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L. Neil Smith's
Number 804, January 11, 2015

We will Never Give up Our Right to Freedom of Speech

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The Norseman's Diaries: Hell Returns—Nuke The Polar Bears!
by Jeff Fullerton

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

It started off with a conversation with Ray last Sunday about the frigid weather that was descending upon Wisconsin and soon to be upon Greater Appalachia.

Yes—it was coming back. That evil force of Nature I have endured and written about time and time before.

It was still a nice balmy 60 degrees here that morning when I loaded the outside furnace. But in a continental climate things change fast. By late evening it was cold and flakes were flying. Had loaded up with a huge pine round surrounded by dry logs in hope I would still have something in there burning when I got home. Worried through the day about the smaller ones burning up and the big round not catching but I still had fire and the big one was still there and burning. Repacked the space around it with fresh wood and it should be good.

Had another big round and some big cherry logs on the pad for good measure. Norseman's Hell was soon to be knocking on my door, so I braced myself and worried a little because it was looking like weather could be an issue when it came time for wood delivery later in the week. Debated getting smaller loads and cutting some of my own but would rather just get a big load in and get it over with. Moved the truck to the space in front of the garage so of push comes to shove I could have the load dumped on the driveway next to the furnace leaving the ramp open for coal delivery if possible later in the month.

House was still warm and I settled in. Next two days that I luckily had off luckily could be interesting. Was time to start cutting up the big logs by the driveway by the loggers this past summer. That's what they are for! And maybe start shopping for a generator. A newer one that is easy to operate and turn over. And maybe catch up remaing loose ends but its getting a bit late for that.

Now its just a matter of surviving till better days.
And I was tired already.
And just plain tired.


Waking up to 27 outside was not bad other than the consideration that it was the the high for the day and it would be all downhill from there. The zero degrees later this week was revised upward to two degrees but that's still nasty. Was in a quandary about whether or not to wish for some snow. It would be better to have some protection for plants with such a deep hard freeze on the way but snow complicates things for the delivery of things like the new firewood slated for delivery later in the week.

So far the heating system was working fine. House was holding at 70 and longer I could keep it there the better. Was worried maybe the new wood put in last night might get consumed and the round that was still there from yesterday morning was slow to burn and might not keep up with the demand. But it was burning last night—albeit slower than the rest. Would be interesting to see how it is does. Had another one on the pad waiting to go in but might try splitting it first so it will burn down just a little quicker and put a big cherry log in late that evening. I also had a huge cherry round below the greenhouse to use—maybe for one of the colder nights. That day I would have to get all those resources together to make sure I kept on top of feeding it so it did not slip. It's hard and slow to recover when it does that under frigid conditions.

Funny thing how its so much easier to move with a monster breathing down your neck. And I have not been thinking much about other plans and projects lately that are sort of in a holding pattern.

Had to keep an eye on the garage too. Might have to move hibernating turtles and other things to the cellar during the worst of it.

The joys of winter are like the joys of government / politics.

During the monotony of the former—the latter sometimes make for an interesting diversion. There are actually a few global warmists still out there—diehard disciples of Algore and the Church of Man-Made Climate Change—claiming 2014 was the warmest year on record. I doubt if many are taking them seriously these days. But in Wisconsin environmentalist whackdoodles went shopping for a federal judge to overrule the state DNRs wolf management policy and close the limited harvest of that species. And if you listened very long to the debate you get the impression that it was an absolute bloodbath and ecological holocaust not just for wolves but all other wildlife from deer to cute little foxes and bunny rabbits being wiped out in wholesale slaughter. Having to listen to that stuff on top of knowing the hysterical reaction I would get proposing captive breeding of wood and Blandings turtles (which in the eyes of ecofascist zealots must be a grievous sacrilege) is one of my major reasons I've given up on trying to save the planet and would rather leave it. There now—I finally said it! Confession is always good for the soul! The environmentalists will probably throw convulsive fits when they read this—or spin like dervishes .

And then there was the discovery of a Ray Stevens song—Smokey Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat about one of those snake handler churches down in the hills of Tennessee—which are also known to exist in nearby West Virginia. Like most of his songs it is pretty funny. He did lots of good ones back in the day. Best known would probably be "The Streak" the one about that renowned fad of the 1970s and of course the one about Taxes if you remember the lines "If 10 percent is good enough for Jesus it ought to be enough for Uncle Sam"! Which was another favorite heads up theme song for Quinn. And that brought back more memories.

A little levity can take the edge off the grim realities—both natural and Man made.

As for the remainder—Ended up having a pretty good day in the greenhouse. It was 60 inside and 20s outside despite the sun. Later I messed with the saw for the first time since I got it back. Cut some pieces off the big logs by the driveway and made a cut in a cherry round so I could split it. Looks like cutting the big logs is not too mean a feat and its good to have them now since I may need them badly in the event I can't get wood in here.

Lost ground slightly due to the huge pine that took all day to ignite. Temp in the house slipped one degree for a while. As of midnight it was back up to 70. And I reloaded earlier in the evening before going to see Bruce and also take the truck for a much needed spin in cold weather.


The ground was white.

What a difference a day makes. The snow does help protect things in the ground but I still wouldn't mind if it held off another week until I get my wood in. Yesterday I moved the truck to the driveway coming out of the garage so when it does come—they can just dump it on the other drive beside the furnace and then maybe I can still get a load of coal in and dumped on the pad.

Later that day came word from Wisconsin where Ray lamented conditions even worse that what I endured. Welcome to my world.—7 for a HIGH tomorrow!

Norseman's Hell!
Nuke the Polar Bears!

That could be the title of the next article when it's said and done. But maybe something a little less polemic—like the Norseman's Diaries? Nah! I decided to go with a little of both. Besides the very idea of having a First Amendment was to protect offensive speech. Even that which offends ecofascist sensitivities.

That day I didn't do much outside other than sweep the driveways and lane, tend the fire which almost burnt down to coals by mid day. Refilled right after sweeping the snow which had accumulated to a few inches. The high of the day was 23F—paradise compared to Proxmire Land. Was 19 when I reloaded around 11P and most of what I put in was gone but it has been holding the house steady at 70 degrees. And if it could hold through the night and if I could keep it going good through the day and load up good again that evening, then I could get through the worst of it when we got to the highs in the teens and single digit lows for a day or two.

Was really hoping to get my load of firewood soon because the cold snap was going to eat into my dwindling reserves big time. If I could get a full load of 24" logs in here by Thursday or Friday I'd be set for the remainder of the winter with or without coal. If not—then it would be hustling like before—this time last year. Probably a combo of cutting up whatever I can get my hands on and getting deliveries with the smaller truck. And maybe go out for a pickup load of coal.

Did visit the greenhouse briefly that day before dusk. It was a warm welcoming oasis. Have been slowly rearranging plants to get a more scenic panoramic view and optimum light to all of them. To really get it good will probably involve doing that thing with dowel rods or wires above the pond so I can slide hanging plants back and pull them forward to tend them.

A task for a few weeks from now when I get caught up financially again. If I get the bigger load of wood things are going to be tight this pay. But once that is out of the way there will be no other big ticket items other than a generator if I opt for a new one vs fixing up the old one.

Having an emergency backup for grid power is the next big goal. I just hope I can continue to be lucky in the meantime. I really started thinking seriously about it again after Sunday when the lights in the hospital flickered and fire doors fell shut as the emergency generator kicked in.

Yes I've been very lucky. The October Surprise storm in 05—the power was out for 3 days. A kerosene heater kept the house warm and the greenhouse was able to get by on stored solar heat because it was not very cold—just enough for snow.

The ultimate goal will be to get some kind of low tech heat source that can function without electricity. In the event we end up with a third world economy and intermittent rationed grid power.

Don't want to thing about that too much. If we are lucky the oil and gas boom will end that and people fed up with colder winters will make the malthusians crawl back under their rocks for a while like they did in the 80s


13 degrees that morning. Managed to cut up enough wood for the day and the coming night and loaded the furnace up. Hoping it lasted until I got home late evening. Then it was a matter of getting in breakfast in the crunch of getting ready and out the door in time!

Between the frigid weather and some hellacious days at work (wrestling another combative druggie—that could have been also a head bleed or possible meningitis—until the spinal tap was resulted)—it was starting to look a lot like the same time last year. With the exception of fewer worries. No pumps or blowers going bad and no whipping out the plastic for an emergency fuel oil delivery—though that is getting low again. Luckily I was able to go early—which I really wanted to because it was 6 degrees and dropping fast. And happily there was blue smoke when I got home so I was in time. Rebuilt the fire before coming in. The house had lost some ground so I switched to oil heat for a while to boost the temp while the boiler caught up. .

