Tuesday, November 30, 2010

An interesting blog post ...

Earlier this evening, I came upon a blog called The Contrary Farmer.   I read and enjoyed the three most recent posts.

From the post entitled "Abandoned""In case I sound overly-romantic or sentimental, what I remember best about our farmstead was that even when my mother was heavy with child and carrying a heavy bucket of water from the windmill pump to the chicken coop, she was singing. I see Dad hurry to her and, scolding gently, take the bucket from her. She had a hard life in some ways, so, I ask, why was she always singing?"

His statement on finances was equally interesting to me.  "The only way to starve out such a self-sufficient homestead was by way of paper money and usury which in one guise or another is often what happened."

I plan to do more reading there.  I might also look up his book called "Small-Scale Grain Raising".

Saturday, November 27, 2010

How to make fire starters ...

We finally found the time yesterday to make fire starters.

Normally we use dryer lint, which works very well.  When we lack old candle stubs, Gulf Wax works well and is very cheap.

This time, however, I had a number of old scented candles in various sizes.  We also decided to try pine wood shavings in place of the dryer lint.

Dad keeps his fire starters in an old aluminum pot, which doubles as our wax melting pot.  The process of melting the wax would have gone more quickly if we had chunked up the old candles first.

I had two candles still in the jars, so we softened them by putting them in a pan of hot water.  We put a rack underneath to prevent breaking the jars.

A nearby nursing home saves all of their cardboard egg cartons for us to recycle as fire starters.  We plan to raise chickens next year, and will set aside the cleanest cartons at that time for our eggs.

We filled each carton with pine shavings.  We found that they worked best when the shavings were contained in each cup and not mounded over.

We stirred the wax gently to prevent splatters.  An old spoon found among the camping utensils served for stirring and for ladling out portions.

We found that hotter wax provided better saturation and a more cohesive fire starter.  Just be careful as it tends to have a boiling action when it is poured into the cups.

I had trouble getting a fire going today after a busy morning kept me from tending it.  Placing a fire starter under a log that is supported by a couple of small kindling rounds will provide a flame lasting 10 to 15 minutes with plenty of air flow.  That is usually enough time for the fire to catch.

The fire starters reside in my old cast iron dutch oven on the hearth.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Frozen pipes!

What a start to our day!  The first true cold snap of the season froze up our pressure pump works.

We dismantled the pressure switch and thawed the pieces in front of the wood stove.  Since we had it apart anyway, we replaced the pressure switch and pressure gauge.

We then discovered that the pipes at the back of the house were frozen.  We put a heater underneath and after a couple of hours, the water was flowing freely once again.

In the meantime, Kenny and Dad went to town to buy insulation.  They came back with R-19 faced Certainteed.  We are hoping it will be sufficient to keep the pipes from freezing again.

Dad and I went under the trailer to put up the insulation.  We didn't finish until 5:30 when it was completely dark.

We also put up temporary insulation in the pump house to prevent further freezing there.  Within a couple of days, we'll need to properly insulate it.

The Big Dipper was beautiful tonight.  A Barred Owl called from one part of the homestead while another owl, possibly a Great Horned, hooted from another direction.  I tried to photograph the halo around the moon, but just couldn't get the settings correct.

I intended to make fire starters today, but I'm flatly too worn out.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Charge of the Light Brigade ...

"Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;"*

Little boys can build a million things out of Lincoln Logs.

Noah's latest creation was a bevy of cannon.

*"The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Out with the old ...

... and in with the new!

When we purchased our home, one of the features that I liked the most was the old cast iron Earth Stove in the living room.  It has a large fire box and heats well.

The problem is that it heats too well.  It didn't fit in the hearth area, nor did it meet proper clearances.  The mantle would become dangerously hot whenever we got a decent fire going.

One of our first priorities was to replace the stove with one that was safer and more efficient.  A nice bonus would be the ability to see the fire in the stove for that perfect, cozy feeling.

We finally settled on a US Stove Country Hearth 2000.  It met our budget and is rated to heat a larger space than we have.  We got the bonus of a viewing window, too!

We bought a few items to round out the purchase.  I wanted a hearth rug to keep the carpet clean and safe from sparks.  We knew we wanted a fireplace screen to keep the little ones from getting too near the stove and were happy to find one with a star to match the patriotic decor in our living room.  Dad gifted us with a new cast iron hearth tool set.  An old cast iron dutch oven holds our homemade fire starters.

We are warm and toasty this evening.  We only lack mugs of hot cocoa, which I believe we will remedy tomorrow night.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Happy birthday, Daddy!

Today my father turned 65 years old.  We've all been so busy getting our place ready for winter that no thought has been given to planning a celebration.

Two days ago, we spotted a turkey flying up to roost in one of our tall pine trees.  Dad had a turkey permit he had been unable to fill.

We called him and he walked back to our place, shotgun in the crook of his arm, and successfully harvested the first wild meat on our homestead.  The children were enthralled with the scene and Grandpa became the hero of the day.

A trip to Tractor Supply provided us with inspiration in the gift department.  Dad is now the proud owner of a dog bone wrench and a Schmidt red-and-black checked flannel shirt.

Mom took Dad out for the evening, but when they return we'll go to their house for a little party.  Cake?  Yes!  Ice cream?  Absolutely!  Hugs and hilarity?  Always.

The big move is behind us ...

Our move is behind us and we are settled into our new home.  It seems we were just in time as Fall is disappearing and the nip of Winter is in the air.

The children have enjoyed time out-of-doors, free to roam and play in a way we could never allow when we lived in town.

With Grandma and Grandpa living just down the drive from us, the children are able to walk over to visit or help out with necessary tasks.  They have been enlisted to groom the dog, carry wood, rake grass clippings and so on.

This fulfills one of our great desires in making this move:  that we are able to help my parents as much as and as often as they need us to do so.