Archive for May, 2013
Today was very hot again. In the sun it felt like an oven. Even the garden plants were wilting from the heat. After a long afternoon nap, I worked on engines a bit this evening, when it got a bit cooler. The ants are coming again and taking over. The battle is on.
It was already 80 out by 11 this morning. The temperature was climbing inside as well, and fast. By noon, it was about 85 inside and outside. It got up close to 90 inside in the heat of the day.
My garden plants were wilting in the extreme heat of the sun. It was intense and beating down. There is something wrong with the weather this year. It has been cold all along and I have run my fireplace until two days ago. Now its an oven outside. I think it is hard on the plants too.
I took an example from my cat today and took a nap in the heat of the day. I was getting a headache and dizzy from the heat. I drank a gallon of water by noon, so it was not dehydration. Just pure heat.
I have to correct my statements from yesterday. I was only using about 60 watts according to my Kill A Watt meter. I was looking at the wrong scale on the meter. Today I was using 89 watts with my dual fan running and my LED TV connected to my laptop. The laptop and three other fans were running on DC power and I still have no way to measure that.
At 11 am, after only two hours of sun, my solar batteries were topped off and I was pulling almost 500 watts of power. The batteries were on absorption mode already. I need more batteries to soak up more solar energy.
Later in the evening I started to work on my little chain saw again. This is the one I started on the day it was raining so hard. Well, this thing is a nightmare. It is tiny and stupidly engineered. I had to literally take it all apart. I had to remove the handle, pull starter, case, fuel tank, hoses, linkages and more. I even had to remove the coil to get to the carburetor. The carb was dirty from neglect and had to be cleaned.
After getting it all nicely cleaned up and using half a can of carburetor cleaner, I could not get the stupid thing back together again. It is engineered in such a way that I could not get the carb linkage and fuel line connected and get it back inside the case. I could get one or the other but not both. Finally I gave up and tossed the whole mess in the trash.
I pulled out my old Homelite chain saw and started to work on that. Now, this old thing is a breath of fresh air in comparison to the little Mcculloch chain saw. You remove the air filter and there is the carb.
I actually had the old Homelite chain saw buzzing away in no time. It runs. It runs well. It starts right on the first pull and runs well. Now all I need is a chain for this old beast.
I have to get some wood cut for winter. I should be cutting wood all summer to stock up. Winter is no time to go out and cut wood.
I installed my new Wilson Electronics cell phone booster today. I pulled out a screw on the frame of the kitchen window above the sink and pushed the antenna wire through the gap. I put the antenna on the roof and plugged it all in.
My phone was getting anywhere from 0 to 2 bars before and I kept dropping phone calls. Now I have about 4 bars and good, clear phone calls. I am currently uploading a video and it is super fast. My video tonight is a bit shorter but it is uploading very fast.
I might need to play around with the location of the antenna for best performance but I am already very happy with the ability to have a phone conversation without interruption. And the possibility to work online without loosing signal all the time. Sometimes it took me 4 – 5 hours to get a video uploaded due to lost signal.
Thank you Wilson Electronics. You can visit their site here: www.WilsonElectronics.com
Actually last night was very late due to the intense heat. My cell phone went into thermal shut down mode. I never even knew that existed. It beeped and said that due to extreme heat it will go into thermal protective mode and started counting down. All I could do was watch it shut itself down as I was trying to upload a video.
I put the phone in the freezer for a while and pulled it out and it worked again. But the battery was now down and I had to recharge it for a while before I could finish my video.
Sorry for being so late last night.
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Today was very hot again. Like flipping a switch, I go from using the fireplace to running fans in the window to cool it down in here. It was 90 out and 84 inside today. I was burning off all my solar power to run fans to keep it cool inside.
In the evening when it cooled down some, the camper was still above 80 degrees. So I got out an old window fan that runs on AC power and put it in my window. The Kill A Watt meter told me it was pulling 120 watts. My solar panels were only putting out 100 watts, so I was loosing power fast. I only get solar power now from 9 am to 5 pm due to the leaves on the trees.
Today I stopped at a farm to check straw prices. Normally a farm will be cheaper than the stores. No so in this case. The farm was asking $7 per straw bale. They only wanted $6 for hay, so I got a bale of that to use for chicken bedding. I hope my hens will lay eggs one day again. I also put a golf ball in the nest to trick them out. Someone told me to try that or a fake egg and sometimes they will start laying. Lets see.
I also found a company that sells coal. It is sort of cheap at about a dollar per gallon. Bring a bucket and they fill it up. I got a box full for $5. I am sure the cold nights are not gone and will be back so this will be nice to try out in my antique coal stove inside my off grid camper. I might be able to have heat all night when using coal.
I also got an antique kerosene heater today plus a couple cast iron frying pans from an antique shop. I got a good deal on them when I told the owner what I had in mind with them. I hope to make a waste vegetable oil heater with these parts. I will do a video on the whole process and see how it goes.
A care package arrived today from a youtuber named Mike. Inside was some good useful items for the off grid camper such as electrical tape and zip ties. But the best of all was an extendable flexible chain saw. This is just what I needed. Today I was looking at the trees that I have to trim in order to get the new motor home into place and wondering how I am going to cut them. Then I open this package, just an hour later and here is a chain saw made for that purpose. How perfect is that.
Baby also got some treats, a pack of toys and a box to play in. She is happy.
Thank you Mike.
I was working on my chicken tractor today to improve the safety of my birds. I have not been sleeping well at night for fear of something attacking my birds while they sleep. So I put some chicken wire on the outside of the chicken tractor, laying on the ground. Then I laid a board on that to keep it down. Now if something wants to get at my birds, they need to dig under about 18 inches to get into the chickens.
While I was working I managed to put a staple into my hand. It went in all the way. Without thinking I pulled it right out. Then I realized what had happened and then the pain hit. And it hurt badly. My little finger is numb and I have pain in another part of my hand so I think I hit a nerve or a bone. Not sure which. I dont think it is serious but I will keep an eye on it.
Another package arrived today from Wilson Electronics. They sent me a cell phone booster to help out with the reception here in the middle of the forest. This is a 12 volt amplified cell phone booster with an external antenna and a 12 volt cigarette lighter plug in for power. The cell phone sits in a cradle and you plug in the wires to the booster and you get up to 20x stronger signal. You can visit them at www.WilsonElectronics.com
It was dark outside before I got a chance to plug this in properly but I did get a chance to try the antenna inside my camper. I went from 1 – 2 bars of reception up to 4 bars with no signal loss on phone calls. Previously I have had full signal loss during phone calls. I cant wait to get this installed properly and see what it can really do.
Thank you Wilson Electronics for an awesome cell phone booster. This is going to greatly improve my off grid life and help get videos up for people to see more regularly.
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It was much colder again today. I did not check the outdoor temperature, but it was in the low 60s inside and is currently only 50 inside in the evening. It rained all day without stop. It was very dark today as well. But work must go on. I planted my raised bed gardens today in the pouring rain.
If I waited for only sunny days to get any work done, I would never work again. It seems that this year it rains more than not. In the last few months the sun had hardly ever shown itself for more than a day each week.
Although it rains every day, we are not getting much quantity. I still have not yet filled a 50 gallon drum with rain water since I put up my rain water collector. Last summer in ten minutes I would get 30 gallons of water when it rained hard. This year it just rains all day, every day, but with no quantity.
I have a bit of a problem. Well, sort of a cute problem. I wanted to set up my solar panels on a movable platform that I can turn into the sun and also tip to different angles as needed. But I cannot do that for a month or so now. I have a little nest with baby birds in it, right under one of my solar panels. The frame is perfect and safe for the birds and a mother has made her home there. Now I have to wait for the babies to grow up before I can move the solar panels.
It was so dark in the camper today I could not see a thing without using my lights. I was also quite dark outside as well.
It is still cold like winter at night so I wanted to get my chain saw going. I have an old one that someone gave me one day long ago. It never worked and I wanted to clean the carburetor today. I am tired of hand cutting wood and only having just enough for one day each time I cut before I am tired out. Anyway, I started to work on this old chain saw and realized why I got it for free. This thing is a bugger to work on.
To clean the carb, I had to take the whole complete chain saw apart. The motor housing all had to be removed fully in order to even get to the motor. The I even had to remove the coil to get the carb off the motor. What a nightmare! It took me hours to get the stupid thing apart. I do not like working on such little motors but need a chain saw.
Eventually the rain got to be too bad for me to continue. My tools were getting soaked and I could not clean a carb in a down pour so I put it aside for a while.
I planted my seedlings in the raised bed gardens today – in the rain. I guess planting in the rain is fine for the seeds. Gives them a head start and I do not need to water. These are the ones I have been nursing since the first week of March. They never really grew due to the lack of sun and warmth this year. Now they are in the garden where they will hopefully grow up and bear fruit.
I also got an envelope from a Youtuber named Dennis who sent me some ancient forms of seeds that are all non gmo. He also sent me a letter telling the history of each seed. Thank you Dennis. I promptly planted the seeds today in a raised bed I had prepared. Some of the seeds included Indian corn, spinach, thai beans which he says are huge and very long, some herbs and other seeds. I cant wait to see them grow.
I was only getting about 37 watts of energy today from my solar panels due to the lack of sunlight. Not too good at all.
I wonder if summer will ever come.
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Today was the big work day when people were supposed to come out to help on the property and the site of the off grid solar camper. But it was COLD and rained all day. A single friend braved the cold and rain and helped out all day. We also had our BBQ as planned in the rain and made the best of it. It was a good day anyway.
Last night I worked on my electronics a bit more. I installed my new LED rope light over the work bench to help illuminate the area better. The lights are amazingly bright. I did not expect anywhere near the performance of them. These little LEDs light up the work area better than three of my ceiling lights combined. I live them!
I also wanted to get my old SSG, Simplified School Girl, Bedini motor going. This is a radiant energy device that I use to restore old lead acid batteries. I do not care if you think it works or not. It does work for me and that is all that matters. Scream laws of physics and anything else at me, but it works for what I want it to regardless of any laws.
Sadly somehow the transistor was defective and nearly started a fire when I hooked it up. I have no idea why or what happened, but it had to be replaced. So I got my soldering iron out and got it fixed. It runs nicely again. Right now it is charging my lead alum Bedini battery conversion.
There is an exciting feeling when I plug a soldering iron into the wall outlet while sitting in the middle of the forest running on solar power. It blows my mind that this is running of batteries. The whole thing. Everything I do is running off batteries. I never get over the excitement of it.
This morning it was raining quite hard and I was worried we could not get anything done or that my friend would not show up. But he did and the rain slowed to a constant drizzle all day which did not bother us too much. We first had to run into town and sit at McDonalds where I could warm up with a coffee. I was frozen nearly stiff from a wet and cold night in the camper. Everything is damp from nearly 2 whole weeks of constant rain. It has rained all but two days now. And those days were scorchers and humid from the rain. Then it turned cold again. In the 40s by day.
After thawing out enough to get to work, we got to it. Luke, my friend went into the forest to cut down saplings to use as fence posts for the raised bed garden. I wanted to get some deer netting up today. I had also hoped to clean up the area, rake leaves and lots more, but it was just the two of us. We did get the garden fenced in though and it looks nice. I sure hope the deer do not try to jump over the fence to get to my garden. I will hang some pie tins and things out there to scare them off.
Well, this is a holiday weekend and no rain or cold was going to dampen our spirits or ruin our BBQ. Luke managed to get a fire going even though everything is wet all over the whole forest. It has rained for days and was raining while he worked on the fire. Ok, now I know I can get my fireplace going no matter what.
He had a nice fire going in ten minutes and we roasted our hot dogs over an open fire in the rain. We had hot dogs, salad, chips, cookies and coke. It was a good meal anyway. Maybe it was that much better for the cold and rain. No matter, we enjoyed it.
