Living Tiny & The First Fire (ooohhhh, aaaahhhh)

So I’ve been doing this “tinyhouse” thing for awhile now. I feel like I’m educated enough at this point to have some viable input on what it’s like to live in a tinyouse. So here is my take thus far.

First, it’s small. If you don’t like small spaces you’re better off somewhere else. Try living in one room of your house for two months and you will soon see. Every time I turn around the dog is in the way. I’m constantly moving object A,B,C,D to get to object E, then realize I need object A but, objects B,C and D have now just been put in front of it. It’s like a Circus of discord. But… you do get used to it. I’ve learned over these past few months how to deal with these frustrations.

Second, lofts suck. Up, down, up, down. Rusty, my dog, needs to be carried up at night and carried down in the morning. He’s fat (well husky at least). Myles was a one hand lift. Rusty needs to be “fireman” carried up and down from the loft. My upper arms are getting a workout and so are my legs. And here’s a kicker- middle of the night bathroom breaks! Do you understand how frustrating it is getting out of the cozy bed in the brisk midnight air and have to climb down from the loft so you can piss? Even worse, Rusty needs to piss too! It didn’t take me long doing this routine until I had the bright idea of getting a urinal. Problem solved. Except for Rusty.

Third, it can get b-o-a-r-I-n-g. Living in such a tiny space FORCES you to get out and do “something.” I’d like to tell you how outdoorsy I’ve become but, alas. Don’t get me wrong I do fish, ride the 4-wheeler, garden and hike. Just not as much as I should. Mostly because of the weather being too hot or too cold. I have a television in the tinyhouse but there is no cable or antenna yet so it’s a useless “wall ornament.” I get a weak internet signal in the loft where I can twitter or watch Netflix but, in the summer the loft is scorching during the day even with the windows open and the fans going. I need air conditioning! So most of the time I spend my days in the big house with Ma and Pa where the internet is strong, the television gets channels and the air is cooled.

Fourth, daily chores. Small spaces get dirty QUICK. Everyday I vacuum the loft and sweep the main floor. Next I have to empty the urinal and composting toilet “liquids” bottle. This is a nasty job and quite stinky too. If you don’t do it everyday the whole damn house will smell like piss. Then I do any dishes and empty the catch bucket under the sink. A light dusting. Then back up to the loft to make the bed. Normally this isn’t such a chore, but when your celling is only 4ft. high it’s a nightmare on your back and knees. It’s not much but, having to do these things daily gets to be a pain… literally.

Those are my biggest complaints. Yep, that’s it. Everything else is BEAUTIFUL. I pretty much knew about the things above before I signed up, having read blogs and spoken to so many people before going this route. I am living my dream and everyday I DO pinch myself to make sure I’m in reality. It’s quiet, peaceful and best of all… PAID FOR. Tinyhouse living allows me time to do the things in life that I choose to do. I will get a job this winter to keep busy and to build my savings back up. I won’t be constrained to my job like I was before, working only part time and doing things that I find enjoyable. I wont be worrying about creditors and debt collectors and I wont be busting my ass trying to stay afloat and ahead of the “game.”

I’ve been getting along splendidly with my parents. I’ve taken over all the yard duties for my Dad and help my Mom with house chores. It’s kind of cool actually- we’ve become quite the “tribe.” I look at other cultures and see this type of lifestyle a lot. The family unit all living together and helping each other out. I get land to live on and in return they get help keeping the place up. And it’s a big place. 32 acres of lakeshore property and a house with 4 bedrooms 3 bathrooms plus an upstairs and downstairs living area. That’s a lot of vacuuming, scrubbing and dusting. So it’s not like I sit on my ass and watch t.v. and play on the internet all day.

