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.


Overall a good week of getting stuff done

November 19, 2019

I finally got some work done this week!  I got motivated to get some of the “little tasks”completed around my house and got to help out Mom with her house and some tree cutting cleanup.

Mom’s tree cutter did a less than optimal job lifting a tree and leaving debris all over the yard and hanging on the fence.  It’s a bit like claiming I’m barber/hairdresser and then cut only bangs badly!  Well the situation sucked but Mom got a lot of cleanup work done last weekend. So Mom and I jumped in with our little chainsaws and cleared most of the larger branches hanging or laying against the fence.  I know that my B&D 20 volt chainsaw can cut about 3-4 inch diameter log that is wet.  The B&D went through 2-3 inch dry wood branches like butter.  I did change out 20 volt/1.5 amp battery about 20 minutes into the work.  I think the first battery was partially discharged as I add a fully charged battery and it easily cut the 3-4 inch diameter log into 5 or 6 firewood size chunks of wood.

I got a couple of tree stumps  from the job helping Mom for about 45-60 minutes of labor.  The Plum wood stumps are perfect for wood cutting other than not having a level surface.  Having a cutting stump about knee high seems about perfect for splitting wood.  Cutting kindling requires a stump of about 18-24 inches high for me as I’m 5 foot 6 and female.  I had a tall cutting stump that is great for cutting kindling but a shorter stump makes splitting logs easier as you get a gravity assist .  As a 5′ 6” female I know I can generate more cutting energy directed at a stump 24 inches tall rather than 30 inches tall.  OMG that plum wood is hard and dense. I’m still learning how to sharpen an axe and My axe bounced off the Plum stump.  This axe cuts through Doug fir, white maple with no problem.

Speaking of wood. I got a call from a wood supplier that asked for cash upfront for a wood delivery  because his truck needed an engine rebuild and I never got the wood nor any info.  Well this weekend I got a call from this person and said they owed me a load of wood.  My thoughts were less than charitable at first.  He was correct he did owe me a load of firewood.  Perhaps he felt bad and was trying to fix the wrong he had done to me and possibly other people.  I started thinking about the offer of wood that I had pre-paid for wood to help him get cash to rebuild a truck engine.  Perhaps he lied/overstated the issue but he seems to want make thing right.  I’ll call him back and take delivery of the wood or the $250.00 I paid him.  What more could this guy offer to make things right?

I have screwed up with people in my life and have apologized, tried to correct a problem and be met with silence.  As nothing I could do could mitigate the “TRANSGRESSION”.  It really sucks for me to treat another person the same way.   I have room for a cord of good wood and I can always top off Mom’s wood pile.  So at this point it looks like a win/win for everyone.  I/Mom get some fire wood and this person fixes/ makes thing right in his business dealings.  Happy ending for all!

I got the lawnmower out to clean up the leaves and the day was perfect for work.  I filled two 65 gallon trashcans full of yard debris.  The front lawn is cleared of most leaves so no lawn/leaf mold should develop. I filled up the porch wood rack and added a box for firewood that is smaller split firewood size but larger than kindling.  I should be better at maintaining a fire.  Sadly I am not, so I’ll have to open a window of to cool the house and practice my fire building. I have a wood stove rated for a well insulated 2000 sq. ft. home when I bought it I had a poorly insulated 1200 sq. foot home. Now the house has new windows, additional insulation and vinyl siding.  After 2 years  I’m still  not good with maintaining a temp. in the house.  It goes against the grain to open a window to vent heat from the wood stove.

 


I love/hate the seasons of Spring/Fall

October 21, 2019

I love Spring because of the days getting longer. Actually about January I notice the days getting longer but by about March I have days that I feel, like I can get some outdoor jobs done.   Given my stamina levels I work about the same couple of hour blocks.  But I feel like I can get more work during daylight hours. Now in Fall the hours are shorter but the temperature is dropping and it is a relief from those hot summer days.  So it is easier to work during the “heat” of the day.

