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Why Farmers Markets Are Better For the Environment (and Where to Find Your Twin Cities Market)

May 11th, 2016

Market

Farmer’s markets are great spots to help you source locally for food, and if you shop at one — besides buying from and supporting a local farmer — you are helping the environment.

Local can mean different things to different people, depending on where people live, how long their growing season is, and what products they are searching for. Practically speaking, local food production can be thought of in concentric circles that start with growing food at home. Secondly, it includes food that might be grown in the immediate community, either at the regional or national level. For some parts of the year or for some products that thrive in the local climate, it may be possible to buy closer to home. At other times, or for less common products, an expanded reach may be required.

So how does buying local benefit the environment? First, local foods are produced as close to home as possible. Purchasing from local growers supports a more sustainable food system by going beyond the methods used in food production to include every step that brings food from farm to table. Sustainable agriculture incorporates growing methods that are healthy, including reduction of pesticide use, and balances demand based on local needs, involving less environmentally harmful equipment and practices. The most important factor is that growing locally reduces impacts on the environment by decreasing transportation needs.

Small, local farms are run by farmers who live on their land and are dedicated in preserving it. They protect open spaces by keeping land in agricultural use and preserve natural habitats by maintaining forest and wetlands. By being good tenants of the land, seeking out local markets, minimizing packaging, and harvesting food only in season, farmers can significantly reduce their environmental impact. Studies show that sustainable agricultural practices can actually increase food production by up to 80% while at the same time actively reducing the effects of farming on climate change through carbon sequestration.

Find your local farmer’s market:

City Location Open Day Hours
Andover 13655 Round Lake Boulevard 3-May Tuesday 2pm-6pm
Apple Valley 7100 W 147th Street 11-Jun Saturday 8am-1pm
Blaine St. Timothy’s 85th and Hwy 65 7-May Saturday 7am-12pm
Bloomington 1800 W Old Shakopee Road 11-Jun Saturday 8am-1pm
Brooklyn Park 8717 Zan Ave – Zane Sports Park 22-Jun Wednesday 2pm-6pm
Buffalo 206 Central Ave 7-May Saturday 8am-12pm
Burnsville 200 Brunsville Parkway 18-Jun Saturday 8am-1pm
Chaska City Square Park 1-Jun Wednesday 3pm-6pm
Chisago City 10656 Railroad Ave 20-May Friday 2pm-6:30pm
Eagan 1501 Central Parkway 1-Jun Wednesday 4pm-8pm
Edina 7499 France Ave S 16-Jun Thursday 3pm-7pm
Elk River 720 Main Street NW 2-Jun Thursday 2pm-6pm
Excelsior Water Street Downtown Excelsior 3-May Tuesday 2pm-6pm
Fulton 4901 Chowen Ave S 21-May Saturday 8:30am-1pm
Golden Valley 7800 Goldeb Valley Road 19-Jun Sunday 9am-1pm
Hopkins 9th Ave 18-Jun Saturday 7:30am-12pm
Inver Grove Heights 8055 Barbara Ave E 19-Jun Sunday 8am-1pm
Kingfield 4310 Nicollet Ave S 22-May Sunday 8:30am-1pm
Lakeville 208th & Holyoke 15-Jun Wednesday 12pm-5pm
Maple Grove 12951 Weaver Lake Road 9-Jun Thursday 3pm-7pm
Maplewood 1850 White Bear Ave 11-May Wednesday 8am-12pm
Midtown 2225 East Lake Street 7-May Saturday 8am-1pm
Midtown 2225 East Lake Street 10-May Tuesday 3pm-7pm (in June)
Mill City 704 S 2nd Street 7-May Saturday 8am-1pm
Minneapolis 312 East Lyndale Ave 16-Apr Daily 6am-1pm
Minnetonka 14600 Minnetonka Boulevard 28-Jun Tuesday 3pm-7pm
New Hope 8701 36th Ave N 18-Jun Saturday 8am-1pm
Nokomis 5167 Chicago Ave S 15-Jun Wednesday 4pm-8pm
North Minneapolis 718 West Broadway Ave 17-Jun Friday 3pm-7pm
Northeast Minneapolis 629 2nd Street NE 21-May Saturday 9am-1pm
Osseo Central Ave & 5th St NE 12-Jul Tuesday 3pm-7pm
Plymouth 15000 Cty Rd 6 22-Jun Wednesday 2:30pm-6:30pm
Richfield 64th Street & Portland Ave S 21-May Saturday 7am-12pm
Rogers 12724 Main Street 8-Jun Wednesday 3pm-6:30pm
Rosemount 13885 S Robert Trail 14-Jun Tuesday 1pm-5pm
Roseville 2131 Fairview Ave N 3-May Tuesday 8am-12pm
Savage Quentin & Hwy 13 5-Jun Sunday 8am-1pm
Shoreview 4580 Victoria St N 14-Jun Tuesday 3pm-7pm
South St. Paul 1151 Southview Boulevard 29-Jun Wednesday 2pm-6pm
St. Paul 290 E 5th St 30-Apr Saturday 6am-1pm
St. Paul 290 E 5th St 1-May Sunday 8am-1pm
Stillwater Third and Pine 11-Jun Saturday 7:30am-12pm
Waconia 101 East Main Street 9-Jun Saturday 4pm-7:30pm
Wayzata 301 Promenade Ave 12-May Thursday 2pm-6pm
West St. Paul 1201 S Robert Street 17-Jun Friday 8am-12pm
White Bear Lake Downtown White Bear Lake 24-Jun Friday 8am-12pm
Woodbury 2175 Radio Drive 12-Jun Sunday 8am-1pm

Times and days subject to change.

Earth Day Cleanup Schedule 2016 – Twin Cities

April 13th, 2016

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St. Paul

Saturday, April 23, 2016
9:00 am – 11:30 am

Join forces with family, friends and neighbors alike to clean up the garbage that has recently become exposed due to the melted snow. We invite everyone–families, friends, neighbors–to come together to help beautify the city of Saint Paul.

Participating is easy! Register online, and then drop by your selected Cleanup Site any time between 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 18th, to pick up bags, gloves and snacks and meet your neighbors and community members. Then head out and clean up any Saint Paul park or neighborhood of your choice.

Cleanup Sites:

Minneapolis

Saturday, April 23, 2016
9:30 am-noon

This event is free and open to all ages and no registration is required.

Earth Day Cleanup is held at several sites throughout the City of Minneapolis. It is a collaborative effort between the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and City of Minneapolis Solid Waste and Recycling.

Individuals and Small Groups

It’s easy to get involved in Earth Day Cleanup 2015. No pre-registration is required! Arrive at any site between 9:30 am and noon, bring a pair of gloves to pick up trash, and check in at the registration table. A site coordinator will provide you with gloves (if you did not bring any) and bags, and instruct you where to go and where to leave trash. Every site has a coordinator available to assist volunteers and to answer any questions you may have.Large Groups

If you have a group of 20 or more volunteers looking for a site, please contact Erica Chua at echua@minneapolisparks.org or 612-230-6479 for a list of sites that can accommodate your group.

Cleanup Sites

Bags will be provided. Please bring your own gloves if you have them.

Bassett Creek Park
SE Corner of Penn Ave. N & 1 1/2 Ave. N

Beltrami Park
1111 Summer St. NE

Bluff Street
20 20th Ave. S

Bryant Square Park
3101 Bryant Ave. S

Cedar Lake
Cedar Lake Pkwy and
25th St. W

Columbia Park
Columbia Pkwy and
35th Ave. NE
(Playground parking lot)

Creekview Park
5001 Humboldt Ave. N

Dairy Queen
4719 Lyndale Ave. N

East River Parkway
E River Pkwy and
Franklin Ave.

Farview Park
621 29th Ave. N

Father Hennepin Bluffs Park
100 6th Ave. SE

Heritage Park
10th Ave. N and
Van White Memorial Pkwy

Kenny Park
1328 58th St. W

Kenwood Park
2101 Franklin Ave. W

Lake Calhoun – East
Corner of W Lake St.
and E Calhoun Pkwy

Lake Calhoun – West
W. 32nd St. and
Calhoun Pkwy

Lake Harriet
4135 Lake Harriet Pkwy
(Bandshell parking lot)

Lake of the Isles
W 27th St. and
E Lake of the Isles Pkwy

Loring Park
1382 Willow St.

Lynnhurst Park
1345 W Minnehaha Pkwy

Martin Luther King Jr. Park
4055 Nicollet Ave. S

McRae Park
906 47th St. E

Nokomis Park
2401 Minnehaha Pkwy E

Pearl Park
414 Diamond Lake Rd. E

Phelps Park
701 39th St. E

Powderhorn Park
3400 15th Ave. S

Riverside Park
2700 8th St. S

Sibley Park
1900 40th St. E

Steven’s Square Park
1801 Stevens Ave.

Theodore Wirth Park
3200 Glenwood Ave.
(Wirth Beach parking lot)

Waite Park
1810 34th Ave. NE

Water Works
420 1st Street South

West River Parkway
W River Pkwy and 17th Ave.

W River Pkwy and 24th St.

W River Pkwy and 36th St.

W River Pkwy and 44th St.

