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Where have we been?

We moved!  To an off-grid farm, with no internet service.  Not nearly enough time to write posts when we get to the library, but I figured I should say SOMETHING so people wouldn’t wonder.  If I ever get time to write while at home, I will do so, and then I can copy/paste when I get the opportunity.

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Relish!

At the end of our cob/cooking adventure, Caroline gifted me with a book entitled Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, by Lucy Knisley. I sat down about a month ago and read it clean through. Yup, I relished my day with Relish.

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From the inside cover:

Lucy Knisley’s Mouth-watering graphic memoir will make you hungry.

Whether she’s injuring herself – again and again – in pursuit of a perfect croissant or bankrupting herself on fancy cheeses, Lucy Knisley knows what she wants: a good meal. The daughter of a chef and a gourmet, she comes by her priorities honestly. In this Technicolor love letter to cooking and eating, Knisley presents her personal history as seen through a kaleidoscope of delicious things.

Defying the idea of eating as a compulsion and food as a consumer product, Relish invites us to celebrate the meals we eat as a connection to our bodies, and to each other. Knisley’s intimate and utterly charming graphic memoir offers reflections on cooking, eating, and living – as well as some of her favorite recipes!

I didn’t read a lot of comic books growing up, and never a graphic novel that I can remember, so this was a fairly new thing for me. I liked it! The book is sitting on my desk, with my herbal and gardening books, awaiting another lazy afternoon for me to comb through the pages in search of a recipe to try.

Thank you so very much, Caroline, for this book!

~Jill

Two Little Piggies

We were informed YESTERDAY that we have 2 new piglets arriving today. While that is really cool and nifty, we happen to have been in the process of tearing down the fencing where the piglets would live! Ok. So now we have an emergency fence restoration project. And no gate.

We managed to get the fence straightened out and put back in place. The intent was to rip it out and put in a new fence line that made more sense and gave more space inside and had new fence material instead of the crippled, bent, and mangled mess that was there. But 3/4 of the fence had chickenwire attached and thoroughly and completely entangled in the grass. It would have taken days of intense effort to rip it out. So I decided to leave most of it in place, patch it where necessary, put in a couple new posts, and call it good.

Then came the gate. I am not a carpenter. I do not have much experience designing and planning out a project using wood. After a couple internet searches, and hours of staring blankly at a wall thinking about it, I finally settled on a design and ventured out in search of suitable wood. We found a very large pile of 2×6 lumber in the woods. But it was 90% rotted out. Fortunately, I only needed 5 boards, and managed to find what I was looking for after a little digging. Then I had to find a saw and a flat place to work. Up to the top of the hill where there is a house being built, and I managed to find floor space that was mostly level. The floor is dirt throughout right now. And not very level or flat. And of course, there’s no power up there except for the solar system, but fortunately the battery was charged and the old inverter was still working.

Inverter and batteries

Inverter and batteries

Anyway, after a hundred hurdles, I finally got the pieces cut and brought back down to my yard to assemble. Gopher hills, holes, and lumps aside, it was mostly an easy job to assemble the gate. Except I have no cordless drill, and the power drill has only one speed. It is not fun to drive screws with a single-speed drill!

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Pig pen gate assembled

You’ll notice there is a diagonal piece. That required an angle cut. There happens to be a miter saw up in the building where I cut the pieces. But it’s a small one, so it only cuts through a 2×4. Which means I had to cut the angle board half-way through, flip the board, try to match up the angle, and then finish the cut.

Off to the install. But wait! I have no cordless drill, and the pig pen is far from the house! Does this project EVER get past “the hard part”?? A very long extension cord was finally found. Of course, the fence posts are rough logs, so lining up the hinges proved a bit of a challenge. Did I mention, I’m not a carpenter? A bow saw, a chisel, and some “customizing”, and it finally started to cooperate with me. After digging up about 6″ of dirt and sod on the inside to make space for the gate to open, it is now hung and swings very nicely. I settled for the hook-and-eye latch since that’s all I had on hand.

New pig pen gate hanging on hinges!

New pig pen gate hanging on hinges!

Oh, and there is a 1/4″ steel mesh stapled to the inside. That will keep the chickens in too, when I open their area up and let them run with the pigs. And the screen mesh looks good, and is “pig proof” too.

