Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Inside Cockeyed Critter Report

It has been a while since I've done a critter report so I'll address it now. First, we'll start with the household critters and next post will be the outdoor critters. There's just too many of them for one post.

Nnyus, our pit bull/ridge back mix, has had a busy winter keeping large predators away from the chickens and rabbits. Arthritis is starting to set into this older girl. As with most working class breeds, her hips are affected. A baby aspirin encased in a cube of cheese keeps the pain and stiffness away. She's had her dose of DE (diatomaceous earth) for worms this week. It should take care of the bloated belly she's had. We've had an active coyote presence this winter. There's not a night that goes by that she's not in and out protecting her charges. Of course afterwards, she'll take her rightful spot next to Mel on her queen sized bed with her muddy clay covered paws and muzzle. It makes quite a mess of Mel's ivory colored quilt too. But she's earning her keep.

Herbie, our border terrier mix, is our rat and small vermin catcher. Since the hurricane blew past us in late summer, we've had an issue with rats. It doesn't help that the cats will bring them inside to play with them. But Herbie to the rescue. With his allergies to fleas comes whining sessions as he scratches and nibbles away at spots where they frequent. He's a grumpy, old man by nature. If you tell him to do something he doesn't want to do he'll bark/argue with you. In fact, he can be very demanding at times with his sharp sounding, terrier bark. Mel and I both have been awakened by him several times a night.

Although Mel taught him to whisper, he has to want to do it. But by the same token, the terrier trait of loyalty holds fast in him also. He's always at my feet. If I go somewhere on the property, he's always close by. If I drive off the property, he waits for me to return, and then announces that I'm home as I come down the driveway. It's a happy "Jo's home!" bark. He doesn't know what to make of my rollator though.

Whirling Dervish is truly Mel's cat. She suffers with her sinus issues sometimes sneezing twenty times in a row. Everything is touched with her snot art. I've never seen a cat that asks for wine before but she does.She's an alcoholic, I swear! No matter what Mel is drinking, even screwdrivers, this cat has got to have some. I've watched her when Mel leaves the table. Dervish will put her face into glasses of alcoholic beverages and help herself! She loves her some Mel too. Even if Dervish wasn't Mel's service cat, she's always withing calling distance of Mel. She loves to do her tricks when out in public. On rare occasions, she will allow me to pay homage to her.

Patches is my tortoise shell cat. At 16, she's still the best mouser around. She cleared the barn of rats and other vermin in a matter of days. Mel came in and told me about a line of dead rats near the garage door of the barn. She wondered what had killed them. The answer was Patches. Every since she was a younger cat with an older cat around, she learned to line up her presents to me outside. That's how she got praise and acceptance of her gifts. She has a mission in life to serve as my guardian when I'm outside. She'll walk me to my car door. When I return she'll escort me from my car into the house. She and Dervish have settled on being dual queens of the household. They will still hiss at it each when both are in a foul mood, but otherwise peace reigns.

Lil Bit is my 16 year-old Calico cat. She's a timid thing having always been the baby of the house until moving up here. She's a mama's girl. Wherever I am, she's content. She purrs me to sleep at night and wakes me in the morning with kisses/licks. Usually, her licks are with the soft part at the tip of her tongue. If I don't wake up she gets more insistent. She licks my eyelid with the rough part of her tongue. After almost two years here, she's finally going in and out the pet door. I wish she and Flynn would get along because they could have so much fun together, but Lil Bit is having none of that. I don't think Lil Bit has forgiven me for moving her up here. She's low man on the household pet's hierarchy totem pole because of her timidity.  But then, wherever I am is home. She'll go into hiding if I'm gone longer than 24 hours and won't come out until I return.

Flynn, Mel's orange and cream baby that we found abandoned on our property, is growing up. She's still got a lot of kitten in her. Everything is a toy to her even little scraps of wood. So much so that she's even got the old lady queens, Dervish and Patches, playing with her. I don't believe she knows how to walk. She runs and scampers everywhere. She's definitely Mel's baby. She's still got to have her "momma" cuddles times with Mel several times a day. Wherever Mel is on the property, Flynn is close by. If she isn't eating, playing, or sleeping this kitten is in Mel's arms.

