Category Archives: 13 skills

Neighbors and Community

(Note this is from Jan 30, 2013 from another blog I am combining with The Diaries.)

Last week Mother Nature decided to turn the house around the ranch into a Winter Wonderland. Nothing new for SW Michigan. Let the jet stream align with a warm Lake Michigan and hold onto your mittens! The mediocre-olgists called for 6-10 inches of snow. Not much for some, other it may grind things to a halt. Around here its the former. No biggie. Its Michigan y’all!


Last week everything aligned and we go snow. And more snow. After three days of lake effect snow we have about 20 inches in the backyard. Again not a big deal just more than I was expecting. Went from a single time snow blowing the driveway to do it 3 times in 3 days. Just wasn’t expecting it. But was ready and dealt with it.


Anyway I am getting distracted. While blowing snow on the 2nd day I saw the neighbor the east get on his little UTV. He plowed his drive in no time. Cools beans. Then I see him go to the neighbors to the west. Cool.
The neighbor to the west has had a variety of medical issues over the last year and isn’t in a condition to handle clearing out 15 inches of snow. Granted his son usually comes out and plows his drive but knowing the East Neighbor is thinking of him and taking care of him is good to know.


Note on the East Neighbor. He and his wife are good people. We only talk to them once or twice a year. We each keep to ourselves. A couple years back during a similar lake effect storm I was out with a horrid illness and lost my voice (bad since I have to talk on the phone just to work). Our drive was getting pretty bad. One day East Neighbor plowed it, with out being asked. It was amazing to know he was there to help. I told K and the kids to make some ‘Nanner bread. Didn’t have money to pay him but a couple warm loaves of fresh ‘Nanner bread got my point across.


I keep getting distracted. While blowing snow, East Neighbor drove back from West Neighbor’s. He pulled into our drive and up to me. We talk for about 20 minutes about hunting, fishing, weather, life, etc.
The point I am trying to make is you don’t have to eat dinner every night with your neighbors to be a community. One of the main tenants of survival I have learned from the Survival Podcast is community. This is a great example of how it works. My neighbors and I stay out of each others business until one needs help. Then we step up and act like neighbors. Doesn’t seem hard eh?




Leave a comment

Filed under 13 skills, nimrod, old school

DIY Soil Block press (w/ video)

Trying to press forward with our skills challenge has been tough. Illness, heavy snowfall and life want to get in the way. I (J) have been dealing with laryngitis for nearly two weeks. Never fun and unfortunately nothing new for me. While I normally shy away from prescription meds for most things I have learned the best way to heal my vocal chords is a dose of steroids. Or this year it is two doses. Would let nature take its course but can’t afford to miss a month of work.

Enough complaining at least I am breathing and my family is healthy.  This post is about more on our Gardening skill improvement. I decided to try my hand at making a soil block press. Found a few ideas online and went at it.

I had an extra piece of PVC left over from some project I don’t recall. The ID of the tube was ½ inch. Figured it would be perfect for smaller seeds. I went to the local small town True Value and found some washers that fit the ID well. Also grabbed a 12 inch piece of 5/16th all thread. A few nuts and a fender style washer and I was ready to rock and roll. Total out of pocket cost was $3.30 ($3.50 with sales tax). I later went and bought a small bottle of blue locktite, well it was Super Glue thread locker, for $2.59. That makes my total about $6 but the all thread and thread locker will be used for other projects like more soil block presses.

Here is the video of me building the press. The end is me playing in dirt with my kids. Always a fun time when there is still a foot of snow on the ground and more falling from the sky!

I cut the PVC tube to 1 ½ inches. I cut the all thread to 2 ½ inches. I originally hand cut a piece from a butter dish lid. Thought was it would work as a “wiper” in the tube. In practice it was a pain and the press I made without the plastic worked much better.  Skip the plastic. Can prolly just use one washer also…  saving ya 11 cents.  I would also suggest looking at a smaller diameter all thread.  The 5/16th worked ok but I didn’t need that big of a hole to place the small seeds.

As for the Miracle-Gro Seed Starting Mix it will prolly work great in pots or 4 packs. There were a lot of sticks and such in it. No biggie it will compost but not the best for forming soil blocks. I went this route hoping to save time. Also saving my throat from mixing soil/compost/peat or whatever in the cold. I will be checking for better mixes online and try again later. Any tips please let me know.

Overall it was a fun little project. Broke my cabin fever and frustration from not being able to get out ice fishing. Gotta love getting too much snow for the lakes to freeze safely. The kids had a fun time playing with dirt IN THE HOUSE! Wifey wasn’t overly thrilled with my idea but we didn’t make to big a mess! Plus I cleaned up after our play time.

Both our kids love playing outside, getting dirty and helping in the garden. They like playing in the snow but its not the same as dirt. Check out this video of my daughter. I had left the camera recording while I was getting ready to plant the seeds. She had … well just watch and you will see.  “SUPER DIRTY!!” gosh I love that girl!

As I put in the video let your kids play. Let them get dirty. While you’re at it join them. Dirt won’t hurt ya I promise. You may find yourself having more fun than the kids. Getting dirty with dirt is good for your soul. Try it!

Leave a comment

Filed under 13 skills, garden, kids