Thursday, March 30, 2006

solar conference and that list

i went to a solar conference yesterday in columbia missouri. it was great and energizing. the final round table panel was amazing. nothing really surprising except they had a booth show casing acetylene burning engines. allegedly, you can make acetylene from bio-mass and waste energy from the charcoal industry. there are charcoal plants everywhere but the scale of this implies that it would be an interim (like biodiesel) until another real solution can come along. the coolest thing is the fuel density. they plan to make calcium carbonate rods that are the fuel and spray them with water to make the acetylene on the fly. the danger would be minimized without storing high pressure explosive materials.

i met some very cool folks on the van ride up to columbia. we had many great conversations and generally a good time. there was a brief period that a few of us got a little motion sickness--curvy road.

we purchased the things that are labeled red today
from the "definitely" list.
--500 gallon propane re-fill pricey--we were out trying to find morel mushrooms when he arrived.
--table saw i bought it but it is back ordered for a couple of weeks--i can pick it up around the second week of april.
--new tires for car walmart had a good deal on tires but we had to hangout in walmart for two hours--yikes, i'm still not sure if it was worth it.
--chicken waterer kits (2) an online purchase. we also ordered our broiler chickens we'll expect them around may first.
kassiopeia finally got her social security card which means we can finally sort out our taxes. i talked to the irs and they said they'll send me the remainder of my return that they held back until we had ssn # proof.

i get to work doing timber frame construction tomorrow. i'll try to take photos.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

rock work at bens

these are a few examples of dry stack stone walls that ben and i are working on at his farm. admittedly it is very easy since we have the right (pricey) tools. two seperate rock saws with diamond blades and a skid steer--not to mention his small set of hand tools worth hundreds of dollars. a minimum investment of masonry tools would cost me more than a thousand dollars. the hand tools and one diamond saw. the diamond saw isn't absolutely necessary but having it decreases the years of experience necessary to do rock work of this level--it also cuts project time considerably. the rock in this wall looks square and block like. yes, a bunch of it was but over half of it was worked from creek rock and other mis-shapen stone.

this is an example of some mortar work we are still working on--it just needs the cap stone. i don't care for the dark grey mortar but we are matching the rest of the house and that was done in the 70s when that mortar color was popular.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


we planted some of our potatoes in the garden. we are still waiting for our cranberry-all-red potatoes. we have two and a half rows in and plan another row and a half of the late arrivals. our garden is starting to fill up!!! a large portion will be tomatoes yum!!! tabitha has this whole companion planting strategy. i just worry about the squash bugs.

serendipity, my insurance covered my hail damage. we are going to get a phat check and not fix the car. it is about time i got something back from that insurance company. we have been compiling a huge list of expensive items that we will blow it on.
the "definitely" list goes:
--propane re-fill
--table saw
--wood for house trim
--milking shed metal roofing
--new tires for car
--general car service
--milking supplies
--chicken waterer kits (2)
the "runner-up" list goes:
--rack for solar panels
--fencing materials for the back forty (four actually)
--metal roofing for garage, utility room & guttering to cistern
--giant bamboo plants for our privacy barrier
--powered lawn mower
--dump truck of chat for driveway and all other chat needs
--freeze proof spigots for garden and milking shed
--hot tub (supplies to make one) think water birth...

yes that cow is still pregnant, i hope she waits until morning sickness subsides.

Friday, March 24, 2006


this is the repaired high-wheel cultivator. i made the handles out of electrical conduit. EMT. this stuff is cheap--less than 25 cents a foot. it is light and strong and fairly easy to build with.
we plan to make our chicken tractor out of the stuff. a chicken tractor is a big movable cage that contains the chickens. we plan to move it around the pasture so the chickens will graze the fresh grass and bugs every day while being contained and safe from varmets.

this is a picture of our garden it is a bit fish-eyed cause i took several shots and put them together in photoshop. the rows are actually fairly straight.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


we are in the grip of morning sickness around here. plus, i have a terrible muscle spasm in my back. i am sure it is related to the stress of wondering if tabitha has forced enough food and liquid down to keep us from the hospital today--everyday. morning sickness doesn't describe the affliction. i'd like to rename it--fu*%ed up vomiting all day and night early pregnancy. at least that is the version we have.

