With the much larger yard at our new house, the kids have been lobbying for a trampoline. At first, Sarah and I were completely opposed to the idea. Cost and safety were concerns, of course, but we also didn’t want a gigantic ugly thing dominating the yard. The kids, however, were persistent, going as far as creating a slide presentation about the many benefits of a trampoline.
As we scouted around the yard for a location, we realized that at the far end of the yard, there was an overgrown area that was actually reasonably flat if we mowed it down. In the summer it is completely out of sight from the house, shielded by trees and bushes. Our resistance crumbled. And now we have a trampoline in its own hidden glade.
We bought a 2012 Nissan Leaf this summer so that I could commute to school from our new house (no longer in walking distance). We went for an old one because it was inexpensive and we wanted to experiment with it to see if an electric vehicle would be a good fit for us.
It’s turned out to be great. Although it has a weak battery (only 60 miles at best on a full charge, and I wouldn’t trust it for more than 40), it works perfectly as a commuter car. My typical round-trip from school is about 20 miles. Thus I have plenty of padding to allow for a few errands or taking Griffin to after school sports and other activities. Other than that, it handles great on the road, with impressive acceleration.
We’ve had it for long enough now to have some numbers to compare with the energy costs for our Mazda CX9 (traditional gasoline engine). In September we installed a 240 volt dedicated charging station in the garage as part of an incentive from Xcel Energy. We are charged a very low rate for power as long as we only use it between 12:00 AM and 6:00 AM. It’s on a timer so that it won’t kick in early if we plug the car when we park it. We can override the timer if we need to, but the rates go up significantly. (There are two additional tiers, with the peak rate being about 10ⅹ the overnight rate.)
In October we spent $15 on electricity for the car, translating to 239 kWh and about 717 miles of driving. Similarly, in November we spent $16 for 245 kWh and 735 miles. That translates to about $0.02 per mile. Gasoline over that time period has averaged around $3.12 per gallon. The Mazda gets around 23 miles per gallon in town (better on the highway), so we’re spending about $0.14 per mile on gas. That’s 6–7 times more expensive than the equivalent for the Leaf.
Of course, we can store a lot more energy in the gas tank and we can fill it up more easily, so there are tradeoffs. We’re still not in a position where we could try driving the Leaf to the cabin, for instance. It takes about 3 hours for the car to charge up fully on our special charger. It would take a lot longer on a 110 outlet (more than twice as long). I’ve used a fast charging station a few times (just as an experiment); they take 20–30 minutes.
Even with plentiful fast-charging stations along the route, it wouldn’t really work to take the 2012 Leaf. We’d still have to stop at least three times to recharge, adding another 90 minutes to the trip. But, if we upgrade some day to a more recent model, we’d be in great shape. The current crop of Leafs get 150–200 miles on a charge, so we might be able to make it in one go and then plug it in at the cabin to trickle-charge until we were ready to go. Barring that, we could easily recharge once at a fast charging station.
It’s exciting technology. I’m glad we’re exploring it.
Spotted a red fox under the apple tree in the back yard this morning. At first I thought it was a large cat, but then it turned its face toward the window. Definitely a fox. Looked very much like the one in the picture below, but I did not catch it on my camera. (This picture is from the internet.)
We suspect that the fox was interested in the birds around our bird feeders. (We recently added a few bird feeders out near the apple tree.)
Other recent wildlife updates:
There are active moles tunneling under the yard in various areas.
Plenty of hawks and bald eagles who, along with the owls, are probably snacking on the moles.
On the evening of Halloween, I was startled by a huge stag crossing the street in front of our house. It was the biggest animal I had seen in the wild in a long time.
Turkeys continue to march around the yard a few times each day. They have been managing to flap up into the crab apple trees to eat the little apples.
Piper was recently excited to discover the remains of a deer by the trail.
We continue to hear the barred owl almost every day. It’s quite vocal! I spotted it a few evenings ago, perched on a phone line. It was bigger than I expected. We’re hoping to catch a glimpse with a bit more light.
Piper and I saw a muskrat crossing the trail while running this morning.
I don’t remember if we included snakes on the previous list, but garter snakes are quite common. Saw a rather large one right outside the back door a few days ago.
I know that I should be posting more about our trip to Du Nord, but I wanted to provide an update about some of the wildlife that we’ve seen and/or heard at our new home.
I recently posted about the wild turkeys that Piper an I encountered on a nearby trail. It turns out that the turkeys are pretty ubiquitous. It’s a rare day where we don’t see or hear some of them in the yard or on the trails. We frequently see a family of nine strutting through the yard. Here’s a list of other wildlife that we’ve encountered recently:
A buck with fuzzy horns on a trail behind our back yard.
Two coyotes trotting through the yard while I was taking laundry off the line. They came within 20 feet of me before noticing that I was there and scampering off into the woods.
Numerous garter snakes.
We hear lots of songbirds and frequently see cardinals and goldfinches in the yard.
Hummingbirds enjoy our flowers.
Last night and this evening, we heard loud hooting from a barred owl in the woods across the street. We have yet to spot it, but have high hopes. It seems to vocalize around sunset.
We’ve also spotted lots of scat in the woods, much of which we don’t recognize yet. We’re learning quickly, though, and intend to continue developing our understanding of the local fauna.
It was a lovely Sunday with a mix of productive and leisure activities. Griffin had a good friend over. I spent time exploring Menards and figuring out how to setup our wired and wireless network. Sarah and the kids went on a walk. We met some friendly neighbors. Lots of small things were checked off our to do lists (e.g., new cord for garage light, locate water valve for fridge, replace flickering lights, program garage door remotes, etc.).
Today was mixed. I felt like I spent much of it looking for items that I couldn’t find (hidden in boxes I have yet to locate). Vegetable peelers, lotion, kitchen knives, sugar, etc. All minor things, but it is frustrating to reach for something simple and then realize that you have no idea where it is.
On the other hand, Maggie was a magnificent helper today. She tackled mowing the lawn, pumping up the pool, and using the central vacuum.
We discovered a large colony of bumblebees living in the mulch at the back of our house. Iâ€™ve spotted other ground hives before (e.g., yellow jackets) but never bumblebees. The picture doesnâ€™t include any of the drama, but there are numerous entrances hidden in the bark. They depart to visit the flower garden and return visibly laden with golden pollen on their rear legs.
Grandma Pam spent the day with us in the new house today. She was a godsend, bringing us some delicious food, helping to unpack boxes in the kitchen, and spending hours rehabilitating our mangy couch.
Maggie is getting rather clever. Conversation this evening, starting with my question:
“Should we go exploring after dinner?” “No!” “We can walk down the sidewalk and see where it goes. There are some trails in the park up there.” “That sounds long.” “Not too long!” “What about ticks?” “The ticks won’t get us.” “Hmm. But don’t you think mama would want to be with us for our very first hike at the new house? I think we should wait until she gets back on Friday.”