January 21, 2013
Maple syrup may be the top event going on here at Pot Hole Farm, but its not the only one. We still have daily chores to attend to that include gathering firewood, taking care of the guineas, chickens, turkeys and cats and dogs. Because we have had few days of sunshine the generator needs to be fed as well and that means going down to the Country Store to fill up gas cans. Gray cloudy days do not make enough energy for the solar panels to charge the batteries.
January is also the month we start to plan for spring projects and one of those projects is the garden. Today we took a trip over to John and Carols where a nice pile of composting donkey manure was waiting behind the barn. John used the bucket of his dependable 1970’s Ford tractor to dump four large scoops of manure into the bed of our old farm truck.
We were almost home when it began to snow. Large fluffy flakes floated on the wind and landed on the frozen ground. We used pitch forks to spread the manure over about a third of the garden while snow flakes swirled around us creating a scene fit for a snow globe. The manure was black and rich with pink earthworms playing hide and seek in the clumps. It will lay atop the garden for the rest of winter where it will continue to decompose and feed the soil. We still need to get three or four more loads to finish covering the garden.
The snow is continuing to come down and the temperature is dropping. Time to curl up with a cup of coffee and a seed catalog.
4 Comments | Battery Bank, Cats, Chickens, Dogs, Farming, Firewood, Garden, Generator, Guineas, Maple syrup, Off-Grid, Solar | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
October 30, 2012
Well we weathered the storm here on the homestead. Like most places on the east coast it rained and the wind blew. Lucky for us no trees were blown down and no flooding to speak of. Around 4a.m. in the morning is started snowing and it has continued all day. The ground temp never got quite cold enough to freeze so the snow never accumulated more than an inch.
But, there was enough snow to cover the solar panels. A couple of years ago, we got a extendable squeegee and it worked just fine for the chore. We have also been working a lot on the sap evaporator. We built a heavy duty stand to hold the raw sap, plumbed the 100 gallon tank to the evaporator flue pan and will be putting up the smoke stack and flashing as soon as the weather gets better.
2 Comments | Alternative Energy, Battery Bank, Generator, Homesteading, Off-Grid, Solar, Solar-Powered | Permalink
Posted by Sonny
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
July 31, 2011
Our son Harold and his family were down this weekend. He has been helping us get out firewood stockpile ready for this winter. Although we still have a long way to go we are getting a pretty good start cutting rounds. We will get the splitter out later towards fall and get them split up and loaded in the woodshed.
Let me tell you that the Kubota RTV we picked up earlier this summer has been a real help around here. We are able to just stack the rounds in the back and once loaded we can drop the tail gate and use the hydraulic dump.
Loading the RTV
When we finished up with that tree we changed mode and hooked up the bush hog for some field cutting. Last week we got the logs out of the field and cleaned up the brush so we were ready to go.
We will be doing it again next week also. Our primary heat is from out wood stove and we burn about 5 cords each winter. The great thing is having all our electrical power supplied to us from the sun, the solar panels have been working excellent for us and out battery bank keeps us in power for the nights.
6 Comments | Alternative Energy, Battery Bank, Green, Homesteading, Off-Grid, Self-Sufficiency, Solar, Woodstove | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
January 15, 2011
When I went to take care of the chickens this morning I was surprised at how warm it felt outside. Although it wasn’t bathing suit weather, 35 degrees felt practically balmy after the many snowy and below freezing days we have had. The sun even peeked out for a while to help ease some of the winter doldrums supply sone sunlight to the solar panels to charge the batteries.
Sonny also got the kitchen sink plumbing repaired. He replaced the whole piping system, trap and all. Last week was a doozy. The temperatures dropped down to the single digits at night and I thought I had the sinks dripping enough to keep the pipes from freezing. Apparently not. I had to call my cousin John to come over and he had a small heater to place under the house and the problem was temporally fixed. Sonny still needs to get the water pipes insulated.
Well, I made sure that night that I had the drips on the sink set well. We have had a problem with the kitchen drain pipe leaking a very small amount all summer and I would just put a bucket under there to catch the water. But, the next morning I stepped on a kitchen rug and heard a very distinct squish. There was water all under the vinyl floor. Our cabinets are raised sightly so they weren’t wet inside but all underneath. I had to pull out the stove and get the piece of vinyl flooring up. It was a scrap piece from when we did the floor in the mudroom, but was big enough that it was a pain to lift out. A mop, a bucket and my back, got the flooded mess cleaned up.
The other issue from this week was our wood stove. It seemed that every time that I opened the door to put wood in smoke would billow out. Well that would indicate that there is a draft problem. Sonny had to go borrow a tall ladder, ( on the list of must haves yet to be bought) from cousin John. Sonny had to sweep away the four inches of snow and an inch of ice from the roof before he was able to climb on it. He then removed the cap from the chimney pipe and there was the problem. The screen around the cap was clogged with ash and creosote. John ripped out the screen and if any birds happen to get in there then I guess we will have squab for dinner. Now the problem is fixed and we have a good draft. The house is warm again.
