Does your meter spin backwards?

RE-system-EOY-2015

In my last post, I provided some history on my home and its RE system.  Now I’d like to provide some insight into why I’m now blogging about this stuff after 20 years with it…

You may actually detect a bit of snark in my take on all of it and I totally cop to that!  RE, specifically PV in my case, is really wonderful technology but it is not all it’s sold to be.  With a 30% federal solar tax credit available through 2016, grid-tie systems are going up everywhere and they are wonderful supplements to conventional utility power.  However, at this point in the game, RE is nowhere close to being a replacement for the quantity of utility power that we’ve grown accustomed to, especially in the United States.

Here’s a peek inside, showing the electrical system in my mechanical room, as updated just before the end of the 2015…

RE-system-EOY-2015

If that photo looks complicated or frightening, then an off-grid system like mine might not be for you.  However, you don’t need to have that 3,150 lb chunk of lead sitting there, all smothered in sulfuric acid and creating explosive gasses when charging; there are other systems out there that are more transparent that could work in your home. Those systems are the majority of what’s being sold today; they’re just less useful from a self-sufficiency standpoint and hold no value to me.  (More on that in a moment!)

I was recently in Costco (Thornton, CO) before Christmas and pushed my cart by a guy hawking solar systems.  I made the mistake of letting him catch me looking, and he said, “Hey, Sir, can I interest you in learning about the benefits of solar power?”

“No,” I said, “I’ve been solar for just about 20 years now.”

“Great!  How are you enjoying those awesome savings?” he asked.

I stopped the cart, turned around, and said to the guy and the three people waiting to hear his spiel, “Ask me again in 160 years, because that’s about when I’ll break even on my initial investment.”

CostcoSolarGuy was selling professionally-installed grid-intertie systems, which can actually turn your electric bill into a small monthly stipend (IF you are careful with consumption and have enough production).  These systems without batteries provide power to your home when the sun’s up, and if they produce more than you’re using, the energy flows into the power grid for others to use.  However, if the grid power goes out at night, you’re in the same boat as the other dark houses in your neighborhood.

I’m in a bit of a different situation here, as my electric meter is over a mile from my house, where the last bit of my driveway goes out of view just to the right of center in the photo below…

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Zooming in, you can see the electric demarcation point.  The small pole is the meter pole I built in 1995, while the larger ones belong to the electric company.  (Back then, they’d give you one pole in any direction for free.  I set my meter pole and they hooked up to it.  The alternative was to pay them about $30K for almost 20 poles to my house.  I didn’t want to pay for, nor look at, that ugly aerial mess.  Now, it’s probably $100K to get it up here!)

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The location you see above is the beginning of a private 7,200 volt underground distribution system I built back in the ’90s, so I wouldn’t have to look at those utility poles leading up to my home.  Electricity is purchased down there at 240 VAC, then stepped up to 7,200 VAC in a 30:1 transformer, shot underground 5,600′, then stepped back down to 120/240 VAC at my home by another 30:1 transformer.

The system is a bit lossy because transformers aren’t 100% efficient.  (As is nothing, mind you!)  To the human senses, they hum and create heat, and that’s lost energy.  To the calculator, you have eddy currents, hysteresis, and copper loss, along with the transformers’ power factor to consider.

Normally, there’s a transformer on the far side of your meter so the utility company eats that loss.  (Okay, they don’t eat it; they figure it into the cost of doing business with you and you still pay for it.  You just see it in your electric kWHr rate, not in the kWHrs used.)  In my case, I have to buy about 30% more electricity than I actually use, which is lost just making the haul up here to the house.  Unfortunately, it works that way in reverse too and I just don’t have the power to spare to shoot any of my precious energy over a mile back down the driveway.

So there you go, “No, my meter doesn’t spin backwards!”

Intro to Life with Renewable Energy

A few months ago, I decided to spend January ’16 living off-grid and not using any utility power.  Mind you, this is not something you prepare for quickly, and it’s the worst time of year to try it.  I’ve actually been messing with Renewable Energy (RE) since constructing my home in 1995/6.  Over most of the last decade, fossil fuels have been demonized while we’ve had RE shoved down our throats.  I thought it might be beneficial to shed some light on what life is really like living with RE, and why I’ve had it available but not used it (much) over the last 20 years.  What’s to follow today will be a little history, so you know where I’m coming from and how the house has worked for the past two decades.

