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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Family Fun

We arrived back in the North East on the 8th, after three days of driving the long haul to Sara's mother's house in New Jersey. The trip went well, and we got an average of 27 miles per gallon, which is excellent fuel economy for a truck. I do see room for improvement, especially in the aerodynamics, and with the addition of live MPG feed from a specialized OBDII tool, 30+ mpg should be achievable.

As many of you probably already know, Sara and I are going to be married in the Catskill Mountains of New York on the 9th of July. We are taking the next several weeks to see our families, help them out, and -- most importantly -- enjoy our vacation!

While in New Jersey, Sara and I helped her Mother with a few household projects.  One of the more notable ones was insulating the the exposed wall of her walk-out basement with two-inch foam board. The project was 60% complete when we ran out of glue, so that project is on hold until we return. All in all, great visit!  

After four days, we headed up to my parents' home in upstate New York. Everyone was very excited to see us, especially my grandparents, and our first few days were spent telling many stories about adventures in West Texas. We visited the town of Woodstock, New York and enjoyed some great Chinese food at the classy Little Bear restaurant --  definitely a good place to go with the bride-to-be.

Later we visited Arick at his cabin and began planning a pedal-power bicycle for his off-grid home (which has literally no sun or wind, but plenty of Arick power -- more to come on that project later).

We even got to visit with my grandparents neighbors, George and Sue, and their adorable miniature horses and Nigerian dwarf goats.  We forgot to take pictures, but next time we definitely snap some photos of their awesome little farm.

So much is happening and we're having an excellent time!  It is extremely wet and green up here.  Hopefully we will squeeze out some much needed web updates.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Insolation = Electricity


Our
first solar rack for the 100 sq foot solar arrays was completed Thursday of
last week.

We were anxious to get started installing the equipment, but we did need to do a little truck maintenance to Sara's Ranger first. So
Arick and I pulled the truck bed to replace the failing in-tank fuel
pump and got it done in two hours. We also gave the 12-year-old
vehicle its first ignition service and it seemed to really appreciate that.



Where
we needed to work in the Solitario takes about two hours of driving on rough,
dirt roads to reach, so thorough planning was critical. We decided that spending a night on-site would be best, so we could get an early start and avoid working in the heat of the day. So Arick, Sprocket and I
loaded the white Ranger to the gills with gear. Some of our more precious cargo was
two 4,000 watt Apollo inverters, two Apollo T80 HV charge controllers,
and all the necessary accessories for remote monitoring via the
Internet.


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We
arrived on site at 5 pm Saturday evening and set up
camp in the the massive 40x60' building. This structure has a lot of
potential for manufacturing parts and  creating bio-fuels with new, experimental technologies. But first things first, we need to provide electricity to
get everything off the ground.



Because
of the high temperatures and intense sun in the
Solitario, we started our
work day at 4 am, and with the aid of DC lighting we were able to work in
the dark.



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At dawn we mounted the PV rack to the pole and gave the frame
its final coat of paint.  We ran four #6 gauge
wires from the solar arrays to the control center inside. The plan is to have two semi-independent power systems, three arrays tracking the sun and three fixed. The controllers work in tandem so that if one fails the other will pick up the slack.  The Apollo system is one of the most fail-safe systems available, because with most other units if you lose the master controller, you lose everything.



We mounted ¾" plywood to the wall and gave it a coat of paint. Once the paint dried the fun could begin, opening up our new parts and mounting them to the wall.


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We
closed out the day at 4pm (at 112 degrees F in the shade) satisfied with what we had accomplished.  We are excited to get work done on this job, but we need to go back East and get married!




Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Cat That Found the Cream

Well, our flock of nine (eight hens, one roo) has been ruthlessly whittled down to three (two hens, one roo).  I'm 99% sure that we have a bobcat who has taken a liking to chicken dinner.

This past Monday we made a run to Alpine for groceries, and came home to find one hen snatched.  This particular hen was isolated in the sick-bay coop, and the varmint had dug under the wire to get the bird.  Poor girl was trapped in the coop with her killer.

We should have taken that attack as a warning and worked to make the main coop more impenetrable.

But instead we kept working on our other projects and now this morning awoke to find three hens dead in the coop and two just gone.

Sprocket was barking his head off last night, but he barks his head off all the time, often at nothing.  We should have gotten up and investigated, but it's too late for should-haves now.

Sprocket found one cache the cat had made, and I still have to dig it up, investigate, and rebury the contents -- along with the three dead birds the cat left behind in the coop.

We're supposed to be installing a panel for a neighbor today and getting ready for our trip, but weirder and weirder hurdles keep popping up.

I'll post photos of the damage (it's not very gruesome) and cache after I finish cleaning everything up.