Thursday, May 31, 2012

New Knife Process - Update

The new gluing process is working great. It saves an enormous amount of time, labor, and materials and lets me put together a much stronger handle. I could not be more pleased with how this is working. I put two knives under glue yesterday and finished them today and I have one more under glue tonight to finish tomorrow.

I believe God is blessing me in this craftsmanship in order to prepare the way for the next big chapter of my life. To put that chapter in perspective, the decision of moving to Texas and going off-grid is going to look of no more importance than choosing between chicken or pork for dinner tonight. I'll speak more of that in the months to come, but right now I am praying for guidance and support. This decision is shaking my faith to the very foundation though we've been talking about it for years.

The sun is going down in the west and there's a pleasant east wind blowing. The rain last night and today passed us by without dropping anything but I have hope that the rains are coming. The oldtimers around here say that we always get drenched in June for a week or so straight to prepare us for the deep drought of July and August. All of the infrastructure is in place to capture this water should it materialize, so with God's blessing ... let it pour!

New Knife for Sale

New Knife Process

Success! The new process takes half the time, conserves materials, and appears to produce a stronger handle. I'm about to put the finishing touches on a kukri made with this process.

I think part of the problem is that the wood I've been using hasn't been precision milled. That leads to warps and bends that the gluing process can't sort out.

Until I get skilled at this new process I'll sell the knives at a discount. They're still just as strong but the slight imperfections in the handle will bug me and I don't want to sell them at full price until they are gone.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Taters in the Root Cellar

Ran to the grocer and found that a 10 pound bag of potatoes was on sale for $2. They didn't look too bad so I bought up 5 extra bags and brought them home to store in the root cellar.

I put down a box (an old beehive) and put the taters down in layers and covered them with dry sand. I picked through the ones that had any sort of damage or rot already on them. One beehive held 20 pounds of potatoes, so I added another layer to get my 40.

This is one of the old ways of storing potatoes. It would probably work better with potatoes from the garden instead of these already-past-their-prime grocery store potatoes, but we work with what we have. If nothing else it will keep them from rotting over the next 3 weeks as we eat them all up.

BLEH - Knife Shop Woes

Well, I was trying to get a knife finished in time to have it up for sale by tonight's radio show (Michael Bunker Radio) but I have failed. The epoxy I was using didn't meet my strength test (I pry on the handles before I apply the pins to see if they'll come away from the tang). This is the second epoxy I've used and I'm not stellarly happy with any of them.

I don't really make display knives. While some of my knives are attractive, I expect them to be carried and used and to last a very long time. I need them to be durable. Gorilla glue worked probably the best but if you get the knife handle wet and don't dry it off then the wood will swell and break the bonds. I had this happen to me with one of my knives I foolishly left out in the garden. While I can't expect to make a knife that will stand up to any amount of foolishness, I do expect them to handle it a little better than that.

I tried using JB Weld and it worked for a couple of knives but it is a problem all on its own. First, it's very hard to mix and get the proportions right and the penalty for not doing it properly is a failed knife. Second, it's unsightly as it leaves a black layer between the tang and the wood handle scale. It's barely noticable, but I can see it and I don't want it. All other bonding agents appear to be similar to these two methods.

So I'm changing the process a little to see if I can make these other glues work a little better. It's the wood screws that primarily bond the wood to the tang but I do want a good seal around the edges. That should result in a very long-lasting knife.

Consequently, if I've made you a knife that broke or didn't meet your durability standards then you should email me at and let me what happened. I'll try to make amends.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Water is a Blessing

Last night's rain added 197 gallons to our collection tank. That's a good blessing. It also soaked the garden beds deep and the plants will draw on that for a week. The pond didn't fill but it did collect a pretty wide area of water about 4" deep. That's a good start. I'm happy to have any water in there at all. Winter is when we get the most amount of rainfall and I didn't have capture systems in place at that time so we'll just have to endure until then.

It amuses me sometimes when people mention that they would not want to be dependent upon rain for their water. Where do they think their water comes from? They are just as dependent upon God's providence of rain as I am only they've got layers of middlemen between them providing the infrastructure and adding toxic chemicals to it.

After the Storm

Last night about 10pm the storm hit. It started with a very powerful windstorm. It apparently never showers gently around here ... all precipitation must be delivered in as abrupt of fashion as possible.

We got a little over a half inch of rain. That means about 280 more gallons of drinking water in the tank. The plants have been watered thoroughly in the garden and are looking very perked up. Another day or two and we'll see how this helped them. None were blown over or damaged by the windstorm, luckily.

A trash can was knocked over and now there's trash scattered across an acre. That'll take a little while to clean up. Also the new windows I put in hadn't been caulked yet. Foolish me! I'd forgotten about that. So they leaked all around their sills.

It's generally after a storm where you figure out where the deficiencies are. Luckily we experienced no damage. The pond has some water in it now (a little) and the root cellar doesn't (good thing!). It's supposed to soar up to a 100 degrees today and with all this water on the surface I'm betting it's going to feel like a South Carolina summer. Yuck. Ah well. Maybe I'll try to catch up on some work in the workshop today.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Storm coming in!

Praise God, we need a good rain! A huge storm has formed up out in the desert west of us and is going to be right over us by 10:30pm. I'm very excited.

Drip Irrigation Almost Done

4 of the 7 beds are complete and the process is now refined. I'm just out of pipe. :)

To call it drip irrigation isn't exactly accurate. I drilled holes in the pipe so water bubbles out at every plant interval. This helps us to give more water to the plants and also to put it directly down into the root system where it can be better absorbed. There are about 19-20 plants in each bed and the container holds 5 gallons. Probably every 2 days I'll give 10 gallons to each bed.

I've got some squash plants that are right on the edge of being pulled up and replaced. The lack of water just meant they never really kicked off. I'll water them heavily this week and see if that doesn't rejuv them. If not, I'll yank them up and plant something else. It's still plenty early enough to do so.

Farm Animals - Kittens

Be wary of neighbors with kittens. Particularly if you cannot resist small cuddly fluffballs.

