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

archives for 10/2018

Steampunk spectacle

I started to write a long anniversary post summing up what our first year outside Athens, Ohio, was like. But, instead, Mark and I went to a Steampunk Spectacle at our local public library...and I kinda figured these photos said it all.

You'll be unsurprised to learn that Mark is better than me at nine pin, lawn bowling, and theremin. Despite all that, my mind was considerably expanded by the event. And isn't that the purpose of life --- learning and finding new enthusiasms every day and year?

Posted Mon Oct 1 06:18:41 2018 Tags:
Pumpkins on a wagon.
The Chesterhill farm auction about a half hour before showtime.
Posted Tue Oct 2 06:00:43 2018 Tags:
Entranceway raspberries

I've been moving our initial plantings behind the deer fence bit by bit all year long. But it took me a while to make up my mind about whether or not to transplant the everbearing raspberries that line the path leading up to our back door.

Deer damage

On the one hand, the deer do eat them. Thorns mean the raspberries aren't crunched all the way down the ground the way other unprotected plantings are. But the image above is pretty typical, and the bushes produced about half as much as they would have if they hadn't been nipped.

Ripening raspberry

On the other hand, it's nice being greeted with tasty berries every time I get out of the car. (Well, nice for me. Mark probably doesn't like it as much because it means fewer berries make it inside to land on his plate.)

Transplanted raspberries

In the end, I decided to split the difference. I left the existing bed in place, figuring it was minimal work to weed, topdress, and mulch the area a couple of times a year. Then I transplanted excess shoots into the main garden where they can be safe from hooved marauders.

Of course, now I'll have no excuse for failing to share the harvest. Do you think Mark will buy it if I say I dropped the bowl of berries on the way into the house?

Posted Wed Oct 3 06:00:46 2018 Tags:
Theremin being played by Anna.

Anna picked up on the mechanics of theremin playing rather quickly.

Most people think the theme song from the original Star Trek series uses a theremin but it's actually an opera singer's voice.

Posted Thu Oct 4 06:00:49 2018 Tags:
Pawpaw Festival

Mark and I attended the Pawpaw Festival a few weeks ago. How could we not go to an event that promised a contest for the tastiest pawpaw variety, a demonstration of pawpaw cookery, and food trucks each with a pawpaw item on the menu?

Pawpaw menu

Unfortunately, the day was unseasonably hot (in the 90s!), the event was crazy well attended (thousands of people), and I just couldn't hack the combination. Maybe next year we'll go on Friday instead of Saturday...or maybe I'll just try to talk the library into making an information-packed pawpaw event for those of us who enjoy data more than festivities.

Tiny house massage

Of course, it's possible I should have just taken advantage of the tiny-house massage parlor....

Posted Fri Oct 5 06:00:56 2018 Tags:
Carpenter bee prevention.

A clever experimental device that might help to decrease carpenter bee damage?

Posted Sat Oct 6 06:00:35 2018 Tags:
Estes Park

I've been feeling the travel bug lately, but Mark and I hadn't been on a plane for over six years. So rather than making all kinds of pie-in-the-sky dreams without knowing how we'd handle flying, we looked for the cheapest tickets to a fun place and ended up taking a last-minute adventure to Denver to explore the natural wonder nearly in our backyard --- Rocky Mountain National Park.

Young male elk

I took more than 300 pictures over the course of three days, mostly of charismatic megafauna like elk and fish. But I've made a real effort to whittle it down for you so this post won't be excessively long. That said, it still won't hurt my feelings if you skip it --- there's nothing homesteading-related below.

Mountain rainbow

So what did tweak my fancy? I spotted at least three rainbows, including this one which appeared in the western sky just as the sun rose over the mountains in the east. Every moment, the rainbow became brighter as the sun rose higher until the band of colors had formed a complete half circle from montain peak to mountain peak.

Cloud mountain

But it was driving up higher beyond our home base at Estes Park that took my breath away, both figuratively and literally. Having been raised in the Appalachian Mountains, I thought I knew what mountains were. I had no idea. Just stopping at a roadside overlook gave me vertigo, the slopes descending so rapidly that land was soon lost in the clouds.

