January 17, 2019

What I Bought With My Christmas Money

For Christmas, I received an unexpected and rather generous gift of cash. I pondered what to do with it for a bit and then started a search on Craigslist. For a number of years now, I've wanted to replace my old sewing machine. But I didn't want another electric one, I wanted a treadle machine.

In my back-to-the-land days, I used to use a treadle sewing machine. We didn't have electricity although we didn't refer to it as being off-grid. Solar panels as we know them now were still being developed, so when it came to electricity we simply lived without. That's how living off the land was done back then. So I have some treadle sewing experience under my belt, even though I wasn't going to fool myself into thinking I still have the same dexterity as I did back then! But maybe it will be like riding a bike. (One can hope.)

There were a number of treadle sewing machines on Craigslist with prices ranging from $350 to $600. That was more than I had to spend, so I kept scrolling through the listings until I found one for a White Rotary Treadle sewing machine for $100. The listing was a month old so I didn't expect it to still be available. But I shot off an email inquiry anyway and then started researching this particular machine. From browsing sewing forums and the websites of treadle enthusiasts, I concluded that White had made a sewing machine of excellent quality.

I received no reply so I tried again. Finally, the response came back, "already sold." I wasn't surprised;  I just put on my patience hat and kept looking. I checked Craigslist frequently, but also took a look at a modern treadle machine - the Janome 712T. It was also more than my Christmas funds, but it was tempting since it can do zig-zag and buttonholes; stitches that most antique treadle machines can't. The main obstacle, however, was that it doesn't come with a treadle stand. Treadle cabinets to fit the Janome are available elsewhere for somewhere around $1000. I found an old treadle stand on Craigslist for $65 (most of them seem to be turned into tables), but discussion on sewing forums indicated that not all old treadle cabinets will accommodate the Janome. So the Janome was out.

After several weeks of waiting, a new ad appeared on Craiglist. It was the same machine I first liked, a White Family Rotary It was priced at $150. I shot off an email and waited. A reply soon came back that it was available, and yes, I could make an appointment to see it. Here's the happy ending to my tale...


What was interesting was that the seller told me I wasn't the first one to contact them; there were three others first. They chose me because my email was the most polite!




The treadle belt is okay for now, but if I need to replace it these are readily available.

The contents of the drawers came with it.


The first one contained an assortment of thread, buttons, needles (both hand and for the machine), tape measures, thimbles, old wire screwdriver, and a set of steel knitting needles in the long wooden tube.


Bobbins are in the upper right-hand drawer, along with some 3-In-One Oil purchased by the seller. She used it some but said she decided treadle sewing wasn't her style. The case contains all the attachments.


Once I learn how to use them I'll be able to gather, shirr, hem, sew lace, make tucks, quilt, ruffle, bind, underbraid, and chainstitch. That's more than I expected!

One drawer was empty, but the last one contained the original certificate of warranty.


The machine was made on August 20, 1913, and sold to its first owner on July 6, 2014. The original manual was in that drawer too.




It's well worn and the paper is frayed and fragile, so I took it apart and placed the pages in plastic page holders. I'll start a notebook and collect all the information I can find on this machine and treadle sewing.

The seller gave it a good dusting and polished the cabinet but admitted she hadn't used it in a while. I decided I should do some research and give it a good going-over to make sure everything is properly cleaned, oiled, and in good repair. With the help of several YouTube videos, I'll be able to do all that and more! I've definitely got my winter weather project cut out for me.

January 14, 2019

Carport Repair Begun

One good thing about deciding to repair the carport rather than tear it down and rebuild is that Dan can work somewhat undercover when it rains. First on the repair list was replacing the rotted girder.

Old girder

The original builder made his girders by putting together two 2x8s to make 4x8 girders. One of the reasons Dan decided to repair the carport instead of tear it down, was because only one of the outer boards was badly rotted. The other girder boards were in pretty good shape. Even though he milled most of the lumber, Dan decided to buy the replacement board to avoid inconsistent shrinkage.

Repaired girder

Next was to replace the posts. He wanted to start at the back of the building which meant tearing out the front wall of the storage area.


Installing the first new post...

The ceiling is jacked up a bit to get the post in place.

A bit of adhesive will help keep it from sliding around.

Then it's checked with a level as it's fitted into place.

Next, the post on the other side and then a new beam.

First posts and a new beam in place.

Then the rest of the new posts.

Middle post

The original posts were 4x4s; Dan's are 6x6s. He used the old posts to make some of the knee braces.


The front beam turned out to still be pretty solid so Dan didn't replace it. But he did add proper bracing.


Then the center posts.


The building is much sturdier on its feet!


The roof is next.

Carport Repair Begun © January 2019

January 11, 2019

Weather Permitting

Gosh, but we've had a lot of rain: 6.3 inches in October, 8 inches in November, 11.3 inches in December, and 2.6 inches so far this month. And that doesn't include our 3 inches of snow! With everything so wet and muddy, most of my outdoor plans have had little progress. I planned to transplant my comfrey, horesradish plants, and rugosa roses, also rescue my asparagus. Another thing I planned to do was to dig more hugelkultur swale beds in the garden. Only one has been dug and partially filled so far, but the rain keeps it flooded.

Hugelkulture swale bed in halted progress

At least it's holding water like a swale should! We've had so much rain that the ground is soft and squishy everywhere.

Even walking to the barn from the house is a chore unless you're a duck.

Dan stopped hauling up lumber for the carport for a while, because the tractor was starting to make ruts in the pasture.


If they get too deep they'll be set like concrete when they dry! In the woods, the ground is so soft that pine trees are uprooting

Root end of a tall pine.

and knocking down more of our fences!

