Archive for the ‘Sustainable Lifestyle’ Category

trade for housing?

During my drive to go pick up the girls today, I was listening to NPR…not that uncommon but it has been a little while since I listened regularly.   Today my Ipod battery was a bit low so I picked up some news updates…aside from the typical BS about Cain, Newt and the band of “good ol boys” there was a story about canceling some second type of engine for the air force F35 fighter plane.  They pegged the per plane cost at about 135 million….this got me thinking about the post I put on Facebook the other day about students building and selling Tumbleweed houses in Missouri.

A tumbleweed house is a “basic” housing unit that could in ideal situations house two people….with a tumbleweed home costing about 25,000 (Which is a bit on the high side for the amount of space you get).     1 plane = 5400 tumbleweeds,  if these homes were built on basic block foundations instead of multi thousand dollar trailers to get around BS building codes…then that number could be as high as 6750.

Trading in just one fighter jet could in practice house over 10,000 people… the governments plan to buy 2443  planes then equals some pretty good-sized towns, or whole states of towns.   Think most of California.

2443 planes  = 16,490,250 Tumbleweed houses at 20 k ea.  or roughly housing for 32 million from just this one type of aircraft.  My small cabin at twice the size of a Tumbleweed sleeps 4, not super huge but doable.   Homelessness in the US would be eradicated by this single event.

All of the other planes, helicopters, guns, bombers etc would still be available to bomb and kill our fellow earthlings.

Not to mention the all of the jobs to build so many homes.  Just some food for thought.


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Our version of Black Friday

As many of you may have known Tori and I had planned a trip to the cabin for Thanksgiving. Our original plan was to head out Wednesday after Tori got off work (with me running errands and packing on Wednesday afternoon).  Tori was not so keen on the 6 extra hours added on to a long day, and the fact that all of that drive would have been in the dark…as the driver I could have gone either way.  Considering the fact that the views on the way there are pretty darn nice and a good chunk of the country (most actually) would probably sell their grannies to the devil for the views we experience on a typical drive there.  We otp’d for leaving Thursday, on Thanksgiving itself.  Its been a few years since I have traveled ON Turkey day and was very pleased to see not much traffic at all.  We had our our “family” Thanksgiving on Sat. ( brothers, kids, cousins etc) and a “Mini”version with just Tori and my girls on Sunday of last.  With those obligations out of the way we were refugees to the open road…and open it was.

We  hoped to grab a bite to eat at the Subway in Leadville but they were closed as were a lot of places…we hit another one further down the road in Buena Vista ( they were open until 4).  The weather was dry and clear and we made some good time.

When we got to the cabin it was a just a bit past sunset, temps were chilly and dropping.  My digital temp gun was reading 26 on the surface of the deck, but INSIDE the cabin, the tile floor and granite wall behind the wood stove was reading 65.  The completely passive Solar Design of the cabin was functioning perfectly.  Last year we brought a “fire bag” (Newspaper and kindling in brown paper bag) for a quick start to the wood stove.  This year we did not bring one or need one.  I had brought the temp gun along just to do some evaluations on how the cabin was performing now that we have some siding on two walls and have “tightened” up the thermal envelope a bit.

In the past we have tended to fire up the wood stove prematurely and create a bit of a sauna in there.  Temp control was obtained by opening a few windows.  This time we used restraint and only had to do that a couple of times.  A couple of sticks burned around 9 and then again at 4 or 5 am was ideal.  In one of the early morning burns I used a lot a kindling and it got pretty hot…in the near complete darkness of a moonless weekend the exit elbow of the wood stove was glowing red.  When I saw that I cut back the inlet and fully damped the flue.  It’s nice to know that IF we did need the extra BTU’s the little Scandia 150 can go the distance with plenty of power to spare.

By the time Sunday rolled by we had our routine down pretty good ( Saturday Night we had -5) and our complete fire wood use for the weekend was about one” mail tub” worth.  We can go through that amount in 3 or 4 hours with the big wood stove back home.

