Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lexical density

English101 may be the most interesting class I've ever been in.

I have learned more in this one quarter, from one teacher, than I have in any other english class. Ever.

Thank you Nick Halsey.

In pursuit of knowledge

In pursuit of knowledge, I have seemingly set aside my better judgement and stress-coping skills.

I laid a course for 18 credits this quarter, which is a hefty endeavor, but not impossible or even unmanageable. At least under normal circumstances. However this quarter has riddled me with trial after trial, and for some reason, everything that can break and cost money has done just that.

I have spent hours repairing my car, hours fixing my furnace, and just got done replacing a part in my oven. The car still has problems (unrelated to the last ones), it was the second time I have had to fix the furnace (unrelated problems), and now my van has an oil leak that seems comically bad. I am embarassed by how much oil is leaving my engine to pollute the environment.

I would drive less this quarter, but my ridiculous schedule has me running all over the place for too many reasons to list. Sadly, I think it is a relatively simple fix, but I have so little time available to do anything about it that I am forced to just slide all around town on my little oil-slick.

Good news is on the horizon though, I will soon be done with this quarter, and will have plenty of time to get under there and fix the leak.

All for the sake of a little knowledge.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rogue backpacking

So the family packed up for a week long camping trip (August, 19th) and hit the road. We had our backpacks and regular camping gear all loaded up and on the way to Grants Pass, Oregon (well pretty close anyway).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Homemade Bike Mudflaps

So I needed some coolguy mudflaps for my hacked together fenders on the ol' commuter bike.

Since I had a ton of the empties floating around, I decided to go with some beer can mudflaps.
I've been drinking PBR since before it was the hipster ubiqui-beer.................... and I like making the coolguys jealous................... so..

it started like this

then we got this

From Drop Box

From Drop Box

From Drop Box

Instructable to follow


My first instructable, and got featured within an hour of posting it. FRONT PAGE!!

scroll down to outside, bike mudflaps!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rabbits for food

So last weekend we did our rabbit dressing. Five rabbits yielded about 14-18lbs dressed.

Before we started I had to get prepared as it has been a while since I did this. Also, it took me a long time the last time. I turned to the internet because I have loaned out both of the books I would normally turn to.

There is such a wealth of information on the net that I cannot imagine being without this resource.

After watching a few videos and reading up on tanning, I decided I had a good idea how to make things easier for myself.

I had been using an old method of killing the rabbits; placing a broom handle over the backs of their necks and pulling up with their hind legs. Effective but difficult and cumbersome. So, I made a tool:


The Wrabbit Wringer

I slide their neck in there (head above the tines) and just pull. Easier and faster.

I also found a video on paunching and skinning that reduced the process to about 5-10 minutes per bunny. This was quite a bit faster than the 20-30 it was taking me the last time.

If anyone is thinking about raising rabbits for food, definitely watch the video linked above.

Hopefully I can find more time to write again. It makes me feel good to share my experiences, even if nobody sees them, just writing them down feels good.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Replacing water pump and timing belt on 2000 A6 2.7l, DIY auto repair

So, Audi's are a pain in the ass to work on.

Just to get that out of the way. But on the bright side I have a more intimate relationship with my car, and a higher tolerance for how far I can take her apart now.

Because I have not shed my need for a vehicle, I had to fix her overheating problem. So to the internet I went and found myriad sires for Audi repair, few of which related to my particular issue. There was one though. And did very well describing the dis-assembly for my water-pump replacement.

Because I am willing to do the work myself I saved over $600. YAY DIY!!!

For those wanting more information on how to replace the water pump, thermostat, and timing belt in a 2000 Audi A6 2.7l:

instructions after the break

It's been too long since I posted

Sorry, I've found my days and weeks full of too many things. We've had two camping trips consisting of 5-7 days each (stories to follow, eventually) and a bunch of working on my car and finishing my welding class. If anyone still comes by to check, this apology is for you.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Do you ever get tired? Not for any particular reason, just tired. I have been fighting this tired thing for weeks. I haven't ridden my bike or gone for a run, or even a hike for 4 weeks. The chicken and egg, I don't know which is causing which.

Just needed to write it out.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I've got a William Tell in my neighborhood

Or a William the Wabbit Waster.

So I found my mother rabbit dead in my yard, next to my garden. Some miserable piece of s#$t shot her with an arrow. What kind of motherless prick shoots arrows at animals in other peoples' yards?

Don't get me wrong, I am upset about the bunny, but I am far more angry about the arrow. I am using the backspace quite a bit to remove the expletives as fast as I write them. I am pissed.

For argument's sake, let's say the rabbit was in someone else's yard. Do you shoot it because it is reared up trying to attack your kid? Maybe it was maniacally mowing their yard for them. I know they thought they'd get a nice meal out of the wild black-and-white rabbit that is so ubiquitous in these parts. No, they are just a piss-soaked sheet and an errant match-to-dollhouse away from being a serial killer.

Even if the rabbit was in their yard, do they have the right to shoot it? Do they kill the cats that stray into their yard? Should I start killing all the animals that make their way through my yard? I must have at least four cats a day come through my front or back yards. My chickens do a good job of chasing them out of the back yard, but I could still kill one a day for a week and not cull the cat population in my neighborhood. Yet I don't, because they have as much of a right to be here as my chickens and rabbits.

I'm just so pissed!!!!!!!!! I am glad my kids weren't out there playing, or maybe it wouldn't have happened if they were. I did however discover one of the few things that will make me call the police. GGGRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!

Must try to sleep now. Have to wake up in five hours. I have to bury a rabbit too.

welding class as a full time job

28 hours a week plus commute of 7-8 per week.

This is a full time job, and I'm paying them. I guess that is the cost of gaining another skill.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Hey neighbor,can I borrow your............?

