Category: Homestead

Make Long, Wide Rip Cuts with Your Circular Saw

Kreg rip fence for circular saw

Let’s say you want to rip-cut some planks and plywood for a chicken coop and you don’t have a table saw. The Kreg Rip-Cut is a stand-alone fence that lets you make long, straight cuts with a circular saw.

Yes, many saws come with a rip fence as an accessory, but these accessories usually don’t extend more than 10 inches from the blade and they tend to be a little wobbly. The Kreg gives you up to 24 inches of cutting width and it’s rock-solid.

You can see the Kreg Rip-Cut in action, and find a link to purchase at Cool Tools.

How to Tie a Knot for Most Situations – 12 Knots You Should Know


If you’re like me you know a few knots that get you through most situations. But then you have to haul home an antique Chippendale from the swap meet and you can’t figure out the best knot for tying your tie-down strap to another strap to keep the load secure in two directions.

Fortunately Gear Patrol has you covered with 12 Knots Every Man Should Master. Here are a dozen easy-to-follow videos that show you how to tie a particular knot plus what makes the knot so useful.

Knots covered are:

  • Boating Basics: Bowline Knot
  • Climbing Classic: Water Knot
  • Simple, But Effective: Girth Hitch
  • Great for Camping: Clove Hitch
  • Not Really a Knot: Basket Hitch
  • For Laces Not Lifelines: Square Knot
  • Simple and Strong: Half Hitch
  • Most Reliable: Double Fishermans
  • Another Climbing Stalwart: Flemish Bend
  • A Last Resort: Granny Knot
  • Great In A Pinch: Alpine Butterfly
  • Perfect for Rooftop Tie-Downs: Trucker’s Hitch

Previously on Wild Rye: Know Your Knot – a collection of important knots and how to tie them.

Lightweight Cardboard House Can Be Installed in One Day – Designed to Be Permanent

modular cardboard house

Modular cardboard Wikklehouse finished with wood panels | Photo © Wikkelhouse / Yvonne Witte

Cardboard has long been the stuff of dreams – the joke is that at Christmas children spend less time playing with a toy than with the box it came in. And few things are more exciting than the arrival of a new appliance and a box that can become an instant fortress or playhouse.

Now it’s cardboard’s chance to come of age with Wikkelhouse, a project for building modular housing developed by the Netherlands design firm Fiction Factory.

The houses are framed and then spun from rolls of cardboard on an armature in a factory. The cardboard is waterproofed, the modules are paneled inside and then shipped to their final location.

This is by no means the first time cardboard has been used as a permanent building material. But it might be one of the most energy efficient ways to build small scale dwellings.

[Via Contemporist]

5 Firefighting Tools that Belong in Your Tool Shed

fire crew photo by FEMA

Northern California fire crew working hot line in San Diego 2007 | Photo by Andrea Booher/FEMA

I worked one summer on a blue card fire crew, one of the best jobs ever. A ten-person crew can clear a trail five feet wide down to mineral soil almost as fast as you can walk it. The tools we used were so useful that I’m surprised at how rarely I see them in people’s sheds. Here is a round up of the tools we used and why they are so great.

Stihl Chain Saw 


A Stihl 76cc chainsaw with a 28 inch bar and a full skip chain handles limbs, trunks and logs up to 50 inches diameter or thereabouts. Michael Smith shares a firefighter’s perspective on chainsaws, noting that Husky is equally popular to the Stihl out on the fireline, but mainly because parts for both brands are likely to be stocked and readily available. Available at Stihl USA

Brush Hook

Hand crew sawyers are followed by two or three workers with brush hooks. The razor sharp curved blade can be used to pull branches and chop them. The curve of the blade makes it less likely to glance to the side or fall short on a stroke than a traditional axe when you’re clearing brush and shrubs. Wranglestar has a Youtube video explaining more about brush axes. Available on Amazon.

Pulaski Axe

A Pulaski is a hybrid axe and digging mattock – and next the chainsaw one of the most dangerous tools on the fire line. The point of the Pulaski is to dig up shallow roots and chop them so that a fire won’t cross the line underground (yes it happens). Check out the US Forest Service instructions for improving your Grubbing Technique. Available at Amazon.

Razorback Shovel

Just about everybody has a shovel of some kind. I always liked the Razorback because the tempered steel blade keeps a sharp edge all day long. The function of the shovel on a fire line is to cut turf and sweep it off the trail. The technique is to grasp the neck or socket of the shovel with your dominant hand, brace that arm against your knee which acts as a fulcrum. You use your other hand to pull back on the shovel’s handle like a lever which moves the blade across the ground with quite a bit of force. Razorback shovels are available on Amazon.


