Taking Time Off

So this is kind of a filler post. We haven’t accomplished much this week. We did manage to get rid of the rest of the super phosphate. Yay! Now the truck bed is empty and we can haul off more stuff. Thank goodness.

IMG_1811Today is a gray, rainy day. I’m not complaining. We’ve set several records this year for high temps and dryness and the rain is more than welcome.

It’s also a good excuse to spend the day inside doing inside stuff.

Yesterday we finally redeemed a Groupon for one of the local IMG_1798attractions.  There is a non-profit railroad slash museum in Elbe, Washington that we visited. They claim to have the largest collection of steam engines in existence. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. I’m not a train aficionado so I don’t know. It was an interesting if grueling trip. The weather caused us many delays as the train crew cleared branches from the tracks.

IMG_1796The cars, tracks, and engines are maintained mostly by volunteers so you have to cut them some slack.  Still, I would’ve liked to see one that had been faithfully restored. We sat in this car. Perhaps the tables and chairs were period but I doubt it.

I really don’t mean to seem ungrateful, it was obvious that someone loves IMG_1803trains.  Maybe that’s what was missing – the connection of a true fan.  Regardless, it was a nice Saturday morning excursion.

I found the museum itself pretty interesting. Each of these little cabins was used for  logging crews, logging camp workers, and the logging families. These were traveling houses and quite IMG_1800frankly I thought they were much better than the travel trailers in use today. One even had a hot water heater and a shower. Nice.

One thing I walked away with was inspiration for a barn. Our barn is, well, ramshackle at best. I noticed one of the new buildings at the museum would be incredibly easy to build and would IMG_1801make a great barn.

It’s just a pole barn with metal siding and a metal roof.  Each pole is topped with a double truss and then purlins on the roof and walls.

The winds were very strong that day and I didn’t even hear a squeak out of the building.

IMG_1802The concrete you see at the bottom is not a slab floor, it’s just a walkway around the perimeter. It was obviously poured after the building was erected. I think I could build this myself.

Someday, someday.

One More And Then Good Night

Yes, two posts in one day, contain yourself.

IMG_1752I just couldn’t wait to share.  You see these?  These mean mean we have hazelnut trees.  Hazelnuts grow wild up here and I have been wondering since we got here if we have any.  Now I know we do!  In fact I identified two trees just while we were out walking this evening. Unfortunately we found them too late this year but you can bet we’ll be watching them next year!

A Very Good Thursday

IMG_1737This is my tractor.  It’s one of the important people in my life.

It’s a 1952 Ford 8N and it has a wonderful personality.  It starts right up each time I need it.  It pulls its little heart out when I ask, and, unfortunately, we’re going to have to part ways sometime in the future.

I bought it out of nostalgia as much as need and now I realize that even though it satisfies me emotionally, it doesn’t really satisfy the needs of the farm.

This tractor was really made to pull a plow and that’s pretty much it.  It has a PTO but it’s almost useless because it runs directly off the transmission.  I can use it but I look like an overgrown gymnast jumping up and down on the clutch.  It has no auxiliary hydraulics.  I could put a front end loader on it but it would cover most of the tractor.

IMG_1742At this stage of reclamation I really need a tractor that can help me get rid of stuff like this.

I spent this afternoon wrapping a chain around various boards and pulling stuff out of this thicket.  The tractor and I had fun and we did make some progress in the blackberry war but it was awkward and jerky progress.

But still, any day on the tractor is a good day and this was a Very Good Thursday.

IMG_1748Don’t be fooled though, the blackberries fought valiantly.  When they couldn’t deter me with their thorns, they tempted me with their lusciousness. I have to admit I gave in for a while. I picked just enough berries to make a small cobbler. Then the cool voice of reason whispered in my ear and I walked away. Oh blackberry you are an exotic, exciting lover but you would be no good with kids and a mortgage. I had to leave you.

IMG_1728Earlier in the week after making jam I just couldn’t bear to toss the rest of the plums.

So I chopped them up, boiled them with just a little water and froze just under a gallon of juice. Someday I will do our harvest justice but for now I have to be satisfied with what is actually doable.

IMG_1729It wasn’t that great by itself – kinda sour with a hint of molasses.  But with a teaspoon of honey mixed in, oh my goodness, nectar of the gods!

