20110430

Horehound: Drying & Preparing

I was just in Tx where fields of horehound covered wide expanses. The horehound I'm cleaning up here is from near the Gila about 50 miles from here. Having dried it thoroughly I am now waiting to harvest the honey from my bees so that I can combine the honey and plant. In addition to using the plant as a tea (dried form steeped in honey) I will also infuse a batch of honey with the plant so that it can be used for soar throat and bronchial issues.

Horehound is in the mint family. It offers us humans expectoration and relieves constricted lungs. It is most commonly used for hoarseness and coughs, soar throats and bronchial irritation. It is also known to enliven areas of the intestines and help with poor protein and fat digestion. It increases hunger and is also a mild diuretic. Apparently it is also sometimes used as a substitute for hops when making beer. Hummmm.

DIY Garlic Powder





I can not believe how easy it is to make garlic powder. I'm sure too that it blows away any stale old stuff you can buy in a store. The scent is really strong and sharp.

This year as I came across garlic bulbs dried and hard I simply collected them in a covered basket. Then today I ground them down into a powder using a garage sale bought coffee grinder. Wala.

20110429

Blight?

Is the black curl on these fava blight?

Transplanting Bok Choy?

Ya I know, your not supposed to transplant bok choy. But I did. It was coming in strong and obviously going to take over a wintered over 2nd year chamomile and there was no way I was going to let that happen. So I moved it. We're super low and almost out of rainwater but I pulled a couple of wine bottles worth of it from the tanks to put these newly transplanted bok choy's some support. Fingers crossed.

Wasp Weirdness

This amber colored wasp appeared dazed and confused when I pulled up a big stand of chard. It seemed as though the wasp had made a territory of the stand. The wasp then hung around the area all day, again in a territorial way. Anyone have any insights about this?

Ants = Aphids

I'm finally ahead of the ants! And since ants bring aphids I'm a bit ahead of them too. When I see that the ants have moved onto a plant, evidenced by them walking up and down the stems, I simply clear away the leaves around the stem where it meets the soil and glob some Tanglefoot on the stem just above the soil line. Tanglefoot is a waxy sticky mix of goop that they can not cross because their feet get stuck to it. Next thing ya know they're marching off to find another place to live.

Annual Bee Friends


We call this big flying bee "the zeppelin." They're clumsy and heavy and in my eyes kinda goofy. They come each year and reside in the bamboo that I used to make wind chimes. They don't sting and though they occasionally act a bit territorial about space, they're also easily ignored. If I sit under the wind chime I can hear them inside fiddling about.

Short Term Crop Rotations

This year I'm pulling matured plants out of the garden fast. I just yanked this large stand of chard which wintered over and is now going to seed. It seems pretty clear to me that following maturity come bugs. I'm trying to hold out just long enough to get seed and then pulling them immediately to avoid bug infestations.

Preying Mantis Population - Welcome!


I am thrilled with the increase in our garden's preying mantis population. I'm pretty sure that the nest in the photo belongs to them. I've found dozens of these nests this year as well as what seems like hundreds of babies like the one in this pic. As you likely know they're great bug eaters and good garden friends.

Pinching Back the Peaches

Every couple of weeks I reduce the peaches on our dwarf peach tree. When I see the branches bent down and reaching near the ground I know that there are too many. As they grow the weight gets to be too much pretty quickly. In the end there are likely hundreds of fruits right now. I imagine even after repeated pinching back we'll still pull hundreds of ripe fruit.

Heartful Conversation: The Spirit of Play

I just returned from a week in Austin, TX where I participated in a laboratory of experimentation with 23 (mostly unknown) other people, a think tank of sorts. The play-field was created by Seven Pillars House of Wisdom. As implied by the name, Seven Pillars is building a house of wisdom here and now in our frenetic time.

Heading into the event guests were given little more than a theme, "Heartful Conversation."  Later contemplative bits were given out and explored in conversation. Like a game of Clue more was revealed as time unfolded. Part way along the game masters dissolved and the guests became the game makers.

One could tell that we were actually 'playing' because beneath the personality of the participants was the clear picture of children self-inquiring by pressing up against one another in exploration in order to see what will be discovered. The language given by the game makers also suggested that what we were doing was play: musicality, creativity, not knowing, mystery, encounters, phenomena, insights. Can you hear it?

Like the playground of our youth there was nothing to buy or sell, no 'real' labor and nothing at stake. The discoveries and insights from the laboratory were not to go to market. They were to build a house of wisdom in our commons, free and uncommodified.

I got to wondering, "why is grown-up play unordinary?" I looked at each person in the group. They all carried big worldly responsibilies for which the effects are felt by many more than themselves. They carry more than their own share. We all know that play is not a method used by those tasked with solving the most difficult problems of our day. Play is not a strategy in that field. I wondered if their responsibilities, distinct because they are hard and stuck and serious, could benefit from what play offers: curiosity, experimentation, imagination, non-duality, limitlessness, whimsy, trial without consequence, the ability to rewrite the rules and the game, fluidity, discovery, a living imagination, witnessing and engagement with heartful interest (to name a few). But we live in the antithesis of play.

I thought about yoga. In yoga resistance plus resistance = more resistance.

I caught a small glimpse of how a house of wisdom is built and why it must be made. From the play-field I could see a strange human habit. We are prone to build a world that exiles the remedy to our failure, the lost things. It is as if we know.  Hanging out at the wall's edge of our fraught and frenzied civilization is play and it has gone limp and is without embodiment. Marginalized, it shows the world we made to be so serious as to be deadly. We can not move without consequence.

It is hard to see the world from the world. New sight doesn't come into view all at once. Play is free, unleashed, wild and unserious. Hoisted up against the world it can appear trite and impotent, even short sighted. But is it? It may be unusual. Play doesnt usually exist in position with what is critical, dangerous and hyper-real. Play is in some sense unborn and unformed in our world. Outside the margin, unintegrated. Yet it is the way the world becomes and is first imagined.

I suspect that Seven Pillars has sniffed out the relevance of play. The events, think tanks, salons and experiential engagements that they host imply so in their form and also in what comes out of them which is a view of what is emerging rather than a rehash of we already know. Something ever new such as this naturally revives our childlike wonder, play's own spirit.

I don't mind that this contemplation has left me standing at the cliff's edge with bits of things that don't amount to a whole. The fragmentation feels more true right now than what is made finished out of habit to complete. At least for this moment I have let the idea of play go free and roam.

(Illustration - from my sketchbook. Jinn in their laboratory and creating what has not yet been born)

Yay Gifts: Beauty Will Save the World

It's not every day our blog readers send us gifts. Thought what a great thought huh?

I just arrived home from a week in Austin to find this lovely array of books from our blog reader friend Tom. What can I see besides, "YAY" and "thanks Tom!" I'm particularly excited about The Barefoot Doctors Manual and a small "working paper" typed on a traditional typewriter titled "Ecology Action" featuring The Complete 21-Bed Biointensive Mini Farm: Fertility, Nutrition and Income by John Jeavons. It's cover offers a quote, "Beauty Will Save the World." There's also three volumes on weeds and grasses and a neat little book on coffee.

I've always enjoyed the mail and the quality of surprise it invites every day. I've posted before about my fascination with long hand letter writing.  I make sure I am off of arbitrary mailing lists so that my mail is relevant. With no debt nearly every thing that comes is a gift but I'm still partial to unexpected boxes of presents from blog readers!!!

Electric Vehicle Battery Swaps


Electric Vehicle Battery Swaps
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I got pulled over by highway patrol a while back while driving our little neighborhood electric vehicle. The cop was bitching about needing to have a license plate and registration. I told him it's cool this is a EV no need to register. He didn't agree and we went back and forth on it until he threw his arms up in the air and stomped back to his car. I didn't get a ticket. He couldn't give me one since I was on a side street (not a highway). Anyway I didn't drive the vehicle or charge it for two months and three of the batteries were shot. I swapped the dead flooded lead acids and switched over to some small gels I've been collecting. I'm slowly converting the vehicle to all gel batteries so it will be lighter weight and easier to maintain. My distance will be limited even further, but this town is so small that I cannot go over 2 miles in any direction anyway.

Electric Vehicle Battery Swaps #2

20110428

Morning Chamomile Harvest


Morning Chamomile Harvest
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I've read that harvesting chamomile flowers in the morning is the best time of day to do it. I've been doing so every other day and storing just the flowers (no stems) in a paper bag to dry. I made tea with the fresh flowers which is unbelievably delicious with honey and relaxing.

Mesquite Harvesting ETA


Mesquite Harvesting ETA
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

The mesquite trees have flowered much earlier this year than last. My guess is that we will be harvesting pods by mid-June for flour and molasses.

Make Wine Not War


Make Wine Not War
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Just racked our second pinot noir wine kit over to it's glass carboy. It still has three more weeks to go before we bottle it. When this kit is done that will be #10 for us. That means we have bottled (and drank with friends) over 300 bottles of wine in 1.5 years. Here is the crazy part:

Our cost is $2.75 a bottle: $825 for 300 bottles
Buying wine is at least $10 a bottle: $3000 for 300 bottles
Buying equivalent wine starts at $20 a bottle: $6000

We are saving $2000 - $5000 by making wine from kits and paying ourselves nearly $100 a hour to do it.


Make Wine Not War #2

New V Shape Carving Bits


New V Shape Carving Bits
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I damaged my one good bit while making circuit boards earlier this week on the CNC. Fortunately zentoolworks quickly shipped a box of 10 replacement tips. You can see how I nipped the tip off the old bit on the left. The new bits are .15mm (about 6 thousandths of a inch) in diameter. I'm hoping these tips will give my circuit boards the fine traces they need.

New V Shape Carving Bits #2

20110426

North Wind Preparations


North Wind Preparations
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

It's another windy day in TorC. Gusts are expected up to 60 mph. I went out this morning and took down our shade cloth over our porch and confirmed that the solar panels were tightened down. The part of the
forecast that concerns me the most is the 30 mph northwest winds anticipated for this evening. That is a big deal because those winds get right behind the solar panels. Mental Note: When you setup a PV
solar system do not use top of pole mounts if at all possible. Ground bases systems are inexpensive, easy to maintain and will not fall on your home.


North Wind Preparations #2

20110425

Yep, More Circuit Crap


Yep, More Circuit Crap
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Almost done with the schematic for my third generation of battery charger & desulfator. I have a ambitious goal to do the layout and print the circuit boards tomorrow.

20110424

Circuit Boards are Being Made Here!


Circuit Boards are Being Made Here!
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Cut, soldered, and tested my first milled PCB today. Everything went smoothly and I think I have the hang of it. Getting good clean tracks came down to mounting the copper board securely. Alignment is
critical. If the boards height is off by a 1000th of a inch I get uneven cut depths with burrs in the copper.


Circuit Boards are Being Made Here! #2Circuit Boards are Being Made Here! #3Circuit Boards are Being Made Here! #4Circuit Boards are Being Made Here! #5Circuit Boards are Being Made Here! #6

20110423

Circuit Board Milling


Circuit Board Milling
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I spent the afternoon making three pretty low quality circuit boards. I'm stilling figuring out the nuances of the circuit design software. The thing that is killing me right now is trying to get cut lines for the mounting holes and board edges. I'll figure out a work around tomorrow.


Circuit Board Milling #2

Circuit Board Milling #3

Interesting Technique


Interesting Technique
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Wendy took a bunch of photos of this guy going against the river current using a umbrella. I think he comes here every year.