My goals for the weekend were to install the Blue Stain T&G I brought down, install some of the tile trim, install Tyvek on the east and North sides of the cabin, some hardi trim and maybe a window or two…but in practice the weather was not 100% cooperative.  Friday we woke to fresh snow and a light breeze.  The weather did come around a little later so I did get the T&G up.  Keep in mind I’m cutting these 12′ lengths outside using the chop saw…which is run off the solar system.  When installing over dining area I had to tweak one of the wiring runs for the LED’s to get things lined up.  Tori and I were very pleased with this recent lot of wood. This batch was from a different supplier and I think it is a bit better…Not quite as “green” as the other stuff since it is kiln dried and coming from Montana ( the other wood was Colorado local and air dried)   I even had a few boards left to add some more to the upper parts of the South wall. What remains is 2/3 to 3/4 of the main ceiling…the wood part of the north wall and some minor bits in the loft and above the kitchen.  I just keep plugging away as money and time allow.  All of the corners will get some cove molding and the windows will continue to be trimmed in cedar.

New Blue Stain installed over "dinning / bed" area

The weather was even chillier and windy on Saturday so I I ended up just getting the tile boarder up around the black granite, the free border tiles were not suffcient to complete the “column” that would have mimicked the black stove pipe along the back wall. So plan “b” took over and I just outlined the main field.  I’ll have to cut away the excess backer board before the wood gets installed between the two un-installed window locations.

Border tile around black granite is new

On Sunday the weather was calm and clear and I got in some shooting too, I ran some rounds through the new Springfield Champion .45 Semi auto and got to run some longer distance shots with the Winchester 1873 rifle.  The GPS had the distance from in front of the cabin to the target log across the gully at about 220 feet.  With not much wind and the open steel sights I landed a good handful on paper.  That 1873 is still my favorite. Tori finally did a little herself and plinked a bit down in our canyon at our “mini range”.

The truck and woodshed Sunday Morning

Friday morning’s snow continued to melt through the weekend, with the result producing some nasty mud.  This was one of the messier trips at the cabin and a new “Punch list” item has been added to the list…and pushed up near the top.

Get Some Crushed Rock!

Our scraps of decking used as a walk way help but they come up far short in the “keep the mud out of the cabin department”.  Granted our tile floor is easy to sweep and our grout color was chosen to be the exact match of this mud on purpose…but the sticky messy shoes (with me forgetting my slippers was the pits).  I’ll look into getting some crushed rock delivered before my next trip…then we or should I say I, as if Tori and the girls will be man hauling  tons of rock,  can improve the paths and nearby areas out front.

More time and Money….as is always the case.  Progress is moving forward but a bit to slow for Tori…To that end she might kick in some funds to finance a “working trip just for me.  With no kids to care for and entertain, and with my simple solo needs…many things could happen in short order.

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35 pounds of Green Coffee Beans

Let the roasting begin…we were dangerous low on coffee last week…less than 1 pound in the entire house.  Then Bart our wonderful UPS driver dropped off the above shipment.  The large bag in the lower left is 5 pounds of Monsooned Malabar AA the stuff on the right is 10 pounds of the Monkey blend Espresso and  20 pounds of Costa Rican Hernan Solis Villa Sarchi.  This week we have bee drinking the Monkey blend.

I get some of my beans from Sweet Maria’s  in Oakland CA,  One of the beauties of roasting your own is the economy of it…even with shipping I can get this great stuff for less than $6 a pound.  By comparison the stale stuff at the supermarket runs 11 to 13 a pound.  I have been a fan of the monsooned for years and I also have a weakness for the brightness of Central American coffee like this Costa Rican private estate lot.

The above cupping score is for the Hernan Solis lot.  The description from Sweet Maria’s is as follows:

“This is a microlot is processed at Helsar del Zarcero mill, but is not a blended mill lot. It is from the farm of one producer, Hernan Solis, and is entirely one varietal of coffee, Villa Sarchi. Villa Sarchi cultivar is a natural offspring of the old Bourbon type coffee, adapted to the climate of Costa Rica and the Naranjo area in particular. Hernan’s farm is at 1600-1700 meters in a zone called Llano Bonito de Naranjo. The significance of the Helsar mill handling all Hernan’s coffee is key to the cup quality as well. You can grow great coffee from a great varietal at great altitude, then ruin it completely in the wet-process or drying. Helsar is a farmer-owned mill that has produced great coffee every year we have worked with them, and has continued to invest in their neighbors’ coffees as well by building more capacity to process small lots separately. The care put into this coffee at all stages is proven out by the taste. It’s a bright cup and also possesses nice body and balance. It’s a screamer, a high-toned coffee at City roast, but quite balanced at Full City roast level. It is versatile.

