Augh, this hermit business is hard.

Okay, so a week ago last Friday we had this truly absurd flash flood. And among the other damage it did…


It wrapped a big uprooted tree around my little cottonwood, then a mat of smaller plants, all of which served as a proper matrix for tons of dirt and stones. You couldn’t tell the poor tree even had a trunk.

That was nine days ago and I don’t know if the accumulated mess was harming the cottonwood but there wasn’t anything practical I could do while everything was so wet. Thankfully that’s the last time the wash ran, so things have dried out for the most part.

I went in with that little cordless chainsaw to see if I could rescue the tree.

My plan was to cut away all the trailing stuff…

…and then haul the mat away from the cottonwood trunk with the come-along.

My plan didn’t work very well. I didn’t reckon with tons of dirt and rocks, all mixed with pulverized viney plants ripped from the banks of the wash.

So I ended up slicing into the mat and peeling it away from the trunk a little at a time.

I exposed the trunk all the way down then worked the mat away from it, pulling off anything that came loose and cutting off anything that didn’t. At worst I’d see what that electric chainsaw, with which I had been prepared to be quite unimpressed, could do.

It could do quite a lot. By the time I was just completely out of steam I’d emptied only one battery, and had actually exposed most of the tree.


I’ll give it another shot another day. It was time for afternoon chicken chores, but there was another matter I wanted to see to.

Specifically, this…

That little cart has sat deteriorating in the sun for years now, and I always thought it was such a shame. TC brought it up and left it there; it ran when we took it off the trailer, I was skeptical about its usefulness but we deliberately brought it to the meanest hill I know and damned if it didn’t climb it. It’s not an ATV, of course, but it’ll go on any of these dirt roads.

Gasoline costs money, but electricity is free. I looked at that cart a lot. But by the time TC got his solar power working the rats had chewed through the charger cable, and it was none of my business anyway, but I wondered at the time whether the batteries were already ruined and if so how much it would cost to replace them.

TC died, and TC’s son practically asked me as a favor to haul the thing off. But it was too late.

It takes eight 225 amp-hour six volt batteries, or roughly as much battery as you can find in a local household bank. It’s twice the size of even the Lair’s expanded battery bank. You could buy a used Toyota for what it would cost to get this thing moving again, even assuming the batteries are all that’s wrong with it.

I dismounted two of the batteries and hauled them to Ian’s powershed to hook them to the BatteryMinder, because it has fixed batteries I thought were ruined before. But we didn’t even turn on the juice.

Completely discharged, battery electrolyte has roughly the specific gravity of water. Which means it will freeze. Which means it will split the case. These batteries are worth what you can get from a recycler and not a bit more.

Such a shame.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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22 Responses to Augh, this hermit business is hard.

  1. Diogenes says:

    Don’t ditch the carcass. There is one hella motor in that beast, and ANY PM electric motor can be cnvertedd into a generator. Maybe you won’t use it, but someone out there might. And with what you have said about the winds (and I recall desert winds quite well) a small genny set up would help one those days when the sun is feeling lean.
    Just my two cents.

  2. Ben says:

    Yep, I believe that thing takes 48 volts, and you won’t buy eight batteries worth having for under $1000. When working that cart wouldn’t be worth more than what? Perhaps $500? Economics can be harsh!

    And yes, it’s truly a shame. Lots of good parts and a bit of possible salvage there though. If nothing else, the battery jumpers and cables are good to have for future solar work.

  3. Kentucky says:

    I assume you checked all eight batteries?

    Ya never know.

  4. Joel says:

    I didn’t have a voltmeter with me, but I checked the electrolyte levels in all eight batteries. They weren’t all totally dry, but they were all showing plates.

  5. Kentucky says:

    Well, I was just thinkin’ that checking them all out for physical condition such as split cases or whatever might reveal one or more worthy of an attempted electrical renovation. I have on more than one occasion salvaged a battery via the introduction of new acid, but I dunno if you can even buy acid these days. The auto parts places used to sell it, and it was surprisingly inexpensive.

  6. paulb says:

    I would second Kentucky on the acid back in batteries. If there are any golf courses around you might be able to get some marginal batteries there. You could also mount some solar panels on the roof and maybe do something that way that would give you a vehicle that did not need gas.

    The one thing you have a lot of is time.

  7. abnormalist says:

    I’ve got a little chainsaw that probably came off the same assembly line in china. I’ve been very impressed so far. If it had just a bit more oomph it could almost replace my small 2cycle saw.

    the big things it doesnt have is the speedy refuel, chain speed, and the extra 6″ of bar.

  8. travellingmanblog says:

    Joel, from someone who worked with military trucks and their batteries for 18 years, salvage all those that are not cracked case, top off the electrolyte to the correct specific gravity, then put a couple at a time into your jeep (secure them well please) and drive them around a few days so they get good and shaken up, the more vibration the better. Then place them on a battery restorer or heavy charger. The shaking up can de-sulfate the bottom of the plates a bit which is what kills batteries. If you could rig a set of wires to charge while hauling that would be great but I would not want to risk you damaging the Jeep’s system. I will see if I can scrounge some high amperage diodes, that would allow you to rig a circuit to charge the extra batteries without feeding power back to the vehicle system. I have a hunch you will be able to revive a couple of them. But if totally dead for a very long time it becomes more difficult. Scrap value if there is a recycle place nearby.