One of the biggest reason I hate Spring and Fall is the Weather systems and pressure changes that come from all those weather changes.  I have had quite a few broken bones growing up and smashed my body more when I was in the Army. So needless to say I feel those changes in the weather and my CIDP seems to make me even more sensitive to the pressure change, but not the so much the when “storm” is happening.  It’s the change in weather not the weather itself that cause me a bit of physical discomfort.

By golly we did have a heck of a storm blow through a couple of days ago.  I seldom get a lot of noticeable wind at my house even during high wind watch advisories for my area.  I had a lot of wind despite the fact that my county was not under a weather watch. I think every single Walnut was blown out of my two walnut trees and hit my roof, patio and yard like a bucket of hard ping pong balls.  My apple tree got emptied a bit but there are still a few apple still hanging on the tree.  I had a couple of tree branches fall but they were light weight and I could cut up the branches with a limb lopper so no damage occurred around my place.

These two kittens are wearing me out.  Overall they are not bad but they get in play mode or snuggle mode when I need sleep.  I have set up the front bedroom for the kittens and they will be shut in that room so myself, Tucker the peke and even Smokey the cat will have a kitten-free night.  I have not been sleeping well due the the weather changes and the kittens have made the not sleeping at night or getting my nap almost impossible.  The kittens do love the heat of the wood stove and tend to play around in front part of the house when the wood stove is burning.

The next couple of months will probably be the worst of “kitten mode” and keeping them contained at night in a bedroom with food, water and litter box should work better than just shoving them into a pet crate or pen.  I have a cat/doggie door to the backyard and once the kittens figure that out they will work off some energy.  I want the kittens to discover the doggie door themselves and have the ability to push the door open to give themselves access to the backyard and come inside the house without any input from me.

On to the things that are working out good. While getting a lot wood in May sort of screwed up my concentrating on my garden. I think having the wood stack will be very helpful to myself and Mom this winter.  Mom wants to buy some of my poplar this week and I’m good with that idea.  I’m interested about how much wood in my stack is needed to fill the bed of Mom’s  Dually one ton.  I have stacked my poplar wood in 12 feet long  and 5 feet tall stacks.  Given an 18 inch or 1.5 ft. row of stacked wood that is about 90 cubic feet of fire wood. Or about 3/4ths of a cord of wood.

I can do that for Mom.  I worked very hard this year to get firewood and don’t mind selling Mom a bit of fire wood she can pickup and saves her a  gallon of two of gas for the one ton dually.

If your home does not have an open floor plan and you are using a wood or gas stove for heat and want a fan to push the warm air.  I recommend The Hot point 12 inch and 16 inch oscillating floor fans. I have a few ceiling fans to circulate air and have used 30 inch tilting fans, 20 inch box fans and none of them have worked as well as a small 12 inch oscillating fan behind the wood stove and a 18 inch fan blowing the warm air to the back part of the house.  Last year I used all types of fans to blow warm air into the backside of the house and nothing did a very good job.

I have one 12 inch oscillating fan just behind the wood stove about level with top plate of the wood stove blowing air into the living room.  I have another 18 inch oscillating fan blowing that warm air into the kitchen and  towards the back rooms of the house. This has been much more effective on moving heat through the house than using 30 inch fans or even 20 inch box fans.

TL:DR

Spring and fall sucks if have arthritis of other medical issues.

Kittens will disrupt your life and your sleep cycle.

Buying good fans and working out the placement of fans is a good thing. The placement of fans takes some adjustment.


The Black & Decker weed eater arrived!

October 6, 2019

Mom and I traded weed eaters a couple of weeks ago. Mom had a Ryobi and I had a B&D and Mom could not adjust the Ryobi to use comfortably cutting down weeds.  Mom bought the Ryobi to replace an old 18 volt B&D weed eater she loved to use.  I traded with Mom my 20 volt B&D weed eater for the Ryobi and Mom was pleased as punch because she could work more comfortably and get more work done.  I figured I could use the Ryobi with no problems as I have a few inches in height and better upper body strength.  I adjusted the Ryobi for my height and set up the weed eater head at a better cut  angle and I hated using the tool despite the fact it did cut weeds.   The Ryobi is a heavier and bulkier tool compared to the B&D 20 volt weed eater and honestly the Ryobi is awkward to use to get at weeds around fences and in tight spaces.

