Replacement Generator

July 9, 2011

Sonny

Saturday

We had been using a small underpowered 3500kw Champion generator as the backup generator for the last two years. We always had plans to replace it with a bigger one but just never got around to it until this weekend. The Primary generator is a 8kw propane Guardian and it takes care of all our charging needs for those long dark rainy weeks.

Generac 8kw

You see, nothing is the same living out in the boonies and living off the power grid.  We have solar panels for electricity, a primary generator but also a backup generator. Everything has to have a Plan-B to go with it.  Our heat is from out wood stove but we also have propane backup.  We have 4 wheel drive cars, and a backup 4 wheel drive tractor just in case the snow is too much. We have lights but have oil lanterns, Gas stove to cook on but we can also cook on the wood stove. We have Internet, Satellite TV and Satellite radio to know the weather. We even have multiple stove-top coffee peculators.  We even have a great refrigerator but we still built a root cellar.

It is just our way out here.  And to be honest, continue to learn lessons every day on PHF.


MAY GOINGS ON

May 8, 2011

Sunday

Linda

Wow, it’s hard to believe that we are already in the month of May and even harder to realize how long its been since my last blog entry. I have no excuses. Since the rain for the past weeks has put a damper on doing outside projects I have been spending my time doing a little Spring cleaning in the house. The walls and cabinets have been scrubbed clean of the winter wood stove residue and the glass of the inside windows is now gleaming. I washed the sofa slip covers and hung up Springtime fresh curtains. Now that those chores are completed I can spend most of my time outdoors where I really want to be.

There are so many projects that need attention here at PHF that sometimes its overwhelming. Sonny and I sat down and made a list of everything trying to organize it by priority. Not an easy task because it all seems to be a priority but as they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

Sonny took a weeks vacation this past week so that we could finish up the drain ditches, the wood shed addition, work on the garden, finish up the hog pen fence and about a thousand other things. Of course it rained the first part of the week and then he had a little mishap.

We had taken Festus, (Johns Truck) to Southern States Supply to get a couple of propane bottles filled. The tanks were filled and Sonny started to climb off the back of the truck when his heel got caught on the edge of the tow hitch. He fell like a sack of potatoes onto the asphalt and injured his right shoulder. I took him to the Urgent Care and the X-rays didn’t show any fractures, but his shoulder is still extremely painful if he tries to lift his arm too high. He will get a follow up done this week.

Sonny tried to get some things done, but trying to use a shovel or put the metal roof on the wood shed extension was out of the question, so was putting the green house back together. I am just grateful he didn’t break his neck.

We have four new additions to PHF. Yesterday we went to Two Lynnes Farm and came home with three Barred Rock hens and an Americana/ Cochin mixed hen. They are about eight weeks old and as cute as be. I can’t wait to see them tootling behind the rest of the flock but that will have to wait a few weeks. I promise to post pictures later. We also came home with some cabbage and brussels sprouts seedlings and two pint jars of Two Lynnes Farm Maple syrup. Can’t wait to try that!

My day has been a busy one. It seems as though it has taken me forever to put up the chicken wire around the bottom of the garden fence. The chickens weren’t free ranging last year but now they hop in and out of the large square openings of the cattle fencing like its a hop scotch game.

My fingers are soar from wire tying the chicken wire to the existing fence and let me tell you those raw, sharp ends of the fence can poke too. Wearing gloves just gets in the way so I will suffer the consequences of not wearing them. Now that the chickens can’t get into the garden I went ahead and planted the cabbage plants and two rows of Strike beans. Our friend Gary gave us some potato starts and I cut them in half so I can plant them tomorrow.

My fingers are soar and my hands are scratched, my back aches and my muscles scream but I feel good. I finally finished a job that needed to be done and the garden has its first plantings. We have four more beautiful hens that will give us eggs in a few months and it is a good feeling to know that we can feed ourselves. Well as long as the garden grows.


WATER TANK AND WAGON

April 18, 2011

Monday

Linda

We don’t have any pigs that need to be fed and watered yet but we are all set when we finally find some to purchase. We bought a metal garden wagon from Tractor Supply and strapped  a 65 gallon water tank to the base. The hog pen is located way out in the back pasture and lugging water buckets from the house every day would be too difficult. Besides I don’t care to have my arms stretched so far that my knuckles drag the ground. Not pretty.

We also bought a 2 stroke portable 6 gpm model pump. When the creek is full of water we will be able to use the pump to fill the water tank with creek water. That will save having to use power from the house pump. We can then hook the wagon to the four wheeler and deliver it to the hog pen. Sonny will put a spout on the water tank to which we will connect a hose and be able to fill the water trough with ease.

WATERING TRAILER


GUINEA ADDITIONS

January 23, 2011

Sunday

Sonny

The other day Linda and I found a local farm that had Guineas for sale. After several emails and phone calls we headed just north or our place to find Two Lynns Farm in Shirley, WV.

There we met Sandi and Lynn Hopper. They had moved from the West Coast about 8 years ago and got their local Organic farm up and running. They gave us a tour of their place. Chickens, Ducks, Guineas, Cows (beef or milk) and even got a overview of their Maple Syrup processing. We talked for hours and quickly realized they were good down to earth people.

We picked up three guinea hens and one rooster. On the way home it dawned on us that we really didn’t have anywhere to put them. We could not put them in with the chickens because we needed to keep them locked up for a few days to help them figure out they had a new home. So we keep them in the dog cage (a big one) in the back of the Jeep overnight while we figured out what we were going to do.

