Just a quick post then I’m off to the swamp for a few days. Just spent several days in town not doing much of anything except sleeping and healing up from bug bites.
Since last post I put in a Renogy MPPT Charge Controller that Plume sent to me. It’s great. With it I can run a fan, charge devices and still keep my batteries topped off during the day. At night I ran a desktop fan all night, about 8 hours, and the batteries were still topped by about 11 in the morning.
I ordered an MT-5 LCD display to go with the controller. It came in broke. So it’s on its way back to Renogy while I wait for the replacement to arrive. It’s pretty irritating to have to wait even more time but I do have to say that so far the customer support at Renogy is very good. In the meantime I’ll have to keep using my meter to monitor the system periodically.
Put on the snake boots and did a walkabout last week. I haven’t toured what of the property I can get to in over three weeks so things had changed quite a bit. Things are drying out a lot so I’m able to see and get to more areas that have before now been far to wet to even try. What I thought might have been a spring fed pond turned out to be nothing more than an optical illusion. In truth the whole area is nothing more than a mud bog right now. I was able to get fairly close and take a pic but it’s still much to wet to even try crossing. After it dries some more I’ll trek in as far as possible and get some GPS readings and pics.
Another area previously off limits is opening up also. I was able to get about halfway through before the mud got to deep and I chickened out. This area is very interesting since the west side is the side leading to the back of my property which I’ve never managed to get to. About 40 feet past where I took these pics is a stand of pine trees. They’re to the right in the pics. Usually, where there’s pines there’s fairly dry land and the brush isn’t so dense. I’m hoping to get back to this area soon with the brush cutter and possibly discover the ever elusive westward passage to the back side of the property.
You just never know what you’re going to bump into out there. After awhile you tend to try to get in and out as fast as possible but then something will happen to remind you that it’s time to stop and smell the roses.
Another one of my projects has mixed results. I did a survey of the black plastic sheet and camo tarp plants and came away disappointed. Both have been in place a little over six weeks so I was hoping to see scorched earth underneath. Both had killed off a lot of brushlings but there were still some green underneath. I was hoping to move them this afternoon but it’s obvious they need more time.
A little over two weeks ago I added some translucent plastic I had left over from somewhere. Looking under it I was impressed with the amount of dead vegetation. It appears as if it is passing a lot more heat in and cooking the brush much faster. If I’m lucky it’s cooking the roots so I won’t have to keep dealing with rampant growth.
To help combat the brush I’ve begun to spread cardboard and tossing something like a pallet on top to hold it in place. This works somewhat but nothing like the tarp or two plastics. Believe it or not, American cardboard doesn’t work as well as Chinese cardboard. The Chinese cardboard is so cheaply made that a heavy fog is enough to collapse it thus smothering the brush. The American cardboard just hangs in there refusing to turn to mush. To me this is clear evidence that all those folks who say I’m not a globalist type of guy are wrong.
Got the skeleton semi finished and two 100 watt panels up and hooked up. Naturally I had to fabricate mounts since Grape Solar is to dammed cheap to include a dollars worth of mounting hardware with their panels. They also provide mounting slots which are 20.5 inches on center. Naturally nearly everything here in the states is built 16 inches on center. So of course the engineers who design their stuff would never think 8 inch on center mounting slots.
I’ve been running a fan, charging my lap top, and playing the radio a bit. Everything seems to be working well,,,,wait for it,,,,except the 110 ah batteries only seem to be delivering about 12 ah before reaching nearly 50% discharged. I’ve been scratching my head, checking my battery calcs, rewiring and checking everything a zillion more times and I still can’t get but about 4 hours run time on a small table top fan.
My charge controller tells me ball park how many amps I’m pulling from the batteries. My inverter with no load is pulling .5 amps. The small fan is pulling roughly 3.3 amps for a total load of nearly 4 amps. So I should have at least 25 hours run time before I approach the 50% discharge cut off.
Instead after 3 hours battery voltage is around 12.3 volts with 12.24 being 50%. I don’t even have to take my shoes off to count 12 ah and realize that it ain’t 110. Once I get back to town I’ll be burning up the internet trying to find an answer to this. I’m really hoping I don’t have to return the batteries since that will leave me stranded without batteries for a week or more as well as making me very angry.
I have the frame done for the last panel. It’s ugly as sin but sturdy and once I get some painting done it will be beautiful since everything looks good in OD green. I also have a 15 watt panel I need to move and cut in as well. I’m hoping for something around a 20 amp charge rate during the day from the panels which will let me run fans while still topping off the batteries. I’ve seen a 15 amp charge rate with two panels so 20 with three should be well within reason.
Days later I’ve figured most of it out. Regarding the short run times above, never mind.
Last post I had the generator loaded and was bravely headed off into the world of light switches, running water and semi automatic toilets. After touching base with Mad Al Yankovic (no relation to Weird Al Yankovic) I learned that I could return the generator to the place of purchase. So the next morning I set off on the nearly 600 mile round trip. Later that evening and nearly $300 dollars later I pulled back into the campground with a brand new generator in the back. Many thanks to Al as I could have never pulled this off without his help.
The pig tails for my solar panels came in. Now I have to decide whether to mount the panels on the floor of the balcony, build a skeleton structure to mount above the balcony, or put in a full tilt frame and roof. Right now I’m leaning toward a skeleton just to get the ball rolling with a roof added at a later date. At least with the skeleton I expect it to leak so I won’t be disappointed when it does.
I bought a used 120v/propane refrigerator that appears to be in excellent shape. I had to transport it on its side so after unloading this morning we leveled it and are allowing it to sit at least 24 hours before testing the 120v for cooling. Right now it’s sitting in a friends shop in town under a camo tarp until we get back to it. I just hope we can find it when we get ready since camo hides everything.
These refrigerators were designed to go in RVs so they aren’t really easy to install as free standing. No problem, I called the manufacturer. They were incredibly unhelpful. I was warned that I had to do it correctly or the stars would come out of alignment, chaos would ensue, then the earth and all life on it would be consumed by a rogue super massive black hole. I’m thinking that possibly they overstated their case but I took their point to heart. Don’t hook a nuclear reactor up to it and not expect a melt down I guess.
I picked up a pair of led solar powered shed lights while Al and I were off the leash in the big city that promise “up to” 8 hours of light from a full sunny days charge. So I can expect maybe four hours at best which is OK since I’m rarely up more than a couple of hours past sunset when out in the swamp. A nice feature about them is that the panel to light cable is 15 feet long. With it I can pretty much mount the panel on the balcony then mount the light just about anywhere in the shed that I want. At some point I need to take all my solar lights apart, replace the leds with super bright leds which are 10 times brighter and draw much less current.
I also returned the charge controller I had for another. The one I had was giving me trouble with the buttons not actuating properly so I figure I would head off a failure. At some point I need to dedicate some dollars to a quality controller but hey, when you are boot strapping a project with only one boot you dance with what you brung.
I ordered two 110 ah batteries which are scheduled to arrive next week. Crunching numbers and doing battery calcs I’ve decided I should be able to charge batteries, run fans and power the 12v control circuit on the fridge during the day. At night I should be able to run the air conditioner for about four hours before I hit a 50% discharge level. There’s a very good chance I might run the ac during the day then run fans at night since I’m comfortable sleeping in 70ish temps. However I have several options available once I get the solar up and running so I’m getting a bit more optimistic about this particular project.
Back in the swamp and still a lot going on. Got the new generator unloaded, put together and ran for about four hours. So far so good but I’m still watching it with a suspicious eye. I started the framework to mount the solar cells only to realize that it isn’t large enough. I haven’t tried to put the cells up yet so I’m not positive that they won’t all fit. Naturally the mounting hardware I had bought wouldn’t work so I had to go back to town to exchange it for new material. Tomorrow I’ll find out if I can fit all the cells so I’ll know if I have to expand the frame or not. Since I dearly hate working with wood I’m hoping I can figure out how to fit everything.
My batteries were in when I got back to town so they were loaded in back for the trip out. On the way out I ran into McGuyver who wanted to see the batteries. We opened a box only to discover that the attaching hardware as pictured on their website was nowhere to be found. There were just two empty threaded holes in each battery. So back to town I went for the third time today. Need I say it? They aren’t a standard battery post thread. Thankfully the sweet young lady helping me solve this problem had no reservations about describing the low life idiots that would ship a naked battery with non standard threads and no fasteners. I was so infatuated that I bought some extra cable I really didn’t need but will put to good use.
Of course I got to the swamp just as it started raining. Not hearing any thunder or seeing any lightning I went ahead and unloaded in the rain. I didn’t want the new batteries which go for $200 plus each sitting around in soggy boxes and possibly shorting out.
I checked on one of my science projects and have good news to report. I started with a precision grade blue plastic toy bucket and wrapped it in precision grade fly paper in a precision grade manner. Don’t mind the wrinkles, you guessed it, they’re precision grade wrinkles and worked out to my benefit.
I’ve noticed that the local yellow fly muzloids love that shade of blue. I have a blue Lowes bucket that they like to hang out on, smoke, joke and launch terrorist attacks from. So I decided to give them another mosque in which to gather. After about four days somewhere around 50 of the evil little jihadis had got themselves stuck which has to be some kind of world record for flypaper in that period of time. I need to check with Guiness on that. The wrinkles work well since they will land on it and strut around going “Dirka, dirka, jihad, jihad!” hoping for some action then get stuck behind a wrinkle. Soon it will be time to send them on to aloha and set up another snack bar. It’s not perfect but until I can develop a final solution it’s the best I’ve found so far. Just think, if Hitler had gone after yellow flies he would be a national hero in every civilized country today.
Okay, this month’s post is not going to be a rant about how the world is falling apart. Nor is it likely to really fit into the “Living Off the Grid” category. This one is about passing on information to the next person in hopes that they do not end up with the mess I have.
The topic is Blower Motor Resistors.
First let me state that I hate working with anything that greasy & oily. Give me a piece of wood and there is not much I can not do with it and I am in hog heaven, but I detest machinery. But because I am cheap, I have a grand desire to learn anything new, & it is very difficult to find someone you trust to work on your vehicle. I tend to do a lot of work myself. My newest endeavor into the world of auto mechanic is a blower fan that stopped working. I figured the blower motor itself was fine, there was sickening sound that you hear of metal on metal when a spinning object is about to die. My first assumption was that it was the control switch in the cab going bad.
I had lost the first three settings of the fan control some time ago. And yes, I should have researched the issue back then, hence why I am telling you all this in hopes that you gain an advantage from my stupidity. I finally lost the highest setting a couple of days ago. Not wanting to be without the mighty blast of northern cool air that usually baths me like the music of an Ice Cream truck coming down the street. I jumped into researching how to replace the control panel.
I quickly found out that the most common, and easiest to replace, problem when a blower motor stops running is a burnt out resistor. Now, if you are like me and have limited auto mechanics experience, but have computer knowledge. A resistor looks like this:
Well, to my surprise, and a new lesson of the day, they come in other forms. My blower motor resistor looks like this when all shiny and new:
According the various YouTube videos I watched, these thing have tendency to burn out over time due to heat build up, use, and moisture. I learned I made two mistakes that I can determine from what I have learned from the videos and web forums. If you go back to image 1, you can see that to shut the fan off, the right most control needs to be pointing towards Santy Claus, North, or straight up to the “Off” position. Well, even on times when I was not actually using the heat or the ac, I would never move that control to the off position, I would just turn the fan control to the lowest speed. This was not good. This allowed the fan to operate, thus allow electricity to flow through the resistor and shortening its lifespan. So the lesson here is clearly, shut of the fan when not using it. Do not be a lazy bastard like myself who refuses to acknowledge the existence of that elusive far right control (it’s a lefty thing). My second mistake was not looking into the issue when I lost the first fan setting. This was the resistor telling me it is not feeling well, it could a check up, a little love. But I ignored it, which caused it to work harder, thus get hotter. The end result to all this is a welded mess of metal and plastic.
