It's been a while.
I've been working, but I haven't been posting.
I felt kinda bad about that, but I took pictures of everything as I went. Now there are a LOT of pictures (and two videos) to post. It takes a lot of effort when it's done all at once!
So, where to begin? Well, first of all, I got some more solar panels!
Here they are, all lined up. Those 3 panels are rated at 135 watts each. I've been living off of the power generated by those panels for about a month and a half now! They do a pretty good job. Of course, we're going into the darkest part of the year here soon, so that'll be the real test, but for now I feel pretty comfortable with their performance. I can't play video games for 5 hours every night, of course, but a session like that a couple of times a week hasn't been a problem. I also made a bit of a frame for them.
You can tell it was hacked together out of scrap wood, but that's okay for now. It's a good thing I made it, too! Just yesterday we had some really nasty winds. I was driving home and got out of the car just in time to see the wind pull one of those panels over! The next panel in line was about to land on top of it when I caught it and put it back in place. At the time, my only option was to tie them down, so I went inside and got some heavy twine and lashed them to the rack. They were good for the rest of the night, but I really need to go back and mount them more permanently. That's a big investment to have get smashed in the wind!
Since I had the extra juice from the solar panels (oh, and 4 batteries now) I decided to go ahead and finally hook up my AC breaker box to my little inverter. Note: if there are any electricians reading this blog, you may want to get some tissues or some antacid tablets or something, because this is probably going to make you feel ill:
Now, there's no way on EARTH that little 400 watt inverter can EVER handle the amount of power that 100-amp breaker panel is capable of demanding. However, I don't have a lot of energy-intensive appliances that I want to use with it, so it'll work for me. Really, I mainly hooked it up so that I could run a pair of clippers in the bathroom to trim my hair. I also wired it up so that, if I do come across grid power again in the future, I can run my breaker box off of that instead. See the mess of plugs in the second picture? I'll just have to unplug the black one from the yellow one and plug it into the other yellow one instead.
I also got an antenna for my Internet connection. I have it mounted to the side of the house here, but I've since put it up in the air. It's gotten me a more reliable signal, for which I am grateful. However, it's still a really slow connection, and that makes me unhappy. I doubt that the middle of nowhere is going to be getting 4G any time soon, so for now I'm just going to have to suffer.
Oh, I also fastened some deck boards to my dock! Isnt' it pretty? Okay, yeah, it's all jacked up to one side, it's a little unstable on the left, and the deck boards are raw and way too white, but at least it gives me something to walk out onto so that I can look at my pond. From out on the deck I can really see that the pond's depth goes a lot deeper than I was originally giving it credit for. One day next summer I'm going to have to float out there and drop a line to see how deep it really is...
Ahh, and now we come to the BIG project. This is the start of my water catchment plan! Well, okay... it's a hole in the ground. That hole is about 4 feet deep and 4 feet in diameter. It was dug through solid clay! Seriously, I have, like... maybe 8 inches of topsoil, and the rest is all clay. If I jump on the shovel, it sinks in maybe half an inch. Maybe I need to eat more, I don't know, but it took forever to dig through. I'll have some great cobbing material later, that's for sure. For now, though, I have a hole in the ground. What am I going to do with that hole in the ground? I'm glad you asked.
I've been porting my water into my tank for over a year now. It's heavy and it's frustrating, and it also means that I have to plan ahead if I'm running low. That's... that's probably a good thing, actually, but I'm lazy and would prefer instantaneous gratification. So! I need to develop a way to get water on-site. I could tap the pond, but I'm just not comfortable with the levels of slime in it. Also, my mother would probably disown me for even mentioning it. Drilling a well is a possibility, but the one I decided to go with was rainwater harvesting. I figured that, with a roof my size (19½ feet by 8 feet) I could catch about 100 gallons off of an inch of rain. Given that I'm using just over 10 gallons a week right now, that could last me quite a bit, even if I double my usage.
