Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Dangers of Farm Auctions

We have some friends that are selling off their farm assets and downsizing fro a couple hundred acres to about 20 acres and from 60 head of cattle to 3. They mentioned that if we were looking for stuff for our place we should come over before they had their auction and look around....we resisted for a few weeks but yesterday we headed over.

We ended up with an automatic head gate, 35 T-Posts, and a bunch of welded steele panels we plan on using for a cattle chute to the head gate...oh and an ARC welder (I think I mentioned this possibilty in a previous post). We resisted a 300 gallon John Deere sprayer, a 1988 Diesel Dump Truck, a couple of tractors, and a bunch of other stuff. And speaking of dump trucks, down the street is a 2.5 tonne 1977 Chevy C-60 with a dump bed...its only $2200 and looks lonely but as much as Holly wants it I have stood fast in resisting this truck that is in excellent shape. Actually, we both like machinery and the older the better so we are a bad pairing.

To round out today, we were hauling some brush to the burn pile behind one of the ponds this afetrnoon when we heard a sound that we first mistook for birds. After a little poking around we heard some little meows from the middle of the biggest brush pile and when I waded into this snake pit and stuck my hand down into the pile (this is literally a 15 - 20 foot high pile) something grabbed by leather gloved hand with its claws. I pulled out a tiny kitten that was half starved and severely dehydrated...then another one was wildly scrmbling to reach me through the brush so now there were two and I got this one as well and gave both to Holly. We didnt hear anything else and were getting ready to leave when the faintest little squeek could be heard and after a bunch of digging we rescued a third kitten. It looks like the rest are dead but these three were taken to Judy's place where she had a cat that was already nursing and they all settled in like a big happy family. Do we need three more cats? Heck no and I dont know what we will do with these three but I am telling you that no matter how hard your heart is looking at these tiny creatures who were so desperate there is no way we couldnt take them in. I try to keep this blog a-political and happy go lucky because that is pretty much how we live but in all seriousness I have witnessed way more inhumanity in this world and the resultant death and destruction than I was ever equipped for and I find myself increasingly drawn to animals and the natural world....and that is where I find peace. So we have a few more cats.

One of our projects today was to put in the gate and fence across the side driveway. We used corral panels and we think it turned out pretty good. The main purpose is as a secondary fence line in case one of the cows gets out but it also serves as a psychological barrier to denote our "personal space...(i.e., past this point is our private realm) and it will be something we can plant against

We got 6 heavy steele panels that will end up as something spectacular...just wait. Some need a little welding but the plan is to create a heavy duty chute that leads into a cattle head gate. We are creative and it will work out fine....but in the mean time each panel weighs over 250 pounds and its a bear to piece together.
One of the things you have to have to be a small time farmer or rancher is an imagination. This looks like a pile of scrap to some but in my head is a useful and practical addition to the old homestead. In fact, that is one of the problems now days, scrap prices are so high that most of this stuff is just getting carted off to scrap which limits your ability to cobble together your own small operation. We will get this sorted out, put up, cleaned up, and painted green and it will be very useful....seriously.

Among (or "amongst" for our British friends) everything else you will find in the bed of the farm truck a heavy duty automatic head gate (once their shoulders hit it it closes and traps the head), a bunch of used T-Posts we got (for fencing off the shop and staging yard), and some other pieces we will incorporate into the planned cattle chute...seriously!

This we picked up and will wait for Holly's (Judy's brother) Uncle Chuck to visit in July. He is a retired welder and helped Judy move to the farm (before we got here even) so he was here in the very early stages and the expectation we have is that he visit, relax and enjoy his visit, and play around with the ARC welder and a 1950s Kohler generator he found in the still awaits you Chuck!!

We work hard but towards the end of the day we stop, relax a bit, and play lawn darts (seen here), or we shoot some golf balls (also seen here to the left), or we have lawn tractor races or whatever we want. Its important to stop and enjoy the fruits of your labor and we have fully embraced the idea of work and play as a mix. We have a frisbee or two, footballs, lots of motorized conveyances, rifles, pistols, etc and we like to compete against each other. Soon, we will have a fishing tournament but first we must buy a very accurate digital scale......and I intend to win!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Truck Driver, Hot Chicks and a New Camera

Hows that for a title of a new post? Its been a busy week, I worked my last day at the Sheriff's Department yesterday and it was one of the busiest ever in the 5 months I worked there, Chris passed his CDL training and test and got his license and is now in Kansas City training with his new employer, and the Chickens are growing bigger everyday. And the third part of the thread title refers to the fact that we got a new Kodak digital camera. Its not real high end and we bought the display model so we got it for a good price (are we cheap or frugal?) but it has loads of settings for various conditions and it has a much higher resolution than the old camera.

