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…..

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Christmas in New Hampshire - Part 1

We decided to spend our Christmas vacation at our chalet in New Hampshire to tackle a few of the decorating projects and to get in some early season skiing and snow boarding.  It was a great break from work, despite the fact that we only achieved some of our lofty goals!  We will have to dedicate a few blog postings over the coming days to describing all of our activities while we were there.

The first challenge was fitting ourselves, a double bed, two weeks of supplies, a dog, and two cats into the car.  It took us a hour-and-a-half to pack everything in like a 3D jigsaw puzzle, with the cats balanced on top of everything else.  Fortunately we had upgraded to a bigger vehicle earlier in the year and we were just able to fit everything in.

Upon our arrival in New Hampshire on December 23rd we were greeted by a 1" layer of ice on everything.  This necessitated a quick trip to the hardware store for some sand and ice-melt to make sure that we did not fall down unloading the car.  This took less than the time taken to pack, but only by a few minutes.  The cats survived their first ever road-trip in the US and we were able to get a good nights sleep before Christmas eve.

The first job on Christmas eve was to assemble the bed that we had previously purchased from IKEA.  This necessitated a trip to buy plywood for reinforcing and to buy beer and wine (also for reinforcing, but of a different kind).  We completed the assembly of the bed at 1 minute past midnight on Christmas eve and then went to bed.  The cats got a good nights sleep, but for us it was a little more cramped than ideal!

Christmas day emerged as a bright and sunny day.  We had a relaxing breakfast and set to unpacking our various gifts.  These were mostly very practical gifts like saucepans, mixing bowls, door mats, maps, and warm clothes.  To fit them all in the car they had each been creatively packed inside of each other like a very complicated Russian doll set.  Once that fun was over we went for a long walk with Kokee and tested out our new winter clothes.

Based on these first few days it looked like Christmas was going to be a lot of fun.  You will have to read our next few blog postings to see if our holiday continued to live up to its early promise!

2013 Christmas Cards

It has become a tradition at HHR to review our Christmas cards as we take them down, and to pick out and share some of our favorites.  This year we received a healthy number of cards and the "judging" was not easy.  However, we were able to select three to share with you as we drank our cocktails before dinner this evening!  In no particular order they come from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, from a 1973 Oxfam campaign, and from the Lake District in the UK.  See if you can guess which is which!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Car windows are frosted up on the inside.

1F. It hasn't been this cold for a while.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Thawing out after a fine day in the mountains

We spent the day on Black Mountain which is small local hill enjoying the recent snowfall under sunny skies. We had nearly a full day in spite of single digits and gusty winds. We warmed our fingers and toes afterwards at the Backcountry cafe.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Fun in the snow

The Christmas break has given us the opportunity to take advantage of the New England winter. This included our first trip of the season out on our split snowboards. Not surprisingly we were a little out of practice and we fell down many times! However, we had lots of fun and there were no broken bones or equipment. It can only get better from here....