Our good spatula broke in
two. I tried gluing it once, but it didn't hold for long.
It works okay like this...but
we lost a pastured beef meatball last week due to it separating.
Today I got lucky with
drilling a hole through both the plastic and metal and securing it with
some found hardware. With any luck this will put an end to any future
It turns out that a
like-minded neighbor was living a mere half mile down the road from us
all this time, and we only learned the extent of our similarities when
she got ready to move away. For health reasons, our neighbor is
having to return to her home state, and she decided that much of her
homesteading gear wasn't worth shipping south. Did we want a rocket stove, hand-cranked generator, solar oven (with one broken pane), and much more? Definitely!
I'm most excited about
experimenting with the rocket stove and the solar oven, while the
Chinese military-issue generator from 1972 tops Mark's list.
However, what I actually
used first was an item I thought wouldn't be much use to us here.
A simple wooden rack of drying trays makes sense if you live in a
climate where the humidity doesn't often hover around 80%, but if we
tried to dry food in such a device without building a solar dehydrator around it, we'd just grow mold.
Still, when I realized
I'd picked too much basil for my current batch of pesto, I thought ---
maybe the simple drying setup would work for herbs? I filled the
four trays with basil, oregano, chives, and Egyptian onions and will
report back in a few weeks once I discover which, if any, dry quickly
enough to maintain their flavor in our wet climate.
A huge thank you to our soon-to-be-ex neighbor for sharing the bounty with us!
An old hand cranked Chinese
military generator found its way back to us recently. (More on those
It was designed to power Army
radios in the field. Cutting the 4 pin cable reveals black, red, and
white wires. The red and white wires equal 30 regulated volts at 1 amp
and the red and black outputs 25 regulated volts at 2 amps.
I'm surprised at how
little effort it takes to create 12 to 15 volts. The first experiment I
want to do is hook up an additional voltage
to try charging a golf cart battery.
When Mark's gas-powered
died after only a couple of years of use, I decided to see if there were
any battery-powered chainsaws out there. It turns out that quite a
saws are starting to look like possibilities for homesteaders who just
need to cut enough firewood to get them through the winter. Is a
battery-powered chainsaw a good option for us (and for homesteaders like
While attempting to
answer that question, I came across many pros and cons for
battery-powered versus gas chainsaws. The major disadvantage of
battery-powered chainsaws is that they're not quite up to handling the
same extreme cutting conditions that gas-powered saws are. Most
reviews of even the best battery-powered chainsaws suggest that cutting
trees more than 9 to 12 inches in diameter (depending on the hardness of
the wood) might stress your saw, and you'll need to be pretty careful
with maintaining chain sharpness to get even that level of
cutting. Similarly, you can't cut all day with a battery-powered
saw since the battery usually gives out after an hour or two, and, in
the long run, replacement batteries usually cost over a hundred bucks
once the cell stops accepting a charge. (Of course, Da Pimp might extend that battery life considerably.)
On the other hand,
battery-powered saws have a major appeal for folks like us who wouldn't
usually be cutting for more than a couple of hours at a time
anyway. There's the quietness factor --- not only are
battery-powered saws silent when not cutting, they're much quieter than a
gas-powered chainsaw even when zipping through wood. We'd never
have to fight those ornery pull starters (that always seem to get harder
and harder to pull as a gas-powered saw ages), and maintenance in
general is likely to be much simpler with a battery model.
Homesteaders who go for months without cutting won't need to be as
worried about their saws if they opt for battery-powered versions since
there's no fuel to go bad, and battery-powered saws probably cause less
overall pollution than a typical two-stroke gas saw. Finally, a
battery saw definitely feels safer since the motor isn't running at all
as you move between areas to cut.
Is the pleasantness factor worth the lack of power? We received a review saw from Oregon to see if we can answer that question. Stay tuned for a bunch of posts from Mark as he experiments with our trial saw,
and for a later post from me explaining how we narrowed down the
battery-powered chainsaw choices out there. In a few weeks, I hope
that we'll be able to tell you whether or not a battery-powered
chainsaw is worth the expense for homesteaders.
We tried out the new Oregon battery powered chainsaw today.
I was very impressed with the
power. We cut down a medium sized walnut tree with no problem. We also
cut up some small pieces for an upcoming Rocket Stove experiment
It's nice to not need ear protection.
Even though I'm quite happy with my current cover-crop campaign (explained in depth in Homegrown Humus), there are some gaps I want to fill in both the book and in my own protocols. Time for an experiment!
