Friday, the 18th of August
Bees & Oldies
No, I'm not making some clever allusion to the Bee Gees!
Today, I found "Scott Shannon's True Oldies Channel". I heard,
and am hearing, songs that I haven't heard in years. It's a great
station, if you like Oldies.
I love how the simple, classic tunes remind me of diners, girls in
dresses, American cars with chrome bumpers, and other
endangered entities. This station also plays The Beatles and their
contemporaries from the late '60s and early '70s, so it's not what
I knew as "Oldies" when I was growing up.
This syndicated radio station is broadcast around the nation.
Maybe it's available in your area? The Wikipedia page provides
The bees continue to do well. They haven't touched the honey
super. I'm going to remove it in a couple of weeks. I'll probably
also feed them just to be sure they have enough reserves for
I did alternate the "drawn" frames with those that hadn't been
touched. By doing this, that is inserting undrawn frames into
the middle of the hive sphere, the bees should draw out the
untouched frames. Hopefully, it will also extend their domain
to include all ten frames in each hive body.
A small cluster of foreign bees has shown up. They congregate
near an outside, back corner of the hive bodies. They don't
seem to be attacking my colony or causing any problems.
They may be the half that swarmed a few weeks ago.
If so, then their queen must be a "laying worker". She's obviously
not fertilized because their numbers are diminishing. Furthermore,
they also couldn't find another place to live, which I find unlikely
in the forest that I live in. Maybe they wanted to return to the
mother colony? Either way, it's sad. I'll have to be more careful
to avoid this event in the future.
I solved the occasional water drip from the stove flue feedthrough.
Also, the stove did a great job warming up the camper one of the
recent, cool mornings. Who would expect an overnight temperature
of 48 degrees in August?!
The stove performs well. It doesn't belch smoke out the door, even
when the stack (or flue) is cold. It burns wood cleanly, which is a
good sign. Creosote can build up in stovepipes and later cause
I added five movies to the
This batch includes a new favorite. Enjoy!
Tuesday, the 15th of August
I took a couple of day trips, which I have consolidated into a new
trip page. Take a look
Wednesday, the 9th of August
Welcome to August! It doesn't feel like it in my neck of the woods!
I've written about doing all my laundry in the driveway. Since I was
doing a few loads today, I took some photos.
The portable washing machine is energized by the Westinghouse
generator. The power inverter in the camper could probably run it;
however, the panels are usually charging the battery, so I spend
a buck or two to run the Westinghouse instead. I'm only using a
quarter of the total panels, so I need to pick and choose.
Water is delivered via the outside, auxiliary, shower. Yup, I took
off the shower head--
"don't need a bath, sweat's regular"
--fitted an adaptor, and connected the washing machine. I just
need to ensure that the camper's onboard fresh water tank
doesn't run out. I fill it from my well using, yes, you guessed it:
the big generator. So, no disrupting the Westinghouse genny.
I tie-wrapped the "strained" PVC pipe from my well-drilling
adventure to the side of the camper. The dirty water is directed
into this pipe.
I make my own laundry detergent with biodegradable ingredients
so I don't mind dumping the used water onto the driveway.
In practice, it works well. I can monitor the progress of the
washing machine by listening to the Westinghouse engine speed.
The camper's fresh tank, when full, is sufficient to run a single load
on the "high" setting. Yeah, they wrote that in the brochure back
Below are a couple of photos. Click for a larger view.
I employ the sun and wind to dry my laundry on nylon lines.
Finally, finally! The stove's installed and working! The
most difficult part of the retrofit was drilling a larger hole in the
roof of the camper. Recall, that I already had a hole for the too-small
flue. So I used a cool trick from folks on Youtube: use expanding foam
to "glue" in a piece of wood into the hole. Then, one may drill almost
as if there had never been a hole. Clever.
Drilling the new hole went well until I hit a piece of metal stripping.
It deflected the hole saw. I ended up having to clip, hammer, poke,
and file to get the metal to give in. But I won. Take a look:
Since the hole was only supported on the right side, I fitted several
pieces of sheet metal under the rubberized, outside layer of the
camper roof on the left side. They distribute the weight of the
I used a couple
of very large hose clamps that I had kicking around from a past
supercharger project. One is visible in the photo below. The other
is hidden within the roof of the camper. Hopefully, this will prevent
the feedthrough from falling through
From inside the camper, the feedthrough looks good. Very good.
Almost professional! Unfortunately, I couldn't make it perfectly
square. But, because the camper roof isn't perfectly horizontal
and the stove flue will go wherever it wants, it really doesn't
matter. Here's a shot of feedthrough from the inside:
It took several days of spraying and curing to seal the
feedthrough to the camper roof. That did give me plenty of time
to figure out how to waterproof the flue. Looking back, I laugh
at my wasted time and sketches.
Eventually, the spray goop (technical term) sealed the
aluminum feedthrough to the EPDM-rubber roof. Meanwhile, it
gave me a chance to prove that my freeze-plug idea would seal
the weather when the stove was not installed. Remember that
the camper is on wheels, so the stove must be removed for
(A freeze plug is essentially two steel plates that sandwich a
flexible rubber section. A bolt down the middle draws the metal
plates together, which squeezes the rubber out along the
radius, in an equal manner. The rubber makes a
seal inside the aluminum feedthrough.)
This particular unit has a large wing nut for convenience. Oh,
and it seals well.
I had to cut the pitched, plywood roof. That was fun. Standing
high up on
a ladder with a circular saw, what could go wrong? I ended up
doing the last cutting with a wood saw that my departing
neighbor gave me this morning. Coincidence? I don't think so.
After I painted the sawn edges, I folded a couple of layers of
aluminum foil over them. People may laugh, but this method of
dissipating heat works well. The layers act like small fins. Also,
aluminum has the additional advantage of having a high specific
heat. In other words, it takes a lot of heat for it to warm up when
compared to other materials. Keep reading and you can see my
space-age wrapping job!
Next came the fun part. I could install the stove into camper!
It looks good from the outside. Doesn't it?
After I installed graphite-loaded fiberglass rope between the
flue pipe and the feedthrough (sorry, no photo), I enclosed the
feedthrough and flue pipe junction in aluminum foil. Reynolds
must love me!
I poured water on the assembly without seeing any water
inside the camper. I learned that there is a small, occasional drip
during a courteous, Florida-like, pop-up shower. More foil is
needed! I can fix that tomorrow. Take a look at the job:
And now, what you have all been waiting for. Below are a couple
of photos of the stove in operation inside the camper! Notice
my modifications that made it work so much better. That is,
the grill and the slot beneath the door.
Despite the relatively warm temperatures, I had to light a fire.
It lit and burned without setting off the smoke detector! Of
course, one may say that I almost certainly have all the windows
open. Oh yes, I did, and the door, too. However with all these
I can still trigger the smoke detector when I put the kettle on the
But the wood stove didn't upset it one bit. Not even a chirp, as it is
known to do. I could burn with the door open without a problem.
Though, I must say the fire burns better with the door closed. Just
like it should.
I'm amazed and astonished that this project came
to such a brilliant conclusion. Prometheus would be proud of me!
Take that Zeus!
The honeybees are doing well. The electric fence hasn't skipped a
beat since I connected it to the camper main battery. Its draw is
noticeable, but not a problem.
witnessed a dramatic number of orientation flights. The queen is
still in the colony. Furthermore, since it takes about three weeks
to raise new worker bees, the queen resumed laying right after I
installed the honey super.
I'm going to check that they haven't filled the super in a day or two.
If they have filled it, because goldenrod is currently in bloom, then
I'll add another super. Monkey learns! OO-oo-HA-ha!
Solar 12-volt charger
The solar charger that came with the electric fence, but is now
charging my 12-volt batteries, is doing the job. It takes a while to
fully charge a battery, but it costs me nothing but time.
The 20-Watt module has already peaked one battery. The next one
is in place now. It's smaller so it should take less time. I monitor
not only the charger indicator light, but also the battery voltage.
It's a quick measurement and ensures that I don't waste time
letting the charger "float" a battery.
I added four movies to the
The DVD service of Netflix can't keep up with me. I just hope they
won't discontinue it. Their collection is unmatched, as far as I can
And, I won't bother with the streaming service again. I watch so
many movies that I exhausted the "Instantly View" selection
quickly. OK, that was a few years ago now.
But, I doubt that they
have expanded the available titles in a manner that will appease
my eclectic taste. Hopefully, Netflix will realize the profit base of
their DVD-by-mail service. I'd even pay more for my current service.
Sunday, the 30th of July
I have reached the point where I'm happy with the paint on the
stove. It's not perfect. But I don't care! Anyways lipstick on a pig
rarely looks good. But this is my hog!
I have fitted a grating on the top of the flue to protect the rain cap
from sparks. It has the additional benefit of keeping the cap from
descending the pipe too much, and burning up. Yeah, I designed it
I would have made more progress but the up-and-down weather
hindered my progress during the week. This weekend was full, too.
But, I'm heading into the home stretch. Then, I can post photos.
OK, so I've got good and bad news with the bees. Let's get the
bad news out of the way first. The colony swarmed. This means that
the colony felt it was large enough to divide.
Here's what happened. A lot of the bees took off one day. The
exodus was epic to watch. They took up residence in a high branch
about thirty feet away from the hive. Here's what the swarm looks
like using my 12X optical zoom
The beekeeper dislikes swarming. It is, however, the natural
reproduction of a healthy, strong colony. Honeybees operate as a
colony, and not as individuals. The organism is the colony, which
explains why workers will sacrifice themselves in a moment to
protect the colony.
So I've got a second organism hanging out. If it was closer to the
I'd get it and set up another colony. But my arms are only so long.
More than fifty feet off the ground is too high. Hopefully, they can
find a new home. I record everything that happens with the bees
so this episode is an experience from which I will learn.
The good news is that I installed an electric fence! John has
mentioned on several occasions that I need a fence to keep bears
out. (He used to work on a dairy farm in Vermont, so I take his
My online research confirmed his suggestion. Electric fences are
the only feasible method of keeping bears away from bee hives.
Not knowing the "ins and outs" of electric fences, I ordered a kit
from McGregor Fence company.
I'll never do that again. The quality in proportion to the price was
terrible. Evidently, the owner needs a new boat. I'd recommend
assembling a custom fence using vendors like McGregor.
Not only was the quality poor, but I didn't use items that were
included. I just couldn't fathom their function! And, other
components were non-existent. It's fortunate that I have
plenty of hardware leftover from other projects.
Oh, and the instructions. I haven't seen instructions that vague
in a long, long time. They're far worse than the ambiguous
directions supplied with "soft" garages.
But, it's what I have. Hopefully, it will stop a bear. Though, it
didn't faze a Labrador bitch. Yes, a Lab. mutt slipped under the
energized fence without a bother! I checked the fence with a
high voltage meter. I even got a good zap from it; so, I think
the hive will be OK.
I ordered a solar charger to maintain the 12-volt battery. Here's
what the fence, solar controller, and battery look like:
I reused a pipe from my well-drilling endeavor. It does a good
job providing a stand for the solar module and controller.
The solar panel is controlled by the small box with a green and
a yellow light in the right photo. The green light means that the
solar panel is generating electricity. The yellow light indicates
the state of the battery charge.
The battery resides in the box at the base of the pipe, under
the plywood board and stone. (I really need to buy a banjo!)
The larger black box, below the solar controller, is the fence
energizer. It's named Powerfields. This particular unit will
deliver a Joule of energy during an encounter with the fence.
The kit included three warning signs. I installed them. Though
I had to use my own zip-ties because the kit came with an
unfathomable collection of solid rings. I can see some
Mass-hole laughing at me. Poor loser. Get a life, really.
Unfortunately, there's not enough sun back in the apiary to
keep up with the fence. So I wired the fence energizer into the
camper battery. I used a long, outdoor extension cord that has
sat unused for years.
It felt good to be a practical engineer again. I calculated the
voltage drop from the measured wire resistance--this drop is
the killer in direct current (DC) systems--and found it to be
about 1-2% for the extension cord. Ha! Better than my current,
albeit temporary, solar-charging set-up.
So I ran the extension cord, cut off the ends and did a good job
heat shrinking the relevant connectors in place. Coupled with
a fuse and switch at the camper's battery, I shouldn't awaken to
flames licking my bed.
The situation is a lot simpler. Take a look:
New 12-volt charger
The electric-fence solar panel and controller did not go to waste.
I am now using the small solar panel and controller to charge
the various 12-volt batteries that keep my camp running. Of
course, I moved the panel to the front of my property. They sit
near one of my arrays, where the panel has the best opportunity
to capture the sun's rays.
This arrangement will allow me to save my gasoline generator.
(I used to use it to charge the batteries.) Sure, it'll take longer,
but why not use the energy that would otherwise be absorbed
by the driveway?
The decision also elicits comments from other people.
It's good to keep it interesting for them! You know small town
folks and their gossip. I think they miss the drama of the
presumed football goal-posts on my property.
I added four movies and one TV program to the
Thanks, Randy, for the recommendations! Please,
keep them coming!
Friday, the 21st of July
The stove is coming along. It takes time painting and curing
the paint with a long, hot fire. But, the modifications I made
have worked. The stove burns cleanly without belching
smoke out the door! In fact, it burns better with the door
shut. I'll post photos once I get it installed in the camper.
Summer is great. I can leave the windows open all the time
freeze! The panels have been charging the battery well. Right
now, in fact, I'm running on solar power. There's enough to
top up the battery and run this computer. Not bad considering
I only have a quarter of the panels hooked up!
I witnessed a war between my honeybees and a nearby,
probably, wild colony. My bees won without too much
trouble. I wouldn't mind finding the other colony to
avoid such conflict in the future, but I guess that's life.
Stay tuned because I have more bee news coming soon!
I added seven movies to the
Thursday, the 13th of July
I've returned from an enjoyable and comfortable break with
I finished clearing all the trees and the resulting brush. I'm
to get more sun on the solar panels. There are still several
massive oaks that block most of the afternoon light. But I
cannot fell them without taking out the power lines and the
After the brush piles are burned this winter, I'll hire a tree
company with a crane to cut them down. If they don't offer
me a fair price for the trunks, I'll have a lot of hardwood.
The woodstove burns cleanly with the larger flue. I still
need to install it in the camper. I have to figure out a way
to make the feedthrough. The plywood roof complicates
matters. Do I go through both the camper roof and plywood
with a single metal piece? If so, I need a way to seal out the
weather when the stove is not in use, or the trailer is
The website will be fifteen years old tomorrow! Here's a
the second version of the home page.
It's hard to believe that the site has been around so long!
I added four movies to the
The girls released a new video. It seems that they are
returning to their original hit, Thrill. What do you think?
Friday, the final day of June
I witnessed the orientation flights of newly-hatched honey bees
yesterday! At first, I thought they were swarming. Swarming
'bees buzz loudly and congregate at the hive entrance.
activity was marked by bees climbing up the front of the hive
and jumping off, only to fly in figure-eight patterns in front of
the hive. The buzzing was created by their wings beating madly,
as they learn to fly. Here's a link to a video that someone took:
The weather's not been conducive for working outside. So I'm
updating the web site again!
I added three movies to the
Monday, the 26th of June
The bees are doing well. They're definitely protective of their
hive and brood! They have filled about a third of the twenty
frames. At this rate, I'll need to add a honey super at the end
of next month. I may be able to harvest honey this year!
I added seven movies and one TV movie to the
These additions bring the total to more than 2,500 entries!
Tuesday, the 20th of June
Camper roof & life
I installed a thin plywood roof on the wooden frame of the
camper. I figure the wood will be more durable than a tarp.
Also, I won't have to worry about immediately removing
snow after every storm. I flashed the apex with actual flashing.
Imagine that: I was able to use a building component just
as it was intended!
I was going to screw down the plywood; but, then I got lazy
and used short nails. The thought of drilling all those pilot
holes turned me off. Nails are quick and I have million of them.
I just used more than I probably needed to.
Laying on the roof with my feet only barely finding the ladder
was a bit annoying. That was the only way to reach the flashing.
It's a good thing that I'm no longer
frightened of heights! (Maybe these jobs are the reason?) Oh,
and I never fell off, which is a good thing, because I don't
bounce as well as I used to!
I am posting some photos of the roof. It's tough to get a good
shot from the ground. That does mean that you can see what
the camp looks like now that spring is hopping away. Boy, the
camp is a bit of a mess. I feel a bit ashamed. But, as the
part-time mail lady says: it is organized. You decide:
I have since painted the water-heater access cover. It looks
brand new with its new coats of Rustoleum glossy white!
Speaking of the devil, it has performed without a hitch since
I replaced the old solenoid coils.
Summer and bees
Ah, summer: when one can leave the windows open day and
night. Humidity can become a bit high; but, so far, it hasn't
been annoying inside. Of course, I spend much of my time
outside. And inside has the benefit of not having to swat
mosquitoes. Though, the dragonflies are out and are culling
the 'sceeter population. Love you, dragonflies!
While on the topic of amiable insects, the honeybees seem
happy and are always out and about. I'll check the brood
nest this weekend to ensure that the next generation of bees
are maturing well. After that, I won't have to disturb them
for a good while.
In the long term, I plan to leave them alone. I'm just
ensuring that all is well, since they're establishing a new
They are funny creatures. When I am near to--say--remove
the feeder, one or two will land on my light-colored
T-shirt and stay there. I won't notice until I am already
away from the hive. They don't sting and aren't aggressive.
I don't wear a veil or any protective clothing for such simple
Perhaps it helps that I speak to them whenever I approach?
I tell them what I'm going to do and apologize for the
disruption. It sounds corny. But, I do it for two reasons. One,
they may understand that I am not a threat and tolerate me.
We don't know how perceptive insects really are. And
reason two, it provides me with some peace knowing exactly
what I need to do.
So far, so good. I haven't been stung. (Of course, how would
I tell with all the mosquito bites?) Off! is only so good, I
guess. It's a good thing malaria rarely occurs up here.
I started modifying the wood-burning stove. Recall that the
flue is too small. It stifled the fire, especially when the door
was closed. A fire starved of oxygen tends to smoke a lot.
Today, I ground out the flue opening for the larger stack.
I fashioned a grating from some leftover metal. It will keep
the fire off the bottom of the barrel. This coupled with new
holes under the door, and beneath the grating, should keep
the fire burning brightly.
This work may be like putting lipstick on a pig. It really only
has to help heat the camper for another cold season. So it
doesn't have to be perfect. If it doesn't pour smoke out the
door, I'll be happy. I'll post photos when the project is
Thursday, the 15th of June
I finished the installation of the HEI distributor on the truck.
That did it! After I set the ignition timing and carburetor, I
went for a quick drive up and down the hill on my street. The
engine performed beautifully.
It also idles so smoothly now. I never knew it could. I guess
that's the beauty of a perfectly balanced engine. I will miss
that straight-six. My other vehicles have one or four
cylinders, which are inherently imbalanced. Now, on to my
Wednesday, the 14th of June
Moving the MG
Jack and I moved the MG on Saturday. The tiny car made
the 6'x12' trailer look small. Though, admittedly, most
cars won't fit on this size trailer! It's intended for
lawnmowers and furniture.
Getting the car onto the trailer was a bit painful. The gate
was only three inches wider than the car, so we had to line
up the car well. We used the come-along to pull the sports
car onto the trailer.
That must have been too easy because the tailpipe hung up
on the metal-"grated" ramp. I ended up lifting the side of
the car while Jack worked the cable pulley.
The hard work did pay off because the car fit well. Almost
too well: Did the designer intend to move diminutive
sports cars around without using an "auto transporter"?
Taking the car off was not too bad. Pushing it around on
the gravel driveway was tough. Traction on a loose surface
is not easy to find! But, we did it. The car is happily resting
in the car capsule, which has been working well.
Here's a shot of me in a dusty MG. People did stare at me
while Jack towed us to the new home. Kidding because
we'd have been pulled over almost immediately, if I rode
in the car!
The honey bees are active and seem happy. They've been
coming and going all day, now that it's warm. I put a feeder
on their hive to ensure they have enough sugar. I probably
didn't need to do that; but, it's cheap insurance. I'll leave it
until they have emptied it. That may be Friday at this rate.
I'm one step closer to getting the truck driving. I received a
HEI (High Energy Ignition) distributor from Summit Racing
today. It's amazing how quickly their shipments arrive!
I think I've narrowed the truck's lack-of-power problem to
a faulty distributor. I had replaced it with a rebuilt unit, but
the vacuum advance failed. Who knows what else is
totally crap on that dizzy?
I cleaned the carburetor and found no rust or debris. At
least, I know it's, probably, not faulty. Hopefully, the new
HEI dizzy will sort out the truck. I'm anxious to sell it, so I
can free up more of my driveway!
I added three movies to the
Tuesday, the 6th of June
Since I can't work outside today, I'm catching up on
watching YouTube videos. The all-girl, Japanese hard
rock band, Band-Maid has released another video. It's
yet another style, which they perform in their own
way. It's worth listening to. And, they're still pretty, too:
Sunday, the 4th of June
Today, we had a few hours of decent weather. The bees
were going about their business. With a bunch of them in
field, scavenging, I figured it was the best time to open up
the hive. Remember that I needed to verify that the queen
was laying eggs?
Great news! I found the queen. She was walking around
on a partially "drawn" frame. Worker bees draw out the
plastic hexagonal foundation on the ten frames in each
hive body. Once these cells are drawn, the queen can
deposit a baby bee in them.
The bees were so gentle and quiet that I was able to
watch the queen for a minute or so. I saw her lay a couple
of eggs. I also found brood, i.e. very young bees. This
quells my fear that the queen was injured or missing.
The workers were also busy storing pollen, sugar syrup,
water, and other essentials for honey production. It was
definitely one of the coolest things that I've seen in a
My neighbors gave me a high-quality aluminum tripod.
I used it to take some video of the hive entrance. The
best one is available
3rd of June
Bees & garage
The bees appear to be content. I frequently take a break
to watch them come and go. It's impressive. I need to
verify that the queen is laying soon. Last I checked, there
was no brood yet.
If she's not laying, then I need to find a replacement queen
ASAP. The lifespan of a worker honey bee is only about
three or four weeks and it takes about half that time
to raise new workers.
The storage unit is almost empty. John helped me move
the remaining furniture last weekend. I have a trailer
reserved for next Saturday to move the MG. Jack has
kindly volunteered to move it with his truck. (Since mine
is still out of commission.)
I also installed the car capsule in my new garage. I had
purchased it years ago. It'll provide the MG with a
secondary layer of protection.
The car capsule is designed to be used indoors only. You
know, for the rich to show off their cars in the ridiculously
immense houses they love to inhabit. It should last well
inside my turtle-shell garage.
I wired the car capsule to the camper's battery. Naturally,
I included a fuse and a toggle switch. I want to be able to
shut it off because it fills up the open space in the garage
completely. It's really comical how stuffed the garage is!
Westinghouse generator & water heater
I had some trouble with the generator. Occasionally, it
would start to run roughly and would eventually stall. It
sounded like it ran out of fuel. After checking the tank and
air filter, I found that the gas cap was at fault.
These suitcase generators have caps that can switch
between vented and closed. The idea is that they can be
stored inside without venting fumes. The Honda's works
well. This one does not.
The Westinghouse version doesn't open enough and the
carburetor couldn't overcome the resulting suction in the
tank. This problem is especially pronounced on cold
mornings. Solution: leave the cap loose when running.
Now, it runs so much better. It should also use less fuel.
Speaking about gas, well another type of gas...
The gas manifold of the water heater needed some
cleaning. But the real culprit turned out to be low
resistance values on the solenoid valves. Recalling one's
high school physics: Voltage equals Current times
(V = I * R)
As the resistance drops, for a more-or-less constant
current, the voltage also drops. That
explains why it took more and more voltage to keep the
solenoid valves open.
Fortunately, I found replacement solenoid coils for
cheap money. Their resistance is twice the worn out units.
Everything is OK with the water heater now. Hopefully,
it will never pose a problem again. Hell, what else can
go wrong, because I've had everything apart on it!
I added three movies and one TV program to the
25th of May
My package of honey bees & queen arrived this morning.
I was beginning to be concerned because they were in
transit for longer than three days.
The queen is alive and the dead worker bees was minimal.
The feeder can was still half full of syrup, so they didn't
go hungry. That would explain why they were so docile.
I have placed the queen cage and package in the hive.
Tomorrow, if it's warm enough--yeah, I'm asking if it'll be
warm enough in late May!--I'll see if the queen has been
released and remove the package from the hive.
I have filled a Boardman feeder with sugar syrup. Forager
bees had already found it. They appear calm, too. No
desire to sting and they were gently buzzing. When I
removed the queen cage, I could feel the warmth from
Here's a photo of the package. The cluster was calm and
gently buzzing, so they are happy, well-fed bees. The
mass of bees in the middle huddled around the queen
and the feeder can.
I really didn't need to wear any protection because they
were so calm and didn't want to move too much. I guess
the 50-degree morning worked to my advantage.
Garage & Moving
I have finished installing the "turtle shell" on the soft
garage frame. It's plenty strong enough to resist snow
loads. The canvas went over that.
I've been moving everything I can out of the storage
unit with the Mazda. It's a lot of work. Surprisingly, I
was able to fit almost everything into the hatchback.
Two guys were amazed when I pulled my free-standing
drill press into the back. They offered to help. I declined
citing that if I can get it in myself, then I can get it out
I've moved all that I can. John has kindly offered to move
the rest with his pick-up. I'm almost completely moved!
This will be my final move. I've counted that I've moved
ten times in my life and have helped others several
times. No more moving for me!
Below are some photos of the garage being assembled.
I did most of the work by myself. The only help was when
John leveled and spread the gravel with his tractor.
Remember that a normal soft garage has no slats and
no fiberboard, shown in the two middle photos.
Instead, the canvas is drawn across the bare steel
poles. Now it probably makes sense why I designed
and built the "turtle shell".
I added six movies to the
14th of May
One year ago
Let's look back a year. Last year this time, I was planning
to drill my own water well. I was dead set on the idea.
I was setting up all the equipment on the property.
Little did I know that I'd hit bedrock almost immediately.
Also, the solar panels were still languishing in boxes in
the storage garage, having not seen the light of day in
The driveway was still dirt. The camper trailer, which I
have called my home since last autumn, was not
known to me. I wasn't even looking for another place
The wood that I had cut from felled trees existed in
stacks haphazardly scattered around the property.
Last year at this time, only the truck was sitting on the
lot. Today, I'm nearly ready to move my remaining
stuff into my soft garage. Having already moved a
camper onto the lot, set up an apiary, and erected two
solar arrays. In addition to the less significant details.
Still learning: water heater
The water heater gradually stopped working earlier
this week. The slow failure was associated with the
voltage of the camper battery. Specifically, the water
heater would only fire up at 13 volts, then 13.2 volts, then
13.5, and so on. Oh, and it was a periodic failure, too.
That is, sometimes it would fire up at 12.7 volts without
a problem. Hmm.
I grudgingly decided to spend a particularly cold,
overcast morning fussing with it. I discovered that
the gas valve was clogged with gunk. This crap would,
periodically, keep the solenoids from actuating.
The force that solenoids--electrically-operated
sliding valves--is directly proportional to the supply
voltage. The lower the voltage, the less force. Less
force means that the valve cannot overcome the
friction from the gunk. A closed gas valve means
no flame and no hot water.
Since the gunk would sometimes pass through
without fouling the valve, the solenoid would
sometimes operate at a lower voltage.
The source of the gunk is the 20-pound LPG tanks.
When filled, oil and a "special" mixture of crap is
added. Yes, it's my fault for using "gas grill" tanks
on the camper.
(It does make one wonder what is being carried by
the "propane" gas flame to meat, when grilling outside.
You thought it was Oscar Meyer's hot dogs making
you fat. Maybe it's the "special" stuff from the tank?)
The water heater isn't perfectly cleaned out yet.
I was lacking the tools to fully disassemble the
valve, so I'll clean it better in the future. At least, I
figured out this bizarre problem.
The Mazda has new front brakes. What an easy job
that was. I'm really impressed by those design
I got the truck running. It even moves under
its own power. The bad news is that the lack-of-power
problem is the same as last year. I checked the usual
suspects in the ignition system and found that the
vacuum advance on the rebuilt distributor is blown.
Whatever. I plugged the carburetor port and will
tell the next owner.
Vacuum advance is only really useful for improving
fuel economy when cruising under small throttle
openings. It does little else.
So I narrowed the problem to the carburetor. That's
what I felt was the source, but it's good to back
up instinct with fact.
I received a gasket for the carburetor so I can completely
disassemble and ultrasonically clean it. There must
be a fleck of rust that acts like a ball valve somewhere
in the power circuit. The rust sneaked past the inline fuel
Once it's running, I can fit the new muffler and put it up
for sale. I won't miss it. I already have a classic vehicle
to keep me occupied. I don't need two!
The soft garage is proceeding well. John and I picked
up some snow-proofing lumber yesterday. I assembled
the wooden structure to the metal frame. I'll post
photos of the entire assembly process when it's all
done. "Don't touch that dial."
I added five movies to the
5th of May
John and rain evened out the garage pad.
I have also erected the garage frame. It was a bit tricky
by myself, but I did it. When I pull the canvas over it, I'll
I've serviced the Mazda and the ATV. I just need to
replace the front brakes on the Mazda. I doubt that
I'll repair the MG before I want to move it out of the
garage. So I asked a friend if he wants to test out his
new truck by towing the MG, on a trailer of course.
It'll be easier to mend it here anyways.
I've decided that since I have so many projects going
on and my time is fixed, I need to reduce my workload.
Thus, I'm going to get the truck running again and sell
I need to address the carburetor problem, which
I think I have done. Then, I need to replace the muffler
that was blown up. It's on order now. I washed and
waxed it yesterday and took some photos. It does
look pretty good, and I've done so much work to it,
that it should sell quickly.
Living off-the-grid continues to present "challenges."
The new Westinghouse generator always ran with a
misfire. Since the carburetor has no adjustment, and
I figured the fuel system and compression were
OK: the spark plug heat range must be the fault.
