SOLAR!!!

I honestly never thought we would be getting to this point. We installed our solar panels this weekend. We have fourteen 325 watt Canadian Solar solar panels. They are HEAVY. At peak (most solar panels can be expected to run at 80% in full sun), but at peak they can product 4550 watts of energy. Considering that we have a much lower energy draw than most homes (no heating or cooling and the two appliances that would be high energy, the stove and dryer, are propane), and we have a huge battery bank, this should do us quite nicely. If now we are also planning on having a backup propane generator and are adding a wind turbine or two next year. I am so thrilled to have these up. C started wiring them too. The wiring from the panels to the battery house is finished (but not connected) and 1/3 of the batteries are in. My hope is that by the end of next weekend we may have power to the house! This would be quite exciting. The second two pictures are of us putting in the panels and building the frame.

Becoming more self sufficient 

Last year we were able to bring down our grocery bill to $100 a week. That is feeding 5-6 people 3 meals a day plus snacks. Last week I reached our next milestone of $80. It’s in part to growing more food and a more diverse assortment of food this year. This is our meal list for the week:

Breakfast:

Pancakes, oatmeal, eggs, buttermilk biscuits, and bacon.

Lunch: 

Zucchini fritters, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grilled cheese, veggies with hummus, grilled veggie sandwiches, leftovers, pasta

Snacks:

Popcorn, sweet breads (pumpkin, zucchini, banana), Granola bars, macaroni and cheese

Dinners: 

Chicken pot pie (made with leftover chicken from the week before), spinach and mushroom white pizza, spaghetti squash marinara with roasted squash and garlic bread, veggie lasagna, tacos (we have tacos every Tuesday), tofu Tikka Masala, squash stuffed with Italian sausage. 


My grocery list:

Eggs ($1.09×2), flour ($3), butter ($3×2), mozerella ($5), buttermilk ($3), tofu ($1.69), milk ($4), Popcorn ($2.5), linguine ($1.25), tomatoes (2 cans x $.99), Annie’s Mac and cheese (on sale 3 X $1), .25 lbs chorizo sausage ($.98), bacon ($7.39), Simply lemonde (on sale 3x$2), organic lemon juice ($7.29), sour cream ($1), cocoa ($3.19), natural sugar ($1.99), cheddar cheese ($2.77), granola bars ($3.67, $3.29), bananas ($1.13). 

Total: $72.30. I also bought lunch for $5 and toilet paper which takes it up to just under $80. 

What I don’t need to buy and what it would cost to buy it from the farm or the store (*denotes something I already had bought) 

Spinach* ($1), spaghetti squash ($4), 3 yellow squash ($3), 3 zuchinni ($3), black beans* ($2), peanut butter* ($2.5), jelly ($2), hummus* ($2). That would bring it up to $100 for the week!  

Day 2

Due to the heat and the children I have only been able to do an hour a day of work on leveling the outside of the house. I’ve gotten a lot done though. Seven wheelbarrow loads of hard packed clay moved already and two small sections leveled. I think we will actually hit our goal. If nothing else I am going to be all muscle by the time we are done with the tires!


The time has come 

As of today we are going to be actively trying to get everything ready to start the tires. We still have to level the ground around the concrete slab and add the concrete where the door is going. Our (my) goal is to be working at least 2 hours a day (weather permitting) until the tires are complete. The ultimate goal is to start the tires the first or second week in August. We will also be needing a lot of help (although we expect this to be completed with no help at all). We need people to help level the ground, pound tires, fill wheelbarrows with dirt for the tires, and the most important is we always need help watching the kids. If you would like to offer help in any way, shape, or form please Let us know!  Also to all of our friends please be patient with us for the rest of 2016. We may not see much of you and for that I am sorry but rest assured that we should be back in full force in 2017! 

So much progress. 

We worked for 4 days straight over the Easter holiday and C’s days off. We finished laying the drainage pipe, started on the water lines, and finished the curved part of the concrete forms. We still have to finish the water lines, put in the conduit, and level out the ground a bit more with an excavator. Then we can finish the straight parts of the concrete forms and lay the gravel. We feel so accomplished. We did have to move the projected concrete date to the end of April, but those things happen, thanks to the weather. We are still on target though. It looks so much more real now, especially since every part of my body hurts from moving dirt and tracking through mudholes. Here is what we have so far (notice the wheelbarrow for prospective…) 

  

Where is this going?

Last night C and I got into a bit of an argument. Nothing to worry about and nothing that wasn’t resolved. I have been having an internal struggle that I have been projecting onto him. I feel like I’m not pulling my weight (and I can hear my friends laughing now). I have always brought in some form of consistent income, but right now I really haven’t. I have been focusing my attentions on raising the kids, keeping the house in order, and building the house/farm. That takes a lot of energy, but truthfully I could fit in more if I wanted to. I feel like, by not bringing in an income, I am taking the “easy way out”. I know that C wants to be at home and I know he wants to spend his days working on the farm and I feel like I am selfishly taking that from him. I’ve been snippy and rude to him because I expect he is upset with me when he’s not. 

Then I went to church this morning. I always seem to get some sort of answers when I go to church. I realized that I am doing so much more than I think I am. Mainly I’m writing. I’m writing this blog of our journey not just as entertainment but also to turn into at least one book when it’s all complete. Right now is Cs time to be the “breadwinner” but once the house is built and the cars and land are paid off we won’t need nearly as much income and most of that will come from the farm, and the rest will come from me and possibly C if he wants to.  