Removing the resistor from its location was easy enough. For mine, two small screws, resistor and wiring harness come right out. Now, removing the resistor from the wiring harness, not so easy. This was the results of tearing the resistor from its plastic male base;
After the resistor itself was drawn and quartered, leaving the male base:
which pulled right off of the female harness without a single cry of objection;
leaving the female wiring harness. This was the failure point;
Being that my beautful baby is working on her 17th year, finding parts tends to lead me to RockAuto.com because local auto stores tend to not have anything but the most replaced items in stock. Waiting a few days for parts to come in is nothing to cry over, but i could have saved myself having to replace the wiring harness end had I checked on why I lost fan speed when it was first indicated.
Just a quick update. Well I hope it’s quick. You never can tell. One of the aliens in my head may take over and I’ll be here typing all night. I hate it when that happens.
Well the solar panels came in. I was all excited opening the first panel until I noticed that it had a special connector on the cabling. After some research I learned that it was a MC4 connector and in order not to void the warranty I had to use a matching UL listed connector. I’m sure you can guess where this went. They are expensive. And they require a proprietary crimp tool. I already have a dozen crimpers rusting in tool boxes so what are the chances that one will work? Absolutely none. In order to not violate UL you have to use the special low drag go faster crimp tool. I ordered a set of pig tails for each panel and will run my own connectors and cabling from there.
Then I got to looking for the mounting hardware for the panel. There was none. Checking out their site I found some lame assed excuse for not including mounting hardware but they would be more than happy to provide hardware at only $30 per panel. Yeah, sure. Three panels would be nearly enough to buy another panel. Let me see, hardware or a new 100 watt panel? DOH!
So I raided the storage unit to load up a couple hundred pounds of hardware. One of the benefits to being a pack rat and working construction for so many years is that I have at least a ton of hardware in there.
So I headed to the swamp a few days ago all happied up about being able to get the panels mounted so I could do the final hookup this weekend sometime after the pig tails arrived. I arrived late in the afternoon and after unloading and settling in it was time to cook and get ready for dark.
Getting set up for dark is a big thing for me. I have to bring in the solar lights and preposition everything I’ll need after dark. When it gets dark out there it is really, really dark. On a clear night you have some starlight plus maybe the moon when outside. On overcast nights walking outside is like walking into a cave and turning out your headlamp.
I’m not scared of the dark by any means, but there are bears, bobcats, panthers and raccoon out there. There’s already been reports of rabid raccoon this year so I’m justifiably wary. I’ve seen bear, bobcat and panther tracks within 100 yards of the shack so I know they come close.
The next morning I was full of myself and started the day on a most optimistic note. I had talked to the manufacturer about the generator problems so I was equipped with a short list of maintenance items to do then my generator would be singing like a canary. By noon I was so frustrated and angry I broke out the AR and sat on the porch hoping for a raccoon or armadillo.
Then I started calling the manufacturer. After a dozen calls, two phone recharges and a couple gallons of sweat, the generator locked up and wouldn’t even consider working. My last call ended abruptly when I began to describe in great detail the lineage and sexual deviations of the generator. This time I broke out the big AR in 308 thinking I would turn a critter into a red fog.
After a few bottles of water I began thinking about how to get the generator in the back of the pickup. It weighs right at 260 pounds which is about 245 pounds more than I want to try lifting. I thought of letting the air out of the tires on the truck so as to lower the bed. Good idea till I remembered I didn’t have a generator so I couldn’t start the air compressor to pump them back up. Then I thought of digging a hole and backing the truck into it then rolling the generator into the bed. Then I had it, gathering all my extensive knowledge of Star Wars trivia I looked at the generator and said “Luke, I be your daddy.” Focusing all my energy I extended my hand, concentrated on seeing the generator in the bed of the truck and got a cramp. I think I heard a silly little faggot giggle coming from the generator.
Back on the porch I loaded some tracers I got somewhere.
My next and final attempt worked much to my amazement. I built a stairway to the truck be using pallets. I laid two out for the first step, four for the second, then six for the last. I had to take the two from the first step and put them on the third once I got the generator to the second tier since I was running out of spare pallets. I placed plywood between steps to form a ramp which greatly eased getting it up, still it was a chore with many breaks and bottles of water. Still, I was concerned about falling and breaking my ass.
So tomorrow I get to take it back to where I bought it for an exchange. It’s nearly a 600 mile round trip but worth it since I have to have a generator.
Before I begin I’d like to give a shout out to Eddie who used the “Shop Amazon” link on the left to “Shop Amazon.” This was a huge milestone for me since anything purchased on Amazon via a link on this site will now earn me a small (4%) commission and an initial sale was required to qualify me as a sales associate.
According to Eddie it was a quick and painless experience. “I clicked the “Shop Amazon” link and was instantly transported to Amazon. For a split second I had the eerie sensation of being in two places at once. However it was a quick and painless experience.” There you have it. Quick and painless. OK, he didn’t really say that but hey, if you’re going to “Shop Amazon” why not take two seconds and launch from here? It will not only help keep this site up and running but I will also make up a name for you and fabricate some outlandish story to go with it. But you will have to tell me you did since Amazon won’t.
A byproduct of launching from here is that I now have a “click through” which search engines use to rank sites. I’ve begun to list with different engines in the hopes of generating more traffic and activity. Another biggie for engines is back links. If you have a site or a blog and would like to exchange links just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OK, back in town for a couple of days, got a big vodka mixed, some Enigma playing and the AC blasting at the top of its lungs. Life is good.
I’ve had a pretty good last few days. The shed is coming along nicely and is ready for sides to be installed. My hillbilly pressure treatment looks like it is going to work well enough for a shed only intended to last a few years plus I kind of like the look it gives the wood. It does smell like burnt oil though the smell only seems to last forever. Hopefully over time it won’t be so noticeable.
I got the shed framed and ready for the roof. Since I don’t expect to park on top of it I went with ½ inch plywood. Though not heavy, the sheet is awkward to handle and I couldn’t get it to cooperate. After four tries the wood had hit the ground four times and myself once. At that point I gave up and called in Amos. The next morning we spent about 97 seconds putting the wood in place thus passing yet another major milestone. From the pics you can see that the roof line is strange. It slopes to the back and left. This was an entirely unintentional but most welcome result of measuring from two different anchor points. After I get shingles on I’ll put in some angle on the sides and direct rainwater runoff to a rain barrel to supplement my other barrels. We’ve had a lot of rain lately so I’m beginning to have a decent amount of water stored. My bamboo is loving it.
My generator is still acting freaky deaky and I might end up having to take it back and stink up the place until they replace it. It’s still drinking oil. I guess I could chalk it up to added lubrication but it’s using about a quart per tank of gas which is unacceptable. A quart every four or five tanks and I wouldn’t worry but this is to much. Naturally, this is going to present its own set of problems. The generator weighs in at 218 pounds dry. The bed of my truck is over 3 feet off the ground. I asked the Zigster about it and all he said was “You de Daddy. Handle it bro.” I’ll be glad when he’s over this phase.
Tomorrow I have 300 watts of solar panels coming in. Yay. This will allow me to run fans in the shack, charge devices and charge my battery during the day without using that oil guzzling noisy azzed generator. I hate generators. Maybe that’s why it’s messing up constantly. It know it. Maybe it’s just acting up to get my attention. Maybe I should put an umbrella over it, bring it flowers, maybe sing it a song? Nah. Not going to happen.
Every time I run the generator I break out a few dozen rechargeable devices and hook them up. I’m in the process of moving the desk/dresser out so I can set up a battery bank and all the solar components in a somewhat orderly manner. In the meantime it is utter chaos keeping track of what is hooked to where. Yes, that is a bright purple fan.
I have my own version of a no fly zone. Next to a fly swatter fly paperseems to be the most effective method for exterminating yellow flies. After a couple of weeks the paper loses its sticky but by then is has captured dozens of flies, mosquitoes and gnats. If PETA ever gets wind of this I’ll have mass demonstrations in the road out front while I sneak through the brush to siphon all of the fuel from their vehicles.
Want to know what it’s like to drive in and out during logging season? Here’s a view from the drivers seat following a logging truck. I’m about 100 yards behind a logging truck in this pic doing about 15 miles per hour. You can’t pass them because visibility goes to zero as you get close. Best thing to do is hang back, put on some Abba and find a happy place in your head.
Speaking of logging. This is what a logged out area looks like when they finish. I’m always struck by the gadozens of logs that are cut then just left to rot or be burned. The land might be replanted or just left like this which will take years to recover or some fool such as myself buys it. I’m not a tree hugger by any means but I don’t understand why a bit more time can’t be taken and some of the trees left to start things over. This area and the same size on the other side of the road was done in two days. I drove through a tree lined road one day, three days later I drove out and found this. In this case they left the road littered with branches and logs to the point that I had to get out and move debris to get through.
Other times they simply block the road and expect you to patiently wait until they decide to unblock it. This fellow was on lunch/smoke break. I was willing to wait a few minutes until I noticed him and others looking over at my truck and laughing. After a short and unpleasant conversation they moved enough to let me through.
Been thinking about my last post and Ziggy getting cute. What if dogs really think that licking their butt is cute? I mean, we have no idea really what they think. Imagine Fred and Ethel Dog on their way to market when they look over and see another dog having at it. Maybe Ethel looks over at Fred and says, “Oh look dear! Isn’t that just precious?” Or maybe it’s a sign of virility. Ginger is on her way to a high end dog groomer when she glances over and thinks “Oh wow! That’s HOT!”
That’s it for now. Gotta get ready to head out tomorrow and put in panels, work on shed, kill brush, conquer the world. Have I mentioned that you can “Shop Amazon” from here?
Greetings from the shack in the swamp where it was a balmy 101 degrees in the shade yesterday. Thankfully nights are low 70s so it’s good sleeping weather.
Haven’t accomplished all that much the last few days. I met Amos in a nearby town Monday and towed a trailer loaded with wood out here. The trailer was horribly overloaded which resulted in some white knuckle time on the way here. The Boy had a vet appointment Tuesday so after unloading I took it back and spent the night in town.
The vet was uneventful unless you count me being a smart alec. When they asked me what breed he was I said “Pit Poodle”. The young lady recorded exactly that so now I am guardian of the worlds first pit poodle puppy. Just as well, I went through severe sticker shock checking out and told the boy that a hard hat, lunch bucket and steel toed boots were in his future.
Out in the swamp Amos and Co. were hard at constructing what turned out to be a very nice screened in porch. The Boy took me to heart and took overall supervision responsibilities. In this picture you can see him inspecting a footer before he gave his approval to close the floor. He wanted a few more fasteners put in and after a few minutes of arguing with the contractor threatened to red tag the whole project. Meanwhile Amos threatened to walk off the job if Ziggy didn’t lighten up so the Boy finally took a somewhat more diplomatic approach. After a bit of grumbling they worked out their differences and by the end of the day Ziggy was back to sitting in Amos’ lap.
Yesterday I mostly sat in the shade and watched. Sometimes being older than dirt has it’s perks. I did spend some time working on my current solar set up which it really seemed to like.
The battery I am using is several years old but has never had a load on it. I would charge it on about a monthly basis or whenever I thought of it so I had no idea what condition it might be in. When I put the desulphator on it the charged indicator didn’t come on at all the first day. The second day it came on very late in the afternoon. Since then I’ve noticed that it charges earlier every day. I’m cautiously optimistic that this is an indicator that the battery is in good condition and that I’ll get a decent amount of use out of it.
Last night I finally hooked up an inverter then connected a small fan which I ran a couple of hours to cool the shack. I failed open about 3:30 so after building coffee I checked the 73 different rechargeable devices and put the phone and my flashlight on the inverter. Since I can’t check current draw right now I have no idea how many amps I’m using so I’m calling tonight a light use night. I’ll watch the charge today to see when the battery is topped off.
Today I’m thinking of getting started on the generator shed again. If I can get the poles set, batter boards on and get it square and vertical the rest should be pretty easy. I need to fast track this so I can get my other generator out of storage and get one of the units emptied. I can also start wiring the shack for 120 and 12 volt.
Starting to fail shut so it’s back to sleep for now if I can talk the Boy into letting me have part of the bed. Later.
Been a couple of days. Amos finished his deck and left for civilization this morning. I got off my azz yesterday and went back to work on the shed. Like everything else out there I managed to find ways of making it a lot harder than it had to be.
I had laid out the posts for a 4×8 footprint then dug the holes. But when digging holes in ground with roots the size of railroad ties the holes tend to wander. It’s easy to get off by several inches and not notice. Well, I didn’t notice until the third pole was going in.
Pole number 1 and 2 were very well behaved. I set them, put on a batter board then trued vertically. After filling and tamping they were vertical and pretty solid. The sand sets up like concrete nearly out there so I’ll keep piling sand around them and letting the rain wash it in.
Then came time to set the third pole. Propping the batter board up on blocks I was discouraged to see that the hole was nearly a foot off. Out came the post hole digger and sawzall. An hour later I was setting the pole. I was glad no one was around to see me crying as I approached the last hole.
The last hole was only about six inches off so it wasn’t quite so bad. Soon after I had all four batter boards set and the square said yay verily it’s pretty square. I’ll spare you the visual of a fat, sweaty bald guy dancing around in the swamp. I’m pretty happy about it now. At one point I was thinking of a bonfire on that very spot but I’m glad that I refrained. I’m not a wood guy at all.
At that point it was time to head back to town for a shower, ice and some more wood. Opening my first cooler I discovered that one of my guaranteed not to leak zip loc freezer bags had leaked blood everywhere. So everything that wasn’t a factory water tight seal went in the burn barrel. Opening the other cooler I decided I must have a defective batch of zip loc bags and they went in the burn barrel as well. In the morning I get the fun job of washing both coolers with detergent then sterilizing with bleach before I set off for more food, ice and wood.
Well, been to town, back out, back to town. I forgot to buy wood while in town.
Yesterday I got the floor of the shed mostly framed and put in some bracing to help straighten the 4x4s. This morning I got some plastic under the floor to help control the rampant growth of stuff what you don’t know what it is but don’t want anyway. While moving some stuff around I tossed a 4×4 on the ground and it shattered. Well, it broke. I just stood there staring. I’ve never seen a 4×4 do anything other than get crooked. This one had about 4 feet just break off. Thinking it had maybe fossilized I picked up the remainder and threw it on the ground several times to see if it would break again. It didn’t but I am glad I hadn’t built a tower and had a 450 pound barrel of water on it when it shattered.
Since today was Sunday the Boy and I went for our Sunday drive. There are miles of roads out here that are see very rare traffic. I usually just idle along and look around. The Boy just sleeps and loves the air conditioning. Today I was on an “Adopt A Rock” mission.
People come out here and abandon perfectly good rocks alongside the road. Being something of a philanthropist I adopt these rocks and take them back to the shack where they will eventually be put to good use. I also fill a couple of five gallon buckets with dirt from where they grade the road and leave piles of it on the side. I’ll not turn my driveway into a superhighway any time soon but eventually it will be flat and smooth.
Been back and forth to town again. Today ran to the big city to return the inverter and get another. They wouldn’t even talk about a discount even after I explained that it was a 120 mile round trip for me. Guess it doesn’t hurt to try.
Tomorrow headed back out to the swamp. I’m hoping to finish the shed and tackle the next big project. Big for me that is. Sometimes even the simple things are really hard for want of a hand to hold something in place. I’m becoming fairly accomplished at jury rigging stuff.
Last trip out I set up a redneck awning. It’s a tarp with two pieces of EMT to hold it up tied off with 550 cord. Makes a helluva racket in the wind but it does shade the west side of the shack and reduces heat inside considerably. In time I’ll break out the post hole diggers and put in a permanent awning.
I made some more progress on the shed. Since cash is tight I bought regular lumber for use on anything that won’t get wet or be in contact with the ground. I did apply a hillbilly pressure treatment which consists of used motor oil, diesel and paint thinner. I’ve already been advised that it won’t last more than about ten years but hell I’ll be dead by then so what do I care?
Have you ever noticed how critters have some psychic ability when it comes to cameras? They will be doing the neatest things until a camera comes out. Then it’s total bedlam. Ziggy will be completely absorbed in something until I grab the phone to take a pic. Instantly his thought process goes, “Camera. I better do something cute. What to do? I know, I’ll lick my butt!”
Good grief what a crappy day. Ever have one of those days when everything you touched turned to crap? Man did I ever.
It started when I built a cup of coffee. I have one of those percolators that you put the grounds in and it percolates the water up then down through the grounds. Works fine unless you forget to turn the heat down when it starts making that strange strangling sound. I forgot and ended up with a cup of half grounds and half a coffee like substance that seemed to be evolving or something. I managed to get it down before it developed a language and began arguing with me. I just wasn’t in any mood for argument this morning.
