Yes, Ok, it’s Officially Winter

And it has been for a couple weeks now. When the first killing frost is in the low 20s(F) you know it’s time to start bringing in firewood and get the wood stove ready.

I rarely run my batch-rocket hybrid, and fact is it is still under development. The first “door” was a glass pot lid, but likely was the soda lime or borosilicate which are really not geared for the intense heat of a rocket.

I found out recently that the Visions cookware is actually pryoceram which is good to much higher temps and has greater thermal shock resistance, so I have impressed a shallow visions fry pan into service as my new door.

I also lined the top of the batch box with the ceramic fiber blanket material which allows the fire to heat up more quickly. The other major modification was to rig up a fan to help the exhaust at startup. This has effectively eliminated all smoke in the room which was a major problem only partially shared with my J tube RMH.

We’ve had some pretty high winds that have forced me to do a little more on the roof in terms of fastening everything down, and, of course I was forced to harvest all the tender plants in the garden. i did a vinegar pickle out of much of the pepper crop, and have some drying, as well as some more to slice and pickle.

The sweet potatoes yielded quite well also, although they are really still mostly an experimental crop for me. The biggest problem is to keep the leaves away from the deer and rabbits. As well as they did, I see next summer having many more areas planted, and perhaps some new varieties, although the purple ones are definitely coming back next year.

Even though nights are pretty routinely in the 20s now, the days are often quite nice, with a light sweatshirt or even just a t shirt at times being all that’s necessary. The fish in the garden pond are still out in force, especially when I feed them, but the gold fish pond is frequently iced over now and only barely melts by afternoon, since it has more shade and tends to be colder overall.

The dams will probably need ongoing attention, or at least some backhoe work to reinforce and raise them a bit, or else I will probably be worrying with them in early spring to moderate the flows and keep manageable levels, and there is still quite a lot of tree cutting to do.

I’m debating on whether to continue on with my older model battery chain saw, buy the newer version of the 18 volt model, or go ahead and get the 40 volt one.

My current system works well since I have a charger that uses 12 volts to charge the 18 volt batteries, the 40 volt system will require an inverter.

And to be clear about the issues, inverters are one of  the most troublesome parts of a system. They can blow out in lightning strikes, or just plain self destruct from overloads, failed fuses, or continuous labor. Anything that can bypass the use of an inverter, or really any sort of phase change from production to use of the electricity is worth looking at. Even just storing energy involves loss of a certain amount of production from various “frictions” between the PV, the controller and the battery.

So upgrading to a 40v system really is a big deal requiring an extra set of batteries for the tools and even extra pv panels to provide for the extra energy consumption.




Winter Finally Here?

I’ll believe it when I see it. A month ago I would’ve expected at least one or two nights of killing frosts, but here we are, and one or two nights of a touch of frost on the car, but tomatoes still growing in the garden.

Whether this has anything to do with climate change or is just a quirky temperature swing is tough to say. Maybe as the poles melt and the oceans become bigger, deeper, they will start to shift the axis of the planet and we may be in the sub tropics here in VA–the hot subtropics.

We are definitely in a drought however, and my ram pump is still sending it’s steady trickle of water into the goldfish pond, but heaven only knows how many goldfish survived the heron. I haven’t seen one of my favorites almost all summer, and now I expect I won’t know till spring when they start feeding again just how much damage was done.

The sweet potatoes are still green, and the coldest temps predicted are about 36 for the next week, but even then the temps start going back up, so who knows when a frost might come.

I had planted the sweet potatoes in the garlic bed, and wanted to plant garlic when I dig up the SP but at this rate I won’t have garlic in the ground till december –oh well, such is life. Maybe it’s time to assume that the sweet potatoes won’t actually produce much more at this point and just go ahead with the garlic, and let it get started in this mild weather.

For now though I guess I’ll just sit back and marvel at our good fortune.