Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Shooting the Recurve!


I just recently traded a website with the folks over at Angler's and Archer's for a new handmade recurve bow and boy lemme tell you, my shoulder hates me now. But what fun! I'm forcing myself to take a couple days off from shooting so I can recover but it's not easy!  Tom Dickinson makes these bows by hand from local cherry, walnut and hard maple and they are works of art. He also makes the bow string, cases, quivers, and arrows.

I tried six or so bows and decided on the recurve you see in the image. I've got alot of practicing to do but I've got a knack for it I think. My goal for the next 3 months is to to be able to put 80-90% of my arrows into a 7" circle from a variety of ranges. Thus far I've been shooting from 13-18 yards but would like to have accuracy up to 30 - 40 yards. I'm initially just working on having good form and building up strength in all the muscles involved. My intent is to shoot 60 arrows a day though I expect it will be a month or so before I can do that everyday. I'll work up to it.

I don't see myself hunting anytime soon but I'd like to be good enough that I could hunt if I needed to.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More Chickens!


For some reason I never blogged it but back in April I'd gotten 5 new chicks to add to my flock of aging hens. I've only been getting 3-4 eggs a day so thought it was time to add in some new ones. In the past three months I've also lost some from the old flock, Boots the rooster was killed by some critter or maybe Chip (the original rooster) back in March. Then in July, the friendliest hen of the bunch, Waffle, died suddenly. In mid-August another hen died. All the others have been fairly healthy as far as I can tell. I sure hate to see them die.

Today, I decided to go ahead and let the new chicks mingle in with the older flock and so far it's been smooth sailing. I expect a bit of conflict but at 5 months the new girls are every bit as big as the older hens and should be able to take care of themselves. They'll figure out their new pecking order before too long.

Oh, they are Columbian Wyandotte, a very pretty breed, mostly white feathers but with a bit of black around the neck and tail that date back to 1893. Here's a shot from May with my niece Emma holding one in my cabin. I'd raised the Guineas back in the summer of 2009 but this is my first batch of chickens to raise. All the others had been raised by Kerry, Greg and the kids.

Based on my experience thus far it looks like I'll be adding 3-5 new hens each year to replace hens that have stopped laying and/or hens that have died. I think though that I'm pretty happy with this sized flock, which is 15 chickens and 2 guineas. Seems about perfect.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Being a one man shop


This was actually written for the blog on my freelance Mac consulting/web design gig, MacProductive but I thought I'd cross post it here as I'd guess some of the folks that read a site about homesteading might also be interested in making a living doing freelance type work as they seem to mesh together pretty well. I suppose it's meant to just provide a bit of a taste of what the workflow is like for anyone who's not taken the leap but is thinking of it. I may do a few more similar posts, filling in a few details on the things a freelancer has to think about and do.

MacProductive is not a multi-person business. I do it all. Track invoices, meet clients, code css, set-up tables in FileMaker, set appointments, design graphics in Photoshop, write some content, track project status, remind clients when they've not gotten me something I need, slop the hogs and more. Just kidding about the hogs but I do have a small flock of chickens! Going it alone requires organization and a willingness to develop a large skill set. No doubt it is a challenge but it also keeps things interesting.

Oh, and I should offer a bit of context, in this small town setting most of my work is with small business owners, many of which are not all that tech savy. More than a few of them do little more than check email and browse the web. Several of them only have Facebook accounts because a family member insisted and set it up. They are usually middle aged or older and so busy with their businesses that they've not taken the time to really learn what computers and web technologies have to offer.

Here's an example workflow for one of my recent web projects. First, of course, meeting the client. In this particular case I heard from a friend that they were interested in having me do a site so I stopped into their shop when I was in town. Just as often contact is via email or a phone call. Luckily I dropped in at a time when they could actually spend some time meeting so I didn't have to reschedule a return trip for the initial consult.

We spent time discussing the content and design of the site they wanted as well as the domain name. I set a time to return for some photos. We discussed fees and payment and I was on my way.  A two days later I emailed them an initial design with some basic content written up and in place. A day later I returned for a follow-up meeting/progress report and to take pictures. We refined the text, filled a few gaps, settled on a domain name and I was on my way.

