Annual Time Marker

Living room sofa; clear, 45.9 F 0619

We are having a stretch of extraordinary weather. I spent a good amount of time outside enjoy the warm sunny afternoon. It surely will not last.

Gutters filled with debris

As fall progresses, the list of chores changes. When all the leaves are off of the trees, yard cleanup commences, at least for a little while. One item that is fairly important to do every year is to clean out the gutters. As mentioned in a previous post, the gutters, downspouts, and underground pipes used to collect rain water and conduct it away from the basement are an important system. Any problems with those will lead to extra water getting in the basement, which is not a good thing.

Close up view of the problem

After we replaced the siding, I had seamless aluminum gutters installed. These are well worth the money. Like any gutter, they do collect debris over the course of the year. During summer, small sticks break off trees and collect in the downspouts. The hickory tree in the front yard drops copious amounts of nuts every fall. Leaves, pine needles and other things all buildup until rain water cannot make it to the downspout and overflows the gutter.

Removing accumulated leaves, pine needles, nuts, twigs, etc

If that continues for too long, mold will begin to form on the cinder block foundation walls.

Job completed

The best way to prevent that is to get the ladder out and clean them out. It is not a difficult job, just inconvenient. Doing anything on the roof of any building is always a little dangerous. Many people think that the most dangerous jobs are things like police officers, fire fighters or crewing one of those Alaska crab fishing boats. Nope. Those are dangerous jobs to be sure. However, according to OSHA the most dangerous job is roofer. Unfortunately for them, it is also an extremely tedious job. I guess that is why no one ever made a TV show about sweating, sunburned workers repetitively nailing shingles down to the roof and likely swearing like a drunken sailor on shore leave in Olongapo. I may or may not know anything about that last part.

Anyway… Be careful up on the roof.

Past Project: Back deck

Living room sofa; cloudy, 46.4 F 0617

With the new well installation completed, I built a small deck for the back door. This area was an eyesore since we moved into the house. It was the main entrance and there was a large step to get in. When my friend Jay took the deck off of the back of his house, he asked if I wanted to salvage any wood from it. That was all it took to get moving.

Back entry area

Jay’s old deck lumber was pressure treated and in good shape. I saved a fair amount of money by using it. I had to remove some deck screws and clean it up a little bit. The sonotubes, rebar, hangers, ready mix concrete and the decking from one of the big box hardware stores. Truth be told, Trex composite decking would have been a better choice. The pressure treated decking lasted 13 years before it started rotting out. This was even after applying Thompson’s Water seal, which was another mistake. Live and learn.

Doing this the correct way required a building permit. No problem.

Sonotube, rebar, J bolts, etc
Sakrete ready mix concrete

Sonotubes are six inches in diameter. Digging the footings was a bit arduous. I rented an earth auger, however, there are so many rocks that I ended up digging them mostly by hand. Footing depth is four feet to get below the frost line. I put some crushed stone in the bottom of each footing for better drainage.

Sonotube, ready to be inspected

When the footing forms were in place, I called the town code enforcement officer for a pre-pour inspection. Using the chart on the side of the Sakrete bag, I calculated two and one thirds bags per footing. I mixed that by hand in a wheel barrow then dumped the concrete into the form.

Leveling the sonotube footings
Deck footings poured

Twenty four hours later and we have deck footings!

I put several inches of crushed stone and a drain pipe under the deck. This is around the side of the house were water tends to collect during heavy rain.

Gravel and drain pipe

The framing went pretty fast. I bolted a 2 x 10 header to the house. It took a few evenings to complete the frame then put the decking down.

Header bolted to the house
Basic frame
The frame is supported by 6×6’s salvaged from Jay’s house
Installing the joists, salvaged 2 x 8 lumber from Jay’s house
Framing complete, ready for inspection
Decking installed

Overall the end result came out nice.


I installed the railing because I like the look. Building code does not require a railing unless the deck is more than 21 inches above ground level. I put chicken wire around the deck, buried to about 8 inches deep to keep critters from moving in under the deck. There are a lot of skunks around and it would be unpleasant to have one underfoot by the back door.

Free Form Friday, No. 2

Living room sofa; Mostly clear, 52.5 F 0542

I enjoy sitting on the sofa in the living room and typing these posts. It is a comfortable spot and is away from the distractions in the home office. Often, when I am in there, I start looking at my work related to-do list.

It has been an interesting week. The US Election was held on Tuesday, yet we still do not know who the President will be. It is looking like Joe Biden will win. My only question on that is, will he last four years? I have the feeling we may end up with Kamala Harris as president at some point. That will be fine, she seems like a competent government bureaucrat.

My son will be fourteen soon. That is difficult to believe. He wants some fishing gear for his birthday. His Xbox stopped working last week, which prompted some grumbling. I believe the hard drive has failed, so I purchased a new 1TB SSD to replace the original drive. I may do a post on fixing that.

