Sunday, August 2, 2015

Check Those Soil Maps Folks!

I guess I could write a book called, 101+ things not to do when homesteading. Or How to Be a Dummy Homesteader. Either way, homesteading, or even just some light gardening can be really hard and time consuming. Where I'm at was stripped of forest starting in 1810 and not too long after it was cotton farming. The land here is above the fall line, so it's beginning to become hilly, this terrain, plus rain, equaled uncontrolled run off and erosion of the very deep clay soils of the piedmont. The fertile top soil which was created by ions of forest litter accumulation, was quickly lost in run off.. In other words, forest don't need fertilizer, they make their own. These concepts don't seem that un-obvious to me. Even as a child I knew that incline equals water flow, and everything flows with it. But I guess money has away of making people ignore the obvious end results in order to earn a dollar today. I do believe that money is evil in this way, hence wanting to disconnect from the monetary system and grow my own food. But it's proved difficult on my property. I looked at a USGS soil map after we bought. We have severely eroded cecil sandy loam. We also have a lot of the colloidal clay. Colloidal clay, is clay destine to compact back into a hard pan clay no matter how many times you bust it up or amend it.
Just something simple like trying to stick a solar landscape light into the dirt is met with frustration. I can only push it an inch deep. This is soil I've only recently broken up for the nth time.
So what are my options? I can make compost, and I can buy dirt to add above it in a deep raised bed. This is kind of expensive.
We constructed a large garden and fenced it in this past spring. I've only just finished row 2 of 4. Each row is about 16' long and 3' wide and raised into mounds about 18" deep. I suppose, in some ways the pan layer which holds water might help keep the plants hydrated. The spot where the garden is has poor drainage. When we dug the post holes and it rained, the holes held a foot of water for several days.
In some ways, I enjoy the challenge of the horticulture process. But I can see that on a larger scale it's going to not only take a lot of hard physical work, but also time. I'm already losing time with my family to toil out in the "Big Garden". If I was to even attempt a market garden it would cost too much of my time to be worth it. My time is the most valuable thing I have. I think that's why employment has always been a fight with me. Like school, they are taking me away from my projects, and priorities for 8 hours or more a day. There's no monetary compensation for that. Even jobs I enjoyed, like trucking, took up too much of my time, 70 hours a week, and the pay was between 28-45K a year. What's that an hour? When you driver over the road, you are, in a way, on duty 24/7 because you are with the truck for 14 days at a time or more.
I rethinking what I'm doing. I might shift to become a supporter of local and organic agriculture. If they want to do the work, and are blessed with the know how, I want to support it. I'm more of a supporter than a leader. I'm an idea person, but can't bring most of those ideas to life. I might be gifted, but I also have ADHD, so one cancels the other.
I'm always inspired, all over the place, distracted.
I think I'll shop the farmer's market, and try to shop from a new vendor each time. Because I want them all to be successful.
I just don't think I have an aptitude for agriculture. I've been gardening since I was a kid. I've only been successful transplanting the wild edibles. It's just one of the many things I love but don't have the aptitude for. But that's OK.
I've come to realize that this house is too small, and the property is too big for me to handle in my current financial bracket. It's almost greedy to have this much land. No, what I need is a house big enough for 3 people, and their hobbies. That's going to be my next post and podcast, the difference between "Tiny Housers" and those who can't afford to live in anything bigger than a tiny house.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Only Good News About Bradford Pears

They make excellent fire wood, with a burn temperature similare to hickory. So perhaps my infestation of Bradford pears can be turned into something useful. Look for my upcoming post about harvesting your own fire wood.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Get a Grit! And What About Bob?

Well I'm excited to say that I will be blogging for Grit Magazine. If I can get my act together, and get over the "first post fright". This is really exciting for me, it will basically be a more organized extension of this blog. With the language cleaned up of course! I've decided to focus on homesteading for the beginner, the tired, the time challenged. Homesteading Lite. It should be fun! Plus I might get free Fair Tickets and they've just added West Bend, Wisconsin to the Fair Venues! I know exactly where that venue is because I used to pass it every day. Maybe me and fellow homesteader Bob Reksten will be able to share some fair antics together. Bob is a friend I made while hauling laundry out of Cudahy, WI. They put me on my supervisors 3rd shift route that covered 4 stops. 2 in West Bend, and 2 in Fond du Lac. I was able to re-route the route for better time efficiency, a talent I have but seldom use ;0) Anyway, Bob worked at my first stop and we got to talking about cats and chickens and his farm. Soon he was bringing me chicken catalogues, and we where exchanging ideas. He lived in a very old brick house on a farm outside of West Bend. He's promised to send me pictures. I'd love to share them. His house is of that very old and sound construction, with 3 layers of brick. One for the outside, a wall of air, a middle wall of brick, another wall of air, and an interior layer. This makes for incredible solar banking in the winter! I was so excited to see that West Bend was added to the Mother Earth News Fair Venue. It means that my long time friend Bob can go and really have some fun. He's one of my longest running friends. You see, I don't make, keep or even regularly keep in touch with people. When I decided to go with my mom on her move to Georgia, I asked him if I could have his address so I could have a friend to write to back home. Plus, I've always wanted a pen pal. We've written to each other almost monthly ever since 2005. Our card theme is cats, we pride ourselves in finding new and unusual cat cards to send. Usually from the Dollar Store. Bob has often been on the receiving end of hard times, down sizing, and injuries. The company where we met was bought out a year after I left and he lost his pension, and then his job. He was then the subject of agism and had to take a job as a greeter at Walmart. Despite having a Bachelor's degree in English from UWO. He's finally closing in on retirement, and I'm pulling for him all the way. I'd like to hear in his letters that he has all the time he needs to take care of his foster cats and other projects that find themselves on indefinite hold. So Bob, maybe I should dedicate my first article to you. A true homesteader that grew up on a farm in rural Wisconsin. And even though it was the 60's and 70's they still had to use an outhouse! I have a lot of admiration for my friend. He recently got injured again. So I should probably end this here, and give him a call, right now!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

