20081130

A Refill


A Refill
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We get very little rain this time of year. Our Thanksgiving day turned out to be our lucky day. We had several brief rainstorms which helped us recover something like 50 gallons of rainwater. This hardly makes up for the 200 gallons that spilled out a few weeks ago which was caused by my shady water spout and high winds.

DDU: Inner Lath


DDU: Inner Lath
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Our dome feels like it is progressing at a incredible rate. We were able to lath the interior most of the week and will be finishing the inner lath next week. This where our first dome dwelling unit starts to take on a personality. You can clearly see a smooth dome shape from certain positions outside the dome.

Batteries, Batteries, Batteries!

I feel that my life has been consumed by batteries. Today it was cleaning all the terminals in the golf cart and neighborhood electric vehicle. Some of the connections had corroded despite my use of anti corrosion stuff. I wire brushed the leads and battery posts as well as filled any batteries with rain water that needed it. Electric vehicles sure are fun to drive, buy they need a lot of love. Neglect them and they die.

20081127

We Have Worms (and You Should Too)

Wendy and I are now selling worms (red wigglers) for $22 a lb. plus $10 shipping. The shipping stays at $10 for 1-4lbs of worms and we won't charge you for any shipping if you purchase 5lbs.
Buy Worms

Video: PV Solar (off-grid)

Earlier this week I was asked by someone in my town about the details of our solar setup. We haven't posted any videos that really explain what we did to get ourselves off grid. This video shares some of the the things we learned as well as what we would do differently. Producing your power takes a good deal of time to get comfortable with even if it is store bought equipment.

20081126

Honorable Mention

Make Magazine picked up a story on my iRobot battery hack. Sadly it has been receiving some of the usual comments such as "that will not work". To which I say - "Whatever"...It works. Also our new net buddy over at Non Serviam Radio (a fun end of the world podcast) said some nice things about Holy Scrap Hot Springs.

20081124

Solar Distiller (Mortar Complete)

I have finished the cement coat on the solar distiller. It is looking pretty nice. I left it to cure for the next week. When the distiller is ready I will paint the interior black for maximum heat gain. Then run a bead of rubber weather stripping where the window will sit.

20081123

Raw Dolmas


Raw Dolmas
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I learned how to make a RAW dolmas from Ani Phyo's raw food book. It is a pretty simple recipe of pine nuts, sun dried tomatoes, raisons, olive oil, dill, and salt. They make for a great snack and tonight along with my raw caesar salad they were dinner.

Distiller Progress


Distiller Progress
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I spent the afternoon getting a scratch coat on our solar water distiller. The unit is now curing over night with a layer of plastic and a bucket of water to help keep the humidity and temperature up. Tomorrow I will do the final coat and post some pictures of the final unit.

20081122

I'm on Top of the World


I'm on Top of the World
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy and I finished up the tedious work of lathing the front door area and have moved into the center of the dome. We hung our first sheet of lath inside the dome and called it a day. This is the part where the dome starts to look really cool. By next weekend we should have the entire interior of the dome lathed. Notice the advanced technology that Wendy is standing on to reach the peak.

20081119

iRobot Dead Cell Battery Fix

I have three iRobots which help clean our house. I bought them about two years ago. As the one year warranty was coming up I called iRobot and asked them to help with various issues. They basically replaced all three of them. Now that I am at the one year point with the replacements I'm running out of options as things break. I can either fix it myself, or buy more shit. Obviously, I don't want to pay for anything. This morning I took apart the battery pack in the Dirt Dog vacuum cleaner. After about 30 minutes of cutting, sawing, and taping I had a battery pack that was performing like a new one. Now instead of getting 10 minutes of lousy vacuuming I get over a hour of powerful cleaning. This saved about $60 which is the cost of buying a new replacement pack from iRobot.

The Doom Bookshelf


The Doom Bookshelf
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
When someone recommends a book I usually write it down. If the book should happen to be fiction and related to the total collapse of society I usually buy it right away. This is snapshot of my current "doom" reading list.

- Lucifer's Hammer
- Ecotopia
- Five Acres and Independence
- The Collapse of Civilization - The Seed of the Future
- Plan B 3.0 - Mobilizing to Save Civilization
- The Fifth Sacred Thing

I Dressed Myself


I Dressed Myself
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy and I realized just how ridiculous we looked as we were heading off to our local auto parts store this morning. We refer to this free form highly functional style of dress as "I dressed myself".

20081118

Escaped


Escaped
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I opened the door for a moment to bring in some baked tempeh which had been sitting in the sun oven for a few hours. My cat "Baby IO" ran outside and proceeded to roll around in the gravel. Normally he is not allowed out because he doesn't come when we call him and he walks into the street. l feel bad making him stay inside, but he is really naive about cars.