Then I broke out all the weapons of mass destruction and began to set up a solar cell. Don’t scoff. In my hands a skill saw, drill and hammer are weapons of mass destruction. I have a mountain of badly abused wood out there that I could have sworn would fit. Well it didn’t. I had to mount the cell three times before I got it right. I chalked it up to nearly losing an argument to a cup of coffee and plowed on.
I figured I wanted to charge my deep cycle battery while doing this so the generator was being obnoxious as hell the whole time. Then it stopped. Repeatedly. Did I mention I had a crappy day?
After a couple of hours of arguing with the generator I decided to give it a rest and take a nap. After I approached it with my most menacing scowl, put my hand on my gun and said “Go ahead. Make my day.” Didn’t work. Finally I checked the oil. Yeah I know I should have done that first off but I had just checked it a few days ago.
It was gone. The dip stick said bone dry. I checked the ground, then tilted the generator up to see if there was a leak. No oil. I pulled the plug and there was no evidence of fouling so it didn’t burn it. I am completely mystified wondering where did the oil go? One of the voices is telling me that aliens needed it to super charge their inter dimensional trans warp drive but he’s always been a silly little shit so I rarely listen to him. After putting the prescribed flavor and amount of oil in the generator was most happy to do its job which was nice seeing as how I had went all in with my Clint Eastwood impression.
Back at the solar cell I was cussing myself for packaging it in about 10 layers of Faraday cage. I was obviously in one of my prepare for an EMP phases at the time. Two cuts and a broken fingernail later it was unwrapped and not at all what I expected. For starters it was 15 watts where I remember 45 watts. It is however a desulfator system which is a good thing. I’m planning on several small solar power systems so I can periodically move it to individual battery banks and tune them as needed. Also I forgot to order cells so that is high on my list when I get back to town. Still I’m wondering if I have a 45 watt cell somewhere. Heck, I can’t remember what I was thinking or doing two hours ago much less two years.
I bought an inverter and charge controller at Harbor Freight the other day just to get something up and running. I don’t need the charge controller yet but figured I’d put the inverter in even if it was overkill right now. As soon as I opened the box I was angry. Well, really angry. Hell, I was furious. The inverter is used and there’s no way I’m putting it in. It’s a 150 mile round trip to return it so the voices were especially loud.
During the course of the day Ziggy discovered the fan. I had it on the floor just moving air in the shack while I worked. When it came time for our afternoon walk he made it very evident that if the fan wasn’t going neither was he. At least it drowns out some of the noise of his snoring.
Last night was miserable. It didn’t get below 90 until about 2 am so sleep was one of those things that you just wished for. Tonight I’m ready. Charged battery, inverter in place and fan on standby. It’s in the 70s, light breeze blowing through the shack and I can hardly keep my eyes open. Go figure.
I’m really getting into dragonflies. Besides being fierce predators they are pretty smart for a bug. They will often hang out wherever you are because they know that some muzloid bugs are going to go geehawdy on your azz. They then swoop in and snip, no more terrorist bug. This guy was just hanging out on my laptop while I was trying to do a system recovery. Every few minutes I would hear a buzz then he would be back with a yellow fly. He would sit on the screen frame and eat his snack while I tried to get my system back. All that was left when he finished was wings and legs which I didn’t mind brushing off at all.
Actually I’ve come to like these guys so much I began naming them which might not have been the best of ideas. Dragonflies only live for a few weeks and they just don’t seem to have what it takes to learn their names in that time. I’ve noticed that when I try to use my Jedi mind power on them they seem confused at times.
Me: “Alvin! Yellow fly! Get him.”
Dragonfly Union Leader: “OK, Alvin yer up. Which one of youse is Alvin?”
Dragonfly 1: “Not me Boss. I’m Horace. Or Bill. Or maybe Jim. I dunno.”
Dragonfly 2: “Alvin? Didn’t he get eaten by a bird? Or was that Cheryl?”
Me (being bit repeatedly): “Ouch! Shit! Crap!”
Dragonfly Union Leader: “OK, Ouch Shit Crap yer up. Which one of youse is Ouch Shit Crap?”
Perhaps you’ve been in the swamp to long when you begin speculating about the conversations of insects.
Clearing brush is only the start to a battle that I don’t see ending anytime soon. I’ve learned two things about swamp gardening. First is that if you don’t want to grow it then bend over. Every time you cut it down it will come back with 20 new shoots to taunt you. Second is that if you want it grow bend over. It won’t.
Deciding that I needed some way to kill the newly sprouted brush without the use of a gazillion gallons of weed killer which would eventually leech into the water table I started experimenting. In this picture you can see the rare and exotic camo tarp and black sheet plastic plants. These previously unknown plants were once a Chinese state secret and only grown in the most remote regions of northern China. Farmers who had earned the gratitude of the Emperor were allowed to grow these plants that made them fantastically wealthy with some making $3.97 a year in a good year. This was a boon for their children since they didn’t have to work in the sweatshops which was just as well since children don’t sweat all that much.
These plants were smuggled out of China at great risk in the underwear of two 19 year old Chinese twin sisters I purchased on the internet for $49.95 plus $29.99 shipping and handling. After seeing the bounty they had brought I set them free, bought them both tickets to New York city and gave them two cases of Ramon noodles to speed them along.
OK, it’s a camo tarp and a sheet of black plastic. I made it all up. So sue me.
Though somewhat slow, this works. When temps reach 90+ underneath the tarp/sheet it’s a lot higher. This results in sort of parboiling whatever is growing there. The black plastic seems to work best with the brush turning dead in two weeks or so. I’m leaving it on for several weeks more in the hope that it will kill the roots making further treatments unnecessary. The camo tarp doesn’t concentrate as much heat so it is working much slower but it is working none the less. I’ve since started covering the brush with cardboard then clear plastic. The jury isn’t in on this approach yet but I think maybe the clear plastic may work even better than the black. Hopefully it will transfer more heat in and cook those suckers much faster.
