Saturday, December 20, 2008

Welcome Biggie Smalls

I'm fighting through a cold as well as a really wierd change to my normal routine that could best be summed up as a winter hibernation.  On a normal evening after the kids are asleep, I spend a lot of time in my shop puttering, exercising, fixing things, etc.  Lately, I have found myself watching more TV, reading more books, and feeling a bit hesitant to spend much time outside.  Why do you care about this?  I'm not sure, but it has affected my blogging too, and I seem to posting much less often.  


These days, I am:
  • Finally digging into the hay storage that was built up over the summer.   We had 3 large round bales and about 100 small "square" bales.  The goats are going through about 3 bales a week (supplemented by ground corn and a ultra-high-protein feed mix.  The cows are mostly gnawing down the round bales and grazing.  The grazing is pretty poor at this time of year, but they do seem to be finding something in the grasses because they keep doing it.  I figure the round bales are not going to last until spring.  That means more trips over to my buddy Tyson's house and adventures loading 1,000 lb+ round bales onto a trailer by hand.
  • Working in short spurts on finishing up (or starting new) projects around the house.  We made some progress on finishing our wood floors a while back, but were stopped by the threat of a water leak under the rear door due to a blown threshold seal.  Today I installed a new threshold and replaced some rotted wood - that should get us to the point we can get back on flooring installation without fear that it will be ruined by rainwater leakage.  Jessica put what should be very close to the last coat of varnish on our new front door.
  • Not fishing - Josh and I were planning to dip a line today for the first time in quite a while, but the weather (which was supposed to leave us with a 72 degree high today before the winds brought in another round of freezing temps) changed sooner than predicted and it was pretty dern cold by around 2 or 3.
  • Messing around with a pot-bellied pig.  I never thought I would say that...it wasn't really part of the plan for us to have a pig on the farm just yet - we thought maybe some day in the future, but there was a free one on craigslist and Josh picked it up for us today.  I hope he writes a blog post about getting the pig because it appears it was a bit of an adventure and I won't spoil it for him if he does decide to write about it, but I will say that it sounds like the pig rode the majority of the way from Flower Mound, TX to Leonard, TX in his lap.  What are we going to do with a pig?  Well, I guess they aren't much good to anyone except for eating right?  He is currently about 60 or 70 lbs or so.  I figure it like this - if he is very well-behaved and fits in nicely with the goats and doesn't cause any mischief (like breaking into the chicken coop, digging under fences, rooting up our bushes, etc.) then he may make it to be a 300 lb hog before he meets his maker.  However, if he starts getting pushy, or starts causing problems with the goats, he may find himself on the sharp end of a roasting stick sooner rather than later - which would be unfortunate since he seems to be a very nice pig.  In fact, I am told that he is potty-trained for home living and "scratches" at the back door when he is ready to be let out to take care of his "business."  As Charlotte would say, that is "some pig." Eh?  We call him Biggy Smalls in duplicite honor to the the "chunky" rapper (whom the pig resembles) and because in dutch a small pig is a "pigitchuh" where the "pig" part represents a pig and the "itchuh" part represents a small size.  Therefore, the dutch word actually could be translated to Piggy Small.
  • Sleeping under 2 quilts and a sleeping bag.  (Jessica is keeping the house around 60 degrees or so to save on the heating bills.)  I also can be found at any given time wearing multiple shirts, sweaters and a beany - IN THE HOUSE!  Apparently I am cold-blooded.
  • Enjoying the kids - they really have gotten to where I really appreciate having them around mroe than I ever thought I would.  They each are growing into very individual characters and while they each seem to have their own special ways of driving me crazy, they also are very special little guys and I don't know how to describe it without endless gushy blather so I'll just say that I sure do love them lil rascals.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Two words: Job / Computer

The kids have been learning a few things about money lately.  I paid a guy for some work he did for me while the kids were in the car and they were VERY interested in how that whole thing works.  Tonight, we were talking about how it is unfortunate that we rarely get to see their uncle Carlo (who lives in Holland) since he doesn't have money to come visit us and we don't have money to go visit him.  

Winter then says to me: "Dad, two words: computer - job."

Apparently Winter knows alot about jobs and feels that they are intricately connected with computers.  How's that for a sign of the times?

I told ya so

Sorry folks, I have to do this:


I TOLD YOU SO

Remember all my ranting and more ranting and more ranting against Chicago?  Well, now I guess I am not the only one that knows.  Let me paint a quick picture of corruption:

  • George Ryan Illinois' last governor  was convicted in April 2006 on racketeering and fraud charges.
  • Rod Blagojevich Illinois' current governor is currently on bail for various corruption charges.
  • Here's a little gem from Wikipedia: "Five Illinois governors have been charged with crimes, either during the administrations or after. The first, Lennington Small, was acquitted. Otto Kerner, Jr.Daniel Walker, and George Ryan all served time in prison. "
The place is a political cesspool.  I can't see how Obama would have missed out on the filth there, but I pray to high heaven on a regular basis that somehow, someway, he managed to side-step through the corrupt political environment there.  Of course, to beleive that is true, you have to beleive you can walk across a feedlot without stepping in any caca...



Monday, December 8, 2008

Have we had this conversation before

I speak spanish - I am a gringo


Just about everytime I end up speaking spanish with a native spanish speaker for the first time, the question is posed, "where are you from."  It's a simple question, but my answer is not really the answer they are looking for:

I respond, "from here - I am a pure gringo."  
Inevitably, the follow-up question is, "yes, but where were you born?"  
I respond, "New Mexico." 
"Oh, well, then that explains it."  
This is where I have to say, "but I've never actually lived there."

Seriously, it is almost remarkable how all conversations I have in spanish start at that point.  From there, we go on to discuss the finer points of learning construction spanish in Dallas, then working with spanish people on a church mission in Massachusetts, and lots of practice.  I suppose I could skip the whole new Mexico thing, but I have to admit, it is kind of fun to just check to see if I can get that same conversation every time - it has never failed me yet.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Walking the Moon

I haven't been blogging lately due to the fact that winter has me in a doldrum or something and I tend to sit wrapped in 4 sweaters not doing much that is worthy of blogging.  However, today is a newsworthy one simply due to the fact that my horizons have been lifted by human technology.  For those who could care less about the ways of mechanical operation, you may resume your day unaffected, but for the rest of you (if there are any) feast your eyes on this:



I sat there watching the video in complete awe.  My concept of where we, as a human race are at (on a mechanized scale) has been dashed, and I find myself standing on the forefront of a new era of both mechanized destruction and order.  

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Brother Josh

My brother Josh recently separated (honorably) from the US Navy as a sonar technician on the submarine USS Buffalo.  He has been "in between" jobs, homes, careers?, etc. for a while now as he stays at my parents house and works simultaneously to find a decent interim job and finish off a few classes for his associates degree.  In the meanwhile, we have had the great priviliege of having him hanging around here in TX with very little to do.  What that means to us is that he comes out here on a fairly regular basis and just hangs out for a day or two at a time.  It has been absolutely great.  The kids totally love him, he cleans up after himself, and loves to help out around the farm.  Last night, we were out working on a new chicken run till about 10:30pm and it was great just having a pal to hang around with.

During his latest visit, we ended up doing some very interesting stuff.  I wish I could explain it as well as he did, but if you'd like to have a quick laugh, read his blog entry about the events. 
Here's a teaser:

Read the story here:   Josh's blog

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pillowhead

The two older kids were given "Quil-llows" from their cousins in Utah a year or so ago (or more?)  A Quil-llow is a blanket that has a specially placed pouch that allows the blanket to be folded into itself to create a pillow if desired.  They do love their quil-llows, but ever since it has cooled off here, they have come up with a new way to use them.  Observe:

They put their heads in the pouch and use the blanket as a cape to wrap themselves in.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Couple Surprises

Josh is over here again today kicking it.  He came in from fishing and said that there was a group of guys back working in the area of our rear (barbed wire) fence.  I instantly was hoping they were back there fixing it because that is actually on our list to go ahead and do here (as soon as I have time.)  I hopped on my mt. bike and rode back there.  Bless their little hearts, they WERE fixing the fence!  I chatted um up a bit and then let them finish the job.  One less thing on my to-do list!


The other surprise is not so good.  I spent pert near the entire day working on a section of floor that can't be more than 15 square feet.  There were just so m
any cuts and measurements and re-cuts.  it just took forever.  The good news is that we are getting close - observe:

The areas without the blue tape is not yet glued.  Since it is a tongue & groove wood, I figured I had better make it all fit and figure out how to get it in there before gluing.  The final step here is going ot be to make sure the edges work with the trim piece, install the trim piece and then pull up all the wood again (easy) and then relay/glue it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fall Days


It may be winter everywhere else, but we are just getting into full "fall" weather here where it is only hitting the low 70s during the day.  Ginger and I went to wait for Sterling and Winter to come home from school down at the end of the driveway.  The sky was beautiful, eh?

