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Mrs. Shayne’s Adventures in Geothermal, Part 5

Dear Kay,
We interrupt our ongoing coverage of Geotherm2011 to report that there were little girls in the house for the Thanksgiving weekend.
They built fairy houses.
fairyhouse2011.jpg
They left their purple boots in the hall.
purpleboots.jpg
They left cryptic drawings all over the place.
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They did things like eat dry Cheerios, dance spontaneously across the kitchen, and yell “Mom” so persuasively that every mom in the house would respond. They helped feed the birds and do the flowers for Thanksgiving, and they called all the chickadees who came to the feeder their “customers.”
hoodiegirls.jpg
There is nothing more exotic in the world than little girls in a house accustomed to little boys.
Geothermal Blanket Update
I keep meaning to mention the knitting project that is my constant companion.
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This patternless Geothermal Blanket is now more than 3′ by 3′ wide, gradually consuming my bin of oddballs and remnants, my Ghosts of Knitting Past.
geothermalblanketchair.jpg
There usually comes a point in a blanket like this, once you’ve set up a bunch of rules, when you totally ditch the rules. For this blanket, that moment came when I ran out of the green Berroco Ultra Alpaca one row before bindoff. I immediately reached for the red Berroco Ultra Alpaca and finished the square. No way was I going to rip out the square.
geothermalblanketerror.jpg
I won’t stop until a) this geothermal project is finished, or b) there is world peace. Not exactly sure which is more likely.
Meanwhile, Out in the Yard
When last I wrote, there was a newly arrived backhoe in the Field of Dreams. This was the day before Thanksgiving, and the family contingent from Vermont had already arrived.

I’m watching all this with utter fascination, thinking about how long it would take for somebody to do this with a shovel, and how geothermal isn’t really something that could have happened before the iron age or diesel engines or the loss of proportion that happened in 1952. Amid my reverie I see a white PVC pipe come out of the muck, 4″ wide, and I think: hunh.
My backhoe friend likewise finds this interesting, enough so that he hops off his backhoe to investigate. I realize that he has hit a gutter downspout drainpipe, so I scamper out there to point this out. While I’m out there, he says something about how he’s expecting to hit the water line pretty soon, and I say in my supercalm way “YOU’RE GOING TO FREAKIN’ HIT THE WATER LINE? TWELVE PEOPLE IN THE HOUSE TONIGHT! MASHED POTATOES! FLUSHING! PILGRIMS DIDN’T HAVE IT THIS ROUGH!” and he says something along the lines of “Hakuna matata, lady. Chill the freak out.”
Apparently it’s easier to randomly hit a main water line then repair it, rather than root around in search of a main water line. At least, that was my gloss on things, because sure enough, in short order they hit it, a little pond soon formed out by the road, and the water in the house went out.
Now, in my imagination, a main water line should be an iron pipe about two feet in diameter, or maybe four feet, large enough for a man to stand in at least. It should be large enough that secret communities of people live down there.
geothermalwaterline.jpg
It’s actually one inch wide. It’s nothing. It looks like a peashooter. I cannot believe a one-inch pipe is enough to provide this house with water.
The guys slogged around a while, went to the hardware store, and in about an hour had the water back on. Net inconvenience: sister-in-law Tiff had to go to Starbucks to use the bathroom, which I now realize was a total sham because I think she just wanted a latte.
Once I stopped shuddering from post-traumatic pipe disorder, things clicked along. They started whacking on the old HVAC unit–once finished, there won’t be any outside components at all.
geothermalpipes.jpg
The pipes from the five 300′ holes were all connected in an incomprehensible way, and the guys swore it was all jim dandy and tight as a tick.
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By the end of the day, they scraped all the dirt back into the trenches they’d made, and it all vanished, just like that.
Today they’re here connecting inside pipes and hoses and whatnot. We’ve been running on the natural gas backup heater all weekend, most cozy. The geothermal part should kick in today or tomorrow. I expect the heavens to open and fat cherubs to dangle banners outside my window: “Thy Geothermal Hath Arrived.”
Today’s conclusion: Shaken but also stirred. We’ve been on our new tankless hot water all weekend, and if you want an acid test shakedown cruise for a tankless water heater, put a dozen people in a house for four days during Thanksgiving. We boiled potatoes, ran at least 600 loads of laundry, 200 loads of dishes, fed dozens of people on two separate nights, and not once did I hear somebody caterwauling about no hot water.
Love,
Ann
PS Thank you all for your support of my new career as an artist. Here is my latest work, a series based on everybody’s favorite Painter of Light, Thomas Kinkade.
geothermalkinkade.jpg
“I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