A few days ago, well a couple of weeks ago, I started a shed for my generators. I cleared the brush, leveled the ground a bit and set to it. I began by laying down plastic sheet to stop future growth then nailed together two pallets which would give me a 4×8 foot shed. This is a convenient size since most of my on hand lumber is 8 foot long. Then I decided it was to close to the shack so I cleared another area and set about leveling it. Then I decided I wanted a permanent shed and not something that would blow away. So I started digging holes. No need to mention the WMD needed to dig a hole. Then I started setting the poles. 12 foot 4x4s were way overkill. So tomorrow I buy some 10 foot and hopefully start nailing some lumber.
“What you eating Daddy?” “It’s a banana Ziggy.” “I know what it is. Can I have some Daddy? Not the peel this time.” “It’s a banana. You sure want it Ziggy?” “Yes please.” “OK, here.” “No thank you Daddy. I don’t like banana. I just wanted to see if you would let me have it.”
Back in the swamp and time for another installment of “What’s that smell?” Oh wait. That’s another story. Never mind. Maybe later.
As usual, things are stumbling along at a pace somewhat akin to watching paint dry. Hauling brush, picking up trash and wondering what bit me and how the hell did it get that far up my pants leg just isn’t all that exciting. Well once it was. I’ve wiped out several colonies of fire ants and I believe they have put out a fatwa on me. I had a couple of fire ant suicide bombers make it all the way up my pants leg and inside my underwear. I’m very glad no one saw me running around with my pants to my knees screaming at the top of my lungs while slapping madly at,,,,well, you know. I don’t believe anyone who witnessed it would describe it as exciting. On the other hand I’m pretty sure I heard some tiny little voices yelling “Aloha Snackbar!”
I finally got the last of the bamboo in and it is doing OK to gangbusters. I put some mild lawn fertilizer on which seems to really agree with it. I now have four different varieties which are supposed to grow from 30 to 100 feet tall under ideal conditions. But it has to be watered which has led to a water shortage. Yeah, I know. I live in a swamp. Water everywhere. Except close to where the bamboo is.
The closest water is about 200 yards away and running away rapidly. I don’t know if this drying trend is a seasonal thing or an indicator of things to come. Anyway, water weighs 8 pounds per gallon. For the first month or so each plant should get a gallon in the morning and one at night. Thankfully we’ve been getting afternoon showers this week so I only have to deal with the morning water.
Some good friends came to visit a few days ago and we had a good time visiting both the local sights then journeying out to the shack. We started off with a visit to the town boutique specializing in everything you never thought you wanted or needed. No kidding. This shop is great and I never go there that I don’t find some hidden treasure that I will never use but just can’t live without. They were no different and left with some treasures as well.
Then it was on to the seafood buffet and more calories than a school bus full of illegal alien children should eat. I especially enjoyed the 4000 calorie blackberry cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream. I really didn’t want it but sure didn’t want to leave it for some illegal to snarf up. Besides it was good.
We visited the swamp the next day, took a walking tour, shot some tin cans and in general had a very pleasant time. Hopefully I’ll have the shack better prepared the next time they visit and they can stay longer.
Today I woke up ready to go so I broke out the brush cutter and set out to cut a path I’ve been wanting to open. As before the existing path took a rather meandering route as I would take the path of least resistance or spot the occasional “shiny” that I just had to see. The new path will allow me to sit on the porch and see the west end of the hog wallow that I previously thought were two wallows. Once finished I’ll be able to sit on the balcony and mercilessly exterminate Miss Piggy on four different lanes over 90 yards long. I lasted about three hours before it got so awful hot I had to quit.
When you get between two walls of brush there isn’t a hint of a breeze. The heat just builds until it becomes hard to breathe. Throw in the fact that you have on heavy boots, long sleeved shirt, heavy gloves, a face shield and a somewhat restrictive harness to support the cutter and it gets really hot. The brush cutter itself puts out a tremendous amount of heat as well. The manufacturer recommends running it at about 10 thousand rpm which is fun but man does it ever heat things up even further.
Tomorrow is a toss up. I may cut some more path or maybe put up siding. Or maybe sit on the porch and doze all day. Can’t you just feel the excitement?
I really need to get the siding on the north side done and sealed. I bought some thinset Monday since the bag I had got wet. It’s remains are resting in a shallow grave out in my parking area. If I can remember where it is I’ll silently mourn its passing every time I drive over it.
There was a very strong storm here yesterday which had me concerned about the siding I have up now. After I did an inspection and was relieved to see no obvious damage. Maybe I got something right for a change.
The north wall is proving to be much more of a challenge than the east wall. For one, I didn’t know you should glue the siding with liquid nails so there isn’t a bit of glue on the east wall. After the first row it was just a matter of sliding the board up a ladder, then up the wall, setting it in place then screwing it down. With glue it’s an entirely different matter. You have to push the board up a ladder until it nearly touches the wall. Then you have to lift it out while continuing to push up the ladder. Once in place you set the board all in one fluid motion. Yeah, right. I have liquid nails everywhere. In my hair, on my shirt, gloves are caked and the wall looks like some modern art piece smeared with glue everywhere. Naturally the wind picks up just about the time you start to lift the board in place. Whereupon you are holding a 26 pound 3 by 5 foot sail that wants to go anywhere but over the area you previously applied glue to. There’s a piece of siding over in the brush now that I regularly cuss on every trip by that is destined for a shallow unmarked grave out in my parking area.
It’s very hot tonight. Not a bit of breeze, I have a hole in the air mattress and the Boy is snoring like a chain saw. It’s going to be a very long night.
Speaking of the boy snoring. A few weeks ago he went missing for longer than usual. I usually check several times an hour to see what he’s up to just in case he goes wandering off behind some new and possibly deadly adventure. Realizing that I hadn’t seen him for several hours I started the hunt. First stop was his favorite hide out
in the brush that he doesn’t know I know about. I always walk by it real casual like and never look directly at it. If he’s in there I keep walking and pretending that I don’t know where he is. Nope, he wasn’t there. By now I’m calling him and hitting the buzzer on his shock collar like a hive of angry bees. Nothing.
