Our Philosophy

Festina lente
-make haste...slowly

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Talking Rock's 12-Watt Family

In the end, chop wood and carry water.  I was carting our water nearly 1/4 mile by wheel barrow, 12 gallons at a time.  Can't complain too much, I mean, it's a reasonably level stretch of road (for where we live), and it was good clean well water from the next neighbor up the road.  Beat the heck out of buying water!  Thank you, Kathy.  But it was a pretty tiring way to acquire water all the same.  Fifteen runs the first day left me aware of muscles I hadn't formerly been aware of.

New toys!  The little PV panel balanced on the log is the old 12 watt panel for the fan that we already had, but on the ground is the new 42-watt panel (good number, 42) that folds up and charges a small lithium ion battery, which can keep all of our battery operated devices charged.  Within a month the battery malfunctioned and we returned the whole setup, not to be replaced.  Back to 12 watts.  Too much hassle for what it added to the equation.  All we were doing with that extra electricity was watching more movies on the laptop anyway, and lahd, if we need to be doing that!  Would have returned the Duracell 600W power pack, too, if they'd have taken it.  This battery type can't be returned if you don't like it, though.  No big deal, really, we probably ought to keep a charged 12V deep cycle battery around anyway, just in case.  The built-in inverter comes in handy at times, too.  But honestly, the solar shower in the background has been the most useful addition of this group.  We've purchased another one actually, to keep around for hand-washing and dish-rinsing, while the other heats up for baths.

Terracing the hillside in the berry patch.  We've got a good first planting of raspberries, blueberries, grapes, and tea camellias in the ground now.  All acid-loving, shade-tolerant selections.  Like I mentioned in an earlier post, that's basically what was growing here when we arrived, minus the camellias, so it's what we're growing here.  Thyme, echinacea, and some young calendula seem to be doing OK here as well.  Not in the photo but also handling the shade are rosemary, valerian, mints, yarrow, selfheal, hyssop, rue, bee balm, lemon balm, wormwood, dog roses, and a pretty little purple aster bush my Gran gave me.

Well, looky, looky.  Look who's hippy camp is now a permitted structure.  All legal like...
Oh yeah, back to the water. (Did I mention that I'm not very tech savvy?  I can't even move photos around in my blog posting!)  Anyway, my neighbor took pity on me and my wheelbarrow olympics, and let me run 500' of hose from her well to my cistern.  We gave her a little cash and some Small Batch schwag, went to Ace and bought 200' of hose to add to what we already had.  Now that hose is laying across the woods, tucked just out of sight in the edge of the woods at the neighbor's house.  Not a permanent solution, but keeps us in water for a fraction of the cost and effort we were expending before.  This tank holds 550 gallons of water, and that's been lasting us about 3-5 weeks, depending on how much rain we're getting.  Irrigation, even just around the house in the shade, drops the tank fast.  I'm thankful for all the rain we're getting right now, and I feel so bad for all those folks out west fighting those raging wildfires.

A full tank of water is a good feeling, and living out of a tank makes you respect the water more.  Since it's set up to catch rain coming off of the tent (eventually), every gallon has to be carried uphill, against gravity, and you tend to use water carried uphill more efficiently, and more than once.  Water supply secure; understanding of the value of water developing.

Everybody hangs their clothes out to dry.  That's Power Down 101.  But...

...Washing clothes by hand is another matter.  We haven't spent much on this effort yet - just a pair of washtubs and the aerating plunger thingy you see between the tubs.  It's actually pretty effective at getting the clothes clean, but man, you've got to be dedicated to doing a little daily washing if you're going to do this.  You don't want to get behind with no laundry mat to rescue you.  As it is, we're still mostly going to the laundry mat to charge the computer and blog in the A/C!  Washing all of our clothes by hand is one of those things we'll have to work up to.

Been getting some mushrooms in lately.  I plugged three hardwood stumps around the house with chicken-of-the-woods polypore - a maple, a hickory, and this little sourwood stump that caught the brunt of the leftover plugs and appears to have chicken-of-the-woods pox!

I had to take out this nice oak for the driveway, so I honored it by giving it a mycological calling that should be part of our lives for a decade or more.  For the big leaning trunk at the top left I did the wedge technique with some blue oyster mushroom innoculated sawdust spawn.  You can see the wedges running up the trunk.  In the big piece of log lying on the ground I plugged 100 lion's mane plugs, then pulled up moist leaves all around the logs and wounds.  This is near the driveway entry and I'm thinking about planting my black bamboo at the corner next to it, in hopes of having a blue oyster and white lion's mane photo against a backdrop of black bamboo to offer one day!

My style is starting to show up all over the neighborhood!  Here I'm recontouring my neighbor Kathy's sunny garden spot with my typical French intensive beds, in exchange for some veggie space out in the sun.  She's becoming a great friend already, and we've now made friends and alliances with the next two neighbors farther out, as well.  Just the nature-hating guy across the street in a plain white trailer with nothing growing in his yard, to "weed out" now!

