Another Weekend Spent Making Circuit Boards

Spent the weekend working on a large 6" x 6" 2-sided circuit board. It's a slow process to get clean traces.

Looking for Water

Looking for Water by mikeysklar
Looking for Water, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Yesterday was the first cloudy evening we have had in a week. I took the opportunity to dump some fuel in the grease car and take off for Elephant Butte Lake. Unfortunately, the gas cap on the Mercedes was stuck to the point that I had to get some vice grips from the tool shed to open it. My guess is that biodiesel is eating away at the gasket on the fuel tank cap.

The landscape around the lake changes so quickly that I cannot even keep up. I've started taking pictures of different areas to explore for possible skimboarding. Now I need to figure out how to get to them. The roads are limited and most of the sand is too loose for me to drive in.

Looking for Water #2Looking for Water #3Looking for Water #4

Curse of the Silver Horse Nettle

When we purchased our homestead five years ago there were two types of plants.

1. goat heads (aka puncture vine)
2. silver horse nettle

These are two of the most undesirable weeds in the area and we have worked hard to remove them. This morning I woke up and ripped out the latest infestation of nettles. They are a rhizome so I expect to see them again, but at least I can stop the seed from spreading.

A few people have told me that the fruit of the nettle can produce a vegetarian rennet for cheese making. Has anyone tried this or know of a website with more info? The plant has the look of a evil nightshade so I'm not about to just toss it's fruit into a warm pot of milk.

Curse of the Stinging Nettle #2

Loofa Party

Loofa Party by mikeysklar
Loofa Party, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Our loofa is coming in and it is bigger than ever. I pulled a pair of the 18" long loofas today and tossed them in the drying rack. This is the start of a long and sort of tricky process. In the end we will end up with abrasive sponges. I'll post more about the drying process as it progresses.

Loofa Party #2Loofa Party #3


Jean Cameron

I am blown away by floral designer Jean Cameron. I saw her vanishing floral arrangement that welcomed guests to an event called Vanishing Art.  She describes the work's vanishing nature - shifting from left to right - from vital and living to the absence of life -  as a metaphor for the time in which we live,  transitional and calling for appreciation into a larger spectrum of experience.

Time Slur

I am tempted to report that all hell has broken loose, after all I've been waiting for the moment to do so for a long time. It will come. And when it does small talk will end. I left New Mexico on Tuesday.  If not for Mikey swearing that life back there is entirely normal, mundane, just as I left it, I would tell you that this is the moment I'd been waiting for.  But not yet.

The first 12 hours of my trip to NY... 
* Drive to airport with friend who's putting mother in law with dementia on plane to meet unwilling children in Hawaii and move in with them. 
* Catch my flight. Land to switch planes in Chicago. Learn of east coast earth quake, largest in 100 years.
* Connecting fight brings me to Albany and the immediate news of a coming hurricane due to hit entire eastern seaboard
* Text message arrives, friend who's set to pick me up at Albany airport had heart attack, is not coming
* Text message arrives:  friend who I am due to stay with in Brooklyn's mother had stroke, wont be returning from Washington to host me
* Text message arrives: other friend who I am due to stay with in Brooklyn is being evacuated due to hurricane
* I remember that the last time I left NYC for an extended period I returned just a few hours before the twin towers blew up
* Made mental note: hold on! 

To be continued. . . 


Storm Chaser

Storm Chaser by mikeysklar
Storm Chaser, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Woke up and decided to rack our long overdue kombucha. Just before closing the bottles I added a tablespoon of pure prickly pear. Then all the bottles were placed in a 5 gallon bucket incase another one blows up.

After sitting at a desk working on a circuit board all afternoon I convinced Sesame to ride the lightning. We jumped in the grease car and went to Elephant Butte to enjoy the storms coming in from all directions. When we got home the storm intensified to the point of constant lightening as if a strobe light were on. We got a inch of rainfall in one hour.

Storm Chaser #2Storm Chaser #3


Typical Tuesday

Typical Tuesday by mikeysklar
Typical Tuesday, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Wendy kicked off her lengthy New York trip today just in time to catch the earth quake which was rumored to have knocked a glass over. I'm kicking it with the pets and keeping up the homesteading activities while she is away. I had a typical Tuesday.

