Thursday, July 2, 2015

Another Crack at a Solar Shower - Using a Pesticide Sprayer as a Pressurized Shower.

It's getting hot and humid occasionally here now that we approach Canada Day.  I started to crave even the old bag solar shower I first used while we were still in the yurts.
Then, as happens so often, I remembered that I had come up with a solution years ago already.
Back when I worked for ProMark-Shankman (now ProMark Window Film and Blinds) I often used a large, black pump sprayer to install window films, and the water would get noticeably warm when the sprayer was left in the sun.
At the time I had a sailboat, and declared that if I ever was heading out into deep water, I would buy one of the pump sprayers to use just for showering.
The remembrance of that idea struck me the other day in the city and so I opted to purchase the cheapest pump sprayer I could find to test my concept out.
The cheapest I could find
It worked well the first sauna - but Kenny and I found that we did have to use the "pesticide" spray attachment, otherwise the water and pressure ran out much too quickly.
Next up, I painted the whole thing black so that it could better absorb the solar energy pelting us.
Thank you Plasti-Dip

All ready to heat up!
Of course, the next two days were overcast, and so last night I put two kettles of hot water into the sprayer and Donna and I both had mini showers in that manner.
I like the convenience, although having a more powerful shower, in the cabin would be even better, I don't see how that's realistically possible yet.
Donna *seemed* to think it was okay, she neither criticized it, nor praised it.  We'll see how much we come to use it in the future.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tripling Our Power Production

The weather lately has been pretty good.  Of course, within the past week we did get another evening with the temperature dipping down to around zero.  That was pretty hard on our SECOND batch of tomato plants.  It's a good thing I don't like tomatoes anyway!

We're down to just one - but it seems to be doing okay.  My sister gave us an upside down tomato planter and so I gave it a try - it must have the advantage of being slightly more frost tolerant in that position.
But I, I will survive - as long as I know how to hang I know I'll be alright!  (You can see the less hardy members of this family on the table in the background.  Hint:  They're brown.)
On one of our sunnier and warmer days, Ryan and Kyle Ranta from Ranta Construction showed up to repeat their previous performance of installing my solar panels.  I purchased six new panels that were rated for 250 watts each.  1500 watts of extra power - exciting to me!  We have been doing well on 690 watts for the past year or two, although in November and December it was challenging and annoying to run the generator every day or two.  I was hoping to be able to reduce this as much as possible.
Tight vertical tolerances!  Note the new panels are actually slightly smaller even though they are more efficient!  Also, you can see that the frames are black, not silver.  Grandpa also pointed out that they are more reflective - perhaps the original glass has faded slightly?

Room for nine more!  (Don't even think about it!)
The addition of the 1500 watts of power brings us up to a total of 2190 watts.  If I did achieve this possible output it would actually be more than my 60 amp charge controller would permit.  I am not going to be obsessing about this theoretical loss of my peak output.  It will almost certainly only occur at times when the batteries are already nearly fully charged and I start using some sort of heavy load.
Oh yeah!  This is only a short time after I threw breaker.  Almost double the highest production we've previously had.  1.2kW coming down :).
Besides, the reason I over supplied the charge controller wasn't to give me tonnes of power during the theoretical summer glut, but to be able to harvest more during the much darker and shorter days of November and December.  The past two days have been overcast and rainy (although not DARK dark), and both days the batteries have managed to get to float by late afternoon, in spite of me doing laundry and pumping water.  Last night we even ran our panini press to make pizza in hot dog buns (which was awesome, by the way.)

So far I'm extremely pleased.  I have seen maximum production of 54 amps the first day of installation when it was sunny outside, and I ran the microwave oven to heat my leftovers.

The REAL test will come in October, November and December as we attempt to diminish our reliance on the noisy, fussy and carbon producing generator.


Donna made the pizza last night.  It was awesome.  Here is how I saw her do it so that you can try for yourself:

She took parchment paper and put some frozen asparagus spears in it and grilled that first.

Then she used a mix of hot dog buns (whole wheat for her, white for Kenny and myself) with sweet chili sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese as the basic pizza.  Then on mine I also got mushrooms, pickled peppers and the asparagus.  She skipped the pickled peppers - her loss!  Just to be clear, the hot dog buns were CLOSED, so they grilled top and bottom and the messy sauce and cheese wasn't directly against the grill.

Using parchment paper on your grill is awesome.  You can just take a sheet that fits under and over your sandwich and that makes cleanup a snap.  It's totally a great idea!  I've previously used it for PB and J sandwiches, as well as grilled cheese.  Next up will be perhaps trying it on chicken breasts or something similar.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Trying Some Apple Trees

One thing it seems our property suffers from is a distinct lack of diversity in trees.  Everywhere we look we see spruce, balsam, tamarack and pine, with the occasional birch or poplar thrown in for a tiny splash of "colour".  We would very much like to see a bit more variety if possible.

At the same time, we also would like to someday see our property begin to produce more food for us to enjoy.

With those things in mind, we decided this spring to see if we could get some apple trees to survive down where the pond had been dredged out.

Apple trees like acidic, well drained soil, and that spot seemed to fit the bill fairly well.  Grandpa and I had worked some compost into that area almost two years ago, so it was probably the best area on the property to have a chance at supporting something different.

We headed down to Vanderwees Garden Centre and looked through their selection.  Of course, the pricing was higher than we would have liked, but they did have two different species that were hardy to zone 2.  A Norkent and a Kerr.  We picked the most vigorous examples of both, along with some specialized additives to help trees to thrive.

While there we also grabbed a couple of vegetables to experiment with my container gardening concept.

Back home I did a bit of research into how to plant these trees before I commenced with digging their holes.  Grandpa dropped by and we went outside to start on the process.  Mummu arrived shortly after to size up the situation, but both her and Grandpa headed home before we actually got the trees settled in.

Kenny and I tried to dig out the holes fairly larger than the root ball.  I removed all the rocks and roots I encountered, and then poured in some fresh soil, along with the other "Myke" supplement.  I carefully and gently set the trees in place, and then mounded up more of our purchased soil around the outside of the root ball.
20L of soil?  No problem!

Making sure she's settled in.
Finally I smoothed out the area around each tree, trying to keep a small depression near the trees and then soaked the ground around them with our watering can.

Making sure they aren't thirsty during their first night in a new home.
Now all we can do is hope for the best!  I'll be sure to post when we see anything significant.

Some seed, some seedlings.
In the meantime, I've also planted up a number of our containers, and we'll see how well that experiment works out.  Donna went beyond helping with the trees and containers by planting a few of the extra zucchinis along the edge of our new "orchard".

Interesting to see where these guys go.