FAST Blog: Family Homestead

Permaculture, Preparedness, Homesteading & Survival

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Sunday Catch Up

I feel that recently I haven't been able to keep up with everything that's been going on, so hopefully this can catch everyone up.

We've all had the biggest relief in the world, the house in the UK FINALLY completed last week so our six months in limbo is finally over and we can get on with creating our dream homestead!

Massive thank you to all of our friends in blogland that have given us their support and encouragement when we were drowning in despair. Now that it's all over there is such a feeling of victory that I cannot help but share this picture of our little Prince Charming:

VICTORY!!!  Our Knight in Shining Armour
We've been up to our usual tricks behind the scenes as always, there's been plenty of making, baking, growing and sewing going on. Here's a money shot of the latest batch of home brewed cider, you can find the method we use HERE:

Home Brewed Hard Cider
And here's a photo I LOVE! Homemade Red Cabbage, Homemade Sauerkraut, Homebrewed Hard cider and last but certainly not least Carly's 18hr Slow Roast Pulled Pork! We don't very often eat meat as we try to stick to a mostly plant-based natural diet, but when we do have it we make sure it is something special!

Homemade Pulled Pork, Homemade Sauerkraut, Homemade Red Cabbage and Homebrew Hard Cider

Logan has been helping me to decorate my Gardener's Journal with some adorable bumblebee stamps that he got for xmas

Bumblebee Stamp

I'm so impatient I couldn't help myself, we've been sowing some seeds ahead of the growing season so pretty much all of the available space on the windowsills is occupied now, here's a few of the things we have sown so far in January:

Carnations, Tomatoes, Sweet Pea, Aubergine, Cauliflower and Cabbage
Our Spanish neighbours gave us a large potted plant and said that I needed to keep it out of the frost at night, it took a little while for me to figure out what it was but after a bit of investigation we finally got over the language barrier, this is a Margarita Blanca, Giant White Daisy

Margarita Blanca - Giant White Daisy
And lastly, something a little out of the ordinary, whilst clearing out and tidying up the Community Garden Corral I found a tiny little kitten skull, seems the poor little thing had fallen between the stacks of pallets and couldn't get out. All that was left was a perfectly preserved skeleton and a tuft of bright orange fur :(

Kitten Skull

I'll keep you all updated with the progress on the land, 2017 is going to be an amazing adventure!
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Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Kev at An English Homestead

Most of my readers will already know Kev Alviti over at An English Homestead, if you don't you should definitely check him out.

I have always had a lot of respect for Mr Alviti, his blog was one of the first blogs I ever followed when I wasn't even really sure what a blog was!
When we were just starting out on our journey I used to read Kev's blog and think "what an awesome bloke" He grows, he rears livestock, he is an amazing father to his children and shared similar views to me on almost everything.

One of the things I love most about the blogging community is that it allows me to connect with amazing people all over the world that I might never have met in the real world. Over time me and Kev have become great friends and he has sent me gifts in the past, and was my first choice when we started to Showcase Badass Dads on my other site (great article if you haven't read it yet).

Today the postman dropped off another gift from Kev, sent for no other reason than he is such a genuinely nice guy. It contained a variety of seeds and a brilliant vintage book on growing apples that I cannot wait to get stuck in to now.

Great Gift from Kev at An English Homestead

The seeds he has sent us in those awesome stamped envelopes were Chilli Peppers, Parsnips, Chives, Coriander, Electric Daisy and Achocha so hopefully I can get them all growing over at the Corral Community Garden Project this year.

So once again Thank You Kev, you are a true gent and as soon as we are all set up on the land I can't wait for you and the family to come and visit us out in the sunny Spanish mountains!

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Sunday, 22 January 2017

Community Corral

As I mentioned last week in the Deliverance post, our Spanish neighbors have given us their Corral to use to raise some chickens and grow our own whilst we are in the process of building our own homestead.

View of the corral from the gate

Logan helping to clean up

The Corral
Since we hope to be finished building and living on our own land within the next year or two we've decided that we will set the corral up as a community garden for the residents to take over once it is established. Our village is somewhat of a food desert, although it has a bakers the nearest market or greengrocers is 8 miles away. Most of the village are elderly so if we can grow an abundance at the corral and bring the residents together with something they can all share in it would make such a difference to the community. The position of the corral on a prominent corner lends itself to this project perfectly.


Corral South Side

Mostly used to store firewood and scrap

Corral North View
At the moment the space is used to store an assortment of firewood and scrap timber, most of which is riddled with woodworm so we wont be able to salvage it for any building projects such as the chicken coop etc. 
The Corral is 12.5 x 12m so approx 150m2 in size. The weeds used to be waist high but our neighbour had a friend keep a couple of horses in there for a while which has kept them at bay. Apparently one year they tried to grow potatoes in the ground but nothing came of them so they have told me the soil is too poor for growing. Hopefully I can teach them how to use Permaculture and Regenerative Agriculture techniques to grow everything they want in this space.

