Joey chatter
back in Portland already?!

Wandered into shop and ended up spending an hour tasting olive oils. Not to mention the "Balsamic room"! In sleepy Bristol, 2 blocks from my Mom's house.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Drying sweet corn
Vegetable curing racks

Every year, we seed six plantings of sweet corn, which provide near-continuous availability of the treat over most of the summer.  And every year, one of those plantings gets away from us.

Drying sweet cornMark and I are such connoisseurs of sweet corn that we only eat the grain at its peak.  I start the water boiling at the same time I head out to the garden to pick and shuck the ears, then I drop the corn in the water and turn each ear once, removing as soon as the color changes from pale to bright yellow, a process that takes mere seconds.  The result is corn so sweet, Lucy begs for the cobs, which she completely consumes.

But if I miss that peak-taste window and our corn starts to turn starchy...then Lucy, Mark, and I all turn up our noses.  Instead, I shuck the corn and put it on our drying racks for winter animal treats.  In the past, I've offered dried sweet corn to our chickens, but this year, I think the ears will go to the goats.

Joey chatter

Comparing with watching US election results come in, Edinburgh seems at risk of being Scotland's Alaska.

Joey git-annex devblog
day 221 another fine day of bugfixing

Working through the forum posts and bugs. Backlog is down to 95.

Discovered the first known security hole in git-annex! Turns out that S3 and Glacier remotes that were configured with embedcreds=yes and encryption=pubkey or encryption=hybrid didn't actually encrypt the AWS credentials that get embedded into the git repo. This doesn't affect any repos set up by the assistant.

I've fixed the problem and am going to make a release soon. If your repo is affected, see insecure embedded creds for what to do about it.

To Love me

The conversation on love, self loathing, and yoga is so fresh on my mind it is hard to draw it up in words.  But it left me in a place so ready to love myself and so aware that often self loathing is how people in this culture direct their energy.  

It all began with me wondering if I should lose weight.  I mentioned I had that horrid drastic thought about liposuction.  We ended up talking about the food that we put in our body and how often it actually is how we eat or with what energy and thinking that makes the largest difference.

There is no set diet that works perfectly for any one person, but the main lesson I took was that if change is needed, it should move me towards loving myself more as I eat and doing it for loving reasons.  It matters that we are conscious of our diet but I think that actually can just mean thinking more self loving.

I am right now eating my breakfast eggs and trying to write and listen to Beethoven and that actually is a lot for me to accomplish all at once.  My thoughts can move so distant from the task at hand, peeling the egg my thinking hands stop writing and I have a minute to focus on the meat that soon will digest and become me.

In our little talks I don't always know all that the lifeguards say but I do always feel touched and often improved.  "May this warm egg join my beautiful body in the best of ways.  May this new flesh allow me to love myself even more."  That is the prayer I make as I eat the egg.  

It is so important that I love myself.  In a bathing suit, I am not like the figures I see on television.  Even in a large comfy sweater.  I guess this is part of the conflict I know in my self image.  As simplified as that is, I am ready to compete less with myself, to hurt myself so much less, to try to eliminate any idea that might abhor me, who I am.

This is so much less complex than the words of my lifeguard used.  People with seemingly basic jobs can make the largest impact on others.  For me, lifeguards have a big influence on my day, partially because I swim in the morning first thing, and partially because two of my lifeguard regulars are seriously enlightening.  

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Planning for goat water
Starplate coop

Several of you asked (or warned) about fencing for our upcoming goats.  I started to write a long post in reply about my complicated plans on that front, but it seemed a little silly to theorize when I'll be able to report on our trial and error in less than a month.  However, there is a goat-related conundrum we're currently trying to solve --- water.

We plan to house our new goats in our starplate coop, but the structure is about 250 feet from the closest water source and up a relatively steep hill.  It was a bit wearying to carry a five-gallon bucket to the coop once a week over the summer, so I can only imagine how old the chore will get for goats (who presumably drink more than chickens) during the winter months.

Hand pumpWe've come up with several potential summer solutions, but winter ones will require more industry.  We can finish working up the gutters and rain-barrel system, but the spigot is bound to freeze during the winter whether or not the tank is big enough prevent the whole thing from freezing solid.  Similarly, we could pump water from the creek into our IBC tanks, but our creek-line isn't buried and only sometimes runs in the winter (and we'd still have to deal with a frozen spigot).

Gene Logsdon posted a few weeks ago about burying rain barrels to make mini-cisterns, and I think the idea has potential in our starplate pasture.  I love to dig, especially at this time of year when garden work is winding down, and the starplate earth is much lighter than the stuff in our core homestead.  Plus, Mark brought a hand-pump home from the hardware store many moons ago, thinking we might need it if the world came to an end, and we could use that to get water out of the buried rain barrel in order to hydrate our herd.

