Saturday, January 31, 2015

Kitchen coming along nicely.

I am making real progress on the kitchen.  This is a good thing, as even I am getting tired of cooking and cleaning in the laundry room.  The backsplash countertop seam was caulked today.  I will need to clean it up a little once it is dry.  I am not the worlds best caulker.  I tore the faucet out of the old sink and spent a couple hours cleaning it all up and got it reinstalled into the new sink.  Found a solid stainless steel drain for the new sink.  I thought I was going to have to get a bronze plated with stainless steel.  I had forgotten that those have to be put in with plumbers putty so now I have a little container of that.  I used 100% silicone around the sink and then set it in place.  The fancy 3 inch stainless steel sink attachment screws I ordered at $6/each made it possible to set the sink.  I broke two of them tightening them down.  The sink was a little bent and had a 1/32 gap at one corner so I ended up running silicone all around the outside of the sink.  I am going to let it dry and then cut all the excess off with a razor blade.  That is the one thing nice about working with polished stone tiles.  You can treat it like glass and it cleans up very nicely with a razor blade.  I even hooked up the sink to water and the drain on the FIRST time with no leaks!  Truly amazing for me, I always have to redo any plumbing at least twice. 

Tomorrow, I will clean up the caulking and put in my spacers for all the wall outlets.  Once the new outlet covers show up next week it will be five minutes to screw them in place.  I need to reposition the fridge and then it is onto the downdraft fan.  I cannot install the window trim until the tile is installed behind the stove.  This will be the final item I do in this kitchen project. Tile cannot happen until the downdraft fan is in place and hole through the wall is cut and ductwork installed.  I want to be able to tile around the duct so I can insulate and get a good fit with the tile.  I brought the fan in from the car a couple of days ago.  It was very awkward, it is a rectangle 4x4x2 feet and weighs around 80 pounds.  I made it to the front porch and had to have Annmarie help me get it through the front door when she came home.  Once inside, I could get it into the library.  I have built the custom cabinet about 25 times in my head already so I think I am ready for the real thing now.  That is next weeks project.  I still have to find the appropriate vent to tie into the siding.  We found our new cabinet and drawer pulls today on a restoration company website.  We are going to get a colored glass pull and knob.  I will pick up paint for the ceiling and walls after I do the down draft fan.  Annmarie came up with a great idea to take all our old farm pictures and transfer them to wood and we will put them up on our dormer in the kitchen.  We should be able to get at least 25 pictures mounted.  It will look great. 

I had a chicken die two days ago.  A coworker, Michelle, came out with her husband and baby to see the chicken coop.  They are thinking about building one and wanted to see the layout and get some suggestions.  We went into the coop and there laid a dead Turken chicken and a Buff Orpington was kinda slouched over.  I tried to put the Buff Orpington on the perch but it was so weak it just kept trying to fall off.  I didn't even think about anyone else being in the coop with me and just wrung the chickens neck.  In hindsight, a little warning to the witnesses might have been a good thing.  I gave my lecture on isolation cages (I don't have one) and disease control.  I stop my diseases by eliminating the vectors.  I disposed of the carcasses and we went back into the house to talk more chickens. I have not had a sick chicken in the last two days. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

It's the young ones.

It's always the young ones that cause the most trouble.  Steve had to take Larry to the Doctor this afternoon, and Sarah is working, so I was up for feeding tonight.  I got out of town later than I had hoped to, and it was closing in on 5:00 by the time I drove down the driveway.  This time of year, that means its beginning to get dark.  There was still plenty of light, and I thought maybe I could even feed without a flashlight.  Then I looked at the back hillside.

The sheep had not gone in.  There they were - little brown moving lumps still just visible.  I was still in my work clothes, with my purse, mail and coffee cup in my hands.  But I have a skilled sheep dog.  I walked over and let Zeke off the run, with the instruction that we were, "going to work."  That's his cue to behave and listen.  He also knows that usually means sheep.  He headed to the back hillside and I headed out to the middle of the Ram Pasture to supervise and direct.  All was going well.  Zeke went around the sheep and turned them into the gate like a pro.  He stopped and guarded that gate just like I asked him to.  Then I jinxed it.  I thought, "This is neat."  Never, ever think something positive before the task is done.  It's almost as bad as saying it out loud. 

Everything looked good.  The sheep had made the corner through the next gate and were headed to the barn.  I sent Zeke to guard the barn door.  Then I saw it.  A lamb had missed the second gate and was on the wrong side of the fence.  He knew he wanted to be in the barn, but lambs are not exactly critical thinkers, and all he could seem to do was hit that fence trying to get through.  I heaved a sigh, told Zeke to "guard" and set down my stuff (yes, it was still in my hands).  Now, work clothes consist of stacked-heel boots that are not terribly high, but not exactly working boots either, slacks, and a nice sweater.  Not what you would call practical for catching a lamb.  But, I didn't want to go back inside and chance that he would wander away.  I really thought I could guide him back alongside the fence to the gate to where he could get into the barn.  That was the plan.

