We do have heat now! Propane was delivered because the wonderful fellow from Community Action tested all the connections and went around with his CO2 detector and found no leaks or any issues, so the gas folks filled us up and now we have lovely warmth through the old house. What a difference that makes! We had a big old wood burner last year, if you recall, but we did a season with it and voted it off the island. None of us were too thrilled with it’s effort, performance and overall experience. The girls absolutely hated it. We had so many issues with it, from fans that wouldn’t run to keeping the dang thing loaded well with wood and having to set schedules through the night to keep it loaded. It really didn’t heat the whole house, since our 115 year old farmhouse is big and rambling, stretched out funny. And the last nail in the coffin was the amount of soot that it deposited all over our house. On everything. Walls, curtains, knick knacks, pictures, floors… and US! We were breathing in all that nasty stuff. I think Big Red was really much more suited for an outdoor application and needed some help and we just couldn’t give it to him properly. Our goal is to get a nice small supplemental wood stove in his place. Something that we can use to warm the office and living room during the day and evening… but that the furnace can keep the place tolerable through the night.
Sometimes, I worry that admitting a failure in something like wood heating 101, diminishes our homesteading experience. Like living this way has to be all or nothing to be legitimate. Well, I have come to the conclusion that no… you can pick and choose what suits you. This is not 1869 out west… this is 2014. And ultimately, you need to do the things that suit you and avoid the things that don’t suit you. If you’re not into canning, but love freezing and stockpiling good dry goods, then go for it. If you don’t take to the idea of a milk animal but would love some little fiber goats? Do it. I think in our society we do think a lot in absolutes. One or the other, no comfortable middle ground. You can wear yourself out fast and begin to hate this lifestyle in a hurry if you try to be all things homesteading.
That being said, there are things we want to try and see how they suit us. Like beekeeping and building small buildings, a bigger garden, more permaculture, making the barns super comfortable for the animals and for us to care for them… And they might not all take. But, that’s okay, it’s trying and learning and adapting that takes us one step forward to more sustainable living. It’s a great thing!
I do not like the idea of not having some sort of non-electrical way to heat. Thankfully, we don’t loose power often, but it does happen. One year, several years back, we had a miserable late winter ice storm and most of the area, including the big cities, lost power for almost a week! With 20 degree chills, many people had to abandon their homes and move into nearby hotels and with family. That is why I want a smaller, manageable wood store. Something that we can also cook on and heat water with. Combined with a pair of decent kerosene heaters and a little stash of fuel, I think we could rough it even through a week without power. We have several oil lanterns and lots of blankets. I’m sure it would mean bringing mattresses down near the stove and camping out, as well as hanging some blankets in doorways to keep the heat in a smaller area, but we would be able to make it through, stay on the homestead and care for our animals. And we love the ambiance of a little wood stove and burning up all our fallen branches and little logs. Maybe getting a load of wood for the winter and using that to help heat the house. It’s a good compromise.
We are so excited, humbled and blessed that our local county’s Community Action group has accepted our application for some weatherization help for our old house. We have tried to do as much as we could, but they have some amazing information and techniques to really help the old girl out. Their inspector was out on Tuesday for many hours and he put the place through it’s paces, even doing air tests, lead tests, insulation and infrared studies! It was so interesting to follow him around and he didn’t mind at all. Most of our need is in the basement, and being an old Michigan basement, there are many cracks and holes and such that they will be sealing up and foaming in. That should really help with our plumbing issues in the extreme cold. They don’t replace windows or doors, but they will be able to tell us which ones are suspect and hopefully, we can started to replace them. They were so helpful with the propane and getting the leak test passed, that was such a wonderful thing.
It’s hard for us to accept help like this, feels a little wrong. Feels a little like we are not taking care of things on our own and that is somehow shameful. I see folks post rather mean spirited things on social media about welfare and those that take help, are scam artists or lazy or somehow trying to bilk the system. I don’t feel that way now. Having had to ask for help for the first time in my whole life, I can assure you, we are not lazy, nor do we feel entitled. We just needed a wee bit of help and finally reached a point that we were qualified. I would like to look at it as a chance to get a foot up, and get back on track.
Surely, we took on a huge project with our homestead. We took an abandoned, foreclosured property that was an eye sore and likely to be bulldozed down for a few more acres of corn or beans and we made it a home. Not just for ourselves, but for our animals and wildlife. It has value again and so many people, our neighbors, have told us how they love to see all we are doing. We share this information online with thousands of people, to help them to realize that you can do it too… you can take on something this big and do the best you can and make it a home! But also, we share that is can be rough, especially after a very very mean winter before. That really was the thing that set up our need for assistance. The costs for making it through the worse winter in 150 years really sapped our resources. It is my hope that this one time grant will help us to better utilize our resources, and get on track. We can focus on repairing and upgrading the things they tell us will benefit us most, instead of being on a wild goose chase. And it keeps several teams of amazing workmen busy and takes care of their families with good jobs that feel good, too. Helping people is one of the best things in the world. I know we love to do it and whenever we can, we help out. I can’t wait to help out even more this coming year to help and repay the karma of this weatherization help. If we can get through the winter more intact, we can use that to help in the spring when we have a project list as long as our arm. One of my goals is to have a free veggie cart out front for people to stop and pick up fresh veggies from our garden… and one of those cool little free libraries… and I want to start having workshops to help teach people how to keep chickens and learn to weave and can and whatever else we can share. Because that just feels so good.
It’s getting late and I better get busy. Got some client work to tidy up and a bunch more paperwork from all the medical stuff. (my goodness, insurances and hospitals sure do generate a lot of mail and paperwork and all!!!) Hoping to get to a little weaving on Maggie’s new loom she made me. I want to put it through it’s paces so she can see if there are any modifications to be made before she starts to make them for sale! It’s so neat to see both my girls embrace work and projects with gusto and passion. It’s a wonderful thing! And I want to help them whenever I can!