Setting up the homestead Part 5

What a whirlwind of a weekend! We took a drive up country to the Amish store – mostly for piping for our wood stove, but also with a “lets buy awesome stuff” attitude. It was a kinda murky late fall morning, but the colors were beautiful and the ride was peaceful- especially with a passed out Izzy in the back seat.

We made it, first to Brookside, a little restaurant next to a hotel off the highway before you hit Canada. I had a waffle covered in strawberries and fresh whipped cream and MrGillis had an omelet breakfast… Izzy charmed other patrons with her coloring abilities and general good attitude.

After breakfast, it was off to the Amish country store, the Pioneer Place in Smyrna.

I cannot say enough how much I love this place. Where else can you buy a gallon of Bragg’s apple cider vinegar for 20 bucks? Or a dozen whole nutmegs for under 5? I bought my first bottle of essential oil there (teatree was my gateway oil)  and I got all the metal serving ware we used at our wedding. Their bulk flours and other baking goods are insanely low priced, and I get my pastry flour, wheat gluten, and a bunch of other stuff there as often as possible.

They have a little bit of everything from boots, to plumbing, to kitchen and health and even some toys. We’ve gotten many a good deal there – including all the pipe for our wood stove. Izzy and I had a lot of fun wandering around while MrGillis talked to the nice Amish man about what pipe we’d need. We also managed to grab some chocolate covered raisins and trail mix that was a gift for my parents.

After heading out of Amish Land we headed into Houlton to do the rest of our shopping before heading home.

Our GPS took us thru some real back woods traveling on the way home- the weather was still pretty murky. We dropped the Bug off with her grandma and headed over to the old homestead to get some work done before supper while MrGillis mused aloud about how nice it would be if the groundwork was just miraculously taken care of…

YEA GROUND WORK! Are you friggen kidding me?! My psychic hubby totally called it! My husband’s uncle came by and helped us out! When we pulled into the driveway and saw that going on, it was seriously the best feeling all day, even after our awesome trip.

Yea for almost having the windows and doors almost covered! MrGillis has really been busting buns to get this place as tight as possible before the cold really hits. We’ve been lucky so far that we haven’t had any major freezing nights.

Yea for one floor done, another floor ready to go AND OHMYGOD I ALMOST FORGOT TO TELL THE BEST STORY OF THE WEEKEND-

So we went to another one of our big fav stores this weekend, MARDENS, to scope out the flooring situation, because we need flooring for 4 more rooms. Well, we walked up to the flooring area and could only find ONE PIECE of flooring the size we needed, and that was  in our ever tightening budget. BUT it had a big HOLD sticker on it. Well I convinced MRGillis that HOLD does not mean SOLD and he should ask about it. TURNS out that the hold sticker should have been taken off the day before AND WE GOT TO BUY IT! A roll of 12×14 vinyl sheet flooring for 132 bucks! The best/worst part is, as we were signing the info sheet, THE GUYS THAT PUT IT ON HOLD CAME TO GET IT. The store employees were very professional, and mrgillis and I weren’t carrying it out with us, so no words were exchanged, but the floor, was ours!

yes. the truth is right there. ANY DIFFERENT collusion of events, AND WE WOULD HAVE NEVER GOTTEN THIS FLOORING.

day MADE. AGAIN.

But the downside of getting all this awesome stuff and putting it down here in this shed, and then telling the entire internet about it, is we feel the need to up security. So my job for the afternoon, other then helping mrgillis, was to beef up our lock situation.

Yea for padlock installation success! I must say, I’m pretty happy with my first lock installation, along with the doorknob I fandangled in there weeks back as well.

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And a big woohoo for the  pieces of our next big project – wood stove installation! Our furnace has been cleaned recently and is working well, but we have 20+ acres of woods out behind the house, with two cords already sectioned out and stacked, drying for next springs cutting, splitting and stacking again. we also were given two different wood stoves over the past 6 years that we’ve just been holding on to waiting for a time to come. Well that time is now. And next spring- We’re throwing the other one into our first permanent greenhouse. But that is another blog, sometime in the future.

