Home Repair


Yesterday morning I noticed that our water was a lot hotter than it normally is. I really like to take long, hot showers, so I popped in and indulged myself. I could take them all the time, but I don’t want to waste the energy keeping our water that hot, so I keep it turned it down to something more reasonable. I made a mental note to look into this extra-hot water though.

Today I noticed that the water was hardly hot at all. I went down to the basement and opened up the water heater (don’t ever call it a “hot” water heater in front of my Dad – that’s one of his pet peeves). I took a photo of the upper thermostat so I could read the number on it.

Water heater thermostat.

Water heater thermostat.


I also pressed that red button (it’s a circuit breaker), and it went “click!” so I knew that it had experienced some over-current. I figured I should replace the heating elements too, because there’s nothing else in the circuit other than heating elements and a thermostat.

After two trips to Tilton to Bryant & Lawrence Hardware (one of my favorite stores anywhere), I had the parts I needed (a lower thermostat and a heating element). To make a long story shorter… we now have “normal” hot water again.

On to another topic.

Last week Va asked me what we should do with a couple of left-over packages of candy canes. I hate to throw that kind of thing out, even though they are very inexpensive. So I told her I would find a use for them. My first stab was to Google “leftover candy canes,” which garners 130,000 hits. I didn’t read them all, but I read enough of them to know I wasn’t going to try any of those things. Valentine hearts with candy canes? Really?

David pointed out that getting 130,000 hits on that phrase was an indictment of candy canes. Outside of the Christmas season, they are just not very popular, and there’s a reason for that. They are more for decoration than for eating.
You never hear people ask what they should do with leftover “good” candy, like Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. That’s because there’s never any of that left over.

I came up with my own idea for the candy canes. I got all my blackberries out of the freezer to try a new invention – Blackberry Candy Cane Jam. Hopefully this will go better than the chocolate soup experiment. Candy canes are little more than sugar and flavoring. You already need sugar to make jam, and I thought peppermint might make an interesting addition to the blackberry flavor.

But there was also an important thing I wanted to subtract – blackberry seeds! I had read you could use a jelly bag to filter them out, but I don’t have one of those, and I have never used one or even seen one being used. But I figured… how hard could that be? Famous last words.

Novice at work

Novice at work


I squished the blackberries through my chinois, and then bundled them into a piece of cloth, twisted the top together, and then began squeezing the juice through the cloth. It didn’t want to come out, so I upped the pressure. That’s when the pressure in the improvised jelly bag exceeded the pressure asserted by my grip on the top of the bag. A nice little spout opened up, and you can see the results.

And just so you know, blackberries do stain painted drywall.

Sigh. I cleaned that off the wall as best I could and continued my efforts. I finally got 90% of the seeds (and probably 50% of the juice and pulp) removed. Then I broke up the candy canes, added some sugar & pectin, and boiled it for… I don’t know how long. It was long enough to dissolve the candy canes.

Don't look at the trivet!

Don’t look at the trivet!


Just try to remember that I don’t really know what I’m doing. They say to boil jam until it runs off the spoon “in sheets”. I don’t think I ever got it to that stage, even after an hour of boiling. Maybe I needed more sugar. Maybe I should have measured the blackberries and the sugar (I think you need equal amounts). But it looked like it was getting close to “sheets” so I called it good enough and poured it into some jars. I got two and a half pints. I cleaned my big pot (to some extent) with a slice of bread. I can say that it tasted pretty interesting, and not at all bad.

And now I have a big mess to clean up. Turns out bread doesn’t do a great job on a big jam-covered pot.

Advertisements

Today at work I got a call from Va. The toilet would not flush. It has been awfully sluggish of late, and I was having a hard time getting it plunged. She suggested that perhaps our septic tank needed attention, and I reluctantly agreed.

We’ve been in this house for eight and a half years now, and we’ve never done anything to the tank at all maintenance-wise. So it was time. I called four places. One doesn’t service my town, though their ads suggest that they would since they service NH, ME, VT, and MA. With that kind of coverage, one would think that they would serve all the towns in those states, but no.

The second place I called was nearer to my house. The phone rang, went “click,” then then went silent. I tried them twice. On to the next one. His truck was down, but he suggested that I call another guy and gave me his number.

I like it when people do that.

I called Al’s Laconia Septic, and his wife agreed to send him out. He’d be there between 3:30 and 4:00. I knew Va would not want to handle this at all, so I thought I’d just come home a little early to deal with it. And that’s when Beth’s teacher called.

Beth was sick and wanted to come home. So I went and got her, and then set up shop at home to finish out the work day.

Al’s wife said that it would cost a minimum of $50 if Al had to dig the hole to find the tank. She also said, it was never just $50. Methinks Al does not like to dig the hole, and I sure don’t blame him. When I got home, I offered David $50 to dig (and later bury) the hole. We got out the plans and he dug several test holes before he found the cover. It took him maybe an hour. That’s pretty good pay for hole-digging.

Once David had found the hole I got the GPS out and got its coordinates. Then I wrote them on the septic plan.

Al arrived right on time and was delighted that the hole had already been dug. He got right to work.

Al Taking Care of Business

Al Taking Care of Business

David's Hole

David’s Hole

Beth poked her head out the door and asked if this was going to stink. Al told her it would not, and to my surprise, it really didn’t. He said it would sure get ripe next to the truck though, because as he pumps the sewage in, it has to let the air out (otherwise is would compress all that air in his tank, and sewage under pressure seems like it could be a Really Bad Thing).

Al finished his work in short order, and Va wrote him a check. He was such a pleasant guy that I can hardly wait until I need to have this done again.

But I will!

I spent most of Sunday installing roof vents for the upstairs bathroom fans. When the house was built, they vented the fans out the soffits. That’s “standard practice” but that’s not the same as “good practice.” The problem is that when the warm steamy air is exhausted out the soffit, the next thing it wants to do is rise. So it does, and gets sucked right back into the attic via the soffit vents. This is exactly the same as venting the fans straight into the attic, and that will lead to a moldy attic. Which is what I have.

So I installed some vents in the roof which will solve that problem. When the steamy air exits the roof vents is rises into the sky rather than into the attic.

I didn’t take any pictures of that process. I was far more concerned with not falling off the roof, thank you. I did make a nice rope harness for myself and looped it over a vent pipe just in case. I didn’t end up needing it, but if I had, it would be a good thing to have.

Today I went into the attic and sprayed the moldy OSB with vinegar. That’s what the EPA seems to recommend. I should have waited one more day, because it’s raining now, and I wanted to check for leaks. Now there’s no way to tell rainwater from vinegar (I doused it pretty good).

Now on to more interesting things – wildflowers! These shots were all taken yesterday when I took a walk during lunch, or after I got home. We’ll start with this massive mullein.

Great mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Great mullein (Verbascum thapsus)


This was about three feet tall. They often get a lot taller than that when they send up their flowering spike, but this one hasn’t done that yet. This is all rosette, and I just haven’t ever seen a rosette this size.

Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium)


Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is blooming all over the place here now. The genus name Achillea comes from Achilles, who purportedly carried a large supply of this herb with him into battle because of its healing properties. I can’t vouch for its healing power, but I will say it’s delightful to behold.

Rabbitfoot clover (Trifolium arvense)

Rabbitfoot clover (Trifolium arvense)


Rabbitfoot clover is not native to North America, but was imported as fodder for livestock. It is invasive in some areas, but it doesn’t seem like much of a problem where I see it.

Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana)

Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana)


This one is always delightful. The flowers are edible too, and I ate one of them (maybe this one!) before I left the area.

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp)

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp)


There’s a very long row of these along the railroad tracks. It is a hawthorn, but I don’t know which species. There are lots to choose from.

