Category Archives: outdoor

Leaking Pond

This spring, as snow began melting off, rain falling, and  the spring running high I have been watching and wonder why the pond is not brimming over. A few weeks ago James and I discovered a few thin slashes that we packed a bit of clay in as a stop gap. We theorize it was maybe made by a dog’s claw, a kids toy, or some other strange accident. It was after all just a few thin slashes. Maybe, we hoped, the clay would be enough to mend it and if not, once it warms up enough I could patch it.

The pond however, still seemed to be going down, so I shut the spring water off and waited; watched. The water kept falling. Rain fell for two week, three feet of snow melted and still the pond level steady went down. Today I went out, hose in hand to wash away sand, clay, the last bits of ice and I discovered the reason.

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Once again packrats are the bane of my life on the mountain. I have at most been annoyed at the bears, the wolves have never bothered me, the deer are too jumpy to be much trouble, and while the chipmunks cause havoc in the garden, it is the packrats who test my efforts not to declare war on a species.

I imagine that about mid-December after weeks of subzero weather and record snow levels the smug little rodent realized that what he thought was a clever home, tucked in a small pocket of air, under a rock, and a pond-liner had become not so great when there was six feet of snow and ice on top of you and no way out with no way for air to get in.

So, no. Clay will not fix this. I will be needing a rather large section of pondliner. I will need the weather to nice and warm so I get both the set liner and the path to be warm enough to press well enough together that the sealer will make a good match. The weather might just be warm enough on Wednesday. If the sun actually shines n the black it will be and I can get it fixed. Fingers crossed. 60 with rain will not do, but at least I have the liner cleaned and enough left over to patch it. Finger crossed this is the only place.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

It has been most of the winter since James and I went out to take photos. The cold has kept us pretty close to home. Last week with the weather breaking for warmer temps we headed out. I thought I’d a share the favorite of the group and the one that is going to be printed in the local newspaper.

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Spring 2017, a dozen and more projects.

This winter, while not as cold as some, the cold has lasted. Nightly, falling well below zero neighbors across the state have had frozen water and drains. Not just those in rural areas but towns and cities have had water simply creep to a frozen standstill. Up here on the mountain water has remained the same for us. Off grid certainly has its advantages.

The cold has however, eaten up the wood stack impressively. Last week when the weather gave us a break and we got above freezing it was cause for days outside. A dozen spring projects to began in a flurry of activity not seen since the last few days before the snow arrived. img_20170121_193401_714The unsold wreaths came down to start with. The ornaments and now dry boughs were all unwound and put away for next season. Thor decided the big ones made great beds after a day chasing snow balls and helping haul wood.

Large boxes from costso we turned into new indoor nest boxes for the ladies. They loved them at once and eggs started to show up.

img_20170121_192921_172The big dead tree by the driveway came down, was bucked up, hauled up the driveway via sled, and split. Shane came up to cut down the old Pondarosa as my chainsaws have deiced to stop running. They are both in need of carburetor, work so they look useful, but for now they do little. James and I saw to the rest of the tree and got it all stacked in one long afternoon. The beetle killed pine split so easy we had to remind ourselves not to chop it too small.

The deck had to be shoveled of snow and ice from almost record breaking snow fall. Of course a sled hill had to be tested… img_20170131_195319_546…sticks had to be tested for strength and bonfires had to be built.

We had four glorious sunfilled days before the snow returned last night and buried us under another foot. We will be back inside the rest of the week finishing up the long overdue sheet-rock in the Little Cabin.

Yesterday, however, was stunning. I woke up to a dozen types of birds all greeting spring, chipmunks were chirping, and the squirrels shouting their chatter. Thor hasn’t been so excited to get outside since the snow first arrived. I let him out and sat down to have coffee before James woke up.

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After seeing to morning chores it was warm enough out the greenhouse to sit down for projects without even needing to build a fire.

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The beadwork my grandma had started before she passed away this fall I finished while the chickens debated if it was truly spring or not.Craft supplies from the last homeschool kid co-op visit were sorted and put back in their drawers, and most of the glitter swept up. (I doubt it will ever be truly all gone. By time that happens I am sure a handful of little girls will be back for another art workshop.)

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Thor on guard duty. he likes the snow this year if for no other reason than he can sit up very high and watch the driveway.

Waking up to snow this morning was very pretty but I will be glad for the next day with sunshine and thawing weather. I count the days to get the first seeds into the ground int he greenhouse. The thermometer is in the ground. It will be soon.

 

Work on the Little Cabin

Its Dec 2016 and work on the cabin is ongoing. It is easy to look at Youtube or many blogs and think how wonderful off-grid must be. There are challenges! One of them is working in a teeny tiny budget, say less than $600 a month and most of that pays mortgage; I assure you cops do not care if you’re off-grid when they ask for your car insurance. Bills don’t vanish over night. That translates to working on projects is not only as-time-allows but as-money-permits. What might take only a few weeks of man power takes years when you find your budget transformed. 15800905_1500616399968208_1254370982_n

 

This year James went to visit his father for an extra week as his GED studies have gotten ahead of the schedule we had set out. As he will be there for his 15th birthday I wanted to try and get the loft a bit more teenage boy appropriate, aka… sheet-rocked.

Shane offer to help me so when James gets home he will find his ‘bedroom’ vastly closer to finished. The last couple of years the loft has become mostly storage space and i have been sleeping up there as it is simply suffocatingly hot and James would rather sleep on the couch.

Having a wall to separate the loft and main space has always been the plan but has never been real high on the priority list… until now! He is too tall for the couch and I need to sleep!

Yesterday I drove to Missoula to get sheetrock and today started with pulling down all the storage. Man, oh man, can I pack a small space! The rest of the house is packed! I will be going through every box and either it will be stored int he greenhouse or gotten rid of. Too much stuff. Lessons of tint house living is: it must have a purpose no matter how pretty it might be, or how long you have had it, if its not useful it must go.

