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!

There is No Such Thing as Fair

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Torquing the connectors that hold down our solar panels
Almost 4 years ago to today, I posted here about my concerns that eminent domain would be used to take farmers' land for the Midwest Transmissions Project, a $400 million project to bring in some 140 to 170 miles of new 345-kv transmission line to northwestern Missouri and southeastern Nebraska.  Kansas City Power and Light just announced a deal to purchase 500 megawatts of power from the new wind farm that I posted about yesterday and another farm a little more north.  I guess we know now why they needed the MTP. 

So this got me thinking, because I used to work at KCPL and I know how they buy and sell electricity.  They are not an overly profitable company, but they do well, take care of their employees, contribute to the community in many ways, and pay a decent dividend.

Looking at my bill, they're charging me as follows for each kWh of energy that we use:
  • 11.44 cents per kWh for the energy only +
  • 0.33 cents for a "DSIM charge" +
  • 0.30 cents for a "FAC" or Fuel Adjustment Clause
That adds up to roughly 12.07 cents per kWh.  And that doesn't even count the monthly $11.88 customer charge or the $5.96 franchise fee.

When our solar panels generate more power than we use, KCPL buys it from us.  How much?  It's the same as their cost for producing energy from their coal plants.  Or presumably, buying it from wind farms.

1.9 cents per kWh

And then they can claim the federal Production Tax Credit for solar of 1.2 cents per kWh for everything we generate.  Now granted, I am not going to make a big stink about this because KCPL paid over $18k of the cost of our solar project and they deserve to recoup that investment.  But this certainly does show the disparity between what it costs to produce energy and what is being paid by consumers.  A large part of that cost is related to onerous EPA regulations.  But they just filed for a rate increase of 10.77 percent to cover costs related to "upgrading the company's infrastructure, adding regional transmission lines (MTP, anyone?), and complying with environmental and cybersecurity mandates."  The average residential customer will see an increase on their bill of about $11.92. 

The reason given for the purchase of wind energy from the new turbine farms (which I posted about yesterday) is that it is cheaper than the price that KCPL pays to buy energy off the market when necessary during peak load periods.  This power also qualifies for the federal Production Tax Credit for wind of 2.3 cents per kWh.  Yes, that means the federal government is paying more for each one of those wind-generated kWh than what it takes KCPL to generate it normally.  Why then, has KCPL submitted yet another huge annual proposed increase ? 

It certainly doesn't seem fair. 

The Changing Horizon

J. and I were in the Jeep hurtling north up I-35 toward the farm yesterday, chatting and trying to stay warm on one of those days where a chill sets in and just won't go away.  As we turned down the highway toward Maysville, I let out an audible gasp that made J. let off the gas for a moment.

The rolling Missouri horizon seemed foreign.  I had to blink to make sure I wasn't seeing things.  My first fleeting thought is that we were in War of the Worlds and huge aliens marching their way north.  Coming up a hill, white tentacles flailed as if controlled by a gargantuan octopus sitting just out of sight.  I blinked again...this time a little harder.  Gigantic white intruders still dotted the skyline as far as I could see before they faded off into the grey winter sky.

We had, of course, been seeing signs like the one below for over a year.  At one point, every farmhouse and field sported something similar or a simple sign with a windmill with a red cross through it.  The highway boasted signs that read "No wind farm traffic".  It seems that none of that solidarity was successful in preventing

This part of the country is American as it gets.  People here will go out of their way to help you, as evidenced by our neighbor, the farmer up the road, who graciously pulled our truck out of the mud with his tractor when we silly city-slickers buried it to the axle in mud on our land.  But if you're not from what some call "flyover country", you might mistake friendliness for gullibility and that couldn't be further from the truth.  After all, we're not called the Show-Me State for nothing.

I'll admit to not being in the know about all the hubbub on this particular issue so I had to do some digging.  The local liberal Kansas City rag, the Pitch, even ran a story on it.  The gist of it is that an out-of-state company from Florida called NextEra Energy came in and wanted to lease land from many of the landowners in the area.  That company is receiving heavy subsidies from the federal government and, in addition to being out-of-towners, are perceived to have been greasing the wheels with some local elected officials.  From what I've read, there are certainly some conflicts of interest going on.  Couple the fact that rich landowners seem to be benefitting the most and you've got all the makings of a full-fledged backlash from the locals.

