Tuesday, December 27, 2005

66 Degrees - In the Last Week of December???

Seems like only last week, it was freezing here. And yet, here I sit with the doors and windows open allowing fresh air to fill the house.

Okay, I admit, I still have the woodstove going, but that’s only so I won’t have to rebuild a fire once the sun has set for the day. I reckon I’m kinda lazy that way.

We spent Kevin’s three day weekend working with the sawmill. Now that Oscar has a permanent home, it was much easier to operate than it was on the ground. We ended up cutting almost 500 board feet and I’ve got to say, that made me feel proud when I saw it all sticker-stacked up.

Granted, that’s not a traditional way to spend Christmas Day, but we enjoyed it immensely. Watching board after board stack up on the pick-up truck was more than enough present for us. We now know, we can do this thing.

We did hear from all the kid’s on Christmas Day (or Eve) and seems like they all liked the idea of giving a flock of chickens to those who need them. Sometimes, my kids astound me that way. (Means we did something right in raising them, right?)

Friday, December 23, 2005

Finally a Weekend

We got our gift already. Better half gets three days off. Wow, it seems like forever since he’s had a long weekend. This is going to be so cool.

With the extra day, we’re almost assured of time on the sawmill, once we get it moved, that is. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do that tomorrow. It’s supposed to be nigh on sixty degrees out.

We aren’t expecting any of the kids home for the holiday this year. So, it will just be the two of us, and Oscar the sawmill. Can you tell I’m a tad excited about that?

We’ll probably cook over the firepit too. I don’t know what yet, but I’m sure we’ll come up with something. Usually, unless it’s chili, the kids will take one look in the Dutch oven and say something to the effect of; “I think I’ll have a cheese sandwich.” I’m not sure where they got their taste buds from, but it sure wasn’t Kevin or I.

About the only thing healthy the older kids are willing to eat is nutritional yeast. Beyond that, they aren’t even willing to taste. Oldest daughter dumpling will eat tofu – if it’s on homemade pizza and there are no better options available.

Speaking of tofu, did you know you can order it from Amazon? Our local supercenter stopped carrying Mori-Nu Extra Firm, instead offering only firm of another brand. So, we went on a search and found it on Amazon of all places at an affordable price.

It seems we’re buying more and more of our non-perishable food products online. And why not? They ship straight to our door and it usually costs less than buying it local. One of our favorite finds was Bulk Foods. We purchased all of our winter storage dry goods from them this year and have been well pleased with the products.

Okay, I’ve rambled on long enough for one day, I suppose.

To all my readers, Merry Christmas. I’ll be back on Tuesday.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Our First Real Frost and Other Thoughts

Looking outside it almost looks like an ice storm hit last night. It’s our first heavy frost of the season and the sunshine is giving it a beautiful twinkle. If it weren’t so cold out, I’d grab the camera and go take pictures. Instead, I’ll just enjoy it while it lasts inside near the wood stove.

I talked to oldest daughter dumpling last night. This year for Christmas, each of the four older kids had a donation made to Heifer International in their name instead of getting a bauble of some sort from us. While it was obvious, she wasn’t overly impressed with her gift; she did finally admit that the thought of giving a farm animal to someone needy was pretty cool. (One down, three more to hear from.)

Oldest son told me he had to work a double shirt at work on Christmas day (instead of going to someone else’s house) and again on New Years day. He works as a manager of a waffle house type place and it seems those are the two busiest days of the year.

I find that kind of sad. Seems like especially Christmas should be spent with family and friends and that some people don’t stop to think that if they are going to places like that – it means the workers there are missing out on those times. Oh well, he did say he would probably make a chunk of change in tips, so he’s not too unhappy about that.

Our Christmas is just going to be the two of us. Hopefully cutting lumber, at least that is the plan of the moment. We still have a few logs to move and have to move the sawmill itself to the platform we built, but it would be so cool to have another huge stack of lumber air-drying by Monday morning. That indeed would be a fine present for both of us.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Dank Day

I know it's not a word you hear much anymore, but it does perfectly describe how it looks outside. Not that I've been out there yet. But grey skies and cool temps always make me think of the word 'dank'.

I do have to go out eventually. The dogs are staring at the house (they know I'm in here) and wood does have to be brought in, so after I post this, I'll bundle up and go out and do chores. Although at the moment, there aren't too many of them.

I'm really looking forward to spring again. I'll be ordering chickens in February, about the same time as we start the garden seedlings in the greenhouse. And at some point in early spring, I'll order our olive, fig, and pomegranate trees for the front gardens.

Just lots to be thinking about on this day, Winter Solstice; the shortest day of the year.

Hurry up spring, I'm ready for you now.

BTW, I've added a couple of new links over on the side of the page, you might want to check them out.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

It's Cold in These Here Hills

Just past noon, and the themometer reads 34 degrees. We've had snow sprinkles on and off all morning, but I don't reckon they are going to amount to much. (Can't call them flurries, more like salt from a shaker coming down.) The woodstove is cranking, filled to the brim with hickory, so it's warm in the house. I don't think I could have put on enough clothes to stay warm when I was out feeding the animals earlier. So it was nice to come back into the heat.

Kevin started his new job yesterday and I've got to admit, it's nice to be up all day long again. Out of bed by 5 am and probably hitting the hay around 9 pm, so that's good. Will be even better when it's not dark when he leaves and dark when he gets back home. Oh well, the winter solstice is tomorrow, so the days will begin to be longer than the nights again.

I just finished updating the website with another chapter in the ongoing saga of The Sawmill Project. Unlike regular content writing, these articles (and accompanied pictures) are fun. Mostly top of my head writing, keeping it simple and yet, trying to be entertaining and informative too.

Happy Solstice to all that celebrate such things, and Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to everyone. (How's that for trying to be all inclusive and PC?) May 2006 be brighter and better for all.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Non-event

Well, our big weather event turned into a non-event. By dawn the snow had stopped and we ended up with about an eighth inch on the ground. It was still pretty while it lasted. Now all we have is frigid temperatures - currently it's 16 degrees - burrrrrrrr.

Tonight is my better half's last night on the graveyard shift, in fact it's his last night at this job. A week from Monday he starts a new job that will allow him to work days and have weekends off (something we haven't had many of this year). I know he's happier about this new change and truth be told so am I. It will be nice having him home more, for sure.

This next week will be spent doing things around the house that we haven't had time to do because of time constraints. Plus we'll be firing up the sawmill and cutting our first boards. The weatherman is predicting temps in the mid-fifties for the next week, so won't have to be outside bundled up like children in snowsuits. That will be nice. But, I bet we keep the woodstove going strong, since nights are supposed to be around freezing. Then again, that's good cuddle weather too.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Midnight Snow

It’s midnight and in the twinkle of the outside lights outside, I can see the first winter snowflakes as they fall from the nighttime sky. While it has been cold before tonight, this is our first ‘weather’ event of the season. The forecasters can’t decide if we will have a dusting of snow or inches on the ground before it stops tomorrow. I suppose it’s a wait and see thing.

The first snow of the season is always special. Maybe because it is the first. Unlike rain, snow is magical. When it does accumulate, it leaves behind a winter wonderland that cannot be matched in any other season. To be honest though, for me, the magic is lost after the first snow. The second and any more to follow, while pretty, do not have that sense of wonderment that comes from watching the first big flakes fall.

So tonight and tomorrow, I’ll just enjoy this first snow of the season with childlike joy.

The Sawmill Project is moving along. We have the sawmill together on the ground now and with any luck will be cutting our first boards on Saturday. I’m really looking forward to seeing just what we can do. And of course, it will all be documented with pictures on the Backwoods Living website.

But for tonight, I’m going to put another log on the fire, maybe make myself a cup of tea and watch the snowfall.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Carla Emery passed away last night...

