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Episode Info:

This episode,  An OCC update, I will cover the first extended stay of the season, almost back to normal, and ITB carries on with month 21 of construction. Not much happened while the power was down, in some areas. In The Beginning, ITB, Month 21, April This is the part of the episode where I sift through emails, text messages and pictures collected during that month, to give you the most accurate accounting of Our Country Cottages beginning stages. The beginning of month #21 still had OCC without power backup working. The generator was fixed but something in the solar control system, the system that ties everything together, still was not happy and we were still a couple of days from having the solar crew come for a visit to try to figure it out. That leaves me making daily trips, to build fires in order to keep the temperature up in the cottage. I had also found a better firewood supply option to those “winter special” traditional firewood green net bag bundles. There was a company offering clean firewood, of the type I required, and were willing to deliver it to the cottage. How could I not give them a try? One palette of firewood, delivered, please. I got a promise of delivery in a few days. My first trip of the month, April 1st, has me stepping out of my vehicle and spilling my coffee down my front while unloading. Yes it’s in the log book. I was the only one there which seems to be the norm, especially during those power problem days. At least the batteries were fully charged by the sun. I’ll take this opportunity to mention that the batteries were only able to be fully charged by the sun because I was not using the power to heat the place. And so, a fire was built and I decided to turn the boiler on. I noticed that first for the domestic hot water ran and then the radiant heating. Keep in mind this is still early days for me and the system. I had figured out that by putting my hand on the pump bodies, in the utility room, I could figure out which system was working. There is a picture, on the website, ourcountrycottageanarrative.com, under menu heading, “Our Country Cottage”, that’s where all the pix are, and then under “Heating”, fifth picture down, shows these pumps, labelled, in the utility room. I started investigating the hot water tank controls for the hot water as there was no need for hot water at this point. I was then diverted to the radiant heating system where the upstairs bathroom was calling for heat. The thermostat, in the upstairs bathroom, was set to 17 degrees C. Why it was set to that, I don’t know but I used it for a bit of a test. The next day went better. The batteries were almost fully charged by the solar panels and it was warm enough that I didn’t need to build a fire. The solar expert showed up and started to dive into the inverter case. Soon its guts were exposed to the world spread out over cardboard boxes in the battery room. Replacement boards were installed and tests done. During this, rather, stressful time, at least for me, a delivery truck showed up with a stack of sheeting, meant for the utility room ceiling. I asked for them to be put on the back deck and they were. Little did I know how long they would be there and their eventual fate. Back in the battery room things were not going great. The specialist had discovered an unexpected failed part that needed to be replaced. He was sure there was one back at the office and could return the following day with it. With that, the day ended, again, with no generator backup. The following day, my tenth consecutive day of OCC visits, started with the batteries being fully charged by the sun. The solar expert showed up and swapped out the defective part. And, poof, we had our generator back up system working. This day, was the day, that the firewood was to be delivered but not till later. I started looking around a bit. Not much had been done in the past week or so, with the power being not the best and it being on the cool side in the cottage. Checking the sump in the utility room, I found the water level higher than expected. I put a tie wrap on the sump pump pipe to mark the level. This was April and kind of spring-ish, that is, it was slowly getting warmer and warmer out even though there was still plenty of snow. I re-adjusted my expectations, too. I started getting texts from my wood delivery guy. Really bad traffic, where he was, and he had forgotten the map to Our Country Cottage. Here is a handy tip. Keep a picture of a map, to your place in the sticks, on you phone at all times so you can text or email it to anyone that needs to find you and has forgotten the directions. I texted him the map and waited. He was running really late and it was dark by the time he showed up with the fire wood neatly bundled and wrapped on a palette in the back of his pick up. I didn’t have a palette jack or an easy way to get the palette down from the pick up. The wood was wrapped in easy to manage bundles, so we broke open the wrapped palette and hand bombed them. That is to say, he threw them to me off the truck and I stacked them in the garage. It was a good thing I had outside lights at the front of the garage and on the deck nearby, or we would have been doing it in the moon light. It wasn’t too bad 30 or 40 bundles and a few stubbed fingers later and I was set. Gloves, wear gloves! I took some time away from the place and returned five days later. All was fine, with the batts being 97% charged. The sump