Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Project Barn Again Begins.

Yes, it's ours, all ours, as soon as we write the check for $1000 and mail it to the farm manger, then...it's ours. Details, details, they will be the death of me.

A couple days ago the farm manger of the land where our new building-to-be sits, called us to confirm we could have it. The tenant farmers have already moved out their items stored in there and the crew we've hired to dismantle it have submitted all their liability insurance paperwork, to the farm manager. They will begin the week of May 1 (next week!) and expect it will take 3-4 days to move all the pieces her to The Poor Farm.

So, now I have to contact the zoning and building commissioner of our county to get all the necessary permits rolling. Prior to the buildings arrival we must have two very large Elm trees removed as they sit in the spot we plan to place our new used barn/milk house. it wasn't an easy decision to make the cut with these trees, original to the property and most likely over 100 years but they are in tough shape and need to go. Lots of dead limbs. If we don't remove them then the new used building is that much farther away from electrical poles; more distance equals more money for running new lines.

The tree guy came out Sunday, gave us a reasonable estimate and he'll start that job this Sunday or next he says. In addition we've stored many other items in this area and it'll all have to be relocated before the tree limbs start falling. After they are felled,  Keith and I will use a chain saw on the bigger limbs, setting aside some for next years rocket mass stove use, and then rent a chipper for disposal of the rest. Yeah, more mulch!

To fill in some of the down time...I'm just going to let those two words down time...sit there a bit. They make me laugh to say them out loud.

Ok, I'm over myself. To make good use of our time before the BIG building project gets rolling, our friend Jay-you remember him right? Last spring he helped built our grape arbor/morning glory arbor and compost bin.

Anyway he's coming this Saturday to help us build our first tiny looney bin addition, a mud room. yes, this means another building permit. Oh joy.

The mud room will be constructed over the 6' by 7' by 8' concrete pad at our entrance door. All winter we tracked in mud and snow and dirt and had to step over our dirty muck boots and hang our crappy chore clothes in plain view and smell of guests. What a hassle. So with the money I won from the Dermot Healy Poetry Award last summer, we are building a mud room, or in non-homesteading terms, an enclosed front porch. It will be called...

The Dermot Healy Hall of course, I'm planning a hand painted sign, because in my opinion; a well built mud room with multiple coat hooks, a place for your manure trimmed boots and shoes and a bench for your keaster, is about as poetic as it gets.

In other news...the steers (all four of them) were put out on pasture, and our feed costs begin to go down. Ah, spring!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Milk House/Barn Update...Fingers Crossed

A few weeks ago I spoke of our plan for a milk house built of tires (shot down by Illinois EPA, for now) and our subsequent search for an old building we could move here. We found one we liked, standing out in her field...

but the gentleman who agreed to move it for us, gave us a $5000 price since it was so wide and over 9 miles from our farm. If we spent that much to move her there would be little left over for concrete, a small service door, some windows, etc...So, we sadly gave up on her. I have no idea why she is a she, she just is. We looked instead at a smaller building owned by a church.

The price was right, free, but the poor fellow had rotten feet and a rickety interior which likely, even though he was more compact at 25 x 25 feet, would not survive the move. After that we hit the Menards page and designed a building out of new materials. We played with door types, post thicknesses and colors but bottom line for their "economy" building at 25 x 40 feet was about $7000. And, we'd still have to pay delivery charges and put the building up ourselves.

Then one of you smart folks commented that maybe we could hire someone to take down the first building and move it. Keith thought of just such a guy we know, we bought all our salvaged wood from him for the Looney Bins beams and floors, and approached him. Sure enough he was willing to get a crew together to do that, dismantle the building and move it on a large trailer.

So back to the tenant farmer who farms around building number one, who turned us over to the farm manager. Said farm manager thought it was a good idea and took our offer of $1000 for the large 42 x 46 foot machine shed/barn. He still has to get approval from the elderly owner of the property, but he didn't think it would be a problem.

