Monday, 10 October 2016

Wiener Dog Race

On Saturday, while I was out taking our two Dachshunds for a walk, a passing van stopped and the gentleman asked if our Doxies were entered in the upcoming Wiener Dog Race.  That took me by surprise because I didn’t know about it. A quick search on the Internet and a Facebook inquiry brought me to the Lakeshore Horse Race Association. Part of yesterday’s Harness Racing on the Leamington Raceway there was to be a Dachshund Race after the 8th Horse Run. I called the number given for registration and inquired if our dogs could be entered for the event.  YES!  There were only 10 dogs per race allowed and three races plus the final race of the three previous winners was scheduled.  Reggy was entered as number 10 for the first race and Elsa got the number 10 for the third race. 

Reggy and Elsa are not even a year old yet and we had no idea how this event would unfold. They have never raced in a competition, but they sure run and chase each other around the house a lot.

We arrived at the requested time for registration. The dogs in the first round of races received a red scarf with their racing number printed on and the owners got a corresponding sign to be pinned onto the back of our clothing.  The second race got blue and the third race received the items in white.  Because we had two dogs in two different races we both wore red and white signs on our backs while Reggy wore his red and Elsa her white scarf.  There were several horse races until it was time for the dog’s turn to race during which we all mingled through the crowds of onlookers and race enthusiasts.  Reggy and Elsa really liked meeting the other contestants. There was a lot of tail wagging, sniffing and woof, woofs going on.

Sniffing out the competition

Then we were all called to get out onto the racetrack.  Because we had number 10, we were last and at the outer side.  Benno had barely got into position with Reggy, when the start shot was given.  Forty little paws started sprinting across the dusty raceway while the owners and onlookers shouted and screamed the names of their dogs.  There was one little problem though; most of the dogs didn’t know where to go.  I stood at the receiving end with Elsa on her leash, but Reggy never saw us, he ran diagonally to the corner toward number one where the most commotion came from.  He did really good and must have been disappointed not to find me there.  No, he did not win, but he won the hearts of many spectators.

The moment after the start shot

Reggy is racing, however not towards me

When it came to Elsa’s race, the same confusion of where to find mommy happened.  She ran into the middle crowd lost and bewildered. We had a lot of laughs though and both dogs were happy and excited.  The rewards were two bags with goodies, like dog cookies, treats like: “Canadian Bacon with Blueberries” (Made by Northern Biscuit), a roll of green poop bags in each, from the sponsoring pet store and a couple pieces of Kielbassa sausage from us. What a fun day we had because the Wiener Dog Race is not about ambition and performance. The focus is mostly fun for dog and owner.

Everybody is running to the same corner

The blue team

The winners of the previous three races
competing for the final win

Dachshunds were originally bred as hunting dogs. They will hunt for rabbits and badgers. They come in many different shapes, colors and lengths, short, long and wire hair.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Norcold fridge’s performance improved!

During some of the hottest days in July with temps of 40C (100F plus) we used the camper as a guest room. To make our guests happy we had the Norcold fridge powered up and loaded the fridge with some cold beverages and placed a pot of delicious ice cream in the freezer compartment. Those were truly hot days and we noticed that the ice cream did not stay as frozen and hard as taken out of the household freezer. The ice cream had become soft. The Norcold labored for sure but could not keep up with the extreme hot summer temperatures. Benno came to the conclusion that it would be possible to improve the fridge’s performance by increasing the airflow from the back of the fridge’s lower vent to the upper roof vent. He figured by fitting a couple of electronic 12VDC muffin fans below the upper vent to move the air faster that would be the solution.  We so happened to remember that among our leftover boating stuff there were two Swiss made EBM Papst 12 volt, 120mm electronic cooling fans in a box in the attic. These were ball bearing fans and they are good for 60,000 hrs. Perfect!

Our readers must have by now realized that Benno loves to make little improvements on the camper.  Something to tinker around and with his background of fixing things electric/electronic and having the tools to do it, there is no holding him back.

To do the job right we went to get a cartridge of DICOR 502LSW self leveling sealant from the Jayco dealer in Tecumseh by Windsor, because Benno thought that he would have to remove the upper vent from the camper’s rooftop.  
We got onto the Jayco internet forum, which is excellent, full of good tips and even asked experienced RV friends if they knew of a good way to remove the old sealant without making a big mess and damaging the roof. The plain indication from everyone was, there is no magic way of removing the by Jayco generous applied sealant, a lot of patience and a 2” putty knife were the recommendation.
Benno went up the ladder looking at the exhaust vent and down the ladder again to look at the fridge, he was not  thrilled and too happy, I let him have his peace.
The next time I looked, he was standing in the opening where I last had seen our fridge and mounting the muffin fans. My Norcold fridge was parked in front of the stove. He had pulled out the whole fridge/freezer from its location into the camper, all by himself, to get access to the roof from the inside. I guess the thought of having to scrape the gooey mess off the roof made him decide to rethink the job and rather find an elegant solution to work with.  According to him, it took less then 30 minutes to pull the fridge after disconnecting the gas supply and the wiring, “son of a gun” and this after dinner.