So it’s off to the road which is usually a total waste. Amos was out for awhile at the time so I decided to stop by his place to see if the Boy had visited. Just as I got to his trailer Amos was coming out for the call of nature. “Looking for Ziggy?” he asked. “Yep. Has he been up here?” “Yep, he’s inside asleep on the bed. I heard him outside whining and when I opened the door he came in, jumped in bed and went to sleep. I just laid down and went back to sleep.” I wasn’t really sure what to say at this point so I played it cool, “When he wakes up will you send him home?”
Woke up this morning and decided to go to town for a day or two. I was out of ice, out of food and out of vodka. Besides that I have about 374 actively itching bug bites that need some benadryl and calamine lotion. I was planning on a late afternoon departure time but the wind died while I was putting up the last few pieces of siding on the second row of the north side and I smelled me. I moved my outgoing flight up to noon and set about stowing everything.
It’s been several days and I’ve been back and forth several times. Not a whole lot of news to report other than dam is it getting hot. I’m in town for several days while I get over a mild case of trench foot and toxic levels of bug bites. I have another post nearly ready to go so I’ll get this up and work on it a bit.
I’ve been asked to post some of the stories about the characters I’ve met on my journey here. Since the night is yet young and I’m getting half potted why not? I’ll give it a go and if anyone enjoys it I’ll do some more.
Chatty Cathy – Ever see a sight that just made you want to wash your eyes out with bleach? Chatty Cathy is one of those people you wish you could unmeet. (not a word I know but it fits) My first encounter with Cathy began when I was moving here and had a large enclosed trailer to unload. I stopped by my friends shop and asked him if he knew anyone who I could hire to help me unload. He said he knew someone but I would have to go pick him up. I was warned that he was “a nut” but I foolishly assumed that he was simple and crazy like me. After a phone call I set off to pick him up.
When I got to his place I honked the horn about the time he walked out of his trailer. Sitting in the truck with a diesel engine running, 60 feet away I wondered who he was talking to. My best guess was that he had a wireless headset and was talking on the phone. When he got to the truck there was no headset, no phone and he was still talking a blue streak. I told him he would have to sit in the back seat since Ziggy was kind of freaked also and not about to get that far away from daddy with this guy in the truck.
So we set off to the storage unit with Chatty Cathy talking all the while. And talking. And talking.
At the unit we pile out of the truck to start unloading. Did I mention that he was talking the whole time? By now I had realized that he was not the sort of person to let conversation get in the way of talking so I didn’t even bother to grunt or wiggle my ears to acknowledge the constant stream of words issuing from him. I began unloading.
In the trailer and in passing I could understand part of what he was saying. Some of it was comments about the boxes we were moving such as “Gun stuff. Oh, wonder what you got in here.” One comment in particular came back to haunt me when he was holding a surplus back pack I had picked up at the local Army Navy store, “Oh you were there to. I was there. We’re brothers.” Like everything else he was saying I just tuned it out and kept going. When I was outside the trailer all I heard was some mumbling sounds that just increased in volume as I passed him then died out a bit as he moved something into the storage unit. He was a worker though. We unloaded the trailer in half the time I had estimated which I attribute to whatever drugs he was taking.
At the end of the day I paid him with a belt sander he was particularly enamored with and took him back to his trailer. In nearly three and a half hours he hadn’t stopped for breath a single time and had covered every topic imaginable. I tipped him 20 dollars and told him that no one needed to know my business and to keep what he saw to himself.
Weeks later I had a truck to unload. Steeling myself I made the call. I told him the day I would be there and could he help unload. He told me he might be baling hay and that he had to work his trade after all. Baling hay is a trade? What has happened in the 50+ years since I bailed hay that it has become a trade?
Time passed and I began settling into my new life. While visiting with my friend at his shop he told me that Cathy had stopped by. Seems that Cathy wanted to tell my friend about helping me with unloading my trailer. “That guy has some stuff in there if you know what I mean (wink, wink). But I don’t want to say any more. I’ve said to much already.” I wasn’t happy.
Not long after that I had stopped at the local truck stop for a grease bomb and fries. Upon leaving I walked by some homeless guy only to hear “How you doing tonight?” I just grunted and kept going. Then I heard “Aren’t you that guy that I helped unload a trailer?”
I stopped dead in my tracks and looked closely. Oh shit, it’s him. And he’s winking. “Yeah” was about all I could think to say. “I thought you were going to call me to help again.” he replied while apparently trying to blink something out of his eye. “I did” I answered. “You never called me back. And what’s wrong with your eye?”
“You know” says he “we were over there together” while nodding in the general direction of the truck stop parking lot. Looking over to the corner of the parking lot all I could see was a Dollar General and some unmarked truck. I had no earthly clue what this nut case was talking about but I was quickly becoming concerned that he might be dangerous or that at some point he might start humping my leg. Then I remembered. Afghanistan He had babbled about being over there when he saw the back pack. “No, I’ve never been to Afghanistan” I said then hurried to the truck for a quick escape.
A few days later I was in a local hardware store when I heard “Well hello my friend! How are you?” Oh shit, it’s him. And he’s winking like a broken traffic light after being hit by lightning. And he’s coming toward me. I started backing up and wondering if “He was humping my leg judge” would stand up in court here. About that time I had a very pleasant collision with a very pretty and very buxom young lady who simply said “I’ll handle this.”
“Go on! Get out of here! Quit bothering the customers.” Peering out from behind her I was tempted to throw in a “Yeah! What she said!” but held my tongue.
I haven’t seen Chatty Cathy since but then I don’t hang out in dark corners of truck stop parking lots so he may be out there still if you know what I mean. But I don’t want to say any more. I’ve said to much already.