Friday, January 30, 2015

And the Next Adventure Begins...

Today marks the beginning of our wildflower farm and the alternative life we are crafting and we like to think the 60+ cardinals in the photo celebrate with us! Where we go from here is not yet certain, but the path is exciting..beyond exciting, really. It's as though we are finally starting to claim our own lives! Here's a few quotes scratched down over the past year that we return to over and over. 

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
– Mark Twain
“Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you're going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.” 

-Anne Lamott

“Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”
-Jon Krakauer
Let the adventure begin!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dining Room/Library Complete; Finally

If you can believe it (because we hardly can), last NOVEMBER we installed a door into the south wall of our dining room/library and just this winter returned to the project. What happened? We certainly don't know, in fact we aren't sure what we did last winter?! We do know once spring rolled around we busted our bums with gardening and that's that. So here we are, over a year later and we are finally, finally finished! WOO HOO!

Plaster wall waiting for trim to cover up the ugly:

Steve using his favorite oscillating multi-tool for the trim work:

2x4 spacers installed for something to attach the trim to:

Steve cutting used barn wood we salvaged for the trim:

Boards stained and drying. Note the board on the far left. This is a Steve original: the most perfect threshold EVER made with another 2x4. I can't even begin to say how impressed I am with this board!

Plaster patching, attaching trim, tool fun...can life get any better?

Well, of course! Nothing can hold a candle to wiring. (This is where I want to say SIKE if it was still cool and grammatically correct to do so.) Steve is working like a mad-dog to finish the rewiring of our old house. He's been able to replace almost all of the old non-grounded wire even with some tricky areas and some disappointments: junk fish tape breaking in the wall making us lose hold of the wire, UGH.

Here's the room with the new wiring, trim and all that brilliant light we so adore.

Happy, happy!

The kitties love the sun as much as we do. Here's Minnie Pearl as cute as ever...

and Flora with her catnip banana...

...Bounder taking a break from her upstairs apartment and socializing with the rest of the family...

...and Alvin, showing off his baby blue eyes!:

And just because it's winter and we all need a reminder of summer, here's a view from the roof of our house of the butterfly garden we look out our dining room/library doors at everyday. Right now, the seed heads are feeding many white-throated sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, Northern cardinals and tree sparrows. A Carolina wren usually searches the stalks for various spiders and what not and a red-squirrel hopped onto the deck the other day, surveyed the land and enjoyed the black walnuts still littering the ground. We never pick up the walnuts, unless we want to eat some. Yes, we have to be careful where we step for a while, but the wildlife does an incredible job cleaning up the area by eating, storing and planting those nutritious nuts that if allowed, grow into fantastic trees. Thank goodness for a big door in a finished dining room/library to enable our wildlife viewing!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Dried Bean Harvest 2014

Growing, processing and storing dried beans is easy! The array of types and colors is incredibly diverse making winter seed catalog perusal the perfect thing to do when the many shades of gray outdoors is starting to depress you.

Here's the easy process to inspire you to join us in the dry bean fan club:

Step 1: Plant and care for (and feel happy that the roots are fixing nitrogen in the soil, thereby improving your soil fertility just by growing!):

Step 2: Watch them climb (if they are runner or half-runner type beans). The red-flowered beans climbing the tripods on the left are scarlet runner beans - beautiful!

Step 3: Crush your pods inside a burlap sack and then winnow (drop slowly in front of a fan to blow the lighter chaff away). The much-heavier beans drop straight down and can be collected easily.

Step 4: Bag up your beans, separating out any that may be moldy or otherwise of poor quality:

Step 5: Put them in jars by species for storage. Not pictured are two quart jars of beans we already ate. Not bad for some beans tucked in here and there! We grew Scarlet Runner, Snow Cap, Jacob's Cattle and Bolita beans. Who knows yet what's on the grow list for 2015, but you can bet we are going to grow more!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Happy 2015 & A New Bridge (Out of junk, of course!)

Happy 2015 everyone! We are so excited about this next year and hope you are too. We celebrated our best holiday season yet, hiked many miles, enjoyed many great meals, hung out with both our families & dear friends and accomplished quite a number of goals too. We feel quite satisfied and grateful for this life we live!

Most of our property is old field habitat, but we do have one very small section of woods. We've hankered to put a trail in this section since we moved here and we finally did it! A small stream runs through this area and we needed a way to cross it so we built a bridge from reclaimed materials. The idea was all Steve's, really. He's brilliant, I say!

Now for Steve's explanation of the process:

We had an old section of antenna tower laying around for quite some time and it turned out to be just the right length to span the creek. Being triangular, it had strength to span the creek, support some decking and convey people across it. The only downside to triangular is that we couldn't simply lay it on the ground and put the decking on (we could have done that with a square cross section). A trip back to a stockpile of reclaimed wood and a bit of head-scratching yielded the below solution: sink the narrow part of the triangle into the soil until the wide part of the triangle came to rest on a piece of 4x6. A couple of strategic shims under the ends of the 4x6 and the fastener-free span was ready for decking!

Jennifer's dad gets these great heavy duty pallets for us and they have a million uses. You will get the idea from the below pics that we were able to use parts of two pallets to make 2 sections of decking. 

Like the parable of the fishes and the loaves, scavenging projects always yield scraps and crumbs of materials that make the whole larger than the sum of the parts:

Below we place the decking section on (they are heavy enough in weight that we don't need to fasten them down), make final adjustments and test it out:

Just in time for a bunch of recent rain and a creek that's "up":

A note from Steve: I attribute any "brilliance" to frugality and ingenuity gleaned from our parents. Jennifer and I both get a great deal of satisfaction from making something useful from salvaged items - which is handy, given that we don't play the lottery!