Maggie too
Pre-Kickstarter Announcement

I am very excited to announce my plans for a Kickstarter funded Children's Book is currently being reviewed by the crowd funding website, Kickstarter.  My hope is to complete the project in about a year.  So if you can set aside 30 dollars for an e-book, 50 dollars for the hardcopy and e-book, or 100 dollars for an original painting plus e-book (limited to 31 paintings.)

The last Kickstarter I finished was a polished calendar, very individualized.  I put a ton of work for a month into that calendar, and it was a collection of 12 visual designs and 12 haikus that all came together in a way that really worked.  I was proud of it, but it was a ton of work.  Only about 13 individuals donated towards the production of the calendar, and I am hoping to have many more people invest in my Children's Book to make it worthwhile.

I won't even be able to produce a single copy if I don't achieve the 800 dollar goal.  It is all or nothing.  Because I will be spending a year creating 31 additional paintings and forming this book, plus living life, attending a MFA program in Children's Book Writing and Illustrating, and hopefully going to the Ozarks for a while to learn about homesteading.

The theme of my children's book is about self empowerment, and is aimed to be a picture book for about the third grade.  I am sure it will reach all ages if it kicks off ok.  This book will be a magnificent work of art, with a narrative that encourages readers to envision their hopeful future self into being.

Stay tuned.  I am likely waiting until January to release the project.  :)  

rstidyman (Richard)
House lights!

There-is-no-real-ending.-Its-just-the-place-where-you-stop-the-story.-Frank-Herbert1Disappearing art.  Music, sand sculptures, Burning Man, and our play, “A Christmas Carol” are temporary.  Last night was the last of six performances.  I’m happy to say, it was our best.  I would have been disappointed if I continued to drop lines for every show. When I did, another actor would help, or we’d recover and for the most part, the audience didn’t notice or not care. But last night we all nailed it tight, with more emotion, playfulness, and heart than any of us had risked before.   It is community theatre with a cast of amateurs, with about 16 high school and middle school kids, and three adults and several behind the scenes volunteers.

24991034_10215523582431128_7110640036250297304_nI had been warned that the last show  could be an emotional one.  With earlier shows, I felt more anxiety about remembering lines.  After Friday night’s performance, and then the Saturday matinee, I felt mostly confidence for the first time, and wanting to go out there and give it my all, and I knew everyone else would.  As a result, I had less to worry about and more space for other emotions, e.g., fun, appreciation, joy, relief, camaraderie, and anticipation.  

Before each show, we circle up for something of a pep talk but it is different than an athletic team circle up.  It is not about bravado, or competition.  It is a moment to reassure ourselves that we have worked hard, and to let ourselves relax and let it flow.  Joe reminds us on occasion how theatre changes lives and would share examples.  Once example included a young teen, who reluctantly tried out, and encouraged to accept a small part.  She went on to play larger rolls, and her confidence in theatre as well as career and the rest of her life grew.  Her children became involved, and now many years later, her grandchildren do theater. As he talks, we ponder to ourselves how theater has changed us for the better, and wonder where it will lead us.

24862401_10156038489944374_4818703090969898350_n.jpgThe circle up includes a chance for anyone to state a line from the play that sticks with them.  On Friday I was inspired to to share one of mine.  “Wherever you go, you bring them cheer.  You give them hope.”  And that is what our goal is.  Not just to give ourselves cheer and hope, but to share it with an audience, offer them a gift.  Each person uses the gift to suit their own needs.  For some, a respite from an otherwise difficult day.  For others, a walk down memory lane, of past Christmases. And for some, a reminder to reflect on their own life.  I was a little emotional, with watery eyes sharing this one.  A few others got teary eyed as well, and a greatly appreciated group hug of those closest to me affirmed the sentiment was felt by others.

The three shows on the weekend of December 15th and 16th were especially sweet.  On Friday, five friends traveled from Boone to see the Friday p.m. show, and spent the night here at our house.  Friday afternoon and Saturday a.m. gave us lots of time to catch up.  These are people that don’t lie.  They are truth tellers.  And they thought the show was great.  They have watched me grow over the years and remind me of life in earlier times as compared to now, and together, we wonder what the future holds.

For Saturday’s show, another friend drove over from Boone, which I expected, and then quite unexpected, Danielle’s son and his family showed up.  Danielle knew they were coming but kept it a secret from me.  It was so sweet seeing them and knowing they drove up from Asheville, despite their son feeling under the weather.  

The matinee itself was pretty good but not perfect.  I dropped some lines and scrambled but those in attendance seemed to enjoy it.  Matinee crowds are usually a little less enthusiastic for some reason.  Time of day, older crowd usually, maybe they haven’t had the dinner out with a few drinks, and therefore not as inclined to laugh.  But there was at least one discernible laughter coming from the audience.  I told Joe Powell, the artistic director about her.  After we came out,  I positioned myself closer to the exit than the stage, to make sure I could thank people for coming and supporting us.  A young woman, maybe in her 20’s, who had Down’s Syndrome came up to me beaming.  She loved the show. Joe had seen her during the show, enjoying it with glee.  We chatted and then without hesitation gave me one of the longest and warmest hugs I had received all day.  Scrooge it seems was not so scary after all.

Closing night was the awesome in many ways.  Despite a few flaws in all the other shows, I felt confident that we would do well, that the lines would come, and in the event they didn’t, we could recover.  Our last circle up was charged with emotion.  Ready to give our best performance, and sad that it was coming to an end.  Just an hour before, we laughed and exchanged Christmas gifts, white elephant style.  Except for the lady that got an ugly sweater kit, I think all were pleased.  She took it with good humor though.  

In our circle, Joe reminded us about the power of theatre, how it can change lives.  It changes lives for those in the theatre as well as the audience.  He gave examples of people who have changed for the long haul, and he gave an example from the matinee, the woman who hugged me so warmly.  When asked for a favorite line from the show, I didn’t hesitate.  My insides were already trembling with emotion, and the others could see my eyes watering up.  I finally pushed it out.  “It is the last thing I say in this play, and I feel it for all of you.  I suspect you also feel the same way.  It is this.  “You were very, very good.”  We are good.  We are.  Everyone.  An even larger group hug, complete with visible tears and audible sniffles.  Theatre is magical.  All of it. For everyone.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
The cost of real free-range eggs
Free range eggs

The trouble with growing so much of our own food for so long is that we've grown extremely snooty about quality. Which is a problem during this gap year when we're stuck buying rather than raising our own.

Luckily, a neighbor just a mile down the road has free range chickens that produce yolks as orange as the ones I'm used to. She sells her eggs on a sliding scale, but we didn't ask for a discount and are paying $4 per dozen. (No, the eggs I bought at the farmer's market previously didn't make my quality cut. They ranged from $3.50 to $4.50 per dozen.)

The question come spring will be --- are we ready to fend off predators and get our own flock back on the ground? Or will we be content with high quality eggs from a neighbor?

Maggie too
Suggest to someone that they might be an artist.

I started writing poetry for the single reason, I was drawing beautiful images with my words.  

I believe in beauty.

Beauty management.  Beauty reverence.  Beauty portrayal.  Beauty storage and preservation.

Wabi sabi beauty, rustic, unusual, simple, quixotic beauty.  Natural beauty.  

It is the whole reason.

Recently a nice new friend Robert said I am an artist, when I was introducing myself as "disabled".  It was a kind move on his part, opening my mind to the fact that I can use this word for myself.

When I met Eric Blevins, the first thing I did was to paint him.  He always reminded me that I am an artist and I appreciate that more than anything.

Last night I was at a Yuletide gathering rambling to a kind Jamie chemistry professor who thinks Poetry is impressive too.  Wabi sabi was news to her.  :)

Get to the point Maggie.

I grew up in a family that uplifts Art.  In fact in high school my sister started identifying as an artist.  I remember a conversation I had in my high school with Mrs Kind. 

Me:  I can't be an artist, Anna is.

Mrs Kind:  You are getting by in this class on the skin of your teeth and you have a 4.0 in all the other advanced Calculus and AP English type classes.  Why are you not putting effort into this art?  

Me:  But I have an A plus in here too, don't I?

Mrs Kind:  You can't just rely on skill and not effort in art.  You must do both.

Dear readers, wait until tomorrow when I post my newest painting.  It combines skill, effort, and love and is a gift for a special family person of honor.  Secrets.  :)

So at age 35 I am realizing Mrs Kind is right.  I am brilliant and skilled.  Most people are not artistic geniuses, nor schooled in art.  Most people are intimidated by creativity, or if not everyone, there is a good amount of fear and trembling.

