Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Outside work

I came home from work yesterday and the weather was perfect for spraying weeds.  So I stopped at my in-laws to tell Donna I was going to spray weeds.  I need to use the "mule" four wheel vehicle with a small bed on back. It has a  25 gallon sprayer and boom I can attach to it so I can spray a 12 foot swath at a time.  Much faster than doing it with a wand.  Two years ago, I sprayed about 15 acres with a wand.  Never again.  I spent the next summer repairing the pump on the sprayer, replacing 4 nozzles, changing out all the tubing and mounting the on off switch on the roll cage so you could reach it from inside the cab.  Of course, before I could use it this time I had to reattach the hot wire to the switch, mount the boom and tie in the reservoir.  I was afraid I wouldn't have any spray left over from last year, but luckily I found some from the year before!  So I had lots of spray to hose the place down.  One might question the wisdom of using a herbicide on the property.  That "one" doesn't have to try and control noxious weeds on 10+ acres that have not been sprayed in a decade.  Once the weeds are under control and you stay on top of them, they are pretty easy to keep up with.  I have star thistle and Russian thistle and stinging nettles everywhere.  If you have ever pulled up stinging nettles by hand, you will know why I am spraying them now.
We are hoping that the sheep will keep things under control once I get the weeds knocked out.  This year, I started spraying in and around our house first and then moved out to the surrounding property(was going to finish spraying today, but it rained.  So good thing I sprayed around the house first)  Of course, I needed to get the Mule behind the house and it won't fit through a couple of the gates or go there due to the new fences I installed. I had to drive it sideways through the creek and got stuck a couple of times before I could get through.  Gonna have to think about a couple of planks to get across the dry creek bed.  The banks are pretty steep.
I haven't heard back from the insurance gal or the custom wood cutter.  I keep looking at the bridge thinking that is definitely the next project.  I am even going to wire in two outlets, one at each end of the bridge, for Christmas lights.
I also had the pleasure of trying to mow the lawn.  Sarah is responsible for mowing the lawn.  Last year she talked me into getting one of those old rotary manual push mowers.  Cool in theory, no noise, no gas, mulch the cut grass right back into the lawn, the perfect mower.  Not so much.  They are much lighter now than they used to be, so they jump around more.  Your lawn needs to be perfectly flat, ours has bumps and divots and holes all over the place.  The lawn needs to be bone dry, it is Spring, whose lawn is dry now?  You need fine bluegrass, not course bunch grass.  There was a 15x20 foot section that Sarah couldn't get through.  I got half of that mowed down and was going to finish it off today.  It rained.   So no, lawn care today.  Off to work on the stairs and a little kitchen floor work so we can get our sideboard back into the kitchen.  It is stashed in a room collecting dust.  I need to cut some shims so it go  back against our new wall in the kitchen.  The kitchen floor is a long ways off at this point.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Brand Update

A while back I posted that Steve wanted to register a brand. What he really wanted was something cool to put on stationery and return address stamps, and labels if we ever decide to use our own egg cartons. The design restrictions on brands did not suit his taste, and enough people finally looked at him oddly when he said, "But we're not going to brand anything," that he decided maybe we could just come up with something we liked. So, here is the first draft. The colors are not set, and I'm not particularly happy with that aspect yet, but I kind of like the interlocking nature of the letters. As always, though, I'd love to have comments and suggestions.

Now, in the continuing saga of hidden eggs and odd kitten delivery places, I noticed the door of the old house was left open after a certain daughter put some things in the freezer for me, so I went in to make sure there were no chickens or cats in there before I closed it up again. Bailey, the chocolate lab followed me in and started making her there's-a-baby-that-I-can't-get-to noises. You see, Bailey loves babies of any species. Kittens, lambs, chicks - it doesn't matter. She'll mother any of them. I thought maybe there was a chicken somewhere, cause those noises are only slightly different from the there's-a-bird-where-it-shouldn't-be noises. Then I heard the mewing. When I looked around the room, I didn't see anything. Then I heard it. The snow tires seemed to be mewing. These snow tires.

