The Everlasting Pillow

I've noticed that sewing has become a way for me to release stress. Funny. It used to cause stress! I guess my skills have improved enough that it's flipped.  I gutted three old pillows today, this will be the third time I've used the same fill to stuff a new cover. The pile of blue silk and green chord are the old ones. The narrow long blue and beige are the new.

Those Tomatoes Keep on Coming

I'm still putting them on drying racks and Wendy is making another batch of sauce. I picked these this morning. It looks like we are nearing the end of hot crop harvest. Tomorrow we will hit a temperature of 80F and the following night it is supposed to freeze as another cold front comes through.

Checkout My New Keyboard and Mouse

This is a universal remote that can act as a wireless USB keyboard and mouse. I've been using it on my Ubuntu box for the CNC. It also works on my OSX laptop. It's running on native drivers with no fiddling about required. I love how I can reclaim more desk space from the old clunky keyboard and mouse which I was rarely using. It's called the Rii Mini i6 and sells for about $40.

The Local Smoothie

The Local Smoothie by mikeysklar
The Local Smoothie, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Yesterday I surprised Wendy with a new smoothie blend. The best part was all the ingredients are grown or fermented right here on our property.

- 2 cups yogurt
- 4 table spoons honey
- 1/2 cup soaked almond
- 1/2 cup dried jujube
- 1 tray of ice cubes
- pinch of salt
- few drops of vanilla


Treated Well on Halloween

Truth or Consequences hosts a great halloween celebration. The town's downtown commerce loop, made up of Main Street and Broadway, are the chosen site a wacky parade of children and parents in costume.  All make their way from shop to shop and for one night town's really jumping. Saturday night is the chosen evening for it, ensuring that the greatest number of folks can attend. The costumes are remarkably good! This little festival of sorts is generously organized by local shop keeper Twila McBride who is herself an talented maker of things. She owns a sweet little shop called Moon Goddess where you can find her goods plus tons of vintage clothing and gifts.


Property Taxes : One More Reason to Live Here

Our 2011 property taxes just arrived. We live on a acre of land in the middle of town and pay $278 a year in taxes. Yes, a year!

Spaceport Stuff You Should Know

During the spaceport tour I learned that Virgin Galactic's logo is based on Richard Branson's eye. Also many details about the different companies who have been doing test launches. I've included my notes in mindmap format (created with SimpleMind+ App for iPhone).


Procrastinate with Pants

I managed to procrastinate getting some needed writing done by altering 6 pairs of chords. I thought I was real clever last year when I bought a half dozen of my favorite brand chords from an ebay seller who sold them as new irregulars. I did get them for a steal, all 6 pair for under a hundred bucks. A fancy brand, they retail for $170.00 each. The bummer is that the leg on them is wide. I pride myself on not caving for trend, but I really prefer my pants not to have bells swinging around at the bottom. I dig the narrow leg style that's trendy. So today I modified all 6 pair into a straight leg. After so many years of being a sewing hack, I think I'm finally getting good at it. I modified all six in an hour and a half.

Window Shades: Columbian Coffee Sack

Mikey went to pick up green coffee bean from a friend who supplies us with it and came home with two cool coffee sacks from Columbia. In keeping with my goal of not having anything around that's not in use, I yanked some ugly old curtains in our storage room and replaced them with these coffee sacks. Much better!

Frost: holding out

With a first frost possible tonight we picked some, buried in some (using mulch for a layer of warmth) and tonight we're tucking the tomatoes in under wool blankets. If we get through it, we have a week or two of high temps in which our garden will be able to give up a lot more food.

A Trip to the Spaceport

A Trip to the Spaceport by mikeysklar
A Trip to the Spaceport, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
This morning I climbed into a tour bus along with 30 other Hatch and TorC residents and was hauled off to the Spaceport which is currently under construction - thus the hard hat - a mere 30 miles away. There I saw a 10,000 foot long runway along with good looking structures. Aaron Prescott led the tour explaining what was needed from local businesses and how the facilities would be used. It looks promising, but there are lots of unknowns about where to source materials, food, employees and other services.
A Trip to the Spaceport #2A Trip to the Spaceport #3A Trip to the Spaceport #4


A Little Welding

A Little Welding by mikeysklar
A Little Welding, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
Our cargo gates snapped a small weld during spring's high winds. This morning I dragged out the metal gear, cut off an old metal piece that held the gate's locking arm in place and grinded down the welds before attached a new one. I'm sure it took me over a hour to put a 3" piece of metal back in place, but at least it is done.
A Little Welding #2A Little Welding #3

Dirty Hive Frames

Dirty Hive Frames by mikeysklar
Dirty Hive Frames, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
Harvesting honey is often followed by days of cleanup. The table is sticky, the towels are sticky, lots of mason jars need to be rinsed and re-rinsed with scolding hot water. Fortunately for us the bee's can help with some of this. After we harvest the honey from their frames we leave the empty hive frames in the bee area so that they will take care of cleaning the remaining honey off them. I think they're happy to get some of their honey back!

