Monday, May 28, 2012

Moving the animals and the hoop house

The one part of moving that I am not looking forward to is moving all the animals.  Thankfully all of our animal housing was made with an eye towards portability.  Our first chicken coop was built on top of a 4x4 plastic palate.  Two people can easily move it.  The hardest part will be getting it out around the lilac bush and small oak tree. 
When we bought our newer chicken coop we had recently acquired an old trailer missing its decking.  The coop fit perfectly on top.  All we need to do is winch the trailer onto our road legal trailer and drive away.  We might even move the coop with all the birds inside.

The goats themselves won't be as easy to move as the chickens, but their housing won't be much trouble.  Their first home was a calf hutch.  As they grew my husband made them a "run in" which gives the goats a covered area outside their hutch.  With all the rocks around they are quite content.  Too bad we can't move any of the rocks; I know the goats will really miss them.  Temporary fencing won't be too difficult either.  Right know our entire goat pen and most of the chicken run is made from 16 ft cattle panels cut into 8 ft sections.  Two trailer loads should move the goat housing and all the cattle panels.

We have also used cattle panels to make a temporary hay storage area and a greenhouse.  Surprisingly, our tarp covering the "hay hut" has lasted 3 years.  All we'll need to do when we move the hay hut is throw away the tarp, disconnect the boards along the bottom holding the shape and load it up on the trailer.

The greenhouse or "hoop house" was a fun project and one I am definitely not leaving behind.  Right now it is approx 8x9, but I would like to add one more cattle panel and make it 8x14.  Hopefully we will be able to reuse the plastic.  When we first built the hoop house I used regular plastic because I had a bunch left over from another project.  That lasted one year and then disintegrated in the sunlight.  Greenhouse plastic was really not any more expensive than regular plastic and has held up beautifully.  I could probably get another couple years out of it but we'll see how the plastic survives being taken off then put back on.  If I end up making the hoop house larger then I'll probably get another whole sheet again and use the older plastic for some smaller hoops for seasonal protection in the garden.

Cattle panels are useful for so many things.  I am glad we have purchased so many over the years.  Cattle panels are nearly indestructible by the goats, although a few are a little bowed from the goats rubbing along them.  Chickens and baby goats can easily get through the panels but we have put chicken wire along the bottoms of the panels in the chicken run and coated 2inch by 4inch 2ft tall wire on the bottom of the panels in the goat pen.  Moving the animals is something that will have to be done fairly quickly once we get started, and is the main thing that must happen before we can start staying at the new house.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Our new wood cook stove

We are now the proud owners of a Waterford Stanley wood cook stove similar to the picture above.  Thank you Ted for all of your help as we could not have gotten it onto our trailer without you.  It took 2 1/2 hours to get the stove apart and onto the trailer.  800 pounds of cast iron as a complete unit.  We may have gotten it down to 400 pounds after taking every part we could off the stove.  Thank goodness for levers, dollies, 2x4s and brute strength.  All together the trip took 10 hours; a long day of driving and hard work for the guys.

The original owner of the stove bought it because her grandmother had one that was close to 100 years old.  She had a lot of memories of visiting her grandmother in Ireland and many memories involved the cook stove.  She is selling her current house and can't take the stove with her; and the new owners don't want the stove.  She seemed happy to know that her stove was going to a good home and will be cherished for many years to come.

Now comes the hard work.  First, we must put the stove back together, minus the legs, before we forget how we took it apart.  Thankfully my husband found the manual online so we now have a very good diagram of how the whole thing goes together.  We also need to clean out the insides as I don't think the stove has been cleaned in 3 years.  All that creosote and ash around the cast iron firebox while it's in storage would invite moisture and lead to rust.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wood cook stoves

I have wanted a wood cook stove since I started hearth cooking.  The technology is a little more advanced than making a "burner" of coals on the hearth floor, but they are much more practical and fuel efficient (and much easier on your back).  Soon after we moved into our schoolhouse we bought an old coal range from the 1940s or 50s.  It baked beautifully; something about that type of heat that made the best breads.  And sitting in front of the oven door was great for drying hair.  Unfortunately, the stove's firebox was too small to be our main heat source and frankly the stove was really ugly.

A true wood cook stove just wouldn't work in our current home.  The layout is all wrong and we needed the larger firebox and heat output of our Vermont Castings' Vigilant.  But when we started to design the interior changes in the new house it became apparent that a wood cook stove would fit in to the kitchen area.  We knew we needed a newer stove to get the UL listing so we wouldn't lose our homeowner's insurance.  There are two steel stoves, Pioneer and Baker's Choice, that I really didn't like the looks of and I wanted something sturdier.  The Elmira has a more solid top and is a bit ornate for my tastes as is the Heartland. Finally I saw someone mention a Waterford Stanley on a blog and I really liked the looks of this stove. It's also solid cast iron and considered the "work horse" of cook stoves.

But, ouch, the price!  I have been regularly checking out Craig's List for stoves and finally a Waterford Stanley came up.  I think we are going to look at it this weekend.  Hopefully it as nice as it looks like on line and I will have a wood cook stove finally.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Why do we want to live in the Kutztown area?

Well, who wouldn't want to see this every day?  Kutztown and the surrounding area has many Old Order Mennonites.  Think Amish with tractors on steel wheels.  We often see a horse and buggy going down the road while we are eating breakfast in a local diner.  And then there are the Mennonites who ride bicycles everywhere.  I kid my husband that I need a bike with a little trailer behind, a Mennonite dress, a pair of black sneakers and a bonnet and I'll be all set to go shopping.  He says I need a baby pig to ride in the trailer.  I think all Mennonite women use the same pattern to make their dresses, but they are not afraid of patterned fabric in lots of pretty colors.

The Mennonite farm stands are a great bargain for fabulous food.  A bunch of asparagus for $2, no problem.  A beautiful head of lettuce grown with no pesticides for $1.50, why not.  Need some pepper plants?  Go to Meadow View Farm and you could probably get at least 40 different varieties of hot pepper plants.  I can't wait to be able to shop in the Kutztown area on a more regular basis.

The area itself is beautiful.  Our new house is in a little valley with a 200 "hill" right next to the house on one side; seems to go almost straight up from the side yard.  And there is a similar, but slightly smaller hill on the other side of the road which runs along the side of our property.  The house actually sits on a corner, but you don't really notice it much with all the trees along the road.  The property itself slopes gradually up in the back at least 200 feet as well.  The property is surrounded on 3 sides by PA State Game Lands so we will never have new neighbors moving in, unless you count the deer.
On the other side of the "hill" there is a cave.  Turns out my husband went there when he was in Elementary School.  Its closed now to prevent vandalism and to let the bats return. But you can still see the opening when you drive by.

About a quarter mile away is a covered bridge.  Its on the national historic register so hopefully it won't be going anywhere soon.  If we wanted to go for a walk "around the block", which isn't really a city "block" out in the county, we could go past the cave, over an old one lane stone bridge, past a mill built in the 1800s, through farm land, then down a hill and through the covered bridge, then past an old stone farm house with a huge array of solar panels, then past another old stone farm house and barn, then down the hill and back into our little valley.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The history of the house: as much as we currently know

The realtor's listing stated the house was built in 1972.  In just looking at the pictures the realtor put on the web it was obvious the house was older.  Who would put metal kitchen cabinets in a house built in 1972?  Once we got into the house it was obvious it was much older.  The foundation is stone, one section of the basement has a dirt floor, The floor joists under the master bedroom have circular "kerf" marks from mills functioning after 1860, some of the beams under the kitchen/living room have up and down "kerf" marks from an earlier saw.
We were fortunate to meet the current owners and they told us the house was moved to its present location sometime in the 1930s.  The area surrounding the property on three sides is currently state game lands. We have been wondering if the house was moved when the game lands came in.   I would think the house was not moved far and that has got me looking at old maps of the area.  There were grain mills and saw mills close by and many of the old houses are still remaining, but a few are gone.  Could one of them be our new house?  It will be interesting to look for more clues as we work on the house.
Here is a link to a map of the area from 1876:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The New House

On April 24, 2012 our offer on 4 acres, a stream, and a small 4 bedroom house was accepted.  The settlement date is August 15, 2012.  There's lots of work ahead: moving the goats, chickens and turkeys; fencing 3 pasture areas; learning to take care of the small fruits and fruit trees; hopefully getting in a fall vegetable garden; setting up the work shop for all the work we want to do inside the house; oh yeah, and getting our current house ready for sale in the fall. We have tons of plans for both the inside and outside.
Here are some photos of the new place.  Of course there are no good pictures of all the beautiful landscaping.
I've always wanted an outhouse!

The tiny master bedroom will become a den

Oh so many things to do with the kitchen!

Well, this bathroom will get completely blown out.

The view from part way up the high pasture

You can't see the third bay of the garage in this picture. These 2 bays will become the workshop.

Love the sunroom!

The little stream

Not going to change this patio one bit, its perfect!

This family room will become the master bedroom/bathroom.

4 Acres and a Stream

Our journey to our new home on 4 acres and a stream- and blueberry bushes, grape vines, raspberries, apple trees, and a cherry tree.

This blog will chronicle the time until we take possession and as we make this property our own.

Wish we had been able to do a blog when we were fixing up our school house.  It would have been great to look back on the progress.  So many things we have forgotten in 29 years!