Well, upon returning from yet another exciting, hilarious and heartwarming Turkey Palooza week with our kids, grandkids and my parents we soon had a list of projects that dispelled our vision of the lazy days we thought were before us. I am a list person, so here we go...
|While I work at clearing my various containers|
out of the south garden....
Yes, after our last upgrades I had written that our solar system was now complete, but we ran into a bit of a hiccup. You may recall we had added in more of the Grape solar panels and we now have four of them that we arranged in a 2 by 2 grid that are positioned on a frame that angles from our south deck railing down to the ground. Well, as the winter sun dipped lower in the sky, we discovered that the tool shed we have to the south of the house was casting shadows on the newly added lower panels.
|... Alan reinforces the frame that now holds|
four Grape solar panels
I emptied all the large planters, moved my tires and manhandled my pallets that had been leaning against the deck to make room for the repositioning of the frames. In the mean time we ordered in the extra cable needed to reach from the new location to the electrical panel, and Alan worked on adding metal supports to strengthen the frames.
Our grid of the Grape solar panels is now devoid of shadows (until the sun dips behind the tree tops to the west each day) and I have a start on redesigning and expanding my container garden for next spring.
|Our transplanted solar panels.|
You can see we are also still using our original
18 Harbor Freight panels up on the deck.
We have several 'staples' in our canning pantry that I try not to run out of. For example, when ground beef was on sale earlier this fall, I spent several days canning many pints of ground beef as well as a variety of meals and entrees in jars. One item I use a lot are 'Lil Sizzler' breakfast sausages. These sausages have no casing and work well for canning. I can fit six in a half-pint jar which is a perfect serving for Alan and I for breakfast and we enjoy them with both sourdough pancakes and french toast, so we have them on a regular basis.
|Boxes from my first batch of 'Lil Sizzlers'|
|I used a very large stock pot to make large batches of|
bone broth as I simmered each turkey. Then I canned
turkey meat, turkey soup and nutritious bone broth.
|Just a small portion of the over 400 sausages|
I browned off for canning.
So between sausages and turkeys the pressure canner has been very busy. Oh, and did I mention we also picked up a 50 pound bag of potatoes for $10. I like to keep canned potatoes on hand for quick meal preps.
3. All This Canning Led to Expanding.... Pantry Shelves
|The cabinets in my kitchen island|
were the first location for my canning pantry.
When we moved in, our second bedroom was decorated as our guest room, but the third bedroom had become a catch all for projects and 'stuff' that we hadn't found a home for elsewhere in the house. We did leave room (most of the time) for two heavy duty cots we had purchased so this room could still be used as an additional bedroom, sort of.
|These are the 'candle shelves' that|
my canning pantry recently outgrew.
I moved a lot of the jars that were on these
to my new shelves as I organized.
A little over a year ago, I was fortunate enough to get two sets of shelves that had been designed to go into stores for selling candles - the jar candles that are so popular (and heavy). Alan graciously carried the yet to be assembled wooden (and heavy) shelves up the stairs and into our house and then spent several frustrating hours building them as no instructions were included. Think Ikea furniture with no instructions - yeah, really frustrating. We were able to get 4 extra shelves, 2 extra for each unit. I could then better adjust the height of each shelf to fit the most jars.
Well, I love these shelves and I can fully fill each shelf with canned goods with no fear of broken or sagging shelves. However, with my recent flurry of canning, my pantry storage was filling up fast. I needed to find another option that would hold more heavy jars as they came out of the canner.
|My newest addition to the pantry.|
Each shelf can hold 350 pounds.
Alan needed some items from Lowe's for a current plumbing project (another hibernation buster) and so I went along to get some more shelves. I discovered that the complete shelving units (with 5 shelves) were on sale for about $65, while the individually wrapped shelves were $20 each. I could pay $100 to get 5 extra shelves, or pay $65 for a complete 5 shelf unit and just use the shelves. Therefore, I bought two units with plans to use the shelves from both on just one of the frames, thus doubling the amount of jars I can store in the space of one set of shelves.
Once I had the new super-duper shelving unit constructed, it was time to start reorganizing the pantry - the fun part of the project!
|The energy graph from our solar panels.|
Wait, Where's All Our Power?
As I described above, we moved the panels so that they can all bask in the sun, but unfortunately there has been no basking since we relocated the panels in early December. Checking the graphing feature of our charge controller (above) shows that we have had only 6 somewhat decent days for generating power throughout December. From December 1st to the 27th there have been 25 days of cloud cover. A few of these days had a bit lighter cloud cover that allowed some solar power to be generated, but for the most part our batteries have not been fed by the solar panels. Our generator has had to come out of a long hibernation because the sun has decided it can hibernate even though we can not.
|Well, it looks like someone is hibernating.|
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