Saturday, October 26, 2013

Weekly Update

I have been promising L. a bed frame for a while. But other things always seem to take priority like working on the house, going to work, and finishing outdoor projects before winter sets in. She was finally fed up with sleeping with the matress on the floor that she went and bought a bed frame on Craig's List for $300. Unfortunatly after she bought it, while loading it onto the truck, something happened and it fell over breaking both headbord corner posts. When the posts broke it revealed most of the bed was made out of that cheap pressboard made from sawdust and glue. We used our $300 Craig's-List-glued-sawdust bed for about 2 weeks until L was able to resell it on Craig's List for $50 more than she bought it for. Since then our matress has been on the floor. On Tuesday after hearing the same request for a bed frame, and me giving the same empty promise - "I'll get to it when I have time" - I looked at my calendar and realized I had 2 whole days off without any work related activities scheduled. So I Googled "Queen Size Bed Frame" and got some ideas for a bed frame from Google Images. Went to the local Lowes and spent $200 on dimeisional lumber, bolts, stain and urethane. I put them all together and came up with the following bed frame:

I didn't want ugly screw holes to show so I grabbed a piece of an old broken broom handle and made some wood plugs to hide the screw holes. Not perfect but I think it came out alright, kind of the homestead look.

Finallly L does not sleep on the floor anymore.

Chickens are doing good. Ordered 25 hens and got 27 in the mail. 8 died in the box before they arrived. L nursed 3 to good health that were almost unresponsive and were not standing on their own when we opened the box. Still have 19 and they are growing fast. Here they are at 11 days old.   

No blog posting would be complete without a picture of the little munchkins. Porter decided he really likes chocolate milk. My parents always talk about me drinking a gallon of milk a day, Porter is already up to about a 1/2 gallon a day. Thinking about investing in a dairy cow in the future.

Porter helping daddy, he loves playing in sawdust!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

GARN Boiler

I often have people ask me about my heating system so I have added a few pictures. According to the manufacturer and the only authorized dealer here in Alaska, I am the only owner of a personal GARN boiler system in Alaska. There are about a dozen now in operation in Alaska but they all serve villages, schools, businesses, and community centers.

The GARN is a wood fired boiler built into a 2000 gallon steel tank surrounded by about 1800 gallons of treated water. The boiler is designed to burn the wood extremely hot and fast, which increases efficiency and decreases creosote. In the ceramic core the temperature will reach about 2000 degrees. The flue gasses then make 6 passes through the water in the tank before exiting the chimney at between 300-500 degrees. The water in the tank heats up and stores the heat for use later. I load the boiler with 3 foot long un-split logs with a few dry pieces of kindling and dry bark to help start the fire. Its takes about 5-7 minutes to load the boiler and light it. But then I get to walk away and the boiler does the rest. I burn a mix of any local wood I can get for free or really cheap, which includes cottonwood, birch, spruce, willow, and alder.

The GARN boiler occupies a small room about 12 feet X 7 Feet. My house is about 5000 square feet which includes 1000 square foot basement and 1000 square foot garage. I framed the house with the exterior walls double walled with staggered studs. Essentially I built 2x6 walls and then 2x4 walls inside with a 1/2 inch gap between the walls. The studs were staggered so there was less thermal transference from stud to stud and out the wall. Both walls were insulated giving it about an R34 in the walls and then an R70 in the energy saver trusses. Every room of the house has radiant in-floor heat and is controlled by 7 zones that can be adjusted to preference.

The basement is wrapped in 4 inches of blue-board foam with 3 skirts extending 2 feet out at a 70 degree angle to the wall.

I currently burn about 10-12 cords of firewood a year. This provides the heat for all 5000 square feet (kept between 68-72 depending on the room) and the domestic hot water from the end of August through May. Unfortunately from end of June-Aug the heat from the boiler makes the house too hot to be used effectively for only hot water those 3 months and we currently resort to Electric or Oil heat depending on the cost of fuel VS KWH.

It’s the middle of October and I currently only fire-up the boiler once every 2 days. In the middle of winter I usually have one fire a day unless it drops down to below -20 and I haft to double load or have a fire every 18 hours or so.

