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Old 08-29-2013, 04:31 PM   #1
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Smile Thermal security.

Too long to post here with all the pix, so I put it on my own pages.
http://www.coultersmithing.com/forum...php?f=48&t=734

Had to build more sheds(!). OK, capex is a good thing around here.

We will wind up filling all these sheds and more with that one huge oak tree. Going to be toasty this winter and probably next. There's probably 5-8 more truckloads of wood for us to get off that one tree before the increasing diameter near the base makes it impossible to cut more.
tinywood.jpg
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Old 08-30-2013, 04:16 AM   #2
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Search for "vedtrave" for some crazy pics of wood piles.
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Old 08-30-2013, 06:54 AM   #3
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So glad that is one prep I don't need to worry about. It's an extreme winter if we have more than a week below freezing here.

I'm still dreaming about having an earth sheltered home where nature provides the thermal mass to keep the inside temp constant regardless of the outside temp. No heating or cooling systems required.
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Old 08-30-2013, 08:08 AM   #4
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Gee Mike, that's really pretty. I don't go to that level of aesthetics here - labor limited primarily.
(more like, I'm lazy)

Our winters average around 40f - mostly wet and muddy, about 3 days at 12f, about a few weeks worth of 60's-70's, none of which makes me comfortable indoors except rarely, without something else driving the indoor temperature. We don't often get a ton of snow, just some now and then, and some winters - none. Some (2 in 3 decades) 6 feet, all at once. Ice storms (also 2 bad ones in 30 years) are the worst - trees fall, you can't even stand on level ground, forget going anywhere.
What some call prepping, we just call homesteading and being ready for junk like that.

The tradeoff is that I only have to have AC - a super power hog - for about 10 days out of the entire year, to be comfortable. It's not as humid here as my hometown (DC). I use fans when the indoor temps get to 80 or so.

Earth sheltered homes have been built around here, but they are dark, dank, and always having the basement walls pushed in/leaking - we have ground water or at least always-damp clay down there.

They'd build more if they worked, but here, they don't. If you have NO groundwater, they kind of work, but then there's not much thermal mass in just dry dirt, nor is there much heat conduction in/out through that dry dirt - you have to go real deep. I'd really suggest you find someone with one in your area and asking them how it is. If you can't find anyone, well, that tells the story - if it worked and paid for itself, they'd all be like that.

So far, I consider that one of the wishful thinking items in the alt-energy biz. I've yet to see one that actually worked well without the occupants having to tolerate huge temp swings. Here they've all been abandoned. All. I've looked over about 6 attempts. They just don't work as advertised here.

I have a lot of thermal mass here, and good insulation - the mass is a machine shop full of metal, right by the stove, so that helps both winter and summer. Summer nights I have flow through ventillation (I'll have to write up my tricks there - have some neat ones) that pulls cool air through the place and makes it almost uncomfortable w/o blankets and a mattress heating pad on summer nights. Most days, that's enough to keep the place cool till about sundown - then I turn on the fan again - I have a cool fan-turbine design that pushes nearly 1000 cfm with only about 20 watts power, exhausting from the roof peak, drawing from the north side on the bottom floor, in summer. I just close that vent during winter and go to a different low power airflow system that pushes excess warm air into my crawl space to keep it warm (first floor is barefoot-fine even in coldest winter) and dry, since I use it like most basements - it's fulla junk.

Being both old and skinny, I hate cold. I actually like winter, though - it's the one time I can have the temp I want all the time, with freshest air there is, all the time, and the "right" humidity. If the stove gets too hot, I can open a window or two. I can adjust the humidity via whether I have windows open and whether I have a boiler pot on the stove. I have propane backup for when it's not smart or worth it to start a wood fire - once you start one, you get hours of heat, like it or not. That's not always what you want here where the outdoor temps often swing 40f inside 24 hours - every day.

The propane comes in handy when it's >50f inside in the early AM, but going to be 75 outside by noon - early spring, late fall, and half of winter (but which half is unpredictable). A fire isn't smart on those days. Half an hour's worth of propane heat at 60k btu handles that nicely, though, and doesn't cost much. If I had to fall back, I'd figure out a way to make a smaller, "critical mass" fire I suppose - it's what I used to do. Just more work with the splitter to make a bunch of tiny sticks for that.