Just read on one of the homesteaders boards that Carla Emery passed away last night. It is a sad day for homesteaders and other back to basics people who learned so much from her book, The Encyclopedia of Country Living.

This book was always the first I turned to when I needed to learn anything new. With Carla's help, I learned to make cheese and learned how to can and a myriad of other self sufficient skills.

My thoughts go out to Don (her husband) and to all of her children and their families.

Carla Emery will be missed by many.



If you're anything like me, you love to read. Me, I'll read just about anything I can get my hands on, but I do have some preferences. I love a good horror novel (these are very rare to find tho)and I also like a good thriller and the occasional sci-fi or fantasy. But, the problem is the price of buying a new book. Nowadays, seems like most book stores want six or seven dollars for a new paperback. Used book stores aren't much better and even our local friends of the library sale has upped their prices.

Buying used on half.com, eBay or Amazon doesn't really save you much either, not once you figure in the shipping costs. So what is a frustrated (and broke) reader to do? I think I've found the solution.

The answer is FrugalReader.com. The idea is simple, you list the books you no longer want. Then go through their library of listings to find the books you want. Request the book and within three days it's on its way to you. When someone requests one of your books, you ship it out media mail to them. With each book you send out, you get a credit to order another one for yourself, which does mean that you need to list popular books in order to get requests.
The most it will cost you is the price of mailing your books out when requested. Since most paperbacks are less than a pound, you're talking $1.42. Now that's a bargain that I can handle. FrugalReader.com charges no fees or commissions on the trade, which makes it a great deal for anyone.

So now, I'm a happy camper. I've found a way to get those books I want to read without having to pay astronomical sums for them. If they are really, really good; they'll go on my shelves to be reread time and time again. And if not, they'll be relisted so someone else can have the chance to read them.

Take some time, check them out FrugalReader.com

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Duplicates and Triplicates, oh my

It's amazing what you collect over the years. We have a huge home library and my better half and I went thru some of the shelves the other day. It was interesting how many duplicate (and in some cases, triplicate) copies of the same homesteading books we had. I suppose we can attribute that to the fact both of us knew long before we met each other that this was the lifestyle we wanted to lead.

So now my shelves will be a bit lighter and I can find other books to put in their place. Can a person have too many books? Nope, I know I can't.

And just in case you're interested, dear reader, here's the link to my eBay auctions:


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Ten Days Later...

It's been ten days since Katrina. My heart is still breaking from the images that have filled the television screen and the Internet of the intense human suffering taking place all over the Gulf Coast. Along with my torn heart is the anger that I feel. Anger at those that allowed so many to die. Anger that children went hungry for days after the storm while those in power (at all levels) held press conferences and talked (and only talked) about what they should do.

And I feel shame. Shame that every country in the world had to watch the self proclaimed 'greatest country on earth' let down its citizens. Let down those who had very little way to fall. Even now, ten days later, there is still needless suffering for those who cannot afford to help themselves.

I'm not pointing fingers (although I could), I think blame belongs on many levels, but in the end, someone should take responsibility and say "the buck stops here."

I've watched the citizens of this country respond with open hearts. I've seen communities all across this nation open their hearts, billfolds and towns to the displaced from this tragedy. And that makes me happy and helps restore my faith in mankind. Yet, my faith in those that are supposed to be there in times of crisis is crushed, forever.

Makes me glad that I'm a homesteader. Makes me glad that we rely on no one but ourselves to get by. Truth is -- Katrina has proved to this Kat that all we have is ourselves. No matter what the situation, if we don't take care of ourselves, chances are no one else will be around to help either.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Today Is My Birthday

Today is my birthday; so another year has come and gone. My better half just called from work and asked if I felt any different. No not really.

But birthdays are a day of reflection, I suppose. I look back over the last year and see what I have managed to accomplish, where I have fallen short and where I have failed altogether. Luckily, the accomplishments outnumber the failures.

There's something weird about getting older. Most days my body feels older than I am, but my mind still feels like it's twenty. Although I am ever thankful for the things I know today, that I didn't know then.

Every year, I promise myself I'm going to learn something new in the following year. In past years, I've learned to knit, crochet, read Greek and many other things that have sparked my curiosity.

This year, I think I'll attempt to learn to play the dulcimer. While the Ozarks are beautiful, there are days when I truly miss the Smokey Mountains and the music I heard as a child. So, I think I'll try to bring a bit of mountain music into our home.

Who knows, someday I may have grandchildren to play for. But in all honesty, I hope that doesn't happen any time soon. Although my children are adults now, I'm way too young to be a grandma.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Sunrise in the Backwoods

For the last six months, my better half has been working second shift. This meant that we seldom got to bed before 2 a.m. The last two nights, he has worked third shift.

Since I always adjust my schedule to his, so we can spend more time together, the last two mornings I've been able to take my coffee out to the porch and quietly watch the new day dawn.

Even tho, I may be completely immersed in writing my latest article, the rooters begin crowing just before the first hints of light are in the eastern sky. That's my cue to set the laptop aside, fill my coffee cup and go to my spot on the porch.

Call it meditation time, if you will. For me, sunrise has always been the most peaceful time of the day. I've missed it these last few months. For those few moments it takes for light to fill the sky, all is right with my world. It's a new day, a new adventure and nothing life throws at me can damper my spirit.

Once the sun is shining fully, I come back inside, do my yoga, finish what I was working on and wait for my better half to get home.

With his new schedule, now I get to see both sunrise and sunset daily. Life, sometimes, is truly good.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

Well, we received the final two blades in the mail yesterday from Zacm Company. Frankly, we were surprised.

So in all fairness, thought I would post that they did, finally, fulfill our order. Not that we will EVER order from them again, but at least we did finally get all that we paid for.

It's finally raining here in Arkansas. It seems like it's been weeks and weeks. Unfortunately, it took Hurricane Dennis to bring us the moisture we so desperately need.

My thoughts are with all of those that were in the path of this devastating force of Mother Nature.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Well, I never...

Living where we do, we do a lot (and I mean a lot) of online shopping. From eBay purchases to retail stores, we buy a good portion of our goods thru the net. But this last purchase, well, it really threw me.

Hubby needed new blades for his weedeater, so we found this company on line (ZACM Company out of Wisconsin), they had great prices and reasonable shipping, so we ordered four dozen blades.

A week later we receive four (single) blades. So I fire off an email, they respond that they screwed up and would send the balance of the order.

Wait another week. It finally arrives. Four packages, two of which are open. We count the blades, forty two. Still two blades short, so hubby gives them a call. He gets a machine, leaves a nice message asking where the other two blades are.

They call back. Mark Somebody (wouldn't give his last name). He called my better half a liar and told him he was full of s**t. (His exact words).

I've heard of bad customer service, but sheesh...well, I never heard of anything like this. I mean, why would we try to cheat these people out of two weedeater blades?

Get real.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

By golly, I finally found them...

The eggs, I mean.

Our last remaining hen flew the coop about three weeks ago (and who could blame her being in there with 4 roosters). Anyway, she's been wandering around the yard and generally living it up. The only problem for us, is we couldn't find her eggs.

Well today, I found them. Little hen had made a nest right in the middle of a poison ivy patch. She's not setting them, as she's constantly running around the front part of the property. So after changing clothes and donning leather gloves, I took a basket to recover the eggs. I left two in the hopes she will continue laying.

At first, I thought I would float test them to determine which ones were still good and throw out the rest. I figured I'd end up with maybe half of the 21 eggs. But I was wrong, all of them but two passed the test, so we have a good number of eggs to eat over the coming days.

Maybe nows the time to start thinking about getting more chicks, or maybe I'll check with the neighbor about getting some eggs to incubate.

And maybe it's time to retire those four roosters to the slow cooker.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Essential Software

Well, it's been an interesting day today. Extremely hot outside, so I sat down at the computer to try to do some writing. I have lots of writing I NEED to be doing, but instead I ended up writing a software review for this wonderful natural healing software I picked up earlier this week.

It's very rare for me to praise software, even though I use enough of it. But this program is worthy of praise. It's simple to use and gives me the answers I look for when I'm looking for any type of alternative medicine. With the summer cold I've been carrying around for the last week, it has been a godsend.

Want to read the review, go here: http://www.backwoodsliving.com/healingsoft.html

Tomorrow, I'll get back to writing what needs to be written - today, I'm just going to play.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Of Modems, Freelancing, and other things

Lost the modem on the desktop yesterday. Big helicopter flys over, modem makes a strange noise and boom, lost connection and dead modem. Made me very glad that I have two modems that will work in the laptop. At least, I can still do my thing online.

Of course, the laptop modems are a bit slower, but then again, all I'm doing is uploading text for the most part. That's what I do as a freelance writer. Write my articles, then upload them to the appropriate site. I will have to buy another modem for the desktop soon though, or my website will suffer. The software I use is on the desktop and I suppose I could transfer it all to the laptop, but why? It's just a matter of running to Wal-mart and picking up another one.

The one think I'm sure of, next time I hear the low flying whooop, whooop, whooop of helicopter blades, I will be unplugging - at least until they have passed.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Sun is Shining

Finally. The main problem with dial-up is thunderstorms. Unstable air guarantees that I will not be online. In fact, the first hint of thunder has me running around shutting down computers, unplugging phone lines (not just from the modem, but also the cordless phone) and waiting for the storm to pass.

The past five days have been like that. Maybe an hour online a day, the rest of the time, waiting for the storms to pass. Not that we didn't need the rain, we did. Our gardens are loving the extra moisture. But come on, mother nature, do we really need the theatrics? Can't you just send gentle rains? I can really live without the power surges and the other problems thunder and lightening bring.

I am grateful the sun is out today. The tiger lilies outside the living room window look like they've grown a foot in the last couple of days and are about ready to bloom. With the blue sky, my mood is better and I'm ready to take on the world. One keyword at a time. After all, that's how I earn my money here in the backwoods, one word at a time.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Disaster for me - Heaven for the cats

Yesterday afternoon, after bring what was to be the mozzarella cheese up to room temperature (it had been soaking in whey in the fridge for two days); I was ready to begin the next step in the cheese making experiment.

Watching carefully, I brought my whey up to 180 degrees - just like the book said. I unwrapped my cheese ball from the cheesecloth and placed it in the warmed whey.

Again, like the book said, I took two wooden spoons and started working the curds. According to the book, the curds were supposed to become elastic and would then be easily rolled into balls.

Well, something went wrong somewhere. My cheese didn't become elastic. Nope, my cheese melted back into the whey. The more I worked the curds the smaller they became until all I was left with was what I can only call liquid cheese.

I had to laugh. This was the worst cooking disaster I had ever had and I've had some good ones. So what to do with the mess in the pot? I didn't want to pour it down the sink.

Then I looked outside the patio doors and there was Stubbers (our stub tailed Persian cat) with her two kittens. I wondered if they would like it. After dumping the whole mess into a bowl, I took it outside.

The cats, Stubbers and her kittens along with Inky and her kittens, went crazy for the stuff. Within an hour, all signs of my disaster were gone.

Will I try again? You bet, next week. But for now, I think I'll have my better half pick some Mozzarella up at the store.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Experiments in Hard Cheese

Lately, I've been trying my hand at again making hard cheeses, such as Farmhouse Cheddar. The real trick, even here in the backwoods, is finding fresh milk. Currently, I have one batch curing using fresh milk and a second batch using store bought milk.

It's all an experiment for me. Back when I had my old homestead, fresh goat's milk was always available since I raised and milked 13 does daily. Here, I don't have that many goats.

I'm also trying my hand at a few Italian cheeses, such as Mozzarella. Ricotta is always easy, (the recipe is on my website) but I'm guessing that lasagna from scratch would be even better with fresh, homemade mozzarella cheese on top.

