Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spring is here at last

We haven't posted for awhile partly due to connectivity problems and partly to just being too darn busy. The title of this blog is The Simple Life and some people have asked us why we are so busy if its supposed to be the simple life and all I can respond with is that compared to our previous 24/7 life we are living the simple life. Everyone has their own version of what simple means and if you are contemplating living in the country or homesteading you may find that your goals change as you get established. I think we originally envisioned living quietly by ourselves on a small farm and decompressing from the careers we left behind but what we found is that we enjoy being active and we are social creatures by nature.

Part of it for me is that now that I am entering the last quarter or so of my life I just refuse to stop going forward. When I was injured and I was undergoing surgery after surgery I almost fell into that trap where I started feeling sorry for myself and just about decided I needed to accept my fate and veg out in front of the TV or sit in the back yard and contemplate what might have been. The problem is, I still have so much I want to see, so much I want to try, eat, experience, feel, do etc that I had to change my attitude. So, for us, we are living our dream and we enjoy every day we are here and all I can say is if you are looking at retirement or making a significant lifestyle change follow your dreams and go full tilt because you only get one go around and the only ones you have to please are yourselves. I had someone make a comment one time that I was wasting my potential and education living the old fashioned farm life (I think the term that was used was following some kind of fantasy)and passing up some opportunities I had but this same person is so in debt and stressed out he and his family are in constant crisis and thanks!

When I first got here I was recruited into the Fire Department and to be honest I never really had any desire to be a "Fireman" but I enjoyed the excitement and camaraderie so I decided to go fully into it and started the long journey to gaining national accreditation and I am now the EMS Captain for the Dept. First I completed Fire Fighter Basic, then completed national certification as an Emergency Medical Responder early last year and then at the beginning of August last year I started the Fire Fighter I and II course...6 months of training both physical and academic and tested through practical examination, written examination and then sitting for the state board of certification testing in the capital of Missouri Jefferson City. I must confess it was more difficult than I expected and we had close to a 50% attrition in the course but I am now an IFSTA certified FF II. This has now spurred me to go back to college and pursue a degree in Fire Science at the Ozark Technical College and I start full time in June courtesy of the GI Bill which will end with me being certified as an Investigator and EMT-B.....simple life indeed! I will tell you that I was about 25 years older than anyone else in the course but it gave me a great appreciation for the volunteers in this country who provide 75% of the fire fighting services and to anyone who thinks this younger generation are nothing but self indulgent and aimless I suggest they get out and meet some different young men and women because the ones I know are anything but.

I don't know if I would have embarked on this certification if I had known how much effort it would turn out to be but I am glad I did it.
This has been a brutal winter and according to the weatherman, its been the snowiest and coldest since the mid 1800s. We are still having occasional frosts in the evening and this was a week and a half ago but I think we have finally turned the corner to spring.
As I was just typing this blog entry Holly called me to the french doors off our family room and pointed out 6 young deer but this is the only picture I could get before they spooked. Spring is definitely here and all of the wildlife are out and about.

Over the last couple months of bad weather we decided to tackle some projects on the inside of our old farmhouse that we had been neglecting and one of them was to finish the re-wire of the place. The old wiring, some of which went back to when this area received the attention of the Rural Electrification program in the early 1940s, was top of the line in the day but nothing was grounded and time had made some of it really scary. When we first moved in we installed a new weather head, new service panel and a few grounded circuits for the equipment that needed it but put off the rest for later and we just pretty much ignored it since everything still worked. But Holly wanted some outlets and lights in the basement so she could start seeds so we decided to finish the job. Look at the mess above....some of the wiring was so brittle it broke off just moving the wire and the cloth covering was so weathered in some cases it was hard to determine the hot and neutral.
We started in the basement and ran 12/2 Romex, installed new junction boxes, GFCIs for all circuits, new outlets and switches, and eliminated the old. This of course led to replacing all the wiring, outlets and switches up stairs as well and it turned out to be quite the project.

All this old stuff is gone.

I strictly follow the NEC when doing any electrical work but the installer of some of our electrical service just used whatever was available and even when you could see what was hot and what was neutral by the color you couldn't go by that. In one case they had the black wire which should have been the hot as the neutral and vice versa and it was a royal pain to figure out what was what. We had one metal junction box energized by a bare wire that had rubbed through the insulation, we had lots of loose connections, hot wires stuffed in the walls with nothing covering them other than some cloth electricians tape from way back when, and in general the efforts of the home owners over the years were not acceptable. In general I am against what I see as governmental over-regulation but the lack of any code enforcement around here results in messes like we have had to deal with. I don't claim to be an electrician but I am pretty competent with basic circuitry and residential wiring and I am glad we faced up to this and fixed it ourselves. Doing it ourselves cost about $200 while having an electrician do it would have been 2K or more and if you are a home owner you really ought to know how to do some basic residential wiring because even new houses have some scary installations made by the lowest bidder subs on new construction projects that get built in a few weeks. 
One of the things that was important to me was having GFCI protection for any circuit in the basement so that Holly and Judy would be protected while they worked in the basement with their seed starts.

Some electrical problems are also not always obvious. This duplex outlet cover I took off from the outlet next to my side of the bed where I plugged in my bedside lamp had been arching for awhile yet was white on the outside with no visible burns and the light never gave any indication of trouble. This is the inside of the cover...yikes!

When we replaced all of the outlets and switches with grounded service we ended up pulling up the wall to wall carpet in the living room and found old oak floors in need of patching and repair but still viable. The previous owner had patched some of the damaged flooring with leveling compound prior to laying cheap wall to wall carpeting instead of fixing it and all I can do is shake my head. We will repair the floors and refinish them and it will look great so why do people do things like that? I really don't understand why you would put wall to wall carpet that just collects dirt over original oak flooring.

