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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Day of Discovery

My friend came up to help me with my water line issues Monday afternoon. He brought a pressure washer. Together we were able to really clean out the supply line. After over forty years there was plenty of grit built up in the line.

It went a lot quicker with two. Also helps that my friend is 20 years younger than me and in good shape.

We never did restore the full pressure to the line. Thanks to there being two of us, he was able to observe the well while I was watching the system in the basement. I saw little build up of water pressure in the house system. He was able to notice that even though I wasn't getting much water, the well steadily dropped. Working alone I never noticed that as the well had time to recover by the time I got back to it.

That tells me there's definitely a leak somewhere in the line. The next step involves pick and shovel work. I know just where I'm going to start too.

Years ago there was a shallow well pump house about 15 feet from the well. The surface pump would push the water up the hill. That worked fine when the place was a seasonal cottage. In the winter the pump house had to be heated to keep everything flowing. Back then the power went out all the time, so the well pump was constantly in danger of freezing.

That shallow well pump was replaced with a submersible pump. The line in the pump house had a splice put in it and buried. I'm going to dig up that splice. The connectors are usually the weak point in a water line.

This is where it gets interesting. If I find the problem is with the connectors, they get replaced; job done. If that's not the problem I'll take the line apart so I can test both sides. If the leak shows up in the 15 foot section, we'll dig that up and replace it. If the problem is in the 50 foot long section, then I move to plan “C.”

I'm not going to dig up 50 feet of line with cold weather nipping at my heels. However, today we discovered that we can fish a smaller line down the pipe, as long as there are no splices. We pushed a good 30 feet of line down the pipe as a test. Getting another 20 feet or so down the line looks doable. I'd have to buy a longer line, but that sure beats digging trenches in the snow. I would not have full volume, but it should work at least as well as the surface line I'm using now. That would get me though the cold weather.

All in all, while we didn't solve the problem, progress was made. I think we figured out how to proceed. My buddy will be joining me again when the day warms up a bit. During the cold hours of the morning I'm going into town to get more parts.

At least I know more than when I started.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Another beautiful day on the water

It started out simple enough. My lovely wife and I went down to the lake to do some work on the sailboat. We did get a few things done.

Then the wind kicked up and we just had to lift anchor. The rest of the afternoon was spent sailing. We didn't bother with the jib, only the mainsail. The wind was very uneven. Sometimes there was very little wind and we were barely poking along. Then a gust would blow down from the mountains and almost bury the rain in the water. Good fun.

The leaves are past peak, but temperatures were up in the 70s. Pretty amazing for the middle of October.

I tried to capture this eagle being harassed by a crow. The phone isn't the best of cameras. My lovely wife was at the helm and we were riding one of those mountain gusts while quickly running out of lake. We had the place to ourselves.

This evening there's a chance of 80 mph gusts in the mountains. Interesting weather. As I write this it's starting to sound like a freight train out there.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Big Picture

We like to think of progress moving in a straight line. Humans have gone from living in caves to sending probes to explore the solar system. Our grunts and gestures evolved into literature and song. Crude ideas dimly imagined grew into philosophy and science.

The problem with all that is the fact it ain't true. Sure, in general we've advanced in many areas, but it hasn't been a straight line. Even the ancient Greeks went through periods of decline where few could read or write. The same thing happened to the Egyptians.

At the end of the Bronze Age civilizations collapsed. There were invasions from the mysterious Sea Peoples, of which little is known. Populations crashed, trade networks failed, advanced government functions ceased.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
-W. B Yeats

Things really could fall apart again. We've some pretty good examples what that looks like. Puerto Rico and a number of Caribbean Islands are excellent examples. However, as bad as things are there, they are lucky. The outside world is intact and aid can be sent in.

Imagine much bigger disasters. The Yellowstone volcano, when it blows will affect most of North America. Recently I was reading where a nuclear EMP could shut down America's grid and that would eventually kill 90% of the population. A huge coronal mass ejection from the sun could do even more widespread damage.

The list could go on and on. The big question is what are we going to do about it? Governments could get their act together and make our civilization more resilient. There are fixes for many known potential disasters. Our extremely vulnerable grid could be hardened for example. It's not magic and while costly, is a lot less costly than everything going dark. Actually, protecting their populations against huge dangers are what governments should be doing. It's not something that can be done on a local or personal level.

We've fixed big problems in the past. I'm old enough to remember horrible air and water pollution. The ozone hole has stabilized and is rebuilding. Y2K really could have done serious damage had not government and business gotten their act together and fixed most of the problems. Once there is political will, stuff gets done.

Of course, stuff does not always get done. Right now our leaders not only lack to the will to solve problems, they can't even agree what the problems are.

That's where we come back to being prepared on an individual level. Our needs are basic: food, water, shelter, clothing, security -it's not a long list, unlike the list of wants. Having survival skills and some preps makes all the difference. It's the right thing to do. You can't help anyone else until your needs are attended to.

We are at a unique point in history where our knowledge is vast. I only hope we have enough wisdom to use that knowledge wisely.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Water line progress

The water line project continues. After getting the ninety degree elbow off I was able to run a pipe snake down the line.

There appears to be a lot of very fine silt and sand packed into the plastic pipe. The pipe snake pulled up a lot of grit. A friend of mine is going to bring up a pressure washer and we'll will try to flush the rest of it out of the line.

