Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Solar, Roadrunner,

This is been holding up my posting. I just hadn't finished it properly or explained it as well as I'd like. So I'm just going to post, and hope for the best.

We recently purchased solar panels for our house, and I wanted to lay out the analytical justification. I'm very analytical, and probably drove our main sales point-of-contact nuts with weeks of questions. We decided on purchasing our panels from Solar City. Here's how we arrived at that decision.

Our electric utility provider is APS. We are on an equalizer plan where we pay the same amount every month, with adjustments here and there. Our monthly equalizer payment is $380.
Throughout 8 months of the year our electricity usage is pretty consistent at 1,600-1,800 kWh per month. June-September our usage spikes dramatically with the temperature and AC usage. July of 2014 was our biggest month at 5,020 kWh. Usually though we're at 4,000. The utility has a rate plan we use called "time advantage 7pm - noon" wherein we pay a peak rate for use between noon and 7 pm, and a lower rate for off peak.  We do everything discretionary during off peak, i.e. laundry, dishwasher, pool pump. The air conditioner is the main peak usage. Also, we have natural gas in the house, which we use for the cook top, fireplace, water heater, and clothes dryer.

With solar panels the utility company doesn't change except for when we produce more than we use. We'll still use the peak/off peak rate plan. If our panels produce more energy (in kWh) than we use, they credit us with a future kWh. Solar peak production is 11 am-4 pm. So if during the hour of 11 am we use 2.5 kW, put our panel generates 8.5 kW, we have 6 off-peak kW we can use later, like that evening when the sun is down. Some scenario for peak hours.
Currently we pay $0.24 kWh summer peak ($0.20 kWh winter) and $0.06 off peak.
So the off peak rates are not bad. The solar system was designed to generate power when it's expensive to purchase, noon to 7.
Now here's nitty gritty. The system costs 30,000. The federal government has a tax credit of 30%, so in April I will get a tax credit of 12,000 between the federal and state. I have financed the panels with Solar City for 4% for 30 years. Our payment runs $105 to solar city. Our estimated new APS with be $150-$200. And that is the main economic reason for us.

On to other things. Jeff has been doing his mountain bike races all over. 2 weeks ago in Flagstaff.

This week in Prescott.
This is the start of the sophomore boys

And this is the end, 2 laps later. 

We had a cool roadrunner on our front strip the other day.

And lastly. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Labor Day Planting

I headed over to Summerwinds over the Labor Day weekend (see this great labor day memorial). I had a muhlenbergia capillaris 'Lenca'  Regal Mist Pink Muhly that died, so I took it back and bought a lot in return! I know these pictures are actually pretty boring, they are small plants and not "doing anything" yet. This blog just helps me remember when I planted what and where.

Red Baja Fairy Duster - calliandra californica

Sandpaper Verbena, a suggestion from AZPlantLady - verbena rigida.

Blackfoot Daisy - melampodium leucantham

Another great suggestion from Noelle, Angelita Daisy - tetraneuris acaulis

Some salvia species, I'll track down specifics.

My agave lophantha quadrocolor sent off multiple pups. I planted them in various places around the yard.
Four along the west strip of the yard, one under the mesquite.

I hope to fill, and I mean pack tightly, this strip with compact sized species, like a. lophantha, a. titanota, a. parryi, a. geminiflora, a victoriae-reginae.

Also one Zinnia seed of dozens planted bloomed. 

On to the backyard plantings. If you're still with me here, bless you.
Red Mexican Bird of Paradise, caesalpinia pulcharrema in the mid-ground and Pink Baja Fairy Duster, calliandra eriophylla near the boulder. Near the rock feature in the fresh dirt are 3 banana pups from the banana trees.

Red Mexican Bird of Paradise, caesalpinia pulcharrema, next to the remains of a too delicate red hibiscus, that broke my heart by dying after serious attention for months. I still haven't fully given up, unrealistically. I left the roots hoping something resurrects.