Shaded south half of the corral
The southern half of the corral is almost in constant shade due o the high wall on that boundary. judging by the netting I suspect that was where they planted the potatoes, possibly to keep them out of the sun and cut down on watering but maybe that area doesn't receive enough sun, or maybe it was just a poor year for potatoes when they tried?

Enthusiastic little helpers!
At the top of the photo above you can see the bank of the dry river bed. It isn't a river any more and now serves as a track for hikers and cyclists. The banks of the riverbed collect all the leaves and windfall from the trees, so I took the children over to collect some of the natural fertility being created over there. This will help us to start our compost pile off with some great microbiology and really enrich the soil.

Logan and Aurora getting in to the rich natural compost beneath the leaf litter
As soon as we pulled back the top layer of leaves we were met with the most amazing smell of good soil! We collected enough to ammend some of our soil and start the compost pile off and made sure to rake leaves back over so as not to destroy the biodiversity in the soil. Below you can see just how rich the soil was underneath, can't wait to get this project up and running and share it with the community and our readers on here. 2017 is going to be an excellent year!

The finest soil



If you have any leftover or unwanted seeds that you could donate to this project they would be gratefully received, many thanks in advance.
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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Caterpillars & Camp Echo

For our latest Vlog I took Logan up in to the mountains for a bit of a day camp:

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It was the first time I've shown him how to set up and use the stove and he had an absolute whale of a time.

On the way up the mountain we noticed quite a few Processionary Caterpillar nests, it seems to be quite a bad year for them on the south side of the mountain they were everywhere, here is one of the nests that wasn't too far from the trail so we managed to get a close photo


Processionary Caterpillar Nest
The processionary caterpillar is one of the most destructive pests for pine and cedar trees, and as if that was not enough they can also be harmful to humans and animals. The caterpillars overwinter in tent-like nests high in pine trees, and which proceed through the woods in nose-to-tail columns, protected by their severely irritating hairs. The hairs on the caterpillar  cause sever rashes and irritation, and 5th stage larvae can actually eject their hairs when stressed or threated, the harpoon shaped hairs then penetrate and irritate all areas of exposed skin nearby with an urticating protein, which means they essentially give you hives!

Processionary Caterpillars leaving the nest
Luckily we know better than to tangle with these creepy critters! We carried on our way until we were almost at the top of the mountain before stopping at a clearing that we have since named Camp Echo because of its awesome acoustics. Here's the view from Camp Echo:

Spectacular Views

Where the forest meets the side of the mountain



Where the Wild things are
We quickly got the stove set up and Logan had the choice between Lemon Cake or Choco Mint for his hot drink, Lemon Cake was the winner this time.

Lemon Cake Tea?!?!?!

Crusader Cooking System
We were using the Crusader Cooking System which we showed you before on our 10 C's of Survival series.
The stove in the base unit was one of the DIY Penny Stoves that I think everyone should have a go at because they are easy and fun to make and cost literally nothing.

Waiting for the water to boil

Logan Goofing around



Always happy outdoors

I think spending time outside in the wild with your kids so that you can bond away from the distractions of modern life is paramount to their well being, not to mention teaching them valuable skills.


Father Son Photo time!

Who needs a chair when you can sit on a rock?

Camp Echo, it has everything you need to have a good time.
I started to teach Logan how a compass works, he was super impressed with the Vintage Style Brass Compass that I keep in my kit bag. It's these basic skills are missing in life these days, but certainly won't be missing from my kids lives. Teaching them these sort of things is not only education and great for bonding but its heaps of fun, keeps them out of trouble and you never know when it might come in handy to be able to light a fire, purify water, tie a proper knot or read a map and use a compass.

Playing with the compass

These photos were taken a few days ago, since we're using an alcohol stove we're probably still waiting for it to boil right now, but that's OK, we're not in a rush!

Goodbye until next time!



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Saturday, 14 January 2017

Deliverance!

For some they say Friday the 13th is an unlucky day, but for us it was the best one we've had for at least 6 months.


Friday I FINALLY took the call to confirm we had exchanged contracts on the house, our living nightmare is over and everything will be done and dusted by Friday the 20th. It is like such a weight has been lifted I cannot begin to describe the sense of relief that we feel, we can finally move on to the next stage of the happily ever after and build the farmhouse of our dreams.

As if that wasn't enough good news, our Spanish neighbours have gifted us the use of the old corral opposite the house we are renting at the moment, the space is approximately 12.5m x 12m and securely fenced and gated, they have said we can grow what we like and keep a few chickens in there. This is amazing for us as it means that we won't miss out on this year's growing season whilst we build the house and can get a head start on some of the plants we want on the land by using the corral as a mini nursery. I'm also planning to use it as somewhat of a playground to try out new methods and techniques and find what works best for plants and the soil out here.


So all in all I think Friday the 13th is our lucky day, I hope everyone is having an amazing weekend!