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Jeep with no roof

The kids are always telling me how much they hate that we "sold the "Jeep with no roof" away."  I stumbled across some images of it today and I feel the same way:





Someday I hope to buy another "project" and work on it with the kids until it is fixed up and is theirs to drive.  That sounds like fun. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Boating

Jessica and I went into Leonard today to vote.  There were 4 voting machines and a small line.  It moved along pretty quick and we waited less than 30 minutes.  In that 30 minutes, Ginger (who was tagging along) picked up on what we were doing and, much to the delight of the quiet room of waiting voters exclaimed in a delighted voice, "we go boating!?!?"  No, no, we explained, VOTing not BOATing.  "We go boating!?!?"  After several exchanges, I think she just decided to let it pass and agree to disagree.  Everyone thought it was pretty funny.


On an unrelated note, unkygiash is here again - this time to apply his new computer-whiz skills to reload our operating system and optimize our computer's performance.  He arrived late last night and hung around here all day alternately working on the computer and helping us to install our wood floors.  I've decided one thing: I like having him around.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Metrification

Some of you may know that we had a little 'incident' with the metro which involved a lot of heat and ended up with a warped head, blown headgasket, and scorched cylinders.  This occurred several months ago...


...fast forward to today.  The metro is back in action for the first time since the heinous events that led to the breakdown.  What has happened since then?  Well - it started with removal of the head to assess the damage.  We then proceed to deciding to replace the engine while we are at it.  Since we are replacing the engine, we might as well also replace: 
  • Water pump
  • clutch
  • CV shafts
  • oil pump
  • fan & AC belt
  • Timing belt
  • Spark plugs
  • Air filter
  • Various hoses
  • Various gaskets
I meticulously cleaned and replaced each piece taking extra care to clean all threads and torque all bolts to spec.  Unfortunately, I also got a bit overzealous in my "packing" of the oil pump with vaseline.  This is a practice I have used with success in the past.  The vaseline stays in the pump and then instantly primes the engine when it is fired up and dissolves into the engine oil harmlessly.  I say I got overzealous because I succumbed to the thing where if a bit is good, lots must be better...wrong!
I packed the oil pump and figured while I was at it I would also pack the oil pickup tube.  Once the whole thing was back together, I turned the engine over with the spark plugs out for what seemed like forever and could NOT get the oil warning light to go off (indicating that the engine was turning without being oiled - a very bad thing.)  After much consultation with relatives and internet sources, I decided to pull the oil pan (now a job that had to be done lying under the car - as opposed to when it was originally installed when the engine was out of the car and we could just flip the engine over and stick it on.)  
As expected, once the oil pan was back off, it was immediately apparent that the vaseline in the pickup tube was still there.  This means that the oil pump was spinning in a vacuum and the vaseline was preventing the oil from being sucked up into the engine.  I used compressed air to blow the vaseline out of the pickup tube and stuck a temporary (clear) tube into the block and had Jessica turn the engine over for a bit to see if it was pulling oil up the tube.  It was!  So, after gluing the oil pan back on and letting it set for 24 hours, I tried it all again.  No dice!
Now I was pulling out hair and dad even was lucky enough to call me right during that time and was treated to a very depressed phone conversation.  I decided that there were two possibilities:
  1. The cold temperature was causing the vaseline to solidify and block up all the oil passages
  2. Turning the engine over by using the starter (as opposed to just starting the engine up) was not getting enough RPM to suck the oil up the pickup
So, for the one/two punch to solve those, I decided on a plan to hit them both at once.  I waited till it was warm today - around 80 or so at noon and then constructed a temporary tent around the engine compartment of the car.  I then moved my portable propane shop heater into the tent and fired it up.   It was working great to heat up the upper part of the car, but the heat was not really getting down low (I think the concrete was soaking up a lot of it) so I added my portable halogen worklight right under the oil pan.  It generates a LOT of heat and it was only a few inches from the oil.  By around 5:00pm, it was time and the light had heated the engine oil to too-hot-to-touch and the rest of the engine was almost getting warm to the touch (instead of cold metal.)  
I turned it over for 30 seconds using the starter - still no oil pressure.  I decided to take the big gamble (perhaps out of exasperation more than anything else) and installed the spark plugs and fired it up.  Almost instantly the oil warning light went out!  Hooooray!  Another couple hours of timing and idle adjustments, fluid level checks and getting it back down off the jack stands (and clearing a path to remove it from the shop) and I was taking her for a test spin!

