the wind chill was in the 20's but the only thing that hurt were my fingers, i was otherwise bundled up. apart from the cold, it was a nice day for a bike ride, the sun once again shining up above against a deep blue sky. when i got to my parents i was happy to see that about half of the neighbor's solar panels were still covered in snow. if only they weren't too proud to have asked us for advice, we would've warned them about leaving such a large gap at the bottom edge of the roof that the naturally sliding snow off of the solar panels would all get clumped together and stick. it's a common design flaw, we see it with a lot of installs, it's probably a safety and installation feasibility issue. my father actually went out into the backyard this morning and cleaned off the light layer of snow that fell yesterday.
i came with my package of the squirrel buster standard ($28) birdfeeder which arrived this morning. i eagerly opened up the box to set it up. just as i suspected, it was an open-boxed item, hence the cheaper price. everything was included, but it looked like it'd been used, there was water spots on the inner plastic insert and bird seed dust on the base. there was also a few scratches on the insert, but nothing that was visible when assembled, and i'm sure there'll be more "bumps and bruises" once it's put outside. the standard is one of brome's smaller feeders, holding just 1.3 lbs. worth of seeds (only the mini holds less at just 0.98 lbs.). i think it's just the right size, not too small and not too large. i had some bags of bird seeds in the basement but they were old and i felt a little bad using them. they were also a mix, so besides black oil sunflower seeds, there was also millet and cracked corn.
i hung the feeder outside, it's hanger suspended from a long bamboo pole between two shepherd's poles, with more than enough clearance (18"+) that squirrels can't get to the feeder by hanging off of something else. later i added a clear baffle to keep off some of the rain and snow, even though the feeder extends far enough it's still not entirely protected from the elements. now we wait for the birds to come. the backyard used to be very bird friendly before we chopped down the dead plum trees which removed a place for birds to shelter. since then we planted new trees which will hopefully encourage more birds to visit. there are definitely birds in the backyard because we provide them with bird baths during the warmer months. as long as the temperature isn't freezing, birds can come to drink and bath.
we left around 12:20pm, to visit binbin's house to pick up her mail and to do a supply run at the waltham costco and market basket. along the way we kept our eyes opened to solar panels. some were completely devoid of snow, but most of them still had snow coverage, some more than others. we consider ourselves lucky: we don't have a steeply angled roof that snow naturally rolls off with ease, but our roof is low enough that we can clean off the snow if necessary, unlike a lot of people with high roofs where it's impossible or just too dangerous.
when we got to binbin's place, her neighbor tom brady had parked his car in their driveway. i don't think he was trying to be a jerk, i think he did it so that others would think somebody was home. just like he told me, he left their mail inside the house, separated into 5 neat piles of increasing importance. we went through the house opening up any under-the-sink cabinets with plumbing to keep them from bursting if it got too cold. the chance of that happening is very low since the heat is still on inside the house (set to 60 degrees), but it doesn't hurt to try. while my father and i were in the basement inspecting the furnace and turning off the shutdown valve for the outdoor faucet, my mother went upstairs and said it was very warm, a combination of the forced air heat rising plus sunday windows. we decided to close all the upstairs registers other than the ones in the bathroom, to stop wasting forced air heat upstairs where it'd naturally go anyway.
i also moved some timer lights closer to the window so the house looked more lived in. finally, my father went to start up the car, no problems. afterwards we hooked up a trickle charger to the car battery to keep it from draining. that was a challenge because there didn't seem to be any outlets in the garage, until we saw one in the ceiling for the garage door; i ended up climbing the roof of the car to get to the outlet with an extension cable for the battery charger. i went to tom's house to ring the doorbell but like all the times before, he's never home on the weekends. we left the stack of mails.
i kind of regret reminding them to cancel their internet service. true, it probably saved them $100/month for service they weren't going to be using anyway, but without internet, you can't really live in that house. otherwise, it'd be a nice retreat, so close to the burlington mall. maybe if we switched to an unlimited data plan it could be doable, but within internet wifi, it's almost like a prison.
my mother decided we only needed to go to costco, not market basket. google map was telling me costco was very busy, but when we arrived, it wasn't too bad, maybe we got there after the previous wave of customers had already left. we ordered a pizza 3/4 of the way through our shopping trip. i picked it up right when my parents were coming out of the checkout line. even though we went home immediately, the pizza was already cold by the time we got back. my mother heated up slices in the toaster oven; i was too hungry to wait and just ate it cold.
later in the evening my father prepared some taiwanese ramen for dinner. my mother kept saying how delicious the choya plum wine was, and promised she'd get a big bottle the next time she visits a liquor store. she said it reminded her of the holidays in taiwan, when they'd drink plum wines like this.
my parents were worried how cold it was getting outside (26°F) but i've biked in colder temperatures. the secret is wool mittens, which i packed in my bag but didn't use this morning. with mittens my fingers didn't freeze and i slow-pedaled back to my place, not particularly concerned about the cold. unfortunately my headlight ran out of juice again and i rode in the dark. i still had rear lights - on my helmet and on the bike - but oncoming cars had a hard time seeing me, especially if they were making left turns at intersections. i vowed to order a new headlight when i got home, one that can warn me when i'm about to run out of battery.
my suaoki U3 400A jump starter was waiting on the doorstep when i got home. smaller than my smart phone but 1.5x as thick, it's also much lighter compared to my other jump starter. this one seems a lot easier to carry around, although the EC5 jumper cable is still this large dongle of wired alligator clips and jump start circuitry.
i went across the street to get some apples from star market. honey crisp apples were still on sale ($1.99/lbs.) but sugar bee apples had jumped up in price to $2.99/lbs. after eating a honey crisp apple when i returned home, i didn't like it at all. too much sourness i thought, once you've tried a sugar bee, you can't go back to any other apples, not even honey crisps. modern apple breeding has spoiled me to all other apples.