My High Horse

I hate the thought of coming back to this blog on a high horse of any kind, but I am a man of opinions, and I have been away learning, watching, and now I am here, addressing what this blog is about, and how it fits into the world today. Afraid this might come off as riding the high horse, but it is not meant to be more than just a bit of relevance based on what I do see going on in the world today. I am not here to preach to you, but just say it how I see it, and let you take it or leave it.

The Millennial Generation has got some legitimate complaints. They are coming up in a time when decent jobs are dependent upon getting a decent education, which is just not offered prior to college. They have to have a decent income to live out on their own, which cannot be come by without the education mentioned before. Don’t get me wrong, it can be done, but it is hard. So, they are almost forced into the education route, and it has to be done before starting a family. And even when they go that route, they will come out strapped with tens of thousands of dollars of debt that they will pay off in their lifetime if they are lucky.

I am speaking as a Generation X. I am from one of the generations that the Millennials blame for the world being what it is today. Those generations did some things though, besides ruin the world for your coming, and before you get on your high horse, I want you to remember a few thing yourself. You are in the jet age because of my parents and grandparents. You are in the Internet age because of our generations. You are fed year round just about anything you could ask for because of a world that was already here when you got here. Cars are better, and safer than ever before. Medicine has made tremendous advances. We have put people on the moon, and hardly think twice about sending them to a space station 250 miles above the Earth’s surface. Those video games you like to play? Already here. I could go on, and on. But there are other points to make too.

When we got here, we realized the world was on a dangerous course. We blamed our parents, just like you do yours. What’s more, we grew up and realized that they blamed their parents just the same. So, in part, what we are all going through is a collective experience. It is one where we are trying to do things like make a little money, or maybe a lot, and move ahead, making the world better for people. The ideas of what that is ranges from non-stick pans to smaller computers, to cheaply made and sold household cleaners. The list goes on and on. But no matter how long we carry on, the conclusion we come to is that the world is what it is, imperfect in so many ways, and still on a dangerous course. The pressure to correct that course is increasing with each generation, and the children of the Millennials are going to have a lot of questions for you. They are not going to take the finger pointing for an answer, either. They are going to want to know what YOU have done to correct it. And many of you are doing a lot, from coming up with ways of cleaning the oceans to reducing pollution and using less energy. Incidentally, I distinctly remember my mother telling me when I was six, that garbage could be disposed of in the oceans where it would sink to the bottom and never be seen again. I had my doubts.

Solutions to the world’s problems come in many forms, from new tech, to improving old tech, to even abandoning some tech altogether. The gasoline engine, for example, has pretty much run its course. Many in my generation can be see running to rural areas and doing what we call “homesteading,” which is an incorrect definition, as our great great grandparents did real homesteading, living on a piece of land and making it productive for seven years in order to have the land grated them by the US Government, in what was really an American land grab tied to Manifest Destiny. One could easily argue that that was the beginning of our troubles now, but the Native Americans might keep going back a ways.

There are many things that have changed dramatically, and many things that have not changed much at all. I’d like to say that we are eating from the same plate as we have been for generations, however, with he rise of processed foods and sugars in the American diet, it simple is not true, and the results are apparent in our health, body mass, and cancer rates. We exercise less as a whole, and live lives that just don’t require it. We don’t produce our own food, we don’t make our own clothes, we don’t have as much work to do just to get by, and along with that, many skills have been lost. My grandmother was making her first home in the 1950’s, when new technologies came into the kitchen to free her from it. Dishwashers, mixers, electric and gas ranges and ovens simplified the cooking process, and prepackaged foods made preparation a breeze. My mother’s generation talked about the food that grandma made, old family recipes, and those dangerous fatty foods they believed could be avoided by low fat foods instead. Her generation was drawn into a life where a meal could be prepared in under an hour, instead of cooking most of the day like her grandmother, and there was time to watch TV, instead of doing laundry, beating rugs, and running for fresh foods. She had more social time too, and until he housing prices were drive up by the market, she could make a home, rather than have to contribute to buying one. Then, as price competition drove housing prices up more, and other costs rose, she eventually found herself working a full time job just to afford the easy lifestyle she had come to expect. Finally the conveniences of her youth became the staples of survival in her old age. The prices keep rising, and we now find ourselves held by the throat by a system the edentures us to those who have money just to cover the basic costs of mere survival.

Adaptation is, and always has been the key to survival. For generations, humans have survived changing climates, changing environments, changing food sources, and have adapted to just about every environment on Earth. We have changed the environment along with us, and as it turns out, that may end up being the greatest danger we have faced as a species. We are going to run out of planet. My mother’s generation felt the same way, though. So, how do we adapt? That is a big part of what this blog is all about. It is me, doing what I can to change the status quo, and adapting to the environment we live in today. It is also me adapting to the economy of today. Some things we will explore here will be excellent for you, and some things will be horrible. But explore them we will, because that is how we find the best way forward, and each of us adapt.

There are two things I want you to do first though, as soon as it is viable. One is, no matter where you live, spend a little gas money and get out in the car. Go to the country. Look around someplace more rural than where you are now. See what is left of this world besides the suburbia you live in now. Seeing only the city all the time is really bad for your health, and for your outlook. Go to where food comes from. See a farm. See a mountain, and a valley, and a river. Look at how the river cuts through the mountain and the valley, and flows away in twists and turns, forming oxbows, and supplying trees with water along their banks. See the wildlife that lives there; birds, deer, coyotes, insects, and so on. See how an ecosystem still exists on our planet, and how the world is not as bleak as the news would have you to believe. See how all of these things survive, and even thrive, despite not having to show up to a job and punch a clock every day of lying to sell their souls for money they will never be able to keep. Be aware that the price of the freedom is a place in a food chain.

The second thing I want you to do, especially if you are a Millennial, especially if you are living with your parents, and most especially if you cannot afford rent, is find a place, and plant something in the springtime. Use a flower pot if you have to, or if there is yard space, borrow a shovel and clear ten square feet of lawn, and start cultivating now, in preparation for spring, so you can bum twenty bucks off your parents, and grow some food. You are going to do several things. One, you are going to take responsibility for growing food. You are going to learn how to plant and grow it to understand where food comes from, how it grows, and when it grows. When I was a kid we could not get food unless it was ‘in season. ‘ But now we grow food and put it in a airplane, and people in rich western countries can have most fruits and vegetables whenever they want, but at the cost of a carbon footprint. Growing your own food will reduce that carbon footprint, and it will make you more aware of what should be available in your area, and when. You will be on your way to better decision making to improve the environment. You will learn how to store your vegetables so they can be used long after they are ‘out of season.’ You will also have the pride of giving back to the people you are relying on for a place to live. You will be a part of an ecosystem much like the ones you will discover on your drive, UT rather then being at the bottom of a food chain, you will be a provider, higher up. And you will gain a skill that you can give to your children, and you can use should the whole system crash, and food become scarce. You will be adapting back into the world you live in by gaining survival skills that reduce your reliance solely on a tiny paycheck carved out a company’s massive profits. You can even take pleasure in knowing that the plants you grow will be providing oxygen for the environment.

Set a goal to do those two things, and you will be on your way to changing the world. You will be on your way to better understanding the world we live in. And you will be on your way to a life of much more than just punching a clock and living paycheck to paycheck. Take your drive and get a breath of fresh air, and a fresh perspective. Then prepare to plant your plants next spring, learning everything you need to know to grow them in a pot, or on a plot, and make, give, and enjoy what comes of providing the most basic element of life, food. It will change your life.


The Prospering Peasant

When the Cow Sold

I took the cow in the end down to Producers located at Theurer’s Meats in Lewiston, Utah.  They in turn took the cow up to Jerome, Idaho, and sorted out the brand inspection, some feed, transportation, and a 2% commission on the sale price for about $54.  That netted us $904 on the sale.  The cow weighed in at 1,355 pounds at the auction.  When I brought the cow down to the man to take delivery on him, the man at Producer’s said he could sure tell the cow was grass fed by the lack of back fat on him.  He figured the cow would be ground down to hamburger. 

Of the money I got for him, I bought two sows for $200 each, which was a pretty good price.  The sows have farrowed 12 to 15 babies at a time!  I just need to get them sorted out when I have the facilities together to deal with little ones.  I would like them to deliver closer to spring, so I am not taking care of babies in the cold.  For now the pigs, Bacon and Sausage, are in the vegetable patch, making sure it is good and clear for use in the springtime. 

I also got the fencing up for our goats and chickens and have them neatly penned in the back yard now.  I wanted to diversify expenditures so everything got service off of the cow. 

The Rainbow

How do you make a rainbow?  Well, it takes sunshine and rain.  It takes a bright spot and a cloud.  You put them together under one sky, and somewhere between them, you find a thing of beauty.  You find an arc wherein the colors of light from the sun refract, and bend apart so that the human eye can see the different colors.  They are all there, all the time, in the light.  It just takes a little rain to separate them apart, so they reveal their beautiful hues.

The metaphors for life is all to obvious.  We are the light, and when we get bent by the rain, all of our colors shine.  Whatever your rain, remember, you are the light.  And you’re going to make a rainbow, and show the  world your colors.  And you are a thing of beauty.  

Dispatches From The Farm

I have realized that there are really two parts to this blog site.  One is what you are seeing now, and is about frugal living and doing things ourselves.  That bit will be maintained here.  It is the place where I will post how I have gone about my latest adventure, or should I say misadventure, in our quest to try to save a few bucks, learn a few things, and maybe raise a few animals along the way. 

The other part is a pet project I am adding on as of today, and it is a second blog.  Called Dispatches From The Farm, I want to have a place where I can tell our Laura Engels Wilder story, using a bit more artistic freedom, and keeping it down to earth, and real.  Where the main blog, here, is where I will tell about buying pigs, what they cost, and how much they grow, this new site is going to tell about raising them along with my children, describing the dirt under our fingernails, and falling face first into what I can only hope is mud!  Dispatches From The Farm will look completely different to this site, and will be focused around our story in an easy to read layout.  It’s still part of this site, and has a link back to the main page so you can find your way back. 

http://www.theprosperingpeasant.com/farm

Or you can go to your address bar and take the word “farm” off the end, and hit enter, and you will come right back to the main blog.  Conversely, you now know how to go right to the new site, and are welcome to subscribe to the RSS feed, or leave a comment politely telling what you think of each dispatch.  All comments will be moderated. 

So come on in from time to time, and bring a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of iced tea, and in the mean time, check back here to find ideas of things you can try at home.  Either way, Enjoy!  And we are glad to have you!


The Prospering Peasant

Floating Eggs

Today I floated the eggs.  We had two baskets full, and I can’t remember how long ago we started filling the first basket, so the solution is to fill a sink full of water and put the eggs in!  This will help me to sort out fresh eggs from old ones, and decide what to do with them. 

As an egg ages, an air pocket builds up inside it through the permeable shell.  The air is meant to supply egg to a baby chick, but, as the egg is unfertilized, the air can be used to help determine the age of the egg.  When there is enough air in the egg, the egg will float in water.  This usually takes a few weeks.  We keep our eggs on the counter because they have never been washed, so they will stay fresh longer than washed eggs.  A cuticle remains on an unwashed egg which allows it to stay fresher longer, but if an eggshell is washed, the cuticle will wash off, allowing more air and contaminants through the permeable shell.  Washed eggs, such as store bought, have to be kept in the fridge.  Now you know why Americans refridgerate their eggs, and Europeans don’t.

When an egg is floated, if it drops right to the bottom it is very fresh.  If it floats more than the size of a dime above the water level, it is a good time to get rid of it.  Any eggs that float at all are good to boil.  Older eggs such as these will peel more easily than fresh eggs will.  We will use oir boiked eggs for Scotch Eggs, Deviled Eggs, pickling, or even sliced on a salad.  Fresh eggs are better for frying and using in other cooking applications.  Those are the eggs at the bottom of our sink full of water.  Things like homemade ice cream, merengue, fried eggs, poached, scrambled, omlettes, and baking comes to mind. 

image

The egg is one of the most versitle items in the kitchen.  And Chickens stop laying for a lot of reasons, but oversupply isn’t one of them.  When you have too many eggs, amd you need to figure out what to do with them, the first step is to sort the fresh eggs from the old ones.  Floating the eggs will help you find which are fresh, which are old, amd which ones can still be used, but shoild be boiled, or otherwise used soo .

The Prospering Peasant.

The Chimney Sweep

It still seems as though every week I tackle some new chore that ends with my throwing my hands in the air and saying, “Well, first time!”  That’s not exasperation talking, but the feeling of having never done something before, and the thought that if it all goes wrong, well, it was my first time, after all. 

