Monday, January 31, 2011

Solar, Water, Power! Systems!

Hello, friends, family, comrades,

A lot of people think we live 30 miles from the nearest light post. Or, 25 miles from the nearest newspaper. Even, 45 miles from the closest record player. Some of this is true. Honestly though, we're not even close to as hardcore as some believe. We have power, solar. We have water, collected and carried. We have a functional stove, propane. And believe it or not, we have heat. Passive solar. This has confused people for some time now, so I will try to explain at least a little bit about our current (and future) systems. Water! Current: We have to collect and carry. This one is easy. About once a week, we fill up our jugs of water. We do this at one of the many local wells. No one seems to care. We use about 25-30 gallons a week. How much water do you use? Some people use more than that 25-30 gallons in just one shower. Water conservation is a new concern of ours. It is triggered by the fact that we live in the desert. Some people even water there lawn. I know that these people will go to hell in the future, but I do wish there was an earthly punishment for such blasphemy. The water table is threatened, EVERYWHERE, take measures to cut back. This blog isn't the place for my recommendations for you. If you do have curiosity in such conservation, ask me for my help. I can at least point you in the direction of someone who can help you. These are our jugs. We keep them inside because there they stay warm. They would freeze if we left the outside overnight. Bringing in blocks of ice does nothing to help with our passive solar heating, which I will explain in this blog entry.
Future Water System: We are getting a 2500 gallon cistern to start. Eventually we will have two of these, for a grand total of 5000 gallons. The cistern will look like this:
We are going to surround it with tires, and than bury it with dirt. This will keep it from freezing, or getting to hot in the summer (or in January, seeing as it's been in the 60's more than a few days this wonderful winter month). The water will be collected from our rain. It will fall onto our roof, be carried by gutters, and than filter into our cistern. From there we will filter it three times, and than drink drink drink. As well as bathe, and wash dishes. This will then go into our planters, as "gray water." It will water our plants and then, from there go into our toilet. We will flush with this water that was once used for dishes, twice used to water our plants, and finally used to transport our unmentionables. These unmentionables will be brought into a pretty traditional septic tank. The only difference between our septic tank and probably your septic tank, is that we are going to create a Black Water Drainage Field. This will be for our outdoor landscaping. We will use this black water to water our trees! We will plant trees! Get back to me in five years when I'm doing this. For now, we are dumping our "gray water" from our sink on our baby pinon trees in the yard to help them grow up big and strong.

This is our sink. We take the water in a five gallon bucket and dump in somewhere that looks dry. Almost anywhere looks dry.

This is where we will be putting our (purchased) cistern. After it's up on the platform, we will build tire walls around it to protect it.

Cooking... just like you, well.. possibly more elaborately, actually... I have mentioned this in the past, but it must be unclear. I have a fully functional stove! The only difference between this stove and the one I grew up with, is that it's propane! Except, that's not even true. I had propane gas for a few years of my childhood. We have a small tank. We have to fill it about once every six weeks, and that costs 15 dollars. So, about ten dollars a month. Ten dollars a month!! How much is your gas bill? I know how much mine was in Chicago. And this stove is wonderful. In fact, I've even considered getting another one. Than I'd have 8 burners! Can you imagine! Who knows.

Power Power Power!!!
These are our solar panels! My mom's AWESOME gentleman friend bought us three fifteen watt panels for Christmas. This doubled our power. We already had 42 Watts. Now, with our total of 87 Watts, we can do anything we want, basically. We listen to records, use the computer (not a lot though), watch movies on our portable DVD player, listen to tapes and CD's, use the blender, and have lights on after dark, for just about as long as we want. We've never actually ran our power down as low as we can! It's great. And all this, POWERED BY THE SUN. It's constantly gratifying for me.

So these panels work real hard all day long. When it's sunny they work their best. When it's cloudy, they work sluggishly. Luckily, it's sunny nearly 300 days a year here. The panels run into the batteries. Here are our batteries. They are underground, so they don't get to cold, or too hot. They we also donated to use by our AWESOMEly generous neighbors.
The amount of energy the panels put into the batteries is controlled by a "charge controller." This ensures that the batteries are not over or undercharged. That is in a separate box, next to the batteries. They are kept separate because the charge controller and/or inverter could spark, and cause an explosion. Scary? Not really. The inverter coverts the energy from these boat batteries from DC to AC. AC is what all our normal outlets are. So we can plug anything into our power, because the inverter converts it for us. This is our inverter and our charge controller.


The quickest passive solar heating tutorial ever. You build your house so that it corresponds geographically to your location. You want the most sun possible in the winter, and the least sun coming into your house in the summer. This is why our whole house will have the front face to the south. In the summer, no sun will directly enter the house. It will flood the front hallway though, and that is where we will put the greenhouse. This time of year, in the winter, the sun blasts it's way into our house. This is because it is at it's lowest point. In the summer it will be directly above us, not coming inside. The tires then collect and store the heat, not too differently from our solar batteries. The house is to be buried. This prevents the heat from leaving at night. This will have the reverse effect in the summer. The house will be buried, keeping it cool. The earths natural temperature is somewhere around 58 degrees.

Our house is only halfway buried right now. Though, it is working just fine! We are actually quite surprised by the amount of heat we are getting. It's wonderfully comfortable. Just ask WWII. I've never seen a happier cat. The coldest it gets at night now is about 55 degrees! And once again, utility free. This is solar heating! What a deal. All you need is a sledge hammer, some upper body strength, some stamina, and a lot of motivation.

These passive solar ideas were not ours. Ancient Indians built there homes with these features. It is sad how few houses today are built with Passive Solar heating involved. If they figured it out, why hasn't everyone today?

The Hole.
This is our hole. Don't be scared. Just pretend you are in Thailand. Hop aboard, and squat on down. Do whatever you want. There are no rules. Oh yeah, you are supposed to cover up your hole activity with some dirt when you are done. We're like semi-sophisticated cave men. And how luxurious! We have a view of El Pedernal, a highly spiritual mesa, right from our hole!

That's a good closing, right? Now you can stop asking me "how do you go to the bathroom." And I can stop answering: "just like you!"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

So, to anyone who did not receive this card, I appologize. Here we are, at our best:

We have been busy. Taking it easy. But working as well. The past few weeks have been amazing. We got into our house, as you know, a day before our pronounced 6 Month deadline. We are now happily keeping warm at night, and have a place to keep out the dust! As well as a place to cook some amazing meals. We have been having fun. People ask us what we do. We make some art, play board games, play cards, scrabble of course. We read too many books. Sometime one a day. We write our friends who don't write us back. We take long walks, and the cat comes with us too! We watch movies, listen to music. We do everything any one does, for the most part, but out here, surrounded by no one and with the utmost peace and quiet.

Here are some updates, picture wise:

A tree in our yard... came into bloom?!

A christmas story:
A few weeks ago we got about 4 inches of snow! It was cold for a whole 3 days! It has been in the 50's and 60's everyday since! WHAT A WONDERFUL WONDERLAND, NORTHER NEW MEXICO!

WWII is in heaven (as are we):

We've cooked some AMAZING meals:

Sometimes I feel like it doesn't look like much.. but I know I'm wrong! Eventually, this room will be inside. It's so cool that we could enclose it first, and move in so soon.

We've been building a tire platform. We will put our cistern on this in a few weeks. It will be either a 2500 gallon cistern, or 3200 gallons. We need to get what ever fits best. Either will suffice. In the future we're going to add another cistern too, to have about 5 or 6,000 gallons.

We even had a few friends visit. I made these coffee addicts some coffee cakes!

Hiking around! We went a couple of miles! The cat came the whole way!

We have accumulated an couple cows worth of bones. It is turning into quite the collection.. and we're not even sure what we're doing with them yet...
More to come soon, I'm sure... up next: GETTING THE CISTERN!