March 22, 2015

New Cooking Appliance

I frequent a Pellet Stove forum - at first it was to soak up knowledge, now it is more conversation and helping others, expecially with St. Croix Hastings/Greenfied stoves, since that is the one I have had to figure out everything on. I still learn plenty about both stoves and set ups in general. And we all share what pellets are available where (some areas have shortages, other areas have gluts, and still other areas the price can be as much a $4/bag difference between retailers). And we share how different brands are burning so those that drop big bucks on buying several tons at a time don't get stuck with crappy pellets.

A couple of weeks ago, someone asked if anyone had tried cooking with their pellet stove. After much off topic banter, a member reported that he had just tried baking some potatoes in his Harman P61a (the same model that I have in the basement) and that they had come out perfectly. Well, that is all it took and I was off and running.

I bought a couple of sweet potatoes, washed/scrubbed them up well, wrapped them in foil (still wet) and set them on the ledges at the side of the stove. I made sure it was in a maintenance burn (would not turn itself off), set the timer and went about my business.

1.3 hours later I removed the foil packages and opened them up to find perfectly steamed sweet potatoes. I dumped them in a bowel and stripped off the skin (very easy - just lifter right off), then added some real butter.

After the butter had melted a bit, I mashed them all together, added a bit of real maple syrup, about 1/2 cup of oats, ground cinnamon and some water.

Sweet potatoes cooked in P61a

I then let the concoction sit a couple of hours for the oats to soak up the water and decided that a parfait would be perfect;  So, I scooped out a bit of the sweet potato mixture, added vanilla Greek yogurt, and topped it all off with cinnamon.

  Sweet Potato Desert with Yogurt

Awesome! I reported my results on the forum, and someone else chimed in with their results from steaming vegies in their stove. Someone still needs to do an experiment with filling a small crock with meat and vegies to make a stew for 1-2 people - I am looking forward to a report on that! Earlier this week I put in 3 more sweet potatoes and have been enjoying them at work (and for breakfast this morning).

Pellet stoves; keeping the house warm, blow drying hair, and now cooking - is there anything they can't do? LOL

Posted by Bogie on March 22, 2015 at 09:11 AM in At Home, Cooking | Permalink | Comments (3)

March 15, 2015

Melting Progress

So far I have gotten my wish and the weather has been very slow to warm up which means the snow is melting slowly and not creating flooding havoc.

View out the living room bay window on 2/22/15

View of snow from living room bay window

View out the living room bay window today (3/15/15)

Livingroom view 3-15-15

We still have a long way to go before there is green grass.

Posted by Bogie on March 15, 2015 at 08:06 AM in At Home | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thanks are in Order

It has slowly been warming up here in the frozen Northeast. I haven't seen or smelled a skunk for months, until driving to work Wednesday morning; I smelled a skunk shortly after leaving my driveway. I remember wondering if the resident area skunk had gotten run over, it was so strong.

Thursday, I got ready to leave for work - loaded up my coffee, lunch and purse into the car, turned off the garage light, and started to lift the garage door. Looking out the window, I saw a small figure waddling off. At first I thought it must be an area cat; they sometimes hang around by the house. Then I realized it was the resident skunk. Why he (she?) was right at my garage door, I have no idea, but evidently there was some reason.

The skunk stopped before he even got to the path to the front door. Well, that wasn't going to do as that is about 10 feet from the garage door, and I need to not only back up, but get out of the car to close the garage door. I lowered the door back to the ground (it was only up a couple of inches), and lifted it partway again. That produced enough noise that the skunk continued, and took the path toward the front door.

Good enough for me, so I continued on with my mission. By the time I was backing out of the driveway and could see up the path to the door, the skunk had disappeared around the side of the house. 

I want to thank the skunk for deciding to retreat instead of defend his position that morning!

Posted by Bogie on March 15, 2015 at 07:59 AM in Wild Animals | Permalink | Comments (2)

March 08, 2015

Plumber Girl

There has been a leak under the kitchen sink since I moved in. I've had plastic containers under the drip to catch most of the water, but the base would sometimes collect water. It didn't seem to follow a pattern, and I could only sometimes feel/see wetness on any of the lines, so I ignored it the best I could (EX tried to find the leak shortly after I moved in, but it eluded him).