This has been a pretty good polyculture for me for a few years now, so I feel comfortable sharing it.  Tomatoes alternated with peppers, underlayed with sweet potatoes, and a basil for each tomato.  I alternate sweet and purple.  Probably ought to give each pepper one too.  The deer don't seem to like the basil, but they have no problem eating peppers, or sweet potatoes.  Doing an evening foliar feed with some dilute urine (I go about 16:1) seems to help deter them...and light up the plant growth!  Of course the beds are on water-harvesting contour, each plant is ringed with compost under the straw, and mycorrhizal fungi were added to each planting hole.

Rosemary, hyssop, selfheal, and yarrow - four herbs that seem to do fine in the dappled shade.  You can see my homemade A-frame level for setting contours in the background.

Apple guild is coming along.  A wide variety of herbs surround 3 apple varieties, with grapes on the fence behind, and raspberries to form a hedge out front by the road.  Grow what wants to grow and things tend to be a lot easier to manage.
Well, from 12 watts to 54 and back to 12 again.  I think we prefer it that way, with just a fan to move air through our little home and workshop.  I'm not missing electricity much at all, and our business is growing every week, based to some degree on our lifestyle choices.  People like to hear these stories, and I'm happy to tell one every now and then.

From the wood,


  1. Hi, Tripp.. Occurred to me about two weeks ago that, hey, why I don't I create a Google Alert for... TALKING ROCK.. Only been on the Internet since ~1994.. :))

    Anyway, here you are in my inbox.. Congrats on the 12 watts.. Power bill here was/is ~$50 due to poverty.. However we end up doing it, I guess... :))

    The washing tub thing, will be going back and digesting more in depth.. Not kidding about the poverty level thing.. Washer broke down four years ago and I've SO had my Heart set on finding an old wringer washer ever since.. Something like your setup might make do in the meantime. :)

    Warmest wishes from what sounds like possibly right down the street somewheres.. :))


    PS.. Hey, if you really are meaning "woods" in North Georgia, check this out from Pickens Progress (local paper).. Guy found a ~4' Timber Rattlesnake.. Just signed up today to follow a snake guy blog.. Am hoping he'll help identify 2 foot long snakes that look miniature of that four footer. Since I scooped them up and tossed them out in the backyard while singing Born Free, fingers are crossed they were Bull Snakes that allegedly EAT Rattlesnakes.. :))

    1. Howdy, neighbor! Well, the best news about rattlesnakes is that they indicate a healthy, robust ecosystem. Something that will come in surprisingly handy in the decades ahead, no doubt. I know Eastern King snakes eat poisonous versions; are they the same as bull snakes?

      Yeah, try that plunger thing out for clothes washing. Cost us about $25 from Amazon and it really does work pretty well. You can wash one thing at a time in a 5-gallon bucket if that's what you have. Using it though, I can start to imagine how excited housewives must've been when electric washing machines started showing up in the department stores! Woo-hoo!! In a future that might be largely devoid of these wonder machines, however, (or the electricity to power them), I can see nudity making a comeback...ah, the multifarious pleasures of energy descent...

  2. i washed clothes on a rock at a community water hole in Puerto Escondido Oaxaca. That was fun (for a while) and then it wasnt. Im impressed by those french intensives - luck neighbors. damn, wish I had taken that $100 cause you aint neva gonna get around to helping me get my garden sussed out. ;-)

    Your children are going to be uniquely well-equipped to deal with the coming united states of plundered chumps.

    love you guys -really enjoy seeing your hippie doomstead develop.

    1. Chickory, my dear, I want to hear more about this stay in Oaxaca some time. You know that they are one of the few remaining horticultural societies on Earth, right? We could probably learn a lot from them as industrial agriculture enters its death spiral. I thought washing clothes by hand was fun the first time I did it, then not so much. But we'll get back to it, and probably wear fewer, easier-to-wash clothes too. There's always that behavioral innovation factor, isn't there? Big fluffy bath towels will be a thing of the past I'm afraid. I've got one that weighs about 40 lbs soaking wet, and is damn near impossible to wring out thoroughly.

      I think we're settled in enough finally that we're ready to venture north for a visit. What are you doing Saturday after the farmers market? Should I bring some mycorrhizae and my big grub hoe?

  3. Get the cheap towels are dollar general. Dried on the line, they are wonderfully absorbent and have a nice exfoliation side benefit. I love line drying towels and sheets. Jeans on the line is horrible though. You dont want rough side seams - and think about the places where they are heavy.

    this week I am NOT doing the market because I am under time pressure on a project. I have to ship monday. So - another weekend. I need to figure out bigger picture issues. the trout line would be among the first. anyway - we'll talk!

    oh and Oaxaca! I took mescal on the way to monte alban. On the ride back I puked right thru the rusted out hole in the floor of my 3rd class bus. good times! ;-)

  4. Chickory, we'll catch up with you soon. Your jeans comment is a perfect example of the behavioral innovation I was referring to: maybe we just won't wear jeans in the future! They are tough to dry on the line...and tough to wear after drying them there...

    Here's to the linen pants of the future!!;)