’s obviously a Nashua.  This company is out of business now.  This particular stove is a big, honking wood stove.  It’s 32″ long * 22″ deep * 35″ tall.  A nice feature is the window so you can see the fire burning.  The knurled metal round things on each side of the Nashua sign are the vents that let air into the stove.  You spin em just like a screw.

ws24Spin em counterclockwise to loosen them and let more air in and spin them clockwise to let less air in.  This is one of the front vents fully open. Notice the space between the back of the vent and the stove.  That’s where the air rushes in that feeds the fire.

ws23This is the other front vent fully closed.  Notice how the back of this vent is snugged tight against the front of the stove.  No space = no air = no fire.

ws11This is the vent on the stovepipe.  This vent controls how much smoke and heat go up the pipe and out.  Imagine a metal pie plate attached to this thing on the inside of the stovepipe.   The metal pie plate runs the same way as the handle.  In this position the pie plate is turned vertically, just like the handle.  This is the full open position.

ws12This is the same vent fully closed.  That pie plate that runs the same way as the handle is now perpendicular to the stovepipe (parallel to the floor) so in this position the pie plate is totally blocking the stovepipe.  This would choke any fire burning in the stove.

ws26This is the handle to the door of the stove.  This is the locked position.

ws28And you flip the handle counterclockwise to unlock the door and open it up.

A neat thing about my stove is that there is a built in fan.   My stove is actually double-walled with an air chamber in the middle, outlets on the front and a fan and inlet on the back of the stove.  It sucks air in the back, that gets warmed in the hollow channel and then gets blown out the front.  This thing cranks!!

ws18This is one of the outlets on the front of the stove.  There is another one on the other side.  When the stove is heated up and I plug the fan in it blows out hot, hot air  at a high volume.

ws17

This is the fan on the back of the stove.  It makes a bit of noise, but it’s not too bad.  It really heats the house.

ws19This is a looksie at the inside with the door flung open.  Pardon the trash, but when you have a stove you start collecting stuff that burns well.

If I’m driving around and I see some fool citizen that pruned his trees, collected fallen brush and then tied them up and left them at curbside for the trash guys to pick up I sure as spit stop and throw the stuff in my car.  It’s beautiful, like a little bundle of campfire that some fool put together all nice and pretty, tied it with a bow and left it for picking.  I don’t get people.  You’re gonna cut branches, bundle em, tie em and haul em out to the street for the town to pick up??  It makes no sense to me.  Save all of our frigging tax $$’s and burn em on your own lawn or garden or haul em out back and dump em in the woods.   Make a stick pile for wildlife.   But I digress. Pallets burn well.  Keep your eyes open for free pallets.  My eyes are always open for foraging stuff.

This is my system.  Building a fire is like cooking – everyone does it differently.  Also like cooking, when you build a fire you want to have all of your ingredients together before you start the fire.  All I do is crumple up a bunch of newspaper on the bottom of the stove.  Don’t scrimp here.  I use at least 1/2 an entire issue.  Then I put a piece of wood running horizontally along the bottom of the stove.  You can’t see the horizontal base log because it is totally covered by crumpled newspaper.  Crumple up more newspaper on top.

ws20Lean some wood on the first piece you put in there.  Maybe a couple of smallish pieces leaning on the whole thing.  More newspaper.  Fire likes to run along the edges of stuff so the more edges (more little pieces and broken and splintered) the better.  Really, you gotta act like you are building a blaze because you are.  Plus, I always feel ashamed if it takes me more than one match to get a fire going.  Any fire.  Even if no one else is looking.   I guess the moral is to build every fire like you only have one match.

Don’t light it yet.  You need to make sure that the vent on the stovepipe is all the way open so make sure it’s pointed vertically and running parallel to the stovepipe.   You also need to open the vents on the front of the stove all the way.   When you first light the stove you want as much air as possible rushing through it.

Now after all the vents are open I light the paper, close the door and flip the handle to lock the door shut.  I then walk away and leave it alone for 10-15 minutes.

ws25Upon my return the fire is usually going.

At this point I’ll open the door slowly just an inch.  If you open the door too fast you’ll get a back draft of smoke in your face and the room.  So you open it an inch, wait a few seconds then open it slowly the rest of the way.  I’ll bang all the wood down a bit and spread out the coals and then I’ll load it up.  I pack it fairly tightly.  Leaning wood works well.  You don’t want to pack your wood in like you’re building a brick wall.  You want some air spaces between the logs.  Close the door.

Now I’ll turn the stove down a bit by turning the vent on the stovepipe diagonally so it isn’t fully open or fully closed.  I’ll spin the vents on the front down a bit too.  The secret here is the perfect balance between intake and exhaust so you get the maximum heat while burning your wood as slowly as possible.  Don’t goof on me, but it really is like the Zen of burning.  I mean once you get past that initial burst of heat when you first get it going you want to turn it down nice and low so that the pile of wood in there is just simmering slowly.  Like cooking.

After a few hours when it’s time to load the stove again you have to open the vent on the stovepipe again before you open the door.  Otherwise when you open the door the draft will be reversed and smoke will come into your face and room.  It becomes habit – open vent on stovepipe, flip handle, open door an inch, wait a couple of seconds and then open door rest of way.  Spread the coals out.  Load it.  Shut it.  Lock it.  Close the stovepipe vent down a bit again by turning it diagonally.

