January 14th on the Farm

The previous night I’d opted to not set my alarm and instead rise with the sun. I didn’t account for the fact that it’s mid-winter in the Pacific Northwest, so there wasn’t enough light to wake me up until 8am. That’s terribly late if I’m planning to get anything done.

Fortified with a few cups of La LLave I headed out to get to work. The remains of the nursery building and the trash pile had been really bothering me yesterday so I opted to start there. Some of the bones of the old nursery building needed to be cut up and a bonfire pile built. In addition I wanted to consolidate the garbage piles. The pile on the far side of teh tracks is huge, but it’s also not visible from the road. The near pile is also sizable, but not as big as the far one. Since it won’t be until I get Mongo back up here that I’ll really be able to deal with the trash I’ve decided that I’ll store it all on the far side of the tracks. That should help to make the area where I park the RV look more presentable. Initially, just knocking down the old building looked good. Now to my eyes it won’t look “good” until the trash is gone.

Roadsidetrash

The first step was cutting up and removing the huge sheets of plastic that comprised
the original covering for the nursery building. As I was extracting those from the
mess a packrat popped out of his nice little home in there and scared the willies
out of me. I wasn’t quite prepared to have him running across my toes. It took a
surprisingly long time to get the plastic sheeting gone. By midday I was tired, in
need of a few other tools, and very hungry. I stopped for a break in the RV first
and tried to find my notes on the Culvert guy from the Railroad. I couldn’t find his
name or phone number anywhere. I then called my wife back in Phoenix to check to see
if I’d left those notes in Mongo.
So, we couldn’t find any evidence of the notes. So I had no way of contacting the
railroad. Then I went over my blog from November and realized exactly when the
fellow had called me. We then cross referenced that with the call logs on my cell
account and bingo! We found a number. With the number in hand I headed up to Sultan
to hit the local Ace hardware for a couple things I needed and grab lunch.
While I was waiting for lunch I was able to get a hold of the fellow from the
railroad. He informed me that they had been managing/monitoring the culvert, but
apparently my farm is beaver mecca. He told me he’d come on up to the farm. So I
finished my lunch and headed back.

Back down on the farm I looked up at the railroad track. I saw a work truck down
where the culvert is. I walked down to the truck and met the fellow in person. We
was down by the culvert trying to knock loose the plug from the beavers. The water
level was so high that his pole had to reach down three feet under water to get to
the plug. By the time I’d reached him he’d managed to get a chunk of it loose and I
could see a fair amount of water shooting out the other side of the tracks into the
river. As he worked he caught me up on what they’d been doing. They had removed the
culvert plug three or four times while I’d been gone. The massive pile of debris on
the side of the stream was obvious evidence of that. The fellow from the Department
of Beaver affairs had also been patrolling the farm and had removed six or seven
beavers.

He continued to work at the plug, but with the amount of water weight pressing
against it there was no way he would get more removed until some of the water had
flowed out. At this point he was also running out of track time. The railroad has a
maintenance window between train times, and it was about done for the day.
Thankfully he gave me a ride back up to my private crossing spot and saved me the
nearly mile walk. As he was dropping me off the Fellow from Beaver Affairs (some day
I need to learn the proper name, but Beaver Affairs sounds really funny to me)
called him. It turns out he’d been out to the farm multiple times and had actually
removed 13 beavers! It looks like this will be a continuing challenge until I can
fully establish myself on the land. Humans and animals, in combination with the
removal of tasty trees should eventually scare them off.

With permission from the railroad and the beaver guy, as well as the loan of the
beaver dam removal tool, I went to work on the dam close to the private crossing. In
short order I managed to cut a deep cleft into the dam. Water progressively pushed
out faster and faster until I had some issues balancing the tool against the flow of
water. With this section moving well I decided to go back to the culvert and see if
I could do any more damage. I should have known better.

drainedditch

I climbed down where the fellow from the railroad had been working. I could tell by
poking the special tool into the water that the culvert/plug was a good three feet
blow the water line. I poked and prodded, but wasn’t able to increase the water flow
that much. Despite the railroad fellow having much more experience I was convinced I
could do better. I decided to move from the right side of the culvert to the left. I
figured that since he hadn’t tried from that side he was obviously missing the
pressure point necessary to sent the whole lot out the pipe. I reached in and poked
and prodded. I felt a small portion give and the water flow increase. I knew at that
point that I’d found the solution. So I jammed the special tool back into the dam as
hard as I could and started giving it a vigorous shake. I knew that any moment
something was going to give. What I didn’t realize was that the thing to give was
the soil under my feet. Next thing I know I am rapidly sinking into the stream and
uselessly clutching at the dam removal tool.

