Category: Housing

Gift of water from the sky



We finally had 2 days of beautiful cooling rain after living for weeks in the scortching smoky shadows of a devistating forest fire season affecting all of western Canada, and a drought which extends all the way down to California. I have been coming up with ways to save and reuse water, keeping the gardens and friut trees watered at the same time. People who live in an area with some of the most generous rainfall in Canada normally do not have to think about such things, but even rainforests have their dry seasons. Even the city of Toffino has water shortages sometimes.

The problem is, when people are used to seeing heavy rainfall regularly, they don’t prepare for times when it dissapears from the sky for months on end.

I grew up in the praries. Most houses had 45 gallon drums at the end of their downspouts. This water was used for watering gardens. Here on the west coast, blue and white plastic barrels regularly wash up on the beaches intact. I am surprised to see how few of them are being used to collect and store rainwater. All you have to do is install a through hull fitting at the bottom of the aproximate size of a garden hose, a short length of hose and a valve at the end to convinently fill your buckets and watering cans. You put a fitted screen over the top of the barrel, and some tight fitting plastic for when its full to stop both mosquitos and evaporation.

In this particularly dry summer, I have not had to skimp too much on bathing, providing I re use the water. Since I use non toxic bathing and cleaning products, this does not add anything nasty to my gardens and plants. I use soap alternitives, such as the coconut oil scrub and epsom salts scrub I make and sell at our local farmers market. Even these are used in small amounts. I clean the tub out after with baking soda, which is also not harmful if some traces of it end up in my garden.

Many old houses in the country that I grew up around had a sink drain straight out the wall from their kitchen to a flower and herb bed that was directly watered with the day’s dishwater. People moved their washing machines outside during the summer months, so the laundry water watered their lawn and shrubs. People also had cisterns to store water when it was plentiful and deep ponds in their yards, called a “dugout” that collected water for irrgiating crops. People involved in growing things on the often dry praries appreciated rain for the gift that it is and did not take it for granted.

Here, our community garden is watered out of a well, and there have been restrictions on its use since the end of May. My action of collecting rainwater in a garbage can half dug into the ground in the center of my plot was once a controverstial action that my neighbors complained about. Now its absolutly essential to the well being of my food plants to supplement the limited watering we are allowed from the hoses every couple of days. I irrigate individual squash and tomato plants with 2liter plastic cider bottles, with a pinhole in the bottom and the lid screwed on loosly. Or I buy plant watering spikes to screw on where the lid goes. 5 gallon buckets with a through hull, hose barb, valve and short lengths of soaker hose can be used to keep raised beds watered and productive using captured reused water from your household. Lush gardens and plant life need not become a thing of the past in a dry summer providing it uses water that was just destined to go down the drain anyway, into septic or sewer pipes.

Get Rid of Rodents without Harming their Preditors

 We all want to be rat free in our home life, but we don’t want to harm the most magestic birds of prey that grace our skies with their beautiful presence.

In the Homegrown adventure, sometimes you may have to deal with house guests that are not welcome and not invited. You know the type, the visitor who moves in with you, hoping their presence will go undetected until they start wrecking your belongings, eating your food, waking you up at night, and making a mess. They may even make you sick or kill you, they may accidentally cause fires and floods to your home. I am taking about our little buddies here, the rodents. Like a nemesis pet gone amok, the presence of rodents makes us explore our cruel side, even if we believe in being humane to animals.

The temptation is there to do anything, whatever it takes to get rid of the little bastards. This is where we must think carefully. Rodents exist for a reason, even the really ugly and nasty ones. They exist to provide food to the majestic and culturally iconic birds of prey, such as eagles, hawks and owls. They provide hours of entertainment for cats and dogs, and the occasional snack. There are hundreds of animals who depend on the rodent population for their day to day food supply, and that is why it is unwise to poison them.

