Category Archives: No Way!

Cool tricks and gadgets to make Homesteading easier or more enjoyable.

Building update – and a great wood cutting tip!

For those of you who do not follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you probably don’t know that we actually started building our house! 

Finally!

After months and months of permit delays. And more and more months of weather delays, we finally “broke ground” on Easter weekend.

Bringing in “DG” (decomposed granite) to level out the house pad.

The perimeter of the house outlined in compacted and leveled DG

Once the pad was leveled, it was time to build the footing forms. We decided to build the forms up and backfill rather than try to dig down into our very bouldery ground. 

Yes. “Bouldery.” See all those huge boulders in the above pictures? That’s what lies just below the surface up here!

The first day’s progress.

Yup, that’s me, putting one of the pier footing forms together.

We have a family friend who is a licensed contractor who is helping us get all this right (that’s him in the red plaid shirt). We couldn’t do it nearly so well or as easily without his help. As with many things in life, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And we are so very glad to know him (and that he is so generous with his time) ’cause we don’t know much!

Princess Girl, “Mom, I need ‘more cowbell’!” So proud of my girl. Not only was she a huge help putting all those “cowbells” on the forms, but she also quoted a Saturday Night Live skit. Yep, we’re raising her right! 😃

Building: a family affair

The perimeter of the house footings – almost completely built. Now to do all the leveling and put in rebar, etc.

It’s so wonderful to see the progress after waiting for so long. 

And today I learned something new. Something that makes me say, “No way!” A new way to use a skill saw!

I’ve used a skill saw for 20+ years and just today learned something new. I’ve seen the pros (building contractors, etc) use a skill saw in a certain way but never knew why. Today, I tried it and was blown away with the results!

The old way: you lay the 2×4 flat on the sawhorse(s) and hold it with one hand while pushing the saw across the wood. All the while, the force of the saw pushes against the board and it is hard to hold it still. 

The old way.

Close up – old way

In order to hold the wood still, you can use a clamp, but that takes a while to put in place and remove, and when you’re making a bunch of cuts as I was today, they are too cumbersome to use.

I’m not sure what made me think to try something new, but I figured, what could it hurt?

The new way: So, I turned the 2×4 up on it’s long edge at about a 45 degree angle and the saw cut through so easily, I was shocked. I had no trouble keeping the saw on the cutting line, and the weight of the saw pushed it’s own way though the wood. 

The new way: turn that wood up on it’s edge!

Close up – the new way

The wood rests on the sawhorse and the force of the saw is pushing downward rather than across, so the board doesn’t move around.
So easy!

This technique will make the thousands of cuts I’ll be making over the coming months that much easier. 

Just goes to prove that it’s never too late to learn something new.

Advertisements

This awesome hack will save your pant cuffs!

OK, I know the title of this post sounds like click bait, but it’s really true. Today I did one of those simple little things that had me saying, “No way! Why didn’t I think of that sooner?”

You see, all this winter as I’ve been bundled up working outside, I have been frustrated with the cuffs on my insulated pants. The legs are too long and the edges would get nasty in the mud and dirt.

Too long pants

In fact, the cuffs are even starting to fray. And that’s just really annoying.
Often I would just roll then up, which looks silly, but whatever. 

This works if  there’s not a ton of mud or it’s not actively raining, both of which I was dealing with today. The mud gets on the inside of the pants if they are rolled up like that while working in mud, and the water gets trapped in the cuffs if it’s raining.

What’s a girl to do?

Then I had an epiphany!

Elastic cuffs! It’s kinda hard to see in the pic since my elastic is the same color as my pants, but I found some wide elastic and wrapped it around the outside of my pant cuffs.

I didn’t even sew them. Just used a big safety pin on each one.

External elastic pant cuff

So simple. Just a couple items and my pant legs didn’t bother me all day!

I’m thinking this same idea would work with Velcro, or string, or even a thick rubber band. 

I’m just wondering why it took me all winter to think of it! 🤣

Eggs!!!

Soooo, we recently inherited a flock of chickens. And even though at least 5 or 6 of the hens are of laying age, with the stress of the move, the short daylight hours, the fact that they free-range right now, and the fact that we didn’t really have any nest boxes built for them meant that we had yet to see an egg.

Until today!

img_20161208_132122

Two eggs!

We recently built the nest boxes and stuffed them with straw.

img_20161208_132037

The nest box is a triple-decker that hangs on the outside of the coop. Pajii was the one to suggest the high rise to save some space and still be able to access the eggs without having to enter the eventual run or the main coop. That man sure has his genius moments. 🙂

img_20161208_132111

Each box has an opening accessed from inside the coop for the chickens, and a door for the humans to look for eggs.

So I think just adding the boxes and the straw helped the mature hens to get the right idea, but I also think our other idea helped.

We put a couple of golf balls in each nest!

img_20161208_132114

Golf balls to encourage laying.

I learned in Justin Rhodes’ Permaculture Chickens e-course that to encourage a hen to go broody, you can leave a couple ceramic or wooden eggs, or better yet, golf balls, in the nest. Golf balls are cheap and easily obtained compared to ceramic or wooden eggs. Especially since we already had some! I figure if it helps them go broody, then it should encourage them to start laying in the nests.

We finished the nest boxes and put the golf balls in two days ago. Yesterday I saw one of the mature hens checking out the new accommodations. And today, there were two eggs!

I’ll take them!

How about you? Do you have chickens? How many eggs are you getting right now?

 

Moving right along

Our small remodel project in the kitchen is almost finished. And we’re so excited! We should have done this when we moved in nearly 2 years ago!

Just a reminder, here’s what the ceiling looked like when we started.
20160225_112207_resized_1

We cut into the drywall and pulled that soffit off the ceiling. You can see pictures of that process here. 

We got the new sheetrock in place.

20160226_201737_resized

20160226_214637_resized

 

And did some sanding to make the old stuff meet up with the new stuff. And my man is absolutely amazing! I was anticipating tons of dust all over the kitchen from shaving down the sheetrock. Hubby got the rasp from the garage and started thinking. And came up with an ingenious solution. He taped the rasp to the end of the shop vac! With the corner attachment, it almost seemed like it was made for it!
20160226_220856_resized

It worked great! Very little dust all over the kitchen!

20160226_220351_resized

We finished the sheetrock…

20160226_222513_resized…then hired a professional to come in and do the taping and mudding and texturing. We have some experience in that department, but not much. And since it needed to match the existing ceiling, we decided to leave it to someone with much more experience than us.
20160301_105428_resized

And he did an amazing job!

20160301_130907_resized

Now that it’s dried, you can’t even tell the difference.

And last night Hubby (with Dad’s help) hung the upper cabinet and the mounting bracket for the microwave. This afternoon they will finish cutting the hole for the vent, and get the microwave hung. A friend who is an electrician is coming this afternoon to finish the electrical stuff and we’ll be done!

20160303_220141_resized

Just in time to move. Of course.

But, really, I’m ok with that. Since doing all this work means that we’re actually in the process of moving back to Nevada. I will gladly do anything I have to do to make that happen.

And speaking of moving…

Dad went and signed on the dotted line for their trailer they’ll be living in while we are building. It is so very nice!

It’s a brand spankin’ new 34ft Springdale. It won’t be delivered for a couple weeks, but it is designated as sold to Dad.

Trailer (4)

Not our actual trailer – picture found online

Trailer (7)

Not our actual trailer – picture found online

It has two huge slideouts. Mom’s hospital bed will fit perfectly where the couch and dinette are currently. There will still be one side of the dinette for people to sit when they come to visit. And there is a second “bedroom” in the back where Dad will put his computer, etc. It will also have a couple bunks for the girls if they need a nap during the day or want to spend the night with the grandparents. I’m a little bit jealous because this trailer would fit our needs exactly. But we only paid a 10th of the price for our used one with no slideouts that Mom and Dad paid for theirs, and it works just fine.  And we’ll be so happy to live in it again after thinking for so long that we wouldn’t get to.

Trailer (2)

Not our actual trailer – picture found online

The thing I’m really excited about Dad and Mom’s trailer is the outdoor kitchen.

