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Geek Acres



Stories of a geek transplanted to a farm (by choice).



Updated: 2017-09-06T00:32:10.440-05:00

 



Wind Storm of September 2012

2012-09-19T09:07:29.801-05:00

Friday September 7, 2012 I spent in Branson at an all day meeting of regional managers.  The meeting was held at the beautiful Big Cedar Lodge convention hall.  The sight I returned home to Friday evening was in stark contrast to the lake vistas of the day.Reportedly, 80 mile per hour straight-line winds did damage all over the Ozarks.  In our case an oak tree to the west of our home snapped off about 6 feet up and fell on to the house.  The weight of the tree created a hole through the roof decking, the rafters, the joists, and the ceiling.  I arrived home at approximately 6 PM to find three trees down on our property.  The oak pictured above did the most  damage.  Branches that broke off from a second oak tree also struck the southwest corner of the house tearing up the soffit, fascia, and some fence.  A walnut tree was uprooted and fell on the deck.  The grill was smashed and the railing on the deck was destroyed.  Most of the weight of that tree rested on the propane tank.  There wasn't any noticeable damage to the tank, thankfully.  The third tree fell in the pasture and did no damage.Water continued to pour into the kitchen and living room area while several friends, family members, and I worked to remove the tree and cover the hole.  By about 10 PM we had the tree removed and a large tarp covering the entire west half of the house.  Below is a view of the hole before we covered it.Inside things were soaked, and there were signs of damage all throughout the house.  The western load bearing wall took the brunt of the weight and showed stress and cracking where the tree struck.  There was water damage and cracks throughought the celings and in the soffit of the kitchen cabinets.  The particle board subfloor below the tile has since started to expand and the laminate wood flooring in the living room has begun to warp.  That was just the superficial damage I could see.At the suggestion of several contractors (3 out of the 4 we've talked to), we hired an engineer to look at the cracks in the basement.  There are definitely new cracks below where the tree struck.  It's obvious they are new as the debris from the crack still lies on the floor of the basement and there is no water staining or calcium buildup in the cracks like in the older settling cracks.At a minimum, the entire roof (structural members, not just decking) needs to be replaced.  All of the wet insulation will need to be removed from the ceiling, as well as the ceiling drywall will need to be replaced. It's still wet enough that it's soft to the touch in places.  Several interior walls will need new dry wall, and we probably need new floors in the living room and kitchen, which requires removing cabinets, etc.  On the exterior the bricks need to come down to repair the western and northern walls.At maximum, we may need a new house.  The engineer's report is due today and the adjuster will need to time to review.  So we continue to be on high-pressure-standby.  In the mean-time kidding season fast approaches and we need to be sure we have a warm place to take the inevitable bottle babies to keep them warm if needed.The day following the storm my helper and I hauled 8 trailer loads of wood to the wood pile; at least the goats enjoyed the snack and the new obstacles to play on.[...]



Airman

2012-06-17T16:20:48.460-05:00

My cousin Aaron, who has been mentioned on this blog numerous times, is graduating from Air Force Basic Training in a couple weeks.  I'm very proud of him. Not everyone who cares about him can go to the graduation so I solicited for messages on his Facebook page from them.  When he gets access to the internet he can see all the well wishes, and I made a nice tag cloud out of the messages and will have a poster made to hold up at graduation. I think it came out pretty neat.


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National Champion!

2012-06-16T22:14:35.696-05:00

Jennifer and one of our does, Harmony Hill Francisca, won 2012 National Grand Champion Percentage Doe this week at the 2012 ABGA Nationals competition in Duncan, OK.


This is Jennifer's second time showing at the ABGA nationals and we're very proud of her success this year. Jennfier took the goatmobile loaded with seven of our show animals.  Out of these 7, all but one placed in the top 10 in their classes, and all but one of those 6 placed in the top 5.  Besides the Grand Champion, Gunslinger, our fullblood buck, placed third in his class.  Our fullblood doe from Broken S ranch, Popcorn, placed fourth in her class.

Jennifer also won 2012 National Reserve Grand Champion Premier Percentage Exhibitor.  We're very proud of her!

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Gunslinger

2012-05-29T22:47:45.957-05:00

People I meet in my day job are often surprised to learn my wife and I raise and show goats.  There's a pretty strong negative stereotype associated with goats.  I can assure you it's all wrong, at least for our goats.Goats are very intelligent animals.  As with other domesticated animals they are a product of their handling and care.  Our goats happen to be very well cared for and as a result are healthy and affectionate creatures.  Our goats, for the most part, love to be around people and seek out human contact to have that hard to reach spot scratched or to lean against.  There are a few stubborn individuals that don't but they each have their own personality.We show the goats as a part of a marketing plan to get exposure and spread our name.  For those not initiated in livestock showing the point of showing, besides it being fun, is to demonstrate the quality of the genetics of your animals.  The payback comes from the intrinsic value of the animal or it's offspring.  Just like with other products the laws of supply and demand come in the play.  We control the supply through our breeding program and hopefully create the demand with success in the show ring. I was updating our Harmony Hill Boer Goats website with the latest photos and I was struck by the progression, growth, and beauty of our not-so-little buck, Harmony Hill Gunslinger.  Check out the growth from show to show:May 2011July 2011October 2011May 2012[...]



Goatmobile

2012-05-26T20:29:03.480-05:00

We upgraded the rig this year for the goat show season.  Jennifer has been doing outstanding on the goat show circuit.  We are looking forward to nationals this year in Duncan, OK!  Our herd sire, affectionately named "Stink," has received his sire of merit and as of this weekend his progeny have earned enough for him to be ennobled (by our current calculations).  To those not in the goat world it's a pretty high achievement.  It's even more special because all the points towards his ennoblement have come from animals we have raised (minus one) and all of the animals were bred live-cover, not artificially inseminated.We started having truck trouble with our 2004 F-350 about the time we purchased a new trailer (classic injector failure).  To maintain peace of mine and keep Jennifer rolling in style we also purchased a new truck. First a little on the new the trailer:We purchased a 2012 Bison Trail Hand 310TH from Midway Trailer in Illinois.  It's a 3 horse slant with a 10' short wall living quarters. The living quarters is a fully furnished home away from home.  The photo above is from the bathroom door forward.  It has a couch that folds down into another bed and we placed a queen-sized mattress on the upper deck.  It's equipped with a AC and heat, a double sink, a gas range and hood, a microwave, a freezer and fridge, water heater, and a full bath with shower and separate toilet.  A lot of the lower-end trailers will have a combo shower-toilet with the toilet in the shower, not something Jennifer or I were a fan of.  It's got an stereo system with indoor and out door speakers as well as an awning that extends out from the side of the trailer.The Bison Trail Hand is a great trailer targeted towards that entry-level market.  It's only 7' wide so it does make for a cozy environment but so far it's been a real pleasure to use.  Jennifer is able to park near the goats and quickly retire to a hot shower and air conditioning when she's done for the day.The Trail Hand has an aluminum skin over a steel frame, which makes for a fairly heavy load when you add goats, show equipment, and 35 gallons of freshwater.  The new truck, a 2012 Ford F350, is getting 12 miles to the gallon when pulling it.  The only things I would change about the trailer is perhaps look for a wider model and more RV style holding tank configuration (like an inlet to clean out the black water tank properly).The 2012 F350 is the second year for the newest diesel engine of Ford which changed to a 6.7 liter PowerStroke diesel engine with a center mounted turbo.  This truck is so much quieter than the 6.0 you can easily forget it's a diesel, that is until you need to pull something.  The advertised specs are 400 horsepower and 800 ft/lbs of torque.  I'm pretty sure that's plenty for our application.When not pulling the 27' gooseneck trailer the truck averages around 18 mpg on general driving and we've gotten as high as 20 mpg on long unloaded trips.  The truck is a geeks playground with all kinds of computerized options with a big bright instrument panel that shows you thinks like your instant fuel mileage, a graph of the last several minutes of mpg, the angle of the truck on two axis, the temperature of the transmission oil and engine oil, the gain settings on your trailer brake controller and more.  Plus it has the Ford Sync system that allows us to use our iPhones hands free and to stream music to the stereo.  It has many other features too that I don't use as much such as turn by turn directions as well as a vehicle health report.One new thing to get used to having a diesel particulate filter (DPF) system and having to fill it with diesel exhaust fluid (DEF).  The first fill from the dealership lasted about 5000 miles.  When I first mentioned DEF to my boss he thought I was kidding and making u[...]



