Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Taking some time off

Hey Guys,

Just a short posting to let you all know that things are going ok. We've opted since we're comfortable to take some time out of our schedule to just kick back and relax a little. Since the Days are short, and it's been a little chilly, we're not exactly in the heart of construction season anyway. Although saying that we've been in positive digits on temperatures for a couple of weeks at least, and we have a rather heavy snow build up in comparison to our two previous years.

Anyway this is just a short notice to let you know we're doing fine, and not to worry. Happy belated Thanksgiving, and hope you and your families have a great holiday season.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Warm and Toasty

We started to move into the cabin this past Friday once it became apparent that the snow wasn't likely to stop. It's been sooooo nice sleeping in a warm, dry and level place again!! We've been scurrying around moving the essentials from the tent with the truck and ATV, and getting rudimentary utilities set up down here at the cabin. Got the battery bank and inverter moved (ow ow ow - pulled muscles!!!) and the electrical panel with a couple circuits wired so we could get the satellite dish mounted and internet back online.

We'll be rushing around the next few days to get the rest of the electrical wired and our water tank/plumbing sorted ahead of the forecasted winter storms headed our way. Once that's done and we can organize the living space so we're not tripping and climbing over boxes, totes and buckets, I'll write up a longer status post with the many pictures of our progress (yay, I found the camera's card reader) all from my new cushy recliner!! Imagine, real, comfortable seating again instead of folding camp chairs... what luxury!!

We can worry about getting the non-essentials and the tent down to the site and getting the rest of the drywall and flooring done in the pantry and bathroom; and doing a bit of additional clearing and organizing outside before the snow gets too deep, etc. All the remaining interior finish work can keep us busy during the long winter... and we won't even have to freeze doing it this year, or have to work with Gumby Gloves and Frankenboots on -- WooHoo :)

Friday, September 30, 2011

Still getting it wrong -- a rant

Authorities, under the direction of Michele Obama, are once again attempting to tackle the "Obesity Epidemic" in America with the new ChooseMyPlate campaign. The hook of this latest campaign is to make half your plate fruits and vegetables, which has some nutritional merit; but take a look at their graphic (just another glorified replacement for the FoodPyramid in a different shape... because triangles are so much more complex to understand than circles, apparently).

OK - notice anything at odds with their intention to reduce obesity?  No? How about that over 75% of the plate is carbohydrates... SUGAR? Now, the carbs in most vegetables (starchy root veg excluded) are negligible compared to the vitamin and mineral content. Arguably the portion size limits the carbs from natural fructose while still providing all the lovely antioxidants and enzymes that (fresh) fruit provides. But, AGAIN, we've got a grain portion way higher than necessary, and most grains (unless you're Vegan) don't provide enough unique nutrition to warrant their carb costs.

And it that the protein (meat) and milk portions just keep getting smaller. What do these people have against animal products anyway?! Humans are omnivorous, and continuing research indicates that our metabolisms have evolved to derive and process nutrients from animal sources more efficiently than from plant sources. So why is over 75% of our plate plants? A misguided belief that the fat contained in animal products are bad for you, maybe? Bullshit!! Natural animal fats are healthy, provide long-term energy, and our bodies actually need them. And fat has a lovely side effect of actually making us feel full faster and longer -- you can eat a ton of carbs before your satiety switch is triggered, and you're likely to just wake up from your carb coma (insulin shock) hungry again.  <-- Can you say "diabetes" and "overeating"?

Let's be honest, that's a pitiful amount of protein to support a growing child or an active adult -- even with the incomplete proteins in most grains, that we don't absorb and utilize as well any way. Our bodies need protein to build healthy tissue and muscles, including your heart and other organs. Our bodies will also use protein for energy, at the same caloric rate as carbs. More and more studies have indicated that previous concerns regarding kidney problems caused by high(er) protein diets were unfounded. A person can, and should, eat a gram of protein for every pound of optimal body weight unless they have a pre-existing kidney malfunction.

So, we've got an obesity epidemic and diabetes is on the rise. It has been slowly happening since the mid-50's when they switched from the Basic Seven Model (the wartime "survival rationing" nutritional guide):

to the Basic Four model, which eventually turned into the Food Pyramid we all learned in the 90's:

Which was updated in 2005:

Only to be abandoned just 5 years later for the MyPlate circle.

What's the common factor? WAY TOO MANY CARBS and an unbalanced diet.

If you look at the Basic 7 -- you've got essentially 40% protein, 30% carbs and 30% fat. And that pretty much appeared to work... obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease were all MUCH lower then than they are today. You think that's a coincidence??

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Still Among the Living

Quickie update to let you all know we're still alive.

We've been busy doing roof prep and getting the floors laid, properly installing the doors, as well as doing general clearing and firewood stuff. Moving the cast iron woodstove so we could properly align the hearth before doing the downstairs floor was a serious biatch since it weighs nearly 500 lbs... G-man gunned up for the heavy lifting with the aid of the Hi-Lift jack while I frantically placed braces and attempted not to get crushed.

The walls and floors we can get to (bath & pantry are full of stuff) have been installed, all we need is to sand and poly the floors so we can move in -- we'll deal with mud & paint, etc once we're in residence. Nights are getting chilly and we're running the stove in the tent a little, but only need a tiny fire at the cabin to keep it nice and toasty... insulation is such a wonderful thing. We're getting frost nearly every night and even a few early morning snow flurries. Winter is definitely on its way.

Anyway, hoping to have the floors poly'ed and curing by the weekend, so we should be able to transfer the electrics down and move in some time next week if all goes well. I think I've found the card reader for the camera, but I can't get to it until we can clear out the piles of stuff in the pantry. I promise tons of pics as soon as we move in though!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fair Weather Fun... sort of

G & I got most of the wiring run through the joists and the two interior walls while it was raining. You'd think that would be a fairly easy task, just pulling some Romex, but noooooo... not when you take into consideration that we're trying to run the maximum outlets/lights on the minimum amount of wire, without overloading any of our few circuits or potentially leaving ourselves in the dark if we turn something on a pop the breaker, and not drill too many holes in the same stud/joist, and keep the wires as hidden as possible... all while being two of the most OCD and contrary planners in recorded history. There are times where we just do not communicate and work well together. Of course, the freaky differences between US and UK standards doesn't make things easier since G got his EE degree over there in the land of 220v wiring ;)

Anyway, we were going to start on the flooring so we could move in by Labor Day (Sept 5 for you non-Americans LOL); but had to take advantage of a fortuitous break in the rain to do a little work on the roof which has been suffering under an infamous Alaskan Blue Tarp since December. Needless to say, a few wind storms and a lot of UV exposure later, it's protective coverage was patchy at best. So, when the glorious sun finally peaked back out of the clouds, we scrambled up the ladders to yank the poor shredded thing off!

Then it was a matter of trying to install the self-adhesive rubberized ice shield on the rake, ridge and pitch breaks. Yeah, if only it were that simple. Seriously, this stuff sticks to everything except the roof, and it especially likes to stick to itself. And that "easy" release paper... yeah, uh-huh... kept shredding instead of peeling, and of course it had to shred right in the middle so we'd have to fight with it the whole time while it tried to adhere to us and itself. All while balancing precariously on a 7:12 pitch in the wind. We're talking some serious feats of Peter Parker Prowess.

And poor G-man... found yet another building material he's allergic to. Poor bugger was breaking out in hives before we'd even finished the rakes, so it was quickly back to the tent to wash him up and pop some extra-strength Benadryl. Needless to say, it took us 4 days to lay down 7 strips.  We also nearly created the world's largest glue-trap when a piece flipped over, stuck to itself and then blew off the roof... almost snagging poor Ripley who was anxiously pacing at the foot of the ladder below.

But the membrane is down, with the minimum amount of weird wrinkles that we could manage, so it should keep those joints from leaking again. Now all we have to do is drag the new Ultra-Duty White Tarp up there and get it spread out evenly and tacked down so we can protect the rest of the roof this winter since we couldn't get the porches on and, therefore, couldn't actually get the tarpaper and shingles on. At least this tarp is much thicker, covers the entire roof (and then some!), and is UV stablized... but it also weighs about 100 lbs. Since I'm better at hauling materials up and down on the ladder, I'm going to have to figure out how to wrestle some bulky thing that weighs almost as much as I do up there. Joy!! Let's hope it's not windy THAT day!!

But, we can hold off on that tarp for a couple of days and (hopefully) get back to the floors so we aren't delaying our move in date too awfully much ;)

And, I promise promise promise, as soon as I recover the fugitive card-reader from it's hiding place at the cabin, I will post pics of all our progress!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Time flies while it's raining

Well, we have our stairs in and most of the drywall installed. Were planning to install the floors this week, before mudding the drywall and painting the walls, so they could get dry and acclimated before sanding and finishing. Everything was starting to click along...

But Noooooooo... it absolutely had to RAIN again. Grrrrrrr  We got a brief respite from the rain yesterday, but needed to go into Manley which wasted most of the day.

We don't want to drench the flooring hauling it into the house, plus we have to move some stuff outside into the rain to do that (and hope we can tarp it before it gets soaked through). Can't finish the mudding the walls because it won't dry. Can't properly install the entry doors because that means taking them off and exposing the inside of the house. Can't pickle and poly the kitchen cabinets because it's too humid. We're at the stage where most of the tasks are either outdoors or require good ventilation and relatively dry conditions. Booger snots!!

