Friday, September 26, 2014

September 22, 2004 - New Book Out: Build Your Own Low-Budget Solar Power System

Build Your Own Low-Budget Solar Power System
By Steven Gregersen
(Click on link above.)
This book is designed to address the concerns of those whose only desire is to build a simple, small-scale solar energy system but don't know where to start (or end!). 
We've been living off the grid for well over ten years now and the most common inquiry we get is from people who want to set up a small solar energy system to power a cabin or camper, or to keep a refrigerator and a few lights on if the grid goes down. Some have already tried and ended up with woefully inadequate systems lacking the power and balance needed for off-grid life.
But there's more to off-grid living than watts, volts and amps. It's important to understand how a solar power system works and how to size it properly for the job you want it to do.
In this book I've condensed all the information you need to design your own simple, off-grid, solar power system. I'm not going to teach how to build your own solar panels but I'll tell you how purchase factory components to build the system that fits your needs the best and hopefully save you a lot of frustration and cash while putting it together.
We'll see how to understand watts, volts, amps, and ohms and how they apply to deciding how many solar panels you need, the watt ratings you'll have to have for your inverter and charge controller and even how many batteries you'll need for your battery bank.
You'll learn about resistance, and how it affects your solar power system. I will explain with diagrams and text the differences between sine wave, modified sine wave and pure sine wave inverters and how that applies to you. I'll explain charge controllers and the reasons for and against PWM vs. MPPT vs. single-stage vs. multiple-stage controllers and which is best for you.
I'll tell you a little secret about "efficient" vs. "less efficient" solar panels that will keep you from wasting money on something that's a relatively minor issue.
Even if you don't want a "whole house" system you'll learn how to put together balanced small-scale power systems at whatever size you can afford.
We'll also look at solar power "kits" and I'll show you how to put together your own that outperform commercially available kits and get more power for less money.
My goal here is to simplify that which has been made complicated.

I want you to be able to pursue your dream of independence from the grid without spending enough money to break the bank.
It can be done, and for less than you may imagine!


26 September, 2014 Bow-killed Elk, Woods, Lakes, Canning, and more...

 Fall is definitely here.  The nights are colder and days are shorter and the air has that clean crisp feeling that's the prelude to winter.  It's my favorite time of year!  I've already put the antifreeze in our automatic washer and after I get the brush piles burned I'll drain the water pump and tank to get them ready for winter.  (We may need the pressurized water for fire control.)

These are the last of our chickens.  We will never buy that many (84) meat chickens at one time ever again.  Even though the meat is good it was just too much work.

Susan ordered a set of lego blocks that light up.  Scott absolutely loves them and has been building robots and planes and rockets.  He's very creative in his designs and some are quite elaborate.

We love his imagination.  Here he's sitting on an old tree stump.  He put another section of rotted tree over it for a seat then pushed two other pieces on the sides to use for control handles.  He spent quite awhile making robot noises as he fought bad guys while piloting his "robot."  We got a kick out of the comments a couple of high school girls made one day in the store when he was playing in the cart.  One looked at the other and said, "how cute, he comes with his own sound track!"

Susan canned up some soup for future use.  You'll have to go to her  Poverty Prepping blog for details. Here are the beginnings ...

Step two ...

And finished!

And, yes, it's very good.  We had some last night.

We took a short (eleven mile) bike ride yesterday just to enjoy the fall weather.  I took these photos of the green box site.

Looks like they added some electric wire since we were here last.  Evidently they've had some bear problems.

We are now at Dickey Lake.  Scott found a "chair" that someone carved out of a large stump with a chain saw.  Scott probably sees it more as his "throne" from which he rules his kingdom.

After being in the bike seat he had lots of energy to burn and was on every rock, stump or pillar he could find.

Susan handed him the camera and asked him to take our picture.  He turned it to see the shutter release and put his finger on it, then pointed it our way and took two pictures.  Both were composed well.  Not bad for a three-year-old.  Of course he quickly handed the camera back and took off playing again. 

He spent as more time playing in the water from the fountain than he did drinking from it.

