What Should I Do? The Basics of Resilience (Part 6 – Heat, Power, & Communications)

EndGamePlayer -

Did you happen to follow the link to the countryliving.com website? No power? No problem! A 2 horse-power grain mill that uses absolutely no electricity. Play the video at the bottom.


Cheers, Quad

Nice woodsheds TNdancer; i have 2+ years wood stored up too and need to build some more storage.
For rechargeable batteries, management is a lot easier with a smart charger that applies the right charge and duration and tells you if the battery is bad or not.  I have the LaCrosse 4 cell for AA and AAA and a Maha unit for 8 cells that handles AAA, AA, C or D.  Good reviews on both at Amazon.com, and worth the extra cost. 

I have a set of LI battery LED lights from dinottelighting.com for biking at night, which also serve well as my emergency light system since I use and charge them regularly. 

A regular cheap old phone (that isn’t cordless or needs AC) is good to have when the power is out but the phone lines still work.


You must have a BCS tiller, gosh i’ld love one of those things.




I looked with the intent of getting a BCS, but the guy at Earth Tools ( KY ) sold me on the Grillo…he sells both…Italian made, like the BCS, but better pricing…and the attachments are interchangeable.  He said Grillo is made by former BCS folks that left the hive and started their own deal.

Been quite happy with it.  Got the rotary plow attachment to go with it, and you talk about THE trick for hilling potatoes…run down the row center and it flings the dirt out one side and makes a beautiful hill.

I got 30 years out of a gas powered rear tine tiller ( fixed tiller, no attachments, Ariens brand ), so I figure this is the last tiller I’ll ever buy.



We also put in some solar power a couple years ago.  Have a 3kw system that is grid tied so we get the money advantage of feeding back to the grid ( which means a system that supplies 40-50% of our needs eliminates most of our bill…last 4 month average has been about 12 bucks owed ), but the system is also battery backup so when the grid is down, we have power.  Not full power, but it keeps 3 freezers, fridge, lights and the washing machine running…which is the differrence between the 20th century level living, and all those previous ones !
System has two arrays on single axis trackers I built, produces 300-400kw/hrs month here.  Also built a small, earth bermed  greenhouse to house the batteries/etc in a rooom on one end, and give us a place to raise winter veggies and start plants for the garden.  Glazing is tripple walled Lexan panel.



Early construction on the greenhouse, solar trackers above before panels installed.


Strawberry beds in the outside front, rainwater collection “system”  :slight_smile:


Some tomato plants along with a bunch of red weeds my wife scatters around the place in the spring…ahahahaa







Thanks for the tiller info.  I had been lusting over the BCS for some time, but I will take a look at the Grillo. I have a 25 year old Craftsman rear time that is just about done. I don’t use it a lot anymore, but when you need it life is so much easier when you have one available.

 Andy ,     I am coveting thy place  but thanks for the pictures anyway  !     Gives us something to work towards .

Bravo Andy!

I did the research on trackers some time ago, and found that the payoff in my situation was never, so I only adjust for seasonality.

Can you provide any advice on how to DIY with the solar trackers for a really handy guy?



Full Moon, coveting keeps the economy running, you know.
If it weren’t for the Joneses, where would we be ?





Like you, I looked at commercial trackers, and couldn’t justify the expense for the payback…even less so now since that panel I used was 800 bucks when I bought them, and now you can find them for under 600…simply cheaper to add more panels.

BUT I like to tinker, so here is what I did:

Bought joint (20’) of schedule 40 6" pipe from a local machine shop, and had them cut it in half at 37 degree angle ( latitude for here ).  $200.

Then I welded a 40" length of 2x8" channel on the 37 degree ends, ( scrapyard…$20 for 2 ), drilled/mounted two 2" pillow block bearings on the ends of the channel ( upper side ), then ran a 48" length of 2" round stock ( Mshop…$40 ) thru each for a pivot ( think See-Saw axle ).  Then got some 1.5" square tubing ( 150 bucks ), cut/welded up an “H” looking frame, 48" wide on the inside, then welded that to the end of the 2" axle shaft…now the “H” thing rotates left-right ( or east-west ).  Welded electrical “Unistrut”  ( 15 bucks each, Home Depot ) perpendicular to the “H” frame ( the shiny deal you see in the photo where the panels aren’t mounted yet ).  Much cheaper than buying aluminum rails they sell for mounting solar panels.

