The Charge Controller

solar panels
Growing our system
The charge controller is a part of all solar or wind energy sytems. A charge controller is needed for your system. It is connected to your batteries and the panels. Our charge controller was mounted on our wall. Now it is downstairs in the cellar There are many different brands and types and it can get complicated. I am not the most knowledgeable person on this subject. I just know what we use and how it works. We have had all together three different ones. 

First Charge Controller
First Charge Controller
The charge controller does just what the name says. It controls how much of a charge that goes into your batteries. It will stop the charge coming in from whatever power source you are using when your batteries are at full charge. It would ruin them to be overcharged. In the beginning with only two lead acid batteries and one 55 watt solar panel using this small charge controller was fine. At that time we used to charge the batteries with a car parked next to the window. I remember being able to do this myself. Using jumper cables.

charge controller
Our Charge Controller
As our system grew we added a better type of charge controller. It is made by Xantrex, which was a good quality brand. We used it for many years and still in fact, have it. This one was able to be used as our system grew. My husband always planned on adding a wind turbine so he kept that in mind when purchasing our various components. Each component is costly so you want to make sure that what you buy will be able to be used as you build your system larger.

wind turbine
Wind Max
Once we had the wind turbine up we had to make sure our charge controller could handle all the extra power. It took us a long time to get the turbine up. I will be posting about that on a future blog post. Once we got it up we had to do something with all that extra power. That brings us to our present charge controller which is a diversion charge controller. It does not mean it cuts off from the charging source when the batteries are at full charge. It keeps charging but will direct that energy somewhere else. It has a built in heater that turns on to use the power up so it won't over charge the batteries. 

Diversion Controller
Diversion Controller
It was on our wall while the batteries were up here. Now they are downstairs in the battery room with the new the batteries. This controller will be hooked up to eventually sending the diversion load into our water heater that will heat the water instead of turning the heater part on. We have a brand new water heater and a pressurized water tank in the water room just waiting to be hooked up. I can't wait for that myself! That means that we will have running water in the house. I am promising myself that we will get it in this summer for sure. I have a brand new washing machine all hooked up and ready to wash.

This is the charge controller on the wall in the battery room. Right now only the diversion load one is hooked up. The other charge controller on the right is not hooked up but will be in the future. Each piece of equipment makes up your alternative energy system and is an important part of what powers your house. It is good when you build it yourself and even better when you do it as we have. Little by little as you can afford it. That way you have no debt to pay back from it. Gives you free power. The other thing is that when you are the one building it, you should understand your own system. Then if you have something go wrong with it you can fix it yourself. No calling someone else in to take care of your repairs. Actually when we had someone help with our system is when we had the most problems with it. Know your own system!



katlupe
All Text and Photographs Copyright © 2018 Kathleen G. Lupole

Wasting Electric By Guests To Your Home

Solar Baby Energy System
Our alternative energy system.

Wasting electric by guests to your home is common if you have grown adult kids. Living with your own off the grid solar system, you soon learn that others coming to visit you or stay with you have no concept of how it works. They will be very wasteful with your power. It drives us crazy. We are used to being careful with how much power we use. I know for either of our sons, when they come here to stay overnight or more, they don’t understand if we don’t use lights all night long, we can be on our computers earlier the next morning. Or we can cook with the Instant Pot or use something else. I think when people pay an electric bill or as in the case of our sons, a landlord or someone else pays the bill, they think nothing of being wasteful. They think our power is free. It is. But if you use it up one night, you will have to wait for the batteries to recharge or the sun or wind to start  charging our system before we can use anything the next morning.

Instant Pot
Instant Pot can be used when we have enough power.

In the beginning here we had only one solar panel and two fork-lift truck batteries. So we were limited with power use. Very much so. We didn’t have many electric items at that time. We used a television that had a VCR built in and was DC powered as it was the one we used on an over the road truck. That was the very first thing we used. We changed to other things over the years as we added more equipment to our system. Now the main thing we used during all these years has been  a few lights, an electric mixer and our laptops and related to equipment like printer, digital scale and a labeler. Then we added chargers for cell phones, vacuum cleaner, lawn mower, garden cart, MP3 players and a usb fan and my Kindle. We conserve as you can see from all the those things.

