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M. Crex

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since Nov 12, 2018
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Recent posts by M. Crex

Roberto pokachinni wrote:
The safest way to split kindling that I know is to NOT really swing the hatchet at all.  What I do is hold the piece to be made into kindling with one hand and the hatchet in the other... But what I do is to Carefully and Gently place the hatchet on the chunk of wood that I am holding, exactly where I want the split to be made and then I lift both the chunk of wood with one hand and the hatchet in the other but together as one unit, and tap it down on the chopping block to set the hatchet head's blade into the wood.  The combo is then lifted again (but higher this time) and dropped as a unit onto the chopping block (and I use a higher chopping block for kindling for better ergonomics), and the splitting is done, or repeated until it is done, without the need for any holding of the wood dangerously while swinging a hatchet. [/i] On top of this, the hand that is holding the wood is used only as a guide for the larger lift and drop (or for smaller pieces-not used at all) and can be released from the wood a split second before impact, which, with very little practice, is naturally done.

This is exactly the way I was taught to split wood and it has served me well.  It was safe from the beginning and the skill involved learning to read the grain to choose which would be the easiest place to split.  Of all the Finnish wood splitting tools in this thread, Fiskars hatchet will always be my choice.  I also have a preference for using the tools I already have.  As a caveat, hardwood grows so slowly in Finland that birch and alder are the hardest spieces anyone would be splitting to burn.  I can imagine this method not being so breezy with hardwood.  That also might explain the ease of use in some of the demonstrations.  Further caveat: I've never had the need to split anything as large in diameter as some of these examples, especially the ones with a cord face.  Maybe it's just a difference in management due to climate.
5 months ago

Tracy Wandling wrote:
Identify a certain number of birds in your area - take photos.

Along those lines, participate in the Audobon bird counting day (2 hours observation)
1 year ago
The bird house could have a good deal of subcategories given various requirements for owl species, ducks, or purple martins.
A hollow log honey bee hive or other natural hive designed to be hands off for wild honey bees.
wildlife rehabilitation
Some vegans might be willing to take in livestock animals from a county shelter.
winter feeders
providing a zone 5
1 year ago
One thing tricky about this for the continental climate section is how much snow cover an area receives.  We receive so much snow locally that it provides insulation for roots and we can keep trees and shrubs that have no business surviving in our zone.  Would the idea be to still list in our technical zone based on temperature scale with the caveat that we have this insulation boon?
1 year ago
This is probably late for the OP to make much use of, and maybe the climate is too different as well for much of it, but maybe it can still be of some use even if to someone else.

I haven't lived here long enough to really see how well different aspects work long term, but I'm more than satisfied with our home.  The previous owners built our house while they had been running a small dairy for years.  The layout is great.  All the bedrooms are on the north side of the house, cooler and darker for better sleeping.  The entrances on the main floor lead almost immediately to a wet room where someone could get hosed down.  The main entrance has an enclosed unheated veranda surrounded by windows that can be used like a greenhouse in the summer.  Then before entering the house, there's an airlock with the aforementioned wet rooms, as a buffer against winter cold.  Whoever engineered the overhang length was spot on with little sun in the summer, but what little sun the winter has to offer lights up the whole of the south facing living areas.  The plumbing could be better clustered, even allowing for the wet rooms in a different area of the house, but the hot water supply also heats for us, and all the non-radiator related plumbing is at least located on interior walls.  Radiant heat is so much better for my health, not just more energy and cost efficient.  The electrical panel is at the entrance, much easier to access than some dark corner of the basement.  The basement includes a root cellar located next to the stairs with a vegetable drop hatch accessible from outside (I've seen similar setups for firewood).  The stairwell is open to the main floor, which helps control moisture and direct heat up from the masonry oven.  The basement walks out, but not such that it has full windows. There's another unheated room as a buffer there which is used as firewood storage.  That room is enclosed with firedoors.  The furnace room is also built to contain a fire.  The same chimney is used for a masonry bread oven, a wood stove, and the furnace.  The sauna has direct access to the back exit for a cool break on the porch or roll in the snow.  The roof is metal with a permanent ladder and catwalk for chimney sweeping or shoveling if the snow load gets dangerous some winter.  That was also really useful last summer when we had to put wire netting over the exhausts to keep the mosquitoes out.  I like that the toilets are in rooms without a bathing option and the places where one could hose off, shower, or sauna do not include toilets.  Growing up, I didn't like having to let family members in to use the toilet while I was bathing.

That all said, there are certainly things I would have done differently.  I think radiant floor heating would be preferable to the radiators under the windows.  We make use of rugs, slippers, and wool socks, but I wish I could have the say in getting rugs out of the kitchen space and radiant floor heating in the kitchen might help with that.  The kitchen also has wood floors and wood does not wear well in such a utilized room.  Our laundry and toilet rooms don't have floor drains like some places I've lived in the past, which would be peace of mind for potential leaks, though they get smelly if water circulates through them so infrequently that the dry up.  I would get rid of some plumbing I find unnecessary, including water toilets.  Someday, we hope to replace our hookups to city water back to our better tasting well and have a passive grey water system instead of lugging buckets and losing plenty of valuable resource to sewage.  There are built in cupboard style closets in the bedrooms and in a couple of the rooms that makes access around the beds frustrating.  I would have been happier with no closets/cupboards in the bedrooms and instead using a standalone movable wardrobe and dresser.  At least that's easy to change once we get to it and those cupboards can be reused in the shop.  Some of the overhead lighting is wired in a way that's nonsensical to me and not trivial to change.  Pay attention to which way you want doors to swing because one door in the house swings the wrong way to me and blocks another doorway when open.

This last part is concern passed down to me from my mother who was always notifying city officials of sidewalks that weren't wheelchair accessible and handicap parking spaces that didn't meet code.  Through her work met with people on a daily basis who could no longer live in the bulk of their home.  While the necessary parts of the house are reasonably accessible (at least one bedroom on the same level as a kitchen and living space) and the shower is a wet room instead of a raised basin stall, it would be nice to include some more universal design elements, like outlets not so close to the floor, wider clearance in some of the doorways.  Towel racks in bathrooms could discretely be assisted handrails/grab bars, though the wall construction has to support the weight.  Consider pocket doors, which automatically give more clearance because the door isn't taking up space.  The down side is that limits where wiring can be.  Space under counters or sinks for wheel chair access could be retrofitted without too much difficulty in many cases, but not side to side clearance in bathrooms and hallways, a walker being able to sidestep is bare minimum.  Universal design is worth looking into and ties in well with permaculture.
The blog post could be great advice for experienced gardeners in a new climate as well.  Even though I've been gardening as long as I can remember, when I relocated to a different climate everything I think I know seems to work against my plantings.  We'll probably try to pare down this year to only grow things that we use a lot or at least have grown decently for us in the past.  Things that have done well in past years include fava beans and spinach.  We've been trying to get a perennial spinach, but last year places that claimed to carry the seed were out of stock.  In the meantime, we're hoping that our spinach from last year has successfully self seeded.  We planted garlic in the fall as a frequently used vegetable and will try no-dig potatoes this year, hoping that we have more success than our buried potatoes last year.  It's hard to resist growing all the things, especially now that we have space for it, but I think I need go small to reset my bearings.
Thank you for all the thoughtful/thought provoking replies.

I've crossed the Black Welsh Mountain off my list many times, but then something makes me reconsider.  Of the other three, availability is in the order of Finns, Icelandic, Shetland.  Forest pastured animals used to be common here, but it's now an endangered biotope.  So I know that at least Finns have historically flourished in those conditions

I'm not looking to sell wool to a commercial outfit but to fiber artists, to create value added products and personal use.  Cross-breeding would decrease the value of the wool.  Each of these three has a wide color expression range (not something of interest to most commerical outfits but a boon to me).  The black on a Black Welsh Mountain sheep is one of the things that make me not want to forget about it.  A black Finn, Icelandic, or Shetland, is dark grey by comparison.  I have the most experience with Finn wool, as it's the most available, but that very same availability makes me wonder if a less local breed would find a better place in the market.

The barriers on selling food in the EU are too great for me to overcome in the near future, so the milk and meat from culls will be for personal use, family, friends and neighbors.  Finns were originally an all-purpose breed, but recent focus of local breeding has been more on wool and then meat.  There seems to be more people around still milking Icelandics, another originally all purpose breed.  I've heard enough reports of decent milking from Shetland and Black Welsh Mountain, meaning better than average for a non-dairy breed.  I've never considered the dairy breeds since they probably wouldn't be very resilient in this climate.  As far as meat goes, the palate of most of the prospective eaters prefer mutton to the tasteless (<-- their word) lambs.

It's unclear how many sheep the land can handle until some sheep get on it.  Years ago, it was a small dairy cow operation.  We've asked the previous owners how many animals they had, but the remaining family was unable to remember.  There are 21 stalls in the open stall milking barn if that's a clue.  Previous pasture land is now forested.  Some of the forest was harvested and replanted too recently to run animals in just yet.  We're on 5 hectares.  We have a verbal agreement to buy 1.5 ha. adjoining forested land at an unknown date in the future.  Down the road, there's a chance we could make an agreement with the owner of the neighboring forest to run animals there (assuming we can show that the value of our trees hasn't been comprised), but that's getting too far ahead.

I'm worried that the Finns and even the Icelandics will be too prolific for me.  I'm disappointed that the Finns are usually polled (I think all Finns in the U.S. are polled, but there are horned strains available in Finland).

With all these thoughts, I'm still unsure how many sheep one needs to get a feel for sheep.  Maybe it's an irrational fear that I'll get six Finns and by the following spring the population will have grown beyond what the land can support and what friends and family can consume.
We're getting ready to get sheep within the next few years, and I'm not sure how to pick just one breed.  I'm not looking for advice on which breed anyone thinks is best.  I want to know how to go about deciding for myself which breed or breeds to maintain in my circumstances.  If I wanted to just figure out which sheep breed of an already narrowed down list best suits me and my land, do I get wethers of different breeds and then later pursue breeding stock?  That won't give me an on site comparison of lambing and milking.  How small of a scale can I test that?  How many sheep of a breed is a reasonable sample size to know if that's the breed(s) I most want to work with?

Specifics, in case an example is helpful:  my top two sheep breeds of interest are Finns and Icelandics, but Shetland and Black Welsh Mountain Sheep also keep looking desirable.  Of the three things sheep are sold for, I am interested in wool primarily, milk secondarily, and meat only incidentally.  Winters have permanent snow cover and below -30 C is uncommon but usually occurs yearly.  Summers vary from very wet to dry.  The animals will be pastured in mostly forested areas, rotationally grazed (browsed?), keeping rams separate to control which ewes they breed.
I would be surprised if cleaning with wood ashes resulted in a lye burn.  My spouse started making lye out of wood ash this past year.  We tried using it on dishes without much luck, but it's great on laundry.  The point is that I wash dishes with ungloved hands and while the lye certainly reacted to the oils in my skin, making my hands feel unclean to me, we're simply not able to make lye at a high enough concentration to be dangerous in that way.
1 year ago
I'm really impressed with the copywriter respect feature and the time spent by the moderators and staff to double check when someone like me goofs and posts something that ends up not being a legitimate distribution.  The reaction time seemed immediate, and I don't think anyone's being paid.  Thanks.