Saturday, March 21, 2015

Life Below Zero

Happy Spring! I expected the dark winter months would be slower and an excellent time for blogging, but they seem to have flown past since my last post in November. I launched a business offering mechanical design services about the time of my last post. Alternate Solutions, LLC is doing well with one long-term client and several smaller jobs. I even spent a couple of weeks in December and January providing on site support in NM.

After returning to Galena I accepted a part time position with the city managing the long-term recovery efforts stemming from the 2013 flood. The first couple of months have gone really well with lots of interesting projects to work on including several involving renewable energy and efficiency. The position with the city should last through at least the end of the year. With the city's recovery work, Alternate Solutions, and a couple of ideas in development, 2015 is already looking pretty full. 

Photos of Galena life the last few months:

This was likely our low temperature for the year in late Jan. I like the weather channels optimistic assumptions about spontaneous warming. Maybe their computer can't accept a temperature that low.
At atmospheric pressure, propane boils at -44F. Ours stopped working properly a little bit above that, but the wood stove worked great.  We had squash soup and quesadillas for supper. 
Making pancakes on the wood stove 
To warm the propane up enough to work properly I wrapped it in my fleece blanket and a tarp. I also added a magnetic oil pan heater. 
Corrie coming in from a walk at about -30F.
This box processes our sewage since a community system isn't practical here.
That icicle is a probably exactly what you think it is. The permafrost the house is built on moved and pulled the insulated pipe apart.  
At -40, thawing the pipe took a few hours even with a 35,000 BTU heater. 
The pipe actually separated at both ends.

Moose watching the sunrise over  the Yukon
The frozen Yukon in mid-February 
Another shot of the Yukon.
After 51 below, this is T-shirt weather in February. I felt a little sorry for my friends in TN when I heard they lost power to a severe winter storm the same day. 
The Iditarod came through town. The race was supposed to take the southern trail and skip Galena this year, but there wasn't enough snow in Anchorage so they moved the start to Fairbanks. 
The lows each morning were near forty below while the Iditarod was coming through. I think it was about -35 this morning. I saw several mushers tending their dogs with bare hands. This is not a sport for me.
Corrie on a much warmer walk at about zero.
We bought a snowmobile! There have been enormous technological advances since I last owned a snowmachine. 
We bought a used 600cc Skidoo with a 136" track, and it really moves. I am going to have to do something about the lack of windshield though.
There's an old song about springtime in Alaska being forty below, and it was last week.
It seems we missed the memo today though.
The warm temps do make excellent riding weather!
One of the projects I've been working on will replace an antiquated distributed heating system at the boarding school with a more efficient one. It should save the school about 60,000 gallons of heating oil a year. The second half of the project will include a biomass boiler that should reduce oil use by another 140,000 gallons. I took advantage of the recent warm weather to climb into and inspect the existing utilidor. It looks like it's been there for fifty years.