Little bit windy

It’s been a long week. I am playing catch up and the weather is not really cooperating. Our door latch from Ukraine came this week and it fit perfectly! I was able to get it above the door knob without having to move the knob and I was able to use the hole I accidentally drilled through the door frame 10 years ago. It was almost like I had planned this ten years ago! I talked to Annmarie and I think she is going to print me a plastic bushing on the 3D printer that I can slide into the wooden hole so the door latch doesn’t widen the wooden hole. It is amazing what you can find on the internet these days and have shipped directly to your home. So now none of the dogs can get into the craft room, same for little kids.

The weather has been very strange all week, we have horrible winds. They are sustained around 25-40 MPH with gusts over 70 MPH. Luckily the place is old and has survived 95+MPH winds. The stuff damaged in that wind storm has been repaired or torn down since that occurred right after we had moved in. I have been careful since then to make sure that all stuff is over built due to the unpredictability of our weather and the wind. The wind blows all winter long usually, just not this hard. Our new windows always bow and flex in the wind so we are always surprised at how well they do, none have ever broke in a wind storm. The temperature is over 50 degrees F, which is absurd for a winter in Eastern Oregon. Luckily, our front spring fed creek has been rising steadily over the last two months so there is water going into the ground somewhere.

I started patching all the old curtain rod holder holes in the walls this weekend. I want to get them patched, primed and painted before Christmas. One less eye sore in the downstairs area and one step closer to having a completed main floor. My current dilemma is I cannot find the door to the closet that I removed when doing the floor. At this point I really think I tossed it onto the burn pile and lit it on fire. This sucks but I cannot find it and have dug all around the house with no success. One more thing I am going to have to duplicate. I will finish getting the pictures up on the wall soon also. I am a definitely the 90% project completion type of guy, those last 10% are brutal to finish.

I went outside today to do some more work. The weather was not super conducive to it but it was not freezing so I figured I could get something done. My big goal was to move the scrap metal pile that came from the old house (it has only been there since August 2018). Annmarie can see it just outside the fence through any window on the SE side of the house. She does not like it and thinks I need to move it before our company shows up in January. I was going to bring the old pickup trailer around but it still needs a tire swap and this weather is not conducive to climbing under anything suspended in the air so I opted to use the tractor and just make more trips. After the first load I got distracted and ended up dragging all of the horse poop out from around the barn and releveled the compost pile I had spread out earlier this fall. I need to plant grass seed on it but that is not happening in 45 MPH wind. After every load taken to the metal scrap pile I kept my eye out for more scrap metal along the way, grabbing it off of fence posts and the base of fences. I stash it there all year long as I find it or it surfaces from the ground. I went over and cleaned up the last of the old metal Smith shop area. I took a bucketful of keeper metal to the barn and stashed it in the barn. I took the last of the falling down wooden worktop and put it on the burn pile. I even managed to push the two bucket loads of old hay baling wire that I found buried outside the metal shop onto the scrap pile. My scrap pile is sufficiently big to attract someone to come claim it. It is not worth very much and there are a few gears inside the pile I would like to reclaim if I can find them. I managed to find a manual brake system with the notched locking piece and the handle just stashed over there. I kept that. Eventually I want to put some nonsensical gears and handles and steering wheels throughout the barn.

Annmarie asked me about the grass fields I planted this week so I took the time to run up and check on them. This is good and bad news depending on how you look at it. The first field got done two weeks earlier than the second and got two good rains and some warm temperatures, that is this very nice green field. The second field was two weeks later and I ended up finishing it up in the rain and then it got really cold. It is currently still very dirt like. On the plus side there are no weeds growing either which tells me that the growing conditions are just not there yet. I would love to burn off the barley field but I am afraid to light anything on fire in this wind so it will just have to wait.

I was fortunate to finish the machine shed ceiling support before the windstorm.

