Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The first!

Out of our three hens -- Portia, Ellen and Red, our little Miss Red has taken a gold medal in egg laying, even if her first egg doesn't look much like anything you'd find in the market (super OR farmers).  It actually looks like a tube of liquid make-up I bought a long time ago, even down the the color.  Anyway, of all my hens, Red is by far the tamest, with the most personality.  If she's not petted enough, she won't hesitate to pack at my ankles.  In the mornings she squawks the most to be allowed to free-range around the yard.  She Da Man.  Or Da Head Hen.

So this morning, when she got the undeniable feeling that something strange was going on deep inside her, she showed up outside the window to our library, looking in at me and squawking plaintively. Poor thing.  She was clearly saying, "What in the HELL is going on with me?  Help!"  An woman who has ever been in labor understands this.  It's the universal language of birth. So I went outside to help. I opened up the chicken coop for her, picked her up and said a few gentle encouraging words to her, scratched her waddle (which she loves) and set her down. Immediately she ran upstairs to the actual coop and nesting boxes and deposited her achievement.  She then ran back down the ramp and squawked for another 15 minutes or so, before getting back to her usual, bossy, lovable self.

The start of fresh egg season is huge to us, because owning our own flock was one of the reasons we bought country property.  Thanks, Red!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Homestead flooring

In a couple of weeks the guys from Lowe's will be coming to rip out the carpet in our main rooms and install Pergo in its place.  I can't even begin to convey how excited I am.  Parts of our carpet were used as litter boxes by the former owner's cats, so we are thrilled indeed to finally be able to get rid of the stinky carpet, seal the concrete underneath it, and put some wood flooring under our feet.

There's also an energy conservation issue at stake here.  Wood floors require sweeping, and wall-to-wall carpet requires an electric vacuum. One uses energy in the form of human calories, and the other in electrical kilowatts. Honestly, since we've lived here, vacuuming has become my least favorite task.  It takes forever, and seems to suck up both lint AND time.  Plus places like dining rooms are no place for carpet -- wood flooring will be easier to remove spills from and our chairs will move more easily on wood than carpet. 

Just one more way we're turning this house into our homestead.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Winter is coming!

Oh, you can't feel it in the air yet, but there's no question that cooler days and nights are just around the corner.  This week it's been 100 degrees, but as the ancient Chinese wisdom says, whether it's something good or something bad, "this too shall pass."  So the other day I made a trip into town, first to the propane place and second, to the fireplace store, to get us set up for cooler weather.  Because it will be here before you know it.

Our home runs off propane, which I'm learning is about the second most expensive way to heat a home -- the first being throwing dollar bills directly into the fireplace and lighting them.  We bought $899 dollars worth of "pre-buy" (bought at cheaper summer rates, in advance of winter) propane, which should give us roughly two tankfuls.

So how much will we use?  I have no idea.  We're pretty energy efficient, but the men do love their long showers and I occasionally take a bath instead of a shower, which uses a lot more hot water.  And that's not factoring how much propane we'll use to heat the home, which is kind of a mystery as it's our first winter here.

So we've been thinking about energy efficiency a lot this week.  And that led us to the fireplace store.  Because we knew when we bought this place that our fake, decorative fireplace just happens to run guessed it:  propane.  So off we went in search of alternative heating options.

Long story short, we settled on a high-efficiency pellet stove.  We thought about a woodstove, by far the simplest and most off-the-grid option, but as my husband pointed out, we're not getting any younger and splitting cords of logs may not be something that's feasible for us to consider doing in the long run.  A pellet stove has more electronics and therefore a higher failure rate, but will not require the use of a full-time lumberjack.

So the stove should be installed next week and we should be ready for whatever comes in winter.  I've got to say, I'm excited about it.  I'm really hoping heating our home with the pellet stove makes our propane go farther, since it costs $600 a month as opposed to using wood pellets, which will cost about $70 a month (according to the fireplace dealer).  

Either way, more money in our pockets and less going up the chimney will be a good thing.  It's hard to imagine those cold days and nights now, but never too soon to begin planning for them.  Because winter is coming.  No doubt about it.