Sunday, February 24, 2008

it's official

cabin fever has consumed me. we have been sick so many times this winter that i'm not convinced that any illness actually ever left. i can't do anything outside. the ground is so soggy that simply pushing a half filled wheelbarrow of manure leaves huge furrows. i can't work in the garden cause walking on it while this wet ruins the soil.

i have placated my sense of urgency by researching and buying stuff. our tax return came. we need to spend it up--hookers and gin. hookers and gin is a little joke around here. every time there is an inkling of extra money we laugh about spending it on hookers and gin. seriously though, we do without so many things that when an opportunity arises to get some of them we leap to our research stations. where is the best price? what is the best value? is there free shipping?

we bought a new canner. the jars it will hold are 15 qts, 24 pints, 28 half pints or 12 gals. we have been wanting one of these for almost three years. anywhere we can save time during canning season is money well spent.

we also got a large stockpot. it holds 24 quarts of liquid. yeah it's a pricey all-clad but not all stainless is equal. there will be burnt on stewed tomatoes at some point and we want to be able to clean the pan after word. it'll probably double as the ritualized popcorn cooker. all o'melays love popcorn.

i also got some bee keeping supplies. oh, that was exciting making those purchases. i'll take photos of them upon their arrival. we'll play dress up--kassi's favorite game.

tabitha also got three more bread pans. three loafs at a time isn't reasonable for this family. no expense spared there.

we also got new comforters, the old ones leak from so many repairs that dust allergies are festering.

the next big purchase will be fencing--en garde. two rolls of wove wire, sixty steel posts and some cattle panels for the garden. that purchase is long over due. it'll take two trips in my little truck to get everything. i'll get some of it monday. i need to be up near ozark to get milk from janet anyway. i'll go after work since i'll be already half way there.

once the fencing arrives there will be no excuse for getting the back paddock done in short order. i'll still have to cut a couple of cedars for corner posts. dig a few holes and we'll be fencing in earnest.

the girls are laying 10 to 12 eggs per day. i guess my threats of a major culling worked. the new chicken coop will have to be scrapped together. funds are too short to apply any money there yet.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Thursday, February 21, 2008

kombucha scoby

ok i was skeptical at first. Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast have its way with my perfectly good tea seemed like a bad idea. well the tea has to be sweetened which i hate. so let the russian mushroom have it.

i tasted the stuff, very skeptically. you are supposed to only drink a couple of ounces and build up to a glass full over weeks. i love the stuff. it suits my taste perfectly. i can't wait for it to grow larger so we can make it more often and larger batches.

wikipedia has a good description of Kombucha. of all the websites out there that taut the miracles of this drink the idea that it might help cleanse my liver seemed the most intriguing. lord knows it could use a good scrub.

we also got some kefir grains. they are a similar kinda thing but for milk. allegedly letting kefir grains have their way with regular store bought milk diminishes most of the adverse affects from pasteurization and homogenization. tabitha and the kids seem to like it alot. for me i'll have it disguised in a smoothie or stick to the kombucha.

i have been in the depths of research of bee keeping. there is an incredible amount of information out there regarding bees and bee keeping. so many conflicting opinions with extremely articulate people passionately expressing their views. it is very exciting. i have stumbled onto a vein of opinion that suits my perspective nicely. this vein believes that nature knows best, work with the bees and don't try to force our will on them to sternly.

this model mirrors how we feel about most other aspects of our life that it is compelling beyond contest. i can hardly wait to get the bees i have so many ideas and aspirations. bees could fit so harmoniously into our life style that it is exhilarating.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

starting seeds on the full moon

tonight is the full moon and lunar ellipse to boot. it is time to start tomatoes, maybe a few days early as far as time till we'll plant them. we had good luck last year but wished some of them were a bit more leggy. most tomato growers look for a medium plant with a stout stem. we discovered that the plants that were leggy last year did better at the end of the day. we followed directions and planted them in a trench instead of a hole and laid them on their side with just the last few leaf sections exposed. the root systems were huge having all that exposure to form root.

we planted
40 amish paste
40 cherokee purple
9 yellow pear
9 omar's lebanese
9 principe boghese
9 japanese black tifele
9 tomatillos
4&5 of two kinds of hot peppers

we didn't have room for the others maybe next year. i have to remember to save more seeds from the amish paste tomatoes, we almost ran out. although we have plenty of cherokee purple left over if any one wants any just let me know. tristan is so excited about the yellow pear that he has infected kassi with the yellow pear tomato lust.

tabitha planted the broccoli and cabbage seen here a few weeks ago.

our biggest next trick will be to keep toly out of the baby plants and glorious dirt.

i have been recreational reading this winter. it has been a while. this week it is dune. toly cozies next to me and sleeps sometimes. reading helps calm the kids in the evening. it encourages them to read themselves and makes for a quieter house.

we are expecting another ice storm this evening. i'd like to not work at bobs tomorrow and an ice storm is the perfect excuse. i'd work on the grow light shelf and figure some protection scheme.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

the quest of milk

our cow is dry. we tried to get "store milk" everyone got sick. we got the good stuff, glass bottles and all. it's official the addiction has become a dependency. our friend janet has goats and a couple of cows. we stopped in to get three gallons from her. she had a really cool cheese press that she sold us cheap. she also gave us one of those polycarbonate ronco food dehydrators (new).

we scored, the kids can drink milk again. tabitha has her very own cheese press. we can research and develop this whole solar food dehydrating with a conventional small scale model. yeah it plugs in, yeah it uses electricity. we still are going to build a solar version but this will be good practice. if you have never had dehydrated onions you are really missing something.

i chatted with jeff, janet's husband. he is in the beginning stages of putting P.V. on his house. he also has a 300 watt wind generator that he's going to install. he just got his gutters put on the first step to capturing rain water. he wants to build a ram pump to get his spring water up to the goats. i said i saw plans somewhere in my stuff. i offered to instigate an archaeological dig, assuming i can get past the strata of toys, for the documents.

i mostly talked about stirling engines and how i wish i could afford one to make into a hybrid energy source. wood fired during the winter and solar powered during the summer. new designs via the aerospace industry have overcome most of the efficiency issues of the past. now if i could just knock one from space have it survive re-entry and land on the back of the property...

mark my words stirling engines will help usher us past this oil dependency.

Friday, February 15, 2008

i'm ready for my closeup

it is so funny how different each child is from the others. kassi is in a constant state of dress-up. her day consists of one huge costume change. she is quite good at creating ensembles. the veil was something from the towel cupboard. it was the starting point of her outfit. everything else was neatly assembled to match and complement it.

at least she has stopped going out with mismatched shoes. when i'd ask her about her lack of matching shoes she'd reply "i couldn't decide, so i wore both."

toly and tristan are much more similar to each other--being boy and all. although toly is much more affectionate than any of the kids. he'll come up to us and hug us for no reason at all--long tight hugs that seem to last forever.

tristan is the outgoing one. he is extremely confident, articulate and engaging. we were supposed to start a daily chess regimen. the chessstore has sold out the set that i want. i spent hours searching online chess stores for the perfect set. i finally made the perfect choice. a set that is of substantial size. it is weighted so the pieces won't topple easy. the set design is of a classic style for easy recognition. most importantly it is beautiful. the one unusual thing about it is the pieces are burgundy and cream.

they said that they are expecting delivery within two months. the crappy thing is they are still offering it as "in stock" at their website. it makes me mad but i've decided to wait.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

valentines--hard hats only

the ice melts. the ice pelts--hard hats only.

like a giant chandelier. better stay in the clear--hard hats only.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

ice storm of 2008

ice every where. the wind is supposed to pick up this evening and knock out the power. we heat with wood and cook with gas. water is provided via a water tower down the road. we should be fine. i have a small 1000 watt cheap-o inverter that could power our fridge if necessary. the freezer will be fine as long as it is freezing outside and we don't open it. the inverter is a modified square wave and i'd be scared to try it out on the new computer. maybe our craptastic tv would be ok if we really got desperate.

i can't help but think of doctor zhivago when i see all this ice.

i guess north of us springfield really got hit. many places up there are already without power.

i wonder if honey bees would find this beautiful?

the ice build up on the gentle sloping calf pen loafing shed.

the cows have really been going through the hay this winter.

this is the little fence around the porch to keep the chickens out. the top rail is extra wide so tabitha can set her laundry basket on it.

this is my little princess

she says she's a mommy when she wears this hair bandanna. i installed the trim around this door yesterday. it was sorely overdue to be installed. now i just need a bit more trim wood for the bedroom door and around the ceiling. after that the wood filler and white painting can ensue. the wall base still needs to be ordered and bought.

i have put our purchases list into a spread sheet in google docs. if you have never tried google docs i recommend them. they aren't as robust as microsoft office but it is free.

we are about $2100 short of filling all of our needs with our tax return. things like a new front door and insulated front window will have to wait again. not really a big deal in the winter because extra wood heat is basically free. summer air conditioning is where the real need is. tabitha will be big and pregnant this summer and air conditioning will be important.

that rick of wood that i started on jan 25th is almost gone. the past two days have been rough--burning the stove full blast. it will be gone tomorrow. nineteen days per rick during the coldest period. also that rick was all sticks loosely stacked by the nature of their irregularity. i think i can count on a rick per month of the next winters quality of wood.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

spring like day

yesterday it was like spring.

the kids played outside.

i repaired the sandbox. we filled it with new sand. digging out the old sand was the most fun for toly.

tabitha and i worked in the garden. the tomato plant graveyard needed to be cleaned up.

this is what it looked like before we started our work.

we pulled all the tomato stakes and soaker hoses. all i need to do now is move three of the bean arches to their new location. two of them will integrate into the new tomato staking system. we'll need nineteen cattle panels for our garden this year. i'll need to get ten more. tristan was a huge help in the garden yesterday. destruction being his strong suit. i am excited for this summer gardening having a big helper like he alluded of yesterday.

i also made a new compost bin. it is huge. it should hold the better part of the three full ones that i now have. i built it toward the lower part of the paddock away from the garden. i'm in the middle of transferring the partially decomposed manure to the new bin. after the transfer is complete i'll move the old bins away from the garden also. the chickens use them as stairs into the garden. i won't be tolerant on any interloping chickens after this latest excommunication measure.

i figure that i will have the better part of five yards of "black gold" compost by spring. our garden should do really well on these new nutrients. we also plan to expand our garden a bit. we need room for okra and sweet potatoes. the proposed addition will encroach into the yard toward the house. there is a very sunny area that is wasted on grass. better used to make food for the family.

i have decided on a new solar dehydrator design. it will hold a larger volume of produce. adding a PV powered fan will be easier on this model also. besides no one will expect me to be half naked during its construction. i might compromise and wear my kilt the entire time.

my biggest stumbling block is the drying trays. i want to make them have a stainless steel mesh because all other alternatives are vastly inferior. aluminum, nylon, and galvanized screen touching our food isn't right. wooden slats will be an insurmountable amount of work--although probably what we'll end up with. i wish that stainless screen was reasonably priced.

i'm off to shovel some shite.....

this is the new compost area. the long one on the right is almost full. i could overfill it with the rest of the third bin (pictured in the above panoramas) but no need. the remaining compost in the old bin is done and ready to go to the garden. there is no point in moving it away from the garden to ride out the winter. when we are ready to use the compost i'll use that bin up first, then tear it down.

my guess that we'll have five yards of compost is pretty close. the new big bin is eight by five by four feet. that is 120 cubic feet plus the other yard and a half still in the old bin (35 cubic feet). account for continued settling about 15%. we'll roughly have 135 cubic feet--5 yards of finished compost.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

thanks for the support

i really appreciate everyones compassionate responses to milk and honey. our trouble is a family affair. there has been no true resolution. i have to carry on as status quo in hopes that a resolution will be revealed.

in an effort to take my mind off the fiasco at hand we went to visit the local bee keeper. his name is thomas davidson. he came recommended by the president of the national apiary society. he has 150 working hives and sells his honey all over the ozark area.

i brought the entire family to see his shop. he was very cool. the kids explored. he had a little show and tell. we talked for quite a while. he climbed his pulpit and pontificated about the perils of insecticides. he offered natural solutions to all of the problems that he experienced. it was very interesting seeing an elderly man railing about how mainstream honey production has been poisoning us. he was preaching like this before he knew that i was part of the choir.

a breath of fresh air amidst the treacle of my past few days.

i am very excited to get bees. there are many risks but integrating this into our life is a natural step. we already use a ridiculous amount of honey and plan to use much more. our hope is to use honey in all of our preserving efforts that would normally require sugar. Putting it up with Honey by Susan Geiskopf is tabitha's latest book purchase. i estimate that we will use ten to twelve gallons of honey per year. we already use about four.

the newly discovered bread recipe from an old copy of The Tassajara Bread Book takes a cup of honey for four loaves of bread. that is a twice per week task keeping this ravenous family in bread. yearly that is 6.5 gallons of honey alone.

tabitha wants to plant some concord grape vines and transplant our wild black raspberries to our northern property line. adding a soaker hose from the strawberry raised bed will provide the whole addition with water.

we need to offset one of our largest expenditures of jelly. not only is bonne maman raspberry jelly crazy expensive but it is imported from france. the carbon footprint on that single staple is huge. if we exclude that jelly, making our goal of a daily meal within 100 miles likely by default. we eat a ton of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches around here.

during summer we also plan a weekly meal of the 100 foot challenge type.

once our garden starts to come on it should be be fairly easy. the hard part will be to make the meals exciting enough to post about them.

we plan early canning of as much of our garden as possible. the new baby will arrive in late summer and putting things up for winter will slow to a snails pace.

i also plan to build a solar dehydrator that tabitha found. i hope that tabitha doesn't expect me to build it as scantily clad as the guy in the link. overlooking the racy photos, this is a great design. i'll probably add a P.V. powered fan for more air movement. the humidity in the ozarks makes it hard to dehydrate foods. this will be how i plan to store much of our summer bounty after the baby arrives.

Friday, February 01, 2008

milk and honey

contrary to popular belief--this is not the land of milk and honey. i admit that we do, in fact, have a milk cow. i also admit that i am in the process of acquiring a couple of working bee hives. will we have milk and honey? yes. this little piece of land having milk and honey doesn't make it utopia.

our elysium is only because we will it so. lately i have been feeling threatened. factors beyond my control are innocently conspiring to threaten our reality. today i am feeling responsible. through this blog i have painted a picture of MY nirvana. i have erroneously glazed over the heartache, disappointments and concessions. this life we have chosen is more difficult than anything i have ever attempted.

everyone from this area that knew we were moving here would have bet against all odds that we would have washed up and moved back to california--people remind us of this all the time. having been here for almost three years i see their perspective--i would have bet against us also. this life choice has put pressures on my relationship that bent it BEYOND the breaking point. the fact that we survived is a testament to our compassion for each other--mostly tabitha's compassion of me.

i am a man of will. i have always believed that i can do anything. this endeavor tested my metal like nothing before. if there existed a scenario where only my will was necessary to bend reality enough to accomplish this paradise i would admit this a reasonable feat. it is not.

could i have bought my way into this life? there isn't enough money to gain the respect of these locals. people here in the ozarks are hardened by generations of difficulty. new comers throwing money at their problems are seen as suckers. the only thing that they respect is people of will--a few good introductions didn't hurt. longterm happiness here requires that the community embrace you.

the troubles that threaten our reality might cause us to leave here. i have already begun exploring other options--none of them as savory as continuing our attempts here. there are so many things left to do. i haven't even finished my root cellar. i want the simple life, albeit fraught with hard work. mostly i want to be left alone.
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