At this time, we still had only the one solar panel and was using propane for the refrigerator and cooking. Now the lean-to and barn was what took our priorities. We were still using a car pulled up to the window to charge our system when we didn't get enough sun. For lighting we were using kerosene lamps and lanterns. Our house was very well lit with these and by then, I was well used to the fumes. In fact, I didn't even notice it anymore. Buying kerosene and propane was part of our routine. We did not have propane delivery. Instead we would go to the convenience store with four empty gas grill tanks and get them refilled. There would still be one hooked up. Every time we'd get down to hooking up the last tank, it was time to go to the store for more.
The trouble with this method was that our refrigerator, an older model Servel, didn't give us any warning that the propane tank was close to being empty. I'd wake up in the middle of night to find that the tiny freezer, that was usually caked with ice, was defrosting........all over my floor! There were many freezing cold nights when I had to go outside with a pipe wrench to unhook the old tank to put on a new one. If I didn't do that immediately, my floor would be covered with water. Our house being old, built in 1850, means that it is not perfectly level so the water would run under the wood cook stove, which was the last place I wanted it. Yes, switiching to propane delivery was a smart choice for us, as soon as were able to afford it.
Building The Barn
Cutting boards with the chainsaw or a handsaw is the way the barn was built. No power tools of any kind. Some people would have used a generator to power whatever tools they needed. It would have made the job easier. But this is the way we did it. I am not saying you can't do it the other way. Do it your way, it is your homestead. All of the boards are rough cut, bought from our local sawmill, Beardsley's Sawmill in Greene, NY. Eventually the posts along the front, would come from clearing our property. Back then, there was no Lowes here, so most of the nails and other items needed to build a barn were bought from local hardware stores.
We have built our homestead slowly so that we didn't have to pay back loans or credit accounts. It is a slow process, but as you can see, this barn finally came together. There were a couple of winters when there was no roof on top. The snow would be so heavy at times, that my husband would have to go up there with a lantern to shovel it off. Being afraid it would collapse or ruin the floor. It was such a relief when the roof was finally in place and topped with the metal roofing. He did it all by himself except the rafters at the top, that my stepson helped his father put up. I regret not having more photos of the building process, but back then I did not have a digital camera and the film and developing was out of the budget.
The Heart Of The Homestead!
My husband has always said, "The barn is the heart of the homestead." I am sure he is correct on this. Not only does it house our horses and their hay, but our tools and anything else we need to store. It has been only in recent years that we built an outdoor shed. I remember many cold winter days taking a cup of coffee out to the barn in the morning. Sitting out there with a tarp over the door so we could talk and enjoy our new barn with the horses hanging out in their stall. It was the highlight of my day!
Hobo On Top!
Peaceful Forest Winter 2000
My previous posts were all about how we got here and how we lived without electric. I think anybody can live without it if they have a way to make a living off their garden or other sources on their land, or a job. For us though, we wanted to make our living off the computer. When my husband and I had first started dating, that was what he was into and that was before Windows or the internet. He had been employed by IBM and he had those old IBM dinosaur computers that had an orange screen. You had to use DOS to get onto it. We accessed bulletin boards in those days, so it was very primitive. When we moved here, we had a desktop computer that we didn't hook up at first. At that time, we were in a hurry to get our house ready for the winter. New York winters are not nice and you must be ready.
Ditch From Drains
The first thing we needed was the drains to the sink and bath tub to be working drains. We started out with a SunMar composting toilet. Eventually we replaced it with a sawdust toilet as detailed in the Humanure Handbook. Going outside to the outhouse was a little much for me at that point. Now I could do it easily. So there was a lot of work to be done in the house, as well as outside. A garden was our number one priority. Next was getting the wood stove working. The chimney here was not useable at all. Since this place had been a hunting camp for many years, nothing was done properly. We were happy with the HUGE wood stove but I don't think it had ever been used since what they had hooked up for a chimney would have never worked. Once that was replaced with a real chimney, everything was fine.
