December 04, 2016
Clouds With a Silver Lining
On my way home from work Friday afternoon, about 3 miles from home, I stopped at the side of the road to take pictures of the clouds.
Very pretty and made me smile.
Of Bike and Snow
I have not ridden the bike since 10/16/16. Yesterday I was going to take it out for a quick spin to Henniker and back. That would accomplish a couple of things; fill the gas tank, get oil circulating thru the engine and clutch, and charge up the battery.
Naturally it started snowing as I pulled it out of the garage into the driveway. I decided that Mother Nature did not intend for me to ride so let the bike warm up and charge in the driveway then shut it down and backed it back into the garage.
If you look closely there are a couple of snow flakes on the seat. It was hard getting a picture since the engine had already warmed the seat up somewhat before I thought to get pictures.
Guess it is time to arrange for the dealer to come pick it up for winter storage :(
Bedroom Closet is Usefull Again
Last weekend I got the closet so close to finished that I was able to put my clothes back into it. The only things left are to create a box for the pipes and nail in the floor trim.
The bottom two shelves are totally new additions - the pipes run between the two shelves. The clothing rod and upper shelf are new, replacements for what was there previously.
November 25, 2016
Since the day I moved into this house I have hated my propane tank placement and propane provider. The 500 gallon tank was placed in pretty much the only place it could go - smack dab in the middle of my yard. The worst part was that I can see it from anywhere on my property except the opposite side of the house. It is old and rusty and has peeling paint. And on top of that, I could smell propane almost everytime I got near it. And I'm sure that is one of the reasons my vegetable beds don't do very well and the plants always had stunted growth.
On top of that, the propane provider (which owns the tank so no one else can fill it) charges about $1 more per gallon than anyone else. The first winter here I was paying over $1,000 a month to heat this place to 64*! Okay, that was a brutal winter with extremely high propane prices anyway, but it was still $200-$300 more than I would have paid other providers.
The high prices of propane were the impetus for me to get the pellet stoves, but I still need propane for DHW, the cook stove and to use the boiler for back-up heat. I have been using 100-150 gallons per year since then, taking a delivery in the fall. This year I found that my provider was still at $3370/gallon. I figured I would look around for a new supplier (I talked some about that in this post).
Wednesday was the day! Irving brought in two 125 gallon bottles. The tank guys got here first and upon seeing the 500 gallon beheamoth, thought they had brought the wrong tanks. I assured them that they had the correct goods and showed them where I hoped they could place them, beside the garage and under the drip line of the roof (I have a 3' overhang). They were unsure if that was legal since they would be beside a garage window. Perhaps if the window was boarded up they could do so, but they would need to wait for the tech.
The tech arrived and agreed that if I boarded up the window it would be good. They were busy making plans on how the tank guys would place the bottles and lock them out. And the tech would run the line around the corner of the house, but not hook up. And one of the tank guys finally turned to me and told me that if I called when I had the window boarded up, they and the tech would come back out and do the final hookup. How long did I think it would take me to get someone to close up the window?
Then I threw them what was apparently a bombshell - "I can get it done in 10 minutes - I have plywood and a saw, and I'm not afraid to use them."
So I took measurements and went to work cutting the plywood and had it screwed in before they had completed the paperwork (bottles were in place). The tank guys were appreciative that they didn't have to come back out just to unlock the tanks and congratulated me on my handiness. Yeah, I know, cutting a rectangular piece of plywood isn't that tough, nor is screwing it into place, but apparently they weren't used to a woman doing that.
The only hiccup was that I didn't have caulk that would set up in the 30* temps. I assured the tech that I could get some at the local hardware store so he set up the line - which gave him fits since he had to thread it between the siding and the fence post in 30* and very windy weather. He then leak checked it (had to replace a fitting on one of the bottles that had cracked and finished up the paperwork. Since they could only transport the bottles 20% filled, the company will make a fuel delivery next week. The tech cautioned me that they wouldn't fill it if they saw the plywood wasn't caulked up.
No worries - as soon as he left I went into town and got some RTV (high temp caulk that also has a set up temp down to single digit temps) and I caulked it up. I am extremely happy with the guys, the bottles and the placement.
Yeah, and I called my previous propane provider and told them to come pick up their tank. I can't wait to drive up my driveway, or look out from my back door a NOT see the ugly beheamoth in my yard!
