Automated Rain Barrel Irrigation Project

Something to read later …

Irrigating a small garden is a relatively relaxing and sometimes therapeutic activity (well if you are a botany/biology nerd [or really in need of a hobby]) but going away for any length of time can present a problem. The simple solution of course is to purchase a hose-bib/timer package from Home Depot for about $30 and set up a small drip system to efficiently water each plant or row of plants (rather than a wasteful sprinkler system). Going along with conserving water is using a rain barrel collection system to capture rain for later use thus eliminating or more likely reducing treated water consumption.

Automated Rain Barrel Irrigation Project. via hAxOrYoUrMoThErHaRdRiVe.

Using Passive Solar Energy to heat your straw bale home.

Passive Solar Energy

Passive Solar Energy as a free heat source for your straw bale house. Read the article

A rule of thumb for installed window area

East side of the house 4%, west side 2%, north side 4%, and south side 7-12%. So if you had a floor plan of 1000 square feet, on the east side of the house you would allow for a total square footage of 1000 SF x 4% = 40 square feet of glass and so on.

Read more:

Repel Mosquitoes

The first line of defense against mosquitos is to seal their point of entry. Mosquitos are most active in the early morning and early evening. They seek areas of still air because they are hampered by breezes. Close windows and doors on the side of your house which are opposite the breeze. Then try:

  • The most important measure you can take is to remove standing water sources. Change birdbaths, wading pools and pet’s water bowl twice a week. Keep your gutters and rowing clean and well-draining. Remove yard items that collect water.
  • In a New England Journal of Medicine study, oil of eucalyptus at 30% concentration prevented mosquito bites for 120.1 minutes, while Bite Blocker with 2% soybean oil kept bites away for 96.4 minutes. (the eucalyptus oil must have a minimum of 70% cineole, the active therapeutic ingredient, content.) Citronella, a common alternative to DEET, performed poorly, warding off bugs for only 20 minutes.
  • If you’re using the barbeque, throw a bit of sage or rosemary on the coals to repel mosquitos.
  • For an effective natural bug repellent mix one part garlic juice with 5 parts water in a small spray bottle. Shake well before using. Spray lightly on exposed body parts for an effective repellent lasting up to 5 – 6 hours. Strips of cotton cloth can also be dipped in this mixture and hung in areas, such as patios, as a localized deterrent.
  • Neem oil is a natural vegetable oil extracted from the Neem tree in India. The leaves, seeds and seed oil of the Neem tree contain sallanin, a compound which has effective mosquito-repellent properties. Neem oil is a natural product and is safe to use. Look for new Neem Oil-based commercial products on the market.
  • Planting marigolds around your yard works as a natural bug repellent because the flowers give off a fragrance bugs and flying insects do not like.
  • Safe, non-toxic pheromone-based mosquito traps are now commercially available.

In Pom├íz we have a mosquito problem – there are lots of them and they love to bite. Along with the other challenges we face, such as water provision & conservation, energy generation and crop-growing, we will have to find ways to deal with these pests. We plan to attack them on all fronts – their marauding forces and their home bases – all windows and doors will have additional screens fitted, our water storage containers will be sealed tightly with mesh screens and we intend to cut down the number of standing water sources (as best we can). We’ll try to repel as many of the beasts as possible and to this end here are a few resources that suggest ways to achieve this:

Update; more resources

Make your own yoghurt

We’ve been making our own yoghurt for a few weeks and it’s been mostly successful however we’re still learning and have not yet perfected our process – this latest batch didn’t ferment as, I suspect, I allowed it to cool too quickly.

Here are a few resources that are helpful if you wish to make your own yoghurt.


  • Your first batch is always the hardest.
  • You can use any kind of milk, including whole milk, 2%, 1%, nonfat, pasteurized, homogenized, organic, raw, diluted evaporated, dry powdered, cow, goat, soybean, and more.
  • All yogurt needs “good” bacteria. The easiest way to add this is to use existing yogurt. The first time you make your own yogurt, use store-bought plain yogurt. Be certain it has “active cultures” on the label.
  • Alternatively, instead of existing yogurt you can use freeze-dried bacteria cultures (available in specialty stores), which are more reliable as a starter.
  • Using a double boiler makes it easier to control the temperature.
  • If your oven doesn’t have a pilot light but does have an oven light, preheating the oven to the desired temperature, turning it off, and then leaving the oven light on to maintain the temperature.
  • Another method is to turn your oven on and then off again periodically. Be careful that it doesn’t get too hot.
  • To check the oven temperature, you can put your candy thermometer in a bowl of water inside the oven.
  • Other methods for keeping the yogurt warm are: hot water in a sink, a stove burner, a crock-pot, a warming tray, a large thermos, a heating pad, a sunny window, in your car on a sunny day, etc. Just use your thermometer and best judgment.
  • The longer the mixture incubates, the thicker and more tangy the yogurt will be.
  • Putting your yogurt in the freezer to cool it before to moving it to the refrigerator will result in a smoother consistency.
  • Canned pie filling, jams, maple syrups, and ice-cream fudges are good flavorings.
  • For a delicious appetizer, use your yogurt to make labneh cheese.
  • Using a yogurt maker makes the incubation process a lot easier. It automatically maintains the proper temperature and you don’t need to use the oven or watch the temperature. Most come with individual glass jars to put the yogurt in.
  • Some food dehydrators, such as Ronco induction type, can be used as yogurt makers too. Read the instructions in the manual.