The results?  The car drives under its own power and I am almost daring to say that it runs better than it did before the overheating incident - although I am cautious to say too much at this point.  It does have great power, the temperature of the engine is consistently perfect, and it doesn't seem to smoke at idle (like it did before all this.)  Here's the bad part - the engine is making a lot of noise.  There are some ticking sounds that should not be there and that could very likely be the result of a motor that was run without oil for too long (even a few moments can kill it.)  On the other hand, there is an exhaust leak right in front of the engine (I had to reuse the exhaust gasket that goes between the exhaust manifold and the exhaust pipe since I didn't get a new one in my masker gasket kit) which could very well be the source of all the noise.  I'll see about a new gasket on Monday and should know then if the rest of the ticking is coming from inside the engine.  

I can say that I am very pleased tonight that this thing is back into driveable shape.  I learned a very good lesson in mechanics, and if anybody needs anything done on a metro, please let me know - I think I have just about everything under the hood under control these days.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A bit more of Josh from last week

Sterling has an account with Sterling Savings Bank in Idaho.  The kids usually get the mail when the bus drops them off at the end of our driveway and bring it to the house.  All kids love getting mail, and Sterling always knows when a letter comes for him because his name is ALL over it. Can you tell he is happy to have received a letter?


Ginger is the epitomy of cool:
"Unkyjiahsh" (as Ginger calls him) really loves driving the tractor - here is an action shot of the man, myth and legend on his way to mow a few.
Unkyjiahsh also really developed a quick bond with this longhorn.  



Bass


We hit the lake for a few moments tonight and brought in a crappy and a 2.6 lb, 16.5" bass.  I only mention this because this is the first fish we have weighed and measured here in the lake.  He's a pretty big one, but I think we have caught a few that were just a bit bigger than this one - but not a whole lot more.  If there is a real lunker out there, we have yet to hook into him.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What I did this weekend

  1. A marathon wrenching session to get the metro engine all hooked up and ready to fire (Josh was here Fri night helping to lift it into the car and prep it).  After spending basically the whole day squirreled away in the shop working on it, it rewarded me by firing right up (good news.)  Unfortunately, the oil light won't go off (bad news) so I am temporarily delayed from claiming victory until I do some more research to find out what to do to ensure that I don't ruin this engine by running it anymore without oil in it.
  2. Rammed the front end loader on the tractor into the front of my truck while grading out some gravel we had brought in.  OOOOOOOooooooooops :(  The good news is that the impact (while substantial) was precisely placed for minimal damage (hooray) and all I need now is a new headlight and turn signal.  I hit the truck hard enough that I was afraid the airbags would go off or something and it really is a miracle the hood and fender and (brand new) tire aren't damaged too.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Politics

Pecking Order

They say the best "offense" is a good "defense" or is it a best defense is a good offense? Well, either way, we proved the latter on the farm this morning. You see, we have this one rooster who has decided two things. Number one: he is the cock of the yard and number two: Sterling is below a chicken.
Last Saturday, Josh and I were shearing a goat in the shop when we heard these blood curdling screams from Sterling. I thought for sure he had been stung by a wasp again. Turns out, he was being chased by the rooster. I tried to tell him that he simply needed to kick the rooster in the head and stop running from him, but Sterling is petrified of this thing. Since then, Sterling is not safe out in the yard - that rooster recognizes him and is always on the prowl for a chance to run him off.
I was pretty nervous about having an aggressive rooster out and about and I always swore that I would not have one on the farm, so this rooster is living on borrowed time. If he were ever to try to attack Ginger, (newly turned 3 years old) I fear he might damage her face since she is so short. I haven't had any time to really butcher the chicken and I was still half-hoping we could cure him by convincing Sterling to chase the rooster a few times with me. Unfortunately, he is so terrified of the rooster, he won't even chase it with me there for backup.
That is why I was so pleased this morning to find my sweet little three-year old (just turned 3 the day before yesterday) chasing that same rooster around the backyard in a little 15X10 area that she had trapped him in. Around and around they went. She had that rooster on the run. It was actually quite comical in terms of the fear Sterling harbors for that same rooster. So it looks like Ginger is safe (for now,) but that rooster has a date with the gallows (Sterling is lobbying very intently for that date to be advanced) because we certainly don't want him to get any more aggressive...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Gravel

