Writing From the Inside Out – now available as audiobook!

Hooray!

Writing from the Inside Out: The Practice of Free-Form Writing is now available as an audiobook. You can get it here on audible.

The reader, MacKenzie Nikol Greenwood, does such a phenomenal job of really embodying the language and conveying the spirit that inspired the project. She imparts a listening experience that is meditative and inspiring. I heartily recommend listening to her performance of the text.

If you enjoy this narration of Writing from the Inside Out, please post your glowingly positive review on audible! I very much want to support her continued endeavors as a narrator.

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“True creativity flows continually throughout life, breaking free of form.”

Live Culture Hot Sauce – Fermenting peppers to make a spicy sauce

Fermenting is lovely. I enjoy making fruit wine, mead, beer, and all sorts of vegetable ferments and live culture sauces.

Here are a few ferments that I have going at present
Here are a few ferments that I have going at present

In the above photo, from the left:

  • broccoli stem pickles
  • thai chili sauce
  • cabbage saurkraut
  • jalapeño sauce

I take a simple approach to fermenting vegetables. Generally, they consist of the vegetable, plus spring water and a small amount of salt.

Yeah, Jalapeños

I had a few jalapeños sitting around, and some concern bubbled up from the ether that perhaps these jalapeños were not going to get eaten. What better way to preserve food than fermentation?

For this experiment, I chose to harness the awesome chopping power of my food processor.

It turns this:

peppers

Into this.

ground

I put this into a jar and added water and a bit of salt.ready

After a moment, it settled. You can see that this mixture is heavy on the water. I predict that will be a good thing.

watery

After a day, the concoction began fizzing a bit.

When I pass through the kitchen throughout the day, I give the ferments a shake, and that seems sufficient.

I strive to realize sufficiency in all things.

 

The Ergonomics of Emacs (with Colemak and Ergoemacs)

I am a writer, and I spend a lot of time with text. Lately, I have been experimenting with my setup and trying out different programs.

I highly recommend emacs for any writer who is

  • interested in free software
  • somewhat technically inclined
  • willing to become one with their keyboard

It’s the One True Text Editor, and a lot could be said about it. Right now, I want to focus on how it can be phenomenally ergonomic.

My Setup

The setup that I am recommending is for writers of prose, not necessarily developers, though I can’t imagine that this setup couldn’t be tweaked a bit and still be ideal for writing millions of lines of code.

With this setup, I’m never reaching for the mouse or trackpad to click a region or highlight text or move windows around. Everything gets done with keyboard shortcuts. I hardly even need the arrow keys, even when editing/revising. That alone is a beautiful thing, something that doesn’t get talked about that much by the general public, I’m guessing, because, as a feature, it’s invisible – to the uninitiated, emacs just looks like 1986 with better pixel density (though not necessarily more colors).

One of the big gripes people seem to have against emacs is that the keyboard shortcuts are non-intuitive and/or uncomfortable. Well, yeah. I can see that, at least how it is by default. For the first couple of days I used emacs, I tried the key combos that it inherited from the precambrian days when it was first fashioned from shards of bone and spare capacitors. I used it that way for a couple of days. I liked that I could do so much from the keyboard, but the shortcuts weren’t intuitive, and they relied excessively on the Ctrl key. I had other things to do and not do besides learn key combos in emacs.

One great thing about the program is how it can be customized. All the key combos can be changed. Even better is when all of the hard work has already been done and all I have to do is install an emacs package.

I installed Ergoemacs. With ergoemacs, my fingers never venture far from the home row. I mean, I don’t even need to go all the way over to the backspace key. I have plenty of better options. I can backspace with my left pinky (Colemak layout) or I can delete characters, words, or the line, either in front of or behind the cursor, by using the excellent meta-key combos, which are grouped in a way that makes a lot of sense. A lot of sense. Meta is easy to reach. My left thumb wasn’t doing very much anyway. Now it runs with the pack.

I am experimenting with other configurations as they occur to me. For example, I mapped the RETURN function to the Meta-‘ key. It’s not that hard for the right pinky to go over to the return button on the keyboard, but why bother, when Meta-‘ is even closer?