I need to put more effort into perfecting my art the way I want it to be.  

There are so many barriers in becoming an artist already.  Society is built to profit greedy orange haired corporate peoples.  Public school over-emphasizes and funds sports over creativity.  

Growing up, how many children just say, I want to be an artist when I grow up, and are returned with, that is insane!  You have to pay the bills!

I am an artist by gum!

I have time and space for it even.  

I need to put my effort into my art.  Yet, without effort, I have been accepted into a recognized children's illustration masters program.  I know I can rock it.  I know I can show the world wabi sabi.  I know I can overcome the walmart plastic umbrella effect, the appreciation of ugliness.  I owe it to the world to be an artist.  

This is fragmented disjointed writing.  You are welcome.  :)

But tell a child they just might be an artist.  And then buy art.  This is necessary.  

Maggie too
My limited understanding of Net Neutrality and hope for a future of connection face to face

I admit I don't fully understand net neutrality.  But if you learned about net neutrality the day before hosting a protest by a meme complaining they might steal your porn I do take some issue with your position, even though I admit I am not fully informed either.

I am probably opposed to the recent decision to repeal net neutrality, but I wonder if it is going to make the world a better place by virtue of forcing us humans to connect off the internet a bit more.  I believe that corporations don't own the rights to the internet, but I also kinda largely agree with Chamath Palihapitiya that facebook is destroying the world.  

It is true that people who like things more than average on facebook do have an overall less healthy mental health results by some.  I guess I also would say there are good things about facebook, and our connectedness over the internet. 

But if I was to just pick a side regarding facebook, I would always choose against it.  This is ironic because I admit, I have used it a lot.  

There is a certain irony in watching Ted Talks to learn that your internet porn is doing harm to your real life sexuality.  

I believe in the accidents of connection that occur when people talk to the people they are physically near.  I believe in neighborhoods and front porches.  A best memory in my life is Mountain Justice 2008 when the power went out.  I watched the small gathering of activists transform into a party of excitement until the lights came back again.

Some of my favorite times were in Costa Rica, with my sister Anna, when we read by flashlights due to frequent outages, or relied on connecting to local Quaker community for a touch of human contact, despite my sister's unchurched beliefs of the time.

I believe in making memories, and though I have pandora on and will post this on facebook, I beleive in the rough times that often invent the best times.  I believe that our global future would be better if we decided today to just turn off Pandora, Facebook, and the whole global grid, and just hunker down knitting sweaters, couriering letters of impeachment to the commander in clowniness, and forging ahead on horse and buggie.

Yes, I have Amish tendencies.  

Yet even at Mountain Justice 2008 or whatnot, the one power went out at, it only happened that we embraced that moment because the turning off of lights was ripped out of our control.  We all sought different things.  Some would have blasted out the whole electric system if they could.  Some just wanted energy efficiency.  But we all celebrated when the lights went out, because it is easier to see hope when you are standing in its midst.  

Once I had someone ask me what I speak of when I say I want world peace.  It is a human desire, but so out of reach for many of us bloggers or facebook readers.  

World peace is not this canned music on facebook, even if Bob Marley.  

World peace is have a world where war is currently impossible.  

In my off the grid anarchy, I think world peace exists.  I'll leave it open to debate.

Maybe it would not be a nice thing for the people relying on electricity for life.  But maybe they weren't anyway.  Necessity is the mother of invention.  God if Y2K came, I would be standing on the rooftops howling for the glory.  I would be dancing on the ruins of multinational corporations.  I would be the beaming light.

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Rural internet options
Water tower where the WISP emits from.

We considered satellite internet options when we first got to Athens but decided to go with a local Wireless Internet Service Provider called Intelliwave. They have an antenna on top of the local water tower a few minutes down the road from us.

It's been a little over a month now and we are happy to report that it works as advertised without any unplanned interruptions.

The speed is only about 2 mbps but fast enough to stream Netflix with no data limit like the satellite options impose.

Maggie too
Questions for the World

I read a quote this morning that 80 some percent of Missouri power comes from Mountaintop Removal.  I think.  It made me want to ask the world a question along those lines.

In the other room 

we hung a line of Christmas lights

as a rare exorbitant binge from our usual simple ways.

But the focus seems away from the lights 

like the ones we sometimes forget to turn off

when we leave the room.

I wonder, is it not still coal many of us are relying on for electricity?

And for an important moment I wonder

what if I just could do without 

what I really don't need.

What if I turned off all the lights and used candles or solar lights?

What if I wore sweaters, not just conserving, but resisting the grid?

I used to be inspired by a horrible ugly blown up mountainside

when I saw the effects of over consuming and consuming coal.

Something in my daily concern and reduction fell off way too much. 

Every hand raised in concern about climate change

seems more ready to point fingers at corporations.

But we need to live simply, all of us.

We all need to chose to live more simply.

We all have four other fingers pointing back.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Growing sunflower microgreens
Growing sunflower microgreens

It may be too late in the year to put in the full fall garden I crave, but there are always experiments to be undertaken. For example --- growing sunflower microgreens inside!

A little internet research suggests that the tasty tidbits we purchased at the farmer's market are a lot like sprouts...but not quite. To replicate our experiment, start with raw oilseed sunflower seeds --- the black kind with no stripes, often intended for birdseed. Soak a handful for multiple days (changing the water every twelve hours), then spread the barely sprouted seeds in a seed-starting flat atop a thin layer of potting soil. Finally, it's just a matter of waiting for the cotyledons to emerge.

Sprouting sunflower seeds

We put our flat on a heat mat for the first couple of days to hurry things along. After that, though, I felt like the seeds were getting too hot. So I turned off the mat and let them linger at room temperature, watering every day or two but keeping the humidity dome in place most of the time. (I did tend to air them out once a day, especially when the heat mat was turned on.)

It took about a week and a half from first soak to first harvest, and I expect to keep cutting microgreens at the soil line for up to a week after that. When this flat is done, the used potting soil and roots will go in the compost pile --- a bit wasteful, but not terribly bad since the organic matter will all end up back in the garden.

And then it's time to start soaking seeds for another flat. It sure is nice to have something fresh and green growing inside while the snow flies outside our trailer!

(This experiment has been supported by David Hicks. Thanks, David! If anyone wants to join our monthly donor program, you can sign up near the bottom of the page here.)

Maggie too
Learning to Homestead

I am saving up for a summer trip or internship to see my friends Wren  and Ini in the Ozarks because I have been inspired due to the fact my  friends from The Mountain in 2009 have just last week been featured on reality TV,  Homestead Rescue.  The show was a one shop stop, and it really is their  homestead that amazes me.  Their perspective and endurance braving the  elements and eating only what they find and grow is what awes and  inspires me.  I am hoping some of their fervor rubs off on me.  So I am  making definite plans to visit them sometime this summer, probably after  my Hollins Masters of Fine Arts. 

You might wonder why, homesteading has been part of my life my whole life, why am I just now inspired by reality TV?  And that is a good question.  It points to my mostly sedentary lifestyle and the fact that people who live at the ocean sometimes forget to go swimming.  The answer is certainly not that family and friends interested in homesteading have not inspired me.  In fact I myself worked for a summer internship already at Camp Celo, teaching children gardening skills in an intentional community.  In fact, my sister is the inventor of Walden Effect, and she and her husband have led an inspirational quest to take the stigma out of trailer dwelling, as  a simple and appropriate answer to the homestead.  In fact my parents were back to the land farmers from my inception.  In fact I live in a comfortable home that I call my Urban Homestead.  So it appeals to me.

But usually when it comes to food production, my mother puts out the majority of the hard work in regard to this property.  I have been pursuing art and writing in hopes of selling it someday without having to sell out.  And my book deal has not yet come but I still am pursuing.  Yet, it is coming to me the necessity to balance the dream of selling a book, children's book, or painting with the reality of survival.  But my real motivation behind wanting to homestead is not even just survival, it is because I deeply and religiously believe EVERYTHING COMES FROM SOMEWHERE.  And I believe I should live simply that others may simply live.  

So my hope is to go to the Ozarks, visit a friend and her husband I never go to really meet, and have an infusing treatment of an extremely different lifestyle, that I might remember my own actual values a little more.  My hope is that even in the sad case that I cannot visit, I am starting ASAP at living the life that realizes its impact again.  In terms of the annual tomatoes I consume, I can do something about that.  In terms of chickens, I might be able to commit to that.  I might be able to raise my own eggs here on this urban homestead that I already am so lucky to call home.  

