Welcome to our 1864 farmhouse…life is good!

Thursday, November 29

seed packets to share...

Very good friends of ours are moving away...it's a sad time when folks that we've come to know well, and enjoy their company so much, have to leave. We understand though... sometimes there's just a pull, a tug, a feeling of inspiration that it's time to settle somewhere else, a new place to call home.

Before they left, I wanted to share something with them that would bring back memories of their years spent here, so I decided to send along seeds for a Friendship Garden.

There are lots of seed packet templates online, so it makes this a quick & easy project. Simply find a design you like (or create your own), then fold on the dotted lines, glue flaps in place, and fill with flower seeds from your garden. It's that simple and in no time at all, you will have oodles of packets for sharing!

I'd encourage you to create some seed packets from the flowers in your own garden. Tuck them into Christmas cards or a "thinking of you" letter...they're sure to bring smiles to a special friend who's far away.

While it's a simple gift, I hope when Ellen scatters these seeds in the garden of her new home, she'll think of us and have warm memories of her time spent in Midwest.  Oh how we'll miss this family!

Wednesday, November 14

building a hive ventilation box...

The more I learn about beekeeping, the more I love our chickens! 

Just kidding...while I do love the girls and their farm-fresh eggs, they're really pretty low maintenance. This time of year I'm keeping an eye on the temperature in the coop, plugging in the heated waterer on frosty nights, surrounding the coop with straw bales, and adding lots of shavings & straw inside the coop to keep the girls snug for the winter to come.

The bees, on the other hand, have given me much more reason to read...read...read. They too were pretty low maintenance in the summer, but now my goal has shifted from hoping not to get stung, to doing all I can to keep them alive through the winter. 

The bee inspector says they have plenty of honey stores, and that's a good thing...it's the food storage they'll use to survive this coming winter. My mouse guard is in place (evidently hives are considered a cozy winter spot for the field mice!) and now that the temperatures have dropped to the 20's at night, I have straw bales surrounding the hive to screen it from the chilly winds. This weekend I'll wrap the hive in tar paper, replace the bales, then cross my fingers and wait for spring.

There's a break in the weather today, and so I'm putting a ventilation box in place. Our neighbor has one she used successfully last year, and so we patterned ours to be very similar.

The box is used to give any moisture that builds up a way to escape. Filled with fiberglass insulation, it also works to prevent condensation from developing on the underside of the outer cover. If this cold condensation is allowed to form, it drips down on the bee cluster chilling them to the point that they may not survive.

To make the box, start with a spare super that fits your hive. A 1-1/2 inch spade drill bit is used to add holes to the sides of the super...2 on each side.

Each hole is then covered and secured from the inside with #8 hardware cloth. A length of fiberglass screen is stapled across the bottom opening of the box and insulation is added as the final step.

Our neighbor's box has several narrow slats across the bottom; however, she fills her box with sawdust, so the slats work to keep the sawdust in place.  We opted to use fiberglass insulation in our box, and so didn't add the slats.

To install the box, I'll remove the outer and inner covers. The ventilation box will sit directly on the frames of the top hive body. I'll then replace the outer cover (no inner cover needed) then add two bricks to keep the cover in place during the winter winds. Periodically during the winter, if a warm days occurs, I'll quickly peek inside the box to see that it's doing it's job.

And so my learning continues! 

Here's hoping all is well in the hive, and that they've settled down for a long winter's nap...

Thursday, November 1

practical preparedness...firewood

Photo Credit...

I obviously don't exercise enough.

After stacking wood with my family this weekend...
My back and shoulders ache.
I'm feeling old.
It's time for the heating pad.

However, on the bright side, we have a terrific amount of firewood ready at a moment's notice should it be needed! 

The barn is filled with the sweet scent of freshly-cut wood as the aromas of cherry, hedge, and ash mingle to greet us each time we step inside. And while it's a delight to take in, on the more practical side, it has a very important role to play in our preparedness.

Should we have a power outage, this wood will not only keep us warm, but will help to feed us as well. Living in a farmhouse that's 148 years old has blessed us with 3 fireplaces...one each in the kitchen, dining room, and what was most likely once a parlor. 

Those fireplaces most certainly kept the original homeowners warm from many a winter storm. However, somewhere along the years, a previous owner decided it was a good idea remove the chimney of the fireplace in the dining room, and toss it down the flue passageway. Sadly we couldn't rebuild the structure to make it safely usable, however, we did have the firebox reworked and then refinished an old mantel to keep the home's original look.

Now, how to store that firewood to make sure it's ready when we need it...

Choose where you store the wood carefully. Find a spot that's dry and allows for air to circulate around the woodpile. A barn or an open-ended wood shed are both ideal. Wet wood will rot, crumble, and give off very little heat. It's essential to keep the wood dry.

Remember to stack the wood off the ground. Wood pallets work well, or you can easily put together a log rack you'll find available at your home improvement store. (I say "easily" because I didn't put it together...hats off to my hubby on this one!) Look closely at the wording on each log rack box...it will tell you how much wood the rack support. Most come ready to hold 1/2, 3/4 or 1 cord of wood. It's important not to overload the rack.

If you choose to place the log rack outdoors on the ground, instead of on a cement pad, stake the rack to keep it steady. If that pile begins to lean, eventually the entire log rack will come with it.

If the woodpile it outside and no barn/shed is available, be sure to cover it with a tarp to keep it dry, and secure the tarp from the winter winds. If you happen to get a sunny winter day, you may want to even uncover the wood to let out any moisture that's trapped inside.

While wood is generally sold by the cord (4'x4'x8') how do you know how much wood you'll need? Well, that depends on many factors. How many hours a day do you need a fire? Are you cooking in a large fireplace or on a small wood stove? Is it your only source of heat/cooking, or are you also using coal, wood pellets, canned heat, or kerosene?  Here is an excellent site that gives not only information on heating options, but also essential safety tips to keep in mind.

I've read that Montana pioneers needed 12 cords of wood to make it through a winter. However; that was a 24-hour a day fire for warmth and cooking, with winter lasting often from October through April. And while most of us wouldn't need anywhere near that amount, it would be wise to do the math and find out how much wood would sustain your family through a hard winter.

How long will your wood last? Well, the experts say indefinitely if you keep it dry and the air can freely circulate around the woodpile. I have to agree. Last year we finished burning several logs tucked into a corner of our barn that were at least 10 years old!

Yes, a crackling fire on a Sunday afternoon is a favorite around this old house. Good for curling up beside with a good book, some knitting, or even a little nap. But knowing that we're prepared for the winds to blow and the snow to fly, also gives peace of mind.

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