The Calm Before The Storm

During my high school years, my best friend stopped at my Dad’s for a visit. It was a hot, humid, no-wind day. We happened to glance out the picture window toward the lake, and noticed some strange, greenish clouds approaching from the Southwest. They looked like someone was stirring the sky with an invisible wand. They rolled and turned over on themselves. Wow! I said.
We went downstairs and exited to the back yard, to better view this curiosity. There was absolutely no sound as the cauldron of thunder-heads approached the far side of the lake. Suddenly the oak trees changed from green to white – showing us the underside of their leaves. Then came the wind.
We were mesmerized – then brought back sharply by the force of the storm. We were compelled to run for our lives – making it upstairs where we raced to close my Dad’s casement windows, which were all wide open. Then glass broke all around us, and on us, and we dove down the stairwell to shelter. A tornado hit the house with a glancing blow, tearing off part of the roof. Then it rained three inches in the next ten minutes. Jim and I shook off the glass shards and found every waste basket in the house to catch the rain in my Dad’s living room. They weren’t enough, so we ran outside and emptied three of the garbage cans, using them to catch the biggest torrents.
So what’s the point of this story? Don’t be caught unaware. When things seem to be business as usual, there may be storm clouds gathering just over the horizon.
So how do we stay prepared? Take stock of where you and your family are at. Are you saving money out of each paycheck to prepare for the future? If not, prepare a written family budget and get in the habit of paying yourself first.
How’s your health and your health insurance? Review your insurance and make sure you have coverage. When’s the last time you had a check-up? Prevention can save you money, and maybe your life.
Do you have enough income? If not, consider a change. Go back to school. Check out new job opportunities. Start your own small business – make a career out of the things you love to do. Take charge of your destiny, don’t just coast along – chart your course.
Is your house warm and efficient, and comfortable in the summer? If not, consider weatherizing your home.
Call Tri-CAP. We can help you chart your course with many extraordinary programs designed just for you and your family. Prepare yourself to take life on in the good times and the hard times!
Energy tips for May: Could you plant some trees around your house? Plant hardwoods (big leaf) trees to the south and east; pine trees to the west and north. The pines keep their needles and shelter your house from winter winds; the hardwoods screen your home from the summer heat and lose their leaves in the winter (free solar heat gain). Inside, use blinds and draperies to control the temperature and install ceiling fans to move the air where the people are congregating (Instead of air conditioning).
May 2017 Blog
By: Stephen Bjorklund

Ghost Stories

It’s a rare day – I’m all caught up with my work load and client files. My next home energy visit isn’t scheduled for another hour, so my mind drifts to stories – ghostly client tales, to be precise. So here goes. Sven lived on his family’s Century Farm. The homestead sat on a hill overlooking the big woods to the Southwest and Gillan’s Bog to the Southeast.
“Once,” Sven began, “it was a very dark night – no moon and no stars. The crickets and frogs and hoot owls filled the darkness with a devilish chorus, punctuated by the unearthly screams of foxes on the hunt. I, too, decided to go hunting, so I grabbed my .22 rifle and my coon dog, Old Blue, and headed downhill toward the swamp. Suddenly, I saw the strangest sight, a bluish-green glow flitting and hovering across Gillan’s Bog. The nefarious apparition seemed to move as I approached, dancing behind clumps of alders and red dogwood, weaving in and out behind the weeping willows. Old Blue saw it too and commenced to growling. I kept a tight grip on his leash. We began to follow the light. It led me in a crazy circle through the boggy terrain, and I found myself once again at the approach to the swamp. The light dimmed – then vanished. I glanced uphill, toward the farmhouse, and saw the blue-green glow reappear in our attic window! There was no one home, so I charged up the hillside – stopping in the backyard to catch my breath, all the while staring at the ghostly glow. It began to fade, but just for an instant, I swear I could see the face of my father. Tonight would have been the one year anniversary of his passing. I regained my breath, steeled my resolve and put Old Blue back in his kennel. I made my way upstairs, step by step, and pushed the attic door open with the barrel of my rifle. I scanned the space with my flashlight, there was nothing moving or out of place, but something shiny caught my eye on the sill of the attic window. I walked toward the shiny object. There, laying on the casement, were my Dad’s WWII dog tags. As I picked them up, I pondered the singular events of the evening. Guess Pop wanted me to know he was still watching over me . . . and he always did have a flair for the dramatic.” Sven reached inside his shirt and pulled out the dog tags, saying, “And these are the very same.” The sight of the tags gave me goose bumps.
I’m out of time, duty calls . . . my next home visit beckons
Energy tip: Watch out for the “Phantom Loads” on your electrical appliances. Many of your electrical devices, including your computer, fax, printer, TV and VCR’s (among others) still use electricity when you turn them off. Plug these devices into a strip plug, and when you’re done using them for the day, turn the power strip off. This can save you money over the course of a year, and your appliances will last longer.