Photographing mountains

And then there was the alpine tundra at the top. As soon as Mark and I got out of the car at 12,000 feet, we knew our two fleeces, one toboggan, single pair of gloves, and lone long johns were only going to be enough for one person to brave the third of a mile of course I ripped Mark's warm clothes off his back and made a run for it.

Alpine tundra

By the time I was halfway up, sleet was punishing me for my disloyalty, the wind blowing ice pellets so hard they stung against my face. The air is so thin at that elevation that walking up a seemingly endless series of steps made it hard to breathe, and the people I ascended with soon scurried back down to seek cover in the visitor's center (where I'd left Mark). I, instead, huddled behind a small rock outcrop in an attempt to survive.

Rocky mountain peak

In case you can't tell, that moment of solitude within a very busy and very cold park was my very favorite part of the trip. (And, yes, Mark forgave me for leaving him behind.)

Shortgrass prairie

Then we returned to Denver, where we spent a short time exploring the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, where city and shortgrass prairie intermingle with wild abandon. There was a dust storm and bison and mule deer and prairie dogs...and my best photo was of a fire hydrant. I think I was getting a bit tired by that point.

Sunrise over the mountains

So I'll leave you with one last shot of Estes Park, taken at sunrise just before I turned around to look the other way and noticed the rainbow behind my back. I think there's a lesson there. What do you think?

Posted Sun Oct 7 06:00:33 2018 Tags:
The Shinning at The Stanley which was the Overlook.
We got a chance to see where Stephen King got inspired to write the Shining.
Posted Mon Oct 8 06:00:48 2018 Tags:
Blanching peppers

I know I said I wasn't going to preserve any food this year. But a little bit of this and that socked away in the freezer while making dinner doesn't count. Right?

Late summer harvest

Freezer tally --- three quarts of eggplant, one quart of red peppers, one quart of tomato sauce. There will likely be some broccoli joining those folks shortly since the addition of manure means the garden is finally beginning to produce.

Posted Tue Oct 9 06:00:59 2018 Tags:
Digging foundation for new room addition.

Step 1 of our new project was to remove enough dirt for an 8 inch layer of gravel and concrete.

Posted Wed Oct 10 06:01:07 2018 Tags:
Slab on grade

As you can tell from Mark's post, we've decided to put the floor of our wood-stove alcove at ground level so we can use concrete. This is a new building endeavor for us since lugging concrete back to our old core homestead just wasn't happening! So I spent a while researching to figure out the nuts and bolts.

Words are so important in projects like this, and here are the relevant ones for this project --- we're building a frost-protected shallow foundation (a subset of slab on grade aka monolithic slab). Basically, by insulating the outside perimeter, this type of concrete foundation dramatically reduces the depth and complexity of the required footer.

Frost-protected shallow foundationIn our case, we only need to go down 12 inches and to use insulation with an R value of 4.5 around the perimeter (which equates to 1 inch of Type IV expanded polystyrene). If you live further north, you might need to add horizontal insulation sunk into the ground outside the perimeter of the foundation as well. This document walks you through all of the calculations.

There's lots more to plot out. But this should carry us through the digging stage!

Posted Thu Oct 11 06:00:47 2018 Tags:
Using treadmill to load firewood into basement.

If you are loading firewood into a basement maybe a treadmill can make it easier.

Image credit goes to ViralHog.

Posted Fri Oct 12 06:00:45 2018 Tags:
Install cat door

Okay, so digging wasn't really the first step in creating a wood-stove addition.

With input from Mark's mom (and due to the relative cheapness of large, glass patio doors when compared to double-glazed windows), we decided to make the new room cover the area where our problematic, blows-open-if-you-don't-lock-it, leaky door currently is.

Which means the real step one was moving the cat flap to the other door.

Remove railing

Phase two was taking down the landing and steps we installed just shy of a year ago.

Now we're ready to dig!

Posted Sat Oct 13 06:00:47 2018 Tags:
Rocky Mountain Sleet.

The easy way to photograph someone in a freezing sleet storm is to stay in the car and roll the window down if the wind is not blowing toward you.

