Off Grid electricity is NOT free.

Out with the old… The T-105’s are being retired.

I believe I am guilty of promoting free energy on the off grid homestead, and during the summer months it appears that way.  However, during the winter months cloudy skies make solar energy creation improbable, and it’s the battery bank that keeps the home’s electricity going from day to day.  When the fog and inversion continues throughout the week, a 5 gallon jug of fuel is added to the generator. The generator is fired up to produce the home’s power and to fill the battery bank for a few more days.

Winter is the time of the year when an off grid home realizes they are not living “free”.  Perhaps a nice sunny equatorial home would provide the energy the home needs and less reliance on a large battery bank.  But even then, a home close to the equator has a constant 12 hours day and night. In which the daylight begins at 6 and ends at 6 in the evening.  If only we lived on the equator… but I really like the 4 seasons, so that’s out for now.

If you are thinking about going off grid, depending on where you live and what your winter is like as far as darkness and climate, you will want to size your battery bank accordingly.  Our new bank, if we conserve, can get us about 4 days, without direct sunlight.  We have added so many new systems that require more power and we added to our family another person, so power usage has naturally increased.  More lights are on, our fridge runs more often, and the phantom load of the Internet and the propane tankless water heater begin to add up over a few hours.  If I remember, like I just did, I shut them off.

As seen in the video,  I crunched the numbers and our new battery bank (basic electric bill) is estimated at $25.00 a month over a 10 year period.  That’s not bad, but that doesn’t include the generator maintenance or the fuel for it.  A 5 gallon jug is required to charge the battery bank from 50% back up to 100% and to equalize them.  Without equalizing, it’s about 4 gallons of fuel needed.  I am keeping tabs on our generator usage this year with the new bank and tractor generator; it will be nice to be able to prepare a constant monthly budget by spreading the winter expenditures year round.

Off grid electricity is NOT free!

If my wife and I lived on the grid in this area and had solar panels that covered our electrical usage, the power company would still charge us a $25.00 minimum monthly hook up fee.  That doesn’t seem fair, but with many people trying to save money with increasing electrical bills the power companies do not want people wiggling out from their profit margins, plus someone has to pay for all those linemen who repair the down wires after a devastating storm.  Either way off grid or on, you will have to pay someone for your electricity.  As electricity bills increase, so does the price of batteries. The T-105’s I first bought were $155 each in 2011; this year they are $180 a piece.

If you are thinking about supplementing your on grid home or building and off grid power system, now is the time to start because prices are always going up.

When the Battery Bank Dies…

At the end of this past summer, our battery bank of seven years decided to die.  It was an interesting cascade failure event.  One batter cell went dead and could not be revived, then another battery flagged a similar problem.  Pretty soon I was isolating batteries that would no longer hold a 6 Volt change.  The isolation meant I had to drop from a 3 string battery bank to a 2 string system.  I ordered the batteries at the perfect time.  The sun was shining well into September which carried the system long enough until the replacements arrived.  I was happy to receive them, another few weeks and we would have been in real trouble, running a generator to make due for the lack of electrical storage.

The video published was in a file waiting to be edited and published.  I admit blogging and YouTube videos which have grown intertwined has dwindled, and I discussed that briefly on another post.  Currently, I am enjoying Christmas break and I am gearing up for the return to teaching after the New Year’s holiday. I hope this post and the New Year 2019 greets you well.

My wife and I plan to make a list of this year’s highlights this evening and save them to be read next year.  It will be a bonding time between us as we recognize our successes despite the obstacles around us, including replacing a dying battery bank. I plan to include my son in the event as well, and I am curious to hear his own version of events.

May you enjoy this New Year’s Eve, celebrating with family, friends, and have a chance to reflect on the highlights this year.

God Bless,

A Surprise Inside the Wood Stove

One day I arrived home from work to a surprise inside the wood cook stove.  My wife was cooking dinner on our propane stove, and left a note for me on the wood cook stove.  It was a late fall day, and the chill in the air beckoned for a fire in the wood cook stove each evening, but first a look inside.

