Eternity Deck

I am trying to get the front deck done but it doesn’t seem like everyone else is cooperating. I called on my three pieces of TREX decking, still not in. My TREX railing connectors are still on back order. So we still don’t have stair railings.

I decided I needed to get the power situation figured out so it would not be dragging everything else behind. It is also one of the few things that I have to do and cannot have either one of my helpers do. The world did not make a lot of electricians. I spent Friday morning bringing out tools and piling them by the crawl space entrance to get underneath the porch. Once I had a bunch of tools I actually read the install instructions for all of the deck lighting. Yep, I needed more parts, I will have to install a plug in under the deck, not wire in the power source directly like I thought. It was a little more complicated than I thought. I don’t have a special splitter that I need and I need some 12V extension cables also. I don’t have a third plug and I needed a 3/4 to 1/2 conduit reducer also. I made the trip to Pendleton and got what I thought I needed. It takes about 2 hours to make a quick round trip so I usually try and buy as much as I think I will need to prevent another trip. I worked on getting the porch outlet installed on the upright beam. I had to drill a hole from above then crawl underneath the deck and drill upwards at a different angle in an attempt to connect the two tunnels. I did do it and was able to get the wire and box installed on the porch.

We have had some more lambs, so far we have had 3 ewes give birth this week to 4 lambs, only one mother had twins. I really want to let the new mothers and babies out into the ram pasture. We added that little gate so it could happen but Annmarie pointed out we still have downed fencing piled up in the middle of the field and it would trap and kill the lambs. It was on my list and has been there for 18 months, so I should probably increase its priority.

Annmarie finished canning our garlic that we grew, courtesy of our neighbor. This should be enough to last us the whole year. Then she made lamb shanks, root veggies and lentils for dinner. It was very good.

I picked up Mr I Need a Belt Bad this morning so he could help me wire. Now he isn’t going to do any wiring but yesterday I realized that it takes me ten minutes to just crawl out from underneath the porch if I have forgotten any single thing I need. I need a “go””fer” for those times I forget something. We pushed th sheep into the front yard first thing and placed the dogs on their runs so they could not get at the sheep when we were not looking. I crawled under the porch and started installing electrical conduit. I had Mr I Need a Belt Bad do the cutting and once he got the hang of it he did well. We did have to have a brief lesson on how to read a tape measure. Then there was a more insistent tutorial on how to compare fractions and find a common denominator. That lesson got reinforced randomly throughout the day. I was able to install and wire up all three outlets. The only thing left was the junction box underneath the porch that had the actual power supply. I just kinda tapped into a box under the house and did not mark which breaker it was. I flipped five breakers and crawled under the porch, I actually checked the hot wire with a voltmeter before cutting it with my dykes. It was still hot, so I wrote down those breaker numbers and flipped two more switches. This time when I checked there was no electricity. So its one of those two breakers. Once I have the lights installed I can mess with figuring out which breaker they belong to and get it labeled. While I did the final connection Mr I Need a Belt Bad dug out the front ditch in our yard.

We did stop for lunch. I had cheese and crackers and an apple picked from our orchard. It was cleanup time next, I put the forks on the tractor and came and forked up the loose wire and took it to the scrap metal pile. I put the bucket back on and brought gravel to our front yard so that every trip was productive. I had that ditch in front of the blocks we dug last week that needed to be filled in. We used the bucket to get more scrap metal from the ram pasture and from the old chicken coop clean out pile. We did three total trips with the bucket

The damn dogs laid there and let my hens and chick planter get decimated by the sheep. The dogs would not harass the sheep unless i told them to and I did not notice them eating my flowers! I moved my planter to another temporary spot that I think is sheep proof. I need to get the front rock wall done and then I can put a fence on top of it and keep the sheep out.

Mr I Need a Belt Bad did manage to get his pay figured out with some prompting and educational teaching tenacity. I am pretty sure that tomorrow will be spent inside the house doing some deep cleaning and dusting and washing of walls.

Ready for winter

Well we are finally starting to make progress on the finishing touches for the front porch. Mr Professional and Mr Rainman got the blocks installed on Friday. They were having some trouble with the corners getting them to match up and get the cut angles correct. I told them I would get it this weekend. I spent about two hours on Sunday cutting angles with the wet tile saw and then breaking the blocks with a mason’s hammer. I then used a diamond blade to grind the rough edges smooth. I was able to make both corners and ends fit nicely. Annmarie thought I had not had enough water to drink, said my lips looked like I was dying. I had to go inside and look in the mirror, I had concrete dust all over my face and my lips were a pasty white color! I am going to live.

I let the sheep into the front yard hillside both days this weekend. I put the dogs on their runs and then had to chase the sheep into the yard as they just did not want to go on their own. I ended up using Zeke to chase the sheep into the yard every morning and then used Mouse to bring the cows in every night. Mouse is starting to dramatically improve. Separating him from Zeke when they work has helped a bunch. He is really starting to listen and we can just focus all our attention on him. The front hillside has at least five days worth of food on it. We are keeping the sheep in front of the barn due to lambing season, but since we had the one baby last week, we have not had another. A few of the mommas look like they are getting milk, and we are hopeful they will have babies this week. I think the sheep can eat on the hillside for another few days. The only problem is the dogs need to stay on the runs outside to prevent the sheep from eating my trumpet vine and my hens and chicks. Eventually we will finish the rock wall out front and get a fence on top of it to keep the dogs out or in depending on if we are using one side as a buffet for the animals.

Saturday was moving large hay bales onto the farm day. This typically takes most of the day. Mr Rainman cleaned out the machine shed storage area and then proceeded to clean up the machine shed in between loads. The new tractor can just barely lift a new bale off of the ground but it cannot get the lower bale on top of another bale. It just won’t lift it up and the governor won’t let it lift that much weight. So we were only able to get 13 bales in the machine shed and 9 more in the horse arena we moved next to the grain bins. This keeps the alpaca from tearing up the bales. They are horrible about burrowing holes into the bales. They love alfalfa!

Mr I Need a Belt Bad spent two days digging out the front ditch. The weeds were clogging it up. He helped me dig out a ditch in front of the block wall today. I ended up having to drag some dirt to lower the area some in from of the new porch. Now that a rain ditch has been installed it will need to be filled with gravel. My railing part for the stair railing is on factory back order. It may get shipped this week, I am unclear on if this will actually happen. The new Kubota 3100 tractor is a little big to use inside our yard. I am loving the tractor so far but in the yard the small space would be better served by the little John Deere, but it has a flat front tire. I will need to get that fixed this week. There always seems to be something.

Annmarie and I went out to the orchard just before dinner and ate some honey crisp apples directly off the tree. They were so good, the dang yellow-jackets think so also and have been eating the near ripe fruit. I am going to have to hang out traps next year and see if that slows them down. We took about 30 minutes Saturday morning to drag out the path of our next fence. It is going to be blocks on the lower half and a metal topper. I measured the posts today and their outside dimension is 1 5/8”. So I need to buy a pipe with an inside diameter just over that so I can set the new pipe into the ground in concrete and then slip the fence inside of it.

It was supposed to be a porch day

There was some discussion this morning on what exactly should be on the to do list for the day. I wanted to focus solely on the porch. I had big plans for getting the block all the way around the porch and was pretty certain it could be done in a day with the help I had on hand. Alas, a long discussion was had at the breakfast table and my new list consisted of a lot of cleaning up of other projects. The ram pasture has all the burn scrap from porch and still has a pile of fencing from the flood damage, the old house porch has scraps, the yard has pallets and unused pressure treated wood, there is trash in the yard, there are weeds in the garden, and a few other things that did not involve the porch.