The only cabin projects we could really do during this weather are piddly things that really don't impact our ability to move in by Labor Day and could easily be done at Christmas or New Years or Easter. Arg :(

Heck, can't even do laundry... but the sheets and towels we had hanging on the line are getting rinsed really well. And it's a little too warm to go clearing brush or chopping firewood with a raincoat on.

But - on a positive note :)  Mr. Bear hasn't been around since I chased him off with the shotgun, and our neighbors finished a big enough clearing that we could move their camper to their property instead of behind our tent. Silver linings....

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ursine Visitation

I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later, and today we had our first rummaging bear encounter. For the past two years, we've seen bears in the area and even on our property; but they were always content to munch on the berries and stay away from the human areas and noises. However, our new neighbor's grill left on the trail at the end of the driveway proved to be more a temptation than our running generator was a deterrent.

No one was hurt, and the bear skedaddled when discovered; so hopefully this won't be the beginning of a bad trend, and the bear hasn't learned that people means food. I suspect he was one of the cubs that we saw with their mom during one of the previous autumns, so maybe he was just investigating now that he's out on his own. He didn't really get too much food, just some glue and vinegar, but he did find some candy... and, of course, the grill smelled really good. Fingers crossed that we don't have more issues.

This is why it's essential to be near-immaculate with your food and refuse out here in the middle of the wild. If your grill is out unattended, it has to be thoroughly cleaned after every use. You can't rely on just charring and brushing off the grates each time you cook because the smell is still there attracting critters. Securing your grills, coolers and garbage cans and cleaning up utensils and spills to eliminate yummy smells is the only way to keep bears and other critters from learning that your homestead (or your neighbors!!) is a source of easy food. Once they figure out that you mean food, both you and they are in danger of some very unfortunate encounters that could have been easily avoided.

If an animal is already hanging about because of careless trash handling and food storage/prep while you're clearing and building, just imagine how much more of a problem they're going to be when you have a compost pile, garden and livestock! Don't create a problem. Don't leave it out. Don't leave it stinky.

Think food in your kitchen is secure? Think again, bears are extremely agile!

Think food in your vehicle is secure? Think again, bears are extremely smart and very persistent!

Think your dog or enclosure will keep your livestock secure? Think again, a hungry bear often ignores barking dogs and fences! Mmm mmm -- chicken, it's what's for dinner.

A shining example why letting pasture animals keep their horns might be a good idea in bear country.

Love barbecue and smoked meats? So does Mr. Bear!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Whole lot of nothing

Not much happening here on the building front. Motivation is a bit flagging.The weather has been horrible. Alternating between heavy rains and hot humidity. We've got the majority of the drywall hung, but the damp is keeping the mud/plaster from drying. Neither of us feel comfortable running power tools off the generator in an ungrounded system during thunderstorms, so that makes progress a little problematic as well.

Hanging the drywall downstairs is going much faster and easier than the drywall in the loft. I starting patching and mudding the loft already and helping G-man with the downstairs because the 12' panels are too heavy and unruly to hang alone. Hopefully the tongue-n-groove flooring will go even faster, at least the 6" x 12' planks will be easier for one person to handle than the drywall panels. Still hoping to have the walls and floors done by the end of July so we can move in on our 2 year Alaskan Anniversary (also my birthday). A lot depends on whether the mud, paint and polyurethane dries though. **fingers crossed**

All the recent thunderstorms are also sparking lightning-strike wildfires throughout the region. Luckily, none are in our immediate area yet; but we've been keeping a close eye on the fire maps and watching for smoke after each storm. Doing a bit of clearing and trail maintenance here and there just to be on the safe side.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Women are not Men

Yeah, I know, that's not news for most of you :)  But I still find a lot of average folks, not just manufacturers, who haven't exactly cottoned to this idea yet. Women are not just smaller, weaker versions of men... we're actually built differently (besides the obvious bits and bobs!).

Men, in general, tend to be taller, have longer arms and legs, bigger hands, more upper body strength, more upper body control, and rely strongly on strength advantage. Men are usually successful at tasks that require using brute force. Men are more prone to acute wrenching injuries because they are less flexible.

Women, in general, tend to be shorter (except Big Sis!), have shorter arms and legs, smaller hands, more lower body strength, more lower body control, and rely strong on leverage advantage. Women are usually successful at tasks that require patience and dexterity. Women are more prone to chronic repetitive stress injuries because they are more flexible.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Midnight Sun

Thought I'd share a screenshot of the daylight info posted on Weather Underground for us today. Always great to see the phrase "Sun does not rise" without it being a reference to Armageddon  LOL

Monday, June 13, 2011

Checking In

Just a quick check in to let you all know we're still alive and kicking :)

Spring rains have finally hit us, none too early since fire season started with a bang this year. So far, nothing out our way to worry about. Knock on wood! We're glad for the rain, but our trail and yard had just finally started to dry out from breakup :(

We're now back to working on our cabin instead of dealing with other random stuff. Progress is, of course, slower than we'd like; but there is light at the end of the tunnel if we can just keep moving! Drywalling the gambrel ceiling is proving most difficult, especially since nothing is perfectly square or plumb and a lot of the rafters are just slightly warped/bowed/twisted enough to force us to drive the screws in sideways to attach the panels. But we do have the lower rafters covered and the end walls up, so today we'll be tackling the upper rafters.

We've decided to move in after finishing the upstairs rather than waiting until we're totally done inside (I know, I know, we'll never really "finish" now after moving in). So I'll be taping, mudding and painting while G sands/planes the exposed joists downstairs and gets temp electrics sorted. Then we'll tackle the tongue & groove floor. Then we can move everything from the tent into the loft, sort something out with all the stuff that is currently stored downstairs and get started down there.

Hopefully drywall on the downstairs will go easier. Still debating whether we should do all the flooring upstairs and down in one go to avoid pet prints in the poly downstairs, and so we can have the stairs in properly before we move in. I was trying to get the walls and ceilings all done first so that I didn't have to worry so much about spilling on a finished floor, but now that we have stuff stored in the cabin I have to use dropclothes anyway.

Sometimes the hardest part of DIY out here is deciding what order to do things in to be most effective, especially when the schedule keeps slipping.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sled Dog?

Now what was I supposed to do with this thing again?
Poor Ripley, she's so confused, the heat must really be getting to her :)

Maiming of the Shrew

Or maybe it was a vole... hard to tell after the carnage. But in any case, our little Charlie appears to be quite the mighty hunter.

"What's the big deal?" you might ask, since cats nab rodents all the time. Well, we've had Charlie for several years now and, to the best of our knowledge, she has always been a strictly indoor kitty. She's at least 8 years old, probably closer to 10, and only has one fang left. And to top it off, she never ever puts her dainty feet on the yucky dirt, so she must have snatched this sucker as it ran out from under the deck. Pretty impressive for a first-timer!

Some folks might have been squicked if their pet brought a kill into the house, but like any good bush pet parent, we simply praised her for her catch, and kept Ripley away until Charlie had figured out how to "open the can" and eat her fill of the tasty morsel.

Guess we don't have to worry about whether she'll transition to a homemade raw diet, huh?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Women's Work Jeans

  • Why is it that manufacturers haven't figured out that women do work that's just as hard and heavy as men?
  • Why can't we find heavy (14+ oz) denim work jeans? Why are women's jeans only 11 oz denim?
  • Why are the pockets in women's jeans so short? Why don't they go down to the top of the thigh like men's so they're actually useful?
  • Why can I find a plethora of women's work slacks (lightweight BTW), but not work jeans?
  • Why do manufacturers think all women wear pink? Or want stretch-elastic waists? Or low-rise and "fashionable"?
  •  Why do we have to pay more for size 2/4 when they're almost half the material of a size 12?
  • Why do we have to buy men's/boy's rugged jeans that don't fit properly in the waist if they fit in the hips?
  • Why do manufacturers who do make a few bits of working gear for women think only large women do real work?

All I want are a couple pairs of heavyweight denim work jeans, with useful pockets, in a size 2-6 (depending on how many layers of long-johns I have on beneath). I want some room in the seat and thighs because I actually have some muscle and do a lot of bending and stooping. I want a normal waist that I can tuck a shirt into and it stays tucked, and one that doesn't gap too terribly or fall down when I have my Gerber knife, Leatherman multi-tool and H&K 9mm on my belt. I don't want cutesy pink camo, or kiwi or mango or floral... these are work clothes, they're going to get muddy and grimy, because I'm working not going on a date. And by working, I'm not talking about a little light gardening or milking a goat in the parlor. I need jeans that will stand up to construction, hauling firewood, clearing trail, digging trenches, butchering game and spreading manure as well as tending a large garden and herding livestock.

I might be just a tiny "poptart" but I pull my weight (and then some!) and I need clothes that can stand up to it!   (and, yes, someone did just call me a "poptart" recently LOL)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Word of the Day: Mumpsimus

For your vocabulary expansion and conversational pleasure, may I present...

Mumpsimus: a stubborn person who insists on making an error in spite of being shown that it is wrong

Anti-Hallmark Moments

... when you just don't care enough to send the very best.

I am seriously crispy with all the chaos and personal interaction lately. Individually, none of the events would be that traumatic or overwhelming or unmanageable, but everything all at once like this has put a serious dent in my mental state and ability to function. My anxiety is riding just below panic attack levels consistently, my ability to eat and sleep is all jacked up, and I basically feel like a hollowed out dry husk right now (albeit a quivering, vibrating one). The least little thing is enough to set me off, and I just want to go hide in a deep, dark cave for a few weeks to recuperate. I have zero energy reserves, despite any frantic/OCD motivation I may have to get things done.