Whittier
425 West 26th Street

Greenhouse in Winter: The Walipini

February 22nd, 2016

c856d1d1026005a1a7345b6a276a16f4Imagine going outside to your garden during February in Minnesota and being able to pull fresh lettuce or strawberries from the ground. No, you’re not dreaming. In Northeast Minneapolis, some gardeners have been experimenting with the concept of growing things in winter: the walipini.

The walipini is a greenhouse that uses underground insulation to gather warmth in the winter months. The light source is filtered through the sheets of plastic that covers the greenhouse, and since there is no glass involved, the walipini is much more affordable than an above ground glass greenhouse.

The Benson University at BYU shares some tips on the structure a walipini:

The Walipini utilizes nature’s resources to provide a warm, stable, well-lit environment for year-round vegetable production. Locating the growing area 6’- 8’ underground and capturing and storing daytime solar radiation are the most important principles in building a successful Walipini.

The Walipini, in simplest terms, is a rectangular hole in the ground 6-8′ deep that’s covered by plastic sheeting. The longest area of the rectangle faces the winter sun — to the north in the Southern Hemisphere and to the south in the Northern Hemisphere. A thick wall of rammed earth at the back of the building and a much lower wall at the front provide the needed angle for the plastic sheet roof. This roof seals the hole, provides an insulating airspace between the two layers of plastic (a sheet on the top and another on the bottom of the roof/poles) and allows the sun’s rays to penetrate creating a warm, stable environment for plant growth.

This infographic shares more facts on walipinis:

Walipini-Infographic

Back in Northeast, the Minneapolis residents have named their walipini Sophia. The structure was constructed from donated materials, including pallets and playground lumber, old fencing and reclaimed windows. The Star Tribune says, “The makeshift structure utilizes passive-solar design — the sun comes through the glass windows and hits the north wall, where stones and buckets of water are placed to absorb heat. On a recent day, when the outdoor temperature was about 20 degrees, the temp inside the walipini measured 44 degrees, and the soil close to 50 degrees.”

With the push to find more ways to extend the growing period and source locally, walipinis may be where the industry is moving. “There is this push — we do need to find low-tech, low-cost ways to grow food year-round,” said Paula Westmoreland, an agroecologist and permaculture designer who founded the Permaculture Research Institute-Cold Climate and now operates Ecological Design in Minneapolis. Passive-solar greenhouses above ground are more common in Minnesota, she said, but she’s heard about walipinis in recent years, and visited one in Wisconsin that was successfully producing food. “People will continue to experiment.”

Sources

Star Tribune: Experimental sunken greenhouse in Minneapolis is weathering its first winter – and growing food

The $300 DIY Greenhouse: How to Build Your Own Walipini

$300 Underground Greenhouse Grows Food Year Round; An Extraordinary Walipini

The Walipini Is a Gardener’s Dream

10 Affordable DIYs to Help Save Energy and Money in the Winter

December 28th, 2015

While winterizing your home for the long, cold months ahead can get pricey, we put together a list of quick and affordable DIYs that are easily done to keep you warm when it’s frigidly cold out.

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1. Install quilted curtains – Quilts are wonderful in keeping you warm at night, so they’re a great idea in keeping to cold out and the warmth in. Energy Boomer shows us how to make the perfect one for a window.

Cost: $20-$40, depending on what fabric you use.

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2. Caulk and seal air leaks – Air leaks can waste a lot of your energy dollars. Whether leaks are letting hot air inside during the warmer months or letting in drafts during the cooler season, one of the quickest energy- and money-saving tasks you can do is caulk, seal and weather strip all cracks and large openings to the outside. Air takes the path of least resistance, so you should aim to seal the big holes first. We’ve laid out some simple instructions for sealing most of these air leakage pathways — but if you’re sealing heating and cooling ducts, we suggest contacting contractor that’s familiar with the different air sealing methods often best done with ductwork.

Most caulking compounds come in disposable cartridges that fit in half-barrel caulking guns (if possible, purchase one with an automatic release). Some pressurized cartridges do not require caulking guns. When deciding how much caulking to purchase, consider that you’ll probably need a half-cartridge per window or door and four cartridges for the foundation sill. Caulking compounds can also be found in aerosol cans, squeeze tubes, and ropes for small jobs or special applications — but usually only lasts a few years. First time using a caulking gun? eHow.com has some great tips.

Cost: $3 (caulk) and $5-$20, depending on which gun you order.

Front Door Snake

3. Door snake/Draft stopper – Draft stoppers can run a little on the expensive side, but if you have a yard of fabric and some rice at home, it’s relatively easy to make one. We found the perfect one from 17 Apart that lets you customize your stopper size to the door.

Cost: $5 for fabric, $2 for rice

4. Turn down water heater – Simply turning down the temp on the water heater from 140° to 120° could save you more than 15% a month on utility bills.

Cost: free

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5. Bubble wrap windows – Use bubble wrap as an easy and highly effective window insulator this winter. Cut to size, spray window with fine mist of water, stick bubble side to the glass: instant insulation.

Cost: $10 or free if you have any laying around

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6. Use residual heat – After baking cookies or a casserole, leave the oven door propped open to let the heat warm the house. Be aware of small children and pets when doing so.

Cost: free

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7. Hot water bottle – You can turn down the thermostat at night and snuggle up with a hot water bottle to keep you warm.

Cost: $7-$20

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8. Change air filter – Changing your filter is one of  the easiest things you can do for your heating system, it’s also one of the most important. You should change the filter in your furnace at least every 60 days or even once a month. This keeps the unit running smoothly and efficiently. A dirty filter can result in anything from high electric bills (due to the extra effort the unit has to make to get air through the dirty filter) to a broken-down system.   

Cost: $25-$40

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9. Bundle up at home – If you’re walking around in shorts and a tank at home in the wintertime, then you’re doing it wrong. Wear layers — no need to go overboard — but enough to be comfortable while at home. Don’t forget those slippers!

Cost: free or whatever you paid for the clothes

Felted Wool Balls

10. Wool dryer balls – You wouldn’t expect wool to help make such a difference in laundry, but it can. We put together a tutorial to make your own wool dryer balls.

Cost: $11

Looking for more ways to save money? EnerChange has paired up with CenterPoint Energy to help offset the cost of equipment that you purchased this year. Do you qualify? Check here. Hurry, rebates end December 31 of 2014.

Flexing my Solar muscle! : Part 1

August 31st, 2015

This was a guest post from Tim Shephard who runs the 1960 Airstream Ambassador Blog and the Vintage Airstream Podcast. You can keep up with him via his blog.

Go to part two of the install
Go to part three of the install
Click Here to see a video tour of the solar installation.

Here are the Amazon links to the flexible panels I used if you want to research them further.
1 – Go Power! (GP-FLEX-200) 200W Flexible Solar Kit with 30 Amp PWM Solar Controller
3 – Go Power! (GP-FLEX-100E) 100W Flexible Mono Crystalline Solar Expansion Kit

We get a lot of questions on theVAP about solar. As everyone knows, who listens to the show, we don’t boondock much, so solar has never been a concern. With all the questions I wanted to learn more about it. After some research, I investigated Go Power! because of their Flex-Solar panels. A perfect solution for our beloved curved Airstreams!

At first I decided on one Solar-Flex 100W kit from Go Power!, but soon decided more is better.  More on that later.

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IMG_2The kit is fairly simple. It includes the 100W panel, charger controller, and 50′ of MC4 cable. The first step is to determine where you are going to mount the panel, keeping in mind your entry point for the cables. The most common entry is the refrigerator vent, or a vent stack.  Some may choose to make their own entry, especially if your trailer came pre-wired for solar. I opted for the fridge vent, because solar pre-wire wasn’t an option in 1960!

I used the box the kit came in to cut to a panel template and try different positions on the roof. You want to be mindful of objects that can cast a shadow on the panel, like an air conditioner or vent. Don’t drive yourself crazy here as there is only so much space on the roof to work with, but it’s smart to keep it in mind.

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This is the perfect position for one 100W panel.  There is no way you can see this from the ground.  You can fit a second 100W panel on the front of a 28′ trailer for a total of 200W and be total solar stealth!

However, the included solar controller can handle 400W or four panels, which happens to be the exact amount of panels my roof can hold.  As Tim the Tool Man would say, “More power!”

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With two panels on the front, and two on the back, I’m maxed out. The panels are 42″ long x 21″ wide. Which means they take up the same space no mater which way you turn them. It’s like a geographical anomaly!

Now that they cross over the top panel by 3.5″ on either side, you can see them a bit as you back from the trailer. It’s not that bad though, certainly better than the standard aluminum/glass panels that have to be mounted 1″ above the roof. They look like you’re hauling around a table for the smurfs! :-)

I only have one panel now. I’m ordering three Solar Flex 100Es, which is the 100w panel expansion kit. These include the panel, cable and a special Y adapter to parallel the connections.

Go Power Solar-Flex panels can be installed with screws or adhesive. I opted for stainless bolts with rivnuts. A rivnut is a cool little gadget. It installs like a rivet, but leaves a threaded hole for a bolt.  This way the panels can be removed easily if needed. After speaking with Go Power about my concern for wind getting  under the panel while driving, they mentioned using Sikaflex around the perimeter, especially the front.

