Monday, July 30, 2018

The 1868 House Loses its Loo

Of all the rooms in the icky house, as I so lovingly refer to it, I hated the bathroom the most. The roof was in terrible shape up above it and it was obvious it was a cheap mid-century add on. Over the last several years rain has leaked inside this area and further rotted the walls and floors. I always worried that due to its decay, it would just simply fall off the rest of the house. Keith assured me it was more stable than that, but promised not to store anything in there.

He was right. It didn't simply fall away and in fact when we started tearing that area down this weekend, the old loo gave us quite the fight.

Keith worked hard to gut the inside gutted, tearing out several layers of old plaster board and insulation, plus the tub and rotten ceiling. 

My main job was dumping the tractor bucket when full, into the dumpster and hauling the bad wood via wheelbarrow to the wood pile. 

I do love burning useless things.

We did enjoy uncovering the original door and window frames which had been boarded over and covered with asphalt and then aluminum siding, telling us this was probably a mudroom or storage room before it became the indoor bathroom.

We will be recycling all the aluminum and copper from the house for cash, which is a good since we're thinking we'll need to rent another dumpster later this fall.  The current one is getting full. 

When the room was gutted and all the siding removed, Keith wrapped large chains around the remaining posts and window openings, in the hopes that one backwards tractor pull would send the room tumbling to the ground. 

The wall did come away but the roof portion, clung to life. So he tried knocking the roof down with the tractor bucket but the ceiling was better secured than we thought and only part of it succumbed.

So Keith pulled, sawed, yanked the rest of it apart by hand. Son Jason dropped by to visit and of course his dad put him to work. 

You'd think that poor kid would learn.

Keep in mind the floor beneath my husband was in terrible shape and I worried he'd fall through while finishing the demo on the bathroom roof, but he had no concerns since it was just a shallow space under him about 18 inches deep. Still, I worried and suggested a hard hat. A suggestion that was ignored.

You'd think this poor wife would learn. 

By the end of Sunday (we took a break to visit with relatives from out of state) the back porch turned bathroom, was a distant memory. The snakes nest of copper pipe, aluminum drains and PVC pipe all under the floor however, will remain burned in our memories. What a mess!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Extremely Functional, Yet Messy, Homesteaders Kitchen.

 The average cost of a kitchen remodel in 2018 in the US is running close to $29,000. Compare this to the total cost of our Looney Bin build at approximately $30,000 (including the new septic system) and the less than aesthetic kitchen below makes sense.

Never meant to be a show stopper, it has proven itself as the work horse it was meant to be. Recently I found myself in the midst of several tasks and thought I'd show you the process. Although I do tidy up the kitchen every evening and start clean every morning, during the day the space is usually chaos. All of the following pics were taken while standing on our staircase leading to the upstairs rooms.

Working from the left is our small refrigerator with semi dinky freezer on top. It needed defrosting, thus the open door and exposed towel to soak up the drips. To its right is our washing machine full of dirty clothes soon to be placed outside on the clothes line. Dirty clothes basket in bottom cubby to the right of that and bag of freezer items in Aldi's bag on floor.

Note the bag of flour on the counter, I was also making bread that day, and the beans in the sink drainer as well as freshly picked green beans in the sink itself are being washed.  Later that afternoon the beans were all pressure canned.

The yellow box in another bottom cubby, contains all the regular tools we need for immediate house repairs, a hammer, nails, screws, a drill etc...Directly under the sink is garbage for burning. My blue "backsplash" is just painted on but the paint is high quality enamel and very easy to wash clean. Moving around the kitchen...

You'll see the stove on the far right. I had moved the green beans to the kitchen table for cutting, so I could wash the breakfast dishes before canning the beans. On the stove I'm heating water to fill the bean jars which will be placed on our homemade concrete counter top after I do the dishes and put them away. We run the gas stove with a small propane tank located just outside the kitchen. The tank is refilled approximately every 6 months when Keith hauls it to the local Big R store.