Of course, we both still treat her as a baby. She's adventuresome and almost fearless. The only time I have seen her shy away from something is strangers. She'll peek around corners until Mel tells her they are alright. Then, she back being busy investigating everything. It's been good for us having a kitten around again.

This week Flynn started her day as normal by harassing Lil Bit, and playing with Patches and Derv. Then, she went outside to play with the chickens and say good morning to the rabbits. Her idea of playing with the chickens is to hide in the Monkey grass or bushes and jump at them. It's great fun to hear them squawk and jump straight up in the air. Unfortunately, one morning she found a snake to play with. It was poisonous and Flynn was no more. We dutifully killed the snake. With all the rain we've had they are coming out of the woods.

That's it for the inside pets. It is never quiet around here unless they are all sleeping, which doesn't happen very often. As you can imagine, it's difficult keeping a clean house with this many animals under foot. But then again, this is a working homestead not some glamorous penthouse apartment in the big city.
It's supposed to a dusty blue color carpet

We do dust and vacuum, but you wouldn't know it if you visited at will. But we are also in winter mode,we are toting in wood and kindling inside, and emptying the ash pan from under the wood stove. If you've ever operated a wood stove as your only source of heat, you understand what I'm saying. There are little bits of wood and ash in a five foot circle around it. We'll sweep it clean and vacuum, only to do it all again in a day or two because it looks like we have never touched it. It's four dustpans full every time we do it.

Currently, we are trying to figure out a way to rip the carpet out of the living and dining areas. As you can see from the photos, it needs to come out. What's underneath this carpet would give someone nightmares. Not that taking the carpet out is the issue besides moving the heavy furniture. It's the staining and varnishing the new wood floors that's the issue with all these animals. We'd have paw prints all over it before it dries. If it dried in a couple of hours there would be no problem, but for eight to twenty-four hours! It's just not feasible. Of course, we could also do linoleum, but it wouldn't be as pretty or durable.

 Next week, I'll introduce you to the outside Cockeyed Critters namely the rabbits and chickens.

Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Helpless and Useless Cockeyed Style

"I just can't do it all!" This from Mel. It's a usual indicator of a depressed cycle and fatigue for her. She's feeling helpless, hopeless, and useless. There is also nothing I can do for her but listen to her.

I've heard this more and more since I broke my foot. Of course, I have. I'm not mobile and I'm in a state of forced inactivity. That leaves everything up to her. From bringing in the wood to starting and maintaining the wood stove for heat. But, she's  also doing the lion's share of my chores too. She's gathering the kindling, cooking, and keeping track of all the animals. Not that she didn't do it all before I came to live with her, but that was almost two years ago.

Homesteading and self sufficiency are labor intensive. I'm chomping at the bit to pitch in and help. but I can't. Not that I won't, but honestly can't by doctor's orders...nonweight bearing on the fractured foot.

I've looked at various alternatives to alleviate my situation. First there was the Iwalk crutch. This sounded marvelous. A hands free crutch. But it had some serious drawbacks where I was concerned. It depends on having a stable gait and foot balance before use. I have issues with both because of my strokes.Even walking with a quad cane, it would be dicey to use.

Not that I'm totally immobilization, I still have a rollator I can use. It allows me the prop my knee on the seat and use it like a walker. But in a mobile home full of furniture, it's an obstacle course to get around. Then there is the issues of the doors, not all of them are wide enough to fit through like bathroom doors. Being a single-handed gal using a double handed device is doable but not easy. There's a slight step up/down at the front door, and a two-three larger steps up/down at the back door which poses a problem for the rollator being used in this fashion. Sitting on the seat and being short puts me right about nose level to cook in our kitchen. Not exactly safe, but it does give Mel a break from time to time. Using small appliances like the Kichenaid mixer or a crockpot is out of the question. They are over my head to see into. So we are buying bread at the store. Mel now does the shopping too. She hasn't had to step foot into a grocery store in almost two years unless she's wanted to. So she's gathering the coupons, the sales circular, my grocery list, and goes to the store. I usually hear the "I can't do it all!" after one of these excursions too.

