It's been forever since I've made a blog post, mostly because I've spent the last three months building a new deck on our house. We had a deck on the south and east sides of the house, but after building the arctic entryway last summer, the part of the deck on the east side had to be removed. For this project, I added a new deck in front of the arctic entryway that connects to the part of the old deck that's on the south side of the house, and replaced all of the old deck boards on that section of the deck. This was a lot of work. I don't have the exact number but I've driven more than 2,500 screws in the last three months, and removed at least a third of that many pulling up the old decking.
I finished the stairs and stair railings on the entry section of the deck yesterday just in time; this morning we had a quarter of an inch of snow on the ground.
The top photo shows what the deck looked like yesterday, the bottom photo shows what it looked like this morning.
I bought one new tool for this project, a Ridgid cordless drill. This was because the deck screws from the old part of the deck were Phillips head and I knew I wanted to use square drive screws for the new sections. I figured I would use my corded drill to drive the new screws, and the cordless drill to remove the old ones. It turned out that the old screws were both Phillips and square drive so I only needed one drill. I used the cordless. It was fantastic. One big improvement over the corded drill, that I didn't realize is that it has a much higher RPM, which means it's much faster to drive (or remove) screws. Add to that the lighter weight and that I didn't have to drag a cord around and it's now one of my favorite tools. The only thing that managed to bog it down was drilling half-inch holes through wet pressure-treated 4x4s.
We got 2 inches of snow yesterday (October 26th), so the wait is finally over.
I made the mistake of riding my bicycle to work yesterday, as the snow was falling. It wasn’t too bad on my way in to work, but by the time I left, more than an inch of snow had fallen and the roads hadn’t been plowed. I do have studded, knobby tires on my bicycle, but they’re don’t work very well in situations where the snow is deeper than the tread. I managed to stay upright the whole way home, but it was some white-knuckle, one-wheel drive bicycling.
Note: Yesterday’s first real snowfall was the 8th latest in the 62 year historical record I have access to for the Fairbanks airport station. I'm not sure where the statistics reported in Tuesday’s newspaper came from.
We got our first real snowfall last night, about two inches at our place. It probably won’t last (the second week in October is normally when we get the snow that stays until April), but it means the roads will be dangerous for the next couple days or weeks. Last week we saw our first great horned owl of the fall, and the snowshoe hares are rapidly turning white so winter is just about here. We’re hoping for a bunch of early season snowfall this year to get the trails set up for skiing and mushing.
What’s cool about the first snowfall of the year, especially when it’s a lot of snow like last night, is how totally different the world looks. You go to bed and it’s painted in yellows and browns, but when you wake up, it’s all cleaned up in black and white and blue. I know it’ll melt, probably later today and turn brown again, but as the sun comes up on the new wintry world, it feels fresh.
I finished wiring the shed yesterday afternoon. I was surprised at how long it took, but since everything is connected in series, each connection has to be perfect or nothing down the line will work. I’ve lived in enough cabins with funky wiring to know that it’s better to do it right the first time. The shed now has an outlet on each wall, an outdoor GFCI outlet on the outside of the building, a pair of lights in the ceiling, and an outdoor motion-detecting floodlight (that’s what’s lighting the photo on the right). The lights are wired to a switch next to the door. All that’s left is to clean up the inside and build what we need to store stuff in there. We’d planned on painting the floor, but I think it’s too late in the year for that now.
Still on vacation. I just finished brewing my second batch of beer in the last week. It was originally called “Barking Buddy”, named after our biggest sled dog Buddy, but because of the heavy snow we’ve been getting today, I decided to rename it “Barking Buddy Blizzard Bitter.” All this snow is odd because early last week we had daytime highs in the 50s and the snow on the ground was rapidly melting. Suddenly, it looks a lot more like winter than spring. The top photo shows the start of the boil; that’s Buddy in the dog yard in the background of the photo.
Devil Dog Rye IPA fermented nicely over the past week, going from a gravity of 1.086 down to 1.022 at transfer to the secondary fermenter (a keg). I left for a funeral the day after I brewed it and put Andrea in charge of monitoring the temperature and the location of the fermentation chamber’s insulated lid. I removed the lid the morning after brewing because the yeast was going crazy and the wort temperature was up to 75°F. The wort was pitched on top of the yeast cake from the primary fermentation of my previous batch, and that’s why I got such a rapid fermentation and high temperature despite the high starting gravity. I was worried that there might be some off-flavors from the heat, but the beer tasted really good when I transferred it so I think it’ll be OK. Without Andrea’s help, it probably would have either gotten even hotter (if I’d left the lid on) or gotten too cold and I would have returned from Chicago to a stuck fermentation.
Today’s brew was relatively uneventful. I got another very high mash efficiency (85%!) this time around. As I mentioned in my last brewing post, I suspect this is due to my new mill, but it could also be the longer mashing times I’ve used, or the change in base malt (Castle Pale to Crisp Maris Otter). I’m happy that my yields are back up again, but it’s unfortunate that I changed all three variables at the same time so I can’t positively assign a cause to the improvement. I also hit my target pitching temperature of 66°F on the nose this time, so I’m finally getting the hang of the pump I’m using to circulate cold water through the plate chiller. It’s all good.
The second photo shows Kiva’s reaction to the dog beds being occupied. Buddy has a tendency to stretch himself out across two beds, and when Koidern nestled in next to Buddy there was no room for Kiva. But rather than moving to one of the other beds we’ve got, she wedged in behind Koidern. In the photo she’s giving Koidern the stink-eye, trying to get her to move. Didn’t work, and eventually all three went to sleep all packed together on the two beds.
One more day of vacation until the weekend. I’m looking forward to smoking salmon, working on a side table for Andrea, and relaxing.
We finally started getting some of our winter snow. It started yesterday morning, and it’s been snowing pretty hard ever since then. By midnight yesterday we’d gotten an inch and a half, according to the Weather Service, and I’d guess we now have four to five inches on the ground.
Earlier in the year we went to a garage sale and scored a snow thrower for cheap. Today was my first opportunity to see if it actually worked. As promised, it started right up, and did a great job moving snow around. Unfortunately, the snow isn’t packed down much at all, and so it was perfectly happy to pick up and fling frozen dirt and gravel from the driveway. I think it might be a good idea to drive on top of the snow for awhile, and start using the snow thrower once there’s a better base underneath it.
The water delivery guy said that he used to “plow” his two mile long driveway by running his snow thrower out on one tire track, and then back on the other track. Driving over the cleared areas caused the berm in the middle to get spread out evenly over the driveway, resulting in a nice flat surface. I doubt if I’m going to go the 1.2 miles from our house to the nearest plowed road, but I might try this on the worst section of it. Or the worst section of it that’s close to our house, since there are so many bad areas…
Nika enjoys hanging out in the snow, and since she’s black, she’s really good at demonstrating how hard it’s snowing outside. This isn’t the greatest photograph, since I took it through the sliding glass door, but after I let her in, I was just about to snap a photo when she shook all the snow off on my slippers. Thanks Nika!