Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

For the Last Minute Christmas Shopper

20 Acre Horse Farm in Gibsonburg, Ohio
(2 miles from show grounds)
(Sorry, no gift wrap available.)

3 bedrooms - 2 bathrooms
Upstairs master bedroom with walk-in closet and in-suite bathroom
Great Room with Cathedral Ceiling
Overlooks horse pasture - safe Ramm fencing
A nice house to make home

40 x 48 Pole Barn
3 rubber matted stalls
concrete aisles
drive-thru trailer port (or workshop)
(This makes me cry. My brother built this barn for me.
 If I could have packed it up and taken it with me I would have.
 This barn rocks. I miss my barn.)

Priced for quick sale at $199,000
Will consider other offers

Monday, December 20, 2010


Exceptional feLION Mz. Fancy Pants enjoying the radiant heat of the Main Level masonry heater. If you're interested in knowing more about masonry heat, check out The Masonry Heater Association and our mason, Eric Moshier, Solid Rock Masonry. Eric is fantastic to work with. I really felt part of the team, from the design of our heaters to the installation. He and his crew are professional yet fun to work with. I really appreciated their enthusiasm. The heater install is one of my favorite parts of The Secret Cabin remodel. Even though this team came in and worked hard-built 2 heaters in 5 days-they took the time to include me in the building of the heaters. They showed me how to apply the stucco. There's a small area on the Garden Level heater that I can point to where I applied the stucco. They incorporated some stones that I picked up on site. I also got to put a couple of stones on each heater. Each heater has a stone I picked up just down the road from the shore of Lake Superior. I can't tell you how nice it is and how much it means to have such good memories. The radiant heat and the memories are enjoyable.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rifle Season 2010

Here's what the feLIONs bagged.

Continuing with our coverage of this past Fall. I knew The Secret Cabin had at least one. There were droppings in the corner of the Mechanical Room when we were finishing hooking up the water lines. One night I thought I heard one in the bathroom wall munching on the cabin. I read somewhere that there's something in rodent urine that can cause a virus in the human heart. Or something like that. Not good at any rate. And then there's that little plague incident that nearly killed everyone. Cats had fallen out of favor in Europe. Read, people were stupid and mean and killed them to the point that the rat population took over and BAM, plague. So, once again, the feLIONs save the humans here at The Secret Cabin.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Need to Reposition your PV Array

There's an App for that.

Continuing our coverage of this fall and getting reading for Winter, here The Husband uses his iPad to find where he wants to point the PV Array. 

Here he repositions the Array.

You saw in yesterday's post where he was in the tractor loosening bolts.

Tightening the bolts back up. My demands were met and The Husband was safely and gently lowered back to the ground. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

101 Things to Do With a Man

Tie him to the front end loader of the tractor and stop the ride at the top.

I thought we'd get back to the business of living off-grid. After all, we all want government out of our lives. Right? Doesn't that mean we make and clear our own roads, home school, perform CPR and stitch ourselves up, and make our own power? Politics aside, it just doesn't get any better than getting to tie The Husband to the tractor. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lack of Blog Excuse #357.5

I am a totally pissed off, grumpy, disappointed, b-word right now. I am sick and tired of hearing myself talk about construction BS and I figure that no one else wants to hear it either. However, in the name of possibly saving someone else, any one else, from having their wallets raped, here it is, freaking again, dammit. Now that we're all moved in and Winter is in high gear, we've discovered a wind tunnel in the cabin. Shit, shit, shit. You've got to be f*ing kidding me. This place was down to the studs and we paid all this money and spent all this time apart for this. The wind blows in through the soffits, comes into the knee wall storage, blows open the doors on said storage, and into the cabin. I put side tables, cabinets, etc. in front of the doors to keep the doors from blowing open. The wind freaking blows so hard, you could split atoms in the loft. At the risk of having what I type held against me in the day and age of thought police, I want to put the hurt on a couple of contractors pretty bad. There I said it. You'll have to helicopter in to get me because the driveway is drifted over in spots and plowed shut by the road crew. Na, na, na. So what's with the picture of the crappy house. This past Summer, someone made the comment to me that, "Gee, I wish I had the money to build a camp and have a tractor." I like the person that made this comment and it kind of hurt my feelings. Really, do you think that little of me. As if I was just sitting around doing nothing, as usual, and some fairy swooped down and delivered a sack of money to us on a silver platter. Well, what kind of character and/or strength would that build? How would that develop your soul? Not. The house pictured above is the old farmhouse in Gibsonburg that we lived in for five years, six winters. It is one of several ways we tried to save money towards our dream. The other ways are these strange things sacrifice and hard work. Anyway, the house definitely has seen better days. Both Mike and I broke and fell through the floors in this house on several occasions. It was so cold in there in the Winter that you could see your breath. Do you know, I mean really know, how bad it hurts to be cold all the time? The high pitched squealing where the wind would blow through the windows was annoying too. So, we went through all that. Then, recently we went through all that time apart because I had to be here to try to get the hammer swingers to use that squishy thing sloshing around behind their eyes....they took our money, ALL of it, and this is what I've got. A cabin that you can split atoms in the bedroom loft because the wind blows in so hard. So, Lack of Blog Excuse #357.5 is a bad, bad mood.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Guy Cat 1998-December 15, 2010

At 5:40 am this morning Guy Cat passed away. Guy was born at Carl's, Lulu Road, Petersburg, Michigan. He was Carl's only surviving cat having outwitted the coyotes behind his property. Guy decided to live with Mike and Bheki while they resided in Petersburg and then moved with them to Gibsonburg, Ohio. A neighbor in Gibsonburg, known for not paying attention behind the wheel of a vehicle (she had numerous accidents, totaled one van, killed someone else's cat, and almost ran over the local tax adjuster who was standing in her drive), ran over Guy back around the year 2000. While Guy did endure surgery and lose a leg, he pulled through to live the rest of his life surrounded by his "harem". Guy was very popular with the lady cats and they were always lounging around with him. He just returned to Michigan and made the move to Calumet in October. He had labored breathing on Tuesday afternoon. Guy was approximately 12 years old and is survived by his humans, Mike and Bheki, his harem, and many other fury family members. He will be missed. (I can't look at pictures right now. Maybe when this doesn't sting so bad, I'll get a photo up. Just not right now.) Update: Here's a picture. Quite the handsome cat. Now you can see why he had a harem. Yes, still stings.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Getting "farm-y" again

From this construction bs aftermath

To this:

Diesel (2003 Registered Appaloosa Gelding by The Hunter out of Staza's Pine mare) 

Pumpkin (just plain cute).

Diesel and Pumpkin grazing land that once grazed cattle. Our property used to be part of Koskela Farm. Most recently it was owned by a decendant of the Koskela family and used as a hunting camp. After a year and a half of construction bs, both the farm and I are getting back to our roots and getting that farm look again. Now, what to grow so I don't have to mow. Here's hoping we can get her going enough to help pay for all this.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Exceptional feLIONs

Everyone is getting settled in. After 16 months of construction BS, it's nice to have my life and family back.

This is Fancy. She's starting to doze off here on her little cat tree. Fancy is the one I was really, really worried about. This is a tough move for any man or beast requiring about 11-12 hours in the car. However, Fancy is a special needs cat. We're not sure exactly what happened but as a kitten she was found staggering up to my sister-in-law's and brother's porch. One possibility is that she was a victim of some kind of neuro-toxin. Anyway, she is on medication to prevent seizures. I'm pretty sure she has double vision. She, like our other two brain injury cats, tend to have a hard time shaking things off. If they get mad, they tend to lock in on that. Fancy is the worst and will have an out and out rage fit. Take her to the vet and you will hear growling and screaming for a week afterwards. All you can do is leave her alone until she decides she's done being mad. Don't look at her and don't speak. Special treats like boiled chicken or some tuna can help put you back in her good graces. Hey, if it works.... Now, Fancy may have a physical challenge, but she's all cat. She is very nosey. She also thinks she's pretty cool when she's got something she likes. With the exception of screaming once in awhile when the front of her cage got rattled by going over a railroad track or a section of bumpy road, she handled the trip well. The big thing is that she screamed once and settled right back down and hey, no one likes her cage rattled. She looked pretty smug on her bed in her carrier when I "released" her in the cabin. When she came out of her cage, she was busy with her Catnip Welcome Reception. Once out of the catnip stooper, she became a little disoriented and didn't really know where she was. She got scared and tried to hide behind the refrigerator. Of course, the refrigerator wouldn't let her back out and once freed from the grips of the evil refrigerator, she was in a panic and rushed around and bumped into everything. Once she realized that the refrigerator wasn't chasing her and we weren't in any immediate danger and our normal routine things were happening, she started to relax a little. Other than the "normal" cat slinking around at new sounds, she's doing really good and I'm very proud of her. If you are faced with a vision impaired pet (often this happens with aging pets), elevated dishes - about chest height - are the way to go. This way they won't step in their food and/or water dishes. Also, lower perches or beds are easier for them to use and fulfills their climbing instincts without having to worry about a huge fall. Tiffany Anne also is vision impaired and her favorite toy is the turbo scratcher. It's the circle thing with a ball in a track with the cardboard scratcher in the center. The ball is always somewhere in the track and the center is nice to sit on and/or do your kitty nails. Even though The Secret Cabin has a lot smaller footprint than our other house, it has more levels and seems roomier for the cats. Plus, with the smaller footprint, I have been scaling way back on stuff. Moving house is the perfect time to donate, recycle, and trash. Yes, man and beasts both like the calm and peace of breathing space in a home. Now that the beasts are here, The Secret Cabin is really home. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

feLION saves human

"I had no idea what danger lurked in my kitchen," reported the shaken homeowner. Here the brave Emmie Star is killing the evil rug. This blurry photo captured the action-filled, sometimes harrowing battle that took place on Saturday evening.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ebony In Charge of Everything

This is Ebony In Charge of Everything. Here she checks out the masonry heater. This is a closer inspection than what we got from the mechanical inspector so I feel safe now. 

Oh, and what do we have here....

The perfect place from which to see everything.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Speaking for all of us

This is the lovely Miss Tiffany Anne Sunshine. She pretty much speaks for all of us here at The Secret Cabin today, "Long trip. Tired."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Whoa, that's some serious frizz.

I forgot to report that we had a fox sighting yesterday. I tried to get a picture but it moved too fast and disappeared into the shadows of The Magic Forest. You should have seen it's tail! You know that picture of Diana Ross on the cover of her album back in the 80's. It could have been in the 70's. Anyway, it's the one where she's got the biggest hair in the world. Yeah, this fox's tail looked just like that.

Guess what I did this morning?


In the room that makes your sparkle....
You dry your hair afterwards....
Yep! That's correct. Not only the first ever shower in The Secret Cabin but the first of hopefully many hot showers.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cripes, what a mess!

Do you see any room for a horse here? Me neither. Last year, when I shut the construction down so I could go see my family for the holiday, a certain contractor either threw stuff in the barn or stuffed it into the basement of the cabin. When I came back to the cabin and started construction back up again, I had to empty the cabin out so we could work in there. It was either put it in the barn or have it blow all over 40 acres. Here's a bit of advice from the trenches: If you are doing construction and they tell you they clean up, don't believe them. Don't worry about standing back and letting other people do their jobs. Go ahead and clean up as things go along, otherwise this is what you will have to contend with the week before your horse's arrival.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Of Snakes and Dragons

There has been not one, but two snake sightings today. I am not a fan of snakes. I really don't have anything against them other than they always surprise me and not in a good way. They should have come installed with bells on them or something. And that slithering thing that they do gives me the hebbie jebbies. The other thing snakes do is coil which reminded me that I never took a picture of the hot water coil (aka water jacket) in the Garden Level (basement) masonry heater in my last post. So, may I present, the hot water coil. It is now "blackened," not to be confused with cajun, after the fires I've had in the heater. The water temperature in the boiler is now up to 81 degrees. The water temperature in the loop (coming in and out of the boiler, flowing through the heater, is holding at 90 degrees. The fires are taking that temperature up to 110 degrees during firing. I am still bringing the masonry heater up to a full load of fire wood. Also, I am just now starting to shut the flue and dampers after the burn. After I do that a couple more times and I start to feel some heat when I put my hand on the masonry, I will probably take the heater up to two burns, 12 hours apart. Meanwhile, I have gone to just one fire every other evening in the heater upstairs. Remember, these systems are still new and I'm on a learning curve here. It was so hot in here the other day, I thought about throwing water on the rocks of the heater and taking a little sauna. After all, we've got a wall of cedar paneling and the ceiling is also cedar. Isn't that basically a sauna? It was actually 78 degrees in the cabin when it was 40 degrees outside with the doors and windows open. Oops. The big lesson learned: Next year, start the Garden Level heater in the fall and wait to start the Main Level heater until, probably, I'm guessing, November, when the temperatures are lower.

As for dragons, sometimes I refer to the tractor as The Green Dragon. Kind of like it's code name. The Green Dragon has left the UP. There's been a little bit of drama surrounding my green ride  for the past couple of weeks. I don't want to get into all the icky, little details because I feel like I need a shower after just thinking about someone treating my business equipment like it's a toy for them to play around with. So, the tractor is on it's way to a huge John Deere dealership in Wisconsin that takes Ag equipment, farms, and farm girls seriously. Here's hoping I can add this dealership to Team Bheki.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Boil, boil, toil, and ....

Hot water. I hope. Kind of looks like a beer still, doesn't it? Well, if it doesn't make hot water, maybe all will not be lost and we can get a nice amber top out of it. This is one of the things that I've been working with the past week. My buddy Roger, of Bob's Sheet Metal, Hancock, Michigan, is my licensed boiler maker. Personally, I think this is genius. Roger does beautiful work. My hesitation is my own lack of experience, but really all of The Secret Cabin systems are new to me. This system works just like one of those outdoor wood stove/boiler systems, only the masonry heaters are more efficient and cleaner burning. So, there is a water jacket in the Garden Level (basement) masonry heater. Firing the masonry heater, heats the water flowing through the water jacket. There's a loop that flows from the boiler, through the water jacket, and back to the boiler. The boiler's first priority is domestic hot water, then the radiant floor heating for the bathroom, then the radiant floor heat for the enclosed front porch, and finally there is an outdoor loop to cool things off if we get the water too hot.  Now, the Garden Level masonry heater has not been fired until recently. With the water jacket in there, the boiler had to be "on line" with the water flowing through the water jacket or the fire would damage the water jacket. The masonry heaters go through curing at the beginning of each season. And that is specifically what I've been doing. Curing the Garden Level masonry heater. We're up to one fire a day with my adding a fifth log to the firebox tonight. I increase the number of logs each burn. During this curing process all the flues stay open. Once cured, I can start closing the flues after the burns and the heater will really start radiating and putting out heat. The picture below shows a close up of the different gauges. 

The red and black "thing" is the pump. It shows the wattage and flow rate. It's a bit unnerving because it's auto adjusting or as The Husband told me, "it learns." Great, and so a computer takes over the world and it all started innocently enough in my basement. So, HAL, the hot water heater, started off using 20 watts of power, now it's using 9 or 10 watts. The flow rate was 4 gallons per minute. It adjusted itself to 2. Good morning, Bheki, this is HAL, would you like a hot shower?
These two gauges are the water temperatures of the water flowing in and out of the boiler. So far, during the curing of the masonry heater, we've hit 100 degrees. Here the gauges are reading in the 70's.
This is the temperature of the water in the tank. Not quite warm enough for a shower yet. The water temperature in the tank started off at 55 degrees.

As a little side note: We've got a lot of glazing (construction industry lingo for windows) on the south side of the cabin and we are getting some passive solar heating. I noticed the sun coming through the sliding glass door, shining on the water jacket, and the temperature in the boiler went up a degree.

Another little side note: Everything is on line which means we're pulling more juice from the P3 (Personal Power Plant). As a relatively inexperienced, off-grid home dweller, I do feel hesitant to run around the cabin and turn everything on, run the vacuum cleaner, stand there with the refrigerator door open all day, etc. That said, it is absolutely stunningly beautiful outside right now. Sunny, clear blue skies behind a colorful backdrop of  trees dressed in their Autumn finery. Time to do a load of laundry.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Autumn Equinox!

Big, deep breath. Oooo, what's that. Ahhh, the smell of crunchy, colorful leaves. It's officially FALL starting today. The whole planet should feel balanced as we have equal amounts of daylight and darkness today. Hmmm. I really want to make some snide, unfavorable comments about a certain hateful political party not having any balance ever.... Moving right along. Waaay back in the day when we were an agrarian society and everyone had dirt under their nails and blisters on their hands, this day was referred to as Mabon and was the second harvest time of Fall. This was it. This was when you knew what/if you were going to be eating during the harsh and dead months of Winter. It was a time of gratitude. Once upon a time, I lived in an pre-Civil War house. My neighbor, John, then 70-some years old, was born in this house. John would tell me stories about how two brothers and their families used to own my old tin-roofed, brick house. But they got into a disagreement and split the 120 acre farm in half. One brother and his family got the house on half the land; the other brother moved his family and the chicken coop to the other half of the land. They all farmed with horses. Even when tractors came out. "Why, John, why would you farm with horses even though tractors were invented?" "Because none of us farmers could afford 'em, Bheki." Wow. I was thrilled to have John as my own personal tour guide through not only farming history but the history of the house I lived in. He told me, "All the men worked out in the fields all day long while the women worked in the kitchen. "That night when we came in from the fields, there was a table right over there." John pointed to the south wall of what I was using as my dining room. "It was mounded with food." He motioned his hands as if there were a two foot high mountain of food spanning the length of the ghost of the table in his mind. "Harvest dinners," he nodded, "we had Harvest dinners right here in this room." Wow. Also, once upon a time, did you know that Thanksgiving was originally celebrated October 3rd? Abraham Lincoln issued a "Thanksgiving Proclamation" in 1863, changing the date to the last Thursday in November. In 1939, Franklin Roosevelt changed it to the second-to-last Thursday to try to stimulate the post-Depression economy. In 1941, Congress' final answer: the fourth Thursday of November is Thanksgiving. Personally, I'm not a big holiday person. Everyday is a good day to find something to celebrate. Sure, somedays are easier to feel thankful than others. Today's one of those easy days with my seasonal memory of John and another beautiful day in the Keweenaw. I updated the blog banner picture to reflect the season.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cue the Barry White CD

I've got a man deer chasing around a lady deer in my yard. I managed to shoot him with my Canon (camera not the assault rifle). This courtship has been going on for about two weeks now. That's right about the time the weather cooled down and the hummingbirds left. He's done chasing the ladies and stuffing his face with grass as I type this.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Tick, tick, tick

FIRST FROST! Siren WHOOP! WHOOP! FIRST FROST! WHOOP! WHOOP! Scramble, scramble! Get everything picked up and put away! Scramble, scramble! Get the tractor ready for Winter! WHOOP! WHOOP! Scramble, scramble! Mark the driveway! WHOOP! WHOOP!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Quick Update

Quick because I'm so exhausted that I can't think straight. I have been in denial for about four weeks that Fall is barreling down on us. This all started the last two weeks of August. Even though we were getting enough rain that the trees weren't going dormant, I noticed that they just didn't seem to be as green. No, it couldn't be, said the voice of my denial. The day I took a bath outside it was a Monday and 90 degrees. By the end of the week, it was in the 60's. Still in denial, I did not start firing the heaters yet. Just this past week, with night time temperatures in the 40's, I was glad I was starting to face reality and had the upstairs heater going. However, I'm still on a learning curve here and when we had sunshine and 60's outside, it was in the high 70's in the cabin---with the doors open. We're hoping this is a sign that when Winter is "showing off", we'll be comfortable. I don't know what's going on but we do have a terrible draft in the loft. Magnets were supposed to latch the knee wall storage doors shut. When the wind blows, it blows the doors open. I will have to do something else (besides block them with unpacked boxes) to latch these doors tighter. I'm not sure what I did or didn't do when I installed the soffits, vent, insulation, drywall, tongue and groove wood ceiling, and knee wall storage. Yep, it's my fault. Anything and everything that didn't go right or got damaged or forgotten or messed up in some way was ALL MY FAULT because apparently when you pay some "professional" to do something....  I've also come out of denial about being able to actually get everything completely done. I've gone through all the stuff in boxes in the cabin and in a previous post you could see the fruits of my labor in the pictures of the living room and kitchen. I've been painting the inside of the Garden Shed. The wood stove is just about installed out there. We're waiting on a part. The boiler is green and go. The water is running through the heat coil in the downstairs heater and flowing through the in-floor radiant heat tubes for the bathroom and enclosed porch. I did the maiden burn in the Garden Level (downstairs) heater Friday night. The downstairs heater has to go through the curing process so it's probably going to be at least ten days before I see any hot water. I will keep you posted on that. Bringing the boiler "on line" is pulling another load off the power system. The pump on the boiler is very efficient. I continue to do laundry on sunny days and hang it out to dry. The tractor went in for a CV joint repair so the scary clown bus is filling in as the other end of my clothes line. My outdoor clean up efforts are on hold until the tractor comes back. I have started cooking at The Secret Cabin too. I got a little 900 Watt microwave. I also have a Breville Toaster Oven and I've been using that too. Using the toaster oven takes me back to my Easy Bake Oven days. While this is the grown up, it really does work, stainless steel version, I can't help but crave a still raw in the middle cupcake. I'm not real sure how much I'm running the power system down. The Husband did do some more research and other solar dwellers found that the only way to really know how much power there is is to put a battery monitor on the batteries. The monitor got here the end of last week. That's The Husband's department so I'll have to report back on that once it's installed. And, last but not least, I had yet another one of those moments that take your breath away. The deer come right up to the cabin all the time. I see fresh hoof prints every morning. Well, tonight, I was on one side of the Garden Level window and a fawn was on the other side. I could have reached out and pet her. Yeah, wow.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

One of My Favorite FAQs

Q: What do you do (the not out loud part - all day because I can tell you don't have a "real" job)?

A #1: Sit on my tush and eat truffles but don't worry I only eat the overpriced ones that come in fancy boxes.

A #2: Cruise around in my grass green ride listening to the radio.

A #3: Cruise around in my grass green ride, listening to the radio while I eat overpriced truffles that come in fancy boxes.

A #4: Nothing (because you're really just picking on me and I'm just going to fast forward to the answer that's going to make you feel better about yourself so I can get back to my work which you obviously find worthless).

I used to try to justify and defend my existence when asked this question until it came from a former neighbor who worked very part time on a substitute basis and stared down her nose at me while emphasizing the WHAT, ALL, DAY? I used to feel really terrible about myself because I no longer dart around with my head cut off in the morning, run my pantyhose, get my skirt muddy as I jump in my vehicle, and wage the war on making someone who's paid a lot more money than me look like a brilliant, well-organized businessman only to arrive partially triumphant every other Friday by waving a tiny piece of paper around at the nearest financial institution. Personally, I don't understand how anyone with a properly functioning visual cortex and/or olfactory system can't tell that I'm obviously doing something. My hair is a mess, I'm covered in sweat and dirt, and I smell like eau de farmette. For Pete's sake, my work gloves are even dirty. The real answer is that I tried to make a small farm in Northern Ohio profitable while Agri-Corp sprayed me and my organic hay and killed my hay. Hopefully, there will be no long term health issues from getting hit with some weird chemical cocktail that had me sick for the four days following the "off-target incident".  I take care of animals that no one else wants. I don't get a paycheck but what I do get is priceless. Sadly, this isn't understood by what feels like anyone but The Beasts and The Husband. Before the construction adventure, I took care of everything in our lives so that The Husband could go do his job keeping others safe without any distractions. My "job" changed during construction. Though it's never been acknowledged, I played Architect and redesigned The Secret Cabin's floor plan. I played Engineer when I requested engineered headers there, support there, doubled joists there, demanded a rotted sill plate replaced, and had a real engineer come in and make sure everything was okay. I tried to play Project Manager to deaf ears with my charts of order of work, schedules, and deadlines. I was the job site hostess/cheerleader, plumber, clean up crew, the painter, heavy equipment operator, the estimator, expeditor, etc. While it was all unrecognized, unacknowledged, and unappreciated, I feel like I've lived all my life's career ambitions in one fell swoop. As the construction adventure winds down and I feel thankful for the adventure, maybe not so much the aggravation, I'm looking forward to trying to make a small farm in the Northwest Upper Peninsula of Michigan profitable, take care of my animal family, help The Husband so he, once again, can work completely undistracted, and tend to the myriad of little things that go with living at The Secret Cabin. You know---nothing.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Have you ever become so annoyed with people sometimes that you just want to smack them.  Really hard. No, I mean really, really hard. We're talking I can see my rare double loop thumbprint on the side of their faces hard. (In light of what this country is becoming, I am not threatening anyone or group and am not planning a five state smacking spree.) We're on month F'ING FIFTEEN of all this construction BS. I would need to borrow that little take a number machine and line forms here sign from the BMV for all the people I'm thinking about. (Geez, that sounds like premeditation and not the yoga kind either.) The offenses I refer to earning my rare double loop thumbprint seal of disapproval are things like asking me when I'm going to do fill-in-the-blank. Doesn't matter what the fill-in-the-blank is. I'm standing there sweaty, dirty, panting like a dog chasing a rabbit that can't stop wagging his tail on an August afternoon,  and some dumb sh*t who's not sweaty and dirty, asks me when I'm going to do fill-in-the-blank....Here's a few more FAQs not to be missed. No, really, I'm not going to miss them.