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When I moved to Wyoming in ’89, we had terrible problems (blackouts and brownouts) with the power grid at the ranch.  Our utility provider back then, PPL, was known as “Pathetic Power and Light”.  We bought a small 5 kW engine-generator to overcome the blackouts and keep the fridges and furnaces running, but that did nothing to remedy the constant low voltage trouble that killed our appliances!  To overcome these electrical issues, I knew I wanted to design and build a bit of an “Earthship” that could keep me alive with very little energy input and yield some electrical self-sufficiency when needed.

My home you see above is passive solar; the glazing in the middle collects ~480 kBTUs of heat on a sunny Winter day.  It can be 10ºF outside, but the solarium will get into the 80ºs by mid-afternoon.  I simply do not require conventional heat in the winter, but I do burn firewood most nights to make it really cozy inside.  Earth-bermed and super-insulated, it hits 80ºF in the living room quickly if I’m not careful!  Even unoccupied, the coldest it’s ever been inside is 58ºF with external temps around -14ºF.

I knew I wanted an active solar component as well, to back up the unreliable utility power.  My original system design used a small array on the roof, consisting of 16 x 85W/12V panels (1.36 kW) and a 1.0 kW horizontal axis wind charger (HAWT).  Here’s the original PV array, still solid some 20 years after installation, but only putting out ~800W in full sunlight…

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At the heart of my RE system was this trusty Trace SW4024 power inverter, which ran non-stop for 20 years without any issues Its job was to pass grid power through to my house and automatically transfer most of my home to battery power if the grid became unstable or absent.  Basically, my home had a giant version of a personal-computer “uninterruptible power supply” (UPS) keeping things running all the time.  It worked really well, and most circuits in my home never lost power once in 237 months! 

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While that inverter could function as a battery charger too, I only allowed that after blackouts to quickly recharge, or for occasional battery equalization.  >99% of the time, the battery was “float-charged” by the rooftop solar array.  As for the battery itself, the original was a 24V bank of 12 x IBE 85N-33 “forklift” cells which had a capacity of 1,690 amp-hours (AHrs) at the 20-hour rate…

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They were rated for 1500 discharges to 80% depth-of-discharge (DOD), which when new was 80% of 1690, or 1352 AHrs.  As used in my UPS system, they never got close to that level of discharge.  I continued to purchase power from the utility company and let my rooftop array float-charge the battery bank so it would always be ready for a problem.  20 years later, they’re still in good shape, and even though I’ve recently replaced them as standard PM, I’m hesitant to recycle them yet!  (They can be yours for $800, which is their recycle value.  New, you’ll drop almost $9,000 on a set of these.)

The fresh battery bank is newer technology and comprised of SolarOne HuP cells with the same physical size and 1,690 AHr rating, but the HuPs will do 2,100 cycles to 80% DoD and over 4,000 to just 50%.  Considering that my entire home (when optimized) only uses <20% from sundown to sunrise (in Winter, worst case), I fully expect another 20-25 years from these new cells…

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In July of 2015 while contemplating my upcoming battery replacement, I decided to try and go off-grid for a while in 2016 just to see what electrical lifestyle my renewable energy was actually capable of supporting.  Knowing the new battery was coming, the first thing I did was to install a new array in my yard to guarantee my battery would fully charge during the day.  This single-pole array consists of 9 x 255W Q-cells and has a maximum rating of 2.295 kW.  The panel cost per watt was less than 20% of what I paid for my rooftop array in 1995, and increased my production by almost 300%.

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So here we are, finally able to date things “2016” and I’m sticking to my guns and have gone off-grid.  I’m using RE right now to blog a little about what’s to come, and foreshadowing a bit by saying, “Damn, how I’d love to have my office chair heating pad on right now, but I can’t spare the Watts because I might want to use the microwave later!”

