Sunday, February 27, 2011

Deer are back

I had not seen the deer for a few days. What I did see was BIG, and I mean REALLY BIG, canine paw prints ALL over the place. The neighbor said that they were wolf prints. There was one set of prints in a line that spanned about four feet, then about four feet of nothing, and then again another set of prints in a line that spanned about four feet. This pattern repeated itself from the tree above down the driveway and passed the cabin. I don't like how close the prints were to the cabin. I didn't lose any food because I moved it from the front step of the outside of the cabin to the inside of the enclosed front porch. At one point this morning, we had seven deer under this tree.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oops, forgot the Inverter

The Inverter also uses power as part of that "idling." I will have to put together a list of loads, running duration of said loads and watt usage. Who knows when I will get to that so for now just know that the inverter is burning daylight. Better daylight than oil. Nya, nya, raspberries, oil companies.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Idling at 80 Watts

I wanted to go into a little more detail on a Tweet I did today. We had clouds and blowing snow. Even with the cloud cover we managed to make the same amount of power that the Cabin uses just what I call "idling." Like a car, only different. Watts instead of rpms. The Cabin "idles" at about 80 Watts. The Inverter does not read 80 Watts and never move. The well pump will kick on and it'll go up. The sump pump that drains the sink and wash machine will kick on and it'll go up again. We made enough power to cover those temporary increased power loads today too. That 80 Watts is for the pump that pumps the water through the Garden Level masonry heater/boiler loop and the "telecommunication gizmos." Technically, you can't get a cell phone signal here. We did not run phone lines back from the road to the cabin. So, The Husband has gizmos and we have a cell phone signal. The wireless network hub is also part of the "gizmos." When the light (sun) level goes too low, the Charge Controllers shut down and go into Standby mode. This is when I start draining the batteries. I will be draining the batteries some tonight with lights and running the water for dishes and toilet flushing. I make sure the voltage in the batteries is enough to get me through the night. The system will not let me run it too low. An alarm will go off. The forecast for tomorrow is calling for some sun. Same for Tuesday. This is good news because it means I won't have to muscle the generator out of the Cabin. It is kind of weird to have to plug in your house. Yeah, like a giant RV that idles at 80 Watts.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Almost live on Twitter

So, to the left, I guess, if the blog gets thrown up on your screen the way it does mine, I have added a link to my Twitter page. I know Twitter has been around now forever (in cyber years) and by doing this, I have finally hopped on the right darn now train; however, trying to keep my computer skills up-to-date makes me feel older instead of younger. Sigh. At any rate, it can't hurt to gently stir the cells in that grey mush sloshing around behind my eyes and between my ears. I'll probably keep the Tweets to energy generation/usage/weather stats/pertinent household energy use activities. I'm hoping that Tweets make it more convenient for readers to to get a feel for daily life off-grid. If I understand correctly, a reader could subscribe and have my Tweets conveniently fed to said reader, then it would be just like you were living here. Kinda, because if you were really here, I'd try to put you to work. I've already done my first Tweet.

Friday, February 18, 2011



Thursday, February 17, 2011

We're f-l-o-a-t-i-n-g

We did make it to solar float (fully charged via the sun) on the 12th. Mid-afternoon, the System Control Panel II showed that we were in absorption charging phase. The sun was blasting away. The Husband and I were giddy at the prospect of hitting solar float. We kept checking the system status. At one point during the absorption charging phase and the umpteenth time we checked our status, the Charge Controllers were only reading about 600 Watts. Huh? Head tilt. A brief silent moment of non-existent cerebral activity hung in the air and then as if the emergency broadcast system had gone off,  "QUICK, HIT THE GAS! PLUG EVERYTHING IN!" OMG! The Husband and I ran in different directions shouting to each other from opposite ends and different levels of the cabin, "Charge the computers! Where's your iPad! I need my jeans washed! I'm down in the Man Cave charging the flashlight batteries. Will you make lunch (run the microwave)?!" At one point, as I ran toward an outlet with my iPad, I noticed sunshine induced sleepy-eyed feLIONs looking rather annoyed that we disrupted their 16-hour nap. Yes, just a little jealous. Anyway, when the system is in absorption mode and getting close to floating, it throttles itself back. All that sun and we weren't using it. We we're burning daylight. Aw. Tsk. Tsk. So, we "hit the gas," so to speak, plugging the electronics in and running the washer and microwave. Now that we were putting more of a load on the system and the sun continued to blast away, the Charge Controllers read 1200 watts. Much better. Waste not; want not. We've hit solar float all week including today. We've had a few really warm days and even though we've backed off on the number of burns in the heaters and the cabin has cooled down and is comfortable, I've got to do burns in both heaters tonight. We've got a cold front moving in and with it some big, scary winds.

