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Silly Comments on the "Self Sufficient" Lifestyle Choi

    • 1125 posts
    October 13, 2017 8:26 AM PDT
    Started my first fire of the year last night...and clearly my skills are rusty. Oh well. I'm sure in a couple of weeks I'll be back to normal with my fire starting. I also started my "winter math" ...I know exactly how many energy logs I have and if I burn 2 per night I have 140 nights of heat. I lay in bed and calculate how many days until the nights will be warm again, how many nights I will be on vacation or staying elsewhere...and how hard it will be to get wood or more energy logs up the hill on foot/in a sled if I run out. Some people count sheep to fall asleep...I count compressed sawdust logs. I guess all those story problems in math class were soemthing I should have paid attention to! If I have 278 logs and I burn an average of 2 logs per night (0 per day), and want to stay warm until the first of April, how many days of vacation do I have to take and how many friends can I mooch off of when it gets really cold?

    We had about 4 inches of snow at my place this morning too and it was coming in big wet blobs of snow which I stupidly decided to drive in. I could see NOTHING. A logging truck passed me and I stuck to his/her tail lights for about 7 miles until I was out of the worst of it. Then the truck took off at 65 but I was only going to do about 45 in the first slushy drive of the season. Next time I will call the highway conditions phone number and make more informed choices...probably still bad choices but more informed.
    • 1125 posts
    October 26, 2017 10:27 AM PDT
    I've managed with only 2 fires so far this year...stretching the north idaho energy logs out. If I can keep avoiding fires I can get further into spring with some heat. I wish I had a little 12V space heater to hook to the "load" connectors on my solar controller. Maybe one will turn up.

    I managed to tip the solar panels for winter by myself. People who said they would show up to help just never did. Oh well. Good to learn to do it on my own. I put them all the way down for solstice (almost vertical). Not the most efficient for this month, but it will mean I don't tip them again until late january or even Feb.

    I've fed the bees and put dry sugar in the top for winter emergency feed...will add as much more as I can this weekend during a warm afternoon. Hope they make it! I treated for mites again in 2 of the hives (the 3rd...I'm down to 3) was so aggressive I couldn't get in there. Hope they are aggressive with mites too. Without brood/babies over winter the mite population will drop so I should make a note to treat the hives earlier. I found a good chart about when to treat based on mite population growth through the season.

    I took a vacation to Denver to see my architect friend and try to get my drawings finished...he's a bit overly meticulous so it's slow. I've given him a Nov 6 deadline and then I go to the permit guy, ready or not. Or so I hope.

    I have a couple of friends moving closer to me and I'm trying to figure a way we can share a flock of sheep. They will live about 45-60 miles away, but they are home more in the winter and I am home more in the summer. We might be able to work something out for both of us.

    I have tomorrow off so hope to get manure and mulch around the fruit trees for the winter. And maybe spread some seeds around the land. It's raining again so a good time to throw out whatever seeds I can get my hands on.
    • 1125 posts
    November 7, 2017 9:56 AM PST
    So, my friends who might move closer...they put an offer on a place quite near another friend. This would make for 1 stop shopping when visiting or farm sitting for either or both. It is about 45 minutes from me, but that's a big improvement on the previous 2 hours away. it's also about 15 minutes from Moscow Idaho and I am there at least 2x a month, usually once a week or more for the food co-op and laundry and general errands. So that's cool.

    As for the's COLD!!!! down to 16 last night but mercifully the wind was very very mild. It was 44 degs inside when I got up and just like last winter, that's a great motivation to go ahead and get up and go to they gym. It's either that or burn more wood, getting the place barely warm before I give up and go to work. So, i got up at 4:15am and left for the gym.
    A colleague came with his son over the weekend to check on hunting options at my place. I've been wanting someone to kill something there before I become known to the deer and elk as a sanctuary with lots of free fruit tree starts. They didn't think they'd bother this year but found a good spot for a tree stand for bow season next year. I said that was awesome. They offered to plow the driveway now and then with a 4wheeler but it seems a bit much to drive 30minutes to plow a driveway. I said "no" but admitted I may think differently if winter gets super snowy.

