0 degrees F. this morning Amber lager started and chicken coops

November 16, 2014

Beautiful day, clear and very cold at 0 degrees at 10 am when I checked and on Monday morning fog will roll in. I’m not acclimatized yet and still get a bit chilled at times. The wood stove is doing a good job keeping the house warm overnight as it was 65 degrees when I got up this morning and there was a hot bed of coals to start today’s fire. I’ll be washing up all my long sleeve T-shirts tonight.  When I was in the Army I got a lot of long sleeve T-shirts and it is amazing how much warmer I felt compared to wearing a regular T-shirt. Now that I have been losing some weight I can start wearing those shirts again for winter. I was a little behind as I did not expect it to get quite so cold so fast. The local weather guys seem to be in the same boat, as the forecast temps keep getting revised downward each day.  Once it warms up a bit I will add some clear plastic to the windows. The blinds and curtains do a good job but I want to have more sun light coming into the house.  Some good news from my sister and using the new quartz heater “gift”. It is working well and she likes the heater and she is staying warm.

I got the Amber Lager finished and fermenting in the bucket. The house needed an extra boost of humidity and the extra heat was welcomed in the house.  I did a 90 minute simmer of the grains but I did not see a major boost in the sugar levels via the Hydrometer. I tend to brew for taste rather than alcohol content so I’m not worried about the beer, if I get about 5%  yield in alcohol. The snow and cold helps with chilling the wort quickly so there is an upside to the cold weather. The first tests of the amber ale have been good for flavor.  Just have to wait on carbonation and conditioning in the bottles.

I have been doing some research on chicken coops and I think Mom is making a mistake buying a semi-expensive shed and not investing in a solid foundation to support it.  I went on Amazon and they have several coops that would be a better temporary solution and could work long term for introducing new chickens into the flock. For the price of the shed and a good foundation she could buy 2 or 3 of the smaller coops with runs that would very simple to set up without investing in a good foundation needed for the shed. Running lights or heaters to the coops is not a problem as I have plenty of outdoor power stakes.  Give me a realistic budget and what you want to accomplish and I’m darn good at making stuff work. My biggest problem is a time crunch via the divorce. While I understand things can get unpleasant between those folks. I’m in the middle left hold the bag so to speak.  I really hate this crap of everyone picking sides and stuff. I suppose I am picking a side by taking in my Mom in but my Dad really helped me out so divorce is not easy for kids at any age.  Nothing new I have played this game before and I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.


Looks like the snow finally stopped, wood used so far

November 14, 2014

I got a good eight inches of snow here at my house but I kept the sidewalks mostly clear. I managed to break the plastic handle of my snow shovel and it will have to be replaced. I never cared much for that old snow shovel, I’m glad I have an excuse to replace it now.  I didn’t go driving but I saw people were driving much slower today and leaving more room for stopping. It’s going to get into the single digits overnight but the weekend should give the road crews time to catch up and for people to practice driving a bit without so many going to work and rush hour’s traffic.

I checked my car battery and it finally crapped out. I have been expecting for awhile so I replaced it with an AGM battery I had standing by just in case. The hardest part in replacing it is one of the battery cables was too short to reach the terminal and I had to add another cable for it to reach. It is a kludgy sort of arrangment, I need check out the auto parts stores for a long term fix. The old battery did a good job for many years as it was the one that came with the Kia when I bought it. Working in the shop made things easier even though it is not insulated it is dry and out of the wind. Diana the peke complained a little bit as the concrete slab was cold on her feet. She went into the house to warm up while I finished the repair.

On the wood used since I stocked up for the storm. The wood rack of elm is over half full after a week and I still have the first bucket of mill ends though I did add a 5 gallon buckets worth when I cleaned the wood from the new chicken coop area.  I have not started a fire as the elm burns nice and slow over night and leaves a nice bed of coals in the morning.  The elm has worked much better than the fruit woods in keeping a a comfortable temp of 65-75 degrees F. in the house.  When I used the apple and cherry wood last year the house would get up into the 80’s and I could not seem to control the heat output very well. I supposed I did learn a little bit last year about how to burn wood in the stove but I believe it is how the elm burns that has made the biggest difference.  I hope the holly bush transplants I gave to my aunt start growing along the fence line and she will cut down the elms to use for fire wood.  I will be looking to add more wood next year and if I can get elm cut & split for a good price I will buy it!

I finally got the amber ale bottled today. With getting the yard work done and moving in Mom and getting the house ready for this little polar vortex thingy, bottling the beer was not a priority. As Mom put it we both needed a snow day to recover and catch our breath. I don’t see any big tasks for Saturday so I will get the amber lager boiled up and fermenting. One thing nice about brewing beer in the winter time is adds heat as well as much needed humidity to the house.  Heck even my beer brewing is a multi-tasker. I did not taste much of a flavor change with the wheat beer “bottle conditioning” though I think it help the black ale get a bit smoother and combine the richer flavors of the black and chocolate barley malt.

I want to add a few more fire extinguishers to the house now that the wood stove is going. Total Survivalist blog  http://www.totalsurvivalist.com/ suggested having a small extinguishers in each bedroom along with a couple of larger ones in the kitchen and close to the wood stove.  I think this is a brilliant idea as a person might put out the flames of a small fire or they could smother the flames in order to escape a fire. I think these might also be useful in many situations from a brush fire to a riot. I do wish the mob would leave all lighters and matches at home. Something about a riot always seems to bring out all the firebugs wanting to commit a bit of arson.


Snow supposed to fall all day

November 13, 2014

Smokey the cat is most displeased with the whole snow thing.  She decided she could watch the snow from inside the house where she can take advantage of the wood heat! Diana the peke likes playing in the snow but it was a little to cold for her to stay out very long. I hung up my heavy curtains by the back door. I think there used to be a sliding glass door and the previous owner just put up some walls but did not insulate them, I have a doggy door there so it can get a little drafty. By hanging up the thermal curtains we can go in and out but it makes the back of the house much warmer overall. I closed most of the blinds and curtains over my windows. It makes the house a little dark but it sure helps with retaining heat.

I pulled a dummy yesterday, going out and not having my gloves or hat and I got a a chill that took most of the day to get warmed up again. Today I had my gloves and coat before adding salt to the front walk and sweeping the backyards sidewalks. I am glad I had everything stocked up and double checked for the cold and snow.  I’m very happy that we got both the hollies cut and most of Mom’s big stuff moved in before the snow hit. It would be miserable to be doing that stuff today.

We just got upgraded to a winter storm with freezing rain possible overnight. I hate freezing rain as it can take out power lines and makes the roads super slick.  The snow is covering up the walk that I salted down so it is shaping up to be a good little storm. I still need to finish the vacuming and bake some bread but everything else is ready to go. I am glad I had everything prepared, loaded up the fire wood and did my storm check list earlier this week. Makes life much easier for me.

I got all of the green tomatoes out to ripen and dehydrated about six trays of celery. I got a new idea for my small raised beds next year. I will do onions, celery, sweet peppers, carrots and garlic along with herbs for my kitchen stocks and meal starters/flavor enhancers. I will do the squash and tomatoes in deep raised bed and that will leave the big bed free for the melons, and some experimental crops. The front beds will be for edible flowers and colorful cabbages, kales, lettuces and herbs.

Funny, first big snow storm of the season and I’m planning out my garden!


Holly bushes trimmed up and the movers dropped off Mom’s stuff

November 11, 2014

Good neighbor N. and I attacked the rest of the holly bushes and got them trimmed down.  The area looks a little rough right now but by next summer the bushes should  put on new growth and get more bush like rather than growing up in height.  I really like how cutting down the holly opens up the front yard to more sunlight during the early part of the day. Between N. and having two small chainsaws and a bow saw the job went very fast.  N. borrowed my leaf blower with the vacuum attachment to get his yard clear of leaves. The good neighbors have helped me so much just because they are “good people”. I have no problem with helping them with tools in return of the work they have done for me. I don’t know if all preppers think about stocking up on tools that use muscle, battery, electric and gas power but it has sure made doing the jobs around Casa de Chaos a lot easier.   I have more work to be done trimming and cleaning up, but trimming the holly  was one of the big jobs I wanted to get done this week.  The snow that is forecasted probably won’t stick so I should be able to get a few more cleanup  jobs done before winter hits.

Mom and the movers stopped by with a few of her dressers and a few of the bigger items we put in the shop. I couldn’t fit her chair through the guest room door but I managed to rearrange the chairs so she has one of my chairs in her room and put her big chair next to the wood stove in the living room.  It doesn’t look too bad and we can still walk through the house without tripping over stuff.  I’m really glad I cleaned up the catch all room as we put several items in there until we can arrange her room so it works for her. While Mom and I get along, as she is not just not my Mom but a friend. People need a bit of privacy and personal space where they can get away from others, no matter how well they like each other in general.

Mom is trying very hard not to be an inconvenience, and while this is a little inconvenient I have been motivated to get a lot of stuff done, cleaning up and organizing my stuff.  I have cleared out most of the mill end wood from the future chicken coop area.  I have a wood table that was left in the shop when I moved in over 10 years ago that should work in the chicken coop/shed for nesting boxes. This table is a homemade one by the previous owners and I really don’t care if it is destroyed. I have a big sheet of peg board that should work with the wall hanging system of the Rubbermaid shed, so adding roosts and other equipment the chickens need should be simple once we have set up the shed.  I’m very excited to have the chickens here and letting them free range in my yards. My hope is Mom’s chickens will work the soil a bit and I will get plenty of organic matter for my compost pile.

I know Mom wants to have her own place and I hope we can find a nice little house for her so she can putter around the yard and do what she wants with her place. But we both know the economy is “iffy” what with the rising cost of the things you need to live and all. I don’t want Mom to feel she needs to move out as soon as possible. I want her to move out,  if she finds a good little home and she has a solid emergency fund to take care of any issues that always happen when moving into a home. There will always be issues when moving into a new place, getting things as squared away as possible before any little disasters happen, is what I want for her.  While she has a few health problems with her knee replacement and her Fybro, the women in this family tend to live a long time.  Late 80’s and 90 + years of age is not unusual, so she might as well plan on getting a place where she is happy!

 

 


Prepping for Polar Vortex this weekend

November 9, 2014

It will be cooling down this week  and we might catch the edge of the storm coming out of Alaska/Canada.  Snow is in the forecast Wednesday evening and the temp will be dropping below 20 degrees F. by the end of the week.  I got busy on getting the leaves up today. Both of my compost piles are full of a grass and leaf mix and I got the big raised bed covered in a leaf and grass mulch mix. Several of my trees  still have leaves so I will need to do the leaf cleanup again but at least I have a good start on the job.  My little leaf blower/vacuum makes the job a little easier and the vacuum mulches the leaves nicely for adding to the pile or the garden beds. I drained the last two garden hoses and will run the soaker hoses Monday on the front beds then drain them and the rain barrels 1/2 – 3/4  for the winter.

I got the front porch loaded up with wood. The wood rack is topped off and then some with more elm and all five of my big party buckets are full of the mill ends for the wood stove.  I can now walk all the way to the back of my wood pile and it should not take to much longer to have all the wood properly stacked for the winter. The wood stove is clean and ready for any storm. I was looking at the area under the carport where I stacked the mill ends and measured it out this area  looks to be the best place for the shed Mom wants for her chicken coop.  The shop has power for any lamps or heaters  if it gets cold and carport cover will provide extra protection from the weather. Plus it will close to the compost pile for easy cleaning and I don’t lose any yard space, if  Mom needs to stay a bit longer than planned. We will need to do some cleanup and re-stack the mill ends but it should work better in the long run.

Mom dropped a few more things this weekend and I got her TV set up in her room.  I was darned surprised by how many channels her little antenna pulled in as that room seems to be the best in my house for reception.  I set up her mini-greenhouse on the patio and I think it will do better than I had anticipated because it catches the early morning sun more than I had imagined because of of the angle of the patio cover and the angle of the winter sun.  I have lived here for 10 years and have I found out this year that some of my general assumptions about how the sun hits were not completely accurate.

I dropped off a bucket of tomatoes to my sister today along with the step ladder and a infrared quartz space heater Mom and I got her for a birthday/Xmas present.  My sister had a room mate had one of those heaters and my sis really liked it. Plus it saved her on energy costs compared to the whole house heater.  It is an early present, but it was pure serendipity that we were able to get the heater on sale and deliver it to her before the snow started flying.  We would love for my sister to have an off grid heat source but with her health and income level getting her as electrically efficient as possible is about all we can afford to do. Overall this year my sister is making out “like a bandit” as she got a nice little toaster oven earlier this year when I upgraded to a larger toaster/rotisserie/convection oven.  While my wood stove gives me a good off-grid backup for heating and cooking.  I like the idea of having electrical appliances that can replace an oven if you have to use a smaller gas generator short term.  My electric oven requires 220 voltage and neither my portable solar or gas generators can support that voltage. But I can use a 110 volt hot plate or toaster oven with my gas generator!

So how are you preparing for the “Polar Vortex”?  Even if you are not hit with any cold weather you can use the storm as a test to run through your basic storm preparation steps. Little things like checking backup lights and radio battery power, matches, candles and staying warm. Are you prepared to cleanup tree limbs that get blown down and have the tools needed for clearing those limbs?  Do you have salt or sand on hand for your sidewalks and where is your snow shovel?  If you use a snow blower does it have gas, oil and when was the last time you ran it or did basic maintenance so you know it will run? Have you charged up any cell phones and radios?  If you are using a propane or kerosene stove for your backup heat source do you have fuel and how is the wick on your kerosene stove and your lamps?  You did change out the batteries on your smoke detectors and installed a carbon monoxide alarm. While the storm is a bit early in the year you can do a test of your preps and write down any areas that need some attention.


Ow!

November 7, 2014

Well my knee decided I needed to take it easy for another day.  Of course I was kinda of dumb in finishing taking things down to the basement to store and bringing up beer to bottle. That short flight of steps can really do a number on my knees especially when I’m moving something with a bit of weight.  My knees tell me there is a bit of nasty weather moving in to SW Idaho via the barometric pressure. I tend to be a couple of days ahead of the forecast so this weekend will be the time to top off the wood again and cut some of the mill ends for my party buckets.  I want to get in the habit of keeping the front porch well stocked with wood and not wait till the last minute like I did a few last year. I suppose a wood stove requires it’s own rhythm when stocking up and I’m still a relative newbie using wood for heat.

I need to run my old step ladder and a quart/infrared heater along with some of the green tomatoes I picked over to my sister. The ladder and heater are her birthday/Xmas presents that are a little early. The ladder will give her a way to do some of the higher work around the house a bit more safely than her standing on a chair and the little stove should provide plenty of heat and save on her electric bill this winter. If  a long term power outage happens I can take my small 3500 watt generator and some gas/oil and she will be able to stay warm and keep her fridge running for a few days. I can’t always do what I want to help out but I do try to do what I can to help family.

I managed to get my black ale bottled today and I have a nice selection of both the wheat and the black ale conditioning down in the basement. My alcohol content has really fallen off since I went to a 60 minute rather than the 90 minute time line of making the wort to boil with my brew in a bag system.  So I will do the lager with my old system of 90 minutes at 154 degrees F. and see if that does not get the alcohol content back up to the 6%-7% range rather than the 4%-5% range I’m getting now. I use the iodine test for sugars but it is not a perfect indicator of all the sugars being converted in my opinion. It seems that a longer time at that slow heat melds the flavors of the grains better and heck brewing your own beer is not a fast process so an additional 30 minutes is not a big deal.

My little jigsaw and extra blades arrived today so I have most of the tools on hand for doing small jobs around the house with minimal brute strength needed and which I am sadly lacking. Adding a couple of tools when on sale or as needed has helped a lot around the house. While I can’t always do everything by myself, having tools to share out with the good neighbors in return for work has worked out very well for both of us. I have a work around for my washer’s plumbing/ drain problem, getting the old pipe run cut out and made more simple is a task for the next paycheck and I now have the tools to fix it. I can understand that sometimes a person has to use what they have on hand to make a project work.  What I hate is a lack of planning and foresight that actually sets a person up for a minor disaster in the future.  It’s the Scarlet O’Hara problem solving of  “I will worry about it tomorrow” mindset.

