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Old 06-11-2011, 08:50 AM  
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Eureka, Montana
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We live in NW Montana, which is mountainous pine forest. We're a few hundred feet above the valley and have about a month shorter growing season than 7 miles away in town.

We don't have a well because $$$ don't allow it yet. Most wells around us are between 300' and 400' deep and the ones drilled in the last 5 years have cost $12,000 to $15,000. We don't do debt, so a loan is out of the question. We worked hard to pay everything off and move up here, so don't want to go that route again. We're content with rainwater and what we get from a public tap in town ("village" is more like it. Just a few hundred people) to make up the rest. We just look for ways to conserve, like doing the best we can in the garden to grow healthy plants without needing more water.

We spent a year building up our soil before we planted, and we work at it every year. We get free manure and old hay from several places and always have compost piles in various stages. There's not a lot of grass clippings to be had in this type of country, but we have composted maple leaves picked up in the gutters of Kalispelll where residents rake them and wait for the city vaccuum truck to come along and get them.

I've been able to get hundreds of 2-gallon buckets from a grocery store bakery and a handful of 3-gallon buckets, but it's been a while since I was able to get 5-gallon buckets anywhere (for free, I mean).

We've decided to put two of our 50-gallon barrels in the center (two instead of one just because we have a lot of them), so the thermal mass should be great.

By the way, we're off grid with solar power. The first couple years here we didn't have solar. We used oil lamps and read a lot of books and played card games in the winter. Then we got one solar panel, the next year another one. The year after that we bought three more. A couple years passed, and then two years ago we bought 4 more. It's kind of overkill now, for our uses, since all we run most of the time are lights, laptop computers, or a TV/DVD player. Sometimes we run other things, like the blender or a drill. We also run a 10-cf fridge from spring to fall off of the solar. Just a standard cheap fridge bought at Home Depot, not a special off-grid one. We use coolers outside during winter.

But I guess that derails us from the topic of gardening. Maybe we should start some kind of off-grid thread, if anyone is interested. Those of us in cloudier climates do have challenges for that. In May and June and we have a lot of cloudy weather, and those short winter days during long cloudy spells call for some serious electricity conservation. But it's worth it. No electric bill!
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Old 06-12-2011, 01:14 PM  
mohel
 
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the ones drilled in the last 5 years have cost $12,000 to $15,000. We don't do debt, so a loan is out of the question. We worked hard to pay everything off and move up here, so don't want to go that route again. We're content with rainwater and what we get from a public tap in town ("village" is more like it. Just a few hundred people) to make up the rest. We just look for ways to conserve, like doing the best we can in the garden to grow healthy plants without needing more water.
You're very wise about debt and it's good to hear a village is close. I was more concerned about you being 20 miles down a dirt road during a drought.

"There's not a lot of grass clippings to be had in this type of country, but we have composted maple leaves picked up in the gutters of Kalispelll where residents rake them and wait for the city vaccuum truck to come along and get them."

Leaves are also fine compost material. I used grass clippings because there were so much of them and they're already breaking down inside hot damp black trash bags. A neighbor mention a tree with leaves that had some problem if used in compost. I've forgotten which tree but you probably know good sources to ask.

Quote:
There's not a lot of grass clippings to be had in this type of country
LOL! Had to laugh at the just the idea of suburbia in NW Montana. Suburbia is scary, the neighbor across from me was out on the border of his lawn one night well after midnight. He would repeatedly walk toward the border making arm jestures like he was shooing chickens. Years later he was my ride to work so I had to ask about the midnight madness.

Turns out the guy's goal in life was a lawn so healthy and thick no weed could grow in it. His neighbor refused to join the insanity so at night my weird driver would shoo the neighbor's bugs off his property.

Quote:
We've decided to put two of our 50-gallon barrels in the center (two instead of one just because we have a lot of them), so the thermal mass should be great.
That's about 650 lbs. of liquid mass radiating heat overnight. That could make quite a difference in a small greenhouse. Are you on a Western slope?

Quote:
By the way, we're off grid with solar power. The first couple years here we didn't have solar. We used oil lamps and read a lot of books and played card games in the winter. Then we got one solar panel, the next year another one. The year after that we bought three more. A couple years passed, and then two years ago we bought 4 more. It's kind of overkill now, for our uses, since all we run most of the time are lights, laptop computers, or a TV/DVD player.
I'd wondered about that. Suppose you know Harbor Freight sells panels now but I can't speak to their quality. Since you can spare a bit of juice a small pump could always move H2O thru barrels outside the greenhouse were you to need them.

Glad you don't read by oil lamps anymore. I lived in a small tack cabin for 5 years and heated with a kerosene heater. Even using a reburner on the heater didn't save me from fairly frequent bronchitis.