tabitha manages as much as she can--yesterday the house was cleaned. it really highlights the amount of work that has to get done around here just to keep a family afloat. having chosen the path-less-traveled means that we can't just go up to the junk-food store and buy the first thing that sounds good to eat. living here in missouri doesn't afford the healthy restaurant selection that helped get us through our last two pregnancies.

it is much more difficult this time...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

kassi eating

my princess eating--she is such an angel.

blogger has picture upload issues

Saturday, March 18, 2006

another chicken bites the dust

people on this road drive so fast. i wish they'd put in a big speed bump. admittedly our chickens should stay out of the road but it is so easy just to slow down when you see something in the road. we plan to get a rooster when we get our broilers this spring. the rooster should help re-populate our flock assuming they survive until the rooster reaches maturity. we have some more chicken containment to achieve but that hasn't been as big a priority since our chickens seemed to have learned to stay out of the road--another priority shift.

i went and got tin roofing from an old fallen barn for our milking shed. it is old and not really suitable but it'll have to work until we can afford to purchase some new.

it is impossible to really make much progress right now. i can't imagine being a single parent. tabitha and i planted peas today--that felt good. i managed to fabricate and install new handles on our high-wheel cultivator (this one is a newer version). i used it to prepare the soil for the peas. it worked very well. i'll take a photo tomorrow.

we failed with our church. it was too much and we have decided to try different one. there is allegedly a universal unitarian in springfield. we generally only go once a month anyway--so being that distance isn't really that big of a deal. this lutheran church was way too creepy (all gays go to hell, women are to be seen and not heard, creation in six, twenty four hour periods, and on and on...) i thought we could glean the good stuff and overlook the bad but obviously our kids don't have that power. plus as anna's sister so eloquently stated "we are endorsing those positions by attending their church"

the quest for a new church resumes......

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Old house

this is an old house that i pass by every day. She is a very beautiful old lady with many stories to tell. She sits there all alone high on a hill. i would have taken a close picture except trespassing in these parts is a shooting offense. i have seen a truck feeding cows in the same field but yet to see any people. Once i do I'll get permission to walk up close and get a better shot.

yesterday i met everette knight. he was using a high-wheel cultivator in his garden and i spotted him. i pulled over to watch. we greeted each other and talked gardening. i told him i admired his high-wheel cultivator. he told me how he fixed it and that it works better than ever. i mentioned that i have been looking for one. he offered the usual suspects for sources. i already had no luck at any of them. i mentioned where we live and to visit any time, he said "oh the place with all the cut wood."

i eventually left after exchanging niceties. i drove home and told tabitha about the encounter. about ten minutes later everette showed up with an old high-wheel cultivator. the handles were missing but the rest of it was in great shape. everette is 86 years old.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Hail ruins car

The hail has dimpled the car with hundreds of little dents. i entertained painting it white and decaling TITELIST across the hood, or maybe some other golf ball manufacturer could sponsor my "art-car" idea.

We should contact our insurance and see what the deal is--maybe they cover this kind of thing. It'd certainly total the car even though it runs perfect with low mileage.

We spent the day in Springfield yesterday. We had a great day visiting and Tristan played with his friends. When it came time to leave we had a bit of trouble. Tristan said "i don't like you because you are trying to take me away from my friends" then when i finally scooped him up his little buddies were yelling "we'll save you" and yanking on my sweater. Oh, the joys of being a kid. He promptly passed out in the car on the ride home.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

conflict resolution

our parenting style conflicts with having a puppy. we don't expect immediate results from our kids, rather we try to gently massage good behavior from them. it takes patience and lots of mistakes. garlic was very bitey and playful in an aggressive way--he was from a litter of 12. the kids are too young to be able to redirect his energy they would just run from him and finally be mean to him when he wouldn't quit. the two main transgressions were, tristan threw him out the window and kassi hit him with a wooden sword. that is not acceptable for the poor dog. he can't wait for the kids to become gentle he'd learn to be mean before they'd learn how to redirect him. we as parents cannot be there all the time. i have to work and tabitha currently is suffering from morning sickness and the escalated level of effort to over come these issues isn't within our current abilities.

good bye garlic, on a good note he was very very excited to see his brothers and sisters again. he is in no way in danger of going to the pound or anything he'll simply just end up part of the farm menagerie.

a tornado passed by us within sight yesterday. tabitha and the kids were hiding, i was driving home from working. i drove through a squal of golfball sized hail. after a while it covered the road about 2" deep. noisey scary but i was more worried about the family and kept driving to check on them.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

puppy pee

yes we have a new dog. his name is garlic. tristan named him a long time ago. we were going to get a great pyranees but decided on something more oriented toward companionship instead of independence. the significance of the great pyranees is they are white and fluffy--kinda like garlic. we visited a nice family that was prepared to give us one and hence the naming occurred and was set in stone--even though we changed breeds.

i guess we are going to have an indoor dog for bonding purposes hence the attempt at potty training. tabitha said that feebee has the most realistic advise regarding potty training--rent a steam cleaner.

i am off today--rained out. i plan to borrow bens truck and trailer and got get a bunch of rock for our impending summer project--a new chimney. i also have a lead on some free oak lumber from a lumber mill that is just down the road for the milking shed.

i got thwarted from getting the rocks, and wood. the rock is located near freshly graded clay and is saturated from the big rain last night. there is no way to get in there with the truck.

i moved the chicken house to its permanent location. i graded the area to "eyeball-level" and put down a layer of cedar shavings and then a layer of hay. i used the egyptian method of rollers, levers and brute force to move it into place. i then went down the hill and picked up a bunch of rock and put them around the edge to keep varmets from getting in. tabitha helped with the rollers and tristan helped get the rocks.

Monday, March 06, 2006

the spring garden is in

swiss chard
onion sets

i tilled the garden, after adding a sprinkle of lime sand, the leca, manure, and nimue's waste straw from around her feeder. we opted out of adding any sawdust at this point mostly because i couldn't easily get my hands on any. we pulled out so many rocks that we have started another rock ring--it is almost half full. this one is special. it looks like a pregnant fence. this is a tribute to tabitha's condition. i'll take photos of it today. i built the temporary chicken barrier fence. the idea started flimsy but manifested itself into fairly robust little fence. as i watched the kids start to climb it several times during construction, i decided that it'd better be safe for unattended play. so now the idea is to plant squash and train them on that fence.

as tabitha planted the chickens frantically circled the garden trying to get to her. she has been known to stir up many tasty bugs when digging around. at one point a couple chickens squeezed under the cow gate and managed to get-in. we chased them out and i re-graded the area under the gate and shored up the sides at that weak point.

our neighbor gave us some iris, lily and "other" flower bulbs. we also got some spearmint rhizomes for around the house (natural bug repellent). these too needed to be planted.

our garden is huge!!! it is 35' by 75' this seems like a normal larger garden but when you consider that we aren't planting rototiller width rows it gets very large fast. we plan an omelay-intensive style gardening. we'll use every possible square foot. hand cultivation and mulch will take the place of rototiller weeding. we might be getting in over our heads but that is also part of the omelay-intensive style.

i managed to get blisters within blisters. the initial blisters popped and revealed deeper more painful blisters. tristan can't look at my hands without giving this awful face of anguish. it is kinda funny.

we are excited about the new baby but also freaking out a bit over decisions that will be different for this baby from the others. tabitha has morning sickness--she gets it bad. for kassi we ended up in the hospital for dehydration. she is being her usual trooper-self and "getting through" (please excuse the military metaphor).

kassi is so great, she sleeps with mommy at the start of the night. every morning i wake to her cozied into me. she is a cuddle fish. she'll wake soon for her infamous, world class "morning hug." oh, i relish them so much--i can't explain the joy they give me.

Friday, March 03, 2006

this post was saved by blogger (auto-save-draft)

whew, technology is the trouble with, and solution to my problems. the computer crashed--thank you norton utilities and your auto-scan at the worst possible time. blogger on the other hand was merrily saving the following post because it could tell that norton utilities was aligning against me.

i rented a huge 8 hp rototiller. i tilled the garden and turned up another large quantity of rocks, even another huge one. the tiller (aka: rock biter) was amazing it'd grab brick sized rocks and kick them out the back. oh the shaking of my body from that thing was immense. i feel like i have been whipped with cane poles. my hands hurt there are two blisters on in the center of each hand. i wore gloves but still got blisters. yes, i will be sore tomorrow. i have to get some stuff early in the morning to add to the garden then i'll till it again. it shouldn't be as difficult the second time since most of the rock should be gone.

