artificial gorges of the West Hurley Park quarry
Sunday, June 2 2013
I was going to take a bath early this morning, but I was distracted by the sound of the solar circulator pump running. At the time it was about 6:30 am and the solar panels were in the shade, so there was no reason for the pumps to run. Investigating further, I saw that the LCD display on the solar controller was working, but it wasn't showing any values for the Master Arduino's analog inputs. Clearly something bad had happened to that chip. Happily, it was easy to flash another Atmega328 with the Master firmware and swap it in. But even with the Master successfully reading temperature values, the pump was running. This seemed to indicate a problem with the ULN2003 Darlington transistor array, which is needed to interface an Atmega328 to a relay capable of switching 120 volts. When I replace that, the controller seemed to work okay, though it was still incapable of communicating via its serial line. In the end I had to replace a Max232 RS-232 driver chip on the controller and a USB-to-serial adapter in the laboratory. Something had wiped out four different electronic devices simultaneously. My suspicion is that the something was a very close lightning strike we'd had two or three days before. After this morning's experience, I'm thinking I need to add a couple things to the solar controller: a surge protector and an alarm that can be sounded when absurd states are detected (such as the pump running despite no instruction to do so or any night between the hours of 8:00pm and 8:00am).
Today Gretchen had to go down to the City to attend some sort of vegan appetizer competition, and on her way there she went out of her way to drop me and the dogs off at the place where I'd left the Subaru (at the intersection of Route 28 and Zena road). I stopped at the West Hurley Park on the drive home and took the dogs for a walk in the forest behind the athletic fields. Normally when I walk there, I mostly stay on the marked trails, but today I continued farther west, into the remains of an old bluestone quarry (41.965968N, 74.111366W). None of this can be seen in the satellite view of Google Maps, but on the ground it's a crazy landscape. Along one side of the quarry runs a swamp, yet another example of the poor drainage of the Hurley Mountain plateau. I took the dogs around the south end of the quarry and then along its west side, on the edge of an escarpment above the headwaters of Stony Creek (which ultimately empties into the Esopus via a highly-circuitous route not far from the bottom of Dug Hill Road). There was a good (though unmarked) path here, indicating that either animals or non-littering humans pass through the area frequently. At the top of the escarpment, just above this path, was a dramatic bluestone formation. Its walls were actually steeper, on average, than vertical, as huge room-sized blocks of bluestone had been removed from the bottom of the cliff, leaving thousand-ton masses of rock cantilevered menacingly overhead. Beneath these overhangs were deposits of odd-colored soil, which I took to be middens left by creatures who had sought shelter.
Eleanor and I managed to scramble up to the top of the formation using a tallus slope comprised of book-sized pieces of bluestone. Once up there, we passed along several deep human-made gorges carved into the rock as part of the quarrying operation. These now contained wetlands amid piles of abandoned bluestone.
Given the cliffs and hard-scrabble slopes, it was difficult landscape to navigate. Eleanor stayed close with me, but Ramona had gotten separated and I worried she might not find an easy path back to us. To keep her from getting lost, I kept calling her name, and eventually she appeared from an unexpected direction, her tongue hanging like a pink banana peel from her mouth.
It's been unseasonably hot and humid for the past four days, with highs in the 90s, but that pattern seemed to be changing today when a powerful thunderstorm swept through. I had to go around the house closing windows to keep out the blowing rain. There were also some marble-sized hailstones at one point.
I noticed at some point that a creature has been nibbling on the Brassicas in the garden. Later I saw what I think was the culprit, some sort of rabbit I momentarily frightened when I came to the threshold of the outdoors (we typically leave our front door wide open all day long in good weather). The rabbit bounded over to the edge of the narrow strip of woods between our yard and the farm road, though Julius the cat (aka Stripey) just happened to be there in the grass only a few feet away from where the rabbit ended up. But, being a cat, Stripey kept his cool and didn't move, and the rabbit didn't appear to see him. Instead the rabbit kept watching me warily. As for Stripey, this was his big opportunity to bring down a substantial prey animal. But in the end I think he thought the rabbit was just too big, and he just let him hop away. Not all cats are so timid with it comes to killing rabbits; Clarence has killed many, though I've never seen him dragging an adult one home for the dogs.
I'd arranged to meet Gretchen in New Paltz to attend a party this evening. She was on her way back from the City at a time that meant she would be arriving in New Paltz at 8:30, so I set off in the Subaru and met her in a parking lot at the corner where 32 North turns into 308 south.
The party was being hosted by a L, a locally-famous vegan baker who runs a shop in New Paltz. She's young and colorfully-retro in a handmade Mid-Century-modern kind of way. Her place was full of people when we arrived. I didn't know many of the people, but the ones I did know all came from High Falls or further south; evidently we were too far to attract any of the many familiar Woodstock party-attendees.
Though there were a lot of bakery treats, nothing savory was on offer, and the drink selection was very odd. When we arrived, L fixed Gretchen and me the "house cocktail" (which was very strong), and by the time I wanted another, substantially weaker drink, all the beers were gone and the only beverages that seemed to be left were unknown locally-crafted whiskeys and (I kid you not) absinthes. So absinthe was my drink for the rest of the evening, though I substantially diluted it with seltzer (there was no tonic water).
I had a few good conversations tonight, but I was mostly back in wallflower mode. Gretchen, on the other hand, had a long conversation with a guy who makes his living on internet porn. He seemed like an interesting gentleman; his big obsession right now is using crowdsourcing to track down his biological parents.
Near the end of the party, Gretchen kept dashing off to the car to get copies of her book Kind, which various people (including the porn mogul) wanted to buy. The delay in our getting out of there was long enough for me to sober up enough to drive.
But I didn't end up having to drive right away. Gretchen and I decided we were famished, having been without savory calories for hours. So we drove down the main drag of New Paltz hoping to find an open restaurant. We ended up at the Plaza Diner, which is open 24 hours a day. They had a veggie burger which was pretty good, though the buns were cheap. Their fries tasted a little off, perhaps an inevitable consequence of never really knowing when to throw out your deep fryer oil. But their generous platter of spaghetti with marinara sauce was an unexpected delight. I think it was the quality of that spaghetti and not that our waitress had told us she'd once tried to be a vegan (and failed) that won her an absurdly-large tip.
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