Monday, April 29, 2013

Chapter 143...Pouring The Concrete Slab For The Store And Clean Up

Today is the day.  We will have the concrete slab poured and then if the weather holds Mike and I can start construction:)

The concrete company and our workers are ready to go:

They will need 12 1/2 yards of concrete so the truck will have to refill and come back.  This is the first truck and the concrete crew smooths out the first section:

While they are doing that, Mike and I brought the chainsaw to do some clean up work.  We have a big tree trunk down on the back hill.  Mike gets in the Jeep and backs it up as close as he can.  I take the chain and wrap it around the log so Mike can pull it off the hill:

Mike starts cutting and I start loading.  Now we have a nice start for our wood pile for next year:)

Back to our concrete crew.  The second truck of concrete is here:

Using the chute to pour the concrete onto the slab:

All the concrete is poured and our contractor does the finishing touches for a smooth slab.  He uses a troweling machine to smooth it out.  Looks good:

Now we have to let it cure before we can do any building.  We also need a dose of good and dry weather.  Mike and I will order the lumber and start building as soon as we have 3-5 good days in a row.

We do get a chance to go back to the lot to clean the land.

First we have to buy a ride on mower since we sold our last one.  I use a push mower at the house but that would take too long here.  So down to Lowe's we go and we pick up a Troy-Bilt Pony mower which has the exact same engine and size cut as the John Deere but it is $500.00 less:)  Troy Bilt Pony

The only problem we have is Lowe's forgot to give us a manual and a key....grr!!!  Lowe's is too far for us to make a trip back so Mike stuck a screwdriver in the key hole so I could start it. worked for now.

Getting the equipment to the property:

Mike unloads the mower onto the grass for me:

And off I go.  While I mow and blow all of the debris on the hill by the road, Mike works with the tractor.  We have a lot of clean up after the grading was done.  Mike wants to make sure we have a nice small ditch from the back of the building to the road at the other end of our property.  This way any water that comes down the back hill will get caught in the ditch and carried away from the building.  It's a mess and it takes Mike a long time to get it somewhat cleaned up.

The lawn is cut:

For the next week we have to work at home but now we are back and it's time to rake and seed the property where Mike has cut it open.  I start out by weed eating the front 400 feet of the property while  Mike once again works on the tractor:

And he grades it out:

I get the grass seed, the shovel and the rake from the car.  I start at the far side by the road.  I need to dig out the one small hill so the water can flow into the lower section of the ditch by the road.  Unfortunately it is too hard and I need Mike to break up the dirt for me:

Now I can get some work done:)  I rake out the ditch line that Mike made, shovel up all the rocks and throw seed down.  It is a slow process.  I get about 100 feet done and I have to stop.  Mike is working on a muddy area and there is nothing I can do there so I do the same job behind the building.

My sections are cleaned up, raked and seeded.  The front of the ditch by the road:

And behind the building:

That is what we are up to on that lot.  Now we need a big break in the weather to start construction.  Mike and I can't wait.  It will be hard on us to build but this is something we both really enjoy doing.

I hope you all enjoyed this chapter and I will write again soon:)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Chapter 142...Our New Solar Panels Being Installed

I love not having any electric bills:)  Finally the day we have been waiting for.  Time to get our new solar panels in the mounts and get hooked up.  It's so nice to not have to worry about power outages.

So back to our story and back to the second week of April.

April 8
Today I spent the day working on the garden of rocks around the solar panel mounts and Mike did the drilling for the solar panels.

On a cute are some updated cow and calf pictures:)
Our big girl "Red" and in the background our unsociable cow and her light colored calf:

Mama and her baby.

And the one with the white face, like a mask:

Mike and I took a ride down to our pond and got to see some of the fish.  It's good to see the babies after the winter months.


Enough it's time to work.

We have a couple of bags of concrete left so Mike and I decided to use them up and fill up all of the holes.

Mike is spraying the bottom of a pole with the rubber paint for protection:

All the concrete is used:)

Next Mike works on leveling the 4x4's so I can start filling the gardens with rock:

Mike is pounding rebar into our 4x4's and into the ground the make the garden more solid:

Now I can start filling them with rock.  First I put the weed cloth down, then I take the shovel and the 5 gallon buckets back to our rock pile.  I use the hand truck to bring the full buckets of rock back to the garden:

While I do that, Mike works on drilling holes into the solar panel mounts.  This is so we can install the solar panels.  He needs to drill a total of 50 holes, ten holes in each rack:

Finally after thirty 5-gallon buckets I get the garden finished and we have no more rocks.

Mike is hosing them down to make it nice and clean:

It was a good day and it feels so nice to have nice weather.

April 9
More blue skies.  It's time to paint.

We are going to paint all of the solar panels mounts green to match the building and while we are at it we will paint the side of the shipping container.

Laying out cardboard to protect the rocks:

Mike using his new paint spray gun:

All the solar panel mounts are done:

Once the mounts are done we start on the side of the building.  We might as well while we have the chance.  Once the new solar panels go up we won't be touching this side of the building ever again.

We start at the front top corner of the building.  While I hold cardboard up to protect the driveway, Mike starts spraying.  He also sprays my hands but at least the driveway isn't green, lol.

Almost done with the building:

The painting is done:)

We have to let everything dry before we can install the solar panels.

April 10
Today is the day we have been waiting for.  It's time to get our new bigger solar panels on the new mounts that Mike designed:)

The solar panels are big so Mike and I will have to work together to get them on the racks.  The first one is the hardest as we don;t have much land to stand on.  I really hope we don't drop one.

The first one is in the rack:

And presto...eight of them are in.  We work so fast, lol.  Since Mike and I had to work hard to get them in I couldn't take pictures.  You can see how much bigger these are compared to the old panels which are on top of the shipping container.

We also got the two panels installed that stand alone to catch a different angle of the sun.  After all the panels are screwed in, Mike wants to clean up the ground.  Here he is grading out underneath the panels:

Next I raked it all out and Mike starts seeding:


I put the hay over the seed and Mike waters it:

Now it's time for the really important part and since I can't do any electrical, Mike is on his own.  Mike has to get all of the wires hooked up so we can make our own electric.

Mike installed two combiner boxes on the outside of the shipping container and under the solar panels.  A combiner box takes all the wires from the solar panels, combines them into one, and then sends them to the charge controller inside the shipping container.

Mike has 5 panels going into each combiner box.  Each solar panel has it's own circuit breaker.

Mike uses the torch to seal the shrink wrap over the connectors to make them weathertight.

Skip to April 16 as we had other work going on at the "store" property:)

Mike is getting getting ready to put the wire from the combiner boxes into the charge controller.  This is a really thick wire and you need strength in your hands to do this kind of work:

Peeling back and clipping the strands that aren't needed:

Mike hooking up one of  the charge controllers:

And the finishing touches:

Here are the circuit breakers onside the combiner box:

Our wire mess.  Mike will clean this up soon:

Now we are set to go.  Next I will help Mike take down our old panels and he will hook up our new system:)

I hope you all enjoyed this story and I will write again soon:)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

It Is So Worth It When You Have A "Great" Steak

Let's talk about steak.  My husband loves a good steak.  Unfortunately it has become harder and harder to find a good quality steak.  Years ago I used to buy a whole NY strip from a local butcher.  I would get 18-20 steaks that were vacuum sealed for the freezer.  They were delicious.  Then my husband and I moved to Florida.  The search for good steak was on.  It was very hard to find a good one.  A few years later we ended up in Tennessee and the steaks weren't any better.  They were tough and expensive.  Last year I decided to buy some local grass fed beef, T-bones and NY strips, to try.  That was  a huge mistake.  They were extremely expensive and very tough.  I used to joke and say that we needed fat cows for tender steaks and living in the mountains we don't have fat cows.  We have muscular cows since they trek the mountains all day long, therefore our local meat is tough.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

So now...I have finally found a good steak for my husband.  It costs more but it is worth it to have a great steak once in awhile then have a so so steak every week or so.  I now buy Filet Mignon when it is either marked down or on sale.

My favorite way to cook a steak is using my cast iron grill pan.  It is "the best".  My Grill Pan  This is how you make a great steak using a grill pan.  It can be used inside on a gas stove or outside on a camp stove.

First brush the pan with a little oil.  Put the pan on the burner and get it really hot.  You want that steak to sizzle when it hits the pan.  By the way, I found out the hard way, don't leave the handle mitt on while you cook.  I burned mine.  It is great to use when you need to move the pan as the cast iron handle gets extremely hot just put it on after you have cooked your food.

Next take your steaks out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature.

In this case I have one thicker steak and one smaller one.  I add the thicker one first with two thick slices of onions.

Put a lid on it and cook for about 4 minutes on medium high heat.  Do not mess with the meat.  Don't stick a fork in or poke at it.  You want that meat juicy and tender.

After the 4 minutes I added my smaller filet mignon and put the lid back on.  After six minutes I flipped both steaks and the onion slices.

Put the lid back on and grill for 6 more minutes.  The larger filet mignon cooked for a total of 16 minutes and the smaller one was cooked for a total of 12 minutes.  This is for a medium done steak.

Now you are done.  Using a spatula take them out of the pan and let them sit on your cutting board for a few minutes.  You want those juices to start flowing.

Time to slice it up and enjoy!!!

And for the next option.  My husband and I found this by accident and it was a great find.  We were looking for an easy meal while we were were camping in our motorhome.  Jack Daniels makes a pre cooked Beef Brisket which is really good for a quick meal.

It cooks in the microwave in about 4 minutes.  I serve it with a baked potato and a vegetable on the side.  The whole meal takes about 10 minutes and it is a delicious meal.

Those are my two recommendations for a great steak and a really good convenience meal.  Enjoy!!