The next day I helped Benno to move the Norcold back into the proper location and I can attest that the monster is heavier than I thought. Our Norcold fridge is the model N811 and after the installation of the two extra muffin fans under the fridge’s roof vent, the temperature inside the fridge is noticeable cooler.  Benno thinks we gained an additional 10F/6C while the fans are powered up. Presently our outside temps are 28C / 82F and we tested the fridge running on propane as well as hooked to the electric outlet. At the medium setting on 3, the temp in the fridge tested 3C / 38F and in the freezer -18C / 0F.  Not that I’m complaining, but I probably need now an ice pick to scoop out the ice cream. You could go to a higher setting like 4 or 5 and compensate for warmer outside temps. Interestingly the muffin fans increase the air movement and that takes more heat away from the coil behind the fridge and this vents more air thru the condenser according to the experts.

So for all the techies out there who are interested in the how to do it, I need Benno to describe the steps he took to complete the job.

This update to the Norcold fridge model N811 worked out fine and can be done. I (Benno) was lucky to have still 2 muffin fans of class quality from our boating day’s stashed away. On the following picture you can see I made myself a couple mounting brackets from 1” angle aluminum and two joiner brackets to mount these fans side-by-side.

This arrangement was easy to fasten to the wooden frame underneath the roof vent. See picture below.

The EBM Papst Muffin Fans pull each 160 mA and move 67 cfm air each. Picture below.

Here is a picture of the mounted fans seen through the roof vent having the cowl removed.

The electrical hook-up:
What I needed was a switched 12+ VDC supply. When you switch the fridge on to gas or auto, I wanted a 12+ VDC supply. When you switch the fridge off, the 12+ VDC should be switched off as well.
To find a switched 12+ VDC, I (Benno) had to remove the fridge control board mounted to the rear fridge wall accessed via the lower fridge vent cover from the outside and take a good close look at this PC-board.
There the PC-board has a male spade connector labeled: “limit in” and this particular spade connector gives you a switched 12+ VDC. Picture below

below: PC-board with protective cover removed

This switched 12+ VDC presented itself to activate a nice little relay, which will, when activated, provide the two muffin fans with 12 VCD power.
The relay I used is a “Hella” automotive relay, which I still had in my stash of spare electrical boat stuff. It had an 85 Ohm coil, which amounts to a draw of circa 0.150 Amp. I had looked at the printed circuit side and the component side of the PC-board and noticed that the “limit in” male spate connector should easily handle 0.150 Amp to power this relay via a wire to the relay male spate #86 (Coil).
Between PC-board male spate “limit in” and the relay’s male spate  #86, I wired an on-off switch. This switch would give me the option of switching the fans off during the cooler season, when the extreme hot weather temps are gone.
To protect the PC-board I wired an inline fuse of 0.250 Amp between switch and relay male spade #86 (coil).
Actually, the switch I used had a red LED which tells me if the fans are on or off.
On the other side of the relay coil is the male spate connector #85 (Coil) used for the 12- VDC (GND) taken from the white wire coming from the trailer’s power center.
The relay’s male spate connector #30 (C) needs an independent not switched 12+ VDC. The from the power center coming orange colored wire, which supplies the fridge’s 12+ VDC at the male spate connector 12+ VDC on the PC-board is a good choice. I split off a lead wire from the orange wire with a wire connector.
This wire lead goes to the male spate connector #30 (C) on the relay. The male spade connector #87 (NO) on the relay will, when the relay is powered up, supply the muffin fans with 12+ VDC power via the muffin fans red wire, which is connected to the male spate #87.

The muffin fans black wire is the fans 12-VDC (GND) supply and it got connected with a wire connector to the white wire coming from the trailer’s power centre and is by the way the fridge’s 12- VDC (GND) supply.

Here we are with the completed wiring to control the muffin fans for improved venting of the Norcold fridge model N 811

Tools and parts you need!
Use a good ratchet crimping tool, you need red and black AWG 18 or 20 gauge tin copper stranded wire and fully insulated female spade connector, an automotive 12 VDC relay with mounting bracket (Bosch, Hella etc.), a couple of spate double male/female adaptors and a toggle switch (NO) with male spate connector. The two muffin fans should be 12 VDC and 120 x 120 mm in size. Get ball bearing fans and not the sleeve bearing type. Click EBM Papst at the top.