Last week the log tongs that Sonny ordered came in the mail, so he and John just had to try to them out.
When they select cut the timber on this property before we bought it they created a pile of log butts. It is well seasoned wood, but a log tong was a tool we didn’t have until now. Sonny clipped the tongs onto a large log and then connected a chain to John’s flatbed 4×4 truck Festus. Festus tried to do the job but the wheels did more spinning than pulling even with four wheel drive on the snow. The logs were frozen together in the pile. They managed to pull out two logs but we’ll have to use the tractor when the snow melts. Even so, they made short work of the big log butts by using the chain saw and log splitter. The logs are now neatly split and stacked in the woodshed.
These types of things can be frustrating when they happen, but when you own an off grid house way, way back in the holler you learn how to deal with it and come to expect it.
I know that I have slipped in keeping up with the blog but I have been spending my time editing and fine tuning a novel that I wrote a few years ago. A best seller? I won’t hold my breath but hopefully it will be entertaining to those who read it. Keep in mind that this is my first book and hopefully my writing skills will improve as I go along. I have a few other novels started and will attempt to finish them.
4 Comments | Battery Bank, Farming, Homesteading, Off-Grid, Solar, Solar-Powered, Woodstove | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
December 6, 2010
The hectic days of Spring planting and Fall harvest are behind us, but that doesn’t mean we get to hibernate through Winter here at POF. Cold nights mean a wake up call at 3:00a.m. to put more wood in the stove. I’m talking about on nights that are 20 degrees and below. It’s supposed to get down in the teens tonight. We insulated the house very well so it would stay fairly warm if we didn’t stoke the fire but it wouldn’t be that toasty warmth you enjoy waking up to. We do have propane wall heaters as backup if needed.
The first chore of the day is usually to scoop out some of the ash from the stove and get the fire going again. In cold weather the stove is your lifeline to cozy comfort. That and a cup of coffee which I didn’t get till much later this morning.
Snowy solar panels
No sun today and more light snow means minimal power being absorbed by the solar panels. It is imperative to keep the panels clear of snow even on an overcast day. Although there was no direct sun the panels still absorb whatever light there is during the day. Even the light reflected from the white snow can be utilized as power for the panels. So, second chore of the day….Turn on the generator for a charge and sweep the snow off the panels. Which I did about four times today.
Cool squeegy gadget
Luckily the snow was light and fluffy like packing peanuts. Sonny bought me a long handled squeegee that works great for dragging the snow off. Last year we only had a broom which wasn’t even close to being long enough to reach the top of the PV Array. The right tools make all the difference.
Next stop, the chicken coop. I turned on the solar lamps that Sonny installed to give them some artificial light on this grey day. I wasn’t sure if the battery would be charged enough from the solar panels on top of the chicken coop since we haven’t had sunlight for days. A flick of the switch and the coop went from dreary to cheery. I switched out the water container and replaced it with one that wasn’t frozen. I know they have heated waterers but I think they use electric. That would not be an option for us. So my job will be to switch out the water containers frequently throughout the day. Chickens need plenty of water even when temperatures are freezing. I only collected two eggs today, but that is to be expected in this weather. The chickens didn’t want to go out in the snow today and I don’t blame them. I added some more straw on the floor and I think that will give the coop some more warmth.
A quick stop by the woodshed to grab a load of wood and finally back inside the house for a cup of joe. With the snow continually coming down this circle was completed numerous times throughout the day.
I did get a chance to finish filling out my Christmas cards except for a few of Sonny’s friends of which I can’t find the addresses for. I will have to get them from him later.
Even though it was cold out and the snow wasn’t blowing Ruby and I decided to walk the mile down to the mailbox to post the cards. It was actually an enjoyable walk. I made sure I dressed warm in the Carhart coat Sonny bought me, a wool scarf, mittens and my brown plaid Elmer Fudd hat with ear flaps down. Just like the right tools make a job easier the right winter gear will keep you warm. I’m sure I looked very enticing in my ensemble that included L.L. Bean boots and an orange grocery bag left over from Halloween to tote the cards in. It was a colorful accessory that complimented my brown color scheme and it could double as a beacon for hunters not to mistake me for a deer. In my case that would probably be a moose.
It looks like the next two days will be the same. More snow, more grey skies and cold. It’s been a busy day and I think I hear the bed calling my name, or could it be that pesky 3a.m. alarm I hear.
