September 5-12, 2020: Projects Update

in Natural Medicine7 days ago

It's been a hell of a week here at Foxfire Homestead. Busy and fun, as we set our intentions and our resolve to tackle our home repairs. The last month of waiting for probably nothing has been a real test of my patience, as there's been many days that I've nearly set to work in the spur of a frustrated moment. We're holding up well though, and when I do start work, it'll be calculated and with a relative plan in mind. Relative because, well, it's me we're talking about, and because this is a big job. Replacing galvanized plumbing, replacing subfloor, bracing or possibly replacing floor joists, remodeling two bathrooms and a kitchen, and reflooring. It'll be fun though, and I think in our budget we'll be able to finally do something to fix up the apartment.

Big tree, felled with little axe

As of now, the plan is to start work next Saturday. The men and their families are coming over for a day of production, festivity, and fellowship with a planned potluck and friendly competitions involving sticks and axes. It'll also be educational, but I don't want to spoil it, as that'll make an awesome post for later.

Annnd the swing!

This Thursday I was accompanied to the creek by a friend from the men's group community. He too has an affinity for the outdoors in a spiritual sense, and we made a good time of it, exploring the creek and coming up with a plan for building a semi-permanent natural structure out there to practice some bushcraft.

Out on a limb

The biggest discovery was a walnut tree that had taken significant damage since my last outing, probably during a wind storm this spring sometime after our group medicine walk. I haven't been out to the woods since then. It's sad how little I got done with my total of nearly four paid months off work. We took the opportunity to climb the limb, probably more than twenty feet up the bank over the creek. The bark was a little slick on account of this week's rain, but we were safe. No harm, no foul.

Giant branch of a walnut, with the spot it fell from in the top of the frame

We'll probably be able to use some of this tree in the bushcraft shelter, but I'm going to need a bigger axe. I'm pretty well set on a Rinaldi Cadore axe. It's got a relatively light 1500g head that's a hybrid between an American style head and a European style head. It's got a 38" friction fit handle like a tomahawk handle for easy maintenance and packing. At well under $100 for a hand forged piece, the price is right as well.

Turtle nest

Another neat discovery was a turtle nest. I guess they hatched this spring/summer, whenever turtles hatch. There were little shell remnants scattered about the entrance. We didn't see any turtles on this trip, but the water had been moving a lot due to the recent heavy rains. Turtles like calmer waters. I wonder how to tell what kind of turtles they were, or maybe if they were snakes. The shells were pretty leathery and looked similar to snapping turtles that we got to observe hatching near a pond at a local university when I was a kid.

Man above, Creek below

A couple of projects are coming to fruition this week. The five golden amaranth plants started forming heads to set seed for next year's planting. Hopefully the seeds will be viable, as I'd love to plant and tend a large crop of grain amaranth. I've been setting my mind more to caring for this place properly next season and actually getting decent harvests. A Bible verse from Proverbs 6 has been weighing on me:

6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;(A)
consider its ways and be wise!
7 It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
8 yet it stores its provisions in summer(B)
and gathers its food at harvest.

That's pretty heavy and applicable to my situation, I'd say. My stewardship of my plot has been piss poor, and harvest has been poor to match. Nothing to do for it now though but learn and apply what I've learned.

Amaranth seed heads forming

The other project that's coming along is a wild mead/wine that I started. I think I picked, mashed, and mixed everything the 15th of August, and nearly a month later it's finally started bubbling! I had mostly given up on it and let it sit just to see what'd happen, and I looked at it one day after work and the airlock was bubbling away! A pleasant surprise for a fun experiment. I only used wild grapes, raw honey, and distilled water for this. The grapes have a natural yeast on their skin that's the engine of the fermentation, I guess it just took the little bugs a bit to get warmed up and kicking. When it stops bubbling, I'll filter it all out, probably by a cloth siphon. It'll be neat getting buzzed with friends off of a feral crop on the homestead. If it tastes decent, I'll be making it as a seasonal fun thing. If it doesn't taste decent, I'll try something else! After all, humanity thrives on ethanol, right?

Mead/wine fermenting

I have a strong, yet unproven suspicion that my hasty earthworks in the forest garden have hurried (if not caused) the issues necessitating our home repairs. I can't confirm, but I think the last hugel mound and the corn rows I put in this spring caused water to move differently, leading to flooding in our crawlspace. As a remedy, I made a wall and a French drain to protect where I think the water is coming in.

French drain

The French drain project is roughly thirty feet long, and runs down around to the side yard from a low spot next to the newest hugel bed. The twenty foot long wall runs on a concrete pad along the drip line of our roof in front of the place where water would be draining in. This is the most feasible spot because this is where water pools. The rest of the yard drains well, but this low spot consistently gathers water.

