Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dashing through the "Ice" ?

As I write this, it is raining & sleeting. I just got home from work & last minute shopping & the roads are getting slippery. We are anxiously awaiting the forecast for tomorrow. It seems to change hourly when the temps are around 32 degrees. Right now there is a weather advisory for our area due to icy conditions & a flood advisory. By Christmas day we could have over an inch of rain (which is better, driving -wise than snow). The tricky part is when & if the sleet turns to rain & will it stay rain. Kristin & Tim are set to travel the 2 1/2 hours here tomorrow early evening unless the conditions stay icy. The last thing I want is for them to be on the road in bad conditions. So we wait & see. My brother is hosting Christmas Eve again with lots of good snacks & cookies. Shane lives close to him & will then travel back to our house to spent the night (along with Kristin & Tim, I hope). Amy & Rob will come over in the morning. We cook a big breakfast of veggie omelets, fresh fruit & hash browns. Then we exchange gifts. Steve is busy at work right now finishing up some of the handmade gifts he is making. Mine are finished & under the tree already.
Can't believe how fast the year went. Lots of changes at the farm, new friends made, baby on the way, an engagement, and putting the house on the market, etc, etc...
I hope all of you & your families have a safe & merry Christmas and peace in the new year.

Merry Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Moving Right Along

Where does the time go? It seems to fly by way too fast. We have been busy getting the house ready to sell & work & Christmas and on & on & on. Getting a little stressful. Still need to send out Christmas cards at work & home, finish a few presents that we are making, clean the garage & attic...
Not that I'm not having some fun in all this chaos. I've been Freecycling excess stuff that we have accumulated and it really feels good when the people that receive the items are excited to get them. I have met many nice people by Freecycling. I had lunch with one of them today. A couple years ago I asked on Freecycle for some perennials. Karen was the only response I received. We hit it off right away. A lot of the same interests. And I got some beautiful plants! We have gone out to lunch ever since. Yesterday I met a nice couple, Kristi & Pete. I gave them a desk and then I found the seat that went with it & Kristi came back today after lunch to get it. We talked for about an hour. She brought me some soap that she sells which was so nice. We made plans to meet for coffee or tea soon. I am a true believer in karma. The feeling alone from giving is so great and I feel I am getting a bonus by making new acquaintances.
Sunday, we spent the afternoon with Steve's dad visiting his mom in the nursing home. She has been in there for about 3 years now. She has vascular dementia. The home had a Christmas party which was really nice for the patients & visitors. They had an small orchestra & madrigal singers. His mom perked right up when the singers started. She was clapping after the songs & said how good they were. So glad we went.
I have been talking with our realtor and we will be putting the house on the market on January 4th. I have quite a few things to do before it is ready besides having Christmas breakfast for all the kids on Christmas morning, which I love to do. Tonight I am taping off the master bath to start painting tomorrow. I 'm taking the day off to do that & bake Christmas cookies and maybe start on the garage sorting. The carpet cleaning appointment is on the 29th (Steve's birthday) and all the decorations & tree will have to be put away by then. :-(  The realtor is coming on the 30th to take pictures & go over paperwork. I just have to keep thinking about how it is all worth it. When the townhome is on the market, we start with the shop. Lots of clutter there.
I am baking a casserole of sweet potatoes, onions & apples as I write. I picked up some artesian garlic bread at the grocery store to complete the meal. It smells really good in here now :-)
I think I will go & sit on the couch & take my "20 minutes to myself" time for the day. It helps me to de-stress. Hope everyone has a great night.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

This Is How It Began

A rerun of my first post...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Beginning

Where do I start? We are not what you might call "spring chickens". Mid-life is what I hope we are, being that we are in our 50's. What started our search for a different kind of life?

