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.


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).

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:


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:

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 Greenhouse, Lessons Learned, Successes

Oil Furnace Roller-Coaster (aka – IT’S ALIVE! part 2)

E and I were away for a week and I had high hopes for the furnace to continue working during this time, especially since the high last Friday here was 23 degrees! Well we came back to this:



Turns out the furnace at some point stopped working and I have been on a whirlwind of ups and down the entire day. Let me walk you through it:

DOWN: The furnace stopped working and it was cold and my plants are SAD!

UP: It seems likely the furnace lasted for a bit since the low recorded by my thermometer was only 28 degrees (the low outside was around 17 degrees). Also, most of my plants (minus that super sad avocado above) seemed to be alright. I suspect the furnace was fine until it ran out of oil sometime during the week I was gone.

DOWN: I’m pretty sure the furnace ran out of oil and I thought I put 5 gallons of diesel in right before we left. This will cost a fortune to heat!

UP: Wait – I go get diesel and my gas can is only 2.5 gallons! Maybe this isn’t as bad as I thought!

DOWN: I put the new 2.5 gallons of diesel in the tank and press the restart. And no heat. The furnace turns on, I can sort of hear a spraying noise, and then the safety kicks in and the whole thing shuts down. Fuck!

UP: I am determined to fix this! While looking up YouTube videos about fixing furnaces I see something about bleeding your furnace if it runs dry. This seems very likely the issue since I’m pretty positive it ran out of oil (diesel is oil minus the red dye). I gather tools and prepare for battle with this fucker:

img_1017.png First I forget that the heater has to be on for this to work and think that maybe there is a total clog somewhere since I have removed the entire bleeder valve and there no oil to be seen… But luckily I remember! Air and oil sputters out. I try to restart…

DOWN: It does not start. I bleed it more. More air and oil. More oil. Now just oil. A steady of oil.


UP: img_1016-2.jpg

Almost 60 degrees now (plus my really janky thermostat which definitely needs to be replaced – that’s for another time though)

And there you have it, my personal emotional roller-coaster courtesy of Siebring HeatMaster Oil Furnaces and Beckett AFG Oil Burners.

Posted in Greenhouse, Plans, Successes


Big news from last week! The greenhouse furnace is operational! I had to jerry-rig the wiring because Bernavel had to disconnect it when he hooked up the rest of the electricity in the greenhouse. I figured that since it’s unlikely I will need the fan in the winter, that I could just connect it to the fan wiring. So once that was done I flipped the switch and WE HAVE HEAT!

The furnace fired up pretty easily. I should probably install it on a new breaker and the thermostat is a little busted, but this was in a 42 degree night!img_0876

So I’m hoping that this will get us through the winter since I was having doubts and thoughts that maybe I was just going to have to bring my plants in the house for the winter. I’m very excited and now have plans to grow ALL THE PLANTS!

Posted in Building, Greenhouse, Successes

Pond – Redux

It’s a pond, again! E and I moved the pond the other day and it seems to be doing pretty well!! We decided on a more rectangular design and a much more shallow pond mainly because the ground on that side of the greenhouse was impossible to dig into and the cinder blocks are super heavy (plus I managed to injure my wrist slightly so lifting and moving cinder blocks is probably a bad idea). But I also think the shallower water will heat up faster because there is more surface area and I like that it can be filled up more to the top than I thought was safe with the double layer of cinder blocks (if I had mortared them together I think it would have been fine, but as they were I wasn’t too sure of their stability so didn’t fill the old pond up very much). So really, I think we will just say that it was on purpose and not because we failed at digging.

It’s looking nice and I have high hopes for it. It is definitely more in the sun, but still close enough to the electrical outlet for the pump which I still need to set up. I already think the water seems warmer than the old pond, but that may just be wishful thinking. Aesthetically I do like this one more and once there are more plants I think it will be ever better since they will hid the liner and it will look even more tropical!

I’m trying to convince E that we should put those fish that eat your callouses off your feel in it, but she thinks it’s a bad idea. I think a greenhouse foot spa sounds brilliant!

Posted in Building, Successes

Putting up walls

Look how nice those walls are!! E is excellent at building walls – she’s the carpenter around here. Our friends came up for the weekend and we put them to work. They helped us frame out what will be a new hallway so that our one bedroom will be a true bedroom that you don’t need to walk through to get to the other two.

One nice thing about framing walls is that if something is a little crooked or off a bit, you can just bash it with a hammer in the right direction. If only more problems were solved with hammers…