I dug that big hole so that I'd have a place to store all of that water. To keep it from freezing hard in the winter, I decided a pit below the frost line was in order. Now, the entire thing won't be below the frost line, so some freezing may occur on the top, but I'm hoping I should come out okay. This is an experiment, after all, so I'm more than willing to take some chances, just so long as I'm not putting a lot of money forth. And I got my cistern dirt-cheap off of a guy on Craigslist!
Before anyone freaks out, I am NOT going to drink from it. It was an old waste tank used for antifreeze and used oils and gunk. The inside was pretty grimy, but as you can see in the pics, it cleaned up quite nicely. I fully expect to get some residues in my water - I am okay with this. Like I said, I won't be drinking it. If this rainwater catchment works out for me, I'll probably dig it up and put in a cement cistern next year or so. For now, though, this is a nice, cheap way to test things. Of course, it means I'll have to square out the sides of my hole, which means more digging. *sigh*
There, done! Ha ha. Next I needed to hang some gutters. I called my dad in to help with that, since hanging gutters is a 2-person job. Also, I sold my truck on Craigslist 2 days before I bought that tank (the price of gas was just too much for me! I'll miss that truck...) so I needed his vehicle to carry things. Mom came out while we were working on it, so she snapped some pictures. She took a LOT of pictures, actually... it would DOUBLE the size of this update, which is already long enough as it is, so I'm just going to post a few.
The first pic shows the finished gutters on the left side of the house, the second shows half of the right side gutter in place, and the other three just show me and Dad working on them. Oddly, neither Mom nor I took a picture of the right side of the house after it was finished. How strange.
Well, after the gutters were up, I needed to funnel the water down to the tank. The very next day I went out to get some pvc pipe, and while I was driving home it started to rain. Seriously. Being the impatient fool that I am, I decided to rush the process and collect the very water that was falling on my head. So, in the rain, in the dark, working with a hacksaw and a flashlight, I quickly mashed the pipes together.
The pipe from the left side goes across the back of the house and hooks into the line from the right, which then goes over to the cistern. After I was done, I managed to collect about 20 gallons that night! I need to go back and modify it, though. For one, I didn't add a first-flush diverter to get rid of the initial flush of rain that washes the bird poop off of the house. I did plan for it, though, and there's a t-joint at the bottom before the pipe goes to the cistern where a diverter can be attached. I also need to put in a funnel and a screen right at that last downward bend so filter out, say, pine needles.
This project is far from done. I still need to get the water out of the cistern and into the house, which requires a pump. Being of the creative sort, I want to try to build my own pump. I've been watching some YouTube videos and reading up on it, and I've decided to give it a shot. I also need to build a platform over the top of the cistern to both serve as a lid and to give me a surface to stand on while I fiddle with the pump and the pipes and stuff. I also need to backfill around the cistern and a bunch of other stuff, which I'm sure I'll post about later.
Well, in addition to all of these pictures, I also have 2 videos. One shows a small rocket stove (pocket rocket) that I've been messing with lately. As another experiment, I decided to build one just to see how well it worked. I wanted to make it on the cheap, so I used galvanized steel, which will probably give me cancer. Like I said, this was an experiment - I'm not going to use it inside, nor am I going to use it long-term. Please don't lecture me about it! I just wanted to see what kind of heat it put out... and boy, did it put out some heat! Using nothing more than twigs! Here's the video:
And, of course, no update would be complete without info on Barney. Now, I've mentioned before that Barney is camera-shy. This video will give you an idea of what I mean.
And that, my peeps, is it! Gosh, I hope that's enough. It was snowing earlier today, but there still should be plenty of autumn left in which to get some things done, so I should have some more soon. Oh, also, if you haven't already seen the videos from moving day, I posted them to this blog right before I posted this. I had them up on YouTube a while ago, but forgot to reference them here, so they're now here if you haven't already seen them. Enjoy!
- Panels, Dock, Water Catch, Test Stove, and Barney