ODD JOBS WEEKEND

April 17, 2011

Sunday

Linda

April showers bring May flowers but they also make it difficult to get caught up on outdoor jobs. All weekend we have been dodging rain drops while attempting to catch up on some projects. Of course Friday was the usual trip to town to give Lowes and Tractor Supply their weekly cut of our paycheck. Throughout the week I make a list of things we need to pick up and am usually jotting down add ons while Sonny steers Festus down the highway. That old truck has carried so many loads from those two stores that it should be able to drive us there all by itself.

Friday afternoon we took a ride on the four wheeler up the back hills of our property. The four wheeler has been a life saver…literally… It has saved us from huffing and puffing and whining every step up the hillsides. We aren’t as young as we used to be. For two years we have wanted to clear away some of the trees that the logger let fall across the paths. Sonny was on a roll using the chainsaw to cut up the fallen trees like a seasoned lumber jack. It was a good thing I ate a big breakfast because I expected to roll the logs off the side. We were making excellent headway until the chain came off the bar. Of course all the tools were back at the house.

We were able to clear a good portion and some of the logs, most were so rotten so we were able to just break them apart. Just because the chain saw was out of commission didn’t mean our work was done. We walked the steep property line and put new ribbons on the trees to mark our boundaries. We actually enjoyed working up there and it was nice to see the buds starting to show on the trees, especially the red bud trees.

The greenhouse is on the mend and moved back to its original location. Sonny and I used ropes wrapped around the base on each end like a handle. We then lifted it, taking shuffling baby steps as we turned it completely around and settled it into place next the garden.

Back in place and looking better.

Sonny replaced some of the broken parts with the new ones we had ordered, but there are still more needed. He marked all the pieces with a silver marker so we could keep track of what we will need to order. It is looking much better and he was able to put in a few of the panes. Before long it will be as good as new and I think we may not need the roll of silver duct tape after all.

We brought the lawn mower out of storage and gave the grass a trim taking just “a little off the top”. PHF is beginning to shed its winter robes and is stepping into the festive colors of Spring. One of the steps in that direction was to clear away the wood bins from the porch, giving it a good sweep and putting up the SWING! You heard right. My swing is back and I couldn’t be happier. I think I hear it calling me for nap.

Looks comfy.


FENCING THE PIG PEN AND BUILDING A STRAWBERRY BED

April 10, 2011

Sunday
Linda

The temps today got up to eighty degrees and the sun was shining all day for a change. I actually broke a sweat while I planted the strawberry plants that we bought last weekend.

Sonny built a raised bed out of 2x6s and we decided to put it along the side of the porch. They will get full sun there. We needed to fill the bed with some dirt so we got a wheel barrow load from the garden. I had two bags of organic potting soil and we mixed that in as well. Our soil here is mostly clay and I’ve read that strawberries like a more sandy type soil. Luckily there is still some sand left from the root cellar project. The masons left it when they put the block up last year.
A dab of that mixed with the rest of the soil and the strawberry plants should be happy.

Strawberry Bed

Of course the chickens had to inspect while I was planting the strawberries. They were just itching to get in that strawberry bed and do the chicken dance. Unfortunately for them the strawberry patch will not be a chicken disco because I put a fence around it. I fashioned a fence out of chicken wire and four fence stakes. The fence stakes worked well as anchors on the four corners to keep the chicken wire from sagging. I secured the fencing material to the stakes by reusing the wire that had secured the roll of chicken wire. Then I stapled the rest of the fence to wood boards. It turned out to be pretty sturdy.

It should be easy to cover the plants with a sheet if we get a freeze and I have some wedding veil material that I picked up at the flea market last year if birds try to eat the berries. With any luck strawberry shortcake will be on the desert menu.

Saturday John and Carol helped us put the fencing up for the pig pen. Sonny bought some supplies but to keep costs down we have been using left over materials from other projects. We had some cattle wire and T-posts and John had the wood posts and gate. It helps when you don’t have to go buy all new materials to a job.

Pot Hole Farm Pig Pen

It took all morning to put up the fence but with everyone pitching in it was finished in no time. We still need to do a little damage control to make sure the pigs can’t root their way out, but if they do we all know whose pig it will be. Yea, thats right. Speed dial.


GREENHOUSE

February 1, 2011

Tuesday

Sonny

UPS delivered our RION EcoGrow Greenhouse kit the other day. This 6×10 honey should take care of our early gardening needs with no problems.

Now all we have to do is wait the snow to melt.


COOP CLEANING DAY

January 29, 2011

Saturday

Sonny

The temperature was in the high 30’s today with the sun peaking through ever once in a while.  Earlier this week Linda mentioned it was time to get the chicken coop cleaned out so today was as good as any.

Tractor Training

We used the bucket on the tractor to dump the poop and straw on the garden. This should help us out when growing season starts.


WEEKEND REPAIRS

January 15, 2011

Sunday

Linda/Sonny

When I went to take care of the chickens this morning I was surprised at how warm it felt outside.  Although it wasn’t bathing suit weather, 35 degrees felt practically balmy after the many snowy and below freezing days we have had.   The sun even peeked out for a while to help ease some of the winter doldrums supply sone sunlight to the solar panels to charge the batteries.

Sonny also got the kitchen sink plumbing repaired.  He replaced the whole piping system, trap and all.  Last week was a doozy.  The temperatures dropped down to the single digits at night and I thought I had the sinks dripping enough to keep the pipes from freezing.  Apparently not.  I had to call my cousin John to come over and he had a small heater to place under the house and the problem was temporally fixed. Sonny still needs to get the water pipes insulated.

Well, I made sure that night that I had the drips on the sink set well.  We have had a problem with the kitchen drain pipe leaking a very small amount all summer and I would just put a bucket under there to catch the water.  But, the next morning I stepped on a kitchen rug and heard a very distinct squish.  There was water all under the vinyl floor.  Our cabinets are raised sightly so they weren’t wet inside but all underneath.  I had to pull out the stove and get the piece of vinyl flooring up.  It was a scrap piece from when we did the floor in the mudroom, but was big enough that it was a pain to lift out.  A mop, a bucket and my back, got the flooded mess cleaned up.

The other issue from this week was our wood stove.  It seemed that every time that I opened the door to put wood in smoke would billow out.  Well that would indicate that there is a draft problem.  Sonny had to go borrow a tall ladder, ( on the list of must haves yet to be bought) from cousin John.  Sonny had to sweep away the four inches of snow and an inch of ice from the roof before he was able to climb on it.  He then removed the cap from the chimney pipe and there was the problem.  The screen around the cap was clogged with ash and creosote.  John ripped out the screen and if any birds happen to get in there then I guess we will have squab for dinner.  Now the problem is fixed and we have a good draft. The house is warm again.

Last week the log tongs that Sonny ordered came in the mail, so he and John just had to try to them out.

When they select cut the timber on this property before we bought it they created a pile of log butts.  It is well seasoned wood, but a log tong was a tool we didn’t have until now.  Sonny clipped the tongs onto a large log and then connected a chain to John’s flatbed 4×4 truck Festus.  Festus tried to do the job but the wheels did more spinning than pulling even with four wheel drive on the snow.  The logs were frozen together in the pile.  They managed to pull out two logs but we’ll have to use the tractor when the snow melts.  Even so, they made short work of the big log butts by using the chain saw and log splitter.  The logs are now neatly split and stacked in the woodshed.

These types of things can be frustrating when they happen, but when you own an off grid house way, way back in the holler you learn how to deal with it and come to expect it.

I know that I have slipped in keeping up with the blog but I have been spending my time editing and fine tuning a novel that I wrote a few years ago.  A best seller?  I won’t hold my breath but hopefully it will be entertaining to those who read it.  Keep in mind that this is my first book and hopefully my writing skills will improve as I go along.  I have a few other novels started and will attempt to finish them.


OFF OUR SCHEDULE

January 10, 2011

Monday

Sonny

I know it has been too long between blog entries. Linda and I have been busy with many things. We have had several rounds with the phone company but now after 5 months we now have voice mail up and working.

We have started running below my comfort zone with our firewood. So the last couple of weekends we have been cutting up trees that we downed several months ago. I ordered a pair or wood “tongs” that will be used to pull a bunch of “log butts” that were left over from when the place was timbered a couple of years ago. The logger made a pile of left-over ends and it will add up to at least 5-6 cords of wood. We plan to use the tongs, a chain and my Jeep to try to pull them into an open area to let me cut them up and then I can hit them with the splitter.

Last night at about 0400 the water froze. Linda tried the hot and cold faucets but nothing. At around 8:00 she called John and he and Carol came over with an electric heater. Now remember that our solar-powered house and electric heaters are not really compatible due to the power consumption. So we fired up our spare gasoline powered generator and put the electric heater under the house. Several hours later we thawed the pipes out and were back in business. This weekend I will get on my insulated coveralls and get those pipes insulated to the max.

Oh, and the good news. I found a publisher to publish Linda’s book. It will go to Amazon and iBooks first in ebook format first. When I told her I needed it smoothed she went into panic mode and has been combing over it for the last week 12 hrs a day. She is nearly finished so I can get it uploaded. After she gets back to normal when will get back on track with her current project that she is about half way finished.

We have had about 10 inches of snow over the last week. Tomorrow we expect to be hit with several days of snow but we are ready for it. The food we canned last summer is still stock piled, Winter is here.

 


LIVESTOCK AUCTION

December 19, 2010

Sunday

Linda

At 6:00 a.m. yesterday morning the alarm clock screamed at us, its blaring bell cutting through our dreams like a sharp sword. Sonny and I arose and with wisps of sleep still clinging to our brains managed to make coffee and get morning chores done. We left the house by eight o’clock or so to have breakfast at John and Carols and then headed over to Weston to attend a livestock auction.

Our intention was to buy a good sized hog, have it slaughtered and split the meat between us. None of us has ever done this before and weren’t really sure what to expect. When we arrived at the market we walked through the stock area. Actually you walk on wooden passage ways that are raised above the paddock area. From there you have a view of all the stalls. There were a few calves, a pregnant cow and a goat but, no pigs.

We decided to go the cafeteria and have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. There were still livestock trailers pulling into the snowy parking lot and the auction didn’t start until 1:30 anyway. There was still plenty of time for a some hogs to show up.

The cafeteria was crowded with groups of men dressed in coveralls, Carhart coats and work boots. Their faces had the look of seasoned bidders or sellers of livestock as they talked amongst themselves. Fathers had brought along young sons and daughters to teach them the ropes and there were a few women as well, but it definitely looked more like a mans world.

We took another look at the paddock area and saw that about five hogs had arrived while we were in the cafeteria. Round paper stickers with numbers were stuck to their backs and we all agreed on a hog that we wanted to bid on.

The auction arena had rows of cement bleachers placed in a semicircle around a small show ring with doors that opened out to the stockade. Above the ring was a balcony where the auctioneer would sit. I have to say those benches were the coldest seats I had ever sat on. It was like something out of the Flintstones except there weren’t any animal skins to keep your bum warm. Luckily the hogs were the first to come out to be bid on.

None of us were sure how this all worked and we agreed that my cousin John would do the bidding. It was a good thing, because neither Sonny nor I could understand a word the auctioneer said. One other man bid against John on the hog we had chosen but we won out. It all went very quickly.

We had picked a 195 lb. hog and paid 62 cents per pound which comes to 120.90 total. Not bad. Apparently you don’t want to get a hog that is overly heavy because then you are getting a lot of fat and less lean. We went to the office and paid our bill then off to the butcher next door to set up to have the hog processed. I believe it will cost 55 cents per pound. Still cheaper than what you would pay at the grocery store.

It was definitely a new experience and when you think about it we have just purchased a hog from a local farmer that had a decent life. It did not live in over crowded conditions or was over stuffed on corn. These animals tend to come from small farms like our own and are well treated. There is something to be said about choosing your own food source. The hog looked clean and healthy and of course they are all USDA inspected.

Sorry there are no pictures. Sonny and I both forgot to take our iPhones with us. Hopefully I have given you a good enough description to imagine what the auction was like. Next year we may raise our own hog and have it slaughtered in Fall.


MESSY WOODSTOVE

December 13, 2010

Monday

Linda

The heat of a wood stove is the best heat ever, but there is a down side to having one.  The ash floats in the air and covers everything.  I believe the biggest culprit of the Mount St. Helen ash clouds is the action of scooping out the ashes from the stove.

Every morning I scoop ashes from the stove and diligently try to keep the dust eruptions to a minimum.  I have found that using a spray bottle to spray the ash while its on your shovel and keeping it held in the stove reduces some puffs from emerging.  Then I very carefully crack the lid of the ash can and slide the shovel of ashes inside.  It’s not a perfect solution but seems to help.

Now I know they have vacuums that you can use to suck out the ash but I think your ashes have to be completely cool.  Our wood stove runs non-stop in winter and letting the coals completely go out would result in a very cold house.  I’m a pansy and like my heat in winter.  I can go outside in the cold and not be too bothered but when I come in I expect to be able to say, “Ahh, it’s nice and warm in here.”

Hot dog by the fire.

Using a damp rag to dust furniture works well too.  A Swiffer duster wouldn’t be able to keep up.  I like to use a piece of flannel cut from some old PJ’s. Having a broom and dust pan handy is another must.  Carrying wood into the house drags in dirt and pieces of bark and twigs always fall onto the floor.  If your not living off grid and can keep a hand vacuum plugged in it works better than a broom.

There are inconveniences to having a wood stove, but most of it is just my time keeping things tidy and also Sonny’s hard work cutting wood in the fall.  On the bright side we stay toasty warm and don’t have to pay those high fuel or electric bills.  Ahh, it’s nice and warm in here.


COLD CHICKEN FEET

December 8, 2010

Wednesday

Linda

We have had some sporadic sunshine today which lifted the spirits of all. Even though it was only about twenty degrees outside it felt warmer because the air was dry. It wasn’t that bone chilling cold you sometimes have to endure this time of year.

Since the sun was shining I thought the chickens might like a reprieve from the confines of the coop.  The rooster this morning sounded like he was crowing, “let us out!”  So, to appease my feathered friends I cleared a small section of snow in front of the coop hatch and put out some scratch.  I’m sure they get bored in the coop.  I must have pansy chickens, because they came out only long enough to eat the scratch and then quickly retreated back into the coop.

Burrr! My tootsies are freezing!

I left the hatch door open just in case they decided to step outside some more for a stretch and wing flap, but I don’t believe they did.  I guess I will have to get them some chicken snow boots.  I don’t hear the the chickens in Alaska crying.  They go out in colder weather than this.

On second thought maybe my chickens are geniuses.  Why go out when its cold if the lady wearing the goofy Elmer Fudd hat is stupid enough to come out and take care of you.  Fresh straw underfoot feels better than snow and that cooked oatmeal still warm from the pan….delicious.  That warm water is great to drink too.  Who needs a frozen beak.

Yea, whose the pansy here and whose the sucker.


SNOWY SOLAR PANELS

December 6, 2010

Monday

Linda

The hectic days of Spring planting and Fall harvest are behind us, but that doesn’t mean we get to hibernate through Winter here at POF.  Cold nights mean a wake up call at 3:00a.m. to put more wood in the stove.  I’m talking about on nights that are 20 degrees and below.  It’s supposed to get down in the teens tonight.   We insulated the house very well so it would stay fairly warm if we didn’t stoke the fire but it wouldn’t be that toasty warmth you enjoy waking up to.  We do have propane wall heaters as backup if needed.

The first chore of the day is usually to scoop out some of the ash from the stove and get the fire going again.  In cold weather the stove is your lifeline to cozy comfort. That and a cup of coffee which I didn’t get till much later this morning.

Snowy solar panels

No sun today and more light snow means minimal power being absorbed by the solar panels.  It is imperative to keep the panels clear of snow even on an overcast day.  Although there was no direct sun the panels still absorb whatever light there is during the day.  Even the light reflected from the white snow can be utilized as power for the panels. So, second chore of the day….Turn on the generator for a charge and sweep the snow off the panels. Which I did about four times today.

Cool squeegy gadget

Luckily the snow was light and fluffy like packing peanuts.  Sonny bought me a long handled squeegee that works great for dragging the snow off. Last year we only had a broom which wasn’t even close to being long enough to reach the top of the PV Array.  The right tools make all the difference.

Next stop, the chicken coop.  I turned on the solar lamps that Sonny installed to give them some artificial light on this grey day.  I wasn’t sure if the battery would be charged enough from the solar panels on top of the chicken coop since we haven’t had sunlight for days.  A flick of the switch and the coop went from dreary to cheery.  I switched out the water container and replaced it with one that wasn’t frozen.  I know they have heated waterers but I think they use electric.  That would not be an option for us.  So my job will be to switch out the water containers frequently throughout the day.  Chickens need plenty of water even when temperatures are freezing.  I only collected two eggs today, but that is to be expected in this weather.  The chickens didn’t want to go out in the snow today and I don’t blame them.  I added some more straw on the floor and I think that will give the coop some more warmth.

A quick stop by the woodshed to grab a load of wood and finally back inside the house for a cup of joe.  With the snow continually coming down this circle was completed numerous times throughout the day.

I did get a chance to finish filling out my Christmas cards except for a few of Sonny’s friends of which I can’t find the addresses for.  I will have to get them from him later.

Even though it was cold out and the snow wasn’t blowing Ruby and I decided to walk the mile down to the mailbox to post the cards.  It was actually an enjoyable walk.  I made sure I dressed warm in the Carhart coat Sonny bought me, a wool scarf, mittens and my brown plaid Elmer Fudd hat with ear flaps down. Just like the right tools make a job easier the right winter gear will keep you warm.  I’m sure I looked very enticing in my ensemble that included L.L. Bean boots and an orange grocery bag left over from Halloween to tote the cards in.  It was a colorful accessory that complimented my brown color scheme and it could double as a beacon for hunters not to mistake me for a deer.  In my case that would probably be a moose.

It looks like the next two days will be the same.  More snow, more grey skies and cold.  It’s been a busy day and I think I hear the bed calling my name, or could it be that pesky 3a.m. alarm I hear.


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