Walden Effect

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Updated: 8 hours 49 min ago

Snapshot in time

Sat, 10/21/2017 - 11:00

Anna and I attended a community event at the Dairy Barn last week.

We carved away red clay to make sgraffito blocks to ornament a commemorative trail.

Step landing

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 11:00

Although plumbing has consumed a lot of our attention over the last week, we did have time to make a start on more code-worthy steps.

The beginning is a landing in front of the door, minimum size three feet by three feet. We're trying to move this project along so we can get our electricity, but I took to heart my father's admonition over a decade ago that building is much cheaper if produced in sizes divisible by eight. So we expanded out to four feet by four feet instead.

Empty trailer, full trailer

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 11:00

Two weeks in, our moving trailer is 90% emptied out.

We're still living out of boxes inside, but the new quarters are starting to feel more like home.

Rural trash pickup

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 11:00

Rural Athens County is a bit of an odd duck in the garbage department, at least compared to other areas I've lived in. We're outside the municipal pickup region, but apparently there are no county-operated dumping stations that accept private trash. Instead, we have to choose from a slew of privately run enterprises that pick up garbage at your door.

I figured if we were going to have to pay for trash disposal, we might as well go all the way and choose the service that offers recycling. I'm tempted to go into a long analysis of whether or not the Libertarians are right about this kind of setup making the most sense...but, honestly, I haven't entirely decided yet. Perhaps I'll make another post about it in a few months. Or, given my recent penchant to eschew public politics, perhaps not.

Yamaha generator review

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 11:00

Our new Yamaha generator is quiet and efficient.

It runs for twelve hours on one tank of gas at a low load --- a few fans, a light or two, and a laptop charger.

The Instant Pot and circular saw work on the generator too, but both run at a slower speed. After the first test, Anna opted to continue cooking on the propane camp stove instead. I kept using my saw.

Second impressions

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 11:00

Keeping up with the basics --- food, water, a spot to use the bathroom, and staying up to date on our computer work --- engrossed us for most of the first week. But the ground had been so parched that when it started raining, I couldn't resist running out to explore our new domain.

Living so close to the road has taken some getting used to. But as soon as I slipped down over the hill, humanity disappeared in very short order.

Various neighbors have told us that this area was a dairy farm roughly a century ago. Sure enough, the trees are mostly the same age once you pass beyond the easiest-to-reach areas. There are scads of sugar maples, quite a few beeches, a tulip-tree or two, and even a few oaks. This is in stark contrast to life on top (our new core homestead) where honey locusts reign supreme.

Our new property consists of a series of plateaus separated by steep banks. Following the deer trails, it wasn't too hard to get around, although the walk back up had me huffing and puffing by the end. But I'll definitely be coming back to my new favorite spot --- an outcropping of rocks beside a wet-weather creek.

I actually only made it halfway through the property --- our land goes up the other side past the creek too. But I want to follow a topo map when I head further afield. I'll save that expedition for the next time it rains!

Much faster the second time around

Sun, 10/15/2017 - 11:00

Putting together the Rubbermaid shed was considerably easier the second time around.

A few screws no longer bit as well as they should have into the plastic. But structural stability was deemed acceptable.

Elapsed time: 20 minutes for two people.

Tasting at the farmer's market

Sat, 10/14/2017 - 11:01

We finally made it to the Saturday farmer's market. As promised, the array of goodies was considerably larger than the already impressive Wednesday offerings. Mark said I looked only slightly less exuberantly amazed than the toddler who was running in circles so erratically that she nose dived into my knee by mistake.

As best I could tell in my daze of delight, only one stand promised entirely organic produce. But lots of others were marked "no spray," which I assume is the poor man's version used by folks who haven't jumped through the hoops to be officially labeled as organic. I chose copiously from both types of farmers, falling back on conventional offerings only when I absolutely couldn't resist their wares.

