Homestead Update

So, months ago, in this post, I wrote about stock-piling food during my harvest post. The essence of it was, besides harvesting from my garden (which was only producing a small amounts then), whenever I ran into a particularly good sale of canned goods I bought an outrageous amount with basically whatever money I had. I wanted to bring this up just to point out the value of some prepping, because my brother and I have basically been living off our food storage for the last few months, thereby saving us some money. When we can we get some meat to be stewed up with the barley, beans, rice, corn, and other food we have saved, but we have the basics stored and know that we won’t starve for a while, even with very, very little money. Now, without some meat or spices or whatnot it may not be the tastiest or fanciest of foods, but its sustenance and keeps us going. And you’d be surprised how good some of that food tastes when it’s cooked over an open fire.

We aren’t planning on having a huge garden this year, unfortunately. There just isn’t time, there’s too much to do. Most of this years’ time that would normally be spent on gardening is going to be spent clearing brush, building up the soil, and building raised beds from the cedar trees that we are chopping down. It’s amazing how dark it is under the cedar tree clumps in woods, they block out all the light. Cedars also carry apple rust disease, so we can’t plant apple trees yet. Cedar is super-crazy invasive, too. But their wood is so hard, so strong, very fast-burning and useful. Oh! Speaking of resources already on the land, my neighbors tell me there is a small persimmon orchard somewhere in my woods. I’ve never tasted a fresh persimmon. That’s an awesome reason to look forward to fall!

But we are planting some perennials. The kind of stuff that takes a few seasons to get fully mature, because it makes sense to make this time useful for some growing things even if it isn’t a lot. Besides the six fruit trees I posted about last week, we planted three raspberry canes, a red, pink, and yellow variety, and a small row of asparagus. We also have some rhubarb roots still to plant. We have blackberry canes and a couple grape root stocks, some more asparagus roots that needs to be planted, and a lot of green manure seeds. That means stuff that you plant specifically to let it rot and add organic matter to improve the quality of the soil. We are planting a lot of nitrogen-fixing things like peas, since we are pretty sure that nitrogen is one nutrient that our soil is lacking.

We ended up ordering a pre-built cabin that should be delivered in a few weeks. There are some issues with the one that came with the land. Not catastrophic, but enough that it makes it very difficult to fix while also living in it at the same time. For at least a year when this cabin was first built, it didn’t have a roof on it. It had some insulation installed in the walls, but no roof ….. Do you see the problem? One of the neighbors bought the land, added the roof, and then later decided that they couldn’t afford to pay on both pieces of land and let this one go, so we benefited on the added roof. But some of the insulation was still mildewy, which is why one of the first things we did was rip it out. On the lower level anyway, we have not gotten up into the loft, it’s blocked off with blankets for now to save on heating at night. Although it looks like the cold nights are almost over here, can’t wait! But there’s also no windows and it’s poorly vented.

So we just ended up getting a hand-built, ready-to-go place from Derksen. We choose the Lofted Barn Cabin, and since it’s customizable, we added three extra windows along the wall we plan to have facing south. This is so that it’ll be passively heated by the sun, especially in winter when that will be important. We also got an extra window in the loft, so I can be woken up by the morning sun. I’ll sleep all day if its too dark and there are no windows to let the light in. I got the hunter green roof. I’m planning on enclosing the small porch at the front of the building, to create a mudroom for shoes and coats. This room will also serve as an airlock, meaning that in winter it will keep all the heat from escaping when you go inside because you have two doors to open. I will probably build a much larger deck around one or two sides of the cabin a few years.

We are still waiting for it to be delivered, but it should be here in two to three weeks. It’s a three year rent-to-own contract, technically, but that’s a lot quicker than buying a mortgage from a bank. The monthly payment makes our funds a little tighter than we had planned, but it’s worth it. It’s a beautiful cabin, and it’s so much easier to start when the basis is good and doesn’t need any repairs. And three years will go by fast, and then it’s all ours.

The cabin we are in now will probably be repurposed into a workshop. We’ll most likely line the walls with pegboard so we have a nice place to store all our tools. That was another reason we ended up deciding to get another building. We have too much stuff and nowhere to put it all. I’ve tried to keep the clearing that is our main yard/cooking area/living area relatively clean and organized, but it’s almost impossible with the current arrangement. Half of our stuff is in the cabin, mostly in tubs, half is outside, still packed in tubs. When we need to find something, we usually don’t know where it is and have to search through the tubs, which makes the mess outside worse. So yeah, another reason that another building is a good thing.

We built a rocket stove out of cinderblocks for like eight dollars (like in the video in this post), and it works like a charm. It really channels and holds the heat from the fire amazingly well. And it makes it possible to cook our food with the brush that we are clearing, instead of charcoal in our grill, which costs us more money and is not sustainable. And the ashes can’t be composted, which the wood ash that comes from our rocket stove can be added straight to the garden (after it’s completely cooled, OBVIOUSLY. C’mon people, don’t set your garden on fire), or put in the compost. So that was a great investment. We are trying to live as cheaply as humanly possible right now. Our biggest expense, after the land payment, is gas, I believe.

The hand-dug well did not work out. The land here in the Ozarks is too rocky. The wellpoint went about halfway down before getting stuck. We can’t even get it out of the ground. It’s now a very expensive dog tieout. It would have worked in the soil in Indiana. But that’s a bit of the learning curve on our new land I guess. I’m glad that my brother had the foresight to not buy all the parts at once, since if the wellpoint is stuck, and the drive cap basically broke, the rest is moot. Oh well. Currently we are going into a nearby town to get water. But when the new cabin gets here we’ll set up a water catchment system from the roof. The metal roof on the new cabin will be safer for water catchment than using the asphalt (?) roofing from the current cabin. So that’s reason number three why it was a good idea to order the Derksen cabin.

One of the large oak trees had fallen over in the woods a few years ago and started to rot. The inside of the tree is basically soil now, completely broken down. Its full of nutrients and just awesome to load up in the wheelbarrow and add to the garden. Lots of small, but labor-intensive stuff like that has been going on. I’ve been busy, but at the same time, life seems to have a slower pace on the homestead. We work until we are worn out, which sometimes doesn’t take long since we are out of shape, and then we take a break, enjoy the sunshine, play with the dogs or make coffee in the percolator over the fire, and then go back to work. The work is hard, but we’re in charge of the timing, take breaks when we want to, pace ourselves, and we get it done. This is the life. And some of our neighbors are awesome, they invited us to their place for a little celebration of the equinox. It rocks to have some like-minded homesteading folks bordering our lot. It’d be cool if some of the other lots were bought by more people like us and we had a little community away from society out here. Come on, Pagan friends, lets make this happen!

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2 Responses to Homestead Update

  1. Sarenth says:

    That is impressive as hell that you are getting so much done in such little time.

    Rocket stoves are awesome!

    Oh it is so cool to read about folks doing what my family and allies hope to do some day!

    • that’s awesome to hear. Some days I don’t feel like I am getting enough done, actually, so it’s nice to be reminded that I don’t have to do everything at once! LOL. I have to remind myself that it’s a process and we have gotten a lot done, and on almost no money to boot! I hope you and your family do it one day! Getting started and overcoming the fear, taking that leap, is the hardest part.

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