Maggie also
Poverty and Winning

I admit I have chosen to submit my manuscripts sometimes at the expense of important things like rent or food. My monthly budget is 741 dollars which is already at the poverty level for this region of the United States. The objective of having a full manuscript of poems published by a noteworthy publishing house is more difficult when the Poet is poor. Period. End of story.

Sure you can just submit to chapbook contests that have no submission fee, but when you do that you are limiting your options by 90%. Just being seen by publishers is something that takes money. Due to the cost of submittable, the new submissions manager used by more and more publishers and writers, some magazines even charge general submission fees around three dollars. I never submit to them, but that's lowering my chances.

Between the years 2006 (my first college class in poetry) and 2016, I was recognized with the publication of 20 poems in journals and magazines such as Friends Journal, Tule, Alehouse, Postcard Poems and Prose, and Blue Fifth Review. This year that number has shot up to 35 poems. I also already received an Honorable Mention by Ron Rash for the Wild Leak Poetry Contest. I know that some day I will have a chapbook of my poetry published by one of these recognized publishing houses.

So onward! I am pursuing in poetry whether or not it is what is best for me. Maybe someday I will regret pouring so much of my life into poetry. Surfing was always a hobby I kind of wished I had pursued.

The world certainly is not fair to low income poets or publishers for that matter.

Maggie also
Less Visceral

Rain skips umbrella

silences other sounds

mute raindrops falling.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Privacy plantings
Privacy plantings

It took me a couple of weeks to accept the reality --- that nowhere we could afford in the Athens, Ohio, area will be as private as our current farm. Currently, we hear a neighbor driving his tractor through hay fields a couple of times a month in the summer and can see another neighbor's light in winter if we stand in a certain part of the yard and turn our heads just right. Otherwise, when we're home, we're entirely alone...and I revel in the solitude.

Privacy hedge

However, the second Airbnb we stayed at taught me that you don't have to be far from the road to feel quite private. The house on that property was set back 134 feet from a quite busy road (yes, I did pace the distance). And, thanks to a grove of bamboo, encircling trees, and a well-placed evergreen on the inside, the house felt as private as I could have wished.

I'm thinking the trick with privacy plantings is to include fast-growers, evergreens, and shrubs of various densities. Actually, it sounds quite a lot like planting a hedge.

Maggie also
women and men in 1968

This morning Mom was in one of her orating modes, so I decided to start taking notes. I had her rewind a bit and go chronologically from age 17 when she started at Pembroke to 1973 when she met my father at age 30ish. (Born in 43.)

The part of her time-line that sung out to me were two conflicting layers.

One@ Age 25 she moved from New Bedford Massachusetts to NYC in pursuit of a boyfriend, though that was not what she might have said at the time, and also said her heart was with her "real friends" then.

Two@ Also in 1968 she remarked men were too dominating in the movements going on around her at the time, like the strike at Columbia. In terms of what is similar, men still dominate parts of movements, and there still are huge exceptions.

It is funny, for every part of her story, my story has a parallel. But she decided to get married to a man. I didn't.

I had this wonderful friend Scott who was an ecofeminist and a huge part of the mountain justice movement. All he really did was cook and read these feminist books, then he died way too young like before turning 40. Very sad.

I don't know if you were ever part of movements like any of these that me and my Mom tagged onto, which we always were generally just on the outskirts of the movements. Actually Mom broke the strike in Columbia, and I was pretty anti-group in Mountain Justice most of the time.

If you have any reactions I would love to hear them.

Maggie also
disease dreams

This morning I wake grog headed critical of dreams -

who in earth's abundance would dream of disease?

I don't know where dreams come from or where they go.

Maybe Mary Oliver writes them in dust.

Maybe dreams are the promises of soft poetry.

Maybe alien poetry comes down in our dreams.

Or the warped mirrors of mentally patients reflect the truth of dreams.

By the time I stumble to the bathroom,

I realize I am healthy though I dream of disease.

So I stop everything on the toilet

and make myself think a grateful thought. Thankful for bird songs.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Thick solarization plastic failure
Cardinal eating seeds

So how did the thicker, whitish plastic do for solarization? The layer did a good job killing off mature oats and some weeds, but the ornerier ground ivy didn't get hot enough to die. Looks like the thin, clear plastic that deteriorates in a single season is still the best option for solarization...unless you want to pay top dollar for UV-resistant greenhouse film.

Joey chatter
strange cables

Cables near my PV controller:

  • USB on one end, house electric outlet (24v) on the other
  • Ethernet on one end, USB outlet on the other

What could possibly go wrong..

Joey devblog
disk partitioning nitty gritty

The secret-project can probably partition disks now. I have not tried it yet.

I generalized propellor's PartSpec DSL, which had been used for only auto-fitting disk images to chroot sizes, to also support things like partitions that use some percentage of the disk.

A sample partition table using that, that gives / and /srv each 20% of the disk, has a couple of fixed size partitions, and uses the rest for /home:

[ partition EXT2 `mountedAt` "/boot"
    `setFlag` BootFlag
    `setSize` MegaBytes 512
, partition EXT4 `mountedAt` "/"
    `useDiskSpace` (Percent 20)
, partition EXT4 `mountedAt` "/srv"
    `useDiskSpace` (Percent 20)
, partition EXT4 `mountedAt` "/home"
    `useDiskSpace` RemainingSpace
, swapPartition (MegaBytes 1024)

It would probably be good to extend that with a combinator that sets a minimum allows size, so eg / can be made no smaller than 4 GB. The implementation should make it simple enough to add such combinators.

I thought about reusing the disk image auto-fitting code, so the target's / would start at the size of the installer's /. May yet do that; it would make some sense when the target and installer are fairly similar systems.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Using a mortgage to buy a homestead
Athens Ohio airbnb

Last time I bought land, I was just out of college and dirt poor. I saved every penny, hoping to achieve $10,000 within the next decade and buy a 10-acre farm with cash. But when I was $2,000 in, a very kind friend jumped into the breach and offered me an interest-free loan on a larger amount. I bought the largest ugly-duckling property I could comfortably afford, paid the friend back several years later when that property allowed us to live off our microbusiness, and was endlessly grateful for the jumpstart.

This time around, Mark and I are being more conventional. We've calculated the likely selling price for this place based on recent sales in the region, and we're looking for properties in that same range. Rather than selling before buying, though, and being entirely debt-free, we decided to get pre-approved for a mortgage so we could spend a little more money up front but do things in the easy order --- move before we put this place up for sale.

Tear-down real estate

In the process, I've learned a lot about land buying that I thought the conventional among you (probably everyone except younger me!) might benefit from. First of all, by using a site like Lending Tree to compare rates, you're asking to join masses of email and phone lists --- beware! None of those potential lenders will answer a simple question --- they all want every ounce of your personal and financial data so they can take you all the way to preapproval. Meanwhile, if you're self-employed, the data those intaker officers need dives all the way down to your tax returns from the previous three years. Wow, that's a lot of information to share with looky-loos.

And yet, after extensive research, I learned that rates aren't even set at the preapproval stage and that most lenders will give you approximately the same rate as all the others, with that amount depending on your financial portfolio and credit history. So you might as well instead select a lender based on reviews and other factors, such as those I discuss below.


The next hurdle to bridge is the difference between buying a house and buying an acreage. 10 acres seems to be the dividing line between the two, but it also matters whether the dwelling passes muster (many owner-built homes and old farm houses won't) and whether your home-to-be is on wheels (a higher interest rate) or on a permanent foundation. Keep in mind, also, that if you buy a home instead of land, you'll need to pay home owner's insurance as a mandatory part of your mortgage agreement.

The trick if you want to buy a farm rather than a house with a few acres appears to be going with a local bank rather than with a big company. By contacting a bank in the community we plan to move to, we were given the option of choosing a non-federally-approved loan that will cover unimproved land or a federally-approved loan that won't. The former has a lower interest rate...but one that will change over time (a problem for us only if we don't manage to sell this property within the first fixed term of three to five years). Improvement level also makes a difference on properties that lack domiciles, so pay attention to the presence or absence of developed water, electric, and septic on potential properties. Finally, the percent you're expected to pay yourself will vary depending on which type of property and type of loan you choose to pursue.

Old camper

Phew! Learning what I just put into this post took about a week and a half of phone calls, web searching, and emails to ferret out. On the plus side...youthful me's anti-debt ways means our credit is excellent so we just got preapproved. Now we're ready to really get serious about this move.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Using bathwater to irrigate the garden
Rubber ducky
"What will happen if I water my garden with bath water that has a little soap in it?" --- Heather

Watering a garden with soapy water probably won't be a problem, but it depends on the individual plants being hydrated (and whether you do it once or keep doing it, thus letting problematic compounds build up in the soil).

The main problem from a plant point of view would likely be salt/sodium and/or boron building up. But bleach can also kill soil critters, causing long-term damage to ecosystem health. Bar soap might increase the pH of your water, which would only be a problem if you're watering acid-lovers like blueberries or rhododendrons.

Rainy laundry

The more worrisome problem would be the potential for fecal coliform from bathwater to land on edibles that will be harvested soon (like leaf lettuce), making you sick after you dine. That's why bathwater is often considered more blackwater than greywater (unlike the effluent from your kitchen sink or non-diaper laundry, which tends to be safer). To stay on the safe side, it's better to apply these dicey types of liquid to ornamentals, or to edibles that won't be harvested for several months.

The upshot? Read the label of your cleaning products if you plan to toss them down the drain. Then understand the difference between greywater and blackwater and you'll be all set!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Gardening on a ridge versus in a valley
Peach Ridge Ohio

The property Mark and I are currently considering is on top of a ridge --- high and dry. Microclimates have such a huge impact on gardening, and there are major pros and cons to ridges over our current valley location.

Sugar maple

On the minus side, ridges are more exposed to storms and wind, something we've never had to worry about in the past. In an area where rainfall is already 20% down from what I'm used to and where we'd be depending on city water, we'd have to get more clever about irrigation and rainwater catchment. Meanwhile soil also tends to be less rich on ridgetops since erosion naturally carries topsoil downhill.

Oyster mushrooms

That said, never again having to deal with waterlogged soil has something to recommend itself after over a decade in what I lovingly call a swamp. Fungal diseases should be rarer and ridgetops can (at least sometimes) be less susceptible to late spring freezes since cold air naturally flows downhill during the course of a night. And we wouldn't have to put up with the lack of winter sun that further chills our current farm either, which may make a ridgetop in zone 6A no harder for tender plants to survive than a north-facing bottom in zone 6B.

I'd be curious from those of you currently gardening on ridges. What other pros and cons would you put out there about these more exposed locations?

Joey chatter








Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Isolation versus stimulation
House for sale

We made another whirlwind trip to Ohio to look at a property...that, unfortunately turned out to be another dud. Luckily, our realtor suggested a different offering that came much closer to hitting the spot.

Country road

As we arrow in on what actually feels right, though, we're having to make some tough decisions. Do we want more land and more house further off the beaten path (what I chose the last time around and was very happy with for very many years)? Or do we want to go in the opposite direction and buy unimproved land to trailerstead on closer to the location that drew our attention in the first place?

Fallen tree

I've learned over the past year that I'm willing to drive about 15 minutes to something fun...while 45 minutes or longer means I only take the plunge rarely and after extensive vaccillation. Since one of my primary goals of this move is to give myself a wider range of artistic, social, and intellectual stimulation off the farm, part of me thinks we should focus on proximity at the expense of all else. (Mark would love proximity --- he's less of an isolationist than I am.)


Of course, the homesteading part of me twitches when I think of all the livestock doors I'd be closing by settling near neighbors who might not be thrilled to hear a cock crow (or to see a trailer move in next door). Meanwhile, the hermit part of me cringes away from being able to see the road...and of the greater likelihood the area we choose might grow up around us and squeeze my need of countryside out.

Decisions, decisions. No matter which direction we go in, I'm glad we made another trip. Images on the internet really hold no candle to feet on the ground.

Joey devblog
a plan comes together

After building the neato Host versioning described in Functional Reactive Propellor this weekend, I was able to clean up secret-project's config file significantly It's feeling close to the final version now.

At this point, the disk image it builds is almost capable of installing the target system, and will try to do so when the user tells it to. But, choosing and partitioning of the target system disk is not implemented yet, so it installs to a chroot which will fail due to lack of disk space there. So, I have not actually tested it yet.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Chicken waterer closeout sale, part 2

Chicken waterer saleThe response to our Avian Aqua Miser Original closeout sale has been overwhelming. Mark's been busy building waterers ever since, and he expects to be entirely caught up by Wednesday.

I didn't want him to get I slashed prices on the rest of our inventory. We're selling out of premade EZ Misers for the last time before our move --- $40 with free shipping. Meanwhile, we'll probably keep selling kits, but we're lowering prices there too in order to reduce inventory. Avian Aqua Miser Original kits will now water your chickens for as little as 18 cents per bird while you can get a 2-pack EZ Miser kit for $25 with free shipping.