We also have a new calf on the ground, it is a week old today. It is probably our biggest calf to date and the mother is still crazy. I cannot wait to get that fence line up so the cows cannot hide down near the creek. They will be stuck in the field away from water. We may need to build some form of three sided, roofed enclosure so the cows can shelter the babies. I will have to consult the wife and mother-in-law for design guidance. I have enough left over 2×8 and 1×12 to make a wooden structure that looks like all of our other outbuildings. I even have some leftover old metal roofing that I can install so it slants toward the hillside so you won’t see it from the houses.

The sheep are so pregnant it is painful to look at them. Every morning we go out expecting to find 8-12 lambs on the ground and every morning we are disappointed. I told Annmarie they were all going to come on Christmas Day and I will have to get the turkey in the oven before helping her corral all the new moms and babies. Today I switched gates around and set up the momma/baby area. I moved a feeder in there for them and filled it with alfalfa. This caused me some problems after the sheep figured out I had the good hay in the momma area. I had to manhandle three ewes to get them out of the area and away from the feeder. I did forget to move one inside gate to allow access to the outside baby area. I will need to bring over some more straw for that area anyways. The goal is to have it all ready so on baby day you just have to toss them in. If you have to do all the setup also its a very long and painful process.

Our 6×8 foot greenhouse came in the mail also. I am going to put it in the orchard after I make a concrete footing for it. If I don’t do that the wind will blow it away. I was going to set it on some loose bricks but after this week there is no way I am going to not attach it permanently with some heavy bolts weighted down with some concrete!

New major projects

Well with the wind howling my creative juices were flowing and I came up with two new full scale projects. Both of these are a definite we need, its just a question of which one to do first. Neither one is a short project, I will need an entire summer to do each one. This type of project really lets me tear into stuff and transform the old into the old and usable. The first project is the old chicken coop. It has no power, and no windows on the entire front of the building. The inside ceiling is just above the eves of the roof line, so only about 7 feet up from the concrete floor. The entire building is on a solid concrete slab.

I want to remove the ceiling, saving all the boards then cut out the roof beams, let out all the sawdust out of the ceiling and raise the roof about 4-5 feet. I would then attach the roof braces about three feet down with cross braces and then line the entire interior of the roof just like the current one. I think I would allow for a cross breeze in the attic by adding windows at the top of each end that can be opened in the summertime and closed in the winter. This wold make this building much more usable. If I can get it cleaned out and move all the wood into the barn once I get that area built up I can add some metal skirting to the walls and weld inside this building without worrying about catching anything on fire. No fire is a good thing! I wanted to get a generator welder combo any ways and initially I can use our generator and a small DC welder. Honestly, for the most part that will probably allow me to do most of my welding that needs to happen. I will not be welding big pieces of equipment.

The second project is probably going to happen first. Every time we try and sort the cows they always get stuck in the far corner of the barn lot, the dirt patch in the middle of the picture below. I cleaned up the area where the old Blacksmith shop was today and realized that we could sort the cows with way less effort if we moved a few fences around. Now the screwy part of this is this satellite picture is ancient. It shows the old corral before we changed it three years ago. It doesn’t show a cross fencing off the end of the barn either. I have penned in my design below to show everyone the changes I want to make. The black lines are all current fences and the pink short lines are current gates. I want to rip out all the current fencing and install the white fencing. This will allow us to run the cows into a larger square pen. That pen will be divided in half by a fence, but I did not plan on installing a gate in that pen. This allows us to push the cows from one side to the other and use the dogs as a gate. I would like to install gates that stay open all the time until we need an alley way to the chute and corral system. This doesn’t let the cows hang up any where and should make them much easier to move around.

This is a surprise, Annmarie doesn’t know about it yet. I like to just throw it out here on permanent record as an idea. I do think it is doable. I can drill and lay in all the main posts without ripping out any old fencing then install the barn side and Southern side and rip out all the old. Then finish the other 60% of the fence. I will have to see what the boss thinks.