135 Hours Later

2012-05-26T19:49:38.797-05:00


It has certainly been more than 135 hours since I last posted anything substantial.  In fact, it's been nearly a year since my last post.  Back in April 2011 I posted about our new tractor, a Kioti DK40SE and wanted to give some follow-up thoughts after 135 hours on the tractor.

In short, this is a great little tractor.  It has done every job we threw at it quite well.  The largest amount of run time has probably been brush hogging, of which we do a few times a year.  The 6' cutter takes quite a few passes to knock down the 7 or so acres we maintain with it.  Behind that is probably moving round bales, as shown above.  The loader on this tractor is plenty strong.  I am considering adding fluid to the rear tires in order to get more ballast weight, but it's quick enough to put a bale on the rear with the rear bale spike.  With the proper rear weight it's no problem to unload double stacked round bales off a flat bed.

The driveway has stayed in good order, or at least it does when I spend the time to grade it.  I've graded the drive 3 or 4 times and put a smooth surface on it with ease.  It is probably time to add material though before I do it again.

After a little over a year of owning this tractor I can say I think it was one of the best investments we have made on the farm.


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Ahh! .... AHHHH!

2011-06-26T07:22:27.222-05:00


I was weed eating a fence line I hadn't trimmed in a while.  I was watching closely for some poison ivy I didn't want to trim and fling all over me when a mouse darted out of the brush and startled me.  It was then immediately followed by a black snake striking and wrapping it up.

Over the hum of the trimmer engine I believe I sounded something like the title of the post!

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Greenhouse is open

2011-04-25T22:59:52.144-05:00


The greenhouse is now open.  Jennifer has partnered this year with a neighbor and friend of ours.  Sherry wanted to learn about the greenhouse and how to raise plants.  She's done a fine job and we've got over a dozen different varieties of heirloom tomato plants for sale along with some eggplant, artichoke, herbs, and even some ornamentals and flowers.

Unfortunately someone else liked our greenhouse sign at the end of the drive well enough that they just took it home...  So we'll have to get another one to put out by the highway.
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Run ahead of the pack

2011-04-25T22:58:37.905-05:00

Pictured here is our new tractor!  We've been on the farm now for 5 years and have managed so far by begging and borrowing time from neighbors and friends when tractor work was needed.  It's nice to have folks to help out but it's even better to be able to do things on your own.

The photo above is from right after it was unloaded.  It's a DK40SE made by Kioti.  I did my homework including my usual spreadsheet analysis and learned you get more features, more power, more weight, and more lifting capacity for the money than the other orange tractor brand (or any other compact utility tractor).  Plus it comes with a 4 year/unlimited hour warranty, an important feature for a first time tractor owner.  We had a very pleasurable sales experience through S&H Farm Supply and salesman Mark will be seeing us again the future for sure!

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In the short few weeks we've already tackled several projects with the tractor.  It's primary use most days is moving round bales as Jennifer is doing in the photo above.  I do find it necessary to counterbalance the load on the front end loader (FEL) with the box blade on the rear.

The box blade too has been put through it's paces. I finally got the guts to work on the drive and I was very pleased with the results.  I was timid at first as I thought I would make it worse, to which a neighbor replied that it couldn't possibly get worse (that's how badly rutted it was).  I just took the advice of a more experienced neighbor and just went slow.  It took several passes up and down the 1/4 mile drive but it's a huge improvement.  I didn't even need to add additional material to get a nice smooth finish.

We've mowed the pasture with the rotary cutter and moved mulch with the FEL bucket.  I've even used it to pull against to stretch some fence.  I plan on welding some grab hooks on to the bucket to make it easier to lift things with a chain.  All in all I'm very pleased with the tractor.  It's been a long time coming and theres a huge list of projects that will be easier to complete now that we aren't burdening our neighbors for tractor time!

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Spring!

2011-04-25T22:32:31.246-05:00


We had a beautiful run of weather a few days ago, now we're looking at flooding all around us.  During the nice weather Jennifer and her band of WWOOFers took to doing some yardwork.  I snapped this photo of Jennifer in one of the flower beds they weeded.  Near her is our newest bottle baby (and current resident of the master bath tub) Gidget.  Haley, Sue, and Gelleon aren't far either.
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SNOMG!

2011-02-01T21:00:23.599-06:00


I was just saying how the Explorer seems to do quite well in the snow.  It hadn't seen anything like this before though.  Luckily I made it all the way home to the end of the drive before I became stuck.  The photo above is the snow up over the bottom edge of the Explorer, I had to push snow out of the way to get out and immediately sunk up over my thighs in the drift that is our driveway.

