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

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!

Keep throwing the spaghetti on the wall!

What??  Throw the spaghetti on the wall?  Yes! Keep throwing it on the wall.  One day it is going to stick! In case you haven’t heard about that before, when you cook pasta, you can toss a piece of spaghetti on the wall (or ceiling, if you are feeling feisty) and when it sticks, you know it is done.  I don’t think I would recommend throwing a lasagna noodle or manicotto on the wall. Although it would be impressive to see, it might leave a big glutenous smudge. Long spaghetti seems to be the best choice, or perhaps a delicate angel hair or hearty bucatini.  Once again, I digress.

Perriee and I have been tossing the spaghetti on the wall for a few years.  Most of the time, it falls off. Sometimes, it never even reaches the wall, but we have had a few small wins for sure.  Ok- maybe just one sizable one: Airbnb stuck. This is our 5th summer hosting! It is hard to believe we have been rolling with it this long.  I am hoping we can develop our space here a bit more so we can charge a little more and generate longer stays by offering the kitchen space for use.

One little project that slid down the wall was hosting dinner parties through a site called Feastly.  Although fun, it did not generate any income at all!  We made this amazing dinner with spaghetti and meatballs and homemade cheesecake.  It was delicious and our friends who came loved it, but it never stuck to the wall or generated any momentum outside of our close friends and family who both humored and honored us with their presence.  It did stick to my waistline. This side-hustle pre-dated our time hosting through Airbnb. The silver lining? It served as a bit of a catalyst to get the guest space together enough to show it off to strangers and the improvements haven’t stopped since. 

Cabin Corner

We installed the two back windows last weekend!  Hands down, one of the easiest and most rewarding projects we have done on the cabin so far.  Special thanks to Jonathan from MunozStuccoPA for helping is out with his awesome YouTube videos! The only installation flub we had was nailing the bottom flange all the way across, as opposed to leaving some extra gaps along the bottom for water to flow out, if needed.  That was all my bad. Perriee questioned it and I confidently responded on the contrary and we did not rewatch the video to confirm. As directed, we did NOT use the flashing tape along the bottom of the window.

Check out our thank you videos: Before

After:

These windows were ordered at the end of June and finally arrived the week prior to us installing them  As you can imagine, we were so excited to get them installed so that is exactly what we did. Since we ordered two of the same window, I assumed they would match.    Several minutes after we got the second one in, I noticed that they are different! Ha! There were only supposed to be 4 panes of glass on the top and bottom sections of the windows and one of them has 6 panes of glass on the bottom section! This is one of those things we will call good enough because they are not coming out again.  One of them will technically be in the bathroom and the other in the kitchen anyhow, so you will be less likely to notice from the inside of the house anyway. We are blaming this on Mercury in retrograde and Home Depot, of course.  

Regardless, the windows open, they have screens, and nothing can mess up the view you get while looking out of them.  It is beautiful. I watched some crows dancing in the woods from them the following morning. Overall, it was a huge win.

 

Homework

Keep tossing the pasta!  You can only hope you will end up with a wall-full, but realistically, most will not stick.  Don’t be afraid to try different types of pasta either- if you want to try blogging one day, then a basic website the next, do it.  The only thing that keeps you from succeeding is not trying. I have recently been listening to a couple of inspiring podcasts that have been getting my wheels turning to think of new ways to make money and getting the guts to try.  

Failing Forward is a Cinicnnati based podcast with the premise that even failures can lead to our successes.  In that respect, you should hope to fail at some things. Learn the lessons and move on. Use them as learning experiences to do different things the next time.  Keep tossing the pasta! 

The Side Hustle Show has over 300 episodes packed full of ideas and success stories of people who are now working for themselves.  One hot tip was to make a list of 50 ways to generate income for yourself. By the 50th one, you will have a list with at least a couple of ready to eat noodles.  And if you don’t? Well, make another list.  

The mousenest of the week…
We said goodbye to the hoosier cabinet in the tipi and found this bad-boy behind the bottom drawer. It was its own ecosystem (spool of thred for scale).

One…two…three…go!

Number One

In preparation for our first official get together down at the cabin, we did some landscaping to spruce up the “yard” a bit.  It is so funny because we have one push mower at the city house and two on the country property, but not one of them would start, so to kick off our new car lease, we loaded a rented push mower for the day to get it done.  I planted some flowers that are probably dead right now since it hasn’t rained for a week and we pulled the tall grass that was growing around the base of the tipi. It looks really cool down there.

We hope to have some folks camp and maybe play some yard games around there so we had to make some space with the mower, which also helps in terms of bug control.  Surprisingly, we did not see one tick last weekend, which is either because we started using the bug spray finally or because it was even too hot for them. The transformation of that spot after we mowed, from when we first pitched a tent there three summers ago is astounding.  It looks like someone’s yard now. Oh yeah, its our yard!  

My vision for this party (oh yeah- I am totally putting this out there in the universe) is for people to come and relax.  I want them to take a deep breath and smile. I want them to snack, and laugh, and drink, and decompress. There is so much going on in the world right now and I want our spot to feel like a safe space in the chaos of it all.  A charging station, of sorts, to prep your mind to be able to get back out there and face it all again. Mercury is in retrograde right now, so this might be a tall order, but I am going for it.  Maybe a night hanging out with us can serve as a respite from the effects of it.  

Number Two

This will be a mostly off grid party, so we also spent some time prepping the new number two spot behind the Number 2 Room.  Our old poo deposit spot we set up turned out to be a little too close to things people use, namely my sister’s bedroom, so we haven’t dumped any buckets in preparation of getting the new place set up to compost the waste at. We can take it down in a year after the pile has rested for two years.  It will be rich compost.

The wonderful thing about the bucket system is the fact that they are sealed so well, that you can sort of let them hang out in a safe place until you are ready to clean them out. It is a pretty easy process to maintain sawdust potties. We connected four pallets into a square, dug a basin of dirt out of the center, lined it with straw and dumped the buckets we had into the center.  You then cover, cover, and cover it some more with straw, which will be peeled back to dump again in the future when new buckets need emptied (and them recovered again). Please check the official handbook  for more detailed information.  Personally, I would not do this in an urban environment, because it would be impossible to control any runoff, however small, which in the spot we have selected, will be both minimal and unobtrusive.   Of course, you can invest in the more official compost potties, such as the Nature’s Head composting toilet, which we will be considering for the cabin, but for now, sawdust (pine shaving) potty is absolutely enough.  

 

Number Three

On the city home front, we had a party for Independence Day with friends and family that was wonderful.  We had Airbnb guests staying that weekend, so it forced us to be extra cozy in our part of the house which consists of the first floor and half finished basement.  My favorite part was packing up our new mattress we have been sleeping on and moving it into the living room to use as extra seating and we were able to move our dining table into our “bedroom” for the day. This was our first go at doing this transformation since getting our new sleeping arrangements.  It was really exciting because basically, I realized we are already well on our way to tiny living and efficient living.  It was a good feeling to actually know we practice what we preach! 

 

Homework

Be mindful of the “things” in your life.  Try to have multiple purposes for some of your belongings so you can have fewer items to look after or find space for.  The less space that the material things take up in our lives, the more room we have for people who make us happy or moments to cherish.  The less you have to lose in life, material wise, the easier it is to take chances on things you really want to do.