April 2017 Blog
By: Stephen Bjorklund

Critters

Lots of things can go wrong with houses . . . and for a myriad of mystifying reasons. With a life-time in the construction business, including six years with Community Action, I’ve run into some doozies . . . and here’s a few of my best.

At two a.m. one summer night one of my clients called and said I had to come over right away and fix the basement sump pump. The water was starting to rise. OK. Thirty-five minutes later I was standing in the basement in question, examining the sump pump. I opened the basket lid and there, on the pump float, sat the biggest bullfrog I ever did see, as big as a softball. I asked the lady of the house if she wanted to keep him for a pet. I won’t tell you what she replied. Anyway, the mysterious pump failure was resolved.

Another time a client called in a panic, saying that the fireplace was broken and that the smoke was filling his house. I arrived with my extension ladder, chimney sweep rod and brush in hand, and quickly ascended to the roof-top. I trained a flashlight down the chimney to discover a smoked raccoon – the poor fellow mistaking the chimney for a nice place to den up for a good nap. The raccoon was still alive and in a really snarly mood. I tried to calm him with gentle entreaties, telling him softly that his hair would grow back, and managed to fish him out, thereby restoring the tranquility of the house.

Then there was the time that all of the client’s water pipes froze and broke under the kitchen cupboards. After a careful look-see, I discovered that a rogue chipmunk had bored a hole through the siding, rim joist and insulation, and helped himself to the waste basket under the kitchen sink. The minus 20 degree cold that subsequently followed the rascal’s snack highway, froze and broke the water pipes. We had to tear out the bottoms of the cabinets to replace the burst pipes – then reinstall insulation, framing and siding. The owner asked how to stop the problem from reoccurring. All I could think of was . . . “Don’t feed the chipmunks!”

I saved the best one for last. A client called and said that there were evil spirits around his house, and that I better come over and fix it, as the house was still under warranty. He asked if someone of old had been the victim of foul play on the property, or if the site was an ancient burial ground. I didn’t have that answer, but responded, “Be right over.” My imagination had been peaked. I arrived and asked him to describe the events. He said pheasants and deer kept running into his house, many of the pheasants committing suicide. “Hmmm . . . ,” I said. I walked the property and noticed a plethora of animal tracks at the base of a wild plum tree. I asked the owner if he had noticed anything unusual about the tree. “No,” he said, “other than all the critters are always eating the wild plums.”

“There’s your evil spirits,” said I.

“What’s that?” Said he.

“Your plums are fermenting, the critters are getting drunk gorging on them, losing their equilibrium and bashing into your house,” said I.

“Arrrgh, I can’t believe it,” said he.

After subsequent observation, he found it to be true. I think he was a little disappointed that there had been no spooks, no noteworthy historical dramas.

So there you have it . . . some of my best client/critter tales.

 

Energy Saving Tips for March

Having a hard time keeping up with your energy bills? I have two suggestions for you. First, set up a family budget (on paper). Call Tri-CAP if you need a budgeting form or if you want to attend our free Financial Fitness class. After you start tracking your income and expenses, get in the habit of paying yourself FIRST. Once you start a savings account, you will learn to live on the remainder of your income. This is a proven fact. You will learn to do without some things, as saving will become a desirable and worthy goal. Before you know it, you will be able to pay your bills on time, use less credit cards with the attendant high interest, and have the security of a growing bank account. The second thing that you can do is to improve the energy profile of your home. How? Ask Tri-CAP to send you energy saving tips. There are dozens of things that you can do to save energy in your home. If your house needs a major energy makeover, ask Tri-CAP for an Energy Advisor Home Visit. For those who are income eligible, you may also receive Weatherization Services, or possibly a low interest rehab loan. Sign up for energy assistance, if you qualify, it is the gateway to many of our programs.