Part is selfishness on her part. She's just gotten used to Jo doing it. By doing activities (that I usually do) that she doesn't like or want to do is cutting into "her" time of doing what she wants to do. But the has to be done has to be done regardless. What little I do around this homestead has gone basically unappreciated until now. I mean I'm still paying all the bills since she can't find a job. The luxury of two doesn't apply. Even now, I rarely ask for help for my needs. I just do them except for changing my bedding that's a two handed job with the egg crate topper. That doesn't mean I don't help her doing it, just that I can't do it by myself. But then honestly, don't we all feel this way when our world turns upside down. When we've gotten used to a status quo and it changes?

Nobody truly likes changes including me. I've been railing against my forced inactivity because I want to be doing more. I'm getting bored with watching Netflix, computer time, knitting and spinning. When the temperatures outside rises to the 60s, I want to be out doing things. Pain brings the idea of doing to a screeching halt so I sit some more resting my foot. As far as the last set of x-rays taken, there is absolutely no healing in the fractures in my foot. Don't you just hate doing something (you don't want to do) and getting no results? That's me. So while Mel is going through her "I can't do it all!" So am I.

Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Winter Blahs?

I can understand why most people get the winter blahs up north. I've lived there during winter. Usually, it's nine months of grey skies along with the cold. Seasonal Affective Depression is rampant. This too I understand. Nothing like endless grey skies to compound it.

But here in the south winter skies are usually bright and sunny (unless it's rainy). Snow falls while the sun shines. It's not oppressive. It's exciting mainly because it doesn't happen  that often. With sunny skies, you want to get out and do except for the bone chilling temperature, unlike our northern counterparts. I say bone chilling temperatures with a grin because the thermometer reads 30 degrees not below zero in the afternoons.

Mel has been learning a new (for her) computer language this past nine months online. Java will open new doors for us. In fact, she has been hard at work on a seed cataloging for our purchased and saved seeds. We've only got a medium sized box full of seeds to work with. But she may market the program once she gets all the bugs out of it. In case you didn't know, Java codes runs most games and and is used in web page design. Her program is similar to the one offered by growveg.com which offers a monthly subscription based service. Hers, you buy the program and you can update at your leisure. Can't find a variety of seed that you have, simply edit it and add. This simply adaption to the program is what I disliked most about  the growveg planner and it doesn't do. Not all plants are alike or even close. Simple drop down windows allow for ease of use and adaptability. Yes, she is also working one 1.2 or even 1.4 in ease of use for noncomputer literate folks not like us. There may even be version 2 or 3 with more bells and whistles at a later date. When Bill Gates developed Windows 1 did he ever envision Windows 10 some 30 years later? Possibly. Go Mel, go!

The down side is that little on computer time is left for editing videos for our Cockeyed Homestead YouTube channel. Now that we've secured a decent, freeware based video editing software again, we should be uploading videos again. Knocks my wooden head for luck. It's been a computers going down, camera issues, audio issues, and software editing issues, we've had our share of technical issues in 2017.  We appreciate all the concerned comments while we've been dealing with these issues.

The way we combat the winter blahs is to keep busy. We have tons of projects until spring. I'm currently on my new, to me,  Cindwood loom, I'm knitting a cowl neck sweater for Mel. This looms ain't cheap, but they are well made. I don't mind spending/ saving for good money on a good product. I'm making it in Mel's favorite color...green. It was supposed to be finished for her January 15th birthday, but other issues have pulled me away from knitting it as you have read on this blog.

But that's not all on my to-do list. The next project for my looms is a dog sweater for Nnyus, pit bull/ridge back hound mix. That poor dog has very short, thin fur, but still does her job on these frigid days keeping us and our cockeyed critters safe. She comes in chilled to the bone. She had a very nice purchased coat but it was lost on one of her missions on the homestead. After that, it's a baby blanket and layette set for Ainsley's (Mel's niece) who is expecting a little girl in April. I also have orders for two beaded, silk/bamboo blend, knitted shawls to be completed by May.