Everything I need is within reach in this kitchen, all my baking supplies for example are in the middle cubby just to the left of the stove. Looking at this picture, I am surprised there is not a visible path worn in the concrete yet, as most mornings all I do is go back and forth between frig, sink and stove.

 I often use our oval shaped kitchen table as more counter space, right now you can see canning book resources on it, but even then I could easily use yet another 10 feet or more of counter. I make do some days by placing my large wooden cutting board on top my washing machine. It makes a great place for stacking up canning jars in wait to be filled. I can also stack pots and pans on top of our rocket mass stove, which also serves as a great cooling place for cookies, or hot bread since it is never used in the summer.

Moving to the far end of my food prep area...

you can see our rocket mass stove and more storage in the metal rack behind it. On the side of the gas stove I keep a barrel of honey and containers for composting materials which are emptied in our compost pile every day. Above the gas stove are the pots and pans I use everyday with my beloved cast iron pans on a small stand behind the honey barrel.

So there it is. An everyday homesteaders kitchen.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

A Review of "Prepper's Livestock Handbook" by Leigh Tate

I have known Leigh Tate-in the blogger sense-for almost a decade. She was writing about her homesteading work on 5 Acres & A Dream back when I was yakking about our old farm on my now defunct blog, The Midlife Farmwife.  She was gracious enough to follow me over to this, my new blog, three years ago. 

Most of the homesteading-prepper world knows of Leigh and her husband Dan's hard work on their place in the foothills of Southern Appalachia, but if you do not, be sure to check them out. 

Now, about that book...

The Prepper's Livestock Handbook is 221 pages of well researched, well lived information for homesteaders, preppers, and small farm owners at any stage of their venture. With ten extremely well organized chapters and a resource listing in the back of  181 (!) resources for additional online education/videos/or equipment purchase, this information loaded book packs a huge wallop for it's modest price of $15.95. It is the perfect jumping off spot for those toying with the idea of self-sufficiency or those with just a handful of chickens or rabbits, while also serving as a solid touchstone for homesteaders like myself already knee deep into small farm livestock care. 

Honestly, I have been caring for livestock for over 25 years and still, there was a vast amount of new- to-me-information in this book, most especially the sections on times past food preservation which details techniques like liming and water glassing eggs. This book has earned a front and forward place in my own resource library. 

Tate's book contains three content pages illustrating the depth of subject material covered. Within these the author not only covers all the basics such as feeding, sheltering, butchering, but reminds the reader of their own obligation to check local county rules and regulations in those regards. I especially appreciated the veterinary care portions which focus on problem prevention, not just treatment. 

Additionally, rather than utilizing information dump paragraphs, she regularly uses easy to read charts to share large amounts of statistics or animal characteristics. This allows the book to flow easily from one page to the next and makes it easier for the reader to find that information again when needed. 

The author's strength is this book however, is not limited to organization. Within each chapter she discusses pros and cons, such as when discussing livestock flooring options, and provides the information needed to make informed decisions appropriate for the readers' specific circumstances and budget. Anecdotally, she shares both the successes and failures she has personally experienced rather than acting as the inaccessible expert. She is a real homesteader/prepper like so many of us, and her honest insights are what will help future generations of this lifestyle, succeed. 

The Prepper's Livestock Handbook is not Tate's first venture into publication of the lessons gleaned while working their homestead, as she has been sharing tips and techniques for many years. Her work includes traditional print books as well as several e-books all of which can be found on her blog 5 Acres & A Dream. You can also order this book directly through Amazon or Barnes and Noble

Monday, July 16, 2018

Please Welcome The New Member of Our (automotive) Family

Handsome isn't he? Hardly looks a day over twenty let alone his actual age of twenty three. Born in 1995 of simple Ford parents, this Escort wagon originated from the West coast. Purchased by our son Colton  and his wife Tab back in his Navy/Seattle days, it has definitely seen some road time but still, has only 160,000 miles and runs like a charm.

How do charms "run" by the way? I have no idea.

When compared to my 2000 Dodge Neon with 233,000 miles and Keith's 2002 Ford F-150 with 236,000 miles, this wagon seems almost juvenile.