I guess I have always had the mindset of that sometimes you have to make do because of your resources.  Sometimes it pays to buy high end products. I don’t think a person should pick either the cheapest nor the most of expensive option, but the option that gives the most value for the money you spend. That takes time, effort and research so that might be why so few people choose to do it.


Taking it easy today

November 7, 2014

I was pretty worn out after all the moving of furniture and boxes yesterday so I took it easy physically. Mom dropped just a few items and saw my adjustment and she wants to replace my shelving with one of her book cases. That will work out because I can take the shelving downstairs and use it for organizing my storage. I think one of the top 10 items on every preppers wish list is more shelves or cabinets for storage.

I was a little surprised by the difference in storage/shelving I was able to add to the catch-all room by cleaning and organizing it better. A few ideas are now spinning around in my head about making a cabinet for the water barrels and  using  a couple of those furniture moving carts to make the barrels easier to move around when full.  One of the biggest lessons I learned from my water tests is the reality of moving water is a hard job. Any way I can make it easier is going on the todo list!

Some good news, Smokey the cat is reacting much better to the move into the catch all room. She has her food and stuff all setup on the dresser like before and a chair with a down blanket for sleeping on when she needs it. I put a vinyl picnic table cloth on the dresser to protect it when I first brought her home and  now that is her “stuff”and seem to make the transition a lot easier for her. I never thought a cat would care about a table cloth!  Diana the peke, is adding hard food back into her diet. Her cyst hasn’t reduced much lately but it does not bother her in the slightest. I think we are starting to come to the end of her shedding and I gave her another good brushing last night. I’m astounded how such a small dog can shed so much fur without going bald.

I stopped by lowes and picked up three more of the LED bulbs even though they were not on sale to add to the bathroom. I’m replacing light bulbs in room I tend to use the most as well as were the quality of light is critical.  I like the light and have high hopes that these LEDs will reduce my electrical costs in the future.  Every opportunity to save money should be taken advantage of even if it few pennies at a time. If you take care of the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.  I went to the Verizon store to switch over the phones and I was very disappointed by how long I had to wait and that I could not complete the transfer as I was told earlier this week.  I went online and checked out Cricket phones and they have a nice plan for unlimited talk and text for only $25.00 a month!  I don’t have a smart phone and all I want is just the ability to talk, though text can be a nice feature in a disaster when voice calls can’t get through.  Another nice thing about Cricket is there is no long term contract to deal with and I felt like Verizon just could not wait to get me under contract with a new phone and phone number.  In today’s economy I won’t have a 2 year contract with huge cancellation fees attached.  If I have to get a new phone and phone number there is no advantage in staying with Verizon and a heck of a lot of downsides.

One of things I see many people do, is only look at the monthly cost/payment and they don’t look at the possible long term costs. I can’t tell you many times I hear people say as long as they can make the monthly payment they are doing fine.  They never see how how over-leveraged they are or how their debt to income ratio has climbed until  they have a small emergency and their credit has dried up or how interest starts to eat them alive financially. I’m not saying all debt is bad, my little wood stove loan has already paid back in lower winter utility bills which has offset some of the cost of the loan. When it is paid off next year all of savings  goes into my energy fund of getting wood early for next winter and I want to add more solar panels and batteries for nice little off grid system for electricity.


Still….

November 5, 2014

I’m still moving things around so Mom has a place for her most critical items and keep things working for myself and my pets. I moved the chest of drawers from Mom’s bed room to the catch-all room and set it up for Smokey the cat. I have a litter box and food and water on the chest but Smokey never uses her litter box and prefers to do her business in the great outdoors. The litter box is more of a backup system rather than Smokey’s main potty spot. Smokey the cat does not deal with change very well but she seems to have accepted the move.  I think this will work out, as Mom is bringing her pekes and while her dogs don’t chase cats, Smokey will have quite a few more dogs to deal with, so having her stuff in another room should help all the critters to adapt.  This opens up my guestroom for more of Mom’s stuff and it should help make her feel more at home.  I was able to move a tall book shelf into her room so she can have a few of her beloved books  and going vertical helps add more storage with only a minimal cost of floor space.  I setup Mom’s flat screen TV and got the Roku going but she will need an antenna if she wants to watch any local TV programming.  My TV’s can pick up 18-23 of the local digital channels and with the Roku and Amazon Prime she should be happy with the selection though she might miss listening to Fox business and Stuart Varney as I don’t have cable/Sat TV programming.

Having a plan to blend households is prepping, as we have no idea what disaster might hit us. From the economy tanking, to taking in friends and family being flexible enough to offer a bed, some storage and a safe place that a person can re-launch from may become a very critical skill.  I totally understand those that don’t want to share after the SHTF. Especially after you tell and offer to help educate people to prepare.  If you are healthy and have a good plan that is not dependent on others that is great. I’m a single and disabled so I need to to take in healthy bodies that can be trained. Is it a risk? Absolutely, but I’m at a major disadvantage because of my disability, so I will have to have help. Do a realistic assessment of your strengths and weaknesses and find ways to maximize your strengths and minimize any weaknesses.  Have skills not dependent on stuff because then you become too valuable to the tribe to kill.  Sorry to say predators always prey on the weak and disabled first so you need to be ready not to look weak.

Well enough of the “Zombie Apocalypse” thing. I just order a new jig saw for my tool set and to do a few cuts on Mom’s new chicken shed/coop.  I wanted to buy a good reciprocation saw but those are sort of expensive and with my disability I’m not sure I can use one of those saws in my tool box.  A jig saw and multiple blades should work out in the short term.  I think I have a plan for the chicken coop/shed that will have a  solid and square foundation yet could be moved if needed.

So far using the elm in the wood stove it looks like the wood rack on the porch could last a couple of weeks in cold weather.  My two-step stove is rated to heat a home of 2000 square feet and all I have is about 1200 square feet on the main level.  I’m not complaining as I can always open a window for cool air in winter.  Burning  elm is a new thing to me and just keeping the house heated under 78 degrees F.  is a bit of a challenge using the wood stove.

 


Moving stuff around and starting to bottle the beer

November 4, 2014

I started cleaning up the catch-all room. This is the room where I store my beer making supplies and a few of the 15 gallon water barrels. I need to create more storage space as my Mom is moving in temporarily and she needs some room for her stuff here at the house. A room mate takes up more space compared to a guest and so while I needed to clean and organize the room the timeline got accelerated. Moving the bigger items and organizing most of the smaller items did not take as long as I thought and it already looks 50% better than it did. I got the closet mostly cleaned out so she has a spot for her clothes and shoes and the woman has a lot of clothes and shoes.  I set up a couple of shelves for her house plants that gets a lot of sun but I’m not sure I have enough room for all of them. I do have a couple of ideas I have been wanting to try out for built in shelves so I now have the motivation to get that concept started.

The one of the biggest jobs is adding a shed and chicken coop to the backyard for her chickens. It needs to be solid but also a temporary structure for when she move to her new place when she finds it. It looks like using the concrete pier/deck blocks will work the best for a temp. foundation for the coop and Mom has a nice dog kennel re-purposed for her chicken run. I have a sort of a rough idea for setting it up. I need to move the compost pile, it has the most level ground in my backyard which means less work on the coop.  Thankfully I only used a couple of boards to hold the pallets together and it will be simple to just unscrew them and move everything.  While it is a bit of work, I will have the chickens to work my yard and garden beds when we let the out to free range. It will be an opportunity to work on some of my carpentry skills and have a good excuse to buy a reciprocating saw I have been wanting to get for some time.  I did not master the emergency fund this year but I am getting better at leaving some wiggle room in my budget.

The beers are finishing up the fermenting process and I got one batch bottled. It looks like the black ale will be ready tomorrow though my amber ale is still bubbling away. I still have the amber lager I want to get started and I want to test out  a longer conditioning the beers in the bottles.  I think my beers are pretty good but they might be even better if I let them condition a bit longer.  Conditioning beer is sort of like how a stew or pasta sauce  improves in flavor after sitting in the fridge overnight and all the flavors have a chance to blend.

