I am a firm believer in the need for a man to endlessly work on himself, else he risks beginning a slow spiral of decay. In nature there is nothing which does not, without work and care, become slowly decayed and thus lose the integrity it once had, as well as the potential to become something more. Steel left to the world will weaken and rot. Wood will do the same and even the most permanent of materials, stone, will slowly begin to return to the formless if left to the elements alone.
Yet with just a little bit of care the steel of the sword or the wood of a bow may stay supple and strong. It is the natural state of things to decay and only consciousness, focused intently on improvement, stands to delay in all things the natural state of rot….This is what highlights the importance of improvement to a man’s life. A man who is not consistently working to better himself and flush out his impurities and weaknesses can hardly call himself a man…rather he who has resolved to sit idly by has embraced the state of decay and rot and can no longer be counted among his fellows as human.
He has made a choice to return to the animal in its most primitive form.
For those great many of us though who choose to remain true to our purpose and march forward, seeking improvement in ourselves each day and in our character….the importance of learning new things and working on new skills cannot be overstated. Each day brings with it renewed opportunity and with that, a chance to be humbled once more. This is a part of the practice, the goal pursued by the legendary masters of old and a goal worthy of pursuit by all.
However the learning of any skill is not without it’s walls, barriers, and periods of pure frustration. Failure is the often the greatest teacher and no thing can be learned without having been dealt a healthy dose. At some point each of us has been in the shoes of the frustrated pupil so desperately trying to advance in the study of this or that, only to find our efforts thwarted by the unknown. Yet if we are persistent….quite often we suddenly find ourselves advancing once again with some new ability or knowledge acquirable only through the diligent practice which we’d previously engaged ourselves in.
In the moment when everything is suddenly made clear, it is like a dam suddenly opens within us and what previously thwarted our attempts no longer exists; the energy flows freely. The proverbial gate is cleared…and we may walk further down the path unhindered. Whatever concerns we’d felt beforehand vanish, whatever blocks we’d had evaporate and we walk into a new place. We truly clear the gate.
There is a story I read once about the Buddha:
A traveler one day came upon the Bodhisattva sitting below a tree, surrounded by a glowing orb. Upon recognizing (the Buddha) he proceeded to ask “Pray tell how I may come to sit beside you and so attain enlightenment”
The Bodhisattva smiled and replied, “I cannot tell you how. I can only tell you to come in.”
If you have ever dedicated yourself to the mastery of one skill and thus pushed forward in the face of apparent failure, you may have experienced this sudden clarity in the learning process. The feeling of hopeless helplessness can become suffocating as you watch your peers advance without you….as you see yourself stagnate in your progress. With persistence though there comes a moment when the gate is cleared…in that moment you understand the Buddha.
You find yourself no longer trying to enter, no longer banging your fists furiously against the gate and wondering why it will not open. In a moment of defeat you let your hands down and close your eyes and in that briefest of moments…you find yourself suddenly on the other side, looking back and wondering…what took you so long to get here? With this experience you may understand better the term ‘clearing the gate’. The feeling is often accompanied by a physical manifestation, a feeling of ‘flow’ in the body itself as muscles relax and a new ability is gained.
On a personal level, my latest endeavor of skill-learning has been that of traditional archery. The art of archery as it was in the past, without aids of any sort or mechanical devices, is an animal much different from its modern counterpart. Without a mechanical ‘break’ in the draw or sights to aid our aim we realize how out-of-sync we are with our bodies. Our weaknesses are amplified and our shortcomings highlighted with every shot. Pluck the string and you shall miss. Try to aim and your arrow flies off into the sunset never to be seen again. In the absence of tools and gadgetry we can no longer rely on science to cast our arrow…we must find another way. To me, this form of archery is less and less a science or sport.
It is a philosophy. A meditation. An art.
So again we begin a new journey only to find quite soon we must wait, practicing slowly. Diligently. Pushing patiently forward until we once again…Clear the Gate.
