Woot! the splitting maul works!

December 22, 2017

I did not buy a traditional splitting wedge.  I bought one of those wedges that have a sharp point and a cross shape.   That shape makes this wedge very easy to start in the wood chunk but I don’t think it spits the wood as quickly as a traditional wedge.

I was a bit concerned when I got about 1/2  of the wedge buried in the chunk o wood and did not see any splitting cracks.  After a few more whacks with the 4 pound sledge hammer I started seeing the wood split.  This wedge never tried to break to the left or right if I did not hit it square with the 4 pound sledge hammer or the 6 pound splitting wedge. This wedge really buries it self into the wood before it splits the wood.  Good news the pine burns pretty good once it is dry or has a little help burning with the addition of hard wood.

I would recommend this type wedge along with a 4 pound sledge hammer or 6 pound splitting wedge to split a few big chunks of wood if you are disabled or not very strong.  It takes more time but not as much effort compared to using a regular maul and heavy duty sledge hammer but I can split larger chunks of wood.  A huge plus is I would not be able to burn those big chunks of wood unless I could split them into smaller sizes.

Mom and I did not do much in the way of Xmas lights this year because I did not want to drill into the new siding.  I picked up some hooks that are supposed to fit under the edge of the vinyl siding but my siding does not lift up and is to tightly installed to admit those hooks.  This is a good thing as the siding does not give the wind a way underneath to lift the siding off the house.  When Xmas stuff goes on sale I’ll add new lights and this summer I’ll get the clips that attach to gutters and along the roof line.

We are getting snow so we may have a “White Christmas”.  Mom bought a Ham for Xmas dinner. It’s strange  as I don’t have to cook Xmas dinner. I have a Prime Rib ready for New years eve and a couple of New York roasts to cook next year.  I can always find a special occasion to cook up a good roast or steak.  We got a little snow today but it is still somewhat warm and no freezing rain so that is good.  I put out a little ice melt on the front yard sidewalks to help with traction.  Other than that I’m not getting aggressive on snow removal.   Still early days but I suspect we won’t have a lot of snow or freezing rain this year.  If things go all sideways I can try out the new snow blower if not I can lay down sand to fill in the new driveways.   This is a win/win situation.

The house Mom wants to buy, got a lot of work done to get it appraised for her loan but it looks like it will early JAN. 2018 before the paperwork is done. The sellers installed a new tub faucets and shower/bathtub surround and a few other fixes.  A lot of people are working to get this house sold so I’m feeling very hopeful about the house.  Most of all Mom really likes this place.  She will have over an acre of land but still be in a small town and at most a 30 minute drive from my house.

Something to think about getting is USB powered devices.  I know why would you look up a fan or whatever to your PC USB ports as it seems silly.  Have you noticed how many items run on USB power connections?  Have you noticed how cheap those USB rechargeable battery packs are today.  Have you noticed how many small/ fold able solar panels charge up stuff via USB ports?  Heck most little solar panels or USB battery packs brag on how many times they can recharge an I phone or kindle/Android device.   I recommend you all start small and invest in a 10-15 watt  foldable solar panel cost about $50.00-60.00 USD and then buy USB power banks as cheaply as possible.  That will give you coms some light, possibly fans and a little bit of power that you are in control of, even if it is a bit iffy.

I spent $65.00 so Mom had a power pack that would jump here vehicle easily.  It also has a little air compressor and a couple of USB ports for charging.  I had a dying battery and I used my little jump RAV power almost daily until I could afford to buy a new battery.  Think outside the box on power. Even a small power bank that is rechargeable via solar is a good choice for energy.


PC maintenance, tools and a new car battery

December 20, 2017

I have added a few more items to help take care of my PCs and laptops.  I picked up two 2TB external hard drives to make backups on all the computers in the house.  One of the hard drives is for Mom and one for me.   I’m  amazed by how small these drives are compared to the old hard drives and with Windows 7 the backup was  relatively fast and easy.  I paid $64.00 for each Seagate drive via newegg.com.  Data storage is so cheap now and backing up data so simple, it doesn’t make sense not to back up data on an external hard drive.

