Starting to feel like home

Well, there has been a lot going on around here.  Most of it consists of me learning about and trying stuff I have absolutely no clue about, which is always exciting and interesting, and usually frustrating to boot.  I’ve not taken any photos here yet, mainly because it is either cold, rainy, or rainy and cold, or snowing, or the daylight is gone when I get up.   While I do appreciate some of the perks that working 12 hour night shifts provides, this lack of daylight thing gets pretty old.   I *did* get my living room looking more like a living room than a storage facility, which gives me a great sense of comfort and accomplishment.   I even put up home decor!  Go. Me.  But that’s not the stuff that people find very interesting, so I’ll move on to the more scintillating and thrilling events of the past two weeks 😉

Fire in the hole!  Okay, so I have this very large wood furnace/boiler thing in the basement.  It’s about five feet tall by four feet wide and connected to the house duct system.  If you recall, the last time a fire-making attempt occurred, it was a dismal failure.  It produced a lot of smoke and a lot of me running up and down steps smacking smoke detectors, but alas, no fire to speak of.  So the Wood Guy returned, and fixed the chimney.  Apparently the 6″ stove-pipe reduced the draw from the chimney too much to get enough air for the fire to work, so they removed most of that.  The screen was also covered in creosote, along with the pipes, so they cleaned that as well.  Then Wood Guy proceeded to build a fire.  That is what HE called it.  In my opinion, he really secretly believed that I need to smelt ore in the basement, because he actually built a FIRE, yes, in all caps.  Metal started pinging and clanging, walls in the basement started heating up, and I, well, I began panicking after Wood Guy left.  I am a wood stove/boiler neophyte here, but I was pretty sure that walls of the basement becoming hot to the touch was a leeeetle too much heat.  But I didn’t know what to do about it.  So I called a fellow wood-heat user in Idaho and got some sage advice, after sending my friend R into a tizzy right along with me as I described the clanging, pinging, fiery pit that was raging beneath my feet in the kitchen.  Nothing like a good old-fashioned terror-sharing to get the blood racing.  I did learn that restricting oxygen is the proper way to damper down a fire (the boiler has no damper, just a door and a holed slot slider bar) and that my first remedy was to close the stove door that Wood Guy had said to leave open.   I think people who are used to things like wood heat forget that when one is a complete and total newbie, that they may need to be a tad more specific with their instructions.  Or he wasn’t in the mood for a ‘how to run a wood boiler’ instruction lesson.  After I shucked my asbestos suit and calmed down a little bit, I tried to get a better feel for the fire.  As IdahoD says “You must become one with the fire.”   It’s kind of like baby-sitting really; play with the fire, go away for a little bit, come back, check on the fire, play with it, go away for a little bit.  Repeat. A lot.  But I will say that the boiler heats the house very quickly and very nicely, even when built at far less than inferno-level.  I let the first fire go completely out, to see how long the house retained the heat.  It was ample through the next day when I got up.  However, I did learn that it is classic wood heating ability to keep your embers good until the next morning so that you aren’t building a new fire every day.  Tomorrow I have wood-splitting and prep to do as we are due for a severe weather event supposedly by Thursday, with possible ice and snow accumulation.  I don’t want to be dependent on the  propane during that time period.

I also learned that deer, when wounded, sound very similar to a bawling calf.  How do I know this?  Well, someone shot a deer nearby and just left it.  It was up and moving around apparently, and my dogs found it.  Neither the sound of the deer, nor the nifty red necklaces that my dogs ruffs were showing were particularly pleasant to deal with.  I don’t mind hunting, and I enjoy venison; but please, complete the kill.  We aren’t allowed to shoot them now either since deer season is over.  We are to call the game warden to come out and shoot the deer.  It didn’t last that long, between the coyotes, the bobcats and the dogs it seems it was dispatched rather quickly.   The realities of life in the woods I suppose.

Another pleasant task of the week was the disposal of a predator carcass that was killed by the dogs.   Aren’t these just frilly, girly jobs?  LOL!  The victim was a medium-sized opossum.  I waited a bit to make sure that it wasn’t simply playing opossum before I approached it with plastic bags, gloves and a nice box.  I have to keep it away from the dogs in some way, so wrapped in plastic and boxed in the outside can until garbage day seemed appropriate.  Let me tell you, dead opossums are heavy!  It gives new meaning to the term ‘dead weight’.

My final task is still pending; splitting firewood.  I did begin today but met with abject failure.  I really should have purchased that splitting wedge whilst at the RK store.  I succumbed instead to the idea that using a small sledgehammer and my hatchet, I could split the wood. Umm.  No can do.  I did manage to splinter some wood, but no splitting!  Tomorrow I will try the local lumber place just up the road to see if they have the two tools that I need.  I have heard the saying that wood heats you three times and I am learning that it is indeed a fact.

Now for the fun stuff!  I met two new friends, discovered the local antique havens and began my seedlings for the garden.  I actually went to a sit-down restaurant for the first time in over two years.  Tasty stuff, but surely not healthy!  On the healthy side of things, I did finally locate farm fresh eggs, fresh whole milk (currently holding about 4 ” of nice cream), and fresh butter at the local Amish community.  I’ll have to save up my cream for a few weeks until I can get enough to make my own butter, but I am looking forward to making it once again.  They also have organic flour, cornmeal and dried fruits and pastas.  Plus I found organic cookies at a discount.  Yum!  It was my first time on an Amish farm and I am so impressed.  While we differ religiously, I completely admire their self-sufficient lifestyle and their simplicity.  I got to see the work flow and set up of an Amish farm kitchen, and I love the big open spaces in their homes.  It brought home again how much ‘stuff’ oriented our culture is.   The greenhouse wasn’t in production, but it was a very nice set up.   All in all, I really enjoyed the visit and I look forward to regular returns in the future.   The local Mennonite store had great stuff as well, including raw organic nuts,  freshly baked breads, and a big dairy case with lots of cheeses.  Raw honey and local sorghum is readily available.    The only thing I am really missing is a connection with a processor for raw meat for the dogs.  I have some leads and I am looking forward to meeting more local people.  Everyone here is so warm and nice.  The people are probably the biggest reason I chose to stay in Tennessee; they have a simplicity and friendliness that is hard to find these days.  I am sure there are the bad apples as with any area, but I am thankful that I’ve yet to find them.

The antique shops over the border in Kentucky were spendy but quite impressive!  One store has a beautiful collection of Fiesta ware in all of the brilliant jewel tones that I love.  But since bucks are tight, I made a budget and came home under the limit with a nice usable folding dryer rack and some ladles.  Since it appears that my tax refund will be some time in the processing, I’ll be either doing laundry by hand here at home or at the laundromat for a bit longer it seems.  The shiny new washer and dryer are going to have to wait.

I discovered bulbs starting to grow in the front flower beds!  Unfortunately I discovered them because the dogs dug them up, but they are put back in place and now I have an exciting surprise to look forward to as the weather improves.  Could they be crocus?  Maybe daffodils, sunny and bright.  Or heavenly smelling hyacinths.  Whatever they are I am sure they are beautiful and I can’t wait to see them bloom.  I am very ready for spring, but I don’t think it is ready for us yet.  In fact, we have an ice storm forecast this week, and I hope my supplies are good for the situation.

One wonderful gift I received was a goody box in the mail.  Nope, it wasn’t wonderfully scented candles that made me smile.  And it wasn’t girlie soaps and lotions from LUSH that had me excited.  Inside the box were…tools and flashlights!  Yep.  I now get excited about those kinds of things.  I think it was an incredibly thoughtful housewarming gift from one of my co-workers and his wife in the northern part of Kentucky.  Thanks Rick and Missie!  Now, you might not believe it, but tools can actually be cute.  The set is  a Stubby set, and the tools just fit my hands perfectly.  I am now the proud owner of a dual-drive ratchet, a precision wrench and a Hi-Torque ratcheting screwdriver.  But I absolutely love, love, love the headlamp flashlights!  Yes, I look totally dorky wearing one, but wow what a great tool.  It really comes in handy when you need both hands to be doing something AND need to see what you’re doing (always helpful I find!)  So far it really gets a workout when I need to clean the wood boiler, since I can’t see inside of it.  I am really blessed to have good and caring people in my life, and I am very thankful for everyone who supports me, listens to me, and puts up with my panic and confusion at times.

Emotionally the past few weeks have been quite difficult for me.  The isolation gets to me at times.  Since I am making some new friends in the area I hope these feelings will lessen a bit. The overwhelming realization that I am solely responsible for every thing, from safety to preparedness and everything in between hit me square over the head.  It feels as if I can never truly relax, which surely wasn’t the idea in pursuing this lifestyle.  I think part of it is also the weather – and absence of sunlight.   I also lack the daily interaction with people face-to-face since I work from home, which adds to the disconnected feelings.  I talk to people almost every day, but it is still different from seeing and interacting in person with other people.  I like having the TV service, but man, there sure isn’t much on that I want to watch…LOL!  I mean, how many searches for 800K homes in Belize can you honestly watch in one week?  I’ll have to master the DVR box so that I can watch things that actually interest me but only come on when I am sleeping 🙂  Another to-do project for my ever-growing list.

After a bit of up and down feelings, racing panic and then good conversation and shopping, I am starting to feel better.  Each day that goes by and every little task that I learn how to do gives me a small boost of confidence.  I need that, as I lost my confidence man.  He always believed in me and supported me, and I really miss that support every single day.  But this is the new normal and I guess I will just have to learn how to build that confidence from the inside now.

Life is good.  I have good friends and people who care very much about me.  I have family that stays in close contact with me.  I have dogs that slobber lovingly all over me and sit on my feet and snore in my lap in front of the television.  I’ll take these precious things and hold them tight.   So to all of you out there that help me, I hope that I thank you often enough and that you know how truly important you are.

Peace out for now,

~SE

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