Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mocha "May"

What do the above three stuffed animals have in common? If they are ever placed upon a bed they are immediately identified as prey and soon thereafter become the victims of brutal maulings. For whatever reason Mocha sees them as some kind of threat and goes after them tooth and nail (claw). The three of them have been found in various states of distress and have quite often been drug off the bed and onto the floor or under the bed. All of them are now marked with a multitude of puncture holes vis-a-vis their unfortunate encounters.

Mocha is a normal cat for about 20 hours per day, but for the other four, well - she becomes the leader of the "Thundering Herd". Several times a day something comes over her and she races around the house at breakneck speed, up and down the stairs, leaping up and over couch or bed, jumping/climbing to the top of door jams, sending candles and figurines and knick-knacks or whatever else that catches her eye (normally something fragile) crashing from shelves or perches to the ground below.

When Mocha gets that mischievous twinkle in her eye everyone needs to watch out! The leader of the "Thundering Herd" has earned the middle name of "May", so the use of her full(?) name can convey the seriousness of her crimes. Cries of "Mocha May" ring out in our house from time to time, and sometimes, if you look at her closely, she appears to be smirking.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Global Warming

Big, wet snowstorm today.

Sara loves the snow....and is still looking for the sheep.

Its cold in Minnesota, so we do our best to try and induce a bit of global warming.

We pre-split and cut a ton of wood this summer/fall in preparation for a hard winter - thank goodness. Our new handy dandy woodshed keeps it dry and ready to go!

Uh-oh, the wood pile is getting low and the last two February's here have averaged 20 below.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Homey Homestead

Every Homestead needs a good clock, and ours was a gift from my father. The beautiful grandfather clock obviously operates without electricity, and provides us with happy melodies and chimes every fifteen minutes. The strange thing about the clock is most of the time one doesn't even hear the chimes - unless they listen for them. There is no better feeling than to wake up in the middle of the night and hear the clock chime two, just close your eyes and snuggle back in for four hours more sleep.

Pictures always warm up a home, and reflect the warmth in the hearts of those who dwell there.

Every homestead needs a "country style" guest room, here are a few pictures of ours.

Mocha and Chai make sure the guest room is ready at all times.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Soapstone Wood Stove

Homesteads can't operate independently without heat (cold Minnesota winters) or water, so long term planning has to include a way to provide these necessities in an inexpensive manner - and potentially without electricity.

Our current source of heat is an oil furnace. Oil USE to be an inexpensive source for home heating, but that is no longer the case. We looked around at the alternatives; electric, propane, outdoor wood burners, and even heat pumps, but they were all cost prohibitive. Enter the soapstone wood stove.

We decided to install a soapstone wood stove in our basement this past summer in hopes of making our TV room more homey and cozy in the winter. This has proven to be a great decision. Everyone enjoys the wonderful dry wood heat that the stove produces, and the fire glow provides wonderful ambiance during cold winter nights.

Last year we had a small space heater in the basement to take the edge off the chill, this increased our electric bill significantly. This year our December electric bill was cut in half from last year. Fuel oil use has been cut by 2/3's, and by leaving the basement door open the average temperature for the entire house averages 69 degrees. The soapstone tempers and holds the heat, making the basement very comfortable while heating the rest of the house from the ground up.

If we lose electricity the fireplace is available to provide heat indefinitely, dependent upon the availability of fire wood and our determination to get it into the house. Worse case we can use the stones to boil water and even to cook soup.

The soapstone fireplace has proven to be a great buy. I have no idea how long it will take to recoup the costs via electricity and oil savings, but what price can you put on peace of mind? Oh yeah, the government is providing us a $2500 tax rebate for purchasing the stove this year - even though the CO2 released will contribute to global warming - who knew?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Why Guinea Fowl?

Why raise Guinea Fowl? This is an easy question to answer because it appears that Guinea Fowl love to eat ticks (and other annoying bugs), and ticks (and other annoying bugs) thrive (by the millions?) in northern Minnesota.

Ticks carry Lyme's disease, and we don't want to catch it! The following web site provides some excellent documentation on the effectiveness of Guinea Fowl in controlling tick populations.

Guinea Fowl also have other wonderful uses. They serve as excellent lookouts for predators, produce eggs, and they can even be eaten (in a pinch). They are supposed to lead comical lives in your yard and woodlands, providing all kinds of entertainment for their owners.

Guinea Fowl drawbacks - While serving as lookouts they tend to make loud, annoying warning calls that disturb your neighbors. They tend to attract predators who like to eat them (almost as much as chickens).

The Guinea Fowl are scheduled to arrive in the Spring of 2010 in the form of keets that will need to be kept warm, fed and safe (potentially a problem with the dogs and cats prowling the house).. The Guinea Fowl housing does not yet exist, it is on the to do list......

Why Icelandic Chickens?

Why raise Icelandic chickens? Well, chickens are supposed to be easy to raise - reducing the chance of us killing them through inexperience or gross incompetence.

Chickens can free range in either the yard, garden, or pasture land (currently known as the woods), greatly reducing their initial costs.

Chickens produce eggs that can be locally consumed or sold, they can even be eaten (in a pinch). Chicken droppings are supposed to be a good fertilizer for gardens or orchards (these don't exist yet either), time will tell of course.

We have read that chickens can even reproduce themselves without human assistance. They had better be able to do this because if appears that every animal on the planet likes to hunt and eat them.

The chickens will arrive in late spring in the form of chicks that will need to be kept warm, fed and safe (potentially a problem with the dogs and cats prowling the house). Their Coop does not yet exist, but it is on the to do list.

Icelandic chickens???? They are quite colorful and of course ..........................It gets really cold in Minnesota..............!!!

Why Soay Sheep?

I will now list everything we knew about raising sheep before we began contemplating this Homestead project; ---- ......... hmmm, I guess we didn't (don't) know anything.

With the knowledge that we know absolutely nothing about raising livestock it is apparent that we need to get animals that are easy to handle, feed, keep healthy, groom, and reproduce. After a lot of research Chai Chai has advised us that Soay sheep are the way to go.

The number one pressing need for our prospective sheep is that they can survive on the grass that will be grown on our "hopefully to be cleared" woodlands. The yard will serve as an emergency food source if the woodland clearing project is less than successful. It seems that Soay are great at creating pasture, and they can live on the mix of grass and underbrush that will be available on our land for the foreseeable future.

Soay are small, growing to about 60 lbs and should max out at a knee high height. They have beautiful horns that could also double as handles - if we are careful. Their small size should be a plus and will give us a safe animal to gain livestock care experience with.

Soay are very resistant to parasites and are excellent mothers. From what we have read they can be counted on to be almost completely self sufficient during the lambing process, reducing the chance that we can introduce errors due to our inexperience.

Sheep normally need to be sheared, this costs money and/or requires skill. We have neither, but fortunately Soay shed their wool every spring! This means that we can either "roo" the wool directly off from them (basically pull it off by hand grooming/combing) or just pick it up off fences (that still need to be built), trees, or just loose off the ground. There even appears to be a small market for the wool - we'll see.

Finally, their small size will make them easier to feed and house during the brutal Minnesota winters. The fact that we don't have a barn as of yet (in the planning stage) makes this a very important consideration and a positive characteristic.

Why Homestead?

Why homestead? Good question. The administration in Washington DC doesn't seem to understand that the US is currently the the largest debtor nation on earth.


The Outstanding Public Debt as of 18 Jan 2010 at 08:18:21 PM GMT is:
$ 1 2 , 2 7 3 , 7 7 0 , 3 9 8 , 7 3 8 . 2 9

The estimated population of the United States is 307,677,419
so each citizen's share of this debt is $39,891.68.

The National Debt has continued to increase an average of
$3.88 billion per day since September 28, 2007!
Concerned? Then tell Congress and the White House!

How do we get out of this mess? Current interest rates on Govt T-Bills is artificially low due to the Federal Reserve printing money and then buying debt - this situation is artificial and cannot last. Sooner or later interest rates will rise or inflation will increase (or both - hello Jimmy Carter) and American families will feel the pinch of reduced buying power.

Creating a homestead is our attempt to hedge our bets by having some hard assets for personal use. If the dollar holds strong then we have improved our property value and enriched our lives by allowing God's creatures to teach us some of life's lessons.

Chai Chai has done a bit of light reading and is convinced that Homesteading is the way to go. Can we defeat the norther Minnesota wilderness? Time will tell!

A lot of people in this country ask themselves; "What should I do today?" After reading the incredible blogs of other homesteaders I get the feeling that we will be asking ourselves; "What is going to happen to us today?"

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Shaping the Battlefield

The goal will be to clear this woodland and create a pasture "in the making" in time for the arrival of Soay sheep in September 2010.