Scardy Cat Got Skunked

No you can not come into the house!


Sesame's Friend has a Special Sweater

I don't know this dogs name, but we have seen him at the park for the last three years. His owner doesn't speak much english besides "pee pee" and "caca", but she is a really nice woman.

Knife Sharpening with Kyle

Knife Sharpening with Kyle by mikeysklar
Knife Sharpening with Kyle, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
I've been waiting for this tutorial for a while. Knife sharpening is an art. Electrics and motorized devices do no service for good high carbon blades. I didn't know anything about what to look for to sharpen knives with stones. At our Homestead Gathering Kyle spent nearly a hour showing us how to identify a dull knife, sharpen it with a the correct stone and hold the blade at the proper angle. Dull blades be gone!

Knife Sharpening with Kyle #2

Flying into the Homestead Gathering

Andrew can talk on many topics like his plane or laser cutting business Xylocopa. He gave a riveting talk at our Homestead Gathering. The subject was raising urban livestock. He reminded us to consider why you want to actually have animals living on your property and the kind of acts required for taking care of them. His summary suggests start with chickens before getting into turkeys, rabbits or quail (which he also raises). Andrew is the first homesteader to fly his own plane to our event.

Sand-Casting Aluminum with Luke Iseman

We all know someone that it would be a bad idea to loan a vehicle to or let housesit for a month. Well, Luke Iseman is that person in our lives. Of course he's also brilliant and lovable and we'd lend him our home any time, maybe not the car! Luke has been to three of our homesteader gatherings and at each he pushes the envelope with the kind of projects that can leave a permanent burn. This year he showed us how to sand cast 3D printed objects in aluminum. He had a forge that he put together from found parts and some casting sand with a few jigs to hold it all together. After we put all the pets inside the house at a safe distance from the giant hot flame of the forge we melted aluminum in the yard. While the model of a bow tie came out messy due to a variety of conditions he managed to show us the potential for casting parts in aluminum with very high accuracy in less than one hour.

Sand-Casting Aluminum with Luke Iseman #2

Sand-Casting Aluminum with Luke Iseman #3

Water Guru Brad Lancaster

To open our Homesteader Gathering this year water guru Brad Lancaster gave a talk on mesquite and discovering your place. I've heard several of Brad's talks, this one was new. He began by asking us to consider our place on earth, what it had been and what it is now and he left us with a question. What are we doing with it? It was powerful to be tied to our respective positions. We each stand on top a story that includes the original condition of the land followed by a near century of development that in most places deposited pavement over earth and sent water running away from the ground where it is needed. Brad led us through the effects of these developments and showed clear and concrete ways to engineer what's been done into a better form that includes curb cutting, community projects that celebrate local foods and medicines, and ways to manage our own slab and invite the return of bug and bird alike. Brad is always a dynamic speaker and tireless social engineer. In his home city of Tucson he's introduced new ordinances and laws.

No Two Homesteads Alike

Diversity is found in parallel with the ground most common to all, the home. Having a home includes managing water, building and maintaining shelter, care taking land, and other fundamental things. Yet homesteads vary like patchwork quilts and once a homesteader is on a piece of land or in a building (rented or bought) they modify space uniquely.

Jeannie and Kyle's home started out a DIY teardrop they lived in on BLM land. Their move to T or C increased their sq footage from 160 to something larger but still they pride themselves on their tiny home, in spite of being themselves 6' and taller. 

Guests at our Homestead Gathering came from cities far and away like Atlanta and San Francisco and so their homesteads were presented through photos beamed by a projector, but we got to visit Jeannie and Kyle's place and explore their hay mud walls, and unique approaches to creating space. 

Farmer Loves the Sun

Mike lives in rural isolation on no economy. The joy that his lifestyle produces is easily felt by anyone who should be lucky enough to cross his path.  He is thankful for every thing, person, plant, good night's sleep and and beam of sunlight. His pleasures include building and cooking in solar ovens. With delight Mike demonstrated an oven he built 7 years ago. It still uses the sheets of tin foil he applied when he first made it. Inside he filled an old sturdy dutch oven with grains from the farm along with chard and spices and cooked us a remarkably delicious dish. 
When Mike was up for cooking duty in the house and helping a group prepare dinner he stumbled over my stoves dial wondering about its mechanics. An indication of how broadly he uses the solar oven. He forgot how to operate a stove. Mike also shared with us a treasure from his own experience. Since he lives on no economy, he is a land caretaker who trades presence and care for shelter and earth to tend, when he comes across a person with an idea or project that he feels supports life he lends himself to it. He needs nothing in exchange, just a bit of land and the sun and rain that he thanks quite frequently before beaming a smile that seems to have nature hiding in it. 

