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It's a portable panel and mounting it there makes it easy to remove to take camping.

Also, the metal strips bend so it can be reconfigured for summer and winter, which is something like 25% more efficient than a fixed roof mount.

I use it to charge up my USB gadgets and as backup power on rainy weeks like this one.

Comment by Sun Apr 23 11:36:48 2017
Ooooh, an underground house! I love it if you'd do a post on the design/details of that! Or does he have a website?
Comment by Terry Sun Apr 23 10:09:54 2017
Interesting, but why didn't he just mount it on the roof? Also, what size is it and what is it going to power?
Comment by Nayan Sat Apr 22 19:10:05 2017

Hi y'all. Your new Honda looks like a slightly fancier version of mine, which is also an HRX217 but without the slick "dashboard." I bought mine six years ago and have worked it pretty hard since then, as a single woman on a property much like yours.

It continues to work very well for me. The self-propulsion is a must-have for hilly and rolling terrain. And the ability to set the blades at 1/2-inch intervals from 1 to 4 inches means I can use it like a semi-bush hog when the grass and wild-weeds along the creek bank grow faster than the weather will let me cut them!

The one trouble I've had is the mulch/bag lever corroded so I've not been able to change that setting, which is a pain as I was hoping to gather more clippings this year for garden mulching and composting.

My local mower maintenance fellow says I should replace the blades this year, as we're entering the machine's seventh season of use and the poor thing has unwittingly chewed through everything from heaved rocks to thick branches to someone's long-lost glass ashtray (literally, chewed through the thick glass).

But otherwise, a roughly annual oil/filter/spark plug change and sharpening have seen us through rather nicely.

Comment by Beth Sat Apr 22 16:28:37 2017
Sounds like the perfect plan for the broken refrigerator on the porch.
Comment by Anonymous Sat Apr 22 13:22:04 2017

We love our Honda self-propelled mower! After spending less on cheaper models and having them wear out from our rough terrain, we bit the bullet and haven't looked back.

Nayan, is your mower really 22 HP? That's a tractor?

Comment by Nita Sat Apr 22 13:08:01 2017

in 2003 I bought a used Yard Machines 22 HP mulching push mower (not self-propelled) for about $85, and that thing lasted for about 13 years. What finally forced me to get a new one is not the engine, which still works just fine, but the deck literally fell to pieces from rust and just plain being used. That thing cut through all sorts of crap - blackberry brambles, honeysuckle (HATE that stuff!) and other pernicious weeds as well as tall (mid-calf length) grass, like a hot knife through butter. I loved that mower and was really upset I couldn't get another deck for it. Now I have another 21 HP mulching mower I just bought used ($75 if I remember correctly) that has potential bagging attachment which I spent $100 to get. Best $175 I ever spent. Not only does it cut through all the bramble/honeysuckle and tall grass like a hot knife through butter, but the bagging attachment means I can take that chopped-up grass and use it as mulch on my garden beds thus cutting down the amount of wheat straw I usually purchase from Lowes (and thus cutting my costs! Yay!)

I think you'll find that mower is just what the garden doctor ordered! :)

Comment by Nayan Sat Apr 22 08:21:54 2017
Way to go Anna! Does it come with a bagger or is that an option? If so.... Maybe I need one like it.....
Comment by kayla Fri Apr 21 12:24:07 2017
LOVE the hat!!!
Comment by Nayan Fri Apr 21 08:14:41 2017
How much horsepower does your mower have? My push mower has 21 hp and I find that cuts through large grass and weeds like a hot knife through butter.
Comment by Nayan Thu Apr 20 22:08:37 2017
Chris, you have no idea how much "thinkin'" and "ponderin'" I do on my riding mower, but then I'm mowing about 1.5 acres and push mower would probably kill me.
Comment by Nayan Thu Apr 20 09:32:18 2017
I suggested to my husband recently, we should look at getting a ride on mower for our older age. But he said he loves the push mower. A man can get a lot of meditation done behind one of those. ;)
Comment by Chris Thu Apr 20 05:51:00 2017
Glad little Edgar is responding to your interventions. :) Have you tried giving him treats as you walk with him on the lead? That way he knows the lead, leads to reward.
Comment by Chris Tue Apr 18 20:48:52 2017
An old timer in Missouri told me about this. He called it an Ozark Turkey Trap. They get away sometimes but a lot of times they plop right in
Comment by Joe Tue Apr 18 16:45:49 2017

