Garden layout plans

Having received shipping confirmations for the seeds we ordered, the girls and I have been talking about just where we are going to plant what we’re getting, and what we need for what we’re getting.

In the two years we’ve been here, we’ve been working at reclaiming neglected spaces before we could even consider planting anything. The area where there used to be a huge garden has had more and more trees planted into them – without adequate planning, unfortunately, and causing a lot more shade areas I remember used to get much more sunlight. We currently have some spots here and there that we will be able to plant in, rather than one big vegetable garden, like my parents had for so many decades.

This is what we’ve come up with.

At the top of the sketch is the area we mulched over, then covered with tarps, last summer. This is where we will be planting the varieties of squash we’ll be getting, and the birdhouse gourds. The two giant varieties of sunflowers will be planted in a part of the old garden that I was finally able to mow last year. It’s more lawn than garden now.

The house is where the happy little gardener is standing. On the left is the old kitchen garden. This had been mostly a flower garden, though my mother did plant some onions there. The trouble with this location are the two ornamental apple trees. Still, we’ve already got chives and onions planted overwinter in the chimney block retaining wall. In the rest of the blocks, and in the area against them where I’d been able to add some soil to try and reduce the slope away from the house, is where we will plant fennel, and some of the varieties of carrots and beets we’ll be getting (we’re getting three varieties of each). The other area carrots and beets will be added is in the soft, deep, loose soil uncovered when we cleaned up the old wood pile area.

We’ve decided to set up the remaining chimney blocks along the chain link fence, between the fence and the white lilac bushes. Right now, there is an area of lawn just wide enough to get a mower through, but it would be great to not have to squeeze through there with a mower at all, and use the space to grow cucamelons. The chain link fence will be the trellis for the cucamelons, which need full sun. We chose the lilacs side of the gate, as they will not be affected by the shade created once the cucamelons cover the fence (assuming the grow successfully!), whereas the section of fence on the other side of the gate has flowers and haskap berries, and they’re already shaded too much from an elm, a maple and another variety of lilac.

What isn’t anywhere on the sketch is potatoes. We’ve ordered 6 pounds of Yukon Gem potatoes, but they are back ordered. These would not be shipped until the right planting time for our area, so they can go into the ground right away, so I hope they were get more stock before then. We weren’t billed for them, though. The gourds were back ordered, too, but we were billed for those – and I got a shipping confirmation for those the day after I got one for the other seeds. This suggest to me that they may not be expecting to get more of the Yukon Gem variety of potatoes. Depending on how that goes, we might end up buying some Yukon Gold, locally. We shall see.

We ended up buying quite a few plants that are climbers, so we will be building trellises, too. We will have to go through the barn to see what materials are left that are suitable to build with. When we do build them, we will keep in mind that they will need to be moved after the growing season. These are temporary planting locations, and very much experiments, as there are quite a few plants we have never tried to grow before.

With all the crazy stuff going on right now, with the Wuhan flu, shelter in place recommendations and grocery stores in many places being cleaned out of inventory, I’ve noticed quite the increase in people interested in growing their own food, so I thought I’d talk a bit about our decision making process.

For us, we’ve long sought to increase our level of self sufficiency as much as possible. When it came to gardening, this was not something we could do much of. Partly due to moving so frequently, but also because we usually lived in apartments with no real space to grow in. When we did find ourselves living in homes with nice, big south facing decks, we did container gardening, with varying levels of success.

Now that we’re back on the farm I grew up on, we finally have the space for all kinds of things, but with all the clean up needed first, we can only do a bit at a time, so we have to be quite selective on what we choose to grow.

When it comes to choosing what to grow, there are two ways you can go. You can look at the things you buy the most of and, if they can be grown in your climate zone, grow those, thus reducing your grocery bill. Or, you can look at the things you don’t buy, or buy rarely, either because they are too expensive at the grocery store, or hard to find. The grocery budget may not change, but you’ll have a greater variety of produce, and more “treat” foods, which has substantial psychological benefits, too.

