Tag Archives: Homesteading

Homestead Update: still waiting, but being productive

I didn’t realize it had been so long since I last did an update on the house progress until I posted about Pajii’s new garden beds and saw the half-sided house in the background.

So yeah, this picture was taken on January 26th. We haven’t seen our contractor since that day. Our house sits there, half sided, getting snowed on. We finally gave up on being able to get ahold of him and have found a new contactor to finish the job. They will start as soon as they can fit us into their schedule.

In the mean time, we’ve been keeping pretty busy around the homestead with other projects that needed doing.

We were blessed with unseasonably warm and dry weather for most of January and February.

Picnic lunch in the February sunshine

School outside in February?

We decided to take a Saturday and finish the concrete patio outside our completed well shed (I’m putting together a post on that, I promise). The existing concrete was leftovers from when we poured our house footers. We were hoping we’d have enough left over from the house slab pour, but the calculations on that were perfect. Not short, but no leftovers either. So we had to go buy bags of concrete to finish the well shed slab job.

Prepping the 4’x7′ section

IT’S ALIVE!!! This concrete mixer was my dad’s and has been sitting on this piece of land, completely unprotected, for at least 12 years. And it still worked!

Concrete work is dirty work.

We mixed 3 bags of concrete at a time in the mixer, then poured it into a bucket to schlep it into place.

It was actually really easy to move the concrete around such a small area with the bucket.

You can see the chicken wire we put down as an added strengthener. Every so often, we’d reach down and pull the wire up so it was floating in the slab rather than pressed down to the ground.

While Hubs mixed up another batch of concrete in the mixer, Pajii and I would scree the freshly poured stuff so it stayed level with our existing slab and the forms we built out of 2×4’s.

The finished slab. It makes getting into the well shed so much easier!

Another project we worked on was some driveway maintenance. We had put in a culvert last fall and it needed a bit of upkeep.

Adding and compacting more dirt over top of the culvert.

Hubby cleaning out some collected sediment inside the culvert.

There were a few gardening type things to do as well. Since I don’t plan to start a garden this year for myself, it was great to get some dirt under my fingernails, so to speak.

Spreading pine needles collected from our church’s landscaping. This area will eventually be our fenced in garden with raised beds, but right now it is a parking area. We thought it best to use decomposable material rather than gravel to combat the mud in this area. Besides, the pine needles were free and we were saving our church some money since they didn’t have to haul it all to the dump.

I had some flower bulbs I needed to get in the ground. So I made a couple new areas for flowers along the pathway going from the upper level down to the house pad.

This area eventually became a perennial flower bed. Once the spring bulbs come up, we’ll plant some more summer type perennials in this bed, too.

And, since I had gone a little crazy buying flower bulbs last fall, we had plenty left over to plant in other places as well, such as around our cherry trees.

Oh, and we finally finished the stairway that leads from the upper level down to the house pad.

These stairs are made from railroad ties that have been sitting on this property for over a decade.

And, if you’ll remember the panels that blew off the side of the hill?

We finally got them back up to the pad. All 29 of them.

Even Flower Girl was able to help once the panels were at the top of the hill. The panels are heavy for a 5 year old, but she’s strong and has a will to help.

This girl, even with a gimpy knee, was amazing in getting all those panels back to the top.

So even though we haven’t been able to work on the house, we have not been idle this winter. January and February we’re filled with a lot of time outside.

And then March blew in and winter finally settled in.

So, we’re back to being stuck inside and working on other projects.

But Spring is just around the corner. And our new contractor said it shouldn’t take much more than a week to finish the siding and roofing once they get started. Rest assured we’ll be shouting from the mountainside when that blessed event finally happens.

In the meantime, keep warm and busy friends.


Garden beds

In February, we had a run of really nice weather and it got us itching for spring. Pajii in particular is really missing being able to garden. His garden up in Oregon, though small, was prolific and beautiful.

Pajii’s garden in Oregon – 2014

So, since we couldn’t work on the house (still waiting on our contractor to finish the walls and roof), and we had such nice weather, I decided to knock together some raised garden beds for Pajii to work in come spring.

I decided to use our wood left overs from the concrete forms for the house foundation.

This is only some of the wood we reclaimed from our forms for the foundation.

I measured and cut and organized and got all the pieces sized and ready to assemble.

A lot of the 3/4″ scrap plywood was 8 or 16 inches wide. This made it easy to figure out how tall I wanted the beds to be.

I started by attaching my side panels to the corner 2×4 posts which I cut to be twice the height of the panel. Since I wanted to use as much of the smaller wood scraps as possible and leave larger pieces for future projects, I had to make a couple 16″ panels out of two 8″ panels as you can see in the following pictures.

