20090131

Rust Removal


Rust Removal
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I was looking around instructables the other day and saw a great howto about rust removal using electricity. "Hmm", I thought to myself. I sure like to electrocute things. My neighbor gave me a rusty pipe wrench which came out impressively rust free after a few hours of soaking. I used a 12V .5A power supply and attached the negative end to the pipe wrench and the positive end to a old piece of steel remesh. Both pipe wrench and remesh were put in a bucket of water that had some baking soda. After a few hours of bubbling I removed the pipe wrench and let it sit for a hour in a vinegar bath.


Rust Removal Before Rust Removal (After)

DDU: Inner Porch


DDU: Inner Porch
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Now that the outside porch of our dome is complete we have moved onto the inner portion. The experimentation has been fun now that we are using complex curves. It went up in less than two of our pathetically short work days. We still need to remesh and lath.

More DIY Wine


More DIY Wine
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Last night we through together another wine must. This time using a few more standard ingredients in the DIY wine world. Here is the recipe:

1 gallon of water
3 cans welches frozen concentrate (concord grape)
1.5 cups sugar
1 tsp. yeast nutrient
1 tsp. acid blend( test with kit and adjust accordingly)
1 tsp. bentonite(optional-but will aid in faster clearing of wine)

The Spinach Transplant


The Spinach Transplant
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy has been spending time in our east facing raised bed. Lots of
spinach has been sprouting among other things and they are way too
close together.

20090129

Instructable: Building with Paper

I finally got around to putting together a short instructable that describes our papercrete based dome battery room. We have videos and blog posts about it, but a single instructable sort of wraps it all up in a nice package. This is the exact same style of building we are using on our guest rooms.

Building a Dome out of Paper (and steel...and cement...) - More DIY How To Projects

20090128

a response to your responses

Racking the Kombucha Hello blog loving friends. It seems a few of you are miffed at our experimentation with fermentation. To those of you who are certain that this recipe is the greatest insult ever to the making of wine please read the sub head on our blog. It says "reckless experimentation." The benefit of reckless experimentation is this... knowledge through experience. Sure we're likely making some real crappy wine. It's not about making an award winning wine, it's about experimentation. This recipe is a wonderful way to experience and learn about fermentation. A starting point. If one does not have the courage to act they will likely become stuck in place. If one acts only under the most pristine conditions, it is likely they'll act infrequently and find themselves in an environment of great self criticism. Here at Holy Scrap play, experimentation and learning come before refined taste. That, like a fine wine, comes with time. Right now our 2 buck chuck is bubbling away, we're enjoying the show as well as the smell. More as it comes....

20090127

Fermenting Cheap Drinks - Day 2

We got bubbles. The yeast is rapidly breaking the sugar into alcohol. We originally tried brewers yeast (which didn't work). Then switched to a bread yeast which will taste lousy, but is easily obtainable. Finally we ordered some actual wine yeast so we can taste the difference between bread and wine yeasts when both stages of fermentation are done. Welches Wine Progress - Day 2 Hard Cider Progress - Day 2

Desulfator Issues Resolved

After a month of delays I finally got back to my home made battery desulfator. Here is what I did in order to stop melting components.

1. Added a 2N3904 transistor off the AVR PWM. This allows the pulse off my PWM pin to actually drop to zero. Instead of having a nominal 5V.

2. Swapped out wimpy inductors for high amp versions. I'm using 220uH and 1000uH still, but these can take over 3A each. They are bigger and more expensive, but show no signs of overheating.

3. Reversed firmware from being 95% duty cycle down to 5%. As usual I had reversed the counter idea which was another reason I was blowing up parts. I'm probably going to drive the pulser at a higher duty cycle, but I'll wait for the printed circuit boards to arrive before experimenting with firmware again.
Breadboard Desulfator AVR Breakout

DDU Porch : Expanded Metal Lath

Our dome porch is now covered in lath. It is a lot more enjoyable to walk up some steps as opposed to climbing into the dome. It took us weeks to assemble the porch, but it was well worth the time. The lath portion only took two days. Keep in mind that we work 4 hour days. This will not receive any sort of mortar for months.
DDU Porch : Metal Lath DDU : Porch Metal Lath Entrance

20090126

DIY Toothpaste


DIY Toothpaste
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Our friends Ryanne and Jay introduced us to the concept of making our own toothpaste. I quickly found lots of recipes and resources on-line and went with one. My batch came out a little salty. Perhaps others have tips. Here is what I did:

- 3 T baking soda
- 1 T sea salt
- 1 T vegetable glycerin
- 1 drop tea tree oil

I added just enough water to shack up the container and get a paste. It works. Lets see how long I can go without buying toothpaste again.

Hard Cider


Hard Cider
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
While researching different recipes for wine making I stumbled onto a website with a small blurb about making hard cider from apple juice. To my surprise this is a incredibly simple process:

- 1 gallon of apple juice
- 1 cup regular cane sugar
- 1 pack of wine or yeast ale (I used bakers yeast)

I simply poured off a glass to make room for the additives and put a balloon over the top. This should be ready to drink as hard cider in five days or less.

20090125

Let's Party : 5 Bottles of Wine for $3

After a evening of youtube videos featuring amateur wine makers Wendy and I determined to make our own vino. We could barely believe that 5 bottles of wine could be produced in minutes for just about three bucks. But it's true. Of course we cant report on the taste until our brew has sat for more than 30 days but we'll let you know how it came out. What we can say is that it was fun and easy. If this works we'll save a lot of money on wine. I'm beginning to get that feeling I have when I realize that I've been had by an industry. Ya, the wine industry might just be a whole bunch bunk! Check out the video, start one today and so that we can compare come harvest time. Cheers!

20090124

Porch Remesh


Porch Remesh
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
In a single day Wendy and I covered the entrance to our dome guest house with 6x6x10 remesh. Now there is sort of a Buckminster look to the project.
Porch Remesh Full View Porch Remesh Steps Princes and the Remesh Porch

20090123

Schematic and Circuit Design

A blog reader asked me earlier today how to get started with circuit design. After very little thought I replied directly via e-mail, but I'd like to share my $0.02 with the rest of our readers who might be interested. Hopefully others who are already on this path can drop a line in the comments for this post about how they got into electronics/circuit design/microcontrollers.

I got into circuit design with a the help of a friend. He would show me his home made boards and I would go to him with questions as I made mine. I guess this is the order you will need to go in to get comfortable with circuits.

1. Learn the schematic symbols - Radio Shack has a decent book called "Electronic Formulas, Symbols and Circuits" it is a beginners guide to learning the symbols and seeing many common circuits. It is a way to learn through example. Radio Shack # 62-5031

2. Now that you can read schematics it is time to start drawing them. There are really two pieces of software that the DIY world uses for schematic capture. Make some schematics with one of these programs.
A) gschem - www.geda.seul.org/download.html - This is great software if you come from a background of using only open source code and are really a UNIX person at heart. If this is not the case move onto the next option.
B) eagle - www.cadsoftusa.com/ - Eagle is sort of shareware. You pay for the software once your circuit boards are larger than 4" in any direction. It is very popular in the Make world.

3. Schematics can be exported into PCB (Printed Circuit Board) layout programs like PCB for gschem and eagle has its own built in board layout. The idea being once you have laid out the logical connections and parts in the schematic side you then need to place each component.

That is all you need to work on for becoming comfortable with making circuits. It will be frustrating to use the software at first just because there is so much to get used to, but if you spent some time looking at lots of schematics in the Radio Shack book it will make things go smoother.

The next step after learning how to design and layout circuits is to have your circuit boards printed. I use barebonespcb to print my boards. They are in your area (Colorado) and don't charge much if you are doing runs of 10.

www.BareBonespcb.com/!BB1.asp

Finally you need to get into programming microcontrollers to start having a lot of fun. That is another hurdle, but if you have some experience programming software it will greatly reduce the learning curve.

Let me know how this goes for you and feel free to ask questions. This is sort of like how to become a electrical engineer over spring break.

Book Recommendation: "Using Natural Finishes"

Finally, a decent book about building. We own dozens of books about alternative building. Many of them are just coffee table books sort of pornography for alternative builders. A few of the books try to solve everything from water heating to building a super insulated home for $5,000. Finally, a book that does a excellent job explaining natural plasters and paint.

Amazon: Using Natural Finishes

Asparagus Pit


Asparagus Pit
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
As Spring approaches we are rapidly preparing more beds for our upcoming garden. Our recent on-line order included asparagus crowns, blueberry's, strawberry's, arugula, potatoes, dandelion greens, and water cress. Since we do not know when these things are arriving all we can do is feverishly dig holes in the yard. Todays hole was for our asparagus.
Asparagus Bed Building

Scallion Breakfast


Scallion Breakfast
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
This morning I was on breakfast duty. Wendy suggested that I try some of our scallions that we have been drying and see how they taste. Well they came out pretty good. I made a tofu scramble utilizing our recently picked scallions and some fake sausage.

20090121

"even if it were the last day on earth plant a tree" Martin Luther

Don't let Mikey's seeming enthusiasm fool you, he is far more excited about batteries than trees. I have to do a bit of cheerleading to get him on board. But we got our root bound dwarf into the ground so she can spread out. Apricot Tree Transplant

20090120

Gravity Testing by Baby IO

This innocent looking heart throb aka Baby IO, was doing some gravity testing yesterday and knocked Mikey's I-Phone off of a counter and into his water bowl. No blogging for Mikey until the new one ships out. Meanwhile Mikey is like a fish without gills. He's remarkably confused without the weather, 20 blogs, radar, and the many podcasts we listen to while working in his pocket.

Shallot harvest!

We began to pick our shallots. Though they have been in the ground 60 days and many tops began to turn yellow some don't seem ready, either they are soft or the bulb is not very big. It's hard to tell if they are ready so we picked the biggest and left the rest. Fingers crossed. Later this week we plant blueberries, strawberries and asparagus!!

