Saturday, February 21, 2015

A new low

I haven't talked much about the composting toilet I have been using for the last three years. I am using the lovable loo setup as described in the excellent book "The Humanure Handbook". The book is an well researched and detailed why and how to book that should allay any fears about germs and the general eww factor. Anyone serious about homesteading sustainably, and trying to minimize water and purchased fertilizer use needs to get over it and switch to this system.

We only moved here permanently this past July, but I would use it every time we were up here on weekends before our move. It now fills up considerably faster, but is still out in the unheated garage, pending any break in negotiations with my wife.

So, it was -14 F last night, and still well below zero when I had to answer nature's call this morning. The toilet itself is fine, with a regular toilet seat like anyone might use, but the rest of the amenities are rather Spartan. There is no magazine rack, but be assured I would not have chosen any reading material this morning anyway. A new low for me. Got me to thinking about the millions of people in the past that had no heated bathrooms. Both the more recent past when outhouses were the norm, and further back when indigenous folk had not even that. ( What DID they do before Sears catalogues???) We are such wimps. Here is the "throne".

The key to this system is access to lots of sawdust or other fine cellulosic material to get the carbon nitrogen balance right, and of course to cover each deposit to alleviate odors and risk of flies.  Since there are a lot of small Amish sawmills in the area, this was easy for me. For $5, I got enough hardwood sawdust that it should last me for two or three years, and I could probably have got it for free with a little searching.
This spring will be the third year of the three year rotation described in the book, so I'll be putting the first batch on the garden soon.

Other news: The last of our Butternut squash in the root cellar finally started showing signs a couple weeks ago that we needed to cook it up quick. Here is the last batch coming out of the oven. The potatoes are storing really well, but the garlic is starting to soften up a bit and show a few sprouts. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Wood splitter's elbow

I've been thinking about a common term lately; Tennis elbow.
Lateral Epicondylitis is the medical term, and wikipedia says it was first "described" in 1873. I'm willing to bet that while it may have been first mentioned in some medical journal or other paper of record then, plenty of people had described it prior to that, and in pretty negative terms, if only to their friends. 

In reading about all the types of repetitive motion and trauma that can cause it, I think the number of cases caused by tennis may be a minority, and propose that the name should be changed to one more general, or maybe to one of a more pragmatic endeavor than tennis. 

Like, for example, splitting wood, which is how I got mine. For the record, this condition has been on my mind since late October, when I split wood for a good part of the day. In my case, there was stupidity and stubbornness in addition to repetitive motion. 

I know I am still getting in to shape after many years in a desk job, and I am not as young as I was when I could get away with weekend warrior crap. But I also take it personal when a knotty hunk of wood does not yield to a couple sound blows, and so keep whaling at it till I win, with increasing force as required. 

While we had not moved here till this summer, I did come up as often as possible, and again, cram as much work in to a weekend as possible. A couple years ago, I got the same pain from digging post holes. It took 5 or 6 months to fade, and this time looks to be easily as long.

For all you homesteaders and hobby farmers out there, or anyone prone to taking tools in hand and swinging them for long stretches, I suggest you don't tell anyone you've got tennis elbow, that just doesn't send the right message. I plan to call my affliction wood splitter's elbow.

Here is a shot of the wood storage I cobbled together from project leftovers.  ( photo is prior to splitting some of the wood) As of this writing, it is empty. I have some more wood stored in another location under weather protection, but we are in mid February, and it looks like we  will just squeak by this winter.

Next fall, I plan to start earlier, and pace myself, as wood splitter's elbow is no fun.