Monday, December 29, 2014

it's expensive to burn down

Burning down is not just stressful, it is also very expensive. I never imagined all of the costs involved when something like this happens. It  is not the same as deciding to pack up, leave town, and start again somewhere else. When doing that, you  consciously decide you are done, have had enough and purposely leave behind what you had. When a place burns, there is no decision making to do, it is all just gone!

When the house burned I got out with  my old sneakers, a flamboyant night gown and my hoodie. The manthing fared slightly better as we were able to grab a couple drawers and a tote of winter clothes in addition to the outfit n shoes he had on. The only other items we were able to grab were the  fire safe, chainsaws, guns, and tobacco (because we had just received an order to mix with our home grown and it was sitting by the door). There was nothing else left to be salvaged in the aftermath aside from  a bit of cast iron cookware. Everything would need to be replaced.

Mind you, we are simple livin type folks. We didn't have tv's in every room, we didn't sleep on a conventional bed,  furnishings were minimal and not suitable for most life styles, but worked for us.  We didn't have a washer and dryer or other fancy gizmos n gadgets. Most everything we had pertained to maintaining our rather primitive life style. Even so, the list of stuff that had to, or has to be replaced, seems never ending and every bit of it costs money.  Let's just say that in the last 6 weeks we have had to spend more than I made the entire year last year. 

 The first few days were spent replacing some clothes, basic necessities, and food. There was no way that we were going to spend the Red Cross money, our money or any other money on restaurant food. Sure the foods were in a can or box or could be thrown between a couple slices of bread, but it was food.  We have not eaten a single meal out and  through all of this have  only stopped for a coffee refill three times. Once we had the food we remember we have no pans or eating utensils to eat the food. Once out of the hotel and back at the cabin we had more cooking options so we needed food that we are more accustomed to  though still not the same.Then, of course, you need the pans to cook in and pot holders since you are cooking over fire. This crazy cycle of needs continues for the first couple  few several  weeks.  I am still remembering things I need to get the next time we are in town.

Somewhere toward the end of the first week, we got to go to the charity store where they give you an allowance  for certain items. We got two towels, two washcloths, set of sheets, a couple forks, knives, plates and cups,  pair of shoes, two sets of socks, couple shirts and couple pants. It was kind of odd as the store was closed and we were the only people there aside from volunteers who served as our personal shoppers. Was one of the oddest moments I can ever remember, truth be told.  Treated like a wealthy person but  yer in a place of charity.

The things we humans need to  survive and attempt to thrive are innumerable. Many things you don't  really even miss on a daily basis but when you do its terrible. For instance flies in the winter. It aint often you have them but when you do, not having a fly swatter can become a huge issue. It is these little things ya miss the most and just when you think  you cant possibly need anything more to survive, you are rudely reminded that the pizza slicer was really handy and  you use pens way more often than you  think you do. And as minimalist as we are even though two pairs of socks or two plates  seems feasible, it aint.

The list of stuff needed goes on and on; from the simple and mundane like  toothpicks and toilet paper, to knives, pans,  fly swatters and  nail clippers,  batteries, band-aids, tampons, aspirin, and salt to other needs of society today like lamps, ice (for refrigeration) bed covers, gas (to get back and forth to town  27 times a month), computers, phones, and  of course electricity and shelter.  Even though we have had a phone for over 20 years, the 3 week  break in service meant we were new customers and had to begin all over on fees. To get power back it meant having a pole set in by an electrician, another expense. The biggest expense was getting shelter. Though we have the cabin, for various reasons there cannot be power lines or internet connections to it. As such we had to  invest in something that could serve as an office, internet cafe and electric source when needed.

Some ask why we didn't leave. The answer is simple, there is no place like home. Secondly, we had critters. It would have meant getting rid of every one we had including the dogs. Rehoming a near eight year old dog just isn't right. Thirdly, we would then be commuting back and forth to the  mountain causing wear and tear on a vehicle and costing money and time to do. Finally, we would have to rent which would then mean  a big heap of money going out monthly plus  initial fees when I have no idea when I will work again. Buying the tin can internet cafe, seemed to be the more logical solution. Besides, it gives us additional options later on if we so decide, as home is now on wheels. 

