News

Sunday, the 12th of November

Cooler

The cold weather in the North is making life better down here. Sorry! I haven't used the apartment A/C in a couple of weeks. Imagine the savings in money.

Film

A certain Swedish zombie film has been a long time coming. It looks pretty good. The trailer and a blurb are available at this link.

Next trip

This long weekend, and then some, I'll be visiting my brother. We're going to visit Capitol Reef National Park in south-central Utah. I think we're both looking forward to the cooler weather.

Site updates

I've added four new movies and a TV program to the GRS database. Enjoy!

Saturday, the 4th of November

Work

The new cubicle isn't bad. The new guy is cool. I'm getting to know another person in Florida. He's originally from Long Island, so we can share observations about the Sunshine State. Or, as a local DJ calls it, the Dumb-shine State.

Weather

It's warmed up again. Mid 80s in November! We've also seem to have emerged from a cloudy period. It's a lot sunnier now. I wonder if the clouds and rain are part of the hurricane season.

Day off

This past Friday was a "9-80" day off. I visited Tarpon Springs. This small city north of Tampa is an enjoyable place to visit! I wasn't able to spend as much time as I would have liked. (Parking restrictions limited me.) I did visit the old railroad depot and the sponge docks. I plan to return when I have more time.

Site updates

I've added eight new movies to the GRS database. Enjoy!

Take a look at this oddly-shaped potato that I found the other day.

Saturday, the 28th of October

Work

The job continues to go well. It's not difficult or stressful. My cube-mates--the only two people I know in Florida--are interesting. Helpful, too. I enjoy going to work, just to speak with them. Unfortunately, I'm going to be moved to another cubicle so I'm closer to the people with whom I work. Oh well, at least, I'm not being moved to another building!

This past week marked the close of my first month. Not bad. I've only eleven more to go. It's not that this job is bad. It isn't. I wouldn't mind if it was located within commuting distance. But, I do miss my hobbies and improving my land. I have been going to the cinema more frequently. Despite this advantage, city life is not my cup of tea.

Florida

Orlando is quite a blend of people. Lots of Northerners are living here, too. A couple of people warned me that there are a lot of black people living here. I haven't really noticed. But, I don't always realize that. Skin color is like hair color, just a descriptor.

People are mostly friendly and courteous here. It can be difficult to make a connection, because my life is so foreign to them. I think many people, especially in a city, can't associate with not having city water, grid electricity, and easy access to other amenities.

The weather has cooled off, so I've switched off the central air conditioning. I can get away with leaving the windows open. That helps! I haven't had A/C in more than a year, so I wasn't used to its desiccating effect.

One thing I have noticed is that the weather has been more cloudy than sunny. I think New England has more hours of sunlight. But, when the sun shines here, it is brilliant. I even have a bit of a suntan forming.

Apartment

The apartment is working out well. It's five minutes from the job. That's the closest I've been in, well, probably ever! I bought a plant and an Internet radio. The latter allows me to listen to radio stations that are streamed over the Internet without turning on the computer. It's a clever thing. I can listen to the True Oldies Station again! Life is good

Site updates

I've added four new movies and one TV film to the GRS database. Netflix is getting back into the swing of things, since my address changed. Soon, there should be more movies for me to upload!

Tuesday, the 24th of October

Trip page

I added another trip page! You may read it here.

More updates will be forthcoming!

Sunday, the 15th of October

Work

Working is good and a bit of a pain. I miss my liberty to enjoy the world; however, I am being paid for my time. Or, I should be paid one of these days! One of the bad aspects of a condensed schedule ("9-80") is the realization of a pay period every two weeks.

Apartment!

I'm now living in an apartment. Wow, it's such a far cry from my camper! This apartment has a dishwasher, a fridge-freezer with an ice-cube maker that dispenses without opening the door, as well as other things that I see as witchcraft! Heretics! Burn them!

Curiously, or, perhaps expectedly, for a Florida apartment, there is no gas service. Everything is electric. Yes, it's a case of better living through electricity! There are outdoor grilles. The other day I saw that they are fed by an inconspicuous flex line coming out of the ground. The insurance premium is probably lower without supplying the apartments with gas. You know, an idiot could set himself on fire.

Oh, and a big deal for me with this apartment is the connection to the city water supply. There's no need to think about pumping in water. Though, I do find that I am still stingy with water, which is probably an "environmentally sound" practice! I don't care for the chlorine smell, though.

The apartment also sports granite countertops, clearly there to remind me where my home is! The hardwood floors are glued-down, but I like them. A Swiffer can easily keep them clean. A walk-in closet is something that I've never had. I use it like a changing room. Maybe that's the wrong use, but who's going to correct me?

The luxury doesn't stop; because, the washing machine sings like an electric songbird whenever I start a cycle. It then dances around. That's probably not a design feature because I find it in the hallway! Or maybe it's just lonely, and wants to explore? As long as it doesn't snap its wall connections, I don't care what it does! Oh, and don't think that I can correct the imbalance, because this machine locks the door when the cycle starts.

Furniture?

I did have to spend some money buying a pot, a saucepan, towels, utensils, a pillow and sleeping bag, etc. It's no loss, because I needed to replace these aging equivalents back home. So I can bring them back with me. And they will fit in my small hatchback!

I also went all-out and bought some sturdy camping furniture. A folding table and canvas chairs are adequate, and portable!

Why worry?

There's no need to worry about anything here. The water heater and A/C & heater--do I even need that?-- are in a closet in my unit. They're both in good repair, probably no more than a few years old.

I'm so used to struggling just to survive that this place is almost a fantasy to me. The complex paperwork lists what constitutes "a maintenance emergency". Here they are: "No A/C if outside temps are at or above 80 degrees... no heat if outside temps are at or below 55 degrees".

Regular visitors will understand why I view these probably reasonable Floridian cutoffs as not life-threatening. I forget that I'm now living in the lap of luxury. You can take the kid out of "the off-grid, backwoods life"; but, you can't take "the off--" what?...

Pace

I grew up in Texas. So I thought I'd be alright with the pace of working and living in Florida. It's not really a problem. I'm on a working vacation, after all. The sluggish pace just makes me anxious. This is my chance to slow down and let everything go.

Friday, one of my co-workers fired off a bunch of questions. I found it surprisingly difficult to answer them all quickly, but I did my best. He later asked where I was from, and if I would relocate to Florida.

I took that question as a good sign. Even in the advanced-schedule project that I have been assigned, he felt confident with my performance to want to know my background, and my future goals.

"Funnies"

Now for something funny! In the local Publix (a Florida supermarket chain) I found a decent deal on Corona cerveza in bottles. When I got home, I realized my mistake and had a good laugh:


I also added another funny photo:


Site updates

I've now got an Internet connection in the apartment, so it's time to start uploading movie comments! Now that life is settling down, new trip pages will follow soon.

I've added four new movies to the GRS database. Enjoy!

Saturday, the 30th of September

First week

My first week back in the rat race passed well. The pace is slow, and the productivity expectations are reasonable. Good! I can treat this time as a long vacation, and save some money!

The locals remind me of southern Californians. Appearances are important. I don't know how many times I've seen guys preening in the men's room. I drove around the ritzy neighborhoods of Windermere and Doctor Philips. It was like being near Beverly Hills. Plastic surgeon offices, gated communities, ditsy people, etc. This must be what happens when there's no "weather" to contend with!

I Drive

This morning, I walked around in the light rain. I wanted to get a photo or two of the local area. I wasn't the only one out for a walk:



My favorite landmark of this area is the Ferris wheel. It's called the Orlando Eye. I see it every day after work, and I like seeing it every day. I managed to get a couple of decent shots of it. It reminds me of the London Eye. The weather was definitely like that in London today!



On the way back, I spoke with an English family. They were from Hastings. The father asked me if it was normal for motorists to be angry and wave their hands at people crossing the street. He was a bit baffled by our "walk" signals. I don't blame him. I told him that this is a resort area, so the drivers can go screw. It's just the way it is around here. He seemed relieved, and I was happy to help him out.

The hotel where I'm staying is on International Drive. It's commonly abbreviated "I Drive", and it is the main thoroughfare for the tourist area.

Last week, I went out for a night drive to pick up some food and beer. The traffic was so crazy on this road that I started calling it I-don't-Drive.

This morning, it was much better. Anyhow, this is what this touristy area looks like near my hotel. The sidewalks are mostly empty because of the rain and early hour (9 AM).


Site updates

I managed to add one movie to the GRS database. I watched it today in the theater.

Sunday, the 24th of September

Road trip!

The drive to Florida passed well. Yesterday, I arrived. I enjoyed it. I always like a road trip! I took a roundabout way to avoid having to pass through most of the big blue states.

Near the Mason-Dixon Line sparked quite a bit of activity on the CB radio. (I always like to fit my CB radio and antenna to the car whenever I take an interstate trip.) One trucker, or "driver" as some of them call themselves, went crazy. I don't know what set him off; however, the monologue was peppered--really laced--with profanity.

The Carolinas

Just north of Fayetteville, NC, an enormous Stars and Bars is flown a few hundred yards from I-95. Northerners, and many others, immediately associate this flag with slavery.

However, the fighting between the states really began because the Southern states felt their rights were being trampled. After all, the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution states that powers not specifically delegated to the federal government reside with the states or the people.

Now, I'm not condoning slavery. Pragmatically speaking it was a cornerstone of the Southern economy. It was also generally acceptable, despite its obvious destructive effects. Perhaps a modern similarity could be the automobile? The pollution created by cars is clearly not helping, but where would our economy be without them?

Further south, in South Carolina, food restaurants are rated by the state health department. I haven't since this since I lived in LA county of California.

On the way to Florida

In Georgia, I began to notice convoys of electric-company and tree-trimming trucks on the other side of the interstate. Evidently, their job was completed in Florida. Recall that a hurricane skimmed the Gulf coast of the state a few weeks ago.

These convoys of twenty trucks appeared every hour or so. Still, upon entering the Sunshine State, I saw trees stripped of foliage and bark, or just broken in half. Billboards and signs were also ruined.

I overtook an old Mitsubishi pickup truck along the way. What drew my attention to it was the hodge-podge of traffic diversion equipment that nearly overloaded the truck. As I passed, I read "FEMA" on the door, just under the driver's arm.