We’ve done a combination of the two.

Carrots, beets and potatoes, for example, are things that are easy to find in the stores. At least the plain ones. It wouldn’t really be worthwhile for us to, for example, grow Russet potatoes. They are still pretty cheap at the grocery store, and common. What we’ve ordered are common foods in uncommon varieties.

Fennel is one of those things we buy as a rare treat. They’re not significantly more expensive, but enough that when the budget is considered, it’s more economical to buy more of the cheaper produce.

The squash varieties are similar. We like them, but rarely do. Some, like the pattypan squash, are pretty rare in stores, and more expensive.

The sunflower seeds are intended to play several roles. These varieties are good for eating in general, but we’re going to be planting a lot of these to use as bird feed in the winter. The large size and strength of the plants themselves will act as wind breaks, as well as privacy screens. Plus, we’ll be planting them in an area that the leaves will hopefully shade the ground enough to prevent the grass and weeds in the area from growing. (This is where we’re going to need more hoses; the area is quite parched, and there is no nearby source of water.) The straw bale we have now will be used as mulch, though it won’t be enough on its own for such a large area. We’ll likely use most of that up when we get and plant potatoes. I’m hoping to get more straw or old hay over the summer. I’m planning to contact the renter of the rest of the farm, whom we have been buying our straw bales from, to see if he has any – and maybe some well composted manure, as well!

You’ll notice one of the things we don’t have on our list are lettuces. These are often recommended for new gardeners, as they produce relatively quickly, and with successive sowing, you can have 3 seasons of lettuce. We’ve tried growing lettuces in our container gardens before but, ultimately, find they are not really be worth the hassle. We’ve found them to be fragile produce, both as a plant to grow, easily killed off by too many things, and as produce to buy at the store, which inevitably go soggy before we can finish them. We just don’t eat enough lettuce to make it worthwhile.

Cabbage, on the other than, will be something we’ll grow in the near future. We use them more than lettuce, and they store very well over winter.

So a lot of what we’re going to be doing for gardening this summer is pretty experimental for us. How things work out will do a lot to help us decide what we’ll do next year.

Meanwhile, we will continue to clean up, reclaim space, and work out where we want to plant the things that will continue to feed us, year after year; berry bushes, fruits trees and, hopefully, nut trees.

It’s going to be a fun (and, hopefully, tasty) learning experience!

The Re-Farmer

Little progress, good progress and making do

Well, we did it.

We did our monthly shop today.

Or perhaps I should now call it our bi-monthly shop, since we will have to go into the city again to get more of the big, heavy stuff we got only half of what we normally do.

Yesterday, I had hoped to get some more progress done in the new basement, so we can use it to quarantine some outside cats. Unfortunately, the biggest set back in accomplishing this is getting things completely out.

After setting up, gloving up and looking around at where to start (a very depressing thing to do), I decided it was a burning day.

We have not been using our burn barrel for quite a long time. While cleaning up the old wood pile area, it was my intention to burn the old, nail filled half-rotted pallet pieces. I even set up a larger metal ring for just that. I think it got used only once, before the full burn ban came into effect, and that was it for the year.

What I managed to do yesterday was drag out the old cardboard packaging for products no one has anymore, decades old catalogs, phone books and stacks of musty old Polish newspapers. That cleared up a very noticeable amount of space!

Paper sucks to burn.

I think I spent at least 2 hours, standing in the snow, adding more and more to the fire. There was some old cardboard in the fire pit from last year, as well as the roots of some invasive vines I found, covered in snow. These eventually did dry out enough to burn. I snagged some wood from the burn barrel that we were never able to burn, all dried out by the sun, just to give the fire something better than paper to consume (and to keep the really thin pages from blowing away after being burnt). I kept having to dig up the ashes to uncover more partially burned pages so they could burn completely.

It was surprisingly windy out there. We will definitely be taking that lack of wind break from the south into consideration when we start working on the outer yard.

By the time I was done there, I had no energy left to work on the basement. My daughter was all set to help me, but we instead discussed what we are going to do with the stuff we need to take out. Besides the shopping cart of old wood for the fire pit, and stuff for the landfill.

We’re going to have to start using the barn.

It’s got so much stuff scattered about in there, though. If we can clear out one of the old cattle stalls to make space, we can store things in there until they can be properly disposed of. Like the collection of car batteries, old sump pumps and cans of old paint. In fact, the more we can get out of that basement completely, the better.

In the end, I got nothing else done in the basement at all. 😦

Meanwhile… notice the amount of snow around that fire pit?

It was much like that this morning, when we left for the city.

This is what we came back to.

You can see the path through the snow I’d made to get to the burn pit, over on the centre left. My foot prints are full of water, and there’s water all around the fire pit. Trying to walk around the giant puddle only revealed more water under the snow. There was no way to get to the house without walking through either deeper snow, or water!

When I checked the weather shortly after we got home, we were at 7C. The sun room, however, was much, much warmer!

And that’s with just a couple of feet of uncovered window creating passive solar heat in there!

But I digress…

The trip to the city was very productive and actually went very smoothly.

We decided to hit the Costco before breakfast (which we ended up having at lunch time…), in hopes that we would get there before all the toilet paper sold out.

When we drove in, we noticed two things at the same time. First, the massive line up and second, the relatively sparse parking lot. We were able to park fairly close to the entrance, which is unusual.

There was a small army of staff in high viz vests keeping the line organized and sanitizing cart handles. The line went from the doors at one end of the store, along the building to the opposite end, across the lane into the parking lot, up one of the concrete dividers, looping around and back to the lane, then up the lane almost as far as the entrance before turning into one of the parking lanes. The end of the line happened to be near where we parked the van, but we had to walk further from the store to get in line.

Employees walked back and forth, telling people to stay 6 feet apart (with one guy helpfully adding that this was the length of 2 shopping carts), to stay to one side (for cars to get by) and reminding people to have their Costco membership cards ready. They also answered questions, which is why we heard that there was no toilet paper to be had. The delivery truck didn’t show up this morning!

As long as the line was, it moved very quickly. The staff at the exits kept count of how many people left, then let the staff and the entrance know, so let that many people in.

A wall of pallets was made to separate the entry side from the exit side. Once inside, but not through the inner entrance, we had time to read the very handy white board lists of things they were out of (toilet paper, Lysol products, etc.) and stuff they did have in stock that, I’m guessing, were things they’d run out of before, like flour.

Once inside, we found the shelves well stocked of pretty much everything else, including pallets and pallets of flour. We didn’t find bread yeast, and they didn’t have as many types of rice as usual. They were not allowing people into the room where the dairy and eggs were kept. Instead, they had people at a table who got what we needed. We usually get the double flats of eggs, but they only had singles left – not that unusual, with Easter coming soon.

Everything went very smoothly and efficiently, including the checkouts. We didn’t bother bringing our bags in, like we usually do. Instead, we packed the stuff ourselves at the van. That worked out so much better, I think we should keep doing it that way.

I had intended to buy a couple of big bags of cat kibble, but it turned out they were allowing only 1 per person of the Kirkland brand. I’m sure there was a sign to say that, but I missed it completely.

By the time we were done, though, we had actually got most of what was on our list!

That done, we got gas – at 59.9 cents per litre!! I haven’t seen prices that low since probably 2004. I worked at a gas station that summer, and I remember being told that I should fill my tank at the end of my shift because the gas prices were about to go from 61.9/L to the astronomical amount of 68.9/L (For my readers from the US, 4L is about 1 gallon.)

We can finally afford the gas to go out more often, but there’s no place for us to go!