If it's about Mel, it has to be  a cat
So I'm keeping the blahs at bay. I also have my spinning that keeps me warm and cozy inside with the wood stove. Sunlight streams through the windows keeping our moods uplifted. Mel's SAD isn't as bad this winter with the combination of a new antidepressant, the sunlight therapy, and aromatherapy. She's sleeping, eating, and is all around better. Thank God! I'd threatened to run away from home if she got bad again. Amy and Ellen, you understand. They've even offered me a sanctuary. Yes, 2016-2017 winter was that bad.

While it was hard to live with her during her experience, it was just as hard being Mel during this time. I'm just glad that it isn't as bad for both of us.

So what do you do to keep the winter blahs away? Let me hear from you.
Until next week...
Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Rethinking Going to the Wood Shed

On the other side of the chicken coop and wired enclosure is the wood shed Mel built out of pallets.

We did an oops with it's placement. I tried to tell Mel that it needed to be closer to the house, but as usual she did it her way. Back when she first built it we didn't have a deck with ramps off the back porch, the rabbit hoop house, the driveway beside the house, or the chickens penned in beside the rabbit barn. Hind sight is 20/20, right?

 She was man handling the wood into a wheel barrow, rolling in around to the front porch, and then lifting each arm load of wood, carrying it up the stairs, and stacking it on the porch so it could be carried inside as needed. How cumbersome the whole process was soon had Mel regretting her decision on the location of the wood shed. The first winter after it was built, Mel realized I was right. HA HA! Told you so.

Now a year later, the wood shed is virtually unusable and impractical. It will be moved closer to the house. Actually, behind the food storage building to be exact. Some 30 feet closer for the bulk of our firewood. We'll stack half a cord of firewood at a time as needed on the porch. We'll toss wood onto the new 4 wheeled cart, walk along the new graveled driveway, and Mel will chuck it through the new gate we installed along one side of the porch. The gag gift I bought for Mel has come in pretty handy...a box full of assorted sized hinges. She has a major love relationship with hinges. But back to the new sequence of events. Once the split wood is on the porch, I'll sort and stack it. We have a large 18 gal tote that we put smaller pieces in as fire feeders. If the cart is too heavy to maneuver, Mel breaks out the riding lawn tractor. It's amazing the time savings that little tractor has gained us. A nice, sunny (although cold) afternoon's worth of work and it's done for a week.

Peppermint plants between the pallet bottom will deter rodents from making their nests in the wood. I've transplanted some thirty plants around the food storage building. We found rat droppings in the building. Not a good thing. They demolished my stored sweet potatoes. I'm glad I canned most of them.The peppermint plants will reseed and root themselves into a nice large patches over time.

So when we get down to the last half a cord of firewood we are playing demolition derby on the old pallet wood shed. It will be reconstructed using the same technique shown in the video.

So everything is falling into its cockeyed place around here. Maybe Mel will listen to me next time. Who am I trying to kid? She's just as hard headed as I am.

Starting in the spring we'll be dragging fallen trees up the 100 ft slope to get ready for the winter of  2018-2019. Some of these trees have been down since before Mel moved here four years ago. They should be good and seasoned in place. First, I need to put a winch and a trailer hitch on Mel's truck. Anybody know of an electric start chainsaw? We've got the Poulan, but Mel can't pull the cord with enough oomph to start it. For me, it's backwards and awkward to pull. The thought of running several hundred feet of power cords for the 14" electric chainsaw, just seems a tad more cockeyed than we are down the slope, but we'll do it if we have to. It would just be simpler with a larger hand held chainsaw. One of these days, Mel will let me operate the little chainsaw. Exactly when that will be, God only knows. She's like my husband was with ours after my stroke. He gave ours to a son-in-law to get it away from me.  I don't think I can control the big one one-handed but the little one...no sweat. You'd be amazed what I can do with battery operated hand tools. My Ryobi set got a good workout after my husband died.

