Sunday, December 26, 2010

rainy park

The little boys got scooters for Christmas. Even though it was raining lightly we made the obligatory visit to the skate park for a test run.

All the kids got raincoats for Christmas. Toly got a green one. He loves green anyone that knows him knows this because he declares all green things his.

Rome has amazing balance and rode his scooter like he owned it since last Christmas.

Of course Toly got a green scooter.

Many collisions were only just avoided...

The older kids rode the skateboards.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

extended living in a hotel w/o the continental breakfast

Living here in this place is difficult since it is transitional. Ten more days we'll begin our new adventure in earnest. The new residence becomes available on the first of January. It is like holding your breath for a little too long.

My job is going wonderfully. I really missed it. I fixed the heating system and everyone really appreciates it. I have been doing different and interesting things each day. My days are long but fulfilling. Tomorrow I will decommission the P.V. system on the office. They are selling it to a co-workers father for cheap. The entire company will be moving to a new larger location within a few months and this is the first step of disentanglement. I helped install this system several years ago.

I am excited to do this kind of work since it is cross over to the P.V. side of the company. I aspire to be the employee that can do everything.

Uncle Matt sent photos of our visit to Tilden park. Such fun, I had just met his girlfriend. She is very cool and likely a new addition to my extended family--if she'll have him.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Moving again

We are moving again. Crazy? Our current place isn't a good fit. The neighborhood is marginal. The residents in other units keep diametric hours. We have lovely friends that own a beautiful house in an excellent neighborhood. It will be available in a few weeks. We have given notice here and our landlords are sympathetic.

Everything is so expensive here but I am working long hours to compensate. The kids love the new neighborhood and friends there. Connectivity is an issue and is further delayed by the next move. We have a crappy cell phone but is gets great reception in the new neighborhood too.

I love my job. They are warming to me. I get deep satisfaction working in an industry that is making such a difference for the environment. I miss my kids working such long hours. They are very happy to see me when I get home.

My best friend, "Uncle Matt" is up for a visit. The kids love him. It gives me such pleasure to see them climb all over him.

As of mid January we'll be more stable and connected. Everything is great, different but great. I'll be able to get caught up then.

In the meantime is where our Jocelyn and Astrid live. Ianto went to

After The Change, ATC

Thursday, December 02, 2010

sigh of relief

So I am officially gainfully employed. We have a place to live that we like. Our refrigerator is full of food. Boy was that weird buying all that food. For the past five years we provided most of our own food from our farm. Today I got the final word on my job and we celebrated by going to Berkeley Bowl. Berkeley Bowl (a grocery store) is impossible to describe. I'll try...

Imagine a high end grocer that has the highest quality produce, meat and groceries. Then multiply that idea by ten, cut all the prices by 40% and mix in a deli/bakery to die for. Oh, that is not all, the place is so aesthetically pleasing you loose all track of time. They had six different types of pomegranate to choose from.

We even bought seafood, I truly missed great seafood. I know that I am not doing the place justice because I was amazed and we used to shop there every week when we lived here before. That was a celebration extravagance and are committed to going to the farmers market on bicycle weekly but that sure was fun.

The camera is still packed or missing in a deeper way than I am willing to admit right now. When this camera issue is resolved we'll take a few photos of the place. Even without olfactory or tactile senses it is still something to behold.

A grocery as entertainment and celebration? Has Karl gone mad? Quite possibly, the stress has been treacle encumbering my every move. I am sure it will take some time to recover. If anyone has been to Berkeley Bowl West please chime-in defend my craziness.

Tomorrow will be our first home cooked meal in... it seems like eons. I start work on Friday. I look forward to working with my new co-workers. They seem very cool. Very cool...

My interview was kinda crazy. I guess I made quite a lasting impression when I left five years ago. I think mostly good but the word cowboy was used in reference to me. I admit I was in rebellion from corporate America and searching for freedom. Sun Light and Power afforded me many latitudes that are no longer acceptable. Wearing a Kilt to work everyday was brought up. That was the culture then and it isn't like that anymore. I also admit that for the company to grow, that culture needed to change. I see the truth of it and sure don't have any problems with the change, nor will I.

I just miss the feeling of going to work everyday and feeling like I am making a difference. Making the planet a little bit better with every solar installation. I am so appreciative and humbled by our good fortune that I cannot sleep.