Poles sunk in a cube of concrete 4’x4x4’,  Had to have it pumped up there, but while the pump truck was here, I had him pumping a ceiling on a root cellar as well ( whole nuther interesting story )

Panels mount to the unistrut with an aluminum clip I had made at the machine shop…just a pc of 1/8" aluminum 2" x 5", bent at a 90 so you have a 2" leg and a 3" leg.  I drilled out the 2" leg for a 3/8" unistrut bolt that screws in a locking cam nut made for unistrut, then ran a couple of 1/4" x 1" self tapping screws into the other leg and the panel side frame.  Panel mounted.


Bought two 36" 30vdc linear actuators ( Super Jack brand ) off the net…$150/ea.  These were used on the old C band sat dishes to run them around searching for satellites.  Mounted one end to the H frame, the center to a stud welded to the pole.  Controller is a unit made by Analogguy.com, with some modifications of my own. Now they track east to west daily, and reset at night to pick up the sun rise the next morning.

Pic of the back of one array…maybe this will help make more sense:

( Reason for the difference in the back of panels is I installed 12 originally, then added more later…and they had changed the Tedlar backing apparently )


Hope I haven’t gotten too out of line with photos/etc.   Ya’ll tell me if so, and I’ll go back to lurker status.

Quite the opposite. This is exactly the type of exchange that makes this site valuable! This is the best thread of the week by far.

Thanks for the detailed description. I’m printing this out and doing some research. Based on your back of the napkin numbers, tracking all of a sudden starts to make finacial sense.

If you had it to do all over again, whould you? Any reliability issues, or design changes you would make?


Thanks again for your participation, no need to lurk when you have great experiences like this to share.



Prius Power!
I have a 1000W inverter connected to the 12 volt battery of my Prius, and then the inverter plugs into a transfer switch that is connected to 4 circuits in my house.  When we lose power I can just manually flip the transfer switch and plug in the Prius to run our refrigerator, a number of CFLs, the blower on our woodstove, etc. up to 1000 watts.  Unlike other cars that have to run coninuously to perform this same generator function, the Prius monitors the 12 volt battery and keeps it charged from the 230volt traction battery.  When the traction battery gets low, the car turns itself on and charges the batteries.  You can probably run for a week or more on one tank, and it burns much cleaner than a conventional generator, and is much quieter.  You really wouldn’t even know it was running.  It needs to be parked outside of course.  Since we have a gas stove we can cook, and our woodstove can keep the whole house comfortably warm.


 The Pix and info are wonderful to me… the instructions too  !    I am coming over for strawberry pie . …   your wife looks to be somebody I would like to know and learn from  .     I would invite you over if  I  could find my strawberries in my weed patch .   I did uncover the tomatoes and have two bushel waiting in the kitchen now  ,   but  the sweet potatoes ate my green beans !!!       I can grow some 12 ’ weeds here  , they will soon be blocking my sun .  Embarassed I just can not get ahead of them this year .  If I ever have to totally feed us I am so in trouble .
  Please tell the root cellar story . It is on my  HONEY DO  list for this fall .  

 F M


Thanks for the comments…


Yes, I’d do it again…in fact, I plan to do another single array of 3kw by itself, problaby go to an 8" pole this time, and use 2" tubing for the “H” pieceMy goal is for the power company to have to write me a check for 75-100 bucks a month…just for fun…

Also plan to come up with a design that will allow me to manually adjust the seasonal tilt, which I’d do about once a quarter…thinking a hand crank type wheel with a threaded shaft and a pointer for “Winter, Spring, etc”.   From what I understand, you pick up another 8% power by doing that second axis.  I know from leaving mine in the fixed position for several months as a test, I gain a bit over 25% more doing the single axis tracking, so that gives you something to figure panel cost vs. tracker cost.

One thing you might have to watch for IF you design your own is wind…we are on the sheltered side of a mountain, and very little wind problem, as it hits the west side of the mountain and blows up and over us.  IF you have wind to contend with, I’d be including some shock dampers in the deal.


You know, weeds are just a resource you haven’t found a use for yet…or so I tell myself…ahahahaaaa

Seriously, you’re finding out what it takes to feed yourself.  I heard once the best fertilizer for a garden was the footsteps of the gardener…and after 35 gardening seasons, I’d have to say that’s a fact.  Here’s a tip for you:  Look up Scuffle Hoe ( the diamond head shaped one with the T handle )…best little hand tool you’ll ever find for really fast hand weeding.  Get one.