The first step was to get Zeke out of the way, so I called him to me.  Remember that he loves babies.  He detoured to see if he could greet the lamb through the fence.  The lamb was not impressed and bolted - back to the corner where he had started.  I thought for a minute that his head was stuck in the fence.  That would have worked for me.  I could have caught him and lifted him over the fence.  I was down to the creek and considering my crossing.  He got free.  And bolted.  At some point in there I got Zeke to the middle of the pasture and laid down.  That lamb ran right in front of him and out to the back corner of the pasture behind the hillside and tried to get through that fence too.

I could see the writing on the wall.  We leave that back gate open because we don't usually need to close it.  The sheep are in the barn, after all.  I should have closed the gate.  Really, that's what I should have done.  But I have Zeke.  He's as good as a gate and easier to move.  I put him in the gate with the "guard" instruction.  That means don't let the sheep past.  I walk down toward the lamb to push him back towards the barn.  All looks good.  He responds to my presence and moves out of the corner and down the path then he turns sharply left, gives takes three steps and makes a running leap - right over Zeke's nose and out onto the completely open back hillside.  By this time, it's full dusk and the fog is starting to set in.  The lamb is exactly the color of a rock, and isn't making any noise at all.  I give up.  I head inside to change into more suitable clothing and get a flashlight.

While I'm doing that, I'm secretly hoping mama will figure out she's missing  a baby and come get him while I was gone.  When I came back out, it was immediately clear that hope was not to be realized.  I heard a bleat out on the back hillside. 

There is a tried a true technique when you can't get a separated single to go back to the herd.  Instead of trying to take the one to the many, it's often easier to take the many to the one.  So Zeke and I went into the barn to run the sheep out.  We went in and to the back of the barn.  Usually the sheep run right out when we do that.  Of course that's not usually right after we've run them in to feed.  They went towards the door.  And stopped.  Really, you'd have thought their was a fence across the alley.  They would not go any farther.  They just turned and looked at me.  It was back to plan A.

Zeke and I went out to the hillside.  The lamb was starting to get tired, and mom was now at least looking out the door and calling.  He knew where he needed to be.  This time it worked.  Zeke and I were able to guide the lamb along the fence line and into the gate.  He just kept following the flashlight that I aimed in front of him.  Thank heavens he was making noise at this point, or I'd have never found him.  And yes, I closed the gates behind him as he went through.

90 minutes later I have finally finished the 20 minute job of feeding.  It's leftovers for dinner.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Backsplash done.

Backsplash grouted.
It took me all day, but I got the backsplash completed.  I read the directions on the grout and they wanted me to mix the entire box.  I did not want that so I had to add half the water and about half the grout and mix.  I had to add more grout four times.  I should have stopped at three.  My consistency was not peanut butter, it was more like near frozen lard.  I had to work and work to get it into the spaces.  Lots of back and forth and pressure.  It did not want to come off with a sponge.  It took me over five hours to get it all done.  I had taped and covered the countertop with plastic so I would not get water on those tiles for the required 72 hours.  I am hoping to set the sink on Thursday.  I will be able to get all the drain plumbing parts once I set the sink.  I may be able to reuse what I have by just hacksawing out about three inches of piping. Hard to say without the sink being permanently installed so I can take actual measurements.  We have just about decided our cupboard paint colors.  You can see the paint swatch on taped to tiles in the above picture.  The second color from the top is the upper cabinet and room color and the second color from the bottom is going to be the lower cabinet colors with a white ceiling.  We are still debating the white ceiling, Annmarie wants the ceiling color to be the top swatch color.  Something to get the light to reflect off the ceiling to lighten the room.  The worst part of painting is I have to disassemble my kitchen book shelves so we can paint behind them.  We ordered our outlet covers yesterday online.  Some brass design for all the outlets and switches in the entire kitchen.  Luckily there were only ten covers to buy. 

Other backsplash grouted.

Dwindling hay supply.
Zeke and I went out to feed tonight, our hay is running low so I called about picking up another 2 ton.  I had to leave a message, but hopefully tomorrow I can get that hay to the farm and out for the animals.  This should not be an issue this year with all the extra hay bottoms in production.  As we replant the bottoms in new pasture grass I think that will help our foraging needs greatly.  I had to get eggs again today.  The broody hen had to be tossed out of the same nest box.  She was still not sitting on any eggs!  I am not sure what she thinks she is doing.  I collected this huge green egg, mammoth in size.  It was guaranteed to fill me up for breakfast.  I took them inside and had them sitting on the washing machine, just hanging out while I got a dozen carton down from the shelf.  I opened the carton and started to put eggs into it.  I dropped the huge egg onto another egg and it suicide onto the tile floor!  There was raw egg everywhere.  Another egg down.  I got it all cleaned up and lamented another broken egg. 

Countertop completed

Countertop completed.

More exercise.
Yesterday I finished up the large countertop.  I got an epoxy grout for the countertops, it sucks and it took me all day to scrape the tiles clean with a razor blade.  A day spent cleaning is far nicer than the week I had initially predicted but I did end up with some sore fingers from holding the razor blade.  It is very slow and detailed work to get the tiles perfectly clean. 