Friday, 16 September 2016

How to save money and time while cooking dinner

Just recently I (Marlene) read a blog about Instant Pot – An Electric Multi-Use Pressure Cooker That’s Perfect For RVers. That post was well written and informative and I sure hope that it will encourage many readers to give cooking in a pressure cooker a consideration.

But that got me thinking that I wanted to write about my own experience with pressure cookers. You see you don’t have to add another small appliance with preprogrammed menu items to your galley in order to whip up a delicious meal in no time at all. It can be done on the stovetop.  Pressure cookers are not a new invention. In fact, the first one was created in 1679.  However, they have been perfected through the years and all professional chefs use them too.

Pressure cookers for stovetops can be used with propane, gas, electric or induction.  So if no electricity is available, or to save on hydro costs, this pressure cooker is another option to use in the RV or at home.  In fact, it is ideal for a RV and I will tell you why.

I use a stainless steel 6 quart "Fissler Vitavit Royal" and a stainless steel 5 quart "WMF"  pressure cooker. Both were manufactured in Europe and are of excellent quality. They can be used as a regular pot on the stove, but to reduce the cooking time considerably, you put the lid on and bring it to pressure. Then reduce the heat source and start timing.

Not only are cooking times reduced dramatically, energy is conserved as you are cooking on a very low setting for a very short time. Only a minimum of liquid is required to build steam inside the cooker so vitamins and minerals are not seeping away in a pot of water.

As an example: after searing (browning) a pot roast on all sides, adding water and closing the lid, it will be done, totally tender, in 20 - 25 minutes and you get gravy also. Cooking stewing beef after the browning process will take only 15 minutes and the texture and taste is as if it was simmered for a couple of hours. Peeled potatoes are done in 5 minutes.  If you leave them in for 7 minutes, oops – you’ll be making mashed potatoes. Vegetables take even less time. I could go on and on…

Now tell me why would you have a pot of potatoes boiling away on the stove for 20 minutes, steaming up the kitchen and using more energy/fuel if you could do it in 5 minutes on a lower heat setting without creating any condensation?
Once you start using a pressure cooker you will not reject the thought of making something that usually takes a long time to cock or bake in the oven because you are short on time. 

For me, I could not imagine ever giving up cooking in a pressure cooker because I have been doing it for more than 35 years. (As a side note, both of my pressure cookers I used onboard our vessels and the savings on propane costs were huge)  Of course not everything is cooked this way, but once you own a pressure cooker, you’ll experiment with more and more foods to prepare in the pressure cooker. You do not have to learn to cook all over but you’ll be amazed at the wonderful outcome.

So if you are still not convinced and have heard horror stories of exploding pressure cooker pots with food particles all over the kitchen, the big aluminum ones which look like a miniature 'A-bomb' and when they blow off they take out your kitchen, those were the [First Generation] “old type” of pressure cookers that have a weight-modified or “jiggly” valve, which releases pressure during operation. The newer types, which I own, those operate with a spring-loaded valve on top of the lid with a rising indicator with two markings to show the pressure level. They do not release any steam during operation.  As a safety precaution on both of my pressure cookers they release steam when the heat source is not reduced enough at the time the pot has reached the required cooking pressure. But they still would never explode nor can they be opened unless all steam has escaped and the lids have been twisted to the opening position.  Totally safe!

Checking out the types of pressure cookers on the Internet will give you a good idea that the market has considerably grown in this area and all kinds of manufacturers have jumped in. In my personal opinion, a cheap tool is a cheap tool and will not give you as much satisfaction than a quality product.  But before you purchase one of these fine pots, read the reviews available online, though be mindful that some reviews are in fact ads from the manufacturers. One trusted source would be from “Good Housekeeping” here is the link to the test and this is the link to the reviews.  While reading up on the new models available, I noticed that the quoted times to reach full pressure are much longer than my pressure pots require, which usually only take a few minutes on a high setting.

Now come on fellas, don’t say to your spouse: “Don’t you have enough pots already?” because you don’t have enough tools, or do you?

My Fissler pressure cooker

My WMF pressure cooker

The inside of the lid to show the sealing ring

Both pressure cooker came with a set of
two inserts, bracket to hold them up and extra sealing ring

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Simple Solutions for a couple of things

Isn’t it true that sometimes the littlest things that annoy us become a big deal? Well, there is the issue of not being able to get into the bathroom without some acrobatic workout when the slide is in.  At least Benno is forced to some kind of exercise to do so. I, on the other hand, slip off my shoes, make myself as skinny as possible and barely squeeze through. Perhaps we should consider using the emergency exit window to use it as an emergency entry and jumping through it in a terrible rush while having stopped by the roadside for an emergency use of the camper's bathroom.
But hold on, there is a simple solution to our problem. The side panels on the foldout sofa are just too large.  By cutting three inches off on each side solved this problem and we think it looks much better this way. Why hasn’t anybody been testing and checking this layout at the Jayco factory?

original side panel before the modification

side panel cut down three inches in width

path through to the bathroom after shortening of panel
when the slide is in

As pet owners of two very adorable little Dachshunds, a close to 9-month-old male named Reggy, and an 8-month-old female named Elsa, life around the house has become very lively at times.  In March of this year these two beautiful Doxie rascals came into our lives at the tender ages of just 8 and 10 weeks and since then they have fully grown. 



