Monday, November 25, 2013

Restored from the Ashes

For weeks my trusty pair of Doc Martens have been lying around like a discarded old pair of shop rags. Crusty and smelly from their last adventure inside our house after it burned to the ground. You may recall my triumphant post exclaiming that I found Wifey's wedding ring among the ashes the morning after the fire.

I wore my Docs on the hunt that morning for one reason: it's what I had on when the house burned down. Typically I wore these sturdy, leather boots with my favorite pair of jeans. With an added Dr Sholes insole, they were like walking on pillows and I could wear them all day. The sturdy brown leather withstood just about everything I could throw at them. Everything except...

The ash and debris was piled above my ankles as I slogged through the remains of our home. The firemen had hosed the house down with so much water that parts of the house had deep puddles of water and sludge. Insulation could be seen bobbing up and down in the living room. It was here that I took my Docs to battle.

Wifey knew that her wedding ring was in her jewelry case in the southeast corner of the bedroom. I entered through the bedroom window, careful not to step on any of the exposed nails.  Using downed two by fours of wood as a walkway through the sludge, I made my way to the corner of the room.  My shoes were ankle deep in the sludge as I began to dig around for the ring.

Thirty minutes later, a blackened metal circle could be seen in a pile of unidentifiable rubble. A few strokes with my now blackened fingers and I could make out the shape of her trillion diamonds. With a tear in my eye, most likely from the chemical smell in the house, I made my way out of the house.

I returned to the neighbor's home where we were graciously being allowed to stay a few days. After sharing the good news with Wifey, I kicked off the ash encrusted boots towards an outside wall of the house. They stayed there for two weeks until we moved to a different guest house. Again I brought them along, awaiting the day I could attempt to restore them to their prior glory.

Today was that day. It started with a warm water bath and soap scrub in my old blue igloo ice chest.  The soot quickly turned the water black but progress was being made.  After a thorough wash, the damage could be more clearly seen. The moisture has been sucked right out of several areas on the boots: toe, tongue and heel side.

A long hand bath in Obenauf's and they look remarkably better. I handworked the substance into every nook and cranny until even my hands were shiny. I placed them in the laundry room to spend the rest of the evening soaking up the moisture. I'm sure they'll get another coat tomorrow and look near brand new. I have a small tin of Kiwi brown polish awaiting any necessary touch ups.

Any time that I can, I like to renew something old rather than run out and buy something new like so many folks seem to do these days. Once I get them back into shape, I'll wear them with pride knowing that they made it through our house fire...just like I did.


PS, I did a YouTube video on this too.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Homestead Reboot

Home Sweet Home (with Solar!)
Now that the house fire is behind us and we've moved into a new home, things are slowly returning to normal. The house (and two storage sheds) are still full of trash bags and boxes that need to be sorted into the KEEP and DON'T KEEP piles. Then the KEEP piles need to be organized and put away so that they can be found again in a reasonable amount of time.

One of the most frustrating things about starting over like we are doing is that we can't find most of the things we need without going on an all-out manhunt. Think about it. Where do you put your car keys when you get home? On a wall hook? A special dish or bowl? I haven't picked a "special key place" yet and have already lost dozens of minutes looking for my keys after laying them down somewhere.

With my attention no longer focused on "where are we sleeping tonight" or " what are we wearing tomorrow," Wifey and I have began to reorganize everything and realize that we are starting over on just about everything. I now have the opportunity to REBOOT my HOMESTEAD from the ground up.

I have to reboot my bills:

  • How can I tweak my electric bill to get it as low as possible? Water, propane?
  • I'll be able to capture WAY more rainwater up here than in the Phoenix desert. That should help keep the water bill lower.
  • I've learned how to use my unlimited data plan on my cell phone to provide internet throughout the house. No more internet bill.
  • My rent now is $100 per month less than it was at the last house.
I have to reboot my food supply:

  • We now have a greenhouse, left by the landlord, and intend on attempting aquaponics year-round with the help of solar power water pumps and thermal mass for heat distribution.
  • We have to completely start our gardens over from scratch. The ground needs tilling, manure added and we inherited a nice composter just itching to be filled with organics.  Our growing season has been greatly reduced by moving up north.
  • Our food storage took a big hit. First from a field mouse that got through our cardboard boxes AND mylar bags. Second hit from the fire.
I have to reboot my weaponry:

  • Many weapons and ammunitions were lost in the fire but a few survived. I will have to replace my big game rifle and handguns.
  • Ammo is still on the expensive side so restocking it will take some time.
  • I've been reduced to a few knives.
  • I'd love to finally learn to reload. Now might be a good time.
  • Bow hunting is HUGE is this neck of the woods. I'll need to study up on bows before making a purchase.
I have to reboot my transportation:

  • Both our 2001 Suburban (paid cash) and 2006 Orange Jeep Wrangler ($300/mo payment) were totaled in the fire by our insurance company. As of right now, we have NO car payment. 
  • Do we want to pay cash for some low end beaters? Can we get by with one car?
  • Lots of people up here walk and ride bicycles. Could we adapt to that culture?

You get the idea. Starting with a clean slate and mixing that with the years of experience of which equipment/clothing/tools work best for the job means I can minimize mistakes made by purchasing cheap/subpar/inadequate supplies. Having ordered so many things from Amazon since 2006, I can easily peruse my purchase history and reorder the items that will be long lasting and provide the most use while skipping over the shoddy craftsmanship of some things I THOUGHT would be good purchases.