Some sorta sumac (Rhus spp)

Some sorta sumac (Rhus spp)


I have it in my head that this is staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), but I don’t know why (or if that’s accurate). I looked briefly at smooth sumac too, and haven’t ruled it out. It would probably be easy to tell if I went back with a field guide. Instead, we have to settle for guesswork.

Same sumac

Same sumac


This shot is from the same tree if not the very same blossom. Maybe we can tell from that.

Blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis)

Blue toadflax (Nuttallanthus canadensis)


I have no idea how this got the name “toadflax”. Apparently that’s also a common name for “butter and eggs” which we will see later in the summer (I promise!) – they are in the same family, and the blue toadflax was until recently considered to be in the same genus (Linaria) as B&E’s. I didn’t know any of that until this evening (thank you Wikipedia).

Now here’s one that I read was in bloom on someone else’s blog (don’t remember who!) so I went looking for it yesterday when I got home. Yup. Mine is just starting too.

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)


This is one of my favorites. I would have taken more time to set up the tripod and get a really nice shot, but the threaded insert I put in my tripod mount has popped out (taking with it a lot of camera body). I don’t know if I will ever manage a decent repair for that. Sigh.

When I came out of the woods I was surprised to find some whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia).

Whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)

Whorled loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia)


This is one of the first wildflowers I learned when I set out to learn all the flowering plants on my property. I remembered that the name Lysimachia was interesting, but I couldn’t remember why. So I looked in a book I started a few years ago (I really need to finish writing that) and found this:

It is named after Lysimachus, one of Alexander the Great’s generals. He was said to have fed a member of the genus to a bull to calm it down. The colonists must have heard this legend, because they used to feed this plant to their oxen to make them work together peacefully.

All I need now are some oxen.

On Friday when Beth and I went to my Little Cohas Brook cache, she lamented that she had left her snow pants and sleds at school. I told her that if she remembered to bring them home on Saturday, I would take her to the sand pit today. So she did remember.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I joined her on the sled for several runs, and we had a lot of fun. I also realized that I was standing only 50 feet or so from her geocache (Sand, Sand, Sand!) and that I had a geocoin in my camera bag. I picked it up in Arizona, and its goal was to travel far and wide. According to the geocaching web site, I moved it 2,125.11 miles, which accounts for about two thirds of its total traveled distance. If it’s still there next week I will move it again to a cache that gets visited more often.

We sledded for about an hour and then hiked back to the house (she in her boots, me in my snowshoes, and Penny on her four paws). On the way home, Beth suggested that we go to Dairy Queen to get some Blizzards. She is her mother’s daughter.

When we got home I replaced our mailbox. Last summer some kid went down the road with a baseball bat whacking every mailbox along his path (including ours). Ours was still usable, but on one particularly rainy day this winter (would that it could have been a snowy day instead!) we found that he had compromised its ability to protect our mail from inclement weather. So we bought a replacement. Problem is, I didn’t have daylight available to put it in place.

Until today.

The old one was bolted onto a frame, and I managed to twist the bolts in half while trying to get them off. So I had to go back down to the basement to find some different bolts. Then back out to the mailbox again. In short order the job was done, and I took the family to the Dairy Queen in Franklin for some blizzards.

We had already suggested DQ to Va, and she thought that they were not open during the winter. So she checked into it and found that they are closed through February. This is March. So off we went, all five of us.

Nothing like ice cream on a sledding day. ๐Ÿ˜€

I am almost finished insulating my attic, a project that I started before we even moved into this house seven years ago. We had snow yesterday, and because I still have four more feet of attic to insulate, I can show you what good the insulation does:

Insulated well vs insulated poorly

Insulated well vs insulated poorly


See how the snow has melted on the last four feet of the roof over there on the right (not counting the part of the roof that extends beyond the house)? That’s where there is no insulation. Heat from the house escapes through the roof right there and melts the snow. If you look closely, you might be able to see icicles on that end too. That’s where the snow melts, runs off the roof, and then refreezes. If that builds up too much, it will create an ice dam, and water will pool up behind it. Then the water will find its way through the shingles and into the house.