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38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. Is it my imagination, or is the guy on foot in that video slowly sinking into the muck as he stands there talking to the guy on the machine? Did he eventually disappear downwards, flailing his hands at the last, just like the bad guy did when he happened into some quicksand in some miscellaneous 1950s horror movie?
    The CSI team should be there soon. Don’t touch anything.

  2. In our neck of the woods, desert actually, before we got a meter, our monthly water bill was based on the diameter of the water line. Our neighbors downsized from one inch to 3/4 inch in order to reduce their water bill. I don’t really understand the water company’s thinking on this.

  3. yep, that’s about right. xo

  4. Wow, wow, wow! Your homestead is one big science/engineering project. Most impressed. Broken water line and all.
    I love your blanket. Where did you start? (Center? Edge? Need guidance.
    And the girls! Ours was a household of boys, and I don’t quite understand the mysteries of the pictures you provided. Purple boots? Love. Fairy houses? Double love!

  5. I’m loving your artworks. The Hope/Despair series, to my mind, is your masterwork.
    Your yard looks like prime real estate for pixies, etc. In my childhood I used to build little rooms and gardens on the beach – for beach fairies, of course. As I recall, they celebrated Thanksgiving with a mole-crab (shell) as the main dish.

  6. I am amazed at the diminutive size of that water line! But then, what do I know…I live in a place where some of the water pipes are the original wood!
    Your red-line blanket reminded me of your Oliver mitred square that was grey with a little yellow corner :) At least, that’s how I remember it.
    You’ve got that Kincade fellow beat right down to the ground. Which is very appropriate, wouldn’t you say?

  7. 1. The romans figured out geothermal and did it – Roman air conditioning. You think you need a backhoe, but slave labor works, too.
    2. It’s nice to think it possible that someone did more laundry than I last week. Baby girl puked 2-3x every night for 8 nights in a row, meaning her jammies x3, my jammies x2 (why isn’t it ever papa’s jammies? because papa is in his bed, which is also my bed, but i’m not in it when this is happening), her sheets/blankies x2, x8 nights, xhigh-efficiency, low-capacity washer… it’s an ugly math, but there’s less mud in my front yard (the brooklyn sidewalk) and fewer people were in my house than yours.
    Just, you know, sharing. Is this called co-miserating? God Bless the laundry.

  8. I would counter the argument regarding how exotic little girls are in a house populated by boys with the exoticism of adolescent boys in a house populated by teenaged girls. They take up a lot of vertical space in the kitchen, while their shoes just plain take up a lot of space.
    As to how long it would take to dig those holes with a shovel? My great-grandfather dictated his life story to my grandmother on his 77th birthday, back in 1940. One of the things he talked about was when he walked to Nebraska from Iowa via South Dakota to look for land to homestead. After he arrived in Nebraska and got a claim, he built a sod stable and then began digging a well. “I had dug lots of wells in Iowa. One I dug in the winter of 1881 is still in use today but Nebraska was all different digging. I got down eight feet all right with a spade. Then I struck hard pan. I had heard of it before but thought it would be two or three feet and then it would be good digging so I sent him to get a pick from old man Reed, a neighbor and tell him I would get it sharpened when I got through digging but when he came with the pick he was laughing and said old man Reed had said I’d get it sharpened before I got done. I had to be convinced. The first day I wore blisters on my hands and got down two feet and the next day the pick was so dull I had to take it to town to get it sharpened but that would take half a day so I got a piece of rail iron and some pitch pine for fire. Then I could do my own sharpening and when I got used to handling a pick I could dig three feet a day. When I got down sixty-five feet I found little bones like chicken or duck bones and I thought I was getting down to China but I went down ten feet more and I struck water but I paid old man Reed for his pick. It was all worn out.”

