Sunday, January 31, 2010

Moved On

The rain has moved out for now but the cold remains. This morning it is 26 degrees. I had the bright idea to get up early while the ground was still frozen so I could avoid the mud and at least get the weekly burning done. Nope, that is not going to happen, It is just to cold. I bet the wind chill has it down into the mid teens at the moment.

Some real good friends of ours bought a house right down the road from us and we helped them move some of their stuff yesterday after noon. Since we could not back up to the front door, we had to carry the boxes about 100 feet through the beep water and the mud. This made it extremely difficult with every labored step. We finally called it quits after just two loads.
His barn is being delivered next week and the weather man is calling for more rain. Good luck with that, I can't even walk out to mine much less work on it.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Little House of Dreams

I was around ten years old when I nailed on the first board which was the beginning of my new tree house. It was not till years later that I learned the value of such a simple pile of old scrap lumber stuck up in a tree.

Like most farm boys I was never able to have the childhood all my city friends had. I was never able to simply just hang out at a friends house, never able to go on long luxurious vacations or even spend all day just being bored. No sick days, no excuses, the chores had to be done.

For my siblings and I, the day started at 5:00 AM with my dad hollering out from the kitchen, “GET UP!” Without hesitation our feet hit the floor and out the door we went. My chores consisted of milking the goats, feeding the hogs and the tending to the chickens. This left me with just enough time to take a quick shower, get dressed, run through the house grabbing a piece of warm cinnamon toast and onto the school bus.

The evenings were not much different. Of course homework came first. I didn't mind doing it to much because momma always had a nice little snack ready for me, then it was off to the barn to do chores. It was usually dark when I got back to the house and by that time I was ready for another hot shower to wash the goat smell off and fill my empty stomach with some good food. One good thing about living on the farm is we always had a nice big home cooked meal. While milking the goats I would usually hear my stomach growling due to the smell of those chicken and dumplings making its way to the barn. Momma would start supper early in the day to make sure it was ready for us growing, hungry boys when we all came in. My brother and I fought, pushed and shoved to be the first in line to fill our plate to its limits. For some reason we thought if you were the last in line you might go hungry, but there was always enough food, most of the time even for seconds. If we were really lucky, mom and dad would let us stay up to watch Hee Haw.

Weekends were spent cleaning stalls, grinding feed and building one thing or another. The only escape to childhood I had was a little triangle shaped, three-story tree house I built using scrap lumber and bent nails. I did not know at the time, but I created a lifetime of memories. On rare occasions when I found myself with nothing to do, I was in that little tree house and imagining a whole different world. If you would have walked by and listened real close, you would have heard a Army commander giving his troops marching orders from the lookout tower. Or you would have heard a play by play announcement of the world title wrestling match between Kerry Von Erich and Rick Flair. I could not tell you the number of times I was either Bo Duke or the Six Million Dollar Man. It was my own world, no one else's.

On warm summer nights I would sometimes convince momma to let me sleep up in that tree. I would lie awake looking up at the stars, dreaming of space travel or walking on the moon, hypnotized by the sound of the wind swaying that old thing back and forth making the same creeks and cracks over and over as it flowed.

Eventually I got to old for that tree house and eventually it got to old as well. Board by board my imaginary world rotted and fell to the ground until it was no more, leaving just memories laying scattered around the tree base. I did not give it much thought back then, not until several years later when my three girls were old enough and asked if they could have one of their own. We picked out the perfect tree and board by board we built another little house of memories. I remember many days while working outside I could hear laughter and singing coming from that little place and if I listened real close I could almost hear a Army commander giving her troops the marching orders.

No Sun In Sight

For the past two days we have been getting hammered by high winds and down pours. The internet has been down and just now came up but I do not know for how long. It does not look like I will get much done this weekend do to the large amounts of water holding in the yard.
While I was looking out the front door at all the water this morning, my neighbor had a bright idea and decided to pull across his front yard. It took them the better part of two hours to get their truck out. That was funny. I guess the ankle high flowing water was not a good enough sign. I offered to help them but they could not speak any English.
I was able to snap a photo of the cold front moving in. The weather channel is calling for snow and ice in the morning.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Got Dirt!