That water line has been in use for over forty years. There's about a twenty foot long section of pipe that lays pretty flat. That appears to be the dirtiest part.

I was tempted to play around with it some more, but my lovely wife and I had to go to a wedding. You do not shut off the water while your wife is getting fancied up for a get together.

I'm glad my friend is coming up to help. Some jobs are just easier with two.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Boat shows and stripper clubs

The Annapolis Boat Show and stripper clubs have something in common. It might be fun to check out the goods, but you really don't want to get involved. The costs of doing so are too high. The boat show is going on now and I'm not going anywhere near it. Also not going to see strippers, but that's not the real point of this blog post.

I don't even enjoy looking at new boats in sailing magazines anymore. Even small sailboats are way out of my price range. In fact, I can't even afford most of the water toys some people bring on their boats. I'm letting my sailing magazine subscriptions run out.

Take any item, put the word “marine” in front of it, and the price shoots up. Smart boaters have learned that the last place you look for parts is the marine store. A good well stocked hardware store, at least ten miles inland, is a valuable resource. Things like fuel filters, belts, and engine thermostats can often be found at the auto parts store.

One of the last things you want to do is to pay someone to work on your boat. Being able to do fiberglass work will always save you a bundle. You don't need to have all the skills necessary but if you have some skills you'll have something to barter. A lot of boat work isn't hard, it's just tedious like sanding and painting.

If I'd first learned about sailing at boat shows, I'd never have gone sailing. Once you start looking around, you find all kinds of perfectly serviceable used boats in just about anybody's price range. If you fix one up yourself, you'll have a huge advantage over credit card captains who buy their way into sailing. Eventually, every boat needs work. If you have a simple boat, your problems will be simple ones. Often big new boats are stuck at marinas while their captains wait for parts or have warranty work done. They are stuck in port because of problems with systems that my boat does not even have.

Once in a while the only solution is to spend money at a marine store. Even there, a small simple boat can save you. Prices really climb the bigger your boat. A boat that uses generic, off the shelf parts is cheaper to repair than boats with proprietary systems. There are stores that specialize in used equipment, and that can save you big money.

Sure it might be nice to check out curvy, sexy, tarted up . . . boats. Look but don't touch.

In other news, my water line project advances. I dug down to the ninety degree elbow but did not remove it. Managed to pull a muscle while digging -all part of the joys of digging in tight places. Rather than remove the joint and take a chance dirt would get in there, I put the job off until later. My lovely wife had the phone with the bore scope app on it, so I couldn't scope it out yet. Besides, it was coffee time. Priorities.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mired in Muck

I got back to trouble shooting my well water supply line issues. There have been a lot of distractions requiring my attention. To be honest, the though digging out the line from the basement side was discouraging. However, there's no putting it off any longer. The problem doesn't appear to be on the well side. It's time to face the horrors of the basement.

The house has a partial basement with a gravel floor. The area by the water line has been accumulating junk for years. One of the problems with working in the basement is that I've had to admit to myself that a lot of my stuff down there is junk. Since I've been unable to find a use for most of that stuff for years, it's time to let it go.

Just clearing up the area around the bench filled four large trash bags. Not everything was junk. In fact, I'd found some useful things that I'd totally forgotten about.

Unfortunately, while moving the bench out of the cramped basement, it bumped into my jury rigged plumbing. The jostling caused one of the joints to start leaking. A lot of water poured out before everything was shut down and repaired.

The area where the supply line comes into the basement is the lowest spot. Everything turned to mud. Rather than struggle with that mess, I decided to wait a day for it to dry out. That was a setback, but it shouldn't take me too long to dig up the line. There's a ninety degree elbow that has to be removed before my pipe snake and bore-scope can go down the line. It's possible that debris got jammed in that elbow, which would account for drop in water pressure. My fingers are crossed.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Strange Off-Grid Solutions

Off-grid is pretty straight forward these days. Solar, wind, and generators are all fairly mature technologies. Someone with basic handyman skills can cobble something together.

Years ago there was a lot more hippie-tech. It didn't matter how odd or weird something was, as long as it did the job.

There was a guy who had an off-grid house deep in the woods. It was about a 50 mile drive for him to get to work. He took an old car, beefed up the suspension and removed the back seat. Where the seat was he installed a heavy duty battery bank. The car's alternator was upgraded to a more powerful one. The battery bank charged on his daily commute. When he got home at night he plugged the house into the car's batteries and had power for the night. He lived alone so there was no need for power when he wasn't there.

About ten years ago a guy I knew was looking for a viable electric car for his half hour daily commute to his business. Unfortunately, the technology wasn't ready for prime time yet. His idea was that he'd charge the car off his business's power and write it off as a business expense.

That did get me thinking. Electric cars are now coming into their own. Some businesses are allowing their workers to plug in while they work. I bet you there are people who charge at work, then tap into their car to run some of their household.

I've got a shed running on a small solar electric system down by the lake. This fall I'm going to remove it and install it on the boat. Next spring, to power the shed, I could run power from the boat, across a dock and into the building. Some care would have to be taken, as running power over water needs special protection, but it's very doable. Normally power is run from docks to boats, but there's no reason it couldn't be done the other way.

Sometimes it pays to think outside of the box.