Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Path of Least Resistance

Caretaker’s Log, Saturday, May 3, 2014

I’ve been dreaming recently of taking showers. I wonder if this has a very practical interpretation. I’m getting a slower start this morning. My hands are swollen and hurt. Is it spring or the ricotta cheese I put in last night’s dinner?

9:00 and it’s already 51 degrees.

When I check my email there’s a message from Karen saying to check and see if the breaker is on in the Radio Room and to test the radio phone’s battery charge.

I put my boots on and trudge across the yard to Willow Cabin. I go inside and into the Radio Room. I slip the breaker and presto! Power. The phone works. I’d had this strange feeling since it died that the answer was as simple as checking the power and making sure it was plugged in. Only I didn’t know how it was powered or what to check and I couldn’t follow the phone lines through the walls. Knowledge, in this case, is quite literally power.

The rest of the afternoon I spend checking on and waiting for the battery to recharge. It’s a restless chore. I don’t know why I can’t just let the charger work its magic. I must be afraid of overcharging the battery. I just want it to be fixed. I want to put everything back together and away. The ground squirrels fuss at me for all the times that I go from lodge to cabin to generator shed and back again.

I see two red headed cranes. They’re elegant, long necked, exotic, too far away to get a good picture. I spy on them with the aid of binoculars.

Then it’s done. The battery is recharged. The phone still works. Relieved, I take the charger back to the generator shed and think my work for the day is done. But no. There’s a red light blinking on the Trace PC. An error message, and the wild hydro’s voltage is really low.  
Oh lord, fix one thing, break another.

Manual in hand, I try and fix it myself, to no avail. So I call Loring, no answer. Then I call Karen and she says she’ll look over the manual and try Loring too. After we hang up I try Loring again and get him on the phone (oh yeah, the phone is fixed, just in time). He helps me get things back in order. I call and update Karen just minutes before six. She says, “Have you been up to check the Kinky Creek Dam? Greg was wondering if the water input was low making the voltage low as a result of the dam being blocked.”

I’ve been watching the Creek. I’ve been up several times to check the dam on especially warm days. And I’d just asked Loring what to watch for and what exactly to do with regard to the Kinky Creek Dam and the upcoming spring flooding, and had been reassured by his clear instructions, but Karen’s words worry me. And, suddenly alarmed that I’ve let the grating get clogged, and that soon the flooding will burst the dam, and then what will I have to fix? I gear up and trot hastily, breathlessly, and with some swearing up to the dam. There’s slick mud to deal with, snow-melt wetted grass, knee high caves of snow, and some hard ground to make my way easier. I leave the Lodge at 6:03. As I go, I keep checking my clock, I have to be back at the Lodge to take the weather at 7:00. I push myself along quicker. 

My thighs protest the struggle with the snow and I’m out of breath. 

At the dam, everything is fine. There’s still some ice in the pool that feeds through the grate and into the creek. The grating isn’t yet cleared of snow. The water slipping through the pipe is free running. I trace my own steps back, stepping into the deep imprints I’d made on the way up, walking over my tracks on the trip down. I go fast, lumbering down the mountain like a drunken bear. My boots are completely soaked, my socks are wet. My pants legs are filthy with mud and snow melt. 

I reach the Lodge at 7:00 almost to the second, just in time to record the weather.

The ground squirrels are everywhere. Chasing each other, eating, darting about, chittering. The cat doesn’t seem perturbed by them at all.

Today’s troubleshooting please be over.

After my evening walk around to check that things are still doing their jobs, I go stand in the back yard and look out over the river. Two beavers are eating along the bank. One slips into the water and takes the curve of river that heads him in my direction. I edge nearer the river edge, wanting to see him closer, but it startles him. He slaps the water with his tail – a warning to me or a warning to his fellow beavers? Or both.

It was a strange day. But the phone is fixed. The voltage—though still low—looks to be rising. And the Kinky Creek Dam is still not completely uncovered from winter. Maybe tomorrow.

Phinehas calls. He always gets me laughing. The laughter, the conversation, is a nightcap suited to the end of a restive day.

Caretaker’s Log, Sunday, May 4, 2014

The wind is a demon
a maelstrom
a strong, sweeping beast

I take my time with my coffee, let off the hassle of yesterday. I finish listening to the last two hours of the audiobook Gaudy Night. I spend some time online, work on a couple of computer based projects.

Since Kinky Creek is becoming louder and fuller, I gear up. This time I wear my rainboots, and make a more relaxed trip up the slope to the dam. As much as possible, I follow the path of least resistance. I find semi-dry ground, avoid the slickest mud, trudge through the low (rather than deep), slushy snow, follow in the footprints of my trip the day before.

The dam is still fine. There’s nothing to clean out yet.

While I’m up here, I hike around. 

Go over the side of the hill I’ve never been over before. 
See things from a new vantage point.
Up above me a red tailed hawk soars. I think of Yeats and part of The Second Coming. The part that says:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer.

I make more noise than a nearsighted armadillo.

On the way down, I climb up on a fencepost and dump the ice out of my boots, brush my snow damp socks off. My feet are much less wet than yesterday. I drink some of the water I’ve brought along, admire the view, then jump off the fence, follow the easy, though longer path and go all the way back down.

While I’m geared up (snowpants, boots), I put away the water hoses I’d gotten out so long ago when the roof was leaking. I spend some quality time with the cat. I collect kindling pieces that have been hidden under snow all winter near the woodpile and are now visible, available. A ground squirrel gets up and personal. Curious. It doesn’t let my actions disturb its dinner. I check the cat’s food and water. I sweep the floor. I wipe up the mud I’ve trekked inside. I watch a White Collar episode while I eat my dinner. 
I’ve worn holes in the work gloves my mom loaned me. Gave me?

I build up a good night fire. It’s chilly in the early evening.  

After listening to a couple of Dorothy Sayers books narrated by Ian Carmichael and one P.G. Wodehouse, I’m dropping my g’s like the eighteenth and nineteenth century British nobility and saying, “Right,” “Oh gosh,” and “Oh, I say.”

The fingernail moon has a gleamy aura. Jupiter is showing off bright beside it.

Caretaker’s Log, Monday, May 5, 2014

It’s a damp, gray, overcast, and drizzly morning.

I have a cup of coffee, breakfast, and work part of a Sunday crossword. I build a fire to cut the chill.

When I go out to the generator shed to check that the automatic charging is occurring, I add coolant to and start up the generator. I’m scheduled to do the monthly battery equalizing this afternoon.

I start the EQ process at 12:15. I remove the wooden panels from the battery box. I’ve gotten stronger. The first day I was here, Karen supervised me as I did this and the paneling was much more of a challenge. Now I move them like they’re nothing at all. More or less. I take off the long, awkward rubber cover (also easier to move) and set it out of the way. I add water to each battery cell, measuring to make sure I put enough in, hoping I don’t overfill. When that’s done, I replace the rubber cover, lift the wood panels back in place, and tighten the vent pipe. Then I start the generator and put the system on the equalize program.

I should only have to wait two and a half or three hours for the process to complete. I cross my fingers that everything will do what it’s supposed to do.

I go out periodically to check the voltages and the lights. This kind of job, this waiting kind of job when I have no real control over the completion of the program, is strangely stressful. The equalize charge is going sluggishly. There’s a shutdown process to do once the equalize is complete, and until it’s complete I don’t feel I can start a project, or go too far away, or get involved with something.

I eat rice, garbanzo beans, and goat cheese for lunch.

At 5:40 the voltage has finally climbed to high. This should have happened almost immediately. But the system has been running low for weeks.

At 7:00 the lights are still blinking in the bulk mode. I have to wait until that light stops blinking and the float light lights up. I wait. And wait. Hope. And wait.

The generator emits a loud whir and an oily smell. I wonder if the animals are annoyed.

On my way from the Lodge to the Shed I see a beaver, close up, slipping into the water of Kinky Creek. I might have seen three others in the river. Or maybe just two.

At 7:47 the EQ is finally done! I power off the generator and set the system back to its daily program. With relief, the evening is mine.

It’s been threatening to rain all day long. These clouds are misty, drizzle laden, reminiscent of snow.

I eat rice, garbanzo beans, goat cheese, adding tahini and a touch of agave, for dinner. I polish off another can of pineapple chunks.   

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