Cider Press Hill

November 1st means....

Saturday, 7:37 pm

By Kate




clear night

Today, being November 1st, is the day when my regional gas utility hikes our gas rates by nearly 40%. They call this the winter cost of doing business. I call it the Annual Winter Heist.

In honor of the occasion, today is the day that I turn the gas hot water heater down to luke warm temps. I have been a little more liberal with hot water this autumn, but now I’m back to pinching those pennies earmarked for the gas company until they scream for mercy. I don’t like paying the gas company, especially when they take advantage of cold weather by their opportunistic rate raising.

Some might find fiddling with the hot water heater’s dial a pain in the neck. But I learned last winter that doing so saves a lot of money. That wasn’t the goal of the 90% Project, but it surely was a welcome benefit. Obviously, the less gas I use, the less the gas company can charge me. Too bad for them.

In the morning, I turn up the water heater to a temperature that’s comfortable for a shower. After a shower, the water heater replenishes and then I turn it down to the vacation setting until the next morning. Most newer hot water heaters retain enough heat through the day and well into the evening for general use. Older hot water heaters can be easily wrapped with insulated covers to gain the same effect.

If your hot water is electric and you are paying through the nose for electricity, this will work just as well for you.

Think of it as making an appointment with your hot water. There are certain times of day when we use more hot water than others. It really doesn’t make sense to heat water when no one is around to use it. It’ll cool off and reheat again and again. By turning the water heater’s dial down a few notches, the heating unit won’t kick on until you are ready to replenish your supply.

It all depends on your schedule.

Might take a little while to get into the habit, but it’ll pay you nice dividends and help reduce our use of a finite resource.

Of course, there is also the issue of not permitting the utility company to rob us totally blind.



Thursday, 5:20 pm

By Kate




partly cloudy

This is Hurricane Ike. What a massive storm.

Consider that the Gulf of Mexico is about 800 miles across and Ike is taking up most of it...and still growing. Ike is now larger than Katrina, though not yet quite as strong. At least in terms of wind. (It will probably intensify tonight now that it’s going over some very warm water again.) However, the storm surge is already kicking up from Florida to Texas. I heard recent reports that Mobile, Alabama is flooding, the coastal parishes in Louisiana are under mandatory evacuation orders, and Galveston, Texas is also experiencing surge related flooding already. Some of the electricity infrastructure repairs in southeastern Louisiana, from Gustav, have been blown down again today. If this thing hits the Galveston/Houston area, I wonder how much will be left when the storm is past. This is an astonishing storm. Scary astonishing. The storm surge, anywhere between 15 and 20 feet, is like a wall of water the height of an average house bearing down on the coastal areas. Kind of like a tsunami. If I saw that coming at me, I’m pretty sure I’d die of fright before anything else. I hope the people in the coastal areas are packing up and heading as far inland as possible. My thoughts and best wishes are certainly with them.

This is what the National Weather Service says about the Galveston/Houston area:

Life threatening inundation likely!

All neighborhoods… and possibly entire coastal communities…
will be inundated during the period of peak storm tide. Persons
not heeding evacuation orders in single family one or two story
homes will face certain death. Many residences of average
construction directly on the coast will be destroyed. Widespread
and devastating personal property damage is likely elsewhere.
Vehicles left behind will likely be swept away. Numerous roads
will be swamped… some may be washed away by the water. Entire
flood prone coastal communities will be cutoff. Water levels may
exceed 9 feet for more than a mile inland. Coastal residents in
multi-story facilities risk being cutoff. Conditions will be
worsened by battering waves. Such waves will exacerbate property
damage… with massive destruction of homes… including those of
block construction. Damage from beach erosion could take years to

Meanwhile, hope you have a full gas tank at yesterday’s prices. Looks as if the price of gasoline in the southern portion of the US has already skyrocked and the rest of us will probably feel it to some degree or another for a while. Almost all the refineries are shut down, some have been since Gustav blew through. Remains to be seen how many will remain out of operation after this storm. No refineries in operation and closed ports equals no gasoline. Looks as if this is going to be a brutal September.


90 Percent Project - Weeks 44, 45, &46

Sunday, 2:43 pm

By Kate




partly cloudy

Here’s another three weeks worth of my 90 Percent Project values. There are only six weeks left in the project and, at this point, most of what I’m doing is either fine tuning or recognizing that a 90% reduction isn’t going to happen in certain areas this year. The project’s group is not planning on disappearing after the end of the year’s experiment. Taking what we’ve learned to build on, so to speak. So the process (and progress) will continue, although I might elect to not torture you with the weekly accountings. Maybe monthly or quarterly instead. smile

Week 44: 22 kWh
Week 45: 16 kWh
Week 46: 17 kWh

Could be worse, could be better. The furnace does eat a little extra electricity.


Gasoline purchased
Week 44: 0
Week 45: 0
Week 46: 0

No complaints here. One more week and I’ll have made up for last month’s extravaganza. I’ll let you in on a secret...the lad is getting a bike when he comes home next month. That’s how he will get to work. He doesn’ t know it yet. ;)

I want a bike, too.


Week 44: 89.772 gallons
Week 45: 1167.78 gallons
Week 46: 87.04 gallons

Oh my word. Week 45 shocked my socks off. That was the week I suffered through the UTI and, I’m pretty sure, all of that extra water was from the excessive toilet flushing that went on. Something like 10 times an hour for a few days. It adds up REALLY fast. Holy moly. Makes an outhouse look tempting.


Natural Gas
Week 44: 21 CCF
Week 45: 19 CCF
Week 46: 12 CCF

Most of this was furnace use. Subtracting 3-4 CCF per week for hot water and cooking, the rest is all furnace. My latest gas bill came in showing 58 CCF for the month with a total due of $106. Compared to the previous month’s use of 11 CCF and $26, that’s a pretty hefty jump. And this month didn’t involve keeping my house toasty warm, either. I’ve been pretty stingy with the heat and there were a few days in there where I kept the furnace off altogether. I can easily see, now, how the average monthly heating bill in this neighborhood reached $300-$400 over the winter.

I’m about ready to call my wood guy and get an order of green wood to season for the summer and autumn—before the price of diesel fuel takes another leap upward. I expect the cost of diesel to be included in wood prices this year.

In any case, the annual goal of using only 100 therms of natural gas for the year has been left in the dust. Not that I would have made it without the furnace use this month anyway. My total, since the 90% project started last June, stands at 234 CCF, with one month left to go in the project’s year. That should bring me in around 250 CCF for the year. Then I have to add another 20 for each cord of wood that I used this winter—3 cords. So, that brings my natural gas values up to around 310 CCF for the year—about a 70% reduction of the national average. If I’d had to exclusively depend on natural gas for heat, I think even a 30% reduction would have been remarkable.

Most of my conservation measures this year were wood heat specific. And they worked very well. They’re probably helping even with furnace use. It’s hard to measure, though, because I’m now heating the upstairs whether I want to or not. If I had to depend completely on gas heat, about the first thing I’d do would be to install zone heating and keep the upstairs mostly turned off.

I’ve also reached the conclusion that the attic is not adequately insulated. Have to look into that this summer.


Week 44: 2.2 lbs
Week 45: 1.8 lbs
Week 46: 4.4 lbs


Consumer Goods
Week 44: $0
Week 45: $48 ($36 - canning jars and lids, $12 - peat pots and “greenhouse” tray)
Week 46: $15 Klean Kanteen



Oh for a fresh home grown vegetable. I’m about ready to eat my seedlings. Eating locally through winter is not easy, but it’s mostly possible. I have been supplementing the locally produced organic meat and dairy products (with homemade butter from local cream) with some vegetables flown in from far away. Not my ideal, but one does what one has to do. Which is why I am growing a mess of seedlings. Next winter, I will have some vegetables preserved for those late winter-early spring months. This is tipping me in the direction of buying a small chest freezer this summer. I have lived without a freezer for over a year now, without missing it very much. But I haven’t really needed one for food preservation. Until now. If I purchase a freezer, then I’ll most likely unplug the fridge. Unlimited ice makes that an option. Even easier since I’ve grown accustomed to only having 1.7 cu ft of refrigeration space.



Tuesday, 3:40 pm

By Kate





I slogged through the snow drifts to read the natural gas meter this afternoon. All I can say was worth getting a load of snow down the back of my shirt!

Since Saturday night, we have used slightly less than 1 CCF of gas. That’s three days of use. Which means, supposedly, if I multiply .85 CCF by 2.33, I should get a reasonable estimate of what I’ll use for the entire week.

That would be....drum roll....1.98 CCF!!!

Could it be? Is it possible? I finally found the gas eating culprit? The furnace pilot light? And all this time I’ve been blaming the hot water heater.

I’m so excited, I can hardly wait until Thursday to get the final week’s tally.


The simplest things defeat me

Saturday, 9:59 pm

By Kate




partly cloudy

I took another look at the natural gas meter today and practically ran all the way to the basement to turn off the pilot light to the gas furnace. Anything to cut use that isn’t being put to any good purpose. I’m supposed to run the furnace at least once a month during the winter, but I don’t think the pilot light needs to be on between firings. So...I crawled around on the basement floor this afternoon, trying to figure out how to turn the pilot light off.

