Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Oh Won't You Be My Neighbor

One of the biggest differences between our life in North Idaho and our old life in Scottsdale are the neighbors.

Sure we had neighbors in Scottsdale, the kind that came with high fences and nods. We even knew a few names but we weren't really, well, friendly. Everybody had their own lives and not much in common and the entire neighborhood was transitory.

Not so here.

Our one set of true neighbors, the only ones who live here year round anyway, introduced themselves and gave phone numbers the day we moved in. They also noticed the AR, and said we should go shooting sometime.

4 months later, and they drop in on a fairly regular basis their (grown and almost grown) kids included. They ask to borrow tools and the canoe, I get the occasional technical help with the lawnmower, that kind of stuff. We live next to some really nice, well-armed ex-canucks.

So today the entire family is in Coeur D'Alene running an errand and Chris decides we need to go to a hobby shop. He wants to introduce the kids to model rocket building and wants a pre-made kit to gauge their real interest.

Fast forward a few hours and we've got a launch pad set up on our newly mowed lawn with the kids waiting anxiously. We have our acre and a half, the acre next door that consists of the community water access, and our neighbor's acre and a half, and lake right in front of us. Plenty of drop zone for the rocket.

The contractor who is rebuilding our stairs tomorrow comes by to drop off the materials so we invite him and his son to watch.

Then I call out to the neighbor. He still has guests left over from his family reunion this weekend (4 RVs camped out on his lawn, quite a sight) so he and his grab lawn chairs to watch the action. We warn him the rocket may land on his side; he's good with that.

13 people, 6 on our lawn and 7 across the fence, watch the rocket reach an estimated apex of 1000 ft, and watch it fall. The nose lands in our yard, the body in the community lot.

And everybody is well entertained.

This is what passes for entertainment out here, and I'm glad we get to share it with such great people.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Now That's a Change

So, we just received the first electric bill for this house in our name (the lease originally had our landlord receiving the bill and then billing us, but that was inconvenient, so now we're getting billed directly).

Wow what a change!

Last year our bill from SRP from June 14 to July 13 added up to $540.68. Our current bill from Avista for June 15 to July 14 is... $184.30.

Just a little bit different.

The breakdown:
Time Period July 2009 July 2010
kWh 4451 2264
Cost $488.87 $179.70
Cost Per kWh $.1098 $.0794
Monthly Basic Charge $12.00 $4.60
City Tax $8.26 none
County and State Tax $31.56 none
Total $540.68 $184.30

Yeah... the cost of living is a little lower here huh...

Oh, and though we don't have air conditioning in this house, the numbers here include the cost of running the hot tub 24/7 (1500 watt heater, plus pump).

And of course, without the ever increasing AC cost through the summer, our bill should be about the same for July (actually July 15th through August 14th), through September; vs. the $700 per month we paid last July, August, and last September (yes, our June-July bill was relatively LOW last year).

The savings from one summer month alone, is enough to buy heating oil and firewood for the whole winter.

Oh and now we have an idea of how much generator we need to buy for the inevitable winter blackouts (peak sustained usage looks like about 6kw).

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Local Food Movement

I am a member of the Local Food Movement.

Am I a card-carrying Organic Only soccer mom? Uh, no. The word "organic" means next to nothing to me, its overly squishy and variable. Oh, and comes with a horrendous price tag. As for the purported benefits that a whole post by itself.

Am I an eco-nut worried about the carbon that's being released into the air by those evil delivery trucks and contributing to "global warming"? Most definitely not.

Am I a free-range cruelty-free we're-evil-because-we-eat-animals PETArd? You're kidding, right?

I am a food snob.

Oh, not the imported prosciutto and wagyu beef kind of food snob. I don't care how much the food costs. I care how much the food tastes.

Maximum flavor in fruits, veggies, and grain is best achieved locally, as soon after harvesting as humanly possible. Veggies so tender they don't ship well? That's what I'm after. Fruit so soft you can't truck it? Count me in. Just-milled wheat? Oh baby.

This extends to animal products as well. Sure your average big-production beef doesn't taste very different from producer to producer, as well as eggs and chicken and pork. This is because *most* large meat and egg producers feed their animals the same wholesome-but-cheap diet. The taste of meat and eggs is all about the diet.