I am a big fan of this text editor, but I can certainly still see why emacs is not right for everyone. It has a learning curve and a general technical bent to its design. Maybe some enterprising hacker will put together an emacs that is more easily accepted by the average prose writer (liberating these writers from Word, etc). I would love to see that. More free software users, more free minds.

Emacs’s main asset, as I presently see it, is also the reason why it doesn’t attract a wider userbase: It relies on the keyboard. That’s not a user-friendly plus for the casual user. A user has to be willing to take the plunge into the invisible tactile realm of keyboard livin’. Part of the reason I wish emacs had a wider adoption among non-engineers is because then it would have been on my radar and I would have given it a try sooner. Although, for me, I can’t say for sure that I would have stuck with emacs if it hadn’t been for ergoemacs.

So, for anyone who is on the fence about trying a different text editor, word processor, or document creation suite, I would recommend emacs with ergomacs and org-mode. Give colemak a shot while you’re at it.

PS. Another remapping to consider: Meta – [ and ] to navigate through (previous-heading) and (next-heading) in org-mode.

Oh Yeah, and Keep a Cheat Sheet Handy

One thing about ergoemacs: Since all the commands are remapped, it occasionally becomes necessary to translate from the default precambrian keyboard shortcut to the ergo-remapped shortcut. If you read advice somewhere as to how something is done in emacs, they will probably give you the default way to do the command, but the default keybinding won’t work for you, since you exist in a different space/time continuum. When in doubt, you can probably use the menu bar to select the command that way.

 

Emacs: My Recommendation for Writers Using a Free Software Setup

Free Your Mind and Your Software Will Follow (and vice versa)

The more I learn about GNU and FSF and Richard Stallman, the more my respect grows for the Free Software movement. Over the past year and a half I have transitioned from a Mac Pro retina to a custom gnu/linux desktop and a dedicated gnu/linux portable writing machine.

The most recent change I have made is switching to emacs from Scrivener. You read that right: to emacs from Scrivener. I won’t say that I will abandon Scrivener, nor that I find anything at all wrong with a small company selling software in the way that Literature and Latte does. I personally see what they do as a creative thing, and mostly by that logic believe that they have every right to make a living by it. Stallman (and, no doubt, many others) seems to say that because a work of software does something, it should be free. Software is not my area of expertise, and I don’t have a strong opinion on the matter, except in the general sense. I would much rather point a finger at the biggest players (biggest offenders, potentially) and encourage them to make free software. e.g. Adobe, Microsoft, Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, and Microsoft.

Learning Curve

Goodness, there is a learning curve for emacs. Emacs is most commonly used by programmers. For writers, our needs aren’t so great, so that means we can learn all that we need about the program in a short time. Admittedly, as non-programmers, we are at a relative disadvantage since emacs expects some familiarity with code, especially if you want to customize it (and of course you do).

The good news is that with a couple of tweaks, things are not so difficult after all.

I highly recommend the following packages:
org-mode
ergoemacs

Org-mode

Org is a popular and versatile add-on for emacs that allows you to nimbly create and interact with lists. That’s all I use it for. It also has some advanced TODO list capabilities, but what I love about it is how I can keep organizational trees nice and tidy and navigable. I can use it as an organizer/synopsis tool by opening multiple frames. You can easily install it within emacs using the built-in package manager.

Ergoemacs

I found the default emacs key bindings the single greatest annoyance/hindrance that made the learning curve unneccesarily steep. For anyone starting out, particularly for a creative writer, I would highly recommend using the ergoemacs key bindings. I type using a colemak configuration, and ergoemacs even comes with a colemak theme. These keybindings are intuitive. This package can also be installed within the emacs package manager.

Multiple frames, full screen

Press F11. Nice, isn’t it? I run emacs in a full screen environment (no distractions, nothing else but this document at present), and emacs makes it easy to move between different documents, whether as separate full-screen buffers or in a split pane. Again, there’s none of that mousing around business to do, which is a luxury.

Dark mode

I belong to the minority of writers who most enjoys light text on a black background. I use and love the wheatgrass theme in emacs. And because I am running the Gnome desktop environment (set to a universal dark theme), in emacs nothing is glaring at me.

