Tag Archives: Baltimore County

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.

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This is a capture of our utility bill basically for the month of June 2016 (June6-July5, 2016)
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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:

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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.

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Electric usage profile for June 2015 and 2016
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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

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

Relax and Tour the Gardens

I took a little time off last Saturday since it was going to be a beautiful day, except for a few sprinkles early morning. I decided to go to one of our local garden experts tour and talk, so I visited Miriam’s Gunpowder Gardens.

This is the first time I have ever been to Miriam’s but I must say it was not only beautiful on the banks of the Gunpowder River, but educational. Miriam is very versed in all manner of flower, shrub, and tree on her property. With over 30,000 plants that is some feat indeed!

One of the great things about taking the free tour of the gardens is the opportunity to ask a lot of questions and learn more about specific plants and gardening techniques. Not to mention, when the tour is over, the opportunity to dig and take some plants home-again absolutely free!

I went to the tour with the idea of grabbing a few bee-friendly plants to enhance our honey production from the hives. There was so much, I ended up walking away with several varieties of bee-friendly plants and trees.

It was a great day and Miriam offers free tours every Saturday-weather permitting- through the summer. The tours start a 9 & 11am with 1 afternoon tour at 1pm.

For more pictures or to ask Miriam a question follow her on Tumblr at:

http://miriamsgunpowdergardens.tumblr.com/

Here is just a 2 minute preview of the gardens from our tour.

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I can’t wait to go back when everything is in bloom….Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Bee-utiful Morning

Finally! Had a nice weather day and some actual time in between planned and unplanned projects to see how my bee hives looked.

My one hive is empty because the bees swarmed last year and found a new home. I took it apart first just to see if I could determine any cause in the housing conditions to make them swarm.

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Left empty over winter since the bees swarmed last year

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Threw away all the existing frames. Don’t want to transfer anything to the new hive.

get any definitive information from the empty box. The pest’s that took up residence may have come in after the swarm, so I can’t really blame it on hive moths, veroa mites or other small critters. I may have inadvertently killed the queen at one stage last year and the bees decided to leave with the new queen they had grown. Who knows?

 

I am throwing away all the “guts” of the hive and will burnish the interior of the hive body with a torch to  be able to use it for my next hive. Hopefully this will kill anything that may have survived after the last bees left.

So, on to the good hive. It has been thriving well. This is the hive I got 11 pounds of honey from last year. They seemed to over-winter well, but I felt I need to take the hive down to see what is actually happening.

20160419_104008 20160419_104023I put a honey box on top a couple of months ago because the weather has been strangely warm-and rainy-so I just wanted to see how it would go. Surprisingly, when I pulled the honey today, it was about half full and the majority of comb was drawn and ready to accept more. This may bode well for this years honey harvest in July. But my main concern today was to check and see that we had a good brood, meaning lots of new bees over the next few days.

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Top Hive Body
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Bottom Hive Body
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Switched Hive body boxes and installed Queen excluder between honey box

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When checking the top box of the two deep hive, plenty of activity and lots of capped cells. So we should start seeing an explosion of bees in the next week! But maybe not….

The lower box was empty! I really was not expecting it to be empty, thought I might at least see some eggs or larvae. I went ahead and switched the two boxes positions (Since bees like to work their way up) and I will check it again next week to see if the queen is laying in the top box now.  I am hoping that will be the case, so just have to wait and see.

I will update when I get into the hive again. For now the hive is back together with the honey box on top—-fingers crossed.

 

Sometimes you just have to pause your plans

This time of year is always exceptionally busy, as it is with most “extreme” gardeners. But when a friend calls and he needs help to build a handicap ramp on his mother’s house, one just has to hit pause and help.

His mother had fallen and displaced her hip. Although she will make a full recovery, it will take time. We never know what the future may hold, so taking the time now to build a handicap ramp may save us time and money in the future.

Ironically, mother’s dog just had a knee replacement surgery and could not do steps either. We were struggling to pick up a 60# dog and carry it down and up the steps 4 times a day, so the ramp could definitely be utilized immediately.

