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.
Birdie's New Digs
I was cleaning Birdie's cage Wednesday evening when this happened.
I can't be too upset. It was Birdies original cage; I have had him since 2003 and he was about 10 years old when I got him. That cage came with Birdie, so I assume it is around 20 years old or so. Additionally, the center part had cracked a couple of years ago, so it was only a matter of time. Fortunately, Birdie isn't a big wanderer, the biggest issues the break caused would be more mess outside the cage and the wire being less securely balanced on the base. Heck, that portion that is still attached was very floppy even with the cage wire settled on top of it, and I was afraid it would break too.
I was originally going to go to a pet store to get a replacement cage - I could run out during lunch and pick one up. I got online to see what was available in-store, and couldn't believe what they were charging for a small cage (smaller than the 18 x 18 x 22T cage I had). I did find a somewhat larger cage that would be good for Birdie, but I wasn't liking the cost (really - it should have come with a bird or two already). People on CL also must have coated their cages in gold.
So, off on an internet search I went. At Overstock I found what I was looking for with the additional bonus of being able to buy a stand (total cost was for what the cage cost at where the pets go). A stand would be good because even wwith birdie's broken cage, it was all I dould do to fit the cage and the cat food on the table. With a stand for the even larger cage, I wouldn't have to worry about that. However, the cage wouldn't arrive until next week if I got it from Overstock. Although not a catastrophe, I had issues with that for my own reasons.
Since Overstock gave me a good skew number (the pet place used its own numbers), I was able to track one down on Amazon, where my Prime membership would get me 2-day delivery for the cage (the stand will be here sometime in the coming week - but that is not so urgent a need). So, Friday evening FedEx delivered the cage and I got it all set up.
The cool thing about this cage is that I can take it completely down to flat if needed (the other cage I couldn't).
Birdie is still getting used to his new place. The more vertical bars, versus his old cage having more horizontal bars, are not as easy for him to maneuver around with. He was never that good at climbing cage wires to begin with. The perch dowels supplied with the cage were for slightly larger birds (O'hara-size), so I bought a dowel yesterday and fashioned a new main perch for him - he seems more comfortable now.
As I suspected, the new cage takes up almost all the width of the table so I have moved the cat food to the living room bay window until the stand arrives.
Hopefully Birdie settles in quickly and enjoys his new cage for a long time to come.
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.
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!
March 08, 2015
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.
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.
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.
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)
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
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.