Monday, July 14, 2008

Energy Independence Week, Day 5

Tuesday, July 8, day 5 of Energy Independence Week

The batteries were down to 12.17 volts this morning, which is about 50% according to this chart from the Battery Book for Your PV Home:

12.60 100%
12.35 75%
12.15 50%
11.95 25%
11.85 discharged

This chart applies to 12v lead-acid batteries which have been sitting without charging or discharging for at least an hour.  I think it was the Skipper that told me even deep-cycle batteries shouldn't be discharged more than halfway, for longest life.  So I really needed to get them charged up.  I was able to get up to 6.5-7.5 amps from my mongrel solar array.  At 5 pm I took advantage of my lack of mounting racks to reposition the best panel facing west.  By 6:45 the batteries were back up to 12.53v.

This battery-based solar electric lashup cost about $750 altogether.  Nominally it's a 194 watt array but the most I've gotten out of it is 92 watts, due to the mismatched panel voltages. 

For breakfast I cooked up a cheese and lamb's quarters omelette on the woodgas camp stove.  I used pine lumber chunks about 1 inch big for fuel, kindled with fire starting cubes.  I only filled the stove halfway but that was still too much fuel.  Lunch was another peanut butter sandwich.  For dinner I reheated leftovers in the solar oven, along with some hot water for dishes.  The water supply was down to about 60 gallons at the end of the day, and the cooler was at 46 degrees, up about 1.

I've continued going down to the river in the evening for a dip. The first couple days it was like 85 degrees and the water was clear. The third day it was like 80 degrees and the water had some bits of algae in it. Today it was like 69 degrees and the water had algae, pine needles, and a small dead fish. Maybe the Lord is trying to toughen me up - maybe by Thanksgiving I'm supposed to cannonball through a half-inch of ice with a hearty rabble yell.

Ms. Flora stopped by in the evening to apply compost tea to the hazel seedlings and the potted bur oaks (I believe this is to promote root growth.)

You can see I'm having to regularly keep an eye on the water in the tank, the ice in the cooler, and the juice in the batteries.  I think this is good for putting you in touch with the general idea of thrift and conservation.  When you're plugged in, you don't see the coal mine or the aquifer being emptied, so what the heck, leave the sprinkler and the ceiling fan on.

As I wasn't messing with my infrastructure so much I had time during the day to work on weeding the potato patches.  I mentioned before how we ended up with the worst of both worlds there.  As I understand it, there are two basic approaches to weed control in gardens:  digging them out with a hoe, or smothering them with mulch.  We went with mulch, but the wheat straw I used was full of seeds which came up, so now I have to weed as well.

Potatoes have to be kept in the dark as the grow, or so I am told, they will become green and poisonous.  Again this can be done two ways, by hilling up dirt over them or adding more mulch.  After I get done weeding I have to add more mulch (Ms. Flora strongly advises me.)

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