Category Archives: Update

Getting Ready For Plaster

weldedcloseupHomestead in the Holler is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
We’re still working on our straw bale guest cabin.  As you probably know, things don’t always go according to plan or go as quickly as you’d like them to go.  The bales were stacked and ready for the welded wire in December.  Winter is very mild here in southern Missouri, and we thought we could put the lime plaster up before the weather got too cold.  But as the night time lows dipped around freezing, we realized that we were just going to have to wait for warmer weather.  There always other projects to do around here, so work on the guest cabin slowed to working on it on rainy days.  Several other projects took priority and have been completed.  Our focus has returned to the guest cabin as we’re nearly ready to get started on our actual house!   It’s time to get this cabin done!

 

Continue reading

Straw Bale Cabin Update

fbwallHomestead in the Holler is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

 

As you may know, we are building a small straw bale guest cabin as a trial run before building our straw bale house.  The original plan was to get our house weathered in before winter.  Between the weather, other jobs requiring attention on the homestead and life in general, we’re still working on the guest cabin and haven’t started on the house.  We have done enough remodeling and other building projects to know that this is par for the course.  The new goal is to complete the house in 2016! 

Continue reading

We’re still plugging away!

 

Homestead in the Holler is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Busy, busy, busy!  Whew, it has been quite a summer so far.  Sorry for the lack of updates.  We have had our heads down working and writing after a long, hot day hasn’t been our priority, I’m afraid.  So, what have we been up to?  Hmm, let’s see…

  • Re-roofing: we finally decided to re-roof the very sad roof on the old farm house.  It was in really bad shape and was quite leaky.  We replaced the asphalt shingles with painted metal.  It turned out to be a fairly large job, due to the pitch (9/12) and the modifications we made.  We were aware of one rotted spot that we had to cut out, but then found another spot that really needed some help.  Turns out it was really the result of an old dormer that wasn’t really useful any more, so we removed it.  It was interesting to look at all the layers of shingles and then wood shakes under that.  I even found one wooden shake that still had the label on it.  In removing the dormer, we found a cool collection of old bottles, including one for “swamp water”.  We also found evidence, in the form of old plastic tubs placed around the attic, that the dormer had been leaking for years.  I guess that’s one way to “fix” the problem.
This shows the sorry state of the roof we started with. The dormer shown is the source of the leaks.

This shows the sorry state of the roof we started  with. The dormer shown is the source of the leaks.

This shows the house roof nearly completed. The dormer has been removed and the metal is on though not trimmed.

This shows the house roof nearly completed. The dormer has been removed and the metal is on though not trimmed.

  • Re-roofing, take 2: most of the buildings on our farm really could use some roofing work.  One building was in pretty good shape, but really needed some help for the leaky old tin, so we ripped into this next.  As the rafters were really bowed and in bad shape, we ended up replacing all the rafters with new 2×8 framing.  This really transformed the building into something useful.  We still need to re-side the building to make it really good, since it currently has many places you could throw a (bob) cat through!
This sorry building was likely a chicken house at some point in its life. It was in bad shape; the roof was terrible and walls had rotted away in places. It is amazing it was still standing

This sorry building was likely a chicken house at some point in its life. It was in bad shape; the roof was terrible and walls had rotted away in places. It is amazing it was still standing

This picture shows the new metal roof that was installed. We ended up completely rebuilding the roof with new rafters since the old ones were undersized and in bad shape.

This picture shows the new metal roof that was installed. We ended up completely rebuilding the roof with new rafters since the old ones were undersized and in bad shape.

