Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Greenhouse Icicles

Our home has a heated greenhouse attached to it. The idea is brilliant but the execution was poor. We lose a LOT of household heat through the greenhouse. We can't just let it get real cold in there because it is also our bathroom and the pipes would freeze (not to mention how uncomfortable baths and showers would be).

I imagine the people who built it thought the sunlight would warm the bathroom in winter. If it were double-paned and somewhat sealed I think it might. As it is, it just pours heat out into the great state of West Virginia. When snow falls on the greenhouse, it melts, and makes fantastic icicles.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Power Outage

We had a big storm come through here Wednesday the 11th. We lost power for three days, almost to the hour. It was pretty fun, actually, and very relaxing. It was very quiet and we could hear the coyotes on the hill with crystal clarity. Our place is pretty quiet, we don't have sirens or traffic or manufacturers near us. Still, losing power for an extended time does give one the opportunity to realize how much noise is created by the fridge, freezer, computer fans, well pump, and other daily power activities that happen in the background without our being conscious of them.

The easy stuff - we sat by the window and read a lot during the day, we got some stuff done around the place outside once the weather settled down, we lit candles as night fell, we ate canned soups, chili, and similar heated on the gas cooktop.

The manageable stuff - we ran the generator occasionally to keep the fridge and deep chest freezer cold, and during these times we filled water containers for the rabbits and chickens, for ourselves, and made coffee in the coffee maker. We filled the bathtub so we'd have water with which to flush.

The stuff that concerns us - the gas pressure here is poor and the gas fails when demands are placed on it. Our generator runs on natural gas but we only got 7 to 15 minutes out of it at a time before the gas would fail. In extremely cold weather we'd be unable to drip water to keep the pipes from freezing, even if we put out the pilot lights on the two heaters and the hot water tank.

We're re-committed to getting the solar panels up and the control panel in place, so we can run the freezer, fridge, and well pump off of solar. The batteries are in place and the rack is on the roof, so much of the work is done. We have the materials to do the rest. And so it goes.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Happy (Belated) New Year

It's cold and snow covered, but sunny at Palazzo Rospo. I went to Atlanta for a week and saw relatives. I stopped at the amazing Harry's Farmers Market on the way home for some Organic 365 Truffles. I think I got a dozen boxes. Those things are killer and I haven't found them anywhere else.

I also stopped at a liquor store and got some good Scotch. We don't drink much but our local liquor store has never heard of Tonic Water. Need I say more?

This morning it was 4F. Our home has two natural gas heaters; we also cook with natural gas and have a gas hot water heater. The gas pressure is low so when it gets real cold and there area lot of demands on the gas, it fails. We woke up to a 33F bathroom (pilot light gone out) and a 58F kitchen (heater struggling). We fired up the woodstove and fought back the chill.

Right now we have an open pot of water on the stove, for adding humidity to the house, and a tea kettle, for teas and hot chocolate. That tea kettle is as old as I am. My grandmother gave it to me and I love it even though it's aluminum and probably makes us more senile with every cup of tea we drink.

I love our woodstove. It has glass doors so we can see the fire burning inside. It is a soapstone stove, and all that stone has to warm up before it starts radiating heat, so it takes a while before you feel the effects of the fire. But once it's going, it will radiate for a long time. It's beautiful, too.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

This is the front of a card I made to send to the "away" kids, along with a bag of Halloween candy. The inside said "Stealin' UR Halloween treats..."

I love sending CARE packages. It cost more to send the silly little boxes than it did to buy the candy, but I bet there are some happy smiles in far away places today.

Our cupboards here don't have doors and it makes me crazy. Dust gets in there like you wouldn't believe. We have plans to gut and re-do the kitchen "one day".

The cat, Meconia, likes to crawl in there and that's okay with me. Better her than the mice or rats we fought before she came to live with us.

Google says "meconia" is an anhydride of an acid derived from opium but that has nothing to do with our Meconia. We named her after meconium, the first dark sticky tar-like poop that a newborn baby produces. My husband named her because, as he says, she is a little black turd. Nice, eh?

Happy Halloween!


Friday, March 30, 2007

Architectural Fashion

This is our front door. It has an attractive umbrella and a couple of beguiling 2x4s adorning it.

We had a pair of flycatchers who, after extensive research and shopping, decided that our front door was THE prime piece of real estate they'd been looking for. Never mind that the molding offers about half an inch of "ledge" upon which to build their home. Never mind the huge dogs that bound playfully about on the front porch making all kinds of racket. Never mind the amount of foot traffic that would be going on beneath their young progeny (including lots of vibration from door openings and closings). THIS was the place. They HAD to have it.

