Give Them What They Want….

One of the tenets of all martial arts….is to avoid their use at all costs. To quote the famous Miyamoto Musashi…..


“-The ultimate aim of martial arts is not having to use them”


It might seem strange…..to suggest the best method of fighting is no-fight. It may even seem contradictory.

Consider the following story:


In the years between 207-265, the entirety of China was at war. A well-known general, General Liang, found himself suddenly outnumbered by the incoming force of Sima Yi. With no time to mount a comparable defensive force, Liang ordered his men to abandon the fort they were defending, leaving open the gate and making obvious how empty the fortress now was. As the soldiers left, Liang calmly donned a Taoist robe and sat upon the top of the wall in plain view of the road Sima Yi would arrive by. Lighting some incense he began to play the lute.

As Yi and his forces approached, all could see the renowned General Liang sitting alone atop an empty fortress, calmly playing the lute as the incense smoked before him. Now Liang had made a reputation for himself as a crafty and inventive adversary and Yi, fearing a trap, ordered his men to retreat without a single arrow being let loose. 


Whether or not this story is historically accurate, it illustrates the application of Musashi’s immortal proverb to a real-world situation.

The saying goes, ‘Actions speak louder than words…’ because a person’s actions are always indicative of their desires. By marching on Liang’s forces, Sima Yi made clear his desire to take the fortress they were occupying. Liang could have easily stood and fought, tried to call for reinforcements, or retreated alongside his men and sacrificed position. But he knew his opponent, and he knew his opponent knew him. Instead of wasting lives and effort or losing a valuable position, Liang embraced Musashi’s philosophy to the fullest and chose to act in a way which would give Yi exactly what he wanted, with much less risk of danger to himself or his men.

When Yi arrived he was confronted by the fortress he desired, but without the confrontation he expected. Instead of walls lined with archers he saw open gates and windows. Instead of nervous soldiers he saw no sign of life save for the old General sitting at the top playing the lute. Surprised and aware of his opponent’s wit, he found himself questioning his decision and ultimately retreated, realizing his desires weren’t worth the risk…….

If only we can learn to apply Musashi’s  philosophy as elegantly as General Liang……

 


Thank you for reading,

Dalton 

 

A New Goal…..

Homesteading…..is a hard thing to do. Its an old-world way of living, built on broad shoulders, strong backs and stubborn wills. Between the work involved, the time it takes, and the heartache it occasionally brings its definitely not the ‘smart’ way to live.

Your friends will look at you like you’re crazy. (My wife is a crazy chicken lady!) Your family will wonder what is wrong with you. Your therapist will insist you stop all this nonsense and see him first thing tomorrow.  There is simply no denying….in the modern world there are better options if you want an easy life. Period.

Want to make money? Don’t homestead.

Want to have free time? Don’t homestead!

Want to live a life of leisure? DON’T HOMESTEAD! 

Want to live a life of satisfaction….? You do?

                         Then you might want to homestead. 

In all seriousness though, most who have started out on the journey of homesteading in the modern world will agree there isn’t much in the world more satisfying than seeing a project finished, or watching a baby animal’s first clumsy steps. Or being able to confidently say to all around you….”Yeah….I did that.”

But of course, paychecks only stretch so far and there’s just no denying how expensive things can be, especially when you start in trying to build coops and barns, or run fence and set gates, etc. Like we said before, homestead just isn’t a good way to make money.

That is why we are setting a new goal for our little homestead. Over the next two-three years we are going to get as much done with as little as possible. We want to see just how far we can push the envelope, see just how little we can spend, how much we can reuse, and how much we can accomplish. We have a lot of big projects and it is going to be a challenge. There is no way we can NOT spend money….but we can minimize and only spend what is necessary.

That being said….we want to hear your ideas for re-purposing things and saving money on a homestead! How do you approach the practice of frugality when working on projects around the farm? If you have a homestead-trick you’ve used to save money and get things done too, let us know! We appreciate it so much!

Thanks for reading!

J&D

 

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What’s in Your Pocket?

I recall the first pocket-knife my father ever gave me. It was a very plain thing, without bells and whistles of any sort but boy….I loved that simple little tool; two blades set opposite each other, encased in a plain wooden handle. If memory serves it was a Schrade Old-Timer, and though I regret to say I’ve long lost track of it, the memory alone is still enough to smile about. But even though I’ve long lost the Old-Timer its influence on my choices still lingers….evidenced by a quick glance at my pockets.

