Winter Solstice megapost: “If it can fall apart it will fall apart” edition

It’s the solstice! Shortest, darkest day of the winter. I’ve been going to bed early and staying in bed late…


…and Tobie has been letting me do it. Guess he figures, same as me, if it’s dark out it must be night. I’ll come bug Uncle Joel when it’s light enough to see the rabbits.

Which is fine, except there’s barely been a morning this week when I wanted to get out of bed at all. It’s been one of those weeks.

Makes sense, I mean it’s early winter, wild temperature swings make all the plumbing problems that were about to happen … happen. And I have a couple. But first…


The little electrical experiment mentioned in the last post failed pretty definitively. The following morning the system had errored out and shut down again. Having hoped I had a handle on the situation to the point of convincing myself I really did, I was kind of upset. Then we got multiple days of solid overcast where there was no chance of seriously recharging the batteries with the PV panels so I let it go. Today’s supposed to be mostly sunny and I hope to take it up again but the forecast is for more clouds and rain through the weekend so who knows. Meanwhile, at the Lair,…


The spigot of the yard faucet failed in some serious way in which it appears to be dripping from the bottom of the casting itself. I cannot figure this out – and fixing it is going to be an adventure because it looks as though those plumbers who redid a lot of the water tank plumbing back in 2020 took it upon themselves to remove my shut-off valve. Meaning that I can’t drain the pipe before removing and replacing the broken spigot or repairing the PVC or whatever I end up doing. The only way to do this without making a huge mess in my yard would be to empty the whole 2500-gal tank. I hate those guys very much. And then…


Okay, this one is my own damned fault. I hurt my shoulder in early autumn and it was all I could do to get my firewood cut. I let some other issues slide, like repairing the annual flood damage to my sewer drainpipe. I knew that was going to bite me at some point and it has. Fortunately this particular bit of damage will be easy to fix but I also have to repair the earthworks damage or it’ll just break somewhere else worse before the winter is over. I really don’t feel like slinging a shovel but I already put it off too long.

The Jeep battery is giving me its bi-annual slow death drama…


…in the middle of a three-day gloomy spell, so putting the battery minder on it was not something I could leave to my solar power system. Yesterday at noon, this was my battery voltage…


…and considering that I also needed to bake bread yesterday, that meant it was time to use my tools.


I got that generator as a gift from a Generous Reader in 2017. Prior to this year I used it exclusively for power tools and so I always drained it, changed the oil, and stored it under a nice cover for the whole of every winter excepting emergencies. But now that I have a proper battery charger for the powershed…


…I not only didn’t mothball the generator, I made room for it inside the cabin so it would start readily when needed. And yesterday I used it to recharge the powershed and Jeep batteries and simultaneously run the kitchen oven for bread baking.


And that’ll probably be my practice going forward.

So I didn’t have a particularly bad yesterday. But Neighbor L sure did.

I mentioned that ten days ago D&L’s truck overheated and stranded her in the middle of nowhere. She got it hauled to a dealership in the big town about 50 miles away, and yesterday she caught a ride with another neighbor to go pick it up. She asked me to check on D at mid-day, which I did, and then she got home with the truck at about 1:30. Three hours later I got a text from her: D is having breathing trouble and I’m calling an ambulance. She followed the ambulance in the truck back to the same big town she just left, went through the whole ER rigmarole, got him admitted – he has pneumonia, which is not a surprise since he never really healed from that punctured lung – and I question what the hell is going on with hospitals that they ever even released him with half his difficulties unresolved – and so yeah. He’s back in the hospital. She went out to the truck – which stranded her in the parking lot with some sort of shifting problem that was never there before.

I know how I would have reacted to that, at what should have been the end of such a day.

Anyway – the Fairy Godmother Department apparently decided she’d had enough for one day and she caught a piece of luck. It happened that there was another ambulance crew from our crappy little town getting ready to go home, and she caught a ride with them. That only left the question of how she was going to get from the town back to her homestead in the middle of the night.

Which is, of course, when my phone rang. I had long since gone to bed but nighttime alarums are never quite ruled out which is why I follow the wise advice of Lazarus Long…


Figures it would be the first really cold night of the week, and with all the rain I had to chip ice before I could ride to the rescue but yeah – I will get out of bed in the middle of the night for a stranded neighbor. D&L and I have been trading favors for well over ten years and I’d do a lot more than that for them. Plus I know exactly how it feels to not know how I’m going to get home – or even where I’m going to lay my head at all – in the middle of the night after a thoroughly unpleasant day.

So things have been piling up here at the Gulch, and once it warms up a bit I have outside work to do because it’s supposed to go right back to clouds and rain after today. I haven’t felt much like writing but ignoring the blog just gives me something else to feel inadequate about so I wanted to take this moment to catch up. All in all I’m counting my blessings – all my own irritants are minor and I have a warm place to hide from the cold.

About Joel

You shouldn't ask these questions of a paranoid recluse, you know.
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9 Responses to Winter Solstice megapost: “If it can fall apart it will fall apart” edition

  1. Anonymous says:

    Heinlein is right. I have what I call ‘my emergency dog walking outfit’. When I had a dog I kept a pair of sweatpants, sweatshirt, and slip-on shoes by the bed in case the dog woke me up needing to go outside RIGHT NOW. Nowadays I keep it handy (always in the same spot) in case I need to address some middle-of-the-night weirdness. And, of course, the Glock is always in the same spot with a little tritium marker light next to it so I can always find it in the dark. Although, honestly, in a dynamic enough crisis I will forego the clothes and just go naked-with-gun if I have to.

    Which brings me to a question that just occurred to me. What do you do over there in hermitland for weapon lights? I mean, ambient outdoor lighting is probably not a thing where you are so…do you have a weaponlight mounted on your pistol or rifle? Or are you gonna go for the flashlight-n-gun two-hand technique?

  2. Ben says:

    It’s possible that the bad batteries in Ian’s cave are an effect, not a cause. Any problem that reduces power production would quickly have killed off those elderly batteries, so simply replacing them wouldn’t solve your problems. Perhaps there is a bad panel string or some electronic problem that’s causing the batteries to not get a sufficient charge?

    It may be time for professional help.

  3. malatrope says:

    Ben, I think the 24-hr load is just a little too much for the 1/2-size battery bank. Likely the culprit is the refrigerator. For one thing, they take more power than you might think, and for another the automatic defrost cycle takes a lot of power, at random intervals. It is my professional opinion (electrical engineer) that doubling the bank and perhaps adding another couple of panels would solve the problem (or, getting a newer low-power fridge).

  4. Joel says:

    Anon, I have never used a light on a pistol but if I’m responding to a bump in the night I’ll want my rifle anyway and I do have a good light on my rifle.

  5. Paul B says:

    Bump in the night here I would like to use a shotgun. 1 slug followed by two buck shot would do.

  6. Anonymous says:

    We are a little more genteel in Texas. It’s rock salt, dove, pheasant, buck, slug, slug, slug.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Are these the neighbors that coerced you into getting jabbed with the fake vaccine?

    Stand your ground.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Joel! May 2024 see the rascals running and the good people growing gardens. All best wishes, FeralFae

  9. Mike says:

    Joel, contractors are notorious for doing only what they are told to do and nothing more. I suspect that when they did their work, they needed to take that shut off valve out but weren’t told to replace it. As for the faulty spigot, it sounds like it froze up.

    Merry Christmas, Joel, and I hope 2024 is a better year.

To the stake with the heretic!