Attaching a panel to the corner post

I used 1⅝” deck screws to attach the 3/4” plywood to the 2×4 posts.

Joining two 8″ panels together to make a 16″ panel.

One side ready for assembly

Once I had all four sides ready for assembly, I started screwing them together.

Clamps are your friend when working solo.

One box almost finished.

This box is almost finished. Just needs some strengthening 2×4’s around the top edge.

One of the boxes we made a trapezoid (an isosceles trapezoid to be precise 😉) to work in with the shape of the garden a bit better. You can see in the pic below where Princess Girl is helping me put on the strengthening rim boards around the top of the box. I used 3″ deck screws too attach these boards to the corner posts.

Finally got some human help. 😁

We also attached the plywood to the rim boards with 1⅝” deck screws.

Princess Girl gets some more screw gun practice.

Pajii and the Princess with a finished box.

Time to move.

Once we got the boxes put into place, Flower Girl’s chicken, Leilani, had to come check them out.

All 4 boxes in position.

We made 4 boxes total. Three of them are 3ft by 6ft and the fourth one is a trapezoid that is 5ft x 3ft x 2ft, if that makes sense. All of the boxes are 16 inches tall with 32 inch corner posts. The corner posts are taller in order to easily attach clear plastic to make a cold frame in early spring, or more likely, netting to keep the squirrels and other pests out.

I really like how these boxes turned out. I love that everything used to make them, including the screws, is reclaimed materials that were used to make the foundation of our house.

We have not filled them with soil yet since winter returned just a couple of days after we finished them. Soon, though, we’ll go get some soil and not too long after that, Pajii will be able to keep busy growing us some fresh veggies. I can’t wait!

Odd jobs

You know what?

Bronchitis sucks.

There, I said it. Now let’s move on.

And I’m so glad I can. Move on, that is. I think I’m finally over it. In fact, I felt good enough, I spent several hours working on the hillside behind the well shed.

The rocks stacked up against this hillside is a form of erosion control called riprap. When you have as many rocks as we do on our property, it only makes sense to use them when and where you can.

So riprapping a hillside is pretty easy. It’s kinda like a jigsaw puzzle putting all those rocks on there, only a lot easier because the rocks don’t have to fit together exactly. They just need to be placed in such a way that they are stable enough to walk on them. This usually just means finding the position that they lay on the ground and against the other rocks the best. It’s an easy but back straining job.

This is not a one afternoon type job. Or even a two or three afternoon job. We’ve already spent countless hours just getting it to this point. It’s not a sprint, it’s more of a marathon. This is one of those types of jobs that can seem overwhelming in the shear amount of time it will take. So, when I’m faced with a job like that, I just do a little bit each day and it eventually gets done.

And it is important to do it. If we don’t, this hillside will eventually spread itself all over our driveway through erosion. And since I can’t work on the house right now, I’m going to be keeping busy checking off smaller odd jobs from the to-do list while I can.

This is the reality of building a homestead on a piece of land from the ground up. Many, if not most, of the jobs are not glamorous or fun, but they have to get done. Just like cleaning out the chicken coop.

Which reminds me, that’s another job that needs to get done. *Sigh*

What simple but important jobs are on your to-do list?

Homestead Update: Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated. Sorry about that. I kept hoping for the “big reveal” on our house, but, well, things keep happening to keep it from being done. And by done I mean dried in (meaning the siding and roof is on.)

So I guess for now, here’s our “big reveal”. We have the frame of a house!

We hired a contractor to put the structure up for us. He started the week after Thanksgiving and did pretty well getting to this point. But then his wife had a stroke, he had some equipment trouble, we’ve had some weather related delays, and the holidays rolled around, so there the frame sits.

One of those weather delays was a bad windstorm. It blew about 30 of our siding panels and some of our rolls of insulation off the house pad into the ravine. And then it promptly snowed. We were able to get them all stacked together with rocks on them so they don’t blow any more, but they are still down there. Hubs and I have been sick with bronchitis since before Christmas and haven’t been able to do much.

Lately though, I’ve been feeling a bit better and have been able to do a bit of work around the place. I cleaned out the chickens nest boxes and today I’m hoping to get our flocks rearranged. We have two roosters (technically I think they are both still cockerels) in one small flock and I want to get then separated before the younger, bigger one starts challenging the older, smaller one.

Besides, I want all the hens to be in with the correct rooster for when we start our breeding program. Nigel (pictured below with “Lizzie” two months ago) is our man man. He will be our breeding rooster, but right now, he’s the non dominant male in a flock of 12.