I do not particularly like cats, nor do I particularly mind cats. I simply find them to be a useful farm animal if treated properly. Mice and rats are the bane of your existence on a farm as they'll overrun your granary with ease. I do not like mice and rats and I REALLY do not like the snakes they attract, so cats are a good solution. They are inexpensive to raise up and once raised, can hunt for themselves. Coyotes can be a problem for roaming cats but up near the house it isn't an issue. They have plenty of places to hide, climb, or avoid other predators.

As you can guess, I ended up with a new cat today. She's a tiny grayish mouser who makes a lot of noise. For now she's hiding up under the stair landing and making friends with our adult cat. The kids are undecided on a name but I've taken to calling her "Miss Dingle". Mostly because it's a silly name and it annoys all the rest of the family, who wants to call her "Artemis" or some other overly-noble name for an animal who licks its own butt clean. This is what happens when you have classically-educated children.

Memorial Day

I don't particularly celebrate Memorial Day. I'm not sure that simply taking a moment of silence on this day for a few minutes is any less inappropriate than sitting around all day in shorts and flipflops while you drink beer and eat BBQ with your friends. Today is what I irreverently called "Dead Soldier Day". It's a day where America hearkens back to yesteryear and pretends to honor its fallen soldiers who fought against genuine evil and tyranny. Every war since World War 2 has been an unjust war and quite probably criminal in its nature, up to and including the one I was in.

So today I take a moment of silence and think about the relatives and friends I've lost in the wars and pray that someday Americans will stop being so deceived by our government that we send our sons off to die for corporate interests and tyrannical hegemony.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Salsa Saturday

Best. Salsa. Ever.

That stuff that I fermented last week? We tore into the jar today. 1 quart jar lasts 7 people all of about 5 minutes. It has a strong vinegar flavor but it is very, very good. And very, very gone. I'll have to make more.

The recipe is in "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fermenting Foods". It's not hard to make fermented salsa, it has huge health benefits, and it keeps for a very long time. I can't wait to try more recipes out of that book.


I've overdone it a bit this week. The sun come up this morning and found me just bone tired. A good night's sleep helped some last night but I'm still not moving very fast or hard this morning. Just sort of putting around.

Still, the root cellar has a roof on it and didn't collapse. I don't think I'll put a whole lot more dirt on there though as the beams are already stressed. I don't know how it will perform when the existing dirt gets soaked with water. Corky (my dirt expert) says that one cubic yard of that type of earth weighs approximately 1 ton. We've got 3 cubic yards spread semi-evenly across the roof. More would keep it cooler in there, but I think with the slapdash construction job I did on the roof I should probably call it a win and leave it alone. If the roof holds up for another month then I'll trust it for this winter's food storage. There's still plenty to do on the root cellar, but none of it needs to be done today.

The bees are establishing their colonies but it looks like one package either took off for parts unknown or merged with one of the others. There's a low population in there. I'm not sure they'll make it. We'll see though. Bees can surprise you. The insides of those hives are really not set up right. I've got to put frames back in and I have some of the short frames inside deep boxes, which is just stupid. I don't know how that happened. I must have slapped it together without paying attention and didn't inspect closely before I put the bees in there. Today would have been a good day to fix all that but of course I went to get my bee suit out of storage and couldn't find it.

I tried to just go deal with them sans suit but they're very aggressive right now, partly due to the weather but partly due to their just getting established. I was forced to retreat in shame. I've ordered a new suit (which I needed anyway) and it should be here on Tuesday. Hopefully that won't be too late.

So I'm just taking it easy for the rest of the day. I collected some type of nettles that are trying to take over my garden. They're clearly a nettle but they have a different shaped leaf than the normal stinging nettles, so I don't know which species. I hung some up to dry and in a week I'll wash them and prepare a small sample to serve myself with a fried egg. If I don't die and they taste good then I'll have identified at least one wild edible in my new home.

It's a good day. Not too hot and really nothing pressing that has to be done. I'm going to lounge around some and enjoy it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

We are ready to cover the root cellar I believe. Underneath the tarp is a sturdy crosshatch of logs. Inside I put another beam to brace from the bottom. I hope it holds the weight and also doesn't leak. I will have to come up with some good way to do the entrance.

Meanwhile Corky is digging out the area for the main house. More on that later.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Photos of Root Cellar (and more)

Ok, at InvalidID's request here are a few photos of the root cellar. I'll take some more as the work progresses and post those as well. It's hotter than blazes out here and soaring up into triple digits so I'm not sure how much I'll get done today. I need it all done by tomorrow though so I might be working by lantern light tonight. If I get finished by tomorrow then Corky will use his backhoe to put the dirt back on the top and I won't have to shovel it all into place by hand.

Looks like there's a whole mess of photos on my wife's camera so there will be some non-cellar related material in here.

 Some days are more productive than others.

 Not a dead cat. This is Nemesis, our house kitty. She spends about half the day loafing under and around the cabin and then the nights inside. She used to like to roam at night and then she heard the yip-yip of the hungry coyotes and now prefers inside.

Those two above photos are from when we had some friends staying the week in their bus. It was a good time. Bluegrass and gospel under the desert skies at night and great fellowship all week. I hope that the Lord brings them back to us soon.

Little River Lily is walking now and we can't keep her out of anything. She's got a cute little farmer's tan going from being out in the desert sun.

It was so desolate when we first got here, but now the desert has bloomed and is very beautiful. As far as I can see on almost every day there is something different blooming. One day the fields are all purple with clover, then the next week they are all yellow with wildflowers. Such a wonderful place.

Every day we are treated to a unique and beautiful sunset over the ridge. About this time we gather to eat dinner and fellowship as a family on the porch where we can watch this sight.

And now for the main show. The root cellar has an entrance on the downslope of the hill. It's not much of a hill and only a slight slope, but we'll berm all the sides and water should stay out.

The main support beam. All of the side braces will come off of this one. I got a great deal on some identical logs that had been cut in half. It's a little stronger than a 4" X 4" post would be and I've got enough of them to place one every 6 inches.

There's some spillage inside the hole and some loose dirt I'll have to haul out by hand, but that's no big trick. It will have bare earthen walls and a bare floor for now. I might put something up later if the mood suits me and neccessity illustrates. It's such a dense clay though that it may not ever be needful.