Thank you Wren and Ini for inspiring me.  Not sure who grew the canola oil?

Maggie too
Dear Me - a letter from my future self

Thank you for starting to visualize me.  It may have been a bit selfish to go 35 years without imagining what kind of a future person you would become, but I am glad you started thinking about me now.  Looking back, that was one major reason my life began to change for the better.

My name is Maggie, just as your name is also Maggie.  

I too am from Tennessee, just like you.

I love to write and swim and walk my dog, just as you also enjoy these passions.

Many things are fluid between you and me.  We share the past before 35.  We share young adult trauma of mental illness and gradual recovery.  And though there are a number of changes that you probably never imagined, the continuity between you and me is worth thinking about.  You and me are basically the same person.  

I am 70 years old though.  Everything you know has been those 35 years.  But I know 35 more years, and they were amazing years.

Why, just last week, I won the Senior Olympics in Swimming for my age group.  Maybe for years it seemed you were swimming to work out emotions, and to gain mental clarity, but it felt amazing winning the Olympics.  So know there are secrets I am not even going to tell you.  Know you will end up being so amazing, you will really exceed your wildest dreams.  

By 50, you are going to fit again into those skinny corduroys.  So know losing a little weight every week — just a pound a week — is going to add up in the end.  (And reduce in the rear end!)

Thank you for keeping whimsical.  You and I are both poets.  You publish your own rogue chapbooks, I am a Poet Laurette with major poetry books.  You also will write and draw for children and have it published.  

I notice you are doing some basic yoga.  You will become a yoga pro. You will spend time learning to teach advanced yoga.  

Thank you for holding on to that part of yourself that is five years old.  Having a little inner child inside is a precious part of being old.

You will live in this same house in Tennessee, but it will be kept up better, and even more beautiful.  

People you love will leave this Earth, and it will break your heart, but in memories they will always be in your heart.

You will fall in love many times and be loved by many.  Keep falling in love.  It will stick.

You will get better at saving money and financial management, a trend already starting. 

You will own this sweet little home.

You will always have a sweet little dog and a sweet little cat.  

You will study compassion, even more than you already do now.  You will pursue compassion and self compassion as your mission in life.  You will be kind and continue to be kind.  

The world will thank you.

Your kind of hope was necessary in the healing of the Earth which 35 years ago seemed balanced on the edge of demise and climate catastrophe.  

Your kind of hope was really the acting force necessary in giving life on Earth another chance.  Trump was soon impeached because of you and so many brave women and black women especially who stood up to challenge his insolence.  

Keep believing and hoping.


Your future self

rstidyman (Richard)
The Challenge of Adulting

I hate to see people in their adult lives struggling to make sense out of things. I’d like to make it easier but I know it is their struggle in most cases. Life is hard.


On one hand, I do think it is harder nowadays for young adults to get established.  Incomes have not kept up with expenses.  The cost of everything, cars, apartments, food, fuel is higher, much higher than when I wa sin my 20’s.  Complaining won’t change any of that though.  And I understand it is easy to get discouraged.  

What concerns me more are the adults who are lost spiritually. I don’t understand, but maybe I’ll get some constructive feedback   No one is holding us back from reading, thinking, talking, exploring ideas, or making oneself more knowledgeable of the world around us or knowledge of self.  In fact, there has never been a time when learning about self and the world was so accessible. Schools will not give you the information you need however. It is up to you.


I will spare you the joke about walking to school in winter, but when I was your age, we had to do things like go to libraries, bookstores, and buy or borrow cassette tapes to play in the car or the boom box.  So with the ever increasing accessibility of so much information, why aren’t more people motivated to assume responsibility for the information in their heads, and build on it.  

Folks that are interested in learning more about a hobby can figure it out with all the magazines, books, videos, etc. that are available. There are magazines on just about every topic imaginable.  Don’t believe me?  Google weird magazines.  Who knew?  Our society is quick to tell you what it wants you to know and what is important.  Look at the classes and activities offered in schools.  And which ones are being unfunded.  I recently retired after 27 years.  Funding for my Career and Tech Ed program dwindled year after year, and if not for several grants, I wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of things that we did.  Just last year, in Watauga County, the art teacher and media center (aka librarian but now so much more) got next to nothing, but somehow expected supposed to teach?  If not for many teacher’s  grant writing expertise, the kids would suffer.  I don’t know enough about music, drama, etc. but I’m sure those suffer too.  


IMHO, society wants you to learn enough to recite the standard rules, follow them, without question.  Learn to read, follow instructions, be able to write a little bit so you can fill out your insurance application, and function in the neighborhood.  But Social Studies, understanding how our society works gets short shrift where I come from.  And one thing you will never see taught explicitly in a public school classroom?  How to be happy.  

What helped me.  Childhood and adolescence, and into my 20’s, I was somewhat lost, putting on a good face in public, but overall numb, enduring what I thought was temporary but unpleasant growing up with an alcoholic dad, and codependent mom, oppressive Catholic school for the first nine years, searching for relief. I rejected Catholicism at the near end of my ninth grade.  I tried regular flavored Christianity from my senior year until about age 2, complete with prayer meetings, bible studies and occasional fits of evangelicalism.  The contradictions and lack of “joy, joy, joy down in my heart” convinced me it wasn’t for me.


Right or wrong, I did carry a belief inside me “I’m here for a reasons.”  Aren’t there scientific principles that say that.  Everything happens for a reason, and I’m not talking about the details of conception on one cold November night in 1953.  As I looked around, and saw folks that were a whole lot happier than I, I wanted to know what they were doing differently than I was.  And why.

wise-words-so-trueHaving rejected formal Christianity as a guiding principle, I was feeling pretty lost. I did not lose my sense that there is something bigger than us.  I intuitively believe that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience, but the details are a little sketchy how that works.  Personally, I also felt awkward and unsure of myself in just about every situation, aka low self esteem, except when I settled into a work situation.  It was there I excelled.  Tell me what to do and how to do it and I’m on it like white on rice.  A poor source of self esteem but it was all I had.

The next steps were not easy, but necessary.  I read books, listened to audiotapes, and got into counselling. The books gave me information about the world, while maybe not perfect, it was better than the beliefs I had grown up with.  The counselling gave me the chance to process the emotions that were holding me back.  

Books and tapes included topics on how to make friends, etiquette, how to study, memory techniques,  principles of success, overcoming fears, etc.  I also read books to help me define my philosophy and spirituality.  They included books that explored parapsychology, and authors included Jane Roberts, Ruth Montgomery, Marianne Williamson and Edgar Casey. Nearing the end of my 20’s, I had formed a new philosophy (some would say spirituality) about life, why we are here and answers to those pesky questions that religion tries to answer.  Perfect and complete?  No, but better than any previous explanations I had heard in previous years. And it was enough to know in my mind, that I was, in fact, here for a reason.  That hardships/challenges/obstacles are here for a reason as well, and can make us stronger. Basically, people are good, and when they are not, they are operating out of fear.  And that love is the answer.  

As the need or inspiration struck me, I’ve continued to read and grow.  In the last several years, I’ve read a few books that bring all the pieces together that help me to understand how to have a satisfying and will lived life.  If anyone were to ask me, “How do I learn to be happy.”  I’d say study happiness.  Start with “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown.  Read Martin Seligman’s “Flourish”.   The book “Mindset” is good too but “Daring Greatly” makes it even more understandable. And listen to your intuition; some say it is God’s/Spirit’s way of talking to us. Also great how to books, are “The Power of Ted” and “Non-Violent Communication”.

Some of us have the luxury of time and resources to make our lives better.  If you do, go for it. No regrets.


Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
When and how to DIY a minisplit
Minisplit install

We learned a huge amount during our recent minisplit install, and I thought I'd try to sum up the most salient points in one post to help others who might want to follow in our footsteps.

First --- is a minisplit a good idea in a trailer? Most installers told us no because the rooms at the far ends of the mobile home won't receive uniform heat. We're used to heating with a wood stove, though, and don't mind using space heaters at the extremities to top off heat as necessary. We figured the much higher efficiency of a minisplit compared to a mainstream electric furnace or traditional heat pump counteract this slight downside and we still feel that way after enjoying our new device for a few blissful days.

A slightly more tricky issue is the potential for water lines to freeze. I hadn't realized that trailers are designed with air-duct heating in mind, so the water lines run beside the air lines under the trailer. We'll keep you posted if this issue materializes and requires an outside-the-box fix.

Pressurization equipment

Next, let's look at the pros and cons of DIY versus the traditional route of paying to have a minisplit installed by a pro. After calling pretty much every HVAC company in the area, I've discovered that a minisplit like the one we got for $1,300 from Home Depot (plus about $200 in tools, $50 for the wall bracket, and $225 for the final line work from a pro) would have cost us $5,000 to $8,000 if we'd gone the traditional route. So, yes, we saved big bucks doing a lot of the work ourselves.

On the downside, we won't have the support of a licensed dealership behind us if anything goes wrong. And it's possible our machine won't be as long-lived as the Mitsubishi models several of the dealerships in the area are peddling. Once again, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, I'm pretty happy with getting such an efficient model on a shoestring budget.

Testing minisplit lines

Finally, when do I recommend calling in a pro? A reasonably handy DIYer should have no problem installing both exterior and interior units themselves. Running the lines between them is actually less tricky than I'd thought as long as you take extreme care with making bends gently and slowly.

And the connections (with pre-flared lines like the ones that came in our kit) are less finnicky than I'd thought. Mark and I went to great lengths to buy fancy torque wrenches and get the tightness just right...but our tech finished the job with ordinary wrenches by feel. Basically, you just want the connections to be tight.

So what's it worth paying for? Go ahead and call in an HVAC expert to test the lines with nitrogen, pressurize them, then release the refrigerant from inside the unit. First of all, it's illegal to do this step yourself. Second, this is the tricky part that most benefits from fancy equipment. For $200, a pro will do it right...assuming you can find someone in your area willing to work on equipment not their own.

two holiday stories

Two stories of something nice coming out of something not-so-nice for the holidays.

Story the first: The Gift That Kept on Giving

I have a Patreon account that is a significant chunk of my funding to do what I do. Patreon has really pissed off a lot of people this week, and people are leaving it in droves. My Patreon funding is down 25%.

This is an opportunity for Liberapay, which is run by a nonprofit, and avoids Patreon's excessive fees, and is free software to boot. So now I have a Liberapay account and have diversified my sustainable funding some more, although only half of the people I lost from Patreon have moved over. A few others have found other ways to donate to me, including snail mail and Paypal, and others I'll just lose. Thanks, Patreon..

Yesterday I realized I should check if anyone had decided to send me Bitcoin. Bitcoin donations are weird because noone ever tells me that they made them. Also because it's never clear if the motive is to get me invested in bitcoin or send me some money. I prefer not to be invested in risky currency speculation, preferring risks like "write free software without any clear way to get paid for it", so I always cash it out immediately.

I have not used bitcoin for a long time. I could see a long time ago that its development community was unhealthy, that there was going to be a messy fork and I didn't want the drama of that. My bitcoin wallet files were long deleted. Checking my address online, I saw that in fact two people had reacted to Patreon by sending a little bit of bitcoin to me.

I checked some old notes to find the recovery seeds, and restored "hot wallet" and "cold wallet", not sure which was my public incoming wallet. Neither was, and after some concerned scrambling, I found the gpg locked file in a hidden basement subdirectory that let me access my public incoming wallet, and in fact two people had reacted to Patreon by sending bitcoin to me.

What of the other two wallets? "Hot wallet" was empty. But "cold wallet" turned out to be some long forgotten wallet, and yes, this is now a story about "some long forgotten bitcoin wallet" -- you know where this is going right?

Yeah, well it didn't have a life changing amount of bitcoin in it, but it had a little almost-dust from a long-ago bitcoin donor, which at current crazy bitcoin prices, is enough that I may need to fill out a tax form now that I've sold it. And so I will be having a happy holidays, no matter how the Patreon implosion goes. But for sustainable funding going forward, I do hope that Liberapay works out.

Story the second: "a lil' positive end note does wonders"

I added this to the end of git-annex's bug report template on a whim two years ago:

Have you had any luck using git-annex before? (Sometimes we get tired of reading bug reports all day and a lil' positive end note does wonders)

That prompt turned out to be much more successful than I had expected, and so I want to pass the gift of the idea on to you. Consider adding something like that to your project's bug report template.

It really works: I'll see a bug report be lost and confused and discouraged, and keep reading to make sure I see whatever nice thing there might be at the end. It's not just about meaningless politeness either, it's about getting an impression about whether the user is having any success at all, and how experienced they are in general, which is important in understanding where a bug report is coming from.

I've learned more from it than I have from most other interactions with git-annex users, including the git-annex user surveys. Out of 217 bug reports that used this template, 182 answered the question. Here are some of my favorite answers.

Have you had any luck using git-annex before? (Sometimes we get tired of reading bug reports all day and a lil' positive end note does wonders)

  • I do! I wouldn't even have my job, if it wasn't for git-annex. ;-)

  • Yeah, it works great! If not for it I would not have noticed this data corruption until it was too late.

  • Indeed. All my stuff (around 3.5 terabytes) is stored in git-annex with at least three copies of each file on different disks and locations, spread over various hard disks, memory sticks, servers and you name it. Unused disk space is a waste, so I fill everything up to the brim with extra copies.

    In other words, Git-Annex and I are very happy together, and I'd like to marry it. And because you are the father, I hereby respectfully ask for your blessing.

  • Yes, git with git annex has revolutionised my scientific project file organisation and thats why I want to improve it.

  • <3 <3 <3

  • We use git-annex for our open-source FreeSurfer software and find very helpful indeed. Thank you.

  • Yes I have! I've used it manage lots of video editing disks before, and am now migrating several slightly different copies of 15TB sized documentary footage from random USB3 disks and LTO tapes to a RAID server with BTRFS.

  • Oh yeah! This software is awesome. After getting used to having "dummy" shortcuts to content I don't currently have, with the simple ability to get/drop that content, I can't believe I haven't seen this anywhere before. If there is anything more impressive than this software, it's the support it has had from Joey over all this time. I'd have pulled my hair out long ago. :P

  • kinda

  • Yep, works apart from the few tests that fail.

  • Not yet, but I'm excited to make it work!

  • Roses are red
    Violets are blue
    git-annex is awesome
    and so are you
    But bloody hell, it's hard to get this thing to build.

  • git-annex is awesome, I lean on it heavily nearly every single day.

  • I have a couple of repositories atm, one with my music, another that backs up our family pictures for the family and uses Amazon S3 as a backup.

  • Yes! It's by far one of my favorite apps! it works very well on my laptop, on my home file server, and on my internal storage on my Android phone :)

  • Yes! I've been using git-annex quite a bit over the past year, for everything from my music collection to my personal files. Using it for a not-for-profit too. Even trying to get some Mac and Windows users to use it for our HOA's files.

  • I use git-annex for everything. I've got 10 repositories and around 2.5TB of data in those repos which in turn is synced all over the place. It's excellent.

  • Really nice tool. Thanks Joey!

  • Git-annex rocks !!!!

  • I'd love to say I have. You'll hear my shout of joy when I do.

  • Mixed bag, works when it works, but I've had quite a few "unexplained" happenings. Perservering for now, hoping me reporting bugs will see things improve...

  • Yes !!! I'm moving all my files into my annex. It is very robust; whenever something is wrong there is always some other copy somewhere that can be used.

  • Yes! git annex has been enormously helpful. Thanks so much for this tool.

  • Oh yes! I love git-annex :) I've written the hubiC special remote for git-annex, the zsh completion, contributed to the crowdfunding campaigns, and I'm a supporter on Patreon :)

  • Yes, managing 30000 files, on operating systems other than Windows though...

  • Of course ;) All the time

  • I trust Git Annex to keep hundreds of GB of data safe, and it has never failed me - despite my best efforts

  • Oh yeah, I am still discovering this powerfull git annex tool. In fact, collegues and I are forming a group during the process to exchange about different use cases, encountered problems and help each other.

  • I love the metadata functionality so much that I wrote a gui for metadata operations and discovered this bug.

  • Sure, it works marvels :-) Also what I was trying to do is perhaps not by the book...

  • Oh, yes. It rules. :) One of the most important programs I use because I have all my valuable stuff in it. My files have never been safer.

  • I'm an extremely regular user of git-annex on OS X and Linux, for several years, using it as a podcatcher and to manage most of my "large file" media. It's one of those "couldn't live without" tools. Thanks for writing it.

  • Yes, I've been using git annex for I think a year and a half now, on several repositories. It works pretty well. I have a total of around 315GB and 23K annexed keys across them (counting each annex only once, even though they're cloned on a bunch of machines).

  • I only find (what I think are) bugs because I use it and I use it because I like it. I like it because it works (except for when I find actual bugs :]).

  • I'm new to git-annex and immediately astonished by its unique strength.

  • As mentioned before, I am very, very happy with git-annex :-) Discovery of 2015 for me.

  • git-annex is great and revolutionized my file organization and backup structure (if they were even existing before)

  • That’s just a little hiccup in, up to now, various months of merry use! ;-)

  • Yes. Love it. Donated. Have been using it for years. Recommend it and get(/force) my collaborators to use it. ;-)

  • git-annex is an essential building block in my digital life style!

  • Well, git-annex is wonderful!

A lil' positive end note turned into a big one, eh? :)

rstidyman (Richard)
Why didn’t I do this when younger?


We just moved to a new town, specifically, Morristown, TN. My sweetie is starting a new job, and I retired in anticipation of doing chores and getting ready to sell our house. Now, after three months, I’m still trying to find my way around town and have a long list of honey-do’s to check off.  What would possess me  to try out for a play put on by the local community theatre group, the play being “A Christmas Story”.  Yes, the story of Scrooge.  The same story, over 150 years old, a holiday tradition for many to watch on TV, and maybe even a live performance.  And honestly, I’m not even into Christmas.  Bah Humbug suits me fine.


I had no idea what I was getting into.  I had done a few bit parts with the Richmond Community Theater back in the early 80’s.  It was my salvation in many ways, where I taught for two years, in a small town, hot, and very limited social opportunities for a secular humanist with liberal democratic/socialist leanings.  At the tryouts for A Christmas Carol,  there were a few other adults, but I was clearly the most senior by a long shot.  Most were high school kids, most of which seemed to know each other.  I read a few different pieces.  On my application, I said happy to help wherever, such as tech, lights, sound, bit parts, build scenery.  Little did I know that I would be offered the part of Scrooge, not exactly a small part. I found out later, I was the only one to try out that fit the part age and gender wise.  Chosen out of a pool of one.  Still, I am the best man for the job.


Little did I know how hard it would be to learn my lines.  And even when I think I know my lines, a senior moment, or a distraction, and the line melts away, out of my head, on the floor and out the door, like a meatball falling from a pile of spaghetti.  No matter.  Maybe another actor will save me.  Maybe I’ll save myself.  This whole thing is an exercise in trust.  Like going on a trip with a bunch of other passengers, most well traveled, with a tour guide, and me, green as the day is long. I am learning to trust them though, as they have good advice and good intentions.  They have saved me when I drop a line, and I save them once in awhile.  I have no choice but to trust my brain to deliver the lines I’ve read and recited hundreds of times.  And for the most part, it delivers.  

great crew

Everything I know about teaching and learning comes into play.  A growth mindset accepts challenges, accepts mistakes as part of the process, accepts feedback, and cares little about the naysayers.  It is not about perfection, it is about process.

Everything I have learned from Brene Brown’s writing about vulnerability, risk, resilience and being brave comes into play.  This is probably one of the more courageous things I’ve done, risking total humiliation if I can’t act well enough, letting down the cast, and making a fool of myself being the “new guy” in town that ruined the Christmas play.  But without risk, life is pretty boring.   Life is not a spectator sport, and if it is, it isn’t that much fun. I have dropped lines, and been saved by others quick thinking.  Brene Brown talks about people developing the sense of self worth, which is the foundation of risk taking, resilience and courage.  Her often used words are “Good enough.”  So I approach this play, with an ever increasing attitude I have about life’s adventures.  I may not be the best.  I may fall short of other expectations.  There is a chance that I will fall on my face.  I may have to ask for forgiveness when I mess up.  But in this case, you selected me.  You thought I would be the best man for the job.  Not perfect, but good enough.  So I accept my imperfect effort and final product…the show.  I hope you do too.

Finally (for this entry), this show is not about me, the cast or anyone in particular.  This is about our giving a gift to those that show up. Honoring a great piece of work. It is about rekindling pleasant memories.  It is a reminder that we can’t go back in time, but from today on, “I will live to be a new man” and to “bring cheer wherever you go, bring them joy.” And the last two lines are ones I hope to repeat to all those in my life regularly.  “You were very, very good” and “Thank you.”


Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Troubleshooting compost tumblers
Compost tumblers

"It seems everybody here is doing a much better job with these barrel-type composters than I ever did. Mine would dry out the contents so quickly it was like a barrel full of dry leaves, which of course never composted.... What am I doing wrong?" --- Roz

This is an excellent question! To be honest, I'd never used a tumbler before (although now we have two of them thanks to the massive unit Rose Nell recently donated to the cause). I think I might be able to help you troubleshoot though.

Two bin compost tumbler

Here's what the older and younger bins look like inside our original tumbler. This isn't optimal composting either --- too much high-nitrogen food scraps ("greens") make the contents too moist. In our case, we need to add some autumn leaves ("browns") to bring the bins into balance.

I'm guessing Roz may have the opposite problem --- too many browns and too few greens. Maybe she raises chickens and gives the yummiest bits to the flock. Or maybe she puts in lots of yard waste or simply eats different types of foods than we do. Either way, adding in more greens would help bring the bin back into balance. Chicken manure would be the obvious solution, or you could try soaking the proto-compost with human urine to add nitrogen and moisture at the same time.

(Hey, I never said this post was going to be photogenic. If I grossed you out, go look at the top photo again. First snow!)

Maggie too
Smile, it's in style!

The next time you need a change or just a pronouncement of your current state, smile!  Smile, it's in style!  Smiling can be the unique thing needed to make you you, why not smile!?  Everyone has their own special way to smile, so toothy or Mona Lisa, one way or the other let it shine!

I have been very happy to become acquainted with Bristol Yoga  this year.  A while back, I noticed a void of community in my life, now I am deciding to open up possibilities of both yoga studio events and classes from both sides of town.  So that is enough to keep me busy, meditating, and smiling!

I have also been rereading my favorite book, The Tao of Bipolar Disorder.  I noticed a chapter in it that I never read before, that gave me a new insight to myself.  According to the doctors who wrote the Tao of Bipolar, bipolar 1 people often have trouble making out and identifying other people's distinct emotions.  It even suggested looking in the mirror and making faces of happiness, sadness, or other emotions, to learn how to better identify these emotions.  

I do plan to do that, and will also probably walk around with a big smile for as long a while as I can.  Trying to have an honest smile must help at the heart of happiness too.  Probably.  :)

Maggie too
First Sip, Jasmine Tea

Soft flavor,

Second sip, jasmine tea

Hot mug,

Third sip, jasmine tea

Long swallow first held,

Fourth sip, fifth sip

Tracing the fragrance of the flower.

Maggie too
The Art of Stillness

Mom is such a terrific photographer.  This is her snowcapped fair well to summer.  I also tried to attach her snow covered milkweed but am new to livejournal's visual quirks and am unsure if it attached.  

I am reading a book by Pico Iyer about spending the Sabbath or whole weeks sitting still at home.  The meditative power of remaining in one place, staying still, and settling inside the motion of one's own mind — is the goal that invigorates me this morning.  

Let us "bring that calm into the commotion."

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Unlikely environmental partners
Ora Anderson Nature Trail

Now that we have the basics in place --- electricity, heat, a workable kitchen, and running water --- we've been spending more time exploring what the area has to offer. One jaunt further afield took us to the Ora E. Anderson Nature Trail, a half-mile rail-to-trail that passes through an inspiring wetland.

This area used to be farmland not too long ago. But the railroad messed with water drainage, then the beavers moved in and exacerbated the issue. The result is a species-rich enclave that I'm definitely going to have to return to during the growing season. A good place to just sit and observe for awhile!

Acid mine pigment

We also attended an equally inspiring set of lightning talks about partnerships between the university and the community. The most photogenic involved reclaiming the orange streams you find throughout coal country, where old mines leach acidic water and basically kill off all life therein.

In a fascinating method of turning trash to treasure, Rural Action has created a treatment system that scrubs the issues from the water then funds itself by selling the pigments to Gamblin Colors to be turned into oil paints. Sounds pretty sustainable!

Anything inspiring happen in your neck of the woods this week?

Maggie too
Friday Night Writing Tradition

I used to be "plugged in" a bit more than I am lately.  On an impulse, I "deleted" my smartphone and tablet, brought them to the goodwill one morning this week.  I feel relief from not having them anymore.  

