Living Outdoors: A Day in the Life

I bet you’re wondering how a family of four lives on their homestead while they’re building a house, right?  I’d be curious too.  Where do we sleep?  Where do we eat?  Where do we poop? Come with me today, on a little adventure – A Day in the Life…       DayinLife1

We sleep in a borrowed pop-up tent trailer.  Circa 1980, it is literally falling apart at the seams, but has kept us warm and dry (mostly).  We each have a Rubbermaid bin of clothes, and our personal belongings that are not stored at the red shop are tucked into various cracks and crevices.


The chickens greet the day with some pecking and scratching around our picnic table. One morning, a few weeks ago, I went off to teach choreography at a performing arts camp, and returned a few hours later to this lovely table.  Back in Oregon, Brian had milled up a cedar tree from the land, carted its wood all the way to Missouri, and finally crafted the boards into the picnic table they were always meant to be.  That picnic table is where we dine.

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Kitchen time!  I honestly feel like I spend most of my time in the outdoor kitchen, washing dishes, firing up the rocket stove for cooking, and more recently, preserving food (I’m loving this conversation about canning on the HH Facebook page).


Charging up the various electronic items.  We have really loved these Ikea solar lamps. They need a few hours a day to charge, but they have been so useful for nighttime reading or just getting the kids ready for bed (not to mention nighttime tick-checks). We currently have a smart phone, so we are able to interface with the internet world on the land, although my big computer sits at a friend’s house.


How Brian spends most of his time….framing!

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A poo with a view!  It’s our super-duper pooper!  Yes, we poop in a bucket.  And then we sprinkle it with sawdust.  And then it goes into a big old pile of poops that came before it, and it gets composted down into a big pile of humanure.  And we will use it, when it’s fully composted, likely on trees and shrubs.


And here is how I spend my time lately – in the garden, watering and tending my new fall plantings.  If you look very closely, you’ll see a big black tub with a tiny boy.  That’s our “bathtub,” filled with pond water.  It’s great for hot days, not so great when it’s cold.  I like to mix up my personal hygiene with black tub baths and trips to the hot showers at the YMCA.

So there you have it.  A day of eating, cooking, working, cleaning, and pooping on our hilltop homestead.  If you have specific questions about how this all works, leave me a question in the comments, and I will do my best to answer!


Setting Up: An Outdoor Kitchen

Week One of living on the land. It has been so wonderful.  Truly, just so lovely to fall asleep here each night, listening to the sounds of owls, crickets, frogs, and birds.  So nice to stay late after dinner without worrying about rushing back to town to get the kids fed and put to bed.  So easy to wake up in the morning and jump right into the tasks at hand.

The biggest task this week has been setting up our outdoor kitchen. Imagine trying to fit the contents of your home kitchen into an outdoor space, in a neat, organized, weather-proof, and critter-proof way. Imagine cooking all your meals almost entirely from scratch without hot running water, refrigeration, or the type of cook stove or oven you’re used to.  This is what some of our neighbors have been doing for years, and this is our new reality.

Brian and I love cooking.  We love spending time in the kitchen.  So creating an outdoor kitchen that is truly functional and also beautiful was a high priority.  And let me state from the start that I can claim absolutely no credit for the wonder you are about to see.  It is the result of the talent and hard work of my husband Brian, an artist, blacksmith and builder, who loves nothing more than to spend hours creating incredible structures from materials we have at hand.


The Outdoor Kitchen is tucked just to the west of our blue roofed house, and nestled underneath an oak tree.


The most amazing feature: running water!  We have four 50 gallon barrels set up to catch rain water from our roof.  Brian piped it under the house and up to this sink.  Instant cold water!  (We filter the drinking water through a Berkey filter.)


Where we do our cooking!  To the left is your standard-issue Coleman white gas stove.  To the right is a StoveTec rocket stove.


Cooking our breakfast in my monkey pajamas!  We usually fire up both stoves to cook a meal.  The rocket stove gets pretty sooty, so we have pots designated just for rocket stove use.  In the background, you can see that we’ve laid some planks down in the blue house for a covered dining area.


This tent trailer is our temporary home – so cozy and wonderful.  But the most important part of this photo is to the right – our Sun Oven.  Sun Ovens are absolutely incredible. I have made stews, rice, quinoa, and heated hot water, just by taking advantage of the beautiful sunny days we’ve been having.  The only disadvantage: Sun Ovens really don’t work on a cloudy or rainy day like today.

Thanks for joining me on this tour of our new outdoor kitchen. If you have any questions, please ask away!


Shared with The Backyard Farming Connection, Homestead Bloggers Network, and Homestead Barn Hop.


…Things don’t work out exactly as you’ve planned.
Remember this cute perky tent?  The one we were just days away from calling home?


With a little strong wind and heavy rain, the tent now looks like this:
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Yes, we are all safe.  No, we were not in the tent.  We had just climbed into our car to safely wait out the storm, and minutes later watched the tent crumble to the ground in a swirl of wind and rain.

Which means that our move to the land is postponed for a wee bit while we figure out the best solution.  Buy a new tent?  Quickly build a roofed tent platform?  Purchase an old RV or bus in which to sleep?

One thing is for sure about building a homestead.  It is anything but boring!

Have a wonderful weekend,

A Sneak Peek

Well, here we are, back from cake land, and once again firmly rooted in the reality of building a homestead.  Unfortunately, we have been rained out of our big moving day, which was supposed to be today. We will wait at the cozy town house until things dry up enough to move heavy furniture across wet ground.  While I’ve been sharing endless photos of cakes and decadent icing, we’ve actually been hard at work creating a rustic camping situation that will be comfortable enough to live with for three or four more months, or until we finish the house.

So here is a little sneak peek of our soon-to-be home!


The garden is really coming along.  I still have peppers, basil, and some okra and onions to plant, but the main push to build a sheet mulch garden is over, and now I’m enjoying planting, sowing, and watering. OutdoorKitchen1







Brian has been shaping and building a beautiful outdoor kitchen, creating level spaces with urbanite and earth moving, and using some lovely black walnut wood that we had milled up in Oregon to create counters and cook tops.OutdoorKitchen2


This photo is a week or two old, and shelving and running water has since been added, but you can see the sink, counter space to the left, and the cookspace to the right.  The lower level will be the “pantry.”NewSofa

Moving slightly east to the living room!  That orange sofa was a total college move-out day score!  Free on the side of the road for the taking.  At first I gave Brian a “what are you, crazy?” sort of look, but I have to admit that it is comfortable and so useful for chilling out under the blue roof of the future house.


The Sun Oven at work!  We will have a two burner Coleman white gas stove, a rocket stove, and this Sun Oven to cook with.  I hope for lots of sunny days, as the Sun Oven is SO cool.


Tent, sweet Tent.  Our neighbors lent us this enormous tent in which to sleep and play.  The kids have loved spending time in there with their dolls and trucks; it’s relatively tick-free, cool, and spacious.


And maybe the most important element of our camping situation: Water.  With this rain, we now have five 50 gallon barrels of water full to the tip top (and overflowing).  The barrels we purchased from Pepsi for $10 each.  They smell like Mountain Dew.  To filter, we will be using a Berkey Water Filter.

I look forward to sharing more in-depth information about each of these elements as we move to the land and get more intimate with these systems.  I know it will be a huge adjustment, but I’m really growing more and more excited to finally live on our land.


Tour of the Homestead, Part III

It’s been a glorious week of sun here on the homestead.  Almost makes me think that spring is truly on its way.  Almost.  But the days have been warm and sunny, my seeds in the greenhouse are sprouting, perennials are flowering, bees are buzzing, and grass is growing.  Yes, the green grass is growing. And that makes our goats so very happy.

Our sweet goats.  Currently, we have a herd of six American Alpine dairy goats.  They represent three generations of does.

Nimbrethil is the alpha doe.  She is 6 years old. She is spirited and strong.  Much like my sweet little girl in the background there.

Her sister is Calypso.  Calypso and Nimbrethil came to us as 3 month old kids, when we had to replace a yearling that had been killed by a cougar.  She is easy going and a great milker.

Sable is Calypso’s daughter.  She is 4 years old and so sweet and gentle.  While her dam Calypso is super easy to milk, Sable has been a bit more challenging to milk. She has tiny teats.  So tiny that it’s really hard to even wrap your hand around them.  (Don’t tell any of the other goats, but Sable may be my favorite!)

This is Gilly (short for Galadriel).  She is Nimbrethil’s daughter, 4 years old.  She is the only goat that we bred this year. Can’t you see how gorgeously round and pregnant she looks?  Her kids are due in late April.  She is a fabulous mom and easy milker.  A goat-owner’s dream.

And lastly, we have “Jump in the hayloft Rose” and “Black Black”, our yearlings.  We make it a policy never to name a goat until we’ve decided if we’re keeping them in the herd – too easy to get attached.  But Ella had other ideas!  They are Gilly and Sable’s kids, respectively.

That’s our herd!  Six goats for a small family is a bit overkill, but we do love our caprine friends.  If you have any questions, I love talking about our goats – ask away!

Happy Weekend!

Tour of the Homestead, Part II

Animals are an integral part of our homestead.  Over the years, we’ve cared for ducks, chickens, bees, goats, and pigs to supply us with meat, eggs, milk, honey, and companionship.  These days, we’ve pared it down to chickens, goats and bees.

First off, the chickens!  My handy husband created this awesome chicken house (the blue structure) that is mounted on bicycle tires, and fully movable.  Sticking out of the sides are easy-access nest boxes, and you can access the interior from a big fold-down door in the back, so mucking out the coop is a snap.  They have a little lean-to and a plastic covered tunnel in which to hide out from the rain and snow(!).  And the rest of the time, they are scratching and pecking in their big old grassy pasture.  Pretty sweet digs for chickens.

Our flock was just recently dramatic reduced by a series of kills by hawks and raccoons.  So we’re down to one handsome rooster, and three hens.


A Tour of the Homestead, Part I

I’m so excited to share our little homestead with you.  First off, I should give a little background.  We moved here in December of 1999, and never really thought we’d stay!  But the 30 acres of secluded forested land, a sweet cabin, and gorgeous creek captured our hearts, and 12 years later, we’ve created an amazing home in a rental house and property!

So, to begin, my favorite place… the greenhouse!  This was our wedding present to ourselves 5 years ago, and it has been the best investment ever made.  In our narrow hollow, it tends to be cool even in the summer, so the greenhouse gives us extra warmth for successful peppers and tomatoes.  In the winter, it’s amazing to have another dry space.  And we can grow year-round greens and brassicas.

So, come on in!

In case you are wondering, this is an Oregon Valley Greenhouses structure (I believe it’s the Low Profile Quonset), and it is 20 feet wide by 48 feet long.  In the foreground, we have beets and carrots, all overwintered, and to the right, a sandbox (to keep the kids entertained!).

Overwintered kale, chard, broccoli.  We use raised beds because we have very clayey soil.  Beds are amended with compost and a whole lot of goat manure (more on that in a few days).


And here is my seed starting set-up for now.  There is a heat mat under there, giving the temperatures a boost by about 10 degrees.  I hope it’s warm enough as we had snow today!

So there is a quick peek into the greenhouse.  I’ll be spending a lot more time in there in the coming weeks.