Where Have We Been?

I know – it’s been awhile. And that New Year’s Resolution that 2014 was going to be the year that I got my act together and committed myself to keeping up-to-date? Well, let’s just say, FAIL! Spectacular FAIL!

Do I dare try again for 2015? I say “YES” because, dang it, I really have no excuse. And I *want* to do this! I have so much to share!

With all of that said, this is where life has taken us -

* We return to work for Amazon in Fernley, NV on 11/11. We will be parked at the Fernley RV Park, just as we have the last two winters.
* Kit and Tamara were married in Tulsa, OK on October 25, and I will have a whole post with pictures and wonderful stories.

K + T
* Hannah, and her San Diego State Women’s Soccer team have 3-peated! Not only did they win the regular season Mountain West title (again), but just yesterday, they won the MW Conference tournament (again), which gives them a spot in the NCAA tournament (again). Bracket drawing is 11/10 at 1 pm. The first round play will be on Saturday, 11/15.

MW Tournament Champ

This quick little update is brought to you from a truly lovely, pretty deserted, FREE campsite at Glass Creek Campground along Hwy 395 in Mono County, CA.

Glass Creek CG

Glass Creek CG

Still searching for that clever signoff,

~Nancy

Solar

The task of adding a solar charging system to your RV can be daunting to say the least.  So daunting in fact that many RV’ers delegate the task out to the professionals.  There are pros and cons to having someone else do your system.  Just realize that if you have someone else do your system you are giving up control.  It’s exactly the same as having, say, an addition put on a stick and brick house.  You hire a builder/architect to do the design, they get your approval, then they subcontract out the work to the laborer who hopefully follows the plan usually using the cheapest materials possible to maximize the profit of the builder/architect.  I’m generalizing of course and there are several solar companies where the builder/architect is also the implementor.  Most of the time they will still try to sell you on whatever products they think are the best and will make the most profit.  I’m not saying this is a bad thing, I’m just saying it’s the way it is.  And, to be fair, I’m sure many of these companies are very good at what they do.  A couple of those I’ve heard that are very good include AM Solar in Oregon and Northern Arizona Wind and Sun in Flagstaff, AZ although Wind and Sun won’t do the actual implementation of your system.  Then there is a guy named Handy Bob, who is very knowledgeable in solar. He’s been building a shop in Montana.

www.amsolar.com

www.windsun.com

www.handybobsolar.wordpress.com

I like to do things myself when I feel I can.  Not just because I like to be in control of the process and materials but because I like to learn new things.  Here is a list of pros and cons of doing a project like this yourself:

Pros:

1.  Control of the entire process: research, design, build, test, and implementation

2. Control of the materials used

3.  Your education/learning and knowledge of the entire system is greatly enhanced

4. Challenge of figuring out the problems – if you like challenges

5. Work is done on your timeframe

6. Work is done in location(s) of your choosing

7. Cost savings in materials (usually) and labor

8. It was fun

Cons:

1. It took longer to have the system implemented

2. Physically it was a challenge (those batteries were very heavy)

3. I was scarred as hell I would screw up

4. If you are tool challenged or don’t have any tools you will have to get over it and buy/borrow some tools

I really can’t think of that many cons to doing your own system.  Even if you have issues with heights (being up on your roof) you can always break your system into stages and hire someone to do the roof part of the project.

Sometimes I’m a details type person and sometimes I’m not.  Yes, it drives me crazy too.  If you want more detail on something I just skim over, then send me an email and I’ll try to expound.  In any case, the following is what I did to implement 960 watts of solar panels charging four 300 amp 6-volt batteries.

The very first thing I did was spend many hours researching and reading on the internet.  Today there are all kinds of forums, companies and individual websites that provide a plethora of information about how to put in your own solar charging system and what products work best.  The three main areas that I researched and had to make decisions  on were: what type and size batteries, what inverter/charger and what size and how many solar panels.  Then there were the minor areas: what size solar controller, wires, fuses and breakers.