Chicken Coop

Winter Approaches

The Chicken coop is almost ready. I am working on getting the last of the fencing on the outdoor run. We ordered 25, (day old Black Star) chicks we should get in the mail sometime this week. After ordering the chicks last month, we decided we don't quite have enough room for 25 so we will probably be giving 8-10 away to our neighbors. They have had chickens for a few years but egg production has declined to none over the past summer.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fall in Alaska

 This is out in Talketna Alaska, on a beautiful farm.  The view out their window is Denali, the white peak on the horizon.  We spent a day up there helping to harvest potatoes and plant some flowers.  It was WONDERFUL!

 The kids LOVED the farm. E has already decided that when she gets older she will be a veteranarian. Spending time with lambs, wild kittens, cows, dogs and pigs was heaven for her.  Oh and driving the tractor.  (Way better than picking up potatoes with Mom and Dad)  H and E had to take turns every row, and they were driving like Pros.  You would be proud of them Grandpa. :)
 These two were less than excited about sitting around, they took long naps wrapped in blankets, but did enjoy watching the cows and playing with the BIG dogs.  At one point P was left to himself with three BIG dogs trying to get at his graham cracker.  Not to worry, he wasn't scared, just excited to be sharing it with dogs.  It was a wonderful day with the family and friends, and we have been enjoying the fruits (or vegetables) of our labors. 

 This is our walk to and from the bus each morning.  The older two are really loving school, and have adjusted to a new school wonderfully.  E is one of the top readers in her class now, she loves her teacher and has tons of new friends.  Her teacher calls her "Crazy E," in a "good way" she says.  Something about being all over the place and a whirlwind that follows her... I nod my head and say "you should see her room!" 
H is reviewing things he learned in PreK but is never bored; loves every minute of it.  We are reading books at home and starting math flash cards together to keep him moving along.  His teacher has a payment system for the children.  If they are attentive and behaving at school they earn money at the end of the day.  Depending on how "awesome" you did, it's 1cent, 5 cents or 10.  If you are misbehaving you owe the teacher money.  On fridays they have "class store."  The money you earn can be spent there on fun toys etc.  Needless to say H is pretty rich every Friday. Now to teach him about saving...
 I will have to post some more pics soon, this is one of the longest fall seasons we have had in AK.
Generally the leaves turn yellow, it rains and then the wind blows and four days later fall is over, leaves are all gone.  This year we are still enjoying beautiful fall colors on our trees and bushes. It's wonderful!!

Our newest adventure, CHICKENS!!! YEAH!!!
Before picture
 In the process of moving... Don't worry Dad, P is watching the corner of the house for you
 Our Neighbor got his big ol loader and moved our play house/chicken coop from our old house to the new one.  It's a play house/chicken coop because the people we bought it from built it as a play house.  J always intended for it to be a chicken coop, but while we were waiting for the right time to get chickens... it was a play house. :) 
 Um, Mom, can I DRIVE the big green thing? Please?!
 Our helpers/spectators
"Cheese" & "Enough pictures Mom!!"
And the "After"
Soon to be home of 25ish chickens
Don't worry, if you're wondering whether they will fit in there, I am
Ya we like eggs!!
If you're wondering whether they will all fit, I am wondering the same thing, but we will have a large out door chicken run. They may have to draw straws, as to who sleeps inside, but J promises it will work out. So it will work.
 These goof balls saw us put in the chicken coop and assumed it was for them, they tried to move in
This is Emma the turkey and her three babies, who remain nameless
They aren't our turkeys.  They belong to the neighbor, but for some reason (mom keeps feeding them bird seed.. she can't help it they come knocking at the door every other day) they wont head home for the winter.  She roosts in the trees by our house and then returns home at winter time... we'll see if she goes home. (Better hide the bird seed) Oh and stop tossing food scraps into the compost..

And this is what Mom does....
Constantly juggling
We are trying to work out together every day, some days are easier than others (the easy days are when the kids are still asleep or down for naps)
Yoga, interpreted into baby language must mean, "Mom is the play ground today" or "Lets see if we can make her fall"