coffee pot posts, Uncategorized

Solar Energy Rocks!

Solar panels at the back of the house.Okay, I am giving my new setup with the Kindle and Bluetooth keyboard another try this weekend. The last time I tried I lost a long post at the very end of writing it. It is very very very slow. Maybe that’s appropriate? Teaching me patience? Anyway, if you are reading this, it worked!

We finally accomplished two major life goals this month. We paid off the mortgage on the house, and the solar panels are finally in energy production! I monitor the production every day in an app and so far on a sunny day they produce about 12.7 kHw per day and growing as the days grow longer. We could have placed them for more efficiency but historic district rules stated that they have to be as invisible as possible, so they had to go in two rows at the back of the house. The electrician said that it made little difference anyway.

The company is NC Solar Now and if you are in North Carolina and decide to use them please give me name, Laurie O’Neill, as a reference. I will get a referral fee that I will put back into the payments on the system.

This is not an off grid system. I wish that we could afford that, but I’m not even sure they would allow it where we are if we could. The power we produce feeds back into the grid and we are credited for the amount on our bill. We still have to pay Duke Energy a meter fee, and I imagine that the GOP in power will figure out more ways to squeeze more money from us for Duke shareholders. Still, this system should provide almost all the energy we need. I will be writing and updating about it all year.

As the days grow longer and hotter, we should generate more energy so hopefully it will balance out. Our furnace and water heater runs on natural gas.

I have always been very frugal about energy use and this is making both of us more conscientious about ways we can go further.

Now that I’ve managed to do a life update, I’m heading back to the loom.

coffee pot posts, Quilting, Slow cloth, Upcycling

Saturday morning coffee pot post

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Photo from last Sunday

It’s almost noon. There is still snow on the ground, whittled away by a steady light rain over the last 24 hours. Everything is soggy and muddy because there is nowhere for the water to go.

I ended up with two mandatory snow days, for which I can either take vacation time, make up within 90 days, or take unpaid leave. I grouch about this policy, but I realize that a lot of people don’t have these choices. Sandy worked from home both days, and I have the type of job that could easily be done from home, but that’s not an option any more. My guess is that the Republicans who came up with this suspected that us hourly employees would be faking it. There was a time when I didn’t get any sick time, one week of vacation a year, and no holidays. I’ve also been on salary or had a job where I was expected to work 50 hours a week. Now I get lots of leave in different forms, often in lieu of a decent salary raise, but with me, I love having the freedom of being able to have time off. I know a job with good benefits when I see one, having spent most of my working life without one.

The quince chutney ended up okay. It is very tart. I went off the recipe that I found, as usual, and added dried apples, cherries, raisins, orange zest, and orange juice. The quince flavor ended up being overwhelmed by the vinegar. I froze some and I’ll add some more sugar to try to tap down that tartness.

I had forgotten why I stopped cooking quinces and only bringing them in for the lovely smell. They are harder than a winter squash to peel and dice. They cook up very soft but have a bit of a gritty texture. After peeling and chopping three of them, my hands and arms were aching so I gave the rest away.

It sure was nice to work only three days, less really, since I went in late twice. I wrapped up one project and made good headway over the worst part of another. The department newsletter should come out next week and then I will have a long winter break until Jan. 2.

Monday I will be home for at least most of the day because the electricians are coming to do the repairs and prep work for our solar panel installation. We won’t be off-grid (I wish!) but on net-metering where our solar energy production runs the meter backwards and if we need more than we produce it will switch over to Duke Energy. At least I think that is how it will work. One of the good things about this is that we needed to upgrade the wiring in the attic badly. That work is being rolled into the financing and the rebate and tax credit totals we will get next year. That money is going straight back into the loan and I plan to pay it off before the interest rate kicks in (in 18 months).

The mortgage will be paid off in about two months!