The plug never heats to the "self cleaning" stage.
I spent a day decoding and researching the
recommendations in the factory manual. No fewer
than three different heat-range plugs were
I ended up settling on a NGK plug with my target heat
range. Would you know that the very plug I chose
turned out to be included on the sticker on the
generator itself? (Yes, the manual and sticker don't
fitting the new plug, the misfire was much better.
It's not completely gone, but it's a lot better. I think
it's the best that it can be.
Life is tough for these tiny, suitcase generators. Their
single pistons aren't much larger than your thumbnail.
This small size means that tight machining tolerances
are even more important.
It runs so I'll service it frequently and look forward
to the day when my battery bank is large enough to
power me through the clouds.
Otherwise, life off-the-grid is wonderful. No electric
bill must infuriate the power utility. Or maybe not? I
have spent quite enough money to generate my
The panels have been awesome. They will fully
charge the camper battery even after a cool night
(with the furnace blower running) without much
And to think that I am only using a quarter of the
that I am collecting. I doubt that my cabin will use
four times the electricity that I currently use.
I had a minor altercation with a mouse. I felt badly
when, after a few nights, I finally cornered him. The
poor critter died in the small volume that he fled
into. I would have been happy to catch and release
him in my woods.
Although with him gone, and his entrance sealed
up, things smell better in the camper. I also seem
to have a feline friend. A few days later, I found
a dead mouse at the foot of the driveway to my
Also, with the threat of heavy, thick snow gone,
I have removed the tarps from the roof. It's great
having light in my skylights again! A thunderstorm
showed where I had a couple of leaks. I fixed them,
and the camper seems to be leak-free again.
The 'storm also brought a bit of entertainment. A
bolt of lightning traveled down the copper DSL
line from the utility pole at the street to the DSL
modem. I know because a loud pop and flash
woke me up!
It's funny because I always unplug the modem from
the power outlet, figuring this would be where death
would spring. Recall that a surge over the power
system finished off another modem?
Oh well, another modem is toast.
Fortunately, the telecom guys know me as that
off-grid guy and were happy to bring several
replacements. I now unplug the DSL line, too.
I set up my compact washing machine. I plumbed
it into the camper outdoor shower and powered it
with the Westinghouse generator. I can now do my
laundry without leaving home. Eventually, when the
cabin is up, I won't have to move the washing
machine in and out. But it's easier than going to the
I added five movies & one TV program to the
Yeah sure, California's wonderful--if you're a grapefruit.
27th of April
The gravel of the garage site has packed well. A spot
needs a bit more, but it's going to work well. I don't
think I'll need any hard pack. The colors don't match
between the garage base and the driveway. I don't
care. I'm not a racist!
I've finished collecting the bulk of the brush piles. I
cleaned up after the previous jobs of driveway
building and clearing space for the solar panels. That
was a long and tiring job. Now, I just need to cover
them before the snow flies.
The panels fully charged the battery today, despite
only intermittent sun. I've deployed the camper
awning, so I now have a dry place to sit outside. It's
good for relaxing outside after a long day's work.
I've still got a number of tasks to complete before
I can get back to writing. I need to get them done
first. Photos of the garage will be posted when I get
I added seven movies to the
21st of April
Since the weather has been good the past couple
of weeks, I've been accomplishing outside tasks.
(Writing is on hold until I catch up.) I
cleared the site for the soft garage. John leveled
it with extra dirt. I have received a dump truck load
of gravel to fill in the voids.
The garage will be slightly higher than the driveway
and the surrounding land so it shouldn't ever flood.
We've also cleared an area so I can deploy the
After the gravel evens out the garage area, I'll see
if I want to put down hard pack. The color of the
two materials is different. I don't care about that.
I'm more concerned about the surface being sturdy
enough for vehicles and tool chests.
I've also cleared an area for the bee hive. The
apiary doesn't have the maximum amount of light,
but I don't want to take down any more trees. I
think it'll be good enough. I need to paint a couple
of the hive components, then it'll be ready.
The rest of my time has been consumed with
assembling more brush piles and consolidating
wood into a "mega pile," which should be easier
to cover. I also serviced the power equipment and
tilted the solar arrays to the "summer" angle.
I found that the arrays weren't pointing to solar
south. I must have misread the compass. I fixed
them, and there seems to be more light gathered.
It's good to have a day off! I'm sore and worn out.
I added six movies & one TV movie to the
9th of April
My writing is coming along. I've doubled the
original length. Recall, that, originally, I stopped
writing and said that I was done and started to
investigate publishing. Then, I learned that I was
a bit light for words. So, today, I'm 65% there!
Yes, I know I
shouldn't be counting words, and should instead
focus on content. The snag is that for an unknown
author, one must tick all the boxes--like
length--just to warrant a look.
And it seems that the "look" will probably have
to be from an agent first. Going directly to a
publisher usually is a waste of time. That's the
next challenge. Now, I'll elaborate my manuscript
to bring it up to the desirable length.
I've been adding better than a thousand words
every day. Boy, and it is work. I enjoy it a lot;
however, the idea that it's easy is entirely incorrect.
Writing is really a trip of self discovery and then
self examination. Words carry a lot of the writer
The warm temperatures are allowing me to clean
up. I've been doing those jobs that I wanted to do.
For instance, I buried the rest of the solar
transmission lines. In a couple of weeks, I'll adjust
the solar arrays to the "summer" angle. Yes,
I also started arranging brush into burn piles.
Next winter, they will be a source of heat, light,
I have so much brush from clearing the driveway,
panels, etc., that this will be an ongoing task,
which is great.
It's wonderful being outside without a jacket! I
spent so much time outdoors today that I got a
tan. Yes, a tan and not a sunburn. That's unusual
The spring heralds a new battery-charging
generator for the homestead. The Honda
continued to serve, but I received a
slightly-larger Westinghouse replacement.
(The Honda had begun to burn quite a bit of oil.
And its appetite for gasoline also increased.)
The Westinghouse generator is blue. It's slightly
larger and a bit louder. Though, the noise is a
baritone beat to the Honda's tenor slap. And
it burns no oil.
I like the unit very much. The spark plug is
unnecessarily difficult to remove; however,
that is a small annoyance. This Westinghouse
product has an excellent way to pour the correct
amount of oil into the crankcase: a graduated
bottle with a plastic spout. Genius!
It's also 10% more powerful than the Honda.
The cost is about half of the Honda. So, I'm
thinking that I wasted money buying the Honda.
Still, "we can rebuilt him." Yes, I'll film a '70s TV
program when I retrofit a new gasoline engine
to the fully-functioning inverter of the Honda.
My thought is that I can find a new engine
that will fit into the suitcase and have a new
generator ready to go. (The Westinghouse won't
last forever, after all.) Honda does make a
better quality series of small engines, which I
am tempted to consider.
This task may seem idiotic, but it will save me
money in the long run. I also won't have to
dispose of a gasoline-powered generator. Do
you know how difficult that is? Neither do I, and
I don't care to know!
Life At Sea in Heavy Weather
Below is a link to a cool video of life aboard
a container ship in Atlantic Ocean. Good music.
Great filming. Take a look because it's worth it:
I added five movies to the
I was dreading a heavy, wet snowfall. It occurred
at the worst time, too: overnight. Fortunately,
I was able to clear most of the driveway. Another
"challenge" was that the hard pack wasn't frozen,
so I had to learn not to spin all four wheels.
I can't complain because a foot or more of wet
snow was moved by a lightweight vehicle. I only
had to shovel a bit at the bottom of the driveway.
I have been updating the older entries in the
movie database. I want to, eventually, have a
description for every movie in the comments
If you find any errors, please let me know. The
mailbox icon at the bottom of the page will
provide you with a form that should be very
quick to complete.
I've added four movies and a TV movie to the
25th of March
Spring, hah! I just finished burning some brush
and now it's snowing! I feel like an idiot for
exchanging my winter tires for my "all season"
set. My decision was influenced by a previous,
long stretch of warm weather. Oh well!
I thought I had a marketable manuscript. I was
wrong. My online research proves that the
length of my manuscript was too long for a
magazine article and too short for a novel.
Word count seems to be very important. So,
I am elaborating my manuscript. I'm halfway
to a short novel. I'm making progress and
still have plenty of money, so life is good.
Welcome four movies and two TV movies to
And enjoy them!
the day after the Ides of March
Since I've been forced inside again, I've been
watching films. I've added six movies and a TV
movie to the
Below is a link to a cool video that uses
The catchy tune, which was released nearly twenty-five
years ago, sounds very modern. Why not watch and
I could tell right away that the setting is Bondi
Beach, the topless section. Yeah, I'm just good like
that! Seriously, recall that I was there in March,
2007? Here's a link to
that I took.
the day before the Ides of March
This morning, the furnace blower ground to a halt. It
makes a good alarm clock. I fired up my backup
heater, the oven. And would you know that "Warm"
on the thermostat will keep the camper at room
The sudden halt of the furnace blower, which
tripped the motor breaker,
also damaged one of the "hamster wheels". It was
secured to the motor shaft with a plastic hub.
It's no wonder that one of the two poorly-balanced
"wheels" hadn't wrecked its fragile connection
Fortunately, the local hardware store has shaft collars
and the new motor has flats on the shafts. I don't
have the angle grinder here, so the existing flats
saved my bacon!
The motor didn't fare well either. One of the shaft
bearings is completely shot. I'll have to replace it
with the sun shining down on my bare arms. I can't
wait for the return of the warm weather!
I really lucked out because the shaft collar did the
trick for the "wheel", and there was no other
damage to the furnace, aside from the motor. Recall
that I had procured a replacement motor last month?
The furnace is now running as smoothly as it can.
Those "hamster wheels" really are not well balanced!
The replacement unit boasts balanced wheels "for
quieter operation". Ha! Try, for a longer motor life!
I wasn't panicked this time around, so I managed to
snap some photos. A photo of the blower motor
The large wheel (the one that broke) may be viewed
Oh, and there's some snow falling. I've been
plowing every three or four inches, and it's going
10th of March
It's a good day to stay in. So I added some movies to
7th of March
Who says Beethoven doesn't demand power? Today,
I was watching the camper battery voltage whilst I
listened to Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. Yes, the
volume was high. Is there another way to take-in
Beethoven? You do know that he wanted all of us to
be deaf like he was in his later years?
The battery voltage would jump all around. On a
fully-charged battery, like in this case, for instance, the
voltage will drop a couple of tenths of a volt when
I switch on a vent fan. That makes sense because a
fan spinning rapidly draws a lot of current, even from
a high-capacity battery.
Evidently, the radio when playing at nearly full volume
presents a much, much larger draw. All would be
alright during the calm points of the Symphony and then
the volume would suddenly rise, taking down the
And I'm not saying a drop of a couple of tenths of a
volt. At full volume, as Beethoven was expected to
be enjoyed, the voltage would bottom out an entire
volt below normal!
That's more than five times the power draw that a fan
whose only purpose is to push air around!
Mind you, this is all happening with a 900-Watt,
gasoline generator actively charging the battery.
(And the fan voltage drop was also recorded with
this active generator.)
I could see the generator struggling to keep up--I
definitely couldn't hear it--as the voltage reading
would rapidly change. Despite my ailing, Honda
generator struggling to keep up until Beethoven
let up, I still rely on it. Maybe the great composer
has given it new life?
(The generator does have half of its life left.
One wouldn't know it with the smoky morning starts!
Maybe that is its coffee?)
Beethoven caused a voltage drop to a gas-powered
generator! This music requires a lot of power. So if you
are feeling down on energy, listen to Beethoven!
Rock gods turn up their amplifiers to "eleven".
Bah! Stay home and enjoy Beethoven the correct
way. There's more energy expended per volume of
air enjoying this master than in any rock concert.
Yes, I do have an ear for Greenpeace. It's my
They know I listen to them without missing a syllable.
So, they always welcome my insightful comments.
OK, no, they don't. They ask me to go away. I
guess Beethoven isn't for everybody. Too bad.
Imagine if they had his following!
Winter, writing, sun, updates
Winter's back for a few days. No problems to report.
Writing is going well. I'm now getting some
proofreading from family. The fourth solar panel
seems to only be helping, so I'm going to leave
it connected. Soon, I need to re-tilt the solar arrays.
The cold temperatures do force me to stay inside
and watch movies.
I have added seven movies & a TV movie to the
Preparing for spring
The recent thaw has set temperature records and
heralds the early beginning of mud season. Oh, what a
I have shoveled snow away from the driveway but since
the drive is lower than the surrounding, undisturbed
ground, water tends to drain into it. If the temperatures
were more seasonable, then the melting wouldn't
be so dramatic! On a positive note, the area behind
the solar arrays is clear of snow.
The Honda generator continues to hang on. It blows
smoke occasionally and covers the spark plug with
soot; but, it works! Funny thing is that I got a
warranty extension form from the vendor. Ha, yeah
right: I'll get right on that!
Today, I felled five trees. There were in the way of
the garage. I don't like removing trees but John
needs to be able to get his tractor in so we can
fill and level the area for the garage.
One dead tree was threateningly close to the active
solar array. Fortunately, it fell exactly where I wanted
it. It could have been very nasty. I haven't lost my
I'm nearing the end of my non-fiction manuscript. I
need to proofread it again and add a couple
of additional photographs, which I'll take next
I have added six movies to the
Today was too nice to stay indoors and work. And I've
made great progress writing, so I deserved a day off. I
shoveled so I could get the ATV behind the solar panels.
I need to change the tilt angle in a couple of weeks.
It's great that it's been so warm because the shoveled
area will melt.
Yesterday, I received the new power inverter/charger
for the camper. It does a much better job charging the
battery. In fact, it did such a good job last night that
I haven't had to run the generator yet! (It's still
working!) I've been running the computer off the
battery and then the panels. It's so quiet.
I was able to open a window and the vents for the
first time this year. Oh, spring will be awesome. The
luxury of having all the windows open most of the
time. And I won't have to have plastic covering them
to keep the heat in. I'm looking forward to it!
Living off the power grid isn't easy. Yesterday morning the Honda
generator refused to fire up. It resides inside the camper when
not in use so I was a bit surprised.
I added oil, of which it has been using an unexpected amount
recently. No change. I installed a new spark plug, looked at the
air filter (clean), cleaned the spark arrestor and emptied the
muffler of carbon pellets.
The plug and muffler told me that the tiny engine was running too
rich. But the air filter is clear. I'm at a loss. There's no fuel filter
that I can see and the manual doesn't reference one. Maybe I'm
nearing the end of the engine life?
I looked for an engine rebuild kit. You know me; rebuild before
replacement. The rebuild kit is available; however, I also learned
that the tiny engine in my Honda suitcase generator isn't the best.
It's known as a disposable engine to Honda. Shucks, so much
for buying a Honda means buying the best. After reading the
well-written individual's posts, I tend to agree. The sound of
piston slap is something I just ignored, thinking, it's a Honda.
I'll continue to feed oil and gas to it. I'll even test the
compression, which should be a conservative 8/1. I feel this may
be the last leg of this little engine, for replacement parts are
hard to come by because no one rebuilds these engines.
Do not worry because when the small Honda generator finally
refuses to start, I'll go out looking for a better solution. And
until I can do that, I have my LPG generator to keep everything
going. (Maybe it'll be summer and I'll have more sunshine and
won't need a generator?) All in all, more than a 1,000 hours
isn't bad. And it's not dead yet!
In other news, the furnace continues to perform well. I purchased
a replacement blower motor yesterday and it looked the
same as the motor currently installed. I checked the stamped
numbers and the replacement will pull a few tenths more of an
amp than the original.
That shouldn't be a problem. I do find myself wondering: OK,
you've improved this motor that looks the same and is the same
size and, presumable, has the similar motor inside. Why did the
current rating change?
The furnace does still rumble a bit at start-up. I'll see about
securing the shrouding a bit better today. The sun's out!
Recall that I figured I could get away with a third solar panel?
Well, I was looking at the array yesterday afternoon and saw
that most of the time at least panel (that is in use) is shaded
So I hooked up a fourth panel. In the morning, like now, all
four panels are collecting sun. The voltage loss caused by the
extra current traveling the circuit doesn't seem to have hurt
the charging performance. In fact, the battery reached the
final top-up stage quicker.
I'll see how this works. I can always turn off one of the panels
if I find it doesn't work. I calculate the voltage drop is around
3.4% worst-case and 2.8% at best. The goal is less than 2%; but,
3% is acceptable.
Why are there two values? As the battery is charged, the
controller raises the voltage. When it is finishing up, which I
call "PWMing", the voltage is around 15. Recalling your high
school physics, you'll remember that as the voltage increases,
for the same amount of power, the amperage drops. That's
why high-tension lines are efficient: very, very high voltage.
My new arrangement will waste power while bulk charging--this
is usually done by the genny anyway--and be OK when PWMing.
Also, it should gather more electricity during the shady
afternoons. I'll see about taking the trees down in the spring.
It won't be cheap! Wish I could do it myself.
I have added six movies to the
Yup, I bragged too much. Last night the blower in the furnace
screeched to a halt, literally. Damn you, Roddy Piper!
To avoid freezing, I fired up the oven and kept the door open.
Yes, that sounds like the recipe for a horror movie. Next, I'll tell
you that undead deer stalked me!
Don't laugh because yesterday I saw deer tracks less than 50
yards from the camper. A couple also bedded down on my land.
Neat! Unless they are zombies, then uh-oh!
So I had a trying time last night. I would wake up every few
hours to turn the oven on. I would then shiver in bed waiting
for it to warm the place up. It did give me a lot time to think
about what was wrong with the furnace.
The next morning I awoke early to get right on the repair job.
The furnace is only accessible from outside so I had to shovel
a bit of snow to fully remove the access panel. This reminds me
of last winter...
Long story short, the blower motor appears to be OK. The
bearings are pretty tight and the brushes look great. I cleaned
out the inside and sprayed WD-40 on the bearings. I did
manage to find a replacement motor, which was no small feat.
Surprisingly, the closest RV business will have it tomorrow
afternoon. Thanks, Allen!
But what do I do till then? It is my belief that the motor is fine.
I think the sheet metal enclosing it was binding. That's what
caused the screeching halt. In fact, this morning I found that
the overload breaker had been tripped.
Right now, I have reassembled the furnace and it works! I also
got to service it while I had it completely disassembled. I now
know what it looks like and what to do. Thank you, kind man
The furnace is an impressive piece of equipment. It's just let
down by sheet metal screws that eventually strip and don't
keep the metal away from the "hamster wheels".
The furnace has two cylindrical wheels with slats to draw air
in. One wheel feeds outside air to the flame in the combustion
chamber and the other draws inside (camper) air across the
hot flue and pushes it back into the camper.
That way LPG (AKA propane) is kept separate from the
camper air. The design is similar to the water heater, of which
you know I have grown quite fond.
In the spring, I will need to put in larger screws to hold the
sheet metal rigidly away from the hamster wheels. I will also,
hopefully, have a spare motor tomorrow.
I spoke with one parts guy and he said that RV parts are
obsolete after ten years. This camper is getting on, at nearly
20 years old.
There's always a solution, though. I can install a newer version
of the existing appliances and continue on. The same
manufacturers exist and are thriving. With any luck, I won't
have to depend on the camper for winter living but for maybe
one more year.
Now that I have figured out the furnace, the only other
complicated appliance that can fail--that I haven't already
repaired--is the fridge. (I don't count the oven and stove as
complicated. Will this come back to bite me in the butt?)
As for the fridge/freezer, I sincerely doubt anything can kill
it because of the "ammonia cycle" source for refrigeration.
It's fascinating; however, I won't go into it here. Wikipedia
does a better job:
How can that break? And if it does, I put all my frozen foods
outside. Potential problem solved. Tonight will be an early
night. My store of adrenaline is running low!
We finally had a real snowstorm. Despite a neighbor claiming
we received eight inches, it looks like a foot to me. Unfortunately,
I was too slow to get out to plow. The ATV couldn't shift the
partially-melted snow at the end of the driveway. Break out the
shovel and my arm power. I eat a lot of spinach!
I have taken today and yesterday to clear snow, service the
water heater, and fulfill other chores. Sometimes the chores
build up and I can't do anything else until they are satisfied.
Next time you complain about a shower being slow to warm up,
think of me. I have to pump all the water in and let all the used
water out. That can mean defrosting the dump valve. That's not
something most people usually have to do!
Of course, this is the life I chose and I wouldn't have it any
other way because I am off-the-grid and truly free. It's just
that, like everything, this life comes with a price.
Also, I wouldn't mind all the shoveling if I could get a full
night's sleep. You see in anticipation of cold nights, I stay up
till midnight--sometimes later--to keep the generator maintaining
the camper battery as long as possible.
That way, the furnace will draw on the battery for only five or
six hours before I can restart my trusted Honda generator. The
problem is not a lack of battery size. It's the charge controller in
the camper. It's designed to avoid overcharging a battery that's
permanently attached to shore power, like in a trailer park.
To avoid overcharging, the camper's charger doesn't fully
fill the battery. Instead, it settles at around 13.2 volts and thinks
it's great, and basks in the lukewarm-13.2-volt water.
voltage doesn't do much more than keep the battery around
75% charged. Yes, trailer parks have tried to ruin my life!
(Realizing this fact has almost allowed me to enjoy the fact
that tornadoes hit them first, well almost: I'm not that cruel.)
Yes, the solar array has a top-notch charge controller that tops
up the battery. The trouble is the sunlight is so short this time
of year. So, I'm left with the that's-good-enough charge
controller in the camper.
Another fact of physics--that unsympathetic bitch!--is cold
temperatures reduce total battery capacity. I figure that my 200
amp-hour battery is actually behaving like a 120 A-hr battery.
Yes, that's about 40% of the capacity gone because it's cold!
(Use that excuse on your boss and see what comes of it!)
Fortunately, others have run into my problems and there are
several choices of much better charge controllers that can
be fitted in place of my original unit!
Being short of sleep, I splurged and spend the $200 to have
such a unit mailed here. Five or six hours of sleep simply isn't
enough for the amount of hard work that I am undertaking!
I'm eager to return to my writing. I want to finish up the
non-fiction manuscript so I can explore a potentially awesome,
action-adventure 'script that could become a New York
bestseller! The idea is excellent and will grab the reader,
or so I think
An author has to realize that being his own best fan is the
only way to avoid the usual afflictions of writing. You know:
depression, over-drinking, and then the bullet or pills solution.
I'm very lucky that depression doesn't hit me too hard. I also
live in an area that usually enjoys the sun at least every three
days. The sun, which is the true source of all life, really lifts
The furnace blower has been screeching very occasionally.
Despite pleading with it to behave, it could be a potential
fly in the ointment. I've bumped up the thermostat setting
and feed the furnace the highest voltage whenever I can.
Let us hope it can hang on until April when I can do
without it, and sort out the problem. Ah, the life of
boondocking. I love it! The challenges and the learning.
Yes, I am a bit of a masochist with an engineering tendency!
In other news...
It is wonderful being free to live a peaceful life on my own
land, if it is only for a limited time! My general health has
improved a lot. I have more than the physical endurance of
the high-school senior across the way... at least for shoveling
Ha, how many middle-aged men can say that! Of course, now
that I have boasted myself, the furnace blower will quit.
Maybe it's time to bust out the statue to pray to the god of
You know the edifice: it's a bunch of balls enclosed
by a ring. Roddy Piper is there. He was very cool. Maybe he'll
speak for me? Tell them I'm OK and to let me live? I do know
It was very gusty one night. It caused a problem in the
camper. A gust found its way down the intake tube of the
furnace and blew out the flame! It goes to show that there's
always something new that can be thrown my way!
On a calmer night, I spent a few minutes admiring my little
home. It sounds strange but rectangular, yellow blocks
shining at me seemed almost like a cartoon when emitting
from an equally rectangular block. The funny thing is that
I found this scene warm and welcoming. It must
foreshadow my future cabin in the woods.
I'm probably about halfway through the manuscript. I
spoke with a neighbor. She seemed to be a writer and
suggested trying to find a publisher. The obvious reason is
the lack of exposure.
Furthermore, she was interested in the solar system.
Speaking with her about her electricity needs, it sounds
like she would be a good candidate for roof-mounted
panels. We're going to speak more about it in spring.
I have added six movies to the
I have added seven movies to the
This is a good aspect of winter!
Writing is going well. I have no trouble sticking to my
schedule. I manage about six hours of continuous work
Monday through Friday, excepting snow days.
All is going well with the camper. In fact, it has now paid
for itself! I have also found a way to reduce my use of
LPG, and it's making a difference. It would be excellent
if I can get through to spring without any problems.
Thanks for reading!
28th of January
I have added eight movies to the
Thank you, Youtube!
My work continues to progress well. I have forgotten just
how much I have accomplished here at the homestead.
The manual is going to be lengthy. It will also include a
computer spreadsheet, which will make it interactive.
Perhaps this interactivity will be a good selling point?
I shouldn't get ahead of myself because I still need to
complete the manuscript. It looks like that will coincide
with the return of spring.
Speaking of warm weather, my projects will be on hold
until then. That is unless I have an emergency that
I plan to set-up the bee hive in late March. The vendor has
already charged me for the queen & package bees. I just
need to order a bit more equipment and bee medicines.
22nd of January
My first week of writing has passed well. I had no trouble
sticking to the schedule. Actually, I look forward to
working. On sunny mornings, I am able to run the
computer off the panels. Neat!
I've also taken up practicing my musical instrument
every day. It's impressive how quickly the skill returns.
Muscle memory, maybe?
I have collected my bee-keeping equipment. (I had
purchased everything I should need for one hive years
ago.) I, also, placed an order for a
queen and package bees. The package should have a
sufficient number of workers to get the hive going.
They will arrive in the spring. I'll have the hive set up
before then. That'll be a fun spring project! I'll be
sure to describe my progress with photos.
I have added four movies, a miniseries, and a TV series
15th January 2017
John and I got a good fire going in the stove. The flue
is just too small for the size of the firebox and opening.
I'm going to figure out what it needs to be and modify
it in the summer. What a shame that the design is wrong!
I'm going to start my schedule of writing this week.
It will be good to be back working towards a potential
source of income. Please wish me luck!
12th January 2017
Good news: the stove relocation and installation
went very quickly. I guess I'm getting good at this
sort of thing? It's also a lot easier working when it's
above freezing and sunny!
I thought I was clever by using sheet metal loosely
located around the stovepipe where it pass through
the tarps. I then "flashed" it with layers of aluminum
foil. Take a look:
The sheet metal is brown and loosely held in place
with Gorilla tape (black) to the surrounding supports.
This isn't a permanent job. I figured it could get me
through the rest of the winter. Then, I could do a
proper job when I repair the roof and A-frame.
The final product looks pretty good:
Here's what the stove looks like with the new
I sealed the joints with high-temperature RTV
silicone. There is a draft inside the stove.
The bad news: smoke continues to pour out the
door when the fire bogs down. Also, the fire doesn't
stay lit without the door open. Plainly, there's
insufficient feed air flowing in.
John--remember he helped me a lot this past
summer?--is going to stop by on Saturday and
take a look. Check back then to see what happens
We're enjoying a second day of warm weather.
Today, it's nudging 50 degrees! It's convenient
because I can open a window and turn on a vent
fan to purge the smoke smell.
I have added five movies to the
If you check the latest additions block, it'll look
like I added six movies. That's because there
was an error. The
was uploaded last time, and is only appearing
The same holds true for
the mobile page.
10th January 2017
I extended the flue by four feet. No joy. I'll have to
relocate the stove so the flue goes straight up. That
means cutting a hole in the roof. At least, it's going
to warm up so I can do a good job with the caulking.
The all-girl, Japanese, hard rock band has released
another video. Take a look:
9th January 2017
The stove is installed and looks pretty good! Take a look:
The stove came with a length of piping for the flue. But I didn't
want to cut a hole in the roof of the camper, so I went out a
You can see the exhaust pipe that I used to extend the flue. Neat!
It goes out and then straight up past the roof line. I sealed the joints
with high-temperature RTV silicone. It works, too!
The top is capped, and I put in a spark-arresting screen. It would
be a bad thing to set something outside on fire! Click
to see the cap up close.
Feeding through the window was a bit tricky. I ended up
fabricating an aluminum sheet-metal/cardboard/Gorilla-tape
partition. I guess that makes it a composite
I thought about using wood but don't have a router to get the
necessary curves. Below is the feedthru with the wall thimble
and insulating cord.
I had to remove and invert the window to get the sliding section
in the correct position. Man, I wish I had done this job in the
autumn! It's done, though, and sealed up again.
Now, what you've been waiting for! The stove does work. See:
The not-so-good news is that the flue isn't working well.
When I open the door, smoke pours out. Also, the fire won't stay
lit. This makes sense because the smoke isn't being pulled out
so fresh air can't come in. Nothing is ever easy. Damn it!
7th January 2017
I'm nearly finished. The stove installation is completed. Just in
time judging by the cold temperatures. I just have to fabricate
the heat shields to protect the surrounding wall and electrical
units. Now, I wish I had a sheet metal brake. Oh well, I'll find a
I have added three movies & three TV movies to the
4th January 2017
This week I'm installing a camp stove in the camper. I'm about
halfway completed with the job. It's been challenging; however,
I solved the most trying aspects. I found a clever way to run the
flue out the camper without cutting any new holes. I'll post
Today, I also found the rest of the pipes I need for the flue. It
wasn't my idea to use car exhaust pipes. The friendly guy at
the Home Depot recommended it, and I said: "why didn't I think
I loosely assembled the top of the flue. I also installed a spark
arrestor in the top. And would you know it: it looks professional.
The arrestor is a code requirement in Canada, and probably in
the States also.
The height of the flue was dictated by Canadian
code. Obviously, the top of any chimney has to have plenty of
horizontal air flow over it to ensure the smoke is drawn out.
(Thank you, Mr. Venturi, for explaining this effect!)
I've split all the wood felled during the "Oakie" incident. Both
the standing oak and the small, "green" evergreen, split
beautifully. I'm getting quite accurate with the ax. What a fun
Whilst splitting wood, I came across a large nail. It looks like
a ten-penny (??) and had a substantial effect inside the tree.
