Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Never Ending Projects and Distractions

First let me say that I am writing this post under duress. One of my daughters has threatened to withhold posting pictures of my new granddaughter on Facebook if I do not post a new blog entry soon. Actually, I have been thinking about my next topic for a few days now, but hadn't realized how many days had passed since my last entry. Time flies when you are having fun (or getting caught on client projects).

While, the 'Never Ending Projects' in this post's title could refer to the fact that the list of projects in our new lifestyle will probably never end, I am actually referring to a few projects on the current list that seem to be going on forever, and also those that have been transferred from old list to new list several times without ever getting started.

But let's start with some completed accomplishments first:
1. Our Solar Panel Array
Thanks to another 20% off coupon at Harbor Freight, we have completed the size of array we had planned for. There are now 18 panels which fills the length of the wall on the south deck. With all these connected into our batteries, our charge controller now shows we reach 'float mode' most afternoons. This means the batteries are charged to capacity.

Woo-Hoo! The charge controller
shows 10.1 amps coming in
on a sunny afternoon.
The next items on the solar power list include (a) purchasing more golf  cart batteries since we have the capability of storing more power during the 'float' period and (b) determining what trees we want to take down on the south side of the property that are currently causing shade to fall across the panels at various times during the day. With the sun traveling lower in the sky each day, we are seeing more shadows on the panels. As these are about 50 foot oak trees that are about 25 to 30 feet from the house, we will probably hire a professional to take them down. Remember the last tree we took down that was blocking the panels?

2. Our Torpedo (Bullet) Bucket
After we pulled the old submersible well pump, we had determined it had been 200 feet down. Assuming the hand pump we want to replace it with would have to go to the same depth, it will cost us about $2,000 in equipment and piping to get it in place. In the meantime, we have constructed a tripod over the well and attached a torpedo bucket that is raised and lowered using a windlass (a piece of equipment usually found on sail boats for letting out and taking up rigging ropes).

The torpedo bucket is a long narrow bucket made out of PVC piping that fits down the well shaft pipe. Once it is lowered, it automatically opens a valve to fill with water, and once filled and raised back to the surface, there is a mechanism at the top that opens the trap door at the bottom of the bucket to release the water.

Our first water from the well!
The bucket holds 2 1/2 gallons of water, so while not the easiest option for getting water right now, it does ensure that we can get water directly from our property at any time. One other side benefit to this project is that we determined the water level in the well is actually at about 100 feet down, not the 200 feet that the submersible pump was at, that will reduce the cost of our final well pump solution by quite a bit.

Maybe Alan can market these.
Let us know if you want to order any!
3. Our Home Office
Our office is now set up and fully functional on our 12 volt system. We have a power strip that supplies 12V within our office. Alan created a dozen pigtail adapters; one end is a standard 120V type plug to go into the power strip, and the other end is a cigarette adapter socket to plug in our 12 volt equipment. We have connected in our 2 laptops, two auxiliary 20 inch monitors, two desk lamps, two area lamps, two small fans, a shared printer and a label printer.

Yes, this room is the biggest power draw in the house, but so far, we have never drained our batteries, even when we are both working at night. We do keep power usage/conservancy in the back of our minds while working, like only using the larger monitors when they are beneficial for work, such as when writing code, and turning them off and using the laptop screens for Facebooking, etc. There is a sliding glass door just visible on the left side of the photo that leads to the deck on the north side of the house.

And now for some of those never ending projects:
1. My Kitchen Cabinet Hardware
I can't wait to see these all attached!
6 down, 36 to go.
There are a total of 42 drawers and doors on my kitchen cabinets, none of which have ever had any knobs or pulls installed. When I went to buy knobs and handles, I was a bit surprised at the cost of the hardware and at the vast array of choices. One day I noticed Hobby Lobby had an entire aisle of unique and colorful knobs and pulls and I came up with the idea that I wanted to put a different knob on each drawer and door. And so my quest began of collecting 42 different knobs. I made it more difficult by specifying that they had to be the style where the screw was separate from the knob so that I could use hanger bolts (a new hardware term for me!) to screw them into the cupboards.

Hanger bolts are threaded like a machine screw on one end while the other end is a wood screw. Therefore, I can thread each knob onto the machine screw end and then screw them into the cabinets. This eliminated many of the Hobby Lobby knobs which have bolt style attachments permanently affixed that are designed to go through a hole drilled in the doors and then held in place with a nut inside the door and excess bolt length sticking out to catch your hand on. It was probably a good thing I decided not to use any that were this type because my collection would have been much too 'wild' with all the knobs being multiple colors, etc.  This way I have a mix of more traditional style knobs and the brightly colored ones from HobLob.

One other stipulation that has drawn out this project is that I had set a price limit of what I was willing to pay for each one. On my birthday, I did allow myself to buy a couple that were over this limit and that brought me up to the total number needed, so this project actually has an end in site now. So far, I have installed 6 of the 42 knobs. I was going to complete the rest this morning, but as I want to see more pictures of my granddaughter, that project has once again been delayed so I can get this blog out (thanks Andi...).

2. Painting Our Floors
In my last blog post, I described the process I came up with for cleaning, prepping and painting our floors. So far, I have only painted one of the five rooms that need to be done, and areas wise it is probably about an eighth of the total floor space, as the living room is much larger than the office (the room I have finished), and the three bedrooms which are also still on the list. Plus, in the office I only used one coat of paint and no polyurethane top coat. I dubbed this first floor 'experimental' to determine if multiple coats and a clear coat are needed. While the office floor is 'fine' I have determined I will not be happy with the same results in the other rooms so I will take the additional steps on them.

We are prepping to install our wood burning stove in the living room, but last night Alan said "No rush, but we should paint the living room floor where the stove is going before we install the stove." He may be thinking 'no rush' but the last few night have gotten down to about 50 degrees so I am now inclined to move the living room floor project higher on the priority list.

3. Assembling Furniture
The sofa came fully assembled, but the recliner,
ottoman/storage and side table chest did not.
You may recall a couple posts back we purchased a lot of 'some assembly required' furniture. While some of this assembly has occurred, there are still lots and lots of sundry parts and pieces waiting in our guest room, aka warehouse. As we had to open several of the boxes outside and move the contents into the house piece by piece as the boxes were too heavy for us to carry up to the deck, we have to be careful to not rearrange the parts awaiting to be assembled lest our kitchen island end up with shelves from the bedroom wardrobe closet. The good news is we now have a living room to relax in. The bad news is, we now have a living room to relax in, which leads to the other topic in my title "distractions".

As we become more and more comfortable based on newly completed projects and find we are coming up with less and less 'needs' we want  to conquer, it is easier to set a project aside in order to explore the area or have some down time in the evenings.

Lets see, what has distracted us this week:
1. My birthdays
When preparing for my trip to Haiti several years ago, I discovered I had been celebrating the wrong birthday for 49 years. My actually official birthday is recorded as the day after the day my family always believed was my birthday. (A long story that involves being born at midnight.) With this knowledge, rather than changing my birthday, I now celebrate both, even though my son informs me that I am now aging twice as fast now. So, this week, Alan took me 'to the city' on both birthdays and we started checking out various BBQ joints which are prolific around here.

2. Picking up Garbage
Some may think this one needs to go up in the never ending chore list, but to me it is a good excuse to drop what I am working on and go outside for while. We did have several rainy days this week so I have not been able to do this as much as the previous week. The current 'pinch' count is at 1700, an increase of only 400 this week.

3. The Day-to-Day Stuff
While wanting to work on various projects, I need to stay on top of all the day-to-day chores around here. As we move deeper and deeper into this lifestyle there are some weekly and daily chores that take longer than they did in our old life. For example, laundry. While in the old life I would throw a load of laundry in the washer, forget about it and then throw it in the dryer an hour later. OK, usually a few hours later, there were distractions in the old life, too. In this life I can not throw it in the 'washer' and find it magically cleaned and rinsed when I come back an hour later. I am tied to that chore for a couple of hours depending on how many 'loads' I am doing that day.

4. Watching "TV"
The last time we were up north, Alan loaded a mini series we have been wanting to watch, The Hatfields and McCoys, onto his tablet. Now that we have a sofa, we have sat down in the evenings after dinner to watch this. We usually stopped each nights viewing when the tablet shut off due to a low battery.

Maybe I will add a blog page to show completed puzzles.
5. We Started a Puzzle!
I love jigsaw puzzles, but very rarely start them because the can become a major distraction to me. However, since we started preparing for this life several months ago, I started collecting puzzles with plans to always have one set up, especially during the winter. Last night, I was working in the office and Alan pulled out one of the puzzles and started working on it. I finished my work and joined him, and so our first puzzle project has begun. I am sure this will not be a never ending project but it will be a distraction.

Well, hopefully I have written enough to earn some new pictures of Hanna on Facebook. But then of course, that creates yet one more distraction....


  1. I love the office! OK - quick question...which I may have asked...is wind power viable there?

    1. Hey TJ, good to hear from you! Unfortunately, we are way down in a steep valley and no hopes of sustainable winds. I have commented to Alan several times that the Ozark Mountains feel more like very tall hills to me (similar to what I grew up with in Western PA). His response is 'large hills with very deep valleys'. We are in one of those valleys. our property heads up steep hills both in front and behind the house.

  2. TJ, Alan here...
    There's an old folk saying about the Ozark Mountains: "It's not that the mountains are so high, it's just that the valleys are so deep."

    The Ozarks are actually a very flat plateau. In fact, get this, another name for the Ozark Mountains is the 'Ozark Plateau'. Erosion from weather and rivers carved DOWN into the limestone plateau, forming great valleys. When you are in any of these valleys, you get the illusion of being surrounded by mountains.

  3. I have some folks at work who could create some wind for you! LOL