Monday, November 30, 2009

Preparation for Winter V


(Picture from here.)

A wonderful Thanksgiving. A gallon of Marvinwine (which I'll talk about one day when I blog about my father-in-law). Bottling Old Freezer "White"-- the first batch of the 150 pounds of grapes that were in the freezer. I mentioned that here. And, with the long weekend, more preparation for winter. Someday winter will come. Then, I'll be happy I've done all of this prep.

Well, I have heat in the shop now. I installed the pellet stove as I talked about here. It works pretty good. There's a smell associated with it I'm not too crazy about. Since the smell occurs after it heats up, I think it's some oil burning off the unit. What I might do is crank it up and let it burn for a couple of hours. So far I've only burned it an hour here or an hour there. I think I'll also put on an extra foot or too of chimney. It meets code but I think the extra draft will do me better.

We also started to seal up the house for the winter.

In winters past, we've usually sealed up the windows with the shrink wrap stuff. (See here.) It's not that expensive and saves a fair amount of money. We usually burn about one tank of oil a winter. I'm hoping for less this year.

But I don't like putting up the film and taking it down every year. It's wasteful. We have a few windows we've just left it up and the film seems to last a long time.

So this year I built a frame out of strapping and then insulated around the edge with weatherseal. (See here.) The result came out pretty well. There were a couple of tricks to it. For example, I had underestimated the amount of force the shrink wrap puts on the frame. This made the frame bow so I needed a brace in the middle to keep it straight. The additional cost/window was the cost of the strapping (3 pieces, about $5 bucks), a set of angle braces ($3) and the foam ($2). So about $8/window. However, that was for one. I can probably stretch out the strapping and foam across multiple windows. I'm estimating about $5/window over all. Given that a a single window is about $3.40, it needs to last about two years in order to break even. Of course, that doesn't count the electricity and aggravation of installation. In addition, if the shrink wrap stuff goes, I'll just add more shrink wrap. The frame is more or less permanent.

Not sure how to store the frames for the summer, though. But that's next year's problem.
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving

(Picture from here.)

Newt Gingrich wrote this article regarding to whom do we give thanks on Thanksgiving. In his usual silly way, he basically says we have to give thanks to God in order to be good Americans. It's a fatuous article and I wouldn't have anything to say about it (other to put it on the Wall of Idiots) except that the question he poses (and does not answer) is to what should an atheist give thanks?

The whole concept of "Thanksgiving" implies something outside one's self to give thanks.

Hm. This is a bit of a problem.

When I got married, Wendy and I had a discussion with the minister. I strongly did not want the ceremony to have any hint of deceit. The ceremony was, in and of itself, a binding promise and I didn't want to taint it by being in the position of listening to or proposing something in which I did not believe. But there is God and Jesus all through the ceremony.

Fortunately, we were dealing with Unitarians. The compromise we reached was that the use of the word "God" was permitted, since I could interpret that metaphorically, but we didn't use the word "Jesus". Seemed to work. We've been married 19 years next month.

But that concept doesn't work here. You can't give thanks to a metaphorical agency since the act of giving thanks implies a non-metaphorical being. Giving thanks implies something got done.

The idea of giving thanks is a little weird anyway. It's eerily similar to the idea of getting absolution from God for things you did to human beings. As if the sin against your fellow man is a lesser offense than violating God's law.

When I was studying Judaism the idea of repentance and forgiveness was managed differently. I was told that before participating in the rituals of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) you must make right the sins you have committed against your fellow man. Only then can you partake of the rituals before God.

Damn. I really, really liked Judaism. If only I believed in God...

Which brings us back to the whole giving thanks. You give thanks for a gift. In the case of God, it could be mundane things: good health, a good job, we're not starving and all of that. But that's a complex function of good judgment and random chance. I couldn't have known my job would weather the economic storm. And if I give thanks for a good job and not starving does that mean somehow those people who lost their jobs are are starving got shafted by the Big Guy Upstairs? I don't like zero sum games in human relationships and giving thanks is rapidly approaching that.

On the other hand, the act of feeling as if one must give thanks is a very human quality. It is a recognition that a large part, possibly the greatest part, of one's life is out of one's control. That good things come to you by grace more than by anything else. It is very like prayer, the act of giving up control to something else and by that act releasing the need for that control. This idea of prayer is, to me, a common ground between Christianity and Buddhism.

Or it's just a harvest celebration saying isn't it great we have enough to make it through the winter.

That's sort of the way I think of the original Pilgrims, staring at the bounty in front of them, much of it given to them by heathens, knowing that nearly half of them died the previous winter and that maybe, just maybe, their friends and family might live through the next one.

Maybe that's it. We did okay this year, not by grace or by God, but through a lot of luck and a little skill. Look at what we have and feel lucky. Look at who we're sharing it with and feel luckier. Next year could be worse. This year could have been much worse.

