The Sky Is Crying

The Chicken Coop

It is winter solstice in southern Arizona and the solar panels on our coach don’t get enough sunshine to fully charge the batteries. Additionally, it is so fucking cold (50’s during the day and high 20’s at night) that the furnaces run a lot. The battery voltage has been as low as a little over 11- barely more than dead. Running the generator during the day helps to top them off.

Regardless, we are planning to make the new house totally reliant on solar power. The chicken coop roof is designed to carry 18 solar panels and is oriented to the south with a slope of 25 degrees. We plan on using 48 volt lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries to store the sun’s power. These batteries store tons, or more accurately, kilowatt hours, of power and can be drained to 80 and even 100% of their capacity without damage. A line buried in conduit to a sub-panel will power everything in the house. This will work for two reasons: -because I want it to, and -because in order to run new lines to our property, the utility company wants the same amount of money an off-grid solar system will cost.

After all, we are in southern Arizona and it’s a shame not to use all the sunshine we get. Plus I trust the engineers at Northern Arizona Wind and Sun to provide me with a system which has the ability to power the house even when the sun doesn’t shine for a few days.

The house footprint is staked and I am meeting with excavators and concrete placers to get prices. The first bid for the concrete had me considering buying a mini-excavator and starting my own business. We are still willing and able to put as much sweat equity into the house as possible, but forming and placing and finishing concrete, while it might look simple, requires a lot of practice. And we will hire a pro for that.

Music Projects

Off the Grid

“Off Our Rockers”

Little Feat

Well, we have decided to scrap the house plans we have been working on for the last 6 months in favor of the idea we originally had when we found this property and thought about building.

It was important that the living spaces take advantage of the desert sunsets and of the views of the Santa Rita Mountains. The idea was for a 2 story house consisting of a living room with a western exposure, and a kitchen oriented to the east for the morning sun- all on the 2nd story. The 2 bedrooms would be on the first floor along with the entry.

We were not crazy about the resulting elevations which looked sort of like a fire lookout tower. Not that there’s anything wrong with fire lookout towers, it just seemed out of place.

Then I thought I wanted a sort of “compound” with several buildings of different scales and materials looking as though they were all built at different times. Like some precious old west reproduction. Fuck, I might be a hipster. We already have the shop/carport and thought we could build a casita between that building and the main house that would make a nice transition between the buildings and would create some drama. There were problems with the new plans too. After staking out the footprint, the house didn’t really inhabit the site like I thought it would. And there was some awkwardness with the floor plan. There was also awkwardness with financing and we started discussing building in phases. Those discussions led back to building the simpler, original house.

Those plans are now with the architect and engineer who will provide the information the Santa Cruz county building department needs in order to issue a building permit. The goal is to have the slab on grade poured this winter, the house closed in next winter, and the finish work done the following winter. That’s a ridiculously long time to build a 1400 square foot house, but hey, we’re old folks.