Sun
Sunny day means power!

What makes people want to waste their power, or more to the point, their money? Or their landlord’s money? Or does it occur to them when their rent goes up, maybe it has to do with how much electric they use? Or don’t they care? In the case of either of our sons, I have to say they don’t care. I call them the “I don’t care generation”. That is a good name for them because they really don’t care. Yes, I am sure there are many who do care, but I don’t know them.

Electric Poles
Electric Poles

When someone like that shows up on your off the grid home, they try to take it over and change the way you do things. You have to stay strong. You have to be firm and say NO, it is MY home and we do it MY WAY here. On top of that, they don’t even have a clue on how to live this way. It is very technical and beyond the scope of either of them. Yes, I would have loved to teach them and have them follow us, but sadly, that is not to be. It is beyond either of them to learn this. For now, we will keep onto them every time they are here. Maybe they will learn.

 

katlupe

All Text and Photographs Copyright © 2018 Kathleen G. Lupole

 

 

 

1269E Logwood Wood Stove

1269E Logwood Wood Stove made by The United States Stove Company is the stove we bought this past year to replace our Jewel wood cook stove. Since we needed to replace the cook stove immediately because winter was coming, we chose to buy a cheaper model small stove just for this winter. At this time we could not afford to buy a good cook stove because we had just spent a lot of money replacing our old batteries. My husband ordered it online at Home Depot’s website so he could pick it up locally and not pay for shipping. It may not have been expensive but it was enough that it should at least have been a decent stove to get some heat from. Right? Sad to say, it is a piece of junk.

Smoking Stove
Smoking Stove

The U.S. Stove Company says “it is a modern EPA-certified stove providing a clean-burning heating solution”. I suppose the clean-burning heating solution is the fiberglass wool sheet that is installed in the top the stove where the smoke is supposed to pass through. What we find that does is to block the flue and the smoke comes out the door as soon as it is opened. It also makes it impossible to clean our chimney by dropping a chain down it as we always have done, due to this blanket. We are suffering from much smoke inhalation.

Door Handle
Door Handle

Another issue is the handle which is one of the worst designs I have ever seen. It has a handle that goes in the holder to the side of the door. I find that using a potholder is much easier and faster for me. I keep one nearby so I can add wood without messing with that silly handle.

Handle Holder
Handle Holder

The handle is awkward to say the least. It is not just me who does not like this thing. My husband finds it cumbersome to use also. I think he uses it anyway. Not me. I am always in a hurry when working in the kitchen. I am just thankful that this stove is just temporary until we can buy another cook stove.

Handle on Stove
Handle on Stove

Would I recommend this stove? Absolutely not! I myself, will never purchase any stove made by The United States Stove Company. If they made this one and had it built in China so it would be a cheap model then shame on them. They have ruined their good name by doing so. Nope, do not purchase this stove. We are stuck with it but it will be in an outbuilding in the future. My husband will be modifying it so it will be usable and not smoking every time you add wood. Removing the fiberglass blanket and metal plate (baffle) will be the first thing we do when it warms up. Now hoping for a warm day soon!

katlupe

 

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole

Building Your Own Batteries

Batteries Being Sodered
Batteries Being Soldered

I explained in my last post, Replacing Lead Acid Batteries, that we had to replace the old lead acid batteries. It was time to upgrade our homestead alternative energy system to new technology. This is where the lithium-ion phosphate batteries come in. We bought two brand new ones and loved them. They were beyond our expectations. The downside is……..VERY expensive for most off the grid homesteaders. Yes, VERY! Approximately $900.00 apiece. YIKES!! I can hear you now!

