Yes, we are trying to start a homestead of sorts and things are going slow though I sometime marvel at what we have already done in this short two and a half years. Especially when I consider what life has thrown at us during this time, yet we continue on with no thought to not doing it. I might even argue that we ARE homesteading… of sorts. And sure, there are lots of blogs and bloggers out there that are helping pave the homesteading way with knowledge, experience, and inspiration. So, instead of doing that at this moment, I thought it would be fun to paint a picture of roughly 30 seconds to a minute of homesteading I haven’t read much about in other blogs, or what we like to call blurbs. Really, its about people on a homestead of sorts from the perspective of one of those people.
This is what I witnessed coming home from my off the homestead job (cash paying), starting with when I walked over the threshold of our beautifully upcycled front ReStore door (that is so DIY) this evening, August 1st, 2017.
Author’s note, Please pardon the language, it just seems appropriate but is probably not. My apologies!
A moment in the life of a want-a-be homesteader dad…
I come home from my first day on a brand new job and have to pee really bad. Light showing under the door of the boy's bathroom, music is playing loud in living room but no one is in sight. Rush to my bedroom, open the door and there's Erin getting dressed for church, just her. Rush by her to the bathroom accusingly mumbling, "what's going on?"
Erin, somewhat defensively, “What?”
Opening the bathroom door, 3 year old Tirman is standing but bending over in the empty (dry) bath tub with a drink pitcher he is using to poutr water into the cardboard tube of a full roll of what my eyes saw as dry toilet paper. All the while, 10 month old Ewan is outside the tub but using the tub the stand up with and drum on while making all kinds of happy excited noises with his newly discovered voice; happily learning from his big brother how to have fun fucking shit up. I see and process this in a split second as I position myself between baby and the toilet because I really have to pee but my fatherly duty is to also to protect baby from said nasty ass toilet.
Bathroom is tiny, did I mention that?
So, I whip it out and start to pee while whining to Erin about Tirman filling up the toilet paper tube with water... and a sweet little 10 month old hand with perfect soft clean pure pink skin quickly comes into my vision from between my legs and below my stream, grabbing the toilet bowl rim. Ewwwwwwww!
Here is the beginning of the final compost set-up here at Soggy Hollow. There are a few things left to do, like bringing in a stockpile of horse manure and wood chips, plus dismantling a few more pallets for the plank doors.
From left to right in the photo above...
Two chickens in a second hand ready made coop that can be moved to any of the bins. They are our first scratch at food waste composting, which will be added to other bins while building those bins up.
Empty bins, waiting to be built up.
A bin of fall leaves for adding browns while building up.
Two full bins (built up) ready to be turned.
Big chicken coop that will feed our compost with riches like spent deep bed chicken coop straw and poop.
There you have it, our nearly complete compost corner. Does anybody remember Organic Gardening Magazine's Compost Corner? There was a time when I coveted that distinction as Composting Corner's composter of the month. I think you even were given a medal.
If you are new to composting, and friends please add to this to advice if you will, I recommend reading J.I. Rodale's Pay Dirt: Farming and Gardening with Compost. It was the first book I ever read about composting and organic gardening for that matter. It has been 20 years or more since I read that book but do remember that it was written in the early to middle part of the last century and was very prophetic about things like Tyson Food’s industrial chicken manufacturing plants, among other places where Rodale thought the world might be heading. That wasn’t the point, though those ideas did stick out to me as important. The point was using what is provided to provide for you and yours. From the micro to the global. It got me hooked on the idea of organic gardening. I want to thank my buddy Joey for recommending the book even if he didn’t actually recommend it because he was also a great influence toward converting me from Miracle Grow to organics. Thanks Joey!
I used to have a T shirt that said, "Compost, because a rind is a terrible thing to waste." Loved that shirt
Our cardboard house, circa 1986 (correction 1987) is in serious need of NEW siding. We're keeping but painting the old cedar fascia, with repairs as needed. The rest will get covered in house wrap ( unfortunately, we can't afford a fluid applied moisture and air barrier) a layer of vertical wood furring strips and finished with free horizontally oriented rusty corrugated metal from an old fallen down chicken house northeast of Elkins. The metal trim is new galvanized break metal trim from a local metal building company dimensioned from their standard profiles to work with our metal. The stone is sandstone from backroad scavenging southeast of town. The future new metal roof will come as funding is available.
