On Monday, the pond was completely clear of ice. After our cold snap and burst of snow on Tuesday, it started to freeze again. From the edges towards the middle. But it didn’t get very far.

Categories: weather, photography, observation | Leave a comment

Spring Cleaning

Detritus accumulates over the Winter, both literally and figuratively. It’s inevitable.

I’m wearing my boots all the time; I track in snow, gravel, dirt. I haul wood to the wood box and to the stove. I’m wearing more clothes, period, which means more laundry. And the laundry always gets done on time. The dogs are stuck inside and often only get out for short periods to do their business; I won’t find most of their poop until the snow melts. After spending time outside, the dogs track in even more snow, gravel and dirt. Working on home projects means working in the confined spaces available, out of the elements but not necessarily in warmth; I stopped working on the bookshelves because the project required my fingers to actually move. The unfinished parts of these unfinished projects pile up.

These unfinished projects also pile up in the mind. Shorter days and colder temperatures impose unwanted limits on what can be done and when. A sudden, heavy storm means I have to give up half a day just to clear snow. The chickens must be cared for by the glow of a headlamp, both morning and evening, in driving winds and shin-deep snow. Locks freeze, doors sag, latches need repair; the list of unfinished projects grows even longer. Every thing takes longer to do. It all weighs on the mind and body.

Of course, with the eventual thawing of Spring all of this changes: things get dirtier, tougher.

Because the ground turns to mud.

Spring, by its very nature, demands clean up. But for the first time in my life, I’ve begun to understand why Spring Cleaning is so important.

It’s a reset. It’s a chance to get everything organized again so I can launch into the next set of projects. It’s an opportunity to reflect on how to be better organized for the confines of next Winter. It’s a way to shake the weight from my mind and shoulders.

So I’ve made a little promise to myself: I will take the time these next few weeks to clean up the piles, both literal and figurative, that have accumulated over the Winter.

Because it’s way too hard striving to accomplish new things with a weight on your back.

Categories: homesteading, waxing philosophic | Leave a comment

The slow melt.

Categories: photography, weather | 1 Comment


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Bitter cold day, you can tell by the snow in the image. But things have been melting at some point. A hopeful sign that Spring is near.

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A new gig: Fruition Seeds


I have this new gig, working with a farm.

It’s a seed farm – a farm that grows crop for seed – just over the ridge from where I live.

Fruition Seeds. Co-owned and co-farmed by Matthew and Petra.

They have this crazy idea that they can change the world through growing and giving people access to the highest quality seed possible.

I like it.

All of Fruition’s seed is organically grown. None of the heavy chemical and mechanical inputs used by industrial agriculture. Only seed that can inherently out-compete weeds, take up nutrients from the soil more efficiently, and be resilient to changes in the environment ultimately survives and is harvested for future use.

All of Fruition’s seed is regionally adapted. This is Biology 101: the organisms that will thrive in a given environment are those that have been bred in and adapted to similar conditions. Fruition sources all of it’s seed from the Northeast; the seed is either grown right on the farm in the Finger Lakes or comes from a collaborative network of farms in New York, Vermont and Quebec.

All of Fruition’s seed is open pollinated. No hybrids or GMO here. Specific characteristics of taste, color, pest and pathogen resistance are achieved through the natural process of selecting the most desirable crops and replanting their seeds in following years. The result is stable genetics for anyone who wants to save their own seeds.

And having people save their own seed is at the heart of how Matthew and Petra want to change the world.

Seed saving is an activity as old as human civilization but practiced by almost no one these days. Even the most dedicated growers tend to buy their seed every year.

And what this does is abdicate control over our food to someone else.

Someone else decides what seeds are available. Someone else decides the traits of those seeds. Someone else makes decisions about our food based on their values, not our own.

Someone else can patent the seeds they sell and legally prevent us from having any real control over them.

How do you patent something that comes from Nature? Maybe the answer is: if you can patent it, it’s not natural.

