Thursday, September 29, 2011

Incredible Urban Pioneers Video

What these people are doing is amazing. Simply amazing!

Amazing Firewood Stack Stabilizer

Now, if you are like me, you spent all Spring just happy that you didn't have to worry if you had enough wood to last all winter. Then Summer was too hot, and now, far, far too late, you are chopping like a madman. At least the weather is cool.

So we procrastinators out there have to stack our firewood to allow maximum air circulation if we want to get any kind of value out of the wood. But we all know that a long, single depth stack of wood falls over if you sneeze at it. Which is why I developed the Amazing Firewood Stack Stabilizer!

Go ahead and start stacking an eight foot long wall of wood out in the open. When it gets to about a foot high, start another a foot away. Then add the amazing stabilizer and see how sturdy your stack it! You can start a third stack to build an exploded cord (Three 8x4 foot walls of 16 inch wood, with a foot between each wall) and let the wind blow through and around the wood. The best part is, it is free! You guessed it, it is a six foot long, small diameter, relatively straight branch! Just bridge the walls with it and keep stacking above it. I found that two about two feet from each end, one at one foot, the other at three feet high makes a rock steady cord out of what was a mighty shaky exploded cord.

Bridge two stacks and make it much stronger

Vastly improved airflow through the stack
Next year I'll start stacking from early spring, I promise.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Good Morning's Work

I got some stacking done today. That stack you see in the picture is 4' x 9' x 1' and the tied in stack behind it is 4'x5'x1'. About 56cu. feet, or let's see... 128 cu. feet in a cord, so 56/128=.4375 cord of firewood. Not bad for an hour in the morning.

The sawbuck I made myself out of five 1x4x8' boards, three 1/4 inch bolts, some rope, and 24 woodscrews.
Here's how:
1. Cut the 1x4s in half. Lay three of them on edge on a flat surface and fasten them at both ends and the middle with two more boards.
2. Flip over the assembly, and lay three more boards next to ribs already fastened. Then use two more boards and fasten them to the ribs. Be careful not to fasten them to the wrong ribs, or it won't open!
3. Next drill the holes for the bolts. I made mine at exactly 30 cm (1ft) from the top of the ribs. Thread the bolts (add an extra washer between the boards) and tighten.
4. At the bottom, tie a rope to the opposite bottom boards to keep the sawbuck from opening too much when you drop a heavy log on it. I keep about two feet of slack.

There you go, a really easy sawbuck.


Logging roads. After the typhoon last week, the logging road up the mountain across the river from the house was a bit damaged. Which was not so good for me, since I had to use it to bring some more wood down. I wish I had thought to take pictures of the bad spots before I spent an hour shoveling fill into a one meter deep rut. But here is one of the not so bad spots.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Top 6 Reasons To Wear Steel Toed Shoes...

Top 6 reasons to wear steel toed shoes when splitting wood:

I have enough foot problems with gout and bone spurs, I don't need a cloven hoof.

"Higanbana" Lycoris radiata (red spider lily)

"Higanbana" Lycoris radiata (red spider lily)
The Higanbana is a beautiful flower, but don't pick them and give them in a bouquet, since they are to honor your dead ancestors.
And every year when the higanbana blooms, we know it is time to harvest the rice.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Raining and Shaking

"X" marks the spot!
Just an hour after Typhoon Roke passed over us dumping a foot of rain, we had another quake- the largest one in quite a while- 5.3 magnitude, depth 10 Km, location- almost directly under our house! Now don't worry, there was absolutely no damage, just some racing heartbeats and a groggy baby.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Talk About Erosion! (and Radiation)

Well, it has been proved that sunflowers do absolutely nothing to absorb the radioactive Cesium from soil.
On the plus side, that means I can eat the seeds now.
You can see the Asahi Newspaper article here.
Our city, Takahagi has posted radiation levels on their website. So we are apparently at average levels.

The Japanese farm ministry has found the "Best" method of decontaminating farmland is to scrape off the top 3-4 cm of topsoil reduced the cesium by 97% in areas that had a carpet of grasses, (75%) in bare soil areas.

In forested areas, removal of the accumlated leaf and branch litter reduces cesium between 50-90%, depending on the age and type of the forest.

They estimate that up to 100 million cubic meters of topsoil will have to be removed and stored indefinitely as low grade radioactive waste. If the forested areas (around 1/2) are not included, that number will come down by several tens of millions. Still enough contaminated soil to fill a 55,000 seat baseball arena 40 times over...

This is why I am against Nuclear Power.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Firewood Stacking Season

Despite the 30 degree C temps, Ewan and I hauled in the first very small load of chestnut windfall firewood into the house, imagining that it would dry better inside than in a big heap under a tree. Go figure.

The rack is one that my Dad and I build a few years ago at Christmas time. We had a lot of fun planning, cutting, drilling, and pegging the rack together, and it has held up wonderfully over the years. It may not be very fancy, but neither are our woodworking skills. One thing I really like about it is that we didn't use any screws or nails in it. Just half-lap joints and dowel pegs.

 I think of Dad every time I put another knot on the fire. That keeps the inside of me as warm as the fire keeps the outside.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rice Update Sept. 16, 2011

Well, it is rice at least... But I am not hoping for much of  a harvest. It looks pretty empty in there. Some of the heads are filling out a bit though.

Someday, my harvest will look like this though.
Rice Drying in Takahagi Sept. 15, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Beautiful Flowers

My winged beans are finally flowering!
That has been a long trip to get them this far.
I planted them, forgot about them, remembered them but couldn't find them in the weeds, gave them up for dead, then the squash attacked the bean trellis while we were on vacation. And then I found the beans again! Hooray!

But what a flower. It reminds me of something....

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Radiation and Fall Leaves

While watching "Tetsuwan Dash," one of my favorite programs on Japanese TV, I found out something I didn't know about radiation hot spots.
The show has a segment called "DASH-Mura" where the members of the "band" TOKIO go off to the Japanese countryside and farm. they have been doing it for many years now, and it was immensely popular. They keep bees, grow rice and vegetables, make pottery, restore old houses, and thatch roofs. It was a wonderful show. However, it is in Namie Town, Fukushima. About 25Km to the NW of Fukushima I Nuclear power plant. And the NW was the most contaminated fallout zone.
In tonight's show, they went back, in full radiation gear to measure levels and plant sunflowers. The first visit was on July 11. The strange thing was- it all looked so normal... That is one of the worst things about radiation fallout- you can't tell by looking at the area. You could hear the cicada, frogs, and birds. Bees were making new hives in the abandoned buildings- it all looked like a normal homestead that had been recently abandoned. Until they put the Geiger counter readings up. 10-18 microsieverts per hour. The average hourly dose is 0.34 microsieverts for Americans... 35 times.
They also measured the dose on a drift of fallen leaves. 35 microsieverts per hour! 100 times the US average!!! The drifts of course show you prevailing wind patterns. Where the leaves stop, so does a lot of cesium. So presumably, you could use drifts to identify potential hotspots to facilitate decontamination.  Of course, you still couldn't live there for another 120 years or so...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Man, I Love Tacos!

I love tacos. But the fat! So a while back I thought- how can I make tacos more healthy?
At first I diced an onion and put it in the pan with a little less meat. It was good. Not mind bending, but good.
The next time I put in some eggplant and green peppers, and reduced the meat even more. Very nice indeed.
This last time I had about 1/4 the meat called for on the seasoning packet, tons of green peppers, eggplants, onions, okra, and......... a bowl of short grained cooked rice! The rice blended in so well, that nobody noticed it! I don't know how it would work with long grain rice, but good Japanese rice- wonderful! So now we have relatively healthy tacos. The only thing I would do different next time is to add some chili peppers, since the veggies toned down the heat of the seasoning.

Also, if you don't have tortillas, try making a taco salad on a bowl of rice. It is fantastic! Plus, it ends up in your mouth, not on your clothes, the table, the baby's head....

Back Home Magazine Issue 114, pg 42

Has the latest article by yours truly.
Pick one up, or order it at the website! Or pester your local library to add it to their periodicals. If you like reading homesteading blogs, you would like their magazine.

Issue 114, Sept. Oct. 2011,  Page 42.
"Are You Prepared? Advice From A Disaster Survivor."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rice Update Sept. 07, 2011

Well, my diluted urine fertilizer test is working well. The color has really greened up, and the competing weeds are growing like crazy (That was not one of hoped for effects though).

