Cool Nights

Our days have been spent preparing wood for the cold that is quickly coming. A few nights ago we lit the woodstove for the first time. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing and smoked up the whole tent. Learning the dampers has been quite a challenge as well as keeping the temperature moderated in the tent. But we have woke up every morning with the tent at least 20 degrees warmer than the outside so I would think we are doing okay. And we are learning how to work it efficiently even after just a few nights.

I have cooked on the stove top several times– even baked some yeast bread on top. It worked just needs some fine tuning to get it just right. Thanks to friends who are letting us borrow their gas powered log splitter we have accomplished a lot together.

We are all working together and though the work is hard–at the end of the day, I feel so much closer to my family. I wouldn’t trade these days for anything. It is not easy living this life but it is worth the struggles I believe.

The other day we picked greens and cooked up a big pot for supper on the rocket stove. It was nice sitting down to a meal that we were blessed to grow ourselves.

My posts have been short lately I know. But this getting ready for winter has been an all comsuming push. I do hope everyone is doing well and has a blessed rest of the week.

Pushing Ahead

This weekend was one of relaxation. We had friends from our old church visit and camp with us. Our friend built us a fire pit. The evenings were so pleasant sitting around a dying fire and just talking and enjoying the night.

We also used the hand crank ice cream maker we discovered at a thrift store to make the firsr homemade ice cream od the year. It actually turned out great.

This week has been another rainy one so far but only in the evenings and early mornings. So far the days have been relatively clear. Monday, I cleaned and straightened the shelves inside the tent. After living here for a few months my two kitchen shleves needed so reorganizing. They look much better and everything now has a place. Living in a small area makes me realize how essential it is that everything have its own place. Things run much smoother this way.

The hubby also had to increase our solar system. The basic kit from harbor freight just wasn’t even enough to charge devices on rainy days. He upped the pannels to three panels and installed two 100 ah batteries for the bank. This system is working much more effectively. Even on cloudy days we don’t dip much into the power we have stored and it always quickly recharges on sunny days with the 2 extra 100 watt panels. He also moved everything to the south side of the tent. Apparently the south side is where the panels receive full peak sun. It certainly has worked.

Everyday we are still getting two eggs a day. Our baby chicks aren’t so baby anymore. They are quite large but still much smaller than the chickens. We are keeping them in the cage the hubby built. He added roosting poles to the cage and they actually use them. We are trying to wait until they are a little larger before we put them in the coop with the big chickens.

Now that it is cooling off and the greenery is starting to die down, we have started exploring our property. We love walking in the woods and seeing the different trees and plants.

I hope everyone has a blassed week.

Keeping It Simple

Something I have not written too much about since we moved are the emotions of this new life we lead. Everyday we spend busy from daylight till after dark and most times we do not focus on the feelings that we have. Today it is raining and I am sitting on the porch listening to the gentle rain and enjoying the cool breeze. I can’t wash clothes this morning and most of the water was pumped last night. So I guess you might say I have time to think.

My thoughts have been very mixed up lately. We have no regrets about selling it all and moving out here but we do struggle in the day to day and oftentimes lose our focus in the overwhelming daily work. We worry about everything. We worry about our kids being safe out here, we worry when they get sick and we don’t have any insurance to go to the doctor, we worry about why our chickens don’t lay eggs, we worry about cutting enough wood for the winter, we worry about getting through the winter. We worry about finances more than most things. But then I sit here quietly and realize all these things we worry about God already knows how they will all turn out. He just asks that we keep doing our part and He will take care of the rest. I believe this without a doubt. He called us to this life– He has blessed us already in such wonderful ways. We are already seeing the difference in our children living this simple life. The fact that we are all together has been a blessing– one we do not take for granted. We feel so blessed to be able to spend our days together working together. We take the time to read together and just sit or make sure the kids are learning how to do a project along with us.

The hardest part in this simple life is making it simple. We tend to overcomplicate things and then stress about them. We get so busy that we are rushing– forgetting we have the time to do it and do it together and as slowly as we need to. We see what we want everything to be and get frustrated in the here and now instead of just enjoying the journey. This is a difficult journey we have embarked on but one we know is important for us and for our children and hopefully one day for their children

We can live simply and sustainably. It will just take time and effort and many pauses in our daily life to just slow down and focus on the current moment instead of becoming frustrated in all the trials. It is okay for plans to change. We just have to go with the changes and be thankful for them.

We are blessed.

