Thursday, October 30, 2008

Energy rating test for our house

A report mainly for myself...

This morning we had the energy rating done for our house. The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC, at has a Home Energy Rebate Program where they reimburse some costs of improvements done to a house. First, an energy rating has to be done for the as-is conditions. So that's what we had done. Considering that on the radio, they said that AHFC was trying to train more testers because there was a long waiting list, our 2-3 week wait was relatively short. The rating cost $500, of which $325 will be reimbursed by AHFC.

The technician got a feel for the house, asked about our electricity and heating oil usage, measured the sizes of doors and windows and estimated the insulation below our house (since it sits on pilings) and the insulation in the roof. Then he hooked up a door frame made out of tubing and thick fabric, with a hole in the center for a fan, and did the actual blow test. Everything that circulates air was turned off for the test: mainly oil monitors in our case. During the test, the fan sitting in the improvised doorframe blows air out of the house, so that the air in the house is below ambient (outside) air pressure, and an instrument measures how fast air leaks back in from the outside.

With the testing parameters, the air in our house would be exchanged 4.5x per hour just due to the leaks in various places. This apparently corresponds to 0.3x under normal conditions: I assume that means that within 3 hours, all of the air is effectively circulated to the outside, or that the house would cool down considerably within 3 hours. Since we don't have an air handling system, there should be some leakage of air, but not as much as we had - may be around a value of 3.5 instead of the 4.5.

View of our entryway. The main door is wide open. In its place is the temporary fabric door, red in color, with a fan, almost ready for the blow test.

After the blow test and some notes, the technician connected the fan one more time, to underpressurize the house again. And then we went around, using our hands to feel for cold spots, where the cold outside air (0 F or about -15 C) was seeping in. That was rather interesting. In the original log-house, some of the windows do not have as much insulation above or below them as others, and a couple of them we will definitely insulate better. One window, which does not close (since our house is a bit tilted) was ok. Our bedroom door is a major problem - it was even singing from the air flowing into the underpressurized house. And, one area that I did not expect that had a lot of air leakage, were the corners where the addition that was put in later met the original log house. Where the logs were originally outside (but now are inside), they were not chinked, there is no squish-able insulation between the logs, they just sit one on top of the other, and are very drafty.

Chink these logs!

Insulate above the windowframe!

Interestingly enough, an arctic entry was not suggested. What was strongly suggested as cost-effective measures to reduce heating costs were installation of better doors, and caulk and seal the holes in between the logs. Also, as secondary measures, the technician suggested an on-demand water heater that would also run on the #1 heating oil we use for heating (instead of the traditional big water heater); installing a passive wall vent (making a hole for air intake for the wood stove so that the wood stove does not create a draft in the house); installing new bathroom fan or rangehood; and replacing refrigerator as needed.

Overall, we have a 3 star plus rating, 77 points. Three-star-plus is higher than 3-star but below 4-star.

I am glad we got the rating done. It was eye-opening.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Sonja seems to have crocodiles on her mind quite a bit lately. It's not that she is thinking about them every minute. Just at least once a day.

Two weeks ago as we were waking up, and for some reason she was not in our bed yet, I heard her call me from her room. Since I was groggy as always, I called out to her to come over and join us in the big bed. She called back that she can't, that there is a crocodile there. I forget whether I went in to rescue her from that crocodile.

Crocodiles appear not only in the morning, but also in the evening. So I also had to gather all of the (imaginary) crocodiles one night when I was putting her to bed, and throw them out into the hallway. At least she didn't tell me that they crawled back in five minutes later, otherwise I would have had to throw them outside perhaps.

They appear very randomly. Luckily, they did not show up in the swimming pool yet (Sonja's taking swimming lessons). And, apparently not all of the crocodiles are bad. Some are good. So far, they did not bite anyone, or eat anyone. I will have to ask Sonja tomorrow whether, by any chance, all of the crocodiles are actually good crocodiles, since they did no harm to anyone or anything?

We just don't know where the crocodiles came from, but it is fun to have them around.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


We went to a book reading at our library last saturday. After the reading, there was an activity for the kids to do: a blank page with an outline of a person, that they could color out and cut out and put on a stick as a puppet.

