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!
September 17, 2016
Yearly Fall Ritual
It has been a cool week with highs in the 60's and 70's and lows in the 40's. Tuesday I removed the window fans and closed the windows. By Thursday the house temp was running at 65-66 degrees and I had taken to wearing a sweatshirt in the morning before getting ready for work.
Friday, when I got home from work, I decided to get the main floor stove (P43) ready for firing. I removed the plastic bag from the end of the exhaust (kept moisture and bugs out) and then removed the newspaper that I had stuffed inside the pipe which ensured that even if the bag came off, no critters would enter. Then I vacuumed the entire main floor including behind the pellet stove and getting in the motor and fan openings to remove cat hair and dust bunnies.
Then, still feeling like I should still do something, I mopped the floors and conditioned the hard wood with a mixture of grape seed oil, orange oil and rosemary oil. The rosemary oil was an accident (I was looking at the bottle of orange oil and grabbed the rosemary), but that was okay as it helps take care of any stray fleas that might have made their way inside. Not that I've seen any fleas, and I have kept up with flea treatments for Fuzzy, but it never hurts to be proactive!
The floors are all soft looking and shiny, they are protected from the drying air of the pellet stove, and any roughness my bare feet felt is gone. A good thing as I woke up this morning to hear Birdie shivering. Yes, I actually heard him shivering - he gets the whole cage to vibrating and the bottom grate rattles against the plastic base. So, being the caring pet owner that I am (and being cold myself once I got out from under the blanket), I started the P43 up.
Once it got to to 68 degrees, the stove shut down. It was in the mid 70's so I opened all the windows and let Mother Nature heat the house. Currently 71 and the low is supposed to be in the 60's, so the stove will be off for a while. But it is good that it is ready for the next cold snap.
August 21, 2016
Grass Is green - For Now
I mowed for the first time in two weeks yesterday. For this season that is unusual - I've been mowing every 3 weeks (whether it needs it or not). Mother Nature has been very stingy with the water this year and most of NH is under drought conditions, some areas of the state are up to 13" below normal. My area is only 7-8" under for the year. A lot of my front yard was brown for about a month, the shrubs and perennials I placed in wet and damp areas last summer were wilting (I have been watering them every couple of days for several weeks) and the swamp next door shows no water(neither does the drainage between that property and mine). Not only have we been under watered by MN, but we have been extremely hot for the upper Northeast and we've had over 20 days in the 90's (normal is something like 11).
But then I got lucky and got 4" of rain last weekend. True, all of it came in the span of about 4 hours, but we got moisture non-the-less. The weather service was calling for severe storms with lots of rain, so I made sure to water the "damp" and "wet" gardens that morning so that it would be prepped to let the precipitation thru.
The first severe weather started between 4 & 6. I really don't remember the time, I just know I was getting ready to get up on a metal step stool and use a metal scraper (just underneath a metal roof) to knock off ridges in the dried mud on the bathroom ceiling (taping and mudding, not dirt - LOL). When the thunder and lightning started, I figured I best not do that, so waited that cell out. When the deluge started, I put out a couple of 2" deep, strait-sided, flat-bottomed bowels to catch water so I could get a good idea how much rain I got.
By the time the cell moved thru and I checked the bowls they were over flowing, so I got over 2" in that round. I emptied the bowels so I could measure the next cell that was headed my way. Around 7:30, after getting the mud ridges knocked down (yes, the cell moved thru quickly), the second cell came thru
I was just mudding with a plastic spatula, so I didn't worry about working in the bathroom although when the Emergency Management System tone came over my phone it got my attention and I stopped to see what was going on. Just a text telling me about the possibility of flash flooding in my area. By the end of that cell, the bowls were just below full, so I figured another 2" (to make up for the overflowing the first time).
Since more storms might roll in thru the night, I emptied the bowls again. But the next morning there was only about 1/4" in them.
The sad thing is that the swamp was so starved for water that it soaked it all in. I listened for runoff into the drainage (sounds like a burbling stream), but it was quiet. The farms in the state are suffering with no hay, stunted crops, and small fruits. Fish and Game also had bear warnings out since the wild berries have failed so the wildlife is looking for other sources of food.
Could be a lot worse - we haven't had any forest fires since spring and we aren't in the shape that Louisiana is in (or other areas like Mulvane, KS).
May 28, 2016
1 Ton Down
Last weekend I moved a ton of pellets out of the yard and under nominal shelter. On Saturday I made a skinny pallet as where I was placing it only had a small area for the storage. I brought home a packing crate for a machine, that was nominally shaped like a pallet. After removing small pieces of wood that were sticking up as holders, I added a bunch of scrap wood across the base to creat the pallet. The original base only had 4 slats - the rest were added by me
The pallet was placed along one wall of the shed, then the stacking commenced.
Being an old shed, the roof leaks so I added plastic to keep the pellet bags dry (the bags have breathing holes so aren't water tight.
I plan on moving the other pellets that are in front of the shed into the house, then will tent the other 6 tons at some point.
May 22, 2016
What happens when a 30+ year old pyrex measuring cup meets a newish Ball canning jar
The Pyrex was only dropped about 6 inches as I was placing it in the dish drainer after washing it.
I did get a replacement, but it isn't the same somehow. The handle heats up in the microwave - not badly, but enough to make me wonder what the difference is.
April 10, 2016
What I have Been up To
Two months ago I started a second part-time job cleaning offices at night. I had been only working 2-4 hours a week; working on Tuesday and Friday nights at a local dentist office with another gal and helping at other places when someone called in sick.