I have been fighting a cold/infection.  I always lately have seemed aware of the exact instance I get infected with an illness.  Not sure if that is a thing but it certainly is my truth.  Last week, I drove Mom to visit our friend in the hospital.  Inside, there was a definite "oh shit" moment when I caught this throat thing I am fighting.  I have been pretty successful at taking it easy these past few days though, due to Mom doing my chores and picking up slack.  Thanks Mom!

I am hoping to use this blog a little now that I realized I had opened it up a while back and Joey already has it connected for me to the family blogs.  (That is a list of kitenet users who have blogs and are family.)  Since in the past I have started way too many blogs and made joy hook them in to the family blog, this seems a good compromise.  

Despite the fact it made my throat worse, I did go to the Christmas parade last night.  Mom wanted to leave before seeing Santa (the whole point) and then she said the complaint on my mind, that it was super military.  I wonder if other communities have ultra military Christmas parades with tanks and troops and ROTC troops all marching along?  Anyway, it was kind of a fun night because Mom kept sticking her red bag out into the parade and collecting large hand fulls of candy.  I then ate the candy and now I need to restart my diet yet again.

One of the main reasons for unplugging from smartphones is it improves focus and overall thinking.  Maybe this sounds funny but meditation seems to be linked to my diet success.  The advertisements built into devices seems oppositional to dieting.  Also any TV show I watch makes me crave food.  Often characters on TV are eating, whether they are human or eating humans in the case of Zombie shows.  :)

Here I am in another Friday, still carrying on this traditional time when I have always been more inclined to write.  Though not my standby, poems, not today at least.  I am glad to get into the swing of a tradition.  

Here's to recuperation, and many more Fridays writing.  

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Quick hoops up!
Erecting quick hoops

I probably shouldn't admit to breaking our household rules (no working on the weekends!), but I got up the morning after Mark's grand return and immediately started poking quick hoops into the ground.

After all, due to our late gardening start, lettuce, kale, and brussels sprouts all looked like they might not produce this fall. But with a little help from row-cover fabric, perhaps they'll bear after all?

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Hiring an HVAC tech to help with Mini Split install
Hiring an HVAC tech to help with Mini Split heat pump system.

The big obstacle that caused us to call a certified HVAC tech for our DuctlessAire Mini Split system was charging the lines with a tank of nitrogen to test them with a proper gauge before releasing the pre-charged refrigerant from the outside unit.

A tank for nitrogen would cost around 100 dollars then you'd have to find somewhere to fill it with nitrogen and then you would still need to have the proper hose and fittings to hook up to the service port of the unit.

After calling 5 different places in our area Anna found a company that would come out and finish our system.

The tech was very nice and professional and wrapped it all up in just over 2 hours. I'll save the rest of the details for my next post.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Kubota load
Hauling a Kubota

Mark and Rose Nell took a whirlwind trip down to the old home place on Friday and Saturday to pack up supplies that didn't fit during our initial move.

The real purpose was bringing the Kubota up to Ohio so we can sell it --- no need for such high-class equipment in our more accessible core homestead. But I have to admit, some of the other supplies Mark and Rose Nell fit into this second load were even more appreciated (by me at least).

Kubota load

I'm not sure how I lived for two months without a wheelbarrow, but I'm sure glad to have my darling back! The quick hoops and ladder are also much appreciated. You don't realize how much some of these tools are worth until they're gone!

new old thing

closeup of red knothole, purple-pink and
yellow wood grain

This branch came from a cedar tree overhanging my driveway.

It was fun to bust this open and shape it with hammer and chisels. My dad once recommended learning to chisel before learning any power tools for wood working.. so I suppose this is a start.

roughly split wood branch

Some tung oil and drilling later, and I'm very pleased to have a nice place to hang my cast iron.

slightly curved wood beam with cast iron
pots hung from it

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Mini-greenhouse info

Garden treasures greenhouseWe had several thoughtful comments about our new mini-greenhouse. Let's see if I can answer them all in one post!

"I'd love to know the brand name & what you think of the quality. From the pic, I'm impressed by what looks like reinforced corners. Or are they just a different color?" --- Terry

This is a 6 foot by 8 foot Garden Treasures greenhouse that Lowes used to sell for a couple of hundred bucks. I believe Rose Nell found it on sale for $69, likely because the model has been discontinued. The plastic is pretty thick and the corners are reinforced, which is both a pro and a con --- the material will likely last longer but will also block some light.

Although you can't find the Garden Treasures greenhouse in the stores any longer, it looks quite similar to this model on Amazon.

"Got any idea as to how long that plastic will last before it breaks down in the sun?" --- Nayan

This is the flaw in any type of discontinued product like this --- replacement parts are unavailable. My plan is to try to rig a new covering out of rolled greenhouse plastic once the original dies. I hope we don't have to figure out whether that works for several years!

Greenhouse temperature

"How much of a temperature boost will a greenhouse like this give winter crops?" --- me

So far, on a clear night after a sunny day, the greenhouse seems to be providing a couple of degrees sheltering effect. I suspect the longer-term impact will be due to raising soil temperature during the day and giving winter growers more oomph, but we'll have to wait and see how that pans out.

I took a photo of the lettuce in the greenhouse and another bed of lettuce (slightly bigger) under a simple layer of row-cover fabric and will report back in a couple of weeks once the two data points have time to diverge. Stay tuned!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Hardy thornless blackberries
Blackberry patch

On our previous homestead, I dove right into planting perennials as soon as we purchased the property. This time, I'm trying to be a little more thoughtful and talk to locals about what grows well on their nearby patches of earth.

I'd assumed thornless blackberries wouldn't be on the table. After all, the ones we grew in Virginia tended to freeze back to the ground every other year, meaning that they rarely bore fruit. Moving north, I doubted we'd manage to keep this heat-loving bramble content.

I'm glad to say I was wrong. Rose Nell and Jayne don't know what type of berry they were given a year ago, but they report the bushes are big and the fruits delicious. "Just plant them somewhere the blackberries can spread," my mothers-in-law warn.

Transplanted blackberries

Done! Here's hoping for big, juicy fruits in summer 2019!

git-annex devblog (Joey devblog)
youtube-dl day 3

Finished up youtube-dl integration today, including all the edge cases in addurl and honoring annex.diskreserve.

I changed my mind about git annex addurl --relaxed; it seems better for it to be slower than before, but not have surprising behavior, than to be fast but potentially surprising. If it's too slow, add --raw to avoid using youtube-dl.

git-annex devblog (Joey devblog)
youtube-dl day 2

It's mostly working now. Still need to fix --fast and --relaxed, and avoid youtube-dl running out of the annex.diskreserve.

The first hour or two was spent adding support for per-key temp directories. youtube-dl is run inside such a directory, to let it write whatever files it needs. Like the per-key temp files, these temp directories are not cleaned up when a download fails or is interrupted, so resuming can pick up where it left off. Taught git annex dropunused and everything else that cleans up per-key temp files to also clean up the temp directories.

Today's work was sponsored by Trenton Cronholm on Patreon

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Indoor-safe propane heater
Mr. Buddy heater

Back before our electricity was hooked up, a cold spell hit and Mark and I got desperate. "I'm so cold!" I whined as I tried to wash vegetables with frozen fingers. "Get in the car," Mark replied.

We turned on the heat...then headed straight to Lowes to check out the propane heater options. Only one was labeled as safe for indoor use --- Mr. Buddy, which is made to run on little one-pound cylinders but can be easily converted over to the larger canisters that are swappable at various stores in town. On high, you get about an hour of heat per pound of propane...which is a serious amount of warmth that can quickly heat up a large room. On low, we kept our living space moderately warm for a week on a fifteen-pound canister.

Although Mr. Buddy sits solidly in the column of "desperation = money spent," the heater will be a good backup during power outages (which I hear are just as serious here as they were back in Virginia). Of course, we still plan to hook up our wood stove as well, but it never hurts to have extra redundancies for necessities as important as winter heat.

git-annex devblog (Joey devblog)

Working on switch from quvi to youtube-dl, because quvi is not being maintained and youtube-dl can download a lot more stuff.

Unfortunately, youtube-dl's interface is not a good fit for git-annex, compared with quvi's interface which was a near-perfect fit. Two things git-annex relied on quvi for are a way to check if a url has embedded media without downloading the url, and a way to get the url from which the embedded media can be downloaded. Youtube-dl supports neither. Also it has some other warts that make it unncessarily hard to interface with, like not always storing the download in the location specified by --output, and sometimes crashing when downloading non-media urls (eg over my satellite internet).

I've found ways to avoid all these problems. For example, to make git annex addurl avoid unncessarily overhead of running youtube-dl in the common case of downloading some non-web-page file, I'll have it download the url content, and check if it looks like a html page. Only then will it use youtube-dl. So addurl of html pages without embedded media will get slower, but addurl of everything else will be as fast as before.

But there's an unavoidable change to addurl --relaxed. It will not check for embedded media and more, because that would make it a lot slower, since it would have to hit the network. addurl --fast will have to be used for such urls instead. I hope this behavior change won't affect workflows badly.

Today was all coding groundwork, and I just got to the point that I'm ready to have it run youtube-dl. Hope to finish it tomorrow.

Today's work was sponsored by Jake Vosloo on Patreon.

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Small greenhouse kit

Small garden treasures green house.
We got this small greenhouse kit to extend our leafy green season.

Thanks Mom for thinking of us when you found it on clearance.

It only took us about 20 minutes to set it up and attach the roof and walls.

Next step is to secure it to the ground so it won't blow away during windy days.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Green Friday

We celebrated Black Friday with Rose Nell and Jayne. Between the excellent food, the fun garden tour, and an extensive visit to Carillon Historical Park, Mark and I came home refreshed and inspired. We'll obviously have to do it all again soon!

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Compost tumbler
Compost tumblerSince we were starting entirely from scratch with cold weather nipping at our toes, Mark and I made a few time-saving but money-spending decisions. One was a compost tumbler, currently $83 on Amazon --- a pretty good buy with a few minor downsides.

Downside one is mentioned in the reviews --- the model is a bit tedious and fiddly to put together. I think it might have taken me an hour or two to assemble the tumbler with hand tools back before we had electricity. Of course, that was working entirely on my own, and I'm quite a bit less handy than Mark. Together (with the help of a battery powered driver), we likely could have put it together in thirty minutes flat.

Downside two is the size --- the unit feels smaller than it looks on the internet, and Mark (the main compost dumper) says it can be a bit tricky to fit scraps through the door without spilling any. That said, the interior is bigger than it looks --- I think we spent over a month filling up the first bin despite cold weather slowing decomposition. We're still hard at work filling bin two.

Which brings me to the major advantage of this model --- the tumbler is separated into two chambers. This is a major plus since you can fill one side then let it cook down as you fill the other. I'll keep you posted as our first round of Ohio-grown compost bakes!
Happy Thanksgiving

After thanksgiving at my sister's, I got the fun of a big family visit without the turkey day stress. We ate lemons and stuffed three people inside a tree.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
City parks
Rocky forest

I tried out two new trails this week, both closer to the city center than the ones I'd been on previously. The first of these was Sells Nature Preserve, a city-side add-on to Strouds Sells park rock formationRun State Park. I'm afraid this is the first Athens-area trail I can't wholeheartedly recommend. The views of intricate rock formations were beautiful...but the road noise of nearby East State Street was captured by the rocks so badly that I felt I was walking through traffic.

Biking along the river

On the other hand, biking down the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway was quite a treat! Our local library is located on the path and lets you check out bikes and helmets for free with your library card. Mark and I took advantage of the opportunity and expect to do it again soon!

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
minisplit update
Torque wrench close up.

One of the obstacles to installing the new mini-split system is torquing down the flare nuts to meet the torque requirements.

It's important to have it tight but not overtightened due to temperature extremes.

We decided to go with a Tekton drive click torque wrench that allows you to dial in the torque you need and listen for the click that lets you know you've reached the target torque value.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Low-tech VOIP

Voip boxSince we had to set up all of our utilities from scratch on our new property, Mark decided to enter the twenty-first century in the process. Why pay for both internet and a home phone when you can use VOIP technology to get both for the same price?

To that end, we spent fifty bucks on a phone adapter that lets us plug an ordinary home phone into our router. Then Mark set up a free Google Voice account that provided a local phone number and simulates having a home phone. We did opt to pay $25 per year for optional 911 service, but otherwise calls are totally free within the U.S. and Canada.

What's the catch? There are only a few. First, you can only set up a Google Voice account if you already possess another phone number --- we used our emergency, pay-as-you-go cell phone for that purpose. Also, there's no caller ID on the phone (although you can see the number on the internet) and voice messages are emailed instead of showing up on your home answering machine.

On the plus side, phone quality seems to be quite a bit better than on a cell phone. And the transcribed voice messages that come to your email inbox are a major time saver if your callers have a tendency to ramble on. Overall, this is a cheap and easy solution for home phone service if you already pay for internet service, and I suspect it'll be plenty for our low-phone-use household.

custom ARM disk image generation with propellor

Following up on propelling disk images, Propellor can now build custom ARM disk images for a variety of different ARM boards. The disk image build can run on a powerful laptop or server, so it's super fast and easy compared with manually installing Debian on an ARM board.

Here's a simple propellor config for a Olimex LIME board, with ssh access and a root password:

lime :: Host
lime = host "" $ props
    & osDebian Unstable ARMHF
    & Machine.olimex_A10_OLinuXino_LIME
    & hasPartition (partition EXT4 `mountedAt` "/" `setSize` MegaBytes 8192)
        & hasPassword (User "root")
        & Ssh.installed
    & Ssh.permitRootLogin (RootLogin True)

To make a disk image for that board, I only have to add this property to my laptop:

& imageBuiltFor lime
    (RawDiskImage "/srv/lime.img")
    (Debootstrapped mempty)

Propellor knows what kernel to install and how to make the image bootable for a bunch of ARM boards, including the Olimex LIME, the SheevaPlug, Banana Pi, and CubieTruck.

To build the disk image targeting ARM, propellor uses qemu. So it's helpful that, after the first build, propellor incrementally updates disk images, quite quickly and efficiently.

Once the board has the image installed, you can run propellor on it to further maintain it, and if there's a hardware problem, you can quickly replace it with an updated image.

computer tower that I will be maintaining with propellor

It's fairly simple to teach propellor about other ARM boards, so it should be quite easy to keep propellor knowing about all ARM boards supported by Debian (and other distros). Here's how I taught it about the Olimex LIME:

olimex_A10_OLinuXino_LIME :: Property (HasInfo + DebianLike)
olimex_A10_OLinuXino_LIME = FlashKernel.installed "Olimex A10-OLinuXino-LIME"
    `requires` sunixi "A10-OLinuXino-Lime"
    `requires` armmp

My home server is a CubieTruck which serves as a wireless access point, solar panel data collector, and git-annex autobuilder. It's deployed from a disk image built by propellor, using this config. I've been involved with building disk image for ARM boards for a long time -- it was part of my job for five years -- and this is the first time I've been entirely happy with the process.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Hanging pots on screws
Hanging up pots

It's amazing how hanging up pots makes a new kitchen feel like my own. Mark added some thin boards to give his screws something to bite into between studs, providing space to hang up the most-used items. (Thanks for yard saling such great sauce pans, Rose Nell!)

Drilling out a pot handle

Back in Virginia, we hung our pots on mug hooks. But screws are easier to use high up on the wall in our new location. A little bit of drilling ensured that each handle would slide easily over the screw heads.

stupid long route

There's an old net story from the 80's, which I can't find right now, but is about two computers, 10 feet apart, having a ridiculously long network route between them, packets traveling into other states or countries and back, when they could have flowed over a short cable.

Ever since I read that, I've been collecting my own ridiculously long routes. ssh bouncing from country to country, making letters I type travel all the way around the world until they echo back on my screen. Tasting the latency that's one of the only ways we can viscerally understand just how big a tangle of wires humanity has built.

Yesterday, I surpassed all that, and I did it in a way that hearkens right back to the original story. I had two computers, 20 feet apart, I wanted one to talk to the other, and the route between the two ended up traveling not around the Earth, but almost the distance to the Moon.

I was rebuilding my home's access point, and ran into a annoying bug that prevented it from listening to wifi. I knew it was still connected over ethernet to the satellite receiver.

I connected my laptop to the satellite receiver over wifi. But, I didn't know the IP address to reach the access point. Then I remembered I had set it up so incoming ssh to the satellite receiver was directed to the access point.

So, I sshed to a computer in New Jersey. And from there I sshed to my access point. And the latency was amazing. Because, every time I pressed a key:

  • It was sent to a satellite in geosynchrous orbit, 22250 miles high.
  • Which beamed it back to a ground station in Texas, another 22250 miles.
  • Which routed it over cable to New Jersey to my server there.
  • Which bounced it back to a Texas-size dish, which zapped it back to orbit, another 22250 miles.
  • And the satellite transmitted it back in the general direction of my house, another 22250 miles.
  • So my keystroke finally reached the access point. But then it had to show me it had received it. So that whole process happened again in reverse, adding another 89000 miles travel total.
  • And finally, after 178000 and change miles of data transfer, the letter I'd typed a full second ago appeared on my screen.

