Posts Tagged ‘wood stove’

A Discomforting Noise

On Sunday my husband left for a two-week trip to our home town, while I remain in Maine. People often ask me if I’m afraid to be alone in such a rural spot.  Fortunately the area in which I live is pretty much crime-free.  There are people I can call for assistance for other emergencies if necessary.   But of course there is always the possibility of an accident.

The only time this became a reality was when I fell  – – hard! – – on some ice and just quietly lay on my back on the snowy ground looking up at the sky, waiting for the pain to pass and thinking, “This. Is. Not. Good.”  I knew I wasn’t badly hurt, but the drama queen in me did force me to consider the possibility that I could die here and no one would know about it!  (My husband and I do communicate with one another several times a day, so help would arrive before the vultures start circling.)  Fortunately after a few minutes’ rest I was able to get up and go about my business.  I do try to avoid unnecessary risks when possible.  I always let someone know where I’m going and when I expect to be back when I walk, hike, or kayak alone.  My dog usually accompanies me.  I wear bright neon colors even when it’s not hunting season so I’m easily visible while walking on the road or kayaking on the lake.  And I am well versed in self-defense.  I guess I just have the spirit of a free-range kid.

But for Monday, with my husband away, I was planning on sleeping in late.

Alas, it was not meant to be.  I was awakened abruptly at 6:30 a.m. by a horrible, loud vibrating noise.  It sounded like a pipe that might be connected to our furnace.  The noise came and went, then started up again intermittently.  I dragged myself out of bed, praying that the furnace would not blow.

It’s times like these that being alone can be challenging.  Unlike in my home town, I don’t ever feel unsafe here in rural Maine, but it’s a hard realization that you can’t rely on someone else to solve your problems for you.  You need to stay calm, and think things through, which is sometimes easier said than done.  Mainers are great diagnosticians and good repairmen, but I didn’t want to call my heating person only to find out it wasn’t the furnace – – I didn’t want the story of that “dumb lady from away” to make the rounds of the local diner that would make me a laughingstock and recipient of quiet smirks the next time I went into town.  So I was determined to get to the bottom of the mysterious noise.  Even if I couldn’t fix it, I could at least identify it.

But when I got to the basement, the noise faded, and I realized the source of the noise was elsewhere.  But where?

There was no regular pattern to the noise.  I kept walking around the house looking for clues.  Then I went to the porch.  It could be the noise was coming from outside.

When I ventured outside, the noise stopped.  To be safe, I carefully checked under the porch, and around all four exterior corners.  Nothing.  But the second I stepped inside, the noise started up again.  Now I determined the sound was indeed coming from outside.  But it was like a game:  when I would go outside, the noise would stop.  I’d go inside, and the noise would start up again. Back and forth, in and out, and I wasn’t any closer to solving the mystery.

Finally I went outside and stayed outside.  Making myself small, I stood silent like a statue, not moving an inch.  I waited for the noise to start up again, whenever that might be.  And sure enough I wasn’t disappointed:  a yellow-bellied sapsucker, which is a type of woodpecker, flew to my roof and promptly began attacking my metal chimney cap!

Why a woodpecker would prefer metal to all the juicy, bug-saturated trees surrounding my house remains a mystery. Perhaps it saw the chimney as an alluring location for a future nest.  And this bird was no dummy.  The minute it would see me, it would fly away, but as soon as I retreated to the shadows it was back, pounding away.  The vibration in my house was actually the entire length of the metal chimney reacting to the woodpecker’s pounding outside.  Besides the genuine annoyance from the noise, I was concerned about damage to the chimney, which would be an expensive repair.  And because I am away for weeks at a time when I visit my family in my home town, I was not going to be able to be on constant woodpecker patrol.

The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker woodpecker

The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker woodpecker

But I was here now and I just wanted my peace and quiet.

Even though it wasn’t particularly cold outside, I decided to build an early morning fire in the wood stove.  I figured the combination of hot metal and spewing smoke from the chimney top would discourage the bird.  Fortunately I was right!  The woodpecker stayed away the remainder of the day.

Alas, the very next morning at 6:30 a.m. the yellow-bellied sapsucker was back, pounding away.  Now the outside temperature was even warmer, but once again I lit a fire and I was undisturbed the rest of the day.

This morning the bird must have decided it wasn’t worth the effort, and left my chimney – – and me! – – blessedly alone.  Considering that outside temperatures are supposed to reach a beautiful 70 degrees next week, I hope I won’t be lighting any more fires in the wood stove to keep the woodpecker away, anytime soon.  And tomorrow, I’m sleeping in.