March 2017 Blog

By: Stephen Bjorklund

 

 

 

 

 

The Game of Life

Many Americans see organized sports as a metaphor for life. This sentiment endures in spite of the risk of injury and the many personal sacrifices required. So what are some of the universal lessons to be gleaned by belonging to a team? First, it takes dedication. Every sport worth doing requires regular attendance at practice and game day. Second, you need to master time management skills through personal discipline. If the school work suffers, your place on the team will be at risk. Third, you need to be the best that you can be – not just for yourself – but for the team. Fourth, you must develop a team attitude. Your group wins as a team, not because of one or two star players. You have to learn how to pass the ball. It’s not all about you. The end score is a corporate score, not an individual statistic. Fifth, you have to learn to work through the pain. Sometimes the conditions are less than ideal. Your body may be hurting, and the game day weather may be abysmal. You come to play and be your best no matter what. Sixth, learn integrity, honesty, and good sportsmanship. And finally, seventh, learn to be thankful – to the coach, your school, your parents, your church, and your community.

What about people who were never on a team? Can they learn these same lessons . . . where and how? Yes, through family, faith community, work, community involvement and outside interests. The important thing is to master the precepts: participation, discipline, best-effort, team attitude, perseverance, integrity and thankfulness.

Your family is just as important as any team that has ever been. Teach the precepts well; study the precepts to show yourself approved; and then live the precepts. If the folks at Tri-CAP can assist you and your family in the game of life, count us as part of your team.

Energy tips for February

Step back and take a good look at your home. Go outside and see if the snow cover is consistent over the entire roof. If it’s melted in some places, your insulation or ventilation may be inadequate. Can you see the stud framing lines through your siding, or the nail heads? If so, your building wall insulation or vapor barrier may be inadequate. Do the bottom four inches of your windows frost up? Then you may have too much humidity or not enough ventilation. If so, consider installing a full time whisper-quiet fan in your bathroom. They ventilate all of the time at a low range, and when you flip the switch, they act like a robust bathroom fan. Do your pipes freeze at your kitchen sink or bathroom? Then your rim joist insulation, wall insulation, (or for mobile homes) or the belly insulation is inadequate. Do you have a CO detector and smoke detectors? If you get frequent headaches, you may have CO leakage from your furnace, water heater, or gas stove. Get the detectors, don’t take a chance on Carbon Monoxide poisoning or on a fire in the middle of the night. Stay safe, the game of life is more than a game.

February 2017 Blog

By Stephen Bjorklund

 

“The Purest Art”

Have you ever wondered why our earliest ancestors painted murals on the walls and ceilings of caves? Who was going to see the images? Why go through all of that work of setting up wooden scaffolding, preparing pigments from scarce raw materials and making torches from the scant resources available? This was in the day when the next meal was no sure thing and your life could come to a swift and terrible end at any moment (warring clans; disease; accidental injuries; mammoths; saber tooth tigers; blizzards). So why invest precious survival time in art?

The experts have divined the following scenarios: placating the spirits of game animals in order to ensure a good hunt; a religious rite paying tribute to the deities of animals and nature; territorial markers claiming hunting and clan territory; or merely documenting for posterity a great hunt. In other words, the experts don’t have a clue. The art remains a mystery.

Perhaps the answer lies in observing ourselves. People are drawn to observing art and to making art. Place a room full of children next to a pile of paper and crayons and they will soon be drawing and coloring. What do they draw? Mom and Dad. Friends. Play. Trees and animals. Things that they are afraid of. Special holidays. Snowmen, reindeer, pine trees, sliding. Butterflies and flowers. Frogs. The sun, rainbows, jump ropes. Their home.

Is there a greater pattern in this art? Like cave art, it’s a mystery. Some things we know are true – if art did not mean something elemental, why would people stop to study it? Why would they have the compulsion or desire to create it? The beauty of art is that it stands the test of time. The cave art is wonderful, whatever the intent of the artist. Our children’s art is wonderful, no matter the scope of their talent.