This is not homesteading, is it?

The point of friction and growing edge in our homesteading life is making homesteading in rural America work financially. Once the city career's nest egg is used up and 401k drained how does homesteading become economically viable? We've been exploring the method of reducing the cost of living and creating a cottage industry using technology - the internet.

We did reduce our cost of living. We grow our food, make our medicines, produce our fuel and power, and create our own domestic products. Favoring waste helps too. We live on one fifth of what we used to require for living. But we're not yet able to make that 1/5th from our cottage industry, the Holy Scrap Store. We're close!

To make up the difference Mikey's designing control systems for alternative energy companies and I'm writing. We sincerely like this freelance work and we're grateful too, but it takes us away from homesteading. Of course as I say this I realize that my whole life is homesteading: making cheese, wine, collecting grease, making bio fuel, welding busted gates add infinitum. . . it's the big projects that are slipping. The list of things that need to get done here has gone stagnant. Welding projects, laying flagstone, finishing our papercrete dome!

This November our online store will see it's first holiday season. Our fingers are crossed. I sure do miss my overalls! Sitting at my desk with a large screen in front of me reminds me too much of a life of clocks, unnecessary pressures and bad food.  But this is the reality of digital homesteading in rural America, at least it is for now.

Open Hardware Logo in Grip Tape

I'm not a clumsy person, but I have managed to drop my new phone several times during my first week with it. I tried a silicon tire tread case, but I do not like the extra bulk and it doesn't work with the dock. Fed up with standard solutions I broke out a roll of grip tape then sat down with my CNC and started milling open hardware logos. The logo looks great and adds a much needed bit of friction to prevent my phone from slipping off the armrest in my car or out of my pocket. We sell them in two packs now in our store.

Open Hardware Logo in Grip Tape #2Open Hardware Logo in Grip Tape #3


Video: Separate Honey from Wax w/o a Centrifuge

There is a proper tool for every job. We didn't have that tool so we made some stuff up with and threw our temp controller on top. Normally when harvesting honey from langstroth bee hive frames you insert the frames in a centrifuge and spin out the honey leave thing the wax. Centrifuges are pretty expensive starting at $300 and would get minimal use from us. This leaves us with the problem "how do we separate wax from honey"? The one thing we are good at here is temperature control so once again we bust out the crock pot and hookup a temperature controller holding a water temperature in the crock of 118F to keep our honey raw.

Video: Separate Honey from Wax #2Video: Separate Honey from Wax #3Video: Separate Honey from Wax #4Video: Separate Honey from Wax #5

Disruptive Technology

Disruptive Technology by mikeysklar
Disruptive Technology, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

This week we sold off our old iPhones, MiniDV Camcorder and Kindle. We are also going to hock our 12MP still camera. Why would we get rid of all this stuff? Our new phones (iPhone 4s) have proven to be a disruptive technology. We no longer need special devices for each task. We can finally take decent photos, videos and read books on our phones. It's a big deal to us as we have been desperately trying to cut down on the amount of material crap we bring into our home.


Gravity Free Tea Gets Higher

My favorite tea is a blend that we make and sell in our on line store, it's called Gravity Free. That's how it makes me feel, light. Happy. It's an especially good women's blend with tulsi in it, a women's basil. Today, after harvesting a massive pile of holy basil I made myself a pot with fresh plant: tusi, mint, mullein and hibiscus. This time, with loads of lemon verbena nearby, I added it for a zing. Wowsa! I think I'm going to revise my recipe! This is crazy good.

First Frost Forecasted

We may get our first frost later this week. Of course it's entirely possible that we'll hold out another couple of weeks! Sigh. The forecast is on the cusp, 37 degrees.

As a way to play it safe we pick daily. Today's pics include several small but yummy single person sized melons, mullein, low acid and other tomatoes, holy basil (tulsi), calendula,  beet tops for tonight's dinner and a pepper.

I'm considering mulching in a variety of sturdy cold crops and hoping they survive the frost. These crops include: celery, potatoes, carrot, beet, parsnip, parsley, leek and strawberry, garlic, wormwood.

These I plan to yank before the expected frost this week: broccoli, fennel, tomatoes, loofa, cauliflower, cabbage, thyme, oregano, tarragon, comfrey, yarrow, mint and loads of gorgeous flowers!

A Winter's Tell Turning Fuchsia to White

We regularly grow a wild fuchsia colored globe amaranth. It gives me a tell that winter is coming. It looses its color. If I pick and dry it now, those flower heads that are still colored will keep their color in full vibrancy all winter.

