Sunday, September 14, 2014

The season's first fire

Autumn has settled in with a vengeance this week, with temperatures in the 40s during daytime.  This is too cold for Owain and Ceredwyn, so we lit our first fire of the season.

That was wood from last winter, and it burned well in the kitchen stove.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Summer fled this morning

Today is chilly.  It was about 40°F when I got up, rising to 47°F by 8:30 am.
This is autumn's first major swipe at summer.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Today's little harvest

Ceredwyn snagged some cucumbers from our gardens today, along with a bunch of blackberries.

Cucumbers have proven a reliable crop over the past few years.  Blackberries are relatively new for us; we experimented with cultivating them this year.

Monday, August 25, 2014

One day's small harvest

It's been too long since we blogged here.  Time to remedy that.

Now it's August and summer is upon the cusp of autumn.  So harvesting is in the air.

For example, Ceredwyn plucked these from one of our plots today:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Working on structures

Today Ceredwyn and I worked on two very light structures.

First, we finished building a Shelterlogic tent/shed.  This is going to house some of our wood supply.

Ceredwyn and Owain had done a lot of work already: cleaning the ground, connecting metal pieces, assembling the skeleton, balancing and rebalancing the legs.  So yesterday my wife and I threw a gigantic, heavy tarp over the framework, and secured it in place.  We raked out the new floor and set down a huge plastic ground sheet.  Next to come: wooden pallets and, well, wood.
Our house is off to the left.

Second, we worked on the chicken coop.  It's still suffering from last year's bear attacks (June, July; story), which skewed the cattle-panel framework, collapsed an interior support, and shredded some outer perimeter chicken wire fences.  I stood inside and used my back to lift up the roof, then shoved a beam into place to hold it a little higher up. Ceredwyn and I put up a tarp and cleaned up eggs old and new.

Then, just outside the chicken enclosure, we found a surprise next with eggs:
I don't know how the hen found those cinder blocks comfortable, but she must have.

Every chance we get in summer - when we have a little work downtime, when we're healthy, when it's not raining - we work outside.  It's usually this mix of making something new, while maintaining something else.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Accidental COO

It's been a year since we opened Bryan Alexander Consulting, LLC. The business went live on June 1st, 2013. So, I thought I'd write a little bit about how that's been going.

We had been planning on opening a consulting business for a while, but the timing was somewhat involuntary. Bryan's departure from his last position, although amicable, was abrupt. We had about a month to put together a working business plan.

Fortunately, this was not completely foreign territory for me. As I said, Bryan and I have been looking at this for some time. With the help of various friends and allies, I wrote the operating agreement, obtained tax ID numbers, insurance of various kinds, business licenses, accounts etc. I searched for and hired an accountant who steered us through the minutia of tax regulations.

Bryan and I delved into books on business how-to's and the nuts and bolts of running a consulting firm. We decided that the name should be Bryan Alexander Consulting due to his name recognition as opposed to the more inclusive but not nearly as recognizable Alexander Consulting.

This has been a little tricky for me, as it has led some people to infer that the business is only Bryan's, however that's been the only downside. The fact is, he sets up his gigs, and does the actual speaking and consulting and I pretty much do everything else. The brand recognition more than makes up for the occasional misunderstanding.

From about June of last year, to the 15th of May, I have been insanely busy. I have had many days that start with 7:30 AM meetings and finish with 8:00PM meetings. Last summer, I took two online business accounting courses to update my skills.  I also took the opportunity to take some of the workshops offered to business owners through the state of Vermont.

Our date nights now consist of going to a coffee shop with our computers, syncing calenders, going over profit and loss statements, and discussing cash flow. Then we still have one child in High School and the other taking classes at the local community college.

In January, I designed and taught a class for Emergency Medical Responders that ran until May. It was well received and teaching EMS classes will likely be another income stream for BAC.

The homesteading mindset has been a huge help throughout these challenges. I always say we're not preparing for the end of THE world, just OUR world. The deep panttry and minimal credit card debt were a real boon; because we had planned for contingencies that might disrupt our income, we were able to start-up BAC with minimal disruption to our lifestyle.

I have had a few people ask me if running a business with my husband affects my marriage. I have to say that it only affects it in a good way. Working for ourselves takes a lot of the tension out of making a living. Now we know our time and talent is going towards our own enrichment, both literally and figuratively.

Going from full time SAHM and homesteader to business owner has had some bumps. We have had some of the "Mom now has a job" adjustments within the family and I have lost at least one friend because she took my sudden unavailability very personally. I find that casual acquaintances reacting more favorably to me is uncomfortable too--it shows how badly thought of stay-at-home moms are. Suddenly, I am a person of credibility because I am doing this for money?

In truth, my job as Chief Operating Officer of BAC and my job as homesteader and mom are pretty much the same. I make sure the bills are paid and that the day to day stuff is taken care of. I keep calenders straight and run the reports. I continue to do my jobs with the Fire Department. I fix the plumbing, make sure the car fleet (we now have 2 cars, so that's a fleet for us) is maintained, maintain supply inventories, and anything else that needs doing.

Last weekend, the projects were planting and chicken coops, on Monday it was insurance and mileage statements. Nothing new here, just more of it.

Here's a video of Bryan talking to Cliff at CNI this year. It's long, but worth a listen if you're into technology and the future.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Working the land on the first of June

Today's the first day of June, a gorgeously sunny Sunday. We basked in the light and warmth, then set to work.

Here's a sampler of our homesteading practice at this time of year:

Bryan hauled some of last year's wood to the house and chopped up the bigger pieces.  Some chunks were already sized for the stove, but others were too broad and needed splitting down into the proper shape.  The results were stacked inside the house, ready to dry in the dehumidified basement over the summer and fall.

A new ax.
He also collected scraps of birch bark, fallen from trees.  These dry during the summer, in order to be stored as excellent winter kindling.

Ceredwyn planted pole beans.  It's finally warm enough to allow this.  She planted the beans, along with a sample of the three sisters, all under a tent to protect them from possibly chilly nights:

Bryan re-dug part of the driveway drainage ditch. He does this every year, repairing damages from winter (mostly trucks crushing it) and clearing out silt from spring rain.  It's about 3/4ths complete at this point, able to catch most rain overflow from the upper part of our land.

Such sunlight allowed us to hang two big loads of laundry.  We've never owned a clothes drier here, preferring to let the sun do its work (or the wood-burning stoves, in winter).  But a week of dismal skies slowed down the rates of clothes drying.

We also cleared up a blackberry patch, staking brambles to get them visible and off the ground.  Hopefully they'll yield more fruit this fall.

To sum up: maintenance, planting, housework, wood processing, all in glorious sunlight.