Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

The Mightly Craigslist Hunter

Monday, January 19, 2015

Man, is Craigslist fun.  I think of it as being on an expedition in deep dark Africa where we're hunting an elusive legendary creature of some kind - you know the kind that no one has ever seen but people whisper about it around the fire.
But the creature I'm hunting doesn't run very fast but it IS exciting (or at least I think so).  I'm talking about old house parts.  Our $1400 house is missing two fireplace mantels - one in the downstairs parlor and the other in the master bedroom.  I want them to be authentic for the time period of the house and what better place to find them than Craigslist? 
The hunt has been ongoing since we bought the house last August.  And Craigslist was a source of entertainment for me on the many evenings that I spent flat on my bad back on the sofa with the heating pad. Antique mantels just don't get posted that often and, when they do, they're often $800 and above.  I have all the time in the world to be patient, and it finally paid off when I saw an ad for a tiger oak mantel for just $350.

A nice gentleman named John, who was an old house restorer like us, had sold his home (it was on the National Register, no less!) and was moving to Palm Springs.  He'd collected a basement and carriage house full of old house jewels from some of the many houses that had been torn down in the neighborhood and needed them gone ASAP.  A quick phone call and we knew we had to go see the mantel, as it was the perfect dimensions to fit in the $1400 house's parlor.

The oak mantel has been stripped and sanded, but a light stain and polyurethane will be bring out the beauty of the wood.  The mirror is obviously old and some of the silvering is off of it but I like it, so I probably won't replace it. 

On the way out, we passed the mantel on the left, which is solid cherry and DROP DEAD GORGEOUS.  I thought I had seen the listing for it at $1800 but he informed me that he needed to get rid of it and would take $400.  Screeeeeeeccchhhhh....hold the phones!  WHAT?!  I immediately told him we would take it as well. 
It's in perfect condition and the new mirror had been removed to prevent it from getting broken.  Since it's a little smaller than the oak one, it will be beautiful in the master bedroom.  I can't believe we just found both mantels for $750, which is what I had budgeted for just one! 

Now if only that guy would drop the price on that mounted buffalo head.  I mean...who *doesn't* need one of those!?

Solar: Two Months Later

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My head is spinning with Excel charts and graphs, numbers and formulas, oh my!  Now that we've had the solar array energized for a couple of months, I thought it would be interesting to see how much energy it's generated and what effect it's had on our electricity bill.  WARNING:  Excel geekness ahead!

This first chart shows the output from the array.  Now late fall\winter is the *worst* time to energize an array, I think, simply because you get a little depressed about the fact that it's not producing at its maximum potential.  The sun is getting lower in the sky and the daylight hours are shorter.  Here in Missouri, it's often gray and overcast if it's not snowing (although we've had only a few small snows so far this winter).

The red line in the chart below represents the 45 kilowatt hours (kWH) that the solar panels could produce under perfect conditions, which really don't exist.

The green line represents the average daily kWH, which is 14.5 for this time period.  See those dips?  You can almost chart what the weather was like with this. 

This chart is for the entire year because I wanted to demonstrate the effect that the solar panels had on the amount of power we're buying from the utility company.  We went "live" at the tail end of October and you can see the big difference there.

See the green arrow?  That would be the days that were super cold and we turned on the "chicken furnace" in the coop to keep the girls from turning into ice-chick-les.  That thing really sucks the power!  (By the way, J. coined the term ice-chick-les, and I laugh every time he says it.)

Oh, and here's another way of looking at the same graph.  See the significant drop off in October?

So now for the nitty gritty.  Here's what it's done to our monthly electric bill:

We used more power in December because the real cold started and we had our house furnace and chicken furnace on.  Still, a 71% is nothing to sneeze at.

I'm now completely obsessed to getting to the big fat zero.  Once we get there, we can try to get a negative, which means KCPL is paying us to generate electricity.  I can't wait to see what our numbers look like this spring and summer!

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