Sunday, April 29, 2012

End of April 2012

Whew.  Yesterday was busy, just not much done on the homestead to be.  My job Friday is often half days right now, and another gal and I got loaned out to another section of my department Friday morning to help out.  By lunchtime, we got told to go back, because everybody else's work wasn't looking too good, so we had to go help bring it up to spec, just so we could get out at 4 PM instead of our usual Friday 1 PM, and avoid working Saturday.  We JUST managed, so Saturday was free to work on the homestead cleanup.

Thursday I'd spent quite a bit of time getting the rest of the small bedroom, which will be my office eventually, cleared up so I could get that nasty carpet out of there.  Once I got that done, I dragged the carpet piece out to the front door and shoved it off the deck, then moved all the trash from the living room where it's been being stored for now, into the bedroom so we can close the door on it.  That way it can air out in there and with the door closed, the cats can't get at it once we're up there, assuming that there will still be some stuff in there to haul off or burn.  It makes the living room look much bigger.

But on to Saturday.  Up early, ran errands that could have been run Friday if I'd gotten off work early, and other things we needed to do Saturday.  So it was nearly 2 PM before we got to the property.  Quentin took a look and said WOW at the living room.  Leaves me the kitchen and front bedroom to clean up the next few weeks, yuck.  He tried to start work on the light switches and outlets, but found that while the trailer's a bit oldish:

a - it's copper wire, so no need to rewire the whole place, thank goodness.  That saves a lot of time and effort right there!  Moves up move-in date considerably, too.

b - they are the original switches and outlets, so instead of being hooked onto the side posts, the wires are pushed through the back of the things.  We didn't bring wire cutters/strippers with us, so we had to stop.

c - we need a couple other switches we didn't count on.  One double sideways switch and a couple three-way ones for the hallway.  Cheap, at least, and can be gotten next weekend, as this weekend we have the car insurance due.  Ouch.  (Next weekend is the trailer rent and the property tax on my car, and getting HIM a vehicle!)

We had gotten the camping toilet seat we needed and opted to use the doody bags with it instead of sawdust.  We are going to keep it sitting on top of a bucket with the bag going down inside it to keep it from getting torn up by cats accidentally clawing it or it getting bumped around on the floor. Speaking of floors, we're opting for the cheap fix on the floors.  Half-inch plywood, take the doors down and trim the bottom off a bit so they'll still open, and lay the new plywood on top of the existing floors, including the tiles in bathroom and kitchen.  It'll be a bit goofy, but it will work and will save a ton of time and money and effort on fixing things to be better.  We are all for saving time right now, and effort.  If we can't get him a truck next weekend when he gets his vacation pay, we can always have the 4x8 sheets of plywood cut in half and still fit in the back of my Aveo or whatever car he gets as 4x4 pieces.  Means a lot more nails if we have to do that, but it's whatever works and gets the job done decently.  We'll know more end of the week!

So it was grab the chainsaw and loppers and get out little butts in gear outside.  We'd picked up some OFF at W-M, and while we both generally hate chemicals on the homestead, this is one we approve of.  With all the ticks right now, and me being a major tick magnet, it helps a lot to soak down in the stuff.  We got away with less than 10 ticks on us both total yesterday by the time we left around 6 PM.

He started in on getting the chainsaw started.  Tempermental little thing, that Poulan, after it's been sitting.  I think it likes to work as much as Q does!  While he was doing that and then getting some more brush and downed/dead trees cut down from near the roadside end of the driveway, I started in on the brush pile of side branches we created last week.  Basically, taking the loppers, trimming off the side branches, and going from there to trim the bigger bits into tiny logs at most half an inch in size, as I got small loppers and they can't handle much bigger than that any more than I can.  Anything too small to count as kindling is going into a leaf tip/twig end brush pile for kindling.

