day 3: connected

We’ve got two things to share today. 

1. Yesterday Bryan cleaned the creosote buildup out of the chimney pipes. We had known for a month that it was time to do this, but it wasn’t until today that we had the time. Here is why the fires were hard to start and it smoked when opened no matter how open the temperature and flue were:







2. We now have a deck connecting the yurt and the a-frame. I can walk from the yurt to the bathroom in my slippers (or socks!). Have I mentioned how awesome my man is?



no one said it would be easy

Establishing our utilities at the ranch hasn’t always been easy. I’ve described a few times where things went haywire. This week, a slow subbing week, we’ve run out of water completely because our line froze again on the one day I have worked this week.

Now, I mentioned that we had a frozen line about a week ago. Over the weekend Bryan spent nearly a whole day dealing with the water line, digging a two foot trench for it. I insulated the line and we covered it back up. We added a shut off valve and a drain right outside the cabin so that section above ground can’t freeze. Success! Then when we flushed the line, we accidentally left the line facing up at the end, allowing it to keep water in it and it froze. Suffice it to say, there was a lot of swearing when we discovered that our water was out and we had no way to replenish it. We had a little crisis mode there, but we’ve problem solved once again. We had to cut that section off and bring it inside to thaw. It was full of ice. So yesterday after school we reattached it and pumped water, just in time to do all the dishes from the previous day and cook a meal for friends we had invited over!

Now I think we’ve got the system down. When we need to pump, I turn the shut off valve off outside the cabin, go down to the creek, put the line in the water (which is now covered with a perforated water bottle with a sock over it to cut down the debris the filter has to work out) and set the switches to pumping formation and turn the water on. Then I wait until it is mostly full (we know just the spot), walk down to the creek and remove the line from the water, letting it pump the remaining water out of the line. Then we turn both shut off valves on so both above-ground sections drain any remaining water. Now we have water again, which we need because we INSTALLED A REGULAR TOILET.

It’s a Niagara Stealth low flow toilet. It uses less than a gallon of water per flush (.8gpf) and works great! Bryan is much-relieved that he will no longer have to lift the composter out of the cabin and deal with it.

In other news, we hosted our largest get together at the homestead yet last weekend. We had 3 adults over (as opposed to Elsa, Matt, and their little guy). We only have four plates and four forks here,  but we had a nice meal and had a good time bullshitting around the fire. This week I added some coat hooks in the yurt and am working on adding shelves to the a-frame walls. I also added hooks to the back of the cubby for hanging gloves and hats in the next few months.


DSC_0020We also had some generator trouble on Monday, requiring Bryan to work on the wiring a little. Evidently some water got into the outside gfci box, so the generator wasn’t powering anything in the buildings. He worked his magic and we were up and running in less than an hour. It’s pretty impressive how much he has mastered all the electric stuff that he was a little intimidated by a few months ago!


So, I’m currently writing an overall explanation of our off grid setup for people who are interested, but I have some other updates for you too. As you likely read, the building inspector insisted that we put in a septic system (tank and drain field) despite the fact that all it will process is gray water (so not sewage). We considered doing this ourselves, but with renting the equipment and the time it would take away from vital chores like putting away wood for the winter, we didn’t think that was feasible. With tremendous help, we were able to hire the guy who fixed up our driveway to put in the tank and the field.

We pulled out our mini-septic that I posted pictures about back in September, put in bigger pipe to the tank, and then he came back and put in the field.

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I was really upset that putting in a 20×30 field would be an eyesore and would require us to cut down one of the most beautiful maples on the land. I went to the health department to ask if they would let us just use the tank and pump it out and they said no. They did let us put in a smaller drain field, allowing us to save all but two small trees. So, as of late October, we have a functioning septic system. The health department also said that since we violated the composting toilet permit by putting in plumbing, we have to remove our composting toilet. Bryan is not exactly as in love with the composting toilet as I am, so he might not be as disappointed that we just ordered a regular toilet. We could have saved $900 by doing that in the first place, but we thought getting a permit meant we could always have it. No such luck! If you ask me, it’s all really silly that I can’t do what I want (responsibly) with my own shit (literally and figuratively), but we’re trying to be good little citizens and comply. We ordered a super low flow toilet (it only uses .8 gallons per flush), so that we won’t have to pump water every five minutes in order to have a toilet.

We’ve been sleeping on the futon for about a week because our air mattress bed popped it’s seams, creating a gigantic bubble that was impossible to sleep around! We’re waiting anxiously for the company to ship the new bed, which is much better on my back than our fancy mattress at home… DSC_0017

This weekend Bryan put up a lot of wood and we added the heater to the yurt. DSC_0022



DSC_0027We also took a bike ride, took in the mega waves on The Big Lake at McClain State Park, and watched with horror as Nitsa threw herself into the the very cold water because it’s so fun! It’s hilarious watching her come up over the sand dunes along Superior’s shores. She’s a bit like my mom in that there is really no place she’d rather be than near Lake Superior. You can imagine both of their levels of excitement ratcheting up as they gear up for our Christmas vacation on the big lake. My mom, John, and my grandma are renting a cottage on Superior near here over Christmas, so we’ll have a happy Nitsa for sure.

Anyway, if you think we’ve been working nonstop, you’re slightly wrong. Last weekend we had a delicious thanksgiving dinner with friends and I almost squealed out loud when it was revealed what we were eating. It was de.lic.ious. There is really nothing better than everything served for Thanksgiving dinner. We also went to listen to music at a little venue in town with friends and have discovered that while Blockbuster has gone under, not so for the Family Video store in Houghton. I laughed when I first saw it, but now I’ve discovered that I can rent two new releases for $1.30. Yeah, it’s ridiculous. And you get to keep them for days! We had one of Bryan’s math homies over for dinner last week and since he’s from Turkey, this was literally the first time he had ever been in the same room with pets. People (other than very few elite families) just don’t have pets. That’s hard to imagine having grown up here. You probably can’t make it to two here without  meeting someone’s pet! In typical Freyberg pet fashion, none of our pets imagined that he wasn’t there specifically to meet them, so Xena went straight to his lap when he sat down and the dogs insisted that he throw toys for them. I guess that’s one way to introduce someone new! :-)

I know I posted on winter’s arrival already, but until today, not much of the white stuff stuck. This morning I woke up to a couple inches of snow dusting everything and a slippery drive to drop Bryguy off at school. It sure makes the homestead look magical. It also reminds me of the fact that we have no shovels, snow plow, or snow blower yet… Time to make some decisions!