Monday, June 29, 2009

Bike Racing Just Down the Hill From My House

The Saint Paul Bicycle Racing Club is hosting the Summit Criterium
July 7, 14, 21 & 28 @ the South St. Paul Stockyards. Here's a PDF link with more info. I'm excited to pop down and watch some races.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rain Catch Barrel

My house was build in 1920. It originally had a cistern to catch and use rain water. At some point modernity rendered such technology obsolete. Now ecological awareness and and renewable energy concerns are making such old technology cutting edge again.

My local building centers sell plastic barrels for catching rain at premium prices. It is easy to spend $100 to $150 dollars for such a system.

My choice was to build my own out of a plastic garbage can. I did so for about $50. Still a lot of money for something that should be simple. $30 for a heavy duty garbage can. The rest on assorted hardware and sealants.
This picture is of the outside of barrel with faucet.

Now for some fun math. My city water rate is $2.58/100ft³ during the summer months when my rain catch will be used. (My city water is cheaper in the winter) I will be able to fill and use 31 gallons of water during each rain filling event. I'm guessing I can fill my barrel 10 times a year.
Inside of the barrel bottom hardware

Each time I fill my 31 gallon barrel with free water I will get 4.14ft³ or 9.5cents of water. This will provide a net savings of about $1 per year.

If I stay active and am lucky with my health, I might see a profit in 50 years so long as no mechanical parts fail in the next half-century.
Outside barrel bottom hardware without faucet.

I didn't do the math before building the rain catch, but I am not surprised at the lack of savings.

Assuming such a barrel has a 10 year functional life span. It would have to cost less than $10 dollars to be of economic value.

Thus, I've concluded current rain catch barrels are products for eco-snobs who prominently display systems next to hybrid Escalades. Admittedly, they must also be products for geeky, cheap, eco-snobs who build them for half price.

This project was not merit less. Putting a barrel under a gutter down spout seems so easy, but there were a number of fun challenges to solve. I also enjoyed dabbling in old technology.

I'm left with several questions stemming from my work. In 1920 catching rain water made enough sense to have a dedicated, built-in system in my house. What's changed? Has water become that much less expensive? Could a past system collect much larger quantities of water? Was it a labor saver due to the lack city water? What elements of modern living forced the obsolescence of this system?

Finally, why do I feel like this project was $50 dollars well spent? I'll post more pictures when the system is working.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Signs from Fargo

Here are two progressive signs I saw on a recent trip to Fargo. Several of each lined Broadway, one of the main downtown streets flanked with bars and restaurants. Moreover, they were put up by the city government. Way to go Fargo!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sumer is icumen in

A few photos from the first day of Summer 2009 along with a 13th century song celebrating the season. I have the original and a translation below. The Middle English is easy to read after reading it first in Modern English. Comparing the text allows one to learn the Middle English word for fart.

Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweþ sed and bloweþ med
And springþ þe wde nu,
Sing cuccu!
Awe bleteþ after lomb,
Lhouþ after calue cu.
Bulluc sterteþ, bucke uerteþ,
Murie sing cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu, wel singes þu cuccu;
Ne swik þu nauer nu.
Sing cuccu nu. Sing cuccu.
Sing cuccu. Sing cuccu nu!

Modern English
Summer is a-coming in,
Loudly sing, Cuckoo!
The seed grows and the meadow
And the wood springs anew,
Sing, Cuckoo!
The ewe bleats after the lamb
The cow lows after the calf.
The bullock stirs, the stag farts,
Merrily sing, Cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo, well you sing,
Don't you ever stop now,
Sing cuckoo now. Sing, Cuckoo.

Finished Floors

Claire is showing off the final product of the floors from the previous post. They turned out quite nice.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Sister's "New" house.

The last few days have been a bit of a grind. Well, a sander anyway. I've been helping Dippy refinish the floors in her house. The home is a flood damaged foreclosure with potential. It will have nice floors when we're done anyway.

Here is a welcome sign on the front window.

A couple of in the process pictures of the floors. I'll post a picture of the finished floors if I can.

Friday, June 12, 2009

First Tour of the Year.

The trip to William O'Brien was just under 40 miles each way. Hills and a headwind made it feel farther. The Fuji spun in every gear from granny on up. I have a 12-32 spread on the cassette and a 48/38/26 triple on the front.

I rode from home to the Gateway Trail end. Then I weaved through a series of county roads to the park. No flats or mechanical problems. I did have one baby crash. I pulled over on a narrow bridge because I was lost. With my right foot clicked out of the pedal, I pulled up to the curb without thinking about my front pannier. It brushed the curb and dumped me over to the left. I couldn't click out and tipped over. I'm glad no car was coming, or I would have been dead. Instead I was just embarrassed.

The trip was hard work, and rewarding. At camp I took a nap, made some food and coffee, read and sat by the fire.

A big snowman near the trail.

A self-portrait in camp. Note the hat; it was cool.

I forgot my coffee cup so had to improvise a coffee making system. I enjoyed several hot bowls of brew.

My tent was in a secluded spot. The single tent has been a worthwhile investment.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

An overnight tour.

Here's the old Fuji loaded for a quick tour. Nothing epic, so I put the low boys on the front instead of using the "Nob" trailer. My destination is William O'Brien St. Park. I'm looking forward to good weather and to a relaxing evening of peace. I'll start reading a new book. More photos and description upon my return.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Coffee Grinders

On a recent camping trip we found we were sans grinder. Here are the improvised grinding tools and results of our efforts. The coffee wasn't bad.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Lucky or good?

I was outside shooting a few arrows tonight with Harris. My shots were right where I wanted them. Feeling good, I told Harris that I would hit the arrow in front of the target. These pictures show the results of my first shot. I think I'm most likely lucky, but the boy thinks I'm good. Which is lucky too.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

kibbeh naye and Lebanese flat bread

Sitting cold, wet and hungry during a rest stop of the Ironman bike ride, my neighbor John served Claire and I a cooked Lebanese meatloaf call kibbeh with some Lebanese Flat bread. It was delicious and helped fuel us for a challenging day. I have found myself thinking about kibbeh often since that cold ride.

Kibbeh is dense. Meat, Bulgar wheat and cumin and cayenne pepper are packed into diamond shaped cubes.

Last night John brought some over, and we formed the paste like meat on skewers grilling it as kabobs. Wrapped in flat bread smeared with a garlic, olive oil and lemon spread, it was a treat once again. John shared that kibbeh is best eaten tartare style. The naye part of kibbeh naye means raw.

Tonight John showed Claire and I how to make it;we experienced how good it is raw. The recipe is quite simple.
1lb of Kibbeh meat from a local butcher. Just call him the day before
1 cup of bulgar #1 wheat soaked in water for about 1/2 hour.
1 medium onion turned to "apple sauce."
1 t. cumin
1 t. cayenne pepper (more would be better)
dash black pepper
2t. salt.

To eat it raw, place it on a plate covered in oil. John used corn oil. I'd use olive oil. Serve it on flat bread or crackers.

To bake it, place it in about a 1" layer in a pan and bake it for about an hour. Half an hour at 425 and half and hour at 375.

John also suggested a stuffed meat loaf. Lamb, pine nuts, onions, feta, black olives, sun dried tomatoes would all be excellent fillings.

John took pride in his heritage expressed through this food. He explained how his mother, now dead, used to make it the same way. Tonight was about more than sharing a recipe.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


I just finished this book. I've been reading it in small doses since last Nov. I'm not over stating that some of the ideas presented change the way I look at Nature and ecology and history and education.