Monday, November 26, 2018

Our dog-powered clothes dryer

Earlier this year, I signed up for a "30-day sustainability challenge".  This challenge was the brainchild of a student at my college.  The idea is that everyone who signs up gets an email each day during November, and this email contains an "easy" and a "hard" sustainability challenge that we're supposed to attempt.

Except that for me, well, the challenges would kind of push me in the wrong direction.  As one example, the email one day encouraged us:

"Easy:  carpool to the grocery store.  Hard: take the bus to the mall".
The issue for me is that I don't go to the grocery store or the mall; when I do go to our farmer's market, I bike.  Yeah, so that wasn't the hint for me.

Another pair of challenges more recently included this:
"Easy: wash your clothes in cold water.  Hard: make your own reusable dryer sheets."
So, the cold-water wash, we've got down.  But the dryer-sheet-thing doesn't work so well with our dog-powered clothes dryer.  Observe:

About two decades ago, I bought for my husband (aka, "The Lord of the Laundry") some very sturdy, large, Amish-made wooden drying racks.  He asked for them, he really did.  This man loves doing laundry.  He also loves the electric dryer.  But apparently, he loves me even more, because he's become more and more willing to air-dry more and more of our laundry, especially in the summer when outdoor temperatures rise and he can bake the clothes thoroughly. 

And I love when he hangs clothes instead of tossing them in a machine.  Indeed, the difference between using the dryer can easily mean $20-$30 swings in our monthly electric bill. 

In the winter, he's been more likely to resort to the electric dryer.  He recently told me that the reason is that clothes just don't dry quickly in our basement.  So I suggested moving the racks upstairs to a bedroom that is almost empty -- the only other thing in that room these days is the dog crate (and because of that, often the dog). 

Heat rises, of course, and the dry winter air means that clothes upstairs actually do dry fairly quickly, much to my husband's delight.   But my husband and I like to think that the body heat of the dog hastens the drying process. 

And that's how we managed to acquire our dog-powered clothes dryer, no dryer sheets required.  

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Miser family update: abounding

Well, life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family, with celebrations abounding, and also with abounding red ink, knee fluid, toddler energy, and heating gas.  

The final celebration of the week was at our city's annual Tuba Christmas, one of my favorite events of the year.  My husband somehow managed to find something else to do (kill joy), but a bunch of my kids braved the icy winter weather with me, and we oompahhed with a large crowd of well-insulated revelers to Jingle Bells and Silent Night and Good King Wenceslas.  

The night before Tuba Christmas, we had a dozen people in the house for Thanksgiving, including students from the far-off countries of Iran, Vietnam, and Florida.   Also 2/3 (= 4/6) of my children, 100% of my grandchildren, and my dad and step mom.  Oh, my goodness, I ate until I got cramps!  (But fortunately, the chocolate-pecan pie cured the cramps!)

The grandchild has been thriving in her gymnastics classes, and she tried out some of her wiggliest moves on her buff uncle J-son, who somehow managed to kind of keep up with her.  They make a great pair.

And with the cold snap moving in, gifting us with the coldest Thanksgiving in recent history, I-daughter decided it might be about time to turn on the heat in her home this week.  Apparently, if the temps inside the house get down into the low 50's, her fingers get too cold for knitting.  But unfortunately, the local utility company had done some gas line work and shut off the gas to her home, so she had a few frigid showers and knitting-free days before she could warm up  the home to a balmy 64°. 
I-daughter reading a book about knitting gifts
to A-child.  K-daughter and N-son listen in.
On Monday of this week, my husband decided that the swelling in his recently repaired knee ought to be looked at, and the physicians agreed, and drained some fluid via a needle.  (Answers to questions his bike buddies asked: no, it didn't hurt because novocaine; about 2 ounces; yellow-greenish). 

I gave midterms to my 75 students on Monday, which was draining in a different sort of a way.  Then I graded it, draining ink via a pen.  (could have used novocaine; about 1/2 pen worth; red as blood). 

Backing up further, the celebration that kicked off the week was N-son's 19th birthday party.  Whoop!  We had pizza and brownie cake and presents.  I love watching this kid become a young man.

Scullery help.
The week ended softly, with rain moving in and warming the air outdoors.   I spent the day putting finishing touches on a paper I'd promised an editor I'd finish soon, and also canning a dozen or so quarts of turkey stock.  I love how these jars act like lava lamps when I pull them out of the pressure canner, and their "blurps" kept me company as I polished up the bibliography and hammered the abstract into shape. 

And that's the news from our family, which continues to be wealthy in our adventures and bodily fluids.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Goldilocks and the five chairs

I might have mentioned a time or two that my neighbors, on garbage-collection days,  often put out things that aren't really what I'd call garbage.  It kind of astounds me:  so much perfectly good stuff gets left at the curb, just because its owners got tired of it.