That done, we decided to hit a drive through near the Walmart we were going to. It happens to be across the street from a new Bulk Barn that I hoped to go to. I wasn’t sure how a store like that would be able to stay open. We couldn’t see if they were open, so when we got our food, we decided to drive over and look. Either they were open, and we would eat in the parking lot there before going in, or they were closed and we would continue to the Walmart, and eat in the parking lot there. πŸ˜€

We still couldn’t tell from the outside if they were open – there were no signs that we could read from the van – but my daughter could just see through the tinted windows that there were people walking around with shopping carts.

So we had our breakfast… er… lunch… in the van, then headed in.

To a very unhappy staff member at the door.

As we came in, the first thing we saw was a barrier directing the flow or traffic. There were two signs on posts facing the door, and two others down the lane people were directed to. As we were grabbing a cart, this poor woman at the first pair of signs was dressing down a couple of customers that were shopping together. They had gone right into the store and started shopping, and she was telling them that they had to wait by the door, get gloves, and wait until a staff member got them. Only staff were allowed to scoop the products out. “Oh, I didn’t know” one guy responded. “No one said anything.” Which was when she pointed out the FOUR signs they walked right past.

All that for a bag of pistachios.

After dealing with the customers that ignored all the signs, she held out a box of these really thin, one-size-fits-all plastic gloves for us and asked us to wait until someone came to help us.

Normally, I would have liked to have wandered up and down the aisles to see if anything caught my eye, but since we were shopping Edwardian style, we just told the guy what we wanted and how much, and he got them for us. He had a shopping cart that was lined with plastic, and a pile of scoops to use for each item.

I got stuff for making meals in a jar. I did that last month, and they’ve really been working out well, so I wanted to be able to make more.

Oh, I just realized. I completely forgot to get dehydrated vegetables for that.

Ah, well.

That done, our next stop was Walmart.

Oh, dear.

Like at Costco, they were letting people in, a little at a time, as other customers left.

The line outside wasn’t anywhere near as long as at Costco (thank God for warmer weather!), but it moved much more slowly. People tend to linger at Walmart, more than at Costco.

On top of that, a fire truck arrived as we were walking to the store. Shortly after, and ambulance arrived, and we eventually saw someone being taken out in a stretcher.

Sadly, this is not really that unusual to see. Medical emergencies can happen any time, any where! I do hope the person recovers quickly from whatever happened.

Once inside, we started working on what was left on our list. YES!!! There was toilet paper! One package per household. It’s not the amount we’d usually buy for the month, but it will tide us over until we find some more.

We also got another big bag of cat kibble.

The main thing I was looking for, however, was rubber boots.

Now, I have a problem with getting footwear in general. I have always had very wide feet, but after injuring them many, many years ago, they are now even wider. My normal shoes are men’s size 9, triple wide.

None of the rubber boots came in wider sized.

I do have another problem, though. Rubber boots are made to cover the calves.

I have very little cartilage left in my knees and the balls of my feet. The metatarsals in my feet have a habit of suddenly dislocating. My patella also tend to pop out of place every now and then, and my knees tend to want to bend backwards or sideways. I compensate for all this through my leg muscles. As a result, I have highly developed calves. Weight lifter type calves.

Which means that the tops of rubber boots are far too tight.

After trying several sizes of one style, I ended up settling on a men’s size 12 (I don’t even bother trying on women’s shoes). They were still tight at the calves, but I figured I would just cut them.

My daughter, however, spotted some that were a shorter style. They were also lined winter boots, but I could live with that.

The size 10s seemed to fit very well, but just in case, I tried some size 11s.

They were even more comfortable to put on! Awesome! these would be perfe…

Then my heel rocked and I almost twisted my ankle.

What the heck?

Unlike all the other styles of rubber boots, which had very flat heels, these boots had rounded edges on their soles. This meant that the flat part of the heel was narrower than the boot itself.

An absolute recipe for turned ankles!! And I know myself well enough to know that I would do it, too.

So we settled on the taller style.

At least they were cheap.

Once done at Walmart, we had one last stop to make at our favourite grocery store.

We just had to check, and their toilet paper section was completely wiped out!

Everything else, however, was fully stocked.

Except bread yeast. *sigh*

Ah, well. We can just use the sourdough!

This is the store we pick up some international foods we can’t find anywhere else, and smaller quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables than what we’d find at Costco. Those, we keep topped up locally. We also picked up more stuff for our Easter basket, including fresh herbs. We’re going to make marinated goat cheese again. We also picked up jarred beets, so we can use the liquid for pink pickled eggs. There isn’t a lot that we need to pick up here, but enough to make the trip worthwhile.

What was interesting about all this running around is that I was not anywhere near as exhausted as I normally am by the end of the day. I really dislike crowds. While there certainly were plenty of people around, but people did try to keep physically distant from each other, so it wasn’t that madhouse jostling. Everything went so smoothly and efficiently that even the waits in line were not at all taxing.

Once at home and the groceries were put away, I broke in the rubber boots to go and change the batteries in one of the trail cams, which now involves slogging through a hug puddle in the yard.

Yeah, I had to pull my pant legs up to get my legs into the boots.

Also, it turns out one of my calves is bigger than the other. By the time I was done, I had to get one of my daughters to pull the boot off of me, because it was stuck to my skin!

I have since cut them another inch or so, which will hopefully solve that problem.

I expect to be getting a lot of use out of these!

So we are now stocked up and set for at least a couple of weeks for some things, the rest of the month for others.

The shopping went much better than expected.

Oh, and I was also able to get a couple of plastic utility shelves for the old basement.

I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow! πŸ˜€

Trying not to kill myself, bringing them down the stairs… πŸ˜‰

The Re-Farmer

That looks like it’s toast…

While doing my rounds this morning, I was able to take a closer look at the bird bath.

Throughout the winter, when chipping ice out to add water, I’ve been very careful not to touch the bird bath itself. It already had cracks showing on it, and now that the ice is melting away again, I can see that at least one has gotten worse. I’m sure my ice chopping didn’t help. πŸ˜€

Yeeeaaahhh…. I’d say the bird bath is toast.

The kitties still like it! πŸ˜€

Since completing my rounds outside, it has started to snow. A gentle snowfall, just enough to start coating the trees again. It won’t last long. Looking at the long range forecast, we’ll be staying above freezing every day. By Sunday, we’re even supposed to hit 10C (50F)! It’s going to get muddy out there, but I’m looking forward to the warmth, and the snow melting away enough to be able to extend my rounds again.

The girls and I have decided it’ll be worth heading to the city to try and do our monthly shop, though I expect we’ll split it again, make a smaller trip and go back again later in April.

I should try and find some rubber boots again. Last year, I couldn’t find anything that would fit over my burly calves. πŸ˜€

The Re-Farmer

Some furry visitors, and getting a call

I happened to look out the window, and saw this.

Looks like the deer found something to snack on, as the top of our compost pile thaws out! There would be all sorts of vegetable and fruit peels there right now.

If there were deer at the compost, I figured there might be some at the feeding station…

There certainly were! Along with Pump Shack cat and Two Face. πŸ˜€

As I was watching, the two in the back of this photo wandered behind the house. Then they suddenly came running back into view, clearly startled by something.

There turned out to be a big pick up truck coming up the road. It was slowing right down as it neared the intersection – far more than usual – then continued to drive slowly after it turned, until well after it passed our driveway. By then, all the deer had been startled away. Going back to the window I first saw them at, I could still see them in the trees, with a couple already crossing the road. Not long after, I saw the truck returning and driving just as slowly. At that point, I figured the driver was watching out for any deer that might come running onto the road, rather than trying to watch them in our yard. πŸ™‚

It makes me so happy to see our furry visitors. πŸ™‚

On a completely different subject, we got the call I was wondering about this morning. The heart clinic phoned my husband.

There was a rather long and detailed interview, checking on his status. As far as his heart condition goes, he’s been doing awesome, but he did have to qualify some of his answers by explaining that he was dealing with the pain of his disability.

By the end of the call, after making sure he wasn’t in an urgent situation, his two appointments next week were cancelled. He was told they were looking to reschedule in June. He was also told they’re cancelling all their appointments, due to the Wuhan flu, to reschedule in June. They have no idea how they’ll re-book everyone for June, so it’ll more likely be July or August.

I can’t say I was expecting this, but I wasn’t not expecting it, either.

So that’s off the calendar.

My mother’s medical appointment is still on, though it’s already been rescheduled once. We shall see how that goes.

I did call my mother to check on her yesterday. I woke her from a nap! Oops! πŸ˜€

She assured me she had been able to get to the grocery store. It’s just a couple of blocks away, and she does the distance well enough with her walker. She’s been told to try and get exercise, so this is one of the ways she does it. The only downside is that the main doors of the building are now kept locked, so outsiders can’t get in without a resident letting them in, which makes is harder for her to get in and out with the walker. Those doors are the ones with the button to push to open automatically. She manages okay, though. As for her supplies, the grocery store delivers to her building regularly, so she has no problem buying as much as she needs and getting it home. Apparently, the only things they were out of stock on (that she noticed, anyhow) were bananas and garlic! πŸ˜€

She had also gotten a call from my sister the day before, and even the social worker had called to check if she needed anything. With all the social events now cancelled and people told to stay at home and not have visitors unless they absolutely have to, I think my mom is getting a bit bored! She does still go to the lobby just to sit for a while, for some “fresh air” and sit in at sunny window. The walk down the hall counts as her exercise, too. πŸ™‚

The main thing is that she’s doing okay and is not running out of any necessities.

As for her appointment, I’m not expecting a cancellation call, but again, it wouldn’t exactly be unexpected, either.

The Re-Farmer

Clean up: old hot water tank

Today, it was back to the old basement to finally do something about the old hot water tank that died on us, shortly after we moved here.

A job that didn’t go as well as I’d hoped in some ways, while better than I hoped in others! πŸ˜€

Here is the state of the tank, before I started.

You can see that the bottom of the tank is quite rusted out and falling apart. The top, however, is still quite secure. It’s held in place by 4 screws, so I thought I’d try to take those off, first.

The first challenge was to figure out what type of screwdriver to use. They were so full of grit, I at first thought I’d need a star tip, but after digging some crud out with the tip of a box cutter, I discovered they needed a square tip.

Not that it mattered. The screws immediately stripped, as soon as I tried to loosen them. They weren’t going to move.

I was able to get the access panels on the side off easily enough, since they were barely put back on before the tank was moved.

I should note that yes, I was wearing safety gear before I started.

The bottom came off quite easily, and all sorts of rotted insulation and rust started to fall out!

I had a box ready for the smaller pieces of metal, and garbage bags for the insulation. I was using the old ash shovel as a dust pan as I swept up the smaller stuff, trying as much as possible not to kick dust up. Impossible, of course, but I could at least minimize it a bit, and using a shovel for a dust pan gave me a bit of distance as I worked.

Then, I took out insulation through the access panels. It wasn’t as rotten, higher up, but still…

… lots of rust on there!

I then had a couple of problems to work around. The screws on the top weren’t going to come out. I even tried a crow bar, but couldn’t get the leverage. The tank has a seam that I hoped to pop open, but that was more solid than the rest of the tank. Even if I opened it, though, it would hang up on the drain pipe near the base.

Then I remembered something.

In my late brother’s work shop, which we are now using to store all my parents’ stuff as we clear out the house, we found a pair of cutters. My oldest bother spotted them and told me they were sheet metal cutters. So I brought it to the house, and my husband sharpened them (they really needed a sharpening!).

