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Ben's blog

  • I pimped my ride

    I absolutely cannot wait to get some snow.IMG_1847

  • A solar powered blog

    This blog is now powered by a Raspberry Pi using 100% solar energy. Nicole instrumented the Phidgets sensors so we would gain some visibility into our electricity production & consumption. This has already given us some great insights. We can see the effect that each device we use has on the system: how much the LED lamps take to charge, the hole that the inverter blasts through the battery when turned on. We can tell that not all sunny days are created equal in their ability to give a charge. We can even tell the increase in electricity consumption that rsyncing a whole bunch of data to the Pi has: 0.03A.

    The sensors

    • solar panels volts (a good indicator of sunlight)
    • input amps (indicates when the charge controller uses produced electricity)
    • output amps / load (what we consume with various devices)
    • battery volts (whether this blog will make it through the night or not)

    For now I’m only graphing using the Gnuplot one-liner from Hell. More to come…

    Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 12.33.16 PM

    It blows my mind way too hard that I have a system in which sunlight comes in and organized information comes out. And by organized information I mean lolcats.serious-cat

  • Wood

    We’re actually already burning a lot more wood than anticipated; it’s not too cold and the house heats up fast, but we now rely on the stove for cooking & hot water. Thus we tend to have a fire going anytime we are home. I beefed up the reserves with some emergency ash or we’ll be in trouble.IMG_1783

  • Sky

    The most pleasant surprise we’ve had since we moved to the land has been the skies, especially in the evening & morning.





  • Solar install tidied up & half instrumented

     Charge controller (top), Raspberry Pi (top right), Phidgets interface kit (bellow the pi), Phidgets current sensors (bottom).


    My new favorite project screws


    The volt-meters (left) aren’t live yet but the amp-meters (bottom) are.


    With the inverter hooked up and a properly fused distribution box


    The Pi reading its sensors, Nicole is taking on the data aggregation.

    Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 05.13.43

    The goal is to move Akrin to the Pi to have a solar powered server.

  • Our own apples

    We found ~20 apple trees on the land so far. These that were not good a few weeks ago are starting to turn and become sweet. The deer apparently have a sweet tooth like we do, they are an excellent indicator of when an apple tree is good to eat. Unfortunately they are getting the lion share of the apples this year. We saw them bump into a tree to make apples fall and stand on their back legs which allows them to reach quite high.


    I love old tech, this thing translates spinning into peeling, coring & slicing!


    Wood fire is really interesting to cook with


  • House – plans

    Since the modifications I’m making to the house now are quite specific to our living arrangements, I’ve stopped updating the 3D model I made to design the house. I’ve also gained in confidence and experience such that I don’t need to do everything virtually before I grab a hammer.

    Before launching into this adventure, I spent a good deal of time online reviewing designs, techniques and best practices. In case this is useful to someone else I’m publishing the core design here. This design was critiqued over multiple iterations by many carpenters, builders, furniture makers & all around smart handymen.


    A few points:

    • it is very modular
    • a few features are specific to us
    • the gambrel design is balanced (every angle 22.5 and equal lengths)


    Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 22.21.36


  • House – Insulation

    The house is all insulated thanks in no small part to my brother. R30 in the floor, R23 everywhere else; with this and the stove we will be just fine this Winter. We lost 64ft^2 to wall insulation.

    Working against gravity




  • House – Chimney & Stove ready for action

    It took me much longer than anticipated to get the chimney in place. There is a lot to know about it and I can’t afford half measures for this one needs to be perfect. It took a lot of research and an ton of measuring and thinking to do. Also a couple of tough days spent on the roof, again. This is probably the most emotional project of this whole ordeal. Cutting a hole through the roof that cost us so much in worry, sweat and money was hard. Messing up design or tolerance could bring an abrupt end to a dream coming to fruition. On the other hand it means getting wood heat on the coldest days. It’s hard to think straight with this much at stake.

     Looking up the chimney through the 2nd floor to its topIMG_0450

    The house looks more complete with a chimneyIMG_0364

    Everything went well with the chimney and the stove took quite a bit of work too, most of it was done a while back when we acquired it.

    Weights a ton


    We bought the stove second hand & disassembled so there was quite a bit to figure out.


    To line the sides of the burning chamber with fire bricks, we had to chip them to shape with a hammer and chisel. I then coated every hole, crack or worn surface with refractory cement.

    First time I got to use the expression “chipping at it” literally.


    Nice fit


    One clean looking burning chamber


    We fired the stove last night; first time since we own it, first fire in our house just as the days are starting to get colder. The first of many ritualistic fires to come.