Chicken Update

The other night, we decided against putting up the small tent and staying with the chickens. Instead we set alarms for every hour to come up here and check on them. We also put up a solar sensor light we had to notify us if anything was outside the coop. We went all night seeing nothing. Then about 5:30 this morning the light went off and the hubby heard a thumping noise. It was still extremely dark. I took off running and by the time I got there whatever it was had gone but the chickens were fine. The hubby brought his gun up there and we looked around but couldn’t find anything. Whatever this critter is– it is very sneaky. We could see where it had pulled on the wire but with the sensor light and the noise of me heading up to the coop, I guess we scared it off. I am glad and thankful the chickens made it through the night. Now if only this new fence will work to protect them, we will be doing good.

We finished the fence and so far the chickens have been doing great. Still no eggs and we aren’t sure why. They seem happy and content, eat well, and free ramge most of the day. We let them out of the coop about 9:30 in the morning to give them plenty of time to lay in the coop. We have also searched all free range areas for hidden eggs.

The six chicks we have are growing and doing very well. The hubby made them a large cage to stay in until they are big enough for the coop. I was worried when I read abput needing incubator lighta and certain temps for chicks especially with the cold nights we have had. But every night we set the cage in the trailer and they huddle together and have fared fine without the modern

The hubby almost has the tractor repaired. It starts up immediately and runs good. He is just changing fluids now.

I did some rearranging in the tent and it flows much better this way. There have been some cool nights and we have actually had to close the door and windows.

Everyone is recovering from seasonal colds from the weather change and the next two days of 90 degree temps will not help I am sure. We have had nights in the 40s and days have been averaging low 80s. I dread the hot days again but it is just a few of them thankfully.

Today is a day for making apple butter and canning it. I used all peels and cores for making more vinegar. Over the weekend I canned 16 pints of ground beef we were able to get on sale. Everyday there is something to do and we stay very busy. I hope everyone has a wonderful week.

So Much Has Happened

It’s almost hard to know where to start this post. I intended to write much earlier this week but so much is going on. Last Wednesday we were given 4 chickens from our new preacher and his wife. They were almost at laying age so the hubby fixed up the coop. We put chicken wire everywhere possible then used screening for all the roof openings. The chickens were Hyghlines– a hybrid for a local university. These were their daughter’s 4h project.

We were so proud of them. They were getting used to us and us to them. We named them Louisa, Esther, Myrtle, and Nugget (the husband’s idea).

Well night before last, something got Esther. We figured a coon from the looks of it. The hubby repaired all possible openings to keep anything else out. Well last night I heard a noise and something had got Louisa. Today we have worked on building an outside fence around the coop to help protect the two remaining chickens. We also purchased 5 chicks today but these we will keep at the tent until they are larger.

We didn’t finish the fence because it got too late but we are going to sleep up there tonight and hopefully stop anything that could get the last 2 chickens. It has been quite an eye opener for the kids to see those poor chickens mutilated to such a degree but they have done very well and learned that death is a part of life.

Our other project presented itself in the form of a tractor. We have looked a very long time for one in our price range. Finally we found one. It is old but it is good. Its needs some TLC but we were able to get it and a bushhog under our price range. It is a ’54 Ford NAA.

Our other project has been a Coolgardie fridge build. A sweet lady here on the blog commented about this and as I had never heard of it– I started researching. It was invented in Australia back in the late 1800s. The hubby built the frame out of wood and hardware cloth.

We then bought some burlap and covered all sides. A bowl or metal dish is placed on top and flannel strips are placed in the bowl to wick cold water down the sides. As the wind blows and tries to dry the burlap, it cools the inside. It does actually work. I placed butter inside 3 days ago and though it doesn’t stay very firm, it does stay semi-firm. It is better than anything we have used so far.

As for having fresh eggs, it looks like we have a little longer to wait. However a sweet gentleman at our church brought us a box of his fresh eggs last night. They have been a blessing because today is my oldest girl’s birthday. She turned 10 and we made her a worm cake and breakfast for supper. That is what she requested and the eggs sure made both things much better.

Tomorrow hopefully we will finish our chicken fence build and hopefully keep our chickens safe from predators. I pray everyone has a blessed week.

Canning and Rabbits

This was the first week I had canned out here. We have tried several methods for keeping things cold and nothing was working for us.  We were starting to need some meat and chicken was the only affordable thing at the store so we bought two whole chickens and I pressure canned them on the propane stove. This canner will hold 20 pints. After the 8 jars of chicken were canned, I canned 30 pints of broth that I cooked from the chicken bones. I heated the lids and such on the wood fire and then canned with the propane. One day I will can on the fire but this was a start. It went smoothly overall.

