Friday, December 21, 2012

December Do Over

Whoa, December has been a whirlwind! We pretty much missed out on the first 2 weeks off the month. My Daughter became pretty sick with Pneumonia. We made an emergency trip to the ER on December 5th, and then both spent a week on the couch, as I came down with the Flu as well! If it werent for my husband I don't know what we would have done....

He ALSO managed to get the Hot water hooked up to the Cookstove. A couple more days of hard work, and a couple more dollars in supplies, and he had it up and running around the 10th of December!

It went off without a hitch, and worked PERFECT for the first 2 days, UNTIL a pipe burst in the Bathroom.... still sick and lethargic, I woke around 9 am on the 12th,, to a pipe in the front bathroom, gushing water.. Imagine a hose on high (without no spray nozzle),, yeah, it was insane.. I am so happy I heard it, as our bedroom is a ways away ... It must have only been going on for a couple minutes, enought to empty about 20 gallons of water in our bathroom, hallway, and onto a bit of our carpet in the bedroom.  Could December really get any worse??
Robb came home fixed the pipe, and insisted it had nothing to do with the hot water system we just hooked up. Now, he is a Maintenance Man, and a damn good one, so I took his word, let him fix the pipe, and forgot about it.. Until...................
I woke up at about Midnight the following night.. To the sound of what sounded like a waterfall in our laundry room.. ANOTHER BURST PIPE!?!?!?!?!?!  Robb jumped out of bed, and proceeded to throw around the F*** word  a couple times,, turned the water off,, and proceeded to vaccum up the water in the hallway, put towels and fans on the carpet.. I lay in bed, completely annoyed (haha) and frustrated.. and figured midnight was not the best time to have a conversation about why another pipe coincidentally burst in the Laundry room....

The next morning, while googling whatever I could think of, to see if I could help figure out why our pipes keep bursting,,,Robb called me from work, to tell me we needed and Expansion Tank..
When we hooked up the cooktove to the hotwater tanke, we also added some check valves, these prevent the hot water from backingup into the cold water line, which is great and a good safety measure, But because of the size of the tank ( we have a 40 gallon tank,, pretty small) the hot water was building up pressure and that pressure needed somewhere to go,, so it chose any which way it could when the pressure built up! The expansion tank has resolved the problem.. But not before creating YET another mess.. RObb had to tear off the wall in the laundry room,,, clean up the water mess,,, replumb the pipes in copper ( we had some pretty cheap pipe in there) and then hook up the expansion tank.

I must say, I didnt think any of this Off the Grid stuff would be perfect... and when the Hot water system worked perfect at first,, I had my doubts..hahaahaha..
We arent quitters though and know there will be more challenges along the way.,,and since the expansion tank, the hot water system works AMAZING!! Start a fire, watch the temp, and you have PLENTY of hot water do live just as we did before.
I will admit if I am gone all day,, I do turn the hot water off,,, as I am still suffering from some broken pipe PTSD..... not quite over that yet,,lol

Since then, My Little Miss Norah has gone to her last check up and is Pneumonia Free! I am better! We have a totally awesome HOt water system, and I am finally working on Holiday deocorating,  baking and crafts....

I guess a December Do over wont be necessary after all....:)
Happy Holiday from The Cool Homestead!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Its been a busy couple of weeks here ... My dad came down for a visit last week :) We ate more than we should have, he got to spend time with his grand-daughter, and ( its never fails when son in law and dad get together) we accomplished a project we have been wanting to get done for a while now.
This is how it usually happens ;)
Dad and Husband have a  beer.... Dad and Husband get Bored... Dad and husband start an unannounced project,,hehehee..

I was in the kitchen Baking a pie and canning potatoes when giant branches started hitting the back porch... I ran outside to see what was up. Yep, thats my husband up in the tree, cutting down limbs with a chainsaw ...

They were getting Ready to drop our maple.. This is a beautiful tree, but there were 2 problems: It was blocking the sun for our Solar Batch Collector that will be used to heat our water in the summer, and it was dying at the top.
I will miss the Buzzzzzz sound we heard  every February from the Honeybees collecting pollen. But it had to come down :/

Robb cut and dad pulled with the rope. He told me I might have to help pull, but I ran inside and made myself scarce ..........

I did come outside quietly,  and watch once Robb started sawing, it was scary and kind of exciting... Robb has never really cut down a tree before, let alone one this tall, but my dad talked him through it,, and they dropped it like pro's

 so there ya have it :)  The hot water batch collector will be hooked up very soon. we are currently working on hooking up the cookstove for our hot water in the winter so need to finish that up first.

 quite a bit of wood to heat the homestead too..