So today, Wednesday the 2nd of November, we got the phone call we’ve been waiting for. Coastline Homes is delivering our new home TOMORROW MORNING! By 8 am they’ll be pulling in with it is the word.

We have a lot going on for the next two weeks, so I don’t know if I’ll get a bunch of blogs posted, but I’ll try.

Until next time, have a wicked good night!

 

 

Setting up the Homestead Part 4

(I would suggest perusing parts 1, 2, 3 before getting to involved in part 4)

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We drove up to a much cleaner looking front of the shed – over the week MrGillis had been able to haul away the wood, plastic sheeting and such. We’re keeping all the windows we’ve taken out to make cold frames before snow hits. Our hope is that we’ll be able to start patches of leafy greens and cold tolerant veggies like peas super early next year.

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My extremely handy husband, had our tank drained, put some Arotec fuel awesome stuff in( Its a water dispersal liquid that helps to protect your fuel from freezing) and had a delivery made. This Saturday morning, our first big deal was to get the furnace bled and started. Which my super handy husband did with the help of his phone.

After a few false starts, he got it going, and we blasted the heat up. We had a few hours yet tho before we could call it warm enough to lay out any glue for flooring.

So on the the next project.

Painting. Putting up shelves. Painting trim boards. Thwacking nails out of old trim boards to be reused. Taking out more windows. Laying trim board back down. Sweeping. More painting.

The list really goes on. We took a quick lunch break with one real intention when we got back. Laying floor in the future plant nursery.

Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I volunteered to apply the glue to the cleaned floor.
This is an awful, disgusting, sticky, stupid job. and I’m going to have to help do this at least 1,2,3,4,5,6 OH MY GOD 6 MORE FRIGGEN TIMES….

…. at least they wont all be at once. I guess. Also, the one jug we got, probably because I’m a novice glue applicator, didn’t cover the entire floor. MrGillis ran over to the local hardware store and bought the only type they had in stock.

We didn’t get any picture of unrolling the sheet, because it was really hard and awkward even with the two of us hefting it around. But we did it, and we cut the edges. Next we laid a bunch of scrap chipboard over the top to weight it down for a few days.

Last big job of the day- Sealing up the last few windows we had taken out.

At this point, I used up the last of the paint that I had poured into my tray earlier and took pictures while MrGillis really tightened up the seals on the old window spaces. in

Over the last few days, whenever he’s had spare time, he’s gone down to the stead and cleared some more of the trees that we need out of the way. We have to get more ground leveled out, and that hasn’t worked out the way we’ve wanted this past week.

Today – we go on our every other week shopping trip outta town and plan on buying the materials we need to do some more extensive work in the old homeshed. Including a very exciting trip to the AMISH!

Seriously, I love shopping at the Pioneer Place in Smyrna… We never walk out of there without some serious deal and some serious food.

Hopefully we can get a lot of that work done this next few days…. . There is an ever growing list of Honey Do Items for both of us- so on to it!

Oh, and have a wicked good day.

 

Pumpkin bread

Its OCTOBER. I know, at this point, October is on its way out and November is creeping up the horizon, but we’re a busy family.

Along with having Izzy in Halloween themed outfits all month long so far, I have so seriously jumped on the bandwagon that is Pumpkin Spice. Call me a basic white girl. I don’t care.

This bread is Izzy approved, and if wrapped in tinfoil and stored in the fridge lasts for up to 7 days. Not that is ever lasts that long in our house. Most food doesn’t last very long in our house.

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The arsenal of ingredients.

This recipe is a quick bread recipe, similar to my banana bread recipe, but it really kicks it up a notch in the spice department. The ginger and allspice combined with the cinnamon and nutmeg make it a fall explosion with each bite.

Start your oven up to 350 F and get your bread pan greased up. Gather two good size bowls, and get ready to get your two mixes going.