    I went to the "farm and food" expo in Spokane WA last saturday. Learned a few good new skills and wasted time in a few of the classes. "How to keep noxious weeds off your property" turned out to really be "which toxic herbicides to use once the weeds are already there"...uh...not for me. We never got past the herbicides. Didn't even make it to goats. Nothing whatsoever on prevention was even planned. Oh well. The rest of the day was productive.

    The snow this morning at my place was about 6-8" deep with a nice powder for teh top was actually tempting to skip the gym and go sledding. It might melt or crust over hard today. I guess it's time to get the snow shoes out!
    • 1125 posts
    November 14, 2017 10:05 AM PST
    I got the plans out of my architect friends hands and tried to go to the county permit guys for a plan review. BUT they staff and process had changed. Still, one guy (not the guy I spent months sucking up to...he seems to not be there anymore), took 10 mins to look at the plans and was impressed that they were professionally done. That helped. I'm going to consult by phone with a cordwood guy in wisconsin and then it will be cheaper (and cooler) to get my architect friend licensed in this state than to get an architect or engineer here to stamp the we might do that. Though my friend is putting himself under too much pressure and wants outside validation of the design regardless.

    Anyway, the plans look super cool to me and no immediate redflags for the county but no real review either.
    • 1125 posts
    November 14, 2017 10:10 AM PST
    also, I'm liking the brand new used pickup inspite of the mouse infestation...just invested in a "tin cat" type mousetrap because it's slightly less gross than emptying the snap traps and can catch more mice. I've also peppered the thing, including engine compartment, with blocks of poison. I hate doing that but I would hate having to replace the wiring even more.
    Anyway, have used it for work and for picking up a giant roll of chickenwire and a variety of other tasks. I'm practicing with the 4wd and auto-4wd. I drive it a couple days a week and the car the rest of the time. So far I'm getting right at 17.8mpg in the truck. Not great compared to the car where I get 26 in the winter and 28 in the summer. Oh well. I'm trying to drive less in general but my life choices may not support that.
    • 1125 posts
    December 8, 2017 9:28 AM PST
    I thought I'd post a couple of final things before the forums shut down.

    Life at the homesite is going well. I DID turn the fire down a bit toooo low last night. It was 39 inside when I got up. I heated my pants and "foundation garments" up with my electric space heater for a few minutes (yeay solar!) to avoid that gasp I have to do when I put on icy cold clothes. The sunny weather makes that possible since I know the batteries will charge up during the day.

    I found good winter work pants at a thrift store yesterday..jeans lined with flannel. I had worn out all my other lined jeans.

    I did have a minor set back with the office food supply. While I was out of town over thanksgiving a mouse got into the office. I USUALLY have every thing in metal tins in the "pantry drawer" but...of course I had let my guard down and the little bugger bit into all the high dollar items like the "epic" brand jerky that I found a great deal on (not a great deal if you lose the lot to mice)...lesson learned. I emptied the drawer and salvaged whatever didn't have mouse spit on it and rounded up those metal containers again...with the extra tight lids! I put a mouse trap in the drawer too. Gross but one must fight the good fight!

    I find myself doing "winter math" again much wood have I burned vs how much winter is left vs how many nights for a hotel when it's too cold or I get cabin fever.

    Next week I have a phone meeting with a cordwood building expert to help me finalize my plans for the real cabin! My cousin the builder came to my mom's house over thanksgiving (he drove 3 hours. nice) mostly to see my plans. He's a minnesota norwegian so he never stated that directly but eventually, after coffee and lefse and chat, he asked if maybe I had them with me. That's as direct as he's going to get. He approved and gave a suggestion for a stronger type of post rather than doubling up on regular wood posts.

    So, things are moving along.

    My friends who used to have a place 2 hours from me now have a place 45 min from me and promise me a steady supply of mule manure. That's actually pretty cool. Before it was too much hassle to get but now I'm within 4 miles of their house when I go to town to do I can wash my clothes and then go load manure. Yeay! The fruit tree starts will be happy. I will be sure to let it rot well before I throw it on the orchard.

