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All WET


All WET
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
You might remember that I did a home made irrigation system with automatic moisture detection. After six months I can tell you how we have been using it. Basically the automatic water detection part started faltering - always triggering that it was too dry. We just through the breaker power each time we wanted to water. I finally pulled the board out of the ground and found that it was covered in our alkali heavy dirt. I simply dunked the whole board in rainwater (not conductive) and scrubbed it with a old tooth brush. Walla, moisture detection system is back online. Now I need to recode in a timer so it will only test for moisture between 8am-8:10am. I don't want it watering stuff in the middle of the day. It also got a $0.50 Tupperware container to avoid getting covered in mud again.
all wet #2 wet #3

Press: Wired Blog Covers the Papercrete Battery Room

I haven't been on the wired blog for almost four years. Oddly enough their geekdad segment picked up a story on our papercrete battery room.

Honey Bee Swarm

The more I look at the bee activity the more it seems to be a act of swarming. Today I saw the bees flying all over the place like mad and their little ball they had formed out of just themselves had disappeared. Wikipedia suggests that this is a hive that has a injured queen or needs to be relocated. They only have the sugar in their bellies to live off as they relocate and start over. I suspect this is the last I will see of that huge group of bees. Fortunately, I did manage to get a little video this morning while it was too cold for them to really go at me.

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Seed Starters


Seed Starters
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
This plastic bowl that Wendy picked up at a yard sale for $1.50 earlier this month has really paid off. It was apparently designed to store fruit. The small holes and dome shape have been ideal for starting seeds. These little seedlings are green bean and scarlet runner bean that have been going for only six days. Perhaps we should dome all of our little starter trays to help hold the humidity. I bet it would be ideal for mycelium cultivation as well. We can probably make more using two salad bowls and a drill.

That is a lot of Bees


That is a lot of Bees
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We have been blessed with bee's on our property. Each year we notice them bouncing flower to flower. Just the other day we saw two bee's fighting single flower on a little rosemary bush. My bee sighting this afternoon was on a whole new scale. We have about 100 bee's building a hive on our dome dwelling unit. I've been wanting to learn to ways of bee keeping. Now I'm going to have to educate myself on how to move the hive and keep these bees as our own. Any tips on domesticating a hive from a wild bunch of honey bees are welcome.

The Ebay Horseradish


The Ebay Horseradish
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
The horseradish came in this afternoon. As soon as I opened the box I started having flashbacks of a passover seder. Ignoring all the comments on our blog I just tossed the lump in the ground.

Craft Magazine Post - Check in: Green Girl

A well written post appeared on the Craft blog today about what Wendy did this week.

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Planting Frenzy


Planting Frenzy
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I've been sick for three days now. Wendy leaves town tomorrow and a huge order of plants arrived today from Peaceful Valley. We ended up working over 10 hours in 80 degree weather. In short we are exhausted. Here is the list of what we accomplished today.

- cleaned up asparagus bed
- hacked up dead female mulberry
- transplanted evergreen
- planted (10) asparagus stalks
- planted (40) strawberry plants
- planted (2) blueberry bushes
- planted (2) olive trees

This takes us a extra long time since most of New Mexico has sand, rock, or clay for "soil". We have primarily sand. We have to sift out the rocks for each planting and add compost and peat moss. Plus everything needs to be mulched to hold water. It is a tricky business trying to be a desert farmer. Sometimes I think it would make sense to learn the binary language of moisture evaporators.
Asparagus Bed Preparation Hacking the Mulberry Planting the Olive Trees Blueberry Bush Asparagus Crowns

Buds


Buds
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Spring is in full effect for us. We just had a record breaking temperature of 81F in TorC today. All of our fruit trees our budding at this point except for one poorly relocated mulberry. This is a photo from one of our three apricot trees. Tomorrow will be crazy as we need to plant a huge order of new stock. Blueberry, asparagus, strawberry, and olive trees are all coming in tomorrow with Wendy leaving the next day for NYC.

Back Fence


Back Gates
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
This project got cut off due to both Wendy and I getting sick for the
last 24 hours. We had been putting together some scrap steel to create a back yard gate. This is part of our project to close off our yard so the dog cannot easily run off. The gates were coming together quite well with our only new materials investment being the four hinges that hold them to angle iron posts.
Back Gates #2 Back Gates #3 Back Gates #4

Hard Cider - Back at It


Hard Cider - Back at It
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I could not resist this $7.29 jug of apple cider. Having a few more tools in my fermentation arsenal I decided to try one of the simplest ways to make alcohol which is right out of Sandor Katz's book. Just remove the cap and secure cheese cloth across the top. This is a open fermentation. Apparently the cider will taste quite good from days 3-5. After that a sour / dryness will kick in as the beverage begins it conversion to vinegar. I kicked this off on a Tuesday hoping to be able to drink the cider over a weekend.

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Horseradish

I won this horseradish root on ebay. I could not believe how hard it was to find! It seems that no one sells horseradish root. Does anyone know how to plant it. Do I break up what appears to be four different outgrowths and plant them separately? Or plant this cluster as is in one clump?

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Fence and Bamboo


Fence and Bamboo
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We managed to get a bit of fence and some bamboo planted today. It was really overcast with weird temperature changes between being warm and cold. After living in New Mexico for a few years it becomes very hard to accomplish much in this kind of weather.

