Porch begins

I spent Thursday cleaning and emptying Annmarie’s grandmothers house so we could close on Friday. It took longer than I thought it would but I managed to get it all wiped down and the wood floor oiled. We went in and signed paperwork on Friday afternoon, we no longer own it. The new owners have plans to fix the roof and do some remodel inside the house. This will allow us to focus our time and energy into the farm only. We are going to use the money from the sale to put on a new porch at our house and to help convert the old house into an office space/maker space for Annmarie and the second room will become a reloading area and jewelry construction bench. We are also going to convert the old kitchen into a freezer room. Each freezer will get its own breaker and I want to install drain pans under each freezer with a drain drilled through the floor so it will be easy to defrost and clean.

Saturday the plan was for Mr I Need a Belt Bad to come out and mow the lawn! The sheep knocked it down so he should have been able to plow through it with the mower and we would have been good for a couple more weeks. Unfortunately, it started to rain early Saturday morning and then continued to rain most of the day. This put a damper on the lawn mowing goal, it rained 1/2”! So instead we cleaned out the pickup which needed it badly. I also still had items from Sarah’s that I had just emptied out yesterday and we had to sort through it all and bring it inside or put it in the old house or send it to the dumpster. Once we had that taken care of it was time to make some progress on the porch.

We really needed some accurate measurements so annmarie could CAD up the new porch using TREX products. She is going to make a parts list also so we can just go in and order everything at once. This will be super nice as we are going to need porch railing, step railing and we want to put 12v lights into the risers on the steps leading up to the front door. I will need to bring a 110V outside box out to the front of the house. This will mean crawling under the house and seeing what is what! I know there is a spot I can tap into I am just unsure where it is, I think there are three places, two I know for certain but its been at least ten years since I have crawled under the house. I am sure the spiderwebs are thick as thieves under there. I figured the only real way to get an accurate measurement was to pull all the decking off of the original porch. We needed to look at the supporting structure and see how much was going to need to be replaced. So Mr I Need a Belt Bad, Meathead and myself tore up the structure. Mr I Need a Belt Bad was the cleanup specialist and proceeded to make a large burn pile out in the pasture. We kept up at it and had the entire porch decking and eight feet of the substructure torn off in three hours. I was surprised at how fast it went. The two front boards along the outer edge of the deck will need to be replaced all around the porch. They are rotten from the water. We will replace with pressure treated wood and that will help considerably. It was a good thing we did tear it off as the decking went under the house four inches! Annmarie used to complain that there was a BREEZE blowing under the front wall and making the entire house cold. Once we installed the tile floor and sealed the floor to the wall this went away. Yep, there was no insulation and no covering, the wind was literally just blowing straight into the house. So we will need to insulate and then seal off the bottom part of the wall. As an added bonus we let Mr I Need a Belt Bad be the pyro person and had him light the porch slats on fire. He went out one time to shove the fire back into a tidy circle and realized that the fire is hot, what he didn’t know was if he had been wearing cotton or wool long sleeves it would have protected him much better. He didn’t get burned and the fire took a while to light as it had been raining!

The dogs had gotten under the porch and dug a nice hole. Plus over the last 50-70 years a lot of dirt had built up under the porch. We shoveled the extra dirt out and proceeded to smooth out the area. This will make the additional pillar supports much easier to install. One corner post that holds up our second story breeze porch is about 50% off of the support! So we will need to fix that before the deck gets installed. The pillars are sitting on all kinds of scrap metal pieces, old plow shares, old metal discs and some pieces I think are joint pieces for railroads. I am unsure on what exactly they are.

Mr Professional came out and planted the rest of the Lavender. Annmarie found our old diagram and I was able to update it. We still have eleven spots that need plants but I think we actually may get some lavender from our Grosso plants and maybe even the Folgate. We will see, every one of our Melissa plants died over the winter, we replaced every one and added some more and will see how they do this winter.

