ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I have so many windows open all at the same time. I am busy learning new techniques in dyeing, in growing food and dyeplants, and looking at shows for 2018. I also am reading 5 books. So this is just a snapshot of where my head is at right now.

Book- Natural Color by Sasha Duerr, who runs the Permacouture Institute https://www.permacouture.org
Indigo Dyeing tips http://www.chriscooksey.demon.co.uk/indigo/urinevat.html
Mycopigments http://mycopigments.com

Wattle Fence http://www.forgottenwayfarms.com/forgotten-way-farms-blog/make-wattle-fencing-step-by-step
Companion Planting https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/companion-planting-guide-zmaz81mjzraw?pageid=3#PageContent3
Food Calculator http://foodstoragemadeeasy.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Basic-Plus-Calculator.xlsx
Hazelnuts and Persimmons https://oikostreecrops.com/products/ecos-american-hazelnut/?search=Hazelnut
Jacqualine, the Honey Lady's Farm http://friendlyhaven.com
And currently listening to the homesteading podcast series at the Skill Network Amy Stoss at Tenth Acre Farm http://gardeningandhomesteadingskills.com/program/296

Stitch Pattern to try for knitting


Dan Chiras' book, Homeowner's Guide to Renewable Energy, which I wrote about previously.
Building Green, by Clarke Snell and Tim Callahan
The Weaving, Spinning, and Dyeing Book by Rachel Brown (rereading)
Clay Culture by Carole Crews
The Rocket Mass Heater, Builder's Guide by Erica Wisner
Then on to actually knitting that pattern. Yes, I will be busy this winter.

Sun Power

18 Oct 2017 04:16 pm
ursulas_alcove: My favorite doctor (c is for civilized)
I'm not going to go all biblical and quote Genesis. Each piece of land on earth is given a certain amount of rain and sun, depending on location and jet stream. Those are free. Nobody has taxed them yet. I own property. It may not be large, but I can call it my own. It faces south and receives a lot of sunlight each day. So why let that energy go to waste? Certainly my house doesn't need it in the summer.

Well, I can't pay for a photovoltaic system. It costs about $16,000. Tax credits are approximately $5,000, 30% of the cost. These are federal. Our state doesn't offer much for incentives. My house also needs a new roof. So on the surface, that seems unattainable. I already have a second mortgage. Add to that the steep pitch of the roof, three stories up, and yes, it has a lot to be desired. A standing system, not mounted on the house is subject to shade and space. I'd rather capture sun in the form of vegetables on the ground level. But that is still a lot of energy going to waste.

Tesla/Solar City was part of the solar tour put on by Penn Future. There were a lot of other people who had already talked to them about a PPA. All had good experiences but didn't necessarily qualify. Effectively,Tesla owns your PV system until you pay it off. You can pay it off in 10 years or 20 yrs. No money down. Your monthly bill is the same as your existing electric bill, but it will never go up. You can sign over the tax credit to keep the low rate or you can keep the tax credit and just pay $30 more a month. In 19 months, they amortize it because the tax credit is based on 18 months. There are some caviotts. A Tesla system can only be put on a building's roof. They will not mount to the sides of the house or put in a stand alone unit. Step one is talking to an agent and getting a credit check. Step two is an engineering analysis of the structure as well as trees and shade. Step three is a signed contract, permitting, and construction.

I invited them to look at my property. Google Earth is amazing. They gave it a quick check. Sure, they'd come out and take a look. So, today I met with Suzi and an engineer from Alabama. Our house does have too steep a pitch. It would probably be a good winter sun collector but not summer. The sun's angle changes with the season here. This much I know from my solar oven. The oven needs to have a more vertical pitch, 60° for winter cooking. At equinox, about 42° is needed, although I think the oven is around 30° for summer use. The oven has both angles (60/30) and can be flipped for each season. Anyway, we took a look at my garage. It's roof faces due West and East. The roof is new because a tree fell on it. My insurance replaced it. The garage roof angle is 45°. Because of the hill, the roof is very accessible and close to the ground. After some calculations, tada! I can have a PV system with no money down. The magic credit score is 650. The magic income level is $50,000. They used a combination of my gross, Chronographia's gross and hubby's SS. So, a thorough engineering evaluation is scheduled for Halloween.

All I need to do is trim the mulberry tree branches. The tree is north of the garage but the branches spread out southward. This was already on my to do list. I have a pole trimmer. The tree was shading the garden too much anyway. Fingers crossed! We could be going solar! After reviewing my bill, a garage system would cover everything except the stove/oven. Another reason to get busy and build my rocket mass heater. But the freezer needs to be replaced. Most definitely. The ceiling fans are next on the list. Dan Chiras has the energy numbers on those. Newer technology came in the last 20 years making them more efficient. It will be worth my while to replace them. The ceiling fans are vintage 1980, wood paneling and all. A side note, we don't use central AC. Tesla has a different package for that. But the fact that a system will pay for itself based on my existing usage, wow. Just wow.

And it gets better. If my neighbors like my system, I can make a bit of cash on referrals.
ursulas_alcove: Blakes 7 (intelligence)
It was a bit of a long day. I signed up for the Pittsburgh Solar Tour. I've always wanted to go but could not because of my show schedule. This year I'm free! There was a lot of confusion right from the get go. I signed up but never got a confirmation email. I did get lots of "Would you like to register" emails. I called them. I was on the list. I never got an email of details on where to meet. I found an article in the newspaper with that information. When I got there, I got, "Well, its all on our webpage". Um, no it's not. Sending you to Facebook via unidentified hypertext links is not the same as on your webpage. Obscure links don't count. I don't click on every bloody link to see where it takes me, especially when the hypertext doesn't relate to the link. The tour at noon was a very different tour than the 2 pm tour. There were things on the first tour I really wanted to see. Self guided would have been better. Just give me a list and I could manage. "Well there's a map on our webpage". Um, no. It doesn't have addresses or a list that I could figure out. So, no, not helpful. The folks who opened up their homes to us were very nice. The bitchy woman in charge, blaming the bus driver for the long distance we had to travel to get to the homes, she was not helpful. It was not his fault that the first house was 35 miles away. The first tour ran an hour late. Pittsburgh is big and our roads are not straight. We, on the second tour, waited patiently for the bus to arrive and the first tour to disembark. Our tour elected to skip one property in Etna because of time. Sigh. Fortunately the bitchy woman will retire in a year. So it may be a better tour next year.

Did I learn anything? Um, not really. It was really cool to see an installation by Adam Solar Resources in person. I watch him build it on Twitter. It had a special feature to protect the panels from a lightening strike. That was useful. What else I learned? The Frick had info on a CSA that runs over winter, featuring duck eggs and dairy products along with winter veggies and mushrooms. It's a nine week program. I don't live there but it's good to see. Anyway, the tour concluded at Tesla. I signed up for a quote next week. Tesla leases the equipment. We might be too small to qualify but my house does face south. Their arrangement is called a PPA. I talked with another guy on the tour who is getting bids now. He rather thought you were stuck with Solar City/Tesla for the next 20 years if you went that route. He'd actually signed with them first but called it off because they screwed up his analysis. Tesla was going to recalculate something and he decided to cancel. I'm more worried about the weight on the roof. Tesla will let you buy them out after five years if you truly want to be off grid. You are allowed to add batteries to the system but you must buy those yourself. It's something to think about. We did not visit any properties on the second tour that were done by EIS, the other big solar firm in Pittsburgh. The tour guide had never heard of Penn Solar who has a trailor in Canonsburg and is very busy. Interesting, or maybe just provincial.