Retaining wall

Now I have a new problem: what to plant in this spot? Probably something prone to taking over, since this is nice and contained. A mint perhaps. Maybe if there's something that will make the crawlspace (and thus the house) smell fresher, as there's a crawlspace vent right there. Mint would do that really well, but what kind? I know there's tons of herbs in the mint family, so there'll be plenty to choose from. I've not had much luck with herbs yet, but probably because of my biblically proportioned sluggishness.

Well, it's nearly midnight and I'm cozy in bed. Gonna wrap this one up for the night.

Love from Texas

Nate 💚

 6 days ago 

Sounds like your men's community is being incredibly positive and supportive - you are exuding so much more creativity, joy in your surrounds and are bursting with plans. All good. Love to see that!!

I'm really proud of the community work. Building it isn't easy, but it's coming up great right now. I'll have to make a big post on the group and our doings. It's inspiring and enlightening.

 6 days ago 

Herbs should do quite well in there. They should do alright anywhere really - they often don't take much tending. I know there's lots of sorts of mints, but it depends what you want it for. i think the classic mints are classic for a reason - common mint for cocktails and minty things, peppermint for stomach and pep me ups. I tend to use more peppermint, but do use mint on some recipes and lemon and mint mohitos.. :P

Love your hair! I didn't realise you were sporting a viking like hair do!

I hear you about the house repairs - we're bleeding money right now with no income to feed back, so we'll be paying it all of working next year which is kinda a killer.

Great to see your community starting to blossom. Intentions becoming manifested.

I've always wanted to make mead - wish our bees would produce! We've done LOTS of country wines though - lots of fun there. I think the mead is really special though!

And the ax - Jamie is impressed!!! He has about five of them haha. Welcome to the woodsman club. xxx

Tell J to check out the Rinaldi Cadore and let me know his thoughts :) the men are on an axe kick of course, but I'm not able to be as hot on it as them. They're going ham on the collecting, and I've got other type work to do, so I got a new hammer, vice grips, tape measure, shovel, and other things. Tools everywhere lol but the cadore really caught my attention, and I actually have a use for a big axe.

I do love a good peppermint patch. My parents still have one that I planted as a kid, and that'd be a nice touch and a reason to make that space more frequently accessed. I love the air after upsetting a peppermint patch.

The hair, yeah! I figured I'd finally earned it after 31 years and change. It was short lived when I had one as a kid, and I wanted something with more character than my usual buzz cut. So I went with a 2/3 buzz cut. 👍🤣

 6 days ago 

That's an Italian one, right? We are a fan of European knives, but don't know much about that one. It IS possible to have too many axes - we've got a good splitting axe and some smaller bushcraft ones, I'll ask him about that though.

Yeah, it's great, I love the hair! Did I tell you ever that Jamie got married with a mohawk not much longer than that? To me, that is.

 6 days ago 

It's so important to have a supportive and creative network around us and I love to hear about yours and all that ye have achieved and are planning. As we move forward this is so important for our well being. Seems to me like you have been quite busy and also quite bug plans in the work. Thanks for sharing and inspiring us to connect with others in our communities xxx
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Nice axe. I got a Steve Lilley tomahawk the only Damascus tomahawk I've seen out of his forge.

And the crkt Chodan is great.

But really? My small Stihl chainsaw is going to be the best investment ever. Especially last night fighting the fires in estacada oregon.

Love my axe and blades... But even that small saw got the job done

The woods chogan was definitely a consideration, and I will probably have one eventually. Between this little mouse hawk and my dear Francesca, I'm set for small axes right now. The next axe for ne will be the Cadore, and that whenever crypto goes up. Goodness, the market has taken a beating lately lol of course, more crypto would flow my way if I posted more, so I can't blame the market for everything, can I?

We did a chainsawing course with the men's group recently too! One of the guys has a badass Stihl saw, and we went out and cleared some of his woods with it. I couldn't use one out in this space though because it's not my place, and a chainsaw would be super duper loud lol

Yep tools are worth the money. And especially a good one.

 6 days ago 

Sounds like you got your work cut out for you with the home renos!
Glad you are planning some fun and fellowship, educating and getting some help too - so much going on!
Can't wait to see the post about your gathering!
That how gardening seems to be always next year and you are constantly learning.
You are fortunate to live in Texas with such a long growing season - planting potatoes in August!
I had a real ruff year one year when I had a killing frost in August killing all the potao plants so I didn't get any potatoes. I had planted a bunch of different beans for drying and was going to pull the cover up on the hoop house to let them finish and dry on the plant but the frost got all them too!

I'm working more on getting our land more productive too for the cost of food is getting higher and higher.

Thanks for sharing - love seeing your enthusiasm!