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Before securing the panel, I gently roughed up the bottom perimeter of the panel so that it will adhere better to the sikaflex. I also took a photo of the panel spec’s for the nerds out there.

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Here is the panel mounted with the rivnuts, and to honest, I don’t like the way it turned out. Even trying to add the sikaflex would just make a mess.IMG_11The bow is there for a couple of reasons. One is the fact that Go Power only put eyelets on the four corners. I think it would be a nice addition to have a third eyelet on the long sides. The second reason is probably just my alignment of the rivnuts. It’s a real chore to get them to line up perfectly under the 8/32″ eyelets. Come to think of it, it would be nice if the eyelets were a little larger and robust.

Anyway, I don’t like the bow or the trouble of the rivnut installation, so I started researching and found that a lot of installers use a special 3M tape called VHB tape. VHB, stands for Very High Bond. How creative…

Lew, who is a certified RV mechanic and hangs out on airforums.com, has a lot of experience installing solar. He recommends the 3M VHB tape. I’m going to order some 3M VHB Heavy Duty Mounting Tape 4941. This should hold down all the edges. I’ll also use stainless screws in the eyelets.

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3M VHB Heavy Duty Mounting Tape 4941

I’m going to have two panels up front, and two behind the air conditioner. I decided the best place to bring the wire into the Airstream was via the fridge vent. The kit includes #10 MC4 cable, which the manual said is good for up to 240W’s and 25′.

Since I am going to have 400W and slightly over 25′ run, I decided to install #6 wire. The wiring coming from the solar panel uses special connectors that come in the kit. You still use this to enter the trailer. The included cable is UV rated and very flexible. You don’t want just any old wire on the roof in the sun all day.

If you go with two 100W panels, they connect together and run into the trailer on the same single pair. It only gets slightly more complicated when you go over two panels. You need some sort of junction box on the roof. I opted to use Blue Sea marine feed-through bulkhead connectors. These things are great quality, made from thermoplastic with a 5/16″ bolt for the wire.

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Next I had to remove my fridge vent cover to allow access for mounting the bulkhead connectors and run the wire.  I dry fitted the Blue Sea’s and they look great.

Red Bulkhead at Amazon
Black Bulkhead at Amazon

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I purchased some 5/16″ plastic caps that will go over the bolts once I’m finished.

I’ll save you the part about running the #6 Home Depot wire. Lets just say it’s lack of flexibility made it tough. Next time I’d go with a high-strand count wire, much more flexible!

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Here is the #6 stranded wire connection at the bulkhead connectors. They were crimped and soldered. I took a lot of time to add some heavy duty strain relief. I know how much things bounce around in these trailers.

It’s important during all of this wiring to keep the solar panel disconnected until the end. You don’t want to accidentally short the wires from the panel in full sunlight as you can short out the internal diode in the panel. Carefully check all of your wiring for shorts and polarity issues.

Back on the roof I connected the UV rated MC4 cable that I routed around the A/C to the bulkhead connectors. The panel is still disconnected at this point.

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You may noticed that I used aluminum tape to hold down the wiring. I was mentioning to Colin about needing to screw nylon clamps to hold the wires in place. Colin says he used aluminum tape for this sort of thing all the time as it doesn’t deteriorate. If it’s good enough for Colin…. :-)

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I ran the entrance cable back to the solar controller. The #6 is too big and stiff to connect directly to the controller, so I connected a couple of feet of the flexible #10 MC4 cable before connecting to the controller. This makes mounting the controller far easier and more reliable. I’m not worried about the power loss going from #6 to the #10 since the #10 is only a couple of feet. It’s a far better solution for the health of the controller.

I also used sections of the MC4 cable to connect the controller to the battery via the included 30 amp fuse holder. Again, this is a very short run from the controller to the battery.

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With the controller powered up, and the solar wiring tested for shorts, it was time to head back up to the roof one last time to plug it in.

You are not supposed to connect or disconnect the panels when they are in the sun as they are producing voltage. so I decided to steal my dog’s blanket for a minute to cover the panel. She wasn’t too happy about that! :-)

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Now it’s safe to plug in the MC4 plugs from the panel. They only go one way and are clearly marked.

Here is a final shot of the roof, with the three remaining panel positions in waiting.

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I have two 12v AGM 100Ah batteries for a 200Ah capacity. A very basic rule of thumb is to have one panel per 100Ah. Since I’m going to have 400w, I really should get two more batteries, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.  I really do not have the space for them. My extra capacity will help out in two ways.  One, my two batteries will charge up quickly in good sunlight. Second, on overcast or rainy days, I’ll squeeze out more power from my four panels than I would with just two.

