Thursday, November 19, 2009

A House - Update III - Root Cellar/Storm Shelter

Part of the house design was to have a root cellar/storm shelter in the vicinity. I wanted to have house access to it so it would be quick and convenient to be able to get into in an emergency. In thinking about designs, I had hoped to not interfere with the layout of the foundation piers as much as possible. And so, the plan was to dig out the main area of the cellar under where the porch is to be, have the landing area go between two piers, and then have the entrance way under the actual house structure; this would allow for the cellar to be covered by structure (the porch), easy entrance from within the house, and the foundation to continue to be laid out as it was without having to add piers or other modifications to it.

I decided to hire a contractor to do the digging, partially because the hole needed to be dug fairly precisely since the landing was going between the two piers, and also so I wouldn't have to deal with damage that might happen to the equipment. But, after several weeks of delay with an inattentive contractor, I decided to just rent a backhoe and do it myself.

And so, here I am starting the digging process:





Well, not more than a few feet down I hit that rock layer that I've been setting the piers on. I thought for sure I'd be able to get through it with a backhoe, but one by one the teeth caps on the backhoe bucket started to break off. I went through several before stopping. We thought about it and then came to the conclusion that it wasn't worth proceeding because more possible damage could happen; I could possibly disturb the ground under the piers, thereby potentially weakening the house structure; and we already have a root cellar/storm shelter. So I filled back in what I had already dug, and parked the backhoe.

We had to pay for the damages, but the folks from whom I rented the backhoe went out of their way to help us. We rented from iRent in Brownwood, TX, and Milt the manager there really helped us in diminishing the fees as much as possible. He was a breath of fresh air in customer service, especially given our experience with the local contractor noted above.


I lost about a month of time with all of this but have restarted the foundation building process, and here is where it is currently...only five piers left!




Thanks again to Milt at iRent for his excellent customer service; and we again thank the Lord for His graces, mercies, wisdom in and sovereign power over all circumstances.

-- David

Monday, November 9, 2009

Kids' Graduation 2009

So that they don't have any kids until after most of Winter has past, we waited to put our bucks Shatner and Eastwood with their respective does until now, as the gestation period of goats is around five months.

And so, this past Lord's Day was the time!

We put Shatner with Winnie, Betsy and Pammy (shown back to front):




And we put Eastwood with their daughters Minnie, Tapioca and Marie (shown left to right, with Eastwood between Minnie and Tappi). Any kids God graciously grants will be their first ones. They've now graduated into being a part of breeding process! (They grow up so fast! :) :




And here are Aramis and Porthos (left and right), and Donny (center), which, with Shatner being gone, are now kings of their castle:




We pray the Lord perpetuates the herd, in accordance with His will and divine wisdom; and we thank Him for the opportunity and resources to be able to set apart the goats for breeding.

-- David

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Time to Come Clean


Before Dave and I moved to Texas, we lived in a small cottage, which did not have washer/dryer facilities; so we had a laundry "date" every couple of weeks. We packed up all of our laundry and took it to my mom's for her to do (haha Mom, just kidding). No, we took it to Dave's mom's house for her to do (haha, Mom Sifford, gotcha!) But seriously folks, we took it to the local laundry mat. It was so nice to get all of our laundry washed, dried, and folded in a few hours and not have to worry about it for another couple of weeks. Then on the way home, we usually picked up some tacos from the local eatery (a romantic way of saying Taco Bell) and made a fun afternoon of it.


After we moved here to Texas, thankfully there was a local laundry mat that worked well for our needs. This time, I had the pleasure of going into town with our neighbor, Danielle, for the first several months, to do laundry together. But I knew, with our new off-grid lifestlyle and our worldview, I would need to eventually set up a system of hand washing and drying our clothes here on our homestead.

I had been drying clothes on the wonderful clothes line my mother-in-law had given me but had not yet started hand washing clothes here at home, even though the Lord had by now granted enough water to be available in our cistern. To be honest, at first, I was more than a little apprehensive about washing all of our clothes by hand. Why was it that I was so afraid of broaching this laundering method with myself when it is the way it had been done for centuries before the industrial revolution? The unknown scared me a bit and seemed overwhelming. Eventually though, I began to "scour" the internet and research all of the wash tubs to be found, and spent probably too much time searching for the "perfect" set up. In retrospect, I believe I was procrastinating and in denial. Finally, Dave and I discussed it, and realized, uh, any old tub should do the trick. So we went out and bought a few inexpensive, galvanized tubs locally, I took a deep breath, and I've been hand washing our clothes for several months now! I know, pretty anti-climactic, isn't it?

Anyway, for those of you who, like I was, might be wondering how to get started, it's pretty simple. By the time I got to washing clothes this way, Danielle had already been washing clothes by hand for some time; and she helped me a lot, and has some hand washing laundry tips and then some info about her manual laundry set up. For myself, I use four buckets: one for pre-soaking clothes, one for the main washing, and two rinse buckets. I put about six ounces of hydrogen peroxide in the main wash bucket per load of whites as my bleach (try it, it works!) and I use a splash of white vinegar in the final rinse bucket to soften the clothes. One of my other neighbors puts a bit of fabric softener in her rinse, and I might try that as well.

First I put a little laundry detergent and some water into the pre-soak bucket, along with the dirty clothes, let that set for a little while, and then transfer the pre-soaked clothes to the main wash tub:




I highly, highly recommend the Rapid Washer sold by Lehmans. If anything happened to it, I might drop on the ground sucking my thumb in the fetal position -- that is how valuable it is to my clothes washing experience (I wouldn't really do that, but you get the point :) ). The proof is in the dirty wash water, and you can get a good amount of clothes clean in a short amount of time. I see they've raised the price a couple of dollars, but it's still a good deal in my opinion at $17.95:




I use it for about 10 minutes per load:




Time to transfer the washed clothes to the first rinse bucket:




And then onto the final rinse. Another neighbor recommended using the Rapid Washer for not only the wash cycle but the rinse cycle too, to push all the soap out of the clean clothes. I tried that, and it works really well:




We decided to invest in a commercial grade wringer, considering the anticipated heavy usage. Dave put together a sawhorse for it as a stand, and with some bracing, it works beautifully:




Last stop, clothes line:




I also began making my own laundry detergent, which saves a lot of money. You can find recipes at the website Soaps Gone Buy. The one I use most often is to grate three bars of Fels Naptha soap, and combine that with 1 1/2 cups of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda, and 1 1/2 cups of Borax. Some people use Zote soap in place of Fels Naphta. The recipe mixture works great, and costs pennies per load, using only two to three tablespoons each. As an alternative, one lady I know uses only baking soda for her wash; and her clothes look fine!


This experience has brought me another step closer to not being afraid to try new (or old, in this case) things, and to think outside the box to do whatever works best. It used to take a good chunk out of a day away from our homestead to do laundry. Now I can simply step outside when I have a free hour to do a couple of loads, while staying at home helping Dave on the homestead. It's also a step closer to less dependence on outside resources. What a blessing!

And I love working outside in the fresh air and not melting away in the stuffy laundry mat. It also provides a great time to pray or listen to a sermon or Christian audio teaching as well. (Eph. 5:15-16: "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.")

Once again, I'm very thankful to God for allowing me to live this lifestyle, farther from the distractions of the world, so I may focus on Him, His Word and living obediently before Him.

Susan