Thursday, November 27, 2008

Priscilla and Sammy

by Julie

She can infuriate, there’s no doubt of that.

Sometimes, when locked in an intimate embrace, it occurs to him… he can throttle her so easily. He is twice her size. With her petite frame she is as light as a feather. It’s those times when something deep within rears its head – something primal he doesn’t understand but can’t deny. He can almost taste warm blood and flesh in his mouth and the deep satisfaction that he knows will follow. Weird, mysterious feelings.

THEY will disapprove, he knows. It’s not like he lives for their approval, but still, he knows they will disapprove and isn’t sure of the consequences or whether he’s ready to face them.

But, oh boy… what she lacks in size is more than compensated in spirit and imagination. She can run rings around him. It never fails to amaze him how she can make something out of nothing. Sometimes, he is content to sit back and witness this display of life force that drives her. He admires her and goes so far as to emulate her behavior at times.

Still… she can infuriate so! Why can’t she just let well enough alone? Why does she always have to push to the front and take like it’s hers to take? Sometimes, when he’s just drifting off, here she comes with demands. Is a little quiet time too much for a guy to ask? And, what about privacy? Dang it if she doesn’t just waltz in at the most inopportune times! Again, like she owns the place and has ever right.

In the end, he decides he likes her, he really does. She has her tender moments and there were times, especially in the beginning, when she gave him the time and space he needed. Yeah, he should remember that when he thinks she might drive him out of his mind. If she were gone, there would be an empty space in his life. Without her, what would he do with all those hours, days and years that stretch before him? No, the good definitely out-weighs the bad. And, if she gets to be too much, he can just go crawl under the bed.

He gives a deep sigh and rolls over so their backs are touching. With a twitch of his sun drenched whiskers, he drifts off to dream of ancestral adventures he will never experience.

Priscilla. (Larger version)

Sammy. (Larger version)

Near Death Experience

I opened the door and saw dead leaves. Julie commented, "It's dead. You might as well throw it out."

We had been gone for two weeks and had arranged for a neighbor to water the flowers. Everything looked fine except the hibiscus. It appears the plant had been watered but a large plant in the heat of June needed much more water than it had received. Among dried, dead leaves there were six or perhaps eight leaves that were wilted but not quite gone.

I gave it a gallon of water, then a second and after a while even more until it was drenched. A vigorous shake caused the dead leaves to drop leaving bare branches and a half-dozen sick leaves. The next morning the surviving leaves were crisp but had brown dead blotches. In a few days small new leaves began to develop. A few weeks later a blossom formed and opened. For the next few weeks there were neither flowers nor buds among the new leaves.

Hibiscus with seven new blossoms. (Larger version)

In September the buds began returning. Soon, one blossom was opening each day. Then there were two on the same day. Then a surprise. Four blossoms opened. Normally, one blossom will open each day and wither several hours later. On November 16 seven blossoms opened. THe plant is healthy and thriving.

Hibiscus blossom.
Hibiscus blossom. (Larger version)

We have a new threat. Wilted blossoms drop to the floor and attract feline attention. One of our cats batted the blossoms around a few times before getting a taste. After a few days he began eating the wilted blossoms. I kept an eye on him anticipating his gluttony. Now, he tries to knock the blossoms off the plant before they have wilted.

He has an appetite for hibiscus but I have a water bottle with a pump. It's a good thing that cats don't like water.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tardy Response

In response to a not-so-recent post entitled A Good Day I received some questions. Here are my tardy responses.

1. Do you have back-up power sources or do you depend on the grid during low wind periods?

The grid stops about ten miles from my house so I have to provide all of my electricity. I guess 90% of my electricity comes from solar and 10% from wind. I have a gas generator that I use occasionally. I probably run the generator an average of two hours per month. I'll not need it for three months or so and then need it a day or two to fully charge the batteries. I run the generator more in the summer during the monsoon season than I do in the remaining nine months of the year.

Solar array and wind generator.
Solar array and wind generator. The rest of the equipment (batteries, inverter, etc) is installed in the building. The gasoline generator is not in the building but is installed in an addition behind the solar array. (Larger version)

2. Do you ever get cloudy but windy stretches when the solar panels are weak but the turbine is spinning steadily?

Short answer: yes. There is some wind almost every day. There are periods when it's extremely windy with frequent gusts over 30 mph. There aren't many cloudy days. We get about 300 days of sunshine per year or close to 90% of all possible sunshine. On cloudy days and at nights the small wind turbine adds some power. Even if it's sunny the wind generator assists the solar panels until the batteries are almost full. Then the turbine will brake since it's set at a slightly lower voltage than the solar charger. If the refrigerator compressor engages then the wind turbine will begin charging until the refrigerator turns off. One of the ways I monitor my system is by watching the turbine. When I get home after work and drive up to the house I check to see if the blades are turning. If there's enough wind but the turbine is in brake mode then I know the batteries are full.

Solar array tilt adjustment.
Solar array tilt adjustment. Every two or three months I adjust the array to keep the panels aligned with the angle of the sun. (Larger version)

3. What's the wattage of your solar panels?

I have a one kilowatt array consisting of eight panels of 125 watts. I have them wired in four strings of 24 volts and installed on a pole mount. I've installed the limit for the mount and the charge controller. If I needed more electricity then I'd replace the charge controller rather than adding more panels. It's possible to rewire the panels for 96 volts and use a controller than can put more power in the batteries. It's a matter of newer and more expensive technology.

4. How much battery capacity do you have?

I have 900 amps. I installed sixteen batteries rated at 6 volts and 225 amps. Since it's a 24 volt system I have four parallel strings of four batteries wired in series. Thus, 4 times 225 yields 900 amps. Normally the batteries never drop below 80% capacity so I draw out about 180 amps after the sun sets. I've never let the batteries get below 65% capacity. When I'm down to about 70% I prepare to start the generator. The batteries are a little over four years old and aren't showing signs of decline. I hope to get eight years of usage before replacing them. Their lifespan depends on the care if give them.

A final note: If the power grid were extended to my house I wouldn't connect. I like living with wind and solar. Julie knows how to live with the system, monitor the batteries and use the gasoline generator. She's never equalized the batteries nor added distilled water. Those are my jobs. I spend perhaps one hour per month maintaining the system so it's neither difficult nor time consuming.