April showers are good!

April 24, 2016

Had a good rain and the weather is going to be a bit unsettled all week. Another wind storm is coming through should finish off all of the tree shedding stuff.  The rain barrel and cistern added more water.The cistern is over 50 gallons and the last rain barrel is about 3/4ths full.  Once the windstorm passes I can clean out the gutters again and trim off all of the dead tree limbs. Mom can’t wait to break out the little chainsaws and get to work on trimming up the bigger stuff in the backyard. The weather forecast this week looks good for more cleaning up of the grape vines.

I’m going to pull down the temporary fence around the container garden since the chickens seem to be happy in the small fenced off area that includes the compost pile. I can’t believe how much work the birds have done “turning over” just by scratching around in the compost pile a couple of hours per day.  This a win/win as the birds get what they want in bugs and I get the piled turned over with minimal physical effort from me.

I’m going to add a some sod to the grass areas I have already prepped with soil and steer manure. When I pulled the little stone pavers for the back gate entry way I noticed that earthworms were starting to migrate to the mulch areas. I have also noticed the water retention of the bad soil areas seems to be getting better as there is not as much puddling of water. I will be moving a few things around as I’m trying to be flexible enough to work with Mama Nature. I have been surprised by how my dogs use the mulch pathways, compared to the sidewalks or just dirt areas for getting around and where they poo. While I have not walked across the mulched pathways with bare feet. The difference compared to walking across concrete or even soil/ hard pan is significant. If you fear falling for what ever reason. I would recommend adding mulched path ways to your yard. Plus once you lay out a basic layer of wood mulch topping it off every year of two does not cost a lot of money. Like most things the startup costs can be a little high, but maintaining it is low cost. Especially considering all the benefits you get on improving soil and water retention immediately.

I’m adding some “Dragon’s Blood” sedum ground cover to the alley way garden area along with some sun flowers.  My hope is adding these new plants will start to overwhelm the “cheat grass” that is sprouting up.  I see the sun chokes are starting to put out new growth  when I planted them last year.  At this point of time I’m not harvesting the sunchokes as I want them to spread and help choke out the weeds. I have to say the “black walnut leaf” killer mulch did a great job but I did not have a good plan for replacement plants this spring. The low growing sedum and hopefully the mossy rose will re-seed this year. That is my alley way garden replacement plan for the weeds this year.

I dropped the ball on how well I expected the compost pile to add to my yard but overall I think Mom’s chickens will make a big difference this year in the quality of the compost. I’m doing a lot of work and investing in products for the backyard but I’m seeing some results though it is slower than I anticipated originally. Overall I’m pleased as I am making good progress on a sustainable system despite a few setbacks.


Plumbing work is done, mulch paths sort a firgured out

April 21, 2016

While the plumber cut out some dry wall, the new washer box and pipe looks beautiful to me. The hot and cold water lines are labeled correctly and the washer is draining properly!  The only thing left on the washer and dryer area is replacing the feed hoses. My washer hoses are at least 13 years old and those hoses tend to operate under very high pressure.  So, it is better to replace the hoses rather than wait until one of them springs a leak or suffer a catastrophic failure. As far as the drain pipes go the plumber left me with a drain cleaner to use for 5 days to clean out the old gunk and then use monthly to keep the pipes clear.  I really liked how the main office called me saying the plumber was on the way and then called me after the job was done to arrange a time for the city code inspector to check out the work. If you live in the Treasure valley I would recommend  Wickstrom for plumbing and they also do heating and cooling work.

A drywall contractor stopped by to give a bid.  He seemed good about explaining how to  keep costs down on different textures.  While it may sound funny all of the contractors I have been “doggie tested” and approved.  Even the gal at the city remarked on how nice and what a great “vibe” she got off of all of the contractors I have selected for the job. I  don’t think it is silly, as pets pickup on negative energy and body language. While I won’t say I have never gone against my pets, I give extra scrutiny to anyone my pets don’t seem to like or avoid. Usually my pets are correct!

