Shortest day of the year was Beautiful!

December 24, 2019

There has been a warm breeze blowing and the temp. hit a high of 60 degrees F. at my house.  This day was a treat for getting firewood stacked and getting some of the firewood split into smaller chunks that can then be split into kindling.  The axe finally has a good cutting edge. The new hardwood stump makes splitting firewood much faster and easier compared to the first sharpening attempts I made on the axe when I bought it.   I have to work on the hatchet edge as I must have screwed up the angle of the blade edge during the last sharpening session.  The hatchet edge is not terrible for cutting kindling but it cut a lot better before the last sharpening session I did before cutting kindling a week or two ago.

Mom got another box of kindling last week so I’m staying ahead of our kindling needs this winter burning season.  Mom had a small problem with her wood stove chimney not working and her house filled with smoke!  No casualties and the worst that happen is Mom got some excitement, learned her smoke alarms need to be in a different location and she met some nice boys from the local fire department.  It looks like the so called “Chimney Sweep” did not clean the Baffles/secondary combustion area of her wood stove.  She got a recommendation for a new Chimney sweep and was very pleased with the quick service she got from this new company.  I’ll be using this company to clean my wood stove next year as I have not been pleased with my most recent chimney sweeps.  People get dead, homes get damaged from chimney fires and clogged chimneys!  I went through a chimney fire back as a child. No one was hurt but it made me very “anal retentive” about having the safest firewood stove possible.  I have the chimney swept every year.  I have two fire extinguishers in my house that are in exit ways from bedrooms to the exit doors.  You must have safety measures to prevent house fires and if the house fire happens, you are alerted and you can fight your way out of the burning house.  The more effort you put into ensuring BAD Things don’t happen often makes those BAD Things not happen!

I have cleared all wood from my Douglas Fir, walk/breeze way firewood storage area.  So far this winter I have not used a lot of fire wood even with helping Mom out with some kindling every couple of weeks.  January/early February  tend to be the coldest winter months and is when I used the most fire wood.  So far this winter has been relatively warm.  There is a lot of difference between 10 degrees F. being your low or your high temp. for the day!  So while we did get an early frost and snow.  This winter has been mild,  with temperatures in the 20’s and 30’s for highs this winter.  It seems that my planning for a Snowmeggedon event like 2016/2017 winter has paid off with no 18 inches + of snow for the last two years. City roads not plowed or watching cars literally buried in snow along the street.  It often seems if you are ready for the “worst”.  The worst doesn’t happen!  Then again if you are prepared for the worst, you already have a plan in place and it’s no longer the worst thing ever to happen to you.  This warm day was a gift and it will get a bit snowy and cold by Xmas.

I’m trying something new for Xmas dinner of a rack of pork loin/chops and roasted brussel sprouts/sweet potato veggie mix.  I can cook a good BBQ turkey, my Prime ribs seem to be good tasting to most people.  Why not try something different? I’m roasting a pork loin/chops this year.  We will see if it a good holiday meal.  I doubt it will be bad as my Rotisserie cooks meat well without over cooking it.  Roasting veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts in a toaster oven add a bit of crunch/texture and the high heat of the oven releases the vegetable’s sugars and flavors without the veggies getting mushy or over cooked via boiling in water.  Never pass up an opportunity to add flavor to food via a cooking method.  Also be careful not to over season your food.  Sometimes less is more especially with vegetables.

Merry Christmas to all of you!


Fire wood area cleanup is done and chopping kindling

December 13, 2019

The Doug fir area cleanup went much faster than I had anticipated. Some firewood  is still in the walk way, but it is less than 4 feet high and two layers deep.  I suspect most of that firewood will be on my porch wood rack or cut into kindling in the near future.  I got rid of the oversized tarp that was great at capturing leaves and water. Somewhat less effective on keeping the firewood dry.  While large tarps can be attractive to cover stuff to keep dry. The tarps are also good funneling that water onto firewood or other things you want to keep dry.  In my experience using smaller tarps covering firewood is  better compared to large tarps that are difficult to work with, can be caught by the wind and can hold a lot of water/debris.  So far the carport/ awning area has been the best area for storing and seasoning wood.

I got some more kindling cut for the kindling box.  Now most of my  cut kindling sized wood is around a 1/2 inch thick or less in diameter.  I’ll be adding a few thicker chunks of wood in the 1-2 inch in diameter range. For that sort of in-between stage from kindling to larger chunks of split firewood.  This is a much easier task with the hard wood stump Mom gave me and I finally got the axe sharpened properly to cut wood.  Now I can split that fire wood in a stroke or two of the axe. It has taken a bit of effort to sharpen the axe.  I’m not quite there, with a sharp hatchet.

