Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Tennessee is having unseasonably warm weather, and I'm not complaining one bit. The furnace hasn't run in over a week, and many days I have the door wide open to let the fresh air in.The only down side is the threat of severe storms. Yesterday there were numerous tornado warnings, but this area just had some wind and heavy rains.  

Despite two killing frosts many plants are still hanging on, like the raspberries.

And the honeysuckle which is tearing down (or holding up) the back fence. 

The iris have been fooled into thinking winter is over and they are sending up new growth.

Of course, some plants stay green all winter, like the holly. 

I don't know what this shrub is, the berries stay on most of the winter gradually darkening to a purple color.  The birds seem to leave them alone.  The leaves on the younger, lower growing parts turn a beautiful orange/red color that just glows in the sun.

 The main shrub is much larger and has a festive holiday look with its red and green color scheme.
The day closed out with a very pretty sunset. 

Wishing everyone a Very Merry Christmas, and a New Year filled with happiness. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Being offended

Announcing "I'm offended" is basically telling the world you can't control your own emotions, so everyone else should do it for you.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Endings and new beginnings

I'm finally heading south for the winter, currently sitting in a mostly deserted state park campground in northern Iowa. It was rainy and very windy driving, and there is a bit of fog, but the temperature has been nice for this late in the year. There aren't a lot of leaves left on the trees, but there is still a little color. I've spent the past few weeks enjoying the unseasonably warm weather and wishing it didn't have to end.

As a result of a delayed departure and an earlier than expected birth I was blessed to be able to meet my grandson who was born last evening. :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

water filters

I have concerns about drinking water;  concerns about what may be lurking in it, concerns about containers it is stored in, concerns about what may be leaching into it, and concerns about disposing of empty plastic bottles by the hundreds. Over the years I've searched for ways to deal with water. I hate plastic, and the idea of buying plastic bottles and using them once then dumping them is abhorrent to me. So I bought stainless steel water bottles. This was a big improvement for portable water, but what about for cooking, and what do I fill the stainless bottles with? Buy gallon jugs of water? Yes, fewer bottles to dispose of, but still plastic. I needed a filter. Brita really doesn't do anything as far as I could see, and Berkeys are quite expensive.

Enter my local (in TN) used restaurant supply store. I LOVE this place, and roam through it fairly often. Lots of wonderful old stainless steel that was actually made in the US. And commercial quality so you know it's built to last. I started collecting bits and pieces that I thought I could use to make my own Berkey type system.

The first one was nothing much to look at, but it has performed perfectly in the house in TN for almost 5 years, filtering all the drinking and cooking water. It is based on a 3 gallon iced tea dispenser, with another stainless container on top. The top container is slightly smaller and will slip down into the dispenser so there is a stainless lid with a lip between them to keep the top above the bottom. I've since made a second one that is a bit easier on the eyes, and today made a third that I will be giving to my daughter and son-in-law when I get to Utah. I think this latest one looks the best, now that I've figured out what I'm doing, sort of. lol

The starting components are a tea dispenser, this time a new one, an aluminum lid to cover it and support the top, and a tall stainless steel steam table insert or container with a lid. The plastic lid that came on the dispenser will be tossed.

The handle on the aluminum lid needed to be removed so that the top container will sit down in it, and two holes drilled in it for the stems of the ceramic Doulton filter candles. Then two holes needed to be drilled in the stainless container that matched up with the ones in the lid. This went off without a hitch. The the trouble started.  lol

It turns out the top container did NOT fit into the recess on the aluminum lid like I thought it would once the handle was removed. So two holes were drilled in the stainless lid. Turns out that lid doesn't sit down into the top of the dispenser. Ooops! Should have checked that before drilling.

Now what? Turns out, if there's a will, there's a way, especially if you have a large enough hammer. The container was forced into the recess on the aluminum lid, which now fits VERY snugly on the top of the dispenser. The kids will have to pick up a new stainless lid for the very top that doesn't have holes in it, but those are pretty inexpensive. Here's the finished product.

It sits taller than a Berkey due to the base on the dispenser, but for a total cash outlay of about $45 plus the filter candles I think they can live with the extra height. Here's a shot of the interior of the top section with one candle installed.

