Spring Chores

There’s always something to do around here, but spring is filled with tons of off-grid and homesteading work to keep me busy.

First of all, sorry for my apparent absence. I actually need to shoot an email out to my private list one of these days, but I haven’t done it yet. Perhaps I’ll link this post when I do.

First on the list, the off-grid handmade homestead stuff. Winter is growing closer to a close, but there are still plenty of frosty nights out here. My wood pile for this year is dwindling, though I’m sure I have enough to get me through, but I do need to keep hauling it in at night and moving things around.

Most of my wood pile sits outside in the weather, but I keep a rick (a 4′ x 8′ stack) in the pole barn in case of wet weather. This ensures that I always have something dry to burn, even on rainy nights, and it’s way easier than trying to find a way to stack up too much wood in the house.

My system is basically to fill that rick whenever it gets down to half. It consists of two racks, so one is always drying out while the other is being consumed. I haul about 4 loads in my little yellow cart to fill one of these half-stacks up.

The freezing temps also affect the water. I love my water heater, but since the vent pipe is so short, chilly weather outside can potentially damage the coil in the unit, so the lines going to it must be drained, sometimes nightly, before the temperature drops. Luckily, I haven’t had any water-bottle-shower days this year, but that’s always a possibility too. I have a dirty job, and if I don’t wash off the cement, then I can get injuries from it, so I can’t skip a wash simply because there’s no hot water in the pipes. (I use an EcoTemp I9 on-demand water heater)

It’s not all dreary though. I’ve been planting, transplanting, and caring for seedlings since the start of February. My butternut squashes from seed I saved last year are getting huge. I knew I was planting them early, but I was simply excited about planting season this year. The light shelves are loaded up full right now, also with two varieties of tomato, some cayenne peppers, cucumbers, romanesco, kale, and I just recently added some yellow squash seeds to the mix. There are over 300 plants under those growlights right now, and more in the garden.

I’ve actually had garlic on my brain for the whole week. It looks (right now) like all of my plants are going to make it. About 80 Persian Star garlics (a specialty purple-stripe I ordered last year) and over 100 from my grocery-store propagation. In spring last year I planted 21 cloves from a Walmart 3-pack, grew 21 plants, and then propogated the biggest and best of them. I’m still eating on the rest. The hard-necks were bought with the idea that I could grow an amazing garlic out here without too much trouble. I don’t know if I’ll sell any this year, but the 80 plants I have outside right now could spawn another 400 full plants, 400 bulbs, and some leftover for me to eat. That’s my plan anyway. Garlic is a tricky plant, so maybe I’ll do a post or youtube vid on that later. You know, when they actually come up and I can do something with them. These were all planted last fall and it will be late summer until I can harvest them. Either way, if things go well this year, I’m seriously considering getting into the garlic business for good.

I’ve also been doing pottery. About one pot per night from my wild-harvested clay. This is the latest one.

Wet on the wheel

As you can tell, I’m not the best at it. But in the morning this guy will be leather hard and I’ll trim the rim and the bottom to make it a touch more uniform. I’m throwing these on the simplest of wheels, and ancient replica of a pottery wheel, which is nothing more than a round piece of wood that is sitting on a short shaft. I turn it with my left hand and do most of the sculpting with my right, though sometimes I put both hands on the pot to do different things. This latest one got me working the walls much thinner than the last batch, and I’m trying to figure out ideas to make the clay more workable as well as figuring up a glaze recipe that I’ll be testing with this batch. It’ll be about 50/50 slaked lime and clay, and maybe some regular wood ash in there as well. Not 100% sure yet. I’ll be happy if I can pit fire them without them cracking so badly that they fall apart on the first washing, like my first one did.

My finished pieces are set on the wood stove to dry until I’m ready to make the fire.

Hard as a rock at this point, but still unfired

I also have a new construction project going on outside, but more on that later.

I’ve been trying to get more videos uploaded to my YouTube channel and turning that into a thing. If you have a minute, please click the little YouTube button in the side bar and check it out, or just google offgridgecko and my channel should pop up. Subscribe to keep up with all the cool stuff I’m doing out here, as I’ve been posting to that more than I post on this site.

Over the next few months, I’m going to be crazy busy with planting, building, growing, potting, and who knows what else, in addition to the day job. I spend a little time writing each night also, so at the end of the day there’s no time left for anything but sleep, and I’ve been skimping on that as well.

Here’s hoping all is well with you guys. Have a great night.

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