As an energy advisor for community action, I go into four or five houses across four central Minnesota counties every week, and I always look at the photos and paintings on the walls. I am drawn to them. They reveal multitudes about the residents and what’s important for them. Their art is a mirror – a window into their deepest thoughts.

Just last week I visited an older client who lived by herself, and who occupied her time with art. She had quite a set-up by her favorite arm chair. There was a desk top table that rolled over her chair, with a work surface and tray for her supplies. A dozen cylindrical holders harbored a myriad of colored pencils and ink pens. This represented her time-tested stash, obviously selected with great diligence. I marveled at the collection. Then I asked, “What do you like to draw?” She pointed behind me, to the living room wall. There a dozen framed pictures were neatly displayed. Each was exquisitely rendered – scenes of flowers, birds, owls and many other creatures. I asked, “Do you sell your art?” She gave me a puzzled look, and replied, “No, I just do my art for the love of drawing.”

And maybe that’s the answer. Our ancestors and our children may do their art for love’s sake.

 Energy tips for January

Install a ceiling fan. It’s the cheapest way to move heat and also provide summer cooling. At night, close your curtains; when the sun shines, open the blinds and curtains. Use CFL and LED light bulbs. Install cheap weather-stripping kits behind your wall outlet covers. Cover windows with plastic, or caulk the cracks with strip-away caulking. Install weather-stripping around your attic access hatch. And don’t forget to call Tri-CAP and check out all of our energy saving programs.

January 2017 Blog

Written by: Stephen Bjorklund

 

 

What did you say?

On the way into work this morning a police car passed me. I was going the speed limit and it was hilarious to observe as all of the cars and trucks (that flew past me) slammed on their brakes . . . suddenly becoming enlightened. The presence of the patrol car acted like a cork in a bottle – about fifteen cars and trucks were obliged to travel henceforth in a tight-knit caravan, all the way to St. Cloud. We had become an impromptu brotherhood of guilty souls.

This anecdote is a classical example of how we see and say things. We take our life experiences and arrange them in our mind on a scaffolding of literary devices. In the short paragraph above several literary devices were employed. We are usually not aware that we are using these devices, we just think the way we think and say the way we say.

So how are you doing with your holiday shopping? Do you remember the reason for the season (alliteration); did you purchase special foods for the family get-togethers, like jumbo shrimp (oxymoron); financially speaking, were you able to keep the wolf away from the door (anthropomorphism); was your shopping experience right up there with feeling the cracks spread as the rock (from the equipment trailer ahead of you) fractured your windshield (cacophony)?

We all grapple with our thinking and speaking process, and know it or not, we are all craftsmen who frame our experiences in the most delightful of ways.

We at Tri-CAP hope you have a happy winter. If we can help you in making your home warm, snug and efficient through our many programs – please give us a call.

December energy tips: Change the filters on your furnace monthly, it will save you money (the furnace will not come on and off as much and it will run more efficiently); and also the air quality will improve (this reduces dust, allergens, dust mites and other contaminants). If you have not had a clean and tune of your furnace in more than two years – get one. This will save you big money on your heating fuel consumption. Consider having your duct work cleaned, to also improve air quality. Make sure your heat registers and cold air returns are open and that nothing is obstructing the air flow. Turn down the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees, and take short showers. Your water heater is thirty percent of you energy bill, so use it wisely. If you are struggling with your energy bills, are facing a shut-off, or your fuel tank is on empty, call Tri-CAP. For income eligible families, we may have just the help you need.

