Wednesday, May 23, 2012

We have lift-off

And so the Honey Do Dammit List receives a got 'er done check-mark for the first step in the quest for a hot shower in the Summertime. Roll the visuals please.

Shiny, shiney. Note: Three different kinds of bolts in the box. We liked how they were all assembled versus a bag of nuts, a bag of washer, etc.

Oooo. The Husband's tools. I will have to get into these when he's not around to watch me.

The Husband out in the Machine Shed putting together the frame. 

Proposed location, location, location.

The Husband adding the top piece.The top piece is a bit heavy and even though The Husband's soul purpose in life is to bug me, he chose to go with just having me help him move the rack from the Machine Shed to the location in the rain and not in the rain and heavy. How sweet.

Okay, after we know everything is together correctly, there will be a "owner addendum" to the instructions provided by the manufacturer post. The instructions provided weren't completely hideous just unclear. They were printed off on an ink jet printer that looked as if it needed new cartridges and cleaning so the pictures did not provide the necessary visual detail to clarify the written instructions. There were several un-assemble and reassemble moments because of this. 

We have three more things to do before final positioning and getting out that really fun marker spray paint to mark the spots for drilling the ground mount holes:

Move the dirt pile;

Get out the squeegee and pretend to knock snow off the PV array to make sure the hot water system is out of the way; and

Put the PV array in it's Summertime position to confirm clearance for tilting and check for shadows on the hot water system.

Another note: This is going to be pretty slow going. Our schedule (The Husband's swing shifts, two houses 650 miles apart, one house getting ready for market, two lawns, blah, blah...) has got us stretched a little thin but we'll peck away at it. The tortoise wins the race. Or in this case, a hot shower.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nice, neat, tidy little solutions all wrapped up with a bow

The Husband and I have had a few discussions lately on THE PERFECT SOLUTION. It's like this whole off-grid dream/adventure has been a big flaming question, a wondering, a searching, if it really is possible. And if so, what's THE BEST-est, EASIEST, MOST BUDGET FRIENDLIEST, PERFECT-est way to go. I feel this overwhelming urge to resolve the off-grid, non-petrol-as-possible puzzle. No, not just an overwhelming urge, but more like an insatiable craving. Man, some good chocolate sounds divine. Anyway. I feel like anyone should be able to walk into to her local net-zero home dealer and check off the weather zone, number of family members, and ba-zzz, ba-zzz, ba-zzz, there you go, a nice, neat, tidy little solution all tied up with a bow: the net-zero of all net-zero buildings with non-toxic sealants and adhesives and the most budget-friendly, convenient, meeting all of your off-grid energy needs, including indulgent soaks in a tub of hot water topped off with a thick layer of soft, silky bubbles scented with natural plant essences, homes one could ever be comfortable in til the day she dies. And nary a firewood hauling broken nail and draft to suffer. Well, as they say, hindsight is 20/20, and I've been seeing different off-grid, non-petrol solutions.

What we would have done differently system wise and why?

#1 - Insulation, insulation, insulation, and sealing. I mention it here because it affects the systems performance.

#2 - Outdoor Boiler in lieu of the Masonry Heaters. Pause for Startled Gasp! Shocking, scandalous. I LOVE my heaters. My heater mason was a dream to work with. The heaters do what they are supposed and do it well. You absolutely can heat a house with them. BUT, here's why I'd go with the Outdoor Boiler instead:

a - Hot water and convenience. With an Outdoor Boiler, I could heat both the cabin AND the garden shed AND have PLENTY of hot water AND only deal with firing just the Outdoor Boiler.

That said, the Outdoor Boilers are not as efficient and are nasty, smokey, dirty. My sister and brother-in-law have their outdoor boiler banked into the ground. Love that idea as a solution to make it more efficient. I don't know if there's a cleaner burning option available, but I would opt for that.

b - Wood stove. The only thing that the Masonry Heater isn't good at is a cold night out of the blue. They're like a big ship and it takes time to heat up the mass before it starts heating the space. So, maybe I'd want a wood stove to handle the chillies that pop up now and then.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Remember, during the cabin remodel, things didn't get taken care of the way they should have, specifically, insulation and sealing. (Yes, I already mentioned that but I canNOT stress the importance of a good envelope.)

#3 - Solar hot water for the Summer. This is assuming the system will work. This would give me the Summer off from messing around with firewood. AND with outdoor boilers being nasty, smokey, dirty - in the Summer the windows are open. (Well, at least we try to keep them open. That's another post.)

#4 - Solar - yes. I'd keep that the way we've got it.

#5 - Wind turbine. Again assuming this would work as advertised.

And there you have it. The nice, neat, tidy, little solution all wrapped up with a bow. Of course, results may vary. Wink. UHG. Sorry. This is based on two people in a location where Winter can be mean and the remodel was botched.

Monday, May 21, 2012

From the Dept. of Homeland Security

Diesel. Sigh. I'm almost at a loss for words. Diesel is truly the oddest horse I have ever known and I've had horses pretty much all my life. He appears more comfortable here now that this has been his home for a little over a year. He's grazing more of the acreage this Spring. Last year, with the exception of finding a trail to the neighbors and performing a free, organic mowing and fertilization service; he stayed pretty close to the cabin, barn, and garden shed. I see him becoming more territorial and aggressive with offending wildlife and the few incoming vehicles that dare pull back here. He charges the vehicles just like your dog would. Only, it's 17 hands and 1200 pounds of charging animal. I really don't like that he does this because it's irresponsible and rude to let your animals do something like that. But, it's his yard. If I know someone is coming over, I put him up. The deer come out of the woods to browse our Diesel's clearing after Diesel has been put up for the night. We have pretty much daily visits of coyote. Diesel runs them off. Ears forward, he does an easy jog in their direction and they scoot back into the woods with tails between their legs. Everyone always asks me, "coyote or wolf." I always tell them I don't know the difference. "Oh, you'll know." I never really gave it much thought until this past week. OMG, they weren't kidding. Remember when you were a young child reading Little Red Riding Hood, and seeing the picture of the scary big, bad wolf. Yep. They've got huge paws. They have a distinct body shape. They carry their heads low like they're going to eat you. Crap, they are scary. We aren't sure if they were eyeing up Pumpkin (Diesel's bad little donkey friend) or the compost pile Pumpkin was near. Diesel chased them off once. They came right back. Cripes, I thought I didn't like having to tell somebody more than once. Twelve hundred pissed off pounds of "I said this is my yard Dawg" tore after them again. Diesel isn't usually that aggressive and it concerns me that he felt the need to be that aggressive. They ducked into the woods and haven't come back.Yet. Meanwhile, Beware of the Guard Horse.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A modge podge of updates

First up:

Ah, our Garden Shed, retirement home of f-RAT (feLION Rodent Annihilation Team). Built by LR Contracting. I have always coveted the Sheds on the covers of the gardening magazines. Lonnie and his crew did an outstanding job. I just absolutely love this building. To the left of the building is a pile of fencing. In front is all our garden accents and f-RAT training equipment: stairs to scale, tiles to crawl through on one's feLION elbows. We also see that I've got a little blue board insulation that I have yet to cover up and put in the catnip bed. 

So, The Husband has been taking down the f-Rat pen from the Gibsonburg Farm and moving it up here. He's got one more load of fencing to bring up. This is pretty amazing as the pen is 60 x 130 and he's been bringing it all up in the Prius. The Prius is quite cavernous in addition to being able to put $6 worth of gas in it and go 80 or more miles. It's looking like four Prius loads brought all that up here. 

This weekend (remember our weekends are not on THE weekend i.e. Saturday and Sunday) The Husband will be finished taking down the pen in Ohio and bringing it home. WHICH MEANS, that we'll be done with that project and we will be putting together the frame for the EOS and getting the tractor out to drill some holes for the mount and getting all the mount lumber and hardware ordered. While the tractor is out, we'll be covering up the blue board and getting the Garden Shed and surrounding area ready for the f-RAT training ground and garden. Next, will be getting the mount all built and sunk and digging the 50 feet of trench for the loop and then we'll call in Roger.

The EOS is much needed as I officially declared the heating season over around May 12th. I've had a couple of tepid showers and one WHOO-HOO THAT'S COLD! shower and it is going to be WHOO-HOO THAT'S COLD! showers until the EOS is up and running. 

And then we have this:

Reference this post towards the bottom. You're looking for NEWSFLASH.

My first clue, exposed fabric with the underlying stone, that we may have yet another problem with another contractor's work.

My second clue, an exposed pipe that The Husband stuck his nose to, gave a whiff and then reeled back so fast he nearly broke the sound barrier. Note the cut on the right. (You should be able to click the pic for an enlargement.)

I'm going to stop here for now. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

In keeping with our Green theme

Last, but definitely not least, we have the feLION Green Report:

I will interpret this for you, "We, the Naylor-Kohler Exceptional feLIONs, exuberantly support green issues." There you have it and yes, that would be little bits of green catnip in the fur and all over the floor, hence, the word, exuberant.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Support Green and all it's tints and shades

Yes, my fingers are blue but blue and yellow make green so we'll go with it.

Because it's nice to be nice.