Steve lived in Colorado right out of college and led a ski bum/hippie kind of lifestyle for a short time. He read Mother Earth News, was interested in alternative building, etc. I was a hippe "wanna be" in junior high but that phase passed as I went to high school. A few years back, in search of a healthier lifestyle, I attended a talk on raw foods at the local health food store. That talk was all I needed. We started to eat raw, organic fruits & veggies right away. The asthma I had lived with since I was seventeen was under control within a month. No more meds. Not for asthma or allergies. Steve could stop taking his cholesterol meds too. Amazing. One thing led to another. Reading about gardening, the environment, starting to study natural medicine is what led us on the path to a better life. We tried to find a farm in our area in Illinois, but prices were too steep. We set a limit of 2 to 4 hours away from our home to find the place we dreamed of. Southwestern Wisconsin fell into that category. We started to look online at farm property. An Amish owned farm kept coming up as a favorite. But no electricity or water was a huge drawback. Steve kept saying that it would be too much work. I kept showing him the listing. While we were looking at other properties, the realtor said she could show us the farm. It was her listing previously so we could just stop by.

I didn't get my hopes too high, but after we saw the property in person, Steve was excited. This was it. We put in our offer.
That was the fall of 2006. We closed in March of 2007. Since then we have been going up to the farm on every available weekend to work on it. Yes, it's been a sacrifice in some ways, but a dream is a dream. We know some day it will be worth the countless hours we and other family members have put into it. We look forward to the day we move in for good. Sitting in front of the woodstove, enjoying the falling snow out the picture window while we read a book. That is what I see in the future. Home sweet home...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I just finished baking two loaves of zucchini bread. The house smells so good right now. I shredded a lot of zucchini when it was in season & froze it in two cup measurements so it would be easy to make this bread.

Doing Some Blog editing. Sorry!

Sorry if you have received a lot of older posts. I was doing some editing for a blog book & needed to re-publish all of the posts that weren't included in the book.
Just delete away :-)

Weather Related Day Off, Progress at the Farm & Baby News

Very fine flakes of snow are falling to the earth this morning. So peaceful looking (if you are sitting at home enjoying it). It is predicted that we will get 4-8 inches in our area of Illinois. Up to twelve inches at the farm. Steve left for work around 6:30 & told me to call him before I drove in to work so he could let me know how the roads are. I called him a few minutes ago & he said it's kind of slick & since it is just starting, I should stay home if I want. I will never say no to that :-). He knows I am freaked out about driving when it is slick out. I just don't like it when other drivers tailgate me if they think I am going too slow. It is our anniversary today, so it is a nice present from him to stay home. Tomorrow is supposed to be worse so I might be home then, too. Not like I don't have anything to do at home. We are getting the townhome ready to put on the market. Last week we painted the master bedroom & I will start on the kitchen this week.  I still have holiday baking to do so I want to get the painting done before that. Then there is the cleaning of closets, general cleaning & sorting & cleaning the garage. I remember when we bought our first house. No one expected a house to look like a model. Now they do. Oh well. I just hope it sells.
Our son Shane came up to the farm this weekend & helped us out so much. Usually it is just Steve & I struggling to lift heavy stuff (actually, I struggle while he doesn't :-). Anyway...the foil backed insulation is up on the basement ceiling to hold in the heat from the radiant floor pex tubing, John from Green Home Solar came over & made the finishing adjustment to the boiler system, the drywall is up that closes off our new living area from the workshop area & cotton blue jean insulation is up on the drywalled wall. We are all set for winter now. Won't have to worry about frozen pipes this winter. Just in time too. The temps are supposed to be near zero at night this week. We will be able to sleep better knowing the barn is all cozy for winter.

Shane & Steve working on the basement insulation

The finished ceiling

Steve & Shane working on the drywall

The new living area is officially walled off

 Blue jean insulation on the workshop side of the wall

                                                Shane trying out the warm floor. It is great!

In other news...I am going to have to start lifting weights! Kristin's latest ultrasound shows the baby is around 5 pounds 10 ounces and she has 6 weeks to go. She was only 6 lbs. 2 oz. when she was born. Her husband Tim is a tall guy & most of his family is too. She has shared with us the 3-D ultrasound pictures and it is so amazing! Pictures of the baby sucking her thumb. Considering I didn't even know what sex the kids were going to be, it is really something. Hoping the weather will cooperate at Christimas time so they can make the trip to our house. If not, we will head down to the Peoria area to see them. Steve & I are making a cradle for our new granddaughter & better get busy. Time is flying by. She will be here in no time.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Factory Farms & the Plan to Make It Easier

Signs from the demonstration in Madison on December 1st.
Photo by Sara Martinez
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection & the Dairy Business Association (a lobbying group) sign memorandum of understanding.
(Means that there will be a 'cozy' relationship with a lobbying group for factory farms)

I think by now you all know my position on factory farming. There is no benefit from it (except of course it makes "Big Ag" richer).What we need in Wisconsin & all over the country is more controls on the siting process & much more regulation to prevent the polluting that these farms cause. Right now, the Dairy Business Association (DBA), a private organization that represents factory farming in it's lobbying efforts, is trying to push through legislation that rushes the process of permits for CAFO's. This takes away what little local control citizens have left to protect family farms and the air & water quality of the their area. Seems that the DBA has undue access to the Wisconsin government. They were responsible for steering the unfair Livestock Siting Law throught the legislature & also lobbied sucessfully to extend the deadline for CAFO's national air emmisions standards. They are obviously NOT on the side of the citizens of Wisconsin who feel it is their right as living being on this earth to have fresh air to breathe and uncontaminated water to drink. Besides that, do you really think that the products that come from those farms are healthy for you to eat? I read a report that said that 98% of the meat, milk & eggs you buy at a conventional grocery store and that you consume while eating out are from factory farms. It's not that family farms can't produce enough to feed the population, it's that legislation is written to benefit the huge CAFO's. How can smaller farms compete with the unfair advantages that factory farms have? Do your part & eat from local food providers. Know where your food comes from. You will not only be helping the farmer, you will benefit health-wise.

So, there was a Dairy Business Association meeting in Madison on December 1st at the Concourse Hotel. One of the speakers at this meeting was the DNR secretary Matt Frank. A group of concerned citizens demonstrated by picketing outside the hotel. Now you know that the DNR & the DATCP are supposed to be representing the citizens of the state, not big business interests. The DBA insists that it's lobbying efforts help all the state's dairy farmers but in reality it helps fewer than 2%. They seem to be more interested in aggresively helping the huge factory farms which have outside investors who want to place even more CAFO's in Wisconsin. You see, other states have places tougher restrictions on CAFO's due to the environmental disaster they cause. Of course they want to come to Wisconsin. The legislators (along with the DBA) are trying to make it easier. Do the citizens of Wisconsin deserve to be the ones that get the prize of more factory farms with less legislation?
Here is a quote from Matt Urch, a local family farmer, who was demonstrating outside the hotel:
"The DBA is working to make sure that Wisconsin opens its doors to California-style megadairies, even those proposed by absentee investors. If factory farms were the boon to rural communities like the DBA says they are, people would be fighting to bring them in, instead of struggling to keep them out. Our elected officials and the appointed heads of DNR & DATCP need to do what is best for the majority of family farmers and rural nrighbors & stop catereing to a few factory farm operators." Well said Matt.

Here is another quote from Susan Erlandson of Vernon County:
 “Iʼm here today because families and consumers have a right to know that the DBA is encouraging large factory farms in Wisconsin. There is a lot at stake in terms of the environment and the publicʼs health and safety. Itʼs been proven that CAFOs are a threat to water quality with their large manure lagoons and systematic use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics. The DBA promotes questionable practices in agriculture.”  Thanks Susan.

And from Dan Peper:
“I think there are positives that are going on in agriculture, like grass-based farming, and we see examples all over the state. The real issues are not all about size. However, a CAFO that needs a massive manure lagoon just canʼt be a good example of whatʼs new and right in farming.”