    I think that's all the updates for the moment! Thanks for the support and suggestions and encouragement over the years. I will keep posting at my blog now and then and might do another here before the big shutdown.
    • 1125 posts
    December 15, 2017 10:03 AM PST
    I just got off a conference call with my architect friend and a cordwood building consultant in Wisconsin! Good tips for the next cabin. I'm probably going with a rubble trench under the foundation. It will hold up the very heavy walls...1000lbs per linear foot 8-10feet high. AND it will allow ground water to move through. This probably makes me decide that the 2nd story of the wall can be something just insulation and siding. he had great notes like to make sure if I get logs milled special as posts and beams, to have the mill give me the slabs they cut off the sides AND to give me the sawdust. I can use the sawdust in the mortar mix maybe or as insulation in the wall. He also showed us how to put an extra lift at the peak and "heel" of the roof so we can get more insulation int here. I like that. He loved the 6' porch I want all the way around. It will save the walls from getting direct rain and snow on them so it will last for ages.

    this seems like a move forward!
    • 1125 posts
    December 23, 2017 8:49 AM PST
    Well, it's a cold snap and we'll see how things survive. It's not COLD cold, just single digits above zero. The bees may not make it. I went into winter with 3 hives, 2 in bad shape and 1 in mediocre shape. The mediocre hive is still buzzing when I listen to it. The other two...I could hear NOTHING...DANG! I did what I could other than bringing them in the house and breast feeding them. I can't really see spending hundreds of bucks each year to keep hives alive through winters. It's not cheap getting new bees so that's not a good option either. My hope is that after some years of fumbling, I will have a variety of bees that can survive here. If the mediocre hive makes it (from a carniolan queen 2 years ago and requeened this year themselves...old queen left with the swarm that became one of the weak hives), I will try to get another queen from that hive through a split or something and see if I can't catch a swarm from somewhere in the vicinity to keep the genetics varied with new drones to breed the queens to.

    I don't know how the wee shed fared last night in the cold as I slept at the office. It's time for end of the year reporting at work and I LOATHE it so I put it off till the very very end. We were supposed to work yesterday but when I got in, after taking off Thursday to celebrate the solstice, I found that work was canceled and we were given an extra day off for the holiday...and yet my report was still due. I got most of it done by 11pm but too tired to drive 30min home and spend a couple of hours to heat up the place before bed, only to drive back up first thing in the AM to finish the last bits of the paperwork and report writing. So, thanks to keeping a yoga mat and blanket in the car, I slept here in my gym clothes. Not the first time. And now! It's only 9 am and I've pretty much got the grant nailed down. Yeay! I am going to take a good break, proof read and submit it. Then I don't have to be back at work until Wednesday...we get Tuesday off as well.
    That's several days in a row to enjoy my land, watch movies, and hang out at my friends' house when I get too cold.

    Happy Christmas to all!
    • 3910 posts
    December 23, 2017 8:54 AM PST
    Happy Christmas!!! that sucks with bees
    • 1125 posts
    December 27, 2017 2:58 PM PST
    thanks! and does kind of suck with the bees.
    I've been away from the homesite for a few days and don't know if I'll make it home tonight. I MUST be at work tomorrow because stuff is due to the agency that funds my salary...and I'm waiting on other people to get it done. I can't risk not being here to send it in. With snow coming and icy roads I may end up staying at the office. not fun, but better than nto being funded.
    • 1125 posts
    December 29, 2017 4:09 PM PST

    I'm heading home from work and don't expect to have internet access until 2018 and the forums may be gone by then. If they are: this is the formal goodbye!

    Thanks for the support you've expressed through this and other threads. It is much appreciated. I posted my blog address over at the general forums and I'm at Frugal Village under the same name as here "MaggieTrudeau" (still not my real name...)

    It's been lovely

    • 1125 posts
    January 4, 2018 2:07 PM PST
    I'm so glad we're all still here! Frugal Village is good, but I am more comfortable here.

    Anyway, I'm thinking I'm burning more wood this winter than last winter. I'm trying to keep it to two NIEL logs (brand name...sorry) per day, but I seem to be closer to 2.5. I don't know if I'm keeping the place warmer or what. I might be. I need to count up the remaining logs nad make notes in the homesite records so I can check things next winter. I might not be staying in town as much and while that is cheaper than buying wood, right now, i can only get more fuel up to the shed by carrying it up on my back or towing it in a sled while I go uphill in snow, it's cheaper but really tough to get it up there. If any of you know exactly which day in the spring I can stop buring wood, please let me know...ah, if only we could know such things.