They cut through the metal beautifully!

Cutting where the access panel openings where made it much easier. I also cut to the drain pipe so the metal could be pulled up around it, as well as going as close to one of the screws in the top panel as I could.

After yanking on it a bit, the outer shell panel broke free from the top cap and the whole thing popped open!

So. That’s what it looks like on the inside!

The next while was spent removing more insulation, taking off the springs that held the bands in place, and pulling out some of the wiring. I was also able to basically tear off the cap without any extra cutting near the screws. The metal of the shell tore pretty easily at the screws, once it started to open up.

In the process, I discovered a problem.

That cylinder is where all the weight is – and as I manhandled it, I could hear water sloshing inside! Yes, we let it drain before it was removed, but there’s no way to get all of it out completely, without cracking it open somehow.

This thing is heavy, and I needed to get the stuff out from under it. There wasn’t a lot of space to work in, either. (You can see the box with the new well pump waiting to be installed, and the jug of water that was intended to be used to prime the pump after installation.)

The first thing to do was clean up as much of the insulation as I could, then try and get the bands out from under it. I was able to get the bottom band out, a little at a time, but would not be able to do the same at the top. I had somewhere to grip and lift the bottom, but nothing to grip at the top. The obvious solution would have been to stand the cylinder up and move it off the shell, but there was simply no way to safely grasp the rounded top and lift that much weight.

I might not be able to stand it up, but thanks to that very strong drain pipe at the bottom, I could drag it!

And this is as far as it’s going to get for now!

I honestly don’t know how we’re going to safely get it out of the house. I had hoped that taking it apart would reduce the weight more than it did, but I probably took of maybe 10 pounds of material, in total. That’s barely noticeable.

As for the shell…

I could now remove the top band and use the shovel and broom to get rid of the majority of the insulation that had been crushed under the cylinder.

Then, I folded it.

And squished it.

Into a nice, flat pancake that could easily be moved.

It was very satisfying! πŸ˜€

The parts and pieces will be taken outside through the new part basement, with its safer stairs that are right next to the entryway door! But not until more of the snow has melted and we can reach the junk pile.

Next, I had to carefully clean up the dust and rust underneath. I wanted to make sure as little as possible could end up washed into the sump pump reservoir. I do NOT want this stuff clogging up the pump!

In the end, I used a wet mop to pick up as much as I could, because sweeping was just kicking up way too much dust.

I am so glad I was able to find these thicker masks at the pharmacy, before everyone went crazy and bought them all up. This is actually my second mask. One of the elastics broke on the first one. I have no more. I do still have some dust masks I’d found in the hardware store, but they’re not as thick as these ones.

Once I finished cleaning up the mess in the basement, I proceeded to take a shower, then put my clothes in the wash. Fiberglass insulation dust can be dangerous stuff. Especially when it’s as old and rotted out as this stuff was. When it comes time to take the garbage bags of insulation to the dump, I’ll have to make sure to keep them separate, so they go to the proper disposal area, and not with household garbage. I’ll also have to double bag them.

For now, I’m glad that the space in front of the pumps and tanks is finally clear of this thing. It’s been there for over 2 years! πŸ˜€ It’ll make it much easier for when the well pump gets replaced.

I’m looking into finding a filter to install between the well and the pump. Or pre-filter, these are apparently called. I’ve found several kinds, but I can’t tell if they are suitable for use with a deep well pump, rather than a shallower well pump. The problem is that the deep well pump has two hoses, one above the other. From the looks of how they are installed, the second hose would be in the way. It would be good to use one, though. They are designed just to filter out the bigger stuff, and should help extend the life of the pumps and tanks. I’ve sent some links to my older brother, who knows this system better than anyone, and hopefully he’ll be able to tell me something, one way or the other. Or, perhaps, inform me of something better to use.

At this point, I’ve done almost as much as can be done in the old basement. The other things that need doing are little things, like getting plastic utility shelves to replace the wood shelves on bricks, and organizing.

