David Huang

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since Jan 23, 2018
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Recent posts by David Huang

Josephine Howland wrote:

Yes, my husband has been under the house several times to try and thaw the water lines. We have built a heated pump house and have heat tape on the lines, but somehow (probabbly citters) the plugs were unplugged. We fear that now the lines are frozen underground. The issue stems from the lines being installed improperly by the person pouring our footings and installing our We are thinking that this spring/summer we will need to dig up the whole line and build a heated box around the the whole thing. Right now we have heat tape and two layers of insulation wraped around all exposed line and going a few feet underground. With about 5 feet of snow everywhere, now is not the time to try to rework the system. Also making a better skirting around the house to somewhat critter proof it would be in order. All things made more difficult with two disabled people here.

I hear ya!  What fun... or not.  In my case the problem spot was at the well head in the zone between the well and a crappy thin sheet metal shed rusted through in so many areas it was practically fully exposed to the elements.  The ground would freeze in the few feet between the well shaft and the well pump in the shed when it got cold enough.  I have heat tapes on the pipes above ground but not below so if the ground froze hard enough the pipes in it would freeze too and I'd have to chisel away frozen dirt to expose the pipes to better thaw them.  This past year I finally got the time to completely tear down that travesty of a shed and build something real with walls 6 inches thick with insulation.  I also laid down about 3 inches of insulation board across the exterior ground the pipes run under on their way to the shed, and then built the dirt up higher on that.  In effect this should make the pipes act as though they are much deeper into the ground with regards to freezing.  The ground inside the envelope of the shed is now protected from the elements directly and so too should be much less inclined to freeze.  This winter I did have a day or two with temps around -14 F and thus far no problems.  Hopefully I actually fixed this issue.  Frozen pipes really suck!  Good luck with yours!
2 hours ago
One simple thing might be to make a center punch.  This would involve cutting some sort of tool steel bar stock, grinding down an end to a point, and hardening/tempering it.  It's a simple basic tool that I use all the time for making circular disks or marking a spot where I'm going to drill.

Another basic tool would be to make tongs.  A short blacksmithing workshop I once had in college with a visiting artist we all made a pair of tongs.  Fairly simple, but I did need to learn a bit about how to hit the metal to make it bend in the right directions so the two ends would meet up.  I still use that set I made, though they are truly crappy, ugly tongs.

For riveting I like another simple project for a different type of tongs.  I'm a metalsmith working mostly in non-ferrous metals where we use what's called the pickle to clean our metal.  Copper tongs are generally used in the pickle since any sort of steel will cause a reaction that plates all the metal in the pickle with copper.  (fellow students who have silver pieces in the pickle get really pissed off at you when you do that!)  Anyway, these tongs are basically two pieces of work hardened copper riveted at one end.  I'm regularly dismayed at how many people pay way too much money to buy inferior copper tongs when making these should really be a basic beginner project students could do on the first day of class.  It's too late in the day now, but perhaps later I'll go out to the studio and shoot a photo of mine so you get a better idea of what I'm talking about.
2 hours ago
I wonder if perhaps in the higher level badges the goals should be less about an exact dollar amount like $5000 or $30,000 and more about a percentage of your total income.  This would do two things.  First it wouldn't require you to have excess economic activity to meet the requirements.  For example, I'm hoping to get my required expenses down to $6000 a year for a bare bones retirement level.  I'm pretty sure I could live quite nicely on $12,000 for a more luxurious retirement.  Thus if I were earning $30,000 to meet the PEP requirement that is a lot more of the earth's resources being used to generate that extra economic activity.  On the other hand one would need more skill in commerce to generate that $30,000 figure so a percentage might not be an equal sort of measure.

Though a the second advantage of using a percentage system is that it would force people to track in at least some basic way their own flows of money.  I've found the tracking of my income and expenses is a huge boon in getting a handle on finances.

I suppose this is mixing the Early Retirement Extreme stuff with commerce which aren't necessarily the same.  Maybe this isn't the right spot to bring in the ERE stuff, but I do hope you include it somewhere as I personally feel it is WAY more important than commerce for both it's personal impact and environmental impact.
3 hours ago
I would think that there should be some element of fixing things that go wrong or break.  Josephine noted that they have a frozen water line and thus are working to melt snow for water.  That's one task, but the other one would be learning to discover where the line itself is frozen and how to thaw it out.  I've had to do this more than once over the years.  Recently I had to trouble shoot a well issue that ended up being a burst bladder in the pressure tank, resulting in short cycling of the well pump.  So I had to learn how to replace the pressure tank and water lines around it.  Other things might be replacing a water heater, fixing a leaky roof, replacing a broken window, etc.  