Koshi Hikari rice, Takahagi, Ibaraki

You can see the heads are starting to get larger. I still only have about half the number of flowering stalks as the neighbors though. We'll see what happens. Harvest planned for beginning of October.

Water Source Infiltrator

I water my bottom garden with a gravity fed siphon from the creek above. I mentioned it in a previous post. It had some serious drawbacks though. When the creek was muddy, the sediment would clog up the line, small leaves and twigs would get in, or the creek level changed and the siphon sucked air and ran out.... Many kinds of problems.

So I decided to make a filtered infiltrator for the supply and hopefully even it out.
A few weeks previously I had stretched a piece of conduit from the "rapids" to the bank just below. I then put a little children's bucket in a hole and had water spilling directly into it. But this had the same problems- sand and silt, leaves and trash, and that was when the whole upstream intake didn't clog up and let the bucket run dry.

So I re-thought out the problem, and came up with a solution (I hope). I took a piece of PVC drainage pipe about the same diameter as the conduit (about 90mm diameter), and began to drill holes in it. Many, many, many holes in a staggered pattern. Finally I had enough. So I drilled some more to be really sure. Then I put a plastic close weave mesh bag over the pipe, and connected it to the conduit. Step one was complete, and the water was flowing OK.

Then I built a quick and dirty sandbag dam- only about 10cm high. But that was enough to fully submerge the infiltrator.
Since then, the water has been flowing OK, even though the bag has picked up some grime on it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Banana Update

Japanese Fiber Bananas- I will try and eat one, stay tuned...
The bananas are forming. They are small and flat, still green as of yet. And they are pretty high up there, so I can't really get too close to photograph them well.

I was thinking of using the leaves of the banana for plates when we have our next BBQ party here.
You know in Japan, a BBQ is a lot different from back in the USA or Canada.
Here, we have a smallish grill, and the whole party takes place around the grill. Usually the host (but sometimes if there is a "BBQ Dad" as I like to call them, they will take over) will put the very very thinly sliced meat and vegetables on the grill. You watch, talk, drink some tea or beer if you fancy, and take a piece whenever you want. Then you dunk it in your sauce of choice, and eat it over a bowl of rice.

And I tell you, for dessert, put a banana in its skin on a cooler part of the grill, and let it turn black. Cook it until it starts to bubble and ooze out of the skin. Transfer it to a plate, open it, and put some cream cheese on it. Wow. You must try this.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Buckwheat Boy!

Took this picture yesterday, you can see the boy is wearing the same shirt. The buckwheat I planted August 15th has really taken off, and is growing like crazy. I am growing it in the old potato patch. After digging the spuds, I:
1. Raked it into some troughs
2. Added leaf mould in the first and third rows, and well composted steer manure in the second and fourth.
3. Then I raked the aisles over the trenches to give them a slight mound, and planted buckwheat in them.
4. And finally, since it was about a gadzillion degrees with not a cloud in the sky, I covered the mounds with some cut ferns and grasses to give them some shade before watering.

And now, they are doing well. I can't see much difference between the compost and leaf mould, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the compost plants will have extra nitrogen and grow just a bit taller.

Behind the boy, you can see the tower of compost I am making from cutting the weeds around the garden. That is how I pay the rent for it. In exchange for cutting it back twice a year, I can farm it. And I get to keep the compost. That is about 1/4 of the cut weeds, and it is 2.5 meters high...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Rice Update

My daddy is trying to grow some rice...
The rice is flowering! I am hoping for at least some crop. However, as you can see in the picture, there is a nitrogen deficiency problem. About half of  the crop is yellow-green and a bit stunted. After the typhoon passes by I will add some diluted urine to the problem areas to correct that.
Rice should be a much deeper green...

I can tell that the cold spring water has really affected the growth of the rice, it is at least a week behind the neighbor's rice, which was planted the same day as mine.

Already planning next year's paddy, adding another 25 square meters and sealing the bottom with 2cm of clay! And I will somehow find enough compost to give it a good 2cm across the whole bottom. So let's see.... 50 square meters times .02m... One cubic meter of each should be enough. Of course, will I actually have the time to do such a project? Hmm....