As it stands now, it will be at least a month or two before I will know if I'd had success with the hard cheeses. If so, I'll be sure to put the recipes on my Backwoods Living pages. The mozzarella cheese, well, I should know that by the end of the week. Like the hard cheeses, if I'm successful, I'll list that recipe on my pages also.

Stay tuned here for word.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Proof That I Am Indeed...

I now have absolute proof that I am indeed an old hippy. Last week, I discovered that Earth shoes were back in business. For those too young to remember, Earth shoes were the shoes that the hippies of the early seventies wore. The think that set them apart were the reverse heel - where your heel was a quarter inch below your toes. Clunky, ugly, but positively the most comfortable shoes I ever graced my feet with. For over ten years, those were the only shoes I would wear.

Then they disappeared - right off the face of the earth.

Reading through an issue of Body and Soul last week, I saw an ad. Could it be? I asked myself. I went online and sure enough, there they were. I immediately ordered a pair of sandals. With hopeful anticipation, I waited for delivery and in the meantime, went back and ordered a pair of boots.

My sandals came Monday. They were exactly like I remembered. Well, maybe not quite so clunky. I put them on my feet, and low and behold, my feet felt like they had come home. My feet were happy and so was I.

So who but an old hippy would be blogging about the joy of finding Earth shoes again? Proof indeed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

One Downside of Backwoods Living

Today was a classic day of the other side of living in the backwoods. It's not all roses, and when the stinkweed is strongest, that's when my frustration set in.

10 am - Get hubby off to work
10:10 am - Boot up computers, log on to my ISP.
10:12 am - Disconnected
10:13 am - Reconnect
10:15 am - Disconnected
10:16 am - Reconnect and stay on long enough to pull in half of my email
10:20 am - Disconnected
10:21 am - Reconnect and pull in the rest of my email
10:25 am - Disconnected

So, I think, okay, this is how the day is going to go. I'll answer my email offline, then connect and send. Yeah, right.

For the next four hours, I couldn't connect at all. Now I'm jonesing. After all a web content writer has to be, what?, connected to the web!

Never mind all the content is written offline - it was the distraction of the thing. I had to keep checking every five minutes, no way could I write too. (I'm easily distracted, I reckon.)

Finally, at three, the connection took - it held and I've only had to reconnect three times since. Almost back too normal.

So, what did I do in those four hours, you ask? I made cheese and yogurt and otherwise tried to keep myself busy around the house.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Living In The Backwoods

Living in the Backwoods
by Kat Yares

Living in the backwoods has many advantages and very few disadvantages once you get used to the way of life here. It's quiet and peaceful, except during deer season when the population swells to the thousands instead of the six or seven who live on our road. Our nearest full time neighbors are over a mile away on either side of us.

We have, or could have, all the amenities that city folks do. It tickles me sometimes, when we meet someone new and we tell them we live eight miles up a dirt road, their first question is: Do you have an indoor toilet? Of course we do. We also have phone and Internet service, electricity and running water. If our well wasn't so good, we could also have 'city' water.

With the advent of online shopping, we can buy most anything we want and have it delivered right to our door. The mailman and the UPS truck run everyday by our house. Granted that another big delivery service does seem to have a problem delivering to us, but we've managed to work around that.

The only disadvantage is the distance to town. There is no running down to the corner store for bread or milk; the closest store is thirty miles away. With the high cost of fuel these days, we do plan those trips for maximum benefit, buying what we need to last at least several weeks.

Is living in the backwoods for everyone? No. I'm glad it's not. I like it here and if it got crowded, well then, I'd have to move.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Welcome to the Backwoods Living Blog

Hello and welcome. This blog has the lofty asperiations of being an extension of my website Backwoods Living. Here, I'll share tips and tricks for back to basics living that may never find their way into full articles. I hope you'll visit often and share tips of your own on how to survive in this fast food world.