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.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Ginger finally came home

In neat little white packages.

Why is it no matter what measures I take, like giving them a business card with my name spelled correctly across the top, everyone spells my name wrong? I am always surprised on the rare occasion someone gets it right. The butcher taking twice as long as they said and the "name" issue left a sour taste in my mouth. That was remedied this morning by the taste of extra thick cut bacon smoked to perfection. Their quality is worth the extra little trouble.

I gave the owner of the butcher shop a little trouble for the lateness. He responded very graciously bribed my good will with two feed sacks of bones for my dogs. I will still recommend him because it is all about quality. A good butcher is hard to find. He'll likely have my business more in the future.

We are planning on getting three maybe four pigs this next round. Furthermore we are planning to raise a gilt to farrow. We love having pigs and during times without we miss them terribly. Having a sow means never being without a pig. Also I hope to raise pigs to be ready for butcher in the cold of winter. I want this because I want to butcher my own hogs someday. I want to smoke my own meat. This will be another tier of self sufficiency that I hope to enjoy.

Mike, Tabitha's father, has permanently spoken for one of our pigs each round. Many of our customers have expressed interest in milk-fed pork. I think we can pasture raise in combination with milk and hay. Our test will be with our first piglets born on site. They will also help me claim some of our forest for even more pasture.

This is a huge endeavor and will require plenty of work on my part but the kids are just getting to an age of helpfulness and I hope to instill a strong work ethic in them. Fencing will have to happen this winter in earnest.


I was recently lucky enough to attend a sustainability conference in Springfield Missouri--O.N.E. Ozarks New Energy. My employer The Alternative Energy Company had a booth but I got to attend every seminar I wanted. Well almost, seminar scheduling conflicts kept me from a couple of interest. The highlights were ammonia as a fuel alternative to compressed hydrogen NH3, tierra petra, Greensberg KS, Steam Engines, Local Food and a few politicians spewing rhetoric.

The politicians made so angry that I went to a seminar immediately following day two lunch about micro-hydro hoping for some hippies to hug. It proved to be the best seminar ever, engineers and architects designing a beautiful 1-4 kw micro-hydro system.

I feel good, recharged and motivated to continue to live as sustainably as possible. If you have read our blogs for a while you know the measures we take. We have been of this mindset for so long it is difficult to see any other way. I had several opportunities to discuss during presentations "new ideas" from a real-world experience perspective. I have tried and will continue tierra-petra for example. I have built a bio-diesel reactor. We eat local to a degree that is near impossible for a city dweller. I am not trying to be smug, I simply feel proud to be living this way. I want everyone to know this because the more proponents of an idea the greater momentum a movement can achieve. Lord knows Missouri could use some momentum.

Here at home we received a new cream/milk separator from the Ukraine.

If you milk an animal you need one of these. It is wonderful. It separates the milk and cream straight from the cow and is amazingly exact. Cream is in the highest demand here for butter and cream in our coffee.

We got the hand crank version. It has been really fun. Being hand crank makes it a two person operation but we could alter our system a little and solve that concern also. One huge benefit is it makes the most wonderful milk froth/foam. I spoon it onto my creamy coffee in the morning. This must be where the cappuccino originated.

ahh tasty indeed...

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Day lilies, Bikes and Love

My parents came for a visit. They stayed three nights in our little house with us. We had loads of fun. They brought me an old truck that my sister gave me. It is loaded with a swimming pool, lathe and a band saw. I have yet to unload it since we have been so busy.

The reason for their visit is to buy the kids bicycles. Oh, what a hit they are. The kids love them, have given them names and are constantly begging to go to the bike trail. The yard is a little bumpy but they are undaunted. We pledge a weekly visit to the trail, maybe Sundays after church.

They also brought hundreds of day lilies. They collect them and show them in their yard every summer (bus tours, write-ups in the local paper ect..) My parents have an excellent idea that Kassi might have a day lily business someday. Her passion for flowers and nurturing demeanor seem an ideal match. This year is the first stage of the business. We planted the beds in a manner for display and propagation.

The next phase will be to set her up to sell them. A website and market stand are on my queue. For now it will be mostly Tabitha and my effort but Kassi is really excited. This links to the entire album of what we planted--forever documented and able to reference.

Kassi has an entire photo book of them in bloom listed alphabetically.

I'll get photos of the kids on bikes and other stuff today.
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