  9. B says:

    Try charging ’em. You might be pleasnatly surprised at wht happens. Yes, they are totally discharged now. Charge em and see what the electrolyte looks like after that.

    If still bad, then recycle ’em. If not, charge cycle them. You might be able to get about 70% back.

    Srsly. You have enough photons to play a bit, right?

  10. Kentucky says:

    . . . ans I suppose I should mention that while I have re-acidified batteries, I absolutely DO NOT recommend this to anyone else. Nosiree, absolutely not. Nope. Nope. Just relating an old experience of mine from before I became enlightened to all the safety procedures we must all observe . . . for the children, etc.

  11. Mark Matis says:

    Not sure what your equivalent is out there, but Autozone has battery acid for $9.99 per quart:

  12. Joel says:

    Huh. I absolutely did not know that auto parts stores still sold battery acid.

    I know they used to. Batteries used to be shipped dry, and we had to mix the concentrated acid with distilled water prior to charging them. I still recall my tech school teacher intoning, “Pour the acid into the water, not the water into the acid.” But that was back before the invention of dirt. We used to reline brake shoes, too. But no more, and so I thought it was with batteries.

    That is interesting information.

  13. Mark Matis says:

    Sometimes I do actually provide useful information.

    Back on the AC front, I got this from Frigidaire:

    “Hello Mark,

    Thank you for contacting us about your air conditioner. I do regret that it is recommended not to use any kind of surge protectors or power supply connectors. Your air conditioner must be used in a properly grounded wall receptacle. If the wall receptacle you intend to use is not adequately grounded or protected by a time delay fuse or circuit breaker, have a qualified electrician install the proper receptacle.

    Please do not hesitate to contact us in the future should you need further assistance.

    Thank you for contacting Frigidaire. Have a good day.


    John B.

    Frigidaire Correspondence Specialist”

    I sent him a response that it would not be used on a surge protector but instead would be run off a 600 watt inverter that had 1000 watt peak capability for 30 seconds, and that the wiring was properly grounded three-wire. I told him the question was whether the startup current draw would exceed that “1000 watts for 30 seconds”, and am waiting to hear back from him. I got his initial reply and sent my response on Monday, so it might be another day or so before I hear back. I’ll post the response if and when I get one.

  14. Joel says:

    Sounds as if he didn’t bother to actually read your question.

  15. Mark Matis says:

    We’ll see if he does any better the second time around. Based on the claim that it supports “Low Voltage Start-up Yes”, it just about has to start the compressor unloaded and then feed the freon when it’s already running. But as I said, if I hear back from him, I’ll pass the info along.

    If it WILL work within the limitations of your power system, would that be useful to you? Or have you already passed “peak heat” for the year, to the point that AC before bedtime isn’t worth the effort?

  16. Joel says:

    Yeah, we’re well past peak heat now, Mark. Right now it would just be another thing to store. But I do appreciate the thought – and I’d love to hear the answer. Nobody around here runs compressor-style AC. Honestly without running a generator I didn’t think it could be done.

  17. Mark Matis says:

    He came back and didn’t give an answer, so I just pulsed ABT to see if they can get the information. I’ll pass that along if I hear back from them, but will hold off until a little before your next hot season before doing anything. Roughly when does that begin? It would probably be smart for you to have this about a month before then so you could get it set up and working properly by the time you’d need it.

    Of course, this is only 5K btu, and is only rated to cool 150 square feet, so it ain’t gonna be anything like a central air unit, but it should give you an opportunity to chill out while you have a cold brewski before calling it a day!

  18. Joel says:

    Typically the hot month here is June. It can get into the hundreds for a couple of weeks in June. Then we start getting the evening Monsoon breezes, and life becomes worth living again.

  19. Mark Matis says:

    So probably next March or April would be the time to start? Might as well get it set up when it just starts getting uncomfortable, so that by the time it’s really miserable you’re sure to have it working as well as possible, having a good understanding of when to run it and how long based on battery voltage drop and…

    Are you insulating the walls in the addition? I think you used 2x4s for the rafters, so you aren’t likely to stuff any insulation in the ceiling…

  20. Joel says:

    Wait, wait, wait. I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth but I haven’t heard the verdict on start-up surge and the inverter’s wattage rating.

    Also, of course I’m insulating the walls. I used 2X6s for the rafters and they’ll probably have R13 insulation. I’m actually going with drywall this time, if the budget allows.

  21. Mark Matis says:

    Oh, don’t worry about that. No way I’m getting anything until AFTER they give me a reply and I bounce that off you. And like I said above, even if the numbers work for you, nothing will occur until next March or April.

To the stake with the heretic!