You might be in the sweet spot where the temperature swings aren't so large (nearer the ocean is usually better for that), and you could do an earth sheltered home - but I'd look around for actual success stories (not on paper, real life visits) to be sure. The rest of us have to cope with what we have. The deal where I live is that I'm far from the ocean, and we can have a super mild to super cold winter - it varies all over the place year to year, so you want to be ready for the worst, and not trying to buy heat when everyone else is too - prices double or triple for fuel when the whole world wants it, locally. I like to have enough stock to not only avoid that, but do seasonal arbitrage - sell wood when it's high, get it when it's low - same as trading any other market.
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Old 08-30-2013, 08:37 AM   #5
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The ESHs being built "near" where I live (near is relative and in Texas it means several hundred miles away) are monolithic poured (and sealed) concrete structures (not the rammed earth / tire structures) covered with at least 3 feet of earth. If I ever get into a position to realize this dream, I will certainly do my due diligence with existing ESH homes/customers. I've talked (emailed) with the builder a few times and he claims that his structures do not have any issues with water/moisture/mold.
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Old 08-30-2013, 09:10 AM   #6
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Love the idea of earth sheltered buildings but be wary of how "tight" it is and check the air quality for molds and other environmental toxins that can concentrate. Test for radon. There are always trade offs but your energy bill goes to virtually zero.

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Old 08-30-2013, 10:29 AM   #7
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I'm right there with you DC. as a skinny guy, winters are just brutal because we have no insulation layer of fat. Down here, "winter" means high thirties and low forties for a few weeks, and rarely, temps down in the high teens to low twenties [although it has been quite a while since we've seen that]. I live a couple of miles from the Indian River which really helps to moderate our temps since the water rarely gets colder than about 60 - 65 degrees, but when it is cold, windy and humid, 40 degrees can be worse than twenty degrees and zero humidity.
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Old 09-05-2013, 05:37 PM   #8
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I'll have more later - work is ongoing and mostly not too photogenic - the usual PITA winterizing stuff starting from a bad place (things got rotten and had to be replaced, animals tore out insulation, etc).

In the meantime, there are of course two types of situation. There's keeping cool too - and I don't like to run the A/C if I don't have to. So this is what I do in summer. The combination of this, and the nifty convection channel between the solar panels and the roof means even the top floor here rarely gets more than a couple degrees above ambient - and I get a nice breeze where I'm sitting now (and most of the time when I'm not busting hump on something).


This is a very cool trick (pun accidental). This lets me move around 1000 crfm out of the place with only 20 watts power - about 10x the efficiency of any other solution you can buy (and this one you can't - you have to make it). That's a pretty big deal for me - things in this power draw range I don't really have to think about insofar as managing my power budget.

2 tricks make this work. One is Bernoulli effect - note the 8" fan in a 14" hole. The other is the "passive" turbine on top. When spun up by the high pressure/velocity fan output, it adds to the pumping factor. Nope, I'm not getting "energy gain" here - what this all does is "impedance match" a high pressure and high velocity flow into a much larger low pressure/velocity flow, that's all.
It's a lot quieter than the 250w hardware store fans in the bargain, and no, it doesn't leak when it rains. It's variable speed, because that was easy to do to find a nice running setting for it. And the door is on hinges so I can close it up in the winter. When the door is closed, it will pull air through the south side of my roof system. The north side is blocked off except for a vent I can allow air into the room from in summer. Very simple, mostly passive...this is the way - overnight success after only about 15 years of practice...like we used to say in the R&R band.
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Old 01-07-2014, 08:09 AM   #9
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SunriseCold.JPG

I was looking for that old "man, it's cold" thread to add this to, but this will do. (Sorry I've been out awhile). All that prep paid off. We saw -2F last night, by the time I took the picture it was more like +2 at sunrise. I'd been staying up all night keeping the various buildings as warm as I could - this is not the one I napped in...I can't stand cold. I have it about 85F in here, my main crib.

Our previous record low, since 1979 was 8f. Just once. Froze all the plumbing in the entire neighborhood. This time I was ready - water runs at least where it should, elsewhere it's just another rock.
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Old 01-07-2014, 08:56 AM   #10
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Well done for keeping things liquid Fusor and hope you can stay warm.
As you say, prepping is vital for such times.

Theres going to be a few people realise how quickly a modern house becomes useless, as first it freezes and theres no water systems, then it thaws and takes out the electricals plus ceilings and internal finishes ............. All good for the economy though.

And here in blighty we fret over much precipitation and fast moving air, as the hot air meeting the cold air over you has created a very energetic jet stream.
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Old 01-07-2014, 09:42 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by DCFusor View Post:
I have propane backup for when it's not smart or worth it to start a wood fire - once you start one, you get hours of heat, like it or not. That's not always what you want here where the outdoor temps often swing 40f inside 24 hours - every day.