Welding pass

This week was the last day of my college evening welding class. I passed with a B, for which I had to work hard. I attended every class, got highest scores on the written tests and scored the lowest on most of the actual practical welds. What I did learn was this is a skill that needs to be practiced, a lot. I am not a natural and it would take me hours to learn some particular skill. I am now able to do it, which is a huge leap forward compared to where I was when I started the class. Now I need to figure out what type of equipment I need out on the farm. I really need to get a cutting torch operational and I need a stick welder. The major problem is I don’t have 220V wired anywhere on the farm. I can fix this in the old house but I don’t really want to weld around a wooden building. So I need to look at 120V welders, the good part is I don’t really need to weld through anything thicker than 3/8 of an inch. This will make it easy to cut back on the type of welder I need as I don’t need super high amperage. We also have a propane generator. I need to see how many KWh it puts out and if it has 220V capability. I don’t know as it is for emergencies and we have not had to use it. It would solve a lot of portability problems if it will put out enough juice to run a welder.

I ran out to look at the generator as I am curious now. It will do a 4000 W start and continuous 3250 W, but only does 120 V. The nice part is it has an RV plug so it will do 20 Amps. Further research has led to two SMAW (further use will be stick welding for the uninitiated) welders that run on 120 V. A Hobart Stickmate 160i stick welder for around $570 and a Century Inverter Arc 120 V stick welder for $260. The problem with the cheaper welders is you only can weld about 3 minutes out of 10 minutes and only go up to 90 amps so you must weld thinner material. Since I am already slower than the average welder the down time requirements are not going to hurt me. For you purists out there depending on how the weld was set up and as long as I did a good root weld I could layer in the rest of the welds and still weld thicker material. Luckily for me, I don’t have really anything thicker than 3/8 of an inch to weld and most of those are repairs. I really need a little cart I can put the generator on, propane tank and welder all in one place and have it ready to go. Maybe I need a bigger generator? I probably do not need a bigger generator as I am not a full time farmer working on great big piece of equipment. I am trying to keep our costs realistic and not go all out and buy the most expensive thing. I am also going to do more Oxyacetylene welding, its slow but it doesn’t need any power at all, hard to beat that advantage for some things. I told Annmarie my end goal was to be able to build a 10 foot diameter igloo out of old used horse shoes of all various sizes, old nails, rust and bent shoes included. I have not convinced her that it would be a work of art and not an eye sore yet. I need a few thousand more horse shoes. I only have a few hundred now. I am willing to pay $0.05/horseshoe or $50/1000 shoes, which is way better than the scrap yard. I have not given up the dream yet.

This morning she talked to me about marking the babies and mother sheep when we start lambing. We tried a crayon marker a few years ago and did not have very good luck. Instead of using paint irons where you have to use multiple irons her family uses a L shaped iron and marker paint. She drew it all out on a old envelope to teach me. You create a grid of 9 numbers and use the L iron to create the sides of the grid around the number you want.

I have copied in the four examples she showed me. The I threw me as it is not on the grid she made for me until I said it wasn’t there and she said it equals 0. It made sense when she told me what it was. You just have to have the orientation to the lamb correct and you can match the mothers and babies for the first month at least. She said I needed to just weld the marking rod. I figured out today how to make it without welding anything. I just need to get a piece of 1/4″ square stock 24″ long so I can make it. I will make a wooden handle so it won’t be so cold to handle.

We are very short on rainfall, less than 1/10″ last month. We need some moisture in any form. It can rain for all I care as long as it doesn’t warm up too much and fool the trees.

Machine shop almost back up to snuff

It still doesn’t feel like winter even though you can now see the snow in the mountains from our house. I ended up working a night shift to cover and arranged to go to a shop sale the next morning. Annmarie picked me up at work first thing Saturday and we went to go look at shop tools. They had a huge shop with multiple rooms but the only pieces of furniture we found were these two beautiful chairs! They almost match our side board and just need a really good wood washing and polishing to make them amazing. So we bought them, luckily we got there just as they opened. We had no intention of buying any more furniture but could not pass them up. I cleaned them last night and will be polishing them this week after welding class finishes.

