Monday, February 27, 2012

Mars Black ? - February 27, 2012

Mars was humanely euthanized this morning due to kidney disease/failure/old age. Mars is believed to have been born in Gibsonburg, Ohio. He was discovered limping around Mike and Bheki’s Gibsonburg farm in August 2005. While Mars did endure surgery and lose a leg, he pulled through to live the rest of his life as feLION in charge. His favorite past times were reading and lounging with Mike, giving Bheki a heart attack by dashing out the back of the cabin when she opened the door, and crushing mice in his mostly toothless mouth. He was also skilled at twirling aforementioned mice by the tail and quality testing cardboard boxes. Mars was estimated to be 12 years old and is survived by his humans, Mike and Bheki, and other fury family members. He will be sorely missed.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

feLION challenges and Fine Home Building

Ferocious feLION Mars Black has been battling kidney disease this Winter. We have been trying fluid therapy and that's been working. He also has a tooth that is giving him some problems. The problem with the tooth just took a turn for the worse and he can't eat. We love our feLIONs so we're freaking out. Sometimes, we do set everything, including the blog, aside so we can try to focus our heart-achy, freaking out selves on helping our feLION family. Last week, Tiffany Anne came down with a urinary tract infection which after 5 days of antibiotics is finally getting better. Though she did pick up a sniffle-sneeze bug from the vet's office. Fancy has been on twice a day anti-seizure medication for years. So, feLION nurse is also a hat I wear. We were talking about how old our feLIONs are. The majority of our Pride is ten and over. This realization hit like a Mac truck. WHERE did the time go? Apparently, time flies when you're purring and napping in the Sun.

While I've been preoccupied with our feLION Pride, I did run across a really nice source of of information that I wanted to share with you. The magazine Fine Homebuilding has an issue out called The Best of Fine Homebuilding Energy-Smart Homes Winter 2012. Excellent, excellent articles in this issue. Due to air blowing straight into the cabin from our eaves, I found the article, A Crash Course in Roof Venting particularly interesting. It's good to know that the wind isn't blowing in the cabin because of just one little thing and that it was basically a complete botch job. Yippee, let's rip thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars of stuff apart so we can redo it all. Tear it down and start over? That's another post. Anyway, there were also several other articles showing fantastic side cuts of proper insulating and sealing, also, none of which were done to The Secret Cabin and explains some other cold spots and drafts. Heavy sigh. Anyway, super, super information that I thought you might be interested in. It's definitely information that could save you lots of bucks and trouble. Good job, Fine Homebuilding.

Back to feLION nurse duties.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Size matters

Hang on a minute, I have to stop laughing at The Husband. He's all aghast and uncomfortably shifting and cringing and telling me I can't say that. Okay, tower height. (Size matters, size matters, size matters. Still snickering.) Seriously though, DETERMINING TOWER HEIGHT. Eighty foot tower or one hundred foot tower? That 'tis the question. Mike would prefer that the turbine NOT be visible over the tree tops from the main road. Heavy sigh from Bheki. And an eye roll.

Enter meeting more neighbors. Mike and I have recently, finally met our neighbors the road over who own the turbine I covet. They have an amazing organic farm: hay and honey. They have an amazing home and buildings: rescued, recycled, and rebuilt. Any and everyone can see their turbine from the main road. While Mike and I are completely enamored and encouraged by the sight of this power producing whirly-gig and breathe a love-sick sigh every time we see it, there are people out there, believe it or not, that do not share our feelings. Which is fine: to each his/her own. However, some people can become quite rude about passionately expressing their feelings and opinions on something they are, quite frankly, ignorant about. While we'd rather not attract any unwanted attention, I want to maximize my return on my investment and get the most power I can from our turbine. Usually, this means the higher up, the stronger the winds. At least, that's my point in the brain storming so far. Remember the rule in brain storming? No laughing, ridiculing, eye-rolling or foofing others' ideas. Apparently, we are going to be getting a few balloons, tying them to a one hundred foot string, and hoping they float up high enough to make the string taunt while we drive up and down the main road to see if we can see the balloons. The backup plan is a kite. Sorry, eye-rolls are really hard to control. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pausing to reflect