This project went so well I figured I'd play with a small version for in the camper instead of the big 3 gallon size. At the restaurant equipment place I had found the insulated holding tank section of a coffee brewer complete with a sight glass. A small steam table insert with lid is just a tiny bit smaller than the coffee holder. The only issue was the odd funnel top on the base.

A quick trip to the local welder and I had 3 short stainless steel legs tacked on the underside of the top to hold it up high enough to clear the funnel-shaped top and to keep the top from rocking. The stem from the single filter candle fits down into the funnel top, and this should work great in the camper, especially as the entire top and lid nest in the base and take up much less space when I'm traveling. 
I've long ago ditched the stainless water bottles because of the plastic lids (did I mention that I dislike plastic?)  and now use glass swing top or grolsch bottles with ceramic caps and a rubber gasket. In an emergency situation I also have  Sawyer .02 filter that removes more than the Berkey does, and also runs much faster, but for day-to-day use my Berkey look-alike works great.

In other news, my daughter has a video gaming friend who lives in India. He is reporting that upwards of 3 million people are protesting and rioting in India today, over issues with the government. Lots of police brutality, even news reporters are being beaten in the streets, and so far I have not been able to find anything online about it. I'll try and get some more info from her and post it if I do.

Monday, August 24, 2015


Well, it's been a while since I've posted anything. There has certainly been quite a bit I could have posted about, but for some reason I just haven't gotten around to it. I finally got out of the south and made it to the farm in MN about a month ago. I had hauled the camper up here earlier in the summer for my youngest daughter to stay in while she was planning her wedding. She has been living in my house in TN for the past 4 or 5 years but she and her man both grew up in this area, and they were married in Sioux Falls the beginning of August. After a honeymoon in Cancun they returned here to pick up their dog that I was babysitting, and they headed to Utah where he has been living. I have all her belongings loaded up in the cargo trailer and will be taking it out to her later this week.

Last week I stopped to check out a secondhand store I hadn't been to before, and found a vintage Craftsman 100' tape in the original box for a dollar. I was pretty happy about that, since my old one disappeared several years ago. This one doesn't look like it has been used, very clean, no rust anywhere on the tape.

This morning I took the truck to Sioux Falls today to have the windshield replaced, I had a rock chip that started to run when the weather got warm this spring and it was getting pretty bad. On the way home I drove through a small town and saw that the Sears store was closing, "huge discounts/ liquidation sale" the sign proclaimed. Of course I had to check it out. Today was the last day they were going to be open, and most of the store had been cleaned out but I managed to score some hand tools along with oil, fuel filter and air filter for the mower, a box of water filters, and a case of WD-40. Not bad for $160. The larger set of ratcheting wrenches are normally $129 alone.

Of course tools weren't on my "Buy It Soon" list, but I figured for the price I would go ahead and get them. It's all things I will use, and it will be really nice to have the right size wrench or socket when I need it. Seems whatever size I need, that's the one that's missing. I swear these things have legs.

Monday, February 23, 2015


My older daughter tells me she thinks I'm a hoarder. This is coming from a child who for several years when she was in college could pack everything she owned in her car, and did, so I take her accusation with a grain of salt. She once, shortly after starting college, showed up at the farm with boxes and boxes of "stuff" and asked me if I could burn it for her. Inside were lots of papers that she understandably didn't want to end up in a landfill somewhere, but also her high school track medals and high school diploma and other such mementos. I asked if she was sure, that maybe someday her children or grandchildren might be interested to come across these items, but she was adamant.

Fast forward several years, when she then had a child or two of her own. I was going through my filing cabinet and came across a folder of her art work and school papers from grade school. I had offered these (to me) treasures to her a few years earlier, and at that time she was aghast that I had saved them in the first place, and certainly didn't want them then.  Lo and behold, now that she had her own babies she said she understood why I had kept them... the first time your child traces their name that you had outlined with dots, the kindergarden and first grade construction paper creations they lovingly carried home, the little "I love you Mommy" notes they left, the birthday and Mother's Day cards they gave you...

