Halfmoon's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sat Nov 26, 2016 11:17 am

Riggerjack wrote:High school has enough challenges without being the only kid without power, water, and a 3 hour bus commute
Yes! I see in retrospect that DH and I were oblivious and selfish. DS once told his dad: "This is your dream, not mine." Very true.
Riggerjack wrote:Right now, craigslist should be full of used turkey fryers.
:lol: Probably, but will they be coated with fire extinguisher chemicals?

Actually, the separate, hoseable workspace is a great idea. You seem like a supremely practical person. I used to tell DH (after living with the mess of dogs, wood fires and outdoor work gear) that my ideal house would be built of concrete, with slightly sloping floors and a center drain in each room. For some reason, he wasn't excited by the concept.
Last edited by halfmoon on Sat Nov 26, 2016 8:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Riggerjack » Sat Nov 26, 2016 12:01 pm

And tiled, with weatherstripped doors, with a hot water faucet. No sweeping, no mopping, just hosing. At some point, I'm sure everyone has this thought, but I built it, in my bathroom and utility room. It hasn't been particularly useful, but it still inspires me to smile.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sat Nov 26, 2016 8:03 pm

Now you've got me eyeing our master bath...

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sat Nov 26, 2016 8:53 pm

THE HOMESTEAD/ACCUMULATION YEARS

The continuing livestock saga… (This is the last of it, I promise.)

Geese seemed like such a great idea. They would guard the homestead, we had a pond just begging for stately waterfowl, and we figured they would eat the rampant grass and maybe a slug or two. That was the plan.

The geese did eat grass; I’ll give them that. However, grass to them was like prune juice to us. They were the most prolific manure producers we’ve ever seen, and they didn’t spread it around daintily like deer or rabbits. They had one particular spot they like to hang out, sleep and poop; it was pretty much the goose clubhouse. Unfortunately, the goose clubhouse was also our driveway and the formerly picturesque grassy area between house and pond.

(Why do all of my animal stories seem to end up with poop descriptions? I repeat: is this what it’s like to have children?)

Not only did the geese mess up our yard, but they had the ingratitude to taste bad on top of it. We’d always heard that goose meat was delicious, but these birds tasted like fishy algae. Horrible. We had to soak the meat in salt water and vinegar to render it edible, and then DH would make a sauce reminiscent of sauerbraten.

Once again we resorted to palming our livestock off on the same poor neighbors, who had a small pond. The geese seemed to prefer our larger pond, though. We’d have a day or so of splendid solitude, and then we’d hear a chorus of honking (We’re baaack!) followed by a big splash as they landed in perfect formation and surveyed their domain. (Look! The clubhouse needs another layer of fertilizer!)

Next, we bought a young pregnant goat named Cindy. The idea was that she’d have the baby, nurse it, and then provide us with milk. We didn’t drink milk or have a refrigerator, but whatever. Cindy taught us a valuable lesson: goats are herd animals, and they hate being alone. She would climb/jump/break out of every enclosure, come down into our front yard and eat the roses, and then look for company. We should have gotten another goat, but we figured that her baby would cure the loneliness problem.

***Alert: the next part is sad and gruesome. Proceed at your own risk.

Cindy gave birth to her baby sometime during the night while we were at work. By the time we got home in the morning, the kid was dead (probably stillborn) and she’d eaten most of it. We were horrified, but the woman who had sold her to us said when we called in distress that this isn’t unusual for a first-time mother. (Thanks for the heads up, by the way.)

We proceeded with the milking plan, but getting home at 7 a.m. after a long night of work and needing to milk a recalcitrant goat wasn’t fun for any of the participants. We milked her again at 7 p.m. before leaving for work. Good times. We finally asked ourselves why we were doing this and sold her back to the original owner.

A few words about rabbits, and then I’ll quit with the livestock mishap stories. Rabbits have two irreconcilable qualities: they taste delicious, and they’re adorable. Oh – and they scream horribly when you pick them up in preparation for their completely humane death. Literally scream.

