20090831

[Craft blog] prickly pear: taming the wild and fruity


[Craft blog] prickly pear: taming the wild and fruity
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Craftzine just posted our story on prickly pear cactus. The post provides a detailed explanation of how we process cactus fruit into beverages. There is a lot more detail in this story than in our blog posts.

20090830

Battery deluxe (BatDLX)


Battery deluxe (BatDLX)
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Here is a sneak peak at my second generation battery desulfator. This unit has three important features over it's predecessor Mini-D. The additional display and data logging will track the progress of a battery during desulfation.

- LCD - display battery voltage, peak pulse voltage, and temperature voltage
- Case - fancy enclosure to protect circuit and make transport easier
- Xbee - (optional drop in module) used for data logging

Metal strainer


Metal strainer
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We constantly find ourselves reaching for a strainer. Almond milk, coconut milk, prickly pear drink, and mesquite flours all need a strainer. Wendy recently discovered a metal strainer in our cabinet from a soy milk maker. We tried it in place of cheese cloth and were quite pleased with the results. We no longer need to purchase cloth and the filter is much easier to rinse out.

20090829

Red okra recipe


Red okra recipe
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I know that lots of folks are thinking of ways to eat okra. We learned this simple recipe at a pot luck. Its a sauteed okra with garlic, cumin, jalapeno, nutmeg and tamari. The recipe is a good way to eat a lot of okra quickly. We favor the red okra over the green. The green is always woody no matter how early we pull them. Note to self: next summer more red okra in the garden.

Pink office


Pink office
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

It appears that my shipping container office is now pink!

Grease car repair Day 3


Grease car repair Day 3
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Its been three days of car repair and I can finally relax. The most difficult part of the repair is over, the tank fuel hoses have been replaced. I don't know if it works yet. There's still another day left of testing and the fuel lines need to be primed and both fuel filters swapped out.

20090828

Not a gangster


Not a gangster
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

During our papercrete experiments I applied a sprayed layer of paper to the shipping containers to test it's insulative properties. While the paper took the heat off the surface, it did not provide much more than that. Today Wendy spent the day removing it all with a putty knife. She's prepping the surface for rustolium paint in groovy colors.

Not a gangster

Pink Storm


Pink Storm
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

An amazing pink thunderstorm rolled in during sunset. It brought low grumbling and some lightening that was too close for comfort. A little scary and once again, no rain.

20090827

Dead cells


Dead cells
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

The golf cart is chewing up batteries again. Only two weeks ago I swapped a dead cell and I've already found another. Fortunately the local auto shop can keep up with my endless battery needs. I picked up two today. Both have potential (all the cells are good) and they desulfating their way to a comeback.

Sorry dude


Sorry dude
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I killed a lady spider with a blow torch last night. Hardly the first. It looked like a brown recluse.

Second chance


Second chance
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

The grease car has been gathering dust. The fuel hose became pinched and the car refused to heat veggie oil. The build up was contaminating the radiator and stopped the car. I found a neighbor with mechanical skills willing to help. We jacked the car, got the contaminated hoses out, but were unable to get the replacement HiH (hose-in-hose) setup in place. Since the hose in hose setup has been a failure I will run the fuel lines and then hack out a way to preheat my fuel and maximize heat under the hood. With temperature sensors I will confirm that the veg oil is warm enough.

Second chance #2 Second chance #3

20090826

Are There Any "Real" Criminals Left?

OK I know, this blog is not about politics, but sometimes life just bumps into politics and well there we are looking at the whole ugly thing. While reading Boing Boing over brunch on Sunday I came upon a piece about a Neo Nazi hate blogger who was charged with threatening to kill judges. Then he was discovered to be an FBI "agent provocateur" paid tens of thousands of dollars by our government to broadcast white supremacist rhetoric. ARTICLE

Then I read a post about the CIA's hired guns at The Blackwater training center and their questionable practices. ARTICLE

This got me to wondering if the day might come when we discover that the only criminals are those created by us or those who became criminals to defend themselves against other criminals, like the ones hired by us.

In the book titled The Ascent of Humanity, Eisenstien suggests that the criminal came into being when humanity grew past the threshold in which we related to one another, either through neighborhood or neighboring tribe. He writes that the emergence of "the stranger" brought on the need for law and governance. I imagine that stranger and the estranged are entangled. Once one can be left out, disconnected or forgotten, there's little to preserve in terms of social niceties. It seems we make strangers out of individuals, races, classes and nations alike. I think we've even become expert at making strangers of ourselves. I'm not at the end of the book so I dont yet know what Eisenstien proposes as remedy to the stranger, but I can take a guess that the discovery of our interdependence is part of it. This year I'm going to celebrate dependence day rather than independence day. On this day I'll make lists of the countless ways that I am not independent. Do you think this practice would reach the strangers amongst us if we all did it together?

