Saturday, February 25, 2012

Facts About Firewood for Woodstoves and Fireplaces In New Mexico

These cool mornings I get up and light a fire in the wood stove first thing, turning off the central heating by 6:30AM when my "on-peak" electricity rates of 15 cents/Kwh kick in.  My kindling is usually small branches of Piñon. The smell of Piñon burning is sweet and aromatic.  There's nothing quite like the intoxicating smell of Piñon Pine burning in the air of New Mexico.  

I then add cut lengths of well-seasoned Juniper, both One Seed Juniper and Alligator Juniper.  They burn hot, quickly warming the main rooms of house.  The smell of Juniper is also very aromatic, similar to cedar smoke. Sometimes New Mexicans call our local juniper Cedar and the interior of the gray-barked wood is sometimes red like cedar.

Piñon trees in Manzanita Mountains just east of Albuquerque

Piñon trees in my front yard

One-Seed Juniper (more than 100 years old) in my front yard

One-seed Junipers in Bear Canyon in northeast side of Albuquerque

Alligator Juniper with it's distinctive alligator skin bark

The wood of the One Seed Juniper burns the hottest of our native woods with a value of 21,958 BTU's per cord of dry wood.  The Gamble Oak is the next hottest with a value of 21,163 BTU's per cord.  Utah Juniper and Piñon Pine (Pinus edulis) follow with  20,149 and 18,737 BTU's per cord respectively and Alligator Juniper has a heat value of  17,288 BTU's per cord. The softer firewood available in New Mexico with lower heat values include Douglas Fir (15,330 BTU's), White Fir (14,212 BTU's), Ponderosa Pine (14,085 BTU's), Aspen (12,576 BTU's), and Englemann Spruce (10,880 BTU's) per cord. 

Purchasing Firewood: If you don't cut your own wood, you can always get it from a firewood dealer. A full cord is 128 cubic feet and is usually measured stacked 4x4x8 feet.  Sometimes an advertised cord of wood may only be a face cord which is only 1/3 of a full cord.  Some wood sellers with a pick-up truck of wood for sale along the roadside only have a face cord which measures 4 feet tall by eight feet long, but is only one length of cut wood deep, usually 16-18 inches, once you stack it.  When you have it dumped in a pile at your home, you may not know that it is not a full cord until you stack it.  Ponderosa pine is usually about $160-180 a cord, but as I said, often it is not a full cord.  Mixed pine and juniper is about $170-185.  Juniper is about $185-200.  Oak runs about $220-240.  This should include delivery but not stacking.  Expect to pay about $20-40 for stacking.  Make sure the wood is well split and the proper length for your stove.  It's such a pain to find you must cut and split the wood once you get it delivered. You can order wood from a reliable wood seller, pick it up yourself or have it delivered.  Each season, beginning in late summer, wood sellers park their trucks in parking areas or along roads to sell their wood. Make sure the wood is well seasoned (at least one year from being cut).  A few unscrupulous wood sellers along the highways may have a cheap price for their truckload, but they may have cut the wood recently and illegally.  Unseasoned wood will yield 18% less heat and quickly build up creosote within your chimney or stove pipe that may start a dangerous chimney fire.

A clogged chimney cap after burning unseasoned wood

Wood ash and creosote build-up inside the stove pipe after burning wet wood
Through "trial and error, I have found reliable wood sellers with a good product along the roads in the East Mountains where I live and I take their card or name and number to reorder. My last two deliveries were a full cord of well-seasoned  juniper, delivered and stacked for $220.  More firewood facts for residents of New Mexico who burn wood for heat are here.

Storage of Your Wood:  Cover your wood to keep it dry and off the ground.  If you are in a rural area and there is a danger of wildfire, keep the main wood pile at least 30 feet from buildings as part of your defensible space plan.

Building and Maintaining a Fire: When I first got my wood stove (a Pacific Energy high efficiency wood stove), I wasn't certain about its operation and how to start and maintain a fire.  There is no one right way to light a fire and through trial and error you will find the best method for you and your stove. Some people buy "fire starters" as an easy way to get a fire going quickly. Here is information on lighting a stove with newspaper and kindling.  I find the "top down" method works very well. Maintaining a fire just requires you to adjust the damper lever to appropriate level of air feed. Highest when starting a fire, then turn it down to mid-level after about 30 minutes, turn it to lowest level for overnight fire or when you need to cool down the stove.  A good bed of glowing coals provides the best and most consistent heat so adjust your damper level to get that effect rather than just feeding it logs to create a big flaming fire.

