Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Usefulness of Lazy Dogs

These two coonhounds burst through their invisble fence after some unseen creature the other evening. While they were on their moonlight hunt, something made off with five of my eight chickens. I couldn't find a feather or animal print out of place. It appears like the ladies just up and left.

If ever you think dogs aren't doing anything, they are indeed quite busy. If you ever curse their midnight howls and doubt the predators they are alerting to.  Well,  perhaps there really is something out there. Won't it be something to hear and see and smell all the things a coon hound does. 

The homestead seems lonely without our gaggle of girls scratching about. Casey has already mentioned getting more.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Things My Father Never Grew

My father was a serious gardener.  I would almost call him a farmer. He planted with the same deliberate intent,  except he lacked a barn. He did have a small tractor.  Our garden was immense. At least a half acre, back breakingly carved out of our forested land. The work quantified by the rock wall that surrounded the plot. I remember watching him toss the rocks to the perimeter as he measured and staked his arrow straight rows. A string stretching the length to guide my sisters and I as we squated with our pails planting the seeds that would grow into the food thatwould nourish us.

I learned everything I know about gardening from my father and he from his father. I have never read a single book on the subject, never googled how to plant. I like to think it is part of me, like how chickens know to roost and salmon to swim upstream.

Although I know my rows will never be as straight or long in my smalled canted beds, I am proud of my garden. I am especially proud when I grow things my father never grew (or at least I don't remember him growing).

This year it is Swiss chard, radicchio, tomatillos and lemon cucumbers. 

Is it just me or do cucumber salads taste better out of metal bowls. It think its a reaction from the acid in the tomatoes and vinegar with the metal. Science is yumm.  This is also my nana's bowl, the same in which she served my grandfather's home grown salads. That makes me proud also. Using my grandmothers things, they really are so much better than anything you would buy today, but I will save that for another post .

This post is part of the homestead-barn-hop.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Hello Again

Suddenly it is  spring. Sorry I disappeared for awhile. A lot of exciting things have happened. First I gave up my business and took a full time job. So yeah that keeps me busy. I have no intention of giving up the blog, just trying to get a routine back.

We got married. It was beautiful and simple and everything I ever wanted. The two of us and a minister  (of the internet variety) on the top of a mountain.  We failed to center ourselves on Camel's Hump. Casey is blocking it.

The third big news. My new job has allowed us to purchase the 15 acres that surrounds us on three sides. We closed two weeks ago and I have been scoping out places to hang some swings.  Needless to say I am not doing much around the homestead.

Due to my lack of productivity I figured I would document the little bunk house our friend (also the minister who married us) is building on our new land.

This is his progress after one weekend. I have no idea what his plans are for this thing. He said they were all in his head. Then I asked a question about how he was going to build the roof and he said he hadn't watched the youtube videos for that part yet. I am interested to see how this little house will turn out. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bed Knobs and Broomsticks

Architecture can be so serious. Sometimes we forget that there needs to be a bit of whimsy, a bit of adventure and imagination or at least the suggestion of possibility in our spaces.

For the new bathroom in the basement I decided to add a little bit of architecture to the ceiling, inspired by coffered ceilings. I used a bunch of salvaged doors from our local Resource Store for a few bucks a piece and painted them the same dark blue as the actual doors in the basement. I then screwed and glued them to the joists. Caulked the seams and screw heads (inset heads) and touched them up with the blue paints. I didn't fill or sand the the doors completely so they kept some of their salvaged charm. All the doors are facing the same direction, but staggered to keep the most interesting details in the space. I ended up with only one full door in the room, in which I reinstalled the old door handle.

Most people don't notice my secret passage. I like to think it is only exists for those who truly believe.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Triple Dipped Stool Legs

I never got chevrons. I was obsessed with gray back in 2005, way before it was chic. I can do without gold. One trend I cannot stop myself from jumping on is dipped furniture. It is everywhere and I love it. I want to dip the world. Trendiness aside, it is a great way to add color to your home and I need color. Bad.