The wife is really coming through on the garden dirt. She shoveled a whole pickup full and brought it home for me to shovel out. Now that is 50/50 living.

While driving to town the other day I came across a nice design for a green house. I like the way it looks so this design might be what I go with.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Muddy Mess

I was not going to let the weather beat me today. I decided to wade through the ankle deep mud and fight the high winds until I was satisfied with the days work.

I was able to do some building on the barn until I ran out of screws. I am using square headed coated screws so I can counter sink them and they won' t strip out like the Phillips heads do. Just thirty more 2x4s to go and I will be ready for tin and siding.

The wind turbine fared better than first thought. Sitting on the barrel kept it from pivoting with the wind and that made the blades spin backwards and causing the hub to un-thread and fly off. The sound the wife heard was the blades hitting the barrel at a hundred mph.

We went to the old sale barn after lunch to get a pickup load of good composted dirt. The sale barn went out of business a couple of years ago and since has been used as a holding place for horses that have been rescued. Just in the past month or so, 65 horses have been in and out of that place. I do not understand why or how people can let their animals starve.
With the added good dirt to the gardens, we were able to get some onions planted. We need many many more.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Singing In The Rain

I jumped out of bed at 5:30 AM this morning looking forward to a full day of work. I checked the weather and the rain was about four hours away so I had little time to get the rafters on the animal barn. As soon as it was light enough to see, I bolted out the back door and started dragging tools out of the shed. My dad showed up at at 8:00 and I was already in progress and ready for help on the hard part.
One of the good things about my dad helping is he does not get in a hurry. He study's the situation and plans out his next move then does it. I am just the opposite, I do it then plan out how I am going to fix it. Right off the bat he noticed a screw up on the bracing I placed. Even tho I wanted to continue and fix it later, he insisted we redo the work right then. I lost about two hours of forward progress but Looking back on it now I am glad he made me redo it. It will save me a headache down the road.

We did not beat the rain but were able to get most of the rafters in place and work out some other unseen problems before we were soaked and had to quit. At one point the wife came out and was impressed with our dedication but was also concerned about us using power tools in the rain. We decided to call it and have a beer.

Tomorrow the weather will be sunny and 64 degrees. I plan on finishing what we could not get to today or until the lumber supply runs out. Also, the wife found some more good dirt to fill in the rest of the gardens and we also plan on getting the onions in the ground. I just don't know if we will be able drive in the back yard or not. I am sorry I did not get a chance to take any pictures of the progress today but I promise some tomorrow.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Weekend Plans

I was told today, no work this weekend. I was excited that my whole weekend has now opened up with possibilities on what I could get done at the house. Then I heard of an 80% chance of rain for tomorrow. I just can't catch a break. Never less, I stopped buy the lumber store on the way home and grabbed some 2x4s just in case the weather misses us.
I was able to score not one but three extension ladders so I can reach the ridge board on the animal barn. Plus I have some help coming over in the morning so the girls will not have to risk the hanging off the ladder danger. The plan is to at least get the rafters on the tall part so I can work on the wings without needing any help.
I had my wind turbine sitting outside on the burn barrel ready for the second coat of paint and did not think the wind could get high enough to do any damage where it was sitting, wrong. The wife called to tell me it sounded like a plan was crashing in the back yard. It was dark when I got home but I did see pieces scattered. I will check it out more in the morning. Darn the luck.
On the other hand, Grit Magazine contacted me today to write for their blog. I am really excited about it and can't wait to start. You can check it out at

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lazy Day

I got home from work and decided not to do one thing outside. It has been misty rain all day and I did not want to fight it. I chose to catch up on my internet reading instead. One website I subscribe to sends a weekly news letter showing me how to save money. has some good ideas most of the time and is worth reading if you are trying to save money.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I was able to get home with just enough daylight to paint the wind turbine a snazzy white today. Now it almost looks professional! Yesterday I took apart the other treadmill and kept some of the key components for later use. I have not tested the motor yet so I am not sure if it is any good. The wife smoked the motor the other day while running on the treadmill so even if it does produce power, I am not sure how long it will last under a load. So I guess I am still looking for more motors. I need them for the "just in case" anyway.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Here Comes The Sun

This morning started out with a little fog. I took the opportunity of the heavy air and did the weekly burning. All those concrete bags from yesterday took a while, but they are a pile of ashes now.