By this this time it was about 5:30 pm and the sun was already low in the sky. I also have not removed the protective film from the panel since I will need to remove it to add the 3M VHB. Even so, the controller shows the batteries were charging with two amps. The batteries were fully charged already, and they have no loads right now as I’m rewiring the trailer power.

Here is the solar controller showing the voltage, charge amps, and percent of battery charged. I’m putting the controller in the street side closet so it will be closer to the batteries under the street side bed. I have a Tri-Metric in my pantry that will give me good details on what is going on. I’ll still be able to see the controller whenever I need to.

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Battery voltage

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2 amp charge

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Batteries at 100%

Just for kicks, I checked the voltage from the panel on my bulkhead connectors. BTW  with this bulkhead junction, it will make wiring the three remaining panels very easy.

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Interesting that it’s 13.35V while providing 2 amps. When I tested it on my driveway with no load, it measured 19.8V.

Ahh, free power from the sun…  That’s it for now, stay tuned for 400w. “Scotty, we need more power!”  “I’m giving her all we’ve got, Captain!”

Capturing and Reusing Rain Water in Rain Barrel

June 30th, 2015

Photo via Mindy McIntosh-Shetter on Urban Garden Casual

Photo via Mindy McIntosh-Shetter on Urban Garden Casual

With the Midwest getting so much rain lately, it’s a shame to let it all go down the drain — so to speak. The best way to repurpose this water? By collecting it in a rain barrel and recycle it into the garden and lawn, not only are you saving water, you are saving money.

How-to-Build-Your-Own-Rain-Barrel

How to Build a Rain Barrel from Mom Prepares

Rain Barrel
Rain barrels are a great way to control run off and conserve water.  It lacks chlorine and fluoride that is found in many municipal water supplies.  Natural rain water is softer and easier on your garden plants.
To capture runoff, place your rain barrel underneath the downspout where your rain gutter collects. Reusing the water is as easy as dipping your watering can in the bucket. You can also attach a pump to the hose on the bottom of the barrel and running another hose off of it.
Most cities sell or give them away; find out if they are doing so via the city website. Some also offer rebates. If your city does not offer them, Craigslist and Freecycle may be good options to obtain a rain barrel. Another option is making one with a repurposed barrel or garbage can or buying one at the store.
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Rainwater Harvesting via Kittleson Landscaping, Inc.

Collection System
If you want to go for more water, consider a collection system. These can be above or below ground and are much bigger than a rain barrel, so they can store a larger amount of water.
The ones above ground are attached to a down spout and have pumps to use in watering gardens and lawns. It’s also possible to attach this collection to your sprinkler system, so you don’t need to use water from the drain to irrigate your yard.
Below ground systems are attached to a downspout through a connection of pipes; this requires digging up the ground to place the collection container out of the way. The bonus of doing so includes not having to hide the unsightly container and it is less apt to freezing in the winter.
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Rain water pond

Collection Pond

Another option to a collection system that is fully enclosed is one that remains open via the top and feeds into an above ground water feature. The rain water is collected through the pond and goes through a collection of pipes connected to the downspout.
Things to keep in mind:
  1. Start small. You can always expand to larger containers as needed.
  2. Find a rain barrel that will fit in with your garden decor.
  3. Protect the ground and your garden from runoff in areas where you don’t have a collection container with concrete extensions. This allows the water to run away from your foundation and lawns.
  4. Use a screen on your collection container to keep out debris.
  5. Be aware of the toxins that leach off of roofing materials.  Avoid asphalt shingles if you are planning on using the rainwater for watering or growing purposes.
  6. Choose your collection canister wisely. Barrels made specifically for collecting rainwater can withstand freezing, expansion and distortion, while trash cans and other garbage collection containers generally won’t.
  7. Be safe.  Keep the rain barrel away from spots where children may consider a play spot, and don’t place it near stairs.
  8. Mosquitoes are attracted to water, and mosquitoes and other pests bring disease, so it is essential to either install some kind of system to keep these pests out or purchase an updated system with these blocks already installed.
  9. Keep your barrel off the ground. While not necessary, it will make it easier to get to the spigot, which is normally located on the very bottom of the barrel within a few inches of the ground. Using cement blocks to prop the barrel up will make access much easier.
  10. Clean your gutters.  Leaves, dirt, and other materials that often sit in the gutter can cause rainwater to become contaminated and unsafe.  It is especially important to clean the gutters before a big storm comes through if you are planning to collect water during that time.