The letters looked like stick-ons. So after your house is ripped off the ground, and you have no clean water, a sweaty guy rolls out of a small, beat-up truck to offer a warm bottle of water! I do wonder where all the tax dollars went to run FEMA. How much does a secondhand truck, some traffic cones, and stick-on letters cost?

Mileage

The Mazda averaged 38 mpg for the entire trip. That's not bad at all considering that most of the journey required the air conditioning. And, the car was lugging around my baggage for living a year away from home!

Orlando

Today, I walked around the resort area near Universal Studios. That's where I reserved a room for a couple of weeks. Just about every restaurant imaginable is here, except In 'n Out (sp?).

I then drove around to visit neighborhoods for a potential apartment. The place reminds me of a smaller version of southern California, only humid and less smoggy.

I drove further out hoping for a more rural area. I didn't find one. Most of the old orange fields were knocked down to make room for housing developments. I did find one large farm, but it was for sale.

I have a section in mind for an apartment. I'll start looking tomorrow after my first day at work.

Wednesday, the 20th of September

New job

I received an official e-mail message with my starting date instructions. I've reserved a hotel room and am leaving on Friday.

Honeybees

The bees have been taking all the sugar water that I give them. Tomorrow, I need to ready them for the winter, which means removing the feeder. There should be enough time for them to collect the remaining winter stores from the field. There are still plenty of flowers out there!

Site updates

I added three movies to the GRS database, including a new favorite. Enjoy!

Wednesday, the 13th of September

Florida?

So I was approved to wait till the 25th, which is a relief for me. I wasn't ready to deal with riots and desperate people. (People just trying to resume life shouldn't have to be bothered by outsiders at a time like this.)

This additional week is excellent. The honeybees have almost emptied the Boardman feeder already. Now, I have time to give them more sugar water. It all works out in the end.

Meanwhile, life goes on

I did figure on not starting for another week. So I have been hiking. You know, there are some excellent trails within only a few minutes drive, if one would only give them a chance.

I've been hiking a local, kayaking favorite. Though, I have no watercraft myself, I enjoy the views and trails around a local "pond". I will miss such adventures. But, I will be back, with more experience under my belt!

Stone fire!

As a bit of celebration, for being hired, I maintained a strong fire underneath the past-reported stone. Yes, my choice of celebration is mostly frowned upon by most. But, for me, it's a good one. I'm accomplishing something, and I am outdoors! Perhaps I am easy to please?

Regardless, the stone seems to be breaking up, albeit slowly. Below is a shot of the fire. I love how the flames lick the stone in this view:


I feed deadwood to these fires. Some lengths are a bit long, so I feed them in. It reminds me when Mike and I burned a railroad log in southern California. While I don't go into detail, please enjoy the trip page here.

Sponges!

Yes, there be sponges here! No, I'm not channeling a swampy, southern Florida guru. Though, sometimes I wish I was!

There are sponges on my lot. They're fragile, and wouldn't make a good bathtime scrub. But they're here! Take a look:


Don't believe it? I can understand. I'll admit it's all I can do to not step on these fragile creations. I don't know what to believe!

Monday, the 11th of September

Florida?

I'm still waiting to get a confirmed starting date for the place in central Florida. While the area wasn't directly "hit", I'm sure there was plenty of damage to the power system and infrastructure. Hopefully, no more people have died. (I am tentatively scheduled to start on Monday, the 18th.)

I'm not really in a big hurry to leave. The weather is becoming warm and dry here. In fact, I plan to tell them that I don't feel comfortable starting on Monday. No electricity means rioting in the South! No job is worth a life.

Stone splitting

John and I have been working on splitting a large stone. This beast weighs about a ton and is right in the way of where we plan to put in a parking area. I need the parking area to get the pick-up truck and my new acquisition, a full-sized Mercury SUV, off the driveway.

(The Merc will make an excellent plow vehicle, once I fit a snowplow. The ATV did a good job, but lacks weight when it comes to pushing heavy, wet snow. The Mercury won't have that problem.)

For moving the stone, I could hire an excavator; but, John and his four-wheel-drive tractor are cheap. I just pay with beer and the repair of his cars. It's much better to barter, too, because it builds relationships. This choice requires reducing the stone into smaller sections.

I drilled some holes in the stone. My decent-quality hammer drill could only drill about six inches into the granite chunk. John borrowed a commercial hammer drill and a two-foot bit that bored deep holes. During the freezing season, these holes will be filled with water. You can imagine what will happen.

I've been burning hardwood underneath the stone in the meantime. It's an old farmer's trick to use fire to split up stones in a field. The trick has worked well because it has helped me chip off sheets of the underside.

I've also been smacking the stone with a sledgehammer. It's hard work, but pays off when one strikes the fissures created by the fire. Below is what the stone looked like today. A pair of sunglasses are in the shot for scale.

Honeybees

I removed the honey super the other day. The 'bees hadn't put any honey in it. They have only the minimum amount of winter stores. I now have a Boardman feeder filled with sugar-water to help them along.

This is another reason why I would appreciate sticking around another week or two. Though, they quickly found the feeder and are taking sugar. I also still see a lot of foragers coming and going. With the coming warm weather, they should be out in the field longer.

Site updates

I added three movies & a TV movie to the GRS database. Enjoy!

Thursday, the 7th of September

A new opportunity!

I've accepted an offer of temporary employment in Florida. That is, if the facility isn't flooded by the coming hurricane!

My writing will be on hold. I have fully documented what I can afford right now. I really need more money to finish the other tasks that I want to report in my work.

A good thing about living in Florida is that I won't have to brave the Northern winter in a camper this year. That is a big relief!

In my spare time, I plan to take day trips around Florida and the Southeast. I'll bring the best parts to your computer with Bill's Universe. Watch for trip pages!

Site updates

I added six movies to the GRS database. Enjoy!

Tuesday, the 29th of August

Site update

Most visitors won't care about this update. But I wanted to explain it nonetheless! The symbol below has shown up in the upper left section of many pages. Clicking it will send your browser to the mobile version of the page.

The idea is that those visiting on mobile devices, like "smart" phones will see the button and be able to tap it, which will take them to a simpler and smaller page that should view better on their smaller screen.


Saturday, the 26th of August

Stove

Up here in the backwoods, the temperature has been dipping into the mid-40s overnight. In a permanent structure, this would bring a refreshing cooling-off. The camper's insulation isn't as efficient as a house, so mornings have been chilly.

But I have a wood-burning stove now! It does a wonderful job of quickly warming the small volume of air inside the camper. I do mean fast. It can heat the air up by five degrees in 15 minutes. Mind you, that includes lighting a fire in a dead-cold stove!

The draw is more than adequate because the smoke detector still has yet to chirp when I light the stove. Typically, of course, the initial warming is when smoke may roll out the front door. You know, the cold-stack effect acting on the chimney. (It takes a bit of time to sufficiently raise the temperature of the column of air in the flue before it easily flows out the exhaust gases.)

Using the stove is cozy! Perhaps a primeval sense of satisfaction is activated by fire? I don't know. I just like it. Yellow tongues licking wood provides heat, and light. Who can't enjoy a wood fire?

The stove is also cheap to run. I had previously gathered dry deadwood of various thicknesses. The only expense was my time for collecting the wood that would have, otherwise, rotted away. This fuel resides in boxes under my awning, which are within arm's reach of the door. Hey, life is tough enough. Why not make it easier whenever possible?

I found a new water leak in the flue feedthrough. But it's no problem, and I am slowly correcting it. The weather looks to be holding off the rain until I can get enough layers of "goop" down to build a dam to divert water around my feedthrough. I am almost there. Thank you for your patience, Rain God!

Honey bees

My colony continues to be busy. Hot damn! If it's warm enough and the sun is up, the foragers are always coming and going. Sometimes I just squat and watch them. A bee will arrive or leave every second or two. Who needs television?

Their organization and purpose is obvious in their activities. It's also cool to see the returning foragers with their rear leg pollen sacks full of loot. It looks like they have yellow "parachute pants" on. (Youngsters may have to look up this short fashion trend.)

The "camping out" swarm has died off. Sad. They left behind a bit of comb at the back of the bottom hive. It looks like a wasp comb that we knock out of outside lamps or from underneath immobile automobiles. I have left it in place for now.

Oldies

Scott Shannon keeps rocking the "True Oldies". They even play progressive rock bands. Yes, they do!

Site updates

I added seven movies to the GRS database. Enjoy a couple of Gene Tierney films. She's a beauty, and can act!

Friday, the 18th of August

Bees & Oldies

No, I'm not making some clever allusion to the Bee Gees!

Today, I found "Scott Shannon's True Oldies Channel". I heard, and am hearing, songs that I haven't heard in years. It's a great station, if you like Oldies.

I love how the simple, classic tunes remind me of diners, girls in dresses, American cars with chrome bumpers, and other endangered entities. This station also plays The Beatles and their contemporaries from the late '60s and early '70s, so it's not what I knew as "Oldies" when I was growing up.

This syndicated radio station is broadcast around the nation. Maybe it's available in your area? The Wikipedia page provides information:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_True_Oldies_Channel

The bees continue to do well. They haven't touched the honey super. I'm going to remove it in a couple of weeks. I'll probably also feed them just to be sure they have enough reserves for the winter.

I did alternate the "drawn" frames with those that hadn't been touched. By doing this, that is inserting undrawn frames into the middle of the hive sphere, the bees should draw out the untouched frames. Hopefully, it will also extend their domain to include all ten frames in each hive body.

A small cluster of foreign bees has shown up. They congregate near an outside, back corner of the hive bodies. They don't seem to be attacking my colony or causing any problems. They may be the half that swarmed a few weeks ago.

If so, then their queen must be a "laying worker". She's obviously not fertilized because their numbers are diminishing. Furthermore, they also couldn't find another place to live, which I find unlikely in the forest that I live in. Maybe they wanted to return to the mother colony? Either way, it's sad. I'll have to be more careful to avoid this event in the future.

Stove

I solved the occasional water drip from the stove flue feedthrough. Also, the stove did a great job warming up the camper one of the recent, cool mornings. Who would expect an overnight temperature of 48 degrees in August?!

