Category Archives: All posts

All post’s, no matter the main category, listed from most recent to oldest

2016-Time to end!

I have not written anything in several weeks and I truly have missed being able to sit down even a few minutes and put together some of the happenings of our little suburban homestead. But I must say, I cannot wait for 2016 to be over. This has been an atrocious year from small hurdles to jump to major life tragedies.

The first 7 months of the year went by far to quickly with many small events that seem to creep up and throw off anyone’s calendar. Everything that happened which annoyed and commanded time from me through July pale in comparison to the way August of 2016 started out.

August 1st brought a new dawn into how we will live our family life. 10:30 pm; answering the phone to a call that every parent fears, but few have to realize: our 30 year old son had been involved in an accident at home. Doesn’t seem that bad, he was at home, not in a car, not working on the tractor, just home cleaning the bathroom.

One would expect that a fall in the bathroom would produce a head wound, or at worse a concussion. But being home alone during a fall, which caused unconsciousness and a brain hemorrhage proved to be fatal. The Medical personal on the scene could not revive him and he was pronounced dead.

Thirty years old with a wife, and 3 children, the youngest just celebrating her 1st birthday a little more than a month earlier. The trauma and pain to the family has been horrendous.

Getting all the brothers and sisters to town turned out to be an event in itself, but it was really good to see the entire family together, which has not occurred in several years. An event such as this truly changes the dynamic of the family and helps to reset priorities, as we have viewed them in the past.

The rest of August has been spending time with family and helping our daughter-in-law ready the house to be put on the market, which did finally happen today. Making all the small repairs, painting the entire house, cleaning up the lawn and garden beds, took far longer than I had hoped but I do not move as fast as I once did.

I might mention that coming home from the funeral as I pulled up in front of my house the transmission went out of my truck. Not that it even compares, but it just shows how I can’t get a breath between circumstances happening. I did put in the new transmission, but now I have to replace both catalytic converters.

Through it all I have kept peace within myself, knowing that my son was saved and a part of the body of Christ. He will live on through glory and we will re-unite in His Kingdom.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who  have been called according to his purpose.

For myself:

Joshua 1:9 (NIV) Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”               

Matthew 5:4 (NIV) Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Although I find comfort in my Faith and the loving arms of my Savior, I am very ready for this year to be done!

                     

Advertisements

The Power is in the Proof

Since we have had our solar installed, I have written an update each month so that anyone even thinking about going solar can have the facts in hand. This month is no different and actually I am pretty impressed with the numbers considering the amount of 90+ degree days we have had.

I am really no going to say much as I will just post pictures of my bills and you can decide for yourself.

July16BGE
This is a capture of our utility bill basically for the month of June 2016 (June6-July5, 2016)
SungevityJuly15BillCloseup
Our Solar Usage bill for month of June 2016 (June 1- June 30, 2016)

 

As you can see our Utility Bill total was $165.17, which added to the $45.93 from the solar bill made our total utility cost just $211.10. Now take a look at last years utility bill:

July15BGE

There is about an $85 difference from last year, but ok I know your thinking, ” well, there were less Kw used this year than last.” Ok, let’s take a look.

July16UsageBGE
Electric usage profile for June 2015 and 2016
July15Sungevity
Solar usage profile for June 2016. 496.03 Kw generated.

So June 2016 Kw total (Utility and Solar) :1323Kw. Wow, yes that is less than the 1643 from July 2015 exactly 320.  Yes we are being proactive in reducing our energy usage.

Lets look deeper:

Taking a look at ONLY Kw usage:

1323 Kw used total (utility & solar) if we paid utility (.099 Kw) we would have paid $130.98

But we only paid $120.28-so Kw for Kw, Dollar for Dollar-we still saved over $10 this month. Some months will be better than others but a savings of $120+ a year is worth it to me.

As I had stated in an earlier post, this is a very small system due to the lack of roof space we have, but in the long run:

  1. We put no money out of pocket up front
  2. We paid nothing for installation, permits etc
  3. All maintenance, repairs, and/or replacements are free during the life of the contract (20 yrs-and the contract is transferrable to new owners if we would ever sell) Not a penny comes from me!
  4. We can monitor production/usage on our own website hourly if we choose.
  5. Company monitors system 24/7 and sends someone to repair/replace any issues without us lifting a finger.
  6. We are making a significant impact on the environment by reducing our dependence on grid energy.

This has just been a great experience so far and I am so happy with the outcomes and returns from our system.

I would recommend anyone even thinking about solar to at least get a free, no obligation consultation. It is all handled by email and phone until you make a decision to have it installed.

