Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sewer Project Update

Just a quick update on our connection to the community sewer system. The line is now connected all the way to the previous terminus and they are installing the sewer lines on our property now. Big news for us as we should be fully connected in a week or so which means....long showers, and Holly gets her long wished for dish washer.

They are digging a 4 foot trench to bury a small high pressure line that connects up to the sewer main about a mile away and it will eventually connect up to a grinder pump/lift station buried by our dairy barn. 4" schedule 40 lines will then come from the farm house and Judy's mobile home to the grinder pump and when it gets full it will grind everything and pump it to the main sewer line and points south (literally). In the event of an extended power outage, they are putting a transfer switch on the grinder pump so I can connect one of our generators to it to pump it so we will never be without sewer capability. That's using your noggin in my book.

We had to have a couple grape vines dug up (to be planted elsewhere) and we will lose two cedars but we wanted them gone anyway so its working out real well. We shouldn't lose any of the deciduous trees we enjoy so much.
They will trench all the way to the back of the Dodge Dakota you see behind the backhoe then make a hard left and trench to the grinder pump location. Any of the excess dirt they have I have asked them to just put into a pile instead of carting it off so I can use it for some projects we have planned.

All that trenching for such a small diameter pipe.
We moved the trucks to get them out of the way of the contractor and I had never seen them together before so I took a couple of pictures just because.

I had someone make a statement the other day that he didn't see why we had three full sized pickups in addition to the other vehicles and asked if I felt guilty. The answer to the first question is because we want them and the answer to the second is no guilt. First of all its not like they are brand new fancy rigs (they are all projects of one form or another) but most of all we have worked hard and saved to have the things we enjoy and fixing up and selling things is how we make a side income. Its all about priorities, we have three old pickups we have fun with but our TV is an old unit that we picked up for $25.00...we just don't care about TV that much.
So if you want three old but well maintained pickups learn how to do your own repairs and go get them..lots of good stuff out there that can be had from people who don't have a clue on how to fix them when they break down. Just stay away from around here as we are always looking for good deals!

And a final update on the new chicken run, they love it and its working out great.

Happy Halloween!

Its Halloween and also our 14th anniversary....yes we married on Halloween, had a great wedding with all of our friends (mostly in costume), and to us this is the start of the holidays and a very  special day. From now through 2 Jan we are in holiday mode and once 2 Jan hits I will mope until spring.

First of all, we have numerous major projects going on right now, fencing, the sewer going in, we are in the process of widening our driveway, we are getting the shop situated, hunting season is approaching, and we have daughter Jen and Fiance' Steve and #3 son Matt coming for a couple weeks over Thanksgiving. So a couple of days ago we had to go to Springfield to get a 10' stick of 15" culvert and a band to tie into the existing culvert and widen the driveway. One of the things we have been looking for to outfit the shop is an old military steel desk (if you have ever served you know what I mean, it has the rubberized top, weighs a tonne etc) and on the way back Holly saw a sign that said "Free Desk". My first thought was it will be a cheap particle board number but we turned around and voila', the exact desk we have been looking for but haven't found on Craig's List or in the classifieds.

It literally weighs about 100 lbs and had rust etc but virtually no dents, all the drawers worked, and it was perfect.
So, a wash, some sanding, masking, primer, paint and....
We ended up with a great shop desk that was free outside of some labor and materials...and yes I re-painted it in olive drab...makes me feel at home. I still need to refurbish the top but we are pretty happy with it and it is a much needed addition to the shop. We get way more enjoyment out of projects like this where we refurbish something old and give it new life. I have fond memories of desks like this both sitting at one working when I was in the Marine Corps and later the Army and sometimes standing in front of one one getting my butt chewed for some transgression or another. It fits me like an old comfortable pair of shoes.

And the best part is it was made in the USA
But back to Halloween. All the kids are long since grown and on their own but we still like to have fun on the holidays...and decorating is just part of that fun.