I'm already starting to have difficulties dealing with people... the first sign that side of things is going downhill is when I can't parse what they're are saying anymore. Yup, already there! It's like trying to follow the bouncing ball on screen, but the words are moving too fast and nothing makes sense, and I keep losing whole chunks of what their saying like the audio is cutting out. Add in all the phone conversations (which I already have a hard time parsing) this week, and my little noodle is thoroughly over-cooked. Even though I'm home alone right now in the relative silence, even Ripley and Charlie's little noises and comments are tweaking me out and I'm about ready to go kill the friggin' song birds who are twittering outside non-stop... if those loud squawking ravens come back, they're going to be .22LR target practice for sure! I literally cannot deal.

These past few weeks are probably the most trying on the anxiety front since we got out here. I seriously, seriously, seriously, please God have mercy, hope that it's not indicator of a permanent change of state around the place... or else I may have to move to Greenland or Antarctica. I feel bad because it's not that I have anything against people personally, or that I am Scroodgey and don't want to be helpful, or that I am angry/frustrated/feel taken advantage of or whatever.... I just can't physically/mentally/emotionally deal with it at these levels for long durations. I mean, there are periods when even just having my husband and animals around is too much!! I just hope my new neighbors and everyone in town can understand and not take it personally or hold it against me because I'm a bit broken and wired funky. I don't want them to disintegrate, nor do I feel like they are a burden... I just need a bit more quiet space and time to recharge between interactions. Maybe I'm just oversensitive, but I have had so many issues with folks getting angry/upset with me because of the Aspergers and anxiety before... I just don't want it to happen again since I plan to be here permanently and don't want any troubles.

Flip me over and turn down the heat, cuz I'm certainly burnt on this side!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mud, Moving, Neighbors, Dodgy Front-Ends & Sick Kitties

No real progress on the cabin yet, although we did pick up the pier blocks for our porches, plywood for our stair treads, lumber for our window sills, and some used railroad ties for the skids/sleepers under the sheds.

Mostly, the name of the game these days is MUD... mud... mud... and more mud. It's messing up everyone's moving and building plans. To our east, K&S are having a rough time getting their building supplies down the East Trail and got their Mountaineer stuck up to the running boards the other day and had to use our Hi-Lift jack to get out of the mire and then as a come-along to winch them out onto solid ground. To our west, R&G got their forklift stuck in their yard up in Fairbanks while loading up the trailers to bring everything down here... since we almost got our truck stuck on the West Trail the other day, they're not even attempting to bring the forklift and their building materials down. And, of course, we can't really get any of our materials down the West Trail either. Everything must be done in small/light loads using the ATV and a sled since a trailer's wheels would get stuck (as previously witnessed).

We rented a small UHaul trailer to bring the last of our stuff out of the storage room in Fairbanks so that D&L, our friends who just moved to the Fairbanks outskirts from Louisiana, could have our storage room since climate controlled storage is hard to come by up here. Well, the trailer we rented was a serious POS -- no brakes and a front tire that decided to go flat made it a real treat to to up and down our windy mountain road. It wasn't great for G driving it down loaded, but seriously sucked for me driving it back empty... thing was bouncing around like a Go-Go dancer for 150 miles, sure couldn't take any downhill curves with any speed. Luckily, when I returned it, they knocked a few days off the rental because I bitched about the state of the equipment.

Of course, this lead us to take the truck in to get the brakes checked. And it turns out that we need some serious work done on the front end (steering and suspension) as well as new brakes all around. The mechanic basically said it as a miracle that we hadn't had an accident yet, especially given all the towing and the road conditions lately. I agree that the steering has been pretty drifty recently, with the steering wheel being more of a request and suggestion than a command. So G-man is up arguing with the mechanic today since he thinks the estimate I was quoted on Monday is way too high. Granted we have a big custom lifted truck, but the costs of labor in the estimate seemed way out of proportion even to me (twice the cost of parts??? come on guys!), and we could get brand new higher-end parts (with shipping!) for the costs they listed for refurbished parts. That's not entirely uncommon up here, especially when a woman brings the truck in, the truck has any mods at all, and the customer lives in the bush. Sad, but true. I'm sure that G will get them sorted, or we'll just order the parts and do the work ourselves after G drives home *slowly* with R&G this weekend when they move down. Always safer to drive a gimpy vehicle in a convoy in case something does happen.

So, I've been up in Fairbanks most of a week, except when I came down here with R&G's 2nd load (riding 4 hours cross-legged in the tiny jump-seat with the cat and G's guitar) and then towing the empty trailer back up. Between moving loading our stuff, helping D&L unload their stuff, helping R&G with their packing as much as I could... I'm seriously exhausted! Now G is up in Fairbanks for a few days, and I'll be trying to finish up sledding back the rest of our stuff and building materials with the ATV... and maybe get some more drywall work done... maybe.

Charlie kitty also had a vet visit to look at her chronic weepy eye, and is now on antibiotic drops to see if the tiny ulcer will clear up... so far, she's doing ok but hates the drops. Doc gave us the fluorescent dye drops to check on the ulcer every few days, and if it clears up we can stop the antibiotic drops and switch to the steroids. I have to say that I *LOVE* our vet, he always makes time for us whenever we come in from the bush and he is more than willing to send us meds by mail and do consults over the phone/email. He even said he'd come out to our place once/twice a year once we get our livestock to do health checks on the whole bunch of them at once. How awesome is that?!

At this point, it looks like we're just going to have to move into the cabin without the walls and floors being finished and work around stuff. It sucks to have to move everything from room to room and use drop clothes and all, but I'm so freakin' tired of living in this tent! Since a lot of the stuff we had in storage was fragile/electronics and is already safely in the cabin, the rest of it might as well be... right?! I mean, we have to work around that stuff now, so we might as well work around all of it. Figure we can load up one floor, fix the other, then move everything to that floor and do the remaining floor. Nifty stuff like trim and porches is last on the list. We might not even get the porches on completely this year, which means that we won't have the roof done completely/properly this year either... but we still have the uber-mega-mother-of-all-tarps that we didn't use last winter that we can use this winter if we have to. Whatever!! As long as we have a weather-tight, insulated cabin with sturdy floors & walls, level surfaces to work with, doors & windows that open & close, and a wood stove that keeps the place warm I'll be good!

I just feel bad for K&S, R&G, and D&L who all think they'll have something livable and warm by winter when they're starting from scratch and don't even have any land cleared yet. I'd love to tell them that they've got plenty of time to make it... but if the weather and trail conditions don't cooperate and they aren't building from a pre-cut kit, I doubt they'll make it. Both K & G have oodles of construction experience, but they can't dedicate full-time to the building process and all that experience doesn't mean diddly if you can't get your materials on-site! I wish everyone the best of luck and will try to help out as best I can while still getting our cabin work done.  JOY!!!  I think my anxiety disorder is going to be triggered for the next few months... will need to get my Rx filled next time I'm in town!!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Random Rants

This has been/is/will continue to be a very stressful month for me, particularly with the Asperger/Anxiety issues. So, since this is my blog and I can rant if I want to, I'm going to let off some steam :) These aren't targeted at anyone in particular, they're just things that keep popping up with different folks at different times in different circumstances... I'm probably just really sensitive to it because of my own issues and the way I was brought up.

Raising children -- ok, I don't have kids, never wanted kids, and really can't understand why anyone would have or want them other than prophylactic failure or continuation of the species, so I realize that I really don't have room to comment on parenting. But, there are a few things that bother the living crap out of me and I just can't fathom. 1) If you have them, control them. Basically, consider teaching them and enforcing upon them the general order of a sentry -- quit your post only when properly relieved, conduct yourself in a proper manner at all times and alert the commanding officer when necessary. Seriously, kids need to learn to be quiet/respectful and do what they're told until given other instruction. And learn when it is and is not appropriate to interrupt. How hard is that?! 2) Limits -- have them and enforce them... really! Children should not be allowed to do whatever they want whenever they want no matter what the circumstances. They should learn early that their parents' and visitors' attention are not all for them... when guests are over and/or work is being done, children need to stay quiet and out of the way unless instructed otherwise or there is an emergency (see #1!!). 3) Having kids doesn't mean that one or both parents gets to opt out of doing work and running errands no matter how young the kids are (see #2!!). And neither parent should get stuck minding the kids all the time or expect outsiders to mind them either. If you aren't willing to take care of them, or can't tolerate being around them, then either don't have them or teach them damned manners!

Asking for help -- I realize that we're just a smidge more self-sufficient and counter-dependent than most folks and would probably risk loss of limb/property before deciding we need help, but some common sense should apply if you're going to ask other people to for help... 1) make sure you actually need it first, especially if the person you want helping has a life of their own. 2) If it's an emergency, it's ok to scramble someone else for assistance... but make sure it's a real emergency not just an overreaction. 3) If you have too many "emergencies" too frequently, consider this an indication that you're doing something wrong and have a serious lack of planning/action on your part. Remember -- lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine. 4) If you want non-critical assistance, let folks know at least a few days in advance so they can schedule it... at that point, you're on their schedule not the other way around. 5) If you want non-critical assistance, ASK for it... don't just hint at it and hope the other person offers. That's passive-aggressive crap... do that nonsense too often and people who are normally receptive and helpful WILL get pissed off at you. 6) Boils down to: Everyone pitches in for a real critical issue, no advance warning or politeness is expected; ordinary assistance requires planning, politeness and respect of others time. And whatever you do, don't act all weird and pissy if someone calls you on your shit or isn't available to help you... especially not if they've already told you better ways to do whatever it is you're doing. And if you keep screwing up communal stuff, expect people to get irate. If you won't listen and make others lives more difficult, how can expect others to keep helping?

