Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Laws of Thermodynamics. . .

Internal energy U\,
Helmholtz free energy A=U-TS\,
Enthalpy H=U+PV\,
Gibbs free energy G=U+PV-TS\,
Grand potential \Phi_{G}=U-TS-\mu N\,

Today, class, we'll be discussing the laws of thermodynamics. Not really. Taking a cue from Mr. Elliott, I'll be writing about how I keep our 1100 square foot cottage warm through and through when it's in the single digits outside.

Our house has a natural gas furnace with ceiling heating ducts in all the rooms, a ceiling fan in the living room, and a woodstove insert in the master bedroom which is at the opposite end of the house from the kids' bedrooms.

The furnace works great and is controlled by a programmable, digital thermostat; unfortunately, relying on it solely to heat the house gives us a nasty shock when the gas bill comes.

The woodstove insert is the answer to that. Sommer's dad, my son Boston, and I go wood cutting in the fall and usually stock up about 2 cords of dry lodgepole pine so our heat for the winter is almost completely prepaid. (On the occasion that I don't build a fire or let it go out in the middle of the night, the furnace kicks on around 62*. Brrr.)

It took a bit of figuring out (*see tips below) how to get the most heat for the longest time out of the woodstove. Now that I have it dialed and can get a beautiful, hot, lasting fire going in no time flat, the problem is how to get the heat out of our room so we don't roast. It'll be up to 85*+ in there fast if I don't get some circulation.

I first tried putting a large fan in the doorway to pull the air out of the room. It worked but only very marginally. I then put a smaller fan in the upper corner of the door way to pull the hot air off the ceiling of the bedroom and out into the rest of the house. This worked well but looked a bit tacky.

I then realized I was working backward and hard than I had to. Instead of trying to pull the hot air out of the room, I took my big fan and put it in the doorway again, only this time I turned it around and pushed the colder air from the house into the bedroom. This immediately resulted in hot air billowing (if you could see it) out of the top of the doorway and within 15 minutes I had the bedroom cooled to a much more reasonable 74* and the rest of the house up to 72*.

I've been perfecting this system by adding in the ceiling fan on low in the living room and occasionally running just the blower on the furnace to circulate the warm air through the house even further.

The other morning it was 1* when I went to start the van, but with my wonderful fire that I had religiously kept going through the night (more like there's been a fire going for a couple weeks now) it was a toasty 73* inside.

*My tips for a great fire.
The obvious: dry wood.

Keep some air flow under your kindling.

Arrange kindling in a lincoln-log pattern. Two parallel pieces straight in with space for paper in between, two more sideways with space and so on.

Dryer lint. A small wad of dryer lint will catch a spark from a flint so well, you'll realize matches are a waste. It'll then catch your paper, too.

I've noticed when my stove is perfectly clean inside, after I've removed all the ash and charcoal, it takes a few fires to get it back to prime condition. I suspect this has to to with the retention of heat by all that ash and stuff at the bottom of the stove and I think it contributes some woodgas, too. Now if I clean out the stove, I leave a smallish layer of ash and charcoal in the bottom. Running a hot fire for days and days usually burns almost everything anyway, so my cleanings a few and far between.

Clean your chimney!!! This is a must! Every year BEFORE it gets wintry.

Clean your spark arrestor if you have one. This should be done when you clean the chimney AND after long periods of extreme cold where you dampen the fire for an extended time. Ours gets build up that starts to choke the fire and I'll notice smoke that starts coming into the room when I'm loading more wood in the stove.

(These may be specific to my woodstove and might not work for you, your results may vary. I assume no liability for any harm or injury, explosions, burnt carpet, or singed arm hair.)

Anyway, I love our woodstove and I hope everyone can use theirs to its most efficient potential!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

So the Samsung digital camera is not working so well, I might need to take it in have it looked at. Meanwhile, I've brought my trusty old Minolta x-370 back into service.

I got this camera and a few lenses when my grandmother passed them down to my mother. She gave them to me when I was a senior at Bend Senior High School. I was taking a photography class at the time and this was perfect, a semi-auto SLR with full manual at the turn of a dial. I came with a 35-75mm lens on it, a telephoto lens and a wide angle lens.

I did exactly zero of the assignments in photography class. What I did do was burn through roll after roll of all kinds of film and at the end of the class I turned in hundreds of different pictures that coverd what we learned in class and beyond. My favorite were a couple time exposures I did. One was at the base of Pilot Butte here in Bend, Oregon in December. Highway 20 runs right past and the way the streaks of headlights and tailights bend around the butte is cool. The other was in Seattle in November I think. I was at the park near the entrance to Pike Place Market and I did a long exposure of I-90(?) and the old King Dome which was demolished in 2000.

Anyway, if I find those prints I'll put them up here. Pictures of recent travels, family, Sommer's belly with our soon to arrive baby girl, Juniper, are all coming soon.

Also, Totoro's engine conversion is getting closer and closer to fruition. It has been decided that an EJ22 Subaru engine will replace Totoro's sad, weaky-leaky, 1.9l VW waterboxer engine.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Picture Post of Pumpkin Patch Play, Summer Lake Soaking and Crack in the Ground Crawling

Another picture post here.

