September 27, 2019

Solar Project Part 5: Back Porch Preparations

[I changed the title of this series from "solar pantry" to "solar project," because we changed our original plan. Part 1 of the series starts here.]

So the plan is to move the freezer from the pantry to the back porch and put it on solar. That meant we had to do some rearranging on the porch to get ready. Like most other big projects, that meant a number steps - both planned and unplanned.

About eight years ago, when we were remodeling the kitchen, we took a detour to create a temporary remodeler's kitchen on the back porch.

November 2011 photo of my "temporary" kitchen.
Since then it's been my canning and summer kitchen. 

It served us well, because it took us another year before the kitchen was finished (before and after shots here). Once the kitchen was done I left the electric stove on the porch for canning and whatever summer-time cooking we don't do with my solar oven or Dan's grill.

About three years ago we moved the cabinet in the above photo into the new milking room of the old goat barn. In its place we put shelves.

Very handy for canning pots, coolers, laundry supplies,
my dehydrator, campfire cast iron, and recycling bins.

Now we're planning to move the freezer to this spot, so the shelves needed to be moved. That set off a cleaning binge, and while we were at it, it seemed like a good time to finish the trim around the doors and paint the walls. Years ago I put a coat of primer on the walls, but at the time we were more eager to get on with finishing the kitchen rather than the back porch. So this is how it's looked for the past eight years.

Funny how you can live with something for
so long that you don't even notice it anymore.

Dan put up some trim and gave it a coat of paint.

It feels good to finish something 
that's been unfinished for so long!

I wanted to keep at least one shelf unit on the back porch for my canners, large pots, and recycling bins, so I put it next to the stove.

New home for my my canners, canning
& cheesemaking pots, and recycling bins.

We never use the door behind it, so this seemed like a handy place. Well, it was the only place! I used to have a small table there and I'll miss that, but this solution won out for practicality.

Improving ventilation to the back porch was the next task. I used an old metal box fan in the window for years and that worked well. Then the old fan died and the new plastic one just doesn't have the strength to vent the well, especially when I'm canning. Our solar attic vent fan has worked so well that Dan installed a similar one on the back porch.

Another wall we didn't finish when we did that
side of the house. Made it easier to install the fan!

While he was working on that I started to clean out the freezer in preparation for moving it. Quite a few of the items I mentioned in Solar Pantry Part 2: Analysis could be vacuum packed instead of frozen.

I find healthy ingredient crackers and cookies at a local discount
grocery. At 50-75₵ per box they make good stock-up prepper items.

I couldn't believe how many boxes I had stashed in the freezer!
They stay fresh and moth-free when vacuum packed. How-to here.

I also use my freezer for small harvest amounts, like tomatoes, figs, and berries. I rarely get enough at any one picking for a canner load, so I pop them into the freezer and can them when the weather turns cooler. I do the same with bones for bone broth. This year I'm getting everything processed early to clear out the freezer.

Crock pot of pizza sauce cooking down.

Once Dan is done with the fan, he'll finish that wall and then we'll move the freezer. Of course, progress seems slow going right now, but that's what happens when a seemingly simple project ends up with a lot of small steps! But all the steps are good ones, and it will be nice to finally finish the back porch. It's been a good September project.

Next in this series → Back Porch Progress


Pioneer Woman at Heart said...

That's good to know about the crackers and putting them in the freezer. Thanks.

Mama Pea said...

What did we do without the Internet and blogging to record (and remember!) all the good, solid progress we've made in our building, remodeling and changing our little homesteads!?

We're in the process of a bunch of (smaller) changes here now in the last of the season before snow flies of cleaning out, reorganizing and letting go (yay!) of too much stuff we've stored for-EVAH realizing we really don't/won't need it anymore. When you're a DIY kind of worker, as so many of us are, it's hard to get rid of anything you might be able to use and not purchase new at a highly inflated price, isn't it?

Ed said...

That porch kitchen looks like a dream kitchen to me right now!

Leigh said...

Kristina, they're excellent stock up food. Makes sense to buy at such a low price. :)

Mama Pea, I so agree. My blog has been the best journal I could have had. And I agree about wanting to hold onto potentially useful things, although Dan is pretty good at doing massive clean-outs from time to time. It's seems that more new stuff is poorer quality than ever. We've never been big consumers, but we are less so now.

Ed, considering the state of your kitchen at present, I guess so! Thankfully you haven't made your remodel a DIY job, so even when progress seems slow, it still getting done faster with the crews.

Lady Locust said...

Looking Good! I don't know about you, but getting those "little" canning projects done-up and vacuuming the dry goods, marks them off the to-do list which is like a little nagging weight off the shoulders. To me those sorts of things are a relief.
You two have such fun projects!

Renee Nefe said...

