River Still Hungry

We had another rainy weekend, this time with 4″ of rain in just 18 hours. Here’s what our cellar and our river looked like at the height of it:

The 2nd half is the view from our upper veranda; under normal river flow conditions we cannot see the water at all at this location.

Yesterday I ventured down the road to check on where the river had taken a large chunk of the road in the flooding a couple of week ago. It turns out that while the river did eat more road, the area is still passable (barely!).

The foreground area is newly-placed-by-DOH material. You can see that it is still settling.

Foreground rocks are new, ones in the background were dropped two weeks ago after the first road-eating flood.

Looking at the far end, notice the round impression and the upper left where a barrel was two weeks ago.

Looking back from the far end you can see the scope of the repair work the DOH-boys are doing. For scale, that’s my F150 in the background.

When they are done with the repairs, it’ll look something like this, a section they repaired several years back. It has held up quite well!

Here are some graphs of data from the USGS Cacapon River gauge downstream of us. This recent flood looks to be our largest since Hurricane Isabel in 2003 (the only time our property has flooded since we moved here in 1998).

The river since we moved here in 1998. (Note that the scale is logarithmic so the peaks are somewhat compressed.)

Isabel in September 2003

The past week; note how much higher the river was at the start of this event that it was for Isabel.

The Relentless River

Last week we had a lot of rain — 1.15″ on Tuesday, 0.78″ Wednesday, 0.97″ Thursday, 0.61″ Friday, and 0.38″ Saturday. Our river — the Cacapon — can handle 2″ or so at a time. More than that and the road floods in a number places. In addition, every so often the river decides to show the road who’s boss — either in the case of a single (post-)tropical storm, or, as in this case, a prolonged series of repeating storms:

The WV Division of Highways quickly moved to put up the cones. They also filled in the drainage ditch on the mountain side to make the remaining roadway wide enough for a single lane. Eventually (Weeks? Months? Who knows!) they will rebuild the river bank with riprap gabions. (Now ain’t that a fancy way to say rock-filled wire cages!)

And, as it turned out, we had to go to town for an appointment on Thursday. On our way out around 9 am there was a little water ponding on the road in one spot near the red barn. It was raining lightly but steadily all the way into town, and all the road-side ditches and streams were flowing robustly. We left town around around 12:30 and upon our return, and, not unexpectedly, a High Water sign was up on Capon River Road. Since the only alternatives (the road on the other side of the river, which has its own flash-flooding issues, or back down to another highway then back up to the south end of our road) would have taken an additional 45 minutes at least, I decided to give our road a shot (besides, that’s one reason I bought the new crossover with its high ground clearance last fall!).

There are 3 places of flooding that can be navigated if it is not too bad (and a 4th that, if it is flooded there then the other parts of the road are one with the river). First: down near the Bad Feng Shui House (our own term for it) we got through just fine, about 4″ I’d guess. Second: farther along the straightaway was worse (maybe 6-7″) but, again, made it just fine. Third: at the sweeping corner before the red barn, it looked deeper, but I made the choice to proceed. It was deeper than I had expected, and we made a quite unexpected, impressive, and disconcerting bow wave! The key is steady speed — any sudden changes and you get back-splash swamping. We made it, but not something I’m likely to repeat. Then, a little further on, there was a tree down across the road! 8″ trunk, but with a 5″ branch that was supporting a nice vehicle-sized triangular passageway beneath.


Major Addition Milestone

On our second attempt last Thursday, we passed our final building inspection!
And, no, it is not actually done yet — lots of window & door & baseboard trim-out still to go — but there is now a lightness and freedom from knowing that “the man” will no longer be able to stick his big nose in our business!

Disclaimer: In actual fact the actual “man” — the building inspector — was very nice and did not cite us for any number of potentially code-bending issues that would have been quite problematic to fix. The only thing I had to do was add a fire-rated door between my basement shop and the stairs up to the great room — since the shop has a garage-style door, even though it opens onto the back yard, the room is considered a garage and must meet attached-garage standards.

UPDATE April 5th 2018: This came in today’s mail:

Happy Easter 2018!

Have friends and family over this weekend,and today we dyed eggs.

Ready to dye, using good old-fashioned liquid food coloring. We mixed up 10 different colors (though they look pretty similar in here in the cups), with rubber bands, wax crayons, paper towels and a dropper for the creative inner child in all of us.

The finished product — 24 large duck eggs and 4 small chicken eggs.

Pizza and Deer (not a typo, BTW)

So, last week, after the big first-day-of-Spring snow (we got about 6″,the deepest of the winter season), we decided to make pizza. It was a clean-out-the-fridge kind of pizza.

Step by step:

2. Local kale (needed to use the last of it)

3. Turkey breast (the last of Thanksgiving from the freezer)

5. Shredded mozzerella

6. Onion

7. Parmesan cheese, then onto the stone in the pre-heated 500 ° oven

8. 12-15 minutes of ZA TV

The finished product — it smelled a bit odd while it was baking, but it was, like all homemade pizzas, delicious!

I soon as I popped the pizza into the oven, Suddie (our current livestock guardian dog) started barking like crazy. Not too unusual, but I looked out the window, and in the dusk I a line of a half-dozen deer traipsing along the steep hillside across the road caught my eye.

Can you spot them? You’ll need to click to embiggen the pic. A hint and a zoom-in follow below.

. Scroll down for a hint

They are there in the red box

. Scroll down for a zoom-in

I count six

Here are the six I see in the pic, 2 adults and 4 youngsters (it seemed like more at the time, but there are limits when using a phone camera through the window into the woods at dusk!)

Our Mountain Doth Protecteth Us

Like most of the mid-Atlantic and New England, it is quite windy here today. In general, the winds are from the WNW at 30 mph with gusts to 55. Well, that appears to be the case up on the mountain, but not down here in the Capon Valley. You see, our house is nestled up against the east side of a mountain, so the winds are reduced and misdirected down here today.

Here is some data from my Personal Weather Station out back (click on KWVHOOKS2 over on the right in the Riversdell Weather section for more data):

On the left-hand chart you can see the difference between the predicted (and apparently actual up on the mountain) wind speed, to the right of the line, and the actual, as-measured, down-here-in-the-valley speed this morning to the left of the line. The graph on the right-hand side shows the measured wind speed as running mostly 10-20 mph with gusts up to 25. It is also interesting (well to me at least!) that the wind direction down here is mostly from the east — the WNW winds bounce over the mountain and then swirl around down here in our valley.

It is still plenty windy, though. Gigi cat went outside this morning, got hit in the face with flying leaves, and did an immediate U-turn. Glad the power is still on, but we have plenty of water bottles filled, just in case — out here, no power = no well pump.

Addition Progress
(No, it’s not done. Sigh.)

The weather got quite warm earlier this week (Over 80°! In mid-February!) so I took advantage of it to work on the addition baseboard. I am very happy with my shop layout — just open up the overhead door and roll the table saw out onto the lawn.

My baseboard design is an attempt to emulate what’s in the 1835 portion of the house without looking fussy. The jig in the photo above is for cutting the offset at the top of the baseboard where it overlaps the wallboard. This step comes after routing the groove and round-over.

The taper at the bottom makes it easier to fit around the rough concrete that accrued at the edges of floor. The electrical outlets are in the baseboard rather than the wall so they blend in better (white outlet on white baseboard).

End of a productive couple of days:

This sawdust is what’s left from cutting the taper in 13 1×8 poplar boards (8' each) and the offset/overlap notch in 8 of them — enough to complete the loft. Note the outlines of the roller stands and the drip-line from the bow window above the shop door, which lets me open the door for sawdust control even in a light rain. Once the loft closet baseboard is done I can get to wiring my loft network closet and commence with the reconfiguring and repositioning of my various and very sundry computers & routers & wifi/routers & DSL modem & telephone answering base station & UPS & NAS.

I am multitasking by also working on the pocket doors on the main floor. They are hung, but need adjustments, then paint and trim. Pics when they are done. Also, too, still working on the loft bathroom fixtures.

Piano Deconstruction

Perhaps this could be a new cottage industry – carefully dismantling pianos.

My Mom bought this Yamaha spinet piano in the 1970’s, and it has served two generations. It underwent an expensive major overhaul a few years ago, but that did not last very long — the strings that connect the keys to the hammers weren’t up to the semi-controlled climate in this old house. I wasn’t up for another.

With the advent of self-tuning and excellent-sounding electronic pianos, it is hard to justify maintaining the old-fashioned kind. I have heard of people throwing them off of buildings to hear their death knell. I have heard of people burning them. I have even seen Harpo Marx pound on the keys until the piano falls apart and he has a harp to play.

We chose dismantlement.

There were many screws. Many, many screws, most numbered to match the key/hammer number.

I kept its harp, its sounding board, and its keys. They are things of beauty.

Still, I have fond and funny memories of this piano.

[Update 15 Jan 2018: Just noticed the serial number in the upper right corner of the harp: Yamaha piano serial number 859939 was made in Hamamatsu, Japan in 1969.

Weathering the Cold

Riversdell 2017 Season’s Greetings

Thanksgiving 2017

We had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving yesterday. Both kids were here, the weather was sunny and cool, and the food was bountiful.

The menu:

  • 14# Turkey, brined overnight then roasted at 500° for 80 minutes
  • Wild rice dressing with currants and walnuts
  • Pan-drippings gravy
  • Mashed potatoes (red potatoes with skin left on)
  • Brasied collards (from The Farmer’s Daughter)
  • Homemade cranberry chutney with orange and ginger
  • Three homemade butter-crust pies, 1 apple, 2 pumpkin

Was too busy cooking and eating and enjoying to take many pictures, but here are two:

Table centerpiece: Duck on a Mossy Rock

Steaming turkey fresh out of the oven

Heat, or Lack Thereof

Last night was our coldest one yet this season (actually, this morning at 8am — the temp always dips just after dawn): 28.4 °F.
The days have been mostly warm so we have simply been opening windows during the day and shutting them at night, but this morning the main house was dipping into the 50’s, the addition the low 60’s. Time to get the heating systems ready to go!

For the addition, I simply plugged in the underfloor hydronic heat control unit. Oh, I also switched our washing machine back to tap cold auto-sense water level; over the summer I had it set to hot extra-large to use up the excess hot water we did not otherwise need.

For the main house this means cleaning the two wood stove flues. I use a set of chimney cleaning rods and 6″ round wire brush, working from the fireplace up. The rods let me get all the way to the top of the flue:

Certain Amazon boxes are the perfect size to catch the nuggets of first degree creosote (along with some bonus stink bugs).
The stovepipe has some surface rust but is still quite usable. The rods and brush are the floor.

One down, one to go!

Update: Of course, after one cleans one’s wood stove flue one must have a nice hot fire. Roy and Gigi heartily approve!

Ashes to ashes

We have a number of dead American Ash trees that we have been having cut down over this summer. The Ash tree is on the IUCN Red List — Critically Endangered — due to the Emerald Ash Borer. As a result, we have a number of ready-and-waiting bonfire piles. We also added some Leyland Cypress branches left over from recent electric company trimming. Last night — the first evening in some time that was not breezy — we had a friend visiting so did a twofer with two piles that were about 40 feet apart.

These were well-constructed piles, so all it took was one sheet of newspaper, a small bit of cardboard, and one match to start each pile. In the lower left you can see our two fire-poking sticks leaning against an Ash stump.

They fully conflagrated quickly — within 15 minutes each 12-foot diameter pile was shooting flames 20-25 feet into the unseasonably warm early October sky.

They were so hot that we could get close to them for 45 minutes. Spent the next hour using our poking sticks to consolidate the outlying branches — short bursts, they were still mighty hot! A scant 2 hours later we had turned our Ashes to ashes. And embers. Hot embers. The BEST embers.

And, for those of you who can’t do bonfires where you live, we have an audio-visual tasty tidbit for you.

Morning Glories in the Morning Glory

The morning glories have taken full advantage of the dying corn stalks in the garden outside our living room window.

Roy says “Hey”