But I have a feeling that I'm missing something even more obvious.  Ideas?  How would you water goats located far enough away from the house that extension cords don't really reach?

Joey chatter
SFnal politics

I've been following the Scottish independence referendum with increasing interest for the past week or so. Finally got caught up tonight on Charlie's posts giving the background history and his reasons for voting "yes". As well as other perspectives. Down the rabbit hole...

Last night, I couldn't stop listening to this really rather disturbing This American Life episode, which chronicles a complete failure of small-scale democracy and checks and balances.

So, am I getting political in my old age? Maybe, but I think I mostly look at this stuff from a SFnal perspective. Not entirely a good thing, but at least it sometimes means thinking about the big picture and not getting caught up in the political mire. Also, I've otherwise had a hard time finding much good SF to read lately.

The last scene in that trainwreck of a school board gone bad TAL episode, with the black robed religious extremists marching from one part of their compound to the other to vote in the prescribed manner (in America ... in New Jersey for crying out loud) feels like it could be something straight out of Atwood.

Meanwhile, the 16 and 17 year old Scots going to vote in large numbers this morning, on the question of "Should this be an independent country?" ... that's a SF juvenile that I've never seen before!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Gravy season
Grasshopper on sunflower

Autumn weather arrived this past weekend and the long-range forecast suggests it may stick around.  Luckily, we're mostly in gravy mode in the garden --- we've packed away enough vegetables to last us for the winter, and are just enjoying eating the rest of the harvest (with occasional bouts of tomato drying or pepper freezing for variety later in the Sorghum flowersyear).  The figs are still dragging their feet and refusing to ripen, but the blueberries are winding down and the red raspberries are in full swing.

Mom asked what I planned to do if we get an early frost and I said that, really, we're ready.  Not that I want summer to end, but when freezing temperatures are forecast, we'll just let them happen.

One experiment hasn't quite reached it conclusion --- the sorghum plants I seeded at the beginning of July.  Just as our current cool spell came in, the plants shot up even higher and pushed out flower heads, which may or may not have time to turn into seeds before the frost.  I took the photo to the left with the zoom feature since these heads are way out of my reach, making our tall sunflowers look like midgets in comparison.

Honeybee in wingstem

Cooler weather also reminds me that it's time to pay attention to the bees.  I did a second varroa-mite count last weekend and was extremely pleased with the results --- 2.5 mites per day in the daughter hive and 3.5 mites per day in the mother hive.  Our Texas bees continue to be worth their weight in gold.

But are they worth their weight in honey?  Now that the humidity has dropped below 90%, I'm hoping for a sunny and moderately warm afternoon to harvest honey from the mother hive.  (The daughter will have the empty bottom box removed but will otherwise be left alone.)  Maybe Friday?

Wanting to Love Who I am!

I used to swim a lot in my "former body", the thin one that is still in here angry when I hear people objectify one another or try to impose body standards on one another. This morning I was walking naked in front of the mirror and noticed that I have a bowl full of jello kind of stomach and it was jiggling. And for the first time in many moons I let myself think “maybe I should be skinnier. Maybe I should get surgery.”

I met this woman in January who inspired me and I have been coached in a casual way by a separate lifeguard to keep on and increase my routine into more than a dabble. And now I walk to the pool AND swim a full hour which equals a mile in the water and on the land. But someone said something this morning that reminded me of my father who has disowned me, and because that person was a man I coiled into myself and became very worried, with thoughts spinning and that lead to the putting other people standards on my naked jello belly.

I want to say I love every aspect of my body. I think in my beliefs it is kind of antiwoman not to love my rougher edges that would not necessarily be featured on Cover Girl but still are me. I feel I am at some sort of critical point right now with my own body. So when I read about your exercise plans I wanted to encourage you. You too can build up your strength doing gym exercise. You probably have different views than me about much of this. I just would like to say that I am here if ever you want to talk about your body. I am also kind of desperate to find ears who will listen to my body stories.

I want to be a Body Love Coach.

Joey git-annex devblog
day 220 working through backlog

Made a release yesterday, which was all bugfixes.

Today, a few more bug fixes. Looked into making the webapp create non-bare repositories on removable drives, but before I got too far into the code, I noticed there's a big problem with that idea.

Rest of day was spent getting caught up on forum posts etc. I'm happy to read lots of good answers that have been posted while I've been away. Here's an excellent example:

That led to rewriting the docs for building git-annex from source. New page: fromsource.

Backlog is now down to 117.

Joey chatter
picking up my slack

Taking a step back is great when others step up and pick up the slack.

After patchmeistering an ikiwiki release several months ago, Simon McVittie released version 3.20140916 today without any help from me. \o/

Also, I'm seeing lots of helpful answers posted by many users in the git-annex forums.

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Steep hill trimmer mowing
Swisher trimmer mower doing an extreme uphill mowing

How is the new Swisher trimmer mower on very steep hills?

Like a dream!

The above hill took a lot of effort with our blade mower, but today was easy once I got the hang of letting the machine drive it up the hill. Gravity takes over when you release the engagement lever for the downward portion.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Win a free fig tree!

Rooted fig cuttingI don't usually cross-promote books here if we publish them but they're written by someone else.  But our publishing wing has become the majority of our bread and butter lately, so I hope you don't mind the occasional plug...especially if it comes with a homesteading-related giveaway!

I'll start with the part you're probably most interested in --- the free stuff!  I rooted a cutting from my father's Brown Turkey fig this year, and the sapling is looking for a zone-7 or warmer home.  Daddy is picking a gallon of figs a day from this little tree's mother, and says that fig pie is his current favorite way to consume the fruit.  As long as you don't live in a cold climate, fig trees require nearly no care, and can be fit into an area about eight feet in diameter (although I hear they get much larger in California).  Why not enter to win your own no-work fruit tree?

What if you live up north?  Don't worry, I'll swap out your prize for something more appropriate.  You might prefer cuttings from my Chicago hardy fig --- these are easy to root and will produce fruit (with a little care) up through zone 6.  However, if even that is Burgling the Dragontoo tropical for your tastes, you can choose either a medley of our favorite seeds, or a signed copy of one of my (or Aimee's) books.  And, if a northerner wins the prize, I'll pick a second winner to give the fig tree to!

How do you enter the giveaway?  Just plug our books using the widget below.  Aimee has several new books out now or soon --- you've probably heard me mention Shiftless, which has already sold over 3,000 copies and will be an audio book within a few weeks; Burgling the Dragon is available at a special preorder price of 99 cents through September 30; and Aimee's short story Flight of the Billionaire's Sister will make you itch to read her newest novel, slated to release in November or December.  Oh, and did I mention that her short-story collection is free on Amazon today?  Once books are out of the preorder period, you can also borrow nearly all of her books (and mine too!) using Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited, so why not check some out?  Thanks in advance for reading and for spreading the word!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Swisher trimmer mower day 1
Swisher trimmer mower in action

We put together the new Swisher trimmer mower today.

It feels like more than twice the cutting power of our previous mower.

I'm still learning how to use it. When the self propelled mechanism is engaged I found myself struggling to keep up with its pace. It's better to just pump the engagement lever a few seconds at a time to let the machine do most of the work.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Are maypops tasty?
Passionflower fruit

MaypopOne of Mom's friends gave her this unripe passionflower fruit, which she then passed along to me.  Since the maypop is edible and the vine is often included in permaculture texts, I might see if the fruit had gotten far enough along on the vine to produce viable seeds.

I'm always up for growing an experimental species, even though I have a feeling that, if maypops tasted all that good, I would have eaten one before since they're native to our region and since I grew up amid foragers.
  In the meantime, I'd be curious to hear from those of you who have grown passionflowers in your garden.  I know the blossoms are beautiful, but is the fruit worth eating?

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Permaculture tacos
Permaculture tacos

I wish I could give you a solid recipe for the paste I made Saturday because it's based on beans but even Mark found it delicious.  (Plus, all of the ingredients except the olive oil, salt, pepper, and walnuts are ripe on the farm right now).  But I mostly just put in some of this and some of that until the paste tasted right.  Here's my best guess on proportions:

Scarlet runner beans
  • 1 heaping cup of scarlet runner beans in the lima-bean stage, pods removed
  • 1 cup of homemade chicken broth
  • 2 small red peppers, minced
  • 4 small sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil (about 0.25 cups, enough to get the consistency hummusy)
  • 1 large handful of dried tomatoes, on the soft side rather than thoroughly dried
  • 1 small handful of walnuts

Pureeing beansCook the beans, broth, peppers, thyme, and garlic in the chicken broth for about 20 minutes, until the beans are soft.  (Unfortunately, the brilliant color goes away and the beans turn gray at this point.)  Cool, then puree the mixture in the food processor with the other ingredients.  If you're smart, you'll blend up the tomatoes and walnuts first, but they worked out okay added in later.

Serving suggestion: Make little tacos out of Malabar spinach leaves filled with bean paste, chopped arugula, and thinly sliced tomatoes, red peppers, and edible-pod peas.  These can be eaten with one hand like a soft taco if you're careful not to overfill.  While this serving method is a bit time-consuming to prepare, it's pretty and fun for a special occasion!  Happy birthday, farm!

Joey chatter

Spring in the tropics extended my summer to 5 months or so. Somehow it also seemed to fly by and not be hot enough after I got back.

Finally, sweet fall chill ! But, please spare my tomatoes and peppers for another week or two, they're at their peak.

Maggic Button Question

Parallel lines, palms

up, a lifeline confounded

gypsy. Two gathered.


Flowing skirt. Beads, sweat.

Cami top, tie dye, camo.

Long hair, braided rat.


Magic button, no?

Every person thought normal

few choose mood order.


Light of two eyes strikes

into spark. Spent too much time

on tarot young one.


Always was magic.

I’m magic without button.

Mood or no mood. Me.

Home Art

On the day the Washington County BOS decided to allow hydrofracking I spent six hours with a friend/artist creating an artistic visual to represent the 1600 petition signatures Virginia Organizing had collected against the ordinance.    Sadly these last minute made Appalachian prayer flags never really were part of the demonstration against the fracking because I got caught up in other things and didn't explain them properly.  I had only had 3 hours of sleep that night and knew I would be on TV when our rally gathered.  But I have hung this display in my room and when think about it, it lifts my heart rather than sinks my spirits.  We lost this battle against hydrofracking and it is going to get really ugly here before it gets better.  But in my room I have this ever present reminder.  The majority of people, regardless of their politics or religion, no matter who they are know the importance of our water.  We will win this war, or to change the lingo, we won't abandon this masterpiece.  

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Black-soldier-fly-bin upgrades

Larvae crawling offI suspect we'll be making our own upgraded black-soldier-fly bin next year.  The bin we bought is an awesome introduction...but I keep overfilling it since I have 50 pounds of moldy chicken feed to work my way through.  Last week, the mass of decomposing chicken feed heated up so much that white larvae crawled off, and even when I'm more careful, I feel like the bin is getting waterlogged and full of castings when I add half a gallon of chicken feed (soaked to become about a gallon) per week.

Black soldier fly harvest
The photo above shows the kind of crawl-off I'd rather see --- just the black pupae.  This type of heavy harvest comes about once a week, when I add more chicken feed and soak the bin contents in the process.  On other days, I instead get perhaps a couple dozen pupae, still enough to make our tractored hens happy.  But more pupae is definitely better, and I now understand why you might want to have a 10- or 20-gallon bin.  Or perhaps to have several smaller bins (although I'd still want them all to be located right outside the back door where it's easy to put in scraps and to take out pupae for the chickens).

Escaping pupae

Meanwhile, there's at least one feature of our current bin that I don't feel is working as it should.  The velcro strip around the top of the bin, meant to keep pupae from escaping without crawling into the collection bin, has a gap in each corner just big enough for pupae to wriggle through.  I keep finding drowned pupae in the ant-trap moat around the bin, which makes me sad.

While I'm writing a wish list of future changes, I'd like to drill holes in the top of the collection jar just large enough for an adult fly to escape, but too small for a pupa to get Black soldier fly eggsthrough.  Three times now, I've seen adult flies trapped in the collection bin, once because I left a pupa inside too long and it hatched, but twice because the flies went to lay their eggs in the main bin and ended up exiting in a different direction.

That said, our bin is providing a healthy dose of animal protein for our flock nearly every day, and the number of larvae inside seems to keep growing.  I caught one fly laying eggs inside the handle of the drainpipe last week (which I transferred to the bin), but I suspect there have been many other sets of eggs laid without my notice.  I'm definitely ready to say that Mark is right --- black soldier flies are a good fit for our farm.  Now we just need to work the kinks out of the operation.

Joey git-annex devblog
day 219 catching up and looking back

Yesterday and today were the first good solid days working on git-annex in a while. There's a big backlog, currently of 133 messages, so I have been concentrating on bug reports first. Happily, not many new bugs have been reported lately, and I've made good progress on them, fixing 5 bugs today, including a file descriptor leak.

catching up

In this end of summer rush, I've been too busy to blog for the past 20 days, but not entirely too busy to work on git-annex. Two releases have been made in that time, and a fair amount of improvements worked on.

Including a new feature: When a local git repository is cloned with git clone --shared, git-annex detects this and defaults to a special mode where file contents get hard linked into the clone. It also makes the cloned repository be untrusted, to avoid confusing numcopies counting with the hard links. This can be useful for temporary working repositories without the overhead of lots of copies of files.

looking back

I want to look back further, over the crowdfunded year of work covered by this devblog. There were a lot of things I wanted to accomplish this past year, and I managed to get to most of them. As well as a few surprises.

  • Windows support improved more than I guessed in my wildest dreams.
    git-annex went from working not too well on the command line to being pretty solid there, as well as having a working and almost polished webapp on Windows.
    There are still warts -- it's Windows after all!

  • Android didn't get many improvements. Most of the time I had budgeted to Android porting ended up being used on Windows porting instead. I did, however, get the Android build environment cleaned up a lot from the initial hacked together one, and generally kept it building and working on Android.

  • The direct mode guard was not planned, but the need for it became clear, and it's dramatically reduced the amount of command-line foot-shooting that goes on in direct mode.

  • Repository repair was planned, and I've very proud of git-repair. Also pleased with the webapp's UI for scheduling repository consistency checks.
    Always room for improvement in this kind of thing, but this brings a new capability to both git and git-annex.

  • The external special remote interface came together beautifully. External special remotes are now just as well supported as built-in ones, except the webapp cannot be used to configure them.

  • Using git-remote-gcrypt for fully encrypted git repositories, including support in the webapp for setting them (and gpg keys if necessary), happened. Still needs testing/more use/improvements. Avoided doing much in the area of gpg key management, which is probably good to avoid when possible, but is probably needed to make this a really suitable option for end users.

  • Telehash is still being built, and it's not clear if they've gotten it to work at all yet. The v2 telehash has recently been superseded by a a new v3. So I am not pleased that I didn't get git-annex working with telehash, but it was outside my control. This is a problem that needs to get solved outside git-annex first, either by telehash or something else. The plan is to keep an eye on everything in this space, including for example, Maidsafe.

  • In the meantime, the new notifychanges support in git-annex-shell makes XMPP/telehash/whatever unnecessary in a lot of configurations. git-annex's remotedaemon architecture supports that and is designed to support other notification methods later. And the webapp has a lot of improvements in the area of setting up ssh remotes, so fewer users will be stuck with XMPP.

  • I didn't quite get to deltas, but the final month of work on chunking provides a lot of new features and hopefully a foundation that will get to deltas eventually. There is a new haskell library that's being developed with the goal of being used for git-annex deltas.

  • I hadn't planned to make git-annex be able to upgrade itself, when installed from this website. But there was a need for that, and so it happened. Even got a gpg key trust path for the distribution of git-annex.

  • Metadata driven views was an entirely unplanned feature. The current prototype is very exciting, it opens up entire new use cases. I had to hold myself back to not work on it too much, especially as it shaded into adding a caching database to git-annex. Had too much other stuff planned to do all I wanted. Clearly this is an area I want to spend more time on!

Those are most of the big features and changes, but probably half of my work on git-annex this past year was in smaller things, and general maintenance. Lots of others have contributed, some with code (like the large effort to switch to bootstrap3), and others with documentation, bug reports, etc.

Perhaps it's best to turn to git diff --stat to sum up the activity and see just how much both the crowdfunding campaign and the previous kickstarter have pushed git-annex into high gear:

   campaign: 5410 files changed, 124159 insertions(+), 79395 deletions(-)
kickstarter: 4411 files changed, 123262 insertions(+), 13935 deletions(-)
year before: 1281 files changed,   7263 insertions(+), 55831 deletions(-)

What's next? The hope is, no more crowdfunded campaigns where I have to promise the moon anytime soon. Instead, the goal is to move to a more mature and sustainable funding model, and continue to grow the git-annex community, and the spaces where it's useful.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Lunchbox peppers
Lunchbox peppers

I think I may have found my new favorite sweet pepper.  Too bad it's a hybrid!

I bought a packet of Lunchbox peppers from Johnny's this spring on a whim.  We've been pretty happy growing pimento-type peppers since the smaller fruits ripen up before frost even if I don't start the plants inside ultra-early.  But my heirloom variety started to decline in vigor after a few years, perhaps because I didn't grow enough plants to keep the gene bank deep.

Cut pepperAnyway, to cut a long story short, I chose two new varieties this spring, selecting from among peppers with the fastest days-to-maturity.  The pimento-type pepper (Round of Hungary) that I tried this time around did ripen its first fruit just as quickly as the Lunchbox peppers, but the former has been providing approximiately one red pepper per week from three plants while the latter is overflowing with goodness from a similar size planting.  Even after adding peppers to our salad all week, I still ended up with a bowful in need of preservation.

Lunchbox isn't really a variety but a mix of three different types of pepper.  Luckily for me, most of my plants turned out to be the red type, since that one is much more vigorous than the yellow and orange.  The plants and fruits look like hot peppers, but the peppers are sweet and delicious (although with slightly thinner flesh than you'd expect in larger peppers).

