Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

Making Cookies, Early Christmas Gift

Years ago my wife inherited her mother’s Kitchen-aid mixer. It’s a old unit, but works beautifully. Fortunately she brought it with her when we went on the road, or it would have been lost in the house fire last December (a terrible time of the year to lose a home). Unfortunately, she left the Flat Paddle behind, so it was lost. Well, I got home early this afternoon from work, and found her baking cookies. She mentioned it would be a lot easier if she had her flat paddle, as the whisk does not do a good job on cookie dough. I could tell she was struggling a bit emotionally, as she lost a lot of her Mom’s stuff in the fire. I walked into the Living room, grabbed a present from under the tree, handed it to her, and said “Merry Christmas”!

Inside was, you guessed it, a new K45B Flat Paddle. She is very happy, and these cookies are yummy!


What is disaster preparedness?

There are many types of disasters, ranging from physical (ice storm to tornado), financial (job loss), or geopolitical (misguided political decrees to all out war). When preparing, it’s important to decide what you are preparing for, what is most likely to occur, and what can you survive. Not much point in preparing for an asteroid hit, because the odds of surviving one are as remote as the event itself happening. If it does, don’t worry about it too much, you are toast anyway. Lists of stuff to buy are much less helpful than learning how to use what you have. Stock what you normally use in life, and learn how to use it in ways never considered, the old panty hose as a fan belt trick for instance. We have several books on preparedness, from Rawles’s “How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It”, to Gehring’s “The Homesteading Handbook”.

The most useful I believe is Bradley’s “The Disaster Preparedness Handbook”. It’s written like your Uncle Bob showing you how to split wood in the backyard. Not preachy, not telling you all the stuff you need to buy, just practical advice on basics, what things to look for, how to handle events, and how to stay safe and healthy, regardless of what life throws at you. The emphasis is on learning to do, not “I have more pails of wheat than you do, therefore I’m a better prepper”.

There’s a plethora of gung ho, survivalist books out there who indicate survival is about how many rounds of ammo you have, or describing the need to forage wild edibles, build a lean to, and skin a squirrel. This isn’t that kind of book. Decide what you need to survive, how to survive it, and built a network of like minded friends, and you’ll be prepared for much of life’s surprises.


Extracting Broken Bolts

I have a broken starter bolt stuck in my engine block. The typical way to get these out is to drill a hole into the broken bolt, and back it out with a Easy Out bolt extractor. Reviews say the Harbor Freight kit is too soft, and won’t do the job on steel bolts in an iron block. WD-40 is a help as well. Here is a article that explains the process.


Solar Power On The Go – FreeLoader Pico

I received a FreeLoader Pico the other day, and I put it to work charging my cellphone while on the go. It does a fantastic job of that, but I wondered what else I could use it for. Ah, a power source for my Arduino Microcontroller. It does a great job of that as well. No more looking for power connections, I just set the small solar panel with integrated Li-ION battery in the sun and charge. A bargain at $30.


Happy 30’th Birthday, Pacman!

We are working on a podcast on worm composting that will be uploaded this weekend, along with instructions for building and operating your own worm composter. We missed last week because we were out of town.

In the meantime, since this is the 30’th anniversary of Pacman, we wanted to share a memory. 25 years ago I worked for Billotta Music, a vending company near Rochester NY, repairing arcade games, and Pacman was one of our games we serviced. It was a cool job, as playing the games was an important part of troubleshooting and repairing. Have fun bringing back the memories with this playable tribute!


Building Soils for Better Crops, Organically

I borrowed a book from Melvin Martin the other day on soil quality. Now we have been gardening organically for a number of years, and using mulch and compost, but the book he lent me, “Building Soils for Better Crops”, does a great job of explaining the different types of soils, the critters found in them (beneficial and otherwise), the needs of the various soils and plants, and how to make exceptional growing soils. We give this one 5 stars, and have added it to our permanent collection. Not Melvin’s copy, we returned that one πŸ˜‰


Painting Green-Trust Green

Dharam just finished spraying and rolling out the new paint job on our main buildings (the house, garage, and screened classroom). It’s pale green with pale lemon trim. We developed a leak in the connections on our well pump in the past few days, and ended up with a lot of water on the floor of our first floor. Dharam and I replumbed the water system, relocated the pump to a more convenient area, and I repaired one of the capacitor wires that had broken off, and was causing the motor to smoke. We are wrapping Dharam’s veggie tank with Reflectix to help contain the vegetable oil’s heat in his skoolie tank. See more at


Wind Tower Supports & More

Bob Emmett from Camp Mandaville was here with his backhoe to dig the holes for the wind tower guy wire pads. We blew a hydraulic hose on one of the horizontal stabilizers, but were able to finish the job.

The concrete is sitting in bags ready to be mixed, and the rebar needs to be bent into long “u” shapes and inserted into the holes for concrete filling. Tower raising is still on track for this Saturday at 9 am.

This morning we found a Todd Woodfired Cookstove, and made a deal with the local dealer, Evans & White Ace Hardware. Seems it’s been sitting in their warehouse for 5 years and they’d like it moved.

The folks at From the Heart Cabinetry are supplying us with wood scraps from their kitchen cabinet building business for kindling and fuel for the cookstove.

As usual, pictures and commentary of the construction and installation processes will be posted, and long term data on living with these systems will be provided on this website for free. Donations to help with the projects are appreciated, and allows us to keep this information free, and flowing to all.


Blowing sparks out the stack

We did it again. Carboned up an exhaust valve, it won’t close all the way, and we are blowing sparks out the stack. Did this last year, and paid $300 for a valve job. This year I’m cleaning the valves myself. This comes from running straight V100 without a (bio)diesel startup/shutdown. I ran out of diesel, had no biodiesel made up, and was running straight veggie full time without switching. We tell people not to do this, Oops……