So what can you do to stop this from happening where you live? Keep informed & active. Write to your legislators, attend meetings, protest. Believe me, this is not something you want in your back yard.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hand-stitched Wool Dryer Balls

What do I do in my spare time? Which is usually only on the trip to Wisconsin every weekend :-)

I have been making wool dryer balls. I love these things. Besides being fun to play with, they are a great addition to your laundry room. Here is a list of things they do...

1. Save you money by cutting down on your drying times. You can possibly cut 25-30% off the time it takes you to dry a load of laundry. Another savings is not having to buy toxic dryer sheets. (See below for list of ingredients.)

2. Eliminate the static

3. Soften your clothes

4. Keep the kids entertained. Yes, they are a great toy.

Things they don't do...

1. Coat the lint screen. I never knew dryer sheets did this until I did a little research. That can make drying times longer, burn out the heating element & be a fire hazard.

2. Pollute the air, inside & out. See info below...

3. Fold your laundry. Sorry :-)

List of just some of the chemicals found in fabric softeners and dryer sheets

Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer

Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant

Ethanol: On the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders

Limonene: Known carcinogen

A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage

Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA's Hazardous Waste list

Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders

Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic

Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders

Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled

Fabric softeners stay in your clothing for long periods of time. The chemicals chemicals are slowly released either into the air for you to inhale or onto your skin for you to absorb. Dryer sheets are particularly noxious because they are heated in the dryer & the chemicals are released through dryer vents & out into the environment. Health effects from being exposed to the chemicals in fabric softeners include:

Central nervous system disorders





Blood pressure reduction

Irritation to skin, mucus membranes and respiratory tract

Pancreatic cancer

So, do you still want to throw those little sheets in your dryer? If not, check out the little ad in the side bar and try some out. I have lots of happy customers so far. And...besides being environmentally friendly, they are post traumatic stress disorder friendly. This is what keeps me busy while Steve is driving. Very effective!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday at the Farm

Had a busy day today at the farm, putting up more insulation. We are almost done. I also mowed one last time around the barn while our neighbor Jim mowed the long grasses on the perimeter with his tractor. He is such a great neighbor!
We went into town to get more 2x4's & some foil backed thin insulation for the pex tubing in the basement. We still need to get one more 500 foot roll of it when it comes in next week at Green Home Solar.
Tomorrow John will come back & finish the radiant heat.
We are going out to eat tonight & to a concert at Green Man Music Hall. Have to get ready for our "date night" :-) .

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Planting Garlic-How Many Kinds?

Garlic planted & tucked in

There are so many different kinds of garlic. Last year I planted seven kinds & this year I added nine more. If you are only used to eating the one variety in the store, make sure you seek out different kinds. You won't be dissapointed.

Here is a list of the garlic planted this year...

Inchelium Red
Silver White
Red Toch
Italian Late
Silver Rose
German Pocelain
Red Estonian
Georgian Crystal
Chinese Red & White
Brown Tempest

The total cloves planted were 382. That's a lot of garlic. But we do love garlic and try to eat some everyday to keep us healthy. We eat it raw. Cooking degrades it & microwaving destroys the allicin which has antibiotic properties. Cut up a clove, let it sit for 10 minutes, and add some honey to it & down the hatch! We are rarely sick. This might be why. I also cook with it but don't count that as my "healthy garlic dose".

Check out the We Grow Garlic website. The link takes you to the varieties they sold in 2009. There were more kinds I would have ordered but I waited until the end of August to place my order. & a lot of them were sold out. Need to mark the calendar next year for a July order.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

We've Been Busy the Last Few Weeks

Time to catch up with some writing. The weeks are flying by. The last time I wrote about the farm was when we were putting up pex tubing for the radiant floor heat. By the time we go up to the farm this weekend, it should be all hooked up & running. So exciting! Then we will staple foil insulation under the joists to hold in the heat & we will have warm floors (and toes :-).

We have been insulating the walls & the ceiling the last couple weeks. This is a pic of the blue jean insulation we used from Home Green Home in Viroqua. It is not toxic, and a great insulator.

Over the blue jean insulation we put two inch extruded insulation. In a typical building, the wood studs are a conductor of cold (or heat) through the drywall. By putting insulation over the studs touching the outside wall, we are breaking that barrier and should have a better insulated home. (The horizontal studs are attached over the vertical ones.)

Shane stopped over at our house to see Kristin on the Saturday before the shower

Kristin at her shower.

I stayed home the weekend of the 7th & 8th for Kristin's baby shower & Steve went up to the farm & began working on the ceiling insulation. Working above your head is NOT fun, but he got a lot accomplished.He continued working on the ceiling insulation this last weekend while I worked outside on planting the garlic. Here he is putting up another beam for extra support. Someday we will have a guest area in the upper level. We are taking our work van up to the farm now with supplies like insulation & drywall. I am also cleaning out any clutter from the townhouse to get it ready to put on the market after the holidays. We want to take advantage of the tax credit for home buyers. It might spur a few more people to buy. That ends April 30th, 2010. Wish us luck!

Some news about Eli & Lizzie....Eli cut off the tip of his finger while using his table saw to make baskets. He is doing okay, in pain though and getting antsy sitting around. It will now be up to their oldest son to cut the wood for the baskets.

While dropping off some bandages for him, I got to see Fannie, the baby. She is so cute! Such a smiley baby. Her whole body was wiggling when she saw me. Nine more weeks until Kristin is due...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Baking Pumpkin. Smells Like Fall

Well, it's time to start baking pumpkin again for all those great fall recipes. My pumpkins were almost non-existent this year. I harvested one small sugar pumpkin. Between the gophers eating the seeds before they even sprouted and our neglect of the garden, I though I wouldn't be able to have fresh pumpkin this year. But thanks to my son-in-law Tim's parents, I have about nine good size pumpkins to bake. Thank you Steve & Lori!
Here is a past blog about the baking process...

Baking Pumpkin

Last night I decided to bake another pumpkin. The pumpkins I grew are the same as Libby's uses for their filling. They are called Dickinson Select. My daughter's inlaws grow pumpkins for Libby's in Illinois, but I saved the seed I have from a pumpkin I received at the local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) last year. Ended up with 15 large pumpkins.

I gave away about half of them & have been baking & freezing the rest. These are not your average, everyday carving pumpkins. They have the thickest pulp. And big seeds.So, how do you bake a pumpkin? First cut off the top then slice down the sides into pieces. Scrape the stringy part & seeds off of the pulp. I use a grapefruit spoon to make it easier.
Place the chunks face down on a baking sheet & place in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for about an hour & a half (depends on the thickness of the pulp).

When done baking, flip the slices over to cool. Then take a spoon and scrape the pulp off off the skin. This is how much pulp is from that one pumpkin. This is two baking sheets worth.
Yes, that is almost 9 pounds of pumpkin pulp from one pumpkin! I do have a lot of pies to bake this year (eight all together) but there will still be a lot left. And what about all the other pumpkins we have? Here's what I do. I measure out either 2 or 4 cups into a freezer bag & flatten. You can store a lot of these bags this way. They are easy to thaw for your recipes for soup, cookies, pies, cakes, breads or whatever else you can think of to do with pumpkin. With pie being my favorite, soup is a close second. Just add pumpkin pie spice and milk (I use oat or hemp milk) and blend for a minute then heat.
Don't forget about the seeds. Rinse off most of the goo, toss with a little olive oil and sea salt, bake at 325 for 20 minutes & you have a great snack. The only things wasted are the skin (and the stem).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Looking for a Safe Alternative

My previous post about BPA in canning lids has prompted me to think about using wax to can. I know it is not recommended these days by the canning industry but my main concern is the safety of paraffin wax. I did a little research this morning on the subject. Here's what I found...

