Thursday, November 30, 2017

November 30, 2017 Part Two

Too many things going on to put it all in one blog post.  One of the things I LOVE about DIY is having leftover materials to do another project.  For example, when I decided that I figured out why Christmas decorations have been annoying me all these years is that not only do you drag out extra clutter, but because it is not in the same color scheme as your decorating, the visual chaos is upsetting.  This year I decided to do something about this and change all of my Christmas decorations to match my accent colors of purple and green.  The great thing about this is since I have been decorating with purple and green, I had lots of materials to choose from.  I had enough material leftover from upholstering my barstools and covering the chair cushions on the porch to make a tree skirt. 

When I looked at my stairs with all the burgundy and gold stockings, I knew something had to be done.  So with additional leftover material from the barstools, as well as leftover material from making my bedroom curtains, I decided to make new stockings.  I just created a pattern from one of the old ones, cut them out, and sewed them together.  The feeling of peace I get from them being in harmony with the room is amazing.  Why did it take me so long to realize this about Christmas decorations?

Next, I wanted to put together a new decoration for my front door, so I came up with some wood trees, made with the leftover strips of plywood we had from replacing the subfloor of our main floor this winter to put down wood floors  (talk about scrap wood).  I was amazed that they came out looking just like the ones that were in my head and I created them to fit in the planters we already had by the front door so I didn't have to find another place for them.  For the bottoms, I made some heavy cross pieces to keep them upright.  My husband helped me to toenail them onto the cross pieces.  Bless that man for helping me with all of my crazy ideas and all his handy skills!  I did spend $2 on this project ($1 per tree) to buy some glittery snowflake stickers from the dollar tree.  The green paint was left over from painting our front door (what do you know, it matches perfectly!) and I just used some purple acrylic paint I had, along with some white acrylic paint to add splashes of white paint (snow) to the tree to tie it in with the snowman wreath I made last year.  If you look carefully into the background, you can also see the cushion covers on the chairs that are made from the same fabric as the tree skirt and stockings.  Then add a little greenery provided free by nature and voilá!

November 30, 2017

Heating seems to be the order of the day around here.  The nights have been around 30, and the days in the 50's and 60's.  So far this winter, we have had the heater on for 2 days.  That was before we got the wood stove thoroughly installed.  Now that we have the wood stove, we haven't turned it back on.  Our house is really efficient, we designed it as a passive solar with most of the glass on the south, and have flash and batt insulation.  The addition of a wood stove and a lean-to greenhouse on the southern side has made it about perfect.  So far, we are usually only putting a fire in the wood stove in the mornings, and opening our bedroom windows about 10 am to let the sun heat the house for the rest of the day and store heat for overnight.  This minimizes wood collection.  Since we installed the wood stove late, we bought one load of wood for $40 (very good deal), and have gone to collect some already felled wood that we split ourselves for the price of two cartons of eggs from a neighbor.   My husband and I made a good team, with him doing the splitting and me loading the truck.  I did give the splitting a try, and found that I am more successful with the wedge and sledge hammer than the splitting maul my husband likes to use for speed.  He does tell me that the red oak we were splitting is very hard wood, though, so maybe I can try a different wood in the future.  We love having a fire in the morning while we are enjoying our coffee.  I told my husband I feel like I am at a Swiss Chalet, it seems so luxurious watching the flames.

Having a wood stove brings with it a number of issues to solve.  We are well on our way to finding permanent solutions for most of them.  The first one we solved was where we were going to store the wood, and how to get it close to retrieving without having to re-stack it.  Research brought me to a wood caddy on wheels, so I set about constructing one. It works great but still needs some tweaking.  I am not happy with the wobble in the top and plan to add some stability in that area when it is not stacked so full.  Additionally, I designed it so we could use the top of it as a work surface when we were grilling out or doing our canning on the propane fish fryer.  However, I still have not decided what kind of countertop I want to put on it that will be waterproof (keeping the wood dry), that I will be able to slant (since the wood sits under the eave of the house and I want the water to roll off), and that will last.  Currently we are keeping a tarp on the top until we come up with a good solution and make time for that.

Then there is the problem of how to haul enough wood in the house so we don't have to keep opening the door (counter productive), as well as not having to re-stack it once we get it in, and solving the problem of how to store it inside.  I had thought of a metal wagon, but we did not have one and I was surprised at how much they cost.  Then someone from Off Grid and Homesteading Ladies suggested a hand truck.  We happened to have one just sitting around, so once we gave it a trial run and decided we loved the look of it inside in it's laying down position, I painted it to match our wood stove and it solved that problem.  I love that the profile is so nice and low that it works well in front of the window.

