Category Archives: Solar

Getting Caught Up (1/19/2017)

First off, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

It has been a crazy end to 2016 and start of 2017.  Going back to December, the last two weeks of the year, and let me start there.  I worked remotely the last two weeks and spent that time on the property with Sheralee.  The first weekend was wonderful, got to work on the cat house some more, making it really ‘usable’.

It turned out pretty good, but still some more ‘sealing’ to do to protect it from the weather elements, and siding on the two walls.  It has some visitors early on.

All in all it started out well.  Then the rain came…

Now, rain in Northern Arizona is not like Oregon rain.  Of course it is wet, but the ground is completely different in N. AZ. It is just pure clay.  When clay gets wet, look out.  It rained for about three days, then we caught some sun breaks…and then it rained more, before snowing.  We tried to get Sheralee out Christmas eve, with an epic fail.  The Jeep had mud/snow chains on the back and still failed.  We just made it back to our house and shut it down.

That night it snowed..

We got about 6″ of snow, which definitely made it easier to get out the next morning, except when we packed up to leave, Christmas morning, the mud was frozen around my wheels and the Jeep wouldn’t move.  We had to chip away at frozen mud/clay until we were freed up enough to leave.  We did finally make it out that morning and back to Henderson for a nice dinner and that was it.  I drove back the next morning…and it was beautiful.

It was gorgeous…frozen and super sunny.  So nice.  Sheralee then joined me the following morning, before it got above freezing, so getting in and out of the property was easy.

Then that all melted over the next week before New Years.  More on that in a second.

One other thing I got done was added a solar combiner box.  I will have two parallel strings, which go over the amperage allowed for my 10 gauge wire, so I added a combiner box and put each run on a 30A breaker.  Then they go off to the solar charge controller.  I only have strong on right now, but it worked out great.  Coming out of the breaker box is 6 gauge wire I think, which is rated up to something like 55 Amps.  Solar future looks good.

One thing we realized, not enough panels!!  We needed more power Scotty.  So, we ended up purchasing another 400 watts of panes, basically 2 190W panels, but have yet to mount them.  This will be the second string.

So, back to the story.  That lovely 6 inches of snow melted, with some rain helping it.  Yup, it started raining again for about 3 days.  Absolutely so frustrating, but overall we learned if you have to get off the property, then this rain is NOT good.

We decided at this time to try and get out and get back to LV to settle in again.  Re-think our approach to everything.  The dream lives, but we have a lot of thinking and planning to do.  We packed up the cats and what we could in the Jeep and barely got out on January 2nd, and I mean barely.  The Jeep is  BEAST…best vehicle we could own.  Still not sure how we got out of there.  We only brought what the Jeep could hold, which wasn’t a whole lot! hahaha  We figured we could get back up there and get what we needed.

Well, yesterday we had an awesome weather window to get up there and get out.


You can see how sunny it was…and not much wet mud.  Well, that changed today…

Yup, snowed up there last night and supposed to get up to 8″ through Saturday morning.  We had a great window provided to us, and we took it.


This is our bed, wrapped up for protection.  We got all of the goods/clothes we wanted and made it back to Henderson.  We actually slept on our other queen bed that was up there.  ohhhhhh so nice.  No more air mattress! haha

In these two weeks, which seem like an eternity, we settled back in Henderson, in a house, and are learning that all over again.

No, the dream is not dead at all…but being up there yesterday all of that seemed like another life.  We have some good planning to do for the future, and  A LOT of mulching to do…and I mean A LOT! ha.  Thankfully we have downed trees all over the place.

Until later this year…

 

Cats On The Move (12/10/2016)

Well, it was finally time!  Time to move the cats to the ranch.  Sheralee and I left early morning Saturday after swooping up some cats for our 3 hour journey.

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All in all, it was a good trip, and somehow they arrived alive…whew.  Being at the property is a first for all of them.

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They were a little anxious at first, and still run for cover under the container or shed, but for the most part one….Theo…is very adventurous and loves to just take off.  The other two, not so much.
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Theo on the prowl…and he does chase birds…very unsuccessfully, but we won’t tell him that.  Of course this much ‘outdoor’ activity leads to some serious down times.