Inside the stove, a small noise could be heard as something moved slightly about in the firebox.  Not knowing what it could be and hoping it wasn’t a maimed mouse brought in stealthily by the cats, I grabbed a flashlight and approached the situation from a bird’s eye view through the firebox cook lid opening. I peered down into the darkness hoping the flashlight expose what was inside.  The rest can be seen in the video as I change my work clothes into an old sweatshirt and use an old pillow case for the task of removing our stole away bird.

As can be seen, the removal of the bird was incredibly easy, but making the video was not.  I recently applied for a grant to improve my journalism class at school.  I was blessed to receive three Mac computers with the highly coveted Final Cut Pro program.  What I have discovered in the process is the painful superiority complex Macintosh has created in the PC world to over complicate simple computer use functions.   Where I can find simple help tutorials with Blender, Movie, Maker and Even Adobe Premier, however, not with Final Cut Pro.  A user must pay for a class to get what a simple user manual should provide.  I have never been a Mac user and I understand why. Last night I spent 45 minutes trying to get the Mac to recognize my flash drive and it still doesn’t.  I have to go online today and research more on how to get a normal plug and play device to play nice with Mac.  Video editing has been an adventure, and I am unsure if it is skill or pure stubbornness in forcing my will upon the program.  I hope to get better with practice, but it’s definitely a challenge to me.

“Bird.” The World Book Encyclopedia. Field Enterprises Inc, 1952. I find many uses for my mom’s World Book Encyclopedia Books to this day.

After much frustration with technology these past few months, I reverted back to a classic way to identify the bird who had inadvertently trapped itself in our wood cook stove.  Instead of turning to the vast amounts of overwhelming information on the World Wide Web, I turned to my mother’s encyclopedias she gifted to me.  My mom where given these encyclopedias by her parents when she was a child.  I have always loved my mom’s encyclopedia collection.  When I was younger, I would read them for fun, and as I got into high school, the Internet was still not invented yet, so I used them for reports I had to do for class.  Under the section devoted to birds, I found a variety of pictures and matched the bird’s features that impressed upon me, the narrow curved beak, the oval marks on the bird’s cheeks, the spots on the bird’s chest, the gray color of feathers.  Soon it became apparent that it was Flicker.  Now taking that new substantiated info, I was able to do a concise search online which gave me the characteristics of the bird, and how it ended up in our chimney.  The Northwest Flicker, one of over a hundred names, likes to nest in hollow trees and also use their beak to drum territorial signals to others of its kind on metal objects.  The chimney served both purposes, it made a load sound in which to drum its beak upon to broadcast the bird’s message. And, once the bird found its way into the chimney cap, it felt like a nice hollow tree to explore and make a home, until it ended up in the firebox.

Sixty-six years later and still useful. I find that many things our society has discarded as obsolete are still very useful and relevant to this day.

The rest is history.

 

Ready for Winter and a string of bad luck

These past few months have been full of various trials with our vehicles. Our cars have reached that age in which we have to choose to repair them or sell them. It seems like nothing is going right, but despite all that has happened, I am grateful for my wife, son, our homestead, and the life we have.

May you find some time today to enjoy the people and home you are thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Autumn in North Idaho

My wife and I were blessed to take a date day and see autumn in it’s full glory.  No plans, just drive and see where it would take us.  We followed the trees to my favorite spot in downtown Sandpoint.  The colors were brilliant, the sky crystal blue and the lake pristine.  Here’s a video of the trip, edited to music and mellow.  If you didn’t get a chance to experience fall.  You can experience fall in Sandpoint, Idaho.

Enjoy the simple things in life.

Electric Chainsaw Work in the Forest (For prepper’s?)