However, using a fake poison can rid your home of the unwanted pests without harming them or their predators. I am talking about getting a restaurant supply sized bag of cyanne pepper, the hottest and strongest you can get, and laying down a 2 inch wide strip of it outside of any holes or obvious rodent walkways and trails. Their noses will sting, they will become afraid and perceive that they are being poisoned, which will cause them to leave the area. They will walk through it and lick their paws, and experience cyanne pepper in their mouths, which gives them the idea that this is not a place to live or eat in. Which gets them out of your house, sheds or areas that they are causing problems in. When a rodent becomes sick or suffers averse effects of a substance, the tendancy is for the animal to go outside. It may be less aware of its surroundings, and an easier target for its preditors. This is how commercially avaialble rodent poisons end up killing your beloved pets and helpful preditors who would keep the rodent populations down if warfrin wasn’t also killing them off in a secondary posioning effect.

Next step up is the scaring device. If you have 110 plugs available, get some sonic deterrents, they put out a high pitched sound that humans and pets are not bothered by, but is unbearable to rodents. (unless of course, your pet is one of the small rodents closely related to mice and rats, then the sonic device will tourture your pet. The rats and mice can leave the premisis, in fact, that’s why your doing this, to get them to go.)

You can make a home made live trap with a large garbage can. Put a stick across the top of it, a thin and flimsy little stick. Put a can with peanut butter smeared on it on the stick, and a ramp to the rim of the garbage can. The rat or mouse walks out onto the stick attracted by the peanut butter and then the can tips them into the bucket. In the bottom of the bucket, they will squeak, attracting their buddies to come and see what is happening. The end result is you have a garbage can with all the rats or mice in the place inside it, live. You can do whatever you want with them. Relocate them to uninhabited areas, or to your local politicians office for natures very own file shredder. Should you want a large supply of rats and mice, here’s how to get them. If you don’t want to deal with live rodents, just put 12 inches of water in the bottom of the garbage can.

There are the usual array of live traps and snap traps available that are not poisonous to rodent’s predators as well, but the fake poison of cyanne pepper and the sonic scarers work really well. The garbage can trap does too.




Build a small Woodstove for under 50$

Small Wood Stove for under 50$

A guy named Ricky who lived at the Res dock in Campbell River showed me how to make this tiny wood stove out of a stock pot. It was the handiest thing. It cost less than 50$ and ended up being the main source of heat I had for the first winter on my ferro cement sail boat.

During the first winter I lived on Cheng Shi, there was a terrible hurricane force storm in early November, that tipped over the float with the fuel dock on it.
Unfortunately I was heating with my diesel stove that winter… Suddenly there was no diesel available. The dock however, was being replanked and there were dry wood scraps all over the place. The stock pot stove proved itself to be more than capable of heating a 34 foot cement hull boat. If the right fuel was carefully chosen, the fire could be coaxed into burning all night.

Here are some important things to consider when building the stock pot stove:

You use the lid for the bottom. You need to fill it up with 2 inches of gravel and sand, scooped from a beach or wherever. This stops the fire from burning into your table or shelf where you install it.

You need to bolt it down with U bolts through the stock pot handles. The thin stainless steel can get red hot and pop and shudder. This will be dangerous unless the stove is bolted down.

It is best to mount it on metal or cement board for added protection, though Ricky just had his set up on a table in the galley.

You need a bigger piece of sheet metal for the door. It needs to overlap the hole. You make the handle and notches out of the piece you cut out for the door, cut in half. This is essentially your damper which controls the air to your fire.

If you use 3 “ drier vent for the stove pipe, you must burn it outdoors first, because the galvinized coating is poisonous, but it burns off in one or two hot fires.

You need to get a 3” fitting with an all around flange and fasten it over the hole with stove cement. You may need to get this made for you by someone who welds. This needs to be sealed completely or the stove may smoke. You can use high temp silicone or stove cement, even muffler tape to accomplish this.

You need to tape over the edges with silver, metal tape. Everything will be deathly sharp. You also need to tape over any places where the pipes join.

The stainless steel will heat up quickly and heat your space quickly, however it will not hold the heat. It will go cold the second the fire is out. A good idea is to surround the stove with bricks, rocks, cast iron, whatever you can that will hold the heat.

Although the surface area is tiny, this is a good wood stove to cook on due to its ability to heat up fast.

A stovetop fan will improve its heating ability greatly by circulating the hot air.

woodstove made from stainless steel stock pot

woodstove made from stainless steel stock pot

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