Until next time :)
The cools

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Chicken Sausage Homestead style

Yesterday we spent the day Making Home Made Chicken Sausage and it turned out fantastic. Homemade chicken sausage is tricky, since you are dealing with chicken ( and not super duper ultra fatty greasy pork,, yum! heheee) its very easy to make chicken sausage that has an end result similar to sawdust, trust me I know, we made that variety 2 years ago ....
with a little trial and error we have come a long way in our sausage making....

what you need:
**a chicken or 2 or 3 or 4.. :)preferrably from your backyard. . The following recipe is based on 3 lbs of chicken meat./ about 1-2 chickens depending on breed etc...
** a Meat Grinder
** a sausage Stuffer
** sausage casing
**spices n extra fixins depending on what kind you want to make..

Step 1.. least favorite part.. butcher your chickens :/  this is my husbands Job
Step 2: Remove meat from the bone,, this is my Job. Be sure to add some of the Fat and skin into the meat as well, if you dont, you will end up with a dry sausage,,, I would say add 50% of the skin and fat from the bird.

steps 1 and 2 will take a better part of your day if you are butchering your own birds. Its time consuming, and labor intensive, but knowing it came directly from you homestead makes it all worth while.

SAVE the Bones if you want to make chicken stock later.

Step 3: Put the meat through the grinder. we use the biggest setting for the first time through

Step 4: add spices ( see recipe below)

Step 5: add Chicken broth or water.. I added chicken broth, we had broth simmering from a previous meal, and Ive read that broth is 100 times better than adding plain ol water.  I added about 2 cups worth to this recipe. This is also going to aid in keeping the moisture content in the sausage.
Step6: Attach sausage stuffer. now some grinders have sausage stuffer attachments, or you can buy a seperate sausage stuffer, we have both :). this is just a little plastic hicka ma doo, that goes on the end of the grinder... This is where we put the other attachment on to grind the meat up even smaller and then it goes directly into the casing.

You can make the links any length you want, you can twist and tie the ends when you have the desired length.
and Voila************ Homemade Chicken Sausage****** You can freeze or Pressure can your sausage.
Recipe for Bratwurst Style Chicken Sausage ( this is what we made)

3 lbs Chicken
1/2 Tsp All spice
3/4 Tsp Caraway seeds Crushed
3/4 Tsp Marjoram
1 Tsp Pepper
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Liquid Smoke ( be easy on this stuff, I hear its easy to over do it)
1-2 cups water /broth/beer , some kind of liquid. I hear beer is great to add!

 Recipe for Italian Style

5 lbs Meat
2tsp Whole Fennel seed
2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 Tbsp Salt
2 Tsp Oregano
2 Tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 Tsp Garlic Powder
( again I would probably add some kind of liquid if using chicken and not pork)

Recommendation: I personally recommend cooking these on the stove top. You could grill them, but again chicken sausage has a low fat content/moisture content so grilling them may dry them out,, but hey! give it a shot and let me know how it comes out :)

Happy Homesteading :)

The Cool Family
Oh,, dont forget to save the bones for Chicken Stock! Ill be canning some up this evening :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The story of Beeswax

The past few days, Robb and I have started preparing for our annual Holiday Market up in the mountains. We sell raw and infused honey & everyonessss favorite Beeswax Candles!
Beeswax candles are different than other candles. how so you ask??  Beeswax candles burn brighter, longer, and cleaner than any other candle. And after you see how its all done, you will have an even greater appreciation for beeswax.

Worker Bees develop special wax producing glands in their abdomen. These glads turn the sugar from the honey into wax. The wax is then able to move through tiny spores in the bees body, leaving flakes on the bees abdomen. The wax is then chewed up by the bees and added to the construction of their hive.
Honey bees also Cap the frames of honey with wax( like a little lid on top of the honey filled cell :). This is usually a good indication for us as beekeepers to know when to pull the honey from the frame... If you pull the frames to early, the honey can still have to much moisture in it ( the bees fan the honey with their wings to draw out the moisture,, and they know Exactly what they are doing and when its ready to be capped)
Pulling honey that is runny can result honey that will spoil or ferment.

Here is a photo of a frame of honey with the wax capping still in place:

When the frame is about 80% capped thats where we come in. We give the frame a quick shake, if no honey runs out, we know we are good to go...

Before we put the frames in our Honey extractor, we have a tool that scraps off the wax cappings , (its similar to a wire comb) to open up the cell and allow the honey to flow from the frame.

Next the frames go in our honey extractor ( a large machine that spins the honey out),, and the honey comes out a spout at the bottom and then through a large strainer to remove any large bee parts etc.. the WAX cappings are also sitting on top of this strainer , allowing as much honey to strain through before bagging up the wax.

After all the honey has made its way through the strainer ( NOTE: we use the largest strainer possible, allowing the pollen,small bee parts and some wax into our honey, because thats all the good stuff ;) we take the wax, throw it in a gallon bag until we are ready to make candles...

When we are ready to make candles, we pull all that beautiful sticky wax out from the freezer. There is still honey in the wax. The only way to seperate all the honey from the wax is with a solar wax melter or using a double boiler on the stove.
We place the wax in a coffee can, then place that coffee can, in a pot with water and melt the wax down completely.
Once the wax is melted, we cover containers with cheese cloth to strain it yet once again,, to remove any other little bee parts, dirt etc..from the wax.
Then you let it cool, The wax will solidify at the top and the honey will be at the bottom of the container . When you pop the wax out of the container you are left with this:,, almost ready, but there as you can see, there is still a bunch of honey n gunk on top of the wax..
This obviously must be removed before making candles...
so what to do???
FEED THE BEES :) give em back what is rightfully theres to begin with:)

Then just take a butter knife and scrape off any excess gunk, and you are left with a Beautiful chunk of beeswax to make Candles, lipbalm, soap ***********
The whole process is very involved, labor intensive, and when it comes to the bees part in the whole process, nothing short of amazing...

Be sure to support your LOCAL Beekeeper at this Years Holiday Markets..
The Cools

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Its SNOWING.. winter projects ;0

It hasn't snowed here yet... while they called for a lot last week, we didnt get a single flake, but the Mountains got a couple feet! This morning the sky spit out some rainy sleety stuff that vaguely resembled snowflakes, but all in all, it eventually turned to rain.

But even with the lack of snow piling up,, the winter projects are! I always look forward to this time of year, a time to slow down a bit, but I really feel like we have a lot on our plate this season. I am not going to rush my husband though, or myself for that matter... I am learning that taking our home off the power grid is a process, and instant gratification does not apply...
especially when funds are short and you have more projects that you can handle anway..

Santa Came early,, and look what he brought us ;) 6 240 watt solar panels ...........

and whats even cooler is they are USA MADE!!!

Plans have been drawn up , so Robb will be building the stand for the panels this winter.
This week we are Finalllllllllly hooking up our hot water to our cookstove which will most likely be my next Blog post.. so STAY TUNED!

In the meantime Im enjoying quiet crafty mornings next to the cookstove .
working on gifts for the Holidays...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Rainy Daze

Looks like my laundry is getting a second rinse today. A rainy lazy day here at the Cool Homestead..

Bread Rising... Cobbler Baking.....Clothes drying... Home is Cozy.. A lovely rainy morning indeed .

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Not the size of the dog in the fight.....:)

After a week hiding like a hermit inside my home, taking care of my oh so very sick lil one :/ , we wer finally able to get outside today and get some MUCH needed work done outside! It was a beaUTifUL Fall day, perfect weather for cutting back raspberry plants, transplanting strawberry runners, mowing the lawn, and CUTTING down trees for MORE GARDEN SPACE ;)

Now I know a lot of you will probably feel quite Douped when I tell you our house sits on LESS than half an acre.. Yes you heard that correctly,,hehehe..thats what we own :) My father owns 2.5 acres here too ( vacation place) within a stones throw, literally), so we use that for our Main Garden and about 15 Beehives.
this is where i take the opportunity to remind all you small homesteaders

hard work, is what it boils down to, you can do just as much on .5 acre as someone does on 4 or 5 (minus a cow or horse,, but there is still room for a goat, trust me we have thought about it,,lol!!!!!)

Now mind you, although we sit on such a little peice of property, there aint no rules in edgemont. Here you gotta travel 12 miles of bumpy windy gravel road to get to a paved road in the country :) so as you can imagine, anything flies.
Since our purchase in 2006, we have managed to fit 600  and counting sq feet of garden space, raspberries, strawberries, 4 blueberry bushes, a peach tree, a woodshed, a green house, a 3 chamber compost bin, 2 chicken coops, a chicken tractor, approx 25 chickens,  about 10-15 beehives, a solar shower. and hmmm am i forgetting anything??, Nope i think that covers it.. although in the future we will be building our greenhouse from glass off our backporch to give more room for gardening, and will be building a summer kitchen this fall , along with about 6 solar panels this spring!.
Its all about planning, hard work ,and determination. You dont need 5-10 acres to do all of this!!
Planning is key..
so i thought i would take this opporunity to INSPIRE!
3 rules to live by when working on a small peice of property :)
Rule #1 : plan plan plan. plan ahead, think of your homestead in its finished stages, so you dont end up putting , lets say a chicken coop in a sunny spot that could be used for a garden or some fruit trees

RUle #2: STAY ORGANIZED, or you will look like a real hillbilly, trust me,, we are constantly battling that,,lol

Rule #3: appreciate what you have,, you dont need more, use what you HAVE!!! I couldnt imagine having much more to do,, we have our hands full! as a wiseold  man once told me  " You could work youself to death on 2 acres. :) Obviously it isnt as Squeezed together as in the photo,,lol,, we have room to run and play!!

rule #4: its not the size of the dog in the fight, its the size of the fight in the dog ,, that is the golden rule ;) work hard, ive seen people do more on once acre than people that own 20.

