Looking back at a year

in Homesteadinglast month (edited)

Hi everyone! It's been a while! Since I last posted, I've changed jobs and beat cancer. I've hatched, lost, and avenged many chickens. I've resurrected an old Dodge truck, and finally drove the old Honda nearly to death. I've built and upgraded so many things...

Maybe we should just get started. 😁

Early in the year, I acquired an electronic drum kit. I don't really play, but I would like to be able to build those skills, and it's nice to have one around if a drummer stops by the house and wants to jam a bit. I thought that I had a pair of drum sticks, but could only find the one I keep as a memento from a Blues Traveler concert. Never daunted by the things I do not have, I simply carved another one up quickly from some of the wood scraps I always have around.


It wasn't perfect, but it got the job done!

I also had a tree fall, and wreck some of the fence around my little corn garden.


I managed to get that cleaned up, then ANOTHER tree fell, and nearly wrecked the new hydrant style hose spigot that I finally got installed! This spigot allows me to drain my watering hoses without having to disconnect and reconnect everything whenever the temperature gets too far below freezing.


After I got THAT mess cleaned up, mother nature finally quit playing around...


I'm probably going to be working on that mess until next year. With a little luck, I'll drop a few posts before then. 😉

While I was milling up all that good luck that kept falling out of the sky, yet ANOTHER tree fell and yanked the power lines off the house! They shorted against the siding for a while, leaving a few nice burn marks, and surging the power enough to ruin several of our power adapters.


At this point, I decided I better move the sawmill before the trees took their revenge on it. The truck you see below, and the new location for the sawmill, were part of the new job, which we'll be getting to shortly.


My youngest brother got remarried, and had a lovely little ceremony in one of the quiet parks of Watkins Glen, NY.


He had asked me to provide music for the reception, which I gladly agreed to. I was able to get the music set up, but was feeling so sick and miserable by the time that I was done, I missed almost the entire reception. The next day, I went to the walk-in clinic, which sent me to the ER, which quickly admitted me with a white blood cell count over 7X the normal level. For those of you not familiar with such medical jargon, this indicates a very severe infection. They must have thought I looked like trouble, because they put me in a room that showed signs of several previous altercations.


I was pretty quickly diagnosed with two large tumors in my large intestine, and spent the next couple months either in the hospital, or recovering from being in the hospital. I'll talk about that a LOT more in an upcoming post from @oldsoulnewb. The long story short: I had been expecting this for some time; it's how my father died. Everything is fine now, and I feel better than I have in years!

Of course, the other people in my family aren't as convinced of my invincibility as I am, so I took an opportunity around the holidays last year to tour the east coast, reassuring distant family. I finally got to see the headstone at my deceased brother's grave site, which was installed shortly before my arrival.


Despite all these things that seem like setbacks, this year I was finally in a position to leave my job in blacktop, and take a huge pay cut to help a friend begin rebuilding his family farm. His family has owned one of the larger farms in the area for 7 generations now, though it has been split up and dwindled over the years. He's recently returned, after making his fortunes in tech and entertainment, to reclaim and rebuild this legacy.

When he asked where to begin on this journey, I advised as I always do... start with chickens!


They were supposed to be 24 pullets, but one of the Rhode Island Reds ended up growing into a rooster. This wasn't really a problem, since we planned on breeding them anyway. Once it started becoming apparent that one of our shes was a he, we naturally named him They. 😂

The second necessity was some greenhouse space, since we wanted to be able to produce vegetables all year long. It didn't take us long to find a great deal on a hoop house and get it almost all set up.


Even more quickly, mother nature decided she didn't like where we put it, and tried to move it somewhere else.


Rather than try to rebuild this ground-based sailboat, we wisely decided a timber-framed greenhouse might be more suitable for our particular area. I moved the sawmill down to the farm, and installed another 20' of track for it, bringing my maximum possible board length up to 29.5'.


We also got an incubator, so we could hatch our own chickens. In all the years I've kept chickens, the few hens that actually tried to hatch a brood did it in such impractical places that none of them ever succeeded. After getting the incubator, in 21 short days I succeeded where dozens of hens had failed.


Those 5 little guys were hatched from the last of my ArborVilla chickens, all of which I lost to predators before their babies were born. They were avenged... I finally purchased a youth model .22LR for taking care of pests around the homestead, and it's already claimed a fisher, 2 raccoons, and a handful of woodchucks. The next batch of eggs, from our farm chickens, hatched a much larger brood.


The new job required a 'new' truck, and I found this little gem in my neighbor's yard for a very reasonable price. It required a lot of work on the brakes and suspension, and more than a little attention to the engine and electrical, but we ended up with a very solid, reliable truck for under $2500 total.


We also planted a lot of vegetables, despite losing the greenhouse. This crop was largely just to test the soil, which was good, since the chickens ate most of it.


There is a lot of brush and overgrowth to clear on the property, so rather than buy a fence, I constructed one from the debris. This had the unintended effect of drawing a lot of attention to our little project. Apparently, people found our fence very attractive.


It's not all chickens, gardens, and flying greenhouses. There were a few old pop-up garages on the property, like the one I set up a while ago here at ArvorVilla. Two of them had lost their covers over the years.


Since we had a big chunk of greenhouse plastic just lying on the ground, I decided to put it to better use, and give these old garages some new glory.


I also found some much cheaper, more fully featured battery management systems for the solar storage batteries we've been building from upcycled Nissan Leaf modules. These are the batteries inside the off-grid power module I teased a photo of a while ago.


I used some of my hospital recovery time to learn some new software, and designed a PCB to replace a bunch of the wires. This makes the units much more tidy, and safer.


These batteries are for 48V systems, and each stores about 3KWh worth of power. If you're interested in something like that, let me know. We sell these for about 1/2 the price of most off-grid battery options. Here's a look inside our 8 battery power unit...


I have managed to get some stuff done around ArborVilla, besides just cleaning up trees that fall down. This old stone ring around one of the trees I cut down years ago has been shown in several of my posts.


It was long overdue for a rebuild, so I gave it the old mason's touch...


I've also cut 1000's of feet of boards with the sawmill, and I wouldn't dare drop a post after a whole year without including a little sawmill porn...


That beautiful slab was from a black walnut we cut down at the farm. I cut some magnificent beams from that tree that I'll be installing in one of the local homes a little later this week. Hopefully, I'll find time to post about that in more detail later.

Of course, that's not EVERYTHING from the last year, but those are the highlights of the things that fall outside of the 'day-to-day' stuff I've been posting about for years. I must say, it feels real good to stretch my fingers on the keyboard again to share what I've been up to with all of you! I hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed assembling it.

Until I see you again, keep growing the future you want!

Ah yes... just in case you missed this pic on D.Buzz, here's a bunny in a dustpan!



Wow, what a year. Good to hear you've come back healthier than you were. I'll have to try and remember to keep an eye on your oldsoul page for the full story.

What a year! I'm glad you sre still with us

It will take a lot more than wind, rain, and cancer to keep me away!

You had quit an eventful year, I really admire that you kept working despite the health challenge and accomplishing the things you wanted to do. This has taught me a whole lot.

I long ago quit viewing obstacles as obstacles, and instead just see them as part of progress. Now, when things go wrong, I'm just happy that the problem is easy to see!

Will keep this in mind always.

I'm glad to hear the cancer is passed and you seem to be doing well. Lots of projects on your friend's farm! And I'd love to see what all that cut wood went into.

Thank you! Most of the wood so far has just gone to building chicken enclosures, but some bigger projects are on the way.

"When he asked where to begin on this journey, I advised as I always do... start with chickens!"...

Starting with chickens makes the most sense.

Whats the scoop on those 48v batteries you mentioned? And what tech are they?

Also, the hoop house... We have them where I am. pvc and scrap plastic we harvested from old grow sites. We see 40-50mph before gusting in the valley here fairly commonly. I've seen metal roofs blown off (and even stick built metal sided structures blow away twice now). We've found that if you orient hoop houses so that the common wind, which for us is east or west, blows over the side of the hoop house and stake them down (1.5 foot in the ground has worked for us), they will withstand basically anything wind can attempt. Even when made of just 1 inch pvc with wooden perimeter to fix the stakes and pvc hoops to at the ground. If you're looking to save money, this could be an option. Having rigid ends is helpful as they will blow and shutter.

Having trees makes me totally jealous lol

The batteries are Li-ion technology, made from upcycled modules from Gen1 Nissan Leaf modules. We have installed a BMS that sets top voltage at 59V, bottom voltage at 44V, but we can configure this to work with inverters that cut out before going that high or low. They have a maximum current of 60A, though we've never actually gone above 18A in/out on our 10.5KW system. With 15A coming in from the charge controller, they reach full charge from the low-end shutoff in about 40 minutes.

Your description of how to install the hoop house is pretty much what we did. The problem we have is that the valley where we installed it tends to induce whirlwinds, so we're unable to orient it against prevailing winds. We've decided to build a timber frame greenhouse in that area, and try the hoop house in one of the calmer fields.

Man, I get whirlwinds. I'm lucky to not at bad ones in the valley here very often. Not a lot you can do there but make kites lol. It sucks watching things blow away and get mangled. Now I'm on page.

Ok I see what you've done with the batteries. So what are you charging for them? You mention in the post that you would sell them. I'm likely not in a position to buy at this moment, just window shopping.

Our current price is $400/ea, though we have a couple volume deals in the works that would lower that, if they go through. Shipping them to CA from NY would add a significant amount to that cost, but we have some people who make that trip now and then, and might be able to work something out if you find yourself in a position to buy in the future. I do have future plans of being able to accept HP/HBD as payment.

Seems like a decent price. i'll keep it in mind. I just opted for golf cart batteries. Was finally able to afford some. They are working out really well so far.