See anything? Neither did I. So, I moved closer and looked down into the stack and saw this:
Yes, that is a cat curled up inside the plastic wrapping on the stack of snow tires. If you look very very closely, you can see a very newborn kitten in there with her. At the time, they were suspended in a kind of hammock made by the bag around the top tire, but I was afraid they'd manage to work their way down through the stack and end up trapped. So, we loaded her and her kittens into a crate with an old towel and moved them out to the wood shed.

On the chicken front, while I was looking for the kittens, I noticed a few eggs over by one wall, kind of under some junk that Steve had tossed over there. We've had issues with the doors for a while, so I didn't think too much of it, other than to make a note to have Sarah toss them out for the cats and chickens. But, as I was turning to leave after relocating the cats, I noticed a nice little pile in the corner. When all was said and done there were 15 eggs stashed in the old house. Steve was rather incensed when I told him (he's at work this weekend). He may very well have to add more nest boxes to the coop. For now, we're keeping the old house shut up, and checking the woodshed every day. By the way, we're averaging 4-6 eggs out there each day. *grin*

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chickens and cats

I still haven't heard from the insurance person.  I guess one day is pretty quick service.  So it can wait.  Our cats are part of the "comply or die" network we have going on here at the farm.  All animals get along or else.  To truly understand how this works, one of the local clan of cats had her kitten in the chicken coop.  Annmarie and I went out to check on the chickens and found the mamma cat in the back half of the old cooler (now egg laying box) with a kitten, four eggs under the cat and a chicken in the front half by the door laying another egg!  Kinda bizarre.  I had a picture, but am technologically challenged and cannot get it to post.  So I will get it later.

The chickens follow me around whenever I am outside.  They think I am going to give them a treat. It is kinda weird to be followed around by 20-30 chickens.  Sarah collected eggs today and four of them had cracks in the shell.  Too much free ranging by the chickens and not enough calcium.  So I had her put out a bunch of oyster shell.   We will have to keep it out for a month or so and get it built back up in their system.  I hate having to throw the eggs back to the chickens.  They love them.  I need one more egg to make an even 7 dozen to take to work tomorrow.

I did get the final sanding on the upstairs hallway done today.  Covered the whole floor with plastic and now just need to do the final sanding on the stairs and then I can spend a couple of days cleaning sawdust off the walls and ceiling before I stain and seal the floor and stairs.  Of course sleeping downstairs on the futon for a few days while the stain and sealer dry is just an added bonus.  

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I collected 24 eggs today!  A new record.  I did go out and see if the chickens had tried the old laying spot I blocked off.  NO eggs, but there were 3 eggs in the woodshed.  I am thinking about just putting a box out there.  My baby chickens are growing fast, pretty quick I am going to have to let them out of their enclosure to find their own way.  It is always a large fight.  Everyone has to get a spot in the pecking order.  It takes a few weeks for things to settle out.  The nice thing is they live together already, separated by wire, but still used to each other and the sounds they make.  It makes it easier to integrate them.  I talked to the insurance lady today.  She is trying to get a rider attached to our home owner's policy to cover the livestock.  Not sure if it is gonna work, otherwise we have to convert to a farm and it is gonna cost a few hundred bucks more.  Nothing is ever easy.  The funny thing is she didn't like the number of chickens I have.  I have 54 chickens now.  I explained that some were on their way out the door and 24 were still babies.  So that is still pending.

It rained while I was working yesterday.  I had plans to mow the lawn, but the grass was too wet, of course the grass is ankle high now and getting longer every day.  I tried mowing the lawn with the sheep last year and it didn't work out so well.  The sheep liked my decorative bushes and plants, especially the roses.  The grass just kept growing and 6 sheep in a yard can drop a lot of poop in a few days.  This was a sad fact to learn, I had high aspirations of never having to mow a lawn again.  So today, I was headed to the barn to do more digging (my personal workout program) which means I had to cross our front bridge.  I have become fixated on the bridge.  If I can get those beams for cheap (relative term) then I can redo the front bridge for around $1200.  A fabulous price (free labor of course) but one for which I was going to hold off on doing until next year.   I mean, come on the barn is just screaming my name!!!!  I priced  some 16 foot boards, 12 inches wide and 1 inch thick at the custom cutter's for $0.70/ft ($11.20 a board).  I would need two of them, as they are overlapped on the barn.  I would need to side about 60 feet, for a total cost of $1344 (crap, way too much money).  So it looks like I will be using the back wall of the current grain silo as the new outside wall.  Will still need some lumber.  Here is my distraction, the front bridge...

