Sunday, October 31, 2010

Took a break

I took a break on Saturday and went pheasant hunting.  There was two of us and the weather was cold, dreary, foggy and wet.  I was hoping it would keep the pheasants from jumping too early.  We took Bailey with us.  She loves to hunt, but doesn't understand the concept of staying close.  She gets locked on a bird and nothing else in the world matters.  After the first hour she started to tire and it was much better.  My hunting partner shot a young rooster and I missed a clean clear shot at an older one.  The pheasants wanted to jump early and were very spooky.  We saw over 30 roosters.  The only ones we almost stepped on were hens.  We spent four hours slogging all over the property.  I was very tired, a little cold and very wet from the knees down.  It did start to rain the last hour we were out.  I came home, warmed up in the shower and then laid down on the bed to just "stretch out".  I woke up 1.5 hours later after hearing this voice call out my name repeatedly.  I thought it was a dream.  Annmarie was going to town and could not find me.  She had hunted all over the house (except our bedroom) and was outside calling my name.  I gave up on being productive and went to town with her to run errands then we had dinner with her folks.  It was a very nice day.  Gotta get a lot of chores done today and some quality time with the wallpaper.  I only have 23 days before our company shows up for Turkey day.  The count down has begun!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Winter is here

Well that didn't take long.  As I was driving back from the post office yesterday morning I saw snow.  Winter is officially here.  At this rate we may have it on the farm in a week or two.
See the snow in the far saddle?  It has arrived.
The temperature has been in the mid 50s during the day.  The worst part is the wind has started back up and is howling nonstop.  I actually have to use two hands when driving the Prius.  The car is so light that it moves all over the place in the wind.  One of the trade offs for getting 48 mpg.  With a 90 mile commute one way I will take a few quirks for that kind of mileage.
I am still battling the wallpaper.  I had to go get some industrial wall paper remover chemical.  It works better than anything I have tried so far.  I am about 40% done now.  It still takes a lot of elbow grease and I am not used to working with my hands over my head for hours at a time.  So I will keep chipping away at it.  I would like to be done with it by Sunday so I can finish the sheetrock.
I am already thinking about the next project.  I love planning projects.  I have been working on the barn in my head nonstop.  I am always changing and revamping things in my mind.  Amazingly, the cost is free and it lets me visualize different approaches.  I need to install the utility room sink.  The very first thing I purchased for this house was a new utility sink.  I had to have it special ordered.  It is a huge deep cast iron/porcelain sink.  I paid way too much money for it.  The thing weighs about 150#.  It is incredibly heavy.  We have company coming on Thanksgiving for several days and Doug is going to help me make a custom stand for the sink.  He helped me with a closet in the upstairs bathroom and the door shelves in the kitchen last time they were up.
The sink has been on our old house porch for almost three years.  It needs a home.
Obviously, I need to clean out the sink.  The cats were hiding inside the box during the summer to stay cool.  I found some eggs in here also.  The chickens thought it was a grand place.  I ended up piling a bunch on top of the box so the animals could not get inside.  See the sink has a little ledge inside for a cutting board.

This is the future home of that wonderful sink.  We will have a nice deep utility sink.  Hopefully, it will be done before Christmas.  Two sinks will be very nice.

Monday, October 25, 2010

sheep in training

Here is the flock minus two.  The three dark brown ones in the middle are boys.  The farthest one is a wether (castrated male), the white faced middle boy is our up and coming ram (Lucky is his name because he is not getting eaten), he is in training and learning from our current male.  Lucky imitates our current ram.  It is pretty funny to watch.  Oreo is the large ram in the front of the trio of dark colored sheep.
On the far right and far left are our two new female lambs.  They should be ready in the Spring to start having babies.  We decided to not dock their tails.  Everything I have read about hair sheep says you do not have to do it, so we didn't.  I will know in a year if it was a mistake or not.  All the sheep we purchased already had their tails docked.
The larger central three sheep are our ewes.  They are all three pregnant at this moment.  We should be getting lambs from two of them in November and one in December.  Now, we are locking the sheep up in the barn every night so we can find the lambs.  Hopefully, this will also prevent the coyotes from killing the newborn lambs (lost two last year this way).

Here is the back side of the barn.  You can see all the critters running around together.  The dogs were in the yard just so the sheep didn't get spooked.  The dogs can run around with everyone also, but one of the pregnant ewes head butts our chocolate lab when she isn't looking.  It causes chaos.  I wanted some relaxed pictures.  The lab and rug rat dog do not attack the sheep, cats or chickens.

The cats don't do well with the chickens when the chickens are small.  They look like food (quail) and get eaten.  Once they are adults then the cats will leave them alone.  It is pretty funny when you are trying to feed the chickens bread.  The sheep come over to eat bread, the cats come over to eat bread, the dogs want bread and the chickens all scramble around trying to get whatever is left over.  I put in the bridge for the humans but one of the lambs taught all of the sheep to use it so now everyone uses it, even the chickens.  Go figure...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Library progress

Here is the closet before I got started.  You can see I have the power pulled and my sheetrock patches in place.  The wallpaper is killing me.  It is taking forever to get off.  Hence my desire to do something else (closet). 

Everyone was gone today (still are) so I made great strides on the library closet (pause while I remove bandaids from my finger tips, too hard to type).  I wanted to get the pegboard up in the closet, but I needed to close in the return duct going through the closet.  As no lumber is straight anymore and no wall inside any house is square or plumb it was quite the endeavor.  Yes, I did make a substantial blood sacrifice in the process.  Any carpenter will tell you that it is essential when working in tight spots when nothing is straight, level or plumb!.  I can finally feel my fingertips on my left hand now.  I smashed them good.  I was wondering if my primer's stainblock guarantee covers blood?  I tried to hide it all, but I think there is some showing.  On the bright side, I only had to go to the hardware store once.  I needed some longer screws.  I had too short and too long, not just right.  Besides, the hardware store guy, (name edited for privacy sake) buys eggs from me and I needed to deliver them.  I randomly drop in with eggs every once in a while.
Here is the duct before I got it covered.  This is a return duct to the central heating system.  It pulls from the living room goes under the house and comes back up here.  It goes into the library ceiling for about four feet.  So we won't be able to raise this ceiling unless we just want to box in the duct.  I don't really like that unless it is a basement so we will just live with the ceiling a foot lower in here than everywhere else.  It is hard to tell since you have to go under the stairs to get into this room.
The blue bag is powdered milk for the baby sheep.  Enough there for the next three years at the rate we use it.

Here is the finished enclosure.  Not too shabby.  I still need to throw some primer and paint on things, that will happen after I get the sheet rock up.  I want to prime and paint all in one step.  I hate having to keep washing the walls all the time.  It does get tiresome.  Annmarie is picking up some paint tomorrow.  Sherwin Williams sent us a coupon for 30% off and I had been thinking about getting some more paint, so that just cinched the deal.  I had them mix it up already.

 Here it is finished.  I even hung one basket to make sure I had the pegboard far enough away from the wall.  I have a few small pieces of trim to install.

No more excuses to not tackle that wall paper.  I tried scoring it and using Downy and water on it.  It helps, but it is still taking forever.  Someone suggested I use a heat gun.  I can borrow my father's and give it a try.  We have company coming the week of Thanksgiving and they will be sleeping in this room so I am sure they would like some light.  So I need to get all the wall paper down, all the mud applied to the walls, texture applied, primed and painted then wire in all the outlets and the light.  As an added bonus, I am doing the small area under the stairs at the same time.  It just needs some new tongue and groove wood and lots of mud.  I will take a picture of it soon.

Monday, October 18, 2010

New Treasure

Steve unearthed a previously overlook treasure this weekend during his cleaning and winterizing. Can you spot it in this photo? It's right there tucked into the stump.No, it's not the pump, although that is neat too. It's smaller than that. Look closely. Yes, that is a fruit press tucked up into that corner. I have no idea how old it is, but I don't ever recall it being put to use, so it's probably older than I am. Steve tested to see if it still turned, and it did, so he set it aside. After he was done with everything else, he sat down and worked it over with a steel brush to get some of the rust off.