I think a conservative estimate of our snow accumulation would be 18 to 20" with drifts well over 2 to 3 feet.  The goats aren't going to get out in snow that deep so Jennifer and Kyle spent the day moving water tanks and heaters into their barns.  Trudging around in this stuff is not easy, I had to stop three or four times to catch my breath on the 1/4 mile walk up the drive (hey, I was carrying a bag full of clothes in case I got stranded plus my laptop case and some paperwork).  Moving from barn to barn carrying bales of hay or pales of water wasn't a picnic either.

I'll try to take some photos tomorrow.  When you're not working it in or avoiding other cars on the road it's actually quite pretty.
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Some new photos

2011-01-16T17:33:24.042-06:00

 I hadn't taken any photos around the farm lately.  I never seem to devote time to lugging the camera around and cell-phone camera images just don't cut it for me most of the time.  I went out midday today and snapped a few shots:

Molly is one of our 4 LGDs (livestock guard dogs).  She's getting a little face rubbing action in this photo.

I walked out to the front pasture and of course was greated by Bear.  After some attention he went back to work.  Here he is on the look-out.

Bulldog, one of our wethers from the 2010 fall kidding season, was curious about the camera I was carrying around.  I finally got him to hold still long enough and stay far enough away that I could get a photo of him in focus.  He's quite the little man and is destined for the show ring.

I moved to the Nubian pasture where Jack was on patrol.  Good old reliable Jack-Jack keeps the dariy goats safe 24/7.

In the Nubian pasture everyone was crowding around to see, smell, or get a nibble of the curious device around my neck.  I snapped this one shooting almost directly into the sun with Harmony between me and the sky.  I rather like this shot.
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Winter Update

2011-01-15T08:08:33.597-06:00


True to form, my lovely wife Jennifer, continues to diversify the farm "portfolio."  We're raising seven feeder pigs that we purchased from a local Amish guy.  We agreed we would raise one for ourselves to butcher and maybe one or two to raise and sell.  Jennifer sent out a quick e-mail to people we thought might be interested and now we've got 7 little piggies.

I had no idea pigs were so strong!  They're little power-packed balls of muscle.  These little piggies did in fact "squeal all the way home" in goat tote in the back of the truck.  They obviously were not handled extensively as they're quite excitable.  I had read that it takes solid fence and some hot wire to contain them so we fixed up one of our smaller pens (about 1/4 acre maybe) as the new pig lot.  It has good solid fence around it and now has one strand of electric fence about 4 inches off the ground all along the perimeter.  Pigs like to root up things and can easily root right under a fence.  And there's a reason that some rodeo's have a pig catching event: if you're not a participant it's hilarious to watch, because it's really hard to catch a loose piglet!  I want no part of pig catching outside this pen...

The piggies picture above are going to town on some slop, quite a sight to see.  They are finally getting to the point where they realize that we're not a threat.  When we first got them the slightest sight of us would momentarily stop them in their tracks with a quick "snort" before they would bolt the opposite direction.  Now they recognize and associate us with the slop bucket.  Jennifer and our latest WWOOFER volunteer, Kyle, have a hesitation with the pigs coming so close to them when feeding.  They're both, perhaps rightly so, nervous that the little piggies will start to nibble on them.  I guess they won't be little piggies for very long.  Kyle blames Jennifer for corrupting him with the idea that they might like to eat him.

Speaking of Kyle, he's been great to have on the farm.  He and Jennifer have been very productive while I'm away at the day job.  Our involvement with the WWOOFER has been nothing but positive so far.  It's been great meeting new people from all over, making new friends, and sharing ideas all while working together on the farm towards a common goal.  I highly recommend it.
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Flickering lights, loose neutral, unbalanced power

2010-12-30T08:37:25.394-06:00

I post this in hopes that it's indexed into the interwebs by Google and the like and it might be found by someone else who needs the information.

Over the last several days the power in the house had been flickering when appliances came on.  We had gotten used to the slight momentary dimming when the furnace or the fridge came on.  On Friday it got much worse.  The lights would get dim and really bright, sometimes rapidly for seconds at a time.  At one point it was like the house lights were like a strobe light going dim then bright repeatedly for 10 seconds or so.