Posted Sun Oct 14 06:00:58 2018 Tags:

The Power of NowI don't usually review non-homesteading-related books here. But Mark's mantra on the farm is "work smart not hard." And the most powerful tool our species possesses is our a book about using your mind as a tool must be homesteading-related, right?

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm only a quarter of the way into The Power of Now. But there's so much meat that I've been reading it slowly, and I wanted to share while the first part is still fresh on my mind.

The author's thesis (at least in the first quarter) is that our conscious mind is a valuable tool that we should put down and rest when it's not in use. How do you know if you're not using your mind properly? If you're pondering the past or the future rather than focusing on the present, your mind is probably steering you rather than vice versa.

Previously when I've tried meditating, I've found the experience harrowing and frustrating. But using Eckhart Tolle's technique of simply watching my mind and asking myself whether every fleeting thought is past, future, or present, I've finally made a bit of progress in understanding what meditation is all about. And I've seen more mushrooms than usual during the meditation phase of my daily walk too --- proof that resting my mind pays off! If you give it a try, I'll be curious to hear what you think.

Posted Mon Oct 15 06:00:44 2018 Tags:
Yamaha generator one year update.

The Yamaha EF2000 inverter generator gave us the power we needed when we were waiting our turn to get the electricity turned on.

It always started on the first pull if the choke was set properly.

Once we got the power hooked up we drained it dry of fuel and it stores nicely on the floor in one of our closets waiting for a day when it might be needed again.

Posted Tue Oct 16 06:00:48 2018 Tags:
Putting up quick hoops

With a chance of a light freeze on Thursday morning, we spent an hour winterizing the garden. Hoses had already been rolled up in late September, so the next step was to put quick hoops up over the lettuce, kale, and spinach beds.

Defoliated kale

Well, over most of the kale beds. I squashed southern cabbageworm caterpillars twice a week on the broccoli and brussels sprouts, but the kale didn't get treatment and a third of the crop ended up looking like this. I left that bed uncovered in hopes the bugs will freeze back and the plants will regrow from the roots. Next year, though, I think we'll try to make netted quick hoops for the crucifers to lower my workload and save the leafy greens.

Picking peppers

While I was quick hooping, Mark was picking peppers and tomatoes. Now we're ready for a freeze...which I hope means the cold temperatures will float right by us and not quite nip our crops.

Posted Wed Oct 17 06:00:48 2018 Tags:
Wood chip delivery.

Anna arranged to have a local tree trimming crew download some fresh woodchips.

Posted Thu Oct 18 06:00:52 2018 Tags:
Flower arranging

Fencing class led the herb guild which in turn led me to attend a flower arranging workshop on Tuesday night. The class was led by a retired florist, and she gave us a lot of basic tips for making our own garden-related tabletop arrangements a success.

Start flower arrangements with greenery

First step: Start with greenery. Snip off any leaves that will be submerged since these will promote rot and wilt. And focus on something strong-stemmed first to build a firm foundation for the entire arrangement to rest upon.

Lemongrass in flower arrangements

Second step: Build up from there, starting with the heaviest item and working your way to more tender stems. Think about height to add interest --- our teacher did great things with sprays of lemongrass leaves, snipped so they didn't tower too far above the rest of the vase.

Herbal vases

Third step: Have fun! We all brought vases and plants from our gardens, mixed and matched, and ended up with plenty of colorful and attention-grabbing displays to take home.

Whether I'll stop simply bringing in big masses of zinnias out of my garden and plopping them in a jar, however, remains to be seen.

Posted Fri Oct 19 06:00:56 2018 Tags:
Deleting roots with new loppers.

We might be about halfway through our digging phase of the new project.

Digging around roots is more effort than the actual digging.

Anna's favorite loppers make short work of thick roots that need to go.

Posted Sat Oct 20 06:00:41 2018 Tags:
Oak leaf gall

I can't quite decide whether to note down October 17 as the date of our first freeze or not. Our thermometer recorded a low of 34 and there was no visible frost up here on the ridge. But there was a thin skin of ice on the car windshield, and some of our pepper plants (but not others) got nipped. I guess that's the benefit of a ridgetop location --- we only get patchy frost while neighbors in the valley report a real freeze.

