Cold Weather Makes You Crazy!

And by “crazy” I mean it makes you update your blog in like… forever. It’s been so long I’ve forgotten how long it’s been. Definitely months. How cold is it here in Northern Minnesota you ask? Try -30 and that’s without the wind-chill. I feel bad for my dogs that have to suffer through this. Poor things with their cold feet. Bella, my little Chihuahua mix, will just give up and sit  and wait for me to rush over and pick her up after only a few seconds. She runs out of time looking for a place to poop. Rusty is a bit more husky but he still gives up after only a few minutes. I hate having to pick him up and carry him across the yard, being how he is so undeniably over weight; like carrying a #50 sack of potatoes.

Things have been going okay. I’ve been working a lot (hence the lack of attention to the blog), that and the fact that I don’t get many comments makes me pay less attention to it than I probably should. The bees are settled in for the winter- I checked on them last month and gave them a whole bag of granular sugar just incase they run out of stocked honey. With the temperatures we have, it will be a miracle if they survive. I’m torn by two separate teachings- one says they will be fine, the other says they will perish. I don’t know who to believe. I guess I just wait till spring to find out. I’d like to think that they will survive. I mean how do the wild bees do it? We do have wild honey bees in Northern MN don’t cha know!

The garden never got planted last spring because I was dealing with some health issues. I’m already thinking about what to do with it come this spring. Come hell or high water it will get planted. I still don’t have any chickens. My Father is dead set against any chickens being on the property because they will, “shit everywhere.” He does have a valid point but he never walks in the yard anyway so what’s the big deal? If I do get chickens they will have to be penned up and I’m not sure how I feel about that. The greatest thing about raising chickens is free-ranging them. They don’t want to be penned up digging in the same shit pile all day long. They need to roam and find/eatall the bugs and wild plants- that’s what makes the eggs taste so much better than the store bought.

The tiny house is still the bomb! I love living in it. I don’t pinch myself when I wake up anymore but it still feels like a dream come true. A few minor things I decided were not a great idea and would change include: a shower; a carpeted loft (I have a rug); a pellet stove instead of a wood stove; power supply.

(1) A shower. I chose not to have a working shower because I wanted to be all rugged and outdoorsmen like and take my showers outside, or just sponge bath in the winter months like the old timers. I wanted to be as off-grid and rugged as I could get. Well, I didn’t plan on going back to work and needing showers daily. It’s just impractical now. I wind up running to my parents house and using theirs. I have closet space that is 4×3 that I can turn into a shower if I move my bookcase and put my dresser in the loft. I’m considering this renovation for next summer.

(2) Carpeted loft. I have a nifty rug left over from the tipi that I have on the loft floor. The problem is that it’s too stiff. You spend a lot of time on your knees in the loft and it would be nice to have some plush carpet to soften the blow.

(3) Pellet stove. Cutting your own wood is a pain in the ass. Buying it is costly. Keeping the fire going all night is also a pain in the ass. I currently have to run power from my parents house to run a small electric heater when I’m gone to work so I don’t freeze out. The wood stove takes up a lot of space- about 1/4 of the living room. I found a nice pellet stove that mounts on the wall for about $1,500 that would let me run heat for 12 hours straight at a very minimal cost. Pellets are more convenient than wood and burn just as efficiently as natural gas.

(4) Power supply. Yeah. Big bummer here. There is no way I can run my electric off of my system with out a huge investment in solar panels and batteries. This technology still has a loooooooong way to go before it can even compete to the normal power grid. I have a fridge; microwave; lights; heater; computer; fan; stereo and clock all trying to run on my system and it doesn’t keep up. I’ve been supplementing my power usage from my parents. I should have just bypassed all the solar and hooked everything up like a motor home.

These things are all every day complaints. My tiny house was designed with the off-grid lifestyle in mind and most things I mentioned are comfort features. I started wanting comfort features after I began working again because that in itself, kicks my ass. It’s hard to keep a fire going and do anything physical when you work a 9-5. Look at it this way. If shit hits the fan… I’m set up golden.

Well, that’s enough for now. I’m tired and I have to work again in the morning. Thanks for taking the time to check our my blog. Please feel free to ask questions or leave a comment. And as always… Live simply and follow your dreams!

-Supertramp

 

SHTF and Bigfoot. Thats right. I said Bigfoot!

Guess I’ll just dive right in… when I last blogged, life was good! I had just hung the hammock and was getting ready to sit back and reap the rewards of all the hard work. The major projects were done and I could start planning on what I was going to accomplish next summer. Next summer would have been so much better for everything. The garden wouldn’t need as much prep work, just a quick tilling; the bees would be established; the tipi would still be up. I could have gotten the jump start that I needed this year. Then as the preppers say, the SHIT HIT THE FAN!

Right around July 10th. Gene comes home and I go to talk to him to see what’s new and exciting in his world. That’s when he tells me, “I’m selling everything, EVERYTHING. I thought about this for two days and I’m out of here. I’m selling the house and moving to Hilo, Hawaii.” I almost fell over. I thought Gene was being funny, but then I saw the seriousness in his eyes. I said, “when?” Gene says, ” The auction house is coming in two days to sell everything, the house goes on the market next week and my plane flies out on Aug 15th.” I was dumb founded. WTF? Can someone say compulsive?

I felt like the rug was pulled right out from under me. I wanted to be excited for Gene, I mean I blog about following your dreams right? Yes, you should follow your dreams, but not when you are throwing another person under the bus by doing so. Someone you had told right up until that day that “you were staying at that home until the day you die” and continue to lead on with big plans about “what amazing things you will be doing on the property next year.” I understand wanting to move, but shit man… you left in the biggest hurry I’ve ever seen! I had practically no time to figure out what the hell my next move was. I was angry and felt so betrayed.

Thankfully… I had options. In the end I made the decision to stay at a friends cabin across the road through the winter. I did this so that I wouldn’t get screwed out of all the time, effort, blood, sweat, tears and money I had invested in the garden. With this option I can set up my tipi on the other property, move all my live stock and still have the safety of a cabin to run to if the cold got too bad. Most important of all I’d be able to access my garden!

Interestingly, right when I was about to make the move to the new location I ran into a little snag. The crew from the show “Finding Bigfoot” was just finishing up shooting an episode right there at the cabin I was supposed to be moving into. How weird is that? How cool is that? Yep, I’m living in the cabin where the Minnesota episode ( LOOK HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4mPfnKv7kE ) was filmed. Before I go on… NO, I’m not a believer. I live in a tipi for goodness sake. If I believed in bigfoot It would be a stupid to thing be living in a canvas tipi right there… where they were looking for him! So anyway they asked me to wait until they finished shooting before I began setting up the tipi. For continuity sake how would they explain the sudden appearance of a tipi? I was stuck in limbo for two days because everything had been cleared from inside the tipi and moved into a storage unit.

It took only 3 hours to tare down the tipi and get it set back up on the new property. I had some help from the neighbors and used a boat trailer to move the poles. The new site is just on the other side of Genes back road, so it was not very far. It took another 3 hours to hang the inner liner; so many knots to tie. Then it was another 2 days of moving belongings out of storage and back into the tipi. And a lot of sadness.

My Next biggest project was to build a new chicken coop/rabbit pen. I bought a used trailer from my Cousin and erected a 8×10 aluminum shed on it. My Dad gave me this idea… just in case I had to move again. With the coop on a trailer I wouldn’t be in such a jam if I had to pack up and leave in a hurry. Just hitch the thing to the truck and drive! Oh, I bought a truck also. Nothing special just a 98 Ford F150. It has a trailer hitch and 4-wheel drive and runs. Works for me.

It took me a few days to build the new coop. I had to drive to town to get the shed then drive to pick up the trailer; there goes a whole day. I built the entire thing by myself, shed and all. Apparently you need 2 people to put this shed together; I call bullshit! I must say it turned out nice. I packed the walls with insulation and put in the automatic chicken coop door (I had to fix it fist with some JB weld because the damn thing broke a while back) and hung up some lights and a heat lamp. It took me a few days to get everything together and set up. The animals will be just fine this winter, probably better than last. I’m amazed at what I can throw together… I’m quite crafty you know! Now the sad part. While all this moving was going on and getting the new coop together, the chickens were still over at Genes. Gene had already left and the property was abandoned, save for the animals. I was going over every morning to check on them and give them water and food. During this time I noticed the duck wasn’t around. Not too unusual, sometimes Velvita goes off by herself to swim in the pond. The next day there was still no Velvita and I couldn’t see the two Buff Orpingtons anywhere. These were my first two chickens that I started with three years ago. I still wasn’t concerned… they run off sometimes too.