I was perusing the internet trying to get up to date on what is cool and came across this little nugget:

Watch This Intro Video! from sparky rose on Vimeo.

from Neighborgoods:

"The idea of NeighborGoods is so simple. Sharing stuff is good for you. It saves you money, it's more sustainable than buying a bunch of crap you don't need, and it creates a reason to meet a friend or a neighbor face to face where you might not have otherwise. Still, this very simple idea has the potential for monumental impact, especially when taken in context of a larger cultural movement. "

This such a great idea, I don't even know where to start. For Eric who said "I can't say I share your view on tools though. I feel it's less important to have a good set of tools and more important to have a neighbor who has a good set of tools (and a good relationship with such a neighbor)", here's the answer to that.

I signed up and there are already two others in my area. One of which is a beekeeper. I am very excited about this idea. Can't wait to give it a try.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Blueberries, mmmmm

The blueberries we planted on our appropriated island are very happy. There is a raspberry patch all around it too. The other day we had a neighbor out there picking raspberries and eating them. That's what I'm talking about!! That is the whole reason they are there.

-- Sent from my palm pixi aboard my spaceship

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fly relief

With the onset of sunnier weather and less of the natural wash-away that rain brings, we have seen an upshift in the amount of flies in our backyard. They are not obscenely bad, just to the point of annoying. Because we have chickens and a compost bin in the backyard this is amplified more than the average household I'm sure.

If you find yourself in the same situation, or annoyed by the fruit-flies that seem to come from nowhere as soon as you pile the fruit up on the counter, then I have the solution for you.

I can't take credit for too much here, but when I went looking for natural fly deterrent I found a solution at lifehacker.


Following the link there I arrived at another site that seems to be a treasure trove of fun projects.

sample via lifehacker:

"Apartment Therapy writer Leah Moss was on vacation in Ecuador when she came across the Terminator of fly traps. She writes:

'I came across this contraption at a horse farm in Ecuador where the flies are nearly as abundant as the wild flowers. That mountain at the bottom of the cage is the fly accumulation in one week! Thankfully, our own fly problem is not quite so pronounced in DC, but the pesky little things have still been known to ruin many a good outdoor meal, making this simple trap all the more attractive.

The bait (in this case, "dog manure", but you could use something less offensive like composting scraps) in the trap attracts flies in through the bottom, leading them up through the screen cone and into the cage. Since flies only fly up, they don't know how to escape through the cone-shaped screen through which they entered. And voila!' "

I will be making one of these for the back yard for sure. I'll post with finished pics when the project is done.

Dig the wheels

From the sidelines of the Fremont festival. I still need to upload all the pictures from the parade.

I thought I'd be writing more with school out, but I actually have been working and helping friends with projects. Funny how that works.

-- Sent from my palm pixi aboard my spaceship

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Funky trike, powered by two

Ran across this awesome rig as we were leaving the Fremont festival in Seattle today.

Both of the rear seats power the drive train which seemed to be freewheels welded to the outsides of the hub at the wheel. It looked like an old rear end out of a small car. It was really cool.

I have some more pics of other bikes and pedal-powered contraptions from the parade, they are, however, still on the camera and I will not be able to upload them until later.

I will edit with a link later.

-- Sent from my palm pixi aboard my spaceship

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Book list

Before I get judged for linking to Amazon for all these books, I would like to say it is just the best place to get good cover pics, and good reviews. You can probably find them cheaper somewhere else, or even better, locally. Support your local bookstore, or amazon, whatever.

The How List:

1: Country Wisdom and Know-how, by The Editors of Storey Publishing's Country Wisdom Boards
This is a great resource for just about every thing in a self sustaining lifestyle. A must own book, for sure.

2: Foxfire #9, edited by Eliot Wigginton
We like this book because it is a bunch of stories from lives that were lived simply, ideas from people who just lived that way because it was the only way they knew.

3: The Urban Homestead, by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen
This is a wonderful resource for all of those out there that are just like us, trying to do all this, but on a small city lot. It is like a giant "tips and tricks" list from people doing it for real.

4: Gaia's Garden, by Toby Hemenway
There may be no better Permaculture Gardening book than this, I can't say enough about it. Get this for sure.

5: First Lessons in Beekeeping, by C.P. Dadant
Beekeeping may not be for everyone, we have a hive but no bees yet. This is our source for information about beekeeping, we can't wait to get bees next season.

6: The Handmade Basket Book, by Rebecca Board
My wife loves this book and it is a great reference for making baskets, you will never look at grasses or a pile of pruned branches the same again. Nothing beats gathering eggs and garden goodies in a basket you made yourself.

7: Pine Needle Basketry, by Judy Mallow
Much like the other basket making book in its usefulness, but much more. We checked this out from the library four or five times before we realised we needed to own it.

The Why List:

1: Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, by John de Graaf, David Wann, and Thomas H. Naylor

I guess it isn't much of a list with one book on it, but what other reason do you need?

The funny part is we have been doing this and been on this path for 4-5 years and I have had this book for 2-3 of those (25 cent garage sale get) and just picked it off the shelf for the first time and realised how relevant it is to our lives.

The Interesting List:

1: Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, by John Perkins
This book will open your eyes. I can't say enough, go to the library today and get this book. Be prepared to be appalled though.

2: The Ugly American, by Eugene Burdick and William J. Lederer
A classic example of hubris and ethnocentric behavior. This should be required reading in middle school.

3: Grey, by Jon Armstrong
This is a fun book. Think "Fifth Element" meets "Idiocracy" meets "Romeo and Juliet". I can't place a finger on it, but it was an interesting social commentary on consumption.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is a whittled list that we came up with for being a great starting point.

I'm open to comments and suggestions on the any of and/or the entire list, so fire away.

Mobile couch potato with a side of micro-brew?

So I'm walking through this parking lot and look over to see:

One of the strangest couch hauling methods I've ever seen.

Then on the way to help a friend move, within an hour of seeing the couch balancing act..........

The guy with this bragged about how they had TV's for both sides and a dvd player with surround sound. It is a neat idea for sure, but you could leave the TV's off and have more people paying attention to the awesomeness that it is all by itself.