The schools are still in COVID mode. My son goes to school for two days a week every other week. My daughter is doing full time distance learning. It has been a big adjustment for both of them. I believe that this situation will continue through the end of the school year.

I have been living in this house for 16 years, 5 months and 5 days. That is the second longest period of time that I have ever lived in one place. The first is where I grew up. That was for 18 years, 5 months and 5 days. Thus, two more years here and I will overtake that.

With the leaves now off of the trees, annual yard clean up begins. I usually try to vacuum most of the leaves up with the lawn mower. Cutting the grass short one last time, the rest of the leaves will blow back into the woods and by spring and everything will be in good shape. The one area in the front near the neighbor’s weeping willow tree always needs extra attention in the spring.

The other late fall, early winter task is pruning the grape vines. This year, there were very few grapes, so the vines were not properly pruned last year. I believe I need to cut them way back and almost start over. This may wait until late winter or early spring.

I am working on various ideas for this blog, I would like to include some of the more interesting features of living in this area. Of course there are many and I tend to concentrate on the things that I like. Thus, I will be trying to get out of that zone and explore some new things. Unfortunately, some things are still closed because of COVID-19.

Blackened Salmon

Living room sofa; partly cloudy, 45 F, 0609

I enjoy eating well. As mentioned previously, I went through a period when I was craving salmon. I tried cooking it many ways; broiled, grilled, etc. I found this simple easy to bake blackened salmon recipe to be the best.

One pound salmon filet

The following is required:

  • 1 lb filet salmon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • pinch ground red pepper or to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the filet salmon skin down on aluminum foil lined baking pan. Mix the remaining ingredients together and sprinkle on the salmon filet. Place on middle rack of oven and bake for 16-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the salmon.

Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and garnish with parsley.

Some people like to wax on about how good salmon is or how healthy it is for you. If you are here, you likely already know these things. You can research the health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids by starting with the Wikipedia article: Omega-3 fatty acid. As noted in that article, it is better to eat natural sources of Omega-3s than to take supplements.

Past project: Installing a new well, well pump and pressure tank

Living room sofa; mostly clear, 26.0 F, 0633

After we had lived here for a year or so, we discovered that the well we were using was not on our property. It was on our neighbors property across the street. The well itself was a old, hand dug tile well, close to the road. None of that was good news, and it was something else that the “home inspector” failed to mention.

Thus informed, we drilled a new well on our property. She is a beauty; Two hundred and twenty three feet deep, producing one hundred gallons of cool clean water a minute.

New pressure tank and water filters

Next project was to install a pump and new pressure tank. I went with the new pressure tank because the old one did not have a bladder and it would lose its air pressure often. The bladder tank is nice; pressurize it once and it should be good forever. I used 1 inch PEX from the pump to the pressure tank, then 1 inch copper to the main distribution point above the water heater. That means you can take a shower and flush the toilet at the same time.

Making a mess in the yard; excavating a trench for the new well

I rented an excavator and dug a trench 4-6 feet deep to the house. The ground here is very rocky, therefore the PEX and electrical wiring was sleeved in 3 inch PVC DW pipe. This protects the PEX during back fill.

Pipe laid in trench, ready for back fill

I used a drill and a hole saw to make a hole in the well casing for the pitless adaptor. The static water level of the well is 60 feet below ground level.

PEX clamped to well pump
Completing electrical wiring to pump using pump splice kit
Pump ready to be lowed into the well

I installed a Goulds 10GS10422 1 HP submersible pump at a depth of 200 feet. This is a two wire pump, meaning the pump starter is on the pump motor, not next to the pressure tank in the house. I also installed a torque boot five feet above the pump to prevent repeated twisting of the PEX pipe during pump start. Twisting during start up will eventually break the PEX. The torque boot diameter was adjusted to the interior diameter of the well casing according to the instructions that came with the pump. Additionally, a 3/8 polypropylene safety rope was attached to the pump in case the worst does happen. That way the the pump does not end up in the bottom of the well.

Installing well pump

Lowering the pump into the well by hand wasn’t too bad. It actually took a bit of force to move the pump down into the well for the first 60 feet or so. The most challenging part was hooking the pump onto the pitless adaptor five feet or so into the well casing. Even that was not too hard.

Making the final plumbing connection
Trench back filled

Perhaps the least enjoyable part of any job like this is the cleanup. I waited for the rain to come so the soil would compact down to the right level. After that, It took a few weeks of rake work to level this out. I had to cart several loads of medium sized stones back to the stone wall in the woods. I seeded it with grass and now it looks like nothing ever happened.

Election Day

Home office; cloudy, breezy, 43 F, 0605

The polls are open! Today is the day when we get to vote. If early indicators hold true, it should be a record turn out. That is a good thing for elected officials to understand that the electorate is engaged and is paying attention. Like the current president or not, there is one thing that he has done; stir up the population.