My RV has three electrical systems as I believe most do.  An AC, a DC internal and a DC external system.  I’m not going to go into too much detail here about the differences between AC and DC but the AC system in my RV is all of my outlets (inside and out), the air conditioner/heat pump, the electric half of the hot water heater, the electric half of the refrigerator, built in vacuum, ceiling fan and some of my incandescent lights.  The AC system components work when your RV is plugged into shore power (the campground pedestal).  My DC internal system consists of those components that work when I am not plugged into shore power.  The DC internal system uses the energy from your batteries only and consists of a few incandescent lights, all of my fluorescent lights, water pump,  the gas furnace fan, the external security lights, front jacks, rear stabilizers and the power to move the glides in and out.  Finally the DC external system is used by your RV (trailer or in my case 5th wheel) when you are plugged into your tow vehicle.  The tow vehicle batteries/alternator provide the energy to power your RV external driving lights like blinkers and stop lights and to actuate your trailer brakes whether electric or hydraulic.  For the solar project I did nothing to change or interfere with the DC external system – at least as far as I know.

Backing up a bit it’s important to understand how your RV batteries (whatever voltage, size or number) get their energy when you don’t have a solar charging system.  When you are plugged into AC shore power I told you before that it powers all of the outlets.  One of the outlets in my RV is used to plug in a “Converter”.  The “Converter” was next to my batteries (I had two 12-volt Interstate batteries) and was used to charge my batteries.  It was a fairly small black box that always hummed and was always hot.  It continually charged the batteries while the RV was plugged into shore power.  I had a “Magnetek” converter which I’ve read is very common in RV’s.  It’s not very efficient but it keeps the batteries charged.

After doing a ton of research and reading, it was time to take action.  I made a list of everything that used electricity in the RV (both AC and DC).  Then to the right of the listed item I put: how many, what it’s maximum wattage was, a guess at how much time that item would be used in a day (hours or minutes), and a total wattage used figure.  I added up the total wattage used column to give me an approximate wattage used per day.  For the most part I was generous about the usage.  I felt it was better to overestimate rather than under.  For example, we have one toaster rated at 750 watts.  I figured it would be used 5 minutes per day which is a total of 62.5 watts per day.  Some days we use it more but most days we don’t use it at all.  I did this process for everything and I came up with a total of about 5000 watts.  I then divided this number by 12 volts.  I decided to stay with a 12 volt battery system only because that is what I had in the RV even though I could have gone with a 24 volt system.  So, dividing 5000 by 12 gave me 418.  418 is the approximate number of Amp Hours I would use per day if I used everything on my energy list for the assumed length of time.  Here is the energy equation: Watts = Volts x Amps.  The reason you need to know the approximate Amp Hours (AH) you will use per day is because that it how the batteries store and disperse energy – via Amp Hours.  Or, at least it’s the easiest for you to measure how much energy your batteries have and what the batteries can store when you determine which batteries to buy.

418 Amp Hours.  That’s a huge number per day but it’s not realistic.  First – rarely do we use all the items on the list every day.  Second, the amount of time we use them might be less than estimated.  Third, we can learn to practice conservation when we need to.

Batteries.  I went back and forth with what kind of batteries to get.  My existing two 12-volt Interstate batteries were not going to cut it.  They stored about 80 AH’s each for a total of 160 AH’s.  Before I go on there are a couple more things you should know.  Batteries last the longest when they are not drawn down less than 50% of their total AH storage capacity per charging cycle.  I will assume a daily charge cycle.  So, a 100 AH battery should only be drawn down 50 Amps per day.  The less it’s drawn down per charge cycle the longer the battery life.  Second, some of the batteries Amp Hours will be lost due to battery inefficiency and seeping voltage in the wires.  Third, batteries need to be charged correctly in order to reach their maximum charge (maximum amp hours they can hold).  Last, batteries, over time, become less efficient.  Think – cell phone battery or laptop battery and how after a few months or a year it says it’s fully charged but it seems to run out of juice much faster.  Sucks, doesn’t it?

