Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I've had several posts partially written, but the snow storms keep interrupting my writing. So why fight it, write about it.
Oh, to be a kid on a snow day...the eighth one this winter. Growing up in Oklahoma, I didn't get to experience that. I remember Tulsa getting 4 inches once when I was in high school, and that was a big deal, closing down the schools and most businesses. This year, Oklahoma has had two snow storms dropping record amounts of snow, over 24 inches in two storms occurring two weeks apart. If the weather of this past six weeks doesn't prove global warning, than I don't know what does. Increased temperatures affecting the amount of water taken up by warm air masses, that slam into cold, northern air, producing increased precipitation (icy rain, and yes, snow too).
The picture on the right is of our kids sitting in small chairs after the first big storm (24 inches) in mid-January. Subsequent storms have completely buried the black compost bin and the chicken coop is barely visible now. The photo on the left is of our kids sitting on the top of our wood picnic table. In January we got 58 inches of snow and February is shaping up to be the same.
The shoveling kinda sucks but the snow has great insulating properties. I've noticed that our slab floor temperature is rarely dropping below 65F except on super cold days, 15F or lower. We usually keep it at 67F to 68F depending on how much sun we've had. However, I have experimented with letting the slab temp drop on cloudy days and use the backup electric heat to keep from burning propane for the radiant heat. On the occasions I let the floor temp drop, I found that it seemed to come to an equilibrium at 65F without any energy input. It's hard to tell for sure, but I think the snow is helping to insulate the foundation.
For anyone thinking of solar panels. Snow storms over 6 inches will likely require you to remove some snow from the panels. It's just too much to shed on its own, before the next sunny day comes. We put our solar thermal panels on the ground and I am so glad we did. We are able to remove snow easily so we can start making hot water (our evacuated tube solar collectors still produce hot water when it's cloudy, so we want to get them working again quickly after a storm). For our photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, we have this extension pole with a flat, soft, foam squeegie thing on the end that is great for pulling the stubborn snow patches down. Unfortunately, it still requires going up on a ladder, not my favorite thing to do.

On another note, our new batch of chickens are arriving in mid-April. The kids are excited to have cute fuzzy chicks for easter. Sadly, our old hens were picked off by predators late fall over a two week period. Word got out and they were attacked from multiple perspectives (hawk, fox, and possibly coyote). They were scheduled for culling anyway because they were getting too old to lay eggs, but I was hoping to teach my kids where chicken nuggets come from and not feed the local wildlife. I'm thankful for the "learning chickens" and I think our next coop and fencing design will be better, for both us and the chickens.