– When it’s late in the day and I am writing, I write by candlelight. It’s magical.

Markdown

Emacs is a text editor, not a word processor, so it’s not rich text or WYSIWYG. But you can work in markdown, and in some cases that might be preferable. With markdown, you know what you are going to get in the finished manuscript. With a word processor (I’m looking at you, MS Word), you can’t always be so sure.

So yeah, on the one hand, you have to write in markdown, but on the other hand, you get to write in markdown. And you’re content with that, aren’t you? I mean, you’ve got to be pretty hardcore to get into emacs, where even word-wrapping isn’t a given. So you have to actually select word-wrapping, and guess what you gain? Freedom!

A lot of writers choose to write in markdown anyway, no matter what they’re using to compose. There’s something about the … purity of plain text that I have always loved.

Purity

All and all, I really feel a benefit from using emacs. It’s just the keyboard and me, pretty much. I don’t have to reach for the mouse to move the cursor around or change buffers or panes or expand my outline. That seamless feeling is hard to get in an X-window environment.

Using free software has become for me a part of the whole creative shebang. Free mind, free software.

I’m not extremely technically savvy, but if you have questions, feel free to post them. And if I can help you on your free software journey, I would be happy to.

My Dedicated Writing Machine

I’ve been writing a sci fi series, and the longer I live with these stories, the more I become interested in the ironies and paradoxes of technology.

Ironies? Too many to mention. Suffice it to say that I live in the rural hinterlands and I am nevertheless connected with others via cell phone and the internet.

One last irony: A computer is generally great to work on — they can do a million little things, but I want to do one thing. I want a dedicated writing machine. Having the propensity to write creatively, I would prefer to work on a machine that feels imbued with that same creative spirit.

I wanted a dedicated writing computer, something that I can keep at a workspace that I use only for writing, equipment that only knows me as a writer. Not as a web browser, not as a teacher or web researcher or tinkerer.

The Mission

This dedicated machine, ideally:

  • is single-purpose like a pen and paper or a typewriter
  • has all the benefits of technology. (Copy/paste. Organizer features. Etc.)

Therefore

It needs to be able to run Scrivener.

(edit: Ironically, I have now transitioned to emacs, which, suffice to say, can run on just about anything).

Lately I have been using Scrivener to write. I am always interested in other writing programs, as I’m always interested in other ways to work with words. Voice recorder, longhand, libreoffice, typewriter… These days, I spend most of my time in Scrivener. I don’t even use most of its features, but haven’t found anything out there that compares — or rather, that competes. I do keep a separate text program open (gedit) and often simultaneously work from longhand notes and a jotty longhand outline.

Side note: I recently ditched QWERTY for Colemak and would recommend doing so to anyone who is interested enough in these matters to make it even this far into this post. I switched cold turkey, which was downright trippy for a couple of days, and definitely made typing more time consuming. After a week, typing the new way was no longer perplexing. “The new way,” I said. Yes! It’s a better way to type. If you don’t want to give up your QWERTY cold turkey, there are better ways to switch (like Tarmak).

Being able to run Scrivener may seem like a simple requirement, and maybe it is. But if you take a minimal computer like the raspberry pi for example, well, the pi runs on an ARM processor, not an x86, so it can’t run Scrivener. Great for other things, though.

No internet.
I want to be connected to the internet when I want to be connected, so something like an ethernet-only machine seems good. I understand the appeal of automated backups on a server somewhere, but I’m willing to forgo that for the sake of being streamlined.

Mechanical keyboard.
If you’ve used one, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, and the tactile experience of typing is one that interests you, try anything with cherry mx switches or topre or alps keys. Or even dig through the attic for an IBM model M bucking spring. Me, I love cherry mx browns with O-ring dampeners. Quiet, but tactile. Type rapidly without bottoming out and experience your fingers floating along. That sounds grandiose, and there you have it.

Dark theme or e-ink.
This is a minor issue really, and easy to accomplish. I usually prefer to have white on black than the glare of a white screen. Scrivener’s composition mode can easily accomplish this, though ideally the darkness carries over into the rest of the OS. As of today, an e-ink screen isn’t really an option.

