Our Philosophy

Festina lente
-make haste...slowly

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday Tribute

For everyone who has helped us out this year, and anyone who visits my little blog...I hope you enjoy this performance masterpiece engineered by my 11-year-old niece (cause heaven knows I couldn't have done it!).  Cheers.  And have a wonderful new year.  ;o)Tripp

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Promises, Promises

What a dirty stinking liar I am!  Not only did I not get back to my blog "soon," but my absence was even longer than the last time I had to apologize for!  Yikes.  And the crazy part is, we have an internet connection at home now.  My wife got us a little tablet with service carried by a company that actually maintains some coverage in our area, unlike the T-Mobile smart phone we arrived with from south Georgia, that usually managed to connect by the time we hit town 7 miles later...you know, when the Earth's EM fields were behaving normally.

Man, high tech around here these days...but unfortunately, I don't get to use much of the battery charge we scrounge here and there before the kids get ahold of the computer for such important tasks as watching "Nanny McPhee Returns" for the 18th time.  Not every day, mind you, but then we don't have a charge on the computer every day...HOWEVER, I am going to do my level best to commandeer my own computer just a little more often to knock out a post about our crazy life.

And by crazy I mean great.  I think.  I'm still waiting for enough time to sit down and take a good hard look at it, but by my best estimate, life's been extremely productive and rewarding, and increasingly comfortable 'round here of late.  Our tiny house is all but fully insulated, with just the little kitchen area left to stuff and floor.  Most of the interior walls are up and the loft built, thanks to a HUGE gift from local friend Isaac, who donated about 1800 s.f. of 1970s era 1x6 barn wood to the cause. Thanks, buddy.

The first 19th century piece of today's tour, this hoosier cupboard was inherited from my late step-grandfather.  I believe it went back at least as far as his grandmother.  It was the cornerstone of our tent-based kitchen setups for the last two years.  Glad to have it.
Looks like a rustic cabin, and I think it's dynamite.  The new bookshelves are bigger than the footprint of the bath house at 9' wide by 8' tall, 4 vertical sections, 28 shelves total, and eerily close to capacity already.  Great to see our books after a couple years of storage!  And of course we keep adding to them.  My wife is a librarian and we consider this project to be an important one.  

We have a Christmas tree (Solstice tree!) up for the first time since we've been here, art on the walls, rugs on the floor, and windows to let the world in in winter (although I do miss the amazing ambient light of the tent).  But the star of the show in the last month has been the "new" wood stove.  And by new I mean really old.  Old as in, it belonged to my great-great-great grandmother, who died in 1954, when the stove most likely went out of use.  It was a pile of rusty cast iron pieces when I pulled it out of storage, but check it out now:

My 3G-Grandmother was born in 1871, married in 1891, and best we can tell the stove dates from 1881.  It's hard to tell for sure, and there isn't much information available about these Birmingham Stove and Range Co. stoves, but we know this model was made from the 1850s until the 1930s.  Whatever the legitimate date, the origin makes this a seventh generation wood stove for my children, who are already learning to tend it.

Here's the wider view.  The legs were broken off and I don't know how to fix them, so I just built a masonry pedestal for it, hoping to hold some extra heat with the extra thermal mass.  But as far as I can tell, it doesn't produce enough heat underneath to really register.

What kept me from using this stove sooner was the tiny firebox, but my fears were unfounded: it keeps our little cottage nice and toasty.  When the oven isn't doing duty as an on-deck wood dryer, it has been turning out some fine biscuits, fruit breads, and most recently panettone, a la Crescent Dragonwagon of Dairy Hollow House Inn in the Arkansas Ozarks.  It was very good. Coincidentally, she is also a children's author that I read growing up, stacking history as well as functions.
OK, I might as well admit it now, I busted that old rocket mass stove up into pieces and hauled it out of the house.  We wanted to do something different with the layout of the house, and honestly, I think we suffered through one too many smoke-backs in that bitterly cold winter last year.  It was a fun and interesting project, and I will build another one, I'm almost positive.  But when I do, it will be on-grade in a different kind of room or building.  Just too heavy on a raised platform.  With the rocket mass out, we were able to put the stairs on this side of the house and the library on the other, and build a more gracious closet for the composting toilet, plus another closet for us.  Or will soon.

 One of the very next things to do is build a short wall up against the stairs on the bed side.  That will give us a truly private sleeping nook (finally!), and provide more safety for sleepy children going up and down a steep staircase.  And some desperately needed art space.

As always there's dirty work to do as well.  I'm in the process of digging a French drain on the uphill side of the house through soil that I've determined to be more or less 1/3 root, 1/3 rock, and 1/3 coarse mineral soil, with a telephone line and a propane service line thrown across for good measure.  Oh, and the 14" red oak stump closer in than the photo will be fun to dig out by hand, too.  Once excavated I'll lay a perforated drain pipe to daylight, cover with coarse drain rock, top with some sort of geotextile to keep the soil out of the drain rock, then top with onsite gravel to make a level path.

BUT, as any permie worth his salt knows, we should never do just one job at a time!  So we throw in a fun project to absorb the negativity of digging ditches.  Level ground is hard to come by around here, so I've used the spoil from the French drain digging to level up a couple of terraces around an awesome new fire pit:

Plenary council anyone?  It is mid-winter's day after all.  Hope you've enjoyed it.

Tripp out.