Lead Acid Batteries
Lead Acid Batteries

My husband had been studying for a number of years now, the progress of the Tesla powerwall. Now instead of wasting money on the old fashion batteries he had started building a DIY Tesla Powerwall. I myself, cannot give you the technical information on how to do this. I plan to have a future post when he is all finished and we are actually using the first one to share his information. It appears quite complicated to me, but he assures me that he knows what he is doing. If you want to research it for yourself, go to YouTube and put the search term “DIY Tesla Powerwall” in. Some of those guys are powering whole modern houses using this system. It is amazing!

lithium ion phosphate batteries
Lithium-Ion Phosphate Batteries

Where did he get all these lithium-ion phosphate batteries? On eBay of course. He bought new ones. Other people doing this are buying used laptop batteries and taking them apart to build with. The reason he did not do that is because some of them will not be good and to find that out you have to test each one. He bought about 80 of them, I think. They are all good. He figured it will be less than half the cost of a new one and they will be bigger and give us more storage than the others we bought. They are good! Not saying they are not. If you have the money and can afford to buy them, then go ahead and do that. I am just telling you what we are doing. My husband always believes instead of paying more for convenience, he would rather save that money and do it himself. One reason is that now he can take that money and buy more cells (lithium-ion phosphate batteries) and build even more. His goal is to power our whole house, including heating and cooking. I am with him on this!

old 1850 house
Our house

Our house is old and needed a lot of repairs and remodeling when we moved here. Since we are not rich, we had to do it a little bit at a time. I think we have done pretty good considering. Now after eighteen years, next spring, maybe sooner, we will have running water in the house. It is connected and you can turn it on in the cellar but you would have to carry it upstairs. That is not happening! It is easier to carry it in from outside. I am really excited about being able to use my washing machine. Even if it will only have cold water in the beginning. I have a brand new unused washing machine waiting to do our first load of laundry. We bought a lot of equipment and other items to use in the future. Bought ahead and then wait until the day it can be used. Sometimes it doesn’t take that long and other times it can be waiting for a few years or more.

Pressure Water Tank
Pressure Water Tank

I will share the progress of the DIY Tesla Powerwall as soon as we are using it. I can’t wait because we have more solar panels than we can store their power coming in. It is wasted. It goes into a diversion and that is not good because it is just wasted. In the future the diversion will be heating our water in the water heater. That is not hooked up yet. Soon.

 

 

katlupe

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole

Cold Weather Preparations

 

April 7, 2017 Snow
April 7, 2017

Cold weather preparations are underway here at Peaceful Forest. Even though we are having an unusually hot late September, we are hurrying to be ready. Since early spring actually, we have been working on this. Our plans are to make this an easier life. As we get older, we find that is what we want. An easier life. Winter in New York can be brutal and most years it is. I don’t believe we ever really have had an easy winter. If it doesn’t snow in December or January, you can count on it for February. Last year, winter of 2017, we had snow right into April and it was cold right up to June.

Firewood
Firewood

Using two wood stoves for heat in our house means we need a supply of firewood. Chainsaw supplies such as extra chains, new files, fuel mix, etc. are a necessary part of the cold weather preparations. Making sure they are in tip top condition and running good is another important chore. As soon as all the leaves have dropped from the trees in our forest is the time to forage for dead wood that has fallen during the summer. I usually use my garden cart to scout for it but not sure about that this year since it seems to have a constant flat tire, even with a new tube.

New Window
New Window

This year we were finally able to put in one new window in the living room. All these years we have lived here we have badly needed new windows. These windows are probably the original ones that were put in this house when it was built. They have that wavy glass and are not energy efficient at all. I usually staple clear plastic over the whole window including the casing to keep it warmer. Not that it helps that much! I never realized I’d get so excited over a window, but I did and I still am. Next spring we hope to add two more in the living room and one in the bathroom.

New Door
Love the new door!

We were also able to replace our exterior door in the kitchen. How happy that has made me! We lost a lot of heat through that for years. Now it closes tight and I can even lock it! Nope, I could not lock it even when we left the house. I used to worry about it but now I am relieved of that worry. Now we stopped using the sliding glass door because it is not energy efficient to slide a door open and shut. As soon as my old cat, Patches learns that door is not the one to use to come in, we won’t use it at all.

Jewel Cook Stove
My old wood cook stove.

A sad note is that we had to remove our wood cook stove. I had always planned on replacing it with the Pioneer Maid. The Jewel though was falling apart and last spring it smoked horribly. I had always cooked on it even in the summer months years before because it didn’t really heat up the kitchen that much. Not this year. Then I thought we’d just keep it as a decorative item in a corner of the kitchen when it was finished being remodeled. I had the idea to store all my cast iron cookware collection on and in it. Well when my husband took it out, it just fell apart. It was ruined and there was nothing to save. So he loaded up on the truck and took it to the scrap metal place. I had cooked on it since 1997.

US Stove Logwood
New little stove

It was sad to see it go, but without it taking up the corner of the kitchen, now we had so much light coming in. I loved it! For this coming winter we bought a small wood stove just to get us through it. Once my husband had it all set up with a new brick hearth, I decided I don’t want to change it. I don’t want a big dark wood cook stove making it dark again. Since we started using electric for some of our cooking, I’d like to pursue that line of cooking instead. Easier and cleaner for both of us. I still have our monster of a wood stove in the living room that I can cook on. The little wood stove can be used for small cooking jobs, but its surface is very small. Our cold weather preparations here are an ongoing part of our life. Staying warm, having enough good food to sustain us, a dependable water supply and the determination to not let the cold weather bring us down is always our plan.

 

 

katlupe

 

Text and Photographs Copyright © Kathleen G. Lupole 2017

 

 

 

Powering Up Computers

Computer
Powering Up Computers

Powering up computers on your homestead is something you will eventually want or need to do. As I said in prior posts, at first we did not need it. We were busy trying to set this old house up for basic living. After awhile we felt like we were being left behind. Larry had been a computer person right from the start. He had worked at IBM in Endicott, NY, and had an early model IBM computer that used DOS (disk operating system) as the operating system. So he was missing it. He had taught me how to use that old system long before Windows ever appeared on the scene. I was soon doing my writing on it and I remember us accessing the old IBM bulletin boards in my old apartment.

town
Going to town

Before we moved here we had a desk top computer with a larger tower. That was when we had to use dial-up because that was all that was available at that time. It was packed away because we had to figure out what we were doing here first. At first we had no power and those type of computers take a lot of power. I know, I saw it in my electric bill and I was on the night rate at my old house. It didn’t take long to figure out that we really needed a computer. We needed it to make money. We needed a way to research what, why and how to do various projects we were working on. We had the little Backwoods Solar off the grid catalog, but we needed much more information than that. Driving to town to a library was not something you want to do when you are in the middle of something and need the answer now. Not to mention the fact that back then there was no internet at the library, just outdated books published before new technology in alternative energy systems took place.

Our First Solar Panel
Our First Solar Panel

Eventually we hooked up the computer after we got our small solar system operating. We had to run our generator much of the time, at first the generator being our old car or truck pulled up to the house window to connect it to the batteries in the system. I started selling on eBay and it wasn’t long before I bought a used desk top Compaq computer. I could not afford to share time on the computer with Larry and he wanted to be on it for long periods too. So we had two computers with two large towers and a printer and then I was in business. I was busy with eBay as it was back in its heyday.

Bike With InStep Cart
Bike With InStep Cart

It was also the time we were living without a motor vehicle, about a period of nine months. Instead of taking the packages to the post office we had to take them to our mailbox which was about a mile away on a desolate corner at the end of our dirt road. So they could not be left there to wait for the mailman. Larry bought a new mountain bicycle and an Instep bicycle cart for it to haul the packages to the mailbox every morning. Nikita, our dog, would get excited when she saw me start packaging my sales up because she loved going with Larry to the mailbox. It was good exercise for her and our neighbor’s dog would watch for her to come by. On their way back, sometimes they would stop there to visit. Larry would sit on a log to wait for the mailman to come by.