When I hit thigh deep my brain finally kicked in and I clutched at the grass on the
bank. This helped keep me from sinking too much further. A wiggle and a scrabble
later and I’d managed to drag my sorry soaking self out of the stream. The knee high
rubber boots that had previously kept me high and dry now served as a pair of
swimming pools encasing my feet. No matter how many times I dumped them out I still
felt like I was floating. This is one of those times where I wasn’t actually filming
what I was doing and I have learned my lesson: film everything. I can only imagine
how many views me nearly drowning myself would garner online. I also bet there were
some fantastic expressions crossing my face at the time. Alas, all I have to
evidence the event is a rather soggy photo back at the RV after squelching nearly a
mile back to get high and dry.

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January 13th on the Farm

The first morning came early. After a few cups of coffee and time spent playing with the puppy it was time to help my mum finish packing the car and get ready to head out. With everything packed into her car we left my rental at the house and stopped by to see my sister. Grandma got a chance to say goodbye while I was saying hi to the grandkids and my sister. My sister let me know that she needed to head into town later that day and could give me a ride back up to Index. Orchestrating the RV move is a bit of a challenge with a rental car as I can only physically drive one vehicle at a time. Once I was reestablished back on the farm she’d give me a ride up to pick up the rental car so that I could bring that down.

Mum and I headed down the hill and stopped at the RV storage place. Good old Bertha was sitting there patiently waiting for me. We got her fired up and shifted my kit over to the RV. At this point my mum and I parted ways. She was hitting the road to head south, I was hitting the road to get to the bottom of the hill. Bertha’s developed a bit of a belt squeal when she’s cold, so I’ll have to look at that sometime in the near future. She and I waddled our way down to the farm (as waddled is the only way I can describe the experience of riding in this particular RV).

Once I got her down and plugged in it was time to start working. Since it was time to work I immediately took a break and went wandering on the property. I wanted to see how bad the flooding was, so I wandered down the fieldside track until I could go no further. I made it about halfway across the property. The flooding is really terrible. I had hoped that the Department of Beaver Affairs and the Railroad would have cleared the dams and the blocked culvert. It doesn’t appear that they have.

I crossed over the railroad tracks to survey the large riverside plot. Everything seemed in order over there. Since all of the deciduous leaves are down I can see a lot more “stuff” that wasn’t visible before. All I can say is that I don’t believe one skip from waste management will cut it, I may need two or three loads taken out of here.

On my previous trip I’d noted some concrete pads on one side of the cleared area. When this property was a nursery they had stored compost and wood chips on the pads. I keep my eyes on the free listings on Craigslist for the Snohomish area. The previous week there had been some free sheds/buildings available. While I wasn’t able to do anything in regards to those, I do know that some form of outbuildings are really required to make this farm effective. One of the goals on this trip is to clear these concrete pads to see what sort of foundation I have available to install sheds or metal buildings. If nothing else, there should be enough room to drop a shipping container or two.

While shoveling off the first pad my sister stopped in with the kids. I took the opportunity to take a break and head in to town with them. We had fun for a bit messing around in the supermarket while she got the shopping done. Then it was back up to Index to pick up the rental. Now I will have both the rental and Bertha in the same place.

The drive back to the farm led me past my realtor’s office. One of the items on my To-Do list this trip is to look at some possible house purchases. We definitely need proper living accommodations otherwise there will be five of us sharing this little RV in the summer. Not a situation I would be looking forward to. I saw her car at the office, so decided to stop in. Dawna (of Snohomes Realty) is a total hoot. We spent some time catching up while pulling up the relevant listings. Two of the properties are close to the farm and have five acres, the other listing is in downtown Sultan and while it doesn’t have land, it does have a piece of the property presently rented. We made plans to go look at the properties the next day.

Back down on the farm I realized that I was going to lose the light fast, so I opted to get as much of the concrete pads cleared as possible. The side benefit of clearing the pads is the ability to raise the soil level of the main portion of the farm. Even though it’ll compress down over time every little bit of good soil helps. By 5:15 pm I couldn’t see well enough to work any further. I tidied up, took a break, and then headed in to Monroe. I still needed to pick up some provisions (like dinner). A short stop at the local Goodwill had me set up with an extra camera tripod (which looks like it’s never been used) and a copy of Maverick on DVD.

