|I really love the look of our native stone and unadulterated cob! The perfect mix! How lucky. This is the threshold of the chicken fortress under construction. Notice the experimental gravel bag foundation supporting the cob. It's rock solid.|
I think Amy Blackmarr would forgive me for borrowing her book’s title for this post, because it’s as fitting a description as I can think of for the 12-watt chapter of Small Batch Garden’s history, and I hope the electrical pun of the word “ground” in the title isn’t lost either. We’ve been at our new place for about 3 weeks total, the first separated from the second and third by 4 days down south to pack up the garden and orchard, clean up the farmhouse, and drive a second U-Haul north to the mountains. The need for a second moving truck was kind of embarrassing considering that we were supposedly downshifting into our simplest mode of existence to date, but the second truck was filled to the brim with fruit trees, herbs, berry bushes, garden tools, a chick brooder, chicken tractors, rolls of fencing, a woodstove, lumber, firewood – you know, the stuff of a self-reliant life. This wasn’t as much a truck of possessions as it was a mobile farm. Way too mobile. The nectarine and apricot trees are now planted in their 4th garden in as many seasons. And I hope like hell that it’s their last. I’ve learned enough in all that travelling to not declare it to be – such platitudes are pointless in my world – but I have to say that I am definitely ready to gather some moss. Judging by the savage condition of my feet, I’d say that process has at least begun.
|Tripp and Josh in the cob pit getting funky.|
But back to the wattage for a moment. The full extent of our electrical service is a 12-watt solar attic fan boxed up in a 2 x 10 frame and converted into a camp tent fan. If you recall, we bought the attic fan early last summer and made it through a brutal hot summer in South Georgia without AC, soldiering on with at least the mental image of it blasting the hot air out of the attic, if nothing else. In a 16 x 20 wall tent it has a real, tangible impact. A little moving air in the quiet forest goes a long, long way, and we are all too happy to go move the little panel into a sunnier spot when necessary.For the three weeks we’ve been here we’ve been importing water by the gallon. The four of us are averaging about 7 gallons of water use total per day, including bathing and washing dishes, but doing laundry offsite. That seems to be just enough graywater to keep the plantings happy – in their heavy soil and shaded conditions – too. The 3” storm we had last week didn’t hurt anything either. But missing out on catching that much water was painful; our water collection system isn’t functional yet. We have a 550-gallon potable water tank, set in place in the hillside by the deck where we want it, but no connection to channel the rain to it. I’m sure I’m not being clever enough here, but the plan at this point is to install traditional gutters and piping to route the rain from the tent fly into it.
|Good water, good books, fresh air, no worries. This was the last day at the farm house in south Georgia. Hasta la vista, cotton fields.|
Ice is the next big expense. We decided to buy a couple of really high quality coolers for our refrigeration needs, but after the first few weeks we are wondering if that wasn’t a mistake. We go through some ice, and it isn’t cheap, nor is it low impact, ecologically. And using a cooler full of ice as a refrigerator isn’t very easy either. When you pull a gallon of raw milk (from the awesome dairy about 5 miles away) out of the ice, you ain’t never gettin’ it back in there, hence the two cooler dance. The smaller version is also our road cooler that we take to market; it makes a great seat for visitors hanging out in our farmers’ market booth, and a solid stash for pastured bacon and local, organic strawberries. I hate to plug corporate interests here, but if you’re tired of tossing cheap, busted coolers out, to deteriorate into god-knows-what, these Yetis are supposed to offer lifetime duty. And they are grizzly bear proof when latched at the corners (which I’ve never actually done). We don’t have grizzlies in North Georgia, but we do have plenty of black bears. These coolers at least seal in the smell of their contents thoroughly with a freezer-style gasket, and they are made tough as nails, that I can vouch for. But as a full-time fridge, I’m not sold. So we’re thinking about either buying a DC chest fridge (expensive!) and the required PV capacity to run it, or converting the larger cooler into the same thing. Any thoughts?
|Ella's fourth birthday and first in the camp tent at Small Batch. (First day of cobbing too!) The kids really love it here.|
|Our first local market in Ellijay. Went really well, good folks, and enthusiastic about our product line. We're already being carried by a couple of local shops, and doing First Fridays downtown.|
Looking at our public face I doubt anyone would jump to the conclusion that we live a 12-watt existence, but Jessica and I are feeling the lack of connectivity, and will be purchasing a 40-watt solar charger/inverter to keep the laptop online more reliably. The small chest fridge hopefully won’t require more than an additional 300 PV watts and a couple of deep cycle batteries, so we’re eyeballing a roughly 350-watt life in the near future. Then I think we’ll be good. We wanted to go to zero, go to ground, and then figure out what we really needed to make life happy. The 12-watt fan helps a ton, and we added that in pretty quickly, but there’s no point in costing ourselves MORE money than we paid with electrical service for water and refrigeration, so those are our next items to address, and success in those two areas will bring plenty of peace of mind I think.
|My little Tiger, Ella, blending in at the East Atlanta Village Farmers Market.|
|The eastern rim of the Blue Ridge Mountains in north Georgia, taken on our way back from hiking in the Cohutta Wilderness. Our place is probably on the southern slopes to the right of the frame.|
Yes, that’s our new hood!Till next time, hopefully on a 52-watt broadcast, cheers, mates.