Sunday, March 31, 2013

Spring is here, sort of!

The trees don't seem to have been too badly hurt by the late winter/early spring storm last week, as I've looked closely and most are still starting to leaf out finally. I can hardly wait until it's green around here. As for the week, it's been short at work (Friday off for Good Friday), but busy. Long days at the plant, followed by coming home and doing what I could, scrapping some more junk, and just general fiddling around with various projects, trying to get done whatever I could while I had daylight and some warmth. The weather's finally clearing up, becoming more springlike, with highs in the 70F range, but mornings are still a bit cool in the 40F range, and rain every morning the last few days. The rains have cleared up by lunchtime, leaving me time after work to do things around here till daylight ends or I run out of energy, whichever comes first.

I finally got my "solar clothes dryer," aka the clothesline, strung up. I'm not overly fond of the utility pulleys I'm forced to use, as nobody locally seems to have clothesline pulleys, even the hardware store for nearly everything else, Milller's in Harrison. They have darned near everything else I can think of that even Home Depot and Wal-Mart don't have, or the hardware store in Green Forest (which also has a bigger home store in Harrison), or the several dollar stores. Sometimes, you just can't win for losing. I couldn't get it hung up on the side of the house as high as I wanted; I'm just too short at only a bit over five feet tall, so stuff kind of nearly drags the deck, but in good weather, it'll be better than having to spend money at the laundromat to wash AND dry. It's bad enough having to wash there, as betweenn gas and the cost of the washer, it's a bit ridiculous after a while. Later on, I am going to get a couple of washtubs to use, and a wringer and all, so I can do it at home. It may be old-fashioned, but hot water here is free, more or less, and I figured that once I get to that point, I'll save over US$1000 a year between gas and washer and dryer to do laundry every week. When you can save that much doing it at home "the hard way," which often turns out to be the easier way, I am all for it. "Labor-saving devices" be darned, the old-fashioned ways of doing things can be so much more fun and cheaper.

Same for food - my garden will eventually save me a ton of money on groceries with growing my own. It may cost to get started, but like anything else on a homestead, that investment is a long-term job, something you can't put a real price on, or a time limit. Speaking of food, all those peach pits I saved from last summer and kept frozen in the freezer finally thawed out enough that I could see about getting them planted. I had been saving my little plastic cartons from my juice drink mix that I use for work (it's not the greatest, but it's cheap and reasonably healthy for a commercial product), so I drilled drainage holes in them and planted my peach seeds in there. I know, you're supposed to grow fruit trees on grafted rootstock, or from a scion, or etc., not the seed, but it's something I've wanted to do for a while to see what might happen. So what the heck.

I read something recently about seeds that I found interesting, and I'd never thought of it that way before, geek that I am. What was written was that seeds are nature's own nanotechnology. Each little seed carries within it all the genetic information to grow another plant, from roots to stems to leaves, and even to producing more seeds through whatever method the plant used to reproduce itself. Seeds growing have always amazed me in how they do what they do, but thinking of it that way really brought home to  me in a new way just how utterly amazing Nature is in how She manages to make things reproduce.

Other things that got done this week include a lot of scrapping that brought in a bit of cash, I got a solar shower bag so I can have showers again (and a bathmat for the shower now that it's scrubbed clean enough to use), and the last of that old tool shed is down and out to the trailer. It's kind of breezy right now in spurts, and I don't want pieces flying out of the trailer before I get a big enough load to scrap again, so I grabbed one of the old tires laying around here and tossed it on top of the pile to hold it down. I planned on getting more done this weekend than I did, but errands took up a lot of time, and honestly, Friday I wanted to spend goofing off because I don't often get a whole weekday of no work to do whatever. (Bad girl that I am, I spent it sleeping in because I darned well felt like it lol.)