Paraffin is made from mineral oil. Mineral oil is...

Petroleum by-product that coats the skin like plastic, clogging the pores. Interferes with skin's ability to eliminate toxins, promoting acne and other disorders. Slows down skin function and cell development, resulting in premature aging. Used in many products (baby oil is 100% mineral oil!) Any mineral oil derivative can be contaminated with cancer causing PAH's (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons). Manufacturers use petrolatum because it is unbelievably cheap. · Mineral oil · Liquidum paraffinum (also known as posh mineral oil!) · Paraffin oil · Paraffin wax · Petrolatum

Is that a little scary?

So, the next search was to find out if you can use beeswax instead of paraffin. so far I have found one source that says "yes". There just isn't much info out there about it. Has anyone tried to can with it? Can it be used on anything other than jellies & jams?

Thursday, my friend Pat, who writes on "Not Now I'm Counting" and I are going to Weck to buy canning jars with the glass lids & rubber rings. Until there is a solution (as in BPA-free lids), I will buy new jars as I can afford them.

Did you contact the manufacturers yet? They really need to hear about it from us. I hope the article in Organic Gardening gets a lot of attention. There is another report out from Consumer Reports on BPA in cans and an article detailing that report at Huffington Post today.

Remember..."You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing, there will be no result." Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Couple Days of Fun

I got back yesterday morning from the Peoria area. I went to visit my daughter & her husband and to help paint the baby's room. We had a great time! I really loved being able to participate in preparing my future granddaughter's room. We painted to match the colors of the bedding set they picked out. It is really cute. Monkeys, bears, giraffes, etc. with different shades of purple in the background. We used Olympic No VOC paint from Lowe's. I recommend this paint. It is thick & goes on great. No offensive odor. The shade for three walls is Misty Lilac and the other wall is Summer Melon. It matches the comforter perfectly.Kristin & Tim

After we finished painting, we put the crib together and then got out the bedding to see how it all came together. I can just picture the baby in the crib :-)

Only a few days until Halloween...we will be at the farm. No need to buy candy. The Amish don't celebrate Halloween :-). Here are my great-nieces in their costumes (made by my niece Trisha)...Noelle looking cute in her Karate outfitAddy looking cute as a Tootsie Roll

Thursday, October 22, 2009

You're Doing a Great Thing, Canning Your Food, & Then...

Okay. It takes a lot to get me upset. But this did it. One good thing about the economic downturn has been the resurgence of preserving your own food. More gardens growing, more canning being done, healthier food being eaten. Sounds great right? Well it is great.

Now, do you know the dangers of BPA (bisphenol-A)? It's been in the news a lot lately. An estrogenic chemical. That is one that can imitate the hormone estrogen in your body. An endocrine disrupter. Well, you say, I have estrogen in my body, so what's a little more? Here is the story....estrogenic chemicals have been shown to increase risk of reproductive and developmental problems, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Why am I upset? Because canning lids are coated with BPA. That's right. The lids you use (Ball, Kerr, Golden Harvest & Bernandin) are coated with BPA. Organic Gardening had an article about it in their Nov-Jan issue. Those of us who shun plastic because of the negative affects on our healthy bodies now have another worry. BPA leaches into food that touches it. Some companies that use it have discontinued using it due to the research & stores that stock items that are used for food or drink are also pulling the items from their shelves.

Will the makers of canning lids do the right thing & stop coating the lids with BPA? Probably not unless they hear from the people who use them. I suggest writing to the companies & let them know you want them to stop. People canned safely for years before they started coating the lids.

Organic Gardening suggested a company called Weck that makes glass jar lids & rubber rings to seal the jars instead of metal lids.