The supermarket trip was basic essentials: milk, oj, etc. Then it was back up to the farm to settle in for the night and watch Maverick.

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January 12th on the Farm

We woke at 6 am and tossed my travel gear into the Explorer. The kids were still asleep, so we woke the eldest to keep an ear open for when the younger two awoke. At that point Tiffany and I headed off to the airport. Now, I’m taking an 8:30 Am flight from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, and normally I cut things much closer, but something told me I needed to be there the full two hours in advance. Getting the boarding pass was straightforward, but for some reason the security line was so long that it stretched far past where the line stops on a normal day. Apparently Sunday morning is a popular time to fly. I had no idea.

After finally getting through the line, where I really think they need to create a “I fly all the time and know what the hell I’m doing” lane, it was down to the plane. My flights routed me through Salt Lake City. The hills around Salt Lake are covered in snow and look particularly beautiful this time of year. I also learned that this particular airport is one of the few in the country that has post-security smoking areas. Seeing the thing was wierd. That last time I’d seen one of those was flying overseas to Scotland from Dulles airport on the East Coast.

Salt_Lake

When we hit the ground in Seattle we ran into a snag. A Chinese national had suffered some sort of medical problem and paramedics were necessary. I hope that person is doing ok. My other point of education for the day was that there are a lot of flights to China from Seattle. A good portion of my fellow passengers were connecting to a flight to China.

With that all sorted I picked up my rental car, a Hyundai Elantra, and headed out of Seattle. This time through the 405 was only mildly annoying. That’s a huge step up from almost any other time I’ve driven on the road. Monroe didn’t look any different from the last time I was here, and I started up the 2 to go to Index first. Driving the 2 past the farm gives a good bird’s eye view of the property as you crest a hill and see the land below. Through much of the parcel where I was planning to work I saw reflected light. There was water, lots of water! Basically 5 acres was looking more like a swimming pool than a field. I had planned on hiring in a field mower to mow that area, looks like that’s off the list for this trip.

Stopping off I checked out the damaged gate. On closer look I don’t believe that it was malicious damage. The bend in the gate is far too close to the post, and if someone were ramming through for access to the land it was totally the wrong angle. Based on the pitch of the driveway and the previous weather conditions I’m hazarding a guess that the damage was accidental from someone not being able to stop in time. It is still closeable, so I’m going to see if I can bodge it back together enough to last until the summer when I should have much better tools in hand.

Gate

The day was surprisingly cold, I think it was the combination of the rain and wind. Thanks to that, and having all of my warmer clothes in the RV, I opted to not stay too long at the farm and instead headed up to Index. Since it’s Sunday there were a lot of folks heading “down the hill.” Steven’s Pass is open for skiing and these are all folks from the city driving home after hitting the slopes. I stopped at the Sultan Bakery for a quick bite, having realized that there’d been nothing but Chex mix on the menu so far today.

Just before getting in to Index there was a small traffic jam. Some car had managed to get itself off the road and stuck in the muck. A truck was there helping to pull it out. I got to sit and have front row seats to the extrication which was nowhere near as exciting as I had hoped.Then it was over the bridge and into Index proper.

My mum had lost her long time doggie friend to cancer sometime between my last trip and the latest one. In the past week she’d acquired a two month old puppy. This dog is the cutest little brown butterball of a pup. I’ve not had the chance to play with a little puppy since Monk and Melba had been pups, which is 15 years ago. I rapidly relearned the whole spaz/nap/eat/spaz cycle as well as had a reintroduction to the razor sharp death that is puppy teeth. Still, it was tons of fun playing with little Matilda.

Timing, as they say, is everything. While I was travelling up to Seattle to spend time on the farm my mum was getting ready to head to Mexico. We had one evening of cross over time where we were both in the same place. So we spent the evening eating the last of the food in thr fridge, catching up, and playing with Matilda.

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Winter Seed Catalogs

The winter seed catalogs have been arriving in the post for the past week. There’s always a little cognitive dissonance when we get them here as it just doesn’t feel like the deep dark middle of winter when it’s sunny and 70 degrees out in Phoenix.

I love flipping through these catalogs, especially when they contain all sorts of esoteric and rare seeds for plants I’ve never grown, eaten or even seen. In addition to all of these plants there are always all sorts of gardening tools and goodies with which I am often temporarily convinced that make me a master gardener.

