Pie day

pi, anyone?

Happy pi day! March 14 is known as “pi day” because its date (written in US format) is 3/14 and the mathematical constant π is, of course, 3.14…

So I decided to make pie. I have been making a lot of yogurt, lately, and the process always leaves me with leftover whey (the yellowish clear liquid that results when you strain the cooked yogurt). So I found a recipe for lemon whey pie (way lemon pie?) and, I must say, it came out pretty well. At least, the meringue looks great!

whey good!
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Snowflakes

Snowflake photography is hard.

It’s snowing lightly this morning, quite a change from the 50-degree sunny weather that has worn hard on the snowbanks this past week. It’s a welcome opportunity to pretty-up the view of the nearby hillsides and to coat the dirty old snow in a fresh coat of white.

I recently read a New York Times article about the amazing snowflake photographs produced as a hobby by Nathan Myhrvold, a retired Microsoft executive, like the one below.

Image copyright Nathan Myhrvold, from the New York Times.

I decided to dash outside and give it a quick try. Needless to say, my attempts – photographed in about five minutes using a handheld Nikon camera and a routine lens, of flakes freshly fallen onto a microfiber cloth – are not even worthwhile saving. Myhrvold’s work has taken years of experimentation, custom-designed equipment, travel to remote locations, and incredible persistence. It’s beautiful work, and I highly recommend a scroll through the photos in the article.

Who knew microfiber cloths have such texture?

Mount Roberts

What a difference a week makes!

It’s Thursday, and that means it is time for another outing. I was constrained today by a need to be home in time for a meeting at noon, so I selected one of the New Hampshire “52 with a view” peaks that is new to me and yet not too-far of a drive: Mount Roberts. It turns out to be a great destination… and the conditions were radically different than last week. Read on…

The summit of Mount Roberts includes grand views of the White Mountains, including Mount Washington in the center distance.
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Winter pizza

Pizza tastes even better in winter.

Regular readers may recall that we built a pizza oven last summer, out beside the patio. Well, we’ve worked hard to keep a pathway shoveled over to the oven all winter… and we’ve taken advantage of it a few times. It’s a bit tricky to cook pizza on cold, dark nights! Today, however, we built a fire in the morning and were ready to bake by noon, on a sunny warm (25º) day.

Because I’ve also continued to experiment with Indian cooking in our Ultrapot pressure cooker, I made some chicken tikka masala and decided to make a pizza out of it, adding shiitake mushrooms and curry leaves for extra flair. Here’s the result; pretty darn good, on a late winter’s day!

Woodpeckers

They keep busy!

Despite the winter season there are plenty of birds around here – chickadees, blue jays, cardinals, crows, ravens, owls, and even a bald eagle. The woodpeckers are still here too, and keep quite busy. One of the most impressive woodpecker projects is a pine tree I pass often on my walk through the local woods. It’s impressively deep, and hints at a tree that may be rotten at the core.

Welch & Dickey

A perfect day for these two popular peaks.

One never hears of anyone climbing Mount Welch, or Dickey, or Dickey & Welch. It’s always Welch & Dickey. These twin mountains are a popular pair of small peaks in central New Hampshire, on the south edge of the White Mountains. Part of their popularity is the loop trail that goes over both peaks, making a far more interesting hike than the usual out-and-back route one might use to approach a single peak. Today, a brilliant late-winter day, Andy and I followed the classic route and enjoyed perfect trail conditions, blue skies, and crystal-clear views. Read on and check out the photo gallery!

Mount Dickey (left) and Mount Welch, White Mountains of NH.
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Chocolate

Feel free to send all the extra chocolate to me!

It is perhaps not surprising that I developed an even deeper addiction to chocolate when we lived in Switzerland, where world-class chocolate was available in numerous local shops. Here in New Hampshire, we buy the best local chocolate we can find, and sometimes special-ordered some Läderach Swiss chocolate by mail.

So I was interested to read this recent news story about the dramatic drop in chocolate consumption in Switzerland in the past year – to the lowest level in forty years. Maybe it’s because we moved out in July! 🙂

Solar flat

Even on a windy day, we can still generate power.

It was a wild and windy night, as a cold front blew away yesterday’s warm temperatures. Our solar tracker is designed to protect itself by going flat when there are gusty or strong winds, and that’s how I found it this morning.

Solar tracker goes flat in windy conditions.

You can see the anemometer at the far-right corner, which is on a gimble so it can measure horizontal wind speed even as the tracker tilts.

That picture was taken about two hours ago. It’s now quite sunny, and still windy; the tracker is still flat (and thus not pointed at the sun), but still generating enough power to serve the house, charge the battery, and feed the grid:

Avalanche

It was just a matter of time before it struck.

An avalanche just struck the house, in a massive rumble that shook the foundation. Ok, that’s a bit melodramatic, but it’s true! I opened the front door to see what was the matter and found a foot-high wall of snow had pressed up against the door:

Front door blocked by an avalanche off the garage roof.

This morning’s warm weather (35ºF and rainy) finally convinced the snowpack on the garage roof, which had accumulated over months and had slowly melted down to 6″ of thick heavy wet stuff, that it was time to go. Fortunately I could sneak out the side door to get a more complete picture.

The garage is to the right, that front door is to the left.

The good news: the snow came off in one quick motion, overshooting much of the walkway, meaning there is less of it we need to shovel away. The bad news? Forecast is for temps to drop to 3ºF tonight, so this stuff will freeze up like concrete unless we move it today. Gotta go get the shovel…

Solar complete

Solar and battery and generator.

Finally, more than six months after we received the initial proposal from a local solar-power company (Solaflect), we have a complete system installed: last week, they completed the installation of a battery back-up solution from a German company called Sonnen. Our house can now be supplied by solar power, grid power, battery power, or propane-generator power, depending on the situation. Although I won’t dig into all the details, it’s pretty cool, so read on…

diagram of power flowing
A screenshot from the Sonnen battery portal showing power flowing from the solar tracker into the house (supporting its consumption) and into the battery (keeping it charged) and into the grid (selling power back to the electric company). The actual graphic is animated, showing power ‘flowing’ from the top to the other three destinations.
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