Since I took two lectures with Dan Chiras at the Mother Earth News Fair on solar energy, I decided to check out his work. He has been off-grid since 1979. He runs the Evergreen Institute in MO. I picked up one of his many works at the library. The only book by him at the library was The Home Owner's Guide to Renewable Energy. It was published in 2012. Most of it is still accurate. It covers everything from the concept of passive solar design and retrofit to all the various heating and cooling systems, PV electric systems, geothermal, sun porches, solar ovens, and more. It's a good read. It does have a section on rennovation for older homes, when its worth it and when its not. Dan writes in the same style as he speaks which makes it easy to follow. Energy efficiency is key. You need to cut down your usage by switching to Energy Star products and insulating first. That way you will not over size the system and pay too much. There are helpful charts to map your current electrical usage. This is what I've been focusing on.

As far as solar energy systems go, the most helpful person I encountered so far was Nick Meissner from the Self Reliant School or Off Grid Boot Camp, https://www.facebook.com/SelfReliantSchool/?fref=ts They run homesteading classes for a fee. Occaisionally they have free promos to get people on their mailing list. He showed us how to start small and grow a system. If you want to go with a contractor and do the tax credits, by all means, do so. But Nick assumes you are a scout and just want to learn how electricity actually works. You can learn a lot by doing it. Again, assessing how big a system you need is a good starting point for a house system but its also cool to rig a PV system for your computet while you are camping. That is a small and very doable project. You can learn a lot. Then when you do convert your house, you understand its just a matter of scale.

The book I have found to be the very best is Building Green by Clarke Snell and Tim Callahan. It gives you a whole system to think about, not just your electric. A house is like your body. Temperature, respiration, waste management, all the things need to be considred as a whole. It focuses on new construction but the concepts can apply to rennovation. Today I learned from our tour guide that there is a building standard that goes beyond LEEDS certified. It means the building is a producer not a consumer of resources. They call it Living Future, https://living-future.org based in Seattle. The Frick Environmental Center is one of 50 in the US. Apparently there is a second one in Pgh as well, also owned by Frick. I learned from our tour guide that there are groups out there to help you assemble a consortium of builders and business to achieve your goals, including water retention, living roofs, geothermal, etc. They help you figure out financing, grants, tax breaks, etc. Something to consider. We were given the names of several.

I have a few more noteworthy books from the library on natural dyeing. More on those later.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
We weigh our produce in an effort to understand what worked and what doesn't. Many seed packets get planted and only a few plants survive. Of those survivors, the seed is most valuable. It has adapted to our clay soil, poor air quality, and rainfall. The survivor's offspring should give better yields the following year. Produce weight can indirectly measure the quality of our soil as well. We are using coffee grounds, compost, vermiculture, chop and drop, and sawdust to improve our soil. We have noticed a difference. We are only on year three of our food forest.

Garage garden

Last year, our last measurement for the garden produce came the first week of November as the last pumpkins were harvested. All in all, last year was very disappointing. Late frosts the first week of June ruined a season that really started with a very mild April and hot May. This year is was hard to pin point. It is possible that our last frost was in February. 2016 only gave us about 100 pounds of produce. This year will likely be double by the time the last pumpkin is harvested. We are currently at 177 pounds of produce. There are still carrots, parsnips, cherry tomatoes, drying beans, peas, butternut squash and pumpkins to harvest.

Here's a breakdown of 2017 so far:

Rhubarb 7.119 lbs.
Morels .411
Carrots 3.879
Lettuce 1.023
Strawberries 2.574
Red Radishes .565
Daikon Radishes .628
Chard 3.927
Black Raspberries 3.078
Mulberries 10.369
Garlic 3.344
Snow Peas 1.525
Red Raspberries .265 - note these are first year
Blueberries .094 - note buy a late producing variety that produces when sunflowers do. Avoiding bird loss.
Purple Queen Beans 1.831
Potato Onions 5.936
German Butterball 2.511
Austrian Crescent 1.340
Blue 4.252
Red Cloud 9.461 Grown in full sun with tomatoes and squash.
French Fingerling 18.873 Best producing. Grown in partial shade with rhubarb.
Blue Cherokee 33.943 Note we had almost no yield last year.
Czech Cherry 4.955
Stupice (potato leafed) 13.690
Yellow .232 volunteer
Black plum 1.525 late producer - is just starting
"Grocery store" 8.172 Volunteer plants in our seed soil that looks like store bought Florida tomatoes but tastier.
Yard Long beans 2.650 and still going
Scarlet Runner Beans .167 First year and deer helped themselves.
Cucumbers 1.853 Note plant in shade with a trellis
Butternut Squash 10.138
Honey butternut 8.947
Acorn 3.750
Assorted herbs make up the rest.

Meanwhile red chard is untouched by deer

According to the neighbor, we are feeding five deer. Periodically a skunk does come through. It only rummages in the compost. We have two outdoor cats belonging to a neighbor. Yesterday, the Death of Rats visited as we heard a loud SQUEAK and saw a flash of cat's tail. The garter snake has helped as well. Meanwhile, starting plants in trays has been a tremendous improvement. So many fewer seedlings have succumbed to mice and rabbits. We have hopes of extending the growing season with a coldframe. It's still in pieces, missing the correct length screws. Shopping for basic necessities is next on my todo list.

Deer damage
Deer love white chard
ursulas_alcove: Robin of the hood woodcut (Rock On!)
Well, I crunched the numbers. Our freezer is the most inefficient appliance so far. It uses 1203 kWh annually. Probably more since the data I collected isn't from summertime. Randomly poking at the internet, I can get a Maytag freezer (14.8 cu ft) for $400 at Home Depot with an efficiency of 297 kWh. Which means, it would pay for itself in just four years. That assumes electric at 10.5¢ a kWh. Definitely on the replacement list.

I'll be plugging the meter into the dehumidifier next. The dehumidifier is an old Kenmore but has an Energy Star sticker. Normally we would be running the furnace by now. It has been hot and humid this week. Rain is forcast for tomorrow. The dehumidifier is still running a lot. I should be able to get some good numbers.

Another thing I'm looking at for winter, cobbing the basement ceiling in the coal cellar. Cobb is a mixture of clay, sand and straw. I ran a test on my soil. It's perfect for making cobb. I made one brick of just soil, one of soil and sand, and one with sand, straw, and soil. All made a strong brick without cracking. The pouring rains from Nate did dissolve the bricks I made with pure clay and the clay/sand. The straw brick stayed together. It was magical.

