May 28, 2022

Closing Out May With Pretty Pictures

At least, I hope they're pretty! Some of them have been double posted over at my photography blog for Rain's Thursday Art Date and my online photography course. Here they are, in random order, just for fun.

First red raspberries

Muscadines on pergola

Does and kids

California poppy in the garden swale berm

Snowpeas and strawberries

Asparagus flowers


Onion and turnip flowers



Frog and water lily

May 20, 2022

Upgrading Our Solar Set-Up

One of the things I've regretted about our solar set-up is not spending more on batteries. It made sense at the time, because we were looking to stretch our limited budget as far as we could. However, our battery bank isn't large enough to power the freezer and fridge for more than a day and a half without sun. Fortunately, we usually have the grid to plug back into, but the primary reason for this small system is to preserve food in our hot climate if the power is out for an extended period of time. 
In the back of my mind, I've thought that if we were ever able to utilize our remaining two solar panels, we could use the original battery bank for those and invest in a larger one for the fridge/freezer set-up. Now that we finally have those panels up, that's what we decided to do.
Ordering batteries off the internet is the most expensive option, so we went back to the same folks who sold us our first set of batteries. Originally, we got 6-volt golf cart batteries. With the help of the sales guy, we were able get industrial 6-volt floor scrubber/sweeper batteries.

 Our six golf cart batteries are 235 amp hours each, with a total of 705 amp hours for the battery bank. These floor scrubber batteries are 330 amp hours each, so we can increase our electricity storage quite a bit. Of course, more amp hours meant they are more expensive, and it took some discussion to decide on how many. Pairs are required for solar wiring, and six would give us approximately 990 amp hours. But eight would give us 1320 amp hours!

 For technophiles, here's how that works:

Wiring components in series increases voltage.
Wiring components in parallel increases amperage.
Our system is small, so 12 volts is perfect. To create a 12-volt system from 6-volt batteries, we connect pairs of batteries in series (connecting negative terminals to positive). That increases voltage.

6 volts + 6 volts = 12 volts 

To increase amperage, we connect the pairs in parallel (connecting all the negative terminals together, and all the positive terminals together). That increases amperage.
330 amp hours x 4 pairs = 1320 amp hours
The result is a 12-volt, 1320 AH battery bank.
For a visual example of how the wiring is done, here is our original battery bank. The blue is series wiring (neg to pos). The green is parallel wiring (neg to neg and pos to pos).
Diagram from Solar Pantry Project: Batteries

Anyway, even though the money had been earmarked for this purpose, it's still difficult to make expensive purchases because we do it so rarely. Finally, Dan asked what would give me the most peace of mind, so we got eight!

Batteries do have a lifespan, which was something to consider when making this switch. We've taken good care of our first battery bank by regularly checking the specific gravity and water level of each cell, plus not discharging too deeply. So we should still get quite a few years out of the old bank.

Now that we have the batteries, the next step is to build a box to house them. Dan's working on that.

May 16, 2022

Spring Planting & Growing: Late Edition

Spring's last anticipated frost date divides my planting season into early and late. If the weather turns warm early, I'm always tempted to take a chance and plant early. Last year I did that and we had a late frost. This year I waited. I'm glad I did because we had another late frost this year! We're on the other side of that now, so we're busy planting and transplanting warm weather veggies and crops.

Warm season seeds planted so far:
  • cantaloupe (Hales' Best)
  • cowpeas (Ozark Razorback)
  • okra (Clemson spineless)
  • peanuts (a Virginia type, I think)
  • my landrace cucumbers (F1)
  • calendula
  • sunflowers
  • corn (Painted Mountain)
  • winter squash (Sweet Potato)
  • summer squash (White Scallop)
  • Swiss chard
    • Fordhook
    • Rugy
    • Rainbow blend
  • sunflowers (Russian Mammoth)
  • dill
  • marigolds
  • scarlet runner beans

Plants planted or transplanted:
  • asparagus roots
  • sweet potato slips (Georgia Jet)
  • tomato plants
    • Matt's Wild Cherry (volunteers)
    • Better Boy
  • table grape (green seedless)
  • olive tree (Arbequina, supposedly okay for my growing zone)
  • redbud seedlings

Working on:
  • pasture

Still to plant:
  • green beans (Cornfield, when the corn is about 6" tall)
  • more summer squash & cukes (for extended harvesting)
  • more herbs (hopefully)
  • purple sweet potato slips

Purple sweet potato sprouts for slips

 I got the purple sweet potatoes from Misfits Market. They were excellent keepers and very tasty, so I saved one to sprout for slips. It's been slow, I reckon because it's been a fairly cool spring. Eventually I'll get them in the ground to grow my own.







Red raspberry leaves to dry for tea


Peppermint for tea

Oregano for seasoning

Waiting to harvest:



Multiplier onions

And of course, we're waiting on everything else! The challenge, now, is getting enough rain. We had a very rainy spring but no rain since our last frost, except for an occasional drizzle. Without moisture, things don't germinate or grow, so I'm doing a lot of watering of transplants and baby plants. We're really enjoying the lettuce and snow peas, and I'm hoping with plenty of watering they'll continue to produce. But I hesitate to water newly planted seeds, wondering if it isn't better to wait until it rains for nature to take it's course.

The transition from rainy to not-so-much rain pretty much marks our transition from spring to summer. That, and the days are getting hot. Those days are upon us, so it's definitely time to finish planting and shift seasonal gears.

May 14, 2022

Progress On the Comment Problem

I finally think I've figured something out! Apparently, the sign-in problem for embedded comments occurs only with Google's own browser Chrome. So, some Chrome or chrome based browsers (such as Chromium or Brave) are the problem. Other browsers work, however, and was actually able to sign in when I clicked "Sign in with Google." 

I had success with Firefox and Vivaldi. Firefox is Mozilla, and while Vivaldi is chromium based, the developers apparently got something right.

What I find ironic about this is that several years ago there were numerous problems with Google products, and they would only function properly with Chrome. Of course, it seemed like a typical big business monopolizing move, but I like Chrome and have been happy to use it for all things Google. Looks like I'm going to have to change that now.

I'm guessing they may be phasing Chrome out at some point anyway, since the question I found in their help community didn't have an answer and the thread had been locked. I suspect that means no fix is forthcoming.

Anyway, I hope this helps those of you out there that are still having problems leaving comments on some of your favorite blogs.

May 12, 2022

Last But Not Least

About 30 minutes old.

River kidded on Monday morning - a single baby boy! So that winds up spring kidding with four bucks. I've never had all bucks! I've been fortunate that I usually have mostly girls, but there's no guarantees, so that's that.

3 hours old

He's certainly flashy, with his white and grey spots. Kids' spots often change color as they get older, so I suspect he'll become quite colorful. 

A day and a half.

2 days old

For their first day or two, newborns take lots of naps. At about day two, they start to become more active and more fun!

He's had a chance to meet the other kids through the kidding pen, so next was mingling with the rest of the herd.

River is a very good mother and won't let the bigger kids pick on him. I suspect he'll be tearing around with the rest of them in no time.

May 8, 2022

Expanding Our Solar

A couple of years ago we got our freezer and secondary fridge on solar. At the time, we only used three of the five solar panels we bought off Craigslist. That's left two panels that we've wanted to put to use. One of our miscellaneous spring projects was to make a start on getting those up and running. While the project isn't completed, we've made progress!

Solar panels on the roof and concrete
pad for the battery bank on the ground.

For the battery bank, what we've decided to do is to use the bank we originally set up for the freezer and fridge. At 705 amp-hours, it just isn't enough when we have a dark, cloudy spell. But it will be perfect for this system, where we plan to use it to power radios and computers, and for emergency auxiliary lighting if the power goes out. For the freezer and fridge, we will install a new, larger amp-hour batter bank.

For now, the project is on hold because "food first." We hope to make more progress as soon as planting season is over. 

May 4, 2022

Swale Project: More Experiments

Digging swales is our big infrastructure project for 2022.

Proposed plan for approximate swale placement.

The first swale was for the kitchen and canning garden. We dug this one by hand. It was a lot of work, but not too bad with the two of us working on it.

Blog posts with more pictures here and here.

It still needs a bit of leveling, but it works well and captures a lot of rainwater.

Next, Dan hand dug a second small swale for the little production patch next to the driveway. No roots and soft soil, so it went pretty quickly.

After we get a good rain to see how
level it is, we'll fill with wood chips.

This spot is where we plant a plot of something, like corn or wheat, rather than a bed. But because it's located on a high point of our property, it dries out quickly once we hit our summer dry spell. Whatever  rainwater we can catch here will hydrate the soil more deeply than just rain. 

The more challenging swales are the ones for our pastures, because they are too big to dig by hand. But we've finally made a start! We started with the pasture closest to the garden, where we can use a spillway to direct garden swale overflow into the pasture swale.

After we moved that big mound of dirt, the next step was to find and flag a level line for the swale.

We used an inexpensive transit to find a level line for a swale.

Being level is key to a swale's effectiveness, because it ensures the water will be distributed evenly across the length of the swale.

Flags mark a level path for a future swale.

The how-to has been the big question. People often use large equipment such as a backhoe to make swales. But a lot of folk have been creative with what they have and have used turn plows or scraper blades. 

Dan decided to see what the scraper could do and made a start.

Then he ripped it and scraped it again.

Then the tractor called it quits and stopped running. At least we've made a start.

May 1, 2022

Blogger Problems: Embedded Comments

A friendly neighborhood public service announcement here. 

This isn't a new problem, but it's a recurring one that's back once again. It's this: some of us are having problems commenting on blogs that use embedded comments. 

Specifically, with embedded comments, Blogger won't let folks login to leave a comment. The bug is that the sign into Google button doesn't work. It doesn't sign you into your account. It does nothing. And actually, this is ironic, since I'm already signed into my Google account!

The problem varies depending on who is allowed to comment on the blog.
  1. Comments allowed by anyone including anonymous
  2. Comments allowed by those with a Google account
On blogs that have selected option #1, the comment box looks like this.

Click to biggify

Our choices look like this:

The "Google Account" option doesn't work, so if I want you to know it's me, I have to use "Name/URL." If I have the time and enthusiasm, I'm willing to do that. But if I'm in a time crunch or it's late and I'm tired, I'll leave it for later and usually forget about coming back. It is a bit inconvenient, so I'm guessing some folks don't even bother.

On blogs that have selected option #2, the comment box looks like this.

Click to biggify

Clicking on "Sign in with Google" only refreshes the page. It does not allow you to sign in, so it doesn't allow you to comment! There's no workaround for this one.

So, If you're wondering why you aren't getting comments or why some of your regulars seem to have disappeared, it's likely because of choosing embedded comments. If you want to change it, here's how.

On the lefthand side of your dashboard select "Settings."

Click for larger view

Scroll down to "Comments" and click on "Comment location"

Click for a better look-see

Make your selection and save.

If you want to change who can comment, click on that one.

Click to biggify

Make your selection and hit save.

I love the concept of embedded comments because it allows numerous side conversations that are interesting and helpful. But it's routinely had enough problems that it frustrates people. As a courtesy to them, I don't use it. But of course, what you do is up to you!

Next time, back to homestead stuff.