OK…the root cellar:

About the time I was installing my solar and such ( I really got a burst of enthusiasm that year ) I also decided we needed a root cellar to store apples/ potatoes/some jar canned goods/etc.  We built our house ( 25 years ago ) in an “L” shape with the bottom leg of the L being the attached garage. The right point of the bottom leg of the L is just about due north ( with the long side of the upright of the L being south facing, with lots of windows ), and is built into the mountain, so the dirt is about 7’ deep on that side.  So while I had a guy here with a trackhoe to dig out some other things, I got him to dig out an 8x10 hole in the shale rock on that side of the garage.  Then I took a rented gas powered masonry saw and cut a “door” opening in the block on that side ( same block I laid 25 years earlier…ahahaha ) into the cellar hole.  Formed up a footer, then handmixed it and poured.  Then laid 8" block for the cellar walls. (See pic )



Once that was done, built a temporary top using lumber sawed off my place ( have a Woodmizer sawmill also…nuther story…ahahaha ) as a concrete form.


Then when the guys came to pump the concrete up in my solar pole forms, they snaked the hose around the side of the house and poured a top 6" think, plus filled the walls…rebar to reinforce as you see…


Gave the concrete a couple weeks to cure decently, then backfilled with a couple feet of dirt over the top.

Went inside, painted coat of Thoroseal to brighten it up, ran some wiring, added shelving, there is are a pair of 6" PVC pipes on the right wall not seen that provide for ventilation ( put a duct booster fan in one on a timer ).  Built a laminated door out of red cedar, foam board and plywood to complete it. Left the floor gravel.

OK…that’s the end of root cellar story.

Now, we can go to:

Sawmill/Apple orchard story

Man Cave ( auxilary kitchen with woodstove and home built walk-in cooler for on site meat processing )

Food preps story, w/ various critters on the hoof around here

Defense of selves and property story

Heck, I’ve been at this 25 years…I got a bunch of stories ( illustrated of course…ahahahaaaa…what’s a story without photos, right ? )  If I’m not boring ya’ll, pick one and I’ll post as I get time.  ( in the middle of a house remodel right now )






I vote Man Cave or Food Preps.  I concur – this is the best thread o’the week!  Thanks!

 I second what Sager said .

You know, weeds are just a resource you haven’t found a use for yet…or so I tell myself…ahahahaaaa

  Well my  weeds  are not the valuable kind…   I did pull for  a couple hours tonight  got 4 wheelbarrow loads  full .  The calves loved them .  I found two buckets of carrots , 10 gallons of tomato’s , 5 gallons of okra a few handfuls  of beans and beets .  I  tried the raised beds but my dirt is river bottom and I found no advantage there because you can not mow them off , burn them off , nor till them under , and they still get weeds .   We are expecting rain tomorrow so weed pulling will be easier as  my top soil is so deep the weeds get firmly rooted .  I just have days of being overwhelmed …  kind of like chasing my own tail .The geese ate the leaves off my peppers and I really have to watch because they love grape leaves .   BUGS , ladies ,BUGS not my food !  If I am working outside the inside work goes to pot   .  Oh there is no going out an thinking the kids will stick to their inside work .   

 Ok I feel better after whining .    Tomorrow is  another day . 


OK, Food Preps/etc it is…may work the “man cave” into that as well, as it’s really about food prep also.
In the interest of keeping to the theme of each of these parts of Dr. Martenson’s blog, I’ll do the post over in Part 4, Growing/Preserving Food.

Bear with me on the time it takes to post all… + I’m having some computer issues, bought a new PC couple weeks ago, and some bugs are showing up…will have to take it back to their shop for “fumigation”…ahahahaaaa

Are “Pure Sign Wave” inverters necessary for running refrigerator and freezer motors?  Computers, TV’s?

My understanding is the for most applications a modified-sine wave is fine, but if you are planning to power high-end audio and video, life support systems, gaming devices or sensitive scientific equipment (among others) a pure-sine wave is better.  I opted for a pure-sine wave just to be safe, but I also own a modified-sine wave inverter just because they are fairly cheap, and a good backup if needed.  I think if you are planning to have things running primarily from your inverter, and not just for short emergency use, it’s worth investing in the pure-sine wave inverter.