About 2 weeks ago, I finally decided I was going to find the issue and fix it. The impetus was that lately when I turned on the faucet, it was evident there was a little air in there. The weird part was, if I didn't turn on the hot water, the next time I used the faucet, there wouldn't be air. So I emptied out everything under there, grabbed a flashlight, and made myself comfortable laying underneath to watch what was going on. Eventually I found two areas that were dripping (neither consistent). One place was under the sprayer sink cap, a mere sealing issue, the other was at the connection between the main faucet and the spray hose.

The second leak was the biggest issue and was weird because it wouldn't' leak while the water was running - just after the faucet had been turned off. The only thing I could surmise was a weak area had developed at the connection, and as long as the water had somewhere to go, that area was bypassed for the easy route. Once the water flow was stopped, there was just enough pressure to force a little water out thru the weak spot. Another assumption I made, was that the hot water did not shut off right away, creating extra pressure even after the handle was in the off position.

I decided the best route for me was to replace the entire faucet and after much dithering, decided on the style and color that I wanted. I went to several stores (big box and smaller local places) and wasn't impressed with the prices or choices, so continued my search online. I finally settled on one, found the best price, and it was delivered the morning of 2/28. That evening (I had other things to do that day), I decided to dive in.

I had watched a couple of videos online and knew that the removal of the old faucet would take the most time. It did - at about 3 hours. The hardest part was getting the spray head out as the plate underneath was super rusty and I couldn't get ahold of it  very well. When I managed to get a grip, and finally got it to turn some (after spraying with WD40), the whole assembly would turn. Since my arms aren't 10 feet ling, I couldn't both turn the plate and hold the spray assembly. After getting a whole lot of rust in my eyes (yes, I had on safety glasses), I finally managed to get it out.

Main lines off
Main lines off
Main lines off

Underneath the baseplate of the faucet was a nasty mess. I spent some time scraping and scrubbing to get all the crud off (be thankful that I didn't think to take a picture of it - there was a miny swamp under there).

When I went to put the new faucet in, I found the directions left a little to be desired. It told me to take off a pre-assembled from the bottom of the faucet. Um, there was no pre-assembled section, just a bunch of parts in a bag. So, I slept on it and restarted the project on Sunday. After much trial and error, I finally figured out what worked (I'm not saying it was right, just what worked), and got everything threaded thru the holes in the sink and the initial tightening done.

Once again I needed longer arms to hold the faucet while performing the final tightening. Then I realized I hadn't put any plumber's putty under the faucet base, so everything had to come out again while I played with the putty (pretty much play-doh). The putty helped keep the faucet in place, though I still spent a lot of time in frustration as I tried to keep it placed exactly in the position it needed to be, and tighten underneath. Eventually I won the battle, and voila, the faucet is in.

New faucet

Of course, I never thought the whole thing thru and now am in search of a solution. My old faucet had a regular head on it, and I could use my dishwasher with it. Now, with the spray head on the faucet, I can't use the dishwasher. I thought about putting a small faucet in where the soap dispenser is (it came with the faucet and is just in place at this  point to plug the hole left from the sprayer). But in order to have it swivel out of the way, I can only find another large faucet. And, faucets with the correct head/aerator, don't seem to come in the oil-rubbed bronze to match the other faucet (oh, well, if I want to spend MORE, than I spent on the newly installed faucet, which wasn't cheap, I could probably find one - no thanks).

II can't use a bathroom faucet (small enough), because those don't swivel, and the thread are so different that the connector won't go in. And, I spent an hour at a BBS, trying to find a way to adapt to that kind of aerator without any luck.

So, at this point I am doing dishes by hand. Not a huge deal but it just galls me that A) I probably use close to the amount of water that a load of dishes takes, just to do my measly daily dishes (the dishwasher uses about 3.5 gallons) and 2) that I have this dishwasher sitting in my kitchen that I can't use because I was too short-sighted to get a faucet that fit all my needs.

Posted by Bogie on March 8, 2015 at 08:04 AM in House Work | Permalink | Comments (3)

February 28, 2015

Foundation Snow - Insulation or Not?

