Al Freeman

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since Dec 02, 2016
I'm into everything.  I build windmills, remote-controlled stuff (like airplanes and lawn mowers), solar-energy stuff, gardening, permaculture, steam engines, rocket stoves as well as RMH, I have a full machine and wood shop, I weld, I'm a retired plumber, electrician and building inspector and if you haven't figured it out yet, I'm old.
North Texas plaines
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Recent posts by Al Freeman

Here's a trick:  Store potatoes with onions.  The onions cause the potatoes to sprout.  Pretty sure it's magic, but whatever the cause is, it works like a champ.
Here's a cool trick for laundering your dish rag:

I use a dish rag instead of a sponge, because sponges never dry out and stink.  That said, this would work for any small garment probably.  I put about an inch of hot water in the kitchen sink add a little Dawn dish detergent and swish said dirty dish rag around until the water is yucky.  

Next, I let out the dirty water and replace it with fresh water and "rinse" the soapy dish rag, then wring it out.  So far, nothing earth shattering, but .  .  .

Here's the cool part.  Pop the wet dishrag into the microwave and nuke it on high for about 10 seconds.  It kills all the wee beasties and makes it smell good again.  Now just let it dry someplace and you're finished.

Oh, by the way, I've tried all sorts of "alternative" washing machines and I'm back to a standard top-loading model I bought second hand 5 years ago for pocket change.  It only has one "cycle" but it's kept me in clean clothes, so no complaints from the "old guy" (me).
1 year ago
An easier way to grow spuds:

Seems to me I put this on here once already somewhere, but I can't remember where.  At any rate, Home Depot sells a collapse-able nylon leaf container.  It looks like a portion of a giant "Slinky" toy with fabric on the outside.  Get one.  

What you do is collapse it all the way down to the ground, then raise it up about 4 or 5 inches and stake it on three sides (120 degrees between each stake).  Now tie it off at that height and pour in your choice of mulch.  I use decomposing leaves, but then I practice permaculture, so I have that sort of thing hanging around most of the time.  Plop your spud starts into the mulch layer, sprinkle lightly with water and make sure the starts are all covered with mulch.

When green leaves appear, untie the sides of the container, raise it up a couple inches, re-secure the sides and add more mulch, so all the leaves are hidden.  Do this until you can no longer raise the sides.  At that point, wait until Mr. Potato sets flower, then yank his pants down (lower the container) and you will reveal a PLETHORA of new potatoes.  You can use the container over and over, year after year.

What could be easier?
1 year ago
@ Erik:

I use 14-gauge, 2" square tubing on EVERY aspect of my builds.  This means I get a better price on the steel (buying it in pallet-sized quantities).  I haul it with a 30-foot farm trailer.

I fabricate with both a Lincoln "cracker box" stick welder using 1061 or 6110 rods -- I'm kinda dyslexic at times -- when fabricating everything EXCEPT when I have to weld overhead.  Then I use a Hobart .030 flux-core MIG.  I'm a year short of 70 and holding a heavy stinger above my head, not to mention the shower of molten sparks drives me to use the MIG whenever I can.  I turn the power up to achieve better penetration.  

All walls, both interior and exterior are 2".  If I want insulation, I use sprayed-on, closed-cell foam (wicked expensive, by the way).  If I have an interior wall on a plan, I bury the support posts just as if it were a perimeter vertical support.  My stuff is built like a brick shit house, my having been 'bullseyed' by an EF4 tornado about 5 years back.  Since then, I've become a big fan of concrete and steel construction.

Exterior walls and interior walls (if covered) are done so with "R" panel, screwed to the steel framework.  All electricity is pre-planned using EMT (metal conduit).  It makes pulling new wire (should the case arise) a breeze.  It looks a bit "industrial" but like I said -- brick shit house is my goal.

I fabricate my own trusses and place them atop opposing 10-foot-centered vertical framing members.  I do not "pre-load" the bottom chords (they are not engineered) but I do "gusset" triangle corners with welded 11-gauge steel plate.  "Rafters" are 2" square tubing.  I used to use purlins, but I've found 2" square tubing, properly welded in place is stronger and easier to hang by myself.  Square tubing tends to be more stable (bending forces) on longer runs than perlin.  If I'm doing an attic space, I lay undulated galvanized sheet metal down, screw it to the attic side of the ceiling structure and pour in floatsome, which is air-entrained concrete.  This gives me a ceiling, which will support massive loads of crap and allows me a second roof, should Mother Nature decide to rip mine off.  Winds in North Texas are  brutal and Mother Nature is, well, nothing short of a female dog!

Hope this helps.  As soon as I have something in "frame" I will snap some pictures and send them along.



1 year ago
Rainfall near me (Farmersville, TX) is about 43" per year.  Winds are horrendous (but I have windmills, which make electricity, so I'm good with all that wind).  My soil is black CLAY.

As for rust:  I find the vertical steel NEVER rusts.  The horizontal runs allow water to pool and are subject to some decay.  When I see things going south, I touch-up paint it with a burst of sprayed-on (spray paint) primer.  "Rust" being ferrous oxide usually and in some circumstances, the reduced form called ferric oxide will be produced when mild steel is left to a cycle of wet-dry-wet, especially if it's in contact with soil, which introduces a variety of "electrolytes" which will likely hasten the process.