The backyard pathways are changing again and getting smaller and the grass areas are getting larger than I had planned. I don’t mind the change overall because I’m either paying for mulch or adding in more soil and organic matter to improve the soil.  After I get the basic layout done I will post up some pictures of the progress.

One benefit of I did not anticipate was the chickens scratching and mixing up my compost pile after I put up a temporary fence to keep them from eating the grass seed in the back yard. While the birds can be a little messy scratching in the compost pile, they are getting down to the actually  good broken down compost and bringing it up so I can start loading up the wheel barrow to spread around my plants and trees.  I don’t mind creating a larger compost section that is chicken scratch- friendly. The chickens get what they want and I get what I want so it is a win/win situation.

One of the major concepts of making a food forest rather than just a garden is using all of Mother nature to make it self-sustaining and assist you making life simpler if not always easier on the work load. Also you are creating a circular system of growth by using natural by-products to create new growth.  This does not violate the natural law of energy of thermodynamics as you are harnessing the plants use of the sun to create growth and only converting energy to a usable form rather than trying to destroy and replace it.  It maybe easier to get some Round up and kill/sterilize a soil short term.  Long term compost, building a healthy soil is the way to go.  One way or another you are trading money for time. One way sustains its self and the other way is a money rat hole that sustains nothing but the Agri-mega corporations.


Added some soil and borders in the backyard

April 19, 2016

I’m having a tough time getting the mulch pathways to work in the large open areas of the backyard.  I’m trying to make the backyard look good and be functional with how I move wood with the wagon to the front yard. One huge bonus of the mulch pathways is I no longer fear twisting and ankle because I now have a level path that has a bit of give compared to hard clay soil. I would recommend mulch compared to sand under toys such as swing sets or around other toys as mulch provides a better cushion and breaks down to add organic matter to clay type soils.  A word of warning if you have small fluffy dogs like the pekes I have, the dogs will drag some mulch into the house for a few days via their fur.  It does get better after a few rainy days or a week or two of watering the mulch will settles into the soil and you have brushed out the loose mulch out of the doggie’s fur.

I’m buying a some soil and steer manure to make some grass growing areas in the backyard. I have to work in small sections at a time rather than just dumping loads of mulch or soil because of cost per paycheck, even though buying bulk is more cost effective.  I can afford to spend $30.00 on a small load of bagged mulch or soil hauled in my mini-van every couple of weeks. I can’t afford a large delivery dumped in my yard via big truck. Plus you must still move all that stuff by hand if you get a dump of soil or mulch.

Mom attacked the grape vines and getting the vines cleaned up seems to be her mission this spring. So far she has filled a large rolling 55 gallon garbage can and two smaller 30 gallon garbage cans.  I cleaned up a few vines earlier this year and it made a difference making the yard seem a bigger.  More sunlight will hit the garden beds with southern sun light.

While I am benefiting from the city of Nampa’s plan to make home improvements to my house. The city of Nampa is getting a bonus of fixing up older homes to meet code and local building contractors get work.  I think this is a great government program implemented at the local level as it is not a hand out but a hand up. Of course I’m a bit weird in that I found contractors and got several bids. Now I have added several good contractors that do good work for the city of Nampa to work with for future projects.  I’m not standing around to be rescued as this loan was only for basic structures and bringing things up to code.

This a great program but I think the government loan is based on your credit score and very few (on the financial edge) homeowners can afford this type of work, don’t have a great credit score.  I was at the bottom of credit scores when I became disabled. I had my Harley Softail go back to the bank and without my parent’s paying off a lot of my debt, I could have lost everything.

I’m better now as I mostly debt free and have backups for critical items.


Electrical work is done. Huzzah!

April 15, 2016

If you are in SW Idaho and need some electrical work done I would recommend calling Centerline Electric. I got a bid of $400.00 to install two lights, a ceiling fan and run conduit/ wiring that cut a 45 degree angle between ceiling and wall that was exposed.  I did save a bit of money having the lights and ceiling fan already on hand, but I think $400.00 is a bargain for the job.

