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Thread: Rural Farm Problems and Questions

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    Woodsman Adventure Wolf's Avatar
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    Default Rural Farm Problems and Questions

    I had no idea where to put this discussion. This may go in homesteading, but it could also be off topic enough to go into general discussion. This post has elements of DIY, homesteading, general preparedness, and whatever, and I think that this is the kind of forum where I could find answers to all of these related questions, because these are closely related to the things that we generally discuss. I have a feeling that all of us, in general, either live in rural areas, grew up in rural areas or have plenty of experience in rural areas.

    I will post it in homesteading and allow the moderators to decide on if it needs to be moved.

    I bought my first house. It is out in the country. It was perfect place for me. It's far enough away from the city that I can live in rural solitude, but close enough that I can drive to my construction sites and work in Raleigh.

    It was a foreclosure had been abandoned for about eighteen months, and few people were interested in purchasing it. It was rough shape, and needed a massive amount of TLC. From what I understand is that someone bought it as a hobby farm, started renovations, and then passed away. The owner's family members attempted to keep the property, and take over the mortgage, but couldn't keep up. What I purchased was a partially completed project.

    Professionally I am a carpenter with over 8 years of construction experience, so the work usually wouldn't bother me...

    Even with my qualifications, I admit, I bit off more than I could chew. I work for my father, who has been a Raleigh based general contractor for close to 35 years, and has been helping me with the repairs and modifications. Even he made the comment that the project was ambitious or stupid for a single person. I will freely admit it was the latter option!

    I only purchased the house after learning that the plumping, electric wiring and roof had been gutted and replaced in the last five years. Heating and AC have been installed, and after inspecting the work it looks like it has been put in within the last 5 to 10 years. The foundation is solid. This process left some the interior as new, but a lot of the interior is still dated. The exterior was falling apart and I had to replace the entirety of the siding, the front and back porch, garage door, landscaping among other major tasks.

    My property is a former farm on 5 acres of land. I have two barns, a shed and a root cellar. Having an unattached root cellar on a property in my part of North Carolina is rare, but I am happy to have it.

    I thought I would have no problem with a small farm, because I spent summers, weekends and holidays on my uncle's farm. That wasn't enough farming experience to know what I was doing, and I have more questions then answers.

    So this is where my problems tie into homesteading. This will only be the first set of questions that I have, and more will come later. These are the issues that I am working out now:

    1. I have a detached root cellar that is partially underground. It stays at about 45 degrees and has a humidity factor of 87 percent. The storage section is rectangle about 7 feet wide and 8 feet deep. It looks to me like it was hand dug.

    What kind of foods can be stored in this kind of root cellar, and what is the proper procedure for storing food in a root cellar? I also have heard that you can store canned foods in food cellar, but also that you shouldn't because the metal will rust, which is true?

    The cellar has no shelves, do you think I should build some? If so how should space them for properly storing different kinds of food?

    Also how would one go about inspecting a root cellar to make sure that it is structurally sound? With how poor of shape this property was in, I need to do a thorough inspection.

    2. I have a dirt floor basement under my house below my kitchen, and little pantry space. It is dry and has no extra humidity. It is only a few degrees colder or warmer then the house depending on the season. Is it possible to use it as a pantry?

    Has anyone floored a dirt basement in an old house before? I have salvaged several hundred bricks from varies sources, would that make a good cost effective floor in this basement? My knowledge says yes, but I always like asking for someone's opinion if they have done it before.

    3. How do I keep rodents out of my barns? I have used the usually methods and they have not worked. I'm thinking the mice problem has been going on for a decade at least. I don't keep edible food in there and store mostly tools, building supplies and hardware, yet I still have some mice. I already sealed all of the little holes and entrances I could find, but I still have mice.

    Should I invest in a cat or cats (multiple)? I have tried mice traps, but I can't kill those guys fast enough. Luckily I have no mice problems in the house, and I want to take care of this problem before I use the cellar, because it is in close proximity to the barns.

    4. The Well. My house has a well, but I also have water provided by a private company. The well is currently capped, but I had it opened and the water tested. I am thinking about making some modifications, adding a hand pump to pump water manually or having the well used for the irrigation of a future garden I would like to make. Is it feasible to repurpose old wells in this way?