The rest of last summer and fall (2011), while taking what turned out to be only a temporary hiatus from the blog, I really began feeling settled into the cabin. That wonderful sense of "this is home" set in. We've gotten to know our neighbors better in the two houses closest to us and they've gotten to know us better. Strong family values and hard workers. Good neighbors. We consider ourselves fortunate. So, we are HOME and it feels all warm and fuzzy and good.

One of the reasons I thought I wanted to end the blog was because we had already gone through a complete cycle of the seasons living off-grid and I didn't want a bunch of boring "rerun" posts. The other reason was because I was going underground to do a rogue, under the radar, illegal turbine installation. You know, put it up withOUT any permitting, black cat suit, ski mask and all.

Let's start with what hasn't been a "rerun" this Winter. The weather has been mild. Not much snow. Balmy temperatures. Relatively speaking. Where last Winter I was struggling trying to keep some heat in the cabin with three fires a day, this Winter I've been burning once a day and not at all on some days. I've been running around in my Summer weight jammies and kicking the covers off the bed as I sleep. The bitter cold snaps have been short and few and far, far between. I've been comfortable and I like it. Also, different this Winter is the refrigerator issue. Our refrigerator is a complete kW hog. We unplugged it last Winter and threw our food outside. This Winter, I kept it plugged in because I didn't like the inconvenience of my food being outside and even though last Winter was bitter cold, my frozen organic fruit did not stay frozen. I had to forgo fruit in my smoothies. I "indulge" in a very healthy smoothie called Vega. We fondly refer to it as "ogre grog." It is swamp green. For some silly reason, by the end of Summer 2010 which was also the end of the cabin remodel, I couldn't eat anything that my body didn't immediately reject so I thought I'd try a meal replacement shake. While this was successful and I feel better than ever, I like frozen fruit in my ogre grog so the watt-sucker has stayed plugged in. Which leads us to the next difference this Winter - the generator. With the watt-sucker plugged in, I have had to run the generator more - a lot more. I have a soft covered trailer that I can pull behind my Jeep. We parked the trailer behind the cabin and store the generator in that. When I run the generator I unzip the cover, flip the flaps up, set rocks on the flap ends so they don't come down, and turn the generator on. Easier, peasier than last years dragging it in and out of the cabin.

On the issue of my Operation Covert Turbine Install, I easily conceded to The Husband after hearing that the neighbor a road over with the turbine I have been coveting was visited and grilled with questions of a "we don't like your turbine and want to shut you down" nature. That's enough to remove anyone's ski mask.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Not so minor detail

I guess, while we're in the Red Tape and Paperwork Phase of the GREAT WIND POWER PROJECT 2012, I could answer what has to be a burning question, keeping everyone up late at night by now, I'm sure. In other words, I just realized that I never clearly and concisely - the goal of communication - reported what exactly we have selected as our small wind power system. Sorry. So without further ado, the GREAT WIND POWER PROJECT 2012 Small Wind Power System Specs:

Bergey Excel 1 (1kW)
Bergey Tilt-up guyed tower (Bergey refers to this as a "tubular" tower on their site.)
Powercenter charge controller

We are still going back and forth between the 80 and 100 foot tower. Rather, The Husband is doing his usual back and forth agonizing decision making process. I would like it noted for the record that I voted for the 100 foot tower. I also really wanted a lattice tower but the budget vetoed that. It is cheaper to get this tilt-up tower and a VersaClimber rather than using a lattice tower as a VersaClimber.