Not bad for a lazy solution to a problem that could have been solved by walking across the room, eh?

Previously: roundtrip latency from a cabin with dialup in 2011

Joey devblog
propellor arm boards testing

Took a while to find the necessary serial cables and SD cards to test propellor's ARM disk image generation capabilies.

Ended up adding support for the SheevaPlug because it was the first board I found the hardware to test. And after fixing a couple oversights, it worked on the second boot!

Then after a trip to buy a microSD card, Olimex Lime worked on the first boot! So did CubieTruck and Banana Pi. I went ahead and added a dozen other sunxi boards that Debian supports, which will probably all work.

(Unfortunately I accidentially corrupted the disk of my home server (router/solar power monitor/git-annex build box) while testing the CubieTruck. Luckily, that server was the first ARM board I want to rebuild cleanly with propellor, and its configuration was almost entirely in propellor already, so rebuilding it now.)

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

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Walking through impermanence
Dow Lake

This past weekend, I discovered that I'd been driving the long way around to get to the nearby Strouds Run State Park. Taking the shortcut means I hit park property only 2.1 miles from our house, and in double that distance we achieve the scenic (if man-made) Dow Lake. Inspired by the close proximity, I tried out not one new trail this week but two.

Drained beaver pond

In addition to ambling along the Lakeview Trail, I also enjoyed Beaver Pond Trail...which ends in this flat, open area where a pond probably stood only a couple of years before. The walk was a lesson in impermanence --- how human to name a trail after something that can disappear based on a whim of the weather combined with a critter's unpredictable brain. Is this a bit like giving directions based on "that old store that used to be owned by the Joneses back in 1977"?

Ice droplets

Despite the minor disappointment of finding no beaver or pond on Beaver Pond Trail, I thoroughly enjoyed the walk. Because the setting was a broad floodplain with clay-lined streams exactly like the one we moved away from. Now I know where to go if I ever get homesick!

Joey devblog
propellor arm boards

Working today on adding support for ARM boards to propellor.

I started by adding support for generating non-native chroots. qemu-debootstrap makes that fairly simple. Propellor is able to run inside a non-native chroot too, to ensure properties in there; the way it injects itself into a chroot wins again as that just worked.

Then, added support for flash-kernel, and for u-boot installation. Installing u-boot to the boot sector of SD cards used by common ARM boards does not seem to be automated anywhere in Debian, just README.Debian files document dd commands. It may be that's not needed for a lot of boards (my CubieTruck boots without it), but I implemented it anyway.

And, Propellor.Property.Machine is a new module with properties for different ARM boards, to get the right kernel/flash-kernel/u-boot/etc configuration easily.

This all works, and propellor can update a bootable disk image for an ARM system in 30 seconds. I have not checked yet if it's really bootable.

Tomorrow, I'm going to dust off my ARM boards and try to get at least 3 boards tested, and if that goes well, will probably add untested properties for all the rest of the sunxi boards.

Today's work was sponsored by Jake Vosloo on Patreon.

Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Pros and cons of heat pump water heaters
Heat pump water heater location

Research suggests that heat-pump water heaters are by far the most energy-efficient option for most households. They're approximately three times as efficient as ordinary electric water heaters since they don't create warmth...they merely move heat out of the air and into the water.

Installed water heater(A gas, point-of-use device at each hot-water faucet approaches the same efficiency. But we're not on a natural gas line and didn't have to make that choice. Electric point-of-use hot-water heaters can't come close to heat-pump technology.)

Downsides of a heat-pump water heater include the high initial price tag (but look for rebates!) and the hum of a fan. Heat-pump water heaters also cool the air around them (great in summer, not so great in the winter). And they need a large, open area with a temperature that doesn't drop below 45 Fahrenheit for optimal performance.

I decided to give up a bit of square footage in my writing space for optimal, energy-efficient hot water. More on what we think of our high-class heater in a later post!

mark (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Junction Earthworks
Junction Earthworks

It was hard decision between the Amish store and the Indian mound.

But a road closure made the choice for us.

Actually, both roads were closed, but Errol knew a back road to reach the mound site.
Anna (Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect)
Figuring out the breaker box, round 2
Breaker box diagram

Figuring out our breaker box became a lot more intuitive once our electricity was turned on. At that point, we were able to use the tried-and-true technique of turning on all the lights in the house then flicking breakers one by one to see when each zone went dark.

In the process, I learned that I'd incorrectly added up the amperage already in use in our box. First of all, there were three wired but apparently unused breakers in operation. I'm a little leery of simply deleting them, but I'm equally leery of leaving juice running to wires that seem to go nowhere. At the moment, I'm leaning toward pulling those mystery breakers and associated wires out and using the spots for something else.

Tandem breakers

I also learned that the two breakers shown in the center of the photo above are what's known as tandem (or cheater) breakers. Each one allows the wiring of two unrelated circuits in a single spot. Despite the name, they're not necessarily cheating...although they can be.

Tandem breakers can also be a problem because they're small and heat up easily, so they have a tendency to flip a lot. Sure enough, Mark's breaker flicks every time he turns his space heater and his big monitor on at the same time. Assuming those confusing slots  mentioned above really aren't in use, it seems like a good idea to ditch the "cheaters" and wire each of our zones onto a standalone circuit that will be less likely to overheat.

Joey chatter
processing my sumac harvest

After drying my sumac harvest and rubbing the berries off the clusters, I ground it by hand with mortar and pestle.

Passed through a sieve to remove the seeds and stems, an amazing spice emerged.

This is the first time I've processed a spice. It reminds me of processing tobacco in the barn as a kid. So tactile, hands become sticky with dry sap, and it smells amazing.

Joey chatter

Found this gorgeous thing on a bush, in a spot that I'm eyeing as a site for a small pond.

Joey chatter
solar update

Been online via satellite for over 24 hours straight and have not used dialup at all for ~5 days. Solar upgrade is really working out; batteries have recovered significantly in the past month and despite summer waning, I have more power every day.

Joey chatter
sumac + garlic

Cut a bumper crop of sumac just ahead of the rains. Amazing flavor.

Don't know yet how to process/store it, but I did make this jar of infused sumac garlic olive oil.

Joey chatter
Anna's garlic

Split out the biggest cloves of Anna's garlic and planted them today.

The remaining pile-o-garlic should satisfy me for a month.

Joey chatter
lemon harvest

This is my biggest lemon harvest ever from my potted meyer lemon tree. I've had it for 10+ years and it's always a joy. Next two lemon harvests in prep already..

Joey chatter

Borg seems like the closest backup program like obnam. The main difference is it uses per-client AES keys, rather than gpg keys. So a backup can't be easily made accessible by other gpg keys.

I suppose that encrypting its AES key to the gpg keys you want to be able to access the backups, and storing the encrypted AES key alongside the backup will get the same functionality.

Joey chatter

Drove to Canada and back. Home!

Joey chatter

I walked over this bridge probably a hundred times, but never went down to see the waterfall. Let alone hiked down the gorge to Ithaca before.

Probably sums up my Cornell experience in some way.

Joey chatter
far above cayuga

Back at Cornell for the first time in 21 years. My feet still remember the way around.

Joey chatter
putting up pears

Around a quarter of my pear harvest canned now.

The small jars are ginger-pear chutney. Need to find the time to make more of that, it's stunning.

Joey chatter

There's always brogue..

Joey chatter

Which is faster than my SSD can write out 6 gb. There are a few speed hacks involved. ;)

Joey chatter

Sped up build time for a 6 gb disk image file from 30 minutes to 30 seconds. Wow.

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 chatter








Joey chatter
smoke signals

Beaming pictures of bratwurst through woodsmoke to orbit.

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.

Joey chatter
left the building


Actual error message seen on actual VPS host just now.

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.


List of feeds:

  • Anna: last checked (50 posts)
  • Anna and Mark: Waldeneffect: last checked (4209 posts)
  • Joey: last checked (165 posts)
  • Joey chatter: last checked (1913 posts)
  • Joey devblog: last checked (124 posts)
  • Jay: last checked (50 posts)
  • Errol: last checked (53 posts)
  • Maggie too: last checked (22 posts)
  • Maggie: last checked (35 posts)
  • Tomoko: last checked (77 posts)
  • Jerry: last checked (28 posts)
  • Dani: last checked (22 posts)
  • Richard: last checked (15 posts)