Here are a few photos. If you click the thumbnails, you'll see
some blue lines that'll help you locate the nail:
I was surprised at the effect. It's something to think about
when nailing into a tree.
I had a thought last night. I checked my math and the cut-off
cable. I found that I had shortened the solar-array-to-camper
cables enough to use a third solar panel!
Yes, 300 Watts is pushing it, but
the actual cable length--as opposed to the design length--keeps
the voltage loss just under the magical 3%!
This morning, I connected a third panel. When the sun was
shining, briefly; it seemed to make a difference. I'll know for
New Year's Day
Happy New Year's!
I'd like to start by thanking you, the reader, for your attention
this past year. Hopefully, I can maintain it in 2017!
I'm finally feeling almost fully back to normal. That silly workplace
really has a sapping effect on individuals. As a friend said, who
was laid off before I; it takes two weeks to get back to normal.
That said, I'm going to take another week off. I plan to fit my
new stove to the camper. I'll post my progress as it occurs!
I have added six movies to the
30th December 2016
We got a few inches--six?--yesterday. The 'fall was wet and sticky,
which worried some people because of the potential for downed
power lines. Not me!
The day before I had felled a couple of large birches that could
threaten the solar arrays. Aren't birch trees always in a state of
Below are a couple of photos that I awoke to this morning:
I think it's a "winter wonderland". But then, I'm hopelessly in love
with winter. The peace of fallen snow is without equal. Furthermore,
one must go out and clear it from a driveway and walkways. I enjoy
physical exertion, so it's no hardship: only a welcome reason to be
The day turned out to be a glorious one, too. The sun shone down
and made the snow-covered trees glitter with wintry beauty. This
occurrence is why I live in this particular region of the north. Other
regions don't usually enjoy brilliant sunshine after snowstorms.
(I'm sorry for you because it makes winter so much more beautiful!)
Here are a few shots of the camp. I'm getting better at plowing with
my Honda ATV, which you can see still uncovered.
My camp stove arrived today. The FedEx driver, with whom I have
developed a conversation, said that he was recovering from the
100-plus-stops days during the Christmas season.
I asked him how
he could make so many deliveries in eight hours. He said, he couldn't
so he worked 14-15 hour days. Think of your delivery guy or gal
next time you place an order near Christmas. Maybe it can wait?
The stove is perfectly sized for my camper! I was concerned that it
would be too big. Even though I measured twice, I still maintained
some apprehension. No problem. It'll fit well.
Before the storm, I cleared an alcove off the driveway. This area will
be the future site of my soft garage. I don't like cutting down trees,
but I also need to get out of my rental garage. After my LPG (i.e.
propane) expense, the garage rental is my largest expense.
The trees are all down and none fell on my camper. I'm smart when
felling trees because I used other doomed trunks to "catch" target trees.
Yeah, I'm not as dumb as I look!
It took a lot of fortitude to drag all the trunks to an area underneath
a hemlock tree for later bucking and splitting.
Hemlocks are wonderful
because they're not only upright and handsome, but their many
branches catch a lot of snow, which shields the ground below.
I'm looking forward to using my new wood stove because my LPG
usage is approaching my maximum-budgeted-expense scenario.
Remember, I quit my job so I had to budget all expenses. It would
be a windfall if I could dramatically reduce this bill. (Damn, I sound
like a pensioner! Don't worry I won't recommend "Golden Girls"
as a choice, TV sitcom.)
The well continues to deliver water whenever I want it. And after I
have filled my fresh water tank, it's still pumping water. I wonder if
the recharge rate has grown above nil?
The furnace continues to perform without fault. Yes, I do awaken at
night waiting to hear the blower switch off, indicating that all is well. I
probably shouldn't be concerned, but I still am.
The water heater and I have developed a symbiotic relationship. I
need hot water and it needs battery voltage. Working together,
we have established a ritual where we both are satisfied.
The cable heater hasn't let me down. We have some colder nights
coming so maybe the true test is ahead? The dump valve hasn't
frozen again because, after I re-fit its insulation, I bury the area
with snow. Of course, snow's a wonderful insulator.
The fridge-freezer continues to hold me in awe. It uses very little
LPG; however, it keeps my beer cool and pizzas frozen. I hear it at
night when it's most quiet and I am most alert. The absorption
refrigerator still intrigues me.
The solar array delivers power like a monk. It's consistent, reliable,
and quiet. The Honda "suitcase" generator doesn't miss a beat.
I'll probably need to perform another service soon. Though, I
expect a long life because it spends much of the time inside.
Seven hundred hours really is nothing for a Honda.
Life is good
Today, I canceled my health insurance. It's pleasant to boycott an
industry based on illness and drugs. Instead I will continue to walk
every day, or do an equivalent exercise, and eat well. Keeping a
positive attitude helps a lot, too! These are key to good health, not
being "practiced" upon by prescription drug pushers.
I repaired the fancy, dancy pure-sine-wave power inverter.
Maybe you recall my dismay when this expensive inverter stopped
working after only 20 or 30 hours of operation?
If not, I'll quickly relate the episode. I purchased an expensive
power inverter capable of delivering a relatively smooth A/C
power signal similar to what the grid provides. I waited a week
for the delivery from Best Buy.
Then, it quit working and confused my desktop computer's
BIOS, which added to my turbulent transition.
Yes, moving from an apartment into a camper was going too
smoothly, so this inverter decided to threaten the only device
I really needed.
Of course, I found a solution after finishing my move. A
shaggy-haired kid sold me a replacement inverter in the Radio
Shack brand. (Remember when such devices would be Tandy?)
I purchased a one-year warranty just to insure myself against
catastrophic failures. Fortunately, this Radio Shack unit
continues to perform well!
Now that life has settled down, I decided to open up the
failed power inverter. One thing is for certain they design
those units to be repaired!
I quickly found the burned-out component. I've seen this trick
before during my working career. It always looks like a joke or
a quick-fix. Regardless, a lone resistor on the backside of a
circuit board had obviously burnt out.
I replaced it with a higher-power unit from my friendly Radio
Shack. And, would you know it, the unit fired up and powered
my computer. Yes, I was stunned! I am no champion with a
Many people think I am living an eternal summer camp
when I mention where I live. They automatically assume that
I am living somewhere else now that winter has settled in.
Well, I am not: I love the seasons--all of them--in my little
part of the world!
Yes, life is not without its adventures. The other day, I was
welcomed home by a musty smell. Instinctively, I
questioned myself: did I empty the grey-water tank enough?
Is there something else wrong?
Then, it hit me: I have a couple of should-really-be-outdoor
tools inside. That's the reason. It's tough to find a place to
protect sensitive tools when the temperatures dip.
Speaking of low temperatures, a few nights ago it was cool.
The heater cable kept the regulator working. The tank valves
didn't freeze either. We'll see what happens when it is very
cold again. Today, it was nearly 50!
I have added six movies to the
Jobs & stove
My final day was Thursday. True to the "spirit" of that place, I
had a long day of walking around getting signatures. Fortunately,
no one did anything like a party with the social cripples. That
would have been awkward. The only aspect, which I
will miss, is conversations with my cubicle-mate.
I'm going to take a week off and then get into a schedule of writing,
practicing my trumpet, and splitting wood. Speaking of wood, I
ordered a camp woodstove. I'll put it inside the camper and reduce
my propane usage. I need to use some of the wood I have on site,
too. Photos will be forthcoming!
I received a 12-Volt resistive wire from McMaster-Carr. I wrapped
and taped it to the LPG (i.e. propane) regulator. It works, too! It'll
be tested tomorrow night because the temperature is supposed
to drop to the single digits.
I also purchased a 120-Volt cable heater to thaw the dump valve.
I haven't had to use it. And maybe I won't have to!
20th December 2016
Last night and this morning
Last night, I returned home--it was hovering around 0°F--to
find either the LPG regulator or tank valves froze. It must have just
happened because inside it was in the high 40s. Just opening and
closing the tank valves was enough to get the gas flowing again.
However when it froze overnight, I was a bit upset. At 4 AM and
-4°, it's not an adventure. So I responded by taking today off
from work. Any excuse will do!
I thought about what I could do about the freezing. I have
warmers. They are exothermic and I bought them as insurance
against this problem. I figure if I tape one to the regulator and
replace the plastic tank cover, it should keep the tank valves
warm, too. Hot air rises.
My long term solution is more permanent. I ordered two heater
cables from McMaster-Carr. (They're a great vendor, and privately
held. I very much dislike shareholder corporations!) One tape
will keep the regulator cozy, while the other will warm the grey
water dump valve when I need to empty the tank.
It and the adjacent pipe were frozen solid this morning so I had
to break out the heat gun. The tank hasn't frozen. I don't think
it will freeze because of its location hugging the floor and out
of the draft from the "door" to access the dump valve. I did,
however, order a stick-on heater strip for the tank. That's a
I can spare the electricity. I am really thankful for my 4D battery
and Honda generator. Speaking of it, I changed the oil over
the weekend. It has more than six hundred hours on it! It still
runs well and sounds good.
The door continues to freeze a bit. I thawed it with the gun.
I also drilled holes to allow water to weep out instead of
collecting in the door jamb. There's little better than drilling
holes in something to make one feel a sense of accomplishment!
18th December 2016
After the Freeze
The camper functioned well during the -5 Fahrenheit nights.
The grey water tank did not freeze. The dump gate valve did
freeze, but that's minor. I can always use the heat gun to warm
The door did build up with ice. This made keeping the door
closed more difficult. But that's all gone now. I'm preparing
for the next freeze overnight.
15th December 2016
I am taking today and tomorrow off from work to ensure
nothing freezes here at home. So far so good. I have a mostly
full grey water tank and I tuned the water heater this morning.
Its mixture was out a bit. It must be the cold temperatures. I'll
keep an eye on it. The grey water tank is my real concern.
Though, underneath the camper, temperatures are safe.
It's forecasted to drop to zero tonight with wind. The gusts
don't bother me too much because of the trees. Tomorrow is
supposed to be in the teens for a high. Hopefully, it'll be sunny.
The solar array, working with the Honda generator, got the
battery to floating voltage. That's a good thing because it
means that it acquired a full charge. I'll need the reserve
charge to ensure the furnace and water heater run
throughout the night.
I'm not concerned about the battery because I'll probably run
the generator until 11 or midnight. And if the grey water tank
freezes and bursts, it'll just drain all the time underneath. I
doubt that will happen.
The drains from the sinks & shower are more likely to freeze.
I just checked the shower drain because it's located in the
coldest spot of the camper. It's in the mid 50s with outside
temperatures in the mid teens. We'll see! It's an adventure
I have sprayed the door latch with WD-40. It works better
than ever now. Hopefully, it won't freeze. I'll be sure to
open the second tank before retiring for the night.
I am not alone thinking MIT graduates are ill-prepared for the
real world and lack many basic, every day skills. Toadboy01
posted the below comment to a boston.com article about MIT
"Those 2175 that got denied [admission to MIT] are the lucky
ones. Work with a bunch of MIT grads. Intellectual, maybe,
but no common sense, personality or manners. Half don't
know what a shower is and most look worse than a homeless
person. As a manager I'll take a student from WPI or RPI over
an MIT grad any day, especially a WPI grad (much better
prepared overall). MIT shouldn't be the bar when many crash
and burn upon graduation because they haven't learned what
So there you have it: MIT shouldn't be the metric by which all
engineering universities are measured. That is, unless you
enjoy smelly and rude zombies with no real problem-solving
I read an article that says that a new bill, which was passed by
the House of Representatives, will allow the implantation of
trackable microchips in certain individuals. The article claims
that these certain individuals are those with disabilities.
This is the link to the article:
I did skim through the bill myself and found it to be ambiguous.
No, a government law that is unclear: you must be going
Here's the text of the bill that the House passed and has
sent to the Senate:
The reporting agencies may be off the mark; however, I am very
concerned when the following amendment is proposed:
by striking "Alzheimer's disease patient" and inserting
This law would apply to everyone. Let's read on.
"shall award grants to health care agencies, State and local law
enforcement agencies, or public safety agencies to assist such
agencies in designing, establishing, and operating locative
tracking technology programs for individuals with forms
of dementia, such as Alzheimer's Disease, or children with
developmental disabilities, such as autism, who have wandered
from safe environments"
OK, I'm creeped out. Our tax dollars will be used for "locative
tracking technology". Can you say, George Orwell's
Yes, the clause goes on to say it will be used for individuals with
disabilites. It doesn't state that the rest of us won't be labeled
In fact, they replaced "Alzheimer's disease patient" with
"Americans". That qualifies all of us, instead of just a small
proportion of the American population. Who'll decide if we
need a "locative tracking technology" device? Or, perhaps, the
better question is who will decide who will track us?
the Attorney General shall--
(i) the criteria used to determine which individuals would benefit
from the use of a tracking device;
(ii) the criteria used to determine who should have direct access
to the tracking system
Our new master could be the U.S. Attorney General. Do you know
who this is? Do you care? You probably should! Are you ready to
kneel, begging for your freedom of movement?
If not, then it would be prudent
to write your local Senator
and demand that he or she vote against this flagrantly abusive
House bill. If we pay attention, we can still stop the passage of
I have added eight movies to the
Just a quick update. We finally got some real snow last night
into this morning. I took the day off, of course. The ATV snow
plow worked quite well. OK, it lacks the weight of a truck;
however, it works if one is careful and persistent.
I cleared my driveway without too much trouble. The main
problem is my inexperience. I'll improve with time. Meanwhile,
the snow tires on the Mazda allow me easy access. That's what
I was concerned about. I have snowshoes, but 'shoeing to the
camper would get old!
I also did the laundry. Boy, do I dislike daytime TV! It's all "totally,
like, you know, well he said this, and I said, like, you're totally
wrong", etc. And the hysteria of the female-hosted talk shows is
obnoxious. It's no wonder people are so chaotic!
11th of December 2016
Last night was the coldest so far. I saw 4 degrees Fahrenheit!
Of course, I forgot to turn on the secondary LPG tank and
I ran out of gas at 2 AM.
I groggily pulled the lever door handle. It wouldn't move. I
thought, I'm trapped! Of course, I could always pop out the
rear window. It'll always work--right?--because it's the
After a couple of minutes I got the door open. Then, the
same lever that was frozen closed, stuck open. So I used
the door lock to keep the door shut. It's thawed out now
and back to normal.
Cold weather performance
I've been monitoring the temperature underneath the
camper. I'm concerned about the grey water tank freezing.
It's tucked close to the floor, which is warm.
Yesterday morning the overnight temperature was in the
low teens and the temperature underneath was in the mid
thirties. This morning, with the 4 degree minimum, the
temperature was 29 degrees.
I don't think the tank froze because I've been keeping it
mostly full. I also added some baking soda and other stuff
to lower the freezing point. I'll definitely need to watch it.
I think last night is about the coldest it should get.
I'm really glad that I did a good job on the skirt! I'll install a
12 Volt tank heater in the spring. It's supposed to warm
up and snow so there's an end in sight!
But wait, there's more good news! I can still pump water
from the well. The fitting on top freezes a bit, but warms
up when handled. I blow off the top of the well head after
pumping. That gets rid of any standing water, which will
freeze. The little hut for the well head has been helping,
Speaking of the air compressor, I have wired up a battery
connection. This way a battery can start the compressor.
It was tough to start by hand in the cool autumn. I wouldn't
be able to start it by hand now.
Here are some photos:
My only complaint is that there's no convenient
grounding point to use. That's a small criticism because
the starter motor works well! I employ the old camper
battery to start the compressor.
The camper battery, currently in use, continues to
perform well. It's never run out of charge. I'm glad that
I purchased such a large one.
The solar array does a
decent job of keeping the battery charged during the day.
This should be the worst time of year because the sun is
low and the furnace--the main consumer of electricity--runs
I notified my bosses of my termination of the contract.
They seemed surprised. My cubicle mate and former
surpervisor--the one I like--are jealous. Do I regret the
It is a bit unnerving quiting a job without a replacement
lined up. However, I have high hopes that my DIY manual
will yield a profit. I definitely won't miss the commute
or the place.
The latest brilliant idea they have undertaken is the
closure of the main cafeteria. Time to re-model. I joked
that the replacement would be food trucks. And I was
correct. People now have to stand outside and get some
garbage from a roach coach. Craziness!
Can they make the working environment any worse?
Yes, they could re-model all the restrooms and supply
porta-potties in the parking lot. It makes sense because
they can take up more parking spaces and inconvenience
people at the same time!
Make It Tricky, Make It Terrible, MIT
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for the past
presidential election, has a good sense of humor:
2nd December 2016
I have added six movies to the
Please recall that I was going to invoke Plan "C" to keep
my water source thawed during the inevitable deep freeze.
Well, I had "a bit of a think" about it.
I could put a heat lamp in the enclosure to keep it warm.
Instead, I let Mother Nature keep my water source secure.
I pulled up the pump and drilled an eight-inch weep hole
at a depth of about ten feet. This hole will allow water to
drain back to a frost-free level. Wanna see? Take a look by
I tested it. The pump has no trouble
pushing up fresh water. There's just a small hiccup in the flow
as the air pocket is pushed back to the surface. Lovely. No
costly heat lamp for me. Hopefully, Plan "Caveman" won't be
Today, I broke out the gasoline-powered chainsaw, and
managed to get it running. I set my sights on chopping up my
previous adversary, Oakie.
I enjoy the electric 'saw because it's so quiet; however, there's
just no way that it can replace good ole dinosaur power! After
two tanks, I had chopped up the monster and an
unfortunate evergreen victim.
It felt good. What felt great was raising the axe against sections
of this tree. I enjoy splitting wood. It may seem juvenile. It may
be just "too masculine". It's great! There's nothing quite like
splitting a piece of wood. It's quiet, requires strength and some
skill, and usually produces fuel for the future.
Life off the grid continues to be important. It's different to find
warmth from a steel bottle. It's something else to know that most
of your electricity comes from a small Honda generator. (The solar
panels cannot charge the battery fully now. It is winter.)
It could be worse. I could be suckling off the corporate teat. It's not
that their orchestrated life is so bad. You don't have to continuously
fill up a generator. You don't have to pump water from a well into a
I don't regret a bit of it. I am controlling my own life. I live or die
by my own hand. That is what makes living off-the-grid so appealing.
It's a matter of choice.
If the electric grid goes down, for whatever reason, the public is
stuck. It's candles and wood-burning for heat. I hate to write it;
however, the brown-outs and other outages will become more
common as time advances.
Have you looked at the idiots who are
taking over the reins? Do you really think this massive generation
of video-games-we-can-reset-problems really cares enough to keep
the lights on?
I've had enough of walking half-a-mile to a cubicle in a place that I
hate. My workplace has decided to install solar panels. Good move?
No, in a time when they have managed to hire the largest number
of people; they decided to block off a couple of hundred of parking
Now, anyone arriving "too late" must park half a mile away and hoof
it. I feel like I'm back in college. Except this time there are no cute
college girls. Instead I encounter self-centered, idiotic
morons who "know" they are the best thing ever.
The above reasons, and a multitude of others, have compelled me to
resign my position. On Monday, I will terminate my contract, effective
later this month. (They had their chance to fire me for not being there!)
You know, I won't miss the place at all. I have nothing to show of the
two years and six months, other than the wage. That is very, very sad.
There is a positive side. That place did allow me to pay off
my Mazda and save enough to live life for about a year without another
I won't regret counting down the days until I won't be in that crippling
environment. I'm not alone because a good friend rejoiced that soon I'll
be out of the prison. (He managed to be laid off.)
I can't explain the devasting effect that place will have on any
normal individual. It's shocking. Imagine knowing who you are and then
having that identity dissected and dismissed by losers.
Naturally, your question is what will happen after you use up your
year's worth of savings. I hope that I will have written a selling
do-it-yourself manual that chronicles what I have already done.
Yes, it's a gamble. But when is such a thing not a chance? At least, I will
be out of the rat race. I can be a starving writer for a time. I have no
family to support.
That's why I feel this decision will renew my life. I'm not growing younger,
so why shouldn't I try for what I desire whilst I have the energy? At worst,
I will have another experience! Life is a bunch of experiences.
26th November 2016
So I have these quality speakers in place in the camper.
Right? And would you know that one speaker continued to
cut in and out. Not coincidentally, it is the first speaker that
When I pulled the spotty speaker, I found that the wire
had been stripped far, far too long and then poorly
crimped in a basic "blue" plastic slide-on connector.
Is this a problem from the "dreaded previous owner"--who
I know as a "proactive man"--or is it evidence of a lazy
company man? If it's the latter, how long do I have till
a suspect electrical connection fails and incinerates me
while I sleep? I know the smoke detector works, so that's
But, back to the speakers, and happier thoughts! I solved
the first-replaced speaker wiring problem. What got me
was that the problem continued even after I made a
I did what most guys would do: I smacked the nearby
panel. And, this indicated a deeper problem because the
speaker didn't change. That is, it didn't start working
or stop working when I jabbed its ceiling panel.
Then, I remembered that this camper didn't come with a
CD radio head unit. Could there be a loose connection at
the radio itself? I opened up one of cubby holes that
houses my electronics and tools, and allows access to the
radio's backside. I sighed and closed the door.
Who uses wire nuts on the leads to loudspeakers? Of
course, a maintenance man. This same man is also a good
carpenter. It was he who made the pitched, lumber
structure that probably prevented my camper from being
holed by "Oakie."
The question is now solved. Thank you for the snow frame,
Stuart! Next time we meet, allow me to convince you that
wire nuts are not the best choice for low-current, low-noise
speaker wire connections! I'll buy you a beer and explain.
Now that I have succeeded with all of my major projects, I
am slowing down. But, as momentum prevails, I have many
small jobs to undertake.
I replaced the wire nuts on the radio. I also installed a new
door seal on the oven. The original seal disintegrated. The
manufacturer wanted $50 for a replacement! I spent $20 at
McMaster-Carr instead. I hope the RTV silicone rubber will
take the heat once it is fully cured.
I also installed a 30-amp breaker and switch for the power
inverter. This, coupled with a short three-prong extension
cord, will allow me to remotely control the inverter. No
more squeezing underneath the table. That's luxury!
I wanted to buck "Oakie" today. I mixed fresh gas and oil
and filled up the chainsaw. I tried for about ten minutes
to start it. No luck. I haven't used it for a year so I think
something may be plugged. I'll have to inspect it later.
New photos of the camp!
I have changed the camp a bit. I'm ready for winter!
I have covered the truck bed and put a tarp over the recycling
bins. Of course, you know about the other changes:
the "skirt" and sealing the camper windows. Below are
I don't understand why there are smoke marks from
the water heater exhaust. It is running well enough and
definitely not rich. The flame is yellow. Whatever. I give up.
Heat water and smoke however much you want! I can
clean the flue in the spring.
Water, speakers, etc.
I installed the previously-mentioned point-of-use
water filter. It does indeed remove arsenic. The level
is now nil.
I replaced the speakers in the camper. They would cut
in and out. That was very annoying. The new speakers
weren't very expensive, but they sound quite good.
I'm slowing down, which is a relief. I checked the
tightness of all the screws in the electrical system of the
PV circuits. I sealed the skirt a bit more to stop a couple
of drafts, which made the floor cold in spots.
An individual, named Seven7Lives, uploads videos to
YouTube. Evidently, he puts video to existing songs.
The one below is one of his more exciting videos that
explores the lives of individuals in both the Old World
and New World.
Even if you don't care for the ambience music, the video
is worth watching. There are some clever shots. Below
is the link:
Saturday, the 19th
Solar system completed!
I finished the inside wiring later on Monday. It went
quick once inside the camper. Here are a few shots:
What you see is the charge controller, the black and
white box. It detects available voltage and charges
the battery. I set the operating voltage and type of
battery. Also, there is a connection to measure actual
battery voltage & a thermistor to measure the battery
temperature. They optimize the charging.
Currently, it's showing both the red and yellow LEDs.
This means that the state-of-charge is under 35%. As
the battery voltage increases, the LEDs cycle to yellow
and green, then green, then flashing green.
And it's nearly silent! If you listen closely you can hear
that's quicker than a wristwatch.
Of course, I had to install breakers between the solar
array and charge controller & between the controller
and the battery. They're in a box with another surge
The suppressor also indicates when the panels are
active because the blue LEDs only turn on when the
array is energized. That was intentional, of course
Living with solar
I've been letting the array charge the battery since
Monday. it does a reasonable job keeping the battery
filled up. In fact, the battery doesn't drop below 12
Volts so the water heater will always run!
The power isn't as much as I expected. It is nearly
winter and the two monster trees are still standing.
So things will get better! For now the Honda
generator doesn't have to work as hard.
I added more insulation to the well head box. It may
be enough to keep the pipe from freezing. Wouldn't
that be convenient. Here are a couple of photos:
I've been using my own water, and it has been a
good experience. I have yet to run out despite the
I ran one more test. It's an arsenic test because
water filtering through granite is likely to absorb
some of the metal.
The test shows a safe level of the poison in the
water. I had planned on it in the past so I had
purchased a point-of-use water filter. It's
specifically designed to remove arsenic and fluoride
as well as another nasty element. I retrieved
it from the garage today. I just need to plumb it
in. Until then, I'm living dangerously!
I have added five movies & one TV program
See the previous entry, below, which was also
Monday, the 14th
The weather was just too damned fine to be working
today! I saw 62 degrees today. I also made great
On Saturday, I finished the wiring and test charged
the old RV battery. It charged well with no problems.
I figured if I blew up a battery, it should be the one that
I don't need for my furnace!
The successful test encouraged me to bury the power
lines. Below are a few shots of the trench across the
Below's an extra shot of the cable as it emerges from the
trench and sneaks along the edge of the drive. I did bury
the cables where they cross the "grey", again near the solar
array, but for this section they reside above ground. I also
think the photo is cool:
The insulation is heavy like a professional, outdoor
extension cord so there's no worry about vehicles running
it over, and the elements and critters should be unable
to penetrate it.
Here are two shots of the fully-wired combiner box and
First, the coil of wire just under the panels is not the
permanent solution. I had ordered 30-foot solar cables
because I didn't know how long I needed. Once I have
the correct lengths, I'll do a neater job.
The two heavily-insulated cables, which I previously
described as being buried, and the ground cable run down
the post comprise the power connection to the camper.
wraps aren't overly pretty. If they survive the winter, then
they can stay. Otherwise, I will install large "hose" clamps.
The clear globe mounted on the outside of the box is
the Midnite Solar Surge Suppressor. I have previously
described its function. It's powered up and one blue LED
is burning in this photo.
I am not a professional electrician so, please, don't write
that I didn't maintain a blah-blah at bling-bling. If you
would be kind enough to warn me of a potential fire hazard,
then please follow this link:
Bill screwed up and I want to save his life!.
I did my best to produce a safe and durable wiring solution.
I also sealed the box with quality silicone caulking. Yes, I
splurged and bought the most expensive brand that was
I had to hook the surge suppressor into the positive side
of the circuit. This required splicing into a wire because
there's no positive bus bar. To avoid double lugging,
which is not up to code, I used a copper "doghouse"
connector. It's visible just below breaker no. 1 in the
rightmost photo above.
Double lugging is something I didn't know about so I'll
quickly relate it. Typically, screw-down lugs are meant to
accomodate only one cable. In fact, the National Electrical
Code (i.e. NEC) states that only one cable shall be
connected to a lug, unless there is a method to attach
Stuffing another wire into a single screw-down lug is a
violation. It's obvious that only one cable should be
attached when there's just one screw. In a two-cable
attachment, like in many circuit breakers (on the service
side), there is a steel plate with two bevels for two cables.
OK, you can do a good job by joining two wires "by the
strand". However, doing this and attaching them to a
single-lug connection is, as far as I can tell, still against
I value my life and my camper so I am doing my very best to
wire up the solar to the NEC standard. Fire is the real
fear when one is running a homemade electrical solution.
Fire is also a very bad way to die.
On a brighter note, the bottom two panels are the ones
that will recharge my camper's battery. It's only 200 Watts
but when you think about it, that is a lot of power when
delivered over three or four hours. Pictured below is the
array: (the bottom two half-monocrystalline panels will be
On Sunday, I pounded another grounding stake into the
ground. I hit immobile stone at the same depth. Hmm.
Maybe that is the beginning of the bedrock? Whatever.
I cut this stake, too. It's good enough, especially if the
stake is touching bedrock!
I fitted the false front to the combiner box. Later, I will
re-torque the screws behind it, but till then it looks cool.
It also reminds me of my accomplishment, and gives
closure of this task. Take a look:
I made stunning progress on the solar array this
morning! I finished grounding the combiner box
and the panels. Driving the eight-foot copper-plated
stake into the ground was a pain. It took me four times
before I missed a large, buried stone.
The fifth time I used water to ease the driving. It was
hard work. It was going well enough until I was down
five feet. Then, I hit a stone. I couldn't get it to move
so I just cut off the post. Remember I am not on the
grid. I can make decisions like this one without fear.
(Gee, I feel important.)
After that, things materialized in a flurry. I finished
wiring the combiner box. I laid the large cables to the
camper. I plugged in the two panels in parallel. I
checked one at a time at the camper end of the cables.
I wondered about the voltage. It seems that the voltage
of a solar panel without any load is 15-16 Volts for an
instant before becoming "open". This matches the
voltage printed on the back of the panels.
With two panels wired into their separate breakers,
voltage at the camper is 15-16 Volts, not twice that.
Good. I got the wiring correct. Kirchhoff would be
I also wired in a
Midnite Solar Surge Suppressor
to protect the panels & the combiner box from
electrical surges (i.e. lightning strikes). Essentially,
it employs some clever electrical trickery to instantly
detect and step-down high voltage. It directs the
excessive power into the ground via the grounding
Oh, I checked that too. The resistance between the
stake and the equipment grounding bus is 0 Ohms.
That's a good thing. I don't need anything standing
in the way!
