I feel like one of my free-roaming chickens, peeking from between the brush, tentatively watching everyone else live their lives. The other chickens go about their day, picking bugs out of the grown, running down grasshoppers, yanking mosquitoes out of the air. All the while, I stay in the cool shade and contemplate what to spend my energy on.
This year, 2019, was supposed to be the year of expansion for the homestead. The idea was to add ducks, grow a couple turkeys, and possibly start building a pig pen. A family member’s health problems, car troubles, and the sudden shift in academics for our children had to take front and center. The ducks and turkeys will wait another season, and who knows about the pigs.
To satisfy our want to add anything at all to the homestead this year, plans have been hatched to rebuild the woodsheds (they need it) and to add a greenhouse built of old windows and pallets. The only funding that may be needed for that would be paving stones for the base. If the greenhouse scheme doesn’t seem to be working out, we’ll put energy into building coldframes instead. One small step can sometimes work out better than a big leap.
In an attempt to catch up on things, this weekend looks like it will be celebrated by working on our independence from oil by building our woodsheds. While I wait the sudden chaos and energy it’s going to take to rebuild the bins and begin the process of stacking four cord of winter warmth, I’m going to enjoy this shade and watch everyone else for a few days…..well, in conjunction to the normal day to day doings.
The past few days have given us a well needed break from the sub 30F temperatures that gobble up the wood, but today is the last of that. Tomorrow the temps dip back down below 20F during the day and below zero at night. While the last stretch wasn’t too horrible to endure, thanks to the backup heat of an oil furnace and an abundance of maple and birch for a wood source, I’m a bit concerned this next one might be a tad more difficult. We’re now into a cord of willow. Many people refuse to burn willow. It burns hot and fast. It means more reloads and less of a chance that there will be coals in the morning. Given that it was split in early December – after being cut for the appropriate amount of time – and that it was from a tree larger than 24″ at breast height, some of the wood is fighting to dry out still. That means stacking it in the house before using it.
Prepping for this next snap also meant busting out more kindling as we’ve used up much of what I prepped in the fall. While Little Mister played in his room, I was able to move to the front wood bin the wood for the next day or so and work out a wheelbarrow full of kindling. Even though it will be cold out tomorrow, here’s hoping I get the chance to get another load in.
Today has brought the first cold, shiver-inducing rain of fall. While we’re looking at 80F for the next few days, mixed with humidity, there is no doubt that fall, and thus winter, is right on the horizon. After spending just ten minutes stacking wood, I was soaked to the bone and had to make the conscious decision that it was too wet to trust swinging an axe. Even though we’re behind on wood right now, I have no doubt we’ll get caught up before snow flies.
(I’ll be honest and admit that part of the issue is me not being able to wrap my head around us having to treat homesteading as a job. It’s hard to let the husband go off to cut wood when I haven’t seen him all day. I’m trying to forcibly adjust to that.)
Needless to say, we’ve come a long way from the above photo, taken in 2009. We’re no longer hesitant on whether something will burn. We know how to spot dry, dead-standing wood, and realize the need to use as much as possible from each and every tree that’s cut. While our jobs have changed since Vaughn was born, and I no longer get to help spot and load, I’ve become adept at emptying the truck and banging out two to three days worth of split wood in a twenty minute period. Joe has become more confident with felling and cutting to the point that, if he wanted to, I’m sure he could do a basic Wood Harvesting 101 lecture.
Aside from getting the wood in, food storage is coming along. It’s going slow, but getting there. Some items in the garden have been planted that we’ll try to winter over with a thick blanket of hay. Others still need to be planted. We have plenty of jam, some vegetables frozen, and are working on getting pickles put up. We’ve diversified greatly since last year. Here’s hoping we’ve done better with our estimates on what we’ll need to last through the winter now that there’s three of us.
There may be chores that need finishing and events that need to come to pass before we’re fully ready for the winter, yet that doesn’t set us to worrying. There have been times where we’ve bit out nails not knowing if we’ll be ready, but what’s the use in wasting time fretting? There’s stuff that needs doing.