- repaired two damaged garden hoses
- found loose connection in electric vehicle
- made a quart of greek yogurt
- cleaned up kimchi explosion in the cheese fridge
- walked Sesame twice
- swam half a mile at the pool
- 10 hours of circuit design on algae controller

Typical Tuesday #2Typical Tuesday #3Typical Tuesday #4


Digital, Intellectual & Creative Etiquette: Not Simple

At times I feel stuck by where our culture is at.  We are deeply invested in capitalism and materialism which has a fear based gripping as if we're saying "there's not enough" and at the same time people are earmarking the social sphere with invitations to loosen this grip.

Sharing, volunteering, swapping and giving - as if to say, "there IS enough" - is popping up all over. We see this with the Without Borders groups and in anonymous gifting in the public space (to name a couple). There are models too, the creative commons & open source.

For those invested in intellectual property things are still weird. It is so easy to take another's inspirations and sell them on the market. TV show producers, book authors, anyone in the creative 'industry' can peruse blogs and essentially steal another's life experience by replicate it for financial gain.

As a blogger I credit where an inspiration came from when I write about it. I do this casually, "our friends at ____ " got us started on ____. Or "after seeing this on ____'s blog." I like logging the evolution of an idea and threading a community of like minded people together by leaving a cookie crumb trail.

When people are making money from intellectual property and under pressure to come up with ideas, phrases, titles, content and inspirations nothing but personal morality prevents one blog from predatory content lifting from another. And so I ask, "where is digital etiquette?"

It feels awful to have your inspirations and creativity lifted and sold on the market with no credit given. When both parties are making a living off of intellectual property it is worse than theft because it leaves the one who's inspiration it was unable to use their own words and ideas.

I want a world in which ideas will not be owned and so I find myself conflicted. Right now I'm stuck with a flimsy cliche, "one bad apple. . . ."

HS blog readers what are your thoughts on the subject? What might intellectual property/digital etiquette look like? What exists already?

Photo: Meowolf installation Santa Fe, NM


Windowsill Luck

I've been trying to grow medicinal plants that are not native to my region. Since they don't adapt well to our blazing UV rays and drought conditions I'm having better luck in the kitchen window. Finally I've got skullcap and valerian root doing really well. Oh and a lovely orchid that loves monsoon season has blossomed again!

Little Bit Of Cute

In need of a couple of outfits for an upcoming trip I pulled out a sweet but plain dress and added some button and ribbon work using a home sewing kit my good friend Heather made for me. It took all of a half an hour to turn out a lovely little dress that I used to wear to go to the pool but can now easily be dressed up with boots and worn just about anywhere.

Frustrated with the IRS

Frustrated with the IRS by mikeysklar
Frustrated with the IRS, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
I've been asked by the IRS to hand in the paperwork for my overdue taxes. While I was filling out the forms I kept wondering, "where are the credits for CO2 footprint?" There are energy credits  but they are too narrow for most people to benefit and the credits have almost nothing to do with CO2. They really invite people to buy more crap. For example they ask, "Do you have a hybrid vehicle?" And then they go on to state they only credit electric hybrids. Well what about my grease conversion car that runs on diesel, biodiesel or straight veggie oil? Or my 100% electric vehicle that is powered by our solar system? How bout the Beetle I make home made bio for that gets 50mpg? None of these count.

If I were to write my own tax form the questions would look something like this:

Do you have a garden? (yes) (no)
If so, how many square feet?
What percentage of your food do you grow?
Send us some photos of your garden
If you grow 25% or more of your food your are elgible for a credit.

Do you have a alternative vehicle?
What type is it (electric / wvo / biodiesel / ethanol / steam / pedal powered / something innovative)
Are you able to achieve over 50 mpg?
If so, the IRS would like to credit you for every mile you have driven by paying a percentage of your fuel costs.

Do you harvest rain or grey water?
How many gallons?
The IRS can offer you a money per gallon of capacity for every year.

Do you have a PV solar system?
If so, the IRS would like to offer you a $1 per installed watt (eg. 2kW == $2,000 a year) for every year it is running.
What percentage of your electricity usage does it cover?
Did you install it yourself?
If so, the IRS would like to offer you $500 for the first year and $100 for maintaining it yourself.