Last week I started working every week night as a gal decided 3 (!!!) jobs was too many and her last day was Thursday at another dental office in the next town over (this place is only open Mon-Thurs). This is a good fit for me as once a month I have the LOH meeting Thursday evening, so I can push out that night's cleaning until Friday. I will still be working the local office too. I will be getting in at least 3 hours every night except the Friday's that I only work at the local dental office - that will be about a 1.5 hour night.
Last Friday night I evidently didn't have enough of cleaning as I decided my wood floors really needed to be oiled. So, I vacuumed, mopped, scrubbed some sections, then got on my hands and knees and went to work. I moved every piece of furniture in the living room (except the entertainment center), while the rest of the room I just moved small things like chairs.
I was quite pleased with the results
April 02, 2016
I have squirrels that constantly raid my birdfeeders even though the feeders are literally right outside my back door. I thought that when Fuzzy was outside the squirrels stayed out of the penned in area. They have figured out they are in no danger from me if they are outside the pen and I am on the back porch, but surely the squirrels wouldn't come onto the porch while the cat was outside. Remember, Fuzzy was feral the first 5-6 years of his life and I imagine he caught a lot of his own food.
Yeah, right. See how my hopes are dashed :)
March 26, 2016
This has nothing to do with the rest of the post, but L*wes called me this morning wondering if I would take delivery of the 4 tons of pellets tomorrow instead of next Saturday - sure!
While cleaning out the shed to install old metal standing shelves that were previously in the basement, I realized I don't have enough space for both the lawn mower and the snow blower. Previously that wasn't an issue as they sat in the garage in front of the car. Umm, won't work this year dummy - pellets are there. So, I did something I had been planning on doing anyway; I put the garden tractor on CL. It is taking up fully half of the 8x8 shed - and taking that half out of the middle, so very inconvenient all the way around.
I haven't used the tractor at all, haven't even started it. I don't need it to rototill since I have raised garden beds, and half my yard is too wet to try to run it thru for mowing. I also like getting exercise using the hand mower. It is 17 years old and minus a tail light and headlight (thanks Ex for dumping it out of the truck within a month of my buying it). So, I put a nice low price on it at 3:30 this afternoon and by 5 I had not only a guy who will be here first thing in the morning for it. If he doesn't want it (improbably, he is driving 1.5 hours), someone else will be here at 11. Of course I will let guy #2 know not to make the trip if guy #1 takes it.
Either way, by noon I should have room for snowblower and mower. The shelves will be in there and the main reason for all of this moving stuff around; I will once again have room in the garage (barely) for the bike.
March 06, 2016
So, in my last post I talked about getting 2 more tons of pellets delivered while BBS had them on sale. I received the two tons on Tuesday, so have 4 tons sitting out in the yard.
Then on Thursday, I was perusing CL and what should I find but a guy that had some of the better pellets on sale - for less than the set price I had previously posted. Even after delivery charge ($40 for a 70 mile trip), I was below that price. So, I ordered 3 tons and had them delivered yesterday.
Friday evening I moved the ton of pellets still in the garage into the basement. That left me with enough room to place the better pellets in the garage. The machine that they pellet guy used wouldn't fit in the garage (heck, my truck is too tall so I didn't expect his machine to go in), but he was able to push the pallets in so hand stacking was pretty much a breeze.
It took less than 2 hours for me to restack the 3 tons - and that includes a break between each ton. Also, the top 3 rows were challanging since I had to use a step stool to reach those.
So to recap my holdings; 4 tons outside, 3 tons in the garage and 2.3 tons in the basement. Should get me thru a couple of winters, or at least 1.5 winters.
February 27, 2016
Since the winter of 2013/2014, wood pellet markets have been wild. Pellets have at times been scarce, and expensive. Last year I was thankful to find decent (not good, just decent) pellets at H*me Dep*t for $259/ton. Other decent pellets were going for upwards of $300/ton while the really good stuff could get up to $400/ton. But, with high oil and propane prices, I couldn't complain and still saved huge compared to propane prices. And I was thankfull too that last year, although some places had pellet shortages, I was always able to find what I needed (being able to store a couple ton in the basement helped too).
The pellet makers responded to the last two hard winters by making sure we had an abundance of pellets, and the Big Box Stores (BBS) likewise brought in huge stores of inventory, which is good in a sense. However, they are at the same prices as last year and with the mild winter, and cheaper oil, pellets were sitting and few were buying (those few were people like me who still save money over propane by using pellets). I started off the season with 5+ tons; four I bought in the fall and I had a bit over a ton left from last season. I have bought 5-10 bags of pellets here and there when I could find a good deal on something I hadn't tried and I have about 2.5 tons in the house/garage to get me thru the rest of this season (unless the weather gets really wacky, I should have plenty left).
A couple of weeks ago L*we's lowered their decent pellets to $199/ton, with free delivery if you bought at least 2 tons. I had 2 tons delivered about 10 days ago
Monday is the last day of the sale, and HD hasn't lowered their price any, so I decided to order another couple of tons. Those will be delivered in the middle of the week. If HD lowers their price, I will probably get some of theirs too.If I get the chance to get some of the really good pellets at around the $259/ton mark, I will try to grab some of those as well. I may have to store a lot outside, but I need to take advantage of both the supply and the prices.
See, all the talk on the pellet forums is on what will happen next year. Several pellet plants have been shut down for the last month or so because they aren't selling their stock. Some of them may never reopen. Those that do, will probably not produce as many pellets next year to reduce their chances of being burned on the market again. The BBS will probably not order the inventory as they did this year, for the same reason. If those ideologies hold true and we have a tough winter next year, there may be pellet shortages and/or outrageous prices.
It will be interesting to see what happens next winter. It will also be interesting to see how big a lean-to or storage tent I need to set up.