44 YEARS OLD TODAY and SO FLIES THE COOP (from a guy named Michael’s place over to mine)

It’s nice to have a birthday, especially when I’ve gotten such an interesting birthday present from a complete stranger. While browsing the “FREE” section on CRAIGSLIST (something I do on a regular basis to search out finds for SCH) I came across the interesting photo below:

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A fellow named Michael had built this structure out of pallets, and he and his wife Hilda were using it to protect their vegetable garden. You see, out here in the Morongo Basin, if you’ve got a garden, all the local squirrels, jackrabbits, mice, rats, birds, etc. think it’s a nightly buffet. So you have to protect your investment. Michael built this structure with panels that went one foot down in the ground all the way around and covered all the rest of the open space with chicken wire so that no animal could get in and spoil the garden fun.

They’ve had a good run or it, but Michael and his wife are moving on,  so they were looking to give this lovely structure to anyone who was crazy enough to come over and disassemble it. To give it to someone completely free of charge.

“Hey! Over here! I’m JUST crazy enough to give it a shot! Pick me! Pick me!”

They did.

I really like that word FREE. And taking something that had been given a second chance (wooden pallets) and made into a garden structure — and then taking that garden structure and giving it a SECOND CHANCE over at my place as two new structures (more below) — well, that’s what my whole Second Chance Homestead philosophy is about. It’s about as close to birthday nirvana as you can get!

So I talked my friend John into helping me take this thing apart.

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My friend John V. stands ready to mount the demolition.

It’s a good thing I’ve still got my pickup truck. Because it allowed me to move all the pieces from Michael and Hilda’s place over to my very own plot of Second Chance Homestead land.

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 The pieces of the puzzle stacked not so neatly in the northwest corner of my backyard. (above and below)

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SO WHAT AM I GOING TO BUILD?

Two things actually.

A chicken coop. And a greenhouse for growing things in a protected environment just like Michael and Hilda did.

Of course the “greenhouse” will actually be an orange house because that’s the color they decided to paint all of this wood, and since they gave me two free gallons of leftover orange paint I think both the coop and the “greenhouse” will stay orange.

I’m finally getting my energy back and can’t wait to get busy building. Hammer and nails here I come.  I’m 44 years old and I and these blood orange walls are not going anywhere but up…UP…UP!

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HOW DID I GET THROUGH AN ENTIRE SUMMER WITHOUT AIR CONDITIONING? EASY…

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When I first moved in to my place in February, the cooling of my house wasn’t the first thing on my mind. But as summer approached I got more and more curious: how was I going to get through a very hot summer with no air conditioning?

The answer was easy. My place came with an evaporative cooler mounted on the roof. I was assured I wouldn’t need anything else to ensure a comfortable summer season.

At first the whole thing seemed kind of primitive. For one thing, it only had two switches: ON and OFF (for the system as a whole) and HIGH and LOW (for the fan within the system which circulates air within my house via ducts in each room). There was no way to “set” the desired temperature. There was no timer to let it know when to get my house cool and when to dial it back a bit.

How does this thing work? I wondered.

It just does. And beautifully I might add.

CONSTANT FLOW & PEACE AND QUIET:

When you turn the system on it continuously blows cool air into your home — none of this on/off/on/off stuff that air conditioners go through and which are very inefficient as far as energy conservation is concerned. And the only way I even notice that it’s on is if I feel the temperature change or walk beneath a duct and feel the air blowing down on me. That’s because it’s operation is virtually silent. Another great advantage over a/c.

FRESH & MOIST:

Unlike air conditioning units, which recirculate air within a closed system – cooling and recooling it and drying it out — evaporative coolers circulate constant fresh air from outside while adding moisture to it in the process. Last summer I spent Palm Springs, where air conditioning units run 24/7 and I woke up every morning with dried skin, chapped lips, and a scratchy throat.  None of that happens with my evaporative cooler.

In keeping with the constant flow of air, you can even keep a door or window open while running the evaporative cooler. In fact, it helps to crack a window open an inch or two. That way the fresh air can push out the “old” air. My two cats and my dog Phoenix use a doggy door to go in and out of the house. When I forget to crack open a window and am running the evaporative cooler their doggy door “window” ends up being pushed open with a nice little whistling sound as a result of the air pressure.

Fresh, clean, moist air. What a concept.

ENERGY EFFICIENT & ENVIRONMENT FRIENDLY:

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Evaporative cooling systems use about 70% less energy than an air conditioning unit, and they have negligible C02 emissions. The thing runs on water and electricity. There is no freon in an evaporative cooling system, or any other kind of cooling agent other than H20. 