I had a good experience working for the Sheriff but the job was just too boring and since it was an inside job (heh, heh) it drove me crazy. I have to be outdoors and have a lot of action and for me nothing fills the bill if there isnt some physical labor, danger, and uncertainty on what the day will bring. How do some of you work an office job or stay with the same job for years and years? I guess its one of my personal failings and I would no doubt be labeled with some acronym if a shrink got ahold of me but I NEED TO BE DOING THINGS OUTSIDE and not sitting still. Do they make Ritalin for adults?

As for Chris, he completed a 120 hour training course, then took his State CDL test and got his license and in a day was hired. He has been looking for a career and just has never found it but he seems to really like driving truck and now days, its about the only job around here that pays well. We are all proud of him.

The class for truck driving school normally runs about 4K but we were able to hook Chris up with the Missouri Dept of Vocational Rehabilitation who tested him and privided the direction and funding for this boot strap up. I am pretty much against many government handouts but programs where they help people become self sustaining are worthy of support in my book. The MO DVR provides a valuable service to this state and they have our thanks.
We finally have gotten some rain...but we got it all at once and the Fire Dept even had to do a water rescue (I wasnt on that one). We received 6.5 inches of rain in a 24 hour period according to our rain gage and as you can see in this picture, it was either over the roads and bridges or close to it.

This is normally just about a dry creek.

Holly and I are just about done trimming out the garage windows inside. These windows have added light and sound suppression and we like how they came out. Note the electrical outlet and conduit in this picture. When we rewired the house we took the old 60 amp breaker panel from the house and used it in the garage and then ran all wiring in conduit with steel junction boxes. We even added outside lights and a couple outside outlets and used the same conduit and I just like the look and cleaness of the installation using conduit. We will eventually paint the inside of the garage and install a lot more shelves......number 1345 on the project list.

Lots of stuff coming up in the garden including our and purple Asparagas.

Poor Bandit enjoys playing in the various ponds (here in the small side pond/bird bath) but he is showing his age and is ofetn limping now and struggling to even jump up on the bed. Its hard to see an old friend suffer pain like that but sometimes like in this picture he is his old self and acting like the tough guy we all know and love.

This is kind of an experimental picture with the camera...trying to adjust the depth of field and all. We have many patches of honeysuckle on the farm and though some see them as weed bushes you can smell this one from 30 feet and its glorious.

We are almost done fencing this side pasture and we have been taking advantage of the rain softened ground.

This was taken while we were looking for Morrel mushrooms a couple days ago in one of our woodlots mushrooms but we did find two previously undiscovered peach trees so it was a successful venture.

These iridescent Tulips are popping up all over and add a nice tough of colour to the yard. 

And today we drove Chis to the Greyhound bus stop in Lebanon to begin his journey to Kansas City (his new employer brings them to KC and puts them up in a hotel while they are training). Chris was just ready to go but the gals had to make a fuss and embarass him...we did talk them out of doing the whole huggy picture thing in front of the bus though...

And the bus stop was right on the historic Route 66 which we live very close to. The Munger Moss motel is a famous Route 66 icon and hasnt changed much since its zenith in the late 50s early 60s. Apprently the bathrooms still have pink and black tile etc.

Wrinks market has newly reopened (home of Arbuckle Coffee and fried pies) and it too is a Route 66 landmark. Someday soon we will take a Route 66 trip and further document some of the landmarks before they are all gone.

The chicks are doing well and growing everyday. You can see they are developing thier primary feathers and they in fact are trying to fly now.

We put them into the big water trough and they seem to like it. Probably another 3 weeks before they go to the pen outside though.

Happy, happy chicks

And finally, Whiskers likes to sit in the wood shed and watch what everyone is doing. He tried to catch 2 rabbirts today and almost succeeded...meanwhile we have moles galore.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pullets, Cockerels and Spring

Last Thusday we made the pilgrimage to the Cackle hatchery in Lebanon for our chicks and they are now happy in the brooder in our basement. They are funny little creatures and though this is something Holly and Judy are in charge of, I admit I am enjoying having them around. The weather has been so warm it feels like summer (70s and 80s) and the grass is now green, the trees have leafed out, and we have birds, butterflys, snakes and insects everywhere...its a great time of year. We have been blessed with this great weather and have really taken advantage of it; we are outside from morning until dusk and have done some painting, harvested wild onions, planted, plowed, and every afternoon we take  break and play yard darts. And...if you havent tried it....we take time to just sit in quiet solitude and listen to the breeze and the wildlife on our farm...I highly recommend that. Particularly in spring, I like to sit in an Adirondak chair with my eyes closed and feel the sun and breeze on my face, hear the birds singing, the insects buzzing around, the ocasional moo of a cow or crowing of a rooster in the distance and smell the freshness, the honeysuckle, and newly cut grass. This usually develops into a 30 minute nap which I also highly recommend.