I splurged and paid $5.00 for an external DVD RW drive and have been uploading some of my old video games.  I loaded Unreal Gold on a Win 7 PC and the game looks great.  Unreal Gold came out around 2000 so I’m having a lot of fun revisiting all those older PC games.

Since we don’t the old floppy drives or even CD’s much  for data storage/file transfers I got a couple of 64 GB USB thumb drives for that little problem of having a portable storage system that fits on a key ring.  I still remember building my first PC when a 5 GB hard drive would set you back several hundred dollars back in the 90’s.  Now I have a USB drive on a key ring for about $25.00.  Gosh isn’t competition a wonderful thing?

I picked a wedge for splitting the larger chunks of wood and some files to start putting a real cutting edge on my splitting maul.  Once I knock off some of the excess metal then I can get out my sharpening stones and put a good cutting edge on all the axes.

Oh gosh I spent a couple of hours getting my slow leaking tire fixed and replacing the old battery on the Kia.  I had a small revolving credit account with Les Schwab and it became in-active after 3 years of not using it.  So I needed to re-activate the account. I just paid for battery in full rather than fuss with credit.  Credit being easy but not always simple was really brought home to me as I stopped by the grocery store and a young gal attempted to pay via her smart phone.  I guess this is now a thing!  Well her smart phone did not work so well and she drug out her plastic card.  I just paid in cash again!

Good news is I have started  building up the Emergency fund this month.  I did not really expect to start building it so early as I figure Jan. 2018 would be the month to start building it up.   Speaking for myself, now I know the value of the Emergency fund rather than just scrambling financially to pay the bills when emergencies happen.  Having the cash on hand to pay for my stitches and getting the doggie dental work done made my life a little less stress full.

Last but not least I picked up 6 pairs of merino wool socks and some more leather work gloves.  Keeping your hands and feet warm and protected is critical at all times but particularly in the cold of winter.  Last year my feet got wet and cold which made me miserable.  This year I got good warm/ waterproof boots and adding leather work gloves to the jersey cloth gloves in my stock pile.  It was a bit more expensive buying the boots but they are only used 3 months of the year so the boots should last a few years before needing replaced.

I placed the thermal barrier bubble wrap on the back entry way and Diana the peke loves it.  She sleeps there all the time.  Plus the other dogs seem to like hanging out in the door way.  Thermal wrap adds about a R-4 value but it is awesome for cutting down drafts. Plus you don’t break the bubbles of the internal bubble wrap walking across it.

Oh! I just remembered I have the new door handle and dead bolt for the front door.  This is a mostly cosmetic replacement of hardware but I’m using 2.5 to 3 inch deck screws to tie the lock into the door studs and not just the door frame wood.  Oh any persistent “Bad Guys”  could bust the door down but why bother when there are so many easier targets?

Burning pine in the wood stove

December 18, 2017

Getting wood this year has been a challenge.  I thought I had a good supplier and I even paid upfront for a wood delivery to help him get his pickup engine re-built so he could deliver wood.  I have not heard a word from that guy since February.

About August I’m starting to get nervous as I have not found a new wood supplier so I get put on a waiting list for pine to be delivered later….. Maybe!

Huzzah! I get get a new wood supplier from a friend recommendation and the wood looks pretty good as it is mostly hardwoods in the first cord that is just a little small but the price is great!  Oops! turns out the guy may be facing felony theft charges and the cops have a warrant for his arrest. I’m running out of options to restock my wood racks for this winter heating season so I call up the folks about the pine delivery.  Huzzah they will deliver a full cord of pine that fills my wood racks.  The people that delivered the pine were great very honest and open about pine not being the best firewood for wood heat rather than just a “decorative” fire in a fire place or wood stove.

Mom and I have learned a lot about burning pine and it has not been fun.  It seems with the Ponderosa pine we got is we get to types of fire.

  1. A “smudge” type fire that just sort of smolders and smokes without putting out a lot of heat.
  2. A “bonfire” with lots of flame that burns out quick with the damper wide open.

I’m not some sort of wood burning purist as I can usually find the positives along with the negatives of burning different types of wood but I’m not finding a lot of positive thing to say about burning pine for heat.