    Other than that, things at the homesite are going well. I got home at about 6pm last night to the clearest darkest sky we've had in a while. As I walked uphill from the vehicle to the shed, it looked like the milkyway ended on my roof. So pretty.
    • 319 posts
    January 5, 2018 1:59 PM PST
    Hi Maggie,
    Good to read you are doing well on the homesite! Happy New Year to you and everyone here.

    I realized we really need to learn how to burn our fire better. I go through three normal logs in maybe one and a half hour or an hour.
    Husband was even faster, he left the door open so a lot of oxygen.

    That date is May 15 for sure by the way, after the Ice Saints ;-), in Europe. Maybe there is a mathematical way to calculate the exact day in your place on the earth ;-).
    • 1125 posts
    January 10, 2018 9:03 AM PST
    My new culvert (new last summer) is paying for itself. With it raining on snow for the last few days the new bigger pipe was nearly topped off in the little creek through my property. I haven't been home in the daytime lately to see it properly but with my headlamp I can see that the water is really moving through. With the old, smaller, pipe it would have been over the top and backing things up. I am seeing more erosion just downstream but that makes sense with more water going through and hitting some newly cut banks. I'm getting a gravel bar developing it looks like. I wonder if I can dig that gravel out when the water is down and use it on the driveway or for raised garden bed drainage.
    • 1125 posts
    January 12, 2018 10:37 AM PST
    I met the neighbors! I live next to a rest stop on a highway...right next...the septic drainfield for the rest stop is on my property. The state hires people to clean it in exchange for a double wide trailer and a big lawn. There have been 5 or 6 different sets of caretakers since I moved in so we'll see how long this couple lasts. They are older, probably retired, which will work better. I met them at a library in the town 10 miles away. I was picking up more movies and audio books, I think they were using the free wifi. The librarian is new to the area and was asking about plant sources. I was asking where she lived and described my place and this couple comes up and says they wondered who lived there. They seem nice and spent at least part of a year living in a wall tent on the north side of the ridge that the rest stop and my place are on (south side though). The wife immediately said I could come over if I needed a hot shower and the husband wants to shoot a deer. We'll talk when deer season opens if they are still there. Could be interesting people to know since they've lived rougher than I have and are probably a bit older and still trying it.
    • 1125 posts
    January 29, 2018 10:45 AM PST
    The wind is messing with my stove pipe this year worse than last year. I dont' know if it's because I'm burning the fires cooler, it's so warm this year, or if I've screwed up the stovepipe or it's windier on some of the nights I'm home. Saturday afternoon I noticed a smoky smell and though maybe it was just because the wind was blowing smoke around outside...then I turned around and saw smoke pumping INTO the shed from the damper vent on the wood stove! Crap. I tried closing the damper but the smoke blew through the joints in the segments of the stovepipe! I opened a couple of windows and the door to try vent it. Tried a hotter fire but with wind gusts the smoke came back inside again. Damped the fire down and had to keep windows cracked through the night! It wasn't super cold, above freezing, and was about 40 or 41 inside when I got up. But I stank of smoke. Everything I own stinks of smoke. The fire wouldn't totally go out because the wind down the pipe kept fanning the embers a tiny bit. It wasn't enough to be dangerous (I have smoke and CO alarms right by the bed) but annoying and I made me cough. Last night, it was windy again though not cold but I was crabby and frustrated so stayed in town after errands and used abit of the hotel budget for a 66$ room. I showered a lot and washed my hair so I don't reak as bad though my coat still stinks and I didn't have fresh jeans with me for some reason, but at least I could airout what I had.

    When the wind is out of the south or southwest and over about 15mph this seems to happen. I will add more pipe beyond the roof peak on the next house, and the pipe won't be a foot in front of the top wall. The current pipe is according to local code, 2 feet above the peak, but I think the way a little eyebrow of tin comes down over the clear story windows, and then there is a 2nd bit of roof...alll toward the south, it seems to catch wind out of certain directions. The spark arrester on the pipe has a solid cap. With the wind making a little horizontal tornado it seems to get caught under the spark-arrester cap and create a downdraft. At least that is today's theory. I don't want to lose the spark arrester and I can't get another 2 or 3 feet of pipe up there in current conditions. So...will muddle through the rest of this winter and talk to some experienced woodstove types before installing in the future cabin.