Speaking of wind, we got the spot in our yard picked out for the turbine without any threats of divorce from either party. The Husband did get prices from the Kestrel distributor. Taking into consideration the market analysis, The Husband and I came up with our asking price for our Ohio farm, again, without any threats of divorce or withholding dinner. Here's hoping our Ohio farm sells for our asking price so we can get our wind turbine. In the meantime, there's still details to work out and a lot of paperwork to get together for zoning. I will divulge the wind system details when they're worked out. Remember, we're tying the turbine into our existing system so the charge controllers (solar and the new wind), inverter, and batteries all have to play nice together. We don't want any, "Do you smell something hot" moments. 

Also of note, the driveway is this weird mess of a mix of sandy mud and what can only be described as gas station icy slushy drink. There's a really freaky, "please remain seated until the ride comes to a complete stop" spot in the driveway where I want to close my eyes as I drive through but that would be bad. It's narrow with an incline and decline and a sharp drop off into a ravine on each side. Now, imagine that sandy mud slushy on top. Yikes. As it is, I live in fear of breaking things. I don't know why. Well, maybe it's because I do have a bit of a destructive streak. The Husband is just the best. If there's ever anything we have to flatten, clear, or knock down, he lets me do it. Ah, love. Anyway, in situations like navigating the sandy mud slushy, I err on the side of slow and easy. I did lock the rear axle of the Jeep and "crawl" through the freaky spot. The Jeep remains unscathed. 

That's it for now.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Status Report

Recognize this?

The days have been slowly been getting longer for the past few weeks. This is the second morning in a row we've had sunshine. We are NOT putting a fire in the Main Level heater this morning. Yesterday, we put the fires in the heaters as usual. All the cats were stretched out as if it were the dog days of Summer. There are three phases in charging the batteries: bulk, absorption, and float. Yesterday, by 1 pm, we had reached the absorption phase solely through solar power generation. With more sunshine this morning, I'm wondering if we'll reach float (basically, fully charged, run around the house and turn everything on). The generator is getting a little mini-vacation. Woo hoo! Right now, the forecasts are predicting temperatures in the 30's this coming week. It'll be interesting to see what that does to the snow and the driveway. I've been sorting through the boxes that The Husband brings up every time he comes home. The Ohio Farm is almost devoid of our worldly possessions. Thank goodness. This is probably the most long, drawn out move known to womankind. Thoughts of gardening have been saving what little sanity I have. The Ohio Farm crop land has been leased out. I am looking for someone to farm the ground here at the cabin. I have submitted one of my famous architectural drawing plans, okay a sketch, to The Husband for my garden. They have been approved. I will be installing raised beds behind the cabin. We will be able to walk out the Garden Level into the Garden. There will be a path through the Garden to the Garden Shed. Happy sigh. I spend a fortune on organic berries and spinach so that is where I'm going to start. Starting small as I've never gardened in the UP. My plant purchase requisitions to The Husband have also been approved. The Husband has been busy sending off emails to what seems like everyone in search of someone who will sell a Kestrel turbine to us for installation by our own contractor. The Husband was beginning to get discouraged and entertaining our second choice in turbines. As usual, I made a pain of myself to get what we really need. The Kestrel handles gusts better than our second choice and generates more power at the lower wind speeds. It's also quieter. With the internet, you can run but you can't hide. We are now in touch with the distributer. He's positive, professional, able to answer our questions, and sell us a turbine to be installed by out own contractor. Now we need the Ohio Farm to sell. We have our real estate agent all lined up. He's got the market analysis completed. We're gearing up to get the place on the market when the weather gets just a bit better. I'm finally starting to feel settled in and like I'm living my life (rather than dealing with construction all the time). I noticed something. When I first wake up in the morning, before I can even see, I feel a brief moment of dread. Then, I turn my head and look across the clearing, see the trees and perhaps some deer and I feel all this tension leave my neck and shoulders. I knew I was a plant in the wrong growing conditions down at the Ohio Farm and I have wanted to be transplanted for ten and a half of the eleven and a half years I was root bound there. I know that is an awful thing to say but it's the truth. I knew it but I had no idea the extent of the hopeless dread. It makes waking up every morning at The Secret Cabin all the more awe-filled and magical.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Man Stuff


(Freezer au natural, outside on stairs and snow covered)