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The Singer sewing machine…hoo boy. I was NOT PLEASED when I started it up again and had the same tension problems after having it cleaned and serviced. I refer to the manual now instead of winging it, because part of it was user error. I didn’t wind the bobbin correctly or get it in the case correctly. Once I corrected that, I thought that would do the trick, but no. The thread kept slipping off the tension spring, and I was threading it correctly. After I started sewing it would slip off again and I would have to re-thread to get it right. Finally, somehow I managed to get the thread crossed as it goes into the lever that moves the needle up and down. I was sick of rethreading that needle so I decided to try it anyway. To my great joy, that mistake is keeping the thread on the tension spring and I was able to sew the rest of the strips together! Now let’s see if it continues to work. I’m going to finish putting all the pieces of the t-shirt quilt together this weekend, and I have already started doing hand-sewing, cuddled up with it on the sofa watching Mr. Robot and the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

I am determined to finish this thing, get it out of my studio, and start weaving and bookbinding again.

As you can probably tell, I am in a much better mood that I have been in the past year. Let’s hope that lasts also!

coffee pot posts

Waiting for Diego

“But, Ma, I’m right here.”

This winter storm that is on the way has been named Diego.

We have firewood brought in for the woodstove and are stocked with food, etc. We found the game that I’ve been looking for at thrift shops, Sequence, for $5.95 so if we lose power we will be entertained. Plus we only have about a thousand books in this house. Not kidding. It may be well over 1,000. We don’t have the equipment to deal with these storms efficiently in the South, but we have always been pretty lucky living here between UNCG and downtown. And my sewing machine has been cleaned and serviced.

I cut my therapist loose for the holidays and maybe for much longer after that. My depression has lifted, yay! In fact, I was in such a good mood on Thursday that she asked me if I was manic. I’m not. She just has never seen me in a great mood. Coming out of the hole will definitely do that to me. You should have seen me after I went on meds back in 2001. I scared some of my friends because I was so happy to feel what “normal” is like for the first time. I was turned on at the Triangle Book Arts party on Sunday night and you would never have guessed that I am an introvert. A little less energized at the two parties last night, but that’s because I need a recharge by Friday. However, Sandy and I did get on the dance floor a few times at his work party.

I hope that this storm is not as bad as predicted because I have been put on stand-by to pet sit for my neighbor if their petsitter can’t get to their house. These elderly dogs pee in the house anyway so I doubt that I’ll be able to get them to pee and poop outside in an ice storm. It will be a mess, for sure. I hope to be all holed up in my house and cozy, watching the storm from the window. It would be nice if I don’t have to work on Monday and Tuesday. Sandy is already planning to work from home on Monday.

I’ll do some cooking today and maybe sew and weave this weekend? Recharge, for certain.

Updates later.

coffee pot posts, depression/anxiety

Saturday Morning Coffee Pot Post

The title of this blog post was almost “The Vagina Couch” but I will leave that to your imagination, since I just want to make a journal entry and get crackin’ on some studio work/play. Also have to go stand in line at the post office to send a small package to Australia if I can find a post office that still opens on Saturday. Ew. Coffee first. You might not be interested at all in this post, so here’s a heads up that you could make your exit now. “The Vagina Couch” may appear another day.

So, the Thanksgiving holiday went okay. I did not have a mental breakdown after seeing the flooding damage to the two houses, and since most of the mountains of debris had been removed from Canal Cove Road it was not the shock that it could have been. Lisa’s house is still livable with some repair to reduce or eliminate the mold, and it is not the worst kind of mold so you can go in there for short periods of time. Even though the water was above her electrical outlets, her electricity works and the appliances and HVAC, although their lives are probably shortened, work. This proved to be fortunate when the water heater at her rental house burst on Thanksgiving night and since there was no cut-off valve the water had to be turned off. We ate leftovers on paper plates and took showers and washed dishes at the Canal Cove house. The next-door neighbor to the rental house had died and the house still had its water on, so we used the hose next-door to fill the toilets.

Good practice for prepping, I’d say. It also meant that the family dinner with my brother and sister-in-law was canceled, which I did not mind because I was exhausted from trying to sleep with my husband in a double bed for two nights. My grand-nephew decided to camp with his friend in the garage at the Canal Cove house, so I slept in his bed on the last night.