Concrete footers

We poured concrete around our blocks with rebar candycanes to secure the new porch and stairs. After a couple of days of setting up we will add welded wire mesh and expanded metal lath. A true ferro cement project though we will likely toss some paper in the mix.

20090117

Porch Concrete Pads


Porch Concrete Pads
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We mixed up a bag of concrete after welding our candy cane rebars onto the porch. We actually needed about 5 bags of concrete, but didn't have them handy. Now we have one piece of the porch well anchored. Just five more to go.

20090116

Rebar Candy Canes


Rebar Candy Canes
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We will be pouring some concrete this weekend for our new porch and we needed some additional supports. These candy cane rebars are easily made with two pieces of conduit. We bent about two dozen of them in twenty minutes.
Bending Rebar with Conduit Rebar Conduit Bend Completion Rebar Bend Remove Conduit Unbreakable Rebar

Burying Cinderblocks


Burying Cinderblocks
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Most of our afternoon was spent burying seven cinderblocks. We needed a level area for our new rebar porch to be setup on. The work went smoothly thanks to Davey's crazy auger.

Free Agave


Free Agave
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
On our morning bike ride we came across a elderly couple carefully removing baby agave plants from their yard and placing them by their dumpster. Wendy and I spoke with the couple and picked up 5 baby agaves which we immediately planted upon returning home.

20090115

Back to Digging


Back to Digging
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
The rebar portion of our porch is complete. Now we need to close of the part of the dome that the porch will sit against. We moved the porch to the side and started digging out our foundation again. We spent the rest of the afternoon doing remesh and lath against the dome where the steps will reside.

Breakfast Demands


Breakfast Demands
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy demanded that I make her a breakfast this morning. I wasn't particularly on my game so I gave her some toast, a smoothie, mango slices and some granola and kamut puffs. She was not pleased.

20090114

Poor Lloyd


Poor Lloyd
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Normally I don't like to talk about stories from other blogs, but this one really caught my attention. Slashdot put out a story on Lloyd Case. A geek in Northern California who installed a 6kW PV solar system on his house six months ago and is now a little disappointed with the performance. His most recent power bill was still $200 despite having a $60,000 PV setup tied to the grid.

A few tips to folks who are considering a PV system.

1. Roof Mounted Panels Suck - They often have limited or no tilt control and are clumsy to maintain. This means that you will likely get strong performance in summer or winter, but not both. Finding the average latitude tilt for your region and mounting the panels at that angle is your best option for roof mount. Trackers can bring your performance up by 1/3rd, but will include extra expense and complexity. Consider a manual tracking system which you just push with your hands through out the day if you need a early morning or late afternoon boost. This is ideal for the off-grid / unemployed eco-geek.

2. Grid Tie has issues too - Although grid-tie allows a PV install to greatly reduce their installation time and costs they also have some drawbacks. Continuing to buy power from a power company can result in relatively high monthly fees if the system purchased was undersized. Many grid-tie installations have no battery backup so when the grid dies, you lose all your juice too. In remote towns many power companies only pay the customer a 1/4 of what they charge the customer for power. My town being unusually behind the times refuses to purchase any power from their customers.

3. PV Batteries - New batteries are easy, but old ones can be fixed. Our world is hemoraging so called "dead - deep cycle batteries" aka "cores". Try talking to your local golf course, marina, or auto parts store. As you learn to test cells and repair lead acid batteries through desulfation you can save yourself a fortune in batteries and store large amounts of energy. Keep in mind that batteries are much like people. They like 72F temperatures and a little exercise. Do not cycle the batteries below 50% on a regular basis. I try to stay over 70% capacity on my battery array at all times.

4. Heat - My panels tend to have a pretty big drop off in performance during the summer. This is partly due to my not adjusting the PV array to be almost flat during June. It is also related to our monsoon season bringing in lots of rain and cloudy weather. However, the real killer of performance is the temperature. High temperatures drop my panel performance by 30%. Our temps in June peak around 100F which is enough to dramatically reduce the performance on polycrystal PV cells. The monocrystal cells are supposed to handle the higher temperatures better.

20090113

Baked Tofu Sandwich

This sandwich was a favorite of ours when we lived in NYC three years ago. Angela's Kitchen in the east village used baked tofu and some sort of pickled carrots and lettuce in their sandwich. We made our own today with arugula, Tristan and Libby's pickled carrots and white turnips along with some mustard and rye. baked tofu sandwich Sun Oven Baking Tofu

Porch Steps


Porch Steps
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Our dome now has the rebar steps in place which gives us access to the front door.
rebar porch steps Rebar Steps Porch Tie Wire Porch Step Welding

Winter Garden Update


Winter Garden Update
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I'm not sure why, but our winter garden is really starting to produce now. We ate our first radish and arugula from our garden today. The bok choy is enormous now. Wendy dug around some of the garlic and red onions and we were disapointed by their progress. Those take forever. However, our shallots were kicking ass. They are huge! The spinach is starting to pop up in three different raised beds and the broccoli has been doing very well. We will soon starting eating our red leaf and mescaline lettuces.