Tag Archives: solar

Gutter Talk

Scan_20141112

I’m baking cookies, it’s a gorgeous Saturday morning, the sun is charging the solar batteries, and the Bearded One and Tom – the Boss and the Expert respectively – work to channel our annual 140 inches of rain from the roof into the new 1550 gallon catchment tank. They’re trying to beat a fast-approaching rainstorm.

P1000637

Tom calls the shots; the Bearded One approves them, or respectfully questions them. Mostly they work independently and are silent. The conversation is frequently tool-oriented. Tools were overwhelmingly the main items selected by the Bearded One for shipping over in our 4 foot cube packing box from the mainland.

Scan_20141112 (2)

“That’s a great pair of tin snips,” Tom says, as the Bearded One cuts the pieces of gutter. The Bearded One recently told me of a drill bit extender of Tom’s that has saved the day countless times. He’s got to have one. They share each other’s ladders and saws freely, and know exactly who owns what.

They come in for a cookie break and Tom asks for a piece of paper to sketch the plan.

They’ve already got the new brown gutter installed, which will carry the rain in a Rube Goldbergesque route from the metal roof to the downspout, then flow down through PVC pipe leading across about 10 feet to the big plastic green tank just off the south corner of the house.

Scan_20141112 (3)

At the actual catchment tank opening,

P1000636

the first drops (including leaves and other roof debris) bypass the catchment tank and shoot straight down into a First Flow Diverter which is a pipe that goes about 20 feet and then ends.

P1000638

The first flow debris goes there and the pipe keeps filling and backing up that 20 feet so that it’s relatively litter-free water that heads into the elbow pipe and down into the catchment tank. A threaded cap screws off and the debris is easily removed. Tiny holes are drilled into the pipe to let the water slowly drain out.

Plumbing isn’t the mystery that electricity is. Electricity is magic, completely indistinguishable from voodoo. Plumbing is machinery – simple tinker-toys – but the ingenuity of this system feels magical.

Scan_20141112 (4)

Clouds move in and the guys don’t break for sandwiches until 2:30. Their minds hover over the project as they chew. The Bearded One tells how our solar read-out lost its memory when the generator ran out of propane. As it coughs and sputters, the electrical power it is sending to the inverter starts looking somehow “wrong.”

Tom explains about the automatic shut off, how the inverter is wired to protect itself. “I don’t deal with this,” he says in a little inverter voice, “it could hurt me!” The Bearded One cracks up laughing. Tom laughs, too.

Scan_20141112 (6)

Two hours later and it’s starting to rain. The men rush to get the last pipe blue-glued into place and we watch as the first flow drips out the elbow. Both men whoop and cheer. I love being around happy men.

Scan_20141112 (5)

Island Babe

Sweat beads on my upper lip. Then my entire face seems to break out in moisture, followed by my neck and the middle of my back. We moved from Olalla, Washington on the 47th parallel, to a tropical island on the 19th. We’ve lived in Hawaii 4 months now, 2 months in this house. I haven’t sweat like this in 35 years.

Scan_20140803

“There’s mildew on my suitcase,” I say to the Bearded One, who sits on a folding chair beside the pile of solar panels in front of a fan in the dining room. When it’s hot, the secret is to sit still.

I’ve just come from the storage room where our friend worked this week on the new electric breaker box, and where all our clothes are stored, as well as the twin inflatable mattress that I just yesterday cleaned the bejesus out of. I did that while the guys – the Bearded One, our friend and our son – installed the solar framework on the roof.

Scan_20140803 (2)

P1000384

P1000371

The plan is to put the panels up this week, weather permitting.

“Oh, there’s also a pile of suspect mainland clothing in the storage room,” I add. “We need to just chunk ‘em.” I look my sweetie in the eyeball. His instinct is to hoard. “We need to move them on.”

“What about when we go back to visit?” he protests.

“Wearing mildewy clothes?” I say.

“Good point.”

I’m still feeling a bit gritchy after the generator and water pump conked out last night and showers (or even spit baths!) seemed to become optional.

Scan_20140803 (3)

The Bearded One got it working again, thank the Goddess of Generators. I’m all for natural, I tell him, but even birds take baths! I have standards, I say. We may be hippies, but we aren’t dirty hippies. I’m learning how to live in this climate with 130 inches of rain a year. Which lessons include no upholstery, no enclosed cabinets or storage, hang as many of your clothes as you can, and get wool futons for bedding. Wool doesn’t absorb the moisture. It’s full of natural lanolin.

“And then there’s all these new tops,” I say and point to six lightweight, brightly colored frocks my sister, the Goodwill Goddess, mailed this week.

“Fash-un show! Fash-un show!” chants the Bearded One, grinning from his folding chair.

Scan_20140803 (4)

“Okay,” I say, a smile slowly spreading across my sweaty face, “as long as we sort your clothes, too.”

“Done.”

And so it begins, me parading around in feather-light cotton tops, mixing and matching with equally breezy bottoms. You need so few clothes here, really, I say, as the Bearded One heartily agrees. But it’s when his eyes twinkle and he tells me that he likes how I’ve gained some of my lost weight back that I start to have fun.

Scan_20140803 (6)

I like the weight back, too, I say, and then add, “Your turn.”

He has no trouble jettisoning the pile of undershirts and three precious wool sweatshirts, or two of his three long-sleeved dressy shirts, or even two of his three pairs of jeans. It’s not until he gets to his stocking hat, dickie and gloves, the staples of his life for the past two decades, that he is stumped.

“What if we go hiking up on Mauna Kea?” he says.

I look at him. “A dickie?” I say.

Scan_20140803 (5)

In the end, he puts them all in the give-away bag.

“I love to get to live with you,” he says, twinkling again. “You’re such an island babe.”

A drop of sweat drips from my nose, and I lick it off. “Yep.”