This is how I decided after doing the research:  Based on experience from others, I went with four 6-volt batteries even though I could have gone with 12-volt batteries.  I felt the 6-volts would last a year or two longer than 12-volt batteries.  It probably doesn’t make any difference but more off-grid RV’ers have had success with 6-volt batteries so that’s what I based my decision on.  Now, I had to connect the  four batteries together in a way to produce 12 volts but I will talk about that later.  Now, back to the 418 AH I might use per day.  For 418 AH I would need to have over 800 AH capacity (shouldn’t bring below 50% capacity).  That’s a very large battery bank not to mention a lot of added RV weight.  So, I reduced what I thought was maximum usage (418 AH) by about 25% to 300 AH.  This is how I got to four 6-volt 300 AH batteries.  Four x 300 AH’s?  That makes 1200 AH’s I know.  Remember how I told you above that I would have to get the 6-volt batteries to produce 12 volts?  Now is that time.  You have to connect the four batteries to work in 2-pair.  Each pair works as 12-volts.  Unfortunately even though the volts go up, the AH’s stay the same.  This means that two batteries working as a pair only store 300 AH’s of energy.  Put the two pair together and you get a total of 600 AH,s.  Then, you should try to never draw them down less than 50% so that really means you only have 300 AH’s to use!  Finally, many batteries are rated for maximum AH’s based on 20 hours – not a 24 hour day.  Why, I don’t know.  The batteries I chose were on a 20 AH day so really I had less than 300 AH’s of storage.  I could see we were going to be going the conservation route.

So, four 6-volt 300 AH capacity batteries.  My final decision was what type of batteries.  I am talking deep-cycle batteries here, not car batteries.  Now I had to think about where to put four batteries.  My existing battery compartment was near the front of the RV on the drivers side and held the two 12-volt Interstates. It didn’t have any more room.  The Interstates are lead acid batteries which require distilled water added every so often.  The compartment also needed to be vented because of the gases lead acid batteries can produce.  If I was going to have four lead acid batteries I was going to need to build another sealed compartment that is vented or enlarge the existing one some how.  Four batteries would be much heavier and I was worried about adding more weight to one side of the RV.  I decided to build a new battery compartment in the front basement area.  This is the area that is directly behind the truck and the lowest basement area of the RV (closest to the ground).

How was I going to build a sealed container for the batteries and still be able to reach in and add water when needed?.  I researched automatic battery watering systems and they seemed a great idea.   I saw how some people bought coolers or large plastic storage containers and placed the batteries in them to keep them sealed.  Then they cut a hole in the compartment wall to run a venting pipe to the outside.  It all just seemed like a lot of work and it would look messy.  I couldn’t use the cooler or container idea because they would fit through the compartment door in the first place never mind trying to get the batteries into the container.

My other choice to lead acid batteries was sealed batteries – the AGM type not the Gel.  These don’t need to be vented and don’t need to be watered.  This resolved two of my major issues.  But, they had two of their own issues.  The first was not a big deal – they were a bit heavier than the lead acid.  The second was a big deal.  They were way more expensive.  Like – twice the price.  Well, I spent the money and so far it is way worth the added expense.  I bought four Lifeline AGM sealed batteries – GPL-6CT to be exact.  Since they are 90 lbs each I had to reinforce that basement compartment.  I used a piece of exterior grade 3/4 inch plywood and drilled hole through it and through the basement floor which was exposed to the road.  I bolted it down with galvanized bolts, lock washers and nuts.  I countersunk the bolt heads in the plywood to keep the floor nice and smooth.  I sprayed the plywood with varathane to keep it from absorbing moisture quickly.  Then I used that spray insulation foam all around to edges to really give it a solid setting.

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The cost of the batteries included shipping.  I ordered them online from Powerstridebattery.com.  It was worth it due to their weight of 90 lbs each.  They arrived via an independent freight truck company in about a week.  They delivered them on a palette and the driver fork lifted the palette right in front of my RV basement compartment.  Perfect delivery!  Since I knew the exact dimensions of the batteries before they arrived (online info) I was able to cut some plywood strips to keep the batteries secure and spaced an inch apart.  Even though I saw other examples of putting the batteries completely together, I thought it would be better if they had at least an inch on all sides for breathing room.  Finally I screwed two pieces of L shaped aluminum (easily drilled through) to secure them from moving anywhere.