Anna-I just came across your old post about the ragweed forest that your chickens seemed to enjoy (2011, I know, I know)...while I was searching for info on the giant ragweed. You may have already found this out but apparently this type of ragweed produces a very nutritious seed (47% protein) and the plants can be cut and composted or sheet composted and are supposed to be good compost activators. What a huge amount of biomass! Anyways...just passing on the trivia. Barbara Simmons

Comment by Barbara Simmons Tue Apr 18 16:28:53 2017
I would put it up ASAP, if only for tomatoes. I only grow tomatoes in hoop houses because late blight is almost guaranteed outside. Also good for chickens in winter.
Comment by Chris Tue Apr 18 11:57:46 2017

Hi Anna and Mark,

A goat farmer I know has had good luck with kelp with her goats. Acres Dec 2012 had an article by the late Jerry Brunetti "Balanced Buffet" about his experience with making multiple free choice minerals (12) available to his livestock. Helfter has a 12 choice mineral kit and feeder for larger animals.

I wonder if you have ever done a 'real' soil test as in Logan Labs Agridyne III (or whatever it is really called) to look for low levels in micro and nano trace elements?

Around here (Concord, NH) our soil is VERY low in Mn, Co and Mo and if that isn't enough my hair trace minerals match our soil?? This puzzles me, but the data are quite clear. Perhaps adding granite dust to some of your soil will have a bigger than expected result? or maybe kelp or sea shells. They are cheap enough.

warm regards, John

Comment by John Tue Apr 18 10:14:33 2017

As you drift away from reality, it gets harder to keep your audience from drifting into cognitive dissonance. Assuming they know some science.

So, since you are not hard core on the Steampunk, or even if you are, justify your hydrogen in terms of the impending Helium Sunset.

In the past few billion years, deep in the Earth, atomic decay has created ALL the helium we have at our disposal, and every party balloon, and weather balloon, and superconducting magnet in an MRI machine, etc., eventually vents some of that dwindling resource into the atmosphere, where it drifts up and off into space. We're using it up at many, many orders of magnitude the rate at which the Earth produces it. Hence the term "sunset". Oil's got nothing on you, He.

(Oh, wait, we found some more in Tanzania, so, problem solved, right?)

The only way I know for people to "make more helium" happens in very tiny amounts in the heart of a hydrogen bomb. When it explodes, of course. And, oh yeah, in the vast number of fusion reactors they've been promising us for decades.

Hydrogen, on the other hand, when vented, quickly forms a metallic oxide and falls back to Earth, contributing to the di-hydrogen oxide found in almost everything we eat and drink. Especially drink. And in rain, of course.

Previous comment was correct: "modern" airships will/do use carbon fiber composites for the air-frame, and Aramid/Kevlar/? fabric for the non-rigid hull. And would possibly risk lightweight flexible hydrogen gasbags made from thin multi-layer polymer films, with aluminized gas barrier layers (or gold for a better seal, and cooler look). Think really big, high tech mirrored Mylar party balloons. Like you occasionally see shorting out overhead power lines. Much better than the gelatin-sealed cotton bags used in the Hindenburg.

If you go with flexible thin-film solar cells on the hull, again, reality approved, you can use water and electrolysis to generate "make up" hydrogen in flight, if you like. I think Zeppelins really only vented hydrogen, which became excess lift as the engines burned fuel and the ship became lighter, but I could be mistaken. Don't bring water, adsorb it from the atmosphere as needed. Just so you know, modern helium airships go years without adding any gas.

You'd need a LOT of surface area to generate enough power to drive an airship on solar (search on Solar Impulse for solar flight), but assume higher efficiency than we currently have. And you're not generating lift, just locomotion. SLOOOW locomotion. An airship gets, like, 6 mpg; bad, for a Honda, but excellent for a Ferrari, and STUPENDOUS for a jetliner. And, it is fiction, after all.

Just remember, for solar to work, you have to consistently fly high enough to be over, or at least out from under, the clouds, and the higher you go, the less lift you get, the bigger your gasbags have to get. Which is part of why so many rigid Zeppelins never got the chance of a fiery demise: weather got them first. The North Atlantic is no place to fly ... anything, really. Especially if you have a 10000 foot operational ceiling.

Weather balloons have non-rigid bags, and thus expand as they rise higher in the atmosphere, generally until they pop. Take advantage of your tax dollars at work:

But remember, at 50 mph, a trans-Atlantic flight will include some darkness, the evil enemy of solar. (And strapping a magic jet engine to an airship will just rip it apart, faster.)

Maybe a hydrogen hybrid, using excess electricity during the day to store away hydrogen for the fuel cells at night. Stored in nano-sponges at low pressure, if you like. Maybe even inside the carbon fiber structural tubing.

Or skip the fuel cells and use rechargeable Lithium-Air batteries. The energy and power to weight ratios may or may not stand up to close scrutiny, but the cool factor...

A modern airship would easily operate on a flight crew of 6 to 10, including shift changes, 20 if you bring your own ground crew, so the question is how luxurious is the service? Some cruise ships operate at 1:1, passengers to staff; cut rate outfits run at 3:1. And there too, service staff vastly outnumber actual maritime crew. so for 20-40 passengers footing the entire cost of operations, 30 to 50 crew? Gotta give the people their money's worth!

Comment by Sparks Tue Apr 18 06:58:20 2017

Hi Anna and Mark,

The farmer I was working with, who just sold his farm, had 9 hoop houses. I watched him install 2 of them.

His comments were:

 Round top is best.

 Enough spacing between them to allow for snow plowing between them without damage by his tractor.

 One end door big enough (double door) to allow a real tractor inside. 

 One electric fan on one end to help with hot summer cooling.

 Roll up sides and continuous roof plastic.

 Wiggle wire to hold plastic at top of roll up portion.

 On a raised pad, cross wise to the prevailing wind so when the sides are up real air flow happens.

 Plastic long enough to seal well with the ground when the sides are down. 

 Sheet metal screws added to roll up pipe clips to keep them in place.

 Person door on one end to keep cold winds from shocking plants in early spring.

 Good luck,
Comment by John Mon Apr 17 14:26:03 2017

Nice! Have you had any problems with Cedar Apple Rust? I've had tons and someone suggested getting pears instead. Then the extension service said pears get rust as well. I put in two pears, two plums and, based on one of your online references got a combination red and golden Delicious. The last doesn't appear to be doing as well as the others as it's just now starting to leaf out, but it is early in the season.

Which one of your experiments do you think you'll continue and which do you think you'll kill other than the ones that are already dead?

Comment by Nayan Mon Apr 17 12:52:21 2017
I have to hand it to Mark, he comes up with some ideas- this looks like it will work better than the "bucket hauler" from a few seasons ago. :)
Comment by Eric Sun Apr 16 21:04:04 2017
Won't that large roof enable the chickens to get out? ::looks puzzled::
Comment by Nayan Sat Apr 15 23:37:54 2017
So glad you braved the world to go with us :)
Comment by kayla Sat Apr 15 07:33:01 2017
Great work!! I am sure Mark can get it running- hurry Mark!!
Comment by Jayne Fri Apr 14 09:39:32 2017
Go for it! You seem to have some talent for pottery (unlike me!) I especially like the bear piece.
Comment by Nayan Fri Apr 14 08:17:28 2017

you have to act fast or they'll eat your subject matter

...while smirking and flashing their butthole at you, when you try to photograph them too.

Comment by irilyth Thu Apr 13 14:52:57 2017
Thanks for your kind words! I'm so glad to hear The Weekend Homesteader is hitting the spot. :-)
Comment by anna Tue Apr 11 19:17:56 2017
Hey there. Just thought I'd mention that I have this book. I bought it several months ago, and didn't realize until this post that you were the author. I have to say, it's got some great info in it and I'm happy to own a copy.
Comment by Chris Robock Mon Apr 10 00:58:30 2017
I'm inclined to agree with both the electric fence and dog methods of keeping predators at bay. Traps can cause needless suffering, and killing all of them upsets the balance in your surrounding ecosystem. Joel Salatin's chicken tractor design has good, sturdy roofing to protect the birds in the pasture, as does John Suscovich's design.
Comment by Another Julie Sun Apr 9 17:58:09 2017
Last year I trapped 24 raccoons from May until the end of July in a Hav-a-hart trap. I used marshmallows. They can't resist them.
Comment by Julie K Whitmore Sun Apr 9 14:50:53 2017
Put a simple little electric fencer around your chickens and power it on at night. Do this for a week or two and you'll have completely cured your problem with 'coons - and 'possums and foxes and coyotes, etc. This is my only really effective and 'mostly' harmless way to handle predators. With a little electric fencer, you don't have to build concrete fortresses or go to herculean efforts with structures. 'Zap' 'em on the nose a time or two and the predators, who are after all opportunistic, will decide to seek greener pastures 'elsewhere.' Repeat lessons may be needed every six or eight weeks through the season....
Comment by Tim Inman Sun Apr 9 11:45:02 2017
I didn't even know that rhubarb had oxalic acid in it!
Comment by Nayan Sun Apr 9 09:24:36 2017

My neighbor (same one in the response) noticed that when he had a dog, the raccoons seemed to stay clear of the area. Unfortunately, the dog, being very old and sick, had to be put down. That was a few years ago. He's fencing in the area so that he could get another dog.

Does anyone else have any ideas on how to keep predators away?

Comment by Nayan Sat Apr 8 22:44:41 2017
I have used a "dog proof" trap for many years. It's simply a metal tube with a spring loaded catch that tarps the raccoon buy the front paw as he reaches inside for the bait. I use raisins as a bait. The raccoon will be alive and you will have to " dispatch" him your self by what ever means you chose. Anchor the trap securely as the raccoon will pull on the trap. I purchased mine at a farm supply store for $20.00.
Comment by Mike Sat Apr 8 19:15:14 2017
I'm with you, Nayan --- no way will this green plastic keep predators out. In my opinion, tractored hens are like chicks --- they need to be kept close to the house. Here's hoping that even without Lucy's assistance, our activity within the core homestead will keep troublesome chicken killers out.
Comment by anna Thu Apr 6 18:32:37 2017
Kathleen --- That's an excellent question. Luckily, lice are relatively species specific. These same lice will parasitize goats and sheep, but they won't hop to humans. Phew! :-) (And I hope your kids are doing better!)
Comment by anna Thu Apr 6 18:31:23 2017
I live in Knoxville, guessing maybe not even a latitude line beneath you guys? My rain barrels have never been emptied and the fixtures and barrels have always been fine. It was the cheapo-thin hose connecting them that split a few times, but not ever year, and usually when the hoses were touching the ground (heat sink?). The barrels were right up against the house - not a lot of wind chill and probably getting marginal radiated heat from the building.
Comment by Roz Thu Apr 6 18:18:22 2017
Depends where the barrel is located too. It looks like it's under the eave of a roof, which is known to protect against frost. I don't know what the protection level is during a freeze though.
Comment by Chris Thu Apr 6 18:13:58 2017
I did not empty our barrels the first year or two we had them installed but then we got in the single digits and the water froze in the ball valve and split the brass. The valve leaks when it's open but otherwise still functions. Other style spigots may keep this from happening but we like the unrestricted flow of the ball valve. We had no issues with the barrels during that time. We do drain ours now when the temperature stays below freezing for a few days or is expected to get into the 20's. We typically don't need much water during that time anyways.
Comment by Brian Thu Apr 6 14:09:20 2017

Hi Anna and Mark,

My first one did also. Not the rugged kind you have, but an old trash can.

Your periodically draining it a little now and then may well have reduced the volume enough so it did not crack?

Last year I put a large children's swimming pool there. It seems to have lasted. I dip water out of it. No spigot though.

I hope one day I get as organized as you both are.

warm regards, John

Comment by John Thu Apr 6 11:10:01 2017