Besides describing in good and useful detail how to build an ad hoc solar power system (Joel created his for just $350), it describes how not to do it (e.g. don’t do it like Joel did with the first system he scrounged together). It also shows larger, more professional systems created by five of his desert-rat neighbors.
As you may know, Joel and I were desert neighbors for a while. During that time, I helped redesign one badly built power system (with tons of help from people smarter and more experienced than I) and I accompanied Joel through the beginnings of his own first experiments in solar power.
So I know that this book is accurate and lucid in what it describes. If you have a weekend place, a retreat-on-a-budget location, an RV that you want to retrofit for solar — or anything else that might use a small, DIY solar power setup — Joel’s little book could help.
Joel is careful not to call himself any sort of expert. But he’s definitely been there and done that.
Better yet, the book is well-written, well-organized — and often very funny. If you like the pithy, irreverent way Joel writes on his blog, you’ll enjoy the book even if (like me now) you live in a place where people have to look “sun” up on Wikipedia to remind ourselves that it’s that big yellow blob that other lucky people have in their sky.
The first rule of living on the edge is this: You’re in charge. You’re responsible. If something goes wrong, nobody’s going to come and fix it for you. There’s no point grumbling and waiting for the guy with the wrench, because the guy with the wrench is you.
That brings things to a very basic and vital level. I used to be consumed with worry over things like who was undermining me at the office, or how badly a customer was going to screw me on draft revisions, or how to deal with the next-door neighbor who played his piano at 3 AM and drove my wife crazy. Seriously, I used to brood over things like that. Now I wonder if the chickens will lay enough eggs tomorrow. I worry about the state of my stovepipe. Will the water freeze? Will coyotes take my kitten? Will I have enough firewood?
There are two major differences between the old worries and the new ones. First, the new set of worries are worth worrying about. Those are things that can actually do harm to me and mine. Second, they’re all things I can do something about. I can get more chickens, or kill or separate the one that’s upsetting the others. I can clean the damn stovepipe more often, insulate the pipes more heavily, go out and cut more firewood. Zoe’s pretty much on her own – though she’s napping happily right next to me as I write this.
Those old quotidian worries used to make me very unhappy, because I was always dependent on other people for their solution and I felt helpless against them. Now I’ve got worries about things that can actually hurt me, but they don’t make my unhappy because I can get off my ass and do something about them any time I need to.
… where crab is so plentiful people have to give away their surplus.
Thank you, furrydoc!
I haven’t opened and eaten a whole crab since I was 19. And that was on a beach in San Francisco, where the crab was accompanied by large torn chunks of French bread and I was accompanied by … a tall, dark stranger.
Might not have the ambiance this time and my dinner companions will all be short, four-legged and hairy. But this’ll be a delicious adventure.
So. The county recently had a sale on properties foreclosed for non-payment of taxes.
I’ve never paid attention to such things before, considering any form of tax sale or asset-forfeiture sale to be out of moral bounds.
This time somebody pointed out that two of the parcels up for sale were hilltop acreages near the end of winding dirt roads. Not far from this neighborhood in miles, but a world away in possibilities.
I went so far as to look them up online and do some sighing over them. Of course I didn’t consider bidding. But I admit that was mostly because a) I didn’t have the money and b) I didn’t have time to investigate things like … oh, whether angry, heavily armed owners might still be squatting on them or whether it would cost a zillion bucks just to put in a septic system. You know, the technicalities. Not c) this just wouldn’t be right.
Had I had means to take care of a) and b), I’d have at least been tempted to ignore c) for the sake of d) great, cheap land. Probably wouldn’t have. But I admit to having moments of not feeling like a moral giant.
There’ll be another sale of tax-foreclosed properties next year (assuming the Maya don’t fool us all by turning out to be right).
So … would buying one tax-foreclosed parcel of land be like “being just a little bit pregnant,” or what?
And if you had the chance to pick up five acres of primo forest land, complete with spectacular view, for, say, $5,000 or $10,000 … would you be tempted? Especially if you were somebody who didn’t have money to burn?
Over the weekend I canned eight pints of this and 5-1/2 pints of that. And from start to (endless) cleanup, it took about half the weekend.
The whole time I kept wondering, “How did Grandma do it?”
My grandmother (like yours, most likely) canned hundreds of pints and quarts of … everything. It was part of the routine of feeding an enormous family. And she did it without help. No one but Grandma was allowed in Grandma’s kitchen. (Which was unfortunate, because not only did she work herself to death; her daughters grew up with minimal kitchen skills. But that’s another story.)
I recall one time, after Grandma had been canning all day, my grandfather showed up from work with 100 pounds — 100 pounds — of overripe tomatoes he’d gotten a deal on. Grandma turned right around and canned the whole lot that evening.
I look at my 13-1/2 pathetic pints and am abashed.
I know plenty of modern people can at a Grandma pace. Just this week I read a comment online from a man who said he’d put up 250 quarts of applesauce this fall — making him either a prodigy or a liar in my book. I couldn’t do that if I used every pot in the house, installed an extra stove, and took enough amphetamines to stay up for two weeks running.
We had a whomp of a storm blow through here yesterday. Oh, no Sandy or Katrina. Not even a Great Gale of Ought Seven. But a pretty good sample of winter weather.
Real estate signs and garbage cans cartwheeled through the streets. The smaller rivers all overflowed, leaving farmhouses sitting on grassy islands. Lots of limbs went flying. And two big pieces of sheet metal blew off my neighbor’s wood pile and into my yard while I was gathering the last of the apples, which the winds had kindly harvested for me.
Those airborne guillotine blades didn’t even come close to me, luckily. But the tremendous clatter and bang definitely made me jump.
The storm delivered another 20 or 25 pounds of apples (all the ones that had been too high or too awkwardly placed for me to get last month). These are all damaged — bird-pecked and cracked or bruised from smacking the earth. But I figure even after cutting away the bad stuff, I’ve got at least 16 pounds of seriously ripe apples.
And that’s enough for more cider!
I don’t have a press. And though both a Victorio food strainer and a Norpro peeler-slicer-corer are on their way from Amazon (thanks to a pair of lovely, so far unknown, people who visited my wish list), if they don’t arrive today this is going to be a hand-processing job. Those apples aren’t in good enough shape to last long. (And yes, I do know you don’t need to peel cider apples; advice varies on coring.)
So I looked up how to make cider without a press. Naturally the ‘Net is full of advice. And naturally all of it’s either contradictory or at least all over the place.
And that’s even before you get to the actual squeezing-the-juice-out part. Ugh. It all sounds like a terrible mess — though I admit I rather like the picture of whaling away at ripe apples with a piece of structural lumber — as long as I’m wearing a space suit.
So … I’m asking the Living Freedom Commentariat. You’ve done this before. What works best for you?
In much more serious storm news, new commentor “art w,” another who just emerged from Sandy’s darkness, left this comment yesterday. I thought it needed to be brought forward since it contains serious food for thought on the matter of preps vs flooding (bolded by me). (I did some very “lite” editing.)
Just emerging from the effects of Sandy on the flooded south shore of Long Island, NY. Approximately 13 days — no electric, no cable for internet, no heat. Here the tidal surge and the wind effect on trees with leaves and evergreens further enhanced the damages to homes and power.
Thankfully there was no loss of life in my area but really extensive damage and losses in the nearby Rockaway peninsula. The storm surge was unprecedented in the area and ran through the streets invading homes through driveways and garages, flooding low areas of homes and basements, many of which had never been flooded before.
Imagine 4 to 5 feet of water in the streets. I believe cable and electric were turned off at the start of storm. Most cars left in the street were totaled by the salt water surge.
Some conclusions: Nothing could have prevented the ocean surge or protected from it. Items of preparation helped to survive in the 1800′s atmosphere. Campstoves, kerosene lamps, and wood fires for cooking helped keep morale up. Frozen 2-litre bottles of water kept food ok in coolers. But after nearly two weeks most fuel supplies were nearly gone. One might suggest a wood stove, but one gent lost 10 cords of wood — washed away in the surge. Gas generators were a mixed blessing, since people could run pumps and refrigerators, but the need for constant refueling a was a pain and the gas a safety hazard. Also I believe in certain areas gas hot water heaters tore loose, with fire and burn downs as a result.
Food on hand was great, as was stored water since the [emergency responders] were slow in coming as all had emergencies to deal with. The more you learned and prepared in advance the better you fared and the sooner you were able to help others around you who were in worse shape. Also cell phones don’t work if the power to the cell tower is interrupted.
Hope this helps others. Prepare so you are not helpless.
The other day, reader “just waiting” emerged from two weeks of post-Sandy blackout. He conveyed some lessons learned and joked that he couldn’t see a downside to the storm from where he sat.
However, there’s a definite downside in the aftermath. This morning he requests help from the Living Freedom Commentariat:
I’ve never had to clean up after a major flood before (water was about 2 ft high over entire first floor). I’ve done some research and got the basics, but I bet there’s tips and pitfalls, what not to do’s, etc. that the sites I’ve seen don’t list.
With our vast scope of experience, and you in the NorthWet where water problems must be pretty common, I was hoping you might ask for me to get some insight from the group who may have been through this.
I know some of you have suffered through floods and other depredations of water. What advice do you have for just waiting (and the rest of the world who might be listening in)?