The surge suppressor is probably unnecessary, but
I figure better safe than sorry. The lightning surge
could also find its way into the camper. Can you say
Driveway, then and now
Today, four years ago, I took a video of my proposed
driveway. I pushed through small trees to make the
video, which I shared with a few relatives. No doubt,
these few individuals thought I was a bit odd for
presenting the video!
Now that the driveway is completed, I figured it a good
time to upload both videos. The landmarks have been
changed a bit but are still recognizable. It's kind of
neat. Take a look:
(Neither video has an audio track.)
Friday, Armistice Day
OK, now it's called Veteran's Day to expand the scope.
Originally, the eleventh day of the eleventh month at
the eleventh hour marked the armistice of World War I.
This cease-fire was so very welcomed by most peoples
that it was remembered for decades afterwards.
That war is something to think about. The first world
war resulted in the largest loss of life in combat ever.
And for what reason? A royal was killed in a rough city,
which resulted in activation of military alliances, and
the death of millions.
This brings me to the current protests and disruptions
caused by the recent presidential election results. No
one has died, no one will die in the near future, and this
nation's status of war hasn't changed.
When emotion is avoided and a calm, objective
outlook is utilized, what power does the President of
the United States of America really have? This
individual is there to implement the laws created
and passed by Congress.
Yes, this individual also is the leader during a war.
So if the protesters were really fearful of Mr. Trump
wielding the American military against other nations,
why didn't they protest the warful status that has
existed since late 2001?
It's time to stop acting like spoiled children
and accept the outcome of the election. Disrupting
others' lives just because your choice
didn't win the election is not how adults act.
I urge you to protest but do not get in the way of
other's lives. That is beyond your First Amendment
My personal view of the election results is one of
relief. You see, I have long felt that federal elections
were rigged. In this case, one cannot avoid noticing
that the mass media, a majority of the world's
billionaires, and many foreign peoples supported
Ms. Clinton. Despite all this power behind a rather
unpopular candidate, the more popular Mr. Trump
Thus, I feel that there is evidence that the governed
actually have some choice in this fine nation. I did
not vote for Mr. Trump, and am rather surprised by
many of his comments; however, I abide by the
popular decision, which is reflected by the electoral
On a positive note, maybe it's time that a
businessman with no political experience be the
chief executive of this nation.
This country is completely built on money. Why not
have a leader of some successful business ventures
oversee this nation? Maybe he can reduce the public
debt, or at least, balance the federal budget?
Mr. Trump, you have accomplished the unexpected.
Now put away your ego and do what is right for the
American majority who put you into office. Prove
that the current disruptions are without foundation!
I found an interested article written by an
international organization based in Paris. The entire
article is available
for your reference.
It's interesting because it includes a bar graph (below,
click for a larger view) of the percentages of national
GDP spent on health care. Of course, Americans
spend the most (16.4%). Those hip replacements
and nose jobs add up!
The information that struck me was the percentage
of GDP contributed by the public sector (i.e. the
taxpayers administered by the government). Our
government contributes about 7.5%.
Now, I expected the European taxpayers to
contribute much more because their health-care
systems are State-run. I learned something.
The Netherlands taxpayer contribution is almost
10% of their GDP. And that's the highest one!
In fact, only the following nations match or better
the US taxpayer's GDP contribution to health care:
Where are the rest of the European nations? The
taxpayers of Italy, Spain, Portgual, the UK, Ireland,
Norway, Greece, etc. all spend less than we do!
Even the taxpayers in most of the nations
the Nordic model
pay less than we do! And many experts claim that
their health-care systems are the best in the world.
This begs a question: where does all of our tax
Oakie, the would-be murderer & convicted camper cutter
Recall that a large branch of a standing, dead
oak tree almost killed me in the summer? And
recently this same dead tree dropped a branch on
my camper, punching a sizeable hole in the outer
Well, I'm pleased to report that this dead tree
has been felled. On Saturday, John downed it.
We did have to fell a healthy tree to ensure that
the dead oak wouldn't kick back, holing the
camper or removing one of our heads. Sorry,
What a relief having the mighty, dead tree down.
When I have a chance, I'll buck it for firewood.
Then, I can split logs. I enjoy that task!
I've been drinking my well water. It passed the
bacteria test a few Sundays ago, as I expected.
Pumping the water is working well. There's always
been more than enough water available.
One snag is that neither of the two pumps,
which I purchased with the intention of lowering
the water level in the pump output pipe, didn't
do the job. They lack the power to pull enough
water. Pushing water is always easier, of course.
The result is that water persists at the
quick-disconnect fitting at the water seal that's
immediately on top of the water seal. I have made
an insulating box, but I don't think this will stop
the fitting from freezing in January. Hmm.
I've fallen back to Plan C. C is for caveman. I have
a propane space heater. (Thanks, Mike!) It should
be enough to thaw the fitting. The question is
will the freezing rupture the brass fitting or the
plastic pipe underneath it. Time will tell!
I re-plumbed the second LPG tank with a tee. Now,
I can open up the second tank during particularly
cold nights to reduce the chance of having to
switch tanks early in the morning. Hey, it's
a step in the right direction!
The water heater and I have come to an agreement.
I found that it won't fire up unless it has a supply
of 12 Volts or higher. This is acceptable when
shore power is connected (i.e. the Honda generator
is running). However, I don't run the genny all
I've found the solution is to run the heater
whenever I have shore power and switch it off
all other times. The six gallon water-heater tank
is well insulated so I've had some warm water in
the morning for a shower. As the outside
temperatures drop, this may become a challenge.
I completed sealing up the camper. The skirt is
quite tight. In fact, when I empty the grey water
tank on cool mornings, warm air greets me from
underneath the trailer.
I also sealed all the windows with sticky, clear
plastic. This is the thin film that workmen put
down on floors to protect them while they work.
So far, so good!
I replaced a few weak seals on the door and
re-adjusted the striker plate. These cheap fixes
make a big difference. My gas usage has remained
a bit high. It's what it is. There's no need to
whine about it!
Last Saturday, I wired the ground line for the
first solar array. A single run of stranded, 6
gauge is connected to the equipment ground
bus bar, run through the conduit, picks up all
eight panel grounding lugs, and returns to the
bar via the conduit.
It sounds like a five minute job. While not too
bad, it definitely takes a couple of hours. Next,
I need to run a line to a copper grounding stake.
Then, I can run the power lines to the camper.
The next steps are mostly "inside" jobs. I need
to fit a breaker box to fuse the charge controller
and battery. This will be a fun job. After that, I'll
be done, finally! Photos will be posted later.
I have added seven movies & one TV program
late Friday, the 28th
Today, I was too worn out to drive the hours to the
job. Instead, I tested my well water. It passed all tests.
I checked for lead, pesticides, nitrates, copper, and
The chlorine level is 1 ppm instead of zero. No doubt,
that was caused by me introducing the bleach crystals.
The organic test is ongoing, but currently is negative
for harmful bacteria. I'll know for sure on Sunday.
With these results, I filled my fresh water tank. No more
filling water jugs at Donna's and pouring them in. Now,
I just run the big generator and fill the tank on site. Ah,
I brought the Internet inside the camper. That just
means I put a hole in the camper and wired up
everything. I then placed a few orders, caught up
with my Netflix queue, and uploaded a couple of
I'm finally catching up! The ivy plant is doing well, too.
I flushed the water heater tank to extend its life.
The inside is coated to act as one large anode that
sacrifices itself as ions build up in the water.
I think I forgot to post an image of the solar arrays
in their winter configuration. I was so busy explaining
my tool that I didn't upload a photo! Well, below it is.
Sorry about that!
Regret the move?
I drive by the old apartment every day on the way
to work, when I do work that is! I do not miss the
loud neighbors. In fact, I'm a lot calmer without
them living next door slamming everything.
I sort of miss the laundry facilities on site. But,
this gives me incentive to work on building my
cabin. And it's not that bad because the
laundromat is just at the end of the street.
I've been keeping the camper at 70-72 degrees
inside. Yes, this is a bit balmy for me. I'm concerned
that the water tanks may freeze so I'd rather pay a bit
more money for gas until I am more familiar.
The skirt makes a noticeable difference because
the furnace doesn't cycle on and off as often as
it did "pre-skirt". I still need to seal up two tricky
spots so the efficiency will only increase.
I've been forgetting to write how much I enjoy
my chlorine-free water. The chlorine odor used
to me smack me in the face in the apartment
whenever I opened a tap. Even a bit drunk, it
would shock me!
The new battery is still performing well. It was worth
the money. I moved the original battery inside and
stored it next to the truck battery. They're the same
size! It's no wonder I ran out of charge too quickly!
One drawback of living off-the-grid is waking up
in the wee hours shivering. Yes, the "active" LPG tank has
been emptied on two occasions, so far, in the middle of
the night. Of course, there's nothing to do but reach
down into one's reserves, go outside, and hook up
the other tank.
It could be worse because this exercise is just a simple
transfer of the "whip" to the adjacent tank. I ensure that
I have a full tank ready alongside the "active" tank. Once
back inside everything comes back to life. That feels good!
This song is catchy and from Greece. Neat!
I have added ten movies to the GRS
Thursday, the 27th
I'm off again. At this rate, they're sure to lay me off
I wish I could write that I'm playing hooky, alas that isn't
the case. Last night I came home and the water heater
refused to fire up. (I had switched it off so I could be here
while it runs.)
Needless to say, I didn't get a good night's sleep! Why are
problems so much larger when it's dark and early in the
morning? After a hearty breakfast, I dressed in double
clothes and a jacket and set out to repair the water heater.
Since we had a freeze last night, I reckoned that there's
water in the gas lines, which froze. This obvious obstruction
would cause an intermittent gas delivery problem. When
I crawled underneath--after removing sections of the skirt--I
found it quite warm.
I disconnected one section of the gas supply line and sprayed
brake cleaner down it. The other end emitted a mostly clear
liquid. Hmm. While thinking about it, I decided to clean
the "whips" that connect the individual LPG tanks to the
Because I have two tanks, there's a Tee to plumb the "whips"
to the regulator input. It's a new regulator (see previous entry).
Would you know it, the Tee was plugged on one side. The cleaner
wouldn't clear it and neither I nor the air compressor could
blow it out. There's a problem!
I checked the "whips" and they were both plugged up!! It's
a wonder, or a bit of good karma, that the oven/stove &
furnace ran. Thank you!
The local hardware store had sold-out of replacement
"whips", so I assembled my own. Inside the big plastic knob
that connects to the tank is a check valve. It's there to
prevent pressure (or flame) from the trailer or grill entering
the tank. That would result in a
As a precaution, I sprayed out the other under-trailer supply
lines. They were clean, too. As I was buttoning up the gas
system, it began to rain. Now, as you would expect, the
water heater fired right up.
The other appliances still worked.
More importantly, with a burner on and the furnace running,
the sound at the tank is a reassuring sssssshhhhh. Previously,
there was, of course, no audible sound.
I think this discovery and repair will dramatically reduce my
gas usage. Think about it, two plugged lines means that only
a certain pressure from the tank could get through to run, say
the fridge/freezer. After that, the tank could be a quarter full
but I would think it empty.
...all the appliances are working well in the camper. The
fridge/freezer keeps my beer cool and my pizza frozen. I'll
admit that I have been consuming a lot of both lately. Once
things settle down, I'll cut back on both. I miss my veggies.
The composting toilet is going well. It just takes a bit longer
than pressing a lever. I find that I like it because it's quieter
and doesn't waste any water. If the bucket starts to smell,
because I didn't add enough of something; then I just dump it
into the outside barrel and start over.
The outside barrel is doing well. I researched the ammonia smell.
This smell is a good sign for a composting toilet. It's just a
symptom of the liquid in urine being used to break down the
Snickers bars. (Remember the pool scene from
The small space of the camper isn't easy; however, I don't have
trouble with it. I just have to be careful to stow things or else
I will have to step over them! This is not always easy because I
have two major projects still going: wire the solar arrays and
getting the well working.
Water, water, everywhere!
The trailer hasn't sprung a leak! I just retrieved my 3000 Watt
generator and used it to run the well pump. (Yes, it fit quite
well in the backseat of my Mazda 2! Didn't you know that is
part of their marketing campaign for this admirable super-mini?)
The big genny ran cleanly on LPG (AKA "propane") for about
an hour. Yes, I ran the pump continuously for one hour. The
water flow rate was at least 3 GPM, too, for most of that
duration! I will never have to worry about running out of water.
Allow me to put this into perspective: 3 GPM (gallons per
minute) is a typical residential shower on full blast. Imagine
running your shower fully open for an hour. That's what I
did. It's a good thing that I have plenty of well-drained woods
to soak up the water!
That's a lot of water! I'm not surprised because the well
pump will push water to the surface until it runs out of
oomph. That is supposed to occur around 260 feet down.
In a six-inch bore, that amounts to 350 gallons! It's disgusting
that my no-flow well can deliver so much water. The water will
probably be replaced by the weekend.
Near the end of pumping, I snapped a photo of the pump
output. Note the water is still coming out with plenty of force:
I employed a small tree because I was tired of "hosing down"
my woods. The white hose is a special one that is supposed to
be OK to deliver potable water. If I croak, you'll know the white
hose isn't good!
Above is what the well head now looks like. I removed the
top of my well cap--blue ring is the bottom--and fitted a
well seal--black disc with four bolts and a nylon
square-headed plug. The seal allows
me to access the water output line and electrical plug. This
is just temporary, for use with my camper. For the cabin, I'll
bury the water line below the frost line.
The generator is loud but it does a good job. And since it
can run on either LPG or gasoline--I'll almost always use
LPG--I probably won't have to change the oil. Gas is
so much cleaner than a liquid. (Yes, I sound like the current
Irving radio commercial!)
My good friend Cal remarked that he saw an ancient engine
running off natural gas coming straight out of the ground.
When he asked--as any normal guy would--how often do you
change the oil, the response was "never so far. But we figure
it's due to be changed in fifty years!"
Gas systems are just that clean. Think about it: you boil tap
water to steam a food. Is the lid ever really dirty? I defy you to
say yes, regardless of where you live.
Vaporizing a hydrocarbon is no different. The crap is
left behind, which results in a clean-burning, fossil fuel. That is
real, clean, affordable energy for the future!
Back to my well pump, you probably noticed the white
Styrofoam box around the well head. I built this box as a
way to buy some time. I have a similar Styrofoam lid to cover it.
Of course, this is not a permanent solution because the
ground will freeze solid to a depth of four feet here.
The output water line would freeze.
Since there is no way (short of heating the well "house") to
keep the top four-feet of water line from freezing, I will just
pump out the water in that section of line.
How will I do that? The keen reader will understand that I
can't just run the submerged pump. The check valve at 200
feet will easily maintain the water level into the frost zone.
I have purchased a small, cheap handheld pump that is spun
by a power drill. It's used by plumbers to quickly empty
stopped-up sinks. I figure it can empty a 1-inch
tube to a depth of five feet.
I couldn't test this idea because I need a male-to-male garden
hose union to hook up the drill pump. (OK, that sentence sounds
a bit too "progressive" to me!) I'll purchase the required brass
fitting--that's not much better.
Before the ground freezes, I need to run the two 2-gauge
outdoor wires from the solar array. Once I am happy with the
lengths, I can bury them in the driveway. At the same time, I
will "dig in" the DSL/phone line.
I must put the solar charge controller inside the camper. This
controller has microelectronics in it to optimize the charging
of, in this, my camper battery. The controller also opens the
circuit after the sun sets. Yes, the battery will try to charge the
Back to the water well:
I feel that I have pumped out the well enough to make the water
safe for washing and bathing. I will test the water for "bad
stuff". (I have a kit.) Just to be sure, I will continue to buy spring
water for some time.
While I was underneath the camper this morning, I learned where
I need to better seal the skirt. See, everything has a reason. I'm
planning to use expanding foam in plastic bags to form an
irregular seal around troublesome areas like the grey-water
gate valve and the door steps. Wish me luck!
I also need to seal the camper's windows. This action is not unlike
replacing the storm windows on a house after the summer. Lately,
I have been feeling a "reminder" breeze from the windows.
Life continues to improve in my small home. Remembering this
fact is important to maintain my morale. I find that I must focus
on this reality and ignore the current hardships. Hey, it worked
to solve my week without hot water!
See the previous entry, below, which was also
Tuesday, the 25th of October
I'm off again today to supervise the installation of the
DSL/phone line. The technician did a good job and is a
friendly guy. I have the connection for both the Internet
and telephone. I just need to drill the hole into the camper
to complete the installation.
Speaking of holes in the camper, I purchased another
power inverter. This time from Radio Shack. This one is
of higher quality. I learned that my "high quality",
expensive unit had probably been refurbished. There was
duct tape on the connectors instead of heat shrink. What a
piece of sh!t!
I also purchased the one-year "free" replacement for the
"Radio Hack" inverter. The kid did a good job, despite
being new on the job. Why is it that I like to get to know
people, even strangers? Could it be my writing streak?
I ran the new inverter all Monday night. It ran without
a hitch and didn't sound like a cat being de-clawed!
I have high hopes for its long service. If not, I'll be back
to Radio Shack!
While the DSL technician worked, I continued to test
the water heater. I fitted a new copper gas-supply line.
I used the flaring tool & spinning pipe cutters that Bob
left behind. Hey, the price is right!
I then hooked up my state-of-the-art manometer. Before
explaining the device--I haven't made one since
college--I'll explain the basic theory. Please bear with me.
A manometer employs physics to measure a
differential gas pressure. Differential pressure is just the
difference between the amount of gas molecules in one
volume when compared to a different number of particles
in the same, though different, volume.
In reality, we employ differential
pressure to deliver "propane" to our barbeque grill
burners, or in this case, to a certain obscurant water
A manometer is just a clear U-tube filled with a liquid.
The pressure line is connected to one end of the U and
the other end opens to the atmosphere. If there's pressure
in the "pressure line", it pushes the liquid up the
U-tube against the atmospheric pressure. If there's a
vacuum, then the atmosphere pushes the liquid down
Thus, the difference in pressure between the atmosphere
(~14.7 psi) and the pressure line is measured in inches or
millimeters. Usually, there are only two liquids utilized in
these simple instruments, i.e. water & mercury.
Mercury is used in barometers, which are manometers
with a closed atmospheric end that, instead, have a
calibrated pressure there. That's why you may hear the
weather forecaster saying "the barometric pressure
has dropped to 28 inches and we should all prepare for
a storm", or a low-pressure system!
My water heater needs 11-inches-of-water LPG pressure
to operate. I connected my manometer, which, of course,
references the atmospheric pressure.
Below is my manometer connected to the water-heater
gas supply line, albeit with the gas tanks closed. It shows
equal levels of water in each leg, as we would expect--the
water levels are about 11-and-a-half lines from the bottom.
(This is not a pressure measurement. I am just indicating
where the water column ends.)
When I turned the main gas tank on and lit up a burner
and the furnace kicked on, as specified by the repair
manual, I captured the following photo of the
The difference in the water column is a bit difficult
to see. Usually, coloring is used to make the water
stand out. So let's compare the photos side by side:
The eagle-eyed will see the difference in the columns.
For the rest of us, I marked the water levels with
horizontal lines. Blue is level. That means no pressure.
The yellow lines show the differential pressure with
the gas tank open, and the burner and furnace operating.
Reading a manometer is as simple as counting marks.
Unfortunately, in this case, the top of the right column
marked in yellow is underneath the tape. Trust me on
Now we just need to count the number of lines
from the top yellow mark to the other one. Did you
count nine and a half?
You see, these horizontals marks are spaced every inch.
You have just determined that the pressure at the water
heater is 9-and-a-half inches of water!
That's less than the 11 inches that the heater needs to
run. I looked underneath the camper and doubted that
the beefy main lines were obstructed, especially since
the fridge/freezer and furnace work well.
I continued upstream to the two-stage regulator. Didn't I
suggest this unit could be faulty? I disconnected it and
examined the output line. The regulator had to be the
problem when I saw the output hose was OK. So I
purchased a replacement.
That solved it, right? Nope! I had still more to learn!
I'll admit that I was upset when the new regulator
delivered the necessary 11-inches-of-water to my
water heater, but it wouldn't fire up. I even re-checked
previous work like gapping the electrode.
Finally, I decided to listen to the gas output with the
poor-man's stethescope--a rubber tube. (My stethescope
is in the storage garage.) The circuit
board would click the solenoids open and there would
be a momentary burst of gas hiss, then nothing.
How can a flame burn like that? So I connected a
12-Volt battery directly to the solenoids, and the flow
didn't "burst", it ran continuous. I even bypassed the
two thermostats, hoping they were blown.
It turned out that the new circuit board didn't work
as it should. It would momentarily open the solenoids
and then shut them. I replaced the original board and
had a working water heater. That expensive
"replacement" reminded me, yet again, that new parts
don't always work.
I also fitted a well seal instead of the well cap to the
well head. This unit will cinch the output pipe and
wires. That prevents them from descending the well
and hanging on the safety line.
That installed, I trimmed the output pipe and started
a well "house" of insulation to shelter the pipe from
the soon-to-drop temperatures. Remember that I used
check valves to maintain the static water level even
when the pump is off?
This may ease the life of the pump, but it exposes
the output pipe to freezing. I may have to blow it
The "house" is completed save the roof. I need to
design a good top panel. I have ideas and will post a
photo of the entire "house" later.
After being without hot water for almost a week, that
first camp shower was pure luxury! It's similar to camping
with Mike in the great Utah wilderness and then returning
home for a shower. Except, I had no hot water!
Now it seems that I'm all set. Though, I wish the gas
pressure was higher than the minimium to run the water
heater. There I go: we can do better than the minimum.
See the previous entry, below, which was also
Sunday, the 23rd of October
OK, so the camper didn't shrug off the dead branch
quite like I thought. The wooden frame broke much of
the fall, which snapped three crossmembers!
Despite their sacrifice, I found that the end had
punched a small hole through the outer skin. The hole
isn't too large, about three inches across, but it's
still a hole. I covered it with duct tape, really, Gorilla
tape. This should allow air circulation but keep out
most of the dampness.
I'll have to remove the A frame to properly repair the
puncture, so this will be a job for next spring. Instead,
I focussed on keeping water away. The tarp was quite
"holed" by the branch. I installed a couple of ten-foot
sections of 1" PVC piping left over from my drilling rig
to make up for the lost crossmembers.
I, then, installed another, smaller, tarp over the
damaged section. I think this will last me through until
spring. It's not the greatest solution but time is not on
my side and it's better to reduce further damage than
to attempt a repair and be left completely exposed.
I ran the well pump for a good time today. In fact, I
only stopped pumping water when the genny and the
output flow indicated that the pump had run low on
I stopped running the pump. Meanwhile, it had dropped
quite a bit. This exercise was new to me so I didn't pull
it back up. I, instead, ensured that the pump wouldn't
race down the remaining 50 feet by exmaining the lifting
Later on, I pulled the pump back up to the original depth.
All the while, the well re-filled. I stopped pumping at noon
and by 3 PM the water had stopped trickling in.
From my ice-cube "soundings" (i.e drop a cube and count
the seconds until I hear a splash), the pump-out depth was
about 160 feet down. This is fair because the pump is
supposed to be good for about 250 feet. But I cannot
accurately account for the frictional losses through the
The fact that it refilled to about 55 feet in three hours is
very good! That's about 150 gallons in three hours. This
recharge rate is more than enough for me right now. I
probably will only use 30 gallons a week. OK, double that
value, if I become especially decadent. (I know the
Thought Police have to be on their way now!)
And as I use the well, it should get better. The hydraulic
cycling will enlarge cracks in the bedrock. I didn't have
time to pump out the well again today. I will do so on
Tuesday, if I can.
I'm still without hot water. Cold head showers and
sponge baths are still the routine. If only I had a cute
nurse to adminster these uncomfortable washings!
I have determined that the gas manifold is OK. Also, the
copper line from the main rail on the trailer undercarriage
was OK. It seemed plugged to me so I cut it. My fault.
Oh well, I will replace it, bend it up, and flare the ends.
My current thought is that the main gas regulator is
not delivering the necessary 11-inches-of-water of
pressure. It seemed pretty weak to me when I put my
finger over the pipe. Yes, I calibrated the finger the other
day when a Mass-hole cut me off.
Ain't it good that I was trained as an engineer, a real
engineer, at a real school? You know, one where the
students must run experiments and figure things out.
How else would I be able to know how to make a
manometer to check the gas pressure? I doubt that
the undergraduates from MIT can assemble this simple
bit of kit.
The hardware-shop guy was quite interested when I
explained why I needed the clear, flexible tubing. (That
is, to make a manometer.) Then again, the local
hardware store is filled with personable people who
know how to find just about anything.
It felt good to say that I lived up on such-a-street
behind the solar panels. John and I worked hard
enough to put them up. I can be a bit proud!
Yesterday, John said that he was proud of all that we
have accomplished. I don't blame him. We have done
what many said was not possible. Fueled by a very
dry summer and our determination, we transformed
my "unimproved" lot into a habitation.
Yes, my muscles may be a bit sore. I also sported a
great tan, or really a sunburn because I'm obviously
a redneck. But, I am also a bit stronger--not just in
the odor zone! My hands are becoming rough, which
should help me sluff off the office-worker image.
Why shouldn't I be proud of our accomplishments?
Homesteading is what I am doing, if with a modern
twist, and it's not easy. It is rewarding!
See the previous entry, below, which was also
Saturday, the 22nd of October
Last night, during the heavy rainstorm, a large
dead branch crashed down onto the camper! It
came from the oak tree that nearly killed me when
I dropped a branch dangling over the driveway.
The damage to the camper was minimal, fortunately.
The top front was a bit dented. But, the wooden frame
distributed the load. I may have lost a wooden strap.
(I have to look when it's dry.)
The tarp has been torn so I'll have to duct tape it.
The rain shield for the stove vent was nicked. One
of the two supports for the doorstep was bent.
I was relieved that the car was undamaged. The
branch landed between it and the trailer hitch.
I'm very, very lucky!
Here are some photos with the car moved back:
Today, John and Bill, a mutual friend, helped
me install my soft-start "pencil" pump in the
well bore. I'm pleased to report that it
works and delivers plenty of water, when
energized by the Honda genny!
I took a photo of the pump before we placed
it down the bore. So long, begin your 400-foot
Obviously, the spool of blue, plastic pipe
will be the output conduit for the water.
We attached a nylon lift rope so we could
use it to move the pump, instead of the
The black rubber device is a torque
arrestor. Its function is to push against
the side of the bore with its rubber bellows,
if the pump tries to twist the blue pipe. We
used five of these rubber devices.
Together, they will arrest any torque.
Shown below is the lift rope's
attachment to the pump and the first check
valve. I put a valve just above the pump
and one halfway (200 feet). When I plumb
the well to the cabin, I'll fit the third valve
at the end of the output pipe.
Every twenty feet we put on nylon
cable clips. We did run out and there
are a few duct-tape "clips" holding the
three-wire cable to the output pipe.
Initially, it was just John and I.
Un-spooling the pipe was a chore for
John and my hands were full unreeling
the wire & lifting rope. Bill's arrival
made our jobs much easier because
he would un-spool all three. Thanks,
My pump is spec'ed to deliver one
gallon-per-minute of water from a
maximum of 250 feet down. With that
restriction, it works out to be about
350 gallons of available water capacity!
I doubt that I will ever run out of water.
Recall that the "recharge" is about 50
gallons a day. And that's from a well
that is listed with the State as having
I have added bleach crystals to the
well and flushed them down with
some fresh water. I'll allow that to sit
until tomorrow, and then I'll pump
out the well as much as I can.
The chlorine should kill anything "bad"
living in the well and help get rid of the
drilling oils. Then, I'll let it refill and
pump it out again.
I should be able, then, to test the
water for quality. I'll probably use the
water just for bathing & dishes for a
while to be on the safe side, too.
John suggested building a house
to insulate the well head for the
winter. I have extra polystyrene
pieces left over from the camper
skirt so I'll do that.
Next, I need to wire the solar
panels to the camper battery via
the charge controller. This isn't
as simple as it sounds because
I need to ground each panel to
a grounding post that I'll hammer
into the ground.
Once the well is working and the
arrays are connected, I'll be ready
for the winter! I can also take a
break and relax!
See the previous entry, below, which was also
Friday, the 21st of October
Off: Water heater woes
A few days ago the water heater quit firing.
I set aside today to sort it out. I followed the
technician checklist, which is available online.
The circuit board was indicated to be faulty.
I drove to a nearby town. What a fun drive!
The speed limits are spot on in one of the
intermediate towns because I was surprised
by a couple of tight turns in my very capable
Mazda, despite driving only 5 MPH over the
With part in hand, I figured I could break for
lunch. As it turns out, the fault is not just with
the circuit board. Now, the gas solenoids are
clunking and opening the valve. But the gas
supply is still too meager.
I applied camper voltage directly to the
solenoids and lit a match. PFFOOF! I didn't
see a flame but a few hand hairs were singed.
I think the solenoids are OK. (And the camper
voltage is sufficient because I had previously
wired up a spare battery.)
Next, I need to climb underneath the camper
and examine the gas line. The technician
checklist says one must check the lines. I just
don't want to do it while it's raining. So be I'll
without hot water for a day or two more.
(It's raining on and off here.)
Dump pass & politics
This morning I acquired a dump permit. Yes,
this may sound like a small feat. But, it is a large
accomplishment for me to see the dump sticker
on my brave hatchback!
The man running the transfer station is an
interesting individual. I showed him a pay stub
as proof of residence. I commented that I had a
tax bill, also.
This sparked a political conversation because
he said his property taxes were already high
enough and he wouldn't pay mine, too!
We calmly debated the introduction of a sales
tax. We both don't want to give the State any
more of our money; however, the sales tax,
if properly phased in, could reduce our property
tax and reduce visitors' hotel & restaurant
tax. We agreed this change could be a boon to
both residents and visitors. Who says all talk
at the dump is refuse?
It's excellent having a way to complete the cycle
of my beer bottles and pizza boxes. It may sound
screwy. I guess I really mean that it's pleasing to
My actual addition to the landfills is quite small.
(I left only two bags for three weeks.)
