A diary of the projects, hurdles, rewards and family life at we recorded at Wise Acres, our former homestead in Horsefly, BC. (Careers and teenagers have forced us back into the city, at least for a little while.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Cabin - Part 5: The Roof

In the weeks since I last posted, I spent one weekend fastening the rafters, and the next weekend Damon, plus my neighbors Reiner and Florian, came over to help add the strapping, then the roofing tin.

Where the rafters are exposed, where they extend past the end of the building, we had the strapping laid out contiguously so you can't see the tar paper under the tin. It's gives those spaces a by warm look.

Today I nailed some 1x2's to the inside of the rafters to hold onto our blockers, which we need to fasten next. I'm glad we got the roof on before the snow really started.

Location:Horsefly, BC

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Cabin - Part 4: Posts and Beams

We woke to a foggy but beautiful morning.

Today Damon came back and we were joined by my friend Florian. We set the final logs up, placed the porch posts and put up the roof beams.

While Damon finished up the logs, Florian and I braced the posts after setting them onto threaded rods. These allow me to adjust their height later, as they are perpendicular to the logs, and though logs will shrink across the grain over time (and drop my walls as much as a few inches) the post won't shorten.

Getting that last beam up onto the posts was a little tricky, but we were successful the first try (after measuring many many times on the ground first). You can see a bit of the cut-out detail on the ends of the beams.

The posts are fastened to the beams with pegs that run through the mortise and tenon.

Next - the rafters...

Location:Wiseacres, Horsefly, BC

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The cabin - part 3.5: The Trench

It's been a few weeks since we could do more on the cabin project, but we made come great headway today.

My friend Matt came over with his farm-size Kubota and used the backhoe to dig an 18"-wide by 30"-inch deep trench from the house to the cabin. It was amazing to watch the skill needed for what might seem to be a simple job... And it brought out way more dirt than I'd expected.

According to Jim, our local electrician, Telus recommends a foot between their communications lines and any power lines. The 18 inches leaves us some room to play.

I plan to run phone, Ethernet and a satellite cable through a conduit.

Location:Wiseacres, Horsefly, BC

Monday, October 10, 2011

The cabin - part 3: Deck and more Walls

Sunday morning we started up again, with Bobbi and Tim laying the boards on the deck, and Damon and I continuing on the walls.

The deck looks great, with the reddish fir being a nice contrast to the pale pine.

The tarp went back up to keep any rain out.

Today G and I fastened the 3/4-inch subfloor, and that was pretty much all we could do without help.

I'm not sure when we'll tackle the rest - there's still so much to do, but we can't start a lot without the roof on, and sometimes life gets in the way. But that's the way it goes.

Location:Horsefly, BC

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The cabin - part 2: Partial Walls and Floor

It was a great day, and we are so lucky to have friends and family willing to be a part of this.

We started pretty early , but let me show you what the foundation looks like. These are pressure treated posts set about 2.5 feet deep on a 3"x10"x18" board to spread the weight. (Did you know wood needs water and air to rot? Since the wood here is buried snugly, air will not access it.) Damon helped me start digging and setting these, and I've finished them over the past few weeks.

We cut the posts level (with a line level, chainsaw and grinder) and set our first row in place so we could square it. You see my uncle David eyeing something. The front porch is cantilevered, but that will be more obvious later.

While some of us leveled and squared, others unloaded the truck and started cutting floor joists.

The floor joists were hung on metal hangers, and we screwed 1"x4" to their lower sides - the lip being a support for inlaid plywood. This was easier than trying to attach full plywood sheets from underneath. The crawlspace has as little as 10 inches of clearance in one corner. Before installing the fiberglass and vapor barrier, we tuck-taped all the seams.

We finished with the floor (3/4 inch tongue-and-groove plywood) laid but not yet fastened, and about 6 rows of logs up.

It looked like it might rain, so before going in and having Joanne's most excellent turkey, we covered it all with a tarp.

Tim, Bobbi, Matt, Damon, and Uncle David deserve a huge amounts of thanks for helping today, and some of them are coming back tomorrow.

Location:Horsefly, BC

Friday, October 7, 2011

The cabin - part 1: Plans and Tools

This weekend we are raising the majority of what will be my new office - a square log cabin.

With much help from my cousins at Zirnhelt Timberframes, who formalized my design and milled the logs, we are finally at the build phase of the project.

But to get here...

It took us a while to settle on a design and a building technology. It was too easy to add a little here and there, and blow our meager budget.

After much advice was sought from many sources, we settled on a small (10'x14') square log (6"x8") cabin. This meant a fairly straightforward assembly with a close-to-completed interior. I was afraid I'd spend a year looking at fiberglass behind vapor barrier otherwise!

Though my cousin Damon did most of the milling, I went out to help last weekend. Here's a view of one of their workshops, with three bays. Incidentally, I built (under skilled guidance) the majority of the right bay a few years ago when I spent a week with them to learn about timber framing.

Most of the timber work could be done with tools I have already, but with far less ease and precision. Here are some of what I got to use...

This is what I call a portable drill press. Because the electrical wires have to be run through the logs, we need to make the holes before assembling, and they have to line up perfectly. This tool ensures a plumb hole.

The next part is making the boxes for outlets and switches, and for this we use a mortise tool - imagine a blending of a drill press and a chainsaw. The four rows of spinning teeth are pressed into the wood, and create a nice, clean, square hole.

I then used a chisel to clean out some of the wood between the box and the hole I drilled for the cable - this gives the electrician some room to work.

One of my favorite tools is the electric chamfering plane - it removes wood from corners at a 45-degree angle, and really gives it a finished look. We actually did this to make room for the chinking later.

I went back tonight to help load the logs onto the trailer for tomorrow's delivery. It doesn't seem like much, but it's all there.

The chainsaw was to cut off the excess lengths on the spacers.

I'll share more as we progress.

Location:Horsefly, BC

Monday, June 20, 2011

Raising Chickens

The meat birds are seven weeks old now and time sure has flown...hard to believe they go from this...
 to this,
in such a short time!

The time has really flown by this year and I have actually enjoyed it this time.  This is our third year raising chickens and I think we have finally figured things out.  Our first year we brooded them in our drafty tool shed on two levels...it was stinky and messy until we moved them out to chicken tractors over at Big Bear Ranch.  I loved the chicken tractors but driving over to Big Bear twice a day and hauling water in the back of my truck was a lot of work.

Last year we built an insulated brooding house which worked out very nicely and used an outdoor pen we constructed using poultry netting.  This meant the chickens had access to the outdoors but our chicken house was still kind of stinky and I was still hauling a lot of water around.

This year we have made a number of improvements...first, the automatic waterers...you can see from this picture of the inside of the chicken house...the hanging waterer...
It is attached to this big tank which I only need to fill every three or four days, using my garden hose...
Second, we installed a ventilation fan (you can see the outlet above the water tank) that keeps the fresh air coming through...that makes a big difference... no more eye-watering ammonia smell!

Third, we hauled all the feed over to the chicken house and stored it inside.  Last year I was carrying the bags from our hay shed over to the chicken house on a daily basis and those bags are heavy at approx. 45 lbs each.  I am also keeping a tote full of shavings in the chicken house so I can easily scatter a fresh layer of shavings every day.
The last thing I would like to improve upon this year is making it easier to move the poultry netting.  It works well in the sense that you can keep moving the chickens onto fresh grass but it moving it is quite a chore.  It is heavy and must be taken down and collected up very carefully.  It is also not the easiest to use on our brushy grass areas as it gets snagged regularly on all the wild rose bushes and saskatoon bushes.
I will have to keep thinking on that one...I suspect using some heavy machinery and flattening, tilling and planting grass seed is the only answer to improving the ground around there.

Maybe next year...stay tuned for another post on butchering day!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ah...the great outdoors!

I spent most of yesterday preparing the outdoor pen for the chickens and turkeys.  I had to do a little brush cutting to make a clear path for the electranet fencing, cut out a door from the coop to the pen and make a gangway for the chickens to go down.  Here they are enjoying the great outdoors...well sort of...
They were not exactly running outside... I had to entice them by pulling their feeders through the door and then they reluctantly followed.
The sheep have been enjoying the green grass for a few weeks now...this week-end I am hoping to finish the fencing on the other side of our property so they can head over there and give this space a rest.
This is Shatzi, Vivien's 4-H lamb with one of Curly's twin ewe lambs (the little black one)...
 Here is Faith the goat and the ever-watchful Knut...
The sun is shining so I am off to plant out a few more squash, some cucs in the greenhouse and the rest of the beets and carrots.  The salad greens are really taking off, salads for lunch and dinner today!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Sympathy" Cooking

Recently, one of our good friends had some medical issues and they happened to be in the middle of calving season. This left his wife and his Dad with the task of staying on top of calving out a couple of hundred cows and eighty heifers (first time calvers), not to mention caring for the rest of the ranch and three children under the age of five! Yikes!

My friend and I decided we really wanted to help and she came up with the idea of preparing some meals, so at least our friend wouldn't have to deal with meal prep. on top of everything else. It was easy for the two of us to come up with a couple of lunches and dinners and I think it meant a lot to our friend, because she burst into tears when we told her we were bringing them over.

I think this is common in small communities where you really have to depend on each other. Last summer another neighbour fell off his hayshed in the middle of haying season and all the neighbours stepped up and brought in his hay for him. It always floors me, how people don't even hesitate in these situations. It's one of the reasons I love living in Horsefly.

Today I came across this post  which provides a guide to giving sympathy meals on Simple Bites, a really great cooking site for families.  I was a little intimidated at the idea of making a meal for someone else and this gives some very practical advice.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why I Choose Organic

I am an organic food consumer and an organic food producer.  Because of this, I sometimes get a lot of flack.  From my friends, my family and even people I hardly know.  Yet still...whenever I can I will choose organic.  This is my choice...others make different choices...but often I get questioned about why?  or challenged...in the form of "what is the point of buying organic when it is only 85% of the ingredients?"  or "you know that fields that are considered organic get pesticide blown onto them from neighbouring fields"  or "why would you pay double just because it is 'organic'" or "you wouldn't be able to buy it at the grocery store if it wasn't safe to eat".

In my twenties, I started to learn about food industry practices, specifically the treatment and handling of animals.  We stopped eating animal products for about a year, until I got pregnant and food cravings drove me back to meat.  After the birth of my first daughter, we began to educate ourselves about what is in all of our foods.  We noticed huge differences in her behaviour when she ate certain foods, mostly those with significant additives and coloring.  I began to read and devoured books like "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" and "In Defense of Food" and later "Nourishing Traditions".  The more I read, the more passionate I became about what I fed my family.  One of the major reasons we decided to move to Horsefly, was to start gaining more control over our food supply by producing as much of it ourselves as we could. We have grown chickens, pigs, turkeys and a variety of vegetables in our garden. It is very satisfying to be able to skip entire sections of the grocery store!

Intuitively I know organic is just better...even if it is not perfect but I don't always have the facts at hand to answer questions or the eloquence to articulate my passion.  Recently I came across the Ted talk given by food advocate Robyn O'Brien .  I found her presentation so inspiring.  Please take some time and check it out.

I was wrestling with whether or not to raise chickens this year and if I did, if I really wanted to fork over double the feed costs to raise them organically again. After hearing about the corn and soy manipulation in that video, I have all the more conviction to avoid conventional or even 'natural' feeds, since they are made up of a large proportion of these ingredients.

A big Thank you to Robyn O'Brien, Joel Salatin, Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, Eliot Coleman, Helen and Scott Nearing and (less famous but inspiring to me personally) Rainer and Gigi Krumsiek, who have generously shared their knowledge, experience and wisdom and keep the rest of us inspired.

New goats!

Meet Rosie and Gaston...
We picked them up last week-end from Hunny-Do Ranch in Quesnel.  Rosie is the little doe with horns and Gaston is our new buck.  Originally we went to just get him because we have had a tough time deciding if we wanted to borrow a buck or not for breeding Faith, we decided it was just easier to have our own so off we went to pick him up...but then we met Rosie.  She is bred and due to kid in a few months.  She is quite adorable... it is difficult to get a shot of her because she is always right behind me.  She loves people and cries when she sees us outside until we come and give her a scratch.
This morning I noticed that Faith is really loving Gaston, so I am hoping that means she is in heat and we should have kids in five months or so.  Here she is wagging her tail at him...
I find the barnyard romancing so very funny...here is a picture of Hvitkarr sniffing one of the ewes...
This is how ram's say..."hey baby...you smell goooood"!

And this is little "Shadow" our first lamb of the season...he and his momma have rejoined the flock and seem to be doing fine.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Third Hotspot Progress

This week's hot spot in Simple Mom's Project Simplify is the kid's toys or clothes.  Since we did a big sort out after Christmas of their toys, I decided to focus on the girl's clothes.  For the past few months the girls have been getting dressed out of laundry baskets in my room...the laundry just didn't make it up to their rooms.  Their drawers were filled with clothes that either didn't fit anymore or that they wouldn't wear.  So this week I spent one morning with each of the girls going through their clothes.

I really wish we had taken a before picture but this is the after picture of the closet they share...previously it was stuffed with clothes that didn't fit anymore and I couldn't even get the door closed!
 So the results of this week's work are...
three bags of clothes going to storage for the girl's next sizes...three bags gone to the dump ( a combination of garbage from their rooms and clothes that are stained, torn, etc) and two full bags being handed down to our little cousin Julia!
It is amazing how light our house is starting to feel...it is so nice to be able to do a load of laundry and send the girls upstairs to their rooms to put it away. 
Two more hot spots to go!  I wonder what will be next...for me the next spots would be crafty stuff (the kids and mine) and oh some day I would love to tackle the sheds outside...some day, but definitely not today :)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Good Start

I have been itching to get my house organized for Spring, but as usual things come up and must be dealt with, so I am a little behind but today I made a good start!  So the first challenge in the Simple Mom Project Simplify was the master closet...Erich is out of town at the moment so I couldn't really get him on board, but I did manage to tackle mine.  Here are the before pics...

Before I post the after pics...the picture above is where I usually get my clothes from.  The hanging part of the closet has basically contained clothes I rarely to never wear so I don't even go in there and then my dresser (which was difficult to get a photo of) was full of old and stained T-shirts so I don't usually go in there either.  Now the after pics...

Admittedly I have a few pairs of pants in the laundry still but this is basically my day to day clothes, and now that I got rid of all those clothes I rarely wear, I can put my 'town' clothes in my closet!
T-shirts and long sleeve shirts are in my dresser...and these are headed to the Share Shed, with one bag of those worn out or stained shirts going to the dump!
So while I was revelling in the glory of my organized closet, I thought I would get started on this week's challenge which is to organize the 'paper' in the house.  A couple of months ago, I organized my desk and came up with this little clutter buster...

It works pretty well as a stopping point for paper until it either gets used, taken action of or filed away permanently.  It works fairly well as long as I check my to do file regularly!  Still things accumulate in nooks and crannies in my house so I thought I would start at one corner and work my way through the house.  Here is the corner in my kitchen...before...

Things seem to pile up here...it is kind of a landing spot because it is right beside the front door.  I also keep magnets on the fridge so I put school newsletter etc. there and the odd piece of artwork for display.  I decided to get rid of the magnets and put newsletters etc. right into my little clutterbuster...so out went the magnets.  I decided to keep the calendar because the girls like to keep track of things and it is helpful to keep Erich in the loop with upcoming activities.
I also cleaned the fridge and microwave while I was there...ick!

Tomorrow I will be collecting up the paper stuff from around the rest of the living room, dining room and my bedroom.  I can't wait to see what next week's hot spot will be!!!