Ten feet of sunlight

We had some pretty cold weather here last week. One morning shortly after sunrise we saw 8F (around -13C). It stayed below freezing all day and then dropped to around 11F by the next morning.

Of course I kept a fire going.

I also kept the blower on to get some of the heat into our bedroom.

We have electric floor heat in both bathrooms, although we turn on the heat in only one of the bathrooms. The heat comes on for a few hours in the morning for Leah and in the evening for me. Some heat is also provided by the usual appliances, like refrigerator and freezer, and a little bit from the television, and even less from things like the bedside clock. But, if I keep the fire going, essentially all of our heat comes from the wood stove.

On a night with a low closer to average, which is around freezing this time of year, we can keep the living room between 70 and 73 all night by stoking the fire before bedtime and then stoking again during the night. If we turn off the blower, the bedroom cools from around 70 down to maybe 68, or possibly even 66.. On nights like we had last week, I have to keep the stove draft almost wide open and add more wood twice during the night to keep a hot-enough fire going until morning.

I underestimated the amount of firewood we needed for the winter, so a couple of weeks ago I went into the woods on our property and cut some more trees that I had marked as dead last summer. We lost nearly all the native dogwoods growing here, so I ended up cutting several decent-sized trees with trunks around five or six inches in diameter.

Seasoned dogwood, at least near the base, is a nice, pretty, pale pink. It’s almost a shame to burn it. In fact, I would never cut a living dogwood just for firewood. They are my favorite understory tree, but even if they were not, they are usually pretty small trees. The ones I cut must have been at least 20 years old to get as big as they did, maybe even older. Since they were already dead and had been standing, drying for so long, and since I needed firewood, I cut them. Dogwood makes good firewood. It’s dense and burns for a long time.

The energy we get from burning wood comes ultimately from the sun. Photosynthesizing plants use energy from the sun to break the molecular bonds of carbon dioxide in the air, producing carbon, which plants use to build the structure of the plant, and oxygen, which is essentially a waste product for plants. And thanks to the plants for pooping out that oxygen, since we couldn’t live without it. (If you haven’t thanked a photosynthesizing plant for giving us their unused oxygen, do so immediately.)

Carbon dioxide is a stable molecule. It requires energy to break the bond that keeps it together. The energy required to break the carbon-oxygen bond is essentially stored in the carbon. Burning the carbon gets that energy back. That makes a tree essentially a storage device for solar energy.

On those very cold nights last week, I fed our fire three times in one night, once before I went to bed, a second time about around 3 am, and a third time around 4 or 5 am. Each time I used three pieces of wood that were about a foot long and five to six inches in diameter. I fed the fire a total of nine pieces of wood, for total of about 10 feet of tree trunk.

That means that it took about 10 feet of stored solar energy to heat our house on that cold night.

Almost a month in

We’re still here, as confused as ever. Tuesday night will be four weeks since we moved into our new house. We still don’t have a kitchen, which is every bit as inconvenient as you might imagine. We have four doors, including on the bathrooms. We have no baseboards and no trim on the windows. The yard is bare dirt. This is probably the first time I have thought it just as well to be in a drought; dirt is easier to handle than mud, especially on a dog’s foot. We finally have some rods in our closet so we can take our clothes out of our trailer and hand them up.

We are less than satisfied by some of the work the subs did on the house. The painter was absolutely terrible. He used a sprayer to prime and got overspray all over the hardwood and tile floors and windows. There are globs of trash on the walls that I certainly would have wiped off before calling the job done. The electrician is a nice guy, but we keep having to call him back to fix problems. Some of the work on the deck is also not very professional.

But every night we can look at the twinkling lights of town and see the stars, if they’re out, and every morning we can watch the sun rise, right from our bed. And this was the view Sunday night from our porch.


This is where the cats have been spending their time.


Leah and I were both surprised at how well the cats handled the move, and we remain surprised at how well they’re handling their incarceration. Chloe and Dusty are in the pen on the right, and Smokey and Sylvester are on the left. Leah has brought Sylvester, Smokey and Chloe inside separately a few times. Sylvester seems OK and Smokey somewhat less so. Chloe wanders around like a little lost cat and seems to want to go back out to the familiarity of her pen. We opened the door to her pen Sunday morning but she just stared. Dusty didn’t even respond.

It came as no surprised when we noticed a few days ago that someone had stolen the “Slow Cat Crossing” sign we put up near our new mailbox. I guess we’ll order a new one once the cats get parole. I may move our game camera to get a good view of the sign. Maybe we can identify whoever steals it the next time.

There was a happy note a few days ago. I was walking the dogs down Fouche Gap Road and thought I heard a cat. I listened and wasn’t able to convince myself that it was a cat. I thought it might have been a weird call from a bird I wasn’t familiar with. The next day I heard it and eventually saw where it came from. It was a small kitten that had been dumped and was hiding in a hollow in a tree trunk. It came right out and up to me and the dogs. On the way back up, it came out again and followed us to the house where the people who bought from us had been renting. Some workers were repairing various things and they saw the cat. A few hours later Leah and I came back down the mountain on the way to dinner and stopped to leave food and water. One of the workers had given the kitten a piece of ham from his sandwich so it was staying in the back yard.


The kitten is smaller than it looks here.

The worker ended up taking the kitten home. He told us the next day it had slept on his bed with him that night. It’s too good to be true. Not every animal story has that good an ending.


My father would be 99 years old today. It’s hard to comprehend. That’s the kind of span of time that seems appropriate for a history book but not for a personal experience.
I wanted to say a lot more about this anniversary, and maybe I will later, but that’s going to have to be all for now. Leah and I closed the sale of our old house last Wednesday and moved into an unfinished house – no doors, no trim, no kitchen. We worked to move out last Tuesday until the sun was nearly up, and we have been so busy since that I am exhausted. Almost all we own is still packed in boxes around the house and in the garage. I have not found the box we use for internet connectivity, so I am typing this on my iPad at our local IHOP. Once things settle down a little I will be back with more.

Out of the road, turkeys!

We see turkeys around the mountain fairly often. A few days ago Sam flushed a flock in our back yard, and then a few days later the four of us (Zeke, Lucy, Sam and me)  flushed a big one in the same place. Turkeys don’t like to fly, but this one took off like a loaded tanker and sailed away just above the trees.

Monday afternoon, after a visit to the grocery store and a couple of building supply stores, I saw this as I drove by the front of our new lot. (For some reason, it’s not showing the first frame of the video, so you have to click the link to see it).

Turkeys by the road

I counted seven turkeys. I hope they survive turkey season. Here in Georgia it runs from around late March to mid-May.

… as a young woman

Every once in a while someone you think you know turns out to be not quite what you thought. My old friends from the Atlanta area who now live in Denver have a daughter/granddaughter that I don’t know nearly as well as I know her mother/grandparents, but from my limited time visiting out there, I assumed she was a nice teenaged girl who wanted a Honda Element, just like every other teenaged girl. It turns out she’s not just that, she’s an artist.

Here she is at work.

artist emily

Here’s what she was working on. The antlers are cholla cactus bones.

cholla buck

Here’s another.

colonel rabbit

And, just to show she’s at home in other media.


Here’s a self portrait of the artist.


I love the whimsy in a lot of her work. I can’t wait to see what she does next.