The Corner
The Corner

I know many people claim that technically you are not living off the grid if you have a computer, a phone, propane or buy your food and other supplies. Oh really? To tell you the truth, even the mountain men bought their supplies. That is why they trapped and hauled furs to trading posts. The Native Americans made items out of the animals they killed and other natural materials and traded them to each other, other tribes and white man too for other items they needed or wanted. Even Dick Proenneke (Alone In The Wilderness) had to have supplies flown in to him in the Alaskan wilderness.

Finger Lakes Trail
Finger Lakes Trail

People who go camping take a huge amount of stuff with them when they go. Some even take propane with them and generators. Now if you  can go camping without one thing, no matches, no knives, no tools or anything at all and make everything you need, food, cooking, shelter, bedding……….then go for it! You’ve got that covered if you can do that. I’d say that is about as off the grid as you can get. Most people cannot do that. I know I cannot and I have no desire to do that.

dirt road
Our Road

Most people will tell me they admire how we live but they couldn’t do it themselves. I am left wondering “why?” Maybe it has to do with not having a television? What they don’t realize when they come here is, that we choose not to have one. We could, if we wanted it. We are computer people and a television holds no interest for me. If I want to watch a television show I can see it online. Some people like the constant noise from one going all the time. I know quite a few people who do. I hate that and I find the noise unbearable. Sometimes I just leave someone’s house if that is something I am forced to listen to all the time. Now my mother was bedridden and she had a television going on all the time, but that was understandable.

rabbit
I enjoy quiet time with my pet “Rabbit.”

I love music and listen to it almost every day, but not nonstop all day and not extremely loud. Many nights I listen to my MP3 player or read books on my Kindle Fire. I am for the most part a quiet person and appreciate the sounds of the birds singing outside or my pet house rabbit chewing his hay. In fact, I keep my computer’s sound on mute all the time and only turn it on if I am watching a video.

sun on solar panels
More Panels

The main thing to know is that you can build your system to accommodate whatever you choose to have in electronics or appliances. Right now we are in the process of adding more panels so someone said to me, “Now you can have a television.” No, as I stated above, “I CHOOSE not to.” I choose to add a water pump so we can have running water in our house. I choose to be able to power our washing machine so I don’t have to do my laundry by hand. I choose to add electric cooking since that means I can get rid of the propane bill. Electric is free for me. I choose to add electric heating, but that will be awhile. Maybe we could change the gas chain saw to the electric one and not have to purchase the gas. Before we can do many of those things in the future we need to increase our batteries. We have changed from the lead acid ones but that is a future post.

katlupe

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 201
7 Kathleen G. Lupole

Well To House Connection

Pitcher Pump
Pitcher Pump

The well to house connection isn’t as easy as it sounds. Especially when you are not talking about a modern drilled well. This well is a shallow hand dug well. About 25 feet. It is not far from the front door which is a good thing when you have to haul the water inside. Connecting it to the house is one of the next things on our agenda. It has been a long time coming. Now I can finally see it on the horizon. Can you tell I am excited about this? Since the work was being done to connect the electric wires to the barn underground, it seemed like the best time to do the work on the water too. Eventually that would be connected so this work is all done and ready for the next step.

Ditch for Water Pipes
Ditch for water pipes

The ditch was dug below the frost line which is 18 inches deep. Then it goes into the room that will have the water tank in it. It isn’t very far. From there the pipe will be hooked to the other pipes that will go through out the house. The pipes are PVC that are sold in the plumbing section of Lowes. I don’t know if there is a difference in what PVC pipes are made of, but this is what we used. If it is not safe to use, please don’t bother telling me since I am stuck with it regardless.

Water Pipes Underground
Water Pipes are Underground

Once inside the well, the pipe from the house is connected into the pipe going down into the bottom of the well. There is an elbow connected to that pipe. Since our well has a cement slab on the top of it, I never saw the inside up close before. This was very interesting to me to see the inside and all the rocks that were piled up inside for the sides of the well.

