Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Our Foul Little Farm, Dreaming of Chicken Dinners and a Barn Update

The above Monarch butterfly has nothing to do with this post. I'm just showing off because after a week of trying to get close enough for a photo the bugger finally let me close enough for this one today. It is amazing what these little cell phone cameras can do. I take all my photos on my Motorola Droid.

Now, onto birds. Our duck population blossomed nicely this summer. Several mama's hatched out babies and managed to keep them out of the pig pen where they can be quickly consumed as feathered hors d'oeuvres. I hate how much ducks poop but I love their gentle nature and good looks. We'll be decreasing the population dramatically when we sell thirty or so to a fellow who takes them up to China Town in Chicago to sell to the restaurant trade. He says they love muscovy the best and since he pays us by the pound, and the ducks are quite fat, we'll all have a bit of extra Christmas money soon. We'll also butcher a few for ourselves to supplement our freezer chicken.

 In the photo above the old decrepit house is on the left and the current milking shed for Liz is on the right. When our barn is completed, both of those buildings will disappear. Not overnight (I wish) but over time as we'll use good amounts of the wood floors in the decrepit house to build the loft floor in our new barn.

Speaking of which, we're making steady progress on this beast of a building. Keith took a few days of vacation time last week , as did our son Jason,  and so with a five day stretch of fairly unlimited time we were able to put up all the trusses. This week Keith plugged away at the rafters and supporting boards and very soon, we'll start attaching steel panels to the roof. The skeleton of the barn is nearly complete,

 Now, back to birds. Our chickens were also prolific this year gifting us with many new chicks. We'll sell older hens and roosters to the same guy buying our ducks and thus decrease our chicken populations by half or more. The timing is good because they all produce more eggs than we can eat or have room to freeze. Plus in just s few short weeks the flies will be dying off and we won't need so many birds for bug control.

The kiddie pool above is primarily a place for the ducks to splash but whenever I replace the water all the fowl get in on the act.  It's been very hot and dry here for several weeks as storms roll through and spit on us but leave very little real precipitation. It seems all I do is water livestock and then water them again.

 These are our broiler chicks above penned in with electric fencing. We started with 31 broiler chicks but we're down to 28. I think a hawk or two might have picked up the other three when they were quite small. Our Great Pyrenees  does an excellent job of warding off coyotes and hawks but she is only one guard dog. She can't be everywhere, she likes to reminds me.

We ate our last broiler from the 2016  group about 6 weeks ago, so we are dying for more pasture raised chicken. With the 28 we have that means we can have chicken every other week. We'd love to eat it more often but knew we wouldn't have the time to butcher that many this fall what with the barn building. We'll have to console ourselves with the pork that went to the locker 7 days ago and the beef that goes in in about three weeks.

Don't cry for us Argentina.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Looney Bin gets a New Coat for Winter

It's more of a pretty mini skirt in mint green, rather than a coat, but still it should keep us warm and hopefully drier.

Last year, perhaps because the winter was more wet than icy cold, we had an issue with condensation gathering around the base of our inside walls. At times it would creep about 12 inches across our concrete floors. We had not noticed the issue the winter before but we had deeper and longer freezing temps in the winter of 2015-16.

This condensation was ugly and although it did not ruin any of our drywall, it required regular wiping up. We had sealed the concrete but not painted it, which was good because the floor was in it's natural ugly state anyway, but we worried that too much moisture might evolve into a mold issue.

But summer came, the weather warmed up and in fact it has been very dry here, so no condensation issues for several months. But, winter is out there, and we needed to get busy on this issue again.

So we asked the opinions of several people, especially those who deal in concrete, and the conclusion was unanimous---no one was sure what the problem was. Nothing like a concensus, eh? So we contacted the folks who did all the inside insulation and asked their opinion. They suggested MORE insulation but on the outside of the looney bin.

You see, when we built this grain bin house, we were making it up as we went. Although there were tons of pictures on the internet and Pinterest, there was very little regarding actual grain bin home construction.   So per the suggestion of the folks who installed the grain bin for us, a deep foundation was dug and a concrete footer was poured. On the outside of the footer we placed two inches of thick foam as a barrier between the back filled earth and the concrete footer. See photo below.

But apparently we still needed more insulation over the edge of the footer that rests at ground level.
Yesterday Sealtite Corporation came and spray foamed a lovely green layer of additional insulation around the bottom of our Looney Bin. It is about 3 inches thick and goes 16in up from our foundation and 3-4 inches out from the bottom.

We could leave it as is...functional but ugly...instead, Keith is returning to the folks who installed the grain bin to get more steel from them to match the rest of the house. It will be curved so we'll run it around the base of the new insulation and built a wood cap or bench all the way around. Will make nice seating for visitors or place for flower boxes. 

This bench will also keep critters like ducks and chickens from picking at the insulation.
Pesky poultry!

Monday, September 4, 2017

The New Barn Reaches for the Sky

A three day weekend. What a blessing. Keith was home all three days and son Jason was also off from his job, so able to help. Sunday evening friend Jay came by and so by today-Monday-some very serious progress was made.

It's beginning to look like a barn!

Prior to starting on the trusses Keith shored up the walls with more purlins, constructed of old wood, new wood and gifted wood. Our oldest son is remodeling his home and gave us several 2 x 4's last week. When added to wood from the building we had dismantled, wood Keith had in storage and newly purchased wood we have a most eclectic building.

On Saturday we started on the roof trusses. Purchased new from Menards, 24 foot long at $103 each, they replace those destroyed when we hired help to take down the machine shed we purchased this past spring. While I lifted the trusses up high in the air, with a little help from a Kubota tractor, Keith and Jason maneuvered them in place with rope.

Ha, I say "rope". In reality they used hay twine because those two use it for everything. It's a miracle fiber they believe.

We did this the same way we put the posts in the ground, slid a long metal pole over the middle fork on the tractor hay spear and attached the truss by chains. Don't worry, I was not driving and taking photos at the same time, I was nervous enough just maneuvering that truss over the heads of two guys I loved very much.

I might also add when two of them were shouting directions to me at the same time, it got a little hairy. Or better yet, one is giving me hand signals while the other is yelling. The yelling was mandatory, the tractor is loud. The hand signals were optional and I'm still not sure they were all appropriate. Still, we got the job done and no one died. Goal met.

Once the truss was in place Keith or Jason would crawl up the side and nail it in place. We managed to get three trusses up on Sunday.

When Jay was able to work with us today he focused on the rafters between the trusses. He's an extremely height tolerate kind of guy. With Keith getting all the wood lined up and Jason cutting it to Jay's specifications, the three of them made short work of the days tasks.

I hid out in the kitchen making pear jam out of the box of pears Jay brought down from his place. And I made breakfast for everyone and lunch. I don't want you to think I was slacking off while the guys kept working. Around noon today they called me out to lift up the fourth truss but winds had picked up and it got a bit dicey as the truss floated forward, then back, then forward. We were all relieved when it was in place and nailed tight.

So tomorrow Keith is back to work at his off farm job, Jason goes back to the Angus farm he works at and Jay flies out of O'Hare for a two week vacation in Iceland and Copenhagen.

Me? I'll spend the day picking up the work site, pulling some nails, burning our wood pile, making bread  and just being the glamourous homesteader I am.