Friday, January 21, 2011

Starting the Barn Renovation and Prep for Animals

Its mid-late January and last night it was 2º at the farm but we are starting to work on the barn and barnyard in prep for the animals in a month and a half or so. We are getting a couple of yearling calves, a couple weener hogs, chickens, and Judy is getting a couple pigmy goats. The barn is sound structurally but its set up for what a small dairy operation would look like in the late 1950s. The hay mow is a huge drive in and we park the tractors, store hay and implements, and have a large dry storage room built in it so that needs very little except exterior barn tin repair and some flooring repair. The milking parlor is well lit with all the windows but the windows need to be sealed around the frame with concrete, a couple panes need to be replaced and the interior needs to be rebuilt to make a couple of stalls. We also got a good deal on some horse corral panels ($66.00 for each 12' panel) and we have set them up to test the arrangement..they arent the heaviest duty but our needs arent that significant with just a couple cows and we like that they can be moved around.

So we had a major winter storm here the other day....3" of snow that shut down all the schools and a lot of the stores. It was actually enjoyable knowing we had all of our preps to last us for months and 3" of snow didnt used to even make us break out a snow shovel but you know, I had to check out the tractor and snow plowing. Using the FEL is definitely not the way to plow though it did in a pinch; we will be purchasing a rear blade. 
I also need a balaclava or something to cover my was bitter cold and it took me hours to warm up. I will say that the 4WD was almost necessary with our hills and I need to get the tires filled and maybe invest in some chains. I already have a bracket on the front for 3 55lb suitcase weights that I was going to buy a week or so ago but didnt and I need to bite the bullet and just do it. I bought an overrunning clutch for the PTO and I saw the weights there and was just too lazy I guess to buy them at the time. As for the overrunning clutch, I am used to not having one (it keeps the brush hog from acting like a flywheel and pushing the tractor when you disengage the clutch..i.e., the continuing rotation of the blades will keep turning the PTO shaft and thus the trasmission and drive wheels even though the engine is disengaged from the transmission) but it wasnt very expensive and could keep me from going through a fence or taking a wild ride down a hill.

WE have hundreds of birds at our feeders everyday and the Cardinals add such great color.

This is our preliminary layout for the lower part of the barn as far as the fencing. We have been searching for old pictures of the place to no avail yet but it seems logical for our purposes. We will put in fencing all the way back to the pasture fence in back and install a couple of gates to bring the cows in from pasture if needed.

Right now we have it tied into the corner post of the fencing we installed a few weeks ago. It was about 8º in this picture and blowing about 15 so it was cold.

The windows are steel framed and in good shape but over the years the concrete chinking has deteriorated and mostly fallen out. Along the way previous owners just used rigid styrofoam snd spray foam to fill in the gaps. The windows arent loose because they are set in concrete at the top and bottom but the sides are mostly gapped by an inch or more and I am going to use structural cement to chink the gaps. It sounds strange but thats how they did it back then and I am going to follow suit.

Not all the doors to the milking parlor are this bad but we will be replacing them all with pressure treated and we will cross buck them to keep them from warping.

We have a concrete feed bunk with the original milking stantions to the right. Our plan is to take out some of the milking stantions (but not all) to make a couple of stalls.

We have thousands of board feet of mostly oak lumber stored in the milking parlor right now but this is looking down the milking stalls wiuth the previously shown milking stantions to the left and you can see the cleaning/urine shutes down the center. We will build a couple of stalls in this area . If you note the vertical support posts they are stout oak but they are just sitting on concrete footings and I will need to make sure they are fixed so they cant get pushed off the footings by curious or scratching cows. I am not sure why that never happened when it was a dairy but I remember when I worked in a stockyard it was a problem. I am thinking of just taking a 5 gallon bucket to use as a form and embedding the first couple of feet in concrete.

The shutes both have functioning floor drains.

This is the interior of the door shown before...yes we have some critters in the barn.

The milking stalls are to the left in this piture and to the right are two doors that let out to the place where we put the barbed wire fence a few weeks ago. This will be the entry to the stalls.

This was originallt where they stored the hay (there are two hay drops from the hay mow up above) but it stays damp through weeping from the back wall which is below grade. We are building a lean-to off the back side for dry storage and installing gutters which may help but we are probably looking at a false floor.

The entire back side of the barn is full of lumber from a previous owner who owned a saw mill. We have been using it and it will build the chicken coop, more raised beds, lining the pole barn interior etc. with it. That is our basic plan so far but we also need to replace some of the barn tin, paint the barn (the stars have to go) and I will be rewiring it this summer and getting electricity again.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jan 15th Update

We started having septic tank issues with a little seeping out of the inspection port so we had it pumped and it was indeed full. Cost was $100.00 to get it pumped and it was a bargain because we had to chisel the access hatch out of the frozen ground, pour hot water around it, and then pry it up with a breaker bar...whew! It was pumped and inspected and was in good shape but its only about 550 gallons. We may be getting county sewer on the house which is a free hookup but we are the last farm along the planned route that isnt getting it; I pled our case to the water board and they have us first in line if they have any grant money left to get us hooked up but we wont know until the spring. If we dont get it we will put in a new septic tank which is budgeted for.

We also finally found a nice car and bought it a couple days ago. Its a 2005 Ford Five Hundred that gets twice the gas mileage of any of our trucks, seats 5 comfortably, has 84K miles on it, it is in great shape with all maintenance records going back to the first oil change and we got it over 2k under blue book as a repo. So many folks are struggling right now that deals like this arent hard to find but you almost feel guilty for taking advantage of the opportunities.

This was a real bear to get unfrozen and pried up but we got it done after about 40 minutes of grunting and groaning.

As I have said in earlier posts, we left the sorghum seed head for the birds but it was hard to show that they were getting to it. With the snow you can see all the bird tracks around each seed head that had fallen over to the ground. We have 5 feeders we fill several times a day but they still like the sorghum.

The color suits Holly better than some of the other cars we looked at. It has a small V6 with a 6 speed automatic transmission that is tuned for gas economy so its not a speed demon but its quiet and smooth.

Its in great shape inside and out and is actually classified as a full sized by the feds. Its about a foot shorter than a Crown Vic but has the same interior volume.

We will be selling one of the pickup trucks and eventually either converting the Explorer to a Mad Max pasture toy or selling it for scrap.

Spotless interior, nothing too fancy but its modern looking and functional with traction control, new tires, AC, and a good stereo.

Lots of leg room and it in fact has more rear seat space than the old Park Avenue we were looking at

And finally it has a cavernous trunk that the mob would put to good use.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Winter on the Homestead

Well after a very mild November and December winter has finally arrived and its gotten cold and we have gotten some snow. Now after living in Alaska all those years we find its pretty mild and we enjoy it (lots of sun, relatively mild temps, dry snow) but it does make driving challenging. I fought a major structural fire a couple weeks ago and was on the monitor hose and since it was about 19 degrees and 3:30 am I ended up covered in ice from the spray..good times!! We also had a major storm a couple weeks ago that spawned tornados to the southwest and northeast of us that killed 6 folks and did major damage to Fort Leonard Wood...we were lucky and were spared any damage.

Christmas was relaxing and peaceful but several of the things we got each other were made in...China and required some redneck engineering to make right. I got Holly a big garden wagon she can tow behind her garden tractor or four wheeler and some of the bolt holes were misaligned and the bolts were junk..had to redrill, use a piece of scrap angle iron and replace all of the bolts but its functioning great now. I also got a shop light that was missing the screw holes for the wire guard over the halogen light...didnt take much to fix but man the quality control in some of these products is lacking.

We also started our fence project during a period of fairly warm weather..but digging corner post holes with a hand post hole digger and iron breaker bar is NOT the way to go. I am thinking an auger for the tractor will be a must have for this spring. We have purchased our garden seeds from the Baker Creek heirloom seed company, we have ordered 275 seedlings from the Missouri Dept of Conservation for March delivery (we are planting native species at various points around the farm to attract wildlife, act as windbreaks, provide a screen from the highway etc), and we have ordered the rest of the windows for the kitchen, front picture window and the rest of the trailer. I even ordered new windows for the well house and stone garage but I will have to completely rebuild the frames.

All in all we are spending a lot of time outside even in the cold but we are enjoying the winter break from all the activity in the gardens. Our concentration now is fencing for the animals, cutting wood, and enjoying feeding the birds and watching all of the animals. Lots of deer and rabbits are hanging out on the property now.
We had a traditional Christmas rib with all the fixins

Holly's very first pecan turned out perfect.

Her Chistmas hair deal and new Mark Martin shirt...luckily she likes the old guys.

Christmas morning playing with the new toys.

A couple people have asked about the stone corner posts we have around here. We have several on our fence line and they are basically field wire anchored with t-posts and then filled with rocks that are picked out of the pasture. They are all over the Ozarks and this one is along the fence line in our back woodlot.

This was a winter storm brewing...the slies here never disappoint.

We planted winter wheat in a few places as an experiment for green manure. Though its come up some in this pic it will really take off in the spring and then we will plow it under. I bought cheap seed and got spotty germination and am planning to go to buckwheat next year.

We left the grain heads on the sorghum for the birds and I suspect next year we will have volunteer sorghum sprouting up all over but we shall see.

It snowed later this day.

It was about 22 degrees but we just cant stay inside...people driving by think we are a little touched in the head because we have been sitting out in the lawn chairs watching the birds in this weather.

The horses in the back pasture dont seem to mind the cold.

This is what is behind our back pasture and woodlot and we are going to try and purchase a piece of it.

This is Holly's new garden cart she gfot for Christmas and yes..she is still gardening in the winter. As a matter of fact we will be harvesting our broccoli from the greenhouse soon.

We started our fencing project and barn renovation by fencing off the dropoff on the southside of the barn. I almost rolled the tractor off the ledge this summer when I tried to mow too close and we are worried about people or animals falling.

Dug the post holes 3' deep by hand and filled with concrete left over from numerous summer projects...they arent going anywhere.

We have lots more to go but its a start and this is after Christmas to boot.

Taking a break in the was a beautiful day.

All of the wood and barbed wire for this project was found in the barn

This was my frustrating venture in modifying the garden cart

But it worked out fine. It has a reversable hitch for the ATV or garden tractor and then you can flip it around and it has a pull handle.

We have had a couple of power outages but have a backup generator and I am in the process of wiring in a transfer switch so I can just plu it into the outside 30 amp plug and power the furnce blowers, refer, freezer, and all important TV and computer.

And today we are in the middle of that winter storm thats sweeping through the midwest and heading for NY...its beautiful but in the mid teens.

Bandit and Rose dont know what to make of the new fence but Boo Boo likes sitting on the rail.

We will eventually put in a gate and continue fencing to the existing pasture fence; the goat pen will be going to the right of this past the oak trees.