A guy dropped off a dumptruck load of gravel in the driveway this morning. That may sound like a lot, but it sure didn't go very far. In fact, the dumptruck didn't really look all that full, so I don't think I'll be using that guy again. ANyway, I spent like an hour moving it around with the front end loader which worked great for transporting it around, but which was not so great for getting it really even and smooth. I finally buckled and borrowed the neighbor's box blade attachment for the tractor which worked great. Another couple hours tonight and I had the entire driveway graded and the gravel all smoothed out. We prolly need another load though which stinks because that is some expensive dirt/rock.
For Ginger's Bp-day, she rode over to the neighbors house to get the grader blade with me on the tractor - she seems to enjoy that.
I also ordered CV shafts for the metro today (which should be here tomorrow) so I got started on pulling the old ones off. They are about halfway off now, but I don't have a socket big enough for the axle nut, so tomorrow when I get the new shafts, I'll be getting a new nut too. That should be the last thing that has to be done before Josh comes out here to help get the engine back into the car to start the reassembly process. This thing is going to be like a new car (mechanically) by the time we are done. Too bad it is still going to look like a beat-up old metro...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vogeltjes and Avejas

In our mangled spang-lis-utch family tongue, that can be interpreted as "birds and bees."  

We had a little lesson today courtesy of some (rotten) kid on the school bus who explained (sparing no detail) some of the events that may occur within the private confines of a married couple's doors.  Sterling didn't believe it (and was asking for verification) and Winter was in tears because Sterling was telling me this (she had told him after she heard it from some girl on the bus and thought she would get in trouble.)  Anyhoo, the proverbial gato is out of the bag around here and a few years earlier than I might have predicted too.  Sterling seemed satisfied when I told him that one could do that if one wanted to (when married) but that they were certainly not obliged to do so.  They also were very attentive to the rule which was reiterated (because it seemed appropriate to do so) that nobody is ever allowed to touch their parts and they are not allowed to touch the parts of others.


Did I sign up for this?  Really?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Is it Friday Yet?

The decision was finally made today to keep our Chicago operation going.  Phew!  Close one.  You may not have realized it was in peril, but with cutbacks from our major customer there, we had to look at it very seriously and we have been doing some serious negotiation.  Anyway, it's on, which is great because after all the work we have done to get a decent manager out there, it would be pathetic to shut it down now.  The good news is that with all the cutbacks, I plan to suspend travel there as an emergency cost-saving measure until January when we expect business to pick back up.  Who hoo!  No more Chicago and, it just happens to be most of the winter time too.  I certainly won't miss leaving mild TX in mid winter to go visit dreary Chicago.  That place it COLD in the winter time...


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Photos

Here's some of the pics from the weekend with my bro Josh.

One of Josh's many catches of the day.  He was stoked to bring in some fish.  You should have seen the on that got away!
We used the truck as a "dock."
You can just make out our tent in the distance.  This is the view from the house.
Roasting the "smallsmallows" early Saturday morning.

Josh feeds a marshmallow to one of the longhorns.
Josh shows off the sheared billy goat "Robin" (not sure what he is doing to his keister.)  The goat in the truck is waiting for its turn at the shears.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Camping on the Back 40

Friday was a long day for me, but we ended it well.  Within a short time of arriving at home, Josh, the kids and I were piling blankets and sleeping bags into the truck.  We grabbed the tent, a few flashlights and headed out into the back of the field, behind the lake.  The kids were going crazy and it was really intense.  I'm not really sure how to descibe it, but there were three kids, and the two of us adults and the kids were up past their bedtime and we were all crammed into a single tent that was so packed with soft stuff that you couldn't hardly fall on anything hard.  The kids had a blast and we finally got them quieted down and to sleep.  Neither Josh nor I slept very well.  it may have had something to do with the fact that the kids were sleeping all over us.  I took several elbows to the face in the middle of the night - I also had to wake up several times to cover Ginger up who is still in that baby phase were she doesn't cover herself.

