Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Build it and they will come.................

There has been an enormous amount of Building and painting going on here! We are getting ready to add 15 more nucleus colonies to our Bee yard and hoping to go into winter with 40+ hives. My husband hand builds all of his own equipment.. (with Help from me and our daughter of course ;)
We are gearing up for the 2014 Garden and Bee season as are the Honeybees! There is fresh Brood in the Hives and they are bringing in pollen ( they feed the pollen to the brood/baby bees).. :)

A shed full of hives


Safety first ..hehe

Building hive covers

The Queen is marked with A red dot. If you look on the top left, you can see brood.

until Next time,,
The Cool Family

Friday, January 17, 2014

More HoneyBees Please!!!


Most of you that follow our Blog know that we are beekeepers. We are entering our 5th season as beekeepers and want to expand!!!! 
Please check out our Kickstarter project. We are trying to raise 2700.00 dollars to purchase 15 more honey bee colonies. Kickstarter is an all or nothing deal. If we do not meet the goal, we do not get a dime. But you CAN go over ;).
If you have a moment, please share this with anyone and everyone you know!

Bee Kind Family Farm wants to supply more Raw *REAL* Honey, but we just can not keep up with the demand!! We need more Honeybees!!
There are some fun gifts for those of you who pledge! please check it out!!
Click the Link above to find out all about our project!!

Thanks in advance , for contributing in any possible way, that you can!!

The Cool Family

Friday, January 10, 2014

Arctic Blast

Ok, I am not gonna lie, I am so over old man winter.. After this last Arctic Blast, Ive moved on to warmer thoughts of gardening ( ordered some seeds!!), chicks, and another (hopefully super successful) year of Beekeeping at Bee Kind Family Farm

We have all been a little stir crazy here in this little house in the forest, and are ready to spread our wings.

In the meantime we have had some big projects to keep us busy, including and most importantly, moving our Batteries for our Off Grid system inside the house.
when we initially built everything, we decided to put the batteries outside, in a large plastic storage tote, and just insulate them really well. We knew putting them in the house was probably the best option, but being as we don't get too cold here in NW North Carolina, we figured they would be ok. It was also the easy option for my husband.

We soon discovered that we were losing about 30% of allowable usage, whenever the temp dipped below about 35 ! To give you an idea, we USE about 30% IN DAY. so we were losing about a days worth of power!

My husband finally decided ( about a month ago) to move them inside. He built a box in the bedroom, and that was that for about a month.... He knew he was going to move them in,, just needed to find the time, and a good day to do it ( we have to turn all the power off in order to do it)..

Well this Arctic Blast gave us alllllll the push we needed. With Temps plummeting to below 20, we knew we HAD to get these batteries in and quick.... these temps could do some serious damage.. and not only is it where we store all our power, they were NOT cheap.

So the day before the Blast, Robb came home from work, hooked our circulating pump from the cookstove to the generator( so we could have heat,, if you have a fire going you have to have the pump going or the stove could well, er,,,, explode, :o) and turned the power off..
He quickly and efficiently disconnected, carried and reconnected, 12 80 lbs deep cycle golf cart batteries into the house and hooked them up (using a headlamp for light).. It took about 2 hours but now we can sleep better on those cold cold nights, knowing our batteries are toasty and warm...

* To anyone thinking of going solar or off the power grid, we highly recommend you store your batteries inside, especially if you live midwest, up north etc... just be sure to vent them with a fan, to the outside of your home...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Nature Inspired Holiday

I saw the most peculiar thing a couple of months ago in the store.... Pinecones..... in a bag...... for sale.................  I realize not everyone lives in a natural environment and I think  they deserve pinecones as much as the next person. ;)
So here are some ideas and photos to inspire a Natural, from the earth, handmade Holiday.

