Showing posts from December, 2016

Trim the Fat Tuesday: The Furnace vs. Space Heaters

Now that our long autumn nightmare is over and we have heat again, we were curious about the financial upshot of sticking with oil. Not that we had a choice .  The new furnace works much better and is much  more efficient than the old one, thanks in no small part to fully insulated ductwork that is now installed properly – that is, the heat registers are under the windows instead of in the center of the house, where they did little good to anyone.  The only thing that’s not entirely up to snuff is the ductwork to the second floor. These are quite small, and there are only two ducts to the whole upstairs: One in our room, and one that’s split between the kids’ rooms. It’s a good 5 degrees colder upstairs at any given time of day – and that’s actually an improvement. But could we do better if we hung on to some of those electric space heaters we were using all through the fall? My thinking was that if programmed the thermostat to dial the nighttime temps way back

Fall Flashback

We had our first real snowfall today, and it was nice to have a weekend snow day for baking and tree decorating: Now that the landscape suddenly has been wiped clean of its color, these photos from a month ago look all the more brilliant by contrast:  Back when we were raking leaves , the kids reported finding a wasp nest in the trees. We had one in each maple tree, and each was a perfectly formed little habitat:  They’re both about the size of a grapefruit, and they’re still hanging from their branches, accumulating snow. They’re empty now, of course, but the craftsmanship is solid – they’ve held up in our perennially windy weather  and don’t seem to mind bearing the weight of several inches of snow.  They’re rather beautiful in their own way, and with the leaves long gone they look like paper lanterns hanging from the tree. Paper wasps are good predators for bugs that like rosebushes , and they’ve never been even remotely aggressive, unlike the great sco

Warm and Toasty Again

For the past two months, we’ve been shivering and bundling up in blankets because our furnace broke. This isn’t the sort of thing you tend to discover in July, and we realized something was wrong in mid-October when we first went to turn on the heat this season (the burning oil smell was a clue).  It turns out that a previous owner of our house – in a fit of misguided Yankee frugality – decided to make the ductwork a DIY special.  That dummy made such a mess of it that it forced the furnace to an untimely demise, mainly due to a near-total lack or returned air to the system. This was not helped by the fact that another genius tiled over all the floor registers in the hallway and kitchen.   The saga was made more difficult by the fact that we were trying to switch from oil to gas, since there’s a line right at the street. Too bad that NATIONAL GRID IS THE WORST COMPANY ON THE PLANET. Even though we had an emergency situation without heat – in November! – they said we

The Celery Harvest

Though there were times during this summer’s drought when our celery was yellow and sprawled flat on the ground — rather like a cartoon version of a thirsty plant — it recovered really well this fall: That’s the celery growing in our greenhouse tunnel, and it’s really robust — pretty much the best we’ve ever done with it. I attribute this to our long autumn growing season. We had a late frost, and the nightly lows just haven’t fallen much below 30 until this week. Celery does well in cool weather and can handle some frost, so it’s been loving life in the tunnel this season. Alas, the high  temperature by the weekend will only be 27, so this week we’re working our way through the most tender items in the tunnel to eat it all up before the deep freeze. The tunnels offer some protection from the cold, but won’t be able to keep things alive once temperatures start hitting the teens.  This celery is nice enough to eat raw, and the ribs are actually wide enough for a sm

The Language of Chickens

Our chickens certainly have a language of their own — consisting largely of squabbling and squawking, based on what I can hear from my office during the day. It got me thinking, though, of just how much we all talk about chickens, every day, whether we realize it or not. There are an awful lot of idioms in the English language that come from living near chickens. That’s not too surprising, given that they are some of the most common livestock in the world and that their lives have been intertwined with human lives for the past 10,000 years. We’ve been sharing our land and observing their antics for quite a while, so it stands to reason that so many of our sayings are chicken-related. I’m positive there are more, but here’s what I came up with when I put pen to paper to list our chicken idioms: Chicken (or chicken shit):  Our chickens don’t strike me as particularly cowardly, but they do run away from a garden rake as fast as they possibly can. The awkward flurry of