January 30, 2010

Winter Storm

Last night when we went to bed, snow flakes were gently falling. This morning when we got up, this is what I saw out the window.....

Quite a bit different from these, taken just earlier this month. Still, not bad compared to what others of you have been experiencing.

When I went outside for a closer look, I discovered that our driveway was almost on it's way to becoming an ice skating pond.....

If the ground hadn't warmed up over the past several days, it would have been frozen solid. As it was, the ice was just a layer on top.

A closer examination showed that the white stuff on the ground was not snow, but ice crystals....

Very pretty to look at and photograph, but in our part of the country (southeastern US in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains) the ice can become unbearably heavy and do this...

This poor crepe myrtle just can't take the weight. If the ice gets too thick on the branches of larger trees, the danger is that they'll fall on power lines and we'll lose electricity.

Currently it's still raining and the temperature is barely above freezing. Hopefully this means that the ice accumulation will be minimal. In the meantime, it's a good day for staying inside and completing my seed order!

Winter Storm photos & text copyright January 2010 

January 29, 2010

Fall Garden Veggies

A few veggies from my fall garden.I haven't mentioned recently about harvesting from my fall garden. Actually I haven't harvested much, but I'm pleased with what I do get. The broccoli produced fairly well and I only wish I'd planted more. I've left it standing in hopes that it will survive the winter and go to seed, for saving.

The turnips have done great and we're really enjoying them. The carrots you see in the basket above, are the first I've gotten. Not many carrot seeds sprouted, so there aren't many for the digging. I checked on the onions and garlic yesterday, but they haven't produced much in term of bulbs.

The spinach, lettuce, and cabbage all appear quite stunted, though they're managing to hang in there. Maybe they'll make it through the winter and show a growth spurt in the spring, who knows?

I've never been very successful with a fall garden, and even though I know I could have done better with it, I'm encouraged with what we've got. Next year will only be better.

On another note, that winter storm system that has already affected many of you is forecasted to arrive here later today. If we only get the 4 - 6 inches of snow predicted, things will be okay. If it lands here as an ice storm, it's likely we'll lose power. In that case, you may not hear from me for awhile! Stay warm and safe.

Fall Garden Veggies photos & text copyright January 2010 

January 27, 2010

Colors of January

The first half of January was terribly cold; nightly lows in the teens and daytime highs not getting above freezing. Then we got a lot of rain, and after that bitter wind! Consequently, most of my "Colors of January," were taken through the window, from the comfort of my own home. :)

Our bird garden, as seen when coming around the back of the house.
There's a cardinal in one of the trees. Can you spot it?

Pair of Downy Woodpeckers at the suet.

White-breasted Nuthatch

Male Rufous-sided Towhee

Mourning Dove & female Rufous-sided Towhee

Female Cardinal

Male Cardinal

Blue Jay

American Robins (through the front porch screen).
Almost looks like a painting, doesn't it?
I didn't do anything to the photo though, I promise.

And finally, two different sunsets taken from my front yard...

For more "Colors of January", visit Sue's blog, Life Looms Large.

Colors of January photos & text copyright January 2010 

January 25, 2010

Note To Self: Organize 1st

Have I ever shown you our coal barn?

The "Coal Barn"Why do we call it the coal barn? Well, see that little door on the right?

Let Rascal show you what's inside the door on the right.It full of coal, wood scraps and an old door. Obviously coal was the fuel source for our house at one time. Which explains why the fireplace grates were so narrow and tiny; they were intended to be coal burning fireplaces not wood.

What to do with this part of the shed has been a question ever since we moved here. We thought about removing the coal and turning it into the garden shed. But with 19 inches of coal on the floor....

It's full of old heating coalWell, as you can imagine it's not a project either one of us wants to tackle at the moment.

Still, the building came up the other day when Dan and I were talking over morning coffee. We discussed finishing up the dining room and the things we need to do to get ready for the chickens. We also discussed that, considering all the projects we've had going on, Dan's tools have been spread out in the house, on the front porch, in the car port, and in the three outbuildings. Currently everything has been moved to work on the chicken house.

We decided that before we can tackle anything on our 2010 homestead goals list, he needs to get his tools organized. The problem is that he doesn't really have a place to keep them.

I know Dan would absolutely love to have a proper workshop. That's an option. The question is though, do we want to put all our time and money into that, or is there another way we can "make do" for the time being. Granted, a barn with a workshop is in the Master Plan, but as with all things, there's the matter of priorities.