Custom Subwoofer for 2012 Tacoma

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Got a 4-Door Toyota Tacoma, 2012 or newer?  Thinking about adding a subwoofer?  You’ve probably noticed two things about your little pickup…

  1. There isn’t a lot of spare room inside.
  2. There’s a pre-built option from JL Audio for $700 (msrp, you can get it for $600, street, if you’re careful).

 

I really considered buying the JL Audio unit, but seven tenths of a grand is a tough pill to swallow.  Sure, it looks good, and it fits nicely into the right side storage pocket behind the rear seat-back.  But…$700!!!

A good buddy convinced me to take a crack at building my own, so I took the plunge with an MTX-Audio FPR10-02 10″ driver, a couple “hobby-sized” (24″ x 48″) sheets of 3/4″ MDF, some Gorilla Glue, and Acousta-Stuf stuffing.  Coming up with the “ingredients” was easy; attempting to find a suitable shape that would yield an acceptable internal volume, fit behind the seat, and be easy to trim out was the tough part!

I played around in my CAD system until I found something that seemed to work out.   Here’s the series that made it to “paper”.

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One fun Saturday morning on the table saw and I had the shape together for a trial fit…

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Since that seemed to work out as planned, I cut the end-caps and the holes for the speaker and terminal block…

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There’s a big leap between the last photo, and the next one.  Here are the steps you don’t see…

  1. Disassemble box and coat the INSIDE panels with a clear spray paint (to seal the MDF).
  2. Reassemble the box using Gorilla Glue (works nicely because it expands and seals up the joints).
  3. Pack the box loosely with Acousta-Stuf sound-dampening fiber.

 

Next, I wrapped the box in some black “speaker fabric”, fixing it in place with the best stuff on the planet for this kinda thing, 3M 77-Super spray contact adhesive.  Starting to look nice, here…

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So, does it fit?  Sure seems to!  Notice the small metal brackets (at the arrows) in the photo below.  They are fabricated to use the factory bolts for the package tray I removed before building the enclosure…

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Everything seemed to line up well, so I took a few measurements, ran a line of tape onto the package tray as a cutting guide, and cut the bottom half off with a air body saw.  It’s always a little spooky doing that stuff, but it was definitely worth it!  It looks better than I had hoped when embarking on this project!

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I’m going to end this post with the dimensions my CAD system told me to use.  I built it exactly as you see it here.  If you build one, don’t try and make it any larger than I did!  It quite literally JUST FITS, when you fold the seat-back down!  If you can read a simple CAD drawing, know basic geometric principles, and can use a table saw, this will work for you!  (And, you won’t have to spend hours trying different shapes.)

tacoma_subwoofer box_panel dims

 

Freshest coffee yet!

Because I don’t have enough crap to do, I thought I’d get into something else: home coffee roasting.  (No, the Aussie Land Cruiser is not running yet.)  I love coffee, but limit it to two cappuccinos or lattes in the morning…

For the last few years, the best coffee I could seem to run through my old Rancilio Silvia espresso machine came from Whole Foods in Fort Collins.  They roast it right there in the coffee department and the Espresso Sierra and Espresso Bel Cante make for great pulls at home.

 It’s a ~400 mile round trip to Fort Collins, and mail-order is out; all vacuum-packed coffee beans you buy are stale.  (Freshly roasted beans off-gas while they’re fresh, so if that nice tight brick of beans is holding its vacuum in your cupboard, it was bagged stale – on purpose.  Read about it; it’s true!)   I quickly realized that  roasting my own beans at home would be the only way I could get really fresh coffee.

After researching all the common techniques back in January, I decided to go with a Hottop programmable drum roaster. (Yup, I’m a techie nerd.)  It allows you to tailor all aspects of the roasting process and save them in its memory.  In front of it, there’s 8 oz. of “Espresso Monkey Blend” green beans from www.sweetmarias.com…

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So I actually read the instructions, got my fire extinguisher ready (they warned of potential “melt-down”), and started it pre-heating.  When the internal temp hit about 175ºF, the machine beeped and I dumped the beans in.  See how green…

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After a few minutes, the beans start to turn a little tan and the smell is of wet hay…

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Coffee “cracks” or pops, sorta like popcorn.  (Yes, you can air-roast coffee in a popcorn popper, or on the stove in a skillet!)  Coffee is usually best somewhere between the first and second cracks, so you really have to pay attention and listen.  It’s not hard to miss, tho’ it’s not as loud as popcorn. The moisture and oils in the beans heat up as they roast and blow off chaff.  Here we are, right in the middle of the first crack…

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(Note the chaff in the window, the color of the beans, and the chaff fire flaring up in the back!  Yeah, I really DID have the fire extinguisher at my side!)