This year I’m buying seeds for both the house here in Phoenix as well as the farm in Seattle. With the multiple growing seasons we will be working with, as well as multiple climates, this is an excellent opportunity to try growing all sorts of new and exotic veggies. With this excuse in hand I’ve a long list of seeds to order. I’ve also decided to try a few new garden tools.

My favorite catalogs this year are from:

Bountiful Gardens (www.bountifulgardens.org)

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. (www.rareseeds.com)

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A Beginner’s Guide to Dehydrating Foods

Dehydrated items

Our pantry full of dehydrated goodies!

Whether you’re preparing for the end of the world, dealing with overabundance from your garden, or trying to find new ways to economize in the kitchen, you will find that dehydrating your own foods is not only fun, but a great way to simplify your life. For example, I’m a dad who works full time, three kids, an abundant garden, and a wife currently finishing up her university degree in Early Education. What does this mean? For us it means time is a luxury we can’t afford to waste and that anything that removes stress from our lives makes things so much better. That’s why we dehydrate our foods. We can maintain the quality of fresh foods without paying the price for all that nasty processing you get from supermarket goods.

So how do you get started?
Well, reading this is a good start. Beyond that you’re going to need a dehydrator and a means of storing your dehydrated goods.

How to pick a dehydrator:

Sometimes you have to work with what you can get your hands on. When I look at a new dehydrator I look for the following. Accurate temperature control and measurement, overall energy efficiency, ease of cleaning, and durability. Some dehydrators have a single default temperature, others have a dial to set the temperature higher or lower, finally some have formal thermostats on them that allow you to set a specific temperature. The most important piece here is the accuracy of your temperature. Regardless of type of temperature control on your dehydrator, it is recommended that you turn it on and put a known thermometer inside. If the unit is a single temperature model, you’ll be able to identify what temperature it runs at. If there’s an adjustable thermostat you can determine the temperature ranges for the unit. If actual temperatures are listed on the dial you can validate whether it’s accurate or not. Once you understand how your dehydrator works you can start dehydrating!

Dehydrators we recommend:

How to start storing your dehydrated goods:

Here’s the truth, dehydrating the food was the easy part. Now you have to figure out how to store it without it going bad. There’s no point in putting all the effort into dehydrating foods only to have them go bad while sitting on the shelf. The biggest enemies to your dehydrated goods are moisture, oxygen, heat and light. Moisture will cause foods to rot (just like your old veggies do in the fridge crisper today. Oxygen will degrade the foods. Technically it causes the food to oxidize. Heat reduces the time any food will remain good. Light, particularly UV light, will eventually break down any dehydrated food. When you start to think about storing your dehydrated goods you will need to take into account how long you’ll be keeping them. We’ll discuss various options below based on the duration of storage.

1 Day to 1 Month:

The least expensive method to store your dehydrated food is a Ziploc type storage bag. While these are cheap and easy, they are also the least effective mechanisms for storing dehydrated foods. At best you’ll be able to maintain foods like this for one month at the most. Another option is storing it in a jar. For my short term items I like to save things like mayonnaise jars. It keeps them out of the landfill, plus you’ve already paid for the jar when buying the mayonnaise so why not get the maximum amount of use out of it? Another type of jar we frequently use are canning jars. Now, the 1 day to 1 month range on these storage mechanisms is drastically affected by where you live. If you life in a high heat, high humidity area (like the Southeastern part of the United States) the length of time you can maintain using this method will be exceptionally short. By contrast, if you lived in Antarctica where the humidity and temperature is really low you could theoretically maintain this method for years. At any rate, this is short term only, I recommend it only for things you’re going to use immediately or for temporary storage before creating meals in a jar.

We recommend wide mouth canning jars and plastic screw on lids:

 

1 Month to 1 year:

Here again the level of expense for storage can vary dramatically. But, much of this cost depends on how much you dehydrate. For the beginning dehydrator the most cost effective storage mechanism is to use glass canning jars with fresh lids. When you store away your items in a jar you will need to add Oxygen Absorbers. Oxygen Absorbers are small packets that will remove the oxygen from any air that exists in the jar. Not only does this keep oxygen from breaking down your dehydrated goods, but it will also help to pull remaining moisture from the foods and create a vacuum seal on the jar to keep anything from getting in. When you store your jars away you will want to put them in a cool, dry, dark place. The cooler, darker and drier, the longer your food will last.

