Tag Archives: generators

Clothesline Love

“Have you been sniffing stuff again?” he asks.

Scan_20140901

It’s time to do laundry, and I have just announced this fact to the Bearded One, who manages to get absolutely filthy each and every day here. He’s been cleaning up Tropical Storm Iselle debris for three weeks, and has turned the project into rehabbing gardens and tending to the new bananas. Neat stacks of twigs, sticks, and branches dot the landscape now.

Scan_20140901 (2)

“Of course I’ve been sniffing stuff,” I say. I sniff everything, it’s what I do. “You are out of T-shirts. We’re gonna have to do the laundry.”

He pauses and stares across the landscape.  His banana patch is taking off. “Tomorrow.”

P1000464

This is an offer of an actual plan, something he is loath to make, so I pounce. “Done.”

Until then, I will wash out my favorite top and lightweight cotton cropped pants and his favorite soft old underwear and hang them on our new clothesline. Which he rigged between two palms out front between the gate and the house.

Scan_20140901 (3)

Our “simple” off-grid life is still pretty complicated at this point. The solar panels are installed but not yet hooked up to the inverter nor to the battery nor to wires in the house. So we use a small generator to run the water pump (toilet, sink, and shower water from the catchment tank), computer, printer, and fans. The fridge, stove and hot water heater are propane, and will stay propane. The big solar system generator is also propane. But our small generator is ethanol-free gas.

Scan_20140901 (4)

Each week we haul in some combination of propane, gas, and drinking water, and will continue to even after we have the solar running.

Right now I’ve got to start the little generator so I can wash out the favorite clothes and get them on the line. It’s sunny and windy today, the perfect combination.

P1000456

I walk around the side of the house to the utility area where the new catchment tank sits. The bank of 4 solar batteries is still covered by plywood protecting them from Iselle. That’s also roughly where the Bearded One is pondering space for a movable washer and dryer.  On big dollies.

I head under the house and duck walk to the where the little red generator sits on its pallet.  I greet it, check its vitals (are the shims in place that tilt it just the way it likes?), turn the switch to On, plant my left foot on its side and pull the rope. Starts right up. Always a noisy relief.

Scan_20140901 (8)

 

Lightweight clothes wash and wring out easily, but it’s still a lot of work. At least I have running water with the generator on. Clothes washers, in my opinion, are the best invention of mankind.

Scan_20140901 (6)

I’d also like a dryer. Some days are just too wet and humid to dry anything, and I could run a dryer off the big generator. But I could also live without it. Lots of families do. Dryers take a lot of electricity, solar or otherwise generated.

Clotheslines are all over Hawaii. Colorful layers, odd combinations of people’s stuff, the overlap and flap of lives. I love our clothesline. So does the Bearded One. He comes over to help me hang the little tub of clothes. He kisses me from behind as I pin up my tissue thin orange top.

Scan_20140901 (9)

 

I laugh and turn around and sniff his neck, a nice long snuffling sniff — he smells wonderful — then I kiss him back.  Laying it on the line.

Ten Glugs

The Bearded One is all soaped up in the shower when the generator runs out of gas. I know because I am sitting by the lantern in kitchen with our son, His Majesty, and the electric fan stops. Then I hear the Bearded One whistle for help. “Oh no!” I cry. I spring into action.

This is a clear “Mom” overreaction to the generator stopping, and His Majesty lets me know. “Sheesh, Mom. Calm down.” He is yoga man, but he is also a naturally calm soul whose chill presence in the kitchen at Kalani has gotten him promoted to trainer already. He gets up and turns on his headlamp. “I’ll go fill it up.”

Scan_20140720

“Thank you!!”

He pats me on the shoulder, says, “It’s okay, really,” and walks through the dining room, which no longer houses our inflatable bed, but is full of solar panels

P1000342

Scan_20140720 (6)

which we’d hoped to install today, but Tropical Storm Wali has been bearing down on us all week, the tin roof’s wet and too dangerous to walk on, and tonight the rain is supposed to be torrential.

The Bearded One has been preparing for the storm all week, including building a rain-proof box for the solar batteries. He loves storms. Lately, it’s just been hot and humid. The storm was due at 6pm. It’s 7:30 now. The Bearded One gave up and got into the shower.

I run to the bathroom to let him know help is on the way. I am a bit frantic, I admit. This week, on top of the storm preparations and the solar panel delivery, our tiny electrical system died, so we had no running water in the house for a couple of days until Tom told us how to hook the pump directly to the second generator. For those days, we hauled water from the decrepit old open catchment tank (new one due to be delivered this week) to flush the toilet

Scan_20140720 (3)

and drove the 2 miles to Tom’s for a shower. I heated potable water on our propane stove for washing dishes. Living off-grid means learning your own infrastructure really well, hauling in drinking water (8+ pounds per gallon…), monitoring the propane supply, and the ethanol-free gas for the generator, and it’s still a bit overwhelming to me.

“How are you doing?” I ask my sudsy sweetie.

“Tell His Majesty that from the small gas can, the generator takes just ten glugs, and then it’s almost full.” His mind is still under the house, where he was juggling fuel cans and engines and electrical wiring all day with His Majesty while Tom installed the fourth window upstairs.

Scan_20140720 (4)

P1000345

P1000346

P1000347

I spent the afternoon cooking a spaghetti casserole while Tom’s dog Rufus watched me from the lanai and waited for the drippings.