Linux.
I have become something of a Linux enthusiast. I am all for free and open source. When it’s a company, I prefer it to be a small and/or reasonable one rather than a corporate monolith. I lean toward Debian/Ubuntu. This is an easy fix, as Linux can run on pretty much anything with a pretty good chance for being awesome.

No toolbars, no dock.
I want the screen to have nothing on it but my current application. I don’t want the cognitive availability of anything besides the page.
I accomplished this easily with Gnome. By changing a setting, I can hide the toolbar. Everything on the screen is an open field. To bring up the launcher, all I have to do is press the Super key. Otherwise, no side dock, no top toolbar. And a solid black background. If no window is open, it looks like the screen is off. Purity.

Multiple workspaces.
OSX does this really well, particularly with the multitouch integration. Four-finger swipe to a new workspace is brilliant. In Gnome, as with many Linux desktop environments, switching workspaces is as simple as Ctrl-Alt-Up/Down. In a way, having the keyboard shortcut is better for someone who likes his hands on the keyboard.

Minimal yet capable.
I don’t want the machine to give any sign of struggle with the generally non-processor intensive work I am doing. (8086, you’re disqualified.)

Low power, potentially portable.
In some ways, I’m just rethinking the laptop. The laptop is supremely versatile, but it’s also a compromise. Even my Mac Pro Retina is, for nitpicky reasons:

  • I can’t change the distance or elevation between me and the display.
  • The chiclet keyboard isn’t the dreamboat my mech keyboard is.

So why not just plug in the keyboard and use the mac display? In a way, it’s a waste of a computer. The Mac is a fully functional machine, and I am only going to use my writing machine for one thing.

Oh, and extremely inexpensive.
For an endeavor like this, the sound decision is to make it as inexpensive as possible. Goal: to cost about as much as my mechanical keyboard, which will likely outlive it.

Smallish screen with high pixel density.
This was one of the trickiest points. Though I suspect this will change in the recent future, as of now, most high pixel density displays are large (4k desktops) that need to plug into the wall. What about a high-dpi USB powered monitor? Not as easy to find, and cost about as much as a tablet costs.

Eventually,
I realized that a repurposed tablet computer fit my description perfectly. I got an inexpensive Onda v975w, a Chinese tablet running Windows 8 with a display identical to an ipad 2. I wiped Windows away and installed Debian Jessie via netboot, using a powered otg adapter and powered usb hub. I made a few customizations to Gnome, installed the i386 version of Scrivener, and called it a job well done.

For portability, a separate 5v usb battery pack will do the trick. (Plus this to power the usb hub.) Of course, the tablet has its own battery, but its single micro usb port can’t be expected to power a keyboard, mouse/trackpad, and USB drive. So, the battery is for that stuff, with the added benefit of also charging the tablet battery.

One last note: data portability/security.
In Scrivener, you can designate where you want to save (and almost continuously auto-save). You can set a separate location for where you want to save backups. I chose to save my document on a USB flash drive and save backups on the tablet’s removable mini SD card. I don’t save anything on the tablet’s internal drive.

In linux, you can easily encrypt both of these drives using luks or whatever. You have to enter a passphrase to mount the drive, and is a good idea if you’re traveling or have any state secrets on your thumb drive.

Recommendation: Velcro, for attaching the usb hub (and external battery) to the back of the tablet.

Also: I should mention that touchscreen functionality didn’t make it for my installation of Debian, but actually I prefer it this way. I don’t want to touch the screen, smear it up while I’m writing. Ubuntu 15.10 worked brilliantly — touch function worked when I tried it via live boot.

Also, the battery indicator doesn’t work. Not really an issue for me either, since I keep it connected to a power source.

Another note: If you decide to go with the same device I did, be warned! It’s a 64 bit processor but has a 32 bit bootloader. Installing or even booting a 64bit OS requires a 32 bit bootloader workaround, and sometimes the workaround requires more workarounds. In other words, be prepared to get really familiar with GRUB and BIOS/UEFI whatnot. I decided that since the device has 2gb RAM, there would be no harm in running a 32-bit OS and calling it good.

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Thoughts?

Why I am doing it all myself

I get asked sometimes why I do so much manual labor at my rural off-grid home.

Isn’t it hard?
Yes.

I mean, why dig a hole with a mattock and shovel rather than a small backhoe?
Yeah, that is a good question. Unfortunately, I don’t have a backhoe. Also, it would be impossible or nearly so to bring a backhoe into the spaces where we are digging: Narrow paths, hillsides with plants blocking the way.

Doesn’t it take forever?
Yes, my personal style of what can only be called ‘peasant labor’ is more time consuming than pretty much any other approach, but not always. I enjoy listening to the sounds of work or the sounds of an audiobook as I work. I have read more this way than I otherwise would have. Manual labor lends itself to listening to audiobooks. In that way, I make good use of time.

Some Reasons

1. Money
OK, maybe this is obvious. It is more affordable for me to do it myself. Also, my own particular non-standard approaches can be more affordable than the approaches most building contractors would like to take.

2. Intimacy?
There’s no other way to be so familiar with every square centimeter of a home and a piece of land than to be the person who is doing all the work. When I spread mulch, I have to be the one who spreads mulch. When I tug the garden hose across the field to water the lavender plants by hand (because the automated irrigation system is imperfect, because they all are, and particularly because I made this one), I have to trudge the slick-with-straw paths, but also, I get to trudge the slick-with-straw paths. I learn the land’s chunks and contours with my own feet. When possible, without shoes on. There’s nothing like the experience of knowing the way by heart.

3. Disposition
I have a DIY sort of disposition. By nature, I’m a strongly driven person. When I have a goal, and I believe in that goal, I want to see it through. The details of my goals are things that can’t be—uh, outsourced.

4. Whole-Hog Responsibility
It’s a holistic approach. I am the one with the idea, and I am the one seeing that idea through. I am responsible for its success and particulars, even those that fall outside my realm of expertise. Contrary to the “do a single thing, and do it well” philosophy, I have to be my own handiman. The downside to learning many trades well enough to get various jobs done is that I do not devote that time to mastering a single trade. I do not get to write or practice yoga as I saw through boards. However, for some people, and I think for writers in particular, it’s really really good to have a lot of general knowledge at a depth that is greater than average. Even though that means less butt-in-chair time, it brings more diversity of experience to my craft.

 

Installing Lovely Glass Bottle Solar Lights

I installed some nice skylights for our library using colored class bottles as solar light fixtures.

I have seen this done using plastic soda bottles, but I chose to use glass instead. I feel that glass will last longer and will not fade in sunlight.

It’s a pretty straightforward project if you have a thin roof (as below). If there is a great distance between roof and ceiling, you can use a ‘solar tube’ or similar to bring the light down to where you want it. I would imagine that painting the inside of aluminum flashing bright white would work well. You’ll still have colored light inside, but you won’t see the bottle. Depending on your aesthetics, that might be a plus. Solar light in general is a plus, so feel free to get creative and make it work. Nice interior light quality doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. It’s something many people can do themselves.

To do this, essentially, you cut a hole in the roof, insert the bottle, seal it (with caulk, etc) and waterproof it (pond liner).

Here’s what the bottles look like from underneath. Having a good mix of colors inside lends a rich feeling to the space.

bottle-lights

Step One.

Cut a hole. For these bail-top wine bottles, a 3 5/8″ hole saw worked perfectly.

firstlyStep Two.

Fit bottle into flashing. Here the flashing has a rubbery membrane that makes the whole process very simple. After inserting the bottle, I applied clear caulk to further seal it.

secondlyStep Three.

Put it in place, caulk around everything, caulk from underneath, and fill bottles with water.

thirdlyBe sure to fill the bottles with water — the presence of the fluid helps the bottles act like a lens.

If it freezes in your area, you’ll want to take necessary precautions to prevent the bottle-water from freezing and thereby breaking the bottle. Mineral oil or alcohol might be a good clear nonfreezing substitute.