A walk in the woods and a basket is all you need. This is a wonderful way to kick off the holidays with your family . Children love running through the woods collecting natures tiny gifts.
This Year I collected Holly( which is abundant around here) pine, chestnuts, and pine cones of all sizes.
You can fill bowls with chestnuts,  or arrange pine and holly around the house..
pine and holly  may need to be replaced about every week. Although I find that Frasier Fir ( which are also the tree of choice here) really hold their needles for a long long time.. After we get out tree, I take all the extra cut branches and decorate.

   The Box was made by us, out of reclaimed wood, and the Candle tree Branch Candle holders were made by us as well :)..
A beautiful display for the holidays, and it didn't cost us but a penny.

I would love to hear your nature inspired Holiday Ideas!

Blessings and Happy Holidays!!!
The cools

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Grey Days

Between the constant drizzle and the fire continuing to burn on Table Rock Mountain/Linville Gorge in the Pisgah National Forest Grandfather District ( which is where we live in the Pisgah National forest., read more about this devastating fire here   http://www.hcpress.com/news/table-rock-fire-in-linville-gorge-wilderness-area-spreads-to-100-acres-zero-percent-contained-expected-to-grow.html  )
It has been an very very dreary smokey foggy  Grey Day....

I didn't want to start the Generator first thing and with no sun, the batteries were low... so we enjoyed the quiet, kept the cookstove fired up and played outside, Read books, Made Homemade Raviolis ( RECIPE BELOW) and worked up some more items for my Etsy Shop..

Homemade Ravioli Recipe:

2 cups Flour
3 eggs
2 Tbsp Oil
1 Tsp salt
Make a well in the middle of the flour mix and add eggs and oil, fold in and knead until elastic. Let rest for 5 minutes While making the Filling.

Basic Ricotta Filling
1 15 oz jar Ricotta
salt to taste
1 Tbsp Parley

Roll out dough to about 1/8" or thinner...use a cookie cutter ( I used a circle one and shaped it square,,hehe) or cut out squares.. Place a spoonful of filling on one square. Place another square on top. Use and egg wash to seal corners..

TO FREEZE for a later date.
Place on cookie sheet to freeze, then remove, place in freezer back and suck any air out with straw,to prevent freezer burn.

Hoping for some sunshine Tommorow!


Friday, November 15, 2013

There's a Hole in the Bucket, Dear Jaime

Ok, I am pretty sure almost everyone knows this song.. I remember singing it in the backseat with my sister, as a kid,, over and over and over,, and probably driving my parents INSANE..

Ironically enough, the song has come full circle, although now I believe I am actually living it...

The Off the Grid transition has been fairly smooth, but has required constant attention and thought,,, every action has an opposite and equal reaction ( Newtons Law) comes in full play here....

Its cold in the house, Dear Rob,b Dear Robb, its cold in the house Dear Robb, its cold..
start a fire Dear Jaime, Dear Jaime, Dear Jaime, start a fire Dear Jaime, Dear Jaime A fire
Now the circulating pump is running ( too much ) dear Robb, Dear Robb, .....
well use some hot water Dear Jaime Dear Jaime, use some water Dear Jaime , some water,,..
But that turns on the well Dear RObb, Dear Robb, that turns on the well Dear RObb, the well.
Ill start the Generator Dear Jaime Dear Jaime Dear Jaime..................... ok YOU get the point...

A typical morning here:

- Get up at 5:am on mornings that you need to start the generator ( its been cold out and draining our batteries a bit,, more on that later).. start generator..
you can not flush the toilet use any water ,, or use any heavy loads while the generator is running.
- Start a FIRE, it was about 55 degrees in here this morning,,, Brrrrrrrr.. we heat our entire home with wood, so thats a MUST first thing...
-Put the Coffee on ( use the percolator, as the regular coffee maker is hard on the batteries,,)

Now when the fire gets started it heats up our water...... when the water gets hot, it HAS to CIRCULATE, or the stove would blow up,, NO THANK YOU....
so when the water gets hot enough,,, the circulating pump kicks on,,, when we have had a fire going for a decent amount of time it kicks on A LOT..
so whats the problem with that??? Nothing major, but it does use electricity...... so what do you do to make it turn off........
USE hot water right??? well,, If your batteries are low ( like when they are cold or when its first thing in the morning before the sun comes up) you dont want to use too much water and turn the Well Pump on, because its a quick drain on the battery.....

