Cider Press Hill

In the interest of harmony

Friday, 12:19 pm

By Kate

Nov

30

2007

sunny

I mentioned, a couple of days ago, that my next door neighbor had decided to go for a more traditional look this Christmas season in the house decorating department. Just a few pretty wreaths and non-electrified garlands and ribbons and whatnot for outside prettiness. I jumped on that bandwagon with enthusiasm. Told her that I liked that idea because Christmas lights use too much electricity. I probably should not have said that. She always looks at me a little strangely when I pop out with these sorts of statements. I dearly love the woman and couldn’t ask for a better neighbor, but she is resistant to anything related to conservation. She won’t even do curbside recycling because she ‘doesn’t believe in it’.

So, this morning, I heard a lot of hammering and banging going on out front. When I looked out the window, she was hanging her icicle lights across the front of her side of the house. I poked my head out the door with a questioning look...she said, “It looked too bare without the lights. I didn’t like it.” Well, I thought it looked nice, but there you go.

So, in the interest of harmony, I’ll hang my icicle lights, too. The house will look lopsided if I don’t and that’s just about as irritating to me as hanging the lights. Just because they’re hung doesn’t mean I have to plug them in. Well, I suppose I might for an hour or so in the evening, under protest, but in the interest of harmony. I haven’t plugged the lights into the kill-a-watt meter, so I’m not sure how much juice they gobble. I read somewhere that each individual light consumes 1-2 watts. With a 200-300 light string, we’re talking some serious wattage. If I do plug them in, I’ll have to figure out where to eliminate another 200 watts out of my daily use to compensate. Thinking...maybe the coffee maker. I can use the French Press and boil a kettle of water on the wood stove since it will probably be running most of the month of December.

When I look around my neighborhood, at all the mini lights that have appeared this week, it makes me cringe. There is enough wattage burning out there at night to run a couple of entire households. I’ve noticed that people are really decorating this year. More than usual. Maybe it’s a response to the tone of the news lately. It’s as if people are determined to create their own little oases of good cheer. I can understand it and even feel the same way. Except...without all the lights.



 

90 Percent Project - Week 26

Thursday, 3:07 pm

By Kate

Nov

29

2007

overcast

Even though I initially said I was going to pretend this week never existed, I can’t do it. So, here are my woeful values for Week 26 (November 22-29, AM readings) for the 90 Percent Project. They’re not quite as bad as I thought they’d be.

Electricity
Week 26: 47 kWh used

The daily values broke down like this, meter readings taken in the early AM: Friday-19kWh (dehumidifier, dryer, and fans), Saturday-15kWh (dehumidifier and fans), Sunday-7kWh (fans only and the lad’s large TV), Monday-1kWh, Tuesday-2kWh, Wednesday-1kWh, Thursday-2kWh. By the looks of things, Week 27 will run around 10kWh total, barring any disasters. Bless my little laptop all to pieces.
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Gasoline purchased (for 1 person)
Week 26: 9.705 gallons

If I want to get really technical, 1 of those gallons belongs to the lad. Takes about 2 gallons to get to his Dad’s house and back. Of course, if I wanted to get super technical, I’d give both gallons to the lad since I wouldn’t have been going to the Dad’s house otherwise.

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Water (for 1 person)
Week 26: 374.05 gallons

I have no idea how much of this was flood and how much was extra use. I’d venture a guess that the gushing washing machine hose in the basement accounted for at least half. However, I did notice that with unlimited hot water, I had a tendency to turn on the hot water faucet at the drop of a hat. I guess my conclusion there is that having hot water heaters has trained us to use a heck of lot more water than we need. This morning I turned the hot water heater back to the vacation setting. My little splurge is over.

