20081031

Tomato update

To ammend our previous blog about tomatoes ripening in a box, a friend told us that this has worked for him. He also said that putting an apple in the box will accelerate this process. As you can see in the photo ours are ripening quickly.

20081029

Solar Space Heater


Solar Space Heater
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
The renewable energy group finished most of the assembly for Al's solar hot box. We have about $150 in materials and 4 half days of work. This design was pretty complex and spendy. I will post some more info about the temperature data as I receive it.

20081028

Crappy Garlic Bed


Crappy Garlic Bed
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We assembled a raised bed for some of our garlic today. Last night we were cruising the dumpsters in town for building materials and came across some old fencing. This raised bed is much less stable than the others we have built.

Green Tomato Gas


Green Tomato Gas
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We had a short freeze that killed several but not all of our tomato plants. We've plucked the green tomatos from the weary plants and have boxed them. A friend informed us that green tomatos will turn red if kept in a box or wrapped in newspaper because they emit a chemical that informs them all to ripen. Our friend says that by doing this we can have tomatos through December. Fingers crossed!

20081027

Zeitgeist Addendum

The maker of Zeitgeist has created an addendum to the original web film. The addendum covers the monetary system and energy and also loops back around to previously covered topics such as religion and the nature of reality. This time however, these topics are coupled with the suggestion of one possible future. Its a free download and worth the wait. Note: click above for the commercial. Go to youtube for the download.

20081025

Fire Side Stories

We had a really nice close to our Saturday kids class. A nearby farming town put on a outdoor fire for halloween with children and story telling. A complete Halloween warm up with raw food, fire spinning, costumes, and bobbing for apples.

Kids Electronics Workshop

This afternoon we hosted our first kids electronics workshop. It went really well with the boys class. Lots of interest and enthusiasm. The girls were less interested in volts and amps, but were very excited to drive the golf cart. Several dad's hung around and got something out of the class too.

20081024

Co-op - Local Food Security

There are moments that remind me just how precious small town life is. Tonight we attended the first meeting regarding the establishment of a local food co-op. Thanks to the generosity of Shahid Mustafa of Mountain View Co-op in Las Cruces, we have guidance with a great deal of experience. I was particularly fascinated to find a local cattle guy there. I believe he was interested in providing locally grown beef. Yes to democratically run natural grocery, better ethics, purer ingredients and to supporting companies that demonstrate integrity! And yes to food security in S. New Mexico!

Popcorn Maker for Coffee Roasting

A neighbor turned me onto the idea of roasting my own coffee with a old popcorn maker. He even gave me a "Poppery II" unit. I just added green coffee beans and let the unit run for 8 minutes. Then I waited a hour for the beans to cool. The coffee is pretty damn good and smells great. You can buy green coffee beans for $3 a lb (fairtrade/organic).

Yard Sale


Yard Sale
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We cleaned out our storage container this afternoon in preparation for a yard sale this weekend. Oddly enough we have four bike helmets for sale. Wendy had the fine idea of loading up our truck and parking in front of other yard sales.

Roasted Coffee Beans

Our popcorn maker did a great job of roasting our coffee beans. It is really surprising to me how much better our roasted coffee is than store bought. Probably shouldn't be surprised at this point.

20081023

Really Small Potatoes


Really Small Potatoes
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We have some really small potatoes still coming in. I think Wendy just put one old potato in the ground and we got a few handfuls of potatoes in return. I've heard that there are potato diseases and it is not a good idea to just plant one from the grocery store in the ground. They look okay to me. Any thoughts on this?

bye bye power lines


bye bye power lines
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy had been bothering our local power company to get rid of some unused power lines that ran across our property. Finally, they came out and within 15 minutes had the lines removed.

If We Only Knew Then... Facism Countdown

A few years back while living in NYC I considered making big long banners to bring to the demonstrations around the Republican National Convention. They were to read Dakow and I was going to adorn them in images of barbed wire. I thought the metaphor was right on but many told me it was extreme. I was surprised by this. Could they not see it? Now just a few years later it is quite ordinary to compare Bush's fascism with Nazi Germany. I hear it in the mainstream.

I was raised by Jews. I went to Hebrew school and temple and from a young age I was informed about Nazi Germany. My teachers had numbers tattooed on their arms and this sent my young brain a powerful message. The mantra has always been "never forget."

Just this week I caught news of the destruction of the posse comitatus act. Bush has a unit - USNORTHCO - preparing for deployment INSIDE the United States. The elections are days away. Martial law hangs on the lips of many. Bush even used the words 'martial law' when threatening the senate during economic bail out talks. I keep asking myself, "where are all the Jews who worked so hard to teach their children to never forget? Where are all the tribes who have lived in fascism? As I survey my tribe, through those close to me I discover that some are voting for McCain. The republicans purport to defend Israel. The wounds of the past, open and painful, lead some to clutch for what appears to be stability. They walk into the mouth of the shark.

Never forget did not come with a list of "what we would have done if we knew then what we know now." And what am I doing besides bitching aloud to you? I did some work, one project before the war on Iraq and another during the RNC in NYC (No Bush & The Vomitorium). I took a big fat stab at consumerism too with Swap-O-Rama-Rama. And then, like many, I got arrested while walking to the subway(during the RNC). I was scooped up in a net with grandparents, business people, even attendees of the RNC, republicans in fact! Those three days in jail changed me for life.

I've moved my attention to making the world I wish to live in and away from fighting the world I don't wish to live in. And there is something to this (I think). But I hear those words in my head over and over again, "never forget." What would people have done early on in Germany when things were shifting but not yet unbearable? I know we each have an answer. I know it takes all of us acting on our answer too. My friend Tony used to say, "We reach satori all or never." Perhaps I am blogging about this just to poke at you the way that I feel poked at.

LINKS

Democracy Now on US Troops on US Streets
Posse Comitatus Act
Naomi Wolf You Tube Talk on The End of America

First Frost


First Frost
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Last night the temperature dropped to around 37F in our neighborhood. Wendy and I saw it coming and covered up some of our cold frames. A few of our volunteer tomato plants that were not covered look terribly withered. The cold frames did great. Now that the weather is getting a little warmer we still might get some fruit out of these remaining tomato plants.

20081022

iSew2


iSew2
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy busted out my sewing machine to hack up a maternity shirt. We have not had a day off from physical labor in a while so Wendy was pretty happy to get back into the zen of modifying clothes. She produced a nice little dress that almost looks designer and a cute top with weird knit neck trim.

20081021

DDU: One More Day


DDU: One More Day
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy and I have reached the final stage of lathing our windows and awnings. After another work day we can shift gears and get started on our door installation. That should be quite a experience.

20081020

Hooray for Golf Carts


Hooray for Golf Carts
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Our backwards little town finally did something special. Last week our city commissioners approved golf carts for cruising town. Technically the state already allowed Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, but the city helped out by opening it up to properly equipped golf carts. As I was cruising town in my electric vehicle this afternoon I saw my cars twin. Oddly enough the owner was applying lipstick.

The Kitty and the Welder


The Kitty and the Welder
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Usually I don't allow the cat to play outside while we are welding. I don't want him to look at the bright light. Unfortunately, I wasn't paying attention when Scardy went chasing after the welder sparks and got a little burned. He is okay now, but I feel pretty bad for him.

Utility Bills


Utility Bills
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We live in the middle of town so each month we receive bills for all of our different utilities. What has been bothering me lately is the "access fee" associated with each service.

- Natural Gas (stove/oven/water heater/home heat)
* Total: $14.58
* Actual Natural Gas Usage: $2.90

- Electric
* Total: $10.00
* Actual Electricity Usage: $0.00

- Sewage
* $16.70 based on 7000 gallons of monthly water usage
* Our primary water usage is for watering the garden (which doesn't
effect the sewer system)

- Trash
* $16.81 this is just what they charge anyone who is commercial with trash

Basically it doesn't save me much to conserve like crazy. The access fees of roughly $10 per service are almost always larger than our actual usage. We really need to work towards disconnecting from all of these services. The most difficult would probably be our $55 cable modem. Oddly enough our internet connection costs more than all of our utilities combined.

Wire Wrap Heaters


Wire Wrap Heaters
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Now that the weather is cooling off I've resumed my research on home made wrap heaters. There are four different places that I could use low powered heating devices to make the winter pass easier.

