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I think we’re finally settled on the most important appliance to grace our humble little house – the wood stove. We’ve looked idly at several types and brands this past year. We went from Nectre to Esse to Alderlea to Blaze King, and have ended our search with Woodstock. Say hello to our heater, cooktop, water heater, and most beautiful piece of furniture:

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This is the Progress Hybrid wood stove by Woodstock. I found the company via some strong recommendations at the Hearth.com forum. After making a couple calls to the factory and talking it over with my husband, we put a deposit down a few days ago. Expected delivery for this beauty is August 30th, which also happens to be my hubby’s birthday. Happy birthday, honey!

For those of you who are curious about prices, I’m going to break down each and every cost associated with the stove and the installation. But first, a picture to give you an idea of what goes into a wood stove installation.

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If you click on it, it will take you to the full version that is much easier to read. The only difference in our install will be that the stove pipe comes straight up out of the stove instead of at a 90° angle from the back. While running my errands today I was able to stop at Menard’s and price out all of the components for the pipe. It will be much cheaper to buy them there than to get them from Woodstock and have them shipped. The prices below reflect those I found at our local Menard’s.

Part Name Price Quantity Total
Deluxe Rain Cap 39.99 1 39.99
Adjustable Roof Flashing 49.99 1 49.99
Storm Collar 6.49 1 6.49
Cathedral Ceiling Support 38.99 1 38.99
Stove Pipe Adaptor 19.99 1 19.99
24” Length Chimney 48.00 3 144.00
24” Double Wall Stove Pipe 34.99 5 174.95
Adjustable Length Stove Pipe 29.98 1 29.98
       
  Total   504.38

Here’s what our wood stove costs. The items that say 0 next to them have actual prices, but with the sale that was going on (ended 7/19/13) they threw in a lot of things free. Plus we got the $400.00 discount for the sale. All in all, we saved several hundred dollars by shopping smart.

Part Name Price
Progress Hybrid  (left door, charcoal) 3595.00
Summer Sale -400.00
Bottom Heat Shield Kit  (black) 0
Rear Heat Shield Kit  (charcoal) 0
Ash Lip  (charcoal) 0
Pipe Shield  (charcoal) 0
Shipping Crate 0
Summer Sale Freight 240.00
   
Total 3435.00

Once they’re added up, we’ll have spent $3939.38 less applicable taxes. And that, my good folks, will be the last money we spend on heating our house. With over half of our 27 acres in old growth hardwoods, we’ll not be lacking for fuel any time soon. When I think back on the big, drafty farmhouse we rented just a couple years ago, I positively beam! Did you know it cost us around $900 a month to heat that beast in the deep winter months? And that was with the entire upstairs closed off, all of us piled into the one downstairs bedroom. Ridiculous. Never again. I am so happy!

In other news, I built some nice doors with critter-proof latches for collecting eggs from the nesting boxes.

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I still need to figure out some dividers for the nesting box, work on getting the end gables filled in, and make the two big doors for the eastern and western sides. I’m glad I have all this time to work on it because I am not going nearly as fast as I’d like. It should be ready for our first homestead chickens next spring!

While I am waiting for the inevitable finish, I will be enjoying some mystery bulbs I found sprouting amidst my tools in a forgotten bag. I thought they were delphiniums, but now that they’re coming up I think they might be irises or lillies. What do you think?

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I also hauled another 5000 or so pounds of cord wood and whipped it off of our newly fixed trailer onto the ever-increasing piles behind our house site. Let me tell you, as a hopeless arachnophobe, I really had to power through some deep seated fears to work with all this wood. The size of these wood spiders! Holy crow!

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I finally got a picture of the shy lizard my son has dubbed Heidi (because it likes to hide). I got to watch him stalk, attack, and eat a grasshopper. Nature is awesome.

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And the most important news! This is even better than our wood stove news! Our house – it has a basement!

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Later this week we hope to get the plumber and builder to agree on where fittings and pipes will go so the basement floor can be poured. Once that is cured enough, the builder can start framing in the house. YAHOO! Every time I’m up at the land I look at the basement and do a little happy dance.

That’s it for now. Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

We now have flooring! After I dropped my husband off at the airport yesterday, I stopped by Lumber Liquidators to see if they had any deals on wood floors for our house. I found an awesome deal and ended up spending less than half of what we thought we would. We figured on about $5000 for everything including pads and nails and whatever else we’d need. Instead, we are now out $2067 for EVERYTHING. Yahoo!

I just got done stacking all 2500 pounds of flooring in the garage. I’m stoked to get going on it. Now if only our builder could get going on the house…

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A few days ago, a small box showed up on our doorstep. It was our blueberries. I was, to quote ‘Mater, as excited as a tornado in a trailer park. The very next morning we drove up to our land to get them planted. It took about 3 hours to till each row a few times, add some peat moss, then till again. Then it took about 3 hours to plant all 100-something plants. I took my time, making sure each plant got a big drink of water as I put them in the ground, then another after I tucked them in. I packed the soil down firmly around each plant using my hands, then made a well of soil around them to hold water around the roots instead of letting it run all over the row.

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Before planting.

After planting and watering.

After planting and watering.

Watering a blueberry plant.

Watering a blueberry plant.

The plants came in all sizes between 8-16″ or so. There are over 30 Duke, 30 Bluecrop, and 40 Jersey blueberries. About one in four had flowers blooming – I picked those off finally today to get the plants focused more on producing roots and shoots instead of fruits. As soon as we get a not-so-windy day, I’ll be sprinkling some sulfur around each plant to lower the pH of the soil and allow the plants to utilize nutrients more efficiently. Right now, it takes me about an hour and a half to water all 100 plants by hand. That sounds dreadful, but it’s pretty easy thanks to this contraption:

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Our lawn tractor can easily handle a full 55-gallon drum as long as it’s strapped down tight to the trailer. The drum is on a homemade wooden frame that allows it to tilt forward so that water comes out the spigot installed in the cap. There is a hose attached to the spigot that works by gravity. Tip the hose down – water comes out. Tip it up – water stops. It takes two full drums to water all 100 plants. I fill it through a hole on the side of the drum (or the top in this orientation). I don’t use this to water our large fruit orchard (apples, pears, peaches, grapes, etc) because we have a hose that actually reaches all of those. The blueberries are over 400′ away in the south field, down one hill and up another. That’s a LONG way to haul buckets. I’m pretty happy with this watering rig… at least until we can get a well installed in the south lot.

So that’s the start of our berry farm. We probably won’t be open for at least another two years. Next year we plan on doing at least 100 more blueberry plants, plus at least 1000 raspberries. We still have to come up with a name for ourselves and figure out a marketing strategy, but that will come in time. I had the idea of calling ourselves Patriot Berries. We’ve got the blue blueberries, and we plan on adding red raspberries. Anyone know of a white berry that might sell well? Maybe gooseberries, white currants, or white grapes? Then we’d have red, white, and blue. It’s corny, I know, but I’m a corny gal.

Anyone else have ideas for a name for our farm?

 

 

The last week has stayed above freezing, getting as high as 50 and even raining well a few times. I am completely STOKED because this nice weather has spelled the end of the feet of snow outside our windows. We probably had 3-4 feet  at one point, with snow piles topping 20′ around every corner of the apartment complex. It was insane, especially after last year, when we only had two snowfalls at around 4″ each, which promptly melted before any good sledding could be had.

This warm weather means things on the house are finally kicking into gear. I’ve been on the phone with the builder, the plumber, the excavator, the inspector, the county clerk, and local building supply companies the past few days. So far I have had a few pleasant surprises:

1. The perk test was done last fall without me being the wiser. The plumber already has plans for the septic all drawn up, and will be taking them to the county for a new sanitation permit on Wednesday or Thursday. He will be one of the first ones on site, and is looking forward to starting as soon as the road restrictions are done.

2. Road restrictions should lift sometime in the next week or two! Hurrah! Here is a website that keeps us Wisconsinites… Wisconsiners… Wisconsiganders? Whatever. It keeps us updated as to when the restrictions are lifted and which roads are effected. http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/travel/truck/docs/class2roadwaymap.pdf

3. There are a lot of local places that sell cedar posts for the perimeter fence around out garden for MUCH cheaper than Menard’s or TSC. I’ve been calling around, and found out I can get unpeeled eight-footers for $2.50 each, or peeled for $3.50 each. Compare that to $10.99 per post from the big box stores. Yikes.

Everything is falling together for the house. I found some good deals on our faucets and a ceiling light/fan for the boys’ room. Saved $34. Doesn’t seem like much, but every penny adds up when the project is this big.

Speaking of money, we found out how much the septic system will cost – $3250 plus $725 for the perk test and sanitation permit. That comes to a grand total of $3975. A beautiful number, considering we had budgeted $5500 for it!

I have also been doing some brainstorming, and I think I have a great idea for what to do with our southern lot. There are about 6 acres of woods and 7 acres of field. We bought it because we didn’t want some creepy asshat moving in next to us and being able to look in our windows whenever he wanted. Our neighbor experiences haven’t always been the best. 🙂 We didn’t have plans for it. I don’t think either one of us really thought about what to do with it when we bought it – it just sounded like a good idea.

A U-pick farm. Brilliant, right?

Okay, so we have some details to hash out yet on it, but I think I could easily make it work. It’s not like we’d have a lot of competition. The nearest U-pick is a 25 minute drive, and all they offer are one type of strawberry. The nearest one to offer blueberries is about 90 miles away. I think this would be a perfect fit for us, especially if we focused mainly on blueberries, because they really aren’t as labor intensive as strawberries and we don’t need a ton of specialized equipment.

My next post will be a more detailed hashing-out of this idea. I’ve had a lot of good input on a forum I go to, as well as some good back and forth with my husband. I’d welcome more if anyone here has experience or some brilliant insight as a customer.

Toodles for now!

 

The Great Depression. What do you think of when you hear that phrase? I recently started watching documentaries on it, and I’m fascinated in a shocked and horrified way. It’s just so familiar. Land prices skyrocketing. Debt increasing at an alarming rate. Politicians and media working together to waltz around a terrifying economic situation. Unemployment on the rise. Disgruntled veterans and workers demanding promised bonuses. Tent cities forming. Government aid stretched thin. Unemployment nearing record highs.

At the height of the Great Depression, the US population was nearly at 123 million citizens. It is estimated that 7-12 million died from starvation. That’s 5-10% of the population. What would it be like in our time, with 313 million legal citizens and an estimated 12 million illegals?  The United States produced more than 75 million tons of food in 2012, including meat, dairy and crops. Even so, we imported approximately 15% of our food based on volume. During the Dust Bowl and Depression, our imports went up to 46%.  Could we possibly grow and import enough food to feed 325 million people when the world population is now over 7 billion, with an estimated 925 million of that number already in starvation? We’re doing okay now, but if we were to experience another drought of that magnitude or greater, how would it effect our already fragile system?

Before the Great Depression, people refused to go on government welfare except as a last resort. The newspapers published the names of all those who received welfare payments, and people thought of welfare as a disgrace. However, in the face of starving families at home, some men signed up for welfare payments. For most it was a very painful experience. I found estimates that only as much as 10% of the population was on any form of government assistance as of 1930. Compare that to today, where the government and main stream media have not just made it acceptable to be on the dole, but they have promoted it to the point where an estimated 47-52% of people are now on some form of assistance.

During the days of the Great Depression, it was much more common for families to own and operate small farms. I haven’t been able to lock down a specific percentage of people who lived on farms during the 30’s, but from everything I have read and watched, it seems like many more people grew their own gardens and cared for their own livestock, even if only a few chickens for eggs. Nowadays, it is illegal to own animals bred for meat or eggs inside most city limits. In fact, even in the countryside, many counties and municipalities have enacted laws that prohibit livestock and the growing of edible gardens. Homeowners Associations and town councils have banded together to create an atmosphere that is vastly different than what our predecessors faced in the Depression. Growing our own food is frowned upon. It’s illegal to sell raw milk in 19 states. It’s illegal to sell eggs off of your farm premises in most states. It’s even illegal to own heritage hogs in Michigan thanks to recent DNR idiocy.

There are also more people today who don’t know how to cook. With the abundance of pre-processed foods available on the market, even baking a potato is becoming a lost art. When I was first teaching myself how to can foods, I couldn’t find one person other than my mother who had any personal experience to share. Even now, I only know a handful of women who know how to can, and most of them do it as a hobby instead of as a necessity. Among the women I have been acquainted with since becoming married, I would estimate that more than half have never cooked a meal from scratch. (And I don’t mean boxed mac n cheese and hot dogs from a package when I say from scratch.) I’ve experimented before, asking neighbors to borrow common cooking ingredients, like flour, sugar, vinegar, salt, lard/shortening, eggs, etc. What I found is that a majority of neighbors in the city don’t keep those types of supplies on hand, even in small amounts. I was laughed at once when inquiring about vinegar. “What can you make with vinegar?” was their mocking question, followed quickly by, “You mean you COOK with it? I thought it was just for cleaning!”

Our people can’t feed themselves. They don’t feel a need to avoid welfare due to embarrassment. They don’t keep more than a few days worth of food (if that) on hand. Even when they get free food through government or private assistance, they choose pre-processed junk over healthy food. Our government no longer keeps stockpiles of staples on hand just in case – it has instead adopted the modern merchant viewpoint of keeping 1-3 days worth of goods on hand. We don’t know how to garden. We don’t know where our food comes from or how it’s made, and we don’t care.

I’m no doomsdayer, but I can read the writing on the wall. Our economic situation is perilous, much more so than it was in the 20’s. We have a much greater population depending on the same amount and quality of land and crops that we depended on nearly a century ago, but our infrastructure has changed to the point where we aren’t as self-sufficient as we could be. We are in much greater debt than anyone then could have ever imagined. Add to that the fact that the rest of the world is also feeling the modern pinch.

Do you really feel secure in the fact that you will be able to feed, cloth, shelter, and keep warm yourself and your family for the foreseeable future? Are you sure that you will be able to afford your high mortgage, car payments, heat bill, groceries, and associated lifestyle costs when our economy follows in the footsteps of so many other worldwide failures?

Now is the time to learn how to garden. Now is the time to learn how to cook. Now is the time to pay off debts and become more self-sufficient. Get a few weeks to a year worth of food and savings stashed away. Learn new skills to keep you in work just in case your profession moves along without you or becomes obsolete. Learn from the past, and you won’t be doomed to repeat it.

Unfortunately, this message is going to be viewed as ludicrous by many. It’s difficult to think of hard times when we have been so prosperous and lucky these past few generations. It’s scary to look back at the Depression of the 30’s and see entire families starving, millions losing their homes and farms to foreclosure, and entire families out working manual labor jobs for a pittance or hopping rail cars in a futile attempt to find work in far off cities. It’s terrible to imagine that we could face such a drastic lifestyle change from these days of plenty.

Maybe I am crazy by today’s pop culture definition. But at least I know that even if hard times are kept at bay, my family was able to live safe, secure, and stuffed full of home grown, home cooked food. Like my mom is fond of saying – better to be safe than sorry. I don’t want to be like the families who ate stray dogs and dandelions just to survive a strenuous decade. It’s happened before. It could happen again. If it does, I’d rather eat just as I do now, perhaps even better.

(Oh, I can’t wait to have gardens and livestock again! This summer can’t possibly come fast enough for me!)

June 2021
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