Compost Bins


Compost Bins
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
During one of our Monday night dumpster dives we found a pretty decent 55 gallon drum that had been cut in half. Wendy busted out the plasma cutter this morning so that she could insert "breather holes" for our compost. We already have a spinning compost bin which is great, but we needed a storage area for the compost to break down further. Hopefully these two half drums we will give us just that.

20081117

Video: Roasting Coffee with a Popcorn Popper

Wendy and I put together a four minute video of how we roast our coffee with a popcorn popper.

Washing Windows (cat view)

I suppose that a outdoor window washing qualifies as a significant event to a cat. We use a simple mixture for washing our windows. It certainly saves on cost of glass cleaner and perhaps even does a better job.

- 1 part ammonia
- 1 part vinegar
- several parts water

Jungle gym

The dome is getting complex.... It's hard to reach some areas and tie lathe. Here's mikey climbing on the jungle gym.

Wild shapes

We are starting to get really fun free form shapes from our window and door awnings. A personality is showing itself. I'm happy to say that the personality is playful.

Kumbucha - mold ???

my kumbucha has new dark spots. Does anyone know if this is mold?

20081115

Pulser not Pulsing


Pulsed not Pulsing
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I have to admit that I am pretty lousy at soldering perf board kits. I have become so used to using printed circuit boards that it is difficult for me to think about jumpers and part placement as I am soldering. Unfortunately, my battery desulfator didn't come out so good. I am getting a sinewave that is slow and low powered. I'm confident that eventually this will get resolved.

20081113

Dry Fit


Dry Fit
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We dragged out our fiberglass door from the Re:Store to make sure it fit in our frame. It worked perfectly. I am seen here holding the door so it doesn't fall over.

DDU Door Cut Out


DDU Door Cut Out
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy and I finished removing the rebar arch and hoops that were blocking the door entrance. We are getting a lot faster cutting rebar with a angle grinder now that I have found the proper handle for the grinder.

Desulfator Test Run


Desulfator Test Run
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We recently picked up a GEM e825 electric vehicle. The batteries were pretty new and I had just been charging the vehicle whenever the charge dropped below 80%. I started to notice that the vehicle would rapidly drop from 100% to 80% charge after just driving a few blocks. Something is up! I found that we had one battery that was sitting at 10.7V instead of closer to 13V. This means all the other batteries were being over charged while Mr. Poopy Head was sitting at less than 11V. This was also throwing off my state of charge. I pulled the battery today and hooked up my $37 defsulfator along with a 12V charger. I can see a difference already in the charge level of the battery. I had a hard time getting the battery to get over 11.4V after removing the charger. Lets see if I can get this battery to hold a 13V charge after a test drive. This will probably take several days to weeks of desulfation.

Oops, I did It Again


Oops, I did It Again
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Our primary rain water catch met up with a disastrous event this
weekend. The little grey snorkel used to be taller than the water
tank. I did this because we had a leaky ball valve that is difficult
to find fittings to replace. The wind blew over our long grey snorkel
and through the slow ball valve leak we lost 200 gallons of rain
water. I've not modified the little snorkel to be much shorter and
added a 2" PVC male adapter with screw on head so that we can easily
obtain water from the tank and not worry about windstorms.

Tom Yum Soup


Tom Yum Soup
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We tried making a raw tom yum soup last night. I had over diluted the coconut milk so it didn't have the kind of punch we were hoping for. It did taste very thai though. Wendy had read a good trick for making cold raw soups more enjoyable. Warm the bowl the soup is going to be placed in ahead of time in the oven. That certainly helped us to enjoy a uncooked soup in 40 degree weather.

20081112

Best Raw Dish Yet


Best Raw Dish Yet
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy found this great recipe for mushrooms stuffed with pesto and a bit of crushed walnut. It was a really tasty entree and reminded me of eating in high end NYC vegan restaurants.

20081111

DDU Door Buck Up


DDU Door Buck Up
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We had been dreading installing the domes door buck. I built it over two weeks ago, but it was clumsy to handle. We finally braced it with some wire ties and were able to get a pretty level fit. At the moment it has about eight piece of welded rebar holding it on the dome so it is reasonably secure. Tomorrow we will have to reinforce and cut away the existing dome infrastructure that is blocking our entrance.

Flowers Die...We Make Dye

Wendy thinks these globe amaranths that we have on our property will make a colorful dye. I'm not sure how she plans to extract the die (recommendations welcome), but I'm all for using this plant for food and coloring.

Be Patient...It is Supposed to Make Popcorn

You can see the princess anxiously awaiting our morning coffee to complete it's roasting process in our hand-me-down popcorn maker. We were roasting half a cup of sumatra beans and it took FOREVER.

20081110

Goodbye Summer Harvest


Goodbye Summer Harvest
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We have been hitting sub freezing temperatures on a regular basis this week. I'd like to thank our summer harvest for doing so well. We have already underplanted beds like this with the following:

potato
le huces
mesculin
basil
shallots
red onion
radish
broccoli rabbe
mache
collards
bok choy
swiss chard
leeks
reg. broccoli
kale
chevril
brussel sprouts
parsnip
carrot
turnip
garlic

That is so New Mexico


That is so New Mexico
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Albuquerque airport right beside baggage claim has a special place. I've not looked into it at all, but I found it quite appropriate for New Mexico to include a meditation room in the airport.

20081107

Solar Water Distiller


Solar Water Distiller
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Al and Davey stopped by my place this afternoon. We made some progress with the solar water distiller. Today we put wheels on it, lathed the inside using only a hammer tacker, and put a bit of reinforcement in place. Once we finish the lath we will mortar it and let it cure. We have fours into it so far.

The Friend Economy


The Friend Economy
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Now that a entering November our town is revitalizing. The "snow birds" are returning by the masses. I visited my friends Randy and Jerry this morning. We swapped garden stories and they sent me off with a special carrot from their Minnesota garden and some home grown apple juice. I proceeded to head over to the coffee shop with a copy of my electric vehicle manual. The coffee shop owners bought a matching model:year version of our EV and wanted to have it on hand. I tried to work a deal with them to get low cost green coffee bean through them in trade. That might happen. Then it was off to Williamsburg where Al gave me a pint of prickly pear jelly, a few pounds of walnuts, and 5lbs of green coffee. I need to get out more. Tomorrow is yard sale day.

Solar Space Heater Update

I visited my 78 year old friend Al who lives in the next town over. He has been using the solar hot box we built as renewable energy group project for the last two days. Today was of particular interest to me because our temperatures were between 25F - 55F. We found the solar box to be cranking out a comfortable amount of warm air this morning. Temperatures were between 100F - 140F depending where we measured. The two mistakes we made on this project were:

- not allowing the system to off gas before connecting to the house

- the use of blueboard (foam) it is melting in the heater and not necessary.

Off Road


Off Road
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Now that I have had sometime to explore our town in our neighborhood electric vehicle I am discovering all sorts of new places. I have been regularly driving along the river and through suburban neighborhoods that I have never explored. The views and scrap materials are amazing. I have even found roads that allow me to travel to the neighboring town. Only now am I realizing hown isolated I had been due to concerns about fuel rationing. Now that the electricity is free and the vehicle is working I really explore my immediate surroundings.

Raw Thoughts


Raw Thoughts
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
After six days of eating raw vegan food I compiled two lists about the advantages of eating raw food and another of what I "experienced":

Advantages:
- virtually no packaging on food
- shop in pretty much one section of a grocery store
- fast prep & cleanup
- cheap

Experiences:
- naseau and headaches (first 2 days only)
- sleeping better ( I close my eyes and six hours layer wake up ready to go ).
- mentally clear - easy to recall information and follow detailed conversations.
- hyperactive - this is almost 100% of the time while raw. As long as I am not hungry I am bursting with energy as if I drank 5 cups of coffee.
- weird film on teeth

My breakfast is shown here "Happy Poridge". It is pretty much walnut pulp plus walnut milk with coconut, agave, cinnamon and raisins.

20081106

Sun Dried Tomatoes


sun dried tomatoes
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I picked up a little metal rack to dry my tomatoes on. It fit well inside my sun oven. By placing the sun oven slightly out of the direct light I was able to keep a stable temperature of 150F. I left the lid cracked and let the tomatoes dry for six hours. I will need to place them outside again tomorrow to complete the process. They still have about half their moisture.

Sunflower Pate


Sunflower Patte
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
This raw sunflower pate came out awesome. Davey stopped by and was really impressed. Something about it reminded me of pizza.

I'm Nuts


I'm Nuts
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Not sure why it took us so long to just buy a pack of mason jars for storing our food. They work a lot better than a bunch of random plastic bags strewn all over the cabinet. At a $1 each these jars are hard to beat. I noticed there were two types of 1 quart mason jars at our grocery store. KERR and BALL. The BALL brand were a little cheaper and had measurements imprinted on the side of the glass (1 cup / 2 cup / etc.). The KERR jars were a little more expensive and three sides of which had no imprint. The remaining side had a logo. I think I prefer the BALL jars with the measurements. I think it says on the BALL box that these jars were designed by the same people who made the KERR jars. What is going on in the mason jar world?

20081105

2 Months without Fuel


2 Months without Fuel
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
After going for 60 days without the purhase of any petro I finally caved. Our grease car has been running great on my home made bio and waste veggie oil. Now that we are going below freezing each night I can no longer get away with having B99 in our starter tank. It will gel up and not allow us to start the car on a morning with temperatures below freezing. I spent $17.75 to fill up with a 1/4 tank of dinodiesel. Maybe next time I will try mixing my bio with 5% kerosene to avoid clogging. Anyone else have a suggestion?

