Category Archives: Lifestyle

December 2008, Mead, Chicken & Repair update

The Cherry Mead stopped bubbling this week, so it took about 4 weeks to ferment completely. Any time now it can be transferred (racked) into a glass carboy and allowed to clarify. It smelled great while bubbling, so I have high hopes for it.

The chickens started laying the week before Christmas. I brought the chicks home on July 1st, so they are 5 months or about 25 weeks. Chickens need more than 12 hours of light a day to lay. I have two 250 WATT infrared lights on a timer to give them 13 hours of light and keep them warm. It appears to be working.

Sunday night I discovered that the sump pump had quit working. Actually, it was trying to work, but the pedestal that supports the motor had self destructed and the whole thing was turning. I was able to put together a splint using 1 1/2 PVC pipe and hose clamps. It should hold until I can replace the pump this weekend.

I would like to be able to pump out the sump without electricity. Lehmans has this hand powered transfer pump, which looks like it would do the trick. I may have to pick up one as a backup.

New project: Hand water pump installation

There is something quite satisfying about using a hand pump, knowing it’s your own power lifting it out of the ground and into your kitchen.

This pump was purchased through Lehmans. When it arived, I discovered that it was made in Maine by Bison Pumps, whom I contacted for assistance. They listened to what I wanted to do, answered my questions, then helped me figure out what parts I needed to connect the pump to my well.

I wanted to be able to switch between the hand pump and my existing electric pump. Bison said I needed two shutoff valves, a check valve, water line and various other brass and plastic parts and pieces. They made a diagram, showing how to connect everything, and were extremely helpful.

read about this project here

Conversations with telemarketers

The conversations are real, only the names have been changed…

At home:

Telemarketer: Hello, this is Jamie with Satellite TV company.  Do you currently have cable or satellite?

Me: We don’t watch TV.  We think it’s evil and keep it in the basement, to protect the children.

Telemarketer: Really ?!?

Me: Actually, our TV is in the basement, we only use it to watch movies on the weekend.

Telemarketer: I don’t really watch TV that much either.

Me: Kind of ironic, being that you work for Satellite TV company.

Telemarketer: Yeah.  It’s a job.

At work:

Telemarketer: Hello, this is Jenny with (consulting company, that I can’t remember the name of), I know your time is valuable, and you are busy with many IT projects, so I’ll get to the point…

Me: Actually, I was reading web comics.

Telemarketer: (tells me about her companies services, what they can offer, etc.)

Me: Well, I’m a one man IT shop, with no help and no budget.  I can’t even buy a replacement hard drive without approval.  I don’t think there is anything your company can do for me.

Telemarketer: Oh.  What web comic were you reading?

Me:  It’s about a small ISP in Canada., science and geek humor.

She was right, XKCD is quite good.  You know, I think that’s the only time I’ve wanted telemarketer to call back (so I could thank her).

Rise of the scythe

Some inspiring and amazing videos…

The End of Cheap Oil and Rise of the Scythe:

A Good Scythe at Work

I used to have a hard time using the scythe for any length of time.  These videos made it look so easy, so I did a bit of research, and tested my theories this weekend.  Here is what I learned:

  • Allow the back of the blade to drag on the ground.  All this time I’ve tried to hold to keep the blade from hitting the ground.  With the blade in the air, If you hit a large clump of grass, the handle pulls against your hand and you have to fight to keep it up.  If you allow the blade to brush the ground, when you hit a clump of grass, the blade pushes against the ground, so you don’t have to fight it, just keep pulling.
  • Use your legs to turn your body, pulling the scythe with your left hand, guiding it with your right.  Being right handed, I want to do the opposite, pull with the right, but that is much harder.  If you use your legs to turn and pull with the left hand you will be surprised how much more you cut.
  • Keep the tip of the blade down.  As you turn, the tip of the blade wants to tip up.  Keep it down, close to the ground.  According to this page on, the snath (handle) can be adjusted so that the blade rests in the proper position.
  • Working first thing in the morning, while there is still dew on the grass is much easier.  I found a few patches in the shade, that still had dew and compared it to dry grass in full sun, only a few feet away, and the difference was quite noticeable.
  • Proper sharpening makes a huge difference.  I’ve always sharpened the blade perpendicular to the cutting edge.  Once I started running the stone parallel to the cutting edge, it stayed sharper and cut longer.  The odd thing is that when I first started sharpening this way, the blade got duller, then it began to get sharp again.  Maybe, sharpening perpendicular gives the blade an rough edge like a serrated knife, good cutting some things, but not good at staying sharp.
  • The snath (handle) should match the user.  See this page on how I changed my handle to suite me better.

More scythe resources at

Cherry harvest 2008

This weekend, we harvested 12 1/2 pounds of tart cherries.  It was our largest harvest ever, which is a surprise because the top half of the tree is dying.  Maybe trees and plants set more fruit when under stress. Whatever the reason, cherry mead has always been the best and I’m looking forward to using these.  I’m not ready to make mead, so I rinsed the berries and stored them in the freezer.

Kitchen faucet repair

Most modern faucets have the breakable parts (valves and washers) in a replaceable “cartridge”.  The best place to get replacements is directly from the manufacturer.  Some manufacturers, like Price Pfister, warrant their faucets for life to the original purchaser, and consider you the original purchaser as long as you have the owners manual.  Save those owners manuals, you might be able to get replacement parts for the cost of shipping.

Read more…

Reuses for Dishsoap bottles:

Icepacks.  As the summer season approaches, it is the perfect time of the year for this.  Rather than buy commercial icepacks, dishsoap bottles can be filled with water and frozen.  Because of their small size they can fit into the smaller chests, or you can use many to fill up a larger chest.  You could use other bottles, but dishsoap caps make it easier to squeeze the air out, allowing room for the water to expand as it freezes.  I have about 8 in the deep-freeze right now!  Bonus: they will probably help keep my food cold in the event of a power failure.

Replacement glue bottles: I’ve gone through quite a few bottles of wood glue building my projects.  Some have worked better than others, but they always get clogged.  It might have something to do with the long necks, or maybe I should just close them properly when done.  Once clogged, they are impossible to clean.  I had a glue bottle that was so damaged I threw out the cap, covered it with plastic wrap, and had to use a stick to apply the glue.  One of my children suggested that I use a dish soap bottle.  It worked perfectly.  The bottle was easy to open and close, spreads the glue easilly, and doesn’t clog. I made a quick paper label so no one uses it as dish soap.  Now I can buy my wood glue in large, bulk containers and save money too.