Testing Cob

I need to pickup a couple of straw bales and more sand tomorrow. The coal cellar is under the front porch. It is the coldest place in the house in winter. Sometimes you can see daylight through the ceiling if the angle is right. There is also a water main coming into the house here. We've had to use a space heater whenever the temperature goes below 5° F to prevent the pipes from freezing. I need to look into more pipe insulation as well. Here are shots of the ceiling as it is. There is a steel I beam running down the length of the ceiling. We have weird steel beams and random concrete in our walls. The construction dates from 1929 and was done by northern Italian immigrants, working for Germans, making mock Tudor homes. Welcome to America!

Cold Cellar Ceiling-Before Renovation Shots

Cold Cellar Ceiling-Before Renovation Shots

Cold Cellar Ceiling-Before Renovation Shots

Cold Cellar Ceiling-Before Renovation Shots

Not sure exactly if this will work, but I will start coating one pocket with slip (clay and water). Then I will mix up the cob with a 60/40 sand to clay or maybe even 75/25 and add straw. As much straw as the mixture will hold. I plan to cut burlap to fit the pocket. A pocket, being the space between two cross beams. If the cob doesn't stay up, I'll staple the edge of the burlap up and put cob between the burlap and the ceiling. I'll use a piece of plywood propped up to hold it until it dries. I want to do a finishing coat on the outside of the burlap, maybe using perlite from the garden center. Perlite is supposed to be better than polystyrene at insulation. It also won't kill me if the house catches fire. I am very opinionated against polystyrene. I figure one pocket should be a learning experience and give me proof of concept. If it works, I will continue on to do the rest.

There are some other fixes at plugging drafts that I need to address soon as well. One thing at a time.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
The big show of the year for Strange Hours Atelier is coming up in Louisville, KY this weekend. For more information, please visit https://stjamescourtartshow.com We are usually across from 410 Belgravia Ct, and are placed next to another hatter which makes us easy to find! So much fun trying on a variety of hats. We're on our way to pickup a new mirror right now. Tomorrow is a packing day. Thursday is a drive day as well as setup.

St. James Court Art Show

We will be finishing the tomato harvest just before we leave. The weather is not expected to turn but you can never tell for sure this time of year. Last year, our last harvest from the garden was November 6th. Frost typically occurs before October 21st, with the average first frost on September 30th. Wonky weather or perhaps fickle, needs to be accounted for. Besides tomatoes, we have peas, chard, and squash growing. Peas and chard can handle a cold snap. The remaining squash should be fine as well. Squash needs to harden off for winter storage. It can do that in place instead of on the porch.

Honey Butternut

In addition, there are parsnips, carrots, and sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes need to die back before harvesting. Carrots and parsnips can keep most of the winter right where they are. The cold makes them sweeter.

Garage garden

Meanwhile, we've saved bean seeds from Scarlet Runner Beans, Yard-Long beans, and Purple Queen. The Scarlett Runner are pole beans. They held the sunflowers upright and against the trellis. The deer ate quite a few. The rest we saved for seed. I've never cooked with them. The purple queen are a bush bean. Since the deer won't eat purple or red food, they survive nicely. Don't ask why or if all deer don't eat red/purple, I don't know. Ours leave the red swiss chard alone but gobble the green with the yellow stem to the ground. They leave red lettuce alone too. Over the last ten years I learned to only buy red species for the garden. Yup, red beets are fine too. The green ones got eaten. Meanwhile, the yard long beans camoflage themselves well, hiding in prickly radishes or climbing raspberries with thorns. They know how to hide.

Seed Saving

Hope to see you at a show soon!
ursulas_alcove: Blakes 7 (kicking ass)
Killing the Phantom Menace

Ghost loads- I have identified problem areas. We have three people and three computer stations. Yes, they are all on power strips but no, not all devices can be turned off because we are on different shifts. The modem is not in use from 3 or 4 am to about 8 am. It may not be worth turning off and on each day. Last time we tried, the data overage on the cell phones was staggering. So I plugged the modem directly into a wall. The TV is totally unplugged now. We use it so infrequently. The two laptop/speaker stations have power strips that will now be turned off at night. The third full size computer is always off and unplugged when I am not doing accounting. So no change there. The next thing is to get a power strip to turn off the scanner/printer setup at night. Another ghost is the GFI outlets in both bathrooms. The contractor insisted on ones with lights and I hate them. There is a GFI available from Leviton without a ghost load. Losing the phantom loads could save us about $93 a year on our power bill.

Light Bulbs and Ceiling Fixtures
We replaced all bulbs with CFLs back in the 1990s. We are currently replacing all CFLs with LEDs because who wants mercury in their home? I have 15 bulbs to replace. I spent the morning with a clipboard looking at each light. Most LEDs have slightly lower power usage than CFLs. I also picked up Grow Light LEDs from Gardener's Supply. They are pricey but worth it, only 9 W and I can use them as Ott lights for picture-taking for my business. Currently around $33 a piece. And they still cost less than the first LED bulb I bought, which ran $50. Now, of course regular LED bulbs run between $7 and $10. So I will watch for sales at the hardware store to replace the 15 bulbs. I have to pay attention because I bought one last year on sale and it hums something fierce. I can't stand it. So need to make sure not to buy that brand.

While I was at it, I looked at all the broken ceiling fixtures I have. I need to earn some serious cash and start replacing those. There are three 1980s style fluorescent fixtures just need to go away. Quite often the switch gets bumped and they get turned on accidentally but no one notices them because they give off so little light, if any. Three basement ceramic light pulls can be replaced in kind, plus one in my bedroom closet. Ceiling fans- apparently this is something that is now incredibly more energy efficient and worthwhile to replace. Newer ceiling fans use 1/10th the energy of our old ones. We only use two of the four we have now. The ones in the kitchen and dining room can just go away. So I must look at new light fixtures to replace them. Really wish that we had a Menards out here. I need to add a new ceiling light in the living room as well. I hate shopping for lights. I plan to replace the ceiling fans in the 2 bedrooms with new ones. So I need seven light fixtures and two with ceiling fans. Not happening overnight.

I took the Off Grid Boot Camp promotional class with Nick Meissner. He had some great tips for lowering energy usage. Efficiency of appliances is key. So I'll be evaluating those next. The energy meter is currently measuring the freezer. I'll give it about a week. Then on to the dehumidifier and washing machine. We are on our way to a more complete evaluation. The ancient electric range is a huge draw. Not sure how to reduce that load until we get a woodstove and setup a summer kitchen outdoors.

Another resource I found through the Mother Earth News Fair. Dan Chiras wrote a number of books. I met him at the fair. He runs the Evergreen Institue in Missouri. He's lived Off-Grid for many years, since the 1970s. Currently, he recommends net metering rather than going it alone. Anyway, his book The Homeowner's Guide to Renewable Energy was at the library. So even though it's a little dated, 2011, it has a lot of good information. I'm giving it a read.


27 Sep 2017 06:36 pm
ursulas_alcove: blakes 7 (We're all gonna die!)
Good news and bad news. I have been studying our energy usage in an effort to curb rising costs while living on a fixed income. I pulled all the natural gas bills that I could find. I know I need to work on things like replacing windows, weather stripping, and insulation. I plan to get an energy audit too.

But, we still have 18 more months of austerity to live through. What that means is we are working through a budget deficit. So we are not "consumers" to just go out and buy things to work on the house. I am working on the shortfall but for now, there really is no extra cash for repairs. First, we start by studying the problem and identify usage as well as places for improvement.

Usage: This is the interesting part. In the year prior to February 2015, our house consumed 914 therms of natural gas. That is the annual consumption. We have a gas furnace and a gas hot water heater. The water heater paid for itself in less than eight years. It recirculates the water to use less gas overall and was recommended by Ed Begley Jr.. We have had it a while. Since 2015, there have been no improvements on the house. Three adults have consistently lived here. So in 2016, we used anywhere from 835 to 885 therms of gas. Each month we get a total of usage for the past 12 months. Currently we use 780 therms annually and that number has been steady.

What I take this to mean is that the overall climate requires us to use less gas to heat with, thereby, a direct measure of climate change. So less usage means lower bills, right? Our bills have been lower overall, but the gas company still must maintain all those miles of underground pipe. At some point they will have to hike rates. Our infrastructure is 90 years old. (And they still haven't gotten to our neighborhood in the line replacement program) My neighbor installed a pellet stove to lower his bill. At some point they will have to charge a flat fee whether you use gas or not. The water company does that. I have to pay $15 a month whether I use water or not. No, that isn't the water line protection insurance either.

The leaks and areas to audit require it to be cold outside so you can find the energy leaks. Currently, its in the 90s. No, we don't have AC so that doesn't work in a reverse manner. We have to wait until the temperature drops outside. Note to self, buy a furnace filter before turning on the heat.

My best guesses are two areas where pipes go through the brick exterior wall. On the west side of the house, the exterior water spigot conducts heat and leaves a horrible draft. This is obvious when opening the cupboard under the kitchen sink. It has also caused the basement shower pipes to freeze last year. All those pipes are in the same area. The second opening through the exterior bricks is an electric and phone outlet on the north side of the house. The cupboards in front of the wiring always has a nasty draft.

Someone also put holes in the brick to run cable, remember the days before WiFi? The TV cable leaves the basement on the east side of the house and re-enters the attic where the former owner had an office. That is a potential problem area. Does any company remove its old stuff when putting in the new? There are tons of ancient phone line with the three prong outlets all over the kitchen. I'd love those gone. The box they attach to is still here too. They must date from the early 1930s.

Three exterior doors need weather-stripping. The doors were badly planed and the area so uneven that our attempts to fix it actually prevent the door from closing in some places while leaving huge gaps still in others! The doors are an unusual shape and cannot be replaced with something from a box store.

Metal casement single paned windows, yep. They need to be replaced. Broken glass panes and broken latches, yes, I don't need an inspector to tell me that. In addition, the back porch is missing a section of roof. It is just corrugated fiberglass. The back window underneath that section has wood which is rotting. It must be replaced along with the rotting porch roof beams.

At some point a previous owner did blow-in insulation in the attic. The ceiling has vampire marks. I know because we rennovated the bathroom and the contractor got a fiberglass shower. He re-insulated the ceiling so that is okay.

I'm sure the auditor will turn up a few more surprises. Stayed tuned to see what happens. Weatherization application for low income families is next on my todo list.


27 Sep 2017 08:39 am
ursulas_alcove: Woodcut from Robin Hood (Spock's Raised Eyebrow)
I had the strangest dreams. I was setting up at a renfaire. My area was a fire pit and all my dyed yarns would be for sale. There was one major problem, I had to start a fire in three inches of water and it was still raining. Curious, the effects hurricanes have on one's dreams. Meanwhile in real life, the hurricanes stole all our water. It has been bone dry.

Another dream, another Renaisance Fair, behind the scenes, a giant cart the size of a delivery van, loaded with clothing, curtains, and fabric in lovely colors. Pulling together an outfit very quickly as gate call would happen shortly. Then looking myself over and realizing I had a better costume already on, but the lure of free is always tempting. Nothing but a time waster. I ran late and rushed to setup.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying extracting colors from nature, whether it be on fabric, raw fiber, or yarn. Perhaps I should pull a dye demonstration booth together. Mayhap, not in the rain.


25 Sep 2017 09:41 pm
ursulas_alcove: blakes 7 (We're all gonna die!)
In preparation for SVFF (Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival) I got the van back from the shop with two new tires and a reworked wheel rim. This was from the cheapest garage. The first set of tires that were removed only had a month of wear. They got trashed because no one noticed my shocks were bad after I ended up on a washed out road on the Kentucky/Tennesee border. Thanks State Farm for insisting I use the State Farm mechanic instead of a dealer. Insisting was more like grabbing me and leaving me stranded in Nashville for months until their Tennessee rep got around to reviewing the damage or else use their "approved" garage, which still took three weeks to fix it. State Farm cost me a lot of money over the last year. Can you tell I am still pissed at them? Sorry. Didn't mean to get off on a bad note. The van was fixed this week by my favorite mechanic at home and is functioning fantastic.

Mobile Yarn Store

The trip went well to Berryville, VA. Setup went smooth. Load-in times are staggered throughout Friday. I got in around 3:30 pm. The building was open until 9 pm. I only forgot the bulky weight yarn. I was solo this year. No helpers, just me. Over the course of the event, I got to talk to several business owners who have been at this a long time and I consider them successful. Now I have been plagued with issues over the last two years. Event sales have been down, I can't travel to enough "good" events to pay the business's bills, we have credit card debt, aging vehicles, a house needing repair, hospital bills, reduced income, etc. I thought it was just me. I found out it wasn't just me. Overall, inflation has been eroding wages because no one is getting cost-of-living increases, the disposeable income is shrinking. The gig economy has caused enormous financial insecurity. In the area that this particular show is in, threats of government shutdown always impact sales. My customers can no longer afford to buy on impulse. Every project is a "planned" buy. Each year the show nets me slightly less money. Not just this show, but all shows. Soon they become marginal and I am left to search for new ones. Actually, I rather thought this was a cyclical part of this business.

Garden Inspiration

So meeting with other vendors, we always discuss what shows are doing well, who has gone out-of-business, and other concerns that business owners have. A new concern cropped up this year, aging vehicles. It doesn't pay in this business to buy a used vehicle. Most of us research and buy the one new vehicle that is perfect for hauling our setup, sleeping in, reliable, and good on gas. We typically put 30,000 miles a year on the vehicle. Some businesses put on more, some less. The right vehicle will last a long time. We maintain our vehicles well, our livelihoods depend on that as well as our lives. New trucks start around $35,000 or have a monthly payment of around $600. We don't have a regular income which makes it hard to get a loan. If you have a spouse with a salaried job, you can do it but our margin at these shows is not big enough to cover that amount. And since we don't have shows every month, cashflow can be an issue. As my vehicle just hit 297,000 miles this week and lost the muffler on the way home, this concerns me too. I still have to pay off the work done on my truck last week. There is not going to be a new muffler in my near future. My truck is 14 years old. I was hoping to make it to 20.

Colors of the season

Other concerns are the ongoing unaffordable cost of healthcare, nothing to do with current politics. Even if you do have healthcare, it still costs too much to use. Our suppliers are another concern. Many have gone out-of-business. Some have changed the minimum buys, terms/conditions, etc. All-in-all, its getting harder to do what we do to bring you, the yarn consumer, a good consistant product.


