Sunday, May 31, 2015

Mentioning the Unmentionables.

I don't have a picture of my clothesline yet, just the sunset on The Poor Farm.
Also,  I could use some new chair cushions if you see some at a garage sale,
 but they must be paisley, checked, solid, flowered or striped. I'm very particular.

What a great crazy week. Our wonderful daughter Raven was married several days ago and then yesterday was her "I-Do BBQ" reception. Friends and family from out of town and out of state visited, local officials visited the future septic system site  and the grain bin house building site (don't get me started, let me just say not near as much fun to have around as the out of town friends and family) and we bought a washing machine.

Yes, a new washing machine. But NOT a dryer. We don't plan to own one of them ever again. The new washing machine though was indeed one of the weeks highlights. For the last month we've been dependent on the generosity of friends and family for washing our clothes as well as a few visits to the local Laundromats.

Wow. I don't know where psychology students do their internships now but they should stop immediately and begin hanging out in Laundromats. The Full Monty hangs around many a spin cycle and several interesting thesises, thesi?, could easily be hammered out in between the arguments over who trashed who most vehemently on Facebook or who took the last quarters from the change box. Like they did last week, like they always do.

Real arguments recently witnessed.

This change in laundry status has been another eye opener for us as homesteaders. In the past I might've wiped up a little juice or tea with a dishcloth and then casually tossed it in the laundry hamper, just because we had TWO washer dryer sets in the house, now however; I wait until the rag is stiff enough to block open our caravan door before I will concede it needs laundering. Laundromats are expensive and ironically, very dirty.

I do miss the convenience of washing clothing willy- nilly as I pleased but I am a bit appalled by the amount of water and energy I wasted. Reckless they call me. Keith often hung out his chores clothes on the clothesline but I was too busy (aka lazy) to do the same with our good clothes and household linens. I was a dryer pimp, using it shamelessly even when the sun shone bright. You see, some couples have separate checking accounts, hubbie and I had separate washer/dryers. The manure clothes were washed in the basement while everything else got special treatment upstairs.

But now, fabric segregation has come to a full stop. All we have in the caravan is primarily chore clothes, and they all smell bad at the end of the day. So after getting the new washer we were thrilled to set it up and immediately not thrilled to realize we had bought a high efficiency piece of worthless-non-agitating-water-phobic-bucket-of-bolts. We gave it three tries, even read the manual and followed directions but that stupid thing was meant to wash executive client whitey tighties not the jeans, heavy socks and button down shirts of real working lower class folks like ourselves. So back it goes tomorrow.

I am now in the market for an old fashioned ringer washer, the kind that really agitates your clothes instead of just teasing them. I need a bully washer.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Drinking 147 Year Old Water

Well, well, well...just one more hurdle to cross on our new farm...the 147 year old well. Now there is no proof it is that old but chances are it was bored back in 1868 when the original house was built. Which by the way we now refer to as "the dog house" because our dogs sleep in there, along with our cat and a stray squirrel we often hear in the walls but have yet to see. I call him Sylvester.

Back to the well. From a distance the well house looks oh so quaint.

I plan to use some of the weathered wood for door and window trim in the grain bin house. But the inside of the building is less charming.
Just getting inside is tricky as the wood has deteriorated in the entryway. When we bought this property in September 2013 the well opening and pit that held the pressure tank was covered by mice chewed insulation and several large boards. We waited until our old farm sale went through and then had the pressure tank in the pit replaced and a spigot added from which we could pull water for the livestock. Yes, we do testing on our animals. Better them than us, anyway we figure the water had fed thousands of heads of livestock over the years it could probably handle a few more.
See that tire in the front? Look hard, it's the black rubber thing. That is our makeshift lid for the HUGE well shaft. The tin pan completes the look don't you think? When uncovered the well shaft looks like this:

Frightening isn't it? The plumbers we had out to put in the new pressure tank estimate it is about 100 feet deep. So of course the doorway is gated and the grandchildren have been threatened to not even LOOK in the well's direction. But still, I won't rest well until the entire contraption is modified with a proper, secure and very small cap. This morning we sent off water samples for testing and pending results will likely need to shock it (bleach) for any bacteria counts before it is considered safe for us to drink. We already know it must be high in iron as the bottom of our livestock waterers have this lovely rusty orange residue. In the meantime we are buying water for ourselves and/or begging it from friends and relatives. Very soon we will  start tearing down the well building so the plumbers can make this monstrosity safe .
One more expense we must tackle...we've been given an estimate of $3000 for all the well work and yet people still wonder why we call it The Poor Farm.
P.S. After two weeks of drinking the well water our critters are doing great. Please cancel your calls to the humane society.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Feed Me Seymour

Like those cute little houseplants that rise up to eat you as you sleep our new property is totally out of control. It's one of the things we like most about it. The wildness of it, but we also struggle with its trashy past.

