January 22, 2012
Its been another beautiful day back here in the holler. There was snow on the ground but the sun soon melted most of it away. A little sunshine sure makes a body feel alive especially when the January temps hit a balmy forty degrees. Mother Nature has duped us into believing its spring instead of the dead of winter. The sap in our limbs has warmed a bit and the golden rays of sunshine has prompted us to leave the den for some much needed fresh air.
This was a perfect day to use the solar oven. Sonny carried it out of the root cellar where its stored and placed it in a position where it would get the most sun. We put a couple of sweet potatoes inside to bake. They along with a salad would make a tasty lunch.
While our sweet potatoes were baked by sun power we took a little walk down the road that leads to our house. Our best mates Ruby and Moby came along too. Even they get weary of confinement and lack of exercise.
We started on our leisurely stroll with Ruby and Moby leading the way of course and reminisced about the blackberries we picked last spring along this very road. The bushes are dormant now in winters sleep, the vines withered and dry.
With the leaves gone from the brush we could see a leaning stack of old white bee boxes near an out building of the ghost farm. Ancient apple trees with their unpruned twisted limbs stood watch. The old farmhouse with its peeling white clapboards and rotting porch looked tired, but I can just imagine what it might have been in its heyday. A flurry of activity. The bee boxes would have been in use collecting the yellow gold of honey. The scent of lilacs and apple blossoms would ride on the breeze that blew across the laundry hanging from lines strung on the front and back porches.
The lowing of cows could have been heard by the lady of the house as she baked bread. Her husband would have been busy fixing a tractor tire in the barn or setting up his gear to make hay while the children swung from the tire swing that still hangs from an old sycamore tree.
Gas was used to run the lights and the refrigerator, not electricity, and surely a wringer washer is still waiting for the next load. The family is gone now. Only a tired run down farm remains along with rusted farm machinery, broken bee boxes and the clothes line still strung on the front and back porches. Its a sad sight, because it could still be renewed for a another family, but I believe that its time is winding down.
We past the ghost farm and strolled down the hill until we came to the old school house. Its another reminder of past generations who raised their families in this holler. Its cut stone foundation leans and the tin of the roof is rolled back in spots. Its a reminder that time marches on and makes one wonder what will become of our farm when we are gone. Will the PV arrays still stand? Will the house become broken down, the porch swing idly swaying in a breeze? Even so, the signs of life will still be here. The sounds of contented hens, Ruby snoring under the walnut tree and the hum of a dulcimer will forever echo in these hills.
Sweet Potatoes in the solar cooker.
Moby by the trickling water.
Leave a Comment » | Cats, Chickens, Dogs, Farming, Homesteading, Off-Grid, Self-Sufficiency, Solar Hot Water, Sun Oven | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
January 19, 2012
BURRR! Its frosty on the farm this morning, but for now the sun has decided to show its face. By this afternoon it will be back to rain showers. I sure do wish Mother Nature would make up her mind, cheer up and stop crying. At least for a few days so we can dry out. After so many days of dark skies this is the first morning this week that we have not had to turn on the generator to charge the battery bank. So shine on Sun…shine on those PV arrays and give us a little warmth too to brighten our dark winter moods.
The chickens were ready to get up this morning. No hesitating to peep out of the coop hatch to see what the weather may be. Like the rest of us they were happy to see sunlight and wasted no time in bursting out of the door. The usual breakfast buffet would be waiting in the pole barn after a quick stop by the garage ramp for a meal worm appetizer. Then it will be off to the bird feeder to clean up any missed seeds that may have dropped to the ground.
Morning rush hour.
Its a worm feeding frenzy.
Let me in! I'm next, I'm next! Quit Pushing!
Soak up the sun girls while it still shines, breath in the fresh air and enjoy the freedom of free range on Pot Hole Farm. Produce tasty eggs. Life is good…even for a chicken.
8 Comments | Off-Grid | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
January 17, 2012
A soup of ominous gray clouds covered the sky as Sonny and I drove toward home from Ohio. I gazed out of my side window at the landscape dotted with farms, one connecting to the next as far as you can see. It reminded me of Delaware, my birth state, before the developers raped the farmland and covered it in a cheap coat of houses. Except for a few farms that have held out, there is nothing left of the many peach and apple orchards,or the small family run dairy and vegetable farms. In southern Delaware crops have been replaced with production chicken houses. As you can tell, it is a bit of a soar spot for me, so I gaze out of the window at the flatlands of Ohio and reminisce about my childhood.
As we pass miles of farmland set with nineteenth century farmhouses and barns, Sonny and I discuss how they could possibly benefit from the energy of a windmill. Solar and windmill power is not the cure all for our nations energy problems, and not everyone can or wants to live off grid, but I think that solar panels and windmills could certainly take some pressure off the power grid. They could all be used in conjunction with each other.