In some of my pictures of snow at the house, Cop Car suggested that the insulation value of the snow against the foundation must be very helpful in keeping the house warmer. Unfortunately, that would not be the case. I have a roof that is made for a more southern home; not only is it fairly flat, it has wide eves at 3 feet. This really works well to keep out the summer sun while allowing plenty of winter sun in, protect the ramp from snow, and protecting the foundation from rain. I really like the wide eves for that reason. However, the snow pack is away from the house, except for where I have either snow blown in that direction or shoveled - and both those spots are near the garage, which is not very helpful for insulation.

This is the side of the garage. Sure, if the garage was fairly air tight at the door, and in back, the snow might be helpful - but neither of those cases are true. The snow is blown in that direction while snow blowing the path to the oil tank - just for the little help it might provide.

Garage snow

The front of the house is mostly barren, except the part closest to the garage, from my shoveling the snow from the roof dumping (I don't blow snow that way because I don't want high-velocity projectiles aimed at the bay window. Oh, and if you look in the lower left corner, you will see a mound of snow on the steps. I took the pictures about 25 minutes after I was done snow blowing - which was about 5 minutes after the roof dumped and I had to put my boots back on to go shovel.

Front foundation snow

On the side that the pellet stoves are on, it is mostly clear for about a foot before the snow pack starts - mostly of that is from the roof dumping. And, what little snow is there, has slid down the berm from the roof snow. I did have to shovel out some of the berm closest to the lower pipe (the Harman in the basement), to make sure there was no impedance to the exhaust.

Stove side snow
Stove side snow

Of course the back side of the house does not have snow around the foundation because of the ramp.

Ramp Snow

I'm sure the snow does provide wind relief for the sill of the house, and some insulation value to the garage, just not as much as Cop Car imagined from looking at pictures taken from a distance.

Posted by Bogie on February 28, 2015 at 07:19 PM in At Home | Permalink | Comments (3)

February 21, 2015

Couple of Wild Bird Pics

Taken by my cheap, old digital camera on Sunday during the bird counts

Purple Finch - distinction from house finch is the bars on the chest of females and the red on the back of males with the notched tail.

Purple Finches
Purple Finches

Male Downey Woodpecker

Downey Woodpecker
Downey Woodpecker

Some sort of Sparrow - I want to say it is a chipping sparrow, but there is not enough info for me to say it definitely so (had a bunch of these)

Sparrow

Posted by Bogie on February 21, 2015 at 06:39 PM in At Home, Science, Wild Birds | Permalink | Comments (2)

Record Year for Birds

This winter, both the NH Audubon Society Winter Bird Survey, and the Cornell / Audubon Back Yard Bird Count were on the same weekend. This pleased me as I had a record number of species to report (for me) and I could use that for both counts. There were also sparrows that I wasn't confident of the identification, and some I couldn't even guess or find in a book to my satisfaction. Without further ado, here is my list for this year:

  • Blue Jay - 2
  • Crow - 2
  • Goldfinch - 16
  • Chickadee - 2
  • Cardinal - 3 (1M & 2F
  • Purple Finch - 12 (Cornell tells me that is an unusually high number, but I am positive they were purple, not house finches)
  • WB Nuthatch - 1 (too bad I didn't see both of them that are usually around)
  • Pine Siskin - 4
  • Junco - 2 (a really low number as far as I am concerned)
  • Starling - 1 (first one I have seen in NH and was thumbing thru my bird book when I looked up saw the bird on the railing, looked down and I was on that page in the book - funny how that worked out)
  • Tufted Titmouse - 2 (usually have 3)
  • Downey Woodpecker -1 male
  • Mourning Dove - 4
  • Pileated Woodpecker - 1 (seen pounding on a dead tree in the empty lot/swamp next door. Was super excited to see it!)
  • Sparrows of indeterminate species - around 20

I reported today on the Cornell BYBC site, and will mail in my list to the NH Audubon on Monday

Posted by Bogie on February 21, 2015 at 06:09 PM in New Hampshire News, Science, Wild Birds | Permalink | Comments (3)

February 16, 2015

Snow, Yeah We Got That

Cop Car asked if we were getting any of the blizzards that have hit the area. Technically we haven't, although we have had plenty of snow and wind. We've had major storms in each of the last 4 weeks, along with minor storms in between.