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The days of Saturday and Sunday were spent charging batteries, which are in poor shape overall, and I am sure we have lost some longevity with them, but the charger is working and working hard.

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Right now I have two separate battery banks and two inverters.  I am not using the old battery bank right now, just trying to get them all maxed out, which is taking some serious charge/reconditioning time.  To Sheralee’s angst, I ran the generator pretty much all weekend.  Still more charging time ahead, but it is a good thing.

I also did some more work on the cat house, and am close to building the front door and finishing it off.  We are at a quandary with with windows right now as the ones I purchased aren’t even close to what we want…so looking at other options, which slows us down.

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I did get the cat door installed, as you can see in the two pictures above.  So funny, Theo was in and out of that thing, and actually snuck out of it before I realized what had happened.  Solved that for now.  Bad kitty!

I will try hard to finalize that thing this weekend, at least enough for the grand opening.  Once we have windows in there we think the cats will love to hang out in there and scope things out.  Well, we hope anyways.

Another thing I did on Monday was to take a couple more drone pictures.  This is helping us plan out our pasture area.  We also did a measurement of the outside fence and it is just under 1500 feet.  We believe we have the fencing planned out and are excited for that phase.

Here is the small drone picture, linked to the larger one.

I think that is it for now.  We have some crazy travel times to and from the ranch in the next few weeks, but then we are on to a new year and animals…of all kinds joining the ranch.  Very exciting things ahead.

Oh yeah, one other thing I almost forgot about.  So, some of you know we have two compost bins on site, and one we filled up early this year, and the other we have been using since then.  Well, both were full…and it was time to add another one, a project I wasn’t ready to proceed with yet.  So, my lovely wife had a great idea.  The one that has been sitting for almost a year, why not move the compost out and use that one, so she did.

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She moved the compost out, covered it with a tarp, and it will stay there until we have things to plan next spring.  Very exciting!  I know…kinda ‘crappy’ to some, but hey…we are excited!

 

Batteries & Cat House (12/2/2016)

Hello all.  Spent some time on the property last weekend, first working from up there on Friday and then doing some ‘project’ work Saturday and Sunday.

First thing I did when I got there is start a dang fire, and break out my new EcoFan
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This thing is so very awesome!  I mean to have a fan help push the hot air around, that basically runs on thermal currents…oh yeah.  It is very cool, and fits nicely on our little Hobbit stove.

That was the first thing and was helpful on a cold Friday.  I also did some battery re-arrangement once again, trying to find a configuration that will help our new batteries charge.  Well, what I really learned last week was that in winter time we just don’t have enough sun to charge our new battery bank.  Funny how you find the things you did wrong after the fact.  Hindsight, right?

What we did was buy new batteries and mix them with old batteries, first mistake, but too late now..we move forward.  Also, when batteries come from the store, they are at 6volts, but just barely, and not what you would consider full in a solar system.  They needed to be charged and adding them to another 12V battery string, there just wasn’t enough power to go around.  So, they soon died…well fell to low to be useful.  We bring in some good current to the batteries during the day, but not enough to fill those babies full.  So, I did a lot of battery configurations to try and help them.

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Another issue we have is that our battery box is outside, in a shed that only has insulation.  Being cold, these batteries struggle to charge period.  So, I bought an electric blanket to keep them warm overnight…but….

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You gotta have power to use the blanket! ha.  Oh the humanity.  So, I tried something else.  I broke the battery string (eight batteries) into two four battery strings.  One I used with our solar panels and house power, the other I added to another inverter and trying to charge them with a smaller solar panel.

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This isn’t really going to work either, as the four batteries in the second string don’t get enough input current to charge.  So, we have decided to supplement our solar capacity this winter with a battery charger, run from our gas generator.  This should, and I say should because I write this on Tuesday and have yet to try our new charger, work for us this winter.  Oh how I long for the days of summer!

This is our new charger:

SOLAR PL2520 Pro-Logix 20 Amp Battery Charger

This should fully charge each bank, condition them as needed, and keep them running in tip top shape.  So, they better finish that ‘Standing Rock’ pipeline, cuz the Simpson/Wade team need more fossil fuels!

The other project I needed to get start was building out new cat house.  Now, I am sure some of you think that because I live in Las Vegas a cat house means a structure of ill repute, but I differ.  This add-on will be for the cats to have a place to ‘to the duty’ and hang out.

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This cat house will be right under the kitchen window and since I used the same footing block as the bathroom, it will be about four feet wide.  The floor is done with 2×4’s 16″ o/c.  I used foam insulation and then R13 on top of that.

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Then I used a 1/2″ subfloor.

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And this is as far as I got.  I will be working on the walls and roof this weekend.  It will be about three feet tall I think and since it is under the deck overhang, it won’t really catch any rain.  I am going to still put a little sloped roof on it, but also build a small planter box frame on top of it to sit under the kitchen window.  Should work out…uh I think.  It usually takes a couple runs to get it right.  ha.

That was pretty much my weekend up there.  Oh…and it was a blistering 64 degrees on Sunday…sooooo nice!  We will be heading back up this weekend to continue our progress.

Until then!

Solar and Snow (11/25/2016)

Hey All.

We were traveling around quite a bit this past long weekend.  To the property, then to Phoenix for Thanksgiving, then LV to pick up a bed and stuff, then back to the property.  Saw a lot of the same…terrain…over and over. ha.  All worked out.  We had a lot of things going on this past weekend with being here and there, my working remotely now and then, and Sheralee’s daughter expecting…it was a busy one.

We were at the property again on Saturday, and the first thing I did was add 4 new batteries to our solar battery bank.
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Well, adding more batteries didn’t make live all that much better! ha.  Found that out over time.  Let’s just say…’when you think you have a grasp on solar technology…YOU know NOTHING Jon Snow’!  (sorry…Game of Thrones reference for those of you that actually don’t know..ha)

I have too much power in the batteries and right now my panels can’t charge them enough.  NEED MORE POWER!  So, we are working through that right now, trying to figure out the best approach.  More than likely we will remove some of the batteries in order to try and get them ‘close’ to full.  Lots to think about.  On top of that, we are dealing with ‘cold’ batteries.  Cold batteries don’t want to charge as quickly either..brrrrrr.  We are going to try keeping the batteries warm with a low draw electric blanket.  Might just work..we shall see this weekend.

We did have a good ‘brats’ dinner Saturday! ‘nom’, ‘nom’, ‘nom’!
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While dinner was one…we were treated to some great sunset views, once again.  Just so pretty up there when the sun sets.  For those of you in Oregon…the sun is that bright orange thing you see in the sky during July and August.
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Other than that, we didn’t do much.  We waiting for a snow event to come in over night Saturday, and it didn’t hit.  What did happen though is it started right after I dropped Sheralee off at work.  We got about two inches on the ranch that afternoon.

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Very cool to be inside and see that happen.  Although, we are still dealing with cold right now..but we just purchased this awesome ‘wood stove fan’ to try.

Nickel Ecofan AirMax 812 wood stove fan
Caframo Ecofan AirMax

This thing should move air nicely, and is powered by the heat radiating off the wood stove.  We shall see! ha.
PUPPIES are here!

If you didn’t know, Sheralee and I put deposits down on two Great Pyrenees dogs from a breeder in Texas.  We are getting one male and one female, and we have names picked out but not saying until we have them in the Jeep heading home.  Anyways, early morning on Monday…the expecting mother gave birth to 5 boys and 3 girls.

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They are just 4 days old in these pictures, but sooooo exciting!  We will be driving to Texas in January to pick them up.  Can’t wait!  Well, we can because we have kennels to construct prior to that! ha.

Anyways, this is a quick one for now.  More going on this weekend moving forward, but this was a transition week for Sherlaee and I…logistical kind of stuff, but so good and the progression is still towards our ranch future!

Take care all!

Back On Track (or Rails) (5/13/2016)

After a three week absence, mainly due to weather in Arizona and Mother’s Day, we finally made it back to the ranch.

Last we were on the property, the annual road maintenance had just begun, how exciting.  Well, not sure how far that went.  With two weeks of good rain, the roads are back to poor condition in many spots.  It was plenty dry upon our arrival, but you can tell where deep ruts were formed in the road.  We can only hope there is more maintenance to come.