Get you free consultation here:

Solar.savegreengoinggreen.net

Disclaimer: Although I am excited about our solar install, I do receive a referral bonus from anyone that submits a free consultation through this website and moves forward to install. BUT the good news is YOU CAN TOO! Be sure to check out the Solar Rewards Program so you can claim a $250 bonus with each and every referral-NO LIMIT!

p.s.-If you are not ready to go solar, but want to still make a difference on the environment, check out how you can have a great impact here:

www.SaveGreenGoingGreen.net

 

 

Garden Growth-Good and Bad 2016

Watering, weeding, and digging, but very little close to harvesting. This year has been very strange. I think the spring weather, almost constant rain, getting the garden out later than normal, and now near drought conditions are causing strange growth patterns in our garden.

I actually took time to walk around our 1/5 acre homestead the other day just to survey how all the plants and trees were doing. I was a little surprised at the lack of growth from some plants that usually do very well, while their is an abundance of growth from other plantings.

On the good side-Our corn is ridiculous! I planted it next to one of our sheds and it has grown taller than our 10′ high shed! Not only that, but most years we only get 1 ear per stalk, most of the stalks this year are giving us two!

20160724_103936

20160717_090435Most of the melons are doing very well-trying to take over the garden even when I built “towers” for them this year.

This is the second year for my Jerusalem artichokes and they are feeling very happy as well.

20160717_090410

 

 

 

Many of my fruit trees-in particular the pears- which gave us an abundance of fruit last year, has not even flowered this year. The trees seem full, healthy and happy, but no fruit.  The apple trees, right next to the pear trees are bearing much this year-I had to thin out the fruit growth  there was so much.

I think everything else is pretty much on track with our late planting. Have some nice green tomatoes, green beans are vining well, all the herbs and other plants seem to be doing their job. My only real concern is the pepper plants.

Our pepper plants are usually very prolific. We get so many peppers that I cut the amount that I normally plant down to just 8. They are still growing, but they are much farther behind than other plants. They don’t seem unhappy, just slow growing. I will just keep an eye on them  and if they don’t spring up I may go ahead and plant more, or I guess if they don’t produce, I can put some in the greenhouse aquaponics for late season or winter.

Here are some pictures of our garden beds around our yard. Enjoy!

20160717_091033 20160717_091020 20160717_090951 20160717_090946 20160717_090916 20160717_090823 20160717_090738 20160717_090711 20160717_090452 20160717_090423 20160717_090338

 

Water Retention is just “Swale”

On our little 5th acre suburban homestead in the Mid-Atlantic Region, there is always one area of concern from mid-June through late August…..Water.

We don’t tend to get a lot of rain during these months and when it does rain, it is a quick storm or sudden downpour. The problem with the rains we do get is it runs off very quickly instead of soaking through for a deep root watering of all our plants.

So, this year I decided to try and build a water retention ditch through part of our back yard. Most of our ground is very level, so I don’t know if you could call this a true swale, but it is built of the swale concept.

I started by digging a trough basically about 18″ deep and made sure that the bottom grade of the ditch was perfectly level from one end to the other. Getting the base level means that although the trough is anywhere from 12″ to 18″ deep, the water will still remain evenly throughout ditch.

After the ditch was dug and I insured it would hold water evenly, I put a layer of landscape fabric before adding fill. The fill is done with old logs and tree trunks, which will help retain the moisture of every rain.

Then to top it off is a “path” of large rock. The rock will allow easy water flow, yet adds the appearance of only being a path through the mulch of garden beds.

Sorry I did not get pictures of the area when I first started, but here are the pics of the project and finished work.

20160622_195136 20160622_195145 20160622_195205 20160622_195236 20160622_195239 20160623_095400 20160623_095408 20160623_100336 20160623_100340 20160623_122701 20160623_122707 20160627_142644 20160627_142655 20160627_142704 20160628_141014 20160628_141023 20160704_125709 20160704_125723 20160710_153328

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The swale runs between some fruit trees and in the middle of a larger “food forest” which I am hoping that it will keep enough water dispersed throughout during the dryer season.

The berm built on the side from the dirt dug from the trench will serve as extra planting space. Have not decided exactly what I will plant yet, but I will have it finished up in the next few days.

My plan is to add two or three more if this does exactly what I am hoping it will do. Any way I can keep more water on the property is a great advantage to the amount of watering we have add to do these past few years.

2016 Honey Flow

Its that time again. Around July 4 seems to be the perfect time to harvest our honey from the hive. I had high hopes this year, as this was the second year that this hive would give us honey, but once getting into it, I was a little let down.