The three of us all carved pumpkins (mine is the mean looking one) and then we roast the seeds for a  snack.
And one of my personal favorites we have been doing for about 10 years is that we make a nice pot roast with roasted vegetables so that the whole house smells good when the kids come to the door. I made this with a red wine and red vinegar base along with lots of garlic, onions, fresh Rosemary and Thyme. Halloween kind of marks the point where we transition to hearty winter fare with lots of soups, stews, and roasts.
Mean while Holly roasted a sugar pumpkin along with carrots, potatoes, turnips, onions, and apples and to give continuity to the meal she also used fresh Thyme and Rosemary. This is one of my favorite meals and I look forward to it every year. Maybe its aging but I have come to really appreciate the family traditions we have established over the years and I never tire of them. I think when your younger, at least in my case, you are so busy trying to make your mark in the world that you dont slow down enough to just live in the moment (if that makes any sense) and I am glad I have learned to just enjoy life and all that it offers. 

For our anniversary, Judy made us some redneck wine glasses, two jelly jars that she glued bases to and they are really cool.
We had way more Trick or Treaters this year which we enjoyed. We live kind of far out but we know so many people now that we had a steady stream of kids. One of the things we do is to have a bowl full of canned vegetables and a bowl of candy and offer the veggies to the kids first and we always get a laugh out of it and some of the kids remembered that from last year. Also this year, Holly added a box of Kraft Mac and Cheese to each bag of candy we gave out and the kids loved it, we even had kids come to the door having heard about the Mac and Cheese from other kids that had been here previously. We had a lot of fun with it and really enjoy the kids. Lots of folks talk about how bad kids are now days but we just dont see it that way, the kids were all polite, its was nice to see young parents out with their kids and we would hate to live in a place where Halloween is restricted to kids going to a mall or some other single point like that...I mean, how else are you going to teach kids to interact with people appropriately if you dont let them learn by doing?

So it was a pleasant day with mild weather and lots of friendly people. I hope everyone who reads this had as happy a Halloween as we did here on the farm.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

No Bull; Yes Bull

It has been a busy week as usual, my Army buddy Duane came down to check on his place and stayed with us for a night and then we went to check out his new place and had lunch at a Mennonite bakery and butcher shop. We then had to go to the VA hospital in Columbia to get evaluated for another couple surgeries I am pending (sigh) and met up with Duane again on his way to St Louis and had dinner, Judy had company from Alaska, we had a county wide FEMA MASSCAL/HAZMAT exercise hosted by the VFD we are members of and on top of that we had a bull delivered today as the first step in expanding our herd. We are a bit behind our business plan due to my back surgery and the massive drought but we are getting back on track. Future plans also include raising steers next year on the 8 acres of pasture that we share crop with a neighbor and selling them at butcher time next fall.

As for the VA, I have had some criticisms of them, mostly that they are slow and the education program is completely broken so I didn't expect much from my visit to the VA hospital. Thankfully I can report that it was a very nice facility, they were efficient and professional, and we couldn't have been treated better. We were really pleased and at least in Missouri, the VA Hospital and staff are top notch.

Meet Caesar. Caesar is a Limousin/Hereford cross bull that belongs to a neighbor and he will be staying with us for three months or so in the hopes he impregnates our three heifers. He was a little feisty when he was dropped off but he seems to have settled in quite well and our heifers follow him around like he is truly the conqueror.

Once our heifers realised they had a visitor they made a beeline for him and the poor guy got chased for about 30 minutes.
Cattle are very social animals and after some get to know you licks and sniffing they pretty much settled down without problem and we have already noticed some preliminary mounting going on.
Interestingly, right around the time we normally give the heifers a little grain Caesar followed them down and we were able to walk right up to the trough and give them some grain and Caesar acted like he had done this for months.

Caesar couldn't get any relief even when he was eating and the heifers seem to be competing for his attention.
 He is a well built and good looking bull about 2.5 years old and he has already sired a string of calves so we are hopeful he can be successful with our cows.
So after a couple hours getting used to each other, they seem to be all getting along and we have been watching them graze and socialize. Pretty satisfying.