He was a recent gift to us by the same son and wife who gave us my Dodge Neon in 2014 when I returned to college. They were ready for an upgrade and knew the Neon would not likely get them much in trade in value, so it was gifted to us. Same deal now four years later with the Ford Escort Wagon.

I am thrilled to have these cars, as our son did an excellent job of maintaining his vehicles and both the cars still have a lot of life in them. In the past I would use the Neon for my running around and Keith used the truck if my car was unavailable. His truck is a real gas hog, so the Escort wagon will likely become his get-to-work-vehicle and/or my thrifting vehicle. It has lots of run in the back.

What we will spend in insuring, fueling and registering this fine new bucket of bolts (with a schmancy -fancy radio I might add) will be a fair amount less than what we spent in gas alone for the truck. The big red monster will now be reserved for those trips where it is absolutely needed such as running to Menards for building supplies, pulling the livestock trailer to the locker, hauling home piglets this fall, or taking fifty broilers to Arthur, Illinois for processing; a trip planned for September.

None of the vehicles will be housed in garages, since we don't have one, and they all have little flaws, but when combined, our fleet of automotives should get us through the next five years or so. We hope, we hope, we hope.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Deep Dark Dumpster Love

Like an overdue baby, we waited anxiously for our dumpster. 

It was ordered over a week ago but did not appear on Monday as promised, or on Tuesday as promised again. Frustrating as we had to move the cows pasture wires back and forth as the dumpster would sit partially in her space, which as you can see below, she wasn't too excited about.  Finally it showed up Wednesday and it's all I can do not to just sit alongside it, rubbing it's beautiful, spacious, sturdy metal, dumpsterness.

I love dumpsters.

We routinely do not keep one on the farm, nor do we have regular garbage pickup.  It's a budget thing. We burn what we can, recycle what we can, and talk family members into taking items to their own garbage pickup containers, when we can. So having this monstrous cavern to dump into is quite thrilling.

It doesn't take much to make me happy. Just total world peace, a little Jameson for the evenings I'm writing,  and a king size dumpster.

Located between our Looney Bin home and the 1868 house, we are able to drive the tractor up to the old house, fill the bucket with debris and then back up to the dumpster or burn pile. It certainly has saved us from going up and down stairs with barrels of stuff or transporting items via wheelbarrow. 

By yesterday afternoon we had it over a third filled with mostly plaster from the 1865 house. Since we've already taken three of the eight rooms in the house down to the studs, we should be ok with this 30 yard dumpster for taking away what we cannot burn or recycle. Insulation from the old house has been bagged up/set aside and will be reused in Keith's new shop in the barn. 

This has included blown in insulation that is likely sixty or more years old and Styrofoam panels perhaps installed in the 80's. Either way the more we keep OUT of the dumpster and reuse, the more bang we get for our dumpster money which was $565 for 30 days. About $18 / day. Not a bad deal at all.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

1868 House Demolition Continues

Officially day 6 of the 1868 house demolition and great progress is being made despite the return of the heat. 

With each hour passing more of the old houses' original structure is popping through. False ceilings, glued on walls, Styrofoam panels for insulation, plaster, paneling, and layers upon layers of wallpaper are stripped back. 

Room walls have been removed and floor lino and carpeting was stripped away. 

Thankfully the original tongue and groove wood floors seem in good shape and will be saved to build the loft floors and walls in our new (recycled) barn.  They've been covered for decades and are seeing the light for the first time since probably the 50's. 

A large amount of material is being sorted on the homes' back deck into piles for burning, piles for re-use, piles to take to the recycling centers for cash, piles to list on eBay.

Our middle son Jason was able to help for a few days, and Keith took several days vacation from his job this week to jump start the process.

As the history of the home is revealed in old window openings, and previous chimney shadows, it is obvious that this was once a solid (not fancy) farm home where children were raised and busy lives led. 

Yes, in some ways we do wonder if we could have saved the house, lived in it instead of building the grain bin house, but the horrible foundation, the crumbling roof, reminds us we would've invested nearly $80, 000 just to renovate it to safe standards. 