The town recycles a surprising amount of material.
Remember, this represents the total waste that I
generate because I compost and recycle everything
Today, I met the UPS delivery man. He had been
doing a fantastic job of delivering my parcels.
This skinny guy would walk up packages and place
them on, or very near, my camper's doorstep,
regardless of weight. Perhaps "wirey" is a better
description of this man?
Considering that he has to walk the 100 feet up
my new drive that isn't perfectly smooth yet, this is
a real service. Also, he has left packages with my
kind neighbors who are directly across the road.
Today, the UPS guy and I, we agreed to leave any
parcels at my doorstep in a plastic bag if rain is
forecasted. I'm very impressed. That's not an easy
job but he still found the resilience to conform to
Yes, I do manage to keep some! Wednesday evening
I met with some of my favorite co-workers from a
previous job. (There, I helped design a handheld
dental scanner. Now I regret leaving.)
The contrast with the morons at my current place
is startling. My previous co-workers are interesting
and actually ask questions about what I am doing.
I feel bad now that I lost contact with the main
organizer. Tatyana is a very kind Russian woman
who, accompanied by her interesting and intelligent
engineer husband, Yuriy, gave me a long ride home
after my Sentra broke down the first time.
This journey was very much out of their way and,
as Tatyana put it, I lived "much, much too far away
from anything". Still, they cheerfully drove me home
at a late hour with no care for the prospect of the
return trip. These kind people helped me when my
stepfather couldn't help.
Don't believe the splatter of the presidential
candidates that all Russians are evil. Like us, they're
individuals just looking to live life. They mean us
no harm. At least, no more than we mean them any
Meeting my old co-workers again reminded me
how the working environment should be. I'll admit
that the next day I was in a bit of mood. Traffic really
hit a nerve because I knew I was driving myself into
a miserable working situation.
Mr. Grumpy, my cubicle mate, saw it and decided not
to fuel the flames when he saw just how angry
I was. Fortunately, he's a sensitive individual and
knew that the anger wasn't directed against him.
He did later get me to laugh. I may have to refer to
him as the "former Mister Grumpy Gatekeeper".
More will become of this job. Stay tuned.
As I have previously written, my African Violet began
to falter when moved into my camper of limited
light. Fortunately, my kind mother willing lined up
a plant that is tolerant of shade for me as an exchange.
She kindly traded me a
vibrant ivy plant in a beautiful, painted porcelain pot
for my ailing Violet in a Lowe's plastic container. What
can I write? I love you, Mom!! Oh, and the ivy seems to be
adapting well! (No doubt due to Mom's positive karma!)
You may recall that I wrote about the seemingly
excessive energy usage of the true-sine-wave power
inverter? Well, one morning last week, the inverter
Yes, after a stunning career of, maybe, 20 hours, it
is all over. They say the flame that burns twice
as bright, burns half as long. For modern consumer
electronics, this cliché should be updated to:
The electronics that burn twice as bright, really
We're just told that they do.
I spent extra money to buy a "proven" product, only to
be let down by the same inferior product made in China.
You don't always get what you pay for!
I'll send a letter--yes, a real letter in an envelope with
the CEO of Wagan complaining about the poor quality
control of his or her products.
You see, I understand the politics of shareholder
companies. They just want "to make their numbers."
It doesn't matter that many of their products are
defective. It only matters that they show a profit to
How do I know? I used to work for a "defense"
shareholder corporation, and it didn't matter how
long the units worked, as long as they worked
when they went out the door!
"Defense", companies should
realize that men and women depend on their
equipment. But, they're only in business
to raise their share price. It doesn't
matter if individuals die. Only profit matters.
So, I'm sorry to report that the same thing is
happening in real industry. Twenty hours for a
modern electronic device is shameful. But, it passed
some sort of quality test, so ship it!
Without a power inverter to harness the capacity
of my battery, I now have to rely on my stalwart
generating buddy. You know, it's really too bad
because the new battery is performing with excellence.
The capacity is incredible!
I guess the inverter's failure is just part of my
challenge. Life could be worse. I will track
down the crappy component and replace it. Why should
I have to do that after spending about two
hundred dollars on an obviously shiny turd?
Now, I am reluctant to let any inverter power
my desktop computer. My reluctance is not founded
in greed to preserve a thing of value. I built my
computer in 2005 and have run and maintained it
almost every day since then. (The machine obviously
has very little monetary value.)
As you can understand, I was very angry when the
piece-of-shit power inverter stumbled, or whatever,
to confuse the motherboard--and probably the power
supply--of my computer.
The power inverter had confused the power
supply. Maybe bewildered is a better term because
it took several tries (and two days) of "clean" power
to get the computer to power up?
See the previous entry, below, which was also
Monday, the 17th of October
Well & Internet?
I took today off to take delivery of the well
pump supplies. The bulk of the order was 400
feet of plastic piping. This will become the
water output line for the pump.
I need to get correct plumbing fittings, but
everything else looks correct. I always try to
head-off-at-the-pass any problems before John
(or Jack) and I attempt to install the equipment.
The fiber-optic Internet guy was here when I
returned from shopping in town. I really hate
it when I come home to someone poking
around on my property. Why can't they call
and arrange an appointment?
He cannot hook up a fiber-optic connection.
It needs to be powered. Fortunately, I can
probably fall back on DSL. This, of course,
runs off the phone lines, which they electrify.
This guy had obviously been doing the job for
many years. He explained everything well
and was well-spoken. After we dealt with
what was going to happen on my property,
we spoke about my solar panels.
He gave me some insight into how phone
companies work. It's fascinating. He was
clearly impressed by what I am doing. He
said he would do the same if he were 20 to
30 years younger. He didn't look too old,
maybe early 50s.
Before you say I'm a pig who gropes
women, I purchased some insulation from
Donna. Thanks! This two-inch thick
polystyrene is perfect for enclosing the
underside of my trailer.
If I can create a
pocket of dead air underneath, I'll reduce
my heating costs and keep the grey water
tank from freezing. Well, it worked out very
well! It sounds like a trivial job; however, it
took me half a day. I used duct tape to seal
joints and spread gravel at the base.
The tricky part was the grey water dump
valve. Obviously, I need regular, easy access
here; but, it must be insulated, too. I settled
on a combination of 50-pound sand bags
and insulation held in place by a stone. I
have a few rocks to choose from!
Once I make removable insulation for the
hatches, it'll be a done deal. All that's left to
transform to winter mode is to seal the
windows with clear heat shrink. I'll wait
on this for a bit because we're enjoying
unseasonably warm temperatures.
Week four & Observations
I'm now starting my fourth week in my
new, unusual lifestyle. That sounds like
I had a gender-bender operation!
No, I'm pleased to report that nothing
has fallen off despite living in an
Fetching water from my kind neighbor
Donna should be coming to a close soon.
But I don't mind it at all. I find that I use
about 25 gallons of water per week.
(Remember that I buy drinking water?)
Emptying the grey water tank is no
trouble. I dug a small, deep hole and filled
it with loose gravel. So I slowly open the
valve and let the effluent drain, via a gravel
ditch, into the hole. This may be a bit more
tricky now that I have installed the insulation.
Composting "poop" goes well. No matter
how good of a job that I do, it seems that
there will always be an ammonia smell.
That's not a pleasant odor but is better
than the expected smell.
The outside barrel also smells the same,
though a bit stronger. It's not a strong
smell--not unlike a paper towel soaked with
glass cleaner--and the decomposition is going
very well. We excrete a multitude of healthy
bacteria! Take it from me, I'm living "the proof".
The real fun part of living off-the-grid is
observing the battery and firing up the
generator as needed. It really comes down
to figuring how often the power-hungry
furnace has run, and, of course, how much I
have used the computer.
Effectively, I'm counting amps. I guess I'm doing
the same as the three astronauts in
Only I'm not dependent on this battery for
everything I need to survive. I can always nip
out to the gas station for more gasoline.
Speaking of gasoline, my real usage is no more
than five gallons per week. My
liquidfied-petroleum-gas consumption is about
30 pounds a week. That amounts to about $200
of energy per month. OK, it's not going to win
any awards for efficiency. Still, it's not too bad.
Maybe today's efforts will improve this cost?
See the previous entry, below, which was also
Sunday, the 16th of October
Sealing the tarp
Today, I evened out the tarp on top the camper.
(You know, make sure at least each pair of sides
has the same overhang.) I re-secured the four
lines and then taped the tarp to the trailer in
several spots on each side. This should help stop
wind rushing through, which should help to insulate
the top of my home. It sounds good, doesn't it!
How to adjust the angle
The other day, I discovered that I should have set
the solar collectors to the "winter" angle.
Fortunately, whilst at work, I developed and
"fabricated" a cardboard tool that uses a torpedo
level. (I told my cube mate that I was making paper
dolls.) The tool is really nothing special, but it did
take some thought.
How it works is probably not obvious, but it will be
once I explain it. There are three angles cut into
three of the corners of the rectangle. As I have
previously written, these three angles provide the
optimal solar gathering for each season. (Naturally,
spring and autumn share an angle, hence the count
When setting the angle, I duct tape the tool to the
side of the array. I just have to ensure that the tape
can keep the relevant, labeled "angled corner"
firmly parallel with the edge of the array. That's
not really too difficult with good duct tape!
After, say, the "winter" angle of 62° is taped to
the edge of the array, I can adjust the angle of the
array. When the torpedo level shows a level bubble,
the angle is set. This simple technique relies on a
reasonably accurate tool that is well designed,
making field use nearly trivial.
That's proper engineering, MIT! I should quote their
Make It Tricky. Make It Twice. Make It Terrible.
I forgot to write that I use the winch, which lifts the
snow plow on the front of my ATV, to adjust the
angles of the arrays. There's no other way that I can
safely make the adjustments by myself. The arrays are
somewhat heavy when united. But when mounted
on their long-lever-arm frame, they can swing with
a lot of force! It's probably enough to decapitate an
idiot, and ignorant individuals of normal intelligence
"This is not a test"
Remember that these arrays are not a science
experiment: they should be able to generate enough
electricity to continuously power my log cabin.
The more I realize my dreams, the more I understand
the power with which I'm working. This is serious
stuff because one wrong move, and I'm crushed by
my "green" electrical supply. Or, when I wire up the
arrays, I could be
brought to life
like Frankenstein's monster!
This is the reason why I am slowing my progress. What
good would anything be, if I'm dead, or, worse; if I killed
a generous assistant like my good friend John?
OK, I don't have to wear a high-visibility vest. I just have
to use my noggin. It's funny that I rarely use my brain
at work. That's probably good because I really need it
Now that I have frightened you a bit--welcome to the
club!--I'm pleased to write that everything that I am doing
has been well documented by others. And, thanks to Al
Gore's kind invention of the Internet, I can utilize their
Tuesday, the 11th of October
I made today my day off for this week. I may have
mentioned that I would be taking one day off from
work every week until the snow flies. After that, I'll
probably take more off!
This morning I discovered that the water heater
wasn't providing hot water. Thinking the worst,
I tried to remember where the nearest RV supply
shop is located.
After a hearty breakfast, I opened up the heater.
It's a really simple device. I cleaned the flue, set
the sparking electrode gap, and adjusted the
mixture. It had been set very rich.
gap was also wide, which initially elicited my
attention; however, it was in very good condition.
In the past, I heard it clicking away without hearing
of steady burning. It's fixed now.
I don't know why it was set very rich. Maybe the
clever sliding sheath with holes was knocked
into a rich configuration by being towed?
Regardless, now it purrs. The flame is perfect:
blue with steady flashes of yellow. As a
confirmation, the exhaust smells perfect. Yeah,
I know that I'm weird sniffing heater vents!
I, then, went to the Laundromat at the corner.
This was my first time using such a business. (I've
been very lucky!) It passed well.
Buoyed by successfully "popping my Laundromat
cherry", I looked at adjusting the furnace. I
figured if the water heater was running rich,
maybe the furnace was also set rich? It smells a
Upon opening the furnace cover, I found a
compact and complicated mass of machinery.
Clearly, this is something that would take more
than a casual adjustment. I decided to wait till
the spring to perform the "annual maintenance".
It works well and I can always use a space heater
in the event of an emergency.
Yesterday, I took down a few more trees to
maximize the sun on my solar arrays. Unfortunately,
there are two large trees that are too close to
the street and power lines for me to fell.
I'll call a local tree guy tomorrow. He may be able
to take one of them without damaging anything.
The other tree, with two stems, will need a bucket
truck. It overhangs the wires. I told the local electric
company last year about this tree's branches, and
they blew it off.
They probably figure it's not about to drop and
black-out the town, so why care? They're
really "undertaking preventative measures to
avoid black-outs." Only one of the several
branches of this tree wouldn't even notice when it
collapses on the power lines, lands on the neighbor's
school bus, and caves in his barn's roof.
These trees have to be removed--or mostly
removed--because they're severely hampering
the power generation of my solar panels. We're
talking about losing two or three hours of solar
**Queue the cartoon of dollar signs spinning in
the eyes of the tree guys**
Speaking of them, they're the same trees that
denied me a satellite Internet connection. The
kid--well, he is younger than me--went
everywhere in flipflops looking for a good
line-of-sight to the southwest.
Why Hughesnet says that a property must have
southern exposure, and not southwestern
exposure, is beyond me. I have a decent southern
view but southwestern is out of the question.
It's good that he couldn't install a dish because
both John's wife, Michelle, and Donna have
dumped satellite in favor of the newly-run fiber
optic, terrestrial connection.
I'll call the company tomorrow. I may have to fit a
box on a post. No problem. I can run the cable
through the woods and bury it where it
encounters foot traffic.
Recall that I said I would have to purchase a
power inverter to run my computer off the
camper's battery? Well, I dragged my feet installing
the unit because of the lack of battery
Yesterday, I fitted it. I had to drill a hole in my
camper. That took some fortitude. I hate drilling
into something that is waterproof. But it had
to be done, and I have sealed the small hole
with RTV silicone rubber on both sides.
Drilling to connect a good ground to the steel
trailer was exciting because I learned just how
dull my drill bits have become. Screech, stop,
file the leading edges, oil, screech, stop, question
my filing angle, oil, screech, then the "death
wobble". Embarassing as it was, I retired the
medium-sized bit and consulted my new index,
hoping for a fresh start. That bit went straight
through without a problem.
The inverter works well. Its cooling fan makes
some odd sounds. Also, the inverter draws on
the battery quite a bit. Inefficient? True sine-wave
output must come at a price.
Where the inefficency lies doesn't matter. It
does allow me to run my computer without
firing up my loyal Honda pal. I figure I can
enjoy a night of using the computer on just
the battery. I'm still exploring the capacity of my
new 4D battery. I'd rather under-utilize it, than
wreck it by overly discharging it.
Miss the Internet?
I do miss being able to quickly communicate
with loved ones. But that's where the telephone
still succeeds. Plus, I have cheated by giving my
work e-mail address to frequent e-mail senders.
What I do miss is being able to upload blog entries
to this web site. For me, this is an exciting time
and I would really like to share my experiences.
You've read this far so you, too, must have missed
my posts. Thank you!
As for the rest of the Internet, I can read the news
at work. I don't bother with the mainstream
news networks, which are paid by the major
corporations, so I can enjoy "news" even when
it's old. (I really don't care to know what the
current Pop Tart had for breakfast.)
It could be living among trees that have existed
longer than most people now living. Or maybe
I'm just becoming a country person? Either way,
I feel my "disconnection" is a step in the right
direction. My life is calm and quiet.
I love this time of year! Go out and see the
changing leaves! The trees are putting on their
annual, unintentional performance. It's
spectacular! Drop everything and enjoy their
flagrant parting beauty. You won't regret it.
As promised, below is a night shot of the
driveway lights marking the PV arrays:
You have to admit the lights form a gentle
grin. That must have been intentional! Right?
See the previous entry, below, which was also
Sunday, the 9th of October
This isn't the best title considering the
current, wet weather!
Yesterday, I turned the solar arrays 15 degrees
west of magnetic south. This represents actual
south. Since my panel arrays are stationary,--as
opposed to tracking the sun--they should be
pointed to real south to maximize the time
that they can catch the sun's rays.
I, then, angled them to the sun, relative to
the ground. Considering that we're now in the
autumn, the angle from horizontal is 40°
at this latitude.
I don't think I have it exactly correct. I'm going
to make a stencil on Wednesday at work. (I'll
correct the angle if required.)
Winter requires the largest angle because, as
you know, the sun is lowest in the sky. Likewise,
summer utilizes the shallowest angle (id est
15°). Autumn and spring share the same
In the photos below you can see the
"protective" perimeter demarcated by the
driveway lights. They glow red at night in
addition to having reflectors. (They're charged
by small solar panels.)
They should signal night motorists, using my
driveway to turn around, of the hazard. I also
marked all the high bends along the driveway
with simple reflectors. It really looks pretty good.
No letter of complaint from the town yet for
being self-reliant by putting up solar panels.
Maybe I've beat the effective date of the
bullshit law, which caters to the electric
company by banning off-grid power systems?
Live free or die.
Is this a motto that has lost its
meaning? This sort of law will increase in
frequency as the municipalities become more
stressed by debt. Be warned and plan accordingly.
Speaking of electricity, I have a clearer view of
my energy usage. My electricity usage equates to
about two gallons of gasoline per week. The little,
red Honda generator is not only quiet, but sips
My thirst for LPG is higher. I seem to be going
through 30 pounds a week. That's not too bad
because I use the gas to cook, heat water, and
keep the camper warm. I still need to "skirt" the
camper to insulate the undercarriage.
The larger battery is working very well. Its
capacity seems more than adequate to run the
furnace and fridge/freezer all day, even during
a cold day, without being charged.
Yesterday, I ordered the parts for wiring the solar
arrays. (Thanks, Mom!) Not only must I wire the
panels for power delivery, but I need to ground
them to the earth. This will take the bulk of time.
I will also be installing lightning arrestors at each
combiner box and the charge controller. Check back
to learn where these components fit into my system!
I also ordered all the components to install my
water pump in my drilled well. I'm planning to
run the pump with my before-mentioned Honda
generator. I ordered fittings to connect a garden
hose. Such a hose will fit well into my fresh-water-tank
filling spout. And, I do have a few garden hoses on
hand after trying to drill the well myself
You may be wondering what life looks like in my dry
camp. Well, here are a few outside shots that I took
this morning while charging the camper battery and
running the computer. (I still haven't hooked up the
power inverter for my computer to the battery.
Tomorrow, if it's dry, I will do the job) Here are the
Yesterday, I picked up the tank on the trailer. It's a
water tank with a crack in the top, hence the tarp.
I'm not going to store any water yet. It'll be a good
thing to have for future experiments.
Humidity inside the camper is comfortably high,
and this makes me think what it'll be like when the
temperature outside truly drops. For now, I enjoy it
and so does my new new camp buddy, an African violet
with purple blossoms.
I hope that running the kitchen lights when I'm home
is enough to compliment the very filtered light that
finds its way through the thick forest foliage.
To keep it comfortable for me and my purple
friend, I'll be ordering an Energy Star dehumidifer soon.
Of course, I have to order the unit that I want because
it's compact with a capacity of just 30 liters. Small isn't
cool in America. But necessity requires it for me. (And
I'm not alone.) That's life in a real "tiny house".
The small life
Another aspect that takes a bit to get used to is
stowing just about everything that is not in current
use. When my brother and his wife moved out of my
apartment, I began storing things in their unused
It's really impressive just how much an apartment can
hold. But it does it in a different way than a camper.
An apartment has large rooms and volumnious closets
that encourage collecting.
A trailer or camper provides cubby holes and storage
that, as a previous house/apartment resident, seem
foreign. Now that I've been living this life for a couple
of weeks, it is starting to make sense. Stow everything
except what you're using it.
I like this type of life. It's compact, mostly organized,
and personal. Or maybe my life is enjoyable because I
live amongst trees? John remarked that 20 years from
now my driveway will have been retaken by the acrons.
(If that is all that I have to be concerned with two
decades from now, then I'll be very happy.)
Live a quality, small life
This sums up living in the camper. Live small and be
creative. For instance, the less water I use, the fewer
times I need to fill up the blue containers with my
generous neighbor's well water. And, also, the less
I have to empty the grey water tank.
I just finished making hot sauce. This is a frequent
activity so I was wondering how it would be in the
camper. I'm happy to report that it passed well.
Cleaning the large pan was a bit tricky due to the
small size of the kitchen sinks. But, I figured it out.
The composting toilet is working. I think the outside
bucket is a bit wet, hence its ammonia smell. Since
the plastic bucket has no holes one foot from the
ground, I don't have to worry about ground
contamination. So it'll just take a bit of dry weather
to dry out the heap.
It's really fascinating what nature will decompose,
if one can overcome the ridiculous ideas instilled by
our Western society. Before the Romans pushed
indoor plumbing, people composted their waste.
Doing so was natural.
You probably see where I'm going. Living a natural
life was OK for most of the span of our species'
duration. It is now, too, just ignore the comments
of small, closed minds.
If you're in the area, this is the peak. Go out and
enjoy the colors. Every morning, I pick the
spectacularly-colored trees out from the fog. Wow!
See the previous entry, below, which was also
Monday, the 3rd of October
Since I worked through Sunday, I had no time to do
chores. I took today off to accomplish them. I also
fitted the remaining slats to the camper "roof" &
spread a tarp over them. Take a look:
Also, I installed the driveway lights and around
the panels. This should direct drivers, entering
the driveway, away from the tilted panels. This
was John's excellent suggestion.
I put the remaining reflectors at high spots
that large vehicles could hit with their
overhangs. I'll try to remember to post a photo
See the previous entry, below, which was also
Sunday, the 2nd of October
Welcome to October!
John and I assembled the PV mounts. It was more
of a job than I expected. That doesn't mean we
approached it with any light-heartedness. Any job
is a job to see to.
The PV panels are up and ready for me to angle
them to the sun. This last bit of the configuration
may take a bit of preparation.
Since the panels are heavy things on generous
levers, I will drill a hole or two in the "top" rails
through which I will thread a nylon rope. I like
Here's what they look like!
It took both Saturday and Sunday to get them up.
There are lots of bolts and screws to tighten! The
kits are well designed. The instructions aren't
terribly clear and one kits was missing hardware.
See the previous entry, below, which was also
Friday, the 30th of September
Oh, and what a fresh start it is! Before I go into
life in my camper, I want to just write how good
it was to hand in the apartment key this morning.
It was not unlike being rid of an especially
annoying car. I told Denise, the property manager,
door slammer and stomper
close the doors. She didn't seem impressed so I
demonstrated. This must have hit home. (She
looked a bit hung-over, claiming the doctors
switched her drugs.)
I doubt that the inconsiderate brats will be
challenged, even though she noted that they are
loud in the paperwork to the management
company. I do hope they act on the suggestion
because I wouldn't want the next tenants to
deal with them.
When Denise said "say goodbye to this place",
I simply had no desire to say anything. It's not
that I would feel embarrassed with her around.
I simply do not miss the place, and am glad to see
it in my past.
A new life!
I have been living in my camper or travel trailer
since Monday night. I will admit that the first
night was "character building". I worked a half
day on Monday and then moved out the
essentials from the apartment in the darkness.
I moved these essentials into the camper,
which was already stuffed with boxes. The high
point of that day was climbing into a full-size
bed with a mattress. (I have slept on the floor
for many years.)
The next morning was an adventure. I couldn't
figure out how to get hot water so I took a cold
"camp" shower. You know: soap up, shiver, and
turn on the water and rinse. Then, shiver a lot
My cube mate follows my progress.
I think he is a bit shocked by my move. So
he was interested when I told him about the cold
shower. Being a considerate guy, he asked the
next day if I had warm shower. I did have hot water.
Oh, and it was so very good!
After that, life only got better in the camper.
I was able to sleep better without the irrational
fear of running out of LPG gas and freezing to
death. (It has become suddenly cooler.)
My generous neighbor allows me to take as much
water as I want anytime I want it. (Thanks, Donna!)
I have been a bit of a miser with water. I figure that
I will use about 30-40 gallons a week when I settle
in to dry-camping life. Even my well, which produces
"zero flow", can deliver that much water!
I have now filled the fresh water tank twice. I fill
six-gallon containers from Donna's outside tap and
pour them into my camper's tank. I should note
that I have been buying bottled water for drinking.
This reduces my total consumption.
I am really enjoying my "boondock"
life. (That is the negative slang word for
Speaking of water, I have emptied my grey water
tank in the driveway. Yes, scream and shout and
stamp your feet: I released water, soap, and the
occasional bit of something onto the surface of
our beloved planet.
Normal people will probably ask: did you use the
corrugated pipe to direct the flow. And I would
say--while ignoring the environmentalist jumping
up and down, on my property--no.
I will use it in the future to reduce erosion. I had
to "boot in" a bit of hard pack to cover a small hole
created by the effluence.
and the other "water"
Now we come to the awkward topic of the "number
twos". My cube mate said I should just "fertilize"
a neighbor's lawn. That is what the Indians
probably did when the colonists started moving
into this region.
I'll admit that I subscribe the Western idea of
dignity. Thus, I have decided to start composting
waste. It's not as smelly as it sounds. I figured I
should get used to this form of refuse disposal
now. (Recall, that I will be using a SunMar
composting toilet in my permanent home.)
It's not a tough mantra to adopt.
If it smells, then add more peat moss and/or
wood shavings. The good thing is that I
know that the waste is properly disposed, instead
of making it someone else's problem.
Yes, it takes some diligence, which is something
we never learned in school. A true
"environmentalist" would want to do what I am
So what about electricity? We don't live in the
past. I don't either. The new deep-cycle battery
that came with the camper is adequate for
those who are occasionally "off-grid".
I struggled with the Group 24 battery for the
entire week. I would run my generator every
night to charge the battery. Since I have such
a long commute, the charging time was limited
to only a few hours.
I came home to a flat battery and a warming
fridge one night. That's when I knew I had to
boost my storage capacity. I had left only the
fridge/freezer running. What would happen
when I have to run the furnace to keep the
water tanks from freezing?
Well, obviously, the battery would run flat and
the furnace wouldn't run, and my tanks
would freeze and then burst when they
thawed out. No thanks!
Yesterday, I ordered a Group 4D battery from
a car-parts shop along the way home. It was
not cheap, but it is a lot better than doing
terrible damage to my camper, my home!
I hooked up the battery, which is a hefty guy
at 130 pounds, and found it charged. Yes, most
people think that all batteries are sold charged.
It's those of us who have worked in auto parts
that know this is not always the case, despite
I'll test the battery for capacity before winter
sets in; however, I have high hopes. Surely,
a battery that weighs almost as much as me
can keep my diminutive camper relatively
warm, and my beer cool, for a day without
I'm a newbie to campers. I can only extol their
benefits over tent camping. A fiberglass box
that is lifted above the ground is a relative
fortress! Having hot and cold water at the turn
of a knob is almost decadent.
I'm settling well into this new life. It's
surprisingly luxurious. I can keep this small
volume at 68-70 degrees without breaking the
bank. In fact, even during the coldest times,
I think I'll struggle to match the gas usage
when I "froze" in the apartment.
Another aspect that I truly appreciate about
dry-camping is no monthly utility bills. Yes, these
companies need to maintain a network of
whatever, so I can understand the costs. It's
just so much simpler being out of it.
During my long commute, I figured out my
monthly energy bills. I need about $40 of
gasoline to charge my battery every month.
(Soon, this will be reduced by partial use of
my solar array.) It seems that my LPG usage,
during the coldest situation, will be about
$120-$150 a month.
Worst case will probably be $160 per month.
The apartment was 50-75% more than that,
only with the added benefit of having to
re-hang paintings occasionally.
I'll gladly "go native" and become trailer trash.
Or camper crap. As such, life is more directly
controlled by me. That makes life more
personal and more enjoyable.
Now that I have moved, I don't need much as
money. This is why I can take off so much time
at my current contract. In reality, I minimize the
time there because I feel my lifeforce ebbing
This is understandable because the average
worker has the social prowess of a gerbil.
I don't exaggerate. (I should write about the
bird-man who escaped the lower levels.)
I had a minor altercation with a gerbil on
Thursday. I have seen this before, but on
Thursday my patience was thin. A dweeb
continued walking on the leftside of a hallway
even though I was walking right into him.
Rather recklessly, I said "In this country,
we walk on the right." He retorted with
"my office is on the left." I would have let
it go but he decided to challenge a clause
of my statement "in this country". He was
old and white.
I still wait, and hope, to be called into my
boss' office and given that most
desirable note of all: a pink slip!
Even if that doesn't happen, Jack and
I are planning to start our company in
Jack is a good friend, and a good man.
He's the man that we all want to be. So I
figure if we work together in our business,
I can learn to be like him.
Life is good. Peace. Don't do anything
unnatural. Don't rush life. Live life in short
Saturday, 24 September
Moving out, especially to a smaller space, is not
fun. But, Mom helped me yesterday and today.
Her help made such a big difference by
fortifying my waning strength.
With her help, just about everything is out. Now
I just need to stow everything I need in the
camper and finish a bit of cleaning in the
apartment. Thanks, Mom!!
Subsequent updates to this site may be slow
to show up online. I do not have an Internet
connection on my property yet.
I have to get one soon. It'll be my only utility bill,
and I need a bill to provide proof of residency for
such things as a dump pass, registering to vote,
I purchased a true-sine-wave power inverter to
run my computer. This unit is supposed to
output a smoother waveform of AC electricity.
This, in turn, allows the switching power supply
powering the computer to run cooler and more
efficiently. Less heat is always a good thing in
an enclosed fiberglass box!
Next weekend John and I will install the solar
panel frames and panels on the "solar" posts.
Then, I can wire the camper for solar recharging.
I've decided just to hook up a single 100-Watt
panel. More would be better, however, the
voltage drop would be too much for 2 gauge
Why not go to aught or double-aught (0 or 00)
gauge? I really don't need that much power for
the camper to justify the increased expense.
The camper is 100 feet from the panels. That
adds up with copper wire!
The cabin battery system will be 48 Volts, so
loss is roughly a quarter for the same situation.