We did find some interesting things though, there used to be a wall right down the middle of the living room when the house was built in the 1930s and they sure were small rooms.

So our interior remodel continues and we are tackling the living room now. Its a great room that is very peaceful and when we are done it will be very satisfying.

We cant wait to get sanding and replacing some of the damaged flooring.

Spring also means servicing the various pieces of equipment on the farm but its not without its hazards. I got a second degree burn from working on Judy's Ford Ranger when I laid my arm against the exhaust manifold to remove the oil filter from above because my arms are too big to reach from underneath. One of the problems with my spinal injury is I don't have a lot of feeling in my arms and legs so my first indication that something was amiss was a sizzling and smell of burning flesh...oops.
Another physical issue we both have is advancing arthritis and the the orange handled screw drivers (in the middle of the photo above) I have had since high school are harder and harder to grip as I have gotten older. So when I was at the electrical supply warehouse and saw the Klein Tools rubber handled screw drivers in the picture above I bought a set and they really help.

The rubber grips and slightly larger diameter makes a big difference in my ability to use the various drivers and they are also a very high quality tool. Not ideal perhaps for wrenching on vehicles where they may get greasy and oily but its a compromise I am willing to make.
We have a full basement with a storm shelter and we are glad to have it because the plumbing and electrical are all accessible and with the plumbing being so far below grade we don't have any issue with frozen pipes like so many around here but it was largely unused until this year when Holly wanted to set up her grow operation for vegetables, flowers and herbs to sell.

It stays relatively warm in the winter down here and cool in the summer so its actually a pleasant space but it lacked electrical outlets and lights which we rectified. Now we are expecting a visit from the Sheriff about the "glow" from the basement windows and all the activity!

Using the basement for our business just makes sense and its working well, particularly with the cold spring we have had.

The happy entrepreneur.
We live in a low crime area but we live remote and LEO can be 45 minutes away so everyone around here is generally armed and prepared to defend themselves. I believe its one of the reasons the crime rate is so low here but others don't understand or believe that and I respect that opinion. I have been armed for my work for most of my life and not being armed for me is like not wearing pants and I also really enjoy shooting so all of our weapons get frequent use. This is my newest carry, a S&W MP40 Shield with a laser sight and high capacity magazine and I like it a lot and highly recommend it for those who are looking for a lightweight concealed carry that packs a good punch. Pistols can be dangerous and all you have to do is think of all the people you know of who shouldn't even drive a car to know that its kind of scary thinking of how easy it is for someone to be licensed to carry or purchase a weapon like this. I don't mean this to be political but in my opinion unless you are highly trained and fire your weapon at least monthly you shouldn't carry. That is just my personal opinion and I realise not everyone will agree with that.

I have also gotten the HAM radio bug. I bought this off to use during our brush fore season since it has excellent range and is so cheap its almost disposable if you lose it or break it ($36.00). Its a Baofeng UV-5RA and I got all the accessories to try them out for our department and it spurred me to get my HAM license. For the price, its pretty amazing with long battery life and excellent range and audio pickup.
We fertilize and lime whenever our soil tests indicate we need to which seems to be about every other year and this was one of those years. 1K out the door with the first application but hopefully we will get big returns with our hay production.
We just built the third tier to our side raised bed flower boxes and stained it yesterday. With the price of wood we have been going bit by bit every year and slowly adding as we go along.

We also built another raised bed for herbs (no dirt in it yet) and have two more to build this year.

Holly came up with the idea to add Shepherd hooks to each corner of the tiered flower boxes and it was a great idea and she hangs her hanging baskets that she sells from them.

We have also been doing a bit of landscaping which is important for our business.
This time of year is nice with mild weather and things starting to bloom like these tulips but it also means hard work.

The old greenhouse is full of seed starts and hanging baskets.

We sell herbs, bushes and trees, vegetables, fruit trees, herbs etc.

Holly found this old display cart at a yard sale and fixed it up to show her herbs.

The new greenhouse is full as well....opening day is May 1st.

We found this Mantis tiller while buying some repair parts for a lawn mower. We were waiting for the part to come from the back and looking at a new Mantis when the sales guy (this is a small local place) said well those are on sale for (I don't remember exactly but it was like $279) and we just kind of laughed and said we were looking for used. He then said he had a used one he took in on trade that he had refurbished he had on sale for $150. We looked at each other and said "well we don't have that much to spend right now"...him.."well how much you got?"..."$100 we said"..."cash?"..."Yup"..."Sold!" You have to love small town dickering and it works great.

Poor Judy works as hard as any of us but she enjoys it. This time of year still has spotty grass and lots of weeds so its not the best looking time of year but its hard to beat the was about 75 degrees today and a slight breeze.

We have learned the benefits of composting and have several compost operations going that provide us with rich black nutrient rich soil.

This is a welcome sight after cold and freezing weather that literally just let up a few days ago.

We are expanding our sheep pens and adding more sheep but Tulip is already pretty happy.

Maybelle enjoys the new grass...

 And our bull calf Buster is really growing. We have a friend that is lending us a small bull for breeding purposes next month and we will be breeding again to expand out herd.

We have 12 different types of daffodils but these are my favorite.

We work hard, we play hard, and we enjoy life...yes this is truly the simple life.




  1. Thanks for the post, I really enjoy reading them, you guys are sooo busy all the time. What is the range on the hand held ham radio? I have been looking at that also. Good luck with sales, your plants look great. Alison

  2. Thanks Alison, the best range so far in our tests was 7 kilometers radio to radio without hitting our repeater which is pretty good for the terrain around here. When hitting our FD repeater we have been able to communicate even way out of our district and it doesnt seem to be affected by the dead spots we get with our much more expensive Motorolas.