Thanks in advance for giving Mark's POOP-free waterers a try and/or for telling a friend. We appreciate your support as we gear up for our move!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Critter-proof garden fence
Fenced garden

We built our current garden higgledy piggledy as the whim struck and as our energy allowed. But the plan for homestead 2.0 is to figure out how much garden area we need then to put in a critter-proof fence from the get-go.

Daddy's newly fenced garden is my current inspiration. He used 10-foot 4x4s (sunk two feet deep) every 16 feet, with 8-foot t-posts (with rebar exenders) in between (except for the corners, which had 4x4s at 8-foot intervals). Add in woven wire fencing plus some brace wires and you're done. Total cost --- $1,000 for 100x60 feet (about 0.14 acres). "No deer so far," he reports.

Joey chatter
smoke signals

Beaming pictures of bratwurst through woodsmoke to orbit.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Straight ahead

Mark and I added up all of the places we've lived for long enough that they felt like home a few days ago. He came up with 22 and I came up with 11.


Which puts our current move into perspective. Sure, I've lived on this farm longer than anywhere else in my life (although it's only second on Mark's more extensive list).

Clinch River

But the river of life keeps flowing on by, and sometimes you have to jump in a kayak and let it carry you for a spell before you make a new camp.

Which is a long way of saying --- I'm both terrified and exhilerated by the idea of pulling up roots and finding a new place to call home. And if this one doesn't work out...well, then we'll just move on to my lucky 13 and to Mark's home number 24. The only true regrets in life are opportunities untested. Onward and upward!

Functional Reactive Propellor

I wrote this code, and it made me super happy!

data Variety = Installer | Target
    deriving (Eq)

seed :: UserInput -> Versioned Variety Host
seed userinput ver = host "foo"
    & ver (   (== Installer) --> hostname "installer"
          <|> (== Target)    --> hostname (inputHostname userinput)
    & osDebian Unstable X86_64
    & Apt.stdSourcesList
    & Apt.installed ["linux-image-amd64"]
    & Grub.installed PC
    & XFCE.installed
    & ver (   (== Installer) --> desktopUser defaultUser
          <|> (== Target)    --> desktopUser (inputUsername userinput)
    & ver (   (== Installer) --> autostartInstaller )

This is doing so much in so little space and with so little fuss! It's completely defining two different versions of a Host. One version is the Installer, which in turn installs the Target. The code above provides all the information that propellor needs to convert a copy of the Installer into the Target, which it can do very efficiently. For example, it knows that the default user account should be deleted, and a new user account created based on the user's input of their name.

The germ of this idea comes from a short presentation I made about propellor in Portland several years ago. I was describing RevertableProperty, and Joachim Breitner pointed out that to use it, the user essentially has to keep track of the evolution of their Host in their head. It would be better for propellor to know what past versions looked like, so it can know when a RevertableProperty needs to be reverted.

I didn't see a way to address the objection for years. I was hung up on the problem that propellor's properties can't be compared for equality, because functions can't be compared for equality (generally). And on the problem that it would be hard for propellor to pull old versions of a Host out of git. But then I ran into the situation where I needed these two closely related hosts to be defined in a single file, and it all fell into place.

The basic idea is that propellor first reverts all the revertible properties for other versions. Then it ensures the property for the current version.

Another use for it would be if you wanted to be able to roll back changes to a Host. For example:

foos :: Versioned Int Host
foos ver = host "foo"
    & hostname ""
    & ver (   (== 1) --> Apache.modEnabled "mpm_worker"
          <|> (>= 2) --> Apache.modEnabled "mpm_event"
    & ver ( (>= 3)   --> Apt.unattendedUpgrades )

foo :: Host
foo = foos `version` (4 :: Int)

Versioned properties can also be defined:

foobar :: Versioned Int -> RevertableProperty DebianLike DebianLike
foobar ver =
    ver (   (== 1) --> (Apt.installed "foo" <!> Apt.removed "foo")
        <|> (== 2) --> (Apt.installed "bar" <!> Apt.removed "bar")

Notice that I've embedded a small DSL for versioning into the propellor config file syntax. While implementing versioning took all day, that part was super easy; Haskell config files win again!

API documentation for this feature

PS: Not really FRP, probably. But time-varying in a FRP-like way.

Development of this was sponsored by Jake Vosloo on Patreon.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Finding a buyer's agent for a homestead
Choosing a buyer's agent

A couple of you suggested tracking down a designated buyer's agent to narrow the list of potential farms and also to negotiate the final deal. Financially, a buyer's agent makes a lot of sense since sellers have already factored the buyer's agent's fee into the list price, so you're not paying anything extra for the service. Unfortunately, Mark and I spent a couple of weeks contacting potential realtors and had trouble getting anyone to give us the time of day.

Then I discovered Zillow's realtor search feature. By narrowing the field to a certain region, choosing "Buying a home" from the "Service needed" dropdown, then going to "Advanced" and Past salesselecting "Buyer's Agent" as the specialty, I was finally able to come up with over a hundred possible choices.

My next step was to narrow the playing field by clicking on each realtor's profile and eliminating everyone whose "Past sales" listings were out of my price range and/or in which the realtor acted as the seller's agent rather than as the buyer's agent. Finally, reviews helped me select a realtor who has a good reputation for answering emails and staying in touch.

And, sure enough, I found a buyer's agent who's willing to give us the time of day! Maybe now we can stop spending quite so much time househunting and can finish getting our current homestead sorted and ready to move.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
How much space do vegetables need in pots?
Potted brussels sprouts

For about a week after deciding to move, I basked in the knowledge that there was no point in weeding our garden. Then...I went into withdrawal and started pondering potted plants to take with us. But how much space do you need per plant when growing vegetables in pots?

Gallons per plant
1 gallon
5 gallons
Brussels sprouts
3 gallons
2 gallons
2 gallons
1 gallon
1-5 gallons
1 gallon
2-3 gallons
5 gallons
Swiss chard
2 gallons
10-20 gallons

I drew the information in the table above from various sources, some of which I'm dubious about. (Broccoli needs 5 gallons but the larger Brussels sprouts only need 3?) Still, it seems like a good starting point, and I potted up celery and a pepper out of the aquaponics setup along with five Brussels sprouts Wednesday afternoon.