Thank each other for being there.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Preparing for Winter IV



Finished up the leaves and yardwork this weekend. I haven't pulled the garden fence up yet but the tractor is done! Still have to change the oil and put it to bed.

I've started using what I call an oil sucker-- an oil extractor. It sucks the oil out from where you put the oil in. It works beautifully. Here is one. Here is another. You put the tube in and it sucks it out. It doesn't get any easier than that.

You still have to take care of the oil filter but for machines for which that's a minor difficulty or machines that do not have one it makes oil changes easy. The one I have is borrowed and I have to return it.

The current wine has been racked again. I plan on bottling the "white". The "red" will not be ready for a while yet. I used a white wine recipe for my mixed red wine grape juice. I tasted it last night when I racked it. It's going to take a while to mellow.

Put up the canopy over the wood-- we have four cords holding down the ground. I could stack it but then I'd still have to brush the snow off. I could build a wood shed but then I have to move it from where the truck drops it off to the shed.

A few years ago we hit on this idea. We bought a party canopy with metal struts and a cover. The truck brings the wood and dumps it and we put the canopy up over it. The original struts were cheap metal and not intended for winter use. But over the years when falling limbs and snow break the tubes I've been replacing them with steel pipe. At this point I think it might take a direct nuclear strike. Every few years we just replace the canopy.

It's been a warm fall but now that Thanksgiving is here, that's pretty sure to change.
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Wall of Idiots
Cocaine in the drinking water
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Uninsured patients die more from trauma
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Watching Technology Disappear

(Picture from here.)

I have an odd idea of what technology is. I don't think of tech. as computers or the internet. These represent technology, of course. But technology is really the knowledge of how to do something. It represents a knowledge of tools and crafts. By this definition, driving is a technology. The car is a means. The building of the car is the technology.

Anyway, my back is messed up. This will all connect in a moment.

My father's side of the family has a history of scoliosis; my great grandfather was a hunchback. It's not so surprising I have a bit of a back problem.

What I used to do when my back had problems was find a doorway and push it back into place. Wendy didn't like the sound of vertebrae crunching and wanted me to do something about it. We have a friend, Maggie Flinn, a rheumatologist. She suggested a particular chiropractor. She said, "It may work. It may not. But this guy won't hurt you." That was Robert Gensler of Chestnut Hill Chiropractic. He practices what is called Directional Non-Force Technique. No back breaking, neck wrenching, joint cracking here. Just little jabs. Here and there and the next day you feel much, much better.

I know that this is not a cure for it. A cure would involve more of what happened over at Gordon's Notes. But it does work.

I tried several other, more traditional, chiropractors. They didn't work. Besides, who likes to hear vertebrae crunch?

Chiropractic has a (perhaps deserved) bad reputation. (See here.) I don't believe in the reasons proposed by chiropractors how chiropractic any more than I believe that spirit breathing is what causes alpha waves in yoga. It's a metaphor. Americans like to take metaphors and turn them into fact in their minds. (See Christianity.) I would love to see some work with DNFT done with physicians. Maybe some research over at MGH.

But it won't happen. It's a dying technology.

It may be that Gensler will be the last practitioner of this form of chiropractic, one that actually works, painted over by the broad brush of medical disdain.

Sad.

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Wall of Idiots
Greenland ice loss accelerating
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Miniature Woodworking Tools.



John Maki has a hobby: making classic woodworking tools in miniature. He does a beautiful job.

I've been following his blog, here, for a couple of years now. The French coachmaker's plow plane is the current project he's just completed. This wondrous object is about 31/2 inches.

Go look at his work. Go check out his gallery. Be amazed.

Humans at their best.
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Wall of Idiots
2012 and here and here and here

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Bacteria's role in weight gain
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Preparing for Winter III

(Picture from here.)

We've had a warm fall this year. So far this has been a good thing. It's slowed down the ripening of the persimmons but it has enabled me to catch up on getting ready for winter.

One of the things on my list is to put heat to the shop.

My shop is a 12x12 alcove off the garage. Last year, I put up walls and a ceiling. Now it's enclosed-- sort of. There are still spaces where the warm air leaks out. The doors leak. The floor is raw concrete.

That said, it's not like I'm heating the space all winter long. I need to keep warm enough that I can work there and let it freeze solid when I'm not.

My first preference was to put in a little wood stove. Wood stoves are particularly good for this. They can put out a lot of heat in a short period of time and a small stove burns out quickly. They're cheap. We already have the wood. However, code requires too much space surrounding the stove to fit it in the space I had.

The next option I investigated was a gas stove. There are three problems with this. 1) We don't have natural gas; we only have propane. 2) Propane pegs gasoline as it is often derived from oil processing. 3) The small stoves I looked at had a passive venting from the room across a surface that was intimately connected to the combustion surface. This meant dust getting in this space was a fire hazard.

Electric heating was the next thing I looked at. Electric has the cheapest installation cost but the largest continuing cost. We already pay too much for electricity. In addition, while electricity can put out some heat continuously, it doesn't pump out the initial BTUs very well-- something the shop requires. Besides which, electrical circuits are at a premium in the shop. I only have two coming from the house and one of those is dedicated to the greenhouse furnace.

The last method I looked at was a pellet heater. I had looked at this earlier but dismissed it because of the huge start up cost-- in excess of $2000. I'd be better off burning money. When the wood stove fell through I looked again.

I did find a pellet stove from Northern Tool, the US Stove Forester. This seems to have sufficient BTUs to heat the shop. It has a small foot print and, best of all, it's under $1000. Installation is easy-- a hidden cost of the wood stove which requires a full chimney.

I received the stove yesterday and it's holding down the concrete in the shop right now. I have the vent kit for the combustion chamber ($240) but I'm having trouble finding the 2 inch pipe to handle the fresh air venting. I still have to get a permit for it ($50).

I'm consoling myself that if it works out well and later I manage a better solution, it would be no hardship to take out the stove and put it in the house. All of the material would be the same. The only difference would be the cost of the actual installation and the permit.

Sigh. I've been saving for this. That's what I keep telling myself.

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Preparing for Winter IIa


(Picture from here.)


Didn't get as much done as I wanted to. The Hickory and Chestnuts have not dropped all their leaves. So I couldn't finish up the tractor and put it away. Consequently, the right garage bay is still cluttered.

But I was able to clean up the yard considerably and put away the rest of the machines:
  1. Snow Blower I
  2. Snow Blower II
  3. Generator I
  4. Generator II
Why, you may ask, do we have two snow blowers and two generators.

Well, I reply. The two generators are historical. Generator I is a good generator with 220 output that I can hook directly into the house system. The second generator was the first one we purchased. It's more of a utility generator. We can take it up to the cabin and use it since the cabin has no electricity.

Why have a generator at all? you may ask.

Glad you asked that question, I reply. When we first moved into the house we were at the tail end of the electrical lines. If the system hiccuped, we lost power. In addition, the power was pretty dirty. We lost two television over the first two years. This has calmed down since.

However, we still have a greenhouse, well and furnace: all of which don't work without electricity. So, we bought a generator. That went on well for a number of years prior to the green house. We could just run an extension into the house and run the blower on the wood stove.

With the greenhouse, we had a bigger issue. We needed to run the actual greenhouse furnace-- which didn't run without electricity. At that point we bought the Big Guy: Generator I. We now have a tie-in to the electrical system of the house. So I can run Generator I, run the power directly into the house and switch on and off what we need to run.

But then, you ask, why two snow blowers?

An excellent question, I reply. This is because of the Rule of Twos. The power losses of the first year taught us a lesson: critical systems will fail and we need a backup. Thus, the Rule of Twos. Two mechanisms for a critical backup. A breakage in the snow blower in 1995 brought that home to us. We have a 150 foot driveway. I'm not getting any younger. So when the electric start died on Snow Blower I, I kept the machine and purchased Snow Blower II. We now have two of them.

Every year I change the oil, test the systems and make sure everything works prior to winter.

And, in case you're wondering, we don't consider the tractor essential. It's a convenience.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Preparing for Winter II


(Picture from here.)

Every fall we have to set up for winter. Up here in the sub-frozen north (the really frozen north starts at Maine) we don't worry too much about summer. We don't have air conditioning. We don't worry about it.

Winter, however, is another matter.

Winter starts up here in October. We've already had a little snow. Might get some tonight. Usually, I have everything nailed down by Columbus Day. This year is taking a bit longer.

Things that have yet to be done:
  • The Yard: Putting anything away. Drain and put away the hoses. Gather up the remaining leaves and needles and put them away. Finish putting up the grape arbor in the garden. Pull up the stakes and fence of the garden so that it's easily handled. Finish putting up the canopy over the woodpile.
  • The Greenhouse: put away the shade cloth.
  • The Machines: Check out/change oil of the generators. Check out/change oil of the tractor. Check out/change oil of the snow blowers. Put away the tractor and grass catcher.
  • The Garage: Move the machines in their proper places and ready it for use.
  • The House: Seal up the windows. Close down the outside faucets.
  • The Shop: Install the new heater. Seal up any outstanding holes. Finish putting up the foam and outer wall of one side. (Inner wall is done.)
So there is still a lot to do.

This weekend I plan on handling the Yard, the Greenhouse and the Machines. Hopefully, I'll get to the Garage.

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