Just a little side note: My wife and I recently decided to splurge and get a burger out at a local place. They had TV's on every wall and they were so distracting neither of us really paid much attention to each other, I hate TV's because of that. I don't even watch sports, but here I was mesmerized by baseball, BASEBALL!!! I hate TV.

I digress...

So between these two all we are missing is the BBQ trailer and we would have the ultimate mobile party. Burning Man here we come.

Now if we could just minimize the brewery a touch more, just enough so I could pull it behind my bike.

Quite a random day for me.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The book list is coming......

Tuesday is my last day this quarter, once finals are over I will have more time to write. School is taking a lot of my time this month.

I have had this book on my shelf for over two years and hadn't picked it up yet. It will definitely go on the list.

I am thinking about a three category list: the how, the why, and the interesting for other reasons.

Affluenza will be on the "why", Country Wisdom and Know-how will be on the "how", and Confessions of an Economic Hitman in the "interesting for other reasons".

Just a teaser. We are compiling a list, and once it is posted, will have a running list in the side bar.

-- Sent from my palm pixi aboard my spaceship

Friday, June 11, 2010

Repurposed dvd shelf for spice rack

We bought these dvd shelves long ago at Ikea. We stopped storing our dvds on them about 2-3 years ago and use a nylon case now. Since we hate to have anything we don't use, and don't throw much away, we found another use for these low profile shelves.

They work perfectly for storing our spices and teas. You will notice the spices in large containers (some get replenished with bulk, others get replaced when empty, but we reuse the containers), I get those from Cash and Carry. We buy those for $3-7 each which is ~¼ of the price for the equivalent amount from the store. I will always get my vanilla from there if I don't make it ($11ish for a quart, yes a quart).

I love finding new purposes for older stuff. I am leaving in a couple minutes to go dumpster-diving at the colleges (graduation weekend).

-- Sent from my palm pixi aboard my spaceship

Thursday, June 10, 2010

# 15 Cut up your credit cards

We stopped using credit cards about seven years ago. We had one until about five years ago, but we didn't use it so they cancelled it.

It is amazing how nice it is to not have a credit card payment, one less bill nagging in the background every month. Not only do we not pay interest on anything we buy, but we buy less too. Having a credit card just gives you the reason to buy stuff you don't really need or can't afford. If we need it, we buy it with savings. Because we are not buying stuff on a credit card, subsequently not paying that bill, we have the ability to save. We also don't have the nagging TV telling us to "buy happiness". It is amazing what you can do if get rid of the desire to have everything right now. I don't mind waiting for the things we want, and having that money there for the emergencies and thing we need.

We used to make close to six figures in this house (not rich, but better than a lot of folks), but we never had anything to show for it. We barely had savings, two car payments, credit card bills, etc. Now we purposely make less, and have a lot more to show for it. I know we are still doing better than a lot of folks in the current economy, but that is by design. We have made it so we can survive on less; frugality, self-sufficiency, and the ability / willingness to learn keep us afloat.

The way we live is has not come easy, but the choice has. All the things we do on a regular basis did not start out as habit, we have developed a routine and try to make a new addition to our lives every month. Some hold, some don't, but we are seeing what works for us.

We read a lot, we also check the blogs and DIY sites for new ideas.

Stay tunes for a reading list.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Busy week

I have finals next week and studying mixed with life in general has eaten up most of my time.

I am working on a book list or recommended reading list for the like minded folks out there.

It will be posted in the next day or so.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Potato silo update #2

Apparently potatoes and tomatoes like each other.

We planted tomatoes in the top of the potato silos and voila, happiness abound.

You will notice in the second picture the rhubarb that is ginormous. Some of the leaves are over 2.5 feet across.

-- Sent from my palm pixi aboard my spaceship

Bike Trailer

I just went to google and searched "homemade bike trailer" to see what was out there for comparable trailers. I am looking to make another trailer to tow a canoe/kayak. To my delight my trailer was the second one in the list. Well sort of, a write-up by Matt over at bikehacks was the second link in the search results on google. I am still quite impressed, I never thought that would be a result.

Sorry, I was just a little excited and wanted to share.

edit: of course now it isn't anymore, damn!

Custom Domainage

I just changed to a custom domain as visible in the address bar.

Unfortunately, due to a coding fail, none of my comments made the transition. I have read the help files and this is a known issue without a real fix. It says I will get my comments back after 24 hours, but it has been since Friday. So for those that have made comments, I promise I didn't delete you. I appreciate your comments and do not get very many, so they are even more precious.

I hope to hear from you all again, and welcome new comments as well.

Friday, June 4, 2010

DIY Bike work stand

Well I have had this thing for about 8 months and figure it's about time I wrote about it.

1ea 1" pipe 36" long
1ea 1" pipe 6" nipple
1ea 1" floor flange
1ea 1" 90deg elbow
1ea 1" to 2" threaded adaptor
1ea PVC tee, threaded in tap side
1pr hinges
1ea hasp

Pretty straight forward build, as seen in the pictures.

I got the idea from a combination of posts on bikehacks

link to post

I love that site and make a visit there part of my day, nearly every day.

It is raining here today, and my wife is recovering from a party we went to last night, so I am going out to the garage to do some bike maintenance. Hopefully I'll be inspired to make something new while I'm out there. I need a new bike hack/geek out project.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

#14 Learn to sew

We have taught ourselves to sew.

We already knew a little, but we have gotten a lot better. I have made reusable shopping bags, pajamas for the girls, and some cycling caps. I even made a purse for my wife out of an old pair pants and a belt for the strap. It is fun. I also repair clothes instead of tossing them. This is a chance for creativity too.

It is not cheaper to make your own clothes if you are buying fabric from the fabric store. I guess it can be if you get clever with sale and coupon savings. I like to get fabric from garage sales and the Goodwill. I got three yards of some killer fabric from the Goodwill, utilising their half off tag sale, for $1.65 including tax. I am going to be making a hoodie sweatshirt with a long back for cycling, I'll post when I'm done with that.

