Monday, March 2, 2015

Trouble in Paradise

Caretaker’s Log, Friday, February 27, 2015

I go check the system in the generator shed at nine o’clock like I do every morning. This time. The normal lights are off. A red failsafe light is on. Uh Oh. Bad news. I go inside and get the manual to see what I'm supposed to do. It tells me that this means the power from the Hydro system is not reaching the generator shed which means it's also not reaching the lodge. All my power is coming from the batteries at this point in time. And the batteries are already down to 70%. The manual tells me to reset a "connect" button. I have to go down into the Wild Hydro pit to do this. I'm suddenly grateful that I've been keeping the snow shoveled off the pit. Down there, I press the button. No magic restart. I press it again. No luck. Third time’s a charm? Nope.

I've done all I know to do. I call Karen. She doesn't know how to fix it either or why it's shut off. So she calls Loring. Loring is the previous owner. He’s also the one who built these systems. Loring calls me. He's not sure why this happened either. Then he tells me to turn the generator on in order to recharge the decharging batteries. Then afterwards to try the "connect" switch again.

Cross my fingers, cross my heart, I hope it works.

The Internet is being especially slow. It takes me several tries to log onto my email and onto my blog site to post a blog. Everything is working to frustrate me right now.

I need another cup of coffee.

It's one of those days when I need to go out and chop some wood.

I make more coffee.

The generator charges the batteries. 80%. 90%. 100%. Full. I turn off the generator and try the "connect" button down in the Hydro pit. Three times again with no results. I try one more time and it works! Thank goodness. Things are back online. For now.

I go chop wood. I chop wood until I'm too tired to stand the logs on the chopping block and lift the ax one more time.

The cat wants company, she follows me around meowing, and I'm just not in the mood.

Loring calls to make sure everything worked out okay. I tell him that it did. And thank him for his help.

I finish off a jar of tahini and eat a full can of pineapple chunks.

I check the generator shed obsessively throughout the rest of the day. It seems to be working the way it's supposed to now. The malfunction was nothing that I did or didn't do. But I would like for it not to happen again.

I put away the sled and bury the ax blade in the splitting log block.

I call my grandmother.

It's already time for the weather.

I make tuna for dinner—the last of it—because it's easy. Easy peasy.

I write. But my mind is wandering. I'm stressing out about the system and feeling overwhelmed with next week's plans. I'm supposed to do the equalize charge the same day that Porgy and the engineers come to evaluate the bridge repairs. It's doable, it just means I have to get up earlier than I normally do. It's not a big deal, but it seems that way today.

I get about 500 words written and then I call it a day.

I drink the last of the whiskey. Gluten-free or not, I've been having some here and there. I mix it with orange juice. My ship friend Josko and his epicurean Scottish supervisor would be so disappointed in me. Whiskey is supposed to be drunken neat.

I settle in and watch some shows.

I eat crackers and cheese. Wine and whiskey.

Caretaker’s Log, Saturday, February 28, 2015

I get up early. I have this sense of stress about all I have to do. It's all in my mind. As stress usually is. I'm also expecting Paul the owner to call. But he doesn't. I also want to make sure the Hydro system is working properly again. Thank goodness it is.

It's snowing lightly.

I spend some time making the monthly sheets to keep track of the weather. There's an actual form from the National Weather Service but there are no extra copies lying about. The data really only needs to be kept on the online system, but I like to have the paper backup to double check things especially when it is time to close out the month, and to keep the records straight in case the Internet goes down.

Granola for breakfast.

I'm just sitting at the computer to work when I hear things. Strange noises. First it's scratching in the ceiling. Probably the mice. Then it's a sound I don't recognize. Helicopter? Airplane? Finally, it registers, becomes clear—the sound of a snowmachine motor.

I look out in time to see the Rangers arrive. It's Mike and a new guy named Jason, an environmental biologist. They come in for coffee. I had meant to make cookies, but yesterday’s adventures took precedent. I feel like I've failed as a host. Mike, bless him, has brought me groceries. I am extremely impressed with his human kindness. To take the time out of his schedule to go to the store and buy me things and then to package them up and bring them all the way out here when he doesn't even know me. It's the kind of kindness that makes me want to pay it forward immediately. He pulls two bags out of his backpack and then says, "This will be the test," as he pulls out a long, rectangular package and hands it to me. He's brought me eggs, wrapped in bubble wrap. A full dozen. Not a single one is broken. He tells me that at the store he ran into a woman who had often taken food by snowmachine into a place where she was the caretaker. "Of all the people to run into at the store, the one who can tell me what to do." He says it like a miracle and I'm thinking it probably is. She had told him that she had bubble wrapped eggs plenty of times and never lost one.

Mike has brought me two apples, a pound of grapes, two oranges, two avocados, a head of romaine lettuce, a head of kale, two bars of chocolate (by luck, even the brand I love), and a newspaper. He's my new BFF.

