Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Paradise ponders: dishwashers and pumps edition...

Paradise ponders: dishwashers and pumps edition...  Yesterday there was an important event for us – our dishwasher got fixed!  A week or so ago, it stopped working with an error code.  Naturally the manual doesn't say a thing about error codes, so we had to call the repairman (Jim at Darrell's Appliances).  At this point poor Jim has been out here so often that he's practically family. :)  We've had a string of older appliances (that we inherited when we bought this house) failing, generally at inopportune moments.  In this case, though, it was our beautiful Bosch dishwasher that we bought last September.  Jim quickly figured out that the error code meant we had a leak somewhere in the dishwasher.  After largely disassembling it, he was able to locate the leak: in the “diverter valve”, which controls which interior spray unit is spraying at any given moment.  He got it on order, and yesterday afternoon came back to actually perform the repair.  This entailed turning the dishwasher upside-down so he could get to the diverter valve, which is on the very bottom of the machine.  The photo at right shows him as he's clearing other parts out of the way before swapping the new diverter valve in.  When he was halfway through putting it all back together, I found a white plastic part on the floor – and neither of us could figure out where the heck that had come from.  No matter; the dishwasher worked fine once he got it all put back together.  Now we have a dishwasher again!  Yay!

Tomorrow morning Debbie and I are leaving on a three day trip to Kalispell to pick up a bunch of metal parts made for us by Lazy K Wrought Iron.  It's one day up there, a day to fool around in the area, and a day to come back.  Last time we did it in just two days, and that was a bit more hectic than we'd prefer.  We're both looking forward to this.

At the same time, the sale of my mom's old house in Virginia is closing on Friday, while we're on the road (figures, right?).  We're supposed to get documents this morning that have to be notarized and Fedexed back, but as I write this (at 11 am) we still have not received the documents.  Gulp!  It's been a long and harrowing process selling her house, and I'd sure hate it if some timing problem with Fedex screwed it up...

Yesterday the advance team from Glenn's Electric came out to scout out the irrigation pump situation.  Other than thinking the cedar shed was way too nice to house a pump, they found no problems.  They also brought the little pressure tank needed for the system (the grey vertical cylinder sitting on the shelf at right).  This morning I built that shelf for the pressure tank, to free up a bit of room in the shed.  There are two (quite large!) filters left to be installed, and they're the one thing in the shed that will need regular servicing (cleaning), so I'd like to have lots of room around them.

I suspect blogging will be intermittent to non-existent for the next few days...

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Paradise ponders: visitor edition...

Paradise ponders: visitor edition...  Well, Aleck L. showed up as planned, late Friday afternoon.  He left this morning.  We had such an enjoyable visit, even though it was (much) shorter than we'd have liked!  Hopefully we'll live long enough for him to come visit us again.  :)  Unless we scared him...

We helped him with a long list of “firsts”: first times that he'd done something.  Those included:
  • Dinner at the Black Pearl
  • Drinking delicious Utah spring water
  • Driving a tractor
  • Riding an ATV
  • Visiting Hardware Ranch, Blacksmith Fork Canyon, and the road to Ant Flats
  • Walking in Cache Valley's fields
  • Seeing a week-old calf
  • Petting some goats
  • Learning that a horse's nose is velvety
  • Seeing how farmers irrigate their fields
  • Dinner at Maddox Ranch House
  • Attending a rodeo!  (the Hyrum Star-Spangled Banner rodeo)
For some reason I don't understand, he didn't want to get up at 5:30 am to help move irrigation pipes.  :)  We also had lots of great conversation, of course.  I have a couple photos:

Friday, June 23, 2017

Paradise ponders: potted plant, vanishing power cords, and oodles of hay edition...