Quote:
We use coolers outside during winter.
I've 3 winters under my belt using windowsills in snow country. A Montana winter should be perfect. You mentioned reading. Since it seems remote how do you obtain books? I use a Kindle now but I used the computer to read Gutenberg books for years. Look into a refurb Kindle from Amazon, I think you'll be delighted.

"Maybe we should start some kind of off-grid thread"

I have no present plans to go off grid but a thread about self sustainability would be great. Composting tricks, PVC coldframes/greenhouse, rain water for gardening.........

"In May and June and we have a lot of cloudy weather"

Late Spring weather indeed. In anything but August I get cloudy weather but those clouds lock in the Willamette Valley heat. I had plants outside during the day since January 15th.

Got any Grizz for neighbors?

I'm really impressed by what you're doing and your use of "we" tells me you made a fine choice of a partner to share it.
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Old 06-14-2011, 02:38 AM  
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Eureka, Montana
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It's 1:30 in the morning and we just got home from helping one of our daughters and her husband move, so I'm going to answer this more in depth later in the day! Just wanted to check in and say hi, Blucher. These kids have known for 8 months that they were moving in mid-June and we STILL had to pack most of their stuff today! Sigh...

Plus it rained most of the day, which is always interesting when carrying furniture and boxes! Took a quick look at my garden to see how flooded it is. Soggy but still looking pretty happy. At least the nights aren't so cold when it's cloudy!
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Old 06-15-2011, 09:40 AM  
mohel
 
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Keizer, OR
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Originally Posted by hermit View Post
It's 1:30 in the morning and we just got home from helping one of our daughters and her husband move, so I'm going to answer this more in depth later in the day! Just wanted to check in and say hi, Blucher. These kids have known for 8 months that they were moving in mid-June and we STILL had to pack most of their stuff today! Sigh...

No rush at all Sir, finishing a move at 1 AM just isn't the way to treat old bones with respect. Try to check out a "Dog Crate" thread that morphs into a discussion on welding.

The kids will discover that packing in a rush means the stuff they will need for a couple weeks will have disappeared. This is a good way to learn. <evil grin>
I had to move my GF from a 3rd floor Manhattan walkup by myself. The "guaranteed" friends set to help her move never showed up. Well after midnight we rolled into my PA driveway as I colorfully cursed the grandchildren of the no-shows.


All my life gathering clouds meant cooler temps till I reached this valley. Sunny means chilly and gray = warm? Very odd but it makes me fond of dark skies.

You have a nut running around Montana who declared war on your National Guard. If you see any 6' 2" gophers (armed & dangerous of course) try to wing it or call in some A10's.
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Old 06-16-2011, 12:02 AM  
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Eureka, Montana
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We're not too scared of the guy running around in the woods. I don't think he'll harm the average citizen but I do hope he's running the other direction!

Harbor Freight is a cool place and we've ordered the odd thing here and there from them, but there are better deals to be had on solar panels. We got our first ones from Axman's near Missoula, but the last ones we ordered online from a place called something like "Go Green Solar" dot com. We searched a bunch on the 'net, then called the folks up and this one was the most willing to talk to us and gave us an even better deal than the website. They made sure we had all the cords and connectors and understood how to set it all up. We ordered 135-watt panels for $400 apiece. Just a couple years previously we had ordered 130-watt panels for $630, so they've come down in price.

Living off-grid wasn't our goal. We bought this place on a fantastic deal. It's 3 miles from the nearest power line and we never dreamed it would cost so much to run power to it. 7 years ago they wanted $27,000 and it's probably higher now. We have less than $10,000 invested in our more-than-adequate solar electric set-up, plus we don't have a power bill! Phone line was already in, so we were good to go for getting internet. We burned out a few wifi modems before we switched to a better inverter.

Yep, we've got grizzly bears. Got wolves and bobcats too. Moose, deer, and coyotes. Not much elk right in here, but it's not a far drive to hunt them.

The kids are already whining they can't find anything! Awwww....my sympathies! I'm getting tired of helping kids pack. A time or two we had to go get them boxes, too. *shakes head in disgust*

It finally dried out enough today I could get in the garden and work on planting the last of the potatoes and peas. Everything that's coming up is doing good so far. We still have to finish the PVC greenhouse and get that barrel filled with water. We're covereing the PVC with 6-mil plastic. Then I'll get the tomatoes and peppers in there. I've got some pumpkin and cantaloupe plants. I wonder if they would do okay in there among the tomatoes and peppers?
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Old 06-17-2011, 11:03 AM  
mohel
 
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Keizer, OR
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Quote:
We got our first ones from Axman's near Missoula, but the last ones we ordered online from a place called something like "Go Green Solar" dot com. We searched a bunch on the 'net, then called the folks up and this one was the most willing to talk to us and gave us an even better deal than the website. They made sure we had all the cords and connectors and understood how to set it all up. We ordered 135-watt panels for $400 apiece. Just a couple years previously we had ordered 130-watt panels for $630, so they've come down in price.
We should make this a sticky for future reference.