We had the lake to ourselves for a short while so Scott went skinny dipping.  A couple of women from New York state drove up so he got dressed and went to see them.  They asked us if he wanted a float toy so we said okay.  We thought it would be small but it was this one instead.  Of course Scott loved it!  The water was surprisingly warm for this spring fed lake.  When I was camp director for the Christian Camp on the other side of the lake our kids would don their dry suits and go swimming here in the spring while there was still ice on the lake.  The water wasn't a whole lot warmer in July during our youth camps.
We rescued several people from this lake every summer.  A lot of macho types thought they'd swim across it since it's only about a half-mile from one side to the other (the narrow way).  What they didn't realize was how the cold would get to them and most needed help before they got half the distance across.  The vast majority of people are smart enough to have a boat stay alongside of them.  The others often have to flag down a boat. While at the camp we watched for lone swimmers and took the boat out to escort them across the lake.  To my knowledge, no one has ever made it swimming across without a wet or dry suit for heat retention.
Lake temperatures are often in the 50 to 60 F. degree range. The maximum depth is 67 feet.  Somewhat shallow compared to many mountain lakes around here.

Scot went into panic mode when we began deflating the floaty until we explained that we needed to deflate it to take it home on grandpa's bicycle.

The is Murphy Lake along highway 93 below Fortine.  We passed it on the way home.  It has some huge pike and bass in it along with lots of perch.

Back to our starting point.  We'd parked at the Fortine Mercantile since we needed to buy milk before heading home.

I finally bought a new bar and chain for one of our older saws.  I did a little engine modification to this one to give it more power but the bar was worn enough that it was hard to keep the chain on it.

Back in business again!

Bacon and eggs cooked on the wood stove.  The colder weather is nice for cooking on the wood stove.  It really heats up the cabin but that feels pretty good on a cold morning.

Our daughter and SIL moved out of state and left some of their firewood out in the weather.  I carted it up to the woodshed so we can use it this winter.  I found out he had a bit of a splitting problem with one piece!  That's one reason you should always have at least two splitting wedges.  Incidentally, the spear type wedges are okay until you hit a knot.  Then they stick tight!  A regular wedge will eventually cut through the knot. 

Some of the wood I've now spilt and stacked.

These are green logs from trees I cut while thinning.  I'll cut them to firewood length then store them outside under a tarp for the winter.  They'll be perfect for next spring or winter.
I have three more trees down and cut up in the woods next to the garden.  I need to load them in the truck and split them yet.

Our daughter and SIL have an apple tree in their yard so Susan and Emily picked the apples for canning and pies.

Susan peeling apples while we are watching a movie in the evening.

Here she's making raspberry cobbler to can for later use.  We had some last night and it was great.  That's canned chicken on the counter next to the wall.

She has another food preservation book under construction but it won't be finished for awhile.  We try to anticipate the photos we'll need and take them in advance.  That way if we work on the books while we are snow-birding in our motor home we'll already have the photos taken.  Otherwise we have to put the book on hold until we get home in the spring.

This is the canned cobbler after being processed. The wide mouth jar on the far left is Cherry.  The rest are raspberry.  We are seriously running out of room to store everything she has canned.  We may need to dig another root cellar.

Home canned cherries ready to be made into pie or cobbler.

Chili left from 2011. It's still very good stuff!

Home made/canned pound cake from two-years-ago.

Our oldest son got his first bow-kill yesterday.  He and some friends are way back in the mountains hunting and they called in this bull elk.  Details are sketchy since they barely had enough cell phone access to send the photo and texts but not enough to talk.  The photo was taken in the dark and had to be run through the computer's photo program to lighten it up.
Incidentally, around here we often type out a text then throw the cell phone up in the air hoping it will make enough contact with a  cell tower to send a message. (And hoping we can catch it on the way back down!)  Sometimes you can just stand on top of your truck and/or tie the phone to a rope and swing the rope in circles until it gets high enough to make a connection.  We used to have people think we were pulling their leg at the Dickey Lake Christian camp when we told them to take a canoe out to the middle of the lake to talk on their cell phone.  It usually worked though!  All of you with good cell phone access everywhere should be thankful for it!

Friday, September 5, 2014

5 September, 2014 Getting ready for winter.

Fall is here! And along with fall comes a whole slug of things needing our attention.  The garden is coming in strong now along with the attendant canning and drying.  Bow hunting season for big game - Deer, Elk and Bear - begins tomorrow morning (6 Sept.).  If successful it means more canning and butchering.  There's still wood to cut as well.  Overall though, fall is a great time of year.

