Thursday, February 28, 2013


Sometimes..... trees fall in your road and you have to remove them. Well I don't but someone does. I sat in the warm truck listening to the radio and watching. I did help pick up the blocks and throw the branches off the road when he was done. Oh and I baked two loaves of bread and dipped some stool legs earlier in the day, while I was trapped at home (Completely unaware of my capitivty). So I did my part.

I am calling this unpleasant off grid task #2. Removing fallen trees, not being trapped at home. Which has happened about three times for various reasons. That would be unpleasant off grid task #3.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Scenes from around the Homestead

It is 6°F  with a wind chill of -20°F. Too cold for these southern blooded coon hounds. 

It is a beautiful day despite the cold temp and chilly wind gusts. It is light until after 5:00 PM now which gets me itching for spring.  I don’t know whether this is cold brewed or sun tea, but it is sure to be refreshing.

My tea recipe: four tea bags (I prefer loose leaf but I never seem to have any) and half an orange or lemon sliced in a mason jar. Brew time 4-6 hours.

We are toasty warm inside the house with the sun streaming in and the wood stove burning. Our little wood pile looks to quaint resting under the window. 

I do not think I ever talked about our wood stove before. It is a Defiant by Vermont Castings and it is a work horse. It runs 24 hrs a day from November to April and  heats our 2500 cathedral ceiling log home to a very comfortable temperature. It is located on the basement level underneath the main gable of the house. The basement is usually in the mid 70's and the upstairs mid to high 60's. The bedroom gable  is perpendicular to the main gable with a bedroom suite on each side. The master suite is usually a little colder since it is over the unheated garage and not well insulated between the two. 

Not much is going on around here. Just the usual late winter activities of garden planning and thinking about baby chicks. Oh and we got a tractor. 

It was rather underwelming. I take it back. I would have rather gotten a ring. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dream Off Grid System

The one thing I always wanted when I had a house of my own was a towel warmer. Since we live off the grid and plan on continuing to do so,  I assumed I would never be able to have one.

Then I discovered this on 86'n it and all my dreams of true luxurious off grid living came into sight.

These babies are connected to a closed loop hot water system, like radiant floors and would integrate perfectly into my dream system.

First a little background:  Our solar hot water system is a closed loop system which means the water does not circulate out to the panels, an antifreeze solution called glycol does. This keeps the panels and pipes from freezing, but also the glycol can hold more heat than water hence storing more heat and keeping our water hot for longer. The glycol is circulated through a huge water tank, heating the water and then circulates that water out and into our regular hot water tank ( the one hooked up to the boiler) when it reaches 185 degrees. Once both tanks are up to temperature it dumps excess heat into the radiant heating system in our basement slab. This system is awesome expect for one thing. In winter the sun is not out long enough to heat both tanks, so we have to waste the cold water in the boiler connected tank in order to receive the hot water from the solar tank. There is a brilliant valve to fix this which we hope to upgrade to shortly. Making it dream system component number one.

We don't use the boiler unless we need to heat water. The boiler is actually disconnected from our radiant to save propane.  A new feature we have just implemented this winter. We will see what affect it has on our propane usage. (the radiant can be easily reconnected if it is ever needed). This is also the reason I could not add the towel warmer to this house.

A wood fired masonry heater (which is basically a wood stove in a huge masonry box) containing heating coils connected to a closed loop system which would circulate through our radiant floors, hot water tank and of course the towel warmer.  I forgot to close the loop in the my crude illustration but you get the point.  We would still need backup boiler for times when we would be gone in the winter and also for heating water during the fringe seasons, when we won't get enough sun for solar, but temperature is too warm for the masonry heater to be burning.

The final piece of the dream. A small residential scale wind turbine to complement our PV electric system. From mid November to March the generator runs about once a week, due to the short days and cloudy weather. We generally put about 100 hours a year on our generator, the wind turbine would at least cut this in half.

Swift Wind Turbine
All these components would allow us to virtually eliminate the need for propane and the generator. We currently have a propane range and clothes dryer, so we would still use a small amount.