HOW TO MAKE A MASON JAR SOLAR LAMP

May 27th, 2015

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WHEN THE WORDS MASON JAR & SOLAR LAMP COME TOGETHER IN THE SAME SENTENCE, I DON’T CARE WHO YOU ARE — YOU GET EXCITED.

Because this jar is awesome. And adorable. And did I mention you’re saving the planet too? So get excited, yo. This is a great project for people with minimal crafty skills, (like me). Once you wrap wire around it and hang it in your yard, you don’t have to think about it ever again. Evening light = powered by the sun = awesome.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

THINGS YOU’LL NEED:

  • A quart mason jar like this one. (places like Ace Hardware or Target should have them too.)
  • 16 gauge baling wire like this stuff here. or you have find this at your local hardware store.
  • A solar powered mason lid. (I made mine about a year ago and found my solar lids at Big Lots, but now I can only find them online.  I’ve searched around and this is the best price I could find)

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Step 1 — Cut a piece of wire to 12 1/2 inches. Wrap around the lip of the mason jar and loop together — but leave it loose.

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Step 2 – Cut another piece of wire to 14 inches and loop the ends around the first wire.

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After you’ve tightened both sides of your handle, you can go back and tighten the front loops on the first ring of wire.

Now all you need to do is put a battery in your led solar light lid and screw that puppy on! I have found that the solar lights need at least 6 hours of full sun to light up well at night. So as long as you hang them in a place where they can get recharged for half of the day, you’ll always have light in the evenings!

After your initial investment in the supplies, it really is the gift that keeps giving. I’m thinking of placing these all around my outside table — can’t you just picture the amazing summer evenings with these to light our conversations with family & friends?

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 This guest post is from DaNelle Wolford and was originally posted on Weed ‘Em and Reap.

Threat to CIP Funding is Not Good for Minnesota Non-Profits

April 30th, 2015

In light of the recent passing of the Energy Omnibus Bill in the Minnesota House, programs like EnerChange may be in jeopardy should certain parts pertaining to the reduction of the Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) take place.  The EnerChange program was born out of a very real need of a historically overlooked sector of energy users in Minnesota; Non-Profits.  EnerChange is  Minnesota non-profit that was created to serve this segment as they are often in the most need of financial relief and often have higher energy costs than similarly sized for-profit organizations.

Although the EnerChange program accounts for a fraction of the total CIP funds, the direct effects of our work have had a substantial impact on non-profits throughout the Twin Cities metro area.  The organizations who receive our energy assessment services and implement at least some of our energy conservation and efficiency recommendations save on average of $6,400 per year ($2,500 for the average Church).  For a food shelf, a family shelter, or one of the hundreds of small churches we’ve provided assistance to throughout the state – these savings, although modest, can be applied towards the organizations true mission in perpetuity, as they continue to save this amount year after year.   In some cases this can provide real sustained relief for organizations struggling to stay afloat and can help the administrators focus their time, energy and savings on assisting their constituents.

Energy_Efficient_Buildings_2014We’re pleased to get praise and thanks for our work and about our highly efficient program’s cost-to-energy savings ratio.

“It’s difficult for a non-profit to take advantage of the many energy saving companies in the market.  EnerChange gives us a preliminary look at our building and our utility usage, and they do it at no cost.  This is a tremendous value that I recommend to any church or non-profit organization.  Most of us spend 10 to 30% more on energy than we need to, and EnerChange can help us find those savings.”  Dan Jaeger – Business Administrator, Church of St. Patrick

We believe the EnerChange program stands as a testament to the foresight and fortitude of hundreds of previous policy makers who had concerns about our community and environment.  Without lawmakers and a history of strong environmental policy leaders in the state, Minnesota would not be recognized as a national leader in energy policy.  On behalf of the non-profit community of Minnesota we encourage future support of the Conservation Improvement Program.

“I’m proud of Minnesota’s longstanding attention to environmental issues, but here we need to raise the bar as others catch up. We want to be bold, dynamic…Sadly we have been complacent in thinking about energy and environment. But we’re reaching a tipping point, and we have to deal with it now.”  Governor Tim Pawlenty addressing the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group (MCCAG) April 2007

It may not be very often that citizens feel they can point to real and positive results when it comes to government supported programs.  We’ve been able to develop a great track record serving Minnesota nonprofits.  The results of the EnerChange program are real dollars and real energy savings for Minnesota non-profits.  But this could change if reductions in CIP funding become a reality.  If you support the mission of helping Minnesota non-profits become more energy efficient thereby freeing more of their dollars for the programs that further support our communities, we need your help to keep our mission going.  Please contact your State Representative and let them know.