I did have a some very positive wood buying experiences.  The guy that delivered the mill ends was great!  Yeah it was just a ranger pickup load of mill ends but he stacked the wood in the bed rather than just dumped it in the box.  So I got a lot more wood than I anticipated.  The people that delivered the pine say they will have Douglas/ Red fir starting in in May next year so I can get an early start on my wood pile for next winter.

Last but not least I still have quite a bit of leftover wood from last year that is finally dried out from last spring.  The problem is almost all of that wood is under all the pine wood I stacked on the wood racks.  Now Mom and I are re-stacking the pine to get at the older dried wood. There is a lot more leftover wood from last year than I thought originally.  Now that I have enough wood racks next year I can fill/rotate the older dried wood and fill up the new wood racks rather than just stack the new fire wood on top of the older fire wood.

I don’t know if this is a thing with kiln dried wood but the pine that was kiln dried seems to suck in moisture like a sponge.  In SW Idaho we have had inversions and a very humid (for us)  winter.   My thinking is the kiln drying may open up the wood cells to dry might make those wood cells open to moisture once the wood is out of the kiln.  I’m not going to throw the pine in the trash but I’m going to use last year’s woods and give the pine time to dry naturally.

UPDATE:  Putting the thermal barrier down on the back entry way floor has made a huge difference in the feeling of warmth in the back part of the house.  I can’t say the area was drafty but it was a cold sink that was noticeable, and the temp in the back part of the house is averaging about 2+ degrees F. warmer compare to before adding the thermal barrier.  That may not sound like much but, that 2 degree difference can create a drafty feeling.

House pictures!

December 16, 2017

Front Entry

That pic gives a good idea of all the all the work done via the siding to the right as you are looking at the pic you see part of the new window installed. I did not have the porch windows replaced because of the additional cost.  The porch is protected but not insulated so it seemed a bit silly to invest in new windows for that area.


This is the before pic after the roof was added


North side of the house from the front yard. 

As you can see I need to paint the foundation area next spring or summer but I very please with the look of the siding.  Adding a stone fascia would be optimal but paint is a lot cheaper and faster.  My local True Value store has matched both the red and grey colors on the house so I will probably get a red paint for the foundation that matches the red accents.  I’ll be adding the new door lever and dead bolt to the front door once I get paid next week.  I’m going with an aged bronze finish like I installed on the back door.

Other happenings:

My neighbor is buying the large rounds of wood that I got but wasn’t split.  The neighbor is a burly guy and I’ve seen him split wood so this give me more space for wood and the neighbor get some great wood late in the season for a great price.  With this wood and buying fruit (apple and cherry) from the local orchards staying warm via wood heat won’t be a problem.

Speaking of burning wood both Mom and I are learning how to burn split pine.  I have wood racks on a concrete base and when there is an inversion dry soft woods suck in moisture like a sponge. All wood is now up off the concrete and is covered on top by a tarp.  All of the wood ends are exposed to the wind for drying.  Here in the west we don’t have a lot of hardwood for burning.  I recommend stocking up on Douglass/red fir and hit the orchards for apple/cherry wood. Elm and locust can grow here but it a bitch to split.

Speaking of splinting wood I found a youtube vid of using a sledge hammer with an axe or splinting maul to split large rounds of wood.  It is not fast but it it should be doable for me if it works.  I have a few rounds I’d like to make smaller and if it works I can go out and pound on the logs without trying to muscle through the splitting the logs.

Last but not least I laid down thermal barrier on the floor of my backdoor entry way.   I think when it was originally installed it was a glass patio door and then enclosed.  The floor area sits on concrete and has very little insulation.   I added a rubber backed carpet and that helped some on the cold and heat from the concrete radiating hot in summer and cold in winter. I laid down Thermal barrier on the floor and cover with the rubber back carpet and we gained another 2 degrees of heat in the back room.  The carpet is not sliding around and the back part of the house is getting warmer as I type.

I don’t think the addition to my house was very well insulated so I have to insulate as money become available.  I’m not going to screw around ripping off the siding so that means I have to insulate from the inside out.  I’m not going to tear out drywall because  I feel a bit cool and semi uncomfortable.  I’ll make this as comfortable as possible then gather cash to make things more comfortable.