See we’ve never had problems with our livestock running around, the predators kept their distance because there was always someone there or there were dogs guarding the property. Well on the third day I found out that the duck and the orpingtons weren’t off having fun somewhere because I found the mangled corpse of yet another chicken laying just outside the coop door. Damn, damn, damn… I loved that duck! By mid day the new coop was finished and I was able to move the birds that night. They are now safe and there have been no more missing chickens.

During all this I’m staying at the new location and back living in the tipi with the dogs. The mosquito problems were over and now I was dealing with a new devil: humidity. Those of you who have gone camping and then crawled into a moist sleeping bag know what I’m talking about! There is NOTHING more uncomfortable than trying to sleep in a wet sleeping bag on a wet pillow… try it sometime… then try it for a month. I finally figured out the solution (which is the good part). I was making my bed like my Mom taught me. I made it every morning first thing after getting up. WRONG! My solution is simple: make your bed as usual but, this time pull the top sheet and comforter up and over the footboard. This way the sheets are exposed and have all day to dry out then, an hour before you go to bed, start a fire. Ooooohhhh, aaaaahhhh. Told you I was crafty. The top of the comforter still winds up being a bit damp because it’s folded over on itself. This isn’t an issue because who sleeps on top of their comforter?

So let’s recap. Gene pulls the plug, bigfoot isn’t found, everything is in storage, moved the tipi, moved into the tipi, new chicken coop, dead duck, dead chickens, chickens saved, fucking humidity! Yep, bout sums it up. Oh yeah… now the rabbits.

The rabbits were the next to move and that wasn’t so bad. I took them out of the fancy, shingled, wood stand that Gene suggest I build (thanks buddy… for suggesting I drop $150 bucks on materials to build this damn thing that I can’t fucking move with me-fell the anger there?), not such a great idea anymore… assembled them back into the stackable cages I originally had them in in the first place and then moved them to a fenced in area at the new location. Eventually, when it gets cold enough they will join the chickens on the other half of the new coop/rabbitry.  All during this time I am pissing and moaning because I’m not in my hammock enjoying the day, or out cutting the much needed wood.

Now we are getting a bit current on what’s been taking place. Last week it got pretty cold up here; just above freezing. I was finally able to run the stove full blast and see what she had. Turns out it wasn’t much. This stove eats fire wood like I ate gummy worms when I was 12 (totally devoured a 5lb bag in a few hours! No lie). Every hour I was pumping wood in this thing and I could only maintain about 50 degrees. The trouble is when you fall asleep and wake up at 3 a.m. to shivering dogs and frost on your lip. Then I got sick. After waking up the next morning (at 4 a.m.) in a cold sweat with plugged ears, sore throat, no voice, and a stuffy nose in a 35 degree tipi… I realized I had reached my breaking point. There was no way in hell I was getting out of bed to feed that damn stove another log! I grabbed my pillow and dogs and walked the 50 feet to the cabin.

Now the cabin has a stove that works. Like REALY works! A few logs will burn for almost 6 hours and get that cabin up to 75-80 degrees no problem. I pondered for a moment about whether or not I should spend the money on a better stove. If I had a stove like the one in the cabin I might (emphasis on “might”) be able to struggle through winter. If it didn’t work however, then I had just wasted money on a stove. I know the one I have now works fine for the cooler evenings and times when you want a little fire. This other stove would be overkill. This was 3 days ago.

I’m currently dog sitting at my parents, hence the use of the computer. Thanks Dad for leaving it so I could update my blog and fix my e-mail. Oh yeah… if you don’t log into @hushmail and check your messages every few days, they disable your account… till you sign up for (and pay for) a premium membership, then you can access it again. Ugh, they don’t take into consideration those of us who are living in tipis out in the middle of the woods. We just might not be able to get to a computer every damn day. Jeebuz! I also dropped my phone in the lake and have been struggling to get it working correctly for the past few weeks. Reluctantly, I will have to go to Walmart and buy a replacement… I hate going to town. Hate going to town so much that I’m willing to go 2 weeks without a proper working phone!