Since we don't do "Christmas", because we are not Christian and we are trying to shed the Consumer lifestyle, we do a Winter Solstice gift exchange instead. All the gifts we give are home-made. Sewing comes in handy this time of year.

Now all we need to learn is successful tanning of hides to add rabbit fur lined hats to the gift list this year.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The story of the welder: or, more background

I used to work at a local A/V retailer/installer. I built home theaters. There is hardly a more wasteful enterprise than the home theater. It takes up an entire room, costs a lot of money, and provides little more than bragging rights (I know it provides entertainment, but its sole purpose is for show).

I digress.

While working at said retailer, it came to be that many customers would be upgrading their system and would get rid of old equipment. This is how it came to be that I had a "BOSE Lifestyle whatever" speaker system in my garage. With some clever pictures and craigslist skill, I turned that pile of crap speakers (this is opinion) into a brand new welder.

A BRAND NEW welder.

The manager of a local welding shop had received a welder on return (un-opened Millermatic140 mig welder), bought it at a great discount to himself, threw in a hood/mask with auto-darkening glass, wire, and a ton of extra supplies. In return for his generosity, I gave him a wonderful set ;) of expensive speakers.


"The cynic knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing" Oscar Wilde

I would argue today, that most consumers are cynics.

I know the price of the things we traded. We came out straight across, give or take a hundred bucks.

Mine was free, value.
His was probably cheap, value.

I knew/know little about welding, but wanted to have this as an option in my tools (the one thing that every home should have is good tools). Now I can, if I choose, weld metal together. What I have been doing is not good welding in the sense it is ugly. But I have managed to get the two pieces to bond with good penetration (meaning it will hold). I am taking a welding class this summer at the college. Hopefully this will help with quality of my welds.

That is the story of the welder.

A little background

Why am I writing this series?
Who am I to give advice?
"You have a bunch of stuff and still talk about simplicity, what's with that?"

Well, I have accumulated a few things in my life. I used to make a lot of money (relatively speaking). I bought the Mercedes, the toys, the stuff.

I have gotten rid of a lot, and am trying to learn to get rid of the rest. I want to keep only what I need, and maybe a few wants. It is hard. I grew up with little, so when I was making decent money, I wanted to buy the stuff I never had. Over time I have come to the realisation the stuff never made me happy. I found the doing is better than the having.

I have acquired many of the things I have by coincidence or luck. I am not afraid to dumpster-dive. I take my kids if I can, we make it a game. I have stopped on the side of the road to pick up something that someone else is tossing out. My wheelbarrow came from the dump, some guy was tossing it because "it's annoying", whatever that means.

I have traded a lot. Craigslist is my friend when it comes to trading.

Value is the governing factor with the things I possess. I was going to say own, but I don't think I own anything, I just possess it until it leaves my possession. I still have trouble letting go though, some things just have too much potential.

I feel qualified to share my experiences and tips with the world because I am actually doing every one of the steps on my list. I have been unemployed for 16 months (I did work for two months in the middle there). For ten of those months I collected no unemployment benefits. I now am collecting unemployment benefits (I felt that I shouldn't do it, but someone reminded me that it was my money). I am going to school on the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, and making it work on the little money I get from these two sources. My wife is a nurse and can make good money, but we choose for her to work less so she can be home for the summer with the kids. During the rest of the year she works and we save, we have eliminated most of our bills to make this a possibility. I am now unemployed by choice because juggling school, work, and kids is too much for anyone person and my heart goes out to those that manage to do it. My wife was in that position when we met and I quickly convinced her to stop working and let me handle the money part so she could continue her schooling. I saw how hard it can be, and do not want to do that myself (she is definitely stronger than me).

I like stuff, it is programmed into me from my childhood, from TV, from the outside forces of the media and U.S. culture. I am trying to de-program myself.

Instead of working hard just so we can pay the credit card bills and loans for the stuff we don't need, we work what we need to, just so we can do the things that give us the one thing we truly own, memories.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

#13 Ride your bike

I would have put this higher on the list, but there seemed to be a natural flow to the order it was coming out.

Ride your bike as much as you can. Not just for fun, but to the store or work, even the library.

I have found that on trips of 3 miles or less it can actually be faster to ride my bike. Even on longer trips, the difference can be just minutes. My drive to school, including the parking and walking to class, takes about 25-30 minutes. When I ride my bike (the mountain bike or the single speed) it takes about 40. On my road bike it takes about 35.

My trips to the store are fast. It is about 2.75 miles to the grocery store from my house. There is one closer, but it is much more expensive (I am frugal, remember?). From the time on the receipt to my front door is about 20-25 minutes. That includes all the loading of the trailer too. Normally it is about 10 minutes in the car. The drive is along a major thoroughfare, always jammed up with traffic and an all around nerve-wracker. The ride however, is peaceful. Nobody's load car stereo, or horns, or one-finger waves. Along back roads and along a multi-use path with very few road crossings. I see deer and birds, and don't smell exhaust. No more am I forced to make like a crazy man, yelling behind the sound barrier that prevents my knowledge and advice from reaching the ears of the ones who actually need my help.

It is nearly always worth it. Sometimes scheduling with the musically talented youth of the household gets in the way, but I am starting to find ways around that too.

I am not solely commuting by bike yet, but it is a goal of mine. The metro area in which I live is fairly small. Twelve miles will get you from one extreme to the other (pretty much).

There are plenty of people that will tell you about the benefits of riding a bike instead of driving. I won't preach about the climate and atmosphere, but it does save me money on gas, I feel great, and I am getting healthier.

knock, knock

who's there?

interrupting cow


I don't know why, but I love this knock-knock joke.

Monday, May 31, 2010

#12 Reduce your energy and water bill

I know that everyone in the world is changing their bulbs to CFLs, but many stop there. It saves energy when you install a CFL where an incandescent bulb was. But if you leave that light on all the time, the difference is too small.