Yes, I admit I do have some hoarding tendencies, maybe because for a good portion of my adult life I have lived at zero money and we couldn't afford to just go out and buy new "stuff" all the time so we made do with what we had. Maybe because my favorite aunt had a saying: Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without, and that struck a chord in me as a child. Maybe because I'm just frugal, or tight, so tight I sometimes squeak. (although I can also spend money like a drunken sailor at times  lol) If you replace the expensive submersible well pump, you better save the old one, because someday you may be able to use parts from it to repair the "new" pump that has failed. Don't throw out those jeans or Tshirts just because they have a stain (or ten), or a hole (where the leg used to be), they're still good for work clothes. The handle broke off your favorite pan? No worry, you can use it as a dog food dish. Maybe it's part of my hippie back-to-the-land reduce-reuse-recycle attitude. Whatever you do, clean your plate and don't waste food! Just because you see an ad for it on television or in a magazine doesn't mean you will be less of a person if you don't go out and mortgage your soul to buy one.

This attitude towards consumerism in general has been pretty good to me overall, except now when I'm getting ready to move, and I have all this "stuff" scattered about in more than one location across the country. Part of me even regrets parting with some of the things I gave away last summer when I was up north, items that may have been good to have in the future. Part of me is struggling with getting rid of stuff now so I don't have to put it in storage or haul it north with me because I may have need of it in the future. Yeah, some is easy to part with. Some other stuff, not quite so easy. And some I am totally unwilling to part with.

Last fall at my uncle's house on his 85th birthday, when we were talking about my brother giving me the family land in SD,  my cousin said I was the family historian. True enough I guess, I've often thought of myself as the family's Keeper of Memories.  I remember sooo many things from when I was a child, details of houses and their contents, details of family gatherings, etc., and  I've done a lot of geneological research on the family.  I also have several large totes full of  items from 100+ years ago, photos of my grandfather and his sisters when they were young, his report cards from high school and college, my great-aunt's and my great-grandmother's eyeglasses, photos of my favorite aunt when she was a girl and when she was homesteading in Indian Territory in South Dakota along with an incredible several hour long audio recording of her reminiscing about life and homesteading on the prairie in the late 1800's, some neckties and collars and cuffs with a handwritten note from my great-grandmother to my grandmother saying "These were your Father's just as he wore them to the bank" (He owned the bank in Alpena, South Dakota until it went under in the Depression).

When my cousin said I was the family historian, I pointedly looked at the nieces and nephew present and said "Hopefully one of you, or one of your children, or one of my grandchildren, is interested in the old family history, so I have someone to pass it on to." My younger cousin (I only have 2 first cousins) is the only person in the immediate family to have a son who will carry on the family name. And none of the the younger generation has any direct memory of the people that meant so much to me and are gone now.

Sometimes I find it depressing to think about. In 100 years, very few people will remember me or who I was, and in 500 years it will be as if I never existed, so why does it seem so important to me that this oral history and these few tangible items are remembered and kept?  That the land is kept in the family? That someone in the future holds on to these small mementos and trinkets from another person's life?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

4:44 PM

That's when the lights went out yesterday as the ice built up on the power lines and trees. I moved into my bedroom and closed off the rest of the house, lit a few candles and kerosene lamps in the bedroom/bathroom, and stayed fairly warm for the evening. It was still around 60 in the house when I went to bed, but was down to 45 when I woke up this morning, so the dog and I moved into the camper where there is heat, lights, and water. Still no power this afternoon, so I'm sitting at *gasp* Starbucks to use their internet.

The chest freezer is covered with a couple heavy blankets, and the stuff in the refrigerator should be fine as the house isn't much (if any) warmer than the food should be. There's really not a lot I can do with all the ice, other than hope they get the power back on soon and pray the water lines haven't broken from freezing. I may drag out the generator when I get home and run the heater under the house for a few hours to help keep things a little warmer under there, we're not getting above freezing today. It's only supposed to get down to 21 tonight, but tomorrow night the low is supposed to be 0 and Thursday's high is only 19, Thursday night a low of 6. I'm NOT amused!  lol

There are a LOT of branches and trees down, lots of trees totally uprooted. The sun has tried to peek out several times today, and it's really gorgeous when it does. I took a few pics on the way into town, but the internet here is so slow I'm going to wait and upload them when I get my power back at home.