With those spring rains also came water collection for us, YAY!  I believe we collected over 400 gallons over the past two weeks.  Very exciting to see.  On Saturday we had a good shower come though where we collected a little more rain.  Nice to see, and we haven’t even hit the rainy season yet.

Three weeks ago we had ordered a barn door kit and materials to create a barn door (style) bathroom door.  We based the door structure on a 1/4″ piece of plywood and then went out from there.  While Sheralee was working on the final look of the door, creating the frame with some 2×4’s and that plywood, I had to work on the framing to support the barn door rail.

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I then worked on installing the rail for the barn door across the new studs I put in place.  The kit was great in then it gave you large bolts and cool threaded inserts into the wood.
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After the framing and rail were in place.  We worked on getting the hardware on the door and hanging the door.
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Overall we are very pleased with the outcome of the door. The look of the door really turned out better than we expected, and just for the record the design of the door was not the original idea, but that is what came out of Sheralee experimenting with different stains and whitewashing.   If I hadn’t mentioned it earlier, you would think the middle of that door was some sort rusted sheet metal.  Very cool looking.

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This is the final look of the door with the floor.  Looking good!!  Once we have our planked walls in place, that will be a sort of whitewash, it will look great!

Another project that we worked on was the material shed.  I had left it with only two roofing panels in place, so I finished that off and installed the gutter.

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The next phase of this project is to add water catchment off the one end to flow into the water tank that is there.  Should be pretty simple.

Another thing we did for the material shed was add a couple hooks for the pitch fork and a shelf for the compost cleaning supplies.
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The only thing left to do on this guy is the downspout to water tank, and that should be easy enough.  Can’t wait.

Oh..and we had another visitor show up Saturday.
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I like to refer to him as “Kaa”.  All of a sudden, there he was.  The gopher snakes up there seem to grow rather large…both we have seen have been this size, which I guess they can grow up to 6 feet in length.  He eventually slid under the tarp there, which I am sure is where there are rodents and lizards…his type of “to go food”.

I was coming around the other end of our container and saw him again, or another one just like Kaa…and that one slithered under the container to get away from us  biped mammals.  Good times on the ranch.

We are going up again over the Memorial Day weekend….can’t wait!

 

 

New Compost Toilet & Bathroom (3/24/2016)

Since one of us is on a sabbatical, and the markets were closed on Friday, we headed up to the property Thursday afternoon.  We had a couple things to accomplish this weekend, the main ones being building our new indoor composting toilet, removing the stairs to the loft, and removing the old front door and framing in that wall.

Before Friday morning’s start, we enjoyed our deck again that evening.  What did we find?  Well, we know that some ravens up there like to hang out on our deck, and we found more evidence.
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This would be the spinal column of some small animal, more than likely a squirrel.  I mean who hasn’t gone out on their deck and found a spinal column? ha!

Friday morning Sheralee started off cutting out the pieces she would need to build our new indoor compost toilet.  It was taken from the plans of our original one, but super sized for our indoor bathroom.
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While Sheralee worked on the new ‘Loo’, I wanted to get a couple projects out of the way.  One was to add permanent latches to the solar array and raise the angle a little bit more.
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Something else I started that day, and finished on Sunday, was eliminating that tree that you see to the right of the panels.  I found that in the winter time, the shadow from that tree would cover the panels in the afternoon, losing a couple hours of sunshine charging our batteries.  So, down it goes.

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By the way, that is our new Husqvarna 450 Rancher chainsaw.  Now, I had been screwing with it for the past two weekends, bent the original chain, purchased the wrong Oregon chain, but finally have the right chain and it ROCKED!  I cut more this past weekend with that new chainsaw, than I have in a year and a half with our crappy 18″ Poulan Pro chainsaw.  blah.

The other thing I wanted to get done was add some OSB to our new container doorway wall.

I had added this doorway previously;
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This past weekend I actually made it look like a doorway.
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Just another step closer.

I think we ended the day by completely assembling the new Loo.  It is awesome!!
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Saturday morning we got up to start the day’s projects.  Since the new Loo was in process, I needed to get the stairs to the loft out, remove the old front door, and frame in that wall.