According to Sweet Maria’s, Espresso Monkey Blend is best when just into the second crack, so that’s what I tried to do.  I dumped the beans at about 15 minutes total roasting time, and they ejected into the cooling tray…

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After five minutes of gentle agitation (done by the machine), the beans were room-temp and looking great!

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I pulled a shot and Ohhhhh Man…

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Heaven!  It’s not fair to say it’s the best I ever had, as I really don’t know!  It was certainly fantastic, not bitter, no aftertaste…just smooth and incredible.  Like with my wine ignorance, I can’t comment on “burnt figs” or “plums and cherries, with chocolate undertones” or any of that stuff.  It tastes like GOOD COFFEE.  If I wanted burnt figs, I’d throw some of THOSE in the Hottop!

It’s all a learning experience, and I’m about to go make my second morning cup and have the second-to-last slice of “Jackie’s Cheesecake” I made myself for my birthday.

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And yeah, I usually have burgers for my birthday, but I drank a bunch of coffee last night and it got too late and I decided to do it tonight instead.  (Plus, my grill was buried in snow.)

Quick Fixes Will Destroy Us!

Below is an article from NaturalNews, Feb 9, 2013  (from http://www.naturalnews.com/039014_America_quick_fix_culture.html) 

I’ve been saying for decades that “western solutions” aren’t needed when you don’t have western problems. 

As always, emphasis added to original text is in red, and my own thoughts are in green.

Enjoy – or open a bottle of booze and forget – your call! [hint hint – booze is just another quick-fix!]

– Darrin

———————————

Think you might someday get breast cancer? There’s a quick fix for that: Chop ’em off! It’s called a “preventive double mastectomy” and surgeons are right now successfully convincing women who don’t even have breast cancer to have both their breasts surgically removed.

Is your government drowning in debt? There’s a quick fix for that: Print more money! Don’t worry about currency debasement and the long-term blowout collapse of the U.S. dollar that will bankrupt the nation. We need another hit of that bailout money!

Is your kid too hyperactive at home and at school? Don’t bother changing his diet, removing corn syrup and artificial food colors from his daily intake [or getting him some damned exercise that is NOT in front of the XBOX.] No, that would take too much time. Instead, turn your kid into a pill-popping psych drug patient by having him diagnosed by a psychiatrist!

Welcome to the “quick fix” culture of America. For every problem that demands a mature, well-planned solution, there’s a much more seductive quick-fix solution that completely ignores the problem but temporarily makes the symptoms go away.  [take abortion…  prime example.  amoral solution to amoral problem]

Are you eating way too much food to the point of runaway obesity? Don’t worry, we can have most of your stomach surgically removed!

Are you dying from cancer tumors? Don’t bother changing your diet, increasing your intake of vitamin D, or reducing your exposure to synthetic chemicals and pesticides. Nope, we can visibly shrink your tumors thanks to chemotherapy! Never mind the fact that chemotherapy will cause yet more tumors to grow all over your body because the No. 1 side effect of chemotherapy is, admittedly, cancer.  [Or as in the death of my father, do constant PET scans on him, first giving him IVs of sugar-based radioactive fluid.  Why sugar-based?  Cancer LOVES SUGAR.  And then, what do they tell you to pour into his feeding tube?  Ensure.  Mostly high-fructose corn syrup – SUGAR, folks.  Mind-bogglingly IGNORANT and why I don’t go to doctors.]

Got a problem in your community with whacko kids shooting up schools? Don’t address psychiatric drug abuse, bad parenting, violent video games and other behavioral causes. Just blame all the gun owners and make everybody turn in their guns! Problem solved, right? It’s yet another quick fix snow job.

Worried about your kid getting the flu or the whooping cough? Don’t bother giving them more nutrition: vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium and superfoods. Nope, just jab them with a needle, call it “immunization” and be happy with the quick fix!

