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Death of a snowman

Anna's recent snowperson had a fatal disagreement with the sun the next day.

Posted Fri Feb 23 07:00:11 2018 Tags:

Mark and I enjoyed a class on kombucha (fermented sweet tea) and kvas (fermented, salted beets) on Tuesday. I'm not going to try to sum up every little detail because the internet is full of how-to posts. Instead, I'll just hit the highlights here.

Making beet kvas

I'll start with kvas, the much less well-known beverage. Our instructors washed and cubed raw, unpeeled beets and filled a glass gallon jar about halfway with the vegetables. One tablespoon of non-iodized salt plus a quart or two of unchlorinated water finished the preparation. After that, they let the crock ferment at room temperature for two to five days then sit in the fridge for another week to intensify the flavor.

Kvas is meant to be drunk in small doses to cleanse the liver. The result is something for which I've not yet acquired the taste (although I don't really like beets or salt, so take that with a grain of, well, salt). Actually, the more interesting point came from my seat mate, who told me she made a sweetened beet pie seasoned with lemon zest last year --- now that might be worth a try.

Posted Thu Feb 22 07:00:12 2018 Tags:
Floor leveling with 2 gallon bucket batches.

Our first experience at using a floor leveling compound went better than expected.

Posted Wed Feb 21 07:00:09 2018 Tags:
Snow fun

I've been waiting and waiting for the perfect packing snow all winter. Finally, it fell!

So I borrowed the neighbor kids for sledding, snow-man (and -dog) building, and (their top choice) ornamental snow-cupcake creating. Despite being slightly derailed by a snowball fight, fun was had by all for the cheap price of a carrot (for a snow man) and a brownie (for the kid whose nose was hit by a snowball).

If spring absolutely must come, I'm now ready. I wouldn't mind another few white-outs in the interim though....

Posted Tue Feb 20 07:00:08 2018 Tags:
Ford F 150 1997 red.

We finally found a good used truck on Craig's list that was not too far away.

It's a 1997 Ford F-150 with 122k miles.

Big thanks to our neighbor Tony for helping to evaluate the road worthiness and to test out the 4 wheel drive. It was his idea to counter offer 2500. It has a little surface rust and the AC stopped working but has some new parts along with new tires.

Posted Mon Feb 19 07:00:06 2018 Tags:
Maple syrup

We picked just the right time to tap the sugar maple just outside our back door. Twenty-four hours later, the two-gallon bucket was nearly full!

When tapping in Virginia, I couldn't taste any sweetness in our maple sap, but here the sugars are more condensed and are evident even in liquid straight from the tree. After boiling down a gallon and a half of sap, we ended up with half a cup of quality maple syrup. Just in time for Mark's weekend pancakes!

Posted Sun Feb 18 07:00:10 2018 Tags:
Slow feed pet dish close up.

Huckleberry was having some trouble keeping his food down. His new cat doctor suggested he was eating too fast and recommended a slow feed pet dish to discourage rapid eating.

Posted Sat Feb 17 07:00:11 2018 Tags:
White's Mill

It can be so tricky to buy potting soil off the shelf. All of the bags are covered with pretty printing...with no truth windows to show off the quality of the product inside.

The brands you can get at the big-box stores are notoriously hit or miss in quality. So I was thrilled to find high quality garden amendments of all types at White's Mill on the other side of town.

High quality potting soil

I splurged on small bags of two different brands to get an idea of their quality before making a larger commitment. At home, I pulled out a handful of each and was quite pleased with the texture and moisture level of both Fox Farm and Happy Frog. (I was even more pleased to discover that White's Mill's prices are less than half of what's listed on Amazon.)

Potting soil comparison

Here's a closeup view of the two soils side by side. Pretty similar! I potted up four lettuce seedlings into each type of soil and will report back if I see a difference in growth. But, at the moment, I'm guessing it would be hard to go wrong with either product.

Posted Fri Feb 16 07:00:12 2018 Tags:
Sugar Maple tapping in south east Ohio.

We tapped our first Sugar Maple tree in Ohio today.

The same fancy stainless steel spile we used before.

Posted Thu Feb 15 07:00:10 2018 Tags:
Energy usage

"Is it too early in the year to post a review on your minisplit? What would you do different if you could have a do-over. Still on the fence on whether to buy one for this summer." --- Phillip

Well, we definitely can't report on the air-conditioning aspects yet, but I can give you a rundown on our minisplit's ability to keep our trailer warm. The really short version --- it works well until exterior temperatures get down into the single digits, but it's pretty pricey to operate.

The image at the top of this post shows three months of energy usage from last winter (a slightly warmer climate, but not by much, heating primarily with a wood stove) and this winter (in which the minisplit went into operation partway through the first month on the graph). The lower energy usage for the third month of this year is because I had so much sticker shock at a $300 electric bill that I kept the interior temperature around 58 to 60 most of the time during January.

Minisplit icingOther than energy usage, I only have a few things to report about the minisplit. Mostly it just runs --- yay! We're extremely glad we mounted it on the wall rather than on a pad on the ground because the defrost function creates huge icicles below it during frigid weather. (The photo here is only the barest edge of what happened later in the month, which I thought I'd photographed but apparently hadn't.) I'm not sure how even a well-drained, ground-mounted unit could keep going in the face of so much ice.

The thermostat on our particular unit is pretty terrible. The colder it gets outside, the less realistic the temperature we set on the unit is (as measured by a thermometer placed only a few feet away from the remote, which is where the minisplit measures air temperature). The settings also only go down to 62, which is a shame --- I'd really like a spot between that and off to use at night.

In terms of sound --- the minisplit is remarkably quiet. Now and then when ice is building up on the blade, you'll hear it more than usual for a few minutes. But, usually, it's a very dull hum from inside the trailer --- non-noticeable.

In the end, we're very glad we have an easy, moderately efficient electric option, but all electric heat sources are still energy- and money-intensive. We're looking forward to installing our wood stove before next winter, at which point I suspect we'll move to using the minisplit about half as much as we currently do.

Posted Wed Feb 14 07:00:09 2018 Tags:

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