January 31, 2011

Kitchen Remodel: Starting To Plan

At long last, we are ready to start thinking ahead to our 2011 house project, the kitchen. (Yay!) Waiting almost two years before getting started on it may seem a long time, but honestly, I had to live with it to know what I really wanted. After all the kitchen is the heart of the home, the homemaker's workshop.

I've done a lot of thinking though. And I've blogged as I've thought:
  • The kitchen as we first saw it is in this post.
  • What we did to make it temporarily livable is in this post.
  • And all my initial thoughts about my kitchen are in this post.

There are lots of things that need to be figured out before we can actually start, and that's why we've been brainstorming. We've developed a system for that as we've tackled our various house projects. The rules are simple:
  • either of us can toss out any and all ideas, no matter how wild, expensive, extravagant, bizarre, simplistic, or silly 
  • all ideas are written down in a notebook
  • no value judgments are placed on any of the ideas during brainstorming. No preferences expressed, no problems pointed out, no criticisms allowed, and no decisions are made at that time

Besides cost, final decisions must meet only one of the following criteria:
  • we must agree about any particular idea, either for or 'agin'
  • one feels strongly about something and the other is neutral, we'll go with it
  • we feel strongly about opposite outcomes means that idea is out
  • if either of us is undecided on anything, we wait. 

This method works very well for us and we haven't had fight One about any house project so far.

So here are the notes from our recent kitchen brainstorming session. These are the preliminary ideas, nothing written in stone, just things we're in agreement about. They are not necessarily in the order we'll work on them, and much of it obviously still needs to be worked out.

[NOTE: All images are displayed as small. Click on any one for a larger view.]

Floor plan (proposed): For comparison, current set-up is here.

Click to enlarge

All measurements are approximate. Walls, doors, and window measurements were all rounded to nearest quarter foot and may or may not include trim.

  • challenges included the shape of room & placement of the 2 windows and 3 doors
  • want a dining nook
  • change location of back door 
  • need cat door to back porch
  • move electric stove to back porch/summer kitchen
  • incorporate part of the addition as a short hallway to bathroom, pantry, & utility room (finish same as kitchen floor)
  • add phone line to kitchen

The "what's it doing in the middle of the room" Post

The Post
Would you be surprised if I mentioned that the location of The Post is a tad annoying?

  • remove!!!
  • function? Determine. Wall is load bearing but why would anyone design a kitchen this way? (Just wondering)
  • resting on top of a crawlspace floor beam 
  • in attic, does anything need to be done to eliminate it?
  • replace with corbels?


cracked tiles & missing grout
I used to love the look of ceramic tiles in a
kitchen. After living with them however, I've discovered I don't like them after all. For one, I'm a klutz and it cracks when things are dropped on it. For two, grout is missing and traps all manner of dirt, etc. And third (Dan's reason for nixing it), it's freezing on the feet in winter. Plus, I don't like any floor with a non-skid texture to it. The little grooves trap dirt and are difficult to clean.

  • floor needs to be reinforced first
    • for additional support under cookstove
    • because floor joists are on 24" centers (16" is the usual)
  • bridging improperly done (photo of same problem under dining room floor here, what we did about it, here)
  • needs leveling(?) - Dan's deal
  • floor going in to addition is slightly lower. Need to raise it to level with kitchen. 
  • good bye ceramic tile
  • may need new subfloor
  • cement board subfloor under cookstove
  • thinking about a plank look floor. Need a marine type finish?
  • exception - ceramic or terra cotta tile under cookstove where a noncombustible is needed


nuisance post & beam
  • keep the tongue & groove ceiling
  • use existing beam to differentiate kitchen and dining nook?
  • add beams in kitchen for a rustic look 
  • dining nook, decorative tin ceiling tiles? (with no beams)


cracks in T&G
Initially I was calling the walls, "beadboard." That is incorrect. They are actually tongue and groove. The problem we've noticed since moving in, is cracking between the individual boards. Paint covered this up when we first looked at the place in March 2009. Now it's noticeable and we need to figure out what to do. Do we want to replace it? Do we want to try and find a fix?

water damaged(?) wall
The worst problem is under this window. You probably can't tell from the photo, but the paint is peeling and the boards are buckling from what looks like water damage. The window is not the original, and in fact we wonder if there wasn't a door here at one time. This section of wall will have to be removed and replaced. 