Yes, it really is as bad as it looks.  Actually, you cannot touch the rails as they fall off with any pressure.  Pluse there are a few boards that are rotten on the floor and give when you step on them.  I am amazed it doesn't just fall apart.  It was a lot better in the fall and just seems to get worse every day. The custom cutter has not called me back about the beams yet.  As we live in the country (slowville) it will be at least next week before i find out, maybe the week after when I go to pick up my maple I am having cut into lumber.
So I did make it out to the barn again.  It is very painful.  I am sure that I am going to have to drag a hose and sprinkler up into the barn and put a few thousand gallons of water onto the sheep shit so it can be removed.  I am hoping to triple or quadruple the weight of the sheep shit with water.  That way I can really get a workout!!  The trouble is the dried sheep shit is hard as a rock,  I am only getting a few inches with each swing of the pick ax.  Not good progress at all.  I need at least 8-10 inches with each pick ax swing.  I started using a wide grain shovel today.  It worked great.  I broke the shit loose with the pick ax and regular shovel and used the grain shovel to get a big pile.  Probably, 4-5 times what I could do with the regular shovel.  I did finally get an entire barn width cleaned out about 8 feet deep into the barn now.
You can see the three different floor heights in the picture and dead center there is a small thing sticking out of the floor, that is a rusted off metal fence post in the wooden barn floor.  I will keep plugging away at it.  When it dries out I will crawl under the barn and take some pictures. Before I get to do anything on the barn I am going to shore up the beams and make sure things are stable underneath.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Lost weekend

I worked over the weekend.  Two extra shifts, it is my woodworking tool fund $.  Need the cash for the table saw now, unfortunately, I may have found something more pressing to spend the $ on.

Here is a picture of the barn floor.  I have made a little more progress since this was taken, but not much.  I keep getting distracted.  I really need to get the upstairs floor completed so I can get outside and get some outside work done!!!  Outside work beckons, weeds are growing, birds are singing and frogs are croaking, this is not the time to be trapped inside the house working.

My parents had another maple tree cut down at one of their rentals.  So Sarah and I went over last night and pulled the trunk out to the front driveway using the smaller branches as rollers.  It took us over two hours and it was painful.  I told Sarah at least she was learning a practical application of rollers, chains, levers, fulcrums and practical pulling with a motorized vehicle.  She told me that the she understood the theory and didn't really need any practical application.  First 15 minutes she voiced that concern and tried to get out of helping.  It didn't work.  So today I went over and winched the trunk into the trailer with a come along.  It was not easy and it was the hottest day of the year to boot.  As I was pulling into the custom cutter (they convert the logs into rough cut lumber at $65/hr for labor, great way to get primo wood)  I saw some very large pressure treated beams perfect for building a new front bridge.  So I expressed interest in purchasing said beams, this is going to push the barn back even further, which sucks.  I might end up redoing the bridge instead.

I did mention that chickens are stupid didn't I?  I was looking out the kitchen window this morning while making coffee and noticed that one of the chickens looked stuck.  So I watched for another five minutes and sure enough, the stupid chicken tried to go between the slats and got stuck.  The chicken could not get free.  I had to go out and lift and turn the chicken sideways to get her free of the fence.  She was squawking and complaining the whole time I was getting her out of a jam.  Go figure.

Also, I had to dig the chain saw out of the wood shed this morning.  I noticed an egg, then I found two more then a hole pile of them!  Of course we had no idea someone was laying over there.  It was behind a door that was leaning against a wall.  This evening I went out and collected 22 eggs, I tossed them all against a tree stump and the cats and chickens had a feast.  I had to wrap a tarp around the hog wire panel I was using as a gate so hopefully the hens cannot get over there and lay any more eggs.  At this rate, I may need to add a couple more nest boxes to the chicken coop.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Contrary Chickens

Chickens can be very contrary creatures. A while back, Steve realized that he had reached the point where he needed more nesting boxes in the coop. The idea here is that the chickens will lay the eggs in the nesting boxes and not all over the coop (and farm if we're unlucky). So, we're discussing ideas, and I happen to see a blue bin that we've not used in a while. You know the ones. You likely have at least one of them storing your Christmas decorations in the off season. The big inexpensive ones you can purchase at most department stores, and I suggest that he use that. You have to understand that we are building up at this point. The nesting boxes are actually in the back room of the coop, and the chickens have access through the interior wall. Steve built the first set from scrap lumber, but we are fresh out of scrap lumber. So, we used other scrap material for this set. The dog-food container that started life in the woodshed across the creek and tempted the racoons (details can be found here - scroll down to about the 6th photo on the right) is one. An old cooler that is really not fit to be called a cooler any longer is another, and that blue bin makes 2 more. So we now have a total of 7 nest boxes in the coop. You'd think the chickens would want to check out their new digs, but, chickens are rather contrary creatures that really do not like change. They first ignored the new boxes, and layed their eggs on the floor of the coop when they couldn't get into a box. Then, they apparently decided to check them out, but they were unhappy with the fact that they were intended to house eggs and tossed out the plastic egg that is supposed to show them what to do there. For a while, they were making nests and teasing us, but not laying. Apparently the "new" boxes have now been in place long enough to be accepted. Sarah found eggs in all of them last week. It only took about two months. Chickens really really hate change. We do, however, still have one holdout. I found 4 eggs in the woodshed this morning. I guess she is not a fan of recycling. The cure for this is to lock the chickens in the coop for a few days so they get used to laying where they should, but I really don't like to do that. I miss my bug control. Maybe it's just as easy to go check the woodshed every day....

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Living Room

In the absence of anything more interesting, since Steve is working the majority of this week, I thought I'd post a recap of the progress so far in the living room. The picture on the left is what it looked like when we started. Yes, the house was left fully furnished, the first then we had to do was find new homes for all that stuff. And yes, the entire house was fully furnished - including the upstairs bedrooms and the closets in those bedrooms. There was a lot of stuff to relocate. Most of it went to family and friends. Some of it was donated to a good cause. Some, unfortunately, was not salvageable and had to be discarded. But in the end, the house was emptied, and the demolition phase began in earnest. All the wall coverings came off, the dropped ceiling was removed, and the carpet was pulled up. It was a mess, but the room looked huge. Then, we stalled for a while, but eventually, things started to come back together, was the sheetrock went up and was primed and painted. There is something about unpainted sheetrock that really makes a room look small again. But, paint and texture really helps. While the walls were exposed, Steve pulled all the wires and installed the new outlets. Eventually, sheetrock was installed and primed and painted. By the time we got to that phase, we just couldn't wrap our minds around choosing a color, so we went with Kestrel white everywhere. Yes, I know it's rather boring, but we were overwhelmed. In 10 years or so when we need to repaint, maybe we'll be feeling more adventuresome. About the time we got the sheetrock up and painted, the coffers ran dry and we had stalled with the exposed wood ceiling. Steve and Lee (our contractor) installed the suspended grid for the ceiling, but there we stalled until this year when the ceiling tiles were finally installed. I haven't gotten completely updated photos on the website yet, but I will get them up soon. In the meantime, you can see more photos of the living room throughout the various stages of the remodel (along with some rather amusing captions) on our website at the address below. http://www.hardinsonline.net/Living%20Room.htm

Monday, April 12, 2010

Apple Tree completed

The hole wasn't big enough.  I knew that when we were trying to get the tree and root ball out of the garden at Ruby's (Annmarie's Grandmother) house.  I took my nephews.  We tried to move the root ball and tree out of the hole.  It was three feet in diameter and so heavy it was all we could do to get the tarp wrapped around it.  6 tries later, and five stops because it was too, heavy and five more to dump out the dirt that keeps breaking loose, we dug an angle into the side of the hole to get the root ball out of the hole.  Three more attempts to get the root ball into the back of the pickup (three foot dead lift), no success (did dump two more piles of dirt out of the tarp).  The root ball is significantly smaller now than when we started!  Almost 50% smaller now, much easier to work with, the neighbor was watching and I went to use a ladder as a slide to get into the back of the pickup and he loaned me a 8 foot 12 inch board, so  we could slide it up into the pickup.  We then filled in the hole and moved the three new planters around in the garden before leaving Grandmas.  Of course, the hole needed to be bigger.  I in my esteem wisdom, I had decided that the tree needed to go right were the old paper birch had died.  I had to chop out the roots nonstop to get the hole dug.  We got the tree in the ground.