Joshua thinks the root cellar would be a great place to fill with rattlesnakes and scorpions to toss in unwanted guests. The boy has a seriously twisted bent, but I think that's a fine idea. Maybe we need a separate hole for that.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Root Cellar

The guy we have digging the pond is a stellar champion of homesteaders. He hit gravel while digging the pond, so he put in a gravel road to the cabin for us. Previously we've only had a dirt track and when it rains real hard (seldom) we've had to park down at the main road or we get the vehicles stuck. That's about a third of a mile to hike back in the rain, often carrying groceries. No fun. Now we have a beautiful white gravel road that leads right up to our cabin. No extra cost. As he said, "I have to do SOMETHING with this stuff" so he put it to good use.

At the 8 foot mark while digging we've run into what appears to be a layer of quartzite. He's bringing out a tractor with a jackhammer on it tomorrow and he thinks he'll be able to go through that rock and lift it straight out in slabs with the dozer. He can use those slabs to help shore up the dam.

But we had to stop digging on the pond a bit early today because of the rock layer. He's not one to sit idle so he took his backhoe and dug us out a root cellar as well. It's up by the cabin with the closest thing to a hill that we have on the property. It's 10' X 10' and about 6' deep. When I put a roof on it then that will add about another foot of height to the inside. And about 4' of dirt on top.

The walls are clay and just as smooth as you could wish for. There's no water seeping in and it doesn't feel damp to the touch, though it smells a little wet if you're familiar with the smell of wet clay. I could put up some sort of cinder blocks or wall material, but it doesn't appear to need them. You want it a little earthy and humid down there. The only problem is that I don't really know how to put a roof on that thing yet. I'm thinking I'll just put down some vertical 2" x 12" boards about a foot apart. That ought to be plenty strong enough to hold the roof up, even with a lot of soil on top. The owner down at the hardware store has some thick timbers that he says he'll make me a heckuva deal on though. I'll go down and look at them in the morning.

Things are progressing along at a rate much better than normal. I don't think we've gotten this much accomplished on the homestead since we built the cabin. And even with all that's going on this week I still managed to finish up a nice looking knife.

God is great!

Bees! Ouch!

My four packages of bees arrived today, with queens. That's four hives installed in about an hour and a half. I was worried about them after one of the boxes came out of the UPS truck slightly crushed, but the queens and workers all look fine. I set up the queen's candy boxes and shook out the workers (and some drones) into the hives. We're all set now.

I managed to do all of that without suiting up (can't find my suit ... it must be in storage). They were pretty gentle. However when I put the tops on and walked away one of the workers got stuck in my ear and she stung me there. Not really her fault. I wouldn't want to be stuck in my dirty ol' ear either and it didn't help none when I stuck my finger in there to get her out.

Four hives installed and one sting. Not a bad ratio! I've certainly done worse. Now the bee yard is all buzzing with activity. I'm a beekeeper again. Woohoo!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Elijah fills water buckets to water the garden. No rain in forecast for next ten days. Rationing time again.

The Wealthiest Man in Town

Some discussion has revealed that the man who is digging out my pond is the wealthiest man living in the nearby town. He owns his own bulldozer and backhoe and a big truck to pull them around on.

I've never seen him when his hands and clothes weren't filthy. He drives an old truck. He is plain-spoken and humble. Yesterday I took him out a cold, smoked turkey leg for lunch and he was as gracious as if I presented him with a feast. He is an entirely pleasant person to be around.

The richest man in town indeed. Apparently you get that way in this part of Texas by digging holes. Lord but it's good to be back home.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Gardening without Water - Tomato Plants

The garden looks very puny. I knew we'd have trouble this year because of water and poor soil, but until you see scrawny, nitrogen-deprived plants you just don't know how bad it's going to be.

The tomato plants are small but some are thriving. There are lots of small green tomatoes so I have high hopes. These are Roma plants and I freely admit that I did not check whether or not they are the best to grow in my current environment. They were what I liked to grow in Illinois so I decided to grow them here. I also planted some Celebrity hybrid seeds, also without any real thought. I planted about a tray of those to see how they did.

The Romas are a determinate variety which means they will grow to a certain size only and produce fruit. They have done rather poorly. During their early critical growing period (April) they received about a half-liter of water every 3 days which was enough to keep them alive but not enough to really thrive. Now they are stunted and for all intents and purposes will not grow much larger. They are producing fruit and just counting the green tomatoes right now I can see about 8 quarts of salsa. That's not too bad. It takes about 8-10 Romas for 1 quart of salsa (when you add in onion and peppers). So we'll get some degree of a harvest but it's not going to be bountiful.

The Celebrity seeds are doing much better. They got about the same amount of water but being indeterminate plants they were still growing later on when I upped the water amount for the garden. So they were more "dormant" during April and now are popping right along. (Experienced gardeners know what I mean when I say popping. A tomato plant will go for a period of time where it looks like no real growth is being added and then suddenly, almost overnight, you'll see it suddenly size up.) There is no fruit on the Celebrity yet but lots of buds. I am hopeful.

Other things in the garden are doing mediocre. About half the squash plants are almost to the point where I'm ready to pull them up and plant something else. The other half are sizing up nicely. The cantaloupe and watermelon plants are going like gangbusters and it's clear now that I planted them too closely together. There will be blood.

So we'll be better off next year. The compost from the humanure will be added to the gardens to increase soil fertility and we'll have the pond hopefully dug and filled with water. I may also set up a 3000 gallon containment tank that I can siphon off some creek water during the winter rainy season and then preserve for the summer months when there is no water. At 70 gallons every 3 days (our garden water needs) that 3000 gallons would last us 129 days, which would be enough to get us through the worst of the dry season.

We're down to less than 200 gallons in the main tank. There is rain in this afternoon's forecast which is a mixed blessing. It would delay the pond building but it would give us usable water in our reservoir. At worst I have to call my water guy and he'll deliver me 1000 gallons. I may do that anyway just for the having of it now.

God bless you and keep you today.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday Salsa

I recently purchased a copy of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fermenting Foods" because I'm an idiot  I want to learn more about how to ferment foods.