On the bright side. There is a plan for next spring. A plan I’m very excited to tell you about… but can’t just yet. See how I have you all dangling there like worms on a hook now (haha fishing reference). I’m mostly set up at the new cabin; still need to move the bees. The one downside to this location… it’s also currently on the market, has been for a few years now. I’m good friends with the owners (they are the ones that introduced me to Gene) and we worked out a deal for me to live there and help with the upkeep and to watch over it. It’s a damn good deal if you ask me. We are pretty sure the property wont sell for some time, hopefully at least till spring. I’m more isolated at this location and IT’S RIGHT ON THE LAKE. I have my boat parked just down the hill and don’t need to trailer it to go fishing anymore- this makes fishing much easier, just hop in and GO! I feel more comfortable and stable here than I did at Genes.

While I’m at my parents I brought a few 5 gallon pails full of tomatoes I’m going to can. I have so many tomatoes… did I mention they were 8 feet tall this year! Missed out on that one too Gene… lots of goodies in that garden you walked away from. When I get back from dog sitting I’ll get the bees moved, reap the rewards from my awesome garden, cut some firewood and do a little hunting… other than that… it’s finally back to the hammock… and 4-wheeler rides in the woods… AND THEN THE FUCKING SNOW!

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Stills from the show

 

New Cabin

New Cabin

Tipi at new cabin

Tipi at new cabin

New boat at the dock

New boat at the dock

The lake

The lake

Back deck

Back deck

Fire Pit

Fire Pit

New target setup

New target setup

New coop

New coop

Inside new coop

Inside new coop

Rabbits

Rabbits

The girls taking a dust bath in the woods

The girls taking a dust bath in the woods

tomato harvest

tomato harvest

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BEAUTIFUL eggs

BEAUTIFUL eggs

New truck

New truck

Peaceful Disconnect

It’s been a while since I’ve updated… and I’m not going to apologize. My laptop broke last month and I’ve been avoiding the internet like the plague. I haven’t checked my e-mail or my twitter and I have even stopped watching the news. The world could be ending and I would be the last to know. Life is much more enjoyable when I’m not glued to a computer screen or television. I do however enjoy playing the PS3 and watching a few DVD’s from time-to-time… hopefully, this will soon be replaced by reading more.

Things are continuing to go well. The rabbits are all with litters, the bees are putting away honey, the chickens are busy being chickens… and I’m enjoying all of it! We’ve finally gotten out of our “wet” spell and now the heat is starting in. Thankfully the tipi stays nice and cool. Little projects are getting done now that all the big ones are finished. I’ve got a cozy hammock hanging under some trees, a nice outdoor cook pit, and I made myself a small archery range. We built a deck off the front of the tipi to cover the “mote” we had to dig to combat the run-off from the rain. I’ve started collecting and splitting wood- this will be a continuous chore throughout the summer. The garden is doing well and the tomatoes are growing like weeds. I think everything will be ready to harvest just as winter begins to set. I’m looking forward to the canning season! I still need to bury some coolers for a make-shift root cellar and build my solar dehydrator. I’ve also been thinking of building a sweat lodge.

I bought a boat a while back and have been doing some fishing with Gene. Unfortunately the trim/tilt motor went out and it’s currently in the shop for repair… this is the reason I’m not out fishing and instead, sitting here typing this! We’ve had quite a few visitors over the Holiday weekend and I’ve enjoyed showing everyone what I’ve been up to these past few months (sorry you couldn’t make it Irma, I miss you!). Gene is busy repairing an old hot tub and hopefully it’s done soon… my muscles are sore.

There is a lot going on, too much in fact to write down here. I feel a breeze and the hammock is calling me… I’ll leave you with some pictures! Take care 🙂

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Everything Falling into Place.

Every day I wake up, I have to pinch myself to make sure that I’m not dreaming. Life has never been this good or this exciting. I’ve never felt so “connected” to the world around me. At night I fall asleep to the croaking of frogs and the hooting of owls, I wake up to the chirping of birds and the cool blowing breeze. Life in a tipi is… amazing. I’m at a loss for words, it’s something that must be experienced to be understood.

