Friday, July 21, 2017

Cleaning the Stovepipe again!

In an effort to overcome procrastination and prove to myself that I could still accomplish important chores around the homestead, I awoke a few days ago with the conviction that I would clean out our stovepipe before anything else.  It was a calm, warm, sunny day - no excuses!

As soon as Donna headed down the driveway I assembled my tools, and my son.

We removed everything from around the stove, then carefully removed the access cover from the side.

There was a layer of ash on the lip that I quickly vacuumed up and then moved on to taking before pictures up and down the chimney.

Jiggly camera, but you can still see the ash.
Looking down to the stove.
And looking up!
We put a thick plastic bag over the access, with the first pole of my cleaner sticking through and up.  I hooked up my drill and started my way up while Kenny held the vacuum as close to the hole as he could to catch dust and ash.

We worked our way up and down, and then I stuck the cleaner down the access to the back of the stove.

Finally I opened up the bottom of the stove and vacuumed all the ash that had fallen.  It filled the vacuum a little more than halfway.  Great!

The pile of ash in the stove.

Vacuuming up the mess.
It looks to me like it wasn't too bad - I don't see any tarry substance that could be called creosote in my pictures.

Much cleaner!
The local fire chief mentioned that it looks like there was air leaking into the stovepipe based on the lack of ash in the one area - not sure how I can better seal my access?  Thoughts?

Disposable gloves are SO nice for cleanup!

All back together!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Yurts are in a Better Place...

After sheltering us for 18 months, and then serving briefly as guest accommodations, workshop, storage space, and a dojo, the yurts have moved on to a new life - and an exciting one!

Early (nine am?) Friday morning, two weeks past now, the local Forest school and a great group of volunteers showed up to move both yurts, as well as their floors and supports five minutes down the road to a beautiful location close to Surprise Lake.

It was exciting, as well as a bit unnerving.  My primary concern was that no one would be injured.  I remembered how I felt when it was just Grandpa and myself putting up the ring and locking the whole system into place.  It was much nicer to have a crew of brave souls!

It took one day to remove the yurts, and a further (easy) day to remove the floors.

Starting to empty the yurts.

Pulling down the felt and canvas.

Feels so open!  Like a gazebo!
Puzzling over the chimney.

Looks really interesting this way.

Removing the canvas on the smaller yurt.
Everyone pitched in to clean and remove stuff!

Ready to remove the ring on the smaller yurt.
Felt on the larger yurt sliding off.

Down to just the skeleton of the large yurt now.
Many hands make light work!
Moving the floors through the forest to their new home was quite an adventure!  Unfortunately, I didn't have a photographer present for that excitement.

Hide and seek?  Shy?  No flash photography?  I can't explain this picture.
Covering up the floors for overnight.
Removing the OSB over the seams to let us cut them apart.

Loading up!
Lots of helpers make it go much more safely and smoothly.

Loading up the support beams as well.

And now - a new space!

As of this morning the floors have been leveled and installed in their new home, and I'm still on call to help the yurts to be put up in their new surroundings.

We are so glad they have gone to a good home and good purpose!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Super Easy, Portable Raised Garden Beds

One of the projects that we really wanted to do when we first took up the notion of homesteading was to produce a portion of our own food.  So far we've not really pursued this aspect of things, especially with so much to do to simply construct the homestead itself!

I have no illusions that food in the grocery store is generally any better or worse than what we ourselves could produce, contrary to what some back-to-the-landers may think, but there is a sense of accomplishment there - and perhaps even a penny to be saved?

Since the installation of the new well, the space between the cabin and the sauna has been pretty desolate.  So much so that last season I began to consider it more of a "rock garden" than even wild/natural terrain.  I also had a stack of pretty weathered two by fours that were not going to be used for anything, and realized that my old battery box would have been an ideal planter - light bulb moment!

Over the past week, Kenny and I have cut the two by fours down to four foot lengths.  Then I have notched them top and bottom to create a two inch wide notch, one inch deep.  This lets them connect together in exactly the same manner as the sauna and cabin.

You can see a bit of newspaper peeking out.
At four feet long, they are very manageable to take down and put up.  It also creates an interior dimension of exactly three by three - very easy to keep weeded and yet still plant a decent amount of stuff.

You can see multiple beds!  I can imagine them heading off into the distance.
After assembling three of the beds, as per Kenny's request that we all get one, we lay newspaper down to help discourage weeds, and then piled on two trailer loads from our old humanure pile - the compost in there has been percolating for close to two years now, and so should be free from pathogens.

Lots of space for the ATV.
I do plan on amending that by adding potting or topsoil on top of that.  I realize too that it's late in the season, but better late than never, and we still could probably get some lettuce or radishes to keep Kenny enthused.

So far today he has transplanted some of the weedy flowers in the area into his bed.  Hopefully tomorrow I can purchase some soil to add to my and Donna's beds.

I am hopeful for how they will work out.  I have kept them far enough apart to get the ATV in between with the trailer.  I also left the top board notched, so they can be added to vertically if we decide we don't wish to bend over quite so far in the future.

Hopefully future pictures are to come!

Bonus cute toad picture.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Dark Skies (our video game)

I'm not sure if I've talked a whole lot about it in the past, but we have always been homeschooling/unschooling Kenny here on the homestead.  When we're focused on lessons, we probably consider ourselves homeschoolers.  When we get distracted and let things ride, then I consider us unschoolers.

As such, I do try to get him to regularly open up test books appropriate to his age (well, truth be told, I generally push him to participate in grade levels that would reflect where he'd be if he had been born five days earlier than he actually was.)

But after he completes a lesson, he is free to spend the rest of the day as he wishes with only a few rules.  One of which is that he is not to be on a screen unless he is producing, not consuming.  This means he can't play games or watch videos, but he could be coding his own stuff or producing music or art.

This has worked well for us.  He's self-limiting.  After awhile he usually asks me to go for a walk with him up and down our driveway, then we slip down to the pond to check on the fish, or just chat about outdoor stuff.

After 4 p.m., if he has a few simple chores completed, he can return to videos or games (usually both are Minecraft related, but not always).

In any case, I'm proud of how creative he has been with his time.  At the moment he is writing up a story about some sort of future project - he's already asked me how to spell "virus" and "causes" and "certain"...  My mind is really going now!

For the past number of years, one of his big interests has been stop-motion animation using various models.  If anyone is interested, they can find his channel here:

As always, please rate, comment and subscribe!  :)

The past year or two now, he's also been obsessed with making his own video games - Ever since Mr. Harbron from P1XL studios  ever so kindly taught a group of homeschoolers how to use Scratch.

The past year, I've been trying to help encourage him by dusting off my own coding experiences and bringing them up to date.  I've dabbled in Java, GML and a few others.

We really enjoyed the puzzle/mystery/adventure genre, and so we thought that would be a good place to start.

After doing some basic work establishing that we could create a workable inventory and switch between different scenes, we set to work - Kenny designing most of the puzzles, all of the artwork (hand-drawn and then scanned in), and composing the music either through stringing together clips on the computer and then running them through all sorts of effects, or playing it directly on our keyboard while I used a pair of earbuds as a microphone to record with as little background noise as possible.

So much artwork went into this project!  It was a real grind by the end.

We had to buy a couple of packs of markers to get this finished, but the sense of accomplishment was worth it.

And a few days ago, we were beside ourselves to finally release the game to the public!  You can try it out here:

Please give it a go if you like; it's browser-based so it should work for most anyone.  It does take a few minutes to load all the assets, even after the main screen appears, so wait until you hear music before spending too much time clicking on the buttons.

We'd love to hear feedback (gentle please).