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Catfish Added to Aquaponics System

For the last five years I have fueled my aquaponics entirely with Tilapia Fish, but this year have seriously considered expanding our systems with catfish. Have not as of yet, but probably will before summers end.

Symbi Biological

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After a little bit of a wait, I finally got some catfish to help power the system. They’re really small at about 4 inches. Not sure if we should be calling them kitten fish at this stage. I’ll have to check on that. After the big fish kill from the aerator diaphragm failure, I wasn’t sure how many hybrid carp I had left in both tanks. So to make room for the catfish, I emptied the tank with the least amount of fish “stashing” most of the water from the 500 gallon tank into the rest of the system. Earlier in the day, I noticed the sump tank was low and figured if I clear the swirl filter to lose about 100 gallons, I could isolate the fish tank by closing the valves and use a pump and hose to empty it into the rest of the system saving my…

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Let the sun shine!

Finally, we have the approvals to turn on our solar system from the local utility! Of course the first few days of operation were cloudy, rainy, and generally nasty, but we still managed to average .8-1.0 Kw per hour.

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It is a very small system since we don’t have a lot of roof space facing the southern direction. It will only pull about 3Kw maximum if everything is perfect. But even the small system will have not only a direct impact on our utility bill but we our now having a more positive effect on the environment, reducing our overall carbon footprint.

On the first sunny day when I checked the system, we were getting pretty good-pulling the full 240v and averaging between 2.1 and 2.6 Kw per hour. During the peak of the day, our utility meter was actually spinning backwards. So not only were we generating enough power through the solar panels to run everything we had on, but the utility was giving us credit for the overage-further reducing our electric cost from the utility.

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Overall I am pretty happy with the system so far. Considering that it did not cost us a dime to install and I don’t have to worry about any maintenance or repair for the next 20 years. I am actually looking forward to our next electric bill to see exactly how much of an impact this system will have.

Continued-

2 Months In

Power in the Proof

 

Exciting interview about Baltimore Aquaponics

I have officially been in business as Baltimore Aquaponics for about a year now, although I have been doing business for almost 4 years in the aquaponics industry. As a growing business in the Mid-Atlantic region, I have started to gain the attention of industry leaders. Just recently I was interviewed by The Aquaponic Source, a renowned aquaponic trainer and retailer in Colorado.

A little background: My start came when I got a call from a friend who wished to see an abandoned fish farm that had come on the market. (Being in real estate for 26 years, I had many friends and previous clients which contacted me anytime they wished to see or sell a property.) I didn’t think much about it at the time, but I did go through the process of securing an appointment to view the property. Little did I know that I was going to receive a very solid beginning education into this new-to-me concept of aquaponics, during the tour of the farm.

His education and excitement piqued my interest to further study the concept. In my research I came across Sylvia Bernstein’s book on Aquaponic Gardening: A step-by-step guide for growing fish and plants together. I became enthralled with the process and dove in head first to educating myself on all things aquaponic.

I have since had many conversations with Ms. Bernstein and her help as been invaluable in insuring proper setup and maintaining the mini eco-systems. Since her company was in Colorado, I thought extending her educational reach to the east coast just made sense, so I opened Baltimore Aquaponics to start an educational side to my business.

Teaching aquaponics has been fun and rewarding, watching budding enthusiast’s grow in knowledge and see how their systems evolve. I look forward to future classes as well as growing relationships with former students.

A few months ago, Ms. Bernstein contacted me and said that she would like to do an interview with me about my business that she could post on their website. I was all too excited to comply, since she was such an integral part of my business growth.

Although she has since sold the Aquaponic Source, she is still very involved in the industry. New owners JD and Tawnya Sawyer have been full time aquaponics researchers, educators and farmers since 2009 and have fully dedicated their lives to the development of sustainable food systems for our planet.

You can see the resulting write-up from the interview on their website:

www.theaquaponicsource.com