Adding a bit of bleach to the water in each bottle is good to keep things clean and clear.

Enjoy the free sunlight!

 

A Single-Swing 13.5 foot Wooden Driveway Gate: Can It Be Done?

Yes, it can be done. It wasn’t even all that difficult to make. But it had me worried. I was concerned about the post, the hinges, and the gate itself. I hadn’t constructed a 13.5-foot single-swing wooden driveway gate before.IMG_2591

Our wooden driveway gate, made from redwood, most of it reclaimed from a dock that had been removed, spans 163 inches, or approximately 13 1/2 feet, or approximately 4.14 meters.

In the event that perhaps you might want to do something similar, here’s a brief rundown of how we built this gate.

Build the frame

I used 2×6 redwood boards to construct a nice sturdy frame. You have a lot of options for how you make your frame, and maybe some of those options would result in a sturdier and more lightweight frame than the one I have. Diagonal cross-bracing, for example, might be a nice choice.

One key element to my frame: Note how the top and bottom have a board running along horizontally, resulting in an L-shape. Those two boards do a lot of work to prevent the frame from sagging under its own weight, kind of like how a metal I-beam works to prevent torsion.

Dig the hole, set the post

I dug a 6 foot hole with a post hole digger. Interestingly, the first 18″ was the most difficult. Beyond that, it was fairly steady going, even when the hole was deeper than the post hole diggers.

I dropped a 10′ 6″x6″ douglas fir post down into the hole and, after making sure it was level, poured concrete around it. The concrete cured for a few days before we mounted the gate. It’s wood, and it’s in the ground, so someday the post will rot. I didn’t use pressure-treated wood because I do not like toxins, and someday even pressure-treated wood rots. A stout metal pole would be an excellent choice.

Mount frame to hinges and attach lath

We put the frame in place by sitting it on blocks. I made sure the gate was level and square. And then I installed the hinges.IMG_1810 IMG_1808

A good hinge is of obvious importance. I got the heaviest duty hinges that I could find.  The more hinges, the better. I was planning on getting five, but they only had three at the store. (I will go back later and pick up two more.) It works fine with three, but five will be far superior. When I mount the other two hinges, I will prop up the gate so that it’s in exactly the same position as when I installed these three hinges. Five hinges will result in a truly superb gate very resistant to sagging.IMG_1813

Look at that lovely gate.

IMG_2593 IMG_2592 11

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Solar & Propane Powered Outdoor Heated Shower

What’s not to love about taking a hot shower outdoors?IMG_1754

A cold shower is pretty straightforward. But a hot shower — that’s something else. To get hot water, you need a water heater of some kind. We opted for an on-demand propane water heater. For the on-demand water heater to work, we needed to boost the water pressure, so we needed a water pump. To power the water pump, we needed a battery bank. To keep the battery bank charged, we opted for a 45 watt photovoltaic panel and a charge controller. Most everything can be ordered from Amazon, though I recommend Real Goods for the solar equipment.IMG_1739

Maybe that all seems a little complicated. Maybe you want something simpler, something for occasional use. Here’s a brief rundown of some options to help you achieve your loveliest shower goals.IMG_1750

First, Other Options

There are other good options available for solar hot water. The most basic solution starts with the basic camp shower, which is, well, a black plastic bag with a spigot:

It’ll do the trick.

The irony with rudimentary solar hot water is that when you most want the water to be hot, it’s cold, and when you most want a cold shower, the water is scalding.

What About Solar Thermal?

Solar thermal is a great option because it eliminates the propane use. We didn’t go that route because it was a slightly more complicated system than we wanted.

Solar thermal systems use panels that water circulates through, heating up in the sun. They often make use of a really small pump to circulate the water into an insulated storage tank (you can repurpose an old water heater tank for this).

These panels are great. One potential downside is not having sufficient hot water storage so that you run out of hot water while you’re showering.

An ideal all-year setup would use solar thermal as a pre-heater, relying on propane as a backup. If you size the system correctly and get enough of those solar thermal panels (and a big well-insulated hot water tank), the propane heater would not be necessary. How to configure such a system would need to be based on how much your shower gets used, amount of sunshine, ambient temperature, and such. Much depends on your situation and your desire.