I’ve managed to solve my mosquito problem. Nothing a bug zapper and a bit of mosquito netting can’t handle. Of course, now we have a new problem… army worms. The damn things are everywhere and they spin a line from the tops of my tipi poles and come inching down, only to be squished in my carpet. If you are not a fan of bugs, you should just stay in your comfy pre-fab house! Just sayin’. The winter will be cold yes, but at least there won’t be any damn bugs!!!

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The composting toilet is hooked up and running. So far I’m very happy with how it operates. There is no smell unless I forget to empty the urine bucket (which is part of my daily morning ritual now). If you want specifics on it’s operation check: http://www.natureshead.net.

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I also managed to hook up the kitchen sink… with running water! The stove is also hooked up properly now. I purchased a 2ft. length of double wall insulated stove pipe to go out the front of the tipi through the lacing pins. This allows me to close the smoke flaps when it’s raining heavily and during the winter months. I have to figure out a way to plug up the small holes that were created when running the pipe out this way… EVERYTHING is literally a learning experience.

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After much debate on how to best hook up the wind generator, I finally broke down and ordered the tower kit. Gene and I were trying to figure out if we could save money by building a tower ourselves, but decided in the end to just go with the kit. Sometimes it’s best pay the extra cost to make sure that things aren’t going to come crashing down… it’s an investment. We got the tower up yesterday and will be installing the wind generator later today after we pick up wire in town. I’ve already been using the battery bank and inverter, pulling power through an extension cord from the house. The batteries seem to be able to keep everything running for a few days before they drain. At some point I may need to install a few solar cells to collect power on those rare windless days. I’ll know for sure how everything is going to hold up by the end of next week.

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I’ve cleaned up twice now in the new outdoor shower. There is something freeing standing naked in a field, under a warm shower with only God looking at your naughty parts. I picked up a Triton on-demand propane water heater from the interwebs for a reasonable price. The thing works like a charm and can put out some seriously HOT water. The hook-up was simple and it only requires a garden hose, propane tank and 2 D cell batteries. When the unit senses the water flowing it immediately fires up and starts sending hot water. As long as the propane doesn’t run out, the hot water continues to flow without interruption. It also works great for cleaning my dishes… and laundry at some point (LOL).

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The garden is about as planted as it’s going to get this year. I didn’t get everything that I wanted to plant in the ground. The grains and carrots and wheat will have to wait till next year. Apparently I’m not the only one who had a late start in the garden this year, so I don’t feel so bad. I’m hoping right now that everything comes up. I’ve got some serious clay in my garden and I’m afraid the seedlings are going to have a difficult time pushing through the soil… time will tell.

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In preparation for the heat of July, I broke down and bought a pool… live simply yes, but one still needs “toys.” I don’t have the luxury of air conditioning and I’m not a fan of swimming in mucky lakes. Gene is fixing up an old hot tub in the garage, so soon we will have that up and running too. This place is turning into a 5 star resort!

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Lastly this week, I pulled out 7 of my frozen rabbit hides and started to tan them… I’ll post pictures when they are finished. Again, thank you internet for providing me the information to learn all these new skills.

Well… I have lots of work to do. Hopefully life is treating you well and you are having a better time with mosquitoes and bugs than I am. Till next time!

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Mosquitoes and Sweat… Still Think This is Fun!

On Friday May 23rd. I began living full-time in the tipi. My friend Erin came up to visit for the weekend from the cities. She was supposed to help me move everything out of the cabin and into the tipi, but I was bored and eager, so everything was already moved when she arrived. I can not describe how awesome of an experience this is! I have my bed, a sink, two stoves, a dresser, a book case, a cedar chair, a refrigerator and toilet… and there is plenty of room for all of it, plus more for storage. The guests that have come over to see inside have just stood in awe. There is something magical about living in a round home.

The tipi stays about 6-8 degrees cooler than the outside temp. I use a fan to keep the air circulating. The last two days I’ve gotten a taste of wet weather, so far everything has held up. There have been a few small drips here and there, but nothing I’d consider even close to serious or annoying. I went shopping in town and got some rugs for the floor and some paver bricks for under the stove area. I hung two strands of Christmas lights up around the interior and they provide just enough light to complete the ambiance. Hopefully the pictures can convey the “feel” of the living space. I’m waiting for Erin to e-mail me some panoramic photos she took during the visit. I’ll post them soon. Clothes pins come in handy for hanging things up along the inside liner (a tip for any tipi enthusiasts out there).