Now for the big questions --- was I nuts to fill the pots entirely with well-composted horse manure? (I usually mix manure half and half with potting soil for containers, but I didn't want to buy any and had lots of manure on hand at the potting area.) Will I be able to keep the pots irrigated in the summer heat far from any water source? And if I continue to be this exuberant with my potting up, will there be room in the car for anything else when we drive north? Only time will tell....
Joey devblog
yak attack

Integrating propellor and secret-project stalled out last week. The problem was that secret-project can only be built with stack right now (until my patch to threepenny-gui to fix drag and drop handling gets accepted), but propellor did not support building itself with stack.

I didn't want to get sucked into yak shaving on that, and tried to find another approach, but finally gave in, and taught propellor how to build itself with stack. There was an open todo about that, with a hacky implementation by Arnaud Bailly, which I cleaned up.

Then the yak shaving continued as I revisited a tricky intermittent propellor bug. Think I've finally squashed that.

Finally, got back to where I left off last week, and at last here's a result! This is a disk image that was built entirely from a propellor config file, that contains a working propellor installation, and that starts up secret-project on boot.

Now to make this secret-project actually do something more than looking pretty..

Today's work was sponsored by Trenton Cronholm on Patreon.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Goat farewell
Walking goats

Although I was sad to see Aurora and Edgar go, I think their new home on Goat Hill is bound to be an exciting chapter in both of their lives. For me, the trickiest part is going to be working a new pro-lethargy activity into my evening routine. Maybe a photography hour or a round of potting up plants can fill a similar niche?

git-annex devblog (Joey devblog)
day 462 the feature youve all been waiting for

Have been working on a design for ?exporting trees to special remotes. As well as being handy for publishing scientific data sets out of git-annex repositories, that covers long-requested features like dumb, unsafe, human-readable backend.

I had not been optimistic about such requests, which seemed half-baked, but Yoh came up with idea of exporting a git treeish, and remembering the last exported treeish so a subsequent export can be done incrementally, and can fully sync the exported tree.

Please take a look at the design if you've wanted to use git-annex for some sort of tree export before, and see if it meets your needs.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Which plants to take with us
Front of trailer

While Mark is laboriously picking through his tools and hardware, trying to decide what to leave and what to take, I'm poring over my plantings to see what can be transplanted or rerooted in a new location. Of course, the varieties that grow well here might not grow well there. But it's worth a shot to take my favorites along since we'll only be half a zone colder there than here (depending on what kind of microclimate we settle into).

Grape flowers

What's on my to-take list? In the next week, I plan to pot up a lot of my perennial herbs along with a few annual vegetables (like the brussels sprouts who are growing so gamely indoors). Among the woody perennials, I'm going to try to summer-root my favorite grape --- Reliance --- even though winter rooting is much easier. I'm much more confident of my ability to dig up and pot a young raspberry of each variety, and I'll probably do the same with my favorite strawberries --- Honeyoye and Sparkle.

Roasting asparagus

Fruit trees I may just have to begin again from scratch, unless the new owners let me come take cuttings during the dormant season. But, to be honest, what I think I'll miss the most is our mature plantings of asparagus. I guess that's what I'll have to prioritize putting in first in our new place!

bonus project

Little bonus project after the solar upgrade was replacing the battery box's rotted roof, down to the cinderblock walls.

Except for a piece of plywood, used all scrap lumber for this project, and also scavenged a great set of hinges from a discarded cabinet. I hope the paint on all sides and an inch of shingle overhang will be enough to protect the plywood.

Bonus bonus project to use up paint. (Argh, now I want to increase the size of the overflowing grape arbor. Once you start on this kind of stuff..)

After finishing all that, it was time to think about this while enjoying this.

(Followed by taking delivery of a dumptruck full of gravel -- 23 tons -- which it turns out was enough for only half of my driveway..)

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Cascade of stuff

After burning the first of what I suspect will be several piles of flammable debris, I wish I'd caught on to the value of fire earlier. Because Mark and I are both seeing how our early actions on the farm started the cascade of STUFF that eventually took over the barn, and one of those actions was putting away not-very-good lumber/furniture for later use.

Smoke ring

While it's great to have a stash of two-by-fours and other quality building supplies on hand, odd-shaped debris and ancient particle-board furniture that came with the trailer really should have been burned a decade ago. Live and learn! I suspect we won't make the same mistakes in our new place. (We'll be sure to make new mistakes instead.)

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Buying a homestead from a sheriff's sale
Property boundaries

The Homestead That Got Away had been sold less than a year ago at a sheriff's sale...which got me wondering if I should peruse those listings in addition to craigslist and real estate sites. Sure enough, I found a potential homestead on a county website in short order. But was it worth it?

Title searchAfter intensive research, I found out why the average homebuyer probably shouldn't stalk sheriff's sales. These auctions are a way for a bank to recoup their investment after a foreclosure...but lenders don't let properties go for a song. Instead, in 80% of sales, the bank buys the property back rather than losing money on the endeavor.

The next hurdle to be aware of is additional mortgages. This was the point that killed our interest in The Homestead We Threw Back, since an online title search suggested that the mortgage resulting in the foreclosure wasn't the only lien against the property. If we'd bought that property without a title search, we would have owned the the obligation to repay the primary loan. Suddenly the selling price got a lot higher than we thought!

Of course, it can also be tough to thoroughly research foreclosed properties since the current owner might not be thrilled about you tromping across their land. Given the the high risk involved in buying a pig in a poke, we're probably going to steer clear of this source of bargain real estate for now...although we will check the bank sites in a month or two since foreclosed properties often end up there for less than they went for at the sheriff's auction.

Back to the drawing board!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
What's the perfect size for a homestead?
Great blue heron

After a week of research, Mark and I are starting to arrow in on our land-hunting priorities. They're different this time around than they were when I sought out our current farm a dozen years ago.

Counterintuitively, we're actually looking a lot smaller --- 58 acres was awesome for experimentation when we didn't know what we wanted, but we'd rather contract and move closer to a city now that we know which aspects of homesteading are our favorites. Currently, we use about 2.5 acres of our existing homestead, and even that feels like more than we want to manage as we grow older, expand our interests, and turn into more
weekend homesteaders.

What's the sweet spot for a mature homestead? I'm guessing somewhere between 5 and 10 acres will give me the isolation I crave, room for extensive gardening, and still fit within our price range. Perhaps the classic Five Acres and Independence was on the right track?

Joey chatter
hair salon

Poitras's film Risk has this surreal scene where Julian Assange is getting his hair cut by Jacob Applebaum and Sarah Harrison and Erinn Clark, while watching k-pop.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Tough goat decisions
Brown-eyed goat

Several of you have asked about the future of our goats. Will they come with us or will they find a new home?

