The slow melt.
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.
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.
Fruition Seeds, http://www.fruitionseeds.com/
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.
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.
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 *
Just like it’s time to check in on what’s left of the food in the pantry, it’s also time to take stock of the remaining firewood.
Which feels weird on a week when the temps are climbing into the 40s. I sincerely want to believe that Winter is coming to an early end. But I don’t. I know we’re in for at least one more dump of snow before Spring gets here.
At the beginning of this month, I burned the last of the wood I put up in the woodshed. I’m gradually moving more up from the wood pile.
For anyone who likes stats: I’ve gone through five face cord so far. I’ve got four face cord left, plus a few assorted piles of odd-shaped pieces that didn’t stack well. By way of comparison, I know folks who’ve used eleven face cord so far this Winter and are still burning.
It looks like I’ll just get through the Winter. I’ll be burning the last bit of split wood by the time the nights are getting warm. Which sounds a bit dramatic but really isn’t. It just means I got my estimate right when planning the amount of wood I’d need.
I did things a little different this year, mainly because I was a little smarter than before.
The smartness started with being selective about the wood I stacked for the Winter. All wood cellulose burns at the same rate. But some types of wood have a lot more cellulose packed into a given volume than other types. These woods burn longer and hotter, and are a much better investment of time, energy and money when it comes to firewood.
This year I used mostly cherry, ash and apple because they burn well and give off significant heat per volume. I kind of lucked out that I had a large number of these trees on my woodlot that needed to be brought down. I also used some poplar, from an 80-foot tree that came down. But poplar is like paper when it comes to burning; it doesn’t give you a lot of heat or burn-time. Still, it’s something to put in the stove and I wasn’t going to let it just rot on the ground.
In previous years, I was burning wood split from a pile of logs left by the previous owner. Couldn’t tell you what type of wood it was.
The smartness continued with making sure all the wood was thoroughly dried before using it. I know this is a no-brainer but I wasn’t always so careful about seasoning the wood. The trees I took down this year were dying and already drying out, giving me a head start on the process. Then I let the wood sit for at least six months before using it. This became sort of chess game since I was taking down and splitting wood into the Fall; it was a matter of stacking and using wood in the order it came down so the late additions would have time to season. I was also particularly obsessive about keeping the stacks covered from rain and snow.
You know you have really nice firewood when it’s relatively light to lift and it has checks (cracks) in the ends from drying out. Sometimes it’s discolored and grayish. Really pretty looking.
All the remaining stacks of wood are looking grey and cracked. They’ve seasoned well.
Now if only Spring would get here. Soon.
I could save some of this nice wood for next year.
Kuhns, M. and Schmidt, T. Heating With Wood: Species Characteristics and Volumes. Retrieved from http://forestry.usu.edu/htm/forest-products/wood-heating
The trick to brightening up this living room of mine isn’t just painting; it’s about improving the lighting, too.
So I built myself a couple of new lamps. Which is stupid easy to do.
I used some old porch lanterns originally intended to hold candles. Each has an opening at the top that is just the right size for a lamp socket to sit in.
The sockets and wires were left over from previous projects and old lamps. It was just a matter of digging them out and wiring them up in the lanterns. Keep in mind: there’s a right way and wrong way to wire a lamp socket. Unfortunately, both ways allow the lamp to work; you only figure out you’ve done it wrong when you zap yourself later. If you need a refresher on how to wire a lamp socket, check out the links below.
To diffuse the light from the bulb, I added freezer paper to each of the glass panes in the lanterns. There’s nothing special about freezer paper; if I’d had tracing paper, I would’ve used that.
I did drop some coin and buy LED bulbs for the lamps. I’m a big fan of LEDs: clean light, energy efficient and durable. You could use those curly-cue CFC bulbs but they’re such a hassle; they’re fragile and require special disposal because of the mercury in them. Also, LEDs give off no heat, which is an important consideration when adding paper to a lamp.
Got to say I’m pretty happy with how the lamps turned out in both function and appearance. Got a couple more lanterns and plan to make hanging lamps for the other end of the room.
The Family Handyman. How to Wire a Light Socket. Retrieved from http://www.familyhandyman.com/video/device/mobile/t/57561032/how-to-wire-a-light-socket.htm
This Old House. How to Rewire a Lamp. Retrieved from http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/m/how-to/step/0,,20446252_20883828,00.html