Jack O Lantern mushrooms

Whatever the decision on freezes, conditions are definitely autumnal now. And a hike at Lake Hope State Park turned up some lovely colors...if not on tree leaves. The image at the top of this post is some kind of gall I'd never seen before and I'm pretty sure the fungi are jack-o-lantern mushrooms...meaning that if I headed back in the dark, they should glow.

One year later

As a certified nighttime homebody, though, I'll just snuggle up with a warm cat and remember how different our life was a year ago. No plumbing, no power, no internet, no heat. How far we've come in twelve short months!

Posted Sun Oct 21 06:00:36 2018 Tags:
Pet feeder elevation.

The new pet feeder needed some custom elevation to help slow down feeding time.

Posted Mon Oct 22 06:00:35 2018 Tags:
Cucumber seed saving

The last summer harvest was an overripe cucumber.

We fermented the gelatin off the seeds to save for next year.
Posted Tue Oct 23 06:00:49 2018 Tags:
Dig footer

Mark and I have been tortoising through our digging project. Between my carpal tunnel and his hernia, we try not deal with more than two wheelbarrow loads of soil per day.

Still, slowly but surely, we're making progress. The shape of the addition is now roughed out and we've started digging the footers.

Posted Wed Oct 24 06:00:41 2018 Tags:
Considering a mini mattock to dig walls with.

We are getting to the digging stage where the walls need to be cleaned up.

A full size mattock feels like overkill here so I decided to order a 1 pound mini mattock to smooth out the walls and delete roots easier.

Posted Thu Oct 25 06:01:00 2018 Tags:
Hauling cardboard

After we stole two loads of cardboard, the recycling dropoff center near us shut down. Which means my huge pile of wood chips has been waiting in the driveway, with no kill mulch layer to spread underneath and keep weeds from coming back up if the wood chips are applied.

Kill mulching aisles

Wednesday, Mark and I went out to get my flu shot and scope out the backsides of area businesses. On our third try, we hit a cache of recyclables and loaded up the car.

One hour later, several more garden aisles were kill mulched. And now I need another load of cardboard....

Posted Fri Oct 26 06:01:03 2018 Tags:
Pulling up U-posts from the garden.

This post is to remind me to more lightly tap each U-post next year for tomatoes.

Posted Sat Oct 27 06:00:53 2018 Tags:
Powerline workers

Some people use woolly-worm color to predict the severity of the upcoming winter. I've been superstitiously watching the powerline crews instead.

Powerline clearing

Because this is the second time they've been working on our ridge over the last few months, and they seem to be going for a scorched-earth approach this week. Do you think they know something I don't know?

Posted Sun Oct 28 06:00:44 2018 Tags:
Using a mini mattock for extra few inches at the bottom of a footer.

The 1 pound Mini Mattock is a good solution for those final few inches of a footer.

It also makes excavating roots a lot easier compared to using a shovel.

Posted Mon Oct 29 06:00:39 2018 Tags:
Topped brussels sprout

Brussels sprout topsWhen's the best time to top brussel sprouts? Usually months before I get around to it.

I feel like I'd top my brussel sprouts in a more timely manner if I came up with a good way to cook the excised tissue. I've tried steaming the leaves then roasting them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, as if they were real brussel sprouts. But the flavor is only so-so.

Perhaps I need a sauce?

Posted Tue Oct 30 06:00:50 2018 Tags:
Google number as land line option.

We've been using a free Google voice account coupled with an OBi200 phone adapter for almost a year now and feel like it's a good land line option.

There have been a few times when the internet was down we had to use a mobile phone to report the outage.

One feature we like is the fact that we can send and receive text messages on our home computers. A caller ID message pops up when someone is ringing in and voice messages get transcribed and emailed to you.

There was no land line phone choice in our area but it seems like this option is almost as good. We do pay 25 dollars per year to access the 911 system but other than that the phone adapter has paid for itself when compared to the cheapest land line price.


Posted Wed Oct 31 06:00:35 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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