Last year (2015)we were able to get about 11 pounds of honey. Not a fantastic harvest, but still very excited about our first year. This year I truly expected that we would be able to harvest two to three times that amount, as the hive seemed very strong and thriving.

I guess sometime in the spring, we must have had a swarm from this hive. When I opened it up, the bee population seemed very low. Unfortunately, I had my wife taking pictures while I explored the hive and none of those pictures came out for some reason.

In the brood boxes, I found lots of empty cells, drone and female, along with a good amount of brood. There was a layer of pollen and honey, so the house bees seem to be keeping up on their duties. I did not find any queen cells, so the hive is not “thinking” about a new queen. I am guessing that this queen is starting to fail (I did not re-queen in 2015) so I am going to get a new queen and make that change now, so there will be plenty of time to assimilate and grow winter stores.

Back to the honey. I did get almost the same amount of honey this year as I did in 2015, so I guess I can’t complain too much. I will say the honey this year was much darker, so they must have got nectar from a different source than last year. I will be adding 2 more hives in the spring, so I look forward to the coming years of beekeeping.

Please enjoy some of the pictures from our day.

20160630_103529 20160630_101911

 

 

 

 

 

 

20160630_100639 20160630_100645

 

 

 

 

 

 

20160630_100748 20160630_100752

 

 

 

 

 

 

20160630_104426 20160630_104443

 

 

 

 

 

 

20160630_104934 20160630_104920

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1564 0704 077

My thoughts and the LGBT Community Orlando

I have laid awake these last few nights thinking of the horrors that occurred over this past weekend in Orlando. Normally, I would never post on any subject that is so in the current media, but I have felt a strong compelling to write down my thoughts.

I don’t believe I could ever say anything that would subside the sadness, fear, and anger that accompanies such a horrific event. For those who survived, they will forever be plagued with the sights that can never be unseen and the memories of their personal struggle to survive. My fervent prayers are with them, that they may, in time, be able to find some peace and turn those memories into something more positive for humanity.

As a Christian, I may not agree with the chosen lifestyle, but as a follower of Christ’ teachings, I will not judge those that choose not to believe as I. I firmly believe in Matthew 7: 1-5:

 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

It is not my job to judge, but to love.

I Corinthians 13:13

13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. “

In love, I am committed to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

1 Thessalonians 2:8

so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.

Although I may not know anyone personally involved in the event, I pray for them a silent prayer for strength and courage to move forward and do good. I pray that they may turn to Christ as their lighthouse in this incredulous turmoil.

I Corinthians 15:1-4

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,

2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

Acts 16:31

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.”

My prayers are with all those who were involved, along with family members, friends,  and locals who may have witnessed.

Project expansion-Barrel Garden & Aquaponics

A few days ago I wrote about many of the projects I had been working on since it was almost impossible to get outside between raindrops to plant the garden.

I talked about the potato barrel project, which since first installing, I have expanded quite a bit since I had so many extra barrels. (Some already cut for AP tanks) The potatoes seem very happy in the new “digs” so I thought other plants might feel comfortable as well. I have not decided what else I am going to plant yet-other than a couple of barrels of red potatoes-but I have no doubt that my wife will soon let me know what I am thinking about.

20160526_155523 20160526_155530 20160526_161346 20160526_161354 20160526_161405 20160526_161417

Another project I had been putting off but really needed done was to paint all of my fish tanks and grow beds in the greenhouse.  I have had a real issue with algae, and although I have kept Plecco’s (algae eaters) in the tanks, the issue is still out of control.

So I finally took the time to paint the exteriors of all my tanks and grow beds flat black. This will keep the sunlight from penetrating, thus reducing my algae growth. I also bought black bucket lids to put on to20160512_171615 20160512_171622p of my swirl filters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20160512_171400 20160512_171548 20160512_171610 20160526_155553 20160526_155607

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20160526_155544

Hopefully this solves my issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Powered by the sun-almost 2 months in

Solar.SaveGreenGoingGreen.netIt has been almost 2 months since we had the solar panels installed. We have a website to monitor the production on a daily basis and I must say I am pretty happy with the first few weeks-even with all the cloudiness and rain.

In April, which we were only live about 20 days and most of those days were deluged with rain, we were still able to produce 291.5 kw of energy through the solar panel. I would say this is not too shabby of a start.

So far in May (Through May 28 2016) we have produced 310.69 Kw. Still a little low, but as you can see from the graph below, we have still had a lot of clouds and rain.

May282016solar

Our highest day production was 22.07 KW on May 16th. If we could produce 20 Kw a day for an entire month (600Kw for 30 days) This would run my greenhouse without issue, never having to pull extra energy from the grid.

Comparatively, my electric bill from the local utility (Baltimore Gas & Electric, BGE) for LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME due June 1, 2015 was a total od $280. I received my bill this year and it was for $195-a total reduction of $85.

But lets look at Kw usage from our utility bill. (Does not include solar production)

May 2015-934 Kw Average temp 57 degrees

May 2016-538 Kw Average temp 56 degrees

This is a reduction of 396 Kw from last year overall, but since I cannot know the exact days to calculate to compare apples to apples, meaning I do not know the exact reading dates that are accounted for in billing. If I did, I could calculate how much energy I produced in solar for the exact same days-giving me a very good picture of how we are doing.

I will be tracking our progress as I want to be able to have accurate information for anyone who may be thinking about going solar.

For more information on how easy and inexpensive it is to go solar please visit:

Solar.SaveGreenGoingGreen.net

 

 

Some Chicken Evolution on the suburban homestead

We started just a few weeks ago with these:

20160411_085743

 

Which in just about 7 weeks turned into these (Cornish Rock):

20160527_125337

But everything on the suburban homestead has a purpose, so two days ago they became these:

20160527_132347 20160527_203915

And last night was a neighborhood barbeque!

20160528_202521
The dark meat toward the left is part of a deer roast from this past years trip to the cabin.

20160528_202527

From 4 hens in just 7 weeks after processing, we had a full 20 pounds of chicken meat! We still have the carcasses to turn into broth which we will can/freeze for future needs.

As an added  note, I will have to say that I am very proud of my wife who wanted to learn to process the chicken and did all 4 chickens herself. Good Job!

We are still fighting our county to allow chickens-if you would like to keep up with our struggle please check out our facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/chickenrevolution/

 

 

 

 

Recent Projects…Like I don’t have enough to do!

Getting the garden in place this year has been a real chore with the deluge of rain we have been getting in the Mid-Atlantic Region.  So I have been filling my time, in between raindrops, doing a few little projects that needed done.

First we moved the rabbits out of the greenhouse into their own new digs. The housing use to belong to our chickens, but since we no longer can have them on our property (Thank you Baltimore County), it seemed like a great place to house our rabbits. I just needed to add a small rabbit condo to the mix.

We always have extra wood laying around and in this case I had an old antique secretary desk that was beyond repair. This made for the perfect base and 2 floors for the new rabbit condo. All I really had to do was add a third level (we only have two female rabbits housed here) and some ramps for them to climb.

20160507_083236 20160507_083244 20160507_083250 20160507_083300 20160507_083351

Overall I think it turned out pretty good for just a few hours work.

Next I had to take the new chickens-our 6 meat birds-and get them out of the house. They were getting too big too quick for the extra large dog cage we were using. We are going to dispatch them next weekend, so I only needed a couple more weeks. I moved them into the greenhouse where the rabbits were to keep them out of sight of our 1 problematic neighbor.

20160513_164109 20160513_164230They seem happier in the expanded space, I just hope no one tells them about our weekend plans!

Another project I have been wanting to do was make some dedicated space for our potato crop. We have done ok with potatoes the last few years but I am horrible about adding to the hills as they grow, thus reducing my harvest.

This year I decided to do as a friend of mine did last year: grow my potatoes in barrels! I cut three barrels in half, drilled in some drainage holes, and set them along the fence row where they will get plenty of sun all day.

20160505_163537 20160505_163544 20160505_163556 20160505_164308 20160505_165028 20160505_165034 20160507_114152

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20160505_165046
If you do this be sure to clean up all the little curly plastic or mama gets upset!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once having the barrels set, I mixed some our local dirt (clay), compost, and perlite to formulate a good bedding mix for the new potatoes. I scooped this into each barrel and leveled it at about 4 inches deep. This seemed a good starting point with potatoes.

20160507_114236 20160507_114708

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did this a few days ago and I just looked into the barrels this morning and saw several of the potatoes growing. When they get to about 6-8 inches I will add more dirt, burying the plants to about 4 inches again. I have already made up an extra barrel of the dirt mix and have it standing by so hopefully I will add more each week to realize a larger potato crop.

My friend that showed me this method got a great yield from his 1 barrel last year so I am real excited to see how this does for me.

This is just a few of the projects I have done over this rainy period. The last few days, there have been enough dry spells to get the garden in, so I will have several updates in the coming days.