    5. Wood stove. I have a large wood stove that was installed in the 1980s. Should I inspect it before I fire it up, and what potential issues should I look for to make sure it is safe to use?

    6. Storing firewood. if I was to store firewood about 20+ yards away from my house, would it keep termites away from my house in case they get into the firewood. I will be storing mostly oak for my woodstove and for sale this winter.


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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    It sounds like you have a lot of balls you are trying to juggle. I would suggest you make a list of things you consider priorities and start on them one at a time. Put a couple of less expensive/less time consuming ones in the top so you can at least see some completed tasks and get the satisfaction that you are moving forward. But trying to work all of the items you listed probably looks a bit daunting.

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    Senior Member natertot's Avatar
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    I agree with Rick.

    The first thing I would focus on is getting the house renovation/project done first. What good is "homesteading" if you can't live in suitable conditions year around?

    An easy thing is the mice. Almost all farmers I know have "outdoor" cats that bring mice down to a minimum. Most have around a half dozen. Make sure the cats you get are already outdoor cats. Indoor ones do not adapt well and usually will die in short order.

    As for the wood stove, check your insurance and local zoning laws. It may not be permissible for you to use by one or both which would negate all stove/wood concerns for the time being and take more off your plate.

    These are the things I would start with, that is just me though.
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    Junior Member Stever60's Avatar
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    As far as rodents are concerned we had what I called working cats. We fed them some and they were not all that friendly. If you can raise some kittens at your barn they will hangout and keep the mouse / rat population beat down.

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    Your insurance should be fine with wood heat as a back up.. doesn't matter if you keep a fire in it all the time or not.. It is simply a back up heat source for the central heating unit. Just call and make sure..


    If I were you, I'd start with inspecting the stove, pipes, and flue.. Clean the ashes out of the stove. Check the fire bricks along the sides if it's a model that has them. Make sure they aren't broke. Then check the bottom and top of the stove to make sure they aren't soft spots in it. Take the pipes down and clean the soot out of them.. If they look old, soft, or rusted up.. go buy new ones.. with the pipes off, have someone hold a flash light through the flue eye shining upwards, while someone looks down the flue from the top to see if it needs cleaning out from soot, birds nest, and other possible things.. Inspect the out side of the flue for defects.. After all of the above, build a fire in the stove using only card board and/or paper.. check for smoke leaking anywhere..

    If the stove checks out, I'd start gathering fire wood next cause it needs to season before it is burnt in the stove.. 20+ yards should be fine but I'd look into putting it somewhere in the dry if at all possible. we put ours in the barn and rick wood on the porch as we need it..

    If the root cellar doesn't leak or look like it's falling.. it should be fine. We have shelves on one side of our cellar. Starting at the floor, we come up a few inches and put a wooden bottom box with sides about 12 inches high for potatoes.. we leave spaces between the boards on the bottom, this lets air flow under the box. we then go up about 12 inches from the potato bin and build shelves 12- 14 inches apart up to about 6 feet high for canned goods.

    We remove the metal rings from our jars about 2 weeks after they have been canned.. That keeps the rings from rusting as they are the only thing we reuse besides the jars. The jar flats with last years before they rust enough to ruin the food in the jars..

    I'll try to post some pics of our cellar after I get above the limit of posts so I can..

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    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
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    Adventure Wolf, I have been there and done that.

    As the others have said, set your priorities. You are trying to do too much at one time and it appears from the order of the questions listed you are concerned about the least important things first.

    1. Forget about the detached root cellar for now. In your climate that is a problem issue and it can be left for years without addressing.

    2. If your dirt floor basement has no water issues brick the floor and install shelves for your canned goods. That is also a nonemergency issue and can be done as you have time.

    3. Rodents in the barn are a problem for you and the local agg agent or health department. When dealing with an outside rodent problem poison is the only effective solution. My agg agent hands out rat poison free. It comes in blue blocks and you can scatter it around the feed room and other problem areas. If you have concerns about poison then get over them. Poison concerns are things urban dwellers can discuss. You are outnumbered 1000 / 1 and this is not the time to fight fair. The poison breaks down with time anyway, just keep it where kids can not play with it.

