Posts Tagged ‘Sustainable living’

No thermostat heating for us, no sir, we like to hard work.

No thermostat heating for us, no sir, we like to do things the hard way.

You know the saying “Wood heats you twice…once when you get it and once when you burn it?”  How about when you stack it and/or split and move it?  For all the time we’ve lived in Oregon, we’ve always heated with wood.  There were times when we had so little wood we’d gather it off the beach.  We’d bring it home, split it, only to find it was too wet to burn.   Since we’ve lived here so long, the trees have grown up around us and now we have the option to cut on our own land.

Cat wants to help

Cat wants to help

Stacked up in sun to air out

Stacked up in sun to air out

This is the closest thing to a tractor that I've always wanted, but our acreage just doesn't justify a tractor.

Daughter is driving the power wagon…the closest thing to a real tractor that I’ll ever have.

Splitting wood the easier way.

Splitting wood the easy way…letting your adult children do  the heavy lifting.

Cooking on the wood cook stove

Garbanzo bean and veggie soup cooking on the wood cook stove…tea water always hot.

When our old stove wore out, we wanted to get a stove that would heat the house AND cook our food if needed.  We looked at some fancy catalogs, saw some very nice nickle-plated stoves and stoves that would heat a 24 gal. tank of water, but with our smaller space, we settled on the Baker’s Choice.  We can cook on the 6 sq. ft surface, bake in the oven, and heat the whole house.  The firebox is big enough to hold 10″ diameter wood.  While I miss seeing the warm glow of the fire, this stove heats the house and cooks very well.

Big Eddy enjoys the heat.

Big Eddy enjoys the heat.

15 year old Cody appreciates the warmth.

15 year old Cody appreciates the warmth.

Read Full Post »

Myy new raised bed made from scrap siding.

My new raised bed made from scrap siding.

After watching a video about extended season gardening about 15 years ago,  my wife and I decided to try it out.  We had to make a few adjustments to keep the tents from blowing down in the wind.  By strapping 1.25″ pvc to the inside of the wood we can adjust the height of the hoops…one year we’ll have short hoops for greens, the next year we’ll have tall hoops for tomatoes.

Those raised beds served us well, but are starting to rot.  When we replaced some partially rotten wood siding on the house, I decided to use it as a replacement raised bed.  I sawed out the rotten areas and just cobbled these together to get a 4′ x 16′ x 14″ tall bed.  (1.22 m x 4.87 m x 35 cm)  I painted this time with some left over house paint, hoping it will protect the wood for another 15 years.

I added two drip watering grids by using 8′ (2,44 m) pieces of pvc.  The joints do not have to be glued because with all the holes drilled in them, they won’t leak.   I drilled the holes about 6″ apart (15 cm) on each side and then plant where the water comes through.

Companion planting  (Look at the comfrey site too)

We’ve had trouble with growing carrots in the past.  Sometimes they fail to germinate.  If we get them to grow early in the season, the slugs get them.  So we wait until July or August, but then we get a carrot maggot, those little worms that tunnel into the carrots.  So in an effort to grow great carrots AND avoid the tunneling worms we found leeks to be a good companion plant to carrots.  They repel the carrot fly.

Drip water grid.  By not gluing the joints, I can use the same hose to grid connection, by slipping it off one grid, and onto the other.

Drip water grid. By not gluing the joints, I can use the same garden hose to water grid connection, by slipping it off one grid, and onto the other.  Also I can ‘mix and match’ the pvc to fit longer or shorter beds the following years.

Carrots and leeks growing well

Carrots and leeks growing well

3/4 inch pvc hoop slips easily into socket (Looks like I didn't paint it very well)

3/4 inch pvc hoop slips easily into socket (Looks like I didn’t paint it very well)

Deer love carrot tops, so to avoid building a 10' (3 m) fence all around the garden, we opt to net everything.  I've tried twine, wire, and now fishing line

Deer love carrot tops, so to avoid a high fence all around the garden, we opt to net everything. I’ve tried twine, wire, and now fishing line to tie the netting to some pvc.  It’s a very tedious job, but once it’s done, little effort is needed to flip the netting off.  Just remember to flip it back or the deer will enjoy.

By placing the plastic, I can decide to protect against the raging storms, or to let a gentle rain soak the soil

By placing the plastic, I can decide to protect against the raging storms, or to let a gentle rain soak the soil.  In winter, I keep the plastic on to protect them in frost or the occasional snow.

Healthy carrots and leeks

The reward are healthy carrots free of little black worms and leeks for the winter dishes.