Hand Dug Well Inside
Inside the well

Putting a hole in the side of hand dug well is something that has to be done very carefully. Not wanting to cause your well to cave in is something to be aware of. Our well was very well built by whoever did it long ago. There was no problem doing this. The rest of the photos will show different views and you can see for yourself how the water from the well will come into the house.

Water Connection
Water Connection

katlupe

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 201
7 Kathleen G. Lupole

Wiring For Our Solar Panels

New Wire
New Wire

Wiring was the most expensive part of our alternative energy system. The farther the panels (or turbine) are from the batteries and house, the more you need. We had purchased the various components needed by now, including the roof racks. Roof racks were needed to place them securely on the roof. We made sure to buy enough racks for future solar panels. The brand we purchased was Unirac, though the exact model we bought has probably been improved and changed since then. I will be honest though, it was very scary watching my husband climbing on top of our barn and installing the racks and later the panels. He had to do it alone with no assistance from anyone, because it is just the two of us here now.

 

Ditch For Wires
Ditch For Wires

Once the wire was bought, work began on the installation of it. A ditch had to be dug from the house to the barn, from the spot where it would come into the house. In the middle of this project, it had to be interrupted to do the work on the water system that would eventually bring it into the house. That will be a future post. At the house the wire then ran through the new room and into the root cellar to the circuit breaker box. The wire underground was strung through conduit to protect it from the elements and rodents. It was all set and ready to be connected in the barn.

Conduit
Conduit for wiring

2/0 cable gave use the ability to transfer 12 volt DC power with virtually no loss, saving us the need to add a converter at the barn that changes it to AC and a converter at the house to change it back to DC. Each converter would use energy to convert it. This set up would allow us to have less components. AC is a smaller and cheaper wire. It is really a preference thing. Whichever you want to do is up to you.

 

Wired
Wired in the upstairs of the barn.

In the barn condit was fastened to the walls to enclose the wire. From the downstairs wall the wire goes upstairs and is connected to the combiner box (made by Midnight Solar). The circuit breakers are in this box and each panel has its own circuit breaker and are connected from the roof to it here. An AC wire is run to the barn from the house in the same conduit along with the DC wire. In the downstairs of the barn, the AC wire is wired to a light switch for a light downstairs. It runs upstairs also to be wired in to various wall plugs and light switches. A DC motion light was installed in the upstairs of the barn and works great. If you see that light on at night, you wonder what is going on up there. The equipment was purchased over time until we had all the parts needed to complete this project.

Wiring Downstairs In Barn
Wiring downstairs in the barn.

Finally the day arrived for the solar panels to be installed on the barn roof. Each one had to be carried up the ladder and mounted to the roof rack. Once in place their wires were plugged into the MC4 connectors. A wire runs from the panels to the combiner box. That completed the installation of moving our first five panels to the barn roof and the process of wiring them in. To add more panels now, the roof racks are all set for them to be mounted in. Should be easier.

Solar Panels on Barn Roof
Solar Panels on Barn Roof

 

katlupe

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 201
7 Kathleen G. Lupole

A Cluttered Homestead

A Cluttered Homestead
Falling Down

A cluttered homestead is what most people picture when they think of an off the grid homestead. Over the years I have joined (and left) many off the grid forums and Face Book groups and one was for women only. Most of these groups are made up of people who want to live off the grid, but never do. Real people living off the grid usually don’t have time to spend on these forums or groups. I find these groups are made up of people who put down what others are doing or how they want to do things. I call the off the grid groupies, the “rule people” and believe me they don’t belong there. Off the grid is not about rules and regulations. I don’t care what they say or how they think it should be. I live it and have lived it for eighteen years now. Many of them post about off the grid homesteads being junky or shabby looking while they are living in a house in a city, which would never allow them to have any junk or deep grass in their own yards. They are correct though, that just because you are living off the grid or in a rural area, you do not have to look like an eyesore.

