Tag Archives: solar batteries

Pinkerbell

“I’m coming, too!” I call to the Bearded One who is spraying his tanned shins with mosquito repellant out where the truck is usually parked.

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It’s between rain showers and I can’t go swimming this Monday morning because the truck is in the shop. The Bearded One just got his hat and stick and sunglasses for his morning walk, so I decide to join him on my new bike that I got for Mother’s Day – Pinkerbell.

“Yay!” he calls back and waves his walking stick. Lots of pit bulls on the Big Island.

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It’s 9:30am, 68 degrees. It’s also Mt. St. Helens Day, I see in our Hawaii Tribune Herald. Thirty-five years ago today Mt. St. Helens blew, and I was in Seattle, just a hundred miles away. In church. Now I’m living less than 25 miles from Mt. Kilauea, currently active and rumbling – 25 earthquakes up there this weekend. Our daughters, one of whom is pregnant and had a baby shower on Saturday, still live in Seattle. I fly to the mainland, as we say here, late next month to welcome this grandchild, whose sex remains unknown.

I check the Magic Number – the solar battery read-out in the guest room – 85%. Excellent. This is the best of off-grid life. The sun charges the solar batteries and we don’t have to run the propane generator, and the rain keeps the catchment tank full. The solar system got some needed fine-tuning last week, and we’ve reached 100% every day since.

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I walk through the tiny hallway of our 900 square foot 2-story Hippie House into the den and admire the working sliding glass door and the windows full of green and yellow light. The crocus looks like it’s on fire.

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I step out onto the newly finished lanai. There’s the washer and dryer. And there’s Pinkerbell, dry under the new tin roof, ready for a spin.

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Pinkerbell has a kickstand. As well as a basket, 7 gears, wide tires and seat, and is the hottest shade of pink outside of a lipstick tube. We bought her at Target, select Schwinns on sale 25% off, and paid $180 including tax and my Hawaii Bike License ($15) which will come in the mail.

My sister named her, although my brother came up with some good ones, too. My brother and I rode our bikes everywhere growing up in Houston, Texas in the 1960s. My bike was a blue Cruiser, a lot like Pinkerbell. His was a bit smaller and red.

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I’ve ridden Pinkerbell every day since I brought her home on Mother’s Day. I rode her to the labyrinth last week and wowed the women. “Whose Schwinn!?” one of them cried out on sight. I ride my fairy bike up and down our rode a couple of times a day, inhaling the ocean breeze, looking at the vast sky.

Nala blocks me as I wheel the bike down the lanai, then lies on the step and meows. “Shoo,” I say. Nala sleeps outdoors now. Unlike in Seattle, there are no coyotes or raccoons here to kill outdoor cats. Nala will be a year old next month and she is a great hunter and companion, even if she won’t stay in your lap for 5 seconds.

Smoke’s in the air. Our 80-year-old neighbor starts his fireplace whenever it gets below 70 degrees. The Bearded One collects wood for him as he works the farmlet, spreading cinder soil over the lava, pruning the Monkeypod tree,

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cultivating the pineapples (100+ yummy white ones),

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transplanting palms and boosting the compost on the bananas. I wheel Pinkerbell around the house, past the huge mango that rains down mangos when the trade winds come, past the barbecue that’s already rusted, into the yard where the truck usually sits.

A huge dove crashed into it yesterday and busted the sunroof out of its weld. The Bearded One heard it from inside the house and saw the wounded dove, seemingly the size of a small turkey, and its mate fly off. “A great way to use up a chunk of bad luck,” he said.

We head out to the road, me pedaling slowly, the Bearded One marching his happy walk, swinging his stick.

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We meet neighbors and dogs, everyone waves. The Rottweilers croon, the dog named Shane barks and wags hello, and the old man named Richard waves from his lanai with his dog JC. On our way back, a neighbor comes out to the road to introduce us to Kula, a silky soft 9-week-old Golden/Border Collie mix. “We got her at the Humane Society, half price off on all yellow dogs!”

The Bearded One and I don’t want a dog now. Or chickens. Or goats. Just a cat and each other.  We go to the Maku’u Farmer’s Market on Sundays to get eggs and produce and farm honey, and a pizza for him. For now, we’re buying our meat at the grocery store in Pahoa, pasture raised beef, no factory chickens – until we go to Hilo and the Bearded One has to get chicken strips at Safeway. Along with sushi.

I think about these things as I ride my bike over the cinder gravel road, past the new construction.

There are 6 houses going in on our mile-long road. They poured the concrete foundations for two of the kit houses (roughly 1000 sq ft on 1 acre for $200,000) this past weekend. Tiny houses, indistinguishable from the Bearded One’s and my first rental in Seattle 20 years ago.

I get home before the Bearded One, park Pinkerbell back on the lanai and head in. Magic Number? 87%! Such a life.

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First Light

“Come look here.” Tom grins and walks over to the lamp on the kitchen counter. It’s late afternoon and he has been working hard here all day. He reaches for the lamp plug and leans over the counter to one of the new virgin outlets he’s installed over the past weeks to electrify this old off-grid hippy house.

“Is this IT!?” I say, and then run out onto the lanai to call the Bearded One. “Electricity!” I holler, and the Bearded One leaves the site of Moby Dick (the downed cedar he’s making into a jungle gym for little kids) –

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and all the hugelkultur beds (dirt atop rotting tree limbs) –

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he’s constructing from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Iselle’s debris to witness the birth of the first electricity to travel through our new wiring.

Snap. The dining room is bathed in light.

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The dark tongue and groove wood of the room glows. But the most amazing thing is the silence. No generator is on. Silent light. This electricity is from four bright-green solar batteries under the house which cost about $500 each and come charged. They will last 15-20 years if we take care of them well, not letting their charge get below 75% and adding distilled water to them monthly.

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“IT WORKS!” Tom says. We clap and hug and decide to celebrate the moment sitting around the vintage wooden card table I bought at a garage sale last week for $15 —

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and drink Coke (the Bearded One), Mountain Dew (Tom) and potable water (me) and bask in the color and the quiet.

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Tom sat here earlier on this long hot and humid day with his computer, studying electrical connection diagrams. Now he sits back and stares off into space. Sweat streams down our faces.  It’s the tropics.

A breeze rustles the palm leaves outside and then fingers its way through the screens and across the room. “The trades are coming back,” Tom says and the Bearded One and I both pray he’s right. In the six months we’ve lived here, we’ve experienced the first direct hit hurricane in 150 years, a volcanic eruption and lava flow slowly descending Kilauea toward our closest town, and the hottest, muggiest September since the 1940s.

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Tom tells us he’ll be back tomorrow to hook up the big new propane generator, which will fill the four bright-green solar batteries on rainy days.

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Our nine solar panels are installed on the roof, but not hooked up yet. A needed part was shipped Fed Ex priority, but ended up on a barge for 4 weeks, so we’re living on batteries (juiced up with a big generator an hour or so a day) without solar panels.

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This is okay. The Bearded One and I are saturated with new information at each increment of this path. Now it’s learning to nurture batteries for a long life.

Tom packs up his tools and by the time he says good-bye, it’s close to 6pm and getting dark. The Bearded One and I sit down again and are discussing how batteries and fancy electric cables are now a fact of life and that he must get another propane tank since we have another mouth to feed (generator), when there is a loud knock on the door. The Bearded One hops up. It’s Tom.  He charged his computer in his truck all day, and then ended up staying longer than he thought.

He just stands in the doorway for a long moment, looking mildly flummoxed but still grinning as he asks, “Got any jumper cables?”

 

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