Its interesting how the natural cycle works…
We tend to see these things on a micro-scale. We see short-term, one human-lifespan or so at a time. Yet the great cycle appears and exists on a macro-scale as well. Ecosystems are ‘born’, they thrive for a time, and then they die. Entire species, cultures, entire worlds pass in and out of existence constantly and we are none the wiser.
This weekend we began the process of ‘girdling’ various trees around the property. Much of our meager 6 acres is wooded and like anything else, the trees can benefit from proper management. Many of the trees (all which we girdled) were small, sickly, misshapen and/or being shaded-out by larger trees. While we still have a few to go, here is a glance at a few of the trees we did get to! (As well as a few we cut all the way down!)
Years ago somebody decided to cover the original wood-finish of this bow with some sort of black lacquer-coating. While harmless to the bow’s purpose it conceals the natural beauty of a one-piece recurve, so I’ve decided to begin wearing the black-coating away.
It is a slow process. The natural wood-finish of the bow is somewhat delicate and abrasives could really damage it, but a little bit of acetone and elbow-grease will do the trick. I spent about an hour slowly working to wear away the coating over the weekend and the results are already splendid.
What’s more….a name finally came to mind….
Our backyard is positively full of Shagbark Hickory trees. While I’d been intending to try my hand at roasting the edible nuts they bear in the past, I’d just never gotten around to it. After taking care of Sunday morning chores though I noticed the ground was covered in a fresh rain of the things with the outer-shells already broken away. Normally a healthy population of red squirrels is fast upon the fresh-fallen fruit but yesterday it seems I beat a few to the punch, so I quickly filled my pockets and headed inside.
I’d eaten hickory nuts raw before, but the roasting process makes the flavor change in amazing ways. After emptying my pockets into a basin of water, I discarded those few nuts that floated (bad) and went on shelling those that sank to the bottom. A pair of pliers and some experimentation made quick work of the shell and revealed the edible meat inside. After shelling what I’d gathered I popped them in the oven for 12 minutes at 250 degrees (F) and enjoyed a wonderful morning treat straight from the trees in our yard!!
If by some chance you’ve followed this little blog for any length of time, you may recall a post about a wood-stove we purchased back in July. Well September is here and with it the mercury is beginning to fall. Of the many things we wanted to accomplish this month, installing the wood-stove was priority numero uno. Hiring somebody to do it for us would have been nice, but money and a stubborn desire to learn new things drove us to install it all by our lonesome. So we decided we’d do our best to take photos, share our experience, and maybe offer some advice to anybody else looking to install their first wood-stove!
First things first, check with your local authorities if necessary and make sure you've got any licenses, permits, etc. you might need. If you feel nervous, don't hesitate to get advice from a local professional and follow all recommended clearances, etc from your stove and pipe manufacturer. We adhered to all recommended clearances and procedures according to the stove and chimney manufacturers and insist you do the same in your project for your own safety.
Step 1: Gathering Materials
Heating with wood (or any combustible) requires at least 3 things to be present:
A firebox/combustion chamber where the fuel can be safely ignited and burned. A clear path to allow for the escape of exhaust gasses without endangering the inhabitants of the building or inhibiting the combustion process. And finally a means of controlling airflow to help fuel burn as efficiently as possible.
If you are installing a wood-stove this means you will need to have the following items:
In addition to the stove and pipe, you will need the items below in order to complete this project:
Tools needed are:
Once you’ve gathered all of the supplies and a gallon or two of sweet-tea, you are ready to move onto step two.
Step 2: Placement
Decide on where you’d like the stove to go, then put it in place. Remember to consider the slope of your roof when choosing a stove location, as well as the material of the walls and floors around it. Your chimney support-box will need ample room between ceiling and roof, and walls and floors must be able to withstand the changes in temperature they will be subject to close to the stove (placing the stove near laminate for example could cause issues for the floor, whereas tile will be unaffected by the hot/cold cycle of wood-heat.)
Measure the distance between the stove, walls, and combustible flooring to ensure it meets the minimum clearance requirements of your stove-model. You will want a heat-shield of sorts between the sides/back of the stove and any walls immediately around it. (We used Duroc cement board on the combustible wall, as well as on the floor.)
Step 3 : Preparing the Pass-Through
Once the stove is placed use a laser or weighted-string to mark where your chimney will pass through your ceiling. Align your laser or string with the outside edge of the flue-opening of the stove and find the corresponding place on the ceiling above. Mark it then do the same again on the opposite side of the flue, working your way about all sides of the flue so you have marked a circle on the ceiling. This is where the chimney will pass out of the home’s living space and into attic-space.
Before cutting away the ceiling I suggest driving a long nail up through the center of marked circle. You can use this to find the location of the chimney in the attic prior to cutting, that way you can remove insulation and other obstacles without damaging your tools or the insulation itself. Once you’ve cleared away any obstacles on the attic-side, cut (or otherwise create) a hole in the ceiling which is two inches wider on all sides than the marks. This will help ensure the typical recommended clearance of 2 inches from the double-walled insulated pipe that will pass through this hole is met. (You can cut the hole larger if needed.) Use the laser or string to make sure your cut is aligned properly and adjust either the stove or the hole as needed.
Once adjustments have been made, find where the center of the chimney will be on the roof and mark it by driving a nail from the inside to out. Go outside on the roof and mark a circle on the roof the diameter of your insulated chimney pipe, plus four inches (two inches on either side) to meet the two inch clearance requirement. Drill a hole through the roof within the drawn circle large enough to get the sawzall blade through, then (using the drilled hole to start from of course) use the sawzall to cut along the marked circle. Check to make sure the pipe fits down in the circle and complies with the 2-inch clearance. Cut away excess as needed.
Step 4: Securing and Installing the Chimney Cathedral/Support Box
If your home’s trusses are spaced too wide for the mounting tabs of your chimney support box (as ours were), cut at least two sections of 2×4 to length so they can be attached in between trusses so as to create a frame for the support box to rest on. Set the support box down onto the 2×4 sections and check for rubbing/contact points. The support box needs to sit firmly down on the 2x4s, held by it’s tabs. The body of the support box should not contact drywall or other combustibles.
Put at least two screws per side through the tabs resting on the 2x4s, securing the support box in place. Test the support by going on the roof and setting a section of insulated chimney pipe down in it (you’ll likely have to attach an adapter that came with your kit in order to do this.) Slowly let the support box take the weight until you are sure it is safe, then apply a bit of pressure from all sides, just enough to ensure nothing will move or come loose later. If no issues arise, you are ready to install the chimney pipe and flashing.
Step 5: Installing the Chimney Pipe and Flashing (Making it Weatherproof)
For this step you’ll need the insulated chimney pipe, the sawzall, drill, roofing screws, and the caulk-gun with high-temp silicone and/or liquid asphalt. Essentially, you will be repairing the hole you cut in the roof for the chimney whilst still allowing it to pass through.
To start, use the sawzall to cut underneath the shingles surrounding the hole where the chimney will go. You don’t want to cut through the shingles, just underneath them to separate them from the roof itself. The flashing will need to be installed beneath the shingles as much as possible, but it must be installed beneath the ‘uphill’-side shingles. This creates a waterfall effect when it rains, ensuring water flows over and off the roof and not under the chimney flashing and into the home. Once the shingles are separated, slide the flashing ‘uphill’ and underneath them. You can also slide the flashing beneath the shingles to either side of it, but it is not necessary. Use roofing screws to attach the flashing evenly to the roof, putting at least one screw in each corner and taking care not to over-torque and crush the built-in rubber gasket.
Place the chimney pipe (with the lower-adapter connected) down through the flashing and support box so it protrudes into the home. Have a helper talk to you from within the home to help you make sure the chimney is aligned properly. Use a level to ensure it is plumb and make adjustments as needed.
Once the chimney is in place, use the caulk gun to run a bead of high-temp silicone/asphalt (whichever you found) down the crease on the uphill side of the flashing. Then install the storm collar about 1-2 inches above the top of the flashing and make sure it covers the vents atop the flashing. Run a bead of silicone around the top of the storm collar to create a waterproof barrier between any water that may run down the upper half of the chimney and the flashing below.
Finally, make sure to seal the sides of the flashing as well, checking to fill any spaces between the metal of the flashing and the shingles. Allow all sealants to cure for the recommended time before applying water to test.
Step 6: Assembling the Interior Chimney
You’re almost there. Only one thing remains before you can load your stove and enjoy your first night of a warm fire; the interior chimney. All you have to do is install the double-walled stovepipe between the top of the stove and where the insulated chimney comes into your home’s living space. I won’t bore you too much with the details of this as I’m sure you can figure it out. All I’ll say is its important to remember the following:
Congratulations! You’ve officially got your wood-stove installed in your home. Now to fire it up and give it a test run. Start with a small fire of course to check for leaks, then slowly build up fire-size until you reach your stove’s capacity.
Hopefully this was of some aid to you, thank you for reading!! If anyone has questions or comments feel free to leave them below!
Few things have ruined as many relationships as money issues. Two people can be best friends and money can drive them apart if they aren’t careful. This lifestyle we’ve chosen, to homestead and live simply, is one that requires two things first and foremost: a good partner and good money-management.
That being said, this is the first in a series we will be writing on what we consider to be the most important facets of attaining financial peace and prosperity in the homesteading lifestyle. We hope you enjoy!
Modern America runs off of debt. Period.
That’s it. That’s all there is to it. The debt-monster has crept its way into every nook and cranny of modern life. Today there is not a single aspect of life where financials can be honestly discussed without mentioning debt. The nation is in debt. The town is in debt. The neighborhood is full of debtors and if I were a betting man I’d wager….you are in debt. Our entire culture is one of debt-encouragement. From the moment we enter into adulthood many of us already are being encouraged to take on debt. The college-conglomerate pushes students to borrow, car-lots promise low-APR 72-month terms on top-trim vehicles, and credit card companies promise the instant gratification social media and the internet has made us so accustomed to.
(New cards subject to 24.99+% APR dependent upon credit, (Which of course most young people haven't established yet.))
At first glance it may seem there is nothing wrong with the idea of borrowing now to repay later. Try thinking of it this way though:
Any time you borrow money you are agreeing to pay that money back later, plus some (interest for the service of borrowing.) In doing this you are doing nothing more than placing a bet that you will have more money later than you do now and if you lose that bet you lose more than just the money you’ve paid so far.
Lets imagine for a moment someone is borrowing $20,000 for a new car. In this (and any) borrowing situation, ownership of the property in question belongs to the lender until the parameters of the wager are met:
Person – “I bet you $20,000 I can pay for that car in 3 years.”
Banker – “Okay, let’s make a bet. I’ll buy the car for $20,000 right now, but only if you agree to pay me back $600 per month for three years for a total of $21,600 (a few dollars for my service). So long as you pay you may do as you wish with the car. If you fail to pay according to the terms though, the car is mine.”
Person – “Okay, you’ve got a deal.”
Banker – “I’ll go get the paperwork….”
Looked at this way it is obvious how dangerous debt can become. Gambling is a bad habit if you let it get out of control and so is the debt-monster. With modern lending-practices it is very easy to find yourself living a lavish life, yet not owning a single thing and tied to a job you hate….forced to keep working for others instead of for yourself.
So the question may arise for those great many people in the same shoes as we…
What can be done to gain control of your debt-monster?
We will cover what we’ve started doing to get control of ours in the next piece in this little ‘series’….
The pursuit of Zen is like catching feathers in the wind without damaging them; the harder we try the more impossible the task becomes. The moment we ‘want‘ to catch hold the feather escapes our grasp or is damaged upon capture. It is only when consciousness abates, when the desire to grasp the feather disappears and we become content with merely following it and observing its slow descent, that we find it has landed gracefully in our palms.
The feeling is not unlike a bolt of lighting striking the ground. In the preceding moments a presence can be felt in the air and time itself slows down until suddenly and without warning the sky flashes brightly. The electrons themselves align perfectly for a fraction of a second and a bridge opens up between earth and sky…and then it is gone. This sudden fulfillment of an end without conscious intent is a wonderful example of what many refer to as Zen manifesting in the physical world. For the briefest of times all exists in perfect harmony between the heavens and earth. There is no struggle, no desire, no goal; the bolt of lightning simply ‘is.’
In our lives these moments come frequently, occurring wherever consciousness has ceased to impede flow. They are the ‘couldn’t do that if I tried’ moments we have all experienced at some point or another, and that is the exact truth of the matter. To try is to fail before having started the task at hand.
A great general does not alert his enemy of his plans. Should we then choose to try, we do just this; alerting the world and ourselves of our intentions and sabotaging our chances for ‘success’…..
–Journal Entry for September 4, 2018 / Dalton.
Years ago my father said something that has stuck with me ever since. We were working on some pipes that brought water into the house and I was fussing with a pair of channel-locks to get a section of pipe unscrewed. After I’d tried multiple times without success I relinquished the tool to him and he cracked the pipe loose with a chuckle.
“Channel-locks. The wrong tool for everything but a good tool for anything.”
Something about the way he said it made me think extra hard. My 12 year old brain started working overtime, trying like a child does to make something complicated out of something simple. We kept working, moving things back and forth in the cramped space until we reached another, larger pipe and I ran into the same problem. Once again I tried my best to break the pipe loose with channel-locks. After repeated attempts I turned to hand dad the tool so he could do it….only to find him handing me something else.
The right tool for the job. An actual pipe-wrench. After a moment figuring out how to adjust it I slapped it on the pipe and *POP! It came right loose. I was as surprised as I was thrilled and the meaning of what dad had said suddenly clicked in my mind.
“Wrong tool for everything but good for anything…” Well if there is a wrong tool…there must be a right one. And sometimes that is exactly what you need. The wrong tool might be better than nothing. But with the right tool any job becomes a walk in the park.
For us its time to install the right tool for a new job. September is basically here and we are less than 4 weeks from fall. Its going to get cold fast this year we plan to use wood stove instead of a wood-boiler for heat. After weighing our options and making a pros-cons list, its just the right tool for the job.
Was I a small enough size? Could I pull off that kind of sexy? Why would I spend money on photos of myself? Why even choose to do this?
For the longest time I faced insecurities about my body image and fought with self esteem issues. I constantly felt that I was never really noticed. All through my high school years I was never once asked out on a date. I attended my senior prom alone.
The relationships I had in high school were all emotionally abusive, one even ending in an order of protection. Bit by bit my budding self esteem was stomped out until I discovered what self-care really was and what it meant. (It helped to have motivating individuals come into my life and push my to be the best version of myself.)
I booked my first ever boudoir session last summer with Teri Casey Photography. Words can’t describe how nervous and excited I was. Up until then I had never had pictures of that caliber done of myself. What really motivated me to book with her was that she was looking for spokes-models and the thought that could do this and help other women feel they could too was even more inspiring. It was an opportunity to share my story and prove I wasn’t just another face in the crowd. It was a chance to bask in my own little ray of sunshine for a while.
I drove just over two hours to the studio in my childhood hometown and was greeted with a smile. Looking around the space was nice but it was obvious it was still in the process of becoming a finished studio. I proceeded to follow her back to start being styled. Hair and makeup finished, we went to pick outfits from her lingerie closet. After choosing outfits that paired well with the few items I had brought along with me,(fur fabric, books) we moved on to the shoot.
While behind the camera she made me feel comfortable, confident and beautiful. She seemed excited while shooting and happy with the photos she took. When we were finished I felt so beautiful and empowered. I couldn’t wait to get my photos back in just a couple of weeks.
Unknowingly to me this is where things began to turn from empowerment to disappointment.
A few weeks past and I had only heard from Casey a couple times. I waited patiently for nearly a month and heard nothing… despite seeing beautiful images of other women on her Facebook group and all the wonderful, empowering comments. I knew many of the women I saw had done shoots after myself, and I felt like one of the main reasons why I had done the shoot had been undermined. I felt forgotten, unnoticed and not good enough to be a part of her image of boudoir. My insecurities, fears and worries were not dissolved, but made more real.
