Friday, January 24, 2014

Christmas in New Hampshire - Part 2

Here is the next installment of our Christmas story….

For a few days after Christmas we occupied ourselves with a mixture of indoor activities (mostly painting the spare bedroom) and outdoor adventures.  The indoor activities were not too photogenic, but you can view a few picture of the outdoor 'games' below.

First, we took our cross-country ski's out on the Jackson Ski Touring trails that are very near our chalet.  The temperatures were mild and there was plenty of fresh snow to enjoy.

The next outdoor fun was to assemble the 'magic pagoda' that we had constructed at home to protect the vent for our heating furnace from falling ice and drifting snow.  It took a while to dig out a stable platform in the snow and then to put together the two halves that we had transported up in the car (under the double bed and 2 cats and 1 dog), but after it was complete we were very pleased with the outcome.  We even had some snow the next day to test it out and it worked perfectly!

The next day we decided to head out on our split snowboards for some backcountry fun. We found a trail within a couple of miles of our chalet that was featured in the 'top 50' backcountry ski tours in New England, so we simply had to try it.  Pictures from this adventure can be found on our blog posting of January 1st.  We returned home to a perfect winter sunset and some warming food cooked in our new slow-cooker (an insightful Christmas gift?).

Just before New Year the weather started to get colder, and we received a big dump of powdery snow.  We had no choice but to head out on our snowboards to our local ski hill (Black Mountain)!  This was our first visit what is supposedly the oldest continuously operating downhill ski area in New England.  It is a small hill, but has plenty of character and enough terrain to keep the two of us entertained for a day.  The major challenge was to keep warm and to avoid getting frostbite as the temperatures were close to zero Fahrenheight  (-17C).  We were practically the only ones there for the first couple of hours and we had the only running chairlift (mid-week schedule!) to ourselves for most of the morning.

This was when the weather started to get even colder…… and we retreated indoors to resume work on the house.  The next decorating project was to paint the downstairs bathroom.  All started out well, but as we painted we became aware of the feint sound of running water.  Disturbingly this continued even after we shut off the main valve that controls the flow of water into the house.  We umm-ed and ahh-ed about what to do next over several cups of tea.  We determined that the sound was coming from behind the bathroom cabinet, and we decided that we needed to remove the cabinet to investigate.  Unfortunately the cabinet had been put in place before most of the bathroom plumbing was installed, so we needed to cut the cabinet into ~2" squares in order to remove it.  

Upon removal of the cabinet we easily found the problem! Where the water comes into the house there was a small plastic coupling between the PVC water main and the copper plumbing in the house, and this coupling was cracked and leaking water.  It was obviously not a good situation because if this little plastic coupling failed the entire basement of the house would had been filled with water in about five minutes flat.

As the leak was on the 'upstream' side of the main water shut-off valve we needed to quickly find the water valve on the outside of the house at the street level to stop the flow of water.  Needless to say this shut-off valve was under about 3-feet of snow and ice, so we had to dig to find it.   In addition, one of the previous owners had built the front deck over the top of this valve, so we had to saw through a section of the railing just to loosen the cover.  After removing the cover we found that the valve was about 4 feet below ground level (below the frost level, of course), so we had to make a trip to the local plumbing supply store to buy a 6ft long 'curbside wrench'.  Finally, we had the water turned off!

This is when (a) it started to snow heavily, and (b) we decided we needed the help of a plumber.  Have you ever tried to call a plumber the day after NewYear's day, when it is -5F (-20C) outside, and a big snowstorm is starting to blow in?  Not surprisingly most of the plumbers that we called were not answering their phones, and those that did were already busy unfreezing other people's pipes.  Eventually we found a local plumber who took pity on us (we had no water supply in the house at this point) and agreed to make a house call.  Did we mention that our chalet is at the top of a very steep (20% gradient) hill?  Not the sort of terrain that is easily navigated in a typical plumber's white box-van.  To get to the point, we had to meet the plumber at the bottom of our hill and ferry the plumber and his tools up to the house in the snowstorm.  Thankfully, George (the plumber) was no stranger to snowstorms having lived in New Hampshire most of his adult life and he had a fantastic demeanor. A more friendly and helpful plumber does not exist anywhere in the world!  So…after a couple of house our plumbing nightmare was over and we had a brand new connection between the water main and the plumbing in our chalet.

After this home maintenance adventure we spent the last few days of our Christmas vacation on a few less challenging projects around the house, and trying to stay out of the extreme cold.  We had one more adventure calling a retired Scandinavian wood stove importer and his wife, and another plumbing problem with the washing machine but those are stories that we will save for another time…..

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