Paradise ponders: potted plant, vanishing power cords, and oodles of hay edition...  At right is our south field as of yesterday evening.  Scott N., the fellow who leases the field from us, cut and baled the field earlier in the week.  That's more hay extracted than we've ever seen come off that field, and by a pretty good margin (close to double the previous best yield).  There are two reasons that I know of for that.  First, we had a lot of rain early in the season.  Second, because he was so busy with the other fields he leases, Scott was quite late getting to the mowing of our field.  The grass in our field was over 3 feet high when he finally mowed it down.  That translates into lots of bales of hay!  I saw Scott while he was baling and gave him a wave; he waved back with an ear-to-ear grin.  :)

Debbie and I spent yesterday and today mainly working on getting plants in place on our porches and our balcony.  We've got a total of nine big pots in three places.  Five of them are on our balcony (photos below).  We put drip irrigation onto these pots.  There's a hose bib almost immediately under the balcony, but we didn't want to have an ugly hose showing against the side of the house.  To solve that problem, we ran the hose up a gutter rain spout – that worked great!  The hose pops out of the gutter a mere 6" from where we needed it on the balcony, and the bottom side is hidden by shrubbery.  Perfect!  The drip irrigation is visible in the photos below, but it's hard to see...

Yesterday I tackled a project that's been in the queue for quite a while.  We've got a couple of “bug lights” in the house to combat the box elder bugs, house flies, and yellow jackets that wander into the house through various means.  These lights are what restaurants use to keep flies down.  They're ultraviolet lights (to attract bugs) with flypaper immediately below them.  It's kind of amazing how well such a simple thing works – we put them up last year, and after about a week we basically never see bugs any more.  The one drawback to them is that they require a power cord.  Our original installation had the power cords dangling straight down to an outlet, which means that we had a power cord stretched out against the wall – not exactly the most attractive thing.  Last week I had an idea of how to fix that, by installing a new outlet box right behind the triangular art deco bottom part of the light fixture.  That part happens to be just barely big enough to hide a one-gang outlet box, and it's also hollow so the cord could be tucked into there.  Below you can see the finished results: the power cords are gone, and the means by which I accomplished that are completely hidden from view.  Win!

Debbie's been decorating our sun room, even as the cats get more and more comfortable in there.  Some photos for you:

We eagerly anticipating the arrival of a friend we haven't seen for several years: Aleck L.  He should be here later this afternoon, and he's staying through mid-day on Sunday.  I met Aleck when we worked together at ServiceNow about eight years ago, and we've had a delightful friendship since then.  While we've been frequently in touch with him, we haven't actually seen Aleck for over three years now.  It will be great to have some time with him!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Paradise ponders: all kinds of stuff edition...

Paradise ponders: all kinds of stuff edition...  I hardly know where to start on this one!

I guess last night, when we had a beautiful scene on the Wasatch Mountains to our east just before the sun dropped down below the Wellsville Mountains to our west.  The photos below were shot from my office windows.  Gorgeous, it was...

Yesterday morning, bright and early, the fellows from Golden Spike Electric showed up to finish the job of wiring our filling station.  All that had remained was wiring the explosion-proof “whip” to connect the pumps to power.  The photo at right shows the completed unit.  It all works just great!  We filled the diesel tank of my tractor (7 gallons) in under 30 seconds.  And no clumsy 5 gallon cans to deal with!  Woo hoo!  There are some leaks that showed up after we pressurized the system with the pumps, but the plumbers who did the job will be here soon to fix those.  We have our own filling station, off-road diesel and ethanol-free gas!

I worked for several hours yesterday wiring up the pump controller in my cedar shed.  That also involved several hours of looking for parts, mostly 8 gauge wire in the appropriate assortment of colors.  That wasn't so easy to find!  The first photo below shows the controller mounted to the wall, cover off.  If you're not familiar with these controllers, they're interesting gadgets.  This model takes up to 40 amps single phase 60 Hz 240 VAC as its input, and provides up to 30 amps three phase variable frequency 240 VAC as its output.  The output frequency is controlled by a pressure sensor, and the output is intended to drive a centrifugal pump.  In my case that will be a 5HP pump, and we're going to keep the pressure at a constant 65 PSI.  The device is based on switching technology, making it both quite small and remarkably efficient (>95%).  It's controlled by a computer (of course!), and has several interesting programmable features.  Of interest to me are two inputs that can be used to enable/disable the pump, and an output that can tell some other device that the pump is running.  There's also a serial connection that can provide much more detailed information.  The second photo below shows the finished installation.  Input power comes in on the lower left, output through the flexible conduit that will connect to the pump when it's delivered.  The pump will sit on the pad you see below and right of the controller.  That pad is sitting on 1" thick anti-vibration pads, which hopefully will keep the vibration from the pump down to levels that won't shake my cedar shed apart!  :)

Debbie and I took our friend Michelle H. out to lunch at the Black Pearl, where we all had sushi (perfect for a blazing hot day like yesterday was!).  She'd never had sushi with raw fish before, but she had one bite of Debbie's roll that included a layer of hamachi.  She liked it. :)

The sprinkler guys worked hard all day long, and got a lot done.  I'd say they're well over half-way finished with the trenching and pipe installation.  Our yard looks like some mutant gopher is wreaking vengeance upon us – trenches are everywhere!  Toward the end of the day they went to test a new section but couldn't get any water.  With a little investigation, we discovered that the Paradise Irrigation Company had turned off the water while they de-mossed the canal (something they do several times each summer).  They neglected to warn us, though, so we were taken by surprise.  It's back on now...

In the afternoon, Debbie spotted some really dramatic looking clouds and rain to the north of us.  I looked at the weather radar and saw that it was pouring up there – so we decided to chase the storm.  We hopped in the Model X and zipped northward, never making it closer than the outer edge of any storm.  No matter, the dramatic lighting made for some beautiful views.  We went up to the Cherry Peak ski resort (first time either of us had ever been there), and the drive back was full of views to the west.  The valley was brightly lit, intermittently through broken cloud cover.  Where we were was in cloud shadow.  It was around 7 pm, so the sun was low and the slanted light made for some very dramatic lighting of the valley floor.  On the way home we stopped at Aggie's for an ice cream cone.  That was a nice way to end the day...

Monday, June 19, 2017

Paradise ponders: visitors, MacBook Pro OOB, sprinkler progress, and pump mount edition...

Paradise ponders: visitors, MacBook Pro OOB, sprinkler progress, and pump mount edition...  We had a nice surprise yesterday: Dave and Barb H., old friends of ours from Debbie's San Diego agility days, were in the area and decided to drop by our house for the afternoon.  They drove their enormous (40' long!) RV, towing a jeep, up to our place from Farmington.  We had such a nice visit with them!  Lots of talking, showing them the homestead, and then driving around south Cache Valley with them.  When they got ready to leave, they loaded up their five dogs (who had been carousing in our back yard), and they promptly took over the cockpit (at right). :)  We were said to see them go...

When I got my new MacBook Pro on Saturday, I took a few snaps as I unboxed it and set it up (below).  As you may already know, Apple is famous for their “out of box” (OOB) experience – opening a box containing one of their machines is exciting and almost sensuously pleasurable. Every last little detail, right down to easy ways to remove tape and even the smell are carefully engineered.  Each product has an entire team of people devoted to getting the OOB experience as good as it can be gotten.

In my case the MacBook Pro arrived via UPS in a plain brown box, rather like sex toys or pornography are delivered.  In the case of Apple, the ordinary appearance is to refrain from attracting thieves, not out of any concern that the recipient might be embarrassed.  As is typical with Apple products, a tiny little “zipper” broke the tape holding the box shut, and the inner classic white Apple box was revealed.  That box was shrink-wrapped in clear plastic, easily removed.  The exposed box then opened right up, revealing the MacBook Pro nestled in a molded cardboard holder.  Upon removing the laptop, I exposed the power cord, power brick, and manual.  I plugged the power brick into the wall, attached the power cord to the MacBook Pro, then powered it up.  In the last photo you see the first setup screen – I was all ready to go.  Apple did it again!  I'd have to give them an “awesome!” were I grading their OOB experience...

The sprinkler contractor has been working hard, and now with a fully functional trenching machine he's making great progress.  Our yard south of our house is now a maze of trenches that look like they were laid out by madmen.  One guy is trenching, the other is laying pipe into the new trenches.  In the last photo below, you can see the newly graded piece next to my barn.  We decided today to irrigate that area as well, and to plant grass there.

This morning I stopped in at Glen's Electric to pick up the pump mounting pad and the constant pressure controller (a variable frequency drive for the pump motor tied to a pressure sensor).  Then I built a wooden frame (using most of two 8' 2x6s and two 8' 2x4s) to hold the pump mounting pad, and to provide for the anti-vibration pads to go between the wooden frame and the floor of my cedar shed (photos below; finished mount in the last photo).  This was easy and quite a bit of fun, as I got to use both the miter and bevel capabilities of my miter saw to their fullest.  The finished product is significantly over-built – that pump won't be wandering off on its own! :)