Well, there is hope and maybe even a light at the end of the tunnel. I am now working on the office floor. Mr Professional came out and I finished wiring all of the outlets in the office while he started cleaning up. We took out two huge 50 gallon trash bags full of trash that had accumulated while doing this job. I started wiring the outlets in the other part of the house also. The freezer room needs to get done next so we can move the freezers which will create a space for the tool box and cabinets that are currently in my future room. Once we empty out my room then we can tear off two walls and get the walls insulated. I need to lift the outer wall up by one inch before we can install the inner door, and I need to widen the door opening both ways by two inches, all minor things! I was not able to get to the main light. I maybe could have fixed it but Annmarie already ordered a new one so I will wait until it shows up and then get some help installing it so there is no using the wires as hangers while installing it. We still have to finish the insulation in the attic. I did get the trim boards ordered and will need to pick those up in the next week or so. We got the entire office emptied so I could start in on the floor.
I was hoping the floor would go smoother than I remembered the upstairs floor in our house that I did twelve years ago. Nope, it was just as miserable as I remembered. I tried the palm sander first with 40 grit paper. The first picture is two hours with the palm sander. The second picture is two more hours with the belt sander. The best luck I had was the combination of the two. I could tear into it with the belt sander and then when it was about 75% done use the palm sander. This combination seemed to be the fastest with getting the old paint off. I had to use a mask and eye protection and the dang eye protection kept fogging up! The area in front of the main entrance is the worst, it has multiple coats of paint and they do not want to come off. I wait until the sandpaper is just about used up then I hit this area and clog up the sand paper with paint. I suspect just getting the floor sanded is going to take me at least 40-60 hours. The boards appear to be tilted slightly. The sanders are peeling off the left edge of every board first. I am unsure how this happened but the sanders will solve this problem. I will use the stain we already have and just wipe it on and quickly off. We want the color to stay lighter than we have inside the house. After it is stained I will use some polyurethane over the top to seal everything.
I almost threw out my chicken scratch drawing with all the stud measurements on the equipment room. I need to drill a 6” hole through the wall to vent the laser cutter but I wanted to miss all of the studs so I made a diagram before I sheeted the wall. Mr Professional tossed it in the trash after I said it all goes. Luckily, by the end of the day I remembered and we were able to dig it out of the trash. It is now in a window sill safe until the next cleanup.
Our back creek is running. We have had enough moisture that it is up and going. The chickens appreciate this as their coop is near it and they don’t have to go to the front spring to get a drink. Speaking of chickens I am still getting my one egg a day. Today I was able to collect two eggs! This does not let us sale any eggs, we are consuming what we produce. We were going to get three new heifers delivered but there is a wind advisory in place so they will be delivered at a separate time. We are going to thin out our oldest cows, they are 13 years old. I am loving the large bales when it comes to feeding the cows. I just grab a bale with the tractor, feed it and I am done. I don’t have to feed 16 small bales every day. I think I am going to bale our grass hay and sell it so I can get big bales for the cows. Still looking into this whole process.
We are trying to get ready for lambing season, it should start this month. We sorted off four weathers into Alcatraz and sorted the ram off of the ewes. He was starting to get fat and pushy. He wanted to sneak up on you and try and ram you. I had come to an understanding with him but the few times Annmarie went out in the evening to feed he kept trying to sneak up on her and head butt her. This is both annoying and dangerous. If he knocks you to the ground you can get stepped on if the sheep panic and start to bolt. They do not care what is in their way, they just jump over or on it as they run away. So we are hoping that a few months isolated in Alcatraz with a few like minded folks will mellow him out. We still have all the rest of the feeder lambs down with the three bulls. They all share the alfalfa bales.
The weather is all screwy, on Saturday the temperature got to 50F. Since it was a holiday weekend I ran to town to get more insulation and a belt sander. They did not have the precut insulation so I got two full rolls. We can cut our own sections. While I was there I priced CDX 1/2” plywood, it was $30/sheet, not cheap but the second room only needs 20 sheets to redo all the walls. This will be the fastest way to finish off the room and economical. This room is going to be a reloading and jewelry making room for me. I am going to use the old outer door from the new office to be my inner door to the old freezer room. I will still need a new back door but I want one with a window in it to let in more natural light. I still need to stiffen the outer wall in that room before a new door gets installed. I did buy a new 18” belt sander, it was cheap! I was amazed at the price on corded power tools, most were under $100. Everyone wants battery operated tools nowadays. I know I do but after looking at the prices I went with a corded belt sander as I am only doing one room.