3D Printing for the Homestead

Every time I see my  friend Luke Iseman (every couple of years) I can be sure he's up to something edgy and and often dangerous. Admittedly 3D printing is one of his safer new hobbies. He hauled his printer from San Francisco along with everything needed to sand cast aluminum and camp in our yard. Before casting in metal he created an object to use as a mold, in this case a bow tie made from PLA. The device is a tad fussy but once tweaked it made a spot on bow tie. His printer came in kit form and better models do exist, but it worked well. 
Some of the 3D applications that we talked about were replacement parts for home widgets and simple objects like a fork. Many agreed that 3D printing has a way to go before it is push button ready for a non tech consumer. Mikey made an excellent point. He said that once we have machines that make goods like an on demand coffee cup, bottle cap, or replacement machine part, ignorance is sure to follow unless the home user also understands the machines itself, can build it, program it and fix it. 
 Once finished with the 3D printed bow tie, Luke showed us how to cast it in aluminum on his homemade forge. Luke's hoping to cast expensive bike replacement parts next.

Loom to Drop Spindle Homesteaders Discover Natural Woven Textiles

It is a magnificent discovery to find a person who is so much aligned with their desire that they become inseperable from their creations, surroundings and things. This is my experience of friends Jeannie and Kyle, weavers who joined the Truth or Consequences community last year and are being celebrated still.  For our annual Homestead Gathering they demonstrated how to use a variety of looms and a drop spindle and gave a lovely talk on wools and textiles. 

The giant loom demonstrated by Jeannie. 

Combing wool. 

At this year's annual Holy Scrap Homesteader Gathering Kyle taught phycologist Andy Potter to spin with a drop spindle.

Homestead Gathering #3 - 2012

This weekend we hosted our third homestead gathering. Like my previous project Swap-O-Rama-Rama this gathering demonstrates a model that can be replicated. It can not be a public event because part of its formula is that there be no spectator - everyone who attends teaches. Guests are chosen for  uniquely honed skills that can be shared and applied to the making of a post-consumer lifestyle.

Guests live together at Holy Scrap for a long weekend, cook and clean for one another, teach workshops and give presentations off laptops that at night we beam on the wall with a projector. There's hikes, yoga, medicinal plant walks, hot springs soaks and moderated talks on topics fundamental to our lives like economy and our relationship to it. Guests range from rural folk to city dwellers.

This year's workshops and presentations included: mesquite milling, harvesting water, knife sharpening, working a loom, spinning wool, reviving dead batteries, coffee roasting, home manufacturing, PV solar, DIY household products, urban livestock, sand casting aluminum, 3-D printing, illicit aspects of homesteading, cooking in a dutch oven, sun oven cooking, natural wine making, building furniture with a CNC (shop bot), making bio fuel, and home building/modification. * note: not all our presenters have URLs to link to.

Something special happens when people live, cook, clean and create together, when they teach one another, when nothing is for sale and there is no where to go. This context leads to a relaxed familial environment in which profound and meaningful conversations naturally arise. Our group found themselves remapping their context in the world. We all live individual lives and it is easy to forget the way those lives interlock and link up with the life of the world community. Sharing how we solve problems and innovate living it becomes easy to see that wherever one is their efforts are relevant. Someone living a life in rural isolation void of a monetary economy has something to offer the city bound who designs open source kits meant to aid city dwellers in growing food. This weekend the drop spindle met the CNC; the corporate gig met the simple farmer, each person a reflection in a faceted world. When shared intentions meet a variety of contexts it becomes quite clear that this world is being recreated through every form. A diverse age range makes it clearer still that different energies have their time. One may move from the front line to a more covert hidden position. Angst and anxiousness play their part as does achievement and contentedness. This group was in agreement that adaptation and change are key modes in this age and considered if social engineering is a modern artistic medium.

I hope that the following posts give a glimpse of the formula so that those who wish to can copy it. It goes something like this: choose great people with specific skills who are aligned with sharing (open source, gift economy); ask each to arrange a 30 minute workshop or talk on an area they are excited about that pertains to creating a post consumer life. Invite them to come together for a few days at a single location where they can camp. Create a schedule that allows each an opportunity to cook and then clean for the rest. Mix in nature and contemplation: plant walks, hikes, yoga. And most of all enjoy!


Switch Fix

Switch Fix by mikeysklar
Switch Fix, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Our front light died soon after the last stucco job was finished. I finally got around to diagnosing the problem and replacing the damaged $2 light switch.

YATC3 - 350 PCBs Arrived Today

Just minor footprint and silkscreen corrections.


Yeah, I Pickled That

Yeah, I Pickled That by mikeysklar
Yeah, I Pickled That, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
I made some super sour pickles that Wendy will not go near. I left them in half gallon mason jars with bubblers for 3 weeks and then refrigerated them. The kimchi also seen here didn't hold up as well. I should have put it in a fermentation slowing device (fridge) after 1 week.

