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Archive for the ‘Building’ Category
Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
Okay, he’s cute and snow white. He’s our milk cow Lace’s newest baby (a little steer calf, Snowflake.). At first, we were getting about eight gallons of milk a day. Then seven, then six. Now, when Will goes out to milk, often one or more quarters of Lace’s udder is udderly EMPTY! Which isn’t a big deal except that poor Will has to milk one-handed. If you haven’t tried that, it’s hard because you aren’t in rhythm; squirt squirt. Instead it’s squirt……….squirt……..squirt. And it’s hard on the milker.
Christian is learning to milk so he can milk when we’re away at the MREA Fair in Wisconsin in a couple of weeks. Will does one side and Christian, the other. My knee’s getting much better but I’m letting the guys take over that chore for a while. Just in case.
Will just hauled home three trailer loads of big pine, spruce, and balsam logs from a neighbor, who had sold them to him. Pretty soon, the good old Hud-son bandsaw mill will be humming and we’ll be seeing boards fly off into a pile for our barn and house porch roof. And I get to run it, too! I really like making boards!
Yesterday, we went down to my son Bill’s place where we met folks from the Twin Cities who had ordered pork from us. We did the transfer and had a great visit with everyone. Marlene and John even brought me a hanging basket and a ton of hostas, ferns, and berry bushes! Wow, how nice! Today I get ‘em planted! Thanks guys!
We’ve been having lots of rain, just like last year. I sure hope the beavers are wrong about a hot, dry summer. Last year it dried up in June and we had very little rain until snowfall. — Jackie
Monday, May 6th, 2013
All our snow is gone and the ground is drying up nicely. What a relief. We breed our goats to freshen in late April since by then the snow is gone and the weather is nice. Luckily, the “girls” didn’t have their kids until last week so they were born in pleasant weather. Now it’s mid-sixties and they’re out running with their mammas and enjoying the sunshine. One small twin buckling was born weak so I brought him in and put him into the wood box. (The wood box sees more baby animals this time of the year than it does wood!) He’s doing well on the bottle and is starting to run around outdoors. He’s pretty much potty trained; I feed him then take him outdoors where he does his “business.” Our friend and neighbor, Jerry, came over at feeding time (about every 3 hours) and asked to be able to give baby his bottle. Both of them enjoyed it a lot! Jerry used to raise goats and has a soft spot in his heart for them.
Meanwhile, Will’s been working daily on the rock wall behind the wood stove. He’s finally got all the rock up and is starting to grout in between them with mortar. It’s slow and fussy work, but it’s coming together very nicely. He jokes that after reading a stonework book that “he did everything wrong” because he placed the stones too far apart, but we both like the way it looks so we’re still happy with it.
I go in on Thursday for my knee surgery (torn meniscus) and hope it goes as well as the surgeon says it will, complete with quick recovery of the total use of it again. Right now it sure is a pain (pun not intended!). I went to sit down on a plastic bucket to milk a goat and OMG did it hurt! And our cow, Lace, is making a beautiful bag. All I could think of is “how am I ever going to milk a COW?” Hopefully, I’ll be all healed up by the time she freshens. — Jackie
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
With temperatures in the high sixties and not freezing at night, our three feet of snow has been melting fast. And yesterday for the first time this spring, I walked in our orchard. How nice that was! All of our trees look great with no winter kill that I can see. But there were vole tunnels made of dead grass that used to be underneath the snow. We never saw a vole all winter, but they were down there anyway. Luckily, we had wrapped screen around all of our fruit trees so they didn’t eat the bark on one of them. Whew!
Now that the sun is out, we are nuts to get started with all we have to do. Early this morning, Will set in another layer of rock on the wall behind the wood stove. It’s nearly up as high as it’ll go and we’re getting excited. I think it looks great. Once it’s done all the way up, he just has to go back and fill in the spaces between the rocks with mortar and finish it off.
Then this afternoon, our friend Erik came over and he and Will started laying up more sheets of metal on the barn roof. We had seven long sheets, left over from fall when the snow had halted their work. So up they went! They did have to trim two inches off the sheets so Will now knows the exact measurement for the next order. When we get the cash…
But the barn’s looking good! And because the snow’s melting and the ground’s drying, pretty soon we’ll be able to start cutting boards with our little Hud-Son portable bandsaw mill. We still have some to cut for the hay loft floor, then more for the side walls. We’ll have enough boards for the front porch roof too. The only cost now will be more decking for the floor, and then the shingles and water shield for the roof. And we do have two bundles of shingles left over from the addition. I’m getting pretty excited to have it getting that far toward DONE.
Ahhh, isn’t spring great? (Oh, I do have to have surgery on my knee, but it is supposed to be minor and heal quickly to a pain-free normal knee. I can’t wait to get that over with and get on with gardening.) — Jackie
Thursday, April 25th, 2013
But we still have tons of snow on the ground — several feet! And mud and water running everywhere. Will’s been working on the rock wall behind the living room stove every day, knowing nice weather’s just around the corner. So far, he’s used 14 bags of mortar mix, and lots of rocks. I think it looks great. Imagine how much warmth those rocks and the concrete will hold next winter.
Meanwhile, I’ve been transplanting tomatoes and peppers like mad. I do them in Styrofoam cups. So far I’ve gotten three or four years’ worth of use out of the same cups.
But it’s been challenging because my left knee’s been giving me a lot of pain these last few weeks. I finally wimped out and got an X-ray and saw the orthopedic specialists in the nearby town of Virginia. Good news is that my knee won’t ever have to be replaced; it’s in great shape. Bad news is that I may have a torn ligament. Had an MRI this morning so we’ll see. Hopefully, it’s just inflamed and will go ahead and heal. I’ve got LOTS to do this spring and hate gimping around on it. It sure tires one out! If it is a torn ligament, the doctor said it’s a quick, easy fix and will heal fast. Considering the active lifestyle I’ve lived all my life, I guess I can expect a glitch here and there. I’m sure not complaining. — Jackie
Thursday, April 18th, 2013
You work inside. I think the snow’s going away. It’s sure sloppy/nasty outdoors and there’s water everywhere. We even saw geese today so they’re hoping for water to land in soon. The rivers are starting to flow free in spots so at least they do have some water. The beaver ponds are still frozen solid with a little water on top.
Will’s working at setting big stones into mortar behind the wood stove. Judging by the cussing out there, it’s not going so hot. I have confidence in him though but I AM smart enough to stay out of the way unless called. The dog and cat are upstairs holding their ears shut. It’s hard to hold the big stones in place until the mortar dries.
We just got another kitchen cabinet with some “windfall” money that showed up unexpectedly. So that gives us a complete “L” of base cabinets. It looks so good I’m all excited; the finished job will look great! — Jackie
Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
Okay, so it sounds like we’re getting depressed. Got that right! After getting a foot of new snow a couple of days back, we’re getting another foot right now. We got eight inches overnight and it’s still snowing. Sigh. We’ve got nice green tomato and pepper plants in the little greenhouse in the living room, but even they look depressed because they look out on all that snow.
I’ve lived in Minnesota on and off for a total of about 30 years but this is the longest winter I can ever remember! At least we’re not in drought now, so that’s something we can be thankful for.
Because he can’t work outside, Will brought in three wheelbarrow loads of rocks during our last thaw and is now starting in on the rock wall behind the wood stove in the living room. Right now it’s framed and he has stapled plastic backing, used chicken wire as re-enforcing wire, and then screwed in long screws, wiring the chicken wire to the heads to hold the wire out from the plastic.
There are sorted rocks all over the floor and six bags of cement sitting in the dining room. Pretty soon he’ll start in on the rock work. While that’s in progress, I’ll be transplanting all those tomato, pepper, and snapdragon plants into larger containers to sit in the big greenhouse windows. (Maybe, just maybe, spring will come eventually?) — Jackie
Monday, March 11th, 2013
I let some of my onions go to seed two years ago, and last year planted those seeds. I don’t know what type of onions the seeds grew from. Some, not all, of those seeds produced onions with multiple little bulbs (sort of like garlic) instead of a single large bulb. What would cause that? The multiple small bulbs were pretty useless, actually, and seemed a waste of effort. How can I prevent this in the future?
North Highlands, California
Do you or your neighbors have “walking” or “top-set” onions? It’s quite possible that your onions crossed with these. Or if your onions were a hybrid, perhaps they had top-set parentage somewhere in their background. If you raise your own open-pollinated onions from seed, then save seed from these onions, making sure they don’t cross with neighbors’ onions. You should have no problem saving seed in the future. — Jackie
How much room do seven chickens need? I am looking to buy a chicken tractor with a run but don’t know what size. HELP!
New Freedom, Pennsylvania
Seven regular-sized chickens (not bantams) need an indoor space of 4 square feet each, plus their outdoor run which should be at least double that. Bigger is better. So your four chickens would need an indoor coop of 28 sq feet or a rectangle about 7×4 feet. Chicken tractors are very easy to build yourself. All they are is a basic bottomless plywood box with a flip up hinged lid for access and a small door to access the wire pen. I used to raise purebred chickens and had chicken tractors all over my yard with trios of chickens in them to keep them purebred. And I made them myself from scrap plywood, lumber, 1x4s (for the frame of the outdoor coop), and chicken wire. They were so light I didn’t even need wheels but your larger one would and wheels are easy to lag bolt onto the wooden coop. Just a thought to save you some cash. — Jackie
Thursday, February 28th, 2013
I was wondering if you and Will could pass on which “trade” skill you would think is the one most important to have when homesteading — mechanical (engine repair), welding, construction, electrical…? Or maybe to rephrase the question — having which of these skills would you say saved you the most money by not having to get a tradesman to come in?
It’s sort of like asking how long is a string… All homesteads are different; some have existing buildings, some are started from bare ground. Some are small and require little in the way of skills, such as welding or electrical. Some are large, and DO require a lot of engine/equipment maintenance. So it depends. With me starting out on a bare-land homestead, I’d say carpentry skills as we had to build a house and additions, a goat barn, sheds, and a storage barn, not to mention our current building project, the BIG barn.
But if you had buildings in place that didn’t require a whole lot of remodeling, perhaps welding (if a larger homestead) or small engine repair would be a money saver so you didn’t have to take the chainsaw, lawnmower, tiller, snowblower, and generator in to have fixed.
Electrical is a lesser required skill as in many places there are building codes that won’t let a homeowner do the work and it is done usually only once or twice where carpentry, small engine repair, and welding skills are used regularly. — Jackie
Heating canned bacon
There have been many inquiries about canned meat and the need to heat it after opening. Does this apply to bacon as well? It seems that semi-cooked and then canned bacon would be hard to heat for too long before it became “burned.” Does canned bacon grease need to be heated the same way?
You can heat canned bacon by simply opening the jar, washing off the lid, placing the jar on top of the lid, in a pan of water deep enough to come up over where the bacon is in the jar then bringing the water to a boil for 10-15 minutes. You can also lay your bacon in a pan and place in the oven, covered by a lid or foil, and bake for 10 minutes at 250 degrees, checking to make sure it isn’t burning. As it is usually smoked before canning, bacon is usually pretty safe, but pre-heating is a good idea — just to be sure. No, bacon grease, without meat, does not need to be heated before using; we usually use it in frying or baking where it is then heated before eating. — Jackie