By the following day I'd set-up the domain name and hosting (which I will manage for them, remind them of payments due... another responsibility for me), refined the text and processed images. At this point I fine tuned the design of the site, photoshopped a few images and then uploaded the site. Over the weekend I made a few more refinements and submitted to Google. The following week stopped in again. At that point the site is, essentially, finished. Time to drop off an invoice. Over the next month or so I'll monitor Google and if the business owner can coordinate with his daughter who manages his personal facebook account, we'll get a business page set-up and linked to. Total time on project: about 7 hours and another hour at the shop talking, over the course of about a week.

Apps used to get it all done: Coda, Transmit, iPhoto, TextEdit and Photoshop to put the site together.  iCal for setting meetings/reminders and FileMaker Pro for invoicing.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Petunia and her baby

Petunia was given to me in May 2009 to raise after she was separated from her mother. She's now 2 years old and has her own baby born around May 27th, 2011. Petunia is semi-wild, meaning that she still visits me, allows me to touch her, eats corn from my hand, and, if given the opportunity, will "clean" my arms and hands. She treats me as her mother and at certain times of the year will visit my cabin daily. Other times, usually fall and winter, I might not see her for a week or two at a time.

I don't know yet if the baby is a buck or doe though I'm hoping it is a doe as that would mean Petunia would have a close companion all year. As it is now she hangs with the local deer but I don't think she is a part of their group, probably do to her relationship to me. If the baby is a buck he'll tend to keep more to himself once he has grown up as the bucks keep a bit of distance from the does. Time will tell. In any case the fawn seems healthy and wasn't too afraid of me probably do to Petunia's reaction to me which was not one indicating danger.

My guess is that I'll be seeing them almost daily now that the fawn is past the first week. Petunia visits everyday and the fawn will visit with her. It was amazing to hear the adorable sounds of a nursing baby deer which I'd heard with Petunia when I was bottle feeding her. I forgot just how sweet that sound is. Yes, it is the simple sound of a baby fawn nursing that makes my whole day.

P.S. Where the hell has the month of June gone? This is the third year in a row that we've had a strange spring to be followed by a June that is much more like August. 94-96 degrees??? The forcast for the next 6 days? Above 90 every day. Ugh. While I realize one cannot just look at a day or a month and say, "Ha! Climate change is real and it is upon us!", we've had one record hot year after another. Record numbers of wild fires, record drought, record tornadoes, record hurricanes. Yeah, welcome to human caused climate change.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Heaven on Earth

As an agnostic I don't believe in heaven or hell or any kind of after life. What I do believe in is the beauty and wonder of a simple life lived in the woods surrounded by wild critters. I spent the late afternoon and evening surrounded by such critters. 2 pair of Canada Geese and their 12 young geese as well as the pair that have been hanging around my cabin this spring, Henry and June I call them. After I filmed this and did a few chores I sat on the deck with a blackberry beer and watched them while the cat made himself at home in my lap and demanded attention. Talula sat in the chair next to me. In the background was a mix of John Denver, James Taylor, Bob Marley, Cat Stevens and a few others which blended into the changing soundtrack of birds, frogs and cicadas. Eventually Petunia showed up (without her baby who is nearby) and I fed her some corn. Of course, upon seeing the handout all 18 geese came over and were eating just eight feet from Petunia and I.

Really, if this is not heaven on earth I don't know what would be. I don't need an afterlife. I'm content with this one. I've lived a good life, simple and pretty poor in terms of money in the context of the U.S., but I want nothing more. To be surrounded by such beauty, to be able to cook good food I helped grow in my cast iron skillet, this is living the good life. This is my heaven, right here and right now.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Small is Beautiful!

Hugelculture Beds doing great!

I decided last year that I'd be shrinking the garden down to the area around my cabin and I can say that, as of right now, that was a great decision!  I've got more kale, lettuce and spinach than I was ever able to grow in the big garden thanks to these fantastic hugelculture beds! The work involved in getting them set-up and planted was substantially less even with hauling all the wood and the productivity of these beds is off the charts. I'm probably getting twice as much in a space a quarter the size.  There's zero loss to rabbits thanks to the raised beds and the fact that they are so close to the cabin which means  I can keep a better eye on them.  I harvested a bunch of lettuce today and planted tomatoes, eggplant and peppers in those spots.  Salad everyday? Check! Kale cooked in butter with eggs and potatoes four times a week? Check!