The pumpkin patch we go to every year is up near Terrebonne, Oregon, about half an hour from our house. The backdrop is the Smith Rocks State park, home to some world famous rock climbing. The farm is very well done with a farmer's market and pumpkin patch, corn maize, food stuffs and pumpkin cannons. The pumpkin cannons are basically huge versions of the potato gun Boston and I made a few years ago for St. Patrick's Day. We still haven't actually paid to shoot the pumpkin cannon.

Syd eating some delicious corn on the cob.

Look out goats!

Sommer smuggling a pumpkin. Oh wait. . .

A couple weeks ago we drove out about 2.5 hours southeast of Bend to the Cowboy Dinner Tree and Summer Lake Hot Springs.
The drive out was beautiful.

Kids ready for bed in the cabin after soaking in the hot springs.

We got to the cabin after dark so waking up in the middle of the "Oregon Outback" was amazing.
This is the old bathhouse. Inside is a big concrete pool and changing rooms, very very rustic. Kind of like soaking in a chicken house. Nice and relaxing though.

The next morning we soaked in the new outdoor pool. Still a work in progress, there will be a three or four outdoor pools all together.

After our morning soak and some breakfast we headed out to Crack in the Ground, near Christmas Valley, Oregon. It was so amazing! Way more fun than it sounds.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Picture Update!!!

So, instead of fumbling for words to describe the wonderful times we've had these last couple months, here are the pictures to prove it.

Well, here's how that fourth baby bean is coming along. It's a girl, Juniper Clare (or Claire.)

On the way to Portland for Season and Lee's wedding we found Lost Lake. We stopped for coffee and a snack.

We bring our coffee kit everywhere we go. It lives in the van under the seat. It includes:

French Press
Fresh Roasted Coffee
Fresh Bend, Oregon Water

Eliot was tired after her snack and playing with all the frogs.

We met my parents for lunch and the kids left with them, heading up to Astoria. Sommer and I went to the hotel and got all dolled up for the wedding that night.

After a day to ourselves in between involving a haircut for Sommer and delicious food with great music, we went to Astoria to meet the kids and hang out with my parents.

Boston entered himself into an oyster-eating contest.

He managed to get one down and that was that. The goal was 24 total. Oh well, he did a great job just swallowing one raw, slime-ball oyster.

Hanging with my Dad.

Wait, they might actually be friends!?

Here's a Westy Vanagon, Turbo Diesel named Mellow Yellow. I thought I took a picture of the name on the rear left of the Westy top, but I can't find it. Sweet trailer set-up. Oh yeah, they're from Nova Scotia. Note the Burning Man sticker on the side.

Eliot posing for the camera at Cape Disappointment.

The driftwood shelter my Dad and I made.

Pumpkin patch pictures possibly popping up posthaste. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An Update. . .

Well, here I am! It's been a while since the last post on here and I thought I'd give an update.

Portland was fun, the wedding was great. We headed up to Astoria to pick up the kids and visit with my parents for a couple days. Totoro ran great, though when we headed home we went through Seaside and over HWY 26. This way was much more mountainous than HWY 30 over to Longview. Totoro had a bit of a hard time on the long long up hill stretches. By the time we made it down I-5 to Salem and over Santiam into Sisters, the valves were noisy and the engine was hot and tired. Nothing terribly wrong, just ready for a rest. We got home and the next day Totoro was much happier hanging out in the driveway. I got the timing belt fixed on the Honda CRV. The B20Z engine in the CRV is and interference motor, meaning the valves and piston occupy the same space at different times and will smash into each other if the engine is out of time, say, when the timing belt breaks. Luckily, Sommer shut the engine off just as the belt sheared a bunch of teeth off the belt, saving the engine and us a bunch of money. Totoro is also very happy not to be the sole transportaion for our fmaily. It was seeing a lot of miles lately. I'll post pictures soon, soory for the boring post. :)

Monday, September 1, 2008

It's that time of year. . .

Back to school? Leaves changing? Labor day holiday? Nope.

It's Vanagon Cooling System Leak season!!! YAY!


During the warm summer months, Totoro's cooling system and all associated metal parts are nice and toasty. Either the ambient air temperature is really hot, or we just don't stop taking Totoro on adventures. Whichever it is, metal parts never cool down much. Now that we've had a couple nights down to freezing or near it, Totoro's little engine and cooling system gets a bit weepy as all that warm metal gets a chill and contracts.

The place I don't see a leak and don't want to see one is at the big (stupid) rubber gasket between the head and water jacket. What's that? A head gasket? No no no, my friend. Instead of a traditional head gasket design, VW took and air-cooled engine design and wrapped a water jacket around the cylinders where the air-cooling fins should be. Instead of a flat normal looking head gasket set-up, we have a large rubber band that fits over the edge of the water jacket and, with some goopy black sealant, gets sandwiched between the case and the head.

