Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Click here to start at the beginning! )
|Source: SolarPros, a great site for solar information!|
If you don't like paying the electric company, then the answer to whether solar is worth it is yes.
But let's tackle the affordability issue, since solar has suffered from a "bad rap" that it's way too expensive for us Average Joe's. I certainly thought that and you can see the numbers on the graphic up there. But the proverbial planets have aligned and now is actually a really great time to get solar installed for free or somewhere close to it. In fact, the window is closing and we may not see this opportunity again in our lifetime.
Federal Tax Incentives of 30%
If there's anything good that came out of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, it was the extension of the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit and removal of the $2,000 limit. Through 2016, any taxpayer can claim a credit of 30% of the installed costs of renewable energy systems and there is no limit on how much you can get back. You can claim this credit on any property that you own (not just your primary home) as long as it's installed before December 31, 2016.
So....right off the bat, you can get 30% of the cost back. But there are some gotchas here:
- You have to pay the money for the installation up front.
- You have to have enough tax liability. In other words, if your 30% of the install comes to $4,000, then your total tax liability would have to at least be that. That's not what you owe or are getting - it's the total tax you have paid over the year PLUS whatever you still owe.
- You don't get your money back until after you file your taxes.
But don't despair...there are other ways to get this paid for.
Question: Are state or utility rebates considered taxable income by the federal government?
Answer: No! However, the amount you can claim back from the federal government is reduced by the amount of the state\utility rebates. In other words, if the total solar cost is $30,000 and you get $22,000 back from the utility, then you can only claim the 30% federal credit on the difference ($8,000). So this is truly free money to help with your installation.
Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs)
This doesn't apply to Missouri, but many states have adopted standards that require a portion of the state’s electricity mix to come from solar energy. Illinois and Michigan are just two examples. In states with SRECs, you can get paid above and beyond just the value of the power generated. Again, check the dsireusa.org website for information specific to your state.
Can I earn money from the power generated by a solar system on my home?
- You sign over all rights to your federal, state and utility rebates to the installer.
- You're still paying for electricity!
- Install it yourself. Labor is about half the cost of the system and, if you're at all handy, you can do this yourself. I'm going to be sharing lots of resources that will help out DIYers and I'll be documenting our own DIY installation as well.
- Take out a home equity loan to cover the cost. You'll get back most, if not all, of the cost and can pay off the loan quickly.
- Check with local banks, your city or your state. Many of them offer grants or special short-term loans just for solar installations.
- Consider buying a smaller solar system and adding on as you have the funds.
Okay, we've established that going solar is worth it and some options for how to pay for it. In our next post in this series, we'll talk about how to decrease your energy usage to save money on the electrical bill (and buy a smaller solar system!)
Click here to go to my next post about our solar project.
Friday, January 24, 2014
I really hate writing that check to the Power & Light company. Not only that, but the idea of generating my own energy is really intriguing - especially since it's "free" in the form of sunshine.
- is solar worth it? (the economics of it all and the dreaded "return on investment")
- what rebates and incentives are available?
- determining placement of your solar panels
- sizing your solar array
- on-grid vs. off-grid
- details of how everything connects together
- the best tools and resources on the web for solar (especially DIYers!)
Click here for the next post in the Solar Series.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
|A little blurry...sorry!|
Monday, January 20, 2014
This year's garden fared much better than in 2012, since we didn't have all that oppressive heat and drought. But I couldn't grow a pepper or jalapeno this year to save my life. This year, we'll be moving those into the concrete containers next to the garage since I accidentally discovered that they LOVE the heat reflected off the garage and retained by the concrete planters. Hey...gardening is an art, right? Sometimes you discover you're a Picasso and didn't know it.
Looking at the list of goals from last year, I think I may have been just a tad bit over-ambitious. Look at how long that list is! I mean, was I trying to plan out our entire year in one day?
We did accomplish some biggies:
- Selling the 1893 Victorian that we lovingly restored.
- Paying off the farm. It's all ours now!
