Thursday, March 13, 2008

life by the extension cord

This is what happens when The Hermit is out for a few days on important business (visiting parents along the way).

I woke up some time in the middle of the night; I do not know the exact time because the power was out and I could not see a clock. Furthermore, once I got out of bed and started searching around, I could not find a light. Any light. I managed to find a jacket and stumbled out into the night. Fortunately the temperature was mild, hovering just below freezing. Therein lies the problem.

Our main electric box is a couple hundred feet from the cabin (I use the term cabin to refer to the five year "temporary" dwelling we live in while building the new house). We are connected to it by...three heavy duty extension cords plugged together. From the electrical epicenter, which is located in the generator box, power is distributed to the house, the cook shed, the garage (the freezer is there), and the back yard. Remember the last one; it would have saved me a lot of trouble this morning.

In my first dark stumblings, tromping through about two inches of new snow which is gone as of this writing, I checked the connection at the generator box, determined the problem was at least out at the main box, hiked out there, noticed the neighbors' security light was on, which meant the problem was within our own system. I hit the "reset" button on the main connection...and it tripped again within seconds.

I was too tired at that point to try and figure things out, and I had a headache. Without a light, what could I do? I went back to bed, but hardly slept. It was a little chilly without our electric controlled heater, but that's what down comforters are for.

An hour or so later I woke to the sound of some animal running (hopping) across the living room floor. Cats are quieter, dogs are bigger and louder. What the...rabbit?

I had the presence of mind to find my cell phone and turn it on. It was 5 AM. By the display light I saw one wayward rabbit who had managed to bust out of the side door and escape from the cage. I put the rabbit in, and also found a DeWalt rechargeable light, which I desperately needed at that point.

I went back outside. With snow melting, any junction of plugs could accumulate water and short the system out. I walked along the couple hundred feet of cords from the main box, pulling cords up out of the snow and making sure junctions were dry. When I hit the button on the main box, it still tripped.

I thought maybe there was a problem with the cord to the garage, where the freezer is, or another auxiliary cord. I unplugged a couple cords and hiked back out to the main box. I hit the switch, and it tripped again.

It was then I remembered... There is an old, rather frayed extension cord running to the back yard for when I use the wringer washer. It is plugged into the cabin's main power supply. Usually we unplug it when it is not in use, because if it gets wet it MAKES THE POWER GO OUT. I had thought it had been unplugged, since obviously I haven't used the wringer washer in months. But as a last resort, I checked it. It was still plugged in.

Unplugging it meant crawling, no, slithering, over new, wet snow and dirt about three feet under the cabin in my tank top and pajama pants. But, it was getting darned cold inside and it was also almost time to make coffee. So I slithered and unplugged the cord, then hiked back out to the electric box and pushed the magic button.

I saw the Winter Cheer lights come on. They stayed on, and the button didn't trip. Success.

By then it was 5:30, too late to go back to bed. But at least I was not going to work, for the unfortunate reason that Starflower was feeling under the weather. I had stayed home with Calvin the day before. Poor kids, I think March is the worst for illness. But I took advantage of my free time, after all they are both at the age where they're not too demanding. I practiced banjo and flute.

For you flute players out there, I decided maybe the problem wasn't with my flute, but with my out of shape embouchure. Amazing what two days' practice in a row can do for that. I've learned a bunch of reels, including "The Laurel Tree" and "The Noisy Curlew".


barefoot gardener said...

Oh, how frustrating to be out there in the dark looking for the problem!

Too bad the kid-lets are sick. Little Sprout is, too, and it just makes everything miserable...

Anonymous said...

It never fails that when hubby goes so does everything else, and it's always dark and cold. Glad you found a solution to the problem and fixed it, your handy Deb.
Nature Knitter's Mom [Betty K]

denise said...

Heckuva way to greet the day, huh?

Rurality said...

I think my toes got frostbite just from me reading that! ;) We also have temperature problems with our similarly "temporary" housing, but they are in the opposite direction. (Heatstroke instead of frostbite.)

dharma bum said...

Wow, what a night. I almost feel a little guilty for enjoying the story, but I like the way you told it. I hope the rest of your weekend goes a lot smoother!

Floridacracker said...

Be careful okay?
I had this vision of you getting shocked in the wet under the cabin.

Sorry the Sandcreeklings are ill, hope they are doing better already!!

Deb said...

BG- Yes, but God was punishing me. That headache was a wee bit of a hangover...but I'm done with that now.

Betty K- Last time he went away, we ran out of propane and had no good wood put up for the stove. Things happen.

Denise- The day could only get better from there!

Rurality- At least it was near freezing, so it wasn't so cold...but wait, if stuff hadn't been thawing, we wouldn't have had the problem!

Dharma Bum- I always appreciate it when a writer likes how I tell a story! The rest of the weekend is going much better...Starflower is even doing chores (for cash, of course).

FC- There really was no danger, since the power was out at the main box...but that cord always scares me when I am unplugging the wringer washer...must replace it.

And the Sandcreeklings are doing much better, thank you.

pablo said...

Yep, and out of shape embouchure gets me every time!

Deb said...

Pablo- It happens to the best of us.