    Cats are only partially effective and there are always some mice and rats that escape them, plus if you let the cats run wild they kill as much small game as they do rats. Probably more, since baby rabbits and squirrels are sower than the rats and mice.

    4. Forget the well for now. yes it is nice to have but you also have a house to repair. If you are hooked to utilities use them for now and worry about the well after you have finished the house. No the world is not going to end tomorrow. The well will still be there when you finish the remodel. Just run a bit of stubbed in plumbing so you can hook up once you get to that stage.

    5. On the wood stove, do all of what Riffecreek said. A wood stove is nothing to mess with. Get it right the first time. Now is the time too. Do this now before cold weather hits and it becomes another emergency to deal with.

    6. Storing firewood ... yes keep it away from the house due to bugs and mice.

    As for selling firewood??? Again, do you have your priorities right? Is your time more valuable in getting the house up to standards or trying to sell firewood at $50 a rick?

    Every day you spend cutting wood or piddling with a root cellar is a day you did not have to fix the woodstove, lay floor in a room, work drywall or finish out the living room so you will not feel embarrassed when guest walk in.

    You did not mention GF or wife??? If there is one present then get that house finished ASAP and leave the nonessential parts until after all the drywall has been painted and her curtains are hung.

    Homesteading is not like wilderness survival when you start up. It is only after you are established that you can customize you place for long term self sufficiency. For the first couple of years you might have to forget the wood stove and heat with electricity, put off opening the well, ignore the root cellar.

    That is OK. You do those thing s as time and money present themselves.

    Right now, get the house done. Not only is it the sensible thing to do, it is also the thing that will increase your property value instantly and immediately.
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    Woodsman Adventure Wolf's Avatar
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    Rick: I have my plan. In the Spring and Fall I do the outside work and leave the inside work for the Winter and Summer seasons, and I have an organized list of all of the things that I would like to do during that season. It is tough, and those aren't the major problems. I have to renovate my bathrooms and kitchen, which were all last fully renovated in the late 70s or early 80s. That's my main summer project.

    Natertot and Stever: The animal shelter a county North of me has overcrowding problems, and it made the news cycle. I will go look for a couple cats up there to save them from a final fate.

    Riffecreek: I will inspect the woodstove sometime before winter, and I will start on the cellar after I get a workspace setup in one of the barns.

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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    What every one said....
    When faced with getting the work done for the cabin...prep work was contracted out, still required a lot of "on top of the situation"....time.
    Then.....
    Doing the electrical, plumbing and interior work....Handled it by "punching in and out" like a regular job....keeping in mind that it will get done, and have fun along the way.

    Good luck on your journey.
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    Resident Wildman Wildthang's Avatar
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    Get the house all renovated, buy nice curtains and furniture. Make sure the kitchen looks really nice and all of the appliances work correctly. At this point get a bunch of girlfriends and make them help you finish everything else

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    Woodsman Adventure Wolf's Avatar
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    Shooter, sorry I did not respond to your post. It wasn't present when I began typing my last one. There is no wife or girlfriend, but my sister is going to move in with me as soon as I get the adjoining bathroom to the guest bedroom finished (project I'm working on now). The bedroom was renovated first. It's an extra 350 a month, which I can put towards the mortgage or paying some of my co-workers for help on the weekends.

    She is going to take care of cleaning out the attic and the basement. Some stuff was left by the people that last owned it, probably from the deceased relative. It's nothing of any real value, but I never got around to it.

    The firewood is a necessary thing. I have three trees that are too close to the house, and the next time a hurricane comes through I may be in trouble. One of these trees is less then 30 feet from the two main bedrooms. It has to go before the next catagory three hurricane comes through the Carolinas we are over due for one in the next couple of seasons.
    Last edited by Adventure Wolf; 08-13-2015 at 12:08 AM.

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    Woodsman Adventure Wolf's Avatar
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    So when I started renovating in February, I had a rough list sketched out. Needless to say that this task is a lot bigger then what I have jotted down, this is just from my notes. For instance, when I replaced the siding outside, I also had to replace large portions of the wood underneath, some of which dated back to construction and replace it with new plywood and adding Tyvek. When I replaced the back porch, I never planned on completely redesigning it, but that's what I had to do.

    Another thing is that I replaced windows that needed to be replaced in the back of the house that is not on this schedule.

