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Category Archives: self sustainability

  • Roaming chickens

    We finally let the chickens explore their whole area. We kept them pretty close to their coop for a while so they’d learn where home it. We’re getting better at this this is the most seamless chicken integration we’ve had. No loose chicken, no running around in the forest, no stubborn roosting habits. We know how to foster good habits now and it’s making everyone’s lives a lot easier. They now roam around all day and go home on their own at night. It’s a pleasure to open their door in the morning and see how happy they are to satisfy their instincts. They are still fenced in for now but on a large area that we’ll rotate. In a few weeks they will probably be ok with no fence but then the predators might be an issue.

    Go my minions, keep that grass down for me.

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  • Solar – little steps forward

    It’s been hard to finally get to wiring what I have for a solar install. I’m still fuzzy on some of the science and I want everything to be perfect for the big launch. Necessity and having all the gear sitting there is making me reconsider. This afternoon I decided to wire the basics and deal with the imperfection.

    What we have now are 2 panels in parallel, a charge controller, a 35Ah deep cycle battery and the load. No inverter, no clean wiring, no fancy instrumentation to measure everything.

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    What this gives us is the ability to use a 12V DC socket and 3 USB ports, even when the sun is not shinning :) This isn’t much but as I said earlier, when starting from scratch everything is a huge victory. It sounds trivial until you realize how much everything we do now is either 12V DC or USB powered. The charge controller comes with its own USB port with which I tested powering a Raspberry Pi.

    I’m so exited about generating my own electricity. Solar is really beautiful, much more so than I thought it would be going in. I’m really amazed that these panels just sit there and make electricity. I’ve always known that but I’m actually using this electricity, I find myself contemplating the system for a lot more than its function. It feels like getting something for nothing, while not burning fossil fuels, while going straight to the source, while being independent, while drinking a beer. I’m a fan.

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  • Getting ready for a small solar install

    With a couple of panels given to us and $190 worth of equipment remaining. We should be able to get enough power to keep things charged and and modem running. First housing is needed, I’m green at this and if it’s going to burn down, it won’t take the house with it. This “shed” will also be where the phone line terminates for our internet needs. This way no need to run unsightly wires to the house, and power is right there for the modem.

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    The research I’ve done shows that there are many ways of doing solar and way too many variables to keep track of. It really seems like everyone has got their own way of going about it. So for now I’m keeping it small and simple, then I’ll develop my own way given our circumstances :) Who knew “terroir” could be applied to solar energy?

  • Blackberries

    Are all over the place right now, it’s hard to take a walk and not end up full.

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  • Water & Chickens

    Creating a path to the brook & infrastructure to move water around.

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    Filling up using a drill pump.

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    Getting back into chickens after almost a year. The first residents of our non-temporary farm, we’ve come a long way.

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    Quaint.

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  • Well, we’re in

    That’s it, we moved into our little 16’x16′ 2 story gambrel. It’s far from finished inside but it’s dry and cozy. For now it’s a little bit like camping which is quite ok in the Summer.

    We love the outside shower

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    It’s a very interesting process to start from scratch and one that we wanted to go through. The smallest improvements we make have a drastic impact on our lives and are cause for celebration. The shower above started as just a solar heating water bag, we added a platform, then something to hold the bag, then a couple of walls.  It will soon have a water tank perched above. We are currently going through everything in our lives and carefully deliberating what we really need. And it turns out, we don’t need a whole lot.

    We’ve been without plumbing or electricity for the past 3 weeks and it barely registers as an encumbrance. Sure we have extra chores related to this (emptying buckets, charging batteries, doing dishes) but the simplicity gains largely offset them so it’s pretty much a wash. I’ve been messing around with a couple of solar panels and it opened my eyes to the world of 12V DC power which boating or RVing are familiar with. I’m starting to see that 110V AC is for a specific type of use (centralized power generation, distance distribution, high use) and that it doesn’t fit well the new world of high efficiency devices with batteries. It makes no sense to burn coal and loose 84% of its energy through conversions (coal->motion->electricity->transmission->charger) so you can charge a low powered DC device.

    Picture bellow, charging a tablet, a cell phone, a USB shower pump/head, cellular internet access, and lighting with 1 solar panel.

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    Everything we need has its own battery, this is why running straight from a solar panel with no charge controller is fine. The battery bank and charge control is delegated to the devices. Truth be told, I will probably have a battery in the final solar design for the convenience of being able to charge things at all times of the day, especially in the winter. I’m still figuring things out, but one big discovery is that power inversion to 110V AC and the loss that comes with it is far from necessary. It does mean no big appliances like a dishwasher or clothes dryer. For refrigeration there exist pretty neat 12v DC fridges but it’s not the type with 2 doors and an ice dispenser.

    We still have major projects to complete before the Winter, because when the cold and the short daylight hit, everything we’ve learned is off the table.

    • we need a good roof
    • more insulation downstairs
    • a chimney and hooking the cookstove to it
    • septic installation

    I recently spent a good chunk of time on the roof finishing the rakes, making a few last cuts and flashing it to get it ready for the roofers… Yes, we’re buying our way out of this one. Hours spent doing high altitude acrobatics and a few good storms will do that. We need a real roof fast and I’m sick of being up there. This means we’re also getting a standing seam metal roof with no punctures into the underlying sheathing. I’ve learned how much harder gambrels are over conventional roof designs.

    However it’s hard to resist that New England barn charm

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    Now we are hypocrites in some regards; there are things that our household doesn’t support right now. We get potable water from outside. We do laundry outside. Lastly, we use gas to power equipment (generator, chainsaw, ATV). We’ll be addressing the first 2 soon but our reliance on gas is unlikely to go away unless we start rearing horses. Which, I really don’t see happening anytime soon.

    5 years after giving up motorcycles, I get to ride again in the good name of Utility :)

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    Overall this is an awesome experiment to go through. There’s a lot of self discovery, learning, eye opening, liberating & fun going on. I can’t believe we’ve been in there 3 weeks already.

  • House – Many Things over a long week end

    Too tired for details.

    Opening up the top of the roof for air flow, dust is slippery

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    While I’m up there doing panoramas

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    Prepping for a sandbox

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    600kg of sand later

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    Filled the gussets with 2 bys, roughed in electrical, insulation & vapor barrier on 2 upstairs gable walls

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  • House – Baffle Vent

    That’s about it for today :)

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  • House – Roof Rakes

    I enclosed the ones connecting to the inside of the house so bugs wouldn’t get in. Screen was stapled over the ventilation holes.

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    The field was just mowed, a glimpse of how nice a place it’ll be once we’re out of the chaos of construction.

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