Sunday, June 25, 2017

Half a Barn is Better Than No Barn


The damage has been calculated and the guy we paid to tear down an old machine shed, has been compensated. He delivered about half a barn, after all the damage he did tearing it down, and so he was paid half ($1500) of what we had originally agreed ($3000).

Last week when he came by to have this final discussion, he still insisted that the five destroyed trusses, and all the bent metal roofing pieces could be repaired by us. When we pointed out the extensive damage, he then offered to SELL US more trusses he had in stock. No way you crazy old hoot you.

If he wasn't elderly and probably a bit loose in the synapses, we would've escorted him off our property with a boot or two. But, he was, so we didn't, and besides that part of the barn saga is over. We are moving on.

Unloading the last pile of roof pieces came on a hot day but I had the easy job of just moving the tractor around while Keith pushed pieces onto the tractor forks.








Then I would transport them to their assigned pile. The burn pile, the possibly can save pile and the this piece doesn't look too bad pile were the options. Here is a short clip of Keith pushing the bigger pieces off the trailer. He's on the tractor this time. I'm just the chick behind the cell phone.



Keith has since been going through each post, each 2 x 4, each truss, each piece of metal siding and recording how much usable material is left. The original machine shed before deconstruction measured 42 by 45 foot. We are hopeful what remains will be at least half that. The remaining half we will buy in new materials. But since new costs so much more than used, our barn will likely shrink in size.

We might use all the recycled materials to build the animal portion of the barn and add newer materials for the shop and storage portions. Or we'll use all the recycled materials for the barn walls and buy new for the roof. It's going to take a couple more days to develop a new plan.

The good news is, the county has given us our permit to build the barn and once we have nailed down the size and the exact site, we will call them so they can do their "pre-construction" inspection. Then there will be the "during- construction" inspection, the "post-construction" inspection and the occasional "we-were-just-in-the-neighborhood-and-dropped-by-to-annoy-you" inspection.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Clouds in My Coffee

Image result for carley simon and james taylor wedding picture





For years, when Carly Simon sang her song, "You're so Vain" I thought she was saying grounds in my coffee. That makes sense, right?  And I'd  sing it loudly that way, even though my sister Mary tried repeatedly to correct me, telling me it was clouds in my coffee. Turns out little sis was right.

Oh, you had me several years ago
When I was still naive
Well, you said that we made such a pretty pair
And that you would never leave
But you gave away the things you loved
And one of them was me
I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee
Clouds in my coffee, ...


Now, every time I see storm clouds in the sky, I hear this song, and my sister laughing at me. Which brings me to today's post about weather.  (You knew I'd get to the point eventually. Thanks for hanging in there.)

Weather. We are obsessed with it here. In fact, it is usually the first and last thing Keith and I talk to each other about each day. Even before I look out the window, I'll ask him what the forecast is. he'll tell me of rain predictions, heat indexes etc...We'll scoff at Accuweather, they are often wrong, but still our entire day is planned around the sky.

If it's going to get hot, we'll plan our outdoor projects for the morning hours and try to hide inside from the heat,  especially during the more brutal afternoons like we had last week. There we will do budgeting or bill paying, wash a dish or three.

If it's cool but dry, we skip all the indoor work and get as busy as we can outside. Right now we're focused on gardens and barn building.

If it's going to rain, we hustle to get livestock chores done, as pulling around hoses, carrying hay, slopping hogs, is  not so much fun in the mud and neither of us is keen about getting jolted by lightening.

Seems like we spend 80% of our day just looking at the sky. Like this afternoon when I was due to pick up a now thirteen year old granddaughter to take out for a birthday dinner. (It tugs at my heart that she is so old.) I checked the radar which hinted upcoming storms would go south, but the clouds said it was coming right at me.





So, do I try to get evening chores done early, while the world was still dry and be late picking up my GK? Or do I do them later and chance having to feed animals in the rain or hail or tornado or volcano?  Seriously, look at those clouds!  I decided later, I hate rushing through chores anyway.

On the way, a brief 12 mile trip, I noted deluges of rain hitting south of me. I loved how it was dropping in big bands.





On the way home the clouds were north. When I got back to The Poor Farm about 8:30, a lovely rainbow and enough light to get my work done. Not a drop of rain.



Really? What was I worried about?



And once again, Happy 13th birthday to our GK Allana Marie. Five years old on the left checking my face for I don't know what, and her again last week checking out new baby ducks. We do so love her!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The GOOD, but not the bad or the ugly.

Look at me posting two days in a row! Just who do I think I am?!? Motivated. I am motivated. To be more positive in my thinking. Sure, call it denial. Today, it's working for me.

Jenn, over at Coffee On the Porch With Me got my optimistic ball rolling by posting  some wonderful pictures of her garden recently. My old Blog buddy Cro often does this as well on his space, Magnons Meanderings, as does Kev at An English Homestead. Even Rain who has only a rental property to work with rocks it with her container gardening on her blog Rain's Garden.