I am interested in the outcome of this election for a different reasons. I am interested to see how accurate the pre-election polls are. As of this writing, the Democratic candidate is forecast to win in key swing states, just like last election. If that does not happen, it brings up two possible problems. Polling groups are not reaching a representative cross section of the electorate or people are lying. I feel that the second possibility is the most likely.

Supporters of the current president are vilified as racist, misogynist, anti Muslim, anti immigrant, white supremacists and so on. Nobody wants to be identified with that group. Yet, if you disagree with the the Democratic party line on any matter, large or small, you are instantly branded a Trump supporter. We no longer can debate on policy but rather must conform to party identity. That will not be good in the long run.

The other problem is the big tech hegemony on information. Facebook, Twitter and Google (and to some extent other search engines like Bing and Yahoo) have far more power to control the dialog then most people imagine. Through selective search engine results and filtered news feeds, information can be skewed to one side of the political spectrum. It is difficult to say whether or not this is happening because search engine algorithms are trade secrets. We, the general public, can only guess when and how much our information is being censored.

All of those considerations aside, it is still my fundamental right to go out and cast a ballot for whom I think will be the best suited person. Not only for the office of President, but also for the US house of Representatives, the New York State Senate and Assembly. I am leaving in a few minutes.

The DeWalt DCCS620 Battery Powered Chain Saw

Disclaimer: This is NOT a paid product endorsement, I do not have any affiliation with any retailers or companies associated with this product.

Living room sofa; mostly cloudy, breezy, 34.9F, 0530

My property includes a small wood lot behind the house. Over the years, trees grow and die, fall down and rot away. This is normal and natural. Every once in a while, I go back and try to clean up the area, getting rid of dried, dead standing wood. I also make sure that all fallen trees are completely on the ground so they can uptake water to facilitate decay. Decay, in this case, is good.

I own a gas powered Husqvarna 240 chains saw, which is great for general work. However, I don’t use it enough to keep the gas fresh. Thus, after sitting for several months or a year, I have to empty the gas tank, mix up new gas, change the spark plug, etc. In short, it is a pain in the ass.

I decided to try a Lithium Ion battery unit on a recommendation of a friend. On recommendation of a friend, I ordered the chainsaw on line and it arrived via UPS in a couple of days. I was pleasantly surprised at the build quality of the unit, as it was not at all expensive. After a quick recharge of the batteries, I went out and tried out cutting some fallen timber.

I was very surprised at the power and ability to cut through large logs. The battery also lasted much longer than I thought it would. My curiosity peaked, I decided to try cutting through some black locust logs, a heavy, dense wood. I found that this chainsaw, while slightly smaller than the Husqvarna 240, is just as able to cut though hardwood logs.

A small wood pile for the winter

Of course, there are some notable differences. The bar on the DeWalt is 10 inches vs the 14 inch bar on the Husqvarna. The DeWalt is much quieter, lighter in weight, there is no mixing of gas and oil, no two cycle smoke, etc. Depending on the work load, the DeWalt battery lasts 30-40 minutes. After each battery change, I topped off the bar oil reservoir. For intermittent use, such as clean up, cutting and clearing, the DeWalt with one or two extra batteries will work just fine. If a project requires long periods of cutting, then the gas powered saw is the right tool.

I would have no problem with keeping this chain saw in the back of my car over the winter. It will also be useful for work. Sometimes having a chain saw available decides whether or not a transmitter site can be accessed.

Jotul F100 wood stove

In a matter of a few hours, I was able to clean up several dead standing trees. As the wood is still sound, I split it for use in the wood stove this winter. It was a good afternoon of work. I enjoy having a nice warm fire in the wood stove on a cold winter night.

LCHF diet

Living room sofa; overcast, 30.1 F, 0437

My health is very important to me. For the last 10 months or so, I have been on a Low Carb, High Fat diet. Also know as a Keto or Ketogenic diet. How I came to this point is an interesting story, but I will save that for later. I did not start this diet to lose weight, but rather to lower my serum triglycerides, which were high.

Fructose is the enemy
Fructose is the enemy

Cells in the body can use three things for energy; Glucose, Ketones and Ethanol. The basic idea of this diet is to switch from using Glucose (sugars) to Ketones (fat) as the primary energy source. The reason is that excessive intake of carbohydrates causes insulin resistance, which in turn causes excessive levels of insulin to control blood glucose levels, which creates a host of problems known as “Metabolic Disorder.” Some features of Metabolic Disorder include high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, high serum triglycerides, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, dementia, poly cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and others.