This morning and last, I've notice a small drip from the passenger's side of the radiator, where the lower hose connects. I'll tighten the clamp and it'll stop. The other place I see a seep is at the odd thermostat housing set-up on Totoro's engine. It has various places it's bolted together/various places for gaskets to leak. I'll tighten the bolts to the right torque, but they are small little bolts and don't get need much. If that doesn't stop it, I'll need to take it all apart, replacing the water pump and thermostat at the same time. Opening a Vanagon cooling system is not something one should do often, bleeding ALL the air out is a pain. Totoro is running very well, cooling system is doing it's job flawlessly, so I want to avoid draining/refilling/bleeding it.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Paulina Report and Prepped for Portland

Well Paulina was fun but kind of unremarkable. It was fun meeting our friends at their cabin, Bos brought his friend Jack along, too. Nice getting out on the lake in a small, rented boat with a itty-bitty motor that only ran at idle or wide open, and great relaxing by the lake at the cabin.

Our campsite was a bit less than relaxing as we had a giant motorhome next to us that pushed the "Generators may be run for up to two hours, twice a day" rule to three hours three times a day. Also, a rowdy bunch of birthday party/home from Iraq party people were not too far, either. I'd much rather listen to them than the incessant hum of a generator, running some god-knows-what power hungry appliance while the inhabitants of said land yacht are at the next campsite over playing bridge.

Only you can prevent nebulae.

The rented boat was to save us the four mile hike around the lake to the hot springs (midwife's orders.) I am glad we didn't make the trek on foot because we didn't really soak very long. The pools were definitely nice and hot, but they required some digging with my handy army surplus folding shovel and were pretty silt-y for awhile after deepening them. The best pool was at the west end of the beach. Lined with logs, it was right on the edge of the lake so regulating the temperature was easy.

The problem with being right on the lake was the massive amount of nasty fish egg globules forming flotillas bigger than many southern pacific islands and intruding into the hot springs. Oh well. I am still trying to figure when a better time of year would be to get a nice soak. We searched for East Lake hot springs on Sunday morning before heading back home. We never did find them.

On our way home we took a turn on a fairly washboard-y forest road toward McKay falls. Once back there we found a nice little primitive campground along Paulina Creek with plenty of beautiful pools to splash/soak in and some nice hikes up and down stream to various waterfalls.

It is also rumored to be where you park to hike upstream 2 miles to some natural waterslides. The water here is nice and warm, the creek fed by the warm top waters of Paulina Lake.

Now I've got to get Totoro cleaned out and ready for a trip to Portland for a wedding.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Preparations for Paulina

I suppose I should clean Totoro out.

I have a theory/lazy habit that if I don't unpack from camping, I'm always prepared to go camping.

A flaw in that theory is when you leave perishable supplies in the van for a week or two of the hottest weather seen in Central Oregon this summer. Or when you forget you exhausted your supply of necessities like toilet paper/matches/Red Vines/Mike&Ikes etc. and don't stock up before your next trip.

We are headed to Paulina Lake next weekend for two or three nights. There are hot springs on Paulina Lake as well as East Lake; Sommer and I have been dying for more soaking so this I a major draw to the area for us. The problem is that both springs are said to be about a 4 mile hike around to the north side of the lakes. Normally, four miles would not be an issue but, with Sommer being told by the midwife not to hike or bike the rest of the pregnancy, it looks like we'll be boating across. Oh well. I suppose paddling a canoe is less stress on your pelvis than Sommer's usual cliff drops and table tops on a Mt. Bike.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Overnight in the Ochocos and the Painted Hills: Part Two

Sunday morning we woke up to bright sunshine and made breakfast and coffee.

We decided to pack up and head to the Painted Hills about 40 miles east.

We could've headed back over the Ochoco Pass on NF-2630 and come out in the valley just before the turn to the Painted Hills but that will have to wait. We headed out to HWY 26 and east toward Mitchell and turned north toward the hills.

Arriving at the information center, we filled the canteen, had a bathroom break and read up on the geology of the area. As we were loading up to explore the area, I found a small plastic cow of E's had jumped ship and was making a run for it.

We drove up to a view point and Sommer snapped this picture:

Down the road there was a short hike around one of the smallish examples of the hills. They are very interesting up close. (The hills and the cows.)

Suddenly all the color drained out of the world. . .

We headed from the beautiful Painted Hills to tiny Mitchell and got ice cream sandwiches and checked out the local Black Bear, Henry. The small sign on Henry's not-apparently-reassuringly-secure habitat says that Henry was born on a bear farm and had his claws removed as a cub. It also says he enjoys wrestling with his keeper, playing with his ball and long walks on the beach. Henry is a Scorpio. I'm exaggerating a bit there. My pictures of Henry didn't turn out but I assure you he is indeed a large Black bear.

We made our way back through the Ochocos on HWY 26, stopped at Ochoco Reservoir for a splash and a snack and then headed home to Bend.

We had a wonderful time and I know we'll be back out that way again, maybe we'll scout some potential group sites for a VW get together. Maybe a pre or post Maupin camp.