Monday, June 22, 2009

Project Round Up

I've been busy this spring with too many things to count. A brief rest is now upon me, just in time to get the house ready (thanks very much to aid from family) for my Daughter's first "kids" birthday party and plan a vacation. Life, thankfully, never stops sending stuff my way to keep busy.

First things, I got my fence in around my garden at 80 x 80 feet and thus far it has not been trampled by deer nor ravaged by rabbits - knock on wood. But, in the process, I missed the top of a metal T-post and came down on the handle of my three pound sledge, cracking it right off - seems it got a bit of rot in it over the years.

I carved my first tool handle, from our abundant surplus of Honey Suckle, and the result is a longer handle which give the sledge more heft and power.
I salvaged the metal wedge from the old handle and drove it as far in as I could. A precut split would have allowed it further in but I didn't think of that till later.

Also, upon request, I made an abacus for my kids to use in home school math (maths for my friends across the pond). The wife picked out a picture frame and I tin-snipped metal coat hangers to make the rails. Picked up some beads at the fabric shop for a few dollars and lined them up, 100 in all. Afterwards, I used an upholstery hammer to drive in some brass dome tacks like you would to leather over a chair to both conceal the holes for the rods and keep them from sliding out... 10 a piece on each side. The kids love it, and ignoramus I am, I have no proper notion how to use one. Hence Wikipedia linkage: Abacus.
From other pictures, I guess it's close to a Russian style Abacus, but now that I see others, I rather like the Roman model with it's high number-value potential.

Also, we've been getting hammered with rate increases on the electric. So, I bought a $9.50 string of while LED Christmas lights, direct from Hong Kong, on ebay and put them in a little plastic case hanging from the ceiling of the office. I now have approximately the light given by a 15 watt bulb which is just enough to illuminate things so I can find what I'm looking for. Most the time I gaze at the sreen which is much brighter anyway, so I don't feel any eye strain. The light is a pleasant moon-light shade and about the same brightness. Perfect for my needs and only 1.5 watts power consumed.

I also put 3 1.5 watt LED light bulbs (at 45 better-last-ten-freaking-years dollars for the set) in our dining room. The light is a bright white leaning ever so slightly towards the greenish yellow part of the spectrum. Estimated cost is $.48 per year to run all three, but with Cap-n-Trade coal-bashing legislation about to be crammed down our throats (the Midwest is heavy on coal use - first the auto industry, now this... coming soon - cheap American cities in the midwest) there's no telling the exact cost - except that it's way cheaper than the three 60 watt bulbs I had in there before.

Another energy hog has been my children, leaving the bathroom light on all night after they get up. $20 on-line for a dual pole, or $22 for two single pole motion sensing light switches (we have three now) and the kids no longer need to hear me gripe about the power they're wasting.
The new switch gave me a reason to upgrade their switch cover plate too, which looks better in wood than the putty colored plastic we replaced. This switch is from GE and has a 150 degree field of view as well as a timer (time left on after last motion detection, set to 5 min) and a light sensitivity sensor, so it won't come on at all in the day time.

So - I've spent nearly $100 to save pennies now, but I'm sure they'll add up to many dollars saved later. We also have an electric water heater which I plan to put a timer on so it's only on when we will have to schedule ourselves to use it - morning, evening and for the lunch hour will have to do. Keeping all that water hot all day is too expensive, and a timer for that (40 amp, 240 volt) is only another $45. That one will probably pay for itself in a month or two. I do plan to call the coop though as they already have a remote shutoff on it to kill it during peek load times.

Lets see - oh yes, the garden is in and I've been chopping wood in preparation for a wood stove to be installed sometime this summer - if I can settle on one. Had been looking at Vermont Castings but their reputation for durability isn't that great amongst owners and family members. I'm looking at Kuma brand and other sturdier steel units that are both high efficiency and can handle burning trash, as we will likely do. Hopefully we can use fire for heat a good portion of the coming winter rather than the increasingly expensive electric needed to run the blower in the gas furnace... and the gas that goes with it.