Monday, May 31, 2010

The Sun Heats My Water

As we took care of the Ugly in the last post, I guess it's time for the Good and the Bad. The bad first (that's always my preference). On Saturday, the fox came around again, in broad daylight, while J was mowing. I chased it off of two chickens, but it had already gotten one hen. So, we were up before light yesterday, moving the chicks in with the big hens, as the transition is easiest that way. If they wake up together, they sort of think it's always been that way. We'd been holding off on consolidating them, to give the chicks time to grow enough to hold their own, but they were outgrowing their coop, and their yard was not as secure as the big hens. They've adjusted with a minimum of discord, thank goodness.

There are lots of good things, including the solar hot water system. We had another leak, this time larger, but J quickly remedied it, and it seems to be humming along just fine now. J cut the last of the trees for the pond, the bean & winter squash poles are up & stringed, we got cardboard down on the newest garden paths, and many other assorted homestead chores got done. Thank goodness it started raining. Now we get to rest!

Another good thing has been that we've eaten quite well this holiday weekend. Fresh Pea Soup from the last harvest of the season, 2 types of broccoli salad (we had lots of broccoli ready to harvest at the same time), and my first tortillas. They were so easy and good, I'll be making them again. This post will be long, so I won't include any recipes. If there are specific ones you'd like to know about, let me know, and I'll include them in a future post.

The first picture shows J securing the cover on the unit. I bought this unit used, and the cover, which is a corrugated plastic roofing panel, needed replacing. The unit is 8' X 2', and encloses several runs of copper tubing. The water in the tubing is heated by the sun. It is an active system, which means that anytime the water in the collector reaches 145 degrees, a pump circulates it to a storage tank. It is an open system, meaning the water that is heated in the collector is the same water I'll use in my shower.

Joseph created some metal brackets, to secure it on the roof.

The thermometer registered in the 180's just a few minutes after setting it up. A little while later, it was off the charts, so at least 220 degrees.

The unit was placed on the roof of the house, facing south.

Since being set up on the roof, we haven't had a full day's sun. Even so, we've seen it register in the 180's. We've turned our water heater down to 125, to keep it running at bare minimum. We're making hot water from the sun. Another of my longtime dreams come true!

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Bit of Ugly

Arachnophobes, be warned. There is a most decidedly large 8 legged picture in this post. The picture was taken so we could ID it, but then I decided it was good to be real, and post it, lest you think it's all kitties and roses at The Clean Green Homestead.

I had the day off today, and J got off early, so this evening we headed into the crawlspace to finish hooking up the last of the solar hot water system. There were 4 of those big guys obvious to us, and the picture is of one of the smallest spiders. Best I can tell, they are dolomedes tenebrosus, or fishing spiders. Feel free to correct me on that.

I've done enough plumbing with J, now, that I can anticipate his needs somewhat, which meant I got to prepare most of the parts with the pretty purple primer. We finished things up, and opened up the system. There was one small leak from the panel on the roof, which required tightening. Otherwise, it's looking good. We're looking forward to seeing what it will do with a full day's sun. Sometime over this holiday weekend, I intend to post about our system, and have some more photos to show.

Last night, I noticed things are turning towards summer here. Yesterday I worked a bit late, then ran a couple of errands. After fixing J & I a simple supper, I wandered outside at dusk, and noticed the sights, smells and sounds of summer. I noticed the frogs calling to each other and a whippoorwill in the distance, the sweet smell of milkweed blossoms, a trio of bats flitting about and fireflies blinking their messages to one another. It brought me great peace, and once again, made me thankful to call this land home.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Old Hills

In clearing the area for the pond, Joseph found a long ridge of rock nearby. This area used to be next to a path I frequently walked to get to the creek. But I began using another path, so hadn't walked this one in some time. More rocks have pushed up since I last walked there, and the energy there is powerful. Some say that the Uwharrie Mountains are the most ancient on the continent. They're worn down to rolling hills now. Spending time in these old hills feeds my soul. Have a lovely day, friends!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Potato Salad and a Pond

We've been busy around here as of late, though J has definitely been doing the lion's share of actual work. He's been doing things like carving out a pond, and setting up a solar hot water system for us, while I've been making potato salad (for my Dad's birthday celebration), new labels for the 930 Pint soap, and transplanting flowers. I think I got the better end of the deal, don't you?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Morning Walk

Words don't seem to be coming forth right now. I trust pictures will do until I have something worthwhile to say. May your weekend be full of all the things you love!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Simple Sunday

