Geothermal / Solar hybrid retrofit HVAC

This winter has been very cold.  We have noticed it even more since our house was built in 1895 and has very little insulation.

The past month, even after adding the insulation, we used about 1800 kwh, plus we used about 150 gallons of propane.  This costs us about $500 to heat the house for a single month.  Ouch!

I really need to do a few more things to improve our heating and cooling efficiency.

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Blue Jay vs Red Headed Wookpecker

This morning while enjoying my morning decaf, I joined the cats watching the birds through the southern window in the dining room.  Yesterday we had our second major, greater than four inches, snow fall, and Janeen and I made some suet of discarded bacon fat and a “farmer’s mix” bird seed and placed it on the sidewalk.

A red headed woodpecker was eating the suet, which I thought was a little strange because I had never seen a woodpecker on the ground eating.  Usually they are up in the trees hanging on to the trunk.

After a little while, a blue jay, who had been tormenting the smaller birds all morning, hopped over to the suet and the woodpecker.  Surprisingly, the woodpecker stood his ground.  The impatient blue jay made a squawk and flew at the woodpecker, only to be quickly defeated by the threat of the sharp woodpecker beak.

Another surprise was how quickly the bluejay gave up.  Normally they keep after something they really want, but I suppose since we had placed the suet in several locations the bluejay was satisfied with stealing one of the spots the smaller birds had claimed.

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Laying out the new gardens


We have relocated to a rural area outside of Tappahannock, Virginia, which is in the middle peninsula near the Chesapeake Bay.  It’s late Summer / early Fall and we’re unlikely to have enough time to grow anything, but we will have some time to start preparing for next Spring.

I’m laying out the raised beds as 10′ x 12′ with two feet isles and 2′ indentions.  This layout will waste as little as possible, yet still have most of the space within arms reach.  A small area within each bed won’t be easy to reach, so those will be mini compost piles.

The whole garden in this area will be 100′ x 132′, while I’ll have more areas laid out for gardening later.

I’ll be manually weeding and aerating the garden with hand tools.  I think I can get most of it ready for seeds within the next two weeks.  As I go I’ll be planting cover crops and a few late fall / winter veggies.

I wish I could have gotten started sooner, but transitioning to my new life took a bit longer than anticipated.  With the late start I won’t be able to harvest much this fall.  As winter approaches I’ll see if it’s worthwhile to invest in some plastic row covers to help extend the season a bit.

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