Staycation 29% completed

Well the Staycation is going well. I am getting stuff done but as always it seems to take forever. This is why men don’t like to finish stuff. The last 10% of a job takes up about 30% of the total time so it feels like you are just not getting stuff done! Take the door stripping for instance. I had to set up a work area where it is a temperature controlled environment. I had to then apply the first coat of stripper, wait about 16 hours then scrape it clean. I then had to reapply the stripper, wait for another 18 hours and then scrape it off, scrape all of the paint off with plastic scraper, brass brush and pickup all the goop off of the door. A pocket knife was required to clean the rounded edges and corners. I also had poor removal on the edges of the door so a pocket knife was utilized liberally to clean it up. I then used paper towels to get all of the gunk off the door then used mineral spirits to do the final cleanup on the door, wait another day for door to dry out. Now it is ready for some light stain and a coat of sealant. I have been staring at the door frame which of course has paint on it also. I am thinking about just taping and plastic and rags on ground then applying paint stripper. I have a paste so it should hold well but it is going to smell and be messy. Using the breeze porch I have windows open and we have the upstairs bathroom fan on for any little smell that gets inside the house. If I do the doorway it is going to smell, I do use the citrus based stuff and that has the least offensive smell. This requires a plan consult with the wife to see what she wants to do and what she will tolerate to get it. All of this takes time, I bet we have about $50 in supplies and about 7 hours into it. The problem is the doors are original to the farm so they are not getting replaced and they are solid wood five panel doors, with the current price of wood, building materials and old style door knobs I would bet all of it combined would cost about $1k/door. So I will be taking down each door one at a time and stripping them. I am not buying six new doors. Those doors will have no character! Annmarie will be making a plaque of the weird instructions that were written on the back of the door. We still don’t know what they are for or the exact location. I think it is for the septic tank location but the directions are pretty convoluted for something that is just off the front porch. Once I have the door reinstalled we will mount the handwritten instructions that she burns onto a wood plaque in the same location they were prior to the door reclamation.

I have been looking at the stuff that needs done outside but it just keeps raining every 2-3 days. We have had 42/100” of rain the last seven days and have had 1.2” for the month of March so far. So it never quite dries out enough to do anything. I did manage to drag the driveway yesterday for about 90 minutes. I was looking at it today, after multiple cars have driven on it and I will need to drag it again for about 120 minutes and I need to tear up the first 2-3” of it to really work the pot holes out and to get it so it will be smooth. What I really need is a roller! I laugh every time I say that, there is always something I don’t have but honestly, I have exactly what is minimally necessary to do everything I could want on the farm, the rest would be extraneous but helpful. The last big purchase was the snow plow. I realize it may seem extravagant but getting trapped in by the snow is no fun. Using the blade I could just make a run up and down the driveway 1-3 times during the storm and would not have to mess with huge mounds of snow at the end of the storm.

We have been working on a plan to find a home for the chest I bought. I violated the ”must have a spot first” rule we have on furniture buying. So we decided on moving out the TV stand/cabinet that we never really use except for the horizontal surface. To do that we needed a high shelf to put the router/wireless transmitter on. We decided that higher was better to increase our wireless signal inside the house. I have been working on a live edge shelf for that for two days. I am using the maple we have and of course it has a bow in the wood and it’s maple. I would rather work with black walnut. I of course do not have a planer set up and now I am going to convert the shop area into an office and not a wood shop so I have a 240V 16” planer and 8” 240V edger for sale. Neither of which have ever been ran because I never wired up a 240V plug. But that is a longer story and ends with ”I needed it”, all wives will understand. This caused me to use a hand sander, for a long time. I would have used my big hand belt sander but alas, I could not find it. I should probably add clean up the old house to my list of chores while on staycation but I need to get things done inside the house first. Again, anything is possible with 40 grit sandpaper and lots of time. I got so tired of sanding I actually removed the rust from a large hand planer and sharped the blade on a stone and used it to cut down some of the material. It was faster than the sander. The sanding took me about 4-5 hours to make one small shelf and my hand grip was so shot that I had a hard time holding a pen afterwards. Again, I am on staycation so time is an easy commodity to spend and fairly cheap at this point. Once the old TV stand is moved out to the old house, which really needs cleaned out now, then there will be a spot for the new trunk I just bought!!

I have yet to take a nap. I do feel that at least one nap is necessary for this to truly be called a staycation but I have not figured out how to squeeze it in yet. The dogs are annoying me as they keep running around the side of the house and eating the cat food. I need that fence installed in the side yard to stop them. But since the area is not yet finished I need to install a six foot gate so I can still drive the tractor through. The faucet near the tree we cut down has a leak so that means digging a 3×4 foot hole four feet deep and it will make a mess. I am waiting on warmer weather for that endeavor. I have seen some nice hammocks for sale on the internet and they do look very appealing. In five years you will be able to tie onto the power pole and the tree in our front yard, although as I type that out it doesn’t sound like that great of an idea.