Q: When are you going to fill-in-the-blank with a task I have not gotten to yet because I only have two hands and other things have a higher priority?

A: Heavy sigh, it's on the list.

Q: When are you going to fill-in-the-blank with yet another task?

A: It's on the list followed with a glare that stops further when are you going to fill-in-the-blank with task questions.

Q: We're just going to put that blue insulation board there...

A: NO. 

Q: You'll only see it when....


Q: How can your husband stand you?

A: Under my breath as I turn my back and walk away: Because he's not an idiotic, teeny, tiny, limp male member like you.

Q: Is such and such building material here yet?

A: Considering you asked for it 15 minutes before you needed it 15 minutes ago, NO.

Q: Do you want a dormer?

A: No

Q: Do you want a dormer?

A: No

Q: Do you want a dormer?

A: No

Q: Do you want a dormer?

A: No

Q: Do you want a dormer?

A: No

Q: Have you decided on the dormer yet?

A: Yeah, I don't want a GD dormer, put the f'ing stairs in anyway they'll fit and I'll deal with zoning.

Q: You know what you should do?

A: Take a spa vacation after I whoop your butt.

Q: Solar? Why solar? What about the snow? Why not wind? What are you going to do when the sun doesn't shine for days and days on end? Can you read my mind that I think you and your husband are stupid? Rat-tat-tat-tat.

A #1: SHRIEK, like I think like I'm going to faint. Excuse me while I go like call The Husband and let him know that like, oh my ga-hod, sometimes the sun doesn't shine. 

A #2: I'm going to come over to your house with all my cats, sit on your favorite chairs, put my feet on your coffee table in the one tiny spot that there isn't one of my cats, and eat all the food in your refrigerator after I stand there with the door open all day after I run around and turn every light on in your house. And if you really piss me off, I'm going to break open cans of tuna and throw catnip all over your carpet like it was one of those vacuum up room fresheners (she smiled sweetly). 

A #3 (for those that genuinely want to know how this whole solar thing works): The Husband took a 40 hour workshop and learned how to examine our usage, determine our needs, consider our goals, study the weather information and size the system. (I'm not sure how many install hours he has/needs to go to be a certified installer.) The big thing when you're not tied into the grid and you've got some overcast periods is battery storage. There's where the budget and space available come into the equation. Depending on what I'm doing, I have anywhere from three to six days of "juice" stored in the batteries. Even on overcast days, the panels are producing power. It's the sun's radiation. That's why you can get a sunburn on a cloudy day. And finally, there's a generator for that. As for snow, the PV array is just like a car windshield - wipe it off if the sun doesn't come out enough to melt it off. As for wind, recently in the world of wind, there is a turbine that has caught The Husband's attention. Other than that, there's one out there that is a real workhorse that is just waaaay out of our league financially speaking. Up to this latest turbine that he's watching, the rest are down a lot and require maintenance that won't work for our situation right now. And thank you for your genuine interest when we've been working so hard on our dream 25 years in the making.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Okay, here's a little spin around the Cranium of Bheki for you: Zoom in on top of tall pole with red flashing light, hear the WHOOP! WHOOP! siren in the background, feel the panic as you see the gate at the end of the driveway and the only way in or out shut. You begin to perspire yet you feel cold.The hair on your arm rises as all door latches within your heightened auditory ability lock with a heavy CLANG! TSH! CLANG! All of a sudden you shrink to the size of a mouse, like Alice in Wonderland, before the mess you see pictured below when you hear from The Husband, who heard from an email from your sister, who talked to your Mother that she may be coming up to see The Secret Cabin for the first time ever. OMG, THE QUEEN IS COMING! THE QUEEN IS COMING! PREPARE THE CASTLE!  

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Drum roll....

Okay, now be quiet. Behold.....Living Room, Kitchen, Kitchen, and Garden Shed - in that order.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sorry, Men of the World....

....I'm already taken.

First, this has to be just plain wrong on so many levels as I had trouble choosing a title for this entry. It was a toss up among: Oooo, panties! or 101 Uses of a Solar Pole and a John Deere Tractor or There's a Tractor for That (as in There's an App for That).

Back to the Men of the World. I realize it's probably not fair to other women for me to display such incredible feats of ingenuity. I'm sure it's the things like this that I do that makes me completely irresistible to The Husband. Yes, let's use the word irresistible. All sarcasm aside, this is the way this Off-grid farm girl dries our clothes. It's kind of like the saying, "Make hay in the light of day." Only it applies to everything, not just hay. One load of laundry a day, every day that weather permits. Drying outdoors in Summer; indoors, by the heater, in Winter. Whether or not a proper clothes line is available.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Found 'em!

They were in the Scary Clown Bus. Now that there's recharged batteries back in the camera, there's no stopping me. Yep, also found the charger for the smaller batteries. 

Here we have my Sacred Altar of Relaxation. This tub is from the old farm house we got with our property in Ohio. Yes, we moved it the 600-some miles up here. It's like a favorite pair of jeans - fits perfect, super comfortable. I have missed this tub. A lot. The house we built at the farm in Ohio came with one of those water wasting, no place is comfortable to sit in, corner garden tubs. I hate it. After four years of showers only, longing for a relaxing soak, a woman and her tub were reunited. As you'll recall, I filled my tub early yesterday afternoon and let the water heat up all day under the sun. The sun was going down by the time I was able to hop in. It was a little cool but not bad. It actually felt good after the sweltering heat. The fun thing about an outdoor bathtub is that one can really flop and splash around like a happy fish without worrying about getting water all over the place. I was so busy being a happy fish that I didn't notice the shapes where there shouldn't have been any. When you're in a bit of a hurry, you have to knock your glasses over and get water all over them before you actually get them on your face. Schew. I could tell through the distorting streams of water on my lenses it was just a couple of deer. How awesome is that? Taking a bath outside surrounded by trees and wildlife. Ahhhh. Home Sweet Tub.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fun with cast iron

Today's adventure with water involves cast iron. And lots of it! Both water and cast iron. I used the tractor to move my old cast iron, clawfoot bathtub (aka Altar of Relaxation) away from the outside back wall (foundation) of The Secret Cabin. I want to paint my tub. I tend to paint with a lot of enthusiasm. My clothes and everything around me ends up looking like I was partying with Jackson Pollock. (See pictures below. I grabbed these off the internet and I don't know who the photographers are to properly credit.) Can you just imagine what The Husband would have to say if the foundation of The Secret Cabin ended up looking like a bad knock off of the bottom picture. Anyway, with the tub moved, I thought, I have a hose so why not? I filled the tub with water and I'm letting the sun warm it up. The water has been warming up for about fours hours. It feels warm enough to be comfortable but I won't jump in until later this evening after my friend who's working on the plumbing inside the cabin leaves. You'll have to check back to see how the outdoor bath turns out.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

OMG, grab a bucket!

So, the sun is just a shining and it's HOT in the UP. The frig is running a lot and burning some battery power over night. I think. The System Control Panel is showing that we're burning some battery power and the Inverter is showing we're fully charged. The Husband is looking into it. Well, I was feeling all haughty having running water and a flush toilet so I thought I'd run my new wash machine for the first time and do a load of laundry. Guess what I forgot? That the drain for the wash machine drains into a pit with a pump that drains the bath tub which isn't hooked up yet. Oops. Note to self that the utility sink drains there as well. What could have been a Lucy in the chocolate factory episode turned out to be manageable as the new wash machine doesn't use much water. You would think the thing was designed for use in a desert or third world country where water is scarce. (Our day is coming by the way. The number one source of pollution of our fresh water is agriculture.) How it's supposed to get your clothes clean without using hardly any just doesn't seem right. Anyway, my jean shorts are all hanging over the round pen panels drying in the sun and breeze. I guess I'll know if the wash machine actually got my clothes clean if I don't hear anyone near me say, "What smells?"

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Big FA-LUSHING Announcement

The Secret Cabin, built in 1995 or 1997 (I can't remember which), for the first time ever, has an honest to goodness flush toilet! No more trips in the middle of the night, flashlight in hand, to the portajohn.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Dang it, where's....