I wonder what I'd get if I saved the seeds of my Lunchbox peppers and tried the hybrid offspring in next year's garden?

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
A busy time for cover crops
Declining tomatoes

The first half of September is a surprisingly busy time in our garden.  Why the surprise?  Because most people are letting their summer vegetables drift into weeds at this time of year...but I'm opening up areas as fast as I can to plant oilseed radishes and oats as cover crops.  My method means that our farm's soil gets richer every year while weed pressure gets lower and lower...but it does keep me hopping.

Oat cover cropIf I didn't have an oat deadline to consider (September 15), then I'd let beds of dwindling summer squash, cucumbers, bush beans, and mung beans sit around and dribble in a bit more food.  Instead, I rip them out and plant cover crops.  Similarly, I look at larger plants with a stern eye --- will I lose much by raking back the mulch around declining tomatoes and sowing oats to hold the soil over the winter?  Probably not, so oats it is!

I've read that some old-timey farmers used to plant oats around their strawberry plants at this time of year, growing mulch in place for the spring.  I've always been afraid of losing productivity in my favorite fruit, but I opted to experiment with half of one bed this fall.  Similarly, I sowed oats beyond the canopy spread in our blueberry rows, hoping for a bit of extra organic matter with little effort on my part.

Do I get to rest on my laurels once the cover-crop deadline is past?  Nope --- then it will be time to weed the fall seedlings and plant a bunch of beds of garlic.  But I can definitely feel the garden locomotive slowing down as it prepares to pull into the station and rest for the winter.

Joey chatter

It could easily be let back in, by eg, removing the out of date armel build and downgrading #754311

Joey chatter
shared hosting

My recent server move was necessary because Steve Kemp ended his kvm-hosting experiment.

That was a slightly ahead of its time use of kvm to split a machine amoung a small co-op of users. Some time before that, my server was hosted in a rack at , which I'm pleased to see is still going. I think there's value in these kinds of hosting sharing things, and I wonder what the next class will look like. Maybe docker will get good enough security that we can all give one-another docker containers using spare capacity on our hosted kvm servers?

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Goat check
Grown up pasture

The decision has been made!  I mailed in our down-payment, and we'll pick up our nanny goat in October.  In the meantime, we've got lots to do and to decide.  For example, we're still not 100% sure whether we want to start with the lowest-work option (one doe and one Milk goatwether) or whether, since we're going to have two goats anyway, we might as well bite the bullet and find another girl.  On the plus side, two girls would make us more likely to have enough milk to experiment with cheese; on the minus side, two girls would mean double the kids to manage in the spring and double the milking chores.  At the moment, we've resolved to let serendipity decide --- if another milk goat turns up on craigslist in the next month that seems like a good fit for our homestead, we'll go for it; otherwise, we'll find a cheap wether somewhere to keep our first find company.

Future goat barn

Since we won't be milking at first, we can save half of our prep chores for later, but there's still lots to do.   It's time to finally add gates to our starplate pastures, time to protect the one tree I care about that's still growing there, and time to convert the starplate coop into the starplate goat barn.  The last task involves splitting the building into stalls so the kids can be kept separate from the mother(s) in the spring, adding food and water stations, and perhaps making a food-storage room (to replace the metal garbage can we used with chickens).  My to-buy list currently includes hoof-trimming supplies, loose minerals and maybe boluses for copper and kelp for additional nutrition, leashes and breakaway collars, and a bit of feed (although we're hoping to raise the goats on brush and weeds as much as possible).  And that doesn't even count the milking, kidding, and disbudding supplies we'll need to think about before spring --- I guess my goat endeavor is going to cost just as much as Mark's high-end mower.

Corn shock

Then there are the less essential preparations that just make me happy.  I decided to dry some sweet-corn stalks in a shock to see if the goats will enjoy them as a midwinter snack, and I also draped the sweet potato vines across the porch for a similar reason.  Too bad we've passed the time to plant carrots and mangels --- next year!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Vegetables that thrive in poor soil
Sweet potato harvest

Big and little butternutI had forgotten how poor our soil used to be until I opened up some new garden areas this year.  Without frequent applications of manure, straw, and cover crops to build the organic-matter levels, our native soil is a cloddy mass of pale silty-clay.  Unsurprisingly, many crops failed to thrive in this new ground...but others did even better.  I figured you might like hearing about the good and the bad in case you have poor-soil areas of your own that you want to put into production now rather than waiting until years of TLC turn your topsoil black.