The propane comes in handy when it's >50f inside in the early AM, but going to be 75 outside by noon - early spring, late fall, and half of winter (but which half is unpredictable). A fire isn't smart on those days. Half an hour's worth of propane heat at 60k btu handles that nicely, though, and doesn't cost much.
thats what we do here. Roaring fire going right now in the woodstove (it's been 16 for two days) but the rest of the week is supposed to be in the sixties.
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Old 01-07-2014, 09:43 AM   #12
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Well, my nap didn't last long. One of my newer neighbors came over to get some water in liquid form.

We had 40+mph winds (64kph), and the temps were in the -18c range for you guys in metric-land. A little snow, but it was basically too cold for a big one. It was fairly exciting in a hard-work-to-keep-it-all-good sense. Around here, the antifreeze mix in autos doesn't save them from freezing below about 15f or so, so as part of the stuff I had to do late into the night, I ran both my vehicles to keep them (and their batteries) warm, "wasting" some gasoline. As well as heating my outdoors battery box via exhaust from the backup generator, even though the batteries were charged - you can freeze them, you know. It's not easy, but it's a huge expense if you manage to do that.
After paying ~$6k for them, I got kind of protective.

Forewarned is forearmed if you're a "word to the wise" type of guy. We tightened this place up considerably during the solar upgrade, and knowing this was coming, I put in a regular old gas/mantle lamp (on propane, a grill tank), installed in the basement of the building with the plumbing, to keep it warm, and did the "tighten it up", including screwing shut a hinged door to the basement/crawl space, since it leaked without some help forcing it to seal and flatten some warpage. That seemed to be the biggie, other than just trying to keep the indoors warm in a place that's pretty leaky (where I took the pic - it's a mobile home, my old office).
Last night, with a roaring fire that I'd kept that way since the early morning, it held 58f in there.
This AM it was 28F in there after reloading the fire at 2 AM. You can only put so much fuel in there, and past a point, I was unwilling to go out in that to re-fill the woodstove, and unwilling to run propane ($$$) which is manual controlled anyway - .

One of those cases where if you're near the stove, you have to rotate like a rotisserie or one side burns while the other freezes. But if you're ten feet away, you're cold.

My main building/shop has milling machines, lathes, steel stock etc - many tons worth. Once you get all that hot, you're good. Let yourself get behind, you're hosed. We are supposed to see a "high" of 16f today, with no wind. Whew! I'm expecting more help calls from neighbors to fix up their stuff, almost no one around here (other than the real old-timers) is ready for things like this as its so rare (here, that is, I'm sure those in the north/midwest are thinking "wuss" right now).

They think so, but when TSHTF, well, it's pretty serious if the fan is pointed at you and you made too many assumptions. Like what used to work still will. As my sig says in other places "Why guess when you can know? Measure!"

Now that we are past winter solstice, I should be on here more. I've been in "hunker down" mode energy-wise for a bit, of late. Now things are already getting better fast for power.

Did pretty well on the Volt last year... It's hard to describe how badly that thing spoils you - driving for the cost of tire wear once the rest is set up. And it's no slug on the road.
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Old 01-07-2014, 10:24 AM   #13
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Glad you are safe and warm DCF. We always wonder about our friends when we don't hear from them in a while.
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Old 01-07-2014, 11:05 AM   #14
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Can lead acid batteries survive a freeze or will the case split ?

Will a water/antifreeze mix freeze hard below 15f or will it just become mush ?

What about diesel, petrol and propane ?

kinda needs thinking about if we really are moving to colder times ....
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Old 01-07-2014, 11:49 AM   #15
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I think we're having climate change, as in "re-arrange" which is a heck of a lot more "twitchy" than just warming; we have a bit of that too, on average, so far it's the less important effect unless it goes divergent with methane release from tundra and clathrates.

The stuff that drives the jet stream acts like pushing on a string even when things are "normal". It's just twitchy, and went way south for awhile.
You guys in blighty - if the gulf stream does the same, you're in real trouble, but it would take longer to happen, and longer to recover (if ever). Water is just slower than air...and there's a lot more of it, thermally speaking.

Yes, you can freeze a flooded-type LA cell and break the case - depends a bit on the age and case quality, old ones tend to go brittle. A real mess when it thaws. They freeze easier when they are discharged, because that's when the sulfuric acid in them is weakest (the sulfate is lead sulfate at that point).