Forever Friday 13/42

Yes, I am committed to seeing this through and will be doing the Forever Friday theme for another 29 days! On the plus side I am making progress on the farm and it is starting to show. I have high hopes for getting the fence in the orchard fixed in the next ten days. That is one of the four essential tasks that needed to happen during this rest and relaxation period.

Tuesday was my errand day. I went to town and took care of a bunch of stuff. The best part of the day was after I came home and took a two hour nap! It was the first nap during my 12 days off. It felt great and I was still able to go to sleep on time and wake up the next morning just before my alarm.

We have company, dear friends, coming on Friday so this morning was spent cleaning up around the house. Mr Professional came out to help and will be here tomorrow also. We cleaned up all the bags and trash from the lavender area, installed edging along the lavender field, put away all the tools and I killed more thistles. We then moved more trash out of the yard, cleaned off the front porch, and even cut the hole in the top of the bathroom vanity. We moved the vanity to the breeze porch where I will be giving it a heavy coat of butcher block oil/bees wax treatment. As soon as I can get every field replanted this fall we are hitting the upstairs bathroom hard to get it finished. We need two bathrooms!!

Mr Professional and I got the second bridge footing installed today! The first one has all the rebar it needs and the second one has about 50% of the rebar installed. We will start pouring cement first thing in the morning!! I kept telling him that this side was a lot easier to dig. We never had to use the breaker bar or pull out a single big rock or break a rock in half with the breaker bar. It was easy digging. Tomorrow we should be able to get all the concrete poured and the rest of the wall on the barn side finished. We will just wait for a few days before trying to install the bridge. Once the bridge is in place I will put the auger on the tractor and we start drilling fence holes!!

There was a slight delay today when I noticed the bull out eating on the hay pile with the alpaca. He had jumped down into the spring ditch and pushed his way through the fence crossing. We will now have to install some cable across the railroad ties to keep him from lifting the panels. He is way too smart. Unfortunately for him, he likes apples and by the time I figured out what he had done he was walking toward me and the apple tree. I picked a couple of apples, gave him one when he came into the pasture and when he went through the gate gave him another then locked him out of the crossing until we can get it fixed.

Before headed in for the night I went out and checked our packages the UPS driver dropped off. My punch pins had arrived so I went over to the manure spreader and punched out the gear pin! Unfortunately, now I need a gear puller…

Ouch, is it quicksand?

It has been a long two days already and there is one more left in the weekend.  First thing Friday and Saturday I got out of bed, made coffee and went out to spray fields.  We are trying to eradicate the star thistle and other thistles.  So I am spraying 2-4-d and Milestone on the fields and so is Mr Professional, between the two of us hopefully we will have it finished this week.  I keep running out of spray, last year we didn’t buy hardly any spray which may explain why we are spending so much this year.  I suspect we will end up with about $1500 worth of chemicals on the property, for around 70 acres.  The amount of rain we have gotten this year is causing the weeds to just keep coming out of the ground.  This has led me to the conclusion that the battery I got for the side by side is too small.  We keep having to use the external battery to jump start it.  I should have just gotten the kit that allows me to install a large marine deep cycle battery under the driver’s seat.  I will be doing that and getting a new battery that will just fit in the battery holder.  I need as much battery as I can get, even the trickle charger is not helping.

I did have to pump up the front right tire on the tractor on Friday.  I suspect I may have run over a nail.  I still need to replace the left front tire rim and both front tires are the originals and are almost 8 years old.  We now park the tractor in the machine shop but it used to sit out most of its life In the weather and sun which is reflected in the tire condition. It is time to get new ones.

Annmarie and I spent the late morning spreading out the rest of our ground cover tire bark on Friday and she took me to town to feed me lunch so we could get the rest of the parts needed to install a drip line on all the berries.  The berries and the lavender are both now on timers and drip lines.  We have about 20 bags of tire chips leftover.  I want to get the greenhouse up and use it on the floor as a heat sink.  Our wheat fields should be harvested next week.  I love the wheat when it is at this stage, I think it is at its most beautiful.

