20120331

Aphids Delivered by Ants - Tanglefoot to the Rescue


Having experienced this trick before this year I identified it early. Though only leafing for a couple of weeks the peach tree's leaves began to curl (see pic). Closer inspection revealed loads of aphids. Closer still and I was able to see that aunts were running up and down the tree busily. They raise aphids!
I applied a simple remedy. First I washed down the infected parts of the tree with soapy water to reduce the aphid population. I tried to flood them out and wash them away. Then I took a product called Tanglefoot, a sticky goo that's similar to melted lip balm but sticker. I painted it on the tree trunk being sure to go all the way around it. The aunts will not cross it, they are not able to. I went ahead and checked all the other fruit trees and while none were infected by aphids yet the aunts were marching up and down the trunks. I applied tanglefoot to all. Now I just need a little ladybug action.

I put up to shots, one of a normal leaf on the peach tree and the other showing the aphid infested crumbled leaf.

Cauliflower Flowers

I noticed that the cauliflower's pre-flowers looked a lot like broccoli rabe so I hopped on line and found that they are in fact edible. I clipped them and made a gnocchi with shitake mushroom and cauliflower tops cooked in shallots, tarragon, and a dash of white vinegar. To that I added a light cream sauce with nutmeg. YUM! The cauliflower taste just like rabe.

Puppy Love

Puppy Love by mikeysklar
Puppy Love, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

We have been waiting for this day. The day when our dog Sesame finally allows the cats to rest against her belly. Baby IO was the first one to get this close.

Vanilla Bean Extract

Vanilla Bean Extract by mikeysklar
Vanilla Bean Extract, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

We should have tried this a long time ago. Today I split and removed seeds from six grade A vanilla beans into a glass bottle and added 1 cup for 40% alcohol. Vodka is preferable to use as it has a mild taste.

Vanilla Bean Extract #2

Wisteria I Love You

Wisteria I Love You by mikeysklar
Wisteria I Love You, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

This wisteria vine that Wendy planted this winter is so happy. It smells and looks amazing. This plant is in the pea family so it's no wonder that is this far along in early spring. In a few years this plant my cover portions of our shade structure. It loves being on the north side of the structure which has almost constant shade.

Apple Blossoms

Apple Blossoms by mikeysklar
Apple Blossoms, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Wow, this is one of four of our apple trees. It's blossoms are looking really strong this year. When the winds pass we will thin them 6" apart. This should produce larger sweeter apples and prevent the branches from snapping themselves from too much fruit.

Arc Attack

Arc Attack by mikeysklar
Arc Attack, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

We saw a lively performance in Socorro last night. Arc Attack from Austin played a show for a few thousand students. The coils and science were awesome. I was a little disappointed with dramatic storyline and music. My feedback for Ark Attack would be more geekery less kids stuff.

20120329

Summertime Misting

Summertime Misting by mikeysklar
Summertime Misting, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Usually we get cooked by the sun all summer long. Even with shade and swamp coolers it's just too damn hot. This summer will be different now that I've discovered these $0.70 mini misters that plug directly into 1/4" tubing. I hooked up four of them to my shipping container and immediately saw the steel wall temperature drop from 114.5F to 72F.

Summertime Misting #2Summertime Misting #3

We Got a New Toilet

We Got a New Toilet by mikeysklar
We Got a New Toilet, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

This was a the biggest mistake we made during our trailer remodel nearly six years ago. We should have pulled the nasty old green toilet when we were tiling the bathroom. We didn't and had a nasty old toilet in there this entire time. Wendy was sick of it so we hired a plumber to help us swap it out.

Seedlings Going Out

Seedlings Going Out by mikeysklar
Seedlings Going Out, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

We have already transplanted blue corn and beans into the outdoor beds from the east window seedling trays. We easily do six rounds of corn from seedling to transplant before this first freeze this fall. This is going to be a good food year for us due to winter rains and a early warm season start.

Seedlings Going Out #2

Broccoli Rabe!

The garden's jumping with cold crops, today I plucked a bunch of broccoli rabe that was about to be taken over by aphids. Soaking, then hitting it with a hard sprayer clears them, mostly. I have to wonder how many aphids a year I eat?

Mikey Repairs the Swamp Cooler Again!

