Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lint Fire Starter

 Don't know about you but we get lots of lint from our dryer. They say it makes a great fire starter.
 You stuff toilet paper rolls with it.
And the place them in the stove or campfire and light. I tried this at the other house for a while and found that if your humidity is high, you had better store these in a container that keeps the moisture out. We live in a dry arid environment so humidity is seldom an issue. Trash is an issue here as we are the garbage people by choice. So recycling and lowering trash is a big deal. The less we haul the less it costs us.

We are starting to light the stove on occasion to take the chill out of the house as the temperatures are much cooler. We are going to have 50's and 60's this week instead of 70's,80's, and 90's. The joke in Wyoming has always been, don't like the weather, wait a minute it will change. I think this toilet paper roll starter might just be one more small way I can lower our amount of garbage and recycle at the same time.

Yes, I still use them as cord holders for my hair appliances and such but I use the same one for a very long time so that doesn't help much.

That means I had better paint today and everyday if I plan on getting this house done before it is too cold.

Oops, forgot to mention that all our clothes are cotton or wool. Don't know about lint from synthetic fibers. Do you get lint from synthetic fibers? I wouldn't believe that they would burn well. Probably just melt.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Major Power Outages

When our friends from back east came, we got to talking about being prepared for emergencies. The once in a blue moon ones and the more frequent interruptions. Both friends travel a great deal and have thorough survival kits in their vehicles. They also have some experience with the storm Sandy and other emergencies. We got to talking.

Being the last house on the electric grid give us some problems not encountered by those of you in towns and cities. We have power surges big time. Ones that flicker the lights and ones that knock out the power for a few minutes to hours. We are going to be checking that out to see if the power company doesn't have to indeed fix it. The neighbor warned us not to buy any appliances with computers inside. They went through two control panels on their washing machine recently.

Fancy appliances aren't my thing anyway so I'm not so concerned by blowing  computer panels in stoves and washing machines as I am about not having electricity at all. You've probably been there with the power out and your mind keeps saying, "Well I could go do this. Nope, can't do that. I could go do..... nope that needs electricity too." It is amazing just how dependent we really are. When the power went out on the llth it got me to really thinking. We need to set up this house to run for a few weeks without an outside source of power. One of the gentlemen who stayed said he had been without power for 17 days once. Now that is a long time of I could do this, - nope ....sss kind of thing. What would it indeed take to set oneself up? I've been looking into it.

The experts recommend going around to all your appliances and seeing the wattage they use. They cautioned that stoves, refrigerators etc. use twice the power to start up as they do to run continually. The range oven and the clothes dryer use huge amounts of energy I discovered. That makes blow the generator type power if you don't have a big enough one or have too many things going at once. Drying my clothes on racks is no big deal but the oven, I kind of like my oven. Looking at the energy consumption a oven takes, it did give me a whole new appreciation for the crockpot.

One of the main reasons I want the oven is for bread. Anyone baked bread in a crockpot?  Can you bake bread in a crockpot? I had to check it out and indeed you can.  http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-bread-in-the-slow-cooker-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-192421 In 17 days I know I'm going to run out of bread. I'm out of bread right now and need to bake this morning. The results aren't quite as good I'm told as in an oven but hey, it's bread. I'm thinking maybe I should one of these days get a nice crockpot, one that isn't older than dirt, one that actually has a handle on the lid instead of just a screw where one was. Crockpot cooking could really become a way of life in a survival circumstance. I might just start doing a lot of it now. I've got one of those big oven thingies you use for church and to put the turkey in for a family dinner. It is like a crockpot, a really big one, except it had temperature controls like an oven.

The guys had some tips for us based on their experiences of disasters and being without power. They recommend of course a generator. They had a 8000 watt one with its fuel source as propane with a 1000 gallon tank size since the company will only fill it 80 percent full for safety reasons. After researching I've come up with the same conclusion. We really do need at least a 8000 watt size. This generator needs to be hooked up to the power box of the house with a switch to flip it on to change from the power company to your own power source. Yes, there are fancy models that are automatic back up generators like hospitals have but then you are talking big bucks. I'm just wanting something to power the freezers, the refrigerator, the washing machine now and then etc. Yes, we could do laundry by hand but why? I know how to do it the old fashion way, I once did the family laundry for three weeks but why if I don't have to? The energy consumption for the few loads we'd need wouldn't be that much. The dryer on the other hand, forget it. It takes huge amounts of energy.

 The other concern I have is the stove. I'd like to fix that before we buy a generator. We have a welder that is a generator basically. It can power up the freezers if we need it to but it would require a great deal of gasoline because it has a big motor. Good enough for the moment but not long term. Right now we are just in the planning stages and figuring out what we need and what would it cost. I know we won't be able to afford it all at once. The kitchen stove is where I'd like to start. Ours is on its last leg with the burners wimpy at best and an oven that is hotter on one side than the other plus doesn't put out much heat.