 

Junky Shed
Junk

When you purchase a property in a rural area, off the grid or not, often what makes it affordable is the fact that there is a lot of junk left on it. All that trash that the sellers left on it is now your trash, for you to get rid of. When my neighbor moved here, the original homestead had burned down and all that was left was the hole of the cellar. He had a lot of heavy equipment so he was able to move all the junk and trash into that hole and cover it over. Now after a number of years, you’d never even know a house had been there to begin with. Some farms through out the years have accumulated a lot of discarded farming equipment such as tractors, spreaders and other things. When the property is sold all that junk is usually included unless you specify to them to remove it before you buy it.

Abandoned
Abandoned

Yes, you can make money selling all that scrap metal. First you have to separate the metal from the rest of the parts. That means taking it all apart, piece by piece. It is a hard tiresome job. Who wants to do that when they want to get their garden put in first? If you have the money it is easier to just pay someone to come do it for you. Or if you are fortunate to find someone who wants the metal bad enough to take care of the junk and trash for you too. You don’t have to pay them and they don’t have to pay you either. Just a clean deal and make sure they remove all the trash and junk too. Sad to see a peaceful setting with a cluttered homestead on it.

Broken Glass
Broken glass bottles.

When we bought our property, it was a hunting camp and had been for quite a few years. It didn’t look too bad as far as junk went. At that time the woods came right up to the house. Not much of a backyard at all. Only the area leading to the outhouse was clear. Once we started clearing it though, we found junk and trash buried all over the place. The inside too, the day we moved in we had to deal with all the stuff the sellers left behind. Like old mattresses and bed springs. We had to pay to take them to the landfill. Over the years we have uncovered plenty of beer cans, bottles, old rugs and more bedsprings. Around here that is what the hunters do….drink and litter the forest with their trash. I always know when hunting season has started by how much trash is alongside our little dirt road. I always wonder why they don’t appreciate the beauty of the forest. How hard is it to take their garbage home or even to a gas station, where they have big garbage cans right next to the gas pumps? Maybe they should be charged for hunting in the state forest to cover the cost of cleaning it up after hunting season. If you buy a hunting camp property there is a likely chance you will find plenty of garbage on it that you can’t see.

Fingerlakes Trail
Used to be populated in this area.

The state forest surrounding our homestead was at one time a thriving community with a schoolhouse just over the bridge near our house. Our property had a sawmill on it and across the road were homes and along the creek was a grist mill. Back in those days (1850s) people didn’t have as much garbage as we have now. A cluttered homestead wasn’t that common. They had pride in their homes’ appearance. Maybe they didn’t have as much garbage and junk as we have now, but they did have some. So what did they do with it? I figure they burned the trash and buried what wouldn’t burn. Our house is the only one remaining in this immediate area. What happened to all those homes? Probably buried beneath the forest floor as far as I can tell. Just old foundations if you look closely. Old bedsprings are everywhere though. Our dog, Nikita, hiking with my husband, Larry, once started crying loudly. He rushed to her and found her foot stuck in one of the old bedsprings. Luckily he was able to free her from it. Other animals, such as stray cats, dogs and wild animals wouldn’t be that fortunate.

Truck Trail
Truck trail had houses on both sides at one time.

katlupe

 

Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole

 

Moving The Solar Panels

Solar Baby's Roof Racks
Preparing the roof for the solar panels.

Moving the solar panels to the barn roof was a big job for my husband. There was much involved with accomplishing this feat. This didn’t take place until 2009, but the years before, he was trying to put this one objective in place. First he dug a room under our porch connected to the root cellar. This room would eventually house the water heater and pressurized water tank and pump. The wires coming from the barn, underground, would come through this room to the circuit breaker box, batteries, charge controller and inverter. The plan was in the future to move the batteries downstairs to the vented battery box which is in an area behind the root cellar. Digging out this room took more than a year by hand. No equipment except manual tools, a ladder and manpower. The huge rocks that were underground had to be carried up a ladder and out, one by one. Some were huge! He carried them out to the backyard and built a very large raised bed for the garden. A lot of hard work for sure!

Foundation work
Making a spot for the batteries.