When Mr I Need a Belt bad arrived I had him go over and work on weeds in the berry patch. On my way over to the berry patch I noticed that the yard had a three foot no mow area next to the fence along with a sprinkler in the front yard that had just been mowed around. I had instructed him to move all of the hoses first yesterday before mowing. So after weeding for a couple of hours, he got the mower out, moved both hoses and proceeded to finish mowing the lawn. He also put the mower back away in the shed. I was late picking up Mr Professional so we just went right to picking up the yard, we pulled the flat bed 16’ trailer around and proceeded to fill it with burnable trash and a few pieces of wood we wanted to save. We still had a small pile of pressure treated wood and the 16’ pressure treated 2×6 for the trumpet vine. So instead of leaving the board in the yard we tore down the broken board. While we were on a ladder doing this we found two more broken boards that needed torn out and one replaced. We had Mr I Need a Belt Bad go get the lawn mower again. Since we had moved all of the boards out of the yard and I had picked up the trash it was time to mow this section of lawn. So I mowed, and he dumped the grass and put the lawn mower away.

As Mr Professional and I were installing the second board I had to crawl up onto the top of the four foot ladder and had inserted myself between some broken boards In an attempt to get an angle on a screw and take the boards apart. I was using the broken boards to stabilize myself and when it suddenly broke, I started to fall off the ladder backwards. Since I understood the precariousness of my position I wasted no time in flailing about for a handle. Unfortunately, the trumpet vines are loved and adored by many different kinds of flying insects of which one is a yellow jacket. They eat the sweet nectar. The mean little bastard understood that I was defenseless and took the opportunity to strike! He stung me on my right ear, but I did not even pause for my goal of reaching a stabilizing point to interrupt the fall perseverance and focus allowed me to grab a stable part of the structure and stop my fall. I spent the next five minutes pinching my ear lob in an attempt to get the burning to stop. While Mr Professional was installing a support board I used the hand clippers and started to cut out some branches over the roof and to trim out all the dead wood. This made quite the mess on the ground and Mr I Need a Belt Bad was raking it all up and moving it over to the trailer for future disposal on the burn pile. We were just about done when his ride came. We had not started moving any block and he was disappointed. He should not be, the trumpet vine looks amazing and the trellis has been needing a repair for three years it all looks amazing! He was able to calculate his pay accurately and with very little stall time. When he first started he kept messing it up, but when I told him I would under pay him if his math was bad he started to realize that those pesky things they teach you in school really do have some value in the real world. He gets it right every time now. We even use nearest 15 minute rounding rules.

Mr Professional and I started in on the blocks and did the short end. We were getting ready to work on the long end when Annmarie came home. He went out to do more honey do chores as she had brought mineral and feed supplements that needed to be distributed. I finished dumping more gravel out into the yard for the wall. Annmarie did not like the small triangle wedge of air you could see when you looked over the railing. I did not buy any capstone. We discussed this for a while and then Mr Professional and I went to Walmart to try and find some pavers on sale. Someone had purchased all of the pavers and none were left. We then went to Home Depot store in Hermiston. We did find the topper block and figured out what sizes were needed but getting someone to come help us did take quite a bit of perseverance. While Mr Professional watched the employees load our block I went around and looked at plants. I bought two small Monterey Cypress trees to turn into Bonzai trees. I also bought some more planters so I could create a bunch of starts from my spider plants. They are out of control and the Jade plant cuttings were a big hit so I thought I would do it again. I did remember to get eggs and the sheep and cows are in the barn lot. I am hopeful that the little boy we singled off yesterday and trapped in Alcatraz will not holler all night again. It usually doesn’t bother me but I had to shut the bedroom windows and it still took another hours to go to sleep the cows were so noisy.

Time to start getting ready for winter

It’s been a long week at work and sometimes the farm is just what you need for a reset. This week was definitely a reset week. On Monday one of the calves got out again. Now I had already tooted my horn about the fence repairs from last weekend and told the wife no one was getting out. It took almost 24 hours for one of the calves to prove me wrong. She got it back into the lower fields by opening the gate and herding it in. It wanted to go see its mama. This left the dang water crossing that the bull beat up all last year. Annmarie told me that what I really needed was a culvert in the spot. I could then secure the fence to the culvert and the water and dirt would hold it down and prevent the bull from getting through or for that matter, any of the cows. I actually like this idea a lot! I have a four foot diameter culvert that could be cut in two to make two ten foot sections and one could be used here. The other one is for another crossing I am having trouble with. Pulling the eight foot trailer across the ten foot culvert when it is loaded and there is an eight foot drop on one side makes some people nervous. I need to add about 3-4 feet to this to prevent any mishaps from sloppy drivers. It was hot, I was just getting off work and not dressed to do any type of complex fencing. There happened to be a rats nest of fencing from the spring work laying around and I “installed” it in the fence to prevent anyone else from leaving. We have not had a single animal escape since my repair.

Friday I cleaned out the old big bales from the machine shop. They are light enough with some maneuvering I can get them about eight inches off the ground and carry them with the pallet forks using my new Kubota tractor. We will need to set up the full horse arena out by the grain bins to keep the alpaca away from the large hay bales we will have to store outside. I get about half in the machine shed and the rest outside. We feed the outside bales first so by the time the weather really gets bad we are feeding nice bales from the shed.

Our plan for the day was to work the cows and sheep. The rams needed to be pulled off of the sheep herd. Our house calendar says we should start lambing at the end of the month. This means the herd needs to be closer to the house. I am not sure that we are but that is what our calendar says. We still had two cows to tag and one to band. The upper five cows needed to be swapped with the lower cows. There is more feed above the house, there is also most likely a cougar. We lost four lambs again during this summer. A cougar has been spotted by several people but we have not seen it. Moving the fewer cows down below the house means they can work on the less available forage easier. The real problem with moving cows into field 2-4 is that we have to bring them in every night so we don’t lose any to a big cat. This choice has really been taken away since there is no rain. I noticed tonight that the running water that was going through all of field 4 is drying up about half way through the pasture. The most cows have to go to the most feed.

Annmarie, the child and Mr Professional all worked on animals. Mr I Need a Belt Bad was weeding the back garden then going out into the berry patch and doing more weeding. I do not believe that he would choose weeding as a primary task if he had a choice, but the weeding does need to get done. The thistles are trying to take over the berry patch. They went to get the cows while I moved the calf table in place and put up part of the horse movable arena around the calf table. We set it up so that we could just leave an open gate back into the corral and the calves would not run all over heck and gone. I used the new Kubota tractor with my pallet fork attachment, so amazing. Something that would have taken me an hour got done in 20 minutes. I am loving the pallet fork attachment, even if I can only lift 1100 pounds.

We put the sheep into the back barn lot Friday night so they were ready for us when we needed them Saturday. We pushed the upper sheep down and sorted off the steer/bull undescended testicle guy, we are not quite sure about his testicle status. Yes, a neutered cow,steer can still push out his penis. My record keeping skills are not the best in this area. We gave everyone pour over fly medicine and sorted the bull off and put him in Alcatraz with the other two bulls. We then moved all 16 cows from below into the corral. We did pour over on everyone and then tagged and banded two calves, one boy (our youngest) and tagged the “squirter” that got away last time. I had her in the chute with a lot of other cows and she was at the end. I just pushed her into more cows until she was pinned then reached over and tagged her. The calve we used the calf table and it went very smoothly. We will be using the portable fencing whenever we do this in the future. I had plans to build a permanent calve chute but honestly it was going to take forever and this is so much easier. After we pushed them up into field 4 (they can just walk into 2-3), we tried to push the four cows from the upper pasture through the yard into the orchard. This did not go well. Not well at all,as there was much yelling and dogs not cooperating or cows complying. Mr I Need a Belt bad left the gate into the garden open. We ended up with a five hundred pound cow jumping onto our elevated beds and watering system. There was a lot of screaming at him to get out of the berry patch and go shut the gate after the cow ran out. He was headed for that gate when more screaming ensued to make sure he had just latched the gate he had used to get into the yard as three cows were headed his way. He had latched it, he hurried with some prompting and got the gate closed. Later at quitting time we discussed the gate rule on a farm. Leave it in the position you found it unless told otherwise. You don’t need to know why just do it, there is a reason. We did get them down below where they belong.

We set up the barn so we could run the sheep down the chute then sort them on their way out. We only needed four sorted off to go into the orchard, two rams and two whethers. The sheep would not go down the chute. They bunched up in front of the opening and refused to go further. As we discussed options Annmarie noted that the boys were right in front of us. We just caught all four and pushed them into a pen. Our old ram is a gentle giant passive resistance is his greatest skill. He had to be pushed into the pen, they are all now in the orchard. We plan on letting the momma sheep work on the front hillside for a few days to clean it up.

There were quite a few disparaging remarks about the ability of the corral gates to open and to latch. We had some we could hardly get open and a couple that would not latch or you had to stand on the end of the gate to latch it. So Mr Professional and I spent a couple of hours and installed chains across the top of the corral chute and we did the same over some gates. We rehung four gates also to lift them out of the dirt. Not surprisingly the gates and corral work a lot better now than they did when we actually used them for animals. It was triple digit hot so we called it quits at 1500.

I had to go up with the tractor after dinner and put the cows in. They were already in field four but I did not want to have to go to the end of field four every morning to open the gate. I just pushed them into the back barn lot and in the morning we just need to open the connecting gate. It can stay open until the cows come back in again at dark. I figure in a few days they should have it down and will put themselves in every night. At least that is my fervent hope.

Front porch actually looks like a porch!

Well, I think the porch might actually get done despite everything. Mr Rainman, Mr Professional and I spent all of Friday working on getting the outside edge boards cut and installed. This did not go smoothly or well. Mr Rainman also worked on laying in some gravel footings under the fascia boards so we can start installing block to fill the gap. We don’t want the dogs crawling under the porch and digging holes. Honestly, we don’t want any animal doing this so the only way to stop this is to limit access. We were able to find blocks fairly reasonably at the end of the outdoor yard season so it was $600 for block.

We took off all of the sheet metal around the pillars and raised up the wooden casing. The pillars will need to be painted with Kilz before we reinstall the sheet metal. We had to start counting boards, it turned out that I did not order enough edging. So then we had to start to figure out how to use the pieces as efficiently as possible to get the job done. We went to a double measure rule and finally after I hollered and ranted for a wrong cut then started doing the cutting myself and promptly screwed it up again we went to a two person independent measure on space then board before anyone could cut anything. This managed to stop the mistakes but we only managed to get the outside boards installed all day. We had to take up the wow in the front using a string line and it just went on and on. It was so frustrating and so necessary to make it look good.

Saturday Mr Rainman and Mr Professional laid out all of the decking and got it cut to fit the entire porch. Yep, I did not order enough decking either. Now in my defense we used the TREX deck estimator tool online. But I did not insert exact measurements and the calculator does not add 10%. You must add 10%, because there will be mistakes. I now have to order three 16’ boards, it should take a couple of weeks for them to get here.

I worked on getting power from under the house to under the deck. I had to make another trip to town to get a waterproof box. When I crawled under the house I found a bunch of loose wires I had not nailed up. I think I had plans for that but they got waylaid and no one voluntarily crawls under the house. I spent some time nailing up all of the electrical wires and then nailed up the new wire to the deck. I had 7 breakers off to make sure that I did not have to crawl back out. Once I get the right breaker figured out I will mark the panel so we know exactly what breaker controls the front porch. After talking to Annmarie I am going to install two separate outlets on the porch, one on the outside far edge by the crawl space entrance and the other on one of the pillars so you can charge your electrical device while sitting on the porch. We needed power for the lights that will be installed on the stairs. We are getting old and need to be able to see the stairs.

Mr Rainman had to leave early to go home and do some dog catching. Mr Professional pulled Mr I Need a Belt Bad from cutting thistles in the orchard to helping him install decking then install insulation against the house. I finished up the insulation after he left and we cleaned up. On Sunday Mr Professional finished the entire deck install. I had hung some of the cross piece substructures too low so he had to cut and lower some of the boards to make the deck solid. It looks and feels great!