So it looks like maybe, possibly, probably we'll have a milk house/barn/machine shed. If we pay a total of $3500 to get it here to The Poor Farm, we'll still have enough money left to build a small room within the building complete with a concrete pad where we can keep our deep freezers and our milking equipment.

Thus instead of keeping all the milking equipment and buckets on a wheeled rack in our shower, it can be stored in the new (old) building. And instead of going into the icky shack house to get dinner out of our deep freezers, we can just grab something after we're done milking the cow. In addition the current cow shed, the steer shed, the livestock trailer shelter for my horse, the hay and straw in the feed shed, can all be relocated to the new barn. How flippin' convenient will that be?!?!

Now, I'm dreaming about layout planning for the new (old) building and paint colors, (that rust needs to be treated), and door sizes and loft storage and an area for a big band to play every Saturday night at our barn dances...

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Best Mulch is Free Mulch

On our to-do list sometime this summer; order a couple dump truck loads of mulch and spread it around the Looney Bin, a real mud pit with all the spring rains. But, at $150 per load we wanted to wait until we knew what were doing what our new milk house/barn. Mulch would come after we knew what expenses would be needed for that bigger project, which is still up in the air right now. More on that in a couple days.

In the meantime, on the way home Tuesday from--heck if I can remember-- we saw some tree trimmers working near us. They were cutting down the tree limbs that get too close to the power lines. Connected to their truck was a large wood chipper, so they can clean up their debris as they go. Keith asked them what they do with the wood mulch and they were quite happy to leave a huge hill of the stuff at our place for NO CHARGE.

A couple hours later they did just that and we rewarded them with several pounds of our grass fed beef. We're hoping they'll bring us more mulch the next time they're in the neighborhood. Now if we can only find a source for free gravel...

With rain coming again today, we got very busy yesterday and managed to redistribute our mulch wealth over a couple of hours of time. Keith would fill the tractor bucket with mulch and then dump it into our two wheelbarrows (his is the manly rust covered thing, mine is the wussy women's model).

before spreading though, we had to move the bales of straw we used to add extra insulation around the outside. The spring rains had made them very wet and heavy so Keith used our best dolly. We'' use the partially decomposing straw in our gardens, to mulch those beds. Some of the wet hay was used as a border to keep the new mulch from sliding down the slope leading away from our Looney Bin foundation.

Keep in mind, the free mulch is not like the colored and neatly chopped stuff you buy in bags at Menards or your local gas station. Instead this mulch comes from a variety of tree species so it's quite coarse and of varying colors, but it smelled fantastic. All woodsy you know.

We had enough to completely cover the south side of the looney Bin, the path to our outdoor seating area and to make another wide path extending from the end of our sidewalk towards our car park area.

Since spreading it I have evened up the edges of the walkway somewhat, but this farm is far from manicured in its looks to begin with. Most of what we do here is for the pure functionality of it. (That's my rationalization and I'm sticking to it!)

Later, after Keith left for work, I continued on the tractor and got even more of the wide pathway completed. You''ll note by the deep tractor bucket "skid marks" that I am not near-no way, no how-as talented as my husband when it comes to using that hulking bucket. It goes up when I think I moving it down and it dumps everything out when I swear I'm moving all the right levels to make it scoop up things.

Still, we made a mighty dent in the mulch pile. Thanks again tree trimming guys!

Monday, April 10, 2017

1950's ClotheslineTakes Root

First another comment about the lack of comments on this blog. Rest assured, I have seen everyone's comments. I have enjoyed them and diligently published them, one at a time in order to decrease the spam I was getting. It was working great and then today I noticed that ALL comments from this blog have been removed on my last five posts. Not by me.


So, another hour of research later (it seems this has been a recurring blogger issue), more fiddling with my settings, and we'll see how it goes. Please hang in here with me. I am seeing and loving your comments, I just can't get them to stick on my blog! So after reading todays post please comment and we'll see how it goes. Gracie!

Meanwhile, back at The Poor Farm...the 1950's have made a grand appearance in my small back yard, in the form of vintage ceramic power line insulators disguised as clothesline holders.

For the last two years we've had our clothesline several hundred feet away from the grain bin house since originally we had placed it close to the dinky camper we lived in the summer of 2015. When we sold the camper last summer, we just left the clothesline where it was, tied around three trees, as building a real clothesline closer to the Looney Bin, was not high on the priority list. But after we moved my writing studio in the spot where the camper was parked, the clothesline became more of an eyesore for me down there. Plus there was the hike across the yard, carrying wet laundry, that got old.

Last week with a few sunny days in the midst of lots of rain, Keith built and installed a fabulous new clothesline just a few feet from our door, but around back of the bin. Seeing the laundry out my kitchen window helps me to remember to take it in. He used all salvaged materials of course. The posts came from my sister Teresa when they dismantled their horse fencing, while on hand, Keith had all the bolts and screws needed as well as these very old ceramic insulators. Neither of us could recall where we had gotten them.

He's rigged the clothesline in such a way that the posts can be pulled back as the ground settles and the posts need to be realigned. I now have three shorter lines, about 25 feet long each which gives me enough to hang two loads of laundry out at one time. I'll paint them soon, to make the wood last longer. I might even plant some morning glories at the base of the posts, but don't tell Keith. he thinks they are nothing but invasive weeds, while I find them absolutely charming.

 Our next task will be getting a couple dump truck loads of mulch to go around the outside of the Looney Bin as it is mostly bare dirt there, which is no big deal until it rains.  It has rained often lately. So the dirt path has become a muddy mess.

Still, I am super happy with my new clothesline! Yesterday one of my sisters offered me an electric dryer as they were getting new ones and I have to say, it was easy to say no thank you. Two years of no dryer and we're getting along fine. Funny how the longer you go without something, the less you miss it. Sadly, this doesn't apply to people. Seems the longer my deceased family members are gone the MORE I miss them.

This just proves, people outrank appliances, in case you didn't know that already.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Piglet and His Two Friends Have Arrived.

For over a decade Keith and I raised our own hogs from farrow (birth) to finish (self explanatory). We focused on the Red Wattle hog which was, at that time, a critically endangered breed. We worked hard within our own breeding lines, to raise quality meat and breeding stock. When we sold the Chatsworth Farm we sold all our Red Wattle stock as well and now the breed is only considered "threatened" which means their numbers are continuing to grow.

Now, we only raise a few hogs for ourselves and a couple other select folk, aka relatives, over the summer months. This handsome group of three came from stock we sold to another small farmer in Illinois two years ago.  It's good to see some familiar faces! Both in the hog and in the farmer. We brought these three home two weeks ago. They were eight weeks old then. A healthy group, raised with great care, we know they'll grow fast.

For the first couple weeks on The Poor Farm they have a small, cozy hutch and a little fenced in yard. Along the back of their paddock is a hot wire which trains them to electric fence so that by the time we turn them out into their big pasture, around mid-April-they will hopefully have learned to respect  our electric fences.

It's a theory anyway.

Every year at least one bozo goes THROUGH the electric fence instead of backing up when he gets shocked, and there is a bit of hog Olympics that follows. We chase them, they run, we chase some more and they run some more and eventually someone gets tired and goes home. Sometimes it's them, sometimes it's us.

They will be raised on organic corn and raw milk from our cow. In addition they'll have lots of room to run, rut and roam, to be real pigs not more pork on the hoof crammed into a concrete-floored confinement building.  When it gets hot we'll flood certain areas of the pasture for them so they can  take frequent baths. Pigs can't sweat (so stop saying you sweat like a pig cause they don't and you can't) thus it's important to keep them cool in the heat of the summer. The mud also keeps their skin moist and helps suffocate ticks or other bugs they may be hitching a ride on their hides.