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I couldn’t wait.  I was never fond of that door, and let me tell you it was a pain to install it, so good ridden front door.

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This was before the stairs were removed.  I took out the door first, and then the stairs.  We had build those stairs in place, 2-2/12’s and some stair treads, and boy it isn’t light.  Sheralee and I got it out though and I started the framing and adding the outside sheathing.

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This after I closed in that door wall.  We basically end up with a 4’x8′ bathroom.  Very cool.  I did add some additional framing on the container side wall, headers and footers, to get a better measurement of where we want things to go.  Initially you can see the new Loo along the outside wall, but we changed that up once, and are changing it up again.

Sunday we took care of some tasks, such as compost and more tree removal.  Finally we were able to burn some of the juniper up there as it was pretty windy all weekend.  This coming weekend we have more plans.  I will be working on removing the electrical from the loft and adding that electrical to the new bathroom layout.  Sheralee is going to start the great project of creating our headboard/storage bookcase combo.  It will be pretty cool when all done, giving us space for bedside items and also books/storage on the outward facing side.  Cool.

Solar Update:  Forgot the latest solar news.  We didn’t have to touch the solar config the entire weekend, besides raising the panel array.  So happy.  We were fully charged each day, too full on the batteries, by mid day everyday.  Woohoo!

New Solar and Misc. Projects (3/2/2016)

Since I was off the first half of the week last week, I decided to head to the ranch on Wednesday last week.  I could work remotely Thursday and Friday, and then get some stuff done after work and on the weekend.  Upon arriving Wednesday I found that indeed the batteries were not being charged by my little 40 watt panel, and the power for the fridge was off.  My first task of the day was to start the solar rebuild so we could get some ‘real’ charge on the batteries and give me power.

We purchased two new pieces of equipment, among miscellaneous items such as fuses, switches, bus bars, and new cables.  The two major (unplanned) purchases were a new Renogy MPPT 40A Charge Controller and a Renogy 2000 Watt Pure Sine Wave inverter were made to replace our blown charge controllers and the modified sine wave inverter we were using.  After doing research I found that a modified sine wave inverter takes more power to function.  So, my first task was to remove all of the previous components and wiring configurations.

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I then moved the solar panel input to the left wall and added a fuse on the input.  In the future, when I add more panels, I will want that wall to hold a combiner box so that all the individual lines come in to the shed and I combine them there in any configuration I want.

Next I added voltage bus bars at the bottom of the board, so that no longer will I be going to the batteries to add/remove any components.  I have one location now, a common bus bar.  I took the 4 gauge wires from the batteries and attached them to the DC voltage bus bars.

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It looks a little jumbled, but I have some loose grounding going on and some extension cords for now, but overall very happy with the way it turned out.  You can see the bus bars at the bottom, and the different switches for each area of power.

I think on Friday I added the A/C panel back to the mix, so we would have power upstairs to charge things.

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This is pretty much the finished configuration.  The shelf I added I will be extending on my next trip.  I also added a 110V outlet in the upper right hand corner of the shed that you can’t see.  A generator fed A/C sub panel will be added to the right side in the near future so that in case anything happens to the solar, we can power up the generator, plug it in to the box, and get power to some major appliances.

Oh, so back to my story…after completing everything, except the A/C panel, it was too late on Wednesday to get a charge back on the batteries, and I needed some cooling….not just for beer, but for food as well.  I had to head back in to town, yes hooked up the horses to the wagon, to get some ice for the night.  The next day refrigerator was back on and running normal.  Over the next couple of days I had a lot of charging on the batteries and running anything I needed to.  We are back on our way to power freedom, I hope.  I will know more tomorrow.

Another task I needed to finish, as rain was expected on Sunday, was the rainwater input.  Something I found out, that was kinda funny, is my first flush diverter I installed, you can see it here.

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Well, I opened it up to clean it out and what did I find?  The oversized ping pong ball it uses to float and close the diverter was squashed completely. ha.  Something definitely happened over the winter.  I ended up taping it to a long piece of PVC and shoving it up there to divert all of the water.  I will have to cut that thing off and cap it so all the water flows in.  Since I added the Banjo inline filter, not sure how much I need that first flush working.  I got the last piece installed, so that we have that inline filter in place, and now just waiting for rainwater.