Did you build a building with your own hands?
If so, the IRS would like to offer you a $1 per square foot for every year that it is in use.
Does the building require heating or cooling beyond what it can generate on-site?
If so, there is a $1 a year per square foot penalty for not being self sufficient.

The Greasy Days of Summer

The Greasy Days of Summer by mikeysklar
The Greasy Days of Summer, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

The warm summer weather makes for easy processing of waste vegetable oil into fuel. Winter requires us to heat the oil all day just to filter it. I was able to process about 20 gallons of grease and bio in less than 30 minutes today. Most of that time I was changing out a battery in our electric vehicle.

A New Park

A New Park by mikeysklar
A New Park, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
A neighbor told us about a park that her husband was fond of. We never heard of it so we grabbed Sesame and went off to find it. As you can see by the photos the view is crazy. In the background is Elephant Butte lake, well what's left of it. Much of it dried up in the drought. The park is a treasure!
A New Park #2A New Park #3

Multipass CNC Milling

Multipass CNC Milling by mikeysklar
Multipass CNC Milling, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

I've been thinking about how to reduce the time it takes for me to CNC hard materials like plexiglass and copper circuit boards. My latest approach is to pull my designs from gEDA/PCB into Inkscape and generate a gcode file which does multiple passes. The idea is to do 1/100th of a inch passes one after the other rather than have me manually re-run the file. I'm still manually editing the gcode file to make sure it does logical things like cut out the object from the material last and do all the small internal cuts first.

Multipass CNC Milling #2Multipass CNC Milling #3


Vanishing Art: An Intimate Festival of What May Be (Next Week)

I'm getting ready to head out to NY for a much anticipated spin in the city, visit with old friends, and of course to give a keynote on the topic, Reimagining Art in a Material World as well as moderate a couple of salons at the Vanishing Art Festival in the Berkshires.

If you happen to be on the east coast know that you are invited to join in. There's still space left and I'd love to see you! Here are the details. . .


New Lebanon, NY - Over the days of August 24-28, 2011, a unique kind of arts festival will take place in New Lebanon, New York. The Vanishing Art Festival, sponsored by Seven Pillars House of Wisdom, will gather a community of visual and performance artists, as well as poets, philosophers, and thinkers of all kinds, to consider what life could look like if we return to the deepest, most spiritual dimensions of art as practice and experience.

Throughout the festival there will be performances, artist interviews and talks, meditations on art, social and music lounges, large group conversations and small group discussion salons. Each day will include a large-scale work of "vanishing art" - artworks that literally vanish after being created - one for each of the four alchemical elements: earth, air, fire and water, involving all participants in a significant symbolic and artistic act. 

Unlike other festivals, The Vanishing Art Festival is intentionally being kept small, no more than 100 people in total, to allow deep connections between participants, between participants and art, and then ultimately between all that exists and the natural world. 

Many celebrated artists will attend including Carolee Schneemann, the famous multidisciplinary artist who focuses on art as it relates to the body, sexuality and gender; Phong Bui, an installation artist and the influential editor of the Brooklyn Rail; Robert Kelly, the poet and professor at Bard College who has published over 50 books; Fred Johnson, an acclaimed jazz musician and performer; Syrian-born Bisan Toron, a vocal improviser; Dorothea Rockburne, an abstract painter inspired by mathematics and astronomy; Drew Dellinger, a poet who performs and speaks on themes of cosmology, ecology and compassion; and Wendy Tremayne, an activist and performance artist who offers remedies for materialism, with her interactive workshop Swap-O-Rama-Rama, functioning in more than 100 cities worldwide.

Other participants include David Levi Strauss, Raymond Foye, Charles Stein, Robin Becker, Yuval Ron, Charlotte Mandell, George Quasha, Susan Quasha and Pir Zia Inayat-Khan; Christopher Bamford, editor of Steiner Books.
The Vanishing Art Festival will be held at the mystical and magical Abode of the Message, a retreat center and community located on the outskirts of the Berkshire Mountains, in Columbia County, NY. 

Look Who Got an Elizabethan Collar

Oh boy. . .   we were back at the vet in Las Cruces today. It seems nothing can heal when it's being scratched at ferociously. Sesame has progressed to the elizabethan collar, optical antibiotics and an anti inflammatory.
This has been a most interesting back n forth between natural and traditional medicine. Tradition is taking the lead for acute symptoms while herbal remedies will likely lead for for the longer term systemic side of the story. And sorry friends about all the dog posts.  When the loved pets are sick everything else seems to matter a whole lot less. Prickly tuna's can be picked another day.



