Halfmoon's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Thu Nov 17, 2016 8:32 pm

George the original one,

One of DH's dogs was a female weimaraner. She had staked out DH's favorite chair as hers, and the war never ended. If DH had possession, she would start barking at the door as though someone were trespassing. When DH got up to look, she would run around behind him and occupy the chair. I may not have been accustomed to dogs, but I drank the koolaid and spoiled the **** out of them.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Fri Nov 18, 2016 6:44 pm

THE HOMESTEAD/ACCUMULATION YEARS page 3

Backing up a little: this property was an abandoned farm, and the farm had a well. As often happens with unoccupied properties, it had become a bit of a party place. The well was repurposed as a depository for beer bottles, because any yahoo knows that a hole in the ground needs beer bottles. First order on moving in was to restore a clean water supply.

DH constructed a tripod over the well by lashing three poles together. From that he suspended a pulley attached to a rope. At the of the rope was a 5-gallon bucket on a hook. He showed me how to shorten or lengthen the rope, then he put on a wetsuit, held onto the hook and descended into the well holding a short-handled shovel. Awfully trusting, that man.

Once at the well bottom, DH stood with water cascading in over his head and filled the bucket: first with beer bottles and other trash, and then eventually with rocks and mud. Each time the bucket was full, I would pull it back up (over his head; this was a narrow opening) and dump it, then let it back down. I thought this was an insane idea* and was terrified that the straining bucket handle would break, dropping a dead weight on DH and killing him before I could do it myself.

Finally, DH hit bedrock and called up to me, “Pull it up. This is the last one.” Hugely relieved, I pulled up the last load of rocks and mud and gripped the bucket handle – which BROKE. I barely managed to grab the side of the bucket and pull it over the edge before it plummeted down on DH’s head.

*One of many, but it was early days.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sat Nov 19, 2016 10:01 pm

THE HOMESTEAD/ACCUMULATION YEARS page 4

Next order of business: heat and light.

Heat was relatively easy with a wood stove and 20 acres of trees. It’s only sweat.

The electric lines running through wetland and forest to reach the house hadn’t been active for decades. When DH first bought the place and called the power company to have the lines hooked up again, they refused. Current policy was to run lines only along roads, and their estimate to come up the 1/5 mile of driveway was $6,000-10,000. That was a lot of money at the time, and DH respectfully declined (in a manner of speaking).

Our first step in living without power was kerosene wick lamps.

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These put out an anemic glow, which is atmospheric and okay for finding the toilet but horrible for reading, sewing, or most other functions apparently performed at night by our forebears. It’s a lot more relaxing than a blue screen, so there’s that.

We then stepped up to Aladdin kerosene lamps.

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Woo-hoo! Blazing light in comparison. It’s all relative. ;) We used these lamps for years and learned to deal with kerosene spills, flare-ups (very exciting result of trying to increase brightness) and a lingering fuel odor in the house.

At the same time, we were experimenting with actual electrons. DH installed a second (deep cycle) battery and isolator in the car we used to commute to and from work. When we arrived home in the morning from working graveyard shift, we’d take the battery out and hook it up in the house. DS was allowed to use this to watch an hour or so of TV on a small, black and white 12-volt set. We had a generator on the porch to run the well pump and recharge a pressure tank. DS also used the generator to power a blow dryer, this being the 80’s after all.

NOTE: Just in case any of you think that relocating a teenager from city life and amenities into your personal fantasy of Living Off the Land is a great idea…no. Come back when the kids are grown.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Tue Nov 22, 2016 9:52 pm

THE HOMESTEAD/ACCUMULATION YEARS page 5

Other challenges in bypassing the electric grid included cooking and hot water for bathing. We started with a 2-burner propane stove, but life really looked up after we bought a wood cookstove. This sweetheart had been owned by an old lady (really) who used it only with kerosene. DH converted it to burn wood, and suddenly we could heat, cook and bake in style. Sheer heaven. I have wonderful memories of sitting in the warm kitchen eating bacon and eggs with thick German bread and drinking strong coffee from a blue enamel pot on the stove.

The stove looked something like this. We still have it, but my digital photos are a mess and I can't find the right one.

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For a while, we just heated water in pots on the stove and took bird baths. After 6 months or so, I was dreaming of a hot shower. We hadn’t cracked that code yet, but one day at the feed store we noticed big, oval-shaped galvanized steel stock tanks for about $50. They looked an awful lot like bathtubs. :idea:

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We bought one, brought it home, and set it up in the kitchen.* Then we filled the tub with pots of water heated on the cookstove, covering the tub with towels to hold the heat in. It took hours for each bath, but it worked. We siphoned out the water with a hose running outside and down a slope, then carried the tub back outside until the next bath day.

That was an improvement, but hot running water was still a shining goal. The wood cookstove came with a hot water jacket: pipes running inside the firebox and out the back of the stove. We hauled a used water heater into the attic, then DH ran pipes from the wood stove water jacket connections up to the attic tank and back down. He spliced into the house plumbing for incoming cold water and outgoing hot. Convection did the rest, heating our water practically to boiling. Actual Hot Water coming out of the faucets like magic! It’s hard to describe how great that felt.

* Actually, we first tried putting the tank outside and making a fire under it. The water got nice and hot, but so did the floor of the tank. :o Probably should have been obvious, but sometimes you have to burn your butt in the investigative process.

McTrex
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by McTrex » Wed Nov 23, 2016 10:19 am

Keep it coming! This is going to be one of my favorite journals :)

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Wed Nov 23, 2016 5:37 pm

McTrex,

Comments like this keep me going. No point in telling a story that no one wants to hear. :( Thank you!

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cmonkey
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by cmonkey » Wed Nov 23, 2016 7:27 pm

You'd be surprised who's reading in silent delight. ;)

That was a really run down house! We looked at a couple of houses that were pretty close to that quality but not that bad. After doing all this work on my house, I'm thankful I bought what I did. :)

It would be neat to see more photos.

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C40
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by C40 » Wed Nov 23, 2016 8:58 pm

oh man, the hot butt bathtub had me cracking up.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Wed Nov 23, 2016 9:18 pm

THE HOMESTEAD/ACCUMULATION YEARS

Farm animals. I blame Mother Earth News for this, along with about a zillion books DH had compiled on the joys of homesteading. I already mentioned that he had calves and dogs when we met, but together we were downright dangerous. Within a year or so, we’d added chickens, geese, ducks, rabbits, bees and a milk goat. I really couldn’t tell you what we were thinking.

The calves were steers, bought from a local dairy farm (the farm offloads the useless males for cheap ;)) and ferried home in the back of DH’s compact car. They were Holsteins, a breed that Wikipedia says typically weigh 680-770 kg at maturity. Too bad we didn’t have Wikipedia at the time, because trying to manage a creature that carries more than ten times your own weight can be challenging. They were pretty well-behaved, though – unlike the Black Angus cow we bought later. That one tried to escape at every opportunity, running far and wide to neighboring properties and generally wreaking havoc. One time DH caught her on a neighbor’s farm, and she dragged him through a barbed wire fence at the end of a rope. He came home with his face horrifically bloody and had to leave for work after quickly washing the worst of it off. I have no idea what customers at the restaurant thought, but the tips were good that night. :D

The chickens were inevitable. You go to the feed store in the spring, and they have stock tanks (just like our bathtub!) filled with fluffy little chicks. Visions of free eggs dance in your head; you imagine how great it will be to have lovely birds running around eating all the bugs and providing you with free meat when the time is right; the chicks mill about looking so adorable…we resisted. Briefly. Then we ordered Araucana chicks from a catalog, and they arrived in the mail with one free grab-bag “exotic” rooster. More about Mr. Freakin’ Exotic Rooster later.

Most people who indulge the baby chick fantasy have electricity to keep a brooder warm for the first set of motherless chicks. Without grid power, we had to bring the chicks into the house and keep them in front of the wood stove. Fluffy little pooping birds in your house are adorable for maybe one day, until the smell really sinks in (maybe this is true of children also? :lol:). We built a spacious chicken palace and moved them into it as soon as possible, but that wasn’t for a few very long weeks.

We wanted our chickens to be free-range, at least during the day, which is one reason we chose Araucanas. They were described as tough, self-reliant, Survivalist chickens and great mothers (tip: great mother translates as “Hides eggs under bushes.”). Also: blue and green eggs! The shell, that is.

