Kyle Neath

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since May 07, 2016
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Somewhere in between a software developer and agroforester. Once upon a time I built a lot of software in a very fancy city, but now I can usually be found running around in the mountains.
Leaping Daisy is my main gig. It's an old high country ranch in the Sierra Nevadas. In the summers, I spend my time fixing 100 year old log cabins, improving the forest, and building out infrastructure to host small events. In the winters, I strap on my snowshoes and play in the snow.
In between that, I'm still trying to figure this whole life thing out. I spend a bit of time writing software to pay the bills, a chunk of it caring for my parents, and the rest playing around the mountains near Tahoe.
Sierra Nevadas, CA 6400'
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Recent posts by Kyle Neath

I have owned a Field Skillet for a little over 2 years now (backed them when they were a Kickstarter). It's the best cast iron pan I own, and the one I use the most. Lighter than vintage, just as smooth. Can't recommend it enough.
1 month ago
Steam is two things:

1. An application you download and install on your computer
2. A marketplace for games

So it's kind of like an app store targeted toward games. Every game you install lives in Steam.

If you want to play the goose game, you'll need to install Steam on your computer. Then you go to your "Library" section, and find "Add a game" in the lower left hand corner. Choose "Activate a Product on Steam" and that's where you can plug in your steam code!
1 month ago
Yikes, I couldn't imagine not being able to get the snow into the road and out of the property! But to answer your question, the push-shovel does work great even if you're just piling snow up on your property. I actually have another big ramp of snow just to the left of the top of my driveway. Sometimes there's so much snow I feel bad pushing more into the street (you always wanna keep the road at least one emergency vehicle lane wide). That makes for a slight uphill path, but it still beats flinging snow around with my arms. You just kind of have to change your mindset about snow removal... building little walking/sliding paths to the snow storage area of your choice.
1 month ago
Last weekend it snowed 8 feet at my house. The weekend before it snowed 7 feet. This week it's forecasted for another 4 feet or so. Which is to say, snow shoveling has been on my mind as of late. So I thought it might be fun to write down all I've learned about snow shoveling. I'd estimate that I've reduced my effort snow shoveling 100x over the past decade. After each of these storms, my girlfriend and I have spent about 1-2 hours each clearing our driveway by hand. That's less time than my neighbor spent trying to get his snowblower working!

Most of this is fairly particular to my location and context, but I think many people can benefit from some of this. Out here in the Sierras we get huge, wet storms followed by clear days. The city does plow my road, but usually 1-2 days after a storm. For many reasons, I choose not to use a snowblower. They are expensive, loud, nasty smelling machines that break down often and require constant maintenance and babying to keep functioning. I can keep my shovel outside and it works every single time without any preamble at all.

When to clear snow

The most important thing you can learn to reduce your effort in clearing snow is to understand the best times to clear the snow. You have three goals when clearing snow:

1. Gain access to the road
2. Reduce ice (slippery stuff!)
3. Do your future self a favor (leave room for the next storm)

The most important thing you must do is pay attention to the weather. If the snow is coming in warm (30˚F+), you want to remove it as soon as possible. If there's more than a couple inches, you should get out there and clear it. Don't let it pile up! Wet snow is heavy. Don't let it sit overnight! Freezing temperatures will turn wet snow into a hard-packed glacier. If the snow is coming in cold (<20˚F) it will be nice and fluffy. You can leave that snow be until it is going to warm up (30˚F+). It'll stay unconsolidated and easy to move.

When the plow comes by your street, it has the effect of a super warm day followed by a freezing night. That is to say, it turns any snow at all into hard ice chunks almost immediately (avalanche effect). As soon as possible after the plow comes by, clear your berm. The longer you wait, the harder it will be. Sometimes this means a groany five minutes of shoveling when you were ready for bed versus two hours the next morning when you need to get to work. If you wait long enough, you will need heavy equipment (skid steer or tractor) to clear the berm.

Keep in mind this temperature effect when choosing how cleanly to scrape your driveway. Packed powder has far more traction than ice. But packed powder + warm temperatures = ice rink. If it's staying cold, I'll leave an inch of snow on the driveway so I can walk comfortably. If it's going to get warm, I scrape it down to the pavement.

How to shovel

The most important shoveling technique to learn is to stop shoveling! You want to be pushing the snow around, not picking it up. Shovels should be used to break snow up and move it short distances. So let's get started with the tools you should have.

The shovel

Go and get yourself a nice metal shovel. A transfer shovel can be used for this, but I much prefer a snow-specific shovel. Mine has metal teeth on the ends, a scoop shape, plastic glides on the bottom, a D-handle, and even folds up! I can fold it up and pack it behind the seat of my R32 (a tiny little 2 door passenger car). Don't even think about a plastic shovel if you get a lot of snow. It will fail you in your moment of most need.

The push bucket

This tool is a miracle of science. I cannot even fathom not owning it anymore. I want to buy more of them. It holds as much snow as twenty shovels full and can push another ten shovels full in front of the bucket. Instead of laboring with your back and biceps, you can stand up straight and use your legs to push the snow on the ground. This will reduce fatigue by leaps and bounds. Would you rather carry a baby down the street, or push them in a stroller?

The scraper

The last tool you'll want is a nice metal scraper. I think this was called a sidewalk scraper. But anything of similar shape will do fine. This is for hacking pure ice and scraping hard packed snow/ice off hard surfaces.

Now that you've got the tools squared away, you need to move the snow. Your goal is to push the snow into the street (where the plow will reach it), down the flow of traffic from your house (so that the plow will push it away from  your house, not back into your driveway!), into a nice smooth ramp (so that you can glide the push-shovel up the ramp). Here's the end product:

You can use any strategy you want to clear the snow. With two people, it's kind of nice for one person to push the snow from the driveway into the street while the other person pushes the snow from the street onto the ramp.

The last thing to keep in mind while shoveling is where the snow for the next storm is going to go. If you can't push the snow into the street where city plows will deal with it, you should really take some time in the summer to plan out where your snow pile is going to be. Hopefully in a sunny place where it'll have more chance to melt and consolidate in the sun.

Aspects of your property

Once you've done the snow shuffle a few dozen times, you'll start to learn that there are some environmental factors that make some driveways easier to clear than others.

The good side of the street

If you happen to live on the sunny side of the street, that means your snow will melt faster! It also means your snow will melt faster :( So while you might be happy in springtime, you might watch your driveway turn into an ice skating rink during freeze/thaw cycles. Still, most of us prefer the sunny side. It'll give your driveway a break in between storm cycles.

The other thing you'll realize is how nice it is to live on the side of the street that slopes down to the right of your driveway as you leave. This means that when you are pushing snow down the street (so the plow doesn't push it right back into your driveway), you'll be pushing it down hill.

And speaking of slopes, probably the most important aspect of a driveway designed for snow removal is that it slopes away from your house. In fact you want everything sloping away from your house. It makes snow removal easier (pushing down hill), but more importantly, it will prevent flooding and the resulting ice-rink caused by flooding. No, your french drain will not  not help you. In the winter, all drains get clogged with snow and ice and do not function. I would never purchase property with an inward sloping driveway. Every single person I've known with one of these has had massive flood damage and lives in misery all winter with their ice-rink driveway.

The mailbox shuffle

My mail carrier drives an old Jeep CJ and can make it through some pretty gnarly conditions. That doesn't mean she can clear a 7ft berm to deliver my mail. She needs a nice arc so she can pull the Jeep up and reach the mailbox out the window. But here's the dilemma: if my mailbox is close enough to the street for her to reach it, it's also close enough to get decimated by the plows.

That's why I've settled on a movable mailbox. AKA a bucket full of dirt with a mailbox shoved inside. I put the mailbox in the center of my driveway. I'm going to clear that out anyway, and that gives my mail carrier the widest arc to be able to drive in past the berm to reach the mailbox.


Get yourself some snow stakes. I'm sure you know where your driveway is, but trust me — things get more complicated when the snow piles up. I haven't seen my curb in a month. But that's not even the real reason to put up snow stakes. You do it for your plow driver. You know, the poor soul in a giant tractor navigating residential streets at 11pm during a blizzard. They'll thank you for some nice brightly colored markers with reflectors showing where your driveway starts and stops. Most plows have a gate they can drop that temporarily holds back the berm caused by plowing, and the snow stakes also allow them to get closer to your property line since they know where it is. Even if it's "obvious" where your driveway is, put them out and be a good neighbor to that driver. They'll appreciate you trying to help them out.

Now that you've spent all that time, sit back and enjoy your job well done!

And don't forget an old piece of wisdom I learned from one of my old neighbors: why spend money to fix the road when you can buy a truck instead? (There are many ways to solve the same problem, this is just how I do it…)

1 month ago
If the plants get established large enough (5+ft) they will do good. I have several elderberry plants that get grazed by cattle every year. The cattle will eat every leaf and berry that they can reach, but can’t touch the taller portions. Bears tend to get around that limitation by tackling the entire bush and snapping the limbs. Despite all this, the bushes don’t mind. They remain incredibly productive and resprout from the roots every year. Once established, plants can easily put on 3+ ft of branch a year.
3 months ago
Travis: I suspect you and I are aiming toward the same goal. What I have seen many times is people take on projects that active take them away from their farm, because they are spending time learning skills they don't need to build up their farm. Roofs are a great example. I have seen people waste entire growing seasons learning how to replace the roof on their house, thus setting their farms back an entire (!!!) year. And they didn't do as good of a job as roofers would have, because — well — roofers do it for a living. A lot of these people are putting on metal roofs, which will likely outlast their lifetime. So that skill was learned in vein. It won't be re-used. I had my roof replaced this year and it took them 3 days. I can spend $10k and save myself an entire summer of labor, which would have been an effective wage of something like $4/hr. There's no world in which that's a good decision unless I have an extra summer of free time, am already an expert roofer, or strive to be a professional roofer in the future.

My point is maximize the time doing the thing you love and want to do more of. Spend money on the things that aren't that. More likely than not, it's a good financial decision as well as a good-for-the-soul decision.
One thing I often see permies mistake is not putting a dollar value on their time. I pay a lot of people to do things I can definitely do — I have contractors remodeling the garage right now, I pay a full-time caregiver to help my parents, I pay an accountant to do my taxes, etc, etc. These are all tasks I'm totally capable of doing, but when I factor in the value of my time, I lose money to do them.

As an example, if you earn $50/hr at your freelance job and a housekeeper costs $15/hr, that means you earn $35/hr for every hour you hire them to do work since you can earn $50 in that same hour. But even then, that math is off because they are probably much better at housekeeping than you are, do a better job, and do it in less time.

It's not always clear what your hourly rate is, especially if you work for yourself. But I assure you, with enough calculations you can find a number. Even if you're not making money. Let's say you're willing to go into $10k of debt to build out a pasture that will require an extra 5hrs/week of your time for a year. You have decided that your time is worth $38/hr ($10k/(5x52)). If a housekeeper costs $15/hr and housekeeping time directly conflicts with building this investment, it's an easy choice to spend the money on a housekeeper.

But of course, you're going to have to mesh this money-centric view with your values. Maybe you enjoy cleaning your kitchen. Maybe you value self-reliance more than your hours. Focusing on rates of return is a great way to manage your finances, but not always a great way to manage your happiness.
It's just not a window installation unless there's a sawzall involved.
4 months ago
In terms of creating a popular YouTube channel, there are two entirely separate jobs:

1. Creating content people will enjoy
2. Getting people to see that content (Marketing)

Number one feels like the hard work, but number two is the vast majority of the work in today's world. It used to be that you posted something to your timeline and your friends would see it. You'd create good stuff, people would see it, and the better your stuff, the more popular it got. Those days are long dead, shot in the head and left on the side of the road to rot. There's a tremendous set of skills you need to master to get people to see content now. Part of it is behavioral psychology (ex: choosing the right titles/thumbnails), part of it is algorithmic/platform awareness (ex: what titles/keywords will get you in the right recommended lists this week), part of it is old school marketing (timing, marketing channels, branding), part of it is networking (getting the right content creators to link to your stuff), part of it is straight up luck that YouTube/Facebook/Twitter believe your content is offensive enough to show in the timeline. It's going to take a really long time to figure this stuff out.

My point is — you're over here thinking no one cares, but the "people" who don't care are most likely YouTube/Facebook's algorithms. Content marketing in 2018 is a shitshow. Don't be so hard yourself.
4 months ago
I've always heard that the reason we don't try to plant too deep is to discourage too much top growth in the fall. The deeper the bulb, the more insulation it has from the cold weather, so the more energy it expends with top growth before spring. If you live in a colder climate, this seems like it should be less of an issue.

But to be honest, I haven't found any real discussion about the consequences of planting the wrong depth. Just a lot of discussion about the "right" depth, like flowering bulbs (daffodils/tulips/etc) which I know from experience to have little to no impact. I planted mine about 4-6" deep this year, although in fluffy, worked soil that will surely compact down throughout the winter & snow load. I guess we'll see how it works out!