One step in selling the
Kubota X900 was matching up the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to
the number on the certificate of ownership.
Put the dump bed in dump position and the sticker is just above the battery compartment.
One of the best things
about living so close to a university is the free events we can access
by simply feeding a parking meter. Professor Theresa Moran expanded our
horizons with the movie Bugs --- all about edible insects --- last
fall. And she started 2018 off with a bang by bringing in a duo of
Ecuadorian researchers to regale us with information about seed-saving
in the equatorial mountains.
Rommel Montúfar and
Michael Ayala created a vivid image of small to mid-sized mountain
communities in which conventional crops are pushing many traditional
varieties out. Farmers (most of whom were in their sixties, subsisted
primarily on farming, and tended 2.5 acres of ground or less) reported
that their grandparents grew, on average, 83 types of crops in their
gardens. The current generation, in contrast, grows about seven.
Why the change in focus? Farmers reported that locally saved seeds produced plants that were tastier, hardier...but less pretty, less productive, and less easy to sell to a national or international market. It's hard to stick to the old ways when new ways bring in immediate cash.
Which isn't to say the
outlook was all doom and gloom. There is still a strong culture of seed
saving and sharing in Ecuador, the latter of which includes both
swapping and simply giving seeds away. For example, an Ecuadorian
farmer never goes to visit a neighbor empty-handed. Instead, she brings
a basket full of the very best she has (often including seeds)...then is sent home with that
same basket full of the very best her neighbors have to offer.
(I'm not using the term "she" to be politically correct here. About 60% of the farmers involved the duo's study were women.)
There are also a few
traditional crops that are gaining national and international
importance, thus giving farmers a reason to plant them on a larger
scale. You've most likely heard of quinoa (even though this seed was
nearly unknown outside its traditional stronghold a few decades ago),
blue agave is gaining wide appeal when fermented into tequila, and
rocoto peppers are apparently the hot (pun intended) new pepper of
My favorite part of the talk, though, was none of this. Instead, I feasted my eyes on images of fruits and vegetables I've never seen before. What a treat to enjoy an Ecuadorian breeze on a frigid Ohio day!
After some trial and error we
discovered the best way to trim the excess foam away on our trailer
skirting project was a simple
serrated pocket knife.
Dealing with the small foam crumbs is a problem when trying to clean up.
When it looks like this
after lunch, we sometimes decide one hour out in the cold is
If you're similarly inclined and need some winter fluff to fill your snow days, perhaps you'd enjoy snagging my novel Verdant Magic while it's on sale? This is my most homesteader-friendly work of fiction --- there are witches and dragon shifters, but also gardens and goats. Enjoy!
We used the Malco Heavy Duty Turboshear to cut our metal to size.
It uses the power of any drill to cut up to 18 gauge galvanized steel.
I figured out the hard way that it does not cut when it's upside down.
Here's a puzzle for you
--- if a snow drift builds up on the south side of the trailer when
only the south and west sides are enclosed with skirting, what's the
prevailing wind direction? (Guess now --- the answer is in the next
According to the University of Wyoming, the trailer is acting like a windbreak, allowing snow to build up on the downwind side of the barrier. So, during this storm at least, the winds came from the north. (Drat! We chose the wrong half of the trailer to enclose during our warm spell before the next storm hit.)
Is that the prevailing wind direction? I guess I'll have to pay attention to more snow drifts this winter and find out!
our snow shovel in Virginia, so Anna tackled our Level 3 Snow Emergency
with a broom.
Mark discovered that the
easiest way to get the skirting metal and insulation to come out even is to
measure and cut the former on the ground then to run a knife along the
upper edge of the metal to trim the styrofoam.
Next up is doors --- the
spot for one of which you can see at the far left of the photo above.
Rather than inserting premade vents into the metal skirting for summer
ventilation, we'll be framing up wooden doors with closable vents so we
can easily get into the various parts of the trailer's underbelly as
well as ensuring accumulated moisture doesn't rot our subfloor.
In case you're following along at home, here are the rules of thumb for skirting ventilation:
- Plan on one square foot of vent per 150 square feet of trailer (6.5 square feet for a 14x70 singlewide).
- Make sure there's a vent within three feet of each corner.
- Close vents in the winter to keep your pipes warm!
We attached our under pinning vertical supports with these small triple zinc framing angle brackets I found at Lowe's for 58 cents per bracket.
There's nothing quite
like a round of adversity to make you appreciate how good you have it.
With temperatures rising above freezing for the first time in over a
week, diving back into the
became a breeze. Without even pushing ourselves, Mark and I managed to
frame up one long side of the trailer in two afternoons.
The hardest part about
the framing endeavor is the fact that the ground isn't entirely even
along the trailer's length. Mostly, we dug out to make smooth
transitions, but at the end Mark built up using a cinderblock instead.
We're taking a bit of time off to celebrate Mark's birthday today (happy seven squared!), but hope to put up the metal on that side by the end of the week...just in time for another cold spell to hit. Maybe blocking the wind will at least count for something as winter weather returns!
The Kubota X900 found a new
I was a little sad to see her go but her new owner promised to treat her good.
We made a deal with
someone who wants to buy our Kubota quite a while ago...then the deep
freeze hit and the diesel engine refused to start. It's tough to sell a
"no, really, it's running perfectly" vehicle when the engine won't turn
over, so the sale was put on hold until the thaw.
Enter our neighbor, who showed up in our lives a couple of weeks ago during a snow storm. I was out walking and enjoying the scenery; he was out scraping people's driveways with the blade on the front of his ATV.
"Want me to scrape your driveway?" he asked.
"How much do you charge?" I replied.
The neighbor looked at me like I was nuts --- clearly, the joy of scraping snow was payment enough. Nonetheless, I pulled out some excess Christmas cookies I'd stashed in the freezer and paid him in sugar and chocolate.
Soon thereafter, Mark
and I received an invitation to come over for a New Year's eve party.
One thing led to another...and soon the guys had cooked up a scheme to
drag the Kubota over to their heated garage to thaw.
Our neighbor arrived with the same snow blade on the front of his ATV. First he pulled, then he pushed, and soon the Kubota was in the heated splendor she rightfully deserved.
Impatient to get her fired up as quickly as possible so he could take a joyride, our neighbor pulled out the air filter to increase the amount of hot air flowing through the system, raised the bed for the same reason, then took a hair drier to the fuel lines. In less than an hour she roared to life.
Unfortunately, that means Mark will have to part with his baby sooner rather than later. On the plus side, we met some awesome neighbors as part of the deal. I find it hard to believe that every neighbor we've met thus far has been interesting and welcoming, but so far that has indeed been the case.
There's a big difference
between a still, sunny 16 and a breezy, cloudy 14. Since the weather
soon morphed from the former to the latter, the photo above shows the
entirety of the skirting
we got done this week.
In this second photo, you can see the back of the skirted side. We ended up sandwiching the foam insulation between metal and studs rather than attaching the insulation to the back of the boards (as recommended to get optimal R value).
The trouble with the second option is the complication of fully sealing in the air space given the I beams and other complications of the frame. We can always come in and add styrofoam on the backside of the boards for extra insulation at a later date if we so desire. But, for now, I figure we did pretty good given the extreme cold.
Coming up next week --- doors and vents. Stay tuned!
Anna asked me to set up her foldable laptop desk stand but the
only set up needed is adjusting it to the desired height which is super
easy by pushing on the release buttons and clicking it into whatever
angle you need.
It also comes with two hefty cooling fans to help keeps things cool.
We waited until the sun
was high in the sky and the maximum daily temperatures were tipping up
into the mid teens before starting to work on our skirting, but Mark
and I still only managed about two hours outdoors before our senses
Still, those two hours
gave us time to frame up one (short) end of the trailer. We used
treated 2X4s on top of the black plastic that underlays the entire
trailer, then added uprights every four feet for attaching insulation
Next up --- cutting the metal to deal with the slant of the ground and figuring out attachment. Details to come in tomorrow's post!
Step one in our under pinning project was to chip away the frozen ground.
In the midst of this
crazy cold spell (which the locals tell me is unusual at least in its
duration if not in its intensity), I'm glad I took an hour during
December's pretty weather to mulch down what
plants I currently have in the ground. Raking leaves out of the
woods took more effort than expected since the organic matter had
already started rotting down into heavy leaf mold, but that same
heaviness will likely hold them in place in the windier conditions up
here on the ridge.
Will snow cover plus leaf mold protect roots that only had two weeks to get established before being whacked in the face with negative 4? I won't know until spring, but I can sure hope so!
The roads were clear enough to get our New Year's Day delivery from Lowes.
I tried to write a post
containing highlights of 2017...but many events of last winter and
spring are simply too raw for me to even skim past. So, instead, here
are my goals for 2018 --- both simpler and more difficult than they at
First and foremost, I plan to continue bringing my life more into balance. Left to my own devices, I work until I drop. But my body isn't as young as it used to be, and both physical and mental resiliency require more work than they used to take.
The prescription? Incorporate more fun into my life! I'm carefully backing off on production goals in most most areas of my life by approximately 10%, penciling in holidays weeks and months in advance. So far, this method of making me take time off has actually worked. Next step --- continue to plan rejuvenating activities to fill in those gaps.
One of the biggest goals of our move was finding our "tribe" --- likeminded people with whom we have lots in common. To that end, we're working as quickly as my introversion allows to meet our neighbors, attend interesting events in town, and insinuate ourselves into organizations that will help us build a more resilient community.
As is usual for me, doing something hard becomes more realistic when I set a quota --- two socializing events per week. Three months in, I already know more people in the community than I did after ten years in Virginia without this goal (although the in-depth relationships will take quite a bit more time to build).
0 and 1
In terms of our homestead (the point of this blog --- I know!), my goal is to get zones 0 and 1 in order in 2018. That will likely include skirting, installing our wood stove, replacing windows, installing rainwater catchment, and building garden beds along our most frequently used paths.
Since one of our favorite neighbors decided not to move away after all (yay!) we might put our own chicken acquisition on hold. But I can't live without a garden, so we'll prioritize getting that up and running ASAP. The trick will be making sure its size stays in line with resolution number one....
Happy New Year! I hope your dreams are both realistic and bright! May your skills grow with the enroaching darkness and may the most important elements of your life fill you with joy.