The more expensive path is to buy a vacuum sealer. With a vacuum sealer you are able to vacuum seal special bags. Using this tool will draw out a significant portion of the air from your bag of dried food. Keep in mind that a vacuum sealer cannot remove all of the oxygen from a bag. You will need to exercise some caution on what goes in to the vacuum bags. Anything with sharp edges, for example hamburger rock, will eventually poke holes in the bag and it will lose it’s vacuum. Some vacuum sealers also have jar attachments for canning jars. These allow you to vacuum seal the jar using the sealer and thus avoid needing the oxygen absorber.

The interesting flip side of this is that the more items you dehydrate and store the economics of these processes flip. With large volumes the initial cost of the vacuum sealer is offset by the cost of the volume of Oxygen Absorbers / jars necessary to store the food. I recommend starting out with the Jar and OA (oxygen Absorber) route and then save up for vacuum sealer.

Recommended items:

1 year to 30 years:

Yes, believe it or not it is possible to store dehydrated goods for up to 30 years. It requires a lot of work and some extra expense. From my perspective I recommend this for periods of time ranging from 6 months to a few years. I would much rather rotate an inventory of dried goods in shorter cycles than hope and pray that I did something correctly 30 years after the fact.

To store for extended periods of time you need to ensure you account for the big four destroyers (moisture, heat, oxygen and light). To account for moisture and oxygen it’s easiest to use a vacuum sealer with oxygen absorbers. The vacuum sealer removes the predominance of the oxygen from the package, the oxygen absorbers remove the rest. Next you need to account for exposure to light. You can protect these vacuum sealed bags away from UV light by placing them within larger Mylar bags (same material the fancy foil balloons are made from) or by placing it inside of food grade buckets. For the anal retentive among us the preferred method is in sealed Mylar and then placed in a bucket with a lid. Finally, your bucket of goodies should be stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.

Recommended items:

So where do I get all this stuff?

Well, you can buy just about anything off of the Internet. Online, Amazon.com is a very good source for all your dehydrating needs. We’ve included links to recommended items on Amazon throughout the article. Locally you’re most likely to find these items at a bigger Walmart of a good sized hunting/fishing place like Bass Pro Shops. Items like canning jars and vacuum sealers are far more mainstream and you’ll find many places to buy them locally. For example I can get jars at my local supermarket as well as vacuum seal bags. But, if you’re on a budget, and let’s be honest, we’re ALL on a budget, then you’re much better off snooping around for good deals on the more expensive items. Dehydrators and Vacuum sealers are something that I see frequently listed on Craigslist, E-bay or at thrift stores and yard sales. Just keep in mind, when buying from these sources, that you make sure the items work before handing over your cash.

With your dehydrator and a few other items you can quickly and easily start dehydrating. Before you know it you’ll have full meals in a jar prepared as well as stockpiles of easy to use essentials that will save you from having to spend at the market each week.

Further resources and recommended reading:
National Center for Home Food Preservation – http://nchfp.uga.edu/

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Setting up a compost bin!

The City of Tempe (where I live) recently started recycling old trash bins into recycling bins. Since they were offering them free I took the opportunity to request one and use it to show you how we like to set up our compost bins!

Posted in Gardening, Permaculture, Recycling, Video | Leave a comment

Organically Controlling Pests with Diatomaceous Earth and Dish Soap

In this video I share our method of using Organic food-grade Diatomaceous Earth and dish soap to keep pests out of the garden!

Posted in Gardening, Insects, Video | Leave a comment

How to make a TARDIS (Dr. Who) out of a refrigerator box!

Everyone in my family is obsessed with Dr. Who. It’s all my fault and I take full credit for it. My boy, Jensen, decided to go as the Eleventh Doctor. My daughter decided she wanted to be a Weeping Angel. My wife has much nicer legs than I, so she ended up going as Amy Pond. So, that left me with a few choices. I’d gone as a Cyberman last year, I didn’t think I could pull off Rory, and if I tried to go as a Dalek I’d be out boffering and bodging in my garage for the next decade trying to make a perfect Dalek. Well, the doctor never goes anywhere without his TARDIS, so I figured that would be my costume! (now, for the anal retentive out there it’s not a perfectly accurate TARDIS, it’s what I could bodge together in a couple nights before Halloween.)