  • replace all or part of the T&G? (I'd like to keep at least some, maybe on the inner walls?)
  • seal cracks in T&G? How?
  • insulate outer walls? Replace T&G with sheet rock?
  • add tile backsplash behind counters
  • behind cookstove?
  • color - light but not bright white


  • not original, were replaced at some point
  • replace again? 
  • replace only aluminum storm windows?
  • remove moulding and insulate around at the very least
  • better replace moulding while we're at it


crookedy back door
There are three doors going in and out of the kitchen. The first is the back door, photo on left. It is not square, and is an odd size, 29 & 1/2 inches wide, 76 & 1/8 inches tall on the right side, 76 & 7/8 inches on the left side. I don't know if you can tell from the photo, but the top of the door is cut at quite an angle. Initially we were just going to replace it, but now I think we'll move it too, as shown in the proposed floor plan.

pantry quilt door
The second is a French door (photo right) going back into the addition, so called because it was added on to the house in more recent years.  This door always stays open because there is no heating & cooling duct in the bathroom back there. But, since I keep the pantry unheated in winter, I need to be able to close that part of the house off. Currently I use a quilt (sadly not homemade) to keep the pantry cooler, and the kitchen and bathroom warmer.

We also we have a swinging door between kitchen and dining room. No photo, as it was taken down when we did the dining room floor. It's currently in a neglected stage of refinishing, photo of that here.

  • new back door for sure
  • Move location of back door? See floor plan and "The Post" photo above
  • add cat door for cat access to back porch
  • eventually finish & rehang dining room door
  • remove French door from current location and use as door to pantry?


note circuit panel
behind the stove
If you click on the photo on the right to enlarge it, you will notice that the service panel is behind the stove. When we moved in, the refrigerator was there, covering it up!

  • move circuit panel to utility room
  • lighting: over dining nook and work areas
  • ceiling light - do we really need one?
  • ceiling fan for sure
  • add outlet for peninsula


  • replace sink with deep double
  • maybe hook up ice maker (line is already there from old dishwasher, which will be removed)

Cabinets, cupboards, & shelves

  • I like a galley style kitchen and current set-up is fine
  • proposed plan allows for two areas of countertop for workspaces. 
    • dedicate one to working with small appliances
    • keep the other clear for mixing, rolling, cutting, etc
  • peninsula will need to be shortened though, due to required clearance in front of wood cookstove. Have enough room though to widen it to at least 30 inches to help make up for that.
  • reuse as many of the old cabinets as possible, but replace doors
  • except the too tall wall cabinets. replace those with a wall of shelves, cubby-holes, and small cabinets
  • already have
  • customize shelves and cubby-holes for my tools & gadgets

We certainly have our work cut out for us don't we? This is going to be a pay as we go project, so going will be slow, though we really can't work very fast anyway. This is why this is the only house project on our 2011 goals for the homestead.

The plan is to start with the additional support for the floor, and figure out what needs to be done to remove that post. We still have a lot of research to do and decisions to make. I'm just happy to be getting started on it.

January 29, 2011

Brown Sugar Bargain

I scored on organic brown sugar the other day. I got six, 24 ounce packages for fifty cents each, because the contents were hard as rocks.

The price was just too good to pass them up, and I figured I could do something with them. I've put rock hard brown sugar through the blender before, and was willing to do that again if need be, but figured I do a little research first. Turns out there are several ways to soften brown sugar.

The first is with heat, either in a microwave (30 seconds on high) or conventional oven (250 F, watch carefully).  Heat will soften it again, though apparently once the sugar cools, it will harden again.

I don't have a microwave and anyway, I wasn't too keen on having it harden again. So I opted for another method.

The way to return brown sugar to its original softness is to add moisture. That can be done like I did in the photo on the left.

I put it in a bowl, covered it with a wet dishtowel, and then zipped the whole thing in a 2 gallon ziplock bag. I left it sit on the kitchen counter until the next day, and then uncovered it to check on it's progress.

It was mostly soft, with a few small hard lumps, so I let it sit a few hours longer. Then I put it into a glass container, pleased with the result.

There are a number of ways to keep it soft too:
  • store in airtight container
  • store it in the fridge
  • use one of those terra cotta brown sugar discs or bears
  • put an apple slice in the container (works for cookies too)
  • put a piece of bread in the container (this is how I keep cookies moist and chewy)
  • put a marshmallow in the container (haven't tried this! Someone let me know how it works!)
For longterm storage, brown sugar can be kept in the freezer. I confess I don't have enough room in mine, but since it doesn't really go bad anyway, I'll just use the above method to soften it when I need to.

January 27, 2011

Mindset: Key To Successful Homesteading?

Something has been on my mind lately. It's been important for me to figure out, because it seems to be key to successful homesteading. It's about mindset. It's about our expectations and attitudes, particularly, about what we need, what we have, and how we get them.

The early inhabitants of the New World, both Native Americans and European immigrants, had to be largely self reliant in meeting their needs. This affected what they did and how they did it. The industrial revolution changed all that. It changed our ability to obtain goods and it changed how we obtained them. It also changed society's ideas about the value of those goods, as well as work and money. While many would say we gained a lot thanks to technology, many would say we lost something as well. Something very important.

My observation, is that one major difference between then and now (besides the obvious fruits of technology and industrialization themselves), is how these things have changed our worldview, i.e. our mindset. By this I'm referring to our attitudes, expectations, and perception of the world, it's resources, our fellow humans, their purpose, and how these things interrelate.

My labels for these mindsets are "agrarian" and "consumer/profit." I'm not the first to write about them, and others have different names for the consumer/profit part. I'm choosing the term “mindset” because although agrarianism is often set forth as theory (social and/or political), that seems too superficial to me. Labeling it a theory is like trying to keep it into a box, which can either be set aside, or opened at will to examine and dissect the contents, as though they are not a part of what the human race is about. The heart of the matter goes beyond theory and politics.

At the core, both of these mindsets are about our relationship with the land, or the earth if you will. They are about the right to own it and how we interact with it. The question at the heart of it is, are we a part of the natural world, or are we a separate entity which simply uses and controls creation's resources?

The agrarian mindset is not specifically rural. Rather it is based on what a relationship with the land can provide. Neither is the consumer/profit mindset specifically urban. Rather, it is based on what technology and investments can provide. Many career farmers have bought into the consumer/profit worldview, much to their detriment. Even so, the agrarian mindset does focus on local and regional agriculture. The modern worldview on the other hand, focuses on consumerism and profit economics.

The little ditty,
use it up
wear it out
make it do
or do without

is an example of the agrarian mindset.

Cliches of the consumer/profit mindset on the other hand, include:

time is money
quick and easy
buy now, pay later
I'm worth it

Here are more examples, comparing the two. Their order isn't particularly logical, so bear with me on that. Also, I'm not so concerned about the individual examples as I am in trying to describe a whole, in this case a worldview, or mindset. As you read through them, try not to focus on them as stand alone statements, but see if you can get the gist of what I'm trying to describe.

An agrarian mindset considers the land a partner
A consumer/profit mindset considers it a possession

An agrarian thinks in terms of sustainable
A consumer/profit thinks in terms of expendable

The agrarian assumes there's value in the old
The C/P assumes new is always better

Some one with a consumer/profit mindset, will run to the store to meet a need
Some one with an agrarian mindset, makes do with what's on hand

In the agrarian mind, enough is enough
In the consumer/profit mind, more is better

An agrarian mindset thinks in terms of lifelong
A consumer/profit mindset thinks in terms of turnover

Security for the agrarian is in skills and the land
Security for the C/P is in job and investments

In the agrarian mind, a house is a home.
In the consumer/profit mind, a house is an investment.

An agrarian would prefer to pay their place off
A C/P mindset would prefer a tax write-off from the mortgage interest

An agrarian makes improvements based on meeting needs
A C/P makes improvements based on a return for the investment

The consumer/profit mind practices instant gratification
The agrarian mind waits and plans ahead

An agrarian mindset focuses on skills to meet needs.
A consumer/profit mindset focuses on money to meet them.

In a consumer/profit society, life's goal is happiness, fun and leisure.
In an agrarian society, life's goal is contentment and personal productivity.

An agrarian mind thinks in terms of community
A consumer/profit mind thinks in terms of demographics

The agrarian deems it a social responsibility to help others
The consumer/profit assumes that's the government's job

An agrarian based economy is about meeting real human needs
A consumer/profit economy is about making money

In an agrarian society, one's character deems one trustworthy.
In consumer/profit society, trustworthiness is based on credit rating.

The consumer/profit knowledge base relies on science and the experts.
The agrarian knowledge base relies on experience and common sense.

The agrarian mindset accepts life's uncertainties.
The consumer/profit mindset wants guarantees.

The C/P practices impulse buying
The agrarian practices planned purchasing

The C/P mindset assumes debt is a way of life
The agrarian sees debt as a means to an end

The agrarian looks for a fair price
The C/P looks for a fair profit

The agrarian is willing to share work, knowledge, and skills
The consumer/profit only looks to make a little money off them

The agrarian mindset looks to make a living
The consumer/profit mindset looks to make a fortune

The agrarian strives to be self-sustaining.
The profit mindset strives for consumer dependency

The agrarian thinks in terms of reusable
The consumer/profit thinks in terms of disposable

The agrarian mindset sees money as a tool.
The consumer/profit mindset sees it as personal importance and power.

To the agrarian, quality defines a product that lasts a lifetime
To the C/P, quality is a subjective interpretation

The C/P mindset determines value based on money; “how much is it worth”?
The agrarian mindset determines value based on utility; “is it useful?”

The profit minded business person says, 'This product is important. You need it. You need to be willing to sacrifice and pay a higher price for it.'
The agrarian minded business person says, 'This product is important. You need it. I'm willing to sacrifice profits to make it affordable for you.'

Some may see these as "modern" and "old-fashioned" mindsets and wonder, what's wrong with thus-and-such. After all, even agrarians consume things and some profit is necessary to buy things that can't be produced at home. That is true. However, it's neither the consumer nor the profit part that is the problem. The problem is in how we view these things. Both mindsets describe a means to an end. The question should not be which one is right or wrong, but rather, which end do you want to head towards?

I'm writing this because I have made an interesting observation. It is that despite our different social, cultural, religious, and political backgrounds, homesteaders have one significant thing in common, i.e. the sense that the modern, consumer/profit mindset is flawed. That it's forgotten things that are important. That it can provide neither true security, nor a sense of individual life purpose.

I sometimes get emails from folks who have a desire to homestead, but don't know how or where to start. While knowledge, skills, (and a little land) are obviously important, I believe that to be truly successful at homesteading (rural or urban), we need to change our way of thinking. Our success will depend on how we look at our needs and how we expect to meet them. It depends on where our sense of security lies. I do not believe that the consumer/profit mindset ultimately works for the homesteader. Not because homesteaders never buy or sell anything, but because homesteading is about simplifying our lives, not trying to replicate the modern 21st century lifestyle. It's not that the homesteader is opposed to buying or selling, but that one of our goals is to be able to live without buying or selling if we needed to.

My guess is that most of us are a mix of the two mindsets. Still, I see the importance (for us anyway) to leave the consumer/profit mindset behind, if we want to make our dream come true. We need to learn to rethink our needs, rethink how to meet them, and rethink the true value of things.

To those of you interested in homesteading, whether you are actually doing it, or just wanting to do it, tell me what you think. Tell me, what do you expect from your lifestyle? How do you determine your needs? Realistically, how do you expect them to be met? Where does your security lie? How do you determine the worth of a thing? The floor is yours.

January 25, 2011

Project Next: Water Heater

More and more things are getting crossed off the bathroom project list:
  • paint moulding
  • toilet seat
  • hang door
  • paint door
  • sink
  • faucet
  • window treatment
  • towel hooks
  • wall cabinet
  • toilet paper holder
  • insulate floor in crawlspace
  • hand towel hanger

With the end of that project in sight, Dan took some time to catch up on one of our 2010 goals, install a new water heater. The old one had started to leak and hadn't been very consistent heating water, so replacing it was moved up to "next" on our house project list.

Old water heater in crawl space

The old water heater was a lowboy model which resided in the crawl space. Not only did it make it difficult to access the rest of the crawl space, but it's location made it impossible to maintain. When we turned the back room of the addition into the new pantry, we also decided that the old pantry would become a utility room. That's where we put the new water heater.

New water heater
in utility room
Tankless water heaters are all the rage, and originally that's what we planned to install too. After some research though, we ended up with a plain, old fashioned, non-digital, non-computerized,  conventional storage tank water heater. Why? For several reasons.

The real plus of the tankless heaters is that once warmed up, they give an endless supply of hot water. Considering that the only things we use hot water for are dishes (done by hand), showers for just two of us, and an occasional bath (which the old water heater couldn't supply), having unlimited hot water really wasn't a necessity.

Energy savings is another selling point and I did some research on that. The chart on this page, was helpful. As you can see, the best savings are for the gas tankless models. We don't have gas, and the savings on the electric models wasn't as enticing. Add to that the cost of the water heater itself (double or more the cost of conventional water heaters), the cost of increased water down the drain while waiting for it to heat up, plus the fact that they require increased maintenance if one has hard water, and it really didn't seem like a wise choice for us. Two articles were useful in this decision making process:

There are other ways we can save on our water heating bill. One is to make a solar water heater to augment the electric one, and we plan to do that. The second is that our wood cookstove has a 5 gallon water reservoir, which will help.

Installing the new one was a relative piece of cake. The real fun began when we tried to remove the old one.

At first we thought we could tie a strap around it and pull it out of the crawlspace with the pickup truck. It soon became apparent that this wasn't going to work.

Dan managed to squeeze by it to see if guiding and pushing helped. It didn't.

We hooked up a garden hose to drain it, removed the insulation, and with a hacksaw, he cut off all the pipes sticking up out of the top. No joy, and by that time he was wondering if I'd be trying to push dinner and a sleeping bag back into the crawlspace for him that night. We could imagine the headlines, "Water Heater Traps Man in Crawl Space!"

In the end he had to kick out the crawlspace door sill. Fortunately it was easily repaired, but the old water heater was out!!!

Now there is more room to maneuver in the crawlspace and the new water heater is in a more accessible location.

With this project under our belts, we can start looking ahead to doing the kitchen! We've already been doing some brainstorming, scanning magazines and kitchen books, plus doing a lot of discussing. We still have to finish up the last few bathroom project details, but it looks as though the kitchen remodel will be commencing soon.

Project Next: Water Heater © January 2011 by 

January 23, 2011

Cooking With My Frozen Eggs

You may recall that I froze some eggs last summer, in anticipation of my hens not laying this winter. I've been fortunate in that three of them did continue laying. Mostly I simply adjusted my egg use, but recently considered that I'd better start using those frozen eggs because frozen foods have a shorter shelf life than most other methods of food preservation.

To try them out, I defrosted seven. Six for scrambled eggs for lunch, and one for a cake. Freezing them in the ice cube tray and then bagging them by the dozen proved pretty convenient. Each cube equals about a small egg's worth.

When defrosted they looked just like fresh. And they cooked like fresh too.

Scrambled eggs, scrapple, & buttered whole wheat toast

Did they pass muster? Judge for yourself. Here's a snippet of our lunchtime conversation.
Me: Well?
DH: Well what?
Me: How are they?
DH: How are what?
Me: The eggs! How do they taste?
DH: Like eggs.
My only negative comment is that I thought they were too salty, scrambled. The directions for freezing called for 1/2 teaspoon salt per cup beaten eggs, to maintain texture of the yolk. I did not add any additional salt when I scrambled them, but even that much was too salty for my taste. It's not that I'm particularly low salt in my use of it, I just use it according to taste. Next year I'll try using a little less and see how well we like those.

The single egg I used to make a sourdough applesauce spice cake.

The cake was perfect if I do say so myself.

Conclusion? I would not hesitate to freeze eggs again, and in fact I will. It's a great way to deal with a surplus, and it's great to still have healthy pasture produced eggs on hand even when the hens aren't laying. I also learned that I can adapt my egg usage more easily than I thought. An unexpected but welcome bonus. :)

UPDATE - NOV. 2011 - I didn't use many of my frozen eggs that first winter. My chickens laid less, but adequately so that I didn't need them. This winter however, I have started to use them. They've held up well in the freezer, with no sign of freezer burn. They have dehydrated somewhat however, so that I add a dash of milk to them after they defrost; just enough to get the consistency of fresh beaten eggs.

Cooking With My Frozen Eggs © January 2011 

January 21, 2011

Homegrown Snack: Popcorn!

Writing about preparing for the corn plot made me think that I should report on the popcorn I grew last summer.

I have never grown popcorn before, so I was very curious as to how well it would do.

I found this nifty gadget in the R. H. Shumway seed catalog last year, so I ordered one. It's a Little Stripper Pop Corn Sheller.  I looked for it at their website so I could give you a link, but evidently they don't carry this item any more. [UPDATE: They can be purchased here. Thanks Melissa!]

The ears are rubbed against the ribs inside the sheller, which takes the kernels right off.

I have to say that it was quick and easy to use. The variety is Japanese Hulless. I planted one seed packet, and got about 5 cups of kernels in return. This isn't nearly a year's snacking supply, but it's a start. Japanese Hulless is open pollinated, so the only thing I have to remember is to save some to plant next spring.

It popped up beautifully! Very tasty too. I love popcorn so I'm delighted it did so well. Maybe I'll even try a new variety next year.

January 19, 2011

Grain Patch Prep

Last week, snow. This week, rain. It's hard to believe that earlier this month we actually had some beautifully sunny, though chilly, weather. We took advantage of it too, to start on a new outdoor project.

One of our 2011 goals, is to start growing more of our own grain. Now that we have both fields fenced for the goats, we can work toward preparing to do that.

Detail from master plan. Click to enlarge.

The ultimate goal is pasture rotation, with both fields being planted in a good quality mix that can be used for both grazing and hay. One summer the goats can graze one pasture, while we harvest hay from the other. The next year we can switch. A grain patch will enable us to grow our own corn and wheat at least, hopefully more.

Our neighbor is going to plow the patch for us, but first we needed to clear the ground for plowing.

This shot was taken a couple months ago. Note the stand
of  6 - 7 foot pine trees in the field just behind fence.

Piles of pine boughs being trimmed down by the goats
The area we need to prepare is just beyond the fence in the above photo. Those pine trees were just knee high when we 1st tilled the big garden in 2009. They needed to be removed before the ground can be plowed. We've had quite a bit of rain, so the ground was easy digging.