I decided a work out was still in order so Zeke and I went outside so I could work on the rock wall.  I started dragging rocks from my stash up on the hill in one of the wheelbarrows hiding behind the wood shed.  The tire lasted three trips before going flat.  I had to start carrying the large rocks by hand, but since I was doing this for the exercise, that was okay.  It just means my rock wall progress is going to be super slow.  I need more dirt to go behind the rocks.  So basically, I need a few days off of work, off of the kitchen and nice and warm so I can drag the tractor onto the back hillside and do some road work so I can get some more dirt for the rock wall.  Since, I have not installed the downdraft fan in the kitchen yet, I don't see my free time opening up any time soon.  I will continue to dig the starting flat platform all across the hillside both upper and lower walls.  No rocks or dirt required and the weather has thawed out the ground enough to make this possible.  I went and collected eggs from the coop.  I had not gotten them in a couple of days.  There is one of buff orpington chicken that has gone broody.  The problem is she does not lay any eggs and is so dumb that she doesn't check the nest to see if there are any eggs in it.  There are no eggs, not even a wooden one!  I toss her out with the other chickens and she won't even stand up.  She just sits on the ground clucking.  I did not bring an egg container so I used my ball cap to collect eggs in.  Unfortunately, when shutting the external coop door I dropped and broke one on the ground.  Once inside the house I tried to put the ball cap on the washing machine and another egg rolled out onto the tile floor.  Two down and out!  I don't count them until they are cleaned so my mishandling lowers the chickens production rate.  I try not to drop them. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Second countertop and backsplash installed

Countertop ready for completion.

I finished the countertop and backsplash today.  I added some unused tiles to hold my two triangles in place while they set up.  The backsplash is looking pretty good.  My outlets got moved to the left about an eighth of an inch so I hope I won't have any difficulty when I have to screw them back into place.  I need to get some longer screws before that can happen.  I will start applying grout tomorrow.  The tiles have to set up for 24 hours before I can apply grout, but the other countertop has not had any work done on it for a week.  I can start in on it in the morning.  The grout process takes more time and lots and lots of cleanup.  The whole thing is starting to come together.  I will need to take down my spacer boards around the window before I grout and apply some tape to the walls so I don't make a bigger mess.  I am looking forward to getting Annmarie back in the kitchen.  Once everything is grouted I will be able to install the sink.  I cannot wait to have the sink back.  I think I want the dishwasher back more than the sink.  Doing dishes in the laundry room in the deep sink is less than ideal, it sucks.  I had to put the plastic down over the countertops so I didn't dribble any mastic on the granite when I installed the backsplash.  Not that I dribbled or oozed any mastic!  
Countertop completed along with backsplash
I have been working out again, but it always pains me to do it.  I want something else to come out of it besides me exercising and feeling better.  I was able to kill two birds with one proverbial stone today by going outside and recommencing work on the back hillside rock wall.  I have a flat shovel/narrow spade like tool that makes a nice horizontal spot into the hillside.  I dug a few horizontal stretches and started moving the large rocks that were already on the hillside into place for the lower wall.  I want to have two tiers along the back hillside.  My bigger problem currently is I am going to need some soil to back fill this area.  I need to get the old two ton dump bed truck working.  The only problem with that is I need to install $1200 worth of tires, a new battery and some new wires and spark plugs before I can even see if the truck will run.  I know the tires need to go on the truck regardless but if the engine doesn't work then I need to replace the engine.  The only good thing is it is a Chevy so the engines are highly interchangeable. I will steal a little more dirt from the back hillside as it has collapsed a little and narrowed enough it would be hard to drive on the road.  We do need a road along the back fence that doesn't force you to drive sideways and almost lean into the fence.  It was unbelievably warm today.  Almost 60 degrees outside, I worked in a long sleeve shirt only and had sweat just pouring off me.  I was so thirsty I went to the creek and drank ice cold stream water.  So if I get sick in the next week we will know why.  Its fast moving water and ice cold, I doubt there is anything growing in it.  It tasted fabulous!   

Second rock wall started.

Sheep need attention

Sheep wandering

Dug out creek.
I did it, I managed to take care of the sheep all by my lonesome.  All the changes we have been making to the barn are geared toward allowing one person (and the dog) to take care of all the sheep needs.  Our new lamb and mom area is proving to be very useful.  I was able to shut the outer door, set up all the tagging and banding supplies on the stairs and start catching lambs for tagging and banding.  I had to watch the mommas first so I could see which babies belonged to whom.  I have a day planner for 2015 that all the babies and sold animals are being logged into.  I need an accurate paper record this year.  I was able to crouch down with my back against the wall and lay the baby upside down on my legs and tag it and band it.  We had two little girls and three boys.  Every boy now gets TWO rubber bands just in case one of them breaks.  It makes it harder to get on but I don't want any extra rams this year.  I am trying to put the tags farther toward the head but have nicked a blood vessel in the ear twice now.  I had to chase everyone out of the nursery area and into the main section of the barn with everyone else. 