I don't know how many canning jars you have, but I have a lot. To replace them all would be a huge expense at a time when everyone is trying to make do. Pushing the companies to change the way they make the lids is the safe & economical way to go. Even giving us a choice. BPA-free lids.

Here is the contact information for the company that makes the lids for all of the above listed (Ball, etc.):

I think it would be a good idea to contact each individual company (since their name is on the product) to state your displeasure about how the lids are made & wanting a safe option.

Ball Corporation, Kerr & Bernandin are all owned by Alltrista now.

Golden Harvest is sold in WalMart and I can't find a website for them, but again, they are made by Jarden Corporation.

BPA is used in metal cans as a lining. One company who did the right thing & switched when they found out about the problems concerning it is Eden Foods. Thank you to them. We should be guaranteed a healthy, BPA-free product when we buy food. Shouldn't have to worry what feed ourselves, kids & grandchildren when we open a can. I'm sure big corporations hope we keep being too busy to notice what is in our food supply. Let's not let this happen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Weekend at the Farm & a Chance to Win a Goodie Basket

We had a busy weekend (again) at the farm. But before I forget....Jaz from the blog October Farm is having a give away. Just click the link & leave a comment to be eligible to win a basket full of goodies!Steve putting up the pex tubing.

Saturday morning we started to install the pex tubing for radiant floor heat. After the first few rows we had it figured out & it went a lot faster. We used six 300 foot rolls. There are two lengths of pex in each bay. It is all done in a continuous loop. At one end it is bent inside the bay and at the other end we looped the pex down & over to the next bay. This is the spot that John from GreenHome Solar will hook up the loose ends of the pex into the tubing (red) and run to the boiler.

Boiler system almost done

This process is very hard on the neck. Poor Steve. He did all the stapling due to the stapler being quite heavy. I ran around untangling the tubing & feeding it to him and giving him the sawzaw to cut down misc. boards that were in the way that were nailed in with ring shank nails by the previous owner.

John should be there this week to finish up. Then we will have heat in the new living area. This is a huge step forward. We still need to install the insulation in the basement by stapling it onto the bottom of the rafters (to hold in the heat from the pex). That is this weekend's project. We will then start to close off the living area from the shop area, insulate & drywall. The plan will be to keep the heat set low enough to keep the pipes from freezing. Then if we can't make it to the farm due to weather or obligations at home, we won't have to worry about the farm.

I will get into the more technical aspects of radiant floor heat in a later post.

This morning at breakfast I started looking through the book "Simple Food for the Good Life" by Helen Nearing. I need some inspiration to keep on the right track of eating healthy. Helen & her husband lived to ripe old ages of 91 & 100 so they did something right :-). It is full of quotes that are fun to read too. Check it out if you get the chance.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Vacation in Oregon

We had a great time in Oregon with Steve's brother Bill & family. We flew into Portland last Thursday, settled in at the hotel & then drove into Portland for dinner. Bad idea when you are tired from the trip. We drove around (and around) and decided to go back to the restaurant by the hotel. :-) Traffic around Portland is so heavy and it is very confusing. Not to someone who drives it all the time maybe...but Steve & I got totally lost. After dinner it was back to the room to watch TV & crash.
The next morning we ate at the hotel which had a nice continental breakfast and drove back to Portland (this time with map in hand) and found Powell's Bookstore. It is everything we had hoped it would be. The largest used bookstore in the US. We came armed with a list of books and had a great time browsing through others. Edward Abbey and Sandra Steingraber were a couple of the authors we were looking for.

