Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fried Wifi Brain


Cripes. Mike and I are super exhausted. We've seen each other for four days in the last five months. It is Winter in the Keweenaw. So, while we had planned on having the cabin done by the last week of October (our very latest, back up deadline if we didn't make the other deadlines) so we could move in, here it is December with lots of snow so we called it quits for the year. I am going to refer to this part of the cabin remodel as Faze I - Rough in with emphasis on the word "rough" and declare this phase over. I leave the Keweenaw this Saturday and fly back to Ohio. Mike will come up to the cabin the week of Christmas and finish hooking up the solar system. Our plan is that he'll be back in time for Christmas Eve. Then, Mike and I are going to take a little break from the construction stuff and start back up when we feel ready. The contractor that we had working on the cabin this year is all cleared off our property and it's a big relief. We are talking to another contractor for the finish work.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Getting a little on the side

Ya know, I find myself saying things that are weird to say about this whole construction drama. So, things are NOT working out with my current contractor and I want to toss him out and fire his ass. It's so reminiscent of a bad relationship break up only he never bought me a ring to throw at him as I stomp indignantly off into the sunset. It's hunting season. This current contractor's usual level of lack of customer service has left me alone for two weeks without any workers or any work being done. What's a girl to do to fill her lonely, quiet, construction worker-less days? Not let the job site get cold. That's for darn sure. The last shipment of Loewen Windows came in along with a couple of guys to install them. So, yes, guilty. I'm guilty of cheating on my contractor with another contractor. So, these new guys are amazing. We stopped work and went into town for lunch. We went our separate ways for lunch and I was took my sweet old time as I usually do with my other crew. I had lunch. Set my fork down between bites. Chewed slowly and thoroughly actually tasting my food. Then I ran some errands. Then I drove within the speed limit. Good thing the old ticker is still a work horse. I'm still suffering from a little disbelief though. Eric and Jake were done installing the windows. As if that weren't shocking enough, they were, get this, cleaning up. Then Eric said, in slow motion with the camera in tight on a shot of his lips, "Is there anything else you would like us to do for you while we're here?" After, visions of laying on the ground and getting the electric paddle treatment to the chest cleared my head, I responded with an intelligent, "Uh, no?" After as much a recovery as anyone in my shoes could make, I was able to point at the cabin and kind of stutter, "Come back to UP? Proposal to finish cabin?" while refraining from throwing myself down on the ground and holding them by the ankles and crying, "Don't leave me; finish my cabin, please." So, I'm getting a proposal. And so, yes, I'm guilty of courting another contractor on the side while I'm still hooked up with this current contractor. My new contractor has a cooler truck too! Na, na, so there.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Not as ugly as I thought

I was seriously concerned and dreading what putting up a PV array would do for my visual senses. I mean, I have almost caused The Husband's soul to leave his body with my occasional and very sudden out bursts of, "OMIGODDESS THAT'S UGLY!" upon witnessing some sort of horrific visual assault upon my overtly sensitive aesthetic senses. You know how you see really bad behavior from kids and you're just like, "no way in hell am I going down that road." People say, "Oh, it's different when they're your own." Nope, not buying it. Misery loves company and you can't fool me. Well, this "when they're your own" philosophy must apply to solar panels. I was surprised by own reaction, or lack of reaction, when I first moved my hand down from over my eyes just a smidge. When my stomach didn't wrench, I moved my hand away from my face the rest of the way. "Hmm. oh, wow, OMIGODDESS, THAT IS SO FRICKIN' COOL!" I'm still not buying what I think is a misleading advertising campaign for having kids thing though.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fire in the hole


Seriously, what is it about fire that brings out the cave woman in me. I just want to point and jump around while donning hides. Oh, I'm the only one that feels that way? Is it too late to take it back after it's said out loud? Oh well. UH, FIRE, UH!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fall y'all





First, a quick word on the weather from UP North: Wa! (local saying meaning "wow"). For the rest of us, the word ugly will do the trick. Lots of cold, wind, rain, sleet, and snow. Even people who have been here a while are saying it's unseasonably cold right now and that it's pretty unusual to see color on the trees and snow on the ground.

I am flying to Ohio today so that I can take care of the animals while Mike comes UP here and installs the solar panels. Since my last update, the electrician has wired the cabin and I have been working on the plumbing. Yep, I can "sweat pipe" meaning solder. I also know how to glue together the black ABS piping too. I do have an experienced guy who is the brains and the brawn of the operation but technically because I, the owner, pulled the permit means I, the owner, have to do the work. I did that because we were getting ridiculously high estimates for the plumbing and the plumber I hired already had one part of the job wrong and had a mouth I didn't want to listen to so I wasn't going to torture myself or anybody else and ended that immediately.

The guys started the barn last week, are working on it this week, and will probably be working on it again next week. Geez. Then we're back in the cabin for insulation and drywall with a two week break for hunting season. Apparently, they shut the UP down and go hunting. After, that it's December. Yep, December. We should have our last shipment of windows waiting for us (they come in opening day of hunting season) and we'll get them installed and that will be it for the year.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The world's cutest kitchen window

Well, we ran out of that beautiful weather we were so lucky to have for so long. It has been gray and raining and a bit chilly for just about two weeks now. Fall is here. The boiler is down in the apartment building so there is no heat. I'm waiting for a chimney part to come in for the cabin so there is no heat there either. We have made progress in the cabin though! I fired the plumber so I will be doing the plumbing. I found an expert helper though. The building inspector is coming out on Monday. The carpenters will be out building the barn this week while I do plumbing and the electrician wires the cabin. Hopefully, the chimney part will come in and then we'll be insulating and hanging drywall in the cabin. We're coming down the home stretch now! Mike and I will switch places in a couple of weeks. He'll come here and put up the solar array and I'll go to the Ohio farm and take care of the critters and pack. I have to take some pictures yet with the windows in.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

System specs *Geek alert*


So The Husband was raised by and in a pack of engineers. Sometimes, I think it would have been easier to deal with him if it had been a pack of wolves. Communication with an extreme right brainer is what I imagine things were like for those around Helen Keller before the water pump break through. Here's what The Husband told his family about what we're doing in The Secret Cabin but be forewarned there's lots of "Geek Speak."