Summary:

  • The whole thing with a wood stove is air movement.  You gotta get the air in your house moving around.  I have two other fans that I sometimes use in addition to the built in one in the stove.
  • Humid air holds more heat than hot air.  Get a humidifier or put teapots on the stove top.  I think humid air is better for humans to breath too.
  • My stove is kind of big so it takes a while to heat up, stays warm a long time and burns a lot more wood than a smaller stove.  It can burn for 12 hours on one load of wood.  I’d rather have one small one at each end of the house, but then there are two fires to feed.
  • I think having a stove is great.  It’s a different kind of heat.  It really feels warm, like the old fashioned radiators.  I’ve never been a fan of forced hot air; there’s no radiant heating.  It’s also a good backup to the forced hot water oil system.  Even if the electric goes out the stove will still heat up a good 1/3 of the house.
  • Another way to cook when your whatever else is on the fritz.
  • I clean my own stovepipe.  It’s not that big a deal.  The brushes are cheap.  You definitely don’t need to pay anyone unless you have a high or steep roof.  It just takes a bit of serious monkeying to get it apart and really serious monkeying to put it back together.  Make sure you wear crap clothes and spread a tarp out.
  • Be careful with the ashes.  They stay hot a long time and jeesh even if you think that they are out don’t ever empty them into a combustible container.  Wood ash is high in potassium and it’s an alkaline like lime so I add it to my compost and directly on the garden (out of season cuz it will burn roots and plants).  Wood ashes are also used to make lye to make soap.  Do not burn shiny magazines or Sunday circulars.  The inks used in shiny stuff is bad.  Anytime you deal with wood ash, or any fine dust, make sure you wear a dust mask.
  • Make sure you got the safety stuff – fire extinguisher and smoke and CO detectors.
  • Build every fire like you only have one match.  All that means is to make sure you got all of your kindling, fuel, paper and whatever else all together before you light it.  Just like cooking, you don’t want to get halfway through cooking something and realize that you need to run out to the store.
  • Every stove is different.  They’re like women.  You need to get to know one before you can handle her correctly.  And with a stove learn that balance between intake and exhaust.
  • Be leery of stovepipes that twist and turn.  In my experience you are always fighting to get a good draft going.
  • Having a woodstove is work.
  • You know what else looks good to me are those soapstone stoves.  They’re supposed to hold heat a long time.
  • Not a fan of the pellet stove.  They seem too specialized to me.  I mean they work fine as long as you got electric and pellets.

I’d recommend that everyone get a wood stove.

By now you know the chant, ‘get outside everyday.’

ws3This was my first skate of the season.  Someone abandoned a fishing hole.  Made me wish that I brought my traps and stopped for some shiners.  Stuck the hockey stick in, hmmmm, about six inches.  That’s pretty thick.  The ice was really nice and smooth.  Nice efficient way to travel.  One kick and you can glide 6, 7 or 8 feet.

ws2These guys had a fire and a bunch of traps set up.  My buddy told me that they got a five and a seven pound bass.  We skated around the whole perimeter of this lake.  I love the rythym of skating, skiing and biking.

Suburban survival

November 4, 2008

What is survival?  To me it’s being prepared for anything, being open minded and keeping your six senses working enough to acknowledge the world around you and adapt to ever changing circumstances.  Having a grain mill is great, but we also have to live in the everyday, that is go to work, go shopping, pay bills and tend to the homestead.

This is a wild turkey feather.

Wild turkey feather

Wild turkey feather

Ben Franklin wanted the turkey to be the national bird because he thought that the eagle was too warlike.

Today I went to the big orange box store and bought some insulation.  I framed out a walk-in closet a few years ago.  One side of the closet is basically an exterior wall and the other side of the closet is an interior wall where we hang out a lot.  I noticed this closet stayed pretty cold so I figured that I should insulate it.  I also notice that the interior wall where we hang out is pretty cold to the touch.  That means it chills the air in the interior room.

The nice thing about having a cold, dark closet is that I can use it as a root cellar.  I’ve cured homemade cured pork tenderloin.  Check out this recipe.  It’s the easiest sausage in the world and involves no cooking.  http://www.globalgourmet.com/food/special/1999/salt/loin.html.  I also store my root veggies in the cold closet.  When I make KimChi I store the fermenting bottles in the closet.

At the big box store I bought three rolls of Owens Corning Kraft R13 insulation.   I got the rolls that were 15″ wide which made it really easy to fit between the studs.   Kraft means it’s paper on one side.  R13 is the insulation’s insulative property.  The higher the R number the better the insulation.  Each roll cost about $10.  I had about 10 spaces between studs to slide the insulation into.  I kind of screwed up because I should have put the insulation in before I put up a bunch of pegboard for my tools, but I did not.  Luckily I was able to slide the insulation behind the pegboard and pull it up.

Owens R13 Kraft 15" roll

Owens R13 Kraft 15

It only took me about an hour and we will be more comfortable hanging out and also save energy.  Twenty dollars is a small price to pay.

Another product I like is the blow in foam insulation that comes in a can.  This stuff is great for electrical outlets and cracks near windows and doors.   You shake the can, spray it in to fill about 1//2 the cavity and as it cures it expands.   I highly recommend this stuff, but be careful not to over apply or the pressure it exerts on your windows/doors as it expands will make it tough to open or close the doors/windows.

Great Stuff

Great Stuff

With the cost to heat and cool being so great, you need to take advantage of every angle that you can.

Don’t be brave.  Use the correct equipment.  You wouldn’t remove a crew with a hammer or use a screwdriver as a chisel.  When working with insulation wear a mask, safety glasses, long pants and long sleeves.  When you shoot or use power equipment wear safety glasses and hearing protection.

So fills those cracks.  Fill those gaps.  Fill that empty space.

Some pics of a recent foray along the power lines.

Power line sunset

Power line sunset

Power line sunset 2

Power line sunset 2

There is beauty every where if you just open your eyes to receive.