For example, speaking solely of chairs: within the last year alone, I've trash-picked five different chairs within a radius of 3 blocks of my house.
  • There's a cute wooden chair that kind-of matches the style of chair at our dining room table.  Since we often have a bazillion guests coming over for dinners, it's lovely having an extra dining-room chair at the ready.
  • There's an antique-looking, low chair.  This one serves wonderfully for reading the paper in the morning, because it's so low that I don't even need a foot stool. Since I'd been looking for a comfy reading chair for my sewing room for a while now, I was stoked to find this for free next to my neighbor's overflowing garbage can.
  • There have also been three (3!) different office chairs at three different neighbor's curbs.  One had two semi-kinky wheels; a second was getting a little worn, but was in perfectly serviceable shape, and the third is practically new.  (It has the lever that whooshes the seat up and down, five rolling wheels, shiny chrome, . . . it's fab, really).  It floors me that someone left that for a garbage truck:  why not Goodwill?  Yard sale?  Refugee resettlement?  
I can't save the entire world from becoming an assemblage of one-way conveyor belts between shopping malls and landfills.  But, seriously, what's with this mode of thinking that the best thing to do with a bicycle (or chair or ladder) that you no longer need is to bury it?  Sheesh!

So while Goldilocks went into the bears' home to sit in their chairs and break them, I've gone on walks  that ended with carting home 5 new-to-me chairs this year.  And four of those chairs continue to work out great.  And one of them (the office chair that was getting a little worn) finally developed a kink in the back-support piece.    Which meant that, like the chair's previous owners, I no longer wanted it (and guessed that no one else would, either, because it didn't seem to be repairable).

So I played Goldilocks again:  I was sitting in that chair, and then I broke the chair into pieces. I really love taking things apart -- it's kind of therapeutic, I think.   
  • I unscrewed bolts and tossed the metal pieces in one pile.  The metal from the chair will go to a scrap dealer.  
  • I snipped strings and tossed the fabric and foam in another pile.  The foam will get posted on Freecycle, for crafters or package-shippers to use.  
  • There are a few inevitable plastic pieces that will, alas, go to the landfill.   Darn it.  
As much as I love taking things apart, I love even more using the stuff that I take apart to fix other things -- a win all around.  So the last thing I did was, I pulled off the wheels, and used those to replace the kinky wheels on office chair #1, so now that chair is essentially perfect.   Just right.   

Baby Bear would be pleased, I think.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Miser Family/Not Family update

The past two weeks have been a plethora of full richness in the Miser Family.   There's been drumming at church (N-son), canvassing and poll-watching (my husband), exam giving (me), doctor-attending (a bunch of us), new job starting (K-daughter), plus a bunch of travel.  Oog, travel.  More on that later.

N-son voted for the second time. 

In fact, we went as a family, and voted together.  This is me, showing that I still haven't mastered the selfie, because I meant to get all three "I voted" stickers in the picture.  Ah, well.

I mentioned that K-daughter started a new job, doing production of stuff, and significantly upping her hourly wage.  She was very worried that it would be boring, repetitive, and overly egg-heady.   But she's sent me excited texts full of exclamation points several days this week.  For example:

Mom! Mom! I am learning ALL KINDS OF COOL THINGS at work!! Yesterday I helped operate our robot that essentially glues our HVAC units together (5 different pieces) today, I learned how to use an angle grinder and cut steel apart! It was so awesome!

Mom! Today I learned how to caulk (?) Stuff! And I used drills! I am also helping one of the younger engineers build stuff and he really loves my suggestions and finds them helpful! It may even help out our entire design! I'm having so much fun at work :D

Toward the end of the week, I hopped on a plane to go see my nephew get married, all the way across the country.  The weather was beautiful, and I had a gorgeous day for flying and a bunch of lovely mathematics to write about. I made the first leg beautifully, and then my flight from Chicago to San Diego was delayed 15 minutes for maintenance issues. Then a half hour more.  Then another hour. Then . . . after waiting 3 hours, they announced another plane would be coming soon, but by then, I'd have missed the wedding.  So I hopped back on an eastbound plane and headed back home instead.  I missed the wedding and my family and dancing.   Here's the picture that I took as all the dancing began.  
Baggage claim.  
Without me.  But I did get a bunch of math done.

This Veteran's Day, my husband and Nigel went to a ceremony at our State Capital, and my husband gave the main address.  (He explained that since he'd been enlisted during four different wars, they were getting a four-for-one deal with his talk).  Compared to what these men and women have been through, my little airplane-maintenance adventure seems pretty tame, doesn't it?  So thank you, veterans!

And that's the news from our family, currently on two different coasts, but still wealthy in our adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.