And thus began a war with wildlife. Hawks, weasels, coyotes, bobcats, bears and raccoons all turned up for the buffet we had so considerately laid out. We yelled at, chased, shot at, cursed at and generally said bad things about all of the creatures that were just doing their natural thing. It was truly a losing battle unless we wanted to keep the chickens imprisoned 24/7. The dogs were 100% useless in this battle, which is just wrong. What are we feeding you for?? You’re supposed to police the homestead!

Ah, but while it lasted: the eggs. The EGGS. I had never been a great fan of eggs, but these had firm, bright orange yolks bursting with flavor. It’s hard to describe the difference from sad, pale, flat old store eggs. I couldn’t get enough of them and probably ate an average of 4 per day (no discernable negative effects). Killing and plucking the chickens for meat was another matter entirely, and I won’t miss that. After some years, we finally gave up on chickens.

Before we give up on the chickens, though: a word about Mr. Freakin’ Exotic Rooster. He was like the guy in a bar who goes up to every female and makes some lewd proposition, then just moves on when he gets smacked. This bird, graced with iridescent black feathers and impressive comb, never stopped harassing the hens until we finally gave him to our neighbors. They were thrilled to have him just for decorative value, but Mr. F-E-R missed the disdainful hens. He kept coming back, we kept returning him. When we found him jumping our hens for about the tenth time, we realized the futility of the exercise, chopped his head off and hung him in the pantry. Our neighbors asked if we’d seen him, and I said no -- and then invited them over for chicken dinner. The power of a guilty conscience. I’m not making this up.

To be continued.

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Wed Nov 23, 2016 9:28 pm

cmonkey wrote: That was a really run down house! We looked at a couple of houses that were pretty close to that quality but not that bad. After doing all this work on my house, I'm thankful I bought what I did. :)

It would be neat to see more photos.
@cmonkey, I'll try to find more photos. I know I said this already, but I want to say it again: your journal was the true inspiration for me to remember and tell this story, and also to remember the things that brought me joy (if we get chickens again, it will therefore be All Your Fault).

The house was ridiculous; it's a given that we should have burned it down. All I can say in defense is that the well and septic were grandfathered in. Now everyone around us is required to drill wells with endless problems because local geology dictates that the water supply runs across a shallow rock plate.
C40 wrote:oh man, the hot butt bathtub had me cracking up.
Yeah...it still makes me smile. We sat on pieces of wood, but it just kept getting hotter. :oops:

EMJ
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by EMJ » Thu Nov 24, 2016 2:45 am

You should have tried cast iron! ;)
Image

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bryan
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by bryan » Thu Nov 24, 2016 6:08 am

halfmoon wrote:chopped his head off and hung him in the pantry. Our neighbors asked if we’d seen him, and I said no -- and then invited them over for chicken dinner. The power of a guilty conscience. I’m not making this up.
Just hilarious.

Enjoying your story so far :)

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by EMJ » Thu Nov 24, 2016 6:36 am

Great journal!
trying to manage a creature that carries more than ten times your own weight can be challenging.
This violates our #1 animal rule: never keep an animal with bigger shits than your own! Thus dog, sheep, chickens and ducks but no cow or horse.

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cmonkey
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by cmonkey » Thu Nov 24, 2016 4:56 pm

halfmoon wrote:He kept coming back, we kept returning him. When we found him jumping our hens for about the tenth time, we realized the futility of the exercise, chopped his head off and hung him in the pantry. Our neighbors asked if we’d seen him, and I said no -- and then invited them over for chicken dinner. The power of a guilty conscience. I’m not making this up.
LOL! This is great!

I can attest to the perils of roosters. We had 5 when we got our little batch and now we are down to one. He is actually a great bird though! He will mate, but not excessively and he keeps a watch over the hens even though they are 100% covered by fencing.

The fear of hawks getting one has prevented us from letting them out. We have an 8 foot deer fence around our whole property so ground critters are not a problem. It's from the air!


If you get chickens again, you could just get 2-3. That's what we are planning. The trouble is that you can only order 15 or more through the exotic online stores, which is what we want. :?

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Farm_or » Thu Nov 24, 2016 7:20 pm

We can relate to a lot of this. Very similar lifestyle in podunk eastern Oregon. But we love it.

We used to battle the numerous wild critters over our free range chickens, until we got "Goose goose". He's a big gray goose that my wife raised from a gosling with the chickens. He thinks he is a chicken. He has all but completely stopped our attrition from the coyotes, foxes, red tail hawks, great horned owls, raccoons, skunks, and bad mannered visiting dogs!

