Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Power Meter

Ever since we experienced several days of freezing weather just before Christmas, we've been thinking much more seriously and urgently about alternative power sources. Our one comfort is that we have a wood burning fireplace so at least we won't freeze to death. But I've been worried how I would boil water for my cup of tea.

We're trying to consider all the options: propane, solar, wind, wood, and any others we might discover along the way. Despite the fact that Guv'nor is very good at reading, researching, and analyzing data, he felt like he needed more help. We started by contacting a Generac (propane powered generators) distributor in the City and they sent out one of their engineers to our property. He spent a good part of a day talking with Guv'nor and trying to understand our needs and objectives. In the end we decided before we could do much we had to know how much power we were using. Our power company gives a daily usage, but we wanted to know specifically how much each piece of equipment or appliance used in kilowatts. 

The engineer recommended installing a wireless power meter for us. He said it usually paid for itself ($100) within a few months just because people became more aware of how much power they used. So for the past couple of weeks we've been watching the numbers on the little portable display box as they jump up and down as various things click on and off. I made fun of Guv'nor that first day because he kept saying things like, "wow, now it's up to 23, must be the hot water tank." Then one day I set the display on the kitchen counter to watch the numbers while I was baking, just for "giggles" (as my former boss used to say). I was hooked. At one point I tried to see how low I could get the number to go by turning everything off. I couldn't get it below .61 kw. The highest reading is around 45 kw, usually in the morning when the heating and hot water is running.

After a few weeks of monitoring, Guv'nor has decided that the meter over-estimates the energy consumption, based on our daily usage. I guess it's better to over-estimate than under-estimate.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


When we first arrived here in East Texas we were told by several locals that we had a hog problem on our property. It has become our family joke, trying to imitate the Texas accent. Son does it best, "Ya'll gahd a hawwwwgg prablem."

But that was almost two years ago and I've yet to see a hog on our property. I've only seen the evidence of their digging everywhere. I have seen roadkill hogs several times but nothing up close and personal. Maybe that's a good thing.

Guv'nor was out working in the far pasture the other day. The neighbor's black cows had roamed through the fence again, somehow. He was trying to encourage them back into their own field. Meanwhile, some baby hogs were roaming with the cows. I wasn't home at the time or I would have dashed right out there to take a look for myself. Probably from the inside of my car or Guv'nor's truck.

Feral hogs are a big problem in Texas with estimates of a few million in the state. Some people are calling it a plague because they are destructive and carry diseases. There are no natural predators for hogs. They thrive in all types of environments. They can reproduce quickly (12-15 months) and have big litters. It is almost impossible to keep them off your property because they're clever and will find a way in. There is no "hog season" and the best we can hope for is to control them rather than eliminate the problem.

Guv'nor took a few photos for me. I'm not sure what the correct term for them is, but he's calling them hoglets. There were three of them. They ran off before he could do anything.

This is a field on the way into town that has been destroyed by the hogs.

Friday, January 10, 2014


I have read that one of the problems with chickens during the winter is boredom. Because things aren't growing, there's not much for them to eat or play with. The boys will start fighting and the girls will start pulling feathers. One idea was to provide something for them to play with that they can also eat - like a head of cabbage. So I tried it out. I was disappointed that my chickens didn't seem to notice it or know what to do with it. I'm going to try grubs next.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Year

I finally got things tidied up and put away after Christmas so I can think about a few more posts.

We had a peaceful couple of weeks, despite the fact that several in the family were 'under par' as Guv'nor likes to say. It was special that we could all be together for a few days.

We ended up lighting our fireworks on New Year's Day in the evening because New Year's Eve was just too cold for the sickly ones even to be outside watching. Son and I were this year's designated lighters. Son mostly, because he can run faster. The only little problem we had was that we didn't realize the ones on the stick were bottle rockets and stuck them in the ground instead of a bottle. We learned. Guv'nor is still not comfortable with us holding Roman candles in our hands (which is the whole point of them). Oddly enough, sparklers are the ones that scare me.

Happy New Year!