Since the power goes out at least a couple times a month for minutes to hours at a time, I'd like a propane stove. The problem is gas stoves sold after 2012 can no longer have a pilot light. That means electricity is used to light the stove. Some stoves can still be lit with a match but the burners only, not the oven. There just had to be something else out there. So I typed into my computer, off grid ranges. Not everyone has electricity. Someone has got to be building stoves for cabins and people who live in the boondocks. Premier and Summit are just such companies. I'm seeing more models by Premier than Summit so I need to do more research and which company is best I don't know. My question is still about the oven. Premier ovens use batteries to light them. Yes, the batteries last 4-5 years on average and are just 8 AA's but can the oven be lit with a match is my question? I'd rather have options if I can, just encase.

Anyone have a propane stove? I know I want sealed burners but what about this thermocouple thing? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? If we get a stove that is propane, then we would naturally have a tank and the propane would be filled on a regular basis. We'd ask for a keep full policy. Then we could use the welder as a back up for the freezers. That would keep us going until we could buy the generator and hookup system that would also run off the propane tank. How much a propane tank cost and how much will it cost to fill it, I don't know. I don't know if they can put one in in the winter time? Surely they can, can't they? I can't afford one right now but who knows how long this electric stove will hold in there and I'm NOT wanting another electric stove. I can't believe we are the only house in the area without a propane tank.

The other concern is the well. We can store some water but what good is a washing machine without water? The generator should handle the well but I'm going to look some things up. Eventually I want a Bison pump added to the well as an insurance policy. I'd like backup and then extreme basics in my preparedness plan. You know the three week policy and the for months on end policy. The other thing is the toilets. Ours need replaced as they are old and use LOTS of water. Power for the well would mean water for the toilets even when they are replaced with efficient ones.

Any advice from those of you who have had experience with long term power outages? I'm a babe in the wood here and I'd like to get it right the first time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Likes I've Never Seen Before!!

 You are seeing this correctly. Yes, this doe Pronghorn antelope had quads. That is four babies. I would not have believed it and thought she was babysitting someone else's little one or two if I had not of seen the four of these little ones underneath the doe nursing.
Incredibly the doe looked to be in good health as did the babies. It is pretty common to see a Pronghorn doe with twins and not unusual to see her with triplets but quads. Not in my 55 years have I seen the likes of this.

The photos are from the summer months and alas, I don't know where they went as I'd love an update photo for you.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

From Ball Bearing to Knife Bar

 This was a gift. Yes, you never know what our friends will send. This is a ball bearing from a wind turbine. What does Kirk do with ball bearings? Well, certain ball bearings that is. Ones of a appropriate combination of metals. He puts the ball bearing in a forge until it turns a specific color of fiery red.
 Then he takes it out. This photo is with a flash on the camera.
This one without and in it you can see the color better.
Then he puts the ball in the hydraulic press and presses. When the metal begins to cool he places it back into the forge.
Back and forth it goes until the ball is stretched out into a bar of appropriate thickness.
This is a picture of the before and the after. From here a knife blade is ground out. Most of Kirk's ball bearings are used ones from the coal mine that would normally thrown out. The metal from these ball bearings is 52100. As for the wind turbines ball bearings we are not sure what they are made of and so I do not know what Kirk will do with the pre-blade bar. Maybe make a knife for the gift bearer. Not sure what the plans are. I just thought you might enjoy a view of the process.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Not Made For Goats

A.....w!, such sweet innocent creatures, WRONG!! I've discovered I was delusional for thirty-one years. They are not sweet or innocent. Underneath those cute little faces lies conniving demolition experts, astounding contortionists, and shredding machines. How could I have been hornswaggled for so long? All these years I've been day dreaming of goats placidly grazing around me as I worked in the yard. I could clearly see in my mind goats aiding me in keeping the lawn mowed down. What a rude awakening lay in store for me when we moved to this place. Long luxurious blades of green grass stand upright, untouched as the goats head straight for the rose bushes or the pine trees, ri...p, munch, munch, munch. Smooth caressing blades versus downright pricklies. I'll never get it. All I see is OUCH, not yum.

As if that isn't enough, when they are chased off from there where do they go next, grazing? NO..., they top off the flowers and investigate the garage tromping up and down the back stairs. Letting them out while I worked only happened three times and I gave up in frustration for I spent my whole time hollering NO>>>>!.

I've learned another thing living here. Make one little mistake like not fastening the cow panels tight in the field and leaving the garden gate open, (okay that was two little mistakes) and its round and round the raspberry bushes you go. Doesn't matter how loud you scream, throw your arms, and if you act stark raving mad, which I was, the goats only run to the end of the patch and duck back up the other side out of reach. While I was chasing one, two  more were purposely standing on the fence and then using their heads to bull doze the damaged wires shouldering their way inside the old garden. What happened when I ran for a cow panel to cover the two offending holes? The goats scurried worked their way down the fence until they found another spot that looked a bit weak and rushed to tear it down before I could get to them.
bad goat fence
Who would of thunk that one little nibble of raspberry leaves would lead to a whole length of fence being demolished? It is painfully clear goats LOVE raspberry leaves. When steam stopped rolling out of my ears and I was smugly standing by the newly installed cow panels and thinking, 'ha..., ha...., ha..., ha.... ha.... ha...., I won this round! My mind went racing down a dangerous dark alley. What about drying some of the leaves for winter feed, after all they will naturally just dry out and drop off on their own without doing anyone any good but do I dare? Will that just increase their determination to destroy fence next year? Hm.... raspberry leaves are really good for the female reproductive system but do I have time for another project when I'm already so far behind? Then wisdom set in, ' Holly, you don't have time nor do you want to try and find out what happens if you just happen to create an insatiable appetite for raspberry leaves dried or fresh'.

What I do know is that this fence is not for goats. It might keep the deer from shredding the tree trunks and taking bites out of the branches but a goat deterrent it is not. Oh sure it worked for a few months but who wants to spend money twice. Luckily it was existing fence, not new fence. So now you know what one of my projects has been, to re-fence places where the goats will be with cow panels, NOT this light wired stuff.
Instead of tearing down the old fence and laying up new, I just overlaid the cow panels and next year I'll tear out the old and redo. That is except the apple trees which needed totally redoing anyway since the fence had to be extended outward.
As for contortionists, I put in some cow panels to keep the big goats out from a little area set aside for Lilly Pad. She wasn't popular when she first arrived. It kind of worked. The big goats didn't go into this area but they didn't exactly stay out of it either. Sorry, I was going to photograph it before I took it down but I forgot. Imagine that with weeks and weeks of company having just left. My brain is all a muddle.

Even though there is no feed in this small area that lay next to the bigger pen in the barn where the goats stayed at night, they still squeeze in flattening their bodies like a mouse to make sure I didn't change my mind and hide grain in the smaller area. Wish I could have. It would have been nice to have a kid area they could slip into and eat some grain like the creep feeders we set up for the lambs. Believe me, goats are not sheep in any way shape or form. Yup, goats just slipped down the list as my favorite animals. I don't care if Megan does grin at me pulling her lips back to expose her teeth. I'm not fool no more.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why Tomatoes Crack

Canning peaches today. Not enjoying the process as I'd rather sit on the couch and watch a movie, still really tired but doing better. When I stare at the mound of work, I mean wonderful food, I am grateful. Grateful that I have two stoves to can on which speeds up the process greatly and grateful that we have peaches and pears to can this year. Last year the orchard we get them from in Colorado had a killing frost. This is not the first time this has happened and so I've learned to have on hand more than a years supply.

Once again we did not get any sweet corn this year. The corn stocks were the tallest we've ever had but the ears had just started to form when the17 inches of snow hit. The corn is now flattened. Oh well, our daughter felt impressed to bring home a large amount of corn last year from Colorado when our garden was hailed out. We froze and froze and froze corn until I began to wonder why oh why we were doing so much of it? I've found out that those little quiet impressions whispered to us are for a reason. A reason that we don't always know until later, sometimes never unless we don't listen and head the warning.

With self-sufficiency on the mind I'm wondering just how many years of food you should have on hand since weather is so uncertain these days like 17 inches of snow in the summer. I'm just glad survival isn't up to me entirely since I'm presently not up to the task.

As for potatoes and carrots, I'm not digging yet until I get the mounds of food in the garage under control. Even though things didn't quite go my way this summer with little time to spend in the garden, weather problems, and poor soil in the old garden, we still will have much to put away for winter.  I've pushed most of my goals to next year, planning this winter to better prepare a course of action.

One disappoint was that the potatoes did not produce any seeds, bummer. That leaves me questioning why not? Why do potato plants sometimes produce seed and not other times? Can't find the answer on the internet so far. The commercial potato farmers have to know. I need to find out.