Now I’m off to drink a beer and walk in the woods with my love.  Life is good my friend, life is good.

Autumn Fruit Jam

While we were living in the trailer with just a very small garden plot I bought this book: 51u+Z6KaI4L._SX338_BO1,204,203,200_The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving

I don’t have an Amazon affiliate account so feel free to click or not click the link above.

At the time I was thinking we’d only ever have small batches to put up and it’s such a pain to try to divide big canning recipes that this book would be handy.

I was disappointed that it only covered water bath canning but I guess that’s probably what most small batch canners would need.

Anyway, enough of that crazy back story.  The real point of all this is it came handy today when I only wanted to make a quick, small batch of something with some of the fruit around here!  Whew, so many words to get to this point.  Hemingway would just shake his head.

Last night, lying in bed I thumbed through the recipes and found Autumn Fruit Jam which just happened to call for plums, pears, and apples.  Three fruits of which I have a plethora.

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This was the delicious result!

And oh my gosh it is yummy!

I doubled the recipe and it still only used 10 plums, 2 apples, and 2 pears but at least we’ll have a little taste of our first year’s produce later this winter.

IMG_1726It made 3 and 1/2 jars of jam.  We put the 1/2 jar in the fridge and have been “tasting” it all day.  I will be surprised if it makes it to morning.

Along with the fruit it contains cinnamon and ginger.  It tastes amazing.

Anyway, have a good night!

Almost Free For The Taking

IMG_1682We decided that we just couldn’t completely ignore the fruit.

I posted a few weeks back about how it was bugging me so much that we don’t have time this year to properly harvest the fruit trees. I tried to mitigate that feeling by checking into a local gleaning organization but was disheartened to learn they want an ongoing relationship while I want a one harvest stand.(See what I did there?)

Oh well. It could still work out in the future maybe.

We had someone who wanted some of the plums but scheduling issues have kept that from happening.

So… we decided we’re just going to take some time this weekend to do a small batch of plum jam and pear jam. Just a few jars of each.  It will at least give us something to view as our first harvest.

Rearranging

IMG_1679Yesterday I pulled fence posts.  The first of many that will need to be moved.  They were in surprisingly good shape.  I only lost one.  It was right next to a stump and had been invaded by ants. Carpenter ants are rampant up here.  We’ve been dousing the house with chemicals on a regular basis fighting an infestation. We’re normally pretty austere in our chemical usage but I have no problem going atomic on bugs that are eating my house.  Again I say, it’s not the use of chemicals that is bad per say, it’s our over-use of chemicals that is bad.

On that note, a quick aside:  To kill weeds try this recipe.  1 gallon of 6% vinegar mixed with one small bottle of lemon liquid dish soap (the cheapest you can find). Put that in a sprayer and douse those unwanted plants.  You will be amazed at how well it works. We sprayed some thistle out by the barn and by that afternoon they were as brown as if we had used Roundup – which we don’t… anymore… to the best of my knowledge.

One more quick aside.  I can remember as a kid watching my dad put diesel in a sprayer to spray weeds.  Wasn’t ignorance blissful?!

IMG_1681Anyway, these posts were remnants of a pretty nice three rail fence.  You can see some of the rails on the ground.  And like I said, they are in pretty good shape so we’re going to repurpose them into the front fence and entryway to the property.  And although we can’t afford to do a rail fence around the whole farm – at least not now or in the near future – we will be able to combine this fence with some existing fence and pretty frugally enclose the yard, garden, and fruit trees.  It’s all about doing what we can with what we have.

Stupid Blind Faith

I know I’ve been instructed to share no pictures until the house is completely done but at the rate we’re going that may be never!  :)

Not really.  We’ve made AMAZING progress over the last four months.  Honestly I can’t believe how much we’ve accomplished.

When I look at the pictures we’ve taken along the way I can’t believe we ever bought this place. Anyone in their right mind would’ve run away screaming.

And with good reason.

But something here just spoke to us and we couldn’t let it go.  We even had the realtor bring us back out so we could try to talk ourselves out of the deal.  I was sold on the property.  The husband was sold on the view. Neither of us was really sold on the house.

Sometimes you just got to have stupid, blind faith. There’s just no other way to go.

