Lif Strand

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since Sep 02, 2019
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I'm a retired Arabian horse breeder and endurance competitor, a writer, photographer, and fabric artist, currently living the good life off-grid in the high country of the US Southwest.
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Recent posts by Lif Strand

Unlike the many electrically knowledgable permies, even though I've been off-grid since 1994 I know nothing about my solar power system and I don't want to know!  I can and have walked into a stall with a raging stallion, I've roped angry llamas, I've captured and released rattlesnakes, and I've armed myself and faced down an intruder in the night (with the sheriff's dispatcher on the phone listening while units were sent to my place).  But I'm terrified of electricity.  

Unlike many permies who want to make their own power, I never could afford to just go out and buy what was needed, new -- but not going solar wasn't an option.  Our place is a mile from the last electrical pole and the power company wanted nearly $25,000 to bring power to our building site.  The cost would have been added on to our mortgage, to be paid off monthly.  The only thing was, we didn't have a mortgage and we didn't want one.  The whole point back then was to not have monthly bills.  I'm ever so grateful we made that choice and stuck to it.

So in 1994, with the help of a friend, we cobbled together a small system out of used components.  When the system would fail for whatever reason, I simply replaced whichever component was the problem with another used component, hooking the replacement up exactly the way the old one was wired.  I didn't learn a thing from doing it that way.

Thus nearly 30 years later, when I was finally able to buy a whole, brand-new system (small! I didn't win the lottery!) I bought a plug-and-play kit put together by a local solar company.  Since the company is local they can't escape me when I've got questions.  I did research them first, and I interviewed them before buying.  They've been wonderfully tolerant about my idiot questions.

My point is that I'm one of those people who want to live a homesteading lifestyle but I don't want to have to be rich or to become an expert mechanic, plumber, electrician, etc. to do so.  When something breaks I patch what I can, replace with used if possible, or do without.  I find this lifestyle suits me just fine.  I'm not necessarily recommending how I've gone about doing things, but I am saying that you don't need to buy the newest and the bestest to be off-grid.
15 hours ago
Getting ready to publish the first novel of a mystery series and also working on the sequel to that one as well as the sequel to a fantasy/magic realism novel.  Also blogging and writing short stories.
15 hours ago

Ted Abbey have more pallets than money!

Me too.  I've got stacks of pallets that I mean to do something with.  Someday.  When I have time.
2 days ago
Not to put a damper on things, but writing a book is easy.  Making money off your writing is hard.  

Everybody talks about stuff like royalties but the fact is, you'd have to sell a dozen self-published books every single day of the year to earn any real money (self-published, because royalties on traditionally published books are a pittance).  Sadly, Publishers Weekly says that the average book in America sells about 500 copies.  Not 500 copies a year, but 500 copies total for its whole published life.

But for the sake of the discussion, let's say you sell a dozen books a day every day for a year.  Let's say you earn $10 per book after your costs.  That would earn you about $44,000/year before taxes.  That would be great!

BUT you'd have to spend time almost every day promoting your book and you still have to write more books since the older a book, the more sales will fall off.  Writing takes time.  Hours a day.  So between promotion of this year's book and the writing of next year's book, you've used up a big chunk of your time that you might have hoped to use for stuff like permaculture.  You haven't really earned any more money than you would have by getting a job at a fast-food joint.  

And of course, odds are you won't sell a dozen books every day for a year even if it's a great book. You'd be among the top publishing authors in the world if you sold just a couple books a day for many days in a year.  Don't take my word for it, just google it.

My advice:  If you want to write, I say write!  You won't lose weight and you likely won't earn much money, but if you're a real writer, you'll still write.

2 weeks ago

Steve Zoma wrote:  ... I did find a perfect bind binding machine, and really wanted to copy the design and make my own binding machine, but aspects of it I just could not think on how to build homemade. Against my generally build-it-myself mentality, I bought it off Ebay, and am reasonably happy. It cost $650, and while it can crank out 250 books per hour, and makes great books, it came with several parts missing. I scrounged around and made it work, but it was a very good purchase, I think. Simple, but glues and applies a cover, making it really fast.

Oh wow, I had no idea that book binding machines could be gotten off of eBay or anywhere!  It's never occurred to me to look for one.  Would it be possible to share a photo of yours, Steve?  I'd love to see it in action!

PS:  Are you using a machine that makes spiral bound books or the traditional sewn (or even stapled) books?
1 month ago

Steve Zoma wrote:
Jane, I dislike the subscription based photoshop app too so I use PaintshopPro
It is only $80 for a one time purchase and does everything Photoshop does
For a book cover I will often graft 5 pictures or so into one, then use MS Word. They print out well using them.

I've been using PaintShop Pro for years and I love it.  I prefer owning programs that are resident in my own computer.  I had an old version of PaintShop Pro that I used until this year, when finally it stopped playing well with the latest version of Windows, so now I've got PSP 2022 in my computer.  

I like bouncing back and forth between MS Publisher and PSP to make my covers (I've done a few for other people as well as for my own stuff).  I'm using a 2007 version of Publisher that works just fine with Windows 11.
1 month ago
My best friend is one of those people who has everything she wants or needs, so gifts are a challenge.  I hit on the idea of writing dragon stories for her.  The first ones were things I put together myself, and were pretty crude -- one was in the form of a four-foot long scroll, another was an accordion-fold book, another was stapled together.

In 2015, when I first wanted to learn about self-publishing, I used a platform called CreateSpace, which was eventually bought out by KDP.  I reformatted several years of blog posts for the manuscript and created one cover for a kindle version and the other for a paperback version.  I mostly used PaintShop Pro to do the artwork, with MS Publisher as an additional tool.

Then I decided to self-publish the longer dragon stories using CreateSpace.  I never put them on the market -- I had about 50 of each printed and sent to me, which I then numbered, so they were a "limited edition".  

I finally decided to try binding a book traditionally, just to see how that was done.  I didn't have the proper tools for it, and the end result is pretty ugly, but I was satisfied I could do a good job of it if I really wanted to.  However, no way would I ever try to bind more than one of any manuscript -- it's a LOT of work!

My first novel was picked up by a traditional publisher, who let me do my own cover.  That came out in hardcover and audio.  

While I'm waiting for my editor to have his way with my current novel, I've been playing with cover designs for it.  I love doing book covers!  

1 month ago

Vera Stewart wrote:What an amazing answer, thank you very much! All of this helps.

I am going to re-think the "supplying self" idea and probably add in a couple of scenes where he stops and gets water and feed from people along the way. Perhaps there will be a bit of conflict if someone decides they don't want to help...

And a scene where someone with a lighter, faster horse passes by, and...

Well, just thankyou again!

You are welcome!  I hope you will share info about your book when it is published!
1 month ago

Vera Stewart wrote:I just typed this question out for one of my writing groups to maybe answer, and then I looked at my open tabs and said "duh! This is a perfect question for permies!"
1  Hero will travel to X within two or possibly three days. He is on a rescue mission, and quite motivated to get there with speed, however, he has absolutely no interest in causing long term harm to his horses.
2 Hero is in his early to mid twenties so does not yet have huge amounts of experience, but he is very comfortable with his horses and treats them as well as he knows how.
3 His horses are draft horses. They are working horses, they plow fields, and haul timber out of the woods in the winter. They are in pretty great shape, considering it's winter, and he is too. He has two horses. (I haven't decided if they are Percheron, Clydesdale or if I'll pick a more "rare" horse breed to highlight yet)
4 It is winter and it's Canada. There is snow.
5 He has a sled. He will be carrying himself, and perhaps a friend, plus a few supplies such that they hope they can support themselves for a week to ten days or so.
6 If he decides to travel to X in the early afternoon of day one, and leaves almost right away, and if there is a snowstorm day two, and he arrives at X before (or perhaps a little after) nightfall on day three, how far can he travel in that time? History dictates a fairly heavy snowstorm.
7 Along the way to X, he encounters others travelling to help out at X, and they form a bit of a convoy. Sometimes he leads and sometimes he's following. I suspect this will allow them to go a bit faster?

If anyone can help provide a rough estimate on a credible distance that can be covered under these circumstances, I would be very grateful! Thank you!

I have taken the liberty of numbering the points for ease of answering.  I'm a former endurance racer and very familiar with covering long distances on horseback.
1  This is baseline info:  In good weather conditions with ample grazing and water along a relatively flat route, an experienced rider with a fit horse could cover 75-150 miles.  That's a huge range, because it all depends on weather, feed & water, and trail (surface quality and steepness)
2 Without huge amount of experience in going long distance, there are bound to be problems.  Thus I'd say 75-100 miles at best.
3  Draft horses need special consideration to go long distances at any speed.  Whereas a fit, light horse being ridden could readily travel at 5-7 MPH for 10 hours a day (given point #1), there is no way a draft horse could move at those speeds for anything more than brief bursts.  They would quickly become overheated at anything better than a brisk walk, even in winter, and then would risk chill when they stopped.  Note that the bulkier the breed, the slower it will have to go.  It's kind of like expecting a tractor to be able to cover ground as fast as a racecar could.  They are geared for torque, not for speed.
4  Cold complicates things:  chill factor if overheated and muscle stiffness from the cold when resting, snow balling up in hooves leading to lamenesses, no water or feed available along the way, slippery and hard surfaces.
5 A single draft horse will require up to 20 gallons a day when working.  So the sled will have to carry 167lbs worth of water per horse per day.  Plus about 3% of their body weight's worth of feed, the bulk of that needing to be in hay because digesting hay will keep a horse warm.  Horses -- particularly draft horses -- absolutely cannot handle very much grain without risk of... well, take my word for it.  You could kill a draft horse that's working that hard with very much grain.  Anyway, my point is that given all the other conditions, the sled will have to carry a lot of weight.  You could shirk on the feed but not the water, but maybe there would be enough open water along the way, maybe snow could be melted (remember, 20 gallons per day!).  After the horse supplies (don't forget the blankets for them because if their muscles get chilled overnight those horses will not be going anywhere fast in the morning), then you add on the human supplies.  One more issue about sleds:  Runners are fine for certain kinds of snow, but anything very soft/fluffy/deep will bog down your horses and the sled runners.  
6  Given all of what I've said above, your hero could maybe cover 25-30 miles given the time factor and the snowstorm.  Maybe half that, depending on how bad the conditions were to start with and how bad that snowstorm is.
7  A convoy might allow for more speed, but not much more.  It can only go as fast as the lead AND the last sleds or other conveyances can.

Hope that's of some help.
1 month ago
Here's a link to the kits from the place I got my kit from (there were a few changes made but mine's basically the 3000W lithium battery option).  I don't live in AZ and I never could figure out how to get the tax credits in NM.
1 month ago