It seems like it would be hard to specify any one thing for a PEP badge since who can anticipate just what will go wrong, but I feel like taking care of one's nest should involve figuring out how to handle these sorts of things personally rather than always resorting to calling a repair man.
3 hours ago
To build on what Nicole suggested about rudimentary initial skills for those with no experience handling electricity perhaps an early project might be constructing some sort of simple battery powered light where you would need to learn to wire together the light bulb or perhaps LEDs with an on/off switch, and connect to a small battery to supply power.  I'm suggesting a small battery, like some AA's or perhaps a 9 volt battery, so that the dangers of electrocution are minimal.  You might be able to shock yourself if it was done wrong, but you probably wouldn't seriously hurt yourself.
3 hours ago
J Davis beat me to it in suggesting that there should be something about processing acorns.  It's a process that takes some time to do, but yields a calorie dense food, and I believe acorns are fairly plentiful in many regions.  A few years ago I collected about 5 gallons of them and then processed them down to about 14 lbs of acorn meal.  It felt like a good skill to learn.

That leads me to my second suggestion.  It seems like there should be some cooking/meal preparation aspect to this as well.  I had 14 lbs of acorn meal and no good idea of what to do with it!  I still have probably 10 to 12 pounds of it because I haven't really focused on changing my eating routines to utilize it.  I think the same thing can apply to most wild foraged foods.  Sure we can learn about all these things growing wild around us that are edible, but until we actually change our personal food culture to utilize them as a matter of course this knowledge is more of a curiosity.  This is something I intend to start focusing more on for myself.
4 hours ago
I can't say that I really have a favorite tree, but I have recently planted some Redbud that others of you have already mentioned.  However, no one noted the prime reason I planted it which I think others around here could appreciate.  It's a perennial edible!!  The young leaves in early spring are edible along with the flowers and buds.  Later in the year, assuming you didn't harvest all the flowers, the tender young seed pods are edible.  The book I have listing this as a wild edible say's the pods are rather like snow peas.  It would be awesome to get to harvest "snow peas" from a tree!  I must admit I haven't yet gotten to try any, but I'm looking forward to it.
4 hours ago
As noted each persons situation can result in different strategies.  I'll toss in some ideas for those in a rural setting where there is a long, unpaved driveway.

For years I had a huge, beautiful oak tree at the end of my driveway.  Then the road crew came along to dig a drainage ditch and took out a big chunk of the trees roots.  It became a poor, half dead, struggling thing, always in danger of dropping large limbs.  One spring in a big storm it finally fell.  That was a sad day, but it was pretty cool how a whole bunch of my neighbors came along and helped me cut it up for firewood.  :)  

The next winter I had something of a revelation regarding a great way to conserve energy with my snow shoveling.  In the warmer months I tend to park my car maybe 100 feet up the driveway, well away from the road.  However, it's just parked in the yard, not in a garage or anything.  In the winter I'd shovel a huge amount of snow for my drive and a turn around section so I didn't have to back out a long drive.  Without the half dead tree looming over the end of the driveway though I realized one day that it was completely stupid and wasteful of my personal time/energy to shovel this long, car wide section.  Instead I started backing my car into the driveway from the start, but only going back about a car length and just parking there.  There was absolutely no reason I had to drive/shovel my way back to the normal spot.  I stay a car length back from the road so the frag from the county snow plows isn't pummeling my car.  So now I just have a short section to shovel to the width of the car and the rest is simply a single shovel wide foot path up to my door.

I have to agree with Kyle that it's best to try and push the snow as much as possible rather than lifting it.  If you are dealing with irregular surfaces like a dirt/gravel drive/yard I find it can be handy to be a bit sloppy initially, leaving some snow to get packed down into a smoother surface.  After this base is made I find it tends to be easier to push my metal shovel along it without the shovel getting caught and hung up on sticks, dirt bumps, grass, etc.
2 days ago
I just learned about hostas this past spring and was excited.  I'd always loved the look of the plants but never planted any wanting instead to focus on food plants, esp. perennials.  When learning they were edible I ran out to the local greenhouse and bought 8 plants which I planted in an otherwise little used shady zone.  The last I looked they were all alive.  I look forward to trying to eat a few leaves this spring to see what they are like!
1 week ago
I voted for #2.  I feel like graphically it's the superior one with all the elements visually working together the best.  I especially like how the lines of the hammock create a visual vector to bring one's attention back to the book.  The white text on a green background also gives better emphasis to the "Change the world in your backyard" line than the other two versions.  At the same time it nicely caps off the image preventing the eye from drifting up and away.

In the thumbnail versions I must admit that #1 is a bit stronger, being easier to read all the elements.  Where as #2 in the thumbnail version is more difficult to asses what's going on, yet the attention focusing line of the hammock is still strong.  With version #3 my thoughts are that the various elements aren't visually unified at all.  It's graphically the weakest, though I must admit that the color of the apple photo does make it stand out.  I just don't think I like how it stands out.

These are all just my opinions.  Your's may, of course, vary.  :)
1 week ago