Maker Faire KC 2014

Since Fin was out of town, I took the opportunity to Geek-it-up at the Maker Faire Kansas City, and grabbed Blazed to explore.

The Make people threw a fairly decent party, both inside and outside Union Station. A solid mix of people were present. I spotted everyone there from dirty hippies to Glassholes.

We caught the “Coke and Mentos” guys doing a demo.

(Video is recording from another fair / year / someone else, but the presentation was similar).

We saw people building boats from trash.

There were people showing off plants:

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And electric cars:

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And Tesla Coils playing music:

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Inside, there were people trying to sell stuff. Some really cool local businesses, some big businesses, and a lot of kick starter and artish projects. Microsoft gave a moderately creepy demo of the X-Box One and the capabilities of the new Kinect.

I’d recommend a visit for all the nerds and non-nerds out there next year.

Cornish cross v2.0 and Chicken plucker v3.0

We raised up some cornsh cross chickens this spring.  The last time we raised cornish cross was almos the last time ever for raising them, for me anyway.  They were disgusting.  Absolutely disgusting.  We raised them up in a chicken tractor, ala Joel Salatin, but on a smaller scale.  I’m not sure if the tractor was too small, moved too little, or who knows what but they spent all their time laying around eating and pooping.  They were covered in their own shit when we went to butcher them  The smell was just down right nasty enough to make you gag when they hit the scalding water.  I refused to do them again like that, in fact, I couldn’t even eat the meat and ended up giving it away.

Enter learning about fodder, fermented feed, and paddock shift.

After the dog attack and slaughter of most of my flock of laying hens I ordered some more this spring, buckeyes of course.  I love my Buckeyes.  I’m impatient, so wanted to get them ASAP in the spring, however the only way that was going to happen was if I ordered minimum of 15.  I definitely did not have room for 15 laying hens so I decided to order 5 sexed pullets and 10 meat birds to try out things I had learned about raising meat birds.  I lost 2 of the meat birds in the first couple days after they came in the mail (they sent 11 meat birds) but raised up 9 happy, healthy, non-smelly , running around, sumo wrestler meat birds.

How did I do It? In my suburban >. 3 acre back yard,  no less?

Half their daily ration was fodder, the other half was fermented chicken feed from my local(ish) feed mill, soy free and organic of course.  They went outside during the day starting at 2 weeks old, and at 3 weeks they were outside full time.  They were shifted around my yard every couple of days until they were 4 weeks old and then they were put in the rabbit barn (at night) where they roosted(!) on the hay bales in there.  I had no idea meat birds wanted to roost!  Every week a new part of the intensively planted “pasture area” was opened up to them for scratching, pecking, and running around.  Yes, I said running.  Did you know Cornish cross could run?  They are fast little boogers too!  They look like little sumo wrestlers running around the yard.  I should have taken some video, it was super cute to watch.  They had solid, normal looking chicken poops, no diarrhea at all.  No poopy feathers, no smell to their bedding, no smell at all, not in the brooder, not in their coop, just none.  These were real chickens. They acted like real chickens.  I really enjoyed having them around.

We butchered them just before 10 weeks old, however we could have done it at 8 weeks and ended up with the same weights,  they didn’t grow at all between 8 weeks old and 10 weeks old ( i weighed them live the same way I weigh my rabbits: a cloth bag and a fish/luggage hanging scale.)  Carcass weights were 4.5 lbs on average.  Very nice beast size and huge thighs.  The meat was tender, juicy, and so flavorful.  Completely amazing.   I used 2 bags of chick starter (100lbs) and around 50lbs (maybe, it’s hard to tell, I grow so much fodder for all the animlas) of mixed wheat and barley for fodder, however this was split between the 9 meat birds and the 5 replacement layers so it wasn’t just the meat birds that this amount fed.  Man, they loved their fodder.  I fed them enough chick starter in the morning around 9-10am that by late afternoon they had some, but not a lot, left, and by evening they were empty.  In the evening they got their fodder.  They spent 90% of their day pecking and scratching and dust bathing, basically just being chickens.

I am extremely happy with my results of raising these Cornish cross birds and will be doing it again in the future.  I really, really enjoyed having them around,  and in fact,  kinda miss the funny little clowns.   I’m curious to be a bit more scientific on charting how much I feed them since the 5 replacement layers were added in on the feed cost.  It was crazy to me how much bigger the Cornish cross were then the buckeyes at every stage of growth.  Heck at 10 weeks one of the roosters from the Cornish cross started crowing!  I must have stood there with  my mouth hanging open for 5 minutes the first time I heard it.  I think it was the same rooster that was starting to get mean.  Next time I will butcher at least a week earlier, probably two, if the grow out rate is the same.

We used the drill chicken plucker , modified to not fly off the table like before, to pluck the birds:

All of the information about the modifications are in the video.  It worked great!

-Fin

DIY Tye-dye Shoelaces

I couldn’t find what I was looking for,  so I made my own!

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They are made out of 15 foot of paracord.  I dyed it with rit dye mixed with boiling vinegar,  1:1.  I made a loose wrapping and tied it with some string,  then dipped each side in dye for about 5 min per side.  Then I dried them in the dryer after rinsing them well.  I cut them in half and melted the ends,  then laced them in a “spider-web” lacing design.

The lacing design is from this site.  That’s an awesome site about laces and lacing.   The whole project took me less then half an hour and I was able to do exactly what I wanted with my laces.  I was getting tired of black boots with boring black laces,  now I have awesome laces!

Dosn’t everybody need awesomeness in their life?

-Fin

Chicken Feeder

I built my own chicken feeder out of a 4 foot piece of 5 inch pvc pipe and two end caps.  I had my brother cut all of them in half, then I glued the end caps on with JB weld and sealed it with some silicone to keep the feed from getting caught in between the glued part.  I made an L – shaped holder out of some of the scraps of wood left over from my fodder rack, and some stuff I found laying around.  I always keep scrap wood around, it always ends up coming in handy.

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I used some 2 x 4’s on the outside as well since the wood that is the chicken coop walls is pretty thin:

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Here’s the whole thing:

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It works out really well to feed the chickens.  I put their fermented feed in one side and the fodder in the other.  They always eat the fodder straight away, then come back for the fermented feed over the course of the rest of the day.

It’s a total hack, but I’m extremely happy with how it’s working for me.

-Fin

Some Yard Modifications

I put in the first fence to cross fence the yard in for the animals:

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I even built my own gate!  This basically fences in the yard that is attached to the gate in the garden, so now I have to go through 2 gates to get into the garden.  It’s a bit of a pain, but it’s worth it to give the chickens their own part of the yard, a rather large part, as well as keep the dogs from running up and down the fence line barking at the neighbor dogs on that side.

1 down, 2 to go!

Now If I could only keep the neighbor dogs from barking at me when I’m in the garden….

-Fin

DIY Laundry Soap

I think every blog out there that has any kind of focus on DIY, frugality, or saving money has a post on making your own laundry detergent.  This one isn't going to be anything life shattering or game changing, just documentation on how I make my particular version. 

I've been really happy with my recipe for some time now, the last couple years I haven't tweaked it at all.  I've been making and using my own laundry detergent for around 8 or 9 years now and I don't ever plan on going back to store bought.  This recipe makes a detergent that has very little smell, and the smell it does have is faint, and tends to disappear the longer it is stored.  My clothes come out smelling like wet cotton, wool, or whatever material they are made out of, not artificial or even natural scents.  I have a real sensitivity to artificial smells and to really heavy natural smells so my main focus with this recipe in the beginning was to get away from the smell of the commercial laundry detergents on the market. 

I'm not really sure how environmentally friendly my detergent is, to be honest.  That is something I am probably going to have to research and tweak in the future when we are able to get on a grey water system.  It's probably something I really should research currently also, since I am concerned with chemicals and sustainability….however, I just haven't.  No excuses there, just something I really hadn't thought about, given I've been making this for so long, far longer then I've been concerned with sustainability. 

Well, here it is:

I start with a big Rubbermaid container, like so:

I add a full box of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda and a full box of Borax:

Next I add a big box of Baking Soda:

Usually the 4lb box.  Sometimes I get the 13lb bag from Costco and just try to guess at about 4lbs.  Real scientific, huh?  Its not really a big deal on getting the amount perfect, this isn't rocket science.  I use the Baking Soda to help remove odors and soften the water a bit more since we have fairly hard water.  Apparently you can make Washing Soda out of Baking Soda by baking it in the oven, however, I've never actually tried it as it's readily available in my neck of the woods and comparable in price to Baking Soda.  

Next I add a medium sized container of Oxyclean:

This probably isn't necessary, however, I do it anyway.  I like the way the soap works better with it, then without it.  I've tried both ways and prefer adding in the Oxyclean.  

I mix up everything I've added so far so its fairly evenly mixed.

Then I add 2 bars of soap, any soap will work.  Usually I use Dr Bronners, or something organic.  If Fate has made soap recently I will use that.  I actually prefer the soap Fate makes, but I make due with whatever I can get when his isn't available.  

I use a microplane:

 

and grate my soap into the container. If you don't have a microplane, no worries, you can use your food processor, I will go into that at the end.  No food processor either? You can use your cheese grater, however, I just don't feel like it breaks the bar soap up enough to really be worth the effort.  If you don't have a microplane or food processor you should really consider making the liquid version.

Again, mix well.  I usually mix in the soap several times as I'm grating it, it helps it to not stick together as much and I feel I get a more even mix that way.  

Now for the fun part.  Grab your pastry cutter:

I strongly prefer the type that has blades and is nice and heavy.  The wire type is fairly useless for cutting anything in to anything else.  If you get a thin bladed or cheaply made one it is just as bad as using the wire type.  The blades bend and are useless.  Invest in a good pastry cutter, not just for laundry detergent, but for general kitchen use.  If you don't have a pastry cutter, and don't want to go out and get one, a food processor will work, its just a whole lot slower.  

So, next I add a bottle of Dawn:

I prefer the citrus scents, however, it honestly doesn't matter what kind you use.  The baking soda will pretty much remove the smell from both the dish soap and the bar soap, so in the end you end up with non scented soap.  I highly recommend using Dawn over pretty much any other dish soap out there.  I've tried quite a few different ones, natural, organic, whatever, and I keep coming back to the Dawn.  It just seems to work a whole lot better at removing random grease and other stains from our clothes.  

I take my pastry cutter and a couple squirts at a time cut the Dawn into my powdered mix.  It really doesn't take much time at all to do this.  I make sure that the Dawn is cut evenly into all the powdered mix.  You should be able to make a ball of soap that holds itself together if you squeeze it in your hand, but shatters easily when you poke it.  As the mix ages it does tend to get a bit clumpy, however, its easy to break the clumps up with my spoon.   

If you don't have a pastry cutter, or want one, then I recommend using your food processor.  You can even grate up the soap with the food processor as well. I recommend using two large containers for this method.  First, mix the baking soda, washing soda, oxyclean, and borax together in one large container.  Take your bar soap and cut it into 1 inch x 1 inch or smaller chunks.  One chunk at a time run it through your food processor with your powdered mixture and dump it into the other container.  Repeat until all chunks are blended in. If you have anything left in the first container dump it into the second and mix everything well.  Next do the same thing with your Dawn.  Fill your food processor with your powdered mixture and drizzle the Dawn in until its ever so slightly sticking together. Empty your food processor into your empty container and run another batch until all the Dawn is gone.  If you have any powder left pour it into the second container and mix everything really well again.  

I really prefer the pastry cutter method to the food processor method.  Using the food processor tends to produce a fair amount of dust from the detergent that is probably not all that great for you to be breathing in.  You should be careful about that if you use that method, a face mask might be a good idea.  I never used one….but probably should have.  With the pastry cutter method there is little to no dust, especially if you are careful when you pour in the dry ingredients.  The food processor method also takes a whole LOT more time.  It always seemed like it would be faster to me, but it always turned into a really slow mess, with a whole lot of extra dishes to clean up.  I can seriously mix in the whole bottle of Dawn with the pastry cutter in less then two minutes.

Next, I jar it up!  I use quart mason jars for this:

Seriously, though, you can use anything.  I just use the mason jars because I have a ton of them….and I use them for practically EVERYTHING.  I tend to buy them at garage and estate sales for $.50 or less each, whenever I see them for that price.  We also recently got severl hundred jars from my Grandmother's basement, so I'm pretty set on jars.  

The last time I made soap this recipe as posted made me 11 quarts.  The cost worked out to a hair under $3.00/qt.  A batch of this will last my household around a year.  I have a front load, high efficiency washer, and I'm doing laundry for just the two of us.  I use about half a teaspoon per load for normal loads, and at most, for really dingy loads, I will use a full teaspoon, but that's rare.  This takes me about 15 minutes to make, including jarring it up.  

I highly recommend checking local prices and shopping around for your ingredients.  I linked to Amazon.com for reference, however, I can find all the ingredients locally for a lot cheaper then the prices online.  I can buy everything listed at my local supermarket, I'd check yours before ordering online.  

My DIY solution to fabric softener?

I buy it in bulk and use it for just about everything.  Its the best bathtub scum remover I've ever used.  Spray it on, let it sit for five minutes or so, and it comes right off with very little scrubbing!  

-Fin

Reworking the garden


So, this is the plan I made out for the new setup for the garden. I used this program. It was kind of a pain to use, since its all web based and kept freezing up randomly. However, its the best of its kind I’ve seen out there, so I made do. Its nice because if you add in where you planted all your plants, then it will tell you next year where not to plant the same thing. I haven’t gotten a chance to go in and add plants in since I’ve gotten my finalized seed list, but I will be doing that eventually. It will also send you reminders on when to plant out seeds, or start seeds for transplants based on your zone, so that’s pretty cool.

The area inside the “fencing” is in the backyard. The four boxes on the bottom are in the front yard. I just included them on there so I could put in what I planted. Pretty much all measurements are accurate, and I went through and staked out the garden according to the plan I made out.

Eventually all the staked out areas will be wooden beds like so:



However, I only have so much wood so far, and its about used up. My brother made up those boxes for me a couple weekends ago, and I finally had a chance to get them installed inbetween the rain today.

I’m using hay to mulch between the beds to keep down the weeds, as well as keep the soil moist. I am not going to have enough hay to do the whole garden tho, at least not with what I have now. I will be posting an ad on craigslist for more hay, trying to get some wood chips, and paying attention to the ads to see if I can get some more wood. I just love the look of the boxes, looks very tidy. I put up the string so I could tell where the beds and walkways would go, I needed some kind of visual marker.

In between working on the garden, while it was raining, I was productive inside as well. I made some DIY seed tape, these are carrots:

I will be doing more as time allows. Probably more carrots, some lettuce, and maybe some radishes, beets, and turnips. I’m not sure how well these will work out, but its an experiment I’m willing to try. I don’t have enough patience to plant these seeds one by one, as they are super tiny, and usually end up just scattering them out, then thinning. That’s not a bad way to do it, but I’d like to see if this is better.

All in all, I think its been a pretty productive day!

-Fin

On getting a new truck and reusing stuff

I totaled my car last week, which is a major bummer to me.  I really loved that car.  It was getting old, no bones about that, and had some issues that were going to need fixing coming up sooner rather then later, but I still loved that car.  It got amazing gas mileage and I could haul a lot of stuff around.  I got an average of 40 mpg….and it cost around $20 for me to fill the tank.

Man, oh man does owning a truck after a car like that turn into major shock at the gas pump.  I got a 2004 Ford ranger xlt.  It’s a nice truck.  Super comfortable, power everything, not too big to drive around.  I get 18mpg.  18.  Bleh. It costs me $40+ to fill it up.  I can’t even go as far on a tank of gas as I could in my car! So not happy about that.  I think I’m in for a lifestyle change about the way I drive around.

I’m having trouble with the halving of my gas mileage, using twice as much gas as I was before.   I’m not even sure if I think this truck can haul any more then my car could.  Using twice as much of a non renewable resource as I was before just does not sit right with me at all.

However…

I was able to respond to an ad on Craigslist for some weathered wood.  A lot of weathered wood.  A whole decks top of wood someone had pulled off to replace and wanted to get rid of.   Non chemically treated weathered wood as far as I can tell.

It’s not any good for a deck anymore, a lot of the ends are rotted and the screws that were left in it are rusted through.  They are mostly 2 x 6’s as far as I can tell of all various lengths mostly over 6 foot.  Most of the screws are gone and I didn’t see any nails.  The boards are solid for the most part if you’d cut off about 2-6 inches off the ends.

Absolutely perfect for my uses.

I am planning on making raised beds in my front yard to hold the dirt I dig out of my new bigger pond project.  The beds will be used to plant various garden crops this spring and in future years.  What doesn’t get used in the front yard will be used in the garden for the same purpose.

I’m got something for free that was someone else’s trash I get to put to a new purpose and it stays out of the landfill.  I got to save money by having the truck to haul it in, it would have never fit in my car at all.  I got to save new lumber from being used for this purpose, saving trees from being cut down needlessly.

Is this one thing worth the environmental hit on halving my gas mileage over all?  Not in my mind.  Not just this one thing.  I hope in the overall ownership of the truck to keep being able to do this kind of thing.  Keep offsetting my overall greater gas useage with an even bigger overall greater ability to reuse various things in my projects going forward.

Balance is an important thing in my life.  I hope to be able to achieve it with this truck.  I think so far with what I’ve done its been a net win, but I will have to be very aware of this in the future to be able to keep it that way.

-Fin

Dear Target,

Why is it that everyone must purchase the same mass produced crap for the holidays? I’ve seen the premade costumes, and it doesn’t take much for homemade creations to trounce them. As a society, we should be encouraging creativity instead of bashing it.

After seeing this commercial:

I question if I’ll be doing any Holiday shopping at your stores.

In short: shame on you.

Sprouts and Walkways

Yesterday was a beautiful day and I got a couple outside projects finished up. I cut down and bundled some tree branches and my parents house for them and also finished the walkway at our house between the house and the garage:

I really should have taken a couple before pictures. It used to be mud and you could barely see the stepping stones. The mud turned out to be mud mixed with a bunch of rock that I dug out and found a tarp serving as a barrier. Those black edgers were there already. The only think I had to buy was new rock because I couldn’t get the old rock to wash off, the mud was very much clay. It made a big difference and I like the way it turned out.

Here’s a couple sprout pictures:


That would be Tomatillos and Early Girl tomatoes. The peppers are just barely starting to peek out, we should really be seeing those in a couple days.

My next project? Researching growing my own edible mushrooms. I’m curious how hard/cost effective it is. I know you can get kits for that, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge. Also planning on looking into growing my own sprouts, bean and alfalfa. I know it can be done easily, just not sure how to get started. Research away! :p

–Fin