Monday, November 12, 2012

Filling the Freezer and Keeping Warm

The weather did a 180 degree turn yesterday compared to the previous week. We had rain and high winds and it got down to the mid 20s last night and today's high was about 48...Saturday, the opening day of deer season, it was 72. Speaking of deer season, where we are in rural Missouri deer season is a big deal and school is out for the week, the restaurants open early for the pre-hunt breakfasts, hunting sneaks into the Sunday sermons, and the first thing out of every ones mouths is "did you get a deer yet?". That my friends is pressure but its a fun time and about every vehicle has someone wearing blaze orange going by and we love it.

But knowing the weather was going to get cold we decided to do some maintenance and repair on the Outside Wood Boiler that we use to heat our house. Last year we developed a bit of a knock in the heater hoses that circulate water to the water jacket that keeps the door of the boiler cool so we decided to drain the boiler, clean out the scale, clean the fittings and replace the heater hoses.

These are the heater hoses I referred to above. The 90 degree fittings into the boiler were almost completely occluded with limestone scale so they needed to be cleaned out and the hoses themselves were ready to be replaced so we did. You can replace the hoses without draining the boiler but you can clean out the fittings so we drained it completely and then did the repairs.

The white PEX that goes from the upper left to the lower right is just a piece I cobbled together to fill the boiler and bleed the air out of the circulation lines. To fill it you close the feed line ball valve on the lower right and open the return line ball valve in the upper left and then fill it with filtered water from a hose attached to the white PEX.
You can see the lower right feed ball valve in this picture and the circulation pump (the red thing as Holly would say). The feed line is how the hot water heated in the boiler gets pumped to the heat exchanger in the furnace in our basement that then gets blown through the regular heating ducts and registers. Its all controlled by a thermostat inside and we enjoy the dry warm heat of wood without the mess, insects and fire risk of having a wood fire inside the house. 

The water needs to be filtered before it goes into the boiler so you don't get as much scale buildup and to reduce corrosion of the boiler. This in line filter has replaceable canisters and functions much like a household water purifier and its only used when we fill the boiler about once every two years; if water levels drop slightly in the interim we use gallon jugs of distilled water. We also add an anti-corrosion chemical to get the PH just right and since circulation pumps don't push air very well you need to bleed the system. To do that you open the feed line ball valve, remove the water filter from the PEX and then open the return line ball valve and let about 5 gallons of water drain from the PEX until it doesn't bubble anymore and it runs in a steady stream. Simple eh?
We also did a thorough cleaning of the fire box which included shoveling out ash and clinkers from the fire box through the fire box door and using the ash auger as I am doing here to remove the ash that falls through the grate. This is a monthly maintenance requirement or you get reduced air flow from the blowers and a lower efficiency burn.

Boo Boo was with us as we did this but he seemed totally uninterested and just slept on his back in the sun...probably had mice running right by him as he has gotten lazy in his old age.
So there you have it. It is hard to explain and it sounds complicated based on what I wrote but its not. Outside Wood Boilers are great if you live in the sticks and don't have neighbors that will be bugged by smoke or the wood burning smell (we don't luckily) and they are definitely a little more hands on that a regular furnace but we sure like it. If you live in an HOA neighborhood, don't have the ability or desire to cut wood, and would rather pay someone the $250.00 it would take to do what we just did in this blog entry then they probably aren't for you. Meanwhile, we have a 74 your old house that stays toasty warm all winter for a fraction of the cost of propane, electric or natural gas.

As to the previously mentioned pressure to fill your deer tags, we went out on Saturday which was opening day and had no luck morning or evening, Sunday was blowing 40 mph and rainy so we took a day off and then tonight we went out and I bagged this nice doe. It was cold but sunny and Holly and I were in a double tree stand about 20 feet up over looking a small stream backed by a small pasture and then a ridge of oak trees. Three hours in the stand and all we saw was an owl (awesome), 27 turkeys that came right under us and never saw us, and then right before dusk two does came into the next pasture over to our left. This doe was taken at about 180 yards (I zeroed the rifle to 100 yards) using a Savage 30-06 shooting Remington Core Lockt 180 grain rounds and the shot was down hill and through oak tree branches. I was aiming for mid shoulder and hit her in the spine just in back of her shoulders. I always feel kind of melancholy when I hunt because I very much enjoy seeing these creatures in the wild but they are over populated and need to be culled and we are meat hunters.
Its gutted and hanging in the rock garage for butchering tomorrow (lows of 24 tonight).