In the theme that nothing is ever easy or works right the first time, the hole was too deep.  So we had to lift the tree and throw more dirt in the hole.  Now if only the tree will survive its harrowing brush with death.  I put lots of water on the tree and it is right next to the water spigot.  Hopefully, I can keep it alive.  Took me over 5 hours to dig everything and complete the endeavor.   My arms and back ache from all the digging.  But, I had promised Ruby I would get the tree out and I don't say no to her, so the tree is gone.  So here is the completed version of our new front lawn ornament...

I am really going to get back to the stairs tomorrow.

Fun with apple trees

First we need a little bit of background. Years ago, Grandma and Grandpa Lane (my mother's parents who live in town about 3 miles from here) planted an apple tree in their garden. It's one of those that had several different varieties grafted on to it. I'm not at all sure it has ever produced, but I digress. As time passed, it became clear that this tree blocked the water from the sprinklers from reaching a significant portion of the garden. So, Grandma and Grandpa went back to watering with a mobile sprinkler attached to a hose. But, now more time has passed, and Grandpa is no longer with us, and Grandma can't drag hoses around so good anymore. Last summer, Steve told her he'd take that tree out so her sprinkler system would work again. Winter came and went, along with the dormant season for the apple tree. I'm sure you can see where this is going. No, the tree did not get moved. Now, Grandma is ready to start her garden for the year, but with the lingering effects from a Christmas-time shoulder injury she definitely can't drag a hose around to water the garden. So, Steve is moving the tree - today. Yes, it's a bit late, and yes, the poor thing has leafed out. So, he's leaving a root ball intact.

Now, after 16 years of marriage, I know we don't necessarily have to discuss every tiny little thing, but it was a bit disconcecting to arrive home and see the following scene in the front yard. Upon closer inspection, I see that yes, yes that is hole in the yard. No, it's not a big hole, but it is a deep hole.
After a few minutes of head-scratching, it dawns on my that this is where Steve intends to put the apple tree! The apple tree that he is as this very moment removing from my grandmother's garden, and that I thought would be going into the orchard. Yes, I know - silly me. OK - let's put aside for the moment that we have not discussed where the tree would go, and the fact that I am not at all certain I want a little dwarf apple tree in the front yard. Because there is a much bigger issue at hand here. I've just come from Grandma's house, and I've seen the root ball on that tree. It is much much wider than this hole.
He has taken our nephews (ages 14 and 16) back to town with him to get the tree into the pickup. I'll try to document the effort to fit the root ball into that hole. I have no doubt at all that he will make it. I just am not sure he'll get it in place before dark (it's 4:45 now).

Saturday, April 10, 2010


The stairs are probably the biggest change we've made in the house. Really it's more of a rollback or restoration than it is a change. You see sometime in the 40's (we think), the house underwent a fairly major rennovation. From what we uncovered when we stripped the living room walls and ceiling out, we think there may have been a fire and the repair of that damage opened up the opportunity for some fairly significant remodeling. It appears that they switched from wood heat to fuel-oil furnaces. There was a wall furnace in the living room, and another one upstairs to service two bedrooms. Although Dad says the upstairs one was never used because it made Grandpa too nervous. At the same time, the downstairs ceilings were lowered by about 18 inches, and the stairs were enclosed. This effectively halved the amount of space that needed to be heated, but resulted in a hallway that was kind of dark and narrow.

The staircase itself was equally dark and narrow, and the room that we think was originally an upstairs parlor extended out over the base of the stairs, creating a pinch point that made it impossible to get a queen-sized box spring up the stairs. Our box spring went in by way of being lifted up the front of the house and into breeze porch via the openings that no longer had screens on them. I'm sure you can see the eventual issues now that we've put windows in place on the breeze porch.

We were pretty sure we could do away with the pinch-point by shrinking the room that was now just storage, but we weren't sure how the enclosing of the stairs had been accomplished, so we had resigned ourselves to the dark narrow hall and the dark narrow stairs. But, during the demolition of the fir-tex (old sheetrock), Steve found what you see below. Notice that the wall appears to have been built right on top of the stairs. It looked like we would be able to reopen the staircase after all. Now, this eliminated the dreamed-of enlargement of the downstairs bath, and created a bit of strife with Steve as he wrestled with the trade-off, but I had no trouble with the concept.