Sun Drying Tomatoes at the End of the Season

Our hot crops are still going, but we can see the end nearing for them. We have some cool nights in the forecast with the low temps dropping to about 40F. I'm not worried about the tomatoes and loofa just yet, but the last few years we have had to run out and harvest everything in the second week of November. Until then we will keep on drying.


On Demand Hot Water - Day 1

On Demand Hot Water - Day 1 by mikeysklar
On Demand Hot Water - Day 1, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
We are on our first day of having running hot water in our home in nearly a year. Despite being a all day event on Sunday I'm really happy with how smoothly the water heater install went. In about one month we can see the impact on our gas bill that having a tiny 2 gallon flash hot water heater has on our gas bill.


Tamper Success

Tamper Success by mikeysklar
Tamper Success, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
It took over two hours to tamp the new path by our shade structure. I'm really happy with how it turned out. You can see a half way to completion shot here.


Hanging Ladders

Hanging Ladders by mikeysklar
Hanging Ladders, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

I mounted two fiberglass ladders to the side of our tool shed. It's nice to get them off the ground and out of the way. Drilling through the shipping container wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but making enough room on the other side to tighten the nuts was no easy task. I should have used rivets.

Water Catch Modifcation

Water Catch Modifcation by mikeysklar
Water Catch Modifcation, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Two of our water catchment tanks are exposed to the west setting sun. This is a big deal in our region as anything facing west gets cooked throughout the summer. We were late on getting a piece of metal in place to protect the tanks, but we finally did it.

Dirt Packer Made from Random Crap

We have a mountain of crusher fines left over from the flagstone work around the tub. Wendy has been creating new paths, but we really needed a way to pack the dirt. I checked with friends and went to the hardware store, but I was not able to find a off-the-shelf tamper. This led to the creation of the random ass object in my hands. Black pipe + found metal plate and a few minutes of welding = tamper.

Dirt Packer Made from Random Crap #2Dirt Packer Made from Random Crap #3

2 Gallon Flash Water Heater

We turned off our water heater last winter and decided to just go without one. We shower using the hot spring water so having a water heater in the house seemed unnecessary. The big drawback was not having warm water for dish washing. We decided to try out a 2 gallon ($150) on demand natural gas water heater to replace our 30 gallon tank. I'm curious to see what our natural gas bill looks like once we install this.

First Pages

First Pages by mikeysklar
First Pages, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

Wendy has received the first color printed draft of her book with most of the layout in place.

Wendy at the Coffee Shop

Wendy at the Coffee Shop by mikeysklar
Wendy at the Coffee Shop, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.

We have made huge progress cleaning up our property and garden areas over the last month. What is our secret for getting all this work done? We run off to the local coffee shop almost daily for snacks and iced toddy.

VW Beetle Rear Tail Light Repair

The plastic cover for our right rear tail light fell off the other day. Rather than make any significant investment we just glued back in place. As usual I used too much gorilla glue and later had to remove a trail of foamy mess.

Strange Colored Beams Emanating from Spaceport

New Mexican's are always seeing odd things in the sky. Its not uncommon to find folks who tell long tales about aliens here. We do live near white sands and often jets too fast to see but too fast to hear fly overhead. Odd flying machines that are surely military peruse our skies often. The last to nights at dusk I saw these pink lines. Each night there were three just like in the photo, all pink from the sunset and coming from the same spot, the location of the Virgin Galactic Spaceport. Hummmm.

Cleaning White Walls

A contractor friend taught me a neat trick for cleaning white sheet rocked walls. You need a pine/green cleaner (non toxic one's do exist) and a rough sponge (often green). Spray a bit of pine cleaner on the sponge and scrub. Wala!

Small photos = before and after
NOTE: the brand in this photo is not one of the non toxic brands. Whole Foods has one and there are others, look around.


Pinot Noir and Mead Bottled

Pinot Noir and Mead Bottled by mikeysklar
Pinot Noir and Mead Bottled, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
Just filled our wine racks with our two most recent alcohol ferments. This should make for a festive fall season.

Pinot Noir and Mead Bottled #2Pinot Noir and Mead Bottled #3Pinot Noir and Mead Bottled #4


Homesteading in a Trailer

Homesteading in a Trailer by mikeysklar
Homesteading in a Trailer, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
Wendy and I have a photo of our home (it's a trailer!) featured on The Walden Effect. We contributed some text about homesteading in a trailer and will be featured in Anna's next eBook tentatively titled "The Simple Trailer Life" or "The Trailer Homestead".


Sourdough Flax Crackers

Sourdough Flax Crackers by mikeysklar
Sourdough Flax Crackers, a photo by mikeysklar on Flickr.
I've been on a quest to create and then eat the most sour of fermentations. This week I used our rye sourdough starter combined it with soaked flax seeds, chipotle, lemons and salt to produce a tasty sour cracker. The mix was placed in the dehydrator at 110F overnight. It now needs a dip to compliment it.