We plan to heat the cabin with 2 masonry heaters, one in the basement, and one on the main floor. They will be stacked on top of each other. Masonry heaters work by lighting a wood fire in the heater, which burns for about 1 1/2 hours. The fire burns very hot (no creosote due to the high temperatures). After the fire goes out, the heater continues to radiate heat for the next 24 hours or so because the large masonry mass which absorbed heat from the fire is gradually releasing it. In the downstairs heater, it will also have a water pipe going thru it, and that is how we will heat our water during 9 months out of the year. The remaining 3 months, we are either going to use solar hot water or the smallest electric on demand water heater we can find. Cellular service is almost nonexistent. If you stand in the loft and hold the cell phone to your head just right, you can get a signal. So the plan is to buy a cellular base station that I can hook an external antenna up to, and aim the antenna at the cell phone tower. It should work. For electricity, we are going to be off grid. I have a solar system sitting in the barn in Gibsonburg, just waiting to go up to Calumet. I have 8 Evergreen 205 watt panel, for a little over 1.6Kw worth of power. With the almost 2 hours worth of sun per day predicted up in Calumet during the winter (the worst time for sun), we should be producing about 3Kwh of power per day, or about 90Kwh per month. These panels will be attached to the top of an 8 inch pole. The electricity from the panels will be wired for about 90 volts DC and go to 2 Xantrex mppt charge controllers, which charge the batteries via outputting the best voltage and amperage for the batteries. This may change several times a minute, depending on clouds, time of day, etc. I have 12 Concorde AGM 2 volt batteries, that are about 950 amps apiece. Each battery weighs about 100 pounds, so the total battery bank is about 1200 pounds. The batteries will be wired for 24 volts. Theoretically, depending how much electricity Bheki uses, the batteries should last 3-6 days with no sunlight before they get down to about 50 percent charged. The more you discharge the batteries, the more you shorten the lifespan of the batteries. You really really try not to discharge the batteries below 50 percent. The batteries should last at least 8 years, hopefully closer to 15 before they need replacing. The solar panels should last at least 25 years, if not longer. So we have electricity sitting in the batteries. At this point, the battery output goes into a Xantrex 4024 inverter. This inverter puts out 4000 watts and 240 volts. The inverter output will be wired into a regular service panel (breaker box) in the house. At that point, all the wiring in the house is the same as any other house. It will run a submersible pump, lights, tv, computer, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, washing machine, and possibly, in the summer a very small electric heater (the smallest on demand point of use water heaters pull about 3500 watts, so they are close to the limits of the inverter). Do I expect to save money by being off grid and not using any propane or natural gas? No, I think it actually costs more to do things this way. We may never reach the point where we save more than we spent on the systems. But by the same token, you could say any money you spend on a car that has more than the bare necessities is not financially smart, yet I do it. I use a computer that costs more than comparable computers. I guess my philosophy is I vote with my money, and I am voting for this lifestyle. I didn't mean to get into philosophy, sorry. I spec'd out the system myself, and plan to install the system myself. I took an installers class at Owens a couple of years ago. It was very informative. If anybody is curious, the photovoltaic system cost about $20,000, minus a tax credit of about 6,000 for a total of $14,000 out of pocket. If you figure a 25 year lifespan on the system with 1 battery change, that would be about 680/year or 57 dollars a month, assuming the inverter or charge controllers do not need any maintenance.

Schew. As an additional note here to what The Husband's listed as expenses, the initial quote to bring electric back from the road was $8000. When all was said and done, it was expected that it would be higher than $8,000. Do I feel a panic attack coming on when I see the numbers? Yes. Would I do it this way all over again? Yes. Am I claiming that everyone can afford this? Hell no. It pinches, hurts, and leaves a little bruise. But, what if from the time I got my very first apartment, I had matched my electric bill and put it in my piggy bank? At least this way, FOR US, we're "walking OUR walk," we've paid our future electric bills in advance, we have physical property to show for it, and well, when the grid goes down, we don't.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hollywood Hell Week


Except not in Hollywood and no future singing sensations. Where is Simon Cowell when you need him? I'm on week 2 at the cabin. Last week was ugly. Job foreman would NOT listen, gave me a lot of grief, and was just plain snark-y. I blew up and swore like a sailor. It didn't work. Unless, I was going for high blood pressure readings. When things weren't ready for the heater mason, I called the construction company owner and told him things weren't going well. Didn't get much response so I brought in a couple of guys to help me. Nope, not to proud to pick men up off the street. When owner got there yesterday morning, I let him know he lost the additional work we have and that he'd have to earn the next stage of the job. He said that wasn't fair. I told him that he'd learn to take me seriously and that's the way it was going to go. So going for the wallet worked and I got more guys and everyone got the lead out and busted butt and the job got caught up. So, I'm thinking positively now and expect things to go well. Here's a little sneak peak at the lower level heater. This is after like 5 hours of work - and they had to set up all their stuff including shoveling dirt to be able to get into the basement and move all their block by hand because I couldn't get the job foreman to do it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009