INEXPENSIVE:

Evaporative coolers are cheaper to buy, install, and run than air conditioners. They also need less maintenance. With a simpler system, maintenance is simplified. One quick annual service (I had mine in April for about $50) is all that is needed. No freon recharges, no air filter cleanings or replacements. And by using 70% less energy you can only guess how cheap my electricity bill was all summer long.

THE ONE BIG DRAWBACK:

Evaporative coolers work best in hot and dry areas. This isn’t the type of cooling system you should get if you live in hot and humid Florida. Luckily the Morongo Basin meets these conditions perfectly, with the exception of a few humid days last month when monsoonal type storm clouds dumped rain on our usually dry desert.

Some people say evaporative coolers just don’t work in humid conditions. I found that this was an exagerration. My cooler worked best in hot and dry conditions, but it still managed to make things a bit cooler inside on even the most humid day. With just a handful of days during which these conditions were present, it just wouldn’t make any sense for me to invest in an air conditioning system. For a few days every year? Who needs that expense? Who needs that headache? What kind of man am I if I can’t sit through a humid day or two once every year.

 

 

 

GO SECOND CHANCE SHOPPING: Some Recent Thrift Store Finds

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 Here at Second Chance Homestead we furnish our home with previously owned items that need a second chance. Shopping “second-hand” is sustainable living at it’s best: Taking home used items saves them from landfills; buying something old instead of something new saves the energy involved in the production of new items; and spending money at thrift stores benefits the local non-profit organizations who run them. It really is one of the best ways to participate in your community. And it saves you money.

But it’s not all environment and economics.

Don’t forget about the THRILL!  It’s like going on a treasure hunt and finding gold. You make your way through shelves and racks and suddenly stumble upon the most amazing find!  For example, I recently came across two handmade Portuguese plates (In the 1990’s I lived in Portugal for a year and a half and have a love for the country and it’s crafts). I was ecstatic! And I didn’t even have to go overseas to get them!

 Here are some recent thrift store finds:

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How Now Brown Cow. This cow is actually a “piggy” bank. $1.50.

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Used baseballs add a nice decorative touch when stacked atop a plate handmade in Portugal. (baseballs 75 cents each; 2 handmade plates 75 cents each. The other one sits under the cow)

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An antique adding machine (with period paper receipt roll). $12.00.

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A retro ceiling light fixture cover in glass and wood. Fits in perfectly with SCH’s “rustic ranch” look. $3.00.

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Morton’s Salt vintage tin. $3.75.

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Handmade ceramic “mini” milk pitcher. $1.50.

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Dancing Plates. Set of four. 75 cents each.

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Metal and Glass “lantern” covers for votive candles. Set of 3. $2.25.

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Vintage Candlestick holders. Glass. Set of two. $1.50.

TOTAL SPENT: Just 33 dollars.

Have a good weekend! I hope you take time to do some “second chance” shopping of your own! 

 

SHAVING IS FANTASTIC WITHOUT ALL THAT PLASTIC

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Phoenix poses next to the new tools for shaving the mug at Second Chance Homestead (also suitable for armpit, head and leg shaving – and if you are a hobbit, for foot shaving)

One goal when I moved to the Homestead: CUT DOWN ON PLASTIC. And if you shave in the modern world, you know just how much plastic can be involved.

 I’ve got a brother who is blessed with a mug that sprouts a bit of scrub about once a week. For him to try and grow a beard is an unbearable chore. He’s got enough hair on his head and chest to not get too depressed about it, but he can get by on one shave a week if that. So he doesn’t contribute too much shaving plastic waste to the local landfill. But he does his part.

 I on the other hand, am built like my father, which means that the scrub you shave off this morning is looking like a pretty strong shadow this afternoon. In short, if I want to look like a respectable gent with a clean-shaven face I need to take a razor to my cheeks and chin at least once a day. I’ve even had to shave twice when going out later in the evening if I wanted that “clean” look.

 What did this mean? Plastic, plastic, plastic. Five amazing blades wrapped in disposable plastic. Four blades if that is your style. Blades that pivot, rivet, and even sit Shiva if you want them to.  All of them encased in plastic. And you buy them in packaging made of plastic. You buy them OFTEN, because they don’t stay sharp too long. And that is just the BLADES. Then there is the razor (the part that goes in your hand).  If you’re like me, you are constantly replacing razors because you bought the wrong blades which don’t fit the razor you bought last time. Gilette has it’s own system and it’s own systems within systems and it is all so complicated. So if you buy the Gilette Super Plus it won’t fit the Superior and so on and so on.  And then Schick has got a whole other scheme. And Target and Walmart have their knockoffs. After years of shaving you’ve got a drawer full of razors and an empty wallet. And you don’t even get a really good shave.

 The cream that goes along with shaving also comes in plastic just in case you were worried you weren’t using enough. Or non-recyclable cans of gel. Take your pick.  You still end up a guilty litter monster in the shaving department.

 For the truly decadent there are the  “Disposable” one-time “”disposable” razor/blade combinations that come in packs of 10 and 20. What a WASTE of plastic. But they are CHEAP, and if you live like I do they are a BIG temptation to a SMALL budget.

 But when I moved here to the homestead I decided to do the right thing. I made a decision to switch to old school shaving.Yep. Razor. Blade. Brush. Soap. Re-useable. Wow. What a concept.

Now, you can’t go to Walmart or Target or any drugstore and find anything that will help you make this switch. I know. I tried. The only source I could find was online. Perhaps in a bigger city at an old-school pharmacy you might be able to find a nice shaver, a bowl, a shave soap bar, and a brush – but good luck tryin’.

 Luckily I’m not the only guy who has shifted back in time when it comes to a good, clean (and green) shave. There is a MOVEMENT out there. It’s called VINTAGE SHAVING. Seriously. There are all these sites that sell antique refurbished razors that are amazing – and pricey. But you got to admire the effort they make to restore these things. Many sites have before and after pictures. You can’t believe the transformation. Some even have history on the shaver itself. There are rare ones, gold-plated, “once owned by…” – you name it – all with commensurate price tags. The guys at http://www.razoremporium.com/store/ have a great selection and take restoration and shaving seriously. But there are loads of options – just Google it and see.  And at SCH we really like the idea of giving these old razors a second chance at life.

 Remember – a USED razor gets a NEW blade put into it. So the part that mows your “face grass” is brand new, clean, hygienic. Don’t be scared off by the fact that the device that holds your blade is used. It’s been cleaned. If you don’t believe the guys who sold it to you, boil it in water or send it through a dishwasher cycle. There. You’re guaranteed a germ free shave. No need to be paranoid.

 I do aspire to own an amazing one of a kind refurbished several hundred dollar razor one of these days, but for now I had to stay within my low budget. You can do this LOW budget. But steer clear of “vintage” sites and hit up Amazon.com.

I bought a great shaver through Amazon made in Egypt by the Lord Company and it works just fine. Even better, the English language packaging had me bowled over with laughter:

 “LORD PREMIUM. The Art of Shaving. LORD brings you the smoothness feeling. LORD sterling Razor is made according to high standards to give you a premium shave you can ever get. It’s durable metal parts hold the blade at the perfect angle to the face. This critical angle along with LORD Blade makes your shaving smooth and close all days long.”

In SoCal we’re always talking about Spanglish. Now I know Egyptlish too. You can find the Lord Company at http://www.razorslord.com/

Lord sells blades too, a pack of thirty for under ten bucks. Contrast that with the four lousy blade heads you get from Gilette or Shick at around $14.00 per pack.

 To complete the package I needed a brush, a shave soap, and a ceramic bowl to be able to get the foam just right. Luckily Van Der Hagen Enterprises at http://vdhent.com/ could outfit me with a set that would work just fine (save the plastic handle of the brush – but hey – I’m going to keep this brush for a long, long time).

I don’t really like to just run the tap and then wet and clean my razor in between strokes. It wastes water and I I feel that the tap never gets hot enough. So I like to have a second bowl of boiling hot water to sink my razor into in between strokes. I went to my local thrift store and found that really cool green one you can see to Phoenix’s left. It set me back $1.00 and works just fine.

I used to always cut myself shaving. I have the used styptic pencils to prove it. But using this old method I have only cut myself once when I was trying to get the angle right. Once you understand how this old-school method is done, it’s like a dance with your blade and face every single morning. I love the ritual of it. Boil my water, fill my ceramic water reservoir. Ahhhh….look at the steam rise. Dip my brush in to get it wet, then swirl it around the ceramic soap bowl where it lathers up and cools just enough to not burn my face.  Then transfer the lather to my face with sensual brush strokes that feel great and really lift and lubricate each hair. It’s like masturbation of the jaw. And you’ve never gotten such a clean (green) shave. Trust me.