Of course we had help. Goats are great at that. In some ways they're just like cats; they want to see what you're doing by standing right in front of you. Fortunately they are easily distracted by something interesting to eat. Having ignored the pine trees all summer, they relished the cut branches as a tasty snack.

Looking toward the back from the front corner

This is a shot from the far corner of the garden, looking over the gate at the ground to be plowed. House and outbuildings are on the left, a neighbor is to our right. It's amazing to look at now, because last summer it was so overgrown. This is the same field we had the new leachfield put in (on the left, behind the house and outbuildings). Unfortunately we couldn't do much to improve it at the time, because we had nowhere else to put the goats.

Next summer we should have a corn patch, good Lord willin' and the creeks don't rise. The goal is to grow enough for our own use (cornmeal) and the chickens. How much we will actually need, I don't know. This first planting will be something of an experiment in that regard. I have five pounds of Truckers Favorite seed corn, purchased in 2009. We weren't able to get a place prepared for it last year, so it's been stored in the refridgerator. My plan is to interplant pole beans and pumpkins with the corn. In the fall we can follow with wheat. My little patch of experimental wheat will give us an idea of how much we need to plant of that.

Growing our own grains has been one of our food self-sufficiency goals from the start, and it's nice to see it starting to materialize. I know we will probably have problems or make mistakes, but we'll learn as we go.  Experience, after all, is the best teacher.

Grain Patch Prep © January 2011 by Leigh at http://my5acredream.blogspot.com/

January 17, 2011

Gardening In January

Gardening in January hasn't amounted to much because the
garden has been snowy and the ground saturated. (Think mud)

Still, under the snow covered mulch are beets to harvest!
(And carrots and turnips too)

Have I mentioned that I love my new barn boots?
They were a Christmas present from DH.

I was pleased to find bites of broccoli under the melted snow and ice

I'm happy to announce that my cabbage seeds are planted!

And, as the catalogues come in, I order more seeds.
I'm focusing on herbs & a few new vegetable varieties.

Garden 2011 is underway! How about you?

Gardening In January © January 2011 by Leigh at http://my5acredream.blogspot.com/

January 15, 2011

Am I Spoiling My Critters?

Monday's snow has been slow to melt. By our standards anyway. Every day since, the afternoon high has managed to get above the freezing mark, but daily melting has been relatively insignificant.

About day three, I started to feel badly for my chickens. They remained under a self-imposed coop quarantine, though from time to time one would poke her head out the chicken door to see if conditions had turned more favorable for a trip outside. The chicken yard is on the north side of the coop so it gets the least amount of sun and is slowest to melt.

That's when I came up with a brilliant (or at least I thought so) way to let the chickens out, without the goats escaping.

There is a Dutch door between the goat side of the shed and the feed room, the coop being on the other side of that. I propped open the bottom of the door with a piece of firewood, but tied it with a piece of baling twine so it couldn't be opened any more than that. By leaving the coop door open (but closing the outside door, the chickens were free to wander out of the coop and venture into the goat stalls.

Everyone seemed pretty happy about that, especially since it meant getting some fresh air and sunshine.

And for the goats? Well, they had no more intentions of going out in the snow than the chickens did. So while other folks were out building snowmen, I shoveled a goat path...

It loops around back to the shed, and goes through the back gate a ways. Jasmine and Surprise were quick to follow me, but Crybaby stayed back at the barn and hollered her lungs out. When no one seemed to notice she soon followed along too. Once out, they were quick to find a few blades of uncovered green grass to eat.

The next day, the chickens made their way out onto the path as well...

As cold as it's been, I really enjoy working outside in the snow. It's funny, but snow at 25 F doesn't seem as cold as no snow at 35 F. I wonder why is that?

January 13, 2011

Oh For An Eighth Of An Inch

Everything with our bathroom remodel project has gone fairly smoothly so far: plumbing, wallpapering, wainscoting, and tiling the floor. Even the problems with the baseboard and trims weren't so bad. Our first major glitch came from an unexpected quarter, the toilet.

The old one is perfectly serviceable and the right color. Because of that, we planned to put it back and not buy a new one. Reuse after all. The problem is that the toilet barely fit against the back wall before we took it out to do the floors and walls. The back of the tank was right up against the wall. So much so, that the tank lid didn't quite fit. Add to that, our 1/8th inch thick beadboard panel wainscoting, and the toilet can't fit properly over the waste drainage hole, unless we don't mind the tank leaning forward. Who would have guessed that such a small thing could make such a big difference.

What to do.

Option #1 - Remove the beadboard from that back wall and wallpaper it instead. DH nixed that one before I barely got the suggestion out of my mouth.

Option #2 - Get a new toilet. One that will fit. How do we know what will fit? The old one (in the above photo) has a 12 inch rough in. What's needed is one with a 10 inch rough in.

The rough in is the distance between the center of the waste drainage pipe and the wall behind the toilet. 12 inches seems to be the most common, but they also come in 14 and 10 inch rough ins. A 10 inch rough in would allow a toilet to fit with a little space behind the tank for air circulation. That would actually be preferable, because when Dan took the old one out, the wall was mildewed behind the tank. Some air circulation behind it would help with that.

First we tried to find what we needed locally, but evidently a 10 inch rough in isn't common enough to have stock on hand. After quite a bit of shopping around on the internet, we finally found one with a 10 inch rough in, round bowl, gravity flush, in the color I want (white) and at a price DH was willing to pay (under $200 including shipping). The added bonus is that it is a water efficient model.

Although this presents an unplanned, unexpected expense, the good news is that there were 5 paydays in December! That gave us one extra paycheck, albeit a small one because of the time of year, with which to buy the toilet. Perhaps not how we would have preferred to spend it, but it does represent one of the first big blessings of the new year.

The new toilet only took a couple of days to arrive, and Dan installed it with no problem.

Of course, new toilets don't come with seats (!) so I have to purchase that. The tank on this one is smaller, because it only takes 1.6 gallons per flush, as opposed to the 3.5 gallons of the old one. It also has an improved flushing system, so that 1.6 gallons actually does the job. We opted for gravity flush rather than pressure assisted. The pressure assisted models are not designed to allow repairs by the homeowner, and in fact parts aren't available retail. That didn't go over very well with Dan. Not to mention they are very noisy. That didn't go over well with me.

Next step is the sink, then window covering and some other finishing details. I'm just happy it's finally starting to look like a real bathroom.

Oh For An Eighth Of An Inch © January 2011 by Leigh at http://my5acredream.blogspot.com/

January 11, 2011

A Day No Chickens Would Go Outside

Which would have been starting yesterday, when I woke up to this...

6 & 1/2 inches and still falling

I know a lot of you are probably tired of looking at snow, but this much is quite a novelty for us. We usually only get a couple inches at a time. By 2pm we had 7 and a half inches, and the snow had turned to rain. With temps still below freezing however, the rain froze where it landed and started to coat everything with a thin layer of ice. If this continues as predicted, it will mean ice accumulation and potential power outages in our area. I've set this post to publish automatically, but if you don't hear from me for awhile afterwards, that's what's happened.

It was the first time I had to get out the snow shovel and use it for snow. Usually I use it to shovel piles of leaves into the wheelbarrow.

Path from the "barn" to the house

The chickens wanted nothing to do with it....

No way

Neither did the girls....

We want breakfast in bed
Riley though....

Riley the trooper

... did his faithful duty to accompany me out to do my morning chores. I think he actually enjoyed it a bit, because he did some exploring. Instead of going back around the shed though, he came in the chickens' door and cut through the coop (much to the alarm of the chickens) to come find me measuring out a scoop of scratch.

So that's the latest from our homestead. I have a bathroom update ready to post next. Also a peek at progress on another of our 2011 goals. All coming up this week assuming I can still get online.