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Old 01-17-09, 09:56 AM   #1
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Default Hi from central NY

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I live near ithaca NY in an off the grid earth bermed house. It is off the grid solar which forces energy efficiency on us. We have about 375 watts of generating capacity (full sun) from our panels, and are using 2 large L16 lead acid batteries given to us for free (don't hold much of a charge). We are using this to power a washing machine, computer, lights, radio, and sometimes freezer/fridge. we have a honda 1000 watt generator for nov, dec and jan.
Right now it is super cold out and I am trying to get the most out of our wood cook stove, using the least amount of wood. This means heating big pots of water and moving them around. Luckily I am only partially employed this time of year so I can easily do this. Also we are lucky to have a passive solar designed house, so when it is sunny the house really heats up. We had -11 last night!

In the works are an electric bike for transportation, to use some of the extra power generated in the summertime, bicycle generator, sealing of cracks, creating an outdoor air supply for the woodstove (so it doesnt suck cold air thru all of the cracks). I have two small kids, am trying to start a small farm/homestead, and have limited money, so all projects are slow to be completed. glad to have found this site from ecomodder/metrompg.

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Old 01-17-09, 01:20 PM   #2
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Welcome to ecorenovator! Your house sounds pretty rad, have you ever thought about adding more solar generating or storage capacity?
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Old 01-17-09, 06:34 PM   #3
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Yes, when I get the money I will get 4 new L16 lead acid batteries, which should reduce our generator run time. Also maybe a couple of new 75 watt panels, and a new super efficient 12 V chest freezer, so I can freeze fruits and veggies from our garden. Our place is cool, but it is a lot of work!
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Old 01-17-09, 06:37 PM   #4
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Your place sounds great. Do you have any pictures of it?
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Old 01-17-09, 08:05 PM   #5
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heres a few, I don't have too many of the inside. One thing I didnt mention, it has a sod roof, 18 inches thick, so you walk on the roof to spin the solar panels. Yeah, huge posts and beams. In the winter, you can really feel how much warmer it is when there is a good covering of snow up there. On the north side the wall is bermed with earth almost 3 ft up, but above that there are windows so it is not too dark. I am on dialup so downloading them takes me a few mins.
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Old 01-19-09, 09:14 AM   #6
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Welcome James. Nice house. Daox and I were just talking about organic roofs the other day. Could you explain how that works. I was wondering what kind of material the earth and sod sits on.

I love gardening. What kind of vegetables do you plant in the summer? And what kind are you planning on freezing for the winter?
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Old 01-19-09, 10:32 AM   #7
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welcome James! I like your solar panel mount. Nice view too.
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Old 01-19-09, 06:50 PM   #8
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First, heavy duty beams and rafters, and flat boards above that. There is a thin layer of metal and then a plastic/rubber membrane (heavy duty like a pond membrane). Above the membrane there is 4 inches of foam board insulation, and then 18 inches of dirt and sod. So the water hits the sod and only goes down to the membrane when we get a good soaking rain. It is delayed usually about 10 hours, and then the two drains drip for several days. I wish there was more insulation underneath the membrane, because it feels significantly colder when we get cold rainy weather (I am guessing the water is carrying away our heat.
Fixing a leak is sort of a pain. You go up there and shovel thru the dirt, carefully cut the insulation and put a membrane patch on with roofing cement. But then again, I dont have to put new shingles on every 20 yrs.

We grow lettuce, basil, strawberries, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, turnips, beets, scorzonera, sweet corn, garlic, onions, tomatoes, peppers, melons, beans, winter squash, spinach, mache, peas, kale, broccoli, cabbage, celeriac, and celery. My big lesson from last year is not to grow peppers in open soil. I will just do those in the greenhouse and in pots. And I will start melons inside a couple weeks before last frost date. Every year we declare that we have to grow more carrots. We have a bit of a challenge with the deer at the very beginning of the season, and the end. We may end up getting a dog. We are really excited to have our first crop of strawberries coming up this summer.
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Old 01-19-09, 06:53 PM   #9
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I would like to freeze veggie soups, like tomato soup for winter. Also greens like kale and spinach, strawberries, blueberries, corn, broccoli, green beans.
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Old 01-19-09, 06:56 PM   #10
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Another lession I learned is that I have to cool off the root cellar prior to putting the roots in there, or right when I put them in there. After a few weeks of them being in there and it feeling really warm I asked Lynn (the guy I bought the place from). He said he used to put buckets of water out at night to get cold and then bring them into the root cellar every day for a couple of weeks. I will have to do that next year, and the beets and carrots should last longer. The potatoes are ok despite my neglect.

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