In the meantime I dragged fig trees and other plants from the garage to the cellar along with the Blackbanded Sunfishes which were getting ice in their bucket. Turtles in the cooler were still fine but would have to keep a closer eye on them.

Wood delivery was now set up for Friday. Monday by the latest. We already agreed it will be too cold today to run the splitter and other equipment.

Four in the morning. Awakened after falling asleep sometime after midnight. Hit the kill switch on the oil furnace and flipped the diversion valve on the heat exchanger. Was probably at or below zero by now on the outside but the house was catching up with the living room thermostat reading 69. But too tired to care about the actual low. Would figure it out in the morning.


4 degrees in town. Looked at the remote sensor reading from the back of the greenhouse and was surprised that it said 28. Then realized there was a decimal point in the mix. 2.8 degrees. Heat Miser we could really use you now! The heating system struggles to keep the house at 66 degrees and the kitchen floor feels cold.

Could be worse. If this old house were in Wisconsin I'd probably be lucky if I could keep it above freezing even in seasonable winter weather. Ray was having problems with his garage door opening on its own while he was away.

Good thing I moved stuff out of the garage. I don't have an automatic door opener because water leaks in from above and that would surely mess it up. And everything would be toast if it opened last night! Had to check the turts. If ice is forming they will have to move to the cellar too. Only a few days and everything can go back out. The ongoing cold snap lasts through Sunday and then the long range forecast goes back to seasonal norms with highs in the 30s and 40s and occasionally down to 10 at night into February. Unless there are more surprises in store—which is always possible in winter—this is the big polar outbreak for the year. After that the number one worry is major snow events and power outages. Just as unpredictable as cold snaps.

Was major league reluctant to get moving. Going to have to dress warmly as I would to endure a spring day just for in the house. The turts were ok and the greenhouse turned out pleasant with the sunshine. I may spend more time there after I got the furnace reloaded. Luckily I worked 3 to 11 so there was time. It was also pay day but not much to celebrate with the a big chunk of the money going to pay for the firewood leaving just enough for bills and maybe groceries. Was starting to look like a lean next two weeks.

So much for plans. Most of those were on hold anyway. Just basic survival mode and planning for the next phase of activity that will begin in a few weeks with projects in the greenhouse.

Guess it could be worse. Again I'm still better off so far than last year and shouldn't have to travel to the back of beyond for parts to fix things. Still I would breathe even easier once the load of firewood is delivered and my work schedule is such that if they can't get it here until Monday—at least I'm working 3 to 11s and off the weekend so there would be time to cut my own. And 8 hour shifts are better in this kind of weather because I can load up at the last minute and have more fuel left by time I get back.

Latest word from Wisconsin continued to be even less promising.

< 8 now going down to -8 tonight. Might not make it above 0 until Saturday. Snow was in the three to four of powder.

Could be an even stronger case for nuking the polar bears!

As for my situation—Greater Appalachia was getting a mini warming trend within the cold snap. After a cold but sunny day it clouded up but also rose into the upper teens and 20s. Of course there was to be snow with it and my heating situation was starting to get slightly weird again. Came home once more to find the blower off and still wood in the burner and plenty of coals with a formidable heat flash. Yet when I got indoors it was still at 66. Figured by then it would be caught up but maybe I need to bleed the radiators because the boiler is hot enough for the blower to turn off. Went back out to check and bump the setting up slightly so its at 180. Fed it a big slab of pine and another log. Indoors I moved the thermostat to 72. Later I will go out and feed it some more but will save the remaining big cherry piece for Friday night when it plummets to maybe minus 3. Then I will have to cut something big for the next evening to get me through the rest of the way.

Projected high Saturday after that awful minus 3 was to be 13 and then 3 for a low and the numbers reversing to a more seasonal norm of 31! Talk about a heat wave—which it always feels like coming out of this!

As for the firewood—I was looking at the buildup of ice on the driveway from seepage coming off the field above—plus the wires above the area where I was going I have them dump and it looked like a no go. So I called them and opted to do a smaller load for $160 like I did last winter which in addition to being easier to get in here will also be easier on my budget and I might not have to put so many things on hold again.

Discovered another source of wood from a friend at work. There is a mill in Somerset that can deliver a load of logs that I can cut up myself. Thinking of getting that instead of a second load of big ones from Keslar's and having it delivered this summer to the flat at the top of the property and I can cut it up at leisure and haul the pieces down with the pickup—or even develop a path thru the woods to roll them down to the field. If I build a pond in the upper end of the big hollow I'll have a shorter, easier route to roll them across the breast to the field and then it's downhill all the way to the area where I would store them. Or just keep a few really big chunks in the pasture and move them as needed like I did with big logs last winter when Bruce and I were cutting. And that will put a little fun into it too.