Rabbits pretty much broke the back of our homestead livestock fantasy.

ffj
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by ffj » Sun Nov 27, 2016 9:14 am

Haha, your stories remind me of the time I was tasked with catching a goose once. Being young and dumb, I looked forward to the job until I actually tried to pick it up. Between digging at me with its feet, flapping my face with its wings(it hurts), and biting me with its beak(hurts worse), I finally caught the damn thing and put it in a cage. Its owners were also tired of the monster poop everywhere, and feathers, and the noise. That was the first and last time I ever messed with a goose. :D

Also, there's a reason the words fowl and foul are so similar. Our local park has a bunch of ducks on the pond located there and these things are nasty, but everybody seems to love feeding them. Watch where you step, haha.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sun Nov 27, 2016 10:43 am

ffj wrote:Between digging at me with its feet, flapping my face with its wings(it hurts), and biting me with its beak(hurts worse), I finally caught the damn thing and put it in a cage.
Geese can be ferocious, and I truly can't remember how we got them into cages and transported them to our neighbors' pond. I think I've blocked out the memory.

I've read that Canadian geese can inflict injury with their wings, but I once watched a raccoon cleverly get around that obstacle. The raccoon hid under a dock and reached out as the goose floated close, grabbed it by the neck and pulled it under the dock. The goose couldn't use its wings in the confined space, and the raccoon neatly killed it.

Since we didn't have a dock, we just shot a goose when we wanted to eat one. :twisted:

G_Dog
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by G_Dog » Mon Nov 28, 2016 2:59 pm

My Grandfather had a Labrador trained as a gundog that had a thing for catching geese. The only problem being the dog wouldn't let go of the very much alive, yet playing dead goose until you took it from the dog, at which point the goose would jump into life...

Absolutely loving your livestock sagas!

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Riggerjack
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Nov 28, 2016 3:47 pm

Geese. Damn, but I just hate em.

Goats climb, and eat everything including barbed wire.

Rabbits scream, and dig, and are nearly impossible to keep out of the gardens.

Chickens are just mean.

These stories bring back all those back to the land horrors of childhood. Clearly, you and my mom were reading the same Mother Earth News.

Please continue. My wife was raised in renton, and has livestock fantasies for our retirement home. I need to gather real world experiences, with hopes of dissuading her. Failing that, I will just resort to being a shotgun farmer. Never saw livestock that couldn't be improved by judicious application of a shotgun.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Mon Nov 28, 2016 6:01 pm

G_Dog wrote:My Grandfather had a Labrador trained as a gundog that had a thing for catching geese. The only problem being the dog wouldn't let go of the very much alive, yet playing dead goose until you took it from the dog, at which point the goose would jump into life...

Absolutely loving your livestock sagas!
Thank you, G_Dog! Now that you've encouraged me, I'll share one of my husband's gun dog stories (actually told by his nephew). DH took his nephew duck hunting, accompanied by DH's Weimaraner. Nephew shot a duck over the lake, and it fell into the water. After waiting a minute, nephew asked "Isn't the dog going to retrieve it?" DH replied, "Of course not. She has short hair. That water's too cold for her." Nephew had to wade in and retrieve the duck himself. He said he was throwing rotting ducks out left and right before he found the freshly shot one. :lol:

Riggerjack: DH and I were laughing so hard at your entire post. I'm sure that we have some old issues of Mother Earth News your wife can borrow...

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Tue Nov 29, 2016 12:15 am

THE HOMESTEAD/ACCUMULATION YEARS

Alternative energy ventures:

As mentioned before, we started this escapade with kerosene lamps and an auxiliary deep-cycle battery charging system in our car. We obviously needed a serious battery bank if we wanted to store enough power for daily life.

We somehow found out that the phone company (called GTE back in the day) conducted periodic auctions of surplus equipment. This equipment included huge deep-cycle battery banks used by the phone utility to back up their systems in case of a power outage, and they were sold only in large lots. The batteries were maintained and charged regularly, but they might never be used based on circumstances.

