Le scoop

We found a house! But then, due to a odd confluence of events, our bid was canceled. Oh, and the house we are living in has been sold, and we will be out by the 15th of June… Yes, a bit sad and a little more scary, but it is not like we have not done this type of thing before.

So, the house that got away? It was a HUD house (Housing and Urban Development – US Gov.) that was being managed by a law firm. That law firm was transferring responsibility to a new law firm on the 15th, so all accepted bid *must* be under contract by that time or be canceled. Well… our agent is a real nice lady, and is not too pushy, and is nice to be around. Unfortunately, those traits that make her an enjoyable person do not translate into being a good real estate agent. The bids were chronically late (but accepted anyway), and when it came down to filling out the forms to the government agency’s (and law firm’s) liking, she just didn’t cut it. So, the bidding starts over. The problem is, the new firm has not provided a way to make bids yet. They have also added additional hoops for agents to jump through. So we will go on vacation, and see where things are when we get back. It is likely to still be available, so we can just pick up where we let off.

Yes, there was some wailing, and even some gnashing of teeth.

The folks who are buying this house (from what the Realtor tells us) are a young Christian family. They home school their 2 girls (8 and 12). That makes us happy.

New! Expresso!

Normally I don’t buy new things. Goodwill, St. Vincent du Paul, and eBay are our primary suppliers for most non-food goods. Our first coffee maker here was a hand-me-down from B’s parents, but we bought another at a garage sale for $2.50. Sure it needed a bungie to keep the basket in place, but it still worked fine for a while. Eventually that one quit (problem with the electronics) and I did some research into good drip coffee makers. The Presto Scandinavian Design coffee maker had great reviews for a cheap model, looked nice, and could be found on eBay for less than $40. So we ordered a used one. It did make great coffee, but it also quit (problem with the electronics). So, I again found myself faced with looking for another coffee maker. Presto is not making that model any longer, and any that I can find for sale online are going for ~$80. Nah. So I looked at espresso makers. Too expensive for all the upkeep. What I really wanted was a coffee maker that did not have those faulty electronics…

The

So I bought a brand new Bialetti Moka Express pot. It does not need electricity, it makes a nice smooth espresso, can be easily used while traveling/camping, and is not likely to fail for a long long time. Why new? No one was getting rid of them on eBay for cheap.

Now I just need a turkish hand grinder and I will be all set.

The chase begins

So we were hunting, and after offers on 2 other houses, we made one that stuck. We found a place that is 3 miles from work, on 6 acres, with a 1700 sq. foot (manufactured) house w/ 3 bedrooms. It also has a 1400 sq. foot pole barn that has one half finished (wired, insulated, etc.) We are excited! Our closing date is the 18th of June.

As anyone knows who has bought house, this is just the beginning of a long tiring process. We are thankful for the two week reprieve we will be taking in the UP (Upper Peninsula). Then, back to chasing papers, packing, flipping out, and finally, more work. It will be rewarding in the end, but it still seems a little ways off.

Round and round the rugged rock…

This little guy was running laps around the perimeter of the yo-yo, taking an occasional break to catch his breath. We seriously watched him run 10 laps, but that was 10 minutes after first noticing that he was making his way around the toy. He did maybe 30-40 total before getting tired and heading for the grass…

Why would we ever want a TV?

Hunting

Well, we are on the lookout for a house. It is time we stopped renting and bought a place of our own. So, how do super frugal folk go about deciding to jump into 30 years of debt? Very carefully, and with lots of stress. So here is what we are looking for:

  • Someplace close to work. When we say close, we mean less than a 10 minute drive, and possibly close enough to walk.
  • Somewhere with ready access to nature. When you are homeschooling, a cramped house on a tiny city lot is not exactly conducive to continuing the effort. This would also allow for a much more open science curriculum.
  • Somewhere with a bit of space. We would love to raise some animals, specifically goats, rabbits and chickens. That type of living requires a little bit of space (I am thinking >0.5 acre).
  • Someplace for less than 100k. I am not making plans for my salary to increase, B should not *have* to work, and a low mortgage would provide for a flexible living standard. Like I said, super frugal.

The interesting thing is, we might be able to do it. The real estate market is dropping here, and everywhere you drive there are signs. It is a pretty good time for us to buy. The other circumstances that signal that our time is at hand is the sale of the house we are in. It has been a great place to live, and I am content with the time we have spent here. It has given our kids some roots, and opened them up to the joys of nature. It has connected them with their grandpa and his history. They will remember.

This was also the house we lived in for the first six months of married life, and the house that little A came home to after she was born almost 12 years ago. It makes me happy that my entire family has been here, to share this place with us.

Holiday pastime

B won

Whenever we get together with Michigan family these days, we play games after dinner. Usually a game of Catan, followed by a game of Bohnanza. Every once in a while we throw in some Card-Head (a common game with a altered name to make it kid-friendly).

We are an interesting mix of competitive women and relaxed non-competitive men (with the exception of B’s parents who seem to be the reverse). This time the Center Shacks beat down the rest. It’s ok, we will give them plenty more chances to not lose.

Extract of coffee

I have added some coffee pages to the site, and you can find them up at the top. I have gotten a little more serious about coffee lately… Not really drinking more of it, but as the weather warms, I am thinking about building a better roaster. I have begun collecting for the spring (since there happens to be a bit of good coffee available right now), and I am looking forward to experimenting with new roast methods.

That is all… go to the coffee pages.

Sugaring

During the first winter back here in Michigan, soon after receiving and buying several self-sufficiency books about homesteading, we wondered if the two maples trees in the front were sugar maples. It is easiest to tell when they have leaves, so we waited till summer to find out. Sure enough, they were. But then we learned that the best time for sugaring (getting th’ sap outa them trees) is late winter or early spring. The next winter we plumb forgot until we noticed the squirrels licking the underside of the branches and we wondered why. By that time, the sap was really flowing and we were still unsure of ourselves and did not have any of the equipment. So, we waited another year.

Sqirrel junky, gettin' his fix

This time, as soon as we heard that the temperatures were going to be in the 40s during the day, and below freezing at night, we went into action. B took the kids up to a sugaring supply place north of here, and last Saturday I tapped the tree. I drilled it with a bit that looked like it would be the closest fit for the tap size, about 2 inches in. We read that if the sap is already flowing (testified by the wet turnings from the drill) you can take it 2 inches deep. I pounded the tap in with a hammer, and it broke off, flush with the bark of the tree. So now I had a hole with a metal plug, which also had a hole, with maple sap streaming out. I used a few BBQ sticks to plug it, and drilled another up and to the right of the first. This time I was a little gentler with the tap and it held. We hung up the sap bucket, put on the lid and let it drip.

Here we are, 'sploitn' nature

We did have some very warm days, and during that time the sap flow was slow. Recently the weather has been perfect, and yesterday I harvested over a gallon of sap from a single 12 hour period. Today looks like it will be perfect too, as will the next 5.

Today we decided to cook down our first batch (1 1/3 gal.), and within a few hours we had around 12 oz. of golden red syrup. This being our first time sugaring, we did not bother to filter the syrup afterward, so it is still a little cloudy. The next few batches I will experiment with filtering. We also don’t have either a candy thermometer, or a refractometer to determine precisely when the syrup is ready. The sap is 2% sugar when it comes out of the tree, and the syrup should end up being between 66% and 67%. Below 66% and the syrup will not keep, above 67% and it will start crystallizing. So, we will see how long ours lasts. I vaguely remember a part in the Little House on the Prairie books where they threw some in the snow to see if it was ready… there may have been other details that would help, but I will have to go look them up.

Yo ho ho and a bottle

This seasonal food thing is great. Now starts all the spring planning of the gardens. I think that this year we will have a bean-tepee…

Raw and final