20080629

Irrigation Circuit Board


Irrigation Circuit Board
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I spent the day laying out my latest circuit board. This gadget will measure the soil moisture level and water our plants and trees if the soil is dry. I will make a dozen of these in case anyone else wants to try one.

The Danger of Painting


The Danger of Painting
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
It is strange to me that a bucket of paint would warn about a child somehow managing to drown in it. Yet say very little about how utterly toxic the product is to be around.

20080628

Farmers Market


Farmers Market
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Our local farmers market opened up today. We made a point of arriving early and trying to spend at least $20.

20080627

Greasy Secret


Greasy Secret
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
If you are having a hard time finding grease for you veggie oil car try your local hospital. It is ironic that people are trying to "get better" in a hospital that is serving them fried food.

No Problem


No Problem
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy and I took a drive out to visit our diesel mechanic. He tells me that he has resolved the climate control problems and that the car should be getting back together early next week. I am skeptical that we will get our grease car back by the 4th of July as he has been working on the air conditioner alone for the last month.

Frying Your Grease


Frying Your Grease
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I had seen a video with a british man hitting his waste veggie oil with over 1000VAC at a very low current 10 microamps. The glycerin in the grease immediately fell to the bottom of the jar. Thus removing the need for significant amounts of methanol normally used in a transesterification process. I tried to copy this concept by using EL Wire inverts and electrocuting my unfiltered veggie oil. Sadly I did not get the same effect. I believe the standard EL Wire inverter is too low in voltage at only about 600VAC and rather high in current at about 20mA.

20080626

Kombucha Party


Kabucha Party
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We harvested and tried our first batch of kabucha today. It was less than half a gallon. After 10 days of waiting I was impressed with the delicious flavor. We used a peach oolong tea on the first batch. We have kicked off another batch with 1.5 gallons of green peach tea which smells even better.

32 Arches


32 Arches
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
After 10 days of setup we now have all 32 arches in place on our dome. Now we need to weld the horizontal hoops.

Rent Green Vans


Rent Green Vand
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Andy who started a company that rents Vans that run on waste veggie oil to bands stopped by our place today. It is a pleasure to share grease with this kind of company. The dude on the right is Andy's good friend shirtless Jim.

Apoc-a-shopping?

It's pretty silly to couple an apocalypse and shopping. I would rather name over consumption as an attributing factor to an apocalypse of the "world as we know it." With time being as seeming slow as it is and given the technology of our culture in it's current state, we are afforded an opportunity to prepare for whatever we expect may be down the road by studying, and yes even buying things that might be useful to us as we learn to live differently. On that note I found a used copy of this remarkable book titled American Indian Food and Lore by Carolyn Neithammer for a buck ninety eight on Amazon. This book is specific to the southwest. It's a botanical and cook book all in one. I was surprised to learn that here in NM the Apache's barely stayed in one place due to the shortage of edible vegetation in season at a given time. According to the book older tribes that lived for hundreds of years on the same land had a larger cooking palate of vegetation while younger tribes ate more meat than vegetables. Logically a tribes menu reflects the depth of their plant knowledge. I would recommend finding a book of this sort for your own geography. I'm going to take mine out and see if I can harvest and eat a meal made just from what's growing wild in my area, a skill that may just come in handy.

20080625

32 Arches Up!

The sun ducked behind a mass of clouds and gave us a break today letting us put up 16 rebar arches in just a couple of hours and leaving time to attend our local NGO's alternative energy meeting. With the arches complete we'll move on to rings that wrap the dome. The rings add a great deal of strength to the dome and allow us to climb to the top.

A Tick


A Tick
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Our cat "Scardy" has been going outside. Earlier this week Wendy felt a bump on him which turned out to be a tick. We removed the tick and I grabbed some photos.

20080623

Irrigation Controller Schematic

I made this drawing in less than a hour. It is a design for a irrigation controller which checks the soil conductivity and waters the plant if the soil is too dry. The parts listed in the schematic should cost less than $20 and that includes a printed circuit board. The big expense outside of the actual controller circuit is the solenoid valve which I do not include in the schematic. Another $20 there.

20080622

New Kitty Litter Recipe


New Kitty Litter Recipe
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I had been using saw dust and sand for kitty litter. After two days of usage between two cats the ammonia smell became horrible. Today I am trying a new recipe. Ash from a fire pit, sand, and shredded newspaper. I have read that the newspaper and ash go a long way towards suppressing the ammonia smell.

20080621

Irrigation


Irrigation
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy and I are making a effort to get our mornings back. After planting fruits and vegetables all over our yard we realized we were giving up a hour every other day to water our crops. We started to look at commercial irrigation systems, but they are incredibly lame. They cost hundreds of dollars for what is basically a few solenoid valves and a $3 microcontroller. I said forget that. We can roll our own that is much smarter! Tonight I did some conductivity tests and found that I can use the analog digital converter on my own $3 microcontroller and measure how wet the ground is. This means our water system will not be based on timers. It will just water the trees and plants when it gets a dry reading from the soil. In other words you will not see our drip system flooding the yard during a rain storm.