Before the big game at noon, I was able to put up some 2x4's to start framing in the small animal barn. After the second quarter of the game and with the Cowboys not showing up to play, I decided to go back out for a little more framing and to work off my frustrations. I was wanting to set some rafters before dark, but shortly after setting the braces for the top ridge board I quickly noticed my little six foot ladder was not going to be tall enough. Now I am on the search for a grown up ladder.
It's back to work tomorrow and we are pouring some bridges this week and all weekend so I do not know how much home work I will be able to get done for a few days.

A Little Work

For the past couple of days it has misted rain on and off. Not enought to make it to wet to work but just enough to keep it slick and nasty. On my way home from work Friday I made a commitment to get some work done by buying a pickup load of concrete. The bags were a little damp this morning so that made me want to get the posts in the ground even quicker. It took a few minutes to square everything up but once I got going it did not take long. Tomorrow I will start framing in the chicken coop area. I have to be done by noon because the Cowboys are going to show the Vikings how to play football.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

This Old Barn

This old barn sits by the road right in town. I have passed it a hundred times and always wondered about the sights it has seen and the stories it could tell.
I was on the way home one day and saw a feeble old man parked and standing by the road with a lost look on his face. I stopped and asked if he needed anything or if I could help. He said he was looking for something and described this old barn and was wondering where it was. He could have swore it was right where he was standing. Instead of trying to give the old timer directions, I thought it would be better to have him follow me. As we pulled up to the old barn I got out and asked him if this was the barn he was looking for. The old feller just walked right up to it, looked around for a few minutes and simply said "yup, this is it".
I could have just driven by the lost old man or I could have just pointed in the direction of the barn and said "that way" or I guess I could have even just pointed out the window as I drove by it showing him where it is. For a hour that man told me stories of his childhood and that broken down old barn. He pointed up to the loft and talked about a makeshift bed back in the corner and said that was where he was born and spent many years of his life. As he talked he stared off across the surrounding houses trying to remember the open fields and a whole other lifetime, I could only imagine what he was seeing. He told me he wanted to see this old thing one last time before he moved on. I couldn't say a word, I just let him talk and tell stories of the life he had so many years ago. I never caught his name and I don't guess he ever said it, but I feel privileged to have met him. I am sure his journey home was with angels.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

In Bloom

The wife got really excited that her Christmas Cactus is starting to bloom. I guess with all the high dollar heat in the house I would bloom too.

Not much to report today. I got a chance to do some much needed burning before dark. One good thing is, the wife knew a guy who was cleaning out his barn and she was able to grab a pickup load of good cooked down dirt . The dirt out here is that black gumbo mess and without a huge amount of work, time and money, it will never be good enough to plant our vegetables in so I can not use it. She was able to fill up half of a raised bed. At least now we can plant onions at the end of the month.

Monday, January 11, 2010

More Reading

November Picture

I spent most of the day at work looking through web sites trying to teach myself about electricity. It seams once I start figuring it all out, another web site adds more confusion. One of these days I will get it and that little imaginary light bulb above my head will shine, I hope.

Saturday my first electric bill came in the mail. Keep in mind, this is the first time I ever lived in a all electric house. Due to all the efficient light bulbs, oil lamps, the fire place running all day and the constant reminding the family about short showers and the lights being on I was expecting a average bill. $404.00, here let me spell it, four hundred and four dollars. I went straight out and read the meter, yup it was right.
Doing some calculations, that comes to about 130 kwh a day. I averaged 40 to 45 kwh a day in the old house and it was bigger. I guess my carbon foot print is larger than I thought. I am currently in the process of figuring out what the heck is going on here. I have a theory about the return air location and the pantry door that has been open and possibly blocking it causing the heater to run all the time, but we will see. The heater should not be coming on at all. I set the thermostat to 62 degrees and heat with the fireplace. To many more months of that kind of bill and I will be living in a van down by the river.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It's Alive