New taste favorites that we'll likely be trying to grow in the years ahead: sunflower microgreens, middle eastern summer squash, and another stab at seckel pears. As the books promised, a ripe seckel pear is indeed a taste explosion. Mark called the result "magical." High praise from a husband who's not given to hyperbole!

Generator Safety 101

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 11:00

Generators belong outdoors.

Keep your generator dry.

Point exhaust away from living spaces.

Yamaha inverter generator

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 11:00

We lasted for one week with only a small solar panel for electricity. Then we fell back on the other option we'd researched before leaving copious internet access behind --- an inverter generator.

When we bought our last generator, inverter generators either didn't exist in our price range or we simply hadn't heard of them. Since then, though, they've come down into the consumer price range --- only a couple of hundred bucks for a small, off-brand model or up to a thousand plus dollars for hefty units that will likely go the distance.

The downside is --- you get less power for your buck with an inverter generator. So why did we decide to go that route anyway?

Simple --- efficiency, fuel savings, and peace and quiet. Basically, inverter generators are able to run at different speeds depending on how many things you plug into them. So if you're just running a lamp and charging a laptop, they'll barely use much fuel at all (about a gallon for every ten hours of use at 1/4 load) while keeping the noise down to about the level of a window air conditioner. Plus, they're small and light enough to be carried by one strong person alone --- definitely a plus.

We'd originally opted for the 2000 starting watt/1600 running watt Honda, partly because of its good reviews and partly because it was supposed to be available at Home Depot (where Mark could use his veteran's discount). But when the time came to make the purchase, all of the Home Depots in the area had run out. (You were right, Joey!) So we instead tracked down a Yamaha with similar stats at a motorcyle store in town --- bonus that we'll have a repair shop nearby if it needs to be worked on. More on what we think of our little engine that could in another post.

Hunter's paradise for sale

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 11:00

Our realtor initiated phase two of his plan this week, lowering the price of our property to $79,333. He'd initially priced the farm above market value so the listing would look better when we dropped it down to our actual asking price.

If you're looking for a limitless supply of trophy bucks, this is your nudge to take a second look. We look forward to hearing from you!

New to us

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 11:00

Two of our local thrift stores deliver.

One had a half-off sale.

We landed a lightly distressed pleather couch, a wooden dining table, three kitchen chairs, a desk, a dresser, plus delivery for $172.50.

Cat sold separately.

Home of the heavy machinery

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 11:00

We prioritized steps over mailbox, so at first it was a bit tough to tell service providers how to find us. Then I realized I could just tell them to look for the yard full of construction equipment.

The bulldozer did most of its work before we arrived, but the trackhoe has been busy on a daily basis since. Here, it's digging trenches for our septic leach field.

Then on Tuesday, our herd of equipment grew larger yet as a massive truck came to deliver our septic tank and tiles. The new beast broke down while hefting the concrete tank over the trackhoe-dug hole, but a different truck was back on the job within two hours. It's amazing how much work heavy machinery can get done in a short amount of time!

Borrowed off-grid electric

Sat, 10/07/2017 - 11:00

Joey lent us a solar kit perfect for off-grid charge ups.

(Thanks, Joey!)

We move it from room to room each day following the sun.

In return, we net enough juice to charge our laptop, cell phone, and ereaders.

Despite having access to the bare digital necessities, we can hardly wait for our electric line, slated to arrive ten days after our final inspection.

Corolla load limit

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 11:00

How much lumber can you haul in a Toyota Corolla?

Enough to build a set of stairs and install a mailbox...without making the wife walk home.

Athens arrival

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 11:00

We've arrived! It was a bit of a shock to show up and find the overgrown parcel we'd bought cleared and turned into a construction site. But we'll appreciate the septic system when it's done, and in the meantime are thoroughly enjoying settling into our new digs.

To my surprise, the herbs and strawberries I left behind during our closing trip are alive and well. The mushroom logs I used to protect the greenery from deer produced a flush while we were gone, but otherwise our beginning of a new garden hasn't missed a beat.

