Sunday, August 28, 2011

Finally, Finally, Finally underway

For the past several months we have been in the planning process for building our new home. We’ve considered many options including yurts, tents, garage package, a very small home, back to yurt, tent, etc. Our indecisiveness has been terrible but we are finally on track with a log house that will hopefully last us for 100 years.

If you’ve been reading for the past several months you’ll know I went ahead and put in a basement without having any plans drawn up yet. This was the cause to much contention on The Simple Farm as Milly thought it a foolish and unwise thing to do. I didn’t think much of the event but now every time I mention the fact that I had a basement built without any concrete idea of what we were doing seemingly questions my sanity.

Even Gus, my oldest and bestest friend traitorously said “How can you start building without a plan?” Much to the delight of Milly.

So after being beat up over the whole basement event I promised not to proceed until we had a full and proper plan. Little did I know planning takes a while. I’m not talking a day or two. I’m talking months. I can’t tell you how close I was to picking up a hammer and going out in the middle of the night and start pounding nails.

And to be all honest we are not quite done. But after getting approval on some basic subfloor designs from the inspector that was all I needed to get the submissive go ahead sign from Milly.

After calling around the country for lumber quotes I was surprised to find the cheapest rates came from our local hardware store. That’s not true on all the items but the 2x12x18 lumber that we needed the most of was several dollars cheaper a stick. I was also surprised to find out a 2x12x18 is cheaper than a 2x12x16. Go figure.

Side Story*****************

I should probably tell you a bit about my experience in ordering lumber from that local hardware store. I called up the place for prices etc. I asked for a discount as I was expecting to buy a bunch of stuff. After calling around we found if we ask for the contractors price we may not get it but the store is usually willing to deal a bit to get a good amount of business.

So after getting a materials list together I drove into town to fill out my order. As I walked into the store the guy behind the counter looked at his watch and kind of sighed. It was like I was waking him up from a deep sleep and he didn’t appreciate it too much. I guess it was 7 pm on a Friday night but the store closed at 8 pm so was thinking my timing not too bad.

None the less it was like pulling teeth with fencing pliers. I dragged the guy around the store looking for items. Most of what I needed was there in partial quantities. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they didn’t have 20 joist hangers or 25 cement fasteners in stock. It’s a small store in a small town.

After getting everything in the computer I mentioned the special homebuilders pricing I was promised. I’ve seen a deer in the headlights. I actually hit a deer a couple of weeks back. And this guy had the same look. I started giving him the pricing I was told and he actually just keyed in the price. After haggling over the price on a few items he started sweating and said he had to wait until Monday to get approval but he’d let me take everything then. I agreed so he started loading my wares as fast as he could in my car. I have never seen such effort. It was 7:50 pm and by the looks of things he must have had a big date or something.

I left the parking lot and got a bit down the road and realized I didn’t have a receipt for anything. I turned around at the gas station and waited at the stop light for it to turn green. The town has one stop light and I just so happen to hit it when it was red. I felt my chances slipping through my fingers as I was sure he was bolting the door as soon as I left. For some reason that red light lasted about 5 minutes. I was tempted to run it but was positive I’d be pulled over by the only police officer in 50 miles.

Finally the light changed and I pulled an illegal turn back into the parking lot and went up and pounded on the door. I could just see the steam pouring out of his ears. Here it was 8:01 and I was still bugging him.

“Please sir, can I have a receipt please?” was all I could say. The till was closed out and I knew I was walking on thin ice.

Somehow he managed to turn the key on the register and get it back open to print me out the stinking receipt.

I came home in a miff and swore to swear off that stinking place forever. But they did beat everywhere else by $300 for their lumber quote so I guess I’ll just come earlier on a Thursday as Friday is probably a vacation day.

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I had the hardware store deliver the good the next day.

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I was afraid I was going to get the dregs of the lumber as I ordered all they had in a few items. Surprisingly it was really good stuff.

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We put a sill plate on and tried to bolt down them down. I skimped out and borrowed a hammer drill from my brother in law. I spent 4 hours drilling about 10 holes. I’ve repented and will get a Hilti drill from the hardware store on Monday to finish up the job.

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All this wood will complete the framing for our subfloor. We didn’t buy any plywood as we are looking for an exterior grade that doesn’t off gas as much as interior grade plywood. Sill 834

Another side story*******

I called up the local hardware store again and was trying to get the specs on the plywood. The lady who answered didn’t know but she said she had a local contractor in the store who might be able to help me out. He took the phone and I asked him my questions. The conversation went like this:

“Hello sir, I hear you know a bit about the plywood they have there.” I said

“Sure do. I’ve been using it for years” was his reply.

“Great, could you tell me if it’s an exterior grade plywood or interior?” I asked.

“What are you using it for? The outside or inside?” he asked.

“Inside. It’s for a subfloor but we have found that the exterior plywood uses chemicals that off gas less and doesn’t cause as much health hazards. We are really sensitive to chemicals so are trying to use materials that are better at that than others” was my reply.

“Well, if you are using it for the inside this plywood will do fine. There isn’t any chemicals in it, just glue” he informed me.

I started to see where this was going so I decided to have a bit of fun while Milly listened.

“Oh, so there is no chemical in it. That’s great. It sounds like I should get a bunch of it” was my reply.

He continued sensing he was really helping me out. “Ya, no chemical at all. But if I were you, I’d use that OSB stuff. There’s no chemicals in that either except for glue. There’s nothing wrong with that stuff. I’ve been using it for years."

“Oh, no chemicals in that OSB stuff either. Wow, I never would have knowd. I’m glad you were in the store so I could ask these questions to. Thanks for your help sir” I said as Milly hit me on the shoulder as a sign to stop picking on people.

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Grey beard and Elvis admiring the view and their work.

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We built our center beam out of 2x12’s. Nailed together this 35’ long puppy is heavy. We’ll have to call upon all our neighbors to get it in place on Monday.

 

Doesn’t look like we did anything but it took all day.

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That’s mostly because we started building and we didn’t finish our plan yet so we had to figure everything out as we went along. So I’m told.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What kind of person buys local food?

Sitting at the table today eating beets, carrots, potatoes, and beans all of which have come from our own garden, madreunion 076e me think of how differently we eat now than a few years ago. Can anyone guess what kind of vegetable the plant to the right is?

Granted Ramen and Kraft Dinner are the staple of most college students but even after college we often would buy prepackaged, processed food from the grocery store. Not to mention how often we went out to eat for lunch and supper.

I suppose we do spend a lot of time collecting and processing our own food but I feel so much better about what we eat it is 100% worth it.

Milly and I are both of the opinion that the healthiest way to eat isreunion 081 from whole food (i.e. carrots, potatoes, eggs) grown by a local source. I don’t care if the farmer is organic certified as long as I can go to the farm and admire, ask questions, and see how things are being grown and produced. We are in the process of raising 20 birds for our own use this winter.

I’d like to say we have a ton of connections with local producers but since we moved from Montana we' have really stepped up the effort in producing our own food. That’s nice if you have the ability but if you don’t have the ability it’s really important to support local producers in your area. It keeps money in your own community and the benefit of eating locally grown food is tremendous.

One of our favorite places to visit is a farm in Montana. Mr. and Mrs. Green are even on the Who’s Who list for The Simple Farm. The Green’s send out a newsletter every week updating friends, acquaintances and customers about the happenings on their farm.

This last newsletter had an interesting paragraph I’d be interested to hear anyone’s thoughts on.

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One of the most enjoyable parts of selling off of our farm is trying to figure out what kind of person buys from us. If we try to categorize them as a type, we are quickly reminded that people don’t fit into slots very well. Maybe I should rephrase that. The people that buy from us normally don’t like to fit into slots. They come from all kinds of backgrounds and occupations, blue collar and professional. Some are older, and some are younger. The common denominator of all of our customers is their concern for the quality and the origin of the food that they eat. Liberal or conservative, rich or not-so-rich, are opting out of the mainstream food system. Documentaries like Food, Inc. and Farmageddon are awakening people to the fact that a thousand cows go into a typical fast food burger, which is formed and cooked in a central location far, far away from the place that it will be re-heated. The customers that patronize us give us more than just money. Some of them are gifted cooks and nutritionists, and the information that they share with us helps us become an even healthier family. Our customers actually do fit into a slot. The category of best.

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I think Milly and I fit in the younger, conservative, not so rich category. But it makes me wonder what causes people to turn from the normal grocery store lifestyle to seeking out local farmers and suppliers.

When we started looking for local sources of food it was amazing to find quite few people all in the same category as us. That category was we were all looking for good food to eat that was not chalk full of hormones or chemicals. The economic station, up bringing and background, and years on the earth varied greatly but we were all after seemingly illusive good, healthy food.

Another thought. Most people think eating locally produced, almost boutique type foods, is more expensive. It certainly does cost more money for semi-comparable products at the local grocery store.

A few points on that line of thinking:

1. It’s not comparable food. No way can you compare fresh grown carrots to grocery store cardboard carrots.

2. Overall we spend less money on groceries now than we did in the past. But that mostly is because we rarely buy processed, prepacked, quickie type meals any more. Or go out to eat nearly as often. It just doesn’t tasted as good any more and certainly not worth the price.

3. If you buy “Organic” food from the grocery store the price is pretty hefty. But if you find local food sources the price of food is usually way more reasonable. Especially if you go to the farm directly. It may still cost more than a grocery stores horrible comparison but it’s not nearly as expensive as the grocery stores “Organic” version of good food.

This post probably will inflame a few of my favorite readers but hopefully it inspires a few to reach out and contact local producers in your area.

I’d love to hear your ideas, comments and experiences on this subject. At what lengths do you go to find good food? I’ll start. I bought a cow and am milking it day and night.

I’d also be interested to hear any guesses on the vegetable at the top. Dancing queens says they are rather nice with butter and brown sugar. It would be hard to imagine anything not nice with that combination.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bee sting

Poor Polly. Her first bee sting had to come right on the kisser.

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I definitely will keep this as blackmail material when she gets older.

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She was quite distraught but still could manage a small smile. We kept a close eye on her but the swelling subsided in a couple of hours.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

House designing

We have been struggling through our log house designing the past several weeks and have almost come to an end. I say almost but it still feels like years before this process is actually completed. It needs to come to an end soon if we are going to have any hope to get into this place before snow flies.

We have been utilizing the skills of Barnabas as an engineer to help us with this process. I don’t imagine all his clients can be as dense as us but let me tell you he has the patience of Job.

Gus was over this past weekend and helped us think through a lot of things how this place is all going to be built. It’s fun to discuss all the different things you can do but painful when you actually have to decide. For example, you can’t imagine the discussions we’ve had between I joists, 2 x 10, and 2 x 12 subflooring and the distance between centers for each of those. How can deciding that detail be so difficult?

I’m about ready to start building finalized plan or not.

We drove to Kalispell on Saturday to look at windows. Too bad we have a champagne appetite on a beer budget (quote from greybeard). We could get some really nice looking ones. We took our time coming back to Canada as we had the kids walk most of the way collecting bottles.

I’m thinking this Saturday is the day the subfloor is put on so if you have nothing else to do on one of the last days of summer come on out and laugh at me as I build with only a partial, semi complete house design.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cheap child labor

On many occasions I’ve posted pictures of the work I make my kids do. In all reality I try to spin the circumstance so that is seems like we are playing together. Ringo has pounded posts, hauled cement, dug holes, shoveled gravel, etc. Molly takes care of the chickens and helps in the garden.

I’d like to thank them for their efforts in another arduous task. In the last few months I’ve promised them a penny for every ten times they refreshed my blog page view to improve my coolness counter. Morning and night they’d fight over who gets to push the mouse button.

Who wouldn’t want a cool job that paid so well. And to my amazement we’ve hit a very cool coolness count milestone.

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I’m sure I was never this popular in high school.

Thanks to everyone else who improves my coolness by reading my silly blog. I enjoy all your comments and encouragement.

I’m sure in just a few short months Ringo, Molly and Polly will figure out clicking a mouse isn’t the most fun in the world so I’ll need everyone else’s help if I’m ever going to be this cool again.

Anyone need a part-time job that you can do from home? I hear there is big money in mouse clicking. My kids took home $10 between the 3 of them last year.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Adventures in milking a cow

It’s not always a good experience to milk a cow. This morning I was milking and Rosebud wouldn’t stand still. I was wondering what the deal was when I hear a tremendous PLOP, PLOP, PLOP. Manure was falling from the sky it seemed. I grabbed the pail and ducked for cover.

After the deed was done I moved Rosebud over and figured I was good for the rest of the milking. However, the dang cow kept moving around and being overall twitchy and irritated. I was again wondering what was going on when I heard a rushing river barreling out of the cow. Once again I jumped for cover while grabbing the pail and waited until the deed was done.

Assured that there were no other natural excrements possible I went to sit down on the stool to get back to work. I somehow misjudged the seat and tipped over backward. Tilting backward I put my hand down to save me from falling off the stool and guess where my palm firmly planted. Right in the middle of a smooth, creamy, steaming cow pie. Uggh.

Usually I like milking the cow but this morning I came pretty close to swearing.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Garden fresh vegetables

We had our first real bounty from our garden. The lettuce was a little bitter and the Swiss Chard was beat up from hail but none the less we actually made a meal out of the below. There is sage (the white stuff) and some other herb (the purple flower) that Milly was collecting as well so I guess those are just decorations.

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I’m sure the below is a farming tradition. How many of you remember shelling peas by the hour/bucket? I remember sitting at the table shucking peas for hours and hours.

We had enough to cover us for a meal. It’s amazing to think of how many peas you’d actually have to get to supply your families needs for the winter. One meal for us was about a gallon of unshelled peas.

We even have on display 3 eggs that came from our own little ladies. We had 4 but Molly put one in her pocket which didn’t make the trip inside. She was quite distraught and I’m guessing she’ll have nightmares when she’s older about eggs crushing in her pants pockets.garden 011

I should have taken a picture of the meal before was done. I didn’t think of it in time so only have one lettuce leaf on display. Trust me. There is no better meal then getting fresh veggies from the garden and cooking them up in homemade butter.

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Molly said it best. “I could eat that meal every day.” That’s saying something when a kid wants to eat a meal that contains beets, onions, Swiss chard, and lettuce every day.

How’s everyone else’s garden doing?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Kissing rock

Anyone remember this post about when I tried to move this rock with a pick and shovel? Well, I decided to flex some muscles and really show this big old rock who was boss. Still didn’t work.

That’s when Milly thought she’d use her brains over brawn and asked our excavator to move this for us. With a little scoop of the high hoe this wonderful old rock in now perched overlooking the hay field and river bottom. I love the view and the rock so am looking forward to putting the two together.rock 001

The one big tree where we are building will be an excellent shade tree for the afternoon sun. Now I can sit and laze the day away drinking lemonade and thinking in the shade.

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The rock also looks over our garden spot as well which we put a sprinkler on for the first time. I’m hoping a little more water will perk up the scraggily looking plants.

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It’s such a nice thing to see a sprinkler on the garden I’m going to put another picture of it in. I’ve been hand watering the plants for the last few months. The Yota has creaked and groaned with load after load of water barrels filled to the brim.

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The only thing I’m concerned about with the placement of this rock is the potential romantic influence surrounding such a wonderful vantage point. Just think of how many suitors and sinners I’m going to have to chase off the land with my shotgun in relation to Molly and Polly. Not to mention the surveillance and sacrifice that’s going to be needed to keep Ringo in line.

Other than my kids, anyone else can feel free to come out and try Kissing Rock. Just remember how hard I tried to move and position the rock to get the atmosphere just right for the occasion.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Well water miracles

We have gone through another miracle in relation to our well. I told you all about our well witching and the results of those silly efforts. Yesterday evening Milly came tearing home and said “We have a problem.”

We had the plumber out to put in our pit less adapter.

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Side description: I guess in the old days they used to dig a pit and pour concrete or build a frame around the well. They’d put their pipe from the house out to the pit and then down the hole. Then they developed these fancy new pit less adapters that was connected to the well casing. Works pretty good.

The plumber burned out a couple of drill coring bits to get the hole needed to put this adapter in.

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The electrical line running out of the well to the house.

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Back to the story. Milly came rushing home to tell me we have a problem dropping the pump into the well. The plumber got the pump down 82 feet and couldn’t get the line to drop any further. He couldn’t tell what was causing the obstruction nor could he muscle the pump down. The well report said we should suspend the pump at 90 feet so something must be amiss.

Milly came home to call the well driller (since we don’t own a cell phone or any other convenience item of the sort) to see what the deal was. It was late in the day so she only got the voice mail for the office.

