Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What in The World Have We Been Up To?

It's been a few weeks since a post and don't think it hasn't been on my list, but man, unless I can clone myself, posts are going to be a little thin for a while.

We have been so busy. Children moving, friends in the hospital, Halloween (in this family, it is a HUGE production)
and house work. House work in the most literal sense. We have been working on the house here at the Homestead for about four years.

It's been slow going for us on this project. It's the age old problem; If we had the time to work on it, we didn't have the money, and vice versa.
But I got a bee in my bonnet this year. I have pledged to finish the downstairs of the "Cottage" before the holidays THIS YEAR!

 Our niece and June started helping me in August and have been so great with everything I have set them to. There is a steep learning curve going on, but everyone is up to the task in an astonishingly short time.
 The roof desperately needs replacing, so I have been trying to decide what color of tin to use.

 I like the "Copper Penny" a lot.
I am reluctant to blather on about getting the house into shape because it really is pretty dry to talk about light fixtures and debating the merits of different kinds of roofing, insulation and dry walling methods, but I just wanted you to know we haven't fallen off the edge of the earth and (knock on wood) we will soon be living in a real house!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Smoke House, Done

I burned the midnight oil finishing the Smoke House this summer. It's not like I had a lot of spare time around here, but it was something I wanted to do and I had some real fun doing it.

 I mounted some old rusty Buck Saws that I'm sure were my great grandpas on the outside.
  The Smoke House is electricity free, so candles and solar lights are a necessity. June found this super cute lantern.

You can see there is plenty of daylight peeking between the boards, but this little space is just meant to be a dry place to camp in the summer.

 On one window hole I added a sheet of wavy glass that was laying in the barn, and a few bottles (also laying around).
 On the other two holes I just put in those adjustable window screens.
I have several old paintings from generations of artistic relatives floating around. This was painted by my grandmother.

Outside I added some solar lights to guide the way and transplanted a few native ferns here and there and some chain from the hardware store as a rain chain to reduce erosion.

And as an homage to one of the many incarnations of the Smoke House, I got out my paints and added a few friends to peek out at guests.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Smoke House

If you have been following the Reluctant Homesteaders for a while, you know that a rundown, falling down building doesn't scare me. Take the Hay House for instance. The only thing that was holding it up when we started working on it was a 4x4 I had shoved under a truss the year before.

In the end we saved a piece of family history and gained a hay barn that would hold 8 ton of hay with room to spare. We used a lot of salvaged materials and elbow grease and saved ourselves a lot of money in the process.

Then there was the Micro Guest House, The Art Shack. Which had only a little history as an 8' x 12' granary but I got it in my head to use it for housing. Now it's one sweet place to stay and hang out and cost very little per square foot which came out to about $5500.00 for 388 sf. which comes to $14 a square foot. That includes the whole shebang, all materials and the hired help.

There is an old and proper house on the property that we are working on to get it habitable but that is taking a lot more money and time, so I keep myself sane and happy by doing these little projects on the side.

I won't lie, they tend to turn into bigger projects than I think they will be, but the results are so gratifying, I can't help doing another one. Enter: The Smoke House, circa 1900.





As a child I heard the tales of it's many uses before I was born. It was originally a Smoke House for the Homestead, where meats would be preserved. It served that function until freezers came to be available. My family could not afford one, but we had a "locker", which was a small rented space in a walk-in freezer room, at a small store in town.

When my dad was about 12, the house they were living in on the Homestead caught fire from the cook stove chimney and the only thing they got out with were their lives, the clothes on their backs and the wringer washer on the front porch, which my grandfather kicked off the porch and it rolled down the hill as they ran for their lives.

That winter the neighbors gave what little they could spare and my grandparents and their 5 children lived in an old army tent and this Smoke House until spring came. By then, enough money could be saved and favors called in to bring a portable sawmill up and cut the timber on the Homestead into lumber enough to build a small house. They built that house with the help of friends, neighbors and family in 3 days, and the family moved in, grateful for a space bigger and warmer than this 10x12 building. So that's how it got it's window holes.

Just in my own lifetime this building has had many uses. Chicken house, granary, hay shed, tack room and fort. It has been falling down for as long as I have been alive. When I was a teenager I did my best to patch it together and keep laying hens in it. But I was no carpenter.

And it continued to settle into the ground, but never fell over.
The first thing I want to say is that all the structural work was done by our friend and carpenter Hank. Three years ago Hank cut a deal with me. He would use another outbuilding for storage and when he got the time he would save the Smoke House from falling down.

One day last October he suddenly showed up and started the project. He had a lot of fun doing it, I think. For him it was one of those simple and fast projects.


Of course, when he got to this point I couldn't stop myself. I suddenly wanted to make it a "Bunk House", to which he laughed and started to dig into the project details.

Mouse proof was the first criteria.

Safety was the second.

I wanted a place for friends to "camp" without worrying about the rain or having to sleep on the ground. And so that's the direction we have gone.

More to come in the near future.