As for the day at home—I did not get much done. Would liked to have finished cutting off the next piece of the big cherry log I cut through the other day and then stopped short because I'm afraid of cutting into ground and hitting a rock. But was too intimidated so I didn't even start the saw. Reason I opted to save the remaining nice chunk for tomorrow night. Maybe if I can pry the log loose and roll it—then it will be safer to cut. Then I can cut it up and put chunks aside for future cold snaps. If I can get some set aside to dry all summer I'll really be set. Could get chunks like that from other sources—whole logs delivered or salvage of trees damaged by storms or ones people want to get rid of.

As predicted the greenhouse was warm and pleasant but did not spend much time there because of having to leave early to bank and drop off some junk at goodwill and then Lowe's to pay on my card which was due today. And I was not late despite my worries to the contrary as I rushed to and fro.


Got a few inches overnight that will have to be swept away. The temperature reading in the living room has crept up two degrees. Could just be the lag from losing ground the day before yesterday which is slow to recover because of frigid conditions outside. My guess it is in the low 20s or high teens currently.

Most of my wood on hand is dry and seasoned. The pine is green. The other stuff left by the loggers is partially seasoned having been cut in the summer and sitting around. I have had some clogging issues in the past—mostly from coal tar which is why I consider not getting in on the coal deal no great loss. I may yet get in on it when resources permit. But for now I am concentrating to make sure I get through the remainder of this cold snap and have enough wood for a little while afterward. The return to seasonally cold norms for the long range forecast actually looks like light at the end of the tunnel believe it or not.

As for the wood delivery—it was a success. Had to hustle to get my driveways and lane cleaned off and move the Honda Civic off property to open the way to the new drop zone alongside the pad rather on the ramp where I usually have it dumped. doesn't look like much in comparison to the full load I really wanted but every bit helps. It is a few weeks supply in addition to the existing stockpile of 24" logs under tarp up by the fish tubs which is almost as much. Plus the row of 18" logs that are visible right below the trees that I use about 3 or 4 every time to fill the top part of the firebox that I hope will last all winter.

If not—there is plenty of slash to cut.

This idea is definitely better. Not only was it easier for the truck to get to the spot under bad conditions—the ramp is still clear for coal delivery if I choose to get some.

Now all that was left to do was get a late breakfast and reload using the loose pieces that rolled away and then get a tarp over the pile because its no fun digging logs out of snow. I figured I'll burn some pine and some older logs thru the day and use the big cherry chunk when I got home to get thru the 3 below night that was on the way and plus 3 the next one before Norseman's Hell finally abates. Then set up for another delivery at the end of the month to stay on top of things from here on. Going to look at that small white oak that was damaged by the logging operation and figure it into the equation. And there might be other stuff. When I get toward spring and the small log stockpile starts getting low I will go after the slash which needs to be cleaned up anyway so the pasture can be mowed before the brush and weeds get away from me again. And I can probably keep on burning through the small stuff going into April to save on fuel oil.

Really looking forward to spring! Getting the pasture cleaned up and turtle pens finished will be the big projects for late winter. Then I hope to incrementally improve things while I enjoy and get to know my place. Will start talking to the excavator guy about putting in a pond in the hollow. That will have to be carefully thought out and executed to make sure all tree roots that could rot out and make channels have been intersected so the clay core of the breast is seamlessly bonded to the clay subsoil. Then I'll have a nice pond and the breast will give me a way to roll logs down from the top of the hill without having to go down into the dip of the hollow and up again.

That is the nice thing about being downhill from everything. And there's nothing better than a gravity fed water source like my spring!

Friday evening turned out well.

Except for the cold and being out late since I had to do a little shopping on the way because I needed stuff for breakfast and didn't want to go out early in the morning. 4 degree it said on the phone when I got back in about an hours after midnight. 11 on the back of the greenhouse. The house had slipped a couple degrees to 68 and I was sure it would be down even more by morning. I was smart enough to put some heavy duty logs in addition to the big cherry chunk by the heater earlier in the day so it was less of a bother to reload late on a frigid night. Ended up using two big oak logs and saved the cherry piece for the next night—last of the really bad ones for a while.

