Day 10565

Several weeks ago, I reached out to the guy I bought my solar panels from last year, to see if he had any more available. He had sold me a rack of six 10-year-old US-made Siemens 75-Watt panels, which have been working wonderfully on the roof of the bus. I want to have a dozen of the same panel on hand for the barn build. I had seen his ad on craigslist occasionally over the past year, and he had raised his asking price on the panels since I bought them.

Something I really like about craigslist is that if you trust your spidey senses you can meet some really great people. Building a rapport with buyers and sellers can lead to more information about the vehicles or parts you're swapping, or better yet, deals down the road. Gil remembered me and my slightly crazy plan, confided that he'd like to clear out the entire collection of solar panels, and asked how many I'd be interested in. I asked how many he had. After some texting and phone calls, Gil made me an offer I couldn't refuse, to take his remaining solar panels off his hands. I won't write out the price here, but we both walked away very happy, one of us with a trailer full of solar panels, the other with money in his pocket. Thanks again, Gil.

The source of these panels is dubious, but they appear to be panels off of "variable message signs." Based on the damage that some of these panels have (a lot of blunt trauma... like from trees falling on them) I'm guessing these racks are the rejects that were sold at auction. In the pile are, if I counted right, 52 of the Siemens panels in various conditions, and another 8 skinnier 43-watt panels (2 of which are destroyed.) No more than a quarter have some sort of damage, the rest are intact. My new winter project is to clean these up, find out which ones work, and have them available for friends and family wanting to do any kind of solar projects. I think the skinny 43 watt panels would work really well on the cap of a pickup truck camper.

Over Christmas, I stopped into the land and checked on the bus with my dad and Zeke. With the high snowbank, and the depth of the snow, we elected to walk in on foot.

The bus's solar panels, even as steep as they are, had a dusting of snow on them from the morning's storm. I wiped them off with a broom the best I could. Note to self; make sure the panels on a house are somewhat accessible and easy to clean. I ran the generator for a few minutes to drink some gasoline and top up the battery (it's a Honda, and it just runs... it's amazing.) Next time I'm up I'll try to warm the bus's engine block with the generator in order to get it going... we'll see how that goes!

I'll close out this post by leaving you all with this awesome Christmas gift from aunt Zowie.

Day 10557

It's getting cold out, and my endurance on outside projects is waning as a result. This is not my time of year for outside projects, as evidenced by last year's lack of posts in this timeframe. This is when I catch up on reading and planning.

I shared the blog on reddit yesterday, so if you're coming here from there; welcome. One kind redditor recommended taking all the leaves from the pile behind the coop, and using that as bedding in the chicken's run. I moved in a few buckets of leaves today, and it was received very well by the ladies.

Based on his vocal range, the rooster has been named... Roy Orbison. I'm not naming any of the other birds, so I don't get attached to them, and feel bad when my dog (or a hawk, or a coyote, or an owl...) kills them.

This weekend, in the heated upstairs of the parent's barn, I got to work on a small project that I have been gathering pieces for. I really liked the functionality of a dish rack/shelf I had seen online, and want to replicate in the bus, and likely a future home. I liked it enough that I saved the picture to a file on Google Drive for these kinds of things. Here it is;

On Lloyd Kahn's shelter blog a few months ago, Evan Kahn posted a video of how Lloyd washes dishes (it's surprising what you find exciting on the journey to frugalism.) Guess who's kitchen that shelf rack is in? The guy that wrote the book on tiny homes, and small homes, and handmade shelter. It's in his kitchen. Doesn't that make sense? at about 1:30 Lloyd talks about it.

I used the barn's kitchen as a test dummy for my shelf. With no running water out here, this rack wouldn't be used for drying dishes, just for storing them, and freeing up a drawer. I sketched out a drawing and made some estimates, and bought several dozen 2" x 1/2" pine boards, as well as a pair of 8' long 2" x 3/4" maple boards. The maple would form the shape of the shelf, and the pine would make up the dish-rack slats. I cut the slats to shape by bundling them with masking tape, and running them through the table saw. This saved a lot of time!

I glued each slat into position, and kept them snug with the maple rails using the weight of college textbooks (gotta get the value out of these things, they're way overpriced) and clamps.

I had to play with the size of the gap. The plates all sit in between the slat comfortably. I could go with smaller slats when I make another one of these.

The finished product was set upon a couple of lantern crates (these crates are good for just about everything.) I had been using these crates as a way of conveniently bringing a bunch of things up north to the bus, and as a bookshelf. Now I need more of them again.