My camera needs it's rechargeable batteries changed and I don't remember where I stashed the rechargeable batteries. The Outbuilding is almost done. The wood stove arrived yesterday. The tractor was able to get it as far as just into the doorway of the Outbuilding and the guys moved it the rest of the way into the building for me. A big THANK YOU to them on that as it really wasn't part of their job and it was really heavy. We are waiting on the metal siding, the door, and the floor trim. It's all supposed to be here this morning. I'm hanging around waiting on the delivery. Then I need to go shopping. I have to get paint for the inside of the Outbuilding and plumbing stuff for The Secret Cabin. Oh, and pick up a loaf of bread from The Conglomerate Cafe. The Strawberry-Rhubarb preserves are yummy too, by the way.

Wednesday evening, my friend came over and we worked on the plumbing. The wash machine is now where it belongs and is hooked up. Think of the scene from The Lost in Space movie where the robot comes on line. Cripes, technology. The water tank is sitting where it's going and up on blocks. My utility sink and faucet were retrieved from the bus and put back in the Mechanical Room. My little utility sink is stainless steel. It's all shiny and pretty and I wanted it to stay that way so I had stashed it in the Scary Clown Bus which by the way is FOR SALE. It could be easily converted into a HUNTING CAMP. It has heat, air, and two inverters. Oops, kind of got off track there. Back to the plumbing. The kitchen drain is hooked up. The bathroom faucet, water lines, and shut off valves are all installed. The sink backsplash is now caulked. We work on the plumbing again on Saturday. I'm looking forward to getting the water going to see how the pump effects our energy usage. It would be a bit more convenient to not have to go outside to use the bathroom. In the meantime, I'm enjoying having lights and a refrigerator. I'm planning on cooking in my Itty Bitty Kitchen for the first time today. I'll let you know how that goes. If you're from lands afar, the weather has been fabulous and the forecast for the weekend is all sunshine. Oh, the building supplies are here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Speaking of Beasts

This is a Beast Barn. Okay, so it's just an Outbuilding that will be for Beasts and seed starting for the farm. LR Contracting has been speedily building this for us. They poured the foundation on Monday and by Thursday, 5 PM, this is what I had. Sans big mess all over the yard and bad attitude and/or princess harassing. I have been really impressed with these guys. They were the ones that fixed the mistake in the concrete in the lower level of The Secret Cabin. There was NOTHING laying around when they were done with that job. As if that's not impressive enough, one of the gentleman on the crew use to build Morton Barns. If you're not familiar with the Morton name, they are a beautiful building. They're VERY pricey but come with every bell and whistle imaginable. But wait there's more.... I've been kind of a pain in the butt about not being wasteful with materials and trying to use up the stuff I have left over from building the machine barn. They have been making a huge effort to help me not waste materials and money. I really appreciate that. Especially at this stage of the game. We're at the end of all this and we are scrapping the bottom of the barrel. In fact, a big shout out to my Mom and Dad. THANK YOU! If it weren't for them, this building would not be possible and our move would not be possible which in turn putting the other house on the market would not be possible and our diabolic plan to take over 80 acres of the World would be foiled and we'd lose everything Mike and I have worked for over the last 20-some years. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I've got the power....

....and paint. And dust. And....

Ceiling fan because a solar cabin can. Special shout out to Wayne of Hanson Electric for going waaay up a really, really tall ladder to install. Thank you, Wayne.

The Secret Cabin as viewed on my way from the Portajohn in the middle of the night. Special Thank you to the Sun for the power to run the lights.


This is the Mechanical Room. I'm attempting to make it pretty so it's not a scary dungeon when I do laundry. Plas-Tex wall covering (almond, smooth) and painted (peach, Sherwin-Williams Frangipane to be exact) block wall. I'd like to have a board running along where the Plas-Tex and block meet to trim it out. Also, I could add hooks on the board for hanging things.

Well, we're close. Oh so close. Disappointingly, Eric and Jake did NOT finish the cabin on their last trip. They said they'd be back during hunting season but they were paid in full and I don't have a lot of faith in other people at the moment. We really, really, really needed them to finish. We canNOT wait any longer to move the animals in. Once I get everything cleaned up and the animals move in, I really don't want to have someone come in and make a mess and disturb the animals while they get settled in. Heck, I don't want to be disturbed. After spending most of the last 14 months apart, The Man, Beasts and I will all be together here at The Secret Cabin for the first time ever. It's been about 3 years since Mike and I have been at The Secret Cabin together. (It's hard to find a farm sitter.)

So, lots of cleaning, touching up of walls and paint, and applying of wood finish yet. Oh yea, I guess I should hook up the water. I've got about four weeks to get all the loose ends tied up. I feel like I'm preparing to be launched to the moon or some thing. I will be getting back to my life. Only my life is changing. I'm moving forward yet I'm taking a huge step back. About 5 years ago, The Husband and I lived in an old, not-so-updated farm house so we've had practice at living a life where day to day living is a little more work than just flipping a switch or pressing a button. Still, I'm looking forward to being done with all this construction BS.