Yesterday, my husband and me had just returned from town when I realized I had overlooked Thanksgiving altogether so we turned around and went back to the store to buy the supplies. We picked up a turkey, whipped cream and the other usual Thanksgiving accompaniments.
I wondered why customers weren’t fighting for the last turkey, why people weren’t wishing each other Happy Thanksgiving and I wondered how I had let the day slip my mind.
Thank goodness I’d caught myself.
Early this morning I began meal preparations. Our son loves pumpkin pie and I was making it from scratch for the first time ever but with the Delicata squash we’d grown over the summer. We had about fifteen gourds left that had been sitting on a side table for over a month and this was my opportunity to finally use them.
I had a basic menu in mind and we were going to keep things simple (with the exception of the pie) . Things were going smoothly but something seemed off: plentiful turkeys at Safeway, no holiday salutations, my own uncharacteristic oversight. With a growing feeling of confusion, I checked the calendar.
One night when we were still living in our first travel trailer, our cat jumped onto the top of the canvas canopy over our bed and collapsed it on top of me. As I was holding the animal up off of myself and screeching about the damned thing, my half asleep husband mumbled “are you sure that’s the cat”?
This story is similar.
A couple of weeks ago, I heard one of our two cats munching in our dining room and for some reason, I decided to get up. I stumbled out of bed, put my robe on and made my way out into the kitchen.
We’d just installed a cat door so we wouldn’t have to let the felines in and out of the house fifty thousand times a day. They could now come and go as they pleased.
I sleepily shambled down the stairs and flipped on the light to see a skunk in the dining room. I shouted something and the poor thing ran into a corner then out the “cat” door which was now officially a skunk door.
To my relief, it hadn’t sprayed. I wondered if it was the same one I’d dumped out of a cage in the middle of the night a couple of months earlier.
I went back to bed. Tomorrow, the cat door comes out.
It’s five a.m. and I’m on my third marshmallow with the coffee brewing. Off to a good start. Not the best food choice but I seem to be doing well enough for my age – years of exercise, perhaps.
Speaking of marshmellows, we decided to roast them for Easter this year. We prefer to incinerate them. Nothing beats a carbonized shell filled with what survived. The inside also makes a nice dirt magnet and hair sealant.
We whittled sticks for the occasion but I couldn’t get mine thin enough. I might as well have been using a broom stick.
Surprisingly, our son, whom we’d dragged out of his trailer for family time, suggested we roast again the next day.
My husband is easy to feed and I like to cook so we’re good for each other. He’ll eat anything except seafood (some varieties look like insects, he says) and cottage cheese.
He finds tortillas especially useful and would put a trout in one, only the fish is too close to a seafood (I guess). Yesterday, I saw him crammed into the pantry from the waist up, looking for a snack. Later I caught him ladling last night’s hamburger gravy into a sourdough bun he’d hollowed out. Not so bad except he was eating it cold. I’m grateful he recently discovered cooking with Chef Ramsey.
We always have sweets around but we also keep plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables on hand. It’s tick season so we have a cutting board filled with fresh cut garlic and tomatoes to snack on throughout the day. Garlic can make you nauseous if eaten by itself, thus the tomatoes. We smell but that’s the point – theoretically, the ticks also think we stink.
We could do away with the sweets and be perfect but what is life about if you can’t enjoy a charcoal encrusted lump of sugergoo that’s guaranteed to dissolve your tooth enamel on contact?
Most people probably don’t give a second thought to their water heaters but ours came with a story.
When we bought our RV, it had been refitted for use with city hookups rather than for it’s original purpose of boon docking. The electric water heater that had been installed was gobbling our energy so we ordered a propane model.
When the UPS guy dropped off it off, we eyeballed it with suspicion as we’d recently watched an episode of the TV show Mythbusters featuring an experiment with hot water heaters.
They had disabled all of the safety measures on several tanks then set the temperature dials to maximum. Upon overheating to the point of exploding, they blew open at their weakest points – the bottoms – launching them hundreds of feet into the air.
We wondered how high our mini-rocket might be capable of traveling under the wrong circumstances as we wrestled it into its compartment on the side of our RV and hooked up the gas and water. We checked for leaks then lit it up.
We turned the water on to check the temperature but it got hotter and hotter then stopped flowing altogether. Clueless and sure the heater was nearing blast-off, we called it a night.
Our luck was no better the next day so we decided to call a professional.
They don’t normally do work on RV’s but they agreed to send someone to come take a look. For two weeks we waited – without hot water.
By the time he arrived, the repairman had attained hero status in our minds.
