Marshmellows and Coffee

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.

We decided to roast marshmellows for Easter this year. Twenty minutes family time is what we managed to squeeze out of the teenager. Incineration was the preferred cooking method. Who doesn’t like a carbonized shell with a gooey dirt magnet underneath?  I couldn’t whittle my stick thin enough so every time I tried to force a mellow onto it, about ninety percent of it would be displaced, leaving nothing but shreds.  Surprisingly, our son suggested we roast again the next day.

Dusting off the lawn chair.

Speaking of food choices, my husband will eat anything.  He finds tortillas especially useful and would put a trout on one only he doesn’t like fish.  Yesterday, I saw him crammed into the pantry from the waist up, looking for a snack. Later I caught him ladling the 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 so too do we have fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s tick season so we keep the garlic out on a cutting board. Every day we slice it up and eat it on bits of cheese or tomato to help it go down. Garlic can make you nauseous if taken alone. My husband and I smell but that’s the point. Thankfully, we cancel each other out.

We could eat healthier and exercise more but our coffee and marshmellows aren’t going anywhere.

 

Two Idiots, A Water Heater and a Hero

Most people probably don’t give a second thought to their water heaters but ours came with a story.

We are afraid of it as we’re unfamiliar with it’s inner workings and are concerned it may blow up at any moment. It’s not the heater’s fault nor that of anyone involved with it’s design or installation; they’re just suspicious-seeming by nature. It doesn’t help that we’re ignorant of such things despite over a year of living off-grid in an RV.

When we first got the thing, we had recently seen an episode of Mythbusters wherein the guys purposely removed all of the fail-safe measures on some water heaters and cranked the heat up. The tanks shot hundreds of feet into the air after smashing through mock ceilings without effort, giving my husband and I pause as to what our own rocket/heater might be capable of. But let’s back up.

When we came by our fifth wheeler it had been gutted and refitted for use with city hookups such as electricity 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. It arrived promptly and we managed to get it nestled into the side of our RV without much ado. We carefully hooked up the gas, checked for leaks and lit her up.

Everything went fine as we turned the bathtub spigot on and off to check the rising temperature but the water got hotter and hotter and stopped flowing altogether. Clueless and sure the heater was nearing ignition, we turned it off and called it a night.

The next day we exchanged the old faucet for a new one and the water ran fine but continued to overheat. We shut it down for a second time to save our very lives lest we recreate that episode of Mythbusters.

Photo by Kurt Cotoaga on Unsplash

We needed a professional. Enter Norstar Heating and Cooling, Inc.

We gave them a call and explained the strange behavior of our water heater and made an appointment. Although they didn’t normally deal with RV type systems, they were willing to come take a look. We kept the unit shut off while we waited for our savior- his elevated status growing every day we went without the ability to shower.

Then the day arrived and “he” showed up. He didn’t have six-shooters on his side but he came with a notepad and a toolbox.  Wringing our now filthy hands, we recounted our misadventures as the repairman stole sideways glances at the beast waiting silently in it’s hole on the side of the fifth wheel.

Finally, our man adjusted his collar and approached the offender with a swagger and a coolness that would make John Wayne jealous. He stared at his foe for a moment or two then reached out confidently and began to manipulate the dials with the authority of a….well…appliance repairman. We stood a good ways back and watched with mixed fear and excitement at the prospect of being able to resume our personal hygiene routines.

Then we heard it; the rocket-like flame of the gas feed shot to life as the man cocked his head and squinted suspiciously at the device while he made his final adjustments. With a satisfied nod he turned and walked back our way to give us the news.

His words will haunt us forever; “I turned the heat down.”

 

 

 

How Do I Write?

It’s 7:45 am in the morning and I’m sitting at my computer looking at the smudges all over the screen, wondering if that’s an extra period I’ve added or a speck of food. It’s a touch screen and the first time I cleaned it I had to wait twenty minutes for the commands I accidentally activated to process.

Imagine just finishing a blog post and the commands deleting the whole thing, writing an entire new post that was pure Shakespearian, and publishing it; all while you look on helplessly.

Or maybe my cat could walk across the keyboard and accomplish the same thing.

Our fifth wheel has about a foot of snow on the top and I’m wondering how my husband and I are going to shovel all it off. I hope the ceiling doesn’t cave in while I’m writing yet I’m choosing to sit down and blog rather than get out there with the heavy equipment and clean up literally tons of snow. Easy choice, actually.

I love to write but being just months in, it’s daunting. I’m trying to find my sea legs and thrashing about every time I get washed overboard, which happens a lot.

 As I  paddle around in circles, I’m realizing just how much I don’t  know about writing. Did you know there are curly as opposed to straight quotation marks? And double and smart ones? I didn’t until yesterday when I downloaded a proofreader. I was having so much trouble finding a transition from one paragraph to another the other day I gave up and just wrote “segue” between the paragraphs.

Ever wonder if you’re the worst, least professional writer in existence? I do on a daily basis. I  suspect I may not be the only one.

I ran the proofreading tool on my last blog post and I didn’t understand what the thing was telling me to correct. I feel like an amateur but I was buoyed by a blog post I read yesterday by The Art Of Blogging.

It featured a book by Stephen King on writing. I liked the part about failure the most. I feel much better knowing that is a part of the writing process and to expect it.  If Stephen King failed and is still with us (boy is he ever), then I stand a chance.

I want to learn how to write better. I want to find my particular style. I want people to want to read my blog. Every once in a while I get frustrated and consider walking away but I immediately dismiss the thought because I love to write.

Most of all, I want to find my style.  I currently rotate between what I call my boring style to humorous, then some poetry with weird subject matter, to super descriptive, and the emotional stuff.  My favorite is the humorous.

I want to perfect the art of humorous writing more than any other style. I want to write like Jean Sheppard of A Christmas Story fame. That’s my biggest bestest aspiration. Funny words.

As far as cleaning up the roof of our RV, I’m already looking for a humorous angle.

Nine Lives Before Christmas

A catastrophe.

Nine lives before Christmas and in the RV, two felines were climbing up my Christmas tree

The lights and the baubles I’d hung up with care, strewn wall to wall not a single one spared

Shredded remains of my prized Christmas cactus, total destruction they’ve had lots of practice

They found the pine cones left a trail of debris, nothing was spared in the wake of their spree

Forget wrapping presents dispense with the bows, the effort is useless the gifts they’ll expose

I tried hanging garland, Oh what was I thinking, my light strings are broken they’re no longer blinking

cat ornament

I chased them outside tried to clear out my head, they came back in soaking wet jumped on my bed

What if St. Nick dares to come bearing gifts, they’ll ambush his sleigh from behind the snow drifts

Busting cat Kung Fu they’ll knock him out cold, one tailbone broken a fright to behold

Flat on his back splayed out under the trees, cookies and milk won’t fix his injuries

Journey cut short by two renegade cats, no toys for the children no balls and no bats

Packages strewn from his sleigh to the house, next year he’s packing a catnip stuffed mousecriminals

Gobbler Bullet List

Questions, facts, observations, and our personal experiences with they who are ridiculous: The Turkey.

turkey bird feeder

  • What is their purpose besides being delicious?
  • We call their young Gobblets.
  • How is that weird looking wobbly red thing on the males supposed to intrigue females? I get the feathers but that?
  • They speak Gobbletygook.
  • What is a herd or flock of them called?
  • How can they fly so gracefully with those fat torsos? Imagine trying to throw a turkey across your yard.
  • What makes them look as if they’ve just gone through a wind tunnel?
  • What’s with the beady little black eyes?
  • Why did the turkey cross the road…today, yesterday, the day before, the week before, tomorrow most likely, every time we drive into town.
  • They like bird seed and cat food.
  • Why do my cats think they have a chance at bagging one of these?
  • We have one in a tub outside our front door right now. It was too big for us to eat on Thanksgiving. We bought it at the store BTW. Last one. The glares of the people behind us……
  • My husband is very good at mimicking their call. I told him to be careful around the ladies.
  • What do you call a lone female? Hen Solo! My husband made that one up. 🙂
  • We saw a male proudly displaying his feathers in all their glory standing amongst a bunch of hens who seemed completely oblivious to his presence. Our 15 year old said “Day 47 and they still haven’t noticed me”.
  • If a Tom turkey fluffs up in the forest and no one is there to see him, is he still impressive?

Here are some trail cam videos. Enjoy!

Ode To A Power Inverter

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

Now I’m stuck and out of luck no microwave, TV

Back to the gen where I began for electricity

Halloween On The Range

It’s not the same anymore.

Keep in mind that Halloween is my absolute FAVORITE holiday ever, when reading the following poem. It’s just not the same without the trick or treaters and the huge display we used to have.

Last year I had the bright idea to light torches and walk down our driveway past the neighbor’s house in celebration. They called the sheriff.

Then, because the real estate agent had given them the code to our section of the larger property, they opened up OUR private gate and trespassed onto our land with the sheriff. He found nothing amiss. She claimed her “children’ had been frightened by the torches. They were teenagers. The same ones who almost shot us. Poor poor babies.

When the real estate agent found out, she was livid and they paid a little visit to the neighbors. I paid them a little visit also. 🙂

With that said……

Halloween on the range

Where the trick or treaters stay far away

No sweets handed out

Ain’t that what it’s about

No decs to put out on display

Halloween on the range

Where the generator stays on all day

Where we don’t decorate

None can see for God’s sake

What’s the point with the dust and decay

Halloween on the range

Where we tried to partake our own way

We lit up a torch

“Scared” the teens on their porch

Called the law trespassed our property

Halloween on the range

To us it’s just another day

Where we don’t celebrate

Cause who’d participate

We just wait for the next holiday

 

 

 

How Many Is Enough?

A solar poem.

One two three four five six seven eight

How many solar panels does it take?

Nine and ten and eleven and twelve

Now you’ll have to buy some shelves

Thirteen fourteen fifteen sixteen

This is really getting extreme

Seventeen eighteen nineteen twenty

Quick the generator’s empty

 

 

The Rainbow Connection

The solar battery bank can be so confusing.

Five o’clock this afternoon, we get home in overcast weather and I, as usual, check the status of our new solar power system.

To my dismay, the voltage is only showing 11.9. Definitely not any sort of a charge. In fact, that’s about a 40 percent state of charge (SAC) of the batteries. Great big sigh. We thought we had everything up and running smoothly as of the other day; but not so fast.

Unless you have a professional or someone who’s experienced in solar technology do the job for you, be prepared for an onslaught of information in setting up your battery bank.

The battery bank or array is the place where all of that free energy will be stored until you use it. If it isn’t working properly, all of that sunshine is going somewhere besides your refrigerator. Setting it up and diagnosing problems can be overwhelming and confusing.

In my quest for guidance online, I’ve learned that the most talked about and hotly debated subject is the battery bank or array. I think it’s the Achilles Heel of most systems.

There is an overwhelming list of variables to consider and possible issues that may come up such as:

  • How to wire the batteries correctly
  • How many solar panels at how many watts are needed to recharge the bank in a day?
  • How many batteries will you need to meet your power needs?
  • How to calculate your power needs
  • How to equalize the batteries in your array or does your controller do that for you?
  • 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 (If even one battery is toast, you’ll have to go out and buy another four or eight, or however many all at once because they need to be put into commission at roughly the same time)
  • The energy losses inherent in the system also need to be factored in when either calculating your usage or production of electricity.
john-daines-1104736-unsplash (1)
Photo by John Daines on Unsplash

Try browsing any forum with a question and you’ll most likely discover that for every one asked you’ll find multiple answers from varying personality types such as:

  • The guy with the overly scientific approach who posts mathematical formulas broken down into several categories depending on the type battery, panel, geographical location and whether or not you like peanuts
  • The guy who just slams in a one-liner that “your batteries are dead, done, depleted, sulfated” (death sentence for a battery).

Which answer is right?

Since it appears we aren’t able to maintain a charge once we plug in, our next step is to check the batteries themselves to see if they are only carrying a surface charge. That is a temporary false state of charge that quickly diminishes after either a pull is introduced or it just sits for an hour at which point a second reading reveals a significant drop in voltage.

We’ve had batteries tested at various dealers while still carrying a surface charge and were told the battery was good. Then, upon asking for them to be retested later, they were found to be bad.

A properly working battery bank is crucial to a solar power system. They hold the juice until you need it but they can be complicated. Learn all you can about them and how to take care of them if you want to get the most efficient use of your solar setup.

Where does the rainbow connection come in? An old RV repairman recently barked at me after I asked how him how to do the wiring on a water pump. He snapped “red is red and black is black”. My ass it’s that simple. Electrical wiring might as well be rainbow colored.