Thursday, February 18, 2021

Shed Camping: February 2021

Oh my. I can hardly believe that I haven't blogged here for 6 months -- and yet the proof is in the timestamp on my last blog post (the demolished Shack). I have been camping but haven't had the gumption to write about my adventures. Let's see if can do a little catch up here. 

Country roads taking me home

The year 2020 was a trying time for all of us. Next month will be the year anniversary that a pandemic changed everything. There is no excuse for me not keeping up here. Yet there is. I have really struggled with doing remote work/telehealth sessions. I am profoundly thankful that I have maintained employment during this time (and my heart breaks for those who haven't been able to maintain employment or their businesses). While I am thankful to be employed, I have found that working via the internet isn't my strength. And clearly, that led to a lapse in blogging. Among other things. 

I apologize.

I hope to get back into the swing of things through sharing some of my photos from my camping trip last weekend. I spent Valentine's Day with Mother Nature and it was spectacular. 

Shed Camping During an Ice Storm.

The Shack was demo'd in August and I have used the storage shed for camping in the meantime. Much to the bewilderment of some folks, I have enjoyed my shed very much. To be honest, winter camping in the shed without the woodstove has been slightly less comfortable than camping in The Shack. Regardless, I have still gone up to camp every few weeks, but I really miss that blazing wood heat. My camping trips have been over just one night during the cold trips rather than a string of consecutive days.

I use a portable Mr. Heater (propane heater) for some heat while I'm puttering around inside the shed. (Caution: when using such heaters, ventilation is a MUST in order to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning!). I also still use my wonderful sleeping bag that keeps me toasty overnight without the heater.  I use my propane cooktop for cooking and for melting ice that freezes overnight.  I wear layers of clothing under snowmobile pants and put sweaters on the dogs. Overall, we remain comfortable.

I left Daisy at home during this most recent trip because she is a bit of a diva - and Rat Terriers have such a thin coat of hair that it is hard for them to remain warm. But Willy loves the snow and would pout if I left him behind.

Willy, February 2021

I know many people are stunned that I go camping in the winter. But I feel it is much the same as camping in the summer. Maybe even more enjoyable!  Food stays cold without a cooler. There are zero bugs and no risk of seeing snakes. No poison ivy. And no miserable humidity. I enjoy winter camping very much. I just have to problem-solve a bit differently.

Drying clothes after sledding without the woodstove

That portable Mr. Heater has turned out to be a fabulous purchase!  I love that thing and highly recommend it. But it didn't perform quite as well in the extremely low temperatures (lows around 20F outside, 40 - 50F inside). If you look closely, you can see that ice formed on the propane bottle when the temps were at their coldest. The propane stopped working before the bottles were completely empty. I have saved the partial bottles for cooking use in warmer weather.

Winter Scenes: Valentine's Weekend 2021

The scenes were Mother Nature's art displays at her finest. BEAUTIFUL.  I walked, sat in the shed and watched through the window, went sledding in the knee-deep snow, and admired the views. I cannot describe it adequately in words. Probably not in photos either. It was one of those things that I am glad I witnessed in person.

early morning after the storm

trees covered in ice 

dormant flower garden - prayer flags and pine trees on ice

Construction Update

Construction progress has been slow for a variety of reasons. Initially, I hadn't realized that perk tests expire, so I had to have it perked again. The pandemic caused delays with that (offices were closed, paperwork delayed).  Construction finally began and there have been a variety of delays since. The biggest delay has been the supply chain problems related to doors and windows. It took what felt like a lifetime for the doors and windows to arrive. 

My contractor called me on Feb 12 to let me know that the doors and windows had finally been delivered. We rejoiced!

I was so excited to see them that I literally hugged them.

Doors and Windows

I am writing this on 2/18/2021. And my doors and windows have since been installed. I'm ecstatic!

These are the photos from my builder:

"front" entry door

livingroom window and sliding door

bedroom sliding door and window

The delay in the windows and doors had caused all progress to stop. Inspections have to occur after the home is closed in and before the next step of construction begins. I cannot begin to describe how thrilled I am that this step has been completed.

I was able to manage to take and upload two brief video tours of the construction during my camping trips. I am hoping to improve my videography skills so that I can continue to document progress via video. But we'll see. I have a lot to learn about video editing.

If you are interested in the brief tours, you can see those videos here:

November 25, 2020 - My Small Home Build is in Progress

Build Update Jan 23, 2021 - Plumbing is Roughed in ! 

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Monday, August 10, 2020

There's No Turning Back Now: Goodbye Shack

The first stages of a driveway.
I have dreamt about living on my own land for years, moving toward that goal at a glacial pace. Based on a variety of things, there have been ongoing adjustments to my plans since buying the land in 2015. Actually, I have made adjustments for all of my adult life. But today the next step has happened and there is no turning back. 

Today, The Shack was demolished.

Today, the beginning of a driveway was cut in. Not just any driveway - MY driveway.

For five years I've enjoyed The Shack. A little hunting "cabin" that wasn't much more than an adult version of a child's fort. A 2x4 framed small home, covered in particle board, covered in scrap vinyl siding that was painted to match. 

No insulation. 

No plumbing. 

No electricity during the time I camped there. 

What there was were windows and a patio door opening to amazing views. Woods alive with birds and wildlife. Room to roam. Privacy. Long-range views of breath-taking sunsets. A place to be off-grid and away from technological pollution. And a woodstove for heat.

Camping in the winter was amazing. It sounds brutal but I loved it. Well, let me edit that statement. I loved it once I learned how to stack the wood in the stove and use the dampers effectively! I won't lie -before I learned that skill I woke every hour or two freezing myself. But once I learned how to make the stove stay warm longer camping in the winter was my favorite time to be there.

Today my builder called and said they were ready to begin cutting in the driveway.

Today, The Shack was torn down. Progress toward my goals.

Goodbye Dear Shack

I cried. I cried happy tears because my dream is coming true. I cried sad tears because I will miss The Shack. There was something special about my plywood fort on a West Virginia mountain ridge.

If you are dreaming, go for it. Dreams can come true. If you are like me, you may have to give up things like eating out (it was shocking how much I spent in just daily coffee from the donut shop). And pinch every single penny for years. You can do it - if you stay focused, claim it, and work hard. 

Even if it feels like it will never happen - never give up.

I don't know when I'll move. I am taking one step at a time. First, I'll get through this building process. Then there will be things to juggle such as job relocation, moving, etc.  I become anxious if I think about it too much. So instead, I will enjoy these first steps in the construction adventure. And begin making decisions about things such as countertops, flooring, and hopefully the woodstove of my dreams (A Lopi for those of you who are familiar with woodstoves). 

Work hard and dream big. If I can find the path, you can too.

*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.

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Just a month ago my storage/camping shed was delivered. I'll be camping in the Placka Storage shed while the house is being built.

Me. At The Shack. When I claimed it as mine. 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Treasures: Placka Storage Building

Whew, time flies. It seems that I am behind in everything - especially blogging - but I wanted to share my newest treasure. My Placka Storage Building is another step in my journey toward my homesteading dreams. I can't begin to explain how much I love this little shed.

I love this shed for tangible reasons. I need a place to store my camping belongings. The color is gorgeous. And it provides a roof over my head when I go camping on my land.

Why would I need a shed to sleep in when I have The Shack? That question brings me to other reason I am so thrilled about this shed.

I love this shed for emotional reasons. I am moving forward in the building process !!!!!!!!!  The Shack will be torn down soon. A new home will be built. I have been dreaming of this day and over the past five years my plans have changed a million times. But I am finally at the point of moving forward.

As plans to remove The Shack begin, I needed a place to store my items. I chose this shed from Placka Storage Buildings, Burlington, WV. I love the color and the shape (A-Frame).  And the 8 x 10 size holds all of my important belongings: Jeep bench, old woodstove, and camping supplies. It is also just big enough to provide a place for me to hang out and to sleep securely.

It looks a little precarious, parked on the top of my hill, doesn't it? On my land there are no flat spots. 

Mr. Doug came to my land to talk to me about where I eventually want the shed. That spot would require excavation and a pad to sit on. We brainstormed and discussed options. I chose a spot where the shed could be dropped temporarily - until the excavation for my driveway and new home are complete. Then the shed can easily be moved to the spot next to the flower bed. 

Mr. Doug and Ms. Jane are wonderful people. I enjoyed their friendly customer service and Mr. Doug's expertise in shed placement recommendations. Ms. Jane immediately felt like finding a long-lost family member. 

The shed arrived when they said it would and it was delivered quickly and easily.

I will say that living in a metro area has caused me to be all too familiar with instant gratification. I initially thought it would be a matter of choosing a shed one day and having it delivered the next. That was not the case. Placka Storage Buildings is a small family business. Very small. Things such as weather can throw off their delivery plans. In my case, I wanted a shed during the heat of summer with afternoon thunderstorms popping up nearly every day. Even so, Mr. Doug kept in close communication with me and arrived on my land when he said he would.

Things in West Virginia move at a slower pace than in Baltimore. And while it is sometimes an adjustment for me (reminding of my time in Costa Rica) it is not a bad thing. In fact, I'm more than ready for a more relaxed way of life. And this shed is a step toward that goal.

Perhaps you are capable of building a shed. That is awesome. I do not currently have those skills. If you need a shed in the Hardy county area of West Virginia, I highly recommend checking out Placka Storage Sheds. 

*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.

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You can find Placka Storage Buildings on Facebook and on their website.  They are located in Burlington, West Virginia (Hardy County) on route 50. They have many styles and samples on their lot. You can do as I did, browse the sheds to get a feel for what size and shape will best meet your needs. 

As a side note, if you visit their home page you will see a 2-story, red monitor barn in their photo. Initially, my plans were to have that barn as my home. But it turned out that the square footage and square footprint was not what I wanted. Isn't it a beautiful barn though?

Monday, May 18, 2020

Crunchy No Knead Round Loaf Bread

Over time I am becoming more able to bake breads and biscuits. But I still need easy bread recipes. This beautiful no-knead round loaf definitely qualifies as easy. 

I call this my Living Traditions bread because I saw the recipe made for the first time on their homesteading Youtube channel. Using only few ingredients, they start their loaf at one point in the day then go about their chores in the garden and barns. Later they return and use a dutch oven to bake this bread. Making bread doesn't get much easier than this.

This bread recipe calls for:

  • 3 c. flour
  • 1/4 t. yeast
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 1/2 c. warm water

The bread is baked in a dutch oven with a lid. Parchment paper should also be added to the shopping list for this recipe. Scoring the top of the loaf prior to baking allows the steam to release as well as makes a pretty, rustic loaf.

I cannot take credit for the recipe. I learned from the two youtube tutorials listed below.  If you have been wanting to learn to bake bread but are nervous about it - like I was - this is an easy recipe to begin with. Only on one occasion did this recipe not bake up easily and beautifully. And that was clearly because my kitchen was very cold that day. Otherwise, this bread makes up with a very short amount of actual work time. 

I should add that it was this exact delicious but crusty loaf that prompted my friend to give me the gift of a professional Dexter Russell bread knife. The knife is amazing! You can see my review of my new bread knife here

Dexter Russell 8 inch Bread Knife

*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.

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I watch Kevin and Sarah at Living Traditions several times a week. There is so much about what they are doing on their homestead that I admire: gardening, garden-to-table recipes, baking, and canning. Every video is like a visit with friends while they work their homestead. In one episode, Kevin shows us how to bake this wonderful no-knead loaf of bread - starting the bread and letting it rise while they go about their business on the homestead.

Jenny Can Cook uses the same recipe and technique for this round loaf of no knead bread. Her baking tutorial video is much more condensed. If you want a much shorter, to-the-point recipe, this is the video you'll want to see. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

Camping -- April 2020

It's a surreal time. In some ways nothing feels the same. We are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. So many things have changed and with social isolation, wearing masks on rare trips into stores, and working from home my days are blending together in a strange way. 

And yet, some things are soothing and familiar. The Shack is one of those things. My land is a constant for me. It is spring in the mountains of north eastern West Virginia. Social isolation on the ridge feels good. It feels right.

I was able to spend this past weekend there. Puttering around on my land and breathing in that fresh cool air was exactly what I needed. To avoid doing any shopping or extra stopping between the apartment and The Shack, I didn't plan any projects and I took my groceries with me. I really did nothing but relax.

The only thing I did that was productive was talk to the builder. I'm in the process of getting a quote for the home I'd like to build. This process is both exciting and terrifying. I will talk more about the status of that process soon.

Otherwise, I spent the three days soaking up the outdoors.

My woods. Trees that are bare of leaves but the Eastern Redbud
and dogwoods are blooming profusely.
Perfect morel mushroom weather.  I found three
and fried them up. Yum!
Paw Paw tree blossoms. I've worked hard to nurture these
trees and look forward to having my own fruit. I
hope that happens this year.
Smoker + Cast Iron + beans and ham = YUM !!
I missed the photo of the Cardinal perched in that Eastern Redbud. But I watched it watching me.

Someday I will live on my land. Hopefully soon. Please keep me in your thoughts as I go through the process of getting numbers and deciding if this will be the year I build.

*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.

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It is interesting to me that I was camping and hiking at The Shack exactly a year ago. Ironic that a year ago I took a photo of the neighbor's small home being built and this year I am talking to the builder who built that home. If you want to see the photo of that house in process, the fantastic skyscapes that year, and the pretty red lizard click here.

I bought my Char Griller in 2017 and I have had no complaints. In fact, I really like using it to cook. To read more about my grill, smoker, and side burner combo, click here

Monday, March 30, 2020

Bird Journal: Turkey

Turkey at The Shack
Only someone with a trained eye, with much experience and with the ability to zoom in on my photo, will be able to see my visitor. I apologize. I had no way of getting a better shot. 

While camping at The Shack, early one extremely foggy morning, I woke to a distant and strange noise. 

At first I thought poor Willy, my dog, had stomach upset. His stomach often makes an odd assortment of gurgles and high-pitched sounds. I adjusted the sleeping bag and rolled over. And heard the noise again.

A wild turkey gobbling!  I was so excited!

I have always had trouble seeing wild turkeys in the woods. They are very sneaky and seem almost invisible to me. But I've heard them over the years and always love to hear their gobble.

The sound came closer and I realized the Tom was crossing my yard and entering my woods! 

Through the old glass slider, on an extremely foggy morning, and at a distance, I was not able to get a clear photo. With the naked eye, I could see the coloration of his head and I could clearly see his beard hanging. He took nearly 30 minutes to slowly pass through my woods and eventually out of hearing distance.

photo courtesy wikimedia commons: public domain

I tried desperately to get my phone to open a video or audio of turkey calls so I could try to call him closer. But like always... I had insufficient cell service. 

(note: Verizon service in much of West Virginia is TERRIBLE. My cell phone is rendered useless except for phone calls and basic text messages. Even text messages are often delayed. My hotspot/internet is worthless at The Shack. I really need to change providers. If anyone has a recommendation for cell and hotspot/internet providers in the eastern panhandle, please comment!  I hear AT&T is a good option. Anyone have an option about another provider?)

Related Link:  To hear a turkey gobble, visit the Cornell AllAboutBirds site and click "listen".  My visitor did not fan his tail or puff up but you can see an excellent video of a male turkey doing so on the Cornell site. 

Monday, March 16, 2020

Shed Demo (part 2)

more progress on the shed demo
In February, I finally worked up the nerve to begin demo on the shed. That included working up enough nerve to stand close enough to the shed to begin pulling off some of the siding. I was proud of the little bit of progress I made during that weekend visit.

You can read about the beginning of the Shed Demo - The Shed Has Got to Go! here. 

Last weekend I was back at The Shack and I continued pulling some of the vinyl siding off the two sides that I could reach.  I removed the vinyl, cleaned off the dead bug carcasses and spiders, and stored it in The Shack to be used later. I worked very hard to keep track of the hundreds of rusty nails.

My plan was to remove all of the vinyl and plastic portions while dropping the wood and nails into the hole underneath. When finished, I planned on burning the wood then burying the remaining nails and metal trash. 

As I pulled the plastic barrier, dust and bugs flew everywhere and the shed shook and rocked. I removed some of the particle board wall. The wooden walls and studs were so rotten that they crumbled into dust if I squeezed too hard. 

rotten wood and rusty nails galore

I began to realize that there would be no safe way to lean a ladder on the remaining side in order to begin removing the vinyl siding. 

I decided to not leave the structure standing as it was so close to tipping over. I gave a couple of shoves and pulls and the building toppled over easily.

Looking out at my handiwork at the end of the day. I was pleased.

During my next visit I will find a way to continue to safely remove the vinyl and plastic from that final wall while dropping the rotten wood into the pit. 

It may not seem like much progress, but I am THRILLED. That was a giant step for me. Everyone who homesteads does so at their own pace. Or should. The important thing is to just keep moving forward toward your dream. 

*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.