Monday, May 30, 2011

Weekly update

We have worked out our development permit with our countclip_image002[5]y and have started the process for getting all the building permits needed to build a house. I called the permit people and they told me to fill out an application and at the top is this picture. Now isn’t this picture of a man bending over appropriate when dealing with government bureaucracy. There seems to be a permit for everything.

It rained all week and we finally had the sun come out today. I checked our garden and we actually have some stuff coming up. I’m kind of surprised as I thought it’d be a miracle if anything grew in the clay based grass patch we planted everything in.

Holiday tomorrow for me since I work for an American company. We are going to secure a chicken coop if all goes well.

Wish us luck.

 

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Things you learn at the UFA farm supply store

We headed off to the big city today to play around a bit. A niece of ours (Daisy) was in a school play so we got to see her Cha-cha’ing away during a wonderful remake of Grease. It’s sad that I know all the lines and songs from that show but that’s what you get when you have five sisters as told in my Girly Man post.

Before heading to the big show we specifically wanted to do some preparation for the chicks we have comiimageng in the next week or so. I felt quite out of place heading into the local UFA (United Farmers of Alberta) store after I saw one of my childhood neighbors sauntering in. I’m pretty sure I saw him take out a piece of gravel from his pocket, chomp a few times, and spit out dirt. 

I engaged him in conversation being surprised he was still frequenting the farm supply store as I remembered him being about a thousand years old when I was a kid. He admitted to selling off all his sheep but still keeping all his cows. I asked him why he only sold his sheep and not his cows. He grinned and said “I’m too young to sell off my cows. I was only born in 1925 so have quite a few years left in me yet with those critters.”

How in the world can I compete with that? I complain when I have to type too long on my keyboard and he’s been farming for 86 years.

As I walked in the store the lady behind the counter looked me up and down asked if I was looking for directions or something. (Hopefully you can see the humor in me trying to pretend to belong in a farm supply store filled with tough as nails cowboys and cowgirls.)

Trying to act confident and tough I said “ummm….I’m getting some baby chickens and I need some stuff to keep them alive.”

The lady kind of snorted (I’m pretty sure I’m not making that up) and replied “So you are getting chicks? Do they have all their feathers?”

“Ummm….” was my reply. Not trying to sound ignorant to the fact that not all birds have feathers I kind of just crossed my fingers and said “I think so.”

Feeling sorry for me she tried to throw me a slow pitch “How old are they?”

“Ummm…a few days I think”

“Are they laying hens or meat birds?” she continued.

I said “Ummm….I think kind of both. If they don’t lay eggs we will eat the bird I’m sure. I’ve been told the roosters don’t lay too many eggs so we are going to eat them.”

“Oh Honey, let me explain a thing or two about chickens, roosters, and the birds and the bees.”

After a long and detailed explanation of the above I think I’m fully prepared to talk about the birds and the bees with my kids. At least in farming terms. If I mess that conversation up maybe I’ll try explaining the difference between chickens and roosters.

So I ended up walking out of the store with 55 lbs of oyster shells (for grit and calcium I’m told), a couple of 250 watt bulbs for a heat lamp we bummed off of a good friend of Dancing Queen and some detailed notes on various and sundry things relating to raising chickens.

We eventually did make it to Grease to watch Daisy. I sure felt confident at the musical, just like I belonged there. But I sure am glad those farming folk weren’t there to see me dancing and prancing to “Look at me I’m Sandra Dee”. After all “I have a rep to protect.”

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Simple house planning

We are in the process of building a simple house. The house we are building will have a 950 square foot main floor and another 450 square foot loft. We plan on having a basement but leaving it undeveloped until the kids get bigger or we start yelling and complaining about stepping on each others toes.

I’m not sure if everyone would consider a 1400 square foot log house a small house (especially when we’ll have an undeveloped 1000 square foot basement). For example, check out this hobbit hole my good friend from high school sent me info on. (He will now be named Dollar from here on out on The Simple Farm,  new addition to Who’s Who.) I’m not sure it’s a compliment that Dollar said he thought of us when he read about this place but……I did think it was cool. Maybe I’ll do this for a guest house for all the many visitors we are bound to have come check out what crazy stuff we are doing.