Instead, we'll honor its' past through re-use of as much of its bones as we possibly can. 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Beating the Heat Like a Big Fat Pig

It's reminiscent of our childhood summers, this recent heat wave. Hot enough to make the road tar melt causing that definitive car tire bubbling-whine noise. Hot enough to take away all concern about your loose underarms flapping in the breeze; you're wearing sleeveless tops anyway. Hot enough to fight with the dog over tepid water in the cow trough because it's too far to walk to the house for a non e-coli  filled drink.

Hot enough for pigs to swim.

Perhaps you've been hit with these above average temperatures as well. I know Ireland and other parts of Europe are certainly dealing with high temps and low rains. I find myself dressing in less and less as the day goes on. Modesty takes a back seat to comfort when it comes to me and heat.  Remember that if you're thinking about a drop-in visit. A two minute warning call will save us both some embarrassment.

But whatever you do to cope please remember not to say,  "I'm sweating like a pig", as you'll be wrong. Reason being, pigs do not sweat, nor can they pant like a dog. This means they don't handle heat well and require regular farmer assist.

Forgive me, loyal long time followers, I know I blog about this every summer, but for the newbies out there I must repeat myself. Livestock loss in summer heat is a sad reality of homesteading, but can be prevented in many cases. Take for example, the pigs.

The chore of watering the pigs these record breaking days requires much more than keeping water pans filled. It also requires maintenance of the pigs water hole which is about the size of a kiddie pool but a bit cloudier. This porcine pond serves a few purposes. It cools the hogs overall body temp. It increases their hydration status as water is absorbed through their skin. And it decreases annoying parasites like flies, mites and fleas by suffocation via the resulting thick mud.

It also makes the pigs very, very happy. They see me with the hose and they line up underneath it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Sayonara 1868 House, Hello More Barn Material

 The decomposition of the 1868 house on our property has begun. Our son Jason and Keith commenced with the ripping apart of one porch and one upstairs room so far. Our goal is to recycle all that we can, and use the material to make the lofts and walls in our new (recycled) barn. Already with just the tearing apart of a couple rooms, we are discovering amazing 12 by 1 pieces of lumber in excellent condition.

Keith also discovered the original tiny doorway into the attic. It was constructed well, with square nails and nicely crafted support pieces. I'll keep it and recycle it into a scarf hanger I believe. A piece of our farm's  history that deserves to live on.

The original brick chimney is a mess but after I've been around for 150 years like it has, I expect I'll have large crumbly areas myself. Still, I love looking at those joints, thinking about whose hands took such care to secure each brick in order to provide a warm home for a family.

Of course large amounts of badly installed drywall, crumbling insulation, 1960's paneling, popcorn ceilings etc...had to be removed to find the real bones of this building.  It is on one hand sad to take it down but with luck we'll salvage 50% of it and use it elsewhere.  We'd like to have the house down by the end of summer, or maybe late fall, or at least before we die.

Once the 1856 house is no more, the area between our Looney Bin home and the new barn will be a wonderfully shaded, park like spot for more flower gardens, sitting areas, and a family recreation zone: badminton nets, Koi ponds, miniature golf maybe.

Koi ponds?!?! We'll be lucky to keep the weeds in that area at knee level or less. Better a wild animal preserve I think.

Anyway we're excited to be at this start point. Well, another start point. We're always starting something. I've rented a large thirty yard dumpster (22 ft long by 6 ft high by 4 ft wide) for a month and it will be delivered on Monday. We considered other options like digging a big hole and burying the debris from the house that we cannot recycle, but the idea of putting more garbage into the earth around us when we are still digging up and disposing of all the garbage left by other owners over the years-felt disingenuous. So we're coughing up the $565 for the dumpster.

Let me tell you. I plan to fill that sucker up to its brim! Poor Farm Cleanup Time!

Funny though. The county does not allow the digging of a small 4 foot deep hole to go under ones' outhouse but it's ok with them to dig a HUGE hole and bury old house tonnage. Logic and government. A true oxymoron.