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Step 1, acquire a large  refrigerator box.

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I used some painter’s tape to hold the flaps together so I could get it into box form.

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Now, here at OverEngineering Is Us we couldn’t just leave the box alone. Here I am measuring the first vertical piece of the internal framing for the TARDIS.

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Using a square the measure is transferred over to three more 2″X2″X8′ pieces.

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A circular saw makes short work of the cuts.

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With the vertical pieces in place it’s time to measure the cross pieces. Now, box dimensions and lumber dimensions are a little funky. Since this doesn’t have to *actually* travel through space and time I cheat and use the box and lumber to make the measurements.

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Dry 2″X2″s are  very dry and easy to crack. Here I’m predrilling the upper two screw holes on the long vertical piece.

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The bottom predrills are further in from the bottom of the lumber. This is to account for the height of the casters we will install later.

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Start the screws into the framing. I use liquid dish soap as a lubricant for the screws. This will also help keep the screws from cracking the wood.

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We’ve now got one side of the framing tied together. Repeat this to create a second side piece.

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To get a measure of the necessary length of the cross braces I have put both side frames into the refrigerator box. This time I will measure the distance which will need to be spanned (from the top of the framing to the top of the box) with a tape measure.

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Use the square to make a proper cut line on the 2″X4″ cross braces.

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Then cut them down with the circular saw. You will need to end up with 4 identical pieces.

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Again, predrill pilot holes. and lubricate the screws with dish soap.

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Here you can see my assistant Tanith helping to steady the structure while I finish screwing it together.

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Ta-Da! I’m in a box!

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My measurements turned out to be more exact than I planned. The tolerance was so tight that I couldn’t just slide the box over the frame. Instead I had to pop it open at the seam and then wrap it around the framing.

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I used a staple gun to attach the cardboard box to the frame. Independently neither structure is particularly stable, but together they make a strong TARDIS.

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I had to add some cleats to the framing at the bottom to properly mount the casters. Now this is where I have to admit to a personal problem I have. Despite knowing that I tend to underestimate the size of the caster I will need in terms of wheel diameter I still persist in always buying ones that are too small. In hindsight I would have chosen casters with wheels at least twice the diameter.

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Now the TARDIS structure is built, casters and all. Now it’s time to start making it look like a TARDIS.

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First I measured out and straight-lined where I wanted the doors to be.

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Here you can see them cut. Another hindsight point. If I had to do it again I would do this *after* painting the TARDIS.

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The box had a couple holes cut in it. I made cardboard patches and taped them in place from the inside.

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Here Tanith has started painting the exterior TARDIS blue. She did the roller work while I followed with a cut brush doing edges and imperfections.

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While waiting for the paint to dry I opted to wire up the light on the top of the TARDIS. Here you can see the supplies. The circuit consists of a 12 volt battery, a headlight, a plunger switch, some red and black primary wire and a quart sized Mason jar.

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First step was to crimp on the correct connectors for the items I was connecting to. This included a 12-volt battery, a car headlight, and a plunger switch.

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The red lead runs directly from the battery to the headlight.

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I needed to be able to mount the leadlight to the mason jar. I used a small hole drill that matched up with the diameter of the headlight and cut a hole through a canning jar lid.

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A copious amount of JB Weld firmly attached the headlight to the jar lid. Here the jar  is fully assembled: jar, lid and ring.

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With the paint dry on the TARDIS it was time to start adding the accents. Right now it just looks like a big blue box. I used painter’s tape to mask off a rectangular area at the top and paint it black. This is where the “POLICE PUBLIC CALL BOX” text will go.

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A little research and fiddling got me the correct font for the text. The font is Gill Sans MT. I printed the text as large as possible to fit the space on the side of the box, and within the limitations of my printer. (Tip, use A4 paper)

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To make the template to go on the side I then used some spray adhesive to mount the printouts on some thin cardboard.

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Now, this is frustratingly fiddly. You need to trim each letter carefully out of the stencil (if I had to do this again, and I had more time, I would have adhesive vinyl text made instead.

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We don’t want the black, we do need all of the white, so we’ll have to carefully trim the center of the O as well.

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There are too many closed loop letters in the text. This took me a while to do.

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Then, once trimmed, I rammed a brad (pushpins or thumbtacks would possibly work better) through each one so that I could stick them to the TARDIS.