But for now the order of the day is to deal with what is at hand. This has been a extremely difficult year. We have some dear friends with us right now. They are here to hunt Pronghorn antelope with our son. The plan was for them to stay with our son but his remodeling job had progress much slower than he thought it would. Consequently the house has no working bathroom or shower. It has been a revolving door of company most of the summer and definitely the past few weeks. I'm praying life will calm down and allow us to catch up a bit, if not disasters await us. Our poor goat kids are not weaned yet because we have not had time to build a shed and separate enclosure. We have hay to haul and wood which are essential for winter. The house is not painted and I've 200 bags to get sewn before November. Glug! what a list awaits our attention but I keep reminding myself that the Lord is in charge and so he will make all things imperative possible.

Meanwhile, we are learning and relearning some lessons. Due to the constant travel to the other home and to tend to Kirk's father, our poor garden has been neglected. Our tomatoes cracked or rather part of our tomatoes cracked. Yes, I knew why once upon a time but the files in my memory get lost from time to time. I found this handy site http://www.tomatodirt.com/tomato-cracks.htmlwhen I went looking once more for the cause. Not that I could do anything about it. I've given you a photo of the worst one. Also we have learned that up here near the mountain it is very important to trim back the tomato plants of excess leaves and small tomatoes in August so the plant can put its energies into the larger tomatoes. I had only two done of the twenty plants.

I do have some new projects started too like vinegar. I'll show you next time what is in the works.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Remember Me, Old Man Winter?

 Shock of shocks, Old Man Winter dumped on us. This picture is September 11. What is up?
One day it is this .... (note the low cloud cover)

... and the next this.
The weatherman just kept upping his predictions for precipitation and cold. At 6 in the morning on the 11th we woke up to 12 inches of the white heavy stuff. The trees were so... burdened they had started to break. These photos are from 6 a.m. before the next 5 inches came.
We shook and banged our shovel and rakes upward to release their burden for it was still snowing heavily. We received at least 5 more inches on Thursday. Besides the Big Horn Mountains, we happened to be the spot where the clouds unloaded their heaviest coat of white. Everyone else had snow but we had at least 17 inches. I don't know about you but it isn't normal for the first snow of the fall to be anything more than a dusting or a couple inches. In fact this is historic.
After Kirk's dad's funeral on Friday the kids, their mom, and I headed back to winter wonderland where I bundled them up and out they went into the snow. The first snowman of the end of summer or is it fall now is Olaf. All the kid's snowmen are now Olaf. Doesn't matter what they look like. Or rather this is a Mrs. Olaf, note the pink waist ribbon. With the fire blazing in the stove and my daughter and I snuggled up next to it laughing, we watched the kids out the back window on their hands and knees crawling in the snow. Wonder what animal they were? Maybe they were mimicking the panicked wildlife. The deer were leaping and running about very much distressed by this white stuff that came wa......y too early. The poor little wild turkeys I can only imagine had a horrible time just keeping their heads above the white wet stuff.

What is the weather predicted to do now, turn warm of course. Yes, 70's and 80"s are in the forecast for the next week. But with a high of mid 30's and a low below 20 F the garden is toast. Just before my family left (we had a family reunion on my side while we were dealing with funeral arrangements for Kirk's dad) they helped to pick the bulk of it. My garage is lined with buckets, a wheelbarrow of squash and pumpkins, and baskets until we can hardly get the car inside. I left the potatoes and the carrots still in the ground but everything else but the dried beans were picked. The countertop has pears and peaches piled high from the Colorado fruit truck to add to the cellar like look. As if we didn't have enough to process, just before the storm hit we rushed in to pick grapes at Kirk's dad's and came home with 2- 5 gallon buckets worth. I'm going to be canning like crazy for a while. That is in between painting the house while it is warm and yes, more company is to arrive tomorrow. Not that we are alone right now. Our oldest daughter is here and will leave tomorrow just before friends from the east arrive. But more about company later.

The dried beans just weren't ready in the garden. Why would they be when summer was so late in coming, we had no real spring, and winter arrived early even if it was for a brief few days? My hope is the blanket of heavy snow will protect them enough so that they will continue to produce. It might be wishful thinking but we shall see after the snow has melted today. We are to be 55. My sisters advised letting a light frost sweeten the apples on the trees but we never got a light frost. We picked in fear of the apples freezing on the trees. The trees were so laden with apples that some of the branches had begun to break. imagine what the 17 inches of snow would have done to a already burdened tree, bye bye, apple trees.

Thank you for your patience in waiting for my return. It still is going to be a rough going as we have more tough days ahead but I'm going to do my best to keep blogs coming. I've got lots of photos and stories to share. I've started a couple gallons of vinegar and wishing I had more stopper things for the tops of my gallon jars. I'm starting a new culture of sour dough today from grapes. My old one isn't happy at all and I'm not sure I'll be able to rescue it. Once again for those who have stuck with me I'm praying in a week quieter days are ahead. Not sure how much more of this I can take before I break.