Thank you everyone for your prayers, well wishes and hope. We made a huge leap of faith and the faith held thanks to you.


Monday, November 29, 2010


Apartment in Oakland secured. We move in tomorrow. We got a cheapo cell phone with unlimited long distance, month to month.

Going to a meeting at four. Please hold your breath one last time.

Fingers crossed

Sunday, November 28, 2010


We have arrived in Berkeley and staying at La Quinta Inn. I am exhausted. The kids finally broke down for the last three hours, such good kids for almost the entire trip. Unbelievably good kids. Rome actually got the feistiest.


snowy pass on the way in. scary...

in and out burger = wonderful

one more day of travel today

Saturday, November 27, 2010

left turn at Albuquerque

We are just outside Albuquerque and safe. My fingers are too fat to type on this mini laptop. All the well wishes seem to be working. The drive grueling, the kids are behaved, we are all scared.

Thank you,


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pray for us.

The stress is overwhelming. Many things are still tentative. We need your well wishes, contributions to the collective consciousness and prayers. There are six states to cross and a promise of questionable weather. Luck favors the prepared, hopefully the seat of our pants will work one last time.

Please think of us.

Karl and family

Saturday, November 20, 2010


As many have guessed we are going through a drastic change–life altering. I have tried time again to write this post. You are all my friends and I need to explain. First, Tabitha and I are together forever. Second, I have the best boss at The Alternative Energy Company ever. Zeke has my allegiance and will continue to be my friend.

Here is the deal. We are leaving our little farm. The reasons we are leaving are many and mostly logic based. The catalyst however was pure emotion. Tabitha is terrified of handguns–an incapacitating phobia. Our newest neighbor, just out of our back door, had a propensity to have a few drinks and repeatedly fire his hand gun. We entered civil conversation. I pleaded with him that my four year old autistic son couldn't bear the nightly extended gun shooting, which is true.

Finally, his landlords stopped by and asked us "did the hand gun shooting trouble us?" We answered a gleeful "yes" hoping for a simple solution. They responded that they had a prior agreement that *if there were any complaints* they would have to stop the nightly shooting. The Crazy Mother Fu%*er, CMF for short blamed us even though all the local neighbors complained. At one point the Sheriff became involved and the CMF became enraged. He started threatening my wife, children and animals by yelling across the hallow. Tabitha became racked with fear and would not let the kids out to play in our own yard. He would brandish his gun and yell *BANG BANG* toward my children and wife. He would yell "you better get your cow out of here" while holding a gun. (expletives deleted)

Tabitha did not feel safe and fell out of love with our little farmstead. The disillusionment was complete and all encompassing. She began to work on me trying to explain her terror and that there is a better way. Needless to say I resisted and cited promises of living here forever. Foremost, I love my wife and desire her happiness and safety.

The contributing factors are my spotty employment during the past six months, and our barely keeping our heads above water. Maintaining during financial difficulty requires a deep blind love for this lifestyle and a hope for the future. On the positive side Tabitha has been pining to go back to University but commute from here is unrealistic. This is especially true since it would require stopping homeschooling. Our local schools are simply not an option.

In the end we have decided to move back to the San Francisco bay area. A risky endeavor indeed but we are on the five year plan. Tabitha will attend University, the kids will attend a charter school, I will get employment in the active California solar industry (my true passion). After five years we will reassess our position.

Crazy? Yes, I agree but we have learned countless lessons here and can better try it again with true preparation. I want to build our own "perfect" home someday. At that time, Tabitha will carry the torch of employment while I and the boys build our dream home. It must be geographically protected and neighbors few.

Are we financially OK? Kinda, mostly, but we are scared. I have been repeating to myself "hold on tightly, let go lightly." I fear for my children but I want them to be fearless and can only show them this by example.

I will continue my blog taking lessons learned from the country to the city. It might even be more useful to a greater number of people. Buying in bulk in season and preserving while in the city is something of true value. Attending U-pick, buying in bulk and everything fresh in season is our lifestyle. I hope to ride my bike to work everyday. I spent most of my twenties with only a bicycle as transportation and miss it.

It will be a new deliberate adventure. I hope you stick around to see what happens next.. I plan to document our preparations for our next foray in to self sufficiency and sustainability. A pastoral life is something not to be attempted lightly. Our lessons from this practice farm promise decisive preparation for our next iteration and future.

