Heaters and fires and woodstoves, oh my!!

The temps are dropping for the season and we love staying in the cabin at now (as opposed to the tipi), so after our last night at the a-frame we decided to move forward on a heating solution. We settled on the Dyna Glo 20,000 btu propane space heater.  We believe it will be more than enough to heat up the cabin, once we get it up and running.  

Once again venturing into unknown territory, we did our YouTube research and bought a few parts that we thought we should use to get the propane flowing. Although we are clearly amateurs here, I guess I should not discount our experience with the one-pound propane green things, and Perriee did hook up our gas grill this summer.  But this time is all about indoor gas in a house.  We really don’t have a lot of room for error!  

What we noticed upon our research was that most people kind of half-assed their installations.  I mean, they did not have propane spewing out of their hoses or anything, but their processes were pretty far off of the manufacturer’s recommended instructions.  There was one kick ass family though, who rocked it out!  Really, the whole video is awesome from start to finish.  The guy gave a great supplies list demo, his partner (a bad ass woman) threaded it all together with their beautiful baby on her hip, and ultimately, did the final walkthrough to make sure he did it all right.  Ok, I don’t know these people, and I am making a lot of assumptions, but damn…

Per usual, we found our sweet spot somewhere in the middle of doing it “by the book” and doing it half assed!  We chose to hook up the propane hose that connects to the propane tank to a flexible gas pipe which connects to the heater.  Once we figure out for sure where the pipes need to be routed to, we will re-run some the gas lines with solid pipes. For now, however,  we can just push the propane hose through the roof and connect it to the pipe inside.  

When we went through this process, it sort of worked, but when we tested the leaks before firing the heater up (the ole dish soap and water trick).  We quickly found our line was not sealed. Perriee turned the gas on from the outside and I immediately heard the hissing of the gas on the inside. We soon came to understand that we were lacking a fitting and it would require a trip to the hardware store.  Being about 6:00 pm, I was miffed. It was already dark and the temp was dropping.  

For some reason, I was not feeling like sitting in the tipi for the night to keep warm by the wood stove that already had a nice fire burning within it.  I jumped into bed and covered myself up. Pouting, you may say. Luckily we had stopped back home in the city before heading to the cabin for “Big Blue”, the blanket.  Big Blue is this super heavy comforter that is what I imagine a weighted blanket to be like. It is both warm and heavy. So, I knew we werent going to be cold, but I was mad that we were stuck without a ready solution.  Perriee suggested that we make a fire outside and enjoy the evening. That was the tall glass of lemonade that I needed.  

I drug myself out of the bedand we collected some sticks and branches from around the homestead and made a beautiful fire.  The best part of it all was this video I took once the coyotes started howling in the night. They sounded a little too close, but it was spectacular to be witness to.  

In the morning, when I finally poked my head out from the cover of “Big Blue” ,  we huddled back up in the tipi for coffee and cast iron oatmeal. It is so funny how we are able to tolerate extremes when we need to.  I can’t wait until we get the heater going and have a warm space at the push of a button. That is fact. What I am worried about, is that once we experience the cabin with those comforts of heat-on-demand, we will feel like we can’t be comfortable in there anymore if we don’t have it.  

Enjoy the Best and the Worst

Totally digressing here, but it reminds me of the time that a friend of ours tried to fix our bathroom tub faucet.  He cranked it so hard that it broke the pipe. This all happened during the height of the recession- I think it was 2010 or so, and Perriee and I were consequently also super broke at the time.  To shut off the flow to that water, we had to shut off the water to the whole house. We had no money for a plumber and therefore no water. 

It was also really rainy at the time, so we started catching water in containers outside to supplement with bathing and such since it was there and plentiful.  We were like, “We don’t need water! We can just collect it all!” Once we finally saved enough money to call a plumber, fearing the cost would be out of our range of affordability, the water was back on.  It was awesome, and I cannot imagine collecting it all again to service the house. How quickly we adapt. I guess it is good that we are fast to adapt to either end of that spectrum of comfort.  