Are you wondering why moving the solar panels to the barn roof took so long? Winter is why. During the winters the work would halt. Here in NY state we get a lot of cold weather and snow. Our house is in what is called a snow pocket. That means we get even more snow than the surrounding local area and it usually sticks around longer too. Winter is hard here at Peaceful Forest, heating and cooking with wood means a lot of work. Hauling water into the house daily and out to the horses. Bringing in at least two loads of hay a month and caring for the horses, along with a long list of other daily chores around here.

Winter at Solar Baby
Winter happened!

In the middle of digging out this room downstairs my husband discovered the foundation wall on the house needed to be rebuilt………oh no! That took a bit of money, time, and hard work. He replaced the stone foundation on that wall with cinder blocks and built a sliding door connecting the two rooms. I am not positive of the time frame on this, but I know it was before 2009, he had to work on the roof too. Funds were limited and the upstairs had leaked ever since the tornado in 2000. Six trees had fallen on the house and ruined the rain cap on the chimney, as well as some damage to the peak that caused the leaks. We were tired of all the pots to collect the rainwater every time it rained. While doing the roof work on that part of the house, he discovered rotten boards on the back half of the kitchen roof. So that had to be replaced as well.

Solar Baby Installing Solar Panels
On Top!

Some of this work is still being worked on. Some is just ongoing due to living in an old house. Like all people, we had other things in our life that took precedence over our work here. Mostly involving our families, our three grown kids and two sets of elderly parents. We kept buying the materials, components and other items needed to finish the job of moving the solar panels to the barn roof. Paying as we go, without taking out a loan to do so, makes our pay off on this project immediate. Sacrificing to save money, such as living with no vehicle in a rural location for over nine months was not easy, believe me. The hardest by far for me, was living without any refrigeration for more than six years. Yes, it was hard to do while we were doing it, but well worth it in the long run.

 

Solar Baby Panels
Solar Panel on the roof!

Finally panels are installed on top of the barn roof! It was quite an undertaking for someone to do this with no help. Having to carry the panels up the ladder along with whatever tools were needed. Sometimes I held the ladder. I could not imagine doing this job myself. My husband, Larry, will force himself to do any job no matter how intimidating it may be. Especially if it is standing in his way of moving on. This was an important job that needed to be finished. He did it. Little by little over time, but he got those panels on the roof pretty quickly once he started. I wouldn’t recommend doing a job like this on your own, alone. It would have been nice to have help, but we had no one to ask.

Barn Roof with Panel
Solar Panels in the sun

Larry made a little wood frame that was tied to a tree behind the barn. That is what he held onto when getting on the roof. I was as nervous as could be the whole time. He kept assuring me it was secure, but I figure he was just saying that so I would be quiet and not worry so much. The first thing that had to be done was to attach the roof racks to the barn roof. He put up more than we needed at this time with the future additional panels in mind. He had to be careful screwing the racks into the roof so that it didn’t create leaks in the roof. As far as I know, it did not.

solar panels on barn roof
In Place

Once the racks were in place, it was time to start adding the panels. These panels were bought at various times. The only two that were the same size were the last two we had purchased from the altE Store (an online alternative energy store). The other three were bought as single panels from time to time whenever we could afford one. Back then, panels were a lot more money than they are presently. Two of them were bought on eBay. All of our equipment has been purchased online. It is much easier for us and we can usually get exactly what we want. Well almost……..but that is a future post.

Living in the Forest
The forest surrounds us

As each panel is brought up on the roof it has to be connected with MC4 connectors in the back then bolted in. Then they are set in place on the rack. So Larry had to spend some time up there. Now they are all in place and ready to generate more power. He spent a lot of time studying the pattern of the sun during all seasons, to find the right spot for the panels. It paid off. We do have some shading due to the large trees across the road. But that is what we have and we have to live with it. If you are in a more open spot, you would get more power coming in. Several times over the years, that forest has been logged, but sadly they never took down the trees closest to the road which is the ones shading our panels. I figure one of these days some of those trees may just fall over on their own. It is the price of living in the forest and I wouldn’t want to give that up.

 

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Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole
All Photographs Copyright © 2017 Kathleen G. Lupole