Read Full Post »

This shed was being dismantled at a mill near where I live.  I had to ask what they were going to do with it…and that’s how I ended up getting this 900 sq ft (83 sq. mtr)   building.  The cinder blocks in the foreground provide a bridge during the rainy season mid-October til late May.

We love to garden but with our shallow well we knew we had to be careful with the water and not over plant  In the winter we would watch all the rain fill the creek and wash into the ocean…in the summer we had to be frugal.  Since this shed had a metal roof I started thinking about catching some of that rain water to keep for the summer.  I wanted an above ground tank so I could gravity feed…no need for a pump.  I found a used 3000 gal tank that was in good shape and set it up on the gravel bed.

After getting one tank I figured it was such a great idea, i bought a second tank knowing the price would never be lower.

After getting one tank I figured it was such a great idea, i bought a second tank knowing the price would never be lower.  I extended the gutter down pipe to reach.  This photo was taken about 9 years ago when I started using them.

Watershed to tank via hijacked gutter.

Watershed to tank via hijacked gutter.

It helped to have the kind of downspout that is circular so I could adjust to any angle.

It helped to have the kind of downspout that is circular so I could adjust to any angle.

The sieve catches any small debris that might have made it down this far...keeping it out of the tank.

Every year we clean the gutter first and then let the first few rainfalls drain to the ground, rinsing the roof of pine needles, bird poop, and leaves.  The sieve catches any small debris that might have made it down this far…keeping it out of the tank.  It also holds the pipe in place, as nothing is glued.  I need to be able to adjust to the second tank.

Only 5 days of rainfall, this tank is full.  I've got to hook up the second tank.

Only 5 days of rainfall, this tank is full. I’ve got to hook up the second tank.

Our annual rainfall is 60 inches  (1500 millimeters) which we receive between mid October til late May.  In the summer sometimes there’s no rain for 3 months.  That’s when we need more water for the blueberries, fruit trees, and artichokes.  We tap into this water, but we have to remember to shut it off.  We can easily lose 1800 gallons overnight!

This water is used ONLY for irrigating the garden, not for drinking water which would have to be filtered.

Read Full Post »

Solar panels installed in June 2009

If it looks like these panels were not purchased all at the same time it’s because they weren’t.  I bought them as I could afford them.  The bottom four were purchased first.  When I wanted more I was told that Brazil was buying all they could make…just wait a few months.  I didn’t want to wait but found some compatible ones built by Solar World right here in the US.

I wanted to be able to produce my own electricity for “just in case” scenarios.   Since we get all our water from a well, if the power grid goes out, we can’t get water.  While the power doesn’t go out very often, when it does, we are without both water and electricity for several days.  I wanted to be able to power those ‘critical load’ items like the well pump, a few lights, the refrigerator and freezer.  Plus I wanted to prove that solar power can be used even in cloudy climates in states that are “north.”  I live on the Oregon Coast.  If it works here, it can work in 75% of the US.

In fact, this system works so well that in the summer time, I have so much extra power I can run my printing presses with it.

This is a sticker I apply to everything I print with solar electricity.  I would be surprised if any other printers in the US could claim that.

During the rainy season it’s a different story.  Our rainy season is roughly mid October to late May, so it was a big surprise when we had an unexpected sunny day a couple days ago.  We had had rainy weather for about a week and my batteries were down.  The meter said I was a MINUS 109 amp hours.  I was going to have to do some  serious charging.

Minus 109 amp hours  before noon

The charge controller shows we have 34.3 amps coming in right now.  If we can keep that going, it’ll take a little over 3 hours to charge up.  I hope the sun stays out.

Minus 57.9 Amp Hours at about 2:20 pm.  We are catching up while producing power at the same time.

We’ve already produced 134 amp hours and the sun is still shining!

170 amp hours produced by the end of the day.

The sun stayed out and the batteries are full.  Not bad for an autumn day.

My “Solar Roller” water pump and a solar oven…

Read Full Post »

Bee Beard Log Hive in front of Bamboo

When I decided to place my new Bee Beard Log Hive I considered many things.  I wanted it placed where it would get the morning sun shining into the entrance, well beyond the long reach of the tree shadows in winter, and protected from the raging winter winds that blast from the southwest.  Also I wanted the hive to be visible if possible, on the edge of the garden, so we could observe the bees whenever we worked outside. The placement of the hive in front of the bamboo satisfied all the requirements.  What I didn’t know is that bamboo attracts wasps.  When I started seeing all the wasps on the bamboo I started to panic.  What are they doing around my log hive?  I started recalling the stories at the bee meeting about all the hives that are lost to wasps.  How did I know bamboo attracts wasps?  Is that common knowledge?