it looks great--tabitha and i are excited. we were talking about all the great veggies we'll eat. i added a bag of leca to see how far it would spread--not very far. i guess every little bit helps. i am going to build some compost bins out of a few pallets and steel fence post. we'll have plenty of compost by next year.

tonight is movie night and the movie i rented was dirty and messed up our vcr heads. oh, the gnashing of teeth. the local rental place is too far to make another special trip for a head cleaner which isn't guaranteed to work. besides i'm tired, sore and need to rest. we had to switch to dvd and something we had. tristan capitulated for dora the explorer.

tomorrow will be another big day. another pass on the garden will take great effort. plus there is tons of stuff to complete around here. we need chicken containment from the garden before we put any precious seedlings, seeds or starts in the ground. i think that the fence we already have will be fine. a few fence posts here and there and we are in business. if the fence is not adequate there will be clipping of roughly eleven chicken wing feathers.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

the neti pot

i don't normally shamelessly promote stuff but today was a windy day and i drove a skid steer and loaded leca which is really dusty. my sinuses were clogged with a fine clay dust. i should have worn a dust mask but alas it is too late for that.

a few years ago tabitha bought a neti pot and i though it was weird but agreed to use it none the less. it was pretty ok especially since nothing was wrong with my sinuses. weeks-months later i got a cold and clogged sinuses. i put it to the true test and it worked. later that day i needed to neti again and i mixed it wrong too salty and water was too cold. it burned my nose. much later, i reluctantly asked tabitha to make me a neti pot. she agreed and explained the critical measurements and tests to perform to assure a successful neti.

years later i can mix up a pot and use it easily. it still feels really disgusting while doing it. my only regret when i need one is 'why didn't i think of that sooner.' so what am i trying to say? these things are not for everyone but i can't recommend them any higher! if you do take my recommendation and get one, email tabitha and ask her the trick. it might take only one bad neti to turn you off forever.

these things require you to pour water in one nostril and out the other. it washes your sinuses. i have always had sinus issues and this little thing has been a God-send.

so today when i got home i just took a bath and washed my sinuses too. Squeaky clean.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


tristan is all grown up. he helps how ever he can, he'll play and entertain his sister for hours. he watches her and generally keeps her out of trouble. he can actually grab her and carry her to safety. we nurture his protective big brother side. i fully expect that kassi and tristan will be all but completely autonomous for large portions of their days by the time the new baby comes. this'll be extremely helpful to tabitha having her hands full with the latest omelay.

our friend anna blogged about structured time for kids and the need for unstructured time. i wholly agree, and will take that a step further. i believe that structure is for the adults. it helps them get predictable results on behavior and gives both parties a baseline for productive interaction. having said that and realizing the benefits, we have almost no structured time. we have breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner together and the most structured time we have is movie night and when we pray before meals. there is routine around here, feeding the chickens, the cow, and checking for eggs. this routine is a kind of structure but mostly it's for the animals and in hopes that we don't forget anything. we as parents are predictable and try to offer a consistent position which is a kind of structure. tabitha has read many books on parenting and different methods, i've read a few, but mostly we do what feels right. for us that means our kids have the run of the place, they are by most standards un-ruley. but they are sweet, considerate and generally consider themselves as our peers. not that they question the modicum of authority that we enforce (too much) but they demand respect as much as any other person. this sorta happened this way. maybe this'll bite us in the butt in the future but this is how the experiment is progressing to date.

mike turned our garden yesterday for the final time. kassi and i picked up rocks and roots out of the garden. she is amazingly helpful. i'd point out rocks and she'd say "tanx daddy" and pick it up and put it in the bucket. she twice half filled a five gallon bucket of rocks. i dumped the buckets, picked up the really large ones, took them to the rock ring, and pulled roots. we worked until dark. in the interim I cooked chicken on the grill YUM. it was so tasty--we haven't grilled in a while.

friday I will rent a roto-tiller, the new for-trade-one is a few weeks away. we'll macerate the soil to a fine homogeneous layer. I plan to add cedar shavings, the composted and more fresh cow manure and the leca that ben gave me over the weekend.
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