Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A leg up

This morning in the barn I noticed a hen perched on the rung of a ladder.

This ladder is placed where it is so I can get into this space between hay bales.

The reason I need to get to this space between the hay bales is because it's the latest "hot spot" for laying. But I didn't realize the hens used the ladder to get themselves six feet up. They're cleverer than I thought.

I hadn't checked this spot for a few days, and evidently a lot more hens than I thought were laying in it. They'd spilled over into two areas.

Total: 16 whole eggs plus a broken one.

Just a little slice of life on the Lewis homestead.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

It must be fall

Our nights have been getting chillier, which means chilly mornings in the house. Frustratingly it's been too dry to safely light a fire in the woodstove -- couldn't take the chance a random spark might set something on fire -- but we decided to clean things out for when the weather cooperated.

So out came the stovepipe brushes.

Don removed the lower pipe from its sleeve...

...and we shone a light up the pipe. Definitely time to clean.

The technique we use is to punch a small hole in the bottom of a plastic bag with the rod end of the cleaning brush. Then I wrap the top of the bag around the stovepipe and hold it there while Don scrubs the pipe with the brush. This way all the ash falls into the bag instead of poofing into the living room.

As he shoves the brush upward and ever upward through to the top of the pipe, he screws on lengthener rods one by one. At last the brush bangs into the cap at the top of the pipe, thirty feet up. Then he reverses the procedure and scrubs his way down the pipe.

It's dirty work, despite the plastic bag.

A follow-up check shows the pipe is much cleaner.

A few days later, we had a foggy morning and decided it was okay to light the first fire of the season. Don brought in kindling from the shop...

...and the next morning I lit a fire.

It felt good to heat the house again.

Even after all these years of heating with wood, there's something magical about fires. They're comforting, soothing, cozy. They warm both body and soul.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Blood moon eclipse

I hope everyone had a chance to witness last night's spectacular blood moon eclipse.

We were at our neighbor's for our weekly potluck, which was probably a good thing since the moonrise was not obstructed by trees as it would have been at our house.

As the moon rose, it was already half eclipsed.

As the moon rose higher and the sky grew darker, it got harder for me to get unblurred photos. Our neighbor, who was also photographing the event, kindly loaned me a tripod, which helped immensely (though I still got a lot of blurry shots, which obviously I won't post).

By the time it was fully eclipsed, it was dark enough to see the "blood" coloration. Spectacular.

This is how it looked with the regular camera setting:

This is the same photo with the computer's "auto adjust colors" setting, just for fun:

Gradually the earth's shadow passed over, and the moon's brightness started becoming visible again.

What an absolutely beautiful thing to witness.

I'm grateful our skies were clear to see it from start to finish.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Winning the lottery

Have you ever wanted to own this?

Or this?

Yeah, me neither.

I saw an interesting article a few weeks ago entitled Twelve Things Not To Do If You Win the Lottery. These twelve things are:

  • Have a stash of illegal substances around the house
  • Tell everyone you know
  • Automatically decide to take the up-front cash
  • Think that you are the smartest person to manage your money and finances
  • Let your debts remain in place
  • Become the generous high-roller, living the life
  • Buy everything for everyone, or even for yourself
  • Say to hell with a budget
  • Become the business backer for all your friends and family
  • Give away the whole enchilada
  • Get celebrity and athlete envy
  • Think that laws and decency standards no longer apply

Like zillions of other people, Don and I have batted around the idea of what we would do if we won the lottery. (Of course to do that, we'd have to play the lottery.) I'd like to think we've be more sensible than to do any of the twelve things mentioned on that list, but then we've never been put in that position either.

Back when we lived in Oregon, there was an older couple who won a "small" lottery of about $5 million. I actually got the chutzpah to call the wife and ask if I could interview her about what a lottery win was like. She was very kind and, while she declined an in-person interview, she answered a few questions over the phone. I was deeply impressed with how sensible she and her husband were being.

Among other things, they delayed announcing to anyone they had won the lottery until they had entirely upgraded the security on their modest home. They had no plans to move and no plans to buy anything fancy. They were in the process of setting up trust funds for their children and grandchildren in such a way that no one would run wild (especially their grandchildren). In short, they acted calmly and rationally.

So what would Don and I do if we won the lottery?

Besides paying off the mortgage, we might consider moving to a more remote property (though it would be a wretch to leave our wonderful neighbors, so maybe we wouldn't). We would continue to live frugally, though we might replace our worn kitchen linoleum and hideous blue indoor/outdoor carpeting the house came with, and install hardwood floors. We would set up trust funds for the girls and our future grandchildren, while encouraging all parties to live as frugally and self-sustainably as possible. We would set aside a generous portion for charitable purposes.

Of course, this is all hypothetical since, after all, we don't play the lottery.

But in a manner of speaking, we already have won the lottery. So have you. What do I mean?

Well consider: most of us are in reasonably good health, reasonably happy with our families and relationships and friends, reasonably well-off enough that we can afford to live someplace decent, with reasonable amounts of modern conveniences, and have reasonable access to modern medicine when needed. You're only reading this post because you're experiencing a modern miracle (the internet). You're only reading this because you can read (many people can't). You're only reading this because you can see to read. Catch my drift?

These are all lottery wins in the game of life. Beyond that, an astonishing number of "wins" in life are due to making good choices (the premise of my Simplicity Primer book) and living frugally. Almost anyone can make the decision to get out of debt, raise your kids right, become more self-sufficient, etc.

Still, those fantasies about winning the lottery linger. After all, there are few of us who wouldn't agree a little bit more money would be nice.

There are ways to achieve that too. I've heard it said the quickest way to give yourself a pay raise is to spend less money. Daisy at The Organic Prepper has an outstanding post called Personal Austerity: 12 Ways to Radically Cut Your Expenses (well worth reading!). Along these lines, there's an article on the Dave Ramsey website entitled Seven Characteristics of Debt-Free People.

Let's face it, most of us have won the lottery in life, for which we should give praise to God.

Sometimes it helps to keep things in perspective.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Is total self-sufficiency possible?

Here's my latest Molly Green article entitled Is Total Self-Sufficiency Possible?

(I regret to say that's not me in the photograph.)

Molly Green is a really really spiffy homesteading/rural living/parenting magazine geared toward women (and enjoyed by many men as well). You might consider a subscription if you like what you see.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tim Young books on sale

If you remember, a few days ago I introduced you to Tim Young and his amazing lifestyle.

Tim just let me know he has five of his self-sufficiency/preparedness books in Kindle format on sale for $.99 each. They include:

This is just for today (Tuesday 9/22), so don't hesitate.

Tim also did an interview yesterday on the Prepper Recon Podcast with author Mark Goodwin. His talk is entitled Americans are Dependent on a Failing System (which I think you'll agree is true). Well worth listening.

[UPDATE: A reader pointed out that "How to Make Money Homesteading" is $1.99, not $0.99. I inquired of Tim, and he replied: "It is. Amazon wouldn't let me set the price lower than that due to file size. :-( "

So... FYI. ]

Monday, September 21, 2015

Older Daughter is home!

On Friday night (late) we picked up Older Daughter at the airport. She has finished nanny school and is now a Certified Professional Nanny.

At the graduation, the children of her practicum family (whom she loved) made her a very sweet card.

Between jet lag and the late hour of her flight, our oldest kid was pretty whupped on Saturday. Despite missing the new friends she made in Ohio, she's glad to be home and ended up spending most of the day reassuring Lydia she wasn't dead.

Lydia was incandescently happy when Older Daughter walked through the door Friday night, whimpering and crying in joy.

Older Daughter cleaned her bedroom from top to bottom...

...then we put both girls to work gluing on handles on tankards. Hey, work doesn't cease just because we have a reunion.

And let's not forget the mountains of laundry.

Older Daughter plans to rest and recuperate for a week or two, then begin her job search in the Pacific Northwest. Because her nanny school is not well known on the west coast -- it's literally the only remaining nanny school in the country -- this puts Older Daughter in the unique position of being (almost) the only Certified Professional Nanny in this part of the country. We don't anticipate any problems with her finding a wonderful family to become a part of -- though it will be tough saying goodbye again.

So for the moment, we'll relish having her home.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Welcome Tim Young

A couple weeks ago when I announced we would be accepting select advertisements showcasing small or home businesses, naturally we didn't know what kind of response we would get.

One of the first people to contact us was the amazing Tim Young.

I've mentioned Tim a couple of times before (here and here). Over ten years ago, Tim and his wife left their urban home and embraced the challenges of homesteading. Not just homesteading, but making a living from their homestead ... not an easy thing to do.

But these folks rose to meet the challenge and have created a lifestyle that, well, you have to see to believe.
I don't think there's anything they don't do, from butchering to beekeeping to making tinctures and medicines to...well, everything. Their website is here and it's worth diving in and exploring all over the place.

Tim has a new book out entitled Start Prepping which, as you can imagine, covers the subject with the thoroughness and expertise folks have come to expect from someone of Tim's caliber.

Tim isn't one of those "theoretical" writers. He's a get-your-hands-dirty kind of guy who speaks with honesty about his success and failures, his mistakes and his triumphs. When Tim recommends something, it's because he's been-there-done-that.

This is a book well worth reading, particularly for those who need a nudge in the prepping direction. And for anyone interested in homestead musings, farming nuts-and-bolts, and endless other rural nuggets of gold, Tim Young's website is the place to go.

Peach ice cream

We had a bit of an Indian summer over the last couple of weeks, with temps well into the 80s (that has since stopped and we're cooling down). Despite my aversion to heat, I haven't minded this last gasp of warmth since we're still hoping all the green tomatoes in the garden will have time to ripen.

The weather gave me an excuse to try something I've wanted to try for some time: making peach ice cream.

While I've often made what I call Utterly Artificial Ice Cream (no real ingredients!), I haven't been overly impressed with the custard ice cream recipes out there because they taste far too egg-y.

But a neighbor brought a creamy treat of peach ice cream to our neighborhood potluck over the summer, and it was to-die-for delicious. Peaches are my favorite fruit anyway, so I'm always in the market for peach anything. Our neighbor kindly provided me with the recipe.

The ingredients are simple: milk, sugar, half-and-half, cream, a touch of vanilla and salt, and a puréed fruit (strawberries would also be excellent).

Here I'm scalding the milk.

While the milk was heating, I soaked peach purée in hot water to defrost.

Once the milk is scalded, I removed it from the heat and stirred in the sugar to let it dissolve. Then I stirred in the cream and half-and-half.

Once all the ingredients are added together (including the purée), it needs to be chilled in the fridge for half an hour or so.

Into the ice cream canister it goes.

Next up, rock salt and crushed ice.

We bought this ancient ice cream machine for $5 at a thrift store years ago. It has its quirks, but it's been an amazing little workhorse.

The result:

This stuff is phenomenally delicious. What a pity I didn't have this recipe during the height of our summer heat!