Today my favorite pocket-knife is the Kershaw-Leek you see above (black-blade). In my eyes it is the grandson of my first knife, a modern interpretation of what the Old-Timer pocket knives were: simple tools with a certain level of modesty unbecoming of what they could do. Not fancy or flashy. Not loaded with modern bells and whistles.

The Kershaw-Leek epitomizes those traits. One blade. No decor. No fancies and the assisted open is long-gone. Yet it always does the job, its always ready to work. And until the steel is worn away and the bolts begin to break….I’m confident it always will be.

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So if you don’t mind me asking….what’s your carry knife? More importantly….whats the story behind it?

-Dalton.

Musingly Making a Magical Morning Brew

“Life Happens,

Coffee Helps.” -Unknown


Warm sun rays filtered through windows, the whistling of a teapot, rustling of kitchen cabinets and then boiling water pouring over coffee grounds. I watch through blurry eyes as my husband starts one of our morning rituals.

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This is a Chemx coffee pot, so much better than the average muggle coffee maker.

I’ve surprisingly grown to love mornings, something that I never thought would happen. It holds a certain kind of magic that makes you slow down, to stop and smell the roses. Not to say that I spring out of my bed at sunrise and I’m ready to take on the day…..but I will say it helps me to better prepare for the day ahead.

Finding time for intricate spells and rituals can be hard with the daily struggles of the muggle lives we live. That’s why I try to make my daily chores into opportunities to make magic. And my morning coffee is a great way to do this.

I truly enjoy the flavor of coffee as well the little pep is an added bonus. While most of us can still be going through the motions  while making coffee try and take your time. While pouring my coffee into my mug I try to take in the smell and just let that start waking up my mind and opening all my senses. I also don’t drink coffee black, so in goes the cream! Taking a spoon I will start stirring clockwise and begin to focus my mind. With each passing of the spoon I’m pouring in the intentions of alertness, clarity, focus or anything that I really need for that day.

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We also enjoy the taste of coffee made with a French Press.

With that I take the spoon out, give it a taste test then proceed to  sit in my spot on the couch and enjoy the early morning with my Husband talking, reflecting, reading and making plans for the day. All while sipping my magic brew.

Remember that magic is everywhere, around you and within you. All you have to do is look and be creative. Blessed be lovelys and may your path be bright.

-Jessie, The Homesteading Witch

 

THE BILL OF RIGHTS

-Here is something worth reading for you… Every human on earth (especially Americans) ought to memorize the Bill of Rights as it is written in the United States Constitution.

It is up to you to know well those rights given to you by God. It is up to us to ensure they remain protected under the law.


Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Nothing Like a Good Deal…

As July is coming to a close we are building a whole new list of project goals for the upcoming months. August and September are going to be busy. Outside chores are beginning to slow down and with that we are buckling down to focus on paying off debts and getting some improvements to the house completely done. Walls need painted, shelves need moved, and we would both love to get some power outlets in reasonable locations (the house was originally open-floor so outlets are terribly situated). One of the other big goals we had decided on was the installation of a chimney in the center of the house. After having a seizure upon sight of last-winter’s electric bills, we want nothing to do with electric heaters and have decided to install a wood-stove in our home.

Originally we wanted a more ornate stove that could act as a nice center-piece for the living room (nothing like fire-light and reading!) Unfortunately though, those aren’t cheap and we decided to forgo buying what we wanted this year to save some cash. Instead we settled on an older cast-iron cook-stove we got from some family that was moving away. With the expense of a stove out of the way we realized we would still need to set aside approximately $1000 for stove-pipe, flashing, and other parts to get the job done right.

Doable, but certainly not chump change.

Then Tuesday came and we happened across this little beauty!

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A gorgeous little glass-front wood stove (the exact model we were wanting), 11 feet of just the pipe we needed, and the cap! All for the less than the price of the stove alone had we bought it brand new. All said and done, its a savings of over $1000 easily and we are happy happy happy.

 

Now just to get it installed…..Coming soon!

-J&D

Sunday Blog II: Knowing Your Salt…

Another Sunday morning here in Indiana and I’m out in the woods, sitting leaned up against a large red-maple tree listening to the morning-doves that live with us in the northwest corner of the property. The wind is coming out of the northwest; about 5 mph. The temperature is about 71  F and the clouds are for the most part stratus mixed with cumulus; enough to cover the sky in a light shade of gray. 

A moment ago I noticed two small trees next to me which had a peculiar trait. Each tree had two-three different shapes of leaves all scattered about on one branch. Standing up, I walked over and picked two of the differing leaves before sitting down and making some additional notes about these young fellows.

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I won’t bore you further with my botanical notes, but this process started me thinking about the importance of knowing the world around you. Being as it is Sunday, I thought I’d take a moment to see what the Bible had to say about it and I happened to open my book to this:

Matthew 5:13

“You are the salt of the earth, but what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.”

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If we are the salt of the earth, how can we expect to just remain useful? Leave salt in the cupboard for years and it will harden and solidify and while salt cannot actually lose its flavor, if it is mixed with the wrong things or allowed to become wet it can deteriorate and be washed away.

In the same way we can get sucked into the day-to-day, distracted so much by the ants in the cupboard we don’t realize they are carrying us away one grain at a time. Before long we might find ourselves missing something, a portion of our being gone; taken away by the process of life or eroded by the winds of time. We are like all other things, mortal and susceptible to decay and rot lest we make a conscious effort to prevent it. Closing the cupboard door will do nothing but blind us to ants coming in or the water leaking down, yet left to the natural path we will decay into nothingness.

So what can we do?

We can open our eyes and ears. We can look and listen so that when the ants come we can ward them off. When the cupboard leaks we can move to another place. We can look and listen to everything around us and do our best to understand all things. Instead of casually switching topics left and right, we can observe more closely to discern those details unnoticeable at a passing-glance. In short: we can learn to pay attention to the world around us.

Since I was a boy I’ve been told to slow down. I’m so grateful for the old-dogs who taught me to take time to observe the world around me and in the above passage, it seems to me Jesus is saying the same thing. Just as salt is worthless to the world if it has no flavor, we are equally worthless if we have nothing to offer. A man who knows nothing is a little more than a burden and a nuisance to others, and a man cannot know anything without having first paid close attention.

So this Sunday maybe try to slow down and listen a little more intently. Take the time to look a little closer at things and make sure your salt hasn’t been carried off by the ants or washed away by the rain. Get to know the world around you a little better than you did before and above all enjoy your time doing it.

Take the time to get to know your salt. Have a good Sunday,

Dalton

 

Homesteading Mindset: Think Long Term…

We all have dreams. We all have goals. We all have things we want to accomplish in life; whether it is becoming a business-owner or a pro-athlete, a top-level-chef or a world-renowned author, a television host or a simple homesteader.

Having dreams and goals is a critical part of the human experience we are all dealing with. Our dreams give us foresight and give birth to our goals. They allow us to look past the what-is and see instead the what-could-be. We know by their very existence that there is more to life than what lies in front of us and we naturally want to bring the real world a little closer to those dreams.

Here’s the thing though…..bringing those dreams to fruition is not an easy task. It takes time, effort, and a dedicated plan. Dreaming is easy, everybody does it. Setting goals is more difficult, but lots of people still do it. Keeping on the path to attaining those goals is the true challenge and we need more people who can do that too.

The problem is we live in a high-speed world. It is easy to get distracted and in many ways our lifestyle encourages us to embrace the distraction. Click this, click that. Don’t finish this video before you start another, don’t specialize because we need more generalists, don’t commit to one person too much, etc. Buy this, buy that, everything begs for all your attention at all times and everything is at your fingertips. All of this has combined to do away with the ancient world of waiting. We live today in a world of instant-gratification. Unfortunately….

Goals don’t work that way.

No, goals don’t work that way at all. Dreams come and go in a flash like a Google search, but goals take time. They take work. They take discipline. But above all things goals take PATIENCE and a commitment to the long-term.

The way I see it life is like one giant map and no matter where you start out on that map, your goals are always somewhere else. Sometimes its hard to tell exactly where they are, but you know they are out there somewhere on the map and you know if you want to reach them you have to start off down some road. You may encounter crossroads and corners, dead ends and detours, but you know one of the roads will lead to your goal. You know its there. You can feel it, even if you can’t usually see it. But it is hard to keep moving when you can’t see any progress, or when you see yourself go backwards. It can make you want to just give up and go home.

It is so important that you don’t. Keep walking. Keep taking steps. Keep moving forward even if the mailbox is still out-of-sight.  Keep doing the work because I promise you, even if the destination is still out of sight a quick glance behind you will show just how far you’ve come.

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I have to remind myself of this almost daily. As young homesteaders we have far more energy than we have time or money and it is difficult to find our projects brought to a standstill. At least once a week I fight with myself for not having more money to complete projects, or not having enough time to get what I want done. I feel lazy if I don’t see progress immediately. I feel inadequate if I find myself unable to do something I think I should be able to just do. But I know sometimes that is the way things go and thanks to my wife, my friends, and my family I know that in reality we are making progress. We have a clear goal in mind and we are taking strides along the path to reach it.

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And I can promise you….if you have a goal in mind and are working towards it you are making progress too. You may not be able to see it. You might get depressed or disappointed or disheartened. That is okay. It happens to all of us. But keep walking. Keep walking. KEEP WALKING. Every step you take forward takes you a little bit closer to your goal. Even right now I promise you’ve come a lot farther than you think. So I’ll say it one more time. KEEP WALKING, your destination awaits…

Even if you can’t see it yet….

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-J&D

II. Perfecting Form Through Philosophy…

I do not think there is a more lovely sight than the rising sun in the Midwest countryside. Mother morning is a lovely lass and she greeted me this morning with the beauty of the stars . She was a fetching sight to behold as I drove north for my Wednesday routine and I couldn’t help but smile at the twinkling morning-star as I made my way to the city to meet my instructor.

Such mornings are always a blessing. They make the struggle of waking up easier but they also serve as a foundation for the day, making it easier to maintain a positive outlook throughout the day’s challenges. What’s more, they help a sometimes restless soul to step back, reflect, and just relax for a little while……

It was this beautiful morning which inspired my enjoyment and reflections of this mornings class and I wanted to share….

Today’s class began in the typical fashion. Upon arriving I changed out and stretched before sitting down with my instructor to discuss a bit of the philosophy behind the art of Tai Chi before moving onto forms and applications. For today’s discussion, we reviewed the following passage of the Tao Te Ching 


Twenty-Eight:

Know the strength of man,
But keep a woman’s care!
Be the stream of the universe!
Being the stream of the universe,
Ever true and unswerving,
Become as a little child once more.

Know the white,
But keep the black!
Be an example to the world!
Being an example to the world,
Ever true and unwavering,
Return to the infinite.

Know honor,
Yet keep humility!
Be the valley of the universe!
Being the valley of the universe,
Ever true and resourceful,
Return to the state of the uncarved block.

When the block is carved, it becomes useful.
When the sage uses it, he becomes the ruler.
Thus, “A great tailor makes few cuts.” 


The Tao Te Ching is perhaps my favorite religious book to read due to each small verse reinforces and demonstrates the principles and truths of Tai Chi and life itself. This verse (like so many others) shows why.

In the first paragraph we read,

“Know the strength of man,
But keep a woman’s care!”

Any martial art can serve as both a spiritual and physical discipline. In all of our actions (physical and otherwise) it is good to know the strength of man. Without this strength we cannot stand our ground, we can only yield. Yet without the ability to yield willingly (thus keeping a woman’s care) we cannot hope to survive for long. Even the best boxers must yield to their opponents punches.

“Be the stream of the universe!
Being the stream of the universe,
Ever true and unswerving,
Become as a little child once more.”

A stream is a low place where water gathers and flows. In order for a stream to exist there must be some lower place for the water to go. In the universe this process of lowering is endless. In life there is always another lesson to be learned, some new view unconsidered, some new task to complete. If a heart be pure, it shall never waver in purpose. All who see it will know it for what it is, and it will be as a little child once more. (I cannot recall the exact verse though I think it be in the book of Matthew….there is a story of two men who, upon seeing Jesus and without introduction recognize him instantly as the son of God.)

We see this first verse repeated twice more, each time in different words and with each repetition we can glean some other meaning or lesson if we choose to look.

“Know the white,
But keep the black!
Be an example to the world!
Being an example to the world,
Ever true and unwavering,
Return to the infinite.”

To know the white is to be aware of the perfection. To keep the black is to recognize imperfection and accept it. Those who practice this can find peace. Those who find peace are examples to the world. Those examples who persevere in their quest shall return to the infinite. (This line can be seen in the necessary torturous death, resurrection, and ultimate ascension of Christ. It is also seen in the attaining of enlightenment by Siddhārtha Gautama, the first Buddha, while sitting beneath the Bodhi tree being taunted by demons.)

“Know honor,
Yet keep humility!
Be the valley of the universe!
Being the valley of the universe,
Ever true and resourceful,
Return to the state of the uncarved block.”

If we are to function in the world we must interact with it. In order to successfully do so we must honor certain things in certain ways. This honor must extend to ourselves as well, yet we must keep it in check! Let us leave seppuku to the history where it belongs.

The valley is the meeting place of all things. Animals come to the fertile valley to eat and drink. Humans build in the natural shelter of the surrounding hills. They are full of life and resources, yet in spite of their beauty they remain the lowest of the land; humble and meek, simple and plain. The simple things in life are often the most valuable.

“When the block is carved, it becomes useful.
When the sage uses it, he becomes the ruler.
Thus, “A great tailor makes few cuts.”

When something is given purpose it becomes useful. When the wise know how to use it they become great. In order to use something well, you must learn to use it well.


This is the reason I so love the Tao Te Ching. These verses….so many lessons can be learned from them. With each reread I find myself pondering some new realization and while the majority of the lessons seem exceedingly simple they are nonetheless true. In fact it is the simplicity of the lessons which makes their teaching and sharing so important. In reality, life is quite simple. It isn’t a complicated matter to live a successful life, yet we see many people barely getting by each day and the question arises….why?

We humans tend to overthink things. Sometimes that is okay. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it leads to a denial of the obvious for fear it too good to be true. Other times a little bit of overthinking….is just what we need to sweep off the complexities and reveal the simplicity beneath.

If you made it this far….congratulations and thank you. I hope you enjoyed some of this. Feel free to comment, share, ask, etc.

Dalton.

Sunday Blog 1: Garden Spaces and Sacred Places…

Good morning everyone. I hope this Sunday finds you well, relaxing with coffee in-hand. The sky here is gray with clouds, the lights are dimmed and the house is silent. Two pups are snoozing on the couch and my lovely wife is still asleep, enjoying a respite from my early-morning antics she puts up with every other day. As for myself, I’m enjoying my coffee, a pipe, and the beautiful silence of my Sunday morning solitude.

All this combines into what I wanted to bring up today: the importance of sacred place and time. 

I could probably write on this topic for hours, but Sunday is a day of rest is it not? So instead of boring you with my theory I’ll keep it short and sweet:


The single best thing you can do for your mental and spiritual well-being is to have a place and time set aside each day and/or week for reflection. This place must be considered sacred to you; no stress be permitted to enter. This time must be sacred to you: no work. Just uninterrupted time for self-reflection.


For myself and my wife this place is our home and in-particular; our garden.

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A line of tomatoes held up with wooden-trellis

The garden is one of our most sacred spaces. When we enter through it’s gate nothing enters with us. Saturday and Sunday mornings both are often spent peacefully milling about within it’s borders doing this or that, giving us time to stop thinking about life and simply live it.

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No reward is better than the cultivating of life…

So this Sunday morning (if you haven’t already) find yourself a sacred space to enjoy and take some time to stop thinking so much and worrying over life. Just let it happen.

Be that in church, or a garden, or a walk through the woods….go and enjoy some time to you.

After all you deserve it.

-J&D

Choosing, Cutting, and Preparing Firewood…

Growing up, summer-time was always a time for preparation. Winter shows up fast and if we were caught off-guard we went without heat. Now that we own a homestead ourselves we are living the same way, and the time of preparation for winter is here…


If you live in midwest America there is a good chance you use firewood for heat in the winter and, if you don’t, you at least know someone who does. There’s a lot to be said about this age-old method of heating a home. Its crude. Its primitive. Its the best heat there is if you ask anyone who has used it before. However nobody will deny heating with firewood can be a lot of work. Unless you are fortunate enough to be able to buy your firewood (seldom a very cost-effective option) heating with this fuel means you’ll find yourself cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood every spring, summer and fall, preparing for the winters ahead.

It is hard work to be sure, but its far from impossible. With a little bit of knowledge, the proper tools, and some good work-ethic getting ready for a winter of wood-burning can be made ten times easier. While I can’t help with the tools or work-ethic, I can try to shed a little light on a few of the things to help make your summers a little less laborious and your winters a little more warm.


Not all firewoods are created equal.