The creek through the barn lot is looking very good.  I have been spending 15-20 minutes with my new rubbers (tall waterproof boots) digging in the creek to get the channel clear.  It is starting to pay off.  I need to clean up the upper half from this picture.  Once the creek bed dries out a little I will plant some pasture grass seed along the banks.  I spent a few hours cutting tile for the kitchen backsplash.  It is hard to believe it is January, the weather is way too warm.  My grapes that I have started in a five gallon bucket on the breeze porch are starting to bloom.  I will need to get them in the ground this spring and protect them from the domestic and wild animals.  Everyone loves grape leaves. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

It goes on and on.

In between shifts at the paying job, I have been plugging along on the tiling job.  I cut two paper templates today and then cut my weird triangles for the countertop.  I still need to apply mastic to both pieces but I will do that when I start installing the backsplash.  It only took 1.5 hours to get two triangles the correct size, no big deal.  I started cutting the backsplash and lady luck was not with me this time.  My outlet holes are directly in the middle of an intact tile.  I tried to use the multitool, but it just kept jumping all over the place and was not piercing through the tile.  I do have a carbide blade on it so it probably would have gotten through eventually.  I decided to break out the diamond hole saw I thought I needed but didn't.  I did need it!  I just kept drilling holes until I had the outlet hole mostly done then used the multitool to clean up the edges.  It only took me about 30 minutes to do one outlet hole.  Luckily, I only have one more.  I have decided that I just need to work on it every day.  It is coming along.  I am hoping to get it all cut and installed the next time I work on it.  I need it to be done so I can go outside and spend about two days burning tumble weeds.  They are starting to pile up and the ground is still very wet so now is a great time to deal with them. 

Our sheep have not had a baby in almost a week. They are very spread out in the birthing process, but Annmarie and I have decided this is a good thing.  Instead of dealing with 50 babies in a single month we deal with them over a four month period.  It works out better for us and we pretty much have only about 3-4 months out of the year where we do not have babies.  Its easier to keep track of the little ones when they are not all tearing around and all the same size.  I have slowly been digging out the creek in the barn lot to make it narrower and get it down to its gravel bed and not this slow muddy mess.  It is starting to look good.  We do need to dig out the front creek again the entire length, but it is painful.  It is kinda on my list but not a real priority.  I need to go tag and band the five new babies in the nursery pen so their mothers and them can be let out with the main herd.  I will do that this week.  Its easy to tell if a baby has been tagged or not, we just look for the droopy left ear!  I always tag them in the left ear and as babies their ears are not strong enough to stand up with a tag in place.  Sometimes, it is harder to see the tag, but the saggy ear is a dead giveaway. 

Backsplash cutting in progress.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Holy countertop.

Not quite completed...

I marked all the tiles, numbered them and drew up a schematic so I knew where every piece went.  I then laid the tiles out all over the floor in some semblance of order and mixed up a large bucket of mastic.  I started on the right side of the countertop.  Laying in the first six tiles then working my way around the front all the way over in front of the sink.  I started to try and fit in a couple of triangle cut pieces.  The large missing triangle was the first casualty.  I needed to pick it back up and add some more mastic to get the tile the correct height.  I used my suction cup lifter and got the tile six inches off the countertop when it let go and broke a 2 inch piece off the tile!  I stuck the extra mastic on anyways and attempted to piece the tile back together in place!  I could still see the break.  I had to dig it out with my pocket knife. 

I mixed up another batch of mastic and stuck all the tiles down.  The back missing smaller triangle had a couple of gaps as it was not a smooth straight cut.  I said good enough and when the wife got home she looked at the countertop.  I dug it out with my pocket knife also.  I then scraped all the mastic up and now need to sharpen my pocket knife and cut two more custom tiles.  I am thinking about making a paper template for both holes so I get them right.  I only have five tiles left to get it right.  Luckily, I think I can cut both triangles from one tile so I have at least five more tries.  I will cut the backsplash in a couple of days.  Luckily, the backsplash is far more forgiving and once it is up and stuck on then I can grout everything.  I still need to crawl under the counter top on the other side and cut off the screws so the cutting board will slide back into its compartment. 

Second counter cut

Countertop that needs to be cut.
I have finally found some more time to get back at the kitchen.  We are getting tired of eating out of our laps in the living room.  My daughter's suggestion is to just buy some TV trays.  The problem with this is I don't like eating in the living room.  I like eating at a table the way families should.  So the TV tray idea is out the door.  I just need to work faster so the kitchen tiling is done quicker.  The new countertops and backsplash are going to necessitate a new paint job in the kitchen.  Painting is the worse job I can think of but it doesn't look like I am going to get out of it.  But that problem is for another day.  I slaved away and had half the kitchen countertops cut when Annmarie came home and we started discussing my cut job.  I did mention that it was not going well?  After near marital collapse we discussed my cutting job rationally.  I scrapped three pieces and went with a spoke pattern suggested by the lovely wife.  It follows my straight line rule and maximizes the tile size on the edges.  I spent the next day cutting all the pieces and fitting them together.  It was ready for mastic and some permanent bonding. 

