Cider Press Hill

Two-plus cords down

Wednesday, 12:25 pm

By Kate





So, on Monday morning, my wood guy dumped three cords of wood in my driveway and it looked somewhat generous. Just by eyeballing it, I thought there was a bit more than last year. I also noted that this year the quality is a bit better and that’s saying something because this fellow sells some of the best wood around. I spent most of Monday looking at the huge pile taking up my entire driveway. Didn’t start stacking until yesterday.

It was a perfect day for it. The temps were in the low seventies and the humidity was down around 50%. And there were no mosquitoes.

The lad and I have a pretty good system. He fills the wheelbarrow to capacity and dumps the load at my feet by the woodpile. I stack and he delivers. And, as luck would have it, his girlfriend decided to come over and help. And she brought fresh coffee! Ooh, what a sweetheart! Between the three of us, we knocked off two-plus cords about four hours. We hustled right along. And observed that the wood was quite heavy. Most of it, this year, is oak and the splits are large. And wet. It’s nice seasoned wood, but it sat out in the summer rain, of which we’ve had an abundance. Let me tell you, large wet oak splits are heavy. Four hours was about as much as my back was willing to tolerate. I’m pleased that it tolerated that much. I got a tremendous amount of satisfaction gazing on my very large and neatly stacked woodpiles last evening. The lad left to spend the night at his Dad’s house and wood stacking will halt until Thursday. I’m giving my back a day of rest. In the meantime, there’s always grass to be mowed.

Becca said she’d be back on Thursday to help stack the rest and she’s bringing her brother with her. ‘Tween now and then, I need to figure out where to put the rest of the wood. My designated woodpile area (in the back of the house) is filled. I had not expected it to be filled with this much wood left over. According to my calculations and past experience, the three cords should have mostly fit. So, it’s pretty clear to me that my wood guy gave me some generously sized ‘cords’. There are probably two more 8’x6’ stacks worth to tuck somewhere around here.

You know, it was kind of interesting. I’ve noted in the past that my wood guy is remarkably good looking. And he’s always been really nice to me. Sort of shy and a little gruff, but really nice. And I always thought there was a bit of an attraction there. Nothing that I ever dwelt on for more than five minutes, but it was there. And then, this year, he turns up all dressed to the nines, gives me a rather larger than expected delivery of prime wood...then says, quietly, out of the blue, “So, will you think of me this winter?”

Uhh. Hm. “With every stick I burn,” I said solemnly. Well, maybe with a grin, too.

Sometimes I am very surprised by the things that come winging out of left field.

Anyhoo. My driveway should be all cleaned up and back to normal within a day or two. And, in between wood concerns, we’re also preparing the lad to go back to school. He leaves on Saturday and we are madly racing around getting his stuff together and a few purchases made. He’s also working right up until Friday. Busy week. This has been a really great summer and it disappeared awfully fast. I have a feeling this may be the last such summer. 


My winter wood order

Thursday, 7:06 pm

By Kate




partly cloudy

This afternoon I called my wood guy to put my winter order in. I caught him on the road on the way back from Maine. He’d gone up today to deliver a load. That’s quite a distance to travel for a load of wood, but he charged a lot for it, too—$360 per cord. People in Maine have found a dearth of available wood this year and they are going far afield to get some. They’re willing to pay the price since $360 per cord is still vastly cheaper than heating oil.

I’ve placed my order for 3 cords, which will arrive in my driveway either on Monday or Tuesday. He’s charging me $325 per cord—about what I expected given the high cost of diesel and gasoline.

Interesting note about wood availability. My wood guy said that with new housing construction going in the tank, trees aren’t being cut as they used to be. He’s having a harder time getting trees to cut up and split and anticipates that the trend will continue over the next few years. Being a long time customer has its benefits. Those of us who have been long time customers get first dibs on his supply. My wood guy calls me a couple of times a year to ask if I need a late winter load (before he sells to new customers) or will need an autumn load before he commits for the year. New customers are going to have to scramble for what’s left over.

I expect that one of these years, there isn’t going to be enough wood to go around even for his established customers.


Spring break surprise

Sunday, 3:10 pm

By Kate





Yesterday afternoon the lad called. He is at the Dad’s house for the beginning of spring break. I was rather surprised and delighted when he announced that he will be arriving here on Tuesday or Wednesday. That wasn’t part of the original plan. But, I gather, the Dad has obligations the latter part of the week which won’t permit him to take the lad back to school. Therefore, it’s only fair to share the week with me if I’m the one who has to take him back. I can live with that.

So, I’ll be laying in supplies during the next couple of days. I am sure that food will disappear about as fast as he finds it. I’m pleased that his room is all tidy and clean, though. It has been since the day he left from the winter break. That’s one less thing to scurry around doing. He has already been in contact with his buddies to line up his social calendar. There should be a stream of kids walking through the door again in a couple of days. I enjoy that a lot. Looking forward to seeing my boy and his friends.

And while I’m very happy to have him home for a couple of days, that does put something of a crimp in my rapidly dwindling wood supply situation. The lad is not accustomed to living in arctic temperatures and I don’t think it’s quite fair to expect him to. Coming from a super heated dorm room to a sub 60 degree house is a lot to ask.

Therefore, despite all my vows and plans to the contrary, I may just have to relight the pilot light on the furnace and use it for a few days. Or, use up a lot of the wood while he’s home (he loves wood stove heat) and then use the furnace sparingly after he’s gone. I haven’t decided yet. But I only have about two to three weeks of very conservative wood use left and when the lad is home, wood use is anything but conservative. So much for that. I have decided that I’m not going to spend the next month without any heat. I just can’t do it. Spring is dawdling too much. On the bright side, I won’t shed any tears over being rid of the daily wood crumb clean-up for the season.


I have contracted pink eye, again. That suggests that I don’t wash my hands at the critical moments. I’ve now installed a bottle of hand sanitizer in the car so that when I come out of a store, I can (possibly) head these little bugs off at the pass. And, fortunately, I also have a tube of eye ointment from the last time I contracted pink eye. It should be gone by tomorrow, I imagine. Seems to be responding well. It’s kind of a crummy way to spend a weekend though...looking as scary as I do. I’m also reluctant to go anywhere and broadcast these bugs far and wide.


90 Percent Project - Week 32

Friday, 2:20 pm

By Kate





It’s that time again—for my weekly values for Week 32 (January 3-10, AM meter readings) of the 90 Percent Project.

Week 32: 26 kWh used

This represents the first full week that the lad has been home with all of his electricity guzzling stuff. The first day of the accounting week set my hair on end from the shock of it. We used a lot of electricity. Well, a lot for this household...5 kWh. I asked the lad to please try to conserve a little bit. He did make an effort and the next day our use dropped to 4 kWh. Still too high, in my opinion. So, I made a deal with him.

If he could drop it another kilowatt hour per day, I’d plug the refrigerator back in. Of all the things in the house that he misses the most, it’s the fridge. He wasn’t all that opposed to going out on the deck to forage for food for himself, but when his friends had to do the same when they came over, he started not liking it quite so much. It seems to get a little tiring having to explain to them exactly why it is that his Mom has two refrigerators in the kitchen and neither is plugged in.

Plugging in the small fridge was a worthwhile goal for him. It took a couple of days, but he managed to pull his use down until our daily total was slightly under 3 kWh and I did plug the fridge back in. It’s all about trade-offs, I said. He uses a little less electricity for his entertainment, without any significant pain, so that he can have cold food and drinks in a refrigerator. Most of what he reduced in electricity use was waste, though he also decided to swap out a light bulb in his room for a much lower wattage CFL bulb. Having the fridge plugged in satisfies his requirement for civilized living and it’s worth the effort to be more careful with his other use. We’ve peeled our baseline use back to 3 kWh per day with the fridge plugged in. Some days will be slightly more when I do a load of laundry.

Well, yes, I’d like to peel it back more, but I think this is a realistic baseline, given that the lad didn’t sign on to this project. He’s being extremely agreeable about it and, in the main, supports the effort. He doesn’t appear to be suffering, so I think this is a good baseline to work from. I’m not willing to push it further at this point.


Gasoline purchased (for 2 people)
Week 32: 4.848 gallons

This was not a fill-up owing to gadding about town and environs. It was a simple replacement for what the mechanics burned up last week while trying to sort my car’s emissions system out. Oh the irony. In order to make my car’s engine less lean, they had to burn up a half a tank of gas...letting off as much in emissions as I’ll probably save with the repairs for the next three or four months.


Water (for 2 people)
Week 32: 299.24 gallons

The general toilet flushing rule in this house is the old “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” Works quite well for the two of us. However, when the friends come over, that’s a different story. And I’ve had a rather continuous flow of young people in the house over the past week. They all seem to arrive with a full bladder, too. And they flush. And flush. And flush. What are ya gonna do? I’d be tarred and feathered if I announced the little ditty governing toilet flushing. Think what fun it would be if I had a composting toilet!


Natural Gas
Week 32: 5 CCF

The snow and ice melted. I have no excuses for not reading the danged meter. We’re using more hot water, obviously. Though the lad manages to keep his showers short, it still kicks the water heater on halfway through his shower. Ah well. I have great expectations for spring, when the town water warms up. It’s so cold right now that it numbs my fingers. Takes a lot of energy just to heat it up to room temperature, say nothing of bearable shower temperatures.

Not entirely related to natural gas...but sort of...I learned something, this week, that I never knew before. Almost to a person, the lad’s friends walk through the door and immediately say, “Oh it’s so nice and warm in here.” They want to sit by the wood stove for a few minutes before venturing upstairs. It’s not that I keep the house hot or anything, but the wood stove produces an even and steady heat. There are no cold pockets in the house. It just feels warmer, even though the house temps generally stay around 68° in the evenings, though much colder during the day.

I mentioned that to the lad and he said, “Why do you think we hang out here? Everyone else’s house is freezing. There’s no place to get warm. It’s awful.”

I did not realize that. It’s sort of funny. Back when I first installed the stove, a number of his friends thought it was a rather strange thing to heat one’s house with a wood stove. Why do that when one could turn a dial on a thermostat? Twentieth century technology, baybee. Use it. I think their perception back then was that only poor people heated with wood and that seemed to be quite out of the ordinary in an affluent town like this one. With that perception came all sorts of weird baggage. But, as other parental units responded to high energy prices and thermostats started being set lower and lower, the kids made a radical discovery. Wood heat is really, really nice. It’s cozy. It’s even. It’s...luxurious. Funny how perceptions change. It kind of cracks me up to see them pile into the living room and huddle around the stove to soak up some much appreciated warmth.


Trash (for 2 people)
Week 32: 4.6 lbs.

Surprisingly little trash this week. It wasn’t an intentional effort, just seemed to work out that way. That’s probably a good sign.


Consumer Goods
Week 32: $0


For the better part, I’ve still maintained the 100 mile food rule. We did have one meal that was way outside those boundaries, though...the one the lad cooked for me. It’s another one of those can’t beat someone over the head with a new way of doing things all at once. It is, I think, a learning process. When we went grocery shopping, we discussed it and evaluated some of the produce that he wanted to get. We compromised and I’m okay with that. It is interesting, though, that he much prefers the flavors of the foods I’ve been getting at the farmer’s market. And he’s been totally ruined for grocery store milk. In fact, that was one of the first things he looked for when he came home for vacation...that bottle of local pasteurized milk.


Mean mother

Thursday, 3:24 pm

By Kate





Alright. I’ve been feeling just a tad bit guilty, but not enough to change my mind....

A couple of hours ago, I asked the lad to bring some wood in the house. It is important to keep that wood rack filled so I have a steady supply of dry and room temperature wood to burn. When it’s time to bring wood in the house, it’s time. Not three hours later.

And, since I’m burning about twice as much wood while the lad is home (to keep his room warm) than when he’s away, I feel it is manifestly fair that he share the labor of wood hauling. So, I asked him to bring some wood in. And asked again.

And finally did it myself. As I brought the last piece in, he came downstairs to see if he could help. I was just a little short with him. But rather than get mad, I figured that getting even would be more effective.

I told him that as long as I’m the one hauling the wood in the house, it seems fair that I’m the one who should get the benefit from it. If he isn’t going to help, then I’ll heat the downstairs and save wood. I closed the quilt and the other curtain in the stairwell off. I figured it would take a couple of hours before the upstairs started getting uncomfortably cold. In the meantime, I rearranged the wood and stacked most of what I brought in around the stove to dry it out and warm it up. The other rack was mostly empty again...and waiting to be refilled.

Well, I was wrong about how long it would take for his teeth to start chattering. About an hour later, he and his friend came downstairs looking rather meek and politely asked if they could help me in any way. I said, “Why yes, as a matter of fact. The wood rack needs to be filled again. I’d really appreciate it.”

They trooped out and had that wood rack filled in 5 minutes flat. Not a word of complaint from either of them. I just smiled and said, “Thank you, fellas. There’s a pot of coffee on to warm you up. How about a little heat upstairs now?”

Gosh, that worked like a charm. I didn’t even have to yell or stomp my feet.


Old Man Winter

Thursday, 12:07 pm

By Kate





Today I’ve reached the first winter milestone—my October/November supply of wood is now gone. When we stacked the wood back in August, I’d set aside somewhere between a third and a half of a face cord to use for October and November supplemental heating. Around here that means starting a fire in the wood stove when I can’t stand listening to my teeth chatter any longer. Over the course of two months, my teeth chattering set-point has steadily dropped. And the furnace has not gone on once this season.

I’m sort of surprised that the supplemental wood stack lasted as long as it did—we’ve been much colder this autumn than normal. So, finishing off the last piece of my October/November wood on the 29th of November is close enough. That was lucky planning, though I thought I’d have a little left over going into December. It’s not as if I’ve kept the house toasty, by any means. Although, I did go through a scary amount last weekend with the lad home. He is not accustomed to a cool house nor accustomed to layering up. Their dorms are hot. And, for one day, I let the heat go upstairs so his room would be warm. For one day, I roasted half to death while he was comfortable. We’ll have to adjust that situation over the Winter Break.

Now I begin burning the big woodpile. It keeps looking smaller as the temperatures drop. I don’t think I’ll be going overboard on heat this year. Old Man Winter apparently intends to set in early. According to the extended Accuweather forecasts, the temperatures are due to dip into the low teens and single digits at night through the middle of December and scarcely climb above freezing during the day. That’s late January weather for us. December is usually quite mild along the coast with temps staying in the upper-30s to low-40s, with nights in the mid to upper 20s. If we’re going to start with January temperatures now, let’s hope we have an extended thaw when January does arrive.

I’m very glad that I decided to hang the quilt across the open staircase this year. It has made a tremendous difference in how much wood I’ve needed to burn to keep the downstairs at a reasonable temperature. Had it not been for that, there is no question that I’d have been dipping into my large woodpile well before today. I’ve been able to get away with burning a small hot fire in the evenings rather than keeping one going the better part of the day and banked at night. Several days required no fire at all.

Today, however, I finally caved and started a fire around 11:30 this morning. The house was a rather brisk 53° with the temps about to start falling outside. For some unaccountable reason, my teeth weren’t even chattering, but I figured it would be a good idea to start warming the house up now. Obviously, the colder it gets inside, with the outdoor temps dropping like a stone, the more wood it takes to bring the house back up to reasonable temps—at least 65°.

I still aim to have some wood left over by the end of the winter. The more I have, the better it will be going into the next season. I have a sinking feeling that firewood in this neck of the woods is going to be very expensive next year. Maybe this is the year I’d better get some green wood early to season over the summer and autumn.


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