Minus our blood, sweat and tears, we have estimated it will take roughly $1200 to make our house look very up to date and modern, complete with a decent moisture and air barrier and a homemade rain screen. The roof is NOT in that estimate.
More slide shows will be added as progress is made. Check back if you like where this is going, we have a few unusual, but what we think are pretty cool, surprises that may be useful for fellow homesteader dreamers or beautiful for those that share the appreciation for that rusty ruinous aesthetic. A few of these hinted things should manifest once we turn the corner from the porch and start down the south side of the house. My guess is that all in all, our homespun (DYI) siding project will take the better part of half a year.
As 2015 drew to a close, so did the short life of our sweet and social hen Oviraptor. We have been treating her for partial leg paralysis for a few weeks now, with the knowledge that things might continue to decline. Up until yesterday afternoon, she had maintained her spunk. At my last checkup with her yesterday evening though, she showed little interest in her food, didn't offer her usual conversation, and wouldn't stand up. I suspected the end was near, and this morning my suspicion was confirmed.
When we first got our chickens in the Spring of 2014, they were 11 weeks old, an age when it is virtually impossible to identify the gender of the bird. When the other four chickens would run away from us, the white one, Oviraptor, would charge toward us. We would shoo her away with our feet. We thought for sure we had an aggressive rooster on our hands, with a future in our crock-pot. (Roosters can not legally be kept in the city limits of Fayetteville, and with small children, aggressiveness isn't to be tolerated either.) In time though, our "rooster" started laying eggs...the charging, however, continued. One day, before we learned the art of wing-clipping, the chickens had all escaped the yard. While the other four evaded capture, Oviraptor charged right toward me as usual, then stopped just short of my feet, squatted down and held perfectly still, allowing me to scratch her between her wings and pick her up. It turned out, she wasn't aggressive at all, she was social! Every time we would visit the chicken yard, she would run up and squat to get her scratches and cluck at us. She was gentle and easy to pick up and handle. She endeared herself to us with her sweet and social antics, and she will be missed!
Because the exact cause of her condition wasn't established (we have a shortlist of possibilities), we want to verify that the rest of our little flock (or other area birds) are not at risk of contracting something infectious from their association with her. We are keeping her chilled (not frozen) until the diagnostic lab at the University of Arkansas Center of Excellence for Poultry Science reopens after the holiday early next week, so some postmortem diagnostics can be completed. We are deeply grateful for all of the expert advice that the UA Extension Poultry Health Veterinarian, Dr. Dustan Clark, has been able to provide us along the way.
It turns out that taking eighteen hours of classes towards my degree and an extra three hours for "funsies" is not conducive to keeping up with my fledgling blog. I won't be making that mistake again. This blog (and/or my sanity) is way too important for that.
A quick review of the last three months:
We ended up with an overabundance of tomatoes and cucumbers, and a handful of bite-size potatoes. There are a lot of pickles in my refrigerator right now, and we were able to can quite a bit of the tomatoes as well. Someday I will figure out how to successfully grow potatoes. I am open to recommendations.
On a sadder note, we lost both hives of bees. That's not uncommon, unfortunately, and we don't really know why we lost them. One declined first, then the second robbed it of all its honey, but it too eventually succumbed to some unknown disaster. We will keep learning and try again next year. In the meantime, I have a lot of beeswax to render.
In less depressing news, Jason and I took some basic and intermediate woodworking classes offered through Northwest Technical Institute in Springdale, AR this fall, taught by Jim Hager at his workshop, Hager's Custom Woodworks. The instruction was top notch, and it was fun to learn how to use new tools and have great custom pieces to bring home with us. In our intermediate class we made porch swings. Check out other upcoming community education opportunities here: http://www.nwti.edu/community-education.html
That pretty much covers the high points that I failed to blog about while I was drowning in schoolwork. With the conclusion of the semester, Jason and I decided to make use of all my newfound free time. We bounced around a lot of home improvement ideas and finally settled on one that does NOT keep us inside where it is warm and dry. (So much for that bedroom/master bath remodel I was hoping for.) Instead we are tackling the atrocity that is known as fiberboard siding. Some thirty years ago it was all the rage to slap some cardboard on a house and then hope against hope that a couple layers of latex paint would protect it from dissolving or being chewed on by every critter that wanted to live in the attic. In reality, its a miracle that it lasted thirty years. There are, unfortunately, quite a few creatures that have made themselves comfortable in my attic.
