Posts Tagged ‘Sustainable living’

My Perone hive, showing the brood box (24 inches in length, width and depth), one super and the roof.  Construction was of Douglas Fir with the exterior thin-coated with linseed oil.  Materials cost about $140 including the concrete footed mounting frame and a sheet of galvinized metal for the roof.

Vernon’s Perone hive, showing the brood box (24 inches in length, width and depth), one super and the roof. Construction was of Douglas Fir with the exterior thin-coated with linseed oil. Materials cost about $140 including the concrete footed mounting frame and a sheet of galvanized metal for the roof.

When my first Warre hive was threatening to swarm, I knew I was in trouble.  I didn’t want any more hives but I wanted to give it to someone who would really appreciate a prime swarm.  I found out about Vernon through the new bee keeping network of Oregon South Coast Beekeepers Association…he had just built a Perone hive.  He wanted a swarm rather than package bees.  That was me a year ago.  The bees swarmed on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2013.  We handed him a bucket of bees a day later, but I didn’t want to leave it at that,  I had never seen a Perone hive before and wanted to see how big it was…I wanted to make sure our bees had a good home.

He sent me these photos and his details…

The plans I used to construct my hive are on-line:

http://peronehive.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Making-a-Perone-Hive.pdf

The authors are from Chile so the useful dimensions are in metric.  Perone insists that the internal dimensions of the brood box be 57 X 57 X 57cm, which is 184.5 liters.  Each of his supers is 32.5 liters.  Whenever I converted to English units I adjusted the measurements slightly for convenience.  My brood box is built of 1 X 6 inch lumber, which of course actually measures 3/4 X 5 1/2 inches.

Stacking 4 boards on edge gave me a brood box 22 inches in height (not including the floor which is 3/4 inch thick).    The outside dimensions for length and width were 24 X 24 inches, so the interior dimensions were 22 1/2 X 22 1/2 inches

Stacking 4 boards on edge gave me a brood box 22 inches in height (not including the floor which is 3/4 inch thick). The outside dimensions for length and width were 24 X 24 inches, so the interior dimensions were 22 1/2 X 22 1/2 inches

Scrap lumber sticks placed inside the brood chamber to help support the expected massive comb loads.

Scrap lumber sticks placed inside the brood chamber to help support the expected massive comb loads.

The height of my supers is 4 1/2 inches rather than the 4 inches recommended by Perone.  I measured my bars in metric (24 cm height and width, which is about 15/16 inches) and cut them on a circular saw from 2 inch cross-section stock.

There were 49 bars: 17 bars for the brood comb spaced 9mm apart, and 16 bars each for the two supers, spaced 10 mm apart.

There were 49 bars: 17 bars for the brood comb spaced 9mm apart, and 16 bars each for the two supers, spaced 10 mm apart.

Perone insists that the brood comb bars be 9mm apart because he feels this helps the bees maintain optimal brood comb temperature to fight infestations.  Also, that spacing is preferred by the queen, so an excluder isn’t needed to keep her in the brood box.

Note the lower entry and 2 inch deep landing strip.  The metal strip above the entry is a mouse guard.  The upper landing strip is also attached to the brood box.

Note the lower entry and 2 inch deep landing strip. The metal strip above the entry is a mouse guard. The upper landing strip is also attached to the brood box.

My gabled roof has a 5 1/2 inch peak and the ridge is 31 1/2 inches long.  The roofing is made from 1/6 inch boards and is covered by galvanized sheet metal.

My gabled roof has a 5 1/2 inch peak and the ridge is 31 1/2 inches long. The roofing is made from 1 x 6  inch boards and is covered by galvanized sheet metal.

Side view of the hive just after the swarm dump.  Everyone's confused!

Side view of the hive just after the swarm dump. Everyone’s confused!

It wasn't long before scouts returned and started their waggle-dance.

It wasn’t long before scouts returned and started their waggle-dance.

I asked Vernon if he would consider shooting a video of the bees…

This video was shot  on May 23rd about 9 days after installation.

Some updates below…

On Aug 3, 2013, at 10:50 PM, Vernon Strength <eurekawriters@yahoo.com> wrote:

Today I removed the super from my Perone hive and had a chance to look down through the brood box grid bars.  The attached photo shows that the bees have been building weird comb: rather small, all in the southeast corner, cross-combed to the extreme, and the comb cells between the bars are oriented “up.”  After almost three months the population of the hive seems about the same as the original swarm.