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The biggest problem that I have right now, is the damned mosquitoes. I’ve been bathing in bug spray and burning sage to help keep them out. Sometimes they just DGAF and bite right through the strongest bug spray I can find. I woke one morning to a swarm of the pesky buggers hovering over my bed. I’m considering buying a bug zapper and a mosquito net to go over the bed at night. Anyone from Minnesota knows what a bunch of crap “mosquito season” is. There are other bugs too, but I don’t really mind as long as they keep to themselves. I’ve had no problems with mice or other animals trying to get inside… I’m pretty sure the dogs have something to do with that. Another issue is dirt… I have to sweep everyday… I’m pretty sure the dogs have something to do with that too. Despite these few things, I still have no regrets and I’m having the adventure of my life. I couldn’t be happier! I’m slowly becoming “that guy that lives in the tipi.” I have no problem just sitting in the tipi with the dogs, watching a movie (or reading) and enjoying the peace and quiet.

Gene and I started on the outdoor shower (which will have to be used when the mosquitoes aren’t around), we ran out of boards and will pick some up on Monday to finish it. The sink is in, but I still have to run a water line. I have a Berkey water filter that I use for my drinking water. Currently with the heat, the dogs and I go through about 3 gallons of water a day. Also, I still need to hook up the wind generator. Right now I’m pulling power from the barn. Hopefully I will be “off-grid” in the next week. There are tons of little projects to accomplish… including a not so little project; splitting and stacking wood for the winter. Yes, I still have faith that I will be able to make it through the winter!

The garden is late in getting started. I planted about 14 tomato plants last week, and yesterday I planted some raspberry bushes. Next year will be much better because we won’t need to plow up sod and put up fencing; just a quick tilling. I met another neighbor yesterday and he kindly gave me 24 pepper seedlings, some onion and potato sets, and some seeds. The people are so friendly in the country!

The honeybees are doing awesome! I’m getting ready to put my second hive body on. The bees have been busy gathering pollen and building comb. I can’t believe how docile the bees are. I’m not even wearing gloves anymore! Next time I check on them, I’m going to wear just the veil and no suit. Yep, living life dangerously I am!

The baby chicks are doing well and should be big enough to join the other girls in the yard next week. I lost one of my Buff Orpingtons I’ve had for 3 years now. My friend Erin went to check for eggs and found her laying in the corner of the coop. There were no obvious signs of injury; her death is a mystery. Velvita the duck has started to venture out on her own more… doing less “chicken” things and more “duck” things. She obviously would like to spend all day near the pond, the chickens not so much.

The rabbits are doing awesome, even in this heat. The new outdoor cages are on the shade side of the barn and are working better than I could have hoped. No more emptying litter pans!!! I have a gravity fed watering system which saves TONS of time not having to constantly fill up smaller water bottles. The first litter of 8 kits is 5 weeks old and another doe just kindled another 8 kits on Wednesday. I remember watching the movie “Roger and Me” by Michal Moore with my Mother when I was younger. There is a scene with this lady that sells and butchers rabbits and has a sign in her yard that says: “rabbits for sale. pets or meat.” I hope she doesn’t mind me stealing her sign idea 🙂 Hopefully I can make a few bucks selling them.

The work is hard and sweaty and never ends. It seems like once I finish one project, five more take it’s place. On the nice days… I love it! On the crappy days… I still love it, but I complain a lot 🙂 The dogs are slowly adjusting to the changes too. Sometimes they forget that “go inside” means go into the tipi and not the cabin. Myles keeps sneaking out when I leave and going over to the neighbors (bad dog), obviously some training is in order. He will get it eventually. Rusty developed another ear infection and both dogs are getting bit by flies. The vet gave me some fly repellent cream to test out, so far it seems to be working. Myles is an indoor dog and I wonder if this transition is stressful to him. Rusty loves being outside and seems to not care at all. Gene has been amazing in helping me with all this. He’s very clever and has had a few great ideas. He always has input and makes me think about things.

