Garlic planted

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have you seen?

This company and their products?

Was just getting ready to bite the bullet for the Goal Zero 1250 when I saw this.

Li ion battery (which has its plusses and minuses), made in America (BIG PLUS), solar panels included – an impressive 180W

While I like the idea of having separate panel from the power unit, either way you have to use lots of power sucking wire.

We’re finally restoring our camper and a solar power unit would be great without having to redo the entire bus(its a classic) or make it obvious. Can then get one of those mini electric fridges for it!  Also a great alternate power source for the house if SHTF. Then I could easily power some of the extras like my sewing machine, vacuum sealer, etc.

with only a six month warranty wanted some feedback before biting the bullet.


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solar slow cooker


IMG_0954 (1024x768) 2 pork tenderloin, put into solar cooker at 9am, no pre warm up

IMG_0955 (1024x768) sitting on its chair, with the 2 x 5lb weights I use in case the wind comes up.  They increase warm up time, but also hold heat.  Notice a little bit of shade on the right.  cooker could be turned a little more into the sun, but know it will be only a matter of minutes before it is in the correct orientation.

IMG_0958 (1024x767)pork tenderloin at 4pm.  Once the sun goes down the temp drops, so just left them in the cooker overnight, oriented for sun rise. by the time we sat down to lunch the meat was warm again.  TENDER and DELICIOUS

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calculating solar panel installation


This article is aimed at van/RV use of solar panels, combined with a Goal Zero.  There are other units similar to GZ, and this info works if you want to build your own instead of buying ready made.

By David Rosner | Images by Farm League 

The success of Goal Zero’s En Route Series has profiled many of the individuals who have decided to power an off grid lifestyle with solar based products. The growing “office anywhere” mentality has boomed tremendously over the past few years. At GZ, we’ve seen this materialize in the numbers of those outfitting RVs, vans, and multitudes of other vehicles, for both vacation and permanent residence. Here’s how they did it. Always remember, when in doubt, consult a professional.


First, as with all solar projects, figure out how much power you think you will consume and work backwards. Try to avoid using air conditioners, heaters, microwaves, and blenders to greatly reduce your needs. Any product label will tell you how much power it needs, usually over the course of an hour. Determine your AC vs. DC needs (types of electricity) to know inverter size (turns battery power into a wall plug) and battery capacity. Always round up and try to decide if you plan to expand your needs, remember that batteries will live longer if you don’t fully drain it with every use.

When running off solar and batteries it is common to calculate usage over 3 days. Believe it or not, the sun doesn’t shine every day! Many compromise and know that when it’s raining, conserve. The size of your solar array and charge controller will need to be able to recharge your batteries in a timely manner, whether that is the next day or a few weeks from now. Find the physical size of the components you plan to use to determine what space you will need for your system with venting as a consideration. Now is a great time to mention that Goal Zero products like the Yeti are all-in-one. They include a charge controller, inverter, voltage regulators, protections/fusing, and a battery, so if it fits your needs, it’s a great solution that can even provide portability away from the vehicle if need be.

Cheat sheets:

-you think you’ll use about 500watts/day, 1500 watts over 3 days. Get a 100Ahr battery (12V*100Ahr=1200W). Chain an extra battery to grow capacity if it’s not enough.

-Solar- panel rating*.75*4 (true sun hours)=how much solar you will produce in one day- ish.

Example: 100W solar panel*.75*4= about 300watts/day solar production



Examine the roof of your vehicle to see how flat, how much space, and what material you are working with. The fewer penetrations you make, the fewer leaks you might have. If a flat, solid structure, you can actually think about using tape… yes, tape. Industrial tapes like 3M’s VHB #4950 has a tensile strength of over 100 lbs./in^2, which over 4 mounting feet give more than enough strength. Upon adhesion, it also creates a weatherproof bond, WIN WIN! If you are hesitant on tape, or enjoy driving over speed bumps to get air, feel free to use a screw that won’t rust on you and make sure to add enough weatherproofing sealant to prevent any leaking.

When deciding on location, consider where you want the solar cable to enter the vehicle. There are sometimes vents that work; otherwise roof or cable glands will be necessary. Try to place these under the solar panel if possible for extra weather protection, but a liberal amount of sealant will always do you good. Yes, this means that more than likely you will need to drill a hole in your roof. Also try to align this with workable space on the inside, and the closer to the rest of your system the better (less wiring). For any premade cables, you might need to cut off the end so it fits through a smaller gland and splice it on once through the other side. Lastly, consider the thickness of your roof, how much insulation is between layers? This could be a bigger space than a cable gland, so choose your cable feeding and strain relief device carefully. We’ve seen everything from sprinkler tubing to Chase Nipples, anything built to act as a bulkhead connector (so maybe not so carefully).

Additional Info:

-Consider connecting your system to your alternator to charge as you go. Just make sure to use an isolator so you don’t drain your starting battery.

-Drive with your panels flat for safety. Tilting your panels to optimize the angle can add a significant amount of power throughout the day. Also, pointing your panels at the sun throughout the day, even if you have to rotate your vehicle, can also make a noticeable difference.

-Remember that refrigerators vary greatly on the power they use depending on what’s inside, how often you open the door, what settings you use, and ambient temperature. Hedge your bets on all these factors to reduce power consumption.

-Remember that solar panels need to be in the sun… duh! But having panels connected to your roof means that your vehicle also has to be in the sun. Will the extra heat in your vehicle be tolerable, especially without an AC unit? Pulling out solar panels upon arrival can be a great compromise.

-Of course, gas generators do have a viable place in the RV world, just not in RV parks after 10pm. They are great at charging batteries while you use them to power your AC units so you don’t waste extra energy!