Cree LED Grow Light and Algae

Since many of the blue green algae are using chlorophyll A and B I can give them the same light wavelengths that I would give to a plant. Here you can see my 20W LED pizza pan setup being used to try and help the algae grow. Normally I would just put the algae outside and not waste the electroncs, but it has been dark and stormy today.

Algae Bloom


Algae Bloom
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I am trying to create a algae bloom with very minimal resources. On the left is a old glass jar with some recently harvested algae from our hot spring drain. On the right is a mixture of sugar and yeast with some hot spring water which I am trying to generate CO2 with to send over to the algae.

Woah...Food


Woah...Food
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
This guy was discovered yesterday. Wendy banged on the windows to tell me to come outside and see. Not sure if it is a squash or a cantaloupe yet, but we will eat it! Although we have already been eating apricots, bok choy, basil, broccoli and spinach from our garden something about this vegetable/fruit looks a lot more significant.

16 arches


16 arches
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We have sixteen arches welded to our ocular now. The dome is beginning to feel a lot more secure. We still have sixteen more arches to weld onto the structure. Then we start wrapping it with rebar hoops so we can climb all over it.

Cutter Wheel


Cutter Wheel
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy is using our angle grinder to lop off the ends of the arches.
When we designed the dome it was around the maximum length of the
rebar that we get locally which is 20'. The outer arch uses a full
stick of rebar while the inner has about 15" left over. We recently
found out that there are very thin carbide wheels for angle grinders
which can easily cut through rebar. We had been using the fat wheels
which are good for grinding down messy welds, but terrible for
cutting steel.

20080620

Chlorella Vulgaris


Chlorella Vulgaris
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I sure hope this photo I snapped this afternoon of algae from our hot springs drain is chlorella vulgaris. This type of algae has a decent amount of oil (lipids) of up to 22% and can also be used for food. Now it is time to start working on isolations.

Rebar Anyone?

Rebar is the hot item of the season. Actually, this pawning gesture came out of our conversation about how it's a really good time to turn money into useful things, like rebar! What good will a 401K or stocks be when an apple is $5.00 and money is worth next to nothing? This same thinking led to the big solar install you see in the background. Yes it's powering a mobile home! The home is still standing and even newly renovated because of the motto that the greenest home is the one already there. Solar is an obvious choice, power regardless of the poor decisions of corporations, governments, utility companies and the like. Did anyone catch the story in the last issue of Smithsonian magazine? Better hock those diamonds too, the mimic's are now undetectable from the real deal. What can we say of the shifting meaning of 'value?' Rebar anyone?

Flea Beetles


Flea Beetles
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy noticed that two of our plants were completely destroyed recently by some local pest. The other day I picked up a sample a half dozen little dark bugs crawling on our vegetables. After taking some photos we figured out that we have "flea beetles". There are different types of beetles for different plants. They will eat the plants leaves and eventually kill the plant. Now we are figuring out how to remove them.

20080619

Eeek a Metal Spider in the Yard!

Today's temp reported to be 100 degrees, a cool day compared to earlier this week. Here is Mikey welding the arches of our dome to the ocular. It reminds of me of Playa projects seen at Burning Man. A spider from 2006 in particular. Do ya think that Burning Man influenced our lives just a bit? This is a very satisfying part of the process of building a ferro-cement, paper-crete fill dome. The rebar armature goes up fast and suddenly there's a building where none existed. We put up half of the rebar armature in two days. By the week's end we'll be ready to cover it with a skin of 6 inch re-mesh.

20080617

8 arches up!


8 arches up!
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Our DDU (dome dwelling unit) has eight of the 32 arches now supported
in place. Only 24 more arches to go!

20080616

First Arch Up


First Arch Up
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy and I managed to get our first arch of our guest room dome up today. It took us a while to figure out a jig to hold the arches and ocular. This setup with the scaffolding seems to be working out well.

20080615

A Wobbly Ocular


A Wobbly Ocular
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy and I finished assembling our first ocular which all the dome arches will connect to at the apex. It has got a little funk to it.

20080613

Kombucha Mother


Kabucha Mother
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We scored a free kabucha mother/daughter and immediately added a pound of sugar and a gallon of peach tea. This should make for a refreshing microbe drink next week.

Rebar Circles


Rebar Circles
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
It took us a few days to figure out how to make rebar circles. We tried a number of jigs and ended up just cooling the rebar in a wood square to get a reasonable shape.

Algae Photos #2


Algae Photos #2
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
My new microscope setup arrived yesterday. I took several photos of our local hot springs algae and posted them on flickr. This new setup using the proscope HR on a analog 400x microscope works reasonably well. I still need a lot more practice.