It is not like we are freezing to death.  Heck at worst the temp reading was 62 degrees F.  Hardly a precursor to the Apocalypse!  Add socks and put on a sweater is not exactly a sign of the end of civilization.


That Emergency fund did not last long…

December 12, 2017

My little peke Tucker needed some dental work. Total cost for 2 visits, drugs and the dental surgery was just over $400.00.   Add in my little stitches and I have spent about $1300.00 on medical bills.  Isn’t that the way it goes when you finally get a good emergency fund built up you obviously must have an emergency so you get more practice building an emergency fund!

I’m whining just a little bit but I’m also grateful that I had the cash on hand to pay cash for all the bills that have happened the last couple of months.  I’m doing  good financially because I had the “fund”.  I paid all my bills a little bit ahead, added the load of pine and still have a little bit of money in the bank, plus some cash on hand.  So overall things are looking darn good going into winter.

Like any person there are things I would like to get or have on hand, but I can’t think of anything I need to have on hand!  I need to get much more proactive on having that little cash emergency fund on hand and start re-building  it next year. Having that emergency fund really reduced my stress levels on paying medical bills.

Mom is trying to finish up all the paperwork for getting the mortgage on the house and is just a bit mental about all the hoops she has to jump through to get it finished up.  She is on a bit of a time crunch because finishing the loan before Dec 31st will give a huge mortgage tax deduction and save her a lot of money taxes to the IRS next year. All we need is the paper work done this year and then Mom can do her paint, and little repair jobs on the house in Jan. 2018, then move her stuff into the house.  While I’ll hate trying to move her in winter, we will have the use of the 1 ton dually to make the move happen.  I want my shop back, but I don’t mind storing Mom’s stuff until she has cleaned up the house and has a place for everything before she moves it into her home!

It will sort of suck having Mom living in a small town 20 miles away as Mom and I get along pretty well and mostly enjoy each others company.  We will be gaining two bases for different types of disasters.  My home, in a small city with good rail and truck transport for supplies.  Mom will be in a small town with 3/4 of an acre of land in a small town will give us a place for small critters and a good size garden.  Our two places will give us a lot of flexibility for prepping/ self reliance.

The next thing I’ll be saving up for will be a small trailer and a hitch installed on my Kia mini van.  I can only haul about 3000 pounds but that should be good enough for most of the jobs I want to do around the house.  The hitch and trailer total cost should be under $1000.00 which is cheaper than buying a pickup truck.  Also I want to buy a small used sail boat and learn to sail.  Next year I’ll join the local sailing club and look for a small day cruiser type sail boat in the 20-25 ft range.  A small boat that is easy to sail but can be something I can anchor, take a break and rest on if I get tired.  A small little out board motor to get me to the dock/boat ramp if I I can’t handle the sails on local little lakes.

I was in the Coast Guard Auxiliary and know basic boating safety and navigation.  I have taken the basic ASA course.  I know enough to know I don’t know enough about sailing.

I’m disabled but I’m not dead.  I want to learn new skills and try new thing right up to the limits of my disability and also have a plan when I exceed those limits that are not safe, not only for me but those around me.  I want to push my physical limits. I don’t want to be stupid and endanger other people.

I suppose I have rambled on enough to give you and up date.  When we get better weather I shoot a few photos of the siding project and the new look of Casa de Chaos.

New door knob and dead bolt installed

December 9, 2017

I have never changed a door knob or dead bolt before today.  Installing the new lever type door knob and dead bolt lock on the back door was a simple replacement job.  Changing from a standard twist knob to a lever type is easy just make sure you buy a handle that can be switched from left to right so you don’t get bound up by the door jamb/frame.  The door should be more secure as I replaced the 1/2 inch long strike plate screws with much longer screws that are screwed into the actual wood studs that frame the door and not just into finish wood around the door.

I did not lock the dead bolt at night on this door as the old lock was a key open system on both sides of the lock.  With the new dead bolt we have a simple knob we can turn on the inside of the door.  This dead bolt knob makes it much easier to get out the door in case of a house fire.

I know operating a door knob is not a big deal for most people.  Now I can grab that lever and give it a 90 degree twist/push to open the door.  The simple mechanics of a lever compared to gripping and twisting a standard round door knob is incredibly easier for me to use multiple times a day.  Plus the the new door hardware looks great on the newly painted doors and fits the new exterior very nicely.

