It’s that time of the month again.   The Bearded One’s back is out (for the first time in his life), he’s in bed and has been for days (moving all those damn lava rocks),




so for the first time since we moved here a year ago and got the solar system up and working last fall, the monthly battery equalization is all up to me.

“I haven’t pushed the button myself,” he says as he explains to me – how Tom explained to him – how to start our new electric-start, gasoline-powered generator. Our old FOUR-pull start, propane-powered generator is for sale, and I’m handling that, too ($700 on Craigslist).

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We are too old to yank that rope four times out to here. The Bearded One will be 60 in September. I’m not far behind him.

I laugh.  I haven’t laughed much today. The Bearded One has never actually started the new generator. I will be the first. This is funny because I never was able to start the old generator. I have to start this new one today because we have to have it on to equalize the solar batteries. A dreaded procedure we usually do together.

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Tom wrote us a lengthy (but at our reading level) manual called “Care and Maintenance of Your Solar System”. It includes this: Equalization is a process that charges a battery with higher than normal voltage to dissolve scale and electrolyte buildup on the internal battery plates to keep them clean and functional so the voltage in each battery cell is comparable with its peers (equalized!) which makes them perform better and last longer.

The Bearded One is in charge of maintaining and starting the generator, and carefully putting the distilled water in the batteries (touch two terminals at once and it’s all over), and I am the electronics panel person, because it looks like a computer and the Bearded One is computer illiterate. Tom almost always ends up having to help us with that screen. It just doesn’t work like it’s supposed to.

“Living off-grid requires healthy bodies,” I say, riffing on a previous discussion where I panicked about my planned trip to the mainland  to help with the birth of our grandchild in less than three weeks.

I couldn’t leave the Bearded One like this. Our own water and electricity operation requires some effort almost every day – hauling propane and ethanol-free gas, checking the catchment tanks, checking the battery water level and the monthly equalization,

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not to mention the unexpected events like the battery meltdown at the end of December, or the generator not charging the batteries, or the accursed monitor not working properly. How, just 10 days from now, is he going to be able to handle all that, plus the cooking and cleaning? He can barely make it to the bathroom. At least now he doesn’t need the crutches to get there. The happy ending to that dilemma is that our son, aka His Majesty, who still lives on the island, agreed to be on call — even to moving in here if need be – so that I can go.

“Healthy bodies,” agrees the Bearded One, “and a handyman.” He is reassuring me that we can always call Tom or Bruce. Living off-grid does create a community.

“I’ll figure it,” I say. And then, as I leave the house with the generator instruction manual, a flashlight, a gallon jug of distilled water and a turkey baster,

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I stop and run upstairs to make sure Nala is inside. Open batteries full of hydrochloric acid don’t mix with curious cats.

The day the Bearded One’s back gave out, Tom and His Majesty were up here installing the reed ceiling over the heat insulation panels. It turned out nice, like Gilligan’s Island.


The Bearded One hasn’t even been up the stairs to see it yet. He’s moved into the den, and Nala thinks he’s mad at her because he won’t go outside or bend over to pet her.

There she is, on the shelf in the tool area. We meow to each other.

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This week hasn’t been all work and no play. On Thursday, swimming at Pohoiki with my buddy NeNe, the water was way calm, almost like a lake. There were hardly any waves, but dozens of paddle boarders and swimmers and snorklers. And kids out of school. Lots of Hawaiian locals, but also a handful of us local haoles and some happas (mixed race). All the usuals that know us were telling us there was a school of spinner dolphins out there. Big smiles and pointing. Previously, I’ve only seen these leaping dolphins from the shore, and way out. They were close in today. So I swam out! And just 10 feet away, sleak gray dolphins, maybe 30 in all, in a lovely formation, two by two, then a few singles, leaping up and down, circled this group of us.

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Several people had goggles and one woman offered to share. Two kids were goggling next to me and told me all about the little baby, just a foot long, that was flanked and shielded by the others, but giving the elder dolphins some trouble. I didn’t see the baby, but the kids, a boy and a girl, had and told me.  Everyone was treading water quietly, respectfully as we watched. I loved the people around me as much as the dolphins.

On the way home I stopped to get propane, filling one 4-gallon tank I had with me and buying two additional for our stove, fridge and hot water. We sold our 9-gallon tanks on Craigslist yesterday. Heavy things. The Bearded One always loaded and unloaded those.

Okay, so here I am, by myself in front of our electrical system (four US Battery L16 410-amp hour 6-volt flooded lead acid batteries wired in series to create a 24 volt electrical system), and our new generator (Generac 7500 Watts).


I fill a 2-gallon gas can from a full 4-gallon can (which is hard to lift and angle and I’m selling our 4-gallon cans asap).

