I HATE winter thaws. People often wish me a warm winter, but they are disasters. They cause nothing but problems.
It rained, sometimes heavily, for two days. A few puffs of wind smashed lumps of snow off the trees into the windows, and loosened the snow on the roof, which fell off with great crashes. The yard was a skating rink. I could not cross the ploughed area – I had to go out the front door and tramp through unploughed, rotten snow (still as deep as the top of my winter boots) in a big circle just to get to the outhouse. I did not dare try and drive anywhere – even chains and 4 x 4s would have had serious difficulties. Once again I was watching the battery voltage guage.
Day 4 it cooled a little and snowed another 5″ That was better.
It was Friday, and therefore a mail day, and I risked a trip to Nimpo Lake. I hoped the snow would have bonded onto the ice to give some traction. Midday temperatures were just under freezing so the snow itself was very slick, but driving was quite good. On the way home, the mountains were clearing. Cooler temperatures were forecast and I thought that was the end of my woes. Ginty Creek, however, was under one of those banks of fog.
That afternoon, the lightened, illuminating one of the 9 pine grosbeaks currently visiting my feeder. They are real Christmas card birds in the West.
The forecast was for mixed sun and cloud. Don’t know who got the sun; we had only cloud.
And ice fog.
The ice crystals on the twigs were different from the usual build-up of square plates.
After several more days, I was seriously worried about my power system. I switched everything off at night, including the internet (which draws the most power), but although the guage read 23V at sundown, during the night, the figure dropped to 20.6. I’d been warned not to go below 23 so this was alarming. The following day, despite the gloom, the voltage crept up to 24.2, but overnight dropped to 20.6 again. I needed to try and charge the batteries with my generator.
Trouble is, I wasn’t sure it would work. The initial power system was a 12-volt one. It was installed by Super Sarah’s Dad. Since then, however, I have had a much bigger 24-volt system put in, installed by a local man (lives 2 hours’ drive away.) Trouble is, the local man was working in Alberta and not due home for a week. And Super Sara’s Dad lives 7 hours’ drive away. I needed to know if the battery-charging cord that was initially rigged up for the 12V system would work for the 24-volt system. Super Sarah’s Dad could not tell me; eventually I got hold of the 24-Volt guy, Sam, but he could not remember what he had done 3 years ago. He told me to take a look inside the magic box of tricks he put in the basement. This involved undoing a couple of screws and easing open a door. Trouble is, there were a whole bunch of screws and I didn’t know which ones to undo. Too many heavy things were built into the door. Sam told me I could run the computer with a power cord directly off the generator. I was to send him pictures.
First I had to see if I could start the generator – it hasn’t been used for 2 years. I dragged it inside to warm up (it was not very cold outside, about -12C), then dragged it back out, followed the instructions – and it fired up right away. Then I started the internet – always a hit-and-miss fiddle after it has been disconnected, took pictures of what I thought were the right screws, and sent them to Sam. He said he thought they were the right screws so I eased them out, and a heavy bunch of stuff swung open. The door would not go far – I could barely get the flashlight inside. I started the generator and the internet up again and sent Sam several pictures like this.
Believe it or not, he was able to figure out that the battery charge cable was indeed hooked up properly.
So I plugged it in. It is the big cord on the right.
I had used candles overnight, but still had power and could pump water from the well. Shortly afterwards, this came up on the guage.
The light on the left is by the word: Fault. When this happened, the inverter switched itself off. I could no longer get water from the tap.
The generator ran all day. The figures on the guage crept up to 24.2, but as soon as the dull day began to fade, they dropped down and again reached 20.6 overnight. So it would appear that only the daylight was feeding any power into the batteries, and that was too gloomy to make much difference. I tested it by switching the generator on again when I got up this morning, at 3.00:am, and ran it until day started to come – about 4 hours. The guage remained the same. So I had to conclude that, for whatever reason, the generator was not in fact charging the batteries.
I am like the solar panels. I need sun to function. Long dull spells run my batteries down. I could never live at the coast. The long, dark nights don’t help, either. The days, of course, are about as short as they get. It is possible to read by angling the book to the window by 8.00:am, and too dark to see the page again by 4.00:pm. So I have been existing by candles during the long darknesses. Who said candles were romantic? As far as I am concerned, they are simply a gloomy inconvenience.
Doing the Globe and Mail Cryptic Crossword. Kind friends send me these, and when I am alone, they are my dinner companions. They prevent me from eating too fast!
And as for water – there is a ton of it lying on the ground outside, but it is a drag having to shovel it into bowls and melt it.
I shouldn’t complain. It wasn’t too long ago before these inconveniences were a normal part of life for me. But when you get used to luxuries, life becomes frustrating without them. In fact, I am still pretty well off. I have the generator to run the internet – I can hear it burbling in the background as I prepare this post. I have plenty of food, wood for warmth and cooking, water for the shovelling, a phone, a vehicle to get out if I have to, and a road that is in reasonably good shape.
I was hoping to go to the Bella Coola Valley Friday. On Saturday, my friends are running their local Christmas bird count. I have not been down The Hill since the spring so am ready for a visit. But even though the forecast temperature does not look too daunting, I can’t leave the place overnight without having a light under the sink, and I can’t switch that on until I can get the inverter to run again. I already missed an earlier trip into the Valley due to the cold temperatures and heavy snow at the end of last month. Will the inverter turn itself back on once the batteries are recharged? When will that happen? This morning I could see my mountains for the first time in nearly 10 days.
Dare I hope that some of that sunshine will get to Ginty Creek? I quote (more or less) Piet Hein:
O sun, who giveth all things birth, Please shine down upon our earth.
If that request is much too grand, Please shine down on this our land.
If even that’s too much for thee, Shine at any rate, on me!