Monday, March 30, 2015

Umm... Oops...

So a couple of weeks ago a circuit breaker that powers De's miniatures/dollhouse room and part of one bathroom tripped.  The first thing I always suspect is a bad GFI outlet, so I replaced it with no change.  Maybe the ceiling fan light fixture?  Pulled the switches, no change.  Maybe the outlet De uses the most?  Nope.  Just a bad breaker?  Nope. 

At this point I was worried we had some mouse-chewed wiring or something and was thinking I was about to get into a big job (I was also thinking about firing the cat), when De mentioned having to break the ice on the chicken's heated dog watering bowl.  We pulled the power for the coop from one of the existing outside outlets, but I had always thought they were on separate breaker. (They were supposed to be!)  It took just a little looking to find the real problem.  It seems the extension cord at the coop was not in the best of condition.

Yep...  That's enough to cause the breaker to trip.  We're actually quite thankful we didn't have a coop fire.

I had used a full-length cord there, and the short was about 8 feet from the socket end.  I cut off the bad stuff several inches from the short and slid the backshell of the replacement socket on the cord with the open part facing the new end.  Do this NOW instead of later.   It's important not to try to keep wire too close to a short like that because the heat can effect both the copper wire and the insulation.  After stripping back the outer sheath, leaving about 1 1/2 inches (3 cm or so) of inner wire exposed (black, white and green) I made sure everything looked good: No discoloration or cracking in the insulation, all the insulation soft and flexible. I use a knife for stripping back the insulation because I've done it so many times on electrical and coax cable and get away with it.  If you choose to use a knife on the sheath, triple check to make sure you didn't cut into the wire insulation.  (If you get even a teeny-tiny crack when you flex it, cut off another few inches and start over.)  Then I stripped about a 3/8" (about 1 cm) of the insulation off each wire.  I use a set of old but solid wire strippers for this job.  I checked the copper again to make sure it was still good and that I didn't damage any of the strands in the process of wire stripping.  The kind of replacement socket I purchased simply required running the bare wire down into the appropriate hole in the base and clamping it in with a screw on the side.

Ground is always green, black is the hot wire (narrow prong) and white is the return (wider prong).

Before I put the backshell on (again, you need to slide it over the cord BEFORE you do all this or you'll be taking it apart again!) I checked to make sure I had done it right.  A real electrician would probably skip this step, but not me.  I checked make sure the return on the plug ran to the return on the new socket.  There should be a solid "0 Ohm" connection from the plug to its associated position in the socket.
On my old analog meter, needle to the right means 0 ohms.  If you have a digit it should read 0 ohms or "short",

I also checked to make sure the return on the socket did NOT connect at all to the "hot" side of the plug.  I also checked both hot and return to the ground socket.  There should be no connection there either.

Needle all the way to the right means no connection.  Your digital should read "open" or just show dashes on the display.

When I was satisfied I had done all the reconnections right, I slid up the backshell and clamped it into place with the three screws on the back (next to the cord).

Ta da!  All fixed and ready to go.

With the job done I took the cord back out and put it in place.  I just hope the days of needing a heated water bowl are getting fewer and far between.

Col. 1:9-12,


Monday, March 23, 2015

Garden Planning!

So De and I sat down and (almost) finished the garden planning yesterday.  We made our list off what we wanted to put in the garden some time ago, but we just now got around to planning what goes where.

The whole thing looks like this:

But it's easier to see in smaller chunks.

We've moved things like carrots and onions out of the beds this year.  We also had to do some crop rotation. We ended ended up with a garden bed planting plan that looks like:


Peas, cucumbers and (of course) pole beans are on trellises.  We've had good luck using hog panels for trellises in the past and will likely do it again this year.  This will be our first year for kale.  The horseradish, asparagus, and rhubarb plants are already there from last year.  The grid squares, by the way, are roughly a foot.

The smaller of the two plots gets the stuff we kicked out the beds plus squash and sweet potatoes.  This is our first year for parsnips and sweet potatoes.  Parsnips should be easy, but we're going to have to get smart on sweet potatoes.

The larger of the two plots gets a lot of sweet corn and potatoes.  It also gets more squash.  With the corn being such a large plot, it's hard to rotate it right, but we're getting it mostly in new ground.

Next post I'll talk about the herb garden and maybe the fruit trees and brambles.  The herb garden gets a major expansion this year and the fruit trees and brambles are new.

By the way,  last week I saw the Doc (this time the specialist) for the cough I've not been able to shed and got some interesting results.  He did a bunch of labs, and it seems I tested positive for pertussis.  He thinks that was likely the root problem when I was in to see him in December.  He figures I  have about 6 more weeks to deal with it.  The good news is no more antibiotics or steroids, and he loaded me up with the extra heavy duty cough meds.   The best news is the end is in sight, and for that I do feel blessed.

Col. 1:9-12,


Sunday, March 15, 2015

What a Difference!

What a difference a couple of weeks makes!  On the March 1st, this is what the Hoosier County Homestead looked like:

A beautiful view, but enough already!
Our beds are 12" tall and can't be seen in this pic

Snow, Snow, Everywhere...

It's hard to tell, but those pictures were taken during what turned out to be our last winter snowstorm.  Our nights were more often than not below 0F and we felt good if the daytime times broke out of the teens.

And then we fast forward just a couple of weeks to yesterday March 15th.
Almost there!

Still some snow on the open ground

And today, after another 50 degree day:

The area to the left is shaded some even though the trees have no leaves and takes a bit longer to clear
All clear except the fence lines where it tends to pile up in drifts

Folks - I think we are close enough to say "Winter has left the building!" and I , for one, am glad to see it go.  Were they capable communicators, I think I could get an "Amen" from another set of residents:

Around the bird feeders is a a favorite forage area, much to the dismay of the wild bird ground feeders
Our ladies are not too proud to help themselves to the black oil sunflower seed that goes into the bird feeders

De and I have gotten our list of seeds and plants together and are looking forward to getting some of the early crops in.  We still have heavy frosts every morning, and the garden is mud on the top and still frozen just beneath, but we are getting close and are definitely getting the 'itch' get out and get busy!  This is our year for fruit trees and some more berries, so we've been doing our research on those.  I'll do a post explaining what goes where soon.

Finally, as a side note, I've been a little slow on posting due something of an "energy shortage".  The cough that put me in the hospital 6 weeks ago is coming back and I've had to be a bit selective on where my energy goes.  I see the specialist on Thursday and am hoping to avoid another "extended stay vacation" in the 'Broken Bone Bed and Breakfast'.  If I have to go back, I'll be in a hospital that is 40 or 50 miles from home rather than 20.  I'll keep you all posted on that too.

I'm really enjoying seeing everyone's posts on how they are getting the spring tasks underway, and will be sharing mine as the days go forward.

Col. 1:9-12,