Posted in Building, Fail, Lessons Learned, Plans, Stubbornness, Successes

Making Do

I read an article a couple of years ago about how most people don’t really need eight hours a day to do their jobs; instead our capitalist economy requires us to spend the majority of our waking hours “toiling” so that in our free time we only have enough time to try to buy happiness and become the dutiful consumers our economy needs. This plan hinges on making the time to pursue happiness a scarce resource so that the average worker will instead substitute material goods in favor of seeking meaningful happiness. The article (I did try to find it, but couldn’t locate the right one, so you will need to take my word for it) then claimed that the writer had found that being unemployed or underemployed was actually cheaper in the long run because instead of seeking out material goods, one could instead focus on spending time in the local library or park to fill whatever existential hole one was seeking to fill, and that the park was always cheaper than a new iGadget. In theory I find this reasoning spot on (of course the economy needs us to buy stuff! of course I don’t didn’t really need eight hours to do work shit!) – but as in all similar articles about the ills of society the problem comes at the end, when the writer tries to convince us that he, and he alone, has found the solution to such societal ills. (Spend too much time on your smartphone? This person whose job consists of writing articles and talking to their editor once a week will tell you how sinking your phone to the bottom of a lake is clearly the best solution. Computers getting you down? This writer has switched to a typewriter! Email checking becoming tedious? This entrepreneur with no other workers in his company has the solution for you! Check it once a day – who cares what your bosses or coworkers think!) All this is to say that the issue with the idea that being unemployed is cheaper is that the person who wrote this article clearly did not have BIG PLANS. Big plans require materials, lots of materials, and so here is where we get to the point of making do.

Making do, to me, means either making use of something I already have or trying to find a used or cheaper alternative to something I need. Yes, yes, the other part of that saying is “or do without” but when you have big plans that isn’t always an option! But this isn’t to say that I am not willing to suffer! In this spirit I present the list of Making Do:

  • My Greenhouse Furnace! This has been the source of much strife in my life but I can confirm that in its current configuration it is quite functional. And the current configuration is a Frankenstein of pieces from the other furnaces all duct-taped together. (I’m mostly kidding about the duct tape) The vent pipe, the oil line, the thermostat, the wiring – all constructed from pieces of other furnaces scattered around the property.
  • The duck pond wiring. So yeah – we dug a duck pond (more on this at a future time) and we needed to run electricity out there. E being the safety squirrel she is, decreed that I needed to use some safety/common sense and put the above ground wire in conduit. The greenhouses are covered in 1/2 inch EMT that I think was used to hang flower baskets, and this is how I ended up running 70 feet of UF-B wire through seven ten foot sections of conduit complete with six 90 degree turns. To those not familiar with electrical wiring, let’s just say this is a total pain in the ass. It took three days (not even counting digging the trench since I used the tractor for that) and rendered my hands unuseable for a couple days after that. The one good thing that came out of this – I discovered cable pulling lube which is both hilarious and highly useful. Would I do it again? Hell no! But in the spirit of making do I used what I had, and what I had was 1/2 conduit and 100 feet of UF-B wire.
it doesn’t look terrible, but trust me when i say it is
  • In a general sense, my use of the pallets strewn about the farm has been pretty successful. I’ve used them to do everything from building multiple duck enclosures to organize tools under the deck. I used one other other day to build a new wall on the greenhouse underneath two louvered windows I got super cheap from a salvage place.
  • In the same vein, the cinder blocks have been very useful. I’ve used them to build greenhouse ponds (those ponds themselves have been of various shades of success, but the cinder blocks functioned as they should). The new duck pond uses them to hold the liner in place and they will form part of the bio filter/waterfall once I get around to that. They are doing an admirable job as a heat sink around the stove in the greehousen. One thing they are bad at – rubbish at being a jack stand, those things crack right in half.
  • My new lumber stand in the basement is constructed of leftover 2x4s and more of the conduit mentioned above.
i’m very proud of this
  • Not so much as making do, but finding a cheaper version – I have been using many of the approximately 500 pieces of recycled three inch foam insulation I bought off some guy on FaceBook. It was actually a pretty sweet deal – not only were they significantly cheaper than new, they were pulled out of an office building somewhere, so yay reuse!
  • The gutters that we pulled off the house when we got new gutters are now used as a duck and chicken watering system along with keeping the rain leaking into the greenhouse around my less than stellar sealing around the stove pipe from dripping directly onto the stove and rusting the hell out of it. And speaking of it, using the stove in the greenhouse is a pretty good example of making do!
  • We got four trees taken down around the house and the wood will be used as both firewood (once I get it sawed and chopped up) and to build huglekultur piles in the big greenhouse which will be used as a high tunnel come next growing season (god willing and the creek don’t rise).

