We Just Ordered Our First Composting Toilet!

That’s right!  You didn’t misread the title!  Our first composting toilet is on the way!

 

Kind of ugly, yeah, I know…  But besides the overall appearance, this thing looks to be pretty amazing!

What is a composting toilet?  😀  Rather than re-elaborate, here’s a quick Youtube FAQ:

Stay tuned for updates on how this toilet ends up working for our family in a standard household setup, rather than the tiny house/RV setup that many purchase this toilet for.

-Jeremy

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A Yak Update

Inevitably, we have received a lot of questions pertaining to the acquisition of our first yak, Yavanna, this last year.  Typically, you would find yak grazing the Himalayan highlands or plateaus of Tibet, not the lakes country of Minnesota.

So, what would possess a person to buy a yak you might ask?  Don’t worry, it wouldn’t be the first time someone asked us that 😀

Here are some common questions that we are frequently asked when someone first finds out we have yak.

Why would you buy a Yak?

  • Milk – You can milk a yak. They supposedly yield about as much as a goat (we wouldn’t know, we don’t have a bull to breed our heifer, yet…) You can drink it straight up, make cheese, or do pretty much anything with it, like you would with cow milk.
  • Fiber – You can harvest their fiber, which is supposed to have a lot of the same attributes as cashmere or merino wool.  Super warm AND soft!
  • Meat – I have heard their meat is a lot like a mix between buffalo and beef, fairly lean. I wouldn’t know though, as I have never tasted it.
  • Long Life – A yak can typically live to around 30 years or so.
  • Efficient – They consume a lot less than traditional cattle. With that in mind though, they also take longer to fully mature. This is great for a small farmstead like ours.
  • They will defend against predators. We have wolves and coyotes, our yak will put them in their place. Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APuua4Gci5U
  • They dance and hop, sort of like a goat! Pretty cute stuff!
  • They respect fences, sort of not like a goat!
  • They are winter hardy. Perfect for Minnesota!

  • They are parasite resistant.
  • They can be bred with traditional cattle: welcome to the world of dzo’s
  • They are easier on the vegetation than traditional cattle.
  • They look downright awesome!

Where did you find your Yak?

Online of course, https://www.yakzz.com/ to be precise! I found a farm in SE Minnesota, near the Twin Cities that was selling a few yak. In the process, I have found two other Yak farmers within a few hours drive from our farm. Who knew!

Do yaks and cows get along?

Did you whisper sweet nothings in your significant other’s ears when you first met?

When we first got our yak, she was pretty wound up after being moved to a new environment. Rightly so. I would not step foot in her pasture for fear I would either end up dead or in the hospital. As we have had her around for a while now, I wouldn’t want to part with her. While I still have some work to do so I can attempt to shear her this Spring, she has warmed up to me a lot. I enter her pen now, nearly daily, with respect, but no longer with fear. When we first got her she charged down and killed one of our ducks. Now she could care less about the ducks and chickens marching past her. She is now just part of the farm.

An additional fact: Yaks do not “moo” like a cow, but rather grunt, almost like a pig, only less squeally and less often!

-Jeremy

P.S. If you have time, please take a minute to follow us on Steemit, the social platform that, unlike Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, actually pays YOU to vote, post, create, and curate content.  At this moment, one Steem Dollar is worth about $12USD.  There is no better time to get started than NOW!

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Re-Using Old Feed Bags

We are still on the hunt for an affordable gravity box (wagon) to allow us to purchase our feed in bulk and save lots of $$$ (so if you know of anyone willing to part with their un-used gravity box in central Minnesota for cheap, let us know!!).  But, for the interim, we purchase 50LB bags of feed from our local mill.  Between our chickens, ducks, yak, cow, goats, and rabbits, the feed bags pile up fairly quickly if left in the barn.  Here are a few ways we put those feed bags to use.

#1: Christmas Present Wrapping Paper

Yes, we are frugal when it comes to wrapping presents!  Why spend lots of unneeded money on wrapping paper and gift bags when you have these feed bags laying around.  The wrapping just gets thrown out and tossed aside anyways.  Besides, we live on a farm, so presents wrapped in feed bags are sort of fitting.

