Saturday, January 30, 2016

January 30, 2016

Life is so good!  We love our little farm!  Even when it is cold out, there are things to do.  We are trying to add to the fences, so we have had to clear underbrush to the old fences to make sure what shape they are in and shore them up where necessary (thanks to our neighbors who will let us connect to their fence). As most of the underbrush was too small to do much with, we ended up with a burn pile.  We let the pile sit for a few weeks to dry out, then it was ready to burn.  The snow and wet ground provided us with the perfect safe conditions to burn in.  The snow, however, was not good for our solar panels.  We discovered that the snow pretty much blocked their ability to create power for us.  For the few days we had it, our batteries were going lower.  Thankfully, we conserved their use and never went below 68%.  We also had cloudy conditions during that time. 
If you read back in June (at least that's when I think I posted it), we worked on a woodland gazebo for our anniversary in May made with a grain bin top and some cedar poles we had.  We are intending to do further work on it with cement in the bottom and windows to make it look like one on my landscape pinterest page (you can get there by clicking the pinterest button on this page).  As it is an extra, however, we have decided that we will only be working on it one day a year, which happens to be our anniversary. 
One thing I like to do in the winter is read books that will motivate and inspire me.  One of my recent finds was The Good Life Lab by Wendy Tremayne.  I really enjoyed the book.  One of the things I picked up from it was buying green coffee beans and roasting your own in a popcorn popper.  I was not able to find a used popcorn popper around me that met the requirement of having the fan on the sides of the inside instead of the bottom, so I ended up buying a Nostalgia Popcorn popper from for $19.99.  I bought five pounds of green coffee beans from Ebay.  When they arrived, it seemed odd that they were smaller than what I was used to.  I had no idea that they would expand during the roasting process.  I used the eight minutes that Wendy mentioned in her book, but I think we will try one less minute next time.  Other people online seem to use as low as 5 minutes.  We shall see.  At any rate, the beans turned out looking good, but we are thinking of cutting down on the time because they have a tiny bitter aftertaste that we might be able to get rid of. 
The other thing we are doing is going to a Mardi Gras celebration.  I volunteered to make a King Cake.  Since it is made like yeast bread and I was making some sourdough bread anyway,  I just worked some sugar and cloves into one loaf's worth of dough and rolled it flat, put in a cream cheese filling, wrapped it up and shaped it into a circle on a pizza stone, and let it rise over night.  After baking, I glazed it with green, yellow and purple glaze.  Then, I printed out a pattern from the internet for a mask, enlarged it a bit for an adult (it seemed to be child sized), cut it out of two paper plates for my husband and I, painted them, added some glitter, chopstick handles and some chicken feathers.  This really only took about 20 minutes.  What a fun thing to do on a Saturday!  Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Monday, January 25, 2016

January 25, 2016

Living The Dream.  Living on this farm makes us so happy.  Is there work to do when we finish our other jobs?  Yes.  We love doing it so much, however, we don't call it work.  Do we spend money building infrastructure to make it pay off some day?  Yes.  We would rather do this than go on vacation or drink fancy coffee, or even go to restaurants (which we do occasionally.)  Did we get the farm debt free by money that was handed to us or an inheritance?  No, we have worked on this goal by being frugal our entire lives.  When we bought our first house, a fixer upper few other people wanted, we were so poor that in order to get it we even had to borrow the brokerage fees from the real estate agents.  However, we paid that off and worked on our house, then sold it at a profit and bought our next house.  We did the same with that.  Our third house was our first house in which we managed to pay off the mortgage.  Believe it or not, we started paying extra when my husband lost his job in a massive layoff and was unemployed for 9 months.  We were so worried about not being able to pay the mortgage, we stopped most spending and started paying it off.  Once we had that done and our last child had graduated from high school, we decided it was time to finance our dream.  We got an equity loan on the house and bought the property, knowing we would pay it off when we sold the house.  We bought a modular home in which only the downstairs was finished.  We then finished the upstairs ourselves.  We move on to a new project every summer.  We are halfway off grid at this point and are exploring what changes we need to make to  get off the grid  the other half of the way.  It's not just about money, as if we change our habits, less money is needed.  We have three children and helped them through undergraduate college so we were all mostly debt free (one very small loan for one of our children).  Life is expensive, but you find a way if you want it badly enough.  If I had to do it over again and could do it with all the knowledge I have gained, I might just jump in , and start small with a house I could add on to as our family grew, without debt.  Please learn from our mistakes.  There is no reason we couldn't have had this kind of happiness much sooner.

Friday, January 15, 2016

January 15, 2016

I am so excited that I have found a way to use the rest of the wool sweater that I have already made two pairs of mittens and two hats from.  I had some leftover fabric from the upper arms of the sweater with no finished band, so I was in a quandary.  I decided to use some directions I found for felting (wash it in hot, rinse in cold and run through the dryer).  Then I cut out a pair of mittens for my youngest daughter.  I zig zagged the bottom of the mittens for good measure, sewed together the mittens and wanted a finished edge.  I decided to drag out my long lost crocheting skills and crochet a scalloped edge like I used to do for baby blankets.  I found some black yarn in my daughter's closet along with a crochet hook (she is away at college.)  I am very pleased at the way they turned out. We also got the metal wall hanging put up on the side of the house.

Additionally, our neighbor came over and helped us cover up the ditch between the house and barn where we had laid the wires for the photovoltaic system.  We basically only had to move a little dirt after and rake it evenly. I love that we have an awesome neighbor with a skid loader!

If you haven't been to in a while, it's got a whole new look that is very user friendly.  I was brainstorming on there with a like-minded person and we figured out you can use your greenhouse for a nursery in the spring, to dehydrate fruit and vegetables in the fall, and to hang out your laundry in the winter.  I love to maximize use, don't you?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

January 7, 2016

Winter weather has finally hit, and I am trying to finish projects mostly indoors.  One of the projects I have been working on is making some hats and mittens from a wool sweater I found at the thrift shop.  I cut two hats from the hem of the sweater, cut one set of mittens from the sleeves, and one set from the neckline.  The set from the neckline I had to cut one side at a time to get the pretty neckline trim on them. Then I started thinking about the dogs being warm enough, so I took out an old bed comforter, cut it and fit it together so it was 4' x 4', which is the size of the floor of the doghouse they both stay in together.  Then I took a bolt of microfiber that I bought a few years ago at a yard sale, and cut out and sewed a pillow sham that was 4 ' x 4' to cover it.  That way when it gets dirty, we can just take the cover off and wash it. We put the cover on the comforter and took them out to put in the dog house.  Hopefully, the dogs will be cozy tonight.  The other thing I liked about the microfiber, is that it seems to have a water resistant quality.  When we got our house, we redesigned it to have the long way go East and West, so the long side with all the windows would be on the south of the building to make maximum use of the sun.  This meant that the front door was then located in a place that was different that it was intended to be.
We love our house, but I have been looking for an opportunity to balance out the front of the house.  The front door is to one side, so I was thinking about bringing the olive color of the door to the other side of the porch.  I recently found a metal wall hanging on craigslist that was nearly 4' x 3' that I thought would do the job nicely.  So I brought it home, took it apart, and painted it olive green.  I put it back together, and we hope to get it up on the house this weekend.  This is how it turned out: