Quick thaw

It has been a long week. The weather has of course totally flipped from having to stay home on Monday to dig out the driveway for hours to today a mere six days later driving around on the tractor in a long sleeve shirt only feeding the cows and doing work in the barn coatless as it is 50 F. This change in the weather had the Child and Annmarie out at the back creek fence trying to cut the panels loose. I have only two panels left that hang across the back creek. They are needed to prevent the sheep and cows from going up the dry creek bed in the summer. In the fall I should lift them out of the creek bed but it never seems to happen. Also, once I do that the fence line has a hole in it and the animals have to be kept out of that area. We had a sudden warming spell and Annmarie woke up to the back creek running. This is usually very bad and I end up in waders in three feet of raging water trying to undo the clips holding the panel in place from being lifted out of the water. Annmarie and Sarah spared me this by going out right after breakfast and loosening the panels, they did have to step into the ice cold water to get the center clip loose. They did not have to battle a torrent of water but they did have to get wet with the ice cold water. Two days later and the back creek has dropped to a depth of four inches. I am glad the mountain snow did not try and all melt off, it’s only January and it needs to stay until late May. Mr Professional and I went out this weekend and lifted the panels so they are ready for the spring flood. The weather also destroyed our ancient decorative windmill I had found and rehabbed and put back up. It tore off the tail and bent a bunch of the vanes. It is toast and cannot be easily repaired. I am now in search of another with sealed bearings so I don’t have to grease it annually. This is going to take some sleuthing on the internet to find one we like and think will last in up to 100 MPH winds.

Mr Professional and I got the hole in the ceiling in the craft room cleaned up and he got the sheetrock patch installed and it now has two coats of mud on it and the next coat is going to be texture! I even found some Kilz 2 upstairs to prime it after he gets the texture to match. Once we get the ceiling painted I can take down all the plastic drop clothes over everything and give the room a final deep cleaning. The room will be ready to use again after that.

We went into the barn and worked on installing some more eyebolts. I wanted to be able to set up some more jugs and to do that we had to install 2×6 boards to the wall then install two eyelets for the long pegs to drop through. We currently have enough eyelets installed to create 6 jugs and split the barn into 2/3 and 1/3, using the space under the stairs we have 7 jugs in the barn. We just need three more six foot panels to make this all happen but they are currently on back order through Premier. Once we had that done we created a baby feeding area using our Creep gate. We have never used the creep gate before so this will be a first for us. The creep gate is suppose to keep the big sheep out and only let in the size you set for the babies. When I went out tonight it did not look like any babies had been in it eating the grass hay. I put out a small dish of straight grain in the middle of the area, no momma can reach it so if its gone in the morning some lamb has figured out how to use the lamb only feeding area. I only managed to cut myself twice this weekend and Mr Professional only took one divot out of a finger out in the barn. If he would wear gloves more often this would not happen.

The turn signals and emergency flashers were broken on the pickup and all of the lights on the John Deere tractor were out. Mr Professional cleaned some stuff, changed out some fuses and got everything working again today. I had to get more fuel in five gallon containers so we had fuel. I filled up the John Deere this week and I could see the entire bottom of the fuel tank, it was dry! I don’t know how I did not run out of diesel when I was using it to dig out the big tractor. We have moved over an old 100 gallon double compartment fuel tank, I have grounded the tank and just need to get a tank fuel pump for it so I can start having diesel delivered to the house. I will probably only need the tank filled twice a year. It will be nice to not have to use five gallon jugs all the time. The old fuel tank used to be on a trap wagon they had for cleaning out combines and equipment during harvest.

I will be ordering repair parts for the hay baler this week and some more baling wrap so we may actually get them before June.

Annual water leak

Every year around the winter holidays we have our annual water leak. This has gone on without fail for many years, so long in fact that it is now a tradition and we have come to expect it. It is the main reason I have insulated coveralls and has been the single greatest reason I have utilized my chest waders. Well we had not had any leaks, we still have great water pressure so we don’t even suspect a leak is brewing. A slow drop in water pressure means there is a leak but it usually takes about six months to surface so we know where to dig to fix it.

Last week Annmarie had noticed a puddle of water on the tile floor in the craft room downstairs. This room shares a wall with the kitchen and in that wall is the water riser for the freezer. We also have a drain line from the upstairs heating system condensate pump and there are siding issues on that side of the house. Any of these could be the source of the leak, but there was a plastic gallon container of deionized water a mere 12” away from the puddle. I theorized that the most obvious cause was the cause and the puddle came from the gallon of deionized water. Otherwise, I could potentially have to rip the murphy bed off of the wall and move it out of the room. It is a solid day to take it down and then reinstall it. This did not sound like a good plan on a mere hunch that the leak might be behind the murphy bed. We dried up the puddle and there was no water puddle the next morning, problem solved! There was still the issue that when I took the offending gallon to the sink and rolled it around and pressed on it, I could not seem to make it leak…

Move forward to Monday December 20, 2021, the wife calls me at work and states that there is now a huge puddle of water in the middle of the craft room floor. She is unsure where it is coming from but there is a definite leak. My biggest fear at this point is that it is the house siding as it had been raining with a solid wind behind it. I told her I would look at it when I got home.

When I got home the first thing I did was go to the offending room and look for a leak. Luckily for me it was fairly obvious that it was coming in through the ceiling. The paint was forming a bubble and the sheetrock tape was starting to swell.

I went out to the old house and brought in a big roll of plastic and draped all three big items in the room then cut open the ceiling. I had to tear out about a four foot hole to see where the leak was coming from and the sheetrock was wasted, too water logged to allow to dry out and reuse. Once I had a large enough hole I could see that it was not the condensate drain line. I would have put money on that being the cause of the leak. I went back upstairs into the closet where the sump pump was located and realized that the rubber drain hose had been knocked out of the drain hole and was draining out onto the floor and down onto the ceiling below. This must have happened this summer when they worked on the heating/cooling system. It had a refrigerant leak that they fixed, someone’s foot must have slid the pump 1.5” away, knocking the drain hose out of place. We never noticed. So I moved the black rubber drain hose so it was pinned in place better and cut two boards to go behind the sump pump so no one could accidentally move it with their foot. I set up a portable heater in the room and we have been drying out the sheetrock ever since.

I am hopeful we can get the ceiling repaired in the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile we have been feeding the quail. We really want the population to boom this next spring so we are trying to keep their numbers up this winter. The rock pile in the top right hand corner of the picture hides a 25# quail food block that they graze on when they make their daily rounds. The rocks keep the block from the view of our chickens, therefore the chickens don’t know there is an abundance of food within walking distance! The quail came by last night and I was able to count 94 quail in one covey. We are pretty sure there is a second large covey on the upper end of the property. They don’t get fed but we figure if we go into spring with 100 we should come out this next fall with a few hundred.

Holiday = water leak

Well it’s that time of year again, I have come to realize that the farm has a sense of humor. It is without a fail a guarantee that on the hottest or coldest days of the year or any recognized holiday we will have a water leak. This must occur annually also to meet the criteria of truly annoying. It doesn’t matter how much I don’t want it to occur, the only good thing is now it seems to be a new location on a more regular basis now. Donna pointed out on Friday that there was water leaking out of the ground behind her house. Annmarie and I went down with the hope that it would be a leak from her front sprinkler, it was not, there was water bubbling out of the ground. We had a big long discussion on how the water got into the house and Annmarie and I were certain that there was another cross line. So the plan was for me to dig up the leak, then just cap off the line because we thought it was extra. My new Kubota tractor made short work of digging the hole and luckily there was an old PVC pipe from heat pump circulation line, now defunct that I hit so I quite digging with tractor. The water line I wanted was only a few inches deeper sitting directly on the hardpan. I of course did not have a cap that size so I had to go to town for it. Following my rule for buying plumbing parts I bought two of everything and a size smaller and bigger at the same time. I have a drawer full of parts and am considering going to a bin for plumbing parts in the machine shed. I add to it whenever I buy parts. This prevents unnecessary trips to town for things I should have on hand. I had the cap on in no time and then left the water off so the glue could dry. Amazingly we dug up an old repaired spot.

I figured I could use the time to go do some digging with the new tractor. I had not really used it much for digging so I went up to field #1 to work on the ditch and bank. I had already started digging a new ditch and reinforcing the bank so it was just a matter of continuing that work. I was able to really go to town with the tractor, the dry dirt did not really slow me down much. The Mistress could not dig in this dry heat with hard ground, but the Companion had no problems at all and made quick work of the problem. I am almost 2/3 done now and will need to get down and finish the rest after we get seeds in the ground. I figured it was time to call it done and went over into field 2, this cause me to get distracted and work on clearing weeds and moving some dirt to the outer edges of the soft area. The entire ground is dry now so I am working on making dirt embankments around the wet areas to keep anyone from accidentally driving or going into the spring muddy areas. After I played around with that I put the cows in for the night and then went down to fire up the water pump. I was looking forward to having water again. I started the well pump at the controller but kept getting a -1P code. I have no idea what that is but it is not a pressure readout like normal. I went upstairs and Donna found the operating manual for the pump. It turns out that the broken line really is necessary, it supplies all of the water to the second house! I had to call Annmarie, who was still in town, to get her to buy a stick of PVC pipe and some connectors. I went back out and cut the plug off the pipe and had to bail water for almost thirty minutes as the pump had turned on and pressurized the line. We had bad Chinese for dinner, they forgot our sweet and sour sauce, then went to my mother’s house so I could take a shower. I was in bed by 2100, I was tired.

Saturday I went down to repair the pipe and turn the pump back on. The real problem is the old 1.25” line is in the middle of a piece of 2” line. If the break is up in the 2” line I have no idea how we are going to repair it. There is a heat pump on an old concrete slab that is broken in several places, a new concrete room addition onto that end of the house and all of it is over the buried pipe. This being a holiday weekend a plumber would only be about three times as expensive as normal. We figured we could just get the water up and going again even if it did leak and get it fixed professionally on Tuesday. Yeah, the leak is up inside the 2” pipe! I went home and did the dishes and filled up more containers with water just in case. This will let us use water all weekend. I dug a little trench from the hole to let the water run out in one spot. Monday night I will turn off the pump, break the line apart and bale out all of the water. The water is not getting absorbed into the ground as that is clay and rock hardpan that the pipe is sitting on.

Saturday after I turned the water back on I went and changed out the box blade on the Kubota for the pull behind mower. Now mind you this is a new tractor and I have not yet figured out all of the oddities. The adjustable three point bar is not centered, there is more toward the tractor even though it is all threaded. I was going to pull it apart and redo it when I discovered this. As I was trying to get into the field I had parked a little too close and could not close the gate so I just went over to the tractor and pushed on the gas with my hand to move it out of the way. Now this is an unapproved usage issue and Kubota knew it, the tractor died. I had to get on it to start it and drive it forward one foot. I had another issue as I was going around in circles. I was using the cruise control and the tractor started to overheat. The intakes get covered with weed fuzz and need to be cleaned off. This was the third time I had to stop and clean out the vent intakes. I need to look at a portable air compressor and using a pallet to mount some tools and a box that can be carried by the tractor forks so I can keep working and have the necessary tools to continue on after a quick stop in the fields. I shut the tractor off, cleaned it up and then tried to start it. It would not start. I figured I had waited a little too long and the temperature sensor said the engine was too hot. So I crawled under the tractor, set an alarm for 30 minutes and took a nap. When I tried to start it after my nap it still would not turnover, this caused me to investigate further and I realized that the cruise control lever was fully engaged. I pulled it back and the tractor started right up, another safety feature I didn’t know about.

I used the tractor to put the cows into the barn lot. They pretty much know the routine now and were waiting down by the gate. The water has dried up in fields 2, 3 & 4. We still have water coming up out of the ground at the spring head in our barn lot. It is running well as we can now see it since Mr I Need a Belt Bad cleaned out the ditch in our yard. I had been telling Annmarie that her horse, “Hogs”, Mahogany, is so tame that I think I should be able to go get cows on her in a few weeks without a saddle. She keeps telling me that Hogs is not listening well to the bridle and needs more work. Mind you I have zero experience riding a horse but Hogs is so calm and used to me that we get along well and I can pretty much do anything to her and she lets me. When I opened the gate to let the cows in she took off and started running for the upper field. I had to follow with the tractor. Nope, I will not be riding that horse without a saddle and not until Annmarie says she is easily controlled. I saw her run all out as fast as she could and I am positive I would not be able to stay on!

My favorite not job, outdoor plumbing

We finally had to tackle the dreaded water leak. Two weeks ago I was informed that the pump electricity bill had jumped by $100 and it was time to tackle the water leak. It was Sunday and I had some other plans. Those plans did not include crawling around in the cold and mud and digging up plumbing. I hate plumbing. After the wife and I had a discussion, the dogs were running for cover, I went out and put on my chest waders so I could go dig up the plumbing. Mr Professional and I went out to do battle. I was able to use the tractor to tear up the first 18 inches. This area was easy to dig in as I had filled it in with straight gravel last time it had a leak. We kept digging a channel on the downhill side to let the water run out.

It turns out the slip joint had broken. This is the second time this has happened. I think it is from over tightening the joint. We dug it out then went to town and got the parts to fix it. I made Mr Professional do the actual gluing. I cut all the pipe and got it all ready. No matter what I do I usually have to glue everything twice. Once the parts were glued in we left it unpressurized to dry and cure.

I woke up at 0400, went outside in the dark, fired up the pump, made sure there were no leaks and started using the water by taking a shower. It was glorious! A couple of hours later Annmarie texts me that it is now snowing. I had Mr. Professional run out to the house and fill the hole. When it dries out in a couple of months I will get in there with the tractor and build up the area. It only cost about $250 to fix the entire water leak. I was pretty impressed with the repair and cost.

Montana snow kit arrived

It is here! Our Montana snow kit has arrived and it is almost the end of Winter. We have had nonstop snow for the last two days and have over 18” of snow on the ground now. Our friend from Montana, Doom, promised to over deliver and under promise when it came to his custom Montana snow kits and he managed to out do himself this year. We are shoveling snow twice a day for the walkway and today I had to break out the tractor and spend two hours clearing the driveway. The snow is getting too deep for Annmarie’s all wheel drive Subaru so I needed to clear a path so we could at least get to the road. They finally plowed our county road today. It is supposed to snow for another 3-5 days then rain for another 3-5 days. It’s going to be a mess and we will probably get flooded again, ugh. Luckily, I expect the new fences I put in to break away instead of bend over like they did last year. I was unable to get the backhoe up to the upper field and redo the ditches that are up there and got washed out last year. This is going to have to happen this year after everything dries out.

When I was out with the tractor I managed to accidentally ran off of the road, tractor slid sideways down a five foot hill. I managed to not roll the tractor and got it to slide down the hill sideways the rest of the way. While I was trying to not roll the tractor I spotted another water leak! I knew there was one as our water pressure had dropped slightly. I am honestly unsure how to solve some of the water leak problems. The last plumbing repair put in a rubber joint to hopefully absorb some of the stress of the pump cycling on and off at the pump outlet. So when the weather warms up I will need to dig the ditch out again and call the plumber. It’s not worth paying the plumber to dig the ditch.

The alpaca just do not care about the weather, Snoop dog has been hanging with the cows and looked miserable with his entire face covered in ice. Annmarie called him over to the gate and I let him through. He rambled up to the machine shed and hid under the overhang to get out of the weather. Within 15 minutes she decided to let the brown alpaca through the gate also so he could get to some food. Before she could get the brown one out of the orchard, Snoop dog ran into the orchard! So he was right back to where he started just back through another gate. The others just wanted to make sure they were near food, the snow and ice just does not bother them.

I got the overhead railing for the bathroom closet door installed and our grate cover for the oven vent outlet hole came. I got them both installed. The snow shoveling has been taking a lot out of me and I have been taking naps, which slows down the process on finishing the bathroom. I did manage to get the final lights brought in from the old house and killed the power to the room so I can get it all wired tomorrow hopefully.

Luckily, we had finished feeding all the cows yesterday before the snow got super deep. My hope is the snow will melt off before I need to feed again.