We won't name these guys other than calling them pork chop or sausage butt. We learned years ago not to build long lasting relationships with those who will not be...long lasting.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Milk House and Family Cemetery Updates

Well now, life is looking up. After months of frustrating issues here on The Poor Farm, we've had a bit of sunshine. Literally. All week it rained and now it's sunny.

In addition, I did "take my man out" to see the building we were interested in. It rained of course but we slogged through the field anyway. Measuring 42 by 46 feet it is a size that would work very well for us but alas, poor Yorick, it may be too big for our mover.

So we are considering:
     Looking for another mover with bigger equipment (in this situation size does matter).
     Looking for someone who can split the building in half and move it in two sections.
     Looking for a another building

We both liked this building though. It's sturdy, well made and with enough rust to fit in well with our "motif" we've got going on here. The inside is roomy enough to build a short loft, maybe 5 foot high which would give us additional storage room. The current floor is dirt so won't be hard to dislodge it. Inside the construction is strong and the wood trusses, beams and posts are in good shape. She has some external bangs and dings but all of us born in the 50's suffer the same.

I really like this old gal.  I'll let you know what we decide.

On the Family Cemetery Side...
     I received a call yesterday from our county coroner. I had called him first last fall when we started down this ashes to ashes road. Very nice man who had called IDPH (better him than me) and then spoke with several other coroners as well. His conclusion was this, "There is nothing precluding you from doing this." He did advise me to work with our county zoning office which I've been trying to do for months, still no answer from the man in charge of that department, and to be sure and register that particular piece of our property with the woman who records such. As he stated so adeptly, "You don't just want anyone digging you folks up."

Well, if I'm dead, I don't suppose I'll care, but if the grandkids are out playing in the yard...

Soon, Keith and I will mark off that area of our property and I will start looking for an antique metal fence to put around it, or we'll just use wood pallets. All depends on what kind of mood I'm in that day. These two examples below are on ebay. Love them both.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Finding Dory, and a Decent Sized Outbuilding to Keep Her in.


As you all know, building a milk house/storage building out of tires is a no-go this spring. Thanks again Illinois EPA, you're a peach.

Instead we are driving about the area in search of a building we can move here. We considered another grain bin but framing this one in with all it's round walls was no picnic, and design wise, a boring old rectangular building will meet our needs best.

We have found a farmer who has agreed to move the building for us, once we find it, provided it does not interfere with his planting schedule. Thus if we can't find an appropriate structure soon, the move will have to wait till May. Not the end of the world, but the sooner we can get a building here, the more time we'll have to finish the inside, make repairs, paint etc...We are after all on a tight budget and expect whatever building we can afford will be a fixer-upper, which we can handle. It just has to be sturdy enough to move and in better shape than the old beauty above.

The good news is this, we may have found a building already! We noticed it sitting out in a field awhile back, located about 12 miles from us, and it appears perfect...from a distance. All metal (with a good amount of age appropriate rust) it looks quite sturdy and able to be moved. Since it is surrounded by fields, all the way up to its walls, it seems unlikely it's being used for storage, and its removal would be more land for the farmer to plow. Today Keith located the field in our Plat Map book and the phone calling began.

I started with a gentleman who sold us some doors two years ago, he lived about a mile away from said building. Yes, he did know who was farming that land and gave me a name and phone number but before you go, he said, how did those doors work out for you? I explained they were still in storage at our daughter's house, that we'd use them for a bigger house we might build one day. The tire house? he asked. And off we went for 10 minutes about THAT topic.

Eventually I was able to hang up and contact the man who farmed the land around the building in question. That man's wife answered and it took awhile for her to understand the nature of my call. Eventually she gave me her husbands cell phone number...which I called. He answered but was more suspicious than his wife. Yet, after I mentioned some other farmers we know and he mentioned some he knew and we finally landed on a couple we both knew-whew-he decided I was legit.

He admitted they were not using the building and the owner of the land was not using the building and maybe it could be sold. What do you think a building like that is worth? He asked. I suggested Keith and I take a look inside and then maybe we could agree on something. You do that, he said, you take your man out there, then call me, then I'll call the farm manager and then we'll just see.

"We'll see",  he said. Now, if that isn't a done deal, I don't know what is.

P.S. Blogger and I continue to struggle. Due to a huge influx of spam the last month or so getting past my block settings, I went into comment moderation mode. But while rereading comments made on last two posts, and then approving them and commenting on them myself, they suddenly disappeared. PLEASE KEEP MAKING COMMENTS, I'll get this blogger issue fixed I promise.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Milk House Update

THIS ?                                                                    OR THIS?       (makingthishome.com)

First, my apologies for such infrequent blogging again. I know some of you find it nearly impossible to get on with your own lives without knowing what's going on with mine. I'll get better...or I won't. I'm also had these annoying Blogger issues with many more spam comments being made now, than in the last 7 years I've been blogging. What a mess. You would think for all I pay Blogger for this blog...oh yeah, it's free...never mind.

So, an update on our milk house project, the building we hoped to construct with the used tires left on The Poor Farm, so they would not end up in a land fill like the millions of tires already there.  The new building we'd  use for cleaning and storing our milking equipment, for storage of our chest freezers (currently in the 1865 shack house on the property) and for a root cellar area to store all our canned goods, potatoes, apples  and onions. The building we could use in part as a green house for earlier garden starts and extended garden growth.

Yes, THAT building.

Well, after completing the seven page BUD (Benefit Use Determination) application for the Illinois EPA (environmental protection agency) and mailing it in and waiting and waiting and emailing and leaving voicemail messages, and waiting for a response, we finally got one.

They said no.

Actually what they said was, the project was being denied because we did not get an engineer to sign off on it. When I explained again how small the project was, how it was for our own use, how all we wanted to do was convert some of the tires left here into a useable, attractive, inexpensive, ecologically friendly storage building, they responded:

Even if you are only building a dog house with those tires you need to involve an engineer.

Once again our state government demonstrates their common sense approach to all things slightly unusual. Rather than allow us to do something productive with the rubber circles on our property, rather than accept the internet searching I submitted about the benefits of building with these materials, they want us to pay an engineer at approximately $100-$300 an hour to tell them the same information.

Also, the gentleman who called me with the BUD application denial information, made it very clear they had ninety days to approve or disapprove an application, implying of course, that our proposed project, if ever approved, might not get the go ahead for several months.

So much for our budget, (which was only $5000 to begin with) so much for our time frame of building the milk house this summer, and so much for common sense. But, as good homesteaders will often do, we've rolled out plan B. As it evolves, I'll tell you about it and don't worry about the plans for using the tires, we're not giving up, we're just reworking our plans for initiation next summer instead of this summer.

We're thinking of building a church with those tires, claiming religious immunity from overreaching rules and regulations. If it's good enough for Mel Gibson it's good enough for me.

Before I go, a couple other fun tire facts for Illinois. You can only haul or transport nineteen tires at one time without a license to do so. Thus if you are hauling TWENTY tires to your grandkids house for a playground project you better do it late at night, take the back roads, wear a red wig, and drive with your lights off.

Also, you can only keep fifty or less tires on your property without a tire storage permit. If you have fifty-one tires you must have the storage permit which requires you to keep them all covered and/or inside of a building, because we all know that forty nine tires harboring mosquitoes is so much better than fifty. Which all begs the question, if Illinois EPA would allow us to build our building, where all the tires would be filled with dirt and NO mosquitoes could breed in them, wouldn't the tire storage issue solve itself?

Finally, I discovered this little number on the internet and I had to wonder, what engineer signed off on that and how could I get his number? Oh wait, this is probably an California design not an Illinois one.