We’ve now been in our house (look, I didn’t call it a barn! I think it may well always be a barn in my heart…) for a little over a month. Coincidentally, we also have about a month before my due date. Due dates, of course, are a very flexible thing, so we shall see what that time frame actually looks like!
Tim and I are both hoping for the full month, as we’ve got lots of projects that will help us feel more settled into the house. And that will help prep for the farming season ahead. I think we’ve both been vacillating between feeling really good about how the space feels and all that we’ve accomplished, and then a breath later feeling really overwhelmed by all we still want/need to do. I try to keep reminding myself that a baby will be perfectly fine in our house (which it will!), but I would so like for some additional things to be checked off the list before baby #2 enters the world.
Currently on our priority list are: finishing the install of the kitchen cabinet drawers and shelves, with cabinet face-frames and doors as a potential bonus; putting up the baseboard and window trim; putting together and installing the shelving that will most help us with organization–primarily kitchen and pantry shelving, as well as shelves/cubbies in bedrooms for clothes storage. And then there are lots of other “little” things that would be great to check off as well. But! It doesn’t have to happen before the baby, it doesn’t have to happen before the baby. Right?
Because most of these projects are (hopefully) one-time gigs, life feels a bit rhythm-less these days. Or at least like it’s functioning at a different pace and rhythm than most winters we’re used to or most winters we anticipate. On the other hand, there are so many future projects on the homestead that one-time projects will likely be a defining part of our “rhythm” for years to come.
In any case, it’s helpful to have some more regular, ongoing rhythms be a part of our current existence. I’m happy to report that the wood cookstove rhythm has already gotten a LOT easier, and is in fact feeling like a rhythm as opposed to a stressful and foreign task (okay, there was one exception recently when I just wanted some popcorn the other evening, and I could NOT get the pan hot enough to pop. It was not a happy moment…but we’ll learn!).
Bread baking, kombucha and yogurt making, compost emptying, grocery shopping, laundry (another rhythm which will eventually change and intensify, but is now still happening at the in-laws)–all of these weekly rhythms and requirements help to bring a sense of almost-settledness to our still-very-unsettled lives.
Some of the regular rhythms are new. Like our new countertop seal and conditioning rhythm. One of our big pre-move-in projects was to install our wood countertops. We managed to get them planed and sanded and installed, but we didn’t get around to sealing them. And then, of course, we had to decide just how we would go about the sealing process. We knew we wanted to do something non-toxic and food-grade, seeing as there’s a lot of food action that happens on kitchen countertops and on the bar that is our primary eating space. But it quickly became apparent in our reading that the most non-toxic options also require quite a bit of maintenance. So we went back and forth, wondering: is that kind of maintenance realistic for us? In the end, we decided to go for it and, if we’re completely neglecting our countertops, we can seal them with something a bit more intense (there seem to be a few good food-grade sealers you can purchase, but they are both much more expensive, and it seems like they often still create some fumes when applying/curing).
We went with a mineral oil & beeswax blend that we saw referenced a few places online. Some people finish wood countertops with mineral oil alone, but we liked that the beeswax offered an additional seal (and that it smells delicious when applying!).
Part of this new rhythm is to make batches of the sealer. The “recipes” I’ve found online were a ratio of around 4 oz. of beeswax to one 16 oz. bottle of mineral oil. By far the hardest part of combining these two is cutting the beeswax into small enough chunks to melt in your pot. A shaving technique worked best for me, grating my knife against the edges of the beeswax cone. A plastic cutting board also felt pretty important.
Once you’ve hacked away your 4 oz. (or whatever amount you need for your sized batch), you simply put it in a pot with the mineral oil and heat gently until the wax is melted. Beeswax is notoriously hard to clean, so I tried to use a pot I didn’t really care about. But I quickly realized that the addition of the mineral oil also makes the pot much easier to clean up at the end of the process.
Once everything is melted and combined, I just pour the mixture into a wide-mouth jar (I want to start putting it in smaller jars so that it’s easier to reach into the bottom when applying, but thus far it’s gone in quart jars), and let it cool.
When it’s all the way cooled, you end up with a sort of pliable paste that’s easy to scoop up with a rag or cloth. And then you’re ready to apply! When we were applying on the raw countertops, we did three successive applications, about 8 hours apart, before we used the countertops at all. For the more regular maintenance, it’ll just be one application. We may occasionally do some light sanding beforehand if the countertops are starting to feel rough, but for the most part the ongoing maintenance is just wipe-on, sit and soak in (I’m trying to apply in the evening after supper and bed time, and then let it soak overnight), wipe-off. I’ve been using old T-shirts and stained toddler/baby clothes to apply.
One blogger I read said she does her application once a week. Another said they do it once a week for the first month, and then once a month for the first year. I like the second option better, but we’ll see what our countertops need. So far, the weekly rhythm doesn’t feel like too big of a deal, but we may well start to neglect it.
What I know is that our countertops and bar look beautiful! We love how the oil and beeswax brought out these deep rich tones, and we love that we can feel so good about the surface that we’re eating and cooking off of.
This countertop application is just one small part of this movement into new life rhythms. Like I said, we might decide that this rhythm isn’t sustainable and that we need to just put something lower-maintenance on our countertops. The same can probably be said for most of these new homesteading rhythms. What feels sustainable? What feels life-giving? What feels stressful or like sheer drudgery? I’m guessing these questions will continue to surface as we discover the cadences of our homesteading lives.