December 14, 2009

Around The Homestead

Random updates, follow-ups, ideas, and observations since my last "Around The Homestead".

4 The woodstove is doing a fairly good job of heating most of the house (approximately 1500 sq. ft). The kitchen warms up with cooking, but remains cool if not chilly otherwise. The addition can be downright cold, so we've taken to leaving the door to it shut. This makes it perfect for cold storage, and also helps keep the kitchen warmer. We use a space heater to heat up the bathroom back there for showers.

4 I've also started shutting the doors to my studio at night. It takes it awhile to heat up in the morning, but this definitely contributes to keeping the house warmer all night. Fortunately my studio has a lot of windows which get the morning sun, which help warm it up on a sunny day.

4 We haven't had a lot of sunny days. What we have had has been almost 12 inches of rain over the past 6 weeks. Our daytime highs are usually in the 40s, lows in the 20s unless it rains overnight, then the lows stay in the 30s. So, no solar warmth in the studio. I do use the space heater in here if I'm working at the computer for any length of time.

4 I am wondering if this is the reason my computer monitor is acting up. It doesn't want to work when I first boot up the computer, nor if it's been sitting dormant for awhile during the day. It either flashes or goes dark. Eventually it warms up and behaves. It's only a couple of years old, so I'm hoping it's the cold that is causing the problem.

4 Thanks in part to the cold weather, we've come up with a new plan for the addition. We are considering making Dan's office a food storage, and giving him some space in a master suite we're planning. His new office space would be borrowed from our 5-foot wide hallway, which would mean walling the back portion of the hall off (which would mean I'd have to do something with the linen closet). We would use the spare room for our bedroom, the hall bath would become the master bath, and that would make him a happy camper. I've been meaning to blog about those plans, but just haven't gotten around to it yet!

4 Dan put up two birdbaths in the area I cleared right outside our kitchen window. One of them he made with cement leftover from the woodstove alcove (photo of his creation here). I added two bird feeders and a suet feeder. We get tons of birds! Spotted so far:
  • American robins
  • cardinals
  • cedar waxwings
  • Carolina chickadees
  • white breasted nuthatches
  • Carolina wrens
  • mourning doves
  • blue jays
  • white throated sparrows
  • common grackles
  • rufous sided towhees
  • tufted titmice
  • blue birds
  • mockingbirds
  • downy woodpeckers
  • red-bellied woodpeckers
  • purple finches
  • brown thrashers
  • yellow rumped warblers
  • house finches
  • and an unidentified sparrow.
4 We also have red-shouldered hawks and red-tailed hawks which circle overhead frequently, though they've never visited our feeders (fortunately for the birds who do). DH did see one try to pick a squirrel out of a tree in the back yard.

4 We have lots of squirrels. Lots of fat squirrels. And chipmunks.

4 I was walking in the woods the other day and came upon a red shouldered hawk feeding. I had my camera in my pocket and hoped to sneak the camera out to get a picture. It was so busy that at it didn't notice me at first, but that didn't last long. It flew off before I could get the camera out. It was eating what looked like the remains of a grackle, but all that was left was a pile of black feathers. This explains the piles of feathers I find around the place from time to time.

4 I've been reading about small scale grain growing and wondering how feasible it would be for us to try that next year. Corn sounds especially do-able on a small scale by hand.

4 Speaking of grain, I'm pleased to tell you that we're making progress on the goat fence! We are currently working on corner bracing.

4 I have decided to wait on getting Shetland sheep. The reason? A gal in my weavers' guild has Shetlands and I've learned a lot chatting with her. My problem at the moment is the large number of blackberry and wild rose bushes in the area we're fencing. She told me I'd be forever having to rescue them from getting caught in the thorns, especially as their fleece grew out. So. Goats first. Sheep later. :(

4 And speaking of goats and squirrels, DH discovered a pair of flying squirrels in the goat shed, making cozy during the cold weather. He was just as surprised to see them as they were to see him. Rascal knew they were there though, and now we know why he was meowing at the shed ceiling when we were working on the fence the other day.

4 We finished up the last of the electrical re-wiring projects. The overhead lights inside the house have been finished for awhile, but we still needed a light in the enclosed back porch/ laundry room/ summer kitchen, and a light outside the back door. Both are done and very welcome now that the sun goes down so early.

4 Besides the fruit and almond trees, we planted two more Leyland Cypresses, which finishes out the row along the field.

4 This week we plan to sand the dining room floor. We'd hoped to have it all done by now, but between Dan's work schedule and needing to plant all the new trees, we are just now getting to it.

4 Consequently I have no Christmas decorations up. One reason is because my china hutch won't be available for my Christmas Village until I can finally put it in the dining room. The other reason is because we've decided to do the dining and living room floors at the same time, so, no Christmas tree. Yes, doing both rooms together makes a bigger job, but I'm afraid our momentum and enthusiasm will fade away if we try to make these two separate projects.

4 Indoor painting projects include the living room ceiling, walls, etc, and trim and doors in the bedroom. Photos one of these days.

4 Outdoor sanding and priming of the siding isn't making much progress with all the rain. I have finished the front of the house though, so at least our house doesn't look like the neighborhood eyesore anymore.

4 I have found a good source for local, pasture raised, grass fed meats from animals given no hormones nor antibiotics. I can buy combination boxes of beef, pork, and chicken, delivered right to my door. Buying in bulk like this is more economical than buying individual packages of similar meats from the grocery or health food stores, and makes me very glad I invested in a chest freezer earlier this year.

4 I've decided not to give my Rose Hip Jelly for Christmas gifts after all. It appears to have a, well, an, er, um, *ahem* "medicinal" effect. Perfect for constipation, but not for toast!

4 Some days everything seems quite overwhelming. There's so much to do; much more than our dwindling savings can accomplish. We are careful to budget and prioritize, but the more we get to know our old house, the more its needs become apparent. If I dwell on it all too long I get discouraged and question whether or not this place and this lifestyle are really the best choice for us. I wonder if we've bitten off more than we can chew.

At times like that I consider the alternatives. I remember how I felt during those 3 and 1/2 years of apartment dwelling before we found this place: I was frustrated with our indoor lifestyle and restless like a caged animal. If it hadn't been for my fiber arts, I think I would have gone into a tail spin. That reminds me to take stock of all the blessings we have living here. I also remember that there are freedoms to a self-sustaining lifestyle that make all the work worth it.

Whew, that was a lot to catch up on. The question now is,

.... did I forget anything?

Around The Homestead
is copyright December 2009 by Leigh at


Life Looms Large said...

Thanks for all the updates!

How cold does it get in the room where the computer is? Our house routinely gets down to 50 at night and our computers are fine with that. That doesn't mean temperature can't be affecting yours. I've usually had more trouble with computers when they're too hot. (Maybe because I have northern computers and you have southern ones....aren't I hilarious!?)

Interesting that you found a red-shouldered hawk feeding on a bird. Around here, small birds have to watch out for sharp-shinned hawks and Cooper's hawks, but our red-tailed and broadwing hawks hunt other things. Chipmunks have to watch out for all hawks I think....and yet we still have many somehow.

My friend in Maine grows a small patch of corn every year. Maybe 3 rows that are 10 feet long?? That's all I know on that subject, but it does seem like people grown corn more often than something like wheat.

You guys have done so much. Wow!! No wonder you're feeling a bit tired and overwhelmed.

I do think a house (just like life) is a constant series of things you can choose to put energy into or not. I'm not good at juggling it all - and when I get to that point it usually means I need to rest some. Then things become clearer and I can figure out whether I need to change course or I just needed a rest.

You really have made amazing progress.


Julie said...

Your temps sounds pretty warm, we've only had highs in the low 20's these past weeks. But they say after today it should stop snowing and warm up a little. Don't you just love leaving where there are lots of beautiful birds and animals!

Theresa said...

Uh oh, I'm not saying the cold couldn't affect your computer but unless its sustained freezing temps, it's unlikely.
On the house, why not finish those things in progress, like the floor and painting, and take a breather from all projects? Enjoy what you have already accomplished and sit on those laurels for the rest of the winter. Your bank account will like it also. It's going to be years in production and a some R&R along the way are but a drop in the bucket but oh so necessary. Enjoy the living in it, instead of just the always doing something to it.;-)

Renee Nefe said...

you've been so busy, I think you deserve a break.

DH & I have been keeping a list of all the projects that we want to do. It has been helpful for us as many of our goals aren't quite "do-able" all the time.
Right before DH returned I made him a list of projects that were things I either couldn't do myself or felt that I could do without until he returned. Since he got back Wednesday, he has completed all the tasks except for the roof, which of course will have to wait for the spring.

So are you planning to take out the spare bedroom AND the hall?

Maybe we need a floor plan that includes the changes you want to make...or did you already do that?

Leigh said...

It's not the computer - that starts right up and runs fine. It's the monitor screen that balks. I can't see what the computer is doing.

Sue, I don't know what the temp gets to in my studio at night, I'll have to leave a thermometer in here to see. I know the addition has been 42 F with no heat. This morning our outside temp was only 40 F, so it didn't feel as chilly in my studio and the monitor came on with no problem.

After reading about it, I can see why corn is commonly grown on small farms and gardens. Evidently up to an acre can be done completely by hand. Wheat and other grains would be more difficult to harvest by hand.

Julie, obviously I shouldn't complain! I do enjoy winter and miss snow from my growing up days. Of course back then I didn't have to drive in it. :)

Theresa, there's a lot of wisdom in what you say. And as Sue said, maintaining a house is an ongoing proposition. We'll see. Both Dan and I are project people, though I'm content with the garden as my project. Dan however, will either be fixing something or re-arranging the bricks and firewood! :)

Renee, no I haven't drawn out a new floor plan. We're still in the idea and discussion phase, though a floor plan would be helpful. I'm guessing this won't actually materialize for several more years. A master plan is helpful to have though, even if it is changed. We really enjoy the planning part, I have to admit.

Benita said...

Wow! After reading all of that, I need a nap!

But what you two have accomplished this year has amazed me. I check you website first thing each morning to see what new thing you two have been up to.

bspinner said...

You and your husband have accomplished so much since you've been in your new home. No matter how old your home is there is always something that needs to be be undated or fixed.

Robin said...

Wow, I feel tired. I can understand what you mean by feeling overwhelmed. Our old house really needed a lot more then what we were expecting money wise. Oh well, whats done is done. On the other hand, like you, we love living in the country with land to do things with. Hurry up Summer, I want to start planning my next garden.

Leigh said...

Benita, wow, I'm honored! Fortunately not everything on this list is a "to do." It's a lot of fun to transfer them to "done." :)

Barb, 'tis true. One phrase we read awhile back about old homes (and one which we remind ourselves continually) is "what can you live with." If the house has stood this long it can stand a few years longer. I think it's the "what we can't live with" that usually becomes the next project.

Robin, I'm with you regarding those gardens! I love planting things. We made the fruit trees an outdoor priority because we knew it would be a few years before they would bear. All my trees are in, but there are a few more bushes I'd like to plant, maybe in the summer(?). Some of it will just be transplanting things around the yard. A am surprised though that you haven't invested in some hoses. I have three attached together to try to get to the corners of the yard!

Robin said...

I have three hoses attached together too. But most of the trees we planted are just to far out. We also planted our trees the first year for the same reason. Best get them started before we get old waiting for them to bear fruit. :D

Leigh said...

Robin, we think alike! I admit I hand carry water buckets too. Fortunately, we've had a lot of rain. The trees we've planted (except for a few of the Leyland cypresses) are close enough to drag the hoses to, so that helps. We'll both be celebrating those first fruits!