A few pictures from Sunday when there was 14-15" of snow on the railing of the ramp:

14 inches of white stuff
14 inches of white stuff
14 inches of white stuff
14 inches of white stuff

I was actually somewhat happy about the high wind on Sunday as it helped throw the snow over the banks. We have been lucky, parts of MA and the seacoast of NH have gotten hammered worse than this area so far this season.

Posted by Bogie on February 16, 2015 at 06:40 PM in At Home, New Hampshire News | Permalink | Comments (3)

February 14, 2015

House of Warm Critters

Last night it was -7 or -8 at 8 pm. Looked to be getting a really cold night, so I put the upstairs pellet stove in T-stat mode. Now, that sounds like a thermostat turns it on and off, but that would be SmartStat mode (which it normally is in - by the way Cop Car, the digital thermostat works great - thanks!) T-Stat mode is slightly different; I set the highest heat output it is allowed to get to (I set at #3, but the rang is 1-5) then if there is a call for heat, the stove goes directly to #3 output. If there is no call for heat, it idles at #1 output. So, it never goes out.

Since the thermostat is in the office, closer to the stove, it stays warmer than the bedroom by 2-4 degrees on a normal day. However, with the frigid temps, the bedroom temperature was getting to the lowest it has been, 66, since I put the stove in. I figured it would get even lower thru the night as the cold from the garage infiltrated the floor. So, by putting it on T-stat, there would be steady heat for the fan to push into the bedroom (dang, I should go into a big explanation of how the heat gets to the other side of the house, but I won't). This worked well and the bedroom was 68 when I awoke this morning.

Anyway, to back up at 8 pm last night - I came into the living room after checking the outside thermometer to see that Fuzzy looked like he knew how cold it was outside and was getting prepared in case the house got cold

Fuzzy at -8 outside

Tory and Birdie seemed to be more confident that no such thing would happen.

Tory
Tory

And yes, I am staying toasty warm with the pellet stoves going - at half the fuel cost of when I used propane.

 

Posted by Bogie on February 14, 2015 at 01:59 PM in Life in General, Our Animals | Permalink | Comments (4)

Best Insulated Wall of the House

Last Saturday I had a CPR class, that took a good portion of the day (last time I trained for CPR was when I went to babysitting class when I was 10 or 12). They had a portable defibrillator as part of the course. The instructor asked if anyone had not seen one used before and I was the only one (everyone else was renewing their CPR card). So, he handed it to me and asked me to figure it out. Very easy - boy have things come a long way when you can do such a thing with a 5 pound machine that retails fro less than $1k.

Well, once I got home, I started working on the basement foundation wall. Although I had R7 rigid foam on the wall, I still needed to get the studs in (the frame was there - just no studs) and then add fiberglass insulation on top of the foam.

I had already gotten the lumber, which had been cut to 8' so that it would fit in my car. I then used the sliding miter saw to cut them to the actual length (63") and proceeded to install them every 16 inches.

Gym Foundation Wall New Studs

You will notice in this picture, that I missed  taping the seam between the bottom foam boards, I actually knocked the studs out (they weren't screwed in yet, taped up the seams, then reinstalled the studs.

Then I installed the fiberglass batting. I tore off the bottom portion of the paper in case water comes from the garage, it won't soak up thru the paper.

Gym Foundation Wall Batting Insulation2

Now I am at a stand still in that room. I can't put up sheetrock until I tear out the wall next to the garage, but I won't do that until it gets a bit warmer outside. Plus, I need to get sheetrock, which I will have to arrange delivery of since my car can't handle anything that large.

As to the title of this post, this is the best insulated wall that I have; R7 rigid foam insulation and R13 fiberglass insulation on top. Kind of sad since it will be one of the least used rooms in the house (as far as time spent in it goes anyway).

Posted by Bogie on February 14, 2015 at 01:24 PM in House Work, Life in General | Permalink | Comments (2)