For even more fantastic garden photos be sure to check out Two Men and a Little Farm (Thursdays! I love visiting him on Thursday!) and finally the amazing photographer behind A Brit in Tennessee. I wish I had her eye, her camera, her gardens.

They, and so many others I follow, have inspired me today to post some pleasant pictures of our Poor Farm instead of the usual barn rubble piles, cracked earth, clay bogged fields and other challenges. I think the recent rain has softened my brain as well as the soil. Here goes. No words, just garden photos all taken recently.  Have a fabulous day!






























Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Meaning of "Chores"

When I was ten, I had chores to do before we indulged in any fun stuff. In the evening there was a dog to be fed and supper dishes to either wash or dry. In the morning we made our beds and picked up our dirty clothes. On Saturdays, the tasks varied on whether or not dad was in one of his All-Men-On-Deck phases where he thought he'd help mom out by getting us kids to clean the whole house. He'd start us at about 7:30 am, assigning "KP Duty", bathroom tasks, floor mopping, etc...

By 9:00 am he'd lose his ambition or his temper, someone would get swatted, someone else would be crying and mom would kick us all out and clean up the big mess my father started.

Chores. What a hassle.

Now, my life revolves around farm chores. On a typical day our livestock chores consists of: milking two cows and washing up all the equipment, feeding and watering the cows, steers, horse, dogs, cats, pigs, ducks and chickens, plus the little things like collecting eggs, moving steers and horse and cows to new pastures, checking fences, and weed wacking under fences. If all goes well  it takes about two hours twice a day to get it all done.

In between livestock chores we have household and garden chores. But that's another post.

 Sometimes, having livestock chores to do is good. For example when we're at a particularly insipid event and we are more than ready to go. I wish we could stay, this is so much fun, but you know, we have chores to do. Sometimes having chores to do is not so good. Like when it's really cold, or wet, or like this week, super hot.

Today it hit 97 F. and the heat index was 105 F. There was virtually no breeze. Chores then take on a different focus, one of keeping livestock alive.

We worry most about our young stock like our ducklings and chicks.  With our pond almost dried up (we haven't had rain for over two weeks) we keep numerous pans and trays filled with water near the trees where these little guys hide out. Below, two of our grandchildren are checking on this feathered flock.



The three feeder pigs are also a concern as pigs don't sweat. I water them 4-5 times a day when it gets over 90 degrees, since they have a tendency to dump their water and bathe in it. I also fill a small water hole for them to get into but our well is only 100 feet deep so I have to be careful not to run it dry. I love our Red Wattles and their pretty auburn coats.



Pigs love to be sprayed with water as well.


The dogs find shade wherever and today our Great Pyrenees was struggling and panting heavily. She was not happy with me when I hosed her down as well, but a mad dog is better than a dead dog. Wait. Maybe not. Poor Old Yeller.


Image result for Old yeller the rapid dog

Mucca (on left) and Liz hide out under the apple trees and drink a ton of water on hot day. Like the nurse I am, I often watch them pee to make sure their urine is not too concentrated and that they are drinking enough...or rather than I am filling their rubber water tub enough. On hot days their milk production will also suffer.


Ennis, handles the heat well. Even with lots of shade trees to get under I'll see her at the end of her pasture rolling about in the dust. If she gets low on water she'll whinny at me when I come out of the Looney Bin. her feet get dry and cracked though so I'll get the area around her water tub, muddy, so while drinking with her mouth her hooves can soak up some moisture too.


These deep cracks in the earth demonstrate how far we have to go still in terms of returning organic material to our neglected soils. Healthy soils can withstand drought times supporting plant life that slows erosion. We figure another 3-4 years and our soils will be mostly there.


Our three remaining steers  are also old enough to handle heat as long as they too get regular refills of cold water. On our old farm where we had so many more livestock, we had automatic waterers. Now, with our stricter budget, the only automatic waterer we have...


is me and the old man.



POSTNOTE: An hour after writing this post, it started to rain here. Hallelujah!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A Lemon of a Barn



To the right, the original 1865 house we use for storage, in the middle is our current feed shed, and in the foreground is the first two loads of the old machine shed being organized into piles for the rebuild of the barn.


The Barn.

What we thought was such a great idea, find an old building for cheap, tear it down, build it back up, has turned out to be a real shambles of a mess.

The man we hired to dismantle the old machine shed down did a fine job the first two loads, then; he got tired, or lost interest, or saw a purple moon or something. Keith ended up helping with the third and fourth loads and the last two loads might have been better just dropped off at the local landfill.

Here's the gist. The walls of the building were deconstructed well, a few dings but that is certainly to be expected. The posts and framework remained intact. But when it came time to deliver those loads to us, this guy didn't have the staff, so Keith got involved with the hauling part. Then when it was time to remove the metal roofing, our guy lost his head. We weren't there. Instead of detaching the metal roofing sheets from the trusses and then dismantling the trusses themselves, he cut the 2 x 4's that held the trusses together, thus compromising the entire roof structure.  Entire pieces of the roof (still attached to the wooden trusses)  just fell to the ground. It's a miracle no one was hurt.

Yes, we did verify he had his own liability insurance before we hired him.

Even his own staff later told Keith, "we argued about him doing it this way but he wouldn't listen." When Keith arrived on the site after the damage was done, he was told by the man we hired, "Don't worry, you can patch up those trusses."




No. we will not. Many are shattered, splintered is the word I am looking for. The 2 x 4 's that held the trusses together have been cut through and the metal roof sheeting bent so badly in some areas, it cannot be straightened. We had agreed to pay $3000 for this task of dismantling the entire shed, and delivering it to us, but since Keith ended up pulling three trailers home loaded down without new building parts, and much of the roof has now been destroyed, we have so far only paid him $500.





After Keith and I pick through the last trailer full of eviscerated roof sections, we'll know how much we'll have to spend to replace those pieces. Then Keith and our guy, who won't ever be "our guy" again, will negotiate a fair wage for the work done...and not done. It is so frustrating, We needed to save money, we like giving business to local folks, we have worked with this gentleman before, but our ability to trust others is waning.

It is circumstances like this that send newbie homesteaders running and screaming, back to their rent controlled condos. But not these two seasoned live-off-the-land nut jobs. No, we're too dumb to know when to quit.

So, we have a couple options. Use some of the wall siding to replace the metal roof panels that were destroyed, leaving us with a much smaller building than we need, OR dig deeper into a rapidly dwindling savings and purchase the metal and wood we need to build a new roof.

We won't be able to make this decision until we unload the last trailer full of barn parts that were deposited in our yard last week. We're not looking forward to this task, afraid it might be even worse than it looks, but when done we'll at least know where we stand.

In the meantime my husband has done an amazing job of clearing all the wood from our felled elm trees so that now we have a spot to build the barn, or at least part of it!


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mud Room ,Finito

One more "to-do" has been marked off our list.  The mud room, aka Dermot Healy Hall, now has insulated and painted walls, a place to hang our chore clothes, room for muddy boots and a bench to park our keisters or to place stuff while we unlock our door. No more struggling to open a door while your arms are full and you're being pelted with rain, hail or snow. It's a grand new room indeed, quickly becoming my favorite room of the Looney Bin. Below is the before and after.




We built the mud room using the concrete pad already in place. Prior to this we had for the last year and a half, walked directly into our home with our cruddy boots, stinky chore clothes, hanging them just inside the door-in our living room essentially. When guest dropped by, this tiny entry area become even more crowded with shoes and coats.

After the framing was completed a few weeks ago, (with help of friend Jay) and the outside was covered with old (circa 1865) metal barn siding, we spent the next couple weeks working on the inside. The walls were insulated with batt insulation and then plywood was used for walls and ceiling. Keith also wired the little room for a single overhead light. Below you can see the outside of the grain bin to the right. We did splurge on a new window too.



One of our challenges was the area where the wavy round bin wall met the straight plywood wall. The gap between them was filled with spray foam but it of course it expands and looks like frosting being squeezed out of a Suzy Q. Then it gets hard.
 

Even after  removing the excess foam with a box cutter, it still looked ugly so we solved the problem with a narrow piece of trim we had kept from some project, sometime.
Jay had built a bench frame for me along the north wall and Keith pulled out a 15 inch wide piece of wood from our old barn in Chatsworth, built in approximately 1895.  It fit the bench very well and after several coats of thick lacquer it know lives on under our bums.




The multiple hatch marks on this piece of wood, we are speculating, might have been the area where chicken butchering was done. Or, it was a mean brother's way of keeping track of all the times he teased his sister . Go ahead, make up your story. I love good fiction.




I painted the walls a very light green, having picked the color with much deliberation, planning and research It was the only non horribly dark color on the Menard's paint clearance shelf. One gallon for $5. SOLD!





 The outside still needed work as the old metal barn siding (from this property's old barn, not our last property's old barn, in case you're suffering from a little barn confusion) had a fair amount of rust on a few pieces.

So we picked up a can of aluminum paint, which sadly I had to pay the full $20 for, and when Jay visited us again this past weekend, he and I made things all bright and silvery while Keith kept working on our felled Elm piles of wood.


 Neither Jay or I had ever used aluminum paint and that stuff was truly weird. On the top it looked like water does when spilled over gasoline, all swirly with different colors. On the bottom of the paint can was this thick goo we had to mix in. The aluminum paint went on like water but covered the rust really well. We used less than a fifth of that gallon so I plan to use the same stuff to paint the new (old) barn we are building this summer.
We had budgeted $1000 for this project and came in at $680, primarily because we used old barn siding to cover the outside instead of buying new. Our biggest single expense was the metal and glass door for about $200. I like the urban feel it gives this very rural home. You can take the girl out of Chicago but, you know the rest.