For me the best recommendation for any tool is that you can’t wait to use it on the 3rd or 4th time doing the work.  Don’t get me wrong, I really like most Ryobi tools and have many of the 18 volt hand tool family including 2 great spritzing water fans that are great patio/ animal cooling fans for summer.  I suspect the Ryobi weed eater was designed for someone that is 5’8″ to 6 foot tall and needs to clear large patches of weeds rather than a gal wanting to clear out grass and weeds around her rose bushes.

True Value Hardware had a great deal on a 20 volt weed eater and blower for $60.00.  I got my replacement weed eater, another air “sweeper” , with another battery and charger.  Heck the battery and charger alone would have cost at least $30.00 on Amazon,so I’m happy with the price.  I got out and used the weed eater today and it reminded me how much I like this tool.  I could get in and clear out weeds and grass around my roses and not cut my fall “Mums” into oblivion.  It was fun getting all those weeds cut down with the B&D.

I did a little work with the B&D “air sweeper” and it does an okay job blowing leaves away on the mulch path ways.  One of the biggest problems with my corded leaf blower is it blows away everything.  Leaves,  mulch, small pets….  The B&D sweeper blows away most leaf clutter without blowing away much of the wood mulch.  If you make wood mulch pathways you will need to replace the mulch every year or two.

Grill cleanup time:  Do you grill?  Have grates of the grill got a bit gunky in places your grill brush can’t reach?  How about your  “Self-cleaning”  oven? Has it got a bit of goo stuck on from that last peach/apple cobbler or pie.  This a great time to run the clean oven cycle on your oven and add all of your grill grates to the oven’s self-cleaning.  Most self cleaning ovens hit over 500 + degrees F. for hours and simply burn off any food residue at high heat.  Turn on your vent fan on low for any smoke and watch your oven burn your gill grates clean.  After your grates are clean wipe down the grates with a high heat food safe oil.  I use lard but peanut oil is a great food safe high heat oil.

Speaking about grills. I have moved my big charcoal grill under the patio cover and will be sanding and adding more heat resistant paint. This was about $200.00 grill.  A bit cheap when you consider I need to buy at least a $500.00 grill to upgrade.  Most “home” grills don’t have the head space to BBQ a 14-17 pound turkey and I love BBQ turkey! BBQ a turkey is easy.  Brine the bird as it thaws for about 5 days.  Use a mesquite chunk/lump charcoal and maintain about 300-350 degree F.heat for 3-4 hours.  Rotate the bird for even cooking around 15-20 minutes and it is done.   This is great job for the BBQ types that love watching meat cook and those that need to cook casseroles and pies have a “turkey free” oven space

BBQing a turkey is much safer than deep frying a turkey. Rather than buying a large bird.  You can buy a couple of smaller birds and try out different brines and seasonings or add wood chips/smoke flavors.  I could cook to smaller birds at the same time but no neighbors have asked me to cook their turkey : (

Burning poplar wood.  I’m getting my poplar cut and split so no effort on my part to to process the wood.  I know that poplar is considered a hardwood but, It really burns like a soft wood, best if you think about it as something like Doug fir rather than another hard wood wood like maple.  I lived through a “chimney fire” as a kid and speaking for myself I always thought a cool “fire” was a good fire.  Welp I was wrong!  A hot fire burns cleaner with very little soot.  Last year I dealt with a lot of ash, this year ash “so far” is almost non-existent.  If it was last year, I would have dumped at least 2-4 ash buckets. This year I doubt I have an inch worth of ash in the wood stove after starting random daily fires.

I did get most of my wood early and it was stacked to dry quickly.  I live in the west so we have lots of pine and fir forests. Very little hardwood for firewood.  Poplar is an okay wood to burn comparable to Doug fir though less easy to split.

That is enough rambling from me today.