Anyways, I digress. I keep thinking “We should make this place just a bit bigger. Couldn’t we just cut out a big hole in the wall and extend more living space if only we acquired a few more logs.” Milly assures me that is not going to happen.

Since we have already committed to buying walls made out of logs and the size of the logs are not going to change we have our playground set and everything we do needs to fit inside this space.

This has actually been a blessing for us. There is no size creep. It would be very easy to just add size to fit in everything we want. It has actually been fun so far to take all that we want and package it into a simple small home.

Another thing that isMasonry heater by Dan Givens happening by keeping this place small is we are planning on having a much nicer place than we would if we were just to build big. For example, we are already using handcrafted logs and we are looking into a masonry stove as a heating source and design center piece. Tell me these bad boys aren’t cool. Here’s a link to someone that built a stove DIY style. Not quite what I’d want it to look like but good info on how it’s built.

So simple and small doesn’t necessarily mean inexpensive and cheap. We are certainly doing it as inexpensive as we can but that mostly means we are searching for good material at decent prices and doing a lot of the work ourselves (at least that is my pipe dream so far.)

I still have dreams of a yurt or if I get really adventurous I might try the hobbit hole in the side of our hill. After all, I wouldn’t want to disappoint Dollar or all of you that envision us as crazy hippy radicals.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Weekly update

The semi square foot garden is taking shape. You can see we have planted 4 foot sections and made pathways in between. Twine string works great for setting out the area with stakes we made out of old fence posts.

The parsnips are coming up and all the cold weather crops are in. We decided to wait another week in case another hard frost comes. We just had frost a couple of days ago and I’m not convinced the cold weather is completely gone.

Milly is admiring the toils of her labors here while trying to combat the millions of mosquitoes that seem to have appeared overnight.

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Here’s our watering solution until we get our pump and services for the well. The steel barrels where $8 a piece and are from a local food processing plant.

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Molly started riding her bike without training wheels for the first time this weekend. Ringo showed her how to start while we were in the house and she was off and riding.

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We rode bikes to a local ice cream parlor. If you are in the mood for great ice cream we know just the place.

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Ringo didn’t want to share his ice cream cone with me. I think I’ve seen this exact face on Milly a time or two when I’ve been acting up.

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Back of the Yota. That T looking tool is a post hole digger. It works great. A few twists and you can go to the center of the earth fairly easily.

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Brother and sister ready for church. I need to make sure I document the fact that these two actually like each other before they grow up and get to be grumpy teenagers.

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Molly inviting over Rico and Cocoa for whole wheat chocolate chip cookies. On my last business trip I went to a concert where they were handing out these geeky glasses. Molly just loves them and wears them all the time.

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Rico sporting the chocolate chip smiley face. I think he likes the cookies.

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Rico’s daughter (better think of a name for her. Any suggestions?) with Molly looking on. I love those big blue eyes.

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It was a great week on The Simple Farm. Next up is finishing the garden planting and deciding where to put our house. Oh ya, we got chicks and maybe ducks coming so need to build or find a coop. Also considering getting a couple of goats to milk and mow our lawn.  Busy, busy.

Change of house plans

I haven’t updated anyone on our plans to live in a motor home over the summer as things have kind of been up in the air this past week. We had full intentions of roughing it for the summer while we tried to piece together something to live in for the winter.

Well, last Saturday I came home from putting our garden fence together to keep out those pesky deer and was ready to pack up and move our little family out onto our land. While I was away a neighbor had been to visit in regards to the building below. We were interested in this place but the price was more than we could afford and besides, Milly never dreamed that she would live in a log cabin when she grew up.

 

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I on the other hand have watched with admiration over the past three years as a local builder was erecting the start of a log house on his back lot. Anyway, he came by and was interested in further negotiations. 

So after talking, yelling, figuring, praying, yelling some more, (Milly and I, that is) and with a promise that I’ll eat all my vegetables, Milly agreed to the deal.

The positives I mentioned in my pleas to Milly are as follows:

  • Natural local material
  • No off gassing
  • Walls can be put up in fairly short order
  • We don’t have to mess with a temporary shack
  • Landscaping will be set the first time instead of having to figure things out for a second house
  • The builder will cut in the doors and windows as well as help reassembling for the price we agreed upon
  • We wanted a house about 1000 sq ft for our final place anyways
  • It’s unique
  • Doors and windows can go wherever we like
  • I get a balcony out of my office overlooking our kingdom

 

The negatives Milly presented were as follows:

  • We are poor. We are not going into debt to build a house

That was it. Her only complaint was we have no money. Pshaw I say. Things will work out.

So now my summer plans include collecting bottles on weekends and completing the rest of this house.

Hopefully things work out. But for now we are the proud owners of four beautiful graying log walls.

Back to some pictures. The builder brought in some huge logs and peeled, shaped, and pieced together the walls for a 30’ by 35’ structure. The logs range from 14 to 8 inches in diameter. Average around 10 inches.house 066 

The builder is from Norway and has built several log homes just like they made them back home. The logs are flipped end for end and planed by hand to fit snugly.

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The walls have been outside unprotected for a about three years and have started graying. Not sure what we will do with this. Both Milly and I don’t mind the gray so we may keep it unfinished and let it age naturally.

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The walls are about 9 feet high and we will put a roof on the top.

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There is a center pole in the middle of the house with beams that will be used for a loft.

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Amazing how snug the walls are. We will put wool in between each log when we reassemble on our land. Milly is concerned about   chemicals and off gassing materials. These logs have sat outside for a while so there will be no problems of those sorts.

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You can see the two left loft logs are shorter than the other three. The stairs to the loft will go up there.

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Uneven versus even ends. The builder was going to cut them off straight to match but I kind of like the uneven look. What do you think?

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So this place will probably be smaller than this Montana log house but who wants something that big anyway.

If you haven’t noticed, our plans change about as often as the weather in Southern Alberta. We are hoping to have a full basement dug, the walls erected and a roof on by wintertime (October). I just need to get collecting those bottles.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Garden progress

Went out tonight to put more wire up around the garden. I have about a 5 foot high fence protecting the place and need to put up one more strand of page wire before I’m comfortable with leaving the pesky deer roaming around the place. It should end up around 7 or 8 feet high.

Milly came out and finished up planting a section of the garden. When you do a square foot garden there is a lot of planting involved as you fit much more into a tight area. We still need to get potatoes in and some squash and zucchini. Watering is a pain as we don’t have a well pump yet.

Not sure how this garden is going to go. The soil looks really brown not black which means clay based. I’m hoping we get something from it this year and maybe next year it will flourish.

We are looking to finish up things in the next day or so.

I just love being outside at night listening to the crickets and coyotes chirping and howling. No wind tonight and the sun was setting and I just didn’t want to leave. I’m pretty happy to live in such an incredibly beautiful place…no matter what Barnabas thinks.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cutey Pie, fencing cheaply, and medicinal plants

Before I get to the fencing I can’t resist showing how much little Polly loves her berry milkshake. Pretty just like her mama.

house 052 

Spent the weekend trying to put up a fence around our little garden.

We had to pull out this old page wire out of a garbage deposit. Ringo would shout directions as I floored the Yota. Amazingly enough I think we have about 20 bundles of wire like this that we can use. It may end up looking like a rusted out mess but I’m hoping it will do the trick for now.

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I bummed some old cedar posts off of Milly’s uncle (Earl, new addition to Who’s Who) and found some page wire thrown away on the land. I hear we have to build a fence 10 feet high to ensure deer won’t jump over. I’m hoping a 7 or 8 foot high fence will do. house 061

It feels like a fortress we are trying to build. Got done the posts and the first round of wire along the bottom. The used wire has a bunch of holes so we’ll have to patch and make due. After finding out 10 foot high poles cost something like $18 a piece I decided to make due with ugly wire and 100 year old posts. Hopefully that won’t be a mistake. I’d hate to plant and water a whole garden just to get it eaten.

I’d like to make sure everyone understands my thinking on making due. It’s not that I’m cheap or think this is the best way to go. I merely want to keep things simple at first until I can figure out what’s worth spending money on and what’s not. The minute I spend money on anything I then complicate future decision. Decisions that will probably be better thought out due to more understanding and experience.

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Milly was in high heaven when she found this plant on the land. This is Yarrow. I guess it has some magic healing power and is good for anything from coughs and sniffles to diarrhea.