I decided that I had better keep working on my winterize list since it is still not really winter and went out and worked on replacing the beam in the machine shop that I knocked out with the old tractor hay lift. My replacement beam was 6×8, I really only needed a 4×6 beam. I trimmed off 2 inches off of one end and cut the ceiling slant and managed to lift one side then lever the other in using my shoulder and legs to get it in the right spot. I then had to figure out how to scoot it 7 inches onto the ledge I just barely managed to get it onto. I went to shop and got a wood clamp and inched it over an inch at a time from the other end by clamping it to the cross beam. It took about a 30 minutes to get the beam in place. I used these awesome 10″ lags to hold it in place drilling from the top of the beam into the sill. I tried to replace the 2×6 beam next to it but again I had a 2×8 beam and could not get it to fit, I will need to get the 2×6.

I also had to rehang the gate. We tore it out this summer by hooking the gate with the hay trailer trying to get it lined up and back into the hay area. I ended up having to rip all the wood off of the left side and reusing part of the broken beam as the new anchor board for the gate hinges. I love reusing all the old and broken pieces of stuff to fix or replace the other broken stuff! Its a good thing also since the alpaca have been pushing the gate over and getting into the pile.

We had this plan to install a mailbox on the edge of the corral so we can drop off payments to the mobile slaughter or farrier or anyone else coming out to our house that needs paid while we are gone. I have four old plain mailboxes now but Annmarie wanted something fancier so we found the one below on Etsy. It is a lot nicer than anything we had laying around. I mounted it today so we can now slip in an envelope with a check and not have to worry about the wind or weather.

The next thing she wants me to do is build a drop off box by our front gate so that our packages can be placed in there instead of our front porch or just by the gate. The dogs have gotten into their chews that come through the mail and we have had some packages get wet. I need it to be fairly large 3×4 feet wide by 2 feet tall. I would like the lid to come up but want to put in a counterweight system so the lid opens easily. This is going to take some planning but I would like to get it done next year. I will have Annmarie make me cut out fancy wood letters I can put on it so the delivery people know to utilize it.

We should be getting lambs this month. This will be the true test of our new ram as we have not had any babies from him yet. We have 45 ewes so we should have around 65 lambs by the time we are done.

Wife rabbit punched me

I have been having horrible rib pain the last two weeks. Nothing I seem to do is making it better and it just persists. The odd part is it is all low rib and diaphragm region. It has been going on long enough that I had started accusing Annmarie of rabbit punching me in the ribs when I was asleep. I could not figure out what was causing the pain. Well I figured it out on Wednesday, it is my welding class. We are doing vertical SMAW welding (rod welding) and the way I am holding it in an attempt to get a passing bead is causing me to tense up my muscles. So for six hours a week I am tightening my diaphragm and rib muscles. They do not like nor appreciate the workout. I have quit blaming the wife.

The closet shelves look great and Annmarie has already started to put stuff on them so tomorrow I need to get some varnish on them. I am going to do it in the upstairs bathroom area so I can leave the vent fan on all night long. I got a little light headed when I put the stain on and don’t want a repeat of that with the varnish.

Earlier in the week I was lazy and with the weather being nice I fed the sheep out the side of the barn onto the ground. The sheep kept trying to sneak in through the door and get directly into the hay room. So every time I opened the door to toss out hay I had to be quick. As I was getting ready to head back inside I noticed one ewe picking the alfalfa leaves off of the back of our ram. He was almost green from standing under the door as I tossed out flakes of hay. She had figured out it was easier and more productive to just eat off of his back then dig through the hay on the ground.

I like to make a hearty breakfast when I am going to be working outside during the day. This lets me skip lunch and not starve to death, I had ham, potatoes and onions this morning then poured some green salsa over the top and it was wonderful. Our pig turned out very nice this year and the ham is very good.

I need to go pickup my 1×8 x8′ boards we purchased at the fundraiser but I need the flatbed trailer. I still had 20 railroad ties on it so today I hauled them off with the tractor. The only bad part is I have to manually lift all 20 ties onto the the tractor bucket one at a time. So I now have about 30 large wooden fence posts to use next year. I want to put several in the barn lot to finish stiffening the outer fence and cross fencing the inside.