I am planning on moving Fritz (our frizzle Cochin bantam rooster) and a couple of his girls up to the upper coop and bringing a few of those girls down for Nigel. And I want to do that now while their egg laying is already disrupted by the winter.

Although, they have started picking up a bit!

We were only getting 4-6 eggs a day out of 30 hens for about 2 months. Our older flock went through their first molt and thus stopped laying. And the younger flock just hit maturity when the light faded for the winter (hens need approximately 14 or more hours of daylight to lay optimally.)

But we are past the solstice so the days are only getting longer now, the older flock is past their molt, and the younger flock is moving into their prime laying time (they lay the most eggs their first year of laying.) So now we are getting roughly 10 eggs a day. And it’s only gonna get better from here.

Lately we have been having some beautiful weather. While the rest of the country freezes, we’ve been wearing t-shirts and having picnics.

And doing crafts outdoors.

And going for walks in the hills above our house.

The weather is supposed to turn chilly and rainy, possibly with snow, this weekend.

And I heard from our contractor again today, and there’s been more unavoidable delays. So sometime in the future, hopefully sooner rather than later, we will have a roof and sides put on our house. But for now, it’s still pretty cool to walk out our trailer door and see that frame rising toward the sky.

And once it is “dried in”, we get to go to town finishing off the interior. That’s going to be a blast! And honestly that’s really the only thing on our resolution list for this year. Get. The. House. Finished!

For now, I’ll leave you with one more picture of our frame until we have more to report.

I’m Back in Action! (House update)

Oy, I haven’t been that sick in a long time. And honestly, I still have a lingering cough.

But the energy – oh, the blessed energy.

I have it back!

It feels good to be able to work for more than a couple minutes and not be exhausted.

So, while not much has gotten done on the house since the slab was poured, we have been doing smaller projects here and there and ramping up for the next big push.

We finally got our shower system built in our well shed (a whole new post about that will be coming soon – I hope).

We started carting all of our building materials from where they have been sitting for over a year to down on the housepad.

We didn’t finish with that yet, but the contactor we hired to erect the structure said that he can do the rest with his fork lift. That sounds good to us!

We got all the insulation which gets put up at the same time as the metal frame. This is only R-13, but we will add more when we build the wood frame walls inside the metal shell.

We carted all the rolls of insulation up our drive and to our cargo container. Hopefully in just about 2 weeks, we’ll have to cart it all down the the house pad. We don’t mind having to move it all twice if it means it’s going on the house next!

Of course, we had some Halloween fun. My costume took so much time to put together. Whatcha think? 😉

And we had another birthday party, this one for Princess Girl who turned 12 (how did that happen?!?) She totally made out in the money/gift card department. Which is good considering she needed clothes in a bad way.

We totally disassembled all the forms and cleaned up the pad in preparation for doing some more back fill.

I was completely dreading unscrewing all those forms. Every screw head was filled with concrete and had to be cleaned out before we could use the driver to back it out. After just one section my back hurt so badly from bending over that I could barely walk. Hubs got frustrated enough he wanted to just cut all the pieces apart with a circular saw and call it good. But we are going to need to use this wood one more time when we build the forms for our garage slab, so we needed to salvage as much as possible,

That’s where a little bit of preparation came in. As the old saying goes, “Work smarter, not harder.”

By putting the forms up on a table, I didn’t need to bend over nearly as much, thus saving my back.

And by using a little tool like a straw, the clean out of the screw heads went much smoother since I could really blow all the dust out once it got loosened.

Once we got the pad cleaned up, we needed to prep the slab itself to bring in more fill dirt to raise the ground level to slab height. In order to do that, we needed to finish wrapping the footers and slab edge in foam insulation. We had done the bottom 16 inches and then backfilled that months ago. So we had the final 16″ to do. Convenient since the 4’x8′ sheets of insulation have snap lines at 16″ sections (thus giving 3 sections that are 16″ x 8′ per sheet). Except that I forgot that each piece needed to be 14.5 inches because of a recessed lip on the edge of the concrete. which means we needed to cut the foam sheets rather than snap them on the pre-scored lines.

Oh, well, at least it is super easy to cut. I actually set the depth of the saw to not go all the way through the foam. That way, I could set the sheet of foam on the slab, make my cut line, then snap the last little bit. This was really good since the winds were blowing about 30mph that day. You can imagine what happens to lightweight foam in 30mph winds! Any time we set a piece down, it had to have something heavy on it to keep it from blowing clear away.

Once we got the foam on the sides of the slab, we could start having dirt trucked in.

Since we no longer have a backhoe or anything, we are doing all the spreading by hand. It takes a lot longer, obviously, but it’s free.

