Category Archives: Our Place

Changing the octane rating of the gas we buy

I’ve been having problems with the fuel systems in both of my chainsaws and while I have them serviced regularly every now and then one of them needs its carburetor cleaned.

Unfortunately both of my saws were in the shop when the big storm hit us so I borrowed a neighbor’s saw to do a bit of the cutting I had to do and then got my big saw back for the bulk of it.

When I picked up my saw the mechanic who fixed it asked me what kind of gas I used in it and I told him regular (87 octane) with the 40:1 mix gas:oil. He recommended that I try 89 octane, the mid grade of gas at most stations.

So, I dumped my 87 octane gas (and some old mix) into my truck and went to the station and filled the truck up with 89 octane and filled my gas cans up too. Anne filled her Jetta up with 89 octane too.

My report is that it makes a significant difference: the saws are running better and the truck and VW are running a lot better.

I’ve run nothing but regular through every car I’ve ever had except my first car which was a Triumph TR4A and it took premium. Today I stepped up to 89 octane and I feel better already.

Seriously, I’m concerned about my power tools working well and not needing carb work all the time and I may have found a piece of the reason they’ve been tough to start at times. A season or two will tell.

Power to the people (of Warren, Connecticut)

We just got our power back, took a bit of the cable to come back but it is and our network is back up and running.

Today we’ll clean the house, top to bottom, run wash, run the dishwasher and enjoy hot showers.

Let me tell you, being without power for 5 days is a serious problem and you don’t realize how much you depend on it until you lose it. It’s not just falling behind on reading feeds or watching the news on TV, its also flushing toilets, washing dishes, cooking easily, showering, and just communicating with the outside world.

I hope heads roll at Connecticut Light & Power Company, they took too long to fix this problem and they need to hire more line people to handle emergencies. The scuttlebutt is that they hired lots of out of state line crews after hurricane Irene but failed to pay them (until now) and so many crews were reluctant to come help until the State of Connecticut stepped in. If it comes out that this was the cause of our problems the head of CL&P should be fired as well as his entire upper management team.

Time will tell and of course, now that most of the state is restored and digging out of the mess few will press this. I won’t forget it, let me tell you and if nothing is done in the next few months I’ll be looking for a new utility company (there are alternatives).

Our backyard the morning after the big storm

Our backyard the morning after the big storm

Warren, Connecticut. We still have no power and may not until Sunday and I’m posting this from a friend’s house in Goshen where they got power yesterday. Anne and I got our first shower since Saturday, it was heaven.

We had a lot of damage at our place, the oak trees hadn’t lost their leaves yet so got burdened down with snow and ice and the tops broke off. One of those tops gently landed on our roof and was hanging by a thread; our good friends at Arbor Services of Connecticut came by and took care of it for us (thank you Leonard and whoever else helped out).

Today I cut up all the big downed wood and piled the brush for the birds to make nests in.

Anne and I are roughing it but we have a great wood stove and plenty of dry wood so we’re warm. We’re using stream water to flush toilets and cooking on a Coleman burner on the deck.

Last night we went out and had a pizza and put the leftover pizza in a secure box on the deck along with our milk and other refrigerator stuff. Unfortunately a raccoon found my pizza and ate it and opened all our boxes and pawed through everything getting red sauce on most of it. Sigh, if life weren’t tough enough.

I’ve been going to the Danbury Mall to use the Apple store wifi network and the mall is nice enough to let people plug into the mall’s power outlets. I bring a power strip and recharge both iPhones, both iPads, both computers, and my iPal radio that I listen to updates of our situation on NPR on.

We’re frustrated but we’re very lucky to have wood heat and we’ll live.

More off the grid

I’m back at the Danbury Mall to charge up our electronics and be online for a bit. Today I brought a power strip and I’m sitting on the floor near enough to the Apple Store to get on their network which is fine and far enough away from the mall walkers so I’m not distracted by tweens and teens marching around.

We still have no power and may not have it for the rest of this week. Not sure about that and no one seems to know when our inept power company, Connecticut Light and Power, will get to our little town. Amazingly, a mile away down the road there’s full power so the post office, gas station, restaurants and some stores are open. This is a good thing but it frustrates us since power is so close.

A large tree came down on the east side of Lake Waramaug and cross the road and maybe took out the power. That may be the only problem or the largest problem and if it is, as soon as they get a crew on it they’ll have it restored in a day. But no doubt there are other problems too.

I cut up some of the big downed branches and did some yard cleanup in wet snow this morning. It’s warming up so the snow should melt pretty fast now, we sure hope so since we still have maple leaves and now a load of oak leaves to get up before “winter.”

AT&T restored power to the one tower we can get a signal from (2 bars if we’re lucky) so we have very bad but some cell coverage.