1. My Office Shipping Container (it gets REALLY cold)
2. Our diesel Mercedes (it hates starting in weather below freezing)
3. The 55 gallon steel grease drums (it is difficult to pump cold grease)
4. Our living room has no direct heat

The wrap heaters are really simple devices. I measure out 20' of 30 gauge magnet wire and wind it up, solder leads, and cover in aluminum tape. Make sure the connection between the leads and magnet wire is inside the tape or the wire will burn out. This gives me a 36W wrap heater when combined with 12V motorcycle battery. Lately I've been tossing in a few magnets so the wrap heater will stick to any magnetic surface (like my shipping container, steel drums, Mercedes oil pan, etc.). With a little thermal mass and microcontroller assistance I should be able to build a lower power heater for our living room that can make use of the excess PV power we have each day and releases heat through out the night.

20081019

DDU Interior Window Lathing

This weekend was spent lathing the dome interior. Today was a good example of the perfect work day. We woke up early and had time drink our coffee and catch up with personal stuff. Then ate breakfast and were out in the yard hanging lath. We finished work around 4pm and made a late lunch after a nice soak in the hot spring. No interruptions or tours. Just some nice progress on the dome.

20081018

Non-Serviam Radio (the podcast)

While working outside on our rebar dome Wendy and I enjoyed listening to a new podcast. NSR (Non-Serviam Radio) has a lot of interesting material on food and survival as our nation decays away. I recommend starting with the first podcast and working your way through all three that are available as of mid-October 2008.

20081017

Still New Mexicans?


Still New Mexicans?
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We used to joke that you could not call yourself a New Mexican unless you had a stove, washing machine, refrigerator, or toilet in the yard. Well we have removed all of the above. Bye Bye yard toilet.

Final Storage Rack


Final Storage Rack
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We spent another day cleaning up the yard. Much like cleaning the house, when it is done, it is easy to concentrate and complete other projects.

20081016

Time to Get Organized


Time to Get Organized
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy helped me put together a storage structure for our junk. While moving stuff about we found lots of spiders and wasps.

How Much Sugar?


How Much Sugar?
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Our last kumbucha tasted like foot. This is usually caused by not using enough sugar. We used about 1.5lbs in this mini batch.

Burnin' Up


Burnin' Up
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Our new stove did a fine job of keeping us warm and heating up burritos.

20081015

Eggplant Parmesan


Eggplant Parmesan
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We enjoyed eating our first eggplant today. Wendy just sliced it up fried it with a little wheat flour and added some tomatoes sauce and cheese. It came out quite good. Now she wants me to make some babaganush since all our eggplants are coming in fast.

Solar Hot Air (Day 2)


Solar Hot Air (Day 2)
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I spent the better part of today working on Al's solar space heater. We struggled to build the hot box port which is 46" x 7'. Lots of complex cuts due to the design of this space heater. I definitely would do things differently, such as:

- base design off a single window frame
- use ducting to connect to window, or through wall of home
- allow hot box to easily be rotated to SouthEast and SouthWest orientations
- use no wood, only 1" blue board
- use diamond lath + cement + black paint
- air intake on bottom, avoid floating metal in center

20081014

Outdoor Stove


Outdoor Stove
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
It may not look like much, but it was free and hand made. Wendy and I both got very excited about it. Worm Guy was just going to toss this stove and was trying to sell us a different one.

A Visit to Worm Guy's Place

Wendy and I went out of town for the afternoon to visit our friend "Worm Guy". He is a scraper which means he picks up any metals he can and sells them. We were trying to intercept him before he did his next load and we scored some good stuff. Worm Guy insisted that Wendy check out his 20+ year old horse. The horse was quite friendly.

Local Story on Holy Scrap

Our local papers put out a special insert several times a year called the "Chaparral Guide". A journalist from The Herald came out and interviewed Wendy and I about our B&B project in Truth or Consequences, NM. I've bundled up the story in a PDF format so our internet readers can enjoy it. Special thanks go out to Dianne and The Herald for putting this story together and getting it out quickly.

20081013

Jean Filter


Jean Filter
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I tried a new filtering technique today. Slicing hole in the 55 gallon drum plastic lid and tying off the jean leg bottoms allowed me to filter 50 gallons of WVO this afternoon. It is pretty simple and these filters are claimed to be as much as .5 micron.

Plenty of Food


Plenty of Food
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy and I returned from Tucson to discover our garden had produced another dozen tomatoes, a few egg plant that we picked, and one crazy melon that totally sucked.

