Serenity Valley Department of Planning

My parents flew back to Japan today (Ed: I started writing this post yesterday), and I’m back in Staging Area Chico, enjoying the company and kittens of Camp Adams. I’m heading north to Redding tomorrow, and if my generator is fixed, head on to my land. Otherwise, I’ll stay in the Redding area until my generator is fixed.

I was talking to Josh earlier, and he asked what my plans were for my land. I have a bunch of projects in mind, so I thought I’ll make a blog post out of that. Here’s my list, more or less in order of urgency in no particular order:

  • Set up camp – I need to finish towing my trailer to its final resting place, and set up camp. I’m thinking of building a shelf/cot to go inside the trailer, and a wall with a window to cover up the back. Outside, I’ll set up a shade structure, build a table, and set up a food prep area where I’ll install my rocket stove.
  • Solar tracker – The sun moves, almost a 180 degrees throughout a day of light, every day. The frame that came with the solar panels that I’m using right now is a pain to move, so I need something easier to work with. Eventually, I might try and build an automated tracker, but I’ll probably start with a simple single-axis frame that I can tilt the panels around by hand.
  • Solar water distiller – Water is a scarce resource. Hauling in drinking water isn’t a problem, but I’d also like to take a shower occasionally, and that takes up a lot of water. So, to recycle the run-off from my shower, I’m thinking of designing and building a solar water distiller. Basically, it’ll be a solar oven (a box, black on the inside, with a clear top) that evaporates water, then the hot moist air gets sent through a cooling unit (kept cool by ice made in my freezer) and then the condensation is collected. I’m still in early design phase, so we’ll see if I manage to pull it off, but I think it’ll be cool. I prefer a distiller over filtration because filtration requires filters which will have to be bought or made, and then discarded. A distiller, in theory, should produce cleaner water reliably, unless there are microbes capable of being transported in vapor, or the water is contaminated with something with a low boiling point (like alcohol).
  • Mark borders – Right now, the borders of my property are defined by 5 surveyor’s markers (1″ pipes) set into the ground in 1970, and by a mound of stone erected by the General Land Office in 1880. That’s it, for the entire 7000ft+ perimeter. There is a barbed wire fence put up by the National Forest Service (I think) to the North and West, but they’re not exactly on my border. I also need to put up “No trespassing” signs. I think I got 140 signs, so I should be able to space them roughly 50 feet apart. I’m also thinking of putting up a crude fence made of fallen trees and branches, mostly to symbolically inform humans of the border, not so much to physically keep them out.
  • Setup my shooting range – I still haven’t quite figured out where to shoot. There’s sort of a ravine that cuts across the middle of my property that offers a nice inclined backstop from an area near where I want to set up camp. But if I put up targets on the far side of the ravine, I’ll have hike across the ravine and back to post or check the targets. I could put up targets closer, such that bullets would still impact the far side of the ravine, but there are some issues with that too. Where ever the back-stop ends up being, I’ll need to clear rocks to prevent ricochet, and clear brush to make sure nothing catches fire if bullets spark on impact (which shouldn’t happen since I don’t use steel-core bullets). I also might want to think about lead contamination… For shooting my .22 target rifle and hand guns, a make-shift backstop might be good enough (I hear a steel plate angled down to deflect bullets into a sand pit works fine).
  • Make videos – I bought a Flip UltraHD camcorder so I can take HD video! To be honest, I don’t care about HD (since my video will be consumed online in low-res) but Final Cut Express only does HD and it’s a pain to wait for it to “render” 640×480 res video that my point-and-shoot takes.

These are some of the bigger projects. I’m sure there will be many more smaller ones, many of which I don’t know about yet. Also, I hear the Serenity Valley Department of Tourism is planning something, so if you want to come visit and do some physical labor chillaxin’, keep an eye out for that too.

4 thoughts on “Serenity Valley Department of Planning

  1. i have been absolutely obsessed with solar concentrators lately. i’ve been reading about it non-stop for about 3 days. i downloaded and watched both mythbusters episodes about the Archimedes death ray, i’ve read up on at least 6 different methods to make a parabolic mirror and i’m now freely-conversant in knife-edge and foucalt test and spherical aberration and other terms used by people who make mirrors for telescopes.

    i’m planning to start making parabolic mirrors in a few weeks. i haven’t settled on my method yet, but i’m certainly going to be trying to make something big enough to easily boil water. want me to make you one?

    the other option is to get a big-ol frenel lens. the largest one on this site: costs $300 and concentrates almost a square meter of sunlight, which is about 1kW, into a point. This is enough to crack concrete, melt glass and run a steam engine:

    you almost certainly don’t need ice to condense the water again. just use a long spiral tube. the hardest part will be keeping the sun focused on your reservoir, as you’ve already figured. making a heliostat is so important that the department of defense has funded projects to invent inexpensive ones.

    • For what I’m thinking, I’m not sure I’ll need to concentrate sunlight much. I only need to be able to evaporate 2-3 gallons a day, and most of the open-air evaporation ponds I saw at Burning Man did much more, especially when the water was passed over some wire mesh. I’m going for something sturdy, durable, simple, and easy to transport, rather than maximum throughput.

      As for the condenser, I think the efficiency (condensation vs vapor you vent back out) directly correlates with how cool you can get the air. Passing the humid air through a long tube in the shade (where it’d be maybe 70-75F even in the summer) would certainly result in some condensation, but getting it down to the low 30s will surely extract more.

    • Well, most of the dirt road is on other people’s property, so I probably shouldn’t go in bulldozin there. Also, I’m actually happy that the part that does go to/through my land is obscure, and practically impassable. It discourages other random people from coming to my property.

      I like the monkey hut design. I might try that next year at BM, but I’m all set for now. That reminds me, I should do a write-up of my shade structure from BM this year…

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