Today I went out and bought a chimney sweep broom, and a length of rope, and a couple of small pipe fittings, of which I only used one.  I put the T shaped pipe fitting on the broom, and then used a clip to fasten a heavy adjustable wrench to the other side of the broom.  I pushed a rope end through the T, then tied it off.  It took two ladders to reach the peak of the steep metal roof, but I got there.  Then I had to shimmy my way to the chimney, about 20 feet, and reach over my head to unscrew the spark arrester, and drop the broom down till it reached the flue.  I lifted and lowered the broom over small lengths of the chimney till it was all cleaned out, and happily got back down again! 

It was dangerous, and I would like to add a few bits up there to make the job a lot easier in the future, and a whole lot safer!  It wouldn’t take much, but it could penetrate the otherwise well sealed roof.  Anyway, as always, First Time! 

Lastly, and this bit took a while, I cleaned up the soot in the fireplace and on the hearth.  There was a fair amount of it, although not as much as I expected given how much has been burned since the last clean-up. 

I got some repair caulking at the shop today too, and put that into the cracks of the fire bricks at the back of the fireplace. 

The reason for all of this is that the temperatures are going to drop a bit over the next three days, including some cold nights, and we are going to have rain.  I had to do today’s work between rainfalls as is.  I certainly didn’t want to burn without doing it, which is what would have happened had I not got up there.  I put a new filter in the blower intake, and the fireplace is set for the year, and is set to light as soon as the caulking has dried for 24 hours, which will be tomorrow at about 3PM.  It won’t get too cold between now and then, so everything should be fine. 

I also look forward to cooking on the fire. 

This fireplace is all we have for heat downstairs, and it is not very good.  It is especially poor because most, probably 85% or more, of the heat goes right up the chimney!  I am still working on getting the funds for a much better source of heat, but that is going to be tough to do before winter cold sets in. 

Here’s the link if you would like to help out!  It would be greatly appreciated! 

gofund.me/jb2s5xc8

The thing is, if we don’t get this sorted out soon, we will risk frozen pipes because the heaters we have for down stairs are electric, and don’t put out much heat.  The basement gets cold, and the pipes are down there.  We need a much hotter heat source, and one we can afford to run.  That’s where the wood stove comes in. 

This year is meant to be very cold due to the El Nino effect in the Pacific Ocean.  It does look like it is shaping up to be a cold one!  The temps are dropping, and the predictions are dire all around.  It should not be looking like it does right now till late October.  This could be a long winter!  I need to go get more firewood! 

Well, I will leave this here for now. 


The Prospering Peasant

The Truck Is Running Again!

With Sherman running again, I took him out to the dump this morning and dumped out the stuff that was in it.  Then I called the Hayman, who I call, “Hay man!”  He sorts us out hay at $5 a bale, so we are really lucky there!  I drove down to his fields and picked up hay from the shed there.  I bought 24 bales so we can get ahead for winter when the heating bills are high. 

I also moved the young llamas out of the pen and into the pasture tonight, after sorting the gate out so they won’t try to get to their moms.  I should not have to feed them anymore, so that will cut our hay usage down to maybe three and a half bales of per week on the mother llamas. 

I am going to admit too, I love driving that old truck!  It is loud and pulls to the one side, and it has no rubber gaskets on the rusty old doors, and I am constantly afraid that the rotten old tires are going to blow out, but yeah, it is so fun to drive that old thing! 

Woodstove Fund

http://www.gofundme.com/jb2s5xc8

That link is to a GoFundMe fund to try to help raise $3,500 to get an inexpensive wood stove to heat our house this winter.  The prices of Propane are, as I have mentioned on this blog before, out of our reach.  I want to achieve self-reliance as much as is possible.  However, it is totally impossibly to be completely self reliant.  After all, even if I had the money for the stove, I would be buying it from someone who knows how to make it.  The same applies to everything. 

We are looking to get this sorted out in time for winter to set in, and snow to start falling.  But there is the issue of money.  I need to add parts to the existing chimney, put in a hearth, and buy a stove.  Our county does non require permits for any of this, however, will provide a safely inspection for about $40 if I want one, and I do, for the insurance company to be satisfied.  We are getting the wood for our inefficient fireplace in the living room.  But I would much rather put it in a stove in the dining room where it is centralized in the house in will heat much more, if not all of it. 