We knew when we bought this place last year that the siding was in pretty deplorable condition. The big mystery was how much damage were we going to reveal once we started pulling the siding off. The great news is that it has (so far) been nothing major. All of our studs and mud sills are clean and dry. We are having to remove and patch some water and insect damaged sheathing. We haven't come across any active termite infestations, so the damage is all old. Some of our soffit and fascia boards are pretty badly rotted, along with the ends of the roof rafters that support them, but all the damage is accessible and should be relatively easy for a couple of crazy DIYers to tackle.
From some of our previous posts, you may be aware of our love of re-using salvage material, and this major face-lift is no exception. Our goal for completely re-siding our house and making other exterior repairs is to spend no more than $1500. Last winter we started salvaging the metal siding off of an old chicken house that was taken out in a windstorm over a decade ago. This rusty corrugate has only cost us time and a bit of gasoline to transport it. It will be re-purposed as the new skin of our house. It will function as a rain screen, that is held off of the sheathing by furring strips, creating a drainage channel for incidental water intrusion.
But this project will not be without its new material costs. The structure of the house will be protected from water and air intrusion by a new vapor permeable air/water barrier (Dupont Tyvek HomeWrap) installed over the sheathing, as well as the addition of flashing and drip edges. If you ever want to be bored completely out of your mind, ask me to geek out and tell you all about why you want to use a vapor permeable air/water barrier in Arkansas's climate. Or just trust me and use it. My geeky love of Tyvek, and Jason's position as a specifying architect has its advantages though. We called the local vendor for Tyvek and told him about our little project, and he donated about half of the materials we will be needing for the weatherproofing stage of this project. (We don't mind taking handouts either.)
Last week we did a take-off of all the metal trim and flashing that we would be needing for this project, and placed a call to Metal Building Supply, Inc., in Gravette, AR last Monday afternoon. They fabricated everything we needed by Wednesday morning (a little more than a day after we called asking for custom trim pieces), for very reasonable pricing. I was really impressed with the speedy turnaround of our order and the quality of the products we received.
We got started on actually tearing apart the exterior of the house last week, a day before the December Deluge of 2015 began. That was probably pretty poor planning on our part, but we were able to get back out there finally this afternoon, and got one entire face (albeit, one of the smallest faces) de-trimmed, un-fiber-boarded, and the sheathing patched. (By the way, I like to make up words.) It looks pretty naked right now. We hope to have it wrapped, flashed, furred-out, trimmed and sided tomorrow. We like to aim high so we can wallow in defeat when we crash and burn.
One of the fun things about doing projects like this is how we keep changing our mind about how we want to do things each step of the way. It should be really interesting to see how it all comes together in the end.
Thanks for reading!
Soggy Hollow House Project
We've been busy buying up all the plants that were being clearanced at some of the local nurseries. At least it feels like we have bought them all. I have been digging holes for days and days. But it is a great time of year to buy if your budget is small and you aren't too picky about the varieties you get!
To keep everyone abreast on what is growing here at Soggy Hollow House project, I created a customized google map with everything we have planted so far. This will be continually updated, and will have a permanent home on the master plan page of this website when we get it set up, but for now, I am debuting it here in a blurb.
The map below provides an interactive guide with all of our more permanent plantings. Click on the menu or on the individual icons, and an informational window will pop up showing the name of the plant, a photo of the species, and a link to a website where you can learn more about the particular plant. Included are perennials, fruit trees, vines and flowering shrubs (bee food). We will continuously update as our food forest (and landscape) grows! Switching out of satellite mode on the map will allow you to zoom in closer, but it then loses the landmarks.
Maybe if I get really ambitious I can do something like this with our vegetable garden next year!
Thanks for reading!
P.S. Google needs to come take a new aerial. Apparently the previous tenants owned a lot of black cars.