This morning I sat in front of our new fireplace that Silver Oak finished just a few weeks ago and I felt much satisfaction and pleasure watching the flames lick the oak logs cut from fallen trees on our little homestead. The backdrop of antique brick on our lovely big deck, sitting in my comfy cane rocker that we found by the road in someone’s trash last year and my mom refinished for me, feeling the cool Florida January weather…I feel very loved and blessed by my heavenly Father. I love this life He has given us here with our tiny house on our off-grid homestead…not always easy as you know if you read this blog, but simple and satisfying.
I’ve always wanted a fireplace but never had one, at least not a functional one. Now that we live on our own land for the first time, I have a beautiful brick (and metal) fireplace. My hubby finished building it a few weeks ago, and it has been used quite regulary mornings and evenings ever since, to keep warm as well as to enjoy relaxing and cozy family time.
After we moved to this new off-grid homestead my dad told us he had an old freestanding metal fireplace he’d gotten from a customer who wanted to get rid of it. With all the other projects going around here we didn’t even look at it until last fall. My dad pulled it out of his barn and cleaned it up, giving it a new coat of paint. We put down some stepping stones as a temporary hearth on the edge of our deck to try it out for a few months, and now it is permanently installed in its final resting spot.
Silver Oak spent several days building a brick wall behind the fireplace to protect the camper behind it, and then a hearth around the bottom. He braced up the deck underneath with blocks to support the extra weight, and then put a hole through the deck roof over the camper for the chimney. I repainted all the pipes and metal fireplace and we were able to get it all done and fire lit that evening just in the nick of time for the ladies from our church to meet here. Nothing like living on the edge.
This past few weeks we have hosted several families and our little house church on our deck, and the fireplace has been a huge factor in creating a homey atmosphere. Now Silver Oak is framing in the back end of the deck for screen. A tarp temporarily blocks the cold wind, and a fire keeps the deck fairly comfortable. I can’t wait till both ends are framed in and screen added, with Roman blinds we can pull to block wind and rain. It will allow us to stay warmer during the winter and keep mosquitoes and rain out during the summer.
Now that Silver Oak is learning the skill of blacksmithing I am hoping he can build a pot hanger in the fireplace so we can also learn to use it for cooking when a fire is burning. There is so much to learn.
This afternoon I looked out the kitchen window while washing dishes and enjoyed another pleasant sight. The side yard, once filled with usable “junk” (known before as the “graveyard”), is slowly being transformed into a garden. It is covered with a nice layer of dried horse, goat, cow, chicken, and rabbit manure, ash from our burned piles of palmettos, and other organic matter…an attempt to transform our white sugar sand into something productive.
We are trying the idea of raised rows, as shown at Old World Garden Farms. It keeps expenses much lower and is more sustainable than building raised beds with lumber. We’re doing it a little differently though, making rows of composted manure and adding four or so inches of hay on top as a mulch, similar to what is taught in “Back to Eden.” My dad has stories from when he was younger of growing mammoth sunflowers and lots of nearly bug-less and clean potatoes under thick layers of straw or hay covering composted soil.
Last week the younger children were playing “house” outside and decided they wanted to plant a real garden. They each picked a plant and Silver Oak bought seeds and starts for them. On Friday I helped them plant in the raised rows we already made, so now they have peas, green beans and onions growing out there. In Florida we can probably get by with planting in the winter if we protect the plants from frost.
We also got a new batch of chicks to expand our flock of Black Australorps. Now that we are settled here we hope to continue the line indefinitely. We chose this heritage breed because they are excellent layers with an inclination to be broody (but not overwhelmingly so) so they can raise their own broods, which is more sustainable than incubating mechanically. Australorps are also heavier for eating, and are calm (not high-strung cannibals like Rhode Island Reds).
Thank you for stopping by to see what is happening on our little homestead. Soon I hope to share with you about our new Black Soldier Fly composter and chicken feeder.