Sonja started hers out in her typical fashion, coloring with one color all over the place. After a bit, I asked her, what about the eyes? And so she drew the eyes. And the nose. And the mouth. (The nose is a circle, the mouth is an equally sized circle below the nose. Must be the "Moudry" nose since it is so big.) And she cut the puppet of herself out. And then she continued and made a puppet for papa, one for me, and one for Emilie. Mine has the short hair like I have it. And by the time she wanted to do Emilie's, I wanted to leave, so she told me that she will hurry with that one. I cut the other puppets out for her.

Anyways, I am pretty proud to see eyes on her little people.

(L to R, Sonja, Papa, Mama and Emilie. Sonja cut her puppet out herself.)

Skijor update
Two kids: Yesterday the girls, dogs and I went skijoring. Sonja was in the Chariot. Emilie was on my back in my jacket, the way people wear their babies up north. The two dogs pulled us. It was a bit marginal going that way, but when need be, I will do it again that way.

More snow: Overnight, it started snowing, and it continues to snow. Today we went skijoring again, with Emilie in the Chariot (Sonja is in daycare). Found fewer rocks than last time. It might be time to get the chariot on skis instead of wheels. I am really glad for the snow, it makes the winter in Fairbanks much more enjoyable.

Friday, October 17, 2008


On days when Sonja is in daycare, we started heading down to a nearby road with the dogs and Emilie to go skijoring. We go along the Chena Ester Ditch Rd, which follows the ditch that used to bring water from the Chena River to Ester village to use for mining gold. The ditch is still visible and a trail follows it on either end of the road. For us, it is about 4 miles round trip from our house to a bit past the end of the road. It takes us not quite an hour. A short cry of the top dog teams that do 20 miles in an hour (e.g. during the Open North American Championships). But hey, we have two dogs only, and the skis are not the best, and right now I hardly help the dogs except with some double poling. Hope to change that as we get more snow to cover the rocks.

The first time we went, it took me a while to get ready (harness on one dog, harness on the other dog, harness on me, winter clothes on me, ski boots on me, find skis and poles, winter outfit on Emilie, find and install pulling poles on the Chariot stroller in which Emilie is riding... it took a bit), but now we have it down to about ten minutes, depending on how much the little one squirms when I am trying to dress her.

Movie: roughly 1 minute: skijoring with two dogs and a kid in a stroller

I hope we get more snow to cover the rocks on the road, but otherwise, it is great to be able to get out in October and ski or skijor.

Cooper and Saphira are a great team together. I don't use the short neck line to connect their two collars, so when we see a loose dog, we almost get tangled up... but since there is only two of them, it's no big deal.

The chariot cougar in which Emilie rides has served us well, though it might have been good to get a double one. When we first used it with Sonja, I sewed the cover from a fabric, and use that in wintertime instead of the cover with clear plastic that it comes with (a friend cracked that clear plastic in 20F weather several years ago, and that's the temperature we have right now). I still have the chariot on wheels instead of skis since so far there is not that much snow, and there are enough rocks on the road (or, today, a new pile of moose nuggets). In fact, in one place, the pile of rocks just keeps growing, and growing, each time we pass by. Somebody is buying the house that sits just on the side of the road, so they have to redo the septic, and they got multiple truckloads of dirt to cover and insulate the new septic with. That's all fine, except for dumping the rocks on the road.

Overall, I am very glad that we took the time during September to brush out our trail to make it wide enough for the chariot, cut several trees that were in the way, and built an access trail by the house where we had only stairs before. And gotten Cooper on Sandy's recommendation. Thanks, Sandy, for watching Saphira, and for recommending Cooper. And thanks, mother nature, for a nice snowfall in October. Can you please send some more snow our way?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sledding down our driveway

Here is one for Sonja and Emilie's cousins Aneshka and Jakub: the dogs and the kids and me sledding down our driveway:

Pretty self-explanatory even if I talk in czech (with an accent).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mysteries of the freezer

One funny side-effect of our housesitters heading back home to New Zealand is that they left all sorts of things behind. Wonderful rugs in the living room. Marmite in the pantry. It is the things in the freezer that are the biggest mystery. Here is one bag form the freezer:

My initial guess when I just saw the bag, without really looking inside, was "oh, they saved some bones for the dog(s)". Nope, that wasn't it. Emilie loves the contents.

Another freezer bag contains a fist-sized chunk of a white substance, a bit bigger than a soapbar, cut in half. Cheese? We will see when I get courageous enough to take it inside and cut into it. A chunk of meat is there also. Moose? Caribou? Who knows. It will make for a nice roast, whatever it is.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sonja's post





Playing games: Ten years ago and now

I am still unpacking boxes that we had left here in the house while we were in Europe. Something I came across, from ten years ago: Martin (closest, thinking hard), Ted and Rob playing against a chess grandmaster, Sergey Kudrin.

(And Emilie is in the background, watching what I am doing.)

We'll have to start playing games again, I am pretty guilty about not being very approachable since I think I always need to do something else. Soulemama has a post about playing games, and there are many suggestions for games to play in the comments to that post. May be we can try the Left-Right-Center with Sonja. And when we get some adults visiting, we will have to take out the Brandidog that we were given by the thoughtful Swiss.

Nature's plastic

Well, I threw this piece of plastic that had earlier contained basil leaves onto our compost pile the other day. I was surprised to read that it was made of corn, and that it is compostable (official page is here: Nature's PLAstic). I will have to see how it does on our compost pile, since it is not one of the 4000 facilities mentioned on the website: "In just 45 days, NaturesPLAstic™ will return to nature at more than 4,000 commercial composting facilities nationwide." Glad for compostable plastic.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Today we went skijoring. Or rather, rock joring. I hit a lot of rocks with my skis on some places of the Chena Ester Ditch Road.

I was on skis, but unlike yesterday, when Emilie was in the stroller behind me, I had Emilie in a baby carrier on my back. And Sonja behind me. (Full family but without Martin.) While Emilie is a lightweight, I did start feeling her weight on my shoulders pretty fast. I did not want to put the hip belt from the baby carrier on to distribute her weight because I already had the skijor harness on as well as the hip belt from the stroller. I only hooked up one dog at a time. Saphira can pull when she wants to. Cooper pulls great. Except during times when he is trying to defend himself from Saphira's playful attacks.

The skijoring today was a bit tougher than yesterday, because I really did not want to fall with Emilie, and so I think we probably hit more rocks on the road than yesterday.

But now it's snowing again, so perhaps tomorrow might be better. Martin said that yesterday, during his JERCs class, he saw people skiing on Birch Hill too. Might be a good winter. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Monday, October 6, 2008

For Lena

This is a blog entry for Lena, so Elsbeth or Tinu, please show it to her.

Sonja is telling Lena that she is going to a playgroup, that she likes to cook there (and our washing machine is spinning in the background), and that she plays there. Then she continues that it is snowing, and that it is cold outside (and a dog is yelping in the background). Sonja tells Lena that we have dogs, but then becomes interested in the bandaid on my finger. I try to get her to tell Lena what colors they are, and eventually, she does.

So, Lena, this is for you! Greetings from Sonja!

Meet Cooper

Meet our new dog, Cooper. Saphira's boyfriend from this past year while we were gone to Europe, according to Sandy, who took care of Saphira. Super with kids. And super skijor dog, too. Both of those things we verified in the last two days since we got him. He comes from a family with three small kids, and our kids took to him and he to them without any problems at all. And today we went skijoring, Emilie and I with the dogs. One dog at a time, since the road is still a bit rocky. I was on my rock skis (an old pair of skis that I don't mind going over rocks with, and today, I did hit a lot of rocks), and Emilie was in the chariot behind me, though I didn't put the skis on it but left it on the wheels. Fun, fun, fun. Can't wait for more snow! And Cooper is a good boy. The only thing that could be better is if he and Saphira listened. As it is, we cannot let them outside both at the same time. It happened by chance in the first hour we got Cooper (around noon), and then we didn't see them again until fifteen hours later. Now we know. But he is a good boy, and really sweet with the kids. Thanks, Sandy, for the tip-off about Cooper.