This is a stellar book which not only describes the process but explains the health benefits and science behind it.

In for a penny, in for a pound ... I made a quart of lactofermented salsa today and set it up on the window sill back behind the (non-operational) woodstove. You're supposed to leave it at room temperature but this is about the best we can do. For 3 days it'll ferment and bubble there, if things go well and then we'll enjoy the heck out of it.

My neighbor is all about fermenting foods these days and he gave me a jar of salsa and kraut to get me started. That was a huge inspiration. It was probably the best salsa and kraut that I'd ever had (though the kraut was a lot closer to kimchi, thank you very much, Michael).

So this was more or less an experiment to see if we can pull it off. We didn't have whey but you can supposedly substitute apple cider vinegar with the mother if you double the salt. I doubled the salt and added extra vinegar. My cooking conditions are less than sanitary right now since they're all effectively done on the picnic table out on the back porch. However we'll see if the lactobacilli can overcome that handicap.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Creeping Mess

It's blazing hot today so I decided to spent today in the workshop catching up some knife work.

How in the world did my workshop get so cluttered? It took an hour of cleaning before I could even pick up a blade and THINK about work. It seems that when this last rainstorm threatened we used my ad hoc workshop as a storage for everything we didn't want to get wet. Tools got thrown willy-nilly onto the workbench and boxes and machinery was stacked up on the floor.

Now I can at least see the top of my bench again but I'm exhausted. I guess thirty minutes of sitting in front of this fan and sipping some iced tea is called for. We had barbecue for dinner last night and I think the leftovers may be calling me as well.

Have a great day!

Friday, May 18, 2012

How to be Free - Part 3

Enough of the wringing of hands and declarations of "honor". They make no sense. I'm sure that when the pioneers headed west from the overcrowded slums of the eastern cities that there were plenty of fearful old women who stood by the trail and cried crocodile tears about the dangers and hardships the pioneers were taking their families into.

If we listened to that nonsense then we'd never be anywhere.

Face it, folks. There are those who, being too fearful to cast off their own chains, will attack you for attempting to cast off your own. Let them bark. They do you no harm. Your business is about freeing yourself and the next generation to follow you and who are (for the present) entirely dependent upon you.

So if you've managed to discharge your debt obligations and you're now out of debt, the next step comes into play. Here's where it gets tricky.

What do you need to survive? In no particular order:

1. Shelter
2. Food
3. Water

If you look at your budget today, the shelter is the biggest portion so we'll deal with that first. Food and water will probably get rolled into Part 4.

You don't need a big fancy house. You need whatever your own sense of comfort demands. I know a family that lives in a big metal cargo container. They cut out windows with a blow torch, set up some wooden partitions for walls and that's their home. They're saving up to build something later on, but it certainly won't be the Taj Mahal that so many Americans demand. I know another family that lives in a tent made out of cast-off tarps. I know dozens of families that live in mobile homes and RV's and I know and admire one family that travels about living in their bus.

First things first though. You need a place upon which to put your shelter, be it a mobile home or a yurt. In the less free states there are zoning codes and ordinances. These are not really designed for your safety, as you are told, but rather to support the contractors and "professionals" who are in league with the banks. They'll sell you a shoddily built "house" for several hundred percent more than the material and labor that went into it, and it will be in a continuous state of disrepair for its entire existence.

Don't live anywhere they have those zoning codes and ordinances. It is nobody's business whether or not your house falls in on your head. That's your business, and I'm sure you care much more about it than those thieves down at the county courthouse. Find a free state where they have counties that don't care about such nonsense and start looking for land there.

Ironically, those same places where they don't care about such things also happen to be the most economical to move into. They have a low land value and the price per acre is quite reasonable. If you look around you can find an acre, or ten or however many acres your budget will allow.

Now let's face it ... that's not going to be in the fertile land of Ohio or Illinois, but you wouldn't want that property anyway. The governments are draconian, Big Ag and the corn subsidies have driven up the cost of all rural land beyond what people can normally afford, and the cities are infested with liberals who will pass laws about what you and your family can or can't do, even though you don't impact them at all.

We picked Texas for our free state for multiple reasons. First and foremost, we both grew up here and we have a lot of family still in the area. But there are other reasons:

1. No state income tax. This is a plus if you're going to squeak by on a very small income from your farm or cottage industry skills.

2. The climate is pretty good. It's hot, but the winters aren't terrible. You can grow something almost year round and if you intend to provide the bulk of your own food then this is a plus.

3. Much of the territory is effectively "ungovernable". Where I live the roads are badly paved if at all. There is too much area to be patrolled in any realistic manner and the population is very low. Even if China were to invade and take over America tomorrow, it probably wouldn't impact me much. They're not likely to be sending their tanks out into the desert and every nook and hollow to root out the recalcitrants like myself.

4. There are natural barriers (the desert and encircling rocky wastes) between our home and large populations of potential refugees. When I say refugees, I really mean all those people who wrung their hands and told you that you should have stayed in the city in the first place. Let them depend on their Just-in-time delivery system. When it fails, they won't make it on foot across 200 miles of desert to find YOU.

The drought last year was horrible, but it drove the cost of land down even further. Many of the dabblers in the land market were forced to sell and that's where we found our property for a steal. We were able to pay half in cash up front and then over the next 12 months we were going to pay out the other half. This wasn't a deal with a bank but with the private individual who was in such a bind that they had to sell fast. I held some of our financial resources back in case we ran into any problems, but after the fourth month we decided that things were problem free and so we paid off the remainder. Now we own the land free and clear without any liens.

If you're buying 200 acres you can get a pretty good bargain, but when you start looking for 20 acres or less then the price goes up. The big landowners don't like to parcel out bits and pieces. Still, deals can be had. Especially if you have cash in hand. Start figuring out ways to put together some money. It won't take as much as you think.

I lacked skill in building a stick home so we found a helper. My friend and my brother-in-law helped us both build our cabin. It's a simple affair, and small, but it suits us fine. I like it better than any of the houses I've ever lived in. It was also designed specifically for our needs. That goes a long way towards making us happy.

All told it cost under $5k in materials to build this cabin. We could have done with less if we were short of money but we had that put aside. Our next, bigger house will cost even less and I started putting in calls today for the materials. That type of home is more labor and time intensive, but less costly.

