The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

archives for 02/2018

New antenna monting.

I installed an amplified outdoor HDTV antenna recently and it was easy to set up.

It has a motor rotor that allows you to turn the antenna from a remote control. The extra mounting bracket and pole are designed to be installed on the side of a building.

The amplifier box has two outputs so you can hook up an FM radio.

It gives a strong signal. I haven't tried TV over the air since back before the days of digital and was surprised to find out the local PBS station has 3 channels.

Posted Thu Feb 1 07:00:09 2018 Tags:
Seed saving box

While sorting seeds in preparation for our spring seed order, I remembered some pointers from the recent seed-saving workshop that I'd forgotten to share here. Dr. Brian Pace from Ohio State University showed off his seed-storage box and method, which are subtly better than my own.

Inside his box, Dr. Pace adds a healthy helping of Drierite beneath a metal stand to suck up moisture in the air without directly impacting the seeds themselves. Meanwhile, he uses a simple formula to see if the spot where he's storing his seeds is effective:

Relative humidity (%) + Temperature (F) < 100

In other words, if you live in the humid south and your storage spot hovers around 60% humidity, you need to lower the temperature to around 40 in order to keep seeds fresh.

While you're at it, don't forget to keep an eye on average seed longevity. No matter how fancy your seed-storage arrangement, it's not going to keep the lightweights --- corn, onions, parsley, peppers --- for more than two years. Good luck and have fun as you put those first dormant embryos into the ground!

Posted Fri Feb 2 07:00:11 2018 Tags:
Installing a vent underneath a trailer.
We used 1/8 inch hardware cloth on our first attempt at making a vent.
Posted Sat Feb 3 07:00:10 2018 Tags:

Smartphone websiteHave you been looking for a platform? If so, you're in luck.

We've just revamped our Avian Aqua Miser website to be an information clearinghouse and are seeking guest bloggers to share their poultry-related insights there.

Why might you want to blog with us? We haven't been making regular posts on Avian Aqua Miser for two years, but the site still hosts about 10,000 visitors per month. Now that Avian Aqua Miser is mobile friendly and will be seeing a lot more new content, I expect our viewership to soar.

"That sounds like fun!" you might be thinking. "How do I sign up?"

Just email with:

  • A sample guest post based on these guidelines (but chicken-related, please!)
  • A paragraph about why you'd like to blog with us
  • How often do you plan to make a post?
  • Do you know how to use Wordpress?

We're only going to choose a few guest bloggers because we want to keep the quality high, so please don't be distressed if your application doesn't make the cut. And, if you're not interested in guest posting but are interested in chickens, I hope you'll check out the new site as it gradually comes back from the dead.

Posted Sun Feb 4 07:00:11 2018 Tags:
mark Vent door
Trailer vent door.
The new door for the trailer vent will be closed in the Winter.
Posted Mon Feb 5 07:00:10 2018 Tags:
Deer eating honey locust pod

Our new core homestead is very rich in honey locusts. Despite the fact that our septic crew cleared several away while moving the trailer in, just as many big trees are left, and I suspect autumn will continue to see the ground covered in these big pods for the foreseeable future.

Books tell me that livestock and even Native Americans relished the sweet pod insides. And yet, they sat untouched on our ground through November and December and January.

It took a February snow to prove that
somebody finds them tasty. Sunday morning, a herd of deer moved through, carefully picking pod after pod off the ground. I guess the wildlife were just saving honey locusts for a midwinter treat.

Posted Tue Feb 6 07:00:11 2018 Tags:
Towing tongue temperature check.

There might be some level of heat sinking going on with our trailer towing tongue.

The far end is a little bit colder than 2 feet over.

The outside temperature was 24 degrees while it was 54 inside.

I'm curiouis now if the temperature difference would be the same this Summer?

Maybe expelling heat in the Summer will balance the loss of heat during the Winter?

Posted Wed Feb 7 07:00:11 2018 Tags:
Anna Rime
Pine rime

I love snow and ice and winter...and this move north has given me lots of each to apreciate.

Honey locust rime

This week, it's an up-close-and-personal invitation to dance amid rime.