Without much to go on I headed down to the land to check out the situation as I had just finished up milking the cow. (I need to do a couple milking cow posts. You better remind me. I have lots to say on this matter.)

When I got down to the land Greybeard and the plumber were shooting the breeze and cussing the well driller. Being the overly confident person I am, I went over to the well head and started banging away at the silly setup. I was sure I could get the pump down the hole. I mean, how hard could it be?

I tried lifting and pounding, swaying and twisting. Heck, I think I even tried kicking the top of the casing but all was for not.

Not knowing what else to do we hauled out the line 10 feet or so. Our only option was to cut off the pipe 8 feet and place the pump up higher than the driller recommended. The plumber marked off 8 feet of pipe and lifted his saw to start the cutting. Just as he did that I heard a horn honking and I saw Milly tearing down the road trying to stop us. I must have been the only one that heard the horn as the plumber continued to start his saw up. I politely stopped him hoping Milly had some good news or something.

Milly pulled up and had some really good news. She had actually talked to the well drillers mother and she promised that her sons report was surly correct.

At that point we could only rely on the confidence of the drillers mother in relation to her sons  so we decided to try it one more time before chopping things up. Mothers have a tendency of being right so what was one more try going to hurt.

Bang, bang, bang. No go. I swish and sway, twist and yank and we are still stuck at 82 feet.

At this point we were all standing around the well head and I could tell Milly was praying her little heart out. If we cut the pipe off there is only 12 to 15 feet of water above the pump. That’s ok but it would be way better down another 10 feet. I decided to join in the prayers as well as the plumber was getting itchy to cut things again.

I had the thought to just kind of move the line back and forth a bit while everyone was talking about how terrible the well driller was etc.

And this is when the miracle occurred. I felt the pump slip in and start to go down again. It slid down 10 more feet. I was whooping and hollering. Milly was jumping for joy. The plumber was scratching his head but jumped to to position the pit less adapter like it should be. I can’t remember feeling so grateful after a prayer was answered.

Now some of you may say that is not a miracle. That’s exactly what should have happened. The drillers mother was right about the drillers integrity, honestly and workmanship. But I’m writing to tell you it was a miracle that we got this well put together like it should be.

I felt it and so did Milly. Heck, even Ringo said “we sure are blessed aren’t we?”

So every time I see water pouring out of our hoses I’m going to think of that miracle. If any of you come and visit you’ll also know you’re drinking from some pretty special water.

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More pictures:

Pumping system set up in the basement with temporary power.

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You can see the garden hose attached to the temporary water outlet. The system is setup to pump when the breaker is on.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Sasquatch in the Saskatoon patch

We were  out throwing rocks in the river yesterday and when we came back to the truck I spied a bunch glorious little purple round globes. Greedily I planted myself in front of a bush and ate for quite a few minutes while no one was around to steal my sustenance.

Then I guntingly mumbled to the rest of the crew that Saskatoon season has finally come.

The funny thing is I didn’t even know we had Saskatoon’s on the land. I was delighted to find heaps and heaps and heaps of berry bushes.

I’ve picked a bunch of berries before but none of them looked as plump and plentiful as these. The bushes are hanging with fruit and they just pour into the bucket handful after handful.

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Without proper equipment (we loaded our hats with berries and headed home to make Saskatoon ice cream for supper with the sparse leftovers) we decided to go back in the morning.

As you can see we were optimistic with our harvest. Everyone gets a bucket which is held up by a belt or rope around the waist.

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Ringo was a great help. Milly was a blur. I could never catch a clean picture of her. The orange hat is a dead give away however. It’s kind of like the elusive sasquatch. I’m guessing there will soon be a bounty out on getting a descent facial picture of Milly.

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Molly showing her hoards of berries as Polly eats everything she or anyone else plunks in her bucket.

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The orange hat is attached to someone I think. I’m pretty sure it’s not just hanging on the tree. I wonder if the sasquatch captured that hat and is using it as a disguise?

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Our crew picked five gallons of berries in two hours. That’s not bad for how many berries were eaten before they actually reached the pail.saskatoons 020

The true sign of a good berry picking day.

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I’m thinking we better go back out again tonight for some more fun.

Anyone want to come and try to find that sasquatch in the bush with us?