Friends, I have an important announcement. Mondays don't suck. We have been listening to The Carpenters. Rainy Day's and Monday's Always Get Me Down is stuck on the tongue here. Mikey will whistle it or I will hum it and activate the loop cycle one gets stuck in when a tune gets glued in in the head. It's not so bad really. I love the innocence of The Carpenters and Karen's voice is unmatched in pop history. All this has reminded me to remind you that there is nothing wrong with Mondays aside from the fact that they represent the start of a week of working for someone other than oneself. But of course that is a choice. Once your no longer in that particular rut Mondays are quite lovely.

PS: It is Monday and it is raining and Mikey just served me a gigantic blackened marshmallow on a plate.

White Zinfandel

White Zinfandel by mikeysklar
White Zinfandel, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

We bottled up a another batch of kit wine this weekend. This turned out to be a 9.5% white zinfandel. It's a deliciously sweet summer wine that tastes great at the end of a hot day.

White Zinfandel #2


I Can't Stop Repairing Chairs!

Yet another chair called to me from the trash. I used the fix it in three days or throw it away policy and went right to repairing it.

Though I am chair abundant I figured this one was good aluminum, one of my favorite metals, light weight and with chemical properties that prevent rusting. And all it needed was a new seat. OK I admit I have a little chair repair problem. . .

Porch Couch
Libby & Tristans Covered Wagon Couch
Ol' Metal Clunker
A Pallete Chair
From the Dump 
Not Good Enough For Thrift, 1970's Wire Chair

How to Get Things Done

People often write to us asking, "how do you get so much done?"  There are a few ways to answer this. All would be incomplete without the reminder that we made a labor-heavy life for ourselves and it demands getting things done otherwise we'd have to go get a 'traditional' job which we're not willing to do. Here are a few more answers. . .

There is truth in the saying, "If you want something done give it to a busy person." Things in motion stay in motion. Be busy.

We have more time than most people because we don't commute anywhere.

Sometimes we drink heroic doses of caffeinated beverages, specifically coffee and tea. Of late I'm enjoying the plant stimulant rhodiola. We often enjoy the ephedra plant that we harvest locally.

It's important to learn get past the need to like the thing your doing. This way you can get to know the state of "doing." Any love we have for doing one thing over another is acculturated learning. We can love doing for doing sake. And we ought to experience this before we choose to do the things we love to so that when we do we can enter into what can only be described as pure joy. There is a saying, "Whatever we wish to know well we must first love." Love is an attractive force, it brings things to us. What I am suggesting that we add to that is that we first find love in everything we do.

Today I will share one more strategy for getting things done. Do you see the picture of my desk posted here? I did not stage this shot. My desk looks like this all the time. I never ever let a pile of things build up on it, not even a list of undone to do items. One must live their life as a screen door that lets the breeze move through it with out any effort. There is no pile of leaves built up at it's base blocking the air flow. Clutter out crowds newness and space is a container for creativity, good ideas, gifts, movement, surprises and all sorts of other things.

Consider for a moment our biology. The atom is there and then it is not, it exists only in as much as it is nonexistent. It's condition is flicker. Our lives must in some way reflect what we are essentially made of. We are material and other. We can concretize and we do when we make things and ideas, we ground things in matter. But to have an inspiration to ground we must be spacious and formless. So go clean your desk!

Pickin' & Processing Pink Prickly Pear

We are so impressed by the taste of kombucha prickly pear tea that I've gone running out the door with tongs to pick fruit in season and process it into concentrate for the winter. What can I say but, "oh la la!"

Broadway's Creative Swell

T or C's downtown is made up of a mile long loop of Broadway and Main St. In the five years we've been here we watched countless businesses come and go. Many could be predicted to fail upon opening. But a town like this is a place to dream aloud and people do. They try ideas out by renting storefronts as cheaply as $150.00 a month. A friend recently rented one for $50.00. Trying out an idea is fairly risk free.