We spent Saturday morning fixing the drip lines on three herb containers in the back garden and I finished spraying the far field.  After breakfast and conversation with my mother I went out and put away the baler in the machine shed and decided to go up to the second field and dig more ditches.  The ditches I dug last week had water running in them and the surrounding ground has firmed up nicely.  I would like to move some dirt and fix all the runnels in the field that the flooding caused but there is still a pretty wet spot in the middle of the field.  My plan was to just dig some interconnecting ditches to help the water flow better.  I took flags with me and walked around the wet area and marked the borders so when it dried out I would know what was going to be super wet ground again in the spring.  I have pretty much convinced myself I am going to have to install pecker poles, some people call them vineyard poles, they are only 2” around and pressure treated.  I can drive them into the ground and they should stay for about 7 years.  I need to know where it is wet when I am cutting hay so I don’t inadvertently get out into the mud.

Why you ask would I like to avoid the mud?  Well it is wet and sometimes the bottom of the mud hole is hard to find.  I started to dig right at the top of a running waterway and got the front tires stuck.  I tried to back out and push out with the bucket but the bucket kept sinking and not finding a lot of firm ground.  I then went forward deeper into the hole and tried to pull myself forward with the bucket.  This let me get forward another three feet which put me nose down into a hole.  I was at the far end of the property and had no tools or vehicles except for two railroad ties laying over by the gates.  I had seen them there and was saving them for use later.  I hoofed it over and grabbed the first one, put it on my left should and walked the 200 feet to the tractor.  It was heavy and I could feel it digging into my skinny shoulder.  I wedged it under the front left tire and went back for the second one.  I simply could not squat down and get it up on my right shoulder, damn thing was over 100# and I was hot and tired.  So I put one end of the tie on a cross beam about three feet off the ground, lifted the other end and got under it.  I hoisted it onto my right shoulder and made it about 50 feet before saying no way and tossing it on the ground.  Mind you I think the tractor is sinking into the mud as I mess around with the railroad tie.  I grabbed a 3/8 chain I keep on the tractor and wrapped it around one end, made a yoke by hooking the other end to the tie, stepped in and started to pull it toward the tractor.  I was able to use my legs and whole body to move the railroad tie and got it to the tractor, I tossed it under the right front tire and a piece of cattle panel went under the back tires.  Nope, all this did was cause the ties to stand up when the front tires starting putting weight on them.  I needed a shovel to dig out a horizontal path for the tie.


I was keeping the tractor running because when I manipulated the bucket the front end of the tractor would fall into the water submerging the exhaust pipe.  My next trick was to pull out one of the ties and lay it just in front of the bucket.  The tie was wider than the hole I made so I figured I could push off the tie with the bucket.  This may have worked but when I lifted the bucket I rolled the tie toward me.

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I wanted it to be in just the perfect spot, unfortunately I rolled it too close and was unable to push off of it with the bucket.  I could kinda keep the front end out of the water only.  I then took the other tie and tried to get it under the front of the tractor.  Nope, it was just sinking faster and now the exhaust pipe was fully submerged.

In desperation I jumped off the tractor and gabbed the closet railroad tie and tried to stick in under the bucket at 90 degree angle to the other tie.  I figured the bucket could easily push off of that but I was not fast enough.  I tossed it quickly as the tractor had blue smoke coming out of it and was making a funny noise.  I tried to use the bucket to push me up but had to just turn off the ignition before I sucked water into the engine.  I had managed to get stuck more than any other time in the tractor’s life or my experience.  I called a friend, Mr Richard Hemphill who came out, looked at it and went back to get a bigger tractor.

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I tried to take a nap while waiting but surprisingly the ground was very warm with the sun beating down on the ground.  I gave up and drank more coffee.  The very large tractor showed up, we hooked the tow strap on and it just pulled me out of the ground!  Once out Richard said start it, I had to dig mud out of the exhaust pipe first and since the water never got to the air intake I fired it up and it started on the first try!

I spent over an hour with a hose getting all the mud off the tractor and out of the radiator.  There was mud caked all over the engine and both side of the radiator.  I am going to leave it to dry overnight and will move it in the morning.  I will be done with the tractor until I get new tires, the front right tire is flat again.

On the plus side, my baler part from Italy will be here in two weeks!

 

Flood recovery is slow as it’s not the only thing left to do

It’s Memorial Day weekend and I had plans to fix my haying problems and fix some fence.  I managed to get “some” fence fixed and did not fix my haying problem.  Friday was very nice and I figured I was going to get loads of stuff done.

I managed to tear apart and rebuild both spring crossings in the yard.  They are now dog proof.  On the plus side, both of these crossings faired very well.  The panels lifted and bowed and moved out of the way of the water.  I will be making every crossing just like these two.  I managed to fix both crossings in under four hours.  I took some measurements for the span down by the propane tank (big picture below).  Annmarie is going to make me some plans for a new bridge.  She is making me plans for trusses, I will build two trusses and install them onto my concrete footings I will be installing then I will be bolting them down to the concrete.  I am going to pour “L” shaped footings so that the truss will rest on the lower L part and push against the upright part.  I will install two large bolts so I can bolt it down.  I will be using all thread, I love that stuff then I can just stuff it down into the concrete.

I did go up and tried to turn the hay in the upper prime field.  It was full of mud, I finally gave up and just started to shove the grass into large piles.  I have a set of manure forks that clamp onto the bucket coming.  I ordered them last week after the flood.  I think we will just burn the piles in place in a couple of weeks if it ever quits raining. I tried to go into the upper prime squared field but it still had water running through it.  I cleaned out the culvert and ended up having to dig out the ditch in about five places to get all the water flowing into designated channels.  I will need to wait a couple of days and go up there and try it again.  I think I may be able to salvage at least 2 acres of grass that did not get mud in it.  But if the rain keeps up it is going to start rotting on me.

The horses LOVE this no fence world as they are gorging themselves on all you can eat grass from all over the farm including my ruined hay fields.  They are so full that both of them were laying down and taking naps in the shade.  So far none of the dogs have escaped the yard after my repairs and they have had ample opportunity over the last three days.  

Yesterday, I decided to focus on our yard.  Sometimes the house needs to be prioritized also and it was time to knock everything down.  I spent the day on the weed eater.  I had to watch a YouTube video to figure out how to get the weed eater to work.  I have to do it every spring as I always forget the ins and outs and after pulling it 50 times in an effort to get it started I figured some help was warranted even if it was unwanted.  The YouTube lady had me up and running in under five minutes!  I also trimmed our lilac bush and some other bush we had in the back that was trying to take over the gate area.  I was getting tired of fighting the plants to get in and out of the back gate.  I burned over 1/2 gallon of gas in the weed eater getting the hillside cleaned off.  I forget how my body feels after five hours of using the weed eater.  My single biggest complaint is what the vibrations do to my hands, they ache.  I love getting old.

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Today, Annmarie and I went out to work on the lavender patch.  I dug about 14 rocks out of the patch that I had not removed and cleaned up a pile of ash.  Annmarie wondered how we were ready if I had not done all the prep.  I reiterated that one cannot have all the prep work done ahead of time and it was not very much.  She laid out the ground cloth while I carried in the fake bark.  We have colored recycled shredded tires.  I put out 1200 pound of the stuff and it didn’t even make a dent!  We quit laying out ground cloth because I did not want the wind to tear it all up and we ordered another 10k# of recycled tires.  It will be here in 10-14 days.  The nice part was I just scooped it up into a five gallon bucket by hand and spread it out with the bucket.  It worked great and stopped me from having to try and rake it out over the ground cloth.

Once we ran out of that I went out to help Mr Professional, it was supposed to rain so he was not going to spray.  Instead we took the spare wood out to the old chicken coop.  This meant he pulled the down fence mess off of the culvert so we could drive the trailer and pickup across.  Unfortunately, this exposed the torn out corner near the culvert.  It was not bad only a couple of feet but enough that the trailer was not going to get past.  I had moved some rocks into the barn lot that I was going to use on the flat spot I made behind the barn.  I had expressly collected huge rocks as that was what I wanted to go there.  So we used those rocks to fill in the hole that allowed us to drive the trailer across the culvert.

While he was getting ready to unload the wood, he had to clear a spot I tried to straighten out the Alcatraz water area, I cleaned off the grass on the side that was supposed to allow water in and then chained onto it.  I moved it about two feet before it hit resistance and I just started sliding all over the muddy hillside.  I need it to actually dry out for a few days.  We unloaded the wood, while it started to rain again.  We staged about 20 pieces of blue pine for the bathroom on the front porch.  The plan is to start working on the bathroom for a few hours every evening and get it done!  I so want a second bathroom and our bathroom lights came on Friday.  The rosettes I ordered to go around the mirror came but they only had 1/2” nails with them and I wanted at least 1.25”.  I ended up ordering another 6 rosettes from a different place with longer nails.  These are all hand forged and come with 1.25” nails to hold them in place.  They will hopefully be here this week so I can install them and remove the board I have propped across the entire room leaning onto the mirror.

I did go out into the orchard after we finished with the ground cloth.  I realized that the culvert was still plugged up and it was causing water to run across the orchard.  I spent an hour hand digging and pulling out weeds and branches from the ditch until I got the backlog down and the channel cleared out for 20 feet.  I then went down to where the water ran under/through the far fence.  Ouch, there is a three foot drop off that is about 14’ wide.  I am going to have to just cut the fence, install two H braces on either side, put a cable across the top and hang cow panels down.  I can fill up the one side with large rocks but I am running out of easy access to large rock piles.  I have one rock pile in the orchard that I  had been building up from all over the orchard.  I think I can hang some weights on the panels so that the cows cannot lift them but if the water rushes by again it will just lift the panels.  This is my new plan, all water crossings need to be able to “float” out of the way if we ever get flooding again.  Annmarie tells me that we beat a record rainfall set in 1894 with this flood on this day.  I would believe it but that surely does not help when you are cleaning up.  As always, we are grateful and fortunate that none of the houses or buildings were damaged.  We are just cleaning up fences and losing hay, less than $20K dollars worth of damage.  The amount of work it will take to fix it is the hard part, that took several years to install.  On the plus side our bridge for the barn lot survived!  I just have to hook onto it with the tractor and pull it back.  I will have to find another extra railroad tie as I was pretty much the only one who could drive the tractor across the four foot bridge.  You cannot get a straight shot at it so it makes it very hard.  I am making a list of more things to by now.

I even went down to the barn lot crossing and fished out all the blocks today.  It was a mess.  I am going to buy another 200 blocks and then rip out what is currently installed and replace them all.  I want to extend the blocks out along the sides and then stick the crossing on top of the blocks, this should gain me another foot of clearance and prevent the bridge from being eroded out.  I am fine with it being lifted off its footings as this is a safety feature.  This many blocks will take 3-4 people about a day to install.  Once those are in and the bridge is back in place then I can worry about getting the fence back in place.  It’s going to be a long summer.

I am going to have to focus on the cross fences above first to keep the animals out of the hay fields.  So that is the next priority project, once I have those done we can sort the cows and pull the young meat heifers off of the main herd and then let the bull back in with the cows.  The steers and heifers can go in the upper prime pasture and we will get two fences between the bull and them.