Other things I would like to do as part of my “making do” plans include foraging for wild edibles, bartering as a means to acquire necessary items, working on getting a group of friends up here that would be interested in a tool or skill share, and working through my pile of “to be mended” items!

Posted in NEWS, Plans, Successes

The Big News (slightly delayed)

The future is no place to place your better days

Dave Matthews Band

Trite quotes and I are not usually friends, but I can’t help loving this DMB quote, and not just because I was in high school in the 90s. It summarized my thoughts during my divorce almost ten years ago now and is back on my mind now during another time of transition.

So this is the big news – for the first time since I started working as a teacher’s assistant at hebrew school in ninth grade, I am officially jobless and have no near term plans to find a new job. I have had times of not working here and there after high school, college, and when relocating to Philly from Boston, but there was always the understanding that I was in the process of finding a new job or waiting for one to start. But as of the middle of June I not longer am working, and let me tell you a few things!

First of all – this was the hardest job I ever quit. I loved everything about my last job – my boss, my work, my coworkers, my company – literally everything. I felt so incredibly foolish quitting! I almost wished I hated my job so I could be one of those people who write about leaving their high paying but stressful job to live a simpler life in the county. But, alas I had an excellent job that didn’t overwork me or stress me out and also paid well. I also loved the type of work I did – I love programming and figuring out puzzles and developing new ways of doing things. But sitting there at my computer day in and day out while all the projects outside called to me just started to be too much. I kept thinking about all the stuff I could be doing if I had more time – all the big projects I could finish (or at least start)!

Secondly – not having a job is weird! I’m still trying to get myself on a set schedule, a lot of what I do daily depends on the weather, and I have to be the one each day to decide what gets done. I still haven’t figured out what to tell people I do and when I do tell people I just quit my job I feel a weird pang of guilt like I did something wrong or that I’m somehow bragging that I don’t need a job. I’m also used to being A PROGRAMMER and being a person who WORKS. Not working makes me feel slightly unsettled, but also like I can do anything.

The future is wide open…

Tom Petty

So this is where I’m at…I can do anything! A lot of anything. BIG ANYTHINGS!

Stay tuned for the big list of all the things I can do!

after the storm
Posted in Fail, Greenhouse, Lessons Learned, Plans, Stubbornness, Successes

Yet Another Greenhouse Furnace Post

This is getting excessive!

So last year I realized that the greenhouse I was working in was a poor choice and I switched over to the smaller greenhouse attached to the chicken coop.

This was a GOOD IDEA! The plants have lived out here all winter and have been happy, which means I have been happy!

This makes me SO Happy!

The furnace was pretty reliable… until a couple of weeks ago.

And then it died. First I thought that maybe the oil filter and screen needed to be replaced. I did that – no luck. So I tried taking it apart since I figured that I hadn’t cleaned the oil nozzle in the three (almost) years we have been here and I had no idea what the previous owners did. It was not pretty:

New nozzle, with filthy electrodes!

I replaced the nozzle but not the electrodes since they didn’t have the correct ones at the plumbing supply store. Mainly, because, as I learned by googling the serial number I finally found it after cleaning off layer and layer and layers of gunk, this furnace is from 1957 and the company which made this furnace, International Heaters of Utica, went out of business and it is close to impossible to find any information about this furnace.

And then I tried to restart the damn and this thing BLEW UP – like literally sparks flying, thank goodness for circuit breakers that trip when things catch themselves on fire – blew up.

You can’t really see where it blew up (kind of at the bottom where I cut off all those fabric coated wires) but trust me – it was scary.

So this limit switch is busted, I don’t know where one finds a new one for a 62 year old furnace, and I AM FED UP.

So I have decided that once I have two fully functioning legs I am going to attempt to move one of the other five, non-sixty year-old furnaces from one of the less useful greenhouses into this one and all will be well.

In the meantime Spring is almost here which means it hasn’t gotten too cold and this has actually been keeping the greenhouse warm at night:

Yes – there is actually a fireplace insert under all those cinder blocks

This old fireplace insert the previous owners left on the porch which I moved into the greenhouse a couple months ago with the help of E, a willing friend, the tractor, and taking down one of the greenhouse walls (don’t worry – I put it back up). The cinder blocks are piled up all around it and filled with stones and it all makes a pretty decent heat sink. For now….

Posted in Fail, Plans

I’m BaAaack!

I HAVE BEEN TERRIBLE AT HAVING A BLOG.

whew ok – that was unnecessary, but I’m back and things have been HAPPENING around here! Where to even begin…

Well a while ago this happened:

YUP! We got a tractor!

The biggest news is that I’m currently one month into a three month leave from work to get stuff done around here. The first couple of weeks were slow; we had some houseguests and a bit of travel so I didn’t get much done. Then a week ago this happened:

YUP! I broke my ankle! (this is post surgical repair)

So needless to say – I have not gotten a lot done since hobbling around on crutches and my knee wheely thing (which stupidly does not have a basket – who designs these things!) is not super conducive to doing farm type things. And I have a giant list of things to get done. Like super giant:

SO MANY THINGS!

But luckily the cast comes off in a week and Spring is also slowly starting to happen up here; so, while the timing of my broken ankle is not ideal, it is also not the worst thing ever (ugh a cast in the middle of the summer – blech).

In the meantime I’m taking care of myself and making more BIG PLANS!!!

Posted in Greenhouse, Plans, Technology

Technology in the Greenhouse!

I’m really excited about this thing! It’s a cool sensor that you just stick on the wall and it tracks the temperature and humidity. I’ve been wanting something that does this so I can see how well the furnace is working in the greenhouse. I have a high/low thermometer, but I wanted something that would keep a better history of temperature changes.

So I got this: http://www.sensorpush.com

It’s pretty awesome and I really like seeing the temperature fluctuations during the day. I can also tell how often the furnace is cycling on and off over the night. Hopefully I’ll be able to use this to tell how well some of my heating ideas are working. I already have the layers inflated and a new pond is in the works. It’s also possible there will be fifty bales of straw here shortly…

Posted in Plans, Preserving, Successes, The Nature

Staying Cozy and Making Plans

Things are still mostly hunkered down for the winter here at Jugtown. We had a bit of a weather rollercoaster the last week with one day in the 70s and then four inches of snow the next day. The snow is mostly melted, but I’m not holding my breath for warmth anytime soon – the last frost date in these parts is almost the end of May!

So we’ve been drinking our hot chocolate and building fires and making plans. Big plans!

Here is E’s big list of big plans:

img_1315

and I have a lot of plans floating around in my head that I have yet to actually put into a concrete list, or at least one coherent list (though a concrete list sounds kind of funny). I do have tons of little lists and ideas and snippets of things I want to look up. E and I are trying to have phone free Saturdays so I have to make a list of all the things I want to look up later instead of immediately grabbing my phone and googling everything. My most recent list consists of everything from how record players work (more on that later) to thermostat wiring and things that are automatic but not electric (a lot more on this later).

Since my big plan list is not ready yet, I did make a list of things I have either learned or accomplished.

  • Wiring up the new bedroom! Yes this happened and was tested and is successful and no one died! I’m really proud of this.
  • The furnace in the other greenhouse is working (I guess this is kind of a spoiler…)
  • The truck has new hubs and a new battery which is properly held in place by a new battery strap and not the piece of crap I picked up at WalMart (yes, I know – but it’s the only place around here we can get prescriptions filled!)
  • In general I’ve learned a lot about electricity and wiring.
  • I almost have a fully functioning plow on the front of the tractor/glorified lawn mower.
  • We got a new stove! (The reason for this is not something that should ever be discussed). I guess it’s not really an accomplishment, but it is exciting!
  • E and I have done a really good job of not drinking alcohol the past month or so. This is more of a self care/mental health thing, but it’s worth mentioning.

And of course – staying cozy.

 

edited to add:

  • I made a pretty excellent list of all our tools and appliances around here. I also downloaded and organized all the manuals for various things (heaters, thermostats, tractors, leaf mulchers) that I have looked up in the past and assume I will need in the future.
  • I successfully sharpened the chainsaw chain and made a cool kindling splitter
Posted in permaculture, Plans

Permaculture Homework

I’m taking a class in permaculture through the Cornell Agricultural Extension School and the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute.

It’s called,¬†Permaculture Design: Fundamentals of Ecological Design¬†and I’m really enjoying it! I’ve started what is called a base map of the farm which you can see above. I’ve labeled all the different areas and identified structures and characteristics.

This is my first time back taking classes at a university since I took Statistics classes at the Harvard Extension School back in 2009 or so. Talk about things being super different!

Posted in Fail, Greenhouse, Lessons Learned, Plans

Giving Up (for now)

It’s over. I’m done.

Well for now. I went to bed the other night doing a happy dance because I was convinced I had fixed the greenhouse furnace. Now I’m doing a sad waltz because I did not really fix it. Exhibit:

img_1026.jpg

I did get it up to a balmy 70 degrees in there, but sometime during the night the safety system kicked in and it shut down, dipping to a frigid 28. I suspect there is probably something impeding the oil flow and causing the safety to trigger when there isn’t enough fuel for combustion. Suspect:

img_1028

This old ass oil filter is probably the main culprit here. Other possibilities are an issue with the actual igniter or the thermostat. But, that is for another time, because I have given up.

I have come to the conclusion that the greenhouse I chose to start in is becoming a poorer and poorer choice. It is in the shade way too much and is giant. I was looking around the other greenhouses and realized that the one that is behind the barn and has the chicken coop in it was warmer even with the door open than the one I was working in. Case closed.

So I moved all the sad plants into the sunroom:

img_1040.jpg

And together we shall be sad until spring.

 

Posted in Greenhouse, Lessons Learned, Plans

False Starts

Yeah, yeah – that is not a pretty picture. But it is an important picture. Or, more like, it was an important picture.

I was trying out starting some seeds in the greenhouse in not-quite dead of winter, but in the pretty fricking cold (hello high of 23 degrees!) start of winter. I planted a flat of seeds in an old flat of dead squash babies that were cruelly murdered in the spring of their lifetime by an dead irrigation system battery. I planted some tomatoes and some parthenocarpic squash (which are pretty cool, like baby-Jesus squash they don’t need to be fertilized to grow, or wait maybe that’s Mary – whatever, I’m Jewish). Anyway, these squash are perfect for the greenhouse since they can produce fruit without pollination and the status of bees and other pollinators in the greenhouse is questionable.img_0642

And then a little tiny mouse came along and ate all the seeds before they could even have a chance.

Lesson learned – DON’T SET FLATS OF SEEDS ON THE GROUND!

will try again later….

Posted in Greenhouse, Plans, Successes

It’s ALIVE!

Big news from last week! The greenhouse furnace is operational! I had to jerry-rig the wiring because Bernavel had to disconnect it when he hooked up the rest of the electricity in the greenhouse. I figured that since it’s unlikely I will need the fan in the winter, that I could just connect it to the fan wiring. So once that was done I flipped the switch and WE HAVE HEAT!

The furnace fired up pretty easily. I should probably install it on a new breaker and the thermostat is a little busted, but this was in a 42 degree night!img_0876

So I’m hoping that this will get us through the winter since I was having doubts and thoughts that maybe I was just going to have to bring my plants in the house for the winter. I’m very excited and now have plans to grow ALL THE PLANTS!