Outside work

I came home from work yesterday and the weather was perfect for spraying weeds.  So I stopped at my in-laws to tell Donna I was going to spray weeds.  I need to use the “mule” four wheel vehicle with a small bed on back. It has a  25 gallon sprayer and boom I can attach to it so I can spray a 12 foot swath at a time.  Much faster than doing it with a wand.  Two years ago, I sprayed about 15 acres with a wand.  Never again.  I spent the next summer repairing the pump on the sprayer, replacing 4 nozzles, changing out all the tubing and mounting the on off switch on the roll cage so you could reach it from inside the cab.  Of course, before I could use it this time I had to reattach the hot wire to the switch, mount the boom and tie in the reservoir.  I was afraid I wouldn’t have any spray left over from last year, but luckily I found some from the year before!  So I had lots of spray to hose the place down.  One might question the wisdom of using a herbicide on the property.  That “one” doesn’t have to try and control noxious weeds on 10+ acres that have not been sprayed in a decade.  Once the weeds are under control and you stay on top of them, they are pretty easy to keep up with.  I have star thistle and Russian thistle and stinging nettles everywhere.  If you have ever pulled up stinging nettles by hand, you will know why I am spraying them now.
We are hoping that the sheep will keep things under control once I get the weeds knocked out.  This year, I started spraying in and around our house first and then moved out to the surrounding property(was going to finish spraying today, but it rained.  So good thing I sprayed around the house first)  Of course, I needed to get the Mule behind the house and it won’t fit through a couple of the gates or go there due to the new fences I installed. I had to drive it sideways through the creek and got stuck a couple of times before I could get through.  Gonna have to think about a couple of planks to get across the dry creek bed.  The banks are pretty steep.
I haven’t heard back from the insurance gal or the custom wood cutter.  I keep looking at the bridge thinking that is definitely the next project.  I am even going to wire in two outlets, one at each end of the bridge, for Christmas lights.
I also had the pleasure of trying to mow the lawn.  Sarah is responsible for mowing the lawn.  Last year she talked me into getting one of those old rotary manual push mowers.  Cool in theory, no noise, no gas, mulch the cut grass right back into the lawn, the perfect mower.  Not so much.  They are much lighter now than they used to be, so they jump around more.  Your lawn needs to be perfectly flat, ours has bumps and divots and holes all over the place.  The lawn needs to be bone dry, it is Spring, whose lawn is dry now?  You need fine bluegrass, not course bunch grass.  There was a 15×20 foot section that Sarah couldn’t get through.  I got half of that mowed down and was going to finish it off today.  It rained.   So no, lawn care today.  Off to work on the stairs and a little kitchen floor work so we can get our sideboard back into the kitchen.  It is stashed in a room collecting dust.  I need to cut some shims so it go  back against our new wall in the kitchen.  The kitchen floor is a long ways off at this point.

Brand Update


A while back I posted that Steve wanted to register a brand. What he really wanted was something cool to put on stationery and return address stamps, and labels if we ever decide to use our own egg cartons. The design restrictions on brands did not suit his taste, and enough people finally looked at him oddly when he said, “But we’re not going to brand anything,” that he decided maybe we could just come up with something we liked. So, here is the first draft. The colors are not set, and I’m not particularly happy with that aspect yet, but I kind of like the interlocking nature of the letters. As always, though, I’d love to have comments and suggestions.

Now, in the continuing saga of hidden eggs and odd kitten delivery places, I noticed the door of the old house was left open after a certain daughter put some things in the freezer for me, so I went in to make sure there were no chickens or cats in there before I closed it up again. Bailey, the chocolate lab followed me in and started making her there’s-a-baby-that-I-can’t-get-to noises. You see, Bailey loves babies of any species. Kittens, lambs, chicks – it doesn’t matter. She’ll mother any of them. I thought maybe there was a chicken somewhere, cause those noises are only slightly different from the there’s-a-bird-where-it-shouldn’t-be noises. Then I heard the mewing. When I looked around the room, I didn’t see anything. Then I heard it. The snow tires seemed to be mewing. These snow tires.