One thing I noticed with hardware that is retro looking, such as the door levers rather that twist knobs or sink hardware levers/star type faucet fixtures is that hardware is more “Handicap Compliant/ ADA approved” compared to the average hardware around in many homes.  It is so much easier to push a lever open or close with an elbow or a hand that can’t grip as good as you age or get disabled.  Big plus is the hardware looks great in any type “look” you want in your home.  I know  now replacing a door knob is not a big deal.  Trust me getting your door open to get inside where it is warm and not fighting to get a grip on a round door knob can really cut down on the cussing!

Had an inversion in the valley this week and while it hasn’t been very cold, 30’s during the day and high teens at night the moisture of the fog  gives us chilly feeling.  The inversion has had an impact on how well the wood stoves burn and Mom and I are still trying to figure out how to use the wood stove since the house is better insulated and we have added more ceiling fans to move the air around.  I thought it would be simple this winter.  Nope, just different.

I need some help/info from you all if you make your own soft/wet dog food.  Mom and I want to make wet dog food and move the doggies off canned dog food.  I have a general idea of the grain to protein mix but I’m unsure of the vegetable matter that needs to be added and in what proportions.  Rice will be our primary grain and we will not use any sort of wheat products as our dogs do terrible on that grain.  We would be open to corn meal as a grain if you have used it for your dogs.  I also want to add fats like lard or beef tallow as I don’t have a warm a fuzzy feeling about most vegetable oils.


Scored! big time shopping this week

December 8, 2017

A new shop opened in the mall where Mom and I walk called the Yard Sale.  During the opening everything is $20.00 or less and Mom and I are grabbing a bunch of little items for backups or stuff we want around the house.

I’m a big fan of motion detection lights and I grabbed four  battery powered LED lights that light up when motion is detected for $3.00.  So far I placed one of the lights in the small bathroom that is working out great as a replacement light  for a quick hand washing or using the toilet without turning on the main bathroom light.  I placed the other light in a dark closet that holds coats, my vacuum cleaner and most of my DVDs.  It has been a nice surprise how a small LED light can light up a small area and make life a little bit easier.  I’m stocking up on rechargeable batteries but I  need another solar battery recharger. Mom bought several nice Solar motion detector LED lights and the most expensive one was $5.00 and it is a beast of light for brightness. Mom set the $5.00 light in a window for a couple or hours and it works great!

I got another small 14.1 megapixel digital camera.  It is a Vivatar and needed a memory card but for $5.00 who can complain?  Unlike my Olympus camera this Vivatar does not eat batteries when it is turned off.  I hope the shop will put out another camera for $5.00 but if not I’ll give Mom a camera so she has one when she gets her new home.

I got a nice little solder Iron kit for $10.00 though I need to add a heat sink and flux for it to be complete.  I have been wanting a soldering iron for small wiring repairs for a long time and this looks like this kit is a good basic starting setup.  I learned basic soldering in the Army for repairs so I can do simple repairs like reattaching wires that come loose on small stuff.  It is amazing how many things you can repair if you can just solder a wire back where it belongs.

I got an incredible buy on a 50 foot, 30 amp 10 gauge wire RV extension cord for only $20.00.  If you have bought an extension cord lately you know what a bargain that sucker was compared to buying it in a home improvement store or RV/marine store.

We are burning the pine and it does generate a lot of ash. It turned of a bit colder in the 20 degree F. range and Mom and I are still learning how to feed the wood stove so we keep a good temp without getting so hot we need to open a window to moderate the temp. in the house.  I added thermal backed curtains on a new heavy duty round curtain rod to my drafty backdoor entry way.  Get round curtain rods even if you have to splurge as they are a joy and super easy to open and close those curtains even if you are using “hooks”  on your curtains.  Even with good windows, blinds and thermal curtains help insulate your home.

Games are a good thing.  I  love the look of Cuphead and it is very tough to play via PC and a keyboard.  I got a game controller and it took some time but go into your Steam setting and setup the controller first before you set up the controller in Cuphead.   Yeah my hero is still a suicidal little maniac but at least I make a little more progress before the character offs himself.