Whatever you decide to live in, if you pick the right county, will be your decision. The most common approach out here is to buy an RV and live in that while you take however long it takes to build your house. That's what we were going to do but we were too cramped in the RV and it only took 10 days to have the cabin completed. For us, the RV was a foolish purchase and I'm going to sell it here very soon.

For most of us not born wealthy, we can have comfort or freedom. Your choice. I have the added benefit of following where God is leading me, which helps me to ignore any lack of comfort. And for the most part human beings are very adaptable. Whatever situation you resolve to put yourself in for any length of time will become your new comfort zone.

So don't think you need a million dollars to do this. I did it for less than $30k and that was extravagant spending by any measure. We were doing it anyway and our initial plan called for a very small property while we saved money to find something bigger. Then suddenly almost $20k worth of money just showed up from various sources in my bank account. God blessed us and guided us to where we are now.

Greetings from Our Third-World Hell-Hole

I've been amazed at the asinine comments that Ernie has persistently and consistently received from a number of people from the homesteading forum since we decided to go off-grid. Amazed, because they seem fairly freakin' anti-homesteading. Amazed, because they seem to be fairly ignorant of living conditions in various parts of America. Amazed, because they don't seem to understand what basic terms such as off-grid and sustainable mean.

And I've been offended. We're now living about two hours from my family, two hours from where I was born and grew up. Imagine my surprise to hear that we're living in a hell-hole, that it's practically child abuse to bring my "poor" children to such a place.

Amazed. And people, you just shouldn't tell born Texans that their state is a hell-hole. It's just not smart.

This morning, while standing in front of my stove, reading my Kindle and making my morning batch of hot cocoa (a very nutritious drink, sugar-free and made with eggs), Ernie read off of his smart phone a comment he'd received. This was how I learned that I'm living in third world conditions.

I think the previous paragraph points out the absurdity of the accusation all by itself.

At the same time, we're accused of being worldly because Ernie still works, and he's accused of being less than a man for not taking care of his family.

I think the absurdity there is also fairly obvious. Ah, I hate arguing with people who don't even attempt to follow the rules of logical discourse! I can use reason, but it has no effect on emotional outbursts and petty ad hominem attacks.

And yet, there's no other way to have discourse, so I shall endeavor to define a few terms, an exercise necessary for thinking individuals to have reasonable discourse.

First, off-grid. Off-grid means that we have not connected to the government sponsored monopolies which provide water, gas, and power to the majority of people in this country. Their lines do not run to our property. Off-grid does not mean that we live without electricity. We have solar power, which we purchased.

Separate from the world means not dependent on the world and its systems. Dependent means needing it for survival. We are striving to reduce our dependence on the world to become a sustainable farm, a farm which returns to the land at least as much as it removes so that it can continue to thrive without bringing in chemicals, etc., from outside. Unless we actually move into a completely uninhabited portion of the world (do such places still exist?) and begin from the beginning--creating the wheel, and then a spinning wheel, wearing nothing but animal hides from animals we killed with our bare hands until we get the whole spinning operation started, going through the various ages until we can produce a real metal axe all by ourselves, etc.--then we will always be part of the world to a degree. Ernie says that there are those who will call us hypocrites for saying we're trying to separate from the world unless we're naked and starving, and if we're naked and starving, they'll smugly tell us we just need to get back on the grid.

The word absurd comes to mind again.

Ernie feels called to live this way, and I can't claim the same. I agreed to try off-grid living, though, because it's logical--the only way to live without an income is to own the land and reduce outgoing expenses. Our necessary (needful for survival) expenses continue to get smaller so that in time, Ernie will be able to completely leave the corporate world.

Pay attention to this part because it's important: Ernie's job has allowed us to buy the land and build the house. It's allowing us to dig a pond, put up fencing, and buy animals. It's allowing us to build a sustainable homestead that doesn't require a large income to maintain, and because of this, our children should not find it necessary to go out into the world to earn a living (become wage slaves).

Having a job is not a sin, but being dependent upon a constant source of income for the basic necessities of life means that someone else has the power of life and death over one at all times. Why else would they call it stress?

Five months into this experience, I can't imagine going back to an on-grid house. Sometimes the transition has sucked, as transitions often do. However, we live a better, simpler life now. My children are happy, I'm less stressed, and my husband is doing what he feels called to do. If you choose to live differently, that's your business.

A Down Day

I woke up 2 hours later than normal today, at 8:30. Normally the morning sun wakes me up around 6:30, or the rooster crowing gets me out of bed sometime around then. But for whatever reason my body seemed to need some extra sleep today. I did work extra hard yesterday in the heat (which I normally don't do) so perhaps I needed some recovery time.

I don't set an alarm. I sleep when I'm tired. I figure my body knows what it needs and I am not prone to laying in bed all day in slothfulness. (I'm prone to surfing the internet all day in slothfulness, but not laying in bed.)

So today is going to be a relatively light work day. We'll water the garden, tend to the livestock, and cook a leisurely lunch but I'm not going to bust my hump on any of the ongoing projects. I've got some other light tasks that should be tended to and so today is a good day to do them.

I like having the luxury of choosing what work I will do and when I will do it. There are many farm tasks which must be done in a very timely manner, but on a farm there are many days like today in which the garden grows, fruit ripens, and animals grow fat without the effort and labor of the farmer. Tomorrow I'll get back to the hard stuff, but today we rest easy.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How to be Free - Part 2

If it seems like I had this response already mentally prepared then it's because I did. I KNEW someone would give a specific answer in comments and now Snowdancer has. Now I'm going to pick that response apart piece by piece. I'm not attacking you, Snowdancer, but the concept you expressed is held dear by a lot of people. It's the biggest link in those paper chains I'm talking about.

Your bible does NOT say to pay your debts. What it says is to NOT get into debt in the first place. It also says not to enter into covenants with unbelievers and to touch not the unclean thing. Start with Leviticus and work your way up to 2nd Corinthians chapter 6.