My next expensive decision was the size and type of inverter/charger to purchase.  First I’ll talk about the charger part of the inverter/charger.  Remember the “Converter” I talked about above?  That converter is really just a dumb charger and doesn’t do a very good job.  When you are plugged into shore power essentially it just keeps the batteries so they stay at a certain voltage never letting them cycle down much but also never charging them fully so they never have their true AH potential.  Not so good for any type of battery but safe and problem free for the RV manufacturer.  They don’t care if your batteries don’t last very long.

The charger portion of a good inverter/charger will do a better job of keeping your batteries charged so they will last longer.  The charger will have different stages and will be able to vary the voltage at each stage as the batteries get closer to being fully charged. You don’t want to fry your batteries (that’s why the cheap “Converters” play it safe with lower voltage).  The charger portion of a good inverter/charger will also be able to do it based on the temperature of your batteries.  Yes, temperature matters.  Batteries don’t work as well in cold temps so a smart charger will know to up the voltage when charging cold batteries.

Now for the cool stuff.  The “Inverter” portion of a good inverter/charger takes the stored energy from your nifty new batteries which is stored as DC energy and changes that energy to AC energy in order to provide power to all those outlets (or chosen outlets) in your RV.  It will also power any AC lights or fans or whatever, if you want it to.  How much AC energy produced at a given time is dependent on the size of the inverter you purchase.  How much energy produced for a period of time is dependent on the size of the inverter and the battery storage capacity.

My decision of which inverter/charger to purchase was influenced by Jack Mayer.  In fact I used his knowledge and experience extensively.  Definitely visit his website and read everything you can in the “electrical/solar” section.  It will help you make decisions on your system.  www.jackdanmayer.com  I went with a Magnum MS2812 and it has worked flawlessly.  I went with the MS2812 because I found it at a great price on Amazon for $1500.  It was not a refurbished model.  I don’t have a problem with refurbished.  I tend to think that refurbished items may work even better and longer than new ones because they have had the kinks worked out and have been more scrutinized etc.  Your choice.  I just know that $1500 was a good price refurbished or not.  I wanted a bit more than a 2000 watt inverter because I knew we would be running the microwave which has a huge initial draw of voltage.  I didn’t want to have to always turn everything else off before turning on the microwave.  It has worked out extremely well.  It’s a sine-wave inverter (cleaner AC voltage so to speak) and the charger portion is much more sophisticated than a plain “Converter”.

With these two components to the system (the batteries and the inverter/charger), I figured I should be able to remove my old batteries and disconnect the old converter and yang them out of the RV.  Unfortunately not so fast.  I needed to be able to connect the batteries to each other, the inverter/charger and the existing DC internal system.  I needed new wires and the wires needed lugs.  Lugs are the hooks on the end of a wire that slip over a battery terminal or a bolt. Think of the wires that attach to your car battery and think of the loop that slips over the battery terminal.  That’s a lug.  Again, more research.  Information found: Size and length do matter!  I knew it all the time.  But, in the case of battery to battery connectors and battery to inverter/charger connectors you want to keep the wires as short as possible and as thick as possible.

I used 4/0 or “4 aught” welding wire for battery and inverter/charger connections.  I also kept everything as close as possible.  I measured the distance and number of wires to get an idea of how much wire to order.  Then I counted the number of lugs I needed.  I ordered the correct length of 4/0 wire from www.weldingsupply.com.  I also purchased some 2/0 wire that I knew I would need to connect whatever solar charge controller I bought and also some 2 AWG wire that would run from the roof down to the solar charge controller.  And last in my order to http://www.weldingsupply.com I ordered a pair of wire cutters (B-52 Barracuda Cable Cutters) I needed to cut the thick 4/0 wire.

