Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Lightning Strikes

I was intending this morning to launch today's post from Claudia's very nice comment talking about the outhouses of her childhood- loads to talk about there, for sure. Even more than you might think, since my father used to teach Sanitary Engineering, and I got to listen to his students' blunders at dinner. My head is just full of sanitation.

But then, coming back from a trip to town, the road started getting wet; while I was away from the farm for a couple hours, a small intense thunderstorm had passed over the farm. It was obvious from the ground that there had been a heavy rain- big puddles were still visibly running, draining into rills everywhere.

There'd been no sign of this storm when I left- so- I didn't have my rubber boots along. If I'd tried to walk home in my leather boots, they'd have gotten soaked through, and messed up. These boots are old, worn, the beeswax leather dressing is long gone; and very comfortable.

It's a good walk to the house- particularly if the ground is wet. We have 3 parking options; 100 yards away, 1/4 mile away, and 200 yards further than that. There's rock on the road only in to the 1/4 mile spot, beyond that, the road is grass sod, which means you must never never drive on it when it's too wet; you'll wreck it and it will never recover.

So I'm looking at a 1/4 mile walk on soaking ground, still muddy from the winter thaw- and cold - in my bare feet.

Cool! Have to write about THIS, now. See, I set it up this way, quite on purpose. This is one of the aspects of my situation where almost universally people look at me like I'm more than just a little bit nuts.

"You set up your house so you HAVE to walk at least 100 yards to get to your car?! On PURPOSE??! And the worse the weather, the farther you have to walk??!!!?"

Yes I did.


Because I'm lazy.

Seriously. I'd rather not walk that far, particularly in lousy weather. If I could avoid it, I wouldn't do it.

That, however, is something I see as an increasing problem in our world; our ever growing insulation from nature. In my lifetime, we've seen air-conditioning invented; then become an absolute necessity. There are loads of kids out there who cannot conceive of summer in the city without full air-conditioning.

Besides all the energy load of the machines, and the ozone destroying refrigerants; all the heat pumped out into the city so that meteorologists now see them as "heat islands" on their maps; these kids do not know what it is to be HOT. And to have to deal with it.

Or cold. In winter, we go from our heated houses into our attached garages, get into our pre-warmed cars; drive to the underground parking ramps, scurry to the elevators (heated) and shiver into the offices, complaining about how miserably cold it is, without actually having been outside more than 30 seconds at a time.

As a biologist, I can assure you, we can tolerate a lot of heat; and adapt to a lot of cold, and human skin does not melt in the rain. But more and more, kids are genuinely unaware of that.

I don't think that's a good idea. And I doubt it's good to be so comfortable, all the time, even for folks who DO know it. I really think humans are a part of nature. And I really think we need to stay in touch with the rest of it.

So, being lazy, I knew I would avoid having to cope with lousy weather just like everyone else- unless I absolutely couldn't escape it. So I have never made a good road in to the house.

My wives are/were kind of uniformly opposed to the idea; but I think secretly they like it, partly because it gives them irrefutable ammunition when explaining how much they put up with.

And, because, they both have experienced the undeniable joys of cold wet muddy feet, the moon slipping through clearing storm clouds, brilliant stars in the absolute silence of 10 below zero... once in a while. There are, of course, also the miseries of driving rain getting under the umbrella while you struggle with a huge soggy child in your arms, and biting winds with the authentic danger of frostbite.

It can be miserable. But the joy of reaching home, through it all; reaching safety, and warmth- I think more than makes up for it. You really APPRECIATE the house and the roof, believe me. I'm very much afraid most of us never even notice - either the house; or the rain.

Boy, we do. And today was pretty comfy, really; my feet got good and muddy, but it wasn't that cold, and the robins were hopping around in the apple trees I had to walk through. The dark sky was beautiful, with lightning showing still as the storm moved off. The air was crisply clear, the smells uniformly of earliest spring, with winter sludge washed away. Great. And when I got home, barefoot and pants rolled up to my knees, my 2 year old greeted me- "you're dirty!! I clean." And she went to get a paper towel, and got to work wiping my feet. This is not anything we've taught her; she just did it.


The triumph of philosophy.

After a little sit down, some dry socks and my rubber boots, I started the next chore, which was a visit to the greenhouse. The greenhouse is one of the ways we pretend to make a living; it's not a hobby, it's a business; has to be tended. Daughter in rubber boots too, off we two went. This is a hike, also; not quite a quarter mile. And also planned that way. Exercise is good for you, you know. Mine is enforced, which is good, because I'd avoid it otherwise.

One of the reasons I needed to tend the greenhouse right now was to turn the well off. The greenhouse is off the grid too- the well runs on solar power, and a battery bank; if you leave it run when you don't need it, it'll run the batteries down.

You have to pay attention to what you're doing, pretty much all the time. And, even when you do, sometimes lightning strikes, and messes up your plans.

That is exactly what happened. When I went to shut off the well, I found it was not, in fact, running.

Uh oh. Check the switches- hm. Everything is turned on. No water; and it was working when I left.

Not good. Greenhouse in production mode- no well.

And here is where we run into one of the realities of living off the grid- your safety net is pretty small- or non-existent. There's really no one handy I can call to come and fix the well; it's a 24 Volt DC pump, and it freaks the local well people right out. They won't touch it. Fixing it; and keeping the greenhouse electric system working, is my job. Nobody else.

So; life is on hold; the well MUST be fixed, as quickly as possible. I have to do it, can't delegate or hire. I have other things that are just as urgent. But this has now jumped to the top of the list.

Since I put in a new well pump just a couple years ago, it's not likely the pump has gone bad. The fact that the well died during an electrical storm strongly suggests it was a lightning strike somehow getting into the pump wiring. Sure, it's protected, but lightning will do whatever it wants, really. Checked the fuses- nothing visible on either end of the circuits (fused in 3 places, because of lightning storms...)

Going to have to wait til tomorrow, now; get out the multi-tester, find the fault- probably have to drive in to town for fuses. I HOPE.

Reality keeps intruding. Philosophy can be a pain in the neck, too.

My usual rationalization - "so, who wanted to be bored?"


Anonymous said...

Just a little comment on the air conditioning thing... I live in Europe and my boyfriend is American. My only visit to the States was to Florida, when it was reasonably warm, around 80 degrees. After a couple of days I realized that I needed to carry something warm with me at ALL times because I couldn't go into any place without freezing to death!!! Every place I went to had the temperature set so unreasonably low, and everyone seemed perfectly comfortable with it except for me, that I started avoiding it altogether, mostly because I couldn't handle such drastic temperature differences.

I know that is not healthy for people, as I'm sure you can confirm as a biologist, not to mention the enormous and completely unnecessary waste of energy. I've never lived with air conditioning, even in very warm places, and that's the way I like it.

So perhaps this is a little off topic, but I guess I'm just posting it out of frustration with the abuse of air-conditioning in America. Mostly, this bothers me because one day I will have to move to America and then I won't be able to avoid it... Unless peoples attitudes changes drastically.... So on that note, I hope your blog can contribute to that. Keep it up, and know that you have a reader in Europe...

hoorayparade said...

I was just directed to this post from your post on March 2, 2008.
I just wanted to say that this is the most lovely entry I have read on here since I have discovered this site.
I really appreciate how deliberate you are about everything.
Thank you.