When I dragged the pieces of the toolshed up to the trailer, I made sure to make the return trips NOT be empty-handed. With all the junk soda cans laying around here, I would take some of the toolshed to the trailer, and on the trip back for more, I'd grab some cans and toss them in the can trashcan up by the deck, so that it cleared up a bit more junk. It doesn't make a whole big dent in things, but everything that makes even a small dent is a big thing. And my solar shower ... well, I grant Coleman isn't the greatest in everything, but if you have to camp out in your house, essentially, Coleman makes some really good camping products. And this thing is amazing. Three hours in the sun and you have five gallons of extremely hot water for a shower, or for doing dishes.

Someone's dumped a cat on my place that's hanging around out back by the Fleetwood and Merlot, and it's not friendly enough or comfortable enough to come up to the house and let me near it. It doesn't look in very good health, so I borrowed a Hav-A-Hart trap to try to catch it. So far, all I've caught is a skunk, who wasn't too happy to be in there, though the DNR was happy to come get it to relocate it to the local woods down the road for me without me getting sprayed. I cannot afford to go to work smelling like stinky skunk, lol!!!

Oh yeah, and I finally got to use my little chainsaw!!!!!!! The weather's been good enough in the afternoon when I get home so that Thursday I got to get out and cut up some wood that has just been laying around and needing cutting to woodstove size, so I got some of that done, too. As you can all tell, I have been pretty busy this week now that weather is clearing up. And every day that it's good weather, I'm out there working even after work. So till next week, Gentle Readers, I'm going to be staying as busy as I can and seeing what other kind of trouble I can get into around here!

ADDENDUM: Just had to try out that solar shower for kicks, and did the water my usual way for the sponge bathing I've had to deal with for the last eight months. Three gallons, half boiling, half room-temp to bring it down to reasonably warm enough to deal with, without scalding myself, hang up the bag, and a hot shower ensued. Oh. My. God. Pure sybaritic delight. Despite doing it as a "Navy shower," where you turn the water on to get wet, off to lather up and on again to rinse, that three gallons on medium lasted me a full ten minutes of hot water delight. If you haven't got running water but you have enough sunshine to warm up the bag, or even if you have to heat up the water yourself first, this is a MUST for survival if you have to camp in your house, lol. Hint the first: To get the thing open for filling, lay it across your lap and pull on the tab for the cover on the filler opening. Hint the second: A funnel works really well for getting the water in without spilling. (Discovered that one without a problem, the funnel was handy and it just sparked the idea.) Hint the second: If you heat up the water in a pot (also discovered without burning myself), use a smaller saucepan to dip the water out of the bigger pot to pour into the bag in panfuls ... much easier than trying to lift the whole freaking stockpot full of nearly two gallons of boiling water by far.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Isn't spring supposed to have sprung?

Because it sure hasn't here in the Ozarks. This past week, I had more snow and ice than I've had all winter, and it wasn't fun. Thursday, I even had to scrape ice off the car, as it actually had a light skim over the whole car. The place looked like fairyland again ... it's still pretty when that happens, because it doesn't happen often enough to be boring like "back home" in Michigan, where you get six months of nothing but cold and snow and crappy weather. But seriously, spring was Wednesday, and it's still cold and crappy! My trees had finally started to bud out, and now I don't know if anything will survive or not with all the cold and ice. As I write this on Sunday morning, before I head out to McDonald's for email and such, it's grey skies, cold temperatures and blustery winds for weather. I feel a bit sorry for my in-laws, three or so hours north of me. They're supposed to get up to ten inches of snow over tonight and the early morning hours of Monday. I'm supposed to get maybe an inch, if that.

That's the best part of the weather when it comes to living on the eastern side of the Ozarks. All the bad weather hits the western slopes over by Fayetteville and Springdale and the like, goes up over the mountaintops (all 2000 or so feet of elevation), and by the time the weather gets up and over, it's almost all dropped on the other side. Much like any Northern Hemisphere mountain range, only lower. Of course, what we call "mountains" here would be foothills further west by the Rockies, but they're mountains of a sort anyhow. Weird part is, I'm at 1732 feet of elevation, and I can drive 732 feet down the mountain road toward the main drag, and the weather is totally different.

