It’s been longer than usual since I did an entry in my journal. There’s a very good reason for that. I haven’t made any progress on making power. For the first week of the new year, I worked on my windmill every day. I can get it to generate power but I can’t seem to regulate the flow. I’ve taken to reading the text book over and over but I’m still having trouble figuring it out.
I’ve tried a number of things. I fried a small inverter trying to run the power through it hoping it would have a regulating effect, it didn’t. I experimented with fuses, but that means changing out a fuse every time the wind gets too high. It also means making fuses. I’m not sure how to proceed and what I’m reading in the book isn’t really helping. To be honest I’m not even sure how much power the windmill is putting out. Some days the wind doesn’t blow hard enough to make it spin. Other days it spins so fast I worry it’s going to break.
I did fix the tower problem. It was alarmingly easy. Instead of trying to make the whole thing out of pipes I made a small platform out of… well there’s no better way to say it, yard wood. I noticed the hardware store had specially treated wood for bordering gardens. It resists water and rot. Ruth told me I could set part of them in the ground like a fence post with concrete. I set four in the ground, built a platform on top, then put another pole on the platform to set the windmill on top. The platform I built isn’t as tall as it probably should be. The windmill stands a little less than twenty feet off the ground but it is the tallest structure I built that hasn’t fallen over yet so it’s good enough for now. I even put a rotating plate under my windmill so it can turn when the wind changed, but I have to climb up and unwind it from time to time. (Something else I’ll have to figure out later)
I guess Ruth was getting tired of hearing me curse the gods for making this so hard to figure out so she asked me to help her for a while. Ruth had been busy working in the neighbors’ yards when she wasn’t in the house. It turns out she was getting them ready for planting in the spring. I have never intentionally grown anything in my entire life. I did once grow a mushroom on a pile of dirty clothes, but that hasn’t happened since I bought a washing machine. She told me she was going to have to depend on me for most of the grunt work in getting the yards ready. This is one of those times I made the mistake of thinking “how bad could it be.”
All the yards in my neighborhood are fenced. Chain link fence to be exact, with an alley running between the back yards. According to Ruth the back yards are about ¼ of an acre each. She marked out eight of the yards. The first thing she needed me to do was removed the grass in the marked off areas, then we could put down the dirt she had me collect.
I played outside sometimes when I was a kid. I remember pulling up dirt clots by the grass and throwing them around. Surely, removing grass shouldn’t be much more difficult. At some point I will get tired of being wrong. Pulling up a hand full of grass is much, much, MUCH different than removing grass from a yard. I have at my disposal every gardening tool the hardware stores carry. I ended up using a flat headed pickax Ruth called a mattock and a flat head shovel. It took all day to do one back yard.
Ruth brought me stuff to drink and food as I worked about once every two or three hours. I always knew she was coming because Rusty would run into the yard, then he and Abby would start wrestling. Strangely Rusty loses these matches more often than he wins them. After finishing the first yard Ruth prepared a big meal for me. I was so tired I only ate about half of it. Digging is a special kind of torture. It’s really hard work, and no matter how much you do you always have more. It took about two days before I finally found a good method for removing the grass, and I was able to finish the last six lawns in only three days.
Next came putting in the new dirt, or as Ruth calls it turning the soil. This involved breaking up the top six to ten inches of dirt and mixing in the bags of soil Ruth had me acquire last month. This was extremely difficult work. I always thought of dirt as some loose packed particles that could be easily broken up and moved around. At least this is what I thought until I tried to put this theory in to practice. In several areas the top soil was too thin and gave way to orange clay. This meant I had to remove all the clay. Ruth had me put the it in a separate area saying we might have some use for it later. I really don’t like the sound of that. Turning the soil took a lot longer. The first yard took about two days to finish. Then Ruth had me throw some straw over it and we covered the whole thing with a tarp.
As we moved on to the second lawn Ruth expounded how great all these vegetables were going to taste, and how there were few things more wonderful than growing your own food. I was mentally counting the number of ibuprofen I was going to need that night. Just as a side note, after my first week of foraging for Ruth’s lists, I started grabbing random bottles of ibuprofen because doing this stuff made me hurt. Once while at a pharmacy I thought about getting something stronger. I decided against it because I honestly don’t know how to spell the names of most drugs and I’m terrified I’ll screw it up and end up with some off brand estrogen of some kind.
Ruth came out and talked with me more as I moved from the second to the third and then the fourth lawn. When we got to the fifth, we got our first snow. It wasn’t deep, and it wasn’t much, but it changed things drastically. There’s a big difference between it’s cold outside, and it’s cold outside and there’s snow. I suddenly feel like I’m working in a freezer. It’s cold, damp, and bright. The dirt seems heavier too. It now took an extra day to finish each yard since we had to cover the work I did each night, in case it snowed again.
By the eighth yard I was starting to feel a strange sense of pride. The work was agonizingly hard but I could look back and see all that I had already accomplished. The neat squares covered by tarps showed all I had done. I finished the eighth yard faster than the others and soon the four yards to the left and the four yards to right of my house were dug, turned, and covered. The major exceptions were my own yard and that of the neighbor directly behind me. I was pretty sure we weren’t going to be able to use his yards since most of it was taken up by a drive way and a large concrete patio.
Ruth had other plans. She decided that was the best spot for a green house. Maybe I’m getting wiser, or I’m just becoming paranoid because when she said green house all I could think about was lugging heavy pieces of glass around. I wasn’t entirely wrong. For the first time in a long time Ruth rode with me somewhere. Apparently, there was a nursery right on the outskirts of town I never knew about. She told me it had once belonged to an old friend who died last year. Just outside the main shop that looked like an old wood farm house were three of the half barrel shaped greenhouses that were made of strange wavy glass. She took me over to the nearest one and pointed at the edge. The whole thing was held together with screws. She said she knew this was the best option because it had been her husband and friend who had built these themselves from kits a few decades ago. I looked at the joints and while some of the screws had a little rust, they all looked easy enough to remove.
I decided to test this and got my tools. I needed to know if I could carry the pieces. If I couldn’t, we simply couldn’t take the green house. It took me about fifteen minutes to unscrew the pane of glass. My first few attempts had me convinced I couldn’t lift it, but giving it one last push, I guess I broke it free of something stuck in the joints. It was really, really, heavy, but I could move it.
I decided it was best not to try it with my usual truck. The bed was not big enough for the pieces. After a quick search I found a flatbed truck. I had to be very careful since I knew too many broken panes would not be easily replaced. I did break two, but with two other green houses to pull from that wasn’t a problem. Moving all the glass took three days. Taking down and moving the frame work another two. Putting it all back together took a little over two days.
You know, until this point, I hadn’t really built anything substantial in my entire life. When I stepped back from the finished greenhouse, I felt strangely proud. Like I had finally done something worth doing, something that would actually make a difference in my life. It wasn’t another program that was a slight variation from a thousand others, I had done for all of my working life. It was a physical thing, it had weight and presence. I guess I was smiling because Ruth commented on it and told me I needed to do it more. That I didn’t need to be so hard on myself with things like the windmill. I would figure it out in the end. For maybe the first time since I met her, I’m actually glad she’s around, even if she’s insufferably positive sometimes.
January 30, 2022