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You collect it then put it in oil or water and then can use is as an application on various and sundry ailments.

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It looked like a weed to me. Glad I have a medicine woman in the family.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Barnabas and the Nine Point Deer

This is one of Molly’s favorite bedtime stories. It happened last hunting season and involves a very good friend of The Simple Farm.

Late one Saturday night I was sitting around watching a football game when I got a call from Barnabas.

“What cha doing?” he said.

I responded “Nothing, just watching a football game.”

“Wanna come help me chase down a deer?” asked Barnabas.

“What do you mean, chase down a deer? You going to try and run some deer over with your truck?” I replied.

Barnabas said “I just shot the biggest deer I have ever attempted to shoot, with my bow, and it took off into the woods behind my house.”

Now let me explain a little bit about myself before I go on. I am not a hunter. I have never tracked a deer in daylight let alone in the middle of the night. Neither do I profess to have any super scent sniffer nor any real desire to tromp around the woods chasing after some wounded animal in the pitch black.

But it did sound intriguing as is usual when Barnabas is involved.

“I could use your help. I’m bringing Betty (wife), Curly Sue (eight year old daughter), a niece and two nephews. And I think I could use another hand to haul this humongous  deer out of the woods.”

I started thinking. Surely I could be as useful as Curly Sue since she was only eight years old. I guess I must have had that I’m-going-to-get-in-trouble grin on my face. Milly started bracing for the worst as I said “Sure, I’ll come. What do I need to bring?”

After getting the required materials list (flashlight, batteries, camera, chocolate, etc.,) I got off the phone and looked over at Milly.

I started off nice and calm. “Sweetie, I’m going to help Barnabas out. He’s in dire need of another pair of hands.”

“Huh, I’m going to bed." said Milly "It’s already ten o'clock and you’re probably going to be out all night.” .

“No way. I’ll go for just an hour or so then come home. I promise,” I said.

Milly rolled her eyes and prophesied.  "This is going to be an all night event that ends with someone getting their fingers chewed off by a rabies-infected raccoon."

Little did I know how close her “this is crazy” premonition would turn out.

So I got on my bright blue waterproof pants since it looked like rain and jetted over to Barney & Betty’s house.

They were just pulling out to head off into the jungles of Northern Montana and I was just in time. I jumped in the back of the Toyota truck with the other naive participants and we headed off.

Barney drove around the corner, across the street, and parked the truck. I guess he didn’t want us all crossing the street in the middle of the night.

“This is the woods you were talking about?” I said. “Did you shoot the beast while you were taking a bath? I was expecting a little more out in the woods, not in the middle of town.”

Now to be fair to Barnabas, there is a big hill out back of his place that is covered in trees and brush and I guess you could consider it woodsy. There certainly were a lot of deer around that area. I was just expecting a longer journey to the happy hunting grounds.

We jumped out of the truck and headed over to where Barnabas thought he hit his ginormous deer. Being cautious not to contaminate the crime scene we crept along looking for the prize skewered jerky. We didn’t see any evidence at first to corroborate Barnabas’s wild tale but we did find an arrow stuck in the ground. He claimed he shot and missed on his first attempt.

Fanning out with our tribe of seven with flashlights in hand we finally found the target site. There was quite a bit of blood around and we could see the trail heading off into the “woods”.

So all seven of us started running frantically and aimlessly into the outback thinking we were going to find a dead deer right on the other side of the bushes. Nope. Couldn’t be that lucky. We followed that bloody trail for another 4 hours. Down hills, over tree stumps, up the same hill, back around the river and finally we spotted the survivor still trucking along a little distressed but really quite healthy looking. There’s no proof of how big this deer was and my imagination seems to remember things a little exaggerated on occasion but I’d say it was a very solid four point spiker. Just kidding Barnabas. It was a fairly large animal. We’ll leave it at that.

We backed off and thought we’d wait a few minutes as it had to be slowing down seeing that our motley crew somehow caught up with it. So we waited for about fifteen minutes thinking the night was coming to an end and then started following the trail again. About two minutes into starting up again we lost the blood trail. I think an alien must have come and got the animal and took it home. We looked everywhere. We couldn’t find anything.