There are two ‘kinds’ of firewood; hardwoods and softwoods. Generally softwoods are readily available in higher elevations and more northerly locations and include species such as Alder, Juniper, and most (if not all) coniferous trees (pines and spruces). Hardwoods thrive in the middle and southern-latitudes and are normally broad-leaved. Oak trees, maples, and Osage Orange(Hedge-Apple) are examples of hardwoods.

As the name suggests, softwoods are less rigid than their hardwood counterparts and they tend to grow much faster. They are more readily available, lighter weight, and are easier to deal with when cutting and splitting.

Hardwoods on the other hand are less common in full-form. Their wood is harder, more dense, and as a result will usually be much heavier. Splitting them tends to be more difficult as well.

When it comes to burning, hardwoods are the best option. For all the extra work they require to process, they will burn longer and hotter than most softwoods. (An oak log can burn 1.5x-2x as long as a similarly sized pine log.) If hardwoods are not available softwoods are still more than adequate and safe for burning in a wood stove, but it should be noted they will burn faster and not as hot. Softwoods also have a tendency to leave a lot of creosote in chimneys, so if you choose to use them make sure to clean your chimney frequently during the season.

Good tools are worth the investment.

No invention has made cutting firewood easier than the chainsaw. If you don’t have one, Echo, Husqvarna, and Stihl are the most popular and reliable brands in my experience. My current saw is an Echo with an 18-inch bar. It is reasonably powerful and has done the job well for the year and change I’ve been using it. I could go into more details about chainsaws and their use but I’ll save that for another day.

While chainsaws take care of the cutting, when it comes to splitting it up there is only so much we can do. While gas powered splitters make the task of splitting wood immensely easier, some of us can’t afford those. If you can’t no worries, but you need to invest in the following:

  1. A full-size ax. A hatchet is useful too but I prefer an ax. If a log doesn’t have a crack, you can use an ax to make one easier than a maul.
  2. A splitting maul. This is the bruiser; a big piece of iron secured to a long handle meant to be swung fast. Short of a gas-powered splitter, this is the best you can get. Remember, weight is not superior to velocity. Mine is 8.5 lbs and is plenty. Make sure you can swing it fastI can’t stress this enough. Use your body-weight. Swing fast.

 

  1. A sledgehammer. If a maul gets stuck or you need to split an extra-large log in half, a sledgehammer comes in handy especially when combined with…….(see next).
  2. Two to four wedges (I like one small, two medium, and one large.) Hit these with the sledgehammer to help crack larger chunks in pieces.
  3. Safety glasses and earplugs! We’re all guilty of skipping out on safety equipment sometimes. For god’s sake though do your best to be safe. You’ve only got one body. Take care of it. If you’re hitting metal-on-metal, wear them!!

 

 

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Wood burns. WATER DOESN’T! (Firewood Storage).

Firewood comes from a living organism and like all organisms on planet Earth, living trees have a huge amount of water in them (this is why green wood is such a pain to burn). Lucky for us that water begins to evaporate and leave dry wood behind as soon as a tree dies. Cutting and splitting firewood speeds the process up even more and helps firewood to ‘season‘. (Dry out enough to burn most effectively.) However wood acts like a sponge and will begin to absorb any water in its immediate vicinity.

After wood has been cut stacking it outside in the sunlight for 4-6 months will not cause an issue. In fact, for those first few months the wind and sunlight on the wood can help it ‘season’ faster. After 6 months though it is important to get firewood off of the ground and (if at all possible) stacked neatly out of the elements. We use a barn to store ours (see below.) Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-12-21,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

 You may hear some claim its okay to store firewood outside. They are right; it is okay if you use it in a timely fashion and are okay with sending valuable time and work out the chimney instead of into your home. Wood is an organic material. If stored outside it will begin to rot (especially the lower layers or any in contact with the ground.) Wet and/or rotten wood does not burn nearly as well as dry, well-seasoned wood.

So store your wood under a roof!  If you can’t do that, store it under a quality tarp and off of the ground.

(Another note: Certain types of wood rot extremely fast. Hickory and Sycamore are two hardwoods you don’t want to store in contact with the ground. Most softwoods also will rot quickly if left to the elements.)

Greater Surface area = Greater Burn-Rate.

I’m not going to elaborate too much here but I think its worth mentioning this: the shape of firewood will be a contributing factor to how long/hot it burns. While you are are somewhat constrained to cutting/splitting pieces of wood to the size of your stove/burner, the more surface area available for the fire to come in contact with(relative to the total amount of wood in the fire) the faster and hotter it will burn.

