Frozen drops on the trees

I am not one for making resolutions for the new year but every homesteader has a list of things they want to accomplish for the next year.  We are no exception.

I have already ordered the fruit trees that I will pick up at Fedco in April.  This year I have only ordered a couple of replacement trees for ones that we have lost along the way.  Our orchard is about as big as we want with around 14-15 trees.  We have planted apples, plums, cherries, pears and apricots.  Of course we have our perennial bushes too.

There is a inside project that I would like to start work on this winter.  It entails putting a wall up in the kitchen to create a butler's pantry.  That is the easy part.  I will have to empty a bunch of cabinets and store those things until the project is finished.  It also involves moving the refrigerator to a new wall and my hubby redoing the plumbing to the ice maker.  Once it it finished I will have somewhere to have all my appliances out and ready to use without clogging up the visible kitchen counters.  I'll keep you up to date as this project proceeds.

Garden planning also happens during the winter.  I got my first seed catalog almost a month ago.  Since I now have the greenhouse that will change a few things. Speaking of the greenhouse here is a picture of my sweet Zoe sitting in front of it's frosty side.  She always goes outside with me.


It will take a little work to get the greenhouse ready for planting.  I still have to dig up the existing ground and put in good soil.  Right now I'm planning on trying peppers there this next growing season.  I have great luck with getting the pepper plants started from seed but I just don't seem to be able to get many peppers.  My hope is that the extra heat created by the greenhouse will give them the boost they need.

Every year I look to improve my gardening.  I seem to have a knack for raising livestock but gardening is a different matter.  I think my biggest problem is neglect once I get things planted.  Time in the summer just seems to go by so fast and the weeds always get ahead of me.  I have started using mulch which has helped greatly.  Come this summer I am going to give landscape cloth a try under the mulch.  I have built three raised beds so I do not till the garden anymore.  Not tilling each year keeps the soil healthier and allows all the good creatures in the soil to flourish with only minimal disturbance.  I have enough materials for one more raised bed and my goal is to get that built this spring.  The beds are 20 x 3 feet so I can easily reach from each side.  There is a path between each bed.  It is surprising how much you can plant in this space.

We will not be raising pigs this next summer.  We usually raise several every other year.  Pigs do so much better if they have friends to hang out with so instead of doing one each year we raise them every other year.  The pastured poultry worked very well last year and we will continue that this coming summer.  If I get adventurous I will even try the incubator to hatch some ourselves.  And, of course, the baby turkeys will arrive in July as usual.

Asparagus berries
Asparagus berries

Our perennial beds will continue to prosper with care.  We have our 100 strawberry plants and our two asparagus beds doing well.  Those will both take a little work in the spring to pull out weeds, fertilize, and mulch.  We were truly amazed at the amount of strawberries we harvested this last summer.  I'm thinking I would like to experiment with fermenting some of the asparagus.  We like it pickled so why not.  I want to see if it will stay crisper that way.

The big outside project for this summer will be mixing and pouring a slab for our generator room.  Currently the generator is in the garage but we would like a dedicated spot outside the garage proper. The plan is to add a room to the garage just for the generator and the fuel tank.  I'm not great with cement but I have seen many projects where homeowners have poured slabs in sections as they had time/money to do it.  We will be looking for a electric or gas mixer to purchase before we start the project.  I can already name 2-3 other projects that we would use it for besides the generator room.

Wow, this sounds like a lot of stuff to get done in one short year.  No matter, we will get the projects done that we do but you have to start with some kind of a plan. Whichever of these projects that we get done they will be an improvement to things here at the homestead. Believe it or not, I'm looking forward to all of them.  It is so satisfying to make things better and knowing that you have done it yourself and with the help of friends and family.

May the new year bring inspiration to you and your family.



Nest awaiting spring
Nest in Beech tree awaiting spring

Ready for Snow
Ready for Snow

Don't get me wrong, we love our metal roof.  Ever since we put it on the house 10 years ago there have been no worries about snow overload or ice dams.  The only drawback has been the front porch.  Every time the avalanche of snow comes off the roof we know that getting it off the porch is the next task.  When the snow slides off and then drops 8 feet to the porch it lands with such force that we end up with a solid snow pack right in front of the door.  It can be a real challenge to get it shoveled off sometimes depending on how much has come off of the roof occasionally requiring the ice scrapper.

Since November has blessed us with some nice warm days I decided at the last minute that it would be really nice to have a roof over the porch so that we didn't have to mess with the snow pack this winter.  I sat down one Friday evening and wrote up my supply list and Saturday headed up to the lumber yard.  My hubby was at work so I got started on my own.  Let me just say that 4 x 4 pressure treated posts are not light especially with a bit of a wind.

Post in place and braced
Post in place and braced

Once the posts were in place and braced, which was fun to get plumb and braced by myself, I put the brackets on top of each post to hold the headers.  I built the headers to extend past the front post about 6 inches in order to keep the snow and rain off the edge of the porch.  These were heavy when I got finished sandwiching plywood between 2 x 6 lumber.  When my Sweetie got home from work we had just enough daylight to get the headers screwed in place.

The next step was to cut and install the rafters.  It is fairly simple to figure pitch if that is all you need but I needed to have the peak of the roof with the strapping and metal fall under the edge of the existing house roof.  Since we have used metal for a number of projects on the homestead I had a scrap that I could measure depth and get an idea of how far down from the house roof edge I needed the ridge board to be.  From there I figured what I need for angle and where I needed the crows foot to be cut in order to have the 6 inch overhang.

It took me the best part of the afternoon to get the rafters in place.

Framing finished
Framing finished

After that the strapping to screw the metal to was put in place.  We were now ready to measure for the metal pieces.  We are fortunate to have a local lumberyard that cuts metal to specifications.  My husband Ken had stopped on one of his days off and picked up the ridge piece so I could us it for measurement purposes but now we needed the roof metal.  The order was placed and in a day picked up and ready for installation.  The pieces were only 55 inches long which makes them fairly easy to work with.  When we put the metal roof on the barn we were working with some pieces that we 10 feet long.  It can be a real challenge with long pieces if you have any wind at all.

So Ken and I installed the metal together.  Putting metal up is not a part of this project that you really want to do by yourself especially when you are high on a ladder.  In our case though we used the tractor bucket for a work platform.  It really works well.  Either Ken lifted me and I screwed down metal or I lifted Ken and he screwed down the ridge piece.  We make a pretty good team.

A couple of additional notes.   I used screws for the entire constructions.  Someday we might put a small addition on that side of the house and besides being much stronger than using nails it is also easier to take apart and reuse the materials.  I did add additional bracing on each rafter section to tie each side together and support the ridge beam.  We have left the bracing in place for the winter.  Next spring I will add railings to the porch which will give additional strength to the structure. However with that said our uncle who is a licensed Structural Engineer said it would hold the snow no problem.  It does look a bit rustic without soffits of a fascia but that suits our style.