I'll explain that later when I install the system.
The camper battery had gone flat again. But
the fridge was still cool, indicating that it had
recently run out.
I charged the battery to about
2/3 or 1/2 charge and switched everything off.
If it's still charged tomorrow, then the battery
should be OK. I'm thankful for the Honda
Once I have solar generation, I'll drop--err
lower--the water pump into the well. I think
the Honda generator will easy pump out the
well. I need to add some bleach to neutralize
the drilling oils before pumping out the well
a couple times.
I'll then test the water for contaminants
with my ACME well driller's testing kit
After that, I need to put a tarp on the camper
and stop up the air volume under the floor.
Still air is a wonderful insulator. These two
tasks should make heating cheaper and easier.
Then, I'll be ready for winter and have water
and electricity on site. And I can settle down
for the cold season. I'll admit that my
endurance is beginning to flag. As I'm sure
you can understand!
Sunday, the 18th of September
I have received my first letter at the new address!!
I'll admit that I was becoming a bit concerned
when a test letter was returned to the apartment.
Fortunately, the second letter was delivered.
A third should show up later this week.
Now comes the chore of notifying companies &
friends/family. Hey, moving is a good way to weed
out some of the junk mail! At least for a few weeks...
It's tough to get the entire driveway in one shot.
So instead, I'm posting three photos that capture
much of it.
Those with keen eyes may notice a "texture
change" line in the second photo. You'd be right
because that is where John first ran out of gravel
to spread. (Recall, that it took two dump-truck
loads to cover the drive.)
The first section has packed down hard, hence
its local designation. The second should pack just
as well once we are blessed with some rain!
I spoke with my local farmer today. He's
concerned about the drought. He says it will
cause major problems, if we don't have a wet
autumn or snowy winter!
My final week in the apartment is commencing.
I continue to move boxes to the storage garage
and the camper.
I spent some time inside the camper today. It's
really quite well appointed! Yes, it is small but
it's of high quality. And there are lots of cabinets.
Storing my necessities was a concern. Not any
I found the deep-cycle battery fully drained when
I showed up. This, alone, isn't a problem for it;
however, I need to figure out what drew it
down in only two weeks. I switched off the
110-Volt panel. (The fridge/freezer runs on 12
Back in the apartment: now that my fridge and
freezer are in storage, I'm living out of my large
Coleman cooler. It's cool--bad pun?--because it's
like camping only with A/C, a shower, and a full
This doesn't mean that I have been curtailing
my meals. Today for lunch, I had roasted potatoes.
Yummy! The new recipe is so easy and a good
way to use up the tubers in a stylish way.
For supper, I am going to have pizza. And it's
homemade crust. One cannot truly "make" pizza
if the crust was bought in a store. That's cheating!
The adventure continues. Please make a return
Presented without commentary or bias:
Donald Trump's political sign that lists his
running mate says the following, if one letter
Friday, 16 September
John finished spreading the gravel on Thursday.
He also helped me move the large furniture, which
won't fit in my car, today. It all fit in the storage
garage. Thanks, John!
The freshly empty living room is a bit "echo-y".
Watching movies in it will be interesting!
I packed more and moved boxes to storage. I'm
already getting near the end of it.
The property manager did a pre-inspection on
Friday. This was just so she could order any
replacement fixtures. She commented that the
carpets look new. They weren't new when I moved
in. I just cleaning them.
She said that she wanted to replace an inside door.
She couldn't because it had no holes in it. Yes,
you read that right: holes! What do people do to
We arranged the move-out inspection on the
30th. There's no way I'm going to relinquish the
keys until then, even though I plan to be out
I hope the mailbox is "working" on my lot. I'll
know tomorrow for sure. I did get a test letter
back. It was postmarked before I filled in the
Postal Service form, so that makes sense.
Here are some interesting Youtube videos:
I have added seven movies to the GRS
Sunday, the 11th of September
Ever wonder what a muffler looks like on the inside?
Well wonder no longer, instead, click
So the truck's out of commission until next year.
Bummer! At least, I will have the gas tank cleaned
and sealed over the winter, and this won't happen
New home (soon)!
John very kindly met me early Saturday morning to
move the camper trailer into my driveway. He had a
previous engagement so he graciously started earlier
than normal just to help me!
The newly widened drive allowed him to place it exactly
where I wanted it. Thanks, John!
Here's what it looks like:
Approaching from the wooded side of the driveway
provides a pretty cool shot. If only I was a better
photographer... Take a look:
As a reminder, the wooden structure on top was built
by the previous owner to--when coupled with a tarp--shed
snow. I plan to use it for the same purpose. Thank you,
I leveled the camper, opened up the LPG tanks, and switched
on the fridge/freezer unit. It fired up and started
cooling. My plan is to empty the existing 30-pound tanks
and then switch to the 20-pound ("grill") tanks.
I've several of these small tanks so I can rotate them.
Furthermore, I can move these small tanks with the
Hiroshima hatchback hero, with ease! Using these
tanks also affords me some privacy. Except
during the winter, when I will be "barbeque"-ing a
Since the mains electricity isn't hooked up anymore, the
air conditioning and microwave don't work. I don't
mind. If I need A/C, then I'll run my large, propane generator.
I rarely use a microwave oven.
"I don't like them newfangled
thangs."-as I spit tobacco juice--BBBDINGGG!-"They scare
the tarrrnation out o' me."
Ahem, I also think the wall outlets in the camper are not
working without the AC power supply. If so,
I will have to bring up an inverter to run this
computer. Will the surge suppressor be good enough
to stifle the ripples coming from a cheap, Harbor "Fright"
12V-110V inverter? We'll know soon!
I'm getting excited. Moving the camper is a big step
forwards! I plan to gradually clear out this apartment
and ease my transition to "trailer trash". Don't worry:
the banjo is on order.
Speaking of moving: yesterday, I moved most
of my small furniture to the storage garage. I
had to stick the leg & wheel of one piece out the front
The odd appearance kept tailgaters away.
Maybe I'll drive around like that all the time?
Then again, I won't because the gearshift
was easier worked by my left hand. Sort of like
being back in
Things continue to fall into place. Yesterday
was a day of on-and-off rain. It's good that the
truck broke down because using a closed car
reduced my furniture's exposure to the
elements. Everything happens for a reason.
I still didn't have mail service last week so I visited the
town's Post Office. A woman in front of me was giving
the poor guy a hard time about trivial things. I gleaned
from her loud statements that she was the owner of a
small science fiction bookshop.
I know that not all small bookshop owners are obnoxious.
Though, it does seem to be a trend. Remember Bernard
Eventually, this woman who babbled that we--she
was accompanied by a young man, who distanced himself
from her--were "in to" science fiction before Star Trek
I then approached the man behind the counter. I kindly
greeted him before explaining my situation. He didn't
miss a beat and quickly explained that I needed to complete
a form. Wow! That was easy. This man turned out to be the
Postmaster. Thank you, Peter!
I filled the form and left it in my mailbox with the flag up.
And, wouldn't you know, the mail lady picked it up and
lowered the flag. I should have mail delivery this week!
Today was a light day for me. I try to "rest" at
least one day every week. Of course,
observers would say that I don't rest but
rather just accomplish less.
(No doubt they're correct. I find it difficult to
be idle. This is a reason why I drink. It forces
me to slow down, or I crash into things and
make more work for myself!)
Today, I washed and waxed the "Hiroshima
hatchback hero". Ignoring the dings
and scratches, it's really a lovely little car.
brought back the black, having rescued it
from the dirty grey, which seems to be all
the rage among my boring contemporaries.
After using the "all-in-one" polish, I took
the time to use the "glossy spray stuff". That
product is amazing because it made the
paint much smoother than the glass. I'm
not kidding. Absolutely stunning!
I ran out of Zaino's excellent tire gloss,
which really does last for weeks. Instead, I
used Armor-All's version. It's not as good.
It was a Christmas gift from a friendly
neighbor a couple years ago. Regardless,
it looks good for now.
So the "triple H" is ready for winter. Yes, it's
very early for this task; however, I figured it
would be better to take care of this
necessity now. The apartment is a
convenient place for washing a vehicle.
Once again my local distribution center has
changed! It is in a different state, again, and
the service is significantly slower.
It took me a couple of months to confirm this
theory. That is why I have been presenting fewer
ratings/reviews of movies. Ha! You thought
it was due to my busy schedule. Well, I admit
this is partially the reason. But watching movies
are always a high priority, so I make time.
Hopefully, this reduction in service is not the
finale of the DVD arm of Netflix. If it is, I may
have to start collecting DVDs again like a certain
long-time reader! (Thank you, Randy!) That can
be a bit difficult for the resident of a camper!
I may need a camper just for movies. But, is that
really a bad thing?
I guess this is what I get for laboring on Labor Day!
I removed the float bowl & metering block from the
truck Holley carburetor. Some flecks of rust did
come out in the ultrasonic cleaner bath. After
shaking them until nothing fell out, I put it back
together, and the engine ran a bit better.
But then it got really bad. I figured out that the
problem is caused by the main jets because when
cruising down the road, there's no power. Idle
and power circuits seem OK.
I re-installed the original, richer, main jets stamped
"61". I adjusted the idle mixtures where they used
to be. At least I thought so. More rough idling then
The muffler is history. I've never seen one so
destroyed. The backfire ripped the sheet metal
away like a toddler tears open his presents on
Christmas morning. I'll have to take a photo. It
I won't be able to fix all of this before having to
move house. Fortunately, John has already
volunteered to help. And I won't need his help
to move too much. Most of my stuff is small
or can be smushed into the car.
It's just a bummer. When I need the truck, it's
not there. But, neither is the sports car!
I don't think I've written about the trailer's
fridge not working when connected to the
mains. I had previously diagnosed that there
was an AC voltage ripple of more than 6 Volts,
which is just out of tolerance.
I connected the Honda generator because it
was nearby. The same over-6-Volt "ripple".
I think there's something else amiss.
It runs off LPG (i.e. propane) so that's good
enough for me. If that breaks down, it's
"cooler, two days" for me.
On a brighter note, I discovered that the
thermistor, which acts as a thermostat for
the fridge/freezer, is not broken. The
resistance is right where it should.
I stopped before I broke the trailer,
too! No wildlife fun today. I think the truck
kept all the critters away! Time to start doing
what normal people do on holidays: drink!
Saturday, the 3rd
I have added eight movies to the GRS
Please, enjoy my comments!
I sent--what I thought--was a kind letter of my planned
termination of residence to the apartment management
with a final rent check. I got a form letter, which is
all business, in return. OK, whatever.
I have been giving
door slammer and stomper
an earful. It's impressive the amount of sound that a
home-theater-in-a-box system can deliver. What is
management going to do: kick me out? Ha!
I'm now committed to being out of this place by the end
of the month. And, while it may feel a bit different; it's a
good feeling. I've been packing and moving non-essentials
to the storage garage for months, so the final move will
be easier. It's amazing how much stuff even an apartment
Driveway & Moving
John came back last Sunday and spread the rest of the gravel.
It covered about half of the driveway. It's really looking
good! I'll post a photo when it's all done. Thanks, John!!
I'm planning to have another dump-truck load delivered this
week and request that John spread it on Saturday. That
way, we can also move the trailer into the driveway.
I'd like to have the trailer in place so I can start to move in.
Down-sizing isn't easy. I recall the move when the three-of-us
moved with our mother into a smaller house.
We managed to jam everything into the new rental house.
Then, with a roof over everything because it was January,
we unpacked a single room at a time before moving on to
the next room. It was an adventure for sure! Though, only
one brother saw it as such, also. The other was very angry
about the move.
I should be OK with my down-sizing. There are always
questions that arise when going from a 300-400 square foot
apartment to a 19-foot-long trailer. I'm really glad that I have
my very large storage garage!
"Solar" posts & "Lola"
Don't think that I'm getting cold feet about the move. No way!
Today, Jack helped me paint the "solar" posts. He, again,
commented how peaceful my property is. I agree because
when I sleep there, I find myself truly refreshed. There's
nothing like being in a forest. Being surrounded by all that
life is invigorating!
Speaking of life, when I uncovered the posts to begin
de-scaling them before the primer and top coat, I met a
new friend. Take a look:
What, you don't see him?! OK, don't strain your eyes. Here
he (or she) is:
Underneath the tarp was wet and warm. Ideal for frogs.
In fact, I saw a frog hop out of one of the holes a couple of
weeks ago. Maybe this is the same critter, only grown up?
As work progressed, he made sure I was doing it right. I even
suggested that he, or she, clear out before the spray paint
When I removed the other tarp, a very small frog hopped
out. That one must have been only an inch at its longest.
So maybe he is a she? May I call you Lola?
I managed to clean-up and start applying the primer to one
post before Jack arrived. He showed up just as I ran out of
primer. We drove to the local hardware store and purchased
some more primer and paint.
Back on site, we made excellent progress. Jack is a painter
by nature. Though, he usually paints nudes or landscapes.
I felt a bit bad employing him in such a lowly task, but he was
his usual upbeat self: happy to paint anything.
All the while Lola supervised our progress. Not until we
completed the first post, did Lola start to exit stage--err--left.
Hopefully, he or she will be OK in the forest. Sorry for ruining
your new home, Lola. Do you want a Coca Cola?
The footings are a rather unattractive splash of grey white
on the ground. The birch-tree supports left a few channels
in them. I hope these don't catch water, that freezes, and
then encourages cracks. I intend to cover these footings
with gravel, so that may help. If not, then I'll deal with it!
Together, Jack and I, scoured, primed, and painted the
posts. They turned out to be quite lovely, far better
than I expected! Jack said they looked like fresh canvases,
which compelled me to remind him of his suggestion
of painting flames on them. Wouldn't that be absolutely
I'm no artist, so I can't attempt the job. Jack is an artist
so he could do it. Unfortunately, he hasn't the time right
now. I didn't dare press him and just hope that the
allure of being in my "Mayberry" town is enough to bring
him back with paintbrush in hand.
I have yet to find an angry person in my small town. Sure,
there are a few ambivalent individuals, but they're never
Here are the painted posts:
Please excuse the pile of gravel between the two posts.
It's merely a reminder to spread gravel around the posts.
This should reduce the erosion that is filling up my
expensive driveway "apron" with sand!
So what are townsfolk saying now? Is the white paint
important? Is white the best color for docking spacecraft?
Or is it--please, no--a football goal-post? Place your bets?
After Jack left, I decided that I could remove some of the
trees that prevent the light from falling on my future
I did have to rip out a number of weeds that sprang up
around the stump of the large oak that I had to have
downed. This is another reason why I am not "clear-cutting"
my lot: I hate weeds! There are no weeds in the forest.
It didn't take too long to get the weeds under control.
I then cut down a few small trees to bring the sun to
As I cut down another weed-tree, my nose registered a
shitty smell. (There is a horse ranch just down the road
so I am not unaccustomed to the smell. The horses are
frequently walked up and down the road.) The smell did
make me look up. And what I saw poised about ten feet
away was my worst nightmare.
I had never seen one so close before. Even with the
adrenaline of cutting down trees coursing through my
veins wasn't enough to summon up enough courage to
confront this potential foe.
I slowly backed away from this black and white danger.
OK, this small mammal isn't particularly dangerous if
you have no sense of smell, or never deal with others.
But I have both desires.
Time to clear trees on the
side of the driveway! I did go back fifteen minutes
later. The skunk was gone. He probably thought,
"Good, that smelly ape is gone."
The rest of the tree-clearing task passed without
event. It does seem that as I spend more time on the
land, I see more. Excellent. I'm just a tenant, so let's
Saturday, the 27th
I intentionally failed to post a photo of the well head because it
looked pretty dreadful after Mike left. All the drilled granite had
to go somewhere, and that somewhere was my unfinished
driveway. It was ugly! Like a scene from a dinosaur/swamp
documentary, only without the dinosaurs.
But this ugly material is also one of the best for packing. After it
dried out John came over with his tractor and cleaned it up. The
results were fantastic, and I told him so. Thanks, John!
He also did a superb job grading that far end of the drive. Here
are a couple of photos of the well head at the end of the driveway:
I've been thinking. Yeah, I know; that's scary! If the well
recharges at about 50 gallons a day, that's probably enough
for my cabin. I won't have a swimming pool. I won't have a
flush toilet, instead a composting toilet is waiting in my
How much water do I really use in a day? I'll know soon
because I'll be living in a trailer in a bit over a month. All the
water will be either purchased or given me by a generous
neighbor or parents. I can keep track of my use.
What if a significant other moves in--which would be
since I'm a confirmed bachelor! That's a subject to ponder.
We mixed and poured the footing for the second post. It went
so quickly because, not only did we have enough cement, but
we also know how the other works and can compliment his
weaknesses. (Except John has no weaknesses, or so he keeps
I haven't any photos of the footing yet. While I was putting in
the mailbox, John was industrious and pulled the tarp back
over the post. Trust me, the footing is excellent, perfect
in all aspects
I did snap a new photo. Don't the tarps look like
I'll have better shots next week because I'll be painting the
posts. Then, I can leave them uncovered. Imagine what the
townsfolk are saying now?
Do I hear the local bookie giving odds what they're for? Gallows,
UFO re-fueling port, expensive clothesline? Won't they be
surprised? Is it too late to play a long shot?
Putting in the mailbox was easy. I expected to hit large stones
immediately and have to dig them out. I did hit a much-too-large
stone with the post-hole digger at 20 inches down.
That's deep enough so I cut off eight inches from the post. Oh,
and what a wonderful smell! There's just nothing like freshly-cut
cedar. I cut the post twice. (Can't cut it longer!) Now, John and
I each have a cedar block to snort. Yeah, it's my crack!
It's obviously good stuff, too, because the mailbox turned out
well. Take a look:
John spread about half of the hard pack that I had delivered.
He promised to spread the rest tomorrow. One more
dump-truck load (18 yards) ought to finish the driveway. I'll
order this final load next week during work, when I have plenty
of spare time!
I re-fitted the carburetor with the new jets. I also found a good
way to fill the float bowl without running down the battery
charge. The idle is greatly improved. When revved up, without
any load, there's no sign of the rolling misfire that I had
previously endured. Improvement!
But, there's still a problem. It's got to be in the power circuit.
The engine will idle and rev up no problem. Put a load, any load,
on the engine and it stumbles and bogs down. Clearly, some
rust made its way into the power circuit or whatever Holley calls
Sigh. At least the weather has been good and the forecast is
also good. I may just order a new power valve. I think that's
what they call it. Though, I did remove and blow it out.
That's something else to research at work. (Online jigsaw
puzzles do get boring! And watching "superiors" stumble
around like drunks is tiresome!) There always seems to be an
opportunity to learn something new!
In other news, I splurged and bought an infrared thermometer.
What a fun toy! I was zapping a lot of things today. I just wished
it made a whirring sound before displaying a result. You know,
like a 1950s gadget from the future! Then, it would be the
perfect toy, at least in my mind.
Sunday, the 21st
I have added six movies to the GRS
On Monday, Mike the driller got the rig over the future well head site.
The driveway is now wider, too! I dropped by Monday evening and the
well bit was down to 150 feet without any noticeable water.
I took the next day off, Tuesday, and I helped him drill--err, that is watch
the rig drill. It's quite a machine. It can do in a minute what took John and
I an hour or more! Mike's also got a good sense of humor so I enjoyed
learning about well drilling. By that afternoon the well was drilled to
400 feet. No water. But sometimes, the next morning, these wells are
full of water.
I took a video (2 min 11 sec) of adding another 25-foot section of pipe
to the drill head. It's available in two formats (
-178 MB &
- 86 MB)
You can also see the speed that the drill progresses. It's much, much
faster than my DIY drill! The video's available (14 sec) in two formats (
-19 MB &
- 11 MB)
Unfortunately, I couldn't take off Wednesday, also. (I have to pay for
this service!) I decided early the next morning that 455 feet was the
deepest that I wanted to go. (With well drilling, one must choose the
depth to drill with the first rig. Lining up another rig is asking
for serious trouble, so the drillers charge a ridiculous amount of
money--three grand for set-up alone!--to avoid doing it!)
The previously deepest (recorded) well around my parts was 420.
I figured if we didn't hit water at 455, then something else needs
to be done. There's no good drilling to China, not to mention I
only have so much money.
Wednesday evening I paid Mike and thanked him for doing a great
job. We spoke with his hydraulic-fracturing colleague about my
particular well. I wrote down some useful information. I also
learned about "fracking". It's an interesting technique and not
as dangerous as oil fracking. The colleague said my well was an
ideal candidate. We'll see!
The well has since filled to about 50 feet from the surface. I figure
it fills at around 50 gallons per day. The normal static water level
is about 20 feet, so it's low for sure.
John said that I could install a large underground water tank.
The well pump could slowly fill that overnight and another
pump could deliver water to the cabin bladder tank as required.
I like this idea because it's something we may be able to do
ourselves. It will, no doubt, be cheaper. But, that's a project
for another time! For now, it'll sit there. Who knows, maybe
the pressure from the standing water column will break open
more fractures and solve my recharge rate problem?
Solar posts & driveway
Mike pulled in a second rig to provide more 25-foot drill
sections. The two trucks combined with the powdered
granite made quite a mess of my driveway. It did dry and
the powder will pack very well. John volunteered to fix
Also, this week, the quarry delivered 18 yards--cubic yards
really--of "3/4 minus" gravel or, as it's locally named
"hard pack", to my driveway. Jeff is the driver who previously
delivered my stone for the driveway "apron". He remembered
me and asked how I was coming along on the lot. Small
world. Good people.
Jeff dropped one yard between the holes for the solar
posts. Recall that Jack and I raised these steel pipes last
Saturday? The task for this Saturday was to mix and pour
the concrete footings. I figured that I'd use some of the
driveway gravel. It's not ideal but should work.
I learned a new skill: mixing concrete! The electric mixer,
which long term readers may recall I assembled during
a snowstorm a few years ago, worked well. The little
Honda generator powered it without a hitch. Amazing
I miscalculated the amount of Portland cement that we
needed. Concrete is a mixture of Portland cement--which
is named for a town in England where it was
re-discovered--, sand, and gravel. Water is used to give it
a soupy consistancy.
We ended up only finishing one footing because we
couldn't buy enough cement locally. The guy at the
hardware asked about my well drilling. See, tongues do
wag about my efforts!
Next Saturday we pour the other footing! This week
my hatchback pick-up will move a half ton of cement
to the site. It'll take two trips. It sounds like a lot
weight for a supermini car, but distributed inside
the car makes it little different than having five
people on board. Stay tuned!
Saturday, the 13th
On Tuesday, I phoned the town offices to ask if the State had recognized
their street-number application, which was submitted on my behalf. The
lady on the other end said, rather rudely, "Oh, that was done weeks ago."
I just smiled, thanked her, and hung up. So I'm go for launch. Yes!
Friday turned out to be a day of progress. Mike, the recommended well
driller, is a decent 65-year-old Bernie Sanders supporter, but who also
questioned who would pay for "all that free education". Surely, a
When I told him what John and I attempted he was visibly impressed.
He recognized my homemade well point and casing immediately. I got a
good vibe from the guy and decided that he was the one who should
do the job.
Now, he can't just drill the well and allow me to case it. He needs
to put in a steel casing to the bedrock (or "ledge" as they call it 'round
here). Without the casing, which will probably be about 20-25 feet deep,
his rig won't drill straight into the bedrock.
I told him that I have a "soft start" 110 voltage well pump that I hoped
to use since I'll be on battery power. He understood and said we could
address the pump later, though suggested we speak with his Gould
pump distributor about the power consumption. I recorded some key
numbers. The sales man said that an alternative pump was in stock,
just in case mine doesn't have enough power.
That's a bridge to cross next year. Back to now, Mike said
he would be back with his rig in a few hours. Fast-forward a few hours
and he returns with a companion, Jamie, and the drilling rig.
Another thing I really like about Mike is that he said he could do
the job with only taking down one branch. Most guys with big
trucks--long-term readers may recall a certain tree company's
quote--want to knock down a bunch of "pesky" trees so they can
set up their massive machines. (Maybe it's a macho thing?)
Despite the best intentions, Mike and Jamie weren't able to
get the rig in place above the well site:
They're definitely adventurous! Mike said he'd be back
with a small earthmover to open up the bend where they're
stuck. It shouldn't take more than an hour. It's a bit more
money but one can only applaud the tenacity. Plus, I'll have
the bend professionally widened for, what I feel, is a fair price.
Mike left the rig on my property for the weekend. It does attract
a bit of attention. Here's
from near the street. This probably maintains my notoriety in the
small town gossip. "Guess what that guy did? He ordered a well drilled
and got the rig stuck!" Hey, I can be a celebrity in my own mind,
right. But, seriously, who knows with small towns
Though, I wasn't exaggerating about the rig drawing attention:
This is a good time to introduce my friend and ex-co-worker (twice).
Jack volunteered to help me raise the solar "posts" today. He's been
having trouble with his daughter and ex-wife, but still took the time
to spend a day with me hammering railroad spikes and dragging
trees around. This is a real man. Oh, and he's pictured above, posing
with the stuck well-drilling rig.
Today was raise-the-posts day. I know these posts are heavy and
didn't look forward to manhandling them into a ready-to-launch
orientation. (Can you tell that I've been watching old space
The back story
You know, with Jack's help, this task was fun and successful. Now
I must suspend the narrative to provide some background. Please,
bear with me because it'll make sense.
Yesterday, after Mike and Jamie left their drilling rig stuck in my
driveway--he did remark that I could sell it for scrap!--, I set out with
my truck to fetch a half dozen of eight-foot lengths of two-by-fours.
The old girl started to buck and run very poorly. Darn it, I thought,
as I turned around and willed her back home. I had previously
decided to remove the gas tank this winter and pay Steve, the
radiator/gas-tank guy, to clean and seal the tank.
But not now. I really needed you, old girl, because my Japanese
"pick-up truck" cannot move eight foot lengths. I was a bit
dejected, though happy to arrive under her own power, as I
pulled into another kind neighbor's parking area.
Not only did I have to disassemble the carburetor and remove
the offending rust--and it's damned offensive now!--but I now had
no way to fetch some lengthy two-by-fours.
As I tried not to succomb to "heat exhaustion", I looked around
and realized that I had lots of mostly straight small tree trunks
on the ground just begging to have a final moment of glory
before rotting away.
Maybe it's the humidity that sparked those neurons? Or maybe
I was working off a mild hangover? Either way, I now had a
solution to a vexxing and present problem. Eureka!
Birch, drill bits, and success
Yesterday, I managed to cut a few fallen birch trees into sections.
It wouldn't have been too bad, if it wasn't so humid and I didn't
have to cut by hand. I think older men would remark that this task
would put hair on the chest. But look where they are: dead
and feeding the worms!
Back in the present: Today, I brought my wonderful little Honda
generator to power my electric chainsaw. I have to break the
sequence to complement this portable "camp" generator.
provides "only" 900 Watts, but has done everything reasonable
that I have asked. It powered an electric chainsaw to cut down
many small trees, drilled holes in steel, ran a circular saw, and
scoffed when an angle grinder was plugged in. I even think it will be
my "go to" generator to top up my travel trailer's battery when
the sun isn't enough. This little trooper is worth every penny.
With the help of the Honda generator, we sectioned out a number
of birch trunks. (Birch trees seem to always be falling down
or ready to fall down.) These handsome trunks would probably
work just as well as the pressure-treated lumber that I planned.
And, indeed, they worked perfectly. Jack drilled the hole through
the solar posts. Of course, being steel this task was a three
drill-bit process. It was working pretty well until Jack asked to
swap out the first bit--typically the hardest working of the lot.
A nearby size just wasn't cutting. I asked if the drill was spinning
the correct direction because I caught a glimpse of oddity. The
bit never performed so we switched back to the original. On
closer examination, I found that the helix of the bit was cut
backwards. No wonder!
Raising the posts passed without event. Though as we raised
the second, there were ominous rumbles of thunder. And I mean
real thunder. I pondered this as I stabilized a large steel post.
Will my epitaph read: "killed while holding a steel rod in a
(That would be terrible because I'm no golfer! Recall the minister
Actually, I really hate golfers. If I could,
I would hunt them down like the vermin that they are!)
So, with no further prelude, below are some shots of the posts
in their "legless midget graves" with the rebar installed. The
birch trunks performed beautifully because they have just that
bit of desired spring. Lovely!
After a bit of tweaking of the rebar, all is ready for pouring
the concrete next week. I'm not such an idiot now for my
seemingly shoddy "rebarring", am I? I had a plan!
Success! Below, Jack proudly stands amongst our work. And
rightly so, because without him it would not have happened.
The observant individual will notice that the posts aren't the
same height. Yup, you're right. Here's a virtual gold star. (Now
go away, if you're that trite!) The discrepancy arises from the
different depths of the holes. One is a foot shallower than
the other. As persistent readers know, I hit a very large stone
in one hole and couldn't dig any deeper. That explains the
I'm not one for uniformity, so I'm sure this difference will
prove to be advantageous. Nature meant it this way. How
can I argue? I would never win.
Jack kindly stayed to "button up" the project. This means
covering the site with my extra-large tarp from Andy and
Mom--thank you!--and staking it with stones. This seems
to keep most of the rainwater and runoff out.
And would you know it, the threat of rain became reality.
Literally, as soon as we had pulled the tarp over the site,
it began to rain. If I were on TV, then I'd say this
must be staged.
Below is a shot shortly before it began to, properly, rain. I
don't see any ponds for frogs happening this time!
So we're on schedule and ready for next weekend.
Please return when we cement my energy prospects
Sunday, the 7th
Welcome to August! I have made some updates to the site.
Five movies have been added to the GRS
I also added the quote below:
Seeing your face reminds me that I forgot to wipe my ass!
subtitles when a co-worker briefly stops
in an office before rushing out
Soft side of the projects
Tentatively, the lot has an address! I'll call the town on Tuesday to verify that
it's on record with the State. This was the final, true barrier to my living on the
My kind neighbor, who is hosting my travel trailer, has been keeping
tabs on my progress. After our failure to drill the well, she dug out the contact
information--love the pun--for the man who drilled her well. He's not only
reputable, but will drill by the foot. (Many drillers around these parts want to
drill to three hundred feet before stopping to check for water.) I have an
appointment to meet Michael, the driller, on Friday. Thank you, Donna!