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Digging Out

After several big snowfalls, and last night’s 8-incher, we decided that before tackling the digging out process, we would go on a short walk in the woods.  We live near several snowmobile trails that except for weekends are barely in use.  Because these trails are groomed and compacted regularly, it means we have many options for walking in the woods in remote areas, but don’t require snowshoes.

On Sundays we might see as many as 10  – 15 snowmobilers.

A snowmobiler crosses our path

A snowmobiler crosses our path

I have mixed feelings.  I am certainly appreciative both to the state of Maine and private snowmobile clubs for maintaining the snowmobile trails.  It’s a lot of work and expense to keep them groomed right after a snowfall, packing down the snow and making sure the trail is free from debris.  These trails go on for hundreds of miles, right to the Canadian border, and it enables people to enjoy the woods and go places they couldn’t reach otherwise.  Snowmobilers also bring in a huge amount of revenue for local businesses and the State of Maine, from rentals, sales, motels, restaurants, gift stores, gas stations, apparel stores, and even repair mechanics.

For people who don’t have snowmobiles, the trails provide a place to go hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.  Caveat:  proceed with caution.  Snowmobiles are basically motorcycles on skis.  They go fast, and some trails are narrow.  It is the snowmobilers, not other outdoor adventurers, who have the right of way, so if you hear a snowmobile approaching, you had better step aside off the trail – – and do so quickly.  The downside to snowmobiles is that they are noisy and their exhaust is smelly.  It seems counter to enjoying a beautiful day in the woods to be creating so much noise, when one of the things I like best about our area is the pristine quiet.  But since there are easier, quicker places to reach, we really do get a minimum amount of trail use by snowmobilers in our area, so the benefits of trail use for hiking outweigh any negatives.

 The ethereal beauty of our woods

The ethereal beauty of our woods near our home.  If you look carefully, you will see a snowmobiler to the left of the shed.

 

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Walking along the groomed trail

Walking along the groomed trail

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When we returned from our 3-mile excursion, we decided to get to work digging out from the previous night’s storm.

First we tackled the mailbox. Two years ago I had a welder create the frame for our mailbox so that the mailbox could be hung from chains, thereby averting knocks and destruction by passing snowplows.  The top of the pole is 7′ tall, so based on these pictures you can see that we’ve gotten a lot of snow so far.  In fact, even though I try to keep the mailbox area clear so that our mail lady won’t have any difficulties delivering our mail, if we get much more snow in the coming weeks I won’t have any place left to shovel the snow away from the mailbox.

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Even though our Plow Guy snowplows the 500′ long driveway following a snowfall of at least 4″, there is always plenty snow clean-up that remains for us to address.

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First my husband cleared a path to our 1000-gallon buried propane tank.

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Next he removed the snow from our emergency back-up generator, ensuring the air vents and access to the doors were clear.

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He also made a path to and under the laundry lines, since even on freezing days, I hang freshly laundered clothes out to dry.

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He shoveled a way to the solar panels so I could brush off the snow from the glass with our corn broom.

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We have two kinds of snow shovels. One is actually a snow pusher, as seen here. It can move huge amounts of snow without killing one’s back. Our regular shovel, seen to the left of the picture, is good for tight spots, icy or heavy, wet snow that the snow pusher can’t handle.

This has been a cold and snowy winter.  We’ve used quite a bit of wood.  But no worries:  I have several more cords of wood sitting under tarps alongside the wood shed, which have been drying out for 2 to 5  years.  The wood was harvested from our property starting six years ago, when we cleared part of the land to make the driveway, the foundation for the house, and a sunny, open field in front of the solar panels.  This summer I will be lugging and stacking wood into the wood shed, getting ready for the Winter of 2016.  The 12′ x 16′ wood shed can hold 5 – 6 years’ worth of stacked wood.  Our super-efficient Hearthstone soapstone wood stove and excellent interior insulation means we’ll only use about 2 cords of wood this year (about 2 pickup truck loads).

The white bag in the shed contains kindling.  I got this huge bag for cheap from a furniture shop - inside are the discarded raw  wood ends that are perfect for fire-starting.  Otherwise, I gather kindling from broken branches right on our property.

The white bag in the shed contains kindling. I got this huge bag for cheap from a furniture shop – inside are the discarded raw wood ends that are perfect for fire-starting. Otherwise, I gather kindling from broken branches right on our property.

Of course, we are far from done with shoveling.  Another storm is headed our way Wednesday and a 1′ snowfall is predicted.  It would not be unusual to still be shoveling in April.

It may sound like we need to get our heads examined, but both of us truly enjoy our outside chores in the cold temperatures.  Not only does it beat going to the gym, it makes us appreciate how blessed we are that we are still up to the task.