  9. Well, I always appreciate your wit, but now you’re approaching Mark Twain level with the Thomas Kinkade “Home for Christmas” series. I about died laughing! Let us see more!

  10. as we say in parts of Minnesota… uff-da! And that blanket is amazing…and I am envious of that tankless water heater…

  11. Do they give an award for Best Geothermal Conversion Narrative? Because I am pretty sure you deserve it.I’ll be sad when you’re all done. But I bet you won’t.

  12. I want to learn how to knit a blanket like that! I think you and Kay should write another book. It should contain instructions for how to knit a freehand mitered blanket, and then Kay could fill the rest with dishcloths. Maybe a pattern (or two or three) for felted placemats. And several patterns for a bag bag (you know, the kitchen thing that people store plastic bags in). OK?

  13. I LOVE your Geothermal! I’m addicted to 2 mitered projects of my own right now, one for my DD and the other a Mitered Crosses. I’m 4 squares short of 20, so the end is in sight. I’m a firm believer that there is nothing better than a a gartered mitered square… of any kind. You can knit in the car with no pattern, or even in the dark. LOVE cubed! :)

  14. OK. Rox wins Comment of the Year. I just love that story and not just because it’s set in Nebraska. Men like that. Where did they go?
    I guess they are running backhoes into water lines or something.
    You must have nerves of steel by now, or they’re gone.
    Love and support from the island of hissing radiators and wide-open windows in November,
    Kay

  15. I’m not sure why, but the picture captioned “They started whacking on the old HVAC unit…” is the one that finally brought home to me the enormity, depth(!), and messiness of your undertaking.
    Rox’s great-grandfather would have been as fascinated as we are, I think.

  16. I love your geothermal series. It is fascinating and frightening. I cannot imagine this happening in my old home (built in 1870). I’m just glad that we were able to add more insulation last winter. I cannot imagine paying what the previous owners did for heat.

  17. Awwww, the purple boots in the hall brings back loads of happy memories from when my girls were little.

  18. That is such a good idea, knitting blankets out of scraps while you wait for home repairs to be done. I could have gone through half of them while I waited (still waiting) for the kitchen floors to be done. I just don’t know what repair I should pick first.

  19. Kay, where did men like my great-grandpa Buss? Many of them can be found here: http://mydaguerreotypeboyfriend.tumblr.com/

  20. Okay, so if they KNOW that they will be hitting the water main because that is their PLAN, then why do they not carry the requisite repair parts WITH them?
    Not trying to cause any trouble. Just saying.
    Also, I don’t understand how the 60 degree air from the underworld is going to warm your house. Is there some other heating element that gets it up a little warmer? Can you crank your heat up and down as you please or are you at the mercy of the earth?
    Hunh.

  21. One thing about little girls: the effect of them increases exponentially by how many over the number of one there are. Of course, I realized that also applies to little boys when we had an entire-class birthday party and I watched in amazement as 16 little first grade males were slung-shot out of their parents’ cars straight into our house, and reverberated around (against?) the walls for quite some time AFTER they had first fortified themselves with a hefty supply of ammunition obtained from their first stop–the water faucets in our kitchen and bathroom. It was a miraculous and astounding event which we chose never to repeat although we were truly grateful to have experienced the “exoticism” of little boys. I’ve always thought the parents of both types of little darlings were the luckiest.

  22. I think I meant “ricochet” off the walls. I think sound “reverberates”. Oh well, you get the idea.

  23. Every day, I tune in to see what level of horror this project has reached. Broken water lines, men’s heads appearing in holes in the walls, and everywhere, mud, mud, MUD! If it was me, I would be on sedation by now…also, please put the miter blanket pattern in your next book.

  24. Deb asked the question I’ve been wondering — I like my house lots warmer than 60 degrees, and I bet you do, too — so how does that work???

  25. Post. Traumatic. Pipe. Disorder. You rock.

  26. So cool – great to see this in progress. When I’m teaching my class on energy next semester, I’ll send the students over to read your story. It’ll crack me up to do that :) In the spirit of saving. the. planet – I spoke to my mother yesterday, and she announced that they now have solar panels on their roof. Just in time for all that December sunshine. Now watch as the whole of the UK is blanketed in snow and freezing rain for the next few months. The best bit – she assures me – is when it’s sunny outside and you put the washing machine on, but your electricity meter doesnt go round because it’s just working off the solar panels. Perhaps women who knit will save the planet after all. I live in hope.

  27. I live in a world of all girls (except for the husbands)…sister, daughters, nieces, granddaughters, great-nieces. I’ve always wondered what we would do with a little boy. One niece has a baby due in the spring. If this one happens to be a boy, he will be king, I think.

  28. All I can say is you are sooooooooooooooo brave! PS – LOVE the blanket!

  29. Our tankless hot water heater is hands down the very best house improvement we have ever made. It is way more than wonderful to have eternal hot water. We can do laundry, run the dishwasher, and take a shower simultaneously, and the water in the shower is STILL HOT. It’s a miracle, I tell you!

  30. The whole geothermal experience continues to captivate and amaze me (and also make me happy it’s not at my house!). But the blanket… pure love. I would love to know how to do something like this. Heaven only knows I have the yarn for it!

  31. Our house, used to only dogs, had 3 boys aged 10-14, one 8 year old girl and 13 extra adults for a week, I think we did as much cooking, washing and laundry as our well could handle, but the fear of losing water, YIKES. That said, we city folk need to by a generator for our well pump now that we live in the sticks, because I can knit by the fire or a flashlight, but the no water thing scares me a ton. Hope you are all geothermally toasty.

  32. do you have enough christmas lights to put
    on the machines and santa hats for the workers
    and when does the big bus arrive with the
    extreme make over crew to finish up and we get
    to hear ann shout move that bus hopefully

  33. The hoodie photo is the most Precious. Thing. Ever.
    Painter of Light – bwa-ha-ha! It’s transcendental, that one – the lattice of branches, the composition of dirt pyramids and hedges….
    Love the Rox story, too – digging to China in Nebraska, can’t beat it.

  34. Although I am in no hurry for our heroic and efficient water heater’s demise, we will be going tankless when it expires.
    My son is grown and I still don’t understand the mysteries of boys. Girls seem to have a lot of charming fantasy about them, but boys are living forces of destruction. I was never quite prepared for everything my son touched to be destroyed. He’s still like that, but has to pay for the repairs himself. He’s not happy with that but I am!

  35. For me, the acid test of a tankless water heater was when I was the director of a residential drug treatment facility. The men’s housing unit was a 20 bed building–no complaints about cold showers in the mornings.

  36. For me, the acid test of a tankless water heater was when I was the director of a residential drug treatment facility. The men’s housing unit was a 20 bed building–no complaints about cold showers in the mornings.

  37. The Painter of Light(TM), Thomas Kinkade(TM?),may already be moving closer to an Adventures in Geothermal series, as his New Release for October 2011 appears to be something called “This is Talladega.” Can a TKPOL(TM) portrait of Will Farrell as Ricky Bobby be far behind?
    Quick, patent “Adventures in Geothermal” before it’s too late… : )

  38. This is crazy. Almost every day I look at the blog to see the Geothermal blanket. You MUST have some guidelines. I’ll pay for guidelines! Really. I love mitered knitting and have done all yours plus Rambling Rows twice. Must. Do. This. At least spread it all out flat so we can see the parts that are done :-)