Why the “quick fix” culture will destroy America...

If you look around America today, everything is a quick fix solution; sweeping the problem under the rug; ignoring the causes and treating the symptoms. Whether you’re talking about banking and finance, agriculture, public health, foreign policy, government spending or even public education, it’s all one grand quick-fix snow job.

This quick-fix approach is, of course, childish and immature. It is the abandonment of mature, adult planning for the future. A successful society (and nation) needs wisdom, foresight and planning. It needs leaders who have the courage to address core solutions rather than settling for short-term symptom reductions.

[Note here that the Chinese are our nemesis, and want to bring us down.  They are capable of multi-generational planning, and they exercise it!  We can’t even comprehend it, as a nation, much less DO IT.]

But America has become the land of the quick fix, and the quick fix inevitably leads to collapse. That’s because quick fixes do not solve underlying problems, and so the problems only get worse and worse.

For example, instead of solving the underlying causes of health problems, Obamacare merely handed Big Pharma and the health insurance companies an illegal monopoly that makes everybody in the nation pay for yet more “disease management.”

Instead of working on ways to actually pay down the U.S. debt, Obama has blown the national debt sky high by trillions of dollars in just the last four years.  [After claiming (while campaigning in 2008) that it was “unpatriotic” for Bush add $4T to our national debt in 8 years, he adds $6T in FOUR YEARS!!!  Is ANYONE paying attention???]

Instead of decriminalizing marijuana and ending the police state prison culture that only breeds more crime, Obama signed the NDAA, authorizing yet more secret arrests and indefinite detainment of American citizens. He made the police state even worse than Bush did!

Obama is a quick-fix President ruling over a quick-fix culture that’s dying thanks to quick-fix medicine and going broke under a quick-fix economy. Yep, the fix is in, and we’re all royally screwed!

The quick fix is an abandonment of responsibility.  It’s important to note that a quick-fix approach represents the complete abandonment of responsibility. In spending trillions of dollars of money that we don’t have, President Obama has abandoned the responsibility of his office has actually placed America in grave economic danger. His actions, like the actions of nearly every President before him, put us all at risk.

On a personal level, quick-fix health care decisions are also an abandonment of personal responsibility. Instead of addressing their diet and exercise, most patients would rather just surrender their responsibility to their doctor, effectively “offshoring” their health to a person who is usually accepting bribes from the pharmaceutical companies to push high-profit chemicals while calling it “treatment.”

For every problem in America, there’s a quick fix solution that sounds good on the surface but actually makes the problem worse. And this is how we have found ourselves in the downward spiral of insanity and ruin that now characterizes our nation.

What would a mature, wise society actually look like?

Many of those reading this have never seen anything other than quick fixes, and so they may not even recognize what mature, wise solutions look like. 

[Look at what happened to me last week as an perfect example of this.  I suggested “personal responsibility” with finances on a HuffPo article, so people wouldn’t be living paycheck to paycheck, and one crisis away from financial destruction.  I suggested that IF you had an iPhone and cable TV, but didn’t have health insurance or any savings, you might look to the mirror to see the culprit.  I was lambasted for my “right wing lunacy” and called a liar and an idiot with no compassion.  NOBODY had compassion for me when I was struggling to live AND save in my 20s and 30s!!!  I was called “cheap” and “unable to have fun”.]

Here’s a quick overview of what a mature society might do:

• “Too big to fail” banks would have been allowed to fail. Capital needs to flow AWAY from failures and toward economic successes, not the other way around.

• The health care system would be focused on increasing quality of life instead of increasing corporate “sick care” profits.

• The education system would have been completely overhauled with the intention of producing intelligent, independent-minded entrepreneurs and innovators instead of conformist slave workers.

• Pesticides, herbicides, GMOs and other poisons in the food would have been banned long ago.

• The advertising and promotion of cigarettes, sodas, pharmaceuticals and junk food would be outlawed.  [This might be too “Nanny State” for me – just tell people the truth and let them decide.  If you’re so dumb that seeing a cartoon camel smoke a cigarette makes you want one, BY ALL MEANS – kill yourself.]