December 2016 Blog

By: Stephen Bjorklund

The Funk Hole

I hope that you have been enjoying the client tales as presented in our Tri-CAP monthly blogs. They are great fun for me because the richness of life is the people in our life. This months’ subject is so universal that it applies to both clients and staff at Tri-CAP. It’s not one person’s story, it’s our story. It’s called being trapped in a funk. What’s that, you say? The funk is a perfect storm of factors combining at the same time to make one’s life nearly unendurable. When you find yourself there, most people retreat, pull back from everyone and everything, and go into the survival mode. It’s of little comfort to know that nearly everyone, at some time in their life, gets thrown down the funk hole.
So how does it happen? Have your parents or grandparents ever said any of the following to you? Eat right, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, show up for work on time. Hmmm . . . The greatest joy is in the giving of yourself and your time, the greatest blessing realized when we bless others.
So if your family credos are right-on, then is it true that when we fail to observe these basics, we may lose our peace and risk slipping away bit by bit into the general malaise of the funk hole? Maybe.
Let’s examine the matter. I do know this – not having enough money, or having too much money, can start you on the downhill slide. Embrace the good relationships that you have. A good mate or a good friend is worth more than gold. Having a great job can help, but it’s not the whole ball game. Instead, focus on the job that you have and try to encourage your immediate circle of co-workers and clients. A kind word at the right time brings life; a harsh word at a pivotal time can cause grievous harm. What we speak comes out of our spirit, what we say is who we are.
Another piece of the puzzle is how we see ourselves. If financial status or your job define you – have a care. These things can be taken away by circumstances. If you are a high achiever/type “A” personality, what happens when you don’t meet your goal, or worse yet, when you fail entirely? The tasks that you do are also not you. Do you believe in anything greater than yourself, or are you the center of your universe? Do you entertain spiritual truths that lead to inner peace? Believing entirely in oneself is like carrying water in a bucket that’s full of holes. There may be more wisdom in believing in the one who created the water.
If you find yourself in a funk and can’t manage the burden of keeping up with your fuel or electric bills this winter, or your family budget is all out of whack, give Tri-CAP a call. (Income eligibility guidelines apply.) We’re not the answer to everything, but we’ll have an encouraging word for you and hopefully some targeted financial assistance to get you over the hump, and a few steps closer to climbing out of a funk.
Energy saving tips for fall: Install a timer on your water heater; install timers on some of your electric lighting; don’t use portable electric heaters, use a blanket instead (some heaters can cost over $100 per month to operate); consider sealing your drafty windows with “strip-away” caulk (as the name implies, you can easily remove the caulking when spring arrives.) With a little effort, you can make your home warmer and more efficient this winter.

Tri-CAP November blog

Written by: Stephen Bjorklund

Songs that Remain

As we grow older the interplay between body, mind and spirit becomes more apparent. Maybe it’s because we’re nearer the end than the beginning. We grow ever so aware that the final entries in our book of life unfold before us. Along those lines, let me share a very special story about an older couple that I visited for a home energy advisor consultation. The husband and wife of many years lived by a lake and the house was designed to take advantage of the idyllic scenery. There were ample bird feeders and nectar feeders positioned all around the lakeside deck. Humming birds and songbirds of all descriptions filled the scene. The entire back of the house was flanked by sliding glass doors – and even while seated inside you felt connected to God’s good earth.

The elderly man of the house and I sat across from each other at a small dinette table, and I began to conduct a home energy assessment, asking him many questions about his home and the electrical and heating equipment. As so often happens, the conversation took a turn away from building science, and we began to discuss family. His wife was resting in the back bedroom, and he asked, “Do you need to go into her room?”

I could tell that it was important to him not to disturb her. I replied, “I’ll just ask you some questions and that will suffice.”

“Do you see our piano?” He asked.

It was an impressive grand, handsomely fashioned of finely polished, quarter-sawn maple. “Do you play,” I responded.

“No, it’s my wife’s. At one time she was a well-known concert pianist. She doesn’t play now. Adelyn has had Alzheimer’s for about ten years and I’m her primary care-giver. It’s all I can do.”

We talked about Alzheimer’s and I shared that my mother, too, was a gifted pianist who passed from the disease. He asked me, “At the end, did she ever come back?”

“Yes. She hadn’t spoken for over a year, but the day after my Dad died (he also resided at the nursing home) she looked up at his WWII navy photo on the wall and she asked me, ‘Where is Poppy?’ Then she just drifted into silence once again.”

The old man listened intently to my account, and his eyes teared up. Then he said, “My wife has also lost the capacity to speak. But something remarkable happened last week. In the middle of the night, I was awakened from a deep sleep. Adelyn had managed to find her way to the piano, and she was playing Claude Debussy’s Arabesque – one of her favorites. She never missed a note. As she finished I joined her, and she didn’t seem to know what to do next. Like your Mother, she just drifted away.”