Wasp on Bamboo leaf over Bee Beard log hive.

The bamboo was leaning over the log hive…are the wasps going to attack my bees?  What to do?

I plugged the last gap by stuffing the inner tube into it.  Wasps won’t  get in here

Found a piece of bamboo that fit the 1 1/2″ (3.81 cm) hole. This reduces the hole making it easier to guard against wasps.

After  consulting the internet about bamboo I found out that wasps gather fibers from the bamboo for their paper nests.  That’s what they are doing on the bamboo, not attacking the log hive,

Wasps are scary because they can sting again and again, but they also are beneficial because they prey on other pests like spiders, flies, bug, and caterpillers.

We feel that wasps have a place in our garden.  We won’t kill them because they really aren’t bothering us or the bees,   The ground hive is almost never used the next year and once the cold weather hits, it will be inactive.

I shot a short video showing the wasps on the bamboo as well as the very active ground hive.,,

Spider captures wasp.

Chainsaw artist Brian Vorwaller, carving the face on the log here.

Read Full Post »

Our nights get down to a chilly 47 degrees F (8 deg. C.) so without extra care it would be impossible to grow things like peppers and eggplants.

Water grid in place, hook up hose and place transplants where the water drips out.

Add hoops, deer netting and the plastic film weighted with 1×2’s nailed to  2×2’s.

This is what it looks like now (after 3 1/2 months) with some calendulas that my wife won’t let me take out and a volunteer Swiss Chard.

The green peppers are small because the nights are so cool, but at least we get some.

Japanese eggplant (the only one that will ripen here because it’s smaller) is finally ready to be picked.

Tomatoes are coming on strong…ready for sandwiches or to be roasted.

Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, string beans, carrots, beets, basil, (and other herbs like oregano and thyme), onions and garlic slathered with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  Roast it at 425 deg. F for about 25 minutes or until the tomatoes start to brown.

After this cools, we throw it in the blender, then it goes into the quart size freezer bags so it will stack up well.  It can be used over rice or potatoes, or as a spaghetti or pizza sauce.

Check out planting tomatoes in a cool rainy climate.

Read Full Post »

Burying the very available crab shell and coffee grounds to spice up the soil is the first thing.  Warre hive is on the left and Bee Beard carved log hive on the right.  I’m in good company.

Potatoes…should we harvest now or leave them in to grow more?  If I leave them in, the voles might eat them…I better take them out.  Then I can plant buckwheat in both beds.

Red Pontiacs – Three at once

A mole tunnel…the moles dig the tunnels, the voles follow the tunnels to the potatoes. More than a few potatoes had been chewed on, so it was good idea to get them out of the ground.

Some of the potatoes harvested from this first potato bed. We could have left them in to grow more, but the voles would have taken a big bite out of our harvest. This way we can grow buckwheat in both beds for the bees in September.

We’ve been fairly successful in the “no tilling” method for a few years.  We think it’s important to use less manufactured energy and more physical energy.  Is spading  ‘as good as’ using a  tiller?  Probably not, but it’s important to be able to grow food without using fossil fuel for the possible time when we don’t have any.

We have dug in crab shell, kitchen scraps (no meat), comfrey leaves, and coffee grounds to enhance the soil. Now we’re planting the buckwheat seed.

The drip irrigation grid and the deer netting are in place.

Why do we need deer netting? Because of her…and all her offspring!

According to this article by the Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute “…buckwheat crop seems to improve soil tilth, and is reported to make phosphorous more available as a soil nutrient, possible through root-associated mycorrhizae. Buckwheat flowers profusely, making it popular with bee keepers and an attractive crop in the landscape.”

Sept. 9, 2012...about 5 weeks after planting, buckwheat is looking good.  Bees are on the blossoms already.

Sept. 9, 2012…about 5 weeks after planting, buckwheat is looking good. Bees have been working the blossoms for a couple of weeks already.

Sept. 9, 2012...Honeybees attending to the buckwheat blossoms.

Sept. 9, 2012…Honeybees attending to the buckwheat blossoms under the deer netting.

A fly mimicing a bee on the buckwheat blossom.

A fly mimicking a bee on the buckwheat blossom.

My wife saved me the ultimate embarrassment of thinking I found some kind of new bee. “Honey, that’s a FLY!”  “Ulp.”

Another fly, this time with a red abdomen.  My wife saved me the embarrassment of thinking I found some kind of new bee.  "Honey, that's a FLY!"