My H-D dealer of choice gives points for purchases. Normall those purchases are for merchandise/parts - services are no included. I also get points for attending HOG meetings (as a courtesy from our sponsoring dealer). A couple of months ago, my Extended Service Plan (ESP) for the bike came up for renewal. I was debating not only if to renew, but also if I renewed, for how long. The decision became easier when the dealer had a special that included earning points for buying/renewing an ESP (limited time offer).
So I had a whole bunch of points to spend. The catch? The points expired on 11/23/16. Upon realizing this a couple of weeks ago, I mulled over what to get (I had nearly $200 to spend). Oh, I could get things for the bike, but then I would have to have them installed. And really, the bike pretty much has everything I could want - except more lighting is always good. Then I thought of what I could use for myself - and I realized I have been lusting after a helmet that has a clear face shield with an integrated sun shield that is retractable. Fortunately, Harley has just come out with the women's version (men's are too big for my small head).
So I went into Heritage H-D and they only had sizes M & L - way too big for me. The sales associate offered to order one for me. I told the gal that I needed to use my points and if the helmet wouldn't be in by 11/23, then I wouldn't buy it. She assured me that since they knew it was my plan, they could extend the points if needed.
I was getting antsy about that, so Wednesday after my day job, I headed to Concord to renew that promise (and see how that would work). I walked in the door and Kristie said, "I see you got my message!". Um, no, did you call? Turns out she had left me a message as I was driving to the dealership. The helmets had come in (they got both S & XS since I was unsure of the size I needed). XS was perfect. And since the helmet did not take up all my points, I got a long sleeved shirt with a customized NH scene and the dealer logo.
For both of these items I shelled out a mere $10.
Yep, I'm a happy camper - I know I'll love the retractable sun-shield when I get to use the hemet!
November 12, 2016
In the Closet
Last weekend I started tearing apart the bedroom closet. The closet is on an outside wall, abuts the bathroom, and has the bathroom pipes running thru it. It gets very cold in the winter. That is easy to forget in the warmth of summer, but with cold weather arriving, I found a lot of cold air coming into the bathroom. Since I had pretty much everything I need for a small project like a 2' x 3' closet, I got started.
At the start of the demolition, I took off the crown molding and found a huge air gap between the ceiling and wall sheet rock.
On tearing out the outside wall, I couldn't believe I had forgotten how the builder had never put plywood in the upper 8-9" of the outside wall, so it directly lets in cold air and wind from the eaves. ARRGGHH - it was in the low 40's and I had to hurry and scab in some plywood!
I caulked in around all the studs to stop air filtration and let it cure until Sunday early afternoon (I had a HOG meeting in the morning). I did roll on two layer of paint on the door wall and the back wall since I wasn't tearing those out. That took quite a while as the closet it so small that I ended up using a small 3-4" roller in order to have room for me, it and the step stool.
When I got home Sunday, I installed 1" rigid foam insulation along the outside wall and caulked all around it.
Since it was in fairly good shape, instead of tearing out the ceiling sheet rock I added rigid foam insulation to the inside. It shortens the ceiling, but since it's not like I can crawl up there thru the 18" door, I don't care.
The caulk had to cure, so I was pretty much done until today. This morning I went down into the basement to cut a piece of fiberglass insulation for the wall, and found that the only roll I had left was R19. Great, no, not really, I have to have R13. So I gathered up the trash and did a dump run, then stopped at the local hardware store and found they only had R11 - at $36+ per roll. AMG - that is about twice as much as I can get at HD. Alright then, they just made it worth the drive to Concord (30 miles). On my way, I decided to stop at the next town over and see if their hardware store had anything.
Ahh, lifesavers - they had R13 insulation and for $17/roll. Although a couple $$ more than HD, the drive time and gas would eat up that, so I happily gave them money and was back home shortly. I installed the fiberglass insulation.
Then I sheet rocked over the rigid foam on the ceiling.
Then I started on the floor, which is over the garage at lets in at least as much cold air as the wall did. I put down a layer of rigid foam insulation, then used that as a template for the plywood to go on top.
Then I pulled the plywood back up and used it as a template for cutting a scrap piece of linoleum. I used double-sided tape to secure the edges, then put the construction down on the floor.
Lastly, I sheet rocked the outside wall.Yes, that is two different colors of sheet rock. I was making the most efficient use of the drops from other projects and the only difference is the purple is for damp areas (like bathrooms) and the white is for living areas.
I still have to tape and mud, then paint and put up the clothing rod and shelving, but I'm happy with the progress I made today.