So, 18 months or so later, we have an open but unfinished staircase. Although we do at least have a railing installed. At the moment, we have a sheet of plastic where that wall used to be, but I'll live with that, since it means that Steve is once again making progress on this little project and is sanding the floors and stairs in preparation for staining. Actually, he's nearly done and has only the final sand left on the upstairs floors, as well as a little trim work on the stairs. Then he can start applying stain. He says he'll be done in about 2 weeks. I'll be happy with a month. Of course, his true motivation is the fact that he's can't work outside for more than an hour or so until the floors and stairs are done, and he really really wants to get to that barn project.

If you want to see more pictures that were taken as the work progressed, please visit http://www.hardinsonline.net/stairs_hall.htm

Friday, April 9, 2010


I mentioned earlier that Steve wants to register a brand for the farm. I've worked up a few samples, and could use some second opinions, so, I've put samples here for your perusal, and would like comments, please. Remember that we'll be using this not only as a brand, but as a kind of logo too. I've got my favorite, but I want to hear what everyone else thinks. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from everyone.

We're Official!

I just heard back from the Oregon Secretary of State, and our business is officially registered. Got a registry number and everything. So, Stewart Creek Somethings is officially open for business as a chicken egg producer. Yay! Now Steve wants to register a brand for the sheep too. I'm not sure why, exactly, other than he thinks it'd be cool to have and use as a logo. I've got a couple of designs sketched out, and the brand application is my list of things to do today. It's off to a great start. I hope everyone else's Friday is just as good.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Barn cleanup

So I dug out the barn some more today. Gonna be a theme for a while. Annmarie's dad keeps telling me that the barn has never been cleaned out totally, because his father said it would fall apart. I have found three types of flooring already and today I found 6 inches of rusted metal fence post sticking straight up out of the floor!! No way I would have been able to use a piece of equipment to clean it out. Besides the obvious problem of the floor caving in!!! The weather was beautiful, not to hot and the wind was not blowing. Of course it still stinks like shit (cause it is), I stayed clean, did learn that I needed to keep my mouth shut when using the pick ax. Shit was flying everywhere and I ended up with some in my mouth. Doesn't taste that great!!! Went inside and talked Annmarie into helping me hang all our pictures. We were marking spots on the wall and she told me I stank!!!! I told her I was really clean and smiled at her. She said I had brown stuff in my teeth and my breath smelled like crap!!! What a way to complement me!! I went and took a shower...

And I thought I was being so careful to stay clean. Go figure. Gonna have to keep clean after my workout. Shoveling gives me lots of time to contemplate the barn remodel. I LOVE the planning stages of a project. Hands down the best part. This lets me try all kinds of different approaches in my head and the pros and cons of each one. I am looking for an easy way to maximize most of the usable space. The support structure under the barn is going to be a big deal. There are several twisted supports under the barn. I either need to fix those or just cut that chunk of the barn out. If I do that the barn gets smaller!!! So I am trying to balance efficiency with size return. No worries, I have lots of time to think about the project, cause it is gonna take me a while to dig it out!!

Cat Antics

Back in October, we rescued a kitten from under a rock crib (you can access my LJ entry here: http://annmariehardin.livejournal.com/?skip=10). We've finally decided she was most likely abandoned my her mother because she's quite a bit smaller than her siblings, and to tell the truth, she's not exactly the sharpest tack in the pack. But, she's in now and is turning out to be a very interesting cat. She and Sprout (the 10-lb dog) don't either one seem to know they are different species, and play just like litter mates. He'll even get toys for her, to the point of bugging me until I get them if neither one of them can reach them. Lately, she seems to have taken a liking to napping in a re-useable shopping bag that was emptied and not put away. She has relocated it to the middle of the morning sun pool and spends most of the morning curled up napping in the sun - inside the bag. When she's not napping, she's playing with the straps. The truly amusing thing is that we haven't picked up the bag and put it away because the cat's using it. Do you ever wonder who is actually in charge?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Unexpected visitors