Later in the afternoon Luke helped me move my chicken tractor to greener pastures. The chickens now have grasses and weeds from 12 to 36 inches high to munch on. They are so happy. Clucking happily while eating grass. I will keep them in the taller grasses from now on.
We also unloaded a nice, huge 275 gallon water tank that my friend Niel brought over last night. He met me in town and transferred it to the back of my truck. After a nice talk, we parted ways. Today Luke and I put it down by the rain water collector. I will use it to collect lots of water. I may get some creek water in the 50 gallon drum with my truck and a water pump and use it to fill the tank. Then I can heat up some water and have a real shower.
We did not get the deer fence done until nearly 7pm and then Luke had to leave. I cleaned up and went in for the night.
Ok, the secret is out. I am getting a motor home next weekend. I mentioned it on the live talk show Monday night. If you have missed the shows, you can join me live every Monday night at 9pm EST at www.aroundthecabin.com and then click on campfire chat. All you need is an internet connection and a computer to listen in. You can also join the live chat and ask me questions directly or call in.
The motor home is $150 because it sat for 7 years. But the engine only has 50,000 miles on it. It is a Chevy 454 big block and will need some cleaning and TLC to get it going again. That is no problem for me. But it has a steel frame construction with solid foam insulation and a fiberglass body. This means no mice, no ants tunneling through the walls like I have now. And it is solid and has no water damage or leaks.
The motor home was a luxury model of its day with a built in 7,000 watt generator, 2 air conditioners, 2 propane heaters, propane hot water, 3 way fridge, a full length awning and much more. This will be heaven in comparison to what I am living in right now. The owner got it to live in while he worked on his house. He said in winter it was cozy. More than I can say for my old breezy camper I have now.
The only problem is the tow will cost me $300 to get it home. I have until next Sunday, the 2nd of June to get it together. I am posting old camper parts from a camper I gutted out on CL for sale but no bites yet. I may even get a 3 – 4 day construction job this week, but that is not sure yet. It sure would help out if things come together in time. Lets see.
I think I will keep the old camper and use it for a work shop. That means I could take down the tool tent and put everything inside the old camper and leave it there. Next time I move, drive the motor home and come back with the truck to get the old camper and take it home. Move done.
Having a motor home with all the nice things in life will not change my off grid projects one bit. Everything will continue as planned. I will just be a little bit warmer without all the drafts I have now in the old camper. I still need more water in order to take showers. Propane still costs too much for daily use. I will be setting up a solar hot water heater and solar shower this summer.
The Off Grid Project continues….
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Today was very hot. Very hot and humid. It went from day time highs of 50 and 60 degree weather to a high of 87 today and a heat factor of 91 and night low of mid 60s. Today I made a complete and fully functional rain water collection system in the meadow. And I worked on my truck today after my weekend break down.
Last night, for the first time since moving into a camper, I went from 3 – 5 blankets, down to a single blanket. It never really cooled off last night and stayed in the 60s. That is what we have been having for a daytime high temperature, at best recently. Today was very hot and humid. After ten days of rain on and off, the ground is saturated. The rocks and earth were sweating all day. You could see the moisture being drawn up from the ground as the sun beat down on the land.
It was so hot today the chickens were panting. They sat in the shade of their new chicken tractor, but it was scorching hot even in the shade. They drank a whole gallon of water today. Normally a gallon lasts them a few days. I made the long trip to the landlady’s house twice today to get fresh drinking water for myself and my birds.
Last night, sometime in the middle of the night, I heard a horrible, strange sound of a chicken dying. It was a painful screeching. If any of you ever heard a chicken being killed in the night, you know what I mean. I flipped on the outside lights and grabbed my 12 ga and ran out of the camper to save my birds. But, the motion detector lights were not on by the birds. This was strange. Then the screeching began again just on the edge of the forest near my tool tent. It sounded just like a dying chicken. It was horrible.
I had forgotten to bring my flashlight, so I stood there considering what to do. Run off into the woods or just try to protect the birds I still had. But the screeching kept going on and on and it stayed in the same place. This is unusual. A chicken would eventually die.
