Wednesday, January 17, 2018

It all comes together.

Last month the propane fridge we spent way too much on, 7 years ago, gave out.

The month before that I installed a tracking/data system on the new solar array.

We made lemonade. Typically, our draw down on the batteries goes down to 90% SOC (State of Charge) We know this because of the tracking system, even in our lowest solar irradiation month of December. 85% SOC is considered to be in the ultimate range of draw down for a given system, as concerns battery life expectancy. We shopped carefully for a new electric fridge, and settled on one that has a yearly KW usage expectancy of 471 KWH per year. That means basically 1.3 KW per day. That seemed acceptable. As it plays out, the electric refrigerator/freezer takes our worst drawdown to 88% SOC. That's GREAT! It will also save us about $500 per year in propane not used, so the payback on the purchase of the new fridge is about a year and a half.

I know it's geeky and lots of numbers, but I'm happy figuring this crap out. It's ...... fulfilling and satisfying to be able to do this stuff myself.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Stranahan's Snowflake 2017

We did our regular run up to Denver on December 1st for the Stranahan's Snowflake release. For the uninitiated: The head distiller at Stranahan's Rocky Mountain Whiskey in Denver, Colorado makes a special blend that is released once a year. It's usually the first Friday in December, and yes, it's chilly. To get a bottle of this release of a whiskey that starts out as regular Strannies and ends up as something especially delicious and rare, one has to camp out overnight on the sidewalk surrounding the distillery. The folks that were first in line started out on Wednesday morning at 5 AM. I think that's a little nuts, and we go most years arriving on Friday afternoon/evening. This year we got there at 4 :30 PM. The line was much longer this early in the evening than years previous:

So we set up our chairs, fluffed out our sleeping bags and settled in to drink and visit with our neighbors for the night.

It's always nice to get to know the folks around you a bit. Friday night's group included the regular grouping of interesting and wonderful folks. Immediately "up" line from us was Kevin, who offered to make us coffee in the morning and collected pizza orders for delivery later on. Also "up" line was Andrew who brought his doggy, Layla. The dog was a delight who sat on our blankies to get her tired old feet off the concrete. Right next to us was Rachael (whom we all called DC). Rachael had flown in from Washington DC that afternoon, using her fiancees flight miles to trip out and get a couple bottles of Snowflake for their wedding. The wedding will be on Mount Evans later this year and her fellow who LOVES Stranahan's whiskey. (Rachael however kinda hates whiskey). She flew out immediately after collecting her bottles and dropping them off to be engraved in the morning. Next to DC was a group of friends that had flown in from both Portland and Kansas City (figure out that connection and you're doing better than I am). There were 5 of them and all were friendly and nice.

So we spent the evening drinking, eating the pizza that Kevin ordered, and catching occasional cat naps between the blaring of the train horn as it rumbled by about a quarter mile away. It ran at least every hour, but it felt like much more. :D. There were folks playing guitars, people talking and visiting, folks with outdoor camp fires, one tent had a whole bar in it. It's a nice chilly party full of folks with the shared interest in getting a once in a life time bottle of a very special whiskey.

In the morning, around 6 AM, they start handing out tickets.

Each person in line can get two tickets. The ticket gets you one bottle of $100 rare whiskey. I actually dropped one of mine in line, and a really nice fellow handed it back to me. (hey, I'd been up all night drinking, I was a bit out of it).

Stranahan's is making more of a party atmosphere out of the release and they're doing a really good job of it. Once (and within an hour before) the tickets are handed out folks start packing up. This makes the line MUCH shorter as some folks will take up 20 or 30 feet of sidewalk with their tents and such. And no one cares a whole lot where they are in line once they have their tickets. We moved from the alley that's about a 1/2 mile from the entrance door to about 100 yards away long before the doors opened at 8 AM. Folks are still talking and visiting in the line, there's occasionally a warming stove scattered here and there and that's a good thing because once you've packed up your feet start really freezing while you wait the hour or two to get in the door.

