A possible early spring?

It looks like we are headed toward temperatures above 40F again today with a week above freezing in the forecast. So much for that snow cover we began to accumulate! But if it really disappears it will be time for us to get back to work building the new chicken coop. Yesterday we took a road trip 2 hours northward to attend the annual seed ordering meeting hosted by some like-minded, similarly-aged, homesteader friends of ours in Menomonie, Wisconsin. But before we got indoors we got a chance to see their chickens and how they were fairing this winter. With plenty of space, plenty of fresh vegetable scraps (especially kale trimmings), some light supplementation both early and late in the day, and free access to unfrozen water thanks to a heated water bowl, the 14 hens laid 13 big brown eggs. Happy girls!

One of my (Bob’s) latest projects has been helping a neighbor with an electrical challenge. He obtained an old Planet Electric, Model T replica, electric car from the owner of a nearby, large, tax-write-off, buffalo ranch. The insanely rich owner had gotten 10 of these cars as an investor in the company and had given one to his son, who used it only around the farm, putting only 165 miles on it in 12 years. They were about to sell this car to someone for over $5000 but, when they plugged it in to top off the battery pack, the charger, located under the hood, caught fire. They figured it was ruined and my neighbor’s cousin, who manages the farm, got him the vehicle for much less.

My challenge was to see if the charger could be repaired, since it would cost over $1000 for an identical replacement and nearly $500 for a suitable substitute. The circuit board looked as if a flaming bullet had blasted through it! One output wire of its transformer had burned away and caused nearby insulation to flame off and smoke briefly. I had to carve away some warped copper circuit board traces and clean away some smoke deposits to even find where the transformer wire might have attached. I figured out the original circuit pathway and completed the circuit with some new wiring. My neighbor plugged it back into the car and it booted up but still indicates that it is not “seeing” the battery pack (possible fused output relay contacts). It’s harder to get things just right the first time without the circuit schematics. More diagnostics are in order with the unit actually on the vehicle, but we’ve made some headway.

The car is so cute and in such fine shape otherwise that I have no doubt it will find a new home somewhere. Living as far as we do from town (12 miles), this low-speed neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) is not really practical for us. It is far from aerodynamic, reducing its range. Its open sides are not the best for rainy or windy weather. And it is primarily designed to haul 4 people, not cargo of any sort. Still, it’s just so darn cute!

As I write this, Larisa has just gone out to the greenhouse to pick some additions to lunch’s BIG SALAD – chard, celery, Chinese cabbage and parsley. With lettuce and New Zealand spinach from our indoor window boxes, carrots and beets from the root cellar, and freshly roasted pepitos from the pantry we are looking forward to a fresh feast! Anyone with south-facing windows and some pots of soil could grow indoor lettuce, but it really takes some planning and persistence to get optimal growth when light levels are fading and the window sills are cool. You can find more details about it on our website and in our book, Feeding Ourselves (starting on page 78), also available from our site.

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