I picked up this stool at a yard sale a few years ago and it travels around my house to where ever it is needed to reach the top shelf, hold a drink or provide a dog petting perch.  I love it's well worn seat and and rustic chiseled edges. I thought about painting the entire thing, but that would take away all it's charm.

 I was torn between adding color and adding some sophisticated white. I decided to go with a triple dip and do it all.

I used paint I already had on hand from the basement project.  Benjamin Moore Ceiling white,  Citron  and Pablo Blue by BM. I went with the true dip line. It keeps with the playfulness of the three legged stool.  Those perfectly taped edges are so serious.

This photo makes we want to do something with those couch legs too. Oh and clean under there. Yeah, Oops.

Check out the other projects for the Winter Pinterest Challenge.
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Thursday, February 28, 2013


Sometimes..... trees fall in your road and you have to remove them. Well I don't but someone does. I sat in the warm truck listening to the radio and watching. I did help pick up the blocks and throw the branches off the road when he was done. Oh and I baked two loaves of bread and dipped some stool legs earlier in the day, while I was trapped at home (Completely unaware of my capitivty). So I did my part.

I am calling this unpleasant off grid task #2. Removing fallen trees, not being trapped at home. Which has happened about three times for various reasons. That would be unpleasant off grid task #3.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Scenes from around the Homestead

It is 6°F  with a wind chill of -20°F. Too cold for these southern blooded coon hounds. 

It is a beautiful day despite the cold temp and chilly wind gusts. It is light until after 5:00 PM now which gets me itching for spring.  I don’t know whether this is cold brewed or sun tea, but it is sure to be refreshing.

My tea recipe: four tea bags (I prefer loose leaf but I never seem to have any) and half an orange or lemon sliced in a mason jar. Brew time 4-6 hours.

We are toasty warm inside the house with the sun streaming in and the wood stove burning. Our little wood pile looks to quaint resting under the window. 

I do not think I ever talked about our wood stove before. It is a Defiant by Vermont Castings and it is a work horse. It runs 24 hrs a day from November to April and  heats our 2500 cathedral ceiling log home to a very comfortable temperature. It is located on the basement level underneath the main gable of the house. The basement is usually in the mid 70's and the upstairs mid to high 60's. The bedroom gable  is perpendicular to the main gable with a bedroom suite on each side. The master suite is usually a little colder since it is over the unheated garage and not well insulated between the two. 

Not much is going on around here. Just the usual late winter activities of garden planning and thinking about baby chicks. Oh and we got a tractor. 

It was rather underwelming. I take it back. I would have rather gotten a ring. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dream Off Grid System

The one thing I always wanted when I had a house of my own was a towel warmer. Since we live off the grid and plan on continuing to do so,  I assumed I would never be able to have one.

Then I discovered this on 86'n it and all my dreams of true luxurious off grid living came into sight.

These babies are connected to a closed loop hot water system, like radiant floors and would integrate perfectly into my dream system.

First a little background:  Our solar hot water system is a closed loop system which means the water does not circulate out to the panels, an antifreeze solution called glycol does. This keeps the panels and pipes from freezing, but also the glycol can hold more heat than water hence storing more heat and keeping our water hot for longer. The glycol is circulated through a huge water tank, heating the water and then circulates that water out and into our regular hot water tank ( the one hooked up to the boiler) when it reaches 185 degrees. Once both tanks are up to temperature it dumps excess heat into the radiant heating system in our basement slab. This system is awesome expect for one thing. In winter the sun is not out long enough to heat both tanks, so we have to waste the cold water in the boiler connected tank in order to receive the hot water from the solar tank. There is a brilliant valve to fix this which we hope to upgrade to shortly. Making it dream system component number one.

We don't use the boiler unless we need to heat water. The boiler is actually disconnected from our radiant to save propane.  A new feature we have just implemented this winter. We will see what affect it has on our propane usage. (the radiant can be easily reconnected if it is ever needed). This is also the reason I could not add the towel warmer to this house.

