An update after years of neglect ….

I will go around and take some new photo’s over the next few days and post some up to date stuff, since we actually live here now.

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The House this past fall

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Our Power Supply

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The Kitchen area last year around this time

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Grey Water dispersal and catchment pit from last spring

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The Composting Toilet under construction last fall

 

Mosaic

The axe is a tool I venerate, they are able to perform a myriad of tasks in the woodworking shop, around the yard and in the forest.  When I lived in the city it was a tool relegated to the shop, definitely something you could not just carry around openly. Now that we live in the country it is a tool within arms reach and one that I seldom go without on my excursions. Each of my axes has a tale associated with it.

On walks in the woods I typically carry my 2lb Norlund Forest Axe.

forest-axe-1When we lived in Kimberley, BC  Hanna and Liam found this axe head in the dirt while playing with there friends in a vacant lot. It was dull and rusty but with a little grinding, polishing and a new hickory handle it has become the axe I now use most often.  An appealing tomahawk style blade forged in the 70’s with a comfortable 27″ handle. It’s design is ideal for slashing through brush on trails, and has just the right length to use as a walking support on steep climbs. It’s shape makes it an excellent grapple to pull with or hang onto trees. This axe is also my choice for limbing trees that I cut for firewood or lumber.

Around the mill I most often use my small Plumb broad axe. I grew up using this tool in conjunction with a draw knife when peeling posts, rails and timbers. small-broadIn the late 60’s my father purchased this axe, I believe at a Farm auction. At that time he worked in the woods as a Feller and as a side job he also peeled railroad ties for CN Rail. The axe did not have a proper handle on it so he replaced it with one provided by CNR. The handle still has the faint CNR logo imprinted on it. When my father passed away I inherited this little axe which I cherish every time I use it. It has the perfect weight for chopping small limbs and digging into areas where the draw-knife can’t reach. It’s shape also makes it a perfect tool for roughing out tenons and other joinery when I’m timber-framing or as a finishing tool on hand hewn timbers.

The patriarch in my axe collection is the Gränsfors Bruk Broad-axe forged by Lennart Petterson.broad-axe

I purchased this axe in the late 80’s after finishing my courses in Timber-Framing and Lofting.  This axe became very useful on many projects over the years including my first house and homestead. One of the least memorable occasions for this axe was when Tracey decided to use it.  We were living in a tiny house in Edmonton and Tracey had a keen interest in various home crafts one of which included making Mosaic Stepping Stones. She would purchase second hand glass and stoneware plates and smash them into pieces for the mosaic patterns on her Stepping Stones. I came home from work one afternoon and found the leather sheath on my axe shredded to bits. I pulled it off the axe and found the cutting edge also fractured and gouged out. She hadn’t been able to find a hammer so grabbing the axe and not thinking she mistakenly used the wrong end to smash her plates with it. I diligently honed the frayed steel back into a fine cutting edge The leather sheath remained tattered for several years until I finally met a fine leather artisan in Kimberley who was able to make a new one. He even repaired the old sheath so now I have a backup which I don’t foresee as ever needing ….. fingers crossed.

There are several other axes in my tool collection including a wonderful Fiskars splitting axe which I purchased earlier this year. It made light work of splitting the 5 cords of wood in storage for the coming winter. I also have another wonderful 2 lb tomahawk style axe head that requires a handle. Maybe a shorter handle on this one to use around the chopping block for kindling and other hatchet type tasks. My toolbox also has a carpenters hatchet which I seldom use. Stored away in the attic are a couple of Mountaineering and Climbing axes. One of the mountaineering axes was my companion to many of the highest peaks in the Rockies and it has traveled to the top of all the major Volcanoes on the North American West Coast ….. but that’s another story.

Update …. since April

This has been one of the busiest Springs we’ve ever had. There’s been no time to update our blog so here is a quick photo compilation of some of the happenings that have transpired over the past couple months.

In early spring I began cleaning up and clearing a bit more space for our garden area and septic field.

clearingA large amount of hardwood for firewood came from this clearing. I was also able to get several nice softwood timbers for lumber towards the construction of our house.

stumpsA field of stumps was created

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Once we had removed all the material from our clearings we brought in an excavator and the stumps were removed and piled up. stumps-gone

Now we can begin landscaping and start planting and creating gardens. Tracey is extremely excited to start cleaning up and build gardens. stumps-gone-1

While all this was going on I also enlarged our garden plot at home, more than doubling its previous size. garden

The garden is doing well, we have all the usual vegetables and I decided to put in a big bed of Sugar Beets this year. It was a staple crop on our farm when I was young, sugar beet syrup was made with them and used as a sweetener much like honey. garden1

We’ve harvested lots of mint and radishes so far, the spinach and borage is also ready now. mint

On June 3rd twelve new members were added to our family. chickens

At that time they were a bunch of tiny fuzzy peepers, they are now feathery active little runners and flyers in their small mobile run. chicken-run

They love the bugs and tender clover leaves and other greens in their mobile enclosure. juveniles

The mill has been very busy since April. I’ve cut up all the logs that were accessible from our property, creating 2 big piles of timber. mill

During the winter many large trees were blown down. I was fortunate to be able to salvage a huge maple tree from our neighbors property, which I cut up into large planks and dimensional stock. maple

The 2″ x 12″ planks will become stair treads for our house, the other material will be for cabinetry. 300

Since building the saw and drying sheds many people have asked if I build these to sell. I’ve always turned down requests up until about a month ago when Tracey’s uncle inquired about one followed by a neighbor requesting one. I caved and committed myself to building these two. shed

This 4′ x 8′ shed is for a temporary electrical service. shed-2

These are just a few of the things that we’ve done. We still regularly make batches of soap, pick wild herbs and tend to the numerous other daily chores and commitments. I’m now allotting specific portions of each day to work on building our house. lupins

Spring has passed into Summer. There never seems to be enough time in a day to get everything done. The school year is over, Where has the time gone?

 

 

Homesteading …. Pegs and a Pole

 A Homestead and Homesteading today is quite different from its practice during the pioneer days. We still have the abilities to live self-sufficiently on a small piece of land however many of the techniques and tools to establish a homestead have changed. My childhood was spent on a Homestead however we did not consider ourselves Homesteaders …. it was our way of life based on my parents upbringing and experience. My parents grew up in Europe through the second World War, a time of great despair and transition.  After the war the last remnants of a once predominant Agrarian society were in the final stages of decline.  Traditional farming methods and a self-sufficient livelihood were being replaced with mechanization and corporate structuring. My parents clung to their traditional roots and this is the primary reason they decided to immigrate to Canada, so they could enjoy the freedom to live as they choose.

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I was very fortunate to come of age in a farming environment even though as a child one may not perceive it as fortunate. The endless daily chores, the seclusion and did I mention the chores. Our farm could not be considered typical for it’s time, it was more a throw back to farming practices prevalent at the turn of the century and prior.  Everything we did was done by hand, to the extreme. In the early stages we mowed all our fields (approximately 8 acres) by hand using only a scythe and rake. I recall one fine summer day when my father took me into the woods carrying his bow saw and small hatchet. I curiously watched him as he selected several young poplar saplings, cut them down and peeled the bark off using the hatchet. He next cut a couple of the thinner poles into short even lengths and sharpened one end of each into a point with the hatchet. We gathered the cut pieces, took them home to the little workshop my father had upstairs. He cut a piece about 32″ long from one of the poles and placed it into the vice. Next he placed 14 evenly spaced marks on the piece in the vise and with a brace and bit carefully drilled holes through at each mark. Then he took the sharpened pegs he had cut in the woods and sized them so they would fit into the holes.  Once all the pegs were positioned he wedged them in place. He drilled a larger perpendicular hole through the center of the pegged piece and sized the end of a long pole to fit into this hole. He wedged the pole into place and a wooden rake was born. He presented me with this creation and said  ” This is yours, it will help to flip and rake together our field of hay”  We then proceeded to the field and he taught me how to flip the hay and once it was dry I was taught how to gather it together and then pile it, carefully “combing” each large pile (hocke) so it would shed rain.

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This is just one of the many lessons I learned on our farm and a fond memory I keep close to my heart. My next story will be how I was taught to Pull and not Push.

Natural cleaners using Mandarin peels

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In these handmade recipes, you can use any citrus fruit peelings. Oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapefruit, etc….

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I wanted to stop using one of my favorite and not so natural cleaners. COMET

  I researched many different ways this could be replaced and came to one of my favorite blogs, “The Nerdy Farm wife”. Here is her link to the recipe.

I love how she uses dried herbs as a scrub. I really wanted to use up our Mandarin peels and give it a try. Plus, how nice is it to have the clean, fresh smell of any citrus while you clean?

 I decided to dry only half the peels we saved and use the other half for another homemade citrus cleaner.

Once the peels were fully dried, I ground them up into a fine powder with the food grinder.

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Ingredients:

1 cup of Baking Soda

2 Tablespoons of dried finely Ground up Mandarin peels

10-15 drops of essential oil “Sweet Orange”

Mix everything well and place it into a glass jar that can be tightly sealed to retain the scent.

This natural scouring scrub is used for sinks, tubs, toilets, showers.

Feel free to use other dried peels and essential oils.

HOW EASY IS THAT?

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How to Make a Citrus and Vinegar Household Cleaner

With the undried half of Mandarin peels I made this cleaner to remove grime and residue.

Once you have enough peelings, fill any glass jar, then add white vinegar to cover all the peelings. Leave enough space to screw on the jar lid. Place your jar in a dry, cool area for 7 to 10 days.  This will allow the mixture to macerate (blend). This will make your cleaner smell wonderful at the same time creating the cleaner. This is a true cleaning agent and can be used throughout your home.  Be careful on wood and other porous surfaces as it can discolor it. Once your mix is ready, remove the peels and compost them. I have not yet tried this mix, it’s not quite ready yet. I can’t wait to add this to my spray bottle and get SPRING cleaning.

I can’t believe I haven’t made these sooner. I’m hooked and now I want to send my husband out to get me lemons.

Natural “All purpose” cleaning spray

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I have never thought of adding my natural cleaner into a spray bottle before. I always used my natural laundry soap mix, ( 2 Tablespoons) with hot water and mixed this into my cleaning bucket with a rag. I love this method but wanted something I could grab and spray.

The spray bottle is a great tool to have around the home for quick clean-ups

I decided to try a recipe I found on the web.

Here is what I have tried.

1/2 cup of white vinegar

2 tablespoons of borax

1/4 cup of Castile soap  Dr Bronner’s Tea Tree Liquid Soap 

“They have many different scents, so pick your favorite”.

2 teaspoons of Lemongrass essential oil.

I mixed all these together, then added 3 cups of water.

I filled a spray bottle with my mix and stored the rest in a glass jar.

Benefits for cleaning your home with these ingredients:

CASTILE Soap~Acts as a surfactant and helps lift away dirt and cut through grease. An all-natural soap that’s surprisingly strong. A few drops go a long way.

Tea Tree oil~A natural oil that cleanses and disinfects.

Lemongrass Oil~ Has some antiseptic and deodorizing properties, which are helpful in homemade cleaners.

Vinegar~Effective for killing most mold, bacteria, and germs, due to its level of acidity.

Borax~Disinfecting

I love this mix. I have been using this for a few days now .The smell makes me happy and adds enjoyment to cleaning.