/end rant due to panic attack

(Great. Now where did I put my Valium?!)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On Graciousness and Hospitality

It has recently come to our attention that some folks think we're gracious and generous.

I'm not exactly arguing with them, but I never really thought about it before and certainly don't think I'm particularly gracious and definitely wouldn't consider myself the most hospitable hostess :)

I guess it depends on your definition, or what definitions you're going by LOL

I'm totally not charming, tactful or delicate, and wouldn't say I was all that tasteful either. I can be generous to a point, but don't think I'm particularly spectacular in that department... I might give you one of my layers and be a little cold if you're freezing, but not the coat off my back if it means I'll freeze.

My hospitality begins and ends with a place stay and a bit of food and water if I have it. I might make some meals for you if I'm already making something for myself, and I might even give some thought about what you'd like when I'm planning dinner. I'll show you where everything is, and if you want something after that, feel free get it yourself. I try to make sure you have the basic amenities for a comfortable stay like a blanket, a wash cloth, a basin and a water jug... but it's not luxury accommodations or anything, there is no maid service or mints on your pillow every night. I don't go out of my way to entertain you.

I'm just willing to help if I'm able and it doesn't put me out too much to do so... that's what I'd expect of any human. But, I guess this mindset isn't that common anymore going by the reactions and comments I get from the folks I've helped out and shared ideas/plans with. It's a sad comment on the state of our society when a recluse with Aspergers, social anxiety and stunted empathy/interpersonal skills like me is considered gracious and generous by comparison.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Irregular bush report...

So back to normal service and less of the ranting and a quick update to all of our regulars.

Over the past couple of weeks we've been relatively busy. Tom's visit was good, although we achieved a little less than we'd hoped for, but that's the bush for you.

We did get into Fairbanks last week and picked up our kitchen cabinets... W00t! we just need the internal wall to put them up against. We also dragged our western neighbors 16' camper behind us on the way home, which was completely special. We lost the right rearview mirror back in the fall, and we've been waiting for a replacement (which wasn't there when we were in Fairbanks unfortunately). So we had kitchen cabinets in the bed of the truck, so no regular rear view, and the left which was fine when we only had the cabinets. Then the trailer, and the rearview was completely useless. Fortunately very little was moving that day on the Elliott we only passed a couple of semi's coming in the opposite direction, and had nothing behind (I think anyway) or in front of us from Fox to Livengood.

Well that was the easy part, then we had to haul it down our raggedy ass trail, where it lost one storage hatch, the air conditioning trim, and the step, which wasn't that bad considering. Then we pulled up, and I tried to side swipe our storage shed (hey I couldn't see jack out the right side). We got re-combobulated and pulled up. Only to have the truck die. The battery has seen much action with our winch, and it's feeling a little tired, well given I left the lights on for about 30 minutes while we unhooked the trailer, and we had some broken electrical wire (another casualty of the trail) sitting in a puddle, I suspect the battery was in severe need of a nap. It was, and we charged it overnight, and it ran like a champ again. We have a new replacement that's going in tomorrow.

So the trail is holding up at the moment barely, the mud under the surface is still frozen, but in a few days or so it's going to melt, and then it'll be next stop South Africa (or somewhere in the southern hemisphere, that's about our lat/long but south and east). So I suspect we'll be leaving our truck at our old standby place the next time we take her out to the road, and using 4 wheeler to bring things back.

Anyway part of the reason for bringing out that camper was that our western neighbors Rose and Greg (who I hope don't mind me stating their names) were coming down to work on their property, they're expecting to move down here Memorial Day weekend. So we should have some nearer neighbors.

So they arrived on Friday evening, so being neighborly, I dragged their trailer (an 8' single axle) down to their camper, or at least tried to... Here's the result...

Oopsie... Yes it's resting on the rails. Their Camper is parked about 20 yards from our place in our clearing (since it's clear... that's why it's a clearing) while they're working on their own clearing, luckily the sinkage was only on the other side of our shed, so a brisk 15 yard wade. Also note the return of Lake Wardle, however this year it seems to be draining a little better than last year. Please observe that Ripley is giving us her best "Blue Steel" look, (or was that "Le Tigre") with crooked front paw. She's such a ham. It took about 15 minutes in the morning (this was taken at about 11pm) to get it out of the bog, with many thanks to Hi-Lift such a simple design, with a myriad of applications.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Food Assistance Stupidity

Out of curiosity, I looked into the Alaska Food Stamp program. For the most part, everything makes sense, although I do question some of the work-related eligibility requirements as a tad over-stringent given our geography and economy; however I have some serious qualms with a couple of covered and uncovered items.

WRT subsistence hunting and fishing:
  • Covered: necessary hunting and fishing equipment
  • Not Covered: firearms and ammunition

Huh?!? So what exactly are we hunting with? Bow & arrows? Spears & clubs? Harsh language? The least they could do is offer some lifetime limits on appropriate calibers of firearms and a yearly allotment of those ammunitions. Say, for each family member, one 22LR & one 30-06, with a yearly allotment of 100 rds each... that should do it for most real subsistence hunting situations in this state (you can get a moose and some grouse).

WRT purchased food & food products:

  • Covered: Snack foods like candy, potato chips, chewing gum, and soft drinks. Vegetable seeds and food producing plants, roots, and trees.
  • Not Covered: Items for food preservation, such as pressure cookers, canning jars and lids, paraffin, freezer containers and wrapping paper.
WTF??? You'll let someone buy nutritionally void GARBAGE on food stamps, but not necessary equipment to preserve nutritiously wholesome food?! And you'll cover the seed/stock to grow edible plants, but not the means to preserve any of the harvest?!

And this is why I think the government officials responsible for developing and regulating these programs are asshats and cause most of the abuses in "social welfare". I know a lot of folks think these sorts of programs should be eliminated entirely, but I just want them managed properly and logically if we're going to pay for them!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rain, Break Up and Cabin Pics

Well, we got some rain today and it's raining again right now. Definitely amped up the snow melt around the place! Of course, we had to adjust our work schedule today so we could protect everything from getting soaked.

The guys finally dug all our tools out of the remaining snow and got the buried tarp enclosure put back up!

And they installed our first window upstairs because I got ambitious yesterday with 60F and cut out the hole in the house wrap and vapor barrier :)

(Tom hates ladders, so he actually got to hold the window from the inside while G-man played Spider-Man on the ladder outside)

The whole house is wrapped now, we just have to tape up the seams and get the doors & windows properly installed and we can start putting up the T1-11 siding.

(Tom's taken over Willow -- man has never ridden a 4-wheeler before coming here, and now he's tooling around like an old pro LOL)

I got the vapor barrier completely done and taped upstairs yesterday, so whenever we get the 8' drywall hung downstairs (or at least moved downstairs) so it's off the top of the stack, we can start hanging the 12' drywall in the loft.

Ripley really doesn't like it when I'm upstairs because the stairs aren't in yet and she can't get up there.

I did get the downstairs vapor barrier almost finished today... but we ran out with only 12' of the back wall left. DOH!!  Luckily, we can just do the rest of the room and leave a few of the 8' sheets off to the side out of the way to come back to once we go into town and pick up more vapor barrier. The primary thing was to get the east wall done so we could get the cabinets in! Still have to tape downstairs, and install the foam board around the rim joists, but that hopefully won't take too long.

So things are melting around the cabin....

But it's nowhere near as bad as around the tent...

Looks like we're going to get a reprise of Lake Wardle again this year, after all :(

But, hey, we did get a perfect example of frost heave. Remember that ditch we dug last year to drain the lake of melt and rain water we had in front of the tent? Well, it froze this winter and pushed all the soil in that area up... notice the layer of ice beneath the soil!

And one nice thing about living in the middle of nowhere... you can sight in your rifle right in your front yard while you're taking a construction break ;)

Our little cabin, so awesome even the heavens smile down upon it :)

Quick Update on the Cabin Progress

We've been enjoying Tom's company here for the past week and are slowly getting things done at the cabin. Tom's been more than up for hard labor, but I picked up a nasty tummy bug in Fairbanks and am now just getting back to rights. The guys have been keeping busy collecting firewood and running errands, and I've been doing my best to keep everyone fed (even if all I could do was get stuff out and prepped for the actual cooking by someone else).

We finished all the vapor barrier and taping upstairs today, and the guys started the vapor barrier downstairs while I cleaned up the loft. It's amazing how big the space looks again now that the tools are all packed away and the scraps are out on the pile. With any luck, we'll finish the vapor barrier and taping downstairs, then get the foamboard cut and installed along the rim joist and header beam so we can start the drywall on this week. Having a third set of hands, and a helper at least 6" taller than me, should make getting those 12' sections of sheet rock onto the gambrel ceiling upstairs much easier. Ideally, we'd use a lift to install the ceiling, but I couldn't find one for rent in town while I was in and they didn't know when it would be back in for re-let... oh well, such is life when you live remote.