20080612

Wendy Tries to Dig


Wendy Tries to Dig
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy and I are both pretty lousy at digging holes with big machinery. Jason ended up doing almost all the work, but we did get the mandatory photos of us trying to figure it out. Moving around with a back hoe like this definitely takes some practice.

Trencherman II


Trencherman II
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Our friend Jason (aka Wormguy) brought his little back hoe over to our place and helped us dig out a 20' diameter dome ring foundation. We could have dug this by hand, but after digging lots of holes I know it takes days of work and is incredibly hard on my body. This was a job for a big machine. We found a sewer line (twice) and a giant slab of concrete. Fortunately we didn't break any pipes.

Phone Lines Go Bye Bye


Phone Lines Go Bye Bye
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy called the phone company and asked them to remove any lines running over our property. Since we use cell phones and cable modem we have no use for any phone lines. At no charge the phone company promptly removed the lines. It took maybe thirty minutes.

More Food


More Food
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Our apricots are really coming in fast. Soon we will be eating, freezing, and giving them away.

Jig Second Gen


Jig Second Gen
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We tried making some rebar hoops with two different jigs. The first with just screws being pinned down to plywood. That was a little rough. We then tried to use our left over triangles to give the rebar something to rub against. Next we will use a simple square jig and let the rebar naturally make a circle inside of it.

20080610

My Green Choices Are Better Than Your Green Choices

The majority of people I've met who are innovating with building,
fuel, and power are appreciative of the efforts of others and
interested in sharing information for sake of everyones growth. But
occasionally I meet a "my green choices are better than your green
choices" person who is incapable of learning. I think they fail to see
the importance of intention or to recognize the diversity of
situations that people are problem solving in. When we set out to
change our lives we each face a plethora of choices that are affected
by geography, resources, skill, knowledge and funds, to name a few.
There are at least as many solutions as there are people and
situations. And so competitiveness and the assertion "my way is the
only right way," shows a lack of sensitivity for the diversity of both
our environment and it's people. Can you imagine saving the planet so
we'll have a place to argue with one another? I've decided to expand
my view of doom to include this possibility. This has been a good
reminder to me to applaud every persons efforts and to remember that
it is not just the physical environment we're need to transform.

A Pizza Pie (pan)


A Pizza Pie (pan)
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I just finished my latest 20 watt LED grow light. This one is made on a 12" pizza pan. It will sell for $180. It has three blue Cree's and eight reds running at full power.

20080609

Let's Worship the Devil


Let's Worship the Devil
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
After a few hours in the hot sun wendy and I came up with this orange devil worshipping circle. No really this our foundation ring being marked for our first dome guest room. We will dig this up on Wednesday.

End of the Arches


End of the Arches
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Now that Wendy and I have welded all the arches for our first dome we have begun preparing for the big dig. This will be sinking the first foot of each arch into the ground and pouring a continuous concrete ring to hold our dome arches together.

Outdoor Kitty


Outdoor Kitty
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We have slowly been letting our indoor kitty become a outdoor kitty. He has progressed to the point of supervised walks without a leash. He doesn't understand anything about the outdoors. This is well illustrated with his bizarre tree investigation.

20080608

Grease Score


Grease Score
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I did a quick grease collection trip around town. It was a good day. I scored about 35 gallons of high quality veggie oil for my grease car. Now I just need to get my air conditioner fixed.

Kitty Litter


Kitty Litter
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy and I have been making our own kitty litter from sawdust and sand. The cats seem okay with the change and there have not been any odor problems.

20080606

From the Garden


From the Garden
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We ate bok choy and green onion from our garden today. To date the only other food we have eaten from our garden is broccoli rab and basil.

Solar Water Heater


Solar Water Heater
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
A neighbor hooked us up with some solar hot water gear. This giant water tank has a internal heat exchanger that was designed for a solar hot water setup. We also received two hot water panels.

20080605

Almost There Arches


Almost There Arches
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy is seen here finishing arch number 29 of the 32 arches required to complete our dome.

Ant Killer


Ant Killer
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I mixed two table spoons of. Honey with four table spoons of boric acid and killed a bunch if outdoor ants that were bothering our grape vines.

Plant Protection


Plant Protection
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We scored some plant protection from the garbage today. The winds have been unusually high preventing our plants from being completely happy.

20080604

Papercrete at 60X magnification

You knew it was coming. Random samples of papercrete under a microscope. This is a 60X magnification of the papercrete stucco that I have on my shipping container. You can really see how the fibers get "stuck" to each other.

20080603

Shopping for the Apocalypse

Since the end of the US economy is coming we decided to spend our last bits of money on the really useful things. Wendy is seen here opening up our refurbished Vita Mix 5200 that arrived this afternoon. Did you know you can grind mesquite into flour with this 2HP monster blender? It can create enough friction to heat soup!

Grape Vine Climber


Grape Vine Climber
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy and I started off the morning by welding some 6x6x10 welded wire mesh to our shipping container. This mesh was placed in such a way that our grape vines can climb it and extend themselves over the rebar lattice that connects the containers.