Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Year in Review-2014

As I look back on the year 2014 I see I have nothing to complain about.  My health and that of the family is holding up and everyone seems to be doing well.  The weather was typical for the region with no huge storms and no power outages-at least not at my house.

Two notes of sadness occurred. One  in August when my daughter's dog Lacey died.  She was a great dog and she is certainly missed. The other involved a good friend of Sandi's who recently passed away.

The grand children are all doing well with the youngest one now in Kindergarten so my babysitting duties are reduced to days off, snow days and school vacations when parents are working.

All in all a good year.

I hope  2015 is a year of  health and happiness for all of you. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

Merry Christmas to one and all (or at least all those who celebrate Christmas!)  For a look at Christmas eve and day in the Stockwell family click here:

Friday, December 19, 2014

Brief comments about two unrelated events

I have two thoughts regarding a couple of recent events. 

First, I went to Newtown Pharmacy the other day to pick up my eye drops.  There was one other person ahead of me and the lady checking people out was having trouble with the cash register.  It would not respond to of her efforts to use charge cards or just plain make change.  She was in quite a quandary. The pharmacist came over to help so the first lady got my scrip for me.  The cost was $9.04 and I gave her a ten.  This of course created quite a problem because she had to somehow give me $.96 change.  I told her to forget it.  Just give me the drops and let me get out of there.  No such luck.  They finally got the computer to work after a call to customer service and I was able to leave.

So that's what the world has come to.  If the computer isn't working, we're screwed.  Pretty sad.

My second observation regards Obama's announcement that the US will work toward normalizing relations with Cuba.  My response?  I say good. It's about time.  As for those Congressional republicans who have come forward vowing to block funding and appointments to make this happen, they're nothing short of hypocritical idiots-especially Cuban Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. What a total jerk.  He couldn't care less about Cuba or 'his people' as he says.  He's got his sights set on the Oval Office pure and simple.

How voters could put this pack of jerks in the majority in Congress is absolutely mind boggling.  I hope they get what the deserve. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Burning wood-revisited

Sunday morning my son-in-law and I spent several hours cutting, splitting and hauling fire wood from his brother's property.  That in itself isn't especially noteworthy but it did remind me that I promised to post a blog regarding the choice of a wood burning stove.  It also reminded me of how labor intensive it can be if you decide to work up your own supply of wood.  A previous post has already addressed the issue of buying firewood. 

This post will therefore address two issues: your choice of stove and tools you need to work up your own supply.

First, getting your own wood. Sure it's free but have you ever heard the saying "Wood heats twice. First, gathering it. Then when you burn it."   To be more precise the saying should be that wood heats many, many times.  You have to cut it, carry it to the vehicle that's going to remove it, load it, unload it, split it, stack it and finally when it's seasoned, lug it into your house.  That's a lot of heat.

You'll also need some basic tools beginning with a decent sized chain saw that you're sure you can handle.  Next an ax, a can of gas/oil mix, bar oil, good gloves,  and finally eye and ear protection.  Some people go so far as to wear a hard hat and leather chaps.  I don't. 

Once it's where you want it to be you then have to split it-either with a maul or if you're lucky enough to have one available, a log splitter.

Finally, as I mentioned before you need a way to haul it.  Pickup trucks are best so either switch to one or borrow one or buy an old wreck to park until you need it.

Not easy, is it,  for that 'free' wood?

OK, so now you have a few cords of seasoned hard wood all ready to go.  How about that stove?

There are numerous brands on the market.  My personal preference is the Vermont Castings line but they are by no means the only game in town.  Just about all of the new ones are designed to be fairly efficient so it's pretty much a matter of personal opinion.  I love the looks of the Vermont Castings line but there are others that look equally attractive. Long gone are the days when stoves were just a big metal box sitting there taking up space.  Do a little research and pick out the one that appeals to you.

Some things to consider:  Where is it going? Fireplace installation or free standing?  If the fireplace, seriously consider a steel/titanium liner for your flue.   How big an area do you have available?  That will influence the type of stove you buy.

There are magazine articles and web sites that can give you more exact information and things to consider so,  again, do your research.

After all of this, you may well decide to stick with oil but if you're going to be in one place for an extended period of time, all of this will definitely be paid back...and then some.

Good luck.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Word About Torture

The debate rages.  Conservatives and former Bush administration officials support the use of enhanced interrogation techniques (torture) to obtain information. Others oppose the use of torture citing the facts that it rarely works and that we as a civilized nation should be above that.

At the moment the official policy is the United States does not torture. Period.

The recently released report that the CIA lied and that we did in fact use torture has Congress all riled up.  Here's the thing:  it's old news. There's nothing new here.  So why is the media making so much of this?  And especially puzzling is why would the press pull out and dust off a deranged lunatic like Dick Cheney and put him in front of a camera where he can rant and rave his insane opinions?

I guess this is a really slow news cycle. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

A few ideas about wood heat

Home heating oil prices have gone down significantly over the past few months but if you are heating a house big enough to use over a thousand gallons a year, it is still pretty pricey-especially if you're heating domestic hot water with oil as well.