Mel is basically one handed again because of trigger thumb (pulled tendon at the base of the thumb). I've got her in my cock up splint to let it rest if only she'd keep it on. I've tried to convince her to go to the doctor for a steroid shot, but she's having none of that. At least, she's taking the Alieve so it's working on the swelling. Granted she has no medical insurance, but I'd be willing to pay for it, if she would go. How does she get away with it with Obama care and all? She's only worked part-time for years or been unemployed. We've had this argument for over two years. I can't make her go. It hurts both of us the longer she's out of commission. So for now, between the two of us we have two good hands. Unfortunately, it's two non dominant left hands.

So that's it for this week...
Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Cockeyed Homestead Profit Maker for 2018

For 2018, we are focusing more on income producing ideas drom the homestead. Everyone needs income source, right? I'm unable to work because of my disabilities. I have a limited, fixed income from Social Security and a pension. Most of my nest egg that I had is gone on making necessary improvements to the homestead. Much needed and essential in the past two years. Homesteading ain't cheap.

While Mel is able to work off the homestead, she hasn't worked for the past 18 months. Blame it on her mental quirks and the local job market in this area. She isn't the 9-5, office type like so many folks out there.

Yes, we sell our eggs, but we have heavy competition on the local area. The eggs sales may generate enough income to offset half of a commercial feed bill. Which is why we feed our birds non gmo sprouted grains and their ground egg shells back to them. This breaks about even cost wise so there is no expense in raising them.

We sell angora wool, but once again the market is limited. With the loss of Dustin in 2017, we lost our ability to breed on related stock which would allow us to develop a pedigreed line of litters to sell. It actually stopped our breeding litters for sale totally. Inbreeding causes genetic mutations. So we lost income in that respect. With the loss of Keiran (my American Chinchilla), we lost our meat rabbit and pelt line. Two major losses in 2017, really put a hurting on our income production. We either have to replace these two or get out of breeding altogether. I believe that is the direction we are going. The fiber and yarn sales generate enough income to pay for their keep, but not a lot extra. We aren't large enough to generate a serious profit without breeding.

So that leaves us with searching for new income generating sources from the homestead. It's a dilemma every homestead has.  The bills keep coming and a way to meet them is part of grown up life.

I mentioned in an earlier post about making plarn. One man's trash can be recreated into usable objects. Call it recycling, repurposing, upcycling, thrifty, frugal, or whatever catch phrase you want to use, I call it income producing. Whether I sell it as plarn or make market bags with it. With a little bit of labor on my part, it can create a product to bring in income. The cost of materials is basically free. The reason for selling both the plarn and market bags is- that we are not the only crafty people out there the world is full of knitters and crotcheters. How do I know? Take a look at how many YouTube videos, forums like Raverly, and magazines there are at the book stands. But then again, there are uncrafty folks out there that need finished products too. Not that we expect to get rich with this item alone. Far from it. If we sell enough to even pay a couple of electric bills each year, every little bit helps. I've included the video inspiration with you below.

It's easy enough to do. Spinning it with my Heavenly Handspinning Vespera electric spinning wheel is a breeze.  Jan at Heavenly Handspinning is a true gem to work with and now she lives in a neighboring town too. Yes, it uses electricity, but hey, one handed spinner here. I gifted myself this machine after I retired my great-grandmother's spinning wheel. Yes, I relearned how to spin one handed again after my stroke. I spin the plarn for added strength and a more consistent product. Knitting and crocheting one handed has enough challenges. I can make yards of plarn watching my favorite show or movie via Netflix in one evening. I can comb fiber or spin while rotting my brain with the boob tube. Otherwise known as relaxing in the evening before bed. Spinning is one of my old favorite winter pastimes. And, it is winter.

Of course, there are our other handmade products as well. Mel and I are avid needlework gals. Whether it's dishcloths, socks, sweaters, caps, or anything else, we can make it. My knitted beaded evening shawls are a sure fire money maker. It all takes little startup capital and higher profitability.

Again, there is the farmer's market. Offering chemical-free, heirloom produce won't make us rich either. But as I said before, every little bit helps. It all depends on the harvest. There's also my pickles and jams we can sell.

