Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Shack Tour: Before

Welcome to The Shack. I have decided to challenge myself and learn how to take videos of my land and upload them to platforms such as YouTube. I realize that most 8 year olds would ask, "What's there to learn?" But the technological advances beyond the most very basic photograph editing do not come easy to me. 

Currently, I don't have any particular homesteading skills or talents to video and share. But I do have my country-living, retirement dream in progress and I would like to document the before, during, and after. 

My Off-Grid and Debt-Free Retirement Dream

In 2015 I had quite a year. Too many things were going on to list here. But one of those things is important for this post - I bought 4 acres in West Virginia and started dreaming of retiring there as soon as possible. Preferably, debt-free and self-sufficient.

Two years later, I'm moving slightly away from the idea of replacing the existing rickety hunting cabin with an completely off-grid small home. But that is still to be determined.

Currently, The Shack (that rickety hunting cabin) is off-grid. And I go camping there as often as possible in order to escape the hustle and bustle of living near Baltimore and to plan for life on that West Virginia Ridge.

I do know that I plan to build a small home. Use solar for power and passive solar for heating. And I hope to grow as much of my own food as possible.

Two weekends past, I spent the weekend there. I like cool weather camping. I love keeping warm with that wonderful wood stove.

This is a partial and brief tour of the inside:

This is a tour of the "yard" portion of the land. 

The previous owners left behind the old shed (it is not an outhouse - although it looks like it) along with probably two truckloads of things that need to go to the dump. I have been slowly but surely trying to do some removal of poison ivy and invasive weeds. While planting a few fruit trees, and starting a "flower garden".  

There is much to do. And even more to learn. Thank you for coming along on this journey with me.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Naturally Made Soaps by Angela

I have found a new treasure - a bar of handmade soap by Angela. Good soaps are important to me. I look forward to long, relaxing soaks in the tub and handmade soaps are a splurge item for me. I search for soaps that moisturize my skin and smell great. I am thrilled with my Orange Spice soap from Naturally Made by Angela. I have to spread the word about these wonderful bars of soaps made by a woman on her homestead.

Naturally Made by Angela

I became aware of Angela through some online homesteading groups. People in those groups share their stories about gardening, chickens, cooking, canning, and living a more natural life. There is much to share with Angela's story. One part of her story is that she makes natural soaps. 

I ordered the Orange Spice bar based on the knowledge that she uses pure essential oils. When the soap arrived in the mail, in an envelope with a simple brown paper label around the bar of soap, I immediately fell in love with the scent. I couldn't stop sniffing it. I wanted to immediately go take a long soak in the tub but I waited so that I could take photos of this simple, pretty bar of soap.

A beautiful bar of Orange Spice soap

Yesterday, I took a long soak and used this bar of soap. I loved it while using it in the tub - it was so creamy and smelled so good. Then I woke up still feeling the moisturizing effects this morning! You see, I judge the moisturizing ability of soaps with my elbows.  If I get out of the tub and my elbows are immediately rough again, the soap is no good. I had this disappointing experience with a bar of soap I purchased recently. No good. A good bar of soap, in my opinion, is one that makes my elbows softer for at least a few hours after my bath. This Orange Spice soap by Angela has my elbows still feeling softer the next day! 

To find her soaps online, check out her facebook page Naturally Made by Angela.

Angela - An Inspiration

Angela inspires me. She lives with her family in the country. They garden, raise chickens, and share that part of their lives on videos (youtube and patreon). People who know me are aware that my goal is to move to my land and  retire with a garden and chickens - living a simple life. Angela inspires me to keep moving toward my country living dreams. 

Angela's country living abilities are not the only things about her that inspire me. Or that her children appear happy, confident, and excited to show-and-tell their favorite chicken. That inspires me too, but that's not all. You see, Angela has survived multiple brain aneurysms and surgeries to repair those aneurysms. Despite these terrifying (to me, if not to her) health emergencies, Angela continues on. I don't know how. I'd ball up into a wimpy, complaining puddle of worthlessness if I was faced with what she's been faced with. But not Angela. 

On Angela's facebook, you can read that her health slowed her soap production at one point. In some of her videos, she gives information about her health and updates about her surgeries. But outside of that, I would not know that she has had these experiences. I've experienced Angela as a kind and gentle person who encourages others. I can't recall a time I've seen her complain or be mean. And, as a person who suffers migraines and struggles to get out of bed many days, she inspires me most by facing the health challenges she's faced with such a good attitude.

Thank you Angela for the amazing Orange Spice soap and for the inspiration to keep moving forward. 

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you. 

Related Links:

In case you missed the link above, you can order Naturally Made by Angela soaps by messaging her through her facebook page.

I follow several homesteading groups. My favorite by far are Appalachia's Homestead with Patara groups. These groups are where I came to know about Angela as well as many others who share their skills and knowledge. This is the link to the free group but there is also a premium members group. 

My regular readers are aware that I love soaps. I've previously written about two of my favorite goat's milk soaps.  I have also written about the reasons I rely on Dr. Bronner's castile peppermint soap - which includes some migraine relief. 

And here is a peek at one of my favorite video personalities! Angela has wisely chosen to share the majority of videos with her children on her patreon page - of which I am not yet a member. However, I've seen her children in videos and live streams. Their happiness is infectious and they always make me smile. In this video, Winston is helping with the chicken chores. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Carroll County Farm Fresh Store

Visiting Carroll County Farm Fresh.
I recently found a local fresh food treasure that is worth writing about. In my search for Pawpaws, I received information about a store that carried them. I immediately entered the address into my phone's map app and high-tailed it to Carroll County Farm Fresh. Not only did I find Pawpaws, I found a treasure trove of organic vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, and milk. I also found the best customer service I've experienced in a very long time. It is refreshing to find someone who is working with passion about their product.

Carroll County Farm Fresh, Baltimore County, Maryland

I cannot confirm if the store is located in Eldersburg or Sykesville, Maryland. My map app, road signs, and subsequently the internet seemed to use the town names almost interchangeably. And I'm not familiar enough with the area to know where one town ends and the other begins. Despite not being very familiar with the area, the store was incredibly easy to find.

I do know that the address is clearly: 2808 Liberty Road. The store was easy to access at the corner of Oakland Mills Road and Liberty Road. A turn at the light from Liberty onto Oakland Mills and an immediate turn into the roomy parking lot. 

Andrew greeted me with happy helpfulness and without hovering or high-pressure sales techniques. He did offer a complimentary fresh-squeezed orange juice. The orange juice was delicious.

I was thrilled to find that they did indeed have pawpaws. HUGE Shenandoah pawpaws from Deep Run Orchard. Woohoo! That made my day. After all, I've become a huge pawpaw fan since my first pawpaw taste test.

Pawpaws and fresh-baked Pawpaw Bread

Other customers came and went as I decided I had to take some photos to share with my readers. 

Andrew explained that this is their family business. And many of their items come from small local farms and businesses. For more information you can find Carroll County Farm Fresh on their website and on their facebook page.

I wish I had taken notes on the variety of products and farm names. Just a few of the other farm names and items I noted were:

  • Baugher's (apple cider)
  • [be] essential (goatsmilk and vegan soaps)
  • Cherry Glen (goat cheese)
  • Deep Run Farms (pawpaws and tomatoes)
  • Serene Lavender Farms (jams and teas)
  • Thelma's Homestead (goatsmilk soaps)
  • Whispering Breeze Farm (cow cheese)

Once Upon A Crumb

There are also baked goods available. If you know me, you can imagine how ecstatic I was to find loaves of fresh-baked Pawpaw bread. Of course I bought one. It was divine! It was a fresh, rich, cinnamon bread (reminded me of a coffee cake) full of pawpaw flavor. 

The breads were baked by Once Upon A Crumb. If you liked fresh baked goods, you MUST try one of their items. 

If you want fresh organic fruits and vegetables, meats raised on small local farms, fresh milk and eggs without the increased preservatives the stores are boasting about ("fresher longer" ads), and variety of other products and customer service, you would be glad to visit Carroll County Farm Fresh.  The store was clean, fresh, and I really wanted to purchase one of each item. 

Words are not adequate so I will just end with a few of the photos I snapped. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Reviewing the Anker Portable Solar Power Charger

The ease of portability with the Anker PowerPort.
I have found a treasure that is not so very expensive but is worth it's weight in gold if you need to charge your cell phone and have no way of doing so. The Anker 21 watt PowerPort is portable, small, and powerful.  If you go camping, hiking, or if you want to be prepared for power outages at home, you may like this solar charger as much as I do.

The Anker 21 watt PowerPort Solar Charger

This little charger can be kept in the seat pocket of your car, in a hiking backpack, your bug out bag, or many other small storage spaces. The four sections of the gadget fold up like a pamphlet. The velcro holds it closed.  When folded it measures only 11" x 6".  When fully opened it measures only 26" x 11".

When opened, you access the pocket with the USB port. The PowerPort has two ports so you can charge two items at a time. The PowerPort comes with one charging cord. I could charge my Kindle and my cell phone at the same time.

As soon as you open the Anker PowerPort Charger, you can immediately see if the item is collecting sun via the indicator light. 

Anker PowerPort with 2 USB ports, indicator light, and cord included

As soon as I received my Anker, I took it out to the balcony to give it a try.  It was an extremely sunny day. Even so, the charger charged my phone far more quickly than I expected. I've never timed it, but I believe it takes longer to charge when it's charging in the Jeep up at the Shack! I know it seems like forever when I am waiting to bed but I want a full charge on the phone for overnight.

4:54 pm - Charging at 62%

6:02 pm  - Charging at 81%

The Many Uses of the Anker PowerPort Solar Charger

I bought this on the recommendation by a friend who has owned his for a year or more.  He uses his for camping, hunting, and traveling. He charges his items while in the woods or while in the truck without putting strain on the truck battery. He has not had a single complaint with his Anker. 

I bought mine for hiking and camping purposes as well as power outages that occur in the neighborhood where my metro apartment is located. I will also take mine with me when I travel to the Shack. Even though I have a large solar panel and inverter there, I need to replace the donated batteries (which are expensive). So in the meantime, I can use the Anker to charge my phone (rather than take my phone out to the Jeep in the dark and the wilderness and charge it there). 

I did see some questions on Amazon and I want to make it clear... this is not an inverter. You cannot charge items with "plugs" with this. You can only charge things that can charge with a USB cord. That includes phones, kindles, and tablets. Maybe some cameras. If you item plugs in with the cord that fits into the hole shown in the photo above, you can use this mini-solar panel to charge your items. 

I occasionally lose power in my apartment for most of day due to things such as traffic accidents hitting power poles and those big power boxes. We have also lost power here due to ice storms and blizzards. Finally, with the recent news of the damage caused by hurricanes, I made sure I am more prepared with the Anker PowerPort Solar charger. 

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you. 

Related Link:

I also depend on headlamps for lighting at the Shack, while camping, hiking, and during emergencies. You can read my review of headlamps here. If you've ever suddenly been in the dark and needed lighting you are aware of the importance of light. Read about my choice for hands-free lighting.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Chesapeake Cozy Cat Trees and Condos

Chesapeake Cozy Cat - Baltimore Co., Maryland
If you are a cat lover and would like to supply your cat with a quality cat tree or cat condo and you are in the Baltimore County area, I have some good information for you.  Both Mittens and I are thrilled about the treasure I acquired yesterday from Chesapeake Cozy Cat.

Buying Local - in Baltimore County, Maryland

I prefer to buy things that are made and sold locally, but it is not always easy to find what you are looking for. It often becomes much easier to mail order items. It is also often less expensive to buy from the big box stores.

One item that I have put off purchasing is a large cat condo. I didn't care for the quality and the prices at the local stores. And I didn't feel like spending that much money on Mittens the Maleficent. Frankly, she is constantly in the top of closets, on top of my kayak (that I store across the top of closet doors - next to the ceiling), and in every other nook and cranny she can find. While I really wanted a large cat tree for her, it wasn't a priority.

However, her knocking things from this shelves and spaces to make room for her napping has grown old. I definitely wanted to have a "high" space dedicated to Mittens.

Years ago I had seen a variety of cat trees and condos being sold yard sale style at the park-and-ride across from Martin State airport. But I hadn't seen this set-up for quite awhile and had given up on being able to shop those items - UNTIL YESTERDAY!

Chesapeake Cozy Cat

The Chesapeake Cozy Cat tent was in front of the park-and-ride in front of Martin State Airport yesterday. I pulled a U-turn and stopped to shop.  I grabbed a card so I could remember to provide the contact information to you.

The gentleman (I forgot to ask him name in my excitement) said that he doesn't do mail order business yet. He attends local shows and continues to sometimes set up at the location I found him. He builds all of the items himself.

I found that his prices were less expensive than the items at a local pet store I had been window-shopping. And in my opinion, the item I purchased is a higher quality.

Mittens and Her New Tree

Some of my readers occasionally ask about Mittens. She is the cat that I adopted from a local shelter in 2015 and we had adventures before I ever brought her home. In fact, I was a bit worried about whether or not Mittens the Maleficent Kitten would be allowed to come live with me. 

Mittens continues to do well with me. Rather, I continue to do well with her. She is clearly in charge of both myself and the dogs, and the apartment is her apartment. 

As soon as I brought this 42" tall tree into the door, she claimed it. She wasn't quite sure what it was, but she claimed it by laying on the base. 

Later she hopped up into the 1/2 tube beds. When I was making my purchase, I initially thought I should buy the enclosed cat houses, but I am glad I bought the tree with the two 1/2 tube beds. She loves them. Some day, I'd love to buy her one of those HUGE cat trees (on the far left in the intro photograph) but for now, this tree is perfect for Her Highness and a good size for my apartment. 

Maybe you do not live locally. In that case Amazon may be a really good option for you to find a cat tower or condo in the shape and size that you want. Simply click the banner below and shop the pet section for cat towers.

But if you are lucky enough to live local to Baltimore County, and are looking for a quality cat tree, you definitely should contact Chesapeake Cozy Cat. Mittens certainly has given her stamp of approval.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Bent River Woodworks in Capon Bridge, West Virginia

I found a treasure during my travels just the other day. During this most recent camping trip I finally visited a wonderful little store that I've been eyeing in Capon Bridge, West Virginia. I have driven past this store every time I make the drive up to my land but I have never stopped because I am on the road well before or after normal business hours. This most recent trip was cut short. I was sad to leave early, but that meant I was finally driving past during normal shop hours. Let me introduce you to Bent River Woodworks in Capon Bridge, West Virginia.

Bent River Woodworks - Capon Bridge, West Virginia

Capon Bridge is a small town in West Virginia on highway 50.  As I am driving to my West Virginia land (from Baltimore) I find myself on this beautiful two-lane highway. At one point, after climbing in elevation, I begin the curving descent before suddenly entering a small town called Capon Bridge. There is a bridge and it crosses a river and lush valley just before the road begins it's ascent out of town. 

There on the right, I have always admired a large brick building with handmade rustic wooden furniture in the front. Even though my new home will be small (well under 800 square feet) I have always wanted to stop and take a better look at this beautiful furniture made of logs and branches. Although, I did not expect to find anything that I'd be able to incorporate into my small home after it is built.

Bent River Woodworks Furniture

This log furniture is rustic and elegant at the same time. I'm not at all sure how they do it, but they do. Perhaps it is how they finish the furniture. There is a ginormous "throne" outside, large enough to seat two people comfortably (sorry, I did not remember to take a photo of it). When I went inside, I found gorgeous tables, chairs, and benches. 

This light-colored bench was one of my favorite pieces of furniture. The size is perfect for a smaller home or deck. I am not a woodworking expert so I'll likely use the wrong terminology, but I love the "chunkiness" and how solid the piece is. The color of the wood and the shine of the finish is gorgeous.

This table was AMAZING. I love the tree trunk legs and the varying colors of the table. If the photo enlarges sufficiently, maybe you will be able to see the carve dips of the table edge and chair backs.  I loved that little addition. A smaller version of this is exactly what I've been imagining for my tiny dining area.

a cropped photo of a chair back for detail

Bent River Woodworks Chainsaw Carvings

Each trip past the store, I have noticed more chainsaw carved critters. I have always been drawn to things such as totems (they have one inside) and chainsaw carvings. So I was thrilled to stop and take a closer look at what they create.  

Ken, one of the chainsaw artists, was there and was very helpful and pleasant. He explained that this bear cub is part of different sections of an item. I adore this baby cub and as I mentioned, I want one lounging on my deck at some point. 