Siemans 55 Watts Solar Panel
At that time, I wasn't thinking so much about wanting to use electric items. Just moving here was a big step for me. It wasn't long though, before my husband started talking about solar for power. There was a house in the small town of Greene, NY, which is about ten miles from us, that had both solar and a wind turbine. We watched that with interest thinking how we could do that here. We are in the middle of the state forest with trees surrounding us. Near the house it was clear enough for one 55 watt solar panel. Putting it on a wood frame, we were able to move it around the house according to where the sun was at. We had two fork-lift truck batteries hooked up to a very small charge controller. When we needed more power, which was basically for watching movies on an old television, we would charge it with our car and later on a truck. Horrible! Smelling that exhaust when you were outside! Not a good way to do it, but it worked. For the time being.
First Charge Controller
Eventually, we did start using our desktop computer. We had to use dial-up for our internet connection. At that time I wasn't writing blogs or selling online, but it gave me the chance to connect with others who were into the homesteading lifestyle. That is how I met a lot of other people who didn't think we were crazy like our families did. Instead I found a lot of people wanted to live this way themselves. Back then we still weren't using much power, not for lighting as we were still using kerosene lamps. Still to this day, we do not use as much power as other people do. Things are changing though. Stay tuned!
Blogging Disclosure page.
On May 19, 2000, my husband and I were working on putting our clothesline up. He had put the pulley on a tree in our backyard and it would be attached to a post connected to our deck. It was a beautiful day. Sun shining and blue sky with no clouds. Our horses were out in the paddock enjoying their day and hay. They had only been here six days by this time and were getting used to their new home, which was quieter than their previous one. As we worked on the clothesline, a breeze started and then it picked up more strength. All of a sudden the sky wasn't so blue and the clouds began moving in. We decided to go inside and get some lunch and wait for the storm to pass by.
Almost as soon as we went inside the wind became so hard that everything was blowing.........and I mean EVERYTHING! The trees in our paddock, where our two horses were, started falling over like matchsticks! Larry ran out the door toward the paddock, then turned around and came back in since there was nothing he could do for the horses. At that time, of course, we did not have a barn or any sort of a run-in for them. They were out on their own out there. Both of us, could not leave our spot in front of the sliding glass door in the kitchen (which I knew was not where we should be! I had just had tornado training at the nursing home I was working at.). Our fear was that our two horses would be hurt or dead, being hit by a tree.
It only lasted about five minutes, but it seemed like forever. I have only had experience with hurricanes and they last for a few days. At this time, we did not know it was a tornado. Later when the state forest ranger came to see us and ask what we saw, we found out it was considered an "in-line tornado." When we were able to go outside, the first thing we did was to run to the paddock to check on Dark Shadow and Georgie Girl. My prayers were answered! They both stood at the fence, still wearing their fly masks that they had on before the storm. They were okay, safe and not a mark on them. If they were hit by a tree, we do not know since we could not see any sign of that. I will say though, even after all this time, a strong wind gets them both fired up.
We had several trees fall on our house, but other than squashing our rain cap on the chimney, nothing was harmed. Our neighbor down the road came up with his big front loader tractor and removed the trees for us. We had a lot of people driving by to see the damage. Our horses became famous in the area for surviving that tornado. A huge barn not too far from us was taken down completely in the storm. Some people in the area were without their power for weeks. Of course, the storm didn't make much of any impact on our life except for having a huge clean up to do. Our wood fence was just about ruined with all the trees falling on it. Our clothesline had to be attached to a different tree since the tree we were working on that day, was now gone.
The silver cloud in this story is that we got an huge amount of firewood from this storm. For years! I stopped counting after I reached 300 trees. Our property is just an acre here and I never realized it had so many trees on it. It is only in these last few years that we have ever had to buy firewood. Yes, we did want to clear the land, but this was not the way we were planning on doing it. After repairing the fence for the horses, Larry got busy with his chainsaw. Now there is no sign that we ever had a tornado here. I hope we never have another one.