- We didn't just replace the leaky roof on the addition. We had professionals replace the entire roof for just the cost of materials + they put a membrane roof over the almost-flat addition. No more leaks!
- The garden beds are no more. We bulldozed them over in favor of a much bigger garden in 2014. I gave us a "D" on this only because I wanted to get a whole mess of horse manure dumped on it before winter and that didn't happen.
- There are some new additions to the garden: 2 new dwarf cherry trees and 3 new semi-dwarf apple trees. And a crap load of blackberries.
Even though not everything on the list got accomplished, I still feel really good about what we were able to do in 2013. And I feel even more excited about 2014.
Speaking of 2014, how about some goals, girl? And keep it light, would ya?
- Develop a plan for our much bigger garden. Oh, the seed catalogs are a-flying. More on that to come!
- Install solar panels to power our house. I've been doing a ton of research on this and you wouldn't believe how easy this is to DIY. Stay tuned and find out how to do this for FREE here in the KC area.
- Finish up renovations on the travel trailer and get it moved to the farm to make room for...
- Build a garage in the backyard. We need space to store and work on tractors, etc.
- Successfully grow tomato from seed. Last year’s try was pretty pitiful and the seedlings ended up VERY leggy. I’d really love to experiment with soil blocking and grafting.
- Re-establish the strawberry bed. (Ahem..I may have let it the rye grass overtake the bed and kill it last year.)
- Grow corn and\or other edibles specifically for the chickens. I’d like to see if I can cut down on the amount of chicken feed that we’re buying. This one was on my list for last year.
- Finish the rain barrel project. This will be expanded to include a water capture system for the new solar panels.
- Build at least one compost bin.
- Learn beekeeping. I've already signed up for an all-day class from the Midwestern Beekeepers Association in February.
- Become proficient in playing the 5-string banjo.
- Start an herb garden and learn how to dry and store them. And, while I’m at it, learn how they can be used in herbal remedies and medicines.
- Enjoy every minute.
How about you? What’s on your project list for 2014?
Sunday, January 19, 2014
You can find the list of upcoming events on the Event Calendar (or click the link on the right sidebar).
This week, I've added a ton of really great stuff. You'll find these on the calendar under the date indicated (or click the link to view or add to your own Gmail calendar):
Lecture: Permaculture Design of Urban Food Forests (January 18th)
This Master Gardener lecture by Michael Almon, the developer of Forest Floor Permaculture, a nut and fruit centered forest garden in Lawrence, KS. In the permaculture garden of perennial food crops, there’s no need to till every year, much of the weeding is eliminated with groundcovers, shade trees and shrubs will bear food, and irrigation needs will be reduced. Cost: FREE
Vegetable Gardening Workshop (January 25th)
Vegetable gardening is as popular as ever, whether in your backyard or in one of the many community gardens throughout the metro. This workshop in Olathe, Kansas will help vegetable gardeners learn more and to be successful in their gardening efforts. The featured speaker for the session will be Kansas State University Research and Extension Vegetable Specialist Cary Rivard, Ph.D. Dr. Rivard will discuss watering, weed control and growing great tomatoes. You will also learn new tips for eating fresh from the garden presented by Olathe Medical Center. Cost: Registration is $5 per person and includes refreshments.
Cultivate KC's Annual Farmers and Friends Meeting (February 1st)
Come meet other growers and supporters and learn about Cultivate Kansas City’s projects over the past year. The event will include pie, coffee, conversation, and learning together (and, if you’d like to bring a pie or two, it would be much appreciated!). The event will have a “Dreamers and Doers” panel, and some group visioning activities that are fun and creative. The goals of the Annual Farmers & Friends Meeting are to create a space for peer-to-peer learning; to facilitate an opportunity for growers to connect to share challenges, solutions and enthusiasm; to share information about local resources; and to give a “whole systems” or big picture vision of urban growing in Kansas City. Each year the event strives to connect our daily work as farmers, gardeners, food advocates and friends to the vision of the community we want to build with a farm in every neighborhood and access to fresh, healthy, affordable food for all people. Cost: FREE. Please bring a homemade (and preferably homegrown or locally sourced) dish to share.
Missouri Beginning Farmers 18th Annual Greenhouse Growers School (February 6)
This is a whole-day event in Columbia, Missouri that covers topics including growing your profits, an intro to hydroponics, high tunnel design and construction, compost, biofuelds, etc. Cost is $30.
Missouri Beginning Farmers Webinar Series
MBF is also hosting a whole slew of FREE online webinars on goats, beginning farm financing, and other topics. They're all on the event calendar.
5th Annual Kaw Valley Seed Fair (February 8th)
The annual Kaw Valley Seed Fair in Lawrence, Kansas is a pre-spring celebration where people can share seeds, information and other resources. The fair features a free seed exchange that includes books, catalogs and other gardening and seed-saving materials, plus exhibits, local producers and food for sale. Cost: FREE
Planting and Preserving Workshop (February 13th)
Have you tried to grow enough in your garden to save for the winter, but ended up with too many hot peppers and not enough tomatoes? Do you want to preserve your harvest but have no idea where to start? This workshop in Wichita, Kansas will walk you through what you need to know to plant a garden that will fill your canning jars or freezer. During the second half of the class, you will learn about different preservation methods and what tools and materials you will need to be successful. Cost: $5.00.
Women Managing the Farm Annual Conference (February 13th - 14th)
The Women Managing the Farm Conference was created to aid women who are helping to grow the nation’s food supply whether by design, marriage or inheritance. "The Heart of Agriculture" is this year's conference theme. Over the two days of the conference, presentations regarding business planning, health, managing employees and more will be interspersed with opportunities for networking and learning from others attending the conference. Pre-conference workshops will also be available this year to provide hands-on learning opportunities. Cost: $145 through 1/30/13; after that date, $170.
KC Master Gardeners Spring Seminar (March 15th)
Join the Master Gardeners of Greater Kansas City for their 13th annual Spring Gardening Seminar. There are myriad of interesting topics, including edible landscaping, seed saving and starting, pruning, native species planting, and much more. Cost: $49 before 2/14; $69 after that date.
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Monday, January 13, 2014
Sunday, January 12, 2014
So now what to do with them? I can't decide either, so how about we start with baked apples and apple chips?
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Wash the apples and remove their cores, leaving about 1/2 inch of the bottom of the apples. It helps if you have an apple corer, but if not, you can use a paring knife to cut out first the stem area, and then the core. Use a spoon to dig out the seeds. Make the holes about 3/4-inch to an inch wide.
- Place the apples in a baking dish.
- Melt the butter in a pan (or in the microwave). I like to do this in a microwavable measuring cup because it's easier to pour the mixture into the apples.
- Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and stir until mixed. Pour the mixture into the apples until they are just about to brim over.
- Add boiling water to the baking pan.
- Bake 30-40 minutes, until tender, but not mushy. Remove from the oven and baste the apples several times with the pan juices.
- Serve warm with vanilla ice cream on the side.
- Preheat the oven to 225°F.
- Stir together the cinnamon and sugar to combine. Or just use pre-mixed cinnamon-sugar.
- Decide whether or not to core your apples. Just in case you don't know: apple seeds are poisonous, but you'd have to eat a ton of them before they ever effected you. Not coring them will give you a star shape in the middle of your chips, so they'll be prettier than if you core them. J. doesn't like the core, so we cored all of ours.
- Slice the apples thinly with a mandolin slicer or a very sharp knife. Trust me, you want to use a mandolin slicer because it only takes about 20 seconds to slice the whole apple with one. You'll be there are all day if you try to use a knife. I know...I tried it and then ran out to get a mandolin.
- Line two sheet pans with parchment paper, and place the apple slices side by side on the parchment, in a single layer. Make sure not to overlap the apple slices or place them on top of each other, otherwise they won't crisp up.
- Sprinkle the apple slices with the cinnamon sugar.
- Bake the apple slices for 1 hour, then remove them from the oven and flip them over. The apples will be floppy, but they will crisp up later.
- Return the apple slices to the oven for another hour
- Turn the oven off, letting the apple chips cool completely in the oven. This is when they will crisp up. Store in an airtight container.
Thursday, January 09, 2014
The first class is FREE and it's one that J. and I wanted to attend last year, but the class filled up within just a couple of hours of the registration opening up. Trust me...I have this on my calendar and on my speed dial for February 1st, because I.will.not.miss.this.sugaring.class.this.year!
Maple SugaringLocation: Burr Oak Woods Nature Center
Date: Saturday, March 1, 2014, 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Ummm....maple syrup! In our culture of a supermarket in every neighborhood; it is almost magical and spectacular to be able to make something delicious to eat out of some liquid flowing out of a tree. Savor this wonder of nature by learning how to pick the right tree, tap it and collect the sap, and then make delicious syrup from native trees. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that registration for this begins February 1st at 816-228-3766 (all ages).
The Missouri Department of Conservation has lots of great activities and classes for all ages. Check out the list at http://mdc.mo.gov/events/location/Burr%20Oak%20Woods/heading/Burr%20Oak%20Woods%20Nature%20Center.
Investing in Cropland
Date: Tuesday, January 14, 2014, 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Have you ever daydreamed about a house in the country, rolling farmland, and dusty country roads? How about quitting your day job to become a farmer? Well, it all starts with land. On January 14th, Bill and Brad Gaughan, founding partners of Rural KC Real Estate, will discuss the opportunities, the risks and the process for investing in cropland.
Bulk Seed Potatoes from Cultivate KC
A great organization here in KC called "Cultivate Kansas City" puts together a combined order for Kansas City area growers with Potato Garden so you can get certified organic and certified natural potatoes at a bulk rate. These are non-GMO and are naturally grown without the use of chemicals, pesticides, fungicides, or synthetic fertilizers. They're also guaranteed to be disease free.
Now for the particulars of how this works:
- You must purchase a minimum of 50 pounds total, although you can specify a mix of varieties.
- Click here to view the catalog and place your order. You can pay with PayPal immediately or mail a check in (the check must be received within 3 business days).
- Processing Fee: There is a $5.00 processing fee for each order (this is hidden on your invoice but will show up when you pay online.)
- Shipping costs: are paid when you pick up the potatoes (around 30 cents per pound).
- Sales tax: If you are a gardener growing for personal consumption, you must pay Wyandotte County Sales Tax of 8.925% upon pickup. If you are a farmer and will be selling the potatoes you grow then you must fill out the Agricultural Exemption Certificate upon pickup. If you work with a non-profit, school or religious organization and hold a Tax Entity Exemption Certificate with the Kansas Department of Revenue, you must present a copy of your Tax Exempt Certificate and pay for your order with a company check in order to be tax exempt.
- Pickup: When the seed potatoes arrive (usually sometime in March, depending on weather), you pick up your order on the scheduled day. As soon as we know the delivery date, we will schedule one day only for pickup. If you cannot attend, you must send someone to pick up your order. The pick-up location will be determined based on the size of the order, but will be at or near the Gibbs Road Farm (4223 Gibbs Road, Kansas City, KS).
Tree Orders from the Missouri Department of Conservation
Just a reminder that we are well into the period where you can order some free tree or shrub seedlings from MODOC. As usual, they are offering a wide variety of shade, ornamental, and edible tree seedlings. The price per pack of 10 year-old seedlings is $6 to $64, depending on variety. Orders can be submitted via Internet, mail or fax and must be received by April 30, 2013.
For more information and the order form, visit http://mdc.mo.gov/your-property/seedling-orders-and-planting-guide/seedling-order-how.
Note from Cranky: J.'s stepfather has planted almost his entire acreage with walnut and pecan trees through this program and we're considering starting to plant on our 40 acres so the trees will be established when we build our house. This program is an extremely cheap way to get some quality tree seedlings. They're around 12" to 18" tall when you receive them, so they'll take some time to grow up and be fruitful. If you're interested, get started now because they usually run out of the most popular very early.
Monday, January 06, 2014
|There should be a law against having to go to work when it's this cold!|
Sunday, January 05, 2014
Folks, that's dangerously cold and in a territory that hasn't been seen around these here parts since I was born over 40 years ago. Temps like that can freeze exposed skin in a matter of minutes, so be careful to get all bundled up if you have to go outside. (By the way....check out what the Almanac says over there on the right sidebar. "Warmest on the 6th", my *^&$%##%%$!)
Okay, I know you guys know this but it's probably worth saying again. Remember.....if the cold is dangerous for you, it's dangerous for your animals also. Please bring your pets inside if at all possible. If you can't, make sure they have a warm place to get to and keep an eye on them for any signs on hypothermia (shivering is a good sign). Obviously, you probably aren't going to bring your chickens in to hang out in the family room with you (although my friend Paula used to!). But I thought I would trot out some tips from one of my original posts from back in 2012 on how you can keep your feathered friends warm and toasty when cold weather hits.
But, other than putting up heaters or brooder lamps, here are some other things you can do to keep your hens toasty:
- Keep their water from freezing. Either use a heated dog bowl or the farm\critter supply stores sell heater bases that go under the galvanized chicken waterers. If you have neither of these, make sure you check their water regularly and break up any ice that may have formed.
- Use a wooden roost for them to sleep on. Galvanized metal is way too cold for their feet. Also, make sure there is room for at least 6 inches between each hen. When it's cold, they will fluff out their feathers as added insulation and they'll need room to do so.
- Fight frostbite. Combs and feet aren't protected by all those feathers and are susceptible to the cold - especially if you have large breed chickens with large wattles or combs. One way to prevent frostbite is to cover them with Vaseline, petroleum jelly or even olive oil. Do this after they've gone to bed for the night and it will be much easier. Trust me.
- Give them a treat. While not a replacement for daily food, feeding scratch, sunflower seeds, and cracked corn as a treat will actually help to raise a hen's body temperature. Just a couple of handfuls every evening is what I normally feed. And I've been known to give them some yummy warm oatmeal as well.
- Use the deep litter method. Rather than cleaning the coop every month, just deep clean the coop in the spring and layer on a fresh layer of bedding every month. As it packs down, it will provide insulation to the coop and the hens enjoy scratching it up if you throw some corn or sunflower seeds in there. I initially thought this would smell to high heaven but, believe it or not, it doesn't!
- Shovel a path. If it snows, clear a path in the run or the yard for them so they don't have to bust through snow and get wet. If you're a chicken herder like me, you know that chickens hate getting wet.
- Collect eggs regularly. This doesn't really help the chickens, but it will prevent your eggs from freezing.
I hope you found these tips to be useful. If you've got any other tips about keeping our beloved chooks warm (other than plopping them in front of the fireplace), I'd love to hear them. Leave me a comment!
Saturday, January 04, 2014
|My fav seed catalog so far...Baker Creek Seeds!|
So the catalogs are starting to arrive and it's a good thing, because it's so stinking cold that your breath freezes before it ever leaves your lungs. Nope, not going outside right now.
Events Calendar here at Cranky Puppy with all kinds of online and local Kansas\Missouri workshops, seminars and online classes. Lots of them are free or only a nominal cost and they cover all kinds of topics:
- Urban gardening\farming
- Managing a small orchard
- Fruit tree or small fruit production (blackberries, strawberries, etc.)
- Keeping chickens
- Permaculture and composting
- Organic pest management (insects, weeds, etc.)
- Pond management
- ...and more!
Some of these events require advance registration, so I recommend you browse through the extensive calendar now, see if there's anything you're interested in and get registered quickly. Some of these are known to fill up pretty quickly - especially the Conservation Extension classes.
This is everything that I could find, but there is more to come because I'm still waiting on several of my sources to post their workshop schedules for 2014. As I get more details, I'll be sure to post the additions here and let you know.
It's a great time to commit to learning a new skill or exploring a new topic. What are you waiting for?