Posted in Fail, Greenhouse, Lessons Learned, Plans, Stubbornness, Successes

Yet Another Greenhouse Furnace Post

This is getting excessive!

So last year I realized that the greenhouse I was working in was a poor choice and I switched over to the smaller greenhouse attached to the chicken coop.

This was a GOOD IDEA! The plants have lived out here all winter and have been happy, which means I have been happy!

This makes me SO Happy!

The furnace was pretty reliable… until a couple of weeks ago.

And then it died. First I thought that maybe the oil filter and screen needed to be replaced. I did that – no luck. So I tried taking it apart since I figured that I hadn’t cleaned the oil nozzle in the three (almost) years we have been here and I had no idea what the previous owners did. It was not pretty:

New nozzle, with filthy electrodes!

I replaced the nozzle but not the electrodes since they didn’t have the correct ones at the plumbing supply store. Mainly, because, as I learned by googling the serial number I finally found it after cleaning off layer and layer and layers of gunk, this furnace is from 1957 and the company which made this furnace, International Heaters of Utica, went out of business and it is close to impossible to find any information about this furnace.

And then I tried to restart the damn and this thing BLEW UP – like literally sparks flying, thank goodness for circuit breakers that trip when things catch themselves on fire – blew up.

You can’t really see where it blew up (kind of at the bottom where I cut off all those fabric coated wires) but trust me – it was scary.

So this limit switch is busted, I don’t know where one finds a new one for a 62 year old furnace, and I AM FED UP.

So I have decided that once I have two fully functioning legs I am going to attempt to move one of the other five, non-sixty year-old furnaces from one of the less useful greenhouses into this one and all will be well.

In the meantime Spring is almost here which means it hasn’t gotten too cold and this has actually been keeping the greenhouse warm at night:

Yes – there is actually a fireplace insert under all those cinder blocks

This old fireplace insert the previous owners left on the porch which I moved into the greenhouse a couple months ago with the help of E, a willing friend, the tractor, and taking down one of the greenhouse walls (don’t worry – I put it back up). The cinder blocks are piled up all around it and filled with stones and it all makes a pretty decent heat sink. For now….

Posted in Fail, Plans

I’m BaAaack!

I HAVE BEEN TERRIBLE AT HAVING A BLOG.

whew ok – that was unnecessary, but I’m back and things have been HAPPENING around here! Where to even begin…

Well a while ago this happened:

YUP! We got a tractor!

The biggest news is that I’m currently one month into a three month leave from work to get stuff done around here. The first couple of weeks were slow; we had some houseguests and a bit of travel so I didn’t get much done. Then a week ago this happened:

YUP! I broke my ankle! (this is post surgical repair)

So needless to say – I have not gotten a lot done since hobbling around on crutches and my knee wheely thing (which stupidly does not have a basket – who designs these things!) is not super conducive to doing farm type things. And I have a giant list of things to get done. Like super giant:

SO MANY THINGS!

But luckily the cast comes off in a week and Spring is also slowly starting to happen up here; so, while the timing of my broken ankle is not ideal, it is also not the worst thing ever (ugh a cast in the middle of the summer – blech).

In the meantime I’m taking care of myself and making more BIG PLANS!!!

Posted in Greenhouse, Plans, Technology

Technology in the Greenhouse!

I’m really excited about this thing! It’s a cool sensor that you just stick on the wall and it tracks the temperature and humidity. I’ve been wanting something that does this so I can see how well the furnace is working in the greenhouse. I have a high/low thermometer, but I wanted something that would keep a better history of temperature changes.

So I got this: http://www.sensorpush.com

It’s pretty awesome and I really like seeing the temperature fluctuations during the day. I can also tell how often the furnace is cycling on and off over the night. Hopefully I’ll be able to use this to tell how well some of my heating ideas are working. I already have the layers inflated and a new pond is in the works. It’s also possible there will be fifty bales of straw here shortly…

Posted in Building, Farm Truck, Greenhouse, Successes

Back in Business! (some successes)

I am happy to report – There’s a lot of things that have gone well around here lately!

  • The truck has working four wheel drive! (I tested it in the snow even!)
  • The compost pulley is in working condition and has only strewn pineapple bits over the driveway once in it’s fully functional form.
  • I made an amazing seed spreadsheet to keep track of my apparently 140 varieties of seeds I am hoarding
  • E and I moved some cabinets from the laundry room to the kitchen (reuse!) and they are still attached to the wall right where we hung them!
  • The furnace in the greenhouse is still functional and we had 250 gallons of oil delivered so it should be working for a while. (though I will mention the thing that did not go well – we put the snow plow thing on the front of the glorified lawn mower and it did not go well at all; because it is a lawn mower and that is all it does – mow the lawn. So E and I spent a good three days chipping ice out of the driveway so the oil truck could get down to the greenhouse. Note to self: shovel snow right away!)
  • We got a 78 record and played it successfully on the Victrola! (we also played a 33 and got to hear Dancing Queen sung by the Chipmunks!)img_1457
  • The new bedroom is almost done. E has done an awesome job on the walls
  • I fixed a hole near the inflator in the greenhouse and hooked up a new vent to use air from outside to inflate between the two layers of poly. (outside air is preferable since it reduces condensation between the layers)

    img_1591
    Yes that is a pie tin vent opening – recycling!

     

 

That’s all I can remember right now – but hopefully there will be many more this spring!

Posted in Greenhouse, Successes

It’s Alive and Out of Control

That is some pretty slick styling on the greenhouse heater, huh?

And I am happy to report that is a working greenhouse heater at that! This one required a bit of fiddling with the wires to bypass the thermostat, but it’s alive! I did also get to do some excellent reading about cad cell relays and oil fired heating controls – you know, just some light bedtime reading.