Which means we will now work on the new part basement.

Oh, that reminds me. I was chatting with my brother about the clean up I’d done so far, and commented on the collection of car batteries down there. I said that, unless he knows if any of them are still usable and he wants them, I would probably take them to the dump for proper disposal. He very adamantly told me not to do that. It turns out that these can be taken to a scrap yard, in the same way we plan to do with our aluminum collection. They will pay by the pound for the lead in them, and each battery can bring in quite a lot. He tells me that the amount of aluminum we have is probably enough to make it work taking in.

I figure we can do that in the spring. Anything we get from the aluminum or the batteries is going to go into a tax free savings account we set up for our contingency fund, and the money will go to replacing the roof.

It’ll take a while. Based on the two estimates we got, and assuming that they will find rot under there, we’re looking at $10,000 we have to come up with. Assuming no emergencies happen before then. 😦

Ah, well. For now, we just deal with what we can.

Like figuring out how to get that beast of a cylinder out of the basement!

The Re-Farmer

Recommended: CS Brews

Welcome to my β€œRecommended” series of posts. These will be weekly – for now – posts about resources I have found over the past while that I found so excellent, I want to share them with you, my dear readers. πŸ™‚ Whether or not I continue to post these, and how often they are posted, will depend on feedback. Please feel free to comment below, and if you have a favorite resource of your own, do share, and I will review them for possible future posts.

I hope you find these recommendations as useful and enjoyable as I have!

When we decided to try making mead we, of course, did research, first.

Unfortunately, what we found was a lot of conflicting information.

One source would say to just mix honey, water and bread yeast in a jug, top it with a balloon, stick it under your desk and forget about it for months.

Another source would describe starting a fermentation in one container, with daily actions, racking after a couple of weeks, and basically babying the must until it was time to bottle.

Some sources recommended using basically nothing; no other ingredients than honey, water and maybe some yeast. Others would talk about the need for various additives, ranging from raisins to nutrients to various chemicals to start or stop fermentation.

It turns out, mead making is something people can vociferously disagree on, too!

The last time I posted about our mead making attempts, I mentioned a new resource I’d found. CS Brews. This is the YouTube channel for a larger enterprise that includes a similar channel about cooking, a website called City Steading, a Facebook community, and more.

As the website name implies, this is a sort of homesteading resource for people who don’t live in the boonies, like we do. The skills and information are, of course, transferable.

My recommendation, however, is focused on their brewing videos.

Now, this may sound odd, but I don’t actually like alcohol all that much.

Continue reading

No-Knead Focaccia

My daughters were sweethearts and baked the new recipe they found. It’s the Shockingly Easy No-Knead Focaccia from Bon Apetit.

We did make one change in the recipe. We didn’t have any extra virgin olive oil. We did, however, have avocado oil, so we used that, instead.

It worked very well!

We also didn’t have the type of pan they recommended. We have 9×13 pans. Just not with high sides. So we used a slightly smaller glass pan. The dough has a second rising in the pan, and was very close to overflowing before it was vigorously poked at to deflate it.

For a recipe with no oil in the dough, it uses quite a lot of oil! And butter. The baking pan is buttered, first, then oil added, then the dough put in.

Just before putting it in the oven, more oil is drizzled over the top, and sprinkled with Kosher salt. After it’s baked, butter is melted with garlic, which is drizzled on top.

The end result is both beautiful and delicious. That salty, buttery, garlicky topping is sublime! The texture is moist and chewy, and there were some pretty large bubbles in there! Even the bottom crust has a very nice texture, thanks to the butter and oil combination.

I rather like avocado oil better than olive oil in a lot of things, but it’s frightfully expensive stuff. Costco has it at much better prices, at least.

This recipe is definitely worth trying out! It has rising instructions for both an overnight dough and a same day bread.

Now excuse me, while I go back to enjoying this Focaccia!!

The Re-Farmer