After another hour of tracking, back tracking, cussing, praying, and yelling at each other, Betty and the girls gave up and went home. Barnabas, myself and the nephews stayed to keep looking. We finally came to a bunch of trees and we heard something rustling around in the trees. It sounded like an animal breathing heavy or moving slowly. So I quite bravely suggested we take a look.

I started leading the group into the fairly thick set of trees when I said “I sure hope we don’t get eaten by a bear.”

Just as I said that we heard a “HEWWAAGGGHHHHOGGIEBOGGIEEWAAAAAAAAAAAA” bellow. It was loud and sounded vicious. I swear it sounded like we were going to get eaten by a bear or taken up into that alien space ship.

I’m not too proud to admit that although I was the first one in the trees I was also the first one out. I’m pretty sure I pulled one of Barnabas’s nephews down, stomped on his stomach, and left him to get eaten (in the bedtime story Barnabas jumps over the trees and I spit flames at the noise.)

After getting out of that dark and scary tree stand we stood around huffing and puffing from our exerted efforts.

"What in the world was that?" Barnabas asks.

Grateful there were no hidden video cameras to see my hasty exit from the trees, I replied "Either a bear or a very mad deer."

“Somebody pushed me down and stepped on my stomach” complained one of the nephews.

Not wanting to push our luck we decided to turn in for the night. How many times can you look death in the face and get away with it? I was sure we were pretty close to having our arms torn off by a bear or fingers eaten by a rabies-infested raccoon.

Just as we started walking up the worn path I decided to peek around the the end of the tree stand and I tentatively shined the flashlight over in the direction of that vicious roar.

And there in the pasture was a little old brown donkey and five horses.

“Remind me again how big that deer was Barnabas?” I asked. “Surely it will be worth the mocking and ridicule we are going to get from this adventure.”

“It was the biggest darn deer I’ve ever shot at,” said Barnabas.

“How many deer have you actually shot at with your bow, Barnabas?” I demanded.

“Well, this is actually the first deer I’ve shot at with my bow but it was a very big one,” Barnabas admitted.

We never did track down that nine point gigantic deer so to this day it’s probably still roaming around the back streets of Kalispell or maybe its riding around the universe making crop circles with alien friends.

But at least we now know what  noise a huge ferocious donkey makes when crept up on in the middle of the night. We did see a porcupine walking back to the truck but I'm pretty sure it didn't have rabies.

After recreating the tale for Betty and letting her know how brave we were against such a gruesome animal it was time to head home.

I dragged myself into bed around 3 am and Milly rolled over and said, “You should have listened to your wife.”

Unconventional Thinking

I wrote a blog a couple of days ago as a precursor to something we are planning on doing that is probably a little unconventional. We are getting ready for the weekend where we are going to move out on our land in a motor home.

This will be a weekend thing as I have to work during the week where there is internet access and we don’t have that set up yet out on the land and I don’t think working in the back room of a motor home would really work too well. So we are considering this a hybrid, semi permanent way we can make the jump into moving out on the land but still have some semblance of a normal life during the week. Hopefully we can get a house plan together before the snow flies.

So maybe it’s not that unconventional if you just consider us going every Friday, Saturday,and Sunday and camping all weekend. Our kids are actually excited. Ringo called dibs on the bed above the drivers seat and Molly has her stuff ready to go.

We’ve been preparing Elvis and Shorty’s motor home which they so graciously lent us for the big event and we’ll hopefully be set by 6pm Friday night.

I’m hoping this will be a good move. Milly says we’ll have to become better friends as the quarters are rather close.

I went down and checked on the trees and garden tonight. Looks like the deer are keeping their distance. I’ve had suggestions for keeping them away from getting a dog to urinating on the ground around the trees. I haven’t done either yet.

I’m hoping being out there in a motor home will dissuade the filthy beasts. We are also building a fence around the garden. Milly’s uncle had some old posts and I found some page wire that had been discarded by previous owners so hopefully we’ll get something put together that will work. I’ll take pictures so everyone can laugh at our exploits.

Anyone in the mood to camp this weekend can join us out on The Simple Farm. Bring your own tent.

Oh Deer!!!