In the first bowl, Combine your flours, wheat gluten, baking powder, salt, spices and baking soda. Mix this until thoroughly incorporated.

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In your second bowl, whip together your butter and sugar. Add your eggs, one at a time and then when that is well mixed, gently fold in the ENTIRE can of pumpkin puree.

Next steps pretty simple, but requires some muscle- this bread is thick. Dump all of the liquid mix into the dry mix and fold gently, or wind up with flour in your face.

Spoon the mix into your greased pan, throw it into the oven and bake like that for about 45 minutes. At that point, you’ll have to tent it with tinfoil to cook for an additional 15 minutes or so until done.

Once you take it out of the oven, let it cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes. Then get it out of the pan and onto a cooling rack for the rest of its cooling time.

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Or really, just slice into and devour it in all its harvest spicey gloryness.

Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients:

  1.  1 1/2 cup white flour
  2. 1/2 cup wheat flour
  3. 1/2 tbsp wheat gluten
  4. 2/3 cup sugar
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 1 can Pumpkin Puree
  7. 1/2 cup melted butter or oil
  8. 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  9. 1/4 tsp salt
  10. 1/4 tsp baking soda
  11. 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  12. 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  13. 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  14. 1/4 tsp allspice
  • Set your oven to 350 F and grease a bread pan.
  • In a large bowl, mix together both of your flours, wheat gluten, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. Create a well in the center.
  • In a medium sized bowl, whisk your melted butter and sugar together.
  • Next whisk in your eggs, one at a time.
  • Now, whisk in the entire can of pumpkin puree- mix very well
  • Switch to your rubber spatula and fold your wet mix into your dry mix, very gently.
  • Scrap the mixture into greased bread pan. Bake in oven for 40 minutes or so.
  • Take bread out of over, tent with tinfoil and bake for an additional 10 – 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean of crumbs.
  • Let cool in pan for 10 minutes-ish and then allow bread to cool the rest of the way on a rack.

Well, that is that in a pumpkin shell.

We have a lot going on or else I’d try and type something cute. But until the next time this will just have to do- Have a wicked good night.

Setting up the Homestead part 3

(If you haven’t at least glanced at Homesteading Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, you’re gonna be pretty lost right from the get go.)

At LAST we had the electrical snafu figured out and the black plug of pain and anger was going BYE BYE. We could finally put down the glue and lay the floor in our storage room!

Mrgillis figured we might as well pull the plug, cord and all, out of the house and fill the whole at the same time… you know, to be all thorough and such.

ITS TIME! We can FINALLY lay the glue out and ….oh you have to got to be fu……

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Yeah…. ok…..
So that little house symbol with a little temperature gauge thingy next to it? That stands for, “Area must be at least 50 Degrees F”.

I could literally kick something. When we headed to the homestead this morning it was, and I am not kidding anyone, 37F outside. And we haven’t been heating the shed because we’ve have this thing called a budget.

Okay. It’s time to reassess the situation. Again.

Mrgillis busted ass to get the future plant nursery done and I even got in on the action by helping him calk it and also removing the old floor tiles. Now, when we ARE able to put flooring down, we can get two rooms done.

 

Mrgillis also looked to me and asked me to take the trim boards of the windows we were planning on removing and boarding up – The picture below is a testament to why I am not to be trusted around glass with pry bars and hammers. I honestly can’t even tell you which one I broke the window with.

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I no sooner got the board off and was getting ready to move on the the next one and CRASH I went thru this crappy little pane of stupidity. MrGillis said “no biggie, it was coming out anyway” and cleaned up my mess- because that’s the kind of husband he is.

Can you tell I’m kinda down on the window?  We’ve taken out a couple already and then this one happened.

Yeah, he had to take a saw to it to take apart the frame because it was UNDER the siding on the outside of the house. Thankfully, he still managed to get it boarded up before we left that night. We just have to throw some insulation in there and get another sheet of chipboard up and wallah! Time to paint, again.

I also managed to get not only the first coat on the nursery…..

But I was able to get a second solid coat on – ceiling and all!

We did some other odd jobs, and I did a little bit of picture taking on the property. The beavers came out around twilight… Pictures are on www.facebook.com/gillisgardens

So, over the week, we’ve had the oil tank drained and checked out. Turns out the gauge was missing off the top all summer and fall, so some rain water had gotten in. As luck would have it, it turned out to be a good thing we didn’t run the furnace, or that could have put a good hurt on it. In total we drained 8 very watery gallons of fuel from the barrel. Then we had 75 gallons of fuel delivered and put in a product called Arotec which is a water dispersal chemical.
This all adds up to a shed that is 50 Degrees this coming weekend- perfect for FINALLY PUTTING DOWN SOME FLOORS.

If not we’ll reassess the situation… again.

Until that time, have a wicked good day.

 

Setting up the Homestead Part 2

This last weekend, Mr. Gillis’ mother was able to watch Izzy all day Saturday and Sunday. This was a perfect opportunity to get ourselves some flooring and get some work done down on the homestead.

We dropped Izzy off around 9 am on Saturday morning and proceeded to drive the 40 odd miles to Houlton, the nearest place we have access to box stores like Tractor Supply Club, Walmart, Grocery Stores and MARDENS, the true destination of our trip.

We really wasted no time in going to this mecca of must haves -their slogan is literally “should have bought it when i saw it at Mardens”. I dare you to start that sentence in front of your native Mainer and not have them sing the rest to you.

Suffice to say, our trip was a success, and we indeed bought it when we saw it at Mardens. We found a 17’x12′ piece of vinyl sheet flooring for $141 and the glue for $25. Tax and all, we are officially able to put floors down in two rooms for about $175.

We also bought a gallon of special killz, and a gallon of noname bright white interior paint. These two gallons bring our gallon total to 7.

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Our Mega Giant 5 Gallon Bucket of Paint

We rushed home to get to work, but still had to be impressed with the fall colors coming out on the ride. We really are lucky to live in such a beautiful state.

We pulled into the driveway, unloaded our wonderful find and got to work.

Mr. Gillis got to work on finishing the electrical problem he was having with the old wiring in the future plant nursery- its important we have reliable and safe power in this room.

I grabbed the killz and started going at all the water damage I could find in the storage room I had been working on. When I took up the floor we found a fair amount of old water damage from when a washer had been running improperly. Once the Killz was on, I threw on the last coat of bright white to the entire room.

At this point, Mr GIllis had gotten his wiring done, but had in the process, ruined my paint job on one wall. He apologized and I sucked it up pretty fast. I guess. Even tho I obviously felt the need to post a picture of the devastation.

We agreed to break for supper and come back after. After scarfing down some nachos at our current home- they were homemade and delicious with turkey meat and lots of veggies – we rushed back to the homestead and got back to work.

Mr. Gillis went back to working on getting walls up in the plant nursery and I decided it was time to salvage what I could from the kitchen.

After a grueling hour and a good portion of a container of clorox wipes, I saved the fridge. Then I ripped out the cupboards and as much or the counters as I could without destroying our only sink area. We took stock of what I had torn out and decided to leave the rest for another day and call it a night.

The next morning, we got up and got to work around 8 am. We assessed the situation in the kitchen and made a couple decisions. 1. The stove top needs to be hooked up to some propane and tested before we decide to keep it or not. 2. the sink needs to stay as it is for now so we have a place to rinse our paint brushes. 3. Their is a lot of water damage in the ceiling and that and the walls needs to be torn out and replaced and 4. the water heater is most likely the cause of this water damage and needs to be junked.

Mr. Gillis went back to work on getting walls up in the plant nursery and I started tearing out the bathroom. First I tackled all the shelves and the cabinet. Then I took out the shower, revealing a window. With a little talking amongst ourselves, we decided to uncover this window all the way and leave the bottom of the shower stall in case we needed to give a chicken an emergency bath. As we look over the walls and ceiling we see that these too need to be torn out and replaced.

So now the kitchen and bathroom are both at an impasse.

I convince mrgillis that in order for me to do anything else we need to cut the flooring.

We got both pieces cut for the 8’x10′ rooms we’ve been working on. I go to sweep up the floor as good as I possibly can and I look to mrgillis and say, hey mrgillis, I think we should remove this big black plug that will never get used and will ruin our perfect floor.

so he turns off the power. and the power is not turning off.

needless to say, this giant black plug is a giant road block in our plans to do any flooring.

So, we reassess again. I decide that the only thing left for me to do is move EVERYTHING from the front room and start painting the ceiling, because well, we don’t want to tear out more walls until the plant nursery is done.

I’d like to take a moment of silence for the pine boards we had to cover. We really didn’t want to, but we couldn’t afford to restore them- and we need this place to be easy to clean and maintain.

With my painting and mrgillis’ hard work in the future plant nursery, we are getting step by step closer to turning this place into a useful work space for us come this winter.

We definitely ran out of time, before we ran out of work – so that’s the standing plan for this coming weekend if we can swing it.

Until next time, have a wicked good day.

 

Dill Seed Collection

Dill is an amazingly fragrant, tasty herb that grows prolifically in a lot of different climates. It grows fast and is used in different stages of life for different things. When its just sprouting, baby dill is prized for the taste it lends to crispy dilly beans or pickles. When its mature and has gone to seed its useful as a cooking spice or to use as seed to grow next years harvest.

Dill is super easy to harvest for seed too. all you need is a mature dill plant, scissors, some string and a paper bag.

Boom – mature dill, that because of the beautiful Fall weather we had, is actually sprouting more flowers.

 

Flowering dill always kinda reminds me of fire works.

With this plant I’ll only be cutting off the stems with the mature seeds.

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Once the seeded flower heads are gathered, tie them into a bouquet and put them seed side down in your paper bag.

Tie your paper bag shut with the stems sticking out a little, giving you a little handle.

Now your ready to shake, rattle and roll- literally! The seeds, as long as they are ready, should come off pretty easily as long as you are pretty vigorous in your shaking, and rolling of the bag, either on the counter or between your hands. Just don’t be so excited that you bust your bag.

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After your seeds have been shaken loose of the stems, its time to store them until next seasons planting or for use as a spice.

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Yeah- that’s just one of the rubbermaid containers. I label the top with the seed and year and done. Use within a year.

Until another day, have a wicked one, right.

Setting Up The Homestead – Part 1

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, we are currently working on our biggest project to date – moving on to an old homestead and turning it into a productive farm again. Our first major step is renovating the old home into a shed for us to use for a multitude of things – we need a place to make maple syrup, a place to raise our baby chicks, a plant nursery to start up with each spring and LOTS of storage for holiday stuff, canning jars and baby clothes, among all else.

This place is PERFECT. It has a few different rooms, a hot water heater, and plumbing so we can do all these things and possibly more- but it has been pretty neglected and abused over the years. We have A LOT of work ahead of us to save this place and make it a not only useful, but integral part of our dream.

This is actually the second time we’ve gone…. I didn’t take any pictures the first time we went in and cleaned up. It was just kind of overwhelming to go into. The place reeked of musty air and cigarette smoke. It also was a mess from the previous family that had left suddenly due to their circumstances.

But after going in for a few hours and really surveying the damage, we feel pretty confidant that we can definitely do something with this.

We have so many things we need to get done in this house before we can do much of anything else. Moving onto a homestead is quickly becoming as intircate as a spider web.

This room will be our storage room for all things holidays, old baby stuff, etc. I had to tear shelving down and paint the whole thing, ceiling to floor.

The room Mr gills is renovating for our plant nursery! He tore down all the old walls, boarded up the windows, insulated the outside walls and started putting up new walls. We have a friend coming in to help rewire one of the old outlets, to be safe.

