ShopTalk Sunday: Cold Weather Lessons

Well, it all worked out:

  • Styrofoam covers over the foundation vents.  These will come off when the weather warms to keep radon accumulation now.
  • The “grow room greenhouse” worked great and even when it was on the backside of 8F for a few hours, we were holding over 40 in the greenhouse.  Tomatoes will still grow down to 32, as will many veggies.  The trick is to keep the heat up for a few days after the cold passes to get the bed soil temps up into the 50s and 60s.

What didn’t work?

The rainwater collection system design fault turned out to be the 100 gallon tanks froze solid.  Jury is out on whether it’s worth the hassle (and loss of useable interior space) that would be lost if I moved them into heated space.

Today’s watering will be done off the heated house water, so a warm 85F water bath may help the temps a little bit, anyway.

Fireplace Note

One of the questions that came up in our radio roundtable this morning was the best way to bust up 10-inch hardwood logs which are hard to get burning in the fireplace.

Sure, a log splitter is the right tool, but if you have a real impact hammer *($100 class Chineseum, see Amazon) there are special log-splitting bits with an SDS fitting on them that seem to work.   So-so reviews, but worth considering.

Start the fireplace at the back and remember to crack a window to ensure the hot air draft gets started.

Amazon had a 50 percent off deal on a GARDRIT Wood Splitter Cast Steel Log Splitter for $35  but not sure how long that will be on.

If you’re planning to burn wrapping paper, don’t overload the fireplace and keep flammables well clear of the hearth and take your time with it…

Shop Work Today

There’s been a dandy discussion going on, here in Texas, on the 3806 80-meter hand band collection of geezers trying to continuously improve both smokers and beef jerky products being produced.

On the smoking, the best sounding plan for the day was a 20-pound rib roast that will be properly smoked on a Pit Boss pellet rig.  They will start at 500 F and run for about a half hour and then keep smoking for another 3-hours, or so, at 250F.

Our own food plans involve tearing down the turkey leftovers from last night.

After that, I’ll be shooting the first of the before-and-after of the guest room sheetrock repairs now that the roof has been replaced and our confidence it high that it will remain weather-tight. Home maintenance never takes a day off.

Merry Christmas! Now Shop!

The New Year’s sale on Amazon is a good starting point for TV shopping.  Quantum 58-inch Hisense UHD looked interesting at $349…

DeWalt mechanics tool kit at 57 percent off, might be worth a look if you’re young and just into tool slut training…

Off to sample leftovers!

Write when it warms up…

author avatar
George Ure
Amazon Author Page: UrbanSurvival Bio:

45 thoughts on “ShopTalk Sunday: Cold Weather Lessons”

  1. in a greenhouse geothermal mass is your friend. don’t know if you have large black barrels of water in your greenhouse.

    • Thermal mass works only PT in real states (like Texas)

      In the winter, they become big-ass ice cubes

      In the summertime they keep thing too hot all day and night…

      Dandy in spring and fall, though

  2. “The rainwater collection system design fault turned out to be the 100 gallon tanks froze solid.”

    when I was doing aqua-ponics…I had a 500 gallon tank for rainwater harvesting..I put them into the garage.. never had a tank freeze except for the collection and transfer.. my parents had a cistern..rainwater collection in a thousand gallon tank.. but you have to bury the the tank.. put guards on it to make sure nothing gets into the tank..
    on my parents cistern they had a hand crank pump.. and once a year he would pump it empty and clean the tank..his was concrete..on my 500 gallon tank I had a filtration system and UV light inside the tank with an aeration and the what ten years I never had an issue..
    you would need 2 or three thousand gallon set aside if you wanted adequate mater storage for a month..

    • George
      While on the discussion you need to think about a 500-2500 gallon cistern for grey water to be used if the fire department has to show up and fo watering outdoor plants.
      Just a thought. When I get my land outside of Birmingham area going that is one thing that will go in along with the septic system.

      Merry Christmas & happy New Year!

      • “Got a deal going with neighbor for a couple of 260 gal ibc totes!!!”

        Make sure they held food grade chemicals.. I have two of them paid ten bucks a piece for them.. food grade though is more expensive I think between a hundred and two hundred.. at the local elevators they get them for molasses.. and can be gotten cheaply enough.. I think they get a hundred dollars deposit back.. just walk in and ask if they have any.. my guess is if they haven’t gotten rid of them they would have a few on hand.. the cage is good.. but to bury them you wold have to make a top to hold the weight of the dirt.. six of them would make a great cistern.. but at two hundred bucks plus shipping.. if you buy them to get a thousand gallons you would need four of them..
        at tractor supply you can get the same as getting five of the ibc totes.. shipped to your local tractor supply and be done with it.. no extra construction needed.. and ready to be buried..
        enough for drinking but not enough for bathing and laundry.. if you have a top load washer.. its about forty gallons a cycle.. give or take depending on machine and tub size..
        Navy ship baths.. wet down scrub up rinse off.. takes about three to seven gallons.. average.. “A Navy shower is “the term used for a water-saving technique that was started in the Navy to help save precious freshwater aboard ships. The basic idea is to hop in the shower, get wet all over, turn off the water while soaping up, and then rinse clean. The small change in routine makes a huge difference: a regular shower can use as much as 60 gallons of water, while a Navy shower can check in at about 3 gallons.”
        the old saying of .. you get what you pay for does make a little sense..
        when I was doing aquaponics.. I had a tank aerator system.. and UV light.. did regular water tests..
        any stored drinking water in my opinion should be rotated and checked for safety sake.. but then there are people here on this site that are way better qualified in this than I am.. I am just an old opinionated schmuck that likes to spearmint and read..

  3. Merry Christmas!
    By the grace of God, I am still here, along with some caring nurses,
    I will recommend Home Healthcare to anyone like myself that gets stricken with debilitating disease – just be aware you do not have to stick with your initial nurses. I had to swap out my PT and OT nurses, and it was a good thing I speak spanish – the best nurses I found who were comfy with alternative healthcare were from Venezuela, Colombia and Argentina!

    Again, I hope God gives you and Elaine Continued health and love for one another and the kids. You are both loved by me…


  4. Merry Christmas Ure’s,
    Hope Santa left you something good! Survived the Freeze here South of Fort Worth. Used Styrofoam against outside wall where water pipes were vulnerable, it worked. Repaired ceiling in garage and guest bedroom week before last, what a pain, glad it’s done. Now painting begins with warm up but will pause during good fishing days. This Christmas just doesn’t feel right, with Mr. Mcgoo in office?
    Smoking a good brisket or pork roast does sound like a good plan.

  5. The logosol will cost you a chunk more, but there’s no heavy mallet swinging involved (my aim is lousy), and it splits a 5″ diameter log easily. Being a small, long-in-the-tooth female, I appreciate that. This is one of my favorite toys.

    PS – Merry Christmas to George, Elaine, Zeus, Sam, ferals, and all your very informed and entertaining listeners! God bless us, everyone! (Lord knows, a little divine intervention may prove helpful for all that’s coming….)

  6. My souls source of heat is a air tight wood stove and I keep about 10 cords of wood on hand and burn around 3 cords a winter. I am just a few years younger than you, but 10 years ago i gave up splitting all that wood by hand. I bought a gas driven hydraulic log splitter, That was the best decision i made! LOL, YOU should to! You can still get ones from TSC for a decent price. Do yourself a favor and get one! LOL
    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    • Now I can tell you MY father would have loved one of these.. not so much that he would use it..for him it would have been a more pain in the butt to split.. he could split a cord of wood in no time.. but just as a conversation piece.. he had all the wood toys.. for splitting and cutting wood.. he had the only four foot chainsaw I have ever seen.. and he made his own chains.. it was his hobby other than gardening..
      for a stove.. I have been telling everyone that I know they need to get one of these..
      and one of these..
      I am still working on the boss to let me get a loan and buy one.. if this thing with Ukraine blows out of proportion which it sure does look like that is what the Powers that be want.. I would like to still be able to use the furnace fan and keep the friderator going.. she keeps telling me no..
      for xmas I got her a Darrow monopoly set.. now she has them all.. its one we won’t play much on.. but keep it as a conversation piece..
      she still said no to the solar kit.. and if it develops the way I fear it will.. we will be like everyone else and not have heat.. or be able to keep the refrigerator running.. much less lights etc.. as connected we all are to modern conveniences.. its time to contemplate just what we do need and cherish.. and if the planet is shoved back to the stone age.. we are all screwed .. at least the ones that survive..
      I told her.. and if we don’t survive but have it.. then either the kids can use it or someone else that does survive.. she don’t get it.. the kids all think I am taking this to seriously and that nothing will ever happen in the USA.. what they are not considering is .. if your a bear and your cubs are threatened and there is no other way out.. you will take as many as you can with you..

  7. “There’s been a dandy discussion going on, here in Texas, on the 3806 80-meter hand band collection of geezers trying to continuously improve both smokers and beef jerky products being produced.”

    OH the secret to kick ass jerky…. 1/4 cup of brown sugar per pound.
    spice mixes are all basically the same.. the big difference is the brown sugar..
    I use ground and get a nice mix..found its actually cheaper to buy the pre made herb mixtures than the purchasing of separate spices..
    I learned the brown sugar trick several years ago..
    once you make a batch you’ll never go back.. you can cold smoke the meat before jerking.. but only if you like Smokey flavor..

    with that one you can leave it in the bowl to smoke it.. that’s a good price to..

  8. Hello, G. Here in southern Indiana, we bought an indoor propane heater right before the temps dropped and precip came in. Just in case. Set us back $300, and it really is only good for a couple of spaces. Luckily, our power supplier had no trouble at all keeping up. Now I just have to try to keep from having a coronary when I get next month’s bill. Considering taking it back since it was never opened, but something tells me February might not be pleasant. Hope you and your other readers enjoy their holidays. I used to love this time of year…

    • I have one of these:

      with one of these:

      attached to a piece of aluminum that’s strung between the reflectors.

      This set-up will easily heat one floor of my (drafty, old) house. At -12°F outside I feathered it down to one burner after room temps hit 74°.

      BTW, I did not lose power, but took advantage of this cold snap to shut things down and run strictly on my 3rd layer backups. No furnace, no stove, no grill, etc., because they make it too easy. I heated the house with this propane heater, and cooked with an original Kero-Sun “Moonlighter” heater I restored a few years ago. (The Moonlighter is a “baby heater” and only puts out about 12,700-14,000 BTUs tops. However, its top plate is a heavy, stamped steel cooking plate (not a “wire” cage), so it provides heat, illumination, and a cookstove, all in one.)

      I don’t just preach redundancy, and I take advantage of “weather blessings” like that cold wave to “torture test” my systems, to make sure they work…

  9. George,
    Got down to minus 5 a couple of nights is west Tennessee, but back up to a toasty 19 right now. Good ole TVA had rolling blackouts here yesterday, because the dumbass political stooges that are on the board of directors have decided to close all the coal fired generation plants. We have a natural gas turbine “peeking” plant 5 miles from my house, but TVA said it was too cold to run it. Bulls**t. Luckily the blackouts were for 15 to 45 minutes at a time.

    Amish in our area use heavily insulated stainless steel milk storage tanks for their water. They elevate the tanks for pressure and use gasoline pumps to refill as needed. Cattle ranchers in our area use submersible tank heaters which can be found at Use very little electricity and are safe, just put in the tank or barrel to keep water from freezing. Lot of folks in our area use wood pellet stoves because there is a hardwood pellet manufacturer within 25 miles of my location.

