Let it snow, let it snow…

… okay, it can stop now. I’m good.

😄

Actually, we’ve got it pretty good. A friend of ours is on the East coast, and they got hit with a major storm and no power. As I write this, they still don’t have electricity! Thankfully, they have a fire place to keep warm around, and are in an urban area, so they can drive to places that do have power, to recharge their devices, have a hot meal and stay warm!

We’ve been getting a gentle snowfall all day yesterday, and it’s continuing today. It is supposed to continue for the next three days, after which the temperatures are supposed to drop quite a bit. Nothing unusual for our region, but it’s going to be when we’ll get a good idea of whether or not the new roof will make a difference in how cold it gets upstairs. Looking at our 30 year records, on this date we reached a record high of 6C/43F in 1997 – and a record low of -36C/-33F in 2013!! So I’m quite content with our current -2C/28F.

The outside cats don’t seem to mind it, either!

Thanks to the cat lady’s donation of wet cat food for them, I’m still doling out a large tin of cat food, with lysine mixed in, twice a day. After I put the last and largest amount of it in the tray inside the cat house for the bitties, the bigger kittens are quite content to clean the bowl and spoon for me!

Yesterday, I counted 27, including the bitties. This morning, I “only” counted 23. I couldn’t see the bitty tuxedo in shadows, so I’ll just assume the head count was actually 24. 😁

As for the inside cats, Marlee is still doing very well. When the girls come in, she’ll go right over for pets. With one of my daughters, she really likes to hop up on the bed and start rolling around, showing us her belly.

Which had been shaved! When the cat lady trapped Marlee and was finally able to get a vet to look at her, one of the things they did was see if she need to be spayed. She had already been spayed, but had no tattoo, so along with getting other basic treatments, they gave her a tattoo. The cat lady didn’t mention they’d shaved her belly in the process, but there is a very distinct area of shorter fur still growing back. It’s a reminder of just how short the time has been, since she was rescued.

She is such a sweet little lady!

She still snarls at the other cats, though. Of course, she’s only been here less than a week, so that’s not much of a surprise!

In other things, the girls and I finally were able to do some decorating for Christmas. They’d hung the tree against the dining room door a while back, before everybody got sick. Since then, the only decorations on it where the berlingot decorations I’d hung up while the glue I’d hung while the tips dried.

Because of the cats, my daughter had to hang the tree pretty high against the door, which made adding the tree topper a bit of a challenge! 😄

Aside from the tree, we added lights and garlands along the walls and cabinets, up near the ceiling, where the cats can’t reach.

I think that’s about all we’ll do for decorating the house. It’s just too much of a pain to try and protect everything from the cats! As it is, during the night, they knocked one of the boxes of decorations onto the floor. My daughter found most of them and put them away, but I found an apple decoration somehow jammed into the toe of one of my snow boots this morning!

The girls and I also had a chance to talk about future plans. For me, it’s getting a chicken coop built and getting chickens as quickly as possible. They, on the other hand, keep trying to delay it until we can adopt out more cats. My daughter is the one that’s been paying most of the more recent vet bills, and we’ve had some very expensive cats. They’re just going on the assumption that if we get chickens, they’re all just going to get sick and we’ll have lots of vet bills. So that’s another objection they have.

When I was a kid, we had lots of chickens. At least 50, probably closer to 100, at any given time. Not once did we call a vet for them. If they died, they died. Very few of them ever got sick. Which is pretty amazing, considering my parents really didn’t make any extra effort to prevent it. We had more losses due to skunks than anything else. I keep forgetting. My daughters are essentially city girls.

One of the main reasons I want to have a mobile chicken coop that is suitable for our winters, rather than just a chicken tractor, is because I want to incorporate the chickens into prepping soil in our gardens for us. They would be excellent for eating up weed seeds, insects and other pests, while loosening the soil and fertilizing it at the same time. For that, I want to be able to move their coop to different locations, and have electric chicken fencing to keep them in place – and most predators out. My daughters, however, are concerned about things like coyotes, the cats, hawks, eagles and owls. So they are thinking of having a completely enclosed chicken yard. Which we would definitely have for the winter months.

So… I expect to be on my own when it comes to getting ready for chickens.

What they are really interested in getting started on is building our outdoor kitchen. My younger daughter and I spent quite a bit of time talking about it, while she sketched things out. We’ve worked out where we want to build it – basically, about where the shed with the collapsed roof is. If we can dismantle that and build it in the same spot, that would be great. Otherwise, right in front of it would be good, too. Among the things we need to consider is that it’s a space free of trees, and where the prevailing winds are. In that location, it’s wind from the south that we’d have to shelter from the most.

One wall will have a multi-function cooking area. We want to incorporate an oven, much like the earthen or cob ovens, where the fire gets built up inside, then the ashes removed for baking and roasting. There will be an area with a grill, and my daughter specifically wanted an area where we can incorporate a wok, both of which would have their own smaller fire areas under them. We will also incorporate a smoker, so smoke from the cob-style oven and under the wok will be directed into the smoker. We’ll just have to make sure we can allow the smoke to escape if we’re cooking, but not smoking anything.

The question is, what will we build all this out of? For the shelter itself, it will likely be a timber frame, and we’ve agreed that a metal roof, with the rafters and any other wood above treated against fire. We plan to incorporate stone a lot – we have so much of it! – but for the cooking area, we will probably hit a salvage yard for bricks. We wouldn’t be able to “harvest” our own stones for that, as what we have is porous and can absorb moisture; it has been known to explode when exposed to heat. It would be great to find fire bricks from a salvage yard, too, but that’s something I’d consider worth buying new. The cooking area would also basically make up one wall, but for the other sides, we’re thinking to have at least half-walls. Likely of stone – again, because we have so much of it!

We’ll need a lot of mortar.

For the top half of the walls, I’d like to have the option of switching between screens in the summer, and wall panels in the winter.

Along with the cooking area, we will have another wall with a work table from end to end. That can be mobile, along with any seating. We’re also going to include a sort of cut-out corner for an open fire pit, too. Something we can sit around and have a nice, sheltered, wiener roast. Our current fire pit is much enjoyed, but over the years, the trees have grown too large, and there are too many branches the sparks could potentially ignite. Winds from either the northwest or the southeast can be quite a problem, too. For that area, we will likely build a gazebo shelter that we can use for things like hanging garlic, or laying out potatoes to cure, and not have to worry about it getting rained on. We’ve used our 10×10 market tents for that, but we want a permanent structure.

Somewhere around the outdoor kitchen, my younger daughter also wants to built a forge for the blacksmithing she wants to do. We found some of my late fathers old blacksmithing tools while cleaning up around the pump shack, but what he used for a forge had been gutted, and no longer had the blower fan that had been in there. Who knows, though; perhaps my daughter can still find a way to use that old thing!

So we were able to hash out some plans and ideas. My daughter is now doing more research on blacksmithing and building a forge, while I’ve been doing more research on building a timber frame shelter, and different ideas for the cooking area. There are actually a few multi-function designs out there – some even incorporating a smoker – but of course there are none with all the stuff we have in mind. Which is fine. It’s the different ways to build them that interests me.

When we’ll actually be able to start building this is the question. We’ll need to start accumulating the materials. Once we know what materials we can find or acquire, we’ll be able to make final decisions on the construction and know which materials we’ll have to buy, as well.

I did find an entire playlist on YouTube with a guy building a timber frame “forest kitchen”, by himself. I’ll be spending some time watching those!

That’s one benefit of our long winters, when you can’t do much outside. It’s a good time for making plans and doing research!

The Re-Farmer

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