Monday, May 04, 2015

Permaculture Progress

Three of four planned water harvesting swales are in and partially planted.
We've been making great progress in our effort to implement a permaculture design at Make-it-Do. Until recently the process has been one of observation. Kaleesha put in a very nice veggie garden when she moved to this property in 2006 and has expanded it ever since. In addition to the gardening she and the kids began learning about the plants growing around the property. They also started keeping chickens, goats and even a dairy cow at one point. She put in her first fruit trees, two apples, four years ago. We added another growing area last year which began the expansion beyond the fenced area and up onto the south sloping hill that the house sits on. That was a bed of rhubarb, comfrey, herbs, raspberries and flowers. Further up on the hill we added four blueberries. But it wasn't until this spring that we began to really think of implementing a design based on the principles of permaculture.

The beginning of our design-a work in progress.
The process really got started a few weeks back when Kaleesha decided that she would give up any future of keeping goats on the property in exchange for a large fruit orchard. This quickly led to a discussion of what it would mean to create a food forest rather than an orchard and from there what it would mean to begin adding other elements of a permaculture design.

The next important step was deciding to build water harvesting swales on contour on the south facing slope to the east of the house. Up until now the side yard was mostly a heavily used play area for the kids so switching it over to planted swales was an important decision.  We were able to do this, in part, due to the decision to not keep goats in the future which allowed us to begin taking down the fencing which exists all over the property. Taking down the fencing means much easier access to different grassed areas for the kids to play in. The side yard is no longer a primary play area so much as a path to get to other areas further out.
Working out the details of our plan

We have a family of 9 living on this 5 acre property and we share it with chickens, ducks, cats, dogs and wildlife. The property itself is fairly complex with soft, fertile soil below the house, rocky soil above the house and 4 acres of woodland which includes a stream and rocky shut-ins consisting of mostly igneous rock running along the western and southern border. The land is mostly sloping with much of the slope facing south or west. In short, there's a great deal of activity and intended purpose happening here and so the permaculture dictate that observation be step one is something we've taken very seriously. We observe and discuss a great deal before taking any action and developing a plan to guide us and to serve as documentation of what has been done is important.

The plan is not done but our work is in progress. We'll proceed slowly as we co-evolve the design plan and the property at the same time. Eventually the written document will catch-up and become more of a plan for future action than a journal of what we've already done. In some aspects this has already happened as the plan has listings and placements for trees and bushes which will not arrive until next week (Pecans, Chestnuts, Goji Berries, and Lingonberries).

Progress!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Permaculture at Make-it-Do

Halfway through the dig!
A few years back I wrote about putting in my first swale . About a year later I offered up an update. In May of 2013 I left that site behind when I jumped into life with Kaleesha at Make-it-Do Farm. This spring we’ve been getting busy taking some important steps implementing permaculture here at Make-it-Do. In the past couple of weeks we’ve added blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and 12 fruit trees including peaches, plums, cherries and pears. This is just the first step towards a food forest and larger permaculture design. Still to come is adding in a variety of fruit bushes, herbs and ground covers to fill out the various layers between and around the fruit trees.

The biggest development in the kitchen garden: three new hugelculture beds built with lots of half rotted logs and ready for planting.

Planted with fruit and filled with rain!
In addition to the planting we’ve also begun putting in our swales. We’ve got the first of what will be a series of three or more swales on the south facing hill that has been a grass yard on the east side of the house. We’re transforming the grassy slope into a series of water harvesting swales that will be planted with various polycultures. The first has an estimated capacity of 400 gallons and has been planted with blueberries, rhubarb, strawberries and clover. Still to come is comfrey, a few herbs and a fruit tree. Each of the swales will be similarly planted though the specifics will vary. More updates soon!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Busy Spring!

