Saturday, March 24, 2012

Big Greenhouse Project

We wanted more land for vegetables, and we didn't want our tomatoes to get taken by the late blight again, so we settled on plowing up another 1/4 acre of garden, and putting up a 10 by 20 foot plastic greenhouse. The plowing meant we had to reroute the garden fence, which gave us a lot of additional space around the garden where we might walk or store machinery, a great luxury over the rather cramped space we'd used in the past. The greenhouse came in a box and cost around $410 including shipping, from It seems sturdy enough, but the plastic cover is not as translucent as perhaps it should be. We'll let you know how well it works. Back to work on Monday after a glorious spring break. What a blessing the weather has been for getting things done. But I'm exhausted after all this work. I need to go back to work for a rest.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The firewood chore -- done early!

We used only two cords of firewood this winter, which means we have two leftover, a first. Usually we have a little left over, but not this much. I made a third cord yesterday and today by cutting down an overgrown ash tree that was in the way of our big hoophouse project. It made nearly a cord, all by itself. So, if next winter is as mild as this one, we have more than enough firewood already. Climate change does have some benefits, although I'm not sure I'd want it to get warmer than this in March.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Springing into action

I haven't posted on here for nearly ten days but that's not because we haven't been busy with stuff.

On the contrary, the good weather has had us out and doing farm and garden chores that would ordinarily have to wait for April or May.

The first job every spring is to get the farm and yard equipment ready for service. I'm always pleased when the various engines fire up after the winter. We don't have enough inside storage for equipment and so some of our machines lie outside in the snow all winter, albeit "blanked off" with various pits of plastic sheeting and wotnot to keep out the worst of the weather.

Our Bolens yard tractor, which hauls a fairly large trailer around all summer long with loads of firewood, hay, fencing and tools for jobs remote from the workshed, was true to its reputation and started up first try.

But the Bolens had a flat, which needed a tube. The problem was, after getting the new tube in, the tire wouldn't seat well on the rim. In my misguided attempt to use more air to seat the bead, I managed to blow up the tire!

Luckily the explosion went sideways, or I maight have had part of my face ripped off by high pressure air and debris. The bang was loud enough to bring Aimee from the interior of the house, which is a rare event. She's become all too accustomed to strange husbandly noises emanating from the workshop.

To fix the problem, I took a long car ride to a fellow I know who has a large pile of yard machine tires, Mr. Trask in Corinth, Maine. Sure enough, he had two suitable ones, and I bought extra tubes as well. The new ones were designed for a slightly longer axle, so I had to drill out new holes for axle pins half an inch further out from the originals, but my "new" forty year old, fifty-dollar drill press (found at a yard sale last year) made short work of that.

It's so nice to have "proper" machine tools. One fine day, I hope one day to find a lathe and milling machine on sale somewhere too, and perhaps a small blacksmith's forge for castings.

The next picture is of a mouse hole found in the lid of my spare toolbox. This is a larger wheeled box made by Stanley, which is great for loading up lots of tools when you're working away from home, but not as convenient as the steel chest of drawers I keep on my workbench, and so it sits on the shelf much of the year.

As you can see, whatever tiny critter that was small enough to get through this hole also created this collection of dog food discards. The hole is only three-quarters or five-eighths of an inch wide, but there was at least three pounds of dog food in there.

Aimee hypothesized that this creature must have been doing so well on all the dog food that there came a time when it got so fat that it couldn't actually get through its hole any more.

So much for the fearsome reputation of Shenzhi-cat (seen here in the rafters), who regularly patrols the workshop. In her defense, she can't get in there during the nights and when we're not here, so the mice have a degree of freedom.

Finally, here's Aimee's new commercial venture, a display stand for yarn sales. This is going to be placed in our coffee shop and local food emporium, Crosstracks in Unity, where proprietor Monica will sell on commission.

We're hoping this outlet solves the problem of the Womerlippi "wool mountain."

This basket represents only about a tenth of the credit we have available at the mill. We take our fleece in regularly, but can't get through that much yarn ourselves. And shearing season will be on us again shortly, perhaps doubling our credit again, especially since our new ram "Bentley" is the size of three normal sheep.

At least no-one can complain that this surplus is the fault of farm subsidies. More than anything, I think it represents our fine ability to grow food and fiber, contrasted with our weak ability, and small amount of time, for marketing.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Wide loads

Our four pregnant ewes are approaching their "time."

Corriedales are large sheep, and when fully pregnant, seem about three feet wide to the rear.

In reality, it's only about two feet, but still, that's a pretty big rear end for a sheep.

(Do you think they would mind me commenting about their wide derrières on the Internet?)

They should drop these lambs towards the beginning of April, but the first could come as early as the twenty-first of March.

Of the several in the picture, Nellie (lying down in the foreground), and Molly (in the center rear) are the biggest, and spend a good part of their day just lying around. The weather has been warm lately, as high as 55 F during the day, so this has been nice for them.

Aimee and I are off work for spring break and when I'm not keeping a eye on sheep. I'm making the most of the time and good weather to get caught up with farm work, as well as household and vehicular maintenance. I have two cars to get through inspection and a third to take in to the shop for a timing belt.

I was very gratified, though, when our ancient Bolens lawn tractor fired up first time after three months of snow and ice. I'm also pleased that the newly welded frame of the Kubota tractor has withstood this season's snow plowing just fine.

Of such things, I find, is contentment made these days.

I guess I need to get a life.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ernie and Flame

We have a snow day. Yeah!

Having gained about four hour;s sleep that I badly needed, this is a good day for an update on our two new rescue dogs, Ernie and Flame.

Here's one of Aimee's pictures of Ernie and Flame. She has a bunch on her Facebook page. My own camera is so cheap, it isn't able to take good snaps of these guys. They move too fast, all I get is blur.

But in this case, they were relatively still for once.

Ernie is the more obedient of the two, which is not surprising. He was actually trained by his previous owners, and even came with a puppy school graduation certificate. Flame spend her previous life in a pen with two other dogs, one of which was a dangerous Rottweiler, and she doesn't have the same ability to pay attention to humans as Ernie does, although she has begun to learn her words "no", "sit", "go lie down" and of course her name. Training her seems easy enough and she seems to be picking it up.

Both are chewers of wood, and they've done a number on the paneling and trim around the inside of our porch. It will all need to be replaced, but not for a year or two until they've grown out of this chewing business. Until then we've smeared it all with that "bitter apple" stuff to prevent dog chewing.

They've also wrecked a couple of old pieces of porch furniture. Nothing important, just old junk that we kept on the porch to use occasionally -- mostly the old rocking chair that our friend Dianne found on the side of the ride years ago took the brunt. I think we got our money's worth out of it.

They are great friends and love to place chase and play fight, all day long if you'll let them. Now we have snow again, there's not so much scope for us to hang out outside with them, so they get to chase each other around when we take them for a walk. A walk to the brook and back is one big chasing game to them.

In the summer we can put the sheep fence up around the yard and let them run for hours on end.

They've been to the vet's numerous times for boosters and working and wotnot, and are both reported as thoroughly healthy.

Flame, the vet says, is a little cross-eyed, which makes sense because she does have this otherworldly kind of a look to her. It makes her seem quite intelligent because it's more of a human eye position than a normal dog's eye position. She is a very intelligent dog, and has all kinds of expressions and noises she makes when trying to communicate.

Ernie is less exceptional, but has a talent for moving sheep that is already apparent, and minds very well. He's definitely the more obedient one of the two.

In other news, Aimee received payment from the owner of the stupid dog that killed our chickens, the full amount she asked for. We know also know now who the dog belongs to. We're not going to say who, because there was at least an attempt at an apology letter in with the check, but we were still were left with the impression that the dog will be permitted to run again, which just isn't right. If this killer dog can't be kept under control it needs to be put down.

Then finally, there was a murder in our home town of Jackson, national news. Our college SAR team was called out to help with the search. A body was found in the neighboring town, off the same road where our bale house sits. The corpse was identified and a local man charged.