Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Energy Audit

While reading the monthly Rural Missouri catalog we get from Laclede Electric Coop, Bryon saw that for $60 they would send someone out to do an energy audit of your home. Since one of our goals has been to drive our electric bill down each month (especially in the winter) this seemed like a good idea.

Our home is around 4,000 square feet with the upstairs and ground level and it's all electric heat pump and cooling so after years of leaving every light in the house and three televisions on (sorry Dad) I finally see the benefit of turning that stuff off. Now I'm the one going around turning lights off behind Grace.

My Dad and Bryon had been trying to get me to do that for years but old habits die hard. Since we are on level pay, our bill for the entire house runs $170-$180 a month and each month when I get the statement I like to see our consumption at least less than that month the previous year.

Last week, Laclede Electric sent out a guy to do our energy audit. Frankly we were feeling pretty smug because we actually thought we had things pretty efficient. We changed over to almost all compact light bulbs last year upstairs and down and it made a noticeable difference in our bill. We also use our pellet stove all winter. The pellet stove takes about a bag a day at $3.99 a bag so we pretty much know cold weather is going to cost us $4 a day just for heat. We had also wrapped our two hot water heaters before cold weather got here.

For the last year or so, we have been powering down our computers when we aren't using them and I think that has made a difference too. Even though the per kilowatt price has gone up our usage and monthly average has still gone down. We have curtains over all of our downstairs windows and close them at night to retain the heat. I've even been covering the upstairs windows with blankets this winter and we keep the temp around 55 degrees because we just aren't up there much during the week. We crank it up on the weekends if we are up there watching movies or entertaining.

So when the guy got here to put the giant vacuum on the house, we didn't figure he was going to discover much. Boy were we wrong about that. He put a plastic door seal over the front door and put a barrel fan in the hole and cranked it up and our house started leaking air like a sieve. We felt cold air being pulled in around most of our windows and through the car siding on the north side of our house, around every can light and through our outlets. We built this house and we know how much insulation is in it... a lot... but that didn't stop all the gaps and cracks we didn't even know we had. Our back deck french doors were leaking cold air in like crazy all around the seal of the glass. And upstairs... well, let's just say there were a lot of problems and it was like air conditioning up there with all the breezes blowing through the house.

And all that cold air was being pulled in by a regular old barrel fan, not some high powered super sucker of some sort. So you can extrapolate and imagine what a nice stiff north wind was doing to our house.

He wrote up a report for us and made several suggestions of how to close some of those leaks and make our house more effiicient. The good news is that Laclede Electric will reimburse half of your expenditures for making your home more energy efficient up to $500. (I would say most electric companies likely have a similar plan). Well Bryon went to Lowe's that afternoon and came home with $300 worth of supplies.

He took the trim off the french doors and caulked the daylight out of them (yes, you could literally see daylight all around the glass when the trim came off. He's caulked can lights, cracks, wrapped the hot water pipes under the house (which has made an immediate difference in getting hot water to our faucets faster and hotter). I put little outlet insulator pads behind all the outlet and light face plates (let me tell you, you'll be surprised how many of those you have) and he's been busy sealing up all the holes and cracks and leaks in some of the most unlikely of places.

We didn't know when we scheduled the audit, but they actually gave us a big box of materials to help with some of the usual energy sucking suspects. There was actually probably close to $60 worth of stuff there.

So while it cost us some money upfront, I think it will be well worth it in the future.

I can't wait to see next month's bill.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Year in Review

This has been one crazy year.

Those of you who know us well, also know some of the personal employment turmoil we've had this year with Bryon's job. Well, all of that continues and promises to offer us some unique opportunities for adventure in the coming year. Prayers are welcome ;)

Of course it hasn't all been turmoil. We've accomplished a lot this year and had many, many wonderful experiences as a family and on our ever changing little farm. Here are the high lights and the low lights.