  • Gardening: Janelle has been very busy trying to keep up with a large garden this summer, between taking care of kids.  We are still learning plenty about the new climate, but overall the garden has been a great success.  We’re told it has been a weird year with far above average rain, so I guess we still need to experience a “normal” summer.
  • Broiler Chickens: We butchered broiler chickens the end of August. It is always pleasant to be past that chore and have the freezer stocked for the winter.  The broilers were a success this year, but next year should be better now that we have some infrastructure in place.  We used Salatin-style pens again and that was good, but I believe next year we will go back to a day-range model as it seemed that the birds really needed more space.
  • Grazing: Grazing is keeping us quite busy, given the number of animal species to move.  We are now grazing beef cattle, meat goats, meat sheep, dairy goats, and pigs.  It seems there is always some animal that needs to be moved.  As we move toward winter, the goal is to consolidate as much as possible to cut down on daily labor.
  • Planning house: We have decided to start building our house this fall.  After much thought, we finally decided to go with strawbale construction, using post and beam framing and straw as insulation (infill, not load bearing).  We are planning large overhangs and porches to prevent water issues.  Additionally, the outside will be finished in lime, which will help to keep the walls dry since lime finishes tend to draw moisture out.  The inside walls will be finished with a combination of natural plaster and drywall on some interior (non-straw) walls.
  • Guest Cabin: The house planning eventually turned into guest cabin as well.  This gives us a good opportunity to get some experience building with straw on a small scale rather than starting with a large project first.  This will be a two room tiny structure with just a bed and a bathroom, similar to a hotel room.

 

This picture shows the thickened-edge slab foundation for the guest cabin. The "toe-ups" are partially installed. These 4x4's will be used to hold the straw bales up out of the danger of water damage from a pipe leak or similar.

This picture shows the thickened-edge slab foundation for the guest cabin. The “toe-ups” are partially installed. These 4×4’s will be used to hold the straw bales up out of the danger of water damage from a pipe leak or similar.

  • Water: One big challenge on this farm is having water available in all pastures.  We are blessed with numerous existing ponds and running water in some areas, but we prefer to keep the animals out of the streams and ponds and pipe it to them instead.  This is an ongoing project that is going to take several years to complete, but we have started running some pipe.  At some point, we will rent an excavator and start getting at least some of it in the ground.  Wherever possible, we will make use of solar to pump out of ponds and gravity to deliver the water.
  • Shop Building: Since moving here, we have constantly missed the outbuildings we had at our last house.  Working on vehicles and other equipment on gravel or in the grass is really not very pleasant.  We will be building a simple pole barn structure to remedy this problem.  However, it has proven more difficult than expected to actually get someone to sign up for the work.  Any changes beyond the bone stock models they typically build seemed to cause great consternation.  At this point, we finally have a builder (a neighbor, yippee!) and are eager to get started, especially so we have a place to stack straw bales while building our house!  The next challenge here will be leveling a building site to get started with.  The best site we found is going to need about 4′ of cut and fill, so some more tractor time is in our future!

 

Spring Update

gardenHomestead in the Holler is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.


Spring is a busy time of year on the homestead.  It’s time to start the outdoor projects that have been dreamed up all winter long.  This is the first spring on our homestead, which means a long to-do list.   Here’s what we’ve been up to lately.

Continue reading

What we’ve been up to

fall

It’s been a beautiful fall here in the Ozarks.  Our first frost came on Halloween night, but we’ve still have had lots of beautiful, sunny days.  The last few days have been chilly and snow is predicted for tomorrow, a good reminder that winter is on it’s way!

So what have we been up to?   Well, we’ve been doing a lot of planning and a lot of cutting and hauling wood for the fire.  Our winter to do list is long!  We picked out a place for our orchard, and the trees are planted!  We planted a variety of trees, apple, pear, peach, plum, cherry, persimmon, mulberry, almond, pecan.  We really want to see what varieties grow well here.  Hopefully they all will, but time will tell.  We will add nitrogen fixing trees, bushes, and vining plants such as grapes and kiwi in the spring.  We plan to plant a nut orchard in a different location and hope to keep planting more fruit trees.  I’m not sure if we will ever be done planting trees.

In the process of digging the pond.

In the process of digging the pond.

We rented an excavator for 2 weeks.  We had quite a bit of digging that we wanted to do, some trenches and a swale in our new orchard.  Right by the orchard, there was the perfect place to put in a small pond.  We found excellent clay content in the soil, so we dug our first pond as well.  Now we need a good rain to see how it works!   We put that little excavator to good use!  We dug trenches for water lines, electric lines from the solar panels to the house.  Travis also learned how to get the excavator track back on, as it slipped off numerous times.

Next up, we need to make hugel beds for the garden (I’m eagerly awaiting seed catalogs to arrive in the mail). We’re discussing building a couple of hoop houses, one for seedlings and another for a tree nursery.   There are fences to be mended and more fence to put up, and a chicken tractor to build.  The plan is to use this time now to prepare for the animals that will arrive in the spring and to have the garden beds ready to plant.  Not a chance of boredom in our neck of the woods!

Why would you quit your job and move to MO?

Numerous people have asked “why on earth would you leave your stable office job that pays well”?  Well… some things are hard to explain.  My best explanation is either mid-life crisis or temporary insanity.  Seriously though, it is really quite hard to explain and sometimes I’m not sure that we even really understand, but we somehow felt moved to do so.  Here are some of the things that went through our minds:

Health – I have never felt all that great in the climate of CO.  More importantly, we found that our kids do better in either higher humidity or lower altitude.

Variety – While I have really enjoyed my work as a computer engineer, it is starting to be less exciting to me.  It has been a great job.  It pays well, the work is done in the climate controlled surroundings, and can be a lot of fun.  However, I’ve found myself less engaged the last few years.  So, a new challenge sounds exciting.

Timing – Numerous things came together to make it feel like the time was right.  Things just sort of fell together and with changes at my employer, it just seemed good.

Simplicity – We have felt the desire to simplify our lives over the last couple years.  We all know that collecting things is not satisfying at all and we’d love to find a way to spend more time together as a family, even if it is working together.

Farming – We have both felt the “agriculture itch” for the last few years.  Neither of us are particularly interested in what is considered normal agriculture, but have desired more working with the soil and animals in some way.

Permaculture – We are both very interested in permaculture and designing a practical, sustainable, profitable system with no external energy inputs.  This is our new challenge.

So, while it probably doesn’t appear to make sense, we feel like it makes sense for us.  Sure, it probably doesn’t make sense financially, but there is more to life than money?  If it doesn’t work out, we can always fall back to what we were doing.  Life is short; try stuff before you are dead!

 

Why MO?

People often ask us “why Missouri” or even more specifically, “why Ava, MO”?  This is something we’ve given a tremendous amount of thought to, but isn’t always easy to answer on the spot.  Here are some of our motivations:

Why Ava, MO?

Water availability and water laws – At least in this part of the state, water is abundant and water rules regarding collection, pond building, etc make sense.  The water rules in CO pretty much guarantee a future of pain.  The laws preventing the absorption of water into the landscape and collection of water are completely asinine and counter-productive.

Land prices – Land prices in the Ozarks are quite reasonable overall.  Certainly the prices are much lower than land in CO that will support growth (ie irrigated, water rights)

Building rules and restrictions – Most areas in the Ozarks have either very unrestrictive building codes or none at all.  This means buyer beware, but it also means that more unique structures are completely legal!

Mineral rights to land – Mineral rights normally convey with the sale of land in MO (although it is optional).  This is much nicer than in CO where mineral rights very rarely convey with land sales, leaving the possibility of disruptive mining in your future.

Climate for growing – The humid climate of the area and warmer temperatures mean that many more species are available to grow in the area.  The abundant rain and good soils (though rocky) means very lush growth.  This climate also leads to negatives, namely bugs and high humidity.  We feel this is a trade-off worth taking.

Lack of industrial ag – The hills of the Ozark mountains as well as abundant rocks in the soil means that industrial ag really doesn’t fit into the area.  There are very few crops of corn or soy to be found in the area.  This means to us that there is much less pesticide and herbicide to worry about in the run off.

Right mix of trees and open, hills – Our dream is a Permaculture landscape.  That means a landscape with lots of trees.  This area certainly has that already.  It also has plenty of hills, leading to lots of interesting possibilities with collected water, nutrient flow, etc.

Raw milk rules – MO has fairly lenient raw milk rules.  It is actually legal in the state with no need for mucking about with “pet food” loopholes or herd shares.  Instead, raw milk sales are perfectly legal when conducted either on farm or prearranged.  We don’t drink a lot of milk, but feel this is a freedom that should be allowed.  If I do drink milk, it’ll certainly be raw.  Yum!

Distance from oceans – With the more erratic weather we have been experiencing, we have no desire to be affected by hurricanes and flooding.  We love being near the ocean, but just don’t feel it is worth the weather.

Proximity to larger cities – MO has several large cities where one can get anything one needs.  However, Ava is located far enough from these cities to have a more country feel.  We do not particularly enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city, so are glad to be able to escape yet visit when necessary.  This also means that there are several markets for farm outputs that aren’t terribly distant.

Health – We have found that we all feel better at lower altitude and with higher humidity.  Even after 7 years in CO, we don’t feel entirely adjusted to the high desert climate.

Fracking – The southwest part of Missouri has no fracking and current maps indicate no potential for fracking.  While the industry says it is perfectly safe, we don’t come close to believing them.  Evidence in CO certainly has shown that they are less than forthcoming.

– Mama Jeans – Ava, MO is home of Jean’s Healthway, started by (Mama) Jean.  Mama Jean’s is a store in Springfield, MO that was started by Jean’s daughter.  We are very blessed to have a really good health food store (Jean’s Healthway) in a town of 3000.  Even better, Mama Jean’s is only about an hour away is is even better!

Now don’t get me wrong — we have certainly enjoyed Colorado.  CO has many great things including the limited bugs, the mild weather, and the beautiful scenery.  We have just found that as our interests have changed, there is a better environment to suit us.

What are you doing?

One question that we get asked a lot is “so, what are you going to do here?”  On the surface, this seems like a simple enough question, but I often find myself struggling to answer it.  To a large extent, this is because “what we want to do” doesn’t fit any of the typical farming models.  We don’t want to just raise cattle, or veggies, or pigs.  We want to do all those and more.  This often leaves people with the conclusion that we really don’t have any idea what we are going to do.  Partly this is true, it is still forming, but we do have some rough ideas.  Here are some of the current thoughts:

– Cattle – When cattle prices come down a bit, we would like to do management-intensive rotationally grazing of cattle

– Pigs – We intend to “pasture” pigs, very much similar to what Joel Salatin does.  We aren’t sure yet if we will just raise pork for ourselves and our families or for sale.  Eventually, we would like to incorporate tree nuts and other tree products.

– Goats – We already have a small herd of dairy goats that we keep for our own milk.  We would like to also raise some goats for meat.  Since goats and cattle have very different grazing requirements, it just makes sense to graze them together.  Brushy things are a real issue in pastures here too, so having an animal that prefers brush is perfect.

– Sheep – Sheep are on our try list.  Neither of us have any experience with sheep, but both find them interesting and enjoy lamb.  We’ll give this a shot and see how it feels.

– Fish – We intend to create more ponds on the property.  It makes sense to raise some fish in at least one of the ponds.  This would likely be mainly for our own family’s needs, but if it is enjoyable and productive, we may consider expanding.

– Veggies – We will raise veggies in our own garden, of course, but also expect to have a small market garden, probably selling at a farmer’s market.

– Melons – We would like to grow a lot of melons for our own consumption, but also for sale at a farmer’s market.

– Tree Fruit – At this point, this is likely one of our main focuses.  We both enjoy trees and tree fruit, so intend to start a large, rather unconventional, orchard.

– Tree Nuts – We will experiment a lot with nuts, but have plans to start quite a few nut trees and see where that leads.

– Honey – we will continue to keep bees, hopefully expanding a bit each year

– Other stuff – We have a long list of possibilities.  We will constantly evaluate things and see what fits into what we have, what isn’t working, what niches are available, etc.  Ideally we can find things that tie into other enterprises, to improve nutrient flows, energy cycling, etc.

Another aspect of “what we are doing” involves more about how we are living too.  Our goal is to reduce our needs(/wants) such that not as much income is required.  Moving to the Ozarks certainly helps lower the cost of living, but we also want to reduce our dependence on off the farm food and other inputs.  We want to greatly decrease our energy inputs for the household, such as electricity, natural gas, gasoline, etc.

 

What is the homestead in the holler?

Some have asked, “what is the homestead in the holler”?  “What is a holler?”  Well, holler is the hillbilly way of saying “hollow”, a valley or ravine as northerners would say.  We decided that we really liked the sound of the word.  The new site of Mountain Acres Farm is in a hollow (holler), south of Ava, MO.  Therefore, “homestead in the holler” seemed appropriate.