Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

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Like my brownhouse:
   methods to clear solar panels of snow
Friday, January 14 2022

location: 800 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY

Even in our part of the Adirondacks it was to be a glorious sunny day with temperatures above freezing. The only bummer was that there was such a thick layer of crusty snow on our solar panels that they weren't generating more than about ten watts of electricity. Gretchen said that she planned to climb up on the high part of the roof to attack that crust from above. Neither of us had ever been up on the roof and it didn't seem like now was a good time to attempt it. It was covered with three or four inches of snow of unknown slipperyness and with the peaking of the Omicron variant of covid, now is not a good time to wind up in a hospital. But I went up on the upper deck, put up the step ladder, and investigated what the surface was like up there. It seemed to be a layer of fluffy snow atop a layer of treacherously slippery ice. At that point I basically forbade Gretchen from going up there, telling her that if I had to lose her for something so stupid I would never forgive myself.
Following Gretchen's suggestion, I did some research online to see what other people do to get snow off their solar panels. Someone suggested hitting it with a ball, which might create enough of a vibration to dislodge some of it. We didn't have any balls, but we did have some boots that Gretchen didn't particularly like. So went out and hurled them at the roof for awhile. I've always been terrible at throwing things with my arms, but by using the shoelaces as a built-in sling, I was able to get my boot up onto the panels with nearly all throws. Gretchen's accuracy was much worse. Even so, before long both of our shoes were stuck on the roof, so that was the end of that method. They'd managed to knock down some snow, but not enough to make any difference.
So then I went into the woods east of the cabin looking for a very tall, very slender tree to use as rake for eliminating snow from below. I soon found a perfect striped maple, which I cut down and then trimmed of all its branches aside from a few near the top. I found that I was able to, firstly, knock down the two shoes on the roof and then, secondly, sweep all of the panels across their entire area when holding this pole. This was especially true when I was standing on the picnic table (which is now just south of the middle of the house) or the front entrance deck. At first this whipped away the top layer of looser snow. But then the harder layer of ice directly on the panels started to break up from the vibrations and being struck occasionally by a knot on the pole, and periodically chunks would break free, exposing more and more panel. Gretchen was delighted by the progress I was making and tried to do a little herself, but the pole was too heavy for her to wield effectively.
After doing this for some time, I decided I needed a stiffer pole with some sort of spatula-type edge at the top for use in attacking the lower edge of the ice layer. So I went into the woods west of the cabin and cut down a thin beech sapling and cut off all the branches except for a short horizontal one at its tip. There was no easy way to give it a spatula tip, but I thought I could use the branch and tip as a blunt poking device (which the striped maple pole lacked). This worked somewhat, though I had to stand atop the rail on the front entrance deck to reach what I wanted to. And this left me vulnerable to large sheets of ice that I broke free.
After I'd done this for awhile, I took a break and went inside. The sun continued to attack the remaining pieces of ice, which I'd hear suddenly crashing to the ground. Meanwhile Gretchen had been walking the dogs (well, they didn't accompany her very far) down to Woodworth Lake (which is now completely frozen and covered with snow). When she came back, she was amazed by how clear the panels now were. There were, however, a few large chunks of ice left, that I'd occasionally go out and attack. When I broke one of these loose, I had to brace myself for its inevitable impact. It hit me in the crown of my head and some went down my shirt uncomfortably, but it was so worth it to have that much more of the panel free.
This whole time I'd been tracking the amount of energy the 220 square feet of solar panel was collecting. Some time in the early afternoon this peaked at around 750 watts. But by then clouds were coming in and starting to degrade the sunlight.
With the solar panels about 95% clear of ice, I could finally focus on indoor projects, particularly those in the upstairs bathroom. Some research I'd done about installing bathtubs indicated that the new tub (which Gretchen and I had already managed to unload from the Forester and wrestle up the stairs) needed to be installed directly against the studs, without any intervening layer of drywall. Unfortunately, though, our contractors had completely sheetrocked (it's a better word that "drywalled") the alcove where the bathtub was to go. So I had to spend considerable time cutting the drywall and prying it free from the studs. The only tool I used for cutting was a utility knife, which is quite capable of slicing all the way through drywall if applied with force several times along a line. As for prying, for that I used just my hands and the claws of a hammer. Fortunately, the drywall had been attached with an economy of drywall screws. I didn't remove all the drywall in the alcove. I just wanted to remove it up to the shower spigot on the drain end and up to the height of the tub plus three feet (the width of a sheet of Wonderboard) everywhere else.
With all that drywall out of the way, I could focus on doing the rest of the hot and cold supply plumbing to the shower control. I'm still more comfortable with copper pipe, whose reliability I've experienced first-hand over decades, than I am with PEX, which I'd never worked with before a week ago. So when I plumbed the shower control hardware, I hooked up the tub-fill plumbing and the shower-head-supply plumbing using soldered copper pipe. The cold and hot water were already mostly articulated in PEX, so all I'd be doing for those was screwing in crimpable PEX barb to half-inch NPT fittings for each of those and running PEX to them. But after I had all the copper pipe soldered and the shower control in place, I discovered that I'd run out of PEX crimping rings, meaning I could do more work on the plumbing.
At some point in all of this, I forced myself to say yes when Gretchen wanted to play a word game. We ended up playing Scrabble, which I lost badly (Gretchen beat me by nineteen points.) [REDACTED]
When I returned to working on the bathroom project, I managed to find things to do to keep me busy until about midnight. Then I sat with just Neville in the great room drinking booze and noodling around to all my usual web haunts on my work-issued laptop like I like to do.

Meanwhile back in Hurley, Powerful had called our young friend Natalie to say his foot was bothering him so much he couldn't make it up the stairs to get his medication. So she ended up coming out and spending the night at our house, fetching him his medication, food, and other things. Orchestrating this from afar, Gretchen would end up having multiple phone calls, which would start up again at 5:00AM on Saturday.

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