It was great seeing the regulars at this show, also meeting newcomers, the great volunteer helpers, and the other business owners. It is all part of what makes this show special, a shared sense of community. Overall, sales were close to last year's totals. Still, as always, keeping an eye on the bottom line. I'll be back next year. May we all experience a better year.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I feel exuberant and uplifted in a way that I can't really explain. I guess listening to Joel Salatin's closing remarks will do that. He does have several speeches on youtube. Here is just one. https://youtu.be/rjYG4vm7MZ4

It was wonderful to see so many people working and learning together. The classes were amazing. I took 15 different classes for all of $25. That is quite a deal. I learned just as much from the attendees as I did from the teachers. I found out why my mushrooms failed to produce. I know how to fix it now. I learned all about rocket mass heaters and cobb. I feel confident enough to try it at home. I learned more about solar energy, geothermal, and solar hot water. I fell in love with a chipper shredder. I got to meet vloggers in person. I am buying licorice root from the co-op to replace my toothbrush because I took an awesome class from Mountain Rose Herbals/Teas. All-in-all I had a great time and reaffirmed that what I do to mitigate my impact on the environment is on track. I am not a crazy person for giving a damn about what happens to the third rock from the sun.

The vendors were pretty good too. I picked up two plants that are hard to find. Also seed for the winter garden. There were two small organic seed growers there. Two plant booths, tool vendors, bee keeping supplies, mushroom spawn sellers, cheese makers, chicken equipment people, essential oils, honey, handspun alpaca, jewelry, grow lights, gutter helmuts, worm castings, etc. The Mother Earth News bookstore was fantastic. Everything you need to homestead. It was probably good I had a very limited budget. I found the discussions I had with other like minded people very fulfilling. So wishing you all great homegrown food, wonderful company and a beautiful day to enjoy them in.

I solemnly swear I am up to no good
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
This is mostly to remind myself. How to use a Kill A Watt meter:
1. Plug your appliance into the meter.
2. Allow it to run for a couple of days or longer. Some folks like 12 hours. Note: Freezers and refridgerators use more power in the summer months.
3. What to do with your reading. We are looking for annual consumption. So a meter that ran for 355 hours, reading 26.24 kWh means (26.24/355)*24 hrs *365 days= 647.5 kWh
Which is what my 1992 GE refridgerator is drawing. The newer model uses 399 kWh for comparison. I could get that number down by replacing the seals or just buy a new one for around $575. Hmmm.

647.5 - 399 = 248.5 kWh annual savings * 10.5¢ per kwh = $26.09 saved annually. Includes both distribution and default service support fees. So $575/26.09 = 22 years to pay for itself. No. I will pass on replacing it. If it was under 10 years, I would probably do it. So a new rubber seal may be more cost effective and should last me another 20 years. Of course, that's unless I go with a DC model connected to a battery bank with PV cells.

It was a good exercise. Thanks to Bill Osuch at the Self Reliant Homestead, http://selfreliantschool.com for the help with the watt meter.
ursulas_alcove: My favorite doctor (c is for civilized)
I signed up for a week long summit called Back to Basics, http://backtobasicssummit.com It is half homesteading, half prepping. Some of it doesn't begin to fit our lifestyle while other sessions seem tailor made for us. And yes, I have seen many of the presenters before. Sunday I learned how to make jam with the powdered pectin. I have never used powdered before. Mostly we add currants when we need pectin. But the currants were dug up/moved and are still recovering. I've used the liquid pectin before but not the powdered. It was a bit intimidating because there were no instructions with the pectin. The presentor started with 4 cups blueberries, puréed. Then boil the fruit for a minute, add pectin. Boil for another minute and then add 4 cups of sugar. Bring to a boil for another minute. Use a paperplate to test for sheeting. Spoon jam onto the plate. Place plate into freezer for 30 seconds. Take it out and check for sheeting. Add a knob of butter to keep jam from foaming. She also added a vanilla bean somewhere in there and removed it when ladling out the jam. Pour into hot sterile jars. Process 10 minutes. I need to do this with some mulberries.

Today I got the most out of the bread baking session. I learned where all my mistakes were. I need to knead the dough longer to develop the gluten. To check if its done, use a walnut size chunk and start making a pancake as thin as you can stretch it. If it tears easily, keep working. This is part of why my dough lacks structural integrity. The second part is leaving it to proof too long. Using two fingers, poke the dough. If it springs back, it needs to proof longer. If your poke stays visible, the bread is just right. Generally, my dough when poked, pops and crashes like a soufflé gone cold. So off I went to practise. I used less energy and was done baking much sooner. Great loaf and has structural integrity.

Recipe from Confessions of a French Baker

We've had two days of absolutely clear sky. The pantry was getting a little low. While I was taking inventory, I found a large jar of great northern dried beans. And you know, we've all those tomatoes. Plus we just restocked the molasses. So I got out the solar oven and baked beans. I got a little carried away on the tomatoes and I forgot to add onions, so today I fixed that and made more beans and sauted onions to doctor it up. Not too bad. I made them for the freezer.

Solar Oven

One of the back-to-basics presenters is Paul Munsen. His solar oven (Sun Ovens International) is pretty neat. He also gives a good presentation. He reminded me that I can partially pop the lid, and dehydrate my tomatoes. I also have an alcohol based dye that I do not want anywhere near an open fire, so I've stuck that jar in the solar oven too. Our solar oven is starting to show its age. Its made by a different company, Solavore http://www.solavore.com/contact-us/ I wrote to the company about a replacement cover. We compared the two ovens when visiting Lehman's. Paul's oven is smaller and more portable. Ours is bigger, fitting two pots in it at the same time but it does not travel well. Replacement parts if available, will allow us to work on lowering our electric usage. I really can't afford a new oven. I picked this one up about ten years ago. It took a good tumble in the wind out at Estrella one year. The cover has been damaged ever since. I really didn't want to build one from scratch to replace it.

Another set of presenters today covered how much food to store. Apparently certain religious groups promote this concept and have food calculators to figure out how much extra to store per person. There are plug and play spreadsheets. While I like the concept, we are under too tight of money constraints to buy extra food.

I quite enjoyed the Mississippi farmer who shared ideas/recipes for using all your canned foodstuffs. I think I'd like to try a pressure cooker. Potatoes, corn, meat, all preserve well this way. Despite glass being heavy and breakable, it would be so much easier to grab a few jars for traveling. I have too many allergies to eat out. This would solve a lot of problems. She also covered what to do with aging jellies and freeze drying as well.

I worked on hats today. Orders shipped. But no skeining. I need to get back to winding/skeining tomorrow and let a couple of clients know that their hats are ready. Dyebaths need to be run for Shenandoah Valley Fiber Fest. Too much to do!
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I started doing some energy research. My thought was to get rid of the big fridge and replace it with something more energy efficient. An under-the-counter model could be housed in place of the broken dishwasher. So I went to the nearest appliance center. I picked up a booklet right before they closed. After reading it thoroughly, I found one energy star model and another than runs on DC, which means solar PV and a battery could run it without an inverter. The idea was that my energy savings could pay for the unit. So today we went in to look these things over in person.

