Rainfall totals for August…we are in the dark purple patch.



I do believe we’ve gotten about 5 inches of rain in the past 4 days.  Most of it just heavy rain, no hail and no tornadoes.  Tonight, however, it got a little rowdy.  High winds, hail, tornadic stuff in the area.  All is well, at least here, but got some great pics!

I have been sending these pics out to friends and family all night.  It occurs to me that I’m not sure I’d want to live anywhere where my sky view is limited.  It’s also another great reason to live off grid–no power lines in my pics!!!!


June bug…

Smallest June bug ever. The largest one I’ve ever seen was in south Texas. It was the size of a Cadbury egg.

Bricks done.


Ye old stove…

We have a Volgerzang wood stove that heats our shed in the winter time.  We bought it a few months after we moved in to our off-grid palace and installed it right before the first freeze that fall.

We have had wood stoves in 2 other not off grid, previous residences as heaters-those places had no other heat source (both in south Texas-where cold is 50F).  Both worked decently well as long as you were in the same room as the stove and because it wasn’t too terribly cold.

Hence the advantage, in this moderately cold environment, of living in one room–a wood stove does just fine as the only heat source!

While we are putting up walls and brick tile behind the stove and in the kitchen, it was a nessecity-and perfect time :)-to pull out the stove and clean it.

We will brush out the stove, stove pipe and chimney to rid it of flammable creosote build up

 and have heat painted the outside to cover the rusty spots on the stove.  The stove pipe will get the same heat paint treatment.

Result-new looking, spanky-clean heat source.  Nice!

I’ll post pics when it is reinstalled in the new kitchen!!

Gathering Fire Wood…

Although the last two winters have been short, dry and warm, we still need to prepare for the “cold” months, just in case they live up to their name.

For the past three years we have gathered cotton wood from our dry creek bed and everything from elm to locust and cedar from the local wood waste sites.  All good and reliable sources for free (minus the labor of cutting and stacking) heat!

This weekend a friend and fellow, local, off-gridder delivered a pile of pine scrap to our driveway.  He gathered it from another gentleman in town who builds with it.

Our favorite wood to burn has traditionally been cottonwood.  It’s soft, light weight, easy to season and split.   It also does well in our stove for several reasons.The stove pipe in the pictures above contains 3 years of creosote build-up-not bad at all.  We owe that, in most part, to burning low-resin/dry wood like cottonwood and elm.  That’s the first advantage to cottonwood-the second is the heat it produces.

Cotton wood produces a reasonable amount of heat for our small space; 10′ x 20′ and 12′ at the peak.  Because it’s so light weight we don’t have to worry about over firing the stove.

In contrast using a wood like pine which has lots of resin will produce a lot of heat in a wood stove and can be, if not dried well, a bit concerning because of sparking, popping and the amount and speed of creosote build up.Drying pine out, or seasoning it, follows the same process as all woods–cut it and stack it where it can be rained, wind, and sunned upon for at least 6 months before use.  For wetter wood, like elm, it can take up to a year for it to be ready to use.  

In the case of our newly gathered pine, we needed to stack it differently because it’s been milled and is flat.  Stacking it with no space would not allow it to dry and could result in it rotting in the little rain we get.

As a solution, my husband decided to create these smart (and nice looking) stacks.  Air flow is allowed and the elements we want, rain, sun and wind can get to most of the wood’s surfaces.  

We usually have our first freeze by the end of October-so for this pile, we are behind the curve-it will however be ready by the coldest part of our season, January and February.
We will use pine this winter for the first time in our stove, but not exclusively.  The best use of it will be to mix it with our other woods to create a more balanced fire.  The pine can quickly get the fire going-which is important.  Often when welcome home during the coldest part of the winter it will be sub 40F in the shed and in the mornings, the same.  Having a way to raise the temperature in our space by a few degrees quickly will be nice.

As always, it’s all an experiment and we shall see how this one works out!

Up next:  Volgerzang refurbing!

Walls are going up…

Today’s project is putting up our wall covering.  We helped my twin brother construct a new fence in trade for his old fencing material, or as we call it, new walls!

We came home with multiple bundles of “cleaned” fence pickets.

Cleaning them requires using a rip saw to remove the top and bottom of the pickets and then using a sawzall to cut the nails holding the center slat.  We obtained about 5 bundles!This morning after breakfast we began attaching them to the wall.  We used a miter saw to cut them to length (about 4ft each) and then to cut the angles against the stairs.To attach them we used a small, fine-finish nail gun.  It took most of the day to get them up and then trimmed-but it went smoothly and the results are fabulous!We chose used fence pickets because we like the look-old wood always has interesting marks, holes, bug damage and often human damage as well. (Note the pellets in the wood below…inserted there many years ago by my nephew and his pellet gun.)Additionally-it’s always great to re-use materials. They are often free, very cheap or easy to trade for and their use follows the trend of most of what we have built and will continue to build.

Next project on deck:  finish the bricks behind the stove and put up the used tin behind both the gas and wood stoves.

Updates soon!