Bikes N Art N People

This photo is in front of Bicas in Tucson, a cooperatively owned 501C bike group run primarily by women. They teach, do repair, have art class and repurpose/recycle a ton of bikes. Like NYC, Tucson has a rich enough bike culture to spawn a lot of creativity. As is often the case these artists occupy what looks like an old run down warehouse. It's really starting to bug me how artists consistently inhabit cheap run down neighborhoods, prove that beauty can be found anywhere and then get run out by yuppies who want to "buy" a piece of the action. By the time The Gap moves in they've forgotten what brought them there in the first place. The mural you see in the background here has a story as typical and annoying as the consumerism invasions. The woman who painted it got arrested for painting a mural on a public space. The court assigned her to do some number of hours of community service. Guess what she did for community service? Painted murals on buildings. Can anyone say "Unbrand America!!!"

A Tucson Tour with Brad Lancaster

Before splitting town we hooked up with Brad Lancaster for lunch and a mini tour of some of his latest works in Tucson. If you dont know his work I highly recommend you check out his books on Harvesting Rainwater. Here in the pic you can see a public work in which intersections are reclaimed to native plant life. Traffic is slowed and the neighborhood benefits in a multitude of ways from the captured water, shade, animal life etc. This one's got a groovy sign made by local artists. the quail wind pointer at the top embodies a wish and a goal. If Tucsons residences turn 10% of their domestic landscape to native plants they've got a chance of getting the native quail that used to live in Tucson to return.

Papercrete Conference Tucson

Here's Mikey giving a self effacing talk about our mistakes while at the papercrete conference in Tucson. I was grateful to meet , Eric Patterson. He is the guy who had the forethought to patent papercrete and then keep it open. University of Arizona anthropologist Diane Austin has done impressive work in Nogalis, Mexico where papercrete was used to build a home as a demonstration of the materials ability to produce affordable housing. Its exciting to be working with this new material where everyone's work breaks new ground and innovations are being made constantly.

20081010

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Gas Station

We are half way to Tucson where we'll be presenting at a papercrete conference at the University of Arizona. Mikey's filling us up on WVO we're traveling with. The roadside rest stop us our new gas station, how nice...Note: After this trip I determined we drove 700 miles. This was our longest successful grease trip to date. I didn't have to change any filters, we didn't stop at any gas stations, and we made 100% of all the fuel we burned. Cost savings on trip from TorC to Tucson and back were: $136.15

20081009

Anotomically Correct Mystic Man

Wendy and I attended a documentary film that was made by two artists in Hillsborough, NM. The film was about a older man, Embree Holt who vowed to take photographs of every pictograph in New Mexico. We bought one of his blown up photos and it proudly hangs in our mud room.

Time to Reboot


Time to Reboot
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Can I tell you how thankful I am that I spent my entire retirement before turning 32 years old? I think it is safe to say that was the best decision of my life. My old company Morgan Stanley looks as though they are about to suffer a demise similar to Lehman Brothers. I sure am glad I dumped all the company stock I had last year at $75 a share as opposed to today which is about $12 a share. Now I'm wondering if I should bother pay my taxes. I certainly don't support ANYTHING that they are being used for.

Wendy and I are asked everyday about energy, food, water, and fuel alternatives. There are a lot of people who have questions about producing their own energy in particular. Later this month we will do a class for kids about electricity. Basically how to rewire any power source to run your tools. If that works out we might be able to put something together quickly to help others understand what they can afford from the PV solar world.

20081008

Solar Space Heater


Solar Space Heater
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Winter is coming. Time to get ready. Today the renewable energy group in TorC got together to build a solar space heater. It is a pretty simple idea. Build a box, paint it black and attach it to a window. We managed to build and insulate the window portion. However we still have plenty of work ahead of us. We have not gotten around to building the 4' x 7' black box collector yet. The curvy translucent PVC is slowing us down. I think using glass would have been more appropriate. Al Wilkinson shown here is our 78 year old fearless leader of the The Bountiful Alliance. The solar hot box is going on his house.

Bye Bye Melex


Bye Bye Melex
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Our old Melex golf cart is going off to get its accelerator repaired. Jason (WormGuy) stopped by our place this morning and we loaded it on some home made ramps onto a home made trailer.

20081007

Draining Mr. Swampy


Draining Mr. Swampy
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I'd like to thank my beat down swamp cooler for performing so well throughout our summer. It did a great job of conserving power (only 300W) and kept our entire mobile home cool (1200 sq. ft). Today I pulled the side panels and popped off the drain plug. This is it for the season old buddy. I will see you next May.

