Sunday, October 30, 2011

Our Anniversary

If you have read the blog in the past you may have picked up that we are a pretty happy and close family but for me personally, I almost couldnt conceive things would turn out the way they have prior to meeting Holly and I give thanks on this anniversary of ours that I have been so blessed.

When I met her I was a Captain in the Marine Corps on leave after coming back from Somalia and in the process of resigning my commission. I was profoundly depressed over my failing first marriage (which I wholly accept the blame for) and my failure as a father to my two boys. I had been in the Marine Corps since my 17th birthday and had spent over 7 years overseas without my family including multiple combat zone tours and I now know that I was suffering from some psychological issues that left me feeling empty of just about every emotion except rage. We initially didnt care much for each other, I was way too wild for her and she was a young divorce' with no money, and 3 young children and in no way was I looking to ever get married again or take on another family when I couldnt even deal with my own.

But a few years after meeting, we became best friends and she changed my outlook on life forever. The pictures below are just a few from our now long happy life together and I dedicate this post to my beloved wife and partner. Our kids are all grown, we are grandparents, and I couldnt ask for a more supportive and loving spouse and family. Thank you Holly and happy anniversary.

 Our first vacation together was to Puerto Vallarta Mexico; we were young, thin, and tanned and we spent 2 weeks para gliding, horse back riding and living large. During this trip I realised that I needed to turn my life in a new direction and I began to feel whole again.

 I proposed after a Christmas party...we looked so young.

We were married on Halloween and had a great wedding and reception with lots of friends and family and we encouraged people to come in costume. Our wedding annual is unique to say the least but it was fitting for us since we both love life and like to have fun.

Holly is a good patient mother who is much loved by our combined brood. These two little boys are now all grown up. Matt on the right was a Police Officer and is now an IT tech and Al on the left joined the military and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and is now finishing up his degree at UNC and prepping for law school. Where has the time gone?

 My two girls..

 We have always been mutually supportive of each others dreams and aspirations and though it was a long haul, I was never more proud of anyone than I was when Holly graduated from the University of Alaska.
 We are also fishing and hunting partners though I must confess she can catch a fish with a bare hook in a mud puddle. Both of us are very competetive and neither gives any quarter no matter what we do.
 Soon after 9/11 I felt the need to give up a fairly high paying career in civilian life and go back into the military, this time into the Army. Her support during a couple more years deployed overseas and another combat tour will never be forgotten.
 We both love motorcycles and fast cars and had three when we decided to move to the farm. But after a racing accident and several close calls (I am a self confessed speed demon) we both decided to give them up and concentrate on tractors. But we do soup up the tractors and even our push mower has a few tweaks....ever seen a velocity stack on a 6hp Briggs push mower?
 We travelled all over Alaska in our various boats and trucks...
 Spent a wonderful week in Destin Florida prior to my last deployment to Iraq...
 Crabbed, clammed, harvested sea weed.....
Travelled all over the Washington and Oregon coast looking for property...
 And thoroughly enjoyed our fish camps on the Taku River in Alaska courtesy of Tom...thanks Tom.
 The skinny blonde I thought was more eye candy than anything when I first met her turned out to be quite an adventurer and a great partner. I have always had to try everything, experience everything and see everything and I met my match with Holly. But she wont bungee jump with me yet...still working on her though.
 And here we are all these years later living the farm life. Its been a great life and I look forward to many more decades of adventure and companionship. Thanks Holly.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chris gets his first Wild Turkey

Well we have been planning on a wild turkey for Thanksgiving but time has been scarce around here so we had to leave it up to Chris. Today he and our friend Brandon (a fellow Fire Fighter) left at about 1600 to go turkey hunting and about 2 hours later while we were feeding the cattle we hear horns beeping and some hooting and hollering so we beat feet back to the barn yard.

What do you know, Chris and Brandon both got a turkey within 40 minutes of the start of the hunt and we have a Thanksgiving feast in the making. If you have never had a wild turkey they taste nothing like store bought and to me its more akin to pheasant. A delicious gamey flavor and all dark meat. Of course we saved the gizzards for the dressing and Chris will have the tail, beard and feet for a wall display. We are proud of him but now that we know he can bring in the game, it takes some of the burden off me and we have high expectations for future freezer fills!
Not bad for 40 minutes work eh?

Turns out it was a bearded female and just big enough for a good Thanksgiving dinner.

