Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Grand Champion

I win the "biggest grub of Possum Holler" championships with this prize specimen dug out of last winter's compost. If grubzilla is any indicator, that is some great compost!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Water in the Tank

We've had quite a bit of rain recently, in small spurts. These are soaking rains so they haven't really led to water running off and into the pond yet, but they are still very needed. We get between a quarter and a half inch each time and it's been every 3-5 days. This refills the "soil bank" with water as it allows deep water penetration into the clay. A hard, big rain just tends to saturate the top 5 inches and then everything else runs off into the creek. Terraces would help slow it down so it could soak in deeper but I haven't built those yet.

Yesterday I checked the big tank and it had 550 gallons in it. We can survive on 200 gallons per week with normal activities or we can go into conservation mode and go about 3-4 weeks with that. It all depends whether we haul water all the way from the pond for the livestock or whether we water them from our own supply. We can also skimp on laundry and either take it to the machines in town (and use their water) or simply not do it so frequently and just wear dirty clothes for longer.

For water consumption for just the people, we go through a little less than 10 gallons per day when it's really hot out.

Cuba's Oil Crisis

This is an interesting video someone posted on a forum recently. I haven't found time to watch all of it yet but I've gotten a little of the way through it.

Sometimes you have to wade through the greenie crap to find the truth. What's more annoying is that most people in the Green Movement are liberals. They're too naive to see through the illusion that the government actually wants to save the planet.

The power elites in government doesn't want to save the planet for YOU. They want to save it for them. They'll save it for them by killing off 90% of the population and then forcing the remaining small percentage to work at continuing to provide the quality of life the power elites demand.

Anyway, here's the video. Cuba's sugar daddy (Russia) could no longer afford them and with the existing embargoes on Cuba they couldn't sell. Their economy fell apart. Imagine a scenario in which we no longer can buy oil from overseas and in which much of our manufacturing production doesn't exist. Imagine a scenario where foreign nations no longer want to buy our worthless dollar.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Lie of CFL Lightbulbs

What? CFL lightbulbs don't live up to their potential? The government and the power companies lied?

Color me shocked.

And they'll poison you too.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

220 gallons.

We got about 220 gallons in the collection tank which means a little more than a half inch of rain. That is about 3 weeks supply for us, if we are frugal.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Are Raised Beds Permaculture?

My friend Kelly and I spent considerable time yesterday while working in the workshop arguing about this very topic. I'm afraid he got the last verbal word in but the subject is preying on my mind so I'm going to write a little about it.

There are some basic principles of permaculture design that have been accepted as more or less the holy tenets of the faith. I'm going to address each one here and then illustrate how a raised bed fits in.

Diversity - Successful permaculture means diversity in plant ecosystems, not monoculture. Companion planting, succession planting, etc. These are design elements which promote diversity. In a raised bed, there is no reason why you cannot have diversity. A method I like to use is to plant deep-rooting plants 2' apart and then utilize the 1' space within with shallow-rooting veggies. Companion planting! That's a win for raised beds.

Edge Effect - Life thrives where systems meet and overlap. Such as at a forest's edge or the shore of a pond. Raised beds are not particularly good at creating an edge effect, but you can certainly use them to take advantage of existing edge effects. A raised bed located to the east of a larger fruit tree may utilize the shade of the tree for plants which need cooler temperatures in the summer.

Energy Efficiency - Minimize the input from human, mechanical, and fossil fuel energies. An example would be the fruit tree planted in one year but which will yield food to you every year for many years to come, with only minimal effort compared to the initial push. Raised beds are the poster child for energy efficiency. They hold soil in a specific location and require only minimal prep and cultivation. Weeding is a snap as well. There's no need for mechanical tillers or plows.

Nutrient Cycling - The output from one process should always feed the next. In a raised bed, this is not so difficult. It's easy to get organized and plant in succession things which improve the soil. Got a raised bed which has had its soil compacted? Plant potatoes or turnips ... anything you dig which will break up that soil. Follow up those heavy nitrogen feeders with legumes. Another win for the raised beds!

