Homesteading is dangerous and addictive. If you overthink it you’ll set the bar too high. One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to roll with the punches a bit more.
Recently I had to several chores to do. No biggie, I’ve got a system and when things work out it’s pretty efficient. Things don’t always work out. For one thing I was fried from a sporting event. (I’m not saying what it was, just assume it’s something cool like synchronized cage match armed tennis.) I reluctantly levered my ass off the couch for wood duty, plus I’ve got a painting project, had to haul garbage to the dump (you think I’d pay for a garbage man?), had to empty a fuel tank, and I needed to plow the driveway. I had a teenager helping and most of my equipment is functioning. Shoulda’ been easy. We tried mightily. Everything got screwed up.
Painting went south first. Crap got into the pail when I was stirring it and I made an unholy mess getting it out. Then I ran out of paint at an inopportune moment. I cleaned the brush and bailed.
We switched to loading the truck for a dump run. At the dump the teenager took a wild spin on a frozen tailgate. This became an epic swan dive into the ground. Amazingly, he wasn’t hurt. (Watching the fall from ten paces I expected a visit to the ER for a broken arm.) No injuries is good but it dampened our sagging spirits.
Back home the teenager attacked the snow with our old ATV while I gave the borrowed tractor a try. The borrowed tractor started and ran but the damn thing seems to want me dead. Then it started acting funky. I limped it back into place and killed the engine before it could impale me on a lever or set itself on fire.
I stacked wood in the wagon (a job that’s safer than playing with murderous tractors). Meanwhile Kid roared off to plow the path where we haul wood. Then… nothing. There’s a pattern one expects. The ATV, blade down, is supposed to tear down the path blasting snow to the side… then the ATV comes back.
I waited a bit, then investigated. I found a very stuck ATV and a bamboozled kid. The snow was too deep and the ATW was mired. He lifted the blade, I gave a push, and it skittered free. I sent Kid to do the driveway which is less likely to eat ATVs. Plus, I had a backup plan for the deep drift and I love implementing backup plans!
Back at the garage I fired up my snowblower. How cool am I to have redundant equipment? The snowblower picked up an evil curse but that was last winter. Last year I fired it up on the first snowfall, ran 100 yards, and sucked up a rock that jammed it hard. After “the jamming” I had it serviced and a month later tried it again. It sucked up a piece of bark in less than a minute and jammed again. I gave up for that year. I spent the summer bitching at anyone and anything that left any object where it could kill a snowblower.
This fall (before the snow!) I tore into it and removed the bark. It ran fine and then… didn’t. Go figure. A couple sheepish trips to the shop and I had her running like a top once again. After the repairs and a summer of patrolling for detritus on the lawn it was ready to earn its keep. You know where this is going. The curse returned. It fired up instantly (huzzah!) but 100 feet later I sucked up a rock that jammed it. ‘Aint life annoying? Kid saw my misery and zipped away; redundantly plowing the driveway twice.
Ten minutes of swearing and I had it running again. This time it threw snow like the champ it was meant to be. I have no idea why it was reliable for years and suddenly became an expensive rock detector. At any rate, I like snowblowers. There’s a difference between a plow which creates hard mountains of packed snow and a snow blower which hurls the shit to the horizon.
Time for the fuel.
Editorial note: Fossil fuel extraction on private lands in North Dakota is a done deal. I’ve seen trainloads of fuel traversing where the pipeline ‘aint. It’s not theoretical, it’s real, it’s now, and I’m happy about it. Lots of oil comes from shitholes like Libya or ridiculous places like the bottom of the ocean. A private cornfield in North Dakota is a far superior location. The president and not a small number of the left and right coasts are unhappy with cheap domestic fuel. Screw them! I don’t give a shit about anyone’s opinion until they’ve split a cord of wood in August mosquitoes and burned it during a twenty below blizzard. It’s easy to dislike cheap fuel when your every want and need is met by someone else and that’s the root of everything wrong in politics. (Obama also said a pipeline to Canadian supplies would send every last dime of revenue to Toronto and have no impact on American prices; because apparently magic faeries override Econ 101. I’m perversely impressed anyone can lie like that. I simply can’t speak deliberate falsehoods without my face twitching like a moron.) Since I can count and can see with my own two eyes I’ve been buying fuel oil while it’s cheap and will revert to 100% wood when oil goes expensive again.
Since I’d gone nuts with the snowblower I had room to muscle the truck into position. We dumped some fuel oil into the furnace tank without falling off the tailgate or getting the truck stuck. The first win of the day.
There was still a wagon load of wood to haul and unload. (In general it’s not furnace or wood it’s furnace and wood.) I sighed. I was sick and tired of this shit.
Then a snowball. Whack! Snowball fight? It. Is. On!
Twenty minutes later we were covered with snow and happy. I unilaterally declared we should stop working before we killed ourselves or broke something. We covered the wood with a tarp and went inside to drink cocoa.
That was four days ago. The wood is still outside. We made it a few days on the wood already in the house. Since then we’ve ran the furnace for 2 days. It has been a warm spell so I can be complacent. Homestead fail? Depends on how you look at it.
You’ll never pick up Mother Earth News and read about some redneck having a snowball fight when he should be stacking wood. Yet I think it was the right call. Running the furnace 2/365 days ‘aint the worst of fates and I’ve got nothing to prove. Also, thank you North Dakota!
Yeah, that’s the way it works here at 44N 103W, too. It will be 63 today and there’s a pile of wood with my name on it. Sooner or later it will be winter again and blizzard season to boot. For warm tootsies and hot food when the power goes off, there must be wood. We have large animals (cows and horses) so it all has to work when the weather takes a dump. Aint homesteading fun?
I’ve gotta start cutting wood for our winter (yes, I probably will still be saying that in winter). Keep warm in the snow in between snowball fights. The curmudgeon diaries are one of my day’s better moments.
Gotta’ start? Either you’re in the southern hemisphere or you need a calendar.
Local editorial note: Those effers really would like to see you banned from burning wood also. Pollution, doncha know? They’ve gone so far in these parts of Indiana to make it illegal to put woodburning furnaces within 100′ or so of any dwelling… you can imagine what the drawbacks are to pumping the glycol mix over 100′ to the house… not to mention the added costs associated with burying an encased insulated lineset. I think we’re dealing with another Carter. In other words, put on another sweater.