Solar flat

Even on a windy day, we can still generate power.

It was a wild and windy night, as a cold front blew away yesterday’s warm temperatures. Our solar tracker is designed to protect itself by going flat when there are gusty or strong winds, and that’s how I found it this morning.

Solar tracker goes flat in windy conditions.

You can see the anemometer at the far-right corner, which is on a gimble so it can measure horizontal wind speed even as the tracker tilts.

That picture was taken about two hours ago. It’s now quite sunny, and still windy; the tracker is still flat (and thus not pointed at the sun), but still generating enough power to serve the house, charge the battery, and feed the grid:

Avalanche

It was just a matter of time before it struck.

An avalanche just struck the house, in a massive rumble that shook the foundation. Ok, that’s a bit melodramatic, but it’s true! I opened the front door to see what was the matter and found a foot-high wall of snow had pressed up against the door:

Front door blocked by an avalanche off the garage roof.

This morning’s warm weather (35ºF and rainy) finally convinced the snowpack on the garage roof, which had accumulated over months and had slowly melted down to 6″ of thick heavy wet stuff, that it was time to go. Fortunately I could sneak out the side door to get a more complete picture.

The garage is to the right, that front door is to the left.

The good news: the snow came off in one quick motion, overshooting much of the walkway, meaning there is less of it we need to shovel away. The bad news? Forecast is for temps to drop to 3ºF tonight, so this stuff will freeze up like concrete unless we move it today. Gotta go get the shovel…

Solar complete

Solar and battery and generator.

Finally, more than six months after we received the initial proposal from a local solar-power company (Solaflect), we have a complete system installed: last week, they completed the installation of a battery back-up solution from a German company called Sonnen. Our house can now be supplied by solar power, grid power, battery power, or propane-generator power, depending on the situation. Although I won’t dig into all the details, it’s pretty cool, so read on…

diagram of power flowing
A screenshot from the Sonnen battery portal showing power flowing from the solar tracker into the house (supporting its consumption) and into the battery (keeping it charged) and into the grid (selling power back to the electric company). The actual graphic is animated, showing power ‘flowing’ from the top to the other three destinations.
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Retroblog – Kerala

One of our favorite trips.

A dozen years ago, in December 2008, we visited the southwest corner of India for a week-long tour of the famous “Malabar coast”, taking in its Arabian sea beaches, historic sites, inland waterways, spice plantations, wildlife parks, and more. It was a fascinating experience for all the senses! The four-part series begins here.

We finish our elephant ride in the hills of Kerala. David, Mara, Andy, John, Pam.

Al Merrill Loop

A quiet, snowy day for a snowshoe.

As I rounded the corner on the broad turn east of Orfordville I could see that the summit of Mount Moosilauke was in the clouds, consistent with the mountain forecast. The NH summit forecast was for clouds, plummeting temperature, and hurricane-force winds, so I’d chosen instead to snowshoe the Al Merrill ski loop on the east side of Mount Moosilauke. It turned out to be an excellent choice – with plenty of untracked powder and not another soul in sight. Read on and be sure to check out the gallery for full-size images and more.

Ridge trail, upper bridge over the Baker River.
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Mt. Pemigewasset

A gorgeous day for a hike.

Andy and I climbed little Mt. Pemigewasset this morning, striding up a well-beaten path to the granite outcrops that provide grand views to the south and some between-trees peeks at the high peaks of the Franconia Range. There was a fluffy inch of fresh powder on top of last week’s crust, and another foot or two of older powder below the crust. As long as we stayed on the beaten path, our footing was fine (with microspikes)… but whenever we stepped off the path, we broke through the crust and sank to our knees. And step off we did! because we passed hikers by the dozens (my guess is 80-100 people) on this popular two-mile trail. A Sunday with bright sunshine and warm temps (20ºF), on a short easy trail to a spot with grand views, is bound to draw the crowds. Indeed, we were lucky to even find a parking space at the base.

David and Andy on Mt. Pemigewasset, Franconia Notch, NH.

There are a few more photos in the gallery. Compare with my visit to Pemigewasset last August.

Distance: 4 miles
Time: 1h50
Gain: 2552′

Icy soap bubbles

Not easy!

Inspired by a photograph I found online, I’ve experimented with soap bubbles in freezing conditions… they can turn to ice and persist quite a while. It’s harder than it looks! Here is my best early attempt – check the gallery for a slo-mo video too.

Soap bubble in freezing conditions.

I made bubble solution with water, Dawn dish soap, and an extra dose of glycerin for resilience. I found a fat straw and used it to blow bubbles directly onto a surface of snow – here, the railing of the deck. This photo is with my iPhone; last week I tried some with the Nikon D500 but, for now, I’m still learning the mechanics… blow a bubble, quickly set down the straw, pickup the camera, get into position, and snap a few shots before the bubble bursts. Repeat many times!

I need to find a better location – out of the wind, with a less-busy background, and where I can stand but not have myself (or the camera) reflected in the bubble.

Last week I tried this in colder temperatures (6ºF) and some bubbles would freeze (turn to ice) and stick around for 10 minutes or more, like those below.

Soap bubble in freezing conditions.

Tesla… not

A month of body work awaits!

Sadly, I lost my brand-new Tesla one week ago.

damage to my Model Y after another driver rear-ended me.

Well, to be more precise, my Tesla is now in the shop, after a distracted driver rear-ended me last Thursday at a remote intersection in Vermont. (Nobody was hurt.) I’ve spent the last week on the phone with Tesla, two insurance companies, and a couple of body shops trying to make arrangements. Not easy!

As it turns out, there are no Tesla-approved body shops in either Vermont or New Hampshire, so the closest realistic option was to tow my car about 20 miles from the accident to a garage, and then 160 miles from that garage to the body shop near Boston. Tesla cars require special training and equipment to repair, because of the high-voltage electronics and because of the aluminum body components.

On the other hand, a major advantage of Tesla cars is that they have cameras all around, always recording;* I was able to pull the USB memory stick after the accident, giving me a several dramatic views of the incident. Check out the gallery for two photos and two brief videos.

Now I’m in this Toyota RAV4 SUV rental car. Very odd blue!

* If you’re really into this stuff, check out the YouTube Channel Wham Bam TeslaCam for dramatic video captures by Tesla cars around the world. Ironically, I was watching video from that channel before I went out last Thursday.

Coyote party

A graphic reminder of the circle of life.

This weekend I woke in the middle of the night to a loud party just up the river. It was clearly a pack of coyotes, howling and yipping excitedly, and continued for perhaps ten minutes. Clearly, something big had happened in the coyote world! So the next day, as I was driving down the road, I looked out across the ice and saw what I expected: a large group of crows picking at a deer carcass, whatever was left after the coyotes had had their fill. Today, there was little left (below, and two more photos here). No scavengers were out there today, so I presume all the edible parts are gone.

Deer carcass out on the river ice – killed by coyotes and picked clean by many scavengers.

The site was perhaps 10 meters out from shore, right in front of one of my neighbor’s houses. She happened to be out shoveling snow as I walked by today. “Yesterday was a pretty dramatic scene,” she said, “as various scavengers competed for access to the remains. Murders and murders of crows* came by; even the local bald eagle tried to elbow his way in for a piece of the action.” She said she had snowshoed out onto the ice for a closer look; I chose to stay on shore and use my 500mm lens to snap my photos.

* yes, a “murder of crows” is the collective noun for a group of crows. [Wikipedia]