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Dec 2015

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Water tower where the WISP emits from.

We considered satellite internet options when we first got to Athens but decided to go with a local Wireless Internet Service Provider called Intelliwave. They have an antenna on top of the local water tower a few minutes down the road from us.

It's been a little over a month now and we are happy to report that it works as advertised without any unplanned interruptions.

The speed is only about 2 mbps but fast enough to stream Netflix with no data limit like the satellite options impose.

Posted Sat Dec 16 07:00:09 2017 Tags:
Growing sunflower microgreens

It may be too late in the year to put in the full fall garden I crave, but there are always experiments to be undertaken. For example --- growing sunflower microgreens inside!

A little internet research suggests that the tasty tidbits we purchased at the farmer's market are a lot like sprouts...but not quite. To replicate our experiment, start with raw oilseed sunflower seeds --- the black kind with no stripes, often intended for birdseed. Soak a handful for multiple days (changing the water every twelve hours), then spread the barely sprouted seeds in a seed-starting flat atop a thin layer of potting soil. Finally, it's just a matter of waiting for the cotyledons to emerge.

Sprouting sunflower seeds

We put our flat on a heat mat for the first couple of days to hurry things along. After that, though, I felt like the seeds were getting too hot. So I turned off the mat and let them linger at room temperature, watering every day or two but keeping the humidity dome in place most of the time. (I did tend to air them out once a day, especially when the heat mat was turned on.)

It took about a week and a half from first soak to first harvest, and I expect to keep cutting microgreens at the soil line for up to a week after that. When this flat is done, the used potting soil and roots will go in the compost pile --- a bit wasteful, but not terribly bad since the organic matter will all end up back in the garden.

And then it's time to start soaking seeds for another flat. It sure is nice to have something fresh and green growing inside while the snow flies outside our trailer!

(This experiment has been supported by David Hicks. Thanks, David! If anyone wants to join our monthly donor program, you can sign up near the bottom of the page here.)

Posted Fri Dec 15 07:00:13 2017 Tags:
New work bench upper shelf.

I found a nice oak section of a desk for 10 dollars at the Reuse store that made a good upper shelf for the new work bench project.

Posted Thu Dec 14 07:00:11 2017 Tags:
Minisplit install

We learned a huge amount during our recent minisplit install, and I thought I'd try to sum up the most salient points in one post to help others who might want to follow in our footsteps.

First --- is a minisplit a good idea in a trailer? Most installers told us no because the rooms at the far ends of the mobile home won't receive uniform heat. We're used to heating with a wood stove, though, and don't mind using space heaters at the extremities to top off heat as necessary. We figured the much higher efficiency of a minisplit compared to a mainstream electric furnace or traditional heat pump counteract this slight downside and we still feel that way after enjoying our new device for a few blissful days.

A slightly more tricky issue is the potential for water lines to freeze. I hadn't realized that trailers are designed with air-duct heating in mind, so the water lines run beside the air lines under the trailer. We'll keep you posted if this issue materializes and requires an outside-the-box fix.

Pressurization equipment

Next, let's look at the pros and cons of DIY versus the traditional route of paying to have a minisplit installed by a pro. After calling pretty much every HVAC company in the area, I've discovered that a minisplit like the one we got for $1,300 from Home Depot (plus about $200 in tools, $50 for the wall bracket, and $225 for the final line work from a pro) would have cost us $5,000 to $8,000 if we'd gone the traditional route. So, yes, we saved big bucks doing a lot of the work ourselves.

On the downside, we won't have the support of a licensed dealership behind us if anything goes wrong. And it's possible our machine won't be as long-lived as the Mitsubishi models several of the dealerships in the area are peddling. Once again, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, I'm pretty happy with getting such an efficient model on a shoestring budget.

Testing minisplit lines

Finally, when do I recommend calling in a pro? A reasonably handy DIYer should have no problem installing both exterior and interior units themselves. Running the lines between them is actually less tricky than I'd thought as long as you take extreme care with making bends gently and slowly.

And the connections (with pre-flared lines like the ones that came in our kit) are less finnicky than I'd thought. Mark and I went to great lengths to buy fancy torque wrenches and get the tightness just right...but our tech finished the job with ordinary wrenches by feel. Basically, you just want the connections to be tight.

So what's it worth paying for? Go ahead and call in an HVAC expert to test the lines with nitrogen, pressurize them, then release the refrigerant from inside the unit. First of all, it's illegal to do this step yourself. Second, this is the tricky part that most benefits from fancy equipment. For $200, a pro will do it right...assuming you can find someone in your area willing to work on equipment not their own.

Posted Wed Dec 13 07:00:11 2017 Tags:
Retractable clothesline

This indoor retractable clothesline makes winter laundry fun.

It's heavy duty enough to dry two comforters at once. Then it nearly disappears when not in use.

Eventually, we'll get our outdoor line going. But for now, our indoor unit is more than enough.
Posted Tue Dec 12 07:00:15 2017 Tags:
Compost tumblers

"It seems everybody here is doing a much better job with these barrel-type composters than I ever did. Mine would dry out the contents so quickly it was like a barrel full of dry leaves, which of course never composted.... What am I doing wrong?" --- Roz

This is an excellent question! To be honest, I'd never used a tumbler before (although now we have two of them thanks to the massive unit Rose Nell recently donated to the cause). I think I might be able to help you troubleshoot though.

Two bin compost tumbler

Here's what the older and younger bins look like inside our original tumbler. This isn't optimal composting either --- too much high-nitrogen food scraps ("greens") make the contents too moist. In our case, we need to add some autumn leaves ("browns") to bring the bins into balance.

I'm guessing Roz may have the opposite problem --- too many browns and too few greens. Maybe she raises chickens and gives the yummiest bits to the flock. Or maybe she puts in lots of yard waste or simply eats different types of foods than we do. Either way, adding in more greens would help bring the bin back into balance. Chicken manure would be the obvious solution, or you could try soaking the proto-compost with human urine to add nitrogen and moisture at the same time.

(Hey, I never said this post was going to be photogenic. If I grossed you out, go look at the top photo again. First snow!)

Posted Mon Dec 11 07:00:10 2017 Tags:
Making a new kitchen shelf.

We found a finished board at the Reuse store that makes a good kitchen shelf.

Posted Sun Dec 10 07:00:12 2017 Tags:
Ora Anderson Nature Trail

Now that we have the basics in place --- electricity, heat, a workable kitchen, and running water --- we've been spending more time exploring what the area has to offer. One jaunt further afield took us to the Ora E. Anderson Nature Trail, a half-mile rail-to-trail that passes through an inspiring wetland.

This area used to be farmland not too long ago. But the railroad messed with water drainage, then the beavers moved in and exacerbated the issue. The result is a species-rich enclave that I'm definitely going to have to return to during the growing season. A good place to just sit and observe for awhile!

Acid mine pigment

We also attended an equally inspiring set of lightning talks about partnerships between the university and the community. The most photogenic involved reclaiming the orange streams you find throughout coal country, where old mines leach acidic water and basically kill off all life therein.

In a fascinating method of turning trash to treasure, Rural Action has created a treatment system that scrubs the issues from the water then funds itself by selling the pigments to Gamblin Colors to be turned into oil paints. Sounds pretty sustainable!

Anything inspiring happen in your neck of the woods this week?

Posted Sat Dec 9 07:00:14 2017 Tags:
Mini Split hose kink and how to fix it.

Our HVAC tech located a kink in the DuctlessAire Mini Split hose line he was able to gently fix before all the testing started.

It took about 20 minutes to vacuum out the hose lines to the accepted value.

He also fixed a wiring problem where we misjudged the breaker hook up.

Posted Fri Dec 8 07:00:08 2017 Tags:
Erecting quick hoops

I probably shouldn't admit to breaking our household rules (no working on the weekends!), but I got up the morning after Mark's grand return and immediately started poking quick hoops into the ground.

After all, due to our late gardening start, lettuce, kale, and brussels sprouts all looked like they might not produce this fall. But with a little help from row-cover fabric, perhaps they'll bear after all?

Posted Thu Dec 7 07:00:10 2017 Tags:

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