We've been firing up the wood stove mornings and evenings for about a week now just to compensate for the dropping temperatures outside.  That also means we do more cooking on the wood stove.  As long as we're using it anyway we may as well save propane and cook on it too.

Susan had her violin out practicing.  When she put it down Scott decided to try his hand at it. He has a ways to go before he's ready for Carnegie Hall!

We showed our son and DIL the trail going into Martin Lake.  Scott, of course, takes his place on Uncle Tristan's shoulders.

Tristan is young and strong and Scott took advantage of it on the trail in.  The trail is short and easy by Montana standards.  It's only a half mile with only two small hills in between.

It is a gorgeous little lake though and not greatly used.

Krystina and Scott.  The mountains in the background rise about two-thousand feet above the lake level.  They are steep and heavily forested!

Scott gets a lot of clothes dirty and with the unusually rainy weather we've had lately, we were making too many trips to the laundry mat in Eureka.  Our oldest son had an extra automatic washer to give away so we took it home and hooked it up ... redneck style!

The pump drains the wash/rinse water into the black tub.  This thing uses 20 gallons of water each time it fills the washing chamber when on the "large load" setting.  We haul water and use captured rainwater for washing clothes and needed a way to conserve on the water supply.

I drilled a 3/4 inch hole at the base of the tub and screwed in a male hose fitting.  You don't need to thread the hole in the plastic.  Simply screwing in the brass fitting will make a seal that's leak free.

The drain hose from the washer runs into the top of the large plastic pipe going into the black tub.  The plastic pipe can pivot so we can take the tub out from under it as needed.

We have the drain hose to make it easier to drain the water away from the cabin and get it where it's needed (watering trees).  We use the wash water for watering trees then save the rinse water in the tub and use it for the next "wash" cycle.  That way we save and recycle at least some of the water

The water comes from our rain water tank.  We pump it out of the tank using the well pump we were given (it had a cracked housing so I had to fix it before putting it into service).  I personally like the old way we did wash better but the automatic washer has some good points too.  It's a lot easier on zippers in coats and jeans and gets the clothes dryer than the wringer does.  They don't have to spend as much time hanging on the line.  Of course we'll have to put some RV antifreeze in it soon or the water left in the pump will freeze.

Scott is helping Susan strip Thyme leaves off the stems after drying them. (She grows an assortment of spices in the garden.)  We've bought Thyme from the store where they just ground up the leaves and the stems.  It takes us longer to do it our way but we really don't like having the stems in our food.

Well, Scott was helping for awhile anyway!  He did pretty well for a three-year-old!

Some of the things Susan has been doing ... Cans of huckleberries, cherries and raspberries on front.  You can see the muffin pan to the right.  The corn muffins were made using home grown and ground sweet corn.  You can't get better corn flour or corn meal than that!  If you want to have some fun grow some different colored corn for different colored corn meal.  Our electric grain mill is on the towel above the canned food.  Susan had just finished grinding some wheat into flour.  The pan at the top right has scraps waiting for a trip to the compost pile.

Under the towel are cans of home made salsa in front of canned chicken and canned chicken broth.  We grew and butchered the chickens.

The fire danger is finally down low enough to burn some slash piles.  This one has so much green stuff in it that's it's being difficult to get it burning.  We've been clearing off more of the land.  If you don't keep at it the trees will keep coming up until everything is choked out.

We've been covering the less frost hardy plants in the garden at night this week.  The night time lows are about thirty-degrees.  If we can make it through a week or so we often get another month of warmer weather.  The blankets were salvaged from the dump.  We also purchased rolls of cloth on clearance.  Sometimes material that doesn't sell well is available for pennies per yard.  We bought several bolts of cloth a couple of years ago and use them to protect the crops from frost.

Onions were pulled and brought into the cabin to cure.  The tops will go in the compost pile.  We cut up our onions and dehydrate them.  We've never had any luck storing them long term unless we dry them.

Zucchini squash tucked in to bed for the night.

We stack boards of Styrofoam insulation around the bottom of the greenhouse and add cloth covering to help protect the plants.  One more month will make a lot of difference in the amount of food we harvest.
Now to get ready for hunting tomorrow!