Ok here is my awful drawing,,lol, but you can get an idea... again not so squished as in the photo,,

Ive decided to give you an idea, and hopefully inspire others to do the same!!! now granted we dont have rules here, so if you live in a suburban or urban setting, I would definately check to see what you are allowed to do!!!!
Like I said, in addition to this diagram we use part of my fathers land for our main garden ( the big one) and our 2nd beeyard, but even minus that , there is still a lot of produce, fruit and honey going on at our place! her is a photo of my dads land that we use/ourgarden and bee yard there:)2.5 beautiful acres... we have hopes he will sell it /pass it on to use one day :)

The only thing when considering a tiny homestead is room to roam.. and privacy,  that is definetaly a personal and lifesyle choice!!!but here in the Pisgah National forest there is 192,000 acres of untouched beauty at our fingers tips, and besides weekend folk and people passing through to see Wilson creek, its the most private place on earth <3 p="p">

*Norah playing in wilson creek right behind our home
Blessed to live here, homestead here, go off the power grid here, and learn how to make it all happen in a smaller than usual space !
Much love and get INSPIRED!!!

oh yeah almost forgot to post a photo of the new garden spot  we worked on today at our house! it will start  about 5ft behind the chicken tractor(existing side garden, the hens are eating all the vegitation now) and come all the way around to the front of the house here!;)

Friday, September 14, 2012

They're On the Move

I love autumn, its is hands down my favorite season. The Cool mornings make gardening so much more enjoyable!
Ive been working on cleaning up my gardens from summers crops, and slowly getting my fall garden planted. Its a chore, to say the least. I am just about done with all clean up with the exception of this:

Yep, that s my strawberry there somewhere..

 it now resembles a jungle more than a strawberry patch. The weeds slowly took over the past couple months. After the last crop of berries in June, I totally neglected this area,, as you can see,,haha.

Here's the problem (and really I am not making excuses, i would really love to clean this up ;)!)

 While i thoroughly enjoy fall,, its when the snakes here are seen the most...We have snakes down here, a lot of snakes, poisonous snakes..
So many so, that we have seen 3 poisonous snakes in a day on more than on occasion.  as a rule here in Edgemont, you AVOID brush, tall grass, and leaf covered areas at all costs..

While Ive come to terms with the amount of snakes here, and realize its part of living here,,, there is no way I am getting in that strawberry patch.. Ill guess Ill have to wait for a frost and until the snakes go in for a long winters nap..
Because as the folks in Edgmeont Say  " They are on the move".......

Monday, September 10, 2012

Why I suck at blogging

My father has told me many times to keep track of what we are doing, to write it down, even if its on a piece of notebook paper , a scribble in a journal, just a quick note about the day. Of course its a great idea, and it seems so easy , right??!?!?!?!

I dont write. I talk a lot, haha, but I cant seem to get my point across on paper/computer. Im either too scatter brained, tired, or just plain freeze up when I sit down in front of the computer. We are doing so much here and I really wish I could get my shiznit together so I could share all of this with you.

The cool mornings signal change, a time to slow down, cozy up by the cookstove , and write???

I know I've got it in me somewhere.. so please bear with me... Im working on it,, if not for me, for my Father <3 p="p">
 In the meantime, Here are some reasons I have not blogged lol ( besides total writers block,,hahaha, atleast some damn good excuses ;)

We hope to have some exciting posts up soon, including
hooking our all our hot water up to our cookstove
Beekeeping basics
 making and canning homemade chicken sausage
the construction of our summer kitchen
and of course the big countdown to our Off grid home (10 month deadline!)


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Many Gifts of Summer

The many gifts of summer

As of August 11th we have harvested ****965 Pounds*** of Food from our little homestead :) Sometimes I am not sure whats more enjoyable;, harvesting it, preserving it, eating it , or *Photographing it* .. a few Colorful and Beautiful photos of Real* Good* Organic* Homegrown* FOOD grown with love and a lot of hardwork! From honey to eggs,~ fresh chicken to fruits n veggies~....enjoy the visuals <3 strong="strong">

The Cool Family