Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sigh - we're still limping along, but a bit slower now

We're trying to keep our dying solar energy system running until we can get some new and improved components in our container late this year. We've been gradually losing batteries, and recently we had an apparent electrical surge from a nearby lightning strike, which caused the fan on our inverter to quit.

This morning, perhaps related to the same apparent surge, the inverter itself suddenly blew up (we had replaced the fan, so overheating shouldn't have been the problem). It didn't blow up all over the place, but something inside the unit blew, with a big "bang" and a shower of sparks. Sigh.

What does this mean? I don't mind your asking, as I don't really understand too much of the technology we're using here, but Allen explains it to the rest of us. Here's the scoop:

Currently, with no inverter, we can't use power from the batteries we still have. That means that if the power keeps coming in from the solar panels, the batteries would overcharge and possibly be damaged. So, the first order of the day today was for people to climb onto the roof and cover the solar panels with blankets.

We can (hopefully) purchase a new inverter in the city of San Pedro Sula. As soon as we made the decision to try to do this, Russell hopped into the Land Cruiser and headed out. The inverter we think we can purchase is smaller than our current one, and it won't work in conjunction with the new components we'll be installing in December - so it's an unexpected and unplanned purchase, but it still seems to be the way to go. Having the temporary inverter will allow us to continue using refrigeration . . . really, I think, that's worth something, and the inverter should only cost about $100.

After he'd driven about an hour from home, Russell remembered something we'd all forgotten with all the other excitement this morning - that a bridge on the road between here and San Pedro Sula washed out recently. We don't know if traffic is getting through now or not. We're hoping and praying that he can drive through to the city - otherwise it seems like he will park, walk across, and catch a bus to the city on the other side.

If we can't get the temporary inverter, we'll be running power only from our generator. This works fine for laundry and computer use, but the refrigerator needs long hours of continuous use, not short spurts.

Using a generator for that purpose gets expensive. With an inverter, we can run the solar panels (or the generator, when there's no sun) to charge the batteries, and then use the stored power, but without an inverter, we only have power when the generator is actually running.

The good news is that the components which are dying are parts which we were already planning to replace. They were originally cheaper than some other options - and perhaps we got what we paid for. The parts which were more expensive are still running, and will work with our new components.

The bad news is we have a wedding coming up, and guests, and lots of reasons why this is a bad time for us to try living with such limited power. But, we'll figure it out.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Making Wedding Invitations

From talking to a few of my friends in the US, I've learned that making your own wedding invitations, or putting them together from a "kit" is sort of trendy right now. I'm glad I found that out, because I hadn't heard of it, and I was thinking perhaps this was a uniquely Honduran thing.

No, we're not being uniquely Honduran here - we're trendy! ;-D

The pictures above show the work on the envelopes for the invitations. I had to do some research to figure out the name of this kind of paper craft, in English. It's called Parchment Craft, or Pergamano.

All the hard work was done on the envelopes. The invitations themselves are being printed (by a printer) on special paper. You'll have to wait a bit longer, for photos of the finished product.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Wacky Stories I Tell . . . here comes another one

So, here's what happened today.

We have afternoon thunderstorms most every day this time of year. As today's storm approached, we had a really close lightning strike. Really close. Like we wondered if it might have hit one of our buildings. (We later discovered that a huge pine tree, about 600' from our closest building, was hit.)

We were checking around for damage, and especially checking out our solar equipment, when dh noticed a "hot plastic" smell in the vicinity of our batteries, controllers, and inverter. Not good at all. However, the system was still running, and everything plugged into the system seemed to be running fine.

With additional investigation, eventually the menfolk narrowed the smell down to the inverter, and realized that the interior fan was no longer running.

So, they took apart the inverter (tricky business, because they had to remove the equipment from the charged up batteries), and found that they couldn't repair the fan.

I need to mention that yesterday Russell was working on sorting through our stored man-junk. You know the kind of stuff, if you have a hands-on husband. Russell had found a small, cheap fan, which was designed to be attached to a piece of large construction equipment, to keep the driver cool. We had installed it, but it had fallen off the machine and never been re-installed. It was sitting in the pile of stuff to be thrown out or given away.

They grabbed it up out of the pile, figured out a way to mount it next to the inverter so that it blows air through the inverter, and we're powered up and running again.

Really, is anyone even going to believe me anymore?

Oh, and in case anyone is interested, the system is grounded.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Gifts for Gracias Christmas Project - a reminder!

I wanted to take a moment to remind everyone that the container with the Christmas gifts and donated household items is due to leave Maryland sometime in November. All the information you need to create gifts or gather donations can be found on the pages linked at the top of this blog.

We absolutely must ship the container on time this year, as we will be pretty much desperate for our new batteries (for our solar energy system) by the time the container arrives. It is horribly wasteful to pay to ship a container that isn't entirely full . . . so please, do what you can to help us fill it up!

Thanks so much!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Gradual Decline of the Solar System

(Okay, it's really only the batteries which are in decline, but I couldn't resist the epic sound of that title!)

For those who haven't read the earlier post about this, the batteries in our solar power system are dying. From an original sixteen batteries, we are now down to twelve. This has been a major surprise to us, since our research indicated that we could expect 2-3 years of usage from these batteries, and we are losing them in less than one year.

We won't be able to get our replacement battery system (of a different type) until our container from Maryland arrives here in (hopefully) December, so we've had to just get used to a time of limited power usage.

What does this mean in our daily lives?

1. We don't have enough stored power to start running electrical items until the sun is up, and the mist is cleared off the mountain in the morning. The timing on this can be between 6am and 8am depending on the weather. With the first real amount of power coming in, we turn on the refrigerator. When we've reached a second higher level of input, we turn on the computer.

Just so you know, Allen and I are normally up much earlier than 6am. With such limited power, we go to bed pretty early these days, so the first glimmer of sun (around 4am) has us feeling like it's time to get up.

2. When the power is coming in at a high level we hurry and do everything that requires large amounts of electrical power. This is mostly running the dishwasher and the washing machine. Usually we have enough power to do at least some of this work between 9am and 2pm. Some days we don't have enough power to run either machine. Fortunately, we have lots of clothing, and I haven't yet forgotten how to wash dishes by hand.

3. At around 3 in the afternoon we start to conserve power. We turn off everything except the refrigerator, unless we still have lots of sunshine. But we watch the sun and the power input levels carefully, as the power level will drop quickly at some point around 3pm - this has to do with the angle of the solar panels and the afternoon location of the sun.

4. Around 4 or 5pm we turn off the refrigerator, and we run nothing using power until after supper. Supper is usually served between 5 and 6pm.

5. Soon after supper some members of the family generally watch a movie or a few episodes of a TV show on DVD, using the power which was conserved from earlier, and we also run the fridge again for as long as we can. If it has been an especially overcast afternoon, or if we misjudged our power usage in the afternoon, we have to run the generator for a short time in the evening, to have enough power for the evening usage. By around 8 or 8:30pm, we're usually heading for bed. Sometimes on the weekends we stay up later - even until 9:30 or 10pm, but that involves splurging on additional generator use!

And that about sums up our low-energy days.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Rest of the Story

I posted yesterday about the armadillo in my kitchen. I chose not to mention that our workers were planning to take the animal home and cook it. I'm told armadillo meat makes a delicious soup.

Anyway, before the workers left for the day with the armadillo, we had some other guests arrive. These were a group of people from one of the biggest churches in the city of Gracias. We just received funding for a school construction project for a school run by their church, and we were having a preliminary meeting regarding the disbursement of funds. Along with the adults came about six young boys (I never really figured out the relationships between the men, women, and boys), and as soon as everyone jumped out of the truck they were all attracted to the armadillo.

It surprised me, as I approached the group, to see one of the women holding the armadillo . . . but I was even more surprised when she bought it from our worker and popped it right into her large purse! I asked her if she was going to cook it, but she told me she is going to keep it as a pet.

So now you know . . . the rest of the story!

Ohhh, and here's a link to a fun webpage full of information about armadillos. I was happy that it was able to ease my mind regarding the leprosy question.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Today, in Trish's Kitchen . . .

The young men who are working on our fence repairs came up to the house to be paid this evening, and they were carrying this:

You just never know what the day will bring, do you?

Monday, August 9, 2010

There go some more motorcycles!

Here are a few recent pictures of pastors receiving their new motorcycles to use in their ministries.

In the next few days, I'm planning to post some information about some of these pastors, so you can know more about what they do and how the motorcycles help them in their ministries.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Let's Tally the Animals

Five dogs - 2 adult males, 1 adult female, 2 female puppies

Thirteen cats - 3 adult females, 1 adult male, 1 youngish kitten and 8 nursing babies (from 2 litters - one litter was born this morning)

Three chickens

Two bunnies

Two cows - 1 bull and 1 female calf

One annoying parrot

One small horse

I think that's all, for now, unless you want to count the worms who do our composting. I personally don't want to count them.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Double Trouble!

I guess we went a little puppy crazy. Allen did bring home a 3 month old female Rottweiler-mix puppy on Friday. She's a darling, and quite feisty. We think she'll probably end up with the name Pepper, possibly Sergeant Pepper. The puppy is recuperating from a skin problem (you can see it in the picture above, on her nose), so we got a deal on her price.

Russell went back to the city a few days later, and Allen asked him to check in on a rescue dog that had been available at the dog sellers the day he bought Pepper. Allen wanted to bring that dog home, in addition to the puppy, but there wasn't room in his vehicle. When Russell got there, the rescue dog was already taken, but there was this adorable little labrador puppy. Russell was tempted, but he explained to the seller that we didn't want a white dog, we wanted a black dog. So the seller dropped the price . . . significantly . . . and now we have two puppies in the house!

The lab is only 2 months old, so she's still sleeping much of the time. Her name might be Sugar, or Puddin', or something else. We're having a bit of trouble with the puppy names.

We're also having trouble getting puppy pictures. When the two of them are in the same place, there's quite a bit of action!

All those trips to the city were ministry trips, by the way. We've just purchased and distributed another ten motorcycles for pastors to use in their evangelistic and pastoral work in the mountains! Thanks again to the good folks at the Christian Motorcyclist's Association, who raise the funds for these motorcycle purchases!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Have you missed me - or are you just wondering when you'll get to see the new puppy?

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. We've experienced the loss of yet another battery from our solar energy system. That takes us down to 12, from an original total of 16. This means that our use of energy is being limited, which has kept me off the computer quite a bit.

-this reminds me, by the way, to request that you keep praying for our power system. We are hoping to limp along until we can ship a new and better battery in the container in November. We're definitely limping now!

I've also run out of batteries for my camera. Tomorrow is to be a shopping day in Gracias, so I should have those AA batteries by tomorrow night, and then I can post some puppy pictures.

I think you'll be surprised . . .