Supposedly, it’s very simple. Here’s a photo of the knob that governs the gas/pilot light:

larger drop down image

The directions say to turn the knob clockwise until “pilot” is at the top by that little diamond. Then I am supposed to push in the on/off crossbar into the indent/opening and turn it clockwise again until the “off” is locked beneath the diamond at due north.

I’m fine until pushing the crossbar into the indent/opening part. It won’t go all the way in and so won’t lock. I have pushed and pushed and pushed. Just won’t go far enough in to turn and lock. I know this can’t be on the order of rocket science, so I’m baffled. Maybe I’m overlooking something stupidly simple. But, as things currently stand, the pilot light is still lit. And it’s driving me nuts because the pilot light is HUGE and it is burning untold amounts of gas for NO GOOD REASON. I’m so disgusted. 


90 Percent Project - Weeks 22 and 23

Friday, 8:20 pm

By Kate





My Weekly Values for the 90 Percent Project...

Week 22: 24 kWh
Week 23: 23 kWh


Gasoline purchased (for 1 person)
Week 22: 0
Week 23: 0

My three gallons have lasted quite nicely. smile


Water (for 1 person)
Week 22: 97.253 gallons
Week 23: 104.734 gallons

My handyman used my water hose to clean out my gutters last week. I don’t know how much water he used, but I presume it was a great plenty. Just think what my water use was before he turned on the faucet! It was probably my lowest week yet.


Natural Gas
Week 22: 3 CCF
Week 23: 3 CCF

That’s two weeks in a row of 3 CCF, which is a definite improvement, but not enough. Incidentally, each CCF is one hundred cubic feet of gas, not one cubic foot. My error. One hundred cubic feet of gas doesn’t seem to do much more than keep a couple of pilot lights burning for one week. How depressing (and wasteful). My pilot light count increased by one—I’d forgotten about the pilot light in my oven. I can’t even reach it to see if there is a screw on that one to shut the gas off. So, I’m back up to three pilot lights, for now. I turned the hot water heater down another notch. For all intents and purposes, it’s off. When I need hot water, I turn it up and as soon as the water is heated, I turn it back down. One tank manages to provide a warm shower and enough to do a small load of laundry or other cleaning details. When it’s gone, it’s gone for the day. Fortunately, now that I’m burning the wood stove every other day or so, I have plenty of steaming hot water. It’s enough to spoil a person rotten.

Two days ago, I also purchased a 4 quart enameled cast iron Dutch Oven to use atop the wood stove. Winter stews, soups, and roasts are about to commence cooking. My wood stove has a cooking shelf on it which provides a more moderated amount of heat that will slow cook foods in the Dutch Oven. My little wood stove earns its keep. There will likely be very little gas oven use this winter.

And, since wood stove heating season has arrived, I want to keep a weekly tally of how much wood I’ve used.

For week 23: 28 pieces (16” length, one quarter splits of 10-12” diameter logs)


Trash (for 1 person)
Week 22: 2.2 lbs
Week 23: 6.0 lbs

Junk mail is becoming a real problem. I have entered my name in a couple of places to stop it, but I suppose that will take some time to go into effect. The Christmas catalog marathon is on. Lands’ End sent me four catalogs this week alone!! LL Bean came in a close second with three. Since they are printed on glossy paper, the town recycling center refuses them. If I ever want anything from either of those two places, I shop online purposely to avoid catalogs. But they use my address and send them anyway. I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed browsing through them, but, if I want anything, I’ll still look for it and buy it online.


Consumer Goods
Week 22: $0
Week 23: $60.48 (tarp, steel stakes, rope, lamp oil, enameled cast iron Dutch Oven)

I have now spent slightly more than half the project’s yearly allowance on physical stuff. I had some concerns about adding Christmas gifts to that balance, but I received the news last night that my primary gift target (the lad) wants nothing but crisp bills of whatever denomination I can find it in my heart to part with. I can get with that program!


Farmer’s market - fresh local apples, acorn squash, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, cabbage, baby spinach, local organic pasteurized milk, locally made butter, and freshly made French bread (the best I have ever tasted). Plus a cut of locally raised beef, a cut of locally raised pork, and also a cut of locally raised elk (may be an acquired taste?). Interestingly, almost everything at the farmer’s market is now locally grown/produced. Early in the spring, almost nothing was, but this was their first year in operation. They have done a fantastic job of acquiring local producers beyond what they produce themselves.

Grocery store - USDA organic eggs from New Hampshire grown (cage free) chickens, New Hampshire cheddar cheese, bulk pasta and rice. And cat food. 


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