Thursday, December 31

Resolutions

I always make the same New Years Resolution. The same one that probably half the people that make resultions make. Lose weight. And it never happens. This year, i am going to make that resolution with the clear view that I know it will not happen and these 30 extra pounds i have been hauling around for teh past 10 months from the baby are probably here to stay. So, in addition to this standing resolution, i was looking for something to committ to and actually accomplish.

I didn;t want to just pick something out of thin air which wouldn;t mean anything to me. I could always go with "have more patience" or grow and try to eat a new vegetable (which I might do anyway and it would be an accomplishment. I am a VERY picky eater). But while surfing around my favorite blogs, I found what I was looking for.

More often than not, it was Cold Antler to the rescue. Below is a portion of a post from the other day.

"The new year is just around the switchback. We're almost there and people are talking about resolutions and changes and a hundred tiny things that are going to make us all better people in 2010. I have goals too, but not for the year. I don't have the chops for those kinds of resolutions. I do however, have a system that works and I measure it in hours...

For what it's worth, here is some advice from me. Don't attempt to be a drastically better person in the next calendar year. Don't plan on being thirty pounds thinner, or sixty-thousand dollars richer, or the front man of your own band. Instead, how about just trying to be a slightly better person in the next sixty minutes. This may sound like a weak attempt
but it's not. Results happen slowly and only when we focus on what we want and who we want to become right now. If you want more money, for the next hour, don't spend any and try and pull a quarter off the floor of your car. If you want to lose weight, try not to eat that candy bar for the next hour, and walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. If you want to be kinder, spend the next hour on the phone with old friend and tell her you miss her. If you want to plant a garden, raise chickens, or own a farm—spend the next hour online ordering seed catalogs or going to the library for a book on coop building. Make small changes constantly and just try to meet that next turn of the clock one hour smarter, one hour thinner, one hour kinder, and one hour richer and watch your life change.

If everyone could just see the day as 24 chances to make their life a little better, imagine the resolutions that could be met? I try to be an hour better, every hour, and hope those choices add up into something I can grasp with both hands. I think total dedication to the present is what improves ourselves, and not the empty promises that are too big to get our arms around. Just try be one hour better, starting right now. My favorite movie whispers the quote "that every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around". It's a chance worth taking
."

This is perfect. I can actually DO this. I even started early. I went to Wegmans to get a sub for dinner. Roy and Connor and I are all sick. Connor has croup and Roy and I have nasty colds. So, being the least sick of the three, I was nominated to go get something for dinner. While in the check out line, my eyes wandered, as they always do, to the racks of candy bars. 3 musketeers is a wonderful thing. And it even says 33% less fat on teh wrapper, which somehow makes it ok to eat even though it is a candy bar.

I picked it up. I had it inches from sitting on the black belt next to the sub and I could already taste it. I couldn;t wait to get out to the car and rip into it. But I put it back on the rack and physically slapped my hand and said "No" outloud. The guy behind me in line looked at me funny and I felt great.

Tuesday, December 29

Another day in the line of many

Nothing intesting or exciting today. Roy worked from home today because of the weather and we took Connor to the doctor. He has croup. Does that even still exist?? It sounds like something that went around in the 1840's.

A snowy, cold, windy day.

I took down the Christmas decorations and packed them away for next year. this makes me sad not because I love Christmas but because I love the way the house looks with the decoarations up. This Christmas was actually the first one in a long time where I was excited and enthusiastic. Normally it is stressful with gift buying, baking, and driving all over the state and sometimes Canada. But this year was different - we stayed close to home and it was our frist Christmas as a family.

But today was still one of those days. The kind of day where you feel like you are standing at the bow of a ship plowing through the days of the week, the month, the year. And all you can see before you are more days like this one. Not bad, but just another day in a line of many.

Sunday, December 27

A little bit of 1880

Ohh, the dilemmas of the modern homesteader.....

The internet is one of the best things ever invented and if Laura Ingalls Wilder was here, she would most whole-heartedly agree. Where else can you find how to videos for knitting, articles on tomato crop rotation strategies, and addicting blogs about sheep. Of course, learning "knit 1, purl 2" around the hearth would be more satisfying and probably warmer, the heat that the laptop produces is comparable.

So if we are striving for the true homestead experience, how can we justify using the internet - is it not a vice of the modern age? A time wasting, energy using endeavor that grows from just getting on line to quickly check the email to staying up until 1 in the morning harvesting your farmville crops and looking up why my knitting "curls" and I have a scarf that looks like a tube sock?

Should not I be spending my time pouring over seed catalogs by the glow of lantern light?

I would love it to be so. But it is not. Like it or not, (I have one vote for like right here), we live in what will soon be 2010. Not 1910. Not 1810. Not even 1940 for Pete’s sake. (who was Pete anyway?). And I am not mad about this. I love indoor plumbing and electricity and my computer. I love my digital camera and the internet and I love modern refrigeration.

But that does not mean that I don’t want to have a homestead. I like the modern homestead. I like solar electric and crank radios and sewing. I like growing tomatoes and peas and I like planning for my future barnyard of chickens and goats. As much as I would like to experience living in 1880, I have to admit that I would much rather live in 2009, or 10 and try to carry on the ideals, skills and way of life that makes me happy. A little bit of 1880 in 2010 will go a long way and I am looking forward to it.

So if I have to take a side, I say that the internet is essential to the modern homestead. My compromise is learning knitting from YouTube, relaxing on a blanket in the yard with Wi-Fi and using it to learn - just like any book I could buy or get from the library. I think that learning is what it is supposed to be about in the first place - no matter what time you live in and if you are learning the skills to survive on the prairie or to build a fulfilling life in the suburbs.

But, don’t leave the TV on every night. Have a campfire or two.

Thursday, December 24

Merry Christmas!



Merry Christmas from all of us here at the homestead.

Monday, December 21

Doe, a deer, a female deer....



Couldn't help but love this picture. I said "Honey, push Connor's stroller over there so he can see that neat stuffed deer!" So, he parks Connor right by the butt and I get this picture of Connor looking at the deers "parts". And the look on his face just says it all. "Um, Dad, why did you park me at this end?"

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20

A bright spot




We have snow here, and being that the first day of winter is tomrrow, it is fitting. We were spared the storms that hit most areas south of us but we still have a good 5 inches of the powdery white stuff out there.

Snowy loves it, as she does every year. She would gladly stay outside all day romping and playing and digging and sleeping in it. But I am not as thrilled. I hate winter, mostly. I only like the cold and the snow when I do not have anywhere I have to go and I can stay in the house and watch it come down. Watching the big fluffy flakes accumulate on the ground and hearing the plows go by while I am in my warm sweatpants is actually a fun day for me. But if i have to go outside for anything other than a quick run to the mailbox, I change into my winter-hatred mode.

So on that run to the mailbox the other day in the cold wind and snow and icy chill, I was rewarded with a bright spot for the day - my Baker Creek Seed Catalog was waiting for me. I love their catalog. Even if I didn;t order seeds from them, or even plant seeds at all, I would still enjoy thumbing through, looking at all the beatiful photography. But I do order from them, a lot. I get 90% of my seeds from them. They are all open-pollinated seeds in an incredible array of heirloom varieties. They are the only place I can find Bells of Ireland seeds that I can actually get to grow. That was what sold me 100% on them.

Within an hour, I had pages marked with the "Yes!" and "Maybe" stickers from the Lucky magazine that Mom sends over for me. I can never see myself wearing most of the things in Lucky but it is till fun to look through. And of course the stickers are great for bookmarking catalogs and gardening books.

We always get the Purple Podded Pole Bean (Roy's favorite) and I love the Lime Green Nicotiana which adds nice light green color to the garden and is easy to grow.

Their blog is also an interesting read.

Thursday, December 17

The Greenhorns

A big thank you to Cold Antler Farm for letting us know about this:

The Greenhorns

Dozens and dozens



Making Christmas cut out cookies with a 9 month old is hard work. Unless you have a wonderful mother who comes over and helps you. I have both - a 9 month old and wonderful mother who loves her grandson. And hopefully her daughter too.

We made 6 bathces of cut out cookies, roughtly 25 cookies to a batch, at her house on Tuesday and then frosted them at my house yesterday. Thats a lot of frosting.

It was wonderful. I mixed and baked at mixed and baked at Mom's house while she entertained Connor with Christmas decorations and the piano. The whole house smelled his cookies and using the same cookie cutter that Mom and I used when I was little and that her mother used with her made it all the more special. The snow was gently falling outside in big fluffy flakes, the 1940's Christmas music was playing - all very Norman Rockwell.

Until the screams of both baby and Grandma broke the bliss of it all - Connor had gotten ahold on Mom's hair. Both of them were making a ton of noise - Connor because he was having a great time and Grandma because her hair was being pulled by a baby that my husband nicknamed "the terminator". I couldn't help but take a picture before I pried her hair out of his iron grip.




The forsting completed, I assembed the tins and plates for family, neighbors, and my husbands office last night and I can honestly say that i do not want to see another Christmas cookie for at least 12 months.

Friday, December 11

Watts and such



We are 100% up and running with the solar now - fully inspected and OK'ed by Rochester Gas and Electric. I'll bet they just hate coming out to peoples houses and giving the go-ahead for solar power. "Darn, another one who is not going to have to by electric from us!"

Despite the freezing wind chill temps today, the sun is shining and we are making electric. If I went outside now (yeah right!) to look at the meter, it would hardly be moving, if not going backwards.

It feels good to know that we are making electric for ourselves. Really good.

Roy is working from home today which is not much different than a work day since he is locked in his upstairs office typing away on the computer. The baby is napping now and Snowy and I are lounging in the living room enjoying a WII documentary. I finally convinced Snowy that it was just too cold for her outside, even though she loves the fridgid temperatures. She is laying here, panting, watching me type and learning about Omaha Beach.

I like to think that a little caption will pop up on the bottom of the tv screen that says "This DVD being by the electric coming off the solar panels in your yard."

Wednesday, December 9

Sequestered

We woke this morning earlier than the alarm to the sounds of sleet against the windows and the wind gusting through the tall pines. Only about 2 inches of snow on the ground but the roads were wet and slick. Roy was glad he had his winter tires on the car this morning!

I am surprised we still have power at this point, not that it would be a totally horrible thing to lose power since we are prepared for it, but the lights are still on here. Making breakfast I stood at the kicthen window watching the long arms of the tall pines waving violently and roaring like a plane engine. We get wind here since we are so near the lake but this was strong and something I have not seen in a while.

It has continued to pour rain all day and the wind has calmed some but it is promised by the weather man to pick up tonight and into tomorrow. Gusts of up to 60mph are predicted and more snow. And the pellet stove is currently off. It has been in despirate need to a good cleaning lately and it is feeding pellets much faster than it should so Roy has to readjust the settings and chip the pellet remains off the gears by the burner. So the baby and I have been using the oil heat/furnace today, reluctantly. if it was just me, I would wear more layers and tollerate the chill but with a baby in the house, the temperature needs to be a little warmer.

So we are voluntarily sequested in the house today, away from the rain and the cold and the wind gusts.

But Snowy, on the other hand, is a different story. She loves it. She loves winter. She is part huskey so she hates teh heat and loves the cold. The colder, the better. Snow and chilly do not bother her. She loves to be outside rather than in the house where the pellet stove usually keeps things nice and toasty in the winter. It is hard to get her to come in sometimes - she would rather sleep outside. But that is where we have to draw the line since we do not want her to get too chilled. So she retreats to the basement where it is cool all year round.

The only other aniamls I have seen today, besides the cats who have been napping on the bed and the couch all day, was one wayward bluejay trying to pick a dried kernel of corn out of some ears I have by the birdfeeders. He seemed to be holding up pretty well and waiting for a lull in the gusts to take off for the nearest cedar tree. I figure that is where most of them are hiding out today and I don't blame them.

So it is just me and the baby, lounging in the living room, warm blankets and afghans on the floor, he in a warm light blue baby track suit and myself sporting comfy jeans and a flannel shirt, enjoying the history channels discussions of the Normandy Invasion. Despite the weather, I can not think of a better day.

Sunday, December 6

Homestead Christmas

A Good Day



Today was a good day. It is Thanks-Birth-Mas here and we really enjoyed this one. Let me explain. Thanks-Birth-Mas is a holiday that my family made up to encompass Thanksgiving, my husbands birthday and the selection and cutting of the years Christmas tree. We have Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving Day with Roy's family and Roy's birthday is on the 8th so, we decided to get together at my Grandparent's christmas tree farm in Prattsburg, NY to celebrate both occasions and get our tree.

We left the house bright and early in two vehicles - the car with kid seat and the truck to haul the tree. After picking up mom and leaving the truck in their driveway to enjoy a day in Ionia, we drove the 45 minutes to Prattsburg. It was a nice drive - one of my favorites. The weather has been cold here but not a flake of snow graces the Finger Lakes as of yet. This did not stop Bristol Mountain from cranking up the snow making machines and the hazy and rising snow-fog could be seen for miles.

Just outside of Naples we could see the giant wind turbines spinning silently on the tops of the hills. Cars and trucks passed us with the drivers and passengers wearing bright orange but there was not a deer to be seen.

We arrived and were greeted by a warm woodstove fire and the smells of turkey cooking in the oven. Dad was out hunting - had been since about 6:30 that morning. He came in periodically to warm up by the fire.

Lunch was delicious with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and home made applesauce. I brought the home made cookies for desert.

It was very cold but Grandpa still hooked up the wagon and we went out into the field for our tractor ride/tree cutting ride. We picked a soft needle spruce for this year - a perfect shape - for Connor's first Christmas tree. He was bundles up in so many warm winter things that he could not lower his arms or turn his head. He was not entirely thrilled with the whole process but he did not cry and seemed to be relaxing and taking it all in.

Grandpa presented Connor with two more beautiful hand made wooden toys that he had been working on in his shop - a circus car with an animal shaped puzzle inside and a pull along bee toy where the wings move as it is pulled along. Connor loved them and he has added them to his growing collection here at the house.

The drive home was me int he drivers deat with a baby and a husband asleep in the back seat. And after another game of musical vehicles, we dropped off Roy with the truck and headed for home. A half hour and 5 huge does later (they jumped in front of the car but we missed them thankfully), we were home, heating up a bottle and letting Snowy out for a much needed bathroom break.

The baby is now sleeping, the pellet stove is humming away, and the tree is up and glowing. All in all, it was a good day.

Wednesday, December 2

A quote from a personal favorite....

"Late one night I was grinding coffee and listening to a radio show. There was nothing particularly interesting about this. Most nights I get the percolator ready for the next morning, and the radio is almost always on in the kitchen. But that night I realized something mildly profound: A hundred tiny efforts and decisions had converged right there on the countertop.

The radio was crank-powered, and the coffee grinder was an old hand-turner I had picked up at an antique store. I was standing in the glow of my solar-powered lamp with the aid of some beeswax candles. Suddenly, I realized that nothing I was doing required any outside electricity. I was seeing in the dark, grinding locally roasted beans and listening to renewable energy driven entertainment. As mundane as the situation was, it felt perfect."

That is a quote from an article written by jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm. As I have said before here, I am a fan of her writing. And I can't wait for the day that I can say something similar from my kicthen. Or living room. Or bathroom. Or any room for that matter.

In all our efforts to be more self sufficient, we have still yet to master the art of turning things off. I can sit here now on the couch and see at least 10 things that are "ON".

The cable receiver, the clock, the lamp, this laptop, the electric candles I have the windows for the holidays, the lights on the outside bushes, the pelet stove, the ceramic Christmas tree on top of the piano, Roy's Wii on standby, and the little ceramic light-up house decoration that sits on top of the tv, covered in ceramic snow, windows blazing, looking all cozy and inviting. Did I get all 10?

Just writing it all down, I can see what a waste it is. Even witht he solar panels in the side field.

Granted, I love my laptop. And I really like decorating for the holidays and for me that requires a candle in every window and the bushes lit up with LED lights. And I never miss a good episode of NCIS. But I can't help but wonder if it is necessary.

I have gone around the house on occasion and turned everything off. I know that clocks on vcr's can't be turned off, but I turned off everythng I could. And the hosue was quiet. Even with 3 cats, 1 dog and a nine-month old baby boy, it was scary-quiet.

And I really, really liked it. So much so that I dreaded turning things back on.

I would love to have a life of quiet.

But I love tv and laptops and reliable light.

So, I am off to find my happy medium. I will keep the laptop powered up and I will still veg out in front of the tv when he the baby is taking his naps. But after Christmas (I can't give up my decoration lights just yet), I will make a concious effort to be a little more quiet and efficient. A real, hard-thought effort.

Becasue I want to be able to say that I stood in my kitchen doing mundane things and it felt totally perfect.

Monday, November 30

We are very lucky

I read a blog called Cold Antler Farm regularly and today I read a post about the author having to give up some of her animals. Specifically, her goat, Finn, and her angora rabbits. I have never met this person and the only thing I think we would have in common is a love of homesteading, gardening, and knitting, but through reading her blog and her book, I actually consider her a friend. Not in a stalker sort of way, but in a way that there is a community of people out there who value the same things.

So, when I read about her situation, I literally felt sick. I could not imaging what it must feel like to have to give up an animal - whether a pet or a farm animal. It would be like giving up an arm or a leg. I just couldn;t do it. And it is partly because she rents her homestead. This reminds me how lucky I am that we own our own home. We have a huge mortgage, but it is ours. We can do what we want with the land and the house and the barns. (within the reason of normal human behavior, obviously). I can have my gardens and we can have chickens next spring and I could have any number of animals here.

Sometimes I take for granted the things that I have. Through the hard work of my husband and myself, we have built a nice homestead that we are proud of. And that we are very lucky to have.

Sunday, November 22

Soap



My first ever attempt to make soap. I am happy, surprised and a little annoyed with the outcome.

I am happy because I actually made soap without burning anything or anyone. It is actually something you can wash your hands with and it looks like bars of soap.

I am surprised because, like I said before, no one was injured and the kitchen is still standing. And I had this idea in my head of stuff running all over the counter and a bog mess, and that was not the case.

But I am a little annoyed becasue the soap base is a little "slime-like". It is slippery and not quite what I wanted. And, one of the molds broke and i did have a little counter mess but not anything horrible.

So, notes to self and other beginner soap making people:

1. Don;t buy the cheap, flimsy molds. Spend a little more and get the sturdy ones. It is sometimes hard to get the soap out of the mold and the cheap one cracked.

2. Don;t go overboard with the coloring. A little will do!!!

3. That goes double for the fragrance!!!

4. If you show your finished product to your husband, with pride and a feeling of accomplishment, do not expect him to share it. Expect questions like "Did you use the good glass measuring cup to melt that stuff?", "Couldn;t you just use the white soap base as soap and not bother with themelting, coloring and smell-adding?", "What is that smell and why is it slimy?".

Next time, I am going to look for an all-natural base and maybe clear and not a solid. I am also going to start a small pot of lavendar in the house this winter to add for texture and smell.

Saturday, November 21

One of those days.....

Today is one of those days where you just feel really thick. You feel heavy and tired and you keep bumping into things around the house and nothing goes your way.

We went to the farmers market today and even though we got our potatoes for Thanksgiving and some apples and onions and cheese, it was still a cold, dull, dreary disappointment. Not many vendors and the selection was not as good as usual. But I guess that is a fitting way to round up the better half of fall. The leaves are all on the ground and have become more of nusiance than a pretty sight to take pictures of. Its rainy and chilly and everyone and everything looks dreary.

Even stopping at Pittsford Farms Dairy did not make me feel any less frustrated.

A little bright spot however, came from an unlikly source - Debbie Supply in E. Rochester. Roy ran in quickly to get a furnace filter while I waited in the car with the baby. He came out not just with a furnace filter but with a box of pure joy.

Girl Scout Cookies. My favorite kind of Girl Scout cookies.

Every year, I get one box of chocolate and peanut butter. Just one box. The same kind. Every year.

I love them. And they are so bad for you. 140 calories in just 2 cookies. And every year the clear plastic cookie dividers get wider and the amount and size of cookies gets small. But they are still good and I don;t mind spending what equals out to be about 40 cents each for a cookie thats only a little bit bigger than the size of a half dollar.

Thank you for cheering me up a little today dear.

Now the day is slowly getting better. Roy and the baby are napping upstairs. I have the pelet stove on level 2 and it is getting nice and toasty warm in here. It is quiet and I have Prince on the couch next to me sleeping with his front leg across his face. Cheese is sleeping in her bed by the front window, guarding the house. We are waiting for the mail man to come and bring us out first real, solid proof that we are small business owners - our first payment. Most of which will go to paying off expenses already accumulated by said business but hopefully there will be enough left over to go to the craft store for some more soap making supplies.

And, while on the laptop here in my nice warm living room, guarded by a cat, I have found something else to make me feel a little better today. My favorite blog, Cold Antler Farm, has posted pictures of the new baby geese today. It is so nice to think about someone having a box of little fuzzy baby geese under a heat lamp in their bathroom. What a fun and exciting responsibility that must be and some day I hope to have the experience first hand.

Thursday, November 19

What is this plant/shrub???

Can anyone tell me what this plant / shrub is?

Our Solar in the News

The local paper got wind of our new solar panels and decided to come out and do a story and take a couple pictures.

Here is the LINK to the story.

Sunday, November 15

At Home by the Fire

Tonight is one of those nights where it feels like things are drawing to a close. It is the end of the day. The house is clean, dishes are done, the baby is in bed, cats and dog are settled in for the night, and I am in my warm pj pants and flanel shirt. The fire is going in the pelet stove and I am sitting in front of it, staring at it. The kettle let out it's shrill alarm a few minutes ago and I have a steaming hot mug of cocoa with mini marshmallows wait to cool before drinking.

And I just finished my first knitting project ever. A brown scarf with some white mixed in. I finally figured out basic knitting and even though the scarf is far from perfect, it is still nice. It is currently curled up on itself, lengthwise so it looks like a long tube of a scarf. I am very proud of it.

It is unseasonable warm lately which is both wonderful and annoying. I have been able to get so much yard work done with the weather holding out - no rain or unbearable cold - mostly in the 50's and 60's for the past week or so. All the leaves in the yard have finally been raked up and taken to the field in our big blue tarps. It is so nice to see them on the trees all bright yellow and orange and red. It is quite another thing entirely to spend days raking them up until your arms are so sore, it hurts to turn a door knob.

But even though I have been getting quite a few things knocked off my outdoor to-do list, it just doesn't feel right. I should be curled up in an afghan now in front of this stove and it should be blazing away on setting 3 rather than on the lowest setting of 1. Just enough to keep things comfortable in here. But I am actually looking forward to the level 3 days and nights where I can justify a campout downstiars becasue the biting cold killed the rising heat waves before they made it upstairs to the bedroom.

I want it both ways - I want warm days where I can get yard work done and not have to scrape ice off the windshield. But I also want the snowed-in, wind chill days where I get to wear my flanel shirt and my favorite sweatshirt at the same time.

Friday, November 13

Done!



The switch was flipped today and now out electric meter is spinning backwards. It feels great to be one step closer to self sufficiency. Well, as close as we can get in 2009 anyway.

Now that fall is giving way to winter, there will be less sun during the day but when spring and summer come and I am out in the garden weeding and planting, the panels will be towering over the grape vine fence, making free elctric for our house.

It's a great feeling.

Tuesday, November 10

Evolution

In trying to be more self sufficient and develop a homestead here in Webster, NY I have read alot of books, visited a lot of websites and put a lot of sticky-notes on the pages of a lot of magazines. So many ideas of ways to do everything from make your own soap to growing veggies all year round to re-using t-shirts. There is a lot of info out there and I got overwhelmed really fast. But after alot of reading and thinning out, there have been a few sources that I keep going back to.

Books that fostered the evolution (just a few of many):
Mad Cowboy by Howard Lyman
Made From Scratch by Jenna Woginrich
Stronger Than Dirt by Kim Schaye
The $64 Tomato by William Alexander
O Come Ye Back to Ireland by Niall Williams (yes, it seems a bit strange but this book inspires me to put myself in a situation where I will make due with less).

Mother Earth News and Countryside magazines are always laying around here with pages marked as they are a continual source of information.

And, the blogs. I find that I only return consitantly to very few blogs. Here are the ones I really, really like:
Cold Antler Farm - by far one of the most interesting and informative blogs around
Throwback at Trapper Creek
Carpe Diem Acreage
Small Measure

It was a slow evolution in coming. But the more I read, the more I heard, and the more I thought about things, it seemed like the only sensible thing to do. We grow our own vegetables, and what we don;t grow, we get at our farmers market. Why pay a little less for an apple if it means that it was shipped all the way from South Carolina? Where is the savings in that?

We heat with a pellet stove and wear a sweater in the winter instead of heating the house to 80 degrees in January. Why would I want to miss having bread dough rise on top of the fire place or getting to curl up in a warm afghan? And the dog likes it better - she's happier on the cool side.

Use less electric, buy everything you can locally, do we really need all that cheap, plastic China made stuff from Walmart? Who wants to flip an egg with a 99 cent spatula that melts to the cheap frying pan with the bits of metal coating coming off onto your food? Spend the money once and get green pans and wooden spoons.

We are not fanatical or anything and we will not be cursing the government and creating a compound our anything like that. We want to be healthy and happy and enjoy doing what we like to do. I like to crochet and to sew and to garden. We like to have a low electric bill. We like spending time at home, having campfires, and planning our garden and future livestock possibilities.

I just don't see the point of eating the cheapest food because it's, well, the cheapest. I would rather have a nice, warm scarf and pair of socks that was knitted by my Grandma or my mom or myself. I hate looking at something and seeing "Made in China" all over it. I want to be able to finish an afghan and curl up in it right then, rather than buy a blanket from the store, get it out of it's plastic wrapping and have to wash it three times before the smell goes away.

So the evolution from the "get things cheap - throw things away" mentality has been replaced with a much better view of "do it yourself, grow it yourself, make it if you can." It might cost a little more but in the long run it feels better and it lasts longer.

The solar is coming.....



Today they are installing the pole and cables in the side field for the solar panels. The panels will be installed tomorrow or Thursday.

We are one step closer to being one step more self sufficient - producing our own electricity.

Sunday, November 8

Snowy



Snowy is our 10 1/2 year old Huskey/Shepard mix. We adopted her and her sister, Lily when they were about 4 months old (?) from a shelter right after we got back from our honeymoon.

I had never had dogs growing up since both my parents were allergic so it was anew experience for me dealing with two very active puppies. We already had my two maine coon kittens, one of which is still with us. We lost Sidney, my gray and black maine coon, last year to cancer. And then we lost Lily the next month, also to cancer.

So now it is Snowy, Prince (Sidneys orange and white brother), Buffin (the huge gray short hair from a shelter), and our kitten, Cheese (our wonderful latest addition found on craigslist two months before we had our son). These make up the animal population of our homestead for the moment. Hopefully we will be adding chickens next spring. And I would love to soon add goats or alpacas.

Snowy is one big pain in the butt - in that she is wonderful and always right there looking for love or a treat. She gets plenty of both - the vet says she needs to go on a diet but I think she is old and should have what she wants. She had a hard time getting up from naps - her joints are stiff and sore with arthritis but she can still keep up witht he best of them and runs around the yard and field chasing moles and the occasional jogger.

She is a beautiful girl. She is stubborn and loving and picky. She will only go to the bathroom in certain places. She like certain types of treats and does not like to take her medicine and barely tollerates baths. Sounds like most dogs but she does it all with personality.

She does not sleep in the bed with us - no room (big girl), and that is the cats domain. Every night it's Prince and Cheese. Buffin prefers to spend his nights on the reciner. Snowy sleeps in the kitchen, keeping watch for raccoon intruders. But now, I think she could sleep through a train wreck. Her hearing is not what it once was and she is having the occasional accident in the house. But when we need her, she is there. Guarding the house and the baby.

Taking Advantage of the Great Weather



It was absolutely beautful here today - warm, sunny and great for yard clean-up. Mom and Dad came over to watch the baby and we went to work trimming tree limbs, raking leaves and filling the compost and brush pile to capacity.

I managed to not only get the entire rose garden in fron tof the barn cleaned out for the winter, but I also widened the short end by almost 2 feet. This will allow the mallow and the sweet peas to expand a little bit more without taking over the other plants and it will also leave me room to put in a ton of bulbs. I have been trying to find a nice place to put in a bunch of daffodil and tulip bulbs that would be enjoyable from the kitchen windows. So hopefully next spring, I will be gazing out onto yellow and red and while blooms.

Like all good things, our babysitters had to go one and take care of their own yard so we were on our own trying to rake the big yard in front of the barn with an 8 month old on a big blanket. He is still learning how to crawl so right now he is "slithering" backwards. Before we knew it, had a managed to get off the blanket and obtain a big handful of grass and dead leaf bits. And, is anyone with an 8 month old knows, they went directly into his mouth. After much crying and spitting up dead leaf bits, the crisis was delt with and mittens were installed the prevent future grabbing.



We managed to get the entire barn front done and some of the yard in front of the house before the sun started setting and it got chilly. But it was a good day full of accomplishment and satisfaction.

I was able to cross more than a few things off my to-do-before-winter list and no one had to go to the hospital. Only 1 band-aid required and the only casualty was an extension cord that was accidentally cut through with the hedge trimmers.

Now, it is dark and the baby is in bed and we are relaxing with our laptops and the history channel. Yes, we are homesteaders, but we are also in love with our computers and we don't miss an episode of NCIS. The pellet stove is currently off so it is a little chilly in here but it despirately needs a good cleaning which did not happen today as planned. Tomorrow it will be done and we have the oil back up heat set to kick on if it gets too chilly tonight. And we have a ton of afghans here since while watching NCIS or the Sabres games, I need to have something to work on.

My current project is also my forst knitting project ever. Between my Grandmother and varrious internet how-to videos, I have started knitting. I am working on a scarf which will no doubt turn out lumpy, imperfect, and generally all over the place, but I have a feeling it is going to be a favorite scarf. Pictures to follow...

Friday, November 6

Another step - soap!

After wanting to try this for a while now and after reading about how easy it is on Cold Antle Farm's Blog and Message Boards (my favorite blog by the way), I finally went to the store last night and got my supplies for making a beginners batch of soap.

My hope is that I can make bars that look good enough to give away as Christmas presents without people saying "Umm,... thanks.....these are really....ummm..nice."

Wish me luck!

Friday, October 30

Millers Corners Cemetery, Ionia NY



Millers Corners Cemetery is in Ionia, NY, the town where I grew up. This cemetery is a wealth of historical information and is a gem to genealogy addicts like myself. Not only are many relatives burried here, but the town founders, the Millers, are here as well.

I always like to visit this cemetery, even though I know alot of the stones, because it just feels like there is always something new to discover about someone. Today I wandered over to a stone of a WWII casualty and I remember the name as someone I have numerous newspaper articles about in a folder back home. And I started wondering about how many people in the cemetery have WWII, WWI, Civil War and maybe even Revolutionary War connections. So now I have another project for another day - and I can't wait to see what I find.

Thursday, October 29

leaves, mint and rainy dull days



Today was a fall day that did not impress me. Fall days usually impress me to no end - the bright crisp blue skys, the frosty coating on anything still resembling a plant, and the brilliant yellow leaves still hanging on the branches of the dark, dark brown maple tree.

But today it was rain. Cold, damp, rainy and dull. Rainy fall days cast a vail of "dank" over my fall colors.

I tried my best to enjoy it regardless with a trip to my parents house and the warmth of a wood burning stove and a home made toasted cheese sandwich for supper. There are usually a million things that catch my eye on the drive over to take pictures of. And today, even though it was overcast, I took some anyway. This one above is of a field where a herd of buffalo used to call home. I grew up a mile away and used to ride my bike down and watch them when I was young. They met with an untimely death which I will not go into due to the sad nature of the story.

After a nice visit, I am home now. The baby is in bed, I am relaxing with peanut butter toast and my husband is reading one of my "girly" magazines. Learning how to get flat abs in a week from Self Magazine. He's not interested in tonights episode of CSI, I guess.

But back to fall. My vegetable garden is gone, all brown dirt and the wayward rock. And, of course, the few brave green weeds that are making one last stand. I have started trimming back all the flower gardens - taking stock of what is growing where, what I need to divide and ripping out by the roots the horrible weed called mint that has attempted to take over a few of my gardens this year. The year of the mint invasion is what 2009 will go in the gardening journal as. Currently thriving in the lily garden, the veggie garden and the rose garden by the house, I have been flighting it all season. The veggie garden is my own fault but how it got into the other two is beyond me. They are all so far away from each other. Another mystery for next season.

Roy has trimmed most of the banches that needed to be gone before winter and the yard has seen it's last mow. The leaves are falling and we will be raking soon.

I just don;t want to rake wet leaves.....

Friday, October 23



Indian summer is an informal expression given to a period of sunny, warm weather in autumn in the northern hemisphere, typically in late October or early November, after the leaves have turned due to an onset of frost but before the first snowfall.

According to Wikipedia anyway.

Wednesday and Thursday of this past week were beautiful - sunny and breezy and warm and perfect for fall yard clean up. I spent every minute possible outside working around the yard. (Thank you Mom for coming over and watching the baby!). There is still so much to do but I am just glad for Indian Summers.

My favorite days are Indian Summer days. It is still fall, which is the perfect season. The leaves are all colors of, well, fall. And there is no humidity or exhausting heat and need for sunscreen. It's warm but cool, breezy but no bitter wind chill, and kind of cloudy, kind of sunny... kind of perfect.

Today it turned back into the kind of fall that I'm not crazy about. Chilly, rainy and everything looks dull and dead. The leaves that were bright yellow and oragne and red yesterday are still there, but they are damp and dull now. Today was a laundry day. An inside day. But I'm hoping for more of my favorites to come before the snow flies.

This also marks when my attention shifts to inside projects. Fall is crochet time, which I love. I have more afghans in this house than I will ever need. So in true homesteading spirit, I have taken on learning new skills. I am having a great time learning knitting, piano, and I am looking forward to trying my hand at soap making.

Which is why I love Indian Summer days - it means the colors I love, the weather than is perfect, and it promise of coming inside days full of afghans, key of G, and waiting for the Baker Creek Seed catalog to come in the mail....

Wednesday, October 21

Our Friend the Coyote



My neighbor owns and operates a big tree farm next to/behind our 2 acres. He has graciously allowed us to walk our dog on the property and generally go hiking around and exploring. The best part however, is the wide array of wildlife that calls his tree farm home. Deer, fox, hawks, beaver, rabbits, woodchucks and coyote - and probably many more. I try to have my camera handy when I'm out and about in the yard but it's hard to get a nice pic of a deer for some reason. I managed to snap this blurry one of a cheeky buck who stood just long enough for me to get the camera button half way down.

Last Saturday night the coyotes were in rare form, howling at the moon in what sounded like a large group of at least 6 or 7. In the darkness, I could not see them when I looked out the back window but they were close - probably in the back yard.
If we had a nice solar dusk to dawn light (that my husband has promised to install since we moved in over 4 years ago), I would have been able to see them.
It was both exciting and scary to have them so close to the house making all that noise. So exciting becasue I love to watch all the aniamls around here and I love living in a place that is still "county" enough that they are still living here. There are, of course, much more "county-ish" places, but I consider myself lucky that we were able to move out of the city and that I can call these two acres on a quiet road home.
Scary, however, becasue it's a COYOTE! Lots of them, in my yard. They eat small animals. We don't have the chickens that I want yet - hopefully next spring - but I do have my three cats. They are indoor cats but two of them are bound and determined to escape every time someone tries to carry in a load of groceries into the house. Just the mom in me, but I worry.
But I would not trade this wonderful house and these two acres for any type of living arrangement that would ensure coyote-free nights. So, let them howl and I'll enjoy every minute.

Tuesday, October 20



I thought this picture was so telling of how much I love fall. I love the colors, the smells, the sounds...
When Lily was alive, she and Snowy would love to play in the dry leaves all over the yard. I would rake them up in big piles and they would jump in them and play, attacking eachother, barking and jumping around. Now Snowy is older and it is just she and I in the yard with the leaves. And she prefers to lay in the grass and watch me rake.

I look forward to the first day that I can smell fall. It is usually around the middle of September and it is early in the morning when I get up to let Snowy out. It is just getting light and there might be a very light frost and it is crisp and a little chilly. It smells like the early morning at a camp site in the 1000 Islands after a late night of campfires. It feels like I should be standing on my front porch with my hands cupped around a big mug of steaming coffee, just like in the commericals. But I don't like coffee so I will settle for hot cocoa. For me this marks the end of summer and the beginning of cleaning up and closing up for the colder months to come.

Fall in the Yard

Sorry It's Been So Long

It's been a long time since my last post - sorry to those who read this. Things have been crazy here at the homestead.

First the hot water tank went and we needed to bite the bullet and get a new one. We tried to get the most efficent one possible and it works well but it took a bit more out of the budget than we would have liked. I guess I was just under the impression that hot water tanks were supposed to last a long time, like longer than 20 years.

And fall is finally here - the beautiful leaves, the crisp chilly weather, and the massive amounts of yard and garden clean up. Most of it will end up in the compost but a few things, like the Chinese Lanterns and maybe some sedum, will be dried and used for decoration in the house. The beans that I left on the vine are all nice and dry now so they will be saved to plant next year. We really enjoy the purple pole bean, so I think I am going to plant more rows next season.



Part of the before mentioned fall clean up included cleaning up the remains of the trumpet vine that used to be growing up the side of the barn. My loving husband, patient and wise as he is, decided that he was tired of having the vine growing into the tracks of the big sliding doors of the barn. After having quite a time opening the closing the doors to get the trailer out the other day, I looked out the kitchen window to see the trumpet vine waving wildly in the air and crashing to the ground. This was no ordinary vine - it was BIG - about 3 inches in diameter at the base. And now it is gone. I yelled and complained and my husband explained that he was tired of that vine knocking the door off the track. So, today I cut the rest of the stump and carted off the remains. There is another vine, almost just as big, growing up the other side of the barn where the is no door so I am very happy to report that this vine will live a long and productive life.



There are a few flowers trying to give one last showing before the snow starts flying. I have one very pretty little yellow rose and a few wayward poppies in the garden, as well as a small branch of little white climbing roses. It is always nice to see flowers still trying to make a go of it when the leaves around them are red and yellow and brilliant orange. There has been one hard frost here but they seem to have survived.



Monday, September 21

Birds on the Wire

I went to take Snowy out to the field the other day and I heard these birds having a great time on the power lines. There were so many of them, the lines were sagging. An approaching car scared them to flight but I got a good picture anyway.

Frost on the Pumpkin

Tuesday, September 8

Pumpkins: Fall is Here



I took Connor out to the garden today and put him down next to his pumpkin. It is the only pumpkin I got this year, so I am giving it to him, being his first Halloween and all. And his first Fall. I hope he loves Fall as much as I do.

He has been sitting up on his own much better now so he did pretty well until he lost his ballance and fell backward onto so big leaves. He was very interested in the leave and started pulling out big handfulls and trying to eat them. I have a gardener in the making..... and his little shirt has tractors and cows and pigs and chicks on it. He is almost too big for it but I am squeezing him into it for as long as I can becasue it is my favorite.

I am hoping that next spring he will be able to get in the garden with me and I can start teaching him all about plants and vegetables. I only hope that he is interested in such things.

But for now, he is happy with his pumpkin and I am happy that Fall is finally here.

A Good Afternoon



Connor and I spent the majority of the afternoon streched out on a big, comfy oversized sleeping bag in the side yard. He loves to be outside, which is something I hope he carries with him forever. He likes to look up at the trees and watch the leaves blowing the breeze. He has started rolling over and trying to scoot around now which is more entertaining than my husbands entire entertainment center, dvd player included.

I did the usual and brought out magazines I wanted to actually try and read, a journal I wanted to try to write in and, of course, the laptop. My vice, I know.

So there we sat, and rolled, on the sleeping bag, watching the leaves dance.

I had a good vantage point to survey the yard and I started thinking of all the things I wanted to do - expand the vegetable garden to make room for more rows of peas, tomatoes and pumpkins, start getting the shed ready for the chickens I want to get next spring, and all of the other little projects that I hope will make my little dream of being more self-sufficient a realty. My goal is, if we are hit with some big ice storm this winter, to be fine. To have enough food, water, and of course, diapers, to last a while. To have the generator in good order, have candle and lamp oil, and all that other good stuff. Not a Little House on the Praire, I know, but it's a start.

It is an interesting dream I have - a huge ice storm rolling in and the whole state being shut down. No open stores, no open banks, and no power. I would cook on the propane grill, watch bread dough rise on the pellet stove, break out the oil lamps and spend the day reading books with Connor and practicing my knitting. Everything would be quiet. No tv (unless Roy decides he can;t live without seeing another episode of Eureka, and plugs the tv into the generator), no phone ringing and waking Connor up from his nap, and catching the news on the solar radio. Quiet. Just quiet.

Friday, August 28

And It Begins.....

It was below 50 degrees last evening and, after an interesting day of yard work and house chores, I really wanted to have a campfire.

I love this weather - fall is coming and it is getting cooler at night. Yesterday evening, I got to wear a flanel shirt. I got to walk around the yard with Connor and Snowy with the damp grass and the chilly air and it was really nice since the day was annoying and interesting.

Mom came over to keep an eye on the little man while I ran around the house and yard trying to cram as many chores into the 4 hours she was there as possible. Wedding, trimming (line kept breaking), transplanting a pine tree, laundry on the line, and mowing, amoung many other little things. The grass`was so high that I couldn't see the big rock that found it's way into the path of my mower until it was too late. I am asuming that this rock found its way to the grass from a fit had during hard digging in the solar trench - I can just picture Roy getting mad at a root or some such thing and taking out his frustrations by throwing rocks.

The mower made this loud clunking noise and continued making this noise until I stopped and turned it off. I sat there for a minute hoping really hard that it I waited a minute or two that the mower would cure itself and I could keep mowing. No such luck.

Dad and Mom came back over later that evening and after a quick trip to Lowes, a new blade was installed to replace the one that was bent like a pretzel.

So, after my day, I just wanted to relax and have a campfire in the yard and read my two new magazines - Urban Farm and Country Skills. But it didn;t happen. I was just too tired from all the "excitment" of the day that if I would have started a fire, I would have been asleep before I turned around and sat in the lawn chair.

Tuesday, August 25

Friday, August 21

To Kill or Not to Kill

I HATE SPIDERS. I have always hated them and I absolutely can not stand them in the hosue or anywhere around it. Yesterday I discovered a horrible, huge spider building a web on my front porch. This thing is easily the size of a half dollar if not bigger. I want to kill it, but I am not sure since I am trying to be nice and think of the good things that spiders do. Hard for me, I know, but I am trying.

So, the Poll is - Should I Kill the Spider of Not? Vote Yes or No. Keeping it for a pet is not an option.

In Goes the Cable....

Wednesday, August 19

Trenching in the Dark



The trench is now finished - at about 10pm. They are coming to install the cables tomorrow at 7am so it had to get finished tonight. We had most of the trench done coming in towards the house from the field and some done from the house heading out so there was just about 50 feet going through the little path between the bushes. And it was here that we kept shoveling dirt out of the path.

So, with the kerosene lanterns buring, we kept digging until, like when the rails of the Central Pacific Railroad met those of the Union Pacific at Promontory Summit, Utah back in 1869, our two trenches met. And with lanterns blazing, we dug the final shovels full of dirt out and called it a night.

We did not find a golden spike. But we did find a marble. I washed it and it now has a home with the experimental pea plants in the kitchen window.

Monday, August 17

You'll Never Get Rich By Digging A Ditch...

We might has well be in the Army given all the manual labor we have had to do lately. The first step towards the solar panels, besides the signing of the contracts and the handing over of money.



In order to install the cables for the panels to run to the house, we had to dig a 200 foot trench from the field where the panels will be to the side of the house. The cables will go through the house foundation wall and across the basement ceiling to the panel box in the basement. The trench needs to be 18" deep for all 200 feet.

After the contract and money step, it was time for me to move the flowers and rocks. A 24" wide patch of pacasandra and creeping ivy. (sorry guys) But it will grow back fast since it is very agressive. And the landscaping rocks have been moved (turns out that I got a whole bunch of new rocks to add when this is all over).

We rented a "ditch-witch" that was supposed to dig the trench for us but our ground is really rocky so it only got us about 10" down and most of the dirt fell back down into the trench. So, we started digging.

And digging, and digging, and digging.

Tonight we can see the end - only about 20 to 30 more feet to go. They are coming Thursday morning to install the cables, so we should make it - if there are no disasters in the mean time that would cause the dirt to fall back in the trench. Like a rain storm. Which is supposedly coming tomrrow.

Here is the very beginnings of the life of the trench:



So our first steps toward solar have been "rocky" but what house project goes smoothly around here. Well, that light bulb I replaced the other day didn't give me much trouble. But in a few short months, that light bulb will be powered with electric we made from the sun on our side field. We estimate that these panels (9 in total on 1 pole) will cover half of our energy useage.

Sunday, August 16

Finished!



It's Done! Repaired, painted and handles attched. Now, I can stock it with pots and shovels and old canning jars full of seed markers, cable ties and varrious odds and ends. It has some shelves and space for the roto-tiller and maybe some day it will have electric or a water hookup. Being close to the garden, it would be helpful but not totally necessary.

Eventually, I would like to install a "front porch" of sorts. An extension off the front - just an overhang made of pine from our trees to provide some shade and a little 'rustic-ness'. The cherry trees, which are small now, will eventually provide some shade for gardening and weeding breaks.

Tuesday, August 11

I hope the neighbors don’t notice….

Now that summer has finally decided to grace us with her temperatures above 70, the tomatoes have started to ripen. I actually have a few that are the lightest shade of orange. Orange! In August! I am amazed.

Aside from the utter disappointment of this year’s vegetable garden, this summer has been good. Not terribly humid and this year I am not sequestered in the house with all-day morning sickness. Our plans before the end of the season include trimming a ton of low hanging branches around the yard, painting the old chicken barn and getting the solar installed. Hopefully, the trenching for the cables will be done this weekend and the cable put in place and buried on Monday of next week. Unfortunately, the panels will not be able to be installed until October due to the high rate of demand for these. Which I guess is a good thing.

Regardless, I am excited about cutting our electric bill in half even if I am not so enthusiastic about having a huge solar array in the side field. I hope the neighbors don’t notice….

Monday, August 3

It's Dreary Here in Dear Old London

How cloudy and rainy it is here in London, with the drizzle and damp seeping into every corner of the house...

Hold on, this isn't England - it's UPSTATE NEW YORK - in AUGUST!!! It should be warm and sunny and almost unbearable hot and humid. Green and purple beans should be so thick on the vine that there is no way we can possible eat them all. You should be able to smell the tomatoes cooking in the sun from the house and there should be sunflowers towering over it all. But, unfortunately, we here in upstate New York are suffering from what I call London weather. Stereotypical wet, damp, foggy weather that you always see in movies that are set in London. And nothing is growing.

So far, our garden haul has amounted to 4 yellow cherry tomatoes, 2 potatoes, 2 purple string beans, 1 green pepper and 1 yellow gourd (and thats just for halloween decoration! but they way things are going, I might consider eating it.) The peas have done alright - I have enough for the chicken pot pie I am making for dinner tonight. But the rest is just a miserable mess of rotting roots, yellowing leaves, and mushy mud.

What concerns me is that some people relay on their gardens for most of their food - eating right away, canning or otherwise. How are they doing this year? One day I hope to be able to not have to purchase produce (fresh or canned) unless I want something fancy and foreign like a banana. But with seeing how things are happening this year, I know that I had tried that above mentioned experiment, I would be spending a lot of time eating pasta and soup. For the first time, I relly feel for those people who's livelyhood and diet depend on how the garden turns out.

Notes for next year - start everything in January; invest in horse manure; get an unheated greenhouse.

Tuesday, July 28



Today is an outdoor day. Roy has today off of work, the weather is beautiful and we have a ton of things to do. The garden shed needs finishing, the lawn mower need to be fixed, and there is a ton of weeding and trimming to be done. Also, I discovered yesterday that we are having aproblem with our potatoes in the garden. One plant is fine, the next plant is dead. Repeat this all the way down the row.

I pulled up the dead plant. Ants. Tons of little red ants.

Like I said. Lots to do today.

Wednesday, July 22

A Quote I Like

"If it isn't everything you want for the future, let it be enough for tonight.
Living the way you want has nothing to do with how much land you have or how much you can afford to spend on a new house.
It has to do with the way you choose to live every day and how content you are with what you have."
~ Jenna Woginrich

Sunday, July 19

My Castle Awaits

As I sit here feeding Connor his 3pm bottle of Enfamil, I can happily hear the sounds of the circular saw and the drill coming from the side yard. For that is where my loving husband is so lovingly repairing my lovely garden shed.
We got it second hand so it needed some repairs and some of the wood was rotten but it is almost done.


I can already see the neatly organized shelves of twine, stakes, and mason jars full of cable ties and little plastic white plant labels. My row of tools lined up by size - shovel, hoe, and my favorie, the sod ripper.


I am going to paint it a nice shade of "every barn should be this color" red, with white trim. It will have a little porch overhang in the front made from pine and cedar logs that we have on the property. (Roy doesn't know about this part yet so lets not put the cart before the person who is good with the circular saw).

Friday, July 17

Oh, how perfect for today....

"Restraint offers a space between intention and action and the opportunity to protect others from actions or reactions that should exist only in your imagination."
Stephanie Dowrick

Wednesday, July 15

Crossing over to the dark side.... or "light" side as the case may be

There has been much speculation lately around the house concering the possible installation of solar panels in our side yard. I have been a big "no, no, no" on this since we moved here for the fact that I think it would look horrendous.
If we could put them on the barn roof, it would be perfect. However, according to Roy, the barn roof (which is south-facing) does not get enough sun during the course of the day(?). Anyway, Roy has been pushing this idea for a while and I have slowly come around to actually thinking about allowing them in my yard.
I am all for self-reliance and sustainability and in getting into homesteading I have been reading alot about generating at least some of your own power. So I guess it is not a total shock that I changed my mind and finally said "ok" to the solar panels. Although this does mean that I will be digging a trench from the panels to the house which is about 100 feet and will be done by hand because I will not let a backhoe in the yard (ruts in my grass!).
So in my quest to be self-reliant, we have taken the step to produce just about half of our own power for the whole house (between 30 - 40%). I have crossed over to the dark side. My yard will now be home to a 9' wide by 3' tall solar panel. I swore I would walk that thin line between having a really nice yard and having all the things I want to be self-reliant. So even though I have crossed over, hey, I still love my yard!

Tuesday, July 14

Fat Birds and Muscular Ants

I have a nice little bird house by the cats run outside. I don;t know what kind of bird is neating there at the moment but I think he got stuck. I noticed the other day that the paint had been scratched off the front of the house by the entrance/exit hole. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that it was actually chewed or clawed away. Like something was trying to get into the house to eat the baby birds. Because the thought of something trying to eat babies is a little unsettling to me, I have decided to believe the other option. I have a fat bird who got stuck and his bird friends had to come and peck away at the wood until he was able to get free.



I am also having an interesting dilemma with my outdoor ant poison stakes. Anyone who knows me knows that one of the things I hate the most, besides japanese beetles, is ants in my house. I just can not stand the thought of it. So, while I am very conscious of chemicals and poisons and hardly ever use them for weed or pest control, the beetles and the ants are the two exceptions. I have strategically placed these little dark green disks with the stake on the botton around the house by the doors and front porch. I have also placed them in certain key areas of the flower garden where I have noticed ants in great number.


The problem that I am having is that they move. All by themselves it seems, in the dark of night. I have been finding them all over the yard. My imagination being a lot my creative now that I have a baby in the house and the whole day to ponder such things suggests that an army of pissed off ants has decided to teach me a lesson and steal my poison traps. I have found them on the rock wall on the far side of the barn, in the middle of the yard on the way to the veggie garden, and wedged in between landscaping rocks in the shade garden.