Here he is, doing his best Wilson impersonation. Everyone does remember Wilson, from Tim Taylor's sitcom of years ago, right? He scrubbed it up with that steel brush, and then hit it with SOS pads, and then we went down to Mom's and got two medium-sized moving boxes of apples from her

tree. She doesn't spray, so they were wormy, but we're juicing them, so it shouldn't matter. Just cut out any bad spots and squeeze the rest to mush.

We go run some errands, and then I settle down to finish some prep work for this week's classes. I had two tests to write, and a pile of homework to grade, so I wasn't paying much attention to what Steve was doing. He was in the kitchen, so I figured he was doing the dishes. It eventually dawned on me that it doesn't take that long to do the dishes, and I'd heard the tea kettle whistle, so I figured coffee was nearly done, and surface to get myself a cup.

Upon entering the kitchen, I find Steve trying to hold the press still (it's intended to be bolted down) while turning the handle. He's got a gallon of apples about squeezed down to about half their original volume. It's not an easy thing to do, and it's even harder when the thing won't hold still. So, I help by holding the handles for a little bit. Steve's working awfully hard at turning that press, and he gets the apples down to about one-third their original volume, and he's got about 2/3 of a cup of cider. Yes, that's an awful lot of work for a tiny amount of cider. We develop a plan bolting the press onto a board and clamping that to the kitchen counter for actual cider production, and head off to the living room so Steve can make his post of last night, and

I can finish my work.

This afternoon, when I come home from classes, Steve says to me, "The more I think about it, the more I think that press is a great decoration, just like it is." Now, I was pretty sure we'd end up there eventually, so I'm actually pretty impressed that he came to that conclusion before we mounted the thing on a board. We may still mount it, but now it'll be for decoration, rather than any attempt to make cider. He still wants to make cider, but I think we'll eventually purchase a press that's slightly larger and has much longer handles so we can get better leverage. So, this lovely piece of history will eventually stand on a nice wrought-iron stand and grace a corner of our kitchen.


Chickens wandering the property, I ended up making a burn pile of all the different broken tree limbs and discards.
I spent all day Saturday shopping and getting ready for the big remodel in the Library.  I have all the pegboard, plywood, 2x2, 2x4, and sheet rock needed to fix everything up.  I also bought 500# of wood pellets for the chicken coop litter.  I use the deep litter method in the coop so I (and Sarah) only have to clean it out once a year.  By the time I ran my errands and unloaded everything I didn't get a lot more accomplished.
 So on Sunday we made great strides to get the farm ready for Winter.  I followed Annmarie's advice this year and shut down the outside water!  I don't want to have to replace those risers again next year.

new bedding and the nipple waterer in the chicken coop. 
 Sarah finished digging out the coop and put in new bedding for the chickens.
  I added a nipple waterer inside the coop.  It is just a five gallon bucket with three little mechanical nipples inserted in the bottom.  The nipples don't let the water drip out of the bucket, but do form a small drop of water on the end of them.  The chickens peck at the water causing more to come out and they learn how to get water in no time.  Our babies only took a single day to get the hang of it.  I love the no mess angle.  The other waterers cause quite a mess inside the coop.  The other nice thing was this was very cheap.  Annmarie got me a couple of aquarium heaters to use inside the bucket this winter.  We are hoping it is enough to keep the water thawed.  I might take some insulation and tape it to the lid and sides using a feed bag and some duct tape on the outside of the insulation.  Still thinking about that.  It is probably necessary.

 We cleaned up the steps and windows.  I added stepping stones to the yard so you can cross it in the Winter without getting all muddy.   The baby chickens are not  very good looking chickens.  I keep reminding myself that they are not for their looks, they are for the eggs.  They are supposed to lay true blue eggs.  We will see.  I should start getting eggs from them in the next 2-3 months.  That will be the true test of whether the seller was truthful.

