Wednesday, November 30

Awaiting Barnheart

I ordered the latest book from one of my favorite authors and I have been patiently watching for the mailman the past few days. It should be here soon and I can not wait to open it up and start reading. I have a feeling I won't be able to put it down.....

Tuesday, November 29

Toasty Fires and The End of Modern Society

I am looking out at a cold and rain drenched homestead this afternoon as I wait for another load of laundry to spin out so it can be hung by the wood stove to dry. I made my first fire in the new stove yesterday and lets just say, I am a little rusty at getting a fire going. I have not made a wood stove fire in a good 10 years, and I need to brush up on my skills.

I did manage to get a good fire going and I was quite proud of myself until Roy came home and pointed out that I forgot to empty the ash pan. A little annoying, I know. When we are building something, he is the type of guy who will come around and inspect any nail that I have pounded and always give it another two and three good hits with the hammer, just in case. Just his little way of letting me know he is "the man."

But my warm and toasty fire made the house just that, and it dries clothes like nobody's business. That thing puts out a lot of heat. Last night I put a bowl of dough on the stove top to rise for the home made pizza I was making for dinner. Not only did that dough rise very well, but it got so toasty that the dough was hot to the touch when it came time to press it out.

So I am sitting here today, with both kids napping, and the fire going and I am glad we are back from the store. A 'quick trip' with two kids is not a quick trip. Needing formula and diapers, and some chocolate for Mommy, we went out and spent two hours in total inspecting every toy in the toy department of the local Target. I spent that time checking out potential Christmas gifts that Santa could bring the little man and I tried to use my rules of shopping.

My Rules of Shopping (for non-food items):

What is the price?
Where is it made?
What is it made of?
Is it durable?
Can it be recycled?
How much packaging is there?
Can the packaging be recycled?
Is it worth the money and the effort it took to get it to this store?

I know it seems like a lot but it goes by quickly in my head and I can eliminate toxic, over-priced, "cheap", and excessively packaged goods rather quickly. I found a few good suggestions for Santa.

The drive home in the rather heavy rain was as it always is, but today I had the heater cranked up and I made a point to go really slow. This puts the little man out like a light for his nap. We stopped for a train on the tracks and as i watched the box cars go by, among the sprawl of graffiti on the sides, was the suggestion that we should "end modern society."

After just having seen a display of Justin Bieber Christmas tree ornaments that was as big as an actual Christmas tree, I was inclined to agree.

Birds of a Feather

Birds have been on my mind recently. I have been noticing more and more around the yard and while driving - not that they haven't always been there but for some reason I have been hyper aware of them lately.

The starling population has seemingly exploded and there are huge flocks of them everywhere. They go from grass to tree to antenna tower in a huge wave of flight - a solid moving wall of formation, expanding and contracting and changing shape. Hundred and hundreds of them.

In total, there is said to be over 200 million of them in North America, first being introduced by Eugene Schieffelin, who tried to introduce every bird species mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare to North America in 1890. It is also said that Starlings are among the worst nuisance species in North America due to their over population, but i can not help but stare at those waves.

Another bird that seems to be popping up in my field of vision is some sort of heron. I want to say that it is a blue heron, but I mostly see them while driving so a prolonged look is not possible. They seem to love the side of the road where water collects after a storm and I love how they just stand and observe, so stately and regal.

A new visitor to my backyard feeder had me breaking out the bird identification book the other day. A Northern Mockingbird was hanging out on the evergreen bushes under my kitchen window. I have never seen one before, but according to Cornell, they are a year round resident in most of the 50 states.

We are still having some hawk sightings but i know the chickens are safe under the poultry netting. And I doubt that any hawk could carry away one of my robust ladies. They are all packing on the winter weight. I recently purchased them a 'flock block' at Tractor Supply - a nice treat to keep them occupied since they are spending more time inside the coop. Advertised as a 'Whole Grain Enrichment Supplement', it is designed to encourage natural pecking instincts to help reduce cannibalism. Well, we all want to avoid cannibalism, so, indoor activity or cannibal reducing device, I think I made a good purchase. They love it and have managed to peck away half of it so far. I think I will be purchasing a few more to get us through the winter months.

Sunday, November 27

Wood Stove Update

Our wood stove was inspected by the town the other day, which slightly annoyed me in that we needed approval from someone else, and that we had to pay money for it. But I can understand that you just can't have people doing anything to their homes and then having those homes burn down from unsafe installations.

We passed, and we didn't need to put that tile down 16" out from the hearth, which was a very nice turn of events. I was dreading that since I hate installing ceramic tile and it would have damaged even more of my hardwoods. We were able to instead use a black fireproof mat of sorts and they said that was fine. It does double duty in that it keeps stray sparks from landing on the wood and gives Roy a place to make a little bit of a mess with the wood debris and ash that cleans up easy.

Our first fire last week was exciting, and smelly. Very, very smelly. I remember when we first got the pellet stove the first few fires were also stinky from the paint, treatments, and probably other things burning off. This was a little worse, especially when it reached operating temperature. We opened all the windows and put in fans and had the kids upstairs with the doors closed. That fire did not last long. The second attempt the next day resulted in setting off the downstairs smoke detector which did not bother the kids since they were sleeping upstairs, but it did send all three cats stampeding through the kitchen and into the basement.

Having both grown up with wood heat, we should have known all this but by the time we came along, our parents had already long since taken care of the breaking in of the stove.

We read that cast iron stoves need to be broken in with a series of fires starting with some twigs and ending with a full load of wood. So, we decided that we needed to have a day when Roy could stay home and build a series of fires, ending with a big, hot fire that could last about 6 hours or longer to burn off all the smells. Yesterday was the day.

The weather was slightly mild so the windows could be open and I took the little man and the new girl to the mall to meet Grandma. Let me just say that Grandma's are the best invention ever.

She took little man for the night and the little girl and I stayed out browsing at the local thrift stores for a few more hours. She is a great shopping partner - she just sleeps and looks cute.

About 7 hours after the burn-off began, I arrived home to a house that did not smell nearly as bad as I thought it would. A nice fire was roaring in the stove and there was some smell, but nothing compared to the eye-burning fiasco of the previous week.

I do believe that we will be having many comforting wood fires heating our home for many years to come.

Saturday, November 26

Book Report

The Dirty Life
Kristin Kimball

NPR Interview

I love reading about other people and their adventures in farming, homesteading, or just living life on a farm. Partly because I am working toward the first two of the three and, as for the third, I don;t think I will ever own sheep, horses or cows, but I do love a good trial and error horse plowing story.

This book was wonderful - full of ideas and an honest look at what buying a farm and working it really entails. My romantic ideas of farming met with a nice little slap in the face - hearing about all the lovely chores and animal processing. This is not to say that I was discouraged by this book - I just think that in its honestly, it makes certain parts of farming seem as unromantic as a trip to the dentist. and that is a good thing.

"As much as you transform the land by farming, farming transforms you." I just remember a quote about how she wears her cashmere sweater to the barn and how she used to wear it on first dates and have it dry cleaned. Even though there are far deeper and more meaningful examples throughout the book, I just like that one.

That they farm with horses really makes it all the more interesting.

She talks about farming in general as "generations of accumulated skill and local knowledge and the sense of belonging to a place that would dead-end with this generation." According to a recent survey, most farmers in the US are over the age of 50, so I can see how the dead end might be eminent. However, I wonder, with the resurgence of a back-to-the-land type of urban homesteading, we might be able to change these numbers. After all "all farmers were once what ewe now call organic and the horse drawn tools they invented to deal with weeds were precise and efficient."

Her take on seeds is one I can relate to - her long lists of seeds to order and getting a little carried away with all the different varieties. But lucky for both of us, we have husbands who have a little more common sense in the seed lust vs. garden space department. "The whole trick of seed catalogs is that they come into the house in winter, when everything still seems possible and the work of growing things is too far in front of you to be seen clearly."

Who among us does not have the graph paper out in January plotting and planning where our 10 different varieties can fit? (maybe if I just reduce the space in between recommendations....)

And when the seeds arrive in the mail.... "I could not imagine how several tons of food could come out of a box so small and light I could balance it in one hand."

That we can feed our families for a whole year, or longer, on what comes in a box the size of a box of Crayola 64 count crayons amazes me every time.

Looking for some great inspiration to buy that old farm the next state over? Read this book immediately before heading to the realtor with your checkbook.

Tuesday, November 22

The Scary Side of Cheese

I have this picture of my Grandfather standing in the driveway of his first home after he got back from the War and married my Grandma. He is holding onto a small cow, which I can only assume is the offspring of a milk cow they must have kept.

For that is where milk came from in 'the old days.' Walking five miles, up hill to school every day, chores until darkness fell, homework by oil lamp light and milk straight from the cow.

Milk. From the cow. And most likely cheese, butter, cream, etc.

So why is it that I am convinced that unless I get the gallon jug and the butter to spread on my toast at the grocery store, I will be poisoned and die a slow death from unprocessed dairy products?

This article in the previous issue of Mother Earth News really helped me to understand what has happened to milk, and why people today think that the gallon jug is so much better for you than a trip to the barn with a bucket.

Public opinion has been greatly influenced by several pasteurization campaigns, Homogenization and public health re-education campaigns have convinced people that fat, sour, whole milk is bad. And as I was reading the article, I was still holding strong to my ideas of what milk was. Milk is of the skim variety that comes in the gallon jug from the cooler at the store. The idea of drinking whole, thick milk strikes me as foreign and yucky. I picture a thick coffee-creamer substance with little lumps floating around in it, and maybe some little pieces of straw from the barn floor got in there too.

The article, more than convincing me to run out and buy a calf, made me think about how I actually think about milk. Making butter has been something in the back of my mind for a while now. Lets face it, if the Mayans are right, I would still want butter on my morning toast. But I would not want to suffer massive stomach pains and possibly die from poisoning if I didn't make the butter the right way. And that is the heart of the problem - being afraid to make butter, or cheese, or to drink milk from the cow because of what we have believed.

So i am taking the first steps in home dairy education - by trying to change my previously held beliefs about what milk is and that, if done properly, butter and cheese can be made at home without fear of an early grave.

The Astonishing Story of Real Milk

Sunday, November 20

Fall Leaves, Laziness, and Too Much TV

Thursday night, I drove part of the way home in almost white-out conditions. I had the little man and the new baby in the car, all strapped in and secure, and I was going about 25 mph over the back roads. Back roads are the only way to get to and back home from my parents house and I have been driving on them since I started at
16, so I knew every twist and turn and steep slope.

But it was still snow - the first of the season - and I was not all that happy to see it. I want to hold on to fall for a little while longer. At least through Thanksgiving. I feel I have missed out on fall this year - my favorite season by far. Crispy leaves in my favorite colors, chill air but warm sun, bees all over the apple vendors tables' at the farmers market, no more weeding....
This year just feels like it went by way too fast and I was not able to enjoy much of it. I also think i am still a little depressed about not having been able to produce a single pumpkin from my garden this year to add some bright orange to my front porch.

Today has lifted my spirits somewhat as we spent the majority of it raking leaves and working out in the yard. Good fall weather this weekend and I am grateful for it. The vegetable gardens now have a healthy layer of dried leaves over them to rot away over the winter and give something back to the soil. The chickens also got a huge helping of them in their outdoor run and they have been digging around in them all day, looking for anything eatable and, I think, generally having fun.

The little man has been helping rake and haul tarps like the little helper that he is. I have been missing my helper in the past few weeks in that we have been basically stuck in the house, our schedules centered around the new baby. He has not been getting too much outside time, due to these schedules, and the weather. And he has been watching a little too much television. People tell me this is normal with a new baby in the house and that he will not turn into a horrible terror overnight from watching too much Curious George, but I can see the change already. He is not as excited about the chance to go outside, or to go to the store or to visit one of his friends, as he used to be. He actually tells me that he "would rather stay here (in the living room) and watch a George."

It is my fault, I know, and I want to make this right without starting World War III in my house. As soon as the new baby is old enough to go more than 3 hours without a solid feeding, we will be heading to the kids museum or the indoor play house and the little man WILL be playing and learning. Even if I have to use a crowbar to pry him away from the flat screen.

But I can not complain about his laziness without mentioning my own drastic lack of mobility these past few weeks. This weekend was the one of the first times since the baby was born that i have worked up a sweat from good old hard work. Not just from trying to walk up a flight of stairs while 9 months pregnant. I do have to say that it felt great, stinkiness and all, and I did accomplish a good deal of yard work. I miss that so much I almost crave the smell of the dirt. I want to get into my work clothes and get messy. I want to feel like I accomplished something with my day and not just sat inside staring out the window at all the needs to be done. Part of this is because I have the new little girl, whom i love dearly, and because the weather is starting to turn pretty darn cold - too cold to haul a newborn out in the stroller and wheel her around the yard while I rake up dead sweatpea plants.

And it is also partly because I have gotten a little lazy. I am out of practice. Being banned from so many usual summer garden and outdoor activities due to pregnancy has gotten me into the habit of 'taking it easy'. I also have yet to restart my relationship with Jillian Michaels and her Thirty Day Shred workout program. Our love/hate relationship did manage to keep me in shape, pre-pregnancy, and I did enjoy the occasional yelling from the dvd player. "You want abs like this? They're not coming for free, people!" I have a feeling that when I start back at level 1 she will actually know and be able to see my struggling with my 3 pound hand weights.

Oh, I forgot, fall is good for something else - baggy sweaters. Jillian won't suspect a thing.

Friday, November 18

New Inspiration

I found some great new blogs while looking through the Barn Hop. First, the Barn Hop is a wonderful source of information and great reading. I am so glad I happened upon it - it makes Monday mornings that much less stressful. Knowing that I will have new, inspiring homesteading blogs to read gives me something to look forward to other than craziness.

Here are the links to some of the interesting blogs and people I found:

Forgotten Way Blog
Eden Hill's Blog
Behind My Red Door
Sky Minded and Ever Growing

Thursday, November 17

Ambition, Inspiration and Sheep Birthing

Once and a while I lose my enthusiasm.

I get swamped with daily chores and caring for the kids and it is just easier to throw a load of laundry in the dryer rather than hang it on the drying rack. It is faster to crack open a box of Hamburger Helper, even though it is with organic beef, then to peel potatoes, slice carrots, and marinate chicken breast.

I just kind of lose the ambition to keep up with this modern homesteading.

Don't get me wrong, I love my homesteading-attempts lifestyle and there is no way I will ever go back to 100% non-homestead, modern living. But it gets a little hard to remember why we do what we do sometimes. I get reminded when i see a story on the news about tainted pine nuts or recalls on turkey. Or when I get to spend time in the garden working with my hands and getting dirt under my nails. It is just hard to stay committed once and a while.

So I turn to magazines and books and blogs. I have a great desire to read about what others are doing, to get ideas, to get motivated, to get inspired. I discover many things while doing this - new ways to start seeds, a great idea for a cold frame, a new recipe for bread, the fact that I never want to be responsible for birthing a sheep.

When Mother Earth News comes in the mail, I can not wait to sit down and read it - especially if there is a great article on someones homesteading journey. I get inspired by seeing other people living the dream and it helps me get back on track. It is my form of community - knowing that there are other people out there who think like I do, who want to live like I want to live, who have the same problems and successes that I do.

For me, instead of having a farmer next door and a soap making expert down the road, I can turn to Hobby Farm Home, or Jenna at Cold Antler Farm, or the Barn Hop and get questions answered, seek advice, offer my own advice and in general participate in the exchange of ideas on the internet that makes modern homesteading possible, in my opinion.

For example, I just read a great book, "The Dirty Life" by Kristen Kimball. Just reading about someone else's journey makes me anxious to move mine forward. Sure, she talks about bull testicles and runaway horses - things I don;t think I will ever have on this here homestead - but I can relate to her journey and her mis-matched furniture and too much rain and chicken poop.

Just knowing that I am not alone here and that my ideas of a self sufficient life are not crazy and backward. Knowing that I am not paranoid of dooms-day but it is ok to be prepared just in case - that there are other people who are just as not-crazy as I am.

Downsizing the Name

In the spirit of living a more simple life, I have decided that I must also downsize the name of my blog.

The 'lite' is no more since I feel it is holding me back. I want to do more than lightly homestead and having that 'lite' in there somehow gave me permission to slack off a bit.

And, it was just kind of annoying me and I wanted to change things.

Just calling it 'Starting Here' was optimal but someone on blogger already has that domain name. Granted, they have not logging in since 2004 and they have never posted anything, but it is still unavailable. So it is now:

Now that I will feel bad about slacking, I hope to be posting more about my homesteading experiments. I'm learning how to knit baby booties tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 16

Everything is Bad for You

I have decided that everything is bad for you. Every food, every pill, every form of excersise, every vaccination, every exam. Everything will kill you in short order.

What is good for you one day is bad the next - coffee, tea, carbs, vitamins, medications, one kind of food over another, microwaves, bottled water, purfume, cleaning chemicals, wifi, ethanol, additives, preservatives, the laptop.....

How is the average person supposed to cope with the overabundance of information, mostly contradictory, and keep their sanity long enough to enjoy what is left of their very short lives to begin with?

I operate on a base line of assuming pretty much everything is bad for you, especially if it has been created and manufactured since 1950. I know that rules out a lot of things but if I can not pronounce it, I am going to go ahead and assume that it might one day kill me. That does not stop me from being a caffinee addict however. I know that Coke will basically deteriorate a majority of my insides, but i still drink at least two cans a day.

And of course, all that processed food and "junk" food is so horrible for you but it is what 90% of gorcery stores are made up of. But we still buy it and eat it even though we know we should be eating an apple rather than cheese puffs.

So, I think it comes down to a ballance of knowledge, common sense and self control. We can figure out what is good for us and what is not be being knowldgeable about the basic food stucture. We can educate ourselves on the dangers of chemicals in our shampoo and toothpaste. We can take all that information from the tv and the internet and from books and magazines and make decisions for ourselves and not just blindly follow what someone says may be good or harmfull today, tomorrow or 20 years from now.

Then we can use common sense to weed out the junk from the good advice. We all know that soda is probably not the best thing for you, but I am willing to risk it, since I drink it in moderation. I have taken the information and made an informed decision for myself. I can look at a product and read the ingredients. I can find out where that product was made, how it was made and make a decision about whether I want to use it or not. Operating on the baseline that just about everything is bad for you, I think this strategy will make me ingest a few less toxins.

And of course, self control. We all know that if you eat a gallon of ice cream every day, you are probably going to be over weight. If you eat foods containing a ton of artificial dyes and go through two cans of hair spray a week, then you might have some problems later in life. If you take twice the reccomended does of asprin every day for years then you will most likely have problems later on.

Knowledge, common sense and self control. No matter what they say on teh news about what is good for you today and what will casue cancer tomorrow, I think that if we all stick to these three guidelines, we will all be a lot better off later on.

Tuesday, November 15

The Firkin

I am now the proud owner of a Firkin.

