Saturday, December 31, 2005

a day of rest

yesterday was a sorely needed day of rest and i paid for it today.

i climbed on the roof and cut the looming branches over the garage. tabitha tried to help but she is scared of heights and forgot until she was on the roof having vertigo.

i cut split and stacked most of the remaining wood from the mulberry tree that needed to get cut from the area where our orchard will be.

i cut several trees from the fence row that we are removing. the fence row was comprised of nasty old-growth multi floral rose bushes. my arms are so scratched up that i look like i was attacked by a pride of feral cats.

i cut down the over grown rose-of-sharon just in the front yard. that is prime orchard location and it had to go.

i set and burned 4 separate bonfires--the embers are still glowing. there is still plenty of brush to be burned tomorrow.

i cut several hundred little american elm trees from our squatting lot. most of them are still where they fell.

a 77 year old gentleman stopped by to ask if we were selling any of that wood. i said no and told him about mike and that he sells wood for $40 a rick. he went and looked at the wood and decided that the pieces were too short and split down too far. he then wanted to walk around the farmstead. looking at some of the wood that i cut too long for our wood stove he asked how much i'd charge for a cord of that. i told him that it's still green and he insisted that it was ok. i said $75--the going rate is $80 for seasoned wood. he agreed, so i'll cut a cord of wood for him. tabitha saw him and said "why doesn't he cut his own wood?" "i said he's 77 years old," he didn't look a day over 60. i like to see elderly people whom look younger than they are. i showed him my new splitting maul and whacked a big trunk of mulberry in two. i was kinda showing off because i knew that mulberry practically falls apart at the sight of that splitting maul.

we got a huge round bale, from a friend of the family, of wheat hay for nimue. she love love loves it. you'd think we were starving her the way she dug into the stuff. $40 seems a reasonable rate having it delivered. another level of comfort was achieved having her fed with that quality of hay. earlier the entire family hung out in nimues pasture lying next to nimue as she chewed her cud. it was a kodak moment but will have to be just a fond memory.

we moved the allegedly portable chicken coop this morning. the wagon that is used in the process has low tires and made things difficult--near impossible. the two wheeled hand truck that lifts and rolls the coop flipped up and slammed into tabitha (she's fine) tabitha slammed into the side of the coop. all was overcome by brute strength and pig headedness.

the chickens produced 6 eggs today! huevos rancheros baby.

mike & nancy's house warming party was last night. it was great fun and their house looks great.

kassi just came to me and said "pees pees awahr". she wanted some water and was saying please--my little angel.

tristan is successfully weaned going on three days of no may-may. he broke his "new very special chritmas sword" today--there was much crying and gnashing of teeth. it was held together by a flimsy dowel. i dremeled out the handle the shape of the blade and gorilla glued them together. it should be stronger than the original but still has a limited life span ahead of it. i'll have to fashion a better one from a single piece of wood--probably hickory would last the longest. a person would need a table saw to do something like that. hopefully that dilemma will be sorted very soon!!! (fingers crossed)

i'll take photos of the changes tomorrow and post them to this entry.

Monday, December 26, 2005

first official house guests

tabitha's father & step mother came for turkey dinner last night. tabitha made an excellent bird. she makes a classic excellent stuffing that really topped things off. our house is almost too small to have dinner guests especially since the entire place is the kids play room. i cleaned and ran interference against the kids most of the morning. if given the chance, the kids will make a larger mess directly behind you as you clean.

our house is feeling cozy these days. as we hang more pictures and finish more details in the house it gets more homey. we still have loads of work to do indoors--glaring examples are: the trim around most of the bathroom, kitchen drawers and cabinets, fixing broken tiles, and painting the bath and front room. it seems to never end.

the advent calendar ended nicely. the last little doors were of the nativity scene and as tabitha was explaining the little family and special birthday--tristan said "mommy, i'd like to give all those toys to that baby jesus." what a sweet boy. tristan got a new wooden sword--his old one has seen too many battles. when the sword arrived it was a bit too long so i shortened it--it is still broad-sword size for him. a sword might seem a little violent for a three-year-old but it is plain to see that his imagination grows with it in his hand.

wood heat, there is nothing else like it. an extra warm house on a cold day is a nice place to be. i have been planning the chimney re-construction for next summer. i want to have a masonry chamber in the center of the house that heats up its thermal mass then radiates into the bathroom. it should more evenly heat the house. this will be especially important as we add a master bedroom. i'll post my plans when i draw them up.

i really need a table saw, mike has been loaning me his but needs it for his house. i have the radial arm saw but nothing replaces a table saw. i'll have to start looking at garage sales and used ads in the paper. maybe i can get by with a decent skill saw which i also lack. anyway...

i got a new watch for christmas. it is just a simple timex with a normal face, easy to set the time, a digital date display, an indiglo back light and an alarm. what more does a watch need to be? i find that i can get by without a watch except when it is necessary to know the date. there are always clocks around but a calendar doesn't really do you any good unless you know what day it is TODAY.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy Holidays

our holidays have been rescued by wonderful and considerate gifts. we were resigned to extremely modest gifts and mostly sharing the holiday spirit. we have been blessed yet another time. tristan is so excited about opening the presents that it is all he talks about. my parents sent us an advent calendar--he loves it. each morning he asks mommy to get it down and open another door. they talk about each little surprise behind the door. it is teaching him about waiting and helping to build the excitement for the big day. we have the presents on the top shelf because they are not safe under the tree. tristan might be convinced to wait but it is beyond kassi to understand the concept of waiting.

i'm usually not big on holidays but these kids are so excited and we have lots of presents for them--clothes, books, educational videos and just a couple toys. it will still be a modest christmas compared to most but it will be perfect for us.

i talked to the electrician that i interviewed with. he was excited to hear from me and is overwhelmed by the holidays and the inability to do normal business. i suggested that i call after the new year. he seemed relived and appreciative. we'll see.

Happy Holidays All…

Monday, December 19, 2005

it broke

my wood splitting has come to a complete halt. i broke the weld on the handle of my missouri splitter (maul). the previous manufacturer and my current employer gave me the maul. i need a new one. my plan is to take it back to him and see if he has another back stock to replace it. i guess i could have mike weld it but he has been a nay-sayer about it and this would only reinforce his position, besides welding certainly would affect the epoxy and fiberglass portion of the handle. i wish this would have happened before i began to really like the stupid thing. i hated it at first but being the only thing available i used it until it has become an extension of my wood splitting persona.

i modified the grip portion of the handle to fit like a glove.

i guess continuing splitting that twisted hickory was a bad idea after all. but the maul seemed so indestructible. i wrongly thought it was only my will and strength against the piece of wood. sadly the maul was the weaker, previously not considered, player in the struggle.

goodbye, missouri splitter (maul) may you rest in peace.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

nimue (the cow) nim-eu-way

she is here on premises. i felt badly for her since we only had scorched earth and the labyrinth of partially split fire wood to offer her as pasture. she is mooing distance from her friends and calls to them. it is so sad. i went out and split wood to try to clear some trotting area. she'd come over and want me to pet her and if i walked anywhere she follow. it's kinda like having a big slow dog. i tried to split that twisted hickory out of her way--i got through about two wheel borrow loads and gave in. it is so trying to split because i have to hit it in exactly the same spot three or four times to get it to crack apart. then when i finally get it to crack it holds its self together with these twisted strands. any way i'm over half way through that trees wood then i get to go back to the white oak easy easy easy. if i set it up exactly right i can get that to split into four pieces with two strikes.

mike (tabitha's father) and i moved one of his bulls to a loaner breading herd. wow that is an adrenaline rush. they are so huge up close and have absolutely no fear. he is considered a mellow bull and mostly just wants to be left alone but man was that ever dangerous and exciting stuff.

we also went and got an old feeder to build nimue's milking shed around. it is huge and heavy 500 lbs plus. it'll be a cool divider between hay storage and milking area. a friend of mikes built it 30+ years ago in high school shop class out of rough cut oak timber. we plan a post and beam structure (cedar trees) as the vertical (posts) supports. there are several to choose from that are close to the intended shed location. i'll probably fell them tomorrow and drag them to their new home. tabitha is in charge of digging the holes for the posts. the farm we got the feeder from has an old barn falling down. tom, the fore mentioned feeder builder, told us we could pillage any of the wood and steel roofing. SCORE instant lumber and roof for the new shed. it's all old oak rough cut. i'll have to pre-drill all nail holes during assembly so it'll be slow going. but it will be strong. the barn still needs toppling but that should just take a couple of logging chains and a tractor. we have an old cast iron tub for the water troth (that is a little too white trash for me to stand for very long)

needless to say our pasture is enclosed--we completed it last week and felt very proud of ourselves. i have been working up that old, very dead, hickory out back for firewood. my lats (laticumus dorci) are getting wing-like and my stomach is in the best shape it has been in years. best of all my aim with that missouri splitter (maul) is deadly. of course i still have the random glancing blow but i could kill a fly sitting on the log with that thing.

