Four seasons on the Palouse
In Eastern Washington we have all four seasons with a real winter. Yet the Pacific Ocean still has a moderating effect, and it is milder than East of the Rockies. Each season has it’s activities. In early Spring it’s time to rototill the garden and get the tomatoes and other vegetables started in the basement. Spraying for weeds is best done in April. In early summer the garden gets going and weeding is a big chore. In mid-summer we arrange to have hay delivered for the horse. It gets hot and activities like mountain biking are best done before 9am. Finally the heat breaks and this year as October starts, its time to get ready for Winter.
Prepping the pellet stove
We inherited a pellet stove in our basement. It is an England’s stove works model 55-SHP10. It’s a popular stove and there is info on the web on how to maintain it. That’s good because it requires quite a bit of maintenance when you run it as much as we do, typically November to March. We run it when it’s colder than 40F at night. I think of it as a big chunk of metal with associated motor modules. There are two auger gear motors, a combustion motor and blower motor. In six years we have replaced all of them. The blower motor went out at the end of last winter and we stopped using the pellet stove and went to our primary heat source, electric. In our old farmhouse the electric heat works OK, but it’s expensive. The pellet stove is cheaper and produces an excess of heat which is nice in an old farmhouse. And judging by all the forest fires we have here in Eastern WA, neighboring Idaho and B.C., there seems to be an excess of firewood. So buying pellets from Idaho seems like a good environmental choice to me.
This Fall after installing the blower unit I cleaned out the pellet flue with our ash vacuum with Hepa filter and cleaned the inside of the stove. I ordered 3 pallets of pellets delivered for $652.49 including tax. Each pallet is 50 – 40 lb. bags. I move one pallet of 50 bags into the basement per day to break up the work and skip working out that day. The math on the pellet stove works out roughly like this. Between November and March if we did not use the pellet stove our electric bill would be about $450 a month. If we use about 3.5 pallets of pellets over that time our electric bill is about $150 a month on average instead of $450. So we save about $1,500 in electricity but spend $652.49 on pellets and about $200 per year on replacement stove parts. So we only save about $650 per year, and there is quite a bit of labor to run the pellet stove all winter. But the pellet stove heat feels great when it gets cold.
Pumping the septic tank and jetting the septic line
This is the second time we have pumped out the septic tank, and for the two of us it has worked out to do it every four years. This year we also had the septic line jetted as a preventative measure. Total cost: $684.53. I feel good about doing this before winter sets in.
Painting the house
We have done most of the painting of our homestead including our small barn ourselves. But our house is two stories and I am not willing to paint high up. I’d prefer to leave that to professionals. This year we had the dormers and fascia of our house as well as some of the trim painted by a local painter. We also had the two chimneys clear coated.
Mowing the field
Every year in the Fall we mow the pasture once the grass turns brown and its easier for our lawn tractor. This allows the hawks and owls to come in and eat the rodents. It also makes it easier for me to spot spray weeds in the Spring. This year the lawn tractor PTO clutch failed and I had to take it off and figure out what happened. It turns out there is a large pin that keeps the heavy clutch from rotating. The pin had come out and the clutch had rotated cleaving the wires for the PTO. Once I figured out what had happened, I rebent the pin and put it together again, re-attaching the wires. The lawn mower is 6 years old and I’d like to get 10 years out of it. If we have to buy another, a 48 inch lawn tractor is about $2000 with tax so if we get 10 years that’s about $200 per year.
Cleaning the gutters and mulching the leaves
We have gutters on one side of the house and I clean these by hand. DW mulches the leaves with a lawn tractor with a mulching blade. We used to collect the leaves using a mower attachment, but mulching them breaks them down and the Palouse wind blows it into our field or it breaks down as fertilizer. So collecting isn’t necessary.
Last few days of mountain biking and hiking
Last year I could mountain bike into November but as it gets colder I prefer hiking. My last hike last year was November 29 and there was a bit of snow. So I have a few more days to get in some biking before winter hits and I have to use the rower in the basement and do low elevation hikes.
Taking a break
One of the nice things about winter is taking a break from many of the chores on the homestead. No mowing the lawn or weeding the garden. I do prune the apple trees over the winter when we have a few days of nice weather. But overall it’s a time to recharge, and by February I am ready to start on next year’s garden.
Living in the country is great, but there is some work, and some of the costs are higher than in town. Whenever we have to have contractors come out to our property there is a surcharge for being out in the country. We have more chores than in the city, but the peace and quiet is worth it.