Your garden sounds delicious. I've never tried to keep critters that big out of a garden but at least you can shoot any armadillos that show up.


The cost of solar is dropping but it won't be cheap until the the numbers make that possible. With two billion Indians and Chinese mostly in need of cheap electric that would be easy if we scaled up to meet such a huge need.
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Old 06-17-2011, 11:05 AM  
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I myself would love to see pictures of this!
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Old 06-17-2011, 11:50 AM  
mohel
 
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Gardening in Montana

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Originally Posted by havasu View Post
I myself would love to see pictures of this!
http://www.gogreensolar.com/

Quote:
WASHINGTON – The groundbreaking for a new solar micro grid at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., is the latest example of a military “going green” -– saving environmental resources and taxpayer dollars, too.

The 1-megawatt facility, to become operational later this year, will provide one-third of the power for the nation’s largest Army Reserve training post, and ultimately it will save $1 million in energy costs annually, Addison D. “Tad” Davis IV, command executive officer for U.S. Army Reserve Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., told American Forces Press Service.

Taking advantage of the post’s 292 annual days of sunshine, the facility’s two grids, each stretching about 40 feet by 1,200 feet over an existing parking lot, will shade vehicles below while generating renewable solar energy.

“This is pretty exciting stuff, when you think about the fact that we are able to do this and generate that much energy for this installation,” Davis said.

And if the Army decides to expand the initiative into its second and third phases, it could enable Fort Hunter Liggett to become one of the Defense Department’s first “net-zero energy installations,” meaning it produces as much energy as it uses, he said.
Davis said he’s seen the military make huge strides in energy conservation. A decade ago, as Fort Bragg’s garrison commander, he introduced the Army’s first installation-wide sustainability program.
Costs largely drove that decision. “As the installation commander for the largest populated military installation in the world here at Fort Bragg, I had the checkbook, and I had to pay the energy bill and the water bill every month,” he said.

It didn’t take long to recognize that conserving resources saved money that could be used for infrastructure upgrades and new facilities. “So it was the economics of this that really got me excited about sustainability,” Davis said.

Fort Bragg’s early sustainability programs addressed the broad scope of issues, from how energy, water, wastewater and solid and hazardous waste was managed to how new buildings were constructed. The result, Davis said, was more effective and efficient use of resources, reduced consumption and, as a result, cost savings that could be applied to other projects.

The concept caught on quickly, expanding to more than 30 Army installations, including posts in Germany, Alaska and Hawaii. Now, the Army hopes to take it a step further with net-zero energy, waste and water initiatives. Several pilot programs are expected to be announced during next week’s Earth Day observance.

These sustainability initiatives support what Davis called the Army’s “triple bottom line” that incorporates mission, environment and community.
Meanwhile, the Army Reserve has joined “big Army” in expanding this focus to the operational force.

“We’re trying to look at how we can apply some of these lessons learned to our forward-deployed forces, enable the mission to continue, but reduce the reliance on fossil fuel” to run generators and provide other critical support, Davis said, citing solar or wind power as possible options.

“When you boil it down to what we are trying to accomplish, we are trying to build green, buy green, go green,” he said. “From the big-picture perspective, this is obviously something that is very important to the military.”

http://www.dodlive.mil/index.php/201...reates-energy/
Gardening in Montana-groom-tx-cross-tomaters.jpg 

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Old 06-17-2011, 11:43 PM  
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Eureka, Montana
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Here's the real deal...our solar panels set up and operating!

There are the four "new" ones (bought summer 2009). We 'temporarily' mounted them on an old lawn swing frame, and this summer we hope to put them on a pivoting tower like our older ones. These ones came from that go green solar place.

As you can tell, I had to look back a ways to find a picture of our first 5 solar panels! The one on the left was our first one. The one on the right was second, the three in the middle were bought at once. All but the first in this set came from Axman's in Missoula, different years.
The frame is made out of bed frame iron, welded together. The pole drops inside one that is set in the ground in cement, and we can easily pivot the whole thing to face the sun. We mosey out and give it a nudge several times a day, whenever we think of it.
We have a total max. capacity of 1,105 watts in our system. Amps would be a better number to give but I don't know that one off the top of my head.

Despite all our cloudy weather lately we're happy with the output. We just spend less time on our computers or watching movies when we have these long, cloudy spells.

I finished planting the garden today. June 17...in the rain...42 degrees... Sigh...
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Old 06-18-2011, 12:37 AM  
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Is the solar power then transfered to a battery, then put thru an inverter to give you A/C? If so, how many batteries are needed, are they linked in a series, and how long do the batteries last? I'm just trying to learn all I can before deciding if I also should set solar up!
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