One would think that in a wide open landscape such as Ohio, and I can only speak for the area we were driving through, that there would be the potential for plenty of wind. Even solar panels could be a good choice in areas where there are few trees. Its a bit more difficult in places where the sun has to rise above a high hill or mountain range. It is doable though as we have seen here at Pot Hole Farm. We just get less hours of sunlight to charge the solar panels.
Unfortunately for many who are interested in solar panels and windmills it is still a costly investment. As the price of electricity rises and the power grid becomes overloaded and feeble with age we may not have many choices left. I think its naive to think that we can continue to add to the power grid we have now and think that it will be able to handle the load. All we need is a summer of sweltering heat and the on switch of air conditioners. We might find ourselves with rolling blackouts and empty pockets. Or worse.
I certainly don’t have all the answers to our power quandaries, but I think solar and wind could be good alternatives. In the future I would like to see businesses with a few solar panels on their roofs. If you think about how much power an office building uses in a day a little sun power couldn’t hurt.
The skies may turn dark and cloudy, but the sun will eventually shine. Good for making electricity and good for the soul.
5 Comments | Alternative Energy, Battery Bank, Farming, Garden, Off-Grid, Self-Sufficiency, Solar, Sustainability | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
January 11, 2012
Yesterday afternoon Sonny took the truck down to the quarry to get a load of stone. The stone he bought was about the size of my fist. We needed the larger stone to put down in the driveway entrance because the smaller stones get washed away every time we have a heavy downpour of rain.
We would like to get enough stone to do the whole driveway at some point, but for right Sonny wanted to try to fill in a couple of the pot holes and muddy ruts.
Fill those pot holes.
Hard at work.
Yesterday was sunny and beautiful, but of course today it is raining again. Hope those stones stay in place.
2 Comments | Off-Grid | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
January 8, 2012
After living off the grid for almost two years now we have figured out that by managing our power we can still use a few luxury appliances.
Last week we went to visit Two Lynne’s Farm and Sandy showed me how to make butter from fresh cream. Sonny and I tried to make some a few months back and it just didn’t turn out. I’m not sure what we did wrong. We followed directions from a youtube video on the internet. This person used a quart jar and shook the cream until the whey was separated from the butter fat. Then there were various steps that required squeezing and rinsing.
Sandy had a much better method. She used her counter top mixer. The combined turning motion of the bowl and the whipping beaters separated the butter fat and whey in just a few minutes. The butter particles splattered against the sides of the bowl. We drained off the whey and then used a butter paddle to shape the butter and squeeze out more whey.
Large and small butter paddles.
This time our butter came out perfectly and tasted delicious. So, today Sonny bought me a Kitchen Maid counter top mixer. It will not only come in handy to make butter, but bread dough and pizza dough as well. It will make these chores a lot easier for me too. Even before we went off the grid I kneaded all dough by hand and whipped up cake batter as well using the old spoon method, but I have been having a lot of problems lately with my hands. Maybe I have worn them out. Any way, I think this mixer will make a big difference.
Kitchen Maid mixer.
On sunny days the power needed to use the mixer won’t make a dent in the energy stored in the batteries. When the weather is not so nice and the days are cloudy, I can wait for a sunny day or use it while the generator is running. Too many grey days in a row and we have to charge the batteries with the generator. Its all about power management.
I enjoy doing things the old fashioned way, but its nice to know that our off grid system can handle the load when I need to step into the present and use modern kitchen appliances.
11 Comments | Off-Grid, Self-Sufficiency, Solar | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
January 7, 2012
Its been a whirlwind of a week. I went with Sonny last Sunday over to Reston, Va. to close out his apartment. He has finally found a job position over here that will enable him to be home every night and NO MORE TRAVELING.
After eight years Sonny ended his job in the city and starts a new job here this Monday, so we had to wrap up everything over in Reston. Moving is always so stressful. While he was winding things down at his old job, I was packing and cleaning. He didn’t have too much over there, but now we are trying to figure out where to put things over here. I think there will be a few trips to the thrift shop.
It took only about a day in the city for me to wish I was back in the country. I just cant take the crowds and the traffic and the shops now hold little interest for me. I did enjoy a trip to my favorite bookstore and sipped on a Starbucks caramel frappe as I perused the titles on the shelves. I finished my frappe, bought three books and walked happily away from the store with thoughts of curling up on the couch to read my new found treasures. Who knows when that chance will come. I thought I would have lots of time to read this winter and to write a book myself, but the time is slipping away. Before you know it Spring will be here and the farm will come alive, but with Sonny home every night now I will have a true helpmate to get those jobs done.
We have been hoping for a job opening over here for quite a while and he has had other opportunities that didn’t come through. There was no hurry and we didn’t get upset when those jobs didn’t pan out because we have always known the right job would come at the right time. Now that he is here we can really start stepping out on some new ventures. Our hope is to tap a few of the Maple trees we have here on the property and make some maple syrup with the help of Two Lynne’s Farm, and maybe now Sonny will have the time to complete some of our unfinished projects. Maybe… just maybe, I’ll get a chance to read book and to write one too.
3 Comments | Farming, Gardening, Homesteading | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe