David Singer

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since Nov 18, 2017
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trees tiny house greening the desert
New Mexico USA
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Recent posts by David Singer

I dug and lined three koi pond in the old yard. The secret to keeping clean water is to dig your pond at least 12 inches deeper than you intend for the bottom of the pond. Then add sand to about 6 inches.

As time progresses poo and leaves and twigs will sink down to the bottom of the pool where anaerobic bacteria will start the ammonia cycle (the removal of ammonia from the water if you have frogs/fish/etc.

Ponds under trees fill with debris faster. You might want to lay paving stone over the sand. As the debris deteriorates it will become a slightly slimy thick liquid that will grow into the sand. You want to keep that as it is bacteria that is beneficial and it will eat the poo of passing birds.

I would assume that you would need a deeper pond, more sand and lots more debris to handle bathing cattle. Most of the 'natural' ponds that were dug by humans tend to be clay bottomed and slowly fill up with a black nutrient muck. It feels icky, but basically isn't that harmful.
3 years ago
Frankly, while I enjoy your enthusiasm to come here and ask us, I think the most important person to ask is your friend, who knows his homestead and knows all the tricks (and where the ticks are) and most likely has come up with tick and other pest solutions.

4 years ago
I have poorly controlled seizure disorder. I have generalized partial complex epilepsy which not only includes tonic colonic (grand-mal/fits/convulsions) I also have absence (petit mal) seizures and moments of either an altered sense of reality or an uncommonly enhanced perceptions of the truths of reality (joke).

While the tonic colonic are controlled via medications, I still get my 'moments' which can last 1 second to a minute. Most often its only a second or two, but the states appear to have no wiggle room for a driver who might lapse for a second or two.

So I am left with either getting married to someone who can drive (seriously not a good reason for marriage) or I have to come up with a novel way to get to and from town from  my 'remote base of operations' or homestead.

Our current society has developed the means for a person to be remote and still connect to the internet and order things online - I just got a few items from Wal-Mart last month, and was surprised to have the UPS guy at my door with a rake, shovel and 50' long garden hose. I have yet to try it with groceries.

While its now possible to actually live a distance away from a town, the idea of being stranded there isn't a happy one.  So I'm thinking I might get myself a horse or two and live within riding distance of a town/small city.

4 years ago
It seems to me that blowing hot air down into the crawl space is just a band-aid temporary fix for a larger problem.

I would also assume that the previous owners didn't have a fan down there and the pipes did not break due to freezing.

The best method of fixing potential pipe freezing is insulation for the pipes.  As for moisture the fix is to find where the water is coming in, dig and lay in a sealant - because most likely you have to dig around your foundation and tar the outside of the foundation with weeping tile to move water away from the foundation.

As such you need to plan out when you are actually going to address the underlying issues, and decide if putting in this more expensive vent fan is even worth the expense as it is, or if using your small fan would cover the short term issue and then aim for doing the duct-work properly (with your vertical only fan vertical) and addressing moisture and pipes.

Or, if you don't mind throwing money away, just use the new vent fan as you need and just keep an eye on it and see what happens.
4 years ago
https://www.thoughtco.com/can-you-drink-rain-water-609422 pretty much tells you that rain water is by its nature mostly safe to drink as is. Assuming you are not downwind of a toxic hazard like a chemical plant or Chernobyl.

And it also tells you the relative truth about rain water being 'cleaner' than city water.

"Most rainwater is safe to drink. Actually, rain water is the water supply for much of the world's population. The levels of pollution, pollen, mold, and other contaminants are low -- possibly lower than your public drinking water supply. Keep in mind, rain does pick up low levels of bacteria as well as dust and occasional insect parts, so you may want to treat rainwater before drinking it."

In Australia and other places around the world (Australia being the only first world nation I can think of that does this) the tanks are not light tight, instead they allow a bit of light to filter into the water to promote the growth of the algae that accumulates around the inner surface of the tank. While that may sound like a bad idea, the reality is that it acts much like a biological filter that one would use plants in a pond for.

The first flush system is ideal if you have lots of dust between rains or leaf matter or bird feces. If you get rains on a fairly frequent basis and don't have birds living over/on the roof you most likely will not have to flush the system after every rain.  

The first thing you need to do is get an assessment of the cleanliness of your rainfall.  If you are downwind of industrial/urban places you may want to collect rain water over the course of several months of rain and have it tested for heavy metals and known toxins that would be linked to industry.

If you get a clean bill of health on your water from toxins (lead, uranium, "acid rain" etc), then a simple sand filter should work.  If you have low measurements of toxins then you will want to use this along with activated charcoal.

Frankly, other than a sand filter (simple one) I would just go with a pitcher filter for drinking water or a sink faucet based filter. These are relatively cheap, usually have high quality filter replacements and doesn't require you to build a secondary tank or do more plumbing.

And unless you have radioactive rains, then washing with rain water is perfectly fine.  Note rain water is typically dusty (thus brown) but that dust settles out once the water is in the tank. Sediments are there because rain drops form around dust particles.

My father simply collected rain water from the roof and we used that to shower in. It went from the roof to storage tank to a black 55 gallon drum where it heated in the sunlight and we used it as is. We didn't die or get sick from showering in rain water.

4 years ago

David Winchester wrote:I've spent the better part of the last decade working in renewable energy. I've spent most of that time making good money and investing wisely, and I can see the moment in the future coming when I'll pull the ripcord and pursue a simpler life. There is nothing wrong with the one I live now, I'm just tired if the stress and long days that come with managing multi-megawatt wind farms.

My question is this: how much have you spent or are you planning to spend to build your dream homestead? I understand these numbers are highly individual and variable, but some more data points would be valuable for estimating for me. Are there any good resources or there that look at this issue you could point me to?

40 isn't so far off for me as it once was, and in the next few years I'd love to leave the rat race, do a little woofing for skill building, and then put down some roots as it were.

Ideally I'd like to own some land and build a tinyhouse/cabin free and clear off grid, with a few animals and raised beds for 100-250k, and would like to dial those numbers in a little better with real world data.

Well land here in New Mexico goes for about $1000 per acre - on average.  Western New Mexico while less populated as lovely mountain views and has higher prices. While southern New Mexico (Deming) is more populated wit lower prices. And they too have lovely mountain views... So I have no idea what gives there.

There is the unfinished cabin with a small trailer house with a septic system in Western New Mexico which is priced $17,000 for 5.41 acres. That is a cabin shell, four exterior walls, a roof and insulation. So about half of the work is already done.

Only down side is its on fortieth and plumb, forty miles from no where plumb out in the sticks.

I have been pricing land in several states, I'm trying to get an idea of what type of climate choices I have, what kind of taxes, restrictions, etc that different states offer. And of course the biggest stumbling block would be the $ mark.

I'm good with planning things. too good. I spend a good deal of time sitting here thinking of what steps I should take, which goals I should set in what order, how much money I will have to work with down the road, how big of a debt I want to be crushed under... lots of things.

Frankly, for that $100,000 you have decided to set aside that is like three times the amount I would require to purchase decent land, sink a well, lay in a septic tank, build a tiny house, plant a forest, and buy a couple of horses and a carriage.

But then I know how to build, I know that there are alternatives to alternative ways to build, I am also not in a huge hurry to get everything at once since I am essentially a man who is content with little and desires not much beyond that. A little bit of land, a small roof, a garden and a place to lay my carcass down and die.

So you need to know what your needs are, what it is that satisfies you and start looking at numbers, price land, price building materials, look at alternative building practices.

4 years ago

Scott Foster wrote:

Ray Moses wrote: How do you figure that pest of apple trees were not around 200 years ago?

I should have been more specific they were not as much of an issue.

Red delicious, Golden Delicious, etc. etc. etc. are all pretty much new varieties that were hybridized for size, color and flavor.

When Johnny Appleseed was making the rounds the seed stock he had were naturally hardier, and the apples smaller, unequal in color and often not tasting as sweet as many popular varieties are like now days.

And there are many, many varieties of apples (https://www.orangepippin.com/apples) though oddly enough most super stores only sell a half dozen or so. Well it isn't that odd. See in today's perfect world we need only the most perfect fruits and vegetables and plastic wrapped meats. Our eggs are pure (white) and our milk is milky, not creamy and we definitely don't want to have spots, blotches, or lord forbid a fruit that is lopsided.

Since beauty is what pushes sales, beautiful produce is what is produced, and all of the old standards, the plants and animals your grandfolks grew up on are diminished and hiding in small gardens and small 'organic' farms.

Most people who start out with apple seeds got theirs from the half dozen hybridized varieties which were grafted on to old root stock for disease and pest resistance. However these seeds are often unstable and you might think you are going to be harvesting Red Delicious, but end up having something completely unexpected. Unstable not so much because the genetics of the hybrid are at fault, but unstable because pollinators will bring pollen from many miles away, thus often apples (and other fruits and nuts, etc) are cross bred.

Yes you are right, biodiversity is the key, a solid key toward having a species survive the onslaughts of pests and diseases.

I'm sure you could find a catalogue of heirloom varieties of apples (and all sorts of other fruits)... Oh look, here is one now: https://www.treesofantiquity.com/.
4 years ago
Since your plan is to do pasturing you need to research planned pasturing in order to maintain if not restore grass land.

National Geographic covers the subject a little: NatGeo. and more on the subject can be teased out of The Google.

You might want to research Swales on Contour As once you start removing trees you will be opening up the land for water erosion.

Livestock do not need a lot of acres that are devoid of trees. In most cases one can have a 'bright shade' forest, that is a forest that is more spread out with a light and airy canopy and still have more than enough grass/fodder being grown.

I definitely would thin out the forest instead of clear cut, starting off with the diseased and dying pine/fir first. Definitely leave a line of firs on contour, meaning going side to side along the elevation lines to hold and maintain the soils as stable. For areas you wish to plant other trees, I would leave about 10' of space between the drip line of the Douglas firs and plant a hardwood or semi hardwood in the middle. The drip line is the edge of a tree's canopy. So if the canopy extends 8' from each Douglas fir, you are clearing a space that is 16 feet from trunk to trunk.

The issue with firs and pines are not so much that the trees are noxious and out to murder all other trees, its the needles that have high amounts of acids and other growth inhibiting chemicals that prevents other plants from growing/sprouting. So you just need to keep the fall of litter to a minimum and only rake out an are of about 24 inches away from your new planted trees.

Since it is Douglas Fir you have a type of wood that most dimensional lumber is made from. I would see what lumber agencies are in the local area and see how they would deal with getting to the trees and taking them out. If the property is large enough they might have to build a lumber road which means they will bring in bulldozer(s) to cut in levelish road, thus giving you a starting place for you to dig into the side of your hill and move earth to the down slope.

I think most lumber agencies prefer to clear cut, but you never know they may want to work with you depending on how much money they will get from the harvest.

Hills and mountains are usually hills and mountains because they are composed of sturdy material - rock. As such you would need to know what kind of rock you have. Is it a sheet form of rock like limestone? then most likely you can use excavated limestone to build a retaining wall on the down slope and have a sheet of limestone to build on. If its broken granite then the issue is digging out boulders or even having to crack them open some how in order to move them... solid granite might meet my favorite fishing tool trinitrotoluene more commonly called 'boom'. ;)

The 15 degree slope isn't that bad. You are looking at around 32 inches of elevation being removed for ten feet of width/length. To put it another way, if you where building a house that was 20 feet wide with the floor level uphill, then the down hill side would need about 5'6" of wall to support the upper level. a bob cat could probably do the rough digging and moving in a day or two, depending on how large an area you wish to clear. If that lumber company are willing to play ball and if you are willing to plop your buildings in a more centralized area they might actually do the rough cutting for you to get at the trees.

Scrape down to bedrock, which might be readily available since you have springs at the top of the hill, which means water is being pushed up and out, not out the sides of the hill. If you don't find suitable bedrock then piers are constructed which are basically deep holes filled with concrete and rebar which act like bedrock.