The morning the car was ice-covered and the property looked like fairyland? I got down to neighbor Cliff's drive, and poof! All the ice and fog and crappy weather just disappeared. Nothing. Not snowflake or icicle one anywhere to be seen. Then again, when I came back from errands yesterday, you could see the fog laying so thick on some of the higher mountaintops around here that the trees that showed through it made the fog look so dark, you almost though something was burning. I got home, and looked up the mountain to Eric and Bobbi's place, and they still had fog. The fog I'd had earlier in the day when I left had burned off, but not up by them.

So you can all guess that nothing got done outside this week. It was either way too darned cold or way to windy so I couldn't even burn the trash. No, I didn't get my peach pits planted, either. Or get finished tearing down the toolshed, or clearing room for the garden, or anything. It's kind of crappy when you have plans and Mother Nature messes them all up. But in my spare time indoors, I did get the last little bit of indoor spring cleaning done (if the weather ever clears up, I'll get the car done, too). I did get a lot done on another!!! pair of woolies for my feet, and I got a lot of rows done on the knitted afghan. Plus a bunch of paperwork done for one of my other hobbies, so the time wasn't all wasted. It just had to be spent doing other things that I hadn't planned on doing just yet.

This upcoming week promises more of the same for the most part, with the weather looking to be pretty miserable for several days yet. I don't know about y'all with the weather worse than mine, but I'm willing to be dollars to doughnuts that you're about as tired of it all as I am, if not more so, and would be more than happy to see flowers and grass and green trees again, too!

Here's a shot off the deck to show what I managed to tear down a coupel weeks ago on the old tool shed that was tree-crushed several years ago. Looks like a pile of crap, but in a week or so, if the weather cooperates, it'll be a pile of scrap.

How this shot ended up panoramic or widescreen or whatever, I dunno. But you can see where the old fridge used to be at the bottom, and the trash that's been exposed from clearing out old, overgrown blackberry brambles. Yay, me. More trash to rake up and burn. But it still looks a lot better than it did.

At the bottom of the mountain road this morning, where a cow pasture forms one side of the roadway. The cows belong to Mr. McCoy, who is one of the bigger ranchers here for alfalfa hay and Angus beef. He's got mostly black Angus, a few Herefords and a few Charolais in this field this year.

One of Mr. McCoy's cows, who was near the car when I was snapping photos. I had to photograph her after she looked my way and mooed at me.

This is our low-water bridge at the bottom of the road, near the cow pasture. Why they call them "low-water" bridges is beyond me, because if the water's too high, it goes over them, and you still can't get through. Fortunately, that isn't much of a problem on my road.

The view of the normally dry creekbed that the bridge goes over, looking downstream. All the snow and rain we've had just filled it up this winter and so far this spring (such as it is, ha!).

And the view upstream of the bridge. Just above proper center, where you see all the rocks, it's actually a small rapids there, complete with a lot of chattering from the stream. It sounds so cool, even though I about froze my fanny off taking these shots!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I have moved again!

Though not off the property. Just that it finally got nice enough that the furniture could be moved back where it belongs, instead of me hunkering down in the living room all the time. It's kind of nice. The bed looks so nice being back in the bedroom, and it's nice to have my desk back in front of the window in the living room, with my comfy chair to sit in. Though to be sure, it's kind of odd to sit at a desk again. The windows are all uncovered, and opened as much as possible to allow for all the breeze I can get. I'm going to have to get a box fan to move air around when it gets much hotter come deep summer, because it does get extremely warm around here in the deepest parts of summer.