Piggies in their new home

Piggies in their new home

They will have to mow their own lawn

They will have to mow their own lawn

Now to solve the food and water dish issue…

— Jack

Abominable Accommodations

During the month of April this year, I had the pleasure of temporarily living in an apartment that was previously occupied by drug dealers who had just gotten evicted. I did the clean up and renovation in exchange for the rent. It was horrible. How can someone live with themselves in such deplorable conditions? And what is up with drug addicts and their clothing?? Is it easier to buy new clothing than to wash a load of laundry? These people had no furniture, hardly any dishes or pans, and no other possessions of note. But they had CLOTHES. LOTS OF CLOTHES. And they left it all behind! Bags and bags and bags of clothing I had to stuff and haul out. I had this same experience 2 years ago, cleaning up after a drug addict. Hundreds of pounds of clothing that I dragged off to the local thrift store…

Anyway, I’m writing today about our current living arrangement. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever had to deal with. We arranged to stay with a man and he would provide housing and food in exchange for work around his place. He said there was plenty of space and good living accommodations. Well, “shell-shocked” was the first idea that came to mind when we arrived and were shown our options for living arrangements. I should first mention that one of the options was the coolest most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. But it is Rustic. Majorly rustic. Like, 10 minutes hike into the mountain forest and no power or water, Rustic. I would move in there in a second, but it was the man’s home for over 30 years, and it sits exactly how he left it 10 years ago, bedding, books, food, and all. Needless to say, it will need a bit of cleanup and laundering and such before it is fit to move into. But it is majorly Cool. I’ll have to get pictures and write about it later, probably after I camp out in it for a couple nights in the near future.

So, to the point of this writing. We were offered a single wide mobile home, circa early 1970’s vintage. Dark paneling, orange and yellow flooring, dark green and brown carpets, green ceramic fixtures… you get the idea. It seems to have not been lived in for many years. I ran the vacuum cleaner in the living room. Got almost 2 gallons of dirt out of the carpet!! And that was the cleanest room. The bedroom is a dark cave, and has the white powdery mold completely covering every surface. The ceiling panels in several rooms are sagging and stained from a leaky roof. The green sink and tub are half brown from rust stains resulting from years of dripping leaky faucets. After a couple hours of work, the bedroom is finally ready to be cleaned. We made a lot of progress today, and by the end of the day, it was finally not smelling like mildew. We are using a strong mix of vinegar and water, with a bit of tea tree oil for mold and mildew elimination. Vinegar is supposed to be a wide-spectrum mold killer, and can get deeper into surfaces than bleach. When we are not working on getting the garden ready, we are busy cleaning up the mobile home so we can get moved in. Meanwhile, we are living in an attic space where we have to lean sideways to get around because of the pitch of the roof that starts about 3 feet off the floor. And it gets really really hot up here when the sun is out.

The garden is a token little plot. We planted 6 tomato plants in the biggest of the planting beds…  I should measure it to get an idea of how many square feet are enclosed. Half of the space was unusable because it had old fence material laying around that had gotten absorbed into the grass. I believe we pulled about 50 or more pounds of fencing out of the very aggressive and dense grass roots. The grass here is highly reluctant to release its prisoners. Speaking of grass, the entire property is covered with grass that has grown to three or more feet tall. No possible way that a lawn mower could ever handle it. We are pushing for getting sheep installed to deal with it. So meanwhile we walk back and forth between the house, the garden and the mobile home on trails of trodden down grass, tripping over old fences and logs and firewood that have long since been absorbed into the turf.

I hate to sound so negative. The reality is that the guy is a genius with alternative building techniques, has developed some incredible ideas, and has built some mind-blowing structures. While exploring the property, I have stumbled upon several of his building projects, and each one is mind-boggling and inspirational. It was worth coming here just to see what he has done, and I am truly excited about working with him on his next project. There is so much to learn from this guy. I just wish he had a clue about how unprepared he is for having people live here… But we are working diligently on cleaning it up and making livable accommodations for future visitors. First we need to get a place for ourselves to live, but it’s all part of the adventure. There’s a huge difference between “rustic” and “squalor”… Filthy, dirty, unkept, moldy, icky is so not cool. Rustic, off-grid, primitive is way cool. Once we get the place up to the level of “rustic”, I think it will be quite enjoyable. Maintenance and upkeep are not his strong points, so I consider it our role here at first to fill this gap and get the place in order so the coolness factor of what he has done can be seen and appreciated by all who visit.

— Jack

 

Thermometer Driving

I like old vehicles without electronics and fancy gadgets. Less parts means less things to go wrong. I can fix mechanical problems. Electronics? Forget it!