As for planting trees. If you are buying lots of them then go with "seedlings", yes there will be a lot of loss that first year, but you get more bang for your buck and its far easier to use a post hole digger (hand operated one) to dig a tiny hole which you can plop a tree in, pack it below grade then spread a bit of compost around the tree with a mulch material.  For deer and other plant predators tiny cages to keep the critters out is much more affordable, especially if you make them yourself out of chicken wire. I make 12-20 inch high cones that are 6-10 inches in diameter at the widest end.

When I did volunteer planting, we had a simple contraption for digging a seedling hole, called a Tree Planting Spade. One step, pul it out, plop in your seedling, dump the earth, tamp twice, move to the next planting spot, repeat.

Most trees are forgiving when young, as long as you protect them from predation (deer, rabbit, etc.) keep them moist and provide them a first year covering of loose mulch (because in forests trees drop leaf litter to protect their brood) most of the trees will survive.

If you are planting orchard trees, fruit trees then yes digging a massive hole and doing all sorts of labor to insure the tree survives the shock and thrives is needed.

4 years ago

Gilbert Fritz wrote:Hi David,

I've heard of using a living cover crop under crop plants. My reservations about a continuous living cover crop is that it may outcompete the desired plants, weeds may take advantage of it, and that there may not be enough water. I've grown both buckwheat and wheat; both were hard to harvest on a small scale, buckwheat particularly so. Weeds, in my case bindweed, can outcompete most living cover plants, unless the living cover crops were tough enough to outcompete the crops as well. Hoeing out the bindweed would destroy the cover.

I am trying to do no-till; there are many ways of doing this. Growing cover crops which are then killed by rolling or tarps is no-till, as is a deep layer of wood chips, as is a continuous living cover.

I know the natives used waffle gardens; did they use a continuous living cover?

Have you succeeded in growing vegetables with a living cover crop in New Mexico? What did you use?

I do three sister type things. Such as vine type squashes or sweet potatoes/yams.  This year it was sweet potatoes under tomatoes. Sadly the tomatoes didn't do much due to there not being enough soil - just dirt.

I have actually had purslane sprout in part of the bed. I have decided to break it apart and spread it as it is a native plant that does well in native conditions and it can be eaten.  I also started mint, which is more or less a permanent ground cover that looks nice, smells nice and will hold more water down in the soil.

I'm trying four different experiements next season to see what will work best with as little added water as possible.  

Should I buy property in or around this area I'm going to do swales first and forego doing a 'real garden' until I can get a decent water harvesting situation started.  Around here a thousand dollars can by an acre - but its total high desert removed from city pipes.
4 years ago
Reading through the posts above about people not knowing what an ear of corn is, or "fancy cooking" being basically you know cooking... I have come across people like this, I seriously thought they were just joking with me. Mind I'm high functioning autistic and take things literally too much, so when I come across something that sounds improbable to me, I assume its that 'fancy thinking' neuro-typicals call 'joking'.

It doesn't help that I am a homebody and I keep only a handful of friends.

Which kinda leads to answering your last question.

Nicole Alderman wrote:

How do we widen our view so our perception of reality is more...complete?

We have to put ourselves out there to learn about other peoples. Yes that means crossing the street to see how those strange beings live across the street.

Frankly I prefer to keep with my own kind, those who share my own interests and who I can talk to about a subject blindly forgetting to pause (High functioning autism is still autism ;)) without them being too annoyed.

If you feel it is a problem that you have learning about things like people who don't know what food is, then put yourself out there. Engage people.

My study of the human species reveals to me that humans tend to find their niche in society and stick with it. We have greater and lesser niches which reflect what we are or who we think we are. We find that many major cities have neighborhoods that are predominately of one cultural heritage. Like attracts like, and we go in search of like, or at least in things we like and are interested in.

Google search, YouTube and lots of other "helpful" web based "helpers" tend to target individuals. Go to YouTube with your history active and you suddenly find that if you watch on video the 'recommended' videos will slowly become saturated with that one subject to the exclusion of other random things.  Why do the good people at google help us this way? Because that is what most people are wanting, to stick to a minor subset of subjects and forget mixing it up and finding accidental data outside of our world perception.
4 years ago