Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Aging Workhorse

B & A mark the corners of the construction site 1997
When we first purchased our little piece of paradise here on the hill, it was a blank and barren piece of land.  Perimeter fence and a septic field were the only signs of human presence.  The only sign of prior habitation was a sheep skeleton that was found at what would eventually become the master bedroom corner of the house.  Not an auspicious start by any measure.

Among the first things on the immense “to-do” list was the digging of the well.  Ben and his assistant PeeWee got on it for us.  Among the well-drillers in the area, they are the BEST.  …and among the well-drillers in the area…they definitely have the best stories!  When they finally hit water, they were nearly 400 feet down through dirt and rubble and limestone.  This area had not been disturbed in the entire history of the world, so there was a lot of junk to get out of through the small pipe that would bring life-giving water to our little farm here on the hill.  We were given the advice to run, run, run the well until the water became clean and clear.  The best thing for this job was a generator.

I truly do not remember the generator purchase.  I will surmise that although we thought it was imperative and we had known the frustration of country living throughout the years without any source of power…we were really, really broke…so, we probably bought something cheap, hoping to replace it someday.
In the past fifteen years, that generator has “saved our bacon” more than once. Chicks were kept warm, water was run, freezers were kept frozen, all because we had the generator.

 A lot of folks think that if you have a generator…any generator…that the issues of power outages are no longer, well, issues.  This is only partially true, no matter the size of the generator.  Otherwise, everyone would be supplying their own power.  A generator makes it possible to keep the priorities functional. 

Our generator has a loud gas engine, complete with fumes, and since it is fairly small, it drags when certain items require power.  Every time it hiccups, or drags, or the pitch of the engine changes, it strikes terror into my heart.  What if this is the time it finally quits?   Age is catching up with it.  The pull-cord is coming apart.  As it ran longer and longer and longer, the vibrations of the motor made some of the screws pop out.  Fortunately, it was an easy fix for the Boss.  While it is a great asset, it in NO WAY eliminates any concerns for power during an outage.  Particularly a summertime outage. With the temperatures we were experiencing “post-Derecho”, it would only take a short outage to render all those lovely frozen food products a soggy, useless mess.

The generator also doesn’t power the whole farm.  We could fire up certain operations for short periods of time, but a lot of “creature comforts” went by the board.  No air conditioning, hot water heater, stove or computer.  The circulating fans in the greenhouses were rendered useless. The Boss hated to run the well pump on the generator too much…something about possibly damaging the pump…that would lead to a necessary replacement. He and I replaced a well pump a long time ago.  It was not a fun job and it was a shallow well. That memory was enough for me.  We’ll make do with little bits of water.  That meant no irrigation for the outdoor crops and very limited irrigation in the hoophouses. (read ONE time in five days…poor little lettuce) We were very grateful for a good rain during the early part of the week.

We had been discussing purchasing a new generator for some time.  I think we got on the subject during the last power outage.  As the post-Derecho outage wore on, our generator concerns grew.  I was not the only one concerned about its possible demise. The Boss planned on doing some research once we got operational again.  Then, we’d start thinking about making a purchase.

On a trip to Draft, we stopped at the hardware to purchase a part necessary to move the generator from the backyard to a spot a little further from the house.  This would get the fumes and incessant noise away from us and might relieve the ongoing headaches that we were experiencing.  It would also make it possible to open the kitchen door and window during the night to get some more cross-ventilation without having to listen to the deafening roar.

Oh, lookee here!  Generators!  A big stack of generators!

We had seen a few generators on our other trips into town.  One Lowes employee told us that they had been flying off the shelves since Saturday.  They didn’t have any more, or even any repair parts for generators in stock.  They were selling everything as fast as it came in.

But, here was a stack of generators.  At first the Boss thought they were all too small.  If he was going to buy a new generator, he was going to get a BIGGER one. There in the back of the stack was one lone “big” generator.  Hmmmm   The little wheels in the Boss’ brain started turning. The uncertainty of our present situation was not lost on me.  Buy ‘em all!  But, what do YOU think?  He asked again.

We were headed for our daughter and son-in-law’s house.  They had power and blessedly HOT water…and had offered to let me wash my hair.  I was really hot and sticky…and NEEDED that hot water.  Can we PLEASE think about this AFTER I get clean? PLEASE?

The Boss and SiL checked out the generator on-line.  Wow!  The price at the hardware store was really good! It was also a really good generator…

You know where this story is going…don’t you?

Yep, by the time my hair was clean, we were off to get that last big generator. 

Now, we’ve got MORE POWER…(insert a roar here)  and our “emergency back-up”. The Boss is often teased by his offspring for his concern with having an “emergency back-up”.

Oddly enough, I think the Boss was a little disappointed when a few hours later we saw the power company trucks at the end of the lane.  While that bucket truck wending its way through the trees was a welcome sight, it does mean he doesn’t get to try out our new purchase any time soon.

But, wait….there are big storms in the forecast for this afternoon…

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