We are down to 28 chickens, I just counted yesterday. I have had a few die so I do a recount every few months to make sure I can enter the correct numbers into my chicken spreadsheet. I will be doing the 2021 numbers soon. I need them for tax purposes. I am still selling eggs for $4/doz but the price of feed has not jumped yet. Once it jumps I will have to go to $5/doz to cover feed expenses. If I actually wanted to make any real money other than free eggs I would need to sell them for about $8/dozen, at that price I might make $1000/year.

I have been doing a few things, I mowed the lawn with the sheep! Our old alpaca got in on the action also, he wanted out a couple of hours later. The bunny is back or most likely is now active enough I can see him almost every day. So far the owls have not managed to eat it. We have a bald eagle that now flies by the house every few days. I have seen it repeatedly, it is no longer a one off. We get them occasionally as they are passing through but this one is staying somewhere. I have even started seeing the rock chucks out on the hillside. They have not been consistent enough to start trying to shoot them yet but as it warms up they will start spending more time outside. They are tearing up my rock cribs by digging underneath them so they need to go. The quail will hopefully multiply, they are running around everywhere and I think we managed to get at least 80 though the winter so hopefully that means we can have a few hundred this fall!

It got cold again

It has been a long week, the paying job is keeping me busy so I have not had a lot of time around the farm. I am trying to get the baler parts ordered now so when we start to hay we will have the necessary repair parts in case something breaks. I need to order some more plastic netting wrap also. In these times you have to plan way ahead of time. I waited too long to bale some of the hay last year and we have a lot of very near straw. So we are supplementing feed dramatically and I was feeding the sheep 3% of their body weight daily and am now feeding 4.5% with 1/2# of sweet feed per animal daily. We had one ewe with twins who got too skinny. She is now in a pen all by herself with all the food and water she can eat. I think she is too passive, not pushing her way into the food so everyone else is eating her share. Hopefully, we can get her fattened up since she has the all you can eat buffet and no competition for food. We should be killing animals soon and that will help with the feed supply. Getting the fields replanted and the hay figured out this year is essential to our next winter. Annmarie has been working on drafting out our five acres of irrigated pasture. She is laying out the pipe and heads and sizing everything including the pump to get us through the summer.

I went to town yesterday to get paint to finish the ceiling in the craft room after the water damage repair. I had to guess among the choices that Sherwin Williams said I had purchased in the past. I guessed wrong and ended up going from painting a 4×4’ section to painting the entire ceiling. The new color is whiter and brighter so that is a plus, but I had not planned on painting that much. Today I got the room cleaned up and usable again. Annmarie can start working on her loom again and get our new cover for wooden hall fridge completed. The antique fridge we use for hallway storage is pretty beat up on the top board, they tried to reseal the surface and got cloth fibers embedded. It needs a cover even after I scrubbed it clean.

I didn’t want to go outside for the entire day due to the temperature, 24F. So I worked on putting the new decorative windmill together. I had to watch a video to get it together correctly, I had the pieces mixed up. I was able to use the old cedar pole but I had to drill out a much bigger hole in the top of the 4×4 and then pound in a plastic bushing. The bushing had to be cut and sanded smooth to fit down into the hole. I used a broken wooden handle as a rod to pound on with a four pound hammer to get it to the bottom of the hole, then I used the intact second bushing to go at the top. I think its going to work but the 4×4 was flexing quite a bit in the wind, its 12 inches bigger than the old one. The old one pretty much disintegrated in the last 90 mph wind. The blades got torn up and they gouged the post also.

The new chickens are integrating well, when I went out this morning there was only one of them in the chicken coop, the rest were outside wandering around. In the last week I have only had to put one of them inside the chicken coop, the rest are getting in before the chicken door closes. I am getting almost a dozen eggs/day now. In the winter my chicken egg productivity is only around 35%. In the summer I go above 50%, but the year round production is what matters.

The wildlife is starting to move around. I saw a single coyote on the back hill side yesterday morning. It only stayed on the hillside for 30 seconds and then was gone. Our bunny is back!! We had not seen it for several months and thought an owl had eaten it. This is the normal cause of bunny demise around our place. I have now seen the bunny two evenings this week so it is officially back. We are hearing the owls again out in our big trees at night and early mornings. Spring is just around the corner and its only January 30!

Donna, Mother-in-law, wants to fix the corner fence down by four corners. So it will be getting new H braces, a new 12’ gate and a ditch crossing so we can add 1/2acre to the cows pasture area. Mostly this will just prevent this 1/2acre from being a weed patch like it has been. This will be a spring project unless it warms up for a solid week. It will need 12 railroad ties, one 12’ gate, 7 cross pieces for H braces, 12 high tension tighteners, one chain horseshoe latch, one roll woven 39” wire and one roll of smooth two strand wire, about 24 T posts with clips. We will use the 2×8” tamarack boards I bought for the corral extension. Those have come in real handy for fencing.

I am working on getting the fuel tank working. The tank is installed, copper grounding wire installed and the tank is sitting on four concrete blocks. I bought a hand fuel transfer pump yesterday but I was not able to get a water/sediment filter for 3/4” pipe, I will be ordering that, once that comes I will get hooked up with a fuel service for the farm and I will have 100 gallons of diesel on hand. I figure I will have to have it filled twice a year, not exactly a large account but it will be nice to have the fuel right here on the farm and I won’t have to keep filling five gallon fuel cans all of the time.

Catching up mothers

Well it was a long weekend, the weather was too nice for January, we set a record high temperature. I had Mr Professional and Mr Tex over for Friday and Saturday. The time was spent getting yards cleaned up and trees trimmed at both my Mother’s house and Mother-in-law’s house. We spent a day at each to get the trees and bushes trimmed and all of the clippings picked up and removed. I am definitely feeling my age. I crawled up into a tree and used a chain saw to cut branches out. I had to work at getting around inside the tree and was very glad the chainsaw was electric. The chain saw was so great I am going to go buy myself one with a 16” bar. It was super quiet and incredibly lightweight. Just fill bar oil and change out the battery! We ended up burning the slash pile two days in a row, there was so much material on it. At my mother-in-laws we cleaned off the hillside and removed blue spruce needles, leaves, wild roses, blackberries and branches. She had multiple plants with thorns and I was working up a sweat so I took off my warm hat. I have around eight cuts/scratches on my head from various branches and multiple scratches on both arms. Those thorny bushes make you pay for moving them.

On Sunday I didn’t want to really do anything, but things have to get done. So we moved a culvert up to field 4b and set a bigger one up into field 3. It is almost too wet to work with the tractors. The little John Deere kept trying to get stuck. It just does not have enough mass to get around when the ground is wet. Mr Professional keeps wanting to get tractor tire chains. I won’t do it. Chains would merely allow myself to get really stuck! We have a little time and will try and back fill around the culverts as the weather permits.

I do morning chores on the weekends and Annmarie does it the rest of the week. I do the evening chores and if I have to feed the cows it takes me an hour after work to get everything done. The morning chores consist of feeding horse, cats, four boy sheep and letting everyone out of the barn, ten minutes tops. The real problem here is if there are new babies then you have to catch them and get them and their mothers in a jug (crèche). That can take over an hour or be even more painful. The evening chores are just guaranteed to be long. I like the predictability of evening chores. So in a nutshell, the morning chores are like playing the lottery, you are a winner occasionally but most of the time its a losing proposition.

We got lucky and were able to be the recipient of ten 10 month old chickens. We picked them up yesterday. I put a large dog kennel in the back of the pickup and had a tarp and some straps I could wrap around it to keep the wind off of the birds. The problem is it was cold and we had about a 50 minute drive to get home. While we were eating dinner in our vehicle I felt pity and managed to jam the large kennel into the back seat by moving the front seats up as far as they would go. This is not the most comfortable configuration but it does allow the chickens to stay warm. Annmarie met me in Pendleton and arrived with gloves and a Pendleton woolen blanket. The pickup has a few foibles. I call them character traits. There is a large crack in the windshield, the vehicle has not been washed for at least two years, the ABS (antilocking brake system) is armed all of the time now so the brakes are a little touchy, the heat/air conditioner don’t really work, the headliner is held in place with gorilla tape and headliner tacks, the aftermarket seat covers are constantly trying to come off, there seems to be an intermittent short and the turn signal/brake light fuse has been replaced twice in the last two weeks, but they do work. The passenger door panel is loose and not attached to the door frame. The passenger window can only be rolled up/down on the passenger side door switches and there are no keys for the doors so it can never be locked. This door problem can be overcome with smooth fencing wire and time, but its annoying so I now just leave the rear window slider latch open all of the time for emergencies. Basically, it is a farm vehicle! The chickens survived the trip just fine and today when I went out to collect eggs I was able to count all ten of the new chickens! It was nice moving the chickens in the dark.

Fall is here

I have been busy, we just got done with the Pendleton RoundUp and I don’t get any stuff done on the farm for about ten days around that event, my paying job requires a lot of attention during that week. The nice thing was we got some rain on the last weekend. We had 0.56” over two days and have had a total of 0.91” of rain in the month of September. This is excellent news for us but it did take a few days before it was possible to get back out in the fields. My helpers have been out hunting so I have been on my own. I spent two days getting field #1 ready, Mr Rainman had picked so many rocks I only ended up picking four bucket loads over two days. There is probably a couple more bucket loads that are obvious but the huge rocks are all gone and even the medium sized ones are gone. I don’t think I will break a sickle bar mower tooth on any of the rocks left. I have some organic matter on the edges of the field that needs to be piled up out of the field and it will be ready to plant. The field still has too many weeds for us to plant alfalfa in it yet. I am unable to get fall barley or fall oats locally. Most of the fields are too muddy to plant in the spring. So my only choices are grass or triticale. Triticale has a pretty narrow window to harvest in and that is problematic for me as my other job takes up time. PGG did not have grass seed in stock so it had to be delivered. I will be checking in on Monday and get more ordered. Annmarie wants us to plant grass seed in the upper field. This will allow me to still spray with 2-4-D and get a handle on the thistle weeds.

The chickens have learned to let us know when they are out of food. They will come running whenever they see you and become shadows. They won’t leave until you feed them. Once fed they all crowd in and try to get to the same feeder even though there are other choices. Our lone rabbit out front is still alive and kicking, we see it almost every day now. The quail are every where and are amazing. I am sure they are my favorite gamebird. The one we have not seen a lot of are pheasants. We had a lot last year and I am not seeing as many this year. The pidgens are multiplying and starting to get over the magical 30 total number. Once they stay at 30 for a year, they multiply at an exponential rate the next year. There are a bunch of dens/holes in the upper fields from coyotes but I have not seen any coyotes this year.

The pregnant sheep have spent the weekend on the front yard and hillside knocking down the weeds and grass. The dogs are out on the run so they are protecting my hens and chicks plants and the trumpet vine from a sheep induced thinning. There is enough green grass that I think I will have to let the sheep in 3 of 7 days. Some of those ewes are so pregnant they can hardly walk. We expected the herd to be done lambing by now not just three ewes and no one in the last three weeks. Thank goodness we went and bought a replacement ram!

Summer is quickly approaching

Summer is definitely coming. We are working on getting our water back up and out to all of the plants. That last minute freeze (17 degrees F) wrecked havoc with our automatic water timers. We had already turned on the garden and lavender sprinkler system and the timers froze, nothing else was damaged. So yesterday we got the berries and lavender watered and lavender weeded. I had some grass trying to grow through the ground cloth and rubber bark, so I pulled it all and got most of the roots. It’s a lot easier to do when the grass clumps are small. We also got the front hillside water turned on and the entire front hillside watered. It does not have a timer and we accidentally left it on last night so it will now be getting a manual timer that will go up to two hours. The water pressure is a lot better since we found and fixed the leak.

Our Murphy bed came via freight truck on Thursday. I tried to talk the guys into delivering it across the bridge and onto the front porch. They were not going to do that as it is only curbside delivery. We were just happy that they did not sit on it for two months while Annmarie badgered them to deliver it, our last local freight experience was less than pleasant. The last one wanted a full load of stuff before they came to Pilot Rock!! We would have to wait a few years for that to occur, which is what Annmarie told them repeatedly. The whole thing is heavy, 800# and we weren’t sure how to get it to the house. I had asked Annmarie to get me a set of “arm forks”, straps that go over your forearms and provide the leverage where you need it to maximize your lifting capability. Most people have the strength just not the grip power, their hands quit which makes it hard to carry stuff. They did not have that so she got me these shoulder straps shaped like an X behind your back and then an adjustable six inch wide strap that goes between them. You put on the harness, squat down, adjust the wide strap then you both just stand up! Your legs actually do all the lifting and then you just stabilize it with your arms. We were able to move the heavy bed portion into the craft room and it weighs around 400 pounds. It was amazing! We moved all four items into the craft room and kinda scoped out the assembly. Without opening the instruction box we have determined that the floor trim needs to be removed and I am going to have to move both outlets on the wall higher. I expect it to take a solid eight hours to get it installed.

I installed a rack in the upstairs bathroom and am now just waiting on the toilet paper roll holder and a hand towel holder. The last item is to make a template for the granite piece that goes on the triangular spot next to the toilet. I am hopeful that I can get that done next week. We moved our daughter back home after selling Annmarie’s grandmothers house. So yesterday was moving day and now we have boxes all over the house, in the attic and with the Murphy bed taking up space we had to move stuff out of that room also! Needless to say it will take us at least a week to dig out and get things arranged.

The chickens were waiting for food when I went out to get eggs last night. The extra rooster has been dispatched and now there should be less fighting at the compost dumping grounds, also known as the treat station to the chickens. Of course we still only have one calf, we hope they will hurry up and just have the rest.