Finally after about two months of lackluster communication, it took my husband messaging her on Facebook to get her to respond to me and at last to get my photos. She sent them to me via Facebook messenger instead of a formal email and in no way apologized or explain the lack of communication and the time it took to receive my photos. She made me feel like a cash-cow instead of a person. After the session it was as if I ceased to matter. I didn’t know if I would ever want to have another boudoir session again……
Then I came across Unveiled.
There seemed to be something different about them, so I began to research them like a detective. I looked at the reviews, the before and after photos, testimonials and website. I stalked their facebook and instagram pages. I wanted to know everything I could after the last time, and even after all my digging I was still on the fence over considering a shoot. Afraid of being treated the way I had been before, I shared my story with them and started to ask questions. They answered and directed me with knowledge and kindness.
I kept watching the photos they posted, seeing all the women they helped empower with the flash of a camera. It was like magic to me. It was at that moment that I knew that I wanted to be apart of that magic.
The evening that I finally made the leap of faith was one that came with waves of emotions. I have to give credit to my amazing husband for pushing me and telling me I should do this, that I needed to do this for myself. I was still asking questions that night before I clicked the button to confirm my shoot date…But I did it, I actually did it. And so this Friday, for my 25th birthday I bought myself something that every woman is deserving of….self care and self love.
I want to share my journey into boudoir thus far and will be back to share my experience with the Unveiled Team.
Till then, Blessed Be Lovelies.
-The Homesteading Witch
Good morning everyone, I hope you are well. It is another beautiful Sunday morning here in the midwest. The sun is shining through the dew-drops hanging on the grass, slowly working to dispel the dense predawn fog and laying out the welcome mat for another good day.
I was watching the sun peek over the horizon when I noticed one of the many red-squirrels we live with, gracefully climbing through the higher branches of an elm tree, seeming to enjoy his morning climb as much as I enjoyed observing it. He darted branch to branch, stopping only once to check his surroundings before rushing forward once more, agile as could be. He leaped across empty space in a heartbeat, masterfully landing on a thin branch and hanging on as it dipped under his weight before skillfully scurrying up to a new perch out of sight in a large maple.
What a marvelous little creature. How is it they move so fluidly through the trees? As they run it often seems nothing can truly halt their movements. Broken branches are taken in stride and even a bad jump seldom appears to alarm them. They are truly impressive animals, perfect examples of living with presence.
Over the past few weeks, this is the lesson I’ve been trying to take from these little creatures: to live my life and perform not just a few, but all of my actions with presence. To be more aware of myself and surroundings everywhere I can and go through more than just ‘the motions’ of whatever it is I happen to be doing. Whether it is making coffee or opening a door, writing in my journal or driving a nail, I’ve been doing my best to make every action conscious, deliberate, patient, and perfect.
It has been an interesting experience. Every action takes on new meaning. Things done are done better. Life has a more colorful tint to it. Most importantly, time slows down and appreciation goes up for everything and everyone around you; both good and bad.
So this week, starting right now, try to apply this Practice of Presence to everything in your life. You won’t be perfect and that is fine, but whenever you catch yourself speeding up, missing out, or just going through the motions, try to bring back a bit of that child-like curiosity and look a little closer.
Be present. Happy Sunday folks.
(P.S.> I know I talk about things like this a lot, but I do so because I think it important. I am utterly convinced if everybody diligently practiced living with the same sort of presence the squirrels, birds, raccoons, etc. live with, depression wouldn’t exist. There’d be no need for it. We would cease to search for meaning to live. We would just live.)
A friend of mine gifted this to me.
It has no sights. It has no trinkets. It is not fancy or flashy, but simple and clean.
I’ve very little experience with archery of this sort, having only shot compound bows before. This however is a different creature. The bow feels alive in its own way.
Less mechanical. More alive. Less mathematical. More intuitive. There is a grace to the way it feels, the balance of the thing.
I look forward to coming to know it, I look forward to learning its name.