Thursday, February 4, 2016

An Idea For Hanging Art - Using up Some Plastic Lattice

I'm not sure if I'm just weird, or perhaps there are others out there like me, but I hate putting holes in my walls unless I really, really have to.

Maybe it goes back to my days as the proud and nervous owner of a sailboat, where "through-hulls" were to be avoided wherever possible, as they always presented a real danger of sinking your investment as quickly as any torpedo.

In any case, it's held me back from wanting to hang much artwork in the cabin yet.  I do appreciate that artwork is probably non-negotiable to many people, so in principle I didn't have anything against putting in the required hardware, but I preferred to try to keep it somehow flexible so that we could change up the art once in awhile.

Probably feeding into this idea of rotating artwork is the fact that we have a child who can often become prodigious (or is it prolific?  Or profligate?!) at generating master-works.

Enter some leftover lattice from my sauna floor experiment!  It did take a bit of digging out from under the snow, and then I sat it in the sun to dry, but fortunately that was one of my sunny days, and it dried very quickly.

Nice and dry, with a hint of a wave that hopefully will smooth out over time.
I first put up a piece in Kenny's room.  Two cup hooks, some small binder clips, and he was set!  Much nicer than when he (gasp) was using scotch tape to tape his pictures directly to his wall.

Perfect for a youngster to hang up his favourite artwork!

Then in the main cabin, I put up the other piece, this time with three cup hooks to ensure it could support more weight.  This time I festooned it with a few small s-hooks, and then hung up our framed art and photographs.

Looks like a good spot!
I like how it turned out.  Three hooks in the wall vs. many, and it lets us easily arrange the pictures to our hearts content!

Okay, okay, I know they aren't all level - this was a quick test run to see how it would look up there!
Alright folks, will anyone link to this post via Pinterest?  Or will I have to try to figure out how to do that myself?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Happiness is... A Solar Panel Array Cleared of Snow!

Is that my thumb in the picture?!
 Gosh it is gratifying to have cleared solar panels...  When I know that there is a few little chunks of snow or ice blocking one of my panels, I get all worked up about the (honestly significant) loss in efficiency!  I sleep better knowing that these guys are all ready to go for me at the drop of any cloud cover.

When we returned from southern Ontario, the panels seemed to have partially melted and then re-froze.  That was much more annoying and difficult to clear than just regular fluffy snow would have been.

I could sweep off most of it, but then had to rely on a sunny day to melt the remainder.  It's really surprising how even at twenty below, full sun can melt snow and ice on a black background!

Now, if only I could find a way to harness the power lost in that gap between Sweep Pmax and Output Power...  Lithium batteries would go a long way in that department!  Maybe by the time these old lead-acid ones are ready to be put out to pasture, the lithium technology will be evolved enough to make it palatable.

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Tale of Two Kettles.

It was the best of boil times, it was the blurst of boil times...

But seriously, things you never really think about in life.  A few weeks ago it was front entrance cleanup day.  As Kenny can attest to, this also includes the woodstove, as it is adjacent to the entrance, and I figure that cleaning out the ashes and carrying them out the front door is a good time to just clean the entire area.

One other group of things I clean at the same time are the implements that we commonly use on the woodstove.  Most obviously, our kettles.

In spite of having the water reservoir on the stove, we've found it to not be as usable as we first would have imagined.  I suppose it is a bit challenging to fill, or remember to keep filled.  Not to mention that it doesn't have a lid, so it gets rapidly contaminated with dirt and debris.  It's just much easier to use kettles - and they tend to heat up faster anyway.

But I digress.  I was cleaning out our oldest kettle (the one we generally use for non-potable water) and happened to scrub off a nodule of rust on the bottom rim.  I thought this was a good thing, but as it turned out, that was some load bearing rust, and when I buffed up the kettle, refilled it, and placed it on the stove, lo and behold - water began to puddle under it on the stovetop.  Rats.

Doubly annoying was the fact that only a week or two beforehand, I had sent off a kettle to the thrift store, deciding that it wasn't needed any longer.

Off to the shops to purchase a spiffy replacement.

I found a suitable model at Walmart for $12.98.  It seemed to fit the bill nicely.  Stainless steel, whistling...  Handle?  What else do you look for in a kettle?  Well, let me tell you...
Walmart Kettle.  Looks normal, doesn't it?
It almost never boiled.  It got warm, it got hot, but to boil?  You had to have it on the stove for hours, or get the stovetop surface in excess of 400 degrees.

So anyway, after discussion with Donna, and reminding myself about the psychological issues associated with sunk costs, I hit up Superstore for another kettle.  I found what for all intents and purposes looked to be an identical model for $12.00.  (Actually, they had a good one for $10.00 on clearance - but it was bright, bright red - I didn't think that would go with our decor).
Superstore Kettle.  Looks identical, doesn't it?
He's crazy! - Is what you might say, if you thought I bought an identical kettle hoping it would produce different results.  But here's where my tale becomes a bit more gripping (to those of you in the market for a kettle)...

I had examined the Walmart kettle to see if there was an explanation for its mediocre performance, and noted that the large, flat portion of the base of this kettle was actually inset compared to the crimped outer edge.  This had the effect of lifting most of the kettle off of the flat surface of the stove - so virtually none of the kettle was in direct contact with the stovetop.  There was a permanent, fraction of an inch spacing between the kettle and the stove.
What's this?!  The rim of the kettle is flush with the cutting board, meaning that the main base of the kettle inside the rim is not making contact with the heating surface of the stove!
The Superstore kettle, on the other hand, clearly had the flat portion of the base extending below the crimped bottom rim.  It put almost the entire base against the stovetop for maximum heat transfer.
Ahhh, the rim is lifted off the cutting board - that must mean that the base of the kettle is actually in direct contact with the stovetop - much, much, much better boiling action!
On a gas stove, this difference would likely never be noticed - the flames lick the bottom of the vessels in virtually any circumstance.

Same with electric - either you put the kettle on a smaller element such that the rim doesn't space it off; or else you just don't notice the efficiency because your electricity is so amazingly cheap you can just turn it up to effect a boil.

Those of us trying to heat items with a flat woodstove top though - it pays big dividends to purchase cookware with wide, flat bases that make maximum contact.

As always dear readers, let my mistakes be your tuition in the sometimes pricey school of life.