I did my best to test and debug.  I did some research on the internet and dreamt of the problem all Friday night (when I actually could sleep).  On Saturday I put a couple other projects to the side so I could concentrate on the power.  I had to run to town to get a new volt meter, the last cheapy I bought stopped working.  I was shutting off various circuits to see if I could isolate if a single appliance was causing the problem.  I shut off the circuits to the water heater, the furnace, the refrigerator, the deep freeze, in various permutations but the problem continued.

I called a friend who has done some electrical work for us recently (that's another story, remember: cable rated for direct burial doesn't mean it's rated for rock), but he couldn't make it until Saturday afternoon.  I went on with other projects having exhausted my knowledge.

When John did arrive, he did his best to test it all out.  We were seeing unbalanced power in the breaker box of the house. We were expecting to see about 125 volts from each phase of the hot wire compared to the neutral, but we were seeing wide and changing ranges.

We moved to the main breaker under the meter on the pole.  We opened it up and saw the neutral lug was literally glowing hot!  We shut the power off immediately, the area around the lug had started to discolor and a mounting screw had welded it self to the fixture.  We let it cool and shut off various circuits in the house and the barn to try and determine what was going on.  During our testing we were seeing that there was 10 volts from the box to the neutral.  You should expect to see no voltage between the box and the neutral.  In laymens terms, the box it self had a charge and could shock you...  not good.

John tested the voltage on each leg of the hot wires and saw that each phase was moving from at lowest 13 volts to 130 plus at the highest.  Also not good.  We consulted with his trade-school electrician teacher and some research I had done on the internet and it pointed to a loose neutral on the power company's side of the equation.

After about 3 hours of waiting in the dark with no heat the on-call line crew of Southwest Electric Co-op showed up and fixed the problem.  They replaced the neutral from meter to the box and tightened everything down.

The lights no longer dim even when a space heater or the furnace is turned on.

Jennifer and I slept so much better last night.(image)



Doc

2010-12-19T08:03:16.989-06:00

Doc died Friday.  Words from our friend Carrie describe him and our feelings well:I found out this morning that Doc, one of the dogs I got to know so well at Harmony Hill, was hit by a car today and killed. Anyone who met him could immediately discern a few things about Doc. One, that despite his size, he was still a puppy, and still stupid from it. And two, that he didn't have a mean bone in his body, and that he really, truly, wanted to please you. Even if he couldn't pay attention long enough to make that happen. He wasn't a good fit on the farm, because he really didn't listen well, he thought with his nose, and he was constantly getting into stuff, or running off, or chewing up things, or climbing on the bed, or racing circles around the yard. He reminded me of a three-year old boy - of my little brother, when he was small - in that the only time he was ever still was when he was asleep. He drove us up a wall, and got yelled at maybe more often than he strictly deserved, but underneath that he was really growing into a good dog. He would've been a perfect pet for a little kid - he loved kids. He liked to chase cars, because they went fast and Doc was sure he could go faster ... and I guess a car finally caught him, today.Damn. I kept going about my day, making cookies, reading, doing whatever, and then I'd think, "Shit. Doc." And things would get just a little grayer, and my heart would squeeze in my chest, and I'd find myself frowning. No matter how I look at it, it just bloody well sucks. But I tell myself that his spirit is free now, to chase all the rabbits and foxes and cars he wants, and free to eat chicken eggs to his heart's content with no one to complain about the resulting smells, and free to race the wind, as he so obviously was meant to do.Rest in peace, Doc-amus. We'll miss you.Aaron and I put him to rest in the field where he loved to romp and play.Night night Doc Doc.[...]



Tower O'Cute!

2010-11-14T22:30:06.450-06:00

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Show line up

2010-09-28T23:24:50.388-05:00


This summer flew by.  I have been taking snapshots throughout the summer with the intent on blogging about goings-on but more activities have been going on and cutting into the time and energy that's usually reserved for blogging. I'll be parsing through the photos over the next few days to catch everyone up and to try to get back into a routine of updating this thing.