 

 

 


Yard cleanup, fire starters and kindling OH MY

August 26, 2019

I’m getting leaves on the ground along with apples and walnuts.  Keeping the apples and walnuts cleaned up is critical for me as I always find those gifts and either a twist my ankle or end up with Apple goo on my shoes.  Neither outcome is what I consider positive.  The B&D air sweeper/ blower worked well blowing the leaf materiel into a pile, without blowing away the mulch. After that quick blow of the air sweeper it was easy to rake up the heavier stuff and toss it in the garbage.   Speaking of tools Mom and I are trading my B&D 20 volt weed eater for her 18 volt Ryobi. Mom doesn’t feel comfortable using the Ryobi,  based on the tools larger size and over all bulk. I’ll let Mom tryout my smaller/lighter B&D and see if that tool is more comfortable for her.  I think Mom is going to fall in love with the smaller size of the B&D weed eater.

On to making more fire starters. I had a little bit of leftover wax from last year so I bought four pounds of wax for this years batch of fire starters. I used about 1.5-2 pounds to make 120 individual fire starters.  I use 1 fire starter a day in my wood stove. Theoretically 120 fire starters should last about 4 months or from about mid October to February of next year.  Of course things seldom work out as perfectly as the theory says it should and I’m making the fire starters for mom and myself this year.  Mom is bringing some of her extra egg cartons to make more fire starters so that the both of us have at least a couple of months worth on hand this heating season.  Honestly I see my fire starters as a thing to get a fire started fast to warm up the house as quick as possible, rather than a “It would be nice to have a fire tonight” sort of thing.  For that sort of fire I’ll be using newspaper to start that type of fire.

The kindling box or should I say that “Freaking Huge Kindling” box?  I did about 30 minutes of chopping and I managed to fill the bottom of the box about one layer thick of kindling.  That was a little discouraging but I’m glad I gave my self a time limit as I have not chopped wood for almost 2 months and my muscles are out of practice.  I had a little muscle tremor when I was finished with that job.  While my muscles were challenged  by cutting kindling. The Dremel tool and stone sharpening of the axe and hatchet worked great.  If you buy a cheap axe/hatchet like I did the Dremel tools does a great job of putting a better edge on a tool without heating up the steel that might change it’s “temper”.  Yes, I still needed to use the stone to clean up the edge but the Dremel made getting that basic “cutting edge” faster and easier for me.  I have a lopper that crushes rather than cuts. I think the Dremel might put a good edge on that tool.  I want to learn how to maintain those yard cutting tools and make them better at the job.  I don’t remember who said it but there is a quote about someone given a job to cut down a large tree in 6 hours and the first 4 hours he spent sharpening the axe/saw.


Cooler weather helps when working out side. Finish a job, start a new job around the house!

August 11, 2019

Having this cold front move through the area has felt so good!  We got some rain and my little Tucker dog no longer has an “Anxiety Attack” from the sound of thunder.  After several 100 degree days that rain and cooler temps this weekend helped my attitude.  I got more of the dropped apples and black walnuts picked up.  I filled up a 33 gallon trash container and the bag was so heavy lifting it was out of the question.  Those nuts and apples are a twisted ankle bomb just waiting to be stepped on.  I have to many other jobs to get done other than saving apples and nuts.  But I have to keep the yard clean so I can walk about safely and not let fruit rot on the ground that attracts vermin.  So into the trash for these tree byproducts.

I attack the grape vines again  to clear the way to chop wood.  I’m always playing catch up with the grape vines.  I have not found a way to make the vines drape artfully around my home.  I’m always doing cleanup or getting the grape vines out of the way for work.  The grape vines take no notice of all my work and keep on growing.  Good news I have cleaned out my wood chopping area so now I can start filling my  wood Kindling box.  I used my Dremel tool to sharpen up my cheap axes and wood cutting tools.  The hatchet is sharp, perhaps a bit too sharp for cutting kindling long term.  I cleaned up the hatchet edge using a stone, using a Dremel tool to start an edge on a tool does work better than a grinder for me.  Actually I think both tools have a place in sharpening tools.

