Yeah, I had read that since there's no concern of a stuck mash, I could crush the grains finer. But alas, I don't have a grinder. Just another upgrade that I haven't gotten to yet. I have to rely on the online vendor (brewmaster's warehouse) to grind for me. Next time I'll ask if they could run it through a second time. My LBS went south this year. The stainless brew pot and wort chiller made it past my financial advisor pretty much unnoticed. I just can't start upgrading too quickly. These things take time. Now a keezer, well that seed was planted, all in good time.
I forgot to check my pre-boil OG to see where I stood, but then as a rookie, I doubt I would have known if the number was too high or low based on the amount of wort I had.
It was a blustery 30 degrees or below in the garage with the doors open. I got the strike water up to 160F before adding grains. The grains dropped it down to the low 150's. I then used a old comforter over the pot. Even then, every 15 minutes or so, I had to stir and crank the burner. I fluxed between 150 and 154 most of the time. I hope this is easier in more moderate weather.
I didn't have to worry about the wort chiller working, my well water is a steady 50F. As it left the chiller, it froze on the driveway.
One thing that seems to be up for debate is the bag on the bottom of the pot. Some say that using a colander to keep the bag off the bottom is a waste. Some claim that you'll never get the bottom of a three ply pot hot enough to melt the bag. Others claim they have melted the bag. I let the bag hang loose and it did not stick or melt (luckly).