Welcome! I have lived in my gulch for 40 years. Being an ex-mechanical/aeronautical engineer I never have been able to eliminate tinkering from my life. I also am an ambitious recycle freak. So I invent utilizing old junk. My home is built of old planks, skinned poles, creek stone for floors, meadow rock for walls, discounted cedar tongue and groove, and recycled tin roofing (although this has recently been upgraded).
I power my retreat with a hydroelectric system comprised of an old seed spreader turbine coupled to a vintage Chevy Truck alternator which in turn charges a bank of batteries. My place runs on either 12 volts dc or 110 volts ac. The 110 is supplied by a 1200 watt inverter powered by the bank of batteries. I back this up with a bank of three 175 watt solar panels. When there is no sun I go hydro...otherwise I can rely solely on solar.
I have 90 acres from which to glean dead fall for winter wood heat. My stove heats water via a natural phenomenon called convection, a process which also heats an outdoor shower empowered by the sun's rays. Convection is simply the replacement of cold water molecules with hot water molecules. The cold molecules are heavier than the hot. If you have a an enclosed coil in the heater or lying in the sun and if the top of the coil is hooked up to the top of a water tank while the bottom is tied to the bottom, the hot molecules simply displace the cold via convection. More simply put, the hot molecules enter the top of the tank while the cold molecules tumble down to the bottom of your coil and then begin to heat and rise to the hot outlet and into the tank.
My meadow is sprinkler timed by another design wonder which I call the "meadow monitor." Its difficult to explain. Basically overflow water from a 5000 gallon tank comes down a 3/4 inch line and slowly fills a bucket which hangs from a chain which in turn is tied to a lever. When the bucket fills it drops, overcoming a set of weights, and thus pulls the lever 90 degrees. The lever is tied to a 90 degree ball valve in a line coming down the mountain from the bottom of the 5000 gallon tank and is opened by the lever action and water flows to the meadow Rainbirds. The bucket has a small hole in the bottom which drains the bucket in about 1 and 1/2 hours. The 5000 gallon tank has dropped its water content about 3000 gallons, which is why the overflow water line no longer delivers water to the bucket. When the bucket has drained the weight counterbalance lifts the bucket, turning the lever back 90 degrees in the process, and closes the ball valve. The big tank fills back up in about 12 hours and the overflow starts the whole process all over again. It has worked for 30 years without a breakdown.
I'll talk about more stuff later. In the meantime get acquainted with my site. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any comments or questions.