Hubs and I spent most of Saturday getting our water supply line hooked up so we can bury the connection. We also made a water run to my moms for fresh water (still don’t have a treatment system for our well water put together yet).

We are feeling very blessed at the mild weather we’ve had so far this Fall. We are hoping and praying it holds out for just a couple more weeks till we can get the structure dried in.

In the mean time, the girls have been having fun playing on the slab.

House Update: cured slab

I had lots of plans for this week while the slab cured. Moving our shower into the well shed. Cleaning out the chicken coops. Rearranging flocks and coops. Stripping the forms off the slab. Etc, etc, etc.

But my body had other plans. I mentioned in passing in the slab pour post that I got sick the day after the slab was poured. Sad to say that I’ve basically lived on the couch ever since.

(An actual representation of how my week has gone -when I’m not hacking up a lung.)

Here it’s been an entire week and the only things I’ve done are things that I can do with little effort. Except for Flower Girl’s birthday party. Sick or not, my baby turned 5, so, you know.

But, Pajii and Princess Girl have been life savers.

Princess Girl helped us begin the dismantling process on the forms.

When the danger of freezing nights was over, she and Pajii got out on the slab and folded up all the concrete blankets.

When we had a windstorm that nearly blew away all our plastic off the slab, they got out there and fixed it.

And today, Pajii worked on stripping the rest of the forms off the sides of the cured slab.

I’m so thankful to them both for doing the work that needs to be done while I can’t do it.

Hopefully I’ll kick this thing soon and we’ll be off and running again. Hopefully while the weather is still nice.

For now, I sleep.

Do yo own thang

Weird title for me, I know, but I’ve really been thinking about this subject lately.

Do what works best for you.

You see, I posted this picture on my Instagram recently.

I was nearly instantly criticised (*ahem* Mom) for not hanging my clothes properly.

“Your grandmother would have made you rehang all those clothes properly.”

(To be fair to my mom, she was only joking. Not that grandma wouldn’t have had me change it. She would have. Oh, she most certainly would have. But my mom doesn’t actually care how I hang my clothes.)

But the conversation with my mom got me thinking.

I know how to properly hang clothes on the line. But I don’t for several very good reasons.

First of all, we don’t have space on our clothes line for each article of clothing to be spread out single file. In that picture above, every clothespin is holding two articles of clothing and they are hung in such a way that they take up as little space as possible. You see, I am not very good horrible at doing a load of laundry every couple of days to stay on top of it. And that’s when we’re not busy building a house. So before I know it, the laundry basket is piling up and I’ve got 4 loads of laundry to do.

And while clothesline drying is the only sensible option living off-grid as we do, we don’t have a good place for a long enough line to accommodate 4 loads of laundry. I know, I know, we live on 40 acres. How can we not have space?

Well, partly it’s because we don’t have good trees to tie a line to. The space we have our 25′ long line at is the only space between two suitable trees that was within a feasible distance from the space we are living. And now that the washroom is in our well shed (pictures to come soon!), the clothes line is actually kinda far away from where the clothes are being washed.

And partly, we just haven’t gotten around to putting up a new/additional one near the well shed because, you know, building a house.

And partly because we don’t want to put a lot of time and effort into something that’s temporary. Once the house is built, we will put up a (larger) clothes line near it. So for now, I am stuck with the one line I have.

Another reason that I don’t hang clothes “properly” is that living here in the windy, arid high desert, clothes dry a lot faster than they would have in my grandmother’s home of humid Ohio. Especially on a hot summer day, but even on a mild fall day like today, I am constantly amazed at how fast those clothes dry.

And the last reason I don’t hang clothes the way my grandmother would have is because I don’t have to worry about ironing like she did. I mean, seriously, I don’t think I own more than three articles of clothing that need to be ironed. And those are dresses that don’t get worn or dirtied very often. And when I do wash them, you can bet that they get hung on the line “correctly” so they don’t get so wrinkled.

So what’s the point of all of this? This post isn’t really about doing laundry. It’s about the fact that I do laundry the way that works for us in our current situation.

And that’s the great thing about homesteading. There is no single “right” way to do it. We all have the freedom to do this homesteading thing in such a way that it fits our family. And as our situations change, we can do things differently. If we want to, that is.

I’m reminded once again of a quote that is usually attributed to Theodore Roosevelt,

“Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” -Bill Widener. Source)

While I do believe there is a set of moral rules we Christians should follow, when it comes to homesteading, you are free to do yo own thang. Even if it’s not how others would do it.

And that is a beautiful thing.

Just like my jumbled up clothes drying on the line.