A group of concerned citizens banded together to voice their concerns about the effects heavy wind farm traffic would have on roadways, health concerns, effects on livestock, abuse of land by out-of-state interests, and the scar that the turbines would leave on the horizon.  DeKalb County, where our farm sits, is a township and isn't zoned so there was no permit process to slow things down.  After a lawsuit to stop the wind farm ended unsuccessfully last year, NextEra wasted no time in getting started putting up their 96 turbines. We were last there in late September and didn't see a thing, so I guess it didn't take long.  Most of the protest signs are gone now and they've been replaced by something much larger.

More on this tomorrow....

Nevada Passes 40% Tax on Solar Users

Thursday, January 19, 2017

This is a disturbing trend and one that I hope Missouri and Kansas City Power and Light don't get wind of. I think I'll pull out my contract and see what it says about changing terms of the agreement. I Missouri, we are locked into the agreement for 10 years and we're just over 2 years in at this point. The idea that they could retroactively impose this tax in order to add to the profits of a private company is beyond offensive, in my opinion.

What do you think?


[The following article was reproduced under the Creative Commons license from TrueActivist.com]

Nevada Penalizes Solar Energy Users with Hefty 40% Tax Increase

An absurd monthly fee imposed on solar customers was just voted in by the Nevada Public Utility Commission (PUC), virtually penalizing net metering (NEM) users of the renewable energy and in a sense, screwing these guys over after making the investment to go solar. Yip-dee-doo!

Such is the current state that Nevada is in right now after it turns out that consumers opting with solar energy in the state are eating up on the potential profit that NV Energy should have. And in order for the company to combat this, they were able to coerce lawmakers to make solar energy insanely expensive – in hopes of convincing people to just stay blindly on the grid and stop being so ‘hippy’.

Of course, existing users of the renewable energy source feel cheated, with one Nevada resident writing to  the Las Vegas Sun to pinpoint how she feels ”financially ambushed.” You see, getting your home to be solar-powered isn’t cheap and a huge investment has to be made at first buying all those solar panels and whatnot to get your home solar-ready.

The way it works is that with the amount of money one can save from renewable energy, the system will pay for itself and users will get their investments back in no time. Thanks to this new development, though, that will not happen now and understandably, solar energy users feel screwed.

”With the new pricing for [net metering] customers, the value or price of the energy they produce will be vastly reduced,” the woman writes. ”In addition, the flat service charge for NEM customers will rise to three times that charged to non-solar residential customers, a kind of penalty for producing much of our own electricity. The people with solar on their homes feel cheated; solar businesses are closing or leaving.”

Indeed, solar energy providers have already left the state with SolarCity and Sunrun Inc. packing their bags – causing a minimum of a thousand job cuts.

”Big rooftop solar companies say they just want energy choice for Nevadans. The truth is their plan gives you no choice,” -says a commercial now airing in Nevada, paid for by a Political Action Committee called Solar Energy Fairness.

Got seeds?

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

My homemade seed envelope!  Find out how to make these here.

I love flopping on the couch in front of the fireplace with a good seed catalog, but one of the best ways to get seeds is to trade them.  If you've got extras from the growing season, attending a local seed exchange can be a great way to get locally-grown and proven seeds and learn about plants that you are interested in from growers who have experience with them.  Not to mention...pie (see below)!

For those of you in Kansas City, there are a few seed exchanges coming up in the next 6 weeks.  I've added these to the events calendar for you as well.

When:  Saturday, 21 January 2017 from 11:00am to 1:00pm
Where:  Anita B Gorman Discovery Center, Missouri Dept. of Conservation, 4750 Troost, Kansas City MO 64110
Cost: FREE, but $3 to $5 donations are suggested to cover event costs (Seed Savers is non-profit)

This is Kansas City's 5th annual organic, non-GE seed exchange.  Things you can trade include: organic, heirloom, non-GE vegetable, herb & flower seeds, bulbs, starter plants, shrubs, vines, food grade essential oils, tinctures, dried herbs, dried vegetables, ferment starters, fresh eggs, pickles, jams, jellies, honey, garden-environmental-homestead books, etc.  Bring something/get something, bring a little/take a little, bring a lot/take a lot.  Please bring your things to trade in individual labeled containers (envelopes, bags, jars, pots) and date them. 