When you leave a room, turn off the light. Open your drapes and curtains, let in the natural light.

Wash your clothes in cold, bleach with Hydrogen Peroxide. Hang a clothes line and air dry your clothes. I know that winter negates the possibility of hang drying your clothes for most, but the difference it makes when you can, can be great.

I take short showers, and one of my girls will turn off the water while she is lathering and scrubbing, but the shower is the place we can all make a difference with our water consumption. For the most part we don't turn on the hose in our back yard, with the exception of watering the bunnies. We water the garden with water from the rain barrels out back. We have four, but only three are set up with spigots. This still gets us enough water for about two weeks of watering our small garden. In the NW this is usually good enough to get us through to the next rain, but not always.

When we leave for a camping trip or an overnight with family, we unplug everything that is not vital to the survival of our house. This is where power strips come in handy, I also press the test button on my GFCI plugs in the kitchen (this turns off all the outlets in the kitchen).

There are many ways to reduce your energy consumption, these are a few of the ways we do it, I hope to learn more.

#11 Network

I do not mean hang out on Facespace or Mybook. I mean get to know your friends and their friends. Get to know your neighbors, your family, the people you work with.

You never know how much you can learn from the people that are around you every day. Or how much you can help them either. Share and share alike.

Offer your help with problems you have a unique ability to help with. Ask for help from those that have their own unique abilities. I have a brother-in-law that is a mechanic and I am good with computers, we help each other with those problems we, ourselves, are not experts at. This is networking at its finest. You can save a lot of money by utilizing the strengths of those around you, and always share your strengths with those around you (within reason of course).

When you have something to give/share people do the same in return. This the best way to build community.

#10 DIY

Do it yourself as much as you can. I try to do everything myself, with the plethora of information available (Internet,library, and otherwise) there is hardly anything you can't find some writing on.

When we think of a project that we need or want to do around the house, we check for DIY feasibility first. There have been only emergency situations where we have called in professionals (except the drywall in our bathroom remodel, I hung it, but we paid someone to tape and mud, I hate that part). We had to call a plumber in to snake our sewer-line when the big sugar maple in our front yard decided it needed that space for roots. But a year later when we ended up with another root/sewer-line problem, I just rented the power snake and did it myself, saving $700 or so (sewer snaking is apparently a lucrative business). The first time our furnace went out, I got out the ol' digital multi-meter and traced the circuit to find a bad board, and soldered a new trace on the board where the old one fried. Now we have a pilot light problem and I am sourcing a replacement part for the next furnace repair.

I did the entire bathroom remodel in our home myself (save the afore mentioned mud/tape). I demo'd the old room, put in the new tub with a drain opposite the old. Plumbed and wired it in (jetted tub from clearance section of Lowe's), and made a concrete counter-top for the sink to sit on. I did the tile surround and the tile floor, countersunk the medicine cabinets, put in the new toilet, and put in a floor to ceiling tile back splash for the sink. Now, I have helped with remodels in the past and have worked for a general contractor when I was younger so some of this was already well inside my skill-set, but even if it wasn't, there is plenty of help available on line. I am not writing about this to brag or boast, rather to demonstrate the possibilities of doing it yourself.

I have found information on every subject I have searched while trying to learn about it.

Welding? Check.
Gardening? Check.
Bicycle repair? Check.
Cooking? Check. is my friend. So is google.

It sometimes is not very easy, sometimes outright hard. But almost always gratifying beyond comprehension. The whole ends up being so much greater than the sum of its parts when you do it yourself.

Try doing it yourself first. Chances are you can.

"Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can't, you are absolutely right." Henry Ford

Friday, May 28, 2010

I like this:

Once again the youtube link-o-sphere has lead me to another nugget of wonder:

The Story of Stuff

Particularly this part:


I know many will try to debunk the facts stated in this video (some are misinformation others are opinion mixed with misinformation), but let us not be swayed from the message,


We do not need to have the newest, fanciest, shiniest stuff. I admit I am a geek, but a frugal geek. I am not an early-adopter for a lot of reasons, money the least of which.

I like stuff. I covet stuff. I have stuff. I rarely need stuff.

I want an electric car. I want more time in my life. I want people to realise that buying stuff does not placate the depression that is a product of the subconscious programming of the media.

Cut up your credit cards, buy used, buy local if you have to buy. Learn to make stuff yourself. Secede from the cash economy.

The revolution will not be televised. But the programming that stops the revolution surely is.

I am going to go read about the references made in this video, I want to learn something today.

#9 Don't buy bottled water or soda

I was just going to write an entry on not drinking bottled water, but realized it can make a huge difference in your consumption/waste, so I added it to the "list". I carry a re-usable water bottle, it is easy to do.

We have a filter for those in the house that prefer it,but I just take mine straight from the tap (the filter sits in the fridge and gets too cold for my liking).

There are numerous reasons to not buy bottled water. Perhaps rather than try to list them all myself, I can let someone else do it:

The Story of Bottled Water

We don't buy soda very often in our household, mostly because it is loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, but also because it is just all around crap. I do drink a soda once in a while, but I usually regret it, much like when I give in and get McDonald's food.

If I want something sweet, I'll make a cup of coffee with raw sugar added or have a glass of juice.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Slug hunting in the garden at night.

So I went out to close the chickens up in the coop two nights ago and glanced around with the flashlight. In the feed trough we have for the chickens were about fifteen slugs. They were all over the thing!! Big ones, little ones, tons were on the ground all around the food too!!!

I grabbed some gloves and a little bucket and went hunting with my wife. We must have pulled 60-100 slugs out of the yard/garden that night.

We went out again last night and pulled at least 30 more out of the yard.

I know it is cruel and a little against my credo of tossing as little as possible in the garbage, but I salted them and threw them in the garbage, I don't even want to throw dead slugs in my compost for fear of slug zombies. Last thing I need is an army of the un-dead leaving slime trails around my garden as they hungrily search for cauliflower (kinda looks like brains?).