I am pretty sure my days all ran together, with a mix of work and ranch project work.  Another thing I wanted to work on was adding a PVC conduit for power lines so we could close up the wall behind what will be our bedroom closets.

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This will make it possible to put the back wall in place and still run power lines from the utility shed up into the ceiling where they will be routed to where they need to end up.  I think it turned out pretty well.

Another project I wanted to get one was leveling the new container, Crusty, somewhat to remove about 1.5 inches in slope.  This was fun for sure.  Using a little bottle jack there is somewhat a lack of stability when jacking up that think.  We had done it before on our first container, so no reason it wouldn’t work again.  I found that the jack would tilt left or right and the container would move that way as well.  Not good.  I finally got about an inch of slope out and that is all I wanted to risk.

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The next thing I did was to frame out the door opening to accept a 36″ house door we are moving from our other container.  I think it went really well and will be ready to move the door once we have the opening between the two containers.

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Now, some might notice the support framing above the door…and yes there is really nothing to support since it is a solid metal framed container, but I just couldn’t help myself. ha.  That frame is ready to go whenever we move the door.  The plan is to move that single hung door from the the other container to this wall.  Then we are going to move the patio door from the loft down to the other container, once we move the bed down to the main floor.

Today is Thursday the 10th, and I am heading out tomorrow afternoon for another five day stint.  I am hoping being up there for multiple days will help the progress all that much more.  We shall see.

Oh, thanks to my buddy Dave, we now have a webcam to test up at the property.  I am going to get it connected this weekend so that after I leave it will upload a couple pictures per day to a webpage I have running.  Very exciting!  More on that later.  Thanks Dave!

 

 

 

Wood Floors Part II (2/20/16)

We made it back up to the ranch early Saturday morning, a beautiful day once again.  First thing, of course, I check on is the solar…wha wha wha…and it is bad once again. Found a bad connection on the DC input of the charge controller…where I had melted wires/inputs on former charge controllers.  Same thing here…tried to put the wire back in and found it was fried.

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Kinda had enough of that.  What a disappointment.  I have been chatting with Renogy solar people off and on today, and think it is more than likely where my DC voltage is connected on the battery bank.  I will be getting a new charge controller and changing the DC input (battery charging side) termination on the battery bank, to a terminal all on it’s own.  Hopefully this helps it and helps our future charging.

Enough with the bad, decided to move on to other things.  I had to continue the water tank plumbing that I left off last week, due to my leaving the pex crimper at home. ha.

I started again with making the connections that I had already cut and sized.

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After the connections were made, we started making some water runs to get some water in the tank to ensure nothing was leaking.  We needed to be about 200 gallons, above the outlet to test the valve is working fine.  It took us 3 trips, one on Sunday morning, but we were able to finally get above the outlet and test the connections were good.  I then proceeded to wrap up the pex in insulation and insulation tape.

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After I wrapped the pipes themselves, I insulated the irrigation box that will house the valve.  Then I filled in and packed the dirt/ground around that irrigation box and the underground pipe that runs to the center valve (to be installed later).

I also worked on the water intake from after our downspout first flush diverter.  I wanted to add our Banjo line strainer to filter even more of the water flowing into the tank.

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Before

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After

I still have one more PVC/PEX connection, but overall I am happy with it and it is ready to roll.

On to the rock star of the weekend.  The final two coats of polyurethane on our new wood flooring.   After applying two coats last weekend, we came back to a good lucking floor, well that needed sanding…per the instructions.  Sheralee sanded the floor Saturday in preparation for the Sunday double coat application.

While I was off making the final run for water, Sheralee started with the floor.  It went really well, but then we had to wait some four hours until the next one could be put on.

While was applying the last coat, I got some pictures….and yes the polyurethane is wet, you can already tell it is going to be awesome!

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We are pretty sure this is our flooring method of the future.  Just seems so good, and easy enough to replace one flooring panel.