Homework: Women Can Build Shit Too! 

Expose girls to the home improvement projects, new construction, landscaping, D.I.Y. world from birth.  I truly hope you watch the looks of wonderment from the baby in the gas line video. She was soaking it all in and watching her mom hold her while she threaded the gas pipe moved me.   It was the best example of model parenting i may have ever witnessed.  

I am convinced that women should be exposed to all of the things that men are in order to form the baseline connections needed to utilize those brain cells, if needed, in the future.  I am not criticizing my upbringing by any means. I do remember my grandpa letting me hang out in his workshop and I watched him make some cool things, but I wish i had more knowledge to inform the things I am doing today.  I feel like it would all come a bit faster than it is. Yes, sillly, do the same for boys. Reinforce their desires to nurture and coddle like you do with the girls. Give everyone a fighting chance to be their best. Don’t limit children to those roles of,  “boys do yardwork and fix things while girls wash dishes and clean the house”.   

I understand that I am likely preaching to the choir here.  Lets face it- gender is a shaky construct getting ready to collapse.  THANK GODDESSES!! Lets just scrap all of those dumb buckets of his and hers and just teach all people to be their best.  It will be a simplified curriculum and so much more powerful for everyone.  

And remember: Women can build shit too! 

Off Grid Living

Cabin life is coming into focus, one screw at a time (we really are partial to screws as opposed to nails.  Amateur tip: they come out easily when you make a mistake!). We installed one of two small windows on the front of the house which will be topped off with solid triangle window panes. We have also started to dive into the whole process of finishing the roof off with fascia, j- channels and soffit stuff.  With the miracle of YouTube, the process is starting to look pretty easy! I think once that is done, we will be darn close to sealing off the ports of entry for the mice.  CLOSE. Not done, but damn close. 

As far as power goes down at the cabin, our main goal is to be fueled by the sun.  I think that is a very realistic goal, considering how much time we spend there currently and for how beautifully the sun hits the roof for a good part of the day.   We are in the market for the Goal Zero, Yeti 1400 which, after some research, we found out will support at least two pots of brewed coffee per weekend.  That, my friends, is amazing. Yes, we could walk up to the house to brew a pot, and we have. Yes, we can make a fire to boil water for the french press, and we have.  Yes, we can boil that water on a grill. Let me tell you, non- coffee drinkers, there is nothing more wonderful then pouring water into your coffee pot and flipping the switch for a fast cup first thing when you wake up.  No walking, no waiting, just brewing. It really is priceless. Be sure to click this link to see how powerful a coffee pot is compared to say, a full-size refrigerator.  A coffee-pot is small, yet mighty! 

Other than a coffee pot, other things we need electric for are simple:  phone and computer charging, power tool battery recharging, BioLite BaseLantern (our source of light in the cabin) recharging, and in the future, maybe a t.v.  We are going to need to be spending some serious time there for a t.v. to be given the gift of our precious electricity.  We are not quite set on a way to heat the cabin yet, but it will either be from propane or wood. 

What about refrigeration? We have recently been talking about getting one of those small cooler-type refrigerators.  Camp Addict has a good rundown of a few options.  But really, when the time comes, we may be best served with a mini-fridge running off of the solar powered generator.  We can go into more details about that later, but for now, we just pack a cooler. Over the summer when it was super hot, it was challenging to keep things at the right temps with a cooler full of ice, so recently we have been to trying to pack more food that does not even require refrigeration and it has been fun trying to come up with different menu options.

Below are some ideas of things that you can bring with you on your next off grid camping trip!  The freedom from ice is so liberating! The only catch for the things you cook, is that you might need to eat it all so you don’t take up any small cooler space for the leftovers! 

Shopping List:

We do have a small stash of things that we keep there in jars within a sealed plastic tub: Oatmeal, coffee, italian seasoning, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, cinnamon, some jarred nuts, and a few bags of tea.

Here is a basic list of things we bring there on occasion:

Apples:  Apples and pears pair so well with so many things.  Cheese and nuts are some of our favorites.

Slice a tomato and toast some bread, and you have the breakfast of champions.  In cool weather, butter can be kept nice without a lot of refrigeration which goes great with toast. 

Oatmeal:  all you need is some hot water!  Top it with nuts, brown sugar, and raisins or any other dried fruit.  Don’t be afraid to try some steel cut oats to change it up a bit. You can make it savory with some sauteed greens and a fried egg.  

Peanut butter! Peanut butter is delicious and filling and oh so shelf stable.   It is good for breakfast, lunch, snacks or dinner.  

Farm fresh eggs:  the beauty of fresh eggs is that they do not require refrigeration unless you had already washed and chilled them.  They come with a nice coating on them called a bloom which keeps them fresh without the need to keep them cold. It is amazing! Pair it with some corned beef hash instead of bacon or sausage if you need some breakfast meat with your meal.  

Tortellini, vacuum packed,  with a marinara made from some canned tomatoes and sauce.  Yes, you can just buy your own jar of spaghetti sauce, but as a grandchild of an italian immigrant, I am not allowed to recommend that.  You could boil any type of pasta, but the tortellini is a bit softer to start with so it cooks nicely when your heat source is a little energy sensitive.  

Speaking of cans, my dad would always make Dinty Moore beef stew when we went camping as kids.  It has been forever since we have had it, but I might need to try it again for old time’s sake.  He also made canned La Choy chow mein.  

Other food in cans: Tuna (you need some mayo), all beans (make a bean salad), soups, veggies, and fruits.

Last but not least, don’t forget the fresh fruits and veggies. They really don’t need to be refrigerator cold if you are going to be eating them in a timely manner: Potatoes, onions, squash, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, apples, bananas, pears, peaches, citrus.

Homework: Try to use less energy. 

Turn a light off when you leave a room, unplug some dead energy like a stove, microwave, or computer that is not in use.  Adjust a thermostat when you are not home to enjoy it. I am totally preaching to the choir here because I need to do these things more too.  It is not only good for the world, but good for your bank account too!

P.S. It is beautiful at our spot in the fall.

October, 2019

These are a few of our favorite things…

There was no cabin to build last weekend because we stayed in the city to hang at Blink Cincinnati.  Blink is a multi day event in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky full of art installations in the form of light projections, sculptures, and performances that blanketed the area for the second time since 2017.  

We were able to go to the opening parade on Thursday night, then we went back on Friday and Saturday to explore the different exhibits.  It was so much fun to take the bus downtown each night. Because they had so many streets closed off, they moved the big bus stop at Government Square to the tunnel underneath the city.  It is one of my favorite places ever. It was the best surprise when the bus turned down to pull down the entrance ramp into the beautifully white and red tiled corridor. It really felt like the emergence into a big city to come up the stairs onto the sidewalk.

Last I heard, over about 1.5 million people made it to the city over the three and a half days that Blink was here.  There are only about a million people in all of Cincinnati so you could definitely feel the volume. On Friday night, Perriee and I went to check out the Roebling Bridge, which was lit up and had music playing to accompany the color.  You could walk across on either side of its walkways, and they had street closed except for small people movers zipping down the center.

The Roebling Bridge Experience

When we got on, it was crowded, but it was moving. By the time we decided to turn around it was almost gridlocked. It was packed to the point that you could not pass the person in front of you unless you pushed your way through.  I was trying to do the mental math regarding how many people would exceed the posted weight limit. I never figured it out. I was never so happy get back on land! Afterwards, we both shared with one another how it reminded us of the My Favorite Murder episode about the hotel bridge collapse!  The following day, we heard that they had to even close it down for a while to thin out the foot traffic.  Luckily, everyone made it through safely.  

