Wood Stoves (And Woodsheds)

IMG_2266.JPGI’m one of those people who are always cold.

I honestly can’t even imagine living in any part of the world where the temperatures drop precipitously and the snow falls heavily.  Heck, even the eastern part of the Pacific Northwest sounds pretty awful to me in the winter!  I am definitely a West-of-the-Cascades sort of person.  I can’t handle much below 40 degrees.  In fact, I’m most comfortable around 70-75 degrees, outside and in.

Which is why I was so so adamant about having a wood stove installed when we built our house.  I can’t afford to use the furnace to achieve my target temperature (propane is expensive), but I sure can use all the free wood Jasper chopped this summer to stoke a blazing fire!FullSizeRender (7).jpgAnd I love it.  I love it every day and every night when it is crackling away happily and I am warm.

I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t admit that the wood stove didn’t quite go according to plan.  Actually, a lot of things didn’t go according to plan, but that’s probably a post in and of itself, and I am here working hard at appreciating what we do have (which is a beautiful new house and a warm fireplace) and not dwelling on what we don’t have (which is the pinterest-worthy house I dreamed of but could not realistically afford).

So.  Anyway.  The wood stove ended up standing alone in the corner instead of the middle of the wall in a fireplace surround, and that’s OK.  It works for us, and keeps the house cozy and warm and that’s the important thing.

FullSizeRender (4)To make feeding the fireplace easier on ourselves, Jasper’s very first project after me moved into the farmhouse was to build a new woodshed.  Most of our wood is stacked down in the woodlot past the lower field, in what’s left of an old metal pole barn.  That’s where Jasper and his dad dragged all the blown down trees last summer and did all the work of cutting rounds and splitting them.  But we needed something a little smaller and a little closer to the house, because walking a quarter of a mile down to the woodlot every night to get a load to fill up the stove just didn’t sound appealing.

In just two days Jasper built this little shed, using mostly wood and cedar shakes recycled from the old shed we took down last spring, or milled lumber we found down in the lower garage.  I think the only thing we bought were those hinges for the doors.

FullSizeRender (5)He also used some reclaimed wood from the original farmhouse.  The boards in the picture above were originally part of the walls and ceiling of the house, and were milled at the Crossett Western Lumber Company at Wauna at the turn of the 20th century.  They’re pretty neat to look at every time we open the woodshed doors.

He didn’t use any plans to build it, just a vision in his head, and I think it turned out pretty good.  But, as I’m sure will happen frequently on this journey of ours, we’ll need to tweak it a little come summer.  There isn’t enough of an overhang on the roof, and the doors don’t shut tight at the top, so water drips right in and gets the first row of wood a bit damp.  Also, the latch he made swells in the wet weather and makes it almost impossible to close securely at times.  For now though it works well enough, and there is so much else to do before spring comes knocking.

Not least of which is keeping warm in front of the wood stove on these cold winter days.

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First Seed Order of 2018

Sprout and Sprig's Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Order

We’re not even a full week into the new year, and already I’m itching for spring.  For verdant green, for growth.  So out come the seed catalogs and the pocketbook!  What else can a gardener do on these long winter evenings?

I’m ordering the bulk of my seeds from the same three companies as last year: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Territorial Seed Company, and Annie’s Heirloom Seeds.  These companies have all taken the safe seed pledge and offer seeds that are organic and non-genetically modified.  I’m also planning on trying a few things from some new (to me) companies like High Mowing Seed Company and Adaptive Seeds, but I’m still working on paring down my wishlist to make my final decisions.

For now, this is what I’m starting with, from Baker Creek:

  • Danvers 126 Half Long carrots
  • Dragon’s Egg cucumbers
  • Little Gem lettuce
  • Etiuda sweet peppers
  • Navone Yellow Cabbage Turnip rutabagas
  • Carbon tomatoes
  • A Grappoli D’Inverno tomatoes
  • Pink Bumblebee tomatoes

I grew Little Gem lettuce years ago when I lived in Roseburg, and I loved them!  They are like miniature heads of romaine lettuce, enough for one or two people.  For whatever reason they disappeared from the seed companies that I usually bought from and I used up the last of my seed a long time ago, so I was super excited to see this variety offered by Baker Creek this year!

I’m also excited about the new tomato varieties I’m trying.  I’ll be growing Sungold, Polish Linguisa and Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye again, but I’m still looking for the best tasting, best saucing, best slicing and best growing newcomers to round out my team.  Because I love tomatoes.  I am serious about good tomatoes.