    Otherwise it's been nice! I was glad it wasn't a cold night. Would have had to abandon ship and head to town that night. I'm now watchign the wind forecast to try to confirm or refute my theory on the cause. Will also clean the stovepipe at the first opportunity but at last check it was clear.
    • 1125 posts
    February 6, 2018 2:48 PM PST
    Bad news / Good news situation:

    Bad news: the final hive of bees has died. There aren't enough dead bees in the hive to account for the number that were there, ALIVE, a few weeks ago. There is plenty of honey, some emergency sugar stores were being made into "honey" and stored, but weren't dry. I don't know what happened. very odd. Bees are dead with their heads jammed into the tubes...that should mean they were starving but there is food everywhere. I wonder if some of them took off during a warm day...probably will never know. So, I'll get some new colonies from the grant people this spring. I'll extract what's left of the honey and clean up the equipment before then.

    the Good news bit: the wind isn't so bad and I can have fires again. I slept fine on the non-fire nights. It hasn't been below freezing. But getting up and dressed for an office job in 38-45degree conditions is a tad rough. Oh well. It worked out and I did one night at a hotel just for a break. Now I can have fires again and the sun might even come out this weekend.

    • 1125 posts
    February 12, 2018 2:18 PM PST
    We're finally having winter! In the teens with a SERIOUS wind last night. I woke up at midnight (stupid menopause) because I was beat at 7:30pm and gave up and went to bed. By 3am it was 40 degrees inside and dropping fast. I just can't compete with a 20mph wind. So, I got up and got dressed (warmed the undies and jeans up on the woodstove which was down to coals)...even remembered to pull them off BEFORE they started to smolder. We might even get 6" of snow later this week! but then it will be 40degs so...oh well.

    I had some friends come by sunday to help me pick a spot for a practice build using cordwood techniques. It went well! Somehow I had tried to make this one practice build a major farm structure...they reminded me that the main point was to get it built to see how I do. So, it will be near the road in a flat spot rather than up near the orchard and house. They made the great point that having a place right by the road to store delivered items, tires, wood before it's dry enough to burn, random stuff...that's a GOOD idea. So, I am printing out the e-book of cordwood shed plans and double checking counting code to make sure I stay below the square footage that requires a permit. If it all goes awry, EVERYONE driving the highway will be able to see it since it will be 40 feet off the road. Oh well.
    • 1125 posts
    February 13, 2018 10:10 AM PST
    Just a quick note because I thought you all might find this "tip" amusing...

    I cook a bit in the shed with a single burner stove like this:

    Mostly I just heat up water when I want hot water faster than the woodstove is going to deliver it or when the woodstove is out.

    In the morning I use it to boil a kettle of water which I put in a thermos bottle so I can make my french press coffee in the car on the way to work.

    The butane fuel can chills and flows slower as it is used. If it's already cold inside, below 50degsF or so, the flame dwindles as the can chills and slows delivery. I realized yesterday that I've been speeding things back up again by warming the fuel my groin! I'm getting dressed and brushing teeth and things as the water heats up so my hands are busy. I don't want to set the can of butane on the woodstove, obviously. I wait until I've got my jeans on so I don't freeze my thighs! It only takes a minute or so. Just enough time to braid the hair or find my headlamp.
    • 1125 posts
    February 18, 2018 8:02 PM PST
    So...the cold snap we're having on north idaho has me doing winter math. I have about 80 logs left. If I can maintain the average of 2 logs a night, I have 40 days of heating left. It is February 18. So, I am good until March 28. I'm with friends 2 more nights. I have an. Overnight work trip. And I have a 10 night vacation coming up. That's 13 more nights. April 10th or so. I probably won't need to heat every night as it gets toward spring so I should be fine! I have a dozen or so of last year's logs left as a buffer. I wish I'd known in junior high that those stupid story problems were the most useful part of math class.
    • 319 posts
    February 20, 2018 4:54 AM PST
    Haha, I used to loathe those too!