Rain Lily, zephyranthes near the pool.

Pink Baja Fairy Duster, calliandra eriophylla

Guara, guara lindheimeri. I love this little guy, looking forward to watching it grow.

Black Knight Butterfly Bush, buddleja davidii. This was a steal I found at Lowe's, in the deep discount section. It's a mess, barely alive, but it will be a beauty next summer.

As mentioned above, I replanted the 3 banana pups over by the pool rock feature. I'm not sure of the exact variety, hopefully we'll get bananas someday and I'll know. In the last big wind storm the bigger banana broke, but it's still putting out new leaves.

I relocated the desert senna, senna covesii, from a pot to the yard. It was looking a little restricted in the container.

In the neighborhood, a lot of the agave vilmoriniana, octopus agave, bloomed. Over the months on my morning walks I have collected and potted more than a dozen bulbils. I've also guerrilla gardened dozens around the neighborhood. Everywhere I've seen an empty drip emitter. This week I planted 9 of them around the backyard. I've noticed that the octopus agaves in full sun struggle through the summer. Those in partial shade are magnificent. So I've planted these in partial shade.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Compost project

Solar City sent us a $100 big box store gift certificate for signing up for solar (I'm looking forward to posting about this). I used it to purchase the supplies I needed to make a larger compost bin. Using the instructions from here, I made, over the course of 2 weekends, this lovely plant rotting device!
The grapefruit tree gets in the way a little, I'm still working on the final location. After all, it's really all about your soil when planting to grow. Plus our weekly garbage can is much lighter since I started composing in March.

 The sunset last night was remarkable. The green area by the fence is my watermelon patch. Yes I still have lawn, give me some time, it'll come out when I'm good and ready for it!

Creepy warning!

The first day on a walk with Ginger since her stiches, we ran into a dead rattlesnake. Right by our house. Yuck.

To go along with my previous post, this Desert Museum Palo Verde is going to need years of shaping, but is healthy enough for the job. I'd match another one on the other side of the driveway, the same distance from the curb.

We call this "the hospital". This is where I nurse my plants that struggle with summer heat or needed special attention. I have not been able to get the Moroccan mound to root no matter what I try, otherwise things are good here.

I planted an inordinate amount of plants on Labor Day, photos to come.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wolverine Ginger, Flowers, and Feedback requests

I've been surprised at how many people have asked about Ginger and how she's doing. It's so nice of everyone. Here's the update. I think she's part wolverine or has mutant healing powers. A few years ago she was jumping on a trampoline, goofed up, and was cut by a spring. The hook completely pierced her ankle and hooked her Achilles tendon. She healed up from that super quick, no scar even. The picture below shows the side that was worse with her recent javelina run in. It's already healed. She doesn't care about stitches, the cone, anything. All she wants is to have someone throw the ball and take her for walks and let her swim again. Stitches come out Friday. Not soon enough for her.
It's not Ginger without a tennis ball.

It's not dangerously hot now, and things are starting to grow or bloom again.
 Desert senna, senna covesii.

The canna lilies are blooming again, although the heat has taken the beauty out of their foliage and just turned them green without the striations that make canna leaves so amazing.

I love this little cactus. It's so ambitious! It's an opuntia microdasys. New River jasper is a stone that can be found in the seasonally dry New River bed and downstream. Near our house I've collected a few while out walking. The whole of my collection is in this pot and the next. Along with some white quartz.

Paper spine cactus, tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus. It's has started to add two new segments rather quickly recently.

A friend of mine had a birthday recently and the most thoughtful thing I could think to give was a plant arrangement.  
This is an agave parryi var. truncata, an artichoke agave. Along with collecting jasper when out wandering the desert, I also will pick up tumbled quartz. These are all peach colored. I think it turned out pretty good (despite breaking all sorts of plant show staging rules).