In order to get the tender grass-raised beef we crave we have to go local or pay through the nose. The beef tastes much, much better and cooks very differently. Same with eggs; the best eggs come from chickens with high-protein and varied diets and the absolute best come from chickens given the opportunity to hunt their own insects. It's disgusting but true. You can't get eggs like that anywhere but locally, at least without paying through the nose.

If the people selling raw milk from pastured cows around here weren't charging so damn much we'd be all over that too.

Do we pay more this way? Oh definitely, about 30% more for beef and eggs and 100% more for produce. Thus why we want to grow and raise our own.

Is it worth it? Definitely for foodies like us who make most meals from scratch. Also the kids go through fresh produce and boiled eggs like most kids go through fruit snacks and granola bars.

So no, I'm not into local food in order to "save the planet". I buy locally just because it tastes better.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Oddest Damn Dog That You Ever Did See

We love mutts.

All of our dogs are mutts. This is due to a mixture of not being breed fanatics, not being breeders, not wanting to keep uncut dogs, and a weakness for shelter dogs. More specifically a weakness for politically incorrect dogs.

We're familiar with the mixed bag mutts bring. Some of the best (and worst) qualities of each breed seem to be magnified with some interesting combinations. Jayne, our pitbull/Rottweiler mix, seems to have gotten a double dose of lapdog, teddy bear, and high pain tolerance. Zoe, our coonhound/Rottweiler mix, got a double dose of affectionate and trouble-making.

For weird qualities though, Wash takes the cake.

Wash is... we don't know. Obviously Doberman, some Rottweiler, and the double coat he's developing suggests German Shepherd like we always thought. His ears resemble a bat, his tail is a lethal weapon, and he's got incredible hearing. All wrapped in a 60 or so lb lapdog and companion.

This dog follows me everywhere. Whatever I'm doing, he's there. He sits and waits by the gate when I go get the mail. He's the first to show up when I get home from wherever.

That's normal, very attached pack behavior. Wash is not normal.

Wash is a pyro.


There's the typical "hound dog lying at the hearth" fireplace behavior. Then there's doggy pyro territory.

On the 4th we set off our fireworks in the yard. The kids were watching from the top deck, Chris was setting off the fireworks and sitting 10 feet away, and I was sitting 15 feet away on the bottom steps with the hose ready.

Jayne watched the fireworks with the kids. Wash watched the fireworks with me. Totally unafraid, tail wagging.

The louder the fireworks got, the closer to them he went. The brighter, the closer. The higher the keen of the sound, the closer he went. He was "investigating" with his tail wagging.

I finally had to hold him back because he got too close.

I've seen dogs run away from fireworks. I've never see a dog run towards them though.

Oddest damn dog.


Low Sodium Levels Suck

Sometimes I am a complete and utter idiot.

I was born with natural low sodium levels. It's genetic. My renal-failure on-dialysis brother is, as far as I know, the only kidney patient who has ever been told to eat more salt.

To top that off, I'm on a nearly no processed food diet, since we cook almost everything from scratch. That means I don't get salt the way most Americans do, through excessive salt in food.

I'm also very sensitive to the taste of salt and don't like excessive amounts.

Salt is necessary for hydration, and necessary to keep dehydration at bay. Drinking enough water to keep hydrated is pointless without eating enough salt to keep the water in your cells.

I learned this lesson hard in Phoenix, where merely walking out the door was enough to make me dehydrated. Summer was intolerable, and to this day I'm the only person I know who took runner's salt tablets just to keep hydrated.

Ever try to find salt tablets in a health food or vitamin store? They look at you like you're nuts. Salt is bad for you, didn't you know?

So compared to constant dehydration in the desert the summer here so far has been a breeze.

Until it got up to 80 and severe clear that is, and I forgot that I needed salt with all that water. Water drunkenness is just as bad, if not worse, than dehydration itself. Sure feels worse.

So now I'm making myself some Southern Gatorade (sweetened iced tea with salt added), and I will be drinking at least a gallon a day of it until the temperature dips again.