Digging in the Dirt


Digging in the Dirt
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We needed some dirty to fill most of our raised bed. Our property has pretty lousy soil. It is more sand than anything else. However, Wendy has been doing a good job of adding soil amendments like pumice, peat moss, and compost. It seems to do the job as we have been enjoying a lot of food from the summer garden. We had piles of dirt by the guest room dome that we were constantly tripping over. We scooped up three piles and that filed our 4' x 6' raised bed.

Cubie Cardboard


Cubie Cardboard
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
When I am out collecting grease I usually get the original containers that the fryer oil was sold in. These come with a cardboard shell that I strip off and save for our garden. Wendy is seen here placing the cardboard from the grease containers at the base of our new raised bed.

Another Raised Bed


Another Raised Bed
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy and I put together another raised bed this afternoon. This is in
preparation for our winter crops which should be here next week.

20081006

Ahimsa

Back when I was teaching yoga in NYC and authored a yoga newsletter I thought and wrote about ahimsa, the practice of nonviolence. Some say that if one has a pure intention than they need not concern themselves with outcome. The trick to this kind of thinking is that it requires that the person with the intention be a "complete human being" capable of reflection and reason and with a fully working emotional body. Sadly this kind of person is rare. It has also been suggested that the practice of ahimsa is one created for the manipulation of the masses, to keep people from rising up against authority. Be that the case or not humanity has and will always wrestle with the question internally, "am i willing to be violent towards another life?" Many look to the natural world and its inherent violence. Here they find justification for violence.

While I still find this concept perplexing I have dug up a few morsels that I think are of value to me.  What appears as violence in the natural world is more truly the process of life feeding upon life - life sustaining itself through itself. Violence in this form masks what is actually happening - a mutation of forms and a continuation of life at the cost and to the benefit of life. 

I also feel the question is being asked backwards. We need ask the question from the position of how we choose to live our lives each day rather than from the "what if" position. If we choose peace and harmony than we will respect life and preserve it in all its forms as a practice. The practice itself tunes our hearts so that they serve their function of authentically feeling and experiencing the world with sensitivity. These hearts can respond appropriately to the world. Perhaps, as suggested above, they can act from intention with less regard for consequence?  Unfortunately all of our hearts have been tainted by the world we live in. Do you cry when you read the newspaper or watch the news? Daily heart practice invites the heart to remember its function and through it we regain a sense of awe for the beauty inherent in the multitude of living beings.

If the moment should come that we must decide if we will use violence to defend ourselves, a working heart will be more likely to make a decision that is in tune with with the greatest kind of knowledge, that of the heart.  Surely the inversion of this argument has been made obvious by our culture. Immersed in needless violence through media and war we have come even to choose violence as a form of entertainment. Our culture chooses violence by default. It produces people who are numb to violence and so ever more capable of tolerating it and creating it. 

This may seem an awkward place to post a photo of myself at the shooting range. I can not say how I would respond given the situation of self defense. I will prepare myself by knowing how to shoot a gun. And I will rely on my tuned heart and work on it every day so that it will lead the way if a decision is at my door. If our society were to choose to cultivate its collective heart than we may not find ourselves facing these kinds of decisions at all. A daily heart practice sets in motion the greatest possibility for a genuine life lived one that feels deeply and knows the world through empathy and awe. 


Drum Kit


Drum Kit
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I found a local resource who is selling 55 gallon drums for $25. The drums look good. They were used to transport organic tomatoes. The tomatoes were in bags so the steel is incredibly clean. These will be great for storing veg oil, rain water cisterns, fire barrels, and solar hot water heaters.

GEM Replacement Charger


GEM Replacement Charger
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Finally, a project I can scratch off the old mindmap. Wendy and I swapped out our broken Schott made 72V charger for a replacement Zivan NG1 72V charger we picked up off ebay. The replacement charger needed a additional conversion kit for $70 from ZivanUSA. Now our Neighborhood Electric Vehicle can go to the DMV for registration.

20081005

The Beverly Hills Chihuahua

It should have been no surprise to me when I found this clearly marked
piece of foam discarded in a alley on my way home today. I was reading Bloomberg about how the block buster movie this week was "The Beverly Hills Chihuahua" which made 29M. I believe our society has peaked on all fronts and we are now on a rapidly descending roller coaster. Really, who paid to see a 2 hour film about the Taco Bell dog? Why was this foam so clearly labeled discarded?