resorting to a generator
Monday, August 29 2011
It was still the 19th Century when I woke up early this morning and began my day. It had been a cool night and the grass was soggy from the dew. The winds of yesterday were now just a memory, so first project of the young day was to resurrect the four sunflowers that had been flattened in yesterday's storm. I cut down saplings from the nearby woods and used tied the sunflowers to these. One of the sunflowers seemed to break off almost completely as I resurrected it, so it might not recover, though the others seemed to stand a chance. I also resurrected my beautiful pepper plant, which produces peppers nearly as big as bananas that (unfortunately) have very little hear.
I thought I might also be able to resurrect the Staghorn Sumac that had fallen across the steps down to the brownhouse. It was a good twenty feet tall, so it wasn't going to be easy, but it seemed like it might be possible if I could just get the angles right. So I tied a rope to its trunk about halfway up and then ran the rope up to a pulley I attached high in a nearby White Pine. Simply pulling on this rope was not enough, so later I had Gretchen pull on the rope while I attempted to lift the tree. It was impossible. I gave up and cut the tree into pieces so as to clear the way to the all-important brownhouse, yet another of the unwittingly-prescient household improvements that is making our situation not quite as dire as it would otherwise be.
With household water pressure gradually dropping to zero, this morning I washed last night's dishes in the yard, using water from the woodshed rain barrel.
At some point this morning, Gretchen complained that our refrigerator was beginning to smell, so I tried to hook up a 120 volt supply for it using the more powerful of my two UPSes, rated 300 watts. I hooked it up at the circuit breaker box because accessing the refrigerator electrical plug would have required moving the refrigerator. Unfortunately, it seemed my UPS was not up to the job, and I could not get the refrigerator to turn on.
Fortunately, though, it turned out that someone Gretchen knows over in rual Rhinebeck (whom she met through farm sanctuary work) had a spare generator that she didn't need; it seems the east bank of the Hudson had been spared the worst of Irene's fury.
So we rounded up the dogs and drove off towards Rhinebeck, taking our usual route. The electrical wires were still lying on the road in the curve at the bottom of Dug Hill Road. And Hurley Mountain Road had been reduced to a single lane in multiple places where trees from the steep slope above had fallen across it and only partially been cleared.
But when we tried to get over to US 209 on Wynkoop, we found it blocked by a manned checkpoint. So we continued north on Hurley Mountain Road until it too was blocked, this time by a large yellow Ulster County highway crew truck parked perpendicular to the direction of the road. Beyond it lay a neat little gap where a bridge (41.939585N, 74.0705W) used to be. All we could say was "Holy shit!" and turn around. We ended up having to drive past our house on Dug Hill Road, take it to 28A, and get over to US-209 via route 28, some of the lanes of which were closed.
We managed to buy gasoline at the Citgo near the intersection of 9W and 209. At $3.69/gallon, it was surprisingly cheap. I'd expected there to be more of a spike in local gas prices. I filled the tank of the Subaru as well as a five gallon metal gas can I'd bought at a yard sale and the a gallon plastic gas can.
There were a few signs of minor flooding on the east side of the Hudson, but almost no signs of wind damage. As for the generator, it was big 4500 watt monster capable of delivering 240 volts as well as 120. It was heavy and I needed Gretchen's help to lift it into the back of the Subaru. While we were there, the woman who was loaning it to us on behalf of her friend also allowed us to fill up water containers. Then we stood around chatting just a bit too long considering that the contents of our refrigerator back home weren't getting any fresher.
Back at the house, it didn't take me long to get the generator working and supplying power to the fridge. At that point I hadn't eaten in a long time, something Gretchen had sensed. But she'd made me another delicious vegan grilled cheese sandwich!
Gradually I hooked up more things: the freezer, the solar hot water circulator pump (so it wouldn't boil over), and the DSL router (so we'd have our own internet). Everything necessary was now working exept the well pump, but I couldn't jerry rig a connection to the big-ass 240 volt connector on the generator, so that would have to wait.
Meanwhile Gretchen had gone over to Susan the memoirist's place in Bearsville to swim in her heated salt-water pool and take a shower. She also tried to find me the 240 volt plug, but they didn't have it at one of the Woodstock hardware stores, which was open despite having no power (customers were being assisted by flashlight-weilding employees).
At some point I took advantage of generator power to drill holes, power-sand and dimensionally-reduce the new door for the Gunther guest room. At another point I sat out in front and completely disassembled an old Hewlett Packard Office Jet printer/fax machine I'd bought back in 2000 when Bathtubgirl and I were in the process of buying a house and needed to send a lot of faxes. By now it had become old and unreliable and it had in any case been replaced by a newer hand-me-down fax/printer given to us by Gretchen's father. I hoped to salvage some stepper motors, lasers, gears, and the always-appealing carriage rod.
Gretchen cooked another spectacular meal, making pasta and (for me) using yesterday's stew as a sauce.
This evening our friends Michæl and Carrie (whom we know through KMOCA) came over with a cooler full of freezer items to store in our freezer until such time as their power gets restored. They had a horror story to tell us about Jacinta, the woman who runs the local BRAWL women's armwrestling league. It turns out that the house she shares with her companion (also named Michæl) is on the floodplain of Rondout Creek and it had been flooded with 31 inches of water on its main floor. When they went to look at it, they found inches of muck on everything and the refrigerator lying on its side. In effort to salvage irreplaceable items, they'd spread out a collection of letter to dry, a technique that worked for some items, more or less, depending on the ink.
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