Anyway, one of my first actions when I came back was to buy three collapsible BPA-free 5.3 gallon water containers for our emergency supplies here. If you do nothing else in the area of disaster planning, you need to put aside plenty of water for your drinking, cooking, and cleaning. I’ve seen different amounts recommended, but 15 gallons per person per week is the one that I think is good. I’ve been storing water for cleaning and toilet flushing in sterilized glass apple juice jugs for a while, so these will be solely for drinking and cooking. Dehydrated food doesn’t go far if you don’t have clean water.

As the fires and earthquakes out west have proven, you never know when your whole life might be disrupted in minutes. Here, the main concern would be a tornado. One touched down in April three miles from our house and did a lot of damage in town. If it had been bigger or closer, that could have been a serious situation for us. You need to think about not only your property getting damaged, but also the infrastructure in your area going down.

So, as we buy emergency stores I am putting some aside for a Reverse Advent box that I am filling to donate to a food pantry for people in need. I have the box outside my office at work. Most people will be leaving for the winter break by the end of next week, but it is a gentle invitation to participate. I’m working on looking outward this Christmas season.

I almost used the word “trying” but I got a comment on Facebook saying to “do, not try” for something I plan to do today. I wanted to reach out to this guy and strangle him but he had a point, albeit a very rude one. How does he know what is going on with me? I didn’t reply, although it took a lot of “trying” to not do so.

Mama’s sewing machine is giving me fits, so I either need to clean and service it myself or take it to the repair place in town. I have detailed instructions in the manual, and I never heard my mother mention taking it out for service, so I assume she did it herself since she used it a LOT. This is a 1958 metal workhorse, and it is set in a cabinet so it is not so easy to move around. I have the supplies to clean and lube it so I got no excuse except laziness and anxiety. I dread the stupidest things.

Tomorrow I get my monthly massage. I decided to forego the monthly chiropractic adjustments. The last time I went I was charged a co-pay of 50 bucks for about 2-3 minutes of work. Anything else was extra. I have come out of my depression enough to realize that the reason I felt uncomfortable with this very friendly practice was because I felt more like a customer than a patient. My chiropractor of twenty years did not make me feel that way. He moved his practice about a hour and a half away. When I need it again, I’ll either make the trip or go to another chiropractor in town that I tried and liked. He cracked my neck in a way I didn’t like and doesn’t take insurance, but I can tell him NOT to crack my neck, and his fee is reasonable, especially since he gives you a vigorous massage to loosen up your muscles first. I need that, and I’m not paying extra for it.

However, I am feeling so much better physically and mentally. Such a relief to be over this extended period of major depression! Still tired at night, but not fatigued and mentally decimated. Having the election, Thanksgiving, and the selection of a department head has taken a lot of weight off my mind. Not my body, though, ugh. Getting back to my top weight after too much laying around and eating whatever is easiest. At least I didn’t revert to heavy drinking. I’m “trying” to be kinder. For example, I just listened to the man and his two sons at my front door who shared a brief Bible passage about dealing with grief.

He asked to come back next week, but I politely wished them a Merry Christmas and told them that was not necessary. Learned my lesson with the Mormons a while back.

After the massage, I go to the Triangle Book Arts holiday party. I don’t have much to show other than my workshop book from Sharon’s class, but they are a great group of people and worth the drive to Durham to celebrate the holidays with. I have a couple of big ideas for art books. The trick is putting the ideas in action.

I was between projects this week so I did a lot of research and planning and booked hotel rooms for our New Mexico trip in May. It’s ON, as my cousin said! She and her husband will be joining us and we are thrilled. I’ll get in a visit with my aunt also, which I wanted to do before too long. We didn’t visit in September like we usually do. We will visit Chaco Culture National Park on the way down from Colorado, but most of our time will be based in Santa Fe and we will explore outwards from there.

Okay, gotta go. Too much going on this weekend, and I want to get some studio time in while I still have spoons.

Back Forty, coffee pot posts, depression/anxiety, fiber art, Permaculture, Slow cloth

Sunday midday coffee pot post

Sandy noticed this first – look what the Virginia creeper vine snagged from my rock collection at the front steps. Normally I would tear this vine down after it loses its pretty red leaves but I’m going to see how long it holds on to its booty. Love those little feet. I’ve made random weave baskets from Virginia creeper vine before.

This week has been fraught with emotions, since one of our students became so sick with anxiety that she had to drop out. Not only was it very sad, but I empathized so much. How many times did I think that this might be the time I would not be able to push through and get back to functional life? But I have, and I am grateful for it. When I was this student’s age, I self-medicated with lots of alcohol. That was not a good solution and not one that I choose these days. I know that I could not have gotten through graduate school at that age, despite having the smarts for it. However, I am in a good mood this weekend, so I hope that it is a permanent lift.

The t-shirt quilt hit a snag, quite literally. I think that I will get my Brother machine back out and see if it winds a Singer bobbin. My goal is to get all these panels put together somehow by the end of the day, even if it means with pins and hand basting. I want my floor loom and worktable free for other projects.

There are too many distractions here and I need to focus. I need a cook and a maid! We are getting caught up on house cleaning little by little. Sandy subscribed to one of those meal prep services that come by mail. If it will teach him to cook and he takes over some of that it might be worth it. We’ll see. I’m picky about the sources of my food but this is his expense and something he decided to do on his own, and I grew weary of cooking a long time ago.

Yesterday was a beautiful day after so much rain and I got into the garden and worked for a couple of hours, taking lots of breaks so that I don’t overdo it and undo my physical healing after many days of inactivity. I’ve gained several more pounds from my retreat to bed every night and eating too many sweets and peanut butter.

I pulled up all the tomato, squash, weeds, and annuals from the “permaculture” bed as I think of it. The guy who designed it intended for it to be heart-shaped. I think it looks vaguely like a heart, but more like a womb, which seems fitting. I didn’t plant it with permaculture principles in mind, though, and this year will be different. I’m going to keep those groundhogs in mind, and plant the womb with perennials and biennials and self seeding plants. I already have asparagus, elephant garlic, foxgloves and one artichoke there, along with a few plants that may or may not make it through the winter such as stevia. I have plants in the hugelkultur bed in the front such as hollyhock, evening primrose, coreopsis, and mints that I will move to the womb. And I will leave the the dandelions alone from here on out. They are important plants in the garden, pulling up nutrients from deep under the surface, breaking up the soil, edible, and food for the pollinators when not a lot of other flowers are available. (Although we have an enormous quantity of violets available as well.)

As I move these perennials out, a few will remain in my reconstructed hugelkultur bed. I am building it up and outwards where the potted plants were this year into a tiered bed for my culinary herbs, mostly. I’ll leave one hollyhock and a few taller flowers at the back. I have a pile of bricks that came from the chimney that fell down at the pre-Civil War homeplace at the family farm, and I decided to use them to make the terraces. I love objects with a story.

Everything will require more fertilizer this year. The few vegetable plants that survived the groundhogs suffered from blossom end rot. I’m going to get that greenhouse set up again soon. I’ve sent an email to ask to rent a plot at UNCG community garden again for my beans and okra. Hopefully they don’t have a groundhog problem there yet.

Thanksgiving is coming up and as usual we will celebrate Buy Nothing Day on Black Friday. We will drive to Lake Waccamaw and get together with my sister at her rental house if all goes well. It will be sad to drive along Canal Cove Road but we will check out the scene there. Lisa is still mulling over whether to replace the walls in her house and sell it or sell it as is. I heard that the house where we stay and love is irreparably damaged and will be torn down. My brother and his wife will probably join us for a meal on Saturday. I’m going to make my usual asparagus-mushroom-almond casserole.

Man, my Internet connection at home has been SO SLOW lately. I don’t know why, so I’ll just blame it on the oligarchy. Maybe when my electrical work gets done it will improve. They are going to replace everything from the pole to the house and some of the wiring in the attic in mid-December in preparation for our twelve solar panels. Right now it is driving me crazy as I try to upload photos. I received notice that Flickr is going to start charging me fifty bucks a year for photo storage, and I feel rather helpless to do anything but pay it since I have over 10k photos and videos on it. It would take an enormous amount of work to quit Flickr without most of my photos on the blog disappearing. Oh well. At some point I may have to stop paying the fee to not have ads on the blog to make up for it.

Time to sew.