See anything? Neither did I. So, I moved closer and looked down into the stack and saw this:
Yes, that is a cat curled up inside the plastic wrapping on the stack of snow tires. If you look very very closely, you can see a very newborn kitten in there with her. At the time, they were suspended in a kind of hammock made by the bag around the top tire, but I was afraid they’d manage to work their way down through the stack and end up trapped. So, we loaded her and her kittens into a crate with an old towel and moved them out to the wood shed.
On the chicken front, while I was looking for the kittens, I noticed a few eggs over by one wall, kind of under some junk that Steve had tossed over there. We’ve had issues with the doors for a while, so I didn’t think too much of it, other than to make a note to have Sarah toss them out for the cats and chickens. But, as I was turning to leave after relocating the cats, I noticed a nice little pile in the corner. When all was said and done there were 15 eggs stashed in the old house. Steve was rather incensed when I told him (he’s at work this weekend). He may very well have to add more nest boxes to the coop. For now, we’re keeping the old house shut up, and checking the woodshed every day. By the way, we’re averaging 4-6 eggs out there each day. *grin*

Chickens and cats

I still haven’t heard from the insurance person.  I guess one day is pretty quick service.  So it can wait.  Our cats are part of the “comply or die” network we have going on here at the farm.  All animals get along or else.  To truly understand how this works, one of the local clan of cats had her kitten in the chicken coop.  Annmarie and I went out to check on the chickens and found the mamma cat in the back half of the old cooler (now egg laying box) with a kitten, four eggs under the cat and a chicken in the front half by the door laying another egg!  Kinda bizarre.  I had a picture, but am technologically challenged and cannot get it to post.  So I will get it later.

The chickens follow me around whenever I am outside.  They think I am going to give them a treat. It is kinda weird to be followed around by 20-30 chickens.  Sarah collected eggs today and four of them had cracks in the shell.  Too much free ranging by the chickens and not enough calcium.  So I had her put out a bunch of oyster shell.   We will have to keep it out for a month or so and get it built back up in their system.  I hate having to throw the eggs back to the chickens.  They love them.  I need one more egg to make an even 7 dozen to take to work tomorrow.

I did get the final sanding on the upstairs hallway done today.  Covered the whole floor with plastic and now just need to do the final sanding on the stairs and then I can spend a couple of days cleaning sawdust off the walls and ceiling before I stain and seal the floor and stairs.  Of course sleeping downstairs on the futon for a few days while the stain and sealer dry is just an added bonus.  

Distractions

I collected 24 eggs today!  A new record.  I did go out and see if the chickens had tried the old laying spot I blocked off.  NO eggs, but there were 3 eggs in the woodshed.  I am thinking about just putting a box out there.  My baby chickens are growing fast, pretty quick I am going to have to let them out of their enclosure to find their own way.  It is always a large fight.  Everyone has to get a spot in the pecking order.  It takes a few weeks for things to settle out.  The nice thing is they live together already, separated by wire, but still used to each other and the sounds they make.  It makes it easier to integrate them.  I talked to the insurance lady today.  She is trying to get a rider attached to our home owner’s policy to cover the livestock.  Not sure if it is gonna work, otherwise we have to convert to a farm and it is gonna cost a few hundred bucks more.  Nothing is ever easy.  The funny thing is she didn’t like the number of chickens I have.  I have 54 chickens now.  I explained that some were on their way out the door and 24 were still babies.  So that is still pending.

It rained while I was working yesterday.  I had plans to mow the lawn, but the grass was too wet, of course the grass is ankle high now and getting longer every day.  I tried mowing the lawn with the sheep last year and it didn’t work out so well.  The sheep liked my decorative bushes and plants, especially the roses.  The grass just kept growing and 6 sheep in a yard can drop a lot of poop in a few days.  This was a sad fact to learn, I had high aspirations of never having to mow a lawn again.  So today, I was headed to the barn to do more digging (my personal workout program) which means I had to cross our front bridge.  I have become fixated on the bridge.  If I can get those beams for cheap (relative term) then I can redo the front bridge for around $1200.  A fabulous price (free labor of course) but one for which I was going to hold off on doing until next year.   I mean, come on the barn is just screaming my name!!!!  I priced  some 16 foot boards, 12 inches wide and 1 inch thick at the custom cutter’s for $0.70/ft ($11.20 a board).  I would need two of them, as they are overlapped on the barn.  I would need to side about 60 feet, for a total cost of $1344 (crap, way too much money).  So it looks like I will be using the back wall of the current grain silo as the new outside wall.  Will still need some lumber.  Here is my distraction, the front bridge…

Yes, it really is as bad as it looks.  Actually, you cannot touch the rails as they fall off with any pressure.  Pluse there are a few boards that are rotten on the floor and give when you step on them.  I am amazed it doesn’t just fall apart.  It was a lot better in the fall and just seems to get worse every day. The custom cutter has not called me back about the beams yet.  As we live in the country (slowville) it will be at least next week before i find out, maybe the week after when I go to pick up my maple I am having cut into lumber.
So I did make it out to the barn again.  It is very painful.  I am sure that I am going to have to drag a hose and sprinkler up into the barn and put a few thousand gallons of water onto the sheep shit so it can be removed.  I am hoping to triple or quadruple the weight of the sheep shit with water.  That way I can really get a workout!!  The trouble is the dried sheep shit is hard as a rock,  I am only getting a few inches with each swing of the pick ax.  Not good progress at all.  I need at least 8-10 inches with each pick ax swing.  I started using a wide grain shovel today.  It worked great.  I broke the shit loose with the pick ax and regular shovel and used the grain shovel to get a big pile.  Probably, 4-5 times what I could do with the regular shovel.  I did finally get an entire barn width cleaned out about 8 feet deep into the barn now.
You can see the three different floor heights in the picture and dead center there is a small thing sticking out of the floor, that is a rusted off metal fence post in the wooden barn floor.  I will keep plugging away at it.  When it dries out I will crawl under the barn and take some pictures. Before I get to do anything on the barn I am going to shore up the beams and make sure things are stable underneath.

Lost weekend

I worked over the weekend.  Two extra shifts, it is my woodworking tool fund $.  Need the cash for the table saw now, unfortunately, I may have found something more pressing to spend the $ on.

Here is a picture of the barn floor.  I have made a little more progress since this was taken, but not much.  I keep getting distracted.  I really need to get the upstairs floor completed so I can get outside and get some outside work done!!!  Outside work beckons, weeds are growing, birds are singing and frogs are croaking, this is not the time to be trapped inside the house working.

My parents had another maple tree cut down at one of their rentals.  So Sarah and I went over last night and pulled the trunk out to the front driveway using the smaller branches as rollers.  It took us over two hours and it was painful.  I told Sarah at least she was learning a practical application of rollers, chains, levers, fulcrums and practical pulling with a motorized vehicle.  She told me that the she understood the theory and didn’t really need any practical application.  First 15 minutes she voiced that concern and tried to get out of helping.  It didn’t work.  So today I went over and winched the trunk into the trailer with a come along.  It was not easy and it was the hottest day of the year to boot.  As I was pulling into the custom cutter (they convert the logs into rough cut lumber at $65/hr for labor, great way to get primo wood)  I saw some very large pressure treated beams perfect for building a new front bridge.  So I expressed interest in purchasing said beams, this is going to push the barn back even further, which sucks.  I might end up redoing the bridge instead.

I did mention that chickens are stupid didn’t I?  I was looking out the kitchen window this morning while making coffee and noticed that one of the chickens looked stuck.  So I watched for another five minutes and sure enough, the stupid chicken tried to go between the slats and got stuck.  The chicken could not get free.  I had to go out and lift and turn the chicken sideways to get her free of the fence.  She was squawking and complaining the whole time I was getting her out of a jam.  Go figure.

Also, I had to dig the chain saw out of the wood shed this morning.  I noticed an egg, then I found two more then a hole pile of them!  Of course we had no idea someone was laying over there.  It was behind a door that was leaning against a wall.  This evening I went out and collected 22 eggs, I tossed them all against a tree stump and the cats and chickens had a feast.  I had to wrap a tarp around the hog wire panel I was using as a gate so hopefully the hens cannot get over there and lay any more eggs.  At this rate, I may need to add a couple more nest boxes to the chicken coop.

Contrary Chickens


Chickens can be very contrary creatures. A while back, Steve realized that he had reached the point where he needed more nesting boxes in the coop. The idea here is that the chickens will lay the eggs in the nesting boxes and not all over the coop (and farm if we’re unlucky). So, we’re discussing ideas, and I happen to see a blue bin that we’ve not used in a while. You know the ones. You likely have at least one of them storing your Christmas decorations in the off season. The big inexpensive ones you can purchase at most department stores, and I suggest that he use that. You have to understand that we are building up at this point. The nesting boxes are actually in the back room of the coop, and the chickens have access through the interior wall. Steve built the first set from scrap lumber, but we are fresh out of scrap lumber. So, we used other scrap material for this set. The dog-food container that started life in the woodshed across the creek and tempted the racoons (details can be found here – scroll down to about the 6th photo on the right) is one. An old cooler that is really not fit to be called a cooler any longer is another, and that blue bin makes 2 more. So we now have a total of 7 nest boxes in the coop. You’d think the chickens would want to check out their new digs, but, chickens are rather contrary creatures that really do not like change. They first ignored the new boxes, and layed their eggs on the floor of the coop when they couldn’t get into a box. Then, they apparently decided to check them out, but they were unhappy with the fact that they were intended to house eggs and tossed out the plastic egg that is supposed to show them what to do there. For a while, they were making nests and teasing us, but not laying. Apparently the “new” boxes have now been in place long enough to be accepted. Sarah found eggs in all of them last week. It only took about two months. Chickens really really hate change. We do, however, still have one holdout. I found 4 eggs in the woodshed this morning. I guess she is not a fan of recycling. The cure for this is to lock the chickens in the coop for a few days so they get used to laying where they should, but I really don’t like to do that. I miss my bug control. Maybe it’s just as easy to go check the woodshed every day….

Living Room

In the absence of anything more interesting, since Steve is working the majority of this week, I thought I’d post a recap of the progress so far in the living room. The picture on the left is what it looked like when we started. Yes, the house was left fully furnished, the first then we had to do was find new homes for all that stuff. And yes, the entire house was fully furnished – including the upstairs bedrooms and the closets in those bedrooms. There was a lot of stuff to relocate. Most of it went to family and friends. Some of it was donated to a good cause. Some, unfortunately, was not salvageable and had to be discarded. But in the end, the house was emptied, and the demolition phase began in earnest. All the wall coverings came off, the dropped ceiling was removed, and the carpet was pulled up. It was a mess, but the room looked huge. Then, we stalled for a while, but eventually, things started to come back together, was the sheetrock went up and was primed and painted. There is something about unpainted sheetrock that really makes a room look small again. But, paint and texture really helps. While the walls were exposed, Steve pulled all the wires and installed the new outlets. Eventually, sheetrock was installed and primed and painted. By the time we got to that phase, we just couldn’t wrap our minds around choosing a color, so we went with Kestrel white everywhere. Yes, I know it’s rather boring, but we were overwhelmed. In 10 years or so when we need to repaint, maybe we’ll be feeling more adventuresome. About the time we got the sheetrock up and painted, the coffers ran dry and we had stalled with the exposed wood ceiling. Steve and Lee (our contractor) installed the suspended grid for the ceiling, but there we stalled until this year when the ceiling tiles were finally installed. I haven’t gotten completely updated photos on the website yet, but I will get them up soon. In the meantime, you can see more photos of the living room throughout the various stages of the remodel (along with some rather amusing captions) on our website at the address below. http://www.hardinsonline.net/Living%20Room.htm