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:
   remote-controlling three things
Saturday, March 30 2024

location: 940 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY

It was to be yet another very windy (but sunny) day, once again making me wonder more about possibly installing a wind-powered dynamo.

I'd taken a diphenhydramine last night, which made me fall asleep before I could drink too much. So I woke up today fresh and rested, not hungover at all. After starting a fire, feeding the dogs, drinking my coffee, and doing my usual Saturday morning routine, I was back in the basement trying to figure out how best to wire up my next remote-controlled circuit, which I wanted to be the hybrid hot water system (it can use either resistive heating or a heat pump). But I soon realized I didn't really have the parts I needed, particularly if I wanted to make a stab at better code compliance (putting the cable carrying 240v/30amp to the top of the water heater inside flexible conduit). So again I told the dogs we'd be going for a drive, and off we went again to the Gloversville True Value hardware store. I was drinking a coffee mug containing kratom tea as I drove, and it wasn't long before I had olive-green spatters all over me from it sloshing out of the mug. The selection of electrical boxes and cover plates at the Gloversville True Value is not very extensive, and I soon realized I would not be finding, for example, a double-wide wall plate that was half blank and with a hole for a rectangular-style duplex outlet. But maybe I could cut such a hole into a double-blank plate (helpfully, it had markings for that very cut). I also had to buy a number of fittings designed to connect flexible conduit to various boxes. That's a kind of fitting I am completely unfamiliar with; I'd been just butting my flexible conduit up to romex connector and calling it a day. But even in the well-trod landscape of consumer eletrical supplies, there are always new things to discover.
Just after getting back to the cabin, I realized I'd forgotten an important thing (I'd even had a list, and it had failed to make that): female spade connectors. That's how wires connect to relays, and without them, there's no satisfactory way to make such connections. I had a number of such connectors in that old toolbox full of electrical odds and ends likely from some old man who died, but I'd used up most of them and now I would need eight more.
So I ended up having to make a second trip to civilization, and again I got the dogs to ride along. Not having been too pleased with the selection of supplies at the Gloversville True Value, this time I drove to the larger Ace Noble hardware in Johnstown. I drank a road beer on the way there and it, in concert with the kratom tea I'd had earlier, it had me in a mood where I most definitely didn't want help from any of the Ace Nobel empoyees. Those guys are like chummed sharks when you go in there, and I think they mean well, but somebody like me much prefers minimizing social interaction to as little as possible. So I was perhaps a bit gruff when I said, "No, I know what I need" to three different people in the store, not even giving them eye contact as I did so. By the time I had what I'd come for (which included things in addition to the 100-count box of female spade connectors), I was little paranoid that they'd called the cops on me for acting suspiciously.
Back at the cabin, I took the dogs for another walk down to the lake. While I was briefly there, I pushed down on the ice near the dock and found it was about an inch and a half thick and broke fairly easily. I returned to the cabin off-trail pretty much along the boundary line between our parcel and that of Shane, our neighbor to the south. This boundary crosses that weird diagonal gorge with the "backwards-facing cliffs" that has intrigued me since I discovered it. There's a temporary brook at the bottom of that canyon, and today it was running briskly with melt water. The dogs separated from me somewhere near the lake, and returned to the cabin some time after I got back.
After several hours of work, I managed to install new junction boxes containing relays to control both the water heater and the boiler. The boiler controller was fairly easy, since the wires were little 14 gauge guys. But hooking up the relay to control the hot water heater was a real bitch. The thick 10 gauge wire didn't want to bend to fit in the cramped space available. And then I had a problem with the ring left in the knock-out hole in the steel plate at the top of the water heater (where the fitting for the flexible conduit had to go) bending loose and falling out. At first this seemed like a real crisis, but then I found the ring was easy to solder back in place. Another aggravation, one I've faced before, was that the little dish-like box at the top of the water heater where the junctions are supposd to be made is just a free-floating thing that's supposed to be fixed by tiny screws entering from the top (thanks Ruud/Rheem, if that is your real name!). I soon gave up on making that work and decided that the stupid dish could be free-floating forever and all I would concern myself with was getting the metal plate (the one I'd just soldered the knock-out ring back into) fixed in place. Finally, there was the problem with the short piece of flexible conduit not wanting to be in the place it needed to be. But I solved that by letting unscrewing the junction box from the wall, getting the conduit in place, and then re-attaching the conduit box to the wall.
With all that tricky stuff out of the way, all that was left to do was to hook the 12 volt wires to the ULN2003-type-circuit that was connected to the NodeMCU. When I powered everything up and, amazingly, it all seemed to work. The only glitch came when I tried to control the generic electrical outlet (used for dumping surplus power into a space heater) from GPI10 and the GPIO9. Both of those GPIOs appear to do something important yet mysterious inside the NodeMCU, and trying to make them into outputs caused the NodeMCU to get trapped in a series of restarts, each of which caused the boiler to briefly switch on. But once I moved the generic eletrical outlet control to GPIO15, the NodeMCU worked correctly. I found the responsiveness of the devices being controlled (using a Chromebook pointed at the device controller web page) was now within seconds, which was plenty adequate for my needs. I celebrated this huge success by drinking too much booze and posting photos to Facebook.

The dock today with the still mostly-frozen lake. Click to enlarge.

A beaver doing his damnedest to kill a yellow birch on the lakeshore a little south of our dock. Click to enlarge.

Looking down from the backwards-facing cliffs into the canyon carrying a temporary brook down to the lake. Click to enlarge.

The latest iteration of the NodeMCU-based remote controller, with the outlet it controls (via a telephone wire carrying 12v to a contactor). I had to make a custom cover plate for that box, since you can't buy ones like that. I cut out the rectangle for that duplex outlet using a oscillating tool. Click to enlarge.

Here you can see the new boiler controller junction box (which still lacks a cover), connected to the boiler outlet with a short piece of rigid PVC conduit. You can also see the telephone wire that controls its relay. Click to enlarge.

The northeast corner of the basement, showing the many things I've done over the last couple years. Note the short piece of flexible conduit connecting the top of the water heater to a white-fronted box on the wall. Click to enlarge.

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