the burnination: after-action report.

We had friends over on Saturday.  Robin made a crepe buffet with about three dozen toppings, and there was much merrymaking and gaiety.

I combined some advice I got from this here Interblog, and purchased a propane torch at Home Despot prior to the event.  I also had six gallons of kerosene, a big plastic tub of bone-dry kindling, and assorted cardboard boxes with dry newspapers and such.  We removed much of the snow from the pile, and got it started with liberal application of packed kindling and that propane torch.  (Now that thing is about as much fun as you can purchase for $39.99, let me tell you.)

Anyway, we got about 1/3 of the pile burned, which isn’t bad considering it had six inches of snow on it, and all the fuel was wet or damp.  I couldn’t find anyone willing to sell me a few pounds of magnesium bar stock, or we would have gotten rid of all of it.  I’ll just cover what’s left and burn it in the spring, when it’s still wet outside.

Saturday was a perfect day, though.  Sunny, not too cold, not a cloud in the sky–postcard-perfect New England winter weather.  One of the couples attending brought their three little girls, and the other couple had their two-year old son in tow.  Between them and our own kids, we had six children between the ages of 2 and 7 running around and having a blast.  Add four excited dogs to the mix, and you can imagine the noise level.  Everyone had a good time, though.

Today?  Isn’t starting too hot.  It’s -25F out there this morning, and our water pipes (which run from the artesian well in the unheated garage into the house) are frozen.  I have a bunch of electric heaters going in there to un-stick the solid H2O, and until it does, I guess I won’t be doing dishes.  Or flushing toilets, for that matter.  Such is winter life in Upper Cryogenica on occasion…


11 thoughts on “the burnination: after-action report.

  1. Ancient Woodsman says:

    Good luck with the pipes. Down in Lower Cryogenica (the flatland) it is only -14 this morning. Not the coldest I’ve seen here, but close. Good for controlling the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, among other nasty things, so I’ll gladly take Mr. Freeze for a few weeks.

    Must be winter or something.

  2. Tam says:

    Sorry ’bout that. That air mass wasn’t misbehaving so badly when it left here; we only got down to 1°F before it headed off in y’all’s direction.

  3. Charles D Weaver says:

    Pictures my good man?

  4. Fred2 says:

    Hmmm, don’t you have them water pipe heater wraps? There’s a technical name for them that escapes me. Electrical, plug-in, works like a charm with some insulation. I strongly recomend at least a timer switch though.

    I had similar issue, and eventually wired it to the commercial thermocouple controller (If -0C, turn on, if 3C+ turn off.) No more frozen pipes.

  5. Fodder4Thought says:

    Re. magnesium:

    If you can’t find bar stock, try heading to a junkyard and grabbing an old magnesium-alloy wheel (probably on the order of $20 or so). I’ve heard that they can be ground down to an acceptable powdered-magnesium substitute.

    • The Other Jay says:

      F4T is correct about the mag alloy wheel being a good substitute for bar stock, although I would not suggest grinding due to the likelihood of impromptu ignition. If you’ve ever seen a mag racing wheel ignite due to contact with the track surface after a tire goes out, you get the picture.

      Mag alloy wheels are mostly apx 90% magnesium, with aluminum, zinc, and trace zirconium being the most likely other components. Only zirconium – which is used mostly in aircraft engine parts – increases the ignition temperature by much.

      Hit the rim with a hand sledge hard enough to make a crack. Insert some kids’ sparklers. Light. Enjoy. (Still though….DO NOT look directly at the burning magnesium without welder’s lenses.)

  6. Justthisguy says:

    You do realize that if you had had some Chlorine Trifluoride, that thing would be all gone? And you’d have a smoking hole in the ground, too!

  7. Ancient Woodsman says:

    Later in the day: officially, the -8F in Portsmouth was the lowest temperature ever recorded in that tiny, fine city. The previous record of -3F was set in 2003. My goodness, do we have a trend? Is it an inconvenient truth that things are getting colder around here? Strangely, Al Go…er, Manbearpig, is silent on this matter.

    Hope you made out o.k. with the pipes. The Smokey Bear thermometer on the porch here finally warmed up to -4F this afternoon.

  8. Tam says:

    You can get Thermite by the mason jar at Knob Creek…

  9. Mark says:

    For in the future sir, I will give you the Arkansas Hillbilly Secret to Burning Brush.

    1 bale of straw, not hay, Straw, dry as you can get it. We would wrap a bale up in several large plastic contractor bags and then lay the brush in on top of it. When it came time to burn the pile we would poke a sharpened stick into the straw through the plastic, pour a mix of kerosene and used engine oil, (usually 50/50 mix) along the stick into the bale, usually about a quart total. Wait 10 minutes then throw a road flare in the pile so it hits the bale. Nice fire starts from the bottom up and usually burns up everything.

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