Temporary Home

The next morning it was a cool 20 degrees but we decided to get started. We put on our winter gear and went to the barn to gather all the scrap metal, left over 2×4’s and a old pallet. After about 5 hours we got it completed. We decided to use a tarp for the door until we can got to Lowe’s for more supplies.

Guinea Coop in the Garden


WEEKEND REPAIRS

January 15, 2011

Sunday

Linda/Sonny

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.


COLD CHICKEN FEET

December 8, 2010

Wednesday

Linda

We have had some sporadic sunshine today which lifted the spirits of all. Even though it was only about twenty degrees outside it felt warmer because the air was dry. It wasn’t that bone chilling cold you sometimes have to endure this time of year.

Since the sun was shining I thought the chickens might like a reprieve from the confines of the coop.  The rooster this morning sounded like he was crowing, “let us out!”  So, to appease my feathered friends I cleared a small section of snow in front of the coop hatch and put out some scratch.  I’m sure they get bored in the coop.  I must have pansy chickens, because they came out only long enough to eat the scratch and then quickly retreated back into the coop.

Burrr! My tootsies are freezing!

I left the hatch door open just in case they decided to step outside some more for a stretch and wing flap, but I don’t believe they did.  I guess I will have to get them some chicken snow boots.  I don’t hear the the chickens in Alaska crying.  They go out in colder weather than this.

On second thought maybe my chickens are geniuses.  Why go out when its cold if the lady wearing the goofy Elmer Fudd hat is stupid enough to come out and take care of you.  Fresh straw underfoot feels better than snow and that cooked oatmeal still warm from the pan….delicious.  That warm water is great to drink too.  Who needs a frozen beak.

Yea, whose the pansy here and whose the sucker.


SNOWY SOLAR PANELS

December 6, 2010

Monday

Linda

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.


Winter Preps

November 29, 2010

Even though it has now started to really feel like winter has started to show up a little more lately, we are better prepared then last year. Last year we installed a 30k BTU propane wall heater that performed pretty well for us but quickly found out that the cost of propane would prohibit us from using it as our primary head source.

So when the Tractor Supply Center got their supply of woodstoves in we got busy. We got a good stove, the double wall pipe and the flashing kit and on a clear Saturday completed the installation. It was the best thing we did all year.

Now the priority is to make sure I have a good supply of seasoned wood to get through the Winter.

Sonny


LAST OF THE SOLAR PANELS

November 26, 2010

Friday

Sonny

Last week we finally received the last of our solar panels.  The system is a full 3.7 kw.  I know that doesn’t mean much to most of you but when we originally designed our PV solar system I knew right away I would be “building” it in stages. We just didn’t have the money to get it all at once.

Although I don’t think we will ever be completely finished. Next year I hope to get a solar hot water system ordered and start that install. Right now we have a propane tank and I would rather let the sun heat the water and that would easy my wallet on buying propane.

I also may start thinking about either a small wind generator or a micro-hydro to help keep the batteries charged on the short winter days and the days of heavy clouds. We seem to only get some wind in the winter and our stream only flows when it rains – heck it may take both systems who knows.

I do know that next week will be time for a load of donkey manure for the garden thanks to John and Carol and “Buck and Doe Run”.


NEW SUN OVEN

November 1, 2010

Monday

Linda

We bought a Sun Oven a few weeks ago and have been dying to try it out.  Today we had clear skies, sunshine, and free time from any other obligations.

 

Sun Oven

 

We decided to make a simple hamburger stew that included common ingredients we had around the house.  This is something I usually make on top of the gas stove. I did brown the hamburger first and drained the grease before adding the other ingredients.

The instructions for the Sun Oven recommended using thin walled pots that have a dark finish.  We used an enamel ware pot that came with a camp set.  You can get them in the camping section of most stores.  The ingredients I used were:

hamburger (browned and drained)

three cloves of garlic minced

chopped onion, carrots, potatoes and green pepper

celery salt (I prefer fresh celery but I didn’t have any)

beef bullion cube

chopped zucchini ( I had some I froze from our garden)

canned or frozen corn

A little dried Thyme, parsley, rosemary and a bay leaf

about a teaspoon of Worchestershire sauce

a sprinkle of dried red peppers if you like a little spice

water to make a broth

I believe thats it and of course any kind of stew can have whatever you choose.  We put all the ingredients in the camp pot and placed it into the Sun Oven.  The oven has a temperature gage and you can control the temperature by following the sun.  Full sun will give you a temp of about 350 degrees.  It doesn’t matter if it is summer or winter.  We let the stew cook for about 4 1/2 hours.  Sonny checked on the placement of the oven about every half hour to make sure it was in direct sunlight. Letting it slowly simmer allowed all the flavors to come out and mingle together. The outcome was a tasty one pot meal.  Add a slice of homemade bread and you have a delicious dinner on cold evening.

 

Comfort Food

 

You don’t have to slow cook everything.  You could heat up a can of soup, or bake a casserole.  I am anxious to try baking some bread.  For some it may seem like a toy, but when you live off grid using a crock pot is a no, no.  I see this as a good tool to use in the summer when you need to use the oven but don’t want to heat up the house.  I think it is a good use of the suns power instead of using electric or propane.  That’s not to say I will cook with it everyday but I believe it could become a normal mode of cooking on sunny days.


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