Sunday, December 16, 2012

It's BeginningTto Look A Lot Like Christmas

In my last post, you learned that for many years Thanksgiving is the holiday that we put all of our effort and enthusiasm into. However, with this being our first off-grid Christmas, and being down in the Ozark Mountains, Alan and I decided it deserved some effort as well. OK, to be honest we were just excited to see what we could come up with.

First, we wanted some outdoor lights so that all our neighbors could 'ooh' and 'aah' at our glorious display as they drove past our house. We found solar charged Christmas lights at Big Lots, one of our favorite shopping destinations. To the right is a picture of one of the chargers. Each box contained a 12 foot string of 50 LED C6 multi color lights, a charger and both a yard stake and a mounting clip for versatility. We chose to use the mounting clips to attach the solar charges to the deck rails. We purchased three boxes, so our outdoor display is an amazing 150 lights which stretch into a dazzling 36 feet of luminous beauty along our front deck.
The outdoor display during the day...
... and at NIGHT!!!
OOH!!!!   AAH!!!!
Next came the tree. I had heard on the radio that there was a person that came to a nearby city (an hour away) every year to sell Christmas trees and I told Alan we should go there to buy our tree. Why there you may ask.... because this person brought his trees down from Wisconsin each year to sell them here in the Ozarks. So off we drove in Truck to get our Wisconsin Christmas tree. We pull into the the parking lot of the mini-golf course, which is where this tree sale is set up each year, and by the looks of the trees on display, you would have thought we had arrived on Christmas Eve rather than two weeks before Christmas. The available choices consisted of  four scraggly trees leaning up against each other in the middle of the lot and the workers were packing up their gear. They had sold out of trees already. So off we went to Lowe's to buy a tree from who-knows-where. While we were 'in town' I also stopped at Hobby Lobby to get some supplies for some special ornaments I wanted to make, more on these later.

Stringing the lights
We get the tree home, and first come the lights. We had also previously purchased Christmas lights for the tree at Big Lots. We had a box of 120 (two 60 light strands) of the small Italian style lights and a box of 60 larger lights that were the same conical shape as the lights in our wondrous outdoor light display. All of these sets were LED as well. Now these strings of lights were designed to be used in 'normal' houses with 'normal' outlets so we needed to plug them into one of our power inverters. Our wall outlets are 12V DC, the power inverter is plugged into the outlet and provides a 'normal' household voltage for the lights to plug into. Plug the first string into the power inverter and then add each string to the previous one just as usual.

Alan adds the tree top...
With the three strings illuminating our 7 foot Frasier Fir, we turned off everything else in the house (two ceiling lights at the time) and ran into the laundry room to see what the reading was on the charge controller. We wanted to know the amount of power our tree lights were pulling to determine how long we could bask in their beauty each day. I actually jumped for Christmas Joy when the load indicator displayed just 0.8 amps, which is less than running two of our overhead lamps. We can keep the tree lights on all evening - even all day if we do not have too many overcast days in a row.

A second rows of batteries (top shelf) have been added.
You may be familiar with the various television programs that are televised each Christmas season, the ones that show extreme Christmas light displays that people erect each year. Many of these shows include information on how home owners have had to re-do and expand the electrical feeds in their homes to be able to power these holiday monstrosities. Well, Alan must have had preconceived notions of our glorious display because the week prior to our Christmas decorating free-for-all he added four new batteries to our solar system which double our storage capacity.We now have just under 1,000 amp hours at 12 volts.

Earlier I mentioned the special ornaments I wanted to make for our tree. We had decided the tree itself should have a theme that reflects our new lifestyle, so I will finish off this blog with a display of photos of some of the ornaments on our tree. All of these represent various things that have entertained us here in the Ozarks:
Praying Mantis



Walking Stick

Blue Tailed Skink

Pileated Woodpecker


Another Armadillo (we are partial to them)


Lantern that Alan creatively 'lit'

Our Tree At Night

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