Homestead Mishaps

Sometimes stupid happens – sometimes it’s preventable, sometimes it’s an accident and sometimes it’s not knowing there is still chain link fence inside a tree stump (you can decide which category that falls into gentle reader). So the Mad Farmer is typing this post with with one less working finger than the last post, bringing up a great time to talk about first aid on the homestead.

First we will tell the tale of woe on the homestead. One of the recent projects on our list has been to reconfigure the fence around our urban property to put a gate into the “back 40” so we have easier access to an easement area and can also put a little more privacy around our back yard. New readers may not know this but several years ago when we built the Pub Shack the area was overgrown with scrub trees that we had cut down to make space for the Shack. Some of the stumps were still producing a lot of new growth (great if you are coppicing for fodder, not great for using the space for pumpkins) so before the fence gets extended the stumps have to go.

Turns out over the years before we bought the property some of the trees had grown up around and through the chain link fence that used to be on that section of the property. Turns out some of that chain link is inside the stumps but barely, or not at all, visible when looking at the stump. So in the interest of getting the project done the Farmer was paying a little less attention that perhaps was warranted, resulting in a sudden twist of a shovel handle and the rapid acceleration of the handle into the top bar of a partially existing chain link fence. As it turned out the Farmer’s little finger was not nearly as sturdy as either the shovel handle or the chain link fence rail. This sad state of affairs provided the Farmer with a spectacular attention-getting moment, a few choice words and a trip to the Minor Med to check out the problem.

Some folks may or may not know the Mad Farmer is a Kansas Certified Emergency Preparedness Instructor, which in theory should mean he knows a little more about first aid than the average Joe walking down the street. In reality it means that the Farmer set the bone without putting any real thought into if that was the right thing to do (it probably wasn’t), realized that he might go into shock (a possibility), so should have Miss Mercy drive him to get everything checked out (probably his best idea under trying circumstances). So, finger in a cup of crushed ice and off to the Minor Med we go.

So a couple of X-Rays and an hour later and the Farmer finds out that not only did he break his little finger (spoiler alert – he already knew that) but it turned out to be a “compound fracture”. In case you are not current on your first-aid-speak, a compound fracture is when the broken bone breaks the skin and allows the outside world inside access. Not the best thing ever according to the Doc. Usually there isn’t much to be done for broken digits, typically they tape them to the next closest finger and that’s about it. In this case the Farmer got a shiny new splint, an antibiotic prescription and a prescription for pain killers. Keeping the finger on ice kept the swelling down initially but boy howdy, did it start to throb after a while.

So to make a long story slightly shorter, broken bones usually take 6-8 weeks to heal. Fingers and toes can take longer because they typically aren’t immobilized completely and if you are not a Spring Chicken (and the Farmer is the other side of Spring at this point) it can take even longer than normal. So that this time, 10 weeks in, the finger is out of the splint, has been seen by a specialist who says it’s healing okay and the Farmer is mainly experiencing stiffness in the joint. Turns out you do use your little finger more than you might think so most of the homestead projects ground to a screeching halt while the finger was healing.

Good news is that the finger is mostly useable at this point, so with a little more care the projects will be moving forward again.

State of the Greenhouse – May 16, 2021

Greenhouse Walk-Through
Looking into the greenhouse from the deck

So we’ve made some significant progress on the TSL Homestead greenhouse. We’re not finished by a long shot but the space is now completely enclosed and mostly draft proof. As you can see in the photo above we’ve got the outside trimmed in weathered shiplap siding that was gifted to us by some friends a few years ago when we were building the Pub Shack (thanks Mike & Wanda)! The siding didn’t match the cedar siding we were using on the Shack so I kept it back to use in a future project and, TADAAAA, we used it!

The planting tables have been installed

We installed planting tables along the front wall at two different heights. The longer run, about 10 feet, is lower and a good height for working at if seated and it’s also an advantage if you are just sitting in the space and looking out into the yard. The Mad Farmer and Miss Mercy have spent more than a few evenings since we got the roof on sitting in the greenhouse, discussing modifications, changes to our yard and just enjoying the space. The higher table on the West end is 36 inches high, a good height for standing and working, and about 6 feet long.

The planking for the interior walls and the table tops are recycled cedar pickets from old garden fence that we used to have up when we had more of the garden blocked off.