Monday, February 16, 2015


Well, on the bright side, after crawling under the house yesterday and getting the electric space heater plugged in, the water thawed out in short order. It helped that the temps were in the mid 30's. As the day went along though, the sky clouded up and the temp started to drop. Sometime during the night it started sleeting, I could hear it hitting the metal porch roof. The sleet mixed with then changed to rain early this morning, and it's been coming down steady all day. The satellite internet dish is icing, so the service has been on-again, off-again all day. During one of the lighter rain periods I took the camera outside to get a few shots of the ice starting to build up on the trees. Even the bluebird house on the front of the porch has icicles hanging off its roof. I hope the trees don't get heavy enough to start snapping, and the power stays on. At least I have the camper here if the lights do go out, so I can still cook and stay warm.'s forcast for here:
  • Washington's Birthday Freezing rain and sleet, possibly mixed with rain before 4pm, then snow, freezing rain, and sleet. High near 33. East southeast wind around 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Total daytime ice accumulation of 0.3 to 0.5 of an inch possible. Total daytime snow and sleet accumulation of less than a half inch possible.
  • Tonight Snow, freezing rain, and sleet before 1am, then a slight chance of snow between 1am and 4am. Low around 15. North wind 5 to 10 mph increasing to 10 to 15 mph after midnight. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New ice accumulation of 0.1 to 0.2 of an inch possible. New snow and sleet accumulation of less than one inch possible.
  • Tuesday Mostly cloudy, with a high near 29. North wind 5 to 10 mph.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Ahhhhh.... the joy of living in the south...

where water lines are not protected from freezing, necessitating a chilly experience crawling around under the house to plug in the electric heater which will result in thawed pipes, hopefully soon, and a $350+ electric bill. *sigh* At least the black widows that live under there aren't active. lol

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Have I mentioned...

.. that I hate moving? It's true. I really, REALLY HATE MOVING!

My youngest daughter moved back in with me after her divorce, and when I bought the "winter" house here in Tennessee she moved here full time and went to school in Nashville to pursue her photography career. My almost-son-in-law finally proposed to her at Christmas, and she be moving to Utah, where he lives, after their wedding in August. We've spent the last several weeks sorting through all her belongings and packing up some to move in the fall, marking most of it to be sold or donated. He lives in a 38' 5th wheel RV, so there is no place for furniture or much other stuff. He does have a climate controlled storage unit, so a few (very few) things will be stored there... eventually. In the meantime, until I can haul it to Utah, it's going into storage here in TN.

With her moving out, I just can't justify keeping the house here just to have a place to crash for a few months in the winter. I would have to pay a lawn care service to keep the jungle yard hacked down for 8 or 9 months in the summer when I'm gone, and empty houses seem to run down fairly quickly. I'm not interested in renting it out, as I'll be 1000 miles or more away most of the year. So, I've decided to sell the house and land here. The next door neighbor's son is very interested in it, and he is talking to the bank about getting a loan. I should know in a week or so if that will work, and I have my fingers crossed that it does. The neighbor is a very nice woman and we have a lot in common. It would make me happy to see her boy get the land.  If he can't get financed I'll have to list the land with a realtor or else try the For Sale By Owner route for a month or two first. I really hope to be out of here by late spring, but who knows.

With oil prices stubbornly staying low, my income is also staying low. I can't afford to make multiple trips hauling furniture and "stuff" north until the house sells. It costs (at current gas prices) about $450 to do a round trip, and I have way too many trips to make hauling "stuff". The antique furniture from family is a load by itself with my current trailer, the daughter's stuff is another load, the shop is a load, the motorcycle and miscellaneous yard/farm/shop stuff is a load, the camper is one trip, and the old Class C RV is another trip. Plus the household contents that I'm keeping... food, chest freezer, canned goods and canning jars, clothing, things that just won't fit in the camper. 

Dang, where did all this stuff come from!?! I swear, it breeds when you're not looking! At any rate, it all has to be out of here, so I've rented a storage unit and started boxing stuff up to store, as well as marking items for a huge moving sale. The daughters bedroom is empty other than her father's paintings and the bed, and everything currently left in the living room is to be sold or donated. I plan to have a moving sale next weekend (when hopefully the weather is a bit better) and every weekend until I sell the house. There's still a lot of "stuff" to go through in the shop and the storage building here at the house, but we made a lot of progress in the last couple weeks.