This is the porch immediately in front of my front door. See all the nesting efforts we destroyed, trying to discourage the flycatchers? They didn't get the message, even after two days. So, we propped the umbrella up with a couple of 2x4s we had lying about. They fussed at us from the wood pile for an entire day. I think they've gone to re-examine the real estate market now. I hope they find a location that suits.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Old Attics

Our home was originally a two story log cabin built back in the late 1870's or 1880's. The above photo is a view of the attic over the original cabin portion of the house. The horizontal supports are logs, and vertical pieces of milled lumber have been used to support the roof. The floor of the attic you see in the photograph is really the ceiling of the room below. I walk on the logs when I have to get around in the attic. I don't think the floor/ceiling would support my weight. In some areas you can stand in the attic and look down into the room below. As you might imagine, we lose quite a bit of heat in the winter time. Insulating the attic is high on our to-do list. Until now we had other, more pressing winterizing to do, but the attic is next.

There are a lot of old mud dauber (or mud dobber, as I thought when I was younger) nests in the attic. There is also a small amount of inherited junk, like this bit of bed frame. The bees get in easily because the roof comes down above the walls but does not touch the walls. There is a completely open gap to the outside, like you'd have on a shed where the roof sits on rafters and the trusses sit on the walls. I looked up roof construction and I think our roof was constructed without a fascia. We have a soffit and the gap is above that.

I've been up there when it was raining (moving bowls around under a couple of leaks we have) and it's a wonderful place to be when it rains. You can feel the moisture in the air and see the rain dripping off the roof into the rain gutters. Of course you can hear the rain falling really well, too.

The roof of the house is made of the wood planks. I guess it's about 1x6 or 1x8, I haven't really paid attention. Above the wood is the metal roof. There's no sheathing, no insulation, no felt, no plywood or particle board or anything like that. Just milled lumber and then metal. Some places you can see the metal where a knot has fallen out of a knot hole.

On the left is a stove pipe for our wood burning stove. In front of that is an older chimney structure. I don't know when that would date to, but it's cool and interesting looking and will eventually provide clues about the development of our house. On the right way in the background is a huge paper wasp nest. I didn't even notice it was back there until I took this photograph with a flash and noticed it in the photo. Click on any of the photos for a larger view.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

The great rodent war of '07

We saw some mouse droppings in the house when we moved in. We vacuumed well, scrubbed out the kitchen drawers and cabinets, tossed mothballs in the attic, and that was that. This winter, they came back. More mothballs in the attic has pretty much taken care of them though we occasionally hear one in the wall.

But we also have A RAT. YUCK. At first I wasn't going to blog about the rat. They're nasty and it's embarrassing to have one. After some reflection, I decided that country life has many aspects and if I only blogged poetic and idyllic it wouldn't be nearly as interesting. Heck, half the fun in suffering is being able to complain loudly about it to others.

The rat left a couple of droppings in the mud room where we keep the rabbit and chicken feed (in plastic garbage cans with snap-on lids, now). We set out a glue trap and it got dragged around behind the tool box and abandoned. We set a plastic snap trap and it's been licked clean and flipped over but no rat. We set a metal spring trap and it hasn't been sprung (except that one time I stepped on it in my sock feet while vacuuming but that's not part of this story).

We made a trap with an empty soda can strung on a length of coat hanger (so it would spin) and suspended over a bucket with some water in the bottom. The idea is that the mouse/rat steps on the can to reach the peanut butter and then falls in the bucket and drowns. I didn't like the notion of drowning things, but we were getting desperate. Our engineering marvel was ignored.

We got a fancy electric mouse/rat trap and baited it with special guaranteed irresistible bait. NOTHING. Apparently the rat didn't get the memo about how irresistible the bait is.

Then one day we heard a loud scritching digging noise in the pantry. We looked and looked, but the sound was in the walls. The next day, we saw a newly dug rat-hole in the wall and saw that the bag of dog food had been chewed into. Once we get him we'll patch that hole but for now we figure patching it may only encourage to eat through the wall somewhere else. We figured we'd use the hole to our advantage.

We put a metal mouse trap right in front of the hole and went to bed, chuckling smugly to ourselves. Ah, yes. We had him now. We knew exactly where he'd be walking and we were prepared. Life was good.

The next morning we saw the metal spring trap had been moved maybe 1/4" and the dog food bag had again been visited. How the rat got past that metal trap is beyond me. It was right in front of his hole! Even after he'd slid it over a bit, it was still right there. How could he not spring it?

So the next day we put a glue trap right in front of the hole, and held it in place with two jars of cooking oil.

It sat like that for several days with (we thought) no activity. However after having photographed the scene of the crime, I do think there's a little smudge of gray fur on the glue in front of the hole.