It might seem a waste of time sharpening a tool first,  rather than get to cutting right away.  Even 10 minutes of “proper/correct”  sharpening an axe, hatchet or chainsaw will make you much more productive by the end of the day. My hatchet is no longer sharp.  It is sort of bonking off wood rather than splitting wood because it is a wedge, rather than a “cutting” tool.

While cutting kindling is not one of my favorite things to do.  I sort of like splitting fire wood into smaller, more easily burnable chunks of wood.  It might be I like splitting wood because my sharpened axe is good at cutting wood. also I can split more wood quickly compared to cutting kindling!

They kittens were busy climbing trees, getting on the shop roof and figuring a way to get off the shop roof. Ashe the kitten relaxing in front of the wood stove.

Ashe warms the tummy

tired kitten

Ashe still warming the tummy

Tege the kitten  has a bit darker coloring and more spots along with the Tiger stripes.   Tege the kitten is a bit more proper in following cat protocol.

Tege sits on the warm Computer box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m trying to get better pics of the kittens but I’m terrible at photography. There might be a a bit Bengal genes thought the Mama cat was a solid gray color.  All of the kittens I have seen from this mother cat tend to have higher shoulders that slope down the spine to the lower hips.  It gives the kittens a very panther/jaguar, wild cat sort of look in profile. While ocelots have a tan/tawny coat  along with stripes and spots.  Both of my kitten are a mixture of shades of black and grey, with a bit of Tan belly with crazy spots on the belly mixed with stripes.   I’m very pleased with the kittens though I have been a bit bloodied by the kittens climbing me.  A little spray bottle of water as a deterrent seems very effective for correcting.   unacceptable behavior.

 


Gosh the fire feels good….

December 9, 2019

The Treasure Valley has about 3 days of dry weather and cool nights happening this week.  I am getting to work  fixing the Doug Fir wood pile as my tarps got blown off the wood pile and is not keeping all the wood dry. It seems the a couple of tarps are funneling rain water down on to part of the wood stack.  I pulled off the big tarp that did a great job catching leaves and water.  Not such a great job keeping the fire wood dry.   I’m going to clear the firewood from the walk way between my wood racks, then cover the wood with smaller but more closely fitting tarps across the top of the  wood stacks.  My hope is that having the walkway area clear of wood will create a breezeway so the wind keep the firewood drying to help “season” the fire wood long term.

Mom picked up another box of the Doug fir kindling.  She wants to pay me for the wood and the effort I make cutting kindling but I have no idea what to charge or how to cost it out.  She is my Mom and I want her to be warm and have fairly easy way to start a wood fire.  Now the basic box of kindling  should last about 7-10 days worth of starting a daily wood fire.  It takes cutting about 4 chunks of the split Doug fir to fill the kindling box.  Plus about 30-45 minutes of splitting the wood into kindling size pieces.  Perhaps about $10.00-$20.00 per month to keep the kindling box full?  I  don’t charge Mom for the fire starters as she assisted with the wax for making the fire starters.

I used my little battery powered chainsaw to try and “level” my wood stump.  It sort of worked, but my hands gave out after a few minutes of the vibrating chainsaw skimming along the top of the stump.  It is a first trial but I think a few more passes with the chain saw will get into the good solid wood of the stump.  This a tall and somewhat old stump I’m using the chainsaw to try and make the top of the stump a bit more flat to cut kindling.  The wood cutting stump Mom gave me is working great with just a couple of 3/4 inch shims of lumber.  With the shorter cutting stump and the sharpened axe I’m cutting through wet and knotty Doug fir in one or two strike of the axe.  The wood I cut is not always the best for kindling but in about 45 minutes worth of work I can split the firewood into pieces then use the hatchet to cut kindling for 7-10 days.  If I ever fill that kindling box. I’ll have at least a one year’s worth of firewood stove kindling for both Mom and myself.

A report on the new muffin paper cup fire starters:  The muffin cups are a bit larger/fuller of the sawdust and wax, but don’t have the cardboard egg carton paper to assist with starting a fire.  Overall I consider the standard size muffin papers fire wood starters a success.  I’ve tried using old candles, “white wax” candles from the local dollar stores making these fire starters.  What seems to work best is paraffin wax from the canning section.  Will old candles work?  Yes, but not very well even with mixing with clear paraffin wax. I recommend buy the “canning wax” for making your own  fire starters.

Back to the title of this post the warmth of the wood stove feels better to me after doing work on the wood pile.  The satisfaction of cutting your kindling, making “firestarters” , stacking fire wood and bringing wood into the house to burn is so satisfying.  I buy split fire wood and have it delivered but I stack and often re-stack that wood to get the best output of heat.  Now I am getting better at controlling that heat and now my whole house is warm.  It is a great feeling!  The fire feels so much warmer because of all the effort.