Scale - Systems utilized by humans should be human scaled. No need for immense tractors and systems, nor a gigantic field covered with migrant workers. Raised beds can be efficienctly managed by individuals. They are not exceptionally efficient on space, but you can always add more and assign family members "zones" to manage.

That's just a few of the permaculture design elements, but it's easy to see how raised beds fit into that scheme.


What is permaculture? The word is muddy at best and I am not sure the big names in the movement would agree with me, but I will give my definition:

Permaculture - a system of agriculture which channels solar energy towards the grower in the most efficient methods possible.

I like that definition. I also feel it doesn't have to be some hippy dippy Zen crap either. In such a system, money should naturally flow to the producer, barring outside interference.

I will be talking a lot about this in the weeks to come.

Friday, August 17, 2012

First Real Farm "Injury"

I guess all the naysayers were right after all. This part of Texas IS a dangerous place.

A couple of days ago I had to take my oldest son (almost 16) to the urgent care clinic. (For the uninitiated, that's sort of like a doctor's office but they claim to be more urgent. I saw no indications that they were any more urgent than the DMV.)

He woke up with a bug in his ear. Some sort of small black beetle had crawled into his ear and in his sleepy state he tried to get it out with his finger, which pushed the beetle right up against his eardrum. So what did he do? He got a Qtip to try and get it out.

At this point the bug, half-squished, is now right up against his eardrum and fluttering about madly. This caused him a lot of pain and disorientation as a clawing, fluttering beetle beside your inner ear mechanisms might be expected to.

I tried to flush it out of his ear using the garden hose but no luck. It was in there too good.

I had to take him to the clinic so a pretty little nurse could use her fancy tools to extract a dead (drowned and mostly squished) beetle from deep inside his ear. It took longer to fill out the medical form (mostly with false information) than it did for her to extract the bug. She was very excited and almost bouncy with delight. Apparently this is the first beetle-ectomy she's ever performed. She exclaimed, "I've removed beans from ears but never beetles." That alarmed my son. He was slightly worried about how beans might enter one's ear canal. She pointed out that it was mostly toddlers who end up with things lodged in their ears. This humbled him right up.

So the great beetle-in-the-ear adventure ended without any real long-term harm, though my oldest son still inspects his bed covers thoroughly and is whining occasionally about wanting to sleep wearing earmuffs. (After the pretty nurse showed up to remove the bug, I was worried he'd put a bug in his ear every night to go see her again.)

So I just thought I'd report this little scenario and perhaps warn you all against moving off-grid into the desert to live a more simple and agrarian life in harmony with your Christian principles ... watch out, because you might get a bug in your ear.

On Water

Does it seem like most what I post about these days is rain or water?

It's because hardly anything else consumes my mind these days. I don't worry much about politics or any other big thing. What consumes me these days is agricultural pursuits and water. Not a day goes by that I'm not carrying water, pumping water, or watching the sky to see if it's going to rain.


A good downpour! Praise God, we needed i5 bad.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


A large rainstorm is coming in from the north. Praise be to our Father who knows of our needs.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Praise God! We are getting a good soaking. Slow and heavy without the winds. Just what we needed here.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Home Church

My wife and I have been trying to start up a small New Testament home church. We have been doing the reading and getting an understanding of what that means, as well as looking for other believers who would participate.

On Wednesday I got a call for a job in Shreveport, Lousianna. I picked up and went without much thought. The problem turned out to be a non-problem and basically I got paid for the trip but there wasn't much real work to be done.

For some reason, the people I was working with immediately identified me as a Christian and we began discussing Christian topics. One man mentioned he was going to a home church meeting that night and I asked if I could go along with him.

First thing you should realize is that this is out of character for "work Ernie". Unlike "internet Ernie", I keep a relatively low profile.