The weather was great. Warm and sunny. We walked around town after the bookstore. It is a great "people watching" place. There are musicians on a lot of the street corners and beautiful sculptures placed here & there. We found our way down to the Willamette River, watched a juggler, listened a couple guitar players and looked through our books. We ended up buying lunch & bringing it back to the riverfront, it was so nice out. We knew it was in the 40's and raining at home so it made it that much sweeter to be absorbing the rays without coats on.
It was time to leave for Corvallis to visit family. We drove through Milwaukie which is the home of Bob's Red Mill. We had a smoothie at the outlet store. Fun to see the area where the flour I buy comes from.
We arrived in Corvallis about 5:30. It was great to see Bill, Cindy Owen & Mark. They also have Luke, the dog & Blackie, the cat. We were all hungry so we drove into town & ate at Nearly Normal's, Gonzo Cuisine. It is a funky vegetarian restaurant, perfect for us. After filling up at Nearly Normal's, we drove over to Oregon State University where the girls soccer team was playing the California team from Stanford. Unfortunately, OSU lost but we had a fun time watching the Stanford band, who was there for a football game the following day.
The next day it was soccer time for the boys. They had back to back games in the afternoon. They are both great players & it was fun to watch them.
We headed for the coast later in the day, stopping at Mary's Peak. At 4,097 feet, is the highest point in Oregon’s Coast Range and the most prominent peak to the west of Corvallis. It was quite a hike up the mountain, but really worth it.
We arrived at the coastal town Yachats after dark. Steve & I took a walk on the beach. We couldn't wait to see & hear the waves crashing on the shore. In the room, there was a tiny window to open so you could hear the waves. A great way to fall asleep.

The next day, we all explored the beach and played Frisbee with Luke. He is so fast! Really good at catching the Frisbee, too.Sea Anemone

We took a drive in the afternoon to a lookout point down the coast then picked up some food for dinner to take back to the motel.
It was a beautiful sunset.

The next day we drove back Portland, stopping at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville. This is where the Spruce Goose is kept on display. It's the plane that Howard Hughes built in the 1940's. It was interesting to see all the different planes on exhibit, but it made me sad to imagine the consequences of war & the many men & women killed.
We had a relaxing night at the hotel & got up early for the flight the next morning. It was a long day. We didn't get back home until 10:30 that night. Really long layover in Salt Lake City.
Then back to work on Thursday morning & up to the farm Friday afternoon. I'll write about the farm weekend in the next post.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Getting Ready for Radiant Heat

Last weekend we met with John Murphy from GreenHome Solar again about the specifics of putting in the pex tubing for the radiant heat. We are now waiting on the wide crown staple gun we ordered. It should be here by the time we get back from Oregon so we can get started. We will be stapling the tubing to the plywood under the main living area floor. After that, we will staple insulation to the bottom of the rafters. I will try to take a lot of pictures to walk everyone through the process with us.

Since we didn't have a stapler to do the job yet, we worked on more windows on the north side of the barn. Every new window makes such a difference. The old Amish windows were single pane and you could just about throw a cat through the leaks (sorry Mia :-)
We also have two outside doors to put in, hopefully before the snow flies. I painted one of them last weekend inside so it will look finished when we get it in.Three windows done on the north side
Steve fixing the hole from the old basement stairs

We also needed to fix the hole in the floor from the previous stairs leading to the basement so we can install the pex tubing.

New boiler for the radiant floor heat

John has been there during the week installing the Munchkin boiler system for the radiant heat. When we are done putting up the pex, he will come back & hook it up. We will still have several projects to get done upstairs before it will be effective for the winter, though. Closing in the wall between the shop & the living area, insulating, drywalling and putting up doors to the basement & shop are all a "have to".

Besides doing all of that, I need to get the garlic planted & the potatoes & leeks harvested. It was too wet to prepare for the garlic last weekend. I did find a source for organic straw in the area for the strawberries, blueberries & garlic.

I picked the last of the tomatoes, dug all the carrots, cut some parsley, picked the gourds and one red cayenne pepper before we left for home. With not being up there this weekend, I'm afraid that it will frost and be the end of the garden for the year. I guess it will be a relief (as long as I get the garlic planted) that it is done. We really couldn't keep up with the weeds this year. Next years' garden will be much smaller, at least until we get done doing the major projects on the barn.
I will be "off-line" for a week on vacation. Talk to you when I get back..