In previous years, we have had winters where the temperatures have dropped to –20F, and the cost of keeping 68 to 70 in the house in the daytimes reached $1,200 a month in Propane.  Last year was exceptionally mild and we used the fireplace and quartz heaters, which cost $300 to $455 a month in electric alone.  Cords of wood cost $150 and last about 6 weeks.  This year we bought wood permits for the National Forest, and are doing our part to remove dry wood there, and keep it from catching fire so easily.  Permits cost $50 for 8 cords, so is much cheaper, even with the cost of going up, getting the wood, and cutting it up.  I am getting in shape with the axe! 

I hate the idea of asking for help with this, as I think most people would.  It is especially hard when we are trying to be as self reliant as possible.  But sometimes in life, we just can’t do it alone.  So, any help would be very much appreciated!  And thank you  in advance! 


Kelsey J Bacon

The Prospering Peasant

Late Summer Report

This summer has not quite gone the way we have wanted it to at all.  We had hoped to get a bigger foothold in home food production, but found that the home part needed a lot of work.  This old house needs a lot done to it to make it livable.  We found too that with cold winters and high heating bills, we have a lot to do in the summers to prepare for it.  Learning to workloads and expectations is a part of it, and so is methodology, of course.  It is one thing to say, “Well, I want to go chop firewood in the mountains and warm the house with it all winter.”  It is another thing to go and do it, with getting permits being just about the easiest part.  Then there is arranging to go with willing parties to help, and following all of the rules around harvesting, then splitting, and bringing it home.  Do you split wood up in the mountains so it stacks better for transport?  Or do you chop logs and bring them down to split at home, knowing you will be shorting yourself on the measurements for what is allowed to come?  There are many other factors involved in the seemingly simple declaration that you will get the wood from the mountains.  It has been just such things that have interfered with our plans for this summer. 

Missus could not decide if she wanted to plant a garden in a garden patch, which we knew would grow over with grass by the end of the season, or in raised beds, which we could not afford to build to any good standard.  That really shorted us on our planned garden. 

We had some unplanned expenses come up that shot the whole animal purchases thing in the foot too.  One was actually foreseeable, new tires on the car.  Winter roads are not passable on slick treads.  So I knew that was coming, but when one of the tires tore a couple of weeks ago on a road where we were exploring wood cutting areas, that forced us to get the tires earlier than planned!  Another high cost item was the tree that was too close to the house, and suffered a hard hit from a microburst.  I could not have taken that tree down safely on my own if I wanted to, so we had to hire out. 

This year has also been a good year to see how the pasture grows without any irrigation on it.  Every penny saved is one less we have to earn. 

Then there is the house itself.  It had not been maintained well for over a decade before we came to it.  And the decorating was pretty dire.  So we have been deferring for that.  House expenses began in January with a new water heater, then went on to replacing the leach field on the septic system.  The actual redecorating has suffered because we had no clear goal or plan for what we wanted.  So that is still in the works, and often gets pushed back because it is lower priority than many other things. 

Another high expense this year was a chainsaw purchase.  We cannot afford the cost of propane in the winters here.  With the potential cost as high as $1,200 a month based on past experience, and even with the lower costs of around $600 a month for heating, it is too much.  Wood costs around $150 a cord, and a cord can last about six weeks, so that is a much less expensive heating method right there.  But a permit for firewood costs $50 for 8 cords worth of wood from the forest.  The best parts about that include the clearing I am doing of dead trees that raise the risk of a fire, and the workout I am getting while cutting and splitting.  And next time I large tree needs to come down on our land, I will have an idea of how to do it myself!  So there are cost cutting methods in this adventure.  And I have an excuse to spend a day or a night in the mountains with some of the kids! 

We still need to work out a high cost in order to really make this wood cutting thing work out for us.  We have an inefficient fireplace.  We also have a perfect spot for a wood stove.  The wood stove would work much better for whole house heating.  We just need to figure out how to finance such a thing.  If we can, then the heating fuel is already paid for, and just about half supplied. 

A lot of thought has been put into what we are going to do in the future where we are.  We know what we want to do.  We just need to keep our feet in motion in that direction!