Spring has come to Missouri and with it lots of work for Tucker Creek Creative as well as plenty of work for us at Make-it-Do Farm. As if my freelance work and our farm/garden projects weren’t enough, we’ve also been busy with activities for the kids. Mainly we’ve discovered Farmington-based Lab Revolution which is a technology-based 4-H group. We’ve had fantastic fun thus far.

Check the links above to Kaleesha’s great posts providing all the details and lots of great photos!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Recycled Wood Shelving

We’ve been wanting to better utilize one of the walls in our bedroom and finally got around to the project during a brief warm spell in January. The goal was rustic shelving that would hold books, satellite modem, and our flat screen. We had a stack of beautifully weathered old cedar wood that had previously been used in someone’s privacy fence. It’s been sitting outside for a while so we needed to use it soon if we were going to use it. It was perfect for our shelving.


It was pretty straight forward. After disassembling the fence we discussed the consruction and came up with a list of lumber sizes. We cut all the pieces which was only slightly tricky because our recycled lumber needed to be mixed and matched a bit.  The whole project took about 5 hours. The only cost? Screws which were also being recycled from an earlier project so getting their second use. Not too bad! 


The final touch was a wall collage of old National Geographic maps and vintage nature journal sketches from this Flickr collection by the British Library.

Staying Warm

There’s nothing quite like staying warm in the winter with wood. In the past I tried to cut and split what I needed but with the years my back has gotten increasingly cranky (as has Kaleesha’s). In particular cutting and splitting wood is a task that can easily put us in bed. That said, sometimes it just has to be done. If it weren’t for the pain it would be a nice way to spend a few hours outside with the kids. Even with the back pain we seem to be able to enjoy it a bit. Everyone working together makes for some sweet moments.


Luckily we had some wood left over at the top of the hill from our observatory project. Cut over a year ago it was perfect for splitting and has been keeping us warm for the past week. Royal and Little were especially helpful in transporting the wood down the hill, smiling and chit-chatting the whole time. Adorable.


Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Free Ebook Today!

Kaleesha’s book, Free to Be, is a freebie today on Amazon! If you've already read it but have not yet left a review please consider doing so as it is a huge help! If you've not gotten your copy why are you still here?? You might also want to consider checking out her blog. Good stuff.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Sentient Being

Oliver Sacks on learning he has cancer

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

Well said.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Idealism, Diplomacy, and the Pale, Blue Dot

Kaleesha's at it again with a really wonderful post about our human ideas about the way things are supposed to be..
Today at lunch I overheard my six year old directing one of the older children in the making of her PB&J sandwich. “Not like that. I want it the way it’s supposed to be.”

At six years old, Little already has ideas about the way things are supposed be. Are all children like this or just mine? I don’t know. I suspect it’s more common than not. In my home, all nine of us, right down to four year old Justin, have perfectionist streaks. Natural born idealists. Though the older we are, the more set in our ways and certain we seem to be.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

It Could Happen

Colin Dickey writing for Aeon on why it’s dangerous for modern civilization to be so dependent on technology:

On 1 September 1859, the British astronomer Richard Carrington witnessed a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), a burst of solar winds and magnetic energy that had escaped the corona of the Sun. The Carrington Event, as it came to be known, was not only the first recorded CME, it was also one of the largest ever on record, and it unleashed a foreboding and wondrous display of light and magnetic effects. Auroras were seen as far south in the northern hemisphere as San Salvador and Honolulu. As the Baltimore Sun reported at the time: ‘From twilight until 10 o’clock last night the whole heavens were lighted by the aurora borealis, more brilliant and beautiful than had been witnessed for years before.’

At the time, the event caused some minor magnetic disruption to telegraph wires, but for the most part there was little damage caused by such a spectacular event, its main legacy being the fantastic displays of light across the sky in early September. But should a solar flare happen on the scale of the Carrington Event now (and there’s a 12 per cent chance of one hitting the Earth before 2022), the effects might have a radically different impact on our advanced civilisation. If a CME with the same intensity were to hit the Earth head-on, it could cause catastrophic damage.

