Friday, March 1, 2013

The Homestead

I interrupt my series of incessant bitching about the various systems that have developed (and which do not serve the vast majority of The People) in favor of some of my personal responses.

I (finally) got around to putting in a wood stove to heat the house, and; I (finally) got around to putting metal roofs on the barn and house so that I can collect rainwater without poisoning myself with asphalt shingle flavored water.

Our house is small so a single, large framed wood stove is sufficient for heat. When we bought the house there was a tacky, 1970's style propane fireplace in the corner of the family room/kitchen. I figured it would be there forever if I didn't get motivated and just tear the thing out and get a look at what was behind it:

There was a false chimney on the roof; really just a wood "chase" to hide the ugly chimney pipe and increase the odds of burning the house down. Welcome to 20th century construction practices.

I tore everything out and started from scratch (I did keep the brick) and put in the wood stove:

Since the stove went in I have had no use for the central heat system. Around here, wood grows on trees and we have plenty of storms so there is no shortage of "free" wood. (There is a bit of work involved. Just one more reason I don't have much use for a gym membership.)

The problem was clearance. The stove required 22" on the sides and 20" from the back, and I was short by an inch or so... so installed a heat shield (actually I now have 2 wrapped all the way around the stove). The pipe coming out of the stove is single wall but my insurance requires triple wall chimney pipe for the passthrough. Since I wasn't really comfortable with the clearance for the triple wall pass through, and even though I bought a ceiling/roof kit, I decided to put a metal roof on, and have the metal roof panel hold the triple-wall pipe (via a roof boot rated for high temps) for extra clearance from wood and other flammables. This served another purpose - I wanted to collect rain water for household use and asphalt shingles make for unsafe drinking water, so...

Here's the roof as it is going in. In the background is the barn with its new roof. I saved a great deal of money by doing it myself (I did have a helper but I was the GC, Foreman, Laborer, and Chief Slave Driver). None of it was rocket science although my valley cuts (they are behind me in this shot) were not first rate.

I installed a few (cheap) 300 gallon tanks around the barn for livestock and garden use, and I bought a broken 3000 gallon tank from a neighbor that I need to go get and repair. As always, I will scrounge and source used, broken, discarded, etc... equipment and make it work:

Water is an important, and increasingly expensive, resource. I am determined to end my dependence on city water.

On a separate note the hog that we slaughtered and salted is out of the salt and hanging in the garage:

I will cover the meat with old pillow cases soon - before fly season gets underway.


Many of these projects got put off because of my run in with the C. Diff stomach bug. Now that I am feeling better I am able to get after it around here.

I bought some older mare draft horses from the Amish community in Ethridge, Tn.,  and rebuilt a bunch of horse drawn equipment for this year's hay season and garden work. Not sure that this is more practical than my old Ford 4000 diesel tractor, but I am enjoying them immensely... some people play golf; I drive draft horses. Here they are pulling a rebuilt hay mower. Last year I had very little use for our lawn mower - only around walk-ways - as the "Big Girls" mowed the big stuff and I scythed it in tight spots, and used all of the cuttings as animal fodder.

Video here.

It seems that everything that has worked for us here at the farm were ideas that we got from the Amish community up the road from us. I think we will heat entirely with wood (and the occasional use of a kerosene heater) and I think that we could get by without city water even if completely off grid. No, we wouldn't have luxurious hot showers and baths, but we would have enough hot water for personal hygiene, cooking, washing, and drinking. I went sort of "off grid" for a test recently when my wife and daughter were away for 2 days and it was just me and my younger son (I left the electric on for the freezers but everything else we did without electric). Piece of cake (though I am not sure that my DW would feel that way).


PioneerPreppy said...


Video doesn't work though.

Where did you get the water tanks? All I can find locally is 55 to 100 gallon tanks which I been using but the barn tanks are on my list.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Huh. THe video works for me.

Let me see if I can link another way

Greg T. Jeffers said...


I find all kinds of good stuff on Craigslist.

PioneerPreppy said...

I's working now.

I see all kinds of good stuff on craigs list. I also seem to never get an answer when I try and contact the sellers.

Anonymous said...

What's the ground water like in your area? Couldn't you have drilled a well? Well water is usually pretty reliable, unless one is in the Southwest or other dry areas of the West/Plains.

The only thing I don't like about my well is that it is pumped electrically, but it only takes a minute or two of running the generator to fill up the house's pressure tank which, unless somebody is showering, lasts me for a good part of a day or more. Just the same, I am looking at getting a hand pump that sits on top of the well casing that still allows the standard, electric, submersible pump to stay in the well too.

I love Craigslist. In Maine, we have a number of other classified listing sites, such as Uncle Henry's as well as another one or two local to Aroostook County. Uncle Henry's and the others also publish a hard copy version that gets sold at most all cashier stations in all the local general and variety stores in the more rural areas of Maine which is to say that they hook one into some of the most useful, rurally-minded people of Maine, buying and selling truly useful stuff. (That is, there isn't much space wasted on Portland people trading their Lexus and Volvo SUVs.)

Stephen B.

Greg T. Jeffers said...


We HAVE a well. Sulphur water is OK for livestock, but I could not drink this water.

Perhaps we could drill another well...

Publius said...

Wonderful projects!
My main goal this year for our urban homestead (still stuck in the city until I can learn enough in my new software career to move out to the country and be an independent contractor) is to install a nice wood-burning stove.

My problem is that my wife has very demanding esthetic tastes: so we're leaning towards a nicely designed Norwegian stove by Jotul.. it's a very modern design, and requires not much in terms of clearance. And there are windows in three sides.

I also plan to get a rain barrel, and use the rainwater for all the gardening water needs.

Regarding asphalt, wouldn't some of the high-tech water filters out there remove any organic compounds from the shingles? Just an idea.

In an emergency, we are just 2 blocks from the river, so I guess we won't expire from lack of water, even if the city water system suffers a major outage.

Thanks for the inspiration, Greg.

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