Dog Training


Dog Training
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
I realize from this photo it is difficult to tell who is being trained. Wendy and I received a brief lesson on communicating with our new dog Sesame from our friend and neighbor Al. Al had trained our dog when she was just a pup (three years ago) and she clearly remembered him. Apparently our dog knows how to heel, come, sit, and lay down quite well. We saw signs of the dog being trained, but we were not playing the alpha roll well enough to take advantage of her knowledge. It was a really helpful session. Thanks Al. What dog training videos should we check out?
Dog Training #2 Dog Training #3

A Visit from Brad


A Visit from Brad
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Our friend Brad Lancaster dropped by our homestead today. He literally wrote the book(s) on Dryland Rain Water Harvesting the second book goes beyond into earthworks. He lives in Tucson and has been very influential on his local community as well as many other areas throughout the southwest. He will be giving three different talks in Santa Fe this week.

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Fences Everywhere


Fences Everywhere
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Our dog Sesame behaves a lot differently when on a leash versus off leash. We want to let her run free on our 1 acre property, but our fence is incomplete. We spent some time putting up ad-hoc fencing behind our property. Maybe tomorrow we will finish it off. This is some shabby work, but it is what we need so the dog can run free. Maybe it will help slow the stray cat traffic as well.
Fence Everywhere #2 Fences Everywhere #3

Fish / Oysters / Clams in Compost

How is your gardens NPK?

- Nitrogen (N)
- Phosphorous (P)
- Potassium (K)

I have been looking around on-line trying to find out what types of nutrients that clams, muscles, oysters, and fish skins add to the soil. I'm still not sure. Oysters seem to be high in calcium carbonate which is useful to a degree. I know the goal for high quality soil is something like:

- Nitrogen 24%
- Phosphorous 6%
- Potassium 6%

I suppose it is time for us to get a soil test kit so that we can regularly analyze our compost and different garden beds.
NPK #2 NPK #3 NPK #4

Dogs Don't Read But Owners Do!

OK I gotta apologize to my new four legged friend Sesame for the poor taste I'm demonstrating by posting this incriminating picture of her but I could not resist. Are we sure dogs cant read? Maybe she has a sense of humor? Our adoption is going quite well. Not just for her but for us too. I've been afraid of dogs for many years now so this is a big step for me. Me and Sesame are now afraid of dogs together. We take walks and when other dogs start barking from behind (and sometimes not) their respective fences I throw them doggie treats. She remembers where each scary dog lives so well that she crosses the street so as not to get involved. The two of us together are pretty silly. What I LOVE about having a dog is the new social life I've entered. Every day I meet new neighbors, some I've never seen, others I see all the time but never talked to. I'm going to the Rio Grande every day, seeing the twilight sky and noticing the details that I somehow missed in my own neighborhood. Thanks Sesame. And sorry about the incriminating shot.

Corn Bread


Corn Bread
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Do you like corn bread? I've never made it before and now that we have 25 lbs of corn meal I figured that it is time. I don't think it could be much easier. I used almond milk, olive oil, salt, corn meal, unbleached flour, and apple cider vinegar. The cornbread was ready in the sun oven in just thirty minutes.
Corn Bread #2

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Good Food Day


Good Food Day
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Lunch today was mostly from our garden. A tasty mixed green salad and bok choy that had been fried in some sort of dark chinese sauce. Both were extremely good. Dinner was not from the garden, but a new meal to us. I made lentil soup with the french green lentils that had arrived yesterday. It came out great. I just mixed some onion, garlic, vegetable stock, lentils, and carrots into a big pot with water. I let the soup cook at 300F in the sun oven for most of the day. Yum, too bad winter is almost over. Tomorrow I hope to make a decent vegan corn bread.
Good Food Day #2 Good Food Day #3

Plant More Food


Plant More Food
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
Wendy has been planting seeds like crazy. She has these elaborate charts and spreadsheets to help decide when and where to plant things. We actually ran out of room for the the starter trays. As the sun was setting I hastily made some shelves in our kitchen windows out of leftover bamboo flooring.
Plant More Food #2 Plant More Food

Another $30 Spent at Yard Sales

I scored some fun stuff this morning at two yard sales. A 36V golf cart charger for $15 is worth bragging about. I had bought the same unit last summer for nearly $200. The $8 dolly and little plastic tray boxes for $0.50 are also pretty special. I'm using the galvanized pale in pale for humanure / vermicomposting experimentation.
Yard Sale Scores

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Home Made Pasta


Home Made Pasta
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
During the summer of 2007 Wendy and I did road trip to Canada. One of our friends up there made us a dinner of home made pasta. She made the meal so quickly and easily that we both vowed to get a pasta machine like hers. Nearly two years later we finally did it. I picked up a $15 pasta maker off of ebay and we cooked our first home made spaghetti this afternoon. The recipe was simple:

- 3 eggs
- 2 cups flour
- mix with finger
- knead with hands
- wait 20 minutes for dough to stiffen up
- make pasta
Home Made Pasta #2 Home Made Pasta #3 Home Made Pasta #4

Seed Starters


Seed Starters
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
After a series of distractions today Wendy decided to stop working on the dome and get some seed starting trays going. She just prepared the soil while Scardy cat and Sesame (dog) observed. Our temperatures are still cold enough that she can only plant broccoli, brussel sprouts, squash, carrots, lettuce, peas, chard, and pumpkin.

The River is Up


The River is Up
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar
We live about two blocks from the Rio Grande River. Throughout half of the year it is a pathetic trickling stream. Last week the damn was opened so that Texas farmers can irrigate their land with this water. This happens every year. Texas in turns sues New Mexico for not delivering enough acre feet of water to them each year. This also happens every year.