Having ignored your bible on that front and entering into debt, you sinned. Debt is a sale of your future time that has not yet been given to you by God. You sold what wasn't yours to sell. So people ignore that part of the bible and then suddenly get all biblical and righteous when it comes to defaulting on their debts? We don't get to pick and choose.

I agree. Entering into debt with the intent of defaulting is theft. However many of us find ourselves in the position of being ignorant as to the true nature of debt when we entered into it and then suddenly awakening finding ourselves shackled. If you owed $30k to a drug dealer would you pay it?

The bible tells us to treat others fairly, justly, and to discharge our debts. It does not say to enslave ourselves in an unholy and unjust economic system for the next 30 years in order to do so.

Let's take a look at those individual types of debt and see if there's any way out of those contracts.

For secured debt it's relatively easy. You did not promise to pay them regardless of circumstance or whatever the future holds. You DID promise to pay them OR give them back the collateral, be it a couch or a car or a house. So you have the choice there ... keep paying them or give them back their property. To keep their property would be theft. To give them back their property is not theft. It is the fulfilling of a contractual obligation.

For unsecured debt it gets a little trickier, but if you look at the contract it again holds the answer. They gave you money and then charged you a high degree of interest to cover the possibility that you would lose your job, die, or be kidnapped by aliens. They try and enforce this covenant by threatening to damage your "credit score". What is this number? Is it on your driver's license? Is it branded on your body anywhere like the Scarlet Letter? Is it painted on your curb so that your neighbors might see? No. It's a fictional construct assigned to an individual by the banks so that they might know what level of risk they are assuming (and therefore what reward they may allocate themselves) by loaning you money.

Here's the catch for unsecured debt: the contract stipulates that you will pay them OR they will report you to a credit agency and ruin your credit score.

I can tell you from experience that your garden will produce just as many veggies if you have a low credit score as when you have a high one. Just as much rain will still fall on your pasture and your sheep will grow just as fat.

If you have the means of paying off this unsecured debt then you should do so. But if you do not, or if doing so means enslaving yourself in an ungodly system that will prevent you from obeying God's COMMANDMENT to Christians everywhere (2nd Corinthians 6:17) then walk away from it and let them drop your credit score as low as they wish.

In addition, the credit card company has already made the assumption that you might not pay them and has put in place mechanisms. They are going to sell your debt to someone else (as if you were a hard-working 1834 Negro in rural Virginia) who will then try to collect, probably aggressively. If they can't collect then you're debt will be sold again and again. Eventually it will fall into the hands of someone who is fairly reasonable about it since they only probably paid pennies on the dollar for it. They'll negotiate with you and you might be able to discharge that debt for a very reasonable sum. Not unethically either considering that when you fell behind the credit card company started tacking on the fees. They do this so that if you try to catch up you'll pay them MORE money, or when they sell it to the next person they'll get more money for the inflated balance. Either way the bank wins and YOU lose.

This is going to be hard to swallow for a certain generation. However I don't believe that generation has been quite the victim of fraud from the banks that my generation has or that the next generation is going to be. Research "fractional reserve system" and "inflation" if you wish to know more.

So, now that you have discharged all of your credit obligations, what are you going to do with your life?

The County Agent is NOT Your Friend

Every morning about 8:30am on the radio station that comes out of the Concho Valley you can hear the agricultural report, brought to you by the county agent out there.

Let me speak plainly.

The man is a tool of the corporations and the state.

He is not your friend. He is not your buddy. He has a degree in agriculture, but probably no ranch to his name. He makes his living pimping the chemicals, machinery, and hybrid animals and seeds that the corporations lobby the government to sell on their behalf.

Agriculture thrives in the absence of government. Do not listen to your county extension agent. If he offers to help you then turn your back on him. Shun him in polite society like the whoremaster that he is.

Weeding Your Soul

Weeds, like habits, are best tended to when they are small. By the time you can easily see them they will have put out deep roots and require vigorous effort. A plain hoe you buy from the garden store will not suffice until you put an edge on it with a file. You will also tend to favor one side. Put an edge there as well. In this manner it becomes your hoe, fit to your hand and a mighty instrument of war in the service of your Lord.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Puffing Out

A few days ago I picked up some stale bakery items from an outlet store. Four cases of cinnamon rolls and cupcakes. Twice a day Frank gets a bucketload. Those foods will do to him what they do to people ... Make him fat!! If he doesn't go diabetic on us first.

How to be Free - Part 1

I recently saw a thread on a forum I eyeball in which a woman was asking how she might get out of debt. It's a frightening prospect, daunting even, but let me reveal to you the secret Dave Ramsey would never tell you.

You are bound with paper chains.

Let's say you owe money on a couch because you thought you might want a place to sit but couldn't afford one. Or more likely, you didn't like the cheap ones at Goodwill, sitting on your neighbor's curb, or at Walmart and decided to buy a big fancy one you would never have been able to afford.

Call the company today and tell them you're not paying them any more and to come get their couch. Then you sit on the floor. See how easy it was to get out from under that debt? They're going to ding your credit score now, but that doesn't hurt you. More about that later.

Let's say you owe money on a credit card because you bought some stuff for the house. (Most likely at least half of that stuff is no longer working and has been put out by the curb. Everything they sell is junk these days.) This is commonly called "unsecured debt". The company gave you money and you promised to pay them back or they would ruin your credit. It is, in essence, blackmail.

Call them and tell them you won't be paying them any more. They're going to threaten to ruin your credit and nobody will ever loan you money again. GOOD! You have already demonstrated that you can't be trusted with credit, so it's probably best after all if you don't have any more of it.

Same with your car. You decided you needed the newer model instead of buying some old beater. Stop paying them and then tell them to come get the car. The money you would have put towards a payment can be the money you spend buying another car. It will probably be a fixer-upper that clunks and rattles down the road, but you'll own it. You won't be driving around the bank's car.

If you follow what I effectively call the "screw the banks" plan then pretty soon you're going to be debt free, or at least down to your giant mortgage. Your credit will be ruined, but what do you care? You're now resolved to never borrow money again anyway. Even with bad credit, you'll still need to firm up that resolve because now you'll be getting even MORE credit card applications in the mail. You're a higher risk which means they can charge a higher interest. You're now attractive to a whole new market of creditors, whom you should avoid at all costs.

