Woodworth Lake mergansers
Sunday, April 24 2022
location: 800 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY
Since yesterday, we'd been charging the Bolt at 120v (so as not to exceed the rating of the inverter). The Bolt continued to charge through the night, but at around 7:00am this morning it ate too far into the battery and the inverter called bullshit, turning off all power to the cabin. So I got up and unplugged the Bolt, giving allowing the inverter to restore power once more.
It was so warm this morning that I didn't even bother starting a fire in the woodstove. (It wasn't perfectly comfortable outside initially, but the passive solar coming in through the many south-facing windows soon had it feeling nice in the great room.)
My big project for today was to add a BME680 environment sensor to the watchdog ESP8266 I'd built yesterday. The sensor detects not just temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure; it also measure organic molecules in the atmosphere, which seemed like a good thing to have in a cabin with a stove where it's easy to leave the burners blowing unburnt propane. Without too much work, I'd soldered pins on the BME680 and modified the watchdog code to ship its data to my RandomSprocket.com backend.
Ramona was the last of us to get out of bed, and I sort of shamed her into finally getting up. At that point it was nice enough to throw open the front door and leave it that way while we encouraged the dogs to join us on a walk. The dogs were very slow in following us and didn't get anywhere near the radio tower (the place we walked to). A little behind the radio tower, we saw a plastic building on a platform. So we walked over there to see what it was. It turned out it was a plastic hunter's blind built on a wooden platform. Inside it was quite warm just from passive solar heating. There were a few spent shell casings on the floor and a paper target. Gretchen was appalled, wondering what kind of man thinks it's sportsmanlike to set up in a building like that to shoot at deer.
After I'd gotten the watchdog system working to my satisfaction, I turned my attention to a project I hadn't been able to work on all winter long: installing the dog door. I could remove the door from the door jam without concern for cold air, lay it on the picnic table, and cut a rectangular hole in it. I'd assumed the door was jacketed in steel, but it turned out it was a foam-filled vinyl door, meaning I could cut it with conventional saw blades made for wood. This was all very easy, with the only annoyance being that the foam seemed to contain glass fibres that lodged uncomfortably in my skin.
Meanwhile, the local bird population was gradually waking up to the fact that the bird feeder had been refilled with all sorts of delicious seeds and even bits of fruit. The chickadees had all known about the feeder for months, and had seemed to be running it like the mob. But today I saw a couple other species there as well. One of these looked to be either a female goldfinch or some sort of warbler; he or she set up shop at the feeder and just hung out for like a half hour. Another species I saw there was a nuthatch.
Gretchen had been down to the lake and reported it was now ice-free. So at some point I went down there to see what it was looking like. I made the mistake of not bringing the binoculars, which meant I couldn't identify any of the four or five pairs of some sort of bird I saw out on the water. Whatever it was, each pair kept to a very small part of the lake and periodically dove under water. It featured a lot of white on its body but was riding too high in the water to be a loon. Also, the female looked to be drabber and browner than what I assumed to be the male. There were probably yet more bufflehead ducks, though from what I could see, that is just informed speculation.
I'd brought a lightweight metal chair with me (it had originally been on one of the decks of the Watergate) and decided to sit in my dock construction site and wait in hopes that one of those pairs of birds would appear near me. Eventually I was rewarded when a pair of what looked to be hooded mergansers came swimming around a corner. (They were both reddish brown, suggesting they were either both females or included a male whose summer plumage had yet to arrive.) Obviously these were not the birds I'd been seeing elsewhere on the lake, since neither featured any white feathers at all.
I walked northward along the lake to a spot where I could spy on one of the whiter birds through the shoreline hemlocks, and managed to get fairly close before they swam away. I was pretty sure by now that these were buffleheads. I stepped gingerly beneatht he hemlocks trying not to snap a twig, a previously unseen duck was spooked by my proximity and flew up and away; this looked like maybe it was a wood duck, though it could've been a female bufflehead.
Back at the cabin, my watchdog system was over-reacting to network issues, so I added some code to make it less likely to reboot the Moxee when attempting to store data at RandomSprocket.com. Instead, if it experiences such an error, it then checks to see if it can load the RandomSprocket.com homepage, and only if it then fails does it reboot the Moxee hotspot.
Meanwhile Gretchen and the dogs were out on the deck or in the yard enjoying the sun.
I'd figured out how to dial back the power draw of the Bolt when using the 240 volt charger, and this was allowing me to charge the car much faster than at 120 volts without exceeding the capacity of the 8 kilowatt inverter. This did, however, drain the battery even in full sunlight, since the car was slurping in electricity at twice what the fully-powered solar panels could provide. Eventually the battery would hit its lower limit, the inverter would call bullshit, and turn off household electricity entirely. The solution was to only let it it charge this way for a limited amount of time and then give the battery time to build a charge back up. (A better solution, of course, would be to figure out how to automate all this.)
At around 5:00pm, I began cleaning up the cabin, and at around 5:30 we began our drive back to Hurley. We started with 154 miles in the battery, a number that (for various reasons) climbed as high as 167 on our way (mostly all downhill) to Amsterdam. It dropped back to 154 as we passed the Pattersonville Rest Area heading eastward.
Gretchen wanted to get some spices refilled at the Honest Weight Food Co-op, so we stopped there in Albany along the way. Unfortunately, we waited to do our dinner shopping in the deli until after we'd gotten normal groceries in the other parts of the store, and by then it was after 7:00pm and the deli was closed. So instead we made a meal out of tempeh "chicken" salad and various pre-packaged pasta dishes. I focused mostly on the macaroni and cheese, which required a considerable amount of salt to be any good (I managed to get some from the dining area). We dined in the outdoor table area with our unleashed dogs at our feet. At some point I noticed a pallet of e-waste in the parking area, and from that I grabbed a Netgear WNDR3400 WiFi router. (Unfortunately, it doesn't include gigabit ethernet ports, but it includes a USB 2.0 port and can be reflashed with an open source DD-WRT firmware.)
Back in Hurley, Powerful had made a rigatoni pasta dish featuring faux sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, and black beans(?), but not red sauce. Of course, we'd already eaten, but I'd probably be having some tomorrow.
A diagram of the complete ESP8266-based Moxee watchdog (with disassembled Moxee cellular hotspot, BME680 weather sensor, and relay module). Click to enlarge.
The hooded mergansers that came swimming by. I waited until they were some distance away before snapping a photo with my phone. Click for a wider view.
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