Almost forgot the pretty cool phenomonon we saw on a nice quiet Sunday morning.  Sheralee and I were up on our deck enjoying a cup of coffee when all of a sudden, we thought we saw campfires, her in one direction and I in another.  What was going on?  I thought we were going to have to talk to be people about ‘Private Property’ and what not…but alas it was something totally different.

By that time the wind and picked up to a breeze and it turns out that during this time of year, and seems to be a certain temperature, the male Juniper trees pollinate the air!  I guess this happens every year, but this is our first time noticing it.  It was just incredible to see, looked like little explosions…and it was only the male trees.  I tried to capture it best I could.

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Pretty cool!

We are off a weekend, for a true joining of two people, but up again the weekend after that…well until maybe forever! ha.

First Really Nice Weekend (2/13/16)

We are back at it again, hopefully full force now…if the weather holds up.  The weather this weekend was sunny and close to 70 degrees, just great…although it dropped to about freezing at night.  The wood stove worked great, and having a nice big fire outside didn’t hurt either.  We brought along our new weekend warrior to help out.  It was sunny, and warm, so that made life much better and bearable.

We finally had our second container delivered last week, “Crusty”.  Just amazing to see, and to see the future with our big plans.  We couldn’t wait to get started.

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While the ladies started unpacking Rusty, moving all of our tools/materials to Crusty, I started to drain the water tank.  We wanted to empty the tank and give it a cleaning on the inside before adding the new plumbing.

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I soon realized I didn’t want all of that water there, so I put a hose in the tank and using our mobile pump, pumped the water out into the ‘yard’.  That took a little while…but we eventually got it all drained.  Sheralee and Baylee suited up to head inside and give it a good scrub down.

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Turns out, the inside was really pretty clean.  We kinda had this thought that maybe there would be some ‘slime’ or ‘algae’, but nothing like that at all.  It was really clean, and UV protection, nothing should ever grow in there.  Once the tank was clean, we focused on the new floor in Rusty.

We purchased some 6mil plastic, 3/4″ foam board insulation, and 1/2 inch plywood.  This would be our flooring.  We cut all of the 4×8 sheets into 24″ planks.  While Sheralee and Baylee started the sanding and staining process, and ugly process to be sure, I started laying down the plastic underlay, then installing the foam board insulation.

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Before the sanding and staining began, we did a quick layout of the floor to see what paces would go where.
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While the wood work continued, I had to once again go back to the solar well, so to speak.  We are now on our 3rd solar charge controller, and again upon arriving at the ranch the batteries were not being charged.  We have dipped well below the 50% level of the batteries (again) and this is causing some stability issues.  The charge controller had been shorted again and I had a feeling that seriously deteriorated any charging ability.

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On this display, the solar indicator showed that there was not solar input, and the inputs themselves were compromised to a solid connection.  So, took the plunge and installed a new controller, added a circuit breaker between the batteries and controller (should have done that long ago), and re-routed our DC distribution again.

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Right now we are on a much more solid footing, but we have determined that by the end of the year we need to add two more batteries and two more panels.  The sun in the winter time isn’t strong enough throughout the day to fully charge us.  Two more panels will help with that.   By the time we left yesterday, we were at 90% on the batteries, and so looking forward to seeing the status next weekend.

Back to the flooring.

Once the plastic/foam board was installed and the staining was finished, we decided to call it quits for the day.  We were ready to nail the floor down in the morning and add the first coat of the polyurethane.

Sunday morning was breezy, but still the sun was out and it was nice.

We had to get the floor installed, and then get the first poly coat on.
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So far, it looked wonderful.  Sheralee set out to apply the first coat, while I worked on the tank plumbing, but unfortunately, Timmy made another mistake.  I forgot the PEX crimp tool at home.  doh!  So, the only thing I could really accomplish on this trip was digging where the irrigation boxes will go, and layout the future plan.

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I think the plan will work out great, and well insulated, on the pipe as well as inside the box.  I think the key is moving to PEX, brass valves, and insulating everything.  keeping everything out of the wind is huge!  Of course we don’t know the results until next year. ha.