Another fly, this time with a red abdomen.

Read Full Post »

I decided to try out growing some mushrooms after my daughter sent me a mushroom growing kit from the SF Bay area.  They were oyster mushrooms and worked well, so I wanted more.  I trade printing services for the opportunity to pick up coffee grounds from a place in town.  I only needed about a five gallon bucket load.

Since we are adamant about having as many car-free days as possible, I try to use the bicycle as much as possible.

Two full buckets…that’s heavy. I hope the wind is at my back on the uphill stage.

Drill holes in the bottom of the bucket to drain the excess water

The whitish spawn comes in a package.

Four hands mix it up

All mixed up and ready to wait. It takes about 3 weeks to start showing.

I placed the bucket outside under some fir trees. It’s mostly in the shade with a couple of slices of sun early and late.

Day 18…whitish color on surface of mixture. oh boy,  it’s going to happen!

Day 25 Ain’t they cute?

They are growing at Day 28. Soon we will cut just a little to try out. The directions say that 1-2% of the population is somewhat allergic. If you eat just a little and get a reaction, it’s better than eating a bunch.

Just to be sure they were ready, I inquired about the mushrooms.

Letter from Fungi Perfecti

Day 30…Harvest time. I wish I could say I ate a small sample to test it out, but I couldn’t hold myself back and ate the whole batch!

For more uses of coffee grounds, tap into this web site…

Read Full Post »

The first raised bed planted is usually the first to be harvested, enhanced, and replanted

This raised bed was planted in late March.  It’s time to harvest the lettuce and cabbages, add soil amenities, and replant. We try to keep the use of a car to a minimum so today we’re getting the crab shell and coffee grounds using the bicycle and trailer.

Loading crab shell from Tony’s Crab Shack into bicycle trailer

We like to use whatever is naturally available.  We’ll use coffee grounds, crab shell, kitchen garbage, leaves when available (in the fall) and garden trimmings.

Scooping up coffee grounds to add to the soil

Kitchen garbage is a surprising source of nitrogen for the soil.

Fresh crab shell gets chopped up. The soft parts will decompose by the time the roots reach it. I’ll be planting this within 3 days…can’t waste any time.

I’ve tried adding fresh crab shell to the compost pile…DON’T DO IT!!!  It stinks for days.  If you bury it, you won’t smell it, and you’ll be surprised by how fast the microorganisms in the soil will break it down.  Just keep the dogs out of it.

Getting filled up

I hate pulling out the kale flowers that the bees love so much, but if I don’t, the deer will get under the netting and eat up my little transplants.  I’ll hang it upside down in the greenhouse and save the seed.

I can’t believe I actually needed the shade cloth, but the little transplants were wilting…it serves a dual purpose in preventing (I hope) the deer from investigating. The old netting got tangled in the kale and had to be cut away.

Soil enhanced, transplanted, protected from deer and ready for Prime Time…no more wimpy shade cloth needed here

We started working on this bed 5 days before we planted.  That may seem like we’re not leaving enough time for the scraps to break down, but there are 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12 cm) of soil and we figure by the time the roots get down there, it will be decomposed enough.  We’ve done it many times and it seems to work well.  The worms love it.

Tap into this web site for more info on the use of coffee grounds in the garden.

Here’s a video of digging a short trench in a raised bed and loading in the goodies…

Read Full Post »

Get out the Solar Oven and let’s have enchiladas for lunch.

Enchiladas for lunch.

Now that the sun has warmed up the soil enough to plant, we’ve got to hook up the Solar Roller. These panels are mounted on a 2 x 4″

Solar panels on handmade wheeled cart

cart with some old lawnmower wheels attached. Since I have many trees shading parts of the garden, this roller allows me to follow the sun. I can actually get 12 hours of sun-pumping water into the large tank in the background and then gravity flow to 1/2″ pvc placed in the raised beds. The kit came with solar panels, submersible pump, and a Dankoff control box. This control box allows the pump to kick on in low light and works so well that it’ll pump on a gray shadowless day. I’ve even seen it pump during a light rain.

Gray shadowless day, solar pump still working…thank you Mr. Dankoff, for inventing the controller that makes the pump work on a very gray day!

The tank feeds into a regular garden hose and into the water grids. The grids are drilled with 1/16” holes. Hook up the hose to the grid and plant next to the holes.

Drip water grid in tomato bed

Drip watering potatoes

Placing the plants next to a pre-drilled hole.

Ready to close the tent on the warm loving eggplant and peppers

And that’s how we spent Mother’s Day, how about you?

For more solar check out my little solar system.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts