TEST BOIL COMPLETED

November 4, 2012

Sunday

Sonny has been working hard to get the sugar shack completed before the maple season starts in February and March. I do believe he eats, sleeps and dreams about maple syrup. That is a good thing for all of you because it means he is passionate about maple syrup and will do his best to produce the best maple syrup in West Virginia.

Yesterday we crossed a big milestone. The evaporator and tanks are all in place so we did a little test run of the system. Sonny filled the large holding tank with water and we watched as it flowed down the pvc pipe into the evaporator. He worked up a system to where we will not have to use buckets to pour the sap into the evaporator. Instead he will pump the sap from a tank in the back of the RTV into another holding tank that sits higher than the evaporator. He can then control the amount of sap that is put into the evaporator by the use of shut off valves. Confused? Maybe a few pics will help.

(notice the sap holding tank above the evaporator)

The day was cool and perfect for starting a fire in the wood stove or wood furnace as Sonny calls it, that will heat the sap and boil off the water. We could smell the newness of the wood furnace and evaporator as the metal warmed up. Soon the water began to bubble, creating steam that rolled up from the evaporator like an ethereal smoke. It made its escape to the outside through open vents along the sides and top of the sugar shack. To look at the outside of the building one might think we had a moonshine still working in there.

Firing up the Firebox

We still have a few things to tweak to finish up, but this dry run was a success. Today Sonny is out running lines to the new trees we marked. I will have more on that tomorrow.

I really hope to give you all a play by play of the maple syrup production so you can be a part of the process and when you pour that sweet amber syrup over your pancakes and watch in anticipation as it drizzles down the sides, you will know exactly where it came from and what had to be done to get it.


SUNSHINE AND COOKIES

December 1, 2011

Thursday

Linda

I was beginning to think the sun had abandoned us. After days of battleship grey  skies dropping rain and forecasters who gave unkept promises of sunshine, my mood was turning as fowl the weather. Seeing the sun shine from a clear blue sky was the perfect tonic to cure my soggy attitude.

The solar panels sucked up the sunny rays as well and it was nice to be able to vacuum and run the washer without turning on the generator. Even the animals felt better. The chickens puttered around the yard stretching their wings and basking in the warm sunlight. A dust bath would have been the icing on the cake for them, but unfortunately the ground is still saturated and only good for a mud bath. I guess we can’t be too greedy and should be thankful for what we have.

Roo Roo has been festively dressed up for the holidays and stanchly stands at the driveway entrance ready to welcome all visitors who find their way to our door. We’ll soon have Christmas treats to offer while they warm up with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate by the wood stove.

All decked out for Christmas.

Clarissa and I will be making a trip to Delaware this weekend to make Christmas cookies with the women of my family. Its a family tradition that has been going on since I was little girl and believe me that has been a long time. There have been a few years lately where the weather has interfered and we were unable to go. The guys plan to hold down the fort here at the farm and will anxiously await our return in a car leadened down with tins of homemade cookies. I fully expect to see them waiting on the porch with wide grins and coffee cups in hand  as we come up the driveway.

Sunshine and the expectation of  holiday cookies…. the very thing to raise the spirits of gloomy grump.


WINTER FIREWOOD PREPARATION

November 7, 2011

Monday
Sonny

We spent most of Saturday getting Firewood stocked up for the winter. Over the summer we had cut up about 4 cords but have been waiting for cooler weather before we went into full split mode.

Last week Linda and I went over to Johns to pick up my log splitter. It had been hauled up the mountain last February when we ran short on wood and needed an emergency load. No worries, it was tarped up and well protected. We headed up the steep path on the backside of John and Carol’s property… that is until we came upon that oak tree that had fell across the trail. Lucky for us we had the chain saw with us and we made quick work of it and continued to the ridge-top.

More bad news, after un-tarping the splitter the first thing I saw was that it had a flat tire. I managed to lift the axel up enough for Linda to wedge a log under it and pulled the rim off. We hauled it back down and worked on it. After about an hour we just couldn’t get the tire to seal on the rim. We uses a ratchet strap, dish soap but must not have been holding our tongue just right. The next day I picked up a tube and wrapped up that task. Last Saturday, Harold and I got the splitter back home.

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Linda and Clarissa even helped us out. Harold and I cut up a couple trees that went down in a farmers field near our place and the girls loaded the Kubota RTV. We spent the rest of the afternoon splitting and stacking. We have put up about 4 cords so far and have about 2 more to split Later we required a few aspirin for the pain.


FIREWOOD AND BUSH HOG

July 31, 2011

Sunday

Sonny

Our son Harold and his family were down this weekend. He has been helping us get out firewood stockpile ready for this winter. Although we still have a long way to go we are getting a pretty good start cutting rounds. We will get the splitter out later towards fall and get them split up and loaded in the woodshed.

Cutting rounds

Let me tell you that the Kubota RTV we picked up earlier this summer has been a real help around here. We are able to just stack the rounds in the back and once loaded we can drop the tail gate and use the hydraulic dump.

Loading the RTV

When we finished up with that tree we changed mode and hooked up the bush hog for some field cutting. Last week we got the logs out of the field and cleaned up the brush so we were ready to go.

Kubota w/Bushhog

 

We will be doing it again next week also. Our primary heat is from out wood stove and we burn about 5 cords each winter. The great thing is having all our electrical power supplied to us from the sun, the solar panels have been working excellent for us and out battery bank keeps us in power for the nights.

 

 


Replacement Generator

July 9, 2011

Sonny

Saturday

We had been using a small underpowered 3500kw Champion generator as the backup generator for the last two years. We always had plans to replace it with a bigger one but just never got around to it until this weekend. The Primary generator is a 8kw propane Guardian and it takes care of all our charging needs for those long dark rainy weeks.

Generac 8kw

You see, nothing is the same living out in the boonies and living off the power grid.  We have solar panels for electricity, a primary generator but also a backup generator. Everything has to have a Plan-B to go with it.  Our heat is from out wood stove but we also have propane backup.  We have 4 wheel drive cars, and a backup 4 wheel drive tractor just in case the snow is too much. We have lights but have oil lanterns, Gas stove to cook on but we can also cook on the wood stove. We have Internet, Satellite TV and Satellite radio to know the weather. We even have multiple stove-top coffee peculators.  We even have a great refrigerator but we still built a root cellar.

It is just our way out here.  And to be honest, continue to learn lessons every day on PHF.


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.

 


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