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.