Now onto the farm. 

I am constantly being reminded of why we are building this farm. To help people, but most of the time it’s hard to see what that means. 

I know that the path that has led us here has shown is the struggles people face in a daily basis and has given us ideas on how we can help, but what does that really look like?

Truthfully I have no clue, and I won’t until the house is done and we can focus our attention on where it needs to be. There are so many idea we have brainstormed, but we know we cannot do them all. So we will lay them out and see where God wants us once we have the opportunity to do them. We know we are going to feed people by offering naturally grown produce and pasture raised meat at low prices. We want to help people grow their own gardens, become less dependent on utility companies, and learn to cook from farm to table on a budget. 

Will we help people set up partial grid sustainable energy sources? Will we provide pay what you can services? Will we help develope community garden?  Only time will tell. What I do know is that we don’t want to offer food pantry type services. Food pantries are great. They are a much needed service in every community but they don’t tend to help people get out of the situation of needing their services. We want families to not have to be food insecure by helping them spend less on food and utilities. We shouldn’t be going broke on necessities. 

The joke is that one day I want to be on Ellen talking about the book and how important these services are, because let’s be real for a moment, we can either wait for people to be paid a living wage or we can decrease their spending so that their current wage becomes a living wage.  So let’s stop talking about the problem and do something about the solution. 

 

Preparing for spring

MOur spring plants started to grow which means we needed to bring them outside.  C got up one day and started putting together a greenhouse. 3 hours later and this was up:
 
It doesn’t look like much but it’s 8×8 and holds temperature like crazy. We put a heater inside for the nights it gets below 35 and a thermometer that also measures humidity. One night the breaker blew and it dropped below freezing and we lost some of our plants but it wasn’t many and it’s still early enough to replant them. 

Finally an update!!!

The last you heard we were preparing to lay gravel in the driveway. We did. That Wednesday they came and dumped the gravel. It was a bit entertaining too. 

   
   Here is the gravel being laid nice and neatly.   

 Here is C pulling the gravel truck up the driveway after it got stuck. 
  And lastly the giant pile of gravel that we later had to spread out with the dozer. It was an interesting day but …
We have a usable driveway!!

We are probably one more load away from finishing it but for all intensive purposes it’s done!

The bane of my sanity

  Meanwhile on the Homefront….

Currently the only way to keep our home heated well is a wood burning stove that is in our living room. C grew up using these so he is fairly used to them. I, on the other hand, did not. We had a fireplace we used about twice a year at my moms house when we wanted to feel cozy. 

This is our stove 

 It’s actually a really nice stove. “Why do I hate it?” You ask. Because of several reasons 

1) this stove in our tiny house has 2 temperatures. “No heat is coming out” which makes the house the same temperature as it is outside or “dear Lord it is hot in here we have to open windows to survive”. Now don’t get me wrong there is an in between but it only happens when the fire is trying to die so you have to poke it every 10 minutes so it doesn’t become the first temperature. This isn’t bad if you are at home, awake, and have the time to poke at it every 10 minutes. But let’s be real here, how often do you think that actually happens with us?  

2) I have never in my life chopped wood.  You would think this would be an easy task. Take an axe. Hit some wood with it. Instant firewood. Not so much. It has taken about two weeks to get the hang of chopping wood. I say two weeks. What I actually mean is about 10 minutes at a time 4 times over the past 2 weeks. I have been lucky enough that C had chopped all the wood I need. He is back at work now so much practicing has happened in the last 2 days. 

  

This is the 8lb splitting maul C bought me to help me split wood because the axe didn’t have enough power behind it. 

  
This is the log C cut that I have spent the last 15 minutes trying to split 

  
This is the same log with an axe stuck in it (and I mean that sucker isn’t coming out easily) because I somehow thought the axe would do a better job?  It looks like this log will have to be split when C gets home from work. 

3) I am the worlds worst arsonist, unless you count unintentional fires. I’m great at those. I am terrible at starting a fire. The kids and I ran errands today and when we returned the fire had gone out. There were a few hot coals left but basically it was done. I added small pieces of wood with even smaller kindling. Lit pieces of cardboard on fire to get it started. Fire started burning well but then I somehow managed to put out everything, including the hot coals.  After an hour of trying to start the fire, screaming at the stove, throwing the rake thing, using 2 types of accelerants, explaining to my 2 year old that mommy isn’t acting properly because mommy is frustrated, then telling her that mommy wanted to “set the thing on fire” which made me stop and laugh about the fact that I did indeed want to set it on fire, I finally got a good fire going. 

4) I somehow always turn my hands, arms, and face completely black every time I mess with this stove. 

The positives?  The house is warm most of the time, I am learning a valuable life skill, and lastly, apparently chopping wood burns about 480 calories an hour. That’s a major workout. 

My accomplishments today:  
   

Tires

We have begun picking up tires for the earthship. Our projected goal is to pour the concrete foundation by the end of February. To do this we have to have the first row of tires laid and filled.  Our friend’s family owns some sort of freight business or something. Something where they have a bunch of used tires they were needing to move. We were able to get our first row of tires from them, which is pretty darn awesome. That leaves about 950 left to go. Much more than they can provide in the time frame we need them. When it gets closer to the pour date I’ll call the epa and see about getting the rest.