It is getting busy here at Casa de Chaos and I’m having to adapt to how quickly life is changing here. Overall things are coming together if they are not working out exactly how I planned.  I will keep on making those plans and goals but try and build in a bit more ability to change focus at the last minute.  It is something you need to be ready for mentally as normal life throws you plenty of curve balls. In a disaster that gets multiplied so being flexible and ready to adapt to changing conditions is an important skill to cultivate.

 


Finished picking the tomatoes, celery and frost warning for tonight

November 3, 2014

I didn’t think I would get everything picked before the frost hit but it got done. I ended up with two, 3 gallon buckets of tomatoes that are mostly green, a bucket of sqash and a bucket of celery. Not a bad haul from the garden in November. I can take my time with the clean up of the beds now that all the veggies are pulled.  I’m sort of excited to see how much difference adding my own compost and a layer of straw mulch will do imnproving the garden beds next spring. I got the leaf blower out and started blowing all the leaves towards the compost pile to add a brown through the winter. I will have the sawdust from cutting the mill ends for fire wood.  I’m not sure if I can keep the pile hot and working through the winter but I figure I might as well give it a shot.

This year’s garden taught me a lot about how to take advantage of making my own compost and how it is work but it is worth the effort. I learned I could grow a lush garden all by myself which was a huge boost to my confidence. There have been a few times I have been ready to give up on the whole growing a garden idea the last few years but I’m very glad I kept at it.  I  learned how to use compost as well as mulch on my lawn and what big difference it made in saving water as well as helping build the soil. I sort of thought of dirt as just a medium for growing plants rather than it being alive and something that needs care to be healthy.

I have a busy week planned for cleaning the yard and doing some pruning and trimming my trees and bushes.  A neighbor and I just cut my holly’s back like crazy last spring and I thought we would kill them but the bushes came back during summer and put on a lot of great growth filled out and look great as a shorter bushes but with thicker growth. I was told trimming them back so radically could kill the holly’s but it was not true.  My hope is by trimming back the holly and adding compost to the lawn this fall I will improve the soil and open up the lawn to a bit more sunlight. It’s sort of strange to work on the lawn this fall when what I would like to do is create a perma-culture food forest sort of thing next spring. I figure having the grass and soil healthy is best while I work in the food forest idea next year.  Bare soil is not healthy soil and a lot of my my work to start will consist of making paths and creating zones as I can afford to add planting beds.

Last but not least I stopped by lowes for some LED light bulbs they had on sale for $3.98 per 40 watt equivalent bulb that uses 6.5 watts of electricity.  So far I like the bulbs as they don’t hum like CFLs and the color is a “warm white” which is an improvement over the CFL color light. Supposedly the LEDs use about a dollar’s worth of electricity per year and last for 16 years if you use the light 3 hours a day on average.  I replaced incandescent bulbs I had in two bedrooms reading lights and the main lamp I using in the living room and I would say that the LED is actually closer to replacing a 60 watt bulb rather than a 40 watt.  One small downside I noticed is all of the light comes from the top of the bulb and there is not as much downward light compared to an incandescent bulb because of the LED bulbs larger base blocking a bit of that light.  The LED bulbs are also noticeably heavier than a CFL or incandescent light bulb.

The LED bulbs are more expensive in up front costs but I figure it is going to add up to long term savings. Theoretically I could use 15 of these 6.5 watt LEDs to replace the power usage of one, 100 watt light bulb. When you are using a backup or off grid energy source, anywhere you can save watts/power is a very big deal. Heck with rising a electrical costs these bulbs could be the difference of keeping some lights on or sitting in the dark.  Now that I have seen the light these LED bulbs put out I think I will add another 3 bulbs to replace the bathroom lighting bulbs and then start replacing other light bulbs here at Casa de Chaos as I can afford them. I would really like to replace a couple of the light bulbs in my shop with a couple of the higher wattage LEDs to improve the lighting and not worry about replacing them so often.