it is still in the middle of nowhere, and still in a very rural location. that being said, the farmhouse of yesteryear is now a real home, complete with creature comforts and internet. my parents are putting in a wrap-around deck, which should make for some nice barbecue/lounge areas eventually. i was so busy, that the internet really didn't come into play (aside from the work i was doing) except for tangential snatches in the wee hours after midnight.
not all who wander are lost
friday's trip was excellent. we made good the whole way out. we stopped in wilkes barre to get some trappings of my grandfather's estate from my uncle, who was storing everything in his garage. i saw my uncle, and one of my cousins, who i had not seen in almost five years. time changes everything, that is for sure. we picked up a tiller, a scythe, and a welding table that all belonged to my grandfather. the scythe is an heirloom from the original farm he grew up on. that is to say, the blade is well over 100 years old. pretty neat.
the house has been painted and re-roofed, and the lawn has been re-claimed
friday night was uneventful after getting in. got the heat and hot water running, and made some cheeseburgers. i started the o/s install for the machine which was to host the home automation system. my dad invested pretty heavily in some x10 technology. you may remember the company from yesteryear as the innovator of the paid popup ad, and the plague of the internet. i was with them then, and i am still with them now. they make some pretty nifty stuff. i set up three cameras, a radio-controlled a/c adapter, and some motion sensors. the main heart of the project was an in line a/c interrupter for the furnace, so the heat can be turned off and on remotely via the internet.
of course, all this was complicated saturday morning, when the laptop i had to set up met with some untimely complications. the machine did not have a wireless network card, and the pcmcia combo card in it didn't have native drivers. without at least a blank cd, i had no way to get the machine on the internet. so, it was off to radio shack, which is about a 5 minute round trip. blank cds, as well as a usb keydrive (as a backup) were appropriated.
the barn still needs a fuckton of work
the laptop was an older dell inspiron 5000, and the central cooling fan just gave up, halfway through applying a service pack once i got all the drivers installed. through an innovative bit of hacking, i bypassed the heat sensor module on the bios, as well as the mobo drivers that monitor the processor heat. a p2 600 does't put out enough heat to fry the board unless it is more than 90 degrees outside. i don't think that happens often at the farm.
after getting the o/s salvaged, i hit the next snag. in order to have real time video input, and manage all the devices on the local wireless home automation center, you needed two usb port devices. the laptop had only one usb port. we ran out to radio shack a second time to get a usb hub. once we had that, i got everything set up pretty well, except that one of the cameras, which seemed to work when the wireless video signal was being routed into the TV, totally kicked when i tried to address it to the laptop. it will be returned for a replacement most likely.
because it is still so cold up there (the high was 34 on saturday), the hot water heater really has to work overtime to do it's job. my dad spent a good portion of the day running a chainsaw and pitchfork clearing brush, so he got the one shower worth of hot water in its belly. i figured i would shower this morning.
i couldn't have been more wrong.
after dinner (superb roast chicken, and some nice yellow squash/zucchini/tomato/basil), it became apparent that there was something wrong with the hot water heater, when the dishwater would not get much above 38 degrees. i went down into the basement and pulled the panel on the hot water heater, only to find a large rust spot, and considerable corrosion through the wiring and contact points on the lower heating element. even after some impromptu cleaning, there was no heat or electrical activity coming from the lower element. upon returning upstairs, it was noted that the clock on the stove was off, and that the stove was, effectively, fragged.
look at all those goddamn wires coming out of the laptop
so, at 11pm, we called the power company to come out and take a look at the system. my dad seemed to think that we had lost our 220 phase (given the symptoms we were facing), so he assumed it was a problem at the street. he went to bed around midnight. the guys from the power company showed up around 1, and promptly discovered that the problem was neither the street, nor the circut breaker.
today, we were supposed to get an early start out, but instead, we went chasing domestic electrical gremlins. another 45 minute trip to the hardware store, to pick up a replacement heating element, only to find that was not the problem on the return. after some puttering and cursing, another 45 minute trip happened, at which point we now had a replacement part for every component you can replace on a hot water heater aside from the tank itself.
i still contend that part of the problem with the heater is that it is not wired as per the diagram they offer for correct setup. i think this caused a short, and when i flipped the main breakers, that created a power surge that killed the stove. at the end of the weekend, my dad was down a stove and a hot water heater.
in the midst of all this madness, i did pause to take some pictures. i have the workings of some great panoramics. it really is breathtaking up there, and so drastically different in the sun (even when it is 30something with a 20something wind chill).
the older barn roof
i didn’t see stubby this weekend. he has taken on a job as a hand at one of the nearby farms, and has his own place with the mother of one of the neighboring farms. the farm’s proprietor, fred, is friends with my parents, as is the contractor they have hired to do some miscellaneous maintenance (and porch building). both of them are tragic testaments to an era gone by. they are both in their mid to late fifties, and look like they are in their late sixties. both of them have the leathered skin of people who work outdoors for a living, and the cadence, candor and vocabulary of what i can only describe as stereotypical of the people of america’s heartland. fred’s wife is slowly dying of inoperable cancer. he lived on the next farm over with his wife, his mother (who shares a house with stubby), his daughter (whose husband is in iraq) and his three granddaughters. tom lives alone - he never married. both of them have seen good times. the dairy industry is now a mega business, and the life and livelihood of a private milk farmer is something that has all but disappeared. fred still ekes by using his fields for feed and hay. he sold all his cows long ago. tom sold his whole farm and herd, and lives as a contractor. it is interesting to hear them talk, to see them interact with my father, who has one foot in their world, and another foot in a sophisticated, intelligent businessman’s realm.
mostly, it is greatly amusing to hear them all talk about my mother, who is a woman whose makeup and personality doesn’t fit into any of their ideas of what typifies a woman’s characteristics, yet manages to maintain a steady behavior which meets their expectations in a nearing-cliche level.
overall, it was a good weekend, though i left feeling like more remained undone than done. i will probably go back next month to deal with the remainder of the work that needs to be attended to. i need to finish the staff i cut and set to cure about six months ago.
the moral of the story is, when you have a hot shower available, and want one, take it, you never know if it will be there later.
more pics on my flickr