I submitted the driveway permit. The building inspector, who also has to
sign his approval, said that there's no fee. Wow, a government that doesn't
want money in exchange for a service. Of course, I know my property taxes--or
rent to the town--pays for these actions. I was still surprised.
Hard (fun) side of the projects
Now, for the actual work on the land. I stacked the wood that John cut for
me a couple of weeks ago. The pile only fell over once, which isn't bad for
me. See, monkey can learn! It's very stable. Take a look:
This weekend was set aside for "rebarring". No, it's not a new S&M club in
Per the solar-mount manufacturer's suggestions, I planned to
assemble the rebar in the holes that would be filled with concrete.
But first, I needed to get rid of the water! You see, I covered the site with
a large tarp--thank you, Mom & Andy!--to discourage water from filling my
"graves for legless midgets", which is what I call the holes for the "solar"
posts, with runoff. But, if you're local, you're thinking, "what rain: we're
in a severe drought."
Ah ha, yes we are and I'm damned glad of it because I've been able to
accomplish much. But, the bit of rain that we do get seems to end up
on the tarp and makes perfect watering holes for frogs and bugs. I bailed
out the holes on Friday. Still, yesterday's rain brought back the ponds:
Fortunately, there's always a silver lining. Whilst bailling out the water,
I was able to see my driveway "apron" at work. Sure enough it directs
the water into the stony ditch parallel with the road. Even torrential
downpours, which don't occur here, will never overwhelm the drainage
and flood the street.
After removing the water, which is a good aerobic exercise, I set about
assembling the rebar in my "graves". I had been secretly dreading this
task. It was probably founded in the all-too-common fear of the unknown.
As it turned out, I didn't have to cut any of the two rebar lengths that I
purchased from Lowe's.
Yes, the plastic "chairs" that I purchased to stand the rebar off the ground
didn't work. (The rebar should be entirely encapsulated in concrete to
avoid it applying a tensile load to the concrete during freezing conditions.
That's why I need to stand off the rebar from the ground.) So instead, I
made stone "chairs". Or are they called "thrones" when they're made of
Anyhow, the stones worked well. The rebar structure needs to tie in to the
post, so, please, don't send an e-mail message saying: you imbecile,
that structure is lopsided! Working in a shallow "grave" with the rebar was
cool. I could only equip one hole with rebar because I ran out of materials.
It's such a clean and quick job that it'll be nothing to do the other footing
on Friday, after I meet the well driller.
I plan to run one or two 'bars diagonally through the vertical posts (not
shown) and tie them into the structure. The mess only has to stay in place
long enough for John and I to pour the concrete, and then no one will be
able to see how unprofessionally I assembled my rebar. That said, I did
enjoy the task even if I broke all the rules!
Below is a shot of the site. I put the rebar in the left "grave". That dead
branch is there intentionally. I thought it would be nice to have a pole
standing somewhat vertically in each hole, which could create "tents"
around the holes to shed water.
It may work. If not, it does provide a better warning to ramblers wandering
in my driveway looking for their runaway cat or dog. That's why I put
the traffic cones out. I'd really hate for someone, even a trepasser, to fall
into a five-foot hole that's covered by a tarpaulin.
Also in the shot are the two steel posts. Heavy bastards. They're rusting
so I'll clean, prime, and paint them once they're vertical and the concrete
is cured. Also pictured is the entire requirement of Portland cement for the
concrete footings. Yes, roughly 200 pounds is all that is needed. The sand is
One bag of the two-thousand-pounds of sand is visible in that photo. The
other bags are scattered around. My hatchback "pick-up truck" brought the
majority of this material to the lot. If distributed properly, the car thinks:
I just have a full complement of "big boned" Americans on board. That's
OK. (They're people, too!)
I won't even attempt to transport the gravel with the purple beast.
I need a bit more than a "yard", which equates to nearly two tons of
the irregular stone. Not even the "Hiroshima hatchback hero" can
move all that material in a reasonable time
Speaking of the purple she-beast. (Yes, the truck is feminine. I
don't know why. It's just a feeling.) I got a pair of new jets for the
carburetor. I've noticed that the tailpipe, which I replaced a hundred
miles ago, is sooty.
There's no reason why a stock stovebolt-six should be blackening a new
exhaust system, except if the engine is running too rich. I contacted
Holley, who built the carburetor, and they said it was difficult to know
which jets I would need and the guy recommended dropping two sizes
in the first attempt.
So I ordered two-sizes-smaller and four-sizes-smaller pairs of jets. When
I have a spare moment, I'll put in the first pair. Due to the poor quality
of fuel available, I will have to judge the change by ear and feel. I've been
told that the alcohol in the gasoline can cause plugs to "lie" about the
Archer Daniels Midland
lobbyists. I also love your high-frustose corn-syrup products!
I can then meet your compassionately-funded "doctors" to try and stop
"I am Jack's colon. I get sick, and I kill Jack."
Thank you, ADM. You, greedy fucking bastards!)
Of course, my fear is the same as most classic vehicle owners. Running
a bit rich is alright; however, running too lean is bad, potentially
catastrophically bad. I wish my
would fit the engine. It's such a wonderful "bit of kit". I tuned the new
MG engine perfectly with it.
(While on that idea, the MG won't be driving this year. I still need to
attend to the brakes and replace the axle seals. It's sad because I miss
driving my piece of English motoring history. The old boy will ride
I could break out the
Gunson's carbon-monoxide sniffer;
though, it's not quite as effective as the Colortune. It's also definitely
much more tedious to calibrate. I think I'll just be gentle and trust the
old girl to speak to me.
Science may say motor vehicles cannot have a soul. I do beg to differ.
There have been many times that my little MG--and other cars--has
"told" me that something is wrong. It could be just an elevated
perception on my part; but, I am also only a monkey. Oh look, a banana!
Sunday, the 31st
The diesel compressor did make the drill spin faster. See a shot
Pressure remained at 105 psi, which is more than the required 90 psi.
The flow was plenty with the larger hoses.
The bad news is that the drill is just too slow. We descended about an inch
every hour. That's too slow to drill 60 feet! The up side is that we tried it
and now know that it won't work. The soil was sandy with stones mixed in.
I'll find a driller with a small rig to cut the hole. We can then lower in my
PVC casing and well point. This should cut the cost because I won't need
a steel casing or pump.
Driveway / solar posts
The highway agent has approved the driveway "apron". Tomorrow, I'll
submit the permit request and pay the fee. Then, I can spread gravel.
Before that, we'll pour the footings for the solar posts. Then, I can spread
hard pack around them. The next step is to assemble the rebar and get
the rest of the concrete materials. Then, we can raise the posts and lock
them in place with two-by-fours. In three weeks, John will help me mix &
pour the concrete.
Until then, enjoy the six additions to the
Sunday, the 24th
I gave up on the paving company and found another one. This guy, Joe, agreed
to come out on Friday. He and his three guys graded the stone, spread the
asphalt, and rolled the blacktop inside of two hours. I was impressed.
I now have the driveway "apron" to satisfy the town's requirement. Friday, I left
a message with the highway agent asking him to check it. Once I have his approval,
I pay the fee and then can spread hard pack. That's the locally preferred type
of gravel. It freezes solid and becomes like concrete in the winter.
Below are some photos of the "apron":
Solar panel posts
Also on Friday, I waited for the steel pipes to arrive. I nearly missed the truck
driver. The neighbors tried to help and pointed out my lot. I was waiting next
door. But I got them. A photo is included further below.
Regarding the address for my lot. On Monday evening, I went to the town hall.
I stumbled over a chair on the way in, which made everyone look up. "Well, I'm
here," I exclaimed in response. Everybody laughed. The petite blonde, who was
previously last in line, said that usually she does that.
Have you noticed that many women aged between 20 and 40 years seem to have
a persistent dry cough? This girl had it, too. Very strange. Is it caused by polluted
air, bad food, insufficient sleep, or is it something more ominous?
When I got to the front of the line, the town clerk said that she couldn't give me
an address. She thought that I needed a house first. So how do you live on site
and build? Fortunately, she left a photocopy of my property tax bill on the
building inspector's desk.
The next day I spoke with the inspector. He said that he's never issued an
address without a building on a lot. He rang the state to ask if I could indeed
have a 911 address issued. They said yes, and he said he'd work on it. I'll call
Once I have the address, I can legally move to the lot. Then, I can pay my final
month's rent. Ah, the thought of leaving behind
door slammer & stomper--that's what I call the apartment
Drilling / "Solar holes"
OK, now I'm just getting creative with the titles
The extra air tank didn't improve the well drill. Rats! It made it worse. Instead,
I reserved a diesel-powered monster from a place. The guy behind the counter
said that 3/8" hose size is too small for the flow rate. I reserved 100 feet of
3/4" hose along with the compressor trailer. I'll adapt down at the drill head.
Since I had John's time, we cleaned up the bottoms of the solar post footings.
A large stone is at the bottom of one. It's so large that it'll only help make
the footing solid and heave-free. (No, I don't mean that it won't vomit out the
post!) I also trimmed the roots. Take a look:
We also cleared some trees to allow more light on the solar site earlier in
the day. These trees were crowded around the utility pole shown in the
photo below. Also, here's the promised image of the steel posts.
I had thought that I would paint the posts before pouring the
footings. However, after moving them around by myself, I thought
again. They weight about 150 pounds each!
A neighbor said that voting for anyone other than the Democrat
or Republican candidate is a wasted vote. Since these are both
statist parties or "two heads of a single-party system", why
discriminate between them?
I was surprised because I thought him an intellectual. I guess
when it comes to politics or religion, most people are not logical.
I told him that the federal elections are probably rigged so I'll send
a message and vote for the Libertarian candidate. His platform
matches my political beliefs 98% of the time. How do I know this
fact? During the ample idle time at work I took a bunch of political
quizzes. That number was the result of one of the tests.
More project updates coming soon!
Sunday, the 17th
I added five movies to the
I purchased a 10 gallon air tank. I'm going to plumb it inline with the air compressor.
Who knows: maybe the extra volume will give us the power we need? If
not, then I'll arrange the diesel compressor. We'll test the new set up this Saturday.
On Monday, I cleared an area adjacent to the driveway for the solar panel posts.
I--well, the mini excavator!--dug two holes for the concrete footings for them.
(OK, it did have some help from me. There aren't any self-driving
Here's a look at the site and a hole:
I know I bring thrilling news. Guess what? I dug two holes! The holes are slightly
smaller than the manufacturer's suggestion. I couldn't dig any deeper. They're
two feet by five feet by three feet deep. It'll do.
I'm slowly buying the concrete ingredients. I have all the rebar and "chairs".
The posts are on their way to my kind neighbor's house. These posts are six-inch,
schedule 60 steel pipes stretching to ten feet.
They won't be light so I've already had a volunteer to help me raise them. Then,
I'll use two-by-fours to hold them vertical while pouring the concrete. I still need
to purchase the rest of the sand and wood. This is too much weight for my
"pick-up" car. (It does surprisingly well, though!)
Good news! I towed the camper to my neighbor's house. It's parked. The drive
was hair-raising. You see, the truck's gas tank has some residual rust in it. I have
fitted an inline filter. The trouble arises when I don't change the filter enough.
Often enough is probably every few drives!
So a fleck of rust snuck by and lodged in the jet. I managed to mostly fix it on
the side of the road. (Hey, at least the weather was agreeable!) But I need to do
a proper job before I can get the half ton of sand. I will now change the filter every
Towing with an unpredictable hiccup in the power delivery wasn't fun. Not that
I enjoy towing anyways. I wish my brother had been available. He loves towing!
I prefer small vehicles. However, it's done.
This Friday, I will camp on site and work on the rebar for the footings and open
up the camper. I should have more interesting photos. Stay tuned!
Saturday, the 9th
I added four movies to the
A flurry of activity has beset me. The well project is on hold. I did order an additional
air tank. If I put it in series with the compressor's tank, we may be in business. It's
worth a try!
I learned from a woman who's on the planning committee that new town regulations
will be coming down for off-grid systems. (Governments are always in the way!)
So I'm going to put in the solar panels earlier than I wanted. I have drawn the footings
for the solar panels. I have a mini-excavator arriving on Monday to dig the holes. Then,
I'll cut and fit the rebar. The posts (6" steel pipes) are on order.
The fun part will be mixing all the concrete. I need two-and-a-half cubic yards, so it's
not a trivial amount. I should have enough stone leftover from the driveway apron
that I'll just need sand delivered and purchase the Portland cement.
I'm one step closer to being out of the apartment! Thursday, I purchased a 19-foot
travel trailer. It's clean and well-maintained. What sold me on it was the fact that the
previous owner always took off his shoes when he went inside to show me around.
He also updated
the lighting to be more efficient. Plus, he's a trustworthy and friendly guy. He grew
up on Lake Champlain, maybe that's why?
Things are falling into place. Recall my neighbor who allowed me to hook up to her
water system? Well, she offered the use of her trailer service tie-ins. She and her late
husband had lived in a trailer while they built their house. I took her up on it because
it would really help me out. Since I'll be moving futher away from work, I'll be on the
road more than three hours when I commute. It'll be refreshing to come home to
electricity and a toilet that is connected to a septic system.
"I love it when a plan comes together."
Sunday, the 26th
I added eight movies to the
So, I have good news and bad news! The good news first. The drilling rig works.
It's a messy and physical job, but it works. The bad news is that the air compressor
that is advertised as able to the job, won't. That's right: it cannot maintain the
necessary pressure for the required flow rate. Are we surprised? "Truth in
advertising", uh, yeah right.
Also, we proved that it'll drill through stone, if it has enough compressed air.
We managed to get three feet down, which, all in all, isn't too shabby. I'll just rent
a diesel-powered trailer air compressor. Overkill is a good thing!
There is another good thing. The 200 yards of united garden hoses--which took me
a lot of time to drag through the woods--supplied more than enough water.
Impressive. Below is a crappy photo of the hose that I took in partial light.
(I won't quit my day job, yet...)
What you want to really see is the culprit:
who disabled this beast:
Essentially, this is a large steel masonry bit spun by a custom motor (inside the
taped volume), which is powered by the compressed air. The radial holes just
to the left of the motor allow the tailings (drilled earth), which are thrown
along the outside of the pipe by the bit, to enter the PVC pipe. Air pressure
takes these tailings up the pipe and
out the well hole. Remember, that this entire process takes place underwater.
Once the drilling/pumping is going smoothly, the PVC pipe is connected to the
rest of the pipe. Below is 100 feet of 1" PVC piping.
It's very long to allow the pipe to be arched around (as shown) into the
previously-mentioned trash barrel, which is out of frame. The barrel slows
down the water mixture and directs it into the settling pond, where, via
a pipe, the water is returned to the well. See below:
Here's another shot of the entire drill stem with the first 10-foot section of
PVC pipe disconnected. The inventor found that pumping through the entire
drill stem is tough for a shallow hole. Or an underpowered drill! So we started
drilling/pumping with only one 10-foot section of pipe connected to the drill
But what does it look like when you're actually drilling? Below is John, my
steadfast friend & neighbor, and I acting out what it looks like to drill. The only
difference is water and tailings aren't being shot out the top, staining everything
with long forgotten earth!
What does it feel like to drill? It's sure to improve one's grip! I can only compare
it to the moment when a pistol drill grabs and tries to break your wrist. Now
imagine that amount of torque all the time. It's incredibly tiring and then there's
Until I got sick of us being showered with muck, and fitted the
horizontal pipe, it was like being in a hailstorm of granite. It's not painful but
is very messy! Writing about it brings back the sensation of muddy pebbles oozing
down my back!
John's ingenuity produced the wrist-saving idea of using a rubber, band-style
oil-filter wrench to grip the pipe, thus providing a lever to resist the motor's torque.
This engineering eureka! moment saved our wrists and forearms from
premature failure. You can see him holding the tool in the above photo.
Stay tuned, loyal reader, for news about this project and another which has just
Wednesday, the 22nd
This past weekend was spent setting up the air system and finishing the well
casing. Below you can see one of the casing pipes on saw horses. (Click for a
I cut slits in it, and half of the next one. These will allow water to seep into
the volume where the pump will be. Here's a close-up of the slits:
I used an air-powered hand slitting saw to make the cuts.
It worked well and allowed me to test the air system. Here's a shot of the
This weekend, we drill!
Sunday, the 12th
I've finished preparing the site for drilling. I only got down about a foot with the
post hole digger. But, that's one less foot to drill! I also remembered to
bring the camera!
Below is what the well and drainback system look like (click for a larger view):
Let's get this out of the way: yes, my purple pick-up truck is right there. It's
not curious. Rather, I have enlisted it to support a tarp with which I cover the site
when I'm not there. Rainwater is powerful and I don't need it meddling in
Starting at the top is the trash barrel. Its function is to catch the water as it's
shot out of the end of the drill stem. It comes out with a lot of force. The water
then flows out and into the settling pond. (It's a 2 foot by 1 foot by 2 foot deep
hole, which took me a couple of hours to dig. Love you, stones!) In the pond, the
trimmings settle out and the clearer water exits the drain pipe. (The end of this
pipe is covered with a black straining sock, AKA plastic screen from
The pipe is slanted downwards so gravity will assist the water as it returns to
the well head. This recycling of water is useful, as I should explain in my next
report. I used stones to hold down the return pipe because I have so many
of them! And I'm lazy: it's a lot easier moving a bit of dirt and a few stones than
digging up a pipe.
The white vertical pipe is a guide for the drill. It sticks out of the ground about
8 inches and extends the previously-mentioned foot below ground. See both
Here's a close-up of the "catch barrel" and settling pond:
The stones to the left of the pond are not part of the system. They are simply
there to help divert rainwater around the settling pond. I don't want sediment
in it before I start to drill!
Once the well is drilled, a casing must be installed to avoid it from collapsing.
I found these 20-foot schedule-40 four-inch PVC pipes that will do the job. I
carried the beasts through the woods without stumbling and killing myself.
Go me! And for my next daring trick...
Here's a shot of the three pipes, which will unite--like Voltron--to make the
well casing. Yes, they're bell-ended because, as the inventor says, bells have
less tendency to snag on the way down the hole. If you put them down the
hole the right way up! Clever man.
The observant visitor will notice that one of them doesn't look like the
others. (Thank you, Sesame Street!) And he, or she, or it--except in North
Carolina--would be correct. I glued the well point to one of the pipes.
Here's a rather unflattering shot of the custom well point that I purchased
from the clever man.
Yes, I felt a bit shitty when I realized that it was a toilet bowl float glued to
a bit of pipe that has a hole in it! So, what's the hole for? Well, it's actually a
bushing that goes clear across the pipe and will accept a nylon rope. I'll
pass a rope through that bushing and out the other side. Keeping both ends
out of the well means that I can always lift out the casing, if I run into
problems. I told you he was clever!
The next task is to "slit" half of the casing. The water has to get in somehow!
Then, I will lay out the drill stem piping and explain how the drill works.
"Do not adjust your television." There will be photos of this task coming
Saturday, the 11th
I added five movies to the
I'm almost finished with the site preparations. I'll upload a photo or two to show
the arrangement. It is a clever design.
Well, the guy, with whom I had the run-in, is now very respectful of me. I was hoping
to be laid off. Darn it! It would have been damned convenient to be out of work
right now because I could finish my projects more quickly. I'll keep trying
The driveway apron, which will protect the paved road against erosion, should be in
soon. Then, I can get approval from the road agent, pay the town fee, and spread
gravel. I've determined that it's best if I lay the stone myself because my neighbor
has a very busy schedule, also. That means that I'll have to rent a small earth mover.
Last Sunday, I helped a friend replace the front coil springs on his '70s Saab Sonett.
The quirky car has bump stops integrated in the already-very-long top spring
mount. It's a clever idea, but a bitch when one has to replace the springs!
Even using spring compressor clamps, we cut the only intact--the driver's side was
broken--spring to aid removal. Don't be lazy and not install the u-bolts that secure
the clamps to the spring. We had one let go and the u-bolt kept it from taking off
one of our heads. This had happened to my pal previously, too.
No, he didn't have two heads and now has only one!
One of my favorite home brews is a dark English porter. I modified the recipe
provided by a brewing supply house. This is the batch that I bottled a few weeks
ago. It turned out very well: full-bodied with smoky undertones. Judging by its
color, it is closer to a stout or a bock. However, the taste is definitely a porter.
I read somewhere that this style of beer was preferred by train porters, hence its
name. The idea was that this inexpensive brew would provide the inner "warmth"
required to man a door on the trains of Victorian England. I don't know if the story's
correct, but it is a fun story!
Saturday, the 4th
I added six movies and one TV program to the
I received the PVC piping for drill and casing my well. I'm preparing the site by
digging a ditch and settling pond. Lots of work!
Saturday, the 28th
I added seven movies and two TV programs to the
I also added the following quote:
Don't worry I was raised in Yellowstone National Park, in Canada.
"fighter" hunter from
The truck is inspected and now legal to run on the public roads. The inspector
pointed out that the trailing arms have been replaced by u channel. It's stronger
than the original. It's interesting that the frame has been well repaired and the
body's full of bondo.
I dragged the ATV and trailer up to the property. I also threw in the 400 pounds of
sand in the bed. (The sand is for the well.) This weight made starting from a
standstill on a hill difficult. I may have to re-think towing a sizeable travel trailer
with my truck.
The PVC piping for the well drilling should arrive later this coming week. I watched
the video again and took copious notes. Tomorrow, I plan to do the digging for the
water recycling. This is a fancy term for a large garbage can, settling pond and pipe
running to a posthole-dug start of the well. We'll see how deep I can get with the
posthole digger. I may hit stone and skip it. Fortunately, the air drill will cut through
anything, including granite.
Sunday, the 15th
Mickey would be proud of me. Today, I added another length of exhaust piping. This
time I needed to push the muffler further back. That's not the best thing to realize
that you have to do; however, I did get a new hacksaw handle out it. (My previous one
needed to be retired.)
The exhaust is, finally, completed. I did the best I could fitting it, and saw that it may
knock on a trailing arm. So I topped up the antifreeze, checked the engine & rear end
oil, and went for a test drive. The engine ran and pulled smoothly. The exhaust
wasn't loud and, as far as I can tell, didn't knock.
At the gas station, the only one in town now, I added fuel. A young child, who with
his mother was being served as I waited in line, thought I was his father. Poor kid, so
your dad's an unshaven guy with dirty clothes who smells a bit of dirt and grease!
Having re-fueled the beast, I took the truck up to 55 mph. The wander is still there,
which was exacerbated by the gusty wind. The good news is that all the gauges
read what they did last autumn. The great news is that there doesn't seem to be any
oil leaks from the front main seal, timing cover gasket, or oil pan gasket! How's that
for working in the snow in a forest. I feel like the Joads in the Grapes of Wrath when
they replaced a main bearing on the side of Route 66!
Quite satisfied with myself, Murphy reminded me not to be smug. As I rolled along
my road, I pressed the horn button. Nothing. In the driveway, I found that the relay
was clicking and voltage was getting to the horn. Recall that I took the horn off when
I ripped off the truck's face. Thus, I knew it had to be a bad ground. Sure enough,
after cleaning up the surfaces, the horn worked.
Well, it kind of worked. It sounded just like Oliver in Top Gear. I've replaced just about
everything else in that vicinity, so why not the horn? I can't open it up because they
assembled it with rosette-head rivets. It is probably original because it's all metal,
and says "Made in U.S.A."
All things considered, this was a good day. I think I deserve a beer. Speaking of which,
I have a batch ready to be bottled. It'll be the last one I brew in this apartment.
Saturday, the 14th
I added eight movies to the
Last week I started the truck. Once going, it ran very well. The exhaust didn't bang
around, though I have yet to drive it. The back-up light switch isn't working. The
two sheet metal screws can't get enough purchase on the steering column. I'm
going to install a band-style hose clamp instead. That should allow me to rotate
the switch relative to the column to account for wear.
I've decided to wait until June to drill the well. The weekends are forecast to be wet
this month. I'll order the pipes in a few weeks. I hate to have them sitting for too long.
Saturday, the 30th
I got the "custom-fit" exhaust system on the truck. All I needed was about another six
inches. They didn't get the bends right either, so it's not perfect. Hopefully it won't
bang too often.
I received all the garden hoses that I'll need to feed water from my neighbor's spigot
to my drilling site. (The hardware store probably thinks I'm starting a landscaping
I connected them all together and hooked up to the apartment's
water. It took about a minute to fill all the hoses. But when they were full, the water
came out with more pressure than I expected! It's more than enough to wash a car.
I didn't bother to drain them. Maybe I should have because they weighed a ton!
Friday, the 29th
I added seven movies and three TV programs to the
I forgot that I needed to replace the muffler. Recall that I blew it up with the backfires?
So last week I went to install the manifold-back exhaust system. The old one came off
pretty easily. Maybe this job will go smoothly, I thought. The new one didn't fit! It is six
or seven inches too short. Figures! Easy fix, just very annoying.
I took today off after having a minor argument with a supervisor. The guy's of Italian
descent and takes his job far too seriously, and decided to take it out on me. I told my
supervisor that I was on the brink of resigning. (It's always good to scare them!)
The good part is that I could take the day off, and look for a new job
There are some around, but they feel they can get people to work for half price. Nope,
I'll stick with the job I have and make waves!
A few entries ago, I linked to a Youtube video of Band-Maid. Well, I was so impressed
that I ordered a CD from a music company in Tokyo. Excellent album, well worth the
money! The packaging is also particular of the Japanese. It's complete and efficient.
Sunday, the 17th
Yesterday was a long day of putting the truck back together. But, I can say, it's now a
vehicle again! Tomorrow, which is the anniversary of
The Shot Heard Around The World,
is also a holiday for me. So I can refill the engine and start it up.
By the way, the pulley "pusher" worked almost beautifully. First, my tapping of the
crankshaft wasn't perfectly along the axis of the crank. The result is that the threaded
rod weaved as it "pushed" in pulley. It worked and the wobble really isn't bad for hand
drilling/tapping. The other annoyance was that the knurled nut that is used to keep
the main threaded rod from turning relative to the adaptor threaded rod--a company
of which allow many different threads to be used--got stuck in the bearing inner race.
No problem, just an annoyance!
So the truck is reassembled. This brings me to the latest addition to the
The BBC has broadcast a TV program where James May reassembles machines.
And it's excellent!
Yesterday I also spoke with my kind neighbor who has volunteered to provide
water for my well drilling task. I measured the distance to be a hundred feet more
than I guessed. (Hey, I'm getting better at estimating distances!) Next step is to
purchase and assemble the water hose. Then, I can test it here to ensure that normal
water pressure is sufficient to deliver water to the other end. Otherwise, I'll have
to purchase an inline booster pump.
While working on the truck, my neighbors directly across the road came over.
I explained that I was determined, come hell or high water, that I would be moving
onto the property this summer. One of them responded with a comment that took
me aback. He said that I would do it because I can obviously do anything, since I
ripped apart and repaired a truck in a forest during the winter. That meant a lot.
Friday, the 15th
I added six movies and one TV program to the
Blake is dead
The title character of one of my favorite TV programs,
has died. Yes, Gareth Thomas died yesterday, aged 71.
On a brighter note, my cubicle mate recommended a Japanese all-girl hard rock band.
BAND-MAID really is talented and puts a positive spin on hard rock, unlike some of the
negatively-toned hard rock/heavy metal offered by contemporary American "artists".
Oh, and the girls in BAND-MAID are really pretty, too. Take a look
If they're not to your liking, try the more American-looking, and equally upbeat,
DOLL $ BOXX.
Saturday, the 2nd
I added three movies to the
Good news! The Dacia San--Oh wait, that's not right!
I'm now reassembling the truck. Remember that I removed its face to drill & tap the
front of the crankshaft, so that I could use a pulley installer to properly seat the
crank pulley on the front seal? (Why GM didn't do this still escapes me. Maybe they
had stock in sledge hammers, and harmonic balancers!)
Well, the radiator/headlight bulkhead is back in place. The decorative grille panel is
also in place. Both need to be fully tightened down. The passenger side fender is in
place but I think it liked being off and sitting in the bed. Now, few of the bolt holes
Time to break and enjoy the excellent weather! I took this past week off because I
just couldn't do the commute and job any more. And what spectacular weather I
enjoyed! I even got a bit of a tan, or a light sunburn, in my case
It was a perfect week off. I hiked many miles in my favorite town forest. I got to
read an excellent novel ("books, we've got books"). I didn't practice the trumpet
quite as much as I wanted to. It just didn't feel right.
Projects coming soon
OK, I jumped the gun a bit. I think they call it spring fever? I sent an e-mail message
to the paver reminding him that my site has good southern exposure and could
be blacktopped soon.
Of course, the response that I got wasn't as enthusiastic. (Yankee fortitude is, at
least, consistent.) But, in keeping with New Englanders, they will do the job.
I still haven't measured for the water hoses that I'll need to cool the air-powered
drill that I'll use to drill my water well. Perhaps, I'm becoming a Yankee? In my case,
I'm probably just becoming a carpet bagger!
Saturday, the 26th
I added nine movies to the
I, also, added three quotes:
Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of
chains and slavery?
Better to die on your feet than live on your knees
Well, the boss isn't always right, but he's always the boss.
Bridge of Spies
So, I missed the weather window a few weekends ago to work on the truck. I blame
the time change. But work will continue on the truck tomorrow. I'm almost done.
I had the trumpet cleaned by a local music shop. They did a good job. I'm getting better
slowly. It's difficult not being able to practice every day.
With the temperatures rising, it's time to think about the MG.
I already sent a message to the paving guy. Once that's done, I can get town approval,
pay the permit fee, and spread stone.
Sunday, the 6th
I added six movies to the
Last weekend, I removed most of the ice surrounding the truck. It should be all gone
by now. The clay should dry out this week so I can jack up the engine and remove the
oil pan next weekend.
