Tuesday, September 28, 2010

We left the boat yesterday morning after breakfast.  We were tied up to a floating dock in the harbor of Astoria, Oregon just a couple of miles inland from the legendarily treacherous "Columbia Bar" where the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean crash into each other in an infamous ships' graveyard.

There were 29 passengers on the cruise, including two affinity groups -- a family that had gathered from several states to vacation together, including members who had married in (including the husband of one of the sons), and eight from El Paso, Texas.  When we're traveling in a contained situation such as a river cruise, we're always a little concerned at first about reaction to our being a gay couple.  We do not do anything to conceal it under any circumstances.  We refer to "our" house, where "we" go etc., etc.  Having another gay couple on board along with their large, interesting, extroverted and totally inclusive family set us at ease immediately and among this group there were only one or two people among the passengers who seemed a little cool, which was totally manageable.

We're now in Salem, OR for four days with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter which will be followed by two days in Portland meeting fellow bloggers Rodger and Mark in person for the first time, after which we fly home on Sunday.

We had a great time on the boat.  It was completely informal, a fact emphasized by encountering the Captain early one morning in the Lounge getting the first coffee of the day in his pajamas and robe.  there was excellent food (the baker was particularly skilled) and an open bar included in the price of the cruise--although the Captain/owner had it open only between 4:30 and whenever dinner ended which was usually between 7 and 8pm, based on some previous unpleasant experiences. 

The cabins were basic, each with a private shower, toilet and sink, some a little larger than others.  The smallest one, for a single person, was truly minuscule but, as several of us commented, the object of the cruise was to be out in nature and on the (nicely sized) decks rather than in the cabins.  There are a couple of other itineraries that we became interested in from talking with fellow passengers who had done them (people tend to be repeat customers with USA River Cruises, we discovered); one tours the Juan de Fuca Islands and the north shore of Washington's Olympic Peninsula, another visits the southern Alaskan Archipelago.

There will be lots of pictures when we get back to New Hampshire.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Brief hello from the town of St. Helens, OR.  We're nearing the end of an eight day riverboat cruise on the Snake and Columbia Rivers, to be followed by four days in Salem with my daughter, son-in-law and now fourteen month old granddaughter.  Then two days in Portland and we fly home.  We've done a lot of on-shore activities and a thrilling jet boat ride through Hell's Canyon on the Snake.  There will be lots of pictures when we got home. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Appearances to the contrary, I have not abandoned this blog, but the fact is that the last couple of weeks have been so filled with chores and activities that I've had trouble coming up with sufficient time to sit and put together something coherent or, I would hope, interesting. Well the goad came yesterday morning when I did some on-line research after seeing a Good Morning America item on the development of small, "personal" wind turbines to generate electricity.

When I was in the planning phase with this house, I investigated both solar and wind generation of electricity.  Solar is efficient and affordable but has the problem of generating power only during sunny conditions, which means no generation at night and hugely reduced generation during the frequent cloudy periods we have here in coastal New England.

Wind turbines, however, operate at any hour of the day and night as long as there's sufficient breeze, which isn't that much of a problem in this area. The only option several years ago were the big propeller type of turbines, the type that look so sculptural out in the fields but are very tall, require extensive foundations and cost a fortune.

Now, however, there are turbines that are domesticated. The ones above are the new generation of field-mounted turbines, radically different in design and capable of operating continuously in shifting winds without having to realign a propeller unit.  They're also less bulky visually which may lessen some community resistance to having them in populated areas.

Turbines made to mount on a house or garage top, on a post in the yard, or in the middle of plantings come in many different forms, some not much wider than 3 feet, and one source claims that you can get a turbine that will put out 5 killowatts a day for $3000 to $5000 and see it repay its total investment in three years.  The four below are just a few of the designs available, the one top left being our favorite, hands down.  This one would be lovely mounted on top of the ventilation cupola that crowns the big pyramidal main roof of the house, if it's structurally strong enough to take the stress of the turbine in a strong wind.

We've done a lot of speculation about the part a second source of electricity might play in our over-all energy system, as our photovoltaic panels are hooked directly into the grid and do not function when the grid is down for any reason.  We both immediately thought that a turbine could give us electricity during power outages, and that we might include a storage battery array to take us through days when the winds are calm.  We've had multi-day outages the last two winters and I would much prefer a wind turbine to a gas-fired generator.

Buildings can even be designed to incorporate these smaller turbines in their walls; a whole cornice of spinning turbines around the top of a building like a shimmering crown would be very beautiful.

The type to the right comes in a variety of colors.

We're not going to rush into anything.  I think we can take some time this winter to investigate the options, and visiting a business that sells and installs these devices would be essential.

Adding wind would also be of interest to a study that's being done on this and two other "green" houses in the area by a professor and his class at Laconia Technical College.  They've done a number of tests here to measure how tight the skin of the house is (extremely) and I supply them with copies of our energy bills at intervals through the year.  The addition of wind would add another dimension to the study which I'd welcome as we both hoped the house could serve as a teaching tool.


The garden's going into fall mode now with night temperatures into the 40s but a lot of sun still by day.   The tomatoes are slowing down rapidly but there were still enough last night to contribute to a "red dinner": baked salmon with a spice rub, red cabbage and apple chunks in an Asian sweet and sour sauce, and slice tmatoes and minced red onion in a light vinaigrette.  After the first couple of frosts the kale will develop its full flavor and the parsnips will be sweet and ready to dig.   Autumn is my favorite season of all and it's finally here!

The latest picture of my granddaughter, now almost fourteen mnths old.  I'm told she liked the pony until it began to move with her on it, and she LOVED the pony and had a great time.  Fritz immediately pulled out an album with a picture of him on a pony as a kid.  I have pictures of me on a pony in the days when the ponies were brought right into the streets of New York City to give kids a ride and create a photo op.  It's still a ritual of early childhood.

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