Special thanks to Patrick, Bob, Zeke, Matt, my sister and all of you. Your support has been well appreciated.
I love you all, blessings of peace.


Monday, November 01, 2010

dias de las muertas

A celebration of life through celebrating death. Also the day of finding half eaten pieces of candy stuck to various surfaces in the house.

Me: "alright, who left this here?"

Our kids almost never get commercial candy. Although they do get to binge during this brief season--it is part of being an American kid. The kids are now begging for "real food." I jokingly said "NO, all you get to eat all day is candy." a little reverse psychology?

(one Hour later)... my plan might be backfiring on Toly.


The Halloween line-up.
Black Kitty, Percy Jackson, Prairie Princess, Mermaid Princess, Saber Kitty, Prince Zuko & Christmas Tree

Saber Kitty is a homage to kassi's kitten, may she rest in peace.
Prince Zuko we love the animated series "the last air bender." Even adults should appreciate the depth of the character development. Easily a precursor to a reading child. Following a complex storyline is a necessity for this series of shows.
Christmas Tree, this was entirely Toly's idea. He loves nightmare before Christmas mixing Christmas and Halloween seemed like a good idea to him. The costume was a huge hit. The lights lit up and he guided our way on the darkish streets, kinda like Rudolf.
Rome had to be a kitty since Kassi was one--MEEOOW..

Saturday, October 30, 2010

pumpkins + squishing goo = jack 'o' lantern

Rome, Kassi, Tristan, Toly

toly's was voted the scariest

Today was a long awaited day of our first green egg.

I hope all the auracanas start laying soon. It will be a nice mix for our customers to have colorful auracauna eggs in their dozen.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I thought this was brilliant is a wonderful site for education. It is so profound that a person might believe that his quixotic nature must be spiritually divine. His reply to this query follows..

If you believe in trying to make the best of the finite number of years we have on this planet (while not making it any worse for anyone else), think that pride and self-righteousness are the cause of most conflict and negativity, and are humbled by the vastness and mystery of the Universe, then I'm the same religion as you.

--Salman Khan

just trying to cheer myself up after the sweet potato fiasco

sweet potatoes were a bust

I can't even bring myself to take a picture of those measly sweet potatoes to show you all what a failure they were. Obviously they weren't in full sun. The soil there was very rich, probably too rich. Next year they will be planted if full sun in the garden.

Failure :(

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Autumn Lingers

We still haven't had a killing frost yet. Last week I covered part of the wood pile.

There should be plenty of extra wood in-the-dry under there for the entire winter. Four rows ten feet long by five feet high. Sorry to bore you but this is how I document this sort of thing. There should be a few ricks of wood left over for next winter.

I might use the surplus to make some terra preta. I have discovered an easier way to make charcoal than previous searches have revealed.

It is described in detail at

Last week I also turned the compost from these two bins..

..into this larger bin.

I wet it down as I forked it over. Yesterday it had settled about a foot and was giving off considerable heat.

Last evening I took a break from work and raked some of the upper field with Tristan and Toly. We raked hickory nuts and leaves onto a huge piece of tarp. They helped me drag it to the pigpen and dump it. several more evenings like that and we'll have the entire paddock cleared of leaves and hickory nuts and acorns. The pigs should really enjoy the fodder.

The chickens are finally laying a reasonable amount of eggs again.

One of our neighbors had a stroke and gave us his chickens. I reluctantly took them, because I felt bad for him. They promptly gave our hens mites and probably worms. One day I went to collect eggs and there were merely a fraction of the expected amount. Since we treat everything naturally and only when necessary it takes a while to get over this kind of stuff. That was several weeks ago and with intensive treatment and they are finally getting better. No good deed goes unpunished--I didn't even like that guy either.

I also got a bit more slipform masonry completed on the milking barn.

The weather has been perfect for this kind of work and I have been stuck in-doors doing web design. Aarrgh..

Here is that bad cow on pasture furlough. She has been promptly going directly for the acorns. She can poison herself if she eats too many. We have been keeping her up and feeding hay until I can do something about it.

