Heat and water

Over the past two weeks, we’ve made a disappointing discovery about our house. The well we use to draw water from the aquifer beneath us can’t produce as much flow during the winter months. So as we use our heat (which is geothermal and pulls quite a bit of water from the ground to function), we lose our water pressure. It’s an efficient system in theory, but when the well runs low, things aren’t so great.

Thus, the past two weeks have been a bit of an adventure as we’ve adjusted the thermostats and fiddled with the geothermal system to figure out how to have both warmth and water. Fortunately I have temperature sensors scattered around the houses! They help me to feel like something of a scientist as I figure out the right balance.

Here’s a graph of the past week or so:

The blue line is upstairs in the office– arguably the warmest place in the house, since heat rises. I can’t figure out the huge spike on the 25th, but after that we turned the heat off and watched the temperature drop. Then we turned it back on, with the thermostat at a lower temperature, to see how things went. We edged it up a couple more times, continuing our experiment. The good news is the main house is dialed in around 68 degrees, which is fine for the winter.

The red line is the great room just downstairs. Obviously it’s not actually 10 degrees colder down there… I guess putting the sensor on the hardwood floor wasn’t good positioning. Yesterday I moved it to the bookshelves so it’ll get a better reading (meaning what we might feel walking around down there). There’s still a differential of a couple degrees, but that’s to be expected. All good there.

Then we have the party house, shown in pink (the main room) and green (the lounge, which has two large windows). I’m fascinated by the spiky temperatures there, and Pepper pointed out they’re almost certainly due to the sunlight warming the room each afternoon. The downward trend is pretty obvious there as we basically shut off the heat to the house a week ago. However, when it was down around 52 degrees yesterday, we felt like we had to dial it back up. That’s the steady climb of the pink and green on the far right.

We’re still wrestling with this a bit, but I think we’ll be able to maintain heat (albeit at half capacity on our geothermal condenser) and still have water. Ahh, the joys of homeownership…

Mando mug

As the next round of our ongoing merch wars, Nooch fired another salvo by sending me a cocoa mug with my drawing of The Mandalorian title:

It’s a little hard to see in the photo, but it’s this drawing of The Mandalorian title that I did for my Far Far Away comic.

Now I have to think of something to send him. A pillow?

Alpine slide

This morning our friend Susie texted us. “I just built an alpine slide in my back yard… want to come sledding with us?”

What kind of question is that? Of course we wanted to come sledding! We put on some ski pants and a couple layers, and headed over to their place. They live up near Jewel Basin, on the mountainside. Susie had carved out a sled track in their “driveway” (used in the loosest sense). It was about a half mile long! We trucked up to the top of their 40-acre property, sat on our sleds, and headed down.

That’s Susie a little ahead of Pepper. It may be worth noting they don’t have any kids at home; all theirs are grown and moved out like ours. So it was basically four middle-aged adults yelling and whooping as we flew down the hill. Wow, it was a blast. There were a few spots where we had to kind of push with our arms– think a cat track at a ski slope– but there were also some spots where I was absolutely zipping down the hill. The sleds didn’t really have any steering, and I managed to spin 360 degrees a few times. What a hoot.

After four or five runs, we headed into their cozy house for some hot cocoa. Susie promised she’d invite us over again when we get some more snow. Woo hoo!

On the way home

Driving home from town, I was cruising along the shore of Flathead Lake and felt like I had to stop to take this picture.

It looks like it could be a pleasant summer evening. But it was 20 degrees…

Wise guy

As Pepper and I were teaching seminary today, we decided to help these yahoos prepare to serve missions. The boys are eligible to serve at age 18, which means many of them will apply and head out right after graduating from high school. For some of them, that’s not very far away.

How to best do this? After a bit of thought, we decided to ask some missionaries we know who are serving right now. Not only are they nearly the same age as the kids in our class, but they’re living the mission experience in today’s crazy world. You can’t get much more relevant than that. I sent emails to a half-dozen young men (and one niece) who are serving now, asking for their input about what sorts of things they did to prepare for their missions, what sorts of things they wished they’d done, and what sorts of questions they get from people on the street.

Zaque answered promptly, and said he had so much to share that it would be easier in a video call. We dialed in right away and had an awesome hour-long chat with him about his life as a missionary.

This kid. He even pulled out the scriptures to quote some stuff for us!

He had a lot of great (and very wise) advice, and I was furiously taking notes so we can share it in seminary over the coming weeks…


So my best friend Nooch has a YouTube channel, and he recently hit 500 subscribers. That’s something of a milestone for him (at 1,000 subscribers he can apparently “monetize” the channel), and he decided that to celebrate, he’s going to start selling “merch”. His screen name is nooch2gud, which I’ve never fully understood, but I guess his fans think it’s the best.

Since I’ve been helping him with some artwork, he sent me a complimentary nooch2gud t-shirt. I decided to model it in a variety of poses.

Here’s hoping he hits 1,000 subscribers soon, because I might get a nooch2gud pillow! (Yes, really.)

Wintry sunset

After a few days of cloudy skies, it was great to see a gorgeous sunset over the lake. There are a few inches of snow on the ground, and the light was beautiful, so I stepped outside and snapped a few photos.

Here are the Christmas lights in our tree:

A bit of snow on the pine needles:

And a view to the southwest, across the lake beyond the forest:

I love living in a place where I can step outside the front door… into the forest… and see the beauty of nature.

15 minutes

Pepper always impresses me with her dedication. She’s the kind of person who will decide to do something, and then do it regardless of how difficult or uncomfortable it is. For example, many moons ago she decided to take up jogging. She started out and absolutely hated it. I wondered, does anyone really enjoy jogging? Well, apparently after a while you do. She grew to enjoy it, and she’d jog for miles every day. That habit eventually faded after a few years, but it shows the kind of dedication she has to something.

Well, now she’s decided to work on some new hobbies. She told me that if she practices these hobbies just fifteen minutes a day, she’ll get better. True. So last week she started.

The ukelele:

The piano:

And sign language:

In the photo above, she’s watching an ASL series and learning new words. But she prefers talking with Kyra, who’s quite adept at ASL after a couple of college classes:

I have no idea if her sign language is improving, but she definitely sounds better on the uke. It’s pretty cool to see her carving out the time each day to get better at something.

Sending and receiving

One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is the sending (and receiving) of cards. There are many, many people who only hear from me once a year. And by “hear from me” I mean “receive a goofy card with a handful of pictures on it”. So yeah, I could definitely do a better job of keeping in touch with my friends and family. Good intentions and all that.

Anyway, after sending some three hundred cards, it’s fun to get a few in return. This year’s “haul” amounted to seventy cards which currently decorate an entire wall in our kitchen:

I love not only seeing the changes in peoples’ lives, but chuckling at those who put together a clever card or a funny message. In an age when most people slap a quick post on Facebook and call it a day, it’s nice to know there are many who still enjoy opening their mailbox to find a stack of envelopes from old friends.