The Roebling Bridge, Cincinnati/Covington, Friday, October 11, 2019

I would like to take a moment to brag a little here.  Not about me, but about every human who went to Blink this year (2019).  The City of Cincinnati reported one arrest all weekend for 1.5 million people! That is spectacular!  It was so crowded downtown. But is was also peaceful.  People really appreciated the art and maybe even had some healing from it all.  I really hope it comes back in a couple of years and I hope we can be there for it.

Neither of us are from here.  I am from Cleveland and Perriee is from  Chicago. I think it is safe to say that we both love living in Northern Kentucky.  Perriee and I love living so close to the city, so to round off this post, we brainstormed five places each that we enjoy in the Cincinnati area.  I will have to elaborate on them all sometime, because they all are pretty rad in their own way.

Perriee’s Picks 

Marietta’s Picks

Homework: Take the Bus

The bus is so much fun,  One of our first dates was tp take a bus ride to the Cincinnati Public Library.  I asked Perriee to take me because I had yet to ride the bus since I lived here and really wanted to try it out.  It was also my first time at that library, and even got some kisses in the stacks.  Finally, being a dork paid off!

During Blink, I actually felt a little bad for everyone I saw driving downtown last week while we enjoyed our leisurely walk to the bus stop each night (well, we had to run, once, but you know…exercise!).   For folks who may live pretty far outside of a local bus route, you can even benefit. Towns (like Newport) have park and ride stops, so you don’t have to drive all of the way into the city and deal with finding a place to park (or paying for one). The parking lots are likely a pretty direct shot right into where you are trying to go. Busses are pretty affordable, you get to watch the world go by, and its good for the environment. Just try it once.  The more you know…

A Win is a Win is a Win!

The Vocal Yokel Merch business is going, well…slow.  But it is going. There is definitely a lot to learn. Just this second, Perriee had the bright idea to send an email to our mailing list! We kew it was an option to do it, but had sort of lost sight of it in the midst of working on other aspects of the site. Worth a shot, right?  Even though it feels like it isn’t moving, we at least keep trying to learn something new about it and try something new whenever possible. Once we crack the code of ecommerce, watch out! It really is something we both enjoy, so I am sure we will get somewhere with it once we have a little more time to dedicate to it. Until then, we will forage ahead with the cabin whilst I daydream about working on our business, side by side from our a-frame’s shaded deck.    

After getting within a couple of thousand dollars of paying off our basement waterproofing that we financed five years ago, we decided to divert our cabin money towards paying the bill off.  I think we can say we are within three weeks or so of getting there so we are feeling really good about that part of life at the moment.  

We had our basement waterproofed several years ago and are just about to pay it off.  At the time, a ten year loan did not sound so bad but three years into it, and I was ready to wrap it up. Don’t get me wrong; we both agree that it was an amazing investment.  Our house was built in 1911 and she had a musty under-carriage. Having it waterproofed and ventilated gave us the opportunity to use the space as a type of rec-room which came in really handy when we starting hosting through Airbnb.  As a matter of fact, I am typing this post while sitting in it, right this very moment. It is going to feel good when we can say that we own this fresh basement air.  

In spite of the temporary diversion of cabin funds, we have really been able to make some progress on getting the cabin weathered in before the first snowfall.  We had enough materials on hand already to knock out several things and still have things to do. The front windows are framed in, we covered the front with plywood, Tyvek is up on the front of the house, and we are getting ready to put in windows and doors.  We already have the back windows in, but will be putting in the window above the door opening this weekend and will be trying our hand at retrofitting a steel hollow door. Once we are back in savings mode, we can get ready to purchase the rest of the windows for the front of the house (and maybe a door, if this one does not work out).  

The current plan is to get two big-ass triangle windows which will be installed on either side of the door.  That journey in and of itself has been a big to-do! Because we are going super custom, and we are doing them ourselves,  we have been in contact with many different places. Some do them, some don’t and there are other factors like delivery and price which have varied quite a bit.  We are finally settled on Lowes, but I will keep you updated because there is a great chance that could still change.  