The photo above was taken at the Ozark Empire Fair.  The three goats on the left are ours and they took 3rd and 4th out of a class of 14, which we were very happy with.  Princess (on the far left) placed 3rd.  I got a laugh when watching the line up because she was the only goat chewing her cud.  For the uninitiated, cud chewing is a sign of contentment and relaxation.  All the other goats were more high strung and stimulated by the strange things going on around them.  Not princess... she just stood there with this non-nonchalant "are we done yet" attitude.  Apparently others noticed this as well as one guy said on the way out she was the only "bomb-proof" doe out there, and tried to buy her.  Jennifer promptly responded there wasn't a check big enough to buy her.  Princess is Jennifer's baby, in fact one of our first bottle babies we ever raised.

At the fair we had a chance to socialize with the other goat breeders and do a bit of networking which was pretty fun.  We met some really great folks.  That being said, we still thought it better to keep an eye out on the goats overnight so I decided to stay at the fair and slept on a cot in the goat/sheep barn.  That was definitely a one of a kind experience for me.  Mostly I remember how hot it was, even late into the night with box fans strategically placed around me.

In other news, we've had another WWOOF volunteer with us for the past few weeks and the next few more.  It's been great having Carrie around and I think we're learning from her as much (if not more) than she is from us.  Carrie is planning a trek cross-country and is taking a break from school where she studied like two dozen subjects she likes to boil down to just "history."  She's extended her original plan to stay with us through part of our kidding season.  We're all excited to see some new arrivals!
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Still Kicking

2010-07-18T09:27:27.338-05:00

The summer has been a busy one, sorry for the lack of blogging updates.  I recieved an update on the previously mentioned WWOOFers and link to their blog, WWOOFing Green Summer 2010.  Ken and Amiee are pictured in the photo above.The heat in our neck of the Ozarks has been stifling for the past few weeks.  I felt like I had jumped in a warm lake with my clothes on just doing chores this morning, not exactly a challenging physical feat.  What is a challenging physical feat, however, is cycling across the country.  Our next set of WWOOFers and new friends Melissa and Brooke passed through our area last week on their way westward.  Apparently our town of Walnut Grove is located near the TransAmerican trail for biking across the country.  I always wondered why there were so many cyclist on Hwy BB, a very hilly and narrow road near our home.  In any case I think Brooke was ready to sell the bikes and take up goat ranching with us.  In the end they decided to continue on their adventure across the country.  They are chronicling their journey on their blog The Road Beneath Us.  It's always funny to see people's reaction to goats for the first time as their is such a negative stereotype surrounding goats.Jennifer is a “goat lady”. A self-proclaimed and awesome goat lady. When Melissa and I rolled our bikes up to Harmony Hill, she was in the pasture, with her goats. Immediately she began introducing us to “the ladies”. She pointed to one and said, “that’s Etsu. Come here, Etsu.” She just hithered a goat. I had my doubts. I’ve never been around goats and thought to myself, there is no way that goat is coming over here. And then it stood up, and waltzed it’s way over to Jennifer. All these goats know there names! They are smart and extremely lovable, too.We're hoping they "land" some place cool when they finish their ride so we can for a visit.  If not they can both return and lend a hand at milking.  They both need a little practice though. :)[...]



Bummer

2010-06-12T07:58:44.132-05:00


It was bound to happen.  The plastic I used on the greenhouse I bought off craigslist.  The guy said it was greenhouse plastic which is specifically designed to hold up to abuse it will take on a greenhouse, such as a UV protection, but I had my doubts.  There were no brand names on the box, no logos on the plastic.  One day this week Jennifer came home to find it had failed.  It split along one of the creases from when it was folded and the wind did the rest.  The good news is we had shut down the use of it for the summer so there were no losses of plants.  I did have to quickly weatherize things as you can see the fan boxes have tarps secured to them and various other things have been sealed individually from the elements. 

Now I need to take the old plastic off and replace it with the right stuff.  This time I'll buy something with UV protection, a warranty, and enough to do a double layer for extra insulation.  Since we don't plan on using it until late August I'm tempted to wait until then to make the purchase but it's a bit of an eyesore without the plastic on it, so it will probably happen relatively soon.

I spent a good part of this last week in Chicago attending the Internet Retailer Conference and Expo (for my day job).  As I stood in the crowded airport waiting for my luggage on the way home I kept thinking about how nice it will be to get home, to peace and quiet.  It's fun to travel occasionally, but it's good to be home.
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Baby goats

2010-06-06T17:45:52.068-05:00


Sometimes I wish I could just hang out and nap like the little one's pictured here.  We've had a ton going on lately.  Most recently we hosted two WWOOFers for a couple of weeks.  I've mentioned having WWOOF volunteers before, but for those that don't know it's a network of organic farmers (WWOOF host farms) and those interested in learning about organic farming (WWOOFers).  The WWOOFers volunteer their time and energy in exchange for a learning opportunity as well as room and board.  I understand we're on the luxurious end of the accommodations (we have an extra private bedroom and bath in our home) as some just provide tent space.

