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Archive for April, 2016

Chop, chop, chop. All winter long. Chop, chop chop. Not that I personally chopped a single piece of wood, but it seems like we spent the entire winter chopping firewood. I know that we were only unprepared because we were busy building a house, but it was really annoying to not have a solid supply of heat. Not to mention how little fun it is to try and lug wood around in a winter coat, gloves, and scarf. I did lug a ton of wood this winter.

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Chopping on the new block

We are going to more than prepared this year. We have already started wandering around the property, gathering wood that can be used for fire wood. There are quite a few downed trees around the lot that were left by the logger. I have been moving all the logs out of the way of my many projects and into large piles where they can begin to dry out. Right now, the logs are in tangled messes coated in mud and buried in leaves. The cleanup process is quite a bit of tedious work, but there is at least a whole years worth of firewood that is easily accessible.

As I sort through the piles of random logs that are tossed around the lot, I am also finding quite a bit of building material. I can use the scrap wood for my outdoor kitchen, my outdoor shower, my garden fences, and a playhouse for the kids to name a few. We shouldn’t need to cut any trees down, and will still have more than enough to keep us warm and to finish my many projects.

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Collecting and stacking the wood

I also have a nice pile of wood that is less than perfect that will make for excellent outdoor fire pit fires. One of my favorite things to do on a cool,clear night is to sit around a fire and just enjoy the stars, the fire, and maybe even a beer. We are going to have to have a few fires outside this year.

Summer bonfire stack

Summer bonfire stack

An important project that will come out of all of this is a wood storage shed. Here is the spot, right behind the chopping block.

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The plans that had been made for this year’s gardens have changed quite a bit. I trudged around last fall picking up old, heavy logs, broken branches and leaves and made enough hugelkultur beds to feed the whole town. I may have been a little too ambitious (as always) and made more beds than I could ever use this year. The fact that I was doing too much didn’t escape me, but I really wanted to put a dent in the cleaning of the mess that was left when the logger had come through. So I set out to clean up the mess and focused more on that than what I was going to do with all these beds.

In my haste to clean, the logs and sticks were thrown together, rather than nicely stacked to prevent spaces. There is more space in the beds than I could ever fill with leaves, which is what needed to happen. I tried to fill all the gaps, but then the leaves settled in and you would never know that I filled in any of the gaps. This would mean that I would have to fill every single gap in every hugel bed with dirt. That would be near impossible to do in a timely fashion. I will say that the mice loved all the homes I made for them. We saw tiny footprints in the snow leading in and out of the beds all winter.

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I schemed and plotted as to how I could get enough beds prepared in time for planting, but every idea seemed quite painful to carry out. The man finally decided to put in his two cents and suggested that I just plant my seeds in the ground. In completely unprepared garden beds, right in the ground.

In reality, the soil that we have on our property is rich, untouched forest soil. It has years of composted leaves and sticks forming a thick layer of organic matter, perfect for gardening. The ground is not soft enough to plant carrots and turnips, but many plants should grow just fine in the soil that we have.

I set out to pick a sunny area and get it cleaned up. All the large branches were moved out of the way and used to form a border around the garden. Smaller branches were thrown together to make a fence, not sturdy enough to keep any the critters out, but to make sure it was obvious to the man and children where the garden was. The back side of the fence was made of fencing so that I could plant peas there and they had room to grow up. Kale and cabbage seeds were thrown around in loose rows, the children helped with this part so it should be interesting to see how scattered the plants come in. Partially decomposed leaves were lightly spread over the seeds to attempt some mulching. I will spread more once everything sprouts.

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There are various other areas around the lot that will be used for garden planting. The tomatoes will be planted in the outdoor kitchen, corn and sunflowers will be around the house to provide shade and will also serve as trellises, potatoes will get cages, more sunflowers will be scattered where oil has leaked into the ground to help clean it up, and squash will get there own beds in various sunny areas. There is a slight possibility that there will be a nice bed in the outdoor kitchen for some root crops, but I am not holding my breath.

The finishing touch on the garden will be an onion border and some flowers. The onions smell should help to keep some of the pests away from my vegetables. The flowers serve the same purpose. Marigolds and nasturtiums specifically are deterrents for various bugs that would eat my vegetables. The onions are more for burrowing critters and rabbits. From what I have seen, we have an ample amount of white rabbits hopping around our land. Hopefully I am not just opening up a buffet.

Squash Hugelkultures

Last Year’s Potatoes

Coming soon: Potatoes!

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Stop and Look

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One of the projects I usually do over the winter is to scan my bucket list for this years challenges. There are plenty of experiences on the list that I plan on having at some point in my life, but some are best suited for this particular year and I just get to pick out what they will be.