#2: Sheet Mulching

I like to use our paper feed bags (and cardboard boxes) for sheet mulching in my attempt to keep the weeds at bay, the soil damp, and soil biology active.

#3:  Re-usable grocery bags

I stole this idea from my brother and sis-in-law: turn those old feed bags into re-usable grocery bags.  Need instructions, here ya go: http://www.instructables.com/id/Feed-Bag-Tote-Bag/

#4: Starting the Wood Stove

Our house’s primary heat source is wood.  Besides the free Saturday ads/paper, the feed bags are a perfect source of kindling to get that fire going.

What do you do with your old feed bags? What awesome ideas have I missed!?

-Jeremy

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Cleaning out the Hayloft

Last summer we put a new roof on the barn.  Next, we will be adding some reinforcements and making some hayloft floor repairs, but first, what to do with all of this old straw??

Piles of dusty old loose straw…  Excluding some fresh straw bales we have stored up there, there is anywhere from 1-5 feet of half rotted straw, half rotted, because before I put on the new roof, the straw sponged up all that rain water that the leaky roof couldn’t properly shed.

Pitchforks in hand, we started the dusty removal process.  Previous owners removed most of the beautiful old barn siding, so, getting the straw out of the barn wasn’t a big issue.

After a few hours of work, we cleared out about 1/6 of the hayloft.  This is going to take a while!

Now, the question is what to do with all of this straw….

The kids found a good short term use!

The chickens also enjoyed searching for their own buried treasures amongst the pile. You could say they had a “hay-day” (sorry, could resist!).

But that really doesn’t solve the problem.  What can we do with all of this straw?

We started moving the intact slabs out to use as part of our sheet mulch in the garden.  But, there is no doubt we will have more than enough to cover the entire garden.

As most of the straw is loose and half rotten, I don’t want to save it for our animals (we have plenty of solid bales to cover their bedding needs for years).

Another thought has been to manually spread it out across our pastures as fertilizer.  The pastures are within close proximity to the barn.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the equipment to spread it out over our hay field just yet, so their goes that idea.

So, besides what I mentioned, can you think of any other good uses for piles of old straw?

-Jeremy

P.S.  You know who to contact if you get a hankering for some good old fashioned straw throwing fun!

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Think More, Question More: Our Recent Experience with the Medical Establishment

Recently, my ten year old son was going about his morning as he does most every day.  He was putting on his pants when all of a sudden he experience extreme neck pain.  He quickly realized he could not straighten or turn his neck.

As parents, we have experienced children in need of stitches, unexplained seizures, and emergency hernia surgery. This was new, but not unfamiliar territory.  The process of analyzing the severity and determining what’s steps to take next began to flow in our minds.  The questions every parent faces started to require answers.  Do we bring him to the ER?  Do we wait it out?  Do we make a doctor appointment?

We decided to wait it out a day or two.  After no to little improvement, my wife made a doctor appointment.  They fit him in that afternoon.

I was on a jobsite that day of the appointment, but my wife kept me in the loop of what was going on.  We became a bit concerned as the doctor gave his diagnosis, atlanto-axial subluxation.  During the appointment, the doctor called into Fargo (the closest large hospital with specialists) for assistance and recommendations.  They recommended the he get an MRI and suggested that surgery would probably be necessary, or at minimum, an appointment with a specialist.  From some outside advice I once received, I thought a chiropractor may be the answer, but the doctor advised against seeing one in this case.  Our son was prescribed muscle relaxers and pain killers were recommended.  A neck brace was also recommended, something we were able to borrow from a family member.

Don’t get me wrong, we value this doctor’s opinion and he is a dear friend of the family.  He saved my youngest son’s life after persisting we should get him to Fargo immediately for surgery.  But, I was not fully convinced surgery was the solution in this case, at least not without a second opinion.  While telling us it could be serious, he was calm and collected, and not persistent.  That was not the case, however, for those at the hospital he called for reference in Fargo.  If it was life threatening, our doctor would have pressed me.  This time, he didn’t.  We are thankful for that, because what came next was a step over the line.