Top end and another smashed fence.

So all this rain is not only holding up work but creating more work. On the other hand, I've had plenty of time to defrost several gallons of frozen figs and make jam. Also, study seed catalogs and start making my selections.


Goals and plans - we can make them but the weather controls their progress! Happily, we've been in a warmer sunny pattern for about a week. That's helped although more rain and snow are predicted for the weekend.

How Meowy spends her rainy days.

So how has your weather been treating you? Is it cooperating with your plans or causing you to take some detours?

Weather Permitting © January 2019 by

January 8, 2019

Carport Repair Logistics

One of the best homestead investments we've made has been our small portable sawmill. I first showed it to you in this post. We found it on Craigslist and got it for building the barn. If we'd had to buy all the lumber for that barn, we'd probably still be working on it, because that's how it is with pay-as-you-go. That lumber mill helped us get the job done and has more than paid for itself.

Originally the mill was set up in the driveway. That meant dragging pine logs up from the woods to mill them there. Eventually, we moved the sawmill down into the woods. It made more sense to haul cut lumber rather than uncut logs, not to mention leaving all the waste slabs and sawdust in the woods and out of sight. The downside was that our outbuildings, fences, and gates made it more round-about to take the tractor down into the woods and back. Even before Dan decided what to do about the carport, he was thinking about an easier way to transport the lumber to the project site. After running through several ideas, we decided to change the chicken yard fencing and install a tractor gate like this...

The chicken yard used to extend all the way to the workshop.

New gate and tractor path.

Now that he's ready to start on the carport, we've been discussing whether to make changes. We had talked about adding an outdoor cooking area and also thought it would be useful to store Dan's log splitter there since that's where the firewood is stored. He proposed extending the roof a bit on the left side.


With all that in mind, he began to mill the posts and beams.

Milling one of our plentiful pines.

As he mills, he brings it up from the woods and stores it in the workshop until needed.


To be continued . . . . .

Carport Repair Logistics © January 2019

January 5, 2019

Carport Question: Fix It or Nix It?

Our old carport is the first project listed on my "Project Plans for the New Year" post.


Currently, it's being used for firewood storage, but we've often discussed a multitude of possibilities for it. Unfortunately, it isn't in the best shape.


We're not sure when it was built, likely about the same time as our pantry. The construction techniques, materials, and problems certainly point to the same builder.


The siding falling off in the above photo is minor. The real problem had to do with the roof.

This is the side that gets the brunt of stormy weather.

Between an inadequate roof overhang and roofing nails exposed to the weather, the windward side of the carport was in pretty bad shape. Girders and ends of roof rafters were all rotted out.

Was it the same on the leeward side? Dan removed the composite fascia board and found everything to be pretty sound.


Pounding on the girders, however, made the whole building wobble! That wasn't a surprise, really, considering that the posts are simply set on top of the carport's brick foundation.


Because the knee braces are primarily ornamental, the builder's fix to stabilize the structure was to brace it like this...


Between that and the plywood ceiling, the old carport has managed to stay standing for who knows how many years.

The last thing Dan did was to take a peek through the front gable vent cover to get a look at the rafters. Except for the rotted ends on the one side they were in good shape.

Based on all of the above, Dan decided to work with the existing structure rather than tear it down and build a new one. First step? Mill the lumber.

January 1, 2019

Project Plans for the New Year

Every January 1st Dan and I set goals for the upcoming year. In the beginning, this was because we had so much to do that we had to prioritize and choose. Now, there is still a lot to do, but our longterm project list isn't so long and overwhelming. Much of what we do are routine seasonal activities: planting, harvesting, firewood, etc. Some of it is maintenance and repair. Those kinds of things don't make it to our annual goal list. What does, are major building projects, repairs, upgrades, and other improvements that will help us toward our goal of greater self-reliance. Here's our list for 2019.

1. Carport.


The carport has been a multipurpose building since we bought the place. It's been used for my car, storage, tool shed, and Dan's workshop. Once the barn was finished, it became our firewood storage. Unfortunately, the poor thing has been on the verge of falling down for a while now; the roof is pretty much shot and the girders need fixing. So this is project number one, with the first step being to decide whether it's repairable or needs to be torn down. It's definitely useful for firewood storage, plus it would be nice if we could create a small outdoor kitchen there.

2. Drainage. Rain runoff from our houses' largest roof surface drains into the driveway, runs down the driveway, and creates one huge puddle between the house and the barn.


The carport question is bringing it to the forefront because the water drains into the carport! Dan's previous fixes have only temporarily resolved it, and since we've had an exceptionally rainy winter so far the problem is continually before us. We're working on a more permanent solution to the problem, so expect more on that soon.

While the ducks love the big puddles, it's a nuisance for everyone else.

Those are the projects we'll address first. Two other things we'd like to make a reality are:

Poultry yard. Dan's not been happy with the chicken yard for a while, especially since we've had to keep them off pasture while we are planting and soil building. So we've been discussing options. Besides building more grazing beds, he'd like to build a house with a permanent "pond" for our Muscovies.

Solar project. We've dabbled some with solar projects, all useful, but small. My next project is a bit more ambitious, but one that I think is important. I want a solar back-up for an extra fridge and the freezer. If we lose the grid for even a couple of days in the heat of summer, there is the potential to lose a lot of food. We try to eat mostly fresh and I can a lot, but I usually have a surplus of milk and eggs in summer that I wouldn't want to lose. The freezer is important for quite a bit of our meat, also extra produce for winter freezer canning. Protecting these perishables during a power outage is important. I should have more on this project sometime later this year.

Between these and our seasonal projects, we are looking forward to a busy but productive year. So how about you? Do you have a list of goals for 2019?