Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Setting Our Homestead Up

One of the things I have really liked about living here is that we are "off the grid". Which means that the power lines do not come to our house. That is why this was always just a seasonal deer camp for all the previous owners. The people we purchased from were from Long Island. So people were surprised when we started living here full time.

One feature of this house was the root cellar downstairs. It also has a built in wooden bin that is connected to the ceiling. It may have been used to store apples as there are so many apple trees through out our property and the adjoining state forest land. The cellar also has a dirt floor and the foundation is built with field stone. It is a perfect root cellar for our climate. It is well below the frost line and doesn't get much lower than 50 degrees all winter.

My plan is to build wooden shelves downstairs in the root cellar. Haven't progressed to that point as of yet. There are other priorities right now. So I have things down there, but the improvements I plan for down there will just have to wait.

The pantry is right off the kitchen, and you have to walk through there to get to the cellar stairs. That is the way pantries were built. I have put shelves up on the walls, a peg board at the end holds all my kitchen utensils, a metal cabinet with a wooden door is where I keep our dishes. It is my favorite room. I will also do many improvements on it when I can. But it will do for now.

The kitchen had built in cabinets when we moved in, but I had my husband take them out. I wanted windows so I can look outside and see those massive trees and thick forest. Who wants tiny windows and cabinets that I have to get down on the floor to look for things in? I prefer everything to be kept in the pantry. My cast iron collection sits on a big wooden bookcase that my father built, and I put behind my wood cookstove. They need to be close.

My goals have always been to be as self sufficient as I can be. We have never paid for firewood since we came here. We use the wood to cook and heat. We do have propane and need it for the refrigerator. But we are very frugal with it. Our propane cooking range is very nice and big too, but I use it only when I have to. So I am able to keep my bill down.

The only other household bill I have is for the telephone. Since we have 2 phone lines and 2 internet connections, it does cost a little more, but I'd say it is certainly worth it. I purchase kerosene for our lamps because I like them. I can skip it if I have to as we have some electric lights. We also purchase gasoline for our chainsaw, our generator and our truck. You can not get away using some fuels no matter how you try. But you can just try to be as frugal as possible with it. We hardly drive anywhere more than once a week, so we do ok with what we spend for gas.

Sacrifice is what I have learned to do, to have what I want. You have to put up with certain things if you want things done a certain way. Some people would just have borrowed money to remodel a house like this. I see it all the time. But in three years my mortgage will be paid off. So I did not want some big loan to pay when I was finished with the mortgage. So we do what we have to do to get these things done. Little steps. Little bits of money at a time is easier to live with.

Every year we have added more raised beds. Cut down more trees. Cleared more property. Now we have lawn, horse paddock and a big two story barn. It took my husband awhile to build our barn. He did it little by little of course. The day we were on our way to the building supply store to order our metal roofing, we had half of the money for the amount we needed. So we decided we would buy half then and half at another time. Even though we wished we could buy it all at once! We stopped at our mailbox which was a mile from our house at that time, and there was a check in there from Workmen's Compensation for the mileage he had from driving back and forth for treatments (he had a bad accident at work and was on Workmen's Comp at the time) for over a year. It was more than enough for the rest of the roofing! So we were able to do it all at one time.

Working alone on a tall building such as our barn was a challenge for my husband. Especially since he was working with a crushed right arm. But he never gives up on something and figures out how to do it. The only thing he had any help on was when his son came over, and helped him put up the big beams on the top, that would hold the metal roofing. Other than that, he did it all himself. It was scarey for me watching him put the roofing on. He built a scaffold along the side to finish nailing down the roofing on the end, as there was no place to stand once you get to the end.

At the time we had only the two horses. Georgie Girl and Dark Shadow. Georgie got where she could not walk or rather, would not, walk through the mud. So he had to put up a lean-to first for them, as it was cheaper and quicker. He already had been working on the barn, as you can see from the pictures. But we needed something now. So he started building on it.......and she started watching him build it.
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