I am using dyed diesel instead of gasoline to cut trees in the woods. The Winco tractor generator helps power my electric chainsaw. I wanted to see if it was possible to gather firewood with an electric chainsaw, and it was. However, I have found it more feasible to use the gas powered chainsaw to cut logs to length and then use the thumb on the tractor to bring the logs to the woodshed and use the electric chainsaw to buck the wood there.


The reason why is the Winco tractor generator trailer has a difficult time backing up in the woods.  If I was to do it all over again, I would possibly prefer a carry all attachment versus a trailer.  I found that a 12 gauge, 100 ft. cord worked just fine and I did a single wrap around the generator to prevent me from pulling it loose.  I didn’t trip over the cord because I was focused on not doing so, but I did find that the cord could easily get caught up in the branches.

Why a cord over a battery pack?  Here’s my reason why; a battery powered chainsaw has about 20 -30 minutes of life before it needs to be recharged.  When gathering firewood, I spend hours cutting it; I don’t have time to hike back to the house and charge my batteries every 20-30 minutes for an hour and half of down time.  These battery operated chainsaws are for quick hedge or limb work, not gathering 4 cords of firewood. The plug-in will operate indefinitely as long as it has a power source.  I used the Winco PTO generator to see if I could collect wood beyond the reach of my home’s power.  It worked, and it did really well.

Why for prepper’s? I remember attending a living sustainability shows, many preppers would attend as well, and the wood gathering “fear” was their chainsaw would not operate if gasoline was rationed.  I wanted to prove that a person does not have to resort to hand powered crosscut saws to buck firewood.  In desperate times when the tractor is down, a person could use an axe or crosscut saw to bring a tree down, and hopefully, use a beast of burden to drag it out of the woods and buck in place at the solar powered off grid home using an electric chainsaw.

Thanks for following us at Living a Sustainable Dream and supporting what we do here.

Time to Change the Oil. (New Tractor)

After two hundred hours, it was recommended to change the oil in my new Kioti Tractor. I decided to purchase the filter from the dealer and replace the oil for the first time. I have changed the oil on my vehicles for years and figured the tractor would be just as easy; besides some crowding of space, it was.

I couldn’t plan a better day to change the oil.  The weather was perfect.  The yellow jackets and insect population was at a low, so I wasn’t constantly bombarded.  It was overall a nice serene day on the property.


For the video, I used 2 cameras for the shot, a lapel mic, and our Zoom H4.  I realized the lapel mic was not of very good quality, which explains the sound in the beginning.  I also used the Zoom’s auto levels and that proved to be a terrible idea.  The Zoom couldn’t adjust sound level fast enough to keep it level, so the best sound came from the video on my camera phone and the camcorder I had with me.

I am still using Blender to edit the video.  It is nice to sync the two cameras together

Get in line… Even the cat loves the tractor.

and switch the view back and forth, something you can’t do in Movie Maker.  If you create YouTube videos by yourself, this is extremely helpful because you can roll both cameras and not have to stop and change angles for every specific shot.  I did the same thing on my  “electric  v. gas powered chainsaw” video, except with a few more change ups and added complexity.   This video also predates the firewood and frustration with YouTube  video I created a couple weeks ago.

I am still debating on whether to drop YouTube or not, and just rewind the clock and continue with blogging. I have noticed traffic on our website has increased on search engine results, possible Facebook friends who have no other way to find me since I left the platform.  It is interesting all Facebook visitors to this website are now gone as that platform works through the final deletion of my profile and living a sustainable page as it rapidly approaches the final 90 days.  I admit I do miss contacting friends on Facebook that chose not to follow me to this platform, but it also puts FB into more perspective as well.

As I check my WordPress reader, I noticed many of the channels I follow on WP are also not posting as often.  My wife is seeing the same trend on her Instagram and is almost done using that platform as well.  It seems that our society is waking up to the corporate manipulation of social media.  As we transition into fall, I wonder if social media is going through the same transition.  What was once seen as vibrant and alive is slowing losing energy and preparing for hibernation and a long winter, until it is re-birthed; hopefully, into something new and less manipulative with the expected arrival of spring.