I asked him if he had any observations about what happened with his wife and my Mother.

“Perhaps a person’s spirit is immune from the physical limitations of this life. Perhaps, even with Alzheimer’s, the spirit remains intact . . . perfect.”

I thought a lot about what the old man had said, and found once again that the people that I go out to council in matters pertaining to their household, often end up advising me in the most remarkable of ways. I think that the old man was right. Perhaps the spirit of a human being is above the laws of nature. Perhaps during those times that I visited my mother, when she couldn’t speak or acknowledge my presence – she was right there . . . with me in spirit.

Energy tips for November:   The average Minnesota three bedroom household uses 9516 Kwh per year of electricity (around $1,350 per year); the average household uses about $1375 per year for natural gas or propane; or about $2,000 for fuel oil. Ask your power company to send you 12 months of your consumption data and compare your numbers with the state average. If you are higher look for the reason why. Then call Tri-CAP (ask for the energy home advisor) and we’ll send you energy saving tips and some tips on making extra income.   We’ll do our best to help you master your energy bills.

Tri-CAP October blog

Stephen Bjorklund

 

The Bear that Bought the Farm

It’s time once again to turn the calendar to autumn. Fall seems to elicit the season of the whopper – those audacious, outlandish, taller-than-tall tales spun by outdoor enthusiasts of all persuasions. One sunny day during a home energy advisor visit, the farmer in residence shared the following account: “My wife warned me not to buy the Red Ryder BB gun for my eight year old son, but don’t you know, us guys have to stick together. My son had overheard the conversation between me and my wife about the troubles with milk prices and the fact that we had to mortgage the farm, just to keep the homestead. He wanted to do his part and defend our property and bee-hives ‘from bears and other trouble makers’. (I had never seen a bear on our land and we’ve been here for three generations, but I recognized how eight year old boys might imagine the enemies without). His sincerity rated a Red Ryder BB gun, at least with me. Anyway, one day I was out harvesting the wheat on the back forty when I saw six of my milk cows skedaddling down our gravel drive, to parts unknown. Then I saw a sight that will forever remain imprinted in my memory – fast behind my Guernsey cows – stumbling, rolling over and falling, was the biggest black bear I ever did see. He was in such a state! He had my wife’s laundry entangled around him, with my wife’s slip pulled over his eyes. He would run, trip, fall down – all the while swatting at the swarm of honey bees who had targeted his exposed nose. He wasn’t intentionally chasing the cows, they just happened to be in the direction of his get-away, as had been the clothes line. The Guernsey’s had panicked at the sight of the black apparition, who was festooned in a swirl of ladies undergarments.
“I ran to my pickup and sped back to check on the wife and son. My boy was stationed in front of the farmhouse with his Red Ryder BB gun displayed triumphantly across his chest. He called out, ‘I got him, Dad, right in the nose! He won’t be knocking over any more of our bee-hives.’
“My wife was standing at the kitchen door, work apron on and her arms folded, tapping her toes. She gave me THE LOOK. She said nothing, and I dared not ask. I managed to mutter, ‘after I corral the cows, I’ll retrieve your underwear.’ She continued to stare, first at the mighty bear hunter and then at the man who knew best about small boys and guns. Then she turned and disappeared behind the kitchen door.
“My son and I commenced to locate the cattle, and after two hours in the neighbor’s cornfield and twice through the cattail swamp, the Guernsey’s were once again secured. Next, we began to track down my wife’s apparel, one piece here . . . one piece there. The trail led us deeper and deeper into the oak woods, ending at the brook pool. That old bear must have sensed that if he could just get to deep water, he could get untangled from the clothes line, and escape from the enraged honey bees, who had persisted in punishing his sore, BB shot nose. He succeeded, and all that remained was an assortment of my wife’s unmentionables swishing round and round in the current of the brook pool.
“My son took off his shoes and socks, and went to wading. ‘Hey Dad, lookie here!’ I flipped off my footwear and joined my son. ‘Well, by the Eternal . . . I think that you and the bear just discovered a shooting star!’
“And sure enough, there in the brook pool nestled a meteorite as big as a beach-ball, half covered by my wife’s slip cover (formerly worn by the honey bandit).
“Well, one thing had just led to another, and after auctioning-off that one-of-a-kind shooting star, we were able to say in all sincerity . . . that’s how the bear paid off the farm!”
Energy tip for September: Check out the fuel level in your propane or fuel oil tank. It may be time to re-order while the prices are low. Next, fire-up and check your furnace. Change your filter, and if the furnace isn’t up to par, call for a clean and tune with your local heating contractor. Take a walk through your home and make sure that the heat registers and cold air returns are in the fully open position, and that nothing is stacked on top of them, also make sure that nothing is stacked against your furnace.
Don’t forget to check out energy assistance, the energy home advisor program, and the weatherization program at Tri-CAP (for income eligible families).
Tri-CAP blog for September
Stephen Bjorklund

