After wanting this for many, many years, we have finally made the step towards putting solar power to work for us here at The Havens.
This is not a commitment for those with no financial resources! Even though the prices for solar panels have come down radically, and even though we will enjoy a tax rebate on the purchase of them, the initial cost just for the solar panels was right around $6,000. Just recently the steel angle iron for the frames was purchased, to the tune of about $1300. Next we have to pay the guy to construct the frames, doing the welding and drilling holes and I honestly don’t know what all else. Then we have to figure out what kind of inverter we want, and order that. Also on the way here are the storage batteries, another $2400.
Like all projects, there is an almost infinite regression that goes on in order to have the project done. With this project, the first thing that had to be done is figure out where we wanted the solar farm to be installed. Initially we thought we might put in in front of the vineyard. But the city of Lebanon has a zoning ordinance that states no structures on a property should be closer to the street than the front of the house, although it is possible to get a variance. Our house is so far from the street that it probably would be possible to get such a variance, but we were not really wanting to get into that sort of legal shenanigans if it wasn’t necessary.
Eventually, we decided that the right place for the solar panels would be out near the barn, just to the east of the root cellar. Unfortunately there was a big pile of dirt out there which we constructed over the years as we removed dirt from various and sundry path and garden projects. We called it “dill hill” because for several years we had a huge crop of dill volunteer on it. So we needed to have the dirt pile moved, and since there was NEVER enough dirt on the root cellar we decided to have it moved there.
I don’t have a “before” before picture, which shows all the piles of wood and stuff that was in the way of accomplishing this feat. But they had to be moved. Also, before we put more dirt on the root cellar we had to build up the retaining walls on either side of the door. We bought the retaining block, and with the help of a college student looking to earn money during the summer, piled them up properly. He also helped move the wood piles, etc.
Then we had a guy come over here with a Cat skidsteer and move dirt.
Here you see the beginning of this phase, and dill hill to the right. The retaining walls in place. That small pile of wood was not in the way, but I moved it to the wood shed today after the work was all done.
This is how it looks this morning, after the straw mulch was ground, spread and watered in.
Notice the clump of asiatic lilies on the right side of the root cellar. There also happens to be a fig over on the right side by the door. It was purposely buried up to its neck, and hopefully this will not kill it. Just in case it does, last week I laboriously dug several rooted sections out from its underskirts and heeled them in in the vegetable garden. I am happy to report that all of the starts have survived and are starting to send up sprouts. I found it endearing that our equipment operator carefully avoided the clump of lilies during the work, even though we told him that it would be find to crunch them down, that they would come up from their bulbs next year.
Next to dill hill was a pile of manure that I purchased from a friend who is a dairy farmer several years ago. I used some of it as mulch after I acquired it, but stopped using it as soon as I realized how infested with pigweed, smartweed, ragweed, lamb’s quarters, and I don’t know how many other undesirables it was. We had our equipment operator spread that mess of nutritious weed supply thinly over the grass area in the savannah. Since we mow that lawn, the weeds won’t matter as they will be mowed off before they can get big and make more weeds. And I’m sure the grass and trees will appreciate the fertilizer.
The manure pile was full of locust, maple, elm and god knows what else kind of tree roots. Those are now on the burn pile.
Next to the manure pile was a volunteer silver maple which we will cut down in the very near future. It has to go, as it is in a location that shades the solar panels. We needed to take it out anyway. It was sick: even though it was only about 8 years old, it was already forming a hollow trunk as it rotted out from the center. We will also be removing volunteer catalpa red cedar trees, both of which are also sources of unwanted shade for the panels.
See what I mean about an infinite regression?
This next shot is documentation of what happens when you let poke grow without disturbing it. That big branchy leggy mass is the root of a poke plant which lived on dill hill. For the record, bear in mind that the piece of firewood next to it is 16 inches long.
Good thing we had a piece of earth moving equipment to get it out of there. It had roots that were every bit of 10 feet long. Impressive.
Here is another part of the infinite regression. This is our barn, picturesque and historical. Although it looks somewhat the worse for wear on the outside, the inside structure is sound. It has a certain charm lent to it by the fact that the rafters of the hay loft are oak which was steamed and bent to form the curve of the roof.
However, you can see there are certain problems. The door on the left leads into a nightmare of left over pots from the garden, hickory that was supposed to become spindles for chairs but is now too dry and hard to use (shortly to join the firewood supply), glass in waiting for greenhouse construction. It turns out it is also prime ground hog habitat. They are busy constructing a ground hog condominium utilizing the cement slab floor of Jim’s shop as a ceiling. They are about to be evicted, as they neglected to sign a long term lease for use of the barn as a home.
The door to the right leads into Jim’s wood shop.
This shop is the place where the inverter and the batteries are going to live. Since batteries don’t really appreciate being frozen, and the inverter (a rather costly piece of electronics) needs to live in shelter, the shop must be made weather tight and insulated. Not the least of the necessities is a door that works!
But of course, before any work can be done on the room, all the stuff needs to come out of there. As you can see, the fact that we have lived here and used the barn for 16 years has resulted in a massive accumulation of items ranging from nails and screws, to bee hive components, to a freezer that has been converted to a lagering cooler and sundry other brewing equipment, to a lathe that weighs enough that it takes two very strong men to move it. An exhaustive inventory would probably make a fascinating document, but I have no idea what else is in there. We are about to find out…
Clearing and repairing the barn is part of the infinite regression.
We are stimulating the economy in a big way, and progress towards actually having solar power tied to the grid and filling storage batteries for us to use, thereby eliminating the vast majority of our carbon footprint, is being made.
Stay tuned for future developments….