Morning came very early and we did a bit of quick fishing (fruitless for some reason) then kindled a small fire within about 100 ft of the back door of the house.  We had a whole bag of marshmallows, and while we did feed a few to the cows, I was nevertheless surprised when the entire bag was used!  Wow.  That's a lot of sugar.
Josh and I decided to get serious with the goats and set up a full on operation.  We sheared, dewormed, deloused, clipped hooves, and even tattooed in one case.  The goats had gotten into some NASTY Texas cockleburrs and they were all over in their fleeces.  It really sucked handpicking them out.  We got a lot of them out, but we'll still have to do some more with them if we want to keep their value up.  It turned into a long day of goat wrestling and Josh and I were hot, sweaty, stinky, itchy and tired, but we did get 4 of the 6 goats done.  
Josh seemed to have had a good time although I think the kids may have worn him down a bit on Friday while I was gone.  He was a soldier though - even though he had an injured wrist from a minibike accident.  By the way, the minibike is now out of comission - I broke the chain on it today while I was riding it with Ginger.  :(


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Uncle Josh Visits the Farm

We have the great priviledge of having uncle Josh (just out of 5 years in the Navy and back from Guam.)  We are treating him to a good ol' TX welcome in what has become a bit of a tradition here at the farm.  A tour of the farm followed by an evening of fishing and hopefully some shooting a little later.  Right now, I am at home (just put the kids in bed) and Jessica and Josh are out on a trip to buy more chickens (this time, laying hens.)  That ought to give Josh a pretty good feel of the way things are out here.

It's great to have him back.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wubber Chickens

With vegetables, fresher is better.  Same with fruit....and underwear.  The thing is, it appears that ain't the case with "shickens."  Jessica has a few too many roosters and I had a hunger for flesh tonight, so we put two and two together and had us a killin'.  We wrung his neck and had him on the barby within a few minutes.  I figured that would be just tops for some finger lickin' drumsticks.  Wrong.  The kids could barely gnaw the meat off the bones.  Tough isn't really the word to describe it - it was more like some sort of rubberized suede.  

Winter happens to be missing two front teeth right now (from the size of the gap, you'd think she was missing four) couldn't really even make it happen at all.  Ginger kept stuffing gigantic peices in her mouth, chewing them (with no effect) until she grew weary and then gagging as she tried to swallow the entire hunk.  Sterling gnawed on a leg bone and really gave it the ol' college try but eventually gave up and wandered off.  To top it off, Jessica blessed the meal with the following comment, "my steak knife would barely even cut it."
I guess this is what moms feel like after laboring all day to create a casserole for ungrateful kids.  Next time, pehaps we'll "age" the meat...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Cattle

It's been a while since I posted any pics of the cattle.  Since they seem to be the theme this week, here's a quick shot or two I grabbed this morning while they were up in the pasture bordering the house.  Of course, this is only 2 of the 3.  The other longhorn is over at the neighbors still...she has decided she likes their herd better and we are having a hard time convincing her to come back home.

The other longhorn's horns are more "flat" meaning they grow more out straight from her head and she has more brown on her face.

Note how "Ol' Bessie" the brown swiss is becoming a "blond swiss?"  Apparently the sun in Switzerland is not as punishing on a girls "doo" as it is here in TX.  For reference, click here for the last pictures we had taken of her from back in November '07.  She is packing on the pounds and you can really see in the picture above that she has a VERY full figure.

Monday, October 6, 2008

False Blame

OK, I was wrong.  In yestiddy's post, I blamed the many steaming piles of fecal evidence strewn thoughout the yard on a weeklong spree of freedom by our own cows.  I thought it strange they had escaped, pooed all over the place, then just went back into their own pen for our arrival.  It turns out the crap-flinging bandits were roving cattle from a way back behind our place.  I spent about 10 mintues "herding" 6 of them with the Dodge back onto their own pasture this evening.  It did seem strange that so few cattle could have distributed so much dung in so little time.  Now the mystery is solved.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Back on the Ranch

We arrived home tonight from Disney World after a day in transit to watch General Conference at the parents house - it was nice decompression time, but since all of our schedules are so out of whack I'm afraid we may have been quite disruptive there.  We got back on the farm around 7:00pm or so and immediately discovered that, though the cattle were innocently grazing in their pasture, they had been out roaming around the yard while we were gone.  They had left "sign" all over the place.  By the way, "sign" is like code for gigantic piles of cow dukie.

I quickly discovered several spots where they had walked through the electric fence and fixed them, but it was obvious that there was some other problem area that had allowed them to escape in the first place so after fixing the obvious stuff, I hopped on the motorcycle and cruised the fenceline looking for problems.  I have started to turn this activity into a science - I disconnect the fence into sections and sequentially unhook/hook-up the sections to isolate the problem area so I don't have to search the entire fenceline with a fine-toothed comb.  Anyway, it didn't take long to find that the problem was the area I hit with the front-end loader before we left while mowing with the tractor.  I had broken a ground line which was draped over the "hot"line and was shorting it out.  The fence was still on and I figured that 1) the ground line would be safe to touch anyway and 2) that even if I got shocked, it would be a diluted shock.  Well, that figuring wasn't so good and so for the second time in my life, I got shocked by a very healthy 5,000 volts and let out an involuntary howl that I am sure would have been quite entertaining had you been blessed with an opportunity to witness it.  I had grabbed the two ends of the broken ground line (one in each hand) and one of them was still touching the hot line when the shock came through from one hand, through my body, and over out the other hand.  It was an shocking experience.
So the fence is now fixed up and tomorrow, when the cows decide to try to wander again, they'll reap the benefits of their curiosity with a good howdy-doody.  
It is nice to be back home.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

WDW

Just a quick update - the kids are absolutely loving this place.  We probably couldn't have timed it any better - there was certainly a time when seeing ghosts in the "Tower of Terror" would have set Sterling off on a major incident, but as is, he rode it twice before he decided he "never wants to do that again."  Even then, he is not saying that in a scared freak-out tone, but matter-of-factly as a result of his reasoning that twice is enough to tempt the fates that he might be in the elevator that gets hit by lightning next time and be killed.

Ginger had her moment today after haning out with the character "Belle" from Beauty & the Beast.   Ginger was in her big poofy dress from Tanta Wendy's wedding and was obviously the star of the moment.  They sat together on the floor in mounds of fabric, twirled, and talked.  It was really something else.
Winter is a big fan of all the rides and asks "can we do that again" after each one.  Alas, we have so much to see that we have to go from one to the next.  It really has been a great vacation and the only thing we would change so far is that next time we would stay in a Disney resort hotel instead of off-property like we did.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

We Don't Need No Stinking Engine Hoist

Yes, my friends, pictured above is me...with a bad haircut...holding a car engine.  Yes, before you ask, I have been working out :p

Reviving the Metro

I was in town today on business and stopped by at a motor shop and picked up a new engine for the metro.  It was only $290 for the engine!  I still can't believe how cheap that is.  Of course, the whole buying an engine thing just underscores the serious case of scope creep we are experiencing....


We started out pulling the head to see if it was warped.  It was and the middle piston was completely full of water so I took the head down and had it machined.  

Since the head was off, and that required pulling the timing belt, we figured we might as well get a new timing belt, and since that was off we figured we might as well do the water pump (actually, I think I verified that it was leaking - it may have been what caused the overheating in the first place)

Then, I figured with the head off, I might as well hone the cylinders and install new rings.

Then the guys at the auto shop convinced me that if the engine was overheated to the point where it quit running (it was) then it would probably be a good idea to have the entire block rebuilt and they pointed out to me that I could buy the engine at City Motor in Dallas for super cheap....so I figured they were right and did that.

Of course, now with the engine out, I can see that the clutch is wearing and so we might as well replace that, so I need to buy a new clutch.  Also, since the oil pump has to be pulled to install it on the shortblock, we might as well go ahead and get a new one of those too right?

Oh yeah, and with the engine pulled, now would definitely be the best time to replace the CV shafts/boots that are totally ripped, worn and popping.

What else?

One more cool thing - we removed the engine with no hoist - Jessica and I just lowered it down to the floor by hand and slid it out from under the car.  That's alot different than back when I was dealing with AMC V8s from Jeeps - those things could kill you if they leaned over on you.  Getting the engine back in should be even easier because we can go in from the top (something we couldn't do on the way out because I hadn't taken off a few brackets yet and with them, it was too tight a fit.

It was a fun night because Jessica came out to the shop and painted the pool fence (hanging from the rafters in the shop) while I worked on the car.  It is nice to have some company (and occasionally a spare hand) while working.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hurricane Ike Brings Lovely Weather to N. Dallas

We knowed what that the storm was a comin around Satidy afternoon so I figured I'd spend the mornin on the tractor hacking down the weeds out in the lower pasture that have been really getting high.  It was a great morning for it.  There was a nice breeze and a lower temperature.  I got several acres mowed.  