The Cost Advantage of Wood for Energy: Through the use of our woodstove during winter, along with a "Time of Use" meter installed by our electric co-op to take advantage of lower demand of electricity (2/3 of our electrical use is "non-peak" at 5 cents per Kwh), we have lowered our overall energy bill by 25-30%.  The heat is warmer than that from our heater, the dancing flames are delightful, and the smell of pinyon and juniper is sensual!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Skiing and Snowboarding in Breckenridge for President's Day Weekend

Over the past long weekend, my daughters and their friends, Marissa and Chris, gathered in Breckenridge, Colorado for a reunion and some winter sports.  Marissa and Mary have been best friends for 20 years since they lived on the same street in Clairemont (a neighborhood in San Diego, CA).

Amanda, Mary, and Marissa with me in Clairemont (c. 1992)
After meeting each other in college, Marissa and Chris got married in Jamaica three years ago.  Mary was there for Marissa as her maid of honor.  These days Chris and Marissa live in Ft. Collins, CO and Mary lives in Albuquerque, NM -- so this was a great chance to get everyone together again.

Marissa and Chris
I had exchanged my September timeshare week for this February ski week with another owner at French Ridge.  Weather was mixed - windy, sunny, cold, and snowy.  My girls snowboarded.  Marissa and Chris skied.  Everyone relaxed in the hot tub. 

Mary, Chris, Marissa and Amanda - Ready to go!

Marissa and Amanda were the last to come off the mountain.

Mary done ... "Give me a lift home!"

Marissa and Amanda calling it a day

Check out the awesome snowboarding at Breck on this You Tube video (no, this is not us):

Or skiing at Breck (OK, this is definitely not us):

Marissa cooked some awesome meals with wholesome and natural ingredients she brought with her.
We cooked all our meals in the condo and saved a lot of money. Plus, the food was the best! French toast, breakfast burritos, eggs and bacon, oatmeal and fruit for breakfast.  Baked macaroni and cheese, chicken and rice, tacos, broccoli, carrots, tossed green salad and sandwiches....yummy!
Amanda's college friend, Brett from Colorado Springs, was in Frisco for  the weekend.  She came to visit for the afternoon on Sunday.

We returned Tuesday crossing paths halfway in Moffat, CO with my friend Cathy and her son who were on their way to Breckenridge to spend the rest of the week in the condo.

My friend and neighbor, Cathy (in Breckenridge last September),  is on the ski patrol at Sandia Ski Resort.
Tuesday was Fat Tuesday and so Breckenridge did have a Mardi Gras Parade that we missed by leaving early.  Thanks to You Tube, here it is:

No, I didn't go on the slopes.  Since breaking my leg skiing in Angel Fire, NM in 2000, I've only gone skiing one time since.  So, not only am I not in shape, I also had my eye surgery   a little more than three weeks ago so I have to be careful to not dislodge the corneal graft.  The lift passes were also very expensive: $111 for one day (ouch!).

I hope you're having fun this winter, where ever you are.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Who Is Behind All the Propaganda Against President Obama?

I got another one of those anonymous viral emails "warning us of the Enemy Within" and great disaster awaiting America if we don't get rid of President Obama, this one from my Aunt in North Carolina.  The narrative is how the anonymous writer was hosting a BBQ for a Cuban refugee who compares President Obama to Fidel Castro. It goes on to argue that Obama has "nationalized our auto industry" and "stripped GM bondholders of their assets", let "Black Panthers go free because their crimes are against Whites...etc." Here is an excerpt and the ending from the anonymous email where the reader is urged to forward the email or face death under "fascist rule": 
We began with a simple discussion about our country, and the direction it has taken since Barack Obama came to power. We shared the usual complaints about the sour economy and liberal social engineering emanating from the rulers in Washington. But then he said it. The sentence came naturally. I assume it was unplanned. But it carried the weight of a freight train. "You know when Castro took power, none of us knew he was a Communist". We sat stunned. He continued, "Yes, we all thought he was a patriot, a nationalist. Before the revolution he didn't sound like a radical." The comparison at this point was easy, and I interjected, "You mean just like Barack Obama?" He responded; "Yes, just like Barack Obama."
PLEASE SEND THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!! And...may God save the United States of America !  ...the least you can do is forward this email. 6 million plus Jews didn't believe it would happen in Germany either!!! If you're a Christian in these United States of America, you're next on the list. The real problem here is, the boy from Cuba did manage to make it to the U.S.We will not have any place to escape to...except death! 
From an Anonymous email with subject: "What others often see, we often ignore"

Where does such an email come from?  Are these viral emails the work of a private citizen who honestly wants to alert his friends and family members of a secret plot he has uncovered and the dire consequences to our country if we fail to act?  Is this a letter from an earnest patriot who is rallying his fellow citizens to take up arms against a dictatorship?  Is this a message to Christians to rise up against Herod, or even worse, the "Anti-Christ"? Or are there other hidden forces at work who want to subvertly influence our selection for the President of the USA? 