Times Up Summer Spiders

We are in the habit of letting spiders live with us during the warmer months. They make webs by window cracks and anywhere that bugs sneak in. They do a great job of keeping the house bug free. When we reach our first frost however, they're time is up. Yesterday was annual spider eviction day. I vacuumed up an impressive amount of web. See you next year!

resident, planet earth

At Elephant Butte Lake, after the weekend tourists have left and when the sun is setting, I get the distinct primal feeling of being a resident of earth.


iRobot Scooba Hacks

iRobot Scooba Hacks by mikeysklar
iRobot Scooba Hacks, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Shortly after we moved to New Mexico iRobot started making robots that could mop floors. This seemed like a great idea to us since we always seem to have dust blowing in through the windows or just being brought into the house with daily human and pet traffic. After five years of maintaining this mopping device I've learned a few tricks to keep it running with minimal expenses.

- You don't need to buy iRobot cleaning fluid. White vinegar works fine.

- A drop or two of essential oil (orange, mint, tea tree or geranium) makes for a great clean room smell.

- Warm water will make for a smoother running robot

- The batteries will be a issue. I'm using a capacitive charger which can charge 1 to 5 batteries at a time. I run the batteries to zero between usage and take them all the way up to full with a low 150mA constant current charge overnight. While I have repacked the batteries with different chemistries (li-ion, ni-cd and nimh) my preference is towards buying pre-assembled 3rd party Ni-CD which seem to be the most robust. With proper battery charging and storage you should be able to get 2-3 years out of them.

- Ebay is a great source for used robots with "dead" batteries that sell for $10 - $30.

Digital Lock Warranty

Digital Lock Warranty by mikeysklar
Digital Lock Warranty, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

These digital Weiser locks have worked out pretty well for us. The one gripe I have is that the deadbolts mechanical throw tends to gum up over time as dust gets inside of it. I've contacted Weiser twice about the issue and both times they have sent me new locks. Weiser has a policy where the electronics are only covered under warranty for one year, but the mechanical parts have a unlimited warranty.

Treating Health Care Like a Hackerspace

While watching Wendy interact with her Dr. friend over e-mail I got wondering. What would open health care look like?  Imagine consulting with the doctor of your choice on-line (e-mail / skype / etc), together going over symptoms and coming up with an idea around what may be going on and then testing out those ideas in physical place by having that doc prescribe services like blood tests, x-rays and MRI scans. We already have decentralized blood and xray labs and pharmacies. Why not decentralize medical equipment of all kinds. A system like this might bring the best in their field, located anywhere in the world to people who need them and for much lower costs. For the docs the viewing of images, video and data might be what is most appropriate, depending of course on the medical condition. Do docs need expensive offices and to see every patient in physical space? Maybe shared offices arranged like med centers can serve all docs in a given geography. Stocked with basic infrastructure they can fill the need for giving space were docs actually must see the patient.


0% Juice

0% Juice by mikeysklar
0% Juice, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

I couldn't believe it. 0% juice. Why would they admit to it?

Yum, Beet Tops

Yum, Beet Tops by mikeysklar
Yum, Beet Tops, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Our favorite way to eat the top of the beets is to stir fry them with some garlic, olive oil and tamari. Then if we have happen to have any tempeh and kimchi we combine with the stir fried beets and some rice. Yum....That was dinner tonight, btw.

Still Juicing

Still Juicing by mikeysklar
Still Juicing, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

We have passed mid-October, but shhhh...The gaden doesn't know it. No frosts in the forecasts. I'm still harvesting apples, carrots, celery and beets for our morning juice. I'm just noting this on the blog for ourselves so we can see how late the summer garden goes each year before a frost gets us. I know you are tired of reading about us juicing.

Spaceport Dedication

Spaceport Dedication by mikeysklar
Spaceport Dedication, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Town was packed this weekend with people arriving for the Spaceport dedication. Monday evening I saw news channel vehicles parked at various motels in the area.

VW Tire Patch

VW Tire Patch by mikeysklar
VW Tire Patch, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

As I was heading out of town on Monday to pickup Wendy from a retreat I realized our Beetle had a tire low on air. I stopped by the local tire shop (Quality Tire) for a quick patch. $12 and 10 minutes later the car was ready to go. I had a nail which they quickly found.

A Better Wolfberry

A Better Wolfberry by mikeysklar
A Better Wolfberry, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Last year we were harvesting worlfberries (a cousin of the goji berry) along the Rio Grande. This year I convinced Wendy to plant some wolfberry seeds in a pot we water regularly. The difference between the wild wolfberries and the regularly watered ones is significant. This photo shows our irrigated fruit which is about 4x the size and many times sweeter than the wild ones. They actually taste good :).