Alex Riddles

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since Mar 27, 2016
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forest garden urban bike
Columbia Missouri
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Recent posts by Alex Riddles

I have been an absentee landlord and it was an unmitigated disaster.  These days I own a duplex in a suburban neighborhood.  I live in one apartment and rent out the other.  I have learned a few things along the way that have helped be make it all work out.

The banks and insurance companies view my arrangement as home ownership.  So, I get the homeowner mortgage and insurance rates.  That saves me some money.  Up to three units will be viewed this way as long as you are living in one of them.

When I show the apartment to prospective tenants I walk them out the back door and tell them, "that maple tree and the one by my back door don't produce anything to eat, everything else does (I have about 50 fruit bearing trees and shrubs in the back yard).  I grow more than I can eat, and I share ." So, now they are thinking I'm a really great guy.  Before they leave I give them the 3 page application and tell them, "I always take applications and I always check references.  But, I can find out what I need to without spending a lot of money.  So, don't worry about that application fee."  This gives bad tennants a means of walking away without any embarrasing information coming out.  The application specifically asks about evictions.  This process is going on while I am still painting the apartment.  So, there will be a time lag.  Those that are being evicted need to move before the apartment will be ready.  So, this doesn't work for them.  Also, bad tenants don't want to live next door to the landlord.

When I get the application back I really do check references.  I talk to the current landlord and employer and where I live criminal records  are easy to find online.  So, I look at that also. Any traffic ticket will show up with an address.  So, I can see if this matches the address they gave me.

It all boils down to two simple rules:
1) Be a hard ass when you're picking tenants.
2) Be a good neighbor afterwards.
Has anyone built and used one in the Midwest?  It seems all the comments are coming from climates drier than mine, and I am wondering how well it would work where I live.
1 year ago
Where I work we have about 600 people in the building and a coffee machine in the break room.  I have been collecting the coffee grounds for a few months now.  The only person I asked initially was the lady that makes the coffee.  I brought a 5 gallon bucket with a screw on lid that I bought in the paint dept at Home depot.  I leave the bucket between the coffee machine and the garbage can.  These things make it easier tor her to save me the grounds than throw them out.

The lid attracts some attention.  It is much easier to install and remove than a lid that snaps on.  So, the first thing people notice is something that looks like a good idea. It helps to shape their opinion of what I am doing.  I also make it a point to take the bucket home every day and return it clean and empty every morning.  When I am asked what I use them for I am quick to explain that I dig them into my garden.  "Worms are like people, when they have coffee they get ambitious.  By Spring my garden will be tilled and fertlized."  Everyone has been supportive.  Some of my coworkers have pointed out that Starbucks gives away bags of spent coffee grounds to anyone willing to take them.
1 year ago
I spent some time looking at some of my old textbooks and realized there is a lot we don't know about these wedges. Mainly the carbon content. But, that can be measured with an optical spectrometer.  Once you know that you can set your heat treat oven to the correct temperature.  If you have $100,000 worth of equipment at your disposal that's how you would proceed.

Then I found a YouTube video by Dave Bardin called tempering steel.  He goes through how to get the job done in a low tech way and is very detailed in his descriptions.  The part about using a file to test whether the steel is annealed will be very useful, a very simple test that will tell you if your wedge is safe to use.  Also there is a pinned comment that talks about using clay for differential hardening. They didn't teach us about that in engineering school.
1 year ago
A cold water quench is likely to make the problem worse.  The fast cooling rate makes the metal more brittle.  On the way out the door now.  But, I'll check some of my metallurgy books from college and post a more detailed reply soon.
1 year ago
...when you see a (homeless?) man in your front yard.  He's standing under your tree eating an apple.  So, you take a cutting, graft a tree, and plant it where you have seen him walking.  Because guerrilla gardeners and homeless people occupy the same ecological niche.
1 year ago
When your garden plan includes a location for the Japanesse Beetle trap because you know some of them will fall to the ground nearby and lay eggs,
That will hatch into grubs,
That will attract moles,
That will dig tunnels,
That will act as a swale.
1 year ago
Around here we have whitetail deer.  When you scare them, they run off with their tails in the air.  That raised tail is an alarm signal that the other deer recognise.  Some white flags the same size and shape as a deer tail will repel the whitetails.  Are yours Sitkas?

1 year ago
That's Justin Rhodes I have been following his Youtube channel for a while now.  I do not recall the specific breed.  But, those pigs are particularly small and nonagressive.  He will broadfork the entire area while the livestock is there (as a form of exercise).  Also, when he finds deep rooted weeds with the broadfork he dumps grain down the holes so the pigs will go after it and dislodge the roots. So, this is not a labor free  method.  But, he is getting help with tilling and fertilization from his livestock.
1 year ago
In my experience, mouse traps work well if you bait them without setting them.  I use peanut butter for bait.   This gives me the opportunity to monitor whether I have a mouse problem.  When the bait disappears I know there are mice.  Only then do I set the trap.  By then I've trained the mouse to be careless and it will be in the trap shortly.
1 year ago