My theory on why iPhone 4S phones are having battery problems (I have one, I have battery problems) is that using Siri and many of the new iOS5 location aware utilities off wifi and on a cell network, especially a weak one, draws a lot of current. Couple that with the new A5 chip in the 4S and you have a problem.

Once we have power and our home network is up I’m going to experiment using my 4S without Siri just as I did my 4 to see if it’s only Siri or it’s also the new stuff in iSO5. Anne is running iOS 5 on her iPhone 4 and it’s definitely draining faster than it did before. Both phones can go from 30% to empty while in sleep mode so since we can’t charge at home at the moment we’re shutting things down overnight. This is helping. More on this soon when I get recharged myself.

Stay warm wherever you are, not sure when I’ll post again but I’ll try to get here or somewhere from time to time.

We’re off the grid for a while

My apologies for lack of posts or attention to this web site. The storm that hit the east coast killed our power and we may be without power for as much as a week more. It sucks. But, we have a wood stove and we’re warm.

Many trees down at our place, a huge amount of cleanup to do over the next month or so. This was a freak storm for this time of year and it hit oak trees with leaves still on them, weighing them down and causing a lot of them to either lose limbs or fall over completely. We have a lot of this around our place. No damage to the house thank god but there’s a large limb on the roof that’s a bit too precarious for me to get and our good friends at Arbor Services of Connecticut will help us with that.

We have no network and so, this site sits unattended for a while. If you post a comment and it’s in moderation be patient, I’ll get to it as I can.

Not much we can do except roll with it. Thank god for Danbury Mall and the Apple store there.

More soon, hope you’re warm and safe wherever you are.

A hummingbird told me Irene is over

You know the storm is over when a hummingbird hovers in front of the living room window glaring that his feeder isn’t up yet.

All bird feeders back up, our stream is down a foot already, the yard is littered with tree detritus but hey, the trees are still standing so a bit of cleanup is no problem at all.

Many roads in our town are still flooded and closed and some big trees came down but they’ll get it fixed. Snow plows are going by pushing branches off the road (genius).

May all of our hurricanes be this easy.

We are in the direct path of Irene

We are in the direct path of Irene

The path of Irene’s eye will take it pretty close to our house. Looks like Torrington, Connecticut will be where the eye hits. Mt. Greylock near Pittsfield, Massachusetts where we were the other day will get hammered this afternoon.

Town truck just went by with a snow plow on it, scraping up downed branches on the road of which there are plenty.

Our Stream in Irene

Our stream pre Irene

Warren, Connecticut. Standing on the bridge I made out of telephone poles and 2x pre-Irene (yesterday). Stream running from recent rain but nothing big yet. This stream’s entire drainage is less than a mile before it joins another stream 1/4 mile down from this.

This is 3/4 of a mile of watershed drainage.

Our stream morning of Irene

Standing on the bridge this morning. Stream getting fuller, making a lot of noise.

The eye of the storm won’t hit for another 6 hours so the stream will most likely top our bridge which I’m standing on as I take this (getting soaked).

Bridge over stream pre Irene

Standing near the bridge yesterday, pre-Irene.

Bridge over stream morning of Irene

Standing near the bridge today, during the beginning of Irene. Water will most likely top the bridge, shouldn’t wash it away (telephone poles are heavy) but who knows?

The day of Irene

Our stream is almost overflowing. Not going out to shoot it, rain a bit too hard and the wind is picking up. The eye won’t be here until 2 pm EST (it’s now about 7 am).

We should be clear of the storm this evening but if we have no power it may be a few days. Oh boy, camping in the living room.

I think we’re about to lose power… Sigh.

Flags in blizzard

Flags in blizzard

Warren, Connecticut. The snow is almost over but the wind continues to howl outside. These days people make a huge deal out of storms like the one that just hit the East Coast (the Weather Channel effect) but in fact, this storm has lived up to the hype: we have about 20″ of snow on the ground here and more in drifts.

The driveway will be no fun to clear but we’re going down the road to dig Dave out and he’ll come up here to help Gary and me get things cleaned up at our place. We’re putting that off as long as possible.

The good news is that we never lost power throughout the entire storm (yet) and so, have been able to stay connected to the outside world through the internet. What was life like pre-net? Probably better but hey, it makes for great entertainment during a big storm.

Hope you’re warm and dry wherever you are.

Prayer flags in early morning light

Prayer flags in early morning light

Warren, Connecticut. I’ve been collecting these Tibetan prayer flags for many years now and our backyard is starting to look a bit like Everest base camp. Our cat, who died a year ago is buried right under them and hopefully the flags and her spirit will keep the rodent population down in the backyard while at the same time bringing peace to the world.

