Sunday, June 16, 2019

Necessity is a Mother

Boy howdy! Do we know how to start a country getaway.

Carburetor cleaner straw - Such a wicked apparatus
Two things happened within 12 hours of each other.

  1. Tammy got impatient and killed the lawn mower.
  2. The glorious Sportsman generator verified that you get what you pay for.
We are on a one week vacation that is mostly centered around a relaxing getaway at the cabin. By all estimates, Tammy should have been able to come out here Thursday night, crank up the generator, turn on the AC, let the cabin cool off, and easily mow the lawn.

It didn't go that way. 
First of all, the generator died over the winter. It did it quietly. We didn't know about it until we pulled it out of the shed and tried to use it. If you're in Texas, you know it goes from Christmas to absolute, double digit hell overnight. So when we needed the generator we NEEDED the generator. It was so hot that we thought we killed the dog. Tammy started our vacation a day early to see if she could get the thing started. We knew it was a spark issue, but she is much more patient than me, and she thought she could solve the problem if I wasn't around.

She got it started! I was amazed, and I planned to end my work week by packing up some clothes, cool drinks and dogs, and heading on out to the cabin. In the meantime, something else happened. The cabin lawnmower ran out of gas exactly 5 rows short of completely mowing the yard. Let me back up here and take responsibility for original fuel storage sin. Many years ago, I put diesel in a red gas can. Not a green one (which is the designated color for diesel cans). I wrote "diesel" on the can with a sharpie. The ink faded over the years. Tammy was in a hurry to finish mowing because hell was quickly approaching.

Always use super unleaded gas in a lawnmower. Not diesel

Tammy accidentally put diesel in the lawnmower.
All you good ol' boys are rolling your eyes and laughing right now.
Don't be so judgy.
She went about the same things you boys would do to save the lawn mower.
Empty fuel tank.
Fill with super unleaded.
Run it.
Let it sputter and die.
Put a straw on the carburetor cleaner and spray into carburetor.
At which point, Tammy describes the straw as shooting into the carburetor and way into the engine. 
I took the engine apart and retrieved the straw, but as of this writing, we still have 5 rows of grass that need to be mowed.
I pulled out another straw that actually belonged in the air filter intake. I can't get it back in there.
I'm not giving up, but I'm not naive. I know we're probably doomed.

That's the first thing that happened.
Now, back to the generator.

You get what you pay for

The generator did not keep running. In fact, it blew out 2 spark plugs. Blew them the hell out. Thus stripping the threads of the spark plug hole. I'm going to try to fix this, but I tell you, it was one hot night. 

Tammy got up and went to Home Depot, at 5:30 AM, and bought the most amazing and basically expensive generator ever. But y'all. This little suitcase sized generator is the best!

First of all, its a Honda. Honda is just a better product. The Japanese don't skimp on quality. They don't throw it together, put a label on it, and sell it to some All-American company that loves to sell us on 'Merica.

2200 watts is really only enough to power our AC, but that's fine. We have solar power for everything else. This little guy runs smooth, is very quiet, and here's the crazy part. The power inversion is so consistent that the AC actually runs better. It never got very cool on the Sportsman. That's because the Sportsman has a Chinese knockoff of a Honda engine. It does not invert power consistently; even though it has almost double the wattage output.

The only drawback to the Honda EU 2200i is that it has a tiny fuel tank. It holds .95 gallons. Yep. A gallon minus 5 tenths of a percent. Weird. However, it's so efficient, that it will go for about 4 - 5 hours in extreme heat before refueling. That's fine. It keeps the cabin almost cold. On the converse, it ran 7 hours overnight. I didn't expect that. I though I'd be up at 3 AM to refuel. I woke up at 7 AM, and the thing was still running on one tank of fuel!

Here's my recommendation. Don't cheap out. If you want to go off grid, pay for quality.
I haven't written in the last 6 months, but this little machine inspired me.
More to come, as I attempt to salvage the Sportsman to be used as a barn generator (yep! We're in the process of clearing a few more acres and adding a barn!).

Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Survival Beyond the City Limits

City is key here. City. What once could be considered a big town is now a real city - Austin.
I've somewhat fallen out of love with it.
Here's why - just because people say something doesn't make it so.

Cool Things to Do That I Won't Do Anymore

  1. The Trail of Lights - What a complete hassle. Crowded. Impossible to get to unless you find a bus lot and stand in line to wait for a bus that may or may  not be able to take you there. 
  2.  SoCo - Douchy at best. That's all I have to say about that.
  3. Canoeing or kayaking on Town... err... Ladybird Lake - People soup. What in the world is relaxing about a thousand people on SUPs or in kayaks?
  4. Restaurant Institutions - There are a handful of old school restaurants left in Austin. I don't know if the new competition has made it O.K to offer mediocre service and food, or if they're at the end of their lifespan. I'm not naming names, but I've lost my warm fuzzy with them.
  5. Hiking the Greenbelt - For starters, how do I find a parking space to do this? And if I can't park, how the heck many people are jabbering about on the trail? Nameste, y'all.

Refining Small Town Life

I started this blog because I love the country. I love our cabin. Frankly, I love Fayette County. It's rural, for sure, but there's something different about it. 

  1. Culture for my fancy self - Festival Institute, Shakespeare at Winedale, The Painted Churches, and elegant shopping.
  2. Kolaches -  Battling it out for the best kolaches anywhere! On the west side of the county and making a strong appearance on the very northeast corner of the county... Weikels! On the east side of the county, with a slight edge due to a speed limit drop to 55mph, Hruskas! On the south side of the county, perfectly positioned to fortify tourist on the Painted Churches tour, Original Kountry Bakery!
  3. The Sunrise - No alarm clock needed. Always spectacular.
  4. The Sunset - Shut your mouth. Put that phone up. 
  5. The People - My mother used to say that the Czech people will open their door to anyone. They're welcoming and friendly. And that is true. They're progressive in their thinking, and that's why Fayette County is so vibrant and wonderful. 

