Christmas Eve 2014

And so I have been super busy these past couple of weeks up until Christmas. It no longer seems as relevant as it did in my childhood. I normally immerse myself in seasonal music and spend a lot of time preparing and making all the gifts for my loved ones.

I make a few extra every year and have no problem selling them for a moderate price. This Christmas shop ritual has become a tradition and I do it like Santa, always running a bit late and deliver on Christmas eve.

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Christmas traditions are great and I think that most families have adopted their share over the years. This Santa shop I’ve been doing now four years running and as you can see I’ve been super busy. These are just a few of the things I make for Christmas gifts and sales.

I try very hard to be feeling the season and generate that Christmas feeling each year but it seems to get tougher and tougher each year. With the shopping frenzy and the sheer lack of care smothered in commercialism, Christmas doesn’t seem to feel the same or represent what it once did.

Of course we all love Christmas dinner and pie, but what about the spirit of Christmas? Is he, or she, alive and well? I often wonder what it means to many people and often reflect on what it means to me.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ that bloomed into a bigger celebration for family and loved ones to revel in each other and be thankful. Christmas is the time of year everyone comes home and spends real family time. For generations this has been our tradition.

The Christmas I enjoyed in my childhood tho has been poisoned by corporatism and has become more of The Christmas Monster than the joyous time of year I appreciated as a kid. Leave it to corporation to poison Christmas (like they do everything else).

For many people, Christmas is just another day of work when they should be home with their families. I suppose it must be nice to be able to run out and catch someone working at the store and buy what you need. It might also be nice if you would be better prepared and not need the store. Let those people have their holiday too. Insane concept I know right?

And so, back to family.

Christmas 2004

It’s been a while since this Christmas picture was taken and since we have had the holidays together like we did back then. Our family drifted, as many do, with the loss of our grandmother. Things are certainly not the same but the ideals are still good.

Feel blessed for what you have and appreciate your loved ones while you have them. Christmas isn’t about presents and trinkets, it’s about love, family and wondrous homecomings. Don’t forget the message of old Mr Scrooge. Love your fellow man and be blessed.

May your holiday be filled with old fashioned Christmas cheer.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Our Huge Backyard Farm Project

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Building a backyard farm in rural America is a daunting task. The ground is hard and full of clay suitable for cob building applications(we haven’t gotten to that yet) and there are weeds aplenty. People say there’s not much to do out in the country but out here we have tons of stuff happening.

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Our backyard farm project is growing and we hope to see a nice return in the way of fresh veggies and animals (rabbits and chickens) to process for meat. Our goal is to become as self sufficient as possible to ease our living in these poor economic times.

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We have many other ideas besides the general farm were building. Alternative energy, homemade soaps and candles are on our to do list as well as making home made wine and spirits and locating forgotten wild edibles and other forages that we can use to our advantage.

We’ve been hard at work on this project since the beginning of March and we are starting to reap the benefits.

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Things are progressing quite nicely. We’ve already had our first salads from the garden and our animals, chickens and rabbits, are getting regular green snacks out of there as well. Personally I’m waiting for the fresh salsa.

We have other ongoing projects that are well under way. Each day brings a new set of challenges with new projects and the extra work they make for us, but the money we’ll save in the long run is more than worth it. The feeling of self sufficiency is very nice too.

Here’s a sneak peak at another project that still needs a little work.

Hopefully my videos will get better with practice.

 

Choosing The Plants For Our Garden

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We’re still preparing our garden plot but we are getting near to the time to be thinking about getting plants and starting seeds for our food garden project. It’s important to consider the right plants for the right climate and amounts of sunlight that will be available in our turned up plots for growing.

Partial Sun:

Some plants only require partial sunlight to fully mature.
Some plants only require partial sunlight to fully mature.

Photo credit : www.gardeningknowhow.com

We have a number of spots that will only get partial sun, about 4 to 5 hours per day. We want to be sure to make the best use of our space and we’re planning plants suitable for partial sun for these areas. With a little research I found that the best plants for these shady areas is going to consist mostly of salad mix.

shade tolerant plants

It is generally considered that plants that are grown for their stalks or leaves do well in partial sunlight

Lettuce and other leafy vegetables are great for areas with partial sun.
Lettuce and other leafy vegetables are great for areas with partial sun.

Lettuce, spinach and other greens such as kale, mustard or collard greens do well in partial sun .

Some bush and vine bean plants such as green beans and peas only need partial sun.

Large leaf plants like cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts and leaf lettuce are well suited to partial sun.

Bulbs like onions and garlic, along with chives, scallions and green onions are also good edibles to grow in partially sunlit areas.

These veggies can be grown in shady areas.
These veggies can be grown in shady areas.

Photo credit : www.ifood.tv

Other spices that can be grown in partial sun are thyme, coriander, parsley and mint.

Some fruits like strawberries will also do well in partially sunlit areas. You should test the plants in partial sun while still potted by placing them in these areas for a few hours a day before planting to acclimate the plant to its new home. If it begins to look wilted or like its not doing well you might want to consider another spot with a bit more sun.

These sweet babies can be grow in shadier areas.
These sweet babies can be grow in shadier areas.

Photo credit : www.howtogrowstuff.com

There are many places around our home that we can take advantage of these commonly grown edibles and use extra space for something useful. This is a nice list that can be grown in most of the growing zones or even inside near sunlit windows or on balcony’s that don’t get much sun.

Full Sun:

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Plants that bear fruit or vegetables generally need full sun for the fruit to ripen. Tomato plants are a perfect example of this. There are a wide variety of plants that can be grown in moderate growing zones and we intend to make use of more than a few of them.

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Plants that bear fruit such as tomatoes, different kind of peppers including bell peppers, jalapeno’s and banana peppers need full sun for the fruit to fully ripen.

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Photo credit : www.dreamstime.com

Root edibles like potatoes and sweet potatoes, carrots, radishes, turnips and beets will also flourish with many hours of sunlight.

Vine plants like pumpkins, watermelons, cantaloupes, cucumbers and various kinds of squash also require full sun for their fruits to gain any size and maturity.

Corn plants will require a lot of sun and a nice area all to themselves so they have room to grow and produce ears of sweet corn for us to enjoy this fall.

There’s a lot of options for growing your own and it’s up to you which veggies you put into your garden and your eventual diet.

Fresh vegetable

Unconventional Plant Options:

We’re going to plant some sugar cane and some peanuts in our garden plot. The idea of being able to make our own sweetener and peanut butter is too tempting not to give it a shot.

This looks easy enough.
This looks easy enough.

There are also some wild edibles native to our area that we plan to try to cultivate and process for use. These would be wild raspberries, wild grapes and mint. We already have some raspberry bushes and mint growing, we’ll try to find some wild grapevines and transplant them to our garden plot in a spot chosen just for them.

Wild raspberries
Wild raspberries

The mint is already here and cultivating that will consist mainly of cutting it back as mint is very invasive and will take over if you let it.

Growing our own food will allow us to monitor the amount of harmful stuff that goes into our bodies. Commercial food producers seem to have forgotten about safety standards in my opinion and with companies like Monsanto in charge of the commercial food supply I’m thinking growing your own is a better idea than ever before.

Food dependency isn't healthy
Food dependency isn’t healthy

With a garden full of fresh veggies your food options will be abound with fresh (not packaged) options for family meals and snacks. It will most certainly take some effort to make tomato sauce and salsa from tomatoes and pickles from cucumbers but I think the benefits of doing so speak for themselves.

Storing the excess you grow will also come into play as you will soon realize you’ll need to can or freeze the surplus to be able to make good use of it and not let it go to waste. Growing food and other food sustainability ideas are on the rise., and growing your own has never been more popular.

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Photo credit : www.doityourself.com

Gardening is an interesting and rewarding hobby and growing your own veggies can increase your household food supply at a much reduced cost than purchasing commercialized foods. The health benefits of growing your own are endless and with a little practice you can be growing your own in no time.

Whether you have a large yard or are limited on space, there’s a way to bring a vegetable garden into reality for you and your family.

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There’s no time like the present, Spring has sprung and food sustainability is in my future.

What will you be eating this fall?

Spring Has Sprung…..Breaking Ground for a Big Garden

We should all grow food.
We should all grow food.

Photo credit to primephysique.com

So today we began tearing up a spot in the backyard to plant a big garden. To begin with, we’re tearing off the top layer of grass to expose the fertile soil directly underneath.

We have decided to stack the strips of sod(we’re cutting them out in semi-uniform shape) into a sod wall that will completely surround the garden to help keep out unwanted pests.

Once we have all the grass up and the soil exposed we’ll turn the soil (by hand with a shovel) and get it ready to distribute our seeds and starts.

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Were planning the regular garden staples, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet corn, green beans, cucumbers and some other edibles that we can make good use of (good use being eat them lol).

Choose veggies according to your grow zone for best results
Choose veggies according to your grow zone for best results

Photo credit to 365barrington.com

We will also be trying some unconventional plants for our area or growing zone. Were centered in the breadbasket of America so we have many options for garden veggies and other edibles.

We planted a smaller garden last year and did well with lots of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, potatoes, melons and a bunch of other fresh green goodies. We had an overabundance of fresh salsa, homemade tomato sauces, pickles and spices.

Throw some tomatoes, onions, peppers and a little spice into a food processor and Bam..Salsa
Throw some tomatoes, onions, peppers and a little spice into a food processor and Bam..Salsa

This year we intend to have a larger crop, with enough surplus to store and make use of through the winter months. One of the new plants we intend to try this year is sugarcane. We aren’t sure yet how we plan to process the sugar out of the cane but we’re thinking maybe we can boil the inner stalk into a molasses or sweet syrup we can use as our household sweetener.

We want to try sugar cane but not yet sure how we will process for use.
We want to try sugar cane but not yet sure how we will process for use.

Photo credit to www.picstopin.com

The idea of having a garden and the self sustainability it can help to provide is enticing to say the least. Free food, well it’s not free, as many hours will be spent cultivating the crops and harvesting, not to mention processing and making them ready for use(eating). Gardening is a lot of work and a big garden is sure to take a big work effort to ensure its success.

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Photo credit www.barnesandnoble.com

We’re all set and have already begun. So what about you? What are your thoughts on gardening? Are you putting out one of your own or helping someone else with theirs? Will you enjoy the benefits of your own home grown fruits and vegetables this fall or will you continue to buy them at your local supermarket?

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Growing your own will ensure you know exactly what you and your family are eating. It takes some effort but real effort will pay off with edible rewards.

Happy Growing and Eat Fresh, (Not that fake Subway eat fresh) Really Fresh, the old school way.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Experiments

I haven’t mentioned this but my brother and I are tinkers of a sort. We’re the type of guys who can fix about anything. Houses, cars, electronics, metal stuff, wood stuff, you name it we can fix it, put it together or back together. We fabricate metal stuff make wooden toys for our nephews and “tinker” with all sorts of stuff and ideas.

Well, maybe not exactly like this.
Well, maybe not exactly like this.

Photo credit to rebloggy

Hmm yea, more like this. :)
Hmm yea, more like this.

Photo credit to rebloggy

We have a few projects we’ve been thinking about and our shop is cluttered with tools and parts.  My brother and I are addicted to tinkering. We watch do it yourself videos on YouTube more than anything else. Building a Greenhouse or other structure, a Gassifier,  a Rocket Mass Heater and of course, today’s project, a Hydrogen Fuel Cell, is right up our alley.

The principle goes something like this. It seems technical but once you have the idea it's not so bad.
The principle goes something like this. It seems technical but once you have the idea it’s not so bad.

Photo courtesy wikispaces

We’ve watched a lot of video and learned the concept. Now we’re trying to figure out the best setup for our cell and decide what we plan to use it for (building a small zeppelin to fly around our country area seems tempting, but may be a bad idea).

I'm not sure it would be this easy
I’m not sure it would be this easy

Photo credit to Picstopin.com

We will most likely use some form of Hydrogen cell for our car’s fuel intake to cut down the fuel consumption and provide a cleaner, more efficient fuel burn that will give us more miles per gallon or maybe to power a small generator with hydrogen gas. to do that we’ll need a cell similar to the design below.

This is a dry cell type that puts off a lot more hydrogen.
This is a dry cell type that puts off a lot more hydrogen.

Photo courtesy US Dept of Energy

We have a generator we will try to power off of the gas or maybe we can get a scooter we have running off of it. We’re not sure yet of the full applications and will need to build our first working cell to see what can be done. There are other benefits from hydrogen fuel cells besides the gas output.A good working cell built the right way can be used as a source of power. This will take a collection of single cells of a different type than this and is something we’ll explore later on.

Basic layout for an energy fuel cell.
Basic layout for an energy fuel cell.

Photo credit to alternative energy news

I’ll try to keep you up to date on our latest projects. Definitely do your research if you intend to try something like this yourself. Hydrogen gas is highly flammable. We’ll be careful. Make sure you are too.

Don't blow yourself up.
Don’t blow yourself up.