Of course, the 12' drywall is on the bottom of the pile, so we'll probably have to start with the 8' sections downstairs first just to be able to get at them. Figure if we're going to move them anyway, we might as well move them straight onto the walls ;)  It'll be good practice for the harder task up in the loft. I'm really not looking forward to hanging drywall on the ceiling, it's probably one of my least favorite construction tasks. But at least once all the drywalling is done, I can get to one of my favorite tasks... painting. I know lots of folks hate painting, but I find it extremely peaceful and meditative... well, as long as I'm left alone to zone out and "git'er dun". Too bad I still need to tape and float all the seams first. I don't hate mudding, but it's not my best skill. Just hope the walls don't look like a 2nd-grader went crazy with the playdough ROFL

The temps have been high enough that we should be able to install the sill membranes for the doors and windows with a good chance they'll stick. So, we'll probably get those in before we start on the drywall, that way we can do a good job foaming and caulking around the jambs, and then just do a drywall return rather than messing around trying to do custom woodwork to extend the jambs since our walls are double the thickness of the average wall. We'll be putting in solid wood sills because Ripley is sure to trash them in short order looking out the windows doing her doggy thing if we don't. Sills are easy, but I seriously don't want to mess around with jamb extensions and case mouldings when drywall returns are so much easier and don't collect as much dust LOL (ya'll dust your trim mould regularly, right?!).

I promise to take pictures tomorrow!! I even have the camera lying on my clothes so I won't forget it again. Not really much to see at this point, but I know you all always appreciate the photos :)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I Propose a New Law

I'm doing my spring cleaning, and have just about had it with my pantry.

I definitely think it should be illegal to sell a product in a can that will not stack on itself!

Really, some of these manufacturers must think we have all the cabinet and shelf space in the world, and we can afford to line up their product in single-tier rows simply because they want to save a few cents not purchasing nesting cans. And the horrible thing about it is that the worst offenders seem to be folks whole sell cases/packs at the warehouse stores. They sell the exact same product in nesting cans individually at the supermarket; but somehow when they sell 8 or 12 or 24 of them at once, they can't be bothered?!?!

Oh sure, you could just leave them in the box/case/flat... but how not useful is that unless they're full? Once you open the case, you just start losing space again. Assuming, of course, that the dimensions of their case actually fit in your space, or that their packaging is even vaguely easy to get into. Totally sucks if the only way to make it fit is to put it in so their "convenient" roll-out tabby thingy is either completely useless or spews cans all over the place the minute a mouse so much as farts in its general location. Of course, most of them don't even come with the semi-useful tabby feeder slots... you have to yank the whole box out and open it... and usually after sledgehammering the glue off the "lid", all the other joints to spontaneously erupt. And those shallow cardboard flats simply fold up and fall apart the minute you take the annoying plastic shrink-wrap off them.  GRRRRRRRR

Yes, you can cut up cardboard to make little support trays between the tiers. Yes, you can get fancier and make/buy extra shelve. Or purchase one of those nifty wire/plastic "organizers" that never seem to fit the space either, don't seem to fit the products either, and experience an abnormally high failure rate. You could go ultra and buy/build self-feeding, top-loading, "professional" food storage and rotation systems... because, hey, we have all the money in the world, right?!

Why?!? Why should we even have to go through any of that at all? Can't these bastards have a little bit of compassion and just package in nesting cans in the first place?!? Then I'd only have to worry about making the funky shaped/sized cans fit. (Hello, Hormel, are you listening?? Your Spam and Corned Beef cans may be cute and all that, but they do NOT play well in the cupboard!)

Ban the Funky Can, Man!!

[/end rant]

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Buildings and code...

Ok since we've had some comments about our electrical system, and I'm sure we probably had some comments about plumbing, or the structure, or whatever.

If you are planning to build a place the very first thing that you'll need to do is figure out whether you are governed by any building codes, and if you are which codes apply (from foundation to wall structures, to electrical and all points in between). Know and understand if you are in a regulated zone and know what permits and codes apply.

If there are building codes you are required by law to follow them, and have inspections and permits to ensure you meet the code. We're "lucky" in that we're in an unregulated zone, this means that we need to ensure that we feel confident that the systems and structures we build are safe for us, and anyone else who enters that structure. To this end we try to stay within established codes and standards where they apply.

Building codes are created to ensure that standard built structures with standard systems are safe for use by anyone who owns or may inhabit that structure. However the problem is "standard". For example standard residential electrical code is for grid tied systems, have an input panel of 200A (or more) with a 220V line split into 220V, and 110V circuits, with associated safety devices both internal to the house (breakers/fuses) and external (company breakers at the entry and along the grid lines) electrical may also have requirements placed by the utility company too. Similarly plumbing needs to take into account any sewer hookups, materials need to take into account any chemicals that may be off-gassed into the structure, or ground and ground water. For instance 50 years ago lead pipes were used, not so now, makes a lot of sense.

Whenever you're using alternative building materials or systems, then the "standard" code may not be applicable, or grossly under/over engineered. So if you're not in a regulated area, it's important to understand why a building code is in place, so that you can derive an alternative system that addresses those safety issues. If you don't feel comfortable in your ability to do that, take the time and money to enlist an engineer, or stick to code and convention (and abandon the alternative method and/or system).

Now on to our systems...

Structure, post and beam with alternate inside/outside studs 4' between studs a side, no applicable code, however the load bearing structure is the post and beam, not the infill walls, structural rigidity is maintained by the shear panels and bracing. Confirmed load bearing capacity with several structural engineers.

Plumbing, pex, internal from storage tank, drains to greywater leech field, no applicable code.

Electrical, no applicable code (code only covers residential grid tied systems), wiring all +2 gauge on internal wiring codes (12 gauge where 14 is code, 10 gauge where 12 is code), grounding wiring +9 gauge (code is 8 gauge for a 100amp panel, we have 2/0 gauge for a 20amp panel). All junctions, sockets, and connectors installed to general NEC electrical codes.

Networking installed to Microsoft Datacenter standards.

HVAC, no AC, heating/stove installed to Fairbanks code.

Now one point of apparent concern is our grounding...

Well, that's kind of you guys to worry, but it's not a problem, here's why.

In a grid tied system, you have your main breaker (100A, 200A, etc.) the neutral is ground tied (so that Neutral and ground have the same potential, we do the same). If for some reason on the house side of the system there is a ground fault (hot shorts to ground), then the circuit breaker will blow or the main panel breaker will because it appears to the system as a short between hot and neutral; even if that doesn't blow, then there are service breakers installed in the lines by the supply company.

These breakers will blow regardless of what is connected or not to the ground rail as long as you have tied the neutral to the ground rail (in essence you're tying the case of your electrical appliances to neutral).

If the same happens on the supply side, then the same thing happens, but higher currents could cause some issues, for instance the supply breaker may not trip (the one you have no access to), so you could be running branch current to ground unless the breaker at the branch blows, if there are 10 or so houses on that branch that's a 2000A breaker at least.

We have a total of a 20 amp main breaker on a completely isolated system, that has a breaker on the circuit (this may be 5 amps, or 10 amps), there is the inverter over current system that will shut down in case of overload, there is a 100A breaker in the battery line if that doesn't shut down. So the failure chain would need to be to cause any serious harm, the circuit breaker fails, the panel breaker fails, the inverter over current fails (and the inverter doesn't burst into flames), and the 100A battery breaker fails.

The only big advantage in having heavier grounding is for lightning protection. After careful review we have decided against installing a lightning rod it's not something that sprang to mind when we were planning. We're not higher than any other structure, we're not on the top of a hill, and we're surrounded by higher trees.

Now a for instance, if you have an RV that has a 110V 20A supply, how much hard grounding (to ground) do you make sure you have? If any? Because this is pretty much the same thing we have going on with our electrics.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Electrical Diagram

Awhile back, we promised to publish a diagram of our electrical system here at the tent. Well, we finally got the laptop it was on fixed so I can post it for you :)

This is how we have our tent wired with only two AC circuits, one for lights and one for receptacles. It's usually a good idea not to have your lights and sockets on the same run, or at least not all of them, so that if an appliance blows the circuit breaker you aren't left scrambling in the dark. All the AC wiring starting from the service panel is standard, so you can refer to any wiring manual available at your local library or home improvement center. The only part that is tricky is the wiring between power sources... you just have to be careful that the wires aren't live when you're doing it (hook up the ground FIRST, and hots to the power sources LAST), but otherwise it's really not that complicated.

Our tent frame is aluminum conduit, so all our receptacles and light fixtures are grounded to the frame as well as the common ground in the 3-12 Romex... and both the wiring and the frame are grounded together with 00 braided copper cable to a 4' length of 1/2" Rebar embedded in the earth. This offers protection from electrical shorts as well as lightening strikes. Caution: do not store fuel canisters or firewood on/near your ground cable & spike, as fire and explosion can occur!
We're planning to wire the cabin the same way, except that we're replacing the SLA batteries with AGM batteries, and adding more circuits to the panel so some special equipment (like kitchen appliances and the home office) are on their own dedicated run. We've also added a 3kw generator as a backup and to provide additional juice for heavy draw items (like the log splitter) when we need them. We will also have a dedicated GFCI circuit for the exterior porch receptacle and light beside each door.

Because the battery bank is located in the loft (keeping them warm in the winter, and well vented/cool in the summer), we are wiring 30amp MALE power inlet boxes on the porch and in the loft with 3-10 Romex between them... using the male connectors rather than female connectors, with a specialized prong arrangement, ensures that someone can't accidentally plug a standard appliance into that receptacle. The heavy-duty arctic cable from the generator to the outside wall will have a standard 3-prong male plug into the  generator (2kw is only 20a, so only has a 3-prong), and a 30a female socket into the house; and the cable from the inside wall into the inverter will only have a 30a female connector on the wall side because the leads are directly wired to the inverter terminals.

We may add some additional components such as a larger freezer (AC or DC), well pumps and electric fencing that may or may not have their own dedicated power source (PV panel with battery/generator backup) depending on the draw, run distance, and electric current type. At the very least, we'll be adding a 75w PV panel dedicated to the current DC freezer and utilizing the remaining good SLA batteries as it's own dedicated back up rather than drawing from the house batteries (we only need the freezer in the summer, so power availability is not an issue).