Surprisingly I’ve been off the computer for well over a week now. Let me tell ya… I don’t miss “not knowing” all the “extra stuff” going on in the world. I can concentrate on what’s around me and what effects me directly. I will run cable out to the garage so I can get wireless in the tipi… eventually. Right now it’s not on my list of “priorities” and that should tell you something. So again, thank you dear reader. Hope you stay cool and dry and follow your dreams!

Seriously, someone turn on the heat!

First, I AM NOT HAPPY WITH THE WEATHER GODS! It was going so well… then the cold hit… AGAIN! I was super excited to get out and tap the maple trees, which I did two weeks ago. The sap started to flow and things were looking good, then BAM! In comes the cold and freezes everything up. In order to get the trees to “pump” sap you need freezing night time temps and warm day time temps, and this needs to happen before the trees bud or you get “off-flavors” in your syrup. I only have about 2 gallons of sap so far, not nearly enough to make it worth my while to boil down to syrup. The ratio of sap to syrup is 40:1. I was discussing this with my Mother the other day and she said, “if it’s only 40:1 you would think that maple syrup would cost more. I mean a bottle of syrup is pretty cheap.” I had to laugh at that one. Like most people, my Mom doesn’t know that the “maple syrup” you buy in stores is just water, corn syrup and maple flavoring (and various preserving agents). It’s NOT EVEN CLOSE TO THE REAL THING. Corn, corn, corn… it’s in everything, literally! If you haven’t read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, you really fucking should! Excuse my french.

Gene and I spent the day yesterday surveying the land around the property and settled on a spot to erect the tipi. We chose a patch of flat grassland next to the barn, rather than an area in the woods. I debated the amount of work it would take to clear trees, level the land and run power and water to an area in the woods. In the end I settled for convenience and less work. I can run temporary power from the barn to the tipi as well as water without having 100’s of feet of cords and hose. Also, I’m close to the animals so that I can respond if there is ever a ruckus in the middle of the night… electric fence or not, hungry animals are determined. One other advantage of the location is that the tipi is visible from the road. I can take advantage of peoples curiosity and hopefully entice them onto the property to buy eggs!

Tonight the nest box goes into the rabbit cage… if all goes well I should have baby bunnies on Sunday. I didn’t plan on “Easter Bunnies” when I bred the doe, but by golly that’s just the way it timed out! I’m building a new hutch for the rabbits that will be located outside next to the barn as soon as the giant pile of snow goes away. Actually it’s not a hutch, but rather a 2×4 frame that I can suspend the wire cages from. Right now the rabbits are still in the garage with litter pans underneath. I hate litter pans… what a mess. The new spring, summer, fall (they have to go back in the garage for winter-too cold) housing will allow for the droppings to just collect on the ground where I can scoop them up and put them in the garden. I’m going to allow the chickens access to the droppings too- apparently from what I’ve read, the chickens love to dig through the pile and pick out worms and other creepy crawlies.

The chickens are enjoying the move back to the barn, despite the cold. It’s been a long winter and they haven’t seen grass for a long time. Velvita the duck, really enjoys all the mud puddles and quacks and grunts excitedly when ever she finds a new one. I wonder how out of place she feels being surrounded by all the chickens? I can also say that Velvita is out producing the chickens when it comes to eggs. She started laying again back in February and has faithfully laid an egg everyday since. I have 15 new chicks coming on Tuesday and I’m excited for some of the new breeds I will be raising. Including 3 Araucanas that lay blue-green colored eggs.

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I’ve got the garden plot pretty much laid out. It’s going to be a long day of tilling soil once the ground finishes thawing out. I tried to picture our forefathers doing this work with a horse and plow and came to the conclusion that we are serious pussies when it comes to hard work. I will be using a gas powered tiller… and that’s still a lot of work! The cabbage seedlings are doing well and will soon be joined by tomatoes and peppers. It’s all coming together!

My ankle, for the most part, is all healed! No pun intended…

All this “new stuff” to learn! It’s exciting and overwhelming at times. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I’m actually doing this. I definitely don’t regret the decision. I miss my city friends and hope that a few of them make the trip North this summer for a visit… it gets lonely here some times. At this point, the positives definitely out weigh the negatives… hopefully this trend continues. If my biggest gripe come summer is HEAT and BUGS… I’m doing things right!