Our host was courteous and took us seriously. That was a good start. The models I originally picked out were no longer available. Okay. A comparable model would run $2085 with a stainless door fascia and handle being an extra $380. If we buy by tomorrow at 4 pm, they will pay the sales tax. Yes, you got it, a glorified dorm fridge is $2500. Our host felt a fridge this size would need to be replaced every three years. The bigger units are built for longevity, ie 10 yrs. The small ones are not. When informed we had a twenty year old fridge, he did a bit of a double-take. Our current GE is actually 25 yrs old. He asked if it was a frost-free type. When I said yes, he shut up. He brought us spec sheets on the Sub-Zero model. Mostly, I was interested in the kwh that the fridge uses. It gives me a direct comparison to my existing fridge, which is currently hooked up to an energy meter. The mini fridge was rated at 406 kwh. How to compare -http://ths.gardenweb.com/discussions/2335024/energy-savings-of-new-refigerator-vs-10-year-old-model

I looked up our existing fridge. In its current iteration/model, it runs for $521 at Lowes. It was the most energy efficient fridge you could buy in 1991. It's current energy rating is 382 kwh, more efficient than the high end dorm fridge at 406 kwh. https://www.lowes.com/pd/GE-15-5-cu-ft-Top-Freezer-Refrigerator-White/50260073?cm_mmc=SCE_BINGPLA_ONLY-_-Appliances-_-SosRefrigeration-_-50260073:GE&CAWELAID=&kpid=50260073&CAGPSPN=pla{ifdyn:dyn}&k_clickID=c42e629b-d682-4449-8e5b-1c9d4fa8bcad

Well, I kinda expected the store was high end and catered to the new subdivisions. There is another appliance store that carries a brand called Monogram. They have a nicer model. The produce drawer is bigger. Yes, still high end, about $1700. http://appliances.monogram.com/us/specs/ZIFS240HSS

We also looked over a propane fridge at Lehman's. It costs extra for venting. Can you imagine an unvented burner indoors in winter? Can you say carbon monoxide? It is in the same price range as these high end fridges, roughly $1200 and another $400 for a vent. Vents are required in Canada but not here. Still not satisfied with anything I've seen so far. Sadly, I have not found a DC fridge to run off solar batteries. They do make them. But I want to actually see them. I don't trust pictures. You can't judge workmanship. I haven't even asked where these refridgerators are made. So no solutions, but I have learned a lot. Models older than ten years, savings could range from $50 a year to $200. You can count on $50 for sure based on technology changes in 2007 but measure yours to be more accurate. Also those $38 a year energy cost on the energy tag can be based on diffent numbers. The fridge at the local appliance store assumed 8.8¢ a kwh. The one at Lowes was based on 12¢ a kwh. So no comparison. Sigh.

More bad news. The PA government has not reached a budget argreement with the govenor. Tom Wolf refused to sign the budget because its not balanced. He couldn't veto because they had enough votes to overturn his veto. So it went into effect without signature. The senate is concocting a way to tax fracking but loosen environmental controls. This has accomplished the lowering of the S & P bond status, caused the government to borrow money to keep running, and will hurt Penn State, Temple and Pitt Universities. Part of the state economic plan is to hike my tax on electric and gas this winter. Helluva way to run a railroad. As for my Senior Property Tax Relief, paid for by the PA lottery, kiss it goodbye. Yes, I learned a lot today. Just remember this state is overwhelmingly liberal but the minority figured out how to gerrymander here first. I'm fed up with both sides. Natural gas has all of them in its pocket. #disgusted
ursulas_alcove: Blakes 7 (intelligence)
Well, it sure as heck has not been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon. The weather has been the main topic of concern. Although we are inland, Pittsburgh always gets hit by storms starting with the letter I. Remember Ivan? These mostly cause mudslides, flooded roadways, unrooted trees and downed power lines but nowhere near the level of destruction that the coast sees. Harvey to my mind was dangerous because it quickly grew in strength, beyond predictions and right before it hit land. Irma is already humongous. Her track appears to go straight up Florida at this point in time. And then there's Jose right behind her. A good bit of the US could get wiped out. Puerto Rico is already burdened with bankrupcy. I don't think prayers are going to be enough. Hey congress, maybe you shouldn't cut science programs that predict the weather. Just sayin.

I have kin in Florida. I wrote my cousin and offered her family refuge should she need it. Her area isn't under evacuation yet but you never know. Sure it will be disruptive, but it beats living in a shelter. If you have kids, make sure to packs the kids immunization records in case they need to register for school in a new location. What you pack in a bugout bag is highly dependent on the situation. I think Harvey has taught us more than a few lessons. Price gouging is one of them. Gas is going to be scarce. Having extra cash on hand is a good idea. Consider it bribe money to help you safely exit an area.

That all said, for ourselves, we are not very well prepared. The cars need work. We have no cash on hand. Why would we need to bugout? If the electric grid fails, we have a nuclear power plant as well as chemical plants that could blow. Just like Arkema in Houston, Shell has some nasty chemical plants in Beaver. There are also coke plants that can take up to three months to shutdown safely. All the dangerous places are right near the airport. What were they thinking? If you want to be really scared this Halloween, look up EMP (electro magnetic pulse) and what it could do to our infastructure. Scary.

Tomorrow I intend to remedy one problem. The van is going in for work. While I can't afford all the work it needs, I am going to see what it will cost. Poco e poco, little by little. I have a show in Virginia, Shenandoah Valley Fiber Fest, coming up in 16 days. Hopefully the van will be ready. Also, hopefully Jose won't hit Virginia. And just maybe I can get the bent wheel rim replaced on the van. Fingers crossed. Then I'll worry about the rest. Stay safe America. We don't need another Katrina, missing Florida and hitting New Orleans. But at the same time, I'm sure Florida doesn't want it either. Meanwhile, there are two beds and a bathroom in my basement, in case my kin do need to move in. Florida is a big state to have to evacuate. The word bottleneck comes to mind. Stay safe and plan ahead.
ursulas_alcove: My favorite doctor (c is for civilized)
To all the people who buy from small businesses, buy local, buy from artisans, a big thank you! Your patronage means more than you could know. It means bills got paid, food got bought, art supplies were acquired, show fees were paid, basically allowing us to do more of what we do. Vivat!

Autumn is in the air

Today we awoke with Autumn fast approaching, a chill in the air. The storm from Houston has finally arrived tonight. Knowing the weather would soon reach us, it was another long day of weeding, preparing beds, harvesting, and planting. Somehow I managed to get laundry done, start a custom hat, and get a few dyebaths going. Bread even got made. Orders were shipped. Errands were run. Very productive. The rabbit has been my constant companion. I have to be careful not to step on him as I work. We just happen to be one of the few houses without dogs running around. The rabbit is wild. He's been eating clover and fertilizing my lawn, a great addition to our permaculture system. The oregano was harvested for one last dyebath. The cooked remnants were composted. They will be a great mulch. I am also planning a light yellow dye mix with mint, goldenrod, and tarragon. It will be a lovely experiment, fingers crossed.