I came home and started working on installing the overhead lights, this did not go well for me. I want to preface this discussion by saying I have never installed track lighting before. There are definitely a few learning curve points. I had to tear off the decorative cover three times and keep adjusting the power supply connector to the track. It was off center and this was stopping the decorative cover from sitting flush. I also installed 12 feet of track. Holding up an eight foot section while on a ladder from one end is not a realistic prospect. Luckily, the track comes in a cardboard tube. I cut it shorter and then jammed it under the track at one end and the floor and used it as a third hand to hold the track up while I adjusted and screwed in the opposite end. After many tries I got the track installed and lights on the track. One of the lights is missing a bulb so I ordered spares on Amazon. I then went to the center light. This also did not go smoothly. The light is heavy, the box is retracted about a half an inch up into the ceiling. I was trying to wire the light and hold it up at the same time. I finally just wired in the ground wire and hung the light from the ground while I tried to get the other wires together. This was not easy and in the end I ripped out the grounding wire. I fought with it some more, and gave up. Today I added extenders to make the holder sit lower and got the light installed. Now that I had two lights installed I went out and flipped the breaker to see how the lights looked! Nope, I forgot that I had daisy chained the power to all three lights and the beginning of the chain was the light I had not yet installed. So I flipped the breaker back off and went and installed the last section of track lighting. This time I only had to remove the cover one time to get everything in alignment. I went and flipped the breaker to see if the lights work and viola, two of three work! Big surprise the main one in the middle of the room does not work. I also had to adjust two of the track lights to get them to fit into the track correctly. The track lighting is dimmer than I expected. So Annmarie ordered a new light and I will get it installed this week.
Saturday, Annmarie wanted me to burn the boxes and Christmas wrapping paper, she was tired of it living in the hallway. This was valid and the wind was no longer blowing so I moved it all out onto the front porch and grabbed the only fire stick I could find. Mind you, I only needed to make two trips out of the yard to take all the boxes out to burn. The smart move was to latch the gate as soon as I went through but that would require me to unlatch the gate again. I thought I could just fake it and make the gate appear to be closed therefore fooling the puppy, Chance to not run out and play with the animals. She ran along the fence away from the gate, I kept trying to light the damn fire stick! It would not make a flame, after about 75 tries I hear chickens squawking. I look up from my failed task and the border collie puppy is running after chickens! She is having a great time and feathers are flying everywhere. I run over screaming and throw the failed fire stick in her direction, it misses and she then spots the lone sheep in the field and makes a bee line for it. I have now given up on screaming or running after her and just start heading toward the barn. She has the sheep all balled up outside the barn then pushes them all into the barn before I can get up to the barn. When I enter the barn she has them all balled up against one wall and is laying in the hay trying to decide if she should move them some more. I chased the sheep out of the barn and shut the door. Eventually, I manage to catch the puppy, there was a lead rope on the wall so I attach that to her and we go out and actually work the sheep for five minutes on the run. She did manage to realize that “easy” did not mean hit the end of the lead rope at a dead run. It took a bit but she is teachable. She was glad to go back in the yard and did not look abashed at all.
Well my staycation continues, Monday was the big day I needed to go pickup hay for the cows. We buy big bales for the winter. I am hopeful that we can get enough triticale planted this fall to put up enough of our own hay to not have to buy anymore. We are getting close. My hope is we have enough for two years this purchase. Then when I hay next year we are set. That is the plan, we are closing in on self sufficiency, it has not been easy to figure out what we need or how to get there.
I started the morning out with a good breakfast! This is the key to farm work. I almost always work through lunch and just eat breakfast and dinner so cooking something hearty first thing is essential. I did do the dishes afterwards. I then hoofed it up the back hillside to make sure the gates were closed after we moved the cows this weekend. I took both border collies and the puppy was in seventh heaven. She doesn’t get out of the yard much as she has a distinct lack of control. Of course I was able to call them back and got the gate opened, Mouse ran in and the puppy, Chance, ran up to the gate then saw a chicken, the chase was on. She terrorized several chickens, me hollering to no avail when she spotted the sheep! So she ran up the creek line alongside the fence looking at sheep, when she turned around and barreled towards me I was ready. I just snatched her off the ground and carried her back to the yard. She was distinctly unrepentant in her demeanor, wagging her tail and licking me the entire time. I then went out and pushed the three bulls across the barn lot, through the front yard and down into the below fields. We have three fences between the cows and the bulls now, our old bull should be contained. He is the Houdini of fence crossers and we don’t want him impregnating anyone. He will be hamburger in the spring. I then had to run to town and drop off stuff for wife, came back just in time to hook up flat bed trailer, pump up back trailer tire that is always chronically low and fuel up the tractor so I can move the bales off of the trailer. I also called for farm diesel to be delivered. Luckily for me, they were loading the truck with diesel for a Pilot Rock run that day and I was able to get squeezed onto the delivery route! This was much appreciated as I was going to run out in the next couple of days as many hours as I am putting on the tractor every day. The best part about this is the hand pump only needs to be moved every other delivery so two times a year. This is very reasonable and the pump works great, I am happy I did not get a second pump for another $350 installed with all the accoutrements.
I then went to get hay, its only about five miles away but we determined that I can only haul four bales at a time. The seller reminded me, four bales, I had him put a fifth on anyway that first load as there were 40 bales to move. It was not happening, four it was. The plan was to just pull the trailer into field four, shove them all off randomly and tomorrow I would place them in an organized fashion. I cannot stack them as the new Kubota will lift them 2-3” only. Which is not bad considering the lifting capacity is only 1100# and the bales weigh 1400#. I will stack them in a neat square.
I pushed three bales off and figured out I could just park the tractor and set the bucket to the right height to hold the bales in place while I drive the trailer out from underneath the bale. This worked super slick and I was off for the second load. I congratulated myself on my efficiency and kept going. The second load I tried to move two bales off at the same time using this technique and almost ripped the plastic bin off the front of the trailer, the bucket height was too low. I fixed that then was pulling the tractor sideways, there was too much weight to hold in place. I had to unload each bale individually with the tractor. On the third load I tried again but this time I got the front of the tractor in front of the spare trailer tire attached to the trailer and pulled the tractor sideways again. I had to unload individually again. Now I was not to be deterred by these obstacles and was determined to recreate the perfect bale dismount again. On the fourth trip I got the bottom part of the tractor forks too low and crushed the tire well! I tried to bend it back and beat on it with a hammer but I had a couple of creases in the metal and it was not happening. I managed to get it off the tire enough to drive it to the shop and cut off the tire well with a grinder. I am going to have to fix that, but I did learn my lesson and discontinued my duplication of perfection. It was getting late and each round trip was taking around 45 minutes. I needed to pick up the pace. I was not even getting out of the pickup at the loading site and moving as fast as possible to get done before we lost daylight. This meant missing dinner but we were having leftovers so I could eat when I was done. On the 8th trip the alpacas decided to create chaos. I had to open one gate to get into the shop/grain bin area. The alpaca had been watching me all day and occasionally would start running at me when I opened the gate. I had been jeering at them and making less than respectful gestures as they tried to rush the gate. I had been winning. This trip they were waiting for me at the gate. I have to open the gate, get back in the pickup and pull pickup and trailer through and then jump out and shut the gate. I had 11/12 of them rush through out into the wheat field! I tried hollering, waving my hat, screaming, hitting them with hat and epithets but none of them worked and the sun was low on the horizon. I just left them. I simply did not have time to mess with them and they knew it! On my 9th trip there were several in the dirt road and when I opened the gate I was able to heard them with the horn and pickup out the gate, now there were 6/12 where they were supposed to be. On the last trip, just enough light to load the trailer, I parked in the alpaca area, with the trailer visible through the gate and used the tractor to push the last six out towards the alfalfa hay. They went grudgingly. Now I think they are all there but there may only be 11, it was hard to count in the dark. I will check in the morning. If there is one out it will stay close to its buddies.
At some point during the day our old bull got up onto the hillside behind our house. He is not supposed to be there, that was the point of me checking the gate. So I will need to look at the top gate and most likely secure the creek crossing. He just crawls under the panels at the creek crossings. He is so annoying. Now there are two fences between him and the females.
I used the tractor to herd the sheep into the barn lot. If they would sleep with the cows we would leave them up there but they always go off by themselves. We are having predator problems again. I have something eating my chickens again and we lost another lamb this last week. So here is the count. I have lost 12 chickens to predators and 3 to natural causes. I am sure it is a raccoon but it keeps harassing the chickens and I am only getting two eggs a day, they are stressed. We have lost three lambs to predators and one jumped into the old hand dug well and drowned. I just noticed this catastrophe by the smell and will now have to fish out a horrible mess. We don’t use the well but I need to clean it out and cover it up, sheep are so stupid. It had to jump up into the thing. We lost one calf to the flooding. The dogs have been barking at night and in early am and I have been going out for the last two weeks with a pistol and flashlight and have not found anything. I scan the trees looking for eyes. Last night at bed time the gods started up the barking, I went out and was just about ready to go inside when I decided to go look at the chicken coop, I was shining the light around and spotted eyes high up in the tree. It was a raccoon. It is no more. The predators and nature are definitely ahead this year. I need to get rid of the coyotes in the upper pasture but I have not seen them this week. Hopefully, we will now start getting more eggs. It will take the chickens a few days to relax and calm down.
It’s that time of year again, to count how many animals we have lost to predators. We had one calf drown in the flash flood and that is not counted against the predators. We have lost no other cows.
The sheep are another story. We have lost two lambs so far. One we just found the remains of in field four this week. I had been smelling it for a week but could not find it. The smell would come and go and was hard to pinpoint. Annmarie was putting in the sheep with the puppy on a lead and she spotted a buzzard! When the buzzard jumped off, so full it could not fly, she walked over to the skin and a few bones. The other one was last week, we had one with a broken back. I blame the cougar for this one. We had a cougar go through the property that morning and we think the sheep panicked and it somehow broke its back. I had to put it down. The cougar has not passed through again but it is concerning so we will be catching all of the sheep this upcoming weekend to tag and band everyone and get an accurate count of all of the lambs.
The chickens so far I have lost 6 this year. They are random disappearances and every month I count the number left at some point. I put it on my egg counting sheet so I can calculate the productivity rate of the chickens. We know the chickens are the victims of the raccoons. So far we have dispatched three raccoons but there are at least two more still roaming the place.
I need some more target practice with my 22 pistol. The wife is a better shot with the lever action 30-30. I keep telling her that a pistol is not designed to shoot 75 feet, she keeps telling me what my excuse is when its close. Hence the reason I need more practice.
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!