Thursday, February 28, 2013

My First Whooping Crane - Extremely Rare Birds

"Birds are indicators of the environment.  If they are in trouble, we know we'll soon be in trouble" 
Roger Tory Peterson
I was out on the road a few days ago when a co-worker saw a few large birds out in a field.  We stopped to get a closer look and I zoomed my camera as much as possible.  We knew Whooping Cranes had been spotted in the area  week earlier so after a quick google search we verified that was in fact what we had witnessed.  While the picture may leave something to desire in terms of quality, the subjects in the photos are a model of perseverance.  In fact, the birds in the photo make up just over 1/2 percent of the total population of wild Whooping Cranes remaining in the wild.  Yes that's right 3 out of the 437 birds remaining in the wild.  While the population is expected to have been greater than 10,000 prior to European Settlers, it dwindled down to only 15 birds as of 1938.  It is still one of the rarest birds in North America. 

In 1993 Whooping Cranes were raised in captivity and with the help of volunteers and environmentalist were taught to migrate north to Wisconsin by following ultralights.  You can click the link below the photo for more information on their work. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hurricane Sandy, Statute of Liberty - NY and NJ Trip

On 30 Oct I was asked to travel to Staten Island to assess damage from Hurricane Sandy.  Most of my photos were of damaged property but I did manage to get a few photographic shots as well. I saw so much damage and so many people just trying to get things cleaned up so they could get on with their lives that I was pretty sensitive of where and what I took photos of.   I was very fortunate to spend some time out on Ellis Island and Liberty Island.  I imagine being on Liberty Island with about a dozen people when the harbor and park is closed will be a once in a lifetime experience.  Walking around and through the buildings on Ellis Island is something every citizen should experience at least once in their lifetime.  I am looking forward to visiting again once the park opens again. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Offgrid Small Cabin Update

I have previously posted a rendering of my design but I believe this is the first picture I have actually posted of the small cabin I am building.  I am currently installing windows and siding. I am using the LP Smartside panels and will be using trim to give the look of board and batten siding.  The cabin is 16 x 32 with a loft and is completely off grid.  You can see part of a ladder in the woods in the bottom right of the photo.  I am in the process of jetting a well in this location. Currently I am about 15 foot deep but the last couple of feet have been pretty rough.  The soil I am in now is a bluish grey clay and is only allowing me to penetrate a couple of inches an hour.  The good news is that you typically find sand under this layer.  And hopefully this sand will be a good water bearing material.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Busy Weekend / Holiday

"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country." - JFK

Having the day off for President's Day proved to be very productive on the homestead.  About a year ago I saw this old 3 wheeler in the woods behind my dad's place and I asked him about it.  As best we could tell, it had not been cranked since 1986.  A few days later we loaded it up and hauled it down to a shop outside of town that seemed to be interested in the challenge to get this old thing up and running.  There was also an old trailer that with a little TLC is back up and running.   I am looking forward to having this around the property this summer.  

Anyway, I was finally able to get my potatoes in the ground.  It had been so wet that I have not been able to get into the field to prepare a place.  I am trying something a little different this year.  I am going to try and grow clover between the rows to help with weed protection and moisture management.  The clover will also provide nitrogen for the soil.  After the potatoes I went and cut some switch cane that has been growing on the property.   I plan to use the cane for tomatoes and peas.   The switch cane is invasive and needed to be cutback anyway.   Next, I focused on saving a few plants.  I have four bilberry plants that I purchased a couple of years ago. Since putting them out they really haven't done anything.  In fact, I thought only two had survived.  I tried to find a few Bilberry plants this year and I can not find them anywhere, well not in the US anyway.  I did find a grower in the UK but can not ship to the US without permits, etc.  You can buy seeds, but from what I understand the germination rate is fairly low.   I went to dig up the plants to place them into containers and it seems like the two I thought were dead had a little green in them so hopefully they are still alive.  Bilberry's like acid soil so I amended my soil mixture to lower the PH.  I moved them up by the cabin where I can give them a little more TLC.  And lastly, I had one beehive that did not survive last year.  I spent a couple of hours going through the hive and cleaning out all the old frames, boxes etc.  It is recommended that you freeze the hive for a couple of days so I placed them in a garbage bag and have put them in the freezer.  I have not ordered any packages of bees yet so I am going to try to find a source this week.  The other two hives are doing great.  I ended up with about 60 pints of honey this year.   

Monday, February 18, 2013

Starting Seeds - 2013 Vegetable Garden

I am anxiously awaiting March to start my garden. I have many new items this year and will be blogging in more detail about my mostly heirloom varities. This year I am using heat mats with my seed starter trays and my germination rates have greatly increased. I purchased a growlight from amazon and one from walmart. The one from amazon is setup and I will begin using the one from walmart soon.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Appalachian Trail / Great Smokey Mountains

I had a chance to get back on the Appalachian Trail for a few days back this fall.  This hike was from Clingmans Dome in the Great Smokey Mountains south to Fontana Dam.  I have been considering going back to hike the northern half of the Smokies or even taking a week
off to hike from Springer to Hiwasee or Franklin.  I am going to see how much I get done this next month.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New Year.. Ready to get this thing rolling again.

It has been a while since I have posted and I am ready to get this blog up and running again.  This past year I have planned quite a bit and I am ready to start putting some of these plans into actions.  To start, after hiking the Appalachian Trail I wanted to become more self sufficient.  I got rid of things I hadn't used in years... clothes, dishes, clothes, toys, clothes, workout gear, etc.. oh year did I mention clothes?  I have no idea how I accumulated so many clothes over the years.  Anyway, I sat down with autocad and after several revisions I ended up with a 16' x 32' cabin with a loft.  I have the cabin dried in and wrapped with Rigid Foam Board Insulation.   I have several projects coming up and sometime this spring/summer I will start adding the siding and windows.  I tried to design the cabin to maximise passive cooling.  I designed it to run E-W and I designed the slope of the roof to be at the correct angle for solar panels for this location.  I left trees along the E, S, and W of the house and utilized a highly reflective metal roof.  The Rigid Foam Board has a foil wrap that reflects a fair amount of heat as well.  I actually moved into the cabin last winter and have been in the cabin for about a year.  The first year I relied solely on 2 solar panels, 2 batteries, limited size converter, etc.  I had the panels on the ground instead of on the roof so they had limited sunlight.  I have just installed 9 panels on the roof, I am up to 8 batteries, good components, etc.  I will write a blog about the solar panels and setup soon.   My next project will be installing a shallow well.   I am not sure if I will be able to generate any water, but I am hoping to jet a well down to about 25 feet.  I am also about to start working on a rainwater collection system.    Lastly, those of you that know me know that I do enjoy photography and I just purchased a Panasonic FZ150 and should be arriving in a few days.  I have lots of things planned for this year and I will start to introduce those soon.   Hope all is well. 

“We need to defend the interests of those whom we've never met and never will.”
Jeffrey D. Sachs