Today (June 20?)I am going to give you a quick tour of our micro-hydro system. I know you are sooooo excited! First I have to charge the camera batteries and dry out my rubber boots which I left on the front porch and it rained in them. No, first I have to let the ice in them thaw, then I can dry them out. In the meantime, I have to dig around in the bags of crap, backpacks, boxes and computer bags to find the battery charger. Don't worry...we'll get this show on the road.
In other news, I didn't want to do anything today. I mean I didn't want to do anything away from the house. Didn't want to go anywhere. Maybe stack wood, figure out what is leaking under the sink, wash some underwear and t-shirts out in the tub, shake out the cow-skin rug and dance around to some music on the computer. But we've been invited to a cook out, and who can refuse a meal cooked by someone else? And anyway, who am I kidding. I won't get anything done today except give a pictoral tour of the hydro set up. I have to wait until Greg gets up because if I fall down the hill taking pictures of the hydro, he won't miss me until he gets hungry. That reminds me of a similar episode, back in the day...
It was a warm, overcast day on the island we lived on. We had a droopy little beach house looking out on the Gulf of Mexico. Must have been a Sunday, everyone was home, sleeping in. I woke up, got my coffee and went to sit on the deck. The gulf was glass calm. Sitting on the sand in front of the house was our brand new, 18-foot ocean going kayak. A sleek yellow water toy. Hhhmmmm. I could see pods of bait fish popping out around a bouy and thought, "I should take that thing for a spin out around the bouy and back."
I finished my coffee and grabbed the life vest and paddle, shoved off onto the calm, warm gulf. No waves whatsoever, and the water was so clear I could see the white-sand bottom as I eased out and started paddling towards the bouy.
I paddled away, nice easy strokes. Gliding. Peaceful. Nice kayak! Ten minutes later, something seems off, not quite right. The bouy is way to my left,then farther to my left, then behind me to my left. I try to turn the beast of a kayak but I can't. I can't make any headway. I notice the feeling of wind, but there are still no waves and the shore is getting really, really far away. I realize that I am caught in some weird current, and there is, just my luck, some bizarre cross-wind just on the surface pushing me further and further out. Now I'm panicking, and paddling like a mad woman! Turn it around, get the nose into the wind. But I can't. I hate this fucking kayak. Now I can't see the bouy at all. The house is a speck on a sliver of beach. Far, far away.
Strange things go through my mind. Did I bring my cigarettes, 'cause I might be out here for a long time. At least this thing is yellow, someone will see me, maybe? Jesus, I wish I had a beer!
I ease one leg into the water and use it like a rudder, and paddle hard, trying to turn myself into the wind. Now, had I been a thinking person, I would have just unbuckled and physically turned my body around on this freaking ridiculous toy. But who can think when you are on your way to the Yucatan Penensula in a giant bobbing bathtub toy? The muscles in my arms are burning.
What did we pay for this thing anyway?!?!?! I pat my t-shirt pocket under my life vest. Nope. No cigarettes. What a shame. I drift. I try the leg-rudder thing again. WHERE IS MY FAMILY!??? They won't even miss me until they want food! And by then I will be out in the middle of the fucking Gulf of Mexico. Won't that be embarassing? "Where's Mom," the boys will say. "I don't know, maybe she went to the store," Greg will say, not bothering to look and see that both cars are there and the kayak is gone. "I hope she gets back soon, I'm hungry," they all say.
Then the wind shifts, and while I lose a few more meters of gain time going sideways, the kayak finally slips around and I am pointed towards shore. Two hours after pushing off for what should have been a ten-minute paddle, I drag myself up the beach, up the stairs to our house. Sweating, red, blotchy, and raging, I open the door. There they are. My family. What are they doing? They are eating pretzels and playing some assinine video game, Greg included.
"Hey! Want some coffee," Greg says. He glances away from the video game, "What are you sweating for?" After a mini-screaming fit, they pretend concern and I make pancakes and sausage and we have a brunch before they take off to go fishing, leaving me with a sink full of greasy dishes. It was the last time I took the kayak out.
Now...to the hydro...below are pictures of the simple system that provides me the electricity to write my emails and posts offline. Originally, a welder in town fashioned what he thought a turbine should look like. Crude, a good effort, but wholly not workable. It is too heavy, not balanced, and just plain old inefficient. A friend installed a Pelton, and some other gadgets I can't name. The mice had a field day while we were gone a month and a half, and while I didn't want to put out poison, after I saw the damage to all the electrical down in the hydro house, I felt I had no choice. Our friend set up a pan of water with a couple of heating elements to draw excess electric when the batteries are charged. So far, and until we do some re-arranging of equipment and ramping up, we run this computer, the TV, DVD, keep a kitchen light on all the time, and flip on bathroom, or reading lights as needed. I am sorry to the techno folks, but I don't know anything more specific except I can flip on a light and not have to drag a candle around as I cook in the early darkness.