The dietary recommendations by the USDA are generally confusing. In previous years, the recommendation was for 55-75% total carbohydrate, 10-15% Protein and 15-30% total fat. My feeling is that this is a combination of initial ignorance on human physiology and ongoing bureaucratic intransigence. There is absolutely no dietary requirement for carbohydrates in human beings. A person can survive on a zero carb diet and do just fine. However, fat is required and cholesterol is vital. If a person is not taking in enough cholesterol, then the liver will synthesize it. The current set of USDA recommendations lists calorie intake recommendations then lists types of food by volume, but does not really break down the food groups by ratios.

My theory is that diet should be tailored to the genetic makeup of an individual. One size fits all does not take into account many thousands of years of environmental adaptation. My ancestors are mostly from north northern Europe. As such, they likely ate very few carbohydrates. Instead, they ate mostly oily fish and fatty meats. A few years ago, I had a piece of salmon for dinner. After that, I was craving salmon. I had if for dinner at least 2-3 times per week for almost a year. Clearly, there was something in that fish that I needed.

Shrimp avocado salad

What is not to love about fresh, homemade food? Highly processed foods and prepared foods almost always have a lot of added sugar. They also tend to use dodgy ingredients like vegetable oils and have artificial flavors and colors.

I cannot make any dietary recommendations for others. For myself, I can say that since starting this diet; everything got better. I feel better now than I have in decades. I lost 20 pounds without even trying. My blood pressure returned to normal and I have discontinued taking BP medication. I no longer feel achy every morning when I wake up. My lower back pain has gone away. My mental processing has sped up. I sleep much better. All of this is likely due to reduced insulin in my system and it likely means that I had hyperinsulinemia which was driving inflammation.

I am not going to get into theories on why the USDA recommends a high carb low fat diet. That is for other people to work on. What I will say is, if you have any of the features of metabolic syndrome, then you owe it to yourself to look into it. There are many resources available but to get started, you can search for Ivor Cummins, Dr. Ken Berry, and/or Low carb down under.

Past Project: Patio and retaining wall

Living room sofa; clear, 25 F, 0558

This is the second project that I worked on after we moved in. Basically, it was a continuation of the yard drainage and basement flooding mitigation. The previous owners paved the area around the back of the house, creating a patio of sorts. Asphalt makes a good driveway, but not a very good patio. It was an unshaded area and got hot in the summer time.

Old patio, being removed

I started by digging out all of the asphalt and hauling it away to a recycling facility. This took many trips to accomplish, but it was good to get rid of the stuff.

Stone wall, built with stones picked from the woods

I built the stone wall with rocks from the woods. It took quite a bit of digging back into the slope. The retaining wall goes along the back part of the house, around the designated area for the patio. The rocks are dry fitted and 14 years later, they are still all in place.

Blue Stone patio

I ordered two large pallets of blue stone from the local hardware store. It was quarried locally and delivered by a small dump truck. I like the natural look of the stone patio.

Making a trellis with Black Locust timber

The trellis is made of black locust, cut locally. The great thing about this type of wood is its rot and bug resistance.

Completed project

On the trellis, there are two varieties of grapes; Concord and Himrod seedless. For many years, we were over producing grapes every year, but lately that seems to have dropped off. As I don’t eat or do anything with the concord grapes, I am good with that.

Free Form Friday

Living room sofa; rain/sleet, 38.3 F, 0506

I woke up early for some reason, then began thinking about the sump pumps. Last I knew, I had unplugged sump #1 so I could run an extension cord outside to use some power tools. Naturally, once I started thinking about that I couldn’t go back to sleep. So, I went down in the basement, sure enough, the sump pump was unplugged. However, it didn’t matter because the water level in the sump was still low. We have had 2.42 inches of rain in the last week.

I am still working on exactly what this blog thing is going to be about. I thought today I would just write extemporaneously and see what happens. I am also thinking about how much personal information I should include. Right now, it does not seem to matter, as I have had zero visitors. Perhaps that is the way it is going to be and I will simply be writing to myself. I am good with that.

This week has been low key work wise. That is okay, last week was a bit hectic.

This weekend it is supposed to be clear but cold. I need to do some work around yard, so hopefully it will dry out enough. I am also wanting to finish up the generator connection and emergency power panel. I have been picking away at it because I don’t want to spend too much money all at once, but I think I should wrap things up because winter is coming. I will make a post about that.

I am hosting Thanksgiving at my house this year. Anticipated guests are 13 or 14. It should be fun, but I have to clean everything and move some stuff out into the barn. Since COVID-19 the trade and donate bin at the transfer station has been closed. I’d like to get rid of some things, but I don’t want to throw them in the garbage.

Large Mouth Bass

William’s birthday is coming up soon. He wants another medium sized fishing pole, gift cards to Dick’s and Walmart so he can buy fishing tackle, some new cloths (he is growing fast) and a blue tooth headset. Walmart actually has some good fishing lures and such.