This was a silent bid auction, and we got a great battery bank for peanuts. The next step was finding a way to charge the batteries. We had a pond with a spillway, and DH was convinced that this could produce power. The obstacle was low overhead (maybe 9 feet), which would have trouble charging the battery bank at its minimum of 12 volts. DH designed an overshot water wheel with an inset groove housing a belt that transferred to incrementally smaller wheels to step up the voltage. At the end was a DC motor that charged the batteries. The motor's load also slowed the water wheel to keep it from spinning out of control.

Pretty horrible scans of old low-resolution film photos below. Note the geese marking their territory in the second frame. :x

Image

Image

Image

While the concept was brilliant, the execution was challenging. The system did charge our batteries, but the outer belt broke on a regular basis in freezing temperatures and released the wheel from the motor's limiting load. We would arrive home exhausted from a night of work to find the wheel spinning recklessly (THUMP, THUMP, THUMP) and water splashing out the sides. So much for going directly to bed. We would wade under the spillway, frigid cascade over our heads, and repair the belt…again and again. And again.

After a couple of winters, we began looking for another answer.

Edit: The electric pole in the background of the last photo isn't actually sporting any wires. DH hauled it out of the swamp with his tractor and planted it as a symbolic finger to the power company that had refused to reconnect the old lines. Funny man.

Next: solar

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Thu Dec 01, 2016 1:12 am

THE HOMESTEAD/ACCUMULATION YEARS

Ever-helpful Wikipedia tells me that Jimmy Carter installed photovoltaic panels on the White House in 1979, and Ronald Reagan had them removed in 1981. Like Reagan, we were skeptical at first about the capabilities of solar – particularly in cloudy western Washington. It’s amazing how standing under a freezing pond outflow will open the mind, though. We decided to see if we could possibly supplement our hydro system with photovoltaic panels. Finding someone to advise us on the subject was another matter; this was hardly a mainstream technology.

We did a lot of reading, and then we got lucky when an alternative energy shop opened in the nearest small town. We spent some time talking with the owner, who didn’t know much more than we did. However, he had made contact with a couple in Idaho who were building charge control/battery monitoring panels that integrated solar and hydro systems, and he had invited them to visit his shop and spend the night. In a bizarre turn of events, he had a mental breakdown the day before they were supposed to arrive. They were expecting to spend the night at his place, and he had no way to contact them. When we visited him in the hospital, he asked if we could wait for them at the shop and apologize for his absence. We agreed, and that was the unexpected beginning of an affair with solar that continues to this day.

The Idaho couple were tiny, kind of awkward -- and absolute geniuses. We offered our guest bedroom for the night and fed them dinner. They slowly relaxed, and we talked for hours. Well…they talked, DH absorbed like a sponge, and I was pretty mystified. We eventually bought a control panel, solar panels and an inverter, and DH put it all together with their instructions. This couple ran their business from the off-grid home they’d built on a mountain in Idaho and became very successful over time. When we visited them some years later, they had started to get a little bored and were EACH building a helicopter from scratch. 8-)

Photo of our kitchen with the control panel on the wall:*

Image


By the mid-eighties, our living conditions felt pretty deluxe (as I said before, it's all relative). We bought a tankless on-demand propane water heater and installed a shower; no more tub in the kitchen! We had scaled back our livestock venture. We could turn on 12-volt lights and radio with the flip of a switch just like magic, and we had an inverter for my very first computer and printer.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I had to go to school.

*This image came out a little too small, and the others are too big. I may go back and fix them all.

Barlotti
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Barlotti » Thu Dec 01, 2016 10:10 am

I LOVE your journal. It's completely captivating, and I find myself coming to the site to check for new installments. You MUST write a book.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Thu Dec 01, 2016 10:40 am

Thank you! This made my day. I am sort of writing a book, right here. Very limited distribution. :)

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bryan
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by bryan » Thu Dec 01, 2016 1:34 pm

pleased to be privy to the "limited release".

You're make me want to go buy some property in the PNW and start building! Water wheel looks great, how much power (@?voltage) was it able to produce? And like Riggerjack, I am making note of these real world experiences :) (though I have never romanticized living on a farm! forget that.)

