Thursday, August 14, 2014

No power, no heat. (But it doesn't matter.)

The same fast, heavy rainstorm that caused flash floods on Long Island has knocked our power out. Not great timing, considering that my wife is pregnant and due any time now, and that I have an elderly relative that has had a medical emergency and taken to hospital in Great Britain, meaning I need to be able to get email and phone.

No worries, though. Many years ago I made provision for this kind of thing by investing in a 3,250 watt propane emergency generator. I went out this morning and started the generator and hooked it up safely, and we have power to most of the house.

It's a pull-start genny, and so harder to get going than our old electrical start, but it makes two pole 110/220v power, and so we can run anything we want to run in the house, even the dryer, welder or automotive lift, all of which are 220v.

Call me nuts, or a "prepper", but I can imagine needing to use the welder or auto lift one day, if I need to weld something on a car, truck or tractor and the power has been out for days.

We're unlikely to use the dryer. We'd normally use the laundry line or clothes horse and the heat from the woodstove.

Unfortunately, we can't use the woodstove right now. That's because I took the chimney apart yesterday. Luckily, it isn't yet cold this fall.

(That's right: it's fall already in Maine. Our statistical first frost is August 27th, and there are already some red maple leaves on some of our trees.)

I already had it on my list to sweep and inspect the chimney, a regular home safety chore prior to winter. I also had a good 48 inch chimney section, salvaged from the garage (after I sold the old wood furnace we no longer needed now the multi-year house insulation project was complete), with which I might make repairs, if need be.

Long ago this chimney was compromised by a poor installation job, thanks to an unethical local contractor, and an unresponsive and irresponsible manufacturing company. You can read the full sad story here. The damage was only to the outer layers of insulation and metal cladding. The inner liner of stainless steel was fine.

I solved the problem by wrapping the compromised chimney sections in two extra layers of galvanized steel. But every year, I inspect the compromised sections to make sure they are still usable.

This is what I found this year:

There are three compromised 48 inch sections like this. You can see that the connecting collar has become separated from the shaft of the chimney section, exposing the insulation.

Obviously this chimney is now completely unserviceable. I doubt it was ever dangerous, though, thanks to my earlier, ad hoc repair. The second and third additional layers of steel would have held the whole thing together and prevented dangerous heat reaching the fabric of the house.

But I think it's time for a new chimney. Especially with a baby on the way, we need a safe woodstove.

Accordingly I sourced chimney parts from a different manufacturer that would fit what is left of our original chimney. It took me a bit of luck and driving around but I found sufficient sections of suitable chimney to complete the repair in Bangor yesterday. Today I'll fit them carefully. 

Then I may package the broken chimney and send it UPS with a note to the original manufacturer. They've been bought out by a new company and may now be more responsible. Aimee is good at notes like that, and has often won refunds when I'd given up. Maybe she'd like to write it. We could even circulate the note and pictures on FaceBook. That might spur them into providing satisfaction.

In other news, Aimee made red cabbage kraut. Here's the kraut pot, with the weights that hold down the solid cabbage and keep it under the brine:

Five red cabbages made around two gallons of kraut. Tasty, and healthy too.

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Welcome to our Farm Blog.
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