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Then I angle the gas nozzle into the generator hole, previously located and upcapped, and pull back on the little lever so the gas burps out. And out. Two gallons is enough. It just has to run an hour to equalize.

Fuel petcock switched to the left, check.

Choke switched to the left, check.

Press START. Vrooooooom! She starts, then gets sluggish and I race around and switch the choke off, and the generator is on. Whoop! No pull rope at all.

Next to the battery box. Take off the plywood siding (takes me 10 minutes of loosening C-clamps this first time). Carefully remove spring-loaded battery caps from 4 green box batteries. Shine flashlight into batteries and see water level. Use turkey baster to fill them up. Wipe sweat from brow.


Then go mess with the monitor. Can’t get clear screen. Check instructions again. Try to clear the screen by turning off Battery Disconnect Switch. Nothing happens. Do this several times. Still not working. Sweat.

I turn off the generator and trudge inside. Sweat and tears, but no blood. “It won’t work!” I say.

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The Bearded One says, “You did great. You started the generator! You filled the batteries. You are such an island babe.”

“True,” I say. It was pretty sweet. No man is an island. “I’ll go call Tom.”

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27 responses to “Equalization

  1. Ha! You’re such a stud! Best pictures yet, Bearded One! The Hawaiian life seems to be really agreeing with you now. Is most of the “getting used to new things/new environment” over? You seem much more calm – well, cept for the computer screen part. What’s the WA version of swimming with dolphins? Walking with goats? LOL Keep on keepin’ on, mama!

    • Aloha Kelly! Yes, I am feeling more acclimated. As you say, getting used to things. Familiarity and routine are precious! Lol walking with goats, yes! Being with the herd is IT. Mahalo, and hugs from Hawaii.

  2. Where has your ‘Like’ button gone? I’m sorry to read about poor BO’s back! I have a man here who could fix him in just a few minutes. Really. Wanna come? 🙂 So impressed with your latest job. The size of that generator would scare the socks off me and drops of water from turkey basters? Man, I just know I’d be zapped and all over red rover in two seconds flat. You are DA BOMB! [But not literally obviously 🙂 ]

    What a wonderful experience that must have been – swimming with dolphins! It’s a kind of bucket list wish I have. I don’t have too many of those wishes, but this is one. It’s really working out there for you – well, sans the back thing – and how sensible to downsize on containers. Pity you can’t downsize the lava rocks! xoxo

    • Aloha Pauline! How good to hear from you. 🙂 I seem to be a monthly blogger these days…but everything in Hawaii is a bit slower, on “Hawaii time” as they say. It’s interesting how many people have back magic to offer! The human back just hasn’t finished evolving, seems to me. Dolphins don’t have back issues. And you are right on about no more big rock hauling, no matter if you use a dolly. We are too old. Small rocks only. May you get to swim with the dolphins some day soon…want to come to Hawaii? Love you, and hugs to Siddy and Orlando, too.

  3. You’ve made this side of the grass an amazing journey, girl! 😍

  4. Clever cookie Christie! Poor Keith. A bad back just stops you in your tracks for sure. I hope all is well and you can go help welcome your grandchild into this crazy mixed up world 😍

    • Aloha and thank you, Cathie. Accepting when to really slow down and accommodate your body is humbling, to say the least! “A game changer in all kinds of silly ways,” as he puts it. 🙂 And yes, a crazy mixed up world. I just read about the latest mass killing on the mainland. Look for the helpers — Mr. Rogers advice to children. Hugs from Hawaii, Christi

      • That broke my heart to see that awful event unfold. What part of being a human is lost when someone commits that kind of vile heinous act? Praying for the families of the lost and survivors.

  5. Perfect cyclical community Ms Christi. Lubbly jubbly 🙂 Sorry about the B.O’s back going out but I can’t wait to read about/see that new grandbaby 🙂

    • Aloha, Fran! I’m getting pretty excited, too — about the new grandbaby. What an amazing thing, to live long enough to see one of your children having a child. 🙂 And I get to be at the birth! I’ve never been at a birth when I wasn’t the one giving birth. I’m going to pack light, just a backpack with my computer and a very few clothes. Molly has a closet full I’m permitted to wear at will. I fly to Honolulu (45 min), and then from Honolulu to Seattle (5.5 hours). I live in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!! Amazing. Love to you and the boys, Christi

  6. Aloha, Christi!

    Another HPP person here… Saw a post on the HPP Pals page from you about this blog. I have read only a few posts thus far. Throughly enjoyed them :), and the stick pics.

    I am not a blogger, but I did write one a while back…about some unusual things that happened to me on this incredible island. If you get a chance, check it out and let me know what you think ~ I think you can find it via my ID?

    I really enjoyed your style and perspective and wonder if we might enjoy knowing one another. Perhaps we can meet up when you are back from helping your daughter with the new baby. I am busy until 6/30 😦

    I am Gina Miller, Keaau, on FB.


    • Aloha Gina! I will definitely check out your blog — and look forward to connecting again in mid-July. I found out about the HPP Facebook page when a man in Mountain View happened to read the blog, then looked up the generator ad on Craigslist! lol Somehow that led to advertising sites, and I saw the HPP Friends FB page and studied it a bit. So much more than stuff for sale! Anyway, a great community site. Now off to read your blog! Mahalo.

  7. Christine Widman

    I love this blog about life on property and the work involved.
    I’m not sure I could manage the “fear of shock” stuff. I can deal with javelinas and tarantulas and rattle snakes but generators???
    I am like – WOW!!! The Bearded One said it all…”You are such an island babe.”
    You are. You are!!!
    I am your cheering section.
    And of course , the astounding, beautiful ending…”No man is an Island. I’ll go call Tom.”
    Here too:
    We are part of a greater whole. Our incredible amazing contractors have been here almost all May & June…helping us keep our B&B in good condition.
    And widen the range…you are coming to the mainland for the birth of a grandchild…my 2 grandchildren (& daughter & son-in-law) are now on Oahu visiting our oldest son and daughter-in-law.
    Connections are everywhere.
    Much love…and healing energy to the Bearded One.

    • Aloha Christine! Generators are pretty scary, I soooo agree. Loud, too! We just use it when the solar doesn’t charge the batteries, as in raining all day, or when we equalize, of course. And it runs the electric dryer, which we also only use when it rains for days and days. We’ve used the dryer once, but it’s sure nice to have. In case. Most of the time we hang the clothes on the line.

      Yes, the greater whole. We can’t do everything ourselves, even when we were younger. You have to have the money to pay someone else, or trade. But we don’t have an electric bill, which in Hawaii is big (the most expensive electricity in the USA by far). Propane and gasoline we still buy, though. Have to with the way the technology is, if we want a stove, fridge and hot water. There are solar hot water systems here, too. We just don’t have one.

      I love that your son and daughter-in-law live in Hawaii…and have for years and years. Kama’aina! (long-time Hawaii residents of whatever race.) Thanks for the healing wishes…the B.O. went outside for the first time in 2 weeks today! He’s back in bed now, but IMPROVING. Love you, too. xo

  8. Christine Widman

    Your reed ceiling in an enchantment.

  9. Lovely to catch up with you two again . . . I’m sorry about the B.O.’s back; that’s a big challenge, isn’t it? But I’m happy that you managed the generator. Electricity can be a tad intimidating, eh? My grandparents (and my parents for a while and then me, too) lived off the grid, but not with such sophisticated technology. Life was harder physically, but not so hard emotionally, or so I think, anyway. Have to go; am using Mum’s computer again, as the laptop is being fixed (long story; will have to include it in a post on day). Sending you hugs, love and blessings from a stormy Edmonton, and healing to the B.O., as well. I’m so looking forward to your first post after the baby arrives; I’ve been at five births, I think it is, and it’s a magical experience, for sure. Will keep all of you in my heart. ~ Linne

    • Aloha Linne, and thanks for checking in. I’m looking forward to the next Farmlet post, too. lol I can manage monthly posts, I think. And you’re right, all the solar technology makes living off grid a big easier (in some ways). There’s always the computer screen to trip us up, eh? Hugs to you and your mum. Christi

  10. Great story! I love the drawing of you swearing about the computer. I feel like that a lot when I work with computers, which is everyday at work. Love your stories!

    • Aloha Butch! I’ll tell the B.O. you liked that drawing. Why is it that we can be so evolved and tough, and computers can bring us to our collective knees? Mahalo for the compliment, and big hugs from Hawaii, Christi

  11. What a great post and pictures, Christi! I love to hear about you becoming a grandmother soon and how you swam with the dolphins. That is definitely on my bucket list to swim with dolphins 🙂 I also am so amazed that you started that generator, holy cow! I’m so sorry about the B.O.’s back going out! I hope he gets better soon. I have back problems and it is definitely humbling when you can’t move! Big hugs from Texas! Thanks for writing 🙂

    • Aloha Susan! Mahalo for the grandchild and back wishes…Keith is getting better, slowly. I talked with Molly tonight and she is 38 weeks and hanging in there. I fly on Friday, and get to go to her doc appointment next Tuesday with her. Very exciting! Big hugs back, and thanks for reading. 🙂

  12. Waiting with bated breath . . . keeping you and all your family in my thoughts and prayers. Love and hugs, ~ Linne

  13. Hi Christie, love your chronicles, and if course the art work!
    Best Wishes to the Bearded one on a speedy recovery:-).

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