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:
   pledge and prayer with the police
Wednesday, April 1 2015
My Lightroom/Webapp client came over today for his weekly meeting (usually the meetings are on Thursdays so Gretchen isn't around when they happen, but I had somewhere I needed to be tomorrow and Gretchen was gone today). The plan was to "release" our app today, but at the last minute there were a couple bugs that I needed to deal with, but within a few hours I'd dealt with them.
Once that was done with, I took advantage of the sunny (almost springlike!) day to do the monthly emptying of the ashes in the woodstove. Though I'd only burned about a quarter of cord in the past 26 days, the stove produced ash at a rate of 33.6 pounds per cord. Last month, the wood produced ash at a rate of only 16.67 pounds per cord. The wood was a little different this month; it tended to be a bit more rotten, so perhaps it contained a lower burnable carbon-to-mineral ratio. But there is no way that rate could have been half what it had been in February. The ash production rate remains a mystery. As I've done before in the face of this mystery, all I can do is continue to tally the data.

Number of daysAsh
Est. firewood burntEst. firewood/day
Nov 14-Dec 19 20133613.5 lbs0.27 cords29 lbs
Dec 20 2013-Jan 22 20143320.5 lbs0.41 cords48 lbs
Jan 23-Feb 19 20142824 lbs0.48 cords66.23 lbs
Feb 20-Mar 20 20142916 lbs0.32 cords42.63 lbs
Apr 21 2014-Aug 16 201411810.6 lbs0.21 cords6.94 lbs
Aug 17-Dec 12 201411820.8 lbs0.41 cords13.62 lbs
Dec 13-Dec 26 2014145.8 lbs0.116 cords32.02 lbs
Dec 27 2014-Feb 2 201538 (31)13.75 lbs0.275 cords27.96 lbs (34.27 lbs)
Feb 3-Mar 5 20153112.25 lbs0.245 cords (actual firewood burned closer to 0.75 cords)31.12 (inaccurate)
Mar 6-Mar 31 2015268.4 lbs0.168 cords (actual firewood burned closer to 0.25 cords)24.97 (inaccurate)
Figures in red limit the calculations to days of actual firewood heating.
Gretchen returned early this afternoon from another dull meeting required for her literacy job. This had been with local members of some police or sheriff's organization. Those people might as well be from a different planet, one that is still watching black and white television, eating caseroles, and wondering what will become of the youth and their rock 'n' roll style music. The meeting began with the Pledge of Allegiance, which was a little surprising, but Gretchen faked her way through it even though she'd forgotten the words. After that, a local pastor gave a purely Christian benediction, one that spoke of Jesus and Easter but completely neglected to mention that, for example, Passover begins on Friday. Gretchen said she found the experience "chilling." Evidently that's just how conservative police organizations are. Mind you, this is in New York State only 90 miles from New York City. Imagine what police departments in central Alabama are like!
Later this afternoon Gretchen spent a lot of time down in the greenhouse enjoying the free solar heat (though, because of the way the building is constructed, the sun was not as strong as it had been earlier in the year when it had been lower in the sky). Meanwhile, I decided to check in on my solar hot water collector to see if the hose fix and hydronic fluid recharge was allowing it to work. To my dismay, though, I found that it was completely dead. The pump wasn't running and none of the valves were open. Not knowing what else to do, I opened up the primitive "reptilian brain" of the system. It's the set of relays and switches that directly control the valves and pumps, switching them as a group so that the transition from winter to summer operation can be triggered by two control wires (the "solar sufficiency" signals from my Arduino "solar controller"). But when I looked in that box at all my careful wiring, it was all a big mystery how it was supposed to work. Part of the problem was that some of the electricity being switched is low-voltage alternating current, so it's a harder thing to figure out with a meter. But I traced the wires and tested the levels, and kept being mystified. Why wouldn't it just work? All the wires were there, the power supply was working, and the relay tested okay. Eventually it occurred to me what the problem was: the thermostat pair controlling the slab zone hadn't been jumpered shut all winter long, and, it turns out, the system only works when that thermostat is jumpered ("calling for heat"). I'd disconnected it back in the spring, assuming that it was no longer relevant. (When it was jumpered, it had made the boiler zone heat the slab, and I hadn't wanted that.) It turns out that the way to switch the system to winter mode is to turn the switch controlling solar slab heating to "solar only" and not "solar with oil backup" as I had done. The upshot of all this is that the solar hydronic system had never sent any heat into the slab all winter; it had vented it all into the atmosphere.
Not wanting to make that mistake again, I posted some basic instructions about switching between summer and winter directly onto the box containing the "reptilian brain."

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