This morning my daughter packed up the car with a cooler for food and beverages, her camera equipment, her clothing and personal hygiene items, tucked her dog into the backseat, and headed north to South Dakota where she'll be checking out wedding venues and dresses, and crashing with friends/family. She posted on her Facebook page (which I didn't see until hours later) a photo of the dog looking out the car window as they backed out of the driveway, and said
"4 years I've lived here. Thank you Tennessee. As we depart one last time, I officially become homeless until August. I am met with the mix of excitement for the next chapter in my life, and the sadness that always comes with saying goodbye."
 I later told her I would be following in her footsteps soon, but I would still be homeless after August. She correctly told me I would have the camper - my home on wheels - but I've not been 'houseless' since 1989 when I bought my first piece of real estate. 

At this point I have no idea where I'll eventually end up. I currently have 5 pieces of real estate, but only one has a house (here in TN) and that will hopefully be sold. The others are too far north to park on and overwinter in a bumper-pull camper. A few years ago I was quite excited about living in my RV full time, but the continuing downward spiral of the economy makes me less than thrilled with that idea. I really want a home base, somewhere that I can garden and preserve my food supply, knowing that I have a water source, a way to heat and/or cool a dwelling,  and basically be as self-sufficient as possible.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dog food

Today I made a trip into town to mail off my estimated tax payments. I also stopped at the little neighborhood grocery store where I buy my dog food. This particular store has an outstanding meat department, and they are willing to order anything a person wants. For 30+ years I have fed my dogs raw, meaning raw meat and bones.

Up north there are a multitude of livestock producers located within just a few miles my place, six hog barns and several cattle producers.  The hog barns are mainly finishing barns, meaning the hogs come from a nursery and weigh around 50-70 pounds and leave when they are market weight, somewhere around 280 pounds. One barn is wean-to-finish, so the pigs come in much smaller, sometimes as small as 10-12 pounds. The wean-to-finish barns have a higher death loss, but all the big hog barns suffer losses. The producers normally call the rendering truck to haul away the deads, but after speaking with them they were fine with me picking up the deads instead of paying the rendering company. Back when I had 10 adult Great Danes, I would make the rounds to the different barns every week or two to pick up 'dog food'. In the winter it was just placed behind a building out of sight of the house and they would eat as they pleased. In the summer I froze the whole hogs in a 28' chest freezer until I needed to feed them. The Danes would eat every bit of a 280 pound hog except for the lower jawbone - hair, hide, meat, bones, brains, organs, feet, stomach contents. It's how and what canines evolved to eat.

If a neighbor with cattle lost a cow, they would often call me to see if I needed dog food before they called the rendering company, and they would normally deliver the carcass to my farm. I didn't get many cows, which is good since they were much harder for me to deal with due to their size and weight.There was also a lot more waste in the form of bones that the dogs couldn't eat.

By the time I bought the land in TN and started traveling back and forth seasonally, I was down to just 2 Danes, and there didn't appear to be much for livestock near me in the south. I was happy to find the little independent grocery store that was willing to order me 40 pound cases of chicken backs, pork necks, turkey necks, fish, and other meats and organs. I feed a varied diet of meat and bone from different animals but now days the main portion of  dog food consists of chicken instead of pork. The backs have a nearly perfect ratio of meat to bone, and the bones are small enough for the Yorkie to eat. Contrary to what many believe, raw bones, even poultry bones, will not splinter and choke a dog, only cooked bones splinter into razor-sharp shards. I would never feed any sort of cooked bone to a dog unless I've used it for making bone broth and it has been cooked to the point that I can smush it between my fingers.

The best part is the price... I pay $20 for a 40 pound box of fresh backs. That's cheaper, and it lasts longer, than 50 pounds of crap-in-a-bag dog food. It's also much higher quality protein, this is human food after all, not some animal by-product meal scraped off the rendering plant floor. The Yorkie gets one small back per day, my daughter's Shepard mix gets 2 or 3 backs a day depending on size, the Golden Retriever used to get 3 or 4 a day, and the Dane got 6 or so, again depending on size and the body condition of the individual dog. Raw fed dogs drink substantially less water since they don't have to turn the dry dog food into a slurry in their gut order to digest it, they poop a tiny amount compared to kibble fed dogs since they utilize everything instead of having to poop out all the corn and grains that they can't digest, and the poop dries up and crumbles away to powder in just a couple days so you never have to pick up the yard. And the vet has always commented on how clean my dog's teeth are, even into advanced old age they're still shiny and white.