Sterling got to go to his first B-day party at a friend's house in Leonard.  He had a blast.

The rain started around noon and steadily increased up until around 3 or 4 or so where it peaked and dropped down a bit.  The winds were pretty good and I think they must have peaked in the night.  It definitely was not the worst storm we have had out here.  The worse this one did was blow a lawnchair into the pool.  Oh yeah, and our mailbox pole bit the dust.  I am not sure if that was the storm or vandals or what, but it looks like there is going to be a need to go borrow the neighbors PTO-operated post hole digger to make a better hole and plant a better post for the mailbox.

Overall, I'd say it was a very pleasant storm.  In fact, I was out riding around in the rain yesterday on the motor bike in the full-on bn rain and was very comfortable.  You know, ever since seeing Michael Douglas walking around in the downpour out of Cartegena (Romancing the Stone,) I have always liked the idea of warm rain.  
Today, the post-storm weather is nice and cool with a light breeze, and clear skies.  We actually have our windows open today.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tractor Repairs

We recovered the errant cow last night and this morning she is back over there.  I think she found the fence to be just too short to care about.  That is bad news.


Anyway, all the fence work really highlighted the need for me to get some mowing done out there - the weeds are getting up to waist high.  So I need my tractor, which has a major radiator leak.  If you care for the details of how I spent nearly the entire day figuring out how to pull the radiator on a early 60s Ford Workmaster 601 tractor, check this link out.  There a bunch of good pictures and you can read all about how tractors are not really like cars.  Things aren't as simple and easy to work on as you might think.  Or maybe, I'm just getting the hang of a new machine and am just not familiar enough with the ins & outs of a tractor yet.  Certainly the next time I get into any of this, I'll be much more familiar with what I need to do.  Here's the tractor halfway through with the triumphant proof of the removed radiator:


Anyway, the radiator is in, and aside from a fan blade that is making some contact with the fan shroud, it is basically ready to roll.  Feels good to have accomplished something without leaving it half-done (like a million other things around here) although Jessica is sure to be wondering why I wasn't finishing the metro off instead of getting into the tractor...well...because I am a guy.  At least I was doing something eh?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wanderlust Cow

The neighbors have a little bull that is coming of age. He can come right up to the fence that separates him from our cows and I guess I have been a little lax lately about keeping the fence really hot (seems like the cows would have learned their lessons by now) and it has been running about 1/2 power lately. I haven't really had the gumption to go figure out why until just recently.

One of the longhorns jumped the fence to go visit the little bull! :(

I always thought the bull would come see the cows (not the other way) but I guess longhorns are known for being a more athletic species of cattle. So I spent several hours tonight whacking back weeds and looking for shorts in the fence to get it back up to full power. Tomorrow I'll go see about luring the cow back off the neighbor's lot with feed.

If the feed doesn't work, I'm planning on using our new mini-motorcycle to "herd" her back to our place. I'm actually almost kinda half hoping that I will have to do that - it sounds like fun.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Out of the Sheepin' Biz

We bid adieu to the sheep today. We sold the ram, the whether and the 3 ewes to another family here in the Leonard area. The idea is to focus on the Angora goats. Here is why I prefer the goats:

  1. They are currently "free-ranging" around our farm with no fencing. They don't leave! They just stay close to home - it is great.
  2. They never intentionally try to kill me
  3. They never intentionally try to ruin our fencing
  4. I don't have to worry about the kids being near them (as much)
  5. Their fleeces are far more valuable than the sheep's
  6. They are not as skittish and are more friendly

I have to admit I will miss the "lanolin" smell of working with sheep, and the cuteness of the little lambs running and leaping and whatnot, but I am totally over it.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sterling Paints & Winter's Buck Tooth

Check it out:

We were priming the gate-section of pool-fence after some major rust repairs. It is hanging from the rafters in the shop.
Winter in the moments before losing her first front tooth. (Thanks to a nice tug from daddy)


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hand Out / Hand Up

Why o why are we doing this again? Is it the nation's responsibility
to rebuild New Orleans year after year? They are the ones who
(irrationally) insist on living there. Now the electoral candidates
are getting briefed on the situation there so they can avoid getting
caught with their pants down (like GWB was.) But really, why can't
one of them just come out with the recommendation that the
million-plus people who were ordered to flee yesterday just stay out?
That would be something....

Thursday, August 28, 2008

In the last month I have:

  • Flown to Chicago 6 times
  