And now an Artist's perspective, warning, and sort of parable:

I am painfully aware that I live in a society and time that doesn't necessarily see the value of Art or Artists. The Husband was actually one of those members of society. Pause for shocked gasps of horror and a brief moment of disbelief. True story: BB (before Bheki) he actually said, to an Artist's face, that he didn't think any public funds should go to support the Arts. And look at what happened to him (the warning part). He now has his very own Artist, slopping paint everywhere, to support. Luckily, this provides for him a tour guide that sees and points out that which goes unnoticed by someone, well, normal, for lack of a better word. Now, The Husband, admittedly has had his mind blown wide open and lives in a richer, more colorful world. You're certainly welcome and I need another tube of Magenta.

In the magical, colorful, fun, and exciting cloud that my right brain prefers to hang out in, a color plus white is a tint and a color plus black is a shade. Value refers to lights and darks. Little color theory for you there. Anyway, as an Artist, I love all colors and their tints and shades.

It has come to my attention that there is a "Dirty Secret of Off-Grid Living" and there are dark green and light green individuals.

I thought the above article and it's comments were interesting and that the atmosphere was supportive regardless of whether someone was dark green or light green which does this Artist's heart good. I like to see human beings being nice, supportive of each other, and thinking/working together. And, Artistically speaking,  a successful painting has various colors and their tints and shades and balanced values. Something to consider on-canvas as well as off-canvas and off-grid.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Another kind of Green

Gardening! I have been wanting to garden forever. One would think that someone who grew up in the country would have a lot of gardens and gardening experience under her belt. Especially, someone who grew her own hay. Not so. Shocking but true. This is my third garden ever. I'm off to a late start which eliminated the need for grow lights back when we were still having shorter day light hours. So, here's what I've got so far.

A shelf in the Garden Level next to the sliding patio door on the South side of the cabin.

The seeds require warm water. Note the water bottles on the lower shelf of the masonry heater. This keeps the water warm enough without cutting into my limited hot water supply especially now that I'm  firing the Garden Level heater only once a day as it seems Spring is really here and temperatures are warming up to where it's almost time to quit firing the heaters all together.

Of course, I get feLION assistance with ALL of my endeavors.

Here's flat number one at one week old. I'm starting another flat this week and trying the whole succession planting thing so we don't have 3000 pounds of veggies all at once. I'm particularly excited at the variety of plants in this flat as I had a bit of a problem in my very first garden. I was doing time in the city and had a tiny little, hand dug garden. I accidentally spilled an entire packet of cucumber seeds. I almost didn't plant cucumbers for this garden because what followed traumatized me. It was the monster cucumber patch that nearly took over Columbus, Ohio. I was hauling grocery sacks of cucumbers around and giving them away to everyone. The vines took over the lot and were headed for all the surrounding neighbors. Fall couldn't come quick enough. So far the three cucumber seeds that I planted this time are behaving themselves. 

I have more seeds that I will direct sow after the threat of frost which is May 30th here in the UP.

Overall, I'm pleased so far. Now I need to prepare the raised beds. Yes, and install the solar thermal hot water system. 

Monday, May 7, 2012


Pause for The Husband to recover from my outburst. We'll talk amongst ourselves while his heart rate returns to normal: You'd think he'd be use to my sensitive aesthetic sense and it's resultant outbursts by now. He's been dealing with airplanes flying at each other for almost 25 years and my gasps of horror at something ugly are what freaks him out. Sigh. I don't understand it. Anyway, I think he's okay now.

We are NOT doing that. That's for dang sure. Here's what I'm talking about:

Click on pic to see all those guy wires.

Oh, I can't even stand to look at that picture. Hang on please while I scroll so I can write.

Okay. So this turbine is in Ohio on the way home from The Husband's work to the Gibsonburg Farm (which will be officially on the market with an agent and all within the next couple of weeks). Now, the turbine itself is lovely. It is a Bergey XL1. Mike had the opportunity to stop and stand near it and hear it. Barely hear it that is. The wind was blowing at 13 mph and he could barely hear it. He did get to talk to the owner who said it does get louder when the wind picks up. I find it promising though that it's quiet at some point that it's turning. It's been in service for 5 (five) years. You'll notice that the tower towards the top is shinier than the rest of the tower. That's because one of the wires snapped and the tower twisted. That was the only time in 5 years the turbine was taken out of service. Being familiar with this area of Ohio and knowing that our site here at the cabin is at least as windy as that area of Ohio, Mike asked the owner how much power it is generating. And here is the classic answer we get whenever we ask a question so specific, "I don't know." The owner did know that the electric bill is half what it used to be and that it spins more in the Winter than in the Summer. Now we know this is a grid-tied application too.

So, again, not a lot of technical information that we can use for a well-informed decision making process but we know the Bergey XL1 is pretty quiet at 13 mph, and that there's at least this one that's been trouble free for five years now, and that when the time comes, we will not be getting that tower and all those wires.