Armed only with a notepad and a toolbox, he listened with concern as we told him our plight. Wringing our now filthy hands, we recounted our misadventures as he stole sideways glances at the beast that waited behind the access panel that said “hot”.
Finally, he adjusted his collar, turned, and approached his foe with a swagger that would have made John Wayne proud. He opened the hatch, squinted into the darkness and went to work.
We stood back and watched nervously. What if he couldn’t fix it? What if we had to send it back for another? What if this cost us an arm and a leg?
Finally, we heard the rocket-like swoosh of propane igniting as the man cocked his head and made his final adjustments. We tried in vain to read his poker face as he turned and walked back our way to give us the news.
Suppressing a grin, he told us “I turned the heat down.”
The usual disclaimer that I love my solar power system but my power inverter seems to have fallen victim to either myself or the elements and it just makes for good material. The metering is confusing so I’ve underlined the syllables you put emphasis on.
You once sat so proud upon the top shelf of the rack
Your spot above the batteries the leader of the pack
Then one fateful rainy night I went out to go ground you
I raised the lid and God forbid a drop of water found you
I flipped your switch there was a glitch as I dealt the death blow
That was the end can’t comprehend Be missed more than you know
You failed the test you weren’t the best now all I have is scrap
To Amazon where you belong you sorry piece of crap
I bid adieu I feel for you it just might be my fault
Made a mistake you I did break was a form of assault
It’s five o’clock in the afternoon and as soon as we got home I, as usual, check the status of our new solar power system.
To my dismay, the charge controllers are only showing that the batteries have a 11.9 volt charge or forty percent state of charge (SAC). They should never be discharged below fifty percent.
It appears as if the batteries are either not charging or they are not holding a charge. To find out, we’ll have to test them. It’s also overcast and when there are multiple possible causes, the fun begins.
When we bought the solar power system we learned a lot about deep-cycle batteries (their are other types you can use for solar) including the fact that you’re only supposed to discharge them no lower than fifty-percent. If you do, the battery won’t work as well the next time around and it’ll get worse the more times you over-discharge them.
So basically, when you buy one battery you’re buying one-half of a battery and you only get to use half of the amp hours listed on the label if you don’t want to ruin it.
Plan to buy twice as many batteries as you think you’ll need.
But wait, there’s more.
The batteries are where all of that free energy will be stored until you use it. If it isn’t set up properly, all of that sunshine is going somewhere besides your refrigerator. It’s a good idea to learn a little about them if you’re going solar.
Setting up a battery array can be confusing and the topic of batteries in general, is hotly debated in the online forums. Some issues you will have to deal with are:
How to connect them correctly (there are many different configurations).
How many solar panels at how many watts per panel will you need per battery to charge them each day?
How many batteries will you need to meet your power needs?
How to calculate how much power you’ll need.
How to equalize the batteries in your array or does your controller do that for you?
What is equalization?
What type of battery is best and how much of it’s charge can you use to prevent rendering it useless?
How to tell if it’s useless (one bad battery will compromise the performance of the rest)
Try browsing any forum looking for answers and you’ll find certain personality types:
The guy with the overly scientific approach who posts mathematical formulas broken down into several categories depending on the type battery, panels, geographical location and whether or not you like peanuts.
The guy who gets right to the point; “your batteries are dead, done, depleted, sulfated.”
The poor newbie who dared ask a question without all of the information needed for the first guy to apply his scientific formulas.
Another thing we didn’t know about batteries is that they may be bad but appear to be good if you don’t test them the right way. A surface charge is the false reading a bad battery will have right after it’s fully charged – but it’s temporary. Make sure you test a battery at least four hours (preferably twenty-four), after it’s been fully charged in order to get an accurate result.
We’ve had batteries tested at stores that had a surface charge showing they were full that, when tested later, dropped volts – they were bad.
We’ll test our batteries and if they’re good, the problem lies elsewhere in the system.
Learn the basics about batteries before you buy a DIY solar power system. It’ll help you to not ruin them like we may have ours. Not everything is in the instruction manual.
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
― Louis L’Amour
Yeah, only in my case, you have to dig the damned well, install a water filter and about five-hundred feet of hose, put the hose in the trailer water inlet (it puts the water in the trailer or it doesn’t get the coffee), turn off the water pump that you realized has been on all night pumping air, make the coffee after you get enough water in the tank to make it, check on said status of water refill, run in and check on coffee making status, run up to the top of the property again to “turn off” the water (pull the hose out of the spring), run down again and turn the coffee to low for perking, turn on the generator sometime during all of this, and plug in the fridge because it was turned off when plugged into the solar.
It’s then and only then that you can sit down and have the freaking coffee.