I got a call this week from the water conservation district about our grant application to fence off the creek in a couple of places. This helps limit and control access to the water mostly for the cows. I can still use the sheep to go in and clean out the weeds alongside the waterway. This will also allow us to kill areas and then replant them which will cut down on the weeds. We should know by January whether we get the grant or not. We supply half the cost of the fence, which equates to all the labor to install it and have to purchase all the supplies in advance and don’t get reimbursed until the fence is installed.

I ended up moving scrap metal around to our metal pile behind the grain bins. I still have a pile over by the old house that needs to get moved. I will be seeing if I can put on an old tire onto my Toyota pickup bed trailer I got from the scrap yard. I can haul it around with my tractor and get it filled with all the metal from the old house. I also need to drag all the scrap metal and fencing in the ram pasture to the pile. If it doesn’t rain tonight and tomorrow I can do that in the late afternoon. This will get the ram pasture all cleaned up.

The chickens are not doing their part. We were down to two eggs a day and now that I have replaced the light bulb we are getting 4-5 eggs/day. I really need to off the slackers.

Omelet anyone?

I have been craving a ham and cheese omelette for days. One would think that this would be an easy fix, but one would be wrong. The light went out in our chicken coop and I replaced it early in the week but this sudden change screws with the chickens ability to lay eggs in the winter. Now they have to get used to the light again and this has caused the egg production to halt. We also have a bunch of free loader house finches sneaking into the coop whenever the automatic chicken door opens. They are going for the easy meal plan.

Now we had an extra dozen eggs on top of the fridge on Monday but Annmarie took them to town and sold them to one of our customers. Annmarie consumes one raw egg a day with her morning smoothie, fresh fruit, frozen fruit, Greek yogurt, raw egg and a splash of milk. I need three eggs to make a decent omelette. I am only getting 1, 2 or 0 eggs per day this week. I cannot seem to gain eggs in the fridge. Tonight when I went out I got 2 more eggs total. I now have a total of four eggs in the fridge and will be having an omelette in the morning tomorrow! Luckily, I held off on using the two eggs in the fridge for French toast this morning. I never would have gotten my delicious ham, cheese, onion, garlic, jalapeƱo sharp cheddar cheese omelette. I can already taste the deliciousness. I went out and worked on the shelves some more. I faced the sanded down oak plywood sheets with an oak 1/4″ edging. I smeared glue on the whole thing, pin nailed it then put clamps and wood shims to hold it all together. I will take the clamps off tomorrow and work on getting the pieces stained and clear coated after that. It is going to make the house stink but it needs to be done. It will take me a few more days to get the stain on and both sides of the shelves sealed up. I want to be able to just wash them down if needed. Pretty much anything is going to be more organized than it was before. I took out all the gun barrel clamps they had on the left side of the upper cabinet. I found several hats I thought I had lost when I cleaned out the cupboard.

Annmarie has been working on getting our laser cutter up and going. She is trying to get it perfected so we can burn in the old pictures from the farm and put them up in our kitchen. To do that she needs to practice and practice. I am having trouble keeping my phone propped up in the kitchen while typing the blog so she took a piece of scrap she had printed a picture on and make a ipad/iPhone holder out of it. I love it and think it is even neater with the picture on it. I can now do the blog without using the napkin holder and pushing the bottom up with my keyboard.

Annmarie imported all of my blogspot posts into WordPress so I now have all the blogs since 2010 in one place! She also managed to create a new look, a quick subscribe button, search function, categorize by month and year and a list of top 50 tags I have used that you can click on. It is super cool! This is where the magic happens at our kitchen table. I type most of the blogs up right here, it is more convenient than going up to the computer. Once I finish the welding class a new kitchen table is on my agenda. I am going to weld it into two pieces that stack and the bottom piece will be on casters. I will then glue on a solid piece of granite to the top of that. I would like to have some wooden dividers built in also. I am still trying to decide how those are going to fit. I have to build and tear it apart in my mind at least a 100 times before I start a project. It cuts way down on the redos.

I did snag a picture of the new diamond bungee cord arrangement in the barn. I had a partial box made out of 3×3 wire mesh so I finishing wrapping it with wire and will use it in the barn lot. It is all ready for rocks, although I should put a wooden post in it before I start tossing rocks into it.