From www.allbatterysalesandservice.com I ordered lugs for the 4/0 wire and for the 2/0 wire.  I also ordered a heavy duty hammer crimper and finally some heavy duty shrink wrap.

I loved making the cables.  After the batteries and inverter/charger were in place I measured the distance I needed and made one cable at a time.  I took my time and measured carefully especially for the 4/0 wire which is stiff.  The biggest advantage (other than cost savings) to making your own cables is being able to set the lugs in the correct position before you hammer crimp.  Doing the shrink wrap on the cables was easy.  I cut a two inch piece of heat wrap for each end of the cable and brought them inside and used the gas stove top to heat them up.  I kept setting off the smoke detector if I let it heat up too much – but no big deal.  The shrink wrap came out perfect.

I’ve decided I’ve gone into way too much detail here (Nancy thinks so too) so let me just list the final components I used and give a brief description. Then I will just post a bunch of pictures so you can see the result

MorningStar TS-MPPT-60 Tristar 60 Amp MPPT Charge Controller with Remote Temperature Sensor.  This is needed to control the amount of voltage provided to the batteries from the solar panels.

Four (4) Trina Solar 240 Watt Solar Panels

Roof C-Box: Inside this box is where the bare MC wire ends connect to the 2/AWG wires that come down the stack pipe and connect to the solar charge controller (the positive wire goes thru the baby box breaker (40 Amp)

Three (3) MC Wires of varying lengths with interlocking connectors:  These are used to connect the 4 solar panels in parallel/series to the Roof C-Box

Midnight Solar Baby Breaker Box with 2 DC Breakers (40 and 63 Amp)

400 Amp T-Fuse Block Assembly (Magnum):  This fuse is on the positive wire between the Inverter/Charger and the Batteries

Bogart Industries  Trimetric TM-2025-RV remote meter: This comes with a 500Amp Shunt that goes as close to the negative battery terminal as possible. This meter is acts as your gas gauge for the batteries.  It shows you the battery voltage as well as the Amps going in (charging) or going out (using) as well as a calculated percent of energy (I like to use Amps) left in your batteries.

Magnum Inverter/Charger remote meter:  This meter lets you turn on/off your inverter and your charger.

TriStar TS-RM-2 remote meter: Shows me the number of watts/amps being utilized to charge the batteries from the solar panels.

I mounted all the meters inside near my thermostat and fantastic fan meters for easy viewing from the main living space.

I put the two breakers in the Baby Breaker Box so I could isolate the TriStar charge controller.   The Baby Box was mounted next to the charge controller.  The pictures tell the rest of the story.  Let me know if you have any questions.  The system is working beyond my expectations.  It’s been nearly two months since we implemented and I don’t think we’ve been down lower than 75% of battery capacity on any day.  The panels are charging sometimes up to 150 watts even during heavy rain – just amazing.

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The meters.

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The four panels and Roof C-Box (black box).

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Here you can see the charge controller on the left, the Magnum inverter/charger and below it the Baby Breaker Box.  The batteries are to the far right.

Sub-Panel

Sub-Panel

I also added a sub-panel in our bedroom closet directly behind the exterior Main panel.  I pulled the main panel wires out that go to all the AC outlets and AC lights.  I fed them into the sub-panel.  I added two 30 Amp breakers in the main panel and fed wires to the inverter/charger and back to the sub-panel.  Adding a sub-panel is definitely the way to go so you never run the risk of accidentally running your Air Conditioner and draining your batteries.

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Here you can see where I added the 400 Amp T-Fuse (cover with yellow triangle) and over to the right just above the batteries is the 500 Amp Shunt for the Trimetric meter.

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Here is the bracket I created and used to mount the panels to my roof.  I designed them so I can manually tilt the panels if I desired.  I used aluminum L brackets purchased at Home Depot.  They have worked like a charm.

So Hard To Say Good Bye

We find ourselves once again making our way across the country. We said our See-you-soon’s last night, and hope to drive from Deer Isle to the welcome center on I84 in Danbury,CT today.