Bathroom (almost) before:

IMG_1376

Bathroom (almost) after:

IMG_1672

There’s no door in the picture because there are no interior doors in the house.  They’re all out in the barn waiting to be stripped and repainted. Just one of the many finishing touches we have yet to accomplish.

As a side note, you break through a lot of societal barriers living in a house with no doors.  Just sayin’.

The whole reason for this post was the feeling I just had of really being home.  And loving the way the home is turning out.

Rolling With Roland

IMG_1588This good-looking guy came to visit us recently.  He just showed up in the yard one day and chose to roost on the front porch.  We kept watch over him through the window and would occasionally throw him some bread crumbs.  After a while, just to keep things civil, we named him Roland.  (Well, Don named him Henry and I named him Roland.  Roland never deigned to share his preference.)

We had no idea where he’d come from or to whom he belonged.  We suspected he came from a neighbor but since no one came looking for him we didn’t begrudge him his perch.

After a week we decided that feeding him bread probably wasn’t that good for him and bought a bag of scratch.  Of course that very day, while we were at the feed store, he decided to go home.  Fickle chicken.

Turns out he does belong to the neighbor.  She told Don that if Roland ever makes his way back up here we can keep him.  They are changing out their flock and giving away birds.  Unfortunately we are not ready for a flock of our own – I am not satisfied with our homestead infrastructure and we have other commitments this year.  It’s stressful enough trying to rehabilitate this place without having to do it around livestock.  Plus, it would add unneeded stress to the animals’ lives.

But we sure do miss seeing Roland in the yard.

The Enjoyable Ache of Labor

IMG_1439Physical labor that is.

Since we finally moved out here I’ve come home from work and done some intense physical labor almost every day.  It’s been a while since I’ve done that on a regular basis.  It’s enough that my muscles ache while I lay in bed at night.

Surprisingly it feels wonderful.  It’s like an “accomplishment afterglow”.

Yesterday I was so beat when I got home from work I thought I would just take the evening off and I did.  It was nice but when I got in bed I didn’t fall asleep as quickly as usual and I didn’t sleep as deeply.  The longer I live the more I believe in the agrarian lifestyle.

Today the dear husband mowed the yard and ran the weed eater.  When I got home I ran the bush hog around the pasture fence and out in the woods.

One of the things I’m liking most about this life change is the intentionalness of it.  When I use the tractor and bush hog I can’t just decide to do it and go do it.  There’s a whole ritual that has to occur.  First I have to pump grease into all the grease zerks on the tractor and the mower.  Then I have to check the gas level in the tractor (no gauge).  Then check the oil and the hydraulic fluid.  Then I have to start the tractor and let it warm up.  Then move to where I want to start mowing and attach the mower driveshaft to the PTO.

It’s a production and it’s fantastic.  When I decide to mow, I have to decide to mow.

Each time I mow out in the woods I cut a little further.  I’m slowly clearing more brush and blackberries away. There will come a point where I stop because I want nature to remain – and there’s a fence.  Hahaha.  It’s always a balance when you try to make land productive in human terms.  Even though I know they’re not as good for the environment, I still love clean fencerows. How much clean fencerow can I have and still feel like I’m supporting the natural world?

I actually think about things like that.

The property to the west of us is unoccupied.  It’s an old place inherited by a family that lives close by. They come over regularly for maintenance and to cut wood.  Today they were chatting with Don about our place.  They said, “It’s starting to look like someone lives here.”  Hahaha, I guess we’re making headway!

I promise to post some pictures soon.  Usually by the time there’s something to photograph I’m too tired to get my phone.

So, now that I’m just rambling I will close.

Another awesome day!

Just An Update

Less than perfect day today.

Someone tried to put me in my place today and it bothered me for a while.  Then I realized I don’t really give a shit about them.  I was better.

Dysfunction runs like a virus through the division I work for and it bothered me for a while.  Then I realized that I only work there for a paycheck and not any kind of spiritual or emotional fulfillment.  I was better.

The transfer station would only take half of the superphosphate I spent hours loading yesterday even though I called and was assured that they would take it all.  The aggressive, pervasive incompetence we keep running into in this state has been bothering me… for a while.

But I cleared more brush and abandoned pallets from behind the barn and now I feel pleasantly tired.

I am better.

Today didn’t start too well but I’m about to sit on the porch and drink a beer while I contemplate the progress we have made.  So the evening will be pretty awesome.