Thursday, February 28, 2013

Where Did February Go?

... battling freak weather extremes and an underestimation of firewood, that's where!!

We had to deal with days of -40 with high winds, days around zero with lots of snow, days of almost above freezing with blinding sunlight... rinse, lather, repeat. All that cycling made things weird for travel by foot as well as vehicle since the accumulated snow would start melting in the sun, then freeze solid, then get covered with fresh powder which results in thigh-high drifts, ice ledges, bottomless pitfalls and no traction anywhere.

Plus, we never knew what the temps were going to be when we went to bed so had no idea whether to bank the fire (and risk roasting) or let it burn out (and risk freezing). Even in the course of a day we;d see 30-40 degree shifts, which meant lots of small short fires... which strangely burn up more wood than a long burn with a full firebox. Normally we don't get that sort of weather and random heating fluctuations until mid-March, so we ran a little short on firewood (AGAIN!!  Arg!!).

So, off we went trudging through snowbanks in search of more deadites for the woodbin. This combo has a few serious limitations... not only is it difficult to determine where you're going and what's under your feet with any given step, it also means that you can't collect with a vehicle (may be possible with a snowmachine, but we don't have one yet). So, we were stuck dragging a sled of wood through the forest while the sled keeps trying to sink and mire in the snow, and you keep stepping through the hardpack or losing your footing where it's powdery or their are hidden stumps. And, unless you want to completely exhaust yourself, it also means that you can't load up the sled too much or you'll die trying to drag it home. Ultimately, we've found that we can only drag back a sled with 1-1.5 days worth of wood... so this whole process is DAILY (now you know why I'm peeved about the miscalculation!!).

In addition to the wonders of firewood, we did manage to get a few random projects completed (or at least started).

The first was a warming hut for our generator... seriously, it's cold enough at times that the ppor thing won't run... so we built a box out of scrap 2" foam insulation with vents cut out for the exhaust and intakes.

Second, I turned the laminate countertop scrap (the cut out to install the sink) into a makeshift baker's rack for the odd corner next to our new gas range. Eventually, I add some shelves to the frame to store the cast iron that's too heavy to hang, and also some shelves above it to make a hanging potrack for our stainless steel & copper... it'll be soooooooo nice to get all of them out of my limited cabinet space!

I also purchased some battery-operated, self-stick, light-detecting, motion-detecting LED nightlights for our stairwell. The lights are low lumen and angled down, so they don't blind you or wake everyone in the house up whenever you need to go up or down the stairs in the dark (yeah, I've busted my ass a few times on moonless nights!!). They came in a set of 3 so I installed one on each flight and one on the landing, and have been really impressed with how well they're working so far to light up the entire staircase just enough to make things safe. Of course, they still freak Ripley out when she's slinking up and down the stairs at night since they're automatic... poor baby!

I also modeled a storage shelf and desk unit to wrap around the stairwell upstairs, and a utility cabinet to hide and secure the battery bank and water tank on the opposite wall. It would have been easier if we could have purchased a pre-built unit, but with the angled walls in the loft created by the gambrel roof we pretty much have to go custom with everything. Hopefully we can get to those two units sometime this summer, although this summer is going to be focused primarily on the exterior siding and landscaping/garden. (I'll be starting my seedlings this month, so I'll try to do a few posts on our gardening planning for you guys).

We did manage to come up with a workable semi-prebuilt solution for storage shelves down the angled walls on either side of the bed, though. We bought 12' sections of wire shelving in the three sizes that were available (22", 16" and 12") and then made vertical standards for the front from 2x2's screwed directly into the floor and rafters. We had to attach the front of the shelves to vertical standards because we couldn't use the regular shelf supports on the angled wall, and the three sizes allowed us to place a deeper shelf on the bottom, with narrower shelves following the slope... we lucked out and this ended up with all three shelves almost perfectly 18" apart. Instead of the normal "J clips" normally used to attach the back of the shelf on a vertical, we used "U clips" over the back wire that would support the shelf regardless of the wall slope. The wire shelves are also just fleixble enough to bend over the weird waviness created by uneven rafter depths (rough lumber rather than planed), if we'd had to scribe and custom fit plywood shelves to the wall I would have lost my mind!  All-in-all, going with the wire shelving probably saved us around $50 and a day of labor over plywood, so that's a bonus. Anyway, we got the shelves on my side of the bed installed, and will be installing G's when we do the whole winter-to-summer bedding and clothing switch.

While I'd love to have things all done and properly finished (still haven't mudded and painted the walls or trimmed out the windows & doors), I figure it's better to work on weather-proofing, storage, and food production first. Safe, organized and productive first, pretty later :)


Janet / Jerseykat said...

Great to hear from ya and know everythings o.k. LOL was wondering if you were still stuck under Ripley and unable to move!

Jody Graham said...

Reading your post made me kind of giggle and brought back memories of trying to get our generator to start when it is 30 below out or wondering why our Christmas tree used no water for the three weeks it was up. It turns out the water in the stand was frozen solid. That was our first winter living off the grid in eastern Canada. 12 years later, it is still a struggle living off the grid but I now know it is worth it. Thanks for letting me comment!

Misty Pines Homestead said...

You know if you got a bag of charcoal for that stove it would last longer burning.Just put a few coals in and let them burn with the wood should keep it burning.