1. Grace has now lost SEVEN teeth. Yes, the Tooth Fairy is broke but has a direct trail of fairy dust (ie pink glitter) to help her find her way now.
2. I read 64 books this year (yes half of them were paranormal romances) and I am burned out. This year I plan to read at a more leisurely pace.
3. Bryon had surgery on his shoulder and is now fully healed and has nearly all of his motion back and much less pain.
4. We raised two more pigs and will be enjoying them in several tasty dishes sometime next week.
5. We found a new home for Ruger (our insane Brittany Spaniel) and are now on the search for a female, yellow lab puppy to join the Medley farm.
6. We had a wonderful vacation on Sanibel Island in Florida with my Mom at a condo on the beach and Grace asks almost every week when we can go back. She says she wants to live there.
7. Grace played spring and fall soccer and did great! Here's hoping for some soccer scholarship dollars one day.
8. Our two "female" bunnies made babies. Four of them survived and I found them all new homes last week.
9. I started raising some new Buckeye heirloom breed chickens and hope to breed and sell them this spring. They have been no end of anxiety for me. Raising fancy chickens it turns out is stressful!
10.Grace started Kindergarten this year, got her ears pierced and turned six.
11. I canned, preserved and froze lots of garden and farmer's market food this year, and I am hoping to do even more in the coming year with the help of our new greenhouse.
12 Grace learned to swim this summer and Bryon and Grace spent lots of evenings after school at the Marshfield pool.
13. Grace has $500 saved up for her red convertible VW bug. Yeah, a real one.
14. Bryon and I celebrated our 20th Wedding Anniversary.
15. I ate more salads and lettuce this year than I had in the past 42 years. (Mostly from our garden)
16. Bryon used his time off this year to build an awesome trail system through our woods and completed every possible honey do job I could think of ... and then some.
17. Grace had two slumber parties at our house and is having a little girl over to play and maybe to spend the night again tomorrow night.
18. We went to Silver Dollar City three times and St. Louis once with friends.
19. I finally got all our bills paperless... now if I can just remember to pay them!
20. Bryon is currently in the process of finding a new job.

So how about last year's resolutions? Well some yes, some not so much.

* Eat more organic and clean food - yes but this will be more of a challenge as far as the organic part this year as we work to save money. We are budgeting no money for eating out this year so we will definitely be eating more and more home cooked meals.
* Eat more local and US foods - yes. This year we will have an even better garden and being doing as much locally as we can.
* Take my lunch more when I work & eat less fast food - I have only eaten out one lunch this month and plan to continue to take my lunches.
* Drink NO soda, at all, anymore - I didn't have even one sip of soda this year. I didn't miss it at all.
* Do more long term meal planning - I will have to do this better this year and I look forward to finally succeeding at it.

* Lose 20 pounds...again. - Yeah, the always present resolution. I am 7 pounds down. No more eating out should help with that.
* Buy more things Made in the USA when we have to make new purchases - still doing this every chance we get.
* Pray daily - a lot lately, definitely not daily though last year
* Do more bible studies - I did not.
* Finish the Old Testament (I only have 4 or 5 little books left) - I did not, still need to complete this
* Read ALL the book club books this year. - I did great until the last few and then I fizzled out.
* Learn to play my guitar - not so much, I am still not a rock star
* Have a kick ass garden - we did have a kick ass garden this year and look forward to an even better one next year.
* Finish the last 12 mile section of the OHT - still not completed. Someday...
* Have more PEACE and QUIET in 2010 - still hoping for this one, ha! With new Wii games and a DSi, it's not looking too likely, but I am still hopeful.

This year, I am not making resolutions. I am going to go with the flow and just try to deal with and complete whatever challenges present themselves. This is going to be the year of living frugally I suspect. That should be challenge enough for all of us I think.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

These little piggies went to market

Or more accurately, to our freezer in about two weeks. We finally got the pigs coaxed into the borrowed trailer and to Spring Valley for processing. Bryon said the small male weighed 240 and the big red female weighed 316!

They were good pigs even though I sure was cussing them this last cold week.

They'll be even better pigs in my belly :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Big Bookish Year

I read the most books ever this year; sixty four books. Granted, half of them were paranormal romances but still... it was a lot of books.

I wasn't trying to break my record but it's cool that I did. Who knows what will happen this year but I am definitely taking a break from the paranormal for a while. All the stories were starting to sound the same. Apparently there are only so many ways vampires and werewolves can fall in love with mortals, have lots of sex and kill bad guys... who knew?

I have read a significant sampling of the genre and managed to write half a novel (35,000 words!). I decided that hobby is just going to have to wait until Grace is in college because there is just not enough time for one more thing added these days it seems. Maybe my golden years career will be writing. Maybe not.

I boxed up my paranormal surplus and sent them to my Aunt to read. I'm sure I'll be in the mood for them again sometime but for now, I am satiated. Of course I'll have to read the next JR Ward, Black Dagger Brotherhood installment and Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books. I'm not totally off my rocker.

I am still reading the last two books on the list above; The End of Overeating by David Kessler, MD about the food industry's conspiracy to make us crave and eat more and more crap and The Not So Big Life which is my anti new years resolution solution for this year.

My plan now is to clear my book shelves of some of the stragglers that have been gathering dust due to my paranormal obsession and plunge ahead into another year of reading insanity one page at a time.