New Year, New Name, New Game

The past year has been a real awakening and learning experience. I moved onto this property with grandiose ideas of homesteading and off the grid living. While I still have plenty of grandiose dreams and ideas to spare, I've had to learn the painful reality of being real with my self and who I am. I'm a dreamer to be sure, and ambitious in that respect. But I'm also lacking in focus, energy and free time. Though this introspection and process of being honest with myself was painful, I have come to instead of beating myself up for not being Homesteader of the Year material, to focusing on my strengths and negotiating with my weakness and forming a more do-able plan, while still working with my weakness like distractibility, and need for novelty, and my desire to not to one particular thing forever.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Autumn Mayhem

I decided to order my self 5 apple trees, 4 blueberry bushes, 2 black berries, 2 raspberries, and 1 muscadine from the FFA through the local ag extension. I also bought a Granny Smith apple tree at Ingles, and 3 cranberry bushes from Park's. The weekend the FFA stuff arrived I also adopted a hound/pointer mix. Don't ask me why I do these things. Where am I going to plant all this stuff? And how?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

It Just Keeps Getting Better

I haven't blogged in a while. I've been too busy making a right mess of things around the yard and in the house for that. A home full of unfinished projects, that's the hallmark of bipolar disorder, or ADHD. Whatever. Today I just had to go hacking away at that damp tree stump sitting right on top of the septic pipe, and wouldn't you know I banged a hole in it. Only the pipe wasn't cast iron like I thought. More of that asphalt shingle stuff I've been finding in chunks around the yard. So I plugged it for now with clay and put a rock on it. Lame I know. So I did some more research. I've had to reasearch so much since I bought this place to figure out what all this old stuff is. Turns out the pipe running to the septic is referred to as Orangeburg pipe. And it's just layers if paper, pitch, and my old friend asbestos again. It's was popular as a cheap alternative to cast iron from the 50's-70's, and failing in yards all over the country. You can only imagine my excitement over this latest discovery.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

HVAC Mahem

I can't sleep, but what's done is done. Monetary loss later. Was it worth it. I'm not sure. We just sunk an uncomfortable amount of money into an HVAC revamp. I'm not sure how much was really needed. It all started with the 31 year old furnace paired to a 3 year old AC unit. Heating and cooling wise the house stayed comfortable. Met what ever demands we put on it. We demand a lot. A constant temp of around 70 degrees F. The utilities want you to set your stuff at 78 in summer and 65 in winter, so basically, don't ever run your stuff. I suppose where I live, I might just be able to do that. But the house would get humid. I'm second guessing our decision to replace the ducts and switch from a propane furnace to a heat pump. If the utility bills drop enough, maybe it will have been worth it. But my logic keeps going back to the same formula I run for every investment in this house. It's a tiny house. So putting a HE new HVAC system on it, doesn't negate the fact that it's still a tiny cottage of a house and only is of interest to a niche market. It's like putting a fancy HVAC system on a trailer. I guess if we live here long enough, then it was for our own comfort and that's OK.
It was a difficult decision. The AC was new but the furnace was not and was leaking carbon monoxide into the house. Plus, it's set up some how passed the code inspection, but is not up to code. Welcome to Podunk.
The cheapest thing would be to just replace the old furnace with a new HE furnace.
But the ducts where half unwrapped and 30% air leakage, not that 30% is really terrible. I read most new houses test at 30%. I wasn't sure what state the ducts where in. I did know that animals had been nesting in it. So it seemed like they where dirty, and had gaps.
We where told it would be cheaper, and maybe required to replace the ducts with new ones up to code. We went with a company who advertises being efficiency focused. Still, the new ducts still tested at 13% but, one vent wasn't fully covered, so maybe more like 8-10%. Is that good?
The new unit is gigantic, I wish they would have mentioned that, and asked if I might want it in a different spot, I would have said, "Yes." It's a 4'x3' eye sore. How am I going to hide it? It's ruining the esthetics of the little country house, with the big ass AC unit. Sigh.
I had kept saying maybe we should go with a lesser unit, less SEERS, maybe new ducts and an HE furnace. It's so hard to say. Because you don't know how each scenario will play out until you're in it. Know we have a new AC unit in our shed, and 250 gallons of propane. I feel, that maybe we made another hasty decision. We have a carbon monoxide detector. We could have at least used up the propane.
So what the hell happened? I guess we got tired of thinking about it, tired of estimates. Wanted to get it taken care of already. It's nice to have new ducts, but on a house with a foundation issue, pillar post beetle and termite damage, and wood rot, maybe we sunk our money into the wrong thing.
It's another reason I want to get away from these things all together.
Just do simple stuff, window unit, wood stove, no lawn.
I'll never be able to replace the money we just spent. And I just don't think it's going to increase the resale value of the home that much.
Not with that gigantic gray eyesore outside in plain sight, next to the drive way.