While I waited on the jars to can, I made a double batch of soap. Again it was totally done by hand. The hubby took turns stirring so I could work on supper as well.

Realizing groceries are going up and not able to find a discount store in this area, we have done much research and praying and have decided to go ahead and start preparing for our meat rabbits. Apparently rabbits breed better in the cooler months. This will be a whole new adventure for us. After pricing cages and wire and everything, the hubby has decided to use what we have and build rabbit tractors– large on the ground cages we can move around. We mostly want to pasture feed them while supplementing with pellets. This is all a learning journey for us. Sometimes it feels as if we truly know nothing at all and no way to really learn except by doing. The internet is a great tool but sometimes so overwhelming because everyone has their way of doing things. Well we read Karla Emery’s section on rabbits in The Encyclopedia of Country Living twice. We looked at pictures of what others have done. We watched the whole meat rabbit series Living Traditions Homestead made on Youtube and got some ideas and learned some details we had wondered about.

All we can do is start and learn and pray and do our best to figure each new step out.

The sun is coming up here and the water wagon is waiting for me to pump it full and wash clothes. I pray everyone has a Blessed weekend.

Solar Panels and Cell Boosters

We officially have a solar panel system set up. We have debated on this for awhile now. Honestly no matter how much research we did– it all seemed so confusing. There were so many variations. All we needed was something to charge the cell phone (we have went to only one cell phone to save money), run the laptop every once in a while, and run the cell phone booster we invested in. Now we can officially make calls and receive texts anywhere in the back half of the tent. This is a blessing instead of trying the phone in the stovepipe or other random places that were hit or miss.

We just went with the Harbor Freight starter kit and two 35 AH batteries. So far this meets the needs we have. We would one day like to add to it to be able to run the hubby’s cpap machine but for now this is enough. We don’t want power to run a refridgerator or anything like that. Just enough for basic needs without depending on a generator or the plug in the truck. Solar is low maintenance and with our little use the batteries should last several years.

After much trial and effort– we have never done this before– we were able to get the garden fence put up. It’s really a simple process but the part that should be the simplest is the hardest here. Driving the T posts.

The hubby tried most of the T posts in at least 4 to 6 spots before they would drive down. They would get about 6 inches and bounce off rocks. He finally got his post hole diggers out and dug down to see if the rock could be moved. It had no edges and went for about 2 ft in every direction just in the spot he uncovered. It was solid rock and no telling how far down it went. This ground is like that. We have never seen anything even close to it. He did get them all in and we got the fencing on and secured. It took us about 3 days.

After that we took a field trip to a local nature trail. It was spectacular. There were natural caverns and huge rock ledges. We followed a dry creekbed before turning around and heading back. The kids did really good considering the hard terrain.

Now we are back to work. Hubby is continuing on the wood pile and I thuroughly cleaned the tent yesterday.

We tried abother experiment in keeping food. We needed block cheese for a few recipes. I removed it from the package and wrapped it in a cannvas cloth I had. After that I set it on a grate so it gets airflow all around. It is working. The outside of the cheese dries but it is still very usuable and tastes fine. This drying keeps the mold from forming.

Slowly we are learning. I was able to download the Foxfire books 1-5 from online in PDF form. These are wonderful books that actually teach some of the old ways. I looked for a set new but they were not affordable. After we started the first one together we decided we really wanted the set so I went on an Ebay search and found all 12 for a much lower price. It took awhile and all of them are used but we will be so thankful to have them. They were started in the late 60s in Georgia by a teacher and students who decided the old ways needed to be written down before that whole generation passed on.

Since we have no one to actually teach us how to cure meat the old way or make soap the old way or lye or anything really, we are thankful someone took the time to write all of these things down. We continue to learn as we go.

May everyone have a blessed weekend.

Rainy Days

The hubby made himself a sawbuck to help cut the wood he is clearing from this area in front of our tent. He set some cedar post for his woodpile as well as laying some posts on the ground to keep the cut wood from sitting directly on the ground. He has added to this woodpile since the picture and it is definitely a start.

