Friday, December 4, 2015

December Monsoon #1

  There was a stretch of clear cold weather for the last week or so. Cold for around this country anyways.

T'sek hot spring.

The temperature rose overnight a few days back with a forecast for a weeks worth of wet Pacific disturbance. Bastard, I know what that means. I had just made a few cold-weather improvements to my intake screens up the mountain that feed my generator, and now a potentially biblical series of 'wet disturbances' is headed this way.

 My buddy Josh Fairbrother, band-mate from Blackwater MC came out and moved into the trailer for a few days to work on some new songs and tinker around with his motorcycles, and made the mistake of offering give me a hand with anything that came up.  Before the front arrived I figured we better go up to the intake and make sure it was in good shape for some nasty weather and rising waters.

As an added bonus, it involved getting out some toys to get up there with.
We parked at the upper Sparrow Creek crossing and hoofed it in from there.

There is a bit of a challenging jaunt down to the intake-pond, one I've done a thousand times.  Josh has had the luxury of not being born back so early in the past century as his drummer and has been around here before, he went up last week and installed some safety ropes on some of the more interesting sections. 
I figured it was more for his protection than mine.
The intake pond, there was still a little residual ice stuck on the banks from the cold snap and the creek was flowing at what I'd normally expect this time of year.
My over-sized, double screened intake I had installed 10 days ago to deal with the frazzle-ice still had a iceberg attached and a whole pile of cedar droppings  still stuck on there. There had been several days of high winds recently that blew literally tons of these things out of the trees, most of them I'm sure, landing in my creek for kilometers upstream in an attempt to clog up my intake system and put me in the dark down here. The system was still all working fine, but we removed it and cleaned it off in anticipation of the warmer wet front rolling in that night.
If it isn't one thing, it's another sometimes.

Sure as Sh*t, the next day, steady rains have brought up the creek level condsiderbly.
And once more, I have neglected to turn off the generator before my screens up the mountain have blown out and sucked some debris down the line (penstock)  and jammed at the nozzle that drives the pelton-wheel.

This results in the undesirable condition of what us independent power guys call, 'power interruptus'.
This panel controls the generator loads and shuffles it around to your needs. 
But it doesn't have much to do if there is no electricity. Bastard.

So up the hill we went, leaving the toys in the garage due to the rain to see if there was anything we could do up there.
The creek into the intake pond was running about 5 on a 10 scale from what I've seen up there over 20 seasons. Sometimes you can't get anywhere near the creek let alone try and fart around in there. I could still stand up on the dam in my gumboots and get the now flattened-out and mangled intake screen off and more by chance than good management to reach into the boiling water and slide in the gate-valve plate to stop the flow of water and draining the penstock, a section of which had been knocked off by the force and was flaying around in the current. 'We' braved being washed over the falls to retrieve it and set it up the bank in a safe spot I pointed out to him until the creek cleaned itself out and the level hopefully dropped enough to do a repair up there, and left it at that.

On the way back after we hit the main road out behind here we noticed the culverts of Sparrow Creek were getting jammed with debris and a good possibility of over-flowing the road, which washes out more often than not, resulting in an expensive repair with heavy equipment, not to mention the only road to town severed. Josh volunteered to get in there and pull branches and debris free to open the culverts. 

There was still plenty of day left, and we still had that little problem with debris clogging up the nozzle back at the pelton-wheel.
Under my direction from an upturned 5 gallon pail for a seat, 'we' un-bolted the flanges and pulled out the heavy nozzle-feed manifold to ensure the main valve was free of crap.
I skidded my bucket-seat over a little to better supervise the un-bolting and removal of the awkward and heavy nozzle assembly that directs water at the pelton-wheel...
...and got a couple hand-fulls of crud out of there.
We got it all bolted back up and ready to turn the water back on once the water receded enough to complete repairs up top. It was still raining, with last I heard a week's worth of wet weather expected. 

All a cat can do is wait out Mother Nature.
In the meantime, there was always the backup generator, which amazingly started up when I needed it. There was a little bug with powering up my panel which I'm giving a bunch of thought to, but we managed to run some cords out to run the essential loads. 
Essential loads being at this time, in order of importance were,  the refrigerator, the satellite Internet, the odd light around and powering up our sound equipment out in the garage.
A power interruptus was not going to get in the way of a good rock-out.!

The rain eased off over the night, and at first light I rousted my helper from the trailer.
The creek-flow had dropped just enough to do what work we needed to, replacing the screen and re-fitting the busted off pipe...before breakfast.!

We stopped again at the Sparrow Ck. culverts to remove more debris. It had dropped several feet there from yesterday.

We opened the big valve and let the pressurised water to the wheel.
Power interruptus over. For now anyways. Josh came up with some prior engagement he had back in town, and fired his gear into his truck and took off before the next storm hit and he got put back to work again. Actually, he has an interest in off-grid living, and enjoyed a hands-on, first-hand look at keeping this one going.
Maybe he'll write a song about it.
I don't know about him, but I'm going to sleep good tonight.
*If you are curious about this load control panel...
The green led indicates all is well. The red ones are relays that feed electricity to specific loads of most importance, #1 is living-room heat, #2 is the hot-water heater, #3 are the hallway baseboards, #4 is the heat in the 2 bathrooms.
The frequency meter on the left indicates 60HZ, which is right where you want it.
The percent load meter on the right tells you how much excess power is being burnt off from heater elements outside. It reads 60 percent load, so I'm not utilizing 60 percent of what I'm making over there with the pelton-wheel. The hot-tub was in heat-up mode and there were enough relays to operate anything that wanted to turn itself on, and still had 60 percent to waste off via heaters outside, so I did go over to the pelton-wheel shack and turn down the water flow a few notches so not to waste more excess hydro-power than I need to. Just the sort of stuff I keep track of going on every day around here.

The rest of today turned out rather nice, the sun came out and it was a nice break between Pacific fronts rolling in.

With the higher creek level today we noticed salmon coming in from the main river, splashing their way up the rocky shallow riffles to their spawning areas. 

So with the power system up and running (for now) I threw some wood in the shop stove and started on this post. I wanted to get it  off before the power went again, and sometimes its difficult to get anything done for some reason.
Before I do a much needed spell-check and post this, I can hear the rain picking up out there on the roof. I have a big powerful hand-held spotlight I use to monitor the creek level out front here. Later on, if it begins to rise and the rain keeps this up, I'll go over and shut the generator down and close off the main valve. The intake screen up the mountain may still get pounded into an unrecognizable shape by the force of the water, but no debris will come down the penstock. Of course, theres always the possibility it may keep this up for some time yet and resorting to backup genset for an extended period. But that's life off the grid, on Sparrow Creek anyways.

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