ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
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I feel exuberant and uplifted in a way that I can't really explain. I guess listening to Joel Salatin's closing remarks will do that. He does have several speeches on youtube. Here is just one. https://youtu.be/rjYG4vm7MZ4

It was wonderful to see so many people working and learning together. The classes were amazing. I took 15 different classes for all of $25. That is quite a deal. I learned just as much from the attendees as I did from the teachers. I found out why my mushrooms failed to produce. I know how to fix it now. I learned all about rocket mass heaters and cobb. I feel confident enough to try it at home. I learned more about solar energy, geothermal, and solar hot water. I fell in love with a chipper shredder. I got to meet vloggers in person. I am buying licorice root from the co-op to replace my toothbrush because I took an awesome class from Mountain Rose Herbals/Teas. All-in-all I had a great time and reaffirmed that what I do to mitigate my impact on the environment is on track. I am not a crazy person for giving a damn about what happens to the third rock from the sun.

The vendors were pretty good too. I picked up two plants that are hard to find. Also seed for the winter garden. There were two small organic seed growers there. Two plant booths, tool vendors, bee keeping supplies, mushroom spawn sellers, cheese makers, chicken equipment people, essential oils, honey, handspun alpaca, jewelry, grow lights, gutter helmuts, worm castings, etc. The Mother Earth News bookstore was fantastic. Everything you need to homestead. It was probably good I had a very limited budget. I found the discussions I had with other like minded people very fulfilling. So wishing you all great homegrown food, wonderful company and a beautiful day to enjoy them in.

I solemnly swear I am up to no good

KiloWatts-Hours Explained

13 Sep 2017 08:36 pm
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
[personal profile] ursulas_alcove
This is mostly to remind myself. How to use a Kill A Watt meter:
1. Plug your appliance into the meter.
2. Allow it to run for a couple of days or longer. Some folks like 12 hours. Note: Freezers and refridgerators use more power in the summer months.
3. What to do with your reading. We are looking for annual consumption. So a meter that ran for 355 hours, reading 26.24 kWh means (26.24/355)*24 hrs *365 days= 647.5 kWh
Which is what my 1992 GE refridgerator is drawing. The newer model uses 399 kWh for comparison. I could get that number down by replacing the seals or just buy a new one for around $575. Hmmm.

647.5 - 399 = 248.5 kWh annual savings * 10.5¢ per kwh = $26.09 saved annually. Includes both distribution and default service support fees. So $575/26.09 = 22 years to pay for itself. No. I will pass on replacing it. If it was under 10 years, I would probably do it. So a new rubber seal may be more cost effective and should last me another 20 years. Of course, that's unless I go with a DC model connected to a battery bank with PV cells.

It was a good exercise. Thanks to Bill Osuch at the Self Reliant Homestead, http://selfreliantschool.com for the help with the watt meter.

Back to Basics

11 Sep 2017 11:14 pm
ursulas_alcove: My favorite doctor (c is for civilized)
[personal profile] ursulas_alcove
I signed up for a week long summit called Back to Basics, http://backtobasicssummit.com It is half homesteading, half prepping. Some of it doesn't begin to fit our lifestyle while other sessions seem tailor made for us. And yes, I have seen many of the presenters before. Sunday I learned how to make jam with the powdered pectin. I have never used powdered before. Mostly we add currants when we need pectin. But the currants were dug up/moved and are still recovering. I've used the liquid pectin before but not the powdered. It was a bit intimidating because there were no instructions with the pectin. The presentor started with 4 cups blueberries, puréed. Then boil the fruit for a minute, add pectin. Boil for another minute and then add 4 cups of sugar. Bring to a boil for another minute. Use a paperplate to test for sheeting. Spoon jam onto the plate. Place plate into freezer for 30 seconds. Take it out and check for sheeting. Add a knob of butter to keep jam from foaming. She also added a vanilla bean somewhere in there and removed it when ladling out the jam. Pour into hot sterile jars. Process 10 minutes. I need to do this with some mulberries.

Today I got the most out of the bread baking session. I learned where all my mistakes were. I need to knead the dough longer to develop the gluten. To check if its done, use a walnut size chunk and start making a pancake as thin as you can stretch it. If it tears easily, keep working. This is part of why my dough lacks structural integrity. The second part is leaving it to proof too long. Using two fingers, poke the dough. If it springs back, it needs to proof longer. If your poke stays visible, the bread is just right. Generally, my dough when poked, pops and crashes like a soufflé gone cold. So off I went to practise. I used less energy and was done baking much sooner. Great loaf and has structural integrity.

Recipe from Confessions of a French Baker

We've had two days of absolutely clear sky. The pantry was getting a little low. While I was taking inventory, I found a large jar of great northern dried beans. And you know, we've all those tomatoes. Plus we just restocked the molasses. So I got out the solar oven and baked beans. I got a little carried away on the tomatoes and I forgot to add onions, so today I fixed that and made more beans and sauted onions to doctor it up. Not too bad. I made them for the freezer.