I must confess that at times I feel guilty or less than ambitious. I am in the last month of my job with the Sheriff's Dept and folks around here dont understand why I am giving up a good job like that, I have been offered fairly high paying positions (for around here) if I am willing to commute a long ways, and some would add that I have taken a fine education and wasted it by preferring to be down on the farm. But you know, I just dont care to be part of the rat race anymore and I dont miss the constant grind. I have tonnes to do here and if I get to them today or next week or next year it really doesnt matter in the grand scheme of things and the best advice I can give if your feeling less than fulfilled or happy is - S  L  O  W  D  O  W  N, stop doing what you dont enjoy, and dont look to others to validate your success or self worth. It sounds a lot easier than it is especially if your a type A+++ personality like me but I literally wake every day happy and looking forward to whatever happens...even if I dont know what will happen. Remember the days of inspections, deadlines, outside expectations, missed birthdays, holidays and family events because of work? Look back 5 years and do you really remember the details of any of that or just that you missed your anniversary or a birthday of a child? To heck with that stuff....I would rather spend my afternoon helping Holly make butter than attend some meeting about something I dont really care about....ahhh must be the spring air that stirs my slacker passion!!! Maybe Timothy Leary had something going  after all with his turn on, tune in, drop out mantra back in the mid 60s eh?

Question for the day: I have been reading a lot of Shakespear lately and in particular his personal history...does it strike anyone else that his writing doesnt match the man or his station in life? So little is known about him personally but he wasnt part of the upper crust so how did he know about the inner workings of royalty and the social elite in such intricate detail? Seriously, something doesnt add up...but then I'm just a small-time dirt farmer with a vivid imagination and a penchant for reading.

The Cackle hatchery is about 25 miles from our handy eh? They ship chicks all over the country and its amazing that they just ship them in the mail in cardboard boxes. We were happy to just go pick up our one day old chicks.

Judy's peach tree...all the fruit trees this spring are blooming like crazy. Last year almost all the blooms were wiped out as soon as they popped from the cold.

Yea...thats right, I like poetry and an issue with that?

Visions of a good fruit harvest danced in our heads...

And on about 15 March it was so hot the cattle waded into the mid pond to cool off..

We have 5 Forsythia bushes discovered so far....I remember Forsythia from being stationed in North Carolina all those years. The first sign of spring usually and such a burst of colour..

My beloved Holly and I have a track along the south fence line that goes behind the mid pond that we recently cleared so we dont get hung up in the tangle bush and brambles. We have another pasture to the right here that we still need to fence (and are in the process of fencing) so this little pond is quite secluded.

We decided to put the pullets and the cockerel in the basement since it doesnt have drafts and is safe and secure from predators.

They are so small and vulnerable

We have 5 Barred Rock's (black and white) and 5 Brown Leghorns with 1 Brown leghorn Rooster.

They seem to be happy ...Holly and Judy are happy....and....of course so am I.

So there you have it. We now have a couple dogs, a bunch (pride, gaggle, plethora, cornicopia, herd, myriad) of cats, 3 cows, and 11 chickens. Soon to come...goats, a couple ducks, and two pigs. Old Mac Donald will have nothing on us!!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Quick Update on the Garage Window Project

Its March 13th and today we had 83 degree temps.....I hate to rub it in but we have had so much sun this early spring that we all have tans! We completed the garage window project today among other things and though we are satisfied with how it turned out it was way more of a project that it should have been (no wonder I have been putting ot off for so long). Also today we had a very nice older couple stop buy and tell us that the wife was born in our house (in the front bedroom) and that her parents had built the place in 1938 at the height of the depression. They were able to fill in some details of how the place used to be and she promised to try and find some old pictures of the place. We enjoyed the visit and she even related that Maybelle and a very young June Carter had visited our little homestead when they were in the area for a revival show....wouldnt that have been something?

Before I post a couple pictures I wanted to share that for the most part I like old time country/gospel and usually feel that the original versions are the best but this Kenney Chesney rendition of the old Bill Anderson tune "A Lot of Things Different" is really exceptional in my opinion. If you have the band width check out this song....its very moving.

The old windows were rotten and we ended up having to reframe almost the entire window frame...and on a concrete block or stone house that is a bit of an undertaking.

You can see the size of the old casement windows leaning against the garage in this picture. Basically you rip out the old, build a frame to suit the windows you have then concrete to fit. All you need is a little wood working ability, a little concrete experience, and a deft hand with glass and poof....

You get experience quick with concrete if you have a stone or concrete block house...we have both.

Its a lot brighter and quieter inside with the new windows. We still need to frame and trim out the inside but that will be easy.

Project completed. The windows are different sizes and that is the way it was built. To change that would have been a massive undertaking that we just didnt want to go through.

