Cristo Balete

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since May 23, 2015
Long-time Permaculturist
In the woods, West Coast USA
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Recent posts by Cristo Balete

This post at this site impressed me when I read it.  It talks about using window film and silica gel beads that are at a hobby store.  Since keeping the condensation off the windows is an important part of drying things out, getting something to work on the windows is helpful.

I have not been able to find the beads locally, but I do want to give this a try, especially since the beads can be dried out and reused.
1 day ago
With regard to the DampRid stuff, it's creepy.  It leaves you with a plastic container (already not good) full of slimey liquid that says to flush it down the toilet.  That would wreak havoc with a septic system, and I wouldn't want to know what it would do to a sewer system, just because I try not to pollute.   And if it spills it's just awful to clean up, leaves slime all over everything, and takes a lot of grease-cutting cleaner to get rid of it.

It never worked for me, the humidity gauge never got better, and the crystals turned into liquid anyway.  

1 day ago
Dawn, that sounds like a good plan.  

I didn't know about bee pollen, I'll remember that.   I just opened up an 8-foot patio umbrella the other day, that gets used maybe 3 times a month in winter, so it had only been a few weeks since it had been open, and there were 15 hornet queens hanging out in there.  It's still late winter now, so they aren't building nests yet, and were just overwintering.  I've never seen 15 in one area.  Maybe I've seen a couple in a door frame or behind window trim, but never 15!  I don't know what kind of omen for hornets nests that is for this summer.   Word got out they had a Taj Majal, apparently!

I just learned that milk is the best thing for removing pine pitch.
I've given up on propane because it's a pain to get, there are very few places that carry it where I am, so it requires more driving to get there.  The price is up much more than gasoline, and doesn't fluctuate like gasoline, so using it will only cost more.

I have to go to the gas station anyway, and need gasoline for equipment with motors, so it saves a lot of time.  Propane may go farther, but the containers are very heavy (I used to use 7 gallon tanks and 10 gallon tanks).    If a vehicle can't get close to where it needs to be used, which is a different place from where other tanks  are stored, lugging them over mud or snow/ice several times a season is risky because it's easy to slip on mud, ice or snow.  

Neither propane nor gasoline should be stored near a pilot light, like in a garage where there's a heater with a pilot, even if it's an electric pilot that doesn't run all the time.  The pilot light can still set off fumes that have collected in an enclosed space when it's on.  

I've had valves go bad on two rather new 5 gallon tanks, and I'm tired of paying a lot for the tanks.   Some places won't fill a propane tank if it's over 10 years old, and then we're stuck buying a new tank.  

A lot of gas appliances won't run unless there's a 100-gallon tank installed by a company that requires a truck to arrive and fill it.  That propane company is connected to the fire department that has to have access to your house, and they tell each other whether everything's legit there, or whether they are willing to use what is existing to get to the property, (too-steep a driveway, a driveway without pullouts for two-way traffic or fire trucks, a bridge over a creek that won't support the weight of a fire truck or propane truck)

I use propane for the BBQ and that's it.  

It's a good idea to have a backup form of heat anyway, because we need heat when there are bad storms, and what if the road closes and we can't get out for either fuel?   So a wood-burning stove, a fireplace insert with a fan works well.
California seems expensive, but if you get in the right area the winter heating bills are practically nonexistent.   It always shocks me that people shrug at $500 a month heating bills in freezing winter areas, and then have a fit over mortgage payments.   You'll never see the money that gets spent on heating, but most of the time (if there's forethought about reselling) money put into buying property pays off.  Plus the interest on a mortgage is tax deductible.  And there's protection with Proposition 13 and tax levels staying low, which are also tax deductible.

It's also regulated as far as building codes because of earthquakes.   And when you've got your biggest investment in your life keeping the roof over your head, you will thank your lucky stars that it was built to code when there's an earthquake, particularly if it's in a mountainous area where the earthquakes seem to shake the mountains for miles around, more than the flatland.  

Some friends of ours inherited a cabin in northern California and were disappointed to find that a high percentage of the population was on welfare, the poverty rate in areas that were not retirement areas was high, and some of those areas had drug and alcohol issues.  Now that marijuana is not illegal, the dangers from the growers and their workers protecting illegal growing setups hopefully will be lower.

Ben, are there any issues with the Indian casinos?  Higher traffic volume and more accidents were complained about in farming areas, but not sure how that's played out over the years.
3 weeks ago
One more thing, always give yourself the option of changing your mind.  If you start out rural but not too remote, you can sell the place if you change your mind, even if it's 5 years down the road.   You'll have neighbors for safety and for telling you things you'll want to know about your place.  They will know all kinds of things about your place!!

And if it works, you can always sell and get more remote.  But a remote place is harder to sell, takes a long time.   If you want out, you might have to have it on the market for a year or more.
3 weeks ago
Dawn, living off grid can be very rewarding, but it's very difficult.  I am not telling you these things to discourage you, but to help you make an informed decision.  Maybe you know this stuff, but for anyone else reading this forum, this might help.

The majority of enthusiasm about living off the grid comes from companies that want to sell you equipment to do it.  And if that seems harsh, history shows that the only people who made money on the California Gold Rush were the retailers who sold the mining stuff to the miners.  It's true!  So be very skeptical about equipment for sale, especially solar equipment, and what it's capable of doing.

It's a life of needing to know electricity (AC and DC), sewage handling, water development/storage, more small engine maintenance than you ever imagined, (pumps, mowers, chainsaws, weed wackers, generators, maybe a tractor or ATV, and keeping maintenance charts of every hour they have been turned on).  It's a life of sheds and making sure you have literally a hardware store in one of them, because when something goes wrong it will be raining, or snowing, or freezing, or windy, or so hot there's no way to be out in the direct sun.  

There's roof maintenance, climbing up on and fixing leaks in wind (which I particularly hate), or rain, or it's so hot you can't sit on the roof shingles.  It requires storing gasoline, propane, extra car batteries, roofing tar and extra shingles.   It requires being able to get your car out of the mud when it's stuck, deal with ticks, hornets in the ground and in paper nests under eaves, and snakes.  Pack rats chew through wood, and car wires and hoses, and build nests under the hood.  One just found its way into the intake area for the engine air filter, and all the fur it pulled out of itself to make a nest got sucked into the air filter of the engine and plugged it up.  Luckily I caught it in time and the engine didn't have problems.

It's a life of living with rodents, stinging insects, downed fences, mud, falling trees, mountain lions, poison oak, all the things that exist out in a rural location that have always been there.

So if you buy property, it helps to watch it weekly/monthly for a year to watch what happens there every month, how the ground water flows, how the wind blows before and during storms (this helps for siting a house), how long the sun stays on an area in all times of the year,  before you make any location decisions for a house/driveway/garage/shed/solar panel and shed.   Since there is so much to deal with and learn (almost always the hard way) be prepared to be overwhelmed and scared and defeated on occasion.  Mother Nature is not an easy coworker.

If you can buy property with a starter house, so you have a solid place to go out of the rain, where you can cook and bathe safely and easily, and do laundry without driving into town, be warm in the winter, it will make all of the other things much more optimistic to deal with.  I didn't say easier, but keeping one's spirits up is 60% of the deal.   And if you are really eager to build something, add on to that building, and that way the core house is still solid and reliable.  You can always detach an existing dwelling from power and stay safe.  It's a lot more exhausting work to create a safe dwelling and try to add onto it.

If you want to do solar, you've got to absolutely....absolutely know electricity, be prepared to spend many thousands of dollars for a system big enough to run a house, and be prepared to maintain it monthly.  Be aware of how many hours of sunlight between 10:00 and 2:00 you've got in Oregon where it rains, which are the only hours/days that will charge up batteries.  If there's overcast for more than a couple days, it's important to have another source of power, usually a generator.  And that requires large amounts of stored gasoline, a shed to put gas in that is separate from the shed with the generator in it, big enough so you can stand in the shed, fill the generator with gas out of the rain or snow, where it has lots of venting so the fumes don't cause problems.  Maintenance on these basic machines is crucial.  

Your friends will be curious about your life, and come to visit once, but I've found it's rare if anyone comes a second time.  They all say it's too far, too hard to drive in the dark on winding mountain roads, it's too difficult even to visit.   I've had to do all the driving to keep old friendships, but I find I had less and less in common with them, and they really didn't want to hear about life off the grid.  So your neighbors will be your new social network.   And it's a small town life, and you will be the newcomer, so joining in becomes very important.  

3 weeks ago
Haas, the Central Valley of California and its edges have a pretty specific political environment, so be sure that suits you.  A lot of the smaller cities in the eastern mountains don't want development, as in shopping malls, large grocery stores, and daily expenses are high.    My parents retired to a small town in that zone, and there were no discount chains for groceries, prescriptions, drug stores, gasoline, and all of those household expenses were high, not to mention having to drive long distances in icy/snowy conditions to get to the discount places, the larger cities that offered more in the way of retail.   Kids as teenagers aren't too thrilled without some kind of social gathering place, like a mall, and the less they have to drive to get to it, the more peace of mind parents have.  :-)
3 weeks ago
Fredy, I've never had any problems with the crows or ravens going after fruit.  The bluejays, the robins, yes.  But I plant some sacrificial blackberry vines for them, and that keeps them busy.  There is usually a bluejay nest near my garden, and they squawk as they fly to steal berries for their babies, but several plants for them keeps them off the plants I want.  In a smaller garden, just use sheer curtains.  Bluejays will eat insects, too, so they aren't all bad.

Sheer curtains can be tied over the fruit trees or berry bushes, tied down with a rope through the curtain rod pocket, for the 4 or so weeks of fruit ripening/picking keeps the other bird maurauders away, yet still allows light through the curtains.  Curtains last longer than agricultural fabric, and can be bunched up into long bundles to make insulation rolls around plants or greenhouses or seed starting trays when they start falling apart.  

3 weeks ago
Crows and ravens are excellent snail/slug eaters.   Even in gardens that are in neighborhoods.  That requires keeping cats and dogs out of the garden.   And they know you, they remember who you are, and they teach their young who you are (there are studies that show this is the case), so be nice to them, don't shoo them away, don't yell at them, always speak in a nice tone, and they will pass the word along to all of their snail/slug eating pals.  If they show up while I'm working, I take a break and let them have what they want.

I make it easy for the ravens/crows, and alerted them to the presence of snails and slugs by going out in the morning, collecting snails in a large yogurt container, then putting that container first not far from where I found them, then on the driveway, away from the garden, but close enough so they get the connection.   I find the shells dropped at the bases of the posts they sit on to eat them.  Even my neighbor, whose fence is 1/4 mile away from mine has found dozens of snail shells at the base of some of his 4-foot wooden fence posts, he's pretty sure they came from my garden, but maybe from his place, too.  

Some years are worse than others, so it's not always the case that slugs and snails will ruin everything.

Copper is another plant protector that snails and slugs can't cross over because they get a shock.  Pennies have enough copper on them, and if you glue pennies onto a strip of something flexible that can withstand the sun, like an old, wide electrical cord, or flat polyester rope, you can tie lengths of them around the bases of fruit trees, and lay them flat on the soil around the base of a bushy plant, making sure the pennies touch each other so there's no gaps between them.

They also don't want to cross over lines of coffee grounds, but those disappear with the rain, so they could be used until the copper strips are available.

3 weeks ago