Foraging – I love Blackcaps

For whatever reason I’ve always loved what my Grandmother called “Blackcaps” or wild black raspberries even more that the cultivated reds.  They generally grow wild along roads and the edge of woods.  My property has a fair number of them, not enough to make jam or anything like that, but they are a nice treat to pick and eat while doing tasks.  They are just now coming on in my area and I look forward to snacking on them for the next couple of weeks.

It pays to be observant and learn what edibles grow wild in your area and more important close to where you are if not on your own property.  In this case knowing they are black raspberries means not trying to eating them when they first turn red.  If I had more time I would be hitting the ditches in my area to get more and make jam, but not this year.

Running Power To An Outbuilding

I want to have electricity in an outbuilding (that I haven’t built yet) so I can run an arc welder and charge my Elec-Trac electric garden tractor.  Plus power makes everything work better.  I’ll start with just a 12′ x 8′ shed to mount an electrical panel in and in the future when I get some money saved up I’ll build a full-sized pole barn and I hope to have to re-work as little of the electrical as possible.

20160621_183854.jpgWhen I got electrical service run to my house during construction I elected to spend a little more and get a 400 Amp service.  This meter panel is designed to feed two different breaker panels of 200 amps each.  So I have one 200 amp line going into the house and now I can add one more 200 amp 240V  line for my outbuilding.  Notice the open lugs available.  To carry the amps I need what is called 4/0 direct bury wire.  This means I can just did a trench 2′ deep and lay the wire in it and cover it back up.  In my area the 2′ depth is required and also I’m supposed to bury some yellow caution tape 6″-12″ in the trench to serve as a warning in case someone starts digging in the area.

This wire is about $2/foot so you want to measure as close as you can and not buy too much extra.  I also ran 2″ plastic conduit under where I will be adding more concrete to my driveway, just in case.  However these three wires take up all of the 2″ conduit, so I cannot add anything else.  But if I ever have to make a change I’ve got conduit running under my driveway.

Keep in mind the amount of power in the meter box can kill you.  While there is no danger in what I’ve done so far, since the wire isn’t hooked up to anything, unless you are confident in what you are doing you would be better off hiring someone to do you electrical work.  After having said that, I do all my own electrical work based on the small amount of training I had in the program I went to in Community College 30 years ago.



Moving Chicks – Maybe Too Early

Our Black Australops are about 2 1/2 months old so we decided to move them out of the fully enclosed coop to the area with the rest of the flock.  This may have been a mistake as the didn’t seem to have much trouble going through the electro-net fencing.  We’ll see what happens tomorrow when they can see the whole enclosed area and if they will be inclined to stay in the fence.

What Is A Grease Zerk And Why Should You Care

In these days of “Maintenance Free” you still need to know and understand when things do require some regular attention.  I remember as a child my father greasing our car, but now all of those bearings are sealed in cars.  However many of us user older equipment, either because we like it or due to the economics of buying used older equipment.  In the case of much of this older equipment (and even some new) you have to add lubrication to the bearing surfaces in the form of grease.  In the case of some kind of wheel bearings you have to pack it with grease.  In others you use a grease gun to add grease through a fitting called a Zerk (the silver ball looking thing in the two pictures).  The zerk has a one way valve in it and allows the grease in but not out.

These pictures are of my brush mower that was built in the 70’s.  The axle is a shaft in a sleave and since the force and RPM’s are low it will last practically forever if it is kept greased.  Generally speaking you just pump grease in through the zerk until you see the old grease coming out the joint.  Anyplace you see one of these fittings you need to grease it regularly.  How frequently depends on the use and the conditions.  If you have a manual for the piece of equipment it should tell you a lubrication schedule.  Otherwise if you have to add a lot of grease before you see it coming out your probably waited too long.


Making Wooden Tool Handles from Trees

One of my goals is to be able to make handles from wood that I cut down.  I have a couple of small black walnuts that need to be cut down and a shag bark hickory that was damage in a storm.  The tool I don’t have yet is a froe, which is used to split out blanks from a round log and a shaving horse will make the process easier, but not required.  I have a draw knife that might be older than me so I do have to figure out how to sharpen it.

My plan is to cut lengths at about 6′, 4′ and 2′ and split out some handle blanks.  This will cover the lengths of everything from a rake or hoe to a hammer.  They will need to be seasoned of course and that means coating the ends so they don’t dry to quickly and cause the wood to split.  There is something called Anchorseal that the lumber industry uses to for this purpose, but hobbyist also just use exterior grade latex paint.

Having a stock of handle material air-drying is an investment that every homesteader should do it they can.  From what amounts to a chunk of firewood you can get a valuable resource for next to no money.  Consider it an investment in future tool needs.

Wood Chips – Valuable Resource For You Homestead

Wood chips can do so much for your homestead they are something you should be actively pursing getting them as a resource for your homestead, no mater what the size.  In my case I watch for road clearing crews working in my area and ask for the wood chips.  If it is a large job the manager has to deal with the logistics of emptying the truck, which can mean having someone drive it back to their yard and dumping it and then bringing it back.

What has worked for me is agreeing to take full trucks of ships and putting an orange cone in my front yard where I want it dumped.  Of course I have 10 acres so it is easy in and out for their trucks.  Several years ago I got several truck loads and that pile has been completely colonized with mushroom mycelium and now I’m using this as mulch around my garden plants.  As I understand it this is critical for having really healthy plants so I am very happy to see this.

Planting Sun Chokes and Cutting Comfrey

So I decided to give Sun Chokes or Jerusalem Artichokes a try this year.  Even if I don’t like them they will make good feed for my chickens.  I have a 4′ x 8′ bed I made last year that I filled with compost from our township composting center.  Even though we are still getting cold nights (it even snowed a little today) there were plenty of weeds growing in the bed, including stinging nettles.  So I pulled them all out, raked the bed and planted the tubers I got from Amazon in the north half of the bed.  Since I have such a problem with weeds growing up I over seeded the whole bed with Dutch White Clover.  When I get vegetables to plant I will just cut a plug out of the clover and plant them in the opening.

The comfrey I have planted is doing very well.  I’ve already started cutting it to feed to the chickens and the chicks.  This was planted two years ago and the plants keep getting bushier so I they are in a space that is good for them.  There was a crew clearing trees for a road project last fall and I got them to dump a full truck of wood ships up at the front of my property, I just need to start moving them back to mulch around what is going to be my kitchen garden, if I get time to put it in this year.