 

Linked Resources

House File 843 (H.F. 843) See Article 9

Learn More About CIP

Easy Solar-Powered Projects On a Budget

April 27th, 2015

Do you have any solar panels or items that utilize solar panels around that you want to put to use? Take a stab at one of these projects to help you go green.

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1. Solar Jar Get ready for late summer nights by making your own solar lights at a cost of around $6 and done in 10 minutes. If there is something more simple than this, I don’t know what it is.

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2. Solar Powered Watering System Can’t always get home to water your outdoor plants every day? Use a solar powered watering system.

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3. Swimming Pool Heater If you’re tired of getting into an ice-cold pool, try making a solar panel to heat you up.

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4. Garden Lights Don’t want to stake your lights into the ground as intended? Try this crafty project instead.

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5. Altoids USB Charger Are those mints? No, just a clever way to be able to charge your phone on the go.

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6. Soda Can Solar Panel Don’t throw away those aluminum cans once you’re done sipping; turn them into a power source.

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7. Garden Fountain No need to run extension cords out to your garden for the pump; simply create your own power source with a solar grid.

Earth Day Cleanup Schedule 2015 – Twin Cities

April 16th, 2015

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St. Paul

Saturday, April 18, 2015
9:30 am – 11 am

Join forces with family, friends and neighbors alike to clean up the garbage that has recently become exposed due to the melted snow. We invite everyone–families, friends, neighbors–to come together to help beautify the city of Saint Paul.

Participating is easy! Register online, and then drop by your selected Cleanup Site any time between 9:00 and 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 18th, to pick up bags, gloves and snacks and meet your neighbors and community members. Then head out and clean up any Saint Paul park or neighborhood of your choice.

Cleanup Sites:

Minneapolis

Saturday, April 25, 2015
9:30 am-noon

This event is free and open to all ages and no registration is required.

Earth Day Cleanup is held at several sites throughout the City of Minneapolis. It is a collaborative effort between the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) and City of Minneapolis Solid Waste and Recycling.

Individuals and Small Groups

It’s easy to get involved in Earth Day Cleanup 2015. No pre-registration is required! Arrive at any site between 9:30 am and noon, bring a pair of gloves to pick up trash, and check in at the registration table. A site coordinator will provide you with gloves (if you did not bring any) and bags, and instruct you where to go and where to leave trash. Every site has a coordinator available to assist volunteers and to answer any questions you may have.Large Groups

If you have a group of 20 or more volunteers looking for a site, please contact Erica Chua at echua@minneapolisparks.org or 612-230-6479 for a list of sites that can accommodate your group.

Cleanup Sites

Bags will be provided. Please bring your own gloves if you have them.

Bassett Creek Park
SE Corner of Penn Ave. N & 1 1/2 Ave. N

Beltrami Park
1111 Summer St. NE

Bluff Street
20 20th Ave. S

Bryant Square Park
3101 Bryant Ave. S

Cedar Lake
Cedar Lake Pkwy and
25th St. W

Columbia Park
Columbia Pkwy and
35th Ave. NE
(Playground parking lot)

Creekview Park
5001 Humboldt Ave. N

Dairy Queen
4719 Lyndale Ave. N

East River Parkway
E River Pkwy and
Franklin Ave.

Farview Park
621 29th Ave. N

Father Hennepin Bluffs Park
100 6th Ave. SE

Heritage Park
10th Ave. N and
Van White Memorial Pkwy

Kenny Park
1328 58th St. W

Kenwood Park
2101 Franklin Ave. W

Lake Calhoun – East
Corner of W Lake St.
and E Calhoun Pkwy

Lake Calhoun – West
W. 32nd St. and
Calhoun Pkwy

Lake Harriet
4135 Lake Harriet Pkwy
(Bandshell parking lot)

Lake of the Isles
W 27th St. and
E Lake of the Isles Pkwy

Loring Park
1382 Willow St.

Lynnhurst Park
1345 W Minnehaha Pkwy

Martin Luther King Jr. Park
4055 Nicollet Ave. S

McRae Park
906 47th St. E

Nokomis Park
2401 Minnehaha Pkwy E

Pearl Park
414 Diamond Lake Rd. E

Phelps Park
701 39th St. E

Powderhorn Park
3400 15th Ave. S

Riverside Park
2700 8th St. S

Sibley Park
1900 40th St. E

Steven’s Square Park
1801 Stevens Ave.

Theodore Wirth Park
3200 Glenwood Ave.
(Wirth Beach parking lot)

Waite Park
1810 34th Ave. NE

Water Works
420 1st Street South

West River Parkway
W River Pkwy and 17th Ave.

W River Pkwy and 24th St.

W River Pkwy and 36th St.

W River Pkwy and 44th St.

Whittier
425 West 26th Street