The Fargo hospital called the next day, once every minute or two until my wife was finally able to reach the phone.  Come on, voicemail was invented for a reason!  We homeschool and have four children, answering the phone in a timely manner is not always possible!  When my wife finally answered, they asked her where the imaging results were. Like we would know even if we had done the MRI!  They were insistent, rude, and overly dramatic about getting our son in for imaging and setting up an appointment with a specialist.  Surgery was imminent and imaging was needed to begin preparations!

After my wife was emotionally and verbally abused on the phone by the hospital for 20-30 minutes (she is more gracious than I am), we had an MRI scheduled.  This hospital salesperson went too far, so far in fact that we are now considering switching to a different clinic that is not associated with that hospital brand.  We needed a second unbiased opinion before we proceeded, so that is what we sought.  We decided we would make an appointment with a trusted chiropractor whom many in our family have been very satisfied with.

The chiropractor visit took a mere 10 minutes.  It only took 3 minutes for the chiropractor to fix my son.  He immediately regained full mobility and was no longer in pain. No side effects or complications like a surgery would have brought  It was amazing and eye opening.  Time to cancel the unneeded and expensive MRI!

Upon further reflection, it was immediately clear that the hospital was after our money, at all costs, even if it meant an unnecessary surgery on my son.  They built a big, grand new hospital last summer in Fargo after all.  As a corporation, they need to provide results for their investors.  As typically the result of a doctor visit, my son was given painkillers and muscle relaxants, typical bandages that make pharmaceutical companies money, cause addictions so they can make yet more money, and fail to get to the actual root of the problem.

I hate to say it, but this is just another of several medical run-ins that have caused us to question advice we receive from medical professionals.  Again, don’t get me wrong, we have faced serious issues where the doctor was spot on and got to the root of the issue (as mentioned early with our children’s doctor).  Large laceration? We are going in for stitches.  But, at least equally, the outcome had been quite the opposite!  From a heart murmur (ended up being nothing, only after money was poured into x-rays and doctor visits), to high blood pressure (it is more than perfectly fine when I regularly check it at home! sorry, not getting on your pills!), to acid reflux (nothing a change in diet 15 years ago didn’t fix; their solution was more pills), to a possible stomach ulcer which appears to have actually been food poisoning after eating at a cheap Chinese restaurant, lesson learned (their solution was again, more pills…).

We face a major problem here in the US.  This incident was a small flicker in that matrix.  We have a strange healthcare system of private companies, protected by a paid off government.  It is far from a free market, and they are far from actually caring about my families good health.  I daresay, I’d prefer a fully free market or fully socialist system over what we currently have.

Think for yourself!  Question everything!

Fine print and a parting thought. I am not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be one.  If you are experiencing health issues, see a professional.  This is by no means advice, but for entertainment purposes only. Now, the fact that I have to say this in a country that values the freedom of speech shows their lobbyists are winning. That fact that if I gave medical advice (which I didn’t), I could be thrown in jail, shows we have gone astray.  To preserve their bottom lines, we have willingly given up our right of free speech, a right guaranteed to us by our bill of rights, which is the rock of our constitution, the supreme law of the land.

-Jeremy

 

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Indian Summer, Attic Remodel Progress, and Homemade Shiplap

Surprise!  We have found ourselves in the middle of a good old-fashioned Indian summer.  After a couple of weeks of snow and cold weather, warmer temperatures have settled in for a bit.  Our snow has all melted away, except for a few patches desperately clinging to the shade of our old barn.  One couldn’t ask for a better time to cut firewood!  Cool, but not too cold.  No snow or foliage to get in the way.  But, most importantly, no mosquitoes!

If you have been following us for any length of time, you are probably well aware that, as part of our whole house remodel, we have been converting our unusable attic into a proper living space.

About four months ago, it looked like this:

After reinforcing the roof, installing a new subfloor, refinishing the floor, insulating, and adding dormers, it now looks like this (sorry for the bad picture, sometimes the phone camera is just so convenient):

Our goal is to complete this bedroom for two of our boys before Christmas.

I have put my new router table and old table saw to good use converting $18 USD sheets of BCX plywood into shiplap.  Each sheet of plywood equates to 64 linear feet of 6″ shiplap.  That comes in at around $0.31 USD per linear foot.  When shopping around, I found shiplap available for $0.62 USD per linear foot.  DIY lends to some big savings here!  So, as the project progresses, I expect to save upwards of $500 alone in shiplap.  That savings easily pays for the $160 USD router table I needed to purchase to get this project done.

As a bonus, I get a new tool out of the deal that I will use to fabricate our new kitchen cabinets next summer!

After cutting the plywood into strips (8 strips per 4’x8′ sheet of plywood), I run them through the router to create the groove on each side of the board for overlap.

To ensure even spacing during installation, I used a set of popsicle sticks.

Since we installed a metal roof on our house, spray foamed the interior, and desire to have an extremely energy efficient home, we also opted to install fiberglass insulation in addition to the sprayfoam.  We followed up with, to all those who have visited our homestead, our infamous foil barrier.  These simple additions should make the house much more comfortable year round and should also dampen the roof noise during a thunderstorm.

About halfway through producing the board for this bedroom, my 14 year old shop vacuum that I had attached to the router table decided to give up the ghost 🙁  Literal clouds of smoke billowed out of the vacuum!

Tack another $100 for a new shop vacuum and $50 for a dust cyclone and I still come out ahead!  Hopefully, the dust cyclone will improve the life of this next vacuum!

Until next time, greetings from our humble little homestead!

-Jeremy

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Venison in the Freezer (review of associated costs) and a Barn Window Installation

Right now, our house remodel is consuming much of our time.  With that said, many of our farm/automation projects are on hold.  Many, but not all.  As any fellow homesteader knows, there are always small side projects to tackle, projects that cannot be ignored.

With the deer hunt over, one of those tasks was processing some venison.

Many people bring in there deer to a local processor or locker plant.  Our local processor charges a flat fee of $70 to skin and quarter the deer.  That does not include cuts and packaging.   Worse yet, you never know if the meat you get back was yours or someone else’s (what were their animal handling practices).  Did they give me all of my meat back? With that in mind, and also knowing that we will in general have at least one steer a year to process,  I finally broke down and bought a meat grinder.

It arrived on Tuesday!  Our small group also meets every Tuesday evening, but I couldn’t wait until Wednesday to process it, now could I?  Not with that new grinder sitting there!

I had quartered the deer Monday evening after work.  Come Tuesday evening, after we got the kids tucked in bed, Shelly and I took to the garage.  We were able to piece out, grind up, and package the deer by 1AM.  I have a loving and patient wife!

We ended up with close to 50lb of meat.

So, I had to run some quick math:

Grinder = $360USD  ($75 of which I paid for with crypo through egifter.com)

Deer License = $31USD

Freezer Bags=$3USD

$360+$31+$3=$394USD

With 50 pounds of meat, that comes out to $7.88/lb for fresh, grass fed, organic meat.  Then, consider that the grinder will be used for all future deer and cattle we process here and the numbers start to look really nice!  Eventually, all things equal, the cost/pound should start approaching $0.70/LB

And, to boot, I can bring the hide in to a local scrapyard and they will exchange the hide for a set of new work gloves or a small amount of cash.  As a further bonus, the chickens and cats also enjoyed picking off the leftovers that we missed the following day.


Aside from processing venison, I also got an old window from our house moved to the south side of the barn.  My hope is that it will help capture some solar heat in the barn on the upcoming cold winter days.

I measured up and marked out the wall.  Then I used the reciprocating saw and cut myself a BIG hole!

Once cut out, I installed the outside frame and header.  The goats were good sports through the commotion.  Our bucky-buck however, made some tasks a challenge, as he had to smell, taste, and rub his head against everything new and out of place.  Including my ladder.  Easy fix?  Toss a hay bale outside.