Freezer Burn


Freezer Burn
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Now that the global credit market has had time to thaw it seems appropriate that my yard is about to freeze. I went to all of the tomato plants and pulled most of our remaining green tomatoes. Guess how many I picked today? 18lbs. Yep, I was shocked too. The tomatoes are in a box with some apples and a banana to accelerate up their ripening. I guess we have officially hit the point of needing to can. I am going to dry some out tomorrow for sundried tomatoes. I also pulled a lot of basil and remaining egg plants.

Mr. Soupy Scores Some Carbon

Our brave little composter has been doing a great job of breaking down our kitchen scraps and yard waste. I loaded it up with leaves today as the compost was getting a little too wet and acidic. It feels great to rake up leaves with a higher purpose planned for them.

Asian Chop Chop


Asian Chop Chop
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I made a nice lunch salad today. Lots of veggies I don't eat often like chinese cabbage, mung bean sprouts, snow peas, broccoli, carrots and celery. One of my better dishes this week. This is day 4 on raw. I have a crazy amount of energy to the point of hyperactive. No stomach problems today either. Perhaps I have detoxed.

Coconut vs. Hammer


Coconut vs. Hammer
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
My morning breakfast menu called for a pina colada smoothy. I went shopping for a coconut in the middle of New Mexico and actually found one. Then I had to figure how to crack it open. A hammer and nail works well on the three dark spots (weak points). Unfortunately no juice came out. My coconut seemed to be from the beginning of time. Old and rotten. I busted it open with a hammer after placing the coconut in a old tortilla bag so it would not break apart all over the kitchen. In the end I used some coconut shavings we had on hand with some pineapple concentrate, bananas, and fresh squeezed OJ. It was pretty good. I am bummed about the coconut not working out.

20081104

Desulfator


Desulfator
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I recently ordered a $37 battery desulfator kit. It looks like a pretty simple device that sends pulses to lead acid batteries to help clean the battery plates. There are many success stories on the net about resuscitating essentially "dead" lead acid batteries. Since we have two electric vehicles and live off grid we have a lot of motivation to take care of our batteries. I've seen kits that sell for hundreds of dollars, but this 555 based kit seems to kick out a lot more juice than the fancy ones with wimpy solar panels.

Chemical Burn


Chemical Burn
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I made a little 3 gallon batch of biodiesel on Sunday and quickly followed it up with a rain water refill of 24 large lead acid batteries. The lye in the biodiesel and the battery acid can both cause some nasty skin burns if not handled properly. I'm not sure which one got me. I think it was the batteries I was refilling that something splashed on my leg. I didn't do anything about it and a hour later I felt a pretty good burn just under my knee. I took a soak in our hot springs and washed my leg with vinegar afterwards in case it was the lye. In the end I got a little scab.

Raw Day 3


Raw Day 3
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I am feeling pretty good about raw food today. I have been sleeping great and have tons of energy. I am still consuming one cup of coffee each morning so I don't have to deal with caffeine withdrawal. Todays meals were:

- Banana Cashew Yogurt
- Junk Food Salad
- Corn Symphony

All three turned out great. I did feel a pang of upset stomach while munching on some fake tuna rolls leftover from last night. There are a few ingredients I have been unable to get so I have just been making stuff up as I go. Each dish is generally 2-3 servings and I am pretty hungry so I just eat them all. This will not be a weightloss week.

Book: INKED


Book: INKED
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I received a new book via UPS today that I was not expecting. The book features "Clever, Odd, and Outrageous Tattoos". As soon as I saw the title I thought "I'm in this". Sure enough, I got a full page spread with photo in photo. There are some incredibly tattoos in here. This book is a real coffee table page turner. Makes me want to have a blank memo pad tatoo'd onto my left arm. That or a metric ruler.

Distiller Assembly


Distiller Assembly
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Davey and I spent about three hours building the distiller frame today. We were really careful to make sure the window would have a comfortable place to on the wood frame. There is a good deal of space for us to add bolts so we can use wing nuts and fender washers to press the window firmly against the wood frame while distilling. Next step is to add the cross supports and lath.

Liberty

I'm enjoying a week in NY's Birkshires and time spent with many of my teachers. Today we shared a contemplation of America's dream - liberty. Afterall it is today that millions of minds are pointed to this notion all at once. We asked ourselves what promise we could make towards seeing this realized. Most interestingly we determined that the words of Martin Luther King stand ever true ... even if this was the last day on earth we should plant a tree. (and yes I am wondering what the he'll mikey's been eating! Looks good, sorta)