At the home church I was welcomed as if I'd been coming there for decades. It was a very simple affair. We ate, then prayed, then began chatting. At the reading of the bible, I suddenly became aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

This was strange to me. I've never felt that in the company of others. On rare occasions, during long prayer sessions, I feel the presence. Never in church. Never amongst others. And it was very clear from their faces that the others could feel it too. One man, the most outspoken (not me), announced that the Holy Spirit was with us. It did not need to be announced! It would have been like saying, "There's Bill!" when Bill was clearly standing by the table.

Now I had not given much backstory to the others about my own personal life at this point, but a man began speaking to me about my purpose here in the desert. He simply said that there's a reason for it and it would be shown to me in time. Then he looked surprised and stated that those words just popped into his mouth.

At the end, we prayed together and a woman beside me began speaking in tongues. I have ALWAYS thought of this as fraudulent. At best I felt the people who do that were decieving themselves and at worst they were practicing deception. From a pastor I believe in, I had read his proof texts which he said proved that speaking in tongues does not happen today. Since I did not believe it in the first place, it was not difficult to convince me.

Still, I cannot believe that with the Holy Spirit so filling the room that I wanted to throw myself on the floor and cry, any Christian would knowingly participate in the fraud.

But there was something extra to this. We were holding hands in a circle and when she began to speak in tongues, my hand went numb as if it was asleep. The numbness proceeded, not in an uncomfortable or painful way, up past my elbow. It persisted for the next two hours until I went to sleep and even in the morning when I woke I could still feel a slight difference in my fingers.

God must know I'm a skeptic and that I would require some physical proof. I would have easily convinced myself that this was fake had it not been for the numbness. That was something I could not easily dismiss.

I returned from Shreveport fundamentally changed. God is moving more overtly in my life now. I am not having to reach quite so far to find Him. I am both pleased and frightened by this.

Gardening Update

I was told by some of the agrarians who've been here longer that in this part of Texas, the gardens tend to die around midsummer. Mine seems to be doing just that. Some stuff is hanging in there, but other plants are just withering up and dying no matter how much water we're putting on them. I suppose they can't handle the heat.

Here's the basic rundown:

Okra - doing well still. The plants which got established before the real heat began are thriving and producing pretty well. That's only about 4 plants but they're producing a little bit of side food for us.

Tomatoes - Most are doing pretty well but they aren't setting fruit. The heat is too high and the pollen melts. This was something we faced in Illinois as well, but when the dog days of summer start winding down then it should pick back up a little, if the plants stay alive.

Peppers - They suffered from water shortage early on and have begun to bounce back now that we're giving them a lot of water but there's only a few peppers and a few blossoms.

Beans - Dying back except for very few plants. They were planted very late in the season and were mostly intended to help out the soil, not to get a crop. They've got plenty of water but the heat is brutalizing them.

Cucumbers - All dead. They never really did well and I suspect poor quality seed had something to do with it. They came out of one of those $1 Burpee packs.

Squash and zucchini - They were stressed due to lack of water early on and this led to a massive bug population. I pulled them all up to try and prevent eggs from being laid in the soil to cause me a problem next year.

Cantaloupe - Most are doing fine but some at the fringes where they get less water have turned yellow and are dying back. Right now I'm focusing the watering effort on the ones which have fruit.

So here around the last week of August we'll begin planting our winter garden. So far I've got kohlrabi, cabbage, onions, carrots, potatoes, and garlic set to go.

Water is not much of a problem right now. The pond is getting low but there's still quite a bit in there. More than adequate for our needs between now and the anticipated September rains (God willing). Some of my trees have lost leaves. Very foolish to have planted new trees at the end of July. They did not get enough of a chance to set roots before the real heat set in. Some made it though and I'm only out about $20.

It seems as if much of our life revolves around water. There's not a day goes by that I'm not hauling it, pumping it, storing it, or pouring it. I can easily see now why so many bible references center around water.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


The thermometer says it's 109 degrees outside right now. Of course it's in the sun so it may be reporting hotter than it actually is, but I have sympathy with it since I'm normally out in the sun too.

We're planting some more crepe myrtles today. We plant a tree and then go jump in the pond, then plant the next tree while we're still dripping. The pond and Gatorade seem to be the only things keeping us going this week.