Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sometimes we get overwhelmed

It was a whirlwind of a week.

At one point we had two separate sets of tradesmen, grandparents, AND a strange dog at the house.

Moments like that, some of us seek high ground.
Sunshine and Buster

It was hard to keep track of all the comings...

...and goings.

Everyone's gone for now. 

We're gonna rest a bit and then I'll post some updates. It was exciting, if exhausting.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Goodbye and good riddance

I love our old barn. I hold great, unspoken hopes for what it may become some day in the fuzzy, distant, uncertain future of this place. In the meantime I enjoy simply looking and daydreaming about it. And photographing it. Lots of photographs. Some of which I've posted before. 

What you may not have noticed is that I've never shown all four sides. There's a reason for that. One side was a mess. A two-story shed across the entire southern side had collapsed in recent years, exposing the hay mow and creating a ruin. An insurance-cancelling, disaster-in-waiting, heap-of-a-wreck.

The cleanup and rehabilitation began today. We didn't get far, because of the rain, but we got far enough to finally show some pictures. More will come with time, but don't anybody hold their breathe.


Winter 2012-2013

Winter 2012-2013

Spring 2013

Last week, Summer 2013


Today, July23, 2013

Today, July 23, 2013, in the rain

Inside the hay mow, looking out.

The timbers

Ta da.  

Friday, July 19, 2013


I should have known last summer, our first on the farm, was not typical. Now I'm guessing that the drought last year kept alot of the plant life at bay. This year, volunteers are popping up all over. Some of it I recognize -- the black walnuts, the locust trees, the maples. Some of it, not so much. Once I figured out what the vine on the lawnmower shed was, I realized we have wild grape vines everywhere. I had no idea these things grow invasively, but apparently they do. One is, in fact, growing up and over a tree just like kudzu. I'm waiting on pins and needles to see what the grapes are like.

Morning glories popped up in the front yard. I thought those things self-sow, so I'm surprised they survived after skipping a year. Little marigold-like flowers showed up in the perennial bed next to the cone flowers.

And this thing showed up under a mulberry tree out back.

I have no idea what it is. Does anyone know? I'm surprised to see a volunteer bulb appear in the middle of nowhere. The neighborhood is filled with naturalized tiger lilies, but this is not one of them.

Of course, the sunflowers that I planted deliberately?

Not a single one germinated.   :-)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Enough with the chickens already

Even I'm a little surprised at my fascination with the chickens. We've got photogenic ponies, rambunctious goats, and adorable lambs, and yet I stalk the chickens all day long. What's up with that?

For seven nights in a row now, Whitney has led Thing 1 and Thing 2 far up into the fir tree at dusk to roost. For seven nights in a row, I have gone out at dusk and brought them down. At first I had to physically pick up one of the babies and carry it to the coop. The baby would scream (well, peep REALLY loudly), Whitney would scramble after us, and the other baby would stumble desperately along behind. Now I just announce my presence and Whitney hops down with the little ones in tow. They toddle over to the coop and climb in. It's all very civilized. Previously, they've gone straight to the nesting box, but tonight Whitney tried to get them to roost inside. Here they are, just before they called it a no go and headed back to the nesting box.

Since I had the camera out I thought I'd try to get some shots of the lambs. They've gotten BIG. I let them out into the aisle of the barn every night while I feed and they follow me around like puppies. They won't go outside to eat grass though. Strange. In any case, my batteries died before I got to the lambs. All I got were these shots of the goats all lined up for dinner. Two months since shearing and LOOK at their fleeces. They sparkle. My goats SPARKLE. Can't beat that.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Where the wild things are

Whitney forgot she was a domesticated bird with cushy, indoor sleeping accommodations. How exactly did she get two little ones to a roost six feet off the ground?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Final tally

In the end, Whitney successfully hatched just the two chicks. Out of 20-25 eggs altogether, give or take. On the last day of her incarceration incubation period (the 22nd day after I shut her in to stop the ongoing egg shuffle), she still had six unhatched eggs. Over the three weeks she had gradually abandoned the rest and I had removed them.

There was one interesting fact about the six remaining eggs. Whitney herself is a brown egg layer. Five of the final six eggs were brown. Big deal, right? Well, actually she started out with about twice as many blue/green eggs as brown ones. To end up with a five to one ratio the other direction means she must have been systematically rejecting the blue and green eggs and keeping only the brown ones. Did she 'know' that the blue and green ones weren't hers? Seems so. Or maybe she just thought the brown ones were prettier. ;)

I think the rejection happened during turning. The nest box was big enough that occasionally, when she turned the eggs, she actually moved the whole clutch over six inches or so. Gradually, as she repeated this, the blue eggs would get left behind, cold and untouched at the fringes. Last week I started throwing out the abandoned ones. Finally, she was down to just brown ones.

Even so, by the end, her desire to sit was gone. She was interested only in the two live chicks. Starting around day 18 or 19, she clearly wanted to be up and out with the new chicks. I kept her barricaded in the nest area the full three weeks just to be sure. No more luck. So on day 22, I threw out the last of the eggs and there ended our first home hatching experience.

Whitney's devoted to the two she hatched -- even the one from the green egg. :)  She clucks and calls and teaches them to hunt for food. Good job Whitney.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Shed conversion continued

I was so inspired by the barn transformation pulled off over at Squash Blossom Farm, that I spent yesterday morning following suit.

Yeah yeah, our barn is smaller, dirtier, shakier, more rotten, and filled with only a tiny thimbleful of the potential of their barn. I know.

So this is the poor man's version.

Let the sun shine in, I say.

Here's where we started. (Believe it or not, a lot of junk had already been moved out before I thought to take a picture.)

After the clean out.

After removing most of the siding yesterday.

I'm leaning towards replacing the south wall (on the right of pic) and the east wall (straight ahead) with clear acrylic panels. The west wall, where I'm standing to take the picture, faces the house and the street and will be left as is.

In the meantime, a few more challenges were discovered...

Notice the dark, oblong-shaped spot in the middle of the floor above? That's where my foot punched straight through the dirt floor into a huge underground cavern an old animal burrow and I squealed like a little girl. It also explains why the dirt is so uneven in there. I've never seen any openings to this burrow, or any ground-dwelling animals using this barn, so I'm assuming it's long abandoned. The guy doing the concrete will solve this problem when he grades the floor (one hopes.)

There's also a fair amount of decay on the outside of the girders that sat just under the old window openings. Gross. I'll look into some way to clean and preserve the old wood, but it may have to be replaced. The pieces are remarkably strong though and they aren't load bearing, so we'll see. 

Here's the view from the back. When I'm not busy being appalled by my wanton destructiveness, I'm pretty excited. This may turn out too nice for chickens.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Old farm surprises

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work needed to turn this old farmstead around. So much junk. So many decrepit outbuildings. So

On a good day (like the day I bought it ;-/  ), I see mostly the potential. On a bad day, I see just the decay.

Some days I feel like I'm making progress. Small, incremental victories. Other days I am sure I can hear mother nature laughing.

So, lately, I've been working hard on a little patio next to the house. Just someplace simple to put a table and chairs, so we can sit outside away from the bugs and the dirt. It's backbreaking work. I'll do a whole post on it when it's done -- soon. Anyway, part of the effort has been spent collecting old bricks from around the property and hauling them to the patio site. About half the bricks came from a pile stacked -- long long ago -- next to the lawnmower shed. There is a cement pad along the south facing, outside wall of this shed that was used by previous owners to cache building and fencing materials like bricks, cement blocks, t-posts, roles of field wire, old kennel panels, and god knows what else. I've been chipping away at it for awhile. If I think I can use some of the materials, I do. I've used a 200 ft roll of woven wire, some t-posts, and now the bricks.

It can be challenging to pull things out of the pile because of the vegetation that has crept in over the years. One vine in particular completely engulfed the pile and the side of the shed last summer to the point that nothing underneath was accessible. The vine reminded me of kudzu -- that invasive vine in the South that swallows whole trees and buildings and anything else that doesn't move. In the fall, when the leaves fell off, I made a half-hearted attempt to hack the vine back so that I could reach things, but some of the vine was inaccessible because of its growth under and behind this huge stack of materials that I hadn't yet started to remove. A catch-22 of sorts. I did the best I could. I cut as many of the main trunk branches as I could reach. Pulled out lots and lots of branches.

Here is the shed two summers ago.

Here it is in March, after I had done much cutting. 

Still, I knew I didn't get it all. 

Here it was when I went out to gather bricks for the patio recently. 

This is what a warm, wet summer will get you. See the resemblance to kudzu? To say I was bummed would be an understatement.

And then I saw this. 

And this.

Holy moly. 

I am positive there was none of this going on last year. 

It never once occurred to me that this might be a grapevine, but a grapevine it is. A huge, beautiful, fully matured, producing grapevine. 

It seems the hacking pruning I did last year, brought it into fruit this year. I have ALWAYS wanted a producing grapevine, but never lived anywhere long enough to pull it off. I've even planted vines in pots and carried them with me from house to house. 

Never have I produced a single grape. 

Until now. 

There are no words to express how thrilled I am about this grapevine. 

So today is day of potential. :)