Our free standing gas stove in the dining room had a fan go out two weeks ago.  On Friday, it made this explosion and ball of flames.  Annmarie had to go turn off the gas supply valve to get the fire to go out.  She is now spearheading the research for a new stove. 

Cut countertop, still needs to be stuck down.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Is spring really coming?

I have started in on the second countertop.  There was lots of dust as. I trimmed with the sawzall, mutitool and sander.  I zipped my plastic door shut, turned on vacuum cleaner and opened a window. This minimized the amount of dust I had to breathe.  After everything was cleaned up I went outside and cut a couple of pieces of hardiboard. I am going to try and use three large pieces of hardiboard. 
I am hoping this will minimize the flex in the countertop. Tomorrow, I will tear out the kitchen sink and finish installing all of the hardiboard.  I will put the sink in place and cut the hole. My hope is it will drop right into the preexisting cutout. I am not holding out for that as remodel reality will surely rear it's ugly head.  My goal, ambitious I admit, is to have all the tile work done by Sunday night. I may not have it grouted as I want the mastic to dry for two days before applying grout. 
It is good to have a goal!  You can see our paint chip cards taped to the cupboard doors. We are starting to zero in on our favorite colors. My new idea is to paint the entire kitchen. I think it needs to happen, if not now, then when we paint the cupboards. 

The weather is amazing!  It feels like spring. I stepped outside and saw 15 pheasants all down by the creek and flying around. I saw our red tailed hawk fly by the house and the grass is starting to green up  .  I could plant the upper four acre pasture but the weather is so screwy I don't want the grass seed to sprout then get a hard freeze. Soi am going to hold off.  We had another baby lamb.  We have had three single births out of the last four.  Not sure why the sheep are not getting the, twins are needed, memo. 

I cleaned out the shoe closet downstairs and found an old .22 LR.  It has a little rust on the barrel and neds a new butt plate. It is amazing to me that after all these years we still find stuff hidden throughout the house!  I will clean up the gun and get the barrel reblued. So weird 

other counter to be tiled. 

trim job done, hardiboard getting installed.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Window casing in place.

I put all the pieces up around the window today.  I mixed too much mastic.  I had been doing so good and just mixing a little bit more than I needed.  I think the real key was I was mixing the same amount every time and this time the job was too small.  I need to tear into the countertop now.  Unfortunately, I need to break out the sawzall and multitool and I don't want the walls to vibrate until those tiles are dry!  Tomorrow will be soon enough to tear out the sink, cut the countertop and install all the hardiboard.  If I can get all that done tomorrow then I can even start laying out the granite tile.  Unfortunately, my paying jobs are interfering with the remodel.  But, I am going to throw down this prediction, I will be done with the tiling by next week.  I had given a work estimate of three weeks but the downdraft fan is going to be hard.  Lots of measuring and calculating.  I have the rough design in my head.  I pickup the exhaust fan on Wednesday.  Once I can open the box and lay my hands on the fan it will be easier to picture what needs to be done. 

2014 Annual Chicken financial summary.

I know everyone has been dying to know how my chickens did financially in 2014 so here is the long awaited summary.  I made $762, the most money ever, raising the prices helped dramatically ($378 more than last year).  My annual expenses were $394 ($86 less than last year, buying feed on sale in 500# increments paid off).  I purchased 1500# of chicken feed an increase of 150# over last year.  My average laying hens for the year were 18.5 hens (a drop of 0.1 hens).  I attribute the increase in feed to raising babies in the spring and in the fall.  I currently have 9 chickens in the pipeline to start laying eggs in March.  I will get another dozen this spring also.  I am going to add another raised perch in the coop to add space.  We keep turning customers away.  I collected on average 9 eggs/day (an increase of 3.1 eggs/day over last year) for a hen productivity of 49% for the year (an 18% increase!).  This is where buying chicks in the spring and previous fall paid off.  If I can keep my productivity around 50% it is perfect for the breeds and free ranging.  The hens consumed 0.45 lbs of feed/egg produced (0.18 lb/egg less than last year).  It cost me $0.09/egg in feed expenses for a total feed cost of $1.08/doz ($1.32/doz less than last year).  My actual cost per dozen with all expenses added is $1.43/doz ($1.87 less than last year).  I was charging $3/doz until April when I raised the price to $4/dozen, that price increase made a big difference.  2014 was definitely the year of the chicken.  I need to keep my chicken numbers up.  I cannot let the predators or old age bring my production numbers down.  It takes me 6-8 months to raise the chickens to a productive age and it can drastically change my outcome.  I will start keeping upwards of 35 birds all the time.  That way if I get 15 killed I can keep that 20 average going for the year. 