So I guess I’d better finish this little job.

When I posted yesterday, I had meant to include a scenic photo that I captured during my walk with Penny to Sandogardy Pond. Here it is:

Gline's Road

Gline's Road


Sorry about the water spots on my lens. I was remembering the scene, not the photo.
This little path is a class VI road, meaning it is not maintained. It is never plowed, and it is never graded. Rather, it just is what it is. I know that sometimes vehicles do drive on it, because they leave their tracks. But more frequently, it is used by snowmobiles, ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ATV’s, ๐Ÿ˜ฆ pedestrians, ๐Ÿ™‚ and dogs. ๐Ÿ˜€
Penny and I were the first to use it after this snow. Someone actually drove on it since then with a truck or 4WD, which boggles my mind, since it doesn’t lead anywhere that the plowed roads don’t lead to more conveniently. Go figure!

Jonathan and I stopped at the pond on the way home from work. He stayed in the car while I walked the couple hundred yards to Little Cohas Cache, GPS in hand. I took some readings, and will translate them into the Abenaki tongue later tonight. I think I might nail the bark covering on tomorrow afternoon. Then if I can stand to wait, I will refrain from publishing it until it snows again. Otherwise, my tracks will lead the cachers straight to ground zero. But I don’t think I will be able to restrain myself.

It snowed a little today. We got about zero inches. I noticed the flakes out the attic window. Yup – I was up there installing more insulation. I am now well past the half done mark, but that includes the work I did two years ago too. I’m pretty sure I will finish it (or come very close to finishing it) before my holiday break ends.

When I had about all the insulating I could take in one dose, I headed down the stairs. Poor Penny had not been taken outside for exercise all day. David has been sick with a sinus infection, and Va was in town running errands. So I grabbed my camera and took her down to Sandogardy Pond.

It has frozen over now, but I don’t think the ice is safe yet. I did go out on it, but if I had fallen through, it would not have been deep enough to wet my knees. It was plenty slick though.

Sandogardy Pond is frozen

Sandogardy Pond is frozen

The puddles in my driveway are frozen now too, so it’s almost like it’s paved now. In places.

Penny and I headed down the trail that parallels Little Kohas Creek. Penny does not like the bridge that crosses the creek, but the last time we were down there, she crossed it anyhow. She thought about wading across, but I told her not to. Then she tried the other side, and again I told her not to. Then I told her to sit. I was not going to go very far. I was looking to see where Kohas might have built his cabin (no luck there). But Penny could not stand it. She carefully treaded over the bridge with much trepidation. Of course that meant she would have to cross it again, but on the return trip, she went over without hesitation (but still with plenty of trepidation).

Today she toddled right over. I still have no idea where Kohas’s cabin was, but I am planning to plant a geocache along the creek in his honor. I found a place to hide it last time I was there, but then got to thinking about the snow. When it comes, it will make the cache inaccessible. It’s better to hide them higher up so they are accessible year-round. But it’s also harder to find a hiding place up off the ground. I thought I had found a spot, but now that I think about it, it might not be above the creek’s high water line. Or maybe it is. The pond regulates the creeks depth pretty well.

While I was out looking for a place to hide my cache, I spotted a strange fungal formation in a tree.

Funny Fungal Form

Funny Fungal Form


There are two growths there. A very large one on the trunk, and a smaller (but still large) one growing on a dead branch. It looks a little like the lid to a teapot to me.

But back to the cache. I ordered some plastic toys which are models of some Powhatan Indians. Kohas was probably a Pennacook Indian, not Powhatan, but the Powhatans were the only eastern tribe I could find on the Innernets. Most are Plains Indians (and come with cowboys). When my Powhatan come in, they will go in a Lock-n-Lock container along with the cache log, a pencil, and maybe a little more swag. I will eventually find a place to hide it.