the kids have runny noses but are so cool to be around. they accost me with screams and hugs every time i return home. trstan has been hanging out while i split quite a bit. he gets cold and goes into the house to warm by the fire. it is too cold for kassi to spend too much time outside not strapped to mama. tristan climbs around on fell trees and generally pleases me with excellent questions and exclamations. yestereve at dinner i scolded him for putting cabbage, that he didn't want to eat, from his fork onto my plate. he smugly and rightly said "daddy that's a bowl" ohhhh boy does he ever take after his mother. already a sharp whit at 3-1/2.

the chickens are really starting to lay eggs we get one a day and sometimes two. production should get up to ten or so a day by christmas--tabitha is my source here.
i need to affix the final laying box and attach the add-on roof.

the pasture next to our house needs repair next. that'll be much easier since we plan to mostly just prop-up the existing stuff and add as little as possible. there is green grass there right now that nimue could be eating instead of imported bales of hay.

always too much to do and too little time.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

keeping my fingers crossed

i met with an electrician whom, it seems, would be excellent to work for. he said during the interview that he was impressed several times. i hope it works out(fingers crossed).

i'll know more friday evening.

wish me (us) luck....

Saturday, December 10, 2005

a morning of rest

no entire day of rest around here. i worked on web design most of the day yesterday. after the chill melts away i'll be helping mike (tabitha's father) move into their new house. it is a great house built 50 years later than their current abode. it is very cool the yard is all sugar maples and "show trees". a huge barn filled with mikes hay and an almost as large garage. the house has a basement, central air, and integrated carport(all rare for around here). other features include massive front sunroom, whole house fan, two bathrooms, three bedrooms, and a large great room.

we are so happy for them that it is like it's happening to us. they rented their current house. we hope the new tenants are very cool. it is easy to get "pit-bull ranchers" around here. early on, they offered us their current house to live in instead of this one but we love this little house (it is ours). we have put so much blood, sweat, heart and soul into this place it is impossible to imagine anything but our future here.

the fence is very close to being done. we will work on that tomorrow. maybe finish it. that new gate in the upper pasture was the last serious addition--the rest is all fence stretching.

Friday, December 09, 2005

first snow

Tristan standing on one of the fallen trees. this one is an american elm this is near impossible to split (without a mechanical splitter) so we are just burning it over our garden and stumps for nutrients and stump ridding potential.

Tabitha and the kids look like spacemen. the flash makes the reflective material on the winter coats glow.

here is our snowy chicken coop.

this is the upper walk through gate for our pasture

we had our first snow yester morn early. we were so excited that we got up and dressed before sunrise. the kids loved it. the roads were tragically awful. to make matters worse we had to travel the roads to bradleyville. about 55 miles of very curvy icy snowy roads on the first bad road day is one of the more stressful things i can imagine doing. the other day i had a tooth-filling crack and partly fall out. Tabitha miraculously found a dentist that has a low income sliding scale that accepted me on an emergency visit. we also needed to pick up our bulk organic flour and pasta from hodson mill. they are just a mile or so from the dentist.

the dentist was great (cheaper than my last co-pay while insured). she had very tiny hands and skillfully worked fast and with purpose. i'd go to her again even if she weren't sliding scale. i hate dental work--it is my personal-torture. i can take most any other physical pain much more easily then drilling in my teeth. what information do you want to know?

oh driving after Novocain injection was, if possible, even more stressful. the only thing i can imagine that would be even more dangerous and stressful would be to have tabitha drive home. she is an infrequent, at best, driver and never never in the snow.

we arrived home without incident--and i passed out on the rug in front of the wood stove. i can never sleep during the day unless very ill. either the shot or the stress overcame my physical inability to sleep during the day. dental work ruins your day.

one of the bonfire locations is still smoking from the stump this morning 5 days later. the other fire location still has coals glowing but that is just two days since the flames went out.

my parents and sister sent a package for christmas. OH the kids love LOVE the gifts. there were hand-made and so wonderful. Kassiopeia got a doll collection, Tristan a wagon/cart and tractor. we got some lovely ornaments (german bells, i think they are called) for our tree. the tractor hasn't left a 15 foot radius from tristan since it's arrival. the kids were there when we opened the large box and keeping the gifts from them until christmas wasn't possible for their little minds to accept.

work on the homestead has ground to a halt but should pick back up the pace tomorrow. today is for design/web work. besides it's a mere (8 degrees F) outside right now.

Monday, December 05, 2005

frosty morning

it got really cold last night--in the teens. this is some beautiful frost that was on the car--with the sunrise in the background.

these are 8 - 100 liter bags of leca. we plan to put it on the garden to loosen the soil. it is normally really pricey stuff ($35 dollars wholesale per bag). it is used in the hydroponics industry as the substraight for the plants to grow in. ben gets a sea-container of this stuff at a time. he uses it as the insulation between his flue liner and the chimney block. he sells huge quantites of this stuff. he gave me the dreggs that were mixed with part of the parking lot gravel and leaves. i have one more bag to get next time i work.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

cedar shavings

lots & lots of cedar shavings happen from sharpening cedar posts into fence posts. the process is relatively simple cut down the tree or in our case an entire grove. make 6-7 foot length poles, then sharpen them with the chainsaw. take a heavy pointy steel rod and start the holes wobble the rod around in the hole to make it conical and deep. drive the poles into the ground with a big sledge hammer. i used mikes 13lb post hammer. then run the wire fence. it is a simple process but it takes a while.

here is a picture of our chicken coop with the add on egg laying boxes.

this is the christmas tree that we got--it really makes the house smell like christmas.

the wood pile is growing still

this is the big hickory that it takes 3 pieces from this log to fill our porch with wood = 1 week of heat.

Friday, December 02, 2005

chicken invasion

yester morn (before 9am) i split, hauled and stacked three slices from that dried hickory out back next to the hollow. from those three slices i filled the porch wood pile that was almost empty. in the bark lived some hibernating grubs. as i found them i gave them to the chickens. we have been keeping them locked up until afternoon since we are expecting some eggs very soon. they must have seen where i was getting the grubs from because later in the afternoon, after they were released, they mounted the wood pile and were scratching around on it. admittedly, they always climb any new landscape feature i manage to create. the difference is this is located in our front porch and didn't pose any of the usual new vantage points that any of the other piles present.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

thwarted engarde

our fencing efforts were thwarted by looming web work. it appears that our asymmetrical dsl connection is very slow on the back side.

on a more precarious note, the very cool company that has been hosting my website since the 90's has just been bought out by google. i wonder how that will affect my web hosting situation. i imagine things will progress as is for a while at least. i am very glad for them because they are probably extremely wealthy now. and i knew them when...

oops my upload is complete.

no need for an air to air heat exchanger here

from a canadian study, when a house has poor air quality it is one of the main reasons for general illness and fatigue. this is caused by the house being too tight. carbon dioxide builds up in the house and makes people ill. this is not to mention the off gassing of OSB, teflon stain repellant, pvc coating on just about everything, and the list goes on... anyway, it is near impossible to build a new house in non rural canada without installing one of these air to air heat exchangers. they basically bring in fresh air into the house by heating it with the exhaust air leaving the house.

this presents problems with combustion in the house. it affects gas stove operation, wood stoves and especially fire places. they over come these issues by putting a positive pressure on the house. basically the house is slightly pressurized by a big (part of the heat exchanger) fan. then when an exhaust is necessary, like while cooking, there is ample air and positive pressure so that the smoke can easily exit.

well, this is usually only necessary where "air tight" conditions exist. we don't have that problem here in our little house. it is windy and cold outside today and it is all too apparent where all that necessary woodstove combustion air is coming from. we obviously get plenty of fresh air in our little house.

the front door is old and has many window panes. it is fairly attractive and we don't intend on replacing it. the front room window, we'll eventually replace it but for now it's extra ventilation. the broken window panes in the kitchen, which used to go outside but now display our add-on utility room, they are high on our agenda. the sliding glass door at the back of the house, this is where the eventual add-on master bedroom will go. we won't replace that with a new door we'll just build a whole new room there. that is about it. the rest of the house is pretty tight. so worst case scenario if everything were fixed we'd still have the front door, which we plan to keep as is, for ventilation.

maybe well eventually get a heat exchanger but for now it's not needed.

tabitha and the kids are getting better. thanks for the well wishes and good thoughts. i am working on website stuff today. last night i figured out how to get that little icon next the url without designing completely in css. has my test icon it's a little logo for the site that i'm working on. it wasn't really that big of deal except that i'd never done it before.

we'll probably get some fencing done today. engarde....
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