I drive an old Suburban with a 6.2 liter diesel engine. After noticing that it tends to get too hot at freeway speeds, I looked it up on the internet to see if this is normal. Apparently, this engine requires a top-notch cooling system. I’m surprised that my radiator still holds water, so it’s a miracle that it has lasted thousands of miles on the interstate over the past 2 years. When I got it, I actually pulled the radiator out of the truck to try cleaning it, because it was so crusted up and dirty inside. I ran several batches of “radiator cleaner” through it, and when that didn’t seem to work, I got the heavy duty stuff, and that still didn’t work. In reading about this, I found people recommending everything from vinegar to Coke-a-Cola to break up and remove the calcium. So, with the radiator removed after all the chemical cleaners failed, I filled it with a strong dilution of vinegar. That seemed to help a bit. So I did it again, a few times. Then I actually tried the Coke thing, and filled the radiator with Coke and let it sit. And then did it again. Then rinsed with lots of water. Seemed to be better. After installing it in the Suburban, I noticed a couple of leaks had revealed themselves. So, out it came again, and off I went to the radiator shop to get it welded. They fixed the leaks, but told me it needed “re-cored” (whatever that means… besides lots of money…). Forget it. I’m cheap. Back it went into the Suburban. A little while later I noticed another leak, but this was from the hose connection thingy, which I apparently broke while attaching one of the heater hoses. I happened to have a can of propane and a torch end for it, and a bit of solder, so I took a stab at soldering it myself. That seemed to work pretty good. Still holding. Anyway, all this to say that I still can’t get it to stay full to the top, the water level is always 1 or 2 inches low, and it holds there no matter what I do. The key here is that it holds there, no matter what I do… in other words, it doesn’t leak beyond that point, even after driving 20 straight hours on the interstate. “Not leaking” is good enough for me!

What was I saying about “top-notch” cooling systems? Oh yeah. Mine DOES NOT have one of those… lol.

Well, the good news is that it doesn’t overheat and leave me stranded. But it does get really close, and it will overheat if I don’t pay attention. And this is a huge problem because this particular engine is prone to blowing out the head gasket, especially if it overheats. So I have to watch it very closely.

It turns out that when the temperature gauge gets close to the red-zone, all I have to do is slow down. I’m towing a car on this current trip out of Denver, so there are LOTS of hills and mountain passes and generally the poor machine is under a huge load, so it tends to get too hot way to easily. I have learned to “drive by the thermometer” on this trip, constantly watching the temperature gauge and the speedometer.

When the gauge is below 200 degrees, I feel that I am “wasting time” because I could be going much faster. When it gets to 220 degrees (usually when going up hill), I have to start slowing down until the gauge begins to drop. Then the balancing act begins, and I go faster until it heats up, and slow down just enough to keep it at 210-220 degrees. On the big long hills, this means dropping to as low as 40 MPH.

On our first day of this latest trip, what should have been a 5 hour drive turned out to be a 9 hour drive, and we didn’t get to our first stopping point until almost 10pm! The wastelands of southern Wyoming, complete with the ridiculous constant wind, was more of a struggle than anticipated. Today, on day 2, we were on the road for 14 hours before arriving at the next stop. The whole trip was only supposed to be 16-18 hours, and we still have 6 hours to go, according to Google maps… But this old truck keeps going, and with it completely full of “stuff” and 2 adults and towing a car, it still gets 14 miles per gallon, so I can’t complain too much. I only paid $700 for it, and other than manually regulating the temperature by way of the throttle, it keeps on going and I have complete confidence in it’s ability to get us safely across thousands of miles of vacant empty land that defines the mid-western part of America.

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By the way, whoever said the planet is over populated needs to drive across Wyoming and Montana… oh well, that’s a discussion for another day.

We’ve safely completed day two, and will arrive at our destination tomorrow before dinner time, and that’s good enough for me. It’s nice to not be in a hurry, and to stop and enjoy the scenery when we feel like it. There’s a lot less stress when you are okay with going 40MPH on the interstate. The journey IS the goal, and this whole month has been very enjoyable. But I admit, it will be nice to settle into this next stage knowing we will have at least of couple months of stability.

—  “Jack”

Welcome

We’ve talked for quite a while about the need to write about our adventures, but we are great procrastinators.  If only we could make money at that…  Anyway, that means our posts will likely be random at times, not necessarily in chronological order, which really bugs me, but I will have to get over that.

Posts will be written by both of us, either individually or jointly, depending upon the topic and timing.  Once we get around to it, you can “meet” us on our “About” page.

Enjoy!