The boys are getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

Their raw diet agrees with them. They still have that sheepish puppy look to them. astrid has been keeping the dominance pressure on them even though they are beginning tower over her. Ianto, the tallest, is starting to not take it anymore. I imagine there will be a power change very soon.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

broken drawing arm

Kassi is beside herself not being able to draw. She still tries but gets frustrated.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Foray into slipform masonry

This masonry work will be below grade so it will never show. That is until some distant future archeological dig. This is my first try using this method. Besides the rocks being too small and my cement being a little too runny I think my experiment turned out fine. During this first below grade course I'll adjust my cement wetness and rock placement to judge my end results.

I used some rough planks as the form. The next tier will have to include embedded tension wires to hold in the bottom. I'll show that technology when I get there. I also embedded some barbed wire to add reinforcement.

The kids were incredibly helpful. They placed all the rock while I shoveled in the cement. As aesthetics become more important I'll monitor that process more closely.

Tabitha just arrived from the hospital. Kassi does indeed have a broken arm, a small incomplete fracture.
No more jumping from the barn loft!!!

Barn Progress and broken arm?

Yesterday I managed to pour/slip-form part of the barn foundation. The kids helped. They gathered rocks. I showed Tristan how to place the rock while I shoveled in the cement mix. All of this will be below grade so aesthetics aren't important yet. This is good practice for the upper layers when we want a certain look.

Having the kids help meant they were playing in and around the barn. Just after I cleaned up Tristan and Kassi were playing in the loft. Kassi was jumping and got tangled with Tristan. He tried to grab her but she slipped and fell on her wrist. We are taking her to the doctor this morning to probably get an x-ray.

To top it off I have fallen ill with some allergy related stuffy nose and head ache. Tabitha will take Kassi and Rome while I stay and rest with Toly and Tristan.

I might get a photo of the slip-form progress later this morning.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Don't be scared, I changed how things look around here

I haven't changed my blogger template for eons. Mostly because I'm lazy, I'm not resistant to change. I swear, I'm not crossing my fingers either...

Tabitha is the furniture mover around here and has suggested that I update things. I usually just go with whatever is easiest. I will have a new banner very soon. Order will prevail.

The real motivator was that our new separator videos got clipped by the old layout. I can't have that. Also, I like the wider template and that will stay. The background is some stock photo but could be just down the road. I'll likely keep that too.

there is also some additional response clicks at the bottom. reactions funny, interesting, cool? i might try to put "lame" in there just to even things out. Tabitha suggests "get a hair cut hippie" that would be good too.

I'll tweek things a bit more but this is now the new skin I wear.

Cream separator videos

As I mentioned in a previous post we are happy with it. The main flaw with the unit is the instructions are near impossible make sense of. The interpretation from Russian is horrid and gut busting funny at times. Tabitha and I got so giddy that we giggled the entire time. That was, until milk was flinging all over our kitchen.
Not wanting to cry over spilled milk we decided to figure this thing out and promptly fell in love with it.

So that others might enjoy the separator as much as us, we made a video about it. Well, several videos. Comments were made toward me, disguised as constructive criticism, regarding my over use of certain words. Hurdles aside we managed to produce two videos. One of them is the assembly of the unit.

The second one is the use of the unit.

At the end of the day we had a great time doing it. There will be more to come regarding this topic, sorry to everyone that cares nothing about cream.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy Birthday Anatoly

Sweet potatoes

We have been planning this sweet potato harvest for two years. We put our first round of pigs on this little plot contained by pallets. In June of 2008 I built this from recycled pallets:

Thanks Ron.. The soil there was rocky clay and could support only the worst of weeds. Originally it was to be a calf pen but it quickly became our hog pen. Instead of shoveling most of the field cow patties into compost bins I simply threw it into their pen. They thrived in the fodder churning and rooting through it making a rich hot thick layer of almost soil.

Then we left it to rest for an entire summer. All the while knowing this is where sweet potatoes will grow next season.

This past spring after struggling with sweet potato slips and their apparent decision not to grow, we finally planted a bunch of different variety slips into the their long awaited place.

We are in the home stretch and waiting for the first killing frost. There are many views on the topic but we plan to dig them that following day. We are extremely hopeful since the vines have completely consumed the old pigpen. Also we had a failure in our butternut squash patch this year.

Sweet potatoes don't directly replace winter squash but we will happily have them in their stead this year. Every year is different on what fails, what is marginal and what succeeds. Mono culture would be our ruin this winter if we didn't plant with diversity in mind. Besides planting a bunch of different stuff is fun.

I will post about the harvest the day following the first killing frost.
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