December 2010

Here’s a shot of the quinzee Beth and I built yesterday (or the day before?)

Quinzee (with Penny for scale)

Quinzee (with Penny for scale)

I wanted to have something in the photo to give an idea of its size, as a mound of snow with a hole in it could be anywhere between a couple of inches to a dozen feet high. Beth was not around, but Penny was! She brought me a soccer ball. To make sure I got her in the picture, I kicked the ball into the quinzee. That kinda threw her for a loop. She saw the direction and velocity of the ball’s trajectory, and according to her calculations, that ball sure ought to have been somewhere on the other side of the yard. She eventually found it in the quinzee and went in after it. But then she got curious and started sniffing around in there. She almost forgot about the ball, and started out the opening, and that’s when I took this shot. But then she remembered that she is a dog who is always on a mission, went back in, and retrieved the ball.

Yesterday Beth and I did a little snowshoeing around the yard too.

Beth with an artificially enlarged footprint

Beth with an artificially enlarged footprint

We headed around the trail in the back, and as we got to the edge of the property, one of the neighbor kids saw us and called out to Beth, “Can you come over?” I said she could. Beth wanted her snowshoes off, so helped her get them off and trekked back to the house. On the way, I saw a deer track:
Deer track in the snow

Deer track in the snow

I don’t see many deer here as compared to when we lived in Northern Virginia, or even growing up in Kentucky. In VA, I’d see at least three a day. Here I see maybe three a year. I did a little digging and found that Virginia has about 45 whitetail per square mile compared to less than 15 here in NH. I don’t know the exact figure here, but less than 15 could be less than 5 as well. All I know is that there just aren’t very many here. I guess that’s just as well, as 45 per square mile is really too many. At that density, they are not only a nuisance, they are a danger as well (the three a day figure includes roadkill).

In unrelated news…
I got the water filter installed, and can now add soldering copper tubing to my list of barely managed skills. Nothing leaked, yay! I did spill about a gallon of water on the floor though, as I didn’t have one of the plastic fittings on the filter assembly sufficiently tightened, so when I turned the pump on, it spewed pretty good! I pulled the switch out again, removed the connector, and found that I had not aligned things as well as I thought I had. I scootched the filter tank over a bit to line things up better, reconnected everything, and tightened it up. And apparently sufficiently this time – no leaks!

I still have not added any bleach to the chem feeder (to kill the sulphur-reducing bacteria that makes our water smell bad), but I can say that our water does taste better. It will take a while to get the rust scrubbed off our appliances, tubs, sinks, and commodes, but my hope is that rust stains are a thing of the past now.

I must say that I was very well pleased with myself. I wasn’t sure I could solder copper fittings, and I knew that if I failed, we would be a water-free house, and I’d have to shamefacedly talk to someone who actually does know what they’re doing. But it all went pretty well, and there was no shame involved. So not only did I save face, I also saved a couple hundred bucks!

Today Beth dug a little snow cave for herself in the pile I made when I shovelled enough of the driveway to get my car out so it wouldn’t be trapping the snowblower.

Beth's snow cave

Beth's snow cave

The roof was a little bit on the thin side. I suggested that she throw some more snow on it to beef it up, but that turned out to be an error. It caved in.

This happened while I was at the hardware store buying fittings for the water filter. I bought about $100 of copper (ouch!) plus some other things (solder, flux, emory cloth, a plastic fitting, and some hose clamps). When I got home I heard all about the snow cave. So I decided we should build a quinzee.

I guess technically, Beth’s cave already was a quinzee. A quinzee is made by making a big pile of snow, letting it sinter for a couple of hours, and then hollowing it out. Beth’s snow pile wasn’t really big enough, which is why the roof was so thin. Making a quinzee can be exhausting, so I decided to cheat a little bit. I went to the garage, grabbed all the recycling bags (soda cans & milk jugs), and tossed them into the remains of her cave (which I had shovelled out). I also threw one of the large empty garbage cans in there. Then we buried them. The pile was about five feet high and probably 8′ in diameter. It took about 20 minutes to bury.

Then Va took the kids to see the new Narnia movie. I stayed home, because today is recycling day, and I’m off work – so I wanted to get those bags out from under the snow pile and recycle them before they closed. I had two hours to let them sinter though, so I went to the basement with my plumbing fittings.

My filter consists of two parts – a chemical feeder which injects diluted bleach into the line when the pump kicks on, and a filter tank which takes out the iron (and bleach). I got the chem feeder plumbed in, which was a bit scary. I shut off the well pump, and then drained the pressure tank. Then I sawed the line feeding the pressure tank in half. Risky! I inserted a plastic tee in there and connected the chem feeder to it. It wasn’t that bad!

Usually a plumbing job takes three or four trips to the hardware store. I think I did it in two, but I’m not quite done yet, so there’s still time. While I was there the first time, I realized I needed some tubing so the filter can drain itself when it backwashes. I had not measured how much tubing I needed, so I didn’t buy any on the first trip. So I didn’t forget it while I was there, I forgot it before I left.

Once I had the chem feeder in place though, the quinzee was done sintering. I went outside and dug out the recycling (thus completing the quinzee). Then I headed to the recycling center, got rid of that, and went to the hardware store to get the tubing (and some brackets to mount the tubing to the joists.

Va and the kids got home shortly after that. I stayed in the basement and soldered some fittings together. It was my first time soldering plumbing, and it didn’t go half bad. The first joint had way too much solder on it, but the ones after that did OK. I ended up throwing out the first joint anyway when I thought of a better way to run the lines (less tubing, and one less ell).

I’ve now got the filter to the point where I’m ready to turn off the pump again, drain the system, cut the main copper line, and insert the filter inline. That’s scary to me. But I think if I get the water drained out of the pipes, it ought to go smoothly enough. But just in case, I’m making sure we’re caught up on laundry before I do that. I’m also waiting until daytime in case I need to call a friend over to help bail out the basement.

Last night I finished making a new set of bindings for the old, traditional, wooden pair of snowshoes I bought from a guy on Craigslist. It was dark by the time I got them fastened on, but I was anxious to get them on my feet and try them out. So that’s exactly what I did.

Since it was dark, I saw no reason to bring the camera. I walked the trail I had built a few years ago around the backside of our property. The snowshoes (including the bindings) worked very well.

Near the back boundary, I cam across some tracks. I’m not sure what they were, but I’m thinking they were left by a flying squirrel. They were the same size as chipmunk tracks (and about the same pattern), but they went from tree to tree. I don’t think chipmunks are still out at this time of the year, and being ground squirrels, they do not typically climb trees. I went out again this morning to find them so I could take a picture, but the wind has taken them away.

I got out of bed at a reasonable hours this morning. After breakfast, Jonathan, Beth, and I went to the church to take down the garage canopy I set up for the Memorial Day yard sale. It was not a minute too soon either. I’ve been trying to get the canopy empty for months so I could take it down. I finally did get it empty enough to take it down, but then I tried to sell it (I guess for too much since it did not sell). Meanwhile, someone stowed a bicycle in it. I’m sure it was intended as a yard sale donation, but man… I don’t want to house stuff over the winter – I want the canopy down!

On top of that, we have a blizzard on the way now. We’re forecast to get about a foot of snow tonight, and the snow is flying now. I hope we do get a foot too, because I’m tired of looking at brown, and I have almost finished refurbishing the snowshoes I bought last week.

Maybe I’ll post on that tomorrow.

When we got to the church, Jonathan noticed that the driveway had been sanded – and there was no reason for that. We have not had even a quarter inch of snow on the lot at church yet this season. Last year we weren’t sure, but thought that we were being overcharged for parking lot plowing and sanding. It seems we were correct. This year we are documenting it so we can make a complaint. When we questioned our bill last year, the contractor suggested that we take notes – he seemed to think that he might have hired some rascals. I think he is right.

Less than a mile from my house (as the crow flies) is the Union Church, an old church that I have long wondered about. The building is in relatively good repair, but I have never seen any cars parked there. I had to conclude that it was not in regular use.

Northfield Union Church

Northfield Union Church

Then last night I was poking around on the Google Maps, and I noticed that you could check a tick-box to make it show places that have associated Wikipedia articles. I was surprised to see one so close to my house, and it was this very church. The article consisted of two sentences, so I turned to Google again.

A search turned up this book. – jackpot. Beth and I hiked down there after church this afternoon, and I took several pictures (none of which were all that remarkable). Then tonight I beefed up the WIkipedia article.

I guess the name “Union” comes from its original use by multiple congregations. I’d like to get a peek inside someday, but it is (rightfully) locked up tight as a drum. I think it’d be a neat project for the Pathfinders to repaint the place and maybe rehabilitate some of the shutters. Most of the shutters are still intact, but several of them have been replaced with plywood. I guess that keeps the glass from getting broken, but it would sure be nice if all the shutters looked the same.

I have no idea how much red tape would be involved with doing that, but I imagine it would be a lot. First, it would have to go before the Selectmen of Northfield, and then I suppose any plans would have to be approved by the National Registry of Historic Places.

The congregations that used the building included Freewill Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists, and Adventists. I don’t think my denomination (Seventh-day Adventist) ever used the place, as the history book I referenced never mentioned worship there on Saturdays. But there were (and are) other Adventist denominations.

Anyhow, I will read more of this history of Northfield book, and maybe try to find the other places it talks about. History is cool stuff!

Snow cover, 12-24-2010

Snow cover, 12-24-2010

Looks like a brown Christmas for us. 😦 We’re right smack in the middle of the grey patch in this NOAA map (central NH).

I bought two pair of snowshoes yesterday from a guy on Craigslist. They are both pretty old, but seem to be in pretty decent shape – mostly. One pair is smallish, and I think it will fit Beth perfectly. The other pair is large, and that’s for me. Unfortunately, the leather bindings are not currently serviceable. I bought a package of leather remnants for that at Michael’s today (we were out finishing our Christmas shopping – yes, at the last minute). The rawhide on the deck is in great shape, but the leather bindings are pretty much rotted. I tugged on one of the straps, and it broke in two. But the buckles are in good shape, and the rotted leather will serve well as a pattern.

I had wanted to make a set of snowshoes, but I’m having a hard time finding white ash. Rebuilding the bindings will partially satisfy my desire to do that. And I may yet build a pair, because it would be nice to have a third person along with us. Now that I have two pair to look at, touch, and handle, making a pair should be a little easier anyhow.

I bought a water filter for the house last night. It will be delivered next week and should remove the iron in our water so we can quit staining our toilets, tubs, sinks, appliances, and clothing reddish brown. I’ll put it in myself while I’m off work over the Christmas break.

Of course that means messing about with the abominable plumbing job in my house. I plan to straighten out some of that mess, but we’ll see. The guy who plumbed this place was a complete moron. From what I can tell, he never engaged in any forethought whatsoever, so rather than figuring out what he needed and bringing it to the site, he would just plumb the current task with whatever he had on his truck. That theory explains a lot of the mess, including the one I plan to straighten out next week.

Anyhow, I bought two major components for the water filter. The first is a chem feeder which will turn on and inject a tiny amount of household bleach into the water every time the well pump turns on. That goes in ahead of the pressure tank.

Pressure tank fittings

Pressure tank fittings

On the other side of the pressure tank, there’s a one-inch copper line that feeds the rest of the house. I’ll have to cut that in half and insert the iron filter in-line. Hopefully this will not end with me calling a plumber to come out and fix the destruction I unleash on my house. I have done a little plumbing in the past, but this is far and away the biggest job I have ever tackled.

He wiped his feet on the mat.

The Turtle Express arrives

Here’s an email I sent to Keith Specialty Store, the place that sent me a new capacitor for my A/C.

The turtle made it just fine. I took a photo (attached) as soon as it got here while it was wiping its feet on the mat. Thanks for selecting such a polite turtle, and for all you did to help it along. Have a merry Christmas, and I wish you all the best in the coming year.

I was stoked to find that there will be a total lunar eclipse visible in North America tonight. Then I looked out the window – grey skies. It started snowing this evening, so I think eclipse viewing is out of the question for me tonight.

But I do like snow, and we don’t really have any to speak of. A few wisps here and there, but there is nothing on the ground between here and Concord at least.

I was in Keene yesterday to pick up a truck load of citrus (Pathfinder fundraiser), and they had an inch or two on the ground. I was jealous even of that. If I can’t see the eclipse, I sure hope I get some snow out of it.

Update at the bottom!

I don’t know what this thing is. David, Beth, and I took Penny down to Sandogardy Pond this afternoon, and we were surprised to see that the pond was pretty well frozen over. The ice was about 4″ thick, so we went out on it. When David and I were near the shore, we stepped out on the ice again, and two of these creatures started swimming away from us (under the ice). I have no idea what they are. I did not see a head, but there were legs (or perhaps pseudopods). The whip-like tail was about three quarters the length of the body, and the whole creature was about 12″ long.

I had my camera out in video mode, so I recorded this footage. I don’t use my camera in video mode very often though, and in the excitement of the moment thought that it was not recording, so I pressed the button again (stopping the video). But we followed it along as it swam beneath the ice for another hundred feet or so, with me thinking the whole time that I was recording it. Boo.

So what is this thing? I thought at first it was a turtle, but the tail was so long, and I couldn’t see a head. But other than that, I guess it could be a turtle. It looked more like a trilobite to me, but those are sorta extinct, so that’s out. If you have a theory, I’d love to hear it. I’m stumped!

NH Fish & Game got back to me today. It’s a muskrat.

Hi Jim,

The animal recorded is a muskrat. They are a native species to NH.

Patrick Tate
New Hampshire Fish & Game Department
Furbearer Project Leader
Region 3 Wildlife Biologist

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