Hubby’s and my trailer (with the girls of course) will be parked on our barn pad, which is about 0.2 miles from the house pad where Mom and Dad’s trailer will be parked (not enough room for both). As you can imagine, we won’t want to be running back and forth between the two for snacks, lunch, etc. Or when the camp cook (ie, my mom) comes by with lunch, it will be good for her to be able to finish up prep without having to bother Hub’s parents in the trailer, especially if Mom is sleeping.

Hmmm…OK, how are we going to keep all the Moms and Dads straight in this story now that we are all going to be living in the same town and we will be super involved in each other’s lives?

Ah, I know, Hubby’s parents (who live with us) will from how on be referred to by their grandparent names. Hubby’s mom is Bachan, and his dad is Pagee.

I may on occasion refer to my mom as Ahma (the girl’s name for her), and my stepdad as Pops (my name for him). And my dad will simply be “my dad”.

Got all that?

Good. Neither do I. 😉

But hey, it’s a good problem to have. Not many families are as close as ours. It will be wonderful to live back in the same town as the rest of our family!

 

Daily Life #22 – FINAL Final candle tests

You know that scene in the movie Cast Away when Tom Hanks’ character finally manages to get a fire going?

image

Yeah, that’s how I’m feeling right now!

image

Ok, so my fire is not nearly as impressive as in the movie, but I’m proud of it.

I know. I know.

I said in yesterday’s post that I was done with testing. But I just couldn’t let it rest.

I hate stopping when I feel like there was more I could have done.

And this morning, something I had read jumped back into my head. I needed to try braiding my wicks!

Duh!

image

So, here we go again!

Two braided wicks, one from the thinner string (black and white cotton “bakers twine”) and one from the thicker string (white cotton string).

image

Both dipped in wax, straightened, cut to length, and put in paperclip wick stands.

image

Then, as I described yesterday, using some rubber bands to hold the wick in the middle of the jar, and pouring the wax in two stages, I had two more candles ready to test (after cooling off, of course.)

image

AND THEY WORK!!!

I’m sitting here with them burning beside me. They’ve been burning unassisted for three hours. No re-lighting needed. No straightening wicks needed. Nice tall flames with little to no smoke. And bright! I can definitely read a book by these if need be.

Because the wicks are two different sizes (thinner and thicker), they are burning the wax at different rates (and, yes, before anyone says anything, I do know that technically the wax itself is not burning, rather, it’s gasses given off as the wax evaporates due to the flame, or something like that. But you all know what I mean. 🙂 ).

image

In this picture, you can see that there is a rim of unmelted wax around the edges. This is the thinner string.

image

In this one, you can see that the wax is melted all the way across the jar, which means that this is actually the proper size wick for this size jar and this type of wax.

And that brings up a good point that I have not talked about. There are different kinds of waxes, with different melting points. The wax I am using is left overs from pillar candles. It is a harder wax with a higher melting temperature. This is a good thing for pillar candles since you don’t want them to melt and spill all over the place. That’s also what makes them good for taper candles. And as long as you have the right size wick for your jar, it makes an adequate jar candle, as well.

It will be interesting to see wich of these candles burn longer. The thinner wick because it’s not using up as much wax as it burns with it’s smaller flame, but is also leaving unused wax around the edges? Or the thicker wick which has a slightly larger flame, thus burning more rapidly, but also hotter to melt all the wax, thus providing more fuel?

From a survival standpoint, making candles in jars makes sense. They are easier to store since they won’t deform if they get hot, and they are harder to break.

Also, and probably more importlantly, they are safer. With tapers, you really have to be there with them at all times. If a taper candle tips a bit too much and wax starts pouring out the side, you can have issues very quickly.

So there you have it folks.

-Melt your wax in your desired method (I use a large coffee tin inside an old stockpot with some water in the pot. Kindof a double boiler effect. I also put several canning jar rings down in the bottom of the pot which the coffee can sits on. That way it’s not resting directly on the bottom of the pot which is getting direct heat from the burner. That may be overkill, but then I know I don’t have to worry about it.)
-While your wax is melting, braid your cotton twine (no special treatment necessary)
-Dip the braid in wax a couple times. Let cool and cut to size.
-Secure prepared wick in a paperclip and put it in your jar.
-Wrap three rubber bands aroud the jar (crossing the top, leaving a triangle in the middle), and place your wick in the middle of these rubber bands.
-Pour a bit of wax in to keep the wick stand from moving around.
-Once first layer of wax has solidified, fill the rest if the jar to the desired fullness.
-Let rest to cool and solidify. If desired, a bit more melted wax can be added after it has cooled completely in order to make the top flat.

That’s it. Yay! It works!

I’m so happy!

Now off yo bed!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Daily Life #4 – DIY Mason Jar Spout And Carpet Deodorizer Recipe

So I’ve seen this tip on Pinterest several times and today the planets aligned and I was able to make one for myself.

20160129_125920_resized

And by planets aligning, I simply mean that I happened to have the need for one right when I had a nearly empty salt container.

I finally got around to vacuuming today and wanted to use my homemade carpet deodorizer (recipe below). But I tend to accidentally shake half the powder on the carpet when I try to shake it out without some sort of top on the jar. I thought about punching holes in a jar lid, but then I remembered this tip.

All I did was use a sharp knife to cut the top off the salt container, then put it on the jar in place in the lid. It worked remarkably well! It is the perfect size for a wide mouth jar. In order to use a regular mouth jar, just trace around a regular size lid and cut it down accordingly.

20160129_125741_resized

So, the carpet deodorizer recipe. That also is super easy.
-Fill a quart size mason jar about 3/4 full with Washing Soda (not baking soda)
-Add 10-20 drops of your favorite essential oils (we like orange and clove or lavender and eucalyptus), put the lid on, and shake the jar to distribute the oils.
-Shake the deodorizer on your carpet 15-30 minutes prior to vacuuming (test on obscure area 1st).
-Vacuum as normal.

Notes:

-Do not use baking soda, it is too powdery and tends to leave a white residue, thus why the recipe calls for washing soda. It still absorbs the odors of stinky carpets but is more granular. It can be found in the laundry isle of most grocery stores.

-You can fill your mason jar full, but then you’d want to dump the soda into a bowl, add the oils, mix, and return to the jar. Otherwise the jar will be too full to shake to distribute the oils. I prefer to just do it as stated above so I don’t have another dish to wash.

-I find that I use about 1/4 of the jar (roughly 1 cup of the mixture) per application. Depending on the size of your house you may have to use more or less. This is where the salt container spout comes in handy as I found that without it, too much sprinkles out and I invariably ended up using over half my mix for one round!

-I use this powder every other or every third time I vacuum, depending on how stinky the pets and kids have been. 🙂

I really like that this carpet deodorizer is all natural. No weird chemicals to worry about around my family.

So aside from vacuuming my house (finally!), and in between the daily tasks of taking care of the family, I started researching how to make candles from scratch. An article I read recently got my gears turning and Hubs and I got to talking about all those skills which we have a theoretical knowledge of, but have never actually tried. Like candle making. Did you know that you are supposed to treat wicks with something like boric acid in order to make them burn properly? I had no idea, and my minimalist side is wondering if it really  makes a difference. So my plan is to try a couple different types of wicks and see what the results are.

So in a couple days hopefully I’ll have a post all about making candles. 🙂

Princess Girl and I also got around to mounting the puzzle we finished a couple weeks ago.

20160129_135640_resized

I cut a piece of cardboard the same size as the puzzle, we covered it in Elmers glue, then slid the puzzle onto it and slathered a bit more glue on the top. Then, when it had dried a bit, we covered it in plastic and put a box on top to keep it from bowing. Princess Girl is going to hang it in her room when it is finished.

And that’s how this homesteader spent her day.

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Preserving the harvest

There is a house in our neighborhood which is vacant and for sale. In the back yard stands two apple trees and five (yes 5!) plum trees.

image

Last year I got permission from the owner/tenant to pick their apples since it was obvious by the number of apples on the ground that they were not going to be doing anything with them.

This year I called the realtor and he gave us permission to take all the fruit we want.

Yay!

So I’ve been supplying us with plums to snack on for a couple weeks now. And I’ve had a basket of apples sitting in the corner waiting for me to do something with them.

Then two days ago a friend gave me some cucumbers and zucchini that she had left over after making all the pickles and relish she wanted.

image

So today, I sat down with my recipe books and a pad of paper and made some lists.

Apples : make into cider
Cucumbers: pickle them
Zucchini: shred and freeze
Plums: unknown (I don’t care for plum jam/jelly. What else is there to do with plums?)

As you can see, I had some research to do. I finally decided to make plum butter amd a plum bbq sauce. But first we gotta go pick the plums!

Fist on the agenda for the day was to make the pickles since they are best when the cukes are fresh and they were already 4 das old.

image

I’m not going to give a tutorial on how to make pickles. There are already a million of them out there, and I followed the instructions from the Ball Blue Book (one of my go-to canning guides). The only thing I changed is that I left out the sugar. I mean, really. Dill pickles do not need sugar!

However I did want to mention one tidbit that might be handy. The instructions say to tie the spices in a bag. I’ve heard that you can use a tea bag (the kind you buy empty and put loose leaf tea in to steep). But I don’t have any of those lying around, besides, I don’t like to use disposable if I can help it. You can tie the spices up in a square of cheesecloth or fabric, but that just seems awkward. What I’ve done for years now is use panty hose.

image

Yep, I purchased a cheap pair specifically for this purpose so they had never been worn. I gave them a good washing. Snipped off the foot portion and tied a knot in the end. Then I just fill the tube with the spices and knot the other end.

image

Because the fabric is so stretchy, when it is time to clean, it is a simple task to unknot it, turn it inside out over the compost bucket, and then rinse and wash. And since it is nylon, it dries almost instantly, too.

So once I had the pickles all canned, it was time to deal with the apples. The Hubby and Princess Girl helped cut them up. Because they were so wormy we only got about half of each apple for the pot. The wormy parts went into a bucket to be fed to the chickens. No waste that way.

image

I put them on the stove to cook a bit and while they were heating, Princess Girl and I attacked the zucchini.

image

image

I shredded, she packed. We put approximately two cups into each bag since that’s what most of my recipies tend to call for.

We did not blanch the zucchini. I have seen directions that call for it, but in my experience, it has never made a difference in the end product.

I got called away to help Mom with some stuff and when I came back I found that the apples on the stove had cooked down to apple sauce!

image

I realized I had cooked them too long to make cider, so I changed my plans and decided to make apple butter instead. Unfortunately, all the peels were still in there. I know some people cook their apple butter with the peels on and they eventually break down into the sauce, but I believe that lends a bitter taste to the sauce and resulting butter. So, I strained out the peels.

image

(Gotta teach Princess Girl how to take clearer pictures!)

I spooned the peely sauce into a mesh strainer and by tapping the strainer “ears” on the rim of the bowl and stirring the sauce in the strainer, I got most of the sauce separated from the peels.

image

Another of Princess Girl's photos

Even though the apples were not real sweet, the sauce is some of the best I’ve made. I think that is because usually I use the Victorio strainer and it mashes the peels up and strains them out. And while the peels don’t end up in the final product, I think some of their flavor does.

image

Princess Girl told me I have to keep this picture and post it. 🙂

At any rate, I got all the peels strained out of the sauce (more food for the chickens!) And ended up with 10 cups of sauce which I put in the slow cooker with some cinnamon and clove. I will let it cook over night.

image

I have to buy some honey tomorrow to use as the sweetener since we don’t have enough at the moment.

image

Princess Girl helped me finish up the zucchini and get the bags ready for the freezer.

image

Twelve pints of pickles canned, 6 bags of zucchini in the freezer, and apple butter cooking in the slow cooker. I’d say it was a productive day.

And tomorrow we go pick apples and plums.

I love harvest season and knowing that I am providing healthy food for my family. And it’s especially great when I get that food for free!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121