Archive for September, 2012

Wind Turbine Construction

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Thanks to son Steve, I’ve been following the technology of the modern wind turbines. During a visit to my parents in Lansing, we were driving along the highway when I saw this view across a field of nearly-ripe soybeans. I grabbed my camera and took the picture, thinking this would be as close as I’d be able to get. For the heck of it, I drove their car along the road to see if we might be able to get a somewhat closer view. I expected to encounter no trespassing signs, a gate, or something, but as we got closer, the coast looked clear.

I found the driveway the construction crew had been using, stopped the car, and using the telephoto lens was able to get this picture. From previous experience with these installations, I’ve learned the companies that operate them are very fussy about who is allowed to get near. The driveway continued along for about 1/4 mile. There were no pickup trucks, no security shacks, no impediments of any kind, so I got back in the car and drove slowly down toward the construction project. Then I remembered it was Saturday, and figured the crew was off for the weekend.

I pulled up close to the site, got out of the car, listening all the while for someone to yell at me to get the heck out of there, but no one appeared to be around. My attention was grabbed by the huge yet graceful blades sitting in racks along the ground. Bear in mind that the hubs with the bolts sticking out of them are much taller than I am. The hatches visible in the picture are for accessing the blades from the inside. The bolts you see are probably 1″ bolts… massive stuff.

I’ve been told that each blade is 40 meters long, and that the tower itself is 80 meters high. As I mentioned earlier, the graceful curves of these massive blades have to be seen up close to be appreciated. My heart was still beating fast as I was taking these pictures. I really wanted to run my hand along the curve of the blades, but I was afraid someone was watching me. I was pretty sure I was alone, but felt kind of creepy at the same time.

The last picture I took shows part of the massive crane that lifts these huge parts up onto an ever higher post. Beside the partially completed tower is the hub that the blades will bolt to. The nacelle that houses the generator, shaft, and control mechanisms did not appear to be onsite at this time. Mom and Dad decided to stay in the car as I looked around the construction site and took my pictures. I finally joined them back in the car, backed around and left this site. How neat it was to be able to look around and have some idea of what all the parts meant and how they’d eventually go together. Next time I drive by, I’ll bet those blades will be spinning in the wind.

Cheep Cheep

Monday, September 17th, 2012

“Cheep cheep,” said the little birdie. I worked on replacing the faucet set for the outside shower on the motorhome the other day. The old one worked fine until it was turned on, and then it leaked. So I went online and bought a replacement one for around $10. “A bargain,” I thought to myself. The old one was set up kind of stupid too. The nipple for the shower attachment pointed straight up between the faucets, meaning that the flexible shower hose developed a kink from sitting bent over in a cramped space all the time.

So, instead of installing the new faucet set and leaving well enough alone, I bought a brass street elbow, and screwed that onto the shower nipple. I gave it what my intuition said was enough tightening to insure no leaks. I heard a slight click from inside the faucet set, and when I turned it back on, it leaked the same way the old one had. “Cheap cheap!”

Right then and there, I decided to replace this system with something more substantial, and repairable to boot. I spent some interesting time in the plumbing section of the hardware, and came home with about $45 worth of parts. As things stand right now, the replacement faucet is partially assembled. When fully assembled, it will allow the shower hose to exit in the correct orientation, and I’ll be able to tighten it without fear of breaking. This one is not cheap cheap.

115#

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

It has been a busy time at the homestead, as it often is in the fall. One chore that I particularly enjoy is the potato harvest. Alice and I call it, “digging for gold.” We grew a bit more than 5 rows this year in our outside garden. Because of the nice rain this summer, I didn’t have to do too much watering, but we sure had a lot of potato bugs. We picked bugs every other day for weeks until each side declared a truce. Then the plants green parts of the plants died back and harvest time arrived.

At harvest time, I envy the folks with light soil. Ours it heavy clay into which we’ve infused tons of humus over the years. So while the soil is friable, you don’t just stick your hands in and start sifting potatoes out with your fingers. I begin with the shovel along one side of the potato row, and dig in about a foot from the center of the stem. I push the shovel blade in as deep as I can get it (yes I wear shoes for this) and then pry the dirt up. I’ll often see potatoes poke their heads up at this point. Once I’ve made a line the length of the row, I make an identical one on the other side of the same row. Then it’s down on hands and knees, and dig through the dirt for the “gold” that is buried.

Whatever I find gets tossed up onto the tarp I’ve placed near the diggings. As I get part way along the garden, I drag the tarp along with me. Once the tarp had all this year’s crop on it, I bunched up the corners and attempted to lift it. No dice. The thing was just too heavy for me, which is a good thing, I guess. So I dragged it into the entry way trying not to bruise the potatoes too much. When Alice got home from work I showed her this year’s harvest, and she said, “let me get my camera.” She staged this picture of me holding two of the biggest we found.

We got our trusty paper shopping bags (remember them?) up from the basement, loaded them up with potatoes, and carried them downstairs one at a time. On the way to the storage shelf, I stuck each bag on the scale, and noted the weight. The total for this year was 115#, or about 20# more than last year. I think the difference was a bit more sun and rain, and some attention toward the bugs.

Name Change

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

After a lot of soul searching, I decided to change the name of this blog. It used to have the words, “Country Living” in place of what now reads “Rural Life.” The germ of the idea to change the name came on a shopping trip in the recent past, when I happened to notice a copy of “Country Living” on the magazine rack. I’d seen this magazine before, but hadn’t considered that the content of the magazine might influence what people might expect to read in my blog. My recollection of “Country Living” magazine articles involved pictures of an array of antique salt shakers on a battered pine table, with a caption explaining the place and date of origin of the shakers, and how the owner found the set completing one at a garage sale for a quarter! This type of journalism is fine for some folks, but it doesn’t begin to describe the stories I’m trying to tell.

Rural Life, on the other hand, invokes a more realistic picture of folks that are learning by doing, making mistakes, getting dirty, taking pleasure in making a weld that sticks after the previous three have failed. Folks that sit down to a supper that includes a salad consisting mostly of food grown in the garden, and tasting the difference. Of folks that walk into the house from a mile after-supper walk and burst into a grin because of the smell of fresh bread that smacks you right in the face.

I hope you enjoy the stories, and that you’ll drop us a line now and then.

Hospitality, Part 2

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

This is a picture of Steve reading the previous blog post on his iPad. He was using the wifi connection mentioned there. We all agreed this was a metaphysical moment that needed to be captured for posterity.

Hospitality

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

Son Steve and his partner John came over for a few days to attend a wedding and chill for a bit. They arrived at about 2:00 this morning. I usually sleep through the night without too much trouble, but last night for some reason, I woke up and lay there for a while with my eyes wide open. Then I heard the dog bark and saw the lights from their car coming down our road.

We both got up and had a very nice time for about an hour. I got to thinking about how hospitality for visitors has changed over the years. I asked were they hungry? thirsty? need help carrying things in from the car? …all the usual things. After we’d talked for a while, John got out his laptop and Steve his iPad and sat on the couch in silence for a bit. Then Steve said, “Adventurous Panda?”

That happens to be the name of the wireless network in our home. I told him yes, and to use AdventurousPanda-Guest, and then told them both what the password was. So modern visitors get a beverage, snack, a place on the couch, and a slice of your internet bandwidth, as is right and proper.