We had our first farming loss and let me tell you I’m starting to dislike the rodents of the prairies very much. DEERS…Jerks. You know how we spent all Saturday planting trees. Well we came back a day later and several trees had been pulled out. I thought it was a sasquatch or some old enemy from my youth trying to get back at me. (Most likely from Raymond.) ha. But after closer examination we saw hoof prints walking all up our tree line and the tops of most of the trees had been gnawed off.

We guessed that deer wouldn’t eat caragana or choke cherry. I mean come on, who in their right mind would eat caragana and choke cherry is supposed to be toxic other than the fruit. I found this site that confirmed deer (and moose, elk, bear, etc.) will eat choke cherry and it’s only toxic if they eat .025% of their body weight. Oh, great.

Aggh. So now we are scrambling to find fencing for our garden. We planted parsnips today but didn’t dare plant any good stuff until we get an eight foot high fence. We called around and found ten foot high fence posts to cost around $16 per post. To build a stinking fence to keep out the pests is going to cost like $200 just for our small garden. I was tempted to sleep down on the land tonight with a shotgun to scare the beasts away. I did go down and shoot a few rounds off with the shotgun just for good measure. And what did I see? I swear there were at least fifty deer munching on our pasture in the riverbottom.

Where is Barnabas when you need him? I mean, even Barney could finally get a deer with that many pests littering the prairie. (I’ll write a future blog about my all night deer exploits with Barnabas. It’s one of Molly’s favorite bed time stories.)

It’s an eye opener to say the least. We’re lucky we started small with only 275 trees right?

Any suggestions other than fencing to keep the pests away?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Conventional thinking versus unconventional thinking

Over the past several years we have toyed with some fairly unusual ideas. I’d guess our family and acquaintances would call us weird, eccentric, off the wall, and/or crazy. (I guess biking across the USA was kind of a crazy idea.) The ironic thing is I think we are the most normal people I know.

That being said I’m glad only a few of our friends follow this blog as it would be somewhat embarrassing if everyone we know knew the thoughts and actions we have on a daily basis.

Hopefully the people following this blog are kind of similar to our value set and not the kind to poke fun of the weird guys.

Anyways, I was thinking there is usually a conventional way people do things and unconventional ways things are done. I don’t really think the conventional way is right or wrong nor do I think the unconventional way is worse or better. I’m always very glad to hear different ideas and opinions on the way people think things should be done.

Here are some thoughts and actions I’ve heard in the past little while. These are not necessarily my thoughts so don’t start throwing rocks at me for these crazy ideas.

 

Conventional thinking

I need a good job to pay the bills

Unconventional thinking

If I don’t spend money I don’t need a job

If I work less I’ll have less taxes and expenses and can probably get by just as well as when I work longer

If I find ways to save money I won’t have to work as much

I can work for myself

 

Conventional thinking

People must plan for retirement

Unconventional thinking

I’m going to retire right now and worry about the future later

These are the best years of my life I’m not going to waste them

The earth is going to end before I get to retirement age

Conventional thinking

I’d like to own a big house with a white picket fence

Unconventional thinking

I want a small house

I want a unique house

My children will share bedrooms

The outdoors transition area is just as important as the house

I want to live in a motor home the rest of my life

I’d rather rent a house than buy

 

Conventional thinking

I will have a contractor build my house

Unconventional thinking

I want to build my house myself

I will use local building materials

I will use healthy non off-gassing materials

I will have friends and family help build my house

I’m going to use solar and wind as alternative electrical sources

I will life off grid

 

Conventional thinking

I need to go to the grocery store to get food

Unconventional thinking

I want to buy local food

I will buy food in season

I can grow my own food

I want to know where my food comes from and how it is produced

 

Conventional thinking

Every family needs two vehicles

Unconventional thinking

I can use a bike to get to work or school

I can ride the bus to a neighboring city

I can hitch hike

 

Conventional thinking

My kids will go to school when they are four years old

Unconventional thinking

My kids will learn from me at home

My kids can learn at their own pace on their own schedule

Life experiences are just as important as formal education

 

Conventional thinking

Debt is normal

Unconventional thinking

I will buy everything with cash

I will not go into debt to buy a house

I will not go into debt to buy a car

I will not go into debt to get an education

 

Conventional thinking

I need a sprinkler system for my lawn

Unconventional thinking

I will harvest rainwater

I will use a gray water system

I will grow plants that are accustomed to the local rainfall patterns

 

Like I said above, these are not necessarily my thoughts. We probably fall into conventional thinking just as often as unconventional thinking but I applaud anyone with the guts to go a different way.