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Natural Gas
Week 26: 6 CCF

I have to admit that this baffles me. Ordinarily I use 3 CCF (300 cubic feet) with the hot water heater turned down to vacation setting all day, save for the one heated tank per day for a shower and/or laundry. This week I baked several items in the oven, had unlimited hot water all week (and I mean HOT!), basked in very un-Navy like showers, and actually did manage to make my applesauce on the regular stove top. All that extra only used 3 additional CCF?? That irks me terribly. It makes me feel as if, for all the scrimping I’ve been doing on the gas use, my normal weekly values should be a lot lower than 3 CCF, when 6 CCF buys me enormous excess and luxury. Grrrr!
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Trash (for 1 person)
Week 26: I have no idea. More than 150 pounds, I can guarantee. But much of that weight was water.

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Consumer Goods
Week 26: I don’t know

I didn’t keep a list this week. I can’t really remember buying anything other than essentials for the lad before he went back to school. I suppose, technically, that should be on his account since none of it is in my house nor am I using any of it. I was just the Bank of Mom in this operation. So, does that really count? ;)

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Food
The pizzas the lad and I bought were definitely not local ingredients, though locally made. What a splurge. It’s been since August since the last pizza. Otherwise, even Thanksgiving Dinner was remarkably local in ingredients, aside from the Butterball turkey.

Lately, when I’ve had the stove burning, I’ve wrapped a halved sweet potato in foil (re-used many times) and placed it on a cast-iron trivet on top of the stove to bake. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour plus a few minutes, depending on how hot the stove is at the time. They’re my new favorite snack in the evenings.



 

Old Man Winter

Thursday, 12:07 pm

By Kate

Nov

29

2007

overcast

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.



 

Monsanto strikes again

Wednesday, 8:57 pm

By Kate

Nov

28

2007

overcast

While I’m on my free-market rant today....

When it comes to the free market… it’s freer for some than for others.

As of January 1, consumers in Pennsylvania will no longer see labels on milk containers that say “Contains no artificial growth hormones” or “No bBGH” or “No bBST”—because the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has made it illegal for producers to put those labels on their milk cartons.

Why? Well, it looks as if people much prefer milk produced by cows that have never been given artificial growth hormones. (As I do.) And, given the choice, growing numbers purchase the hormone-free milk. That makes Monsanto, the manufacturer of the the growth hormones, very unhappy. They’re getting hammered in the good old market place and so are the farmers who use the hormone to squeeze another gallon of milk out their cows each day.

The head of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture claims that the labels are very confusing to customers, suggesting to them that hormone-free milk is good milk and the other stuff is bad milk.

Well, yeah. That’s my feeling. Why drink Monsanto’s hormones when I don’t have to?

It’s called giving consumers a choice of what to put in their bodies. If people prefer not to buy milk produced by cows raised on artificial growth hormones, then that is surely their right to select a product that doesn’t have any in it. Well, not if you live in Pennsylvania. (I don’t think Massachusetts would ever be that dumb, but you never know.)

New Jersey and Ohio are next.

So...Monsanto can’t deal with being squeezed by consumers who hate their pharmaceutical product (a drug that is banned in half the rest of the world) and don’t want it in their food. People have been voting with their wallets and milk selections. More and more groceries have turned to hormone-free milk for their store brands in response. That’s the way things are supposed to work.

If Monsanto can’t beat the competition, fair and square, using their public relations campaigns to convince consumers of how safe their yummy growth hormones are, they can beat us into submission by finally finding a kindred spirit in one of the states who will make ‘no growth hormone’ labels illegal for them. And for us, because we’re so confused, dontcha know. Monsanto rules and the producers who give customers what they want get screwed...along with the customers. There’s a fair and free market for ya.

See also the article in the St. Louis Dispatch
(via Small Failures)



 

Contrasts

Wednesday, 10:53 am

By Kate

Nov

28

2007

sunny

There is an interview with Vice-President Cheney in the current issue of Fortune. It's entitled Why is Dick Cheney Smiling? The little blurb below the title explains why Dick Cheney is smiling: Because he thinks the doomsayers are wrong about the economy, and he has another year in office to fight off attacks on the Bush tax cuts.

You kind of wonder how he could not be concerned about the economy, but that becomes clear later in the article:

In the coming months, as the administration struggles with the threat of recession, White House insiders say the staunchly free-market Vice President can be expected to resist any impulse to soften the blow with government action.

