Monday, March 25, 2013

Snowy Spring

I don't have much to report this week.  We were busy almost every night this week but it didn't have anything to do with the house.  We had Mom's Night Out, Beekeeping Class, Belated Birthday Dinner, Friends and Farms Dinner, Volleyball, and Book Club.  Whew!  It was fun though!

I am still working on Samantha's play kitchen and it's getting much closer to finished - although I think I'll still be working on it for awhile.  I have a lot of it painted but I need the finishing touches.

Chris had to work this weekend but before that he was able to transplant some bushes and trees on to hide our rain barrels from the neighbors.  And of course there was some basketball watching...

She was as excited to play with her shoes as I was to see Aaron Craft's rosy cheeks!

Our solar panels are doing great!  There have been rainy days...

...and mostly sunny days...

...but no fully sunny, not-a-cloud-in-the-sky days.  Our max daily output so far is 54 kWh (with 324 kWh lifetime total).  This is great since we use about 25 kWh per day on average.  It's so exciting to see our meter spin backwards!

Unfortunately, today we will not be producing any power because our panels are covered in about 5 inches of snow.  But it sure is pretty!

And it makes a great instant soother for teething pain!

So today we'll be staying home and playing in the snow. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Planting

Oh yes, we had a lot of fun on St. Patrick's Day this year.  Instead of celebrating in a traditional way, we spent part of the day installing some of the plants at the end of the driveway.  Yes, we know how to party.

The neighbors had given us some tulip bulbs in the fall and I had planted them at the end of the driveway.  They are starting to come up now and we added a few nandina and a holly behind them.  We transplanted the holly from another part of the property and we need to get another one that is a similar size. 

We are not finished with planting here - we still plan on adding more flowers and maybe some small grasses.

Our house has needed landscaping for a very long time.  We are a little clueless when it comes to landscape design so we hired a landscape architect to do the design.  A local nursery offers this service and as we buy plants from them we get a discount then renders our design free.  We should be getting the plan within the next couple weeks.  They also give us a quote to have their people install everything - we're guessing it will be extremely expensive so we'll probably be doing it all ourselves.

Chris has been taking a beekeeping course through the local club.  This weekend he got to help install two packages of bees at another beekeeper's house.  He wore the whole getup - and looked kind of silly but it's better than getting stung!  He plans on purchasing his bees and equipment very soon.  I'll be sure to update on our hive as he gets it set up.

Chris is also entering a few beer competitions.  He had to get in a couple of the entries this weekend - Tucker's Nut Brown Ale and Kristy's Christmas Cider.  They won't be judged until later this month - hopefully the will be truly "award winning!"

Here's some Samantha news.  She has started walking on her own a lot more this week.  Although she still prefers to hold onto something. 

She is working on her first molar - it looks very painful but it doesn't seem to be bothering her very much.  We hope it comes in without too many tears.

Each afternoon Samantha watches a "Your Baby Can Read" DVD.  In it they sign the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" a few times.  When she was watching it this week, she started doing her own version of the motions.  There wasn't anybody to copy on screen while she was doing this - it was from memory.  I thought it was so cute.

Samantha helped me make some colored rice using Kool-Aid and a little bit of rubbing alcohol.  She had a good time squishing it all around.  We made a several different colors - red, pink, orange, yellow, green, and purple. 

Once the rice was dry, I put a lot of her green toys in a bin with the green rice and she has spent a long time playing with it.  It will be a lot fun as we play with many more colors and toys.  

We have a very busy week coming up so I'm not sure what we'll be able to accomplish - we'll see!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me!

What a great birthday present - we got to turn on our solar panels today!  I just flipped the last switch and it's a nice cool, sunny day so we should be producing quite a bit.  I'll let you know early next week how it's working.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Almost Solar Powered...

This week we passed the county inspections for the solar panels.  Woohoo!  One step closer.

Once that was completed, the electric company sent out a technician to swap out our meter for a net meter.  This new meter will go in both directions - what we use and what we produce.  The goal would be for us to be in negative numbers during the spring and summer (producing more than we're using) so that we can use those credits in the winter when we won't produce as much. 

Now all we need is a letter from the electric company that allows us to flip the switch to turn on the system.  Hopefully that will happen early this week. 

This weekend was absolutely beautiful!  We went to a local nursery to get started on our landscaping.  The plants we ended up buying were for around the deck and at the end of the driveway.  We planted the ones around the deck but have to wait for the Miss Utility to come out to mark for the driveway plants. 

We are absolutely clueless when it comes to designing landscaping for the front of the house so we are hiring a landscape architect to come up with the plan.  It doesn't cost much and we get it all back as a discount when we buy the plants from the nursery.  It will be a lot of work but the house value will increase a lot.

On Sunday, after church, I spent a few hours with my new pressure washer.  I cleaned the two sides of the house.  The side of the garage has a stucco-like siding that had a ton of yucky green and black all over.  It came off pretty well but it still needs some repair and a good coat of paint. 

The other side of the house is all brick.  This is the shady side - it only gets sun for a short time in the evening.  So there was 53 years worth of dirt and mildew on the brick and mortar.  There was quite a difference from before and after here.

These are the types of jobs that I hate doing - they take a lot of time but you don't see a big difference.  In other words, you only notice when it's gross - not when it's clean. 

Chris spent some time brewing another award winning beer this weekend.  This time it was a Black IPA. 

I was able to finish all the felt pieces for the exchange I'm hosting.  They turned out pretty well.  I'm just glad I didn't wait until the last minute!


Samantha has been making progress with some things recently.  She tends to stick out her tongue when she's concentrating really hard!

She helped put up some Easter themed window clings - a lot of them ended up on top of each other though.

She is getting better at stacking the blocks - not just knocking them over anymore. 

That's about it for this week - next week we should be solar powered for real!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Solar Installed...

Well this was an exciting week here.  Our solar panels were finally installed!  They started the installation on Wednesday and finished up Thursday.  It was two long days but they look great!

We got 39 panels installed - they weigh about 40 pounds each and are much thinner than I thought they would be.  Here's a picture of the majority of them waiting for installation.

And of course here are the before and after shots.

Now we have to pass the county inspections - both electrical and building.  Then the utility company has to come out to install a new meter.  The last step is turn the system on and be powered by the sun!!

During the first day of installation, I hosted a play date here.  We were exchanging "busy bags" and even though it was loud from the panel installation, the kids still had fun.  Each person ended up with 11 different small activities to keep the kids busy.  I think Samantha's favorite so far is the magnetic fishing game.

The busy bag exchange went well so I decided to host a felt board piece exchange.  Each person chose a different set to make - I decided to do vegetables with a cutting board and knife.  I'm also making the felt boards for everyone.  So I'm going to be very busy!

I started by hand sketching the vegetables and then cutting them out of thick cardboard.  

I cut out a sample set and then decided to add a yellow squash and cucumber.  But it gives you a feel for what I'm talking about.

I make a few tweaks after looking at my sample pieces and then traced and traced and traced some more. 


It turns out to be a lot of felt pieces (particularly those small green stem/leaf/husk pieces for the pepper, tomato, eggplant, carrot, beet, and corn)!  I started cutting out and stitching the corn and husk together.  Last night I finished up cutting out all the other parts that need stitched together.  The exchange isn't until the end of the month so fortunately I have some time. 

This weekend, Chris brewed some more "award winning" beer.  It took him awhile to get this batch brewed from when he first bought ingredients though!

I worked a little bit on Samantha's play kitchen - I still have a long way to go before it's done.  I finished up installing the shelves for the freezer/fridge, under the sink, and the rack for the oven.  I didn't take pictures of all that yet but I'll be sure to do that later. 

I don't have many pictures of Samantha this week - but I have one of the injuries she sustained.  Learning to walk is a tricky business!  She fell a couple times - one was near the cable outlet in the basement that scraped near her mouth and the other was on top of the little play lawnmower and she got a black eye.  Poor girl!

Hopefully next week we'll have much more work to share (and less injuries to report)!