Homework

Recognize your wins.  

Of course we want to report through the roof merch sales, and of course we want to report that the cabin has a door on it, and we will.  But for now, we can focus on paying off this basement bill five years early, We can also celebrate not running into another long-term loan and work really hard to keep it that way.  Building a solid financial future is just as important as building a home and I think that is something we do really well together. Good job us! Good job you for that thing you rocked out!

Perriee napping in the rec-room with Mr. Mittens!

It is gettin’ hot in the kitchen

Talk about taking our own advice!  As a recap, the last homework assignment  THREE WEEKS AGO, I had instructed you to toss some pasta.  Well we have tossed some linguini, spaghetti, bucatini, TUTTO (everything)

Since we last spoke, we upgraded our laptop, purchased a microphone and pop filter to start a podcast, and started a print-on-demand Shopify store (vocalyokelmerch.com).  That is also precisely the reason it has been so long since I have last posted anything.   I have to prioritize the time that I do have and spend it where it is most likely to be fruitful.  By fruitful, I not only mean financially, but emotionally as well. If it would be too stressful to sit and write a blog post, I would be wasting my time doing it.  The whole point of this grand experiment is to spend more time on meaningful things, right? We can do anything, but we cannot do everything.  

Perriee and I have made a commitment to make some moves.  Since we have gotten the new computer, we have been regularly doing one thing, however small, each evening after work to move towards our goal.  Looking back, we have accomplished a lot!

Computer

I surveyed my nerdy coworkers (as a fellow nerd, I write that with love and affection) to see what they would buy.  Out of the five who responded, four of them recommended the Microsoft, Surfcace Pro and two of those also recommended the MacBook.  We have enjoyed our Surface Pro so very much!  

Podcast:

In order to help prepare for the transformation of the tipi, into a dream getaway spot, we want to start to survey our guests who stay here as well as other Airbnb hosts to get their perspectives.  Perrriee and I truly get a gift of some sort from every guest we have ever hosted here, and we would love to share that unique perspective of our guests with you. Examples of some of the gifts we have received: a private viola recital, a copy of a book authored by a guest, leftover beers, photo slide shows, and all around amazing conversation. I really belive the type of people who use the shared-housing services as hosts or guests have a special perspective  and wouldn’t it be fun to share that with the world? We have already recorded a five-minute pilot episode which only my dad has heard so far. He gave us rave reviews, so consider this your teaser!  

Our first set-up: August 2019

Vocal Yokel Merch

It is a progressive thinking online tshirt store.  This is where we have been spending the most time over the last few weeks.  Perriee has been wanting to make tshirts for so long, so we finally took the plunge and it has been so much fun! We set up our Shopify storefront and got our @vocalyokelmerch on Instagram up and running.  Samples have been ordered and we are getting pumped to start taking pics in the new gear so we can post them online. Wowza it has taken some time!  We had no idea the print on demand hustle took such effort getting set up. Hopefully, once we get rolling, it should work on its own for a large part of it. It has been super interesting to see how the different programs integrate with one another and learn the different systems.  If nothing else, it is keeping our minds sharp to learn all of the systems! By working with different programs in my day job it has really awakened my ability to learn the new ones we continue to encounter.  

Homework

Purge your calendar of a few things that aren’t moving you forward.  If your time is anything like mine and Perriee’s, it is limited. To make the time to spend on these side-hustles, we have had to replace our evening tv time with working on our projects.  It has only been slightly challenging .

Luckily we get to work on things we are so excited about. Even better is the fact that we get to do it together!  Even if it is 10 minutes, you have to schedule it in, and be consistent! We pick one thing every night after work and spend some time on it.  Some nights it was making tshirt designs, sometimes it was figuring out how to upload them or edit them. We did something to make sure we were a step closer to our freedom so the next moring we felt a little bit closer.