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Thu Nov 24, 2016 7:22 pm

EMJ wrote:
trying to manage a creature that carries more than ten times your own weight can be challenging.
This violates our #1 animal rule: never keep an animal with bigger shits than your own! Thus dog, sheep, chickens and ducks but no cow or horse.
Good policy EMJ, though I would in retrospect consider velocity as well as mass. The most annoying poop producers we had were geese...but more about that later.

Love the cast iron tub pic. Unfortunately, I don't have long hair to strategically arrange, so there will be no tub photos.
bryan wrote:
Just hilarious.


Enjoying your story so far :)
Thank you, bryan. Did I mention that comments are like crack to me? :D
cmonkey wrote:
The fear of hawks getting one has prevented us from letting them out. We have an 8 foot deer fence around our whole property so ground critters are not a problem. It's from the air!

If you get chickens again, you could just get 2-3. That's what we are planning. The trouble is that you can only order 15 or more through the exotic online stores, which is what we want. :?
The 8-foot deer fence sounds great, although we admittedly like all the wildlife. We saw a female cougar stroll through here last fall wearing a radio collar, and I wonder if 8 feet would be enough to discourage her. We also have a nesting pair of barred owls, so it's death from above for sure. We've talked about keeping chickens in our greenhouse in winter and our orchard/garden area in summer. We would need to put some kind of netting across the top of the orchard. It sounds like a lot of trouble, though just a few birds as you suggest might be more manageable.

Have you considered offering to share a chicken shipment with neighbors? It's never a bad thing to spread the chicken gospel a bit. That way, there's more for you to plunder in the zombie apocalypse. :mrgreen:

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Thu Nov 24, 2016 7:32 pm

Farm_or wrote: We used to battle the numerous wild critters over our free range chickens, until we got "Goose goose". He's a big gray goose that my wife raised from a gosling with the chickens. He thinks he is a chicken. He has all but completely stopped our attrition from the coyotes, foxes, red tail hawks, great horned owls, raccoons, skunks, and bad mannered visiting dogs!
What a great idea to raise a gosling with the chickens. Our geese never consorted with the chickens at all, and it never occurred to me to try this.

You do know, though, that "Goose goose" will need years of therapy from the rejection he's undoubtedly suffered when trying to court hens. :cry: I know this because we acquired a peacock that wandered in through the woods one day. We tried to find where he belonged to no avail. He spent a tragic amount of energy spreading his lovely feathers and doing exotic dances for the hens -- who pointedly ignored him. I think he would have died from a broken heart (or some other body part) if a coyote hadn't gotten him first.

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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Farm_or » Fri Nov 25, 2016 9:26 pm

That is so funny about the peacock.

We've had Goose goose for almost four years now. He always seems to pal up with a dominant rooster. Or could it be that a big gander is the ultimate wing man and then you become the dominant rooster? Either way, he's outlived three or four rooster pals.

He's made romantic gestures to a particular plastic bucket, the hens don't fancy him. I've seen his attention captured when wild geese fly overhead, but he can't seem to understand their strange language. Maybe it's the Canadian accent?

Thats probably too much about our fowl. I'm looking forward to your next chapter...

halfmoon
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by halfmoon » Sat Nov 26, 2016 10:07 am

Farm_or wrote: He's made romantic gestures to a particular plastic bucket, the hens don't fancy him. I've seen his attention captured when wild geese fly overhead, but he can't seem to understand their strange language. Maybe it's the Canadian accent?
This made me laugh immoderately. :lol:

I looked through your posts to see if you talked about your homestead lifestyle, but I can't find any stories (I'm admittedly challenged at navigating this site). I'd love to hear something about the way you live. Eastern Oregon is beautiful.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Halfmoon's journal

Post by Riggerjack » Sat Nov 26, 2016 10:19 am

A fine journal. Having been the teenager dragged out to the cabin with no running water or power, I second your thoughts that this is a trip best appreciated by adults only. High school has enough challenges without being the only kid without power, water, and a 3 hour bus commute.

Please let me solve your sticky kitchen problem, though. Right now, craigslist should be full of used turkey fryers. All the sugar water combinations your DH enjoys, can be done outside. The more extreme homebrewers I know, convert sheds. Pour a slab with a floor drain, tile with cheap craigslist tile, go crazy with it. And then clean with a hose when done mess making.

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