February accumulation proves to be a little too much

A couple of weeks ago the temperature got down to twenty-two below. This was the first time we had experienced double digit negatives, and here’s the main lesson:

Nothing likes it that low. No animal, no piece of equipment, nothing. Add wind to it and even if there is no NEW snow, the drifted snow is too dense and too high to move with a miniature plow. The wind chill factor was something like forty-five below.

That morning (it was a Monday), I got the little 4wheeler stuck twice trying to move what had blown around. I spent a big portion of the morning digging it out with a snow shovel, just so I could move enough of it to get the vehicles out. During that process, I thought “I wonder if my truck will start?” So, I tried and it almost didn’t. The starter made some really weird noises when I finally got it to turn over. The crunching rattle coming from the 6.0L powerstroke while it tried to warm up was nerve racking. But it fired up and I let it run for about forty-five minutes before trying to move it.

When I finally got some of it moved around I went up stairs to finish getting ready and noticed there was no hot water. There was cold at the kitchen sink (the farthest point from where the water enters the house) but no hot water anywhere. I didn’t have time to deal with it, so I told Mychael I would try to figure out what was going on with it when I got home. She wasn’t going anywhere that day so she could live a few hours without it.

I climbed in the truck and drove off, and the drive from the house all the way to the main road is basically idle–almost not throttle needed. That’s about a mile. When I got on to the main road, I started to throttle up and the more I pushed the pedal, the slower it got. Eventually, it died and I had to limp it over to the side of the road, where it got stuck. I could not get it out, and could not start it. Eventually I got it to turn over, and a neighbor with another super duty pulled me out. But the truck would not go more that about twenty feet and die. I called Mychael who had to put my tow chain in her car and come down to where I was so we could pull it to a safe location and have it towed into town.

The problem? I found out that weekend the difference between “diesel #1” and “diesel #2.” If you have ever wondered what that difference is when you are at the pump, it’s that diesel #1 has a freezing point of about forty below. Diesel #2 freezes (its called “gelling”) at about positive fifteen. Never seen temps like that in Texas. But they are pretty common here. The fuel filter was damaged, and the truck had to be pulled into a warmed garage for about 24 hours before they could even diagnose it. The truck has had a twitchy electrical system for a while, and the batteries were barely holding a charge, so ALL OF THOSE problems compounded and needed total replacement. In the end, I got:

New fuel filters, new fuel pressure regulator, two new batteries, new starter (I burned it up that morning trying to force it to start), new alternator (my intermittent blinking headlights became much worse once they got it started), new battery cables (all four were fraying and falling apart), and new power cord for my block heater. The total was about $1600 to get it road worthy and reliable again. Now she runs better than ever.  Solution? Run diesel #1 (which is way more refined and expensive) from about November to March. Here she sits next to her pal, the Honda Pioneer 1000 that plows us out in a rare non-blizzard, non-gale force wind moment from the bedroom window.

That road in the background is our access easement to the main road, and I have to plow it every day.

I wanted to live here, in these conditions, in this place. I am not complaining.

Next, the hot water problem. I got home that night and started to investigate. But in the mean time, I had contacted the builder who looked at the original plans and plumbing diagrams to give me some ideas about what went wrong. He suggested that somewhere between the toilet and the bathroom sink was the freeze. He said we needed to get the temp in the back bedroom and bathroom up by cranking up the heat in those rooms, opening up the closet (where the water heater is) and getting some heat in there. Here’s what it looked like:

That was all fine, but why did it happen? It’s a brand new house. So I investigated further and found that the hole in the wall where the power enters the house (located in the subfloor of the bathroom) is WAY bigger than the cable that goes in. So, I jammed a towel in there until I can get some expanding foam insulation.

Within an hour of plugging that hole, the hot water came back. And since we have pex pipe, it did not rupture. No permanent damage.

The builder said the guy I hired to do the electrical should have plugged that hole. No shit.

It was my oldest boys sixth birthday yesterday. Here he is with his mom handing him his presents:

And speaking of Mychael, here’a a little girl game tip for the ladies. There has been a lot of talk over at the Dalrock site about who is and who is not suitable or elite enough for modern marriage. Or what is game. Or…

The latest post is a wellspring of conversation on the topic.

I don’t know how elite I am, but sometimes I get pics like this from her:

That’t not a pregnancy test, its an ovulation test. Full disclosure–we are NOT TRYING to have another one. In fact, we bought this thing at the store a couple days ago as a joke. She’s 45 and I’m 47, so we are pretty sure those days are over. But she thought it would be cute to send it as a flirty way to say “want to have some fun later?” The smiley face means “peak” so who knows? But it was pretty creative.

She also picks my clothes out for me for work:

She says its not because I can’t pick out my own outfits, but because she likes to do it.

Now, for the married women who read here. Set aside everything you think you know about “headship” and “servant leaders” and what you believe you deserve or whatever. How hard is it to be sweet like that? How hard is it to flirt and make your husband feel like he’s a hundred feet tall? If you have to pull teeth to remind yourself that he’s supposedly the love of your life, is it possible the problem is you?

I’m not some super catch. My wife just knows instinctively that keeping the fire going requires her to light the match once in a while too.  Or maybe she’s grateful that I’m the one who goes outside and fights the double digit negative temperatures to keep her comfortable and safe.



3 thoughts on “February accumulation proves to be a little too much

  1. “So I investigated further and found that the hole in the wall where the power enters the house (located in the subfloor of the bathroom) is WAY bigger than the cable that goes in.
    The builder said the guy I hired to do the electrical should have plugged that hole. No shit.”

    I presume the pipe had actually frozen somewhere near that hole, not in the closet.

    I am usually amazed to see the pathetic work done by tradesmen (who generally claim they are experts and should be paid well). Your scenario reminds of a case where ladies meeting at the church were super-hot on a cold (for here) winter’s day. Turns out there was a huge hole behind the thermostat letting in cold air (the new building was connected to the old one but the gap was not sealed to the outside air). So the heaters were running constantly because the thermostat thought it was much colder.


  2. I lived in Canada for 7 years – Alberta. My baptism to cold weather was the first winter, when I put the car in neutral and didn’t push the clutch in at something like -35C. At those temps, the gear oil viscosity makes it think it is an automatic instead of a manual. Car wanted to drive through the closed end of the garage and almost did. Once warmed up, it reverts to manual behavior again. Yeah, diesel gels at those temperatures. Windshield washer fluid freezes too. Seats feel like concrete. Gas lines freeze. Coolant water refuses to get above lukewarm and heaters don’t work without cardboard in the grill to block the airflow sufficiently.

    Those long, impossibly cold winters are a big reason why I no longer live in Alberta.

    I moved to the Lake Tahoe area and shoveled 18 feet of snow the first winter – but at least it wasn’t so cold. Finally wised up and moved to a place at a much lower elevation where there is far less snow and got a south-facing house so the little snow we get melts at the first morning sun.


  3. The last time I had to put up with temps like that was in Harbin… and we walked or took the bus everywhere. Maybe it was better that way – we didn’t have to mess with motors! But the ice festival was stunning!

    Ice sculpture next year? 😀


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