Since the cabin isn't made of metal like the tent frame, we will be wiring all the receptacles and light fixtures to the common ground in the 3-12 Romex, installing lightning rods on the roof peak, and connecting the house wiring and rods with 00 braided copper cable to 4'  of 1/2" Rebar embedded in the earth (once the ground thaws enough!).

Both battery banks are designed to provide 800+ amp-hours at 24v, this provides us an average of 5 days between charges for normal use and up to 10 days with conservative use. A full recharge normally takes less than 8 hours running the 2kw generator, and our generator runs 8-14 hours on a gallon of gasoline depending on load and whether the eco-throttle is on. We intend to add 5 PV panels rated at 225w each (1+ kw total) which should be more than adequate to keep the batteries trickle charged AND provide us with all the power we can use during the long summer days. The addition of a 2kw wind turbine will take up the slack on cloudy days, so we don't expect to need the generator at all during the summer unless we're running some seriously heavy-draw equipment for long periods. The wind turbine and PV combo should provide ample charging of the system during early spring and late fall with rare need for the generator; and the wind turbine should reduce the frequency and duration of running the generator during our long winter nights. PV output from moonlight and snow reflection in the winter is documented up here, but we are not counting it in our plans.

So that's all things electrical for now, hope this was helpful information. Thanks for your patience.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Heirloom, OP, F1, GM... oh my!

Looking through seed catalogs can be an overwhelming experience. Not only are you tempted to buy every seed that looks good, way more than you'd ever eat really, and probably a few that aren't even appropriate for your conditions... but there's also a staggering amount of acronyms and abbreviations strewn about. For now, I'm going to ignore all the ones related to disease and pest resistances since those seem to change slightly between distributors. But one thing I have noticed on many of the discussion boards and forums is what type of seed to get... and there seems to be a lot of confusion around heirloom, open-pollinated (OP), hybrid (F1) and genetically modified (GM). So here's a little primer...

Heirloom:  This simply means that the variety comes from a stock that has been grown for a long time without any changes in its breeding and it's not one of the common commercial varieties that have been selectively bred for high yield, uniformity, mechanical harvesting, and storage-ripening desired of supermarket produce. Planting heirlooms in your garden helps protect genetic diversity, and they usually taste better, or store better, or grow better in a specific area since people wouldn't keep planting them in their food gardens year after year if they didn't (taste and reliability of their own food being more important than profit and ease of manufacture).

Most heirloom varieties are OP which means that they pollinate themselves via insects, wind, or animals and the seeds produced will most likely (but not always!) breed true (grow a plant identical to the parent). However, (because they are OP) in order to keep an heirloom pure, you have to make sure that it's either the only variety you plant, or that the seeds you save come only from fruits/veg that you know for sure didn't get cross-pollinated by another variety... otherwise you might end up with an F1.

OP - Open-Pollinated: This simply means that the plant variety is capable of reproducing through natural pollination methods, and it's seed should grow offspring that are identical to the parent (some exceptions exist*). OP varieties are important to homesteaders and preppers because it means that they can save the seeds from their own harvests and plant them year after year without having to buy new seed and can be reasonably assured that they'll get the same food from them. However, many (but not all) F1 and GM can reproduce through natural pollination methods but they don't normally bred true in successive generations.

It's important to understand the breeding characteristics of any species you plant. Most plants require both male and female flowers or flower parts to reproduce by pollination. However, some species don't have male and female flowers on the same plant, or the male and female flowers on the same plant won't pollinate themselves, in which case you'd need another plant of the same or similar species to pollinate them (many tree fruits are known to need a "surrogate" for pollination). And other species have both male and female flowers and will freely self-pollinate, there are even some species that are hermaphroditic (contain both male and female parts in the same flower) and they can also self-pollinate (even within the same flower!).

In addition to the male/female aspect, you also have to take into consideration how readily the cross-pollinates with other varieties (or species!). Most beans tend to be strongly inbreeding... they easily self-pollinate and don't usually cross with other varieties even if they are planted nearby. Tomatoes tend to be strongly outbreeding... they are easily pollinated by other varieties of tomatoes, and are genetically capable of crossing with other members of the nightshade family (peppers, eggplants & potatoes) although this is uncommon. Important to note that the fruit of a cross-bred plant is still the same fruit you'd expect... it's the fruit of the hybrid off-spring that will be different. If you have a strongly outbreeding variety in your garden and you want to keep it pure, either don't plant any other varieties, time your plantings so they flower at different times, physically distance them so crossing isn't likely (this is hard, some will cross-pollinate within 3 miles!), cover your rows and hand-pollinate, or bag a few blossoms to hand pollinate and only save the seeds of those fruits.

* Potatoes are one notable exception to the OP rule. Potato seeds produced by the pollinated flowers (as opposed to seed potatoes which are eyes from the tubers) do not bred true. In order to get successive generations of potatoes that are identical to the parent, you need to plant eyes from the potato tubers you collected from the parent. This is actually natural cloning, not really sexual reproduction.

F1 - Hybrids: Contrary to what some people believe, hybrids are not evil Frankenfood (GM). Hybrids are the result of intentional or unintentional cross-pollination of two parents of different varieties that create offspring with a combination of and/or slightly different characteristics than the parent. Doing this intentionally is a form of selective breeding (although only saving and planting seed from plants that have the characteristics you want is also selective breeding, just not crossing). There are advantages to planting F1s in your food garden, namely a phenomenon known as "hybrid vigor". Hybrid vigor means the first generation offspring of a cross grows better/faster, has higher yields, and/or is more resistant to pest/disease than the parent. This can be really beneficial to home food gardener who has less than perfect conditions and needs to grow a lot of food, or a type that maybe wouldn't do so well in their climate (super-early harvest, slow bolting, or extra cold-hardiness). Hybrids are completely natural, even if we humans had a hand in it, because they haven't crossed with anything that nature didn't already allow.

In some cases, intentional crossing results in F1 offspring that are sterile, which is sometimes a desired trait (seedless grapes and watermelons). In most cases, however, hybrids are genetically unstable, will not breed true, and subsequent generations will either become sterile or begin reverting to the parent or continue to mutate unpredictably. Sometimes repeated breeding of an F1 to itself, or to one of the parents, eventually creates an Fn (F2 is second generation, F3 is third, etc) that is stable and breeds true... and another reliable OP variety is born! Planting that seed will now consistently grow offspring with the expected characteristics.

GM - Genetically Modified: This is the evil Frankenfood (and, yes, it's one of my soapboxes). These are genetic mutations created in a laboratory by breaking into and fiddling with the DNA directly. These organisms could never be produced in nature because they combine genetic materials from entirely different, non-compatible, families and sometimes even cross kingdoms (plant with animal, etc). That's a bit of an oversimplification, but rest assured that these modifications (mutations!) are created by separating a gene responsible for a desired trait from the donor (usually a bacteria that may have been GM'd itself to produce it), breaking the DNA chain of the target gamete and inserting that gene into the chain where they think it'll produce the same desired result in the host. One thing we know about genes is that they're often responsible for more than one trait, and where you put them sometimes makes a big difference in what you end up with... which is what makes this practice a bit scary when you really think about it. What else is controlled by that gene, and what else is affected by that placement? Do you know? Do THEY? Do they even care as long as they turn a profit? Now you see why I'm a big fan of making farmers post their fields if they're planting GM crops, divulge the animals they're raising are GM (esp. if they're breeding them out!), and all GM foods being labeled in the market!

Unfortunately, many GM plants enjoy hybrid vigor almost as much (more in some cases) as their natural F1 hybrid counterparts. This means they may outperform other OP and F1 varieties, including escaping containment (becoming a weed) and cross-pollinating those varieties for several miles around where they are planted... which is a big problem if Farmer Jane is growing organic heirlooms down the road and suddenly gets a bunch of Frankenbastards next year (and gets sued by Monsanto for copyright infringement!). In some cases, the providers of GM seed alter them to be sterile or at least have a suicide gene that kills off the plant in some amount of subsequent generations, and the majority of them do not breed true. This means you can't save the seed and plant it next year (even if Monsanto won't sue you for copyright infringement and licensing violation). However, there's really no telling whether or not the sterility and/or suicide switch will actually work as intended if that plant is actively cross-pollinating with other natural varieties in the wild because Nature is nothing if not fickle and resilient. (You all remember Jurassic Park and the frog DNA, right?) Even if the safeguards do function, we've now possibly corrupted, and effectively destroyed, the genetic purity and diversity of any crop which it cross-pollinated within several miles... and several miles of those... and several miles of those... until it's finally noticed. Mutations can be surprisingly aggressive that way. If you do decide to plant a GM in your garden, please do everyone a favor and pinch off anything that even looks like a flower bud before it opens! Or at least don't move anywhere near me! 

Edited to Add: Gungnir just informed me that it seems someone in our government actually showed some rare forethought and made engineering a "suicide", or terminator, gene into a GMO illegal because of the "remote possibility" that the organism would escape containment, cross-breed with other varieties in the wild, and effectively decimate the entire population of that organism. So no terminator genes (that we know of, at least... corporations can do some pretty sneaky things to protect their profits and market advantage sometimes). 

Now, I know there are all sorts of "good reasons" to GM food... resistance to herbicides (Roundup Ready), built-in pest resistance (Bt bred), and additional nutrients or quantity of nutrients (Golden Rice). All of these, on the surface at least, appear to be good, humanitarian advantages allowing farmers to produce more and more nutritious foods more easily for more people. I'm all for feeding the people... but doing a wrong thing for the right reasons... what do they say about the road to Hell and it's paving? In most cases, the things that these crops are being GM'd for are a direct result of our own arrogant adherence to unnatural and unsustainable agricultural practices. Many plant diseases, pest and weed pressures can be addressed through natural F1 hybrids and instituting healthier management practices like crop rotation and fallow fielding with green manure groups, and crop diversity rather than mono-cropping. And let's not forget that a lot of the countries that these "humanitarian" GM crops are supposed to help feed don't even want it because it's GM and current trials aren't going as well as promised!

So, to wrap up:
  1. Get heirlooms if you like them, but be considerate and try to maintain their genetic purity for the sake of diversity. Before spending the extra money, make sure that it will actually grow well in your conditions and produce the yields and flavors you're looking for... just because it's heirloom doesn't automatically mean it's better.
  2. Get OP if you want to save seeds and plant again next year to get the same crop. Doesn't matter if it's heirloom or one of the newer varieties as long as it grows well in your conditions and gives you a harvest that meets your needs and expectations in both yield and flavor.
  3. Get F1 if you have difficult conditions to contend with and you don't intend to save the seed to plant next year, just be careful that it doesn't cross with your other OP's & heirlooms. If you feel adventurous, you can even carefully attempt crossing some of your own varieties to get the hybrid benefits.
  4. Avoid GM if at all possible... like if it's the only viable seed left to plant on the entire planet and there are absolutely no other sources of food available.

Record Snowfall for April

The late spring storm that just went through dumped record snowfalls across the state (Nome broke a 105 year record!). We got almost a foot of the white stuff ourselves. It's not particularly cold, which is actually making the new snow a bit more of a bother since it's wet and slippery. Makes me wonder how all this new snow right when the old snow was beginning to melt is going to affect our site and trail this year... will is slow down the melt enough for things to warm up and drain well, or will we end up with Lake Wardle and the Sucking Quagmire again?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Update on Lowes

Hey all...

You remember a couple of weeks ago in the "Riding around in the Rock bus..." post I had a little head to head with Lowes...?

Well after much wrangling with their corporate customer care, I finally managed to get them to apparently waterboard, magneto, threaten families or whatever, and I got an email from the store manager. Apparently the mail I got from Lowes corporate on the 23rd March saying I'd get a response from the store manager within 24 hours "got lost" (or they had to use physical torture methods). So I asked them to ask the manager to reforward that mail.

Here is the mail I received (the names have been changed to protect the guilty)

-----Original Message-----
From: R Sole
Sent: Tuesday, April 05, 2011 1:06 PM
To: me@myself.com
Subject: Blower

Mr Gungnir esq.,

I would like to apologize for you not receiving the first email from us. We
are more than happy to reimburse you the $150 you spent I would also like to
offer you and additional $50 for the inconvenience for a total of $200.00.
Please just let me know
how you would like that and when you would be coming in to pick it up.
Please use me as your point of contact going forward. Sorry for the
inconvenience of this situation.


R Sole
Fairbanks Ak.
All information in and attached to the e-mail(s) below may be proprietary,
confidential, privileged and otherwise protected from improper or erroneous
disclosure. If you are not the sender's intended recipient, you are not
authorized to intercept, read, print, retain, copy, forward, or disseminate
this message. If you have erroneously received this communication, please
notify the sender immediately by phone
(704-555-1000) or by e-mail and destroy all copies of this message
(electronic, paper, or otherwise). Thank you.

Ok so my first question was... Where's the header from the forward...? Unknown, so I checked the mail header itself...

Received: from relay3.lowes.com (mail3.lowes.com [])
by imf25.b.hostedemail.com (Postfix) with ESMTP
for ; Tue, 5 Apr 2011 21:06:17 +0000 (UTC)
X-AuditID: ac148405-b7c8eae00000649c-0c-4d9b8527a295
Received: from msex07corpht2.lowes.com (Unknown_Domain [])
by relay3.lowes.com (SMTP Banner) with SMTP id 25.5A.25756.7258B9D4; Tue, 5 Apr 2011 17:09:59 -0400 (EDT)
Received: from msex07ht2.store.lowes.com ( by
msex07corpht2.lowes.com ( with Microsoft SMTP Server (TLS) id
8.1.375.2; Tue, 5 Apr 2011 17:06:16 -0400
Received: from msex07db02.store.lowes.com ([]) by
msex07ht2.store.lowes.com ([]) with mapi; Tue, 5 Apr 2011
17:06:16 -0400

So What you all cry...

Ok so two things, firstly IT Guys are remarkably unimaginitive, or incredibly imaginitive, mail server names have two possible types, something totally arcane for instance mimir.valhalla.com, or something partially descriptive, for instance msex07corpht2.lowes.com. So no the server wasn't named msex because it's short for Mmmmm... Sex! It's probably named such because it's a Microsoft Exchange machine, and I'd hazard a guess it's Microsoft Exchange 2007 too (which I got a ship it award for while at Microsoft). So it's all just conjecture right... No there's also "Microsoft SMTP Server (TLS)" meaning that it's almost certainly using Exchange Server 2003 or later (google it, don't take my word for it).

What this means is the mail that was allegedly sent wasn't sent. Of course it is entirely possible that Mr R Sole of Lowes doesn't know where his "Sent Items" folder is, or their IT Monkeys can't query through WebDAV, but that's unlikely.

So I responded with this...

-----Original Message-----
From: Mr Gungnir Esq.
Sent: Tuesday, April 05, 2011 1:56 PM
To: R Sole
Subject: Re: Blower

I'm not sure you're dealing with the core of my grievance.

The core of my grievance was that Ken made a statement that I had agreed to something that I had not and then argued with me that I had agreed to this. As far as I was aware at the time he left the only agreement was on the method of reimbursement, not the amount. However if the money was the core issue then I would have taken what I could have got and left. It was more
the attitude and belligerence that was the issue. You should have tapes that confirm my statement from your surveillance systems.

There is also an apparent discrepancy between the information we were provided at time of sale of the insulation, that the blower would be available for a reasonable period of time (a couple of weeks or more) for free due to our remote location and the amount of product we purchased. This was confirmed several times with several cashiers and assistants, yet was
contradicted by Ken during our discussion but only after we began arguing about the reimbursement value.

Now as to fair reimbursement for my costs based upon the good faith purchase I made of the Thermo-Kool insulation, I'm to my mind $240 down for the hire of the blower from Spenards. Which at time of purchase I was expecting to loan for free from Lowes. It's also ignoring any personal inconvenience of multiple trips to Fairbanks (including costs of transport) and sourcing at an alternate location. Incidentally Spenards were very gracious in not charging us the full fee for the length of time we had the blower (due to our location) which is an example of good customer service you may learn from, that actual cost should have been $650.

So my full list of grievances
1) No blower available multiple times when attempting to obtain from Lowes
2) Having to locate alternate source of blower
3) Having a statement from a manager that they would reimburse the costs of renting that blower due to inability of Lowes to deliver on their commitment (this is only a grievance due to later events)
4) Having a manager become belligerent and hostile about a trifling difference in expectations ($60) on the reimbursement value
5) Contacting Lowes Corporate, getting a response from them that I would get a response in 24 hours and not getting that response
6) Re-contacting Lowes Corporate about lack of contact from your store, and being told that there was a mail sent (the check is in the mail)
7) Not being forwarded the original mail, that would have proven the claim that the original mail from your store was sent

I'll be perfectly honest, for the argued difference (at the time of the incident I was arguing for $210 due to an expected 7 day rental and a reimbursement maximum of $30/day) this has cost Lowes significantly more than that, for your time, for the Corporate time, and certainly in lost
business. This seems counter productive to me.

Now based on all of that, if you will send me what you consider to be fair compensation for the inconvenience and loss of good faith, then I will let you know whether I find that acceptable.

So two days have passed, and no contact so I've kicked my Corporate contact again. The thing I love the most is that Lowes has the following policy...

Each Employee will conduct all dealings with Lowe's customers and suppliers fairly and will compete honestly and ethically. Employees should not seek to obtain any advantage for the company by manipulating or concealing facts, misusing privileged information, misrepresenting material facts or otherwise acting illegally, unfairly, dishonestly or unethically.
Well when I had an agreement with one of the senior managers on something, and another manager doesn't live up to that agreement and indeed argues that the agreement wasn't as I was led to believe, is that misrepresenting a material fact...? Well I don't know...

I will keep you posted however, whether you're interested or not. I'm pretty much neutral on the issue and the only reason I'm still pursuing it is to bring a small degree of sadistic joy into my life knowing that someone somewhere in Lowes corporate might go and repeatedly kick Mr Sole in the gonads, with steel toe capped boots. Once this happens there is also the sadistic joy knowing Mr Sole once he has joined his local choir as a mezzo-soprano will go and take out his steel toe capped boots and perform the same service to the idiot who p*ssed me off.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cleansers in a Soil-based System

I've recently been discussing greywater reclamation with a few folks, and the topic of cleansers came up. There are a fantastic array of "natural", "green", "biodegradable", and "eco-friendly" cleansers on the market today... and almost every one of them are NOT appropriate for use in a greywater reclamation system where you use the water to irrigate food crops.

Why not? They're better than all those old harsh chemicals, right? Hey, look, they're EPA-approved!