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Thu Dec 01, 2016 2:18 pm

bryan,

I'm pleased to have this fascinating group to share with! It isn't apparent yet, but there is a financial side to the story also.

Your question about the water wheel's power output has us searching our fading memories after all this time. We know the amperage was highly variable (always at 12 volts for the batteries) depending on the water flow. We think the motor/generator was capable of 30 amps, but we often got a lot less. We were very careful with our usage, and the batteries stayed charged. The solar was a huge improvement.

Riggerjack (and bryan),

My brother sent this link to me the other day (just because I mentioned that DH was dreaming of chickens again). He's always been mildly horrified at the turn my life took. Once when I badly broke my foot under a tractor, he said: "I never imagined that a member of our family would be injured in a farm accident." :roll:

http://www.nwedible.com/you-absolutely- ... -chickens/

saving-10-years
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by saving-10-years » Thu Dec 01, 2016 2:21 pm

Edit: The electric pole in the background of the last photo isn't actually sporting any wires. DH hauled it out of the swamp with his tractor and planted it as a symbolic finger to the power company that had refused to reconnect the old lines. Funny man.
Live with one of those myself (quirky DH). Great stories and in case you ever contemplate keeping sheep. Don't. There is no stress at all in sheep keeping until its suddenly life-death-no-warning type stress. They will catch you out (and outrun you even when in labour).

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Thu Dec 01, 2016 2:26 pm

THE HOMESTEAD/ACCUMULATION YEARS

THE JOB:

As mentioned in my intro, DH was a truck driver in Germany before he came to the US. He tried to get jobs in trucking when he arrived in Denver, but breaking into the union was nearly impossible for a foreigner. He ended up working in restaurants as a busboy, then as a waiter when he learned more English. When he moved to Seattle, he became a waiter in the restaurant where I met him 6 years later.

This restaurant was unique: open 24 hours, but with a huge and fairly expensive menu. You could order frog legs or steak and lobster at 3 AM. The tips were better than anywhere DH had previously worked, and he was delighted at first. He told a gruff older waiter one day, “I love this job!” The waiter replied, “You’ll get over it.”

When I started working there as a hostess/cashier, I also loved the job. (**Spoiler Alert**: We both got over it.) We worked the graveyard shift, and on Friday and Saturday nights it was a world apart. Remember: this was the early eighties, before AIDS or strict DUI enforcement. Nightclubs were huge, coke and excessive drinking were commonplace, and bar pickups were the social norm. Our job was a zoo.

The restaurant’s employees called the period from 2 AM (when the bars closed) to about 4 AM “Bar Wars”, and we commonly had an hour wait to be seated during that period. Take a bunch of drunk, coke-aggressive people, put them in a small waiting area, and tell them they can’t eat, drink or have sex for an hour…it wasn’t pretty. I sometimes visualized myself on one of those PBS nature shows where the photographer is in a shark cage, sharp-toothed creatures lunging at the bars.

The customers didn't improve by the time they did get seated. There were fights, attempts to run out on the bill, people sneaking in booze or throwing up or passing out. We had a sort of crazy janitor who had a real thing about people messing up the restroom. He once hauled a woman out of the ladies’ room and shoved her at the guy she was with, growling in utter outrage: “I caught her throwing up on the floor!” Her date got angry; shoving ensued. The janitor ran into the back and came out with a vacuum cleaner hose yelling, “I’m going to kill him!” The guy retreated.

The same janitor came to me one night and said, “There’s a naked lady in the restroom.” I checked, and there sure was. She had removed all of her clothes and was lying on the floor. I wanted to call the police, but the three (!) men she was with said she was fine and carried her out of there. I followed them outside and watched them toss her into the back seat of a car. I had never heard of roofies at that point, and I regret now that I didn’t report them.