Coming Soon

In the spring, people will flood to Fayette County for the bi-annual Antique Fair. It will be crazy big to the point of input overload. Then the wildflowers will bloom. Then the MS150 bike tour will make an overnight at the fair grounds. 

As summer sets in, Festival Institute will come alive with its summer classical music festival. Shakespear at Winedale will do plays for the people. The summer will come to a close with the Fayette County Fair.

I'm leaving so many festivals and cultural institutions out of this, but it's a blog, and people have a shorter attention span when reading a blog. 

I'm looking forward to the day we can turn our cabin into a guesthouse because we have finally made the permanent move. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Busy Storm Season and a Heat Wave

This is something of a serious rebuttal to a video I saw on a website for urban men. It was instructing on how to create an emergency preparedness kit. What they instructed was something between a plane crash on a remote mountain and the household plumbing going out for a few hours. I feel bad for anyone who took it seriously because the producers did...

The weather folks are claiming we could have a busier than normal hurricane season. "Could." It will be normal to busy. I realize this was mostly an attention grabbing headline. Something to whip up histrionics. We need more of that in our lives.

However, I will take it as a practical reminder to remind all of you that it is time to think about "disaster" season. Somehow we got past the usual Memorial Day flooding; due to a subtropical storm that pushed its hot and dry side to Texas. It's already in the upper 90s here. That sudden temperature spike got me motivated to figure out why our generator had stopped working. We needed it to run AC at the cabin. After one summer of use, it died on us, and I let it sit all winter. Fortunately, it was just a burned up spark plug. Easy to replace.

A Generator is Never a Bad Thing to Own

If you keep a generator at your home as a back up during power outages brought on my tropical storms and hurricanes, it's time to do the maintenance. Generator engines get so hot that I'm going to guess they eat spark plugs. Load up.  If you don't have a generator, you should consider getting one if you live in hurricane prone territory. I'm still a fan of propane because it burns clean, does not require a carburetor, and if you're conservative with what you power, it will run for a about 12 hours on one 15 pound tank of fuel. For those who are not sure why I don't like carburetors, I'll tell you. It is a device that mixes air and gasoline to power an engine. Your car has one. They get gunky. They have to be cleaned. Don't do that to yourself during a storm.

As a a reminder, I purchased the Sportsman GEN4000DF. It has 4,000 starting watts and runs at 3500 watts. That's enough to run a little AC. Or perhaps your freezer or a refrigerator. Make sure to get a pack of sparkplugs. "DF" means "dual fuel." Why would a gas hater get dual fuel? Just in case I can't find propane, I can always run on gasoline. Tammy would tell you that I annoyingly over think and prepare.

This brand has gotten popular enough that the price has basically doubled. I think I paid $250.00 for it last year. It's a pretty simple machine, so running it properly, keeping it maintained with good plugs and proper oil levels, plus keeping the air filter clean should make this a reliable product.

I'm going to tell you right now it's heavy as hell. Buy yourself a little cart to roll it around on, but don't leave it on the cart while running it. It will vibrate too much. Get a helper. Lift it onto the ground.

I provided a couple of Amazon links, and if you want to wait a month or so, Amazon Prime Day will be sometime in July. You may get a good deal on a generator, but that's no guarantee. I think other brands will be fine, too. Check your local hardware stores, farm and ranch, and big box stores. Don't go too small. I'd recommend going at least as big as mine, and if you think you need to power the Taj Mahal, definitely go bigger.

Lighting and Fans

You will not have enough power to run your whole house. Your power supply is limited by the size of the generator, the amount of fuel you have, and your power demand. Get some battery operated LED lights. Why LED? They use very little power. They won't burn out as quickly as the old camp lattern you packed in your attic ten years ago. Don't forget extra batteries!

If you need to use your generator to keep the freezer or refrigerator running, you will not have AC. Sorry. You're going to be miserable. A fan or two can help. Just remember fans will tap into your generator power supply, so don't go nuts on it. A few for sleeping. That's all. 

Food and Water

Don't wait until the day before landfall to get food and water. You can store canned goods and bottled water starting now. Think about it: 3 meals a day X number of people you need to feed. One gallon of water per person per day. I'd get at least a week's worth of supplies. If you don't have a camp stove, get one. They run on small propane canisters. Get 4 or 5 canisters. Academy and Walmart are loaded with these things. I don't see that Amazon has particularly good deals on them.

I shouldn't have to say this, but I'm not going to assume anything. BUY CANNED GOODS. No frozen or fresh food. Anything with a short expiration date is a waste of money. You need stuff you can store for a long time; just in case. You're not making gourmet meals. You're sitting out a hurricane or a bad storm. You do not need MREs. You do not need prepper buckets of freeze dried cereal. Skip that hype. Get canned goods. It won't kill you to eat them for a few days. Don't forget a can opener.

Paper Goods

Toilet paper. Go to Costco.
Paper Towels. Go to Costco.
Paper Plates. Go to Costco.
Plastic Ware. Go to Costco.

Plus hand sanitizer, band aides, Neosporin, hydrogen peroxide, bleach, bug spray.

Get a few flashlights.
And a hand crank weather radio that can also charge your phone.

Finally, keep the gas tank of your car topped off. Usually, there's plenty of fuel. It just may be slow getting to affected regions. It's panicky humans that cause the shortage at the pumps. We saw this during Harvey - in Austin - which was not affected. Panic is a powerful disaster of its own.