Stay warm 🙂

Hydrocodon Blues

I’m back in Minnesota! What an agonizing trip that turned out to be. On Monday afternoon I went into the Omaha Hospital to have x-rays of my ankle taken… I woke up that day in terrible pain and knew I wouldn’t be able to fly later that evening unless I got something for the pain. My ankle wasn’t broken (thank god), just sprained badly so they gave me a leg brace and pain pills. When I got to the airport the ticket agent changed my seating to first class and I was wheeled between terminals so I wouldn’t have to attempt to walk- Thank you United Airlines! The overall trip was fun, even though we didn’t get to go to the zoo! It was nice to be in warmer weather and not see snow covering everything. I was amazed at my trip to the local Walmart where they have armed cops at the door and have a whole isle dedicated to liquor sales (something that you just don’t see in Minnesota). It was good to get away from the cabin, it was even better to return home.

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Yesterday Gene and I cleaned the basement and set up our seedling growing area. We just have a workbench with adjustable height fluorescent lights suspended above it. It’s relatively cheap to start your own plants from seed- save yourself some money and buy seed instead of seedlings- not to mention you get to enjoy watching the miracle of nature right before your eyes. A cheap shop light and either one warm/one cool bulb, or you can buy full spectrum bulbs. I think I spent about $25 dollars for the whole thing, the most costly being the full spectrum bulbs. I make my own seedling mix with equal parts peat moss, perlite and compost. My compost is coming from my worm factory right now- talk about AMAZING! I set my lights on a simple timer with a 12 on- 12 off cycle.

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The first of the seedlings were planted! I planted 18 Glory of Enkhuizen cabbage seeds that I purchased from http://www.rareseeds.com This variety is supposed to be well suited for this Northern region of Minnesota and is supposed to store well (at some point I need to dig a root cellar). Of course I will be using a few heads to make kraut 🙂 I’ll probably start planting some lettuce in the next few weeks- it can go outside in a cold frame if the ground is still to frozen to work. The rest of the plants are started at different times in April/May and things don’t really get going till June. I can’t believe all the gardening knowledge I’ve amassed over the last few years- I feel like a pro! Last year my tomato plants (that I planted from seed) reached nearly 7 feet tall!!! This years goal is to learn how to grow various types of wheat and grain that can be milled into flour. I am also attempting to grow enough food for storage to survive the winter. Yep, that’s right… on top of attempting to survive the summer/winter in a tipi, I’m going to try to produce all the food needed for winter survival too. If this works I’ll be amazed… chances are it will take a few years for me to figure out how this will all go together and EXACTLY what I will need food/nutrition wise.

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Today is rabbit breeding day! I have 3 does that I will be breeding this summer. I think I’m going to space them 2 weeks apart so that I’m not bombarded with a ton of rabbits that need to be processed all at once. I should have enough meat at the end that I can sell some to the locals to cover the cost of feed. I plan on canning most of meat so that it’s easier to cook once in the tipi- not to mention that it would be devastating should the freezer quit working and all that meat spoil.

I’m not sure I can, nor want to, tap maple trees this year 😦 Right now the sap is flowing and I can’t move around because of my ankle. By the time I’m able to navigate without this clumsy boot on my leg, it will be too late. I’m also not totally prepared- I have buckets and taps, but I’m not set up to start boiling syrup just yet.  Right now the idea seems more like a chore than fun… and that doesn’t make the experience enjoyable for me. So I think I’ll just buy some syrup from a local producer and try this experiment next spring.

Chicken update: The girls are getting antsy and can smell spring in the air. Soon it will be time to move them back out to their summer quarters. They have done well over the winter in the garage and survived this absolutely horrendous winter with just two 250W heat lamps… I didn’t even have frozen water bottles or frostbitten combs/waddles to deal with once we moved them from the barn. Gene was pure genius when he came up with the idea to build them a separate room in the garage, it worked better than I expected. We are going to keep the garage setup for next winter and will just move the animals back. The rabbits are also in the garage with the chickens and have done equally as well.

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My Mom is doing well… she is in a cast and uses a wheelchair to get around. I thought of the irony that we both screwed up our ankles while away on vacation… it must be a family curse. Maybe we can both go to physical therapy together… you know… Mother & Son bonding time 🙂 Anyhoo… yall stay warm, it shouldn’t be terribly difficult now that your eyelids don’t freeze shut when walking out the door.

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