    Summer List 2015
    Renovate Guest Room (Addition from the Late 1970s or Early 1980s)
    - Replace windows
    - Replace skylight
    - Repaint walls
    - Replace Carpet
    - Renovate walk in closet
    - Remove trim
    - Repair ceiling
    - Wire in ceiling lights
    - Replace Overhead lighting

    Renovate Bathrooms (Major Renovation Late 70s/Early 80s?)
    - Remove vinyl flooring a replace with tiles
    - Retile showers
    - Refurbish bathtubs
    - Build and install custom cabinets
    - Remove wall paper and paint walls
    - Add tile backsplashes
    - New mirrors
    - New shelving in closets
    - Install new overhead lights

    Renovate Kitchen (Major Renovation Late 1970s/Early 1980s)
    - Remove vinyl flooring and replace with tiles
    - Remove wallpaper, paint walls and add tile backdrops
    - Build and install custom cabinets
    - Install new sink
    - Renovate pantry
    - Install new overhead lights
    - Replace bay windows


    Renovate Dining Room and Parlor (Built 1870s)
    - Refinish hardwood floor
    - Repaint trim
    - Remove Wallpaper and paint walls
    - Paint staircase
    - Replace chandlers


    Fall List 2015
    Renovate Barns and Shed (Built about 1900?)
    - Through inspection
    - Foundation work
    - Replace boards when necessary
    - Repaint exterior
    - Replace shed door
    - Install new locks
    - Install exterior motion lights

    Grounds Work
    - Remove five trees
    - Repair broken driveway
    - Remove brick path and replace with cement
    - Repair Patio below back deck
    - Inspect and repair stonewall
    - Repair back fencing
    - Tear down front fencing

    Winter List 2015/2016
    Living and Family Room (Built 1870s)
    - Replace carpet
    - Replace trim
    - Repaint Walls
    - Refinish woodwork
    - Remove wood paneling
    - Upgrade overhead lights

    Master Bedroom (Built 1870s, renovated 1950s or 1960s?)
    - Replace Carpet
    - Renovate closets
    - Remove trim
    - Replace plaster with drywall
    - Repair ceiling
    - Wire in ceiling lights
    - Paint walls
    - Replace Overhead lighting

    Third Bedroom (Built 1870s, Renovated early 1900s)
    - Replace Carpet
    - Renovate closets
    - Remove trim
    - Replace plaster with drywall
    - Repair ceiling
    - Wire in ceiling lights
    - Paint walls
    - Install overhead lighting

    Spring List 2016
    - Turn smaller barn into woodworking shop


    Winter List 2016
    Renovate Sunroom (Addition in the Late 70s, Early 80s)
    - Replace skylights
    - Refinish hardwood floor
    - Repaint
    - Replace doors


    As you can see, not very interesting or homesteading related. All in all, a large renovation but nothing special.
    Last edited by Adventure Wolf; 08-13-2015 at 12:28 AM.

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    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
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    Nice schedule, how is it working out for you?

    Are you where you anticipated?

    Are you living there while working on the project?

    As for it not being "homestead related", I think this is extremely homestead related. What can be more self sufficient than knowing the plumbing, wiring, foundation condition and practically being on first name basis with every nail in your house.

    I have done the same three different times. Once to an 1870 era house, once to a new structure and now to the present shack in which I dwell. There will not be a forth time. I am now too old for that and barely finished this place before it put me in the grave.

    I also must warn you that if you are going through and finishing one room at a time you can count in repainting the entire place when you do that last room. Your construction dust and all the dirt that these projects create will have your finished walls unfit for use and the entire place will have to be repainted.

    About those trees, better go ahead and cut them now. They will need to dry for a while if you intend to use that wood this winter.
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    Woodsman Adventure Wolf's Avatar
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    The schedule is great. I am only slightly behind schedule, because of the situation with the Spring phase. As I said, the siding in the Spring phase was bad. Originally it had vinyl siding that was placed on top of the wood siding. I didn't know that at the time, and it added extra work. I was also under the expectation that at least some of the original wood boards under the wooden siding would have been replaced with plywood back in the late 70s or early 80s, when the last large renovation was done. That wasn't the case, and I had to rip out wall layers I never planned to. That was fun...