• The government would act with humility and honor, abiding by its oath and doing its best to serve the betterment of society. Instead, government today is arrogant, violent, threatening and oppressive.

• The manufacturing base of America would not have been exported to China. Jobs would remain in the USA and people would be collecting paychecks, not food stamps.

• Foreign policy would be based on the desired outcome of establishing long-lasting peace rather than encouraging wars and conflicts that provide the “terrorism” back story the government needs to expand its power.  [I believe terrorism exists, but I also believe gov’t uses it, even allows or encourages it, to further the Police State that’s now commonplace.]

• Free speech would be openly encouraged. Public protests tolerated. Criticism of the government invited for the purpose of improving government. Instead, what we see today is the characterization of anyone who doesn’t worship government as a “possible homegrown terrorist” according to the Department of Homeland Security which is, itself, another quick-fix cover story.

• The money supply would be owned and operated by the People, not by a private banking cartel known as the Federal Reserve. Money would not be endlessly created, driving price inflation ever skyward. Zero-interest loans could be made to entrepreneurs to build new businesses and create new jobs. Instead what we see now is the government destroying private sector jobs and then claiming to have “created jobs” by hiring more government workers. (Economic insanity!)

• In a wise society, we would not poison our children with vaccines. Rather, we would nourish our children with superfood nutrition.

As you can see from this list, America today is nowhere near a wise society. It is a quick-fix culture of people taking shortcuts in their own lives and electing professional shortcut-takers to run the government. This does not produce a healthy, happy society in the long run. It only leads to cultural, economic and intellectual ruin.

If we don’t turn this around and start engaging in long-term planning instead of short-term fixes, America is finished[I believe she’s done.  Lady Liberty’s day is over, until total collapse.  There is NO turning this around.  It’s “too hard”.]

Christmas, 2012

That’s my little plastic tree there, and the entirety of my decorating…

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In years past, I carried lights up the radio tower, my ex-wife got out all sorts of stuff, and then we dreaded cleaning it up.  Now the bachelor routine: tree out in one minute, away in one minute, and converted to LED last year (in slightly more than one minute), so no more 50W halogen bulb spinning my meter.  The dog crate?  Elsa’s scared of tearing paper too, so just in case she needs a refuge, she has it.  (She preferred my bedroom – see below.)

Our traditions include a feast of appetizer-food on Christmas eve.  This started with my first set of in-laws, back in 1995, and the food was obscene in quantity and terribly good!  This year, Mom got me a quilted Christmas tablecloth (hand-made in Douglas) to replace one I lost (rightfully, I’m not complaining) in my first divorce.  Here’s the new one…

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 Our “appies” consisted of Malaysian Chicken Pizza (on homemade spelt crust)…

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…”Christmas” Shrimp Dip…

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 …and some simple croissants (okay, fine, if they’re out of a can, they’re crescent rolls) filled with Black Forest ham and Gouda…

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Doesn’t look as good plated, but it was good…

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The next morning, another tradition with something our family calls “Christmas Eggs Ellen”.  It’s some bread, a lb. of sautéed mushrooms,two lbs. of L’il Smokies, 3/4 lb. of cheddar, a can of cream of mushroom soup, and 4 eggs and milk.  Should come with a couple arterial stents…

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 Elsa could not contain herself as it was consumed, and she knows Mom’s a sucker for those soft brown eyes and big ears!

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I told her, “Elsa!  No beggin’!”  This sounds too much like “No Bacon”, which generally gets the point across and elicits this response…  “What?  Why?  Who?  Me?”

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Slightly smaller, Mouse doesn’t have as good a table view, but you can see her flanking Mom’s other side, and she was equally successful with her Holiday Begging…

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Later, the girls got their first present – pig ears.  Elsa devoured hers in 2 minutes, but Minna was a little unsure what to do with it.  She knew she wanted it, but wasn’t quite certain why.  Every time Elsa looked her way, the lips rolled back and OUT CAME THE TOOTHIES!  (So Elsa just turned her back and occasionally looked at Minna, which got the same response each time!)