So today I picked up the case of chicken backs. Once home I put a half dozen in them in the big stockpot along with a gallon bag of frozen veggie bits from the freezer and it's simmering away on the stove to make chicken stock that I will can later this evening. There's not a ton of meat on a back, but plenty to make a nice stock. The  remaining backs were put in gallon zip-lock bags, 6 backs per bag, and stacked in the chest freezer.  And my daughter's dog got his dinner for the day.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cold, snow and freezing rain

Today was just another in the seemingly endless string of cloudy days, but instead of rain we actually got snow. Tiny little snow flakes that melted almost as soon as they hit the ground, which is fine by me. The steps and ramp iced over during the night, so the dogs were skating when they went outside this morning. They didn't seem very amused, especially the old Yorkie.
 The birdbath froze over, and there's more snow and freezing rain in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow.
With all this wintery weather it's been a perfect day for wearing the toasty warm wool slipper socks that my older daughter made me for Christmas.

She also made me a new wool can cozy that fits a wide mouth pint canning jar. The new one is on the right (it matches my slippers), she also made the one in the center and gave it to me last summer. The left one is my first attempt at felting, it was supposed to fit my water bottle. For felting, you knit or crochet the item much larger than the final product will be, then shrink it. My first (and so far only) attempt resulted in a cozy that was the perfect height but way too big around for the water bottle but it turned out to fit a wide mouth quart freezer jar like it was made for it.

My older girl also was the one that turned me on to the Cuppow lid seen on the left jar, and I later found the stainless steel lid made by EcoJarz on the jar on the right. These are basically sippy-cup lids for adults (and kids). They keep the contents from sloshing out so they're great for taking in the car, and a straw will fit through the stainless steel lid. So now my feet are warm and my beverages stay cold.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Today was a bust

Well, mostly anyway. It started off nicely enough, the sun was shining, the wind was calm. I stayed up too late last night talking on the phone with my daughter, so I slept later than I wanted, getting up around 9:30. I had coffee and breakfast, then got the two 40-pound propane tanks off the camper and into the truck. I came back inside and made several phone calls looking for a place to fill them. TSC (Tractor Supply Company) is usually a good place, but the nearest one I called said they normally do fill tanks, but it was broken. ?? Ok, I called the next nearest one, they just swap tanks. So then I called the nearest RV place to see what they charged, and the gal on the phone said propane was $3.79 a gallon!!! Holy cow!!!  I paid $2.19 in mid November just before I left MN to fill them, I'll be darned if I'll bend over for that sort of  pricing. Haven't they heard that oil prices are in the toilet?  Back on the phone again, and finally discovered the TSC store 32 miles away fills tanks, no problem, and the price is $2.79.  That still seems high to me, but better than the RV place.

 I drove there and had the tanks filled, then decided to look through the Goodwill there. It was much larger than the little one locally, and I was hoping to maybe find another vintage Vitamix for $3.99 that I would actually sell. lol No such luck, I did find a couple things I can use, but I wasted a bunch of time browsing through the store.

Once I finally got back home, I mounted the tanks on the camper and turned the furnace on as low as it will go, to keep the plumbing from freezing. The water heater is under the bed, and there's a hinged area to access the storage space there, so I needed to figure out a way to prop the bed up so the warm air can get underneath. I thought this was something I could leave for later since I have lights inside in case it got dark before I got to it. Instead, I got out my thin work gloves and a pair of nitrile gloves to put over them  and climbed up the 10' ladder to the roof. I was actually on the roof yesterday, hoping to clean out the gutters. I got the south side cleaned out ok but the north side was frozen. This is the south side, before.

I left the ladder set up yesterday hoping that the 45 degrees today would melt the ice so I could clean out the north side today. The previous owner here had planted 2 oak trees, one on each corner on the north side of the mobile home. This would be ok, if he hadn't planted them literally 4 feet from the house. They're really getting to the age where they are nice shade trees, probably 20-25 years old, but they hold their leaves terribly late, in fact half the leaves are still on the trees, and they continue to drop them slowly all winter so the gutters get clogged up over and over. And the acorns! All I hear at night is Bang!  as the acorns hit the roof and roll down towards the gutters. Bang! The first time I heard them rolling down the roof I thought there was a critter up there. The weight of the wet leaves and standing water and acorns really add up, and will eventually tear the gutter right off the house if they're not cleaned out, so I really needed to do this again. 