Today was a simple day. Joseph & I planted Hickory King corn in the places where the first planting didn't come up. We finally got a little rain today, with more in the forecast. It's been very dry here, with "April showers" being almost nonexistent, and none in May until today. We're collecting rainwater in the cistern, which we'll filter and use for drinking water and soapmaking. I made a batch of 930 Pint today. For this batch, I used some STARworks Abbey Ale, blended with some IPA for the hoppy scent. It blended into a nice deep caramel color, though that may change before it's done drying. I hope it will stay close to that color, as it would be perfect for a men's soap. I'm thankful for a simple day.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sister Love

Today, I'm spending the day with my sister. We'll be talking, eating, and looking for thrifted treasures. Though I have many special memories of our lives, there is one in particular that stands out from all the others. It was in the 80's, on a June day, when we were quietly talking and giggling on our parents bed. A very simple memory, really, of sister love. We were attempting to relax, having just gotten home from having our nails done. You see, it was our wedding day. She had gotten engaged a few months after I, and we all decided it would be a grand idea to have a double wedding. Though some questioned our decision, it was a truly special day. The entire planning process and the day itself went off without a hitch. One of those marriages eventually ended. That would be mine. My sister and I, we're still close, and if you listen very long, well... you'll probably catch us giggling.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Night Visitors

There have been some interesting night visitors the past few weeks. I first began seeing rocks overturned at the edge of flower beds, then lots of dirt in the cats water bowl. I was pretty sure that meant a raccoon was prowling around. One night last week I turned around to face the door, and sure enough, a young raccoon was looking in at me, moved away, then snuck a peek a couple more times. It looked so cute, I couldn't help but laugh. I have had challenges with raccoons and my chickens in the past, so I will definitely be more mindful of bringing in the cat bowl soon after they're done with their evening meal. A couple of nights ago, I found a possum in the cat bowl, with one of the cats sitting nearby. I guess they don't mind sharing! I'm loving this wind chime I got at Circa Gallery. It makes the most wonderful tinkling sound, though it's awfully tough to take a picture of.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Wishing all mothers a very
happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

930 Pint

J & I headed to Winston-Salem last night, meeting up with friends to see NC singer-songwriter Chuck Brodsky play. Chuck is an extraordinary storyteller and wonderful musician. He's been doing the Fiddle & Bow concerts for 20 years, and I've been to see him play many, if not all of them. The latest soap I've been creating is a beer soap, and I've been trying to come up with a creative name for it. The folks at STARworks, who so graciously share their brew with me, have no name for it. Chuck has a song, 930 Pint, that I'm fond of, and I'd been pondering that name. I mustered up my nerve and asked him last night, and he gave his blessings. How cool is that! Give him a listen to on the above link. And while you're there, check out the video, The Man Who Blew Kisses. It's priceless. Have a lovely weekend, friends!

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Creative Life

There's a wonderful publication called Heron Dance I've subscribed to for years. They also publish a free weekly e-newsletter, A Pause for Beauty. There's artwork, and writings about nature, art and the creative life. They're having a huge sale right now, and could use some support in spreading the word. Please check them out and spread the beauty.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

An Irish Blessing

I loved this blessing from GreenPrints, a gardening publication I subscribe to. I hope you enjoy it as much.

May the blessing of the rain be on you-

the soft sweet rain.

May it fall upon your spirit

so that all the little flowers may spring up,

and shed their sweetness on the air.

May the blessing of the great rains be on you,

may they beat upon your spirit

and wash it fair and clean,

and leave there many a shining pool

where the blue of heaven shines,

and sometimes a star.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hope of Things to Come

Some of the fruits we hope to be eating later in the season include blackberries, figs, strawberries and grapes. Wishing you fruitful gardens!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Great Possibilities

May your walls know joy.

May every room hold laughter

and every window open to great possibility.

-Maryanne Radmacher-Hershey

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Rosy Kind of Morning

Yesterday's canning adventure ended with 21 quarts of mixed cranberry and purple hyacinth beans. It was an all-day thing, with 90 minutes of processing per batch, and heat up and cool down times. I'm glad to have them to put on the shelf. J & I watched King Corn last night, which was surprisingly well done. Sometimes documentaries are not all that entertaining, but we enjoyed this one.

Though not as exquisite as Carolyn's, I'm happy to have some roses blooming this morning. Though the name of the second and third have escaped me, the first is an Apple rose, named for the huge hips it makes. Wishing you a rosy day!