Then the doors open! They check ID's as you enter (21 and over only in the line). Then the line snakes throughout the distillery so that we can all warm up a bit. There's a band playing, folks dancing, an online bar set up and the mood is pretty jovial. This year they handed out a signed release poster

Also on line, a little shot of the new regular flavor of Stranahan's was available. It's a sherry cask offering and while I liked it? I think it's a little pricey for what you get. It was nice to get a taste and that added to the party flavor. All the employees are all excited, wearing their Snowflake wear, smiling, interacting with the crowd and so obviously excited that I really think they love this day. As you walk through the line there are two casks to sign, these will hold a new Snowflake offering. We've signed several casks over the years.

The Snowflake goes through a 5 year aging process: 2 years in new oak casks with a #3 char, then moves on to various other caskings. This years release went through several rum casks, a port cask, oh hell take a look:
The line moves somewhat slowly, but more quickly than one would think 700+ folks could move through a building. The music, dancing, drinking and visiting help pass the time for the whole bunch who spent the night drinking, smoking, talking and laughing.
Then you pass through the door to where the whiskey is!!!!!!! A nice, happy fellow tears the stub from your tickets (you get to keep the tickets) and you move forward. Three nice, happy folks grab your bottles for you and add tasting notes, tags, individual bags and you can even have them put in a box for transport. We got our 4 bottles and chose a box, there's less chance of me dropping a box when I'm tired and a little hung over. Then you wander past the merchandise counter where you can choose to purchase your own Snowflake wear and head up to the checkout line. That moves fast and efficiently and the folks there are nice and happy too. :D

There's your bottle of Once In A Lifetime Snowflake in your hand.

You can choose to have Rob Detrich (Whiskey Rob) sign the bottle by standing in the line for that. It also moves pretty fast, we opted to not do that on release day. Crys might get it done on Monday when we go back to town for some other stuff. We've done it in the past, to tell the truth the whiskey tastes the same with our without the extra signature. That and we figured the release posted was good enough in that vein.
After that we wandered to the car, got everything settled a bit and drove to Breakfast King to meet Pablo for a bite before the ride home. The ride home is 4 hours, and it feels like a bit of a trial after the long night before. We made the drive just fine, Crys got some sleep along the way and it was  nice unencumbered drive as concerns traffic and such. We got home in a smidge under the 4 hours and unloaded the car with the help of our friend Marian who watches the house and kitties while we're out of town.

Then it was on to TASTING! You don't get to try the Snowflake before buying. It's a risk and always a good one.
We loved it. I'm a rum fan and while the rum taste isn't overpowering, it is present and adds notes I like. Crys and Marian also loved the sample we took from our little bottle of joy. All the bottles are numbered and while we'll drink and share a bit, there's always one we hold back. This year it is bottle 420, for obvious reasons. Most often our bottles are under 100 in the numbering range, but due to this years large crowd we were further back. Funny, the whiskey tastes the same, no matter the number on the bottle.

That's our little, excessive purchase, story for the year. This year it's a reward for my Florida trip putting up powerlines after hurricane Irma and for Crys doing everything at home while I was gone.

Thanks Whiskey Rob, for another wonderful offering, we'll treasure and enjoy it. Remembering all the while that even if it's a once in a lifetime release? Life was meant to be lives, lessons are made to be learned, joys are meant to be celebrated and whiskey is meant to be drunk!

Changing our name, Since nothing evaporates bullshit like the light of truth.

We're going to change the name of our blog.

This morning my dear sweet wife, Crys, showed me an article about the use of the word Gypsy. 

It's a well written article about the use of the word, it's reference to a maligned ethnic group and has prompted us to no longer use a word that causes people distress, especially since that was never our intent. 

This is where I'm going to do the right thing. It's also half my blog, and I'm going to go off for a moment. Then I'm going to do the right thing. 

I'm a 57 year old white man. I grew up a poor, sometimes hungry, redneck, blue collar, ignorant kid surrounded by my african american playmates. I didn't know I was poor till I got older. I didn't know there was a difference between my self and my playmates until I went to school. We were all poor kids, playing in the dirt and the woods and the only difference was who came up with the best idea of what to do that day outside (because you didn't dare go back in the house until dark). 

As I got older I learned that I was privileged. I learned it was my job to hand back the power and privilege I was awarded due to a skin color that I had no more hand in choosing than my playmates did with theirs. 

I've tried to do that every day of my life. 