A wood fired masonry heater (which is basically a wood stove in a huge masonry box) containing heating coils connected to a closed loop system which would circulate through our radiant floors, hot water tank and of course the towel warmer.  I forgot to close the loop in the my crude illustration but you get the point.  We would still need backup boiler for times when we would be gone in the winter and also for heating water during the fringe seasons, when we won't get enough sun for solar, but temperature is too warm for the masonry heater to be burning.

The final piece of the dream. A small residential scale wind turbine to complement our PV electric system. From mid November to March the generator runs about once a week, due to the short days and cloudy weather. We generally put about 100 hours a year on our generator, the wind turbine would at least cut this in half.

Swift Wind Turbine
All these components would allow us to virtually eliminate the need for propane and the generator. We currently have a propane range and clothes dryer, so we would still use a small amount.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Spontaneous Closet Reorganization

I have always hated our master closet. It is 8'-0" x 4'-4" and not very functional with a lot of wasted space. We have been struggling with storage in the master bedroom since we moved in. We generally have two laundry baskets full of clean clothes sitting as the end of our bed at all times, simply because there is nowhere to put them. We looked into getting another dresser and possibly some under bed storage, but couldn't find anything we liked. Monday, as I was attempting to shove more clothes onto the overstuffed shelves the solution came to me. It was so spontaneous it didn't even occur to me to document the before, until I have already taken out half the clothes.

Master Closet Before

The rod and the shelves overlapped so essentially we were losing about 1 foot of rod and 1 1/2 feet of shelf space on every shelf.  We split the rod in half and I got the shelves in the back and casey the shelf above the rod.  Switching the layout not only gives us more storage, but also makes the closet feel less cramped when you enter, as the shelves are narrower than the hanging clothes.

I took everything down. Took apart the extendable rod. Cut each piece to the 4'- 4" length and reinstalled them in two rows along the back wall. I have the bottom and Casey has the top. This move gained us 1'-8" of hanging space.  4" additional length on each rod and they don't overlap the shelves so that adds another foot. 

I reinstalled the 4' shelves along the long wall. I have the bottom three and Casey the top two. He wears a uniform to work everyday, so he does not need to access the top shelf regularly. We gained 1'-6" of space on each of the 5 shelves plus I plan on extending the shelves another foot. giving us a total of 8 feet additional shelf space (accounting lost space of the previous over bar shelf).   There are still some things I need to do to maximize the storage space and organize the shelves a bit, but it is a huge improvement. Most importantly, there is no longer a huge pile of laundry at the end of our bed.

Things I still need to do:

1: Cut the old rod shelf to fit on top of my hanging rod. I will store my handbags and some other accessories here.

2: Extend the 4' shelves another foot,  Still leaving over a  foot between the hanging clothes and end of the shelf.

3. Get storage bins for the clothes on the top shelf and the loft space above the empty wall.

4. Add a shoe shelf under the shelves for my shoes. I already have the shelf and brackets for this. This will get my shoes out from under my hanging clothes.

5. Hooks for the opposite wall and door.  We currently have those over door hangers left over from college and it bothers me that the closet door doesn't close properly.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Solar Panel Snow Removal

It is 2℉ here, which is actually the warmest morning we have had in over a week. Two good things about it being so cold:
1) It is usually very bright and sunny.
2) Not many tourists are willing to brave the chilly temps, so us locals have the slopes all to ourselves. We took full advantage of these facts yesterday, despite the -20 ℉ temp at the summit.

Even with full sunshine bright and early this morning, the dusting we received last night was not melting off the panels as quickly as I would have liked.

I am going to have to leave my warm little cacoon and steaming cup of mint green tea to clean them off. Too lazy to put on my Carharts, I ran out in my base layers and Casey's work gloves. The huge man gloves are not an awesome idea when you are trying to push the tiny camera button.

We use an extend-able pole meant for window washing to accomplish this unpleasant task. It has a fluffy microfiber mop wrapped around the end. Generally just touching the top of the panels will cause a little avalanche and all the snow will fall and the wind will blow it directly into your face and down your jacket, no matter where you stand. Unpleasant is an understatement, but it wakes you up quicker than any caffeine.