20090825

Fermentation Control System


Fermentation Control System
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

This week I've been assembling electronics for an ice chest hack that will hold a specific temperature for a prolonged period. Its use will be fermentation, which usually requires a hold of 60F-90F for a duratino of a few hours to several weeks. The control system I created allows the user to set a desired temperature and follow the progress via a LCD or on-line via pachube for data logging purposes. Holding the actual temperature will be done with a peltier unit because it can both cool and heat for which I will build the H-bridge circuit. Today you can see the schematic and breadboard. Feedback is welcome.

Fermentation Control System

Pressure Canning


Pressure Canning
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

As our epic tomato harvest continues it forces us to reconsider how we can things. It takes us nearly a hour of boiling water to can a few pints of tomato sauce using the water bath method. We tried out the pressure cooker as a canner and we got the time down to 25 minutes @10psi to can six pints of tomato sauce. There still is a great deal of prep work on the tomatoes such as peeling and blanching before the canning process. Even after the canning there is a long wait period before the lid can be opened and the jars removed (hours). However, this system works for us. We are not canning so much that we need to use the pressure cooker more than once a day.

Pressure Canning #2 Pressure Canning #3 Pressure Canning #4 Pressure Canning #5 Pressure Canning #6

20090824

11th Hour: Grant Nomination - I Need YOU!

OK blog readers, this is the 11th hour call for help. I previously posted that my project, a non-profit I started in 2004, is a nominee for a $10,000.00 grant. There are just a few days left to vote for it and the winner is largely vote based. So yes I need you, like really really need you! It takes just a moment to do and I've listed the simplest instructions below. Thank you!!!!

The project ( a remedy to consumerism ): http://swaporamarama.org

August celebrates the 100th Swap-O-Rama-Rama event, and they now take place on most continents in the world with Swap-O-Rama-Rama's in Istanbul, Jerusalem, Perth Australia, Argentina, Panama and all over Europe. I never would have guessed this would happen when it began with a Black Rock Arts grant in 2004.

I've carried this project, operating as a non-profit creative commons so that I can keep it free to all and also protected from corporate greenwashing, for 5 years now. I've gone to battle with corporations to keep it a community event and turned down $100,000.00 from companies wishing to greenwash with it. As such Swap-O-Rama-Rama has been my "hobby" never providing any income or funds to pay for itself. In my life I work to support Swap-O-Rama-Rama and yes it rewards me greatly - being able to change something in the world is a real gift. But I've never had the leisure to do grant writing as I've always been hanging on by the edge of my seat trying to keep up with the events growth!

Today Swap-O-Rama-Rama is a nominee for a Grant For Change grant in the amount of $10,000.00. This grant would be life changing should Swap-O-Rama-Rama win it. The process is largely vote based and I'm currently in 2nd place with 10 days to catch up and take the lead. For this I NEED YOUR HELP.

HOW TO VOTE VOTE LINK
* Top of page click register (you wont be put on a list, this is only to prevent double voting)
* Under nominations click view all
* Find Wendy Tremayne and click
* Click rate/share and rate Swap-O-Rama-Rama 5 Stars

Please pass this on!

20090823

Our future workshop


Our future workshop
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

This corner of the fence will one day be our future workshop. We will close it off and put a metal roof up so that we can leave our larger wood and metal tools out on tables and nut need to go in and out of storage each day. If I were to do it all over again this fence would have gone up in the beginning with the workshop. We probably could have had a lot more workdays and been way more efficient with our time if we had a shop from the beginning.

20090822

Tampon Alert System Triggered


Tampon Alert System Triggered
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

While enjoying a movie last night I received a e-mail saying theTampon Alert System had been triggered. I called the business owner to confirm that this was not a test and indeed the T.A.S had caught it's first tampon dangerously close to closing time. I'm quite proud of this bizarre solution for preventing sewage overflow.

Time to can (again)


Time to can (again)
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Wendy pulled out a monster 12 qt pressure cooker from one of our closets. I had to find a manual on-line and was surprised to see these only go for $80 new. We probably have over 20lbs of tomatoes that need to be canned at this point. The previous canning sessions were water bath based, but the pressure cooker should cut that time in half. We should go from 55 minutes down to 22 minutes @ 10psi.

So close...


So close...
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We ran out of screws and 2x4's while putting up the last few runs of metal on the east and south facing fence portions. This weekend we should be able to seal it off.

20090821

Ear Update: Boo Hoo Q-Tips

Today my good friend (and Dr.) met me at the patio of our favorite local restaurant with her ear scope and had a look. We couldnt see anything past the dried blood in the ear (ewwww)! This whole accident reminds me of nails on a chalkboard or chewing glass. Your just not supposed to see blood dripping out your ear! Not ever! I appreciate all the blog reader comments and expressions of concern. I'm not in pain, so there is likely no infection. I'll stay out of pool and river for a couple weeks, take arnica and vitamin C, and think positively. Oh and I'll never use a q-tip in my ear again!

Laptop Upgrade Day


Laptop Upgrade Day
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Every 18 months we pickup a used mac off Ebay. We like to purchase laptops that still have Apple Care coverage and have been out for 6 months to a year. The latest laptop is a 2.4GHz, 4GB mem, 160GB HD and costs about 1/3rd of what it would cost new. Now we will cleanup the oldest of the macs and sell it off to help make up for the purchase.

Rounding the corner


Rounding the corner
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

The 8' fence blocking out our neighbors to the south is just about finished. We planted the last three posts yesterday. These turn a corner and protect some of our east facing property as well. The 80' run of fence will start later this month on the north side of our property. Wendy says what we have up so far has been therapeutic for her.

20090820

Q-Tip disaster


Q-Tip disaster
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Wendy noticed some blood coming from her ear while sipping her morning coffee. Turns out she was messing with a q-tip and managed to jab herself. We did some reading and it looks like the worst case scenario would be a painful ear infection and no swimming for 30 days while it heals. Any thoughts?

20090819

Exterminator

We have lots of preying mantis this year. Here's one of my garden buddies chowing down on a cricket that has the colors and patterns of a Japanese race car. Go mantis!

On the vine

The lovely pineapple tomotillos on the vine.

Pineapple tomatillos!

Wow, the pineapple tomotillos I got at a seed swap in town are ripe and they taste exactly like pineapple! This is surely the prize of this years garden. Next up will be our melons, squash, purple okra and sesame. I'm still picking a couple of pounds of tomatoes every other day. Yahoooo! Pineapple Tomatillos

What the locals grow

Here is a great little list of what to grow when and where in my
region. I got it at the community garden.

EV Battery Swap


EV Battery Swap
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

The little electric vehicle we cruise town in has been showing a rapid drop charge levels in between short trips. It will often go from 100% to 75% in just a few blocks. I realized this means that we have at least one weak battery. This morning I decided to investigate. In less than one minute with a multimeter I found the weak battery and that it had a dead cell. Now this created a problem since I didn't have any deep cycle batteries that fit into the golf cart and were desulfated. I stopped by my local autostore and they just got a big delivery from a mining operation of industrial batteries. Oddly enough the dirtiest battery they had there turned out to be their best. I cleaned it up and things are looking good again.

EV Battery Swap #2

20090818

We got some fence up today!


We got some fence up today!
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Timmy, Wendy and I worked for nearly seven hours in hot weather to get a lot of fence up. The south side of property now completely blocks out our neighbors building. Despite their protests they are now blocked out from our view and us theirs.

We got some fence up today! #2 We got some fence up today! #3

20090817

Repacking iRobot Cells


Repacking iRobot Cells
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I have a sizable collection of old 'dead' laptop batteries thanks to my neighbor Davey. Today I repacked a old iRobot battery which two of the 8 cells were looking really weak. It only takes a few minutes and makes a world of difference. Now my iRobot can run for over two hours thanks to the pair of iRobot packs that I've dumped the NiMH cells and repacked with lithium.

Little Badass Driver


Little Badass Driver
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I finally bought a lithium driver. This little Bosch Impactor (PS40-2- RT 10.8-V) goes for $150 new, but you can score the refurb units for $90. What I really like about this model is that it uses the same 18650 lithium ion cells that I collect from old laptop batteries. Meaning that I can keep these batteries perpetually refreshed as long as I'm willing to repack them.

Capers


Capers
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I realize these photos could be better, but does this look like a caper plant to anyone? We eat capers and some of them end up in our compost. These plants have been popping up in our raised beds (presumably from our compost).

Capers #2 Capers #3 Capers #4