For that reason many people-me included-have been supplementing their heating with wood burning stoves that either use ordinary firewood or more recently wood pellets.

The down side to wood pellets to me is that you have to buy them and during power failures, the stoves are of no use unless you have a powerful battery backup.  For that reason I and many others use a conventional wood burning stove.  This makes even more sense if you have access to and time to gather your own wood.  It's basically free heat.

I have been lucky enough to have a consistent source of firewood available to me.  I have a truck to haul it, a chain saw to cut it and a log splitter to split it.  Sure, all these things cost money but the first two I'd have anyway just by being a property owner.  The log splitter was a gift to me.  So over a period of almost 40 years that I've been burning wood, I passed the pay-back mark a long time ago.

However there are many people who are not so lucky.  For those  people who for whatever reason have to purchase their firewood rather than gather it on their own there seems to be some misunderstanding as to what you can expect to get from a firewood dealer.

In this area firewood can be as high as $220 a cord.  If you're burning say 3 cords a year, that's a pretty big ticket so you best know what you're doing.  Here are some tips for buying firewood.

1.  Do you actually know what a cord of wood is?  An honest cord of wood is 128 cubic feet of tightly stacked wood.  The usual configuration is a stack measuring 4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet.  Obviously, there are other ways to make 128 cubic feet but this is the way that saves the most space.
Very often wood dealers drop the wood in a loose pile in your driveway or somewhere close for them to back up to so try to be home when the delivery comes.  That way you can judge the quantity by how it's stacked in the truck.  If it's a standard pickup without higher sides added, you're probably getting cheated.  However you do it, do the math and see what you're getting.

2.  Ads that claim to offer "seasoned" wood are often misleading.  Seasoned hardwood needs to be split, stacked and kept dry for at least a year.  It's easy to tell if wood is seasoned.  It should be cracked and darkened at the ends and darkened along the grain.  Wood that has been laying around unsplit for a year is not seasoned.  I've split oak logs that were two years old only to find them as green as ever inside.

3. In the above paragraph I refer to hardwood.  That doesn't just mean wood that's hard to the touch.  It's wood that comes from a deciduous tree as opposed to a conifer such as pine, spruce or hemlock.  Hardwoods are trees like oak, hickory, ash, maple, birch and others-anything that loses its leaves in the fall. They are the best burning, high heat output fuels producing the least amount of creosote.  They too are fairly easy to identify but if you can't, impose on someone who can to inspect your delivery.  You pay a premium for hardwoods and that's what you should be getting.

Burning wood can save you a lot of money but it is not without its down side.  It requires space for storage;  a lot of handling; it can be dirty causing more dust than usual in a house and it can dry out a house far more than central heat.   In fact you should have a decent filtration/humidifier set up in the room where the stove is located.  Finally depending on your setup it can produce hot/cold areas in your house. But if you're willing to deal with these things you can save a bucket of money. 

The other component to all of this is the kind of stove you have.  That will be the subject of another blog. In the meantime I would suggest you take a very close look at the Vermont Castings line of wood stoves.  My Resolute is shown below but more on this later. 

Good luck.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Who's Responsible?

The news that the police officer who performed a choke hold on Eric Garner thus causing his death will not be charged has set off another round of outrage, rioting, protests and calls for investigations and massive changes to our system of justice.  All of this has happened in the wake of the Ferguson, MO situation.

The point of this piece is not to rush to judgement about either situation.  Like most people out there, I don't have all the facts and there's a great deal we don't know.  The point I wish to make here is that I believe the media is responsible for much of the civil unrest that has followed the decisions of people far more informed than us. 

The constant round of interviews of people too emotionally involved to think rationally, focusing attention on gas bags like Al Sharpton who in my considered opinion is nothing but an attention-seeker, distortions of facts, slandering police officers or juries or judges who are trying to make sense of all of this is the media's (and Sharpton's) stock in trade. 

So why  is the press doing this?  Because we're listening-or more precisely, you are listening because I stopped a long time ago.   And now it's time for everyone else to stop listening and thereby make the media go away.  Find another issue to inflame.  This one has run its course. 

Hey, here's one.  How about giving credit to President Obama for the low gas prices?  After all, it wasn't so long ago that the republicans were blaming him for the high prices.  Isn't turn around fair play?  No, I guess not.  And it certainly isn't as exciting.  Pathetic.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Very Busy 12 Days

It has been a long time since I've posted anything here on my blog spot and that's because we've been at our condo in Naples, FL since Nov. 22.  We'll be returning home tomorrow.

As has become our family tradition, the entire family-6 adults and 4 children-assembled here for Thanksgiving.

The children and grand children returned two days ago but the entire time has been very busy indeed.

Here's a list of some of the things we've been doing:
Bocci Court
Visits with Newtown friends who now have places of their own in Naples
Visit to friends in Venice, FL
Trip to the zoo
Condo repairs
Helping friends with their new place

That's about it.  Now it's back home and a return to the routine only to turn around on Jan. 2nd and come back down for another 12 days.  Then it's home for the entire winter.