And with having the furniture back where it belongs, and the last of the cold weather finally gone, I dug out my little container of peach pits from the freezer to let them thaw out and come to room temp. A 40-pound bag of top soil (U$1.49 at the hardware store) will give me MORE than enough soil to start the peach seeds in and see if I can get them to grow as an experiment, plus some left over to top off the blueberry bushes I plan on getting over the next several weeks. The Wal-Mart in Huntsville near work has Southern Highbush Blueberry bushes for U$10 each, and I think a few tires are going to get set up next to the house where the blackberry brambles have been cleared out so far. Then I'll fill them with some of my compost I've been building since I've been here, filling it around the root balls, then top off with some good topsoil from that bag, and wait to see how many blueberries I can get out of about three or four bushes.

I love blueberries a LOT. For that matter, I love fruits and vegetables a lot. I do like my meat, but I've always been more of a "meat is a side dish" person rather than a "meat is the entree" person. I like a good salad any time of the year, fruits and veggies any time of the year. And hopefully starting this year, I can get busy with a lot of that. It may be done in bits and pieces, but that's what reclaiming this place is all about, getting it all done bit by bit.

What's great about moving everything back where it belongs this weekend is that it's also allowed me to do my spring cleaning. So cobwebs are swept down, the floors are swept up, and the place is beginning to feel like a home rather than like a motel room. I am once again comfortable, content, and enjoying things here. And to top it off, a couple of weeks ago, I hit my one year at the plant and turned in my vacation hours for the money. Who needs days off when I can take the money and run?

Which leads to what I spent much of it on, lol. I want a new laptop, but considering my cellphone got stolen a few weeks back from my lunchbag at work, I opted for a new cheapo StraightTalk phone. It's going to become not only my phone, but used for the farm business stuff as well. I got myself a computer item, though, in the form of a zippered messenger bag to hold my laptop. It'll come in handy for all my trips to McDonald's on Sundays, until I can get things going on for internet at home again. And finally, I got myself one of the things I wanted from my fresh season checks that I didn't get due to circumstances at the time ... my little 8" battery-operated Black & Decker chainsaw! It's kind of cute, if such a tool can be cute. I prefer hand tools, but with as much small brush and trees and such as there is to clear up around here, a small chainsaw will come in awful handy for getting it down and cut up. My handsaw works really well, but it's slow going. With my new little "toy", I can get three or four times as much done in the same amount of time at the very least, which means the place will get cleaned up in no time flat compared to the progress that's been ongoing.

Another project I worked on this last week was that nasty old tool shed that had a tree dropped on it. Some of the tree had been cut off it before, so people could get back to the other trailers, but the shed was so mangled, there was no hope of ever being able to put it back together for use. So when I got off work at 1PM Thursday, and got home, I changed clothes, grabbed my Carhartt gloves and a phillips head screwdriver, went out and kicked it into high gear. Sadly, the screws are all really short and mostly got lost in the leaves and such on the ground, but other than the base frame, one side, and half the back, I got the rest of it all apart in about two hours. The one side that's still left requires me to take the loppers out first and push it back down on the ground so I can cut away all the blackberry brambles that have grown up around and into it before I can get at the screws, unless I really enjoy the idea of getting sliced up by the briers. (I don't.) So a couple more hours of work, and then it's out with the tin snips to cut things to pieces that will fit in the car, and another small load of scrap metal is off to the scrap yard. Yay me!

Let's see ... I also had a friend help me get a bunch more scrap off the place, including that nasty fridge that had once been in the house. It only brought about US$40, but it paid for his gas and got us lunch, and it cleared up a small chunk of the yard around the deck. Though, of course, it reveals even MORE trash there that has to get cleaned up. Such is life around here, but there's a lot less of the junk than there was, anyhow!

So here it is around 530 PM on Saturday night and I'm heading to the kitchen to fix me some dinner, and then I'm going to goof off on a computer game or knit or something before heading to beddy-bye. I've had a very busy week, and today was really, REALLY busy, and it's time for me to get more things done. Till next weekend!


Whilst doing my weekly blog catch up on my three favorite blogs (Yarn Harlot, LawDogFiles, and TYWKIWDBI), the last one had a good post right at the top of the page about a Pop Tart gun incident at a school in Anne Arundel County, as well as a reaction from a Chicago-area church over the incident. You can read the blog post here. Minnesotan has some links to things involved in the story there, and it's a good read. As a staunch supporter of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, to see a Second Amendment post where a church has such a strong reaction to the school's serious silliness amazes me and gives me a small bit of hope that there are still some people in the world who aren't completely nuts.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Winter is over!

Finally!!! Or so it seems, for the most part. Temps over the next couple of nights may be somewhat chilly in the twenties, but apparently, we're supposed to hit the seventies or nearly so for highs by the end of the week. Those of you with chillier temps yet (or starting) may envy me. I am a lucky gal, haha.

Now on to other things. The yard is a mess, such as it is. Between all the much-needed rain I'm having last night and today, and the fact that things haven't started greening up around here just yet, you can see every bit of trash on the place that hasn't been burned or scrapped yet. This includes all the tires I've been bringing home from the tire and auto service place in Huntsville. They let you take the junk tires off the outside racks if you like for free, so they don't have to figure out how to dispose of them. Me, I figure that other than stopping to GET them, they're free garden beds once I get a weedwhacker and clear up where I want the thing, I can start laying down tire beds and dumping compost and such in them to fill them up. I may not get a garden in this year again, but I'll get a good start on setting the thing up anyhow!

I'm pretty sure I can at least get a good used weedwhacker at one of the pawn shops in Harrison, as the one has some decent ones for around US$30 or so. I will have to invest in the blade attachment rather than using the strings on it, however, because of all the overgrown blackberry bushes around here that have GOT to come down before I can get a garden in. Once everything is whacked down, I can rake it all up and burn a lot of it, and separate out the trash that can be scrapped, trash that needs burying, and ash that can get put into several of the garden beds. If it's compostable, it's going in there. I am not wasting a thing in that respect.

I did get a few small loads taken to the scrap yard when I went to work this past week, just sticking stuff in the back seat and stopping by the scrapper on the way home to sell it off. Not that any load brought a lot by itself, but I made around US$50 over the course of the week. More than enough for my gas for the week, heck, nearly enough for two weeks worth of gas!

And I got bored yesterday evening (Saturday) with the house being gloomy and all from having blankets on the living room windows for three months solid, and took those down to open things up a bit. With it getting warmer, I want to start opening windows and letting some fresh air in on good days. Today is not one of them, haha, with all the rain going on. It's awful grey out, both skies and trees, and it's going to be a bit of a bugger to get down the mountain to Harrison McDonald's to get this out. Well, now I can eventually afford internet up here again with only one human mouth to feed, and I don't eat a lot, because I'm usually too busy to worry about it (or gone to work, where I don't have that much time).

So now it's time to get off here, do a couple chores that desperately need doing, and head to MickeyD's for a couple hours of dumping email. Hugs to everybody ... I have SO much to do that I want to get done inside today while it's doing a necessary job of pouring outside, and I am having a blast doing it. Till next weekend!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sorry I missed last weekend

But I wasn't in a good mood and everything I tried to write came out sounding pretty craptastic, so I deemed it much better to NOT write anything. The last couple of weeks have been fun, more or less, with the weather, because of the ice storm (ha!), snow, and general cold. Photos in a bit. On the other hand, it's been a year since I started at Butterball, I worked nearly 50 hours this last week (which makes up for the previous week's mere 21 hours), and in about a month or so, it'll have been a year since we took over the property and began making it a homestead instead of a private landfill.

