Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Coyote sighting

Right after pouncing and eating a rodent.

Bad dog, go home (into the woods).

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunshine and Sundays are for ....

napping in the back yard.

Let's get in closer.

I think the one on the left is snoring.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Carbon Footprint Step in the...

lighter and righter direction.

Photo credit Toyota's website

Back in the dark, dusty, musty corners of our brains was this niggling, unrestful feeling regarding our hideous gasoline consumption with our "fleet." Both The Husband and I had Jeep Wranglers. We love everything about our Jeeps except for the gas mileage. Here at The Secret Cabin, we're not far from town and I can get down the driveway (basically, a two-track or logging road, picture an old, wagon wheel rutted trail of tears) when it's at its ugliest. However, The Man, aka Cheap Geek in a Jeep, our version of Geek Squad/Nerd Herd seeing how he fixes the computers of all those he works with and knows for cookies, iTunes cards, pizza, etc., darned near depleted this country's fossil fuel reserves. So, he rented a Toyota Prius from Labadie Auto Company, Bay City, near Saginaw, Michigan on his most recent trip home from work. (The Man still has roughly 312 working days until retirement. Not that we're counting.) This is terrible so brace yourself. No, it's too embarrassing. Okay. It was cheaper to rent the Prius and put a tank of gas in it and drive it all the way through lower Michigan, over the lake and through the woods, than it would have been for The Man to drive the Jeep home. Pause for shock and gasps horror. A Prius payment plus gas on the Prius is actually a vast improvement in our monthly budget. And it meets our other environmental/life style goals. That's the bottom $ line. Now, for the super duper interesting part. The car is really fascinating. I'm still trying to compute all the stuff this automobile does. Let's start with getting into the car. No key. Correct. The car detects the little electric box thingie on a key ring while it's still in your pocket and when you grab the door handle and pull, it let's you in. There is a button to push to start the car. There's a display in the dash and if you want to access some other information it looks like a freaking hologram over the display in the background. I can't drive The Space Ship Prius yet because I'm too busy watching the little display that shows me that I'm, get this, NOT USING GASOLINE, to motor on down the road. What?! Eventually, I'll get used to the idea and I'll be able to drive The SS Prius but for now I'm awestruck while watching the little arrows in the display showing me that now that we're speeding along, the gas engine is charging the electronics. IT'S FREAKING MAKING IT'S OWN POWER. OMG, duct tape my solar power generating loving butt down to my seat! So, The Cheap Geek in a Jeep, traded in his Jeep with my assuring him that he can borrow mine (for short trips and if he bribes me with flowers and/or candy). Everyone at Labadie was super nice so don't be afraid to stop in if your looking for your own SS Prius. Or, Mike's Jeep is still there for at least week if you're just looking for a weekend "swamper". It's stock, has a nice stereo and ready to hang out in someone's shop to rock it out with some after market "jewelry" and go play. Super solid and clean body. Still running like there's no tomorrow. If you've always wanted a weekend 4x4 but perhaps your better half always says "NO!", this may be your chance as it has high miles on the odometer but the price will probably be right. Check with our salesperson, Brach Marker 866.597.0416. In the meantime, don't hate us because we're getting 50 mpg!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Our windy hesitation

In the Spring/Summer of 2009, while The Husband and I were knee deep in construction/remodeling BS, we looked at each other and said, "I hope all this stuff really works." I get queasy just reminiscing that conversation. Luckily, the systems all work. So far. However, it's the recanting of others' experiences with turbines that has us hesitant on laying down our hard earned money for wind power. I wasn't able to "borrow" the pictures off ebay and I don't know how long they'll let this stay up but there's some pictures worthy of clicking on the link.

Broken Bergey on

The text on ebay reads:

For Sale,

Bergey XL1 ‘wind turbine’. Over 16000 hours downtime. Free spare blades (2sets) - all cracked at root like the originals. Both sliprings  in an advanced state of corrosion. 100% effective overload protection has been provided by brushes fusing. Latest value-engineering design utilises rainwater to cool alternator. Tail mechanism offers additional protection against reliable operation and increased rainwater ingress by prolonged furling, even on sites with little turbulence. Only 3000 run hours in 3 years.

Great windpower project. Only requires new nose-cone, new sliprings, new brushes, new blades, weatherproof nacelle, new hub design and build, welding work on tail-pivot, balancing, reassembly and test. Nice tailfin included. What could possibly go wrong?

Can provide our own in-house test certificates on any envelope and in a crayon colour of your choice.

Buy it now at 3 quid a kilo, plus delivery or cash on collection.

Free old radiator and broken gutter, too.

Collection only from Newcastle or North Pennines area. Time it right and maybe have time for a cuppa and a chat about real renewable energy projects in the area...

Return policy: Cut the stator windings with a chisel and punch them out. Ward Bros are offering a decent price on copper, and they'll take the ferrous stuff off your hands at the same time. You'll have enough for a pint and a butty at the Cumberland Arms up the road.

Seller added:

 If you want me to ship this item, then:
1) You are definately getting the radiator, like it or not, and,
2) 'delivery' will include the botheration of waiting in for your courier and the unnecessary work of packing this awkward lot up as though it might actually suffer from damage in transit, and,
3) We'll be painfully slow, as two sets of  'blades' are at Ninebanks and the others are at the university farm.
You have been warned.