The kitchen which needs to be completely torn out and redone- to be our sugar shack for maple syrup season-  and the front long room which will be for garden equipment and chicken food and storage and our wood stove

Goodbye to the first floor we’re taking up!

This is just a small portion of the work we got done last weekend. As of yesterday they broke ground on where we’ll be setting our brand new home. And today we are going in to finish our storage room and start tearing out the kitchen.

Also, I have about 6 other blogs I’m currently working on. But as of this moment, I am going to go work on my first cuppa this morning and enjoy the steamy joe as it burns the dickens out of my throat.

Until next time, have a wicked good day!

MOFGA Common Ground 2016

It was a beautiful, chilly start to our Saturday morning. We were on the road before the sun had even broken over the horizon. So early, the chickens were still sleeping peacefully on their roosts.

But with a 3 hour drive in the general direction of way out of town, we wanted to get there, and get there at gate opening – There being Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s Annual Common Ground Fair.

See, this is our 4th year attending and every year has been an earmark of some sort. Our first one was the year he proposed, the second one we were married and unknowingly pregnant and the third was Izzy’s first year going, at all of 4 months old.

This year was special in its own way because Izzy was turning 16 months on the day we were attending and would be able to really enjoy the fair, unlike last year where she mostly slept.

We got to the south parking area at about 9, pulled into the appointed parking spot – WHICH happened to be behind the very tree Mr. Gillis proposed at in ’13 – and proceeded to unpack all the baby gear out of the truck and into the stroller. We then hiked the 10 minute trail that brought us to the gateway to fairdom.

This is always an interesting, refreshing walk. The first part of it takes you thru the huge parking lot that is really just lots of grassy knolls covered in vehicles of every order. Even at opening time, the place is always already packed. You follow the line of people until you reach the road crossing area, and that leads you to a trek through some woods.

And it is a bit of a trek- its got hills, stumps(which i have tripped on in years past), and Draft Animal Crossing signs. There are also composting outhouses and Fun Fact Info snippets posted on signs along the way. At the end of this trek, you cross the railroad tracks and walk up one final hill to the South Gate.

On the way in, I always ask to keep half a ticket for our memory jar- this year the gatekeeper let me just keep both whole tickets!

As we walked, we marveled at how busy it already was at quarter past nine- On this side is the one of the farmers markets and its always buzzing with activity. First things first, we always go to the MOFGA store tent to get our yearly poster. We have one from each year we’ve attended, along with the oddball Maine Heritage Orchard poster.

Once we had accomplished that- despite a long winding walk in a line that extended far out the tent doorway, it was time to explore, see some animals and do some shopping. First, to explore we walked the pathways, circled the pavilion. Went here, there and everywhere, sometimes twice.

Then it was off to see the animals! We took Izzy to see the goats and sheep- the rabbits and some donkeys off in the distance. We had to stay out of the poultry barn this year because Izzy wasn’t digging crowds so much.

 

After that we took off and wandered through the vendor areas. We bought some soaps, an organically raised jade tree for our tree frog Casper and I splurged and bought possibly one of the most expensive things I have ever bought- A $33 skein of beautiful angora and wool mix yarn in this soft green that I plan on making into a hat for Izzy.

By now we were all getting pretty hungry and so we got into line for some pulled bbq sandwiches. We sat on a grassy dip in a area next to the trees. The weather had been pretty fantastic all morning, a nice breeze and warm sun, but sitting there we were noticing a slight chill in the air. We decided to head back to the farmers market and gate to get on the long road home.

On our way out, I made one last stop to grab some raw chocolate milk, which I drank on the very long hike back to our truck as we let Izzy explore and walk a good deal of the trail herself.

It was a pretty amazing day and I am so glad that we take time out of our busy lives to do little day trips like these. We really both believe that no matter how tired we were when we finally got home that night, it is well worth it to build those memories and traditions now, for Izzy to grow into. But we have a lot of ways we build memories and a few traditions we’ve been working on for a few years now…. that’s another blog tho.

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Until some other time then, have a wicked good day.