Holly and Judy also did the first harvest of sweet potatoes today. Much less yield this year due to the drought and they are a lot smaller but we have already eaten some and they are very tasty...I actually prefer the smaller ones.
Finally, this is a shot looking north that again shows the beautiful fall colors we have gotten this year. There is a 300 acre land trust across the road from us that is almost entirely forested in red and white Oaks and there is nothing over there except coyotes, deer, wild turkeys, a reported black bear or two (we haven't seen them yet) and tonnes of people, no buildings, and we like that.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall Color and a New Chicken Run

After such a long hot summer we have had a fantastic fall and after a couple nights of frost we have had the most colorful display of foliage since we moved here. Days have been mostly warm and sunny with crisp cool nights and we have really enjoyed the mild weather.

It also continues to be busy at the Rock House Farm, the sewer project is making steady headway, we are in the process of replacing the culvert to our driveway and widening it, we continue fencing, and we lucked into a deal on expanding the chicken run.

Speaking of fencing, last night we were working on the chicken run and Holly looked up into the pasture and saw one, two, three, four...five...cattle then a couple more when we only have three right now. Turns out the neighbor has a bull, we have a couple of heifers in heat, bull decides to visit our heifers and a bunch of calves and one of his heifers follows. So we called them up and we all soon got them sorted out and back where they belonged but we could only temporarily patch the fence because it was getting dark. So this morning we cut out a section of fence and strung some field fencing and a couple strands of barbed wire and the problem is solved. During all of this we also made plans to formally expose our heifers to his bull this week end so we will see what happens.

This picture is across the fence behind our pole barn shop and that heifer is one of the escapees that came for a visit last night.

Our wood lot is also displaying a vivid color scheme.
A wider view to the north across our pasture fence; we are surrounded by color.

Our back pasture has some huge Oaks and they have had a bumper acorn crop and are giving good color as well.
This picture is across our back pasture fence looking East; a sea of autumn color and the pasture here is full of deer and wild turkeys in the morning and early evening.

This is in front of the farmhouse looking south just about sunset. Its hard to get the brilliance of the colors to come across in these pictures but its warm in this picture (about 75 degrees), there was a slight breeze blowing, leaves were gently falling in the breeze and it is very peaceful.
Even the Oak grove behind the big barn is colorful.

One of the things we like around here is that we have a succession of flowering plants and this is the second blooming of Mums this year.
One of our neighbors is a bachelor and after the raccoons got most of his chickens he gave up the ghost and got rid of the rest of them so he had a 10' x 10' dog run he had used as a chicken run for sale for $100. We had planned on expanding the chicken run anyway but were holding off because the heavier duty runs like this one cost over $300 so we took advantage of the opportunity.

We already have a small chicken door to the outside from our existing run so this was easy to set up. We assembled the run, laid some chicken wire over the top, and cut a hole for the door from the existing run to open into the new run. We will let the chickens have access to their new run during the day and then lock them up at night. The chicken wire over the top is just to keep the hawks at bay and keep the chickens from flying out as we don't clip their wings.
Just some fall scenes from the Rock House Farm.

Friday, October 12, 2012


The front fence project is complete, the sewer line installation is well underway, and we got a new vehicle project. We have had people mention that we seem to be always so busy and having fun and though that is generally true, its not by accident and its never too early to plan for what you want to do. I truly don't know how people could be bored in life.

One of the projects from the last post was the fencing across the road frontage of our property to connect up to the chain link fence in front of the house we installed earlier this year and its now completed. Its about 330 feet of Red Top field fencing on T-posts with a strand of Gaucho barbed wire on top. Our part time hired hand is a very hard working young guy and he drove all the posts and helped us run the wire and he sure got a work out.