    Road crews have done a fantastic job of clearing all major roads even when temps never got above 9 degrees. They are using a mixture of salt brine, calcium chloride, and potato juice. Slash up from the highway leaves a rusty red coating on your vehicle. Really shows on my white 3/4 ton truck.

    After holidays, I will be investing in an outside, stand alone, multi-fuel furnace to heat my house and shop in the future. Neighbor just received a 16 foot x 7 foot wide x 4 foot high dump trailer load of split, dry firewood for $300. Local tree service guy has a firewood processing rig for all the limbs. etc and stores the wood inside. Smart guy, makes money twice on a tree trimming job. Gets paid to trim tree, haul off the wood and then sells the wood for firewood.

    Merry Christmas to all.

    • ” They are using a mixture of salt brine, calcium chloride, and potato juice.”

      Likely beet juice, not potato juice. It buys the road crew about 6° of “meltability” but is terribly corrosive. Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and parts of WI, MI, and PA used it five years ago (likely every State, now. That 6° advantage over KCl is really significant.) Spend the bucks to take your vehicle to an automatic car wash that offers “underbody wash,” and take advantage of said wash, at least once per week while the road crews are “salting.” By buying car washes, you will save mucho dinero over paying a mechanic to replace your rusted-out brake and fuel lines (ask me how I know) every two years…

      • Rich neighbor in my boyhood days in Wisconsin had a Caddie that he kept in the garage in winter. Every autumn he would buy a cheap, used “salt car” for winter driving around. The caddie only came out to drive to church on Sunday… if the roads were clean.

        Winter batteries in Wisconsin only last 3 winters… no matter what. We used to buy Sears ‘Lifetime’ batteries with a 5 year warranty, and got them replaced free when they failed the third winter. It was something you just planned for.

      • Lesson there for Tesla drivers. Read a story today about a Tesla stranded at a supercharger station on Christmas eve because it was too cold for the batteries to charge. Definitely not a car for northern climates.

      • @Hank

        “Rich neighbor in my boyhood days in Wisconsin had a Caddie that he kept in the garage in winter.”

        I have no doubt these types are still around me.

        We went from salt (0° melt), to a CaCl+KCl slurry (-4° melt, to KCl+beet juice (-10° melt) in just a few years. Michigan and New York are truly impressive with their snow-handling, but Wisconsin and New York (upstate) have the cleanest highways I’ve ever seen in winter. I assume they’re ALL using the beet juice, now.

        A few years back, I blew a brake line on my truck – took it in and they replaced all four (reputable mechanic, not a chiseler). The next week I did a rinse & repeat with my daughter’s car — Two weeks after that, my car. When I asked the wrench, he eddicated me about what the chemists did with Michigan beets after they extracted the sugar. He told me every winter-driven vehicle would be replacing brake and fuel lines every 2-3 years, and prematurely rusting out, unless they washed their cars regularly, during the winter months. He said “We’ve gone to copper-clad lines and so have a few carmakers, but it only slows the deterioration down — doesn’t completely stop it.” That was $1200 I didn’t have then (probably close to $1200 per vehicle, now), and I can visit the local Quick Clean a lot of times for 1200 bucks…

        Interstate MTP 60-month batteries are free replacement for 24 or 30 months (depending on battery) and pro-rated for the remainder of their warranty period. Batteries in the Midwest still can’t take more than 3 winters…

    • Lloyd:

      TVA’s two largest coal fired generating units are located at the Cumberland facitity. Each ASEA Brown-Boveri cross-compound TG is rated at 1300 MW with B&W steam generators, 9,000,000#/hr at 3500, throttle steam pressure each with 88 pulverized coal burners. I was lead-startup for the control manufacturer on unit two in ’72 – ’73. These were the largest coal fired units at the time with nine being installed – the other seven went to American Electric Power (AEP).
      I can’t believe that these idiots would shut these down. If they are not properly laid up they will turn into several billion$ worth of junk. The people with experience on these are mostly retired or gone (I’m 80). It takes years of design, construction and startup to install each one – I say “bon chance”.
      Another government-project will bite-the-dust.
      It’s obvious to me that by taking this kind of equipment out-of-service that someone is planning a serious reduction in population, “Great Reset” anyone?

      Best Wishes,

      Al B.

  10. “Amazon had a 50 percent off deal on a GARDRIT Wood Splitter Cast Steel Log Splitter for $35 but not sure how long that will be on.”

    Why anyone would need to split 6″ logs is beyond me. Personally, I have a pair of sledgehammers and a set of wedges. That’s not nearly as glamorous or easy as a log splitter (which IS on my list of tools to someday acquire, BTW) but it’s how my Daddy taught me to turn big logs into little logs, when I was about a 9yo, and big enough to swing an 8 pound hammer. Oh, and wedges work when there’s no grid…

      • I use an axe and a chainsaw. I’d hate to piss off a woman who was used to wielding a Michigan double-bit…

    • A log splitter is a fairly easy and fun project for anyone with reasonable welding skills – preferably stick. 30 ton is quite versatile.
      Used pumps and cylinders are(or were) available at farm auctions for a song – and you can build a double acting splitter if you wish to. You can always adapt it to run from a remote on a tractor or other equipment.

  11. Merry Christmas to George, Elaine and their families and all the Urban Survival/Peoplenomics readers and their families as well! Well wishes for the coming New Year!

  12. Merry Christmas to you George, your loved ones, and all the great posters to your site.
    No weather problems here in Folsom, CA, but a failed COVID test at my son’s house wrecked all of our careful plans for a family Christmas. But, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I’ll be glad to be over 2022!

  13. Merry Christmas.., one and all.
    Being tall and long-armed, splitting fire wood has never been a problem.., but my VA Doc got rather ticked when I told him what I did for exercise in the Winter. So my regular “wood-guy” now delivers my wood split, instead of ’rounds’. He too, is the local tree service., so he makes a good second income from selling firewood from the trees he removes. win – win.
    – There is a forecast for a rather nasty ice-storm tomorrow.., they are predicting “inches” – so I may be testing / using all the back-ups by this time tomorrow. We’ll see…..,

  14. you don’t need to keep your rain barrels WARM, just a hair above 32 degrees — a simpler fish-kettle.

    Even a small coffee or tea cup electric heater, thermostatically set to 35 degrees will keep it from freezing. Especially with an over-wrap blanket of insulation — nothing major or expensive.
    (All plus or minus any God-awful wind chill.)

    It don’t take much to maintain a small margin of a couple of degrees. Also: the “heat of crystallization ” (freezing point) of water means it take a LOT of “therms” to go from 32 water to 32 Ice. Big barrier there, that is on your side.

    I have a pool and a pool plumbing and pump equipment house 6 x 6 feet, dressed out like a scale model red farm barn. Cute. Stick-built with 2×4 s and cheap siding. NO insulation.

    There’s a 600 watt cheap electric (120 AC volt) space heater on a 40 degree livestock water-trough thermostat. With outdoors at 12 degrees last two nights, the pool house stayed above 38 degrees. It was moderately windy but not crazy-windy.

    No, not the most efficient solution, but simple, cheap, quick and easy — and “adequate.”

    We-uns had a FINE Christmas. I hope you-all did, too.

    Sometimes “good enough” really is good enough.

    -73 –

  15. “The rainwater collection system design fault turned out to be the 100 gallon tanks froze solid.”

    The fix is tank heaters. Any farm store should sell both submerged and floating tank heaters. They’re not expensive, thermostatically-controlled (they kick on at 36°) and most draw between 45 and 75 watts.

  16. A late Merry Christmas to you and Elaine, and the menagerie,
    And Wishing a much Happier New Year to all the readers and great posters on this site. I have learned much from all of you.

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