October 30, 2016
A Couple of Cuties
Just had to share a couple of cute pics of Fuzzy and Rita
That is all :)
Although technically still good, the Explorer needed new tires before the snow gets serious here in NH. I haven't been overly happy with the Michelin A/T's that were on it when I bought it. Oh, they did okay in snow, but wet roads were not as good as I would have liked. At stop signs, to start going, there was wheel slippage even under gentle power. Additionally, two of the tires developed slow leaks, so I was putting air in them every couple of weeks - depending on my TPS to tell me when they needed it.
I thought I would wait until December or so to get tires, but I have been keeping an eye on flyers from local places to see what was on sale, or what rebates were available. The dealer that I normally have my vehicles service had given me a quote of $750 for the same tires that were on the truck plus another $90 for the 4-wheel alignment (necessary for a 4WD vehicle). Yeah, I know SUV tires, especial A/T's are expensive, but if I were to pay that much, I wanted a tire I was happier with.
Thursday I realized there is a tire place about 2 miles from work. So it would be easy to drop off and pick up the truck. I got online and looked at what they had. I recognized a couple of the tires from the research I had been doing, but then I ran into a tire I had never heard of, Kumho, which was not only on sale, but offered a rebate too. They were extremely low priced and I thought that they couldn't really be very good but since they were also Mountain/Snow rated, I went to look them up on TireRack anyway. I was pleasantly surprised that the Road Venture AT51 were well regarded for all the things I was looking for in a tire. The Kumho's were rated as #2 and the existing tires were rated at #5 (and look at those snow and wet traction rating differences - which were my main concerns).
Only snag was that the rebate was only good for tires bought by 10/31/16. I went to the tire place's appointment maker on their website and was pleasantly surprised that I could get in first thing the next morning. So I arranged for various co-workers to pick me up and drop me off, and I was in business.
For about $200 less than I was quoted for tires that I wasn't thrilled with, I got a top rated tire, my TPS service and stems replaced, and 4-wheel alignment - aand that is without factoring in the rebate (which I have already applied for). Between the $$ savings and looking at the nice aggressive tread, and the pattern versus what was on there was enough to make me giddy :D.
Then I drove the 30 miles home, on wet roads. Oh. My. A nice smooth ride on the heaved portions, nice starting from stops on the wet pavement, and no tire noise. After driving to Concord yesterday via highway, once again on wet roads, I experienced the same pleasure. So, as long as they hold up well in the snow, and I have no reason to believe they won't, I am one happy camper that I gave these "cheapy" tires a chance.
October 22, 2016
Playing with Propane
When I moved into this house, I inherited the propane company (AG) that the previous residents used. "Inherit" means that AG's tank is on the property and they are the only ones that can fill it. AG also happens to be a way expensive company to use - averaging $1 more per gallon over competitors. NH has very high propane costs anyway because every bit of it is trucked in and we only have one holding depot, which is out on the coast. So while other parts of the country are enjoying very cheap propane, NH's average price is around $2.50/gallon. The year I moved in, we had shortages because of the extreme weather and the price I was paying was $5-6/gallon - a huge expense when my 950 sq/ft (only the main floor has heat run thru it) was using 250-300 gallons per month to keep the temp at 64*. That was the main impetus for me getting pellet stoves.
The winters of 2014 and 2015 I only used propane for the cook stove (rarely used), DHW and to run the boiler a couple time a day during extreme cold to keep the FHW pipes that run thru the garage from freezing. So I've only bought 100-150 gallons of propane a year. I have always had the goal of changing propane companies and this is the year. Just before Thanksgiving, my 500 gallon tank will be changed out for two 125 gallon tanks.
Although this seems unrelated, there is a relationship here, so bear with me. Last spring the boiler's pilot light blew out during extreme winds last spring. I was lucky and it happened shortly before I got up for work, I happened to go into the back corner of the basement, where the boiler is, before leaving for work and smelled the propane coming out of the boiler. If I hadn't gone into that part of the basement, I never would have smelled the gas, and I wouldn't be complaining about the difficulties I've had the last couple of weeks as it is likely the house would have blown up before I got home. I did smell the propane, figured out where it was coming from and turned off the pipe that supplied the boiler.
With cold weather coming in I've been trying to get someone to come out and service the boiler, then relight it. I've called local companies and not had my voice mails returned. I've emailed with no results. I widened my circle to larger companies that clearly show on their website they service my area (within the 25 mile radius they show) and been told they don't come out this far. There was one company that said they could come out in mid December :( . Then I called the big outfits that have TV ads and supposedly service most of the state. Well, not this part.
My desperation to get the boiler going, besides it is always good to have a backup heat source, is because my present propane tank is still at 20% (about 100 gallons). To transport the tank over the road, the company must make sure that it is at 5% or less. If they have to pump out the propane, I get hit with up to $150 charge, so I want to burn as much of the propane off as possible. The only way to do that is to heat the main floor with FHW until the new company brings in their tanks.
After reading the relighting directions on the stove, I decided I would clean it and relight it myself. So I stopped at the local hardware store and got a bottle brush, long matches and a long crevice tool for my shop vac.
Teh bottle brush did a good job of getting gunk, cat hairs and cobwebs of the gas jets, and I was able to vacuum up all the crud that had fallen below. Since I had previously turned off the gas supply at the peipe, I turned it off at the boiler itself and opened up the valve on the pipe. I let it sit for a couple of minutes and then started sniffing around for the smell of gas - there wasn't any, so I was good for the next step.
I turned the boiler dial to Pilot, pressed the red feed button and lit the pilot light with a long match. After holding in the red button for about a minute (per instructions), I let it go, made sure the red button popped up and the pilot light stayed lit, then turned the dial to Run. So far, so good. I then turned the thermostat up so that the boiler would fire, went downstairs to check on progress and Houston, we have ignition!
So the P43, that usually heats the main floor has been turned down to 60* so it is the backup system and I am running the FHW for the heat. So far it is still fairly warm outside, so the boiler hasn't fired since I turned the thermostat back down to 70*, but tomorrow will be cold and windy so it will have to start doing some work.
Next summer I need to seriously look into replacing the boiler as its install tag has a 1991 date, but for now it's good!
October 16, 2016
Sweet Potato Soup
With the colder weather, I have a hankering for vegetables other than my usual summer fare of salads. Last weekend I picked up some sweet potatoes, but never did anything with them because I had also made a huge stew in the crockpot, and lived on that all week. Yesterday, I picked up a few more items at the store, planning on doing "something" with them.
I finally decided to do a crossover between a breakfast "cereal" type mixture (I regularly make "cereal" out of cooked bananas cream and cinnamon) and a vegetable soup. I looked up on the net for recipes, and found a few good foundations, and then went and did my own thing :)
The ingredients were simple; sweet potatoes (2), winter squash (butternut in this case - about half that package)), Macintosh apple (1), cauliflower (1 bag of frozen), onion (1), carrots (baby cut), bell pepper (1 - that I had gotten from a guy at work), Cinnamon, ground ginger, pumpkin pie spice, and a dash of vanilla.
The sweet potatoes and apple were peeled and diced, the squash was diced - all into about 2" chunks. I layered all the vegies and spices (not the vanilla) in the crockpot with about 1 cup of water.
Now, every "soup" recipe wanted me to use 5 cups of broth (vegie or chicken), then after cooking place in a blender to puree'. Since I knew I wouldn't do that, I wanted to steam the vegies to soften them. After 4 hours on high, I used a pastry cutter to "mash" the vegies. I still left lumps so it was a cross between a bisque and a soup. Then I added a bit of cream and cut in an 8 oz block of cream cheese (I use the 1/3 fat stuff to reduce calories). You could easily use coconut milk or almond milk if avoiding animal products. It is at that point that I decided to add the vanilla to complement the spices
After adding in a few more spices and another cup or two of water, I cooked on high for an hour, after which the appliance went to "warm" until I woke up this morning and turned it off (yes, I started the soup late). The visual result was a nice creamy soup with soft, small chunks of vegies, in which the green peppers add a nice variation to the color.
The results were great! I had a bit straight - which makes for a slightly sweet lunch/dinner type soup.Then I added a bit of real maple syrup, which makes it into a great breakfasty type dish. I can see adding in oatmeal for a hearty breakfast too.
This could be fun to play with in a desert too; leave out the water added at the end and add some sort of setting agent, pour it on top of a cream cheese mixture for a healthier cheesecake, or pour in a pie crust and bake until set.
Oh, and for a more complete meal type dish, I could see adding in sausage for protein - especially a mapple or apple sausage, but I think a savory sausage would work as well. Not sure about a hot sausage - although could be interesting to try.
I'll be eating well this week - hope you all cook up some good autumn foods to welcome you to the cooler weather.