20110422

CNC: I Love V Shaped Carving Bits


CNC: I Love V Shaped Carving Bits
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Big difference in todays cardboard cut out from yesterdays. I switched over to a V shaped carving bit (30 degrees) these cost about $2.60 apiece. Yesterday I had used an endmill which was just too large with its 40 mil diameter. Just look at the difference. I was able to even stuff the cardboard with components just to confirm their footprints were accurate.

I still need to figure out how to mark the edges of the board as cut lines in the gEDA/PCB software. I'm feeling ready to cut some copper.

Seedlings Reloaded


Seedlings Reloaded
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

Wendy transplanted out most of our seedlings this week and restocked our east facing kitchen window with 120 more seedlings.

Irrigation - The Never Ending Story


Irrigation - The Never Ending Story
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

We are always complaining about shoveling. Every project seems to need a hole or a trench dug by hand. Well I'd like to take a moment to complain about plumbing. Nothing requires more digging than running our irrigation lines. At the moment we have six zones in for our irrigation system (each one with it's own solenoid). We still need two more zones to get out of the hand watering business. Lot's more digging ahead to get those last two zones in place.

20110421

CNC Cardboard Test


CNC Cardboard Test
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

I designed a simple battery charging circuit for the CNC to cut out. Rather than go right to copper circuit boards I figured it would be best to do some tests with cardboard. The flute I'm using is 40 mills wide which is pretty damn big and causing some issues. I'll see what I can do to fix up the traces before going to copper.


CNC Cardboard Test #2

Radish Harvesting


Radish Harvesting
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

These are the radishes wendy picked for todays lunch of sesame noodles and relish.

Scents of Spring: Spanish Broom


Our Stunning Spanish Broom
Originally uploaded by mikeysklar

At each doorway we are met by flowers with strong scents. Here a spanish broom emits a perfume that makes all who pass by pause. By the other door, two honeysuckle that do a similar job.

Day of the Radish

It's shocking how many radishes are ready in our garden. The pic above is 15 oz, probably 1/10th of what I've grown. I figure I better just start cooking and preparing it any way I can.  Here are a couple of the better dishes. Tomorrow I'm going for baked radish chips.


RADISH RELISH
8oz radish made into long thing slivers
zest of a lemon plus it's juice
zest of an orange plus it's juice (i also used orange powder)
2 tablespoon brown sugar
bit of salt and pepper

Put all into frying pan and fill with water till nearly covered. Boil then reduce to a simmer for 30 min as the water evaporates off. When it's syrupy it's done.

We'll use this relish on a smoked tofu sandwich with steamed carrots.
COLD NOODLE
10 oz any asian noodle (I used egg) cooked then put in the fridge
10 oz quartered radishes put in fridge
1/2 cucumber skinned, seeded and diced put in the fridge
a hour later mix up: equal parts (about 2 tablespoon) soy, sesame oil, balsamic vinegar.

In a serving dish lay down a sprinkle of black sesame seed, then a bit of radish and cucumber then noodle and continue like this to make about 3 layers. Drizzle dressing over top. Garnish with fresh celantro.

Finally Fennel

I'm not sure why it took me three years to get fennel started in the garden but here it is! I love it on oranges drizzled with balsamic vinegar. As it matures the fennel will shift from a topping to part of the substance, the base will grow into a sliceable vegetable. Fennel is also a helpful bitter that aids in digestion.

20110420

Garden Map: Attempts at Order


Every year I revise this garden map. It represents all our growing areas. As I plant seed or seedling I track it with this map. At any time the map may show what is maturing and also what has been underplanted. All in all I usually forget to put a bunch of stuff in but it does give me a basic quick glance and it has been helpful both in identifying what's coming up and knowing not to plant on top of new seed that is not yet visible.

Calendula Seed in Stock

Gardening friends. . . I listed Calendula Seed in the Holy Scrap Store because I noticed that many of the favored big suppliers are out of it. The seed I have is a lovely variety that comes in mostly yellow in the range of yellow to orange. It's a prolific, fast grower that comes up fast. I plant a few and next thing I know I have a field. I use it for salves, tincture and a variety of products for health and wellness in our home.

Enjoy and happy gardening!