Sheralee applied the first coat, and we had to wait, wait, and wait…and then finally, time to apply the second coat of the day.  I took this picture through the door screen, as it was all closed up, so the quality isn’t great, but you get a sense of what it ‘will’ look like.
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This coming weekend, we will do a light sanding, and apply two more coats Sunday…which should be the end of the flooring install.  So far, so good.   We saved a lot of money doing the floor this way, and will be rugged and able to replace individual planks.  We are excited for sure.

First Big Issue (1/30/16)

Well, finally made it back to the property after some heavy winter weather that made our roads impassible.  Sheralee and I headed up on Saturday the 16th to drop off some railroad ties/materials for our new container to be dropped off and located.  After stopping in Kingman to get the materials, we headed up to the ranch.  Well, what we found was an impossible road to pass, that had lingering snow and deep mud.

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This is our road off the main ranch road system, called Pipeline Rd, as it follows the old Arco Pipeline.

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You can see, just barely, that just off the main road we were in deep mud.  Truly no way to get to where we wanted to go.  So, after debating if we could get there, Jeep was out of the questions, we thought maybe on foot….carrying the railroad ties one at a time.  Well, for those of you that don’t know…railroad ties are frickin’ heavy.  There was no way we were going to get it 1/2 mile down that road of mud. hahahaha  So, we were lucky to get ahold of our container guy and asked if we could drop the ties/materials at his business location for him to use when he delivered.  Deal, and done.  We dropped it all off and headed home.  A very product 6 hour drive! ha.

On to this weekend.  Sheralee had business responsibilities this weekend, so I thought I would try and make it up there to see how everything is holding up.  There has been about two weeks of good dry weather, and just recently up to 60 degrees.  Why not give it a try.  If nothing else, it would be a good drive and I could hike in to the property to check things out.  Fortunately, the road to our property was just fine.  Didn’t kick up any mud until I was on our property/drive way.  There were just a few spots where the sun could never melt the snow and those spots were muddy.  No problem over all.

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Everything seems to be in tip-top shape.  Well….almost everything.  I did a quick scan, all good.  I wanted to check out if the water tank was trying to over flow, as we had a good amount of snow melt.  When I popped the lid….our water was gone.  Yup, GONE!  1550 gallons of rain water collected over the year…all gone.  I was floored, saddened, upset….you name it.  I couldn’t figure it out.

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Yup, below the bottom drain. uuuggghhh

I looked all around for any type of tire tracks or a hole in the tank…anything.  Anything to understand what might have happened.  On our 3/4″ PVC ball valved, I noticed the turn handled was half broke off.  I thought that was odd so I investigated further.  I noticed the whole ball valve turned easily, as completely loose…hence the water drained out from there.  I was floored….I figured if 1500 gallons of water were to be released, it would make a river flowing downhill, but that isn’t the case at all.  No trace of water running off.  I thought maybe a cow/elk came through and accidentally kicked it….but not tracks whatsoever.  Upon further inspection, I found the problem.  Our PVC ball valved cracked the entire length.

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You can see the crack here, and missing handle.  One theory is the cold caused it to crack.  Well, both theories revolve around the crack.  The other theory is that after I put the spigot in there to draw water off, I left it in there.  I think that the cold at night, and sun heating it during the day, caused that spigot to expand and crack the PVC ball valve.

Either way, all that water be gone, gone, gone!  So, back the drawing board on that.  I have ideas already, but sad to see the water go without using it.  Our first real disappointment.

So, we will re-work that idea to include more pex pipe and fittings, along with some sort of valve box (like with meters and irrigation) to line with foam insulation to keep it a little warmer.

On to the next little thing.  Found that the batteries were fully charged, but no longer being charged….turns out the 14 gauge wire running from the solar charge controller to the battery was pretty much melted.  yikes.

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I replaced that entire cable with a 10 gauge red wire and it is working great again.  So, that was about a 15 minute fix.
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Not sure what happened to the cable though…hmmmm.  Another mystery.

That was about it for my stay.  Emptied our house compost bucket, using the mobile water pump…works like a champ, and it was time to head home.  I really didn’t want to leave, it was a gorgeous day, close to 60 degrees out and sunny, but it is supposed to rain today and start snowing after 5p tonight.  Didn’t want to get stuck up there.  Hopefully Sheralee and I can make it up again next weekend.  Good times!