The coolant mix we use around here doesn't usually freeze hard, but is a slush. The thing is, the water pump on many cars can't pump it, so the engine overheats with a slush-filled radiator!
If it's too extreme, it'll push out the freeze plugs worst case, and that's a real pain to repair in a modern car - those things are hard to get at.

Propane, as delivered here, is a mixed bag of propane, butane, and some others (ethyl mercaptan provides the stink, and it's heavy). What happens when you use it is the lighter stuff boils off first, leaving the heavier butane etc as the main thing in the tank. There are cases I've encountered where it did get cold enough for the butane to not be willing to come off quick enough to run something that needs a high rate, near the end of the tank's charge. Edit: this is one reason I use a bunch of smaller tanks - I can easily swap one out if needed. Can't do that with a monster where they deliver when they feel like it. The other reason is you can't legally move more than 100lbs propane in a vehicle without a special license - so I don't, I use smaller tanks and take them to fill myself, which saves a lot of money since I can do it when the price is better.

Around here, the few who use diesel (including the big truckers) break the law and add kerosene to it...when it's cold. Helps a lot - US low grade (compared to what you have in Yurp) diesel turns to wax in the cold by itself. The law is because the kerosene runs a diesel engine fine, but isn't road-taxed as its main use is cheap home heaters.

Gasoline isn't a problem as far as I know, but I skip the ethanol "enhanced" stuff because of water attraction issues already. Even with "pure" gasoline, the main issue is water condensing in the tank when it warms up outside after a cold night - you can't burn it, and if it freezes, the fuel pump clogs with ice. You learn to keep the tank pretty full so there's not much air for the water vapor to condense from. The Volt has a completely sealed, pressurized fuel system - you have to wait for it to bleed to even be allowed to open the gas cap (you have to push a button to get that started).

But I bought gas for that last in July, and still have half a tank. I will probably make it to next summer on that. Which is good. Here in the states we have "summer gas" and "winter gas" with different vapor pressures and BTU/gallon - the summer gas is a better deal if you don't require the high vapor pressure (fuel injection makes that issue go away for starting, but not always the pollution from a colder engine - winter gas has some stuff in it to make it burn cleaner in a cold engine).

What I've been up to lately, in the main, is kinda OT here, but since Bug's another software guy...
Did you know you can do development for Linux on a raspberry pi, as well as for arduino? With a small LED backlit display, you're coming in at well under 20 watts total power drain, or about 1/3 of even my laptop. Kind of weird to work on a machine that can't keep up with my typing rate very well. But it gets the job done.

Most of the time, it's not an issue here - for example, on a sunny day today, I'm "wasting" electricity to heat a shower electrically. But when it is...

Talk about tech mismatch. I put a 120gb Samsung Evo SSD into an old external drive case, and the sata to usb converter chip draws 5 times what the drive itself does(!) - that's for the pi. I'm doing hard realtime data acquisition on an arduino, shipping it to the pi on USB, where it goes into a mysql database for later mining, and an apache webserver for remote fooling around. And other stuff, but that's what's been eating my spare time.

This machine, the one I use to post here since it remembers all my logins, has 4 24" HD monitors on a special Nvidia card, 16 gigs of 2.4 ghz(!) ddr3...and so forth. Only on when there's power to spare, it warms the room even with a late model intel quad core CPU (and it's still low drain compared to my "super computer" with an older I7 and 1k tesla cores). For 90% of the year, it's all I use regularly, except for a couple customized for special purpose machines.

That's just how it is off the grid unless you insist on burning lots of fuel for power, and replacing a lot of worn out generators.

The "free" power from the panels is great. Power from a backup generator amortizes out around $1.64/kWh...so you learn to avoid the need of that. The Volt uses less fuel/kWh as a backup, but I've not really used it for that, it ruins my mileage numbers. At the very least, though, it's tons more reliable than any hardware-store generator will ever be - it was meant to be out in the weather at all times, and they have cars in general pretty well figured out compared to small engines and cheap copies from China. So, it's the backup on my other backups. You learn quick off the grid - you have a hot spare(s), regularly tested, for anything important, period, or you're miserable much of the time.

Here, for example, I also had about 30 gal of water in milk jugs stored inside just in case...you don't want a super-stinky bathroom. Didn't need it. Doesn't mean it was a dumb idea.

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Old 01-07-2014, 01:47 PM   #16
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Thank you Fusor. All gratefully received.