7 Comments | Battery Bank, Chickens, Farming, Generator, Green, Homesteading, Off-Grid, Self-Sufficiency, Solar, Solar-Powered | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
November 16, 2010
Well the short days and lack of sun has forced me into action. We received our Harbor Freight solar panels and Saturday we got them installed and running. I only added a small lawn mower battery to the kit. Hopefully it will help the chickens think there is still light and help to keep their egg laying steady. Only time will tell now.
5 Comments | Alternative Energy, Battery Bank, Homesteading, Off-Grid, Self-Sufficiency, Solar-Powered | Permalink
Posted by Sonny
October 17, 2010
Last month I ordered 3 additional 210 watt Kyocera PV solar panels as part of my stage 2 upgrade. I promptly ordered a 6 panel rack mounting system through Alt-E Solar Store but then had to wait over 4 weeks until DPW (the manufacturer) shipped it. John and I decided to start the project first thing Saturday morning (right after a cup of coffee).
New Solar Panel Upgrade
The first action was to get to town to hit up Lowe’s for installation supplies. PVC conduit, 10 and 8 gauge wire, ground rod and clamps and of course some lunch and we were ready to finally get started around 2:00 p.m. About 4 hrs later we were covering up the trench and flipping the disconnect to “on”.
We set these panels to face South-East to gather the early morning sunlight before my main PV array even gets any sun on it. The “Rack Mount” is designed for 6 panels and soon we intend to add another 3 panel on the bottom to close-out the install. If all goes well it will happen sometime next month.
5 Comments | Battery Bank, Green, Off-Grid, Self-Sufficiency, Solar, Solar-Powered | Permalink
Posted by Sonny
October 9, 2010
The weather today was beautiful. Blue clear skies and warm temperatures made it the perfect day to be outside. John came over bright and early this morning to help Sonny install the new bank of batteries that arrived yesterday.
All he asked in payment was a cup of coffee to get him started. You would not believe how heavy each one of those batteries are. I definitely would not have the strength to lift and carry them to the battery box where Sonny would install them.
Getting them in place
We are hoping to get a little more juice for those extended cloudy and rainy days that come along. Winter will be a another good test for our system with its months of grey and overcast days.
We still need to finish that project we started a few weeks ago of putting the R-19 insulation under the house. That will be a big improvement. We don’t want a repeat of last years wool socks and L.L. Bean slipper requirement. Back then you could get frost bite by just touching the floor with your bare foot. Brrrrrr. Cold feet don’t set well with me. Cold weather is ok, but I am too old to be like Ebenezer Scrooge eating gruel in a fireless room.
2 Comments | Alternative Energy, Battery Bank, Green, Homesteading, Off-Grid, Self-Sufficiency, Solar, Solar-Powered | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe
August 29, 2010
Pot Hole Farm is in the end of summer phase. We pulled out the string bean plants as they were no longer producing and the carrots I planted didn’t do well. They looked squished and stunted like little orange mutant carrots. Not very appetizing at all. They actually need a more sandy soil rather than the clayish and rocky soil we have here. I recently found out that like potatoes they need to have dirt pushed up on them as they grow, forming a hill. Our garden this year was an experiment anyway and this particular one failed. Sonny crinkled up his nose and carried them to the compost pile as if they were nuclear waste. I don’t think carrots will be on the garden menu next year. The tomato plants are turning brown and dying off. Grass has begun to take over the now vacant areas where the red potatoes were planted and the pumpkins have taken over the squash and zucchini plants. We still have Lima beans and the sweet potatoes and pumpkins will be harvested before the first frost.
This weekend Sonny and I cut up one of the large limbs that broke off an ancient Maple tree this past winter. It was the size of a small tree itself and will help to keep us warm this winter. Our minds are beginning to turn from summer projects to winter preparedness. We need to install the wood stove, put in insulation under the house, and cut wood for our winter fuel. Those are the major projects but there are also small things like painting the root cellar and the door trim of the chicken coop. We need to install a solar panel on the roof of the chicken coop so we can run a light in there during the shorter winter days. Chickens need about 12-14 hours of light to produce eggs. We also ordered and received three more 205 watt solar panels and he plans to order a ground mounting rack for them next. I think he is wanting to try to get a third bank of batteries before Christmas. Sonny wants to make sure that we have enough energy to support the house when grey days arrive.
It’s possible we may have phone service in the near future. I was surprised last Wednesday when a guy showed up with a ditch-witch to dig and bury the new phone cable. At least we are that far now. We have to wait for the phone company to come out and attach the connection box to the house and hook us up. It’s hard to say when that will be but its one small step closer to being able to communicate with the outside world. I know my Mom and daughter-in-law will be ecstatic when it gets connected. The phone lines will be smoking when that day arrives.
5 Comments | Alternative Energy, Battery Bank, Farming, Garden, Gardening, Green, Harvesting, Homesteading, Off-Grid, Solar, Solar-Powered | Permalink
Posted by lkjobe