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Here you see the template appropriately applied to the side of the TARDIS. I originally tried spray painting the text, but a floppy cardboard template on a floppy cardboard TARDIS meant that it turned into a big mess. I ended up having to repaint the black and then steal some brushes from the kid’s art sets and paint it into the stencil by hand.

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Two coats later!

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A quick search of the internet provided a PDF version of the door sign. I printed that out and will attach it with spray adhesive.

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The sides of the TARDIS are paneled. To simulate the paneled sides I took a coffe can and mixed the black and TARDIS blue paint to make a shade darker version that, when painted on would help give the illusion of paneling.

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Using some more thin cardboard I cut a template of the size of panel I wanted. I used this flat brush to ensure that the width of the painted insets remained uniform as possible around the template.

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The TARDIS has white “windows” all the way around in the top panel. Using a small straightedge, a sharpie and a knife I cut out the windows on the front and back of the TARDIS.

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Here you can see the window cut outs removed from the back of the TARDIS.

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Using from fiberglass window screen I cut down pieces to go on the interior of the windows. I used white spray paint on them. When spraying on to mesh you’ll get the best results spraying from a low angle.

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Seal all is one of my favorite adhesives. I donned nitrile gloves, applied the seal all around the interior “window frame” and then pressed the windows screen into it.

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With the window screen in place I can easily see out of the front and the back of the TARDIS.

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On the sides I quickly mocked up with windows with some white paint. It’s a little sloppy as I finished this at 4pm on Halloween only an hour before kids would start showing up at the house. After searching the internet I found various TARDIS sound effects as well as the theme song to Doctor Who. I downloaded them to my phone, and then used an audio out line to connect my phone to a boom box I stashed in the TARDIS. With that and the light in place I could play the TARDIS sound while making the light go on and off!

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Here is my boy Jensen in his 11th Doctor costume. He is so proud of his Fez, Bow Tie and Mop that we still have trouble getting him to change out of them a month later. Thanks to my work making the TARDIS sturdy, it now resides on our back patio and is his new “playhouse” where he makes up all sorts of adventures for himself!

 

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November 7th on the Farm

Today was my “Off day.” I try to squeeze one of these days in during each trip as an
opportunity for my terribly out of shape self to rest a bit as well as take care of
anything off farm. Since I don’t have traditional transportation this trip as I flew
up It was also a day to spend running errands with my Mum, which is something that
we always wind up having fun doing.

Each trip to the farm brings with it the realizations that there are things I need
that I wsn’t aware that I needed. today’s trip included a run to Harbor Freight to
pick up a drill, sawzall and big shovel. While I’d had the first two tools with me
on the last trip they returned with me to Phoenix and so were no longer available to
use. The big shovel was something that I had wanted to pick up on my last trip, but
since I had no immediate need for it then I left it for later.

In addition to these tools, I had determined that there were two other tools I was
in serious need of. It’s funny, these are the sorts of tools that you never notice
you use, until they aren’t available to you. The first was a coffee travel mug. The
second was a little boom box to play music. It wasn’t until I was out working for a
couple days until I realized how much I missed having these two “tools.” I had been
bringing my coffee outside in a regular coffee mug, but the cool temperatures mean
that the cup of coffee is ice cold before I stop to take my first coffee break.

But it was the lack of music that really hit me, and I feel stupid for not having
thought of it earlier. Every time I go to do some task, whether it’s working on the
gardens, fixing a car, or repairing anything the first two tools on site have always
been my coffee and my music. But, having not had them available this week, it has
made me realize that it’s not a hammer, spanner or drill that is my most used tool,
but it is these items.

A trip to the local goodwill found me buying a nice travel mug as well as an extra
pair of jeans and a couple other “nice to have” goodies like a DVD of four different
Jackie Chan movies. Then it was off to the local extreme super market where I found
a little boom box, batteries, and the necessary cable to connect my ipod. While we
were out we also had breakfast at Steve’s All American Grill in Monroe (which is now
my favorite place for what I call good old home cookin’) and there were a number of
other places we stopped at and just had a generally good time looking at stuff.