Food Forest!

The food forests around the cabin are also doing really well. The plum-based guild out front is becoming a really nice example of what can be achieved with the guild model. A plum surrounded by comfrey, sage, thyme, lemon balm, yarrow, currant and gooseberry. I had a couple open spots so I put in a couple sweet potatoes and an eggplant today. The pawpaw guilds behind my cabin had some open spots so I planted sweet potatoes and will be putting a couple eggplant, peppers and tomatoes out there too.

IMG_6433.jpgThose guilds already  had rhubarb, strawberry, purple coneflower, yarrow, oregano, and self-heal. There are also volunteer pumpkins, potatoes back there and in the swale bed of comfrey and rhubarb I put in onions, tomatoes, and eggplant. I've got as much food planted as last year, all within 60 feet of my garden!

Last, but not least, the native wildflowers have all bloomed and look great: columbine, bee balm, jacob's ladder, wild geranium, purple coneflower with a few others to bloom soon.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

First Friday in the new Gallery!

First Friday.jpg

It's been just over a month since we got the keys to the space at 120 West Main and in that time a great team of 12 or so volunteers have put in well over 160 hours transforming it into the new Gallery. We've painted, cleaned, removed carpet and more. We're taking care of some last minute details tonight and then will be hanging art in the next day or so. Come join us for our first art opening in the new Gallery! First Friday Fredericktown is an art opening, potluck, poetry reading and live music the first Friday of each month. This month we'll be showcasing art from local artists Jami Knight, Abi Borrego, Kathryn Buff, Julie Miller and Corey Warner as well as St. Louis artist Aime Oberheim.

It's exciting to have a real space in Fredericktown to display art and host music, poetry and community potlucks. From June through October Fredericktown Revitalization will also be hosting movies and live music in the park on North Main. The Farmers Market will also be there. Our plan is to build the event into a community block party during the warmer summer months with opportunities for any organization or business to sponsor events/games. Chalk art, horse shoes, karaoke and quite a few things have been discussed.

Plenty of rain around here!

Hugelculture bed going strong!

In about 10 days we've had over 20 inches of rain fall, 2 inches a day average! It's wet around here as you can guess. The geese are happy campers but the rest of us are ready for some dry time! Looks like most of the next 6 days is set to be sunny but two days have a chance of rain. Ugh. Both of our lake spillways have been running all out for the past 10 days, our bridge and lower road are washed out pretty bad. The other night I realized 2 of our kayaks were left to close to the water and when it came up they went out. I realized this when I woke up at 3:15 in the morning. So I ended up in the last kayak at 3:30 going across the lake with a flashlight in my mouth trying to find them. You don't want a pair of kayaks clogging up your spillway or the culverts under a bridge that is already washing out! Didn't find them but at least verified that they were not in the spillway. Found them the next morning at first light, one washed up on shore and the other in some brush by the dam. Close call. So, kayaking at 3:30 in the morning, 45 degrees with a bit of drizzel? Not recommended! And that was after spending 2 sessions in the lake Saturday and Sunday inspecting for leaks. Our dam has held up very well for the past 20 years and has weathered this recent storm like a real champ! We do have to do a bit of routine maintenance to take care of though. Dams need to be kept clear of trees but covered with grass or some sort of ground cover to protect the clay.

Food Forest

The hugelculture beds are coming along fantastically! Lots of kale, lettuce, spinach and chard in full swing with eggplant, peppers and tomatoes ready to go in once we get past this last cold snap. They handled all the rain really well and my plants are not at all water logged thanks to the elevation. Not only that but those buried logs must be full of water which will help keep the soil moist for many weeks to come. The food forests are all coming along, most notably the one just out my front door is really filling in perfectly with plum, currant, comfrey, lemon balm, yarrow and sage. All the blueberries have come up looking great too.

Our last construction project is nearly finished. The shower house is almost done with only the last bit of plumbing to do. The walls, shower, sink are all in and it's painted. We still have to paint the outside and then finish the upstairs loft where Jake/other guests can sleep. The red cabin is finally totally finished on the inside with a little kitchen sink and cabinets. There's a bit more to do in terms of an outside roof to keep the door dry and an extension on the back side covered area so that the full length of the backside is covered. After that we should be done for a while with construction stuff! Will be nice to spend more time relaxing rather than filling the weekends with constant work. There's still maintenance to do of course but it will be nice to not have air compressors, nail guns and saws constantly running in the background.