I had a few issues with my chicken door but now have lots of spare parts and can repair it myself.  We talked about adding a solar panel to the old chicken coop and running 100 birds.  I am unwilling at this point to do that.  I would need a small fridge that could hold 25 dozen eggs and they would have to be collected every day.  I would need to add a subdivision in the building, clean out the feed room, add another electric chicken door running off of a car battery and solar panel.  Plus, I would need an enclosed yard with a top!  The coop  is 100 yards from the house and if we are going to be gone I would need the birds to be safe.  I would have an external gate that would be open most of the time to allow free ranging.  I figure around $500-1000 to install.  I would then move all my chickens out to that coop.  I would use the close up coop for raising babies as it has electricity.  If the price continues to rise on eggs I may consider it.  I will watch out for those feed sales and jump on them.  I know I will need at least 1500# for the year so It will be much easier to figure out how much to buy.  I did find a calculation issue in my chicken spreadsheet.  We had one month were we did not use any chicken feed.  The spreadsheet didn't use that month when calculating its averages.  I will have to get Annmarie to make it smarter!  I do data entry only on any spreadsheet and if I could figure out how to get out of it I would!  She maintains the sheep and cow spreadsheets.  I messed it up a few times too many. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Window tile cut

I spent another couple of hours today cutting tiles for around the window. It is starting to look good!  I will glue them down in a couple of days. I just work when I have time.  After I get those stuck on the wall I will tear into the countertop and cut it flush, sand the edges and install the hardiboard.  I will need to tear out the sink when I start working on the countertop.  More work, just gonna go one day at a time. 

Window progress

I realize it doesn't look like a lot, but that is over two hours work to cut the wonder board and all the wooden boards.  I installed them and leveled all the ledge boards that the tiles will sit on while the mastic sets up.  I only had to add one permanent spacer board. I want the tile edges near the window to be perfectly lined up as the wooden window trim will be sitting on it. I plan on using a piece of discarded wooden trim that was the wrong width from when we sheathed the beams, seven years ago.  I knew that piece of trim would come in handy eventually.  I managed to squeeze in a little work on the kitchen before going to the paying job!  

We got the weights for the two cows we had processed, their carcass weights were 341# and 326#.  Perfect weight for what we want. Carcass weight is usually less than 50% of the live animal. Some animals and breeds give a better carcass weight/live weight ratio.  Our sheep are over 50%.  So one cow was sold.  We won't have beef again for approximately 22 months. On a plus note, in April there will be five breeding cows and three more newborn calves.    The cow herd is growing slowly. It's much cheaper to do it slow.   

Window ready for tile.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Counter progress is happening.

One counter backsplash up and stuck to wall.

New kitchen sink came in three days!
I made good progress in the morning and got the backsplash on the left side of the kitchen.  The mastic was much better after using the drill and paint mixer, consistency and stickiness was improved.  I spent all afternoon taking down the sheetrock from around the window.  This created a half inch deficit to the window that now needs to be filled in.  I only have 1/4 inch hardiboard.  Now I need a trip to the hardware store to get 1/2 inch if they make it.  Otherwise, its two layers. 

Our kitchen sink was delivered today.  I walked out on the front porch and there it was.  I ordered it on Sunday evening and it was at our doorstep on Wednesday afternoon.  If anyone doesn't believe that is amazing they need to move to a big city. 

No new baby sheep.  We keep looking every day.  My chickens don't like the weather swings.  I have only gotten 2-3 eggs/day the last few days.  They need to figure it out so we can have eggs. 
Framing out window and putting in tile rest so I can tile above window.

First counter tiled.

Tiles stuck to counter
I have been working on the kitchen.  I have to keep posting pictures so it shows progress!  Yesterday, I went to town to get a paint mixer for my drill so I could mix the mastic.  I did the first batch by hand and it was very painful.  This mixer batch was much easier to do and it was far more consistent.

I will work on the window surround now.  I need the new kitchen sink to arrive so I can install the other counter hardiboard.  It has not showed up yet.  I expect it tomorrow or Friday.  If it shows up tomorrow then I can get the hardiboard installed on Friday and maybe lay out the tiles.  It is getting there.  I want to grout the finished counter on Friday.  We will have a working counter top in the kitchen then.  I will get all the countertops 100% done then I will move onto the downdraft vent fan.  I have to custom build a cabinet and cut out a hole in the end of the house.  I am not really looking forward to that project. 

 We got our annual call from the USDA yesterday about our sheep herd.  They always want an update on how many animals and what kind you have at the first of the year.  We did not get the online survey done so I did it on the phone.  The phone was way easier.  One of the questions he asked was what form of nonlethal predator control do we do.  The list is surprising to me because we do a lot.  We fence, lock the sheep up at night in a barn, have a dog, clean out the bedding in the barn annually, and rotate pastures.  He asked me my expenses for lethal control of predators, $50 for .243 ammo!  He did say on an anecdotal note that he has noticed most lambs are killed by coyotes from the surveys he has been doing.  We lost two lambs last year to coyotes. 

On a plus note, I saw the quail covey on Monday in the barn lot.  I had not seen them all winter long.  I saw the barn owl last week in the machine shop.  I tried to get a picture but it would not hold still.  It looks like our red tailed hawks might be moving back in to the upper pasture.  The tall tree blew down but the next tallest tree (now the tallest tree around!) has had them perching in its upper branches for over a week.  Maybe in a few years I will be able to find time to make some bat houses and bird houses.  The bats now live out in the 100 year old poplar trees or the cedar trees, not sure which one. 
Backsplash now stuck to walls.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Water overfloweth!

A raging back creek now 14 hours later.

Spring, center bottom of picture just above water line.

Spring coming out of dirt wall of creek.
Remember how I said I would just get that last creek crossing in the morning?  Well I should have done it in the dark by flashlight.  Fourteen hours of mountain water runoff can make a small creek go to a very large creek overnight.  To make it worse as I headed down to the "last" crossing I needed to lift I remembered that I had installed another crossing down by the large culvert next to the school house.  I now had my work doubled.  Zeke and I headed down to the crossing it was swollen, backing up the creek by a good 8 inches and pulling on all the panels.  The panels were a good three feet back from the crossing and were doing a fine imitation of a balloon.  I had metal snaps holding three panels all together.  I could not reach the bottom ones.  I had leaned out over the bank and was holding onto the panels to stay out of the water when my right foot slipped and I ended up in water six inches past my knee.  This allowed to me reach farther and other than swearing caused me no pain.  Twenty minutes later my left leg was still dry but I could not hold the panels and unsnap them at the same time, the water was too strong.  I said a few epitaphs and stuck my left foot in the water!  Another 20 minutes later and I managed to move the panels out of the way.  A flashlight in the dark would have been better.  We headed down to the second crossing.  On the way there I spotted a spring coming out of the dirt embankment.  I don't usually walk down this side of the creek so I am not sure if it is always there or we are just so water logged that it sprouted.  There are several springs all along the creek length so it would not surprise me if this is usually here.  The second crossing was very easy I just waded in and unhooked one side. 

I went back to house and got more tools for tile job, went upstairs on breeze porch and setup my tile cutting plastic enclosed room.  I also had to put on a new blade for my tile saw.  I could not get the old one loose.  A trip to the shed, a pair of vice grips and an hour later and the saw has a brand new diamond blade.  I cut all the tiles for the countertop and have them fitted.  I need to label them and break out the mastic.  I also brought in my six foot level so I could keep them level as they are installed.  On a side note, as I was bringing in more tools I noticed that I had forgot to turn off the grill last night.  It never ends, there is always something...
Falling into the creek is cold. 

Water cometh!

Back creek running.

Yesterday, I started in on the kitchen.  I started cutting the hardiboard to lay over the formica.  I had to trim the edges of the counter first.  No easy task.  I tried my new multitool that has a vibrating blade. It is not very fast and it can still cut into the cabinets.  I ended up using my sawzall and then going over the edge with the multitool and then sanding the edge.  Unfortunately, I noticed that the formica was coming up on the edge nearest the wall.  I pried it up a little and ended up getting a two foot section.  I had to peel the whole thing off the countertop.  I then cut and recut and recut the hardiboard to fit perfectly.  When Annmarie came home she asked me if I had noticed the back creek was running.  I had not.  It is warming up above freezing and has been raining for two days straight. 

This means I need to go lift the fences out of the creek.  I went to the upper crossing and found a large weed pile that should have been burned.  I did not know it was there.  Instead, I dug it out all by hand and cleared the obstruction then lifted the fence.  I got the other two crossings then we went out to the barn to feed.  The babies were ready to be banded and tagged.  Annmarie caught lambs and I tagged and banded.  She never wants to inflict pain and enjoys the snuggles before I torture them.  We are now using two rubber bands every time we band the testicles.  I check after I have banded and make sure there are TWO testicles.  Once that was done we let the two mommas and five babies out into the main herd. 

I knew there was one more fence crossing down below the house about half way to the school house but it was dark by then and I figured I would get it in the morning.  So we went back inside, I cooked all our food on the grill (this will be a theme) and then we laid out the counter tiles to see how they would look.  I will need to trim about 1 inch off the back and one side to get them to lay perfectly.  They look great. 

Kitchen remodel begins.

I started in on the kitchen yesterday. I bought this screen system and installed it. The cool part is I was able to install a zipper into the plastic. It's very cool.  I emptied all the kitchen counters and started doing a thorough inspection and layout of the plan.  As with all remodels, I hit a road  bump early.  The kitchen sink is old probably from the fifties and there is no good way to reuse it when I raise the sink on top of the granite tiles.  So, another $500 for a new kitchen sink.  We found one that would fit the same hole and is three inches deeper.  We have the room underneath the cabinet so went with a deeper sink since we don't have enough room for a double sink. There is always something you don't think about.  I did buy lots of tools this time so that should not be a problem! I still need to set up the tile cutting area on the breezeporch.  I am going to make a plastic walled room with four more of those fancy poles and put my tile saw in the middle so I can cut tile inside the house. 

It has been cold for last week but is now starting to warm up.  We will have to start watching the back creek.  I always forget how slow remodels are.  I gave Annmarie a 3 week estimate and she always doubles my estimates.  We are cooking on the grill and microwave and eating on our laps in the living room.  Not ideal, so the race is on to get it done!

Fancy plastic wall with zipper door. 

Left side of kitchen.

Right side of kitchen.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Cow invasion failed.

I think they know a bad launching point when they see one.