I lit my first fire in the woodstove this morning. Which means that yes, I did finally get the stove hooked up. Everything worked the way it should, meaning I didn’t burn the place down. I’m surprised how little wood I had to use to warm it up. A few sticks the size of my thumb and a 12″ piece about the thickness of my wrist. This lasted almost 4 hours. I’m hoping I can get away with not having to use more than a few cords of wood this winter, which would be good being as how I’ve yet to split any. That’s next weeks project along with pulling the boats and dock out for the season. I didn’t build a deck yet but, I did fashion a fancier set of stairs that will get me by until spring. I added a few shutters to “fancy” up the façade and I put in a new table and some new décor. It has an amazing felling inside, very tranquil especially at night.

After spending some time grieving the loss of Myles, I’ve decided to take in another dog. I’m traveling to the cities on Monday to pick up a three year old rat terrier named Bella who is in need of a good home. She is tan and white in color and is supposed to be a “cuddler” and gets along well with other dogs. Hopefully everything works out and I’ll be posting pics of her next week.

Rusty and I took a walk along the beach this morning and he somehow lost his collar? Todays task is to try to find it. I may cut some wood (probably not… I’m a procrastinator ya know). I’m already working on my other “get er done” for the day (this update). I think maybe I will take out the camera and snap a few shots of the changing leaves. Other than that… it’s wide open. I’m living the tiny life. And man, life is good!

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Just a quick tip for you herb gardeners out there. Instead of using twine and tying a bunch of knots to bundle your herbs for drying. Tie a bunch of clothes pins on a piece of string spaced about 8 inches apart. Clip your herbs into these and hang to dry. Now you aren’t tying knots constantly and wasting your twine 🙂

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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

Nocking Arrows Off-Grid in the Rain

The weather Gods are playing their tricks again. I’m wondering if I should start building an ark and gathering animals… rain, rain and still more rain. I think we should build a water pipeline from the tipi to California. I made the mistake of going to town and leaving the door open during our latest 28hr. downpour. Let’s just say I’m glad I bought indoor/outdoor carpet and have plenty of towels. The front of the tipi got a little wet. I am also getting some water dripping in from the stove pipe. I need to find a way to seal the canvas around the pipe so that the water has no way to sneak in. The back of the tipi where the bed is set up, and the side of the tipi where the T.V. and battery bank is, stays completely dry… thankfully. The wind can really whip the canvas and it’s quite impressive listening to the storms raging outside. As I explained to my Dad, I don’t have to worry so much about the wind because of the conical shape of the tipi, it’s not a flat wall like a house and the wind simply goes around me. I also have a rope that is lashed around the top of the poles and can be anchored to the center of the tipi if we get any serious straight line winds.

Yesterday we finished getting the wind generator lifted into place and wired up. We wound up blowing a fuse bank when we attempted to connect to the batteries. The wiring for the generator is three phase and the instructions were sketchy on how the two systems (battery powerhub and wind generator MPPT) connected together. A simple phone call to the manufacturer got us on the right track and everything is connected properly now. Of course yesterday there was no wind, and today the wind is blowing so hard that the over-speed protection on the wind generator has shut down the blades. Tonight I’m disconnecting from the main power and will be running completely off-grid… an experiment that is sure to present some issues that will need to be problem solved. EVERYTHING is a learning experience.

Today I picked up my new Hoyt Charger compound bow from Itasca Archery Supply (http:www.itascaarchery.com). I’m telling you, the people in the Northland are about the most friendly and interesting folks you could wish to meet. Gary, the shop owner, set me up with a great bow package. I’ve never felt more comfortable about making such an “investment” in my life. I was even able to get a free archery lesson with Arne Moe, who is a level 4 USA Archery Coach. To top it all off, Gary’s son is going to connect me with some local bee keepers in the Itasca area. Northland networking at it’s finest! I have faith that I’m going to get a deer this season… cross your fingers and wish me luck, I’m hoping to brain tan some buckskin this fall.

Well, the rain has died down a little. I think I’m going to find a spot to hang my target and practice my form. Nothing like nocking arrows off-grid in the rain. Stay dry!

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!

The Bees Knees

Today after finishing my daily chores (feed/water rabbits, check for eggs, feed/water chickens, feed/water baby chicks, water seedlings, feed/water dogs), I drove to Cass Lake to meet up with my Mom and her friend. We then drove together to Hackensack and picked up my new colony of honeybees. I was very impressed at the turn out of beekeepers that were arriving to pick up their packages of bees- who knew there were so many that share this hobby. The employees at http://www.mannlakeltd.com/ were very helpful and polite.