Then there is the problem of cleaning out the ashes.  When I was trying to figure out what to do with this, I read several accounts of issues I wanted to solve from reading people's complaints.  One was I wanted it to have a lid so it wouldn't blow around the ashes  and it would keep the ashes dry, and the second was I wanted it to have feet so if there were hot coals in it, it wouldn't burn the floor.  I was thinking of a bucket with lid on a low plant stand when I ran across this old coal hod that I found on Ebay.  It was not in very good shape when I bought it, so the first thing I did was sand it down and repaint it with high heat barbecue grill paint.  As the hand truck full of wood already took up a lot of space, we decided to keep it just outside the door, since we don't have to clean out the ash all that often yet.  The bucket that hold the ash is a great design that tips easily into the wood stove door so we can just scrape the ash and coal into the bucket.  I had read that some people keep it inside in a room that is distant from the fire for an additional heat source with the hot coals inside.

We still have to find the right tools for the wood stove, especially an ash shovel.  As our fire box is small, it is difficult to find one that has a short enough handle.  In the meantime, we are making do with what we have.  A spatula (that is being missed in the kitchen) and a set of barbecue tongs. . .

On other matters, we processed another steer, this one being larger than the last at 1320 pounds, with the carcass weight being 833.  Our freezer overfloweth.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

November 7, 2017

Finally, our wood stove is installed.  You ever do something that really doesn't take long, but it is so challenging it seemed like it took forever?  I would land our wood stove in that category.  The main thing that made it so challenging was my husband insisted on doing it himself (with me as the general helper and gopher), and it was done on our 12/12 pitch roof which is very steep.  Since it was on the side of the house with the walk out basement, it was also two stories up.  He also did it with rudimentary equipment, using a 75 foot rope tied to the beam of our front porch and thrown over the roof to tie around himself so he could work on the incline and use two hands.  We were both quite stressed out when he was up there.  Of course being the gopher sending things up in a bucket or climbing up on the ladder with items falling in your direction was a little scary as well.  Honestly the short days this time of year did not help.  Imagine not only the challenges I mentioned before, but doing it with a headlight on your head when you are still working after dark at the end of a work day.  Once we got the right adapter, that part went in well.  I think the harder part was putting in the extension bracket to hold up our tall chimney since it had to extend two feet above anything within a ten foot diameter.  Another challenge was finding the roof rafters to nail in the pieces to that attach to the extension bracket for a solid hold.  Then everything had to be caulked in anticipation of the rain that is supposed to be coming all this week.  Anyway, we are looking forward to being able to watch the fire in the wood stove on a cool evening and enjoying relatively free heat.  Thanks so much to our friend Don who let us borrow the roof scaffolding, as it made a great place to set tools, provided something to stand on, and provided an extra stop should my husband happen to fall.  We also borrowed the ladder stabilizer from Don.  What a great friend and neighbor!

I finished one more thing on our to do list that has been waiting for a few years to get finished.  That was the last part of the rails for the stairs from our back deck.  Yay!!  Off the list.  I didn't realize that lifting the drill and impact over my head all afternoon would effect my shoulder so badly (Thanks so much honey for all you do for us!).  To add insult to injury (literally), when I was putting in the last screw, a yellow jacket came and stung me on the same shoulder.  I am still glad I accomplished it.  Pushing myself to new challenges makes me feel really good about myself.

Part of my weekly routine is getting together stuff for my husband's lunches and to go breakfasts.  Every week, I make bread for sandwiches, a dessert, and usually some kind of muffins that I keep in the refrigerator ready for each day of the week.  It is so nice to have this in routine fashion so I don't have to make a decision every day.  Often, I lay out all his usual lunch dishes, then proceed with filling each one, which makes it pretty easy to put it together in the mornings even before your coffee has activated.  I made a cloth lunch bag just the right size to fit all of his lunch containers and have long enough handles so it could be hands free when draped over the arm.  The upholstery fabric and french seams made it very durable, so it has lasted about 8 years so far.  If you think about it and you take it to work every day from age 20 to 65 instead of going to Starbucks for coffee ($2.61 or more vs. $.20), McDonalds for breakfast ($6.39 vs. $.12), and out to lunch with co-workers ($10 vs. $1.00), you will save an average of  $17.68 per day, $388.96 per month, $4,667.52 per year, and $210,038.40 over your lifetime of working, enough to pay cash for a fairly nice house.