Using Amazon Boxes Instead of Newspaper to Start a Fire in Your Fireplace or Wood Stove

Kindling a fire used to be done with newspaper. After all, everyone has tons of old newspapers lying around, right? Not anymore! I don’t, anyway. We stopped taking a daily paper a while ago. You know what we have tons of? Amazon Prime boxes!

I once read an extension service report from … somewhere … that claimed that using strips of cardboard was the key to easy fire starting, and it’s true!

I used to use a lot of newspaper and just a little cardboard, but as my house became more and more of a paper-freeĀ  zone, I stopped hunting around for suitable scraps of newsprint and went to 100% cardboard. read more...

How Not to Have a Dam Failure

After the recent failure of the Oroville dam’s main spillway, the question I keep asking myself is, “Where did the engineers go to school?”

Back in 1889, the South Fork Dam broke after heavy rains, opening up like a zipper and flooding Johnstown, Pennsylvania, killing 2,209 people. The dam had overflowed, and dams fail catastrophically when this happens. Especially earth-fill dams.

In Johnstown, the dam had been designed and built properly, opening in 1853. It acted as a reservoir for a canal system. To prevent failure, it had three large iron pipes with valves at the bottom, allowing water to be be released in high volume at no risk. The main spillway, which gave an alternate path for surplus water from the dam when it was full, was nowhere near the earth-fill portion of the dam, but was blasted out of bedrock in the surrounding hill. read more...

Flyover States and the Election

I live in the country. I have a farm. I’ve spent most of my career in high-tech: I’ve lived in the city, too. So I’m fluent in two languages: urban and rural.

I rarely post here about politics, since politics doesn’t get the cows milked. And this isn’t about politics anyway: it’s about mindset. I’m just using the election as an example.

Take a look at the 2016 presidential election map, showing the results by county:

The Urban/Rural Divide

2016 Presidential Election by County
2016 Presidential Election by County

What we’re looking at here is not a division between Republicans and Democrats, but between rural and urban. The urban areas mostly voted Democrat; the rural ares mostly voted Republican. What’s up with that? read more...

FAQ: Free Range and Yarding for Chickens

1. What is Free Range?

There are three basic definitions of free range (as it applies to chickens). One is correct; two are bogus.

The correct definition of free range is:

Free-range poultry are, for practical purposes, unfenced, and are encouraged to spend most of their time outdoors, weather permitting.

watering-chickens-on-pastureFree-range poultry are often not fenced at all. When they are, the fences need to be distant from the birds. True free-range flocks are generally fed and watered outside. This encourages (in fact, forces) the birds to spend time outdoors and keeps the houses cleaner and drier. read more...

Save Money on Chicken Feed

How can you save money on chicken feed? Here are a few time-tested methods.

Can My Chickens Find All Their Feed Themselves?

Not really. In the old days, farms and kitchens were so wasteful, with so much grain spilled by the horses and milk cows, and so much garbage thrown out the back door (or, in town, the front door), thatĀ flocks of skinny chickens could survive without further attention.

With an increase in our understanding of sanitation and nutrition, opportunities for self-feeding flocks are few and far between.

And because we know about nutrition now, my theme today is: read more...