Obviously, my inclusion of a super from the beginning was a dumb idea.  The colony isn’t going to come close to filling their brood box by winter, much less a super.  My only defense is that I believed the South American beekeepers’ claims of rapid proliferation in the first few months.

Now the roof lid is directly over the brood box bars, almost touching them, so maybe the bees won’t be able to move over the top of the bars so easily to produce vertically-oriented brood cells.  That might reduced cross-combing, too.  Still, it’s already August and I don’t think there is time before winter for the bees to change their ways and build enough aligned combs towards the center of the grid.  They will have a hard time increasing their numbers significantly in their present nest, which may also be hard for them to heat in winter.  I can’t think of anything else to do now that I’ve removed the super.  Unless you have any suggestions I’ll follow the Perone philosophy and let the bees figure it out.

Vernon

On Aug 26, 2013, at 12:42 AM, Vernon Strength <eurekawriters@yahoo.com> wrote:

The population of the Perone hive colony seems to have increased significantly in the last few days, based on the unprecedented numbers entering and leaving the hive entryway.  Maybe they’ve increased their numbers for a last big food gathering push before winter.  It’s still a mystery what they are foraging on; they still fly straight up and over some big trees and disappear when they leave the hive, and they return from the same direction.  Lots of bumblebees have foraged around my house, but zero honeybees.

Last time I gave you an update I was concerned that there was so much cross-combing, and the comb was smaller than I’d expected.  It appears that the oddball comb has produced lots of brood though, the comb is ugly but functional, so I’m going to follow the Perone approach and leave the bees to gather their own supplies.  If this colony doesn’t make it through the winter I’m going to feel like a murderer.

I’ve started building another Perone hive using lessons learned from this first one.  The main difference is a 11in X 16.5in observation window.  I’m going to mount the new hive on the same platform with the first one, but probably the entry will face in the opposite direction so the bees won’t get confused about which entry to use.

Ciao,

Vernon

November 26, 2013…I took my new & improved Perone hive to the beekeeper’s meeting in Gold Beach last Thursday and got a lot of interest.  In fact, Del is thinking of using something similar while he’s in the Peace Corps. The new version has two large picture windows so I won’t be completely in the dark about activities inside the hive the way I am now.  The day-before-yesterday I checked the first hive when the weather was damp and in the low-to-mid 50’s and there were no signs of life.  I put my ear to the side wall but could hear nothing, so I lightly rapped it with my knuckles and three bees came out to see what was going on.  I concluded that the hive was simply hunkered down inside due to foul weather.  Really, I’m not sure what the temperature was outside, though I have two thermometers that weren’t cheap.  It’s nearly impossible to find a mercury thermometer anymore:  The alcohol substitutes are safe but inaccurate.  When I compare thermometers at a store they always show different readings (i.e., two different thermometers of the same make & model may have readings over 5 degrees apart).  The Italian bees we are keeping are apparently notorious for taking the day off when it’s coolish outside.  My friend Steve Sottong of Eureka recovered a swarm he claims was about 3X the volume of mine.  His bees are little and black, probably the species native to Great Britain, and they forage when it’s in the high 40’s.

Del suggested again that  I feed my bees.  His idea had some appeal:  Hang a Christmas candy cane from a top bar using a string or thin flexible wire.  Of course, once I do that I no longer have a “pure” Perone experiment going, so I’m torn.  Maybe the foragers are still finding nectar.  Lots of ivy grows around my neighborhood, and some weed flowers still persist.

November 28, 2013…Well, my (inaccurate) thermometer reads 61 damp degrees and my foragers are out in moderate numbers, moving verrrry slowwwly.  The bees appear healthy so I’m attributing their lethargy to the cool moist weather and perhaps advanced age.  I can tell the bees I’m seeing are all experienced veterans because they approach the small entryway so accurately.  The inexperienced foragers I observed in mid-summer came in crazy-fast and usually crash-landed on the runway, sometimes banging their heads against the hive walls or landing on other bees.  Anyway, nothing worrisome to report regarding the colony.

Vernon

January 24, 2014…The Perone bees are busy foraging this morning, taking advantage of the unseasonable 64 degree F. (17.7 C) temperature.  I’ve still never fed them.  Hopefully they are finding nectar someplace (the myrtle trues seem to have buds).