Finally, I framed up the wall below the window.  Much better!  In a year or two we hope to gut this room out and get it spray-foamed.  At least this is a good start in the right direction!

Not only do we get to capture some natural heat now, but also some natural light!  There is nothing like a well lit barn!

Next outdoor project… Firewood collection.

-Jeremy

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(Almost) Homemade Root Beer (and the inevitable tangents of a Homesteader)

Remember the 90s?  Those days when everyone consumed sugary, caffeinated pop (I think they call it “soda” outside of my mid-west bubble).  That was the era of my childhood.  Probably, for the best of everyone’s good health, consumption of pop is down for the twelfth straight year (in case you didn’t know).

Our family homestead rarely has pop on-site.  But, there is that occasional moment where I do get the desire to consume a good, cold old-fashioned root beer.  Being the homesteader that I am, I set out to make my own.  How hard could it be?  On a tangent, I once had a licorice craving and attempted to make some chocolate licorice at home.  The result was not all bad, it actually turned out with the same taste and texture as a Tootsie Roll.  Not the biggest fan, but hey, it could have been worse.

Back to my quest of making homemade root beer….  Quickly, I discovered that I did not have any of the plants needed to produce root beer on-site.  What a surprise!  I also learned that our climate in northern Minnesota was also a bit too cold to support those plants 🙁  Time to quit?  Ha, not for the average homesteader!!  So I discovered a little thing called root beer extract.  Not exactly homemade, but it’ll do…

The first time I followed the instructions on the bottle.  Gag!  Hmm, time for some rework.  As it goes with many homesteading activities, time to open up Libreoffice Calc and put together a spreadsheet.  So I started to make some notes with each batch I made over the next few months:

By batch 4, the root beer had a pretty decent flavor that satisfied that root beer craving!

Above are the ingredients, here are my quick and dirty instructions:

* Dissolve yeast in warm water for 3 minutes.

* Add sugar and stir until dissolved.

* Add extract and spices.

* Fill bottles (about 8-16oz bottles)

* Let sit in warm place for 3-7 days to build carbonation.  Make sure you keep an eye on the bottles.  They can exploded (mine never have).

(Links to the Funnels and Bottles, also great for kombucha)

Enjoy!

But, wait…….

That is not how it works on the homestead!!  Come on.  Kids, farm animals, winter…

Somewhere in there, we added some free chickens to the farm..

Some friends were slimming up their flock for winter and passed a few birds our way (they are still a bit shy).

Chickens aside..  When I started filling bottles, well, due to our short winter days, I overfilled the first two.  With the dark brown bottles and no sunlight, it was hard to estimate when the bottle was nearly full.

Time for a project before I fill the rest of the bottles!  I plan to build new kitchen cabinets next summer, but for this winter, we are living with what we have.  Earlier this year, I purchased under counter lighting for our future cabinets.  Well, why not install those lights quick now to help make getting through the dark winter that much easier?  That is just what I did!

(Link to the lights and remote)

That’s better!!

(here is a link to our stainless steel kid-proof cups (small size) (larger size))

Besides handling chickens and kitchen, Stephen and I also planted the garlic and a few hundred white oak acorns.

Now, to wait until next weekend to enjoy some homemade root beer!

-Jeremy

 

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Antique Ceiling Light Restoration

I am a sucker for most anything made in the 1800 and early 1900’s.  Impeccable craftsmanship.  Solid metal, solid wood.  Durable and time tested.  Simple, yet elegant.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy many of the luxuries that modern technology brings, but there is something intriguing and spellbinding about the stories and history behind many of these antique pieces.

For sure, this holds true for our ceiling lights.  Each a small piece of history and beautiful piece of art in its own right.

Sadly, many of these pieces of history are tossed out and discarded like everything else in our materialistic and throw-away society.  Used for a time and then discarded, even though they are far from useless.

We have, over the years, slowly collected a set of ceiling lights for our home. Most can be had for little to no money, especially when comparing to prices of new lights in any big-box store.   Some were found on eBay, some at antique stores, some purchased through family, and others picked up along the roadside destined for the landfill.  All of them unique, and combined, a compilation of hundreds of years of history.  Each witnesses to different families and generations.  Each serving their owners faithfully through discussions over the dinner table, Christmas celebrations, and family deaths.  Like an old house, oh the stories these lights could tell if they could only talk!

Reclaimed wood, antique farm sinks, and old barn steel are all items that can fetch high prices lately as they become mainstream centerpieces in home decor.  They bring a warm charm to any new house.  But why are these older lights getting passed over?  My best guess is it is due to the efforts it takes to re-wire them and make them safe to install in our modern litigious and safety-policed society.  Although it takes a little work, but hardly more than it takes to pull off some old barn wood or move a heavy cast iron sink, I hope this post proves that these lights are not that difficult to safely restore, re-use, and enjoy  (if you just want to see pictures of some of our restored antique lights, scroll to the bottom!).

This post is not intended to be a tutorial, but a personal journal entry.  Don’t blame me if you rewire a lamp improperly and your house burns down!

Of all the lamps I have re-wired, this one was the most “difficult” as it had some soldering involved.  All of the other lights I have worked with only involved the use of a screwdriver and wire stripper.  Still, it was not that hard or time consuming to lend this lamp a new lease on life.

So, getting the tools together, I gathered up my:

I let the soldering iron warm up while I started the disassembly of the light.

I removed the ceramic bases.  They are threaded and just twist off, no tools required.

Each ceramic base has two wires coming out of them.  A “hot” and a “neutral”.  The center one is the hot wire, or 120VAC wire here in the US.  The wire to the side is the common or neutral wire.  These wires need to come out so I can replace them with new wire.  Most had bare wire exposed and were cut short when pulled from the house they were originally installed in.

So before starting to remove the wires, I had to bend the center contact inside the bulb socket with a flat screwdriver to expose the solder on the middle wire.  Once the new wires were installed, I bent this contact back into place.

I then used the soldering iron to heat the solder that held each of the two wires in place.  I used one hand to hold the socket and pull on the wire from the back side.  I used the other hand to hold the soldering iron and heat the solder.  Each wire pulled out easily once the solder was heated.

I then prepared the new wire by first “tinning” it.  This process involves touching the wire to the tip of the hot soldering iron.  I then held the solder to the wire.  When the wire heats up enough, it in turns heats up the solder and a bit of solder melts and absorbs into the wire.  My old shop tech in engineering school once lectured us students:  “You never touch the solder to the soldering iron!  You always touch the wire to the soldering iron and let the heat in the wire melt the solder.”

 

Once I was done preparing the wires, I inserted the tip of the wires into the holes where the old wires used to enter the socket.  I then reapplied the soldering iron to the inside of the socket while at the same time pressing the wire into the socket.  Once the wire slipped into the heated solder, I removed the soldering iron and let the solder firm up.

With both wires firmly soldered in place, I was left with this:

A quick note, most new wire comes with several ways to mark or identify the hot wire from the neutral wire.  Commonly, they are color coded.  Black=hot.  White=neutral.  Others print the wire specs and branding info on the insulation of one of the two wires.  As was my case, one of the wires was flat on one side while the other was completely round.  This becomes important to note as later in the process, these wires will need to be grouped and connected together.

I then installed the sockets back into the lamp.

Once they were all re-wired, I cut another piece of wire that will be used to connect the lamp to the supply wire in the ceiling.  Then, I applied the wire nuts, one to the “hot” wires and one to the neutral wires.  Once the nuts were on, I did the “pull-test”, ensuring I could not pull out any wires from the wire nut, thus ensuring I had a good and safe connection.

I like to top off the wire nuts with some electric tape to ensure they stay in place.

Easy enough, right?!  Now, the hard part…   I just need to complete the ceiling installation so I can install the lamp in place!

As promised, here are pictures of some of our restored antique house lights:

 

Main bathroom:

Kitchen:

Kitchen (above the sink):

Dining room:

Living room:

Bedroom:

Mud room:

-Jeremy

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Old Man Winter has made his first appearance.. Now to deal with meat processing and frozen water lines!