The dry fragrance has a lot of milk chocolate and caramel sweetness at Full City roast, with toasted almond and buttery sweetness at lighter levels. In the wet aromatics, there is the scent of roasted hazelnut and orange peel. City+ roast has the best aromatics, with complex hints of citrus flower, hibiscus and plum. There is an intriguing winey fruited note in the aroma as well. The cup is outstanding: There are grace notes of peach tea, plum, citrus, a little lemon rind, and plum (at FC roast). Light roasts have a more almond-hazelnut roast tone, fading to tangy and crisp chocolate flavor in the finish. It changes quite a bit as the temperature drops, and stone fruit flavors come out. The cup character is very balanced in body and brightness at darker roast levels. The body isn’t that heavy, but has a very syrupy quality. My lightest roasts, City level, tasted fairly thin but had a great zesty brightness. I suggest City+ roast for the best cup, a marriage of brightness and sweet cup flavors.”

A lot of people consider me a little bit of a coffee snob…but in actuality we are just fans of good stuff and love the great deals by roasting your own.  Life is too short to drink crappy coffee, and crappy beer for that matter.

We have been slumming it a bit lately as we ran out of our maple syrup last week too, we have been using just a dash of brown sugar in our Cappuccinos, If I can remember to bring the jug down with me later this week, I can stock back up next time I’m in the flats.

The weather these last few days has been total “yuck-o”…today we have had off and on rain / snow and a few minutes ago it was actually thundering. I have missed the thunder these last wintery 8 months  The snow in the yard is nearly gone…and if this rain keeps up tonight it will most likely be gone by morning.  People in other parts of the country or even down in the flats do not fully understand what it is like live in the Mountains.

This video below I shot on Saturday…yes…just a few days ago. The date was MAY 14

Thursday the 19th update…the snow IS NOT gone…in fact we got about 6″ last night…if you did not know differently it could be Jan.

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For those that have been following along closely you might recall a gap in my posting and my mentioning of a trip to the cabin for spring break.  I returned late last Friday after a week of mixed work and recreation with the girls down at the ranch.  My main goal was to get more of the tongue and groove interior siding up at the cabin.  When Tori and I were down there for Thanksgiving I got a big chunk of it installed on the west wall, and  a big slug of tile work done.  This trip started with about 400 lineal feet of sanded and oiled boards loaded in the truck, 10 gallons of water, grout for tile, a few sticks of window trim and 50 feet of roof drip edge flashing, throw in two eager children, one big fuzzy white dog, a 12″ compound miter saw,  and a weeks groceries…and there was not much room left.

We left early Saturday morning and made the 6 hour haul in good time with good weather, we unloaded relaxed and popped a cold one…at least I had a cold one the girls had something a little more tame.

More T & G for inside

The quick unload pile

A bit after dark I noticed some slight precipitation, a little mix of some rain and sleet.  I had left the chop saw on the deck and decided to bring it in.  We routinely leave the cooler outside to prevent the ice from melting prematurely.  Sunday morning we woke to about 3″ of snow, which was a complete surprise considering the T-shirt weather we had when we unloaded the truck.

3" of Fresh White at the Ranch.

A small stoking of the wood stove and the inside of the cabin was toasty warm in no time.  After coffee and some snacking I dove right in with the siding for the East wall, since there were no complex scarf joints required I did all of the cutting with the 18 V Dewalt cordless circular saw.  The batteries were swapped out and charged via the solar system and the 1000 watt inverter.  Later in the week I would swap out the 1000 watt with the 2500 watt unit I had brought down over Thanksgiving.  With the idea that it would power the chop saw for a few seconds of cutting every few minutes or so…way more convenient than firing up the generator.  I had tried to run the saw before with the 1000 watt inverter but it fell just a bit short on power.

T &G on the east wall

Next up was more siding on both sides of the “closet” wall. This wall went pretty fast due to the shorter sections, and also not having to slip them in behind the studs of the closet wall as I had to do for the east wall. A bit after lunch and the walls were looking sweet.

