2015, the Year in Pictures and Video

My life is often full of beautiful and interesting things and happenings.  For your perusal ladies and gentlemen, the year in pictures and video!  (Applause cue)  Previous years are cataloged on this page.

I got a new camera in 2015, which brought the potential for much improved quality in both video and still photos.  The video footage is so good, that I frequently lift stills that look like photographs.  I am amazed at what these small cameras are capable of in such a small package, and it gets better every year, freeing us up to create stuff.  This is a time of unprecedented opportunity for creativity in media, of which the outlet of all outlets is now accessible to much of the world's population to do as they please.  The resulting revolution is having a profound impact on culture, and I think positive for the most part.  Like a democratization of popular culture where any content has a chance to compete, not just whatever people with the money to produce and air stuff decide to put out.  Amazing.  I think I said in last year's year end post that I planned to take good advantage of that opportunity.  I think I have and plan to continue to.  I'm also realizing how much more far reaching it all is than I had realized.  Onward.

Most of this is taken with older manual lenses adapted to my sony digital camera.

Black oak with rainbow.  Yet another large section of this tree just fell off and is going to take some creative and thoughtful planning to clean up safely.  Should make a good episode for my new Homestead Life category, being for snippets of life and incidents here.  Also should provide some nice wood for making stuff and some bark for tanning.  The early tanning industry in California was apparently using Black and White Oaks.  Later they switched over to Tan Oak which is what I mostly use now.  My use of Black Oak has so far been promising.

Long term “slow art” project.  I planted a ton of narcissus following the drip line of this oak tree.  It looks great, but the different varieties are in clusters.  The plan is to dig them all up, mix them together, and replant all the way around the tree in a wider band.  It should end up with about a two month blooming season and will likely outlive the tree by a long stretch.

Exhausted pollen covered bee that was trapped in this Oriental poppy flower.  It ate some honey, cleaned itself off and flew away.  Video someday.

Weary bee sipping some honey on a poppy pod.

Bee cleaning itself.  The procedure is something like this:  rub furry body on flowers to collect pollen, clean pollen off of fur with comb-like structures on legs, stick together with sugary bee spit, store in pollen baskets on the back legs to take home.

Bee cleaning itself.  The procedure is something like this:  rub furry body on flowers to collect pollen, clean pollen off of fur with comb-like structures on legs, stick together with sugary bee spit, store in pollen baskets on the back legs to take home.

This year's crop of healthy cross pollinated apple seedlings for apple breeding project.

The first incarnation of my charcoal rubbish trench soil improvement conception.  The basic idea is to create lasting soil improvement by making a handy place to throw stuff that you don’t want in the compost.  Throw in animal guts, weedy seeds, use it as a latrine, or whatever else, add charcoal (or just burn it in the pit as I am here), add soil in a certain proportion as you go, dig another one when it’s full, or keep a long trench going by digging off the end of the old one as it fills up.

Hide scraps, meat scraps and rotten eggs in the trench.  I’ll bet the artichoke I just planted here grows a minimum of 10 foot diameter.  The hope is that the awesomeness will persist, unlike most soil interventions.  Stay tuned.  This simple project is one of the most exciting to me because of the ramifications.  You'll be hearing more about it, both conceptual and implementation.

A species of large flowered native Hemizonia.

Bark tanned bull leather pruner sheath in progress.

Finished sheath with my favorite clippers, Barnel B808.  I will review these eventually, but bottom line is they are ergonomic, very well built with tight tolerances, heavy chrome plated blades, light weight, cushioned grips, oiler bolt, dainty blades that get into tight places and there is an awesome squeeze to open feature.  They are also affordable compared to similar quality pruners.  I can recommend them with few reservations after a couple years of use.

Betcha can't guess.  Answer at the bottom of the page.

Not-so-black black trumpet mushrooms.  A staple of turkeysong cuisine.  Video on how to clean and dry quickly here.

Narcissus headed to the farmer’s market.  They sell well, probably better than produce.  Also, the investment in fancy modern varieties with heavy substance paid off. they are impressive and popular and last longer.  I had to quit the market this year for personal reasons, rule changes and a low tolerance for life smothering bureaucracy, but I’m tempted to re-join to sell flowers.  There has to be a better way though…

Laying Buddies

Basking Buddies

Slate tree weight and spreaders.  What can I say, heavy metal homestead!  pushing the branches closer to horizontal changes the hormones, causing the tree to produce more fruit.

A primitive form of artichoke.  The scales are nothing to write home about, but the hearts are large and tasty.  And they look cool, though they are spiny little suckers.

Research time.  Probably something about some kind of glue.  All of these are probably available to read online for free, but that isn't the same as a book and an espresso.

A book and an espresso :)

Tan Oak blooms.  The bees love these.  On hot days in early summer they fill the air with a heavy scent something like mushrooms or semen, similar to the smell of chestnut blooms, to which they are related.  This is a foundational species here, unfortunately dying out from Sudden Oak Death Syndrome.

This tree is planted over an 8 x 2.5 foot circular pit back-filled with 5 to 15% charcoal.  There are also some deer guts too and blue the cat was buried here.  The tree has outperformed similar aged trees by a long stretch.  The leaves are large and deep green and it has skated gracefully through two years of the worst drought in memory, this year without a drop of supplemental water.  It would look much fuller, but I pruned it late after it had already started growing, which set it back some.  These initial results are promising enough to expand this practice to see what happens.  Yes, it’s a lot of work, but if this tree grows this well and produces for decades, there is no question that the effort will be repaid many times over.  Better to plant fewer trees and put in more effort like this.  There is only so much you can do modifying and improving soil from the top down.  I know, I’ve tried.

Thinking about upping my game on leek breeding and selection and maybe selling the seed instead of just giving it away as I have for many years.  This is a truly outstanding variety, but the seed I started with is run down and obviously has not been carefully selected for a while.  The seed I have now is 3 or 4 generations into selection for certain traits, and I think it has made a difference

Shakin' it out before a good crow.  Randy the rooster was a handsome fellow, but I finally got sick of listening to him and ate him.  it was like when I got on the phone or started recording video it was his cue to show up and start crowing.  One of the best decisions I made all year.

Pollinating an apple blossom

Pollinating an apple blossom

Pollinated fruitlets tagged with the pollen parent names.

Maypole, red apple and red immature seeds

Apple tree re-grafted after a bear attack.  This is a rind graft, where the scions are inserted into the space between the bark and wood.  See the year in video for some quick footage on how it's done.

Centennial crab apple.  Sweet and delicious in July!  Adding it to my breeding stock and thinking of grafting a whole tree.

New graft showing signs of healing.  This is far enough along to conduct nutrients, but still very fragile and must be re-wrapped for another month or two for support.

Adorable little owls.  These tend to be very tame.  I'm recording video footage of them only about 12 feet away by headlamp.  The footage was lost :/

Graining board for softening and raising the grain of leather.

Graining board, or "arm board" in progress.  This one will have a cork face for use on the delicate grain side of the skin.

Deer grain raised with the graining board.  Not the only way to do it, but the best way I've tried.

Pounded leather, half the thickness, twice the density.  The mallet is ironwood, extremely dense.  The slate is used to smooth and even the surface after pounding.  pounding is done on damp leather

Potential tanning materials for tests.  The skin samples are ready, just haven't gotten around to it yet.  I probably have over 25 materials collected.  Should have some results early this year.  video on this project here

Ye olde tanning beam.

Ax porn for a website header.  This is the image on my credit card.  Yes, my credit card is that cool.

Can't have too many

One of my old forges, good for coal, needs modification for charcoal.

An old forge left here by a logging crew.  From an era where the average group of workmen probably had in it some guy that was handy with a hammer and a pair of tongs.  Town was 10 miles down bad unpaved roads, and ten miles back up, so why hold up work when you can fix stuff on site?

Starting the woodstove.  I don't use paper and haven't for a long time.  My friend Hal, my elder no less, one upped me though.  He starts his with a hand drill, and uses bits of charcoal instead of tinder.  I think these kinds of practices will teach you a lot fast.  If you want to get good at something, put yourself in a position where you need to do it to get through the day. 

My Stanley no. 9 1/2 plane.  A small quality block plane like this is a great starter plane and really handy for small projects.  This one has been a companion for over 25 years.  I love it.

My Stanley no. 9 1/2 plane.  A small quality block plane like this is a great starter plane and really handy for small projects.  This one has been a companion for over 25 years.  I love it.

A big fir tree at my neighbors that I hope to make some stuff out of in 2016.  It isn't fine old growth quality, but it's pretty good and big enough to get some nice vertical grain planks out of.

A small hewn and planed fir plank from the tree above, made to test the feasibility of hewing some of it up into boards for a project.  I'd like to build a door with it.  We'll see.  I would learn a lot, and so would you if you follow my progress.

Queen of the night Tulip.  The bokeh on this beat up 5 dollar thrift store Minolta 58 mm f1.4 lens is bizarre but neat, like a watercolor painting.

Witchypoo practicing enlightened levitation on a san pedro cactus.  Do not try this at home, she is a professional!

This species of bug hangs out on california Poppies in the spring.  I'm pretty sure the black and white bands mean DO NOT F*** WITH ME!  The antennae wave wildly in the slightest breeze.  I had some amazing macro video footage of these, but it was all lost.

Furled California Poppy.  One of my favorite photographs of the year.

Native Iris Macrosiphon

View out the front door.

Chicken tracks on my car.

Bees getting a drink at the spring.

Deep soil amendment with large quantities of charcoal last spring.  One half of one bed is 33%.  Another bed is about 25%.  Only time will tell how they do.  If nothing else, I replaced the worst rock and low nutrient sandy soil, totaling 1/3rdwith a substance that holds water and nutrients and aerates the soil.


A scene on my drive to and from town.

A lone buckeye on my drive to town.  I remember the first time I ever came up this road it is so uniquely beautiful.  Then I used to drive up here once in a while and look longingly down the road I live on thinking "I want to live down there!"  I'm so fortunate!

Semaphore, an extremely rare grass.  This species only grows in something like 15 known locations, one of them next door.  Ironically, the neighbors dug up the ground to build their ceremonial sweat lodge on the site.  It worked out okay in the end and it's coming back.

California newt.  I bothered this poor guy for like 20 minutes to get the perfect video footage, which, again, was lost.  Damn you new version of imovie!

Daffodil spider.  Strong enough to catch honey bees.  They are yellow on yellow flowers and white on white flowers.  I guess they change color.  This one has a small native bee.

100 subscribers June 6th

My first ever daffodil seedling.  Well, it looks better close up ;)  It may improve though as it matures.  I had two last year and expecting more this year.  I f I get anything really good, I'll propagate it and sell them on the website here.  I just do it for fun though. It takes very little time and effort as you can read about here.  I named this photograph "What Daffodils do in the Dark"


Black Sage

Out the front door one morning.  I'm not sure what species it is, but I know they like to eat my chickens.

Firecracker Lily.  A unique local wildflower.

Daffodil seedpods, from hand pollinations

A stunning Native wildflower.  Forgetting the name!

Cicada on an apple branch, which they cause a lot of damage to by laying eggs in slits the cut.

Loquats!  Large, delicious variety.

Black sage again.  I love taking pictures of this plant.

Probably the largest loquat I ever ate, came off of one of my trees this year.

A freshly hatched cicada.  This is the type that hatches every year.

Taken with a 5.00 lens from the thrift store.

Itsy bitsy spider

Old spring house on the neighbors place.  A spring house is like a root celar.  The spring runs through it to keep it cool.

Potato onion seedling trials.  I was down to 15 this fall and tossed a few more last week because they rotted in storage.  Potato onion video series here.

inter-stem dwarf and diagonal cordon apple trees in a nice fog filtered light

inter-stem dwarf and diagonal cordon apple trees in a nice fog filtered light

Best cat ever!  This is the closest I've ever gotten to it.  Don't have to feed it, don't have to listen to it, but it still kills rodents in the garden!  I should name it shadow.  I guess it was just too cozy to get up and run away this time.  It's a stray.

Maypole, a red fleshed apple that shows red pigment throughout the whole tree.

Artichoke leaves drying for tanning experiments.  Hope it works!

A dew-bedraggled Brodiaea flower.

A dew-bedraggled Brodiaea flower.

Lizard playing king of the hill... with itself.  But it's winning!

The talented Ira showing off his gourd and rawhide ukelele.  Video here.

A poet-type narcissus

Ugly burr knots on M111 stock.  Plant those clonal stocks deep!

An idea I've been toying with, making leaf impressions in leather.

An idea I've been toying with, making leaf impressions in leather.

Wild "cucumber" or Mara, a native plant with an allegedly enormous root.

Another view of where I get to live.

A copper nail made for a project I abandoned.  I would have had to make about 90 of them.

This tiny crab apple was sent to me some years ago by my friend Becca Munro.  It is slightly astringent but delicious eaten whole seeds and all, something like crisp cherries.  It's going to get grafted out somewhere with more room to grow, and I'll probably use it as a breeding parent this coming season.  The flesh is very yellow and crisp.

A wood and leather seam with rawhide stitching.  An experiment for another abandoned project.

The leather mug project.  My most popular video to date.  Got me a massive number of views and subscribers overnight when someone shared it on Reddit.  Thanks!

Saffron!  Trust me, however much it costs, the person getting screwed is not the consumer!  Only three threads per flower, pulled out one flower at a time.

I decided to try bundling them like this as some fancy saffron comes.  I think this once was enough!  Although it would make a great gift like this, tied with a golden thread.

A new batch of leather working awls, getting an oil treatment.

A pair of dewclaw anklets I made.  Braintanned buckskin, bark tanned deer skin and deer dewclaws.

Pieces of cattle hide processed and dried for making hide glue

Skin pieces cooking to make glue

Fresh glue drying on the counter

The finished product available somewhere soon.

Chicken processing day.  Unwanted roosters.  Young roosters are excellent eating.

Mother, an old American apple of high repute.

Fruit tree understory experiment using amaryllis belladona hybrids (basically the same as naked ladies, ((the flower, not the real thing))  I post pictures of the progress of this experiment every year.  The last two years there have been literally only two or three weak weeds under this tree.  The amaryllis smother everything else, then die back around June 1st leaving this protective layer of mulch.  I won't know much more till I get to observe a lot of trees for a long period of time, but it's promising enough that I am propagating probably thousands of bulbs from seed and have planted 7 other trees to them.

This is the flower.  They are pretty popular at the farmer's market.

A batch of bark for tanning and wood for burning.  Tan Oak.


The fire kit I made for my stone age "no tools" fire making video.

I love this hoe and the company, Rogue Hoe, is a really cool idea.  They use recycled plough disks to make the tools.  I'm not sure about all the designs, but this one is great and the handle is very nice quality.  A high grade tool, hand made in the states and pretty affordable for being that.  Amazon link here.  this is the 5.5 inch version.

My beautiful road, untouched by a grader in 8 years since it was finished and not in need of it.  I studied progressive road design and made careful observations for a couple of years, but a few basic principals applied can save you tons of money, inconvenience and maintenance.  Someday I'll do a detailed treatment of road building concepts.  If you leave it up to a contractor, you will almost surely end up with a less than ideal road.  Small improvements can also be made as the road is worked on over time.

When I planted the seed for this apple years ago, I couldn't imagine that a fruit grown from this variety could turn out really bad.  It didn't.

Those fruitlets grew into this.  Thin skinned, nice texture, refreshing, pleasant apple.  Maybe not the next best thing ever, but quite nice and compelling eating.  I named it BITE ME! (capitals and exclamation point mandatory!) for all the naysayers.


kniphophia, or is it kniphofia?  whatever.  Hummingbirds like it.

Drying Anaheim chilies.  I use most of them to make chili powder that is simply amazing.  Video coming someday.

My video on making traditional fermented hot sauce was well received, and I won a prize on instructables.com for it!

My video on making traditional fermented hot sauce was well received, and I won a prize on instructables.com for it!

Sunset colors off a point known to all the neighbors as Rob's Knob.

Teaching hide tanning stuff at the Not So Simple Living Fair in Boonville California.  This fair is great, teaching skills for self reliance.

My first dollar earned on Amazon affiliates.  The easiest way to support me without paying anything extra.  I currently make about 25.00 to 40.00 dollars a month on this, which is the only money I make on my online endeavors.  Given that I probably spend 20 to even 40 hours a week producing content, that is obviously unsustainable.  Bookmark and use  my link , thank you,   I totally love you, you link using person!  OMG, you are so awesome!!!

My first dollar earned on Amazon affiliates.  The easiest way to support me without paying anything extra.  I currently make about 25.00 to 40.00 dollars a month on this, which is the only money I make on my online endeavors.  Given that I probably spend 20 to even 40 hours a week producing content, that is obviously unsustainable.  Bookmark and use my link, thank you, I totally love you, you link using person!  OMG, you are so awesome!!!

Best Garden I've had for a couple years.  Not as big and awesome as I want it to be, but not bad.  Video tour here.

Chestnut Crab.  As tasty as it is beautiful.  See my review of7 summer apples, including this one.

My little table at the very small, very local roadside farmer's market, basically a few of us selling whatever we want, no paper work, no fees, just people who have stuff and people who need stuff.

Kid walking his pet rock at the farmer's market.

Diagonal cordon trees.  18 inch spacing, very productive, quality fruit and only occupies about two feet of width!  Amazing system for small spaces or growing a lot of variety in a small space.  There are at least seven varieties in this short space, but there are more out of the picture because most are grafted to two varieties

!Frankentree! had at least 85 varieties in fruit this year.  Tour video here

Even good pears have to go to Pearison. 

Beautiful King David

Laden King David interstem grafted tree

A spring I restored after it was damaged during road construction.  I planted all those giant ferns from tiny "seedlings".  Also horsetail and wild ginger.  It has a way to go, but considering it was bare dirt, it is doing pretty good, and the ferns are already reproducing.

Misc. late apples for apple butter experiment

Apple butter experiment a success!  And I also won a prize for this one on instructables.

Beautiful delicious red fleshed apple juice

30 pounds of sausage!  Hello biscuits and gravy in the morning!

Smoking bacon

Smoking bacon

Emergency roof repairs in the rain.

Ice in the stem well of a Cripps Pink (Aka Pink Lady) on new years day.  I don't think they would have lasted much longer, but it was very tasty!  Winter Apple tasting video

1000 subscribers on my birthday, 900 in 6 months, yay!  Not a lot by YouTube standards, but a great milestone.  I'm hoping for 10,000 by this time next year.  I will probably have to start running ads on my videos soon sadly.  There is a new YouTube subscription service though that allows you to skip them.  At least there is that.  This is a difficult decision for me.  Random advertising is antithetical to what I'm trying to do here.  But, I can't keep producing content without an income.

This is my keyboard.  I work hard writing, editing and answering lots of comments and emails.  6 months ago you could still read the I O F and R keys.  And it has already been completely replaced once!  Eventually I will have to buy a new one.  You can help me succeed in my endeavor to build a public archive of useful self reliance skills and continue experimenting and running project here at on the experimental homestead by sharing my stuff wherever people will appreciate it and again by bookmarking and using my amazon affiliate link whenever, if ever, you shop there.

I'm not screwing around.  Does it look like I'm screwing around?  I'm not.  This is my not screwing around face.  Lots of killer content in 2016!

Lets rock 2016 y'all!  I think it's going to be a good one.


*That honey comb looking thing up there is a bark tanned goat stomach!  not very durable, but it sure looks cool.

Posted on January 29, 2016 .