If there were a contest on keeping swamp coolers working Mikey would win. Ours is fitted together with an odd variety of parts that are anything but swamp cooler parts. It works! Luckily the ugly monster is well hidden behind the house.

20120328

Distiller Progress

Distiller Progress by mikeysklar
Distiller Progress, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

I managed to distill quite a bit of alcohol from what was a pretty crappy fermentation that kept locking up on me. We have about 1 quart of 160 proof to play with and a half gallon of 80 proof.

Plumbing Clog Fixed

Plumbing Clog Fixed by mikeysklar
Plumbing Clog Fixed, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

I'm a little disappointed that we didn't try to handle this one ourselves. A recent drain clog has been making our lives miserable. We have had issues getting a plumber out to work on our stuff, but Wendy solved that. She tapped a neighbor who is connected to the old boy network and within 12 hours a plumber, assistant and owner were on site with a roto-rooter. They fixed the clog easily.

Holy Scrap Products at the TBA Store

I stopped by our local community kitchen this afternoon to pickup a check for Wendy. While I was there snapped this photo of the products she is selling. The store was loaded with delicious breads, jams, honey, teas, greens and brownies!

Everybody is Up

Everybody is Up by mikeysklar
Everybody is Up, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

I noticed the cherry blossoms, grape leaves and the ever so important mesquite buds are open. This is out indicator that spring has arrived and we are past the last freeze. It's time for us to start transplanting hot crops from their seed tray and placing them in unprotected beds.

20120325

Jay and Ryanne Return

Jay and Ryanne Return by mikeysklar
Jay and Ryanne Return, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
Our friends Jay and Ryanne were in town this weekend. We took them to the local hang outs, yard sales, thrift stores, the lake, a hike and cooked some meals together. We originally met up with them six years ago through a mutual friend. After a series of conversations we convinced them to quit their day jobs and become full time homesteaders. There are few people that we can sit with and have so much in common to talk about. We learn quite a bit from them on each of their visits.
Jay and Ryanne Return #2Jay and Ryanne Return #3

Cat Climbs to New Heights

Cat Climbs to New Heights by mikeysklar
Cat Climbs to New Heights, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Our black cat Scardy decided to climb on top of a niche style gate. This is a first.

Alcohol Fueled Weekend

Alcohol Fueled Weekend by mikeysklar
Alcohol Fueled Weekend, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Oddly enough we made a lot of alcohol this weekend. I did four passes in the distiller creating nearly a gallon of 100 proof alcohol. Just a experiment. I'll try taking it up to 192 proof in our little distiller later this week. Our friend Ryanne helped us make a gallon of mead and kicked of a white wine kit (chardonnay).

Alcohol Fueled Weekend #2Alcohol Fueled Weekend #3

Table Repair

Table Repair by mikeysklar
Table Repair, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Wendy through a fit about repairing this old table. I kind of like it even with the dork wagon wheels. Ten minutes with the gorilla glue, a piece of sandpaper and some C clamps did the job. It actually feels sturdy and received some compliments from our friends. My fingers are still black due to the glue that got all over them.

Table Repair #2Table Repair #3

Shade Up

Shade Up by mikeysklar
Shade Up, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Whew, it was a warm weekend. We made it up to 84F and needed some shade to cool down. Wendy and I pulled the 20' run on shade cloth over our outdoor porch while we watched the cherry blossoms open.

Swap-O-Rama-Rama Spring Season Begins

As you may know I am the founder of the non-profit textile event Swap-O-Rama-Rama. There are already several events in cue including the annual Maker Faire in San Mateo and new this year, one at San Francisco's Exploratorium.  Keep an eye on the "find one in your area" page of the Swap-O-Rama-Rama website to find one near you. If your in northern California and would like to participate in the Swap-O-Rama-Rama at Maker or Exploratorium contact Erin Scholl (erinescholl (at sign) gmail.com). See the artists open call below. 

20120322

Relay Drama Holding Up Da Pimp's Release

I'm bummed to report that the battery { tester, charger, desulfator } I've been working on for months is suffering from additional delays. Right now, a latching relay has failed QA testing. The component works for a while and eventually fuses the armature on the set side of the contacts. I have three replacement relays (different models) in testing and a possible new location on the board for the relay. Either way it sucks because the release date has been pushed back and the PCBs I've had printed will probably not be used. I'm sorry.

