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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lot's O' Stuff

Hope everyone had a great Christmas, wishing everyone a safe and happy and prosperous New Year! Now with that done, here's an update on things. Last Monday, I did something I haven't done in a coon's age, (and just how long IS a coon's age I wonder...), anyhow I went to the big, big town, about 3 hours away, with a friend. My friend had a doctor's appointment about an elbow injury and didn't know if she would be able to drive home, so I went as a potential surrogate driver. Turns out that they didn't do anything on this trip, just x-ray'd her arm and told her she had bone spurs, her choice is to have surgery or live with it, she has to think about it and decide what she wants to do. Before we went to the doctor, we hit Pizza Hut, did the buffet, it's been so long since I've eaten pizza that I didn't make. Mind you, I make a pretty mean pizza, but getting to eat pizza from a restaurant is a major treat for me. I ate until I was absolutely stuffed.

After the doctor visit we went to Wally World, a super one, haven't been to one of those in a long time, I couldn't find anything! Oh I could see the signs everywhere for this and that, but I still walked around almost in a daze, all the people, all the cars (in the parking lot), it was almost too much for me to deal with, though I will say that for the most part I didn't run into any majorly misbehaving children. The adults were a different story, at least when I was in line, this goth-looking girl/woman was standing behind me, about 6 inches from me, I could see her out of my peripheral vision, she never actually touched me, but I could almost feel her breathing. Every step I took, she mirrored me. Eventually I started playing with her, I would move my cart a couple of inches and step up the tiniest step I could, she would step the same. Maybe she was trying to make me feel uncomfortable enough to find a different line, didn't work though, I finally stepped from between the baskets so that she would have to make some major moves to stand that close to me, problem solved.


While at the store, I decided to buy a comal, this is a flat, cast iron pan mainly used for cooking tortillas and doing things like pancakes, grilled cheese and such. This is something we eat several times a week, I have wanted a comal for a long time, so I took advantage of the situation and purchased one. This particular one is made by Lodge Logic, it's also pre-seasoned, this is important as seasoning a new cast iron pan takes a lot of time, effort, work and in my case, propane. Not to say it's not worth it in the end, but not something I relish doing, so the pre-seasoned pan is a major bonus for me. Of course it worked perfectly, I rinsed it with hot water, placed it on the burner and rubbed it with a light layer of Crisco, the first tortilla tried to stick, after that one, it worked like a charm. We ate tortillas, refried beans with a little cheese, hot sauce and sour cream, it was a good dinner.

I made my tortillas a little different this time, on occasion I add yeast, it makes a slightly puffier tortilla, depending on how long I allow it to rise. It also adds a yeasty flavor (which I really like), I just have to remember to proof the yeast before adding it to the flour, there isn't enough moisture in the dough for the yeast to really dissolve and develop if it's put in dry. This time I did it, but I didn't allow the dough to really rise very much, we were hungry and wanted to eat soon. The last two tortillas I rolled out, they had had more time to rise and develop some extra flavor, I made this thicker than all the rest, made it more like a flat bread than a tortilla, those were for me, LOL!


I also purchased more yarn, I have really gotten into this loom knitting thing, even though I have only made 2 hats to date, the hats turned out great and I want to make more. My MIL sent yarn for Christmas, she did a great job picking out the colors and yarns I like, but like any yarn addict, you can never have too much yarn, so I purchased more yarn, another set of knitting looms, Knifty Knitter Long Loom Set w/Hook &; Yarn Needle, 4/Pkg. and a pattern book called  More Knitting Wheel Fashions. The yarn that works best with the knitting loom is the thicker yarns, referred to as chunky, it's possible to use thinner yarns if you double or triple up on the yarn, (use 2 or 3 strands instead of 1).

My new favorite yarn is called bouclé yarn (pronounced boo-clay), it's a curly, fuzzy yarn, not necessarily thick, I use 2 strands instead of 1, that's what I used to make our hats. I'll post pictures of my hats and any other items I make soon. I am working on a new hat, just like the first 2 hats I made, this one will be for Bob, the only difference is the color, the first hats were made from a variegated bouclé in greens and other earth tones. This one is made from bouclé but in a charcoal gray color. Once I have that one completed, I'll make another for myself but with a little different look, yeah I know, pictures! I'm charging my camera as I write, it was dead or I would have pictures already.

It's been pretty cold, had wood fires every night, can't take the chance of breaking the water pump again. We have also had some big winds, as big (if not bigger) than how it was the first year we arrived here. It's been pounding everything, last night I had a hard time sleeping because of it, about the time I would be almost asleep, another gust would blast us, shake & rattle everything and wake me up. Once I heard something heavy fall over, it turned out to be a door that is propped up outside, I'm happy it wasn't part of the roof or worse, one of the solar panels.

Speaking of solar panels, for the last couple of weeks, we have had more cloudy or mostly cloudy days than sunny ones, it's made things a bit spare around here electric wise, we have enough of a system that if the batteries are full, we can go a day or two without sun, after that we have to really have to be careful about how much power we use for things besides lights. Having 1.5 watt LED lights really make a difference though, we can run them with little concern about how much they are drawing. (Thanks K!, You know who you are!).

I know this is a long post so I'll cut it off here, hope everyone has a safe and prosperous New Year! Oh it just started snowing with sleet mixed in, after such a sunny start to the day, oh boy, this is going to be an interesting rest of the day and night!








All written text and audio podcasts from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.


Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha, (included for the text reader),


Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

This photo was taken by myself on October 22,2006.

Here is wishing everyone a very merry Christmas and a very safe and happy New Year!

It's been kinda slow around here, nothing much has been going on. The weather has been nice, cold at night, warmish during the day (as long as the sun is shining). Yesterday started out warm and sunny, then the clouds rolled in, the temps dropped from 47 degrees F to 32 degrees F in just about an hour. With it came the snow, what started out as a few drops of rain became blizzard like. The wind was blowing the snow sideways, we could not see past the closest trees much less see the mountains around us. It went on like that for the rest of the day and into the night. Last night was a snuggle up, drinking lots of hot cocoa and coffee, sitting around the wood stove night. I can understand why, in the past, so many babies were born in the summer, when you have long cold nights, with nothing else to do but snuggle up with your spouse under the covers, yeah I can appreciate all those babies being born the following summer. :)

So I wish you long nights snuggling under the covers with your partner, wives with your husband, husbands with your wife, keep warm, keep safe, have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!












All written text and audio podcasts from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.


Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha, (included for the text reader),


Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Show Links

OK, I finally have the direct link to Big John Lipscomb's show. I was a guest on his show Dec 14, 2009. I had a really great time on the show, Big John really made me feel comfortable. A big thanks to Randi for all the great work she does in the background, after listening to the show, it's clear that Randi had a big hand in the interview. Thanks to everyone for the great questions in the second hour.

Listen here:

http://www.donttreadonme.tv/121409.html


Hour 1.


Hour 2.



All written text and audio podcasts from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.


Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader).


Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Humanure


Sit, flush and forget, that's what most of us do, multiple times a day. We use perfectly good, drinkable, potable water to flush our waste, what a waste it truly is. After we flush, we don't think about all the water that is used and wasted to process the sewage that is created, chemicals are pumped into our water system, the water we DRINK, so that we can do it all over again. I'm starting to sound pretty green aren't I?

Honestly that's not the reason why I stopped using a flush toilet system. For us, it was a case of necessity. We were moving completely off grid, building a cabin, there is little water, at least little water to waste on flushing a toilet. We had no well, no septic system, no flush toilets. We needed a good way to deal with our toilet waste so I started researching how to eliminate our eliminations.

That’s when I found Joseph Jenkins and Humanure. Well, first I learned about composting toilets. These are usually all self contained units, looking like uber toilets, they tend to come with an uber price tag too.


Sun-Mar Excel Self-Contained Composting Toilets
How they work is they contain your waste within the unit, you add cover material, usually sawdust or something like that. Many of them have heaters,  vents and fans to help dry out the waste. After a period of time, you empty the container and finish composting outside if need be. The biggest problem with these is the price tag, usually thousands of dollars, plus these tend to be rather large, bulky units.


It turns out that Joseph Jenkins figured out a very simple way of composting bodily waste using little more than a 5 gallon bucket, a toilet seat and lid and some organic cover material. You split the composting  into two parts, with the majority of it going on outside in a compost pile instead of inside the unit. The system is so simple, nearly fool proof, I quickly decided it was the right way to go for us, or perhaps more accurately, it was the best way for us to go.


sawdust toilet
This is also a common question I get about living off grid, how and where do I go to the bathroom? It's quite simple once you know about composting and sawdust toilets. We have been using this system since Dec 2007, we have tweaked the system a couple of times, other than that it has worked like a charm for us.  The main thing we have changed is the outside portion. We started out using a wire enclosure to hold the compost pile, we are not on level ground and once the compost pile was as tall as I am, the whole thing began to tilt, we were afraid it would topple over and we did not want to have to deal with that kind of mess.

Bob created a 2 barrel system to hold and compost our humanure.  This system composts fast, there is little to no smell, the only time it has any odor is when we are dumping the bucket into the first barrel. Once the door is closed, no more smell. The bottom composter has no smell, well I take that back, it does have a pleasant, humus, dirt smell, nothing like what originally went in.
Here is a video about that:




Joseph Jenkins has been kind enough to shoot videos of his system and place them on YouTube, you can view them here, there are 14 videos, they will play one after the next:



You can read and download (free)  Joseph Jenkins Humanure book here:
http://humanurehandbook.com/index.html
This contains everything you ever wanted to know about sawdust toilets, including instructions how to build one yourself. You don't need to live off grid like I do to use a sawdust toilet, many people have and use sawdust toilets along side their flush toilets. I read about one lady who had a flush toilet and a sawdust toilet in her bathroom. She placed instructions on the door, stating that you could either use the pure drinking water wasting toilet, or you could use the Earth friendly, no water wasting sawdust toilet. She said that most people opted to use the sawdust toilet.



All written text and audio podcasts from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.


Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha, (included for the text reader).


Thanks for visiting!







Sunday, December 13, 2009

Big John's Radio Show reminder

Don't forget, Monday I will be on Big John's radio program, from 7 to 9 pm central time. You can call in during the second hour and ask me questions or just say "hi".

Click to listen here,
or,
click to listen here.

All written text and audio podcasts from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.


Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader)


Thanks for visiting!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Holy Cow!

I don't know who or what this LinkSwarm is, but I think I am in love... seriously, thanks Regulator, whoever you are for posting my blog on LinkSwarm. Ya'll are making me feel all warm and fuzzy, if this keeps up, I'm going to shear myself and spin some yarn out of it. :)

I was looking at my tracker this evening, normally I have, oh maybe 100 plus or minus unique hits a day, some days more, some days less... I look and I see that I have 262 hits and it isn't even 7:30 yet. I haven't had action like that since Mayberry posted my plea for help on his blog, if you have followed my blog for a while, you remember what happened.

When I checked to see where all this traffic was coming from, I saw that it was coming from LinkSwarm, I've never heard of it before, but for some reason my blog has been posted there and I am getting lots of hits from it. I have always pretty much ignored link farms, I considered it a less than way of getting traffic, I think this site, at least on the surface, looks a step up from the link farms I have seen in the past. Gotta check it out more carefully and see what they are all about. 

EDIT
I have noticed on LinkSwarm some comments about my blog, namely about how can I be off grid AND have an internet connection, blog and a PayPal account. Well, to answer your questions, it is quite possible to be off grid and still have internet access, living off grid doesn't mean living in a cave, wearing skins and eating worms. I am 100% off grid, I am not hooked up to any utilities, I don't even have a power pole, or telephone pole or any other utilities on my property. I generate my own electricity, haul my water, use propane for cooking and heating water, use wood for heat, I have a WIRELESS internet connection, and yes, I have a PayPal account, how else do you think I buy things? Oh, and I'm not a guy, my hubby is though. :)


All written text and audio podcasts from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.


Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha, (included for the text reader).


Thanks for visiting!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Show Reminder

Just a reminder, a week from tonight, Monday Dec 14, from 7-9 pm CST, I will be a guest on Big John's radio program. The second hour you will be able to call in and ask me questions.

I realize that some of you will not be able to listen live, so if you have any questions that you would like to ask, write it here in the comment section, I'll do my best to answer your questions.

I just received an email from Tammy B, she asked quite a few good questions. Here is what she asked,
Since you have been off the grid for a while now, I wondered if you would mind answering, discussing maybe what you would have done differently if you were starting out now, what 3 to 5 things you need most right now, what you would buy if money were no object, how the Berkey water system is working, how many solar panels you have now, what do you miss the most?, etc.,

thanks - inquiring minds want to know.
 First I want to thank Tammy B for those great questions. I'll answer those now.

What would you have done differently if you were starting out now?
Perhaps planned out the layout of our buildings and such on the property, we have just placed things as we went along, I would prefer some of the buildings (outbuildings, sheds and such) had been put in a different location,


What 3-5 things do you need most right now?
There are always lists of things that are needed and wanted. Right now we need to get pipe to plumb our water system, tanks and such. Always could use more building materials (wood panels, dimensional lumber, cement powder...). We need to get Bob's big army truck from Dallas to here, we could use that for hauling water and such, the truck is not drivable and would need to be trailered here. Bob wants to get 2 or 3 G M alternators, to make a system to charge up the batteries. Of course, I would like to have more deep cycle batteries and solar panels.

What would you buy if money were no object?
Pretty much all the things I listed on the previous question. Honestly, if I were to hit the lottery, not much would change, I might buy up more property lots, I would finish our skycastle, complete with good insulation. I would have enough batteries and solar panels so that we would have to have weeks of cloudy skies before we ran out of power. I would make sure the bug was street legal, and would buy a second bug, just like the one I have now for a backup.

How is the Berkey water system working?
It is still working just fine, we have it plumbed into the water system, to fill it with water all I have to do is pull a lever for a few seconds. This was one of the best things we have purchased.

How many solar panels do you have now?
We have four 55 watt Siemens solar panels, and we have four sets of 45 watt Harbor Freight solar panel kits.

What do you miss the most?
This is really bad, I miss eating fast food. We have a McDonald's in the next town, it's not something we get to eat very often, I do miss eating fast food on a weekly, or semi-weekly basis. I know we are healthier for it, and I'm not complaining, but sometimes I just really miss calling Domino's Pizza or getting a burger from McDonald's or Jack in the Box. I also miss the spur of the moment meals I used to cook, the deal is before, when there was a grocery store just minutes from my house, if I decided I wanted to make a meal using ingredients I didn't have, I could just hop in my car and within a half hour, I could be back home with said ingredients in hand, cooking the impromptu meal.

The other thing I miss the most is my family, we both left our families behind, some 500 miles away, so hopping in the car and going for a visit is not a practical thing for us to do.

That's just about it, don't forget to tune in next Monday to Big John's site to listen to the show. Call in during the second hour to ask me questions, or post questions here.

Click to listen here,
or,
click to listen here.

You can also download the show at no charge for 24 hours after the show airs on Big John's site.

All written text and audio podcasts from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.


Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha, (included for the text reader).


Thanks for visiting!


Blog Reader

While reading a fellow blogger's blog, I found an interesting text reader that can be integrated into a blog. I liked how it worked and sounded so I signed up. It's called Odiogo, it basically reads your blog out loud, turns text into voice. It sounds pretty good, though it's not perfect, my name for instance, it pronounces it incorrectly, if I spelled it "wreetha", then it would be pronounced right, but that is a small thing. I might add another line to my blog posts with the correct pronunciation. I will also have to watch my punctuation and spelling, it reads, quite literally what you write, I have already found some typos that the spell checker didn't catch in some previous messages. I also discovered that the podcast isn't created right after a message is posted, and if you change edit a post after the podcast is created, it doesn't change in the podcast, I hope it catches the changes later, oh well, that just means I'll have to be more careful about what and how I write, have to get it right the first time. :)

I will probably keep this for now, it looks like a good thing.


All written text and audio podcasts from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment, but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.


Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader)


Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Easier Internet Privacy

Thanks you A Big Fan Of for this info.



OK, this is the best I have found yet for personal (internet tracking) protection, as well as being the easiest! Go here, do this:


http://geekdrop.com/content/how-block-trackers

It uses 3 components,
  • Firefox (I use this and prefer it).
  • Adblock Plus (an add-on for Firefox).
  • The little red button on the previously mentioned link/page.
The red button is an automatic subscription to a list of trackers to be blocked, it's pretty comprehensive, and it includes Feedjit, my personal nemesis of a tracker. 


All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha, (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Thursday, December 3, 2009

West Texas Winter Wonderland

Words cannot describe how beautiful this place is when it's dusted with ice. It truly is a west Texas winter wonderland.

A couple of days ago, the temps dropped down into the low 20s F, the highs during the day were in the mid 30s F, it was cooooold. It got cold enough inside the skycastle that our water pump froze and cracked the upper housing. Fortunately it's relatively cheap to replace that part, only $30 vs the cost of the whole pump at $130. We are still using the pump as it is, it's not leaking right now, but it could start any time. The part should come in next Tuesday, catastrophe averted.

Here are some pictures I took today. The snow had mostly melted away yesterday when the sun came out for a few hours. This morning everything was shrouded in mist, it stayed that way all day. Everything has this interesting layer of ice crystals, not icicles hanging down, these ice crystals grew sideways and up, in the most delicate formations I have ever seen. Many of these pictures show the mist, fog that is all around, ordinarily you would see mountains in the background, but today, we are surrounded by an almost ethereal mist. Enjoy





All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pre-Interview Phone Call

Yesterday I had a delightful conversation with Randi, she is the show manager of Don't Tread On Me Radio Show, Big John's show. This was a mini-interview, I suspect this was as much to have some talking points as much as it was to determine how well I will do during the live interview. I think I did pretty well, we talked for an hour and a half and could have continued for hours more I'm sure. One thing I realized is I'll have to try to keep myself on track, giving concise answers so that there will be time to get everything in, it's all too easy to go off track, on a tangent and forget the original question.

One thing Randi asked of me was about the Thoreau quote engine I have on my blog, she asked me if I had read Thoreau, I was quite embarrassed to admit that I had never read Thoreau. I have had the book Walden in my hands, I have scanned the book, but never read it fully. I decided that will not do, so I did a search for Thoreau and mp3, I found a wealth of audiobooks, since these books are public domain, it's legal too.

I downloaded the complete book here: http://librivox.org/walden-by-henry-david-thoreau/ I am listening to it as I type. I'll finish it well before I am on Big John's show, so if anyone asked me about that again, I'll be able to proudly be able to say that YES, I have "read" Thoreau. :)

Thanks Randi for the wonderful chat, I look forward to more. :)



All written text and audio podcast from this blog are copyrighted and owned by Wretha unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved, You may download or copy for your own personal enjoyment., but please do not distribute (text or audio) without written permission.

Wretha,
properly pronounced wreetha (included for the text reader),

Thanks for visiting!
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]