Maybe now we can get some spinach to get past the sprout stage. We have lettuce only due to the scale in which we planted.

I have heard you can just go out and cut them in half, leaving their corpses as deterrents to future slugs, but then we risk the whole zombie thing.

Anyone know another way to deal with them that doesn't involve salting the earth or leaving chemical pellets all around my garden?

Until we find another solution, I will be the "Night Hunter".

#8 raise your own food

Backyard chickens are fun. They eat food scraps, give us fertilizer, and leave us eggs every day.

They are fun to watch too. Some of the funniest things I've seen in my back yard have been perpetrated by these birds.

We also raise rabbits for food and pelts.

This one is a little more difficult for most people to do. Mostly because they are cute. But we draw a line for the most part. The adult breeding stock get names, but the young do not (this doesn't stop the kids from naming them though). It is not an easy task to kill them, but once you have done it a couple times it gets easier. The slaughtering is much easier though. We have rabbit soup or stew once every one to two months. There is a plethora of information online about raising rabbits for food.

I know I keep listing things to do without giving too much information on each step, but this series was meant to be a list of things to reduce your waste and consumption, as well as become frugal and more self sustaining. It is more of a guide. Pick and choose the steps that you feel comfortable with, these are all things we have done/are doing, you certainly do not have to do all these things to make an impact. I am not by any means an expert on this subject, but I do have real world experience in every step on this list.

I will be doing another step every day for the next two to three weeks, so stay tuned (if there is anyone out there).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

#7 Compost

I said this was a list of simple things, I didn't say easy. But this one is easy.

You can start with just composting your fruit and veggie scraps. As you feel more comfortable, start adding all the bio-degradable waste products you generate. We have gotten to the point where we compost almost everything that is not plastic or metal (with some exceptions of course). We still recycle cardboard and some paper products, but we re-use or compost newspaper (it is a great weed barrier for planting). Paper towels, and the paper napkins go in the compost as well (we have tried on numerous occasions to switch to cloth napkins, but it is a transition that hasn't been able to get a foothold in our lives, yet). We have the smallest garbage can available through our local service. It is about 10gal or so. We occasionally fill it up over the top, but rarely.

We use the compost in the back yard garden and in our fruit island out front. We take some of our food scraps to the chickens and bunnies (yet another instalment), in return we get nutrient rich poop, which also goes in the gardens.

We just take the scraps as we prep our veggies for dinner and throw them in a bucket under the sink. The bucket gets emptied daily, sometimes twice. The scraps go into one of two rings in the back corner of the yard. Every couple months the dirt gets pulled from the second one and put in a pile next to it. The contents from the first ring get dumped in the second, and the cycle continues. the rings get turned every other week or so (just mix them in on themselves). The worms love this stuff!!!

click the pic

click the pic

Tomorrow we get into the meat of things............. sorry for the pun (you'll get it tomorrow)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

#6 Build a garden

Many of you already have a garden, some of you do not.

I have found it easy to start a small garden even if you don't own a house. I had a small planter-based garden in an old apartment long ago. Three 3gal. planters with a tomato, some lettuce, and some chives. It was a simple start, but as you get more land, you will/should want to make a larger garden, even a group of raised beds is a good start.

In front of my house the road is divided by an island. This island had been nothing but weeds for years, maintained by the city quarterly at best. I use the word maintained loosely, they weed-eatered it. We decided to take it back from the city and turn it into a fruit and spice garden. We stripped the top layer of weeds/landscape-plastic off and laid new cloth and top-soil. Now we have raspberries, blueberries, peaches, cherries, asian pears, and myriad spices growing out there.

You can find space, you just have to look.

The fresh veggies and fruit are well worth the minimal work required.

Monday, May 24, 2010

#5 Learn to can

This is one that has taken us a while to learn (still learning).

My parents never taught me to do this, my wife at least had an introduction when she was younger.

"We eat what we can. What we can't, we can."

We take advantage of the fruit seasons and make jam and preserves. This usually gets us through the year until the next season, as well as providing us with gifts for the giving season. This year will be the first year we will attempt to can out of our garden. The reason we haven't to date is we haven't had an over-abundant crop yet. This year is looking good for that though, wish us luck.

There is a wealth of information on canning online, and I suggest you find a source that works for you if you are not already used to doing it. This is where I have found most of the help I have used. I have used the "Utah Canning Guide" quite a bit:

a pdf guide
a link source

are both good sources.

I find garage sales are a great source for jars, as well as the local Goodwill. I also re-use as many jars as I can from my pantry, but check to see if a commercial lid (kerr or ball) fits, as some lids don't seal well when you re-use them (a pressure cooker alleviates the problem, but we all don't have access to this valuable resource).

Have fun canning!!! Strawberry/rhubarb jam is freaking fantastic. I'll edit later with the recipe once I find it.

#4 Use your pantry

This is one that is tied directly to buying bulk, but is SO much more.

I spend a couple minutes a week looking through the store fliers and coupon fliers to see what is offered. By buying in bulk and stocking up when there is a really good deal, I reduce my aggregate cost. I like to stock up on dry pasta or canned goods when they are cheap (I know this is obvious to some).

I know a very intelligent mother of two (RN, capable of decent conversation), that recently spent $200+ on a weeks groceries for the family. Admittedly, she may not be taking advantage of any of the other steps (buying pre-packaged convenience, or single serving stuff), but she still could have saved an additional ~$30 by using coupons. I find Albertson's and Safeway have really good deals once in a while.

When buying non-bulk items like breakfast cereal, crackers, and such wait for coupon/sales that drop the price by 20% or better, then buy twice as much or more, These items store well, and will hold you over until the next sale/coupon. I went to Albertson's once and picked up 16 boxes of cereal (we have since reduced our cereal consumption, but eat it for snacks still) and received coupons for six free gallons of milk for a total price of ~$14. I didn't need to store the milk, it was coupons for future redemption. These kinds of deals happen all the time, use this to your advantage and fill your pantry.

Almost every house has a pantry. If you do not, consider utilizing cupboard space or building some shelves in a closet or garage. The savings are worth it.

#3 Buy in bulk

Buying in bulk sounds like a trip to Costco.

I do not mean that kind of bulk. I mean buy 50# bags of flour and 25# bags of rolled oats at the co-op or other local source. I use enough to justify buying bulk because I cook every morning and every night. For some this might not sound feasible, but I assure you it makes a huge difference. Buying flour this way reduces the price of a loaf of bread from ~$1.40 (buying small bags of bread flour - 5# for ~$3) to ~$.60 (50# bag for $16). If that is too large a bag for your consumption, try splitting it with a like minded household. Rice and dry beans are equally cheap in comparison when purchased in bulk.

My breakfast of oatmeal and smoothies gets pretty expensive though, at $3.00, but that is for five people.

It takes a while to make these changes part of your routine, but once it is part of your life, you will never go back.

Friday, May 21, 2010

#2: Cook

It sounds so stupid. It seems silly that something as simple as cooking could impact your life so much. In the grand scheme of things this is the second biggest impact on our consumption and waste.

When you cook (I mean from scratch) dinners every night, then you have control over what you eat. Generally you throw less in the garbage too. We will go over more of the clean up from a night of cooking in later installments.

I know exactly what I am feeding my family. Don't get me wrong, we still buy packaged things, but not like we used to.

My morning goes as follows:
6:00 alarm goes off
6:14 I actually get out of bed (to my wife's dismay)
6:15 start coffee and water for oatmeal
6:17-7:00 make smoothie and oatmeal, get dressed, drink coffee, do homework, etc.
7:00 get the kids up
7:05-7:50 drink coffee and smoothie, eat oatmeal
7:58 take kids, late, to before-school activities (jazz band or chess club)

Our dinners are planned out a week (at least) ahead of time so our grocery list is complete for a week. This part is where we save money and waste also. By going once a week, we save gas (if we even drive, I did make a bike trailer which will hold an entire weeks groceries for the 2.5 mile return trip from the store). My shopping bill for a week is rarely over $90 for two adults and three children. This is a honed skill, using coupons and sale prices, and pantry space for the stock-up items. This will probably be another installment as well.

I realize that this series is not going to be revolutionary, but 20-30 small steps can make a huge difference when added up. I am also sure there are many sources for this information online, but these are the steps we have made in my home, not just a regurgitation of other people's ideas. These have worked for me and mine, they may work for you and your's.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Simply put, a series on frugality and, well, simplicity, with a dusting of anti-consumerism

I realize it has been a while since my last post, but I get busy sometimes and forget about this blog. I am trying to integrate it into my daily schedule, but it is hard to add new things.

Anyway, I will be trying to write everyday about one thing I/we have done at my/our house to simplify and reduce our impact on the planet as well as become more self-sufficient.

Today's installment:

Get rid of your TV.

I haven't had a television (cable or satellite) for over three years. This is even more amazing considering the fact I have three three adolescent children in my home. Don't get me wrong, we watch entertaining shows and movies, we do it at our own discretion, and without a monthly fee (save the internet fees). My brother-in-law is in the same boat, he has a display, but no TV. I have another friend in the same situation too. We are all more active than many people I run into with TVs.

The first thing we noticed is the time. We seem to have more time because we aren't veg-ing in front of a non-stop consumption promoter. No more do we get hit in the face with hours of advertising trying to sell us stuff we don't need or even want. "There is a reason it is called programming". A friend of mine said that to me. She also pointed out how she felt like crap after watching TV at work once. She said she just felt like a bad person because she wasn't part of the group she was seeing portrayed on TV, it was subtle and subliminal. Luckily we are group of people that seem to be aware of how outside stimuli affects us.

It can be hard. It was for us, but we read a lot, and work in the garden. The transition to no TV happened while I was working at a high-end A/V retailer, building home theaters for the well-off in Olympia. This made the transition even more difficult because I was literally SURROUNDED by TVs.

Netflix, sorry. I do have netflix. But it is worth it. But, no ads.

They say the average American household watches over eight hours (combined) of television per day, and that by the time a child has grown to age 70 they will have spent 7-10 years (at ~28 hours per week) in front of a TV.

This is the biggest, and hardest, step to making an impact on your consumption and waste. Trust me. Or don't. It helped us greatly.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Isn't it ironic? Don't you think?

I really wish this had come out better, but I was on my way to school (bicycle commuter contest) so I didn't have enough time to set up a good shot. Plus, this guy was a little ticked off anyway. 

This is a shot of a Prius getting a jump from a big diesel truck. I thought it was a little ironic.

-- Sent from my palm pixi aboard my spaceship

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bike trailer follow-up

Because there has been some interest in the particulars surrounding the axle and such, I made a quick video to give an overview of the finished product. I am also chronicling the build of the next trailer for which I received a used wheelchair last night (and subsequently hacked up). So soon will come a link to that and the associated instructable.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Potato silo update

The potatoes are starting to really go gang-busters in one of the towers. The other two are going, but without the same zeal as the one. We think this may be due to the amount of soil in them. We tried to make sure there was plenty of soil to hold the water, but we may have too much hay/mulch. Next time more care will be taken.

-- Sent from my palm pixi aboard my spaceship

Friday, April 23, 2010

Blue is the color of happiness

Blue bells and blueberries. In the middle is a poppy. Our appropriated island is flushing out too. Pictures and story tonight.

-- Sent from my palm pixi aboard my spaceship

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy earth day!!!!!!

I love trees. Today we planted 30 or so flowers in the back yard. The front is coming together nicely too. Pics tomorrow.

-- Sent from my palm pixi aboard my spaceship

Simple things

Sometimes there is nothing more pleasing than a bagel and a cup of coffee. 