Vernon

Solarbeez says…Hi Vernon,  I’m so glad you decided not to feed.  I’ve been reading Michael Bush’s book, “The Practical Beekeeper.”  He talks about the pH of the hive.  When you feed sugar, it raises the pH of the hive which makes it more susceptible to nosema.

The only hive I’m feeding is the Warre, but I’m going to discontinue that.  I never took any honey, but I CAVED IN  to the temptation to feed them dry sugar.  The other two hives are not getting fed and they seem to be fine.

Here’s another Michael Bush quote you won’t see anywhere else… On Page 435…
“Pathogens?
Even some seemingly pathogenic organisms such as Aspergillus fumigatus which causes stonebrood, supplants worse pathogens, in this case Nosema.  Or Ascosphaera apis which causes Chalkbrood but prevents European Foulbrood.”

Thanks for the update.

Pat

January 26, 2014...a bee with orange pollen entering hive.  Does that indicate the queen has started to lay?

January 26, 2014…The Perone bees are collecting from a different pollen source today, a golden yellow variety.

January 26, 2014...The only flowers I see in my yard are on these myrtle trees, which locals also call pepperwoods or bays.  Of course, my bees never forage around my yard so I don't know their actual pollen source.

January 26, 2014…The only flowers I see in my yard are on these myrtle trees, which locals also call pepperwoods or bays. Of course, my bees never forage around my yard so I don’t know their actual pollen source.

February 10, 2014...Vernon says, "After a few days of rain the foragers are again out in force, and they are collecting more golden-yellow pollen than ever.  This winter has been so warm and dry I'm not sure the Perone hive is getting an adequate test."

February 10, 2014…Vernon says, “After a few days of rain the foragers are again out in force, and they are collecting more golden-yellow pollen than ever. This winter has been so warm and dry I’m not sure the Perone hive is getting an adequate test.”

Vernon’s entries:

February 19, 2014…Drove to Crescent City this afternoon and Queen Anne’s Lace weeds were blooming all along the road.

February 22, 2014…The foragers are out today in about the same numbers I saw during the summer.  It’s likely the colony considers that Spring has arrived.  A few dead or dying workers were on the ground below the entrance, probably over-winter bees that have been replaced by the next generation.  I believe the queen started laying during the mid-January warm spell.  About 20% of the foragers are bringing back golden-yellow pollen, which Carla believes comes from Myrtle trees.  Odd that our west coast winter has been so mild while the east coast has been frigid and stormy.

March 27, 2014…

I’m hoping to finish my second Perone hive this weekend. Will send photos when I do. I also want to write a summary of my conclusions after taking a Perone hive through the winter without feeding or treating or helping them in any way. My friend Steve in Eureka lost 5 of his 6 Langs, including the one that housed the huge swarm I wrote you about (small, cold-adapted black bees from northern Europe). He’s looking into setting up a horizontal hive.

Of course I’m in need of a swarm. Please let me know if you hear of one available.

Vernon

March 27, 2014…Pat’s reply

My congratulations on getting through the winter without feeding or treating. I welcome your conclusions on that.  I understand your second hive will have an observation window.  You’re going to love it.

My log hive has bees that are fanning.   I think they might be getting crowded.  Last year the first swarm was on a hot 80˙F day on March 31.  If the weather settles down, that could happen again this year.   The first swarm has been promised away for a swarm swap.  I’m debating whether to keep it (if that person’s hive isn’t ready) or give it away to try to get different genetics.  I’m hoping my other log hive will attract a swarm without me interfering.

If Vernon sends photos, I will post them here.

April 26, 2014  Lessons Learned

Last May I introduced a swarm of moderate size into a Perone mk2 hive. The colony survived the winter and appears to be thriving.   Since the hive has no observation windows I infer colony condition by watching the numbers and behaviors of individuals who venture out.

The hive is located in mixed woodlands on the northern California coast, USDA plant hardiness zone 9b. Winter was warmer than usual this year, with only one hard freeze. While it may be argued that survival through a mild winter isn’t an adequate test of the Perone design and philosophy, it remains that beekeepers in my area with carefully-tended Langstroth hives reported roughly the same high losses this year as previously.

Hopefully the success of my hive will encourage others to try Perone hives. I strictly followed the Perone approach of benign neglect.