We sometimes use a splash of methylated spirits to 'remove' water from fuel tanks

The 'green' diesel we now have to purchase here in the UK does not store so well and fungus in a regular problem in long store fuel tanks / rarely used plant.
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Old 01-17-2014, 03:17 PM   #17
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It got cold as balls here in Florida last night. We are at 28°22′10″N, so at 33 degrees, we're freezing pretty good. My truck didn't like me this morning and I had to scrape all that ice off of my windscreen before I could drive in today. I know all the northerners will scoff and laugh at us, but when you get used to radically warmer temps you really do thin out a great deal. I have had friends come down in the summer when it is a perfectly comfortable 88 degrees with 80% RH and complain that they can't breathe because of the heat and humidity, yet I feel perfectly comfortable as long as it is less than 91 - 92 degrees. By Sunday it is supposed to hit again with temps as low as 30 here where I am.

We turned the heater on and set it to 68, which is about as cold as I allow it to get when I'm home and watching tv or sleeping. The heater kicked on and off all night, but by morning it was chilly and humid in the house, so I cranked it up,
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Old 01-17-2014, 04:03 PM   #18
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No scoffing from this quarter. I routinely keep my place around 78-80 and 30% Rh in winter.
When I go visiting, I usually don't even take my coat off at the friend's house - since they think 52 or so at 60% Rh is just fine and saves them money/effort. Brrrrr.
To keep it *up* to 30% Rh, I generally have to either put a pot of water on the woodstove, or burn a little unvented propane heater.

Even in a really nice, tight woodshed, wood is a use-or-lose proposition, it will eventually be attacked and rot from fungus, or eaten by termites. Might as well be comfortable, and I'm running by the old rule "have at least half left at Christmas" - I still have way more than half left. I think of it as a prepaid bill since it is - I already did the work and/or paid to have it done, so I may as well use the stuff.

Yes, they are predicting another of those polar vortexes to hit here this weekend or thereabouts, supposedly not as bad as the last, but bad enough - down to single digits here.
So. I'll be doing the "protect the plumbing" dance again. Sheesh. Our normal yearly low is in the 20's, and most infrastructure is meant for that level.

Other than outdoors, I actually like the comfort of winter a little better. Humidity on the high side is never an issue - you have to work to keep it up. Anytime you want cold - open a window, done. Not as easy to achieve that in summer, you need AC (and the electricity) and when it's most unbearable (100f, 98% rH) it's dark - a thunderstorm overhead. So, you anticipate and run the AC while the sun is still out, before that, it's about the best I can do with solar.

I only had one time in FLA where it was hard to breathe. It was just outside Miami airport (went out to smoke on a layover on the way to a cruise) in a concrete canyon. Must have been 110f or more, and pure wetness.
I didn't stay out in it very long. All other times in your state - no problems. I like it warm, and generally don't mind damp unless it's New Orleans and the smell of fungus dominates due to it..
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Old 01-17-2014, 10:55 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by DCFusor View Post:
There's probably 5-8 more truckloads of wood for us to get off that one tree before the increasing diameter near the base makes it impossible to cut more.
Attachment 141
How big is it? Can't imagine it being over 12 feet in diameter which would be near the limit for a chainsaw.

When I was a kid, we had an oak tree die next to the house. The stump was about 6 feet in diameter. My dad felled it with his chainsaw, dragged it to the other side of the house, and we burnt wood from it for years. I spent LOTS of hours spread over several years on one end of a 9 foot crosscut saw cutting up that tree. No way was I allowed to use the chainsaw. And lots more hours with sledges and wedges to split it into smaller pieces.


Originally Posted by PMBug View Post:
So glad that is one prep I don't need to worry about. It's an extreme winter if we have more than a week below freezing here.
That would also be an extreme winter here, too, considering we seldom get more than a few days below freezing per year (seldom more than a day or two at a time) and often don't see snow for 3 or 4 years at a time.

Then there was December 2008. 18 inches of snow in two days. Up until then the most snow I had ever seen at one time was 4 inches, and THAT was extreme for us. Even 1 inch borders on the extreme here and shuts down schools along with many government agencies.

For the record temperature extremes here today were 52 high and 32 low. Tomorrow will be 50-34, Sunday 48-36, and Monday 52-34. All slightly on the chilly side, but still warm enough to go anywhere do anything in bare feet and flip flops. So far this Winter there was only one day too cold to wear flip flops - got down to 13F, a record low for the day. Could not even work that day - my shop has over 100 tons of metal in it - a HUGE heatsink - nice in Summer - a bear in Winter even considering how mild our Winters are.
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Old 01-18-2014, 04:23 AM   #20
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these pictures turned up in a recent email and show how big trees used to be (-;

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