I’m playing with the new washer settings. I have to give 5 stars to Samsung on trouble shooting the washer and Mr Appliance of SW Idaho getting the washer working.  Samsung stood by their warranty despite the washer being a 2 year old model, that I bought new to me.   Mr. Appliance of SW Idaho was great,  Richard was very personable, brought little rugs/carpets to place the tool bags upon.  Mr. Appliance showed up early after calling if it would be okay to show up early for the work.  That tends to be a very rare thing working with repairmen or contractors.  I understand that Good contractors/ repairmen are very busy.  As a customer I’d prefer a date for a non-critical repair and if the repair person gets an opening, a call to fix the issue.  I know it is never that easy as “Emergency” repair request happen all the time.

I spent about $6.00 at a laundromat over 2 weeks waiting for the new washer.  Drying clothes at a Laundromat  cost the quarters.  No big deal!

I cleaned up the wiring  of the light fixture in the Laundry room.  I added a couple of guides made of rubber to isolate the electrical cable.  Along with buying a big plug of rubber to make the light work.  The light is safe,  but I’m not happy as light should have been tied into the electrical of the add on of the house.  I’m trying to repair terrible half ass “solutions” and it always costs more to fix.

I cleaned caulk around the bath tub and the fiber board shredded.  Was that bathroom install to code?  Nope! I will save a couple of months to fix that problem. I’ll have to get green board sheet rock to make a good base for the new tub surround.

 

 


Back to work!!! My A/C is installed and I got some wood stacked!

June 15, 2019

I finally got a good 6-7 hours of sleep.   While I have stayed awake for several days in the  US Army.  I tend to get very unpleasant missing out on sleep.  Now with my physical limitations, not getting less than 6 hours of sleep really makes me a cranky and feel like a bit of mush.  I can do the “power nap” thing, but I’m not a happy camper and what is worse is I let everyone around me know how unhappy I feel. FYI if I get a get a bit terse with anyone, you can blame my lack of sleep and not me trying to be nasty.

I got both of my window A/C units installed and the house is a nice 75 degrees F.  I changed the setup placing the portable A/C unit out of the bedroom and to the library room so the unit has a straight path to cool the Living room.  So far that is working out great!  This sort of set up may not work for people in a high humidity climate.  In the Inter-mountain west high desert,  a small A/C window or larger BTU portable A/C unit will have lower electrical costs compared to an old “Heat pump” or Central Air system.  Usually in High Desert the night cools down quickly when the sun goes down so the fan kicks then the A/C unit becomes a window fan blowing cooler air into the house.  That won’t work in Georgia if you have 100 degrees F. and 90-100 % humidity.

I got started early stacking wood, by about 11:30 the sun was beating down hard.  I can deal with the sun early in the day with cooler temps or work in the shade after 6 pm.  I’m good with this approach for stacking the poplar. The Doug fir wood area was too narrow to bring the wagon load of wood as the wood racks make for a constricted work space.  Another lesson learned is using the garden wagon to move wood under the carport is it  saves not only time and effort but my arms don’t get bloodied and beat up carrying wood to stack.  While I don’t mind getting a bit bloody, bruised and cover in sap.  It is nice to let the wagon do the work and I stay some what clean and not so bruised stacking wood. I’m about 5′ 5″ so if I’m tossing wood over “eye level” I am probably stacking wood about 6 feet high, accounting for the average size of the split wood.

I have been a bit off on my timing this year by a little bit.  I am doing more wood stacking and have paid less attention to the garden in June.  While this has been less than optimal for growing plants.  I have really stocked up on wood for winter and created systems that will keep me warm this winter.  I’m doing better, as the wood pile needs a few more days of wood stacking.  I’m only 3 months out of phase with the seasons.

I miss watching the birds, so  I cleaned up the bird baths.  I have restocked the bird feeders and added filling the bird baths/cleaning/replacing the water to my daily schedule.  If you hate mosquitoes never have standing water for more than a day or two.   It may seem a bit silly but watching the birds and other critters  is more entertaining than Netflix and cheaper than paying a subscription.