We still need to put hardiplank lap siding where you see brown in this picture and treat the stone garge roof and do some other things (including landscaping) but we like the fact we have reached this point.

This is just to brag about our spring, the Daffodills ar eup everywhere and in full bloom.

And lastly, Maybelle is growing up and doing well. Next project is more fencing, county sewer, electric to the pole barn, getting the Allis Chalmers running and back working, renovating the dairy barn....and then in April we will............

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ahhh Life is Good in the Spring

Flowers are blooming, winter is but a mere wisp of memory and we are already working on the tan. To our Alaska friends and family.......sorry. Seriously. I am just a couple weeks from my last day of employment with the Sheriff's dept, we pick up our pullets from Cackle Hatchery on Thursday and its supposed to be in the mid 70s to low 80s all week.

This is a time of frenetic activity and we are busy plowing, starting seed in the green house, and getting projects done. Tonnes (yes thats how its supposed to be spelled thanks for asking) of fencing, window replacement, renovation of the out buildings, etc have been started and we are enjoying the start of spring activities in this part of the world. We have been to Baker Seed where we bought seed and had a great vegan lunch, we went to Cackle Hatchery and took a tour and ordered our chicks, the trout season just started and the Wild Turkey spring hunting season is soon to start. We have seen hundreds...withbout exageration, of wild turkeys running all over and strutting...the mild winter seems to have been to their liking. I have also seen recently a big increase in the number of quail flying about and road you didnt know we had road runners eh?

So life is pretty good right now, we are shutting down the outside wood boiler as of tonight, and its amazing how your attitude improves with warmth and sunshine.

Spring plowing....we turn this earth because we are still building the tilth and trying to kill bugs. For the tractor the rear tires dont exactly match but they both hold air and if you have priced the price of agricultural tires recently (even Chinese) you understand.

I have sure enjoyed this International Harvester tractor. No power steering or anything fancy but the sound of an older tractor cant be beat and it is a lot heavier than the Kubota so it plows a lot smoother. A little red tractor just seems right on an old fashioned farm and its kind of a fullfillment of a dream for me.

It gets the job done just fine but it is old (not as old as me but close) and you have to have an understanding of older machinery and its ideosynchrocies to actually operate it which somehow pleases me.

Go to YouTube and listen to the old tractors like this one and then imagine the smell of newly turned earth and the crisp smell of spring and you might begin to understand how satisfying this is. We are using a middle buster plow to break the ground, then we will add amendments to the soil, and till it with the Kubota and rear tiller. Its a lot easier this year now that we are in the third year of this and picking rocks.

This was the site of our corn patch last year and since we will be rotating crops I am thinking this will be some sort of nitrogen fixing crop...

The upper gourd and pumpkin patch got the same treatment and here we are picking rocks and putting them into some field fencing we have made into round cages to hold the rock. They make nice corner posts and are common in the Ozarks.

The workout routine is coming along nicely but I am personally disproportionately developing my back and upper body due to all the physical labor around the old farmstead. I dont really know of a solution since physical labor is what I enjoy and these things need to be done..but...

Judy dug up the overwintered carrots we had missed and got a nice bunch

I am not a fan of carrots from the store but these are sweet

We continue to eat off the spinach patch...also overwintered

And some of the onion sets have been put out.

One of our projects this year is renovation of the out buldings; specifically the well house, rock garage, and dairy barn. This well house is the first step. New windows, re-tuck pointing the mortar, and a roof redo.

The new windows and tuck pointing is done....

This back window was original to the structure and was redone but was in so bad of shape it will likely need to be replaced in a couple years.

Redoing the mortar and windows made a big difference. Unseen but equally important was the re-fastening of the roof tin and patching the concrete interior. You see Whiskers the cat in this picture....he is Judy's cat that we rescued from the vet and he is a real character.

Both wondows of the stone garage have been replaced and the double doors will be worked on next.

But one day last week I looked at the pasture and it just looked bad because of all the cow manure in piles around the needed to be dragged with a harrow or pasture drag...but they want hundreds for them. So I took a cattle pannel ($18.50)....tied some old tires from the barn to the top...and then chained it to the back of the tractor 3 point and Viola'....a cheap pasture drag that worked great.

Cheap or free is good and this old tractor is a blast to operate.

If you have pasture and manure you will relate..this was simple and cheap

This is in front of the pole barn shop and is only included because I like it. The girls like to be nosey and follow us around when we are in the pasture like we are celebrities.

And we finally started replacing the windows in the house garage. Last years project delayed by back surgery and weather. We took out the old window (pictures will be included in a followon post) and I found I had to re-frame the entire window opening.

This is just the start..pressure treated lumber, concrete,......way more complicated than it had to be but we only have 2 windows to do.

And to end this long tome....Whiskers likes to help out in the green long as he doesnt have to exert much energy...and you feed him catnip....