After Will installed our last, nine-panel solar array, I did the happy dance. Then I could run not only the household electric needs but also do the complete laundry, including the wringer washer and propane dryer at once! The batteries in the basement stayed charged up nicely. But then winter came with its short days and low-in-the-sky sun. And this winter, we’ve had blessed few sunny days! So even though the winter’s been mild (so far!) we’ve had to run the generator far too much to suit us. After all, having to run a generator and buying gas is not being self-reliant. So, when Will saw pallet loads of new military grade 315 watt solar panels for sale on Craigslist for only $95 per panel, he quickly contacted David and our friend Mike (Dara’s husband), who both need more panels for their own systems too.

Yesterday, while I was busily filling a multitude of seed orders, Will and Mike drove the truck down to pick up a pallet load of 25 solar panels. Come spring, Will is going to be busy installing another array of panels for us. And those panels will let us run nearly completely by solar power, summer and winter! I can’t wait.

Here’s our truck load of new panels, shared by David and friend, Mike, with our second solar array Will installed last year behind the truck.

I am really enjoying the Runner ducks we have now. I got six for David then Alisha brought her bunch here when she was moving from Wisconsin. So we have a little flock. They look like running bowling pins when they tear up the hill in the morning to eat their grain! I always laugh at them as they’re so happy, trying to fly and run at the same time after I turn them loose from their house in the morning.

Aren’t the Runner ducks cute? They’re good egg layers too.

Like everyone else, I’ve been getting lots of seed catalogs and enjoy looking through them at all those color pictures. (I wish we could have color pictures in our catalog too, but we can’t afford that and still keep our prices low.) But I’ve got the itch and have picked up a few new varieties from often-obscure sources to try in our own gardens this year. Our oldest son, Bill, is putting the Simplicity garden tractor (with attached tiller and a snow blower) into perfect working order as one of my Christmas presents. We’re planning the gardens so as to allow cultivating between the rows with it. So, bad knee or not, I can still keep those gardens pretty weed free. I’m so tickled! I even found a place where we can buy replacement tines for it as they are a bit worn from years of use.

We love the old Simplicity, but it quit running last summer and Will couldn’t get it running again (too busy haying!).

Only a homesteader could be doing a happy dance about getting a forty-year-old garden tractor back into working shape! — Jackie


  1. I’ve had Indian Runner ducks too- lots of joy in those quacks!
    Getting any old tractor to work again is a joy! The right tools and equipment make all the difference!!
    Enjoy your solar panels and I can’t wait to hear about the abilities and savings!!

  2. Got my catalog, shopped, sent my order, and
    Received my Seeds today. I’m Doing the
    Happy Dance. Indian Runner Ducks are
    So fun. Lots of personality. Been years,
    But bring back Good memories.

    • We do try to get folks’ seeds out the day after we receive the order, making for the fastest turnaround we possibly can. Glad to hear everything went like clockwork.

  3. What about charge controllers for those new panels. My limited knowledge says you can’t mix them with your old panels both because of different voltage and amps and the max amp capacity of any regulator. Wish we could do more solar but we still have another six weeks before the sun clears the mountains and woods for more than a few minutes here at 61.79 north latitude! Good deal for you though.

    • There’s going to be a new charge controller for each 3 panels. The charge controllers actually cost more than do the panels Will got on sale!
      Yep, even here, we don’t get as much winter sun as we’d like. Hopefully with more panels and batteries we’ll be in better shape.

  4. I’m so happy you’re getting more solar panels! We lived off grid 13 years and it’s a juggling act to maximize the power usage. We currently have a dual system. It will be so nice for you this coming year 😊🤗

    • I’m real excited about the upgrade. I’ve lived super-off grid, using kerosene lamps and candles so moving this far upscale is amazing to me.

  5. Got my catalog. No problem pages. I am going to share it with my neighbors to put together an order. We separately came to the conclusion that seeds or plants will probably be very scarce next spring.

    kathy in MS

    • I’m glad your catalog was fine. I’m thinking most are but that goof-up sure scared us!! I’m agreeing with you; already many seed houses are “out of stock” on many varieties. and it’s just January! Scary stuff. And no canning supplies on the shelves either yet.

      • Local Walmarts are lightly stocked with canning supplies. Nothing like normal but slowly coming in. I am well supplied so didn’t pay a lot of attention. Local Dollar Generals have a lot of stuff in their aisles along with empty shelves but I haven’t seen any canning supplies there.

        Our good source used to be Fred’s Discount Stores but they closed and you can see the difference in how much is available and the pricing.

        kathy in MS

  6. We are trying to determine the number of panels and storage batteries we will need for our place, by Finland Minn. What electrical items or appliances do you have, and what type of batteries. Stan is looking at lithium-what do you and Will think.
    Thanks. Received the seed catalog-dreaming of spring. ;-)

    • We currently have 15 panels (about 325 watts each) and 10 deep cycle golf cart batteries in the basement. We have an electric freezer in the cool basement, a desk top computer, several LED lights throughout the house, a ceiling fan in the living room, a propane clothes dryer and wringer washer plus minimal use LED lights on the propane kitchen range and one propane refrigerator, plus a television. In the summer, we’re wonderful but mid-winter, we need to run the generator too much to suit us. If Stan would like to talk to Will, you could email us at with your phone number.

  7. When I was young my folks raised chickens for sale. Somehow with the chicken order came a duck. He had a topnotch on his head so that’s what we named him. He ran around the farm and had a happy life until he died. You always knew where he was because of the duck quacking sound he made.

    • Yep, ours sure keep us posted to their whereabouts by their talking constantly. But it’s not annoying a bit. Not like guineas!

  8. I received the catalogue with no errors or printing problems. Really enjoyed reading it and will enjoy choosing what to grow this year. Thank you and good luck with more solar capability.

    • Well, Elizabeth had a doctor’s appointment today and all is well. He said she should appear quite soon. But then we’ve thought that for weeks now! There have been so many false alarms David isn’t going to believe it when he gets a call at work!!! (Yeah, sure she is….)

  9. So wonderful to “use it up, wear it out, make do or do without”! That old tractor isn’t worn out yet so it’s so wonderful your son has the skills to give it new life. One less thing for the landfill and a great tool for you Jackie! Blessings for this New Year to you and your lovely family.

    • That Simplicity had sat in Bill’s lean-to shed for years after he’d bought and used it when he first built his log home. But then he upgraded and it had kind of sunk into the ground. He knew I needed something like that so he told us to go ahead and take it home. Bill had it running and Will put new tires on the rear. Then one day Will drove it the 1/3 mile out to the North garden so I could cultivate with it. He did two rows just fine so I hopped on. I only made half of one row and it sputtered and quit. And that was that. Even Will couldn’t get it to start again. So we dragged it back home, where it sat ever since. Now I’m happy Bill can bring it back to life!!! Yea!

  10. What a find! Sounds like your year is starting off just right! Hope the chickens aren’t jealous of the ducks and their egg-laying abilities. Have a great year. Blessings.

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