Sunday, October 30 2022
location: 800 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY
At some point in the night I was awake in the bed in the off-grid Adirondack darkness staring at the ceiling of the first floor bedroom in the southwest corner of the cabin. Partly to avoid infecting me with whatever illness she has and partly to avoid Neville's snoring, Gretchen had slept in the upstairs bedroom. But then I heard her walking around and then coming down the stairs and then going out the front door into the "yard." In the gloomy light, she was just a faint smudge of additional darkness moving across a murky background of dark greys. I decided to go out and see what she was up to.
Against the deep blackness of the wilderness sky, there more stars visible than I ever remember seeing. Gretchen saw me and remarked that there were too many random lights on our cabin. This included the electric vehicle chargers (one of which was constantly blinking), the generator, and all the various outdoor GFI outlets. I wondered if there were any GFI outlets that don't include LEDs. Together we looked up at the sky and marveled at the Pleiades, which Gretchen reminded me I'd first introduced her to back 34 years ago in the Fall of 1988. We could also see the three equidistant-in-a-line stars of Orion and a bright red planet somewhere between Orion and the Pleiades. I said that I thought the planet was either Jupiter or Mars, and later research indicated that it was Mars (which just happens to be unusually close to Earth). As we continued looking at the sky, we saw a couple shooting stars in the sky to the north and then a number of satellites in completely different (that is, orthogonal to each other) low-Earth orbits. I was thinking it was maybe 3:00am, but when Gretchen looked at her watch she saw that it was after 6:00am; there were so many visible satellites because they were reflecting the rays of the soon-to-rise Sun.
Hours later, after I'd gone to bed and slept some more, I got up and started doing all the things that need to be done: starting a fire, boiling water for coffee, putting toast in the toaster, finger-painting today's Spelling Bee letters onto a piece of cardboard using blue acrylic paint, and, when the dogs decided to come out, giving them their medications and fussing about how cute they are. Gretchen appeared bleary-eyed at the top of the steps and asked if I was making all that noise because I wanted her to wake up. I guess on some level I was; it was nearly 9:00am. But then I felt sheepish and tried to keep quiet.
After a couple hours of the usual morning routine, I went back behind the cabin and trimmed away surplus "Pet-Block" spray foam I'd used to fill joints between the panels. I wanted the surface to be relatively flat and feature-free so there would be a nice surface to glue Wonderboard to. And I didn't want to use much glue either; I just wanted maybe a single bead along the top and maybe down along the sides from there 12 or so inches. Most of the work of holding the Wonderboard to the styrofoam would be done by soil piled against it. But soon I was feeling weak from only having eaten toast and I was in no mood to cut Wonderboard. So I only put up a few pieces that I didn't have to cut east of the window on the basement's northern wall. I then shoveled dirt into the trench until only five feet of stryofoam was exposed. This would allow me to install additional pieces of Wonderboard (which comes in sheets measuring three feet by five feet) without having to do any digging. I wanted to return as much of the excavated dirt as I could so it wouldn't be washed away in the next rain. But after doing all this, there was still a fair amount of piled-up dirt remaining. So I covered it with a big tarp and then placed numerous sticks parallel to contours on the slope below to catch any dirt that might wash out. Erosion has already been pretty bad in places near the cabin, and I wanted to prevent as much more of it as I could. By this point I was running on fumes and stumbled inside to make myself a tofu-tomato sandwich. Yes, we still have tomatoes from our garden back in Hurley.
As part of my erosion-control effort, I used the stepladder to climb from the upstairs deck onto the gently-sloped part of the cabin's roof and cleaned out the entire length of the north gutter, which was full of two seasons' worth of leaves. There was evidence that this gutter had clogged and water spilled down onto into my ditch, and I didn't want that happening again.
By this time, the day was so warm and beautiful that it qualified as teeshirt weather. I took a few photos from the roof of the cabin, particularly of the solar panels (onto which I might want to hack new features in the future). I'd hoped to be able to see new distant landscapes from up there, but the only difference was that I could better makeout a rolling ridge to the northwest.
Meanwhile Gretchen had gone down to the lake to do some more reading.
At some point I walked a couple hundred feet west of the cabin to the top of the "look out rocks," where one can catch glimpses of Peck Lake and a few human structures beyond Lake Edward. Today, I could see big clouds of smoke billowing from some structures at 43.12818622097089N, 74.35889268092939W (exactly a mile away) that are so remote from roads that they must be off-grid (and I've never seen a light coming from there). The buildings themselves didn't appear to be on fire, so it was probably some rednecks burning brush. I could also hear across the distance what sounded like a fire truck speeding towards some emergency; perhaps they'd been called because the fire had gone out of countrol.
When Gretchen returned to the cabin, she continued reading her book while sitting on an Adirondack chair in our still mostly-unused stone patio. By this point, was cleaning up the cabin in preparation for an early departure. Our tenants on the first floor of the Downs Street brick mansion were reporting that their heating zones had stopped working, and I was eager to fix them.
We hadn't quite collected enough electricity for the Bolt to return to Hurley, so I left it with Gretchen so she could charge it some more and left with the dogs in the Forester.
Back in Hurley, I checked the mail and found inside the mailbox a handwritten note from our reliably most-annoying neighbor, the one who has done things like call the cops on our barking dogs. This time she was complaining about the appearance of our mailbox, which has looked about the same for maybe the last ten years. Every now and then it gets hit by a snowplow and I straighten out the dents. True, its stand isn't quite plumb, but that's partly because the ground it is trying to stand in is solid bedrock and there are no perfectly vertical cracks into it. This particular neighbor is one of the ones who aspires to live in perfect suburbia, a place where every lot is fully dedicated to perfectly-trimmed lawn. Ours, on the other hand, is one of several properties that maximizes other things, such as meadow, forest, or (in the case of our neighbor Andrea) an English-style garden. I shrugeed and left the note for Gretchen to read. Later when she arrived and read it, she balled it up in fury.
Over in the basement of the Downs Street mansion, I took a reading on the old 24 volt transformer I'd co-opted for use powering the new zones and saw that it was only providing 12 volts. Clearly that was the problem! I'd brought over a brand new replacement, and the only problem with installing it was that I didn't have a flashlight and my phone was nearly dead. I needed a flashlight if I wanted to be able to see after turning off the circuit breaker, a precondition for safely wiring in a new transformer onto an electrical box. Fortunately, I only had to drive as far as the Advance Auto Parts on Albany Avenue to buy a battery-powered source of illumination. Once the new transformer was in place, the zone valves opened far enough that I could remove the rubber feet I'd glued onto the end-button fingers that had been failing to push the end buttons. In retrospect, that should've tipped me off that there was something wrong with that old transformer from the start.
Looking northwest from the cabin's rooftop towards some rolling ridge through the trees.
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Smoke near some of the buildings visible from the lookout rock.
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Today's neighborly annoyance, which Gretchen crumbled up into a ball in a fury. I blurred out the name because my only readers these days are somehow even less pleasant than this woman.
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