Mid-afternoon saw a return to the farm. the plan was to later meet up with my
friends Cynthia and Josh for supper back at the All-American Grill and meet some
other local folks they thought I’d get along with well. So, I set to unpackaging my
new goodies and getting them sorted away in the RV. I’m always amazed by the amount
of unnecessary packaging that comes with things that we purchase. While upacking and
setting everything up I sort into two piles, plastic and paper/cardboard. The
paper/coardboard pile is valuable here as it’s additional material to help me get my
brush brun piles going, particularly when it’s wet. The plastic, on the other hand,
is a burden. I don’t have recycling capabilities at the moment, and I won’t burn it
because of the noxious chemicals it relases into the air. So, for now, it’s bundled
all up and added to the debris pile that will eventually have to be toted away from
the farm. I really hate doing this and it makes me upset to create all this
additional and unnecessary waste.

With a little extra time to kill thanks to traffic and the day’s miserable cold rain
I opted to try reading the book I’d picked up in the airport. It’s a historical book
about 1775, the under appreciated year leading up to the revolutionary war. It
definitely looks like it will be good, but sitting in a warm place with music and
the patter of rain made it more of a sleepy time read, and I basically nodded off
every five minutes until Cynthia and Josh showed up.

Dinner was great. I had the best chicken fried steak I’ve had since my friend
Brandon’s mom use to make it for me in Texas. It’s still not as good as hers, but it
was mighty darned tasty. The new folks I met were great, and we had a grand old time
just talking around the table and eating supper. I’m really glad we got introduced
as I now have some new friends up here and they live just down the road from the
farm.

Full of supper and tired I settled back down in the RV and put on the Jackie Chan
dvd I’d found earilier in the day.

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November 6th on the Farm

I turned off the alarm and slept in this morning. With so much effort going into
labor I figured another hour or two wouldn’t hurt anything. The thicket on the
western side of the property is an odd amalgam of larger diameter trees, small
saplings, grasses, blackberries, old construction and general debris. Getting
through this area from a clearing perspective is very slow going.

I spent most of the day working through the area with shears getting everything that
was too small for a chainsaw. The amount of old nursery structures I uncovered was
suprising. In one area I found a two foot tall stone wall, at the other end I found
these odd large square wooden boxes made of 4″ X 4″ and lined with the rubber pond
material. I have five of these sitting there completely full of water. We’ve
speculated as to what these were used for and have still not come up with a solid
idea. They may have been used to display aquatic plants, they may have held koi,
they might have been water storage for watering other plants, I just haven’t figured
out, and will likely never know what they were used for. I do find the idea novel
and we may try to re-engineer them a bit as watering stations for livestock.

Near mid-day a series of maintenance vehicles filed past on the railroad tracks. The
gross number oand variations of configurations of these vehicles was fascinating. At
one point there were a series of these down at the far end of the farm working on
the rail road tracks. I had contacted, via email, the north western community
support representative from the railroad, so I had wondered if erhaps they were
clearing the culvert. I decided, at any rate, to take a break from land clearing and
walk down the tracks to see what they were up to.

The team was working on the tracks themselves, adjusting rails, resetting spikes,
etc. So, they weren’t there for my culvert. I decided to talk to the fellow in the
lead vehicle and ask him what I should do to report the blocked culvert. I’ve found
over the years that it’s easiest to work directly with the people who do the job,
rather than to go through executives, community support people, etc. People who get
the job done will always know how to get your item resolved, and you know for
certain that if they can’t tell you how to solve the problem then noone will.

He gave me a name and number of someone in the maintenance crews department to
contact. We tried contacting him right then, but he didn’t answer and his voicemail
was full. This is not a good sign. I went back to work clearing brush and exploring
the property.

Eventually I tried calling the fellow again. This time I got through, explained the
problem, and talked to him for a few minutes. It turns out that he wasn’t
responsible for culverts & beaver dams, but he gave me the name and number of the
correct guy to call. Then I called this third resource and left a message.

My mum and I had decided in advance that the following day, thanks to the weather
forecast, was going to be my “fart-around day” where we would run errands and just
take a break from the labor on the land. She popped down to the farm late int he
afternoon and then we headed up to her house in Index. I refer to these nights, a
warm bed, hot meal and seeing other folks as my “Thoreau visit’s Emerson” nights.
Despite what Thoreau wrote in Walden, when he was cold, wet, tired, etc. he would
pack it up and head over to Emerson’s house for a hot meal and a warm bed.

During the drive up to Index the fellow from th erailroad called me back. We talked
for a few minutes about the flooding issues and he arranged to have one of his
Bridge and Culvert inspectors be sent out the following day to review the issues. We
finished the night with a big family supper with my Mum as well as my sister and her
family. Then we watched a great documentary on Phil Ochs and it was off to bed.

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