Can a city boy build his dream homestead on a mountain, by himself and with no mortgage?

Posts tagged “solar panel

it’s gonna be an ELECTRIFYING winter!

I was planning to write a wonderful holiday post, filled with glorious winter pictures of my mountain compound… and then the rain started.

As you’ve probably heard, Southern California was just visited by 6 days of Biblical style rains. Sadly, all of the access roads to my mountain have been flooded, washed out or covered in mud and boulders. Although the rain has finally stopped for a full day now, access to my land is blocked until after Christmas.

Last week, before the rain, I started building the “Carmen A. Garzo Renewable Green Energy Generating Plant” (in honor of my best friend Garzo’s generous Christmas gift of a solar panel kit).

I decided to house the solar panels, battery bank, wind turbine and gas generator in a separate structure. After scouting the areas near the cabin, I thought it best to put the power shed next to the tool shed. There is ample clearance for wind, close access to the cabin (50 feet) and an unobstructed view of the Southern sky. I would only have to remove one large nasty bush and level a 6’x8′ area. The building was to be small, 4’x6′ with a small cantilevered closet on the outside. Since I can’t store the gas generator in the same room as the batteries (KABOOM!), I’ll add a “garden box” style closet to the left side of the shed, just large enough for my generator.

Bush removal and leveling the piers took all afternoon and after a few beers, I called it a day. After building the cabin, I learned it was best to draw up a simple framing plan. I checked the wood pile for resources and happily I only needed to buy 3/4″ plywood for the floor and 5 sheets of OSB for the sheathing, all the rest of the lumber was in the pile!

Framing was fast. The shed is only 4’x6′ with a simple slope roof, angled at 15 degrees and facing due South. Lots of online research on mounting solar panels told me exactly how to orient the panels (due South at 15 degrees, LOL). It turns out that with an 8′ high front wall and a 7′ high rear wall on a 4′ wide building, I get a roof pitch of 14.7 degrees!

Since the shed is so small, the sheathing went on without a hitch.

I had plenty of leftover 30 lb. roofing felt to cover the shed.  BTW, you can see the cantilevered 4×4 skids sticking out the left side of the shed, this is where the generator box will sit.

Since I did not yet round-up any roofing panels, siding or a door, I tacked extra roofing felt over the door opening. I was planning to run up and finish construction the following weekend but I got a fast little commercial job and then the rains started.

I’m hoping to get up there and complete the exterior as soon as I open my Christmas presents, but with another round of rainstorms coming, I’m gonna have to put my faith in good old asphalt soaked roofing felt (“tar paper” if you’re old school).

Until then, I pray that everyone has a safe and joyous Christmas!

Ho Ho Ho and peace out…


Look out SoCal Edison, PG&E and DWP!

It was a cold blustery Thanksgiving weekend up on the mountain. Temps have dropped into the low-mid 50’s day and 20’s at night. The cabin was ccccold. It was time to try out ny new “Lil Buddy” propane heater!

I bought the heater at Camping World for about $80 last spring but never needed it until now. You screw a 1 gallon propane cylinder into the side valve and simply push the button and…instant heat.

It took about an hour to get the cabin from 24 degrees up to 60 degrees. Since it’s a combustion based heater, I need to crack the window open about 1/4 of an inch to vent the carbon monoxide (and NEVER run the thing while you’re asleep, NEVER!). A full cylinder should last 3-6 hours depending on how high you turn the thermostat. I heated up the cabin, shut of the heater, closed the window and slept like a baby. It was back down to about 48 in the morning but it was 28 outside. By the time I got back from making coffee in the trailer, the room was toasty warm.

In the pics above and below, you can see the Ikea $20 solar powered LED desk lamps. Sit it in the window in the sun for several hours and you’ll get 4 hours of reading light, they work like a charm for $20!

My other favorite toy is my new Makita 18v radio. It runs on 18 volt cordless power tool batteries. It has a terrific sound, big bass, and a surprisingly powerful antennae, all for $99 at the Home Depot. I also fell in love with the little LED flashlights you get at the cash register at the AutoZone, 2 for $5 and they work great.I have several and leave them spread around the car, truck, trailer and cabin so there’s always one handy.

Before I came up to the mountain, I found this Sunforce Solar Kit online at, it was highly recommended on one of the Solar Homesteading Yahoo groups I like.

It has 4 – 15 watt solar panels, a mounting frame, 120v inverter, charge controller, wiring and all the mounting hardware. It goes for $700 but Amazon was having a Black Friday Cyber-Sale and it was only $289! I was so excited, I told my best buddy Garzo. He had a bunch of American Express “points” that were expiring so for my Christmas present, Garzo cashed in his $100 in points and bought me the solar kit for only $189 AND they threw in free shipping (it’s a 62 lb box!).  I was gonna get Garzo a 12-pack of local micro-brewed beer (but I’m rethinking that now).

I’m so excited I could scream. Now I’ll have solar AND wind power!

I think that instead of the 30′ pole tower for the wind turbine, I’ll build a tall, narrow battery shed for the deep cycle batteries, orient the roof so that I can mount the solar panels on the roof AND put the windmill on a roof bracket attached to the shed. It’ll be my own little power generating station.  Elroy’s Power Company! This will allow me to store the gas generator in the tool shed and keep the charging batteries in their own hut, away from gasoline fumes and spark-generating metal tools.

I’m gonna take the time over the Christmas break to build the power shed, I should have enough scrap lumber to get it all framed up. Garzo will help and if I can guarantee a BBQ-d steak dinner and get the place decorated for the holidays, I may be able to coax some of my local homesteading friends over to help…before the snow comes!