Wishing you a safe and restful holiday weekend! Be safe. For those of you along the Texas/Louisianna coast, you are in my thoughts and prayers.
ursulas_alcove: J is for jelly baby (pamper thyself)
Gosh, it has been a busy day. Today's focus is on homesteading. Last night I took time to go over planting guides for fall. Stacey Murphy has a great video on that, assuming climate change doesn't totally screw with your frost dates. Ideally, planting for fall should have started right after the eclipse. Some crops should have been started mid-June or mid-July. https://youtu.be/d0LLlcWp3Wk The One Yard Revolution also has a guide for an Eliot Coleman style winter garden. https://youtu.be/4Xe0OOvBvn0 Our earliest frost dat is Sept 21st, with an average frost date of October 4th. The last few years have been so screwy, I don't pretend to know what will happen. I am hedging my bets.

Today I started with bread making first thing. Bread takes a minimum of three hours. It was on our lunch menu, so off to work. I was doing good until I left the bread to rise.The bowl was too warm. Eventually it did rise. I got it into pans. It got too wet from the damp dish towel and then too dry. So two loaves of flat ciabatta-like bread. I need a recipe for a sandwich bread with a little more structure. Still tasty.

After the bread was set aside to rise, I headed upstairs to empty the bathtub water for the garden. Our water bill is way too high so we make all our water do double duty. I got five or six pails for the upper garden which is mostly bushes and some pumpkins. The honeyberries were thirsty. While I was at it, I dragged yesterday's bucket of coffee grounds up the hill. I could really use a wheelbarrow. An entire bucket of coffee grounds must weigh 35 to 45 pounds.

Herb Spiral 2017

My next task is a little weird but bear with me. The mandala garden has a sawdust path. The mailman and our family walk it regularly, helping breakdown the sawdust into something resembling peat moss. It only takes about five months and the earthworms help out too. Sawdust by itself takes about 2 years to decompose, all the while removing nitrogen from the topsoil until its decomposed. Not something you want. So, we put it in the path until its ready. All the walking speeds up the process. I went out to harvest the decomposed sawdust, taking a bucket and an old knife. After a lot of scaping and work, I composted the weeds from the path, harvested a couple of carrots that reseeded there, and got five buckets of new soil. The herb spiral got the buckets of dirt. Nobody tells you just how much the soil goes down in the herb spiral. All the decomposed matter shrinks and the soil mass goes into the plants. The spiral was down almost three brick layers of dirt. Several bricks fell over because there was no dirt behind them. Can't be having with that. So dirt harvest is done.

Digging up the potatoes

Now on to other things. The ground wasps are gone. I think they moved over to the winter savory. There is a crack between boards in front of the savory. Seems a good place to winter. The wasps were hogging the savory blooms today and the honey bees got stuck with sedum flowers. Sedum is not their favorite. The honey bees gave the wasps a wide berth. This finally afforded me the opportunity to dig up my potatoes and get some cover crops planted. We decided on amaranth https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amaranth because it is a great micro-green and it should give the garden a nice pop of color. So I dug the hard, dry ground. Lot of work in the heat of the sun. I found some German Butterball potatoes, carrots, and Daikon radishes. The root crops were volunteers. I added some partially decomposed coffee grounds to help breakup the clumps of clay. Then I topped it off with comfrey leaves. It will be a few more days before I plant this area.

Making slaw

So I have this cabbage in the fridge and some brine from refridgerator pickles. Yup. Time to make slaw.

Planting Fall Garden, French breakfast radishes, beets, kohlrabi

On to planting those fall crops. Since some are going into a cold frame we hope to build soon, I started by making paper pots. Compost mixed with potting soil, vermiculite and perlite was added and dampened with a spray bottle. French breakfast radishes (MI Gardener), Kohlrabi (MI Gardener), and Rainbow Beets (Renee's Garden) were planted so far. I plan to start Kale (Seed Library) in pots as well to transplant in two to three weeks.

Planting Egyptian Onions

Charlotte sent me some Egyptian Walking Onions. I remembered that onions should do okay near cucumbers but not beans. I put them in front of the cucumber trellis. The cukes did okay in this location so I will plant more in the same place next year. So a trellis of cukes, then tall green onions, then rhubarb in front of that. I like that. I will need to find some flowers to fit in between the rhubarb next near.

Planting Laxton Peas #9, parsnips and lettuce

The deer fence around the Asian Pear is no longer needed so we moved it to the front yard. The neighbor's wooden fence is dying. So I put my little portable chicken wire fence along it for my peas to climb. I planted Laxton's early #9 Peas (High Mowing Seeds). I also added some lettuce at the base and some really old parsnip seed. I doubt the parsnip will grow but better there than kicking around my seed box. I gave everyone a drink.

Other things, researched electricity options. Locked in a slightly lower rate by signing up for a two year contract. It only saves $4.00 a month. More work to do. Looking at alternative appliances, both propane and DC, smaller, more efficient appliences, a Small PV system http://realgoods.com/the-weekender-complete-solar-pv-kit , solar oven, and just plain using less. Currently taking measurements of freezer and fridge. More work to do on dehumidifier efficiency research.

Tomato Harvest 2017

Now on to making dinner, canning tomatoes, and bottling rhubarb wine. Break is over. Back to work.


26 Aug 2017 04:16 pm
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
Today I am looking at my family of three's energy usage. Why would I do that? Well, the Public Utility Commission decided to allow a 9% rate increase. For years, our bill was about $35. It slowly inched up to $50. Today's bill is over $80. Our usage is down from three years ago. Going up another 9% to $90 is not an option. We live on a fixed income. Therefore our usage must go down. So how do I cut that bill in half?

Let's look at the usage. The US average electrical use per house is 10,908 kWh a year. Our usage was 6,375 kWh/yr, well below the average. We unplugged the dysfunctional freezer and got it down to 6,090. But this is before the cost of electric went up. So how to proceed?

Analyzing the electrical usage

We have already gone down the road of bulbs long ago. In 1994 I had all compact fluorescents. We did not know then the danger of mercury vapor from broken bulbs. We did recycle the old ones at IKEA. Now we have LED bulbs. So the energy savings went from 13 W a bulb to 9 W on average. Not really much savings there. We saved more than that because several ceiling fixtures have just plain died. I have no light in three basement rooms, the kitchen light is on its last legs, and no light in one upstairs bedroom. But as Paul Wheaton frequently points out, lights were never really part of the problem. This was really about newer technology and a drive to get consumers to fund it. And fund it we did. We are so gullible.

So where then do I start? We experimented again with turning off all the ghosts. Ghosts are devices that draw power even when they're turned off. Things like computers, printers, scanners, the LED on the power strip, the TV, cable, and so on. For about a month, we religiously turned off the power strips at night, shutting everything down. This is probably good for you based on the amount of EMI they produce. Your body just plain needs a break from electronic fields. However, it was hard on the electronics which really weren't designed for this on/off behavior. The amount of money we saved was minimal. Over a longer period and as part of a multiple pronged plan, it could be significant. Start figuring in the early death of modems and computers and it might not be. Have to do more research on that. We did lose a modem during the expeiment.

