Winter Update

Monday December 26 2011

It has now been five months since we moved up here and we are pretty settled in now. We have solar up and working for our homestead. It is not quite up to state code yet, but that will be a simple fix. As our setup is right now there is enough power for lights and limited use of other electronics. We have two 130 watt panels. We purchased them as a kit which came with the charge controller and a 200 watt modified sine wave inverter. We also purchased a 1000 watt pure sine wave inverter and four 70 amphour batteries. The wiring from the panels to the charge controller and then to the batteries we used the extra 14 gauge wire that came with the panels. The wiring between the batteries and to the inverter we used 6 gauge wire that we got at the hardware store. Then from the shed to the house we buried a 100 foot 12 gauge contractor extension cord in electric conduit. In the cabin we didn’t set up a breaker box, but just have every thing run through surge protectors. For a structure for the panels we built a wooden frame that we can adjust the angle to get the optimal power from the sun based on the what time of the year and how high the sun is in the sky. Next year we want to either put up more panels or a wind generator for extra power. We also want to get a more powerful inverter because there are a few devices that we can’t use right now.

Our planned garden site is covered with plastic we got from a construction company to kill all of the grass there so sometime in the spring we will be able to till it up and grow some of our own food here. My uncle also wants to give us his old hoop house so we may set that up sometime next year as well. I don’t know if we are going to get to a root cellar this coming year or not, but I think it is best if we wait and do it right.

We would like to get a farmer that practices sustainable and organic methods of farming as soon as possible. It would be great to ditch the Monsanto GMOs. We are currently renting to family at a fraction of the real market value. This would be better for the land, and be easier for us to get our organic certification, and be better for the pocket book.

Our pets are doing well with their new winter coats. One of the cats, spock, we took back to the animal shelter because he was being mean and aggressive toward all of the other animals. Our stove is keeping us warm enough and we are getting better at cooking on it. We had some friends of ours from Madison visit us a few weeks ago. They were our first visitors that were not from my family. We left town for a few days to visit Eric’s family in Iowa and we took carloads of stuff to my sister’s house so that it would not freeze and burst in our absence. When we get back we are not looking forward to the expected 8 to 10 hours that it will take to get the cabin back up to room temperature.

Late Summer Update

Wednesday September 21 2011

On August 5th we made the big move and started living out on our homestead. Now we can focus on the projects here that need to be done. Our first few weeks were spent making the cabin more livable with shelves, a pantry, a sink, etc. A large portion of our time has also been on working on the lawn and area right around the cabin. We now have large areas of lawn done and firewood piled up for the cold weather and are going to start working on the garden plots shortly. We want to kill the grass in our future garden spot with a tarp. We’ve got a compost pile going now too and it is getting some volume to it, but we are going to need a lot of organic matter to get the soil as lively as we are going to need it. We also have purchased solar panels and are going to be setting that up soon too. There are many other projects that we want to do but many of them we may not get to till next year such as building a root cellar.

We have some pets to keep up company and help with pest control. There are three cats: Spock, Tiggs, & Ophelia and one dog: Nala. We love them and they seem to love us, but have only been with us for two weeks. We also purchased produce at the wholesale auction and canned about 200 quarts of food for this winter and are starting to sprout greens and grasses inside for food.

We are working on a side bussiness called “Errand Boys” to keep us financially stable till our farm can start making us money. We will do most household and yard services for a fee. Hopefully we don’t have to get a job working for the man.

We have been very busy boys so far and are taking it easy today. We hung curtains up in our cabin and have been at the library for a few hours using their internet. I’ll upload some pictures soon of our pets and how things are looking on the homestead. Till then.

Spring Update

Wednesday April 27 2011

We took a spring vacation from playing grocery store and played homestead. We loaded our small ford focus up, yet again with supplies. This time with left the coffee grounds but brought plenty of boxes for mulch. We also brought some gifted saw horses, from a co-worker who transfered to a store in California, and some old finished boards that we found in the basement of our apartment in Madison. We built a make shift table with it. This time we finally remembered our drill, and we hung up a small coat rack inside the cabin, and finally put the ladder to the loft in permanently. Also put up some hooks for oil lanterns in the ceiling, made a bucket with a spigot for hand washing, and a bucket for Grey water, and bought a nice plush mattress from a locally owned store in Medford, and new sheets to us at the used store across the street.

Outside our cabin we worked on the garden space. We dumped about 60 buckets on the site, and some cow manure, then mulched with boxes and used scrap wood from the cabin to weigh it all down. It took a bit of effort and some time but I think it will pay off with some nice fertile soil. We used the well for the first time to clean out the buckets,the water is clear, but as Nick said, “It tastes like new pipe.” We also bought two Deborah Maple trees for shade from French Town nursery and planted them near the cabin.

Some of the apple trees on the other side of the stream are doing good, and some are doing very poor. The deer have gotten to a lot of them The poles that we bought we suppose to be sturdy, but we just some cheap crap made in China, and so the deer got through the fencing to the trees. When we planted the trees we did not have a lot of time, equipment of funds to build the high fence that most sources suggest when planting fruit trees. I read something in Mother Earth News Magazine about using fishing line as an invisible fence both high and low to keep out deer and rabbits alike, because it startles them, and they get scared and retreat. So, thinking about giving that a try in a small area, as an experiment.

The hops we planted last year are growing, but planted them in poor soil with not a lot of room from the tall grass, and little mulch or organic fertilizer, so we will tend to them the best we can, and eventually plan to move the roots to a grow site with richer soil, once we enrich it.

We visited a lot with family while there, which is something we have taken to and enjoyed every spring since we have been together and spent the easter holiday at Barry’s Grand folks farm. It was a warm and sunny day. It was good to see everyone, including nieces and nephews. Will and Emma were entertained by there bubbles. Hillary did not want Will to get dirty, so we made sure we stayed out of the mud. We heard little Clark say “Happy” when sitting in his Dad’s lap After the easter visit at the farm, we had a little get together at the cabin. It was Bill Ceil, Stacy, Nick and little Henry. Bill and Ceil brought over an old love seat for us.

When we get the opportunity to be away from work and be up north, we come back to Madison with love,inspiration and new ideas for our lives. JAH Bless.

Winter update

Thursday March 3rd 2011

Our cabin is done. We left this fall with the clock ticking to return to work in Madison. Mind you this project was had an anticipated ending date of August, but it was a really wet summer. Larry,a sweet guy, helped us transport the soapstone stove, and the Amish moved it in for us. We managed to put one coat of really nice quality stain on the cabin, and then varnish the floors, although not a lot of time to remove some of the heavy black marks from the builders in one of the lofts. We lit the stove for the first time and it burned and vented properly. While we were back in Madison, the well and hand pump where installed. The driller said some debris will need to be pumped out before use.

This winter we have been collecting coffee grounds from Ancora coffee, a local shop, just down the street from our workplace. Coffee grounds attract worms, and worm casings or poop, make and excellent fertilizer. They do take at least a year to break down. We have made 3 trips with buckets and cardboard boxes that we collected and have used since 2008 for mulching around trees. We plan to use the grounds and boxes to fertilize and keep down weeds and grasses in the spot we have marked for our garden.

We have overnighted in our cabin twice this winter, and yes, we pooped in a bucket, part of our home composting toilet project.

A loose end that we tied up was an increase in the rent for cropland, although we would prefer it to rest or even go to prairie. But it is not the social norm so we can just roll with it for now.

The road to enter the back half of the property is flooded by a stream now. The old culvert caved in due to heavy farm equipment and the lack of maintenance. It needs to be replaced to get a vehicle through, but if it does’t get fixed, I guess we will build a foot bridge.

It is slowly coming together one step at a time.