With the farmer's market, we can sell other things too. Mel made me a fantastic harvest tote for Christmas. It was made of scrap lumber. She used welded wire mesh on the bottom so I can rinse the vegetables outside with the hose before bringing them inside. She also made me a folding board so I can fold laundry easier. There are a tons of wood working projects she can make and sell.

The only drawback to farmer's markets is that they are for a limited time. Events in our local area also are a possibility. But then we have the website too that is doing nothing right now. There are other websites like etsy and ebay which offer year around access to sell on. There's always business cards for word of mouth referrals.

So making money on the homestead is challenging, but not impossible. You just have to put your mind to it and maybe a little creativity. What will sell and what won't is a trial and error method. All you can do is try. Wish us luck.

On a personal note...I've had an increasing amount of pain while walking. After therapy, yes still physical not mental, I couldn't climb the stairs into the house without it feeling like someone was stabbing a knife into my foot with each step. After a couple of days, it was worse, not better. A run to my podiatrist for x-rays showed that I had not one but three fractured bones in my braced foot. I've been ordered to be nonweight bearing on my right foot for 3-12 weeks. Talk about a bummer! It sure puts a hurting on us with both of us on the injured list and trying to homestead too. But as always, we'll be thinking of more creative ways to get the job done.

Y'all have a blessed day.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Homestead Well Woes

It's not very often I say this, but THIS DARN STROKE! At times, frustration gets the better of me. As usual, it is costing me money too because I can't do something because I'm having to hire someone else to do it.

I said this before when the door handle busted on my vehicle and I couldn't maneuver the working side of my body to fix it. That ended up costing me a few hundred dollars. This time it's our water well.

It's not rocket science diagnosing and fixing a problem with a well. If you've done it once, you can do it again. I've done it several times over the years. Everything from drilling a shallow well for the garden to installing and fixing all components that go along with it. I was lucky enough to have a father that didn't mind teaching me the ropes. He was a certified welder, electrician, plumber, heating/air conditioner tech and auto mechanic. He is a Jack of all trades and is aptly named Jack. Or, Poppa Jack to all his abundant grands and great-grands. But I digress.

Here at the Cockeyed Homestead we had no water in the house. Having just replaced all the pipes from the well to the house wasn't the cause. At first, we thought it was because of the hard freezes we'd had. I honestly thought that burying the pipes deeper would help with this. They were 2 1/2 feet deep and it's well below the freeze line, or suppose to be. To say I was irritated at this point would be stating fact. Well, it was two days before the temperatures rose above freezing. The daytime temperatures was a little above but not much. I was biding my time. We keep four 5-gallon water jugs filled in the stores building for just such occasions. They aren't light when filled but the new deck and ramps make it easier to move into the house.

By day three, the temperatures rose well above freezing. Still no water. I knew at this point that the problem was with the well or one of the components. Mel and I start trouble shooting the well. The first issue I have is the well itself. I told y'all how the previous owners had Jerry rigged the door. It gets better. The whole bladder tank, well pump, switches, and well, everything is cockeyed and Jerry rigged. In all my days on earth, I've never seen anything like it. A nightmare post Christmas. If ever there was a convoluted way of putting things together...this was it. Pipes and wires spliced, glued, and screwed into a mess. All housed in a 4'x4'x3' building. There was no way to move let alone get into the building short of laying on your back or squatting. I might mention here that they did use roofing nails in the 1/2" plywood roof. Half an inch or so of the nail points came through the plywood and shingles inside the roof and they were nice enough to leave them in tact for anyone trying to work inside the well house. It was a Machiavellian's torture chamber's delight if you got too close to them. Oh, there is an actual old time well (the kind you drop a bucket into) in the building covered by a concrete lid too. The well pump assembly sits on top of it.You just can't get to it let alone remove the lid. There's no room!