The big ticket items in this house are the basement dehumidifier, washer, freezer, refrigerator, stove/oven and toaster oven. We also have a food processor and fans that get occaisional use. The dehumidifier is not something we can live without. The basement is too wet. Potentially, a more efficient one could be purchased. An expensive idea was a product called drinkable air, an 8 gallon a day water cooler that pulls drinking water out of the air. It lists for around 3 grand, but is made in the USA. Any money spent is outside our budget at the moment. 3 grand even more so as it does use electricity and not necessarily efficiently. The washer is not an option. It is how we make our living, by felting hats. Newer models do not allow wool to felt as effectively. We have no clothes dryer. Or rather, we use the sun and the furnace in winter. That brings us to the freezer.

We called a repairman and spent $245 on the freezer and the oven last month. The seal on the freezer was reglued into place and the bottom coil in the oven replaced. During the repair, we found out the heating controls on the stove burners need to be replaced as well. We frequently get runaway burners. The repair replaced an oven coil. I believe this will help with cooking time, the amount of time the oven is turned on. This is definitely an opportunity to fix/replace an item that uses excess electricity. The stove looks like a standard 1970s model. But how much will we save? I am going to run a test. If we cook outside on a fire or a Coleman, how much energy will we save per month? Today is not the day to start. It will take time to setup an outdoor kitchen. The Coleman is already on the back porch. The solar oven is not in the best shape but can be used if its really sunny out for baking. I want to set up a fire pit to try out the period clay pot cooking I learned at Gulf Wars. Stay tuned to find out how it goes.

The freezer was repaired but is no spring chicken. I think we bought it in 1990. Replacement parts are no longer made for our model. Ideally, I'd like a propane freezer that sits outside. They use electric until the grid goes down. Then they switch to propane. Lehman's has them as does Real Goods out in CA. Lehmann's is close to here. They serve the Amish community and sponsor a self-reliance podcast. Solar would be good too but I'd need a whole system for that. #Expensive https://realgoods.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=Freezer

For the refridgerator, we are looking at an energy efficient model that is about the size of a dishwasher. We found one at Don's Appliance that we really like. https://www.google.com/maps/@40.2484785,-80.1740857,3a,90y,294.62h,71.82t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1snZkB0TQzsaQAAAQYbJLH_Q!2e0 Again, we are looking at spending about $1200. I just can't afford that. Appliance rebates for buying newer, energy efficient models are only $50. With advent of the pro-coal and the loosening of environmental standards, rebates will probably go away. It is market forces like my rate hike that will drive change now. I find it funny that the effiecient German kitchen of the 1920s and 30s thought that a refridgerator was an extravagance. They shopped daily and had milk delivered so why would you need one? A cool box was probably enough. Food was consumed fresh in the city, not stored. Anyway, we could certainly downsize. Our refridgerator's rubber seal is going too. All the sulfur in the air wrecks the rubber. I am looking at a model the size of a dishwasher, that fits under the counter, not a dorm fridge.

The only other items that could be replaced would be my CRT monitor on the Windows 98 machine. The whole computer would have to be replaced since I do not believe there is a USB port. Not doing another Windows machine. Sorry, you can't pay me enough for the aggravation. And there is one special light bulb in the hood over the stove. Did I miss anything? We don't own a microwave. Power tools are not regularly in use. The business scale is turned off when not in use. The iron broke. I do need a new one. The space heaters are only used to prevent pipes from freezing. That's about all I can think of.

For more Permaculture electricity saving ideas, visit Chris Towerton's youtube channel. https://youtu.be/f71-SYFaGbI

* April was an anomaly. It covers the month prior. My husband was in the hospital and I was at Gulf Wars so very little washing and cooking occurred, only my daughter was home.
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
As I was going through my blog list, reading through headlines, I came across "Climate Change is Making Us Weak" http://www.joboneforhumanity.org/climate_change_is_making_us_tired_and_weak

I also follow The Grow Network. Marjory Wildcraft is writing a book called All True Wealth Comes From the Ground. In it, she cites a reference about carrots. When I was a kid, the nutrition in one carrot was so much higher. Nowadays, you must eat 11 carrots to get the same nutrition that one carrot had in the 1960s. Can you imagine? No wonder America is obese and yet starving to death.

I just spent 2 weeks at Pennsic, attempting to eat good food. I spent the last week detoxing from that Pennsic food. I was bloated and felt like crap. I ate commercial food, GMOs and other non-organic food for the first time in a year. While the food was indeed abundant, it had no nourishment. I can't begin to tell you how nice it is to be home and go out into the garden to pick my own fresh food. Food that wasn't bred for shelf life. Food without preservatives. Food without herbicides and pesticides. I still need to eat more greens. I need to plant fall lettuce. But I already feel so much better. All true wealth does come from the ground.

Front yard delights

A civilization is wholey dependant upon its soil. Read Soil and Civilization by Edward Hyams. We have depleted ours. Our bodies need micronutrients in addition to vitamins. You can't get those from the current commercial agricultural practices, who use only N-K-P. Our good top soil is lost each year to erosion. Current agricultural practises are leading us to more dust bowls. We should be mimicking mother nature instead of planting mono-crops and leaving bare fields, we could be planting polycultures, increasing diversity in our foodstuffs, and using animals in rotation to increase the richness of the soil. (See Justin Rhodes -Permaculture Chickens).

Growing cherry tomatoes is like cheating

So for now, the plan is to keep measuring our yield and keep trying to grow more of our own food. We use a no-dig method. My hope is to plant an awesome fall garden. With luck and a bit of work, we will try Eliot Coleman's Winter Harvest Handbook. His other book is Four Season Harvest. If you head to Youtube, you can follow One Yard Revolution. Patrick has how-to construct a hinged cold frame as well as Eliot Coleman-style winter veggies, growing guides, and a cute cat, named Oscar. https://youtu.be/1qwyFEmTsmM

Meanwhile, I am setting up seed trays for my new aquisitions from the MI Gardener. The rabbit and various other creatures do not need to eat my veggies for fall. Watch for posts in the weeks to come to see how it goes.

Planning a Winter Garden


18 Aug 2017 09:49 pm
ursulas_alcove: 19th century engraving of a woman using a drop spindle (Default)
I worked at the local grocery today, handing out samples of yogurt. Six hours of standing on hard concrete under glaring light while smiling and maintaining a welcoming demeanor. Dehydrated, tired and hungry, I came home rather grouchier than normal. Dehydration muddles up everything. Can't think straight to cook. Numbers make less sense. I get to do it all over tomorrow.

I am also juggling Ursula's Alcove's orders, answering questions, doing receipts, ordering merchandise, and so much more. Have patience please. Keeping multiple peoples' questions straight while trying this juggling act is not easy. See, there is no take-a-number system when dealing with me online. I answer everyone in the order received. Unfortunately, it may appear to you that you are my one and only customer, but there could actually be three people ahead of you. So please have patience especially if an answer requires me to unload a fully packed truck that just came home from a big show. And also prod me in case I owe you information. Notes at large events have a tendancy to get lost. Thanks. I will do my best! As always, I appreciate your business.
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