We are and will be replacing things and stuff for months, if not years, to come even though we now have most of the basics again. We will have future expenses if we decide to rebuild. Even if we don't rebuild we will need an outdoor kitchen, a dry storage area, larger water containment system and some sort of covering over the tin can.  We still need the trash from the house hauled off, the dirt leveled out and driveway fixed. We still need to replace  food preservation equipment like jars and lids, dehydrators (even home made, they cost money), meat grinders and grain grinders. I know, to most people these things sounds rather frivolous. To homesteaders they are tools and needed. Sure we could go back to the stone age and use a rock to grind everything with but from experience I can say it aint much fun and we aint got time for that.

 When people ask what it is they can do to help, my suggestion is to give food, physical labor, gift cards to a local and useful to them store, or cash. To be frank, cash is by far the best choice in our opinion. While everything is appreciated these are what has proved the most helpful to us.

The canned foods have been a blessing for when we are just too tired or don't have time to cook. The fresh produce has helped us to keep a bit of normalcy and diet and for whatever reason helped my mental  state (they are comforting and pretty i reckon).  Gift cards and cash have allowed us to choose what the money is spent on and when. It gives us the freedom to decide what to apply them to and how. Ours have gone for food, insulation, propane, supplies to get the water system up, and new tools to name just a few things.The remainder will be used to help fund the other projects that must get done before harvest season comes again. 

 Everyone  will have  the expenses I have listed in the event of a fire, insured or not. It does not matter their lifestyle or the things and stuff that they will need to get back on their feet. They will need the very basics from underwear to toothpicks. Clothing is fairly easy to come by either free or very cheaply but we all still  need food and shelter. In today's society, we also almost have to have power, heat, and internet in some way, shape, or form. Most people also have other bills and expenses all of which still need to be kept up to date  in addition to the ones created by the fire.  Cash allows them (us) to be able to do all of that when other options do not.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

fires cause stress... who woulda thunk...

I don't have much experience when it comes to fires and the cleanup/recovery process, but I dare say that ours has been  rather smooth and easy going compared to many who go through the experience. Even so, there are many moments or periods of stress that we have gone or are going through. Below are just a few of the stressors we have had to or are dealing with.

The whole cleanup/recovery process seems monumental and insurmountable, for weeks on end. Even though you can see progress being made, it still seems like there is so much to be done. It also seems like you are just moving the messes from one location to another.  And, that is, because you are but for good reason! Even as the mess is eventually cleaned completely up, you are still left with the aftermess. There is the mud pit where the house once stood. There is glass that keeps making its way to the top after hours of picking it up and then there is the crap in the junk heaps that the dogs find and drag all over the property.

The homestead is particularly depressing this year, though admittedly not nearly as depressing as it was two or four weeks ago.  There are mud pits n ditches everywhere, big puddles, gray skies and rain for days on end. Most of this is  perfectly normal but the pits n ditches are rather deep and more defined than usual. I am certain passing geese are going to stop by and use the front "lawn" as a camping spot. We have run over and squished garden beds, beds that haven't been put to bed, some with piles of compost never spread and some that never got seeds or plants harvested before turning to goo. We have  weeds everywhere  that  never  got weedwhacked and  of course the piles of  house remnants are laying all about. Oh we can't wait for spring so we can get busy!

Then, we remember how much we have to do in addition to the regular spring duties and on top of the ones we didn't get finished this fall like the outdoor kitchen,  laundry station, more water storage capabilities, dry storage, something to cover the tin can internet cafe, and landscaping of our new largish but empty and flat spot. Just when we think we have made great strides in the  recovery process, we come to the realization that what has to be done is or seems insurmountable. It seems like a never ending cycle of making  what we feel are big strides only to realize it was a wee baby step. 

As fairly primitive homesteaders, we are used to structure. After four years of school and working full time for the last year,  my days are pretty much filled with work, cookin and washin dishes with the occasional venture out to feed the critters or tend gardens. The manthing  also had a fairly set routine going depending on the time of year. The fire changed all that. The first few weeks were a crazy whirlwind of replacing  and tending to daily life necessities. The next few weeks were still busy  and trying to take care of business and  get some sort of structure back. Even though  we are getting closer to having it again, we don't have much yet. Almost all of our normal chores are gone and the few we have left or the ability left to do are minimized because life is so scaled down.  We have the above listed stuff to get done but December is not considered stellar weather for outdoor work so we are finding ourselves stuck in the internet world on uncomfortable chairs e while trying to remain tolerable and pleasant to the other.

I would be lying to say we don't stress about money. I don't care what type of person you think you are, your home burning is going to  cause stress that you have probably never thought of before. I assume most people are in about the same position as we were when the house burned. Working and able to save a little for old age but cannot afford to do much else except plug along and make do.  We had enough put back monetary and food wise, in the event someone was out of work or injured for an extended period of time, to live for a year or two without many worries. Our bad... We planned  for several scenarios but did not plan on having them all happen together. We didn't plan for having to replace everything we owned in one fell swoop nor the expenses that come with having to do that. Though we are not in danger of losing our land or home, we worry about losing or paying out the small cushion we had. We know how much we needed it for this emergency and were glad to have it so we didn't end up houseless but we have  now have expensive projects (water, storage, kitchen) that must be done to bring us back up to where or about where we were before, self sufficiency wise. We are faced with having to decide whether we need that cushion of savings or do we want our primitive comforts. Additionally, I have still not returned to work despite being ready to at the end of the first month.They are now promising me that tomorrow will be my return date. We shall see.

 On a happier note... we are so glad that we do not celebrate holidays in the traditional sense. We could not imagine trying to buy gifts and having to deal with all the drama jazz that most Americans surround themselves with this time of year in addition to what we already have on our plates.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

food/preservation-lessons learned

As homesteaders, our food supply and ways to preserve our food are very important to us. It is, in many ways, what makes us homesteading and self sustaining(ish) people. We only purchased what we could not grow, hunt or forage  around us. The only things we really purchased were oils, sugar, coffee, tea and  some cooking/baking spices.  Even these items were purchased in bulk quantities and stored  until we needed them. We are not preppers and did not have an end of the world stash hanging around, but we like to be prepared and had a couple years of food and other essentials put back in the event of injury or some other emergency. These items/supplies are what  hurts us and bothers us the most in regard to the fire. The house was just a shack, but the food, and supplies associated with our food, are much of what identifies us as homesteaders, and now that is gone.

Below are some of the things we have thought about, learned or are relearning in regard to  food/supplies.The biggest lesson in all this is: Dont become complacent and lazy! Much of  the important (to us) stuff that was lost could have been prevented had we not become that way.

Stored seeds were all kept in boxes and containers and they burnt up. This was not just a seed supply for the  next year, this was seed supply that we traded, bartered, and gave away. The seed supply   could have provided seed for years to come.  Some of them were crops we had been working on for several years to adapt to our growing conditions and will take years to reattain.  This will never happen again as they will have their very own fire safe for storage.  In the event something catastrophic happens again, we can just scoop them up with the important-junk fire safe and take them with us.

 All our canned foods ( about 500 jars were kept on shelves in the living room area of the shack.  All of our jars  (another 600 or so), canners (3),  rings, lids (2-3000),  and so on were in a closet and stored away.  All our veggies were also in the living room as it was a cool and dry area to store them (70 pounds sweet taters,  200 pounds of squashes, 30 pounds taters, 15 pounds onions, garlic,  wheat, corn etc). We also had  all our herbal  medicines stored there  and our grain grinder,  dehydrator and other preservation equipment. There was no good reason for any of this We have a perfectly good root cellar we built several years ago. It, however, was down the hill in the  holler and it was inconvenient to walk our happy asses down there and store or fetch food. This will never happen again as foods will be stored in several places. Not only will food be in the root cellar but canned goods and canning supplies will be stored away from living areas and in more than one location. What was the cistern is going to be converted into a storage area where our supplies for preservation will be stored, as well as most of the canned foods.  Things will never be stored in one location again. 

A freezer allows too much comfort. Instead of canning or drying foods, we opted to freeze a lot of it. We always thought about a long term power outage and we had decided  we could have a long canning session or two and take care of the problem. Burning it to a crisp never really crossed our minds. When we burned, the absolutely-full freezer also burned along with anything in it. Had it been canned and in a dry storage area, we would still have all of it to fall back on.

Herbal remedies were also made and stored in bulk. Boy, we could sure have used some passion flower tincture those first couple weeks. I now will be investing in small bottles and having them in a ready to go container. Bulk bottles will be stored out of the house and in a safe place. Other first aid supplies will be the same way. They will be stored in no less than two locations.

Knives, guns and other butchering/hunting items will also be split up and stored in separate locations. Though we were able to grab the guns, every knife we owned was burned up. These too will have a secondary and possible tertiary storage location. 

Having all these items in  two or more places would have allowed us to save at the very least a portion of our self sufficiency and  pride.  We still would not have been able to save it all but it would  have given us a greater level of comfort  knowing we still had it to fall back on. Instead, on top of everything else that was lost, we find ourselves needing to replace every stitch of it within a matter of a few months. Gardening season here in the south  is pretty much a year round effort only tapering off in the months of November and December. The new planting season begins in January and by March the preservation processes begin again.

Monday, December 15, 2014

we have water.... or will when it rains

Many of you know that our main source for water here was the cistern. When the shack burned, it took away the entire system leaving us with no easy way to source general-purpose water.  Of course, we have the pond, a pump and tank, but the truck we used to haul water also burned. And, we also have the critter water which is a mini cistern system. Without most of the animals we are not using much water down there so we  manthing has been bringing it to where I need it by the five gallon bucket or  we capture it when it rains (only twice in  over 4 weeks).

Today we hung gutter on the cabin so that we have a closer and larger supply of water. We took and  set the 330 gallon tank up there and put gutters up (supplied by our heroes same folks with the bobcat,and produce).  This will allow us to have water that is  much  closer to where we are, have more of it on hand and hook a hose to it and gravity feed it to where we are. In time, we will fix the old 12x21 cistern for dry storage,  gutter it, get another 330 gallon tank, and daisy chain the two together and hook them to the tin can internet cafe. That will give us 660 gallons of storage or about a third of what we used to have. But.. it's a start. This will allow us to have running water and hot showers for about 9 months a year. and during the cold winter months we can still  have water via five gallon bucket.

As the manthing said, " they area lot like me! They aint pretty,in fact they kinda ugly but they will work!"

Sunday, December 14, 2014

solar power, power, phone and internet

Our first big step back to the somewhat modern world was purchasing a solar panel kit for the cabin. We had always talked about it but because we were not spending much time there in recent years, it was not worth the cost. Once we had to stay in the cabin, however, we quickly realized that propane lanterns were not cutting it. The small propane canisters are 3 bux a piece and only last a few hours.  In the darkest days of the year, that meant we were burning through a tank every two days. Beyond that, they don't provide much good light, are relatively scary to operate and serve no purpose other than provide light.  Since the kits have come down in price and we received some Amazon gift cards, we got one set of panels and a battery  to charge the phone, have a small clock radio and provide light for us. I must say... it is wonderful and we should have bought them years ago!! 
The next step was to get a power pole  for an RV put in place.  We  first had to get a permit to place it but thankfully, they  did not charge us for it. The following day the electricians  came and placed the pole.The day the fellers came out to put that in was a joyous one  indeed! I even declared it the prettiest pole in the world though it is rather ugly. Two days later the power company came to hook us back up to the electrified world but first they had to take down the final  dangerous  and burned tree. Poor Percival, the younger dog, did not like it so much, however, and he ran off to the woods again to hide. We think the poor lil guy has a bit of PTSD and as soon as the truck  backed up and lifted the bucket he ran to the woods to hide.

This week, the phone company was finally able to  be called and the phone and internet reinstalled.  A portion of that line had burned as well so once again the bigger truck rolled in, the bucket went up and the dog ran off.  By Tuesday evening we were finally back online and with a real land line hooked to the camper. This marked another small milestone as it meant that I had the ability to get back to work. Now if  I could just get work to send the equipment, I would be all set.  This also means that I can get rid of that ridiculous smartphone, although, I have almost come to like it, but not quite.

We still have a long way to go in this process. It is far from over and far from ideal. The tin can is tough to heat and warm up on a budget or at all for that matter. After two hours, it is currently about 54 degrees in the camper. There is no current source of water except for the spring or rainfall captured in bucket. Cooking is done over open fire which I am used to and don't mind but, it isn't exactly an outdoor kitchen like I am used to and I simply do not have the tools and implements I once had. While I can cook and even have fresh veggies n such, I do not have the ability or space to make breads and tortillas or get too fancy in what I make. Dishes are done outside which again isn't bad but dang it is chilly out there and dark so early. Showers are non existent unless we drive to them. While  awesome to have one (thank you Mulberry Gap) it is not exactly convenient. We take bird baths, which again, are done outside because of the time of year and the tin can is winterized. Our bedroom and entertainment space is in the cabin but our internet n current  kitchen space is at the camper so we spend a fair bit of time running place to place and heating both as needed. 

I am not complaining. It is what it is and it is how things are going to be for the foreseeable future.  There is no real budget for rebuilding as I simply do not make enough for that and we do not want to go into debt. Things will improve. We will have  a water catchment system in place soon. We will  turn the old cistern into a dry storage area. We will rebuild the outdoor kitchen and we will get some sort of covering over the tin can as time and money allow. It is just going to take patience and perseverance unless of course I finally decide to sign a contract for a "reality show"  and that just aint happening unless I can sign a two-show guest appearance for 20k a show.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

cleanup progression

After the skid loader came and  knocked most of the place down, we were left with one room and the foundation blocks to finish cleanup of the actual house. We also had to remove several trees on the hill behind the house because they were burned and would be a hazard to anything we decided to put there in the future.

Once this was done we finished the cleanup of where the house stood.  We somehow managed to do this in two weeks time  of when  it actually burned.  We think we did it  pretty quick for two middle aged half broken people. We also had to dismantle the brick stove/oven as it too was pretty severely damaged. For me this was among one of the sadder days we have had.  I know it too will be rebuilt but I guess maybe that's when I realized how drastically different life was going to be for the foreseeable future. I don't mean this in a bad way but, things are definitely different.

The final cleanup of where the house stood was finished and moved out of the way. Ok, not really out of the way but out from in front of where the camper was going to sit. There were mountains of ashen rubble,  scrap metal, burned wood and brick and block all over but they were in heaps of their own and things did look much better than just after the fire.

and there is also the  big pile of ashen rubble as well as the pile of salvageable wood.

We could now move the camper to where it was going to sit and become the internet cafĂ©. We dubbed it that because it will be my office for work, internet is there and it is where most of our cooking will be done. Well, cooking wont be done inside but rather outside on a fire and  since it has power we could move food out of the coolers and into a fridge.

This sign actually survived the fire somehow! 

We have since cleaned up many of the piles all around. The bricks and blocks are sorted, and the other heaps will be leaving  within a couple weeks.  This was a turning point for us. We finally felt like we were actually getting somewhere instead of just playing cleanup. This would  allow us the ability to  get a new power pole set and eventually get the phone and internet turned back on. We also  decided we could actually take a shower and not be dirty again within 5 minutes. 

a bit of green amongst the rubble

I know this may seem a tad silly to some but..

We had a couple-few bags of wheat stored for grinding and planting. When the house burned, it was spread everywhere where the house stood then scooped up into the piles of ashen rubble. A few days ago, I noticed that it was all sprouting and it looked so pretty in amongst all the nasty.

Yesterday we  got a quote from someone to come and remove the rubble and flatten out where the house stood and I came to the realization that my beautiful wheat was going to be landfill material. The thought made me a lilbit ill so I decided that I was going to move these perdy lil wheat patches.  Some I will move to a garden bed where they can grow and the remainder, I am going to stick in pots until  the ground gets flattened. Then, I am going to transplant them so that I have lush greenery about me and the added bonus of wheat come spring. In truth I don't know if it is going to work but, I am most certainly going to try.

I am a little excited about  this coming spring too. We had so many seeds saved and stored as well as a stash of beans,  lentils, corn and wheat. I am wondering just what will sprout and where, if any.

Friday, December 12, 2014

more on our heroes

The outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming at times. We never imagined that we would have this kind of support from people.We have gotten help from so many it is going to be nearly impossible to thank each and every person. Though I have tried to keep a running list of everyone that has  contributed something, I am quite positive I have missed many and do apologize if a thank you has not been given though I do plan on sitting down one day and attempting to thank each person or group individually.

There have been monetary donations, food donations,  clothing donations, seed and supply donations, and gift cards to various locations. Those that have not given monetarily or otherwise have sent thoughts and prayers our way. We thank each and everyone of you from the bottom of our hearts!!! Without the support of everyone we would be much worse off than what we are. Our mental health would be poorer and we would be totally demoralized. Though we would still be here on the mountain, we would be looking at  the destruction still sitting in front of us, instead of all along the driveway in  heaps. We would have been spending everything we had on acquiring new or new to us things. We are able to focus on the cleanup with what we have and use the help we have gotten to purchase necessary items. Thank you everyone for everything.

lessons learned

Accepting help is difficult. I believe it is even more so when  you are used to depending on yourself for most everything you need!  Being independent is something we, as homesteaders, and as individuals take pride in. To lose everything in one fell swoop is emotionally hard enough. To admit that some of the destruction could have been prevented by not becoming complacent and lazy is even harder to swallow. We have a perfectly good root cellar where we should have been storing our crops. Because it was a long walk to the cellar and we had an unused room in the house, it became a storage room. Instead of having some clothing, bedding and food stored in the cabin and separate from the main house, we had it all in the house. Due to poor decision making and pure laziness on our part, we have temporarily lost our independence.

We can now say that when help is offered, take it. It can and will make a difference in your life.  Swallow your pride or what you have left of it and take it. Folks would not be offering it if they did not want to help.  The help is a tremendous boost to your own morale and it improves a wretched situation.

Get to know your local community. We know almost  no one and I am sure it has impeded our efforts in getting things cleaned up. All help has been from those in distant places aside from  one neighbor who has brought food, a local business who has allowed us to shower and brought us food and two other people in the community. Having a network of people locally to support you would help a great deal in a disastrous situation.  They can  help find services or  businesses that can offer help or provide services. Word of mouth can go a long way in a small  town. businesses may offer discounts just because you are local or knew one of their friends.  Beyond that, it is nice to have someone local stop in for a chat and give you a break from all the work that must be done. There have been a few days where it would be nice to  just sit  for a spell  and have a conversation. 

Again, thanks to everyone for everything they have done!! You have made a huge difference  in our lives as we go through this process and we will pay it forward as soon as we have the ability.

Cleanup Heroes

After the first few days of rain and cold, we began to rummage through the messes left behind. I went searching for treasure hoping that I would find some things that were not ruined. There was very little salvageable.  Cast iron survived, but that survives anything and with some love and care can be reseasoned and made usable. Beyond that, the only things I found were  a couple  photos of a friends kids, my college diplomas and  a picture of Gumbalina. All had water and fire damage but I was able to save the photo of  the grandbaby.  Aside from these few things, we found one old ceramic bowl,an old oil can and my mortar for  grinding herbs. Of these only the oil can is still usable.  Everything else was beyond use, and for the most part unrecognizable, except for a couple of sweet potatoes that were nicely baked and some of the stored grains that were scattered everywhere.

Manthing has it in his head that he was going to  pick through the  mess by hand and take care of it all. I  thought he was insane  and was not to keen on having to look at the heap day in and day out directly out the front door of the eventual camper. I also knew the mental toll it was going to take on both of us to go through  long and rather agonizing process. I was not looking forward to it at all and just wanted to  call some companies and have it all hauled away even though it would cost a fair bit of money to do so.

And then...

A friend from facebook contacted me and told me that she and her hubby  would like to come down for a couple days and help clean up. She informed me that they  had a bobcat and could  help tear it all down and get it moved. I nearly jumped out of my skin at the thought  and excitement but when I brought it up to   him, he said, "let me think about it!"  Say what??  After a very brief conversation he acquiesced and came to his senses. At about the same  time, another friend sent an urgent message letting us know that she had a camper that  was available and for sale. Things were starting to look better, much better.

Donations and support were coming in from all over. Keep in mind most communication was being done at the library on public computers because me and the smartphone do not have a very friendly relationship. I figured out texting and the facebook app, but  I could not access email or any other website  due to poor internet, and user inability.  Every time we went to the library, I am positive we  not only smelled the place up a fair bit but we looked like blubbering idiots who every time they touched a computer would get emotional,  tear up, use the printer, and leave.

Cleanup begins

The following Monday was a BIG day!  We had the camper scheduled to arrive at about the same time as the folks with the bobcat were coming in. Planning could not have gone better. Just as we were unloading the bobcat,  the camper pulled in, and we made our way  back to the homestead to begin our work.


This is what the place looked like after a day n a half of the bobcat  and some hard work. Words cannot express the gratitude we have for these folks! There is absolutely no way we would be where we are right now in the cleanup process without them. There is no way we will ever be able to repay them for what they have done for us and we will forever be thankful to them.

But wait...

There is more...

They also brought clothes, other things n stuff, and foods too! By lookin at the root cellar, where all of our stored foods SHOULD have  been, one would never know that  every bit of it had just been flame seared and roasted.

WE LOVE YOUS!!!  and  snappy sally too

Thursday, December 11, 2014

the aftermath

The night of the fire was pure craziness.  After the initial adrenalin surge of getting what we could out of the house, it was several hours of standing around looking at the flames, lights and firefighters doing what they do best.  It was chilly n windy out there in my flamboyant night gown and hoodie, and all the crazy lights made me a bit ill to watch it play out but, there wasn't much else to do except bum cigarettes and try to sooth the old dog who was wondering what was happening. The younger pup  had run away from all the action and lights and was at that point missing in action.

   At about 3 am or so we were told that the red cross was at the bottom of the driveway and a fireman told us that he had seen Percival hiding in the woods and that he was indeed ok.  After heading to town and the hotel, we settled in for a few hours of something, though it certainly was not sleep. In the morning we headed back to the homestead to check on the critters and look at the mess.  We were overjoyed to see the  pup greet us and not so overjoyed at the  all the work that laid ahead of us.

Where do you begin? 

The  red cross came and gave us vouchers for a few nights in the hotel and some new clothes or necessities but beyond that, there is no "after fire manual" that they give you. Do you have to call the power company, phone company etc?  Do you have to wait for investigators and such  before touching any of the mess?  What on earth does one do with a ginormous pile of burned rubble and what the hell are we going to do were just a few things running through our minds on top of the big one ... Where oh where do you start cleaning it all up?

 We chose to see if we could find our wallets because it seemed the most logical and easy task on no sleep and freezing cold temperatures!  We did find them... kinda sorta!  Though my purse was totally melted and the wallet was melted closed, I found my id, rewards card for the grocery store and my library card, all slightly melted but intact.  He found his wallet, in not quite so good a shape, and though his license was there, his picture had melted off and our bank cards were melted into a nice, almost legible mess. This too was added to our growing list of what do we do now and we walked away to feed the critters since it was too danged miserable and cold to do much else.

Because it was a weekend, there was little that could really be done in the way of getting things taken care of. We did go to Walmart and begin purchasing clothes, food and other necessities. Little did we know how important  that place would become over the next few weeks and how many trips we would have to make there. Good lord, we humans need and use a lot of stuff! The first week it was daily.  Since we had no cellphone, we had to purchase one and then figure out how to make the thing function. We also began making twice a day  trips to the  homestead to tend the animals, look at the mess, get  upset over it all and leave. We felt horrible for the dogs who had never been left alone for more than a couple hours and who now had no  dry or warm spot for shelter. We opened the door to the cabin and greenhouse for them to get out of the weather, but neither had any interest in those spots, they wanted their porches.

Monday morning came and we could finally begin getting things done. I called the phone company and had the phone shut off. The fire department had already called the power company and had it shut off. I contacted work and let them know I would be out an extended period and that all their equipment (I work from home) had burned up. We went to the library to check in with people, whom we thought had no idea what had happened, only to realize that the entire world, and yes I mean the entire world knew already. Social media is a strange strange thing!

Apparently, the neighbor kid saw flames, some how managed to contact my daughter who made a post about it because she was worriedand wondering what happened to us.  A friend in Australia  happened to look at the fire department page, saw the fire pictures and made a post. Things and stuff spread from there and by the time we made it to let folks know we were still kickin n screamin, we both had approximately 75 messages waiting for us on facebook and threads a mile long on the subject. Though neither of us are overly emotional people, at this point we were both a bit overwhelmed by it all. Here we were fixxin to break the news to the world, but the world was way ahead of us.

Though the red cross  paid for three nights in the hotel, we chose to use part of the voucher for a fourth night there. Not because we wanted to, but because it was in the teens, miserable out, and we were a bit wood stove shy after what had just transpired. We did not want to have to have a roaring fire in the cabin just after having a roaring fire burn the house down and we still did not have much bedding to keep warm.

After the fourth night, we were glad to get back to the homestead even though we had to constantly look at and walk through the mess to get to the cabin. It was much easier on us mentally to be home where our critters and mess was than to be driving back n forth then leaving them. It was easier to make that daily trip to Walmart from home than it was to drive from town, visit home for ten minutes, then go back to town.

During the first few days we also made some big decisions. We decided that it was  the best choice for us to rehome the goats and chickens rather than to keep feeding them as we knew  we were going to have to tend to other things rather than buying feed. The chickens were ready for butcher, and now we had no canner or knives to butcher them with. The goats  were being  used for keeping pasture  down and  providing  fertilizer and that money could be better used elsewhere. 

We also knew that we could not live in the cabin full time and would need a camper or something so that I could get back to work in the near future. The cabin, while nice and suitable for sleeping, is not  able to have electric or internet run to it and space is very limited. Additionally, county codes and such would not allow for such a thing to occur.

The remainder of the first week is pretty much a blur. Every day was filled with town trips, mail runs,  charity store runs, lots of messaging, texting, and phone calls (in a place with little or no reception and a technological idiot trying to do it all), and trying to get settled into the cabin. The chickens were rehomed and the goats were as well. The only thing I do remember is that we were very tired, busy, and rather overwhelmed by it all. Toward the end of the week, however, donations and offers of help began to arrive. A camper was found (it found us) and some friends offered to come help clean up at the beginning of the following week.

 The biggest accomplishment was figuring out  how to text and take a picture on that new fangled phone I had to get. I could not post them anywhere but I knew how to take them and I only  sent a few empty texts to people and gave out wrong email addresses n such to folks a couple of times.

the fire

     Gone in a blaze of glory..  or something like it. 

As we  were getting ready for bed  the dogs began barking alerting us to something going on. As I got up to see what was going on, and thinking it may have been a bear in the area,  I smelled smoke and  alerted the manthing.  He got up and went outside and yelled to me to grab the fire extinguisher, axe, and water.  We quickly realized the fire was bigger than we could deal with, called the fire department and began grabbing what we could to throw in the truck.  We were able to grab the chainsaws, guns, tobacco, the safe, and a couple drawers of clothes before the flames were enough to stop us from going back in.  Manthing moved the small truck away from the fire and we  ran back to the house to  pull the water pump and  water tank from the back of the big truck  before it burned/melted. By this time, the  house was fully engulfed so he went down to lead the fire trucks in and I went to watch the flamage from a safe distance.

In all, 14 units responded to the fire. The forest service was called in to keep the fire from going into the forest behind the shack, and eventually, to get a fire truck unstuck.  The house was a complete loss  but we were fine as were all the critters, except the unidentified one we later found down in a cinder block. The only items we were able to salvage were ones we snagged on our way out, a couple photos, and our cast iron (needing some major reseasoning).  The fire was of undetermined origin though it   involved the wood stove. It was not a chimney fire but  the fire somehow got out of the chimney and into the wall of the house.

Lessons Learned
 Don't depend on your smoke/fire alarm!  Ours did not go off, even though it was less than three months old, until the doors had burned off the bedroom and it was within 5 foot of where the fire started.

Pay attention to your dogs! They may be dumb as bricks but they know when something is not right and will alert you to it!

You can plan and plot a million times in your head how you will react to something catastrophic happening. How it plays out will not be as you have plotted as your mind does  some crazy things. We grabbed what was quick and easy to grab and what had most value to us as homesteaders. We somehow managed to completely forget about our wallets and identification. They are a pain to get replaced!

 If  you live in the backwoods, expect the place to be beyond salvage by the time the fire department gets there. We did know this and our major concern was catching the entre national forest behind us on fire.

Don't become lax!!! If you have a root cellar, USE IT! If you have a second place you could live in, store clothes, bedding and some food there.  Don't keep all of your eggs in one basket. Had we not become complacent, lazy, and comfortable we would be much better off!  We would not have lost every stitch of clothing, bedding, preserved foods and such that we had. I will  go into this on a deeper level in a different post in the future because it deserves much more than this little blurb.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

a very long hiatus...

After a very long hiatus, I am back. Life happened over the last couple few years and  priorities had to change a wee bit. The manthing fell at work and was quite injured so I had to pick up slack and go back to work on top of finishing school leaving me with little spare time. I finished school this past June and am/was still working full time up until recently.  Additionally, I was feeling that there was little new to add to the blog, so why  rehash everything that had already been written. We were still homesteading and doing everything, it just was not written about.

Well... life threw us another curve on November 15 and the shack burnt to the ground along with everything in it.  Though we are fine and will continue on, it means another big change or group of changes we are  going to be dealing with. For the near future, the blog will serve as a forum for me to share what we have gone through, what we will continue to go through for some time, lessons we have learned from it all, and what we are doing/changing to  make advancements in  our chosen lifestyle while  rebuilding and continuing on.

 This will not be a woe is me or pity me project but one that instead focuses on changing and growing through  our experience  in a way that hopefully can be inspirational  and/or helpful to others  that find themselves in  a situation where all hope could be lost..

To be entirely honest...thus far,  this has been one of the most beautiful experiences I have ever had and will continue to have for a while, even through the hardship of it all.