Later, seller added:

Sorry, only 2 sets of 'blades' left. They have tidied up at the farm and skipped the third set.
I'll pick up the others this week, so it is all together here in Newcastle soon after the end of the Auction.

Back to Bheki. Whoa. So, my question is, why is this gentleman stuck with this piece of crap that he paid a lot of money for when Bergey has a 5 year warranty? Is Bergey not standing behind their small, residential turbines? Homeowners are, afterall, a one shot sale. It's not like a homeowner is a municipality and going to buy more. Is the technology just not there? Is it cost prohibitive (company can't make a killing) to produce an end user turbine that truly functions? Then what about the old farm windmills that keep going after decades? I would really like to have wind power. I need some wind power but I also need it to work and do the job it's marketed to allegedly do. Our estimates are running $10-15,000 for the entire wind installation project. The Husband's mind starts to spin with technical details: Bergey handles the wind via furling; Kestrel pitches; Jacobs are decades old, rebuilt, and still out in the field performing; if we can find one, they're still out of our price range; how do we tie in a Jacobs with the controllers and inverters....Yeah, our brains are spinning but what we need is a turbine that spins and does it's job. When you hear about experiences like this, and there are plenty of them, makes you wonder if there is such a thing and definitely makes you hesitate to plunk down $10-15,000.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


YAHOOOO! IT'S SPRING! SPRING! SPRING! I made it! I completed my first full Winter in the Keweenaw and earned my Winter in the Keweenaw merit badge!

Some awesome sunsets of late.

Bare spots on the ground! The deer have been grazing every where. We've got about ten "regulars". 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Crock pot incident near miss

Pork loin roast with potatoes and artichokes

Obviously, oh so painfully, embarrassingly, obviously, I'm learning as we go along here. After narrowly escaping a crock pot induced need to get the generator out incident, I will NOT be running the crock pot all night. Ever again. Here's the deal. We've got animals. Animals do great when kept on a schedule. By great I mean lower stress, excellent health, lower vet bills, less clawing, and less tearing the barn down when the service is slow. Sometimes, it feels like there's so much to do NOW, before someone tears the barn down or rips my legs into bloody ribbons of flesh, that I just do the chores and take care of the animals and the cranium leaves the body to fend for itself. Craniums do that. They go off on little daydream vacations. Usually, about that time something goes, "WHAM!" Or in our case, whirls in slow motion to a stop and then an alarm goes off. By the time I finished chores and got around to pretending (humming, opening and closing the cupboards and watt sucking refrigerator a lot, using every measure spoon ever manufactured, and using a quantity of herbs that at the very least required an entire acre of ground to grow) I can cook, it was late afternoon. That meant the crock pot got started cooking late and was plugged in when darkness fell. In fact, it ran over night, all night. Luckily, we had just enough sun the following two days to eek by. I went into my normal "def con shut as much down as I could" mode. Today, it's super sunny and we're floating and I've got everything back on full blast. In conclusion, throw the cranium in gear, any gear is better than none, check the weather, weather permitting, pretend to know how to cook and do all the prep work in the afternoon while the sun is shining. Then, get up the next morning about 15 minutes earlier than usual and throw the bowl of food prepared the day before into the crock pot, plug it in and it should be done by the time the sun slips back below the tree tops. Also, now I know that I need to menu plan for the week not only with the coupons and store specials fliers but with the weather in mind. Yes, still learning as we go. Obviously.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ut oh, clouds and snow

Everything was just sunshine and roses with temperatures hitting 40 for two days in a row. Forty degrees outside and the porch warmed up to 60 degrees. I was concerned about food safety so I plugged in the watt sucking frig and filled it with about $100 worth of food. Cue the clouds and snow. Sigh. I did not feel like heaving the generator out. Could I make it? I pulled the plug on the wireless hub, my notebook sat drained and unused, and the iPad flashed it's low battery notification. I also put the watt sucking frig on vacation mode. (I think it doesn't run it's defrost/dehumidifier when it's in vacation mode. We couldn't really find anything in the manual and the outsourced to another country, barely english speaking customer service person didn't know a darned thing about the frig.) What's that? Waaa-waaa wind to a stop? I still needed to cook for myself.  I went ahead and used the masonry heater to cook. The heater was too hot at lunch time, but it was cool enough for an early dinner. It only took about 30 minutes to cook three skinless, boneless chicken breasts with olive oil and rosemary. In the pictures, I had pulled the chicken apart with a fork to check for doneness. This was the first time I used a dutch oven and the third time I've cooked in the masonry heater. This is Lodge's size 8 dutch oven.
I even followed the directions and put coals on top.

Done, but not over done.

Yeah, needs a salad but they didn't have any organic spinach at the store that wasn't past it's expiration date. I ate the organic baby carrots raw for some crunch. Pretty good if I do say so myself.

We made it through the night and into this afternoon without having to haul out the generator. The sun is blazing, everything is plugged in, recharging, off vacation mode, and the system is floating. Sunshine and roses! Well, maybe not roses---yet.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Princess Parking Only

Another too cute moment brought to you by the Naylor-Kohler Exceptional feLIONs