How about them Cowboys?
After the frost burnt off and the temp outside got above 30 degrees, I decided it was time to finish what I started. I made some wider blades for the wind turbine and attached them to see if it would work or not. I set it on the fence just like yesterday and crossed my fingers for success. Nothing, not one turn. Disappointment started to set in and I wondered if I needed to be doing this or not.
I had to give it one last try. The wind was not cooperating so I figured it needed more blades to increase the resistance to get it started. On the way to the barn to get more pipe for blades, the wind was blowing about 15 to 20 mph. That is when I knew what was wrong. I needed to get it up into the wind. With new hope, I temporary mounted it to a 12' 2x4 and stuck it straight into the wind. The wind turbine took off like a plane engine. "It's alive!" I yelled. With the volt meter on it, it was pushing 5.8 volts which is more than I could get by hand turning. I have not been this excited since I don't know when. I called the kids and wife out to show them and asked them, "Who's your daddy"
With the success of the wind turbine, I did not want to push it so I chose to relax and clean up for the rest of the day.
Oh, did I mention how about them cowboys?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

First Failure

As long as I was out of the wind, I was able to do a little work today. When I got cold, I simply brought everything inside on the kitchen table. The wife was not happy about it but it could have been worse, I have rebuilt carburetors on it before.

I cut and installed the tail fin for the wind turbine plus mounted the motor and welded the swivel unit on (no, I didn't weld in the house). I was so close to seeing this thing run I decided to go ahead and cut and shape the 24" blades from a 8" PVC pipe my buddy dropped off the other night. He brought me four feet just in case I really messed up on the first set of blades. I drilled and attached the blades and called everyone outside for the show.

I do not have a tower for it yet so I just set it on the fence facing into the 10 to 15 mph North wind. I hooked up the volt meter and let the blades loose. Absolutely nothing. One of the kids asked when it was going to start moving, another laughed and blew on it and another asked if she could go back inside. I looked up at the window to see my wife just shaking her head. After scratching my own head and staring at this thing for a while I think I figured it out. The blades are to small. Tomorrow I am going to cut some wider ones. I sure am glad my buddy brought over extra pipe.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Just like Old Times

During the Texas-Alabama game, the wind was blowing so hard it knocked down a power line somewhere. It turned out to be one of the most relaxing nights I have had in a very long time. Several hours with no electricity brought back so many memories of living in the old house on the farm. The kids acted as if nothing had happened and went right into "old school" mode. We have so many oil lamps, we actually over did it with the lights around the house. I bet my house was the only one you could see glowing for miles. Even when the temp outside was 17 degrees, the fireplace kept the house at comfortable 68. I kinda wish the power would go out more often.

Again, it was to cold to work outside. I tried to do a little work down in the barn hiding from the wind, but after about twenty minutes I said to heck with it. My hands were so cold I could not feel my fingers.
I took the down time opportunity to run into town and grab some things I needed for the wind turbine build. I am trying to find things to do so to stay busy even tho the wind turbine will not be up till summer. I picked up a new volt meter I do not have a clue how to operate, 36" of 1" square tubing, a 8"x 1" nipple to fit inside the 1 1/4" tower pipe and a 1" round floor mount. Like I said before, I am not a electrician. I know just enough about electricity to wire a barn, that's it. I tested the 95VDC treadmill motor and if I had the meter set right, turning it slow with the drill it maxed out at 4.8 volts. Just turning it with my hand I got 3.8 out of it. I do not know how fast you could say it was compared to wind mph but the way the wind blows out here, I think it is good enough. I might try and brave some winter exposure tomorrow and do some fabricating.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cozy Warm

I woke this morning to a temperature of 20 degrees outside and 7 degrees wind chill with icy rain. Turning on the TV and seeing all the wrecks and carnage throughout the metroplex, I knew the hour dive South into the heart of it was going to be a nightmare. I made the quick decision that this was not going to be a good day. Luckily, the boss called and the job shut down till Monday.