By the time we got done, he'd gotten a good patch near the road cleared up.  Partway through, I had to move the car back down the drive toward the road, as the one mostly dead tree he was going to bring down would otherwise have landed right on top of the car.  Our hand signals worked well again, and we got things done.  So now the little tree growing at the base of the big one where I put ...
the house numbers can be seen from the roadside, along with ...
people being able to easily see the "Private Property No Trespassing" sign I put up a while back.  If they can't see that and avoid the place, they have problems, because eventually there will be a .22 or .30-06 to greet unwanted visitors.
This is the area Quentin cleared out yesterday near the road.  FOUR downed trees in that mess, along with a couple of small live ones came out of there.  The live ones had to come down so he could get at the deadwood and clear it out safely.  The one didn't want to come down properly and nearly came down on his head.  We're doing serious woodlot management.  Trees that are dead, dying, diseased, down, falling down, in the way or just plain spindly and not thriving are all coming down and going into the woodpile over time.  There's a lot of good-sized trees (like what I used for the house numbers) on the property, and it seems only fair to them to not make the big, healthy trees compete for resources with the trees that aren't in as good a shape.  Leaves and such are staying on the ground to rot for more food for the trees being left alone.  We aren't clear-cutting the place, but it's getting a bit of serious management done that it hasn't had done ever, I don't think, as we go through the place.

Right now, we're concentrating on clearing out the stuff that needs to come down and out near the driveway, so we can get it looking better.  The rest of the acreage can be done later, as time permits.  The home acre needs cleaning up too much to worry about everything else right now on the woodlot end of things.
This is the area that Quentin cleared last weekend near one of the old phone poles on the left side of the driveway looking up from the road toward the house.  There were seven small trees in there, up to 2 inches around or so, all right next to the drive.  The little darkish bump just right of center is the stump of the mostly dead tree at the back of the cluster.  The driveway is just out of the frame on the right side of the photo, so you can see just how close to the drive those things were, and how much they would get in the way of getting up the driveway.
 The right side of the brush pile started from all the stupid side branches on stuff from last week and this week.
 And here's the left half of it.  The pile hides that nasty trash pile with the mattress in it near the end of the drive. The only real problem is, the darned branches don't stack too well, so they make a huge pile that looks like there's more wood than there is.  I chopped down quite a bit of brush yesterday while Q was chainsawing away, and didn't get a heck of a lot done.  It looks like he got more done than I did, but if my twigs were as big as his logs, we did about the same amount of woodchopping.  My job with these is to clear the side branches off and cut up what I can so the rest of it that's too big for the loppers can be cut up with the chainsaw into smaller pieces.  That means I get to deal with most of this, and that's fun for me.

In passing by the pile at one point, hauling some logs Q'd cut to the woodpile, the brushpile moved. SOMETHING is in there!  It's either a bunny or a lizard, most likely (I'm trying to avoid thinking of snakes), as I've seen several geckos around the place recently.  Cute little things, geckos, and not because of the silly commercials.  I fell in love with geckos while I lived in Tampa several years ago, and had one fall off the ceiling onto my leg.  They are so warm and soft.  Yes, that one held still for a few minutes and let me pet it.  Whatever was in the brushpile just moved around and didn't bother me.  I just kind of blew it off as, ok, something's in there, big deal.
 The wildflowers that have sprung up at the edge of the drive where we cut down that copse last weekend.  One day they weren't there, just green.  Next day, POOF!  Flowers.
These are some purple wildflowers growing across the drive from the white ones above, near the eyesore vehicles.  The Taurus is supposed to be getting hauled out by the landlords today.  That would be nice!
And here's the woodpile.  It's laughable, I know, but it's my very first one, so please be kind in thinking about it.  I figure it's a lot like me.  Odd-shaped, lumpy in spots, and a bit weird, but it's a reflection of my personality.  It's far enough from the house that if something happens, it won't set the house on fire, but close enough for a quick run for wood for the woodstove we're hoping to get in by this winter.

Today is a sit around the rental apartment and relax day, because we both need to rest up for work tomorrow. My day is nearly half over already, being first shift, and I'm BEAT.  This has been a long week, but I can't wait for the next one, as it holds more excitement.  Getting Q a vehicle again, more work on the homestead, and who knows what else will happen.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It's a mess but a beginning

I don't have a lot of time to write, but I'll post when I can, hopefully at least once a week.  It has been very busy with our lives lately.  Quentin's vacation time is coming up soon, along with his vacation paycheck, which we are using for a few essentials.  One is a vehicle for him, hopefully a truck so we can do hauling and such easier on the mountain once we've moved.  These photos were taken about 10 days or so ago at the property.