    Originally with the porch, I planned to replace the decking, but the entire structure had to go. That was a lot of extra work.

    The only reason that I am not further behind is that I was taught to budget time and money for over runs. It is especially critical to budget time for unforeseen delays in a structure that is this old.

    Yes, I live in the master bedroom. I have put plastic up and keep the doors closed through most of the doorways leading to the upstairs. That way the dust isn't chocking me in my sleep.

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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    As I recall...
    MF used a "5 year plan".......reviewed and renewed yearly....Claimed he got the idea from the Russians.
    If stuff didn't get done on the plan.....add it to the next 5 year plan.

    Seriously, sounds like you have your hands full.....but understand and are proceeding along with your plan.

    And as Kyrat noted....That what a homesteader does.....as much as he can.....for himself.

    The only bad part is...when you live somewhere long enough, that you need to do the same renovations the third time.....LOL

    Press on.
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    Woodsman Adventure Wolf's Avatar
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    So let's talk about something that I am thinking about. I do not have standardized locks on the doors to my house, and my barns are locked by a chain and a padlock.

    So I am going to purchase a brand new set of locks for the house doors, and add latches to the barn doors. One of the things I'm going to do is have motion detector lights attached to the barns, when I run electricity out to them (already talking to a certified electrician about this) just to have an extra layer of protection. Since one of these barns is being converted into a woodworking shop, is a motion detector light and a physical lock enough security for a full set of power tools (including table, band saw, etc.)?

    Another thing is that by the road, I have a knee high stone wall that is on my list of repairs. Would it be worth my time and effort to use the wall and gate my driveway?

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    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    I am a strong believer in security. There are a lot of lock set designs on the market today. Everything from the standard keyed lock to electronic push button entry to fully connected lock sets that will alert you to tamper attempts. You might also look at:

    http://arlo.com/en-us/

    They work and they work well.

    Security is often making your home a less attractive target than your neighbors. Sad, but true. If the robbers can't get past a gated driveway they are not going to make multiple trips down the driveway carting your electronics and tools to their pickup. They will most likely go to some place easier. Just a thought.

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    I too am a proponent of security. My property is small, but has several really bright LED lights that are activated by motion sensor. A good investment IMO.
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    Senior Member natertot's Avatar
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    Another way to make your property a lesser target is to look like you have less. I drive lesser expensive cars than my neighbors. One is 12 years old and has "marks". I keep my yard and house up with decent landscaping, but it isn't as extreme as those around me. If someone scouts my neighborhood, they'll go for the neighbor with the Lexus and Mercedes in their drive and the fountain in their side yard, not me with a 12 year old Nissan and a Focus with a couple of trees and bushes around the house.

    Another thing that many over look is the trash. When you cart stuff to the curb, cut and hide boxes of pricey purchases. I am always leery of the "metal collectors" on trash night that could potentially be scouting for something else.

    As Crash said, lights (including motion) are a major deterrent. Lit areas are roughly 80% less likely to be criminally targeted and I do not consider that to be coincidental either. Another thing to consider is a dog or two. I don't have a big dog, but she is a barker and the guys on the other side of the door do not know what she is or her capabilities. Criminals want quite and no animal confrontations.
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    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
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    I too like the motion lighting....and have several different angles covered.
    Also have a set in the back of the garage......If the light is on at night....there is a reason....Beware.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
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    This is the internet age fellows. Sometimes we keep our minds back in the previous one or two centuries.

    These days, for less than the price of a good batch of master padlocks, one can install webcams which can be accessed by ones I phone. They can even come with motion detectors that alert you when entry is made to one's property. You do not even have to sign up with a service any more, just set it up your self.

    Yes, install good locks and take all the normal precautions, but remember that any lock can be overwhelmed, and if the bad guy is not afraid of making a little noise he can go through windows, cut through roofs, and I even saw a door removed by chainsaw once. We have all seen rioting thugs use chain to tear the security bars off store fronts, so we need to face the fact that anyone can get in, if they want too, and you are not at home, gates, fences bars on windows and doors and all.

    Locks only keep honest people honest, but film is evidence for the prosecution.

    My BIL sent his crazy next door neighbor to prison for 8 years with nothing but a webcam sitting in his window.
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