We called the police at least once a weekend, and sometimes several times a night. It was standard for a waiter to come running past me and out the door yelling “WALK OUT!” I would call the police, and then we’d give chase. Once we caught a father and son trying to leave with a pewter soup tureen and wine glasses under their coats (Really. A large soup tureen.). The manager confronted them, and the son hit him in the face with a wine glass. The manager was lying in the lobby with his nose broken, blood and glass shards everywhere, and customers were still walking in asking how long the wait was for a table. We had to testify in court for that one. The manager quit.

Another time, I confronted a woman who was trying to skip out on the bill (with her young daughter in tow, no less), and she punched me in the mouth. I have no memory of how it happened, but the next thing I knew, we were outside and I was shaking her in a blind rage and yelling something. DH had to pull me off. The job didn’t really bring out the best in us.

After a few years of this, we developed a tremendous dislike of people in general. When we drove to work in the evening, I would look at houses with lights in the windows and feel so envious of those who were safe in their cozy homes. When customers came into the restaurant, I would look at them and think, “What’s wrong with you? You could be HOME! It’s the middle of the night!” I started having disturbingly violent dreams of shootouts and knife fights with customers. :shock:

DH worked from 9 PM to 5 AM, and I worked from 10 to 6. When his shift was finished, he would go out to the car and crawl into a sleeping bag in the passenger seat. When mine was done, I would start driving home while he slept. The drive was usually just under an hour, but I could never make it the whole way without getting sleepy. At that point, I would pull over, wake up DH, and we’d trade seats. When we arrived home, I was so tired and cold that I hated to get out of the sleeping bag and come into the house.

One morning, DH was sleeping so hard that I didn’t want to make him get up and take over driving. I figured I could stay awake that little bit longer. Next thing I knew…I woke up to a loud thud. The car was in a ditch, where I had clearly driven about 20 feet before hitting a big rock. DH had woken a millisecond earlier to the incomprehensible sight of grass flying by the window, and he Was. Not. Happy. He got out of the car, said “Wait here” and walked the last mile home to get our truck. I figured it was best to wait there.

Unless it was raining, we would sleep for about 4 hours and then get up and start working on outdoor projects. We had a poster in the kitchen listing (in letters huge enough to read across the room) our planned projects for the season. When completed, we’d cross them off and add new ones.

When it rained, we slept a little longer and then had a leisurely breakfast in front of the wood cookstove. I started to pray for rain. ;)
Last edited by halfmoon on Fri Dec 02, 2016 11:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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sfchristo
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by sfchristo » Thu Dec 01, 2016 4:25 pm

"After a few years of this, we developed a tremendous dislike of people in general. When we drove to work at in the evening, I would look at houses with lights in the windows and feel so envious of those who were safe in their cozy homes."

Amazing. It reminds me of working summers at my father's seafood carry out in a dangerous neighborhood with a drive-by shooting at our windows happening here and there over the years. The last thing I wanted was to be working there standing behind a floor to ceiling jail bar cage waiting to get shot at.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Thu Dec 01, 2016 8:45 pm

saving-10-years wrote:
Great stories and in case you ever contemplate keeping sheep. Don't. There is no stress at all in sheep keeping until its suddenly life-death-no-warning type stress. They will catch you out (and outrun you even when in labour).
We actually did contemplate keeping sheep. In fact, we built a barn with the intention of housing sheep on the bottom level. Then we read that sheep can easily develop hoof rot when living in damp climates (our climate is more WET than damp :lol: ), and we veered away from the sheep plan. I'm also not a fan of lamb or mutton (goat meat on the other hand...), and I don't see myself having the patience to spin wool -- despite the fact that you're apparently doing so one-armed these days!
sfchristo wrote: It reminds me of working summers at my father's seafood carry out in a dangerous neighborhood with a drive-by shooting at our windows happening here and there over the years. The last thing I wanted was to be working there standing behind a floor to ceiling jail bar cage waiting to get shot at.
Now, that sounds like a story I need to hear. :D When are you going to start a journal?

inchicago
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by inchicago » Thu Dec 01, 2016 8:52 pm

I had to see what all the excitement was. Love reading your stories. :)

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