Ice-coated pine needles

On the downside, rime coats our antenna and takes down the internet. So please excuse us if you can't call or email until the sun comes back out!

Posted Thu Feb 8 09:20:36 2018 Tags:
Throwing dirt to fill in gaps.
Anna threw handfuls of dirt to cover the bottom part of our trailer skirting.
Posted Fri Feb 9 08:20:24 2018 Tags:
Seed starting

Lettuce seedlingBefore the seed order comes the seed test to determine whether older packets still contain intact propagules. I ran some germination tests the usual way, but I went ahead and put herbs, kale, and lettuce in a flat for their trial.

I figured these guys could be set out starting about a month from now under quick hoops --- not so long to nurture tender seedlings indoors.

Sure enough, the lettuce passed with flying colors (72% germination --- not bad for uncontrolled conditions in a flat) and were potted up into little plastic cups five days after the test began. I'm still waiting on the slower sprouters --- they get one more week to attempt germination before I order replacements through the mail.

Posted Sat Feb 10 07:00:10 2018 Tags:
Rime on a WISP antenna.

Turns out the rime is robust enough to block the signal on our WISP antenna.

After a full day and night of no internet I dreamed up a space heater on a 10 foot conduit pole.

It only needed a small section to melt before the signal came back.

Posted Sun Feb 11 07:00:10 2018 Tags:
Ice lichen

I haven't been regaling our blog readers with the fun activities we've taken advantage of recently, which doesn't mean we haven't been enjoying ourselves. Every Sunday, Mark and I are hitting each other with swords at fencing class. We visited (and learned about) the local Grange last week. And, on Saturday, Jenn met me at Burr Oak State Park for their annual winter hike event.

Rock formation

I was astonished by the turnout --- literally hundreds of people spread across four hikes. Jenn and I chose the five-miler and hung back so I could snag photos of beauties along the trail.

Honeycomb mushroom

We also got to talk to one of the Buckeye Trail Association volunteers while we walked. He's been experimenting with growing things on reclaimed strip mine land for the last seven years and I'm hoping to tease a guest post out of him on the subject. So stay tuned!

Posted Mon Feb 12 07:00:11 2018 Tags:
Dafodil bulb planting,
New daffodil bulbs going in the ground to get ready for Spring.
Posted Tue Feb 13 07:00:09 2018 Tags:
Energy usage

"Is it too early in the year to post a review on your minisplit? What would you do different if you could have a do-over. Still on the fence on whether to buy one for this summer." --- Phillip

Well, we definitely can't report on the air-conditioning aspects yet, but I can give you a rundown on our minisplit's ability to keep our trailer warm. The really short version --- it works well until exterior temperatures get down into the single digits, but it's pretty pricey to operate.

The image at the top of this post shows three months of energy usage from last winter (a slightly warmer climate, but not by much, heating primarily with a wood stove) and this winter (in which the minisplit went into operation partway through the first month on the graph). The lower energy usage for the third month of this year is because I had so much sticker shock at a $300 electric bill that I kept the interior temperature around 58 to 60 most of the time during January.

Minisplit icingOther than energy usage, I only have a few things to report about the minisplit. Mostly it just runs --- yay! We're extremely glad we mounted it on the wall rather than on a pad on the ground because the defrost function creates huge icicles below it during frigid weather. (The photo here is only the barest edge of what happened later in the month, which I thought I'd photographed but apparently hadn't.) I'm not sure how even a well-drained, ground-mounted unit could keep going in the face of so much ice.

The thermostat on our particular unit is pretty terrible. The colder it gets outside, the less realistic the temperature we set on the unit is (as measured by a thermometer placed only a few feet away from the remote, which is where the minisplit measures air temperature). The settings also only go down to 62, which is a shame --- I'd really like a spot between that and off to use at night.

In terms of sound --- the minisplit is remarkably quiet. Now and then when ice is building up on the blade, you'll hear it more than usual for a few minutes. But, usually, it's a very dull hum from inside the trailer --- non-noticeable.

In the end, we're very glad we have an easy, moderately efficient electric option, but all electric heat sources are still energy- and money-intensive. We're looking forward to installing our wood stove before next winter, at which point I suspect we'll move to using the minisplit about half as much as we currently do.

Posted Wed Feb 14 07:00:09 2018 Tags:
Sugar Maple tapping in south east Ohio.

We tapped our first Sugar Maple tree in Ohio today.

The same fancy stainless steel spile we used before.

Posted Thu Feb 15 07:00:10 2018 Tags:
White's Mill

It can be so tricky to buy potting soil off the shelf. All of the bags are covered with pretty printing...with no truth windows to show off the quality of the product inside.

The brands you can get at the big-box stores are notoriously hit or miss in quality. So I was thrilled to find high quality garden amendments of all types at White's Mill on the other side of town.

High quality potting soil

I splurged on small bags of two different brands to get an idea of their quality before making a larger commitment. At home, I pulled out a handful of each and was quite pleased with the texture and moisture level of both Fox Farm and Happy Frog. (I was even more pleased to discover that White's Mill's prices are less than half of what's listed on Amazon.)

Potting soil comparison

Here's a closeup view of the two soils side by side. Pretty similar! I potted up four lettuce seedlings into each type of soil and will report back if I see a difference in growth. But, at the moment, I'm guessing it would be hard to go wrong with either product.

Posted Fri Feb 16 07:00:12 2018 Tags:
Slow feed pet dish close up.

Huckleberry was having some trouble keeping his food down. His new cat doctor suggested he was eating too fast and recommended a slow feed pet dish to discourage rapid eating.

Posted Sat Feb 17 07:00:11 2018 Tags:
Maple syrup

We picked just the right time to tap the sugar maple just outside our back door. Twenty-four hours later, the two-gallon bucket was nearly full!

When tapping in Virginia, I couldn't taste any sweetness in our maple sap, but here the sugars are more condensed and are evident even in liquid straight from the tree. After boiling down a gallon and a half of sap, we ended up with half a cup of quality maple syrup. Just in time for Mark's weekend pancakes!

Posted Sun Feb 18 07:00:10 2018 Tags:
Ford F 150 1997 red.

We finally found a good used truck on Craig's list that was not too far away.

It's a 1997 Ford F-150 with 122k miles.

Big thanks to our neighbor Tony for helping to evaluate the road worthiness and to test out the 4 wheel drive. It was his idea to counter offer 2500. It has a little surface rust and the AC stopped working but has some new parts along with new tires.

Posted Mon Feb 19 07:00:06 2018 Tags:
Snow fun

I've been waiting and waiting for the perfect packing snow all winter. Finally, it fell!

So I borrowed the neighbor kids for sledding, snow-man (and -dog) building, and (their top choice) ornamental snow-cupcake creating. Despite being slightly derailed by a snowball fight, fun was had by all for the cheap price of a carrot (for a snow man) and a brownie (for the kid whose nose was hit by a snowball).

If spring absolutely must come, I'm now ready. I wouldn't mind another few white-outs in the interim though....

Posted Tue Feb 20 07:00:08 2018 Tags:
Floor leveling with 2 gallon bucket batches.

Our first experience at using a floor leveling compound went better than expected.

Posted Wed Feb 21 07:00:09 2018 Tags:

Mark and I enjoyed a class on kombucha (fermented sweet tea) and kvas (fermented, salted beets) on Tuesday. I'm not going to try to sum up every little detail because the internet is full of how-to posts. Instead, I'll just hit the highlights here.

Making beet kvas

I'll start with kvas, the much less well-known beverage. Our instructors washed and cubed raw, unpeeled beets and filled a glass gallon jar about halfway with the vegetables. One tablespoon of non-iodized salt plus a quart or two of unchlorinated water finished the preparation. After that, they let the crock ferment at room temperature for two to five days then sit in the fridge for another week to intensify the flavor.

Kvas is meant to be drunk in small doses to cleanse the liver. The result is something for which I've not yet acquired the taste (although I don't really like beets or salt, so take that with a grain of, well, salt). Actually, the more interesting point came from my seat mate, who told me she made a sweetened beet pie seasoned with lemon zest last year --- now that might be worth a try.

Posted Thu Feb 22 07:00:12 2018 Tags:
Death of a snowman

Anna's recent snowperson had a fatal disagreement with the sun the next day.

Posted Fri Feb 23 07:00:11 2018 Tags:
Brewing tea for kombucha

While I wasn't a huge fan of the kvas at Tuesday's workshop, the kombucha was definitely tastier. And no wonder since the teachers make the fermented sweet tea professionally to sell at several local establishments.

I've actually steered clear of kombucha in the past for two reasons --- sugar and caffeine. If you're a soda drinker already, kombucha is a healthier alternative. But the happy gut critters didn't seem like a good enough reason to let the less healthy chemicals that come with them into my life. So I was happy to learn that you can actually make a caffeine-free kombucha using rooibos (aka African redbush) tea. The sugar, I'm afraid, is still mandatory.

Flavoring kombucha

My other big takeaway from the class is that kombucha doesn't have to taste bad for ferment-o-phobes like me. The teachers passed out several samples, all made by fermenting kombucha normally then adding in fruit or herbs before sealing the bottle for two to three additional days. Mark was a big fan of the jasmine green tea with concord grapes, which I thought tasted a little like red wine. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the lemon ginger, which tasted like a high-class lemonaid.

Will we be making our own kombucha? The jury's still out. But we might try buying a bottle now and then at the farmer's market while making up our minds.

Posted Sat Feb 24 07:00:09 2018 Tags:
Drill mixer attachement.

I chose the 1 gallon Helix drill attahment mixer over the 5 gallon option.

Even with the motorized help it was still a good workout for the wrist.

Posted Sun Feb 25 07:00:10 2018 Tags:

Fairy eggYou may recall that I put out a call for chicken posts a few weeks ago. I've been astonished by the fun and educational posts that came filtering in afterwards! Here are a few of my favorites, but you might want to go poke around on our chicken blog to dive deeper into this new sharing of wisdom:

Jayne posted about fairy eggs --- tiny eggs that showed up as her flock began to lay after a long winter without.

Jeremy regaled us with the whys and hows of chicken dust baths --- the way poultry get clean by rubbing themselves with dirt.

Freezing eggsAnd Kayla provided tips on freezing eggs to fill in that long winter gap.

Do you have a chicken-related story to share? Email it over to and it might just show up on the blog.

Happy chicken keeping!

Posted Mon Feb 26 07:00:09 2018 Tags:
Deleting a non working vent from a mobile home.

We tried a set of off market 18 volt replacement batteries back in November.

They work good but the fit is a little tight.

Some sanding of the plastic can decrease the chance of it sticking.

Posted Tue Feb 27 07:00:11 2018 Tags:
Anna DIY sushi
Making California rolls

I don't like rice or fish or, well, probably seaweed. But I learned on our honeymoon that I love sushi! Too bad the good stuff is so darned expensive....

"You know, we could make that," Mark said after bringing me home sushi as a treat for the fifth time in a row. And he was right.

I totally bombed the first batch, but the second was so tasty it was hard not to eat it one one gulp. Here are the ingredients for making four California rolls:

  • 1 cup uncooked sushi rice (be sure to rinse the raw grains five times before cooking according to the instructions on the bag in a rice cooker or instant pot)

Sauce to add to cooked rice:

  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • California roll contents1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 teaspoons sake

Add the following while assembling the California roll:

  • 2 sheets of nori (each one broken in half)
  • 1/2 of a small cucumber
  • a bit of imitation crab
  • 1/4 of a ripe avocado
  • 4 tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds (to sprinkle on the outside)

I'll let you search the internet for assembly instructions. It's all about temperature of the rice, a piece of saran wrap for rolling (wasteful, I know!), and keeping the filling very small.

You'll notice I didn't take any pictures of the cut rolls, though. I'm still figuring out how to slice my masterpiece without knocking it out of shape. Maybe some sushi experts out there will comment with their tips?

Posted Wed Feb 28 07:00:11 2018 Tags:

Anna Hess's books
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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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