A National Research Council report in 2008 estimated that another Carrington Event could lead to a disruption of US infrastructure that could take between four and 10 years – and trillions of dollars – to recover from. Particularly vulnerable are the massive transformers on which our entire power system relies. Massive fluxes in magnetic energy can easily overload a transformer’s magnetic core, leading to overheating and melting of their copper cores. In the worst-case scenario, a repeat of the Carrington Event would cripple our infrastructure so severely it could lead to an apocalyptic breakdown of society, a threat utterly unknown to our ‘less civilised’ ancestors.

Illustration: Common Components of Vaccines

Vaccine Illustration From the excellent Compound Interest, a website all about Chemistry, is this post regarding the common components of vaccines.
The recent measles outbreak in the US has once again provoked discussion over vaccinations, and why some parents choose not to vaccinate their children despite the benefits of doing so. Whilst not the only factor, part of the blame lies with misinformation about the chemical composition of vaccines and the effects these compounds can have. This graphic summarises some of the key components in vaccines, as well as clarifying their purpose and safety in the concentrations present.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Apple and the environment

Apple's new solar farm and other environmental efforts:(null)

Apple’s been on a very impressive roll and I’m not talking about it’s ever evolving line of mobile devices and computers, but rather its continuing build-out of solar farms. In 2012 they completed their Maiden North Carolin data center with its own on-site solar power facility which is the largest privately owned solar array in the U.S. Since then they’ve completed work on a facility in Prineville Oregon that utilizes “micro-hydro” and another solar facility in Reno Nevada is set to come online in 2015. In locations where they do not generate power they are sourcing it from wind and other renewables.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Science

A Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Science:

The vast majority of people will get their science news from online news site articles, and rarely delve into the research that the article is based on. Personally, I think it’s therefore important that people are capable of spotting bad scientific methods, or realising when articles are being economical with the conclusions drawn from research, and that’s what this graphic aims to do. Note that this is not a comprehensive overview, nor is it implied that the presence of one of the points noted automatically means that the research should be disregarded. This is merely intended to provide a rough guide to things to be alert to when either reading science articles or evaluating research.

Concerning the feelings of anti-vaxxers

Robert Moore on the respect anti-vaxxers deserve

A post about your feelings…

So, I’ve been seeing a lot of ‘I’m sorry for hurting your feelings posts’ with regards to vaccines, and I thought I’d make it clear that I’m absolutely, in no way, at all, sorry for hurting any of your feelings if you’re anti vaccination and not telling me.

You deserve to have your feelings hurt.

Your opinion, which you are absolutely entitled to, hurts children. It kills children. So I’m entitled to also have an opinion about you and your poor decision making. I’m entitled to mock you openly when I watch a video of an infant with whooping cough. Because without your beliefs on vaccines today there would be no whooping cough.

Agreed.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Particle Fever

This is a fantastic movie. Imagine a documentary about particle physics that might bring you to tears. So beautiful. The movie documents the CERN particle collider and the search for the Higgs Boson. It illustrates the basic physics that are being studied even as it explores the humanity of some of the scientists that are involved. The art and illustration used to explain the science is very well done. All of it very accessible to anyone regardless of science background. Purchase from iTunes or stream it from the website.

Friday, February 06, 2015

A Guide to Leaving Facebook

Over the past year I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable with Facebook and have finally decided to abandon it. It was Salim Virani’s article Get Your Loved Ones Off Facebook that finally sealed the deal. I’m not going to spend anytime reiterating what he has written. If you’re on Facebook you really should read it yourself. What I intend to do here is detail how I am transitioning away from Facebook by replacing it with different services.

I’ve been a regular user of the internet since 1997 so I had 10 years of experience before joining FB. Remembering the days of the internet before Facebook is an interesting exercise. There’s no doubt that FB provides a convenient access point for sharing anything and everything via timelines, groups, and messaging. From images to video it’s all just a click or two to post or view content from practically any internet connected device.