The Family Secret

As a former weatherization auditor and for the past year and a half, as a home energy advisor, I have met with many colorful personalities. I take people at face value and give them the benefit of the doubt . . . assuming that what they are telling me is true. With that said, there have been times when my trusting ways have been put to the test. Let me share one client story to demonstrate the point.
Leif, (I won’t use his real name) was a blue eyed, red cheeked, silver haired Swede who lived in an 1880 vintage farmhouse. The homestead was situated on a high hill amidst a burl-oak woods and could have served in a late night, scary movie. I met with the old man to do a home energy advisor assessment, and informed him that I would need to have access to all of the rooms, the attic, and the basement. He said that it would be alright, except for one room. I asked, “What’s the problem with that one room?” He cleared his throat, stood up and made a fine shot into the brass spittoon on the far side of the kitchen, which sang out as pretty as any Chinese gong. Then he said, “You see, we have kind of a family secret, and it is in that room.”
I asked, “Can you explain that a little more – my program rules require that I examine every room.”
“Well, I won’t say that you can’t go into that room, but we keep the door locked. It’s been locked for fifty years.” He pointed with a knurled index finger to the far side of the parlor. “Do you see the big bolt on the door?”
“I see it.”
“Have you ever heard the tales from the old country about the troll that lived under the bridge?”
“I guess that I have – you know – Grimm’s Fairy Tales and such.”
“Well, when my great grand-dad came over from Sweden, he brought along a souvenir from the family farm by Lake Sylvan, and it’s locked in that room.”
“Ah, come on now. Are you saying you have a troll incarcerated in that room?”
“Listen, young fella, you just go and hold your ear against that locked door!”
I did so, and heard a kind of knawing sound, “Something’s chewing on something in that room.”
“Sure enough. Great grand-dad said they have real sharp teeth. Go and look through the key hole.”
I did so, but could see nothing but the late afternoon shadows playing across the big, brass bed. I said to the old man, “I don’t see a thing.”
“Great Grand-Pa said that most often they’re invisible, except by the light of a full moon.”
“So what would happen if I went into the room, to investigate?”
“Well then, if you’re brave enough or foolish enough, go and see for yourself. Have a care, though, the troll may take a shine to you and decide to come and reside at your house.”
I took a breath, threw open the bolt, opened the squeaky, hinge-bound door, and entered therein. I cautiously surveyed the scene, then said, “I don’t see a thing!”
The old man shook his head, rang the gong, and replied, “You will, by the light of the next full moon!”
I admit that I wasted no time in finishing my home assessment tasks, and then I left Leif, his house and his family secret, taking one last glance back in the rear view mirror as I drove down the hill on the winding driveway. Leif was peering out of the partially opened kitchen door. He displayed a most peculiar expression. It was much more than a smile, like maybe he had just accomplished some great feat requiring exceptional skill. And upon sober reflection, maybe he had. One thing for sure – he appeared to me to have captured the essence of complete satisfaction.
Energy tip for August
Use curtains and blinds on your windows. In the summer, close them on hot days. In the winter, open them on sunny days and take advantage of the free heat gain. Remember to use portable fans and the furnace fan before you turn on your air conditioner. Open the windows on cool summer nights and close them early in the morning to keep the cool air working for you.
Tri-CAP August 2016 Blog
By: Stephen Bjorklund