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Friday, 6 January 2017

How To Make A Wood Burning Stove For Next To Nothing

Build Your Own Log Burner Stove Practically For Free!



The house finally started getting cold towards the end of December so we thought it was time to put the fireplace to work. the problem is with two small children it wasn't practical to have a real open fire, especially since we can't be in the room to attend it at all times. Initially we drilled some holes into a stainless steel bucket and used it for a few days as sort of a mini incinerator, but we quickly found that most of the heat was being chucked up the chimney and it wasn't a really efficient way to burn firewood. So we started to look into wood burning stoves and log burners but even the smallest and cheapest ones were around 100 euros and to be honest they were awful, So in true FAST Blog style we decided to make our own!

We were racking our brains for a while about what we would use and how we would do it when I remembered a post I read on the survival forums about someone who was trying to make their own log burner stove out of an old gas bottle and it hit me, that would be the perfect way for us to make a stove. We managed to pick the empty gas bottle for our stove up for the princely sum of 8 euros! To be honest that is the extent of what our new stove ended up costing us, the few other trinkets we had lying around.

First things first, we had to make the gas bottle for the stove safe. DO THIS BIT IN A WELL VENTILATED AREA.After opening the valve on top until it no longer hissed we used a large stillsons wrench to undo the valve from the top of the bottle. It's not as easy as it sounds as there is some sort of sealant on the thread so you may have to persuade the wrench with a lump hammer, we did!

Remove the valve from the gas bottle and fill your future stove with water

Now although the bottle was "empty" there was still plenty of gas in there, more than enough to ruin your day if you don't play it safe. The best way to stop your future stove from being a minor explosion is to fill the bottle with water and leave it overnight, better safe than sorry.

Mark out the door for your stove

Next we marked out the door for the wood burning stove, we wanted to make sure it was big enough to put a decent sized log on the fire so we didn't have to keep feeding it with twigs every 5 minutes.

This is the size and shape door we wanted for our DIY log burner
To get started we screwed the valve back in to the top of the stove and carefully cut the door out with the water still in the gas bottle using an angle grinder.

Cutting the gas bottle to make the wood burning stove
There's nothing like the smell of freshly cut metal in the morning!

Plenty of sparks when you cut out the stove door, don't wear your flammable pants!

At this point you have the absolute bare basics of your stove / logburner, I've seen people online using them like this as fire pits and patio heaters but of course for indoor use you need to put a bit more work in to the build.

The bare basics that will become your estufa

For our design we wanted a proper door on the front of the wood burner rather than a gaping hole. So using the piece we cut out from the front of the gas bottle we tack welded on some old hinges I had lying around and a screw in eye as a door handle

Me and Tel setting out the hinges for the gas bottle stove and getting the positioning right

Of course if you don't have a welder its just as easy to drill a few holes and bolt the door on to the hinges, or bribe someone to do the welding for you.

Welding the hinges onto the gas bottle for the stove door

Another action shot of Tel welding the hinges onto the gas bottle for the stove door
Once the door was on we used the angle grinder to cut multiple slots into the bottom of the gas bottle so that the stove could draw in air when it is burning the firewood, but it also acts as a grate to let the ash fall out of the bottom of the log burner. We also drilled holes around the base of the gas bottle for additional air intakes.

After that we welded on a piece of hollow tube fence post to act as the chimney for the smoke, ideally you want nothing smaller than 68mm to ensure that the smoke can vent out sufficiently. If you use 68mm it's also a common car exhaust pipe size so you can easily source fittings etc to make up a flue if necessary.

Welding our wombled chimney pipe on to the stove
Once the chimney was in place we drilled some holes around the very top of the chimney in the hope that it would help draw the smoke up the chimney faster, then it was ready for a test run outside to see how it performed.
Testing out the almost complete stove with a bit of kindling
When we tested it outside it seemed to work perfectly, so we gave it a lick of black paint, we had some old black engine enamel lying around that was left over from our motorcycles so we used that, but a good cheap alternative is black BBQ spray paint.

Everything always looks better with a lick of black paint


And there you have it, the DIY stove was finished and we took it inside for a real test run.

The Finished DIY Wood Burning Stove
As you can see the stove has no problem handling decent sized logs and really puts out a great amount of heat for its size, because rather than the heat being convected straight up the chimney and lost it is radiated through the mass of the metal stove instead. This means it is a much more efficient heater than an open fire and uses up far less fuel, thus creating less waste/mess. For us though the main benefit is that it is a lot safer to use with the small children around.

The house is now cosy and warm thanks to the homemade wood burning stove

I am a great believer of evaluation and improvement. After using the stove for a couple of days the only thing we have changed was to add additional intake holes all the way around the base of the gas bottle because after the fire had been burning all day and the ash started to block the bottom grate the stove would struggle to keep a strong flame with the door shut, the extra holes have solved this issue and we continue to use it every day as the only source of heat for the house with no problems at all.


Once again cannot thank Slim Pickings enough for licensing their music to us to use on Youtube


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Etsy

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