Power Preparations

I’m talking about electrical power, not any sort of super-whammo-dine prepping advice.

One of our concerns since moving to Virginia, has been keeping the house going when bad weather hits. We’re on a well and septic system, so those are not a direct concern. However, it does make us even more dependant on electricity. No power = no water!  Eventually, we’ll build some alternatives for the water situation, but we needed something quick and inexpensive.

By now, you’ve probably jumped to the conclusion of “Buy a generator!”  Which we did. Got a 6kW Briggs & Stratton at Lowe’s. But it’s not as simple as buy one, buy some extension cords and you’re done in our situation. We’ve got that well to consider.

Here’s where some of that half-assery in the upkeep of our house comes into play and the problem (half-assery) becomes the solution. You see, at some point in the history of our house, the pressure tank for the well system was replaced and it was done very half-ass.

The well runs off of one 20 amp circuit breaker and it’s only 120V. I was able to easily find where the wire came down in the crawl space because some buffoon cut it and used wirenuts to connect two strands of wire from there to the pressure switch attached to the tank to control the well pump. Laying in the dirt. Ugh.

Step one was to turn off the breaker, remove the wirenuts and verify the wires were dead – no power. Next, I installed a junction box like the original morons should have.

Here’s where I think I got pretty clever. In stead of connecting direct to the well, I put in a 20 amp rates receptacle (very important – most household receptacles are only rated for 15 amps). Next, I put another junction box by the pressure tank and connected a length of 12 gauge, outdoor rated wire to the pressure switch. The other end got a 20 amp rated plug and will normally be plugged into the receptacle.

Using some of the leftover exterior grade 12 gauge wire, 29 amp rated plug and receptacle ends, I made up an extension cord just for the well. When the power goes out, all I have to do is unplug the well from the house and plug it into the extension cord from the generator! Easy and it’s also safe and legal as there’s no way to reverse power the house. I’ve also gained a receptacle in the crawlspace for any future projects.


And I’m Back

Yes, I’ve been gone for over a year. But what a year it’s been! We’ve moved to Virginia, sold our house in Colorado and bought a new (to us) house.  Here’s some of my thoughts on this experience:
1) The right real estate agent makes all the difference. When selling, talk to more than one agent. We interviewed three and went with the one that we got along best with. He put up with our nonstandard requests and had our house under contract in two days above our asking price. Here in Virginia, we were looking to rent with an option to buy because we refuse to have two mortgages at once. We ended up keeping the rental agent to be our buyer’s agent because she was such a nice person.  Even after the closing, we still talk to her often.
2) Presentation matters. One reason I think our house sold so quickly is the fresh paint, new carpets and fresh refinishing of the hardwood floors. It sparkled.
3) The right contractor is worth their weight in gold. The couple we bought this house from did not choose well and then didn’t follow up on the work they had done. Permits weren’t filed. Inspections weren’t done. It’s as if they did 90% of the job and called it good. Luckily, my wife ran into a general handyman at the gas station and he’s turned out to be invaluable. Ill try to give you a flavor of the “half-assery” done to our house in future posts.

Haven’t had much to say for a while

OK, the wife gave me one night away so my son and I decided to revisit the Goose Creek portion of Lost Creek Wilderness again.  First time we made it back to a site where they attempted to dam an underwater portion of Lost Creek around 1900.  The project failed, but the old bunkhouses remain.  There’s a quarter mile side hike to get to the actual dig site, but we didn’t make it two years ago.  The boy was only six at the time and just getting there was enough hiking.  Last year we didn’t even make it to the bunk houses.  We got about half way there and had to turn around due to a medical issue.  This year we made it to the bunk houses AND did the side hike as well – Success!

RouteHere’s the route from the Goose Creek Trailhead.








DSC00866Coming out of the Hayman Fire scar heading towards Goose Creek.








DSC00867Goose Creek








DSC00868I hiked the whole way in Fila Skeletoes instead of boots this year.  I’ve been running in them for a while, but hiking in them seemed a little iffy.  It worked out, but my calves are still a bit sore.  The cold water feels good!






DSC00881Columbines in bloom.







DSC00888Tonight’s fire brought to you by ESEE Knives and Fiskars!







DSC00882There must have been an old wagon trail back here – no way you could drive in today.






DSC00883Today’s kids can’t live without pixels.








DSC00895After many travails with the fire – poor wood choice for fire starting – we’ve got some bushcraft TV going!






DSC00901Usually, he eats Pop Tarts cold, but today he wanted to warm it up.








DSC00916Heading off to the old dig site.








DSC00917Yep, that’s a long way down.









DSC00920Found this cave near the dig site.  It’s seen a lot of use.








DSC00930Old steam powered windlass.









DSC00936Camp packed up, ready to go.








DSC00937My low cost rig – HELLCAT mod on a Down East ALICE frame.  I can’t wait until the boy is big enough to carry his own sleeping bag (or I’m rich enough to afford lighter gear than Coleman and military surplus!)






DSC00944So glad I took Friday off from work to get in before the crowds.  The parking lot was full and cars were parked on the side of the road for a quarter mile when we left on Saturday!






All in all it was another good hike, but the heavy gear is really wearing me out.  Fifty pounds for an overnighter is way too much.  The military sleep system gear works great, but I know I could cut the weight in half.  Same for the Coleman tent and the Kelty air pad.  The Hellcat isn’t too bad at 8lbs, but the suspension sucks.  I thought I was being pretty careful but ended carrying some things we didn’t use – boots in case the Skeletoes didn’t work out, an Emberlit stove, Trangia alcohol cooker and fuel.  I think I could cut some weight by ditching the tent and putting us both in hammocks, but that will have to wait for warmer weather. Still a good trip and I’m proud of my son for hanging in there, singing silly trail songs, and sharing a bunch of “Teamwork High-Fives” with me.

A Week of Continuing Ed.

OK, first I apologize for taking so long to get back to you.  It’s been a week since my last post, but it’s been a busy one.  Most jobs these days require you to do some form of continuing education to stay abreast of what’s going on in your field and that’s what I was doing this week.  While I’m technically an analyst, I don’t get to do a lot of analysis day-to-day.  So a full week of reviewing analytical techniques, examining cognitive biases, learning a few new tools, then spending two days doing a full capstone project was very useful.  By the end I felt like that kid on The Simpsons – “My brain’s full, can I go home now?”

During my Navy career, I learned a lot of theory about electrical motors and watched some truly talented technicians work on industrial sized motors.  My Skil circular saw crapped out a few weeks ago and I was about to chuck it out when I stopped and decided to at least take it apart to see what was wrong.


Pretty quickly I found the motor brushes were destroyed and that’s why it wouldn’t run.  No brushes mean no electricity getting to motor windings means no roundy-roundy as we used to say.


A quick web search turned up a place called eReplacementparts.com where they had the replacement brushes I needed.  It only takes removing two screws to pop the new ones in and it was good as new.  In the picture below, you can see two empty slots where the brushes go.


Here’s the new brushes installed.


And here’s the saw back together and running like new.


To recap, I brushed up on some old skills, learned some new ones, and saved a nice chunk of change by repairing a tool instead of buying a new one.  Oh, and the Super Bowl is on.  A good week.


Inspired by Jack Spirko’s 13Skills.com site, I’m taking a stab at blogging about the things I’m going to learn this year.  I’ve got plans for gardening, home repair, camping, and shooting this year.  I’ll take a few pictures and let you know what I learn along the way.