If you are from Texas like I am, you do not know how to drive on ice. You may think you do and everyone else is a idiot, but you don't. Some drivers are better than others but in general, we can't do it. North Texas gets about one to two days a year where everyone turns stupid. Even the folks from up North who have been driving on this stuff their whole lives turn stupid due to the other people who turn stupid.
With just a small amount of ice we panic and everything shuts down. Even as self sufficient as we are, my wife ran to Walmart yesterday in the mad rush along with thousands of other people to grab anything she thought we might need to last through the long cold spell. She told me most of the shelves were empty, every register was open and the lines were backed up all the way to produce. I look at it this way, at least they went before the storm hit instead of waiting till it hit and getting on the streets.

I just came off of an eleven day vacation and due to weather, was stuck in the house most of those days. I sure didn't want to be stuck in the house for another four more days but what choice do I have. I started a fire, turned on Mythbusters and propped my feet up. What a bad day, or was it?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


A arctic cold front is moving in tonight so I have been getting everything ready for it. I still have not replenished my wood pile yet and just hope I have enough for the cold snap. I had to re insulate some pipes due to the single digit temperatures they are forecasting and bring what little wood is left up to the house.

It has been slow at work for the last couple of days so I have had time to do some research on a wind generator. I think I am going to go with the design at
This will be my first attempt at creating power to use, so failure is an option at this time. I am not looking to run my house just yet, I am just wanting to experiment and run some occasional lights in the animal barn, tool shed and green house. Velacreations gives good detailed directions to DIY and links to other sites for a more in depth understanding if need be. I am not an electrician and know very little about electricity. The web site helped explain how it all works and now it is as clear as mud.

I also have been looking into other designs for a solar oven. I have cooked with solar but this time I am wanting something a little bigger and better. John Wells at The field Lab built this oven and I found it on the website .
It gives step by step instructions on how to build it and make it work. I think this one might just be the one I build.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Found Treasures

I asked my wife to be on the lookout for free treadmills about a month or so ago. The only response I got from her was that raised eye brow look so I just dropped it. This weekend while geocaching she surprised me. Driving down a old country road she yells, "Treadmill, stop!!" I slammed on the breaks, backed right up to it and threw it in the truck. Last night at 8:30 PM she yelled "Free tread mill on Craig's list" so off we went.
I tested both of them today they work like a champ. I can say I am a little surprised that what I said really stuck in her brain. I always thought whatever I said lasted as long as a snow flake in August.

These two treadmills will be the hub of electricity for the green house and the animal barn. They have a 90 & 95 VDC permanent magnet motor with 6" hubs and should produce about 1 to 4 amps in a 20 mph wind and max out at about 10 amps. I have read the best motor to use is a 260 VDC that produces about 7 amps in a 30 mph wind but those are hard to find for free. With the amount of occasional power I need, these two will charge the battery bank with no problem. I wonder if I could find some deep cycled lead acid batteries for free?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Last Day of Freedom

I hate to say that this is my last day of freedom. Tomorrow starts a new week and a long time before another day off from the job. Even with the many rain days this past week and a half, I was still able to get some much needed things done. Of course not as much as I would have liked, but I will take what I can get.

While I was burning today, I was able to install the complex solar cloths dryer we have been needing. It did take a while to engineer this design but went up with ease. I wish the rest of the projects were this simple.
During good weather, we only use the inside dryer for socks, underwear and wash rags. This adds up to running the dryer for a family of five about once a week. We could drop that down to a load a month if I could only convince the girls they don't need to change their underwear but once a week or so.

The main accomplishment of the day was getting the first small animal barn staked out. I am using a design from Storey's Basic Country Skills Pg. 71. It is designed to be a wood shed, but I liked the look of it so much I decided to tweak the dimensions to fit my needs. The dog in the picture is where the coop will be and he is about the size of a chicken so it looks about right.

The chicken coop is on one side (8X8), the pygmy goats in the middle section that has a loft and a shade awning (16X8). The feed room and rabbits are on the other end (8X8). The estimated cost is around $1800 for the barn and about $1000 for the fences. So needless to say, I will be doing it in stages. The first stage is setting the posts for the whole structure and the chicken pen.

