Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chain Link Fence Project

One of the projects we had on tap for this year and we mentioned in a post at the beginning of the year was a chain link fence around the front yard. We eventually may want to free range the chickens and we often have visitors who bring their dogs so we wanted to enclose the front. Additionally, we consider a fence across the front as a secondary fence in case the main perimeter fence for the cattle gets we took several bids and chose a local to do the job.

Now in the Ozarks you have to be patient and not in a hurry, we accepted a bid from a young hard working guy back in early May and we just got busy with other things and figured it would eventually happen and so it has.

The temps have been in the 100s and each post hole was dug by hand...could we have done it ourselves? Why yes we could have but it was sure nice to have these guys take on that burden. We have a tonne of fencing to do yet and this is one project we were happy to farm out.

Every post was set in concrete 2.5 feet down.
At the far end in this picture we will pick up the front fencing with field fencing and one strand of barbed wire which will cover across the rest of our road frontage.
One of the reasons we selected this contractor beside the fact he was a local was the fact he used a heavier gage material. This chain link fence is heavy duty and is what is called "dog tight" in that it has wire along the bottom course of the fence hat keeps dogs from going under it.

Some of the bids did not include concrete for each post...concrete is good...concrete is what we required.
So here is the end product. We have a gate to the front door and its open to the French Door (if we need to enclose a dog we will just put a cattle panel in place temporarily). Note it also is nice for the produce stand sign.
We put some heavy limestone rocks in the corner to protect the corner post and moved the planter box to in front of the fence. Eventually the fence will be covered by honeysuckle and other vines and fences are good to plant against.

Its mostly psychological but having fencing that defines an area is very pleasing and gives you a sense of security. We are pleased with the result and now just need to install the field fencing and eventually we will put a gate across the drive...Zombies don't like gates.,

Friday, July 20, 2012

Mechanical Mayhem

Its been one of those stretches where a large chunk of the preventive maintenance chores all came due at once; oil changes are due for two of the trucks, the car, and the four wheeler. I need to get around to replacing the shocks on the Dodge (I have them just need to do it). I ran over a piece of wire with the IH 424 while brush hogging a neighbors pasture and found that even with a new tube the tire is too shot to seat the bead to the rim because the sidewalls blow out so its new tire time and the loader control lever for the Kubota broke a weld that was a manufacturers defect but the dealer wont stand behind their product.

It was an easy fix for the Kubota but its disappointing the dealer was totally disinterested in standing behind his product. I really like the little Kubota but guess what dealer I wont be sending my friends to or buying anything from again?

Its also hot, real hot --

I almost feel like I am back patrolling in Iraq...I just exchanged IEDs and Ambushes for dodging overloaded hay trailers and kamikazi deer...the heat is about the same!

When I ran over the wire I knew the tires were shot (orginals from 1966) but I was trying to limp them know how it is. So I took off the rim and tire, went over to a friends and we used his Massy Ferguson tractor with a heavy loader to break the bead from the rim and then got the tire pulled and a new inner tube put in. you can see the sidewalls were so shot we couldnt air ir up enough to seat the bead to the rim because the sidewalls would blow out. Time for new tires.
This tractor also has rear wheel weights that are bolted to the rim in two pieces and it was apparent from the rusty bolts they hadnt been removed for a decade or more. So I used PB Blaster to soak the wheel weight bolts and the lug bolts and they came loose eventually (after a lot of muscle in the 100 degree plus heat!).
You can see in this picture there is a little rust hole in the fender from the battery acid leaking and I want to patch it so...add that to the to do list. Its a catch 22, I will eventually tear this thing down to replace all the seals, and do a repaint and now would be an ideal time to do it but we need to use this tractor right now so once the tire goes back on all that will have to wait.
The pictures are a little deceiving but these are 4000 pound tractors and it can be dangerous working on this machinery. The tractor is in gear, the brake is set, the right wheel is chocked as are the two fronts. You can also see two jack stands and a 20 ton bottle jack left in place holding everything up. I see a lot of folks around here not using jack stands when working on farm machinery or motor vehicles and it makes me shudder.
So here is the old tire and rim (I aired up the tire for ease of moving it around but it wont hold air) leaning against the old farm truck to give perspective. Its big and heavy.
We looked all over the Internet and every local shop and found two tires of the size we needed (13.6-28) out in Seymour for the cheapest price and here is one of the two waiting to be put on. Its made in India and cost $350 least of taken care of it will last long after I am gone. I will install them next week.

And here is the broken weld on the Kubota loader control lever. It attaches to the hydraulics that make the bucket go up and down, tilt, dump etc and as you can see the weld closest to you in this picture is almost completely missing and just tacked at the end. This wasnt abused or even used hard..its a manufacturers defect.
So it got welded much more thoroughly this time around.
I cleaned up the welds a bit, hit it with the wire wheel, primed it and painted it for rust protection. It gets installed tomorrow (just two bolts).
And of course we are in the middle of harvest and we ended up with a bunch of cabbages we didnt sell and we couldnt eat it all before it went bad so......
Saurkraut. This is now covered in cheese cloth and weighted and fermenting in our basement right now. We skim it daily and in two months we will bring it up and pressure can it. You put this in a crock pot in layers with some pork spare ribs and a little sugar and some sliced apples on a winters day and your house will smell so good all day as its cooking. Makes me long for winter.

We are just now getting our harvest of watermellons and these are called "Baby Sweets". They are the sweetest tasting water mellons I have ever found and we have a bunch coming.
And finally, this is Eve the feral barn cat we have never been able to catch to get her fixed but she all of the sudden decided to come inside from the heat to have a litter of kittens. Once they are weaned Eve goes to the vet and the kittens get taken to Walmarts parking lot to try and give away. In the mean time, its just life on the farm and you have to admit they are cute little creatures. None of us have ever outgrown the awe we feel over seeing things like this and I really hope we never do.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Busy Week

We have been hopping around here this past week with harvesting, canning, freezing, working on installing the HVAC system for the new Fire Dept training building, working a motorcycle poker run and we had a good friend from the Army come and stay with us while they looked for farms in the area.

We decided we wanted a few more blackberries for the freezer so we got up early one morn and went picking. The drought has wiped out the blackberry crop this year in this area but we had a bunch that were doing well in shaded areas and around the big pond. Now last year at this time the pond level was up around where Holly's shoulders are in this picture so its really low but we still have plenty of water. Most farm ponds around here aren't doing so well. 

Even with the drought we got some good berries and ended up with 6 quarts.

We did some work on the hot rod too. This started with no front grill (as in the post a couple back) so I took an old beat up one and painted it gloss black as you can see here...better.
Then the chrome one I ordered over the magic of Internet arrived and I like this one best. I have also been playing with the fuel lines because in this extreme heat I was getting vapor lock due to the fuel lines just laying on the intake manifold and valve cover. The truck is now up in the shop for some suspension work and I will make more permanent changes to the re-routing of the fuel lines and I have some line insulation coming from JEGs. I had a 64 Impala back in the 70s with a 327 and had to make my own "Cool Can" out of a coffee can and screw it to the fender well to stop the vapor lock (remember those? you routed your fuel line in loops in the can then filled it with ice..sheesh what a pain). If push comes to shove I may have to mount an electric fuel pump back at the tank for those extremely hot days.
Ahh the glamorous life of a Fire Fighter. And yes I know Fire Fighters aren't supposed to have beards...I have a positive pressure mask and the beard stays...get over it.
My good friend Duane and his wife Deena flew down from Alaska in a pre retirement search for their own farm and they spend the night with us. Duane and I served in OIF together a few years ago and we always have a blast together....which sometimes spells trouble but I sure hope they find a place close.
We pick 10-15 pounds of tomatoes a day now and have been selling them like crazy, eating them like crazy and of course canning them. First you blanch them and then put them in ice water to loosen the skins.
Then you peel the skins and core and quarter them.
Then process them in either a water bath canner or pressure canner per the instructions for your altitude. These are raw pack water bath canned and they will be nice in a winters stew or soup.
And then today's pickings will have to be sold or processed. We bring them in and let them finish ripening so we have a day or two respite.
And like I said we eat them all different this tomato sandwich.
I do some wrenching on bikes now and again but we sold our three when we moved here so fixing other peoples bikes has to do for now. A local club was having a poker run and I helped manage a station. They have 5 stations in various locations and draw cards at each station to try and make a poker hand to win a prize. I am not a V-Rod fan but this was a nice one with some Vance and Hines pipes I liked.
There are a lot of Victorys in this club and I liked this one for its clean lines. I do not like graphics on a bike and am definitely not a fan of saddle bags and windshields/fairings so this one appealed to me.
And the 250 fatty rear tire didn't hurt its look any either.
There was a real mix of bikes including various Japanese cruisers like this old mostly Yamaha (it had a lot of Suzuki pieces but it all worked well I thought). I also like chrome spoked wheels over mags on a bike but you have to learn how to tune them.
This is another Victory (106 cu Inch) that I liked with the tastefully blacked out pipes and engine. Harley does a blackout version of a lot of their bikes but to me they get carried away and I just as soon do it myself.

This pictures does not do the paint job on this Road King justice but it was beautiful and done by a local part timer. It was a mottled Green with so many clear coats you could drown in it. But a green bike? I'm too superstitious.

And finally for this post, our very first egg was laid this evening by one of the Barred Rocks. A small achievement for some but very satisfying for us.

So as you can see we have been busy. I enjoyed working on the Fire department building because we are doing the work ourselves and we all have ownership of the new building. Will I get another bike? Probably, but mostly I would look to just build a bike or two and sell them. I like the bobber style with as little on it as as legally reflectors, no front fender, no turn signals (or at least very small LEDs), springer front ends are good, mini ape hangers, solid candy color paint and lots of chrome...oh and a nitrous bottle on the down tube looks sick. For now I will have to satisfy myself with the hot rod.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Harvesting in Earnest

This year has been a setback on our 5 year farm plans because of the drought, we have added acreage, we have put more land into production, but the main income stream is planned to be from the sale of cattle and the drought has just decimated every ones pastures and the price of beef on the hoof has plummeted. Luckily we have worked our butts off on keeping the truck garden going through all this and we are now reaping the results of those efforts; Holly has actually done pretty good selling veggies from our roadside stand because most sane folks gave it up about a month ago.

So we are happily eating the tomatoes, the fresh corn, the cauliflower, making jams and jellies, pickling, canning, freezing and otherwise preserving our harvest to sustain us for the next year. We enjoyed a couple rain showers the last couple days and the temps have abated somewhat to the low 90s during the day and high 60s at night......about a 10 degree drop so it feels so much cooler.

Our diets certainly changed when we moved to the farm and during the harvest we enjoy finding creative ways to eat what is fresh. This fritatta that Holly made has farm fresh eggs, cheddar cheese, and fresh tomatoes and onions from the garden. Was it good? Yes it was....a bit of Tabasco, a strong cup of coffee and some fresh juice and it was a morning feast.

And this dinner consisted of a BLT with farm raised smoked thick cut smoked bacon (and man its good), our garden tomatoes and lettuce, and a mildly sourdough french bread that was store bought (too hot to bake right now) but good. Toast the bread , slather in mayonnaise (not the Miracle Whip folks around here use) and cut it on the diagonal. Add an RC Cola or a Stewart's Black Berry soda and its nirvana. By the way, I don't know about any of you but I like Mayo and its just not used around here for anything...they call it Yankee food. 

Yesterday we picked 20 lbs of white grapes from our vineyard and we have much more on the vine. The red grapes didn't do well at all but these sweet whites are like Concords and they have an extremely grape/sweet flavor. So.....grape jelly time. The whole time we were de-stemming and cleaning the grapes all I could think of was Brian singing "Peanut Butter Jelly Man".....Holly and Judy just think I'm a little off...
So once they are thoroughly cleaned and cleaned again, you boil them for about ten minutes then hang them to drain through cheese cloth and its that concentrated juice that you use for your jelly base. Then you add sugar, Sure Jell or Pectin, heat some more, put into jelly jars and cap them, then boil for ten more minutes (due to our altitude over 1000 feet) and poof............

24 1/2 pints of Grape Jelly and it is so good. I even like this grape jelly in replacement of apple jelly for lamb or goat...but we are making apple jelly too so...? One thing I didn't get pictures of is we took those black berries from a previous post and made 16 1/2 pints of blackberry jam. I have been eating it from the one jar that didn't seal right and its better than anything you ever had from a store. We also put up black berries for pies and tarts and as a sauce for venison.

We have had a lot of people mention that we always have an abundant garden and that it must be nice to just go out and pick something instead of go to the store...and it is. But it takes a lot of work to plan, plant, tend, harvest and now preserve what we harvest. We have enough things coming ripe all at once that we would just have to chuck it in the compost heap if we didn't have a plan for what to do at harvest. This is out first mass harvest of corn (we have been eating fresh corn for a week or two and we have sold a bunch). Its always satisfying and look how good our corn came out even in this drought. For some reason it didn't get starchy and is just as sweet as you could ever want.
We wash it all out and then separate the corn we will freeze as nibblets and the corn we freeze on the cob and then process it accordingly. We may not can corn this year as we don't particularly like it..we have gotten spoiled I guess. One thing we have come to appreciate; our old farm house is one quarter kitchen, one quarter living room, one quarter family room, and one quarter bedrooms (with a bathroom thrown in). So in our almost 2000 square foot place we have a lot of space devoted to the kitchen...and its needed when you start canning. We also have a pantry, a fridge, and an upright freezer in our kitchen in addition to the root cellar.....its all come in handy.

We sold most of the cauliflower but blanched and froze enough for us to last over the winter. And we had some that was breaded and deep fried the other good to take a healthy veggie like that and make it a caloric and cholesterol nightmare!!
The chickens are all doing well and are going to be starting to lay eggs at any time now. We have several customers lined up for the eggs and with 9 hens we should have enough for us and everyone else but its a financial loser if that's your aim. What ever we make will just partly offset the feed cost...but having chickens isn't about money. I was up at the fire station the other morning and came home about 6:00 am and got out of my truck and the dogs came to great me, the roosters were crowing, and I opened the farmhouse door to the smell of all just felt right.

And finally with the weather easing a bit the tomatoes have gone crazy. We have already sold a bunch and we harvest daily now and we will soon begin canning more of them.

We have found that when we find a tomato on the ground because its so fat it pulls the branch down that if we pick it and place it on the window sill it ripens and tastes great so we have much less of a loss now. Another tip..NEVER refrigerate a fresh tomato..they not only lose taste immediately they change texture.

So at the end of the day we are slowly filling our freezer and our larder and root cellar. This is what it looks like at the beginning of the harvest, we will post again at the end.

So what else has been happening? One of the cows has pink eye and we are treating her though its frustrating, last night was my first meeting as the President of the local Lions Club and we have lots to do before our horse show on Aug 4th, Holly has been working selling veggies and working on the Fire Department financials, my friend Ed and I are working on installing the HVAC system for the new Fire Department building, I finished 2 FEMA grants for the fire department last Friday, I got all the gages working on the new hot rod and there will be an update soon on the work that's been done

How is it that we are more busy as retirees than we were when we worked full time?