Like everything else it seems, "If you give a Mouse a cookie..." but you and Dan seem to just roll with it and get it all done. Your determination is inspiring.
I know where you are is considerable warmer than here so having all the ventilation is a good thing. In my laundry room though I use the heat from the dryer to dry my line items. While I would love an outdoor clothes line, I don't see that ever happening. So I close the laundry door and hang up some of my laundry. The load with all the items that need to be hung up is the one I start with and by the time the rest of my laundry is done those items are dry (or dry enough) to be put away.

Cockeyed Jo said...

Ever wonder why one step forward leads to twenty other jobs that really should have been done already? It's the same here. I wanted to paint our kitchen cabinets last fall. I wanted to hang the cabinet doors in the back porch to dry. But if I was going to repaint the kitchen cabinets, I'd paint the new ones in my back porch kitchen as well. But Mel I hadn't finished building them yet. So I was in hurry up and wait mode.

Two of our angoras started acting sickly, so they had to be separated from the general population. Even though we had salvaged and repaired a small chicken coop and run to use as a critter isolation/hospital, I couldn't put a buck and doe in isolation together. That would really be compounding my issues. Then one of our beast layers was attacked by a stray dog. The chicken got the coop and the rabbits ended up in the old critter hospital, you guessed it, the back porch.

The fall was nonexistent and winter was upon us. My cabinets still haven't got a speck of new paint on them.But then, Leigh, you know what our spring and summer were like. Cockeyed Jo

Leigh said...

Lady Locust, yes it does feel good to get more of my canning done, although I don't mind saving the hot work until cooler weather! A whole lot of things being done now are like a weight lifted. It feels so good to finally get the details tended to.

Renee, that's a really good idea. I should figure out where I can put an indoor clothes line. It would really help sometimes.

Jo, you all sound like us! So many plans and seemingly so little progress! Pretty soon it may be too cold to paint. :o You've had a lot of re-doing going on lately. Critter issues don't help! I hope yours all recover.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

The danger of any project - they acquire more and more of a life of their own.

M.K. said...

THat back porch is looking great! Good job on cleaning out the freezer too.

The Wykeham Observer said...

More progress! I'm glad you are continuing to put that space to good use. I am thinking of building a summer/canning kitchen in the yard away from the house, so I like all the ideas. Thanks for the post. Phil

Leigh said...

TB, ha! So true.

M.K. it always feels good to get something cleaned out! Looking forward to getting it defrosted when we move it. It's been awhile for that.

Phil, I love my summer kitchen. It helps so much to keep the rest of the house cooler. :)

Chris said...

This project is coming along nicely. I can relate to going slow, to catch up on other things. If it's not saving the money to continue progress, it's learning to restructure everything else in the process of change!

I like all your ideas, and I'm enivious of your canning supplies storage. I ordered my first pressure canner a few months ago, and finding the space to store it, is, err...still in progress, lol.

Leigh said...

Chris, congratulations on your new pressure canner! It really broadens the food preservation possibilities, doesn't it? Finding a home though. I've got a similar dilemma for everything I stored on that second shelf unit. I especially have no idea where to put my electric dehydrator. I'd like to keep it on the porch because that's where I use it, but now there's no room. Such is the nature of change.

Kristin said...

Wow Leigh! You have been busy! I like the idea of a canning porch and the freezer being on solar. I assume this will help keep the freezer going if you should experience long power outages. It looks like you've made a lot of progress on a lot of projects--I just finished reading about the ducks and your new book project. Congratulations! I learn so much from reading your blog.

Leigh said...

Kristin, thanks! Keeping the freezer going is exactly my concern. In our climate, I really rely on it for food preservation. Even in winter our daytime highs top the freezing point, so I do need away to keep things cold.

Cockeyed Jo said...

Leigh, the cockeyed critters will get better or worse over time. It's a fact of this lifestyle. That's one reason we keep smaller, cheaper to replace critters for now. While we had planned for adding goats this year circumstances changed. You've got to change with the wind homesteading. Redo is part maintenance, changing directions, or expanding based on our needs.

Leigh said...

Jo, so true. Change is part of the homesteading normal. That plus the learning curve. I'm so glad Dan and I are starting with a "small" solar set-up. Hopefully it will be easier to learn and easier to trouble shoot!

Renee Nefe said...

my indoor clothes line is directly over my washer and dryer. the laundry room is hall shaped with a door at either end, so we have small screw hooks in the door frames at either end with the line attached. I just have to not hang items over the washer until I am finished with all the loads. ;) What I need is to come up with a better way of hanging items over my laundry sink so that they can drip dry there. I usually end up rigging something up as needed.

Leigh said...

Renee, over the sink would be good if you could manage it. I've thought about hanging them in the shower too. What I'd really like is one of those giant wooden clothes racks for in front of the wood heater in winter. But they're pretty pricey.