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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

Maybe it's the squatting position while urinating that initiates the I uncomfortable safety instinct. I now pee standing up, so I no longer have that feeling of a need to "hide" in order to urinate.

Like some women, initially I found it impossible to separate urination from defecation. It took some training on my part. Even so, there are sometimes difficulties but not very often. I find it best to urinate first, getting that over with, then defecate. So all in all, I have little problem anymore. Perhaps it is the standing position that makes it easy to separate the two functions, but once squatting, my body takes the signal to do both.

At home on the farm I use a funnel to pee into a gallon jug. And a strip of rag to dry off. The rags go in with the routine laundry for washing and re-use. Standing to urinate seems very normal to me now, but it did take training. The truth of the matter, I prefer to stand. It's easier on my body now that I'm almost 70.
2 days ago
I work hard on on my farm just about every day. It's not uncommon for me to take two showers a day because I'm not interested into going into town soiled and smelling like a ram. So yes, I use soap. No apology.

Where I live in the tropics, skin infections are common among people who don't bathe daily. Bathing with soap is the easiest way to prevent skin infections. I can always tell when my wwoofer has run out of soap by looking at his face and feet.

In addition, I routinely pick up hitchikers. It's a common practice here. My rule is that ALL hippy types ride in the truck bed. They smell too bad to ride in the cab. Sorry, but that's the truth.

On the other hand, I can believe that people can over do soap in certain situations. So using soap wisely is the thing.
4 days ago
Ed, I'd look for grafted trees. In my own experience, they produce quicker. In my early and mid 60s I planted several types of citrus,  macadamia nuts, avocados, apple, peach, and mangos...all grafted trees. I also planted 3-4 year old seedlings of mulberry, Surinam cherry, guavas, and sapote. I'm now pushing 70 and all the trees are producing except for the sapotes. Not big crops yet, but it's a thrill to pick my own dozen or two of apples, 2-3 dozen each of the various citrus, a five gallon bucket of macnuts. Every year the trees double what they produced the year before. It's thrilling.

My suggestion is to get those trees in this year. Don't bother to try to make the perfect food forest, just give it your best guess and get the trees planted.
....."Then no monthly bill afterwards but the panels need to be replaced eventually."

It's not the panels that need replacing. Ours are 20+ years and still doing fine the last time we tested them. It's the batteries that will need replacing and maintenance. Plus the back up generator. We replace ours every 5-7 years. And if you've never run a solar system before, you'll most likely ruin your first battery bank rather quickly. We did!

Hopefully your system will never break, but I've heard of people here who have had to replace expensive components, such as the inventor, when they quit working. We upgraded from a Trace to an Outback after 10 years, so that was an expense. You need to be aware of these things in order to factor in total expense of the system. Being on solar doesn't mean that you have free electricity. Instead of monthly bills, you pay for it in chunks here and there.

Most solar off-grid people tend to become very efficient in their use of electric energy. Certainly a Volt would never grace their driveway. The first time you get 3 cloudy days in a row, you might realize why.
1 week ago
...Phantom loads....I simply don't keep things plugged in. Nor do I use appliances with clocks or computers. Where it's difficult or inconvenient to plug and unplug, I have the outlet on a handy switch...kinda of like having your garbage disposal on a switch. Simple. Flick on the outset when you need power. Keep it shut off the rest of the time.