All that's left after my burn last night.
I went out to check on my fire.  It was totally out.  I spent about 45 minutes raking and piling the missed and half burnt wood into another pile.  I tried to light it with a few newspapers but it did not go.  It never wants to burn when you want it to. Annmarie told me the butcher would be a little late so I went in and had some breakfast.  Coffee had come out with me in a travel mug so I was caffeinated already.  The cows knew something was up but the two little girls only ate about 1/3 the feed these two pigs had been eating.  When I went in for breakfast I grabbed some of the extra egg cartons I had lying around and used them to start my fire.  They worked great!  I had to feed the fire for about 15 minutes to get it to really take off but it was going good when I went inside. 

The butcher was his usual efficient self.  I am always amazed how quick and easy he makes it.  We had a great conversation about life, work ethic, animal breeding, carcass grading and children.  It is always a pleasure to see and visit with him.  I saved the organs from the cows for a coworker's dogs.  He feeds them raw meat and I don't want anything to go to waste that can be used.  The truck did not want to go it was sliding on the surface of the snow and mud.  I had to go get the tractor and put a scoop of gravel in front of each rear drive tire so he could get started and get on his way.  Glad I had just gotten that gravel!  One of the cows was a bull!  Everyone gets TWO rubber bands on their gonads when they are banded.  We had banded him and he had no scrotum.  So I am not sure what really happened other than he was not castrated.  Learning curves are steep for some things. 
After I picked up around the edges I am ready for another fire!

Cow D-day coming soon

Horses by firelight, curious about where the light was emanating.

Fire, finally I was able to burn one of the old wood piles.
I had to sort the cows so the butcher could finally come get the two big boys.  It was a three month wait and I was unable to move the date.  So we had to feed the boys for the last two months.  They eat a lot of food.  Zeke is getting much better with the cows.  He jumps up and grabs them by the horns.  I am not sure why the horns and not the tail, but as long as he moves the cows I don't care how he does it.  We always have issues about whether Zeke should go left.  The dumb dog is right handed and always wants to go to the right when cornering or turning animals.  I don't understand it.  We have to have words every time.  It took less than 10 minutes to sort the boys from the two girls and get them both in the square pen.  Pretty dang good for a greenhorn and his dog.  It is amazing to me how much I can do alone with the dog.  There is no way I could have done that alone.  Not with three hours could I have done it.  Zeke has cemented us always having a working dog while we have animals. 

I took the opportunity to light the old wood pile in the barn light on fire.  It was cold, no wind and snow all over all the buildings and ground.  No issues with stray fires starting up.  In five hours it was down to a small ember fire.  This morning it was all out.  That old wood just burns really hot and fast.  I am leaving the huge pile on the hillside for later.  I keep getting people that want to come out and scrounge through and salvage from it.  If anyone can get some use out of it I don't want to burn it.  I had three different people pass over the pile in the barn lot.  It was good for entertainment value only. 

It is kinda eye catching.

2015 the year of the cow!

Our Christmas babies out and about, they are ready for ear tags and banding. 

It is the year of the cow!  We will be having two cows slaughtered in days and three new babies in early spring and two heifers will be introduced to bull at that time.  I will also be rebuilding our cow sorting pen system.  I am going to make the chute narrower, longer and add in two more smaller square pens off of our existing pen.  I will also be installing all metal gates that swing and operate properly. After that it should not be too hard to sort the cows.  We are at 50% of our heifer goal already.  It may take another 3-4 years to get the rest of the way, but when the cows don't cost anything but time it is hard to argue with progress.  Two of the original heifers have lost their ear tags.  I need to order some bigger tags and retag them.  The tags I ordered are a little small and hard to read.  One of the new little 6 month old heifers has already torn hers out.  I have no idea how she did it. 

Annmarie and I are talking about a honey bee hive again.  We like the idea and if it could live in the barn even better.  I may even be able to build a little insulated room up on the walkway.  The bees will generate some heat and a insulated room may just be the ticket to keep them warm.  I could even put in a solar exhaust fan for the summer!  Still discussing this option.  My plate is already pretty full not sure I will have time for this.  If our wild hive is still alive in the spring we will put it off another year. 

I have a list of chores on my phone for this year.  It's up to 15 items already.  I will post it mostly for humor as I am not very good about staying on task.  We will see how many of them I actually get done. 
1.  Level old house.
2.  Fix leak in barn roof.  use lots of silicone caulk.
3.  Put flood lights on chicken coop directed at skinning pole add switch and light to chicken feed storage area.
4.  Tile kitchen counters.
5.  Tile kitchen backsplash.
6.  Finish off kitchen window trim.
7.  Install downdraft vent fan in kitchen.
8. Tile top of shower.
9.  Install front yard fence.
10.  Plant orchard grass.
11.  Repair pump electrical conduit.
12.  Fix irrigation pump.
13.  Buttress under house, dining room floor before installing tile. (2016 for sure)
14.  Move river rock to back corner of house near heat pump to slow down erosion.
15.  Make Dam in back barn lot with old concrete pieces from up on top of hill. 
16.  Break out concrete walkway near heat pump that tree is displacing. 
17.  Plant sainfoin test plot.
18.  Fix retractable orchard waterer.