That brought us to the coal barn and the middle door you see in the above photo.

Center door is to a storage areaIt's not ideal for a workshop, but at the moment, this seems to be the best option. Hopefully once it gets cleaned out, we get all the tools moved, and Dan can get organized, projects around here will be much less frustrating. :)

Note To Self: Organize 1st photos & text copyright 

January 24, 2010

Two Blog Awards

I have recently been honored with two blog awards.

Leslie (In The Shadow of Juniper Hill) has awarded me the "Best Blog Award." Of course I am thrilled and honored. Thank you, Leslie!

The rules for accepting the award are as follows:
  1. Anyone awarded with this one must pass this “BEST BLOG” Award to 15 bloggers who he/she thinks have the best and greatest blogs.
  2. For the new awardee… To receive and accept this award, copy and save the award, then…
  3. Make a post in your blog about the award, like this one, but write in your own words, or at least a reasonable facsimile.
  4. In your post, mention the name of the blogger who awarded you, and include a link to their blog.
The second is the "Sunshine Award" from Alison (Yarn in my Pocket). I was just as delighted with this one as well. My thanks to you Alison!

To accept this award, I must:
1. Put the logo on my blog or within a post
2. Pass the award onto 12 bloggers
3. Link the nominees within your post
4. Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog
5. Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award!

I started this blog started because someone asked for pictures of our new place. In thinking about that, I reasoned that it would also be a good way for me to record our dreams, plans, research, and happenings. It would be a good way to document and keep track of our projects.

To be honest, it amazes me that anyone out there would be interested in our little homestead and what we're trying to do here. This is why every comment is cherished. And in those comments I've found kindred spirits, not to mention encouragement and good ideas.

Well, I think all the blogs I read are the best and the greatest! I know a lot of bloggers don't care to mess with awards, but I have found many of you through these links. For this award, I'm going to pass it on to bloggers that are inspirational to our homesteading interests.

Living Off-Grid at Maple Valley Farm
Throwback at Trapper Creek
Farm Folly
Living the Frugal Life
Ask Jackie
The Heirloom Orchardist
Razzberry Corner
Living Off The Grid
Woody's Rocky Ridge
Kitchen Stewardship
Garden Desk
Basic Beekeeping

Two Blog Awards copyright January 2010 

January 22, 2010

The Chicken To-Do List

The chicks are on order so now we need to get serious with our preparations.

Here's what we have to start ...

Dan cut out the door on the right & added the gate, for goats.

Goats will go on the right, chickens on the left, with a partition in between to store feed and supplies.

Entire floor is a concrete slab. Good or bad for chickens & goats?

When we bought the place, this shed was overflowing with trash and junk. I know that someone kept chickens here at one time, because the key caddy in my kitchen (pic here) has a peg labeled "chicken coop."

A fenced in chicken yard will be in back, under the shade of the pecan trees.

View of the back. The hardwoods are pecans.

Besides the fence and gate, we need to make a chicken door out the back of the coop, which will go on the lower right side of the building in the above photo.

This is how a design problem becomes a design feature.
The gap between post and corner is where we'll add a gate for the chickens.

At the back left corner of the shed will be a chicken gate, between the shed and the end post. This will allow the little flock easy free range access to the back field.

To Do:
  • Clean out coop (Done! So nice having at least one thing crossed off)
  • Remove the old sink & shelves stored there
  • Add support to roof (which is sagging in one spot. Fortunately it doesn't leak)
  • Fence in chicken yard
  • Wall off feed storage area
  • Make chicken door (from coop to chicken yard)
  • Make chicken gate (from yard to field)
  • Make brooder
  • Build roosts
  • Build next boxes
To Get:
  • brooder lamp
  • brooder bulb
  • chick feeder
  • chick waterer
  • chick grit
  • chicken wire
  • chick litter
  • starter feed
  • storage cans to keep feed in
I've also been doing a little searching on the Internet and have found some sites with ideas for homemade equipment:

The Chicken To-Do List photos & text copyright
January 2010 by Leigh at http://www.5acresandadream.com/

January 20, 2010

Bathroom Plans On Graph Paper

I've already given you the rundown on the bathroom we want to remodel and it's problems (click here.) The next step was to put our ideas down on graph paper. This is especially important since size is one of the major issues we have to deal with. I've done several floor plans. The first is the current bathroom and the others are the ideas we've been discussing. Please note that these are sketches and that the measurements have been rounded to the nearest inch. One graph square equals two inches.

