March 2, 2010

Around The Homestead

Random updates, thoughts, ideas, and project happenings since my last Around The Homestead.

I finished transplanting the mystery bulbs, daylilies, and azaleas in mid-January. Fortunately we had a few mild days and the soil dried out enough to make this a pleasant job. The mystery bulbs turned out to be daffodils, the first of which was featured in my Colors of February.

Dwarf lemon.  Click to enlargeDid I ever mention that I have a Meyer dwarf lemon tree? I bought it a year ago, before we knew we were going to buy this place. It resides in my studio and must be happy because it is growing some new leaves, photo on right.

In garden news, I've planted my boughten cabbage plants and have new leaves on the recently planted strawberry plants. No sign of the peas yet.

We have mice in the attic. Rascal heard them first. He was dying to get up there, but there's no way, with all the blown in insulation. Dan has been using mouse traps and cheese and we've caught four, but none since.

I'm still getting turnips and an occasional carrot and broccoli from my fall garden. The onions and garlic are still doing well. Amazingly the cabbages and lettuces I planted last fall have somewhat survived our winter. They look mighty stunted but I'll wait and watch to see what they do. Beets didn't do well. The spinach is starting to show from under the mulch, so we may get spring spinach after all.

Love that sourdough!  Click to enlargeI'm finally getting the hang of sourdough bread baking. My loaves rise well, have good texture, and good taste. I'm using my "sourless" sourdough recipe from this post.

In addition to sourdough, I'm still making sauerkraut. In fact I started my third batch about a week ago. I went back to the first recipe I used because we liked that one best. I'm experimenting though, one quart includes carrots, one onions, and one plain. I also made a quart of lacto-fermented turnips from my garden. Looking forward to trying that.

Let's see. Dining room. Most of the finishing details are done and we're getting furniture moved in. I'd like to find a darkish blue area rug to put under the dining table and chairs. Other than that, all I have to do now is get a drill bit so I can put hangers in those cement board walls and hang a few things up on my walls!

I'm going to wait to finish painting the living room until after the new front door is in. I figure it'll be easier just to paint all the doors and trim at the same time.

This gives me time to think about living room colors. Basically it is the same color scheme as the dining room. But.... while the gold looks good as a trim / accent color in the dining room, it would overpower the living room. Why? Because, including the double French doors, we have a total of seven doors in the living room, all with wide trim. Traditionally doors are painted the same as the trim color, and that would promote the accent color to a more dominant part of the color scheme. I like the gold, but not that much. So. I'm thinking through my possibilities here.

Like everybody else, we're trying to decide what to do with our tax refund. Because of the first time home buyers credit, this will probably be the largest refund we will ever get. We need to spend it wisely. One of our New Year's goals, is to make a decision about heating and cooling. The woodstove has limits, and cooling is another concern. Not only in terms of cooling the house, but in terms of controlling the humidity with it's accompanying mold and mildew. Have been researching systems in hopes of finding something both energy efficient as well as affordable.

~ Insulation goes hand and hand with this. Besides our breezy front door, we've experienced a few other problems. For example, on really cold days and nights I can hold my hand about eight inches from the outside bedroom wall and feel the cold pushing in. The walls themselves are almost icy to touch. In investigating this, Dan went down into the crawl space and discovered gaps between the walls and the floor. This enables cold air to flow up between the walls. We plan to plug these as a first step. Second step is to determine what, if any, insulation is in our outer walls.

Along these lines, we have put up blankets in a couple of doorways to help contain the heat in the parts of the house we use the most. We have one blocking the back room of the addition, and the other in the spare room doorway (which has no door). Dan noticed though, that the blankets do not hang still, but pulse with the air currents behind them. They almost look like they're breathing, another indication that the house is too drafty.

Priming the siding of the house came to a halt because of all the rain and cold. Although I'm looking forward to getting the house painted, perhaps the delay will end up being a good thing. If the outer walls have no insulation, we might want to consider adding some. And if the original wood boards under the vinyl siding are in really bad shape, we may need to replace them. These two projects could be done together. More investigation is necessary before making a decision however.

Goat fencing too, is on hold. We've had so much rain that quite a few folks in the area are having problems with fencing. Their fence posts either starting to lean or downright falling over. We've been working on the bracing and are hoping for some drying out time so we can get back to that project soon. It would be nice to get a few goats before that field is completely overtaken by brush.

I just gave you an update on our chicks, so no need to mention that.

It's snowing again today. I know won't feel this way in a couple of months, but right now I have to say that I'm tired of all the cold, wet weather and am looking forward to warmer days ahead!

Text & photos of Around the Homestead are copyright 


charlotte said...

Hi, I just read an article in a Norwegian newspaper about Mark Boyle, who has been living without money the last 10 or so months, and I immediately thought about your posts on homesteading and living independently. Here's a link to an article in the Guardian:
Mark Boyle founded also the freeconomy community, and the site is quite interesting, here's the link

Cheers from the other side of the Atlantic, Charlotte

Robin said...

I saw the mice in the attic part and I shivered. I HATE those little buggers when they are inside. That is pretty cool that you are still getting stuff from your fall garden. This fall I am really going to try and get one in.

Theresa said...

March always seems to be the time to look ahead to warmer days doesn't it! I too have some bulbs and pips to plant, in fact I better do it pretty darn soon, like this week. I sympathize with the insulation woes. After living in a house built in the late 1700's and one in the middle 1800's, it was a constant battle. We had great insulation in the attic spaces and great windows with storms, but could never afford to have the walls insulated in that old place. Oh, the pig? fencing panels work well for goats. They are stiff, narrower spaces at the bottom and easy to put up. Our girls haven't ever escaped and as far as I know, nothing has made it in.

Benita said...

Do I sense spring fever in the air there? It sounds like you are getting all revved up and ready to go for the spring and summer.

I can't believe you are still getting veggies out of your fall garden. That is sooo cool!!!

Mice in the attic? - Welcome to the country! :)

bspinner said...

Mice. I will never forget when one ran across our head while we were sleeping. Sure did wake us up quickly. Even in our newer home we get them once in a while.

I can't imagine getting vegetable from the garden this time of the year. That's great!!

Julie said...

Your bread looks really yummy! It sounds like you are getting so much done even with the snow and cold!

Leigh said...

Charlotte, very interesting article. I have to admit that I grinned a little when he described his preparations; had to have some good money just to do those!

Still, the fact that he is living out his convictions has a real impact, on both those who meet him and those who read about him. While I wouldn't follow in his footsteps, it does confirm something else I've been thinking about, that we set an example with our lifestyles, whether good or bad. Thanks for th elinks.

Robin, all I can say is, at least they weren't rats!

Yes, the fall garden is great. I only wish I'd put in a bigger one. With your climate, you should do quite well as a fall & winter gardener.

Theresa, you know what I'm talking about! We need to purchase an HVAC system, but those insulation woes make efficiency seem unattainable no matter how efficient the system.

Thanks for that on the fencing panels too. I've thought about them and wondered. Someone else's experience is the best sales pitch of all.

Benita, oh for spring! (IOW, yes, you do detect a touch of spring fever :)

Oh Barb, I hope it never comes to that. However, Rascal is a proven mouser so hopefully that's one experience we'll be able to avoid!

Julie, thanks! It is yummy. I have to admit that sometimes it seems like we're getting a lot accomplished, at other times it seems like we've got eons to go. *sigh

Life Looms Large said...

You've been busy!!

The curtain we have that hangs between our well-heated kitchen and chilly front of the house puffs out too, especially when the heat is on. (Even though the heat is forced hot water, so it's not causing tons of airflow.) Our house is very well-insulated and only 12 years old. So drafts can just be within the house too. (Not saying that's the case for you....but saying it's possible.)

Your productivity is amazing!


Anonymous said...

hi leigh, mice UGH!!! i lived in a house with a constant mouse problem for 20 years. this really worked best for us; forget cheese, peanut butter works best, and chocolate is a lovely little bonus for the little buggars. also glue traps are great! gross but great. i was so dumb at first i insisted on a "tin cat" trap, so as not to harm the little cuties, and actually named them. i would let them out on the wood pile. those little stinkers were back in the house before i was. i swear we had mice that were bred, born and died in our house and never set foot outside. so anyway if you decide on glue traps, take a bucket of water along when you check the traps. that way you can quickly drown any survivors, and there will be survivors. its quick this way, trust me. also you should know, they eat insulation, it's very nutitious, if you're a mouse.