The electrician did a great job, not cutting out a lot of drywall in the ceiling and walls. He cleaned up all the loose insulation and saved it in a box to be replaced after the sheet rock guys fix my kitchen ceiling .  One thing I did not think about when installing the ceiling fan and additional lights was the strobe effect from the fan if the lights are to close to the fan blades.  The electrician made sure the lights were not under the fan blades to avoid the strobe light effect. Strobe lights are awesome for the dance floor, in a kitchen not a good idea.  Pic of the kitchen and the ceiling dry wall sucks but the lights and ceiling fan look good for an install.

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Four banks of florescent lighting was replaced by a ceiling fan with a bulb and two flush mount ceiling lights.  Right now I’m using 60 watt incandescent bulbs to light the kitchen. Next week I get paid and will switch out the bulbs of 60 watt equivalent LED bulbs.  Over a month I should start saving money with the LED bulbs compared to the florescent tubes and the light is much warmer and does not flicker. Having good lighting in the kitchen is something I will get all OCD about as I work in my kitchen. The down side is the lights look great but the ceiling dry wall is a mess and we want to get to work making it look good rather than wait for the pros to do it right.  I will wait for the pros.

I finally put together the Costco “Retro chair and step stool”. Overall the instructions were very straight forward and using only a screw driver or a battery powered drill needed for most of assembly.  There are a couple of places that a full-size drill won’t fit for assembly. I used a socket wrench with an adapter. I would say about 90-95% of the chair could be assembled with a basic battery powered drill.  The instructions were very clear and there were plenty of screws to put the chair together.  I have used the chair step stool to add a cover the ceiling work of the electrician cut out and the chair is very solid. If you want a retro look, the Costco chair with steps is a good buy for under $50.00.

How adjusting  the gutter chains worked for the big cistern. I don’t know how much rain fell over night but my 50 gallon rain barrel is about 1/2 full and the big cistern has reached the 50 gallon level.  I suspect about.05 of an inch of rain fell. I am pleased with the rain water collection for the cistern and rain barrels. Now moving the water where it is needed will involve work and trial and error.

There is a dichotomy on fixing up my home. I love my home but the “progressives” are in Boise and are making life less than good in my opinion. I have worked hard to learn skills and become more self-reliant. I don’t want to give up this home as I have worked hard to make it a “sanctuary” in a sea of madness.  I suspect in life there are no good answers just choices you make that are less bad.


Finally a bit of rain

April 13, 2016

SW Idaho built a good winter snow pack this last winter but I get a bit nervous when the Spring stays dry. April is supposed to be a wet month so it was nice to see the clouds move in yesterday and drop a little bit of rain. The official amount of rain was .04 of an inch and the 50 gallon rain barrel is about 1/3 filled starting from bone dry.  I’m amazed at how much water a person can collect just by using a rain barrel and the large surface area of a roof.

The large cistern did not collect much rain as I had hoped but I’m still adjusting how the water flows into from the gutter to the cistern. We have more rain forecast this week so the latest adjustments should start adding more water to the big cistern. Next week’s payday will go towards getting some PVC pipe for a gravity fed, drip irrigation for the raised beds and the new 3 sisters garden spots.  I have worked a little bit with PVC but setting up a drip irrigation system will be totally new to me. I still have city irrigation water/ water cans as a backup so the garden should get plenty of water this summer.  I really don’t want to carry water around by hand if I can avoid it as it is hard work!

One thing to be aware of using rain barrels is stagnant water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. One thing I do is add burlap to cover the top of the barrels but you could use window screen material or add a small amount of olive or vegetable oil to the water barrel to keep the mosquitoes from laying eggs and breeding.  While the Zika virus is in the news, limiting Mosquito breeding areas around your home just makes good sense as the bites are very annoying.

This spring we are seeing new birds stop by and grab a quick meal around the chicken pen in the backyard. The little sparrows and finches just love all of the grape vine area along with the flowering quince, holly and lilac trees for safety.  It seems that the both the smaller birds and chickens really like to dust them selves in the areas where I have cut wood and there is sawdust along with the areas where the wood mulch has broken down. I wonder if the “pine oil” helps them get rid of mites, compared to just a dust bath?  So far we have added a couple of ring doves on a regular basis and a male Bob white quail stopped by today.

While many complain about the city critters coming in and eating garden plants. I enjoy the seeing the birds and even squirrels stopping by to grab a snack. Now if I can lure a few of the ducks away from the creek I will have another “potential” food source growing in my yard.

I started the layout of borders for the backyard fountain/bird bath circle in the backyard. This circle area will be filled with mulch and have at least 24 inch wide pathways for my garden cart and myself. Laying out path/walk ways of the food forest recommend at least an 18 inch wide path for moving stuff via wheelbarrow.

In my experience with my disability I recommend a 24-30 inch wide path works better with a garden wagon and neither Mom or myself feel like we have to be extra careful using the first path to avoid tripping or falling down.  A big bonus on filling in the pathways with mulch has been filling in all low spots, holes and places that can twist an ankle.  Plus the mulch pathways cushion old and arthritic joints much better than a hard surface path.

If you can afford it, I think the mulch bed pathways are a better answer than installing concrete sidewalks. Yes the paths must be re-mulched every couple of years but all of water soaks into the ground and helps reduce the overall water required for a lawn/garden/food forest and the mulch breaks down it adds to your soil. Mulch gives and cushions falls much better than concrete or stone paver type paths.  A couple of down sides to a wood mulch path. I don’t think a person in a wheel chair could navigate the paths well compared to a wood or concrete walkway. I have no idea if I can shovel snow off the path or if I want to for moving wood from my wood pile to the wood stove. I’m thinking I need to buy a small  toboggan or sled for hauling wood in winter.

While I don’t like to dwell on my disability it is a fact of my life. We have an ageing population here in the USA and dealing with these issues are coming up a lot for families. Creating a few pathways full of mulch will help oldsters and kids by making a few softer surfaces while we are out playing/working in the yard.  The soil gets built up, there is less storm water run off and people are not so fearful of falls by kids and grandparents.

This is a win/win for mulch in my opinion.  It’s probably just a matter of scale and time to build up really crappy soil that has been abused.  It is simple that does not mean it is easy.

 


I replaced the propane tanks and you don’t have to practice being miserable

April 11, 2016

Last summer I did a test cooking one meal a day, usually the evening meal on the propane grill. I figured I cooked at least 90 days worth “dinners” on the grill from May through September and used two, 15 pound tanks you get at the local mega-mart. This was a great test for cooking as I have baseline of how much fuel is needed to cook at least one hot meal per day for at least three months.A major bonus to cooking outside in summer is you don’t heat up your house which saves on your cooling bill.

I replaced the propane tanks today at Lowe’s  on sale for $15.00 each.  This summer’s grilled dinners, will be about $30.00, a bargain even without the savings on cooling costs. I’m using an older Weber model 310 gas grill I got at a yard sale for $15.00. I have a smoker and a charcoal grill with about 200 pounds of Mesquite lump Charcoal for BBQ. While you may not want to grill during the “Zombie Apocalypse” because of the unique aroma of outdoor cooking. My little test proves you can store a couple of propane tanks and cook at least one hot meal per day of real food.

I like propane as a backup fuel for heat and cooking as camp stoves and Mr. Buddy heaters are relatively inexpensive and the Mr. Buddy heaters are fairly safe and efficient heaters to use if your main heating system is out because of a disaster. I did not run my Mr. Buddy heaters while asleep and only used them to get the house warm in the morning and run intermittently through the day if the house got below about 62 degrees F. in my winter tests at 0 degrees F. and 20 degrees F. for a daytime high.  If your home is well insulated and you use the Mr. Buddy heater to warm it to 65-68 Degrees F. your home should maintain at least 45-50 degrees F. in the morning. A little brisk  to wake up too, but no freezing pipes in the house. On average I used about two 1 pound tanks per day or a 15 pound tank over 5-6 days using a Mr. Buddy heater during my tests and that was heating about 1000 square feet of my 1200 square foot home as I shut off the extra rooms during the test.  As a guesstimate for any “minor disaster” lasting two weeks to a month, depending on your climate and season 4-6 propane tanks should be enough for both cooking and heating.  Bonus: you will have a great camping or tailgating setup for the summer and fall!

I know a large portion of the country is still dealing with a late spring snow fall, but now is the time to get your off-grid solutions for summer cooling setup and ready to go. I live in high desert with very low humidity, so misters and fans along with small(5000 BTU) window air conditioners keep my home comfortable.  I don’t know that much about staying cool in a high humidity climate, other than try and do work in the cool of the day and cook outside to keep any heat build up in the house as low as possible. I have added a big  three gallon waterer for the pets and the chickens in the back yard and I have a great battery powered mister/water pump and fan that runs on a Ryobi 18 volt battery that worked great last year for cooling the backyard patio and the chickens in 95 degree F. + heat. The fans are a little pricey at $80.00 but the fan works great for evaporation type cooling off the grid.

I don’t think you have to practice being miserable.  If you do your test correctly misery will happen on it’s own and all you have to do is adapt to the new misery level.  I’m not preparing or becoming self-reliant because I want to be miserable if the SHTF.  I want to be somewhat comfortable, safe and know were my next meal of “real” food is coming from and how it is cooked. I want to know my water is safe to drink and the only way I know how to do that is to do the work myself as I don’t trust the PTBs.

I want to know I can cook a meal, stay warm in winter and cool in summer without depending on the local utility company for all my power, or hope the local Mega-mart got in a shipment in the last week.  I will never be totally self-reliant but, I can keep working on being as self-reliant as possible everyday.

 


The first section of mulch pathway is done

April 9, 2016

I went to D&B farm store to get the last border/edgers section done  for the first mulch pathways. About 24 inches width seems to work great for my garden wagon and my wheelbarrow for moving equipment along with other soil and garden stuff.

The first section of the mulch path is finished.

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The first section is done.

I know the edging is not straight as I want to simulate a dry creek bed with grass on the sides. I can’t afford the rock pavers at this time. Mulch is cheap and it is great for retaining water in the soil right away.  Pretty is nice, but practical comes first.

I got 1/2 of the front yard de-thatched, Added some grub control, lawn food and seeded with grass. Perhaps it is wishful thinking but the front yard grass looks better in my opinion.  Mom got in and weeded the rose beds and the new front- yard garden beds.  I removed the concrete edging and replaced it with a plastic edging. We have one front yard bed to go but we both ran out of energy.

The Front yard bed I mulched with straw and leaves has soil that is rich and black. The bed I just added a bit or straw around my garlic does not look as rich. Improving soil naturally is a lot of work. Overall it is relatively cheap if you compost, but it takes time for all those items to break down.  I am experimenting on my beds and straw plus leaves in the fall creates good soil. I made a great weed killer mulch for the alley but now that I killed the bad weeds I need to add “good” plants and good soil builders to make the alley way garden healthy and self-sustaining.

Building a great looking lawn and /or garden is fairly simple. That does not mean it is easy. While I can’t say all lawns have about 2 inch deep topsoil requiring constant chemical infusions to remain green. While building your soil naturally is a lot of work and slow. You don’t need chemicals for a good product.

Many people want a weed killer for dandelions and other weeds. Dandelions are a great source of early “greens”and they show you that your lawn is unhealthy. Eat the greens, then make your lawn healthy, working with Mama Nature.


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