The Propane Heated Shower With Solar Pump

If your water source is already pressurized, you don’t need the solar cell or the water pump. You can simply connect your water line to the propane heater and it will work fine.IMG_1728

Here’s the shower we use:

As mentioned above, our water pressure was gravity-fed and so not high enough to get the propane shower unit to kick on. So we needed a pressure booster pump.


Most any 12volt pressure booster pump will work. This one is rated at 2.9gpm 50psi. It’s pretty quiet for a water pump. The noise is not unpleasant. Putting the pump in any sort of enclosure will significantly diminish the pump noise. Just don’t put it in the same container as the battery bank. That would be unwise.FullSizeRender

IMG_1760

IMG_1757

As a temporary thing in a good climate, you can use a really simple container (above) to keep the batteries and connections water-tight but vented. Be sure to connect a fuse between the pump’s positive wire and the battery connection.IMG_1758Here, the water pump is mounted on the outside of the battery bank. (Yes, those are stinging nettles.)

The Tweak: Hard-Wired Ignition

The shower’s little electric ignition thing is powered by a couple of D cell batteries. I removed the little enclosure where the D batteries go and hard-wired it to my battery bank. My battery bank is 12 volt, and so I connected a 3 volt DC-to-DC converter in between the battery bank and the shower. It works great, it’s always at max voltage and you never have to change batteries.
What’s a DC-to-DC converter? Lots of options here. I had a spare 12v cigarette lighter adapter kit that I set to 3v.

You could hard wire something like this:

Or you could use one of these:

You don’t need the little adapter plug. Just clip the end of the wire and connect via butt splice:

IMG_1727

It’s a lovely shower, and the water from the shower goes right into a shower garden.

No pipes. The water runs right off the slate through a concrete channel and into a small reed bed.IMG_1774

 

 

Be sure to only use good soaps (like Dr Bronners)

ALL-ONE!

DIY Chicken Coop Fly Trap

What follows are basic instructions for how to build a multi-purpose fly trap / chicken manure compost bin. It costs very little, and one of these traps should continue to function for a very long time.

FullSizeRender 9

There are two components: the screen trap and the bait box. A screen trap is excellent at catching flies, but it needs to be positioned over a source of bait.

We made a bait box that also serves as a compost bin for chicken manure. We are using chicken manure in our bait box, but you could use this trap with humanure or with any material that serves as fly bait.

Function

The basic idea of the trap is that flies are attracted to the material inside the box and can enter the box but can’t leave. The flies enter the box through little holes near the ground. Once inside, they enjoy the chicken manure as much as they’d like. When the flies are done enjoying the chicken manure, they exit the box through the circular opening in the top, which looks like an exit, but it’s a screen trap.

This works because it’s dark inside the box and the only real source of light is the screen trap overhead. Once the flies enter the screen trap and eventually die and dry out.

Why Not A Wet Trap?

Wet fly traps are great, but wet fly traps smell bad. This trap doesn’t stink at all. Plus, it gives the chicken poop time to mellow before adding it to a different compost pile or wherever.

Component 1: Screen Trap

We ordered screen traps from Rid-Max, but you can make your own if you want to. They’re not expensive:

 

Component 2: Bait Box

Basically, it’s a wooden box. And it’s for manure, so there’s no cause for being fancy. It needs to have four walls, a top that can be removed, and small entrance holes/slits near the base.

FullSizeRenderHere’s what the finished trap looks like.
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The top part is just a board that can be removed when you need to add manure to the box. Cut the hole to match the diameter of the Rid-Max (or your DIY custom) screen trap.

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Underneath the box is open to the ground for ease of cleaning/ manure removal.

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Flies enter through these conveniently-placed holes in the wood. (We used old weather-beaten plywood for this box, and nature has made these holes for us).

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For best results, the entrance holes should be near the bottom. That way, the flies will be more likely to fly overhead into the trap on their way out.

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Look at those happy, fly-free, free-range chickens.

Good luck! I think you’ll find this fly trap / bait box to be very helpful.