 We decided that it was time to let the babies out with the adult chickens.  They are not really babies any more, but the roosters are not crowing yet.  I have a banty hen that is tiny, she might get eaten. She is a little Showgirl that was free.

I went out to lock the chickens up last night (have not forgotten since our favorite chicken got killed) and one of the babies was outside the coop in his enclosure on a perch outside alone.  I had to grab him and take him inside the coop.  All the babies were in their pen (door wide open) crouched down on the floor together.  It will take about a week for them to integrate with the other chickens.

  I also crawled up on a ladder and attached a chicken weather vane we found somewhere on the property.  I cannot remember where now.  I fixed the wood shed's loose tin roof.  It had a piece on the end that would flap and bang around during a wind storm.  Sarah cleaned up all the buckets we had laying around outside and all the Summer chicken supplies that need to be put away for Winter.  We are pretty much set!!  I am sure something else will come up, but for the most part we are ready.  I also attached a cow bell to the sheep barn entrance.  We are going to start teaching the sheep to come in at night with food and a tolling of the cow bell.  It will probably take a couple of weeks to teach them that the cow bell means night time lockup.  We should have a couple more lambs late next month or early December.  I think next month, but I forgot to write it down and cannot remember now!!  Go figure.

Monday, October 11, 2010

unexpected critter

Well, I haven't lost any more chickens.  Of course, that could be because we have not forgotten to lock them up!  We have been leaving the trap baited during the day in a hope that I may catch something.  Well, I did catch something just not what I wanted.
Three days running this bird kept coming down and eating all the leftover dog food.  The last time it was in the trap long enough to get tired.  Annmarie said the bird let her pet it and bring it out of the cage.  It has not been back since.
I did catch a kitten tonight.  I did the shake and release treatment.  Maybe that will freak it out enough it stays away.  I plan on getting some chicken coop time this weekend to get ready for winter.  I need to finish digging out the deep litter and hanging the other waterers.  Luckily, I found the cause of my short in the coop.  I changed the breaker today and went outside to attach a waterproof cover on the back of the old house.  One of the screws I put in to hold the outlet in place rubbed through a hot wire and was shorting out the power feed.  So it is fixed!!!  Woo, hoo!!  It was fairly easy!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Predators 15, Steve 10

I am gaining but so are the predators.  Caught another raccoon last night  (so far 8 raccoons and 2 skunks down).  This one was very large probably around 25#.  I am betting this is the one that ate my favorite chicken.  It will be eating my chickens no more.  I really feel that the predators can quit coming for a free lunch at any time.  I cannot keep feeding them.  I now have 26 laying hens and I think only 7 of the babies are hens( they have another 3-4 months before they start laying).  If I lose another 15 hens in the Spring I will be down to 19 laying hens!!  I really need another 2 dozen babies in December.  But without a guaranteed heat source the babies will die.  I would have to mail order the chicks and shipping for them is around $40.  So those 24 chicks would cost around $120.  Those same chicks in the Spring at the feed store would cost $72.

The problem with that is I am having power issues (I hated to admit this).  I wired the chicken coop and have had the breaker trip three times in the last week.  I am not sure why it is tripping.  I only have the chicken light plugged in to that circuit.  It has four outlets wired with only the one inside the chicken coop in use, two of the others are on the outside of buildings but they have waterproof covers over them with the flip open doors for access.  So I am truly not sure why it is tripping.  I may have to just change the circuit breaker out and hope that is the problem (since it is the easiest fix, what do you think the odds of that are?).  If not, I am going to have to tear into each outlet and see if I have some wires touching.  After that it gets complicated.  So we are going to hope that one of the first two fixes works.  I may also put a waterproof cover inside the chicken coop.  Not for any water, but to keep the dust out of the outlet that is not in use.  Chickens are very dusty.  The last thing I need is a fire in my chicken coop.
So I am not sure what to do.  First thing is to fix the power supply.  Once that is corrected I will have to decide on purchasing new chicks this Winter.
I did find out today that around 1 ton of grapes is around a normal/acre yield.  (I read any where from 2-6 tons/acre depending on soil condition)  So ideally you should make around $3K/acre/year, but I was told that doesn't always happen.  Truly, we would like to make around $20-40k/year net.  I expect it would take 20 acres for that to happen.  So I will keep up the research and question asking.  A friend offered to hook me up with a honest irrigation supplier and post supplier.  He just said to let him know.  I have a coworker whose husband is a vineyard manager.  So I plan on using that angle but it is harvest time now so I am leaving him alone.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Predator battle back on

Well, I went out tonight to check on my trap.  Sarah had already told me that I didn't catch anything.  The trap door was sprung shut, but no critter.  The dog food was still inside the cage.  So it looks like something fairly large was trying to get the food.  I re-baited and set the trap again.  I only put one side up tonight also.
I must confess that the reason we lost another chicken is I forgot to lock the chickens up one night last week.  I just spaced it.  They were just waiting for me to let my guard down!!!  So now I am being hyper-vigilant about locking the chickens up.  If I could just eliminate the problem my life would be easier.  This is definitely the worst predator year I have had.

I am thinking that I am going to have to build a multitude of traps if I put in grapes.  I may just build a second trap next year so I can run two traps.   I would like to stick one on the far end of the Ram pasture.  I suspect the predators are coming from that direction since there are no houses or disturbances.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Predators 15, Steve 9

Well it appears the battle is back on.  I made it a point to check for our banty Brahma tonight when I locked up the chickens.  No Brahma.  So check one more chicken gone to predators.  The worst part is it was our favorite chicken.  She was incredibly mellow with lots of personality.  So I lifted one side of the trap only this time and baited it with dog food.  Hopefully, I won't catch a bunch of kittens.  I fed the baby chickens some zucchini that was going bad (they had some salami too, any one care to guess which one got ate first and they kept stealing from each other?)  (yep, they like protein over veggies!!)  The chickies have killed all the grass in their enclosure so I have been making it a point to give them veggie treats from the garden.  I never have any compost cause the chickens eat it all.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

September monthly chicken financials

I made $8.64 for the month on an average 27 hens laying (all my hens are now in except for the blue layers and they are still babies). (for the year my net income is -$6.55/month (I gained a whopping $2/month). (For the year I am -$58.92 total).  I had $36.88 in expenses for feed (200#) this month.  I had an extra $31.98 in expenses for heaters for my new chicken waterers.  For the year, my monthly expenses are $54.80. We collected a total of 361 usable eggs (44 more than last month) averaging 13.6 eggs/day collected (for the year the average is 11.9). The chickens ate 0.47#food/egg (for the year are averaging 0.67#/egg) In September it cost $0.09/egg or $1.08/doz for feed (my yearly average is $0.14/egg or $1.68/dozen. This is a penny an egg better this month.)  I thought I would start tracking how many total pounds of food are consumed each month so everyone can see what happens as Winter comes and the chickens have no outside food to supplement. 
I went out with Sarah tonight to lock the chickens up.  She had to collect eggs and I watered the babies.  They caught on in one day using the new drippers.  Those 12 chickens drank 5 gallons of water in just a few days.  She noticed that the Brahma hen was missing from inside the coop.  We looked all around and could not find her.  She has gone broody so we are hoping she is outside hiding somewhere.  Other wise  I will have lost another hen.  I will set up the trap again tomorrow night.  The coyotes are howling every night and seem to get closer every day.  I may have to go out and call some coyotes in next month.  By mid November we will have to start locking the sheep up every night.  We think the next batch of lambs is due around December. 
I worked on the wiring inside the Library today.  I thought it would be simple.  Not so...  I crawled under the house, I could make a small fortune using it as a haunted house.  Spider webs were thick.  I had to use a rake to sweep them out of the way.  The heating guys ran a large 16 inch duct under the house, it is insulated and was supposed to have two inches of space between it and the ground.  I made them go back under the house and dig it out, but did not reinspect it.  So now, I get to crawl back under there in the Spring so there is air all around the duct and the insulation won't get damp.  I ended up drilling a few more holes to run wire.  Sarah was sick so I went to town and detailed Annmarie's car.  It was pretty dirty after using it as a pickup during Round-Up. 
So far the sheep have not gotten out of the pasture.  I am crossing my fingers on this one. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fall is here

The weather was gorgeous today.  Sunny, warm but not too hot, mid 70s made for a nice day.  Hard to believe it is Fall.  They came and slaughtered our two sheep today.  It took them 30 minutes from the time they pulled in till they pulled out.  Amazingly quick.  I learned a few more things today about the slaughtering process.  Organs and fat can go to the rendering plant.  Heads and hides cannot.  This mobile slaughter discards the hides.  So I will be reading up on how to tan a hide with hair in place.  I could conceivably tan 5-10 hides/year.  Will definitely need to look into it.  It would be great to decorate our medieval pavilion with all animal skin rugs and bedding.  Especially, since our sheep are actually an Old World animal.  The real question is how much time does it take and how hard is it?  I will have to find out those answers. 
I locked the sheep back up in our front yard again today.  I remembered this late in the evening when I was looking out all the windows to see if the sheep had breached my fence repairs from Yesterday.  I had completely forgotten they were trapped in the yard.  The grass was getting fairly long and I would like to get one more mowing in before Winter sets in.  That way I can use the hose to spray off the sidewalk and back porch before the snow flies.  I figure one week on the yard and they will have it all eaten down again. It sure beats mowing, but it is hard on my roses. 
My light in the chicken coop is not working.  I went out there tonight and changed the light bulb and checked the timer.  The timer works and the the light does not.  So tomorrow I am going to have to get another fixture.  I am thinking about just intalling the one in the ceiling and running a temporary power cable.  The trouble is I want to get the power wired in the Library tomorrow so that pushes the chicken coop work back farther.  A new portable light fixture is a five minute fix.  Will most likely go for that tomorrow.
I got the Library all empty again and worked on cutting the outlet holes and running power wire from the switch to the outlet.  What I forgot was there used to be a door in that space and there are some extra 2x4s in the wall.  I had to cut a bigger opening twice, had to drill two seperate holes and peel the skin off of two kuckles then fish the wire down from above by blindly sweeping with a fish tape.  That four feet of wire took me about 1.5 hours to complete.  I also put in a support for the overhead light box. I smoothed all the sheetrock under the stairs and removed the scraps from the ceiling.  I can start mudding this space next week.  Trying to get everything done before Thanksgiving.  I even turned down two extra shifts at work today. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

fence problems corrected... again

Okay, I am almost positive I have the ram pasture fence problems fixed.  I spent the last five hours restretching fence across the creek and adding new panels over the creek in two locations.  I cut the panels to the shape of the creek all the way to the ground!
 I have now figured out that I am not really a fan of high tension wire.  It must have inline tighteners placed or it just goes limp.  The tighteners are around $15-20/each and you need one for each continuous stretch of wire.  So on a 6 wire fence it adds up fast.  They also make a spring you are supposed to insert for another $15.  The lesson here is you want a very long stretch of wire.  I have been thinking about using the high tension wire for my vineyard.  I will definitely use the tighteners and leave the wire loose at the posts so I can tighten it whenever I want. 
So the butcher called today and said they would be out tomorrow to slaughter Speckled Butt and Hershey.  So I herded them all into the loading pen with food.  I had all the sheep in there.  The problem is there was no real way to sort them out.  I had to stand by the gate to operate it.  I got it down to three sheep, then Speckle Butt leaped up at the gate opening just as I was slamming it shut.  Now the sheep managed to be about five feet off the ground and weighs in around 150#.  It would have taken me down!  I couldn't get the gate shut fast enough and he escaped.    So I just locked up the barn lot and came inside to get more help. 
It looks like fence repair will have to be an ongoing effort every year.  I had to fix another gate today also.  I was hoping to leave it alone for the next twenty years...  guess that won't be happening.