Although the decision is hard, we're opting for the latter. I regained some of the joy of goat grazing after Artemesia died, but I have to admit the experience has never been quite the same since my beloved goat left the farm. Since I also stopped being able to drink milk last summer, suddenly the animals that were intended to be dual-purpose livestock turned into moderately expensive pets.

Given that they are just as much companions as working animals, though, we're taking our time to find Aurora and Edgar just the right home. We have one potential lead on a family who might spoil them in the manner to which they've grown accustomed. Fingers crossed they'll find someone else excited about milk and grazing in the very near future!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Patreon show of hands

We've had a slew of questions, both here and via email, which we haven't had the time to answer in depth. Meanwhile, several of you have asked for videos in the past, and I thought this move might be a good opportunity to share that type of content via Patreon.

The idea is simple --- patrons sign up for whatever level of support they feel comfortable with, and in exchange they gain access to member-only videos hidden behind a paywall. Since the videos aren't available on the open internet, Mark and I will feel more comfortable sharing nitty gritty details we don't want to broadcast to the world at large. Meanwhile, your donations will help us purchase a larger tract of land if the right property comes up  for sale before this farm finds a new owner.

But the project will take time and energy which we could also be expending on our move. So I wanted to get a virtual show of hands. Would you be interested in supporting the Walden Effect via Patreon during our transition? If so, comment below and be counted (and feel free to tell us what type of questions you'd most like answered). Thanks in advance for your support!

Joey devblog

This was a one step forward, one step back kind of day, as I moved the working stuff from yesterday out of my personal propellor config file and into the secret-project repository, and stumbled over some issues while doing so.

But, I had a crucial idea last night. When propellor is used to build an installer image, the installer does not need to bootstrap the target system from scratch. It can just copy the installer to the target system, and then run propellor there, with a configuration that reverts any properties that the installer had but the installed system should not. This will be a lot faster and avoid duplicate downloads.

That's similar to how d-i's live-installer works, but simpler, since with propellor there's a short list of all the properties that the installer has, and propellor knows if a property can be reverted or not.

Today's work was sponsored by Riku Voipio.

Joey chatter
left the building


Actual error message seen on actual VPS host just now.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Instant Pot
Instant pot roast

Before we decided to move --- and I realized anything we carried in would soon have to be carried out --- I caved and bought an Instant Pot.

These electric pressure cookers are a fascinating product, designed to cook anything from rice to pot roast to cake at the press of a button. There's a sautee feature for use with the lid off, then you can lock down the lid very safely for fast, high-pressure meals.

Honestly, I could see me and Mark using this as our sole cooking heat source if we bought or rented an unfurnished space and weren't ready to rebuild our kitchen right off the bat. So maybe the purchase was a good move after all. It's definitely on my list of items worth being carried out across the swamp.

Joey chatter

wow (talk)
wow (code)
wow (paper)

Quiet talk starts slow and grows exponentially. My head stopped hurting at all the maths and started blowing off at the awesome around minute 30. Then at minute 56 he shows one slide of code that uses a SMT solver on a regular haskell functions, to find inputs that produce a desired output. Angels descend, singing, etc.

Joey devblog
high bandwidth propellor hacking

Doing a bunch of work on propellor this week. Some bug fixes and improvements to disk image building. Also some properties involving the XFCE desktop environment.

Putting it all together, I have 28 lines of propellor config file that generates a disk image that boots to a XFCE desktop and also has propellor installed. I wonder where it will go from here? ;-)

darkstar :: Host
darkstar = host "" $ props
        & imageBuilt "/srv/propellor-disk.img"
                (Chroot.hostChroot demo (Chroot.Debootstrapped mempty))
                MSDOS (grubBooted PC)
                [ partition EXT2 `mountedAt` "/boot"
                        `setFlag` BootFlag
                , partition EXT4 `mountedAt` "/"
                        `mountOpt` errorReadonly
                        `addFreeSpace` MegaBytes 256
                , swapPartition (MegaBytes 256)

demo :: Host
demo = host "demo" $ props
        & osDebian Unstable X86_64
        & Apt.installed ["linux-image-amd64"]
        & bootstrappedFrom GitRepoOutsideChroot
        & User.accountFor user
        & root `User.hasInsecurePassword` "debian"
        & user `User.hasInsecurePassword` "debian"
        & XFCE.installedMin
        & XFCE.networkManager
        & XFCE.defaultPanelFor user File.OverwriteExisting
        & LightDM.autoLogin user
        & Apt.installed ["firefox"]
        user = User "user"
        root = User "root"

Indcidentially, I have power and bandwidth to work on this kind of propellor stuff from home all day, for the first time! Up until now, all propellor features involving disk images were either tested remotely, or developed while I was away from home. It's a cloudy, rainy day; the solar upgrade and satellite internet paid off.

Today's work was sponsored by Riku Voipio.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Starting the sorting process
Barn cleanout

When I first learned that Mayans traditionally burned down all their houses and started fresh every 52 years, it sounded crazy. But after eleven years on our farm...I can see the point. Since we're only able to drive across our floodplain a few times a year, we tend to prioritize mechanized hauling to bring in heavy items and bring out household garbage. Which means our barn is full of useful items that are nonetheless no longer useful to us.

After some thought, Mark and I have resolved to leave most of it behind...which feels astonishingly freeing. Still, we'll bring down resale value if we ignore the clutter entirely. So we'll be spending the next few weeks sorting. A burn pile outside for flammables that are unlikely to help anybody, an area of probably-unuseful-but-we-don't-have-a-way-to-haul-it-out stuff, a more neatly stacked zone of farm friendly items, a shelf of light but high-dollar goods that are worth selling before we go, borrowed items to return, and finally the stuff we actually intend to bring with us.

After two hours of sorting, we made it through about 10% of the barn. The only thing I'll be keeping out of that area is business receipts for tax purposes, while Mark is starting to compile the most useful hardware and tools as his contribution. It looks like we'll really be able to slim down enough to make the move! (I wasn't so sure....)

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
First fact-finding mission
Old tree

First of all, I wanted to thank everyone for your well wishes, both here and via email. It's meant so much to us to be embraced with such positivity and kindness. Please know that your gestures have been noticed and appreciated!

Mark with camera

Now...on to the adventure! Saturday, unable to think about anything other than our transition, we filled all of the feeders and waterers up high and hit the road. Mark's working up a video log with more in-depth thoughts, so I'll keep this post fact-light and picture heavy.