  1. I never fed my bees. They were industrious foragers and didn’t appear to need any sugar water. At times it was difficult to resist feeding, because experienced beekeepers I respect advised me in the strongest terms to either feed my bees or watch them die. They cited seasonal stoppages of nectar flows (while flowers were in bloom) and pollen production (when pollen.com warned allergy sufferers in my area of high pollen counts). Swarms were represented as particularly vulnerable to starvation. My bees proved the experts wrong. Apparently feeding is so strongly entrenched in our beekeeping culture that it will persist superstitiosly no matter what.

Hive inspections. I never opened my hive to check the condition of the comb. Typically beekeepers open their hives at least monthly to check for diseases, monitor comb development, and discourage swarming.

Disease treatment: I never observed disease syptoms in my Perone bees. Of course they were given the “preventative medicine” of a Perone hive. The design of the Perone hive discourages disease through a more natural, healthful, undisturbed environment, and the relatively large populations of Perone colonies encourage thorough hygiene and robust reactions to parasite infestation. However, I do kill every yellowjacket I see.

Monitoring comb development: The only apparent benefit of monitoring comb is that it’s fascinating for the beekeeper. The removeable frames or top bars of more traditional hives encourage maniputation of comb positions. For example, one of my colleagues found that some of his Langstroth hives were “honey bound.” These hives had a few brood frames located between frames of mostly honey, which he said inhibited the development of more brood. In response he moved the honey frames to outside positions to encourage more brood nearer the center. My colleagues often switch frames between hives. For example, if a hive is producing more brood and less honey than what is considered optimal a honey frame is brought in from another hive and exchanged for an “excess” brood frame.

Drone cells and queen cells are often destroyed, as they consider worthless. Most destroy the “swarm cells” of developing queens to avoid population reduction in their hives due to swarming. Many “re-queen” (killed the queen and introduced a new one) when brood development doesn’t meet their expectations.

These are the same beekeepers who report 30-40% losses or worse over the winter and attribute the survival of my colony to luck. I never inspected the comb in my Perone hive—for all I know it may be “honey bound” and full of drone and swarm cells—but it seems to be working.

The value of swarms: The swarm introduced into my Perone hive appeared very organized from the beginning. Foragers quickly set out in all directions, returned in an excited state, and congregated for waggle-dancing on the landing platform in front of the hive entry. After the first day the foragers I observed always left my yard and returned from the same direction. From this I infer that the foragers quickly found an optimal feeding area and returned to it regularly thereafter.

Last week I introduced a 3 pound package of purchased bees into a second Perone hive. So far these bees appear disorganized compared to the swarm. It took several hours for the package bees introduced inside the hive to discover and regularly use the single entryway, compared to about 20 minutes for the swarm. And I never saw the package bees waggle dance. Now, after a week, the foragers continue to meander around, each in her own direction, without urgency.

My theory is that a swarm is more specialized to establish a new colony than most beekeepers appreciate. The swarm population seems to be made up of an appropriate number of workers specialized to perform each of the needed functions. It’s known that individuals carry enough supplies in their bodies to begin the processes. By contrast, package bees are shaken off frames pulled from established hives without regard for the functions the workers are currently performing. Then they are packaged with an unfamiliar queen and shipped off with some syrup to eat. What an awful start for a colony! In this first week I’ve observed a disturbing number of dead bees from the package bee colony.

Other hive maintenance. My hive is mounted on concrete foundation blocks that settled over the winter. The hive is no longer level. After some consideration I decided not to level the hive. There are no rigid frames in a Perone hive, so the bees are free to angle their comb building to adjust for settling. Returning the hive back to level would require the bees to readjust.

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This is how the garden looked in August 1998.  All those beautiful raised beds are rotting into the ground after 15 years and need to be replaced.

This is how the garden looked in August 1997. All those beautiful raised beds are now rotting into the ground after 16 years and need to be replaced.

Trex-built raised bed 5-5-13

Trex-built raised bed 5-5-13  Don’t look at the background…it’s messy.  I’m linear.  I can only work on one bed at a time!

We built most of our raised beds in 1996 and ’97.  The lumber came from a small sawmill using white cedar that had been passed over by the big timber companies.  It was sawn to a full 2 x 10 x 16′ (5.08 cm x 25.4 cm x 4.87 m)  It was beautiful wood.  We had less personal time then but more energy…lots more.  As good as that wood was, it still rots when in contact with the soil.  So after 17 years all those 16 beds have got to be replaced.  We found this decking material on close-out.  It’s not cheap but is supposed to outlast wood.  It’s a little wobbly so I had to set the corners in concrete, but if it outlasts wood, it’ll be worth it.  We’re trying to replace ONE raised bed a year now.  The green one was built last year out of old siding…much cheaper than this one, but won’t last as long.

Soil leveled, drip water grid laid out, tires centered over drip holes in pvc.

Soil leveled, drip water grid laid out, tires centered over drip holes. The tires extend the warm temps into the cool evening.

Hoops added with 1x2x8 re-enforcement.

Hoops added with 1 x2x 8 re-enforcement.  I use this to hold the tent open  too.

Don't glue any of the pvc like I did for many years.  That way you can have more options like this swing-away hose connection

Don’t glue any of the pvc like I did for many years. That way you can have more options like this swing-away hose connection

Clear plastic over hoops, held up rope and the re-enforcement wood.

Clear plastic over hoops, held up by rope and the re-enforcement wood.  Why have ‘tents?’  Our night time temperatures will dip to 45 deg. F (7 deg. c)  even in the middle of summer.  Use 6 mil UV stable greenhouse film. It’ll last for years of opening and closing every day.  We like our tomatoes to be warm and happy.

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Could this be pollen from the laurel bush?  It's been blooming since Jan. 22.

Could this be pollen from the laurel bush? It’s been blooming since Jan. 22. I know that you can’t tell by color alone, but at this time I don’t have the microscope or capability to properly identify pollen.

This is the first year I’ve had bees into winter.  I was curious about all the types of pollen showing up on the bees entering the hive.  I was sure some of it was gorse since we seem to have so much of it growing thanks to Lord Bennett of Ireland.

I made a 9 minute movie showing the bees on different types of flowers and Shigeo of the local bee association demonstrates how to transplant an Echium.  I realize that some people can’t spare the time, so I’m offering ‘screen saves,’ as well.

Laurel blooming by Bonnie's house

Laurel blooming by Bonnie’s house

Bee on laurel, tannish-colored pollen

Bee on laurel, tannish-colored pollen…January 22, 2013

Bees on rosemary, at City Hall, February 8, 2013

Bees on rosemary, at City Hall, February 8, 2013

Pussy Willows blooming near our hives...sun comes out...bees love it.

Willow catkins blooming near our hives…sun comes out…bees love it.  February 8,2013

Gorse pollen is orange...I had been hoping it was the yellow pollen I had seen going into the hive. February 13, 2013

Gorse pollen is orange…I had been hoping it was the yellow pollen I had seen going into the hive. February 13, 2013

The video shows this bee in slow motion working the pollen back to it's pollen sac.  I didn't see it at first until a more experience bee keeper showed me. February 13, 2013

The video shows this bee in slow motion working the pollen back to it’s pollen sac. I didn’t see it at first until a more experience bee keeper showed me. February 13, 2013

Bee on heather, 2-14-13, right up the street from Tom and Karen's house.

Bee on heather, 2-14-13, right up the street from Joe and Karen’s house.

Bee on acacia, 2-15-13...Shigeo showed me this place to get some video.  By the time we got to it, the bees were returning to home so I only got a short clip of it.

Bee on acacia, 2-15-13…Shigeo showed me this place to get some video. By the time we got to it, the bees were returning to home so I only got a short clip of it.

Shigeo shows how to transplant an Echium Tree.

Shigeo shows how to transplant an Echium Tree.

Echium for 2013...I'm hoping this plant will shoot up 10 feet (3 m) starting about April or May.

Echium for 2013…I’m hoping this plant will shoot up 10 feet (3 m) starting about April or May. The tarp protects against freezing weather.

These are the plants that Shigeo demonstrated in the video, how to transplant.  They are my hope for 2014

These are the plants that Shigeo demonstrated in the video, how to transplant. They are my hope for 2014

We planted this in late October 2011.  It just stared blankly at us for several months.  April or May we noticed it had grown about 10 feet.  The bees worked it for 3 solid months.

We planted this echium in late October 2011. It just stood still for several months. About April or May we noticed it had grown to about 10 feet. The bees worked it for 3 solid months.