Also, let’s be real here.  I’m excited about all of it.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, rutabagas – you name it and I’m excited to grow it.  Spring can’t come soon enough!

Skunked!

skunk-1545541.jpgAs I was driving into town yesterday I passed a dead skunk by the side of the road.

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for members of the weasel family, and I’ve also always thought skunks were very cute, so I was a bit sad as I drove by the flattened mound of fur.  However, I also told the girls how glad I was that none of the dogs had been sprayed by skunks in all the long years that I’ve had them.

Famous last words.

Una got skunked last night.

Seriously, the real-life foreshadowing of this whole event was uncanny.

It was just a matter of time, I knew that.  As my sister said, when you move to the country it’s practically in the fine print that someone is going to get sprayed by a skunk.  And yet, I hoped. I thought maybe my dogs were too smart to mess with skunks.  After all, we’ve been 11 years incident free.

Nope.  Not so.  Not anymore.

Behold a stinky dog:IMG_2215.JPGOh, the smell.  I don’t even know how to describe the smell of freshly sprayed skunk juice to anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure.  It’s a little bit like sulfurous rotten eggs, but worse, like sulfurous rotten eggs mixed with sickly sweet decayed garbage mixed with burning tires.  And it gets everywhere.

Una was in the house for less than a few seconds before I realized she’d been sprayed and scooted her right back outside.  But the smell stayed.  And it moved!  It seemed to get stronger!  It went upstairs.  It went behind closed doors.  It made the girls cry even though they were already in bed, with the covers up over their heads.

Skunks really are formidable little creatures.

Poor Una had to spend the night in the greenhouse while we figured out what to do.  I felt a little badly about making my elderly dog sleep outside in the unheated greenhouse, but that’s what happens if you get sprayed by a skunk in this family.  Persona non grata until the stink is gone.  To that end, this morning I did a little research and found this recommended recipe online:

Homemade Skunk-Off

  • 1 quart (4 cups) hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 tsp dish detergent

Wearing rubber gloves, I lathered this concoction into her fur and then rinsed it out, and followed with a full shampoo using her regular soap.  It seemed to work, but we were outside and it was cold and I couldn’t quite be sure, so I put her in the garage and ran to town to pick up a bottle of Nature’s Miracle Skunk Remover.  Another bath and the old girl is back to smelling mostly okay.  If you are brave enough to stick your nose into the fur on her chest you will probably pick up a slight undercurrent of sulphurous rotten garbage and burned rubber, but she’s back to sleeping in the house without driving us all away with her stink.

While I was out, I also stopped by Costco to stock up on hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.  I have this feeling that this won’t be the last time that there is an offensively smelling dog on my doorstep.

Oh, our animals.  They keep life interesting.  Or something.

New Year, New Farm Goals

IMG_1942.jpg2017 was the year we bought the farm.

It was also the year we destroyed and subsequently rebuilt a house (we hired somebody) and upgraded our septic system (we did it ourselves!).  It was the year we took our first big family vacation (to the Redwoods and Disneyland) and bought our first LGD, Rowan.  It was the year we all saw our first solar eclipse and the year that both of my girls went to school full-time.

But it was not the year we accomplished a single one of our other goalsWhomp whomp.

Thank goodness for new years and fresh starts!

Una by fence.jpgMy plan is to write a whole post on each of these goals throughout the year, to go into more detail about the hows and the whys and the progress (if any) that we’re making.  Hopefully, now that we actually live out here we can get more done, and already I see that we’re making little inroads on some of these!  They’re all really pretty simple, but to check any of them off the list as finished would go a long way toward fixing up this old farm.  So, without further ado, here are my goals for 2018:

  • Rent a dumpster (again) and get rid of the remaining junk
  • Build a duck house and yard
  • Acquire some ducklings
  • Paint and shingle the chicken coop
  • Build raised beds and cold frames for year-round salad greens
  • Build and plant a strawberry patch
  • Transplant raspberry canes to a permanent raised bed
  • Prune fruit trees
  • Build a better garden fence
  • Expand garden
  • Clean out the garden shed
  • Clean out the greenhouse
  • Beautify backyard
  • Landscape around house
  • Fence in the lower field
  • Paint, clean out and fix up the wood shop (or, as we call it at present, the ugly old garage down by the road)
  • Cut down blackberries and miscreant alders
  • Begin to build perimeter fence
  • Fix or replace the tractor

IMG_2200I’m so excited for this year!  Excited to finally be in our house, living here on the most beautiful forty acres I could imagine.

Life is good, you guys, and I think 2018 is going to be good, too.  Happy New Year.

Happy Winter Days

IMG_2120The solstice passed this week, and we are finally, officially, in winter.

Although, really, it’s felt like winter for months now.

Living in what amounts to a temperate rain forest, one doesn’t really get seasons as it were.  One gets mild fluctuations.  In September or October it gets a little cooler than it used to be and it rains a little more, and in May or June it gets a little warmer and drier again.  That’s about it.

The morning of the solstice surprised us all though, and we woke up to temperatures  below freezing and everything brilliantly, dazzlingly crusted over with ice!

IMG_1974The girls, who have absolutely no idea what real snow is, thought it was wonderful.  We were having a White Christmas for sure!  They even threw some frosty clumps of grass at me and claimed we were having a snowball fight.  I just went with it, because that’s what you have to do here.  Sometimes frosty or icy is all you get.

And it was a good thing we enjoyed it, because the next day we were back to normal.  But it hasn’t been very rainy this month at all, so for that I am extremely thankful.

In other winter news, our first Christmas on the farm is only a couple of days away now and we’ve been busy making it feel very festive inside the farmhouse.  We’ve gathered greenery and put up the tree and strung lights and made treats and listened to more Christmas songs than is probably good for a person.  But we are happy.  We are excited.  Christmas doesn’t feel like a chore this year!

Instead it feels, rightly, like something we’ve waited a very long time for, indeed.

Thanks for sticking with me through all of this.  It means so much knowing that you’re out there cheering us on and following along on all the adventures we’ve had so far, and all those to come.

Cheers to a wonderful new year, a happy winter and a merry Christmas to you all!

From the Farmhouse

IMG_1810.jpgQuiet mornings drinking coffee at the kitchen table, watching the chickens feud with the stellar jays outside.

Hands, floured to the elbow, kneading bread dough.

The crunch of boots in the leaves, walking the paths of our woods.

Tucked in close to the wood stove in the evenings, book in hand.

The last two months have felt like such a dream in so many ways.  We moved into the farm house and it immediately felt like home.  So many people were worried that we would feel unmoored and lonesome out here at the edge of the county, in the middle of nowhere as they put it, but that hasn’t been the case.  Jasper and I are a bit hermitish in our own ways, and being out here is calming to our souls.  The neighbors are wonderful and warm and kind, but they’re not too close and there’s not too many.  There are things to do, to keep ourselves busy; there are things to plan for and dream about; there are things to watch, and there are places to wander.

IMG_2012Jasper and I actually toyed with the idea of not hooking up to the internet.  We’ve enjoyed our disconnect, and our girls have thrived without the siren song of Netflix.  But then, I missed my blog.  I missed being able to email people and check on utility accounts.  I missed looking for interesting recipes to bookmark and try out, and we both missed the ability to research things online, especially things pertaining to homesteading or smallholding or whatever this is.  Because sometimes – often – we don’t know what the heck we’re doing, and the internet has been a lifesaver.

And so here we are, connected again.

The Turn of Summer

091017 iris in front yard.jpgIn the mornings now, the mist settles thickly on the ground and in the reaching branches of the cedar trees on the hillsides.

I watch as the sun begins to creep through and break it apart, pausing in the frenzied midst of making lunches and sorting backpacks and uncrumpling papers.  A quiet moment by the kitchen sink to savor the coffee, to contemplate the vapors.

Both of my daughters were born in the heat of summer.  My youngest in June on the solstice, that longest day, when the true swelter of the season is as yet just a promise and not a weary burden; and my oldest in August, on the tail end of the season to be sure, but still before that shift that always comes, when you can suddenly start to smell as well as feel that the earth has begun to turn it’s face from the sun.

091417 garden fence.jpg

And now, the summer is over.  My babes have grown into little girls who tie their own shoes and shoulder their own backpacks and walk with unbound potential through their own lives.  I watch them covertly; I listen to their conversations peppered through with people I don’t know, and places I’ve never been.  Sometimes it seems that a mist is falling over more than just the trees, but I take comfort in the fact that this is the way it should be.  I am a triangle of light in the fog and they are explorers in a brave new world.

The season changes, and I look forward to what is coming next.