He and Jason visit for about an hour. I make up coffee, set out a dish filled with spiced pecans, and we sit at the table and talk. And then they're off again to go count the moose. They've seen four in my area. The mama and baby are off in the west reeds. I think they've also seen the brothers who might have separated since I saw them last.

After they leave, I put away my new food. "That was fun," I say.

I glance through the newspaper. Although I scan things online, and keep abreast of what is going on in the world, more or less, reading a newspaper is a sudden luxury. Even if it’s yesterday’s news.

Through the den window I catch a glimpse of the beaver and then it's down in the river out of sight.

Oddly enough, the simple task I performed this morning of making weather sheets for the remainder of the time I’m here and having the Rangers come to call has settled my mind.

The snow falls with more purpose now.

I eat an apple. I eat an orange.

I write.

At six o'clock, I go do the weather walk around. I stop at the generator shed and sigh. The failsafe light is back on. Damn. I go down in the pit and pressed "connect". Nothing. Seven times I press it. Nothing. I take the precipitation bucket inside. Check the snowboard. Pet the cat. Go back to the pit. This time it works. I'll call Loring tomorrow and see what he has to say about getting this fixed.

I eat the last, the very last, of the tuna. I have fresh grapes with it. I'm not usually much of a grape fan, but these are good. Thank you, Mike Forest Ranger, thank you very much.

I go out and check the generator shed. The correct lights are on for now. I wish I could trust that they'd stay running.

I write.

At nine o'clock, I put my coat, hat, boots, and gloves on and go out in the -5 degree temps to check that the Hydro is still on. The waxing full moon is so bright I don't need my flashlight to get down the path. The system is operating correctly. I feel a little better about that. It's easier to deal with glitches in the light of the day.

Back inside, I add some logs to the fire and think I'll settle on the couch with one of the books I downloaded from my library onto my ereader. I’ve found another Swedish author to read.

In a break from my usual nightly routine, I do settle on the couch and read until it's time for bed. I don't watch a show. I don't eat a snack. I don't have any wine.

Caretaker’s Log, Sunday, March 1, 2015

March already. The Rangers said the bears have already started to wake up. Spring is on the way.

I get up early for me. I'm downstairs before eight o'clock. I get the fire and coffee going and then go check the generator shed hoping the Wild Hydro is still online.

It's not.

But it only takes two tries with the "connect" button to get it going again. This may become a way of life, this system checking, I'm not so stressed about it anymore. Not today anyhow. The system cycles into its daily charge routine, but the voltage is low. I record all that's happened and call Loring to update him and also to see if there's a way for me to fix it. He says I'm doing all the right things. That it may be a way of life until he can come out in the spring to rewire and tweak it all. Okey-dokey.

The mama and baby moose are munching red willow in the far north reeds.

I stitch up a few more holes in my coat that have been leaking out feathers for the past couple weeks.

Michaela calls.

I try the things Loring told me to stabilize the system. No go. I run the generator to get the voltage back up. While I'm waiting for that to finish, I do the monthly chores. I check the battery charges in the generator shed. I clean out the grease trap. I add CCLS to the septic system. Tomorrow I'll do the EQ charge and that will be all the monthly chores done.

I talk with Karen and her husband Greg about the batteries, about the system’s malfunction, about doing the EQ. Karen is my standby troubleshooter for that job.

I've just gotten the grease trap doors back on, taken out the trash, and come back in when I see two snowmachine's coming my way.

Good grief, who’s this?

It’s John and Julie from the State Fish and Wildlife Department out doing checks on the elk feeds in the general, nearby area. This was kind of on their way, John says, so they stopped. I tell him the federal guys were out here yesterday. I ask John if he and Julie were involved in the moose count yesterday. He says no, but he was one of the three men in the helicopter that flew over the other day to count the moose. I tell him I probably have a picture of him. "Guy in the orange jumpsuit, that was me."

He says there are about twenty moose in my vicinity. Within about a five mile radius.

He's heard that this place is a weather station and I tell him about that. Julie hardly says a word. They stay about forty-five minutes. They don’t want coffee, tea, or water.

After they've gone I turn off the generator. The system comes back on. For an hour. I'm losing trust, system, come on now. I get it back it online and hold my breath, cross my fingers, and pray that it will stay on all night. Please.

I call Loring to update him and to ask if by chance the system goes offline again, if it will be okay for the night. I'd hate to break everything while I sleep.

I record the weather.

I check on the system.

I see the beaver down in the river.

Karen calls to reassure me that there are options in getting this issue resolved. It's a good thing for me to hear. I feel a little less stressed.

Somewhere, in all of this, I eat the leftover pancakes I'd made for breakfast.

I talk to Phinehas.

I write.

I eat olives, a bowl of grapes, and cheese and crackers for a makeshift dinner.

I go out and check the generator shed at 6:20, 7:12, 8:48, and again at 9:51. Bad news at 9:51. The red failsafe light is back on. I let out a hard sigh. I throw my hands up proverbially in the air and go to bed. Well, after I’ve sat on the couch for twenty minutes reading to pass the time so that I can go out once more to try again. With no positive results. Then I go to bed.

It's been a busy day.

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