Today the inch of ice in the gutter, along with the several inches of leaves that were frozen into the ice, had thawed and cleaning it all out only took about a half hour including putting the big ladder away. So now I move on to the main event, making sure the plumbing under the house is protected from freezing. Should be a quick trip, right?

By now it's nearly 4pm, but I thought all I had to do was make sure the blue board insulation was still intact around the well pressure tank and the exposed pipes where they come up from the ground, run an extension cord and plug in the small space heater, then close up the skirting. Well.... as soon as I took the first piece of skirting off I heard dripping. This is NEVER a good sign.

Visualize if you will... the main waste line for the mobile home runs almost the full length of the trailer, roughly 80 feet. It's located on the north (back) side, and there is a T where it drops down to the septic tank about 25 feet from the east end. The small drain pipe from the washing machine is about 5 feet long and joins the main waste line about 25 feet from the west end of the house. The west end of the pipe (master bath) is almost as far west as you can go and still be under the house. The whole length of waste pipe was supported by metal straps and some wire hangers. It seems that at some point in the fairly recent past these metal and wire hangers must have succumbed to rust, and from the master bath it was hanging down at a very steep angle where the water built up, adding much more weight, and I'm guessing put enough pressure on the remaining supporting wires to snap them as well, until most of the length was laying on the ground. Obviously water isn't going to run uphill to get to the T where it drops to the septic tank. And, the small 2" drainpipe from the washer into the main waste line had snapped clean off just below the elbow where it comes down from above. So, all the waste water has been building up in the mainline until it got to the level of the broken pipe (which was slightly lower than the T), then running out onto the ground under the house. AGH!!!!!

 I've lived with wells my entire adult life, and they never give you problems in the summer, only when it's below zero. It has to be that guy Murphy's fault. Either that tiny little line running to the pressure switch freezes, or the pressure tank runs out of air, or God forbid, the pump itself freezes and maybe breaks the impeller while it's at it, then you get to muck about in the water and mud and freezing temps, oh joy! This, however, is the first time I've ever had to deal with a waste water problem, let alone in the winter, so the joy factor is exponentially multiplied by mucking about in, basically, sewage. Thankfully, the land under the house is actually crowned, higher in the center and lower at the sides (unlike Tennessee roads, don't get me started on that), so there wasn't a standing pool of nastiness, but there is a good 6 inch wide strip of it right along the track that holds the bottom of the skirting, it's sort of dammed up under the trailer if you will.

This whole mess was not in the plans, and it's starting to get dark. First I dragged out the small floor jack to lift the heavy, full-of-water waste pipe and got concrete blocks under it to regain the slope I needed for the water to reach the T and the septic tank. Unfortunately a lot of that water that was sitting in the pipe came out the broken pipe as well, and the slope will have to be tweaked tomorrow so I have a proper slope downward. Realizing I needed to make a trip to town for parts, I went ahead and removed more skirting by the pressure tank and looked over the insulation for the well pump and above-ground piping that runs to and from the tank. That all looked alright, but after quite a bit of looking I could not find the small electric heater I have for that space. I know I pulled it out so it wouldn't corrode during the summer in the dampness under the house, but do you think I can find the darn thing? Heck no. Add that to the shopping list, along with some foam pipe insulation for the new pipes that were rerouted during the master bathroom remodel and are a bit exposed.

Now that it's almost dark, I get back in the truck and drive 20 miles to the town where they actually carry black ABS pipe, the nearest big box home improvement store doesn't carry it. I got a new elbow and some connectors, along with the proper glue for ABS, some foam pipe insulation, a new space heater and a new pack of D cell batteries for my Maglite flashlight since i figured I would need it under the house tonight. By the time I got home I was thoroughly sick of the whole mess, and decided one more night won't hurt anything. The skirting is propped up against the house, and it's plenty warm under there (I hope). The forecast for tomorrow says we won't get above freezing, so it will be a fun job to crawl around in the mud and try to get everything working right again. Hey, at least the black widow spiders under the house aren't active when it's this cold out!  LOL

Monday, January 5, 2015


I went grocery shopping yesterday, and came home with some things I intended to preserve. I often buy extra of something if it's on sale, and can/freeze/dry the extra. I bought an extra bag of apples and decided to dehydrate them, since they are really simple to dry and I eat them frequently as snacks. I got out my new mandolin (a Christmas present to myself, how did I live without this tool for so long?) and cored the apples.

The cores of the apples went into a quart jar and were covered with filtered water, and a small cloth tied over the top of the jar. This will sit on the counter for a few weeks and slowly turn into apple cider vinegar.

 After thinly slicing the apples I sprinkled them with the juice of half a lemon, tossing to coat, which keeps them from browning.

I spread the slices out on the dehydrator trays and sprinkle them with cinnamon. I sometimes do some of them plain as well, but I prefer the cinnamon ones.

Three pounds of apples fills the dehydrator almost perfectly. I set it for 125 degrees and they usually take about 6 or 7 hours to get to the dryness I prefer, almost crispy with just a little flexibility to them. Yes, the dehydrator is still living on top of the dryer, I haven't come up with another spot for it yet.

After the dryer was running, I froze a large bunch of kale. Nothing exciting, just rinse it, tear it up, pack it in freezer bags and throw it in the freezer. Although, this leaf had a small surprise hiding on the underside... The picture is zoomed way in, these were really pretty, laid out so orderly and symmetrical. The entire batch of eggs came off in one piece without taking any of the leaf with them. I have no idea what sort of insect laid them, but I'm glad I noticed them before freezing the kale. Just one of the benefits of eating organic I suppose, extra protein. *grin*

The apples finished drying, and I packed them into small jars. They're an odd thing to store, round things usually are, and they're never flat enough to just stack them but you can push them down and compact them then screw the lid on quick before they spring back up. Opening the full jar is sort of like those old-time snake-in-a-can toys, they spring up and out of you're not careful.

I had also purchased an extra bag of onions, so I got those into the dehydrator before I went to bed. I sliced some which filled 3 racks, and diced the rest which filled the other 2 trays fairly thickly. The racks have 1/4 inch spacing, so I use parchment paper for small items that would otherwise fall through the wire. Someday I'll have a kitchen with enough counter space that I don't have to balance things over the sink.

The onions dried beautifully overnight and today I put them in jars. The two trays of diced onions completely filled a pint jar. They can either be reconstituted in hot water or added dry to soups or stews, and the flavor really reminds me of the Durkees french fried onions my mother always put on top of green bean casserole.

The dried onion rings were placed in the old Vitamix and powdered. Despite them filling the blender container nearly to the top, once powdered they only filled a 1/2 pint jar half way. I may add some salt to make onion salt instead of leaving it as plain onion powder.

I also had a couple small cabbage to turn into sauerkraut. I'm used to making kraut in 10 gallon crocks, so making small batches is still a bit strange to me. The mandolin did a good job of thinly slicing it.

The two heads of cabbage were a bit on the small side, and the crock was not very full, so I added a half dozen large carrots that I julienned. I usually start mixing salt into the cabbage before packing it in the crock so it has a chance to start releasing juice to make the brine before I start pressing it down in the crock, and I did the same thing with the carrots. 

This brought the level in the fermenting crock up to a better level, and I packed the veggies down tightly beneath the brine and put the stone weights on top to keep the veggies submerged. I hate to wait 3 weeks for something to ferment if it's only a partial batch. A full batch will last me until the next batch is ready, so I try to keep the crock "working" all the time.

Once the weights are in place, the lid goes on and the moat around the top is filled with water to seal the crock. The gases produced by the fermentation of the veggies can escape from under the lid but stray bacteria and yeasts and such can't get in.

The sun actually was out today, for the first time in nearly 3 weeks! And it didn't rain for the first day in about that long as well! Unfortunately the high temperature was only 35 degrees, and it had dropped below freezing by 4 o'clock. Tomorrow is supposed to be 45 degrees, and then tomorrow night the wind kicks up from the north bringing an arctic blast with it. The forecast low Wednesday night is 4 degrees, and it's not supposed to get above freezing until into the weekend. Tomorrow I need to check on the insulation and cold protection for the plumbing under the house to make sure the water won't freeze, and get the small space heater plugged in under there. I also need to fill the propane tanks on the camper as I didn't winterize it this fall. The water tank is drained, but there's always some left in the lines and the water heater, so I need to keep the heat on in there to keep anything from getting damaged.