If you're really concerned about decay in the soil, bolt on a chunk of zinc metal or magnesium, which is better even still.  Magnesium has the lowest reduction potential of all known metals.  Your water heater has a magnesium "anode" inside its storage tank.  If oxidation occurs, it does so at the magnesium; it's just how the chemistry works.  As long as your steel building is tied electrically with all the other steel, that magnesium tied into the 'grid' as it were, will do the trick.

As for the business about glass vs poly-carbonate vs polyethylene sheet plastic, all I know is what I've researched through books.  John Ott's book, Health and Light, was my source today.  Hard-core permaculturalists aren't satisfied with "good-nuf" as in glass or polycarb being "okay".  I for one, am on a trek for a personal best, which is why I mentioned the often-overlooked (or unawares) topic of full-spectrum lighting.  I'm an odd lot though, so as Jimminy Cricket would say, "Let your conscience be your guide."
1 year ago
In the book, Health and Light, the author, John Ott explains that plants (and people) need full-spectrum light, which includes UV (both visible and invisible to the naked eye) light in order for proper ripening to take place.  Using glass, as in a greenhouse situation, is not the best.  Glass blocks UV light, at least to the extent plants need to undergo proper ripening and ethylene production.

Clinical trials found sheet plastic a better (as well as cheaper) method to screen wind, rain and airborne contaminants like bugs and particles, while still allowing the proper full-spectrum lighting needed by growing organisms, plants in this case.

I build welded steel buildings on my ranch in North Texas, which is noted for high winds.  I use "red iron" tubes.  Red iron is primed (red) steel and I generally use 2" x 2" square.  I have a pneumatic driver, which pounds the steel deep into the ground, having first dug a 30" hole with an auger, then pounding said steel post into the ground another 4 feet.  Concrete is then poured into the upper 30 inches and left to hydrate before further fabricating.  Once a superstructure, including solid steel gussets at corners and welded trusses at the roof is fabricated and welded into place, the structure is nearly indestructible. The posts (on 10-foot centers) are anchored 6.5 feet into the earth!

Sheet plastic can then be stretched over the building's sides and top, tacked in place with staples driven into "sleepers" (wood boards bolted to the surface of the exterior structural steel), to create the "greenhouse".

The cost is far and away less than using pre-fabricated, bolted- and screwed-together galvanized carports.  Primed red iron resists weather just as well as galvanized.  Many of my buildings are over 30 years old and show no signs of weather-related decay (rust).

Hope this helps someone.
1 year ago
The solution to pollution is dilution.  What's that got to do with drying your clothes?  Simple; your clothes are 'polluted' with water.  Add more air.  

I live on the Texas prairie and the humidity is often nearly 100%.  If it's not windy outside, I have indoor clothes lines and I put a box fan on high.  The clothes will dry in half a day most times.

I also have a 'wringer'.  It's two rubber platens, which turn against each other, their separation-distance being adjustable.  It was designed to be used in a car wash and it was WICKED expensive, but it mashes about 95% of the water out of wet clothes.  If the humidity is up, I run clothes directly out of the washer then through the wringer a time or two before hanging them to dry either inside with a fan going or outside on a stainless steel cable stretched tightly between steel posts under my south-facing (warm) awning.

Any place, which receives direct sunlight, is the best place to dry clothes.  If it's also a windy place, all the better.  My south-facing porch looks at endless miles of open prairie, sunshine and southern breezes.
1 year ago
I just typed about a thousand words with pictures and everything only to have this stupid system erase everything.

I'm outta here!
1 year ago
I concur wholeheartedly with this caveat:  You have to figure out a way to keep the chickens out of the garden, because the 'ladies' will eat ALL your salad greens as soon as they sprout through the soil.  The flip side to that "problem" is actually a plus, however:  GREAT tasting eggs!
2 years ago
I live on a small farm in North Texas and here's what I do and have done for many years:

The waste water from showers and face bowl sinks (2 each) drain through PVC sprinkler pipe to
the base of several fruit trees.  The trees love a warm drink in the dead of winter, just be sure to
mulch the base of each tree well before a hard freeze.  I use bar soap and shampoo minimally,
but each is effectively a "surfactant" or "wetting agent" and the soil sucks it right up.

The toilet waste goes into dedicated compost piles; I use a composting toilet.

Kitchen grey water flows by gravity to a 55-gallon plastic barrel buried at the side of my house just
outside the kitchen.  I drilled holes in the bottom and sides of the barrel to prevent it "floating out" of
its hole when it's empty and rain sets in around it (it's outside).  Inside the barrel is an electric sump
pump with a float switch.  The waste-water is pumped via PVC sprinkler pipe to the base of several more
fruit trees.  Since this water can develop a characteristic stench if left to puddle, I convey it through a garden hose,
which I move around in the side and back yard, from tree to tree.  In the coldest part of winter, I let it flow
to a wide open area where there is only St. Augustine grass cover.

Using a "sump" as it were, creates somewhat of a grease trap.  Lipids and animal fat solidify and float to
the surface, where I collect them with a screen on the end of a short broom stick.  I burn the fat in an
outdoor fire along with other waste combustibles, such as paper and cardboard.

It's worked fine since 1962 without a hiccup.  Oh, I have to replace the pump every few years, but other
than what I'd call "routine maintenance" it's worked like a champ.  The fruit trees produce delicious fruit.
IMHO any water processed "through" a plant becomes "sterile".  I've never noticed any off-tasting fruit.
2 years ago