Saturday, March 19, 2016

We Are Doing It! Kickstarter Thanks, Teeny Tiny Labs, and a Pine Cone Wood Stack

First, thanks for helping us reach our make-or-break funding goal on the Kickstarter!  From here out, it's real: we can expect to collect those pledges and deliver those rewards.

In case you're curious (or jealous):
In business speak, the big numbers you see are "gross" not "net."  That $13,147 you've all graciously pledged is not just spending money.  It includes the daunting costs of international shipping, per-book costs for every printed and eBook (as "Author Copies" from the publisher), and data delivery costs for the self-published digital rewards. 
In order to move our plans forward, and maybe even give ourselves some 'back pay' for the past decade of R&D, writing, and coaching, we need to keep going.
Two cream puffs, ready for breakfast

So we will keep drumming up as much business as we can for the remaining 24 days.  I'd like to sell over a thousand books, and get our per-book costs way down - it would save us something like $8 per book to order 1000 copies instead of 100!  Which adds up to real money, really fast.

But let's not forget to celebrate how far we've come.  It's a big deal to be officially "funded," many projects never get this far.  So...
 Yay!  Basic Goal Nailed!  Cream puffs for everyone*! [*who is currently here at the Wisner family homestead]

Our first stretch goal:  $20,000 = Teeny Tiny Lab

GlowBug - photo by Priscilla Smith
We always need more funds for research and equipment.  If we reach $20,000, everyone who backs the Kickstarter will get designs for a Teeny Tiny Mass Heater (such as you might be curious about for a well-insulated Tiny House, shop, or live-aboard boat).

There are more details on the Kickstarter updates, and you may also remember seeing some tiny heater prototype designs at the 2015 Innovators' Gathering. This stretch goal encourages me to finish testing and write up those designs, so you can replicate them and try them out.
(I have older mini-mass-heater designs already available, if not as rigorously tested, so I can fulfill this reward either way.  Just saying, you might get more than one mini-heater design if the response is good, and always assuming I get a chance to sit down this year.)

The main idea of this funding goal is to have fun giving us a teeny tiny lab upgrade, so we can do more Mad Science!

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge a few friends.

- Our friend Paul Wheaton, the brilliant and despotic overlord of and  He has been sharing all kinds of support and tips and encouragement, despite being laid up with a nasty health crisis.  His lessons from previous Kickstarter campaigns, both good and bad, have been invaluable. 
He also has been generous in other ways - like one time he got tired of watching us thumb-text and gave us a fancy second-hand phone.  It has saved our butts this month, since just before your big launch is a crappy time to have your pit-bull-in-law develop a taste for phones.

- Our new friend Priscilla Smith, who came out to Paul Wheaton's place and got some excellent photos of everything - three of which are in the book, and others are being used as "don't-try-this-at-home" eye candy for the promotions.  She is generous, talented, and a kick in the pants.

- Our new-and-old friend Chris McClellan, aka "Uncle Mud," has been promoting the heck out of our Kickstarter, and may be helping us print another self-published run of The Art of Fire.  He's currently #1 on the Kickbooster stats - as he has been since about 4 hours after he signed up.  And his "dad humor" and unique rocket experiments keep cheering me up just when I need it.

(Paul Wheaton may not be catching up yet from flat on his back, but is our biggest non-boosted referral source, right after "no referrer data" and already beating Kickstarter itself.  If you'd like to try signing up as a Booster and track your influence, not to mention get a referral bonus, please do: This can be a fun "egg money" option for creative, modern homesteaders.)

- Our chance-met friend Matt Powers just keeps on being a wonderful human being.  I hope he and his son James can wander up to Oregon in June and hook up with us for a clamming expedition or a bonfire date or something.  He anticipated our launch by about 24 hours with his fast-turnaround podcast featuring me as a guest, and Barbara Greene's photos of her permaculture homestead's fortune-favors-the-prepared survival of the 2015 Okanogan fire-storm.

- Barbara, Leaha, Ton, Karen, and all of our Permaculture Study Group friends from the Okanogan - invaluable moral support, brainstorming and occasionally physically helping me get past stuck points, and keeping me healthy and active with mentoring in fire fighting, land stewardship, and local culture. 

- Extended family: reminding me again and again why it's so great to have a clan at your back, and to re-discover your siblings as creative, intelligent, capable adults.  Together we are more than we could ever be alone.

- I'm gonna plug my other half here, and say Ernie continues to impress me.  He rarely self-censors on Facebook for anyone's comfort, which occasionally makes me cringe - but that honesty is refreshing to a lot of our die-hard DIY fans.  Then I notice yet again how much he does without words, when I am fluttering around in a verbal blizzard of writing or publicity projects.

This is his "pinecone stack," basically a wood haystack.  This is an experiment to try and replicate a method he remembers seeing from Uncle Les, one of the forest-homesteaders in the Coquille Valley rainforests.  (His family has been managing the same forest, for timber, for over 150 years, and it still has mother-giant nurse trees on it.)

The stack is busted open so you can see the inside, because it was put to the test this month.  While he was stacking roughly a ton and a half of wood just for fun, I was neglecting my summer woodshed-filling chores, working on the book manuscript, and learning to play fire fighter.

The partially-used stack. 
The bottom row is intact
because it was snow-saturated.

Interior - note the "nest of approval"
The bottom row has some sacrifice wedges to start the stack tilting inward.
Each course is built in rings that tilt inward, like a haystack.  As much as possible, the logs are tilted to lap slightly over each other, like shingles.  The bottom row is tilted up on wedges to make for a stiff, tilted arrangement.

Getting an earlier start on my chores this year:
filling half the woodshed, so we can cycle each side.
When we busted into it for emergency wood supplies, the outer bottom course was completely buried in snow, and those logs are still pretty soggy.  I've been moving them to the woodshed to dry for next year.  The upper sides, on the outside, had 2 feet of snow on them, and I've been moving them to the wood shed too.

But the inner layers, protected by those sacrificial ones, are about as dry as you could hope to find in a coastal woodshed. Not quite as bone-dry as things get in a drought summer around here, but way better than the icy punk we gathered before buying a load of decent wood that first winter.  The "nest of approval" is some synthetic blanket stuffing that some critter apparently found in the trash pile, and dragged into the dry center of this wood stack to make itself a cozy den.  I can just imagine a pine squirrel opportunistically pretending to be a "snow beaver."

When we are rushing around in spring and fall, doing workshops and site visits, or attending to Ernie's leg's medical demands after an ambitious travel season, we don't have the luxury of a normal, seasonal homestead season.  Two of the 4 years we've been here, we've had to "winter in" by mid-August.  So I am learning to treat wood storage as a spring chore, or to try and get in 2 years at a time so I can slack the next year.
(Tried that this year, almost made it.)

The wood had been in the woodshed long enough, still gappy between the rows for air flow, that some other pine squirrel had decided to pile a bounty harvest of fir cones in between the rows.

While Ernie is celebrating the success of his lumberjack experiment, I have been hauling in some of the bounty of fir-cones, and chipping down knobby branch and stump pieces, so we have some dry material to mix with the slightly-damp stuff.

I've also been splitting down some of the almost-dry wood as I bring it in.
Wood over 6" diameter is considered "thousand-hour fuels" in fire fighting, meaning it takes months to appreciably change its core moisture levels.
So if I can get it down to 2" chunks, it becomes "100 hour fuels," and I can expect it to be reasonably dry in less than a week indoors.

Still not a great process.  I'll do better this year.

In our next blog post, I'll show some good woodshed designs, and some good and bad ideas with tarps.

Happy Almost Spring!
Thanks again for supporting our book launch, in so many ways.
If you haven't done so yet, please check it out: