Bread Baking Day

June 9, 2010

Wednesday

Linda

It’s been a rainy and down right nasty day.  I checked the battery panel this morning and we still had a full charge from the sun yesterday. It’s about 2:00 in the afternoon right now and I have just done another check.  We are down two lights and have about 49V showing. Still not bad but I turned the generator on for a little while between down pours. WeatherBug shows some more nastiness is on it’s way. I’ll want to watch some TV tonight, so a little added charge won’t hurt.

Can you Smell It

What better day than a day like today to bake bread.  It’s not too hot and there isn’t much else to do. It’s a good opportunity to get a few loaves ahead in the freezer. Who knows how hot it will be next week. I like making my own bread and the aroma that floats through the house is heavenly. I don’t use a bread maker.  It’s one of those appliances that would use a substantial amount of our power, but that’s ok, it feels good to punch some dough. Do you think people would have less stress if they made more bread?  If you would like to try it here is the recipe I used. I got this from another site so I can’t take any credit for it, but it sure tastes good.

Basic Bread Recipe
2 cups warm water
1 pkg active dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons veg. oil ( I use olive oil)
5-6 cups unbleached flour
Butter
1 teaspoon salt

Basic Bread Recipe2 cups warm water1 pkg active dry yeast1teaspoon honey2 tablespoons veg. oil ( I use olive oil)5-6 cups unbleached flourButter

Pour 2 cups water into bowl. Add yeast and stir until dissolved.  (I sometimes warm the bowl a little if its cold). Add the honey and mix well. Let sit for 5-10 min.  It should bubble slightly.

In the same bowl mix the oil, salt, and 1-2 cups of flour to yeast mixture. Beat with a hand mixer or a spoon 3-5 minutes.  Add a cup of flour at a time not more than 3 additional cups.  Dough should become a ball, not too sticky and have elasticity.  Knead on floured surface. Dough is ready when it springs back and leaves no dimple. Grease bowl with butter, (I use a little olive oil) and cover. Let rise 1 1/2 hours.  Dough should double in size.

Punch the dough to let out the air and knead again.  When it looks like it’s original consistency cut it in half.  Shape into two loaves and place into greased pans.  Cover and let rise for another hour or until they double in size.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  You can brush melted butter on the tops.  This gives it flavor and color.  Bread will be browned and a little hard on top.  It should sound hollow when you thump it.

There will be updates on the coop and wood shed either tomorrow or Friday. There have been some weather and supply delays.  Sonny may do the updates, but there’s a good chance he will be too busy munching on warm bread and licking his buttery fingers.  That’s ok, I make it for him to enjoy. Hope you enjoy some too.

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We Love our Open Floor Plan

June 8, 2010

Mud Room storage

Mud Room to the Porch

Great Kitchen

View to the Dining Room

Ahh the Couch!!

What can I say?

As promised here are some pictures of the inside our our house.  We still have a few things to complete but many of already know “A work in progress is never really done”.


Ruby’s Story

June 6, 2010

Sunday

Linda

I know I promised to take some pics of the inside of the house.  I am sorry to say that will have to wait for another day.  The lighting is not very good for pictures due to the rain and dreary day we are having.  Actually it has been this way for two days.  Ahhh, I hear another downpour now.  We ran the generator for over an hour this morning to make sure the batteries are recharged.  That’s life off grid.  So with no pics and no work being done I thought I would tell you the story of our darling Ruby.

Play with me please, please.

Ruby is our three year old yellow Lab.  She came to live with us when she was seven months old.  The family that she came from seemed nice, but when we got her home we found that maybe that wasn’t the case.  Ruby had a lot of issues and it was going to take an extreme amount of love and patience to get her right.

Ruby didn’t have any discipline at all.  She could sit and shake paw, but that was about it.  Taking a walk was a nightmare.  Strange people, trash cans, parked cars and crunching leaves were all monsters in Rubys mind.  Panic would set in and it was hard to control her.  A walk always turned into a battle and was exhausting for both me and her.  I needed to see what made her tick.

Fear was Ruby’s constant companion.  Leather shoes, especially new ones caused her to constantly pace and growl.  She would run if you got close to her with a pair.  Could the memory of a beating be the cause?  I decided the best thing for Ruby was to face her fears.  She couldn’t live in fear of everything.  I started showing her that the shoes would not hurt her.  I brought them close to her and fed her cookies always talking in a kindly tone.  Then I rubbed them on her showing her they wouldn’t hurt her.  I actually made a game of it.  Eventually I would hide a cookie inside the shoe and she would take it.  This was an ongoing process that took months.  I am proud to say that just last month Sonny and I bought new leather work boots and Ruby showed no fear at all.  She had no reaction we when brought them out, just ignored them as if they always here.

Anytime Ruby was distraught she would pace and growl.  The sound of people walking up the stairs outside the apartment, the garbage truck or lawnmowers would set her off.  She needed a safe zone.  So I put her bed in front of the TV stand in the livingroom.  The moment she would begin to get nervous I had her get in her bed and lay down.  I had to get her out of that frame of mind before it went too far.  This plan worked well too.  She often continued to growl a little but she would quickly get over it.  After a while she would go there on her own when ever something distressed her.  Just about every Sunday we would order pizza.  When it was delivered I would tell her “its just the pizza man”.  That seemed to calm her.  After a while it worked for anybody that came to the door.

It is always best to pet Ruby on her chest.  A hand coming toward her head is too intimidating.  Just so you know Ruby is not viscious in any way.  She is actually the complete opposite.  She is very shy and sensitive.  I liken her to Helen Keller.  She just needed someone to love her and show her how to deal with the world.  She has come a long a way.  She is no longer afraid of shoes, trash cans or lawn mowers. She was extremely afraid of strangers, but that is improving too.  She wants to be friends with everyone, but it takes a little while for her to trust.  Cookies seem to help with introductions.

Since moving out here to the country Ruby has blossomed into a great companion.  She has learned to face her fears head on and know that not everything and everyone is out to hurt her.  She has gained confidence and courage.  She stands with her head up and her tail out. She roams the yard keeping wild turkeys and deer at bay.  She warns us of any vehicle that may be coming up the gravel road.

Ruby is a different dog from that frightened beat down puppy we first brought home.  She is less guarded.  Now she even rolls on her back opening herself up for a good belly scratch.  It took almost a year for her to allow me to scratch her stomach and we know how much dogs enjoy that.  It makes me feel good to see how she has grown into this great dog who has overcome so much.  She is not perfect and I don’t know if she will ever be the kind of dog who will just come up to people and allow them to pet her.  She will always have fears to face but I think now she has the ability to cope with them.

She is a dog with manners.  She patiently waits by her food bowl until I give her the ok to eat.  She waits in the mud room until I say she can come into the main house,  most of the time.  There is a good reason for this.  It allows me to towel her off after she has been down in the creek or has muddy feet.  She knows all her boundaries even when she goes to cousin John’s farm for a visit.  No going into the barn or the donkey stocks.  Remember when she first came to us and could only sit and shake paw?  Now she can fetch, lay, wait. leave it, drop it, dance with me and sit up pretty.  I am proud of her accomplishments.  I hope that I can give her all the happiness a dog a could want.  She has seventy acres to explore, her own private creek to bath in and plenty of play time.  Sonny and I give her lots of love and I think that is the best healer of wounds.  In about two weeks she will have a new buddy to play with.  I hope she likes him. He has a story of his own, but that will have to wait for another time.


SO YOU WANT THE SIMPLE LIFE

June 5, 2010

Saturday Part II

Linda

Yesterday I talked a little bit about saving money.  When you shop you have to look at things from the perspective of a want or a real need.  When planning your house you need to use the same reasoning.  People have been programed in the past twenty years that the American dream is an oversized house with rooms that are rarely used.  Remember that when you are living off grid a large house requires more solar power and that means more expense.

When we planned our house we wanted to keep things as simple as possible.  That includes the gas lines and water lines.  We built a single story house with all the plumbing lines on one side.  Meaning the kitchen and bathroom plumbing are on the same side of the house instead of opposing sides so that if we have a leak the repair should be simple.  You won’t have to slither all around the crawl space to find the right pipe.  We used well insulated 2×6 walls and metal roof and siding.  The metal should be low maintenance.  No painting required and it can easily be power washed.

We designed an open floor plan for the main part of the house.  Since it is only Sonny and I we don’t need closed in bedrooms.  The idea behind this is to keep air flow and light through out the house.  The mudroom has a window positoned so that it is in line with the door to the main house.  By opening that window and the door separating the two rooms air can flow from one end of house to the other.  I will post pictures tomorrow.  An open floor plan also makes a small house seem larger.

Our mud room is large and so a double bed fits in there nicely.  Originally it was not going to be used for a guest room but it has worked out pretty well.  We may just keep the bed in there.  If your guests need more than a place to lay their head maybe they need to go to a motel.  We all want our guests to be comfortable. Do you really want to spend your hard earned dough on building an extra bedroom and bathroom for guests who only visit a few times a year?

Our floor plan may not be for you, especially if you still have children at home, but that doesn’t nessasarily mean you need a huge house.  Do your kids hate each other so much that they can’t share a room and a bathroom?  It amazes me when I see home shows where each child regardless of age needs a room the size of my house and their own bathroom.  Again. Want or need.  It is up to you.

When building your home you can save a substantial amount of money doing things yourself and enlisting the help of friends or relatives that have a skill you need.  You can also do projects in increments as you save up for them.  I still don’t have flooring in the main house.  I opted to paint the subfloor with porch and floor paint until we can pay for floor coverings.  We do have vinyl flooring down in the mud room and bathroom. But for now we have bigger needs like the out buildings.

Being off grid means managing your power.  Our house is 1152 sq. feet and we have a 2.5 kw solar system.  Solar works well when the sun shines and even on partly cloudy days the PV array still absorbs energy and fuels the batteries. It is the cloudy rainy days of Spring that drag on into a week  and the dark short days of winter that need the most power management.  A back up generator is a must.  We haven’t stayed here full time through the winter yet, but have experienced the rainy days of Spring.  In those instances we run the generator for about an hour or hour and a half in both the morning and evening.  Keeping watch on the battery levels and the weather will let you know if an extra boost from the generator is needed.  It is not all that complicated and becomes old hat after a while.

We bought all energy star electrical appliances.  Our stove is propane and so is the heater.  We plan to put in a wood stove this fall.  I don’t care for the propane heat.  It seems to be dirtier than wood and puts too much moisture in the air.  I know wood heat is drying but it beats having moisture drip off my ceiling.

Managing power tips:

If you must use a hair dryer use it when you have full sun or when the generator is running.  Hair dryers use coils and suck up energy like a dehydrated man sucking down water.  Other energy alcoholics include, toasters, microwaves, dish washers, irons and multiple 24 hour televisions.  Laptop computers tend to use less energy than desk tops.

If you have a window in your bathroom you don’t need to turn on a light to use it, unless you are applying make-up.  Natural light is usually enough to do whatever tasks are needed in any room.  I think we sometimes take electricity for granted and turn on lights out of habit when we don’t really need them.

Planning wash day is important.  You want to run the clothes washer early in the day when the sun is shining.  We all know that wash day usually includes multiple loads.  You may even want to break up wash loads between days.

Sonny put a timer on the refrigerator.  It is set to go off at 9:00PM when it is in least use.  It is off for two hours then on for an hour until about 7:00AM when it is in constant use again. This works great.  Your refrigerator and freezer will stay cold just fine. We have a small chest freezer but have not put it in use yet, but when we do we will use the same system with it. These are just a few tips and I am sure there are a hundred more out there.  All these things are not an inconvenience at all.  It is just a routine that you get into the habit of doing.  And just think, you don’t have an electric bill lurking in your mailbox.


SO YOU WANT THE SIMPLE LIFE

June 5, 2010

Friday, Part I

Linda

Like me, some of you have always dreamed of living a simpler life filled with independece and self sufficiency.  For others it is a small seed of thought, a curiosity if you will, that seems to be blooming in the back of their mind.  Some of you want to run to the hills and forget all the trappings of the world. Others just want a small taste.   I am here to tell you that you can achieve your dream, but it will involve  sacrafice, planning and compromise.  I’m not an expert but maybe you can take some of what I have to say and apply it to your situation.  These are lessons that we have learned from experience and from others.  That is not to say that we don’t have a lot more lessons to learn on this journey to self reliance and we will share them with you on this daily blog as we learn them.

First of all you have to look at the size and scope of your dream.  Pick it apart and figure out what you want as compared to what you really need or can afford. You may be thinking too big.

Land:  You don’t have to own half a state to be self suffient and have a garden and a few chickens.  If you already have an acre or two you can grow a garden and quite possibly have a couple of hens to supply you with eggs.  Of course you have to be careful of zoning when it comes to animals and if you live in a housing development I think the chickens are out along with the goats and sheep.  But my point is, if a couple of acres in the country is all your pocketbook can buy then you may want to plan around that.  If your house doesn’t take up all your property you would be surprized at what you can do with the land you have.

If your not planning on selling eggs two or three hens will supply your egg needs. A chicken lays an egg a day.  A small garden can produce a large amout of produce that can be canned or frozen. Rabbits take up very little space if you are into raising meat rabbits or even a few meat chickens.  I know that is not for everyone but for those of you who would like to raise some of your own meat it is an option.  If you like to hunt, like Sonny does, then you may want more property.  That is why we wanted more acerage that was wooded mountainside.

You need to think about how much work you want to do.  Keep this in mind when shopping for land.  Make sure your land is accessable unless you don’t mind building a road to it.  Some mountain land is sold cheap but you have to figure out how your going to get to it.  It may not be a problem if your family members are mountain goats.  Keep an open mind on where you would like to live and do a lot of research on the area.  Not only check realators but local newspapers with ads for land.  Check for land that is up for sale by county because of back taxes.

Money:  One of the ideas behind being self sufficient is being debt free.  Truth be told we are not debt free yet.  We still owe on the land, but all the buildings are paid for.  House, implement shed, chicken coop and wood shed. We plan to have the land paid for in the next two or three years.  This is where a lot of sacrifice and compromise come in.  For years we were drowning in the river of “got to have”.  Finally we woke up and realized how much money we wasted on simple junk we thought we couldn’t live without.  You have to look at things from a different perspective.  We tightened our belt and saved for each building project.  It became our main focus and in the end it has benifited us.  It was worth the sacrifice.

When you go to the store you need to think before you buy.  Do I really need a new pair of shoes?  I already have fifteen pair in the closet.  Instead of buying a new dress for the office Christmas party maybe I can wear last years.  Eat at home more and actually ask youself if every person in the house really needs their own TV and computer. When we moved out here we gave load after load of useless items such as knick knacks, clothes and shoes we never wore, and a plethera of other goods to the Good Will. Not one item has been missed.  I only kept the things that were most special and of most use.  I will admit that we still have more electronic gear than we probably need but Sonny is an electronic junkie and is having a problem with rehab.

Don’t be pulled into the ads for miracle creams and cosmetics, the diamond jewelry that will fix a marriage or home shows that suck you into believing that you must have a yard that looks like a Greek garden.   All those things won’t feed you or get you closer to your dream.  We have probably saved thousands of dollars just staying out of Walmart.  It’s all common sense. Be more frugal and don’t put yourself in more debt.  It’s the same old tune but it still rings true.

If you truly want to be self sufficient you need to look for items that will be of use.  If you are going to live totally off grid you might want to look for things that do not use power.  A stove top coffee percolator, a hand mixer (not electric) you know the old fashioned ones with the wheel crank on the side, battery or wind up clocks.  I have a high efficiency washing machine but no dryer. Dryers suck up a lot of juice.  For days that you must dry clothes inside you can use a wooden drying rack.  I believe not using a dryer saves wear and tear on your clothes….unless you actually like the curled up elastic on your underwear.

Since moving out here I am more at ease.  Most of the things I worried about were trivial and having less debt will make you sleep better at night.  A home with less clutter to deal with also declutters your mind.

Tomorrow I will talk about picking the right type of house and planning for your solar power.


THE WOOD SHED

June 3, 2010

Thursday

Linda

The sun was shining early this morning when the Green Goblin turned into my driveway.  I wasn’t sure if Ronald would come by to build the wood shed since the weather man predicted rain and thunderstorms through out the day.  I guess he figured he might as well get something done between raindrops.

Blair didn’t come with Ronald and Vicki today.  He had to take his dog to the Veterinarian for it’s yearly checkup.  I tried to fill in as best as I could being a “tote”.  A “tote” is below a “go for”.  You help the “go for” carry boards, and ladders, of which you are always trailing on the back end.  You hold up boards to be nailed when the “go for” can’t handle it themselves.  When two ladders are in use you must control one making sure it is ready and in it’s proper position as the boss needs it.

Leveling the garage ramp

The first order of the day was to finish the foundation of the garage ramp.  A few weeks ago we had shoveled in the gravel.  Today Ronald put in the side foundations to hold in the concrete when it is poured in the garage and the ramp.  We had to make sure that the gravel was four inches below the the top of the foundation ascending up the ramp.  There was too much gravel so we had to shovel some out and then rake it until it was level.  Now the garage is ready to have the concrete poured.  That will happen a couple of weeks from now.

Thunder rumbled far off in the distance.  We moved to the wood shed project to get as much done as possible before the weather changed.  The sun was still shining but the air was thick with humidity and we were wet with sweat.

Wood Shed Frame

Ronald dug the four corner post holes.  He hit a few rocks but none that were so big they couldn’t be removed.  Then he put the 4x4x10 corner posts into the holes and poured in the sacrete. It needed to set up so we took a break and tried to cool off on the porch.

The thunder got closer and the rain came.  It lasted about a half hour and moved on.  The sun popped out and the air was more humid than before, but we trudged on.  Things seemed to move pretty quickly as we put on the side boards, fascia and rafters. It helps that Ronald has a nail gun and has probably built a hundred of these structures in his lifetime.  More than likely we will use this same pattern to build shelters for our goats when we get them.

The last thing Ronald did was to measure the coop and wood shed for the metal.  If he orders it tomorrow it should come in on Monday.  Hopefully by Tuesday afternoon our coop and wood shed will be ready for use.  All in all it was a productive day.  I am a little worried that Ronald may never be the same after working with two women who are opposed to being bossed all day.


CHICKEN COOP COMBO

June 2, 2010

Wednesday
Linda

Ronald, Vicki and Blair have worked hard today.  They showed up at 7:30 to start work on the chicken coop. The temperature was cool at that time of morning but by about 9:00 when the sun reached over the trees the sweat started to fly.

The coop is attached to the back of the implement shed.  This way we only had to buy materials for three walls.  The bones of the structure are finished.  It measures 10’x6′ and will have two chicken doors to allow them to either go free range or hang out in the fenced yard.  The choice will be theirs except in certain situations such as when we are gone for a few days and someone has to take care of them.  Then they will be relegated to the fenced yard for their safety.

Construction of the chicken Coop

We decided at the last minute to leave a 2 foot roof overhang on the front.  The overhang will help keep mud from splashing up on the building when it rains and also provide some shade for the chickens.  Since we already have guttering on the shed roof we opted not to put it on the coop.  I will also put a few low shelters in the fenced yard for them to take cover under in case a hawk comes around.  We do have hawks that like to hang around here and they will really be interested when the chickens show up.  There are plenty of hidy-holes for the hens to flee to when they are outside of the fenced yard if danger should come from overhead.  At night they will be tucked away safe and sound in their coop.  That is the plan anyway.  We have the usual array of predators, including coyotes and bobcats.  Since there are coyotes about we may have to use a heavier gage wire for the fencing instead of the traditional chicken wire.

The skin of the building will be the same green metal roof and white sides as the rest of our buildings.  Sonny and I are going to build the nesting boxes and roosts inside.  That should be interesting.  Hope the chickens aren’t squeemish.  All in all I think the chickens will have a great home and hopefully give us plenty of eggs.


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