Su Ba

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since Apr 18, 2013
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books forest garden rabbit solar tiny house woodworking
Retired from veterinary medicine. My second career is creating a homestead, aiming to be self reliant.
Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Recent posts by Su Ba

Paul Wheaton, is the offer of 64 physical books for $485 still valid?  I'd like to purchase them.
6 days ago
I have a Morso Squirrel stove. So I'm not sure if my experiences relate to yours.

Due to EPA regulations, the lower air intake vent has to be sealed shut in order for this stove to be sold in the USA. (The air intake on my stove was spot welded shut.)  Supposedly this makes the stove burn cleaner. Perhaps that is true for a hot burning stove where the cast iron is already heated (or if you are burning good quality hardwoods), but starting a fire in a cold Morso with that lower air take shut plus using trash tree species, it is a bear to get going with a decent burn. You have to keep the door open. Then to get a clean burn, the fire often needs more air...thus a door slightly cracked open. Only after the stove is really hot will it burn well. But then, I often don't want the stove burning full tilt. So there's a problem with a dirty burn when not running full out.

To rectify the problem, I used a dremel to remove the spot welds, thus freeing the air intake valve. Then I had to replace the hardware with a different one because this intake was intended not to be used in the USA. So with a little effort, I made the air intake functional. The stove now burns just fine.

If you are seeing creosote, then you aren't getting a clean burn. I'd check to see if one of the air intakes was sealed or removed due to EPA demands. The stove is European, so it most likely burns just fine in Europe because they don't have to modify it.
1 week ago
Thomas, this sounds so great. I think you'll love this freezer well into the future. We have had ours now for quite some time and are still totally happy with it.
1 week ago
By dumb luck we didn't make too many mistakes in the design & construction phase. Here's the changes we did make.....
1- Initially the solar panels were on the roof. Hey, everybody puts them on the roof, right? For our situation, it was a mistake. The ohia trees around us cause a lot of dark debris to coat the panels, thus we have to clean them regularly. Up on the roof it became a nightmare. So we moved to a ground mount and made sure that they would be easy for us to clean once a month. Much better.
2- When we first put up the solar panels, we followed the advice and pictures in the books. We discovered that it wasn't a good solution for our location in Hawaii. First of all, we discovered that we get mostly sunny mornings and overcast afternoons. So we changed the direction of the panels to optimize the pre-noon sun. We added 4 panels pointing at the 9 am morning sun, and 4 pointing at the 2 pm afternoon sun. 24 panels are ground mounted pointing at 11-noon sun. (Our panels are the old unisolar 65 watt panels, that's why we have so many.) This method works far better for us.
3- We have a DC freezer and initially had it the kitchen. The house is wired for AC, meaning that we had to have a converter to change the AC to DC in order to run the freezer. You lose power every time you convert from AC to DC, and visa versa. We decided to move the freezer closer to the battery bank (out in the utility shed only a few steps from the house) and run it on direct DC there. At first I was worried that it would be real convenient, but that didn't prove to be the case. We are totally fine with the freezer out in the utility shed.

I wouldn't call these regrets. We just tweaked our system to make things better.
2 weeks ago
R Ranson, would you care to start another photo challenge? I, for one, really enjoyed the photos folks posted. Plus participating in the challenge was interesting. I'd like to try it again.
3 weeks ago
Wow, the staff puts an awful lot of effort into moderating! Thank you for all of you!!! It is very much appreciated.

This is my final category to complete. Here on my farm, there's always repairs needing to be done. It's just a part of homestead farm life. Most repairs are simple. Others more complicated. We just completed one of the complicated ones ---- repairing the collapsed equipment open shed. It is essentially a roof held up by posts. Due to age and dry rot, plus nudged along by a storm.

We repaired this shed by removing the broken log pole upright roof supports, and replacing them with 4x4 dimensional lumber posts. Replacing 10 posts took two people 1 1/2 days labor, with much of the time spent jacking up the collapsed roof.

Repairs on a farm are a given. One needs to do them all the time. I rejoice if I can get through a month without needing to repair something or other.
3 weeks ago
Early on when we first moved to our current land, we cobbled together an open sided equipment shed to keep our things out of the rain. We used round logs that came from clearing a space for our solar panels. Since we weren't planning to use the shed more than 2 or 3 years at most, we didn't even bother to debark the logs, nor set them up in a foundation of any sort. No. The upright support posts were set directly on the ground. The tree species is ohia. We don't have oak, locust, or Osage orange here in Hawaii, but we have plenty of a hardwood called ohia.

Using old metal roofing we snagged on its way to the dump, we cobbled this shelter together for less than $100. We did buy spikes, construction connectors, plumbers tape, and nails.

So time went by. We were busy and didn't give this shed much thought. So here we sat, 15 years later. Recently we had a heavy storm dumping 7 inches of rain overnight along with gusty strong winds. 5 of the 10 upright posts snapped, succumbing to dry rot. Sitting directly in the ground, they were frequently wet and fungus spread upwards from the soil.

After salvaging most of the equipment from under the severely sagging and wonky roof, we considered what steps to take next. Tearing down the whole thing was an option. It was old. But after determining that the horizontal logs were still sound, we decided to try repair. The roof was jacked up at each post site and a new 4x4 set in place, and placed upon a concrete foundation block. The structure was saved. Afterward I checked each upright log post and found all were dry rotted. It's amazing it stood for so many years.

We opted to use store bought 4x4s. Why? They were already on the farm, thus immediately available. We did not have any seasoned logs on hand.

I wish I had a before photo to show you, but I accidently deleted it. Sigh. So you'll just have to image the sagging, wavy roof. Oh by the way, the old metal roofing is still functional. Yes, it rusty and corroded. Edges were eaten away by the vog. But it still has enough sound metal to be an effective roof for a number of years to come. Not pretty, but functional.
3 weeks ago
'Twas cleaning off the leaf debris that had accumulated on the roof of the equipment shed and came upon literally hundreds of worms. This was the granddaddy of them all. I accidently cut off the last inch of the worm, so it was longer.

I transferred all the leaf litter, along with the worms, to one of my pallet growing boxes that was already half filled with finished compost. Hope the worms will be happy exploring their new world. And I was glad to get the "leaf mold" to top off the box.
3 weeks ago

I am neither a spinner nor a believer in gender roles, so coming up with something for the "distaff" category has been challenging, especially since I'm trying to look through permaculture eyes and keeping my photos related to my own farm and farm life. So I've turned to humor.

I once upon a time was an enthusiastic day walker. I've walked parts of the Eastcoast of USA, eastern Canada, Colorado, New Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, the U.K., and some parts of the Far East. Except for the Far East, I was seldom without a walking staff. I still happen to own 20 well used and fondly cherished walking sticks, all which hold their own travel memories for me.

So........... "Distaff" I made myself out of eucalyptus wood. It helped me hike across a 5 mile lava field and up to the active lava flow. I burned off its frayed tip by plunging it into red, fresh lava ....singeing the hair on my arm in the process! "Distaff" holds lots of Hawaiian memories.

"Datstaff" I made from a piece of wood given to me, so I don't know what species of tree it's from. It turned out to be so beautiful that I've never used to for hiking. It serves as a wall ornament and holds the memory of a cherished friend who gave me the wood.

So which of the two is my favorite, distaff or datstaff? Neither and both. Dosz-staffs are both beloved.
3 weeks ago