    We don't use our fireplace that much. My husband's argument is that it is also not good for the environment (we only buy good firewood, we don't burn everything). You are using pressed logs I believe, are those better for the environment?
    • 1125 posts
    February 20, 2018 7:31 AM PST
    I use this brand of logs:

    Environment-wise, it's better than burning regular wood. The convenience and cost are better too...the truck from the lumber yard drops them RIGHT by my door and I move them a couple of yards by hand onto my covered porch. 1 pallet (240 logs) has gotten me through a winter for the last 2 and should do so this winter if my math is right. I had about 30 left over I think from last winter and am burning those as well. they pick up moisture during a year of storage but still burn well. I have noticed that this year's logs are not as "hot" as last years. Perhaps the mill was running a different type of wood. They are still working fine, and not overheating the stove as often.

    I use "super cedar" fire starters to get them going. 1/4 of a starter gets a fire going from a completely dead bed of ashes with 1 and 1/2 or 2 of the NIEL logs. Kindling will work too but again, the convenience of the starters and the low cost (70$ for 36 starters which start 144 fires...more than a full winter).
    70$ for starters (they come in the mail, postage was included this year because I hit a sale)
    280$ for a pallet of NIEL logs
    30$ delivery charge for the logs
    Total: 380$ (US$) for a full 4 months of heat. It's not bad.

    In doing the "enviromental" quality evaluation of wood heat, I am also considering the embodied energy of installing a heating system. Since I'm totally off grid and starting from scratch, I would have to buy into the grid and set up the system (wiring, digging, setting poles, paying the power company to put in a transformer to bring the power down to household level off the line along the road...etc). We have no option for natural gas. I could get a propane system, but that is a fossil fuel and non-renewable. No system is perfect for me.
    The "big" cabin that I hope to have will have passive solar, a wood stove for heat and cooking (and that one will be environmentally certified unlike the current one), and hopefully a small propane back up heater that I can run off portable tanks. If the passive solar works, I won't have to increase my wood burning much over what it is now for my tiny shed. The propane is for when I'm gone, or too sick to run the wood stove. Just enough to keep the pipes thawed and the bathroom warmish.
    • 1125 posts
    February 26, 2018 3:17 PM PST
    We had a freak storm yesterday! It was like a low grade tornado of snow. The wind swirled at about 35mph with snow, then hail, then graupel (that soft version of hail or snow pellets). I can usually see the highway less than 1/4 mile away and down hill from my shed. It was a black ribbon in the snow. 10 minutes after the storm started it was invisible. the storm didn't last that long but it was pretty cool.

    I've been snowshoeing to the car since late last week. Just a week of it this year. Last year was more than a month of snowshoeing I think. there is over a foot of snow on the ground on the lower part of my property (where the driveway is). Up by the shed maybe 9 inches. It's quite pretty. I am parking a bit further from the creek because one warm day of rain and we will have our usual spring floods. The new culvert is holding up nicely so far!
    • 1125 posts
    February 27, 2018 8:18 AM PST
    More freak weather!
    I check the weather while I'm at work almost religiously, so I can plan my evening. Normally, if it's going to be in the single digits with a wind, I would stay somewhere OTHER than home because it's hard to keep it warm. the predictions were for about 20degs over night. I woke up at 2:51 am ...not that odd but it seemed chilly. It was 38 inside. And I had a few more hours before I left the place. Crumbs! I checked the outside temp (all while still in bed under 4 layers of wool blanket and 2 more other blankets and wearing sweats including a hoodie and some albaca wool sox a friend had accidentally felted to they are extremely thick) was 7degs F outside! That explained the icy breeze blowing across my face. It took me a bit to decide to bite the bullet and stoke the fire. I hate to waste wood before I leave for the day, but the inside temp dropped 2 degrees while I thought this over. So, I had to get up and add wood.
    Once it got going I went back to bed for a couple of hours. It was over 50 when I finally dragged my bones out of bed to get ready for work. It was so beautiful out! I do love the night sky when it's cold and clear. I had plenty of time to look at it as I snowshoed to the car and waited about 20 minutes for it to warm up enough to hit the highway.
    • 1125 posts
    March 10, 2018 11:18 AM PST
    Today I am sitting with my architect friend while he finalizes my drawings. I had to fly down to his town to motivate him...he's a perfectionist and a busy person. So, it may not have been "frugal" to have him do the drawings, but I'm getting exactly what I want. When I leave tomorrow I should have drawings I can get stamped by a person licensed in my state and get my permit rolling. Scary. And exciting.