The new barn kitty is a pest, she comes running the minute you open a door and wants to be greeted. If you don’t stop and pet her she will follow you around the entire barn getting underfoot. I was trying to do the horse’s feet today and had one of their front feet in the air and the the cat kept rubbing on the other down front leg. The horse kept trying to hop to the side with only one foot on the ground. I finally had to shoo the cat away so I could finish cleaning out horse feet.

I am wanting to build another fence! I make Annmarie crazy with all the fences but honestly, they all do something. I want to plant flowers on this rocky hillside to cut down the erosion. We want to do bee hives sooner than later and they will need flowers. I like the disorganized chaos of wildflowers. Annmarie likes orderly flowers better. The horses and sheep keep eroding this hillside so I am going to fence it off and then plant the whole thing in wildflowers. The fence will keep the horses and sheep out of the flowers and hopefully the bees will like it. We will mount a sprinkler on top of one of the posts so we can water it in the summer.

I have decided to add an occasional piece of Bad Dad Poetry, they are all inspired by my daughter and I write them for her with a theme.

My wallet is thin

My pocket yearns for the days of prosperity

It used to struggle to hold in the bounty

This month times are lean

If only someone could help?

Catch up time inside

Winter should be here soon, even though the grass is still green. I have moved on to inside projects. It’s after Thanksgiving so it is time to give up outside things. I did sneak in an hour this morning adding a new hook above the sheep doors so I could run a bungee cord over it and stiffen the doors in the middle. I need to get a picture of it now and everyone will understand why we spend $35/year on bungee cords. The cords hold our feeders up to the walls and each other also.

Today I worked on our hall closet. We bought a special tool to drill holes into the walls so we could add movable shelves. I figured out how to make them work today and have spent two days sanding oak plywood for the shelves. I had two extra sheets of oak from the cabinets I made a few years ago. I am even going to face the front edge with some leftover edging from the air return. Tomorrow I will glue on the facing then stain it in the evening. The big problem is I took the door off when we laid new tile on the floor. I cannot seem to find the door. I have been searching for months. It may have ended up on a burn pile…

We had prime rib cut from our beef this year. We have always made it into steak in the past but decided to try our own. It was amazing!! I took a picture below before I started adding the dry rub. It is so much leaner than what you get at the store and we cook it in a salt coffin low and slow and it was the best prime rib we have had in a long time and it didn’t cost us $85. There is one more and I am thinking about cooking it on the table top Traeger grill we got this summer. I should probably practice with brisket first before I attempt the prime rib.

Annmarie had been talking to me about installing a half door going into her craft room. She has mentioned it several times but this week I had a free day so I just went out to the old house and dug around until I found an old door that was wide enough. The door was not perfectly proportioned and one panel was larger than the other. I decided that I did not want to have to move the door handle as this was going to be painful. So I measured the height I wanted and just sawed the door off at that height. This left two sticky up parts on each side. So I popped the leftover panel piece out with some pliers and a hammer. Then I beat on the scrap piece until I was able to pull it the top molded part of the door. I then glued the side of that piece and beat it in to the top opening back into the old grooves. Viola, a half door! I had to shave off 2.5 inches off of one side and then chisel in some spots for old hinges I found in a drawer. img_6565It took me another 2 hours to hang the door as no door, no matter how small is ever easy to hang. I had to remove the hinges twice and chisel them deeper into the wood. My tolerances were only 1/8″ and that was a little too tight. I thought I would just attach the latch part into the wall and I would be done! This is were you realize 5 hours into the job that you used the top part of the door and the latch is backward and you don’t want to change the swing side of the door. So now I will be buying a sliding latch to go on the front of the door to keep it closed. The best part of this is that I drilled a hole into the door casing 11 years ago when I was running new electrical wire. It was an accident and I have meant to fill it for years. I will now be using that hole as a receptacle for the new sliding lock I am putting on the half door! Maybe I was planning for this eventuality and did not even realize it myself.