You can click on any image to biggify.

Addition bath as we live with it nowThis is how the bathroom is currently.

This was an interesting exercise and I realized some things. For example, the reason the door can't open all the way is because of the quarter round moulding holding down the linoleum at the shower base.

In all sketches I'm assuming a pedestal sink, so the number of inches refers to the actual distance between toilet and sink, and doesn't account for foot clearance under the sink.

Plan A - my initial idea

The sketch assumes the measurements in the brochures are accurate, and that I approximated the curve of the shower correctly. The glass on the shower surround is clear of course, which would also help the room seem larger. The width of the pocket door is arbitrary. The sink is pedestal, so there is still leg and foot room under it for sitting on the toilet.

All our ideas require tearing down the shower wall in the middle of the room and moving the plumbing. Another major reconstruction would be putting in the pocket door, the width of which is yet to be determined. Combined with the rounded shower stall, it's placement here does give a narrower entry space in the bathroom.

Plan B - Dan's idea

As you can see, this one swaps the toilet and sink. I also put in a wider pocket door; 32 inches is about the widest we could install in a 72 inch wall. This arrangement allows better leg room for the toilet, but I wonder about bending over room at the sink! With this plan I would be able to have an overtoilet shelf unit, without blocking the window.

Plan C - which is plan B with a corner sink.

My only concern about this one is where to put the medicine cabinet and mirror! Has anyone ever used a bathroom with a corner sink? Is it weird having the mirror to one side? Still, this one offers the best free space of all. Accommodations would still be tight, but at least the occupant could change their mind without having to leave the room.

It would be entirely feasible to use the corner sink with Plan A as well. And with a corner sink it is possible to have a small corner vanity instead of a pedestal because leg room won't be as great an issue, though that would be an added expense.

No final decisions have been made yet and in fact we have plenty of time to mull this over because a couple of other things need to happen first. The project priorities are:
  • Finish the dining room
  • Finish chicken coop and yard
  • Finish goat shed and fencing
  • Then start on bathroom
The first three may not be strictly in that order, but they need to get done before we start in on the bathroom. Hopefully we'll get to that early this summer.

Bathroom Plans On Graph Paper photos & text copyright 

January 18, 2010

Dining Room Details

The dining room floor is finally done. What a feeling of accomplishment. Still, there are numerous little details that need to be tended to before we can declare the room finished.

Ttwo thresholds were needed. One between dining and living rooms, and one between the living room and the hall.

DH made them out of oak.

We stained and finished them the same as the dining and living room floors.

Then the baseboard needed to be finished. The original baseboard is 6 and 5/8 inches tall. Initially it was topped with cove moulding, which I removed for painting (as it was heavily glopped with paint.) While looking through our back issues of This Old House Magazine, DH and I noticed that all similar baseboards were finished with taller moulding, hence what you see in the photo below.

The walls aren't even so I filled in the gaps with painters putty. And since the room was carpeted when we bought the place, there was no moulding on the baseboard at the floor. We added cove moulding there.

This is the new hardware for the built-in corner cabinets. It was chosen to match the new dining room light (pic here.) The doors still need to be sanded and painted.

Then there's the swinging door which goes between kitchen and dining room.

DH is removing the old paint and will stain it before rehanging.

Lastly there'll be curtains to be put up, furniture to be moved in, dishes to be unpacked, and the walls to put things on. A lot of little things to be done but it's coming along.

Dining Room Details text & photos copyright January 2010

January 16, 2010

On The Nightstand

Quite a few of you do these posts, but it wasn't until Kathy (Sheep Thrills Farm) in particular asked the question,
OK…What’s in YOUR stack to read?
So here it is!

Can click photo to enlarge.

My stack of books changes almost weekly, and as you can see, I make extensive use of my public library. Because of the library stickers, here's my list in text including title and author:

The Friendly Persuasion , Jessamyn West (got this one from one of Cathy's reading lists)

Living with Goats: Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Backyard Herd
, Margaret Hathaway

Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens
, Gail Damerow

Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats
, Jerry Belanger

Living with Chickens: Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Backyard Flock
, Jay Rossier

Edible Forest Gardens, Volume I: Ecological Vision, Theory for Temperate Climate Permaculture
, Dave Jacke

Edible Forest Gardens, Vol. 2: Ecological Design And Practice For Temperate-Climate Permaculture
, Dave Jacke (these last two from Katrien)