So my point in writing this is to look beyond the conventional, everybody’s doing it way. Conventionality shouldn’t dictate how you or I decide to things. But being unconventional doesn’t really mean it’s better than the conventional action.

Another point. The more people do things unconventionally the more that same action becomes the norm. I suppose the best way to do things is to look at your life and determine what is best for yourself and your family no matter what everybody else is doing.

I wonder what flack I’m going to get from my friends and family over this post? And no pointing fingers or throwing rocks at me the next time you see me.

What other ideas do you think of when considering conventional versus unconventional thinking?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Make versus buy and tree update

It’s been a busy couple of days. Milly and Queenie made soap. I’ll have to make some myself to document the process. I asked Milly to do so but she couldn’t figure out how to use the camera. I caught a few pictures after they were done. Plain Jane vanilla and cocoa butter swirl were the flavors of the day. Six short weeks and these will be ready to use.

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Another make or buy update. We were planting a bunch of twigs today. I keep saying twigs as I’m kind of laughing at what we got versus what I thought we were going to get. When I ordered 275 trees I imagined having to bring a trailer in to haul all the trees back out. This is what we got.trees 009

That is 25 trees. The whole 275 fit in a small plastic bag and could fit in the back seat of our car. So yes, they are twigs. But hey, it only cost $5 in transport fees and a bunch of work to get them planted. Hopefully they grow.

On to the other make or buy decision today. We needed to water these trees and the pump is not yet in our well. I could have went out and bought a water truck but instead decided to jimmy rig a watering truck of my own.

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It’s a thing of beauty. Can put a hose off the spout and drive down the rows while Ringo waters the plants. This is my current farm truck. Can’t beat a 1979 Toyota. We even got farm plates for this bad boy.

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I bet you don’t see potty training occurring out in the middle of the bald prairie. Little Molly is just figuring things out so we thought the green grass would be way better then cleaning things up around Dancing Queens place. (huh, Dancing Queen and Queenie. I better think about adjusting that name. Ok, change of name. Queenie shall hereafter be know as Cocoa.)

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The only brave souls to answer the tree planting call. Speedy came out with his three daughters Tulip, Petunia, and Daisy. (more additions to Who’s Who). They were great help. I’m sure we’d still be there if it wasn’t for them.

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I let Petunia and Tulip drive the Yota today. I think it scared Tulip when the truck started heading down the hill and she didn’t know how to stop. First time for these brave souls to drive a stick shift. Don’t get made Sunflower. They were in good hands with me and speedy.

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So if you look really close you can see the twigs planted. They are there. All 200 Caragana and 25 Choke Cherry trees.

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We are still trying to decide where to put the other 25 Choke cherry trees. I think they will need to go closer to where we are going to put the house.trees 020

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We were going to plant our garden but the wind was howling and Milly decided she wanted to plan the garden instead of throwing seeds in the ground as I suggested.

So it was a busy couple of days. Still have the garden to plant but we feel good in all that we got done today.

I’m glad at least someone on The Simple Farm knows how to use those doohickies they call a camera.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Make versus buy

Its amazing how consumer oriented I am. When faced with an issue I often think of things I can buy to resolve this issue.

For example, the other day when planning our trees and garden I thought “I could really use some doweling rods to mark the garden with.” I almost jumped in the car and ran to town to buy doweling. I then realized I could probably make some sticks by chopping up some old fence posts that have been discarded on the land. Same result albeit not very fancy.

It’s not just the cost involved for buying things that made me stop and think. It’s the travel and time to buy anything. We are really out in the middle of nowhere. To get to the closest mom and pop store is a minimum of half an hour by the time I load up the kids, say hi to everyone I meet, drive back out to the land. If I go to the big city it’s a half day trip minimum.

This led me to think of things I could probably make versus having to buy them at a store.

Here are some things I thought about:

- Groceries – Veggies, milk, meat, eggs, etc.