We knew that at any time now our Elsa was to be going into heat and I examined her every day without noticing any sign.  The dogs had been sharing a large portable kennel to sleep in during the night and about two weeks ago, in the middle of the night; a commotion in the kennel awakened us. Still a little groggy from sleep I didn’t realize that Benno had already gotten the ladder down and was quickly climbing into our attic to bring down the spare, a smaller kennel, meant for only one dog. Reggy, who is a bit more petit in size than Elsa had to relocate and he didn’t protest when he was led into his new and temporary home for the night.  All was quiet afterward. 

In the morning we were very concerned.  Is she, or isn’t she?  Pregnant, that is.  Hoping of course that we weren’t too late in preventing to have puppies, a solution had to be found. Keeping these two sweethearts apart during the day is impossible in our house and locking one up was out of the question.   I went to our local pet “Pet Valu” store where I found the product  "Simple Solution". The package read, “new & improved” washable diaper made out of a soft stretch fabric, super-absorbent with optional disposable liner pads. What a great product and idea.  These panties didn’t exist when we had our previous 4 dogs years ago.  For the moment we are keeping our options open if we want to perhaps breed our dogs sometime in the future.
So stay tuned as to what transpires next.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Smart Hot Water Heater Tank Drain

bottom left: smart drain assembly fitted

It became an annual November or December exercise to drain the hot water heater and water system to prevent it from freezing before we traveled south.  Winterizing the RV water system it is called. Draining the hot water heater is only a part of it. Most RVs have fitted the Atwood or the Suburban brand of water heater. Both manufacturers’ in-built hot water storage tanks have drains and these drains are closed up with a ½” NPT (National Pipe Thread) plastic plug.
First you switch the electric or gas to the hot water heater off. To drain the water you shut off the water supply as well, then you open the water heater maintenance door. It is probably located at the back or side of the RV and look for the drain plug and ignore the pressure relieve valve. But before you do anything stupid you go to the inside of the RV and open a cold water and a hot water tap to relieve water pressure and after you’ve done this, please leave the taps open.

Please, do not use the tank’s pressure relieve valve of the water heater to relieve the pressure unless you have an Ambulance standing by. The water spraying out of the relieve valve can be extremely hot and could, God forbid, spray right into your face. It is better to bleed or relieve the pressure in the kitchen sink.

In order to drain the water heater tank in every of our previous and present trailer, I had to remove the ½ inch NPT plug by using a 1 inch or 7/8 inch wrench or socket. That was not an easy thing to do, as there is not much room to fit the wrench or socket.  You drain all the water out of the tank and then remount the plug with a few layers of Teflon tape or a pipe joint compound.  This exercise you may have to do again in case you return home early to the Northern States or Canada in the middle or late March from the sunny South. Chances are that you’ll run into ice or snow with freezing nights. 
Removing and remounting the drain plug had become such a pain in the neck, so to speak and I have been thinking of a better way to do this. To simplify this draining procedure, I made up an easy to do draining assembly with shut-off valve, picture below.

Here is a list of what I used to make up a Smart Hot Water Heater Tank Drain:
1. One ½“ PEX x ½” NPT brass male adapter.
2. One mini PEX ball valve,
3. A short end of plastic PEX tubing (Maybe in red color, red color is for hot).  
4. Two ½“ PEX crimp fittings.

Tooling for making up this assembly you may have already in your house plumbing tool kit or a quick run over to your friendly neighbor or, to the Home Depot or Lowes will solve this problem. Hey, you can never have enough tools J

To seal the ½ inch NPT brass fitting to the tank drain port, I recommend using Whitlam (USA) pipe joint compound, which is good for gas and water joints and very easy to use. It’s more rewarding than Teflon tape.
It is important to clean the thread of the tank port of any old sealant/Teflon tape pieces etc. or it won’t adhere and you may end up with a leaky joint.

left: brass adapter / middle: PEX tubing / right: mini ball valve
bottom: two PEX crimp fittings

top: PEX tubing cutter / middle: red PEX tubing / bottom: box cutter could cut PEX tubing as well

two different PEX crimp tools

simple PEX crimp tool

top: removed drain plug / middle: replacement smart drain assembly / 
bottom Whitlam pipe joint compound

fitted smart hot water heater tank drain

attached a stainless steel braided toilet hose to guide the drained water