The solar hot water panels receive the same treatment.  These panels are fixed at the winter angle, about 60°. This angle is based on your latitude. I believe that proper formula is latitude plus 15°.   Our pv panels are manual tilt panels, as opposed to trackers which move and angle to follow the path of the sun automatically. We generally keep ours at the winter angle throughout the entire snow season to ease in snow removal, instead of tilting them to the spring angle as early as we technically should. 

When even a small portion of the panels are covered, it causes about a 20% drop in productivity. I could have waited another hour and the sun would have cleared them, but that was precious power we were losing. Truth, I needed to charge my laptop to facilitate continued blog perusal.

PS: Don't eat the yellow snow. It isn't lemonade flavored.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Horse Finds a Home

I received this hand forged horsey hook as a Christmas gift from my older sister two years ago.  It has sat in the corner of my drafting desk since. Not because I didn't like, but because I liked it too much. It is one of those things that I deemed special and unique and irreplaceable. I didn't want to waste it on just anywhere. My house is almost entirely t & g  pine. When I hang something it is most likely permanent because I cannot patch the hole and repaint like those lucky drywall people.

I finally found a place important enough for my special hook.  It services a worthwhile purpose and is seen multiple times a day. It holds the dish towel and one day possibly a fruit basket, next to the window above the kitchen sink. Most importantly the towel does not hide the horse's swirly tail.

My dogs are extreme counter surfers. Anything left unsecured is fair game; bread, dish towels, electronics, mail, pans.  I am not talking about stuff close to the edge, the whole counter is vulnerable and they even fish things out of the sink. Luckily they have not figured out how to open the cabinets yet.  Dish towels are a favorite and something that is frequently left out. After tiring of purchasing new towels every other week, being caught by guests with a mangled one or GASP! using paper towels, I decided the special hook would be the perfect solution. I use the dish towel mainly to dry hands, not for actual dishes because that is why I have air (and for breathing, that's important too).

I moved all the sink stuff out of this shot originally, but my sink looked naked so I moved it all back. This is how my sink actually looks at any given moment, but the dishes are usually on the other side. As in they are usually dirty. I think my Sis also gave me that duck vege scrubber and the star shaped sponge holder (or I may have stolen it from her back in the days when we shared a room). My sister is kind of awesome and apparently enjoys gifting animal shaped objects.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ho Hum Holiday

The holiday decorating felt forced this year. I just could not get in the spirit no matter how many batches of cookies I baked. I am usually one of those people who crank up the Christmas music and start decorating the day after thanksgiving. This year we didn't even cut our tree until two weeks before Christmas and it sat bare for another week until I finally got around to decorating it. In the interest of tradition I keep my decorations fairly similar from year to year, however I wanted to share some of my favorite moments and new additions from this Christmas season. 

I am not into theme trees my decorations are a collection of sentimental ornaments from family and trips gathered over time. 

This old sap bucket is my most favorite decoration with season. I love love love wrapping paper and wanted a way to display my finds. I had this old leaky sap bucket laying around from a failed planting project. I lightly sprayed it with a cheery red high gloss paint I had leftover from another project. The galvanized aluminum still peaks through under the festive paint giving it an old fashioned look. 

This little bucket was given to me a few years ago and had some sort of poinsettia motif that wasn't really my style. I spray painted it with Rust-o-lean Hammered Copper and filled it with bells and scented pine cones. The scented pine cones were the only holiday decor purchase I made this year everything else was reused from past holidays or re-purposed from other projects. 

In the background is one of my little reindeer friends. I last year he was paper bag brown, but this year he got a new coat of high gloss bright white. Inspired my the white lamp I fell in love with this summer

Then of course there is my other white love, Snow. I am thankful for a white Christmas again this year and hopefully every year forever after. It is why I moved to Vermont after all. I don't think I could ever again live in a place with a winter that wasn't blanketed in snow