With maligned and mistreated folks who are a different color, gender, religion (OK still have a little trouble with the whole talking snake thing but I try), belief system etc. 

I'm not arguing that I didn't benefit from white male privilege, I will submit that it was a little hard to see when there were programs and help for every other group and I got told to shut up and go to work at shit jobs to get by while getting kicked in the teeth by the folks I was trying to be a good person for, and do the right thing. Scratch that. I didn't do it for any other reason than it was the right fucking thing. 

I'm still doing it. This morning the blog title caught me by surprise and I'm going to explain why, once again, being shown my ignorance made me mad. 

In short? I'm tired. I'm tired of finding out I had identified with a group that wasn't the male white one and then finding out that having willing ostracized myself from "my" white male group because I found it's actions generally repulsive I wasn't allowed to belong to any of the other groups because when they look at me they see white male privilege. 

And I'm saying it here because it's half my damned page and I can say what I want to. When I go out in the world and show my face I'll act right, responsible, happy to once again have handed over something I identified with, felt a resonance to, deeply had taken to be a part of who I am and inside? I've lost something else. I've been told I'm a terrible white man, and while I'm expected to remove myself from causing others pain from words or deeds? No matter how much I do it I'll never be welcomed into those groups. 

Why did I identify with the term Gypsy? We named the blog that because the life Crys and I lead brought us to being ostracized from our homes, a great deal of our friends, the dominant religious and moral/ethical approach as much of the rest of the country we live in. We felt we'd found a place to finally put down some roots on our terms and relax. 

It's still that. And I regret, once again, having my ignorance shown the light of truth and not being able to willingly stay in the ignorance. And part of me fucking totally completely hates every single god damned second of it. I'm tired. And it'll never get better no matter how much I do. Because there will always be one more thing I haven't found out yet. Yes, it's because I'm white and privileged. (HA) And I'll keep doing the right thing. God damn it. Because the crazy white racist woman that raised me somehow taught me that we're all the same, and I should always do the right thing because, "two wrongs don't make a right". 

Now, to change the name to something I hopefully won't have to change again, make a post about the great day we had yesterday and move on.  

Saturday, November 11, 2017

How to nearly kill the Pro Shop guy......

Went to Cabelas yesterday and got our bows set up. I’m starting out at 52 pounds on the draw and 29.5 for a draw length. Crys is at 26” and around 30 pounds to start (she’ll move up quickly) Had to go shopping this morning for more stuff 😃. Who knew that the wrong carbon arrows will explode? We also found a pretty good sushi restaurant on the way outta Denver after our evening trip to Cabelas! It was a fun day following the E-board meeting. I should never get to learn things in a public setting.

First the Pro Shop guy was checking for draw length. They have you do this by putting the middle finger of your left hand on a tape measure on the wall then leaning into the wall and seeing where the other finger lands. They then divide that measurement by 2.5. I reached over and his response? Wow, didn't see that coming, you have quite the wingspan. I explained that all linemen have long arms because we hang from stuff like monkeys.

THEN? I'm getting sighted in and taught the basics (we never had a bow before, either of us) and apparently I was leaning with my hips which was messing up my aim. So there I am, full draw, and they guy reaches over to grab my hips to move them back. I'm focused on the peep sight, the targeting sight, the arrow, the target and the bow. This is a lot for a Denny. When he touches my hips and I didn't know it was coming? I flinch. Pull the lever on the release and the arrow flies right up into the ceiling just 4 feet in front of us.

Crystal is STILL laughing.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sometimes, ya just gotta hit restart.

Most of the posts here are about what we're up to, what we're building, places we visited, things we ate and drank, stuff we've been up to. This one is not. This one is of the "inside" variety. The pic is of Griffy, our lovable, sometimes grumpy kitty, and he is Crys' best friend.

Over the last few weeks I've managed to mire myself in minutia. I've let work and all the "stuff" happening there to get in the way of enjoying what's important. To be specific (stop laughing) what's important is home and Crystal. Our kitties and the stupid chickens. Working together on the greenhouse and finishing up the place to get ready for winter. Those are important, not what's happening at a place I'll never think about again in about 2 years hence.

So today, possibly all weekend, perhaps the next week or two..... I'll take my co-workers advice and make work and answering the phone much less important. As in, almost completely unimportant. The phone went off twice this morning already. It's time to start having the other folks that claim to be linemen figure out how their lives will look in the future. I'll be making myself less important there all the time. And I'll work on projects, take my Solar for Developing Worlds class (really interesting with LOTS of info on alternative building, water, septic..... it's just damned cool), lay around in bed, go for walks, do interesting things with that gorgeous woman I live with, and have a beer any damned time I want.

If you wanna hang, shoot us a note. I'll be hanging with Crys and Griffy.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Denny's Summer Vacation

I got the opportunity to go on a storm job with my power company. We left in mid September and were gone for about 2 1/2 weeks. My local co-worker, Coy, and I traveled up to Denver to meet up with crews from Denver, Boulder, Ft. Collins, Grand Junction, Rifle and our spots: Alamosa and Salida.

We left at 5 PM, arriving in Denver at 1 AM on Sunday, we crashed for a few hours and met the rest of the folks at 7 AM on Sunday. There were about 71 folks including 3 safety folks and 3 bosses. The rest were linemen. 

 It was a 4 day convoy to TECO power in Tampa, Florida. We mostly traveled together, stringing out a ways depending on how fast trucks would go. The truck Coy and I were in was limited to 71 MPG which put us at the back of the back. One pic here is of an orange grove where we spend the 4th day with TECO. Apparently if one eats green oranges, it produces gastrointestinal distress. :D. The Key Lime Pie (best one ever) is from Gary's Oyster Bar, a local favorite where the fellas got the combo plate of Gator, scallops, frog legs and conch. They proclaimed it good.

Much of the work at TECO was putting up wire torn apart by trees with very few down poles. We got there just a little bit behind the storm as we passed through Atlanta, GA when they opened the highway for folks to get home. That meant everyone in the world was trying to beat the looters back to their boarded up homes and equated to stop and go traffic from Atlanta to Tampa. What made this the most fun was the air conditioning going out on our bucket truck that day. Think a giant glass bubble in 98 degree heat in stop and go traffic on asphalt. We were riding with our arms out the windows trying to scoop in air. WHEW!!!!

On the last day in Tampa, we ended up with a couple of hours of free time. Free time is good. We worked 16 hour days during the 17 day trip, and it was pretty cool to get released for a few hours to look around. We found a beach on Tampa Bay and got to watch a nice sunset. That would be the pics above. I went there with Coy Mortensen, Trent Roberts and Forest McNulty. Trent and Forest are troublemen based in Grand Junction and we ran with them most of the time.

I got to know the Rifle folks and the linemen from Grand Junction on the trip as well, we worked with them a lot. Also a couple troublemen from Ft. Collins, one of which I'd known forever. It's nice getting to rub elbows with folks you know and respect and folks you've known for a long time. There were several Denver folks I've know a long time as well.

The pic directly to the right is of the first night arriving in Ft. Meyers to work for Florida Power and Light. We spent about 4 days with TECO and then moved to FPL for another 4 days or so.

One of the more interesting things we discovered was the difference in vegetation when Florida is compared to Colorado.

The tree to the right is an ancient tree with crazy downward facing spikes to deter climbing by things. The green parts were soft and wet but the spikes were hard as a rock and the points would easily pierce skin. There were also Banyan trees, and those seemed to fall over the most, taking great root balls with them, along with every thing else that was in the way.

Ft Meyers was a more challenging place to work. It was slightly less humid, which is kind of like being slightly less dead: a distinction without much of a difference. The pic below is Trent Roberts climbing a pole to work some secondary in a back yard in one of the more poor neighborhoods. The people there were very kind to us, as the people every where in Florida were.
Living conditions were changeable on the trip. On the road we had motel rooms to ourselves. In Tampa, and where necessary, Coy and I bunked together. Funny how some folks seem to balk at that. We usually only really had time to shower and sleep so we figured it was just fine. When we got to Ft. Meyers were were settled into a "man camp". (there were a couple women tree trimmers there but on this trip no women linemen). The man camp consisted of refrigerated semi trailers with 36 bunks each. There were also trailers that housed showers, porta potties and tents set up to house food distribution. We'd eat breakfast in the big tent, get a box lunch, and have diner in the tent as well. That was unless we worked too late and had to find an open restaurant on the way back to camp. Sometimes we'd have cocktails between the trucks in the parking lot. Our parking spot was at a State Fair location in Tampa, and at the airport in Ft. Meyers. Thing hundreds of truck parked all over with booms in the air (so folks don't "borrow" your tools) and ranged over several acres. Kind of an impressive site. 

Folks were pretty good in the meat lockers (cooled trailers) and we were all pretty thankful to have  cool place to sleep since the folks we were turning power on for had been sweltering in their home for days on end. 

Working during the storm was a giant sweaty mess. We'd start drinking water and gatorade first thing in the mornings. The safety folks would drive around from job to job handing out cold drinks and sometimes when we'd finish a section we'd cab up in the trucks and cool off for a bit. I'd sweat through my FR (fire retardant) coveralls by 10 AM. Thank goodness for onsite laundry services at the man camp. 
Again, on the last day in Ft. Meyers, we had a few hours to ourselves. The four of us decided to go to Ft. Meyers Beach. We were rather a sight walking down the beach in our work pants, boots and FR clothes. We didn't really pack for recreation when we left home as we only had time to throw crap together and head out. So there we are, walking down the beach, picking up seashells to take back home. Little kids and some of the adults would ask us if we were linemen. I guess we'd either have to be linemen or part of the mafia. :D. Then they'd thank us for coming down to turn the power on. That was very sweet. I joked with one fella who asked, "you guys linemen"? By replying, why? do we LOOK like assholes? He was in inside wireman from back east, and he just laughed. Then we wandered through shops, bought souvenirs and ice cream before heading back to sleep our last night in the bunks. 

A word about the people we ran into. Every single one of them was very sweet. In Tampa, waiting in a parking lot, a young woman rolled up in her car, rolled down the window and asked if we'd be done for the day soon. When I replied, yes, she asked if I liked beer. That's a silly question. YES. So she handed me an ice cold 24 pack which I handed to one of our group with a cooler (Zeke Farber) and we all shard later. As we were leaving a job in Ft Meyers, a fellow came running out of his home and asked if we liked liquor. Again, YES. He was a liquor distributor and gave me the pic of his cabinet. Tequila that time. We shared that as well. Throughout the trip people kept stopping by to thank us, and they'd hand us cold drinks, fruit, energy bars, popsicles and all manner of stuff. One lady gave us powder (thank goodness, that sweat made us CHAFF) and socks. Every single person we ran into was appreciative and kind. The Guatemalan family in Ft Meyers that was butchering chickens to cook on their open fire (they'd been out for 10 days) and obviously didn't have much, sent their beautiful children over with iced tea for us. To a person, they made it worth being there. 

Then it was time to head home. It ended up being a little over 3 days getting back. The pic above is of our bucket (we were on our own getting home from Denver) coming down 285 and through South Park, home finally in sight. 

I can't thank Crys enough for taking care of everything while I was gone. It's really nice to not have to worry about home while you're gone. She even did several really cool home projects to surprise me with upon getting home. I needed her to drive me up to Salida on the day we left and come get me when I got back. She picked me up and we went to breakfast at our fav place up there, the Patio Pancake Place, then drove home to reconnect and have a bit of time before I went back to work the next day. I also felt well taken care of on the trip by our management team, Dustin Taylor, Jay Porteous and Tommy. They went out of their way to make sure we got fed, had a place to sleep and got paid. (I do like getting paid). Thanks also to the guys from Rifle and Grand Junction that used their company cards to help out Coy and I who had none. 

I was thrilled to get to go on this. I haven't been on a storm job in this century. And with just a little over 2 years to go, this feels like I got to go out with a bang. I feel like I held up my end on the work and wasn't a burden to my co-workers there. That always feels good. 

End of story. I'll update if anything occurs to me. 

Monday, September 11, 2017


It's a beautiful cool day out this morning. This weekend before Denny took off to help bring power back to Florida, we finished the main exterior of the greenhouse.

It was a race to the finish when we received the call that Denny would be leaving. we put in the last 7 panels in record time. Now we'll just have to build a doorway and put in the vents. There's a few other small details for finishing the exterior, but it feels nice to see a dome out there. We'll have a small raised bed around the outside, and we'll build the interior beds next year.