White flower in foggy woods

The difference between land-searching now and land-searching a dozen years ago is astonishing. Nowadays, everything is on the internet, either via Craigslist or realtor sites. So after zeroing in on our intended destination --- Athens, Ohio --- we hit the web and hunted high and low until we found a property we thought would work. Then we got in the car and drove north.

Old house

The first property was a disappointment. Although it was surrounded on three sides by the national forest and had loads of potential, it was going to take a massive amount of time and money to bring up to speed. Since part of the purpose of this move is to take a step ahead rather than a step back, we decided to give this one a miss.


The second property became The One That Got Away. Although there were some downsides (including a price at the high end of our possible spectrum), the property was pretty close to perfect. A small house only a little larger than our current living space but with half of that space consisting of a livable basement, a beautiful shed/barn, and fruit trees in production, plus all of the isolation I crave. We contacted the realtor as soon as we hit our crash space for the night...and found out the property had been sold that very day to someone else.

Foggy pond

Of course, we didn't expect to find our homestead during a whirlwind, two-night trip. Our primary goal during this first adventure was to check out the area and see if we were even on the right track. And, after spending the night in the Passive House and visiting the local Unitarian Church, Mark and I both came away confident that this area would indeed be a very good fit for us. Looks like our to-do list will change from planting and weeding to packing and land hunting for the foreseeable future.

Thanks for coming along for the ride!

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Passive House of Athens
Passive solar house in Athens Ohio.

We celebrated July 4th weekend with a fact finding tour of Athens Ohio.

After a short time being there we could feel it is going to be a good fit for us.

We stayed in The Passive House in Athens.

We only spent the evening and night there but it was great. I wished now that I'd taken a picture of the beautiful wood beams. Whoever built it is a true artist when it comes to home building. Anna and I both give it two thumbs up and would stay there again if we need to.

Joey chatter

Sometimes the simplest things, like laying these bricks under the grape arbor, are super therapeutic.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Chicken waterer closeout sale
Avian Aqua Miser Original

We're moving, which means we need to dramatically reduce our inventory of Avian Aqua Miser Originals. This is our flagship product and is still the best option for many chicken keepers. The half-gallon waterers are each good for up to 5 adult chickens or 15 chicks and they're our very favorite way to keep bedding dry and animals hydrated in tractors and brooders. In winter, it's easy to bring Originals in overnight so they don't freeze, and the waterers are also a breeze to hang on the side of an isolation coop for a hen who's sick and needs a little TLC.

3 Pre-made Avian Aqua Miser Originals

Free shipping
US only
Waters up to 15 chickens (1.5 gallon total capacity)

5 Pre-made Avian Aqua Miser Originals

Free shipping
US only
Waters up to 25 chickens (2.5 gallon total capacity)

Usually, we charge $30 apiece for these waterers. But to reduce our own moving costs, we're selling 3 for $30 with free shipping (or 5 for $40, also with free shipping). The buy buttons are above. Please allow up to three weeks for delivery in the U.S., and I'm afraid we're unable to ship outside the country at this time. Inventory is limited so order soon --- once they're gone, they're gone.

Thanks so much in advance for anyone who buys our waterers or tells your friends. We really appreciate the support and are excited to tell you all about it as we embark on our new adventure!
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
The Walden Effect hits the road

I never thought I'd write this post...but Mark and I have decided to sell the farm and move on. The reasons are many and varied, but what they boil down to is --- we're ready for a new adventure.


Ever since fourth grade, I've wanted a big, sprawling homestead where I could raise every kind of plant and animal imaginable. And this farm was the perfect solution when I grew old enough to make that dream a reality. It was cheap enough that I could afford the price while barely out of college, and  its size allowed us to make huge mistakes with relative impunity. I've loved growing food, taking the goats out to graze, and playing in the creek, and Mark has loved the independence the farm provided for him to create a microbusiness and scratch his inventing itch.

Fig leaves

But they say that we become entirely new people every seven years. And the new person I've become wants something slightly different. I still crave isolation and room for a garden...but it doesn't need to be as huge of a garden and I'd like more cultural and social opportunities nearby. Writing fiction has become a much higher priority for me in recent years, which has led me toward simplifying my homestead life so I have the leisure to pound away on the keyboard without guilt, and Mark feels the same way about his film aspirations. Meanwhile, we also want to plan for aging, which meant either pouring money into the driveway...or pouring that same money into something smaller somewhere else.

Red raspberries

To cut a long story short, we're beginning the long, scary process of severing ties here and building new ties somewhere new. We plan to offer this farm to our neighbors first --- it is, after all, the neighborly thing to do. But if they're not interested, we'll be posting about a ready-made homestead for sale soon. So, if you'd like to slip yourself into fifty-eight acres of potential (some of it already realized), start counting your pennies and thinking about a change of your own. And for everyone else --- don't worry, the Walden Effect will continue...we'll just be opening a new chapter on a slightly different life. More details on that to come in subsequent posts....

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Kitten update
Kitten with Anna at vet office.

A happy ending for this handsome little kitten.

Our local vet agreed to find him a nice home if we paid for shots and surgery.

We love Dr Fuller and his staff!

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Roomba for weeds
Tertill images from kickstarter campaign.

The inventor of the Roomba-Joe Jones has invented a Roomba for weeds.

It seems like a serious product for someone with the right size garden.

Maybe weeding the garden in the future will be more about robot repair and less about kneeling down and pulling up weeds?

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Eclipse preview

Previewing the eclipse at the planetarium got us fired up about coronas and Baily's beads and diamond rings. Only seven and a half weeks until E Day!

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Kubota X900 rear winch receiver
Kubota winch rear installation.

We tested the driveway again today and proved it's still too wet here.

The good news is our first time using the winch on the rear hitch receiver worked without any problems.

Our new plan is to seek someone local with some equipment and experience in driveway building that does small to medium sized jobs like this.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Bays Mountain water lilies
Beaver highway

My first barge ride in many years.... The boat has been upgraded, the phoebe is still nesting in the rafters, and all I had eyes for was waterlilies.

Lake edge lilies

Spatterdocks and water shields....

Water shields

Light on water and ovals of chlorophyll....

Deer eating lilies

Down the hatch!

12 to 24 volt house conversion

Upgrading my solar panels involved switching the house from 12 volts to 24 volts. No reasonably priced charge controllers can handle 1 KW of PV at 12 volts.

There might not be a lot of people who need to do this; entirely 12 volt offgrid houses are not super common, and most upgrades these days probably involve rooftop microinverters and so would involve a switch from DC to AC. I did not find a lot of references online for converting a whole house's voltage from 12V to 24V.