Child Labor Day

Child Labor Day by mikeysklar
Child Labor Day, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

My 10 year old neighbor Jackson is on Spring break and has been asking me to teach him to solder. I put him to work running the CNC and assembly a YATC temperature controller. He did a great job and produced a fully functional controller in about two hours.

20120321

Convert Text to Audio easily on OS/X

I am a veracious reader. Well, kinda that's not entirely true. It's more that I can listen to 1 or 2 audiobooks a week plus several podcasts. This is perfect for me because I can work on electronics and do chores around the house while digesting media. The thing that kills me is when people give me hundreds of pages of text to read. I recently discovered that there are multiple ways on osx using default tools to convert text to audio files.

My preferred way to is to run the text through the "say" command. Make sure it is UTF-8 formatted text file.

$ say -o data.m4a -f data.txt

The other option is you can go into

System Preferences --> Keyboard --> Keyboard Shortcuts --> Services --> Text --> Add to iTunes as a spoken track

Now whenever text is selected you have a option to have a audiofile appear in itunes of what is in your clipboard.

First in the Ground: Fin De Bagnol

Fin De Bagnol beans are first to sprout, today they went into the garden. We hope we've had our last frost. But just in case I will plant another round of seed indoors.

20120319

Purple Potato Frittata

Purple Potato Frittata by mikeysklar
Purple Potato Frittata, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Frittata has become a Holy Scrap favorite. Every other week Wendy makes one that saves us from having to think about what to make breakfast for several days.

Tempeh and End of Winter Veggies

We have loads of carrots, some broccoli, garlic, onions. . . all the late winter veggies growing in the garden. We coupled them with our homemade tempeh for a killer stir fry. Realizing recently that all the ingredients in the sauces we once bought were in my kitchen I made a sauce out of honey, kombucha red wine vinegar, garlic, ginger, black pepper and tamari.  Yummmmm.

20120318

YATC - General Appliance Temperature Controller Changes

We have made some minor changes to our Temperature Controller designed for fermentation and refrigeration.

- New Firmware: Tighter tolerance on the hot setting +/-1 degree with 10 sec delay
- Avery Label: QR Code and goo.gl shortened link
- Heat Shrink on spade connectors

Temperature Controller #2

Man Down

Man Down by mikeysklar
Man Down, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

We experienced some big winds all day long. They held steady at 40 mph with gusts to 60 mph. Now rain and snow is on it's way. We found this port-o-potty downed at the park. Yuck!

Dandelion: first to process


The dandelion's are the first plant to kick off what is a summer long endeavor of drying and processing plants. Once they flower I pull up the plant and cut the root that I dry on a wire line in the kitchen window. Once dry I'll chop the root rough and put it in a jar. The tea is a wonderful liver cleanser especially when paired with milk thistle which is also a local plant. Throughout the year and about every month I drink the tea for about a week.

When our dog Sesame was severely poisoned by too high a dose of a vaccine, it was this liver cleanse (dandelion root and milk thistle) that helped push the toxins from her liver. I kept her on it for a couple of months. Now like me she'll drink the tea for a week or so each month just to assure good liver functioning. In a world as toxic as ours, these periodic liver cleanses are a good idea.

Hackett in NY Times

Hackett in NY Times by mikeysklar
Hackett in NY Times, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Bravo, Hackett! Wendy and I had some of our first dates at the Madagascar learning to weld and cut steel there. We met each other for the first time 10 yeas ago at the Madagascar Party "The Hurting". We are happy to hear that Hackett is now writing a book and in the front page of the NY Times.

20120317

Maker Faire Meetup

Maker Faire Meetup by mikeysklar
Maker Faire Meetup, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Charel and Wendi came down from Albuquerque to speak to local makers and crafters about their upcoming event this fall. If you are interested in having a booth, giving a talk or doing something related to Maker Faire Albuquerque please e-mail Charel Morris ( charel at stonecirclepro dot com ).

Caramel Ephedra

Caramel Ephedra by mikeysklar
Caramel Ephedra, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

I have been experimenting with new products for our store. The latest product we are considering a is caramel infused with mormon tea. Since this has a strong stimulating effecting I've been handing it out to friends for testing. Feedback is welcome.

Caramel Ephedra #2Caramel Ephedra #3Caramel Ephedra #4