There will be door prizes and free samples, and a table with flyers, business cards, and magazines.  Learn about our expanding Seed Library, proper seed harvesting and saving and planting, and promoting biodiversity in your community, your yard and your home.   For more information:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1612347692404955/.

When:  Saturday, 11 February 2017 from 9:00am to 3:00pm
Where:  Douglas County Fairgrounds, 1930 Harper St., Lawrence KS 66046
Cost:  FREE

The annual Kaw Valley Seed Fair 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.  Please bring your saved seeds or packaged seeds to share, and envelopes, containers, or baggies to collect the seeds you select.  This is a great place to meet people devoted to sustainability and biodiversity in our Kaw Valley region.  For more information: www.facebook.com/kawvalleyseeds.

The Most Majestic of Birds

Sunday, January 01, 2017

If you're from around here, you might think I'm talking about the yard bird.  Nope...the chicken doesn't take this title, even if it's an $8,000 all-black chicken, and it's not the turkey, pheasant or cardinal either.

I'm talking bald eagles here.  If you've never seen one up close and personal, then it's something that at least oughtta be on your bucket list. And now's your chance with the Missouri Department of Conservation's annual Eagle Days program.

Because of the state’s big rivers, many lakes, and abundant wetlands, Missouri is one of the leading lower 48 states for bald eagle viewing. Each fall, thousands of these great birds migrate south from their nesting range in Canada and the Great Lakes states to hunt in the Show-Me State.
Eagles take up residence wherever they find open water and plentiful food. More than 2,000 bald eagles are typically reported in Missouri during winter.

The Eagle Days events include live captive-eagle programs, exhibits, activities, videos, and the opportunity to see bald eagles in the wild with the assistance of guides with spotting scopes. Watch for eagles perched in large trees along the water’s edge. View them early in the morning to see eagles flying and fishing. Be sure to dress for winter weather and don’t forget cameras and binoculars.
  • KANSAS CITY: Jan. 7 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Jan. 8 from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Smithville Lake Paradise Pointe Golf Course Clubhouse north of Kansas City. Call 816-532-0174 for more information.
  • ST. LOUIS: Jan. 14 and 15 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge south of I-270 off Riverview Drive in St. Louis. Call 314-877-6014 for more information.
  • SPRINGFIELD: Jan. 21 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Jan. 22 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the MDC Springfield Conservation Nature Center with viewing opportunities at the nearby Lake Springfield Boathouse and Marina. Call 417-888-4237 for more information.
  • JEFFERSON CITY: Jan. 28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Runge Conservation Nature Center in Jefferson City with wild eagle viewing at the nearby Marion Access. Call 573-526-5544 for more information.
  • MOUND CITY: Dec. 3 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Dec. 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge south of Mound City. Call 816-271-3100 for more information.
  • CLARKSVILLE: Jan. 28 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Jan. 29 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Lock and Dam 24 and Apple Shed Theater in Clarksville. Call 660-785-2420 for more information.
  • PUXICO: Feb. 4 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge near Puxico. Call 573-222-3589 for more information.

Can’t make it? Other hot spots for winter eagle viewing include:
  • Lake of the Ozarks at Bagnell Dam Access east of Bagnell
  • Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area on Route K southwest of Columbia
  • Lock & Dam 20 at Canton
  • Lock & Dam 24 at Clarksville
  • Lock & Dam 25 east of Winfield
  • Mingo National Wildlife Refuge north of Puxico on Highway 51
  • Moses Eagle Park at Stella
  • Old Chain of Rocks Bridge south of I-270, off of Riverview Drive in St. Louis
  • Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary east of West Alton
  • Schell-Osage Conservation Area north of El Dorado Springs
  • Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge south of Mound City
  • Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge south of Sumner
  • Table Rock Lake southwest of Branson
  • Truman Reservoir west of Warsaw

And, if you really want a dose of cute, go watch momma Harriett and dad M-15 tend to their just-hatched eaglet on live-cam in Southwest Florida.  We're still waiting for the second egg to hatch and I will warn you - it's addicting!

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