I guess I could have done more but the Cowboys were starting and well, you know.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Good Weather

The weather today was good. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and I was working. It is still really wet and very hard to get around but at least I was able to get some much needed things done.
I found everything for the installation of the solar cloths dryer and plan on it being the first project of the day tomorrow. I also was able to inventory the piles of lumber I brought with me from the old house to determine what I still need for the first small animal barn and fences that will house the chickens, pygmy goats and rabbits.

We had to cut the day short due to a basket ball game. My oldest and middle daughters were playing in a little 2A town 45 minutes North and I thought I should be a good dad and go watch. Not to let a opportunity pass by, while we were out the wife and youngest daughter decided we could pick up some caches ( We reached our 100th today and were really excited about it.
On our way to a cache, one of the dirt roads we were driving down kept getting smaller and smaller and muddier and muddier. The fences were only about five foot off the road on either side making no places to turn around and it was way to far to back up. Now here we are, In a Nissan pickup way back in the woods on a very deep rutted muddy road with little daylight left. To make matters worse, my wife was driving and I was doing the navigating with the hand help GPS and the Tom Tom. Getting stuck was the least of my worries, what worried me was what I was going to say to the ole boy who pulled us out. "Uhh, this here Nissan is my wife's truck, she bought it I didn't. Uhh, I, I drive a Ford and I don't even know how to use these here, uhh GPS doohickeys". I was more worried about my redneck image getting tarnished than anything else.
So I told her to locker in four wheel drive and hammer down. "Lets sling some mud baby" was really how I put it. She pushed the little button on the dash and off we went at two miles per hour. While we were traveling at a death defining speed I had some time to think about things. What ever happend to the days where you had to get out and slop through the mud to lock in your hubs so you wouldn't get stuck and what ever happen to that chick I married who made me scream like a girl while rock climbing in a jeep a couple of years ago? When we finally got to a paved road, I took a picture of the ole boys place I would have had to get pull us out if she got stuck.
See there, I was right. He never would have believed I was a Redneck.

Tomorrow is the last day of my vacation and hopefully be a full work day. Solar close dryer, laying out the animal barn, burn day, Football (The Boys) and beer.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 Here We Go

The wife and I were up at 5:00 AM this morning cooking New Years Dinner for some family and friends we had over. We had the traditional greens for luck and black eyed peas for money along with a turkey, ham, creamed corn casserole, mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, corn bread stuffing and dinner rolls. We all had a great time and ate till it hurt. Now I ask you, if that ain't living then what is?

With the new year already a day old I look forward in what lies ahead in 2010. I read a great quote the other day and it fits my life perfect. "I am Not scared of tomorrow, because I have seen yesterday."

This year will be a big adventure. Being in the city for the past four years I really did not have much to do. As a matter of fact, there was nothing to do. I used my imagination as much as I could but city ordinances, space and time limited what could be done. Now that I am back out in the country and in my element, I have the room to grow. Things are going to be a little different this year.

The project list for the year is a mile long but doable. Some of the projects I will be taking everyone through are;
Two small animal barns, fencing, raised gardens, green house, rabbit hutches, chicken coop, goat pen, pig pen, quail pens, rain water harvesting, fire pit, pizza/bread oven, above ground hay bale root seller, solar oven, solar shower, home made wind generators and so on and so on.

The list of animals will be about as long; Goats, pigs, chickens, quail, worms and turkeys. If I can pull it off I would also like to raise some fish. The spouse has been begging for a miniature horse and a miniature donkey, but I keep telling her If I can't eat them so I don't want them.

The on going projects include my wife's quilting and crafts business, plus we will be showing all about our food canning and pickling business and how to do it yourself. I heard her mention she was wanting to get into making goat cheese and goat milk soaps this year so that will be a new adventure to follow if she decides to start it.

This spring and summer we will be showing how we do our outdoor cooking and giving some recipes and tips.
So hang on tight, this year is going to be one heck of a ride.