Saturday, November 21, 2009

Today was like a half moon cookie

Recently I built this awesome grease collection system, it all fits stealthily in the Suburban and with minimal effort we can collect over 200 gallons per outing by sucking it out of dumpsters. The system still requires two people, one to hold the dipstick and one to monitor the pump, but it works well for what we need. Keep in mind that each of these trips nets $600 worth of fuel savings, compared with buying diesel. On top of that I built a similar kick ass grease filtration system, capable of holding 720 filtered gallons, more than enough to get us through the winter when it is harder to filter due to cooler temperatures. Well, last Sunday Johnson and I went out on our first hunt for grease in Binghamton, we didn't know the area very well but after looking in every dumpster we could find we got our 200 gallons, as well as a few to check out the next time we went. All told it took 130 miles of driving and 7 hours of our time, not bad for $600 but I knew we could do better. I filtered that entire haul in this last week so we went out again today, it only took 2 hours and 60 miles, most of which was driving from rural to suburban and back, to collect the 200 gallons, and since I rigged my drill up to the pump I only had to pump 60 of it by hand which was nice as well, much more efficient. That's the white half of the cookie.

When we got home I had to unload the barrels, 4 almost full 55 gallon drums, weighing in at about 500 pounds a piece. I usually scoot them down a ramp out the back of the truck which has worked OK, but today one of the barrels caught a nail on the ramp (I didn't build it, it came with the barn. This is obviously a pitiful excuse, but it makes me feel a twinge better.) Now I have a leaky bottomed full barrel of grease on it's side on the floor, cursing it to high heaven trying to right it's slippery ass. I wanted it to be upside down so the leak was on the top, but it was impossible. I had the grand idea to cut a hole in it and pump it empty, but the only other vessel I had to put it in was a barrel that is full of grease heated and ready to be filtered. I started to run it through my new magnificent filter system when that exploded too, literally raining grease on my head. It all took about 2 hours to clean up. That's the black half of the cookie.

Sorry I don't have any pictures to go along with it, 'blogs are boring without pictures. To make up for the shitty afternoon I'm now making peanut butter ice cream in our new ice cream maker I got for $4 at the local Salvo. Maybe the cookie is more than half white.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ursula the Mean, Bratty, Awkward Teenager

The Country has brought out some independent streaks in Ursula, the horribly crazy dog. Independence is on one hand good for her, considering how completely hopeless she was without constant, loving, approving human presence when we got her. However, it also includes some rather immature displays on her part. Basically, she has been a total brat. I've been coping with this by starting a comic book featuring her idiot exploits. I am posting these illustrations to attempt to shame her into reform.

Please shame her in your prayers.

Monday, November 9, 2009

So far, we've done a lot of work that hasn't been that dramatic but that has taken time, effort, energy, and also blood, sweat and (my) tears. We've chipped away at siding, raised the well head, replaced windows, built some little things and designed systems, patched, painted, mopped, dusted, measured twice, cut once, and things have over time looked remarkably better.

We spent some incredibly painful hours over the weekend making a fantastic aesthetic improvement that really was dramatic, and boy it felt good.

I was totally unprepared for most of this project. The large silver vacuum-like sander, I figured, was like a vacuum. Maybe a bit harder to push. Well. Apparently, to get it to really work, you have to lift up on its handle. The whole time. This amounts to doing basically a few hours worth of curls with a weight that is completely physically impossible for you to lift. And then you have to walk, back and forth and back and forth and etc etc. The edger tool, for the edges, was apparently much worse. But I wasn't allowed to play with that one for fear it would drag me through a wall. The Big Man did basically all the work, with me chipping in to do follow-up sanding with a fine grit the next day and to work on the corners with a pad sander this afternoon.

I was also totally unprepared for the difference it would make. I mean, the floors were already wood, although they were painted dark, so I wasn't expecting such a transformation. The pain was completely worth it. And the wood/paint-dust that I keep finding in my ears and nose, that is also worth it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bam! Gender in the Country

Some of you have expressed, dare I say it, awe at the scale of work we've been doing. I have also detected a fair amount of skepticism, or perhaps, slight amazement at my participation in such projects. As my grandma continually fretted to all family members but myself over the summer: "She's just so small!"

Well, I resent the implication. It is true that I am a full foot shorter than the Big Man, and something around half his tonnage as well. This does not stop me, however, from dragging wood, trash and steel around the property with reckless abandon.

However, there are some tasks where I indeed find myself sitting out. Tonight's project (details to be revealed later) is one such instance.

So what do I do on these occasions? I practice. Or more specifically, I channel my great-grandmother.

In other words, it turns out that homesteading has some interesting, um, gender dynamics. In our previous lives, the Big Man and I cooked dinners, did dishes, and laundered on a strictly equal opportunity basis (probably even leaning toward Big Man being "House Marm of the Year" for the past couple years.) But with our impending idealistic "we do everything ourselves" life style looming on the horizon, I spend an awful lot of time kneading bread, prepping dried beans, and dehydrating apples. I quit working midday 15 minutes before the Big Man, so I can prepare lunch. I spend some evenings doing laundry instead of designing waste vegetable oil heating systems, some mornings testing pickling brines instead of rewiring the car, and some afternoons making stocks, broths and sourdough starters instead of building window frames.

All of this, I think, is okay. Sometimes I am bothered by the idea of me, literally, donning an apron and dashing about in the kitchen, while the Big Man bangs on things in the barn and comes in when dinner is ready. And it's more than a little disorienting. But, turns out, I like baking bread. I like preserving lemons. I even like wearing an apron. I bet grad school didn't see that coming.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Barn Cleaning Pictures

My helpful mother emailed some further documentation of the barn cleaning efforts, up at Flickr.