It is a long first day, but David is feeling good, and glad to be back behind the wheel.  The old ticker is behaving, but I will likely drive tomorrow, since we all know I can handle the load.

Family is certainly on our minds as we cruise down the highway.  It is always so hard to fit in a year’s worth of laughter, conversation, and memory sharing into our 2 month visit with David’s sister and parents.  The time goes by quickly, especially the last couple of days.  We are always thankful for the opportunities that we are given, but that doesn’t make leaving any easier.

Also moving along today: Darling Daughter Hannah is making her transition from furnished apartment to a rental house.  Yes, 6 Aztec Women’s Soccer players will be sharing a 5 bedroom, 2 bath house.  And Ikea will once again be Hannah’s furniture provider of choice.  Curse you, Pinterest!  I know we both wish I was closer geographically with this big truck to help with the move and set up.  But we also enjoy hearing the tales. Oh, to be 20 again.

Speaking of serial movers, Little Sister Kristen and her husband Mike have made to move from Gardnerville, NV to Centralia, WA in the last couple of days.  We just might have to check out their new place after our Amazon jobs wrap in December.  It is an exciting time for them now, and Mom will be joining them in September.

I best be getting back to navigating.  This summertime traffic is the pits.  Where is everyone going?

Rolling through,
Nancy

Day 587: Annie, The Orphan Duck

My sister in law Kathie had rented a boat for the summer, and it was finally water ready. I went with her to Stonington, where the boat was set to be launched.  She and a friend, Phil, were going to bring the boat over to her mooring, and I was going to drive her car back to the house.  Sounds simple enough, right?

Just as the boat was about to be launched, a small duck came running up to Kathie, yipping away in great distress.  Kathie has this amazing ability to calm even the most distressed beings, and she immediately picked up the duck.  Here she is with the little one:

KK the Duck Whisperer

The rest of us went looking around for the duck’s family, since it was obvious that this duckling had strayed.  But there were no other ducks to be found. There had been a sighting of a weasel-like family in the area, and speculation is that the duck family must have been decimated.

With no family reunion in the cards, a brilliant plan was hatched that I should take the duck, in Kathie’s Saab, to Oceanville, an area of the island where Dean, the boat launcher, had just seen a duck family near the crossover.  Luckily, I knew where he was talking about, and off I drove (oh, so reluctantly)  with the duck on the back seat:

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When we bring Hobby, our cat, into the truck with us (in his carrier), he is vocal for at least the first hour of the ride.  Not this duck!  As soon as I started driving, it just settled in, and quietly cruised with me around the island.

As you can expect, there was no duck family to be found at any of the waterways that I searched.  Plan C was to bring the duck back to Kathie’s, and she would look into what to do next when she arrived home.

I decided that the duck is a girl, and that her name is Annie, since she is a little orphan. So, Annie and I hung out in the studio while David worked on the kitchenette that he is installing.  When I tried to leave, Annie squawked like crazy, leading David to make endless “imprinting” jokes.

Handyman David adding a cabinet, countertop, sink, fridge to the “Studio”:

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When she returned, Kathie and Grandpa contemplated what to do:

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Isn’t she a cutie!

With feedback from local animal rescuers, it was decided that Kathie would keep the duck, and that the duck would fly away when it was ready.  So, we took Annie down to the garden to root around, to the shore for a swim, and then settled her into a temporary cage inside.  The three foxes that live around here cannot be expected to pass up this gourmet meal, so Annie will have to be indoors at night.

The next day, David and Grandpa Harold built a nifty pen for her in the boat house:

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Repurposed Screen Doors

And she spends her days growing, chirping, and digging for worms in the soil that I brought up from the garden:

Worm Buffet

Worm Buffet

Yes, I am bringing up worms from the garden.  Yes, I dig through the dirt for Annie and she gobbles down the worms.  And yes, I am bringing Annie up to the shower in the cabin for the night.  This does have me questioning whom imprinted on whom.  

When Kathie gets back from her boat trip, she is going to assume the role of surrogate mom.  I have to get ready to hit the road next week, and boy, do I have projects to finish!

