Welcome to Sawmill Nation

Andy and I have been wanting a sawmill for a number of years now. We had no way of justifying an expensive production model with hydraulics, so instead we focused on smaller home models. We looked at just about every brand, and eventually settled on a Woodland Mills. Rather, I had settled on a Woodland Mills. That was until recently, when a deal came up that was too good to pass.

DSC_9642A few years back Andy and I went to his friends place to help him and his Dad saw some lumber. Our friends father had purchased a Hud-Son Oscar 121, which had been purchased used from another guy who bought it and decided it was too much work. Andy jokingly said, “When he’s ready to sell it, have him give me a call.” We moved on, and continued to look around casually while renovating the house. We knew we were going to buy a sawmill this year, but we figured it would be this fall. That is, until we got a call recently saying our friends Dad was selling his mill – a mill that had been barely used.

With our anniversary just about a month away we pretty much looked at each other and knew we had to jump on it. My heart was still with the Woodland Mills, but I came around pretty quickly. We ended up getting the mill, extra track, and a box of new blades for about 1/2 of what everything would cost new. We wished each other a happy early anniversary, jumped in the truck with the dogs and picked it up.

It was just in time too, since our neighbor had a pile of logs out back him and Andy had cut and hauled out this winter.

DSC_9621It’s been fun getting the mill setup, and getting the feel for it. Andy and our neighbor have mostly been the ones using it, but I’ve been learning the ropes too.

DSC_9627We’ve been cutting a lot of 2×6, with some timbers and other various dimensional lumber mostly hackmatack, poplar and a scatter of pine and maple. I’d say overall we’re happy with the setup. The logs are cut nice and maintenance seems to be straightforward. We had an issue with a wave in one of the boards from the blade jumping but that had more to do with the figure of the grain and some pitch build up most likely. Like I said, this is a learning curve for everyone involved (me the most).

DSC_9635The log pile is almost decimated at this point, which means we’re looking forward to cutting the cedar Andy felled at his mom’s place a few weeks back. For now we’ll keep cutting up our neighbors lumber with him, and then at some point we’ll do some hackmatack up at the farm too for a lean-to off the barn. One of the reasons I love Maine, and particularly where I live, is that there is a strong sense of community and neighbors helping neighbors.  A lot more gets done, and faster, when we’re all willing to step in with our resources to get it done.

DSC_9641I know this sounds a bit odd, but the truth is that our little homestead feels a bit more complete with Oscar here. We’ve been wanting a mill for so damn long that it feels like an accomplishment. We aren’t big spenders, we understand the worth of a dollar, and we have made sacrifices specifically so when something like this comes along  we’re able to buy it. That might seem rare in the age of keeping up with the Jones’s and instant gratification, but it’s a deeper feeling like no other to see a long term, hard worked for, item come true.

DSC_9662To both Andy and me it’s important to provide for ourselves. We live in a vastly interconnected world but we also think it’s important to be able to provide for ourselves in some ways. I’m not even close to totally self-reliant and I’m okay with that. We are in no way hardcore homesteaders, and don’t intend to be. In the case of the apocalypse, I am – in the famous words of Dido – going down with this ship. My self-sustaining goal is less dooms day zombie survival and more to have food in a snow storm, to decrease my grocery bill significantly in the summer, to enjoy the taste of summer in the winter with a can of homemade salsa, and to have lumber on hand (or the ability to cut it before we need it) for projects. It’s important for me to just do my part.

Overall, we’re happy. We know it’s not for everyone. I know I’m a bit of an odd duck in the world of marketing to women in that I don’t want diamonds for my anniversary. Last year we stumbled upon our long sought after Suburban a month before our anniversary. This year, it’s a sawmill. Next year? Who knows, but I bet it won’t be jewelry.

858680_10101646540750989_1955072273187390111_oxo,

Heather

Uncovering The Past

Our backyard borders the hayfield of a fourth generation farm, and while I’ve written many time about the farm, I haven’t written much about one particular area known as the farm dump. It’s as literal as it sounds. Many years ago when recycling systems weren’t prevalently in place and getting rid of trash was left to individuals, many farms buried items on a section of their property. The farm we live amongst seemed to bury recyclable items (some plastic,  but not much, lots of glass bottles, and some metal). My favorite by far has been the glass bottles.

DSC_9093-01Last week Andy brought me home an old Ball jar we dated between 1922-1933 and the fun began. The next day he took me back out to show me some of the other bottles he had found as well as look for some more. As we dug we started coming across some pretty neat glass. I decided to take some photos of some of my favorites for you guys. I haven’t done a lot of research on many of these yet but plan to. I’m currently in the process of carefully cleaning some of these up, and after we’ll go ahead and display them around the house.

DSC_9130-01It’s hard to pick a favorite of these bottles, but it might be this old Stark sparkling water bottle.

DSC_9114-01 DSC_9116-01 DSC_9120-04This bottle has actually cleaned up really nicely so far since the label wasn’t paper, and I think I’ll probably keep in our kitchen with flowers on the counter. As for the rest, who knows, but here they are!

I’m not sure what this Rawleigh bottle was used for, but preliminary research says it’s not very valuable. It’s still pretty darn cool though.

DSC_9113-01House of Cott was a brand of soda. I’m actually concerned about cleaning this one up because it’s a paper label and very faded. Like most of these bottles, I’ll be doing a very small test patch with some warm water before attempting to clean the entire thing. If the test patch doesn’t seem good enough I’ll simply rinse out the insides and leave the outsides dirty or dry cloth cleaned.

DSC_9149-01 DSC_9152-01 DSC_9153-01Here are some others in order to how they appear below: Seltzer & Rydholm Inc. from Auburn, Maine; Haig & Haig Five Star; non-descript bottle with “Enjoy ME” on cap; large Casco; small Casco.

DSC_9125-01 DSC_9099-01 DSC_9144-01 DSC_9146-01 DSC_9147-01 DSC_9175-01Behind the small Casco bottle directly above, you can see a very roached out brown label. This one is going to be near impossible to clean but is an old linseed oil bottle. The part of the label left intact caught me for some reason so it made it home despite being in horrible shape.

DSC_9173-01Overall we’ve had a lot of fun back there seeing what other people considered junk. There’s some interesting metal pieces as well, one which may make it into a flower bed per Andy’s idea. That’s another post for another day however.

In the mean time what gems have you found on your property or around?

xo,

Heather

The Deck Is Back On The Roster

I’m hesitant to definitively state what we’ll be working on this summer because we’re still figuring that all out, but over the last week or so I decided the deck was making it back on the roster. When we built our deck a few summers ago (here, here, here, here and here) we knew we would eventually have to refinish the railings. All wood requires upkeep and our mahogany rail is no different.

So while the deck railing looked like this when we finished:

DSC_6941-01It now looks a little more like this:

DSC_9004-01DSC_9005-01I am officially throwing the gauntlet down against myself to get this project done by the fall. Now I’m putting in on my blog too.

At least the deck doesn’t still look like the photo below. I think we can all agree even a worn rail is indescribably better than the previous hazard. That makes me feel better at least.

Deck_BeforeHere we go! Now stop grumbling me, you did this to myself. Wait, what?

xo,

Heather

Sun Tea & Sprouts

With spring slowly yawning it’s way awake this year, and a good portion of our yard snow free, once I saw Sunday was suppose to be a 48 degree high I knew I was headed outside to work in the yard. Potential snow be damned, it was time to get this spring thing started.

First, I decided to set up our table and chairs that we often eat most every dinner meal on once it gets warm enough, and that I will happily read at all bundled up until then. Second, nothing symbolizes spring more at our house than sun tea. The warm sun heats up tea bags and brews it slowly. Whether you drink sun tea warm when the evenings are still cold, or more often chilled on a hot summer day, it’s downright delightful.

DSC_9049-01After just a few hours of working in the yard and reading at the table, it becomes a happy sign of the sun at work.

DSC_9047-01DSC_9077-01 While I let the sun do it’s job I mulled around the yard and started cleaning up certain beds and saying hello to the plants that snuggled in during this long winter we had.

One mild concern is our three rows of garlic. The frost heaved many of the cloves out of the soil. They seem to be well rooted and some are sprouting so keep your fingers crossed.

DSC_9055-01I also found our strawberry plants had quite surprisingly made it through the fall and winter. We battled some grass wanting a strong takeover last year, and I half expected between the grass and the winter we would have lost them. The grass seemed to have protected each little plant to my happiness. Under the long dead grass laid small green leaves. This year we really will have to transplant these strawberries. After two years it’s clear our original spot next to this particular stone wall simply isn’t the best option. While not an ideal time of year to do so, in another week or so I’ll be transplanting them into the blueberry beds which also enjoy an acidic soil. Given the slow start to spring I expect they may not yield a lot, but they will be okay and take root.

DSC_9059-01 DSC_9056-01In preparation for moving these strawberries, I cleaned up the blueberry bed and found these little flowers growing. I believe these might be the peonies but I’m not quite sure. While peonies and tulips are my two favorite flowers I have to admit that if I can’t eat it, I don’t pay much attention to it. In other words, my focus is really on my vegetables in the summer time and anything else is something Andy or mother nature has likely taken the time to transplant.

DSC_9062-01Speaking of the veggies, inside the house they are starting to peek up. I decided to try seriously under-taking seed starting this year and doing it in soil blocks. I bought my soil blocker from Johnny Seeds (2″ – 4 blocks) but there are many seed catalogs that sell them. It’s a method that helps the plant from becoming root bound, but requires a little more care.

Currently I have celery and celeriac seed sprouting, neither of which I’ve ever grown before, and  45 tomato seeds started on Saturday (15 pink beauty, 15 granadero, 15 defiant). I’m not sure how many of the tomato seeds will actually germinate but I had a pretty decent germination rate last year when I tried starting just a couple indoors. Keep your fingers crossed! If they all germinate I’ll likely give a few away and I’m still going to have a lot of tomatoes which makes me happy. To me there are few things symbolizing summer more than how delicious a fresh off the vine tomato is while you’re still standing in the garden’s warm soil.

DSC_9082-01 DSC_9081-01Overall it was a very relaxing and productive Sunday.

DSC_9060-01I hope you all had a beautiful weekend, and if not, that this helped put a smile on your face.

xo,

Heather

Retro Post: Septic Replacement

Some of the grossest jobs around here happened long before this blog existed. You could call yourself lucky, except for one thing – I had a digital camera. You’ve already been subjected to the high-quality musings of why my husband can’t stand certain fake scented apple products. Get ready for round two: replacing our septic system.

Preface: When I say “we” in reference to any work I very much 100% mean “Andy”. He replaced the entire septic, and built a new septic field, by himself. He took an entire week off of work to do it. Hell of a man? You bet.

When we bought this place we weren’t sure what state the septic was in. We weren’t sure what it looked like, if it was up to code, or the last time it had been pumped. This place was a fixer-upper, and a couple things were a crap shoot. Pun intended.

We knew one fact about our septic system: there was a pipe that came out in the side of the yard next to the garage. Gray water flowed out of this. For those unfamiliar, gray water is the runoff. It was, uhm, maybe a bit more gray than a normal septic system. On certain days it just didn’t smell right. Or rather, it smelled right, in the wrong spot. The neighbors even knew this. A good septic system should NOT smell.

Have you lost your appetite yet? If not, you’re going to.

We had a general idea of where the “septic tank” was. When the time came to fix the septic we first had to dig it up with our good and faithful Mahinda, as well as by hand.

IMG_1055First, we found an old well cover that was sketchy at best. Then we found this.

IMG_1056It turns out our “septic tank” was a cylinder block square, covered in a piece of round granite, covered in a well cover. An open pipe from the house flowed into it. Like all septics, the solids went to the bottom. The pipe by the side yard with the gray water? A pipe flowing out. Solids went to the bottom, liquids came out the second pipe.

Lovely.

For your viewing pleasure, the actual tank.

IMG_1057Now to assuage your shock I should tell this this is post pumping. Guys, I would never show you the tank pre-pumping. Even I have lines that I won’t cross on a blog. I don’t even have a photo of it. Ew. I can tell you this, the guy who pumped it said it was the worst tank he’d ever seen, and second, it probably had never been pumped.

Let me reiterate this:

Never.

Been.

Pumped.

How long was it in service? 15 plus years. I’ll wait here while you go hurl.

I think we need a visual break before we move on. Given that this is a retro post, I’ll give you a retro photo of me in college. I was having a nice, quiet, refined evening out full of intellectual conversation with my friends. We discussed great philosophy all night. We may have imbibed in a few couple drinks.

IMG_0044Have you stopped laughing yet at my college photo, and stopped hurling yet at the photo of the septic?

While I understand you’ve just regained your composition, I’m sorry to explain that I’m now going to go into destruction of the septic. Instead of showing you the video, I took a screen shot. I’ll just explain that we were knocking the blocks back into the hole, and then we back filled the hole in.

Old SepticOnce the old septic had been taken care of, it was time to start the new septic.

Andy ordered the tank, and in the mean time he dug the hole for the new tank which was placed next to the house – where it should have been all along – and dug up the yard to install the proper up to code septic field.

IMG_0085 IMG_0100As he dug up, we found the old pipe coming out of the house (the length of this was eventually removed as he dug up the new septic field as well, which the pipe ran through).

IMG_0088The brand new tank came in and was dropped into the hole, ready to be hooked up.

IMG_1014 IMG_1015 IMG_1017A few pipe fittings and hook ups later…

IMG_1019…and it was onto building the new septic (leech) field. This system brings the gray water (real gray water this time) out of the tank and disperses it properly into this area of the lawn through a series of piping. Yes, we have very nice green grass on this part of the lawn now, but no, it never gets wet (from below, rain yes), it never smells, and you’re never stepping “in” anything at all. It might surprise you to learn it’s the driest part of our entire yard.

To build the field Andy used both the bucket on the Mahindra, and the tiller attached to our 67′ holder.

IMG_1024IMG_1027 IMG_1028These photos really show just how much earth was moved.

IMG_1036 IMG_1037More earth was removed to create a fully level area, and then laser sighted in.

IMG_1045 IMG_1046Winnie & Rosie approved.

IMG_1049Next up came filter fabric, topped with stone for filtration of gray water as it slowly seeps out of the piping system.

IMG_1065Piping was laid, and then more stone.

IMG_1067 IMG_1069 IMG_1071The box in the photo directly above is the d-box (distribution box). This distributes the gray water from the septic tank into the other pipes which will, as the name says, distribute it throughout the leech field. The d-box is then covered in layers of insulation to help keep gray water flowing.

IMG_1073A final cover of stone and filter fabric, and the field and septic tank were ready to be back filled with all of the earth originally removed.

IMG_1074 IMG_1081 IMG_1082Andy then put a layer of soil on, seeded it with grass, watered, and covered it with seasoned hay. With the septic field done, Andy was able to grade out the area where the gray water used to flow, and use some of the left over earth to help grade our lawn in some areas that had been rough previously.

IMG_1091Years later and we’re quite happy with how everything has been performing. By “very happy” I mean “nothing has gone wrong”. We’ve since done a lot more to our yard. We took trees down and now have some fruit trees, and a soon to be (hopefully) second garden area where the leech field used to be. The new leech field? Well, it has lush grass since you can’t actually grow anything on top of it.

I might not look as ecstatic about the new septic as I lseemed to have been having during a very mature night out with my friends in college, but inside, I have the same big smile. Septic is a big deal. Trust me. You don’t want that shit hitting the fan.

Now let’s never discuss this again. Just thinking of the old system is gag worthy.

xo,

Heather