Ken and Amy, our WWOOFERS, are doing a summer of WWOOFing. They left yesterday after a two week stay.  They helped us get a ton of little extra projects done.  My lovely wife Jennifer said it best after a day of projects with the WWOOFers and my cousin Aaron helping out that we got more done that just the "have-tos" that we usually get done with a typical weekend.  Some of the projects marked off the checklist include:
  • taking down the old barn tin
  • cleaning out the old barn
  • creating two large compost piles out of the bedding from the barn
  • rebuilding fence around that barn
  • tearing down an old compost bin and building a nicer one in a different spot
  • planting lots of ornamental plants and trees
  • mulching
  • building new raised beds
  • moving hay to the new barn
  • cleaning out the chicken house
I'm sure I'm forgetting some of the things we accomplished.  The place looks great as a result and we learned a lot and had fun with our guests, I think they would say the same.  Amy is a second year vet student and got a nice introduction into the world of goats.  Jennifer and I laughed when she said her favorite goat was Etsu, because she's "so outrageous."  Jennifer also arranged for Amy to meet our local vet and she spent three days riding and helping Dr. Mozier.  Ken is a recent grad with a degree in history, he's looking to get into urban planning and I hope his experience on our little farm helps him along that journey.  They plan on blogging their experience and I'm waiting for a URL to link to.  

We have another set of WWOOFers scheduled for sometime in July, they're biking across the country.  They only plan on staying for a few days and we're looking forward to their visit.
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Lost dog

2010-05-12T21:21:54.312-05:00


It's been four days since we last saw Gelleon, and I'm starting to loose hope that he'll come back.  He always had a bad habbit for sneaking off the farm, but he usually came home within a few hours.  He's never met a stranger and anyone willing to acknowledge him was instantly his best friend.

I never knew exactly where he went or why, some of our neighbors had reported seeing him in the past but it was never that far away.  This time though I'm afraid he has gone to far.  I like to think that some family found him and decided to keep him since he's so friendly and love-able and he always managed to loose his collar but I'm sick to think what else could have happened to him.

Another neighbor told us that someone else recently lost a dog, that it was just gone one day.  Someone else in the community told us a sickening rumor that some local punks were shooting "stray" dogs.  If I ever learned who these future serial killers might be....  I'm not sure I would be able to contain my needs for justice.

I keep hoping that he'll return home.  I miss my boy.

Update: Gelleon is home, safe, and healthy.  The story of his absence and return is complicated and unpleasant, however.  Thank you to everyone for the well wishes and positive thoughts!(image)



Hay storage

2010-05-09T20:11:24.428-05:00

I counted wrong, and will have to make another trip to the big box hardware store for more 1x4s to complete the project pictured.  Having goats and only 10 acres means handling hay, and since we don't own a tractor to move round bales easily (we do own a bale spike trailer, more on that in another blog post), we rely on "square" bales.  The bales aren't really square, technically, I guess they're a rectangular prism if I remember my elementary school geometry lesson.  If done right they're about 1 1/2' by 1 1/2' by 3' in length.  I say "right" because the length can vary based on the settings of the baler used.  With the dimensions I mentioned as "right" they'll stack nicely in layers running 90 degrees to the layer below it and squarely fit on top of each other.  In any case, having square bales means a proper place to store them.  What that has meant up until now is any dry location we could find (the old barn and the shop building) was game for storing hay.  We would throw pallets down and devise a way to keep the animals out and use that for hay storage.  The pallets served to keep the hay off the ground and allow some airflow under them.  Unfortunately it made for inefficient stacking as the ground we placed the pallets on was never level and no matter how hard we tried to stack them it was always a little haphazard especially after you started pulling some off the stack.That's where the project in the photo above comes in.  I've constructed this in the south west corner of our new barn, I'm calling it the hay deck.  It's positioned right next to the 10' wide door which should allow us to back the flat bed right in next to the hay deck for unloading and stacking.  If you've ever hauled hay you know that it's a dirty dusty business that no one enjoys.  In the past it would involve us throwing the bales off the trailer on the ground then picking them up and moving them to the stack.  With this set up it should make it less of a chore.  With a nice level surface we should be able to tightly stack 150 bales in this space.I think the hay deck will work pretty well and as an added benefit I finally get the entire shop as actual workshop space when the hay has it's final home.  I'm looking forward to that, as I've collected quite a set of tools (and the skills to use them) over the years.  I remember 9 or 10 years ago buying my first cordless drill (when I bought my first home).  I had no idea back then the path I would be on now. In today's project I made use of several of these tools including:tool belt - I use this on every project, I just load it up with the hand tools I'll be using on the project and it's always right with me.  I've blogged about my tool belt before.hammer3' levelline levelchalk linecordless drillair compressor - now that there is power in all the outbuildings, this is coming in real handy for: air nailer - it makes quick work of fastening things togetherimpact driver - I used it to drive 1/2" by 6" long lag bolts through the ledger board into the 6x6 posts of the barntri-vise lumber lok - I got this today and thought I would try it out, it indeed made on person board cutting much safer and effective.So far in the barn I've also wired up exterior lights but it still needs stalls, interior overhead lights, stall lights, and ultimately a concrete pad under a new feed room.  There's always plenty to do on the weekends,[...]