For example, if you have a large stove and place a single 50 lbs. oak log in it; the fire will (generally) burn longer and cooler than if you put five 10 lbs oak logs in it. The extra airspace and surface area of multiple-logs will increase the burn-temp and time.

It takes a while to get the hang of using this piece of knowledge to economize your wood-use, but its a handy thing to know and over time can help you burn firewood more efficiently (and according to your needs.)


The intense labor required to heat with firewood may discourage some, but for those who still want to use this classic method to heat their homes (or those who have no choice) it is worth every penny and every minute spent. The feeling of relying on nobody but yourself for heat, the self-sufficiency and off-grid ability of a wood-stove, and the sheer romantic/homey atmosphere flickering flames can create in a room combine to make wood-heat hands down the best heat in my opinion.

And its pretty good for nature too. (Seriously, its one of the greenest options out there if you are conscious of your methods.)

Hopefully I didn’t bore you too much and I hope you get some use from this! Thanks for reading and feel free to like, share, and comment!

-Dalton.

 

Chickens and Duckies

Did you know more babies are born in April and May than any other month? Okay, I’m not actually sure if that is true for humans….but it certainly seems true of everything else! Spring is past but just a couple months ago all the wild things in the woods were having babies, and so were some of the less-wild critters we share a home with. In April we were gifted a dozen baby chickens and we now have five more born the last days of May and the first of June; this time Muscovy ducks!

This being only our second year on the property, we have only invested in chickens and ducks for livestock. Up until this April our little flock of chickens was made up of 20 Buff Orpingtons, 3 Rhode Island Reds, and 1 retiree of unknown breed (‘Blondie’). Over the winter we rescued Anna and Draco here, two Muscovy ducks that were nearly freezing to death in somebody’s backyard just south of us. While we fully expected a few of the chickens to go broody (Buffs are terrible about it) we didn’t expect our female duck to try so soon! Sure enough though at the end of April we came out to find she had built up a clutch of eggs and was no longer interested in leaving; she’d gone broody.

 

 

However we ran into a problem: Muscovies take a long time to hatch eggs. A normal chicken takes 21 days to hatch and most ducks 28. Muscovy ducks take anywhere from 35-37 days to hatch little ones. Such a long time on a nest can of course stress any mama, especially during one of the hottest Mays on record. The daytime temperature last month averaged around 85 with several days nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit. With her nest inside a tin coop there was no escaping the stifling heat and no easy way to increase air-flow. Despite our best efforts the inside temperature still neared 120 on the hottest days, and our worries were amplified when we went out on day 21-22 and found two baby chickens beneath her(a hen snuck in an egg or two). They had just hatched and as far as Anna was concerned, they were hers.

We let her keep the chicks a couple of days while we moved the April-babies to a new section of the adult coop, but we were concerned if we left them much longer she might leave the nest. The April-babies had grown enough to keep warm without a heat lamp so we quickly cleaned out the brooder box we’d made for them and after a bit of a fuss, stole the two chicken-babies from Anna and put them in the brooder box. While she wasn’t happy with us she (thankfully) stayed put on her remaining eggs.

After waiting another 12 days for ducklings we began to worry. We’d lost a good hen to the heat and Anna was starting to look weak when she got up to drink. We finally decided if no babies were seen by June 2nd we were going to take her eggs for her own safety. Thankfully the universe was intent on proving our worries pointless because on June 1st we came out to find our first duckling! Over the next three days we had four more hatch; three on their own and one with human-assistance. The natural-hatchers were strong and healthy and while we got a bit scared for the baby we helped, a night spent in mama’s bra to keep warm found him steadily improving (if you’ve seen our instagram you may know him as Little-Bit).

So here we are at the end of June and baby season is finally over. All the eggs are hatched and all the babies are growing fast. The duckling we assisted hatching imprinted on us and he and the chickens Anna hatched are now best friends. The April-babies are nearly old enough to go in with the adult-birds full time (we are currently in the process of integration), and Anna’s four other ducklings are happy and healthy and learning to explore! There are still a few months of ‘growing pains’ but the hardest part of the year is officially out of the way and while we love the little rascals in all their cuteness…..we are thankful it is over (for now!)

And for one last dollop of cuteness before you go….how’s this?