So you get the picture right? Now imagine little, old, impaired self me trying to troubleshoot this thing. It was a comedy of errors at every turn. Mel had always called a plumber before being a city girl and all. But I had the knowledge and hands on experience to fall back on. I powered on the well. I tend to troubleshoot the highest cost to lowest cost repair that way I can be relieved when it isn't costly. Actually Mel did this because the power switch was up at the house a couple hundred feet away. We are playing relay with cell phones. Good news, the well pump kicked on. I reached around various pipes and wires to touch the pump. Not hot after it ran for a few minutes cycling off and on. That's a major cost savings. Well pumps can run a couple hundred dollars upwards. To replace this size would have set me back $360. Whew! But still no water inside the house.

Next pricey item is the bladder tank. While usually filled with compressed air and water, it makes a particular sound when the bladder inside has ruptured. I'd had to replace on of these before. When the bladder ruptures the vessel fills with water and depending on the size of the tank, it can be quite heavy. The well pump also tries to keep running which in turn burns out the pump motor. I know this from experience too. I picked up the pipe wrench and git the side of the metal tank. Ping. I hit it again to be sure I heard what I heard. The old measure twice and cut once. The tank was full of water and the bladder was blown. That will set me back $140, but that's still better than having to buy the pump motor. I could reach the bladder tank, but it's actually called a pressure tank. But I've  seen it called both. So I ran to my local Lowes to pick one up. It would have been cheaper to go through the plumbing supply house, but I didn't think about it. I was too thankful that the tank was just inside the shed. Other than the connection of the water line and a few wires, it would be an easy fix once Mel remove the old one.


I went to Lowes and actually got a fully powered wheelie cart. You just don't understand how rare this is in the big box stores in this town. Most times, the cart dies halfway to your first item. So I'm still in a thankful mood as I grab a sales associate to carry the box to the cash register and put it into my van. I get the tank home. It was only a 20 gallon tank instead of a bigger, more costly one. By this time, it's getting dark. I decide to leave installation until the morning. The box with the tank isn't heavy, but too bulky to pick up one handed easily. I got a two handed Mel for that. Yes, it's the laziness of two again. But I wanted to teach Mel how to do it. What's the use of experience if you can't teach it?

So morning arrives, Mel  cuts the fittings and tips the old bladder tank on its side and starts to disconnect everything. The dirt floor of the dirt is now red clay mud. Everything is underneath with this type tank. Trying to break the seals around the fittings was a nightmare. The couplers actually broke opening a whole new can of worms and another trip to the hardware store. A union would have great if the previous owner had installed one. If only I could have gotten in there with my two hands, but would have been better than trying to explain how to do it. It also would have been easier if the assembly hadn't been on the dirt. But the piping was finished after another run to the hardware store for more couplings. Next came the wiring. But once, again dusk is falling and Mel was exhausted. With no light in the well house, working on wiring was impossible. But it was still light enough to see an electricians nightmare of different colored wires attached wire nuts snaking around, coiled and spliced here and there from the well pump, to the pressure switch just behind the well pump at the back of the shed. At least they used wire nuts, right? We'd have to disassemble everything to reach it.

At this point, I'd had enough! I called my handyman. I couldn't do it. Mel was exhausted to tears. I just didn't want to struggle with it anymore. I just wanted running water in my house and a hot shower instead of birdie baths after heating the water on the wood stove! It was time to make it all somebody else's problem.

By the next afternoon, my handyman showed up. He'd had to complete another job first. Our handyman ain't cheap at $65 an hour, but he is good. For this reason, I don't call him very often. But he's the only one I call. He believes as I do...do it right the first time and it'll be easier the next time. When I explained our problem, he felt certain that he could finish in an hour. This was over the phone, mind you. Seeing is believing. He arrived and saw the same mess I did. He changed his estimate to two hours.