Part of this year's cover-crop experiment is going to take place off-farm. As with any gardening book, Homegrown Humus
is largely based on my own experiences, which means that people who
live far away may have slightly different results. So I tracked
down ten readers scattered across the U.S. who were willing to accept
free packs of cover-crop seeds in exchange for putting my experiments at
work in their own gardens. Seed packages went in the mail last
week for folks living in zone 5 and colder, while everyone else's seeds
will be mailed out tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to
learning how buckwheat and sunflowers do during "cold" months in the
Deep South and how oats, oilseed radishes, and fava beans fare all over.
"Fava beans?" you may be
saying. "You haven't mentioned that cover crop before." Very
astute of you! In fact, fava beans are the other part of this
year's cover-crop experiment --- trying out a new species for our farm.
I've read a lot about fava-bean cover crops on permaculture blogs, but
the legume seems to be hardy primarily in zones 7 and warmer.
Since we live in zone 6 (and sometimes have nearly zone-5 winters due to
our north-facing hillside), I figured fava beans were out of our
league. But why not push the envelope?
To that end, I soaked Windsor fava bean seeds for speedy germination,
then planted 0.625 pounds in several different locations around the
farm. Soon I'll know if fava beans are worth the high seed price
($12.75 per pound once you factor in shipping), whether they can handle
clayey soil, whether they will survive in waterlogged ground, and
whether they do well when mixed with oats and oilseed radishes.
Stay tuned for updates!
you want to be part of future experiments? I usually post this
type of opportunity to our facebook page, but even if you're already a
fan, facebook might not be showing you our updates. Be sure to
click the like button at the bottom of our posts when you notice them if
you want to be sure to see them on your news feed in the future!
The bottom of our chicken
tractor nest box collapsed this weekend.
After fixing it this morning
I made a holder for a 2 gallon chicken bucket waterer.
I knew when we bought our quarter of a cow
that we might run out of freezer space as a result, and the inevitable
has finally happened. Pastured beef, homegrown chicken, some
strawberry jam and leather, plus 22 gallons of various vegetables
equates to a freezer nearly full to the brim. What's next?
If it were September
instead of August, I'd say, "Time to rest on my laurels and prepare for
winter!" But the garden is still overflowing, and we should have
at least a bushel apiece left of beans, corn, and tomatoes coming in
over the next few weeks. In a pinch, I can give some away, but we
always wish we had more summer bounty come spring, so I'd prefer to
preserve at least a few more gallons of warm-weather food.
The obvious solutions to
round out our preservation campaign are canning and drying. If I
limit myself to plain tomatoes, canning is easiest since I can use the
hot-water-bath method, but I'm tempted to brush off the pressure canner
we bought years ago as a backup to the freezer and try my hand at
canning soup. Alternatively, I could dry tomatoes,
which is a bit more nitpicky but is cooler since the heat source is
outside rather than right in our living area. And, if I were
brave, maybe I'd even try my hand at drying corn and beans?
What do you do when you run out of room in the freezer and still have food in the garden? (Don't say "Buy a pig!")
Anna has been researching
battery powered chainsaws and somehow arranged for the nice people at Oregon tools to send us a
complimentary review chainsaw to drive around the block a few times.
The first test will have to
wait till the massive 40 volt battery charges up.
Stay tuned to see how long
the battery lasts and what kinds of firewood it can handle.
in 2003 when my previous watch died, I decided I wanted a watch that would
really go the distance. With my usual supreme unconcern for
aesthetics, I chose the huge specimen shown on the right above, and that watch has
served me very well. Between waterproofness, shock resistance,
solar battery charging, and automatically setting the time every night
using something I can't recall (radio waves from Texas?), I haven't had
to deal with watch issues in over a decade.
But all good things must
come to an end. The battery inside my beauty finally stopped
accepting a charge a few months ago, and I decided to buy a new watch rather than a new
battery. Over the last decade, due to Mark's hard work to smooth down
the edges of my type-A personality, I've stopped wearing a watch every
day and instead simply use my time piece to check the hour if I wake up
at night, to jerk me out of sleep once or twice a year when I can't wake
at my normal pace, and to monitor how long we've been rubbing rocks
when counting stream macroinvertebrates. I do
like the solar feature of my old watch since longevity is always a
boon, but since I rarely take watches out in the field now, I'm willing
to bypass the extreme waterproofing and shock resistance. I'm even
willing to set my watch twice a year to take care of daylight savings
time the hard way.
Despite that willingness
to downgrade, I put off buying a replacement watch for months. I
remember my old watch was pretty pricey (although I don't recall the
exact figure), and I wasn't sure I was willing to spend so much
again. But apparently solar technology has come down considerably
in the last decade. A simple solar watch now costs under $10 even after you factor in shipping!
At that price, and with such good reviews, Mark said he wanted one
too. Here's hoping my second solar watch will last another 11
years, not just the 6 years promised by the manufacturer.
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