I hope you’re warm and cozy wherever you are and may your world be as peaceful and rodent free as my backyard.



Warren, Connecticut. Last month this young possum started coming to our bird feeder every day to dig around for seed. Very cute guy and I have a new found appreciation for how enjoyable possums are to watch. This guy was a real character.

This was shot through a rather dirty double-paned kitchen window last month when we had a lot of snow.

Begonia propeller

Begonia propeller

Warren, Connecticut. We’re feeling rather wiped out today from a big Thanksgiving dinner, guests, and the inevitable cleanup, and it’s gloomy out so out comes the tripod and macro lens for a different perspective on the world. This flower is not doing well but has some nice little blooms on it.

Anne’s end table pile

Anne's end table pile

Warren, Connecticut. I decided to rent a Canon 1D Mark III for a week just to see what it’s like to shoot with a "serious" pro camera. I knew it was big but for crying out loud, the thing is BIG. However, in about ten minutes it feels great in one’s hands. Setting it up is easy for any Canon DSLR user and of course, it works well with all canon EF lenses. It has a 1.3x crop which is a bit rough on the wide side but not quite like the more common 1.6x crop on most Canon DSLRs.

My friend Lenny says I should be careful about getting used to it and he’s right, it’s quite a fantastic piece of machinery. Built like a tank, fast as all get out, weather sealed, quiet shutter, clean images with great color and for my taste, 10 megapixels is about right for the kinds of printing I do.

One can dream….

Today’s Pie Output

Today's Pie Output

Warren, Connecticut. While Anne was at school giving SATs I peeled the rest of the fruit. Get some good driving house music on the iPod, sharpen the paring knife and dig in. Fruit peeled in no time (well, two hours).

Anne came home and made up enough crust dough for eight pies (our guestimate, about right). While I soaked my aching hands she beautifully assembled these babies and baked them to perfection. The little one is for the grandkid, a tradition.

Ugh. I see I didn’t get the white balance or much else right with this shot. Excuse the shot, the pies are what counts.

Apple pie time

Making pies

Warren, Connecticut. My wife Anne and our friend Joy Brown finishing up the first batch of what turned out to be ten apple pies (ten more to go). My job was already done, I peeled all the fruit and at this point my hands are so tired I can hardly hold the camera.

Some of the pies are our traditional pie mix and some have experimental supplements. As the wine flowed, the supplements got more adventurous: blueberries, cranberries, raisins, walnuts, and various combinations of these.

We’re scheduled to have another baking session here soon to use up the fruit we bought at our local orchard. Oh, we don’t eat all pies right away (tempting), we seal and freeze them for use at Thanksgiving and Christmas. When the turkey comes out of the oven (2 pm or so) turn the oven off and put the frozen pies in. By the time you’re ready to eat again the pies are defrosted and warmed up and great. Serve with high butter fat vanilla ice cream.

The one we ate

After dinner we ate one of the "experimental" pies. This one had our pie mix plus dried cranberries, raisins and walnuts in it. Anne was skeptical but we all agreed: killer pie. I’d say this particular pie was one of the best Anne’s ever made. Must have been Joy’s influence.

The Kitty turned 19 today

The Kitty turned 19 today

Warren, Connecticut. Our wonderful old black cat who is now all gray had her nineteenth birthday today. She’s quite arthritic and has a tough time getting around these days and her thyroid needs medication twice a day but she does have her moments and we do our best to keep her happy. The Kitty was born a month before I met Anne and has been with us through three houses and many happy times. She’s what Anne calls a "professional cat" which I’m told is one who eats her kills. These days the kills are in her dreams.

Nuthatch with seed

Nuthatch with seed

Warren, Connecticut. Nuthatches are my favorites of the birds on our feeders. They’re the only bird that can walk straight down a tree although like woodpeckers, they’re insect eaters as well as seed eaters.

You can see how awkward this dude is on the feeder perch, his claws are really grasping to stay on.

This shot is an extreme crop taken with the Canon EF 135mm f/2 L lens and the Canon EF Extender 1.4x II for comparison with the Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L lens. Different feeder and background and so, different blur and bokeh. I’ll do some shots on the other feeder soon. I’ve put this picture up full resolution in case you want to look at the largest size for detail on this lens combo.

Chickadee balancing and eating

Chickadee balancing

Warren, Connecticut. I always wondered how these birds can get enough purchase on a round peg to hold themselves up given that their little feet and claws aren’t built for this kind of perch. Some can but others feel the need to hold on elsewhere so they can pig out with abandon.

Note: This is an extreme crop as a test of the Canon EF 200mm f/2.8 L lens I’m renting.

Chickadee balancing and eating