I went and double-checked. Yes, a smudge of fur. I'm absolutely beside myself. I refuse to be outsmarted by a rodent.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

This Old House

I thought I'd share some cool pics with you today. Click on them for a larger view. You know how when you're painting walls, suddenly you notice every wall in the house? Or when you're cleaning windows, you find yourself obsessively looking at all the windows? No? It's just me? I should see a shrink? Oh. Well, never mind all that. As you know, we were recently working on the walls in one of the bedrooms, and this bit of wall in the stairwell caught my eye. I'd never paid much attention to it, but I stopped and checked it out more closely. It's some remnants of wall paper, with newspaper underneath.

Here you can see some bits of a comic strip, adhered to the wood. I've looked closely at all the bits and I can't find a date. I'd love to, though! One of the upstairs bedrooms has not been sheetrocked, and still has walls like this, and a wooden ceiling very like a wood floor. Long strips of wood all laid side by side. The ceiling in that room was once papered with newspaper. It's since been scraped off but lots of tatters remain. I'll go in there one day and see if I can find any dates on that newspaper. I think this is fascinating. A bit of history and mystery all at once!

Here you can see the wallpaper pattern clearly, with a bit of newsprint peeping out at the bottom. It looks like a phone number in an advertisement to me. I've done a little bit of searching, and I've not found that this was common practice. I assume that whoever did this hung the newspaper first to help create a smoother surface for the wallpaper, or perhaps to slow down air movement in the house.


Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Remodeling - Baby Steps

We've done a little work on the old farm house since moving in six months ago. We decided we'd live here a year or two and make it tolerably comfortable without sinking tons of money into the dwelling. Then when we know the place better, we'll decide whether it makes more sense to make it really nice or if it would take too much money, time, and labor to only make it acceptable.

So, our work thus far has been replacing broken old rotten windows with double-pane windows, caulking, sealing doors, and other winterizing tasks. Functional stuff. Nothing cosmetic. Except...

We have begun "prettifying" the children's bedroom. The change in lifestyle and leaving behind friends has been pretty stressful, and we thought a nice personal haven would help ease the transition. We haven't done anything major - pulled out some old stained goldish carpet, patched and painted the walls. If you're interested in the total transition, I'm about to put some pics of it on my website. Go to the section about the house, and the bedroom remodel will probably have its own button on the left. Pics should be up by 1 or 2 Feb.

This weekend, we hung a border. I personally wouldn't have picked such a geometrically square border for a house with no right angles, but it's not my room. This shows the room with disarranged furniture, freshly painted ceiling and walls, new door installed, and border just hung. This room had no door when we moved in, and we made do with a curtain for a while. We still need to finish the door and put the molding around it, but it's already much better than a curtain :)

The ceiling along a couple of the walls was so uneven that we had to cut the border in order to hang it. We cut the wallpaper border vertically where the pitch of the ceiling changed the most drastically. The border thus overlaps itself a bit at the top or bottom where the cut was made, but it's surprisingly not noticeable now that it's all hung.

The border has photos of wolves on top of a mountain panorama. If you click on the photo you'll see a larger image which includes one of our many lady bug helpers. Those things are relentless. I can vacuum up a ton of them one day and two days later there will be a couple of dozen hanging out on a south facing window. There were two of us hanging the border, and at one point both of us were on stools with our hands full of wet wallpaper in the process of being hung... and a ladybug got right where we needed to smooth the next section of paper! Having no free hands, we blew at it as hard as we could until it fell off or flew away seeking a less windy place to hang out. We got a bad case of the giggles after that.

The plan is to get a snowflake stencil and add snowflakes to the blue wall. I thought that snowflakes in the summer would be kind of goofy, and who wants snowflakes indoors in the winter time? BRRRrrrr! But, it's not my room.

Actually, it's turning out to be really nice. I suggested I might move in, because it was turning out so well, but I was rebuffed. Sniff.


Friday, January 13, 2006

Upgrading Windows

We're replacing the old windows in the house. When I say "we" I mean my husband. The old windows are wonderful - the old wavy glass. We hated to get rid of them but they're so loose in the frames and the frames are so loose in the wall that we really did need to replace them. Much of the wood is damaged beyond repair.

The photo shows some of the crazy angles we have to work with in this house. Fortunately, Home Depot sells some Anderson double-paned windows that will fit nicely inside the existing frames with just some shims and lots of "Great Stuff" foam.

The window here has been sprayed with bug spray, to help keep the lady bugs at bay. We have piles of them! We vacuum them up every few days and they just keep on coming.

We opted to replace the upstairs windows first, for a couple of reasons. First, that's where the bedrooms are. Second, heat rises, and we reasoned if we keep the heat from rushing out the upper portion of the house, we'd also prevent the cold air from rushing in quite as much downstairs. He's gotten seven of the ten upstairs windows replaced, and it's made a huge difference!


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