The kids and I finished tilling the garden and picking up all the large rocks we could. Everytime I tilled, we would have a whole garden full of rocks. I have never seen such rocky ground. I hilled my rows and made 3 small hills. We planted dinosaur kale, arugula, 3 rows of turnip greens, as well as 3 hills of pumpkins. We are a little late for pumkins but we will see how they do. It has started raining today so hopefully it helps our little seeds and not washes them away.

It has now rained for 3 days and amazingly most if what I planted has already popped up. I do worry if we don’tt get some sun soon, my plants will not do well with all the water. We will juat have to wait and see.

Since it’s raining we will do our schoolwork then the kids will play and I will sew and the hubby wants to clean guns. It will be a nice slow day and a change of pace. But trying to wash clothes and dry them has been quite the challenge. I have been trying to do small loads and dry them here on the porch. It has not been easy.

Everything just feels wet and icky for lack of a better word. It gets you down– those constant clouds and darkness. I have still been cooking on the rocket stove even in the rain. We now have most of my wood on the porch to keep it dry as well as a small stack of larger pieces beside the stove.

We went to town Thursday for our 2 week grocery shop and we finally got new tags and licenses so we are officially citizens of our new state.

We are truly blessed to have all we do and to be able to live a journey most only dream of. Soon the rain will pass and the sun will shine again and we will be able to get back to our work. I pray everyone has a wonderful weekend.

The Outhouse

Finally one of our big projects is completed. This is one that we knew had to be done sooner than later and one I was wishing had been done when we were all expeiencing that awful stomach bug. Compost toilets- especially when 5 people are using it– are unsanitary and disgusting to me. Dumping that thing every two days was so gross. But thankfully my little experience with composting toilets is now over and we officially have our outhouse.

It took the hubby 3 days to dig the hole and 2 days to build the actual building. The hole isn’t as deep as he wanted but with the tools he had it is as deep as he could go. He hit a bed of solid rock about 3 and half feet down.

The first thing he did was find a fallen cedar tree and cut an 8 foot section. Next he cut that section in half. We then toted those half logs up to the hole and laid them on each side to make the foundation for the outhouse.

Next he built a frame for the building and framed in the seat area.

He built a floor and added walls. He left the top of the walls open and lined this area with screen for airflow. Next he put on a clear roof to allow for light and then he sealed any holes or cracks to keep any unwanted critters out.

It looks great and there is so much more room to move around than there was in that tiny privacy tent we were using with the compost toilet. The kids were arguing who was going to use it first. This is the first outhouse they have ever seen and they love it. It is a bit of a walk to the outhouse but we wanted it a good distance from our tent. We can see it though and we plan to get some solar lights to put on the path for those nighttime visits.

Our other projects have been moving the hubby’s tent garage closer to the big tent. He got that accomplished Monday and set it up as his shop.

I have organized the enclosed trailer as our new storage unit since we were finally able to clear out the rented storage unit. It worked out great and now our food and winter clothes and things like that are safe and dry.

I also tilled my first fall garden area but my tiller acted up so currently it is in hubby’s shop in pieces while he figures out what we need to repair it.

Hubby also started clearing the area in front of our tent. We will leave the oak trees but he took out the small cedars. This area will be where we store our firewood.

Things are finally starting to feel normal. We have settled into some routines with our daily chores and schoolwork and this has helped us all. It is feeling so much more like home. When we were living in the trailer it felt almost like an extended camping trip.

The temps have been back up in the 100s but not terrible with the breezes. We are ready for some cooler temps though.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

Setting Up

This week has been a busy one since we are finally all feeling better except the baby girl. She is still weak but improving. The hubby has restarted on the outhouse hole. It has proven quite the job. About 3 feet down he hit a huge rock. He has found one edge of it so he is trying to work his way around it. Thankfully it has been cooler and we are able to work most of the day.We brought a load from our storage unit and started setting up the inside of the tent. It is finally starting to feel like home.It is still a little disorganized but we are getting there. We found our phones have service sitting against a metal coffee pot on the wood stove. Since it’s not in use yet, it will work for now.The hubby moved my rocket stove down here to the tent and I am enjoying having it back and going.He also installed the solar shower and it is working better than we ever expected.We also invested in a flat wagon for hauling our daily water from the well. Some of it gets dropped off at the laundry tubs up at the clothesline and the rest comes down to the tent.During the hottest part of the days last week, I hand sewed the oldest daughter a new Sunday dress. She needed something cooler than her long sleeve black dress and as of that time I did not have my treadle machine. Thankfully we brought it in the load from storage so now I can work on some of the many projects I have planned. I hope everyone has a good week.