Mostly, though, we're focusing on zone 0 this week. Scrubbing and mopping, moving in, buying furniture at the thrift store (they deliver!), and generally getting used to the area are top of our list. More on the move-in process next time we stop by the library for our internet fix.


Tue, 10/03/2017 - 11:00

The sumac spice hidden in plain sight was only my latest find around an old homestead. Several years after moving to the country, I followed a faint trail up a hill, and found overgrown blueberry bushes. And then the next year found another blueberry bush I'd missed, and another this year... Now I have a thriving blueberry hill, that produces berries half the summer long.

My last time visiting Anna, the encroaching weeds reminded me of when I first visited, soon after Anna bought the place, and well before the beginning of the waldeneffect blog. Then it was a tangle of weeds and brambles, with the bones of an old farm in among them. Walls chinked with newspaper told the tale, of occupants in the 1930's, and a hardscrabble farm.

I'm used to software, where each line of code comes with a deep epistolary history of past versions, descriptions, justifications, discussions. A similar history has been built up on this web site, but as weeds choke the place again, perhaps it will be forgotten.

Perhaps a deer hunter one day will notice a row of gnarled fruit trees in the old homestead, or in among a raspberry thicket, find stranger fruits, tiny kiwis and figs. Perhaps a new resident, crossing the ford years from now, will wonder what hands shaped it. Will, as they prune apple and peach, pick spring asparagus, and uncover deposits of unusually rich dirt, find themselves conversing across the years with like minds.

All we know is, we'll remember the place fondly, and look forward to new adventures. Join me in wishing godspeed to Anna and Mark!

Energy and cost effective heating and cooling for small spaces

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 11:00

Our new trailer has no furnace and we're not sure if we'll get our wood stove installed and find cured fuel before winter. So now seemed to be the time to get our act in order about a backup heat source.

Mark's first impulse was geothermal since this is the most efficient heating and cooling option currently available. Of course, the downside of geothermal is a hefty price tag. The internet reports that you can install a geothermal system for as little as $7,000, but my on-the-ground research showed up $20,000 as the more-likely lower limit. Given the small size of our space, the current lack of federal tax rebates, and the fact that a considerable amount of our heat will likely be wood in the long term, that price tag seemed unrealistic. So I moved on down the list to heat pumps.

The last time I read about the heat-pump option, it didn't seem realistic for our region since heating efficiencies dramatically decline in cold weather. But since then, science has come to the rescue with variable-speed heat pumps that don't start losing their efficiency until 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Plus, if your home is smaller than 1,000 square feet, ductless heat pumps bring efficiency levels nearly to geothermal status for a much lower price tag. For example, this 2,400 BTU unit costs $1,374 (or $947 after Mark's veteran's discount and AEP Ohio's $300 rebate) while boasting operating costs that rival those of a wood stove if you're buying fuel.

I can just hear Mom asking, "But what about the noise?" Ductless heat pumps use circulating refrigerants rather than moving air, so they're much quieter than the less efficient standard heat pumps. All told, they're currently top of our list...but I'd love to hear from anyone who's given them a try and has firsthand information to impart!

Autumn leaf

Sun, 10/01/2017 - 11:00

Autumn is showing up on schedule around here.

Moving day!

Sat, 09/30/2017 - 10:21

A huge thank you to Rose Nell and Jayne, who brought us this moving trailer two months ago and took a huge amount of pressure off our transition! We've been filling it in dribs and drabs ever since, and now everything that made the cut is packed away and ready to move north.

Today's the big day! We won't have electricity (or water or septic or pretty much anything except two whiney cats cooped up in a trailer) at first, so please don't worry if your comments sit in moderation until I head to town and let them out days later. I suspect that within a week or so, we'll be back to normal. In the meantime, we'll be thinking of you all as we embark upon our new adventure!