The first thing he did was install a circuit breaker mini panel to cut the power to the well in the well house and a light. Doh! I'd already figured to do this when we actually had water in the house. But that's okay, it's done now. He untangled the mess of wire and all those wire nuts to see what was what. Instead of trying to go through everything to get to the switch, he simply cut around it from outside the building and pulled it through. Then he installed the pump switch closer to the door because he couldn't work inside the pump house either. In my mind. I'm hitting myself in the forehead. I could have done that. I was so frustrated that I couldn't see the forest for the trees. It turned out that the switch was burned out so it was replaced too.
We finally have water in the house. Yippee! It was well worth the money I paid him. I got my hot shower. But as you know I'm a Murphey and well versed in Murphy's Law. I noticed another problem. The water pressure wasn't what it should have been. By process of elimination, there's only one other ting it could be...the foot valve at the bottom of the well. It means pulling the pipe out of the well and replacing that pump. That means tearing down the pump house and rebuilding. But, I'd already decided to so that this coming summer or fall after dealing with the pump house during this calamity. So we'll be building a 8'x8'x8' pump house. We'll be raising the bladder tank off the dirt too. We're getting too old to play in the dirt and mud. With this new building and the rain catchment system in place, we should have any water woes in the near future, but if we do, we can fix them.

Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

More Cockeyed Winter Mode

We are constantly learning something new around here. Every day brings new challenges. While we depend on the internet for instant answers, nothing beats a good book on the subject...or several. Part of the mantra I live by is death is the absence of learning. So this is nothing new for me. Everyone can't know everything. But to me, it's not for the lack of trying.

For this, we search for books on a subject that we want more in depth knowledge of, in our case it's natural dyeing. We are changing to a more organic sourced (plant based dyes) dyeing technique for our fiber production. We don't head to our nearest book store or Amazon to purchase these books. I did the internet searches. Now I want more.

Instead, we head to our local library. That's right, the library. Now, our town library is tiny. But what makes it huge is an interlibrary loan service they offer. I can search online for books from all over the place. They will be shipped into our library for me to check out. I have to travel no further than my local branch. But, it's more than books, they will also loan DVDs too.

What is really sweet is that it's free! Unlimited resources at my fingertips on anything that I want to know. I know I'm old fashioned by reading books. The actual paper kind. Things just sink in better on paper.

But then again, some of my fondest memories are centered around libraries. You see, my grandmother was a librarian in Bloomfield, NE. Bloomfield is a small rural community. Nothing major. The livestock auction house/slaughter house serves as the only place big enough for local dances. Mail is only delivered via P.O. Boxes. The newspaper comes out weekly. Half in German and half in English. But the library was huge. Two storied, brick building with a basement full of books, stereograph card, vinyl records, and old films. This is where I spent hours upon hours of my childhood. It instilled in me a deep respect of reading and the treasures within the musty covers of books.

This was  outside a library not my house
With my move here, the 12x15 library I had in my old house was liquidated. My cash flow to purchase books and the place to store them is limited now.  I have to depend on the internet and the library. But in a way, this is a good, frugal thing. How many times have you purchased a book that had a great blurb and reviews, but you hated it? Or, the book was too basic for your needs? The real meat of what you were looking for, was absent? I can honestly say, too many times. It was hard earned money down the drain.

By searching for books through the interlibrary loan system, if a book is a real stinker, I can return it. No money changes hands. If I find that I'm checking out the same book multiple times, I may buy a copy to have on hand. Or better yet, wait until it appears as a free kindle download. I still don't have the space to store or the money to buy all the books I want to read or keep.

I rarely read fiction these days, since my strokes, it's too difficult keeping track of story lines and characters. This from a person who used to write five novels and a nonfiction, AND reading/editing another twenty novels at the same time. Yes, there was more impact than just the obvious physical impairments with my strokes. So now I read nonfiction exclusively. There isn't a lack of reading material for me so don't feel too bad for me. I can still be transported to another place in nonfiction too.

But this time, I can see into the future as I implement what I've learned. I'm a die hard science fiction and mystery reader. I love this aspect of reading nonfiction. But not I'm not only see into the future, but creating the future by stepping back in time. Homesteading today is stepping backwards to our grandparents' or great grandparents' lifestyle. By choice, not because we have to.  A simpler life with hard work that does the body good. Stepping away from the hustle and bustle because we've had enough over our lifetime. (Re)Learning the almost lost arts of self-sufficiency and sustainability. One step at a time. Forever forward or is it backwards. Constant research before implementation. Yes, this is winter mode too at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Y'all have a blessed day.