I don’t know why, but it seems that winter caught me by surprise again this year.  It is not like I didn’t know it was coming.  Living in the northern half of Minnesota, winter always comes!  It is just that there are still so many tasks to complete around the house and farm before the hard winter freeze sets in.  I just kept hoping for more time.  This week we hit temperatures close to 0 deg F (3 deg F this morning).  We also received a little snow.   Cold is one thing to deal with, then there is the unneeded and unwelcome time change.  It is completely dark out by 5:15PM and getting earlier by the day.  Cold and darkness makes many of the outdoor projects a bit more difficult or impossible to complete.

So the mad rush begins.  The first signs of winter’s approach were felt in the barn.  As the temperatures started to drop, the water lines in the barn began to freeze.  I had to dedicate a little time to winterize the water lines in the barn.  Our rabbit and cow water lines were the first to start freezing.  I closed the valves that supplied fresh water to those two systems and drained the water from them as best I could.  I plugged in the water line heat tape on our main barn water line.  We will now be manually filling animal waters until Spring arrives in March (optimistic, I know… probably more realistically in May) from a single barn spigot, assuming it remains thawed.  Chore time just got a bit longer.   With water troughs starting to freeze over, I also had to get all the water heaters plugged in 🙁

Last year we constantly fought freezing water in our rabbit hutches.  This year, we bought heated bottles.  To ease the power bill and to make them a bit more efficient, after installing on the hutches, I took a can of sprayfoam to them and completely covered the outsides with insulation.  Not pretty, but pretty functional.

This last weekend, I took some tools with me to the barn and enlarged the hole in the south wall that gave us access to the cow pasture.  I then installed the one remaining old door from our house in that opening in another attempt to help seal up the drafty barn for winter.  This door is used to access the cow/yak pasture to feed and water them.  This door, along with the one I installed a few weeks ago on the north side were both welcome additions to the barn.

With fall canning and garden harvest complete, I prepared the garden for spring (Note to self: the garlic still needs to get planted!!).   Besides the “no-till sheet-multched” areas of the garden, the rest is tilled and ready for spring planting.  The canning shelves are full.  The produce freezer is full!  Now, butcher time begins.  This last weekend I processed 8 meat rabbits.  Shelly made up a delicious Teriyaki rabbit/ rice meal with one of them.  The rest went to the meat freezer.  In a couple of weeks, I will have about 11 more ready for processing, then we will be wrapped up with rabbits until early Spring, with the exception of maintaining our breeders.

Don’t like the idea of eating rabbit?  How about fresh farm raised beef?  We sent our first cow off for processing and have now been enjoying some delicious beef!  After losing his mate, our steer was a bit lonely.  He spent much of his time after Daisy was butchered mooing and staring out where the butcher gutted and quartered the heifer.  It was kind of sad…  So, it was time to give him a companion again.  Cows do not like to be alone, especially our big baby steer.  I was able to cut an opening in the fence (some day I will own some proper gates) and coax our yak out of the goat pasture (which the goats are happy to have back) and into the cow pasture.  After a little head butting between the cow and yak, the yak claimed dominance.  They now seem to be best friends.  They graze together and play together quite frequently.  Yes, cows play together.  It is quite comical and fun to watch!

Besides beef and rabbit, we will also be putting away some venison, which is currently aging in the garage as I type this up.  We will be processing the deer ourselves.  In fact, I ordered a meat grinder (partially payed for with Bitcoin!) which will help us grind up a lot of the scraps as burger and will also come in handy when our next cow is ready to be processed next fall.

Besides harvesting firewood and completing the daily chores, most of the outdoor projects will be shelved until the Spring thaw.  This will help me dedicate more time to interior house remodeling projects!  The sooner the house is complete, the sooner we can get our home-study done for adoption!  Winter is definitely not all bad.  It should give us more time as a family to have a family game night.  Or, as took place this last week, plenty of evenings in the living room with me learning basic guitar chords, Stephen or Shelly playing the piano, and the rest of the family sitting around reading or playing.

-Jeremy

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