in the utility room was still full and there was evidence of the sump pump having run. The discharge for the pump was on the west side of the cottage, in the form of a black pipe with a 90 degree elbow facing straight down. The ground directly below had collapsed a foot or two. The water from the sump was being pumped right to the foundation. At the time the only thing I thought might be causing the water in the utility room sump was a possible blockage in the weeping tile. So I got a shovel and a long piece of rebar and went to where it was day-lighted. I shoveled away some snow and poked the rebar up the pipe. Um, 9 feet of rebar vs a few hundred feet of weeping tile. OK, not my best deductive reasoning. Well I made sure it wasn’t blocked in those last 9 feet I tell you. I returned to OCC two days later where I found the water in the sump was now over my tie wrap marker. I decided to have a look in the crawl space to see if there was any water getting in, and found the corner by the discharge pipe was wet. If I remember correctly, the site supervisor was there that day and fashioned a long piece of white pipe to divert the sump discharge water away from the foundation. The snow was finally starting to disappear, revealing mud and construction garbage littered about the place. With potential flooding on my mind, I returned the next day to find signs that the sump pump had been running and the diverter pipe had been diverting. The mud had a small channel eroded into it from the white pipe discharge. Checking that corner in the crawl space gave a good indication that the pipe was working as the corner was just damp now. I can’t remember if the site super or I asked the plumber to check on the sump pump but it had been raised and adjusted since the last time I looked. It has been run much less, if at all, since. I had a feeling that the water that was being pumped was finding its way back to the sump in the utility room. Four days pass before my next visit. Batts were at 97% and the boiler was on. I checked the generator and found 3.2 hours on it with propane being at 29%. Looks like things were working again. The water level in the utility room sump had dropped to below the weeping tile outlet level. A good sign. Three days later I found the batteries at 70% with the gen running and the sump was almost empty. Unrelated but factual. Another four days finds the gen with 8.2 hours and the propane tank had been added to. It was another, due to the high cost of propane at the time of filling we did a partial fill in hopes the price would soon drop, thang. Gad. It was about this time that we went through the utility room ceiling debacle. That old wrong spray, have to sheet it, can’t sheet it, the right spray thang. For the full details refer back to episode #14 A Floor and a Ceiling. So the right spray was now used on the Utility room ceiling and I was tasked with picking up the certification sticker and applying it to the right place and take a picture of it, in place for inspection purposes. My next trip was all bout that. Stick, pic, done and done. My last visit of the month had batts at 98%, the generator had 14.5 hours on it and the propane was going down. That corner in the crawl space was drying up nicely. A cleaner had been hired to clean up the inside of the cottage after construction and make it all look nice. She was doing a great job. While surveying the mud and garbage, outside, I noticed large areas of standing water to the west of the cottage. Ground had settled by the septic tank and other areas that had been dug up for pipes etc. With rubber boots and various shovels and rakes in hand I went to play in the mud, I mean, I attempted to get the water flowing. I carefully laid down planks over the mud to get me where I thought I needed to go. After some success in digging little channels the water started to co-operate. There was a small pool just a bit past the end of the plank. I’ll just step quickly on the mud and get it done. Not my finest moment. Have you ever stepped in good quality clay mud? Don’t, that stuff gets a hold of you and won’t let go. I think I had been stuck for about half an hour and on the verge of saying goodbye to my boot and probably both of them, when the cleaner came out for a break. She quickly placed another couple of planks beside me so I could step out of my boots and get some balance while I dug them out. It took a bit. That about wraps up ITB month 21. Things were working again and looking good on the inside, but the snow was receding and revealing lots of mud and garbage. Quite depressing. It seems, if its not one thing it’s another. Now, to bring you up to date with the most recent goings on at Our Country Cottage. Since my last update I have stayed twice at OCC once for six days and once for seven. Suffice to say that Our Country Cottage is getting back on track. If you recall from my last update I just got the generator running, complete with a sound clip of the actual first cranking and first running sounds. That’s all I had time for, that day. But with taking longer visits it allowed me to do much more. My first visit had me figuring out why my solar control unit had stopped logging. When working, the logging is set up to take readings every second, and thus, revealing any abnormality that might happen. Logging had stopped after I updated the firmware of the controller. I had been in contact with the manufacturer about this issue and they had given me a few things to try out. The last one being to reset to factory defaults. Something I wasn’t really looking forward to. Lots of settings to verify. I had also noticed a couple of bugs reported on the forums associated with the update. I confirmed these bugs were also present on my system now. I tried all but the last suggestions without any joy. Still no logging. I knew that the previous version, of firmware, worked so I reloaded that. Doing these changes and testing takes a bit of time and I am now into day two. And the old version is, now, not logging. Running out of options I reloaded an older config file. The power went out in the cottage and I had to manually turn the inverter back on. Turning on the inverter is no big deal, just a button press on the solar control unit. The power came back on right away. I waited for a bit, then checked if it was logging. Nope. Something told me to walk away. So I did so. While all this was going on I had noticed 3 elk and a female moose wander by at different times. Oh and a squirrel in the drive by the cottage. I also topped up the batteries. This is about an hour or so job. Filling the 12 main batteries with distilled water to the proper level. They take some where between 10 to 15 liters or 2 to 3 or so gallons, total. Sometimes more. The temperature data loggers needed to be done, too. One was dead. I try to keep spare batteries on site for all the devices that need them. Flash lights, trail cams, data loggers etc. The data loggers use a special battery I have to order from the net. Swap in the new battery and it was up and running again. The next day started with me noticing a group of elk had camped out just to the south east of the cottage. Early morning wild life always means a bit of a delayed start to my day as I sneak around inside the cottage, watching and trying to get pictures, through windows, before they go. I checked the solar controller to see if it had started logging. Yes, it was now logging. And here is the confusing part, there are logs going back to when I started the inverter, yesterday. I don’t understand. But then again I don’t have to. Its logging. With the elk gone and system logging I was ready to test the generator. First I checked the oil level, All OK. I then started the gen from inside the cottage at the control panel and it fired right up. I had figured out various ways to put a load on the system and went from full load to lighter loads and then for something in between for over an hour. I put the gen back into auto, and after a bit the system detected that the batteries did not need charging and shut down. All went well, but I would have to check the logs to be sure. I was starting to feel better about our country cottage, again. It has taken the better part of a year to get back to square one. So I took sometime to enjoy the place. There seemed to be plenty of elk and deer in the mornings and evenings. One morning a young male elk was running about being chased by a female when he made a pass right out of a cartoon. He was actually bouncing across, all four legs in unison. I didn’t think they do that for real. Shortly after a fawn showed up and wandered close to the elk. That young male elk wanted to go check the fawn out but an older female was blocking him from getting close. Looked very much like a cutting horse, or sheep dog, in action. And all this was in ultra high res, big picture window 3D. Now that’s entertainment. I managed to get up to a local farmers market for the first time this year and renewed our subscription to the local paper. I took some time to clean up some messes I had made while dealing with various emergencies during the freeze up etc. Over the next couple of days I did a load of laundry and ran the dishwasher. Everything worked as it should, with no leaks etc. I also had the time to check the solar controller logs. It takes a while as there is so much info. The generator output showed no abnormalities at all, and the rest of the system was operating as it should. I know it gets a bit confusing with similar power problems in the ITB section and the OCC update section. I didn’t plan on them lining up like that. Honest! The last day of this visit there was an eclipse and I spent the morning setting up a hastily built pinhole projector and my camera to record it. The results were somewhat low contrast but results none the less. Nice to think about things other than toilets and generators. My next visit was seven days long and with much help from family and friends we managed to take on a project that had been back burnered for over five years. I will tell you all about that next time. Next podcast, Episode#21 more info on my longest stay this season, with that long over due project, and ITB Month 22 warmer, muddier, lots of standing water, keys, and we finally get some furniture in Our Country Cottage. By the end of the month I have my very first over night stay inside OCC. For pictures and more info, you can visit our website at www.ourcountrycottageanarrative.com If you have any comments, questions or if you would like to be added to the “Friends of OCCaN” Our Country Cottage A Narrative, mailing list, you can email me at John@ourcountrycottageanarrative.com. Members on the mailing list will get website and podcast updates as soon as I do :). The Our Country Cottage a Narrative podcast is on iTunes, Stitcher and Google Play so you can subscribe there and get the podcast downloaded automatically when they get released. Till next time have a good one.

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