The west side of the property.
 It's history is sketchy. Owned by a bank who repossessed it from an unknown resident it went on the market in Sept. 2013. We experienced a short bidding war with another interested party but because our realtor accidently wrote our bid $2000 then what we verbally told her, we got the land just a few days after it was listed.  We are thrilled about her mistake to this day.

But, no one had lived here for a very long time and before that the acreage had not been cared for. Piles of garbage was everywhere with the oldest trash on the far edges and the newest garbage closer to the house which was built in 1868.  We have literally removed truck loads of junk. Last spring we did several controlled burns and were able to visualize even more garbage. But now new grass has come to life and due to the recent frequent rains we've had the whole 7 acres is quite jungle like.

But, in our fourth week of homestead residency, we are making progress: beating back the bush, trimming the trees, slaying the ticks the size of a kindergardner (I'm not kidding, we saw one wrestling with one of our 40 pound feeder pigs just this morning,) and in general taking back the land.

Never underestimate the power of a pigs nose

Not all of it though. In fact the last thing we plan to do is get into that old mowing trap. Nope. This farm will be different. Which is why many family members have yet to visit. Oh well. Instead we are using the livestock to do the majority of the work. The pigs, just two as opposed to the 60 or so we used to raise, have completed their circle and had their pen extended. Keith assists with the excavation pulling out the glass, tin cans and keys...yes a whole set of keys..the pigs have unearthed.


A new neighbor told us this property may have been home to a "Chop Shop"
several years ago. Seems likely.

The steers, we have 9 here that have already been pre-sold and two for ourselves, are doing an excellent job on the east side of the property. It's easy to see the grass they have eaten on the left and the grass untouched on the right.

Our sheperd/huskie cross, Ashland, stands in the pasture area the steers will be rotated to tomorrow. We generally leave them in one area two days and then move them, so within a couple weeks they will have grazed the entire farm and we will have picked up yet another ton of trash. Another ten years or so and we will so be in control of this land.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Grain Bins are Not Just for Grain Anymore

Image result for Grain Bin House 

Once again we make those in higher up places (higher up as you have to walk up a ramp to get in) shake their heads and mutter "Grain Bin House? I never heard of just a thing. Are you sure you don't mean a machine shed?"

Really? People live in machine sheds? How very...rectangular of them. Keith and I prefer the round peg in a square hole abode, or is it the other way around? No wonder we always make the eyes of our local rule makers roll up into the back of their heads. We said Grain Bin House and that is what we meant. It's really not that unusual Livingston County. Look, there is one now lurking at the top of this page.

Ours won't be so grand for the simple reason of money. Lack of money specifically. We kinda spent all ours on land (no mortgage, yeah!) leaving us with our good looks and bartering skills to get us our very own grain bin abode. Which explains why it will be small, 720 square feet small. Quite an adjustment from our 3000 square foot farmhouse but certainly a HUGE step forward from the Taj Mahal we are living in now:


Go ahead admit it. You wish you were me. The 1978 Shasta (Thank You Kristy and Adam!!) is seriously working quite well. We are outside so much putting in gardens, new fences, becoming one with all the woodland ticks etc...that we are basically just sleeping and cooking in there. And the cooking is mostly on rainy days as the rest of our meals are made on open fires or our grill.

Of course no homestead is complete without a couple of feeder pigs in the front yard. See that little hutch on the right? Future chops and bacon are residing in there. In the meantime they are also digging up our corn and bean patch. That circle of dirt was overgrown weeds and grass just a week ago. Without a tiller we are dependent on hog power. The horse is to dumb to till land. Back to the grain bin house. This is the site for it, nestled in among some older pines.

Just across from the site is our orchard. Lots of apple trees, a grove of overgrown plums and a weeping willow. Later this week we will add a pear tree, more grape vines and a blackberry bush.

Below is the lane leading up to the Grain Bin house site. The horse, the non-tilling horse- will move to other parts of the property where she does not earn her keep either. The house will go to the right with the orchard on the left, will be right out our front door.

This view is looking through the orchard towards the grain bin house which will sit just in front of the pine tree in the center of the photo.

In my next post I'll tell you where the grain bin is coming from and share costs with you. Construction is to begin next week!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Finally...The Beginning



The rocky road to our new life as depicted by The Poor Farms driveway

But after two weeks we got gravel. Glorious gravel.

If you were a fan of my previous blog, "The Midlife Farmwife," thanks so much for following me over here, to our new farm, new life and new blog. Please forgive the aesthetics of this new blog, I wanted to post a little info first and get this thing rolling; I'll work on it's general appearance later, right now it's all about the intrinsic values, the important things, like composting toilets.

But first for all you new followers, (I see BOTH of you out there, don't be shy. Come forward and introduce yourselves ) my husband Keith and I were for many years the owners of a certified organic dairy, beef and hog farm. Although it kept us well supplied in meat, milk, and wonderful customers who came directly to our farm and provided us with a big farmhouse in which to raise our four children, there came a day back in May 2011 when we announced to each other, ENOUGH. We put our farm business and the home we'd known for almost two decades up for sale. Our children were grown up and out and our farm had outgrown us as well. The opportunity for continued growth was huge but we decided we were not interested in hiring staff, expanding, making more money and increasing our stress. We had done the small farmer sells-to-restaurant thing the local-farmer-sells-to-grocery-store thing, the retail-farm-store-on-your-property-thing and we had tired of spinning our wheels to serve so many others leaving so little time for each other and our families. We wanted out and we wanted simple. It took four years, many interested parties, several close sales, a roller coaster ride of promises and dashed hopes when a few weeks ago we found the perfect couple for our farm. If you want to know more about them please check out their web page I Love Raw Milk. If you are interested in my old blog, lots of good info there on raw milk, pastured hogs, 100% grass fed beef, please go to The Midlife Farmwife.

Now onto to present day.

The Poor Farm as we call it was given its name when we literally cashed in all our savings to buy 7 undeveloped, uncared for acres just 15 miles northwest of our old farm. We bought the property 20 months ago when the first of several seemingly serious offers on our old place, fell through. So on weekends we've been coming up here and slowly cleaning up decades of debri left by previous owners: think old van filled to the ceiling with garbage and old diapers, tons of discarded metal like decayed refrigerators, rusted car doors, bent bed springs and piles of crumbling wood as in century old barn, decrepit sheds, horrible old house, aluminum lawn chairs embedded in the sod, the list goes on and on. Yet in the midst of our archeological digs we have found some jewels which I'll focus on in future posts.

For now we are living in a 200 square foot 1978 Shasta Camper (Rock On Pink Floyd!) without running water or heat.

We do have electricity but that came after a 16 day wait. Let's just say Commonwealth Edison really had no concern for the common wealth (heat, lights, coffee maker, well pump) at all. But they literally had all the power, and with no other electric company serving this area...we waited and waited. Well, we made a few testy phone calls too which might have had something to do with why we waited...and waited...

But we survived. A couple of nights it got down to 32 degrees but our comforters kept us cozy...until we sat up and saw our breath turn crystalline...oooooo...pretty. But man oh man whoever got out of bed first to make the coffee via hot water and the coffee press was hero of the day.

Which leads me to the compost toilet. No, I don't know why, it just does, that's how my mind works. Roll with it.

Some of you old blogtimers might recall our issues with the outhouse we installed here last year. Seems there are rules. Lots and lots of rules about where humans can "go" even though hogs and cows and chickens can go wherever they like. Talk about discrimination. We ended up filling in our outhouse hole in the ground and installing one fancy smancy high end NSI approved, Public Health allowed gleaming white, composting toilet.

I am in love with my new toilet and YOU cannot have it.

But that is enough for a first post about The Poor Farm. I'll give you details on the toilet and the grain bin house (construction to start very soon) and how we plan to live on less and less and less. Come back soon because you just will not believe the 15 hour days we are putting in here making our new simple life. Seriously we are having a blast.