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.