Whatever it was, it was not moving away and was not scared of me. The screeching continued and I realized it was some animal I had never heard before. And it was not afraid of me. It stayed just out of the range of my lights, not more than about 30 feet away from me. All the hairs on my body were on end.
After a while, I realized that all my chickens were unharmed, but that thing out there wanted them. And it was screeching at me. I could not see a thing but wanted to get back to bed. At the same time I wanted to keep my birds safe. So I fired a shot into the woods in the direction of the animal and then there was silence.
This morning I described the sound to a friend who told me it was a Fisher Cat. Not a cat, really but a member of the weasel family. And they eat chickens. They are also known to attack pets and even come after humans on rare occasions.
I will never forget that horrible screeching sound.
I decided to scrap the roof top rain water collection system for now and went with a ground level collector using the same metal sheets I had planned to use for the roof top. I took the pallet wood that I had piled up for the rain water collection system and build a series of stands that sort of look like saw horses. The first stand is 6 feet high and then the next is 5 feet, then 4 feet and then 3 feet high. I went with these measurements because I am using a blue poly container to collect water and it is just under 3 feet high at its top. The frame then slopes upwards from there so the rain will wash down into the container.
The hardest part was getting the heavy metal sheets on top of the frame, but I got two of them up there for today. I will set up another one tomorrow. Last year, using two of these sheets, I collected 30 gallons of water in a hard rain in ten minutes. Using three sheets I should easily get 50 gallons in ten minutes in the same rain storm.
I hope to expand the water storage capacity of this system so that I can have enough water for showers.
This is a very simple setup using all free materials except for one thing. I have a piece of plastic rain gutter I bought last year for about $5. I used about half of this to run across the bottom ends of each metal sheet and then pour water into the barrel.
The next step is to set up a water pump and enough hose to pump water into the on board camper tanks when needed. I have the water pump but need to get some garden hose. I think about 100 – 150 feet of hose should do it.
I am also going to make a water filter for drinking water using an old swimming pool filter. I have removed all the old sand and gravel and am going to sterilize and clean it inside. Then using charcoal, sand and gravel, I will make a new water filter for drinking water.
I have a major ant infestation in both campers right now. There are carpenter ants crawling all over every single surface of everything in my camper. This morning when I had my coffee, I first rinsed out the cup. Then I checked it to make sure there were no ants in the cup. I have to do this every single time I get a drink. The ants are in search of water and crowd around my sink and drinking glass.
Anyway, I poured my coffee into the cup and started drinking. Somehow an ant managed to get in, while I was holding the cup, and drown in it.
These things are so disgusting and so thick in here. With my truck broke down I could not get any ant poison and I was fully out of it. The last wave of ants ate it all up. So I got out some sugar and borax and mixed up a batch of homemade ant poison. I have a recipe that calls for a cup of water, 1/2 cup of sugar and three tablespoons of borax. I made up a triple batch and poured it into small water bottles and plastic containers and placed them all over under both campers. I also put some right inside the truck camper.
I sure hope this takes care of the problem or I will be run out of my own home. An ant colony contains as many as 10,000 ants. Carpenter ants also put out satellite colonies, each with up to 10,000 ants in them. A colony can have as many as 6 or more satellite colonies. Well, my campers have both become satellite colonies.
Today I was troubleshooting my dead truck. It was just like someone turned off the key. The truck simply shut off dead. I had to have it towed home yesterday.
I was checking for a broken or loose wire because sometimes the ignition has power and sometimes it does not. But all morning I could not figure it out. So I took a break.
Later while answering some youtube comments, someone suggested checking the wires on the starter solenoid. I argued that it is not the starter. The starter and solenoid work fine. But something nagged at me. Then someone else said that there is a wire from the battery to the solenoid and then into the cab. I didnt think this was the problem but decided to check it. Sure enough, there was a loose nut holding the positive wire, which goes into the cab. In minutes, I had my truck running again.
Thank you fellow youtubers for all the help and support in both fixing my truck and in keeping The Off Grid Project going. Thank you all for the advice and suggestions. As well as teaching others, I am learning from you all.
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