I am also going to hide a cache near the Northfield Union Church. That church was built in the late 1800’s and given to the city of Northfield so that any denomination that wanted to use it could, and free of charge. The first four to do so were the Methodists, Congregationalists, Freewill Baptists, and Adventists. Each one of these denominations has an organizational logo, so I am looking for lapel pins depicting them to go in the cache as trade items.

The Adventists who met there were probably not Seventh-day Adventists (because there is no mention of anyone meeting there on Saturdays), but I am going to go with an SDA pin, because that is my own denomination, and I have a dozen SDA pins already (mostly from Pathfinders).

For the Freewill Baptists, I may have to go with a more generic Baptist pin. I plan to check out a local Christian book store to see if they have anything like what I want, and if not, I will turn to the Internet again. Keychains would work just as well as pins.

When Penny and I got home again, I was pretty tired. I sat down for a few minutes and then broke out the vacuum cleaner and ran a load of dishes. Va was in town running errands. By the time she got home, I was snoozing on the couch. She made a nice pot of chili and a batch of cornbread, and that revived me again.

I’m not a perpetual procrastinator, but sometimes it does seem like I am. Yesterday I wrote about my plans to work on the Eternal Insulation Project. And today I did work on it. I carried a few more things from the attic to the basement, all the time thinking that reversing that process is going to be a lot harder, because then my arms will be full while I’m ascending the stairs.

Once I had some space to work, I realized that I could not find any staples for the staple gun. It is not difficult for me to convince myself that I need to make a trip into town instead of doing an unpleasant task. But I may as well make the most of the trip, right?

I counted the baffle panels I have. Those are necessary to allow air to flow from the eaves up to the ridge vent. You can’t just press insulation up against the underside of the roof. I found that I would need about another 30 or so panels.

I also noticed that I have a bit of mold on the underside of the roof. That is because our “wonderful” builder opted to vent the bathroom fans out the eaves instead of out the roof. I asked about this at the time, but was convinced that it was OK. Later I found out that it can cause problems. As soon as the vent exhausts the steamy air out the soffit, it is immediately drawn back into the attic by the soffit vents on either side of the bathroom vent. And then the underside of the roof molds.

So – a trip to town was in order. I invited Beth, and she accepted my invitation. I prefer to shop at an ancient hardware store in Tilton – Bryant’s Hardware. This place has been in business for well over 100 years, and I really like the guy who runs the place. He is both friendly and helpful. I didn’t think he’d have attic baffles, but I thought I’d check before I headed over to Lowes (which does have them, and probably cheaper).

First I found the staples. The proprietor was busy helping someone else, so as I waited, I browsed around – his store is always filled with fascinating things.

He didn’t think he had baffles, but he could sure order them for me. I knew I would never get around to using all the ones I did have today, so I figured it’d be worth the wait. But then he remembered he did have some. He bought them a few years ago for a project that he never completed. No wonder I like this guy so much. He’s just like me. He disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a box full of baffles. We counted out 30 of them.

Then I asked about a roof vent for the bathroom fan. He didn’t have those either, but again, he was willing to order them for me. So we picked one out, and I ordered two (there are two bathroom vents in the attic). They will arrive sometime next week after New Years Day. But I have no desire to climb up on my roof in the beginning of a New Hampshire January. No thanks! I will wait until spring. That vent has been exhausting bathroom steam into my attic for seven years now. Four more months is not going to make that much difference.

Beth and I then went back home, and she wanted to know if she could help me in the attic. Well… sure! We went up and she handed me baffles as I stapled them to the roof. We didn’t put them all up though, because that would mean moving more boxes. I could have moved them into the empty space I created by shuffling junk to the basement, but then I’d have to move them again to put up the insulation. So instead, I figured I should just insulate while I had the space cleared.

By then Beth was ready to go outside and play with the neighbor girl. That was just as well, because I really didn’t want her handling the fiberglass.

Maybe tomorrow I will make more progress. As we saw today… it could happen!

Next Page »