Who failed the test?  Carrots and butternuts both grew in the new ground, but produced fruits and roots that were half the size of what I'm used to.  In the photo, the butternut on the right comes from an older bed while the one on the left is representative of the squash we harvested from the new bed.  Total yield in the new ground was about a third to a quarter of what I'd expect elsewhere for these two crops.

Nodding sunflower

On the other hand, sunflowers and sweet potatoes seemed to grow even better in the poor soil.  In the top photo, the potatoes in the basket all came from a similar square footage (but from richer soil) as the huge number of potatoes cleaned and stacked on the porch (that came from poorer soil).  Keep in mind that I did take the time to dig these new patches, scooping the topsoil out of the aisles to double the height of the growing beds (and I usually don't dig or till our established beds at all).  So, the thrivers may be responding to the fluffiness and quick breakdown of organic matter into nitrogen that you find in recently churned ground.  Or maybe they just like low organic matter and nutrient levels.

To paraphrase Tolstoy, happy soils are all alike; every unhappy soil is unhappy in its own way.  So you might find that the crops that thrive in our poor soil don't do so well in yours.  Still, I'd be curious to hear from our readers who have kept an eye on crops growing in good and poor parts of their gardens.  Which plants like and dislike the bad ground?

Joey chatter

So I got 3-ish hours of sleep and then proceeded to migrate my family's mail server and shell box across the atlantic, including rebuilding it from scratch and switching it to use dovecot. Nothing broke very badly. I think this is thanks to checklists and generally due to my chiseling away at this transition for the past 6 months.

Don't Watch "Utopia."

If you believe that society can better itself, if you ascribe to the Walden Effect, if you believe in peace truly or want to make the world better, or want to entertain your thoughts on Sunday evenings in front of a television or livestream, don't turn to Fox.  Don't watch "Utopia".  There are a million reasons not to watch the Fox Network.  This is another one.  Watching the television series called "Utopia" was something I stumbled into because I am interested in the theme of community improvement and societal betterment and because TV can be enjoyable.  I wish I didn't.  It pretty much scarred me for life.  And there are 4 or 5 cameras constantly streaming in and breaking the barrier of privacy of the individuals in the show and those cameras will never be taken down for a year.  Twenty four hours a day the National Security Agency (NSA) taps into all the citizens of the world without any form of consent.  But it is not that kind of visual assault that I saw on "Utopia".  It is much worse for the people in the show.  They signed contracts saying that while they were in the show they would be unveiled, constantly burdened by the eyes and ears of the whole world.  I do not blame the people in that show.  It is a bad idea for all of their wellbeing.  

Adding to the terrible lack of privacy, the first episode spanned just a few days, and made me feel sick about the perceived nature of human kind.  Environmental factors inform all of our psychological responses to, well, everything.  These people have so much pressure on them that within the first day, one of the cast/people was humiliated by her own alcohol poisoning.  I believe in the goodness of human beings.  But we must pull out of negative environments and situations and that can be very difficult and speak volumes to our resilience.  Actually the woman who had to leave that first night because of alcohol poisoning came back in my eyes as the strongest in the leading compassion she showed the other people.  She was the one to offer the most acceptance of another person who went overboard with his drinking and he made all of the women feel threatened.  Already there was  a trial and he was put on probation but allowed to remain in the reality show.  

"Utopia" is possible.  But we all have to work through our troubles in PRIVACY.  I hate the NSA.  I watched the entire first season of "Survivor" which is called one of the first reality shows.  But there were times and spaces of remoteness in that show.  There was not a constant stream of the people.  We as a world are not capable of killing and hurting and raping one another then coming to terms with all that we do on camera.  But people kill, people hurt, and people rape.  People commit atrocities every day.  People are resilient though.  We hurt and we are hurt daily.  We sin and we forgive and we grow.  We cannot improve without a moment of silence, a bit of space, a time to reflect or pray or meditate or just think.  Concentrating on self betterment is tough for a lot of people (introverts and extroverts) under the constant surveillance of others. 

This show is based on a sick concept that has not been thought out enough.  The three white men who created the concept behind the show have made a mistake.  I would challenge them to have higher ideals than those they stated in their original interview that I saw that led me to the show.  Don't throw 20 odd people into the public eye for a year just to see what happens.  Try to actually make the world better.  It is possible.  That is the worst thing, the name of the show refers to the book by Sir Thomas More.  I actually read the whole book on Audible.  More was pretty hesitant to believe in perfection of human communities.   Utopia is a word that by definition carries a great paradox.