A few years ago, many of the wheat fields in this area were planted in native grasses through a government program designed to reduce soil erosion and try to eliminate some of the grain surplus in this country. There were a lot of requirements to qualify, but the land around here is all marginal enough to have been eligible. The result is that instead of being surrounded by wheat fields that alternate between plowed ground and "amber waves of grain," we are now surrounded by fields of native plants. The change has had some unanticipated effects. We see a lot more wildlife, including these turkeys. There is a newly arrived flow of about 30 that is frequenting the area. I've only seen three that seem to be roosting in the trees along the creek-bank just down the road from us. Steve noticed them near the end of the day when he was taking Sarah to swim one day last week. He called me, and I took the camera down for some snap-shots.
They were pretty oblivious to me, so I got some nice photos. I can't say they are a pretty bird, what with that naked head and all, but it was neat to see them. This is one of the things I truly love about being able to live here. I really missed the backyard wildlife when we lived in town. Well, except for the coyotes, but that's a post for another day.

Monday, April 5, 2010

New Ceiling

I had this picture on the computer, we haven't updated our website yet. Just switched servers a couple of months ago and it is painful to catch back up. Annmarie is very busy and I don't know how to do it. I installed our drop in ceiling in a couple of weeks at the beginning of the year. It turned out great!!! We are very happy with it. It makes the place looks a lot better, now if we only had window trim...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Chicken Spreadsheet

The fabulous chicken spreadsheet results!!! I tried to get a copy cut and pasted here, but it was so small you would not have been able to read it. So I will summarize. I have taken some liberties with how I calculate some of the values. Meaning, when I have baby chicks and for the 6 months it takes them to start laying, I include that feed cost with the laying hens feed. This throws off my feed/egg calculation, but it is in reality how much I am feeding the chicks. I don't count the chicks as productive until they start laying. So drum roll please...

For January 2010, I had 9 hens laying, collected 3.2 eggs/day for a 36% productivity. They consumed 1 pound of food for every egg collected and it cost me $0.27/egg or $3.24/doz to produce (now I only charge $2.50/doz). for a loss of $8.38 for the month.

For February 2010, I had 11 hens laying, collected 4.7 eggs/day for a 50% productivity. They consumed 1.15 pounds of food for every egg collected and it cost me $0.32/egg or $3.84/doz to produce (now I only charge $2.50/doz). for a loss of $16.97 for the month.

For March 2010, I had 22 hens laying, collected 8.5 eggs/day for a 39% productivity. They consumed 0.76 pounds of food for every egg collected and it cost me $0.15/egg or $1.80/doz to produce (now I only charge $2.50/doz). for a loss of $72.49 for the month, I purchased 24 babies and bought them 50# food and a heat lamp bulb, so it drove me more negative for the month.

This month should start to pan out on the income side. The chickens are free ranging on the bugs and greens. My feed costs should drop dramatically and my production should jump. I have 33 hens laying now. Now if I can only keep the predators away. I have been losing about 1/3 of my chickens every year to predators. I refuse to keep them locked up, which causes other problems, but really lowers the quality of the egg. Not to mention our bugs just get out of control in the house. The chickens control the bugs, the cats control the mice and hopefully the sheep will start controlling the weeds (once I get all the fence built...).

I will be sure and give a month end report every month.

Adventures in Plumbing

This is from my Live Journal posting dated 12-10-09:
Some things are very predictable in life. The sun will rise each day. The seasons turn. And the water in the hoses will freeze up here in December. Unless, of course, you're my husband. Then, hope springs eternal in your life that you can continue to use the self-filling waterer (whose supply hose is stretched across the yard) all through the year. As usual, that hope has been dashed. Yes, the water in the waterer as well as the supply hose are frozen solid. That's should not be surprising given our recent temperatures, but yet Steve still seemed to be not only shocked, but insulted that such a thing would happen to him.

This if from the same Live Journal dated the next day:
Remember the frozen water? Well, it turns out that galvanized metal is not a match for expanding ice. I had hoped that since there was an open path, we would have escaped the pipe-breaking portion of the program. But, today when it warmed up enough, Sarah discovered a nice little fountain spurting from the side of the stand-pipe on the frost-free spigot. The good news is that her logic circuits have developed to the point where she turned the spigot off before she came to get us. The other good news is that since it is a frost-free spigot, the valve at the base of the stand-pipe is intact and is sufficient as a shut-off until spring. The bad news is that Steve gets to replace the spigot this spring after ground thaws. While he's at it, he's going to put water directly to the chicken yard to we won't have to string hoses across the ground all year long. Aaaah, the wonders of farm life. And yes, this entry is to document this occurrence for future reference. I'll need it next winter.

The photo is of Steve standing in the almost-hip deep hole that he had to dig in order to get to the supply line so he could replace the frost-free water spigots that are a necessity in this part of the world. If you look carefully at where he is pointing, you'll see the split in the pipe. He replaced two of these and a shut-off on another spigot that day. Of course, it was raining. But we now need the water supply to the coop, so sacrifices had to be made. Wonder of wonders, everything worked the first time. Only one extra trip to the hardware store was required, 'cause the first store gave Steve the wrong size adapter. That is actually very impressive. Plumbing is not usually that successful around here.

Hopefully this will not be a recurring theme.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Chicken Spreadsheet

I talked Annmarie into creating a spreadsheet in Excel for me to track all of my expenses for the chickens. It is nice and fancy, so it calculates my cost per egg for feed and the amount of feed for one egg. It is pretty cool. I will start posting my monthly egg production facts here so everyone can see. My goal is to break even with about a 20% profit margin. So far they are losing money. Have been for the last two years. Last year they only lost $100 for the entire year. I thought that was pretty good!! Of course that 30% loss every year due to predators is painful!!! Anyway, I was getting ready to update my March financials when I came across a poem our daughter had to write for English. The funny part of the poem is the teacher thought it was an analogy for being a teenager. In reality, Sarah was talking about one of our chickens!!

Lone Ranger Chicken

I hear a rustling in the morning,

And look out to see what it was.

I see my lone ranger chicken,

Pecking at the ground for food.

Every morning there she is

Flying from her captivity,

To find the choicest meal,

A squishy bug or a lovely weed.

She alone of all the hens

Ventures over the wall

The rest wait through the day

Until I open the gate.

As the sun sets,

And the sky turns colors

She flies back over the wall

For a nights rest, to get up and do it again.

a poem by Sarah Hardin, age 13

Friday, April 2, 2010

woo hoo tools are here!!

I went and picked up the planer and edger today and got them loaded into a trailer. I showed up and the man asked if I brought any help. I hadn't, everyone I know works for a living or is ill. So the two of us loaded up a 500# planer and a 400# edger into the trailer. I pulled up onto the curb right next to the front door and he had a ramp and a furniture dolly. It was enough to allow us to load them up!!! Of course the weather was lovely, rainy and the wind was blowing. It stopped just long enough for us to get the tools loaded and covered with a tarp. I backed the trailer up in our yard to the old house porch. Now, I just gotta get some help to unload them. Need to make a vertical lift of 18 inches to get them out of the trailer and into the old house... NOT going to be easy!!! I am real excited about them, already making plans. My parents are also cutting down another maple tree, so we are going to have the trunk custom cut into lumber. I just learned that I was supposed to paint the edges of the fresh cut lumber so it doesn't split! Who knew. The last stuff I just stickered as I stacked it.

The sheep and chickens are actually staying inside due to the nasty weather. We are finally starting to get some eggs again, up to a dozen a day. Need to get to 2 dozen/day to meet all the commitments I have for people wanting them. We are going to get a business license soon. We have already picked out a name, we just need to fill out the online application. Going to turn the farm into a legitimate farm/business!!! We are excited about doing this. Hoping this helps us turn the place around and get things fixed up sooner. Which means I need to get the barn dug out so I can fix it so the sheep can sleep in it at night and hopefully we won't lose any more babies.

My mother-in-law, Donnna, told me that if I swapped the sheep's feeding habits and fed at night then the sheep would have their babies during the day. At this point I am thinking this sounds like a great idea!!!! Only time I really need this is during the winter and it is totally doable. I just need a light so they can see to eat. Need to do more research on this.

Gotta Love Spring

Spring in northeast Oregon can be an interesting proposition, and this year is no exception. True to form, we have storms for Easter. This year, it's cold and blustery. We're actually under a winter weather advisory at the moment, and snow is a possibility. It's a good day to stay inside and curl up with a good book. Even the chickens have hunkered down in their coop. Stay warm everyone. ~AnnMarie