Last but not least is the Mcleod (pronounced “McCloud”) which is a hoe with an attitude. The purpose of the Mcleod is to clear the trail down to mineral soil with no clumps of organic matter in the mix. This is done primarily with the hoe blade but sometimes you come across sticks and debris and you simply turn the tool 180 and you’ve got a heavy duty rake. This thing isn’t for raking leaves but it’s dandy for chopping up a garden patch that’s gone fallow. Available through Amazon.

Close to 100 Uses for Paracord – and Growing

nylon paracord

Paracord | Photo courtesy of More than Just Surviving

You’ve got one of those nifty paracord bracelets and you know that it must be good for something more than Macgyver-esque style. More than Just Surviving lines out 93 ways to use that paracord bracelet for more than drying laundry.

Here are just a few of the ways you can use paracord:

Belt or replacement belt,
Bolo tie,
Pet leash,
Knife handle wrap,
Support for a lean-to shelter.

Unravel the paracord and you’ve got high-strength inner threads that you can use for:

Fishing line,
Bowstring for a fire drill,
Dental floss,
Suture thread.

One thing you might not actually be able to use your paracord for? You guessed it – parachutes*.

* Check to be sure your paracord is certified 550 mil spec before using it to jump out of a plane.

[Via More than Just Surviving]

How to Survive the Coming Global Recession Like Your Great-grandparents

female worker in WPA lunch room

Worker in WPA Lunch Room – Public Domain

We’re not saying that a global recession is right around the corner. Then again the history of the United States has been peppered by depressions and recessions – one about every five years or so – so never say never.

Whether you’re facing hard times or just want to get back to basics the Survival Life blog (via Pioneer Settler) shares 13 Survival Tips From the Great Depression.

The Depression-era ethic behind these tips (reuse, repurpose, do it yourself) make perfect sense in any economy. Frugality is good for the planet and good for the soul.

For other sensible tips check out Wise Bread, Frugal Village and Eco Thrifty Living.

Bonus: The Tightwad Gazette

A Master List of Skills for Modern Homesteaders

Milking a Goat | photo via PioneerSettler

Milking a Goat | photo via PioneerSettler

Do you know how to set up a greenhouse, grow herbs, pluck a chicken, and properly train an animal? PioneerSettler serves of a list of 133 Homesteading Skills for the Modern Day Homesteader along with links to information and resources that will help you master these skills.

Some of these skills are ones that you’d obviously want to try at home, like making candles. Others are maybe not so obvious, like how to build a geodesic dome:

What is a Geodesic Dome?

Geodesic domes are one of the strongest, lightest structures you can build. Due to their unique design, they are wind, hurricane and tornado resistant. Geodesic domes can be used as extra storage, a greenhouse, or as a living space. It takes about 3 hours to put one together and about 15 minutes to take it apart. The parts are readily available at local hardware stores, and it the cost for this 19 ft x 9.5, 278 sq. ft dome is about $300.

These tips are amazing – like the Whole Earth Catalog for a new millennium.

One skill that is inexplicably missing from the list, considering all the advice about backyard poultry, how to dig a grave.


New Category on Wild Rye – Homesteading

Pioneer family - photo public domain

Pioneer family – photo public domain

We’re opening a new category of topics on Wild Rye, loosely grouped under the heading “homesteading.”

This section will include classic homesteading topics like backyard poultry, canning, and doing-it-yourself. But it will include things of interest to the more urbane homesteader such as setting up your wifi for your connected home.

If you have any ideas for things you’d like to see related to setting up and maintaining a homestead on your own suburban frontier, let us know in comments below.

What does “homesteading” mean to you?

Order an Ultramodern Home – Starting at $38,000 | Shipping Containers

Honomobo container house via Gizmag

Honomobo container house via Gizmag

Shipping containers have been a promising alternative to prefab architecture at least since Stewart Brand’s Sausalito research library. According to Gizmag there is now a Canadian firm called Honomobo that will drop one of these ready-to-inhabit home spaces on your lot for the price of a basic remodel.

Of course you’ll have to work out the zoning regulations with your local municipality. Other than that Honomobo units can be ordered with everything you need to live, from solar power to hot water and electric heating.

If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer you can always buy your own shipping container (for $1200 to $5000 and up) and equip it on your own.

The Two Types of Clutter: Misplaced Stuff and Logjams

Photo: public domain

Photo: public domain

As I’m working on clearing off my desk and clearing out my office I’m starting to realize that this time around the clutter I’m dealing with is of a different quality than your garden variety crap-fest.

Use the Two-Minute Rule to Banish Vulture Vomit Forever

That was the term Stanley, our colorful across-the-street neighbor, used to describe his yard and garage when Lord Chaos had the upper hand. “Who left all this vulture vomit on the front lawn?”

Most clutter seems to fit this category – stuff where it shouldn’t be. It’s pretty easy to deal with, albeit not the apex of a good time. Simply round up the tools and put them back in the tool shed. Put the sports equipment back in the hall closet. Empty beer cans go in the recycling. Boom. You’re done.

If things are a little more complicated, let’s say with a messy desk, you can use David Allen’s two minute rule. If something on your desk can be handled in two minutes or less – like putting the car registration in the glovebox of the Ford – then do it now. Otherwise file it in a system that will prompt you to get to the task later.


Logjams May Require Dynamite

Vulture-vomit chaos is pretty easy to manage because you simply have to return things to their proper places and voila! order emerges from chaos.
But there’s another type of mess altogether – the logjam. Here you’ve got all kinds of projects, fragments, raw materials each with its own agenda, all at cross-purposes to the others.

For example I have some books on my desk that I should put on the bookcase but the shelves on the bookcase are cluttered with silver-plate family heirlooms but I can’t get to those because of the banker’s boxes full of my mother’s financials which I mean to scan and shred but I can’t start that project because my scanner is buried under a cascade of books on my desk.


Why the Two Minute Rule Doesn’t Work on Logjams

Breaking a logjam requires an entirely different strategy from ordinary clutter because there’s nothing in this howling mess that can be done inside of an hour and deferring one of these projects is simply like picking up a log from one part of the pile and moving it to another part of the pile.

Typically the way to clear a logjam – at least a real-life jam consisting of a tangled pile of logs damming up a river – is to identify the “key log” that is holding the jam in place. And then remove that log.
Identifying and removing key logs isn’t easy and it isn’t fast.

Consider the Great Raft, a jam of logs that was four times as long as Rhode Island is wide. It took teams of engineers decades to remove these logs and get the Red River flowing. But the alternative to doing the work is to let the log jam grow. Then you’ll be in a dam fine mess indeed.

It’s All Turned to Crap – Again. How to Declutter for 70th Time…

Let’s get this out of the way first – that’s an iced coffee on my desk, not an iced Guinness.

Next, I am drowning in clutter. It doesn’t seem to matter how much time and effort I spend on trying to get my life organized, there is just no free space anywhere to put anything. It is a howling mess.

This is not for want of good advice – there is literally a crapload of advice on how to uncluttered your surroundings:

18 Five-Minute Decluttering Tips to Start Conquering Your Mess
40 Bags in 40 Days
Art of Manliness’ Guide to Declutter Your Life and Make Some Extra Cash
All of My Belongings Fit in One Box
Use the “This Isn’t My Stuff Approach” for Radical Decluttering

All this advice is kind of the same. And for some reason it isn’t working for me. I’ve parted with more crap this past year than perhaps in all my previous years combined. And my space is more crowded and cluttered than ever. It seems to defy physics.

So I’m going to give it another shot and I’m going to be kind of public about it and we’ll see if I can get to the bottom of this clutter and find a pony…

Get Your Garage “In the Zone”

The American garage is truly a multipurpose space. Part workshop, part storage unit and part garage there are so many demands put on this space there’s no wonder it can get out of control in a hurry.

Easy Closets takes a strategic view by breaking the typical garage into six zones – 1) Transition, 2) Need It Now, 3) Long Tall Thin Storage, 4) Large Item Storage, 5) Frequently Used Items, 6) Workspace.

One brilliant idea that struck me this past weekend – why am I putting heavy tubs filled with seasonal decorations up in the rafters? Instead I cleared out the camping gear shelves, stowed the tubs on the shelves and put the lightweight sleeping bags and air mattresses up in the loft.

[Image by Easy Closets]

BMW i3 Stability Control Just Saved My Ass

Yesterday some doofus in a Dodge Magnum decided to test the general properties of matter by occupying my lane while I was still in it. I swerved hard to avoid the oncoming rear quarter panel of the Dodge and then swerved back to avoid causing a chain reaction of my own.

At least that’s what I think happened. Maybe the car took over control after my initial swerve and helped me back into my lane. The whole thing happened in less than a heartbeat.