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Finally, I got on the floor and tore a piece off and chewed on it.  (Not worth repeating…)  Minna watched, then I gave her the chewed piece, and the light went on in her mind.  She wolfed it down, and while she was doing that, I went to Elsa and snuggled with her, out of view of Minna.  A couple minutes later, I came back to check on Minna and she’d puked the whole mess all over the carpet and was “going for seconds”.  Evidently, she’d gotten enough L’il Smokie treats from Mom and me at the breakfast table that, well, suffice it to say it looked like Eggs Ellen all over my floor!  At least she helped clean it up!

Later that night, Mom and I opened some things friends had mailed.  Elsa, it turns out, is ALSO scared of tearing paper!!!  At the first “rip”, she went to hide in the bedroom.  But, Minna, she LOVED IT!  And she and Mom got along so well!  Mom was petting her, Minna was licking Mom’s hand, and Little Mouse had to investigate everything that was opened…

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After four and a half months, the two of them finally bonded and Mom got the best present ever…a new buddy!  Here’s Mom explaining Christmas to Mouse, who’s sucking up absolutely every word…

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I gotta say – I’ve been blessed with good women (moms, grannies, wives, in-laws) in my life.  So many Christmases, “the guys” just lounged on the sofa until the food was ready, then rolled back over to it when we were done eating.  This Christmas, I cooked and cleaned everything up, and I was so put off by the thought of cleaning up Christmas Dinner that I only ate a half-plate of food and wanted to get started cleaning.  All I could think of was going to bed!  Thanks, Ladies!  All those years of work are greatly appreciated!

Elsa made sure to turn the tables on me this year, too, to drive the point home!  While I was cleaning, she was “done” and doing what I always did…  (So much hair on my couch!  LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT!!!)  THIS is a ZONKED POOCH!

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Merry Christmas to all!

Elsa Goes Camping!

Saturday afternoon, Pete invited us to go to his cabin in Albany County.  We hoped to drive up through the Arapaho fire area, but the road was still closed.  We then ran onto some Forestry guys and learned that there were 100+ firefighters still watching hot spots.  Here’s Elsa watching for antelope and cows…

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Once in the mountains, Elsa had a grand time.  She stuck close by on a hike, smelling this and nibbling that – but never letting us out of her sight…

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As soon as I unrolled my sleeping bag and threw my pillow down, Elsa claimed it!  “Thanks, Dad!”  Lazy dog…  “HEY!  Is that Spam over there?”

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Once back to the house, Elsa discovered that a spatula can be good lickin’…  It wasn’t chocolate, honest!

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The West is Burning Up!

A couple weeks ago, a little 5,000 acre blaze touched off about 20 miles south-west from here.  It was called the “Russell Camp” fire and involved ~500 fire-fighters and 6 helicopters dumping water.  The cost was about $400,000 a day to fight.  Before some rain gave them the upper hand, this was the view from the ranch (a Blackberry image)…

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That fire looked terrible, but it was really nothing – no structures in danger,  95% Medicine Bow National Forest.

Now we have the Arapaho fire burning 30-40 miles south from here, behind Laramie Peak toward Wheatland.  It was 1200 acres two nights ago, 5,000 acres yesterday morning, and by last night, almost 37,000 acres. It has “extreme growth potential”.  [Added at 1321 MDT Sunday – latest news release from WY Forestry puts it at 75,051 acres now – 0% containment. – D]

Last night, Pete and I took the dogs and went for a drive up to Esterbrook.  After another (likely literally) killer burger from Dee at the Lodge, we found a place to park with some other “paparazzi” and gawkers.  The sun had just gone down behind us, and a little over-exposure shows the scene (normally, that pasture is green-as-Ireland right now)…

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We waited for complete darkness and then things got really spooky with the moon nearly obscured by smoke…

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(I was a little ticked at the idiot with the headlights a couple hundred yards away…  I mean, COME ON, dude, you want to see the fire, right?  What, you scared o’ the dark?  Oh well, it worked out for the photograph with some interesting ground-illumination.)

We forgot dog-water, so Elsa finally followed Magoo’s lead and figured out the cooler.  She is a bit like the robot, Bender, on Futurama – “Beer, beer, beer.  Beer, beer, beer, beer…”  But none were open, so she had to stick with water.

