Saturday, January 4, 2014

Slight reprieve -- get ready for another!

The thermometer -- we had to buy a new one because all the others had quit -- didn't lift much above zero the last few days, dropping down to -10 or -15 F overnight, and life was a little harder than it needed to be, mostly because the crawl spaces got too cold and so the pipes were threatened, but also because of vehicular and equipment difficulties.

After I discovered a spot at the bottom of the bathroom wall, right next to the toilet, that was frozen solid at 22 degrees F -- inside the house! -- I got busy yesterday with banking plastic and lath, chiseling away the ice from the foundation, putting up new plastic, and then shoveling the snow back for weight and insulation.

It took the rest of the day to drive out the cold from the inside of the house, but by bedtime the cold spot was above freezing and climbing. Today I did the same to another spot that was making one of our food cupboards cold. Aimee was upset that she couldn't pour her honey, poor puss.

The problem was the new building, where I hadn't yet detailed the join to the old. I'd put up insulation board but not plastic like I usually do, and the cold air was still coming in behind the board. Should have known, but I was in a hurry when I did it -- late one night at the end of term. All fixed now, but not without some worry over the pipes.

Another problem was the Land Rover's starter. The bendix drive had quit working, probably because of some ice. The Land Rover is our all-weather human-and-animal emergency vehicle. It has to start. Not starting is not an option.

So I suited up in my best cold weather gear, lay on me poor old back under the truck, and dropped the starter. It took around thirty minutes, for a two-bolt-and-a-wire job that would have taken ten in summer. Then I thawed the grumpy old starter out under the kitchen wood stove, a process that took a long time. There was still hoar frost on it after an hour, even though it's over 120 degrees under the stove. Once thawed, I lubricated it with a little brake fluid, which is still a light oil at temperatures well below zero, refitted it, and got a start.

One down, one to go. But the tractor wouldn't start at all, not even running on kerosene instead of diesel, not even being jumped by the Land Rover's sturdy one-wire genny, so I had Aimee pick up an engine heater on her shopping trip today, the kind that goes in the bottom radiator hose. I'll fit it tomorrow. It's supposed to get sunny and above freezing for the first time in a long time, so it shouldn't be such a difficult job to do.

The chickadees, Maine's state bird, are very busy at the feeder, their lifeline. They've eaten two quarts of sunflower seeds since Monday. They come to the windowsill to "drink" snow to wash the sunflower seeds down, then go back for more, all day long, never mind if it's negative 15 or 50 above.

Here's the chickadee feeder. We fill this thing up every few days, but it all gets eaten very quickly.

The chickies also like to hang in the lilac tree, lots of them fluttering in and out, even though it's still frozen up with ice. Look closely to see one! There were about ten in there when I took the picture, but there's no way to take a shot of ten tiny birds in a very big tree and hope to see anything.

At the other end of the front lawn wild turkeys are gathering to eat apples from our neighbor's tree and to eat grit and sand off the road. They don't seem to mind the cold much either, but they're a lot easier to see, even in the tree. (There are four in this picture.)

Saturday dawned a little warmer. It's 15 F out there right now this afternoon, positively tropical. With another storm forecast for Sunday into Monday, this time supposed to be snow to mix to rain, I wanted to get the house ready. Ice from the big ice storm is still all over all the roofs, now in the form of ice dams, and it's held the snow back. Normally a lot of it would shed. I got busy with the roof rake, pulling as much of the weight of the snow down as I could. It was a good workout. I also opened the attic door and cranked the oil furnace, to help break the ice off of there.


Here's the back of the house, with all the equipment storage. You can see that it's all pretty well smothered. I pulled the snow off the garage and the new roof too, not nearly as bad in terms of ice dams, but enough weight that it needed to be moved.

Here's the worst spot, a big ice dam that has taken away the guttering, and a big mess of ice that has come down the main roof gully to the porch roof. This mess probably weights 300 pounds, which the roof can handle now the rest of the weight is gone. But, like the ice dams, it's frozen fast to the roof. I'm hoping the either the sun tomorrow or the rain is warm enough that we can get rid of this, perhaps with some salt to help out. I may have to put the roof edge heater wires back up there, to stop this from happening. I still have a box full of them that used to be on the porch roof, before it was covered with metal roofing.

Could be worse. No great damage or losses so far, touch-wood!

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Welcome to our Farm Blog.
The purpose of this blog is for Aimee and I to communicate with friends and family, with those of our students, and other folks in general who are interested in homesteading and farming activities.

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