-- Sent from my palm pixi aboard my spaceship

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The family stable

Here are pictures of most of the family stable of bikes. Admittedly at least three of these are mine. I spent part of the weekend cleaning out some unnecessary clutter from my garage and had to corral the steeds outside. I will be adding another trailer to the mix soon too.

Stay tuned (he says as though anyone is actually paying attention).

Updated bunny post

This is from Sunday night. We lost one bunny to the raccoons on Saturday. We woke up at about two in the morning to squealing in the back yard. Running outside in my underwear to chase of the raccoons, I found the pen opened and three bunnies missing. This is a bit of a feat considering we put latches on the doors (well sort of, we bent nails and turn them in front of the door to keep them closed). The raccoons were able to figure out how to open the lath and get to the babies. After the raccoons were at a distance I went searching for the bunnies I figured ran had run away. I found one against the fence under some brush and unused cages, but was unable to find the others. I knew they had gotten on, but was fairly certain not two. It wasn't until I was out in the morning to feed the chickens that the other came out from hiding, and surprising even to me, ran all the way across the yard to the four inch gap between my feet. It was the darnedest thing, very endearing. So we are down to five babies, and I have to find a way to get rid of the raccoons. I know we are in their world too, but they have killed at least four of my chickens and at least this one bunny, maybe more (we've had some disappear in the past).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A little late for easter, but still delicious I'm sure

I know some folks get squeamish at the thought of eating rabbits because they are cute, but I think cows and pigs are cute too. Cute and delicious. We have six baby rabbits here now. Our last litter still has two members in the freezer. We are trying to learn the art of tanning. If anyone has some experience with tanning hides, please pipe in and help. Once we get the tanning portion down, we will be using these little buggers to their fullest.

Between the chickens, rabbits and compost pile, we waste almost nothing. Anyone can do this.

-- Sent from my palm pixi aboard my spaceship

French bread. So simple, so delicious.....

1 1/4C very warm water
1 T sugar
1 T olive oil
1 t salt
3 1/2C bread flour
1 T yeast

I use the bread machine for the mixing and first rise (use the dough setting). Take it out of the machine and knead it back down, don't beat it up, just knock it down a little. I flatten it out and roll it up into a long roll. Put it on a cookie sheet or baking stone make the diagonal slices along the top and brush with additional olive oil. Set it on the stove while the oven preheats to 400°. When the oven is done preheating, or about 15min. (whichever is longer) put the loaf in the oven. After 10min reduce to 350° for 15-20min more. 

An additional step, if you choose, is to place a pan in the bottom of the oven while preheating and drop a cup of water on it when you first put the loaf in.

Happy baking!!
-- Sent from my palm pixi aboard my spaceship

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bike trailers ROCK!!!!

Well, I spent Easter Sunday building this trailer.

It started as two pieces of 1/2"emt (electrical conduit, $1.80ea @ Lowe's), an old wheelchair discovered in a pile of junk behind someone's house (I paid them $20, probably could have been free), a piece of uni-strut from a garbage can outside WSECU in downtown Olympia, an air-hose coupling from Harbor Freight (already had this but not more than $2 new) and the bin was ~$12 on sale @ one of the big Lowe's-Depot stores. There is a little bit of aluminum angle stock from my scrap bin and a bit of scrap hose for the flexible bit of the hitch.

Some creative bending-

a hacksaw and dremel-

Plus a little barely adequate welding (read: ugly) yields a surprisingly strong trailer. I weigh about 215lbs and it didn't even budge under my weight. I toted home my full weeks groceries in it without a problem. It tracks great, and with the large wheels has no problem going over curbs. I kept the C.O.B. low and it seems to be happy with that. It seems very light, I haven't weighed it yet, but I can lift it easily (my guess is about 30lbs). I found some plans online for another trailer using bike wheels. I will be making one of those soon. This is fun.

I am one step closer to bike commuting for everything. The kids make it hard with their band instruments, but other than that, I hope to be bike only by summer quarter.

Happy diy-ing!!!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Not sure how to define my blog

I've been trying to figure out how to define this blog, and how to leave enough leeway for thy eclectic group of interests that define my own life. I realize the chances of anyone reading my blog are equivalent to the chances of winning the lottery, and that having a blog to share one's interests is tantamount to hubris. I don't want or need to win the lottery, but if I ever have an idea or experience that may interest another, well, let them enjoy.

With that aside, I am going to be changing the name of this thing. I'll be throwing darts until I hit the one I want.

This is a DIY, frugal-living, sustainable-living, bike-commuter and what-have-you blog now.

Please feel free to send me ideas, I will be posting my own experiences and those of others around the web that pertain to this wonderful simple life. Kill your TV!!!!!!!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

How to eat fried....... Taters, i'd never eat worms

They are too good for the garden. This is what a handful of our compost looks like this week.

-- Sent from my palm pixi aboard my spaceship

Potato silos

The green thumb went out and built these potato mounds last weekend. They are already showing growth out the sides, and are looking very promising. Just a bunch of mulch and compost layered up with potato starts. The mulch is straw and bunny poo, bunnies are amazing sources of nutrients (for the garden and the kitchen). Everyone should have a couple bunnies.

-- Sent from my palm pixi aboard my spaceship

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shamrockin' out

On the road to my first 5k. Results to follow.

5:00 wake up, daylight savings, late night drinking............. Maybe I'll make better chices next time.
-- Sent from my palm pixi aboard my spaceship

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wake up time.

My morning joe and brain stimuli. I just let the chickens out and collected eggs. Raising chickens in the city is the easiest part of macro farming. Fresh eggs, ferilizer and natural pest control are all side effects of the entertaining animals running around in my backyard.
-- Sent from my Palm Pixi

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I live on a spaceship....

Well, not really. I do feel very space age with my new phone. I will be posting more now that I have the power of geek at my fingertips.

-- Sent from my Palm Pixi

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I had forgotten about this wonderful medium called blog. I have recently stepped into the world of mobile technology. More to follow.