So, we have made way for a duckling.  We have picked wild blueberries.  And we have truly enjoyed this magical island.  But the leaves are starting to turn on some of the trees (already) and Aztec Soccer (http://goaztecs.cstv.com/sports/w-soccer/sdsu-w-soccer-body.html) is calling.  It must be time to wrap it up here, and start on the trek back to CA!

Shameless plug:  I really need to move this soap inventory!!!  Tell your friends that it is awesome – because it is!  Thanks in advance!

Happy Camper Soap Co. products can be found here:  http://happycampersoapco.storenvy.com/

~ Nancy

Day 586: Belfast Art Market

The morning started off quite foggy and cool, but the Belfast Art Market had been my planned destination for weeks, and I wasn’t going to let a little fog get in the way.  It was expected to burn off, and once I made the 1 hr 20 min drive around Penobscot Bay, wonderful humid Maine air, art, water views, and maybe a nice lunch would be my reward.

I was lucky enough to have my sister-in-law, Kathie, as my adventure companion, while David stayed back working on a home improvement project (yet another future blog post subject).

I have been watching The Belfast Art Market’s facebook page and website (http://belfastartmarket.weebly.com) which lists 30 vendors and was excited to see that it was also held adjacent to a farmer’s market.  I have managed to visit local markets as we travel across the country, and have at least one to choose from 5 days a week around here. Just look at this map:  https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=200080101083190409718.0004e054bb22905a19e1f&msa=0

Each market has it’s own particular feel.  I am pleased to report that the Belfast Art Market was filled with wonderful artists, all of whom were friendly and ready to talk about their art.  Kathie and I lingered at each booth, admiring the work, chatting up the artists, and discussing technique and just enjoying the beautiful day.

There were some artists whose works really stood out.  First we visited the booth of Nora Flanagan.  Her nautical-themed quilts and pillows were just stunning.  You can see them here: http://www.noraflanaganquilts.com/quilts.html   Kathie and I are both taken with her plaid lobsters, and of course, I loved her use of the color orange.

River Wind Woolies can be found at several of the local Farmer’s Markets, but today was my first chance to check out her work.  Robin Kronish-Byrne has created a wonderfully colorful product line of felted wool bottle covers, wallets, soap, and whimsical color dreads hair ties (of which Kathie purchased one and wore proudly all day to many compliments).  Here are samples of her works:

So much color!

So much color!

We spent a good deal of time with Neale La Salle of Clay With Me (is that a great business name or what?)  I could not resist picking up a new soap dish, and Kathie purchased three nesting plates.  While this picture shows some of the various pieces he had to offer, if you can’t make it to Maine, you can check out his Etsy store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ClayWithMePottery.  The details on these pieces are just lovely.

That's my new soap dish in the middle!

That’s my new soap dish in the middle!

Continuing on the theme of artisan pottery, we visited with Kelly Kelsey-Davis, who happens to be the contact person for the entire market, as well as a talented artist.  While I believe her focus is on textiles, and her husband, Bill Davis, focuses on pottery, their booth had many items, very reasonably priced, that I was interested in.  I just loved the fabric banners, and Hannah will be receiving a little unique piece of Bill Davis art when I am finally reunited with her in August. Here is a sampling of their works:

Whimsical and Smile Inducing

Whimsical and Smile Inducing

For more detailed pictures, see their website:  thebilldaviswebsite.weebly.com

There were other booths that I admired as well.  Sew Friendzied (http://www.etsy.com/shop/SewFriendzied), with truly unique fabric earrings, bracelets, and headbands showed the craftsmanship of Diana Delaney.  I especially admired an orange headband, but it was just a tad too wide.  I will be following up with her to order a slimmer version.  Susan Cobb, of Circle of Stones (where Kathie purchased an amazing pair of lime colored stone earrings) was so knowledgeable of the stones she presented, we walked away educated and dazzled!  Here is some of their handiwork, along with a photo of the talented singer who provided just the right level of background sound.

BelfastArtMarket

Circle of Stones and Sew Friendzied

Upon leaving the FM next door, our bags contained a blueberry pie and a piece of baklava from Sweet Henry’s (guilty!), along with bleu cheese and blueberry cheese from Appleton Creamery (Kathie’s indulgence, not mine).

A not-so-quick lunch at Chase’s Daily, a zip through the Co-op, and a walk onto the pedestrian bridge afforded a tour of old Belfast.  This was a full day of fun and adventure, and if we could have stayed for the Celtic Festival which was starting tonight, we would have.  There is always next year!

Belfast

As we drove back to Deer Isle, we stopped at a local farm stand to pick up a box or two of fresh raspberries.  Again, the honor system was hard at work.

Yum!

And to top off an already wonderful day, we were surprised to see that blueberries were ripe for the picking when we stopped at Caterpillar Hill.  We, of course, had to eat two for every one that made it into our bag.  After all, this is Robert McCloskey country (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McCloskey)

~ Nancy

Day 583: Island Business

I don’t know the exact numbers, but it seems that just about every one of the 2,400 year-round residents in this area works for themselves.  Deer Isle is a mere 29 square miles, and one does not have to travel far to find an entrepreneur.  Whether making pottery, paintings, baskets, or jewelry, area inhabitants certainly have an artistic flare.  There are 52 artists listed in the Deer Isle Artists Association’s website alone! (http://www.deerisleartists.com)

Island business is carried out in many instances on the honor system.  Those of us who have been city dwellers may marvel at the concept – choose your purchase and leave the money in the jar (or tin, or cigar box).   While I have posted an image of the Tinder Hearth bread at 44 North Coffee on facebook, here it is again:

Tinder Hearth Bread

At $6.50/loaf, the bread is pricey, but tastes amazing.  Delivered fresh twice a week, it is addictive (Raisin Spelt is a particular favorite).  Of course, one must not include those croissants in their weekly bread run.   The bread is made in Brooksville, a short drive away.  More on that later.

44 North Coffee, my getaway haunt, also has their own self pay station.  While their roasting and pour-over operation is located on the second floor of the old high school (the principal’s office, to be exact), they offer a quick-fill as well. For those customers that just want to run in and grab a pump-pot fill, and a biscotti or two, they offer a table just inside the door, at the base of the stairs.  Note the cigar box for payment:

Roadie choosing a snack

Roadie Choosing A Snack

But Deer Isle Clams really takes the honor system to another level.  Located on the road to Sunshine, they have set up a refrigerator which is stocked daily, with what I am told are the best steamers for miles around.   Take a look at this setup:

Making a Living

Making A Living

There are also strawberry stands, blueberries, farm stands, eggs, even pottery shops that aren’t manned, just leave a note and payment…everyone sharing the bounty of hard work and creative spirit.

It’s just the island way.

~ Nancy

Day 582: Getting Started

How can we be 582 days into our full time adventure, and I have yet to get the website solidly established? Or consistently documented the sights and sounds of our wanderings?

I would love to say that it is because we have just been having too darn much fun.  Now, that may be true, but I think it is really the procrastinator in me that has taken over.  While it was a prominent trait when I was younger, I kept that tendency buried for a good 30 years as I established a fine-tuned routine of family and work.  Once that routine was blown away by this new lifestyle, I struggled to establish any sense of order in my daily life.

Yesterday, as David and I were talking and walking with his sister Nancy, we reflected on some of the diverse locations we have found ourselves in during this past year-and-a-half.  A feeling washed over me like a wave – if I had kept this journal up properly, I would have these places documented with pictures, and words, readily available to revisit.  And to share with whoever happens upon my ramblings.

So this morning, I awoke with a new plan.  Since I cannot trust my brain to remember yesterdays properly, I vow to post my daily journal entries each night.  Some days will absolutely be more interesting than others.  But as I get more comfortable with this medium, and find my voice, I hope to have something to contribute each time I sit down and marvel at how pushing buttons on a keyboard make letters magically appear on my screen.

~ Here’s to finding a witty signoff… Nancy

I never get tired of this view

I never get tired of this view