Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Meet The Chickens...

First off, let me show you the little blue chicken coop:
Now, meet the inhabitants...

This is my oldest hen, a giant blue cochin named Penelope:

Next is a Red-Sex Link/Golden Comet hen named Honeydew:
And then there's an Easter Egger hen named Isis:

And the youngest in the chicken yard are the two "baby" Black Copper Marans who were hatched at Girl Scout Camp in July. The one on the left I believe is a roo, his name is Kopernikus. On the right is a hen-to-be named Madeline:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Here Comes The Sun...

Well, actually, the days are getting shorter. What I mean is here comes our solar power. We have a plan for powering our little gypsy home and Jamie has been explaining it to me. He's the electrician so he makes the plan. Now let's see if I understand it enough to explain it here...

Jamie says that travel trailers and mobile homes are the best situation for converting to off-grid power because they have separate light circuits and appliance circuits. The trailers we are living in are even better because the lighting is already 12v DC power rather than 120v AC. The solar panel system will be generating and storing power at 12v DC. When we convert 12v DC to 120v AC it creates heat and wasted energy and electricity. So with this we can save energy by using 12v DC as much as possible (lighting, cell phone charging, etc) and only doing conversion to 120v AC when we have to.

Ok, so the guest house has about 160-170 watts of 12v power with 450 amp hours of storage. This is what I am currently plugged into to power my laptop, charge my cell phone and mifi internet, run my sewing maching and occasional plug in a power tool. All of my lighting is battery powered lanterns and flashlights. (So far this has been sufficient for one trailer during summer). The solar panels we are looking to get are each 60-150 watt 12v. We probably only need 250-300 watts total, but Jamie has a goal of 350-400 watts. The higher the wattage, the faster the batteries are charged, which will become very important in the winter. We currently have enough batteries collected for 350 amp hours of storage. This should be ok for now, but we would like to have more.

(Now here's where we get into stuff that I have to copy and paste from his email as I am still working on understanding all of this.) Besides solar panels and batteries, we need a Charge Controller. It would be best to start out with a bigger one than we need so that as we expand we don't have to buy a second one. Jamie would like to get a 12 volt/ 45 amp charge controller with a digital display. The digital display allows for better monitoring and the size would allow us to someday expand to 500-600 watts. We are all about the long-term plan with how we're designing things here. The best source for acquiring this is going to be eBay.

We'll also need an inverter. This is what allows us to convert to 120v. For now a 600 watt automotive unit will work. When we have a more real house, we'll need to get a different one.

Other materials needed for putting the system together are things that Jamie has been able to salvage from construction site waste or has ways of getting. But everything I have mentioned is stuff we are trying to save up to buy. We can start putting the system together with at least one solar panel. This is a big project where we could use all the financial help we can get. I'm not certain of total cost and we are still doing a lot of pricing research. I'm sure I have forgotten something here that Jamie can fill in or elaborate on in comments.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pictures of The Kids, September 2010

More at Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/suomisidhe/sets/72157625077188282/
To see all of my photos on Flickr, you have to have an account there and I have to add you as a friend/family. All of the pictures of my children are locked to friends and family only on Flickr.

Nature Runs The Show Here

Sunday, 5am-ish:
I wake up to the sound of thunder. Once my eyes are open I see the faint flash of lightning filling the trailer. Jamie and I lie side by side counting between flashes and crashes. He counts 15, I count 8. We drift back to sleep until a new sound starts: Rain. Suddenly my eyes snap open as I recall that my trailer is not ready for rain yet! The unfinished bathroom still needs the roof vent replaced and the window that is being held together by a clamp does not close yet! I jump out of bed and close all the vents and windows and then talk Jamie into going out into the rain with me to put a tarp over the back of the trailer. Together we are too short and the trailer is too slick and wet for either of us to accomplish much without a ladder. While Jamie uses a long pole to coax the tarp over the trailer, I look for ways to get on the roof. In the process I get completely soaking wet as my sweater is acting as a sponge! Finally, I am almost on the roof, the lack of coffee and breakfast is hitting me, I am cold and my body just does not want to try to scramble onto the roof. I look around and realize that the rain has stopped. *sigh* We go inside and put on dry clothes, make coffee and it doesn't rain again all day...

Monday, 00:30am:
Strange dreams wake me up. And then I see flashes of light outside. I crawl out of my warm bed to investigate. (Oh my it is cold!!) Over the mountains to the east, I see a lightning storm, constant flashes of light like explosions over the horizon. But no sound. I crawl back into my bed and hope it is not moving in my direction. I lie in bed, watching the flashes of light, wondering if I should wake the kids up so they can see the show too.

Monday, 9am:
The kids are awake now. We are all sitting on my bed. I have coffee. It is cold outside and huge fluffy gray clouds seem to barely scrape the rooftop as they pass by. I feel exposed here on this mountain, unable to hide from Mother Nature. I woke to the sounds of intense wind, wondering how much of my yard would be in disarray when the sun rose. I'm not ready to venture outside, but it looks relatively untouched from my bedroom window.
It's homeschool time now. Maia is working on her embroidery and Terran is working on a comic book about endangered species. Soon I will make breakfast, sausage and oatmeal to warm them up. And then we will clean the house and get the chores done to get ready to travel to Fresno tomorrow.