Tuesday, 12 July 2016

09:19 – There were 1,468 visits to this blog yesterday, a record. The former all-time record was 1,401 in one day, back in early December of last year. Well, “all-time” since I started keeping a WordPress blog. Back 15 years ago when I had static HTML web pages, my record for a day was over 30,000, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to see 125,000+ per week or half a million a month. Nowadays, 125,000 is about four months’ worth.

USPS showed up yesterday with a heavy box. When we hauled it into the kitchen, I told Barbara it had a gift for her inside. She knows me too well. She asked, “Is it farming gear or kitchen gear?” She said she was turning into a farm wife, cooking and gardening all the time except when she was doing kit stuff.

It was actually a Lodge LCC3 Pre-Seasoned 3.2-quart Cast-Iron Combo Cooker, which is basically a pair of 10.25″ pans, one shallow and one deep, either of which can be used as a lid for the other. Using both together turns it into a small Dutch oven. It gets my vote as the best purchase for anyone interested in getting started with cast-iron cooking.

But Barbara is right: she’s doing nearly all of the cooking, except that I help with the baking. So, I’ve decided to start cooking at least one dinner a week, using recipes from Jan Jackson’s 100-Day Pantry. Whatever I turn out should at least be edible, and probably not bad at all. I do have to be careful, because Barbara doesn’t like food with a lot of seasoning.

Speaking of cooking and baking, we were baking bread yesterday afternoon. The recipe calls for 450F, so that’s what we set the oven pre-heat to. When it dinged to indicate it was ready, Barbara checked the oven thermometer hanging from one of the racks, which said it was only 350F in there. We’d noticed that some of the other things we baked seemed underdone, so we suspect that the oven’s temperature gauge is off significantly. We ended up re-doing the preheat at an indicated 500F, which got us up to 450F according to the oven thermometer.

That got us talking about eventually replacing the oven. Like all the appliances that came with the house, it’s a Frigidaire, which as far as I’m concerned makes junk appliances. I asked Barbara how she’d feel about replacing the oven and eventually the cooktop with propane versions. She said that’d be fine with her. She cooked on a gas range and oven until she left for college, and actually likes gas better than electric. She also commented that having propane appliances would allow us to continue cooking and baking if the power went down for a long time.

So I called G&B Energy in Sparta to ask some preliminary questions. Although their website says they sell propane appliances, the lady I spoke with said we could just buy a gas oven and cooktop at Home Depot or Lowes and get a propane adapter for it. G&B will install a propane tank and has technicians to run the propane line(s) into the house. She said they recommended a 120-gallon tank for cooking, but also carried larger tanks for people who were heating their homes with propane. The 120-gallon tank rents for $48/year, but that charge is waived if you use at least 100 gallons during the year. They can also link two of those tanks for 240 gallons total. Their next size up is 330 gallons, but she said that one is too large to be placed right up against the house. Legally, it has to be set off some distance, presumably to keep the fire marshal happy.

Fortunately, the kitchen is above the unfinished basement area, so running propane lines shouldn’t be difficult. For that matter, the den is over the unfinished area, so if we want to rearrange furniture and install a propane radiant heater in the den it wouldn’t be difficult.

I have a bunch of questions to ask them, many of which I haven’t even thought of yet. How do we determine how much fuel remains in the tank? Do they have a minimum delivery amount, or can we top off any time we want to? Can the tank be located at the side of the house with the propane line feeding into the house down around back? (We don’t want a propane truck trying to get into our back yard.) How many devices can be run from one tank? (I believe a smaller tank may be able generate enough gas pressure to feed only a couple of appliances.) Can they install drops without any devices connected until we get around to replacing, for example, the cooktop? Can they install a drop for our Generac generator (assuming that we can get a propane adapter kit for it)? And so on.

Just for my own reference, a gallon of propane weighs 4.2+ pounds, contains about 91,000 BTUs, and is equivalent to about 27 kilowatt-hours of electricity. G&B Energy currently does a first tank fill for $1.80/gallon and subsequent fills for $2.20/gallon, so the latter translates to just over $0.08 per kW-hr. I think that’s about what we pay for electricity, so it’s not bad at all. With the fracking revolution, I don’t see the price of propane going up much in the foreseeable future. I think we may have a decent size propane tank in our future.