The video shows the bees in action on the flowers.  I used the Canon SX-50 (50x optical zoom) on the laurel as well as the willow catkins.  My little pocket camera, a Sanyo Xacti performed admirably for the rest of the close ups…I love the ‘super macro’ feature.

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No thermostat heating for us, no sir, we like to hard work.

No thermostat heating for us, no sir, we like to do things the hard way.

You know the saying “Wood heats you twice…once when you get it and once when you burn it?”  How about when you stack it and/or split and move it?  For all the time we’ve lived in Oregon, we’ve always heated with wood.  There were times when we had so little wood we’d gather it off the beach.  We’d bring it home, split it, only to find it was too wet to burn.   Since we’ve lived here so long, the trees have grown up around us and now we have the option to cut on our own land.

Cat wants to help

Cat wants to help

Stacked up in sun to air out

Stacked up in sun to air out

This is the closest thing to a tractor that I've always wanted, but our acreage just doesn't justify a tractor.

Daughter is driving the power wagon…the closest thing to a real tractor that I’ll ever have.

Splitting wood the easier way.

Splitting wood the easy way…letting your adult children do  the heavy lifting.

Cooking on the wood cook stove

Garbanzo bean and veggie soup cooking on the wood cook stove…tea water always hot.

When our old stove wore out, we wanted to get a stove that would heat the house AND cook our food if needed.  We looked at some fancy catalogs, saw some very nice nickle-plated stoves and stoves that would heat a 24 gal. tank of water, but with our smaller space, we settled on the Baker’s Choice.  We can cook on the 6 sq. ft surface, bake in the oven, and heat the whole house.  The firebox is big enough to hold 10″ diameter wood.  While I miss seeing the warm glow of the fire, this stove heats the house and cooks very well.

Big Eddy enjoys the heat.

Big Eddy enjoys the heat.

15 year old Cody appreciates the warmth.

15 year old Cody appreciates the warmth.

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Myy new raised bed made from scrap siding.

My new raised bed made from scrap siding.

After watching a video about extended season gardening about 15 years ago,  my wife and I decided to try it out.  We had to make a few adjustments to keep the tents from blowing down in the wind.  By strapping 1.25″ pvc to the inside of the wood we can adjust the height of the hoops…one year we’ll have short hoops for greens, the next year we’ll have tall hoops for tomatoes.

Those raised beds served us well, but are starting to rot.  When we replaced some partially rotten wood siding on the house, I decided to use it as a replacement raised bed.  I sawed out the rotten areas and just cobbled these together to get a 4′ x 16′ x 14″ tall bed.  (1.22 m x 4.87 m x 35 cm)  I painted this time with some left over house paint, hoping it will protect the wood for another 15 years.

I added two drip watering grids by using 8′ (2,44 m) pieces of pvc.  The joints do not have to be glued because with all the holes drilled in them, they won’t leak.   I drilled the holes about 6″ apart (15 cm) on each side and then plant where the water comes through.

Companion planting  (Look at the comfrey site too)

We’ve had trouble with growing carrots in the past.  Sometimes they fail to germinate.  If we get them to grow early in the season, the slugs get them.  So we wait until July or August, but then we get a carrot maggot, those little worms that tunnel into the carrots.  So in an effort to grow great carrots AND avoid the tunneling worms we found leeks to be a good companion plant to carrots.  They repel the carrot fly.

Drip water grid.  By not gluing the joints, I can use the same hose to grid connection, by slipping it off one grid, and onto the other.

Drip water grid. By not gluing the joints, I can use the same garden hose to water grid connection, by slipping it off one grid, and onto the other.  Also I can ‘mix and match’ the pvc to fit longer or shorter beds the following years.

Carrots and leeks growing well

Carrots and leeks growing well

3/4 inch pvc hoop slips easily into socket (Looks like I didn't paint it very well)

3/4 inch pvc hoop slips easily into socket (Looks like I didn’t paint it very well)

Deer love carrot tops, so to avoid building a 10' (3 m) fence all around the garden, we opt to net everything.  I've tried twine, wire, and now fishing line

Deer love carrot tops, so to avoid a high fence all around the garden, we opt to net everything. I’ve tried twine, wire, and now fishing line to tie the netting to some pvc.  It’s a very tedious job, but once it’s done, little effort is needed to flip the netting off.  Just remember to flip it back or the deer will enjoy.