This greenhouse is much smaller than the original one, probably about half the size. It heats up incredibly quickly.

 

img_1332
This took only ten minutes or so!

But this excellently working heater is uncontrollable because the old thermostat was busted, the one I pulled out of a different greenhouse was also mostly busted, and the one I bought from Home Depot was apparently a bunch of random bits of busted thermostats all shoved in a box (we definitely should have listened to the cashier and grabbed a new, non-opened one).

img_1325
Do you like my little alligator clamp jumper?

 

So tomorrow I will get thermostat number four and try to tame the Utica International wild beast of a heater which lives in the greenhouse. Wish me luck!

 

Posted in Plans, Preserving, Successes, The Nature

Staying Cozy and Making Plans

Things are still mostly hunkered down for the winter here at Jugtown. We had a bit of a weather rollercoaster the last week with one day in the 70s and then four inches of snow the next day. The snow is mostly melted, but I’m not holding my breath for warmth anytime soon – the last frost date in these parts is almost the end of May!

So we’ve been drinking our hot chocolate and building fires and making plans. Big plans!

Here is E’s big list of big plans:

img_1315

and I have a lot of plans floating around in my head that I have yet to actually put into a concrete list, or at least one coherent list (though a concrete list sounds kind of funny). I do have tons of little lists and ideas and snippets of things I want to look up. E and I are trying to have phone free Saturdays so I have to make a list of all the things I want to look up later instead of immediately grabbing my phone and googling everything. My most recent list consists of everything from how record players work (more on that later) to thermostat wiring and things that are automatic but not electric (a lot more on this later).

Since my big plan list is not ready yet, I did make a list of things I have either learned or accomplished.

  • Wiring up the new bedroom! Yes this happened and was tested and is successful and no one died! I’m really proud of this.
  • The furnace in the other greenhouse is working (I guess this is kind of a spoiler…)
  • The truck has new hubs and a new battery which is properly held in place by a new battery strap and not the piece of crap I picked up at WalMart (yes, I know – but it’s the only place around here we can get prescriptions filled!)
  • In general I’ve learned a lot about electricity and wiring.
  • I almost have a fully functioning plow on the front of the tractor/glorified lawn mower.
  • We got a new stove! (The reason for this is not something that should ever be discussed). I guess it’s not really an accomplishment, but it is exciting!
  • E and I have done a really good job of not drinking alcohol the past month or so. This is more of a self care/mental health thing, but it’s worth mentioning.

And of course – staying cozy.

 

edited to add:

  • I made a pretty excellent list of all our tools and appliances around here. I also downloaded and organized all the manuals for various things (heaters, thermostats, tractors, leaf mulchers) that I have looked up in the past and assume I will need in the future.
  • I successfully sharpened the chainsaw chain and made a cool kindling splitter
Posted in Farm Truck, Stubbornness, Successes

The Truck has New Hubs!

The truck saga continues.

After getting the truck stuck on Thanksgiving I decided to buy these. In a ’99 Ford Ranger the hubs are locked by vacuum tubes that are notoriously finicky and prone to rotting, so it was highly likely they were the source of my four wheel drive failure. I figured it couldn’t hurt to have manual locking hubs and if they didn’t solve the problem then at least that was one thing I could cross off the list of possible causes.

It was a balmy 40 degrees out this past Saturday so I decided to see about installing them. I called the mechanic and the super helpful man who answered the phone told me that I shouldn’t worry my dainty lady head about four wheel drive and that two wheel would be fine for any normal driving (ok maybe I added the thing about the dainty lady head). But anyway mansplainer – Challenge Accepted!

Honestly the videos on YouTube made it look pretty simple – take off the tire/wheel, take off original hub, put new hub on, put back on tire. And the first one went just like that – easy peasy.

And then I celebrated too early:

img_0957
Celebratory picture with the second hub which I foolishly assumed would be as easy to put on as the first.

The second one went like this: take off tire/wheel, take off original hub, put on new hub, realize that it’s not locking correctly (i.e., I can still spin the rotor when it’s locked), take off new hub trying not to break off the 12 little tabs that all need to be pulled up simultaneously to get it off, fiddle with the new hub and realize it’s not broken, just misaligned, put on new hub, worry that it’s still not working, take off new hub (much faster this time), fiddle with it some more, put new hub back on, realize it’s fine, try to put back on wheel and realize that my jack is giving out and cinder blocks make terrible jack stands and that I need the truck about an inch higher in order to get the wheel back on, try to use any other jacks I can find, curse a lot, almost tip over the truck, curse more, run over to the neighbors and borrow a jack stand, take out the other jack and put bricks under it to get extra height, jack truck up to appropriate height, put wheel back on, and … success?

By then the sun had gone down and I realized I was sitting in snow, soaking wet and losing feeling in most of my extremities plus my butt. I left E to clean up the tools and return the jack stand and went inside to attempt warm up.  After Advil, hot tea spiked with whiskey, a steaming hot shower, and a sensible dinner of Pizzatinos, I passed out at eight o’clock.

I’m exhausted just writing this….

And I still haven’t tested to see if the four wheel drive is actually working since I need a new battery strap first.

 

Posted in Fail, Lessons Learned, Stubbornness

Some things cannot be fixed

Staple guns are one of those things. Just don’t do it – you will spend over 45 minutes trying to get each tiny springy piece back in and still be frustrated and Home Depot is only 15 minutes away and there will be much less cursing.

There’s probably some metaphor or lesson to be learned here about broken things and things that can’t be fixed. In general I am very pro fixing things and enjoy trying to fix things, and sometimes this does end in frustration, but sometimes it ends up feeling very fancy and accomplished. I think I’ll take my chances on frustration.