- Gravel – have some pit run I could use on the land

- Firewood – have trees I can cut up

- Feed for animals

- Soap – Milly made some tonight with Rico’s wife Queenie (new addition to who’s who)

- House

- Chicken coop

 

Any idea’s on things I can make versus having to buy?

Planting 275 twigs/trees tomorrow and hopefully our garden. Starting to work on that grocery making thing.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tools I’ve used on The Simple Farm

I’m a greenhorn when it comes to farming. I try to act like I know what I’m doing in front of Ringo, Polly, and Molly (I’m their dad and don’t want them to know yet that I don’t have a clue) but I’m really just guessing. I ask Ringo his opinion some times as I figure his guess is as good as mine.
That being said I've started to make a list of tools I’ve used as we’ve started this farming endeavor in the hopes that any other greenhorns may find it useful.

I often tell Milly we should buy a certain tool or machine and she usually smirks and says “what for, you’re not a farmer”. Too true. So to keep things simple I’ve tried to limit my investment in heavy duty supplies so I can start off small and perhaps grow over time if it seems right.
Here is a list of tools I’ve used in the past year on The Simple Farm.

Often used tools as of 05/05/2011
Axe
Chainsaw – We have lots of trees we need to clean up. Will use for gathering wood for winter.
Toe rope – Used to pull trees out
Fencing pliers
Wire stretcher for fence
Hammer
Truck – Borrowed mostly. I just registered a 1978 Toyota truck my dad gave me 2 years ago. Should do until we get rich from farming and can get a big truck.
Shovel
Rake
Computer – To look things up online for instructions on how to do things.
Pliers
Crescent Wrench
Bucket – For water, collecting things
Gas Can
Additions 11/09/2011
Compressor
Post hole digger
Water hose
Water trough and/or bucket
Volcano oven
Hoe
Post maul
Drill
Tool belt
String
Tarps galore
Additions 12/29/2011
Pocket knife- a must have. I used it several times a day
Chains - to drag things
Steel barrels- Store things in and haul water
Gloves - I usually get 3 pairs for around $20 from Costco
Winter clothes - It fun being outside when you are warm.
Gum boots
Hand saw
Pencil
Tarp straps

Sometimes
Gun – I have a .22, shot gun, and a 30-30. We have some dogs roaming the place so I keep the 30 – 30 close just in case.
Draw knife – To peel logs

Wish list
Chainsaw of my own. I’ve borrowed Greybeard and Elvis chain saw in the mean time.
Electric fencing equipment – Need to get shortly for chickens and goats.
Tractor with rototiller, lawn mower, and plow
Big 4x4 truck
Backhoe
Bobcat
Heated water trough

The above lists will grow. You can see my wish list is all relatively expensive things so the items may stay on the wish list for a long time.
A little advice for those just starting out. Find everything used or borrow until the time comes that a purchase is necessary.
Hopefully I can take my own advice and keep it simple.
Any other frequently used tools I’m missing?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Garden and tree line

We decided for this first year we would make our garden smaller than it will eventually end up. We rototilled a spot 24’ by 24’. That sounds kind of big but it really looks small compared to the huge gardens I remember having as a kid.

A lot of seeds will go in this Saturday if all goes well. That is if we have time after planting 275 trees. We hear that the term trees is a little misleading. It’ll probably be more like planting twigs but hey, they were cheap and we have time.

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It’s May and the kids are still dressed from head to toe as it’s still a cool 5 to 10 degrees Celsius.

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I think this ended up to be 250 feet of a 5 foot swath. We dug a trench down the middle in preparation to planting the trees.

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Here’s a video of how long this trail is. Ringo is at the far end working back to me while we made a trench down the path. We are going to try a few rain harvesting techniques such as making a rain basin where the trees are. This includes sloping the dirt so the water collected will end up where the trees are.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A river runs through it

We were out checking out the river this past week. The Belly river borders the East side of the land and the river channel is always moving and changing directions. This year we are awaiting the floods that are bound to happen.

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You can see our fence has toppled into the river as the bank was eaten away.

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Big change in flow makes big backwashes along the river channel. This picture shows a backwash forming as the river changed directions last year.

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Here’s a view of the river flowing.

This will probably get more coverage as the river rises and floods come a calling.