-Solar panels lose efficiency the hotter they get, and batteries lose efficiency the colder they get.

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more on solar cooking

Have had a little opportunity to use the

Sunflair Portable Solar Oven Deluxe with Complete Cookware, Dehydrating Racks, and Thermometer

That I bought on Amazon.  Over the weekend, did a lasagna through out Saturday, and then heated it up in the oven on Sunday melting in some mozzarella cheese.  Best damn Lasagna I’ve ever made!  It was moist and tasty having had time to meld all those flavors and cook the noodles thoroughly.  Have also done some lentils in it.

It did come with some cookware, including two small collapsible black silicone pots with lids.  The black is great for absorbing heat, the silicone keeps them easy to clean and light weight, the collapsible makes them portable


they will collapse when full of rice and water if you hold them wrong!

One of the pieces of cookware is a round spotted enamel roasting pan type and since I could find NO other black silicone cookware, found another oval one.  Clear glass for the lasagna really didn’t build up as much heat around the lasagna itself as it would have if it had been dark.  Unfortunately, my dark metal loaf pans aren’t big enough for what I needed to make.

Went down to our local kitchen gadgetry shop today to look for silicone cook ware and he was amazed that I had BLACK.  he’d never even seen black!  But now I’ve put that worm in his ear, he may go looking for it just for people who want to solar cook.


a silicone roasting sheet.  Was looking for some metal racks for the two metal pans and instead found this silicone roasting mat

of course 1/3 the price on amazon than I paid – was able to cut this to shape so I have a mat for each pan instead of metal racks.

If tomorrow is as sunny as today, will put out some pork chops in the morning in one of the baking pans and let them cook through the AM as I have to go get x-rays in the morning in the next town over.


did put two silver colored x 5lb weights in the oven.  They fit right under the rack, hold a lot of heat, and keep that oven weighted down in the wind.

The experiments continue


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solar cooking

My FIRST successful solar cooking experience.

A while back bought a Solar Flare Parabolic solar cooker.  It was cheap (at the time about 1/2 what they are selling for now).  When my slow cooker died recently, decided I could use the solar cooker as a slow cooker, even if, at this time of year, I cooked today and reheated for our meal tomorrow.  Well, this Parabolic cooker did not do what I needed or wanted. very limited in the amount of cooking it would actually do.  You might use it to heat up a bit of soup or cook a little rice, but that’s about it.

So that went out on Freecycle and I bought a Sunflair portable solar oven kit.  What fun!

used it today to heat up a rotisserie cooked chicken (used an open roaster, mistake, moisture condensed on plastic and acted as a “cloud” reducing temperature).  Then set up a cup of brown rice.  The kit came with this cute silicone pot into which went a cup of rice and two cups of water with seasoning.  Closed up the oven and went about my day.  3 hours later when I had a chance, the rice was perfect.  No chance of it drying out or burning, it just stayed warm.

So this will become my slow cooker.  I had purchased a full “kit” that included racks, trays, two silicone pots, a thermometer, and a roasting pan.  I can see putting up a stew or roast for tomorrow during the winter when the days are shorter, and using it for making our main meal during the summer when the days are longer (we eat at noon)

This is such an easy design, that one can see how to make your own version for much less.

Its not as heavy or as expensive as the bigger solar ovens.  BUT they do get to a hotter temperature.  This only goes to about 225 F if you have the sun lined up perfectly, a little cooler if not.  The $300 solar ovens get about 100F hotter.

Will probably rig up some sort of box for this to sit in when I use it to give it some protection from wind, and act as a little bit of extra insulation which will also boost the temps.  The box can also be weighted down, as this unit is like a sail and would take your meal into the next county if it got gusty.

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hive update October 22, 2016

last time I went by the hive saw only a few bees on the landing board and they were bigger and darker than those I usually saw, so wondered if the hive was throwing out the drones for the winter, all I had was drones, or had someone else taken over the hive.

Our weather has been low 50’s at night, with 80’s during the day, so still warm, although the days are visibly shortening.  Probably the bees respond to a combination of both

IMG_0940 (1068x799)This was the sight that greeted me when  the top came off this morning.  Bees protecting from the spider attack

IMG_0941 (800x1069)The bees sealed this section well, this is the false back at the 16th bar position

IMG_0942 (800x1069)Took awhile to get it unglued

IMG_0943 (1280x960)back of the ninth comb.  a few bees, all empty

IMG_0944 (1067x799)the front of #nine, some capped honey, but not much

IMG_0945 (1067x799)back of #8, a little capped honey, pretty much nothing else

IMG_0946 (1280x960)front of #8, some capped honey, not really anything else

IMG_0947 (1280x960)back of #7, some capped honey and few capped pollen, no brood

IMG_0948 (1280x556) front of #7

IMG_0949 (1280x764)back of #6, again some capped honey, but not much, a few capped pollen, no brood

IMG_0950 (1280x452)back of #5, same as above

At this point I’m getting concerned.  Had not gone this far forward in August and at that time there was some capped honey, some capped brood, a lot more bees.  the drop off in bees is to be expected, but that total lack of brood concerns me greatly as well as the small amount of honey

IMG_0951 (1263x958)This is comb #3, just a few cells of capped honey, nothing else

IMG_0952 (1280x773)back of #2, a few capped honey, nothing else.

Think the queen is in that ball on the back of #7, but never got a good look at her when I hived the package, so can’t be sure.

Did move the false back to #13.  still so warm don’t want to overheat the hive, but want them to get the message that its smaller and to contract.  They have not sealed off any of the front opening.

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