Less blogging, more doing

2010-05-02T22:39:44.324-05:00

When the weather gets nice it's hard for me to carve out time to write blog posts, but I know I'll be sorry if I don't attempt to document progress as we go along.  I took this photo from the deck while I relaxed for a brief moment.  The backfilling is complete though we still have a pile of excess sand.  The guy that was doing our dirt work said sand is too expensive just to spread around and I should try to find a use for it.  It just so happens I'll be building some walk way soon so I'll try to use it then.You can see the completed green house in the photo, our new goose-neck trailer for hauling goats around, the F350 for pulling said trailer and other trailers, the new barn, our trusty explorer, the pedal car, and one of our portable goat barns (that is still half-painted).The greenhouse is working great, we've sold quite a few heirloom tomato plants with an ad on craigslist.  The only thing I'm not happy with in the greenhouse is the thermostat.  It seems to turn the fans on at the right temperature but it will never shut them off even when the ambient temperature cools below the on point.  I think the amount of current that I am drawing through the thermostat is too much. It's a simple attic-fan thermostat and it seems to be generating it's own heat which throws off the measurement.  I need to find something better and soon.The horse trailer was a recent acquisition.  Jennifer did some trading and we got rid of a cargo trailer that we hadn't used for over a year.  Now we have our own trailer to haul the goats around and don't have to bother the neighbors.  The week Jennifer bought it she took 3 of our goats to a two-day goat show in Sedalia, MO.  She won three second place ribbons and one first place ribbon.  I hope to go with her in the near future to a show and help out.The barn now has it's sand floor and I've already started on the inside.  I wired up exterior lighting this weekend and this week (after work) I plan on sinking posts for the hay "deck."  We will use one corner of the barn to store hay but I don't want to mess with pallets to store the hay on and keep it off the ground so I'll build a deck of sorts to have a nice level surface to tightly pack square bales.  In another corner of the barn we'll pour a concrete pad for a feed room.  I also plan on visiting the habitat for humanity "reStore" to see if I can find some inexpensive lights to put to use in the barn.All and all there's quite a bit of progress shaping up.  I was telling a friend the other day that we finally have the infrastructure in place to make chores fast and projects easier...  Things like having power in all the outbuildings removes a huge psychological barrier for me such that I can get started and finish projects much quicker.[...]



Farmer's markets

2010-04-25T10:35:51.711-05:00

I created a little calendar widget that lists farmer's markets near me (or somewhere close to my daily weekday commute).  It looks like I can get fresh local food nearly every day of the week.  Sunday and Monday don't have a local market scheduled but having one every other day of the week should cut down on my excuses for not buying locally grown veggies (when we don't have our own) and locally raised meat.(image)



Food, Inc.

2010-04-21T22:21:30.482-05:00

Jennifer and I just caught the tail end of "Food, Inc" on PBS and she wanted (and I had already planned) to post about it.  There are some graphic scenes and some definite food for thought (pun unintended) on the state of our country's food supply.  Find this documentary and watch it.


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A link to buy it from Amazon:

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