A few resources for staying in touch. The most obvious is the old standby email. Make sure you collect the email addresses for folks you want to stay in touch with. And make sure your email address is available to those who may prefer email.

Chatting without FB Messenger is easily accomplished via free services and apps such as Skype. With Skype I can have private text, video or audio chats or group chats from my Mac or iPhone or iPad. Also available for Windows and Android. Individual texting and group texting is yet another option which is increasingly easy to access from a variety of devices and operating systems. In our home we’re using Macs, iPhones and iPads to message with each other as well as anyone with a cell phone. Twitter is an interesting blend of messaging and wall posting and might as well be in the mix.

The Facebook “wall” is also replaceable though it requires a bit more effort for everyone involved. For the sharer it requires setting up a blog which is fairly easy to do and free. Free options include Google’s Blogger platform (the home of this blog), WordPress, or paid options such as Typepad. Here’s a nice list of free and paid options. When you set-up your blog you have a variety of options such as allowing comments to articles as well as visual/design customizations via themes. A nice change from Facebook’s persistent blue graphics everywhere.

Then there is the process of gathering up the blog feeds of friends, similar to friending people. This part is not as easy as it is in a closed ecosystem such as Facebook. One of the easiest ways to get started is via a free service such as Feedly. Set-up an account and then begin adding the feeds of friends blogs. This is accomplished by clicking the “Add Content” link in the Feedly sidebar then copy/pasting the address of the blog into the field. Feedly will look for the rss feed for the blog and give you the option of subscribing. Done. I’ve been using RSS for 10+ years so I’ve got a fairly large list of sites that I read, or, in some cases, skim. Feedly allows for easy organization of feeds by topic areas via folders. I’ve got a folders for a variety of interests: astronomy, science, Apple and tech news, general news, design and most recently I’ve added a “Friends” folder in which I will place the feeds for any Facebook friends that have a blog. You can access your Feedly via web browser or a variety of rss apps. On the Mac I prefer accessing via web browser, on my iPad or iPhone the free Feedly app is excellent.

What about photos and video? Photos can be fairly easily added right to your blog’s timeline via upload from whatever device you’re using. Or, if you prefer a dedicated photo service Flickr is a free service that offers plenty of space (1 TB) for sharing photos. A nice side benefit of flickr is that it is in itself a social medium which encourages following and commenting. Flickr photos can also be posted to blogs. Video can be easily accomplished with YouTube or Vimeo, both of which offer the option to embed video in your blog.

There’s no doubt that developing your own ecosystem takes a bit more work but it comes with the benefit of greater control of content presentation and independence from Facebook’s data collection machine. Well, not quite independence because it is becoming quite clear that it is nearly impossible to be clear of such collection but why make it easy?

Justin's Birthday

 

Getting started early!

 

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Lots coming... stay tuned.

I've been on Facebook since 2007 but have grown increasingly uncomfortable with it. This article was the last straw. I'll be closing my account there and getting very busy here. I'll probably be posting a few articles and backdating to the original FB timeline post... just the better posts that I don't want to loose track of. I'll try not to flood the feed.

Riding Light

Excellent visualization of the vast distances of space even in our local solar system.

In our terrestrial view of things, the speed of light seems incredibly fast. But as soon as you view it against the vast distances of the universe, it's unfortunately very slow. This animation illustrates, in realtime, the journey of a photon of light emitted from the surface of the sun and traveling across a portion of the solar system, from a human perspective. I've taken liberties with certain things like the alignment of planets and asteroids, as well as ignoring the laws of relativity concerning what a photon actually "sees" or how time is experienced at the speed of light, but overall I've kept the size and distances of all the objects as accurate as possible. I also decided to end the animation just past Jupiter as I wanted to keep the running length below an hour.
Riding Light