Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Still in Minnesota

I'm still sitting in Minnesota, still working at getting the house cleared out.  I really should have taken "before" pictures, but it was just so packed it was almost unbelievable.  The problem started about 5 years ago, when I sold the little house in town that I had used for my eBay business and I hauled all that stuff out to the farm. My youngest daughter had gotten divorced and moved in with me bringing all her stuff, my mom died and I got a ton of stuff from her house, my significant other died and I got some things from his house, and I swear all this "stuff" was breeding when I wasn't looking.

A lot of what I've been doing is just going through boxes, throwing out a lot of it, reboxing the rest as either flea market, eBay or keep. So far the flea and eBay boxes are FAR outnumbering the keep boxes, so I am happy about that. I've given away several truck loads of things, and had a lot of bonfires to get rid of things that will burn. I've also displaced several mice, and I've started "feeding" the ones that are still around.  The bait was disappearing pretty quickly at first, but it's starting to slow down now. Of course, this time of year there are always mice looking to get inside for the winter, and uninhabited old farmhouses are prime real estate for them. I'll leave a lot of bait out for them when I do head south.

I didn't get much done on the house last week because my brother finally flew in from Arizona and we met in northern South Dakota so he could transfer the land to me. It's not huge, 7 lots that total perhaps an acre, but it's been in the family for over 120 years. Our great-grandfather owned the general store in what was then the town of James, SD. There's nothing left of the store, and very little left of the town, there are only 3 or 4 other households. My bit is the blue section.

Here's the view coming into town from the east. Quite the metropolis, isn't it?  lol

 Two views from the northeast corner, the first looking straight south and the other looking southwest.

In the second photo, and also in the Google photo you can see a bit of junk, mainly along the property line and along the road on the north side where my land juts out to the west. There is an old camper and a semi trailer that belong to the neighbor parked there, and a few piles of junk on the southern end of the property. My brother had problems a few years ago with this guy, he's a hoarder and had filled up his land so he started piling stuff on ours. After getting the sheriff and attorneys involved most of the junk was removed, and hopefully next spring I can get him to clean up the rest of it without having to get lawyers and law enforcement after him again.

I had hoped to use this as my permanent address in South Dakota instead of the mail forwarding service I use currently, and after talking to the gals at the post office in Groton it sounded like it would work. I headed back to Aberdeen to buy a mail box, and while I was in the store the post mistress called and left a message on my phone saying that she had been informed by Sioux Falls that there had to be a structure on the land in order to get mail. I am going to have to talk to the person in charge in Sioux Falls about this, since I would be living there in the camper (the gal in Groton said she thought a camper was a qualifying structure) in the summer and forwarding my mail south in the winter but since I live in the camper full time I obviously won't be leaving it there over the winter. So at this point I still don't know if I'm going to be a South Dakotan or a Texan. This has to get cleared up pretty soon, since my vehicle tags all are due in November, open enrollment for health insurance is Nov 15, and the 65-70 degree weather we've been experiencing won't last much longer.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


I've got a couple things to celebrate tonight. After 3 days of concentrated cleaning, shoveling, sweeping and hauling things out of the granary, Daisy, my vintage Shasta trailer, is finally inside! The doors of the granary have rotted over the years where the hangers are attached, which has dropped them down and they no longer close (or open further) so it was a bit of a squeeze getting her past the doors, but with her backed in there is room to move around on both sides. And it only took me jockeying back and forth a couple times to get her lined up well enough to roll inside without scraping anything. Snow will blow in this winter so I still need to get a tarp over the top of her to keep the melting snow getting in through the leaky roof next spring, and to keep the barn swallow poop from building up on the roof next summer.

This was a pretty major accomplishment for me. The granary had 7 motorcycles, a large garden tiller, a 16' church pew, 8 large rabbit/bird/small animal cages, a bunch of garden tools - rakes and such - 2 enamel-top kitchen tables and chairs, an old Victrola, and several old desks, cabinets, dressers, wash stands and miscellaneous junk stored in it. The swallows poop on everything, and the sparrows build nests but seem to leave more hay and grass on the floor than they get into a nest. There was about a bale's worth on the floor, plus several inches of dirt that had blown in over the past few years.

Several pieces of the old furniture were shoved into the shop, but much of it was put on a bonfire last night. I hated to do it, but I've got a lot more that was already in the shop that's in better condition that I may or may not eventually get around to refinishing. The old dog hung around the bonfire until it burned down to coals.

Basking in the warm glow of the fire.
 The other thing I'm celebrating is my brother finally bought a plane ticket and is flying into Minneapolis on Monday.  We will meet in Aberdeen, South Dakota on Tuesday to transfer the land up there, but I plan to go up Monday to mow it.  I talked to several people at the courthouse in Aberdeen earlier this week, and the land now has a street address. I'm hopeful with a SD street address that isn't one of the "known" full-timer mail forwarding addresses that I can get health insurance. I really don't want to become a Texan due to having to do the vehicle inspection each year. I guess I'll find out Nov 15 when open enrollment starts. I don't think the weather will hold out long enough for me to stay up here that long, and the vehicle tags all are up for renewal in November so I'll have to do that before I head south. It would really be the pits if the health insurance doesn't pan out and I have to pay to register them right away again in TX. 

I'll leave you with this feathered visitor I had early in the week. I believe it is a female Yellow-rumped Warbler. I hadn't dumped the bucket of apple peels on the compost pile yet, and it was after the flies/fruit flies/bugs that were in the pail. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Hibernation projects

What's a person do when they're hibernating due to cold weather? Well, the camper was looking pretty messy after several weeks of working in the house and shop so it got a good cleaning. Then I proceeded to mess it up again. I'd been fermenting a small batch of sauerkraut for several weeks, and with the colder weather decided it was time to get it in jars.
 This was my first time using the German style pickling crock. In the past with three kids (6 when the ex's three came from CA for the summer) I always used either an eight or ten gallon Red Wing crock to make kraut, but with just me I could never use that much so I broke down and bought this small crock. I'm pretty happy with the way the kraut turned out. I'm NOT so happy about the tiny bit of counter space in this camper, but getting the kraut into jars worked just fine so I got brave and decided to tackle a more ambitious project.

The fellow who rents my pasture every year came by to check the cows several days ago and asked if I wanted any apples. I said "Sure!", and the next day he showed up with two 5-gallon pails full! I don't have a canner up here, but there are 483 canning jars in the shop, (I know this because I dragged them all out of the basement, washed and boxed them all and stashed them in the shop a few weeks ago) so I grabbed a couple boxes of them and found that pints would fit in my Fissler pressure cooker. I also have a crock pot with me, so between the crock pot and my large Magma pan I cooked apples all day and well into the night. The pressure cooker will only hold 4 or 5 jars, but the crock pot took quite a while to cook down the apples so it all worked out alright if slow. 

Since I don't have a sieve here either I peeled and cored the apples before cooking them down, and the first gallon of "scraps" went into a gallon jar with water to make apple cider vinegar. It will sit for a couple weeks, then be strained and the liquid will be left to do it's thing for a few more weeks until it is vinegar. Did I mention that I have no counter space?

I added a touch of honey and a bunch of cinnamon to most of the batches as the apples were quite tart, you can see the different colors of different batches in the finished product. I got 28 pints, plus 2 jars that didn't seal. The two that didn't seal were Weck canning jars, and I think I overfilled them as they belched a lot of applesauce out from under the lid and couldn't make a good seal. After the first load (which contained the ones that didn't seal) I switched to the jars with metal lids and they all turned out fine. I also put the pressure cooker lid on loosely and let the jars exhaust for 10 minutes before locking the lid down and letting it build up to pressure. Perhaps the Weck's would have been ok if I had done that with the first load. Have I mentioned that there's no counter space for doing all this?

A nice benefit of all this canning and cooking was the furnace didn't run all day and well into the evening hours. A downfall of all this canning and cooking is the humidity level in the camper went through the roof! There is NO range hood or exhaust fan above the stove, and there is also NO fan in the ceiling vents, either in the main area of the camper or the bathroom. So there is NO way to get rid of excess humidity without running the a/c.  Water was running down the windows and dripping off the door and window frames. I kept wiping it down every so often, but eventually had to admit defeat and turn on the a/c. Part of the water was from the cooking, and part from the condensation with 30 degree outside temps and toasty inside temps, and a cheap camper with hardly any insulation.

Other cold weather projects included making a new batch of cold-brewed coffee and a bottle of homemade coconut milk. Actually these are every-third-day projects, I like my iced coffee. Luckily these jars live in the refrigerator and not on the non-existent counter.

I also started a batch of kombucha, a fermented sweet tea. This is my first attempt at brewing it myself, but I'm tired of spending almost $4 a bottle for it, when I can find it. I'm not sure how well it will work when I'm more mobile because you're supposed to leave it undisturbed on the counter (what counter??  LOL) for a week but I guess I'll find out.

I was at a local store and they were closing out their remaining garden stuff, so I picked up 3 pots of rainbow chard. It was marked down to $1.50 a pot, way less than what you pay at the grocery store for a bunch of chard. There were 4 plants in each pot, and because I'm anti-plastic I spread them out and potted them all in a used stainless steel steam table pan. They're starting to put out new leaves now that they're getting over the shock of being transplanted. I've been picking and using the older leaves in different dishes, salads or smoothies, and I'm hoping they keep producing for quite a while. I want to pick up another pan or two and maybe plant one with spinach and one with a lettuce mix. The pans are easy to move outside or bring indoors, and I used a lot of organic vermiculite with some good compost so they're not too heavy. And the bright colors make me smile. They didn't seem to mind the high humidity, and they don't take up any counter space, just a hunk of the table. LOL

Friday, October 3, 2014


I think I saw a few snowflakes whipping past the window of the camper just now!

How can that be!! It was just summer here! In fact we had 80 degree temps over the weekend, and even two nights ago it was very nice out, mid 70's during the day and warm enough to sit out by the bonfire in a T-shirt until late that evening. Bubbles, my antique Great Dane, has always loved bonfires, and this one was no exception although she slept through most of it. 

Yesterday was rainy in the morning and early afternoon, and quite a bit cooler, upper 60"S for the high. Last night the cold front came through with the wind switching to the north and starting to blow. This is today's afternoon weather update email I get from the Sioux Falls television station, KELO.

"Good Afternoon, Temperatures have been below average for all of KELOLAND today. Afternoon temperatures mostly in the 40s. It has also been a windy day with wind gusts in the mid to upper 40s and sustained winds at 20 to 30 mph. Most cloudy in the east with clearing skies in central and western KELOLAND and some areas in the east have even squeezed out some moisture some viewers have sent in reports of a few snowflakes.
For tonight, there is a Freeze Warning that will be in effect for the overnight hours for much of central and eastern KELOLAND. Skies are expected to clear out and winds to calm down so lows tonight will cool down to the mid-20s to around 30 degrees across the area."
I AM NOT AMUSED!! With no heat in the shop and no heat in the house it feels colder inside than it does outside, minus the gale force winds. Therefore, I am officially hibernating today.