It is not a new pet or a new electronic gadget or a piece of gardening gear. My Grandmother gave it to me a few months ago, after a conversation that went something like this:

Grandma "I have something for you"
Me "Oh, what is it?"
Grandma "Well, it belonged to your great, great Aunt Lucy and I think you will really like it."
Me "Wow - what is it?"
Grandma "It's a firkin."
Me: "A what?"
Grandma: "A firkin."
Me: "What?"
Grandma: "Here, just let me show you."

Turns out it was the round wooden thing that Grandma kept her knitting stuff in that has been sitting in her livingroom for years that Grandpa would sometimes set his glass of juice down on and get yelled at for it.

Why it is called a firkin was a mystery to me so I went to the answerer of all questions, Google. Turns out that a firkin is just what it looks like - A small wooden barrel or covered vessel. But why is is called a firkin?

A firkin is a British unit of capacity, usually equal to about 1/4 of a barrel or 9 gallons (34 liters). So, a firkin is the size of 1/4 of a barrel, so I guess they just called it a "firkin" to save time and eliminate confusion.

They date from the middle to late 1800's and were used to store liquids, butter, fish, lard, etc.

Or in our case, knitting needles.

Monday, November 14

Single File, Please

Yesterday we had a parade of sorts in our yard. About 12 turkeys decided to take a stroll from our neighbors back woods, through our side yard, and across the road to the recently harvested dry bean fields.

They were very orderly and reserved about the whole thing - not a peep from any of them. No running from noises, no hurried movements from the feeling of pavement under their feet as opposed to grass. They just walked calmly in a single file line, pecking the ground.

I doubt they know that Thanksgiving is upon us and that they were making themselves prime targets. Event though it is not hunting season, that I know of, a bunch of turkeys lined up like a slow moving buffet in a shooting gallery could pose a temptation for anyone with the bow or a shotgun.

They reminded me more of a herd of dairy cows enjoying a sunny day of wandering in the pasture more than a bunch of turkeys on the move in broad daylight, out in the open. They didn't even seem to care that I was taking pictures, and the fact that I was taking pictures tells me two things: that I am amused very easily and that a bunch of wild animals - yes, turkeys are wild (not that they go out clubbing), seem to have no qualms about wandering through a neighborhood at 2:00 in the afternoon. A few too many neighborhoods and not enough open space, and that they are not scared worries me. Like the coyote that hung around my yard like a stay puppy two summers ago, curious enough to want to get within 25 feet of me and my garden.

But I will take this little parade through my yard as a nice, unexpected little delight in my day - because I love seeing wildlife and it make me happy.

PS - these guys all looked a little non-plump, which gives me hope that they will not be on a table this year.

Saturday, November 12

Get Your Hoe Ready!

After a full week, no one in our home has adjusted to the time change. The little man is waking up at 5am, announcing loudly from his room "I am awake!" and expected us all to come running and celebrate the fact. The baby is up at all hours regardless of the time, so that is nothing new but we are still trying to get her on a sleep schedule with no success.

I found myself doing dishes at 5:30 am last week, staring out the kitchen window into pre-dawn darkness. I want to eat lunch at what is now 10:30am and I have been falling into bed at what is now 8:00pm.

I don;t remember ever having this much trouble adjusting to the time change.

I find myself asking if it is really necessary and an internet search on the subject turned up many reasons why we adjust our clocks twice a year. Everything from farming to energy conservation to the planning of outdoor activities. Basically, the practice of temporarily advancing clocks during the summertime so that afternoons have more daylight and mornings have less, and then switching back in the fall, doesn't do much except mess with peoples schedules.

Starting on 30 April 1916, Germany and its World War I allies were the first to use daylight saving time as a way to conserve coal during wartime. Britain, most of its allies, and many European neutrals soon followed suit.

It made sense to people since less electricity was thought to be used because people are home fewer hours during the "longer" days of spring and summer. Most people plan outdoor activities in the extra daylight hours. When people are not at home, they don't turn on the appliances and lights. Saving resources is a good enough reason to do just about anything but does it really apply in our modern world where people are going, to some extent, 24/7? Consider the energy savings - in the summer, it is lighter later into the evening so we are outside longer and the lights stay off longer, which is a good thing. However, when we are up before the sun in the winter, we are turning on those lights earlier than we would normally, so the two mostly cancel each other out, making the savings minimal.

Look at this map of who observes the time change and who does not. Why make things more confusing?

Friday, November 11


Armistice Day, November 11, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

Thursday, November 10


It seems that the ladies are preparing for winter more than we are - even with us installing the quintessential homesteading centerpiece - the wood burning stove.

The ladies are turning into quite the beefcakes as they bulk up for winter. i have been giving them some corn in their rations and extra scraps from the kitchen. I want to have a nice repeat of last winter when we did not have to use the heat lamp and we had happy, healthy, egg laying ladies all winter long.

But I still do a double take every time I go to change the water and fill the feeders. They are looking like those chickens you see in the fancy farm magazines - all buffed up and prancing. Of course, we do still have some that are on the bottom of the pecking order and they are not as plump, and they are missing some feathers. But even they are looking a little more full in the mid-section. Even Hildred, who has always looked like she is anorexic and on deaths door step is looking a little chubby.

I have one lady who started out looking like all the other Golden Comets but has recently turned a pale light brown color - like hazelnut coffee - and she is beautiful.

Eggs production is back up slightly - we are getting between 8 and 11 eggs per day. And no sign of the skunk recently, or hawks for that matter. I almost feel safe enough to let them out of their pen for a forage around the yard. Almost. I think I will wait until the weekend so I can keep a good eye on them just in case.

Now that I am no longer pregnant, Roy has gladly handed me back the chicken feeding and cat littler scooping duties. This is something i look forward to every day - not so much the litter scooping, but being able to take some dinner scraps out to the ladies and spend a little time in the fresh air, taking care of my ladies. Sometimes, with the new baby and the little man, this is the first and only time I get out of the house all day. Hauling the water bucket and collecting the eggs really makes it feel like we are operating in the circle - we care for the ladies and they provide us with chemical free, hormone free, organic eggs. And plenty of entertainment.

Truly one of the best homesteading investments we have made here.

Wednesday, November 9

Wood Stove Installation, Part 2

After a frustrating Saturday, I hoped Sunday would go better.

Not really.

More shiny piping and a lot of climbing up and down ladders. And, our roof really is kind of high. Roy was the one who ended up on roof-duty since he didn't seem to mind balancing on the roof while drilling holes and anchoring brackets.

We managed to get the entire outside section installed - I just hope it is straight since the sun glare off the shiny pipe made it hard to see. Maybe the weather will dull it down a little in time. I don;t want to blind any passers-by.

The missing pipe has been ordered for the inside so we should be able to get the stove hooked up and working next weekend.

Before inspection, however, we still have to install the ceramic tile, which I am not looking forward to. Besides the fact that I am not going to like the way it looks and I think that it is totally unnecessary, I hate installing ceramic tile. It is so messy and time consuming and after doing the entire kitchen floor at the old house, I swore that i would never use ceramic tile again.

I just keep reminding myself of the benefits of having a wood burning stove - heat even if the power goes out, no more paying obscene amounts of money for heating oil, being able to cook a meal on it if i felt like it. And, you might think i am crazy here, but I am looking forward to the wood cutting process. Cutting, splitting, stacking..... I am looking forward to getting back into some physical labor that produces something tangible at the end. If I can do the labor that results in providing heat for my home and family, I will be a very happy semi-homesteader at the end of the day.

All I have to do is make through another weekend of pipe installation....

Tuesday, November 8

Wood Stove Installation, Part 1

This past weekend we installed the chimney for the new wood burning stove.

It was a great weekend for working outdoors, and since the majority of the pipe needed to be installed outside, we tried to get the whole project done in the course of two days. If we knew what we were doing, it might have only taken 1 day, but we didn't so it took two.

We decided to do the work ourselves since the cost of hiring a contractor was running into the $4,000 range. Roy spent last week searching Tractor Supply for pipe parts and ordering online what he could not find in the store. We ended up with a ton of shiny piping for the outside and black piping for the inside, to match the stove.

We positioned the stove on the hearth and made sure the measurements were correct in distance from the wall to pass the code inspection. It ended up being a little closer to the edge of the hearth than I would have liked but it was necessary. We also have to put down some ceramic tile around the front of the hearth to extend out about 16 feet. I think this is going to look horrible and I do not want to put any grout and tile on the my hardwoods, but according to the inspector, it is necessary.

It seems like there are a lot of specifics that just make the job more annoying, time consuming, expensive, and not as aesthetically pleasing.

We started on Saturday morning and I was quickly relegated to baby care since I know next to nothing about chimneys. I was actually happy with this since the job went from an exciting cry of "lets install our chimney installed so we can heat with wood and be more self sufficient!" to "Why won't this dumb pipe fit!? I know I got the right parts! Wow - our roof is really high! This is going to take a lot longer than I thought!"

The cats were very interested in the process - more specifically, the boxes and all the things they could try and get themselves stuck in:

Prince is big on boxes, while Cheese wanted to try and get inside the actual stove.

She gave up and settled for observing and supervising from her nice new perch.

The process was slow and quite dusty - cutting the 18 inch hole in the side of the house was more of a problem than we thought since their was a stud right where we needed to go. With all the mis-matched additions and remodels done to our old farmhouse over the years before we lived here, people just kind of put things where ever they wanted inside the walls. This poses a problem on just about every house project we undertake.

The end of Saturday resulted in the hole being cut, the pipe that goes through the hole being installed and the first section of outside pipe being installed on the side of the house.

The inside pipe did not work out at all and it turns out that we need a different connector. This lead to more frustration and some foul language.

I did find a little humor in the sticker on the Snap-Lock section: "Do not use this chimney connector as a chimney."

Monday, November 7

My Christmas cactus is blooming - in November. It has no concept of time, as it chooses to bloom at odd times every year.

Sunday, November 6

Frosty Morning

The first morning with a really good, crispy frost. Nothing escaped the cold bite and even the chickens are looking a bit like they might need some hot coffee this morning.

Crunching across the grass this morning that has still not been touched by the sun, I am reminded that winter is coming and the mornings, and evenings, will continually have more of a chill as the days get shorter.

Saturday, November 5

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

Wednesday, November 2

Book Report

I know, I can not beleive it either, but I actually had time to finish a whole book. This one was worth staying up a little later than I should.

One Man's Wilderness by Sam Keith, taken from the journals of the remarkable Dick Proenneke, is a great read. Full of all those details that make you think that you can do just what he did with only this book as a guide.

He gave up the modern world in the 60's and built his own cabin in the Alaskan wilderness, living alone and enjoying and appreciating his natural surroundings.

Some great videos:

Can I just say that he is a total work-a-holic - from sun up to sun down and sometimes earlier and later than that, this guy is working on things. I can not remember the amount of times I came across phrases like "cut 30 trees, shaved the bark and hauled and stacked before breakfast." Or before I knew it I "had cleared two acres of moss."

His reflections are are meaningful today as they were in the 60's with gems like "chores are easier if forethought is given to them and they are looked upon as little pleasures to perform instead of inconvieniences that steal time and try the patience." And "I guess if you learn not to expect much, you won't be disappointed too often." I could learn a lot for that second one...

His mentions of the outside world consist of Babe, the pilot who brings him supplies, his family who send him mail and gifts and hunters who are flown in once a year for the big sheep. He doesn't much care for them and I felt the same way as I read his observations about poor hunting practices and their "disreguard for the purity of the wilderness." He went around after they had gone and cleaned up all their trash.

Chapter 9, "Reflections", is may favorite in that he just lays it all out there. Needs vs. wants, hard work ethic, patience, pride in one's labors, the pace of life.