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Archive for October, 2008

Steven Spence II, Injured

Day 1:

Young Steven, my son, just came home from basic training and infantry
school. 3 hours later, a friend put a loaded .270 in a gun case (Stupid). Steven pulled it out of the case, not knowing it was loaded (yes, he now understands that all guns are considered “loaded”), by the end of the barrel, and the gun went off. He has destroyed nerves and possibly tendons in his left palm. He is left handed. Doc’s are not sure they can restore full functionality. It could have been a lot worse.

Day 2 :

Docs say it’s going to be a long process (at least a year), and no guarantee of full recovery. There will be a series of grafts, plastic surgery, and much therapy. His military insurance will not cover this. Military service seems out of the question at this point.

Day 3:

After being at the hospital since Friday, I got home tonight (it’s 3 hours away), and found a 3/4″ hole through the house, starting in the basement bedroom, through two walls, two floors, the roof, and the fridge ……

Always consider a gun loaded, and treat it with respect. Many of us
use these tools for hunting or home defense. They are not toys.

Day 6:

He’s on his 4th surgery. Today they did a ultrasound on his stomach to find blood vessels and tissue to attach to. Monday they will lift a flap from his stomach, and attach his hand. This is to grow sufficient fat and skin tissue to attach nerve and blood vessels to the hand. He lost the ulnar nerve, so he will have greatly reduced motor skills.

Day 13:

They have yet to attach the hand to the stomach, although they have prepared the skin flap on the stomach by cutting the blood vessels from the sides to allow the central blood vessel to grow new passages out. Steven comes home tomorrow for a week or so until they can get him a spot in the OR for the hand attachment procedure. He comes home with a portable vacuum pump that removes seepage from the vacuum bandage around his hand and wrist.

Day 22:

The hand is being attached to the stomach on Monday, 11-15-08. It’s an overnight stay and he’s back home. He’s recovering nicely, and the damage does not seem to affect his thumb and index finger. He should be ready for the graft in 2 weeks or so. So far, the National Guard is keeping him on, in hopes of a complete recovery.


Top of Pole Solar Mounts

The Pole Mount for our new solar panels just arrived. The UPS driver took one look at the panels that were laid out, and commented as he handed me the boxes, “Toys for boys?”. Oh Yeh!

The pole mount is from Iron Ridge, and will hold up to eight panels, but only six panels of this size. Next year, when we get another six panels, we will put up another pole.

The pole is a 10′ piece of used telephone pole, courtesy of our local phone company. It has yet to arrive.


Solar PV Upgrade

Our new Photo Voltaic Solar Panels arrived this week while we were in Ft. Benning, Georgia. We were there attending our Son’s graduation from Infantry Training.

The six Panels are 195 watt Sanyo Hybrid panels. These panels have a amorphous layer over top the mono crystalline layer, and work well in cloudy and overcast weather as well as bright sunny weather. It was in the high 20’s last night, and the sun is low on the horizon, so a 1200 watt boost to our existing 550 watts will be appreciated. This will greatly reduce our propane usage and generator run times, and keep our house batteries fully charged for longer periods of time. I’ll be posting pictures and desciptions as we install them, and will be updating our DIY Solar Power Installation ebook at


Monitoring your off grid power system

We use a multifunction display from Outback called a Mate to monitor the operation of our charge controller, our inverter, and our battery bank. We have another shunt coming in so that we can monitor the wind turbine and solar independently. But what about logging and historical performance. It would be handy to be able to compare monthly and seasonal performance. Our Mate has a serial port on the side for connecting to a computer, so we are evaluating 2 software packages that will allow us to track and record the complete operations of our system.

The first is WinVerter-Monitor OB from, and the other is WattPlot from We will let you know about the strenghts and weaknesses of both.


Automatic Battery Watering

One of the critical chores in maintaining your off grid battery system is making sure the water levels are kept up. This prevents the plates from being exposed, and ruining a pack before it’s time. Some folks have physical difficulties, or plain forget to water, so we are introducing an automatic watering system that will add a bit of water everytime the batteries hit 100% state of charge. A 5 gallon resorvoir means that it will be months before you have to refill the tank, and no spills means no corrosion. All gases are collected and vented to the outdoors through a tube, so no indoor venting issues. The system is controlled by the relay contacts on the Outback FLEXnet DC, but a Xantrex system could be used as well. A 24 cell system (8 batteries x 3 cells per battery) will sell for about $500, and requires programmable relay contacts (Outback FLEXnet DC or equivalent).

Automatic Battery Watering Systems