An item that I have on this list, that everyone else has on their list, is to write a book. This would be a bazillion times easier to do if I waited until my very young children were older, but by then I may be old and gray and too forgetful to remember the story. I got straight to work.

Thoughts and ideas starting racing through my brain and I started filling pages on the computer screen. I knew I wasn’t a studied author, but my words needed some fluffing. I could imagine the story in my head and it would be a prize winning novel and then it would hit the paper and crash and burn.

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Our Tiny House Library (most of our books are still packed)

To make a long story short, I am learning how to write. Any book titles, blogs or podcasts to help me out would be greatly appreciated! I know youtube is a fantastic tool, but that is really tough to work with off grid. So stay tuned…in a few years from now I may have a book being published!

Here are some other bucket list type posts I have done:

Why don’t you do something easier?

Are we crazy?

Sneak peak at an upcoming project: egg to frogs.

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Off Grid Date Night

Living off grid, way out in the woods, there aren’t many people around to babysit. Especially since we are fairly new to the area. We rarely are alone without children, there is never quiet around our house. It is not like we are suffering by not being able to get away from the kids, but it is really nice when Gramma comes to town.

Gramma doesn’t really care for “camping” the way we are. She prefers to stay at the hotel in town, which works out well for us because we can take a long, hot shower whenever she visits. Again, we aren’t suffering by not being able to take these fancy showers, but we will get one while we can. Best of all, the kids spend the night at the hotel with Gramma. Date night!

So what to do with a night all to ourselves? Play board games, of course! We used to play a lot when we had a rather larger dining room table, but we haven’t quite got our new table built yet. There is no where to play except on the floor. It’s not so bad to play on the floor, but it is impossible to play on the floor with two small children and all the pieces and parts laid out. We bought an expansion for our favorite game around the holidays and just now got to play.

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Anybody else love to play board games? Any suggestions of games we should try? We may even have a table in the next six months….

While having some time to walk around the property and talk without the crazy interruptions, we also got to scope out a site for our final home. We have both been looking for quite a while now, but had never had the chance to get together and talk about our perfect spot.

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I know I haven’t posted much lately,but I have been working on it.  I am learning some new tools to help me be a better blogger and to make my writing more interesting.  I have plenty of posts coming up in the near future as there is a lot going on here right now.  I hope you enjoy!

After almost two years of cold sandwiches, eggs, and hot dogs, we have finally started real cooking on the wood stove! While rushing around and working all day, simple “meals” like peanut butter and jelly were acceptable because we were just too busy and too dirty to prepare a grand meal. Since we aren’t rushing madly to get a roof over head or hauling firewood so that we don’t freeze, we can actually start to eat like real people. We are learning to prepare healthy, hearty meals on the wood stove in the dutch oven. It is pretty much too late for this, since it’s spring and we are using the wood stove less and less, but we will be all set for next year.

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Today’s meal was chicken vegetable soup, nothing too fantastic, but it’s not a hot dog. I prefer one pot meals where I can chop everything, toss it in the dutch oven, and wait for the fantastic aroma to fill my tiny house. The method we used can be applied to any combination of ingredients your taste buds are begging for.DSC_0026

I chopped all the vegetables, potatoes, and mushrooms and piled them into the dutch oven. I decided that it would be best if the carrots and potatoes that take the longest to cook went in the bottom of the pan where it would heat up the fastest. Who knows if it makes a difference or not. The chicken breast went in whole, piled on top of some vegetables. I don’t like cutting up raw meat if I can help it, without running water it is a challenge to clean up the slimy mess afterwards. We added water to cover everything and keep it moist and tender. The spices thrown in were garlic, basil, salt and rosemary; an excellent aroma to fill the house.

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Put the lid on the dutch oven and bring the water to a boil. Once at a boil, we let it cook for about an hour. I’m not positive on the time frame, I was more interested in when the chicken was cooked and tender enough to break apart with a spoon. I also taste tested a carrot to be sure it was soft enough. Then we scooped the soup out of the dutch oven and filled our bowls right to the top. We were surprised at how long the soup stayed hot after we poured it into bowls. Don’t burn your mouth!

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Finished Chicken Soup

Next winter, we will really get good at cooking on the wood stove and in the dutch oven. I plan to post recipes that are so amazing your mouth will water just reading about them. Breads and desserts will also be added to the recipe list. For now, I think we are going to have to start working on our grilling recipes. We end up opening every window in the house some nights to keep it cool enough just to cook a meal. A perfect reason to get going on building the outdoor kitchen. Here it is so far:

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Here are some links to other cooking projects I have posted on:

Dutch Oven Turkey

Lazy Pork

If you would like some more information on dutch oven cooking:

Wood Stove Cooking: Mother Earth News

Wood Cookstove Cooking

 

 

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