Your first turkey is always a thrill. The tail feathers, the beard and the feet will be mounted in a frame with a red felt background so he can have it to remember in his room.

Brandon is a good old Ozark boy who knows how to hunt but they were both surprized and happy the hunt went so quick and so well. It was 80 degrees today and we were wondering how it would go.

Chris learned how to clean them and the only thing he forgot was to clean out the crop......leave the dirty work to dear old dad.

The cats and dogs hung around for a few treats but he did a great job and we have one whole turkey and the carcass and gizzards of what Brandon didnt want now in the freezer waiting for Thanksgiving day. We use everything of the game we get, gizzards, bones, and all the meat. The feathers are kept for crafts, the tail, feet and beard for conversation, and the pictures to remember.

It was a good feeling to have this success, the abundance of this area is hard to describe but I truly cant see how you would starve around here.

Brandons turkey was butchered for the breasts and we took the rest....I can already taste it and we almost dont want to wait for Thanksgiving. All in all it was a good day.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Our Country Life - (And some more barn pictures)

We have owned our farm for a couple years now and lived here about a year and a half  and its really starting to sink in how rare it is in todays world that you can get the opportunity to live this lifestyle. We have been contacted by several people recently who are striving to get to a point where they can make the break from the city, check out from the stress of modern life, and where they can have a measure of self sufficiency. We werent raised on a farm, we mostly lived in urban areas growing up and in our adult lives but there was always a tug to the country and it was almost a fantasy to do this.

A couple days ago we went driving around to several places buying some meat from a meat processer, sight seeing, and enjoying a nice day and it really struck us how comfortable we have become in our rural life. Just going into the nearest big city (14K worth of population and nothing but bustle and hustle) makes us cringe and we avoid it as much as possible. On our rural roads we rarely see another vehicle and when we do everyone waves; you get into the cities and people are just like a hurry and most try to keep their annoymity. Despite all the doom and gloom in the news I am glad we live in a time where this lifestyle is still possible as its fast disappearing; I only wish we could have done this when the kids were small.

So here are just a few shots of a lazy day doing some brush hogging and driving around taking in the sights. Nothing exciting, nothing grand, just a slow day enjoying life. Peace.

These folks have a small place of about 5 acres that is neat as a pin. Their little barn is an older one but has been redone and supports a horse and a few pieces of equipment they use on thier place. Its just a classic look in a small package.

Another small barn that is more modern. I like it when someone chooses to build something new but tries to keep and old fashioned look. I can just picture a small tractor out front to complete the scene.

This old manure spreader was in good enough shape I would be using it for its intended purpose but these people have been creative and are using something that would otherwise be cast off and it looks nice.

This old barn was just out in the middle of nowhere; no roads leading to it, no electricity...just an old barn and still being used.

We literally have hundreds of these old abandoned homesteads within a few miles of our farm and our place was close to going this route when we bought it. Just take a minute to imagine what this place looked like when a family lived and loved in it. I hate that so many old places are ending up like this but the cost of renovations and the low reselling prices around here just dont lend themselves to keeping these places livable. You dont see many modern houses with this much character.

Our house is an Ozark stone house and you see many structures around here built in stone. It was cheap, durable, and slip form stone construction is relatively easy to construct. I wish we could take a peek inside.

Even the bigger dairies around here have numerous older buildings still being used. When we stopped to take this picture, there was no sound at all except the sound of the wind and a few cows in the distance.

The Ozarks is blessed with abundant water from natural springs and it is crystal clear and clean. This is a branch of the Osage Fork river and its teaming with fish and other wildlife.

There are thousands of unique bridges around here and almost all of them are in disrepair. Most have no guard rails, crumbling decking and a singificant number spend part of their time underwater during the rainy season. But we kind of like things the way they are thank you. It adds character and excitement to your drive.

Again, this picture of cattle grazing a harvested corn field is just an example of the simplicity of the area. Not much in the way of commercial corn grown around here and this field was likely dent corn grown for silage but its a peaceful scene we enjoy daily.

The Ozarks consists of mostly sedentary rock formations and a high amount of limestone which means we have many caves. This one is just a couple miles from the farm and is just one of a series in the area. Your not supposed to enter them now because of the bats and the bat guanno.

And another spring fed stream, clear, clean, and cold.

If you havent ever been in an old barn seek one out before its too late. There is something about the smell, the secrets, the treasures you typically find that fascinates me. I find new things in our old barn almost everytime I go into it.

When we got home I decided to work some brush clearing and brush hogging in part of one of the wood lots we are turning to pasture.

It was a bit chilly (about 50) but it was sunny and it was a pleasant afternoon to do this.

We had previously cut a lot of brush and limbed up trees and it had started to spread all over so I pushed it into a big pile for eventual burning this winter. We will leave some of it though as the brush piles are full of rabbits.

We are careful to maintain any new Oak, Hickory, or Walnut trees that sprout up as we are expanding our various woodlots but its important to keep down the brambles and weeds as they develop.

And there you have it...just a relaxing day in the country, our Ozarks.

A Quick and Dirty Work Bench and Pole Barn Plans

As you can see from the below pictures, we have lots of wood to work with in various parts of the farm and our only limitation is our imagination. We still need to build a chicken coop, a goat barn, an extension to the wood shed, a garden tool shed for Holly and Judy and of course the dock and shed for the pond and we will still have lots of wood left over. Eventually we will side the interior of the pole barn with some of the rough cut wood planking but first we need to lay up some double bubble insulation so it doesnt sweat.

In the mean time we wanted to build a quick work bench for some of our projects in the pole barn so here is what we came up with yesterday.

We have wood in the house garage...mostly for interior projects...

Scrap wood in the breezeway between the house garage and stone garage...

Thousands of board feet of mostly oak lumber in the milking parlor of the dairy barn (and this is where we got most of the wood for the work bench yesterday)..

Wood leaning against the wall in the hay mow...

Wood stacked on the floor of the hay mow....

And wood leaning just about yes we have a lot of wood. Unfortunately a lot of it is not dimensional as it was cut on a saw mill that used to be on the farm. Its good wood but you have to be breative to use some of it.

So in about 35 minutes we created this work bench for the pole barn using 2x4 framing and two thick oak slabs of wood for the work top.

We will eventually have built in work benches in the pole barn shop but I wanted something moveable for projects so I can pull it away from the wall and have 360 degree access.

It is definitely solid and that oak top will stand up to just about anything.

Maybelle was as curious as ever and kept us company when we moved the work bench to the pole barn and planned for other projects.

She wouldnt come inside but she hung out close by.

Even Thelma and Louise were curious and stayed close. We have found that cattle are very curious creatures and they often come to watch us when we are doing something in the pasture.

My buddy Bandit is a good co-driver and loves to ride shotgun.

But back to the bench. This framing is based loosely on plans I remember from an old Popular Mechanics article in the 1970s. I have built several similar benches from their ideas over the years and the concept is very simple. For legs, you cut one 2x4 shorter than the other so that a 2x4 cross brace can be laid flush across the front and the back, then add some side 2x4s on the top and bottom, build a shelf across the bottom side braces to tie it together then put on your work top.

Normally I would run one cross brace in each direction but oposing each other for stability but in this case I will be storing some long pieces of metal rod in the crook of the two braces and it doesnt seem to affect the stability at all.

For this bench I reversed the rear legs and made the bracing 2x4 longer as it will form the frame for something I have planned for the backside at some point but if you want them flush just do the back legs like you do the front and reverse them so everything is flush.

This old Speedy v-twin air compresser is heavy and I needed a workbench that can stand up to it and give me access all around. The rebuild starts soon.

These old pieces of equipment are works of art in my opinion and worthy of restoration. All of the hoses are dry rotted, the electrical all needs to be rewired and it needs a good cleaning but it still works and sounds awesome.

Montgomery Wards along with Sears used to sell quality items...not so much today.

We were given this old Atlanta Stove works wood stove by Steve when we bought the Allis Chalmers and we plan to use it to heat the shop. We are experimenting with various placements before we do the actual install. It needs a good wire brushing and some stove black but its in good shape and should do well to heat the shop to a tolerable temp.

One of the problems with placing it here in the back corner is that we may put a door back here and enclose one section of the lean-to machine shed for an office.

It wouldnt take much to lay a concrete floor, put a door in the side and close this all in. We have many windows to use, lots of wood as you have seen and the metal siding wouldnt cost much but its not a high priority project. We just dont want to install the stove and cut a hole in the roof for the stack if we would have to move it. So that was one of yesterdays small and fun projects....sometimes you just have to take a break from the big projects and do something just for fun..