An entire industry of "conspiracy theorists" churn out bizarre videos, blogs, and chain emails to "expose" the supposed "hidden agenda" of this President.  Look at this weird one that is just one of hundreds of thousands of similar crazy videos posted on You Tube. 

A lot of the propaganda out there is attributed to the so-called grassroots organization of patriots called the Tea Party. But how much of the Tea Party is really grass-roots and a spontaneous uprising of the people?  The Tea Party Movement arose in 2009 just one month after President Obama took office after a democratic election of the people.  The election in 2008 was another example of how America resolves its differences through an exercise at the ballot box with majority rule rather than through violent conflict and civil war. Tea Party members like to present themselves as patriots who are seriously concerned about the direction our country is taking as a result of President Obama taking office.  A campaign arose questioning his citizenship, his religion, and his values via viral anonymous emails, rallies,  legal challenges, and right wing talk shows.  Were all these actions the spontaneous out-pouring of the grass roots of America?  During the summer of 2009, Town Halls conducted by Congressmen and Senators back in their home districts were subject to angry mobs (some toting guns) who shouted down their elected representatives as they tried  to answer questions about pending health care reform legislation.  What is the truth behind the headlines?  Where is the money coming from to support the anti-government movement that arose as soon as President Obama took office?  An Austrailian film maker, Taki Oldham, came to the US to make a documentary about the Tea Party Movement.  Here is his film produced in 2011.  Take a look at it and tell me what you think.

Here is a Study Guide for this film distributed by the Media Education Foundation.   After you watch this film, if you think the Koch Brothers and their Americans for Prosperity organization threaten American democracy, please send them a message by boycotting their companies' products:

Koch Brothers Companies and Products:

Georgia-Pacific’s familiar consumer brands in North America include Quilted Northern®, Angel Soft®, Brawny®, Sparkle® , Soft 'n Gentle®, Mardi Gras®, Vanity Fair®, and the Dixie® brand of tabletop products.

• Lycra Fiber
• Coolmax Fabrics

Angel Soft toilet paper
Brawny paper towels
COMFOREL® fiberfill
COOLMAX® fabric
CORDURA® fabric
DACRON® fiber
Dixie plates, bowls, napkins and cups
Georgia-Pacific (All Products)
LYCRA® fiber
Mardi Gras napkins and towels
PHENREZ® resin
Quilted Northern toilet paper
Soft ‘n Gentle toilet paper
SOLARMAX® fabric
SOMERELLE® bedding products
Sparkle napkins
SUPPLEX® fabric
TACTEL® fiber
TACTESSE® carpet fiber
TERATE® polyols
TERATHANE® polyether glycol
Vanity Fair napkins
Zee napkins

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Old Family Photo Albums and Fading Memories

Inspired by fellow blogger Troutbirder  who posted his fond memories of growing up near Lake Phalen in Minnesota, I decided to post some of the old family photos here.  I've been recovering from my eye surgery so have had a couple of weeks off from my job. With the time on my hands, I have begun to scan old family photos to preserve them digitally.  I also started to organize my photos into new photo albums.  I've found it a challenge to remember the dates, places and faces associated with each photo.  Thankfully, some of the photos taken before I was born, had information on them regarding dates and places.

My father in 1940, a young Marine Corps recruit only 18 years old, visiting Tijuana, Mexico  

My father did his Marine Corps Basic Training at old Camp Elliot in San Diego County, California.

My father in 1941 at Mission Beach (San Diego)

My father in the Territory of Hawaii in 1943

At Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in 1944, only 21 years old and a veteran of the bloody WW II Battle of Tarawa

My father left the Marine Corps in 1945, only 22 years old and a survivor of WWII that took his oldest brother Richard at the Battle of Tarawa and totally disabled his other brother, Edwin.

My father n Wellington, New Zealand in 1943 (probably before the Battle of Tarawa that he fought in the islands of the South Pacific in November, 1943)

My father after the war, in Los Angeles, 1945

My father and mother just before they married in Yuma, Arizona in February, 1946.  This is in Los Angeles with his Uncle Tom and Uncle Bernard 

My mother and her girl friends in Los Angeles (1942) where she had moved from Kansas in 1939.  She worked as a printer at Moore Business Forms until she joined the Women Marines in 1943.

My father after his discharge from the Marine Corps in 1945 at his Uncle Tom's home in North Hollywood, California. He became an apprentice carpenter and worked for his Uncle Tom building homes in the Los Angles area from 1945-1948.

My mother (c. 1945)

My father (c. 1947) in costume for his photography studio classes

My father and mother's first Christmas card (December, 1946)

My mother as photographed by my father when they both went to photography school in 1947
My father with my sister, Jeanne, in 1949 in Los Angeles.

My mother and father purchased their first home in Baldwin Park, California in 1949 - Cost: $7150.

My sister, Jeanne, and I in 1951.

With two children to take care of,  my father had re-enlisted into the Marine Corps for economic security. His sign-up bonus enabled him to buy a home.  I'm in my mothers arms while my sister stands at my father's feet in this 1951 photo in Baldwin Park.

My mother and I on the beach in San Diego in 1951 .

My father was transferred to San Diego in 1951.  We sold  our home in Baldwin Park on a real estate contract and moved into Naval Housing in San Diego. 

My father was transferred to the Territory of Hawaii in 1952 .
Here we are on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu in August 1952. 

I'll stop here and try to post more family history in a future posting.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Immigration Debate Descending Into Xenophobic Rants

I am getting pretty sick of listening to these Republican candidates for President  using tactics that descend to the lowest common denominator of their overwhelmingly native and caucasian base to win votes in the primaries and caucuses.  Very little is offered by these guys on how to fix our immigration policy that is both humane and workable.  What is offered is rhetoric that appeals to xenophobic and frightened voters who strongly believe that we are "being over-run by law-breaking illegal immigrants who care little for our values."  Fellow citizens, please remember the power of rhetoric and propaganda used by the National Socialist Workers' Party of Germany in the 1930's and how it led to the execution of millions of Jews and immigrants by people who were overwhemingly white and Christian.  We Americans went to war in 1941 to protect liberty and equality for all, regardless of one's origins. I'm not saying that we have millions of people who want to kill immigrants, but there have been many documented incidents of terrible acts of violence by vigilante-style gangs or individuals who target particularly Mexican immigrants. Words have consequences.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented Hate Groups that actively recruit new members on the basis of hate for Mexicans, Blacks, Gays, etc.  Many of these hate groups use appeals to white Christians just as did the Nazi Party of Germany when it was first organizing for political power.

Jim Baca, former Mayor of Albuquerque, reposted the commentary titled  "It's Mitt's Assertion That He Is Not Anti-Immigrant That Is Repulsive" from his old friend and classmate, Dennis Jett, in his Blog Only In New Mexico  .  It's interesting that no one called him out when Mitt asserted during the Florida debate that he was not anti-immigrant because his father was born in Mexico.  To clarify, his father was not an immigrant as he was born of American citizens living in Mexico. The roots of the "birther movement" that is still alive and well in America today among many conservative voters is based on xenophobia and racism of a Black President born of a Kenyan-born father.

Another product of the anti-immigrant movement is the denial of civil rights of an American citizen whose first language is not English, who, although born in America, has been denied the right to run for the City Council of San Luis, Arizona because of a law passed in the state of Arizona that requires all government officials have proficiency in reading and writing English.  She is currently appealing a legal decision to keep her off the ballot.  San Luis, Az is a border town of 25,000 people of whom 90% speak Spanish and are bi-lingual.  This is typical of all US-Mexican border towns.  The issue is bound to have an impact on the current Presidential political contest because all the Republican candidates demand that the USA have an Official language of English which is currently not the case in our nation of immigrants.  The ramifications for English as an official language of the USA are that government will not print anything in the non-official languages.  This means ballots, highway signs, safety instructions, legal documents....etc.

Our country is a country of immigrants. May I point out the irony of today's "Nativists" who want to bar the door to other immigrants:  The original native population was killed, moved off their lands, round up into reservations, and had their language and culture systematically destroyed by the immigrants who moved illegally into this country and dominated it through violence and moral certainty of their cultural and religious superiority.  Today, our immigration policy,  which is archaic and failing, is held hostage by politicians who dare not do anything that would cause them to be defeated for political office.  My Sandia Park neighbor, Francisco Figueroa, a successful CPA and the son of Mexican immigrants,  has suggested reforms to US Immigration Policy.  He likes to cite an old Mexican saying: "You should not build a million dollar fence to protect a hundred dollar cow."  His aproach is compassionate and pragmatic.  I think the current Republican candidates for President should drop their intemperate  language and  put forward a workable and humane proposal to deal with the millions of immigrants who live in America and contribute daily to it's prosperity but who are in the shadows of our society because of their undocumented status.  The reform of our immigration policy needs to be forward thinking and recognize that the future of a prosperous and long-standing nation is in it's attitude toward immigrant access.