Not much to update on the sewer project as the contractors took a few days off for the holiday and deer season but this is inside the holding tank....I wanted a picture before it gets connected and used because once that happens I don't care if they find Elvis alive down there I'm not taking a picture.
And this stainless hatch and air vent will be all that is above grade. Holly still needs to fill her tag and we have a couple landowner tags we can fill but the pressure is off a bit and it was very cool to hunt with my best friend like that and we will try and get her a deer later this week.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Getting Close

We are within days of having the sewer hookup and couldn't be happier. If you have never lived with a failing septic system you probably cant imagine the stress but we live in constant fear of an imminent backup and total failure. I admit it publicly...I hate dealing with bodily fluids unless I am on the scene of an accident as a First Responder and then I go into my zone..otherwise...NO!

We bought the place knowing it needed a new septic but after we were here for a few months we found out we were the last house in this direction not scheduled to be hooked up to the new community sewer project. So I went before the water board and asked if there was any money left over that we be connected (it was a rural development Federal grant) and they said they would look into it. And they did...turns out they had a few Shekels left over and the Feds said it could only be used to hook up new households so we ended up first on the list. Now there are about 15 households that declined when this first came out that now want to be hooked up but we got priority and we are very grateful we were so fortunate.

They have gotten to the point of placing the tank/lift station. We are a couple of miles away and over a ridge so the effluent goes into this tank from the farm house and Judy's mobile home where a macerater grinds everything up and then a float valve triggers a lift pump to get it all down range.

The top of the tank will be a couple inches above grade with a stainless steel hatch to gain access to the pump and its workings...and no I have no intent of ever checking it out once in use and you cant pay me enough money to change my mind. Since this does require electricity to operate the pump and since we are prone to long power outages they are also installing a transfer switch so we can operate the thing with a generator several times a week if the power is out. Like the Boy Scouts prepared.
As I have said previously, I like machinery and there is a certain buzz in the air when big projects are happening. Bulldozers, backhoes, end loaders, etc have been operating for a week or so and we find it fascinating.

I am not an engineer but I suspect the amount of concrete they placed was to keep the tank from popping out of the ground when the water table rises and the tank is full. Think of a fishing lure bobber..gotta keep that baby buried.
Our hired hand Travis and I have also been busy fencing and we completed this pasture fence last week. The T-Posts in the fore ground only have 4 strands so we still need another strand which will be done when the sewer project is completed.
The actual isolation pasture fence we just completed has 5 strands and that is our standard. Lots of 4 strand pasture fencing around here but we feel the 5 strands give better security and its relatively cheap insurance against a cow from escaping. We plan to use this pasture to isolate sick cattle or to isolate new cows prior to introduction to the herd (sale barns have bargains but you need to be careful about introducing illness etc) and we also plan on experimenting with new pasture mixes in conjunction with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the University of Missouri. Our interest is in finding a forage mix that is indigenous to this area and that provides the nutrient mix we seek for our cattle.
The yellow sighting rope you see in this picture looking down on the newly fenced pasture is the border of the next phase of fencing and we already have much of the T-Posts driven for this next fencing project though they aren't shown in this picture (thanks to Travis). We use cheap polypropylene rope strung along the property boundaries to guide us in installing the fences. Some old timers can do it by sight but we cant and I doubt I will ever be able to do that. We also used cattle panels to fence off the end of this pasture because we hit ledge rock limestone and couldn't sink the corner posts as deep as we wanted and we didn't want to stress them by stringing 5 strands of barbed wire.

The plants in this picture that look like feathery trees or bushes is Asparagus and we found a patch while fencing. Sometime in the past this must have been a garden spot as I don't think Asparagus spread from bird guano like many plants but....does anyone know?
And to answer a couple of questions we have gotten on the chicken coop, we have 6 nest boxes in the coop  and drop down doors where we can access them from outside. We collect eggs in the morning and evening and find eggs at one time or another in all of the boxes but they often lay in just 2 or 3 of the boxes and as you can see; both the Barred Rocks and the Brown Leghorns lay in the same boxes at times.
We have also been working on setting up the pole barn shop, re-pairing the outside wood boiler (next post), splitting wood for winter, prepping the gardens for winter, and we just got the signed permit to widen the drive. But most important of all to us, we are preparing for #1 daughter Jenny and her fiance Steve and # 3 son Matt to visit us for the Thanksgiving Holiday. And did I mention its opening day of deer season Saturday and that #4 son Al is in his last semester at UNC-Charlotte and now wants to pursue his Masters? .....we love this time of year!