In addition to things already mentioned:
...I have a friend that has an electric clock in the wall of just about every room in his house. No me. Not one clock. I use a wristwatch. electric power gadgets. I see folks with all sorts of electric powered do-dads in their homes.  Electric air fresheners. Mini water fountains. Bubble lamps. Strobe lights on their Christmas tree. Nothing exists like that in my house.
...I don't need central heat, but when we need heat to take off the morning chill, I use a wood stove.
...When the wood stove is running, I use it to heat water for coffee, dish water, or to cook something simple.
...I use a solar oven for cooking and dehydrating.
...I use a homemade rocket stove for cooking the chicken food. I've been known to cook our dinner on it too at times.
...I keep lights turned off when not in use. And no outdoor flood lights on all the time.
...I have an on-demand propane water heater. The old one had a pilot light which we did not keep on. By only turning the unit on when we needed hot water, we saved 3/4 of our propane. Incredible savings. Our new unit does not use a pilot light, which is even better. propane range does not have pilot lights. Pilot lights are energy hogs.
...I changed my habits!!! I stopped needing to use hot water more than twice a day. I stopped using items that used lots of energy of I didn't need them. I seldom ever use the microwave, toaster, oven, etc. I hang my wash out on a clothesline. I use a chest freezer and a chest refrigerator. We gradually switched over to eating more non-cooked foods, like salads, fruits, or assorted finger foods. For example, dinner tonight was garden celery stuffed with freshly made cheese, crackers, bananas, beef strips previously cooked in the solar oven, and a few macnuts. For tomorrow's dinner I'm considering boiled potatoes (cooked on the wood stove) rolled in my own dehydrated herb mix (previously dehydrated in the solar oven) & macnut oil (our own. No electric needed to produce it), hard boiled eggs (previously cooked in the wood stove), the rest of the cheese,  papaya slices, avocado slices, and cherry tomatoes.
1 week ago
Generally, I agree with Galen. Installing solar doesn't mean that you'll be saving lots of money. I live in Hawaii where the cost of grid electricity is mind boggling expensive, and even so, the cost of installing most solar installations (including tax incentives) doesn't equate to cash savings for years and years. There needs to be other reasons for installing solar other than quick cash savings.

Our homestead is completely off-grid. People mistakenly think we have free electricity. We installed a small system that cost $20,000 in hardware. (We install and maintain it ourselves.) Every six years or so we need to replace the battery bank ($800 to $1000). We need to buy and maintain a back up generator that gets replaced when we replace the battery bank. (Just because the gas engine runs doesn't mean that it's putting out the electrical rating we need. These things wear out.) That's around $800 to $1000 buy the new generator. I'm not sure what the gasoline, oil, and maintenance parts come to, nor the distilled water for the batteries. Our solar panels are 20 years old this year, so heaven knows how much longer it will be before we be thinking of replacements. Luckily our inverter, charge controller, and the rest of the equipment has never failed, but they could, thus requiring  expensive replacements.

No, solar surely isn't free. It costs to install it and maintain it. And for newbees it's even more expensive because they make mistakes while learning. For example, we killed our first battery bank in 3 years simply because we didn't know what we were doing.

The reason we went off grid was strictly economics. The electric company wanted almost $30,000 to run power to our house. Going was DIY solar was an immediate savings for us. But for folks already on the grid, changing to solar may not be a savings for years, if ever. And if they go with a grid tied system with no battery back up, then they aren't any better off......except that they may feel better about "going green" (whatever they think that is).

Grid power gives the homeowner flexibility and reliability. Plus the ability to budget monthly expenses fairly accurately. Off grid means that you need to think about how much power you are using and when you might need to use more than normal. For example, I know that I need to run the generator when I use high energy consuming equipment, or want to do the laundry on a cloudy day. I know that my system can't maintain a heated spa, so I'd be crazy to buy one as a Christmas present for hubby. I need to be mindful about the running of my power, because I can't even consider  running the water pump, washer, freezer, frig, microwave, and hair dryer all at the same time. Being on the grid, a homeowner wouldn't even have to think about that. Plus budgeting isn't easy. Cash layouts will come in big chunks, not little bits each month.

People going from grid to off grid (usually grid tied) need to look carefully. Saying that you save money is usually ignoring the upfront purchase cost, or end-of-lease expenses. Others reasons, like Galen's, might be a good reason going solar. One of our friends installed a grid tied system because he wanted his wife to be able to afford to stay in their home after he died. He is significantly older than she is. He has the money now to spend on going solar and knows that she will have a low monthly income after he passes. So installing solar gives him peace of mind.
4 weeks ago
I can only reply based upon my own experience. While living in New Jersey and Hawaii, I was friends to many farmers and learned about their land situations.

In New Jersey, some farmers worked land that they did not live on. Most owned that land. They would live in one parcel, and just farm the others. Some rented land from or leased the land from a private owner. I was not aware of any restrictions that prevented people from living upon the land that they farmed. Housing could be upon any of the land parcels. So it wasn't uncommon to see a house built on the corner of a farm.

Hawaii is a little different. First of all, some land is fee simple, meaning that the owner actually owns it. A lot of land here is leasehold, meaning that a large entity owns the land and the homeowner or farmer has a lease for using it for a specified number of years. Most leases are 30+ years, though some are far shorter. Most big farms and ranches use leasehold land. Small farms might be either lease or fee simple. Parker Ranch is an exception in that much of their land is owned outright. Many of the big operations use multiple land parcels sitting side by side. So it looks like they have a farm consisting of hundreds, or thousands, of acres as obit big unit. In reality they may have numerous individual parcels .....the problem being that the leases on each parcel could vary and the restrictions on each parcel could be different. Makes for some interesting business manipulations!

