19 June 2015

Check out the latest issue of Backwoods Home Magazine!

Friends,  I've been writing for Backwoods Home Magazine for, well, since they and I were a lot younger!  They've been kind enough to publish dozens and dozens of my articles over the years.  That writing was the impetus for compiling, editing, expanding, and adding to create the book "The Self-Reliant Homestead".

In their latest issue, they have printed an article I recently submitted on the building of our off-grid cabin!  I am also working on an additional installment or two on  completing the cabin interior, and on the electrical / heating / water set up that is underway.  I hope you will check out that great magazine.  It's been around for a long time, with good reason.


Find them at www.backwoodshome.com . Of course, I encourage you to subscribe!

26 February 2015

More Work On the Cabin!

Well, it seems like I've done it again.  Another long, dry spell without posting.  Like a lot of the country, we've been in the icy grip of winter and we're way past wishing Spring would arrive.  We've had a rough February, as it seems that most of the winter has been saved for these past few weeks. As weather permits, we've been continuing to work on the cabin, and I've been designing the modest off-grid electrical system for it.

Below are a few pictures of progress on the cabin.  As spring arrives, We'll be finishing up the cabin itself and I'll be adding a water system, a privy, and an outdoor shower.  Please stay tuned!

The cabin is coming along.  Here, the house wrap, windows, and doors are installed.

With no electricity on-site, we've relied on our generator and a gas powered air compressor to run the tools.

We got a good deal on three of these brand new windows.

Here you can see the LP Smart Side (R) siding installed.
The small square high on the wall is where the stove pipe will exit.

In addition to warming us up, we used the kerosene heater to heat our tea and soup.
The small piece of flashing was hung over the grill to direct the heat upwards
towards the soup and tea kettle.

The walls have been insulated;
 here I staple in the thick batts of insulation in the ceiling.


01 November 2014

Progress on the Cabin!



The past couple of days have been hectic ones.  My friend for whom I work part-time brought his crew over and they did the lion's share of work on erecting our cabin.  I helped where needed, fetched lumber, held the 'dumb end' of the tape measure, cut some boards, etc.  Friday was cold, windy, and wet...a fairly miserable day, but the guys plugged away throughout the day.
Treated plywood went down first.  Then came a layer of insulation board and a 3/4" waterproof floor decking.
The wall framing went quickly with all hands assisting.
Inside looking out. It snowed on us this day.
Saturday was much nicer, weather wise.  It was still cold and blustery, but drier!  A lot of good work got done by all hands.
Today, the roof went on.
The metal roof goes on quickly.
I think we'll really enjoy the front and back porches!
The boys gathered up the scraps for a fire, then enjoyed the chili soup my wife brought over!
This is a view of the cabin as we enter the field.
Next, we'll do a bit of wiring--one circuit for a few 12 volt items and lights, another with a few outlets to use when we have our generator with us.  I'll be adding the wall insulation soon as well.  The cabin will have house wrap applied, then the siding.  It's moving along nicely, but there is plenty more to go.  I'll try to keep you posted.

First Snow of the Year!

We got a brief spell of snow on the afternoon of 31 October!  Here is some photographic proof!
FIRST SNOW OF THE YEAR! 

29 October 2014

Drying Some Pears

The old pears trees have a bumper crop this year.  We stopped and picked up a 5-gallon bucket full the other afternoon.  These pears are Keiffers, an old homestead variety.  I am attaching a link to a site I found that can give you more information on the fruit:  http://www.ediblecommunities.com/louisville/august-september-2014/in-the-garden-key-to-tasty-kieffer-pears-chillin.htm

I've learned over the years, that these pears are hard as a rock when you pick them or grab them up off the ground.  To make them ready to eat or preserve, I placed them in a couple of cardboard boxes and closed the lids.  After just a few days, they ripened nicely.  In the photos below, you can see how I processed them.  A couple of notes on the process:  While using my apple peeler to slice the fruit, I held the paring blade back so that it would not make contact with the fruit.  The ripe pears were too soft to peel and the peelings are good on the dried fruit.  So, as I cranked, I was simply coring and slicing the pears.  Next, they went into a bath of good old 7-UP !  The citric acid in the drink helps to keep the sliced fruit from turning brown on the trays and the residual sugar only enhances the fruit's natural sweetness.  If you don't like using soda pop in the process, a weak solution of lemon juice and water also works well.

Processing pears for the food dryer

I held the paring blade away from the soft pears as I cored and sliced them.

After a few minutes in the 7-UP bath, the slices were arranged on the dryer trays.

Here is the sliced fruit in the dryer, ready to close the door.
The dried pears are tasty and just one more way of using what you have on the home place.  My wife also plans to make a batch of what we call "pear honey", sort of a pear version of apple butter.

19 October 2014

A Great Weekend!

We are experiencing some wonderful fall weather here in Southern Indiana.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, we're preparing for deer season and today, we went over and put up a couple of deer stands.  These metal ladder stands will help us get the height advantage on our quarry.  Below you can see one of the stands.  This one will probably be used by my son, Rob.  My stand is over on the far end of the field in another good spot.
This ladder stand is in some prime white-tailed deer habitat.
Yesterday, Patti and I spent some time shooting her revolver.  It's a little snub-nosed revolver in .38 Special caliber.  It's quite manageable for her, although she said the trigger pull is a bit rough.  She did very well with it, slaying the cardboard box at which she was shooting.  We'll be doing some more practicing with it soon.  It was time well spent.

Shooting practice went well!
Of course, we picked up a few more persimmons while we were there.  I noticed that a buck had made a scrape directly under one of the branches of the persimmon tree.  A buck deer has a pre-orbital gland that he uses to deposit scent on small branches that are head high or so.  He will find a small hanging twig, then work his head around so that the the twig works around and slightly into that gland and leaves a trace of strong smelling, waxy material on twig.  Directly beneath that, he will add a 'scrape' where he paws away the vegetation to bare soil.  He then leaves scent on the site by urinating down the inside of his rear legs.  The urine runs over two more scent glands, the tarsal glands, and leaves his unique scent on the scrape.  All of this sounds a bit crude, but the 'girls' love it!!  A buck in rut will have a route of these scrapes and will check them regularly during the breeding season to see if any receptive does are paying attention.  Obviously, I asked Patti to skip over that site as she picked up persimmons!
Picking up persimmons



16 October 2014

Here in Southern Indiana, we're getting ready for deer season.  Every year, we look forward to killing and preserving some of the best meat that is available!  We have a couple of trail cams in place and some deer stands erected as a part of our preparations.

Another important part of getting ready for this year's deer kill is to clean out any remaining packages of deer meat from last season.  This year, that has involved several packages of deer burger and some packaged cut meat.  My son, Rob, and I made this remaining meat into deer jerky.  In a nutshell, here's what we did.

After thawing the meat, we place the low-fat deer burger into a large mixing bowl.  We prepared the cut meat by first trimming off all of the white tissue that we could.  Next, we chopped the meat into fine pieces in the food processor.  We put a cupful or so at a time into the processor.  We blended the burger and chopped meat together, then added jerky seasoning (We used 'original', hickory, and cracked pepper) and mixed it thoroughly.  Using our jerky gun, we 'squoze' fat ribbons of meat mash onto the food dryer trays.  We then placed the trays in the dryer and cranked up the heat.  As the meat dried, we occasionally rotated the trays so that all the jerky dried more evenly.
Deer jerky in our homemade food dryer.
In the attached photo, you can see jerky being made in our old homemade food dryer.  I build this dryer around 1980 and it still performs very well.  The photo is from my book "The Self-Reliant Homestead".

This year's project yielded several bags of tasty jerky.  We will take some of it with us as we head out to fill the freezer again this November.

10 October 2014

It seems incredible, but it's been nearly two years since I posted on here.  I was recently contacted by a fellow blogger, Patrice Lewis, who maintains her own blog called Rural Revolution ( http://www.rural-revolution.com/  If you haven't checked it out, I suggest you do so.). One of her readers who had also followed this blog had inquired as to my whereabouts!  I'm actually flattered that anyone noticed that I was missing! As you can see, it's been just shy of two years since I've posted.  But I've been busy, honest!!

In the time since my last post, I've retired from my career as an Indiana Conservation Officer (37+ yrs.); made two trips out west, including a backpacking trip in the Wind River Range of Wyoming.  We traveled to Williamsburg, VA and to the Ozarks in Missouri.  I still work two part time jobs, one as a security officer at a nearby hospital and I help an Amish friend (he doesn't drive) with his 'portable building' construction business, hauling him around to his display sites and assisting on a few setups.  I volunteer as a Reserve Deputy on the local County Sheriff Department.  In early '14, I took a Purdue University Master Gardener Course and have been putting in hours with that.  We added more raspberry and blueberry bushes to our place here, and did some canning and freezing of garden produce.  Of course, there's the other normal life stuff, but those are the biggies!
 
Our current project, which I'll write about here is an off-grid cabin we're building over on our 30 acres (our old place).  We have a good start on it and hope to finish it before winter.
 
Thanks to my 'follower' and to Patrice for checking up on me and shaking my chain.  It is past time to get back to work!!!
Our latest project is a 16 x 20 ft. off-grid cabin.  Here you can see the base that is nearly completed.

Back in the spring, we planted 85 or so spruce trees in three widely spaced rows.

I will post more photos of the cabin project as it progresses.  We have some ideas that I'll document such as a solar shower, gravity fed water supply, 12v lights, etc.  We're excited about the project!

Although it's hard to see here, there are small apple trees inside the cages.

We planted spruce trees, and added six disease resistant apple trees, three each of Redfree and Liberty.  It wasn't long before the deer had sampled them and in doing so, had gotten their antlers tangled in the small cages I had placed around the trees.  After I straightened and re-set the small cages, I made larger cages from regular woven field fence wire and place them around the trees as well.  I've used that method before, and figure it will work again.

Today was a rainy, cool day and I picked a big bucket of pears to give to a friend, then picked up a gallon of persimmons.  There is a bumper crop of both this year.

A few persimmons in the bucket and more in the background to be gathered.

Persimmons aren't really good until they fall off the tree.  
Use the sweet, gooey ones and don't pick the hard, bitter ones!
I guess these shots of persimmons takes me back to where I left off nearly 24 months ago. Now, I look forward to sharing photos and information about our building project and other goings on.  Thanks for looking and please stay tuned.