Solar Oven

One of the back-to-basics presenters is Paul Munsen. His solar oven (Sun Ovens International) is pretty neat. He also gives a good presentation. He reminded me that I can partially pop the lid, and dehydrate my tomatoes. I also have an alcohol based dye that I do not want anywhere near an open fire, so I've stuck that jar in the solar oven too. Our solar oven is starting to show its age. Its made by a different company, Solavore http://www.solavore.com/contact-us/ I wrote to the company about a replacement cover. We compared the two ovens when visiting Lehman's. Paul's oven is smaller and more portable. Ours is bigger, fitting two pots in it at the same time but it does not travel well. Replacement parts if available, will allow us to work on lowering our electric usage. I really can't afford a new oven. I picked this one up about ten years ago. It took a good tumble in the wind out at Estrella one year. The cover has been damaged ever since. I really didn't want to build one from scratch to replace it.

Another set of presenters today covered how much food to store. Apparently certain religious groups promote this concept and have food calculators to figure out how much extra to store per person. There are plug and play spreadsheets. While I like the concept, we are under too tight of money constraints to buy extra food.

I quite enjoyed the Mississippi farmer who shared ideas/recipes for using all your canned foodstuffs. I think I'd like to try a pressure cooker. Potatoes, corn, meat, all preserve well this way. Despite glass being heavy and breakable, it would be so much easier to grab a few jars for traveling. I have too many allergies to eat out. This would solve a lot of problems. She also covered what to do with aging jellies and freeze drying as well.

I worked on hats today. Orders shipped. But no skeining. I need to get back to winding/skeining tomorrow and let a couple of clients know that their hats are ready. Dyebaths need to be run for Shenandoah Valley Fiber Fest. Too much to do!

It's been an illuminating day

8 Sep 2017 08:34 pm
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
[personal profile] ursulas_alcove
I started doing some energy research. My thought was to get rid of the big fridge and replace it with something more energy efficient. An under-the-counter model could be housed in place of the broken dishwasher. So I went to the nearest appliance center. I picked up a booklet right before they closed. After reading it thoroughly, I found one energy star model and another than runs on DC, which means solar PV and a battery could run it without an inverter. The idea was that my energy savings could pay for the unit. So today we went in to look these things over in person.

Our host was courteous and took us seriously. That was a good start. The models I originally picked out were no longer available. Okay. A comparable model would run $2085 with a stainless door fascia and handle being an extra $380. If we buy by tomorrow at 4 pm, they will pay the sales tax. Yes, you got it, a glorified dorm fridge is $2500. Our host felt a fridge this size would need to be replaced every three years. The bigger units are built for longevity, ie 10 yrs. The small ones are not. When informed we had a twenty year old fridge, he did a bit of a double-take. Our current GE is actually 25 yrs old. He asked if it was a frost-free type. When I said yes, he shut up. He brought us spec sheets on the Sub-Zero model. Mostly, I was interested in the kwh that the fridge uses. It gives me a direct comparison to my existing fridge, which is currently hooked up to an energy meter. The mini fridge was rated at 406 kwh. How to compare -http://ths.gardenweb.com/discussions/2335024/energy-savings-of-new-refigerator-vs-10-year-old-model

I looked up our existing fridge. In its current iteration/model, it runs for $521 at Lowes. It was the most energy efficient fridge you could buy in 1991. It's current energy rating is 382 kwh, more efficient than the high end dorm fridge at 406 kwh. https://www.lowes.com/pd/GE-15-5-cu-ft-Top-Freezer-Refrigerator-White/50260073?cm_mmc=SCE_BINGPLA_ONLY-_-Appliances-_-SosRefrigeration-_-50260073:GE&CAWELAID=&kpid=50260073&CAGPSPN=pla{ifdyn:dyn}&k_clickID=c42e629b-d682-4449-8e5b-1c9d4fa8bcad

Well, I kinda expected the store was high end and catered to the new subdivisions. There is another appliance store that carries a brand called Monogram. They have a nicer model. The produce drawer is bigger. Yes, still high end, about $1700. http://appliances.monogram.com/us/specs/ZIFS240HSS

We also looked over a propane fridge at Lehman's. It costs extra for venting. Can you imagine an unvented burner indoors in winter? Can you say carbon monoxide? It is in the same price range as these high end fridges, roughly $1200 and another $400 for a vent. Vents are required in Canada but not here. Still not satisfied with anything I've seen so far. Sadly, I have not found a DC fridge to run off solar batteries. They do make them. But I want to actually see them. I don't trust pictures. You can't judge workmanship. I haven't even asked where these refridgerators are made. So no solutions, but I have learned a lot. Models older than ten years, savings could range from $50 a year to $200. You can count on $50 for sure based on technology changes in 2007 but measure yours to be more accurate. Also those $38 a year energy cost on the energy tag can be based on diffent numbers. The fridge at the local appliance store assumed 8.8¢ a kwh. The one at Lowes was based on 12¢ a kwh. So no comparison. Sigh.

More bad news. The PA government has not reached a budget argreement with the govenor. Tom Wolf refused to sign the budget because its not balanced. He couldn't veto because they had enough votes to overturn his veto. So it went into effect without signature. The senate is concocting a way to tax fracking but loosen environmental controls. This has accomplished the lowering of the S & P bond status, caused the government to borrow money to keep running, and will hurt Penn State, Temple and Pitt Universities. Part of the state economic plan is to hike my tax on electric and gas this winter. Helluva way to run a railroad. As for my Senior Property Tax Relief, paid for by the PA lottery, kiss it goodbye. Yes, I learned a lot today. Just remember this state is overwhelmingly liberal but the minority figured out how to gerrymander here first. I'm fed up with both sides. Natural gas has all of them in its pocket. #disgusted

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