Hawaii Island has lots of open land in farms and ranches. One of the reasons it is so open and beautiful here is that there are restrictions. The land cannot have a residence in it. Thus many farmers and ranchers do not, cannot, live on their land. At times this is causing a lot of problems and issues for the farmers and ranchers. But that's another story. So if you come to my island and see farmers & ranchers living in town, it's because they are not allowed to build a house on the land they work. They may lease it, or may very well own it, but may not reside upon it. But if it is a small farm, then the farmer often lives on that land (or maintains a house on it that he rents out for income).......... There is an exception to this generalization in my own area. Most of the Ka'u coffee farms are on leasehold land  that has residential restrictions. The farms are small (5 to 10 acres). But a drive-by person gets the impression that it's one quite large coffee farm because of the lack of houses.
4 weeks ago
Dairy farmers generally don't retail market their own milk. They sell to a milk coop or consolidator (some "dairies" actually buy milk from other local dairies, for example, Stewart's Dairy). The entity buying the milk has its own requirements as to the least amount they will pick up. Yes, there are small coops who have in the past picked up or accepted milk from one cow, as long as it passes all the other requirements. This doesn't mean that there is one in your particular area. You may wish to make some phone calls to find out.

As for the breeds, I've never heard of one restricting the breeds. Milk buying depending upon the quality of the milk, taking into factors such as protein and butterfat content. Some small dairies will have several different breeds in order to try to produce their preferred protein, butterfat, and poundage goals.
4 weeks ago
Forcing people to share large tracts of land is just as bad as forcing people to live close together in villages while leaving the land open. Just my opinion. Personally, I like elbow room.

I attended a public meeting a couple of years ago where our county was considering consolidating a large sprawling subdivision of 1 acre lots near me, forcing people to move together, making a loosely made village. The vacated land would resort to county ownership and stay permanently non-residential use. The public was up in arms! The meeting hall was packed with angry residents, with half the attendees not fitting into the building, but spilling out into the parking lot. The county officials called all the local police in to maintain the peace ( an angry but non-violent peace). I was surprised not by the crowd, but by the number of police. I didn't know that we had so many in my rural community.

People live where they can afford to live and where they are comfortable to live. I would prefer to live on 100 acres but I can't afford it. So I live on 20. I have in the past lived in close housing areas and row homes. I hate the close quarters and it caused lots of unhappy stress. I am far happier with lots of land. My brother is the opposite. Sprawling land around him makes him apprehensive. He's happier in his close condo housing area. To each their own.

While it may appear that there is a shortage of land, I interpret it as a shortage of cheap land in desirable areas that are close to all the preferred infrastructure. The land is there, though no necessarily affordable to most people. Desirable land is priced accordingly (expensive), while undesirable land is too (cheap). Requiring co-habitation of large land parcels won't make it any more affordable. The United States has lots of vacant or open land, available for private ownership or leasehold. Other countries have far less, such as the United Kingdom. I have no experience in other countries. But I suspect that land is there if you can afford it. It may not be exactly what you want in your dreams, but it is there.

I, for one, would not want to be forced by regulation to a limited amount of land.

Besides, who's to say just how much land a person needs? If you're an herb grower, should you be limited to 5 acres? If you're a vegetable grower, should the limit be 20? If you have a goat dairy, are you allowed more land? If you are raising grass fed beef, then could you have 200 acres or more? And on the opposite, if you raise nothing, should you be confined to an apartment or condo? Sticky questions.

4 weeks ago
I'd also be interested in how to block previously viewed pictures. Not having easy access to highspeed internet, loading pictures can be quite time consuming. As a result, I seldom view long threads containing lots of interesting pictures. And I seldom have the opportunity to view new pictures being added to a long thread simply because I'd have to reload all the previous already viewed pictures before I could see the new ones. I know that most people have high speed internet, but that's not the case for us rural homesteader types....the very people interested in permaculture. Perhaps there's a way to load just thumbnails, then click on the thumbnail to open the fill picture? Just a thought.

For now I have to wait until I get to a town that has high speed internet that I can access without it costing me an arm and a leg.