Well, yes... and no. Most of the environmental concerns that are addressed by these cleaners are for AQUEOUS environments, not TERRESTRIAL environments. For the vocabularily-challenged, they're designed to be (or become) safe in water, not soil. Since the vast majority of our new-world sanitation is done through a combined grey/black water sewage treatment plant (everything gets flushed down the drain), and the liquid effluents from those plants are eventually returned to fresh waterways and the ocean (or back into our city water supply!), it is very important that any residues from cleansers be safe for introduction to waterways and other aquatic life (your dish soap can't be killing the fishes!) and/or breakdown rather rapidly in the presence of water or air.

To this end, phosphates were reduced because these cause horrible algae blooms; nitrates were reduced because these can also cause horrible algae blooms (as well as blue baby syndrome -- although that's normally associated with run-off from synthetically & over-fertilized fields, and some cancers); chlorine and sodium ingredients harmlessly decompose in water, and borates and other elements either don't react or are so diluted they aren't harmful. The alkalinity of most cleansers and their chemical elements aren't a major issue because seawater (the eventual end destination of most effluent waters) is alkaline and all the critters that live in it can handle the alkalinity, and there's plenty of fresh water in most rivers and lakes to dilute the alkalinity in those.

However, when you're putting water that contains cleansers directly on/in the soil it's a whole different story. Soil and it's ability to provide nutrients to healthy growing plants has an almost opposite set of rules. Chlorine is a powerful disinfectant... it also "disinfects" the good bacteria that help breakdown plant nutrients in the soil. Sodium, and all the other salts but sodium in particular, is extremely alkaline and can rapidly alter the pH of the soil either killing the plants or locking up the nutrients that the plants need to grow. Boron is a great water conditioner, pesticide and fungicide... unfortunately, these properties are extremely harmful to a happy, healthy garden. Phosphates and nitrates are generally just hunky-dory in soil (within reason of course!) since they are both plant food... which is what makes them so bad in aquatic environments. And buildup of elements is much more of a concern in soil since there certainly isn't enough water in it to dilute it, and some elements take a very long time to decompose in the absence of water and/or air (like salt). Most plants prefer neutral or slightly acidic soils, the nutrients they need are most active/available at neutral or slightly acidic pH, so high alkaline cleansers made for alkaline seawater are completely inappropriate unless you have seriously acidic soil that you're trying to neutralize.

And you never, ever, ever, want to use anything that is marketed as "antibacterial", "antimicrobial" or "disinfecting"... you're going to kill your good soil bacteria, not just that "bad" bacteria that might make you sick. I say "might" because routine exposure to low levels of "bad" bacteria is normally not harmful at all and can actually result in a stronger immune system. Hmm... maybe all these "sanitizers" are actually making us sicker?

Also try to avoid using anything that has enzymes or is labeled "biodegradable" unless you know exactly what they are, what they break down, and what they break down into... or you can totally mess up your soil's microorganisms, nutrient ability/composition, and the soil structure itself. They're not all bad, just be careful! Biodegradable and compostable aren't the same thing... most biodegradable products are designed to biodegrade anaerobically, in landfills or septic tanks, not aerobically in your compost bin or garden mulch.

OK - So what am I supposed to clean with then?

Surprisingly, a great many cleaning tasks can be accomplished with plain old soap (lye & fat) and water. For a little extra kick you can add a mild acid (lemon juice or vinegar) if you aren't cleaning marble/stone, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, household ammonia (ammonium nitrate -- use with proper ventilation!), or a small amount of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate -- use sparingly, it is still a salt).

If you must disinfect something (like food processing tools), boil them. If you can't boil them, use steam... either an autoclave if you can afford it or a handheld unit. If steam won't work for you, citrus and many herbs and essential oils have natural antimicrobial properties (rosemary, peppermint, tea tree, etc). And sparingly, as a last resort, hydrogen peroxide or ammonia or alcohol.  Instead of using chlorine to disinfect/treat your water supply, swimming pool or hot tub... use concentrated hydrogen peroxide instead, your plants will thank you.

The best bleach in the world is sunlight. Hang your whites in the sun the dry and I guarantee those stains will disappear without any chemical assistance. You'll have sparkling white socks and panties without bluing or other optical brighteners. But if you absolutely must use bleach, try pretreating with lemon juice first, and then use hydrogen peroxide instead of chlorine bleach. Which brings up "Oxygen Bleach"... yes, these don't have chlorine BUT they are chock-full of sodium. Use real hydrogen peroxide instead, your plants will thank you.

Washing your laundry rarely requires detergent. Yes, you read that right... simply soaking your clothes overnight is enough to remove most dirt and debris from your clothes because water is the universal solvent and also lifts particles from clothing fibers all on it's own. However, if you want to make this work a little better, or you have some pretty tough stains, try using something slightly alkaline (like plain soap or ammonia) because most stains on clothing are acidic (perspiration, oil/fat, blood, etc). Rubbing a little plain soap (or Fels-Naptha soap) on a stain before washing will do the trick most times, no need to add soap to the water. Adding just a half-cup of ammonia does a wonderful job cutting any body oils and deodorizing through neutralization not fragrance... and no your laundry won't stink of ammonia, the smell dissipates as soon as it's dry. The only caution is to be careful using ammonia if you pre-treat spots with Fels-Naptha because this contains a small amount of chlorine and we all know to never mix chlorine and ammonia!

There are a gajillion tips for treating stains of different origins all over the internet, I won't repeat them here ;)  But remember that soap and ammonia are slightly alkaline, so do add a little vinegar or lemon juice to your laundry rinse water... it helps your clothes feel softer (gets out the last of the soap residue), reduces static cling, removes any soap scum from your laundry tubs, and helps neutralize your greywater.

A little bit of plain liquid soap in the wash water and white vinegar in the rinse water gives you squeaky clean dishes. A little vinegar, water and alcohol give you sparkling windows and counters (but not if they're stone!). A little vinegar in the mop water and your hard surface floors will shine (unless they're stone!), or a little ammonia if they're really greasy grimy.

Vitreous china, glazed ceramics, or enameled surfaces in the bathroom can be cleaned with lemon juice, vinegar, or ammonia since all three will cut through soap scum and hard water deposits. If you must scrub, make a paste with a small amount of baking soda and water, wipe up the majority of it and throw it away instead of rinsing it down the drain. If you have mildew stains, try applying straight lemon juice first, then hydrogen peroxide, and if that still doesn't work apply a paste of borax and water, apply it directly to the affected area, scrub a little and let it sit for a little while -- wipe it off and through it away rather than rinsing down the drain.

Rubbing alcohol in any formulation helps cut through oils, especially petroleum oils which are harder than biological oils to cut through, and just evaporates away into nothing so it rarely leaves any sort of residual gunk in your greywater... but I wouldn't go pouring straight rubbing alcohol on your garden because it has a high desiccant factor (it dries things out), which is also why it's not so great for cleaning wood surfaces.

Hydrogen peroxide is slightly acidic, not so much that it makes a difference unless it's super-concentrated though. Hydrogen-peroxide straight out of the bottle is a potent disinfectant, but the effect doesn't last very long. However, hydrogen peroxide rapidly decomposes into plain water and oxygen... so, by the time you drain the hot tub, or dump the laundry basin, you don't have to worry about what it's going to do to the garden (not that it would really hurt it anyway!).

Now, having said all that, if you need to or want to use chlorine bleach, borax, biological washing soda, or any other of the "no-no" cleansers as long as you capture that water separately and dispose of it somewhere that you don't want any plants to grow... like your paths and driveways.

Of course, periodically flushing your greywater system and irrigating your garden with rainwater or snow melt (which as close to pH neutral as we can naturally get) will help keep salts and other elements from building up in your garden soils and causing problems.

A Little Note on SOAP:

When I say soap, I mean soap... lye and fat. Any other cleaning product (with the exception of a saponin product like Laundry Nuts) that is not made of lye and fat is a detergent. Soap is basically just the fatty salts that are left over when the lye finishes reacting... the result of the process of saponification.

Real soap is mildly alkaline after it is properly aged... soap doesn't have to be pH neutral or pH-balanced to our skin (which means mildly acidic). In fact, in order to clean us properly, since our perspiration and body oils are mildly acidic, soap actually needs to be mildly alkaline. In a properly made and aged soap, there is no caustic lye left in the bar.

Lye in soapmaking is either sodium hydroxide (NaOH - red devil) or potassium hydroxide (KOH - potash), although sodium hydroxide is most commonly used and it's hard to find potassium hydroxide commercially (although you can make your own by leaching hardwood ashes). The biggest difference is that NaOH makes a hard bar, whereas KOH normally results in a soft gloopy "cream" texture (the original liquid soap). The type and amount of fat used in the recipe also affects the consistency, texture and lathering of the soap -- hard fat like beef tallow makes a harder bar (or very thick gloop) that barely lathers, and soft fats like olive oil makes a smooth liquid soap. Most NaOH soaps that use only oils are liquid soaps, and most soaps that use tallow or lard are bar soaps... although there are exceptions, I'm not going to get into soapmaking here either ;)  Keep in mind that all soaps lather poorly in hard water, but a soap doesn't have to lather to clean well (it's a psychological thing I think, needing to foam away the dirt!).

A Final Ecological Note:

If you aren't trying to reclaim your greywater for irrigation, and are just trying to disperse it so it can be soil treated, as long as your dispersal area is large enough, you probably don't have to worry as much about "salting the earth". But, if there is any possibility that you will produce so much greywater that it will cause excess runoff, or be washed by runoff before soil treatment is completed, and thereby contaminating nearby waterways... be mindful of the fishies! In that case, you may want to consider constructing an artificial wetland with appropriate aquatic plants and beasties to treat your greywater instead of just pouring it out or spraying it on the ground.