Day 10541

A warm December day was capitalized on. I'm beat.

I got in touch with someone on craigslist selling some chickens, to give my sole survivor of the Iain & Darcy flock some company for the winter. The small flock for sale included three Rhode Island Reds, a black Australorp, a Barnvelder, a white Ameraucana, and a cool technicolor rooster, who were all hatched in the Spring. We captured the hens pretty quickly, but the rooster was a bit leery of the three humans with a rake and a box. He was ultimately captured by cornering him in the horse stalls, and being body slammed into the wall as he tried to fly away. Once he was held in my arms, he stopped resisting immediately. "Okay humans, you got me." They enjoyed a ride up I93 in a cardboard box and plastic bin.

The seven new chickens were thirsty after their trip. Sophia, the Veteran of multiple dog attacks, is the gray/brown Ameraucana in the lower left.  The rooster is on the top left; he has a bunch of odd colored feathers in his tail. With luck, the rooster will rough up my family's dogs if they get too close to the hens.

I'm hesitant to name them, because they seem to die easily, but I'm thinking the rooster will be named U-P-G-R-A-Y-E-D-D.

So Sophia has coop companions, and my egg-makers won't freeze to death. I wanted them to free range, but the domesticated bird-dogs have proven to be skilled domesticated chicken hunters. The run is a little small for a flock of eight to live in continuously, so I decided to expand it.

I sacrificed money for time, and bought a 100' spool of wire fence. I kicked myself for not bringing one of the spools down from the land! I also picked up a quarter mile of galvanized electric fence wire, ten T-posts, and a new door latch.

I laid out the T-posts in a 30' x 14' box, which would give me some leeway if this takes more material than I thought. I drove the posts into the ground, which wasn't quite frozen yet, using a big scrap piece of steel pipe I had lying around. I spent a few hours unspooling the wire fence, and tying it to T-posts using chunks of twisted wire. I bowed the bottom of the wire fence out, so it would be harder for a wild critter, or my dog, to get in and eat chickens. With the fence all wired in, I snipped a small door in their old run.

Sophia and the rooster were the bold birds who tried out the new run, while the other hens roosted in the early evening. They now have their enclosed coop, a nice roofed three season room, and an open-air run. We will see how easily they can scale the 5' fence (I'm envisioning eight chickens eating all the bugs outside of the wire, 10am, tomorrow) and how exposed they are to air attack from hawks. I have seen a few clever ideas to deter hawks; one was creating a mess of strings above an open air run. Another was making a teepee of thin branches. 

Last weekend, Travis and Gavin came over to keep working on Gavin's Massey Ferguson. When we left off last time, we got it running with a new carburetor, but noticed that the starter wasn't dropping out when the key came back to RUN... so Gavin and I didn't get the right wires on the right terminals when we installed the starter this summer. Travis pulled the carburetor off, we guessed at the 40 year old wires, and got it running properly. We tuned the carburetor by ear, filled the gas tank, and commenced learning what unlabeled lever does what in the cockpit.

With it running reliably, we started in on learning the hydraulic controls. The 3-point hitch arms have a cool float function, but they are slow on the response. Probably because the hydraulic fluid is low; the loader shuddered as we raised it, but everything functioned fine. With the bucket up, we could start driver's training.

We found that the transmission has three gears, high and low range, and a column mounted reverser. With a sharpie, we drew the shift patterns on the dash. Having some familiarity with the 580CK and the 1700's manual transmissions, I stood on the step and gave Gavin driving instructions as we lurched up and down the driveway. Did I mention the power steering lines are blown out? That made things a little more challenging.

On the last remains of our energy, we got the MF20 on the trailer, and brought it up to Gavin's house. We still have a lot of work to do, but the machine is borderline operational.

Next task was "fixing" rust holes on the F150 for inspection. I ground down the rust to bare metal and applied foil tape...

Primed it under a heat lamp...

Another few coats of Krylon white...

And then I found a mostly-empty can of the "Oxford white" for the last coat. Isn't that fender beautiful? I shoved some WaterWeld epoxy into the separating sheetmetal patch I made on the driver's cab corner, too. 

I took it in for inspection this week, and learned that I have a rust hole in my eleven year old's truck frame. It can be fixed, the shop said. 

Designed obsolescence. I read somewhere that cars are only built to last 11 years... and my frame is rotting away at 11 years. I just rolled over 166,000 miles, so the truck has driven, on average, 15,000 miles per year. Which is just above the average of 13,476 miles for an American driver. I would like for the truck to survive above 200,000 miles, but we'll see if the rust returns it to the Earth before it gets there.