Inside looking West

The greenhouse is close to one of our outside spigots so we put a splitter on the outlet and ran a short hose behind the greenhouse and through the back wall, giving us water inside the greenhouse without having to drag a hose around. A 25 foot hose with a wand attachment was the perfect length to allow us to water anything inside and not have to deal with a lot of excess hose.

You can see our existing cold frames in the background but we’re going to be moving those to allow for easier access along the path to the greenhouse door.

Looking out into the vegetable garden. It’s fenced in because Sasha likes brassicas, especially Brussel Sprouts.
Inside looking South out into the yard

We haven’t had too much sun yet this year but we have already been super happy that most of the windows open.

It’s a nice space to sit in when the weather outside is damp and dreary

The Mad Farmer really wasn’t happy with the way I originally framed the East door leading into the greenhouse from the deck. The original plan for the East wall looked a lot different and when we ended up making it symmetrical and using slightly larger windows it narrowed the door frame. We were using an older screen door so that we could raise and lower the window but the opening became too narrow for the stock door so ended up initially framing the door on the outside of the greenhouse, opening onto the deck. After walking through it a few days I just didn’t like it.

So, because screws are a Farmer’s best friend, I was able to deconstruct the door and re-purpose most of the frame. I cut notches into the edges of the door frames using a table saw. You lower the blade down to the height you want to cut to and then run your wood through multiple times, widening the table guide a little each time to make the notch wider. You can do the same thing better with a router but I need to replace my router so sometimes you do the best you can with what you have.

After notching the rails I cut them in half, placed the glass from the door into the custom notches and screwed the top halves back on. I’m sure there are better ways to do it, and it’s possible down the road I might replace it, but it works fine, fits with the look of the greenhouse and I will eventually build a screen door in a similar manner that will open onto the deck so we can have the door open and still keep the bugs out.

The greenhouse dimensions are about 16 feet long by 8 feet wide – a nice space to move around in without feeling cramped.
The steps lead up to the deck where Sasha likes to keep watch for squirrels and Sasquatch

We made the steps leading down into the greenhouse off the deck wider and shallower than a normal step, to make it easier to step down if you are carrying something. The distance between the deck and the ground is only about 15-16 inches, so they didn’t have to be steep and it’s easier on both the dog and the people – important as you get older. Sasha is nine now and while she thinks like a puppy she doesn’t move that well anymore.

We are going to be insulating the wall spaces and covering the interior walls that are open but the good news is that we have some time before winter so we can start looking for some additional salvaged lumber to fit the look. We the price of new lumber at the moment if we decide to go that route we’ll have to decide which child to sell. Father Day’s coming up kids, so would be a good time to make some points with the old man before that decision takes place…

Happy Anniversary!

Today is the Mad Farmer and Miss Mercy’s 10th Anniversary. To some people who’ve been married 43 years (you know who you are) that might not be as big as deal as some anniversaries but to us it’s pretty darn important!

Someone who Miss Mercy works with asked “how many of those were good ones”? We know it was meant as a joke but for some couples it’s a sad, but valid, question. For the two of us we both answered “All of them” and that is absolutely true.

It’s amazing to the Mad Farmer (that moniker was given to him by Miss Mercy, either referring to how the Farmer sometimes drives her crazy, or hopefully, it might refer to the Farmer’s tendency towards Chaos Gardening – only Miss M knows for sure) how with the right person the relationship is so easy and fulfilling that ten years flies by and you can’t wait for the next day to see how that is going to turn out.

That’s not to say that sprinkled through out the years there haven’t been an occasional day with friction – but they are typically the Farmer’s fault for communicating poorly and Miss Mercy is big on grace, so that’s a fantastic bonus.

It’s been a great 10 years and I know that personally, the Farmer is looking forward to many decades more.

Love you Miss Mercy!

Flower Miss Mercy picked out for the Church in honor of our 10th Anniversary. She does good work!
Wedding day – what an awesome bride! And how cool is it that the Farmer got to wear vintage Hawaiian – best wife ever!
“Jumping the Broom” an awesome tradition we had at our wedding. The broom was handmade by a friend of the bride.

TSL Greenhouse 2021 – The Dutch Door

One of the really cool things about Miss Mercy (there are lots) is that sometimes her casual ideas are just brilliant. The Mad Farmer was explaining (probably poorly, but at least with sketches) his idea for what the West wall of the greenhouse was going to look like.

There were several discussions about the door, what side it would be hinged on, what it would look like, door handles, etc. During the discussion the Left-Handed Miss Mercy (I’m told that most left-handed people are awesome – although I’m mostly told that by left-handed people) went in depth about why the door should open this way versus that-way and which side she would prefer. So that prompted a quick inventory of doors about the homestead. Turns out on the TSL Homestead the front door is hinged on the right, the back door on the left and the garage door is on the left. Interior doors are a whack-a-doodle hodge-podge and the basement door is on the right.

Anyway, as we’re discussing the door Miss M says “I want it to be a Dutch Door”. The Farmer was gob-smacked to say the least. Awesome concept. After a quick search on the interwebs we found a style we liked and the Farmer set about making a $500 door appear out of $20 in parts – good thing Miss Mercy is on board with the Repair, Reuse, Recycle lifestyle.

Framing in a window to use as the upper part of the Dutch Door

The upper part of the door is framed from the window we were going to use anyway and we decided to use a simple black style for the hinges and the connecting latch.

The Mad Farmer decided to use three hinges on the upper door because of the weight. The lady of the Manor has decided that she would like an “X” on the lower part of the door, so that will be something that will happen as the Farmer stiffens and finished the framing on the lower part of the door.

Dutch Door open. Going to be super cool when it’s finished!

Snow in April

Last week was the “Average last frost” week in Kansas. Guess what Mother Nature brought us?

Looking out at the frozen over ornamental pond and snow covered Pub Shack. Missing Key West quite a bit at the moment.
Pergola and deck, covered in snow
Not sure the Paw Paw trees in the front yard are enjoying the snow.
We got about three inches of snow overnight – the week after “average” last frost.
Inside looking onto the flower garden
Looking at the flower garden from inside the Greenhouse
Looking west, bet the potted fig tree is surprised.
I don’t think the potted fig tree is as happy as it could be.
First snow on the new greenhouse roof

Come over and follow us on Odysee at TSLHomestead

Wheaton Labs SKIP Kickstarter & Earth Day Giveaway

Wheaton Labs is currently undergoing a new book Kickstarter. The book is SKIP (Skills to Inherit Property). The book is about building the skills that are used in homesteading and looks to be well worth backing. The Mad Farmer has backed several of Paul’s kickstarters, including this one. The kickstarter ends on May 1st so get involved before then. You get a ton of really cool stuff by backing the project at any level.

Paul is also giving away a digital copy of his “Building a Better World in Your Backyard” for a few days. You can get a copy while it lasts at https://permies.com/goodies/92/fbde

TSL Greenhouse 2021 – West Wall

Using ripped Cedar pickets to frame in the windows

The Farmer does a lot of things with Cedar pickets – I just like the look, it’s easy to work with and since it’s usually used for fencing it’s not super expensive. On all the inside window frames the pickets have been ripped down to 1″ wide (that way there are five strips to a standard picket). Then cut to 45 degree angles on the ends, cut to the appropriate length and screwed into the 2×4’s I’m using to frame the window openings. Smells great when you’re cutting them as an added bonus.

West Wall Framed and looking towards the Garden – Original framing

In the above picture you can see we originally had the big window going in the top and were planning to add shelving to the lower left wall.

We ended up finding that some of the frame on the larger window we were going to put on top of the West wall had some wood rot and we could either remove the glass and build a new frame or change the plan up some. One of the reasons the Farmer likes working with wood (and the main reason I use screws) is that when a plan changes it’s relatively easy to adjust. In this case the West wall was re-framed to add in the two smaller windows on top that open horizontally and the larger window was framed in as a non-opening window on the bottom.

Clamps of various types are a Farmer’s best friend (besides Miss Mercy).

When we changed the window framing plan on the wall I had to remove the existing window frames I had already built, move a vertical stud over a couple of inches and then create new frame spaces for change in window layout. It’s always super handy to have a variety of clamps in various sizes and types around to hold things when you are missing that third hand. In the picture above I’m using a C-Clamp and an adjustable frame clamp to hold a new spacing stud in place while I screw it in. Way easier than trying to hold it with one hand and run a drill with the other.

West Wall modified framing with Windows in place

Miss Mercy liked the way it turned out and was willing to lose the planned shelf space we were going to build in on the lower side of the wall. With a lower shelf planned for under the sixteen foot planting table we are building against the South wall we probably won’t miss the few feet of shelves and we gained a pretty cool look for the wall with more glass than originally planned.

All four walls framed in and windows in place – starting to come together.

Overall, a pretty productive couple of days, even with the change in plan. That’s why they call it a project…

2021 Greenhouse build – Easter weekend South Wall

So the weather was mostly good on Easter weekend. On Saturday we started to install the re-purposed windows on the South wall of the greenhouse. I think it’s been mentioned more than once that the Farmer is a novice when it comes to fine framing. You would think the rather relaxed tolerances of a greenhouse build using recycled materials would be right up my alley – you would be close to correct. I’m sure there are super easy ways to install hinges into windows. The Renaissance Dude says there’s “a trick to it”. The Dude forgot to mention what that trick was so a good chunk of the day was spent installing four windows into the South Wall.

Using clamps and scrap wood and screws to help with window installation.

The windows we were using came with some hardware attached, but it was incomplete and in the end it was easier to just go to the box store and get some standard hinges. One of the interesting things about the Farmer’s builds (and possibly why the moniker “Mad” is associated with them) is that usually there is a picture in the the mind, a sketch on paper (may or may not be super detailed) and then there is the meeting of the vison and reality. It’s the last part that seems to cause the most trouble. When the planning is happening in the mind everything fits, everything is level and gravity does not seem to impact anything in any meaningful way. In reality none of those things happen the way they do in the mind.

Using saw horses and scrap lumber to level and install the windows. The dog was very little help.

The good news for the Farmer was that after several fits and starts the windows were finally in place and, wonder of wonders, swung open and shut like the vision in the mind. I will mention that the one area that is a constant struggle is making things too tight when framing. The Mad Farmers’ father spent a lot of time working in metal. He was a masterful welder and his projects were usually straight, clean and beautiful (we won’t mention the cussing, re-welding and sweat that went into those projects – didn’t matter when they were done). I think the reason the Elder Farmer didn’t like working in wood as much was it’s usually not straight, it warps and always seems to shift at the last minute. Which is why the Mad Farmer mostly builds with screws (more on that in future posts).

Windows that open – hurrah!

Wood has a smell that you don’t get when welding. There are folks who think using dimensional lumber is “cheating” or just prefer roundwood timber structures. The Farmer does not judge, but he does work with what is available and dimensional lumber is available in the suburban homestead world. We do try to re-use and re-purpose as much as possible and it’s very satisfying to recycle materials (also sometimes cheaper, but not always). Anyhoo, the South wall rough framing, including working windows, was finally completed.

Easter Sunday was a bright and sunny day. The Mad Farmer and Miss Mercy are Lutherans (think Catholic “lite” – if you are super interested just look up “Martin Luther” on the interwebs and you can read all about it) so Church and fellowship is important to us. We went to church (not the Sunrise Service, the Mad Farmer is not that devout apparently) and then went out to eat at the Farmer’s Mom and Step-Dad’s house. It was the first time we had seen the Homestead Daughters (weird how when children grow up they get their own lives) since Christmas and the Renaissance Dude and the Swamp Gardener were also in attendance. A good time and good food was had by all and then we returned home and went back to work on the greenhouse.

One really cool thing that did also happen on Sunday was a fellow attendee from the Jack Spirko TSP Fall Workshop that the Farmer attended in 2020 was in town and was able to drop by the TSL Homestead and spend some time. Chris (the Permaculture Architect) was in town for a family event and was able to come by and spend some time at the homestead. Chris has a blog at Alt-Ark.com. Chris is “Making Architecture More Permaculture” so please go over and take a look at his blog. It’s well worth the time you will spend.

When it was all said and done, the weekend was over and the Mad Farmer and Miss Mercy had a cognac on the Pond Deck, looked at the progress being made on the greenhouse and other projects around the homestead and were thankful to enjoy the journey that urban homesteading provides…

A rewarding Meukow Cognac at the end of the day