To prepare, I first checked that all the fuses and breakers were rated for > 24 volts. (Actually, > 30 volts because it will be 26 volts or so when charging.) Also, I checked for any shady wiring, and verified that all the wires I could see in the attic and wiring closet were reasonably sized (10AWG) and in good shape.

Then I:

  1. Turned off every light, unplugged every plug, pulled every fuse and flipped every breaker.
  2. Rewired the battery bank from 12V to 24V.
  3. Connected the battery bank to the new charge controller.
  4. Engaged the main breaker, and waited for anything strange.
  5. Screwed in one fuse at a time.


The house used all fluorescent lights, and they have ballasts rated for only 12V. While they work at 24V, they might blow out sooner or overheat. In fact one died this evening, and while it was flickering before, I suspect the 24V did it in. It makes sense to replace them with more efficient LED lights anyway. I found some 12-24V DC LED lights for regular screw-in (edison) light fixtures. Does not seem very common; Amazon only had a few models and they shipped from China.

Also, I ordered a 15 foot long, 300 LED strip light, which runs on 24V DC and has an adhesive backing. Great stuff -- it can be cut to different lengths and stuck anywhere. I installed some underneath the cook stove hood and the kitchen cabinets, which didn't have lights before.

Similar LED strips are used in some desktop lamps. My lamp was 12V only (barely lit at 24V), but I was able to replace its LED strip, upgrading it to 24V and three times as bright.

(Christmas lights are another option; many LED christmas lights run on 24V.)


My Lenovo laptop's power supply that I use in the house is a vehicle DC-DC converter, and is rated for 12-24V. It seems to be running fine at 26V, did not get warm even when charging the laptop up from empty.

I'm using buck converters to run various USB powered (5V) ARM boxes such as my sheevaplug. They're quarter sized, so fit anywhere, and are very efficient.

My satellite internet receiver is running with a large buck converter, feeding 12V to an inverter, feeding to a 30V DC power supply. That triple conversion is inneficient, but it works for now.

The ceiling fan runs on 24V, and does not seem to run much faster than on 12V. It may be rated for 12-24V. Can't seem to find any info about it.

The radio is a 12V car radio. I used a LM317 to run it on 24V, to avoid the RF interference a buck converter would have produced. This is a very inneficient conversion; half of the power is wasted as heat. But since I can stream internet radio all day now via satellite, I'll not use the FM radio very often.

Fridge... still running on propane for now, but I have an idea for a way to build a cold storage battery that will use excess power from the PV array, and keep a fridge at a constant 34 degrees F. Next home improvement project in the queue.

Joey chatter

Over ten times the capacity as the old panels, in a little more than twice the surface area. PV tech has improved a bit since the mid 90's..

DIY solar upgrade complete-ish

Success! I received the Tracer4215BN charge controller where UPS accidentially-on-purpose delivered it to a neighbor, and got it connected up, and the battery bank rewired to 24V in a couple hours.

charge controller
reading 66.1V at 3.4 amps on panels, charging battery at 29.0V at 7.6A

Here it's charging the batteries at 220 watts, and that picture was taken at 5 pm, when the light hits the panels at nearly a 90 degree angle. Compare with the old panels, where the maximum I ever recorded at high noon was 90 watts. I've made more power since 4:30 pm than I used to be able to make in a day! \o/

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Why raspberry patches decline

Ripening raspberriesA few of you asked why we'd need to start our ailing raspberry patch from freshly purchased stock rather than just digging up new shoots the way we've done to expand it in the past. The short answer is --- viruses.

Over time, viruses tend to build up in both raspberries and strawberries, causing declining vigor that carries over to any offshoots you propagate using homestead methods. Reputable nurseries instead rely upon lab techniques to clone without allowing viruses to come along for the ride, resulting in certified virus-free stock.

So if your patch starts ailing for no apparent reason, a fresh start can be worth a few bucks of nursery stock. Be sure to plant in a new location so the diseases won't spread quickly to your new plants and you should get many more years of raspberry for relatively little effort or expense.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
A rainy garden year
Rainy farm

Despite its hot, early start, this summer has since turned wet and cool. We've seen rain for 15 of the last 30 days, adding up to a bit over 7 inches ---  nearly double our usual average.

Soybean seedling

So what do gardeners do during a wet summer? Watch plants grow slower than usual. Snip off blights as soon as they form so the fungal diseases don't spread to take out your entire planting. If you've got spare compost or manure, topdress to replace the leached nutrients. Barring that, plant nitrogen-fixing cover crops like soybeans so at least the next generation will be adequately fed.

On the plus side, at least we haven't had to do much watering this year!

Joey chatter
soldering on

Hacked my sheevaplug's power supply so it will run on anything from 6V-48V DC. Voltage regulator is the size of a quarter.

Quite a contrast from wiring up massive PV combiner box yesterday!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
A new used car

Mark will be getting home shortly from his annual visit to Ohio, so I thought I'd give him a break and post in his place. A huge Thank You! to Rose Nell and Jayne for helping him track down a 2005 Corrolla to replace our old 1994 Corrolla. And, of course, for the usual wonderful food, fun, and fellowship. We love you guys!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Summer harvest begins
Summer harvest

I finally pulled out the broccoli now that the summer crops are coming in. Beans, squash, and cucumbers pick up speed fast once the first harvest happens, so we won't have room in our bellies for much else for the next little while. Time to enjoy the bounty of summer!

PV array is hot

Only took a couple hours to wire up and mount the combiner box.

PV combiner box with breakers

Something about larger wiring like this is enjoyable. So much less fiddly than what I'm used to.

PV combiner box wiring

And the new PV array is hot!

multimeter reading 66.8 DVC

Update: The panels have an open circuit voltage of 35.89 and are in strings of 2, so I'd expect to see 71.78 V with only my multimeter connected. So I'm losing 0.07 volts to wiring, which is less than I designed for.

Joey chatter

I have a porch again! It had turned into a construction zone mess with every surface covered with tools and materials.

(Which reminded me of growing up in a house with an addition that was in a state of suspended construction for years.)

Now if I can just get the damn drill to charge again, only 5 holes to drill before I'm all done except for connecting up cables..

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Time-lapse family photos
Prince Henry Tirrell

Mom came over Thursday with some old family photos, of which this is my very favorite. My great grandfather (lower left) was apparently a prep school boy in 1891. As the youngest in his house, Mom informed me that Prince Henry (yes, that was his first name; no, he wasn't a prince) was made to run errands for everyone else. So maybe the pout isn't feigned?