I can’t say enough good things about the Hotpoint rotating fans of 12′ behind the wood stove and the larger 16′ fan pushing the heat through my house through door ways and around walls. Just 2 fans now push the heat to the backside of my house.  Great fans get them on sale if you can afford it!  I’m excited to see how well the fans work moving air next summer.

 


A warm, wet winter?

December 7, 2019

It has been a “warm” and wet winter so far in the Treasure valley.  7 Dec 2019 and the high temp. was 55 degrees F.  The rain was an on/off again sprinkle and the winds were light to non-existent.  The storm last week was breezy but the temp. was about 30-35 degrees F.  That is warm for a “Winter Storm  Warning”.  I have no clue how winter will go into January but so far the forecasts suggest a mild and damp winter.  That forecast can change quick if the cold arctic air shifts to the west side of the Rockies or the Sierras/Blue mountains of Washington and Oregon.  I suppose it is human nature to forecast the “worst” potential weather.  That can come back and bite the forecaster on the butt for raising the alarm and “crying wolf”.  I feel for those people because if they down play a storm and a blizzard happens, they are destroyed on twitter.  But if they hype a storm and nothing happens, they are destroyed on twitter!

I know I’m “preaching to the choir” but prepare for the worse and hope for the best.  I was prepared for a normal winter in 2016/2017 when snowmeggedon happened in SW Idaho.  I bought many tools from a propane “Dragon Torch” to melt ice, a snow blower, 100+ pounds of ice melt and sand.  My 6 gallon Shop vac got quite the work out sucking up melting snow in my shop. I added mulch drainage rock and gravel to my driveway around my shop.  While it is still early into the test I have not seen any water or dampness on my shop floor.  IIRC, the shop almost always had a a bit of dampness or water on parts of the shop floor before I added the mulch and gravel.  Often you are trying to keep things safe, dry or holding back the flood waters.  You are building stuff to be more resilient, as you deal with any little minor disasters that come your way.

Perhaps I’m an outlier but why do so few Youtubers use leather gloves?  I’m no “Safety Sally” to tell others they are being unsafe working with tools.  But cutting/splitting wood with a good leather glove seems to be a no-brainier if just because of avoidable splinters.   People go on and on about Chainsaw chaps, helmets, safety googles and hearing protection and no one mentions using a good pair of leather gloves.   Well I’m going to say a good pair of leather gloves is required for working on a homestead!  I have had my some what sharp hatchet/axe hit my leather gloved hand and no bruise, no cut and no splinters. Mink oil is great for keeping the gloves water-resistant, soft and flexible.

I made the first test batch of making fire starters in “muffin papers”.   The volume of the muffin paper fire starters is about 2 x the volume of the egg carton fire starters and the muffin paper cups don’t have the dense cardboard that holds the egg carton type fire starters.   I don’t see this being a problem as I use one sheet of news paper wrapped around the fire starter and placed under the kindling.  I think cardboard egg cartons make a great base for making fire starters but if you have chickens or get your eggs from people that want those egg cartons returned.  Burning those egg carton in a fire could be a bad thing.   Muffin papers can be bought for about one dollar for 100 cups/papers.  Much cheaper than buying egg cartons to make fire starters.

Update: So far the muffin tin works for making fire starters in muffin papers.  I’m going to add some “white paraffin”  dollar store candles for a test of the wax melting pot and if they are good fire starter fuel.  Old fragrance and colored candles don’t seem work very well as fire starters wax.  I found a bunch of strike anywhere wooden matches.  Starting a fire with one match has been a thing I grew up with,  you can do all the prep on the fire you can but you need to start the fire with just one match! Sure I have bic and butane lighters that can start a fire, but for me starting a fire with just one wooden match always seems special.  I have paper, chopped kindling, dry/split fire wood.  The only thing that compares is restarting a fire from last night’s coals.

It is a simple thing but being happy about simple things should be good.


Cleaned out the small chest freezer

December 6, 2019

Cleaning out the little chest freezer went quicker than I had expected.  I feel bad that I wasted some food but now I can use that freezer as storage while I clean out old stuff from the other freezers.  There will be more tossed old “food” but I’ll get freezer that can store food to use by the “use by date”/ before freezer burn or age can ruin the food.  I was disappointed with my Thanksgiving turkey having an old taste to the skin though the meat tasted fine.   Now I can move the newly frozen goods from the big freezer to the small freezer and clean out any food that is over a year old.  I have read that a pressure cooker can mitigate “freezer burn” taste.  But for me I’m going to clean out the old stuff and try to be better at rotating food in and out of the freezers rather than try and keep them full of sales items.

I’m looking to buy new vacuum sealer to my old one that does not seal well/easily.  What is nice is vacuum food sealers tend to go on sale at Xmas time so that should be an easy buy next payday.  Yes, vacuum sealed products last much longer in the freezer, compared to double wrapped products. I had to learn this lesson the hard way.  Of course not cooking meat/vegatables before they have aged 2-3 years in a freezer would have helped a bit!

I’m buying a few computer items and getting my geek on. I just upgraded my video card to a newish 570 AMD from a 370 AMD.  The upgrade in frame rates is very impressive for a $120.00 card.  I have an older Mother board with DDR 3 memory and an older AM3  socket for the CPU so the next upgrade will have to include a new mother board, CPU and memory chips at a cost of at least $500.00.  This will be a “gaming PC build”  that should be up gradable or solid for most of the task I want for about five years.

I like how AMD CPU chips are powerful and reasonably priced for a home builder.  The Bitcoin miners really drove up the price of memory chips, multi-thread CPUs and Graphics cards but now the price is starting to drop for the mid-range CPU and mid cost range Graphic cards.  I got Borderlands 3 as a free game via my buying the AMD 570 video card.  I suck at playing the game, but I am having fun with the game.  I like how I can play the game offline and learn the game.  How can anyone “get gud” at a game when they get Crushed anytime they try to play the game online?  Playing against bots is easier than against people online but bots do give noobies a place to start playing the game.  If a noob can beat the bots they should be better player than anyone that didn’t play/beat the bots.  I do understand gamers that expect a level of competence playing any PC game.  I recommend for any new gamers learn to move side to side and minimize the bunny hop.

I did spurge this month and get a few small upgrades for my PC.  The AMD 570 video card really made a difference on getting a good frame rate out of video games.  The good thing is this VC will work with the upgraded Mother board.  I got a new thin bezel Acer LCD monitor and it looks so good I bought another to have a dual monitor set up.   This a sort of mile stone for me getting good dual monitors for gaming.  I’ll still suck at game play but I’ll have fun playing the game!  I’m 50 year old + woman with nerve damage that can get crushed playing video games.  Good for you gamer you beat me!

Any hoo, there are a lot of great games out there to play and if you have fun and enjoy your playtime then you win!

 


The “storm” added a bit of snow and got a little breezy!

December 4, 2019

Had a one, two punch on the “storm” here at Casa de Chaos.  I might have had a total of 2 inches of snow on the ground and had to push that little bit of snow off the sidewalk.  I added some ice melt to the front side walks as it looked like it might get a little slick from the water freezing.  I guess I win again since it warmed up to the 40’s F. and all the snow melted away.

About the worst thing from the storm is the tarps over the one of wood piles got lifted and exposed some of the fire wood to rain/snow.  I went out and got the big tarp adjusted to cover all the wood.  FYI don’t use a rake handle to bonk all the leaves off a tarp unless you are sure all of the water has been drained off first!  While getting splashed with just above freezing dirty leaf water is invigorating.  I would not recommend it.

While freezing some of the Thanksgiving food items I noticed I need to clean out my chest freezer of old items.  I’m going to toss anything over a year old.  Yes I have a lot of stuff in the freezer that is over a year old!  When I started prepping I thought I’d be helping out neighbors, family but due to people moving away and some hard feelings because of Mom’s divorce. The food preparations have been downgraded rather significantly from up to 15+ people down to less than 5, maybe… Life is messy and you have to be flexible to make stuff work.  A great thing now that it is cold I can clean out all of my freezers and organize them to work for me.  Rather than just trying to cover any disaster that “might” happen to an extended family that won’t even talk to me.  It is sad, but it is how life is right now.  There is always hope that things could change.  Though I’m not optimistic.

I got a start on cleaning up the vines and rose bush tendrils on my chain link fence.  I have Xmas light nets to put on the fence to make the front yard a little more festive!  I don’t want to drill holes into my siding and the clips I have bought don’t work with my siding.  No worries,  just add lighting working at ground level out side and indoors around the windows.  Christmas is not just a “kid” holiday.  It is also for us adults to celebrate that light that was brought into the world.  What is great is the new LED lights make it cheap (electrically) to add your own little sparkle to the night.

Embrace this season of giving!  perhaps you are adding a few lights around your home.  Many people travel to see Xmas light shows.  You don’t have to go big but make an effort to get into the holiday spirit.  GIVE! Make the effort and enjoy your work even if no one else enjoys it.  Life is simple, that does not mean it is easy.