Archive for January 12th, 2012

In a Foreign Land


I stopped in at the little store in town today. It used to have five aisles, but recently they reorganized to bring the feed, seed, and hardware into the main grocery building, and somehow they managed to squish it all together and make it work with aisles of plumbing pipes and nails and chains and chickens feeders next to flour, sugar, and canning jars. I’m not sure how many aisles there are now, but there are a lot–and in the same space. And they still have the deli and fast food kitchen at the back with little tables to sit and shoot the breeze or wait for your hamburger.

Now that I’m farming on my own, I’m in the store more often, usually once a week. I’m the one picking up the feed or whatever else is needed. It’s a full-service little store. You can rent movies, get a hot pizza to order, pick up your milk and bread, find any hardware items you need, get your feed and seed or a bale of straw, and even check your deer if you have one–all in one place. It’s the only store for miles and miles around, and it does it all. In the spring, you can get chicks and bunnies, too.

It’s the kind of place where everybody knows your name, but at first they were surprised when I started coming in to buy the feed because I hadn’t been doing that before. I have to work with them sometimes to get them to understand what I want. Or maybe they have to work with me. I went in there to get some chicken feed the first time and we had a long conversation before I decided which kind to get, trying to figure out what kind I usually got. I didn’t realize they had so many different kinds of everything. I’m still trying to figure out the right dog food. I went in there the other day and asked for a copper block. They were calling back and forth across the store, the clerk and Eddie who carries things from the back out to your car. “She wants a copper block!” “She wants a salt block?” “No, a copper block!” “We don’t have a copper block!” “She says she wants a copper block!” “DOES SHE MEAN A MINERAL BLOCK?”

Well, okay, call it that if you want since that’s what it’s called. I’m figuring out the right words for stuff.

Every time I’m in there lately, I gravitate to the hardware aisles. Not to buy anything, though sometimes I’m tempted. I just walk slowly up and down the aisles and look at everything. I stop and pick stuff up. Read the names of things on the packages, and think, so that’s what a whatzahoozit is. I’m fascinated by all the strange objects and tools and pieces and parts. I want to make stuff and fix stuff. For now, I just look at stuff, let it seep into my brain and tell myself I could use this, I could do something with that, it can’t be more complicated than knitting needles.

In the whole time I lived at Stringtown Rising, I never bought myself any work gloves. I wore the same pair of red gloves I’ve had for a long time. I got them to go with a hat and coat I have. I bought them in the women’s department of a chain store. They’re made of some kind of stretchy velour material with some leather padding on the inside of the palm and fingers. They get wet, and they aren’t all that warm.

The little store had a rack of work gloves at the front of one of the hardware aisles. I picked up a pair of insulated leather work gloves and put them on. I walked up and down the aisles looking at whatzahoozits and thinking about how I didn’t have any work gloves. Every once in a while, I’d put them on, then take them off again, then put them on again, wondering why I’d never bought myself any real work gloves before.

Then after I finished looking at all the whatzahoozits for the day, I walked up to the counter with the gloves and bought them.

I think I never took myself seriously at this farming thing before.

But now I do.

And next time I’m at the little store, I’m going to get a pair for Morgan, too.

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Winter Check


We’re expected to have some snow later today, with temperatures dipping into the teens overnight, and I’ve learned at least one thing since I’ve moved in here–check all the outside vents to make sure they haven’t come off somehow. If they’re off, that lets in cold air that can freeze pipes.

Actually, I’ve learned two things–double-check the bladder tank in the barn to make sure the heat tape is still plugged in, nothing’s tripped or anything. My tank is now also wrapped in an insulation blanket. I should be good to go!

By the way, I don’t have a generator here. If I did, it wouldn’t do me any good because I never could start that generator at Stringtown Rising. I can’t pull the starter hard enough. I tried and tried. If I’m going to have a generator, I need a button-start generator. And those are expensive. (Any generator is expensive, but they are even more so.) In any case, I can’t afford any generator, so I will be doing without this winter. If the power goes out and it’s freezing, I’m going to find every blanket in the house and pile it on top of the insulation wrap on that tank!

For heat, while there is free gas here, the heat in the house comes from a gas furnace with an electric blower, so it will be no good in a power outage. There is a fireplace here, but it has a very small Buck Stove insert. You can hardly get two small logs in there at the same time. It’s for looks. However, there is a gas wall unit in the studio, so the heat would stay on there and that is where we’ll be headed. Public water has been brought to this property and I’m planning to have it hooked up in the studio as soon as possible because in times of a power outage, public water would still be running. Having an alternate water source in the studio will also mean that if something is wrong with the well, I can get the public water there. If something is wrong with the public water, I can get well water in the house. Options are GOOD. The water heater is gas-powered, so in the case of a power outage, I would even have hot water over there. If there is a long power outage, I would be warm, and could flush toilets, take hot showers, even cook (lighting the gas range in the studio with a match), and wash dishes. If I had to haul water from the studio for the animals, I could. So, I may be generator-less, but that’s my winter power outage plan at Sassafras Farm. I’ll manage, and it won’t be too bad.

Well, I don’t have the public water hooked up yet. But I do have the plumber coming back to take a look at that on Sunday and tell me what it would take to tie it in to the studio’s plumbing, cutting the studio off from the well. (Public water in the studio is also a requirement for a commercial kitchen, so tying in to the public water will serve an additional purpose for the future.)

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The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....

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