Sunday, February 10, 2013


It's been a while since we posted anything here. It sounded fun to list some of the projects we're working on (some more actively than others):

  • Determine how to grow a proper garden this year
    • Karlyn spent many, many hours planning last year's garden. We (mostly she) planted at least 1000 seeds. We ended up with 30 lbs of beets, a few beans, and 10 sunflowers. This was disheartening, to say the least. Causes included gophers, drought, gophers, marauding guinea fowl, and gophers. This year we have 10 or 20 cats, of various sizes and ferocities, which we hope will deal with some of those problems, plus we've got a better understanding of the principle of mulch.
  • Make the basement habitable
    • I've been feeling that we need to make more of our home suitable for occupation, even in the winter. Our habit is to curtain off more than half the house during the cold months, heat only the portion we live in, and ignore the bits we don't particularly need. I'm unconvinced we'll never need more space, but it makes more sense for various reasons to finish up the basement than to insulate and heat the old portion of the house. In the end we'll probably do both, time and money permitting, but it's the basement we're on first. Which means a drywall party, coming up soon
  • Get the truck working
    • I've wanted to know how to take care of my car for quite some time. I didn't necessarily want the car to force me into it, though. We have a one-ton pickup we got a while back, which has had problems backfiring and stalling out. Knowledgeable friends diagnosed it as feeding too much fuel into the mixture, but we didn't do anything about it for a while, in part because the brakes were also shot and I hadn't bothered to fix them. Shortly after finally replacing the brakes, a local shop scanned the truck's computer and determined that the exhaust leak we also knew about was probably the cause of the fuel mixture problems. So now I have an "exhaust donut" to replace. While poking around finding the leak, we noticed green fluid on the floor; the radiator had a small crack. So I'm also learning to replace the radiator.
    • We just took possession of a small trailer, so now the truck needs to work so we can pull it around.
  • Restock the wood pile
    • We had some very cold spells this winter -- weeks with lows in the negative teens. That will do a number on even a nicely plump wood pile like ours used to be. The chainsaw is functioning well, for the time; provided the truck can be made to work, and the trailer work with it, and the snow melts enough to get around, we'll need to go wood cutting
  • Obtain livestock
    • Toward fall last year we had to figure out what we were going to do with our field this year. We could plant it again, we could lease it to someone else to plant (probably for 10 years, because they'd want to plant alfalfa, and that's how long one planting lasts), or do something else. Eventually we decided we wanted to graze animals on it, so we're planning to get some beef cattle and a dairy animal or two. Wish us luck...
  • Chicken fodder
    • We've heard of remarkable results feeding various livestock sprouted grains. One dairy man we met feeds his cows poor quality grass hay for the most part. On that hay alone they would probably produce almost no milk at all. But he also feeds them week-old sprouts of whatever grain he has on hand, grown in an automated feeder system. He's able to run a successful dairy while only buying grain and lousy hay. We'd like to try the same sort of thing for our chickens, who haven't laid an egg in ages.
  • Burn ditches
    • Irrigation ditches have water in them (if you're lucky), and water helps plants grow. So plants tend to grow in irrigation ditches. The standard technique is to take a bunch of diesel fuel (or whatever you have on hand that's sufficiently flammable) and a big torch, and walk down the ditches burning out all the plants once a year. We've got a huge section of ditch from where the last guy on the system takes his water to the top of our fields, and from there to the end of our ditches, so this is something we'll have to do lots of. It gets smoky and smelly, but it's the best way I know of to clear that stuff out in decent time.
  • Greenhouse
    • A few people around here have "underground" greenhouses, which just a typical greenhouse, but sunk a few feet into the dirt. They benefit from ground heat, and can soak up more of the sun's heat and store it in the earth around them. When the ground thaws and our neightbor is out here with his track hoe installing a new irrigation head gate, we plan to have him dig a greenhouse as well
  • Radio
    • I've been getting into ham radio lately, but neither my license nor available equipment permit me to use the bands that will let me talk around the world. We maintain an abiding interest in preparing for emergencies, and communications are an awfully important thing to have in an emergency, so radios are on our list of things to do.
  • Electrical system
    • This one is still in the planning stages, but we'd like to supplement, or replace, our connection to the local power system with locally-generated power. Within reasonable limits, this is quite feasible, as proven by the guy on the other side of town. I'm hoping eventually to have some of our circuits on our own solar system, and others completely separate, on the local utility.
There's probably more that ought to be on that list, but it's a start. Anyone want to come hang dry wall in a while?