Dugout canoe

Fast forward ahead forty-odd years and the pouting school boy's daughter was adventuring in Panama. You can jump forty more years into the future to see the canoer's daughter (my mom) in this post. And then check out most of this blog to see the next generation (me) nearly forty years after that. How time flies when you're having fun!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
When to harvest hardy kiwis
Hardy kiwi fruits

Look who's getting bigger by the minute! Our Ananasnaya hardy kiwi has at least a dozen clusters of fruits this year for the first time ever and they're plumping up nicely. So I headed to the internet to look up when the fruits will be ready to harvest.

Hardy kiwi clusterThe answer is that we may run into the same trouble on the harvest end as we did on the flowering end --- frosts. Depending on the source, I've seen reports of hardy kiwis ripening anywhere between July and November, but you definitely have to bring them in before hard freezes hit.

To find out if your hardy kiwis are ripe enough to pick, cut one open and look inside. If the seeds are black, the fruits are ready to pick even if the flesh is green and hard. These kiwis can be stored in the fridge for a couple of months then taken out to ripen at room temperature a few days before you want to try them out.

Alternatively (if there's time), you can let the hardy kiwi fruits ripen on the vine. Vine-ripe fruits will become soft and most will blush red. If picked at this stage, though, you'll have to eat them up quickly because they won't last long in storage. Sounds like such a hardship! I can hardly wait....

Joey chatter

All 4 panels installed and I also finished the outside wiring! \o/

DIY professional grade solar panel installation

I've installed 1 kilowatt of solar panels on my roof, using professional grade eqipment. The four panels are Astronergy 260 watt panels, and they're mounted on IronRidge XR100 rails. Did it all myself, without help.

house with 4 solar panels on roof

I had three goals for this install:

  1. Cheap but sturdy. Total cost will be under $2500. It would probably cost at least twice as much to get a professional install, and the pros might not even want to do such a small install.
  2. Learn the roof mount system. I want to be able to add more panels, remove panels when working on the roof, and understand everything.
  3. Make every day a sunny day. With my current solar panels, I get around 10x as much power on a sunny day as a cloudy day, and I have plenty of power on sunny days. So 10x the PV capacity should be a good amount of power all the time.

My main concerns were, would I be able to find the rafters when installing the rails, and would the 5x3 foot panels be too unweildly to get up on the roof by myself.

I was able to find the rafters, without needing a stud finder, after I removed the roof's vent caps, which exposed the rafters. The shingles were on straight enough that I could follow the lines down and drilled into the rafter on the first try every time. And I got the rails on spaced well and straight, although I could have spaced the FlashFeet out better (oops).

My drill ran out of juice half-way, and I had to hack it to recharge on solar power, but that's another story. Between the learning curve, a lot of careful measurement, not the greatest shoes for roofing, and waiting for recharging, it took two days to get the 8 FlashFeet installed and the rails mounted.

Taking a break from that and swimming in the river, I realized I should have been wearing my water shoes on the roof all along. Super soft and nubbly, they make me feel like a gecko up there! After recovering from an (unrelated) achilles tendon strain, I got the panels installed today.

Turns out they're not hard to handle on the roof by myself. Getting them up a ladder to the roof by yourself would normally be another story, but my house has a 2 foot step up from the back retaining wall to the roof, and even has a handy grip beam as you step up.

roof next to the ground with a couple of cinderblock steps

The last gotcha, which I luckily anticipated, is that panels will slide down off the rails before you can get them bolted down. This is where a second pair of hands would have been most useful. But, I macguyvered a solution, attaching temporary clamps before bringing a panel up, that stopped it sliding down while I was attaching it.

clamp temporarily attached to side of panel

I also finished the outside wiring today. Including the one hack of this install so far. Since the local hardware store didn't have a suitable conduit to bring the cables off the roof, I cobbled one together from pipe, with foam inserts to prevent chafing.

some pipe with 5 wires running
through it, attached to the side of the roof

While I have 1 kilowatt of power on my roof now, I won't be able to use it until next week. After ordering the upgrade, I realized that my old PWM charge controller would be able to handle less than half the power, and to get even that I would have needed to mount the fuse box near the top of the roof and run down a large and expensive low-voltage high-amperage cable, around OO AWG size. Instead, I'll be upgrading to a MPPT controller, and running a single 150 volt cable to it.

Then, since the MPPT controller can only handle 1 kilowatt when it's converting to 24 volts, not 12 volts, I'm gonna have to convert the entire house over from 12V DC to 24V DC, including changing all the light fixtures and rewiring the battery bank...

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Raspberry patch expiration date
Old raspberry patch

I never thought of raspberry patches as coming with an expiration date, but last year I realized that all good things must come to an end.

Red raspberryOur everbearing red raspberries started as a single freebie thrown in by Raintree in 2007 when we ordered several fruit trees. Now, a full decade later, that singleton has expanded into two patches on our own farm plus several in the gardens of family and friends...but the original planting is finally starting to lag. In the photo at the top of this post, the dividing line between the summer-bearing raspberries (begun as one plant three years ago, background) and the ever-bearing raspberries (ten years old, foreground) is startlingly clear.

Luckily, the solution is neither difficult nor expensive. This fall, we'll buy another single plant of an ever-bearing variety (or maybe several if I'm feeling like a spendthrift) and we'll be rolling in spring and fall berries in no time. So despite their expiration dates, ever-bearing raspberries continue to make the cut as one of our easiest and most dependable fruits.

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Roll out nest tray question
Roll out nest tray questions.

What about the design should change to prevent hens getting to the eggs?

Thanks for the question Kaat.

It might be possible to glue an extension to the tray to keep eggs out of reach?

We go back and forth about deleting the two or more hens who are eating eggs.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Celebrating the summer solstice
Summer flowers

The Summer Solstice --- the longest day of the year --- will be tomorrow...and, as usual, I can't think of a really adequate way to celebrate. I always love the idea of jumping over a bonfire...then the reality of sunset falling near my bedtime when it's still hot out kicks in. Maybe I need to learn a sun dance or practice some sun salutations instead?

What's your favorite way to celebrate the solstice?

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Bribing goats during hoof trimming
Goat treats

The trick to a smooth goat hoof-trimming session is high quality bribes. Since neither Aurora nor Edgar is pregnant or lactating, they're currently getting no concentrates. So a bowl full of homegrown sorghum and field corn once a month definitely gets their attention.

For best results, leave the sorghum on the stalk so it takes longer to scarf down. Spoiled goats may or may not decide that corn on the cob is worth the hassle....


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