A bit about the property.  It's 5 acres of mostly woods, bordered by county road, neighbor's fence, bluff and a small wet creek.  It has three trailers on it, only one of which is remotely habitable and we are rehabbing it for our home, one is the landlord's and not to be touched (along with two junk vehicles) and one is ours from the landlord/landlady to do with as we wish.  We wish to tear it down and scrap it is what we wish, but that's going to be a bit along the road, later this summer.  It's been abandoned for three years, and the last tenant kind of left it a ... well, a mess, really.  No easier way to put it.  It's a crying shame, really, as the place is gorgeous, with all the trees and wildlife. (It's not the last tenant's fault, really. She is physically disabled in so many ways it's not funny, and her family isn't in much better shape. Nobody can really do much with it because of all the physical issues.)

It's far enough from town and others that it discourages casual visits, being UP an Ozarks mountain road, but close enough for relatively easy access to necessaries like Wal-Mart (the ONLY place to shop around the homestead, lol), Home Depot, the mail, gas stations, etc.  It's also half the distance to both my job and Quentin's.  We work in the poultry processing industry for major producers - me in turkey, him in chicken.  Currently, we rent a small efficiency apartment an hour from his job and 90 minutes from mine.  You can imagine what that is like on gas, even with a fuel-efficient car.  So when the chance to rent this place came up, at an extremely reasonable rental rate, we jumped on it.  Oh, Quentin wasn't too keen on it at first, after seeing the place.  His words were, "It's a s**thole and neither I nor any member of my family is going to live there."  I could see the good bones of the place and the potential, so I quietly arranged to be able to start cleaning up the livable trailer, so I could eventually show him what it could be.  He cottoned on to what was going on pretty quick, and finally agreed to let me show him diagrams of what I thought could be done, photos of what was being done, and photos of things online that could be purchased to make living there easier.

You see, the plumbing is shot to crap, the electric needs some work, and the flooring isn't the BEST in the world in some spots (it has a few soft spots - we can work around those by spanning over the soft spots with furniture so we don't walk on them - the floor joists are pretty good, it's the plywood floors that are shot).  It needs a LOT of cleaning up, inside and out.  But it's cheap, and has potential, and it's half the commute for us both.  That last alone is a deal-maker right there.  We're tired a lot from work and the commutes, and right now we only have one car, which I use for my drive.  He rides with a friend for another couple of weeks till he gets his vacation paycheck, which we plan on using part of as a downpayment for him to have his own vehicle.  But then he'll be driving an hour each way again, and with my 90-minute commute to boot, it's a bit much for us both.  We hardly see each other, being on different shifts anyhow, but the long drives are a killer financially and physically.  I know we'll both be glad to get moved!

But as I said, the place is rather a bit more than a mess.  It's a borderline disaster, but it's one of those disasters where a lot of elbow grease reveals there's something decent there to work with.  It's not a permanent solution by any stretch, but the rental agreement states we can have animals and a garden and such, so I can get my garden going again, and we can have a dog or two, and get some Angora rabbits (I spin, knit, crochet, weave, craft and make jewelry as a sideline business - I want to get that going better, too!).  Eventually we want some Angora goats for their mohair, some Katahdin sheep for their wool [Katahdins are hair sheep, so they shed rather than having to be sheared] and chickens and guinea hens (the place is tick central and I am a tick magnet). Guineas and chickens and a dog or two are first priority.

So, anyhow ... photos.
Standing about halfway up the drive to the house, looking back at the county road. That's my little Aveo at the end of the drive. Lots of tree branches and some broken glass and such IN the drive right now, so I don't dare pull in too far. Not too long a walk to the trailer to clean things up, though, so not a problem. You can see how overgrown with brush and such the drive has gotten in the 3 yrs it's been left alone ... we will be clearing back 2-3 feet on each side of the drive to open it up for vehicles to get through without scraping the brush!
This is the whole of the drive. I am standing right in front of my car looking up the drive. The lightish blob in the middle is the Falcon mobile home we're (me alone right now due to time constraints on hubby) rehabbing and will be living in.
This is the trash pile near where I park the car right now. There was a truck with all this in it near the deck but when the truck was taken out, the people who took the truck just dumped all the trash along the drive, iincluding this lovely pile of god only knows what that we'll be cleaning up and probably mostly burning.
This is a plastic tank of some kind, possibly for water storage.  Even Quentin isn't quite sure what it's for, but it's in good shape, so we'll figure out a way to repurpose it somehow.  It's about the size of a small car.
The landlord/landlady's old vehicles that don't run that they want left alone. Okies ... I have no problem leaving the things alone, lol. They're not in the way, after all, just sitting there being eyesores. (The car makes a good outdoors seat as well when we're working up there. Just park our butts on the thing and grab something to hydrate with, and relax for a few.)
More of the trash that got left behind. Yes, that IS an old portable basketball hoop thing.
More of the junk left behind next to the drive. The lightish thing there is an old recliner. If you squint really hard just in the middle, you can see an old bit of fence and gate that was a goat pen and will eventually likely be where the chicken coop goes. We'll be putting a garden in back further on the property where the Falcon mobile home currently sits - it'll already be cleared, pretty much, so it'll be just a matter of putting in raised beds and getting going.
More trash ... you get the idea here, right? LOTS of cleanup time.
This is the trash pile that got left by the FRONT DOOR. Yeesh. There's a ton of old pop cans in there I can pick up for the scrap metal yard, lol.
The brier bushes at the end of the house closest to the road. The window is the end window of the master bedroom.
The front deck ... yes the middle is sagging, cuz a couple of the joists have come loose. Still can walk on it as long as you're careful to stay near the trailer side of the thing.
Closer shot of the deck. You can see where the joists have fallen better. Hopefully fixable.
The briers by the "front" of the trailer (the tongue end) - they surround the end bedroom and kitchen section of the house. Must cut back to reach ....
The other two trailers on the place. On the left is the owner's Fleetwood, which is non-touchable except to put stuff into from the one on the right, the Merlot, that is the owner's if it's in salvageable condition. The Merlot is ours, per the rental agreement, to do with as we wish. We wish to tear it apart and haul the scrapable stuff to the scrap yard.
A picture of the back yard such as it is and another view of the Merlot and a trashed tool shed (trees came down on it a while back and crushed it). Taken from the window of the "front" bedroom off the kitchen.
The lines are the screen in the master bedroom end window. You can just see my car at the end of the drive.
My view out the front door. In winter and early spring, the trees will not block the view of a mountain a ways off that is a pretty slate blue/grey color.
This is much of the trash piled up in the living room. It's been cleaned up from living room, hallway, master bedroom, bathroom and part of the smallest bedroom, so I can get all the old carpet pieces out of the house. The trash will then be stored in the small bedroom until we can haul it to the dump.
The view down the hallway - the jutting out thing you see at the end that causes the hall to jog is the laundry area. Quentin wants to eventually build a small storage cabinet under the upper cabinets there, so we have a place safe from kitties and puppies to store indoors tools.
Looking out the back living room window (hence the screen lines) - that is some scrap metal on the ground I need to clear back to and part of the fence around the "back yard."
The last of the trash to clean up in the small bedroom.
The oiutside wall in the small bedroom. Yes, the paint's peeled off a lot.
The back yard with all it's trash in it. Another project for down the road.
The bathtub as it is now - the photo came out dark but it's not as bad as it seems ... it's just got dirt caked in the bottom that has to be scoured out for the most part.
The bathroom sink that was full of acorns and dead light bulbs.
Part of the linen closet in the bathroom that had about 50 pounds of musty dog kibble in it, six to eight inches deep on every shelf.
The view from the door that goes from master bedroom into bathroom, looking toward the master bedroom closet.
Part of the baseboard area in the master bedroom. Yes, it's missing the floor vent grille and that IS a hole in the wall. I've since patched the hole with gap patch expanding spray foam insulation.  Still have to cover up the vent holes in the floor.
Where I usually sit to catch my breath. The table and chair were already up there.
The view of the front porch trash pile (the place is a Bountiful Farm right now only in that it is bountiful in trees, ticks and trash, lol) from the front door. You can see even better how the one deckboard has badly warped.
Part of the kitchen at the back. The freezer was left there and it's ruined ... it doesn't smell but I am afraid to open it.
The fridge - again afraid to open it as it wasn't cleaned out when the place was left. Yikes!
The kitchen countertops as they are now. Another week or so and they will look much better.
The floor in the kitchen. Yes, it is this bad. The whole place was when I started. The other end of the house is looking pretty decent now. Just needs cosmetic stuff like rugs and curtains and furniture to look like home.
The rolltop desk  in the "front" bedroom. (I say front in quotes because it's actually the furthers from the drive, but it is at the tongue end of the trailer.
The floor in the "front" bedroom.

So as you can see, there is a LOT to clean up.

However, this past Saturday, we visited Home Depot and got a bunch of stuff.  Things are going to be rather inconvenient for a bit with the plumbing, but we've talked that out and have it figured out what to do while we get busy fixing it.  There's quite a bit we picked up.

Wal-Mart found us buying a chainsaw, and I already had a shovel and loppers up there.  I got Quentin the chainsaw as a "every present for the last year that you didn't get" and three-years-at-the-same-job gift (we've been married almost two of them - my second, his first) combination ... he loves it.  Home Depot found us buying replacement light switches and outlets and most of what we need for a sawdust toilet.  The one that's there is a nightmare.  Something got into the tank for it and we're not sure what it is, but it looks like some mad scientist's experiment gone badly awry.  (Addendum: With good lighting we now know what the mad scientist's experiment is. More acorns and goodness only knows what that SQWIRLZ!!!! stored in the tank of the toity!)  The toilet that's there is going to be yanked out, plywood put down over the hole, and our temporary sawdust toity put in until we get the plumbing fixed.  That'll be a few weeks of changing out the bucket every week and dumping the honey bucket into the existing sewage lagoon, but it's that or don't use the bathroom at home for several weeks!  We agree that a sawdust toilet isn't IDEAL, but it's better than no toilet at all.

So we spent quite a few hours this past Saturday up there at the trailer on the mountain, cutting back some brush and a few trees that were either too close to the house and growing out of a pile of dead brush and downed trees (making for a major house fire hazard should lightning strike the tree), or that were growing FAR too close to the drive to allow passage.  The chainsaw got quite the workout, but Quentin and I worked out a system of hand signals that worked for us to get a lot done.  We have a pitifully small woodpile started ... I shall take pictures this weekend, if I remember my camera.  We also have a couple of small brush piles started where we need to lop small branches for kindling off smaller trunks and cut the base trunks down to logs for the woodpile.  With good forest management practices this summer, between cutting up downed trees and taking down and cutting up dead and dying trees, we should have a solid woodpile by fall.

By then, we also hope to have a small woodstove installled.  Nothing huge for the three-bedroom trailer we're going to be living in, just something enough to heat the living room and kitchen and hallway to the bathroom.  We can close off the bedrooms and bathroom, the latter of which will be DARNED cold, but oh well.  We figure we'll survive with lots of blankets on the bed.  With all my crocheting and knitting, we have several afghans to keep us warm in the colder parts of the year, and a woodstove will help cut down on an electric heating bill.  (Plus will allow us to burn trash in the winter indoors, a firepit for the warm weather is going to be used outdoors, and if the electric goes out due to a winter storm, we'll still be able to heat the house and cook.)

With any luck, we'll be moved in by sometime toward the middle to the end of May.  Future posts will cover more of the cleanup and all the things we do to make the place more livable and more of a homestead.  For us, this is a dream come true on the cheap, as improvements can mostly be taken off the rent, which is cheap enough already.  But it's a good thing.  If we can hack it together, we learn a lot of things fairly inexpensively about homesteading, and when we BUY a place, we can take those lessons with us.  (Along with our animals and belongings!)  If it turns out that a place that far out isn't for us, we can determine if we want to be further out from, or closer in to, town.  Do we want more acres or less?  Do we want more trees, or less?  Or maybe homesteading won't be for us after all, and we learn that lesson, too.  On the CHEAP.  Much easier to say, you know what, we need to quit renting this place and find someplace else and not have to try to sell a place in today's economy, than to buy a place and get stuck with a white elephant we can't sell or even rent.  So there's the homestead lesson for this week - if you've not homesteaded before or haven't done it in a long while (as I haven't, last time I did it regularly was ... well, I was about six years old), do it as cheaply as possible to start, preferably with a rental property, so you can determine what you can handle before you commit to a purchase.

I'm off to bed for now as my wakeup time of 4 AM comes mighty early.  More news from the farm this weekend.  Night!!!!