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.
Murder at the Bogie House
I got home yesterday from doing the dump run and picking up a few groceries and the side yard was being over run. By the time I got the truck backed into the driveway and got my camera out, these were the only culprits left. Sorry for the crappy pic, but it is from my phone and at max zoom :~|
I have no idea what they were searching for since I didn't have a garden this year, nor have any of the wild berries produced the crab apple tree is on the other side of the house, and the bird feeders are on the other side of the house as well. Since that section is sandy and has several ant mounds, they could have been going after that, but that seems odd to me.
So, a murder of crows came a calling for no apparent reason.
October 08, 2016
"Now...on to the microwave, when you can take the time from all of the other chores." Cop Car, 10/2/16.
Little did she know that I was in the middle of that project as she was typing.A little background first; when I bought the house, all the appliances were black, except the microwave. Weird, but I could live with that. I could also live with a beeper so quiet that only bats and owls could hear the thing even standing right next to it. HOwever, sometime last spring the turntable stopped working. Yes, I could still nuke my coffee in the morning, but nuking food was inconvenient as I had to do the quarter-turn thing liek I was back in the 1980's :D. So, I looked on CL until I found an unused GE microwave of the correct size and color, had the amenities I wanted (underneath light and fan for the cook stove underneath), and was at a price I was willing to pay.
I started the project Saturday, late afternoon by taking the old microwave out.
Dang it was nasty at the sides. See that area on the right? I thought that was an area that hadn't gotten painted because the microwave was in the way. Not so - and the other side was worse. A little time and elbow grease, and I was ready to put in the new microwave.
I was happy to find that the bracket from the old ovenwould work with the new oven, so I didn't have to change that out (happy, happy!). Then, it was on to putting the new microwave in. Well, there was one glitch in that being as I bought it from an individual, who had bought it as a floor model, it didn't quite come with all the parts. Namely, the self aligning machine screws that go thru the cabinet into the top of the microwave. I was hoping the screws that came out of the old microwave would work, but they were the wrong size. So, Sunday I went in search of . . .
Naturally the local hardware place didn't have any screws of the correct size - who knew that 1/4-28 x 3" were so rare? So I headed to the city and stopped at H*me Dep*t. Nope, not there either. tried both the appliance section and the hardware section. Then off to Se*rs - no joy there either. Last shot (other than net order) was Rocky's Hardware. Although they didn't have self-aligning type, they did have the correct size screws - exactly two of them. Well, dang, I needed 3. However they did also have some 2.5" bolts of the correct size, so I got one of those (I didn't technically need 3" screws as the hardware list was for worstcase scenario - that spacing blocks would need to be used also).
Sunday afternoon, there much swearing while trying to align the oven with the wall bracket, in which you really needs eyes on the bottom of the stove to align the nubs with the holes in the oven frame - while at the same time being on a step stool to lift and cant the oven to go over said nubs. Yes, the instructions warn that you should use two people, but being without that option, I just had to do the best I could. Finally, I got the thing lined up, held it up with one hand while trying to manipulate the screws and screw gun, then realizing the electrical cord was in the way (it goes thru the upper cabinet). ARRGGHH!
I did have the foresight to have a support system in place so that I could just drop the front of the oven and thread the cord thru the hole. Then back to manipulating screws/screwgun with one hand. Finally I got the results I was looking for and not only do I have a microwave that works, but it matches the rest of the appliances.
Remember kids, don't try this at home :)
October 02, 2016
Bright and Windy
Last weekend I finally got around to putting up the replacement ceiling fan / light in the kitchen. The old ceiling fan / light had given up the ghost; first the fan quite working (no big deal), but then the lights quit working. When I removed the old one, I couldn't see any reason it shouldn't work (ie, all connections were still good), so bought a close out model online and it has patiently waited in its box in the living room. I did put the fan blades together something like 2 months ago (EDIT: I ordered the fan on 7/21 and it arrived within 3 days, so just over 2 months), but then it became less of a priority since I knew that Cop Car and her HH were coming and I had to get the bathroom ready for them to help me with the cabinetry.
Although a fairly easy project, this one made me nervouse (which project doesn't - LOL) because it involved electricity. Fortunately the instructions were straight forward; the bracket went up easily into the existing electrical box
Then the housing and fan blades went on.
The last step was to put on the lighting portion. At this point I found that the housing wasn't perfectly centered and when the lighting section was installed, it interfered with the blade rotation. So, I ended up having to take that section out several times and reinstall the housing until everything worked smoothly. All that was more a function of performing the work by a flashlight held between the teeth, than being a difficult task. Then I turned on the breaker, flipped the swithc and pulled the light chanin. ARRGGHH! Of course it didn't work correctly.
See that back light? It isn't lit. After moving light bulbs around I determined it was the bulb itself. Of course, fan/lights have gone to candelabra bulbs, so I didn't have any replacement bulbs and the local stores wanted $10-12 per bulb! I got online and ordered three LED candelabra bulbs for only twice as much as local stores wanted for one regular bulb. Yesterday I installed the new light bulbs and voila
These lights are a bright white instead of the "true light" type, so it is brighter, which although looks kind of strange (being used to true light bulbs in the rest of the main floor), makes reading and seeing much better. Amazing how much I strain to read directions under the other lights - where a lot of times I get a flashlight to be able to see the writing - and under these lights I don't have that issue. So, here is an action shot to prove the fan works too
So now, when I want it to be, it can be bright and windy in the kitchen.
September 24, 2016
Just a few pics I've taken over the last couple of weeks
This blanket strip was placed on the floor while the folks were here. I spent days trying to pick it up, but every time I thought of it, one or the other cat was on it. This time they doubled down :) I did eventually get to pick it up a couple of days after the pics were taken (taken 9/6)
On 9/17 I picked up a couple of catnip mice for the kitties.
On 9/18, Rita ventured outside for the first time. Pics are a bit grainy because it was dusk. Rita loves to chase bugs that are on the other side of the glass in the storm door - and she managed to hone in on a bug out on the grass.
Today, I let Rita outside for a few minutes, but I didn't think to get pictures. Later, after she was back inside, she was trying to get me to let her outside to go after the dove. Not that she would have known what to do with it (and the dove probably would win a cage match), but that didn't stop her from really wanting to go after it.
And that concludes today's cuteness quotient.
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.
Biker Chick and her Parents
While Cop Car and her HH were here, they actually got to see one of my motorcycles - they never saw, in person, my previous bikes. Since that Sunday was the monthly HOG meeting, and their hotel was just a couple miles down the same road, I rode over when the meeting was over. After performing some errands, using HH's car, and just prior to heading towards my place, CC told Dad she wanted a pic of him on the bike. And here he is.
Of course, they had never seen me ride before, so CC went a little crazy with the pics as they followed me home. She literally took more pictures of me than had previously been taken in total. These are just a sampling of the pics; The first is as I was getting prepared to leave the hotel parking lot, then various places thru the ride home, and finally as I am backing into the driveway.
Once home, I had Mom get on the bike for a pic together.
I appreciate that CC shared the pics with me as I have a hard time rotating my FB profile pic since I have so few photos of myself (which I only do a couple times a year) - usually I resort to just pics of my bike.
September 06, 2016
Lipizzaner Stallions In Goffstown, NH
While the folks were in town, the Lipizzaner Stallions were performing locally, so we went to see the show. It was at a small arena at a therapeutic riding facility, so we were fairly close to the action. Since I didn't take my camera that has better zoom abilities than my camera, most of my pictures were limited to shots of the horses in their stalls. But that just means I was able to focus on the performance rather than focusing on trying to take pictures - so all was good.
Aragorn was the Big Boy of the group. Not only was he taller and more solid, but he held his head very high and proudly throughout the performance.
Apparently one of the horses was in time out - LOL
And, the one action shot I got; it was toward the beginning of the show as they were showing a horse being "cart driving" from another horse. Apparently, although appearing to be a simple type maneuver, is challenging to train especially when using all stallions. It was probably even more difficult as they were using a young stallion as the "cart" horse. And this particular horse (Achilles),we were to learn later from the announcer, is full of himself and vying to become the alpha stallion as they had recently retired their alpha and the horses are in the process of sorting out their hierarchy. Additionally, post tropical storm Hermine was off the coast and the pressure change was affecting the horses' attitudes and sensitivities.
Had a great time and I hope the folks enjoyed it too!
Mom and Dad came to visit and I put them to work. They moved the vanity base and sink/counter from the basement to the main floor. They wouln't even let me help but to tell them when they needed to watch their footing in the yard. I did bring up the 12" drawer bank up myself, as well as the wall cabinet up, but I felt bad that they did all the heavy work. They just told me that they were used to working together, so I just needed to stay out of the way.
After installing the vanity, we put up the medicine cabinet and wall cabinet (over the commode - for towel storage). I installed the towel bar and towel ring as well as placed the hutch on the counter, and voila - it looks like a new bathroom!
I still need to put down flooring and replace the commode, but that won't be done for a while. Mom also helped me narrow the flooring choices down to two different patterns/colors/designs (out of about 10 that I had samples of). One is a linoleum, and one is a laminate and either will do a nice job of protecting, beautifying and and adding a textural visual interest.
The sink is still dry and I will probably bring in a plumber to do the hookup to the drain. I also have to install the toe kicks at the bottom of the base cabinets, and reinstall the trim around the doorway (taken off for painting) but those are not something that I need heavy-lifting help for, so I' extremely pleased with the progress made this weekend!