The stove performs well. It doesn't belch smoke out the door, even when the stack (or flue) is cold. It burns wood cleanly, which is a good sign. Creosote can build up in stovepipes and later cause fires.

Site updates

I added five movies to the GRS database. This batch includes a new favorite. Enjoy!

Tuesday, the 15th of August

Trip page!

I took a couple of day trips, which I have consolidated into a new trip page. Take a look here.

Wednesday, the 9th of August

Washing machine

Welcome to August! It doesn't feel like it in my neck of the woods!

I've written about doing all my laundry in the driveway. Since I was doing a few loads today, I took some photos.

The portable washing machine is energized by the Westinghouse generator. The power inverter in the camper could probably run it; however, the panels are usually charging the battery, so I spend a buck or two to run the Westinghouse instead. I'm only using a quarter of the total panels, so I need to pick and choose.

Water is delivered via the outside, auxiliary, shower. Yup, I took off the shower head-- "don't need a bath, sweat's regular" --fitted an adaptor, and connected the washing machine. I just need to ensure that the camper's onboard fresh water tank doesn't run out. I fill it from my well using, yes, you guessed it: the big generator. So, no disrupting the Westinghouse genny.

I tie-wrapped the "strained" PVC pipe from my well-drilling adventure to the side of the camper. The dirty water is directed into this pipe. I make my own laundry detergent with biodegradable ingredients so I don't mind dumping the used water onto the driveway.

In practice, it works well. I can monitor the progress of the washing machine by listening to the Westinghouse engine speed. The camper's fresh tank, when full, is sufficient to run a single load on the "high" setting. Yeah, they wrote that in the brochure back in 1998!

Below are a couple of photos. Click for a larger view.
I employ the sun and wind to dry my laundry on nylon lines.

Stove!

Finally, finally! The stove's installed and working! The most difficult part of the retrofit was drilling a larger hole in the roof of the camper. Recall, that I already had a hole for the too-small flue. So I used a cool trick from folks on Youtube: use expanding foam to "glue" in a piece of wood into the hole. Then, one may drill almost as if there had never been a hole. Clever.

Drilling the new hole went well until I hit a piece of metal stripping. It deflected the hole saw. I ended up having to clip, hammer, poke, and file to get the metal to give in. But I won. Take a look:
Since the hole was only supported on the right side, I fitted several pieces of sheet metal under the rubberized, outside layer of the camper roof on the left side. They distribute the weight of the aluminum feedthrough.

I used a couple of very large hose clamps that I had kicking around from a past supercharger project. One is visible in the photo below. The other is hidden within the roof of the camper. Hopefully, this will prevent the feedthrough from falling through
From inside the camper, the feedthrough looks good. Very good. Almost professional! Unfortunately, I couldn't make it perfectly square. But, because the camper roof isn't perfectly horizontal and the stove flue will go wherever it wants, it really doesn't matter. Here's a shot of feedthrough from the inside:
It took several days of spraying and curing to seal the feedthrough to the camper roof. That did give me plenty of time to figure out how to waterproof the flue. Looking back, I laugh at my wasted time and sketches.

Eventually, the spray goop (technical term) sealed the aluminum feedthrough to the EPDM-rubber roof. Meanwhile, it gave me a chance to prove that my freeze-plug idea would seal out the weather when the stove was not installed. Remember that the camper is on wheels, so the stove must be removed for transport.
(A freeze plug is essentially two steel plates that sandwich a flexible rubber section. A bolt down the middle draws the metal plates together, which squeezes the rubber out along the radius, in an equal manner. The rubber makes a seal inside the aluminum feedthrough.)

This particular unit has a large wing nut for convenience. Oh, and it seals well.

I had to cut the pitched, plywood roof. That was fun. Standing high up on a ladder with a circular saw, what could go wrong? I ended up doing the last cutting with a wood saw that my departing neighbor gave me this morning. Coincidence? I don't think so. Thanks, Kevin!!

After I painted the sawn edges, I folded a couple of layers of aluminum foil over them. People may laugh, but this method of dissipating heat works well. The layers act like small fins. Also, aluminum has the additional advantage of having a high specific heat. In other words, it takes a lot of heat for it to warm up when compared to other materials. Keep reading and you can see my space-age wrapping job!

Next came the fun part. I could install the stove into camper! It looks good from the outside. Doesn't it?
After I installed graphite-loaded fiberglass rope between the flue pipe and the feedthrough (sorry, no photo), I enclosed the feedthrough and flue pipe junction in aluminum foil. Reynolds must love me!

I poured water on the assembly without seeing any water inside the camper. I learned that there is a small, occasional drip during a courteous, Florida-like, pop-up shower. More foil is needed! I can fix that tomorrow. Take a look at the job:
And now, what you have all been waiting for. Below are a couple of photos of the stove in operation inside the camper! Notice my modifications that made it work so much better. That is, the grill and the slot beneath the door.
Despite the relatively warm temperatures, I had to light a fire. It lit and burned without setting off the smoke detector! Of course, one may say that I almost certainly have all the windows open. Oh yes, I did, and the door, too. However with all these wide-open, I can still trigger the smoke detector when I put the kettle on the factory-installed stove.

But the wood stove didn't upset it one bit. Not even a chirp, as it is known to do. I could burn with the door open without a problem. Though, I must say the fire burns better with the door closed. Just like it should.

I'm amazed and astonished that this project came to such a brilliant conclusion. Prometheus would be proud of me! Take that Zeus!

Bees

The honeybees are doing well. The electric fence hasn't skipped a beat since I connected it to the camper main battery. Its draw is noticeable, but not a problem.

Today, I witnessed a dramatic number of orientation flights. The queen is still in the colony. Furthermore, since it takes about three weeks to raise new worker bees, the queen resumed laying right after I installed the honey super.

I'm going to check that they haven't filled the super in a day or two. If they have filled it, because goldenrod is currently in bloom, then I'll add another super. Monkey learns! OO-oo-HA-ha!

Solar 12-volt charger

The solar charger that came with the electric fence, but is now charging my 12-volt batteries, is doing the job. It takes a while to fully charge a battery, but it costs me nothing but time.

The 20-Watt module has already peaked one battery. The next one is in place now. It's smaller so it should take less time. I monitor not only the charger indicator light, but also the battery voltage. It's a quick measurement and ensures that I don't waste time letting the charger "float" a battery.

Site updates

I added four movies to the GRS database. Enjoy!

The DVD service of Netflix can't keep up with me. I just hope they won't discontinue it. Their collection is unmatched, as far as I can tell.

And, I won't bother with the streaming service again. I watch so many movies that I exhausted the "Instantly View" selection quickly. OK, that was a few years ago now.

But, I doubt that they have expanded the available titles in a manner that will appease my eclectic taste. Hopefully, Netflix will realize the profit base of their DVD-by-mail service. I'd even pay more for my current service.

Sunday, the 30th of July

Stove

I have reached the point where I'm happy with the paint on the stove. It's not perfect. But I don't care! Anyways lipstick on a pig rarely looks good. But this is my hog!

I have fitted a grating on the top of the flue to protect the rain cap from sparks. It has the additional benefit of keeping the cap from descending the pipe too much, and burning up. Yeah, I designed it that way!

I would have made more progress but the up-and-down weather hindered my progress during the week. This weekend was full, too. But, I'm heading into the home stretch. Then, I can post photos.

Swarm

OK, so I've got good and bad news with the bees. Let's get the bad news out of the way first. The colony swarmed. This means that the colony felt it was large enough to divide.

Here's what happened. A lot of the bees took off one day. The exodus was epic to watch. They took up residence in a high branch about thirty feet away from the hive. Here's what the swarm looks like using my 12X optical zoom


The beekeeper dislikes swarming. It is, however, the natural reproduction of a healthy, strong colony. Honeybees operate as a colony, and not as individuals. The organism is the colony, which explains why workers will sacrifice themselves in a moment to protect the colony.

So I've got a second organism hanging out. If it was closer to the ground, I'd get it and set up another colony. But my arms are only so long. More than fifty feet off the ground is too high. Hopefully, they can find a new home. I record everything that happens with the bees so this episode is an experience from which I will learn.

Electric fence

The good news is that I installed an electric fence! John has mentioned on several occasions that I need a fence to keep bears out. (He used to work on a dairy farm in Vermont, so I take his advice seriously.)

My online research confirmed his suggestion. Electric fences are the only feasible method of keeping bears away from bee hives. Not knowing the "ins and outs" of electric fences, I ordered a kit from McGregor Fence company.

I'll never do that again. The quality in proportion to the price was terrible. Evidently, the owner needs a new boat. I'd recommend assembling a custom fence using vendors like McGregor.

Not only was the quality poor, but I didn't use items that were included. I just couldn't fathom their function! And, other components were non-existent. It's fortunate that I have plenty of hardware leftover from other projects.

Oh, and the instructions. I haven't seen instructions that vague in a long, long time. They're far worse than the ambiguous directions supplied with "soft" garages.

But, it's what I have. Hopefully, it will stop a bear. Though, it didn't faze a Labrador bitch. Yes, a Lab. mutt slipped under the energized fence without a bother! I checked the fence with a high voltage meter. I even got a good zap from it; so, I think the hive will be OK.

I ordered a solar charger to maintain the 12-volt battery. Here's what the fence, solar controller, and battery look like:
I reused a pipe from my well-drilling endeavor. It does a good job providing a stand for the solar module and controller.

The solar panel is controlled by the small box with a green and a yellow light in the right photo. The green light means that the solar panel is generating electricity. The yellow light indicates the state of the battery charge.

The battery resides in the box at the base of the pipe, under the plywood board and stone. (I really need to buy a banjo!)

The larger black box, below the solar controller, is the fence energizer. It's named Powerfields. This particular unit will deliver a Joule of energy during an encounter with the fence.

The kit included three warning signs. I installed them. Though I had to use my own zip-ties because the kit came with an unfathomable collection of solid rings. I can see some Mass-hole laughing at me. Poor loser. Get a life, really.

Unfortunately, there's not enough sun back in the apiary to keep up with the fence. So I wired the fence energizer into the camper battery. I used a long, outdoor extension cord that has sat unused for years.

It felt good to be a practical engineer again. I calculated the voltage drop from the measured wire resistance--this drop is the killer in direct current (DC) systems--and found it to be about 1-2% for the extension cord. Ha! Better than my current, albeit temporary, solar-charging set-up.

So I ran the extension cord, cut off the ends and did a good job heat shrinking the relevant connectors in place. Coupled with a fuse and switch at the camper's battery, I shouldn't awaken to flames licking my bed.

The situation is a lot simpler. Take a look:

New 12-volt charger

The electric-fence solar panel and controller did not go to waste. I am now using the small solar panel and controller to charge the various 12-volt batteries that keep my camp running. Of course, I moved the panel to the front of my property. They sit near one of my arrays, where the panel has the best opportunity to capture the sun's rays.

This arrangement will allow me to save my gasoline generator. (I used to use it to charge the batteries.) Sure, it'll take longer, but why not use the energy that would otherwise be absorbed by the driveway?

The decision also elicits comments from other people. It's good to keep it interesting for them! You know small town folks and their gossip. I think they miss the drama of the presumed football goal-posts on my property.

Site updates

I added four movies and one TV program to the GRS database. Thanks, Randy, for the recommendations! Please, keep them coming!

Friday, the 21st of July

Stove

The stove is coming along. It takes time painting and curing the paint with a long, hot fire. But, the modifications I made have worked. The stove burns cleanly without belching smoke out the door! In fact, it burns better with the door shut. I'll post photos once I get it installed in the camper.

Summer is great. I can leave the windows open all the time and not freeze! The panels have been charging the battery well. Right now, in fact, I'm running on solar power. There's enough to top up the battery and run this computer. Not bad considering I only have a quarter of the panels hooked up!

Bees

I witnessed a war between my honeybees and a nearby, probably, wild colony. My bees won without too much trouble. I wouldn't mind finding the other colony to avoid such conflict in the future, but I guess that's life.

Stay tuned because I have more bee news coming soon!

Site updates

I added seven movies to the GRS database. Enjoy!

Thursday, the 13th of July

Update

I've returned from an enjoyable and comfortable break with relatives. Thanks!

I finished clearing all the trees and the resulting brush. I'm trying to get more sun on the solar panels. There are still several massive oaks that block most of the afternoon light. But I cannot fell them without taking out the power lines and the neighbors' barn.

After the brush piles are burned this winter, I'll hire a tree company with a crane to cut them down. If they don't offer me a fair price for the trunks, I'll have a lot of hardwood.

The woodstove burns cleanly with the larger flue. I still need to install it in the camper. I have to figure out a way to make the feedthrough. The plywood roof complicates matters. Do I go through both the camper roof and plywood with a single metal piece? If so, I need a way to seal out the weather when the stove is not in use, or the trailer is towed.

Fifteen years!

The website will be fifteen years old tomorrow! Here's a screenshot of the second version of the home page. It's hard to believe that the site has been around so long!

I added four movies to the GRS database.

BAND-MAID

The girls released a new video. It seems that they are returning to their original hit, Thrill. What do you think?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZIJ2vFxu9Y

Friday, the final day of June

Bees

I witnessed the orientation flights of newly-hatched honey bees yesterday! At first, I thought they were swarming. Swarming 'bees buzz loudly and congregate at the hive entrance.

But this activity was marked by bees climbing up the front of the hive and jumping off, only to fly in figure-eight patterns in front of the hive. The buzzing was created by their wings beating madly, as they learn to fly. Here's a link to a video that someone took:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFyWJ_MzUgE

Site updates

The weather's not been conducive for working outside. So I'm updating the web site again!

I added three movies to the GRS database. Enjoy!

Monday, the 26th of June

Bees

The bees are doing well. They're definitely protective of their hive and brood! They have filled about a third of the twenty frames. At this rate, I'll need to add a honey super at the end of next month. I may be able to harvest honey this year!

Site updates

I added seven movies and one TV movie to the GRS database. These additions bring the total to more than 2,500 entries!

Tuesday, the 20th of June

Camper roof & life

I installed a thin plywood roof on the wooden frame of the camper. I figure the wood will be more durable than a tarp. Also, I won't have to worry about immediately removing snow after every storm. I flashed the apex with actual flashing. Imagine that: I was able to use a building component just as it was intended!

I was going to screw down the plywood; but, then I got lazy and used short nails. The thought of drilling all those pilot holes turned me off. Nails are quick and I have million of them. I just used more than I probably needed to.

Laying on the roof with my feet only barely finding the ladder was a bit annoying. That was the only way to reach the flashing. It's a good thing that I'm no longer frightened of heights! (Maybe these jobs are the reason?) Oh, and I never fell off, which is a good thing, because I don't bounce as well as I used to!

I am posting some photos of the roof. It's tough to get a good shot from the ground. That does mean that you can see what the camp looks like now that spring is hopping away. Boy, the camp is a bit of a mess. I feel a bit ashamed. But, as the part-time mail lady says: it is organized. You decide:
I have since painted the water-heater access cover. It looks brand new with its new coats of Rustoleum glossy white! Speaking of the devil, it has performed without a hitch since I replaced the old solenoid coils.

Summer and bees

Ah, summer: when one can leave the windows open day and night. Humidity can become a bit high; but, so far, it hasn't been annoying inside. Of course, I spend much of my time outside. And inside has the benefit of not having to swat mosquitoes. Though, the dragonflies are out and are culling the 'sceeter population. Love you, dragonflies!

While on the topic of amiable insects, the honeybees seem happy and are always out and about. I'll check the brood nest this weekend to ensure that the next generation of bees are maturing well. After that, I won't have to disturb them for a good while.

In the long term, I plan to leave them alone. I'm just ensuring that all is well, since they're establishing a new colony.

They are funny creatures. When I am near to--say--remove the feeder, one or two will land on my light-colored T-shirt and stay there. I won't notice until I am already away from the hive. They don't sting and aren't aggressive. I don't wear a veil or any protective clothing for such simple operations.

Perhaps it helps that I speak to them whenever I approach? I tell them what I'm going to do and apologize for the disruption. It sounds corny. But, I do it for two reasons. One, they may understand that I am not a threat and tolerate me. We don't know how perceptive insects really are. And reason two, it provides me with some peace knowing exactly what I need to do.

So far, so good. I haven't been stung. (Of course, how would I tell with all the mosquito bites?) Off! is only so good, I guess. It's a good thing malaria rarely occurs up here.

Camper stove

I started modifying the wood-burning stove. Recall that the flue is too small. It stifled the fire, especially when the door was closed. A fire starved of oxygen tends to smoke a lot.

Today, I ground out the flue opening for the larger stack. I fashioned a grating from some leftover metal. It will keep the fire off the bottom of the barrel. This coupled with new holes under the door, and beneath the grating, should keep the fire burning brightly.

This work may be like putting lipstick on a pig. It really only has to help heat the camper for another cold season. So it doesn't have to be perfect. If it doesn't pour smoke out the door, I'll be happy. I'll post photos when the project is completed.

Thursday, the 15th of June

Truck!

I finished the installation of the HEI distributor on the truck. That did it! After I set the ignition timing and carburetor, I went for a quick drive up and down the hill on my street. The engine performed beautifully.

It also idles so smoothly now. I never knew it could. I guess that's the beauty of a perfectly balanced engine. I will miss that straight-six. My other vehicles have one or four cylinders, which are inherently imbalanced. Now, on to my other projects!

Wednesday, the 14th of June

Moving the MG

Jack and I moved the MG on Saturday. The tiny car made the 6'x12' trailer look small. Though, admittedly, most cars won't fit on this size trailer! It's intended for lawnmowers and furniture.

Getting the car onto the trailer was a bit painful. The gate was only three inches wider than the car, so we had to line up the car well. We used the come-along to pull the sports car onto the trailer.

That must have been too easy because the tailpipe hung up on the metal-"grated" ramp. I ended up lifting the side of the car while Jack worked the cable pulley.

The hard work did pay off because the car fit well. Almost too well: Did the designer intend to move diminutive sports cars around without using an "auto transporter"?

Taking the car off was not too bad. Pushing it around on the gravel driveway was tough. Traction on a loose surface is not easy to find! But, we did it. The car is happily resting in the car capsule, which has been working well.


Here's a shot of me in a dusty MG. People did stare at me while Jack towed us to the new home. Kidding because we'd have been pulled over almost immediately, if I rode in the car!

Bees

The honey bees are active and seem happy. They've been coming and going all day, now that it's warm. I put a feeder on their hive to ensure they have enough sugar. I probably didn't need to do that; but, it's cheap insurance. I'll leave it until they have emptied it. That may be Friday at this rate.

Truck

I'm one step closer to getting the truck driving. I received a HEI (High Energy Ignition) distributor from Summit Racing today. It's amazing how quickly their shipments arrive!

I think I've narrowed the truck's lack-of-power problem to a faulty distributor. I had replaced it with a rebuilt unit, but the vacuum advance failed. Who knows what else is totally crap on that dizzy?

I cleaned the carburetor and found no rust or debris. At least, I know it's, probably, not faulty. Hopefully, the new HEI dizzy will sort out the truck. I'm anxious to sell it, so I can free up more of my driveway!

Site updates

I added three movies to the GRS database. Enjoy!

Tuesday, the 6th of June

Band-Maid

Since I can't work outside today, I'm catching up on watching YouTube videos. The all-girl, Japanese hard rock band, Band-Maid has released another video. It's yet another style, which they perform in their own way. It's worth listening to. And, they're still pretty, too:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCaeUkrItyY

Sunday, the 4th of June

Bees

Today, we had a few hours of decent weather. The bees were going about their business. With a bunch of them in field, scavenging, I figured it was the best time to open up the hive. Remember that I needed to verify that the queen was laying eggs?

Great news! I found the queen. She was walking around on a partially "drawn" frame. Worker bees draw out the plastic hexagonal foundation on the ten frames in each hive body. Once these cells are drawn, the queen can deposit a baby bee in them.

The bees were so gentle and quiet that I was able to watch the queen for a minute or so. I saw her lay a couple of eggs. I also found brood, i.e. very young bees. This quells my fear that the queen was injured or missing.

The workers were also busy storing pollen, sugar syrup, water, and other essentials for honey production. It was definitely one of the coolest things that I've seen in a while!

My neighbors gave me a high-quality aluminum tripod. I used it to take some video of the hive entrance. The best one is available here.

3rd of June

Bees & garage

The bees appear to be content. I frequently take a break to watch them come and go. It's impressive. I need to verify that the queen is laying soon. Last I checked, there was no brood yet.

If she's not laying, then I need to find a replacement queen ASAP. The lifespan of a worker honey bee is only about three or four weeks and it takes about half that time to raise new workers.

The storage unit is almost empty. John helped me move the remaining furniture last weekend. I have a trailer reserved for next Saturday to move the MG. Jack has kindly volunteered to move it with his truck. (Since mine is still out of commission.)

I also installed the car capsule in my new garage. I had purchased it years ago. It'll provide the MG with a secondary layer of protection.

The car capsule is designed to be used indoors only. You know, for the rich to show off their cars in the ridiculously immense houses they love to inhabit. It should last well inside my turtle-shell garage.

I wired the car capsule to the camper's battery. Naturally, I included a fuse and a toggle switch. I want to be able to shut it off because it fills up the open space in the garage completely. It's really comical how stuffed the garage is!

Westinghouse generator & water heater

I had some trouble with the generator. Occasionally, it would start to run roughly and would eventually stall. It sounded like it ran out of fuel. After checking the tank and air filter, I found that the gas cap was at fault.

These suitcase generators have caps that can switch between vented and closed. The idea is that they can be stored inside without venting fumes. The Honda's works well. This one does not.

The Westinghouse version doesn't open enough and the carburetor couldn't overcome the resulting suction in the tank. This problem is especially pronounced on cold mornings. Solution: leave the cap loose when running. Now, it runs so much better. It should also use less fuel.

Speaking about gas, well another type of gas... The gas manifold of the water heater needed some cleaning. But the real culprit turned out to be low resistance values on the solenoid valves. Recalling one's high school physics: Voltage equals Current times Resistance (V = I * R)

As the resistance drops, for a more-or-less constant current, the voltage also drops. That explains why it took more and more voltage to keep the solenoid valves open.

Fortunately, I found replacement solenoid coils for cheap money. Their resistance is twice the worn out units. Everything is OK with the water heater now. Hopefully, it will never pose a problem again. Hell, what else can go wrong, because I've had everything apart on it!

Site updates

I added three movies and one TV program to the GRS database. Enjoy!

25th of May

Bees!

My package of honey bees & queen arrived this morning. I was beginning to be concerned because they were in transit for longer than three days.

The queen is alive and the dead worker bees was minimal. The feeder can was still half full of syrup, so they didn't go hungry. That would explain why they were so docile.

I have placed the queen cage and package in the hive. Tomorrow, if it's warm enough--yeah, I'm asking if it'll be warm enough in late May!--I'll see if the queen has been released and remove the package from the hive.

I have filled a Boardman feeder with sugar syrup. Forager bees had already found it. They appear calm, too. No desire to sting and they were gently buzzing. When I removed the queen cage, I could feel the warmth from the cluster.

Here's a photo of the package. The cluster was calm and gently buzzing, so they are happy, well-fed bees. The mass of bees in the middle huddled around the queen and the feeder can.


I really didn't need to wear any protection because they were so calm and didn't want to move too much. I guess the 50-degree morning worked to my advantage.

Garage & Moving

I have finished installing the "turtle shell" on the soft garage frame. It's plenty strong enough to resist snow loads. The canvas went over that.

I've been moving everything I can out of the storage unit with the Mazda. It's a lot of work. Surprisingly, I was able to fit almost everything into the hatchback.

Two guys were amazed when I pulled my free-standing drill press into the back. They offered to help. I declined citing that if I can get it in myself, then I can get it out myself.

I've moved all that I can. John has kindly offered to move the rest with his pick-up. I'm almost completely moved!

This will be my final move. I've counted that I've moved ten times in my life and have helped others several times. No more moving for me!

Below are some photos of the garage being assembled. I did most of the work by myself. The only help was when John leveled and spread the gravel with his tractor.



Remember that a normal soft garage has no slats and no fiberboard, shown in the two middle photos. Instead, the canvas is drawn across the bare steel poles. Now it probably makes sense why I designed and built the "turtle shell".

Site updates

I added six movies to the GRS database. Enjoy!

14th of May

One year ago

Let's look back a year. Last year this time, I was planning to drill my own water well. I was dead set on the idea. I was setting up all the equipment on the property. Little did I know that I'd hit bedrock almost immediately.

Also, the solar panels were still languishing in boxes in the storage garage, having not seen the light of day in years. The driveway was still dirt. The camper trailer, which I have called my home since last autumn, was not known to me. I wasn't even looking for another place to live! The wood that I had cut from felled trees existed in stacks haphazardly scattered around the property.

Last year at this time, only the truck was sitting on the lot. Today, I'm nearly ready to move my remaining stuff into my soft garage. Having already moved a camper onto the lot, set up an apiary, and erected two solar arrays. In addition to the less significant details.

Still learning: water heater

The water heater gradually stopped working earlier this week. The slow failure was associated with the voltage of the camper battery. Specifically, the water heater would only fire up at 13 volts, then 13.2 volts, then 13.5, and so on. Oh, and it was a periodic failure, too. That is, sometimes it would fire up at 12.7 volts without a problem. Hmm.

I grudgingly decided to spend a particularly cold, overcast morning fussing with it. I discovered that the gas valve was clogged with gunk. This crap would, periodically, keep the solenoids from actuating.

The force that solenoids--electrically-operated sliding valves--is directly proportional to the supply voltage. The lower the voltage, the less force. Less force means that the valve cannot overcome the friction from the gunk. A closed gas valve means no flame and no hot water.

Since the gunk would sometimes pass through without fouling the valve, the solenoid would sometimes operate at a lower voltage.

The source of the gunk is the 20-pound LPG tanks. When filled, oil and a "special" mixture of crap is added. Yes, it's my fault for using "gas grill" tanks on the camper.

(It does make one wonder what is being carried by the "propane" gas flame to meat, when grilling outside. You thought it was Oscar Meyer's hot dogs making you fat. Maybe it's the "special" stuff from the tank?)

The water heater isn't perfectly cleaned out yet. I was lacking the tools to fully disassemble the valve, so I'll clean it better in the future. At least, I figured out this bizarre problem.

Other tasks

The Mazda has new front brakes. What an easy job that was. I'm really impressed by those design engineers!

I got the truck running. It even moves under its own power. The bad news is that the lack-of-power problem is the same as last year. I checked the usual suspects in the ignition system and found that the vacuum advance on the rebuilt distributor is blown.

Whatever. I plugged the carburetor port and will tell the next owner. Vacuum advance is only really useful for improving fuel economy when cruising under small throttle openings. It does little else.

So I narrowed the problem to the carburetor. That's what I felt was the source, but it's good to back up instinct with fact.

I received a gasket for the carburetor so I can completely disassemble and ultrasonically clean it. There must be a fleck of rust that acts like a ball valve somewhere in the power circuit. The rust sneaked past the inline fuel filter. Bastard!

Once it's running, I can fit the new muffler and put it up for sale. I won't miss it. I already have a classic vehicle to keep me occupied. I don't need two!

The soft garage is proceeding well. John and I picked up some snow-proofing lumber yesterday. I assembled the wooden structure to the metal frame. I'll post photos of the entire assembly process when it's all done. "Don't touch that dial."

Site updates

I added five movies to the GRS database. Enjoy!

5th of May

Spring tasks

John and rain evened out the garage pad. I have also erected the garage frame. It was a bit tricky by myself, but I did it. When I pull the canvas over it, I'll post photos.

I've serviced the Mazda and the ATV. I just need to replace the front brakes on the Mazda. I doubt that I'll repair the MG before I want to move it out of the garage. So I asked a friend if he wants to test out his new truck by towing the MG, on a trailer of course. It'll be easier to mend it here anyways.

I've decided that since I have so many projects going on and my time is fixed, I need to reduce my workload. Thus, I'm going to get the truck running again and sell it.

I need to address the carburetor problem, which I think I have done. Then, I need to replace the muffler that was blown up. It's on order now. I washed and waxed it yesterday and took some photos. It does look pretty good, and I've done so much work to it, that it should sell quickly.

Off-grid living

Living off-the-grid continues to present "challenges." The new Westinghouse generator always ran with a misfire. Since the carburetor has no adjustment, and I figured the fuel system and compression were OK: the spark plug heat range must be the fault. The plug never heats to the "self cleaning" stage.

I spent a day decoding and researching the recommendations in the factory manual. No fewer than three different heat-range plugs were recommended. Sigh.

I ended up settling on a NGK plug with my target heat range. Would you know that the very plug I chose turned out to be included on the sticker on the generator itself? (Yes, the manual and sticker don't agree.)

After fitting the new plug, the misfire was much better. It's not completely gone, but it's a lot better. I think it's the best that it can be.

Life is tough for these tiny, suitcase generators. Their single pistons aren't much larger than your thumbnail. This small size means that tight machining tolerances are even more important.

It runs so I'll service it frequently and look forward to the day when my battery bank is large enough to power me through the clouds.

Otherwise, life off-the-grid is wonderful. No electric bill must infuriate the power utility. Or maybe not? I have spent quite enough money to generate my own electricity.

The panels have been awesome. They will fully charge the camper battery even after a cool night (with the furnace blower running) without much trouble.

And to think that I am only using a quarter of the power that I am collecting. I doubt that my cabin will use four times the electricity that I currently use.

Camper news

I had a minor altercation with a mouse. I felt badly when, after a few nights, I finally cornered him. The poor critter died in the small volume that he fled into. I would have been happy to catch and release him in my woods.

Although with him gone, and his entrance sealed up, things smell better in the camper. I also seem to have a feline friend. A few days later, I found a dead mouse at the foot of the driveway to my future garage.

Also, with the threat of heavy, thick snow gone, I have removed the tarps from the roof. It's great having light in my skylights again! A thunderstorm showed where I had a couple of leaks. I fixed them, and the camper seems to be leak-free again.

The 'storm also brought a bit of entertainment. A bolt of lightning traveled down the copper DSL line from the utility pole at the street to the DSL modem. I know because a loud pop and flash woke me up!

It's funny because I always unplug the modem from the power outlet, figuring this would be where death would spring. Recall that a surge over the power system finished off another modem?

Oh well, another modem is toast. Fortunately, the telecom guys know me as that off-grid guy and were happy to bring several replacements. I now unplug the DSL line, too.

I set up my compact washing machine. I plumbed it into the camper outdoor shower and powered it with the Westinghouse generator. I can now do my laundry without leaving home. Eventually, when the cabin is up, I won't have to move the washing machine in and out. But it's easier than going to the laundromat.

Site updates

I added five movies & one TV program to the GRS database. Enjoy!

Yeah sure, California's wonderful--if you're a grapefruit.
Barney from Repeat Performance

27th of April

Spring tasks

The gravel of the garage site has packed well. A spot needs a bit more, but it's going to work well. I don't think I'll need any hard pack. The colors don't match between the garage base and the driveway. I don't care. I'm not a racist!

I've finished collecting the bulk of the brush piles. I cleaned up after the previous jobs of driveway building and clearing space for the solar panels. That was a long and tiring job. Now, I just need to cover them before the snow flies.

The panels fully charged the battery today, despite only intermittent sun. I've deployed the camper awning, so I now have a dry place to sit outside. It's good for relaxing outside after a long day's work.

I've still got a number of tasks to complete before I can get back to writing. I need to get them done first. Photos of the garage will be posted when I get it up.

Site updates

I added seven movies to the GRS database. Enjoy!

21st of April

Spring tasks

Since the weather has been good the past couple of weeks, I've been accomplishing outside tasks. (Writing is on hold until I catch up.) I cleared the site for the soft garage. John leveled it with extra dirt. I have received a dump truck load of gravel to fill in the voids.

The garage will be slightly higher than the driveway and the surrounding land so it shouldn't ever flood. We've also cleared an area so I can deploy the camper awning.

After the gravel evens out the garage area, I'll see if I want to put down hard pack. The color of the two materials is different. I don't care about that. I'm more concerned about the surface being sturdy enough for vehicles and tool chests.

I've also cleared an area for the bee hive. The apiary doesn't have the maximum amount of light, but I don't want to take down any more trees. I think it'll be good enough. I need to paint a couple of the hive components, then it'll be ready.

The rest of my time has been consumed with assembling more brush piles and consolidating wood into a "mega pile," which should be easier to cover. I also serviced the power equipment and tilted the solar arrays to the "summer" angle.

I found that the arrays weren't pointing to solar south. I must have misread the compass. I fixed them, and there seems to be more light gathered.

It's good to have a day off! I'm sore and worn out.

Site updates

I added six movies & one TV movie to the GRS database. Enjoy!

9th of April

Writing

My writing is coming along. I've doubled the original length. Recall, that, originally, I stopped writing and said that I was done and started to investigate publishing. Then, I learned that I was a bit light for words. So, today, I'm 65% there!

Yes, I know I shouldn't be counting words, and should instead focus on content. The snag is that for an unknown author, one must tick all the boxes--like length--just to warrant a look.

And it seems that the "look" will probably have to be from an agent first. Going directly to a publisher usually is a waste of time. That's the next challenge. Now, I'll elaborate my manuscript to bring it up to the desirable length.

I've been adding better than a thousand words every day. Boy, and it is work. I enjoy it a lot; however, the idea that it's easy is entirely incorrect. Writing is really a trip of self discovery and then self examination. Words carry a lot of the writer with them.

Warmth!

The warm temperatures are allowing me to clean up. I've been doing those jobs that I wanted to do. For instance, I buried the rest of the solar transmission lines. In a couple of weeks, I'll adjust the solar arrays to the "summer" angle. Yes, summer!!

I also started arranging brush into burn piles. Next winter, they will be a source of heat, light, and fun. I have so much brush from clearing the driveway, panels, etc., that this will be an ongoing task, which is great.

It's wonderful being outside without a jacket! I spent so much time outdoors today that I got a tan. Yes, a tan and not a sunburn. That's unusual for me!

New generator

The spring heralds a new battery-charging generator for the homestead. The Honda continued to serve, but I received a slightly-larger Westinghouse replacement. (The Honda had begun to burn quite a bit of oil. And its appetite for gasoline also increased.)

The Westinghouse generator is blue. It's slightly larger and a bit louder. Though, the noise is a baritone beat to the Honda's tenor slap. And it burns no oil.

I like the unit very much. The spark plug is unnecessarily difficult to remove; however, that is a small annoyance. This Westinghouse product has an excellent way to pour the correct amount of oil into the crankcase: a graduated bottle with a plastic spout. Genius!

It's also 10% more powerful than the Honda. The cost is about half of the Honda. So, I'm thinking that I wasted money buying the Honda. Still, "we can rebuilt him." Yes, I'll film a '70s TV program when I retrofit a new gasoline engine to the fully-functioning inverter of the Honda.

My thought is that I can find a new engine that will fit into the suitcase and have a new generator ready to go. (The Westinghouse won't last forever, after all.) Honda does make a better quality series of small engines, which I am tempted to consider.

This task may seem idiotic, but it will save me money in the long run. I also won't have to dispose of a gasoline-powered generator. Do you know how difficult that is? Neither do I, and I don't care to know!

Life At Sea in Heavy Weather

Below is a link to a cool video of life aboard a container ship in Atlantic Ocean. Good music. Great filming. Take a look because it's worth it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZA6gNeZ5G4

Site updates

I added five movies to the GRS database. Enjoy!

April Fools'

Heavy snow

I was dreading a heavy, wet snowfall. It occurred at the worst time, too: overnight. Fortunately, I was able to clear most of the driveway. Another "challenge" was that the hard pack wasn't frozen, so I had to learn not to spin all four wheels.

I can't complain because a foot or more of wet snow was moved by a lightweight vehicle. I only had to shovel a bit at the bottom of the driveway.

Site updates

I have been updating the older entries in the movie database. I want to, eventually, have a description for every movie in the comments section.

If you find any errors, please let me know. The mailbox icon at the bottom of the page will provide you with a form that should be very quick to complete.

I've added four movies and a TV movie to the GRS database. Enjoy!

25th of March

Spring?

Spring, hah! I just finished burning some brush and now it's snowing! I feel like an idiot for exchanging my winter tires for my "all season" set. My decision was influenced by a previous, long stretch of warm weather. Oh well!

Writing

I thought I had a marketable manuscript. I was wrong. My online research proves that the length of my manuscript was too long for a magazine article and too short for a novel.

Word count seems to be very important. So, I am elaborating my manuscript. I'm halfway to a short novel. I'm making progress and still have plenty of money, so life is good.

Site updates

Welcome four movies and two TV movies to the GRS database. And enjoy them!

the day after the Ides of March

Site updates

Since I've been forced inside again, I've been watching films. I've added six movies and a TV movie to the GRS database.

Below is a link to a cool video that uses Shift photography. The catchy tune, which was released nearly twenty-five years ago, sounds very modern. Why not watch and listen:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d41NrXz0yMA

I could tell right away that the setting is Bondi Beach, the topless section. Yeah, I'm just good like that! Seriously, recall that I was there in March, 2007? Here's a link to the photo that I took.

the day before the Ides of March

More adventure

This morning, the furnace blower ground to a halt. It makes a good alarm clock. I fired up my backup heater, the oven. And would you know that "Warm" on the thermostat will keep the camper at room temperature?


The sudden halt of the furnace blower, which tripped the motor breaker, also damaged one of the "hamster wheels". It was secured to the motor shaft with a plastic hub. It's no wonder that one of the two poorly-balanced "wheels" hadn't wrecked its fragile connection point sooner!

Fortunately, the local hardware store has shaft collars and the new motor has flats on the shafts. I don't have the angle grinder here, so the existing flats saved my bacon!

The motor didn't fare well either. One of the shaft bearings is completely shot. I'll have to replace it with the sun shining down on my bare arms. I can't wait for the return of the warm weather!

I really lucked out because the shaft collar did the trick for the "wheel", and there was no other damage to the furnace, aside from the motor. Recall that I had procured a replacement motor last month?

The furnace is now running as smoothly as it can. Those "hamster wheels" really are not well balanced! The replacement unit boasts balanced wheels "for quieter operation". Ha! Try, for a longer motor life!

I wasn't panicked this time around, so I managed to snap some photos. A photo of the blower motor opens from this link. The large wheel (the one that broke) may be viewed here.

Oh, and there's some snow falling. I've been plowing every three or four inches, and it's going well!

10th of March

Site updates

It's a good day to stay in. So I added some movies to GRS database. Enjoy!

7th of March

Beethoven!

Who says Beethoven doesn't demand power? Today, I was watching the camper battery voltage whilst I listened to Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. Yes, the volume was high. Is there another way to take-in Beethoven? You do know that he wanted all of us to be deaf like he was in his later years?

The battery voltage would jump all around. On a fully-charged battery, like in this case, for instance, the voltage will drop a couple of tenths of a volt when I switch on a vent fan. That makes sense because a fan spinning rapidly draws a lot of current, even from a high-capacity battery.

Evidently, the radio when playing at nearly full volume presents a much, much larger draw. All would be alright during the calm points of the Symphony and then the volume would suddenly rise, taking down the battery voltage.

And I'm not saying a drop of a couple of tenths of a volt. At full volume, as Beethoven was expected to be enjoyed, the voltage would bottom out an entire volt below normal!

That's more than five times the power draw that a fan whose only purpose is to push air around! Mind you, this is all happening with a 900-Watt, gasoline generator actively charging the battery. (And the fan voltage drop was also recorded with this active generator.)

I could see the generator struggling to keep up--I definitely couldn't hear it--as the voltage reading would rapidly change. Despite my ailing, Honda generator struggling to keep up until Beethoven let up, I still rely on it. Maybe the great composer has given it new life?

(The generator does have half of its life left. One wouldn't know it with the smoky morning starts! Maybe that is its coffee?)

Beethoven caused a voltage drop to a gas-powered generator! This music requires a lot of power. So if you are feeling down on energy, listen to Beethoven!

Rock gods turn up their amplifiers to "eleven". Bah! Stay home and enjoy Beethoven the correct way. There's more energy expended per volume of air enjoying this master than in any rock concert.

Yes, I do have an ear for Greenpeace. It's my Beethoven ear. They know I listen to them without missing a syllable. So, they always welcome my insightful comments. OK, no, they don't. They ask me to go away. I guess Beethoven isn't for everybody. Too bad. Imagine if they had his following!

4th March

Winter, writing, sun, updates

Winter's back for a few days. No problems to report. Writing is going well. I'm now getting some proofreading from family. The fourth solar panel seems to only be helping, so I'm going to leave it connected. Soon, I need to re-tilt the solar arrays. The cold temperatures do force me to stay inside and watch movies.

I have added seven movies & a TV movie to the GRS database. Enjoy!

25th Feb

Preparing for spring

The recent thaw has set temperature records and heralds the early beginning of mud season. Oh, what a mess!

I have shoveled snow away from the driveway but since the drive is lower than the surrounding, undisturbed ground, water tends to drain into it. If the temperatures were more seasonable, then the melting wouldn't be so dramatic! On a positive note, the area behind the solar arrays is clear of snow.

The Honda generator continues to hang on. It blows smoke occasionally and covers the spark plug with soot; but, it works! Funny thing is that I got a warranty extension form from the vendor. Ha, yeah right: I'll get right on that!

Today, I felled five trees. There were in the way of the garage. I don't like removing trees but John needs to be able to get his tractor in so we can fill and level the area for the garage.

One dead tree was threateningly close to the active solar array. Fortunately, it fell exactly where I wanted it. It could have been very nasty. I haven't lost my touch!

Writing

I'm nearing the end of my non-fiction manuscript. I need to proofread it again and add a couple of additional photographs, which I'll take next weekend.

Site updates

I have added six movies to the GRS database. Enjoy!

22nd Feb

Day off

Today was too nice to stay indoors and work. And I've made great progress writing, so I deserved a day off. I shoveled so I could get the ATV behind the solar panels. I need to change the tilt angle in a couple of weeks. It's great that it's been so warm because the shoveled area will melt.

Yesterday, I received the new power inverter/charger for the camper. It does a much better job charging the battery. In fact, it did such a good job last night that I haven't had to run the generator yet! (It's still working!) I've been running the computer off the battery and then the panels. It's so quiet.

I was able to open a window and the vents for the first time this year. Oh, spring will be awesome. The luxury of having all the windows open most of the time. And I won't have to have plastic covering them to keep the heat in. I'm looking forward to it!

18th Feb

Honda's end?

Living off the power grid isn't easy. Yesterday morning the Honda generator refused to fire up. It resides inside the camper when not in use so I was a bit surprised.

I added oil, of which it has been using an unexpected amount recently. No change. I installed a new spark plug, looked at the air filter (clean), cleaned the spark arrestor and emptied the muffler of carbon pellets.

The plug and muffler told me that the tiny engine was running too rich. But the air filter is clear. I'm at a loss. There's no fuel filter that I can see and the manual doesn't reference one. Maybe I'm nearing the end of the engine life?

I looked for an engine rebuild kit. You know me; rebuild before replacement. The rebuild kit is available; however, I also learned that the tiny engine in my Honda suitcase generator isn't the best.

It's known as a disposable engine to Honda. Shucks, so much for buying a Honda means buying the best. After reading the well-written individual's posts, I tend to agree. The sound of piston slap is something I just ignored, thinking, it's a Honda.

I'll continue to feed oil and gas to it. I'll even test the compression, which should be a conservative 8/1. I feel this may be the last leg of this little engine, for replacement parts are hard to come by because no one rebuilds these engines.

Do not worry because when the small Honda generator finally refuses to start, I'll go out looking for a better solution. And until I can do that, I have my LPG generator to keep everything going. (Maybe it'll be summer and I'll have more sunshine and won't need a generator?) All in all, more than a 1,000 hours isn't bad. And it's not dead yet!

Furnace

In other news, the furnace continues to perform well. I purchased a replacement blower motor yesterday and it looked the same as the motor currently installed. I checked the stamped numbers and the replacement will pull a few tenths more of an amp than the original.

That shouldn't be a problem. I do find myself wondering: OK, you've improved this motor that looks the same and is the same size and, presumable, has the similar motor inside. Why did the current rating change?

The furnace does still rumble a bit at start-up. I'll see about securing the shrouding a bit better today. The sun's out!

Solar experiment

Recall that I figured I could get away with a third solar panel? Well, I was looking at the array yesterday afternoon and saw that most of the time at least panel (that is in use) is shaded by trees.

So I hooked up a fourth panel. In the morning, like now, all four panels are collecting sun. The voltage loss caused by the extra current traveling the circuit doesn't seem to have hurt the charging performance. In fact, the battery reached the final top-up stage quicker.

I'll see how this works. I can always turn off one of the panels if I find it doesn't work. I calculate the voltage drop is around 3.4% worst-case and 2.8% at best. The goal is less than 2%; but, 3% is acceptable.

Why are there two values? As the battery is charged, the controller raises the voltage. When it is finishing up, which I call "PWMing", the voltage is around 15. Recalling your high school physics, you'll remember that as the voltage increases, for the same amount of power, the amperage drops. That's why high-tension lines are efficient: very, very high voltage.

My new arrangement will waste power while bulk charging--this is usually done by the genny anyway--and be OK when PWMing. Also, it should gather more electricity during the shady afternoons. I'll see about taking the trees down in the spring. It won't be cheap! Wish I could do it myself.

Site updates

I have added six movies to the GRS database. Enjoy!

16 Feb

Furnace

Yup, I bragged too much. Last night the blower in the furnace screeched to a halt, literally. Damn you, Roddy Piper!

To avoid freezing, I fired up the oven and kept the door open. Yes, that sounds like the recipe for a horror movie. Next, I'll tell you that undead deer stalked me!

Don't laugh because yesterday I saw deer tracks less than 50 yards from the camper. A couple also bedded down on my land. Neat! Unless they are zombies, then uh-oh!

So I had a trying time last night. I would wake up every few hours to turn the oven on. I would then shiver in bed waiting for it to warm the place up. It did give me a lot time to think about what was wrong with the furnace.

The next morning I awoke early to get right on the repair job. The furnace is only accessible from outside so I had to shovel a bit of snow to fully remove the access panel. This reminds me of last winter...

Long story short, the blower motor appears to be OK. The bearings are pretty tight and the brushes look great. I cleaned out the inside and sprayed WD-40 on the bearings. I did manage to find a replacement motor, which was no small feat. Surprisingly, the closest RV business will have it tomorrow afternoon. Thanks, Allen!

But what do I do till then? It is my belief that the motor is fine. I think the sheet metal enclosing it was binding. That's what caused the screeching halt. In fact, this morning I found that the overload breaker had been tripped.

Right now, I have reassembled the furnace and it works! I also got to service it while I had it completely disassembled. I now know what it looks like and what to do. Thank you, kind man on Youtube!

The furnace is an impressive piece of equipment. It's just let down by sheet metal screws that eventually strip and don't keep the metal away from the "hamster wheels".

The furnace has two cylindrical wheels with slats to draw air in. One wheel feeds outside air to the flame in the combustion chamber and the other draws inside (camper) air across the hot flue and pushes it back into the camper.

That way LPG (AKA propane) is kept separate from the camper air. The design is similar to the water heater, of which you know I have grown quite fond.

In the spring, I will need to put in larger screws to hold the sheet metal rigidly away from the hamster wheels. I will also, hopefully, have a spare motor tomorrow.

I spoke with one parts guy and he said that RV parts are obsolete after ten years. This camper is getting on, at nearly 20 years old.

There's always a solution, though. I can install a newer version of the existing appliances and continue on. The same manufacturers exist and are thriving. With any luck, I won't have to depend on the camper for winter living but for maybe one more year.

Now that I have figured out the furnace, the only other complicated appliance that can fail--that I haven't already repaired--is the fridge. (I don't count the oven and stove as complicated. Will this come back to bite me in the butt?)

As for the fridge/freezer, I sincerely doubt anything can kill it because of the "ammonia cycle" source for refrigeration. It's fascinating; however, I won't go into it here. Wikipedia does a better job: Absorption refrigerator

How can that break? And if it does, I put all my frozen foods outside. Potential problem solved. Tonight will be an early night. My store of adrenaline is running low!

Valentine's Day

Camp life

We finally had a real snowstorm. Despite a neighbor claiming we received eight inches, it looks like a foot to me. Unfortunately, I was too slow to get out to plow. The ATV couldn't shift the partially-melted snow at the end of the driveway. Break out the shovel and my arm power. I eat a lot of spinach!

I have taken today and yesterday to clear snow, service the water heater, and fulfill other chores. Sometimes the chores build up and I can't do anything else until they are satisfied.

Next time you complain about a shower being slow to warm up, think of me. I have to pump all the water in and let all the used water out. That can mean defrosting the dump valve. That's not something most people usually have to do!

Of course, this is the life I chose and I wouldn't have it any other way because I am off-the-grid and truly free. It's just that, like everything, this life comes with a price.

Also, I wouldn't mind all the shoveling if I could get a full night's sleep. You see in anticipation of cold nights, I stay up till midnight--sometimes later--to keep the generator maintaining the camper battery as long as possible.

Battery woes

That way, the furnace will draw on the battery for only five or six hours before I can restart my trusted Honda generator. The problem is not a lack of battery size. It's the charge controller in the camper. It's designed to avoid overcharging a battery that's permanently attached to shore power, like in a trailer park.

To avoid overcharging, the camper's charger doesn't fully fill the battery. Instead, it settles at around 13.2 volts and thinks it's great, and basks in the lukewarm-13.2-volt water.

That voltage doesn't do much more than keep the battery around 75% charged. Yes, trailer parks have tried to ruin my life! (Realizing this fact has almost allowed me to enjoy the fact that tornadoes hit them first, well almost: I'm not that cruel.)

Yes, the solar array has a top-notch charge controller that tops up the battery. The trouble is the sunlight is so short this time of year. So, I'm left with the that's-good-enough charge controller in the camper.

Another fact of physics--that unsympathetic bitch!--is cold temperatures reduce total battery capacity. I figure that my 200 amp-hour battery is actually behaving like a 120 A-hr battery. Yes, that's about 40% of the capacity gone because it's cold! (Use that excuse on your boss and see what comes of it!)

Fortunately, others have run into my problems and there are several choices of much better charge controllers that can be fitted in place of my original unit!

Being short of sleep, I splurged and spend the $200 to have such a unit mailed here. Five or six hours of sleep simply isn't enough for the amount of hard work that I am undertaking!

Writing

I'm eager to return to my writing. I want to finish up the non-fiction manuscript so I can explore a potentially awesome, action-adventure 'script that could become a New York bestseller! The idea is excellent and will grab the reader, or so I think

An author has to realize that being his own best fan is the only way to avoid the usual afflictions of writing. You know: depression, over-drinking, and then the bullet or pills solution.

I'm very lucky that depression doesn't hit me too hard. I also live in an area that usually enjoys the sun at least every three days. The sun, which is the true source of all life, really lifts the mood!

Coming soon?

The furnace blower has been screeching very occasionally. Despite pleading with it to behave, it could be a potential fly in the ointment. I've bumped up the thermostat setting and feed the furnace the highest voltage whenever I can.

Let us hope it can hang on until April when I can do without it, and sort out the problem. Ah, the life of boondocking. I love it! The challenges and the learning. Yes, I am a bit of a masochist with an engineering tendency!

In other news...

It is wonderful being free to live a peaceful life on my own land, if it is only for a limited time! My general health has improved a lot. I have more than the physical endurance of the high-school senior across the way... at least for shoveling snow!

Ha, how many middle-aged men can say that! Of course, now that I have boasted myself, the furnace blower will quit. Maybe it's time to bust out the statue to pray to the god of bearings?

You know the edifice: it's a bunch of balls enclosed by a ring. Roddy Piper is there. He was very cool. Maybe he'll speak for me? Tell them I'm OK and to let me live? I do know They Live!

11th February

Life

It was very gusty one night. It caused a problem in the camper. A gust found its way down the intake tube of the furnace and blew out the flame! It goes to show that there's always something new that can be thrown my way!

On a calmer night, I spent a few minutes admiring my little home. It sounds strange but rectangular, yellow blocks shining at me seemed almost like a cartoon when emitting from an equally rectangular block. The funny thing is that I found this scene warm and welcoming. It must foreshadow my future cabin in the woods.

Writing

I'm probably about halfway through the manuscript. I spoke with a neighbor. She seemed to be a writer and suggested trying to find a publisher. The obvious reason is the lack of exposure.

Furthermore, she was interested in the solar system. Speaking with her about her electricity needs, it sounds like she would be a good candidate for roof-mounted panels. We're going to speak more about it in spring.

Site updates

I have added six movies to the GRS database. Enjoy!

4th February

Site updates

I have added seven movies to the GRS database. This is a good aspect of winter!

Writing

Writing is going well. I have no trouble sticking to my schedule. I manage about six hours of continuous work Monday through Friday, excepting snow days.

Camper

All is going well with the camper. In fact, it has now paid for itself! I have also found a way to reduce my use of LPG, and it's making a difference. It would be excellent if I can get through to spring without any problems.

Thanks for reading!

28th of January

Site updates

I have added eight movies to the GRS database. Thank you, Youtube!

Writing

My work continues to progress well. I have forgotten just how much I have accomplished here at the homestead. The manual is going to be lengthy. It will also include a computer spreadsheet, which will make it interactive.

Perhaps this interactivity will be a good selling point? I shouldn't get ahead of myself because I still need to complete the manuscript. It looks like that will coincide with the return of spring.

Projects

Speaking of warm weather, my projects will be on hold until then. That is unless I have an emergency that requires invention.

I plan to set-up the bee hive in late March. The vendor has already charged me for the queen & package bees. I just need to order a bit more equipment and bee medicines.

22nd of January

Writing

My first week of writing has passed well. I had no trouble sticking to the schedule. Actually, I look forward to working. On sunny mornings, I am able to run the computer off the panels. Neat!

I've also taken up practicing my musical instrument every day. It's impressive how quickly the skill returns. Muscle memory, maybe?

Bees

I have collected my bee-keeping equipment. (I had purchased everything I should need for one hive years ago.) I, also, placed an order for a queen and package bees. The package should have a sufficient number of workers to get the hive going.

They will arrive in the spring. I'll have the hive set up before then. That'll be a fun spring project! I'll be sure to describe my progress with photos.

Site updates

I have added four movies, a miniseries, and a TV series to the GRS database. Enjoy!

15th January 2017

Stove

John and I got a good fire going in the stove. The flue is just too small for the size of the firebox and opening. I'm going to figure out what it needs to be and modify it in the summer. What a shame that the design is wrong!

Writing

I'm going to start my schedule of writing this week. It will be good to be back working towards a potential source of income. Please wish me luck!

12th January 2017

Stove

Good news: the stove relocation and installation went very quickly. I guess I'm getting good at this sort of thing? It's also a lot easier working when it's above freezing and sunny!

I thought I was clever by using sheet metal loosely located around the stovepipe where it pass through the tarps. I then "flashed" it with layers of aluminum foil. Take a look:


The sheet metal is brown and loosely held in place with Gorilla tape (black) to the surrounding supports.

This isn't a permanent job. I figured it could get me through the rest of the winter. Then, I could do a proper job when I repair the roof and A-frame. (Remember "Oakie"?)

The final product looks pretty good:


Here's what the stove looks like with the new flue:


I sealed the joints with high-temperature RTV silicone. There is a draft inside the stove.

The bad news: smoke continues to pour out the door when the fire bogs down. Also, the fire doesn't stay lit without the door open. Plainly, there's insufficient feed air flowing in.

John--remember he helped me a lot this past summer?--is going to stop by on Saturday and take a look. Check back then to see what happens next!

Weather

We're enjoying a second day of warm weather. Today, it's nudging 50 degrees! It's convenient because I can open a window and turn on a vent fan to purge the smoke smell.

Site updates

I have added five movies to the GRS database.

If you check the latest additions block, it'll look like I added six movies. That's because there was an error. The Viking film was uploaded last time, and is only appearing now.

The same holds true for the mobile page.

10th January 2017

Stove

I extended the flue by four feet. No joy. I'll have to relocate the stove so the flue goes straight up. That means cutting a hole in the roof. At least, it's going to warm up so I can do a good job with the caulking.

BAND-MAID

The all-girl, Japanese, hard rock band has released another video. Take a look:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGXzhxXVimY

9th January 2017

Stove

The stove is installed and looks pretty good! Take a look:


The stove came with a length of piping for the flue. But I didn't want to cut a hole in the roof of the camper, so I went out a window!

You can see the exhaust pipe that I used to extend the flue. Neat! It goes out and then straight up past the roof line. I sealed the joints with high-temperature RTV silicone. It works, too!


The top is capped, and I put in a spark-arresting screen. It would be a bad thing to set something outside on fire! Click this link to see the cap up close.

Feeding through the window was a bit tricky. I ended up fabricating an aluminum sheet-metal/cardboard/Gorilla-tape partition. I guess that makes it a composite

I thought about using wood but don't have a router to get the necessary curves. Below is the feedthru with the wall thimble and insulating cord.


I had to remove and invert the window to get the sliding section in the correct position. Man, I wish I had done this job in the autumn! It's done, though, and sealed up again.

Now, what you've been waiting for! The stove does work. See:


The not-so-good news is that the flue isn't working well. When I open the door, smoke pours out. Also, the fire won't stay lit. This makes sense because the smoke isn't being pulled out so fresh air can't come in. Nothing is ever easy. Damn it!

7th January 2017

Stove update

I'm nearly finished. The stove installation is completed. Just in time judging by the cold temperatures. I just have to fabricate the heat shields to protect the surrounding wall and electrical units. Now, I wish I had a sheet metal brake. Oh well, I'll find a way.

Site updates

I have added three movies & three TV movies to the GRS database. Enjoy!

4th January 2017

Stove update

This week I'm installing a camp stove in the camper. I'm about halfway completed with the job. It's been challenging; however, I solved the most trying aspects. I found a clever way to run the flue out the camper without cutting any new holes. I'll post photos soon!

Today, I also found the rest of the pipes I need for the flue. It wasn't my idea to use car exhaust pipes. The friendly guy at the Home Depot recommended it, and I said: "why didn't I think of that?!"

I loosely assembled the top of the flue. I also installed a spark arrestor in the top. And would you know it: it looks professional. The arrestor is a code requirement in Canada, and probably in the States also.

The height of the flue was dictated by Canadian code. Obviously, the top of any chimney has to have plenty of horizontal air flow over it to ensure the smoke is drawn out. (Thank you, Mr. Venturi, for explaining this effect!)

Got wood?

I've split all the wood felled during the "Oakie" incident. Both the standing oak and the small, "green" evergreen, split beautifully. I'm getting quite accurate with the ax. What a fun exercise!

Whilst splitting wood, I came across a large nail. It looks like a ten-penny (??) and had a substantial effect inside the tree. Here are a few photos. If you click the thumbnails, you'll see some blue lines that'll help you locate the nail:


I was surprised at the effect. It's something to think about when nailing into a tree.

Got sun?

I had a thought last night. I checked my math and the cut-off cable. I found that I had shortened the solar-array-to-camper cables enough to use a third solar panel!

Yes, 300 Watts is pushing it, but the actual cable length--as opposed to the design length--keeps the voltage loss just under the magical 3%!

This morning, I connected a third panel. When the sun was shining, briefly; it seemed to make a difference. I'll know for sure later.

New Year's Day

Happy New Year's!

I'd like to start by thanking you, the reader, for your attention this past year. Hopefully, I can maintain it in 2017!

I'm finally feeling almost fully back to normal. That silly workplace really has a sapping effect on individuals. As a friend said, who was laid off before I; it takes two weeks to get back to normal.

That said, I'm going to take another week off. I plan to fit my new stove to the camper. I'll post my progress as it occurs!

Site updates

I have added six movies to the GRS database. Enjoy!


Missed a past entry? Read them here.