I finally decided where to place the Whale's Tongue Agave, agave ovatifolia. For those worrying about my poor planting job and exposed roots, I fixed that since the photo was taken. Yes I know this is going to be an enormous agave, yes it's close to the justicia.

Everyday I drive by this amazing agave. It's the only one I've seen like it anywhere around here. I have to think some agave loving landscaper put it in the middle of a major road, right next to an intersection of another major road. I'm not sure of the species, if you have any ideas, please comment. My guess is agave havardiana.

Finally, I'd be interested if anyone has any suggestions on plantings off to the side of the house. We have a gravel driveway leading back to an RV gate. We have neither RV or boat, and no intention of having them. The arrows below illustrate how one could still have use of the gate and where I'm debating planting a large tree. For now I've decided on a Desert Museum Palo Verde, but am still thinking. In fact, I've created a work-in-progress page off to the right with all my tree thoughts and research.
A couple things here to mention. The hesperaloe is recent and not well thought out. I just wanted to get them in the ground somewhere out front. They are probably too close together. If I wanted to use the gate, I could removed the red yuccas without a problem. The idea behind the tree is to add some shade to this north facing side of the house, and some more green and life to this side. 

So please feel free to comment on tree suggestions, placement suggestions, planting ideas, etc. Also, thoughts on the agave species.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Watermelon, Senna, Red Yucca

 One of the watermelons finally was ripe enough to pick. I read that when the tendril nearest the node dries out, the plant is done feeding the fruit. It's been huge for weeks. Turns out it's as big as a head.

The flesh was ok. Not some glorious fruit that defies corporate watermelon oligarchs. But it's mine, and that counts for something. It's a little less flesh, huge seeds.

I had removed a hesperaloe parviflora, Red Yucca, to make way for something else out front. I combined the whole plant in one big pot, that then started wilting and falling over. So I tied the whole thing up, it looked like a wave or an awesome hair cut. Fortunately no pictures or complaints from the neighbors. Yesterday, I divided them and put them in the ground in the gravel driveway.

The soil was so compacted and hard I could barely dig holes for them. Desert soil has a challenge called caliche. It's a layer of naturally forming concrete basically. I've never run into it before in personal digging. Definitely did this time. I wonder if the plants will have drainage issues, root rot or something.

I'm not sure I'm crazy about this location, but it's ok, adds some green, and it's easy easy to remove later. Again these have like bulbs for roots. I googled but found no results for edibility.

I found a desert Senna with seed pods a while back and decided to collect and plant. Yesterday they bloomed.

I collected the seeds at Apache Wash, the trailhead where my oldest rides mountain bikes with his team. (Did you know mountain biking is a sanctioned high school sport now days? It's a wonderful time to be alive!) I actually like this desert weed. It turned out great.

Inspired by Hoover over at Piece of Eden, I fixed up my hummingbird feeder, cleaned it, refilled it, moved it.
This is the view from the kitchen window. Hopefully we'll get some hummingbirds soon!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Peccary Pain and Corn Silk

We had some unwanted excitement Saturday morning. While walking the dog in the desert, Ginger (the dog) unexpectedly ran into a small javelina family of 4. Being that they are fairly blind and deaf, they were startled and defended themselves instinctually. This meant Ginger got 4 nasty cuts, some stitches, and the cone of shame.

It also was lucky she didn't get a punctured lung, arterial bleeding, or a one-way ticket to doggy heaven.
It turned out better than it looks. She's doing good, just recovering from a beating she took at the hands of some nasty homeless brutes.

On a lighter note, the silks in my corn plot came out this week and many of the stalks have ears now with silks.

The tassels are anthers, male flowers with pollen.

The pollen is wind born to the silks. Silks are the female flowers and each silk is a pollen tube for each kernel. Hopefully the ears will be full of kernels. I suppose I could try to manually spread the pollen. I did this morning give a stalk a shake and blow towards the other stalks, but that seemed futile.