By placing the plastic, I can decide to protect against the raging storms, or to let a gentle rain soak the soil

By placing the plastic, I can decide to protect against the raging storms, or to let a gentle rain soak the soil.  In winter, I keep the plastic on to protect them in frost or the occasional snow.

Healthy carrots and leeks

The reward are healthy carrots free of little black worms and leeks for the winter dishes.

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This shed was being dismantled at a mill near where I live.  I had to ask what they were going to do with it…and that’s how I ended up getting this 900 sq ft (83 sq. mtr)   building.  The cinder blocks in the foreground provide a bridge during the rainy season mid-October til late May.

We love to garden but with our shallow well we knew we had to be careful with the water and not over plant  In the winter we would watch all the rain fill the creek and wash into the ocean…in the summer we had to be frugal.  Since this shed had a metal roof I started thinking about catching some of that rain water to keep for the summer.  I wanted an above ground tank so I could gravity feed…no need for a pump.  I found a used 3000 gal tank that was in good shape and set it up on the gravel bed.

After getting one tank I figured it was such a great idea, i bought a second tank knowing the price would never be lower.

After getting one tank I figured it was such a great idea, i bought a second tank knowing the price would never be lower.  I extended the gutter down pipe to reach.  This photo was taken about 9 years ago when I started using them.

Watershed to tank via hijacked gutter.

Watershed to tank via hijacked gutter.

It helped to have the kind of downspout that is circular so I could adjust to any angle.

It helped to have the kind of downspout that is circular so I could adjust to any angle.

The sieve catches any small debris that might have made it down this far...keeping it out of the tank.

Every year we clean the gutter first and then let the first few rainfalls drain to the ground, rinsing the roof of pine needles, bird poop, and leaves.  The sieve catches any small debris that might have made it down this far…keeping it out of the tank.  It also holds the pipe in place, as nothing is glued.  I need to be able to adjust to the second tank.

Only 5 days of rainfall, this tank is full.  I've got to hook up the second tank.

Only 5 days of rainfall, this tank is full. I’ve got to hook up the second tank.

Our annual rainfall is 60 inches  (1500 millimeters) which we receive between mid October til late May.  In the summer sometimes there’s no rain for 3 months.  That’s when we need more water for the blueberries, fruit trees, and artichokes.  We tap into this water, but we have to remember to shut it off.  We can easily lose 1800 gallons overnight!

This water is used ONLY for irrigating the garden, not for drinking water which would have to be filtered.

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Solar panels installed in June 2009

If it looks like these panels were not purchased all at the same time it’s because they weren’t.  I bought them as I could afford them.  The bottom four were purchased first.  When I wanted more I was told that Brazil was buying all they could make…just wait a few months.  I didn’t want to wait but found some compatible ones built by Solar World right here in the US.

I wanted to be able to produce my own electricity for “just in case” scenarios.   Since we get all our water from a well, if the power grid goes out, we can’t get water.  While the power doesn’t go out very often, when it does, we are without both water and electricity for several days.  I wanted to be able to power those ‘critical load’ items like the well pump, a few lights, the refrigerator and freezer.  Plus I wanted to prove that solar power can be used even in cloudy climates in states that are “north.”  I live on the Oregon Coast.  If it works here, it can work in 75% of the US.

In fact, this system works so well that in the summer time, I have so much extra power I can run my printing presses with it.

This is a sticker I apply to everything I print with solar electricity.  I would be surprised if any other printers in the US could claim that.

During the rainy season it’s a different story.  Our rainy season is roughly mid October to late May, so it was a big surprise when we had an unexpected sunny day a couple days ago.  We had had rainy weather for about a week and my batteries were down.  The meter said I was a MINUS 109 amp hours.  I was going to have to do some  serious charging.

Minus 109 amp hours  before noon

The charge controller shows we have 34.3 amps coming in right now.  If we can keep that going, it’ll take a little over 3 hours to charge up.  I hope the sun stays out.

Minus 57.9 Amp Hours at about 2:20 pm.  We are catching up while producing power at the same time.

We’ve already produced 134 amp hours and the sun is still shining!

170 amp hours produced by the end of the day.

The sun stayed out and the batteries are full.  Not bad for an autumn day.

My “Solar Roller” water pump and a solar oven…

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