BMW’s car-and-driver-are-one stability response felt really weird, icky and unpleasant in action. To me it felt like the torsion on the wheels was making them buckle and collapse. And then suddenly the car bounced back into it’s lane – like riding a beach ball in a rodeo. I don’t ever want to do that again.

But I’m alive. Unscratched. And happy. If I swerved like that in my Jeep Wrangler there’s a better than good chance I’d have hit the ground hard.

Thanks BMW. Your car of the future just preserved mine.

BMW i3 First Drive – Whoosh!!!

Driving the BMW i3 is a huge change from my gas-hungry Jeep TJ. The i3 has a distinctly golf-cart feel with the smooth silent and instant acceleration. Once you’ve got it up to speed – only 7 seconds if you floor it (compared to 7.4 seconds for the Scion TC) – the ride begins to feel like a bullet train. The i3 hums along, floating like it’s on rails.

There is a little side-to-side liveliness on the despicably paved freeways of southern California. This might have something to do with the i3’s light weight but I’m guessing it has more to do with the narrow bicycle tires that aim to cut down rolling resistance.

The (Nearly) Self-Driving Car of My Dreams

The most amazing aspect of driving the i3 is the Active Cruise Control. Lock in your top speed and the car practically drives itself. You still have to steer but the car takes care of all the stopping and starting that makes bumper-to-bumper traffic such a soul-sucking exercise.

Oddly I find that I’m MORE alert when I’ve got the ACC engaged because a car that cuts in front of you won’t trigger the automatic braking right away. But it’s a zen-like awareness that’s vastly different from the brake-gas-brake-gas-coast-brake-brake dance that I do for at least an hour every day.

The BMW i3’s Dirty Little Secret

The best thing about driving the i3 is something I’ve never heard anyone talk about – sneaking up behind people in parking lots and tapping your horn. Man do they jump!

The BMW i3 is so quiet that people don’t hear you while they are walking. They tend to freak out when they notice that there’s suddenly a car right behind them. It’s funny but I’m finding myself being an ultra-defensive driver when there are people nearby. Much the same as riding a motorcycle, where you have to assume drivers won’t see you, in the i3 you have to assume that they won’t hear you and could easily step right in front of you.

In the Twisties

The BMW i3 handles twisting mountain roads like a champ. The short wheelbase and low center of gravity make the i3 more than adequate on ultra-winding hairpins (Potrero road anyone?). But the best part of the experience is the regenerative braking that starts as soon as you back off the accelerator. You’ve got positive control of the car through turns without ever having to reach for the brake.

In General a Pretty Satisfying Ride

The range extender is what sold me on the BMW i3, not the ride. To be sure it was important to have a comfortable, quiet cabin so that I can convert some drive-time into dictation-time. And the Active Cruise Control is soothing to already jangled nerves.

The zippy, smooth and powerful driving response is just icing on the cake.


[Image: BMW]

How I Leased a BMW for $0 (Almost)

Here’s the deal – I live in my car. That’s to say I spend almost two hours every day dragging my sad briefcase across two counties to the salt mines. For the privilege I shuck out over $400 big ones to fill the ample gas tank on my lumbersexual Jeep TJ.

But you can only push a man so far. I broke out the yellow pad and a stubby pencil and applied an advanced form of math known as Teslanomics to calculate how much it would cost me to lease a plug-in hybrid.

Turns out on paper I could actually MAKE MONEY by leasing an electric powered car. And don’t worry, the plan is only slightly more complicated than Milo Minderbinder’s arrangement to buy eggs for 7 cents, sell them to the US government for 5 cents, clearing an 8 cent profit per egg. Basically it hinges on getting the monthly lease payment down below what I pay for gasoline.

So I went ahead and pulled the trigger on a lease for a BMW i3 – loaded (or maybe half-loaded) and joined the ranks of electron moochers who comb the streets looking for charge points the way ants look for sugar. I will confess that an idiotic mistake on my part at the dealership ended up with me getting an extra $50 sliced off the monthly payment. Horse trading is overrated, you simply need to be dumb and have lots of luck.

So life is good, right? I HAD NO IDEA A BMW WOULD BE SO FRICKIN’ EXPENSIVE TO INSURE!!!! My stubby pencil math went bad at this point. Maureen and I had some time earlier calculated insurance premiums on the basis of a STUPID CHEVY SPARK. The cost of insurance seemed no obstacle (see CHEVY SPARK, above) to carrying out my evil plan. So it was all systems go. Until it wasn’t.

Well, here I am, an electron hobo with a shiny BMW i3 plugged into my garage, working an extra two hours a day in the mines to make up for a couple of bad numbers. Your mileage may vary.