I'm preparing for the well drilling. I've written a letter to a neighbor asking if I can
hook up a (very long) garden hose, so I have water available. The drill needs water
to cut properly.
Soon, I'll e-mail the paving guy. All the snow is gone from that site, so he could do the
job as soon as it's warm enough.
Wednesday, the 24th
I added six movies & three TV programs to the
This puts the database over 2,200 entries!
I didn't feel like spending an hour and a half in sleet this morning, so I used one
of my paid-time-off days. I use these as I accrue them because I don't know how
much longer I'll be there. I wouldn't mind being let go because they cannot keep
me fully employed anyways, and I get bored!
I'm as far as I can go because the ground under the truck is soft. The next step
is to jack up the engine to remove the oil pan. Fortunately, this is the last step
Sunday, the 14th
I was all set to work on the truck tomorrow. However, it looks like it's not going
to be the best day for working outside. So, instead, I'll bring you up-to-date with
Skip to the end: I have tapped the crankshaft, and it came out beautifully!
Now, how I got there was not a trivial process. I began with the usual procedure
to access the front main seal: remove the radiator and drive belt.
This is quite easy in the cavernous engine bay, especially since the job was fresh
in my mind. The "fun" began when I realized that I'd have to move the
radiator/headlight bulkhead because it was in the way of the drill. I undid all the
And what did I find? We had another heater core situation. Like before,
when I had the heater core rebuilt and had to remove a hood hinge to gain access,
the radiator bulkhead would not come out without removing a fender.
After many alcoholic beverages, the next weekend I succeeded in removing the
fender. (I also had to remove the wipers and cowl covering.)
And would you know it, I only snapped off one bolt in the process! This
Chevy is in better condition than my first--and only other--Chevrolet. (For that
vehicle, I maintained a supply of tie wraps to take the place of sheared-off bolts.)
With the bulkhead out of the way, I was able to start drilling the end of the
crankshaft for a tap. Remember that these threads are necessary so that I could
pull the harmonic balancer onto the front main seal. (See previous entries below
The new cobalt-coated drill bits cut through any nitriding or case-hardening with
little difficulty. The tap did a good job, too; however, it did start to push a burr.
Rather than risk snapping a tap off in the front of the crankshaft, I stopped cutting
threads after a reasonable five or six complete revolutions.
Afterwards, my truck looked like it was ready for the junkyard. Take a look
It is a stark contrast to the normal look. As you can see
(Got wood? And yes, I cut, split, and stacked all that wood.)
I bottled a dark English porter today. Nice. In three weeks, it should be fully
The trumpet practicing is going well. I've decided to only play what I like to play.
No shitty études that have no meaning to me except a faded memory of
past misery. Instead I am practicing TV and movie themes!
My range is gradually improving. It's not a swift recovery because I can only practice
on the weekends. But I am making progress, and that's what matters!
13th of February
I added seven movies to the
30th of January
I added six movies and one TV show to the
I also added two quotes:
How are you feeling?
Good. Keep drinking, it always helps.
I'm betting he's gonna swerve first.
(referring to a train while driving on the tracks)
The truck project is progressing. I'm taking Monday off to work on it more fervently.
I'm back to brewing beer. Beer, yummy!
Also, I've been practicing trumpet again. I had refreshed this skill while unemployed a
couple of years ago. It's interesting how the technique never goes away. Only the stamina
has been lost. I wish I had the time to practice every day.
16 January '16
I added eight movies to the
2016: Happy New Year!
I added two movies & three TV programs to the
My new Netflix distribution center appears able to keep up nearly as well as the
much closer, and probably closed, center. However, I have found alternative means
to view current TV programs. That's why, for probably the first time, TV programs
outnumber movies in the GRS updates.
Finally, we have snow! Not only is it very necessary for the groundwater supply; but,
well, it doesn't feel like winter without shoveling snow. I may be the only adult who's
glad to see the white stuff. There is hope (for the majority) because the long-term
forecast suggests an unusually light winter.
A winter project
I need to tap--cut threads into--the front of the truck crankshaft.
My stovebolt six has no crankshaft bolt. Yeah, odd, huh? When I changed the front
main seal I was unable to completely get the pulley/harmonic-balancer onto the crank.
As you probably figured, I have a rather large oil leak out the front of the engine.
Or, as my experience in English sports cars, has taught me to refer to as
The truck job is not trivial because I need to change the timing cover and oil pan
gaskets as well. The latter requires lifting the engine so the pan may be removed.
The good news is that everything is fresh in my memory and on the engine because
I had just done this job!
This time I'll get it right.
Final day of autumn
I added four movies & two TV programs to the
It seems that the seemingly endless DVD collection that I have tapped for over
a decade may be ending. The other day I tried to increase my subscription and found
that the company has eliminated all larger DVD plans! Also, my main distribution center
appears to have closed because I am now receiving discs from out of state.
I'll continue using the service as long as I can, but I feel it's only a matter of time.
Netflix doesn't even advertise the DVD plans anymore! One must dig on the web site
to find a link to
. However, Netflix's (Internet) streaming service
is going strong. I dislike that part of the business because the selection pales in
comparison to the DVD library.
Pearl Harbor Day
Please remember the victims of the first "September 11th".
I added four movies to the
Since I last wrote, I had to cancel a trip. Yes, the actions of Da'ish--or ISIL/ISIS, as it
seems to be known in America and American-sympathetic "allied" nations--caused
a change of plans for me. This is the first time that I have ever had to cancel a trip, and
I am not happy.
I would have been in Morocco this past week. I didn't cancel because of the recent events
in Mali and Algeria (neighboring countries) but because I questioned the motivations of
the ground crews at Charles de Gaulle aéroport near Paris. CDG is located in the
northern reaches of L'Île de France (AKA Paris). And, there, in north Paris many
self-righteous Muslims are only taking up space.
It seems that the shittiest Muslims have taken up residence in western European capitals.
They're angry and want to destroy something. Maybe it's time to open up a suicide
"practice" park in western Europe? It would probably stop them from planting a device on
a jet airliner! (Oh, am I politically incorrect? Good.)
It wasn't that long ago that I felt more secure in western Europe than in the U.S. Hmm.
Maybe it's time to ask how long before we, in our police-state nation, are really
I'm not saying that we should start bombing to forestall any problem. Oh wait, that has
already been done. And how did that work out? Talking is too difficult, eh? Maybe one
would have to justify beating a drum?
And why are the French bombing the Middle East? Is this some sort of faulty
show-of-force? Oh, but wait, the British are now bombing, too. Great. What will be the
backlash from this entrance?
So if I shot a father,
wouldn't his wife and/or children come after me to fulfill a vendetta? Maybe this is a
simplistic viewpoint, but who said mankind was sophisticated? I certainly don't see
any evidence of sophistication!
Whilst not exploring a new country (sigh), I continued with my projects. Today, I
nearly finished all the tasks on the MG. As you may recall, I had removed the engine and
gearbox to remove the modern "leak-proof" components and re-fit the original units?
The MG drivetrain is now back in place and ready to rumble. I then attended to the blown
wheel seal. This seal must have fallen victim to my exuberant driving style because it
didn't look that bad. Anyhow, that's the seal that left trails of gear oil on the driver's
side rear wheel. The good news is that everything came apart without a problem and
the shoes look OK. Finding the correct shoes is not easy, for some reason.
Now, I just need to order the new seals, which are not OEM, of course.
Truck & property
I moved the truck to my land. The neighbors questioned its security. It's probably safer
there than it is in my driveway. For certain, it's a lot easier to shovel around! Remember
that I don't drive the truck in the salty season.
I've been planning to drill my water well in the spring. This task will be successful.
I have all the equipment and only need a neighbor to provide some water. If that doesn't
work, then I can truck in my own water (see the connection?) with a slight delay.
But I have high hopes that my neighbor, a recent and gentle widow, will be happy to help
me out, if with some help from "George Washington, and his friend... George Washington".
I did also know her husband fairly well. He was a friendly and good man.
22nd of November
I added seven movies to the
15th of November
The new trip page is
Please let me know if you find any typos.
2nd of November
I added eight movies to the
I'm also just back from a camping trip in Utah. A trip page will be forthcoming!
11th of October
I added six movies to the
As autumn falls in place, I find myself slowing down. I aim to work on the MG tomorrow.
I won't be driving it anytime soon because I have put supplies around it. Sure, the MG can
come out of the garage but I can't fit the Mazda in its place. (It's a bit tough to drive two
cars at one time!)
I've been collecting the supplies for drilling and finishing my water well. Today, I bought
six hundred pounds of sand and Sakrete. The truck rides so much better with weight
in the bed! And it runs cool with the fan belt tight!
I think I won't start drilling until the spring. I need the help of other people so I have
to plan around their comfort.
I added six movies to the
18 September 15
I added three movies & two TV programs to the
The MG reassembly is going. It took me quite a bit of time to get the slave cylinder in
place. I guess I'm spoiled by all the space under the hood of the pick-up!
The new, larger air-powered impact wrench didn't loosen the pinion nut on the truck
differential. That's a job for next year along with the engine oil leak.
Speaking of which, I purchased a tool to push the crankshaft pulley/harmonic balancer onto
the crankshaft. Yes, it's a light press fit. No crank nut. I believe this is the main source of the
engine oil leak.
The tool won't work because my crank has no threads on the front end. But at least I have
the tool now, and it's always cool getting new tools! I'll tap the crank next year.
Good news: the steel fan shroud works well on the road! It maintained 220 degrees at 65 mph
on a 90 degree day.
The not-so-good news is that I'm what the British call a clot. The alternator tensioning
nut loosened up--or I forgot to tighten it?! And I wondered why the battery voltage was low,
as if the alternator was disconnected. The big rub was that the engine temperature hit 280
because the water pump was not being driven!
Instead of stopping, like a normal person, I formulated ideas that the steel shrouds didn't
allowing proper airflow when coupled with the full load in the bed. Nope, I'm just a clot!
Fortunately, careful driving and running the heater blower avoided any overheating. I won't
do that again!
As I wait for the blacktop guy, I'm moving on to the next project. Water. Since there's no
town water supply, I have to drill a well. In keeping with my mentality, this is no hardship.
(I've already got a water filtration set-up.)
Since I try to do everything myself, I purchased a kit to drill my own well. Hey, why not drop
a few hundred dollars and see if it works? The main requirement for this DIY drilling rig is
a large air compressor. I ordered a gasoline-powered, nine-horsepower wheelbarrow-style
compressor. I have the money, and what with the low interest rate; why not put it into
Today, I was sorely disappointed because I didn't have to drive the fifty miles into work. Instead,
I had to be present to receive the air compressor. What a beauty it is, too! Even a
dopehead-looking fellow asked if it was for working on the truck.
The pick-up has confirmed my status as a local celebrity. First, I had a "Porschh" (i.e. an MR2
Spyder). Then, I turned up in a tiny, surprisingly-loud convertible from the "eighteen hundreds".
But my celebrity rocketed when my purple Chevy showed up. I don't quite get it. It's just an old
truck. Also, I got the thumbs-up from a construction worker today. I'm definitely not "in the
know". Maybe it's like football and golf?
The air compressor is now in storage until I finish preparing everything for drilling. When told
of my plans, a second person asked what happens if I strike oil. I said that I would quit my job.
He just smiled.
6 September 15
I added three movies & a TV program to the
Enjoy! (This is a repeat. Normal programming should resume soon.)
I received the rebuilt starter for the MG. I guess mine is pretty damn loose! It's no wonder
it missed the flywheel every once in a while! Otherwise, I have been lazy and not done
anything on the sports car.
I have to correct myself. My air impact wrench (not ratchet) has a 1/2-inch drive. I tried to
loosen the pinion nut and it just laughed at me. I will need to get a larger wrench. Obviously,
NASCAR isn't good enough. I need to go up to Formula 1!
I fabricated the fan shroud with galvanized steel. This two-piece arrangement does a good
job. It's even better than the cardboard. I can feel a dramatic amount of air flow through
the radiator. (Yeah, it quotes Shakespeare after passing the radiator. Wouldn't you?)
I have yet to road test the arrangement. Yeah, I wanted to be high on my achievement
for a while before the wears of the road destroy it. Though, I did rev up the engine to about
four grand--a fairly high number for a straight six--without any calamity. Driving is, of course,
Looking back on all the work that I did to the truck. I think that I am only surpassed by Dan
I paid quite a bit less:
See the clip here.
We dug up the dirt, and I had the stone delivered. Of course, the dump truck couldn't
dump it where I needed it. (Thank you useless electric lines!) Instead, I put driveway markers
in the pile and put out a large traffic cone. Why? The pile blocked an entire lane. It couldn't
have been any worse, because it started
I had already planned to move the pile the next day, which would be clear. And would you
know it; some vehicle pushed the pile into my property. Was it the town? (I'm still waiting
for the crazy bill.) Was it the quarry? Was it a kind neighbor? There are plenty of those
individuals. Good town.
Now, I need to get the area paved. "We can't have the town road undermined." Yeah, yeah.
The first quote was $1,500. Maybe I should buy a machine and change professions?! When this
is finally done, it'll be great: you'll see! (To paraphrase Richard Hammond)
22 August 15
I added three movies & a TV program to the
I took a break from working on the sports car this weekend. Also, I decided to hell with
trying to pry open the crimped & soldered brushes connections. I ordered a rebuilt
So the truck seems to be OK. Aside from the significant engine oil leak, of course.
I've found that the pinion seal is leaking. Replacing it shouldn't be a big deal because
I have an air-powered 3/4"-drive ratchet to remove the nut. It even has "pit power"!
I fabricated a cardboard fan shroud for the truck. It works pretty damn good. The
temperature now doesn't go above 220 in the head, even on hot & humid days running
at 60 mph. I'll have to make a metal replacement one of these weekends.
A nearby friend will try to dig up the required dirt tomorrow. I don't think his tractor
will have any trouble digging it up with its front bucket. It sure would save me renting
a machine, again. Keep your fingers crossed!
15 August 15
I added three movies to the
Work continues on the MG. I can only work so long hunched over that low hood in the
humid metal box, which passes as my storage unit; so it's slow going. But I'll get there.
I have to also resolder & crimp the new brushes for the starter motor. I have been
dragging my feet on this task because I know it's going to suck big time!
So now that I have a full complement of gauges in the truck, I can see just what's right
and what's wrong.
First, the good:
The oil pressure is steady and reasonable at all engine speeds. (Yay!)
The fuel gauge slaps back and forth as the gas sloshes around in the vertical tank. (It's
also great knowing it's right behind the seat. Who needs absinthe? Drive on a rough road
and breathe deeply! Here comes the black fairy.)
Now, the not-so-good:
1. The battery voltage behaved strangely. At idle it would be about 11-12 Volts.
Step on the gas and the voltage crested to 17-18 V and stayed there!
2. The temperature in the cylinder head rose to 250 degrees and, also, stayed there.
(I put in a polar-expedition 235-degree thermostat, right?)
Maybe I shouldn't have bought those new gauges. Am I a masochist? Maybe I love problems?
Well, yes, I do. I am a trained engineer... "Thank you, sir. Can I have another?"
Solution for problem no. 2:
I found a nifty procedure on an online forum to flush the
cooling system with citric acid. The acid solution was supposed to turn red or black
when it dissolved the rust and other debris. It didn't do that for me. Maybe my system
is pretty clean? (It would have been very cool to see dissolved rust flooding out! Yeah,
I'm Jack the Ripper for cooling systems. Respect me, or else!)
The flushing doesn't seem to have been in vain because the running temperature seems
to have dropped to 220 degrees. That's more reasonable for a 212-degree thermostat.
The real problem is that the mechanical fan has no shroud around it. I learned the immense
value of fan shrouds with the MG. But the only shrouds available are for the V8 engines,
with their larger radiators and fans. Sigh, if only I wasn't such an oddball.
I can go with a dual electric fan set-up. My wiring harness is ready for it. We'll see.
I can always run the heater and burn off my toes to avoid overheating. That little piggy
won't be going to the market...
Solution for problem no. 1:
The over-charging problem worked out to be fairly simple. All the connections and wiring
were OK. The grounds were good. Previously, I had had the alternator tested. It's OK.
The battery's new. All signs pointed to a dud voltage regulator.
I popped off the cover--it's an external unit, remember?--and started the engine. Nothing
happened in the regulator when I revved up the engine. No sparks, no closing of breakers,
no smoke, no appearance of the Prince of Darkness. What a disappointment. Fortunately,
Advance Auto had a new unit on the shelf--although it's made in mainland China. I dropped
it in, and the system voltage now behaves properly. I like easy fixes like that!
So, I did it again. I thought I was He-Man, but I'm more like My Little Pony. I proudly wielded
my pickaxe in front of the dirt that I had to move. It wasn't scared. Instead it did what clay--
just to be precise--does, it sat there, ready to collect and admire water.
After half an hour of work, I found that I had made a three foot by one foot by one foot
trench. That's when I knew I was no Master of the Universe. Fortunately, a good
friend who lives nearby thinks that his tractor's front bucket will shift the required clay
without a problem. I hope so because otherwise I'll be crawling back to the rental company.
"I [don't] have the power!"
I added seven movies & one TV series to the
The truck now has a full array of gauges. They are sharp looking, too! The engine
and gearbox are back in the MG. Thank you, Andy! All five gears can be selected.
I serviced the Mazda during the week. What an easy machine to work on.
I've given up trying to find an earth-moving machine right now. Instead, I
purchased a pickaxe. I needed to get some real exercise anyways!
26th of July
I added eight movies to the
10th of July
I added eight movies to the
The truck is running well. I purchased a new dash panel to replace my aged unit. Once fitted,
I'll have a decent array of gauges!
The engine and gearbox are back in the MG. Time to re-fit everything. Then, I can address
Mazda's returning better than 40 mpg. Lifetime average mileage is 39.7. Not bad considering
that the EPA states this machine will do 35 mpg on the highway.
I met the new highway guy today. He's a good guy and took the time to explain what I need to
do. Good news is that after I put in a paved apron to protect the road from erosion, I'll be set.
The not-so-good news is that I have to, obviously, put down a good sublayer so the blacktop
apron won't crack after a year. This requires digging out a foot of material, shaping, and laying
I'm thinking it has now become cost effective to purchase a used backhoe. Surprisingly, one can
get one for less than five grand. Sure it won't be pretty and may need a little TLC, but it would run
and work. Maybe I'll paint mine a really masculine color as a theft determent. Pink polka dots?
27th of June
I added five movies to the
It's alive! Sorting out the ignition voltage issue ensured that the engine runs as long as desired.
I also found areas for minor vacuum leaks in the intake system and gooped them up with RTV
silicone. Now it runs pisser, as an old mechanic-turned-co-worker who I consulted for advice,
Naturally, my first stop was a filling station. Twenty dollars doesn't go as far as in the
(super-)mini Mazda! Then, I hit the open road and opened up the Stovebolt six. Yep, it's running
right. Plenty of torque and runs smoothly. The misfire seems gone.
There're a couple of oil leaks. One is from the timing cover/front seal/oil pan design nightmare
and the other appears to be from the front of the tranny. (Can I say that? Or should I say identity
challenged? Or gender uncertain?) Either way, the front of the tranny seems to be dripping oil.
Hey, oil leaks are free undercarriage rust prevention! I'll look into the leaks next year, maybe.
I switched the oil seals back to the OEM style. An original style throw-out bearing is in place also.
I measured the clutch plate wear. It looks like nearly 50 thousandths was lost! That's quite a bit of
wear in eleven thousand miles. Hopefully, the uprated disc will last longer. Now the engine and
gearbox are ready for re-installation.
Closer examination of the starter brushes leads me to believe that the original owner replaced the
brushes. Still, they lasted a few decades.
So, there's more that I have to do. I'm beginning to wonder if the town roadmaster is lonely. Oh, and
this is a new one. I must have worn out the original? Ah, the joys of doing contracting work by oneself.
Maybe the property will be ready when I near retirement age?
At least, I can drive the length of the driveway in the car. Also, now that the truck is running I could
drill a water well in the meantime. Recall that I have a DIY kit to undertake this job. I'm curious if it'll
actually work. If not, then I should re-think the driveway so a drilling truck can easily get in.
I have posted my résumé online and got quite a response. I even had a preliminary
phone interview yesterday. It still seems to be an employer market out there, though.
Fortunately unless I cheat on my timecard, I will probably be able to keep the current job as long as I want it.
It'll boil down to how long I can stand working at tenth speed, I guess. Not to mention how long I can
cope with the negative vibe at that place. (It's the polar opposite of what I experienced at a previous
job that was located just up the hill.)
Maybe it's time to see just how far I can go. You know, shake up the squares a bit. Do things that are
so against their ingrained way of life. Got to have fun. We don't get out of life alive.
19th of June
I added eight movies to the
The truck is still not running right. I had the intake manifold magnafluxed. They found no
cracks of concern, but did notice that the mating surface was warped by eight thousandths.
They milled it flat.
I found that the PCV connection to the manifold could have been leaking. The brass elbow
was glued into place with RTV silicone. Previously, I have tapped and threaded fittings into
manifolds. And why not? Cast aluminum and iron forms threads quite well. In this case, I have
researched the correct sealant and will re-fit the slip-fit elbow employing the correct silicone.
Hopefully, the rolling misfire will be gone now.
I also wired a GM ballast resistor into the ignition circuit. This should protect the ignition coil
and points from overheating and arcing, respectively. These events could explain why the engine
would run for fifteen minutes and then start to bog down and eventually die. (I checked the float
bowl for foreign particles.)
At this rate, I'll have a brand new truck! And if it doesn't work, I can always fit a big-block
with a blower and some machine guns and go "Mad Max" with it! The front fenders already
have flames on them so I've already started down that road of fury...
I partially disassembled the MG engine and gearbox. Recall, that I'm replacing the original seals
to stem the flow of oil out the new and "improved" seal contraptions. While removing the
pressure plate, I noticed that it was broken!
The A-Series engine uses a solid graphite throw-out "bearing" so the pressure plate needs a
mating, hardened steel part to depress the diaphragm--or non-diaphrahm--fingers. This steel
part was broken from its carriage on the pressure plate. This explains the rattle when the
clutch was disengaged!
I think my use of an aftermarket--Peter May?--roller bearing, intended for use with a Mini
gearbox, broke the pressure plate. The increased length of the throw-out assembly along the
long axis of the engine/gearbox assembly must be too much. Oh well. I guess it's like the
newfangled seals that "won't" leak.
I also noticed that the clutch disc was wearing. I found a performance disc, which "should be
used... if engine power is increased above 90 hp." This new clutch does look the part. I guess
this is evidence that my engine develops 95-100 horsepower.
I'm also going to replace the brushes in the starter. I found that they were worn-out on one side.
This is, no doubt, the reason why many times the starter would just click and not spin the flywheel.
But, of course, replacing the brushes requires pop rivets and solder. Whatever. If it lasts another
few decades, then I won't mind. Hell, they may outlast me because I suspect that they are the
Persistence pays off. I know exactly what I need to do to gain the roadmaster's approval. I have
an excavator reserved for tomorrow. I do feel like a little boy using these earth-moving machines.
Oh, and their power is astonishing! The 60 horsepower "baby" excavator that I have used, and will
use again, is powerful enough to pick up almost all the boulders that I have kicking around. And if it
can't pick up a particularly heftly bit of granite, then it can push it around with the arm. Hydraulics
and diesel power!
So I may just get this driveway in this month. We shall see. Regardless, it will be a good time.
My contract has been renewed for another year. I really don't know why because I haven't much
work to do. (Maybe I work too quickly?) I've been taking off Fridays for several weeks now without
any impact on workload. I don't complain but keep my eyes peeled for closer jobs.
6th of June
I added four movies & two TV programs to the
The truck is pretty much ready to roll. Ethanol gas and a worn-out distributor were the culprits.
The driveway will probably not be in this June because the town guy is mostly unresponsive. I
really dislike governments. Crony-ism seems to be name of the game.
23rd of May
I added five new movies to the
17th of May
I added eight new movies to the
I also added one quote:
Never use money to measure wealth.
Prentice Ritter in
This past weekend didn't go exactly as planned. I intended to uproot two large oak stumps with
a rented mini excavator. Unfortunately, the roots must go deep into the ground because I couldn't
get the stump to move by digging around it. So, instead, I graded the driveway. I can drive along it
so I do have a driveway.
If the town roadmaster agrees that I have good line-of-sight, then I can pay the permit fee and lay
stone. It would be a good thing, but I can always have the stumps ground.
2nd of May
I've added six movies & one miniseries to the
I watched WarGames, my latest favorite, again because of news that the old NORAD
bunker in the Cheyenne Mountains is being brought up to fulltime use again. This place
was pretty much closed down when the Cold War ended.
NORAD bolsters Cheyenne Mountain for added protection
April 9, 2015
The Colorado Springs Business Journal
Adm. William Gortney, commander of the U.S. Northern Command and NORAD, announced that certain significant communications
assets are being moved into Cheyenne Mountain in order to protect them from electromagnetic pulse attacks.
"There is a lot of movement to put capability into Cheyenne Mountain and to be able to communicate in there," Gortney said during
a news briefing Tuesday at the Pentagon. The asset deployment will be carried out by Raytheon, which last week signed a $700 million
contract to upgrade communications facilities within the mountain redoubt.
The company said that the long-term contract will "support threat warnings and assessments for the Cheyenne Mountain Complex.”
Electromagnetic pulses (EMP) can occur naturally in lightning storms, but the U.S. military is primarily concerned with vast pulse
events deliberately created by the detonation of nuclear weapons in outer space. Such a pulse could effectively shut down the all civilian
and military communications networks in the continental United States.
Ten years ago, the United States EMP Commission concluded that the civilian communications infrastructure of the United States and
much of the military infrastructure were less well protected against EMP than during the Cold War.
"Because of the very nature of the way that Cheyenne Mountain is built, it's EMP-hardened," Gortney said. "It wasn't designed to be that way,
but the way it was constructed makes it that way. My primary concern was whether we (would) have the space inside the mountain for
everybody that wants to move in there. We do have that capability."
It's part of the continuing resurrection of the Cold War bunker, which was virtually abandoned by the military in the past decade. Conceived
in 1958, it was designed to protect military communications systems from a Soviet nuclear attack. It was so lightly regarded by 2007 that the
Business Journal published a feature story speculating about the possible benefits of repurposing the site as a regional tourist attraction.
Area tourism officials were enthusiastic about the idea, noting Cheyenne Mountain's mythic stature in American popular culture.
In recent years, Cheyenne Mountain has continued to serve as a backup for NORAD's modern operations at Peterson Air Force Base, with
work stations inside the mountain still capable of mirroring all aspects of monitoring the world.
Alas, it appears that Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggressive behavior on the world stage may have ensured that Cheyenne Mountain
won't be available for tourism development in the foreseeable future, if ever.
It looks as if we'll have to settle for Terminator and Wargames on Netflix."
18th of April
I've added three movies to the
Work has resumed on the property. I should have a driveway by June, if all goes according
11th of April
I've added another eleven movies to the
Enjoy! Sorry for being slow to update.
25th of March
R.I.P. "new" Top Gear (2002-2015)
The dismissal of Jeremy Clarkson from the BBC, and thus Top Gear,
is unfortunate. His comically insulting nature was the heart of this
current format of the British car show. So, as far as I'm concerned,
this generation of Top Gear is concluded.
James May and Richard Hammond are also out, as they stand with
Clarkson. So there's really no way that the current Top Gear, the one
that many around the world love, can continue.
Now, I've got a free Sunday afternoon. I will not be watching any sort
of "reinvented" Top Gear. Bad move BBC.
the second day of spring
...and it was still snowing this morning!
Now that the days are lengthening, I'm thinking of continuing
work on my property. I've been in contact with a guy, who
unfortunately doesn't rent stump grinders, but will do the job
for me. I'll see what he wants for the job in a couple of weeks.
After that, I need to level the area so the MG can get in and
out with trouble and get the approval from the town roadmaster.
Then, I can spread the gravel, and voìla I have a
driveway. Next step is to drill a well. We'll see how good my
well-drilling kit really is.
The truck needs the timing gear and pinion to be replaced. (The
timing marks are all over the place when a timing light shines on
them.) Also, the rear main seal, which can be changed with the
engine in place, also needs renewal. I contemplated letting a
trusted, nearby garage do the work. But then again, I should do
the job myself.
I just purchased a pistol. It's very much like the Walther made
famous by our favorite British secret agent. Now I just need an
Aston Martin. Well, my MG isn't that much different if you squint
or don't know much about English sports cars!
Talking of which, the MG is ready to have the engine and gearbox
removed. Yes, it hasn't been that long since I last did this job. The
oil leaks have gotten out of control. Leaking a pint every few weeks
is too much.
So soon the MG will, once again, cease to be a car. I'm determined
to get it back on the road quicker this time.
I hope the new layout hasn't cause you any trouble.
I've added eight movies to the
15th of March
Enjoy the new look! Please let me know if you find any problems by
8th of March
I've added another three movies to the
The web site facelift is still coming. I'm 80% through updating the trip pages, the final
bit of work.
last day of February
One good thing about the snow is that I've seen a number of movies. In fact, I've added
another eight movies & one TV series to the
I've added another five movies & one TV series to the
I've added five movies & one TV series to the
I'm now transferring the trips pages to Perl-generated pages. This will take time now but
make my life easier in the future. The visitor shouldn't notice much of a change.
No worries about the ground water supply this year! Today, since I'm off again, I used the
snowshoes to climb the snowbanks. I needed to lower them so I can see out of the driveway!
I haven't finished freshening the web site yet. It takes a surprisingly amount of time to
update all the web pages. I guess if I was a web geek, then I'd have, long ago, gone to
something standardized like style sheets, CGI-generation, or other such magic.
I've added seven movies to the
I also added a notable quote:
Phobia? Manual labor, you know that.
Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear
I've added five movies & one TV series to the
This makes 2,000 entries!
The site refreshment is coming along. I'm about 90% finished with the job.
2 January, 2015
I've added five movies to the
Happy New Year!