Early spring garden and cabin

Oh, and an animal update. I've had the pleasant tweet tweet of 5 chicks in my cabin for the past 3 weeks! They are growing up fast and so cute with their first feathers in. Petunia is definitely pregnant and will be having her first fawn in the next 30 or so days. She's been around most days for a bit of corn. The two canada geese have also been hanging out by the font porch every day as well, a nice addition! In fact I'm looking at them both right now as they lounge around in my front yard. I love their personalities, mannerisms, and constant vocalizations.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Greening up fast!

Hugelculture Bed

It's been a couple weeks since I posted about planting the hugelculture beds. They're a carpet of green: lettuce, spinach, chard, radishes, onions and kale. Another week or two and I should be harvesting lots of salads!  It will be interesting to see how well they produce, especially once I start adding in the bigger plants like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and squash. The tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are doing great in the greenhouse with another batch started a week ago. The rhubarb is about ready for a first harvest and the comfrey already has flowers!Spring rhubarb! The food forests are also coming alive with fruit trees taking off as well as all of the perennial herbs: oregano, lemon balm, sage, thyme, yarrow, purple coneflowers, feverfew, and tansy. The blueberries, currants, serviceberries, gooseberries and pawpaws are also awake and growing rapidly. Last but not least, the hardy kiwi vines have really taken off and look great.

All of my native perennial wildflowers are also coming up and doing well a year after transplanting. Orange coneflowers, bloodroot, jacob's ladder, geranium, primrose, columbine, bee balm, cardinal flower and blue lobelia.

Last, I'm not a big fan of grass but late last summer we trenched in our water line from the well to the two cabins and the grass never reestablished so I've had LOTS of mud around here. We seeded it with a mix of grass, red and white clover, all of which is starting to rally take off. I'll be glad to be rid of all the mud!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Missouri's Madison County


I mentioned recently the work I've been doing with our local main street group, Fredericktown Revitalization and the local Chamber. The latest work has been focused on organizing a First Friday event and a space for art and poetry in Madison County Missouri. We've made a good bit of progress with a variety of improvements to our historical buildings as well as several successful community events.

This is a fairly depressed area, economically and morally. It's hard to get folks out of the rut they are in, there's a lot of negativity. There's not much here in the way of art or spaces for teens or young adults. It will be interesting to see what kind of support and interest we get from the community, especially the younger part of it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Garden Rising

We're in the middle of what will, hopefully, be our last cold spell of the season. March has been pretty nice in terms of temperature and precipitation. Today it's cold and raining but over the past week I've gotten all my cold crops in. Peas, lettuce, chard, spinach, kale, radish, onions and potatoes. Larry Cooper's broadfork was amazing for loosening up the soil! So easy to use. Thanks again Larry! I'll be encouraging my local garden friends to take a look at these for their own gardening.

The tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant were all started about 2 weeks earlier than last year and have now been transplanted out into little pots and are sitting on my cabin table with a light on them. The fruit trees are all budding out and have flowers. The comfrey and rhubarb are popping up everywhere and the bed by the greenhouse most of all. Those plants are already full of leaves and nearly a foot tall. If they don't get killed off by the cold I could probably get a rhubarb harvest in another week or two! Is that normal?

In other news I've been seeing Petunia around several times a week and I've got two Canada geese  that have been hanging out. Not nearly as friendly as Loretta but they are less afraid every day and have been coming up for snacks and visiting just 10 feet from the front porch a few hours a day. I love geese. Their mannerisms are adorable and they are such beautiful birds.

I suppose that's it on homestead news. I'll post a few garden pics soon.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

First Friday Fredericktown

I've been working with the Fredericktown Revitalization Initiative for the past two years and one of our latest projects, in cooperation with the local Chamber, is First Friday. Fredericktown does not have much going on in terms of public art shows or poetry so we're going to remedy that with First Friday which is a monthly art opening/poetry reading/potluck the first Friday of each month. During the warmer months we'll be adding outdoor activities on the north side of Court Square and the adjoining park on North Main. In addition to acoustic and bluegrass music we're hoping to do movies in the park, karaoke, games and crafts.

We just held our second First Friday and had a fantastic turn out... in fact the place was crammed with about as many people as we could handle and still maintain a level of personal space. Very exciting. Even better, we've worked out an agreement to use the whole second floor space above the Chamber for our new gallery/visitor center. It's been unused for years and needs painting, track lighting, old carpet removed. A few weekends and a few hundred dollars and it should be ready to use. We're hoping to have it ready to go by May 1st which should be a pretty easy to accomplish goal.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Hugelculture Beds!

Hugelculture Beds!
Originally uploaded by Geek in the garden.
The Hugelculture beds are coming along and almost ready for planting. They've got a layer of soil and manured straw from the chicken coop which was all put on this past fall. I'll add another layer of soil and then get them planted with lettuce, spinach, kale and a few other cool weather crops. Will be interesting to see how they work out and if they hold the moisture as well as many claim. It does make sense that the wood logs would soak it up.

I've also buried our rooster, Boots, in that mass of wood. He was killed by an unknown attacker a day before I was planning on adding more logs and finishing the final bed area. I put him in between a few logs and covered him up with soil and then wood. He'll feed the soil for a while and then feed the plants and then me! I'll get these beds seeded early next week after we get through this next cold snap.


Originally uploaded by Geek in the garden.
I started my seedlings about a month early this year. Normally I'd just now be starting tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. This year I got them going the second week of February. The soil I'm using is also a bit richer in nitrogen content thanks to some aged chicken manure. In past years my plants, while healthy, never looked quite as good as commercial plants. I'm determined to make sure this years plants get off to a better start.

Another change in this years garden is that it will be much smaller with many of my plants going into two hugelculture beds near the cabin. It's an experiment!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Solar Air Heater!

Solar Hot Air Heater!

The new solar air heater leaning up against the well/shower house where it will likely be installed as it is a near perfect south facing wall. Thermometer reading after just a minute behind the air outlet? 100 degrees and that's with outside air of 48. NICE! My guess is that this would easily heat our little shower house to a comfortable 70+ degrees on sunny days during the winter. A big thanks to Rick for building it!

Update 1: Went back out to get another temperature reading, 110 degrees! From what I've read online they can be expected to output air between 100-130 degrees or more on sunny days. Even on cloudy days they will put out air that will warm a space though obviously not as effectively.

Update 2: As of this update (1pm) it is 50 degrees outside and the current reading is 120+ (my thermometer tops out at 120) that's a 70 + degree gain.

So, cost on these, is 4x8 plywood, 2x4, paint, caulk, silicone, tempered glass assuming it is all bought new probably $100-150. My guesstimate is that in one winter the savings on electricity would be $300-500 depending on the use scenario. Cost on keeping our well/shower house heated to 50 degrees this winter has probably been $60-80, maybe more. To keep it heated to 75 for comfortable shower house temps would have been MUCH higher, easily $200+ as it would require an actual heater, not just the two heat lamps I currently use. Using the solar air heater, I think we'll be able to keep this structure heated to at least 75 on sunny days, for free next winter.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Winter into Spring

I think we've seen the coldest part of the winter and are on the way to warming and I'm happy for it. Don't get me wrong, I really love the winter. I love the snow and the frozen ground. The still of the frozen lake and the sound of the winter birds, there is a certain peace to a zero degree morning. And there is the comfort of a wood stove and coffee or soup that contrasts with the frozen outdoors. But right now, today, it is 52 degrees and sunny. Our last snow which fell this past week is now gone. I love the muddy mess outside. Love it.

The weather folks on TV say that we're going to have a week straight 50-65 degree days. I know that as soon as the lake has turned to water I will hear my beloved frogs, the Spring Peepers, as they welcome the spring. For me, that is the first day of spring, the day that I first hear the peepers. I expect that I'll hear them tomorrow and I cannot wait.  I've got seeds from Baker Creek Seeds waiting to be planted. I'm going to do a couple tomato and pepper plants early this year, a month earlier than my normal start. Just an experiment to see how early I can go.

I'll soon be missing the cold and the fire but I'll welcome the spring green.