Sunday, February 25, 2007

gardening has begun

i roto-tilled a few rows of the garden and planted about three pounds of onion sets. these are the local grocery store variety *red*.
we have several hundred plants arriving in the mail in a week or so. they will fill out the rest of the the prepared soil.

the root cellar is coming along nicely. we had over an inch of rain during the last storm. normally that'd have left standing water in the cellar but my drainage measures seem to be working so far--
i shouldn't have any problems once all drainage measures are in place. this photo shows most of the progress that i have made. additionally, there are a few more earth bags in the front and i have started the entry rock-work. i had to figure my entry a little differently since the water main needs insulation and enough cover to keep from freezing. that insulation and back-fill buffer encroached into my original plan.

rosie is really turning out to be great dog. tabitha spent a few minutes with her and taught her to roll over. she really really wants to please. she mostly meets all of my expectations chickens are completely off limits and she knows it. she will stop in her tracks and sit down where ever i command. she has almost completely stopped licking and she does her business in the far corner of the yard. additionally, she likes to hang-out with me when i work in the forest. she knows that she is not to go through any yard gate without permission. she is such a good dog and will sit and wait at any gate for me to come back through.

Friday, February 23, 2007

root-cellar plan

here is the general plan for the root cellar.

the U-shape on the top of the bags is a row of cement beam block that will hold the entire roof to the bags via re-bar pounded down into the earth bags. i opted for this instead of using bags to create my arch because i plan to pile a bunch of dirt on top of the root cellar and i believe this will be stronger. we'll grow some ground cover over the top of the root cellar and pump house. earth roof for the pump house plan will be shown at a much later date.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

in response to...

squire & tansy,
thank you, the root cellar is a ridiculous amount of effort.
yep, healthy & happy.
edifice rex,
thanks for visiting, i like your house blog too.
uncle matt,
as ever.
thank you also for visiting.
sweet and cute? i agree. and, tristan is already better help than some adults that i've worked with.

root cellar progress

i have made some real progress on the root cellar. this photo was mondays progress. as of last night i am flush with the ground. i am planning to make a ferro-crete arch for a roof the bury the whole thing. electricity will get installed with a inside light and an entry light over the door. my grand father built several ferro-crete structures on his property one of them held a reservoir for a water-fall. they were amazing organic structures that looked like rocks, trees, streams, ponds and hills. i plan to cover most of our ferro-crete structure with a mixture of recycled styrofoam and reinforced concrete as a layer of insulation. then i'll skim coat to make a water tight barrier and finally earth berm over the entire thing. i have a bunch of rock that will make the retaining wall at the entry and the front of the cellar.

i plan to berm earth onto the side of the pumphouse. that should stabilize the temperature in there to allow dry storage for other food items. if my styrofoam/reinforced-concrete plasters well i will plaster the side of the pump house also, otherwise i'll just have to install a water tight barrier.

kassi will dance for hours non stop. watching her dance is such a joy.

toly adores his siblings

tristan his hair is long and flowing

Monday, February 12, 2007

the juicer

tabitha took this photo of me at my morning station. i bought this juicer for the family for christmas. our carrot through-put is astounding. tabitha, tristan and i love the juice. our bodies crave the stuff every morning--tristan really likes to shove the carrots into the juicer.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

i woke to a cold house

at five am i peeled myself away from my sleeping son. the house was unusually cold. my exposed arm that cradled tristan was still stiff as i tried to push myself upright. the front room that keeps the wood stove was just as cold. no light, no glow, not even a flicker stirred in the fire box. i pushed the ashes around and found my prize a single coal fiery and hot. a few slivers of oak and some added draft sparked new life into the house. i piled some smaller wood on the tiny blaze and closed the doors. days before i cleaned the glass on the stove and my reward today was a beautiful dance of fire. mesmerizing, i let my mind drift trying to find the patterns in the fractal of rich color. i thought about God and my family always returning to the next lick of flame. the room began to warm. the only noise was the gentle roar of the breath of our captive dragon. i decided that God does exist, my family being the proof and that the only thing that could make this moment better would be a warm cup of coffee.

Friday, February 09, 2007

figuring stuff out

where i work is a state operated girls school. mostly troubled teens and drug addicted girls live and study there trying to turn their lives around. the closest comparison i can think of is a corporate retreat camp. they have a huge rock climbing wall--six stories. it has a zip line from the top that careens across the forest. there are three cabins, two class rooms, a vocational building and several support ancillary buildings. it is located ten miles from nowhere on a winding road surrounded by mark twain national forest.

there is a huge well that supplies the entire complex. no one claims that they know how the well and pressure tank works--even the local pump/well company. it is not a standard system since the pressure tank is huge and doesn't have a bladder. any way i have been trying to wrap my brain around the thing since it has been causing problems for quite some time. i think that i have figured it out. the tank has to be filled with air and water at some ratio that i don't know. the water is there for obvious reasons--to flush toilets and wash hands. the air is there to compress and expand maintaining a reasonable pressure for the system so that the pump doesn't have the run continuously--it would wear out quickly otherwise. since there is no bladder, a rubber barrier separating the water and compressible air pocket, the air slowly integrates under the higher pressure into the water and the tank ends up filled with just water. there is a compressor attached to the system to add more air in the event the water level gets too high in the tank--causing the pump to cycle. the part that isn't obvious is that there seems to be a float with a mercury switch that decides if the compressor or the pump should come on to add to the tank when there is water usage. the other issue is that the ozarks have incredibly hard water--off the charts. lime build-up causes water heaters to fail early and shower heads to clog. i am assuming that (if this float exists) the float is exposed to the same hard water that causes all the other problems. if so, the float might need some cleaning and mechanical encouragement to preform its task.

anyway, i giggled that switch until it worked loosely and things seem to be working fine now. i could take the float and switch apart but i am afraid that there would be a million little springy parts that would fly into my face as i took the cover plate off the unit. so for now, i'll just giggle the switch making sure that it moves freely occasionally and wait until that no longer solves the problem.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

spring like conditions

today was t-shirt weather. i left work at bobs at 1:30 to come work in the yard. tabitha clipped the dead tops of the aspargus. kassi and i weeded. tristan and i got some straw that nimue already rejected and was busily trampling. we put the straw over the entire bed and cozied our baby asparagus in for the rest of the winter.

i also moved the mailbox back to the original location. we have decided to quit using our po box and receive our mail at home. the old postmaster recommended that we have the box across the street and i built a small inadequate approach berm. the mail delivery person said we needed to make it longer and wider. that is when we decided to start using a po box. through the grapevine we discovered that we could allegedly move the box to the original location and start using our cute little red mail box. when the bill came due for the po box i made a formal request to the new postmaster if we could really move our mailbox back where it was when we moved here. he consulted all the powers that be and verified that indeed we could move our mailbox back. a person might think *what a fiasco* well, it's all over now--as i knock crossed fingers on wood.

mike, tabitha's father, dropped by and needed my help installing his new show french doors. the entire family piled in the car and journeyed down there. it took a few minutes and a few remove and replaces but it is now in place and fairly square. the kids got to play with their new puppy. it is a blue heeler. the puppy is so cute. we almost got another puppy too. tabitha kept saying WWMD (what would matt do?) matt, my best friend, loves dogs and would certainly have gotten a new puppy.

if rosie were already trained we might consider another dog but two puppies means that misbehavior cannot be addressed when the guilty party isn't obvious.

Monday, February 05, 2007

finally feeling better -fire wood calculations

that is, i'm feeling better. the kids are still fighting off strep throat.

i loaded the porch with four wheel barrow loads of wood and tried to calculate our usage. i paced off nine ricks of wood that were in my original long pile. that is not including the the rick that i gave john and pam. we have roughly four ricks of wood left in the field and the better part of one rick on the porch. a fully loaded porch lasts between seven and twelve days. this last cold spell forced us to go through the porch of wood in eight days.

so, if this porch load lasts until next wednesday that will be half way through february. given that the last frost here in missouri is sometime during the month of may, i claim we won't have enough wood. lets see, there should be about six or seven porch loads of wood left in the field. if each porch load lasts ten days. february has two more loads, march will have three loads, april will have two loads and may will have one load. 2+3+2+1=8 by my best guess we'll be one porch load short. i have roughly half of a load that needs to be split in the field and a bunch of dried dead wood in the ravine. the last porch load will be a bit more work.

one problem has been general wood quality. we had the better part of two ricks of mulberry which is crappy to burn for heat. a large portion of the wood had been oddly cut. short stumpy pieces were on the last tier of the the entire long stack. crappy wood is always going to be an issue since we only harvest wood from our land that is undesirable. i'm really glad that i finished out the barnifactors wood with that last mulberry. mostly because the barn has a bad leak in the roof and the doors are barely hanging on their hinges. i might sell any future mulberry that i get at a reduced rick rate or for campfire wood. at the end of our road is a marina and campground. last summer people were constantly stopping by asking if they could buy some campfire wood.

we placed our onion set order today--to be shipped the last week of February. we ordered from dixondalefarms. growing onions is a bit of a fiasco. allegedly our area, which isn't calculated via the normal planting zone method, the days don't get long enough to grow a good storage onion. in the onion world there are only three types of onions long day, intermediate day, and short day onions. that means that north america is divided into three overlapping areas. we are deeply steeped in the intermediate day onion section. but, short day onions overlap well past us. to make matters worse, we want good storage onions--which only occurs in the long day varieties. did i mention that long day doesn't overlap our area?

to make matters worse, i really only truly appreciate red onions. so am i screwed? the answer is yes. but there is still hope. we might live in a micro climate that will work for long day onions. are you confused yet? i sure am. anyway, the answer to the onion puzzle is to purchase the long day onion sampler and hope for the best. but the long day onion sampler doesn't include my favorite red storage onion--so we bought some of them also. back to the trial and error gardening method.

one of our great canning successes was the salsa/relish from farmgirlfare. the real problem is we didn't put enough of the stuff up. we are down to our last three quarts. next fall there will be so much green tomato salsa/relish that we'll have it coming out our ears. if you grow tomatoes you must try this stuff. it is amazing and uses green tomatoes. so at the end of the tomato season when there are still tons of green tomatoes this is the perfect answer.

tabitha also canned a spaghetti sauce to die for. we are running out of that one also. i'm not sure the recipe--it might be off the cuff what ever was fresh at the time.

the root cellar is plaguing my sleep. i really really want to complete it. the barn is going to be so cool. we have decided to do it in strawbale. i have calculated that we'll need 150 straw bales to do the job. the local straw seller charges 4 dollars a bale. what a rip off. i need to find a better supplier.
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