Not looking at open studs is indeed an improvement

The wood stock was getting low, and it was apparent that more insulation would be needed to start on the south wall, we also noticed that we forgot mustard and ketchup for the hot dogs…a combined run into Taos was planned for Monday morning.

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I got a bunch of books on straw bale building back before we starting building the cabin. Part of the reason was to educate myself in this great building method and another was to get design ideas.  Our cabin is being stick built due to speed and convenience (I have been building it single handed)  If and when the time comes to build the bigger house at the ranch it will most likely be  a modified Earthship type structure with heavy earth berming,  using ICF construction.

So after reading through most of these and extracting the Info I am offing them up for sale at 50% of the cover price…plus media rate shipping at cost…buy 1 or buy them all.  All of these books are in Mint to new condition.



More Strawbale Building $34.95…..your price $17.50

Design of Straw Bale Buildings…$40….your price $20

Strawbale home plans …list $24.95….your price $12.50

The new Strawbale home  (hardcover)  $39.95…your price $20

If you buy more than one shipping will be cheaper…per book.

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Another milestone in the blogging world.


I started blogging mostly to share some of my adventures with the building of our cabin, share thoughts about living simply and sustainably.  Here I am a 100 posts into it and I wanted to share some statistics…

Title Views
Home page More stats 6,245
Small Living vs. Sustainable Living More stats 1,157
Say “Good-Bye” to the 70’s Era Z-Brick More stats 807
Spring Road Trip Day #1 More stats 600
Nikon D90 Time-Lapse Photography More stats 597
To Build a Better Light Bulb More stats 540
Solar Generator Completed and For Sale (sold on 09-28-10) More stats 510
Campfire Dutch Oven Cooking – Cowboy Cobbler More stats 385
The Great Green-Washing of Bamboo Flooring More stats 383


My small living vs sustainable post has had the most traffic…which is not too surprising since I often link in from the tiny house blog (Thanks Kent) and some other similar resources.

The biggest surprise, at least to me, was the number of hits that My Z-brick post has received…I would have never thought that Z-brick was such a crowd pleaser…or mabye the thought of getting rid of Z-brick is the real crowd pleaser.

Just a quick thanks to my readers.

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The magic of Wifi




Its been about a month now since we canceled the Satellite TV service.  We were infrequent users and the $62 a month was a bit of a waste.  In its place we have a Roku box.  For those of you who may be unfamiliar with a Roku box, it is a smallish device that allows you to stream internet content directly to your TV…Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, Amazon Video, etc.  The box we got was the middle of the road unit and cost  about $80. So now instead of having to hook up the laptop or netbook to the TV, this little box is hooked up full time. It is pretty easy to use and even came with a little remote.  Tori signed up for Hulu plus at about 8 bucks a month (To watch her Desperate Housewives, and Grey’s anatomy) our Netflix account was being used in parallel with the Satelite service so that redundancy is now gone. The image quality is a bit lower, but plenty acceptable.  We still get DVD’s  from Netflix so we mix it up a bit.  Its nice to be able to stream what we want, when we want.  The only show that we watched that is not on Hulu,  is Survivor…but this is available streaming from CBS..and with less commercials…we just watch it the next day or when we feel like it.

In addition to the cost savings, It is part of the master plan to wean the girls off more TV.  They will still get plenty at their mom’s…As every time I have gone there to pick them up there is at least 1 TV on and often 2… in two adjoining rooms no less…..I just don’t get it…

Don’t get the wrong Idea…I still enjoy watching stuff on the screen…and love a good Western in rich DVD quality and surround sound with our Bose home theater.  After a long hard day an ice cold brew and a John Wayne classic can put the day’s efforts behind …It was just the mindless worthless crap that occupied 95% of the airwaves, annoying news broadcasts hawking “Shock Value” bullshit…and endless streams of commercials….Enough was enough.  If I’m interested in news…I can look it up online (I ditched the newspaper many years ago) For weather information I can go online…or simply look out the window!

When Tori first got into watching the Vampire dairies she downloaded them to the laptop…each episode was about 40 to 42  minutes long…When broadcast it filled an hour time slot…meaning 20 minutes of commercials…for 40 minutes programming…or 50%.

So many people are immune to the endless brainwashing, or addicted to a constant chatter that fills their empty lives.

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