After getting groceries put away I checked the garage to make sure the turts and remaining fish are ok. Was prepared to move the Japanese Pond Turtle trio to the cellar last night after getting home but the water in all containers was still in a liquid state. It seems the glass block windows that replaced the broken, leaky hoppers are helping along with the old freezer Bruce gave me a few years ago. If at Zero or a few degrees below the system is effective I'm probably set. Will have to reevaluate if it gets lower—like minus 14 in 1994. Or an extended period of the current regime.

Come Saturday it was Zero Point seven degrees from the sensor on the back of the greenhouse at 08:00. And 66 degrees indoors and it probably won't budge much today. Have a good supply of wood on hand now but much of it is green and there is efficiency loss there for sure. And in this frigid weather 66 seems to be the magic number for what must be the thermal equilibrium of the house that the heating system can maintain. Contemplating using the inside furnace to boost the temperature but don't want to waste oil which is getting low. It will be better to just tough it out a little until it warms up again. One more night of pure frozen hell and then it abates tomorrow with the return to seasonal temperatures.

Still cold but at least it won't suck so hard on the ergs making it easier to maintain shirtsleeve conditions inside.

And speaking of oil—just found out that prices are down. Probably thanks to the drilling boom which must really be impacting hard considering that prices usually are higher this time of year and often spike when it is hellaciously cold like this. They may spike some—but next payday might be a good time to set up a delivery before something happens in the Middle East.

Was reluctant to get out of bed this morning but once I got up and started moving, the cool temperatures were tolerable. And the greenhouse will soon be quite heavenly once the sun gets up a little higher. It will certainly be worth spending time in there this afternoon and considering a spin to Elmer's—my favorite pet shop in Monroeville to get some more frozen bloodworms and krill. Ideal time to transport that stuff too! And stop at Lowe's to price some generators if they still have any and shop for hardware for various projects. Thinking I can mount a 2x4 with eye hooks across the back wall to run some heavy gauge wire lines from back to front to put hanging planters and log mounts on like my plan previously mentioned—which might be easier and cheaper than metal rods or dowels.

I figure it was safe to write the Norseman's Hell article now. Looks like the worst potential has been headed off for a while. I will check the garage again to make sure everything is ok there and start breakfast which was put on hold to write while I waited for things to warm up more. And thy have. It was 12 degrees when I last looked. One more night of Norseman's Hell before it finally loosens its grip on Greater Appalachia and smoother sailing again for a while.

In comparison to last winter we are not doing bad. Hell Hath less fury this time around and I was a little better prepared. Still I could do better and will continue to strive for that in future years.

Fingers are crossed we will continue to get off easy in the meantime.

Post Script: there was some ice starting to form on the water in the turtle containers when I checked on the way out to the greenhouse this afternoon. Ended up moving them to a less cold location this evening inside the cellar where they will stay a day or two until it gets warmer. Then hopefully they can go back and I won't have to move them again for another month until it is time to wake up and move back to the enclosure in the greenhouse that I'm looking to have fully upgraded by then.

The furnace which was next on the itinerary had burned through most of the wood but still had a couple logs and lots of coals left. Reloaded with some large poplar logs to use them up while the BTU demand was lower. It made it into the low 20s Saturday afternoon. The house started catching up—creeping up a degree to 67 and then 68 by late evening. When Ray responded back in regard to my earlier numbers he thought that my system is not doing too bad if it can hold the temperature at 66 degrees when the reading was zero or lower outside! It's probably the thermal equilibrium of the house in this kind of weather—which fortunately is not the norm and something I can live with.

Never made it to Elmer's because the greenhouse was so appealing that didn't want to leave. Not with the full force of the winter sun streaming in and 70 degrees when I arrived late noon. Stayed there dunking air plants and others that were looking a bit dry in the pond and doing odd jobs until the sun began to recede and the temperature quickly dropped below 60 when the site fell into shadow.

Thought about a spin up to the "rooftop" of Greater Appalachia which probably looks splendid this time of year—and maybe to a new Japanese restaurant someone told me about—but the driveway was a sheet of ice and I just didn't feel like getting a bath and then running out into the cold. And wisdom dictates that maybe I should conserve resources a little. Might get some pics up top tomorrow for a future edition.


Nihon Ishigame (Japanese Pond Turtles) taking a nap

Before and after and after

House—Before & After arrival of Norseman's Hell

Winter Refuge

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