But you know what?  I really believe in peace which is ultimately what I think our world needs.  My parents are both so educated and aware of the world of peace work that I never questioned peace.  It was always a given in my mind that it was something important, worth working for.  I do stupid offensive brash things too.  But I always want to transform my own fumbles and offensive behavior.  I am responsible for what I do, but if there was an eye that constantly watched me that would be a violation.  The National Security Agency is raping all of us, but if we know how, we can get away for as long as we want.  We can go off the grid and drive those fuckers crazy.  (sorry language)  These people in the show Utopia are stuck in a terrible place.  I hope they find ways to heal that violated part of themselves that I haven't really heard directly mentioned (privacy).  But it is thick through the show.  

I really pray that the people in the show improve their emotional states (maybe via quitting or throwing rocks at the cameras.)  I have no interest in watching the show anymore.  "Utopia", the show, is down right offensive, violating the better interest of real social betterment.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Duck vaccillations
Duck versus chicken eggs

Original plan: Keep a mixed flock of ducks and chickens this winter to see whether it's true that waterfowl are better winter layers than land fowl

Midsummer plan: Get rid of the ducks ASAP!

DucksLate summer plan: Slaughter all the male ducks (meaning we won't be raising waterfowl again next year), but keep the girls for winter layers.  Now that I treat the ducks like chickens (only giving them open water as a treat once a week --- after all, it rains nearly every day), they're much easier to handle.  Sure, ducks don't forage as well as chickens on a hillside, but the experiment is still worthy of carrying to its natural conclusion...

...Especially since the ducks are starting to lay!  I found the first egg (slightly dirty because we haven't built floor-level nest boxes yet) on Thursday and we tasted it on Friday.  The consensus was --- it tastes like an egg.  (By carefully eating bites of duck and chicken eggs side by side, I could detect a very slightly richer flavor in the former, but the difference was very minor.)  I'll be sure to report laying stats in a few months once day length is at winter levels.

Joey chatter

because debconf

propellor is d-i 2.0

I think I've been writing the second system to replace d-i with in my spare time for a couple months, and never noticed.

I'm as suprised as you are, but consider this design:

  • Installation system consists of debian live + haskell + propellor + web browser.

  • Entire installation UI consists of a web-based (and entirely pictographic and prompt based, so does not need to be translated) selection of the installation target.

  • Installation target can be local disk, remote system via ssh (wiping out crufty hacked-up pre-installed debian), local VM, live ISO, etc.

  • Really, no other questions. Not even user name/password! The installed system will only allow login via the same method that was used to install it. So a locally installed system will accept console/X login with no password and then a forced password change. Or a system installed via ssh will only allow login using the same ssh key that was used to install it.

  • The entire installation process consists of a disk format, followed by debootstrap, followed by running propellor in the target system. This also means that the installed system includes a propellor config file which now describes the properties of the system as installed (so can be edited to tweak the installation, or reused as starting point for next installation).

  • Users who want to configure installation in any way write down properties of system using a simple propellor config file. I suppose some people still use more than one partiton or gnome or some such customization, so they'd use:

main :: IO
main = Installer.main
    & Installer.partition First "/boot" Ext3 (MiB 256)
    & Installer.partition Next "/" Ext4 (GiB 5)
    & Installer.partition Next "/home" Ext4 FreeSpace
    & Installer.grubBoots "hd0"
    & os (System (Debian Stable) "amd64")
    & Apt.stdSourcesList
    & Apt.installed ["task-gnome-desktop"]
  • The installation system is itself built using propellor. A free feature given the above design, so basically all it will take to build an installation iso is this code:
main :: IO
main = Installer.main
    & CdImage "installer.iso"
    & os (System (Debian Stable) "amd64")
    & Apt.stdSourcesList
    & Apt.installed ["task-xfce-desktop", "ghc", "propellor"]
    & User.autoLogin "root"
    & User.loginStarts "propellor --installer"
  • Propellor has a nice display of what it's doing so there is no freaking progress bar.

Well, now I know where propellor might end up if I felt like spending a month and adding a few thousand lines of code to it.

Joey chatter

To unpack that a tiny bit for the people who don't like thoughts in 140 on proprietary platforms:

Debconf is currently very monadic (without realizing it of course), and this is the cause of most, if not all of its problems.

Lose the monads and fall back to their applicative cousins, and you lose the possibility for conditionals etc, so no need for complicated debconf config scripts with typically broken back button support.

But also, applicatives allow for declarative interface building, by composing together building blocks, in an entirely open-ended way. For example, html forms can be expressed applicatively, and I use this in the git-annex webapp (thanks to yesod-form). This should go a along way to solving the problem that debconf is limited to a few basic input types and cannot be used to make more elaborate interfaces when needed.

Pity that if I implemented it in haskell, probably in under 10k LOC, I'd probably get a 10-50 mb binary..


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