The turbine does NOT require a "dump load" for over production, however, it is an option. Ideally, we could use more hot water. Specifically, I'd like some hot water in the Summer. A tidy, but bit pricey, solution would be to change out our current boiler tank for the model that includes the ability to add an electric heating element to it. Another option is to just install an electric hot water tank. However, this not only takes up more floor space in the Mechanical Room but I'd have two hot water systems working independently. Good or bad? Not sure. An initial thought is that with a heating element in the boiler tank, in the Summer, I could have the wind (and excess photovoltaic that we currently over produce in the Summer) make hot water in the boiler tank. In the Winter, when I've got fires going, I'd get my usual up to 107 degree water in the boiler tank. With the turbine spinning in the Winter, I could get a little kick in the heating element in the boiler tank. If I could get that tank to heat up to at least 125, I could start running my in-floor, radiant loops in the bathroom. If things get really hot, I could also heat the front porch. If things get too hot, we'll melt the snow outside (dump zone for the boiler). Not too worried about that. All of those initial thoughts need to be considered with the initial thoughts on the possibility of expanding the hot water system further with a solar hot water heating system. Does everyone's brain hurt now? If you can gut it out a little further with me here, add in the variable to the equation that we really don't know exactly if and or how this will work. The whole "results may vary" thing. We consider all of these thoughts to fall under the blanket term "brain storming" and we're not allowed to make fun of each other when we brain storm. Yes, I'm asking you to please not make fun of me. This is the kind of behind the forehead and in between the ears stuff that everyone trying to do this alternative energy (or anything else for that matter) is going to have to go through. If you are in the dreaming and planning stage, feel free to borrow our brain storming rule. It really opens up the mind for lots of ideas and you will find your solution(s).

I'll get into more nitty, gritty details on decisions, how's, why's, etc. in the coming days. I just wanted to get this minor detail out ASAP. Schew, now we can all sleep better. ; )

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Here we go!

Is everybody ready? I think I'll use the same disclaimer I use when someone gets in the passenger seat of the Jeep: Please fasten your seatbelt, remain seated until the ride comes to a complete stop, and NO screaming. Everybody securely fastened? 3....2....1....

photo credit: 

The official GREAT WIND POWER PROJECT 2012 has begun! The WIND POWER TOWER is going in this Spring!

Because we're going to be digging and dumping concrete, we thought it most efficient and economical to dig and dump in a couple more spots in the yard while all the equipment and guys are here. The plan is for the posts for the deck off the back of the main level of the cabin to go in so a small concrete patio can be poured behind the cabin at the garden (or ground) level (remember, we've got that whole walk-out basement thing going on). Then we're going to spill a little more concrete just Southeast of the cabin for a....drum roll....FREAKIN' ART STUDIO FOR MOI! Just a little excited about the studio too. I had set up the Garden Level of the cabin as a painting studio. Between me and the feLIONs, it looks like we were visited by the ghost of Jackson Pollock. I tried to find space in our town for a studio but it became really frustrating. I gave up on the idea of a studio. With the new year, we started talking about what we'd like to work on. The topic of the turbine came up. When I conceded to play by the rules and go through zoning, we felt ready to take the leap and start the GREAT WIND POWER PROJECT 2012. Like I said, one concrete pile leads to the next and Mike suggested we put in the slab for the ART STUDIO.

I have emailed my favorite general contractor, Lonnie, of LR Contracting, Hancock, MI. We are penciled in for this Spring.

We have re-read, again, the five (5) pages of stuff that the township wants us to submit for their permission to do what we want on our property. Mike has a call in to Bergey for more information on what is included on their tower drawings. Zoning wants the tower drawings. We're hoping a contractor can work off these drawings for installation too. While Mike is working on the five (5) pages of stuff for zoning, I'm working on my own pile of stuff to get together for Lonnie for estimating. I have to finalize a couple of details on the Studio so I can go in to 41 Lumber for a materials list and estimate. I've had the drawings for the deck off the cabin since 2009. So, here we go!