Haven't seen the chicks in almost a month.
So this will be my new mantra on this blog. Rebooting a homestead from the ground up and sharing my experience/knowledge with all of you. I'll do product reviews on the items I add back into our inventory and tell you why I purchased it. This should prove, over time, to be a great resource to revert back to should you or I ever need to reboot  again. Everyone reboots at some point. It's my turn...and I'll share the experience with you.


Upcoming reboots:

  • Our baby chicks (one week old at the time of the fire) have been cared for by a neighbor. My landlord donated her chicken coop to us but it only holds up to four chickens. I will use my Havahart electric fence, some t-posts and horse wire to expand a larger run for them.
  • Our ten 55 gallon water barrels are all empty from the move. One side of the house has rain gutters and I can easily divert rain water into the barrels. But first, I want to build a rack system, plumb the barrels together with pvc and then began capturing water. Eventually I will run drip lines from the barrels to the gardens.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Move-in Day!

Home Sweet Home
Move-in day is finally here! We have found a nice little country style home that I am very excited about. It will be our first second story home but I can clearly use more exercise, right?  It's just about the same size as the last house and still sits on a lovely 2.5 acres of property.  This time, however, we are surrounded by huge pine trees instead of being out in the open on a hillside.

As of last night, our garage is now filled with donations. Later today, another load will be delivered containing what was left from our previous residence that did not get burned. Following that will be a uHaul truck from three hours south of us filled with donations from the neighbors and friends were we lived for thirteen years before moving to northern Arizona. We are truly blessed and it cannot be denied.

Garage full of donations
I finally have a laptop with which I can write posts for this blog. Google's Blogger app for Droid is certainly useable in a pinch or on the go but it is tortuous at best to add multiple pictures to a post. We have no internet still but I've become quite adept at turning my Droid cell phone into a hotspot and using it as a wifi connection. Thank you FoxFi!

The community support, both local and internet, has been overwhelming. The folks at the UPS store (where I purchased my post office box) know who I am as soon as I walk through the door. "You have several packages today," they'll announce with a smile. I intend on posting a Thank You list to all commercial businesses that have helped us out in an effort to give them the props they deserve. I'll observe the many individual requests for people asking to stay anonymous as well. I got a chuckle every time I opened a package and found a note inside which read "The return address on the label of this package is ficticious."

The second-hand safe is now a member of our family
A very special shout out goes to Cody (owner of the Wranglerstar channel, see his tribute video to our family here) on YouTube and JW Rawles (owner of Their internet campaigns have proven extremely helpful in many ways. Also to my friends back in Mesa in our old church ward who have shown unbelievable kindness. My buddy Brandon is busy trying to sell our old house. He has arranged new carpet, done drywall repairs (with Dathan's help) and painted. There are so many friends who have turned this tragedy into a miracle that I have to use the old cliche "I can't possibly remember them all." Our new friends and church members up north have been a godsend as well both in helping us move, giving us shelter and donations.

We will, no doubt, be moving all through the weekend. I suspect that by Sunday night we'll have a good idea of what we have and don't have. Up until this point, we put most donations into a (donated) storage unit so that we didn't crowd the gracious local families that have given us shelter. This left us in the dark as to what we really have and what we have lost. People still ask me what we need. I have to answer that I honestly don't know yet.

A "full over full" bunkbed with a full-sized trundle
The children are all doing well. Things were awkward at first. Schoolmates were silent as I suspect that they just didn't quite know what to say. That has changed for the most part now. Tomorrow (Saturday) will be our three week anniversary of the house fire. I should mention that it has helped tremendously to receive all the wonderful toys and clothing. The dolls, horses, hair doodads etc has kept the girls in their normal girlie routine.

The rest of the family has voted to stay one last night with our guest family. I am siting at our donated kitchen table listening to the buzz of a cordless drill upstairs. Mr. BunkBed, who seems to have a successful home-based business with his wife, is upstairs putting together two custom bunk beds for my girls. He not only offered to help us out, he also drove two hours to get here AND is assembling everything. When I say we are blessed, you have no idea. I hope I can explain it for you in the upcoming blog posts.

The local mattress store also helped us with our five full mattresses and king mattress set. I bought five nice pillows from him to thank him for helping and he impressed me again. He threw in a full body pillow. This small town and it's people are truly amazing. Generally, that's true for most small towns as I'm sure those of you living in such are aware.

I won't be able to thank every single person who has helped us (several anonymous gifts) but I am here to tell you that this family loves every one of you and I have no doubts that God will bless each and every one of you for your good deeds. 

~one humble Orange Jeep Dad (who is still searching for an Orange Jeep)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Goodies in the Mail! - Thank You!

Stopped by my post office box at lunchtime and look what I found! Thank you all so much. It means so much to me and my family. I have to hurry back to work now but will post more later thank you!


Sent from my Verizon Droid phone

Friday, November 1, 2013

Invited to Join the YouTube Partner Program Today!

We've almost made it to Partner!
Update: Nevermind. I appear to have been duped. Like I really need false hopes right now :-(

Thanks to everyone for pointing out this false letter.

I got an email today inviting me to join the YouTube Partner Program! This means, if I am accepted, the videos I make to compliment my blog could begin to earn me revenue by working from home. As I strive to be self sufficient, creating an income stream that I earn from home goes a long way towards our goals.

How you can help:

My invitation says that, upon completion of the application, they will review my YouTube Channel. If I meet their requirements of 200 views PER DAY, I am accepted and can start generating income from my videos.

If you have time, please visit my YouTube Channel and load as many of my videos as you can stand to watch ;-)

Of course, I can't make any more videos until I get a new computer but hopefully that won't take too much longer. Thanks again to everyone who has already helped us with donations! We love you all!