So now we're down to just a mortgage. You've become almost debt free in about 30 minutes worth of phone calls. Way to go. I wish I'd thought of this back when I was struggling with credit card debt instead of eating Ramen noodles for 5 years to pay off those sharks.

What to do about that mortgage? It's huge. Your house may have lost 30% of its value in the past year and you've managed to build up almost no equity, but hey, a man's home is his castle, right? Nope. It's not your home. It's the bank's home. You live in it, keep it up, and pay the outrageous property taxes on behalf of the bank. In 30 years it might be your house, but at that point you will have paid 3 times its value and replaced almost every stick and board in it anyway (because it's most likely some shoddy thing thrown together by shoddy contractors who just wanted to make a quick buck).

When I get around to part two of this then I'll explain what to do about that mortgage. That's the hard part. It will require sacrifice, hard work, and a significant loss of prestige and what the world likes to call "living quality". In return, however, you get to be free. Some folk will think that's a good trade off. The others will shrug and decide that their slave collar isn't that bad.

Morning Field

The northern pastures.

Morning Report

380 gallons of water remaining in elevated tank. Collection tank empty.


No rain in forecast with a high today of 87 degrees. I'm just about to complete one complete garden bed with the drip irrigation. I'll post a photo of that when it's done. It ain't pretty but it's durable and should hold for years. At worst I could dissemble what has been done and use most of the materials for something else. It is labor intensive and time consuming to set up this system but the time and labor it saves per watering will pay huge dividends over the years. And the total cost to do all 7 raised beds is only about $80.


This morning the voltage on the battery bank showed that it had been discharged about 80%, which is way too much. However when I turned on the generator to charge them up, it took about 20 minutes before the charger registered full and shut everything down. That should have taken 4 hours by the math, which indicates what some folks have been telling me is dead true: voltage is not an accurate measure for battery capacity.


This is going to be the season of the bugs. A wet spring and a warm winter has led to an enormous mosquito population. The dog has fleas and they're driving him crazy. Crazier than normal. I've got to find some sort of remedy for that. I don't like the poisons they use. I wouldn't put them on me so I'm not inclined to put them on the dog. Maybe there's a better way. Or he can just itch. I'd rather itch than drench myself in chemical poisons.


The biggest news of the day so far is that I've switched out the radios in my workshop. I was using a clock radio but it was drawing about 150 watts. I had a bigger radio but the antenna is broken so I kept it stored. I plugged it in and it pulls about 40 watts. Even though it's bigger it doesn't have the lighted clock face so it doesn't draw near the power. And even with the broken antenna I can still pick up my classic rock station out of the Concho valley about 30 miles west. So the old battered blue radio has resumed its place of honor in the workshop.


We're having a great morning here in the desert so far. Wife is in a good mood and the kids have diligently gone about their tasks this morning without being prodded and flogged. I'm hopped up on the sugar and caffeine and have every intention of being productive, unless the skeeters suck me dry. Hope your day is going well too!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Solar Woes

Since hooking up the new inverter, new batteries, and getting the fridge going ... something still isn't quite right. I think the calibration of the inverter is off, and probably the wiring solution I went with isn't stellar either.

When the fridge is running normally it pulls about 8-10 amps. It's really the highest load we have in the cabin. The only other power consumers are a laptop and a 40 watt light bulb.

But when the fridge kicks on, it suddenly starts trying to pull about 32 amps. The lights flicker and we lose the rest of the power for a few seconds and then everything comes back on. The fridge is running normally from there.

My battery system is 24 volts. I have it set to cut off at about 50% battery power, but when there is no incoming power from solar (such as at night) then the voltage drop from the fridge kicking on will drop the voltage so low that the inverter shuts down, thinking the batteries are at 50%. I go outside then to see why we don't have power and I find that the batteries (which have no load on them) are at about 75%.

Very frustrating. As a trial run for the rest of the week I recalibrated the cutoff point so that we don't shut down at 50% and then first thing in the morning I'll check the batteries to see what percentage they are at. If they are above 50% then I'll probably remove the cutoff altogether. If they fall below consistently then I've got to find another solution.

The wiring solution isn't ideal. It's a power strip and a bunch of extension cords. They aren't even very good extension cords and I bet they can't really handle 32 amps. That might be part of the problem right there. The inverter could probably handle a second or two of 32 amps, but it can't handle the 5-6 seconds of it since I'm trying to suck up Lake Eerie through a soda straw. I guess it would not be too terribly difficult to run some 10 gauge wire from the inverter to the cabin and then to hook up some sort of junction box or even just a regular plug. We really only need a few things in the way of electricity in the cabin. One power strip has served all of our needs so far.

Ah well. There will be time to figure this out. There was a time when I couldn't look at a tomato plant and tell that it needed water, so I guess there will come a time when I understand how solar power (and electricity in general) works and can just sort this stuff out properly.

Today's Projects

I'm putting a faucet valve in the 3000 gallon water tank for rainwater collection. It occurs to me that there are times and means that it would be easier to draw water from there rather than pumping it up to the elevated 550 gallon tank and then drawing it.

After that, if these rainclouds don't open up on us, I'll work on the drip irrigation system some more. It is turning out to be a more labor intensive setup than I had thought originally, but once it's set up then it will save a lot of trouble for years to come.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Drip Irrigation

With the shortage of water I had to come up with some other methodologies for watering the garden. I've always been excited about drip irrigation but have never really set that up. A deep watering right to the roots of the plants seemed to be the key so I went about setting that up this morning as a field test.

I started with a 5 gallon plastic bucket and drilled a hole in the lower side. I then ran a piece of 3/4" PVC pipe through there and caulked it. That piece runs out to an elbow which then runs the length of one side of the garden. (16 feet)

I marked where each of the plants sits and then drilled a small hole in the pipe along there where each plant is.

This works fine. You pour 5 gallons of water in and about 10 minutes later it has cycled through and watered the plants. This is VASTLY time saving as opposed to manually watering each plant. It also saves water as less gets splashed about, runs off, or evaporates.

It will take two buckets per raised bed as I plant down both sides, but that's easily done. I'll put a stand on each end.

