Equinox

Equal day and night.

Today (22 September) is the fall equinox – when we have equal amounts of the day with sun and no sun. The length of the day is changing fast – indeed, faster than any other time of the year except spring equinox – and it is really noticeable every day. Today was rather cloudy, not a great day for solar power:

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Raspberry season

Harvest time!

One of the great treats of September is the arrival of raspberry season. Pam’s raspberry patch, tended and cultivated now for almost twenty years, is bursting forth with berries. We pick and freeze a a pint or two every day!

They’re remarkably hardy, and will tend to keep producing after the first frost or two. We’ll be enjoying them fresh for the rest of the month, and frozen for the rest of the winter.

Pizza oven

Completed this week!

Andy and Pam finished their project, started last summer, to build a pizza oven beside the patio. It looks great – and bakes great pizza!

The final touches include a bluestone counter all the way around, a tile trim under that counter, a brick archway for the wood storage underneath, and a finish coat of paint top and bottom.

The finished pizza oven.
The finished pizza oven.
Andy and Pam grouting the tiles around the border of the pizza oven.

Chainsaw therapy

Life skills.

One of the most useful skills I learned while a student at Dartmouth had nothing to do with academics, or computer science. It was how to use a chainsaw (safely) to fell trees and turn them into firewood – or a water bar, a bridge, or a cabin. To this day, I still find it satisfying to pull out my aging Stihl for an afternoon of hard work. This weekend we removed a few small crabapple and black locust trees from our property, where they had outgrown their location, and turned them into firewood. Many kudos to Andy and Mara, now able to wield the saw themselves, and to Pam for the instigation and for a lot of the hard work to move all the debris. We’ll all be that much toastier when winter arrives.

Strawberry fields

An annual treat.

I’m delighted to be back in the Upper Valley region of NH & VT in time for strawberry season. We are fortunate to have an excellent organic farm nearby, Cedar Circle Farm, just up the river on the Vermont side. So yesterday morning you could find me out in their U-pick field before the sweltering summer weather arrived – quickly filling a six-quart tray with the best, ripest strawberries. I filled one tray with Jewel berries, suitable for freezing, and another quart with AC Valley Sunset berries, with plans to eat them within one or two days 🙂

The result was delish – strawberry shortcake for dinner dessert.

Summer Solstice

Maximal sun makes maximal power.

Today is the summer solstice in North America, so I was especially interested to see how our solar tracker managed on the longest day of the year. A few weeks ago we doubled our battery storage so we could extend our independence from the grid. Given the extended daylight (15 hours and 27 minutes, from 0507–2034), and the extra battery, the batteries can now last through until sunrise. Although today’s weather was not purely sunny, the system produced over 50 kWh.

In the graph below, the green line shows the battery level declining in the early hours, and climbing after sunrise. The dark blue region shows the house consumption, and the gold region shows the excess solar production… used first to replenish the batteries, and then, after 2pm, to feed back to the grid.

Today was a good day… but not the best day yet. Two days ago was more sunny, and we set a personal record for solar production: 58.58 kWh:

Vernal pool redux

Repeat visits over five weeks.

Last month I wrote a short note about the spring phenomenon of vernal pools, which can often be found in pretty, magical glens in the midst of the forest. Since then I have made repeated visits to that same small, shallow vernal pool located just a ways up the hill behind our house. I’ve photographed it from the same vantage point just to see how it evolves over time. Although these photos were taken at different times of the day, in different lighting, and not on a regular schedule, it’s interesting to see the succession of plant life as the pool dries.

June 14: A vernal pool near home.

Triple tree trouble

If a tree falls in a river…

Last fall, two stems of a large basswood tree finally gave up their desperate attempt to cling to our riverbank, and fell into the river. This massive four-stemmed tree was rotting at the base, and the steep riverbank provided little support. The two river-side stems fell toward the river, laying down at a steep angle reflected the depth of the river along our banks. We asked two tree services about removal, but it would have involved heavy equipment and a large fee. We left the trees for the winter ice and spring floods to remove.

Unfortunately, they remained unimpressed by the spring currents, and yet some of their branches impeded boat traffic along our shoreline. So, a few weeks ago, I scrambled out along their trunks and sawed off whatever I could reach, while the others tied ropes and pulled the debris away from the mess, away from our docks, and out to sea. I inspected the two remaining stems, and the now-exposed rot near their base, and forecast that they would follow soon, perhaps within two years.

Trees fallen into the river along our bank.

One only lasted two weeks (above). So this week I was scrambling out along a new trunk, sawing off what I could, while Andy swam around to pull the debris, new and old, out to the stronger current. I don’t have any photos of the action, but the photo below shows what remains.

Trees fallen into the river along our bank.

The fourth and final stem leans inland… right onto the shed. Hmm.