We put in a people gate between the two fence styles for access because its such a long stretch of fence and we are pretty happy with it.
And now looking in the other direction on the other side of the house we have the sewer line dug and laid well underway towards the eventual linkup about a mile away.
In the previous picture if you look close you will see a backhoe in the far distance and this is now a picture from the backhoe looking in the same direction. Our nearest neighbor is in the trees in the far distance and the sewer line will go across his property to eventually link up to the terminus of the existing line. We have great neighbors who didn't hesitate to sign the utility easement.

This view in the other direction from the backhoe shows our house in the far distance so you can see this is no small project but we are very happy to get connected to the sewer system.
This view is a little closer but still looking towards our house and the backhoe is behind in this photo. If you look to the left in the tree you can see the remains of the fence they cut (about 8 feet) so it was lucky we aren't running cattle here right now. The contract requires them to replace any fencing and this fencing was real old anyway but we may just replace the fencing ourselves.....yes we are that particular.

All that effort to lay a small schedule 40 pipe 4 feet under the ground.

This is looking towards our right middle pasture and beyond those trees in the background is our main pond. The leaning structure in the back right is an old hog barn that I would love to rehab but alas its probably too far gone. I just hate that these old structures disappear.
We all like the activity that surrounds projects like this and I admit I never out grew Tonka trucks. I have to watch the machinery, I enjoy hearing them work and usually they let me have a turn operating if I can only convince Holly we need our own dump truck.....
This little cream puff was only driven to church by a little old lady...Actually, I have a friend who owns an auto repair shop in a nearby town and I had asked him to keep an eye open for a parts truck for the hot rod. He called me a week or so ago and said a dealer took a 1990 Dodge in on trade and that I might be interested in it.

This truck was a one owner local trade in and only has 119,000 miles on it and is in great shape but cosmetically it needed enough repair (some body work and paint) that the dealer didn't want to fool with it because he didn't want to spend the money to fix a 22 year old truck that would then not bring him much of a profit. My friend told him he may have a cash buyer and he said he would let it go for what he had into it to get it off his lot so we got it for $1200.
When Holly first saw it she was aghast because of the bad paint but when we test drove it she was shocked. The engine is a throttle body electronic fuel injected 318 and starts right up, its quiet, and the truck is tight as can be and drives as smooth as our GMC.
It had a canopy on it so the bed is unmarred, it really was owned by an old man, and its never seen farm use or hauled anything. It just sat outside all those years and the late 80s and early 90s vehicles all have paint issues thanks to the EPA mandating a reformulation of auto paint that wasn't up to snuff. Those older cars and trucks you see with the peeling paint are mostly from that era.

Absolutely everything on this truck works as it should including the AC, heat, stereo, cruise control, tilt wheel etc. and as you can see the interior is nice without even a tear in the original upholstery.
I have been through this thing top to bottom and mechanically its a gem. No leaks of any type, no rust, and other than a brake job it needs nothing.
It even had the AC system retrofitted to R-134a freon back in 2001.

All four tires are good..
 and other than the bent front bumper and dent in the right front there isn't much body work needed; just some rust over the rear wheel wells..the cab corners are fine. So, I have already had two offers on this truck for more than we paid for it as its hard to find older trucks in this good of shape. Plans are to do the brake job, deal with some minor body repair then grind off all the surface rust and prep it for paint. But this time instead of spraying it the plan is to use Rustoleum enamel rolled on with a closed cell foam roller. Young guys don't get this technique usually and think only the new PPG type paints will work but this is old school enamel we are talking about and its hard as nails and it will look great. You dilute the paint with mineral spirits at about 1 cup of paint to 3/4 cup of mineral spirits and roll it on in thin coats (5 or 6) then you wet sand and buff it out. It sounds crazy to the uninitiated and I sure wouldn't do it on an expensive hot rod but for a work truck it will look nice and its a good option. The purpose here is to fix it up and sell it at a profit but you know you can never have too many trucks and this one may be too nice to sell!!
We will be sure to post the progress of the Rustoleum paint process (we are thinking blue, grey or silver)...I can already hear the skeptics groaning.
Life is good.