Today Broadway is virtually without an empty storefront. The occupants in the stores are creative and nuanced.  There are many gallery studios occupied by a single artist. Our loop is the antithesis of the monotony of the franchise and strip mall.

The businesses that do well  here sell used merchandise: clothing, furniture, stuff. Through the five years of ups and downs this has been a steady truth, T or C is a place of reuse. Garage sales are competitive and very well attended as are the auctions that sell off estates. Dumpster diving is not something for the poor, it's a creative endeavor to seek treasure in trash. Our most successful businesses are thrift.

This reminds me of the goals I have had in the making of Holy Scrap, to create an environment in which there would be no sign of commodification, no logos, nothing manufactured, nothing too new and everything home made. Little did I know the whole town would become this. For any psyche that's been over marketed to and for the one who's forgotten what creativity looks like from too much time in sprawl,  T or C is a strange third worldish paradise.

Pictured here is a performance that took place last night. It was created and performed by Brooklyn-based dance and multimedia artist Sarah Dahnke who is visiting T or C as part of an artist in residency program along with her volunteers Susan Dunlap also an artist in residence. Susan is here as a writer but last night anyone would have believed her to be conceptual modern dance performer. They were accompanied by local Josh Frankel and his band. Looks like we're in for a winter of good art hops if we're this vibrant in late summer. Yay!


The How in the How To: CNC'ing a Stencil

In creating our new Eat Mesquite product we had to figure out a few things in order to home manufacture. I want to quickly share how we used our CNC machine to create the stencil for the packaging.

I provided Mikey with the art and he ran it on the CNC using a v shaped carving bit. We carved the image into mat board, the kind you use for picture framing. It was free, scraps at the frame shop. The CNC did three passes to complete it. What took the most time was doing a million revisions of the art to arrive at an image that had fat enough lines without compromising design.

Eat Mesquite: A Holy Scrap Original

As you know I've been enjoying designing and creating products for our new cottage industry. It's challenging, creative and fun. I'm proud of the product I'm launching today and have spent a good deal of time developing it. Here goes. . . 

My goal here is the introduction of a local super food that is currently ignored and forgotten, mesquite. To get mesquite noticed and appreciated a teaching tool was needed and that's what I created. 

First let me tell you what's great about mesquite. It's got a great carmel like taste. It's a superfood, both a sugar and protein. It has been food and medicine for natives for millennia. The pods are soy and gluten free and calcium rich. The sugar in them is a slow glucosamine and so a good sugar for diabetics. 

The package is a reusable and biodegradable 11 X 5 X 2" pillow box that I stenciled an 'eat mesquite' design on to in burgundy. The pillow box is crammed with pods that we picked in season and solar oven dried. Attached to the back are instructions on kraft paper, they boast the unique properties of mesquite and explain how to make flour and use the zester. Compostable blue hemp twine attaches to the body of the package a Microplane zester for zesting mesquite into recipes. 

People say that we give others the gifts we wish to receive ourselves. I think this is the case here. I would love to get a gift like this. I am a foodie, I love cooking, natural health and exotic foods like mesquite. I love that once I consume the contents everything biodegrades expect the zester which I would use as a camping and travel zester since it's small and I have a bigger one already at home. 

That's the pitch. Whatcha think? Oh yeah, it's in the Holy Scrap Store. 


Hold Onto Your Prickly

Hold Onto Your Prickly by mikeysklar
Hold Onto Your Prickly, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

We made the most amazing drink. I swear that it tastes just like a cherry flavored Jolly Rancher. We started with our usual peach oolong kombucha and added a few tablespoons of pure prickly pear juice just before bottling. Our prickly pear fruit is not particularly sweet or enjoyable in it's raw form, but once it ferments it changes to something truly unbelievable.

Hold Onto Your Prickly #2

Apple Cinema Display Repair

Apple Cinema Display Repair by mikeysklar
Apple Cinema Display Repair, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

I had a good scare this week. The fancy pants 23" Apple Cinema Display I use with my laptop decided to stop working. I googled around for the LED flashing codes I was seeing and found a odd work around to the problem. The 90W power adapter is prone to failure and using a 150W power supply designed for the 30" display seems to resolve the issue. Apparently just bringing in another 90W power supply will not solve the problem. Whatever...I shelled out $150 for a replacement power supply and my monitor immediately came back to life.