"The fact is, the markets work, and they are working," said Cheney in an interview in his White House office. "And people - some of the big companies obviously - have taken risks. Risk means risk. And there's an upside as well as a downside in some of the choices they've made. We have to be careful not to have this set of developments lead us to significantly expand the role of government in ways that may do damage long-term for the economy."

The same goes for Democratic efforts to curb the predatory lending practices that left naive homeowners in trouble, says Cheney: "We don't want to interfere with the basic, fundamental working of the markets."

That's pretty much a supply-sider, free-market, laissez-faire approach to the world. Mr. Cheney believes in the value and importance of an ism...not people. Mr. Cheney is most certainly a devoted disciple of the late Milton Friedman, may he rot in hell.

So, I guess, according to Cheney, the market is working as it should and if we all go down the tubes because of rank corporate corruption, greed, and stupidity -- well, the market will adjust and we'll have to be patient even while the masses starve. Which is to say, he would choose not to lift one little finger to do anything to relieve anyone's suffering because the market will provide. Eventually. How ever long it takes. That's probably an easy way to think when you have millions in the bank and a home that's totally energy independent -- and a temporary residence that's heated and lit by taxpayer money. Betcha he's not wearing long johns. As long as he feels no pain, the world is rosy. Kind of reminds me of the supply-sider policies during the Irish Potato Famine. One wonders what this country would look like today had Cheney and his cronies been in power during our Great Depression.

Meanwhile, up in Maine....

Burrill’s company has a $60,000 diesel-powered wood splitter that can split two cords of wood an hour. Whenever the price of fuel increases, the cost of splitting wood goes up accordingly. Burrill said that while he would like to raise prices this year, he hopes to hold off as long as he can.

"I think you’re going to see the price go up if the price of oil goes up," Burrill said Tuesday. "We’re using diesel for the trucks, then there’s the tires, anything that has to do with petroleum products. I’d like to hold it at $200 a cord because people are hurting in so many ways. Their car, food, everything seems to be going up. People just can’t function with the cost of living. The whole thing has gone to pot."

and

Bowen noted that the price per cord had increased from $220 to $275 a cord in southern Maine in the past few weeks and that he would not be surprised if prices in the midcoast reached similar levels by next year. Green wood, which is not ideal for burning because it is still wet with resins, is selling for about $175 a cord in central Maine.

The price of oil will be the determining factor in whether the cost of wood rises or falls, Bowen said.

"If fuel drops back down to $2 a gallon, you’re not going to be seeing $200-a-cord firewood," he said. "But I don’t see that happening. The whole economy is dead. Not just in the woods -- look at the fishermen, they’re hurting too. I don’t know how people will make a living if it stays like this."

But Dick Cheney is still smiling.



 

90 Percent Project - Week 25

Tuesday, 8:07 pm

By Kate

Nov

27

2007

clear night

My Weekly Values for the 90 Percent Project for Week 25 (November 15-22).

Electricity
Week 25: 22 kWh used

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Gasoline purchased (for 1 person)
Week 25: 0 gallons

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Water (for 1 person)
Week 25: 74.81 gallons

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Natural Gas
Week 25: 3 CCF

No surprises here.

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Trash (for 1 person)
Week 25: 3.2 lbs.

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Consumer Goods
Week 25: $259 - laptop computer

According to the 90% rules, purchasing a used item allows one to apply only 10% of the purchase price toward the annual consumer goods allowance. Now, I’m not sure if this really works with my refurbished laptop because I’d assume that something was replaced with brand new in it somewhere. I’ll compromise a bit and apply 40% of the purchase price toward the annual consumer goods allowance. Takes into account shipping and packaging as well.

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Food
Still purchasing and eating mostly local foods. Still a lot of autumn produce available. I had never made, let alone considered eating pumpkin soup before last week. It’s very tasty. I had to do something with the pumpkins decorating the place. A couple ended up on the compost pile, too. I may find pumpkin vines growing in the compost next summer. 



 

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