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

Making Do

I read an article a couple of years ago about how most people don’t really need eight hours a day to do their jobs; instead our capitalist economy requires us to spend the majority of our waking hours “toiling” so that in our free time we only have enough time to try to buy happiness and become the dutiful consumers our economy needs. This plan hinges on making the time to pursue happiness a scarce resource so that the average worker will instead substitute material goods in favor of seeking meaningful happiness. The article (I did try to find it, but couldn’t locate the right one, so you will need to take my word for it) then claimed that the writer had found that being unemployed or underemployed was actually cheaper in the long run because instead of seeking out material goods, one could instead focus on spending time in the local library or park to fill whatever existential hole one was seeking to fill, and that the park was always cheaper than a new iGadget. In theory I find this reasoning spot on (of course the economy needs us to buy stuff! of course I don’t didn’t really need eight hours to do work shit!) – but as in all similar articles about the ills of society the problem comes at the end, when the writer tries to convince us that he, and he alone, has found the solution to such societal ills. (Spend too much time on your smartphone? This person whose job consists of writing articles and talking to their editor once a week will tell you how sinking your phone to the bottom of a lake is clearly the best solution. Computers getting you down? This writer has switched to a typewriter! Email checking becoming tedious? This entrepreneur with no other workers in his company has the solution for you! Check it once a day – who cares what your bosses or coworkers think!) All this is to say that the issue with the idea that being unemployed is cheaper is that the person who wrote this article clearly did not have BIG PLANS. Big plans require materials, lots of materials, and so here is where we get to the point of making do.

Making do, to me, means either making use of something I already have or trying to find a used or cheaper alternative to something I need. Yes, yes, the other part of that saying is “or do without” but when you have big plans that isn’t always an option! But this isn’t to say that I am not willing to suffer! In this spirit I present the list of Making Do:

  • My Greenhouse Furnace! This has been the source of much strife in my life but I can confirm that in its current configuration it is quite functional. And the current configuration is a Frankenstein of pieces from the other furnaces all duct-taped together. (I’m mostly kidding about the duct tape) The vent pipe, the oil line, the thermostat, the wiring – all constructed from pieces of other furnaces scattered around the property.
  • The duck pond wiring. So yeah – we dug a duck pond (more on this at a future time) and we needed to run electricity out there. E being the safety squirrel she is, decreed that I needed to use some safety/common sense and put the above ground wire in conduit. The greenhouses are covered in 1/2 inch EMT that I think was used to hang flower baskets, and this is how I ended up running 70 feet of UF-B wire through seven ten foot sections of conduit complete with six 90 degree turns. To those not familiar with electrical wiring, let’s just say this is a total pain in the ass. It took three days (not even counting digging the trench since I used the tractor for that) and rendered my hands unuseable for a couple days after that. The one good thing that came out of this – I discovered cable pulling lube which is both hilarious and highly useful. Would I do it again? Hell no! But in the spirit of making do I used what I had, and what I had was 1/2 conduit and 100 feet of UF-B wire.
it doesn’t look terrible, but trust me when i say it is
  • In a general sense, my use of the pallets strewn about the farm has been pretty successful. I’ve used them to do everything from building multiple duck enclosures to organize tools under the deck. I used one other other day to build a new wall on the greenhouse underneath two louvered windows I got super cheap from a salvage place.
  • In the same vein, the cinder blocks have been very useful. I’ve used them to build greenhouse ponds (those ponds themselves have been of various shades of success, but the cinder blocks functioned as they should). The new duck pond uses them to hold the liner in place and they will form part of the bio filter/waterfall once I get around to that. They are doing an admirable job as a heat sink around the stove in the greehousen. One thing they are bad at – rubbish at being a jack stand, those things crack right in half.
  • My new lumber stand in the basement is constructed of leftover 2x4s and more of the conduit mentioned above.
i’m very proud of this
  • Not so much as making do, but finding a cheaper version – I have been using many of the approximately 500 pieces of recycled three inch foam insulation I bought off some guy on FaceBook. It was actually a pretty sweet deal – not only were they significantly cheaper than new, they were pulled out of an office building somewhere, so yay reuse!
  • The gutters that we pulled off the house when we got new gutters are now used as a duck and chicken watering system along with keeping the rain leaking into the greenhouse around my less than stellar sealing around the stove pipe from dripping directly onto the stove and rusting the hell out of it. And speaking of it, using the stove in the greenhouse is a pretty good example of making do!
  • We got four trees taken down around the house and the wood will be used as both firewood (once I get it sawed and chopped up) and to build huglekultur piles in the big greenhouse which will be used as a high tunnel come next growing season (god willing and the creek don’t rise).

Other things I would like to do as part of my “making do” plans include foraging for wild edibles, bartering as a means to acquire necessary items, working on getting a group of friends up here that would be interested in a tool or skill share, and working through my pile of “to be mended” items!

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 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, 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:

img_1012-2

SAD PLANTS!!!!

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: IT’S ALIVE!!!!

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 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…