So we currently have 2 SMALL ISSUES
1. The batteries, we put the batteries outside,,, now we did this KNOWING the cold would effect them, but were concerned about off gassing of the batteries if we kept them in  the house ( you can vent them though).
Robb has them well insulated , but the cold is still draining them a LOT..
2. When we hooked up our cookstove to our hot water, we bought a circulating pump.... we have now found that it may be a little too big ( i think we were afraid to go to small ,, afraid of it not doing a good job and creating a dangerous situation,, exploding steam is NOTHING TO MESS WITH,, .. If my hubby wasn't such a smarty pants I am not sure I would have agreed to the hot water cookstove hook up,)

our 2 SOLUTIONS......

(This is the Solar Hot water Bread box , )

Remember the solar Hot water heater box we built??? This was to heat our water in the summer,, well , It turns out it didn't work as good as we would have hoped.....I didnt help that all it did was rain this summer either, but on a hot sunny day,, one person could take a QUICK hot shower... It worked, but we have decided to redo it.. and put it on the roof....
the GOOD NEWS is , we can use the wood from this to Build a Batter box, so we can Put the Batteries Inside.....

( that green thing is the pump)
2. Buy  a new circulating pump

we are going to sell this one and buy a smaller one.. It runs entirely too much. It we have the fire going all day, the pump is on... and I can only use so much hot water... and have to be careful because the well pump used a lot of energy,, so we dont want it continuously kicking on...

we definetaly knew we would have to adjust some things... Other than that, it is working good..
well with the exception of the generator... But I will save that story for another day......

One step forward two steps back,,, the adventure continues!

The Cool Family

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

We did it!

We did it! Monday the Power Company Came out and Disconnected our power completely. We even Had him remove the powerline from the house completely.
Right before he snipped the wire he looked at my husband and said " So you really think this is going to work huh?" Robb sensed the sarcasm in his voice, but disregarded it, and let him get to work. Ignorance is Bliss I suppose ;)

The first couple days we were disconnected it was completely cloudy, so we got to know our generator pretty well. It was like walking on egg shells,while learning the system. You have to be very careful not to drain the batteries to low ( we are talking 12 deep cycle golf cart batteries, NOT CHEAP).
So for the first couple days, I limited everything, radio, computer, water, ....hehe,, I was hesitant to use anything, as I did not want to be the one to fry the batteries, and I am the one at home all day...

Lets just say there is not some little computer screen that tells you " hey, you have 80% of your battery left,,," I was really hoping ( actually I kinda thought) thats how it would be.
I had to learn about amps, volts, and watts, how to read the charge controller, the inverter, and how to start the generator.

Its been over a week, and everything is working better than I could have imagined!
Yes , I do have to limit computer, and you have to pay constant attention to your charge controller and inverter... it almost has to become second nature.....

So right now the solar panels/batteries are powering

*well Pump
*coffee maker ( we plan on getting a french press)
*sewing machine and serger
* Iron
* circulating pump ( which circulates the hot water that comes from the wood cookstove)

Our Home is heated with wood, our hot water is heated by our cookstove( so no hot water heater at all), we cook and bake with wood on our cookstove and have purchased a propane stove to do any cooking in the summer,.. and we do not own a washer or dryer, its all done by hand..
Although there is talk from the husband that in the summer we will have plenty of power from the Solar, so I may be getting a washing machine for the summer months!

So all in all its been an AMAZINGLY smooth transition. Life is just how it was before we disconnected ...