P1000314

All of us took timeouts to check the radar on the computer to see how the storm was materializing. Up to 12 inches, some said, but it seemed to be dissipating. Still there was plenty of flood risk, which energized the Bearded One. Our house is kind of down in a hole.

Scan_20140720 (2)

“Once the lava is saturated,” he said to me with absolute earnestness, “all hell will break loose!”

“Got it,” I say, race to the storage room window which is right above the generator, shout “Just 10 glugs!” His Majesty shouts, “Okay!” and the generator is going again in minutes. He comes in and we resume our conversation in front of the fan, which is a lifesaver with no breezes and humidity that turns cardboard limp as tissue. This is the tropics.

Rain drops begin to plunk and then pound on the tin roof. His Majesty’s eyes flicker under his headlamp and he smiles. “I love that sound,” he says.

“Here it comes!” shouts the Bearded One from the bathroom.

We laugh. “He is so funny,” I say.

His Majesty agrees. “His timing is great.” Then he gets his guitar and walks out to the dark lanai. It’s 7:40 and we’re heading to bed before too long. No TV, no lamps. The Bearded One sits on the lanai, too, listening to the rain and the guitar music and even plays some himself. It’s been a long time since he’s touched a guitar. I can feel his happiness.

When the rain stops, we listen to the ocean, which is extra loud, crashing into the lava cliffs of the Puna coast less than a mile away. “Concussive,” he says, giddy. “Want to go to the ocean? See if we can get blasted?”

I say to the boys, “Probably time to go shut down that generator. Save the gas.”

“Almost ready, my sweets,” says the Bearded One. “Just one more glug.”

Scan_20140720 (5)

A Palm Reading

It’s Summer Solstice morning and our oldest daughter calls from Seattle at 7:30am to say that her step-sister had her baby. A healthy boy with red hair and a Dutch name. I am bursting to tell the Bearded One, who isn’t back yet from his morning walk.

Mornings have been my hardest acclimation time, but since we’ve been in the house 3 weeks now, I’m not even taking the anti-anxiety pill anymore. Still, this is a real upper, we love this red-headed sister, and I holler to the Bearded One out the open window — She had the baby! — the second I see him opening the gate.

Scan_20140622

The Bearded One grins and waves. I can’t tell if he’s heard me or not. Between us are palms galore waving and rustling in the wind. The house builder was a member of the Hawaii Palm Society and the acre is chock full of palm trees, thick and thin, tall and short, palmate leaves (like a wide-spread hand and called fan palms) and pinnate leaves (like bird feathers and called feather palms).

Suddenly I remember the other huge excitement we’ve been waiting on and shout again, since he is closer now, by the newly delivered gravel pile, “Did you get the newspaper?!”

P1000262

He holds the Hawaii Tribune-Herald up and I whoop, and then repeat my news about the baby. “Over eight pounds,” I say, forgetting the exact number, “and a bit of red hair!”

I offer to scramble eggs and fry toast and the Bearded One accepts eagerly and starts to read the newspaper at the built-in island between the kitchen and the dining room (which has no dining table but instead houses our bed until we get many projects finished upstairs).

Scan_20140622 (2)

I have a day of cooking lined up, potato soup and fried rice. We like the Hawaiian Portuguese sausage and I’ve used it in omelettes, burritos, spaghetti, and hash browns.

It’s good to see the Bearded One enjoying a morning newspaper, but I need a bit of hot water and ask him to go turn on the decrepit Paloma, whose pilot light does not stay on.

P1000248

“Done,” he says and hops right up. I’ve got such a good life, I think. The Bearded One and Tom will install the new Eccotemp propane flash hot water heater tomorrow.

The generator is working again after having stopped because of not having ethanol free gas and getting clogged.

P1000249

A gem of a man in Hilo fixed it immediately when he heard our tale of it being our only power until we get solar, which is still several weeks away. Friends and family fill the waves washing ashore here with love, and I am reading our 79-year-old neighbor Jim’s novel, which is an honor. He has a fibrillating heart, is a self-proclaimed survivalist, he likes to talk story, and he is a character. The manuscript sits on the end of the kitchen island. I’m on page 27 and there are 133 pages, single-spaced.  I’ve read several chapters out loud to the Bearded One late at night, around 8pm.

He returns and I fill the dish tub with hot, soapy water. Washing dishes as I use them helps keep the mosquitoes away. Which we have plenty of, and I have bites, but I’ve learned a protocol – ice, wet washcloth, itch cream. He is humming the song we’ve both had in our heads all week, “You Can Do Magic,” by America. “You can have anything that you desire,” he sings as he plops back onto the stool.

I cook eggs and toast as the Bearded One reads. Our first pet, a gecko, hangs out on the kitchen island.

P1000244

He likes the Bearded One’s Coke and the morning bagel that I put out to defrost. Geckos are Hawaii. All homes have them. They hunt bugs relentlessly. No roach would last 60 seconds in our house.

Scan_20140622 (3)

The wind blows through the palms and I listen to the doves calling and cooing.

“Ha!” says the Bearded One, and quotes from a Letter to the Editor, “The council’s rush to enshrine its slavish subservience to the shrill hysteria from an army of aging hippies living in Puna!”

Scan_20140622 (4)

“Is that us?”

“Yes, I believe it is,” he says.

I bring over the Bearded One’s breakfast and look at the front page of the Puna paper,

P1000257

a Solstice article about the dedication of a landing pad for extraterrestrials down in Kalapana. We’ve been there a lot.

We agree that this new baby being born on the very cusp of the Solstice is a good sign. We’ll read his palms.

Scan_20140622 (5)