Yokoji-Zen Mountain Center

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Wednesday is the New Monday

August 19, 2010 by Yugen

Jim Lakey Rev. Jim Yugen Lakey
Yokoji Zen Mountain Center

Wednesday is the New Monday

After a couple of days off from the schedule, which is a luxury peculiar to the interim period, Wednesday morning can be grueling. For me it is a bit like jumping in to cold water - the initial shock soon fades into a sense of well being and gratitude for having taken the plunge. I love taking time off, relaxing and having fun, but I also love clocking back in at around 5:00am on a Wednesday morning, ready for another week at Yokoji.

At the morning work meeting, Tenshin Roshi and the residents go through what needs to be done during the week. We usually have a guest group or event coming up to plan, and work projects to discuss. This week, on Saturday, we have the Introduction to Zen Practice class, which runs every two months. It is led by one of the senior students, this time Arthur Wayu Kennedy, and goes over the history and details of Zen practice.

Jishin works in the kitchen and in the office, trying to set up accounts with publishing houses so we can order books from Tenshin Roshi's recommended reading list for the gift store. Jim Prall and Roshi continue to work on finishing the stair case. A quick trip in to Idyllwild in the Toyota stakebed for Jim Prall yields the grocery run for the week as well as lumber for the stair case and other upcoming projects. Being up in the mountains, we shop locally for convenience and to support local businesses, but also go to the local cities when we need to. We try and balance economy with support of the community.

The office work for today is taking twice as long as the modem - our gateway to the outside world - is behaving like a temperamental child, having tantrums every few minutes which prevent emails from coming and going. As we are off-grid and in a sparsely populated area, it is unlikely we will ever have a decent internet connection as it is not in the interest of the phone companies to connect this part of the valley. We opt for a satellite connection which can be slow and is limited in bandwidth usage. Ho hum.

Today I check the power system. We use deep-cycle batteries to hold the charge from the solar panels and wind turbines. The existing set-up does not provide enough renewable energy to meet our needs, so we run the generator a couple of times a week to finish charging the batteries. Ideally, we would have more solar panels, as they are the most effective source of power for us up here, but the cost is prohibitive. Solar panels are great, though. Everyone loves them. What's not to like about benign, shiny beautiful slabs of mysterious matter that quietly transform the light from the sun in to usable power? I can't think of a thing. We may organize a fund raiser in the near future to get some more of these jolly, uncomplaining fellows.

Our hi-tech turkey baster-esque hydrometer. And some batteries.

One of the joys of living here is learning, out of necessity, things you would never ever need to know in most walks of life. I can now operate an off-grid power system, drive a tractor, run and maintain chainsaws, weed whackers, log splitters, cement mixers... So if your sense of ambition is sparked off by any of the above, come and join us for work practice. Get your hands dirty. By checking the battery electrolyte with a hydrometer (an object uncannily similar to a turkey baster) I find out that the batteries need to receive an equalization charge, part of their monthly maintenance. Basically, this consists of raising the voltage of the 24V system to around 31V via a generator charge, and rapidly boiling the electrolyte in order to get rid of any deposits that have formed on the electrodes. You would not want to be in the battery shed when this was happening, unless boiling sulfuric acid and rapidly forming hydrogen gas in a confined space is your idea of a good time. Once the charge is over (it will take about 12-14 hours in total) I will then have to check each of the 3 cells in all 24 batteries to make sure that not too much liquid boiled away and that the electrodes are still covered in electrolyte. Not one of my favorite jobs. It involves plastic gloves, eye protection, distilled water, baking soda (just in case) and some kind of insulating material to make sure I don't inadvertently create a circuit with my body on any of the terminals. Seventy-two small fiddly plastic caps later and the batteries will once again be happily supplying power, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to our small mountain community.

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