The details and finish are visually pleasing. Ken said that they do quite a bit of custom work.  Rather than ramble on, trying to explain how wonderful these carvings are, I'll just add some photographs.

Even though I did not think this store would have suitable furniture for my new place, I find that I was wrong. Not only could they (and would they) custom make something sized to fit my needs, they also make the exact type of chainsaw carvings that I've admired and added to my wish list years ago. Yes, at the risk of being redundant, I really want one of those baby bear statues lounging on my deck. And am happy to find ones that are carved in the more realistic style that I prefer. 

Related Bent River Woodworks and Capon Bridge Links:

For more photos and information, be sure to check out their Bent River Woodworks facebook page

They also have a website and on that website you'll find a photo of the store (pre-awning days) and that beautiful, ginormous, wooden throne.  Check it out here

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you. I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Thank You to My Readers and Supporters

I'd like to take a moment to say thank you to my readers. I have a circle of folks who are providing emotional support for me while I'm balancing adulting with daydreaming. While balancing living on the edge of a large city and taking care of responsibilities with making a glacially slow transition to a homestead in the country is a happy thing - it isn't always easy.  Today I am feeling thankful for each of you who are supporting me in this endeavor. 

Real Life vs. Dreaming

I have a toe in each world - the world of daily life and the world of future dreams. 

Real life includes apartment living, employment, and paycheck-to-paycheck budgeting. I don't care for my neighbors, my neighborhood, or the daily commute on the beltway. However, I keep at it. I am well aware that it could be worse. It could be much, much worse. I am thankful that in reality, it's not so bad. 

making the most of apartment living

Dreaming includes my land on a ridge in West Virginia and the dreams of retiring there someday. Living there sooner than later, I hope. I go camping there as often as possible, try to keep up with caring for the land and my Shack, and plan for the future. I have home plans chosen, trees planted, and big ideas. 

I dream of living here... this view every day

Blogging About It

I blog because I love to write. I love to read. I love peeking in on others who share their lives through their writing and videos. I want to share certain bits of my life. 

I have been blessed to have been mentored by some really kind ladies who have graciously shared their knowledge about SEO, affiliates, Google, and assorted things related to the world of writing on the internet. If I'm being too obtuse, let me say it more clearly - I am very thankful for the ladies who have all taken me under their wings and shared what they know with me.

I also blog for many other reasons:

I mentioned that I love to read and write. Blogging is an extension of that happiness I feel when I've written something coherent or moving.

I am practicing blogging. I have a long way to go in learning how to be a successful blogger. And I believe that practice makes close to perfect. I am practicing as often as time and energy allow.

I am practicing blogging so that I am better at it when I have even more important things to say. I hope to someday be able to share how I went from barely scraping by to retiring debt-free and living as self-sufficiently as possible. 

I blog because I try to spend as many days as possible in 'zero-spend' mode. Or as close to it as possible. Zero-spend days are the days that I am not spending any money. Now, clearly, having the internet isn't free. So technically there is a daily cost to having a roof over my head, connection to the internet, and electricity. But... sitting home using the internet is far less expensive than traveling, shopping, eating out, or a myriad of other things I could be spending money on.

I blog because it helps me to keep track. I can look back and see the memories, the timeline, the details of things I did or wanted to remember.

I blog because I can share my little bits of experience or opinions with the people who want my opinion. Sometimes I have useful information I'd like to share.

I blog because sometimes I make a few bucks. I can spend those few bucks on the things I need or want. If I figured my "hourly pay" through blogging over the years, I'd be quite depressed. And frankly, I'm not sure I'm mathematically talented enough to find that fraction of a penny. However, there have been spurts of internet income that have helped me make purchases I would not have otherwise enjoyed. 

Thank You to Each of You

After having had several days vacation and some quiet time to reflect, I have had time to really think about how grateful I am to those of you who support me during this time. Some of you know me personally and provide support by listening to my daydreams and don't think me silly. Or if you do, you don't let it show! Others of you know me via the internet and provide your support through teaching, tweets, and shares. A number of you make purchases through my affiliate links and provide financial support. And finally, a great number of you are complete strangers who share links to what I have written just for the sake of sharing. 

As I am counting my blessings and cursing the continued barriers to living my dreams, each of you are very important during this journey. Each of are greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you