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My mother and sister both wanted to see the work so I promised to make a video. I thought I;d go ahead and share it.  … If i can figure out how…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryMB0i6orl8

Let me know if that works.

Update on the Greenhouse

Work has been non-stop, as much as possible anyway. As so often in the case with the off-grid lifestyle money is always an issue. The work that needs to be done often is limited by the materials you have at hand. In my case a bit of health issues never helps. I am happy to say though, seeds are in the ground.

The creeping fear we just wouldn’t be able to get it going this fall was alleviated when we got the stove into place.

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We got enough of the Gabion wall in place enough to get it in and the chimney up. The stove had been int he little Cabin but was simply too big for the space. That meant to make it hot enough to keep the chimney clean the house became an oven even with the windows and doors open.  It was a great day when the first fire was built.

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James painting the top boards for the back wall. Vent fans will go into these come spring.

The back wall, had to be closed in. Even though there has been next to no snow the temps here have stayed below freezing and the ground freezes early up this high. The extra panels, a few tarps and an promise of ongoing effort to deal with cold air leaks all winter we had to put a halt tot he rock work.

The fire place section us in and the nest nine foot segment of base wall was done.

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the section north of the fireplace, mid build. The 15 gallon pots still visible.

Even before the back wall had it temporary paneling put up James and I got to putting in beds and moving all the craft, art, and home school extras to the greenhouse. The ground here is nothing but rock. Putting soil directly down would simply wash down and away forever. Using a layer approach is the only hope to keep the soil in place without using completely sealed boxes. The hope is the cardboard and straw add enough fiver to the base layer to help bind the soil and prevent erosion.

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James at work layering cardboard, straw and top soil in on the the ground beds

last week the first seeds went into the soil. Its a little cool in there at night but all the plants going in are cool weather and hopefully will pop out of the ground any day. Snow peas, spinach, kale, and garlic are in.

A friend gave me a few heritage potatoes and squash that had been forgotten on the edge of his garden to throw in and see what happened. We’ll see if the join the party.

This week was spent clearing more of the the mountain side and thus adding to the wood pile but we had time to get up some of the gutter gardens and get them planted as well.

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The gutter, though a bit warped I picked up at the Restore in Missoula for under $20. I love that place. Nearly all of the building material I have used has come from there. Some I have had to buy new, some small amount has been donated, some collected from clean up jobs, but the Restore is a massive asset to the area. Reusing material takes patience and conviction. Most people have access to planers and routers to clean and trim down their reused lumber but off-grid that just isn’t really an option.

This morning with snow on the ground, and the house a bit chilled I went out pre-coffee to check on the greenhouse. It was by far warmer than the house. The larger stove was stacked up before bed and still had embers. A few logs and handful of paper garbage and the fire came back up to life. Coffee in hand Thor and I went on back out to sit by the fire and enjoy the quiet of the first real snow of the year.

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Summer

This summer has been crazy. It started all with a seeming utter collapse of health that led to my having to leave a great little job at the small town- family owned store. However, that in turn allowed for several things to happen all at once. The first and most consuming was that Shane had the opportunity to tear down a rather large green house and take it away. So as i was saying I needed to build one and seek to making a living growing herbs and veggies he shrugged and said he could help me make that happen. Tearing it down took us only a few weekends but the design was … shall we say… not well thought out.

After a little reworking and the use of an excavator the work began. Sonnet tubes set to help stabilize it no matter what weather gets thrown at the mountain. All the lumber cleared of nails and soon the posts will go up. I don’t think it will be done before the end of next month this gem will be year round and offer the smell of green and earth even in the long winter months this far north.

The green house hasn’t been the only project. The Little Cabin is getting face lift with wrap around decks (decking from the greenhouse that does not fit into the new plan) and the pond is under way. This week I hope to get the last few touches onto the drain and then the rest of the fill can happen.

James has begun to study for his GED as well as working on designs for his own room. It will be a small space but his. Gabbion walls will support bottle and cob walls, with a sod roof. Its hard work to build the walls but it will stand up to just about anything when we are done.

I also have had time to begin to edit again and pick up art that I have been remiss of in the last few years. Glass paint, pencil sketches (when my hands allow) and even a bit of clay… oh for a kiln and wheel. Today i will be working on the water tanks and securing them for winter so this year I need not haul water when -20 hits.

I haven’t posted for a bit as I hate to do so without pictures and a friend ‘helped’ me set up a google photo account and now I must learn how to access my photos for use anywhere else. If any of you know how to do that, Let Me Know! As soon as I figure it out, my usual number of photos, of work as well as the landscape will return.

 

Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

After a few months hiatus, with the snow coming down and the forest a deep quiet, I am back in the swing of things. This year spring has come early, the ice has melted off he driveway and the last f the snow hangs on only on the mountain tops. The danger of forest fires is already a major topic around town but for me spring is a time of winters plans getting put into motion and a daily check on the gardens to see just what has spouted.

Already the birds are back, the black birds and robins, last year little window tappers are back as well. The creek is rushing, the river is high, and the skunks are out. The plans for the year are rushing forward. The pond liner will get laid next week, the mill comes in to turn down trees into lumber, and the green house is marked out.

This year the plan has become to make the green house a source of income. As the chemical sensitivity gets worse typical jobs become less of an option with each passing day. It is going to going up as fast as we an make it happen and fingers crossed we can get it done and growing things n time for farmers markets. There will be pictures soon. Pictures of ponds, of green houses and of growing things. Certainly there will be pictures of wild flowers and work on the Little Cabin.

Today though I head to work at the little grocery store down the mountain and try to get through another week.