May 16, 2015
Making the Bed(s)
When I moved into this house, there were two raised beds that I used for limited vegetable gardening last summer. One bed was in decent shape, the other waws really falling apart. The beds were about 8 feet apart and I hate mowing (actually, I dislike having a lot of grassy area), so I covered the section between the two beds with landscape cloth. I had a vague plan to put in a 3rd raised bed at the time, and this year I decided was as good a time as any. The existing raised beds are on conceret cinder blocks, with wooden structures on top and I decided to carry the theme forward.
Instead of wood, I found raised bed kits online that are made of composite material and are easy to put together - no tools needed. The bonus was they are cheaper than buying the wood and hardware necessary (at least the sale I stumbled onto made it that way). The end of April I set up the lower cinder block structure then the first weekend in May I added the composite material and used excess dirt from the other two beds to fill it.
I filled that bed fairly full of dirt, including filling the cinder block holes since I left the landscape fabric in place. However, there is still plenty of room to add mulch/compost/manure in future years.
I also tore apart one of the old beds that was in really horrible shape - the wood was twisting away from the corner brackets and was very rotted (of course no pictures of that). I also wanted to move it about a foot closer to the new bed, from where the cinder blocks were. I dug out the cinder blocks and spent quite some time getting all the rocks, dirt and weeds out of the holes before setting up the new base.
Since I was relocating it, I also had to dig out more than a foot from the outside (you will see why in future pictures)
Finally I got the composite structure placed on it. Since this bed is not on landscape fabric, I did not refill the dirt quite as high as I did for the new bed. I didn't realize the new cinder blocks were slightly shorter than the old cinder blocks, so one edge is quite wide on the outside - oh well, I'll put in some thyme or something there.
The one remaining old bed will not be touched this year. It is still in decent shape even though the cinder blocks have been shoved out from beneath the wood. These pictures show why I actually ended up moving more than a foot of dirt for the restructured bed - the cinder blocks were pushed way out from the actual bed itself.
I do enjoy these flowers around the old bed too (flower pictures taken this morning). Not sure what they are, but they bloomed most of the summer last year so it looks nice.
March 29, 2015
Still Snowing at the End of March
Although it is slowly warming up, and the birds are flying up from further south, we are still getting snow. The storms aren't big, mostly dustings - and we got about an inch yesterday, after heavy rains on Thursday (the garage did get some water, but not nearly what I got last year, and not entering the basement, so I am good.
Pictures taken yesterday and today of the snow pack remaining.
In my area, a big flock of redwing blackbirds arrived about 2 weeks ago and they have hung around. I can hear/see them in the trees in the trees in back, and to the side of my house. Pictures of other birds at the feeder a couple of weeks ago (3-7-15).
It is supposed to get in the 40's this coming week, but even then Easter egg hunts next week may be in the snow.
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.
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.
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
March 15, 2015
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 out the living room bay window today (3/15/15)
We still have a long way to go before there is green grass.
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.
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.
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.
Of course the back side of the house does not have snow around the foundation because of the ramp.
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.
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.
Male 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)
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:
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.
February 07, 2015
Back in January, the day of the Garage Party, we had a light snowfall. Nothing major, with fluffy snow and no winds. Apparently all the heavy snows and freezing rain storms from earlier in the year had taken their toll. Sometime either while I was at the party, or later that night, the willow tree lost a large limb.
I saw it the next day when I went out to get the Sunday paper. In these pictures, it doesn't look overly large, but that is because it is beside a very large tree. One picture is from the road, the other from the house (obviously I was inside).
I texted the EX that I had a limb down and if he wanted it for firewood to come get it. He did about 10 days later, just before a fairly large snow storm.
He wasn't prepared for the size, thinking it was a small limb, but he got about ten 5-6 foot logs, of good diameter off of it, plus several smaller pieces. The small stuff that he didn't take I piled up in the backyard, making a nice brush pile for the birds and other wildlife (no pics, sorry). The logs were fairly light for their size, which means that the branch was pretty much dead; willows are very thirsty trees and grow very well in wet or boggy areas (hence, it grows well about 10 feet from the swamp next door).
The willow continuously sheds limbs, although not nearly so large, but it is very messy and obviously in distress since at least one large branch was dead so I will need to see about having it taken down next summer - or at least checked by an arborist to see if any other limbs need to come off.
I was very happy that the limb fell toward the fence, and not on the house.
January 24, 2015
Plenty of Heat
After picking up 15 more bags of pellets yesterday, I rearranged the pellet pallets. Each row of pellets is 5 bags.
All the black bags on the right are FSU's (not that you care, just so you can tell what I'm talking about further in the post) and those are what I burn in the upstairs stove. All the bags on the left are different kinds that I use in the downstairs stove.
Each bag is 40 pounds. In picking up just the 15 bags of FSU's yesterday, I had to handle them 3 times; load them onto cart at store, transfer from cart to car, transfer from car to house. So in effect, just those 15 bags was a total of moving 1800 pounds yesterday.
But wait, that isn't the whole story. See, that stack on the left used to be split between the two pallets and 20 bags of FSU's that I already had were on top of the left side pallet. Last night I unloaded the approximately 1/2 ton of mixed pellets off the right side pallet onto the floor. I then started filling it with FSU's, starting with those from my car, then topping it of with the FSUs that were on the left side pallet. Then I stacked the 1/2 ton of mixed pellets on the left side.
So, I moved 1000 pounds twice, 600 pounds 3 times, and 800 pounds once. Lets see, that translates to 2000 + 1800 + 800 = 4600 pounds of pellets that I moved yesterday.
Nope, didn't need any workout with weights yesterday.
January 11, 2015
Low Temp of the Season
The lowest temperature yet this season was at 4 AM on January 8th:
Right now it is -10F.
Still nice and warm inside from the pellet stoves!