Our Horses Paddock in 2000
As I mentioned in my previous post, my husband, Larry, had to build a fence so we could bring our two horses home. Since he was clearing the wooded area where we wanted to build our barn and make a paddock, he was able to use the small trees he took down for the fence. Using his chainsaw, he went to work on the fence. Using baling twine to fasten the poles together, along with nails. He was able to take the smaller stumps and roots right out of the ground. The bigger tree stumps he left for when he'd have more time. The fence had to be on top of the ground, as our soil is mostly rock. This type of fence, we saw out west and thought we'd try it here. It is called a buck fence.
The gate in place
He built a gate so it would be easy to take the horses in and out. Since he built this so many years ago, I can't quite remember all the details of him building the gate. I just know it worked well and once the horses were here, there was never a problem with them using it. In fact, in the future we would be just leaving it open so they could be eating grass outside of the paddock. We ran baling twine around the whole perimeter of our yard. They stayed inside that area and would go in and out of the paddock on their own.
The Lock on the Gate
The lock worked well and that was a good thing. Larry's horse, Dark Shadow, was known at the farm where we got her, for opening all the stalls inside the barn and letting the other horses out. Our lock was simple, but not one that she was able to open. We weren't sure at the time he was building it if she would be able to open it or not. But she never did.
We figured the horses would have shade from the trees we had left standing. There was a hill beyond the spot where we wanted to build our barn. Now I know that was the ramp for the original barn that was on this property when this place was a farm. An old apple tree set just below it. It looked like a nice area where I pictured our two girls relaxing and living the good life with us. I was looking forward to them coming home.
Along the front of the paddock
The day we brought them home, they were apprehensive about what was happening. Soon they were out of the horse trailer and in their new home. It was a lot different from the home they were used to. But they were both devoted to us and trusted us more than they had ever trusted anyone. In fact, neither one had ever trusted anyone before. I figured it would take them some time to get used to their new home. It did, but not that long. In fact, in the very near future things were about to change for them and us. Little did we know what was ahead for all of us!
Our new fence!
On May 13, 2000, we brought our two horses home, that we bought from the horse farm where we were working. It took some work to get our wooded area on the side of our house cleared to bring them home. We had no shelter for them then, but that would come in time. Our horses needed to be home with us instead of boarding there. Larry worked hard taking down trees and building a buck fence all around the cleared area. We bought two Thoroughbred horses who were a bit over 16 hands tall. They were both quite spirited and we needed to make sure our fence would be secure. One of the horses was the "boss mare" at the farm and both were pretty smart. So we had to make sure these girls would be safe and not able to get out. Of course, just getting them here was a feat in itself.
We had decided to leave some of the big trees for shade. After all the horses liked to be in the cool shade during a hot summer day or even during a rainstorm. Since our funds were limited, making a buck fence using baling twine seemed like a good idea. We liked the old fashion look and we saw a lot of fences like these out west in Wyoming, when were on the over the road truck. Larry started a frame work of a small barn, but that wasn't anywhere ready to house two lively horses. Our puppy, Nikita had a good time helping us clear that little piece of land. Considering it was thickly wooded, I think it came out pretty good.
Nikita hard at work!
As you can see by my photos there were a lot of stumps left behind. Over the years Larry was able to get most of them out. Some rotted on their own. Some the horses helped by chewing on. Most of them though, Larry went out there with a pick and dug them out. We did not want to use any type of chemicals to get rid of them.We can say that our little piece of property has never had any chemicals put on by us. Former owners? We can't answer for them, but they didn't do any gardening or farming here for many many years. Daniel Loomis built this house in 1850 and he had a sawmill and a farm right here. I wonder what he'd think of us taking this place into the future with high tech?
Clearing for horses
We finally got the land cleared and prepared to be fenced completely in. By clearing it, we were able to get a good amount of firewood for the next season. It looked like a peaceful paddock for our two horses to come home to. I was very excited about being able to wake up every morning and see Georgie Girl and Dark Shadow outside our house and not have to drive to the farm to see them. I couldn't wait!
Copyright 2016 Kathleen G. LupoleAll Photographs Copyright 2016 Kathleen G. Lupole