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By this morning, the winds had shifted toward us.  Visibility at a mile or so, at best.  Here’s the view looking down my driveway, south-east along Sheep Mountain…

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Breathing sucks, sleeping sucks, the dog’s freaked out, the birds are acting goofy – and ALL for good reason.   We’re in no current danger here, but this is just nuts for July 1st.  I find myself longing for winter, and I can’t imagine what the folks in Colorado are going through, as wild-fire burns through neighborhoods, consuming home upon home upon home.

I’m waiting for a few critical plumbing parts for our MBz Unimog firetruck, after finally buying a new $5K Waterous wild-land fire pump.  They can’t get here soon enough!  I hope to have this mess squirting water by Wednesday…

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The WX forecast for the next five days…  Temps above 100ºF, and windy.  Perfect.

Elsa’s First “Photo Shoot”

Elsa-Mae moved in for good last Saturday, June 9th.  She arrived on the same day – almost the same hour – as friends from Wisconsin who came out to pour some concrete for us.  I’ve been a little distracted from my new buddy #1 with all the other excitement, but after three and a half days we’re bonding nicely!

We just took a short walk and I got to chase her with the camera a bit.  I think she’s pretty photogenic, but I’m clearly her dad and likely horribly biased!

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 Elsa spent a long time in kennels, so she has her occasional accident.  It’s okay; we’re working on it!  I have dubbed her “super-burrito” for the packages she’s left, and “buckets” for the puddles!  (You can tell how much something is loved by how many names it has.  Her list is growing rapidly!)  I know it’ll all sort itself out.  She’s almost to her record again, at over 24 hours since an “oops”.  Dad just needs to pay attention to those all important signals.

This girl has a heart of gold, and after being used as breed-stock, being a mama is about all she knows.  I’ve noticed her trying to be Alpha over me here, and hate to admit it’s really cute.  I know we have to work on it a little at a time, but I’m certainly willing to let her “mother” me for a bit.  She just won’t let me out of her sight, and tries to keep me clean.  (Impossible to keep ME clean!)

Dogs ARE amazing animals, and clearly Man’s best friend.

The Pups Come for a Visit

What a day yesterday!  Elsa and Minna got to come up from Colorado for a home visit – the last step before final adoption proceedings…

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They started their trip around 0700, and got here at 1130.  Elsa’s foster-mom Gina learned the hard way that our WyHPs are looking for speeders; she got nailed!  You can safely go 79 mph, but you’re asking for it at 80+.

It’s pretty easy to do, because cruising at the 75 MPH limit in Wyoming really feels like you’re crawling along at 30 – especially when you just came out of Denver traffic.  This is Interstate 25 northbound at “rush hour” – 1730 last Thursday on my way back from meeting the girls…

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Both pups checked out the house inside and had a drink, then we sat down for a visit in the living room.  Elsa’s totally into not letting her foster mom out of sight!  She went right to Gina’s feet and curled up by the couch.  She slept at Gina’s the previous night and sorta super-bonded to her in those few hours.  She’d barely leave Gina’s side…

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 Minna is well-bonded to her foster mom Kelly and she stays close, too.  However, it’s not escaped her that my mom has a bag of liver treats in her hand…  (From the look on Mom’s face, I’m thinking she’s just tried one!  I did the other day, and they’ll do that to you.  Yuk!  I like dry kibble better.)

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Minna is so observant.  Not much in the way of sound, scent, or movement gets by her.  I can’t wait to see if she likes watching Animal Planet.  Here, doing the Yoda, she is…

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That girl’s gettin’ a treat!  How can you resist?

Outside again, the two ran around off-leash and checked it all out.  Then Elsa found my flatbed trailer and got back into the shade…

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I really think these two girls are gonna be perfect.  They do extremely well together and have quite complementary personalities.  My only worry is in taking them away from their foster moms, because it’s really clear they love ’em.  I mentioned that while Minna was snuggling with Kelly, and I *think* it was Kelly who told me to absolutely not worry about it.  She said if these girls didn’t get a forever-home, there’d be no room for new pups that need rescue.

 That logic works for perfectly me!  My door’s open and I’m ready.  They should be moving here in two weeks or so.  I’m SURE Charlis-Dog approves.

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