There's been so many changes to the place in that time, and while we haven't accomplished nearly everything we wanted to get done, we've managed to get a lot done in retrospect. The house got cleaned up so we could move in, we moved, the electric got fixed and turned on, the deck got repaired, a screen door got installed, the window with no screen got a screen on it, the A/C hole got repaired, a lot of trash got burned (so the piles by the deck and the easement are half of what they were), a bunch of trees and brush got cut down and cut up for the woodpile or burned, the woodstove corner got started, we found the cistern and wellhead, the water level in the well got figured out, the bicycle windlass got started, and this past week, Quentin ginned up a worktable for himself in the smallest bedroom till we get a toolshed going for him. Put that way, it's a heck of a lot. Still a long ways to go, but that's a heck of a start.

I feel blessed to have the life I have, despite the fact that I have to work outside the house right now so we can get things going the right way. It's worth it in the long run, because I know that the hard work both at the plant and the property will come together to make a sustainable and profitable homestead that gives a good life to us.

So, anyhow, pictures!!!!

Looking down the easement (yes, I know, I take a lot of shots like this one, but it shows things all the way down the mountain towards the main drag, and the neighboring ridgeline, and it's so cool to see the changes over time). This is right after the "ice storm" we had, which actually hit further south than originally expected, down around Little Rock and Hot Springs. We got about half an inch of ice, which shut the plant down for a day, and the cold kept the ice around enough on Friday that I couldn't get off the mountain to the clearer main road to get to work, and had to call in. Hence the really short check that week. Considering that we're at 1700 feet of elevation, anything much below us on the road gets pretty much nothing in the way of weather, while we get it all. I'm not kidding, we get fog, and Cliff's drive, 500 feet or so down the road from us, all the way down to the main road, it's clear as a bell. We get snow or ice, Cliff has nothing. So this shot was right after the "ice storm" of the 21st of February, when it had started melting off.

Bouncer enjoying a game of "kittyloaf" in Quentin's chair, currently in the one side of the kitchen since we're still using the living room for hunkering down in for a few more weeks till it warms up a bit more.

Smudgie in the bowl! One of my big mixing bowls that Quentin uses for washing up in the morning, sitting on the defunct freezer by the big kitchen/dining room window. Smudge likes to sit in it and read the kitty newspaper out the window, or even curl up in it to sleep when it's not got water in it. Silly kitty.

The trailer now that Quenin's got high sides built and installed on it that he can take off if needed for a flatbed. Again, right after the ice storm. Kinda looks pretty on our place, doesn't it?

A rear view of the trailer, you can kind of see how he's got the latches put together on it. Just simple gate latches, but they work to hold the back on when it's full.

A shot of the woodpile back towards the bluff behind the house, after the ice storm. It doesn't look quite as pretty in the picture as it did in reality, but it's still prettyish.

Quentin fixing my car. We figured out what was wrong with the Aveo, in that I blew out the thermostat and housing and part of the upper radiator hose. Of course, with all original parts, it's inevitable that things are going to go blooey off and on from now on, but this was unexpected. The rubber gasket in the thermostat got stuck in the spring, and stretched out so badly that the spring couldn't move, thus blowing out the housing, too. And it was all plastic, so the new thermostat is ...

metal. That's the new parts! The car's now all fixed, though the upper hose seems to still leak a bit where it connects to the thermostat, and I personally think Quentin needs to move the clamp a bit closer to the thermostat, but he says not. So I keep an eye on the fluids, and call it even till I get off work in time, I'll stop by a regular mechanic and have them take a look. Not that I don't trust Quentin, but if it's fixed, it shouldn't be still leaking, so there's something there I'd like to have a regular mechanic check out for me.

Part of the woods/brush off the deck looking rightish between the deck trash pile and the walking patch to the easement, after the snow we had earlier this past week. The trees look like fairyland! Soooo pretty.

More of the fairyland, straight out from the deck, towards the old sewage lagoon.

And finally, from the deck towards the other trailers. Where all the brush is, is where I'm planning on putting a garden if it ever gets cleared out. But this picture is just so pretty with all the snow on the trees.

So that's this week, and with any luck, things will go well enough that next weekend, I'll have more to tell you!!