Overall cost is $16 for the materials to do each raised bed. As this is a success I went and bought enough materials to do each of the 7 beds, but now it looks like I'm about to be rained out for the day.

Ironic, eh? My water sustainability efforts are going to be put on hold because of rain.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

An Ugly Truth

The rain has come and it is a beautiful cool day. The old timers say that it cools off like this every spring. It's about 70 degrees outside and sunny. Things are progressing well.

I suppose it's time for me to offend some more people, but I'm going to give my opinion on Mother's Day.

We don't celebrate it here on the farm. Mother's Day is a foolish endeavor. It is an entirely American tradition to DESTROY something and then set aside some pittance to pretend that we honor it. Much as how we'll bulldoze a forest to put up a shopping mall and then name that shopping mall "Happy Glade" or something to remind us of the forest it once was.

The institution of motherhood is all but destroyed in America today. Half of the families I know have a grandmother raising her grandchildren because her children are too drug-addled, depraved, or irresponsible to do so. If the grandmother did such a poor job with her own children then why would anyone expect that she'll do a better job with her grandchildren? Or is she just raising yet another generation of drug consumers, depravity-loving, irresponsible human beings?

Our society honors the hard-working mother who sends her children off to be raised by other people and then goes back to her 9-5. We honor the schools where children are taught by people who don't love them and who in all probability HATE THEM and want to see them suffer.

We must hold a mirror up to ourselves and be judged by our actions, not by our stated beliefs. America hates children and families. We destroy them as fast as possible. Our highest aspirations for our children are that they may go out and get good jobs (wage slavery) so they may buy lots of stuff. We've allowed the corporations and government to enslave and corrupt our children because we were too weak and scared to do anything about it.

We must make a change in our lives in order to preserve the next generation. Teach them that credit and employment are traps for the unwary and unwise. Teach them that family matters more than things and comfort. Teach them that the ways of the world are full of ungodliness and destruction lies down that road.

Teach them before it is too late.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I am not a self-reliant man. I am a God-reliant man.

Are there places in your life where you do not bring in the Lord? Places where you feel that your own strength is sufficient and so you do not call for help? These are the excellent places where you already feel confident.

I am finding that those areas in which I previously felt comfortable and confident and therefore did not seek God's help are now falling behind the areas in which I constantly sought the Lord. My weaknesses have become my strengths and many of my strengths have become my weaknesses.

It is a strange time in my life. I know what I need to do though. I need to admit the Lord into ALL areas of my life so that He may fulfill His plans.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


A ton of it. Dark clouds are boiling overhead and there's a lot of lightning. We're about to get seriously dumped on. In the night last night we got about a quarter inch, which was very welcome, but now we're about to get a real serious downpour.

Praise God!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Basic Medical Care

How are you prepped in your household for basic medical care? Do you have splints, bandages, antibiotics and stitching material handy? Or does your medical care stop at some bandaids and ointment?

This self-sufficiency functionality test brought to you by a flimsy ladder. When they say "not-a-step", they apparently really mean it.

No real harm done, but I'm going to go lay down for awhile and put some ice on this bruise. I don't bounce as high as I used to.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pray for Rain

Please pray for us. We need rain desperately. The creek is dry and we've been having to use our drinking supply to keep the garden and livestock alive. Normally the 500 gallon tank will last us one month but with having to use it for everything else, we get about 2 weeks out of it. Even with double-tasking the water supply (using dishwater to water the garden) it isn't going to stretch too far.

Right now we simply do not have the infrastructure in place to expand. We may have already expanded too far with a large garden this year. We do not have a well or a pond yet and are relying on harvested rainwater and water deliveries. 1000 gallons of water delivered only costs me $50, so we won't go dry but I do not want to have to use that forever. I had hoped for more rain than we're getting.

We have not had more than a few drops the entire month of April. The forecast between now and Monday calls for scattered thunderstorms with a 30% chance of rain. We've heard that forecast before though and I had to watch big black clouds soar by without dropping anything on us. 1 inch of rain will give us over 300 gallons collected off the main roof but would also refill the creek and soak in the garden beds. We could use a good 3 inches here.

Life won't be so precarious when we have more infrastructure set up, and we also missed harvesting most of the winter rainfall in collection tanks and pond (no pond). But for now we need the rain in order to thrive and expand. Otherwise, we're just holding on to what we've got for this year. We'd still consider that a deep blessing, but it would be very nice to expand out our first year.


Today has been a busy day. Last week we ordered a refrigerator. We picked out a fairly energy efficient model and it was delivered today. We have been waiting until the new batteries and inverter for the solar array arrived and were installed. That was yesterday and hooking them up turned out to be a snap. I have to rewire the output from the charge controller to the batteries as where I wanted the batteries to sit is a little bit of a stretch for the positive wire. I meant to do that this morning before it got hot but it turns out I didn't have the right gauge wire on hand, so it will have to wait.

When the compressor in the refrigerator runs it consumes about 715 watts. Our PEAK solar input so far has been 430 watts, so whenever the compressor runs then we are running a deficit which comes out of the batteries. In theory, the compressor won't be running all of the time and therefore when it stops running the batteries will be topped back off. We have the fridge on a power strip so if this turns out to not be the case then we can always switch it off and let it sit.

I'm considering doubling the solar input by adding 4 more panels. My system can handle up to 12 and I'm only running 4. This would provide us with a lot more power than we actually need, but it would extend the life of the entire system by keeping the batteries from being so deeply discharged and since the panels last for 15-20 years then it provides us with a fallback in case some of them are damaged or broken in the future and I don't have the money to replace them.

Essentially, while we have cash and an income we are building infrastructure with an eye to the future. We won't always have this and so we want to purchase reliable things that we will need later on.

We also have a washing machine but it appears that it will need to be run off of a generator. I can't tell at this point. Today is somewhat cloudy so we're running a deficit just with a fan going in the cabin. We're about to go test that now.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


New batteries and inverter arrived today. I have them up and operational now but I'm not thrilled about the wiring and certainly now I need to recalibrate things. But that can wait until tomorrow. We've got decent power tonight.

Pictures of the power house will be forthcoming after I clean up the wiring some so it isn't such an embarassment. :)