I received my package of bees which is basically a small wood box with screens on the sides. There are 3# of bees inside the box (about 10,000 bees), a queen in her own separate cage and a can of syrup. The can of syrup is what the bees feed from during transport. The queen is in her own separate cage because she is “new” to the other bees and they wind up “getting acquainted” during there trip.

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Gene is laid up with troublesome back problems at the moment, so he watched from the window as I installed the new colony of bees into the hive I bought last December. After removing the can of syrup (it is actually what helps seal the hole in the box) I took out the queen cage and replaced the cork in her cage with a marshmallow. The worker bees will eventually eat through the marshmallow and release the queen. After securing the queen in the hive I dumped the rest of the bees in. I’ve never heard a swarm of bees up close and they were certainly making tons of racket buzzing loudly- you definitely can tell when they are pissed! I sealed up the hive and walked back to the house- with a few bees still clinging to my suit.

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Now I just sit back and wait a few days until it’s time to check on them. I will open the hive to make sure that the queen has been released from her cage and check to make sure the worker bees are building comb on the frames. Eventually the queen will start laying and the population of the hive will grow. By August I should have around 50,000 bees. I wont be able to collect any honey until next season, as they will need this summers supply to survive through the winter. Next year the colony will start out stronger and will produce extra honey that I can “rob.”

The weather has been rainy all week so I haven’t been able to put up the tipi yet. I’m hoping this next week will bring better weather and I should have the tipi set up soon. I also ran into problems with the maple tree sap. The weather prevented me from building a fire and I was not able to boil down the sap; it spoiled! Next year I should have the wood stove fired up in the tipi and I won’t need to rely on a nice day to boil sap. The garden is waiting to be tilled. The tiller I borrowed from the neighbor isn’t big enough to cut through the sod in the yard. Plans are underway with a local farmer who is hopefully going to bring over his tractor and get the job done. I have cabbage seedlings that are patiently waiting to go outside!

Spring is underway and everything is taking off at once- makes me glad that I was able to spend all winter resting up! Till next time…

Sweet Sticky Fingers!

WOW! The cold snap broke this morning and I’m in the middle of a full-on sap run. I collected 5 gallons already and the buckets are half full again. I guess I just needed a little patience- that post yesterday to the weather God’s probably helped as well. I guess I’m not going to have to buy my maple syrup this year after all. I’m spending the weekend at my parents, so I won’t be able to start boiling until Monday. For now, the pond is helping keep my jugs of sap cool. I took a big sip of sap and it was SWEET and refreshing. If you have Maple trees in your yard, I highly suggest you give this a try… and stop buying that FAKE CRAP. Info and supplies can be found at: http://www.tapmytrees.com

 

(above photo from: http://www.tapmytrees.com)

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 🙂

Chance Encounter

I’ve been busy learning all the ins-n-outs of my new camera and spending quite a few hours (days) watching Youtube videos on how to use Adobe Lightroom.  I was driving home the other day from my parents and just happened to witness this on the side of the road!

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(click on the image for a larger view)

How freaking cool is that! I was able to pull my car up and snap a few photos… he was no more than 10 feet away and didn’t seem to even notice me, until Myles jumped up and started barking. I was shaking so bad from the excitement and couldn’t believe that I had my camera right there with me. You don’t see images like this in the cities!

My ankle is healing quite nicely and I’ve stopped using the brace. I’m still being quite careful as I don’t want to re-injure it. Things are quite in the cabin… still patiently waiting for this snow to clear. I’m fine with the weather right now, it’s giving me ample opportunity to enjoy my new found (actually I had two years of photography in High School, so it’s not really new) hobby.

Anyway… one more for the road. Just a quick pic of one of my Moms house plants… if it only looked this rich in real life… man I love Adobe Lightroom!

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Stay warm!

-Aaron

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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