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:
   87 pounds across slick snow pack
Tuesday, March 18 2014
By recent standards it was a relatively warm morning, and Gretchen was out so long with the dogs on their morning walk that Eleanor returned on her own, looking a little concerned. Eventually I set off down the Stick Trail with the backpack frame and the battery-powered chainsaw to harvest some just-in-time firewood. I came upon Gretchen just north of the Chamomile. She said she'd been lost. The snowpack had concealed all the usual indications of where the trail runs, and she'd ended up in a Bermuda Triangle near 41.92112N, 74.105573W, a place where the only landmark is an old five gallon bucket. The sun was blazing powerfully in clear blue skies, so I suggested that next time if she gets lost on a sunny day she hike consistently away from the sun, a path that will inevitably take her to Dug Hill Road (or recognizable landmarks near it).
I felled an old dead Chestnut Oak about 150 feet south of the Chamomile and just west of the Stick Trail. After bucking it into pieces (along with some very old and dry Flowering Dogwood, which would be a great firewood species if it grew larger), I lashed it to the backpack frame with the four bungee cords I carry with me. The wood made for an extremely heavy load, though I discovered a good new way to get to my feet from a sitting position: use my arms to pull myself up a small tree. I had to be very careful about choosing the right steps on the walk home because some of the frozen snowpack had formed an slippery, impenetrable glaze and to step on it would invite a loss of footing and (with that load) a potentially life-altering fall. Back at the house, I weighed the pack and the wood on it came to 87 pounds, by far the largest firewood load I've carried on my back so far.

Later in the day, while Gretchen was sunning herself (and possibly napping) in the greenhouse, I went on a second firewood gathering mission south of the Chamomile and east of the Stick Trail, where the bulk of what I gathered was tinder-dry White Pine. The little chainsaw suddenly opens up a world of very marginal sticks and branches, whatever happens to protrude from the snow, so I also added a number of small-diameter pieces of oak and perhaps chestnut. The weight of this load ended up being less than 70 pounds, though I didn't weigh it.

This evening when I went to do some web work in the laboratory, I discovered that the hydronic heating system was not working correctly. Indeed, it probably hadn't been working for days. So I went down to the boiler room to investigate. The boiler itself seemed to be working, but for some reason the circulator pump for the upstairs zones wasn't responding when the relay controlling it switched on. Initially I assumed the pump had died (it's a green model made by Taco), but before going and buying a new one, I thought it best to test what precisely was coming out of the Honeywell R845A relay box. I soon discovered that something in that box was the problem, not the 20 year old pump. To investigate further, I had to remove all the wires from that box and extract its circuit board. Once I'd done that, the problem was obvious: one of the solders on the relay had failed. It had actually turned black and burned a little moat around itself, causing a permanent electrical isolation. To fix it, all I had to do was resolder that one joint. I included a little piece of wire in the solder joint to strengthen it further. That was a gratifying repair: it was fast, it required no spare parts (unless you count solder), and it saved the several-hundred-dollar cost of having a professional come and replace several things that didn't need replacing.

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