It's the first thing you'll find me doing in the morning and the last thing you'd see me do in the evening, and it's the thing you'll find me doing about every two to four hours in between the time I get up and the time I go to bed… every day... rain or shine-- Feeding Audrey.
Audrey is the large boiler on the side of the pool house over here at the Brunswick Mineral Springs Bed and Breakfast. We burn wood in this beast to heat the pool water. As I mentioned in my previous post, the boiler "eats" about a half-cord to a full cord of wood per day (depending on how dry the "menu" is).
Because of its ravenous appetite I have named her Audrey, in affectional homage to the giant, carnivorous Venus Fly Trap-esque plant in the musical, Little Shop of Horrors. Every time I realize it's time to go heft another stack of logs into her mouth I hear those famous words in my head -- "Feed me!"
When my son-in-law, Kevin, is here with my daughter Elizabeth and my grandbabies (Kalei and Kera),. he man-handles a few of the massive tree stumps we get from the near-by lumber yard over to the jumbo-sized wood splitter and he spends a couple of hours whacking and stacking. Then he feeds Audrey and enjoys an adult beverage while she consumes the latest meal.
Dad takes on a few feedings as well and he helps me clear some of the dead-fall in the wooded areas and from the nature trails.
I actually enjoy the wood cutting/clearing/splitting/stacking/burning ritual. I pack my provisions -- big container of our very own, delicious Brunswick Mineral Spring Water, a chain saw, a giant set of titanium loppers (with ratchet-action cutter), fuel for chain saw, work gloves -- and I pack them onto my trusty steed/tractor with the deep cart attached to the back and I ride off down the trail into the woods and begin cutting everything worth burning into nice, evenly sized logs.
Using a chain saw is fun. It's rather the same level of fun as using a pressure washer. Once you get started you just want to keep going until it's too dark to safely continue. I even found myself revving the motor in between cuts, much the same way one would do with the motor of a motorcycle while waiting for the light to turn green.
As I clear the dead-fall and the smaller trees from among the larger trees I'm stacking the logs into size-determined piles along the nature trail. I'm also cutting branches on the larger trees about eight feet up so you get a nice, clear view through the wooded areas. I've also been collecting and stacking fallen branches to use for kindling. Considering the size of the property it seems like n overwhelming task. But anything worth doing always takes time and the effort sure makes a difference. The groomed trails and the clean, clear view through the wooded areas look so inviting. I am even creating paths that trail off into the trees where I am going to stage some beautiful seating areas. Some will even have tables so guests can enjoy a nice romantic meal while surrounded by the beauty of nature.
When I first arrived to the B&B a little over three weeks ago the water in the pool was only about 45 degrees. When I gave Audrey her first feeding of the season I thought it would only take a few days and maybe up to a week to heat it up to a suitable temperature for swimming. Boy was I wrong.
When I was here in September it only took three days to heat that puppy up to a glorious 78-82 degrees. It was awesome! But what I didn't take into consideration this time is the ambient temperature of the ground surrounding the water in the pool.
Back in September, the ground was still warm, deep-down warm after a long, hot Virginia summer. The temperature of the ground around the pool after a couple of months of sustained cold temperatures that occasionally dipped into single digits was just this side of frozen. Not only do I have to heat the water in the pool, I have to heat the ground around the water in the pool so it doesn't keep drawing away the heat!. This, I assure you, does not happen fast. I have to keep the temperature of the water in the heating reservoir that sits beneath the boiler above 100 degrees -- preferably somewhere around 130 degrees -- if I want to make any serious heating headway. Rainy days mean I will eventually run out of the stack of wood that fit under the tarp have to start tossing wet wood into the fire. Those days make it a bigger challenge to keep the fire hot. I have to reload wood about every two to four hours to maintain temperatures above 100 and if the fire goes out I end up pumping cooler water back into the pool and start losing ground. I also have to intentionally let the fire go out now and then so I can clean out the ash to keep from choking off the draft vent that feeds the fire oxygen when the door is closed. It's like patting your head and rubbing your stomach sometimes.
Anyway, I'm making progress. After three weeks of cutting, splitting hauling, stacking and getting up in the middle of the night to give Audrey her regular feedings, the pool water has finally broken the 70 degree mark!
The warmer weather is helping a lot. It hit the low 70s today and the sun was shinning like a superstar. We'll have more of the same tomorrow.
There are two reasons why I'm determined to get the pool heated:
1) We advertise that we have a heated pool so I kind of think I should keep the pool heated and
2) We have six guests arriving on the 22nd who are eagerly anticipating the use of our indoor, "heated" mineral/salt water pool during their three day/two night stay.
I have to admit, I'm looking forward to going for a few late-night swims myself. I tell you, after a fabulous but nevertheless long and somewhat physically demanding day of Innkeeping, there's nothing like going down to the pool house and to float and paddle around in an 85 degree, 10 feet deep bathtub.
So, it is with this wonderful incentive that I prepare to head back to the wood pile.
If you listen very carefully, you can almost hear the mournful cry...