Matthew and Petra want to change that. They want growers and eaters to have control over their seed, to have control over their food.

Real food security at the most basic level. I like it.

So what am I doing for Fruition Seeds?

Harvesting crops, squishing tomatoes, splitting zucchini, scraping seeds, cleaning seed, filling packets, selling packets, picking things up, putting things down and getting generally dirty.

Not a bad gig.

Additional Info:
Fruition Seeds, http://www.fruitionseeds.com/

Categories: food storage, gardening | Leave a comment

I learned something: wood shavings are better

I take back what I said about dry leaves being a great bedding for the chicken coop. They’re okay.

Wood shavings are just way better.

I know, I know: Every chicken expert out there uses wood shavings. I had to be some kind of chicken-keeping rebel and try something different. Go figure.

Honestly, the leaves weren’t terrible. They did a good job insulating but a terrible job at absorbing. The poop and all the liquid excrement just sat on top of the leaves, making a pretty dirty coop when the chickens were stuck inside for a couple weeks at a time.

Wood shavings absorb the liquid excrement and keep the coop much, much cleaner.

Another thing: With the coop raised off the ground, the bedding froze. It’s just like a bridge will be icy when the rest of the road isn’t; there’s nothing insulating it from below. The leaves froze solid across the floor and there were frozen mountains of poop beneath the perch. Absolutely foul, right? I had to wait for a warm day when the bedding thawed a bit to clean it all out.

The wood shavings have kept the poop pile-ups to a minimum and don’t seem to freeze like the leaves did.

I know: If I had just followed the instructions on the poultry package, I never would have been dealing with mountainous piles of frozen chicken poo. I would’ve been using shavings from the start.

But if I’d followed instructions, I’d never be able to say definitively and with complete confidence that wood shavings are better than leaves. I wouldn’t have actually learned something.

Go figure.

Categories: chickens | 3 Comments

Stupid tool tricks: unstick your multi-tool

I have this Gerber multi-tool that I carry with me and use all the time.

Not because it’s a particularly great tool. Honestly, it’s a mediocre tool. But it lets me do a quick-fix on any number of problems. It’s always getting dirty, grimy, and filthy.

And that dirt, grime and filth eventually jammed the movement of the tools. It’s almost like they were welded in place; I needed a whole other tool to pry them open. Also, the sliding release buttons were jammed as well. Good luck closing the tools again.

The trick to getting all the grit and grime cleaned out was to submerge the multi-tool in a bath of half white vinegar and half water. Opened all the tools and let it soak overnight. In the morning, all the tools moved freely and the release buttons worked smoothly. Rinsed it throughly with clean water to flush out any remain grit and vinegar.

Bam. Just like new. Ready to be mediocre again.

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Snow dog. Watching Winter’s last big storm?

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Master craftsman makes a jig

Remember what I said about me not being a master craftsman?

Well, apparently I forgot.

I’m building a couple of ladder shelves for the dining room. And I had this crazy delusion that I could route some dado joints freehand. The cuts ended up looking like a two-year old trying to color inside the lines.

Time for a little cussin’, then a deep breath, some new materials. And a jig.

All I need to do is send my router along a straight line. So I built a simple frame that’s only as wide as the router’s base; I can clamp the jig to the cutting surface and it lets the router move forward and back, not side to side. I built it from scrap wood I had stacked in a corner of the shop. The trick was to get the jig square, which just required patience and precision.

I should’ve been patient and precise from the beginning. But instead of making a jig, I was in a hurry. I wanted to get these shelves done. I didn’t want the extra step. And look where that got me.

Honestly, a master craftsman probably would have started with a jig. He would’ve acknowledged the limits of his own skills. He would’ve made sure he had all the right tools before he started cutting. He would have been operating in a Zen-like state of “measure twice, cut once”. Get it done right, not fast.

I am wiser now. So endth the lesson. * Gong *

Categories: DIY, woodworking | Leave a comment

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