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

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
Monday, January 24 2022

location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, NY

I noticed this morning when looking at PowerView (the remote monitor for the cabin's electrical systems) that the battery had fallen to 19% charge and yet the generator had not turned on, which it should've done at 21%. This suggested that there was a problem. Either the generator had thrown an unrecoverable error or there was a fuel problem. Perhas we'd burned our way through all 1000 gallons of liquid propane. In any case, this situation was bad and would require me to make an emergency trip to the cabin. First, though, I waited to see what behavior the system would demonstrate once the solar panels had charged the battery back over the 21% threshold. It was evidently a sunny day up there and the panels must've been clear of snow because at times there was more than a kilowatt of power being generated. But the 21% threshold came and went, and still the inverter failed to supply the cabin with power. I made a trouble ticket to Sol-Ark asking about the "F56 - DC_VoltLow_Fault"; could it be that such a fault was unrecoverable? But they got back to me right away (as they do) to tell me I needed to lower the threshold of the "Batt Restart %," which was at 50, and which I'd assumed was a falling threshold, not a rising one (the descriptions of the parameters in the web form are not clear about which are which). With that setting, the power wouldn't come back on until the solar infrastructure charged the batter to 50%. So I lowered it to 20, and then immediately saw evidence that the cabin was using power. Strangely, though, there was no uptick in the temperature even after fifteen minutes. This suggested that the propane really was exhausted.
After a nurse came to visit Powerful, a fuel delivery, and Powerful went to town in back in the Prius, I commandeered his car and drove up to the cabin, thinking conditions would be compatible with that car. As I mentioned, it was a sunny day and I was driving there in the early afternoon. I even stopped at the Home Depot in Amsterdam to get five eight foot sticks of one-by lumber (they fit entirely inside the Prius) and a rubberized fitting to better finish my improvised drain trap in the upstairs bathroom. I also stopped at the Burger King across the street for an Impossible Burger with fries, all of which I ate like a glutton while driving northbound on Route 30. I didn't have any ketchup for my fries, but they were fine that way.
I parked on the driveway above the cabin so I couldn't get stuck trying to climb that hill when time came to leave. I carried everything down and immediately looked to see what the situation was. There was a red error light glowing on the generator, but there was steam blowing out of the PVC boiler exhaust pipes, meaning there was still propane available to burn. I don't have any experience with large propane tanks, so had never thought to look to see if there was some sort of gauge on ours showing how much fuel was left. It turns out there was such a gauge, and it was saying only about one or two percent of the tank remained. That's not much, and meant I would definitely be winterizing the cabin. Once that trace amount of propane ran out, there would be no way to keep the cabin warm.
I opened up the Generac generator and saw it had thrown a 1300 error, with nothing to suggest what this meant. I was happy to see it wasn't experiencing another wiring error, whose unnecessary forcing of a system shutdown had so infuriated me a couple months ago. When I looked up the 1300 error, I found that this was a "low oil pressure fault." This time I was happy it had forced a shutdown; an internal combustion engine cannot run without lubrication. Checking the oil caused me to lose a plastic cap, which I then had to devise a tool to recover (a process resulted in a knuckle scrape!). And indeed the oil was low; I found none at all on the dipstick! So I left it in the faulted condition so it wouldn't run until I added oil (and more propane was put in the thousand gallon tank).
To winterize the cabin, turned off the well pump and boilet electrically and then began draining water that would otherwise freeze. I first drained all the water out the hydronic boiler system (which currently contains no antifreeze). John Jr. (The Stoner Plumber) had recently installed a pair of kickspace heaters on a third basement zone, and these had no taps for drainage, so I simply cut their Pex lines and bled them that way, with the idea being that I will be installing drain cocks at the cuts. Next, I opened up all the household taps and opened a draincock at the well's pressure pump, collecting all the water I could as it drained out. I scooped nearly all the water out of the traps in both toilets and then added a little antifreeze to all the traps I could. I couldn't reach anything behind the washing machine, but if the trap is broken by expanding water, I have access to it the basement and will replace it with one I can take apart and put back together the next time I need to winterize the cabin.
With all that done, it was a little after 5:00pm, and I could leave.
There was no easy way to turn around, so I thought I'd back up all the way to Woodworth Lake Road and drive forward from there. This would've been a good plan, but visibility out of the back of Prius is terrible, particularly when it has a large buildup of salt, and about half way to Woodworth Lake Road, I somehow drove into the mound of snow on the west side of the driveway and found myself stuck. A little shoveling helped to get part of the way out, but then I got hopelessly stuck, with the front driver's side wheel clearly in the ditch, off the roadway. Instead of panicking, I called Gretchen (who was a little hard to reach) and had her arrange a tow truck through our insurance company, which would be completely free. I couldn't believe I'd managed to get stuck in the snow twice within the space of a month.
While waiting for the tow truck, I initially put more effort into extricating myself. Using the tire jack. I was able to lift up the ditched wheel and put larch planks under it and then build a crude track of loose cobblestones. For a moment this seemed like it might even work, but then I was just as stuck as ever. So I completely resigned myself to waiting for the tow truck, spending the hour-long wait checking all my favorite websites on my phone. [REDACTED] I'd drunk a couple beers on the drive to the cabin and as I'd puttered around doing the winterizing, but at this point it seemed best not to consume any more until I was in the clear. Snow had begun to fall, and I was worried conditions could worsen once I was eventually pulled out.
The tow guy (from Smitty's Towing in Johnstown) arrived at about 7:20pm, and the first thing I told him was that I was happy to see him, which was definitely true. He chuckled a little when he saw I'd been trying to drive a Prius in these conditions. "It works great unless I run into a snowbank," I said in its defense. He easily winched me out onto the driveway and this time when I backed up on my way to Woodworth Lake Road, it was well lit from the tow truck driving leading the way. From there, I drove without difficulty and much feeling of risk out to Route 309, running well ahead of the tow truck, who said he'd be there to pull me out again in case there was a problem. There was no paperwork to fill out and I have no idea what he charged for his services.

It was snowing fairly aggressively for the entire drive to where I get on the Thruway in Amsterdam, and I worried I might not make it home tonight. But after that, the snow stopped and I had clear sailing down to about Catskill. From there, the snow picked up again, and by the time I left the Thruway in Kingston, there was a half inch or more snow on the ground, and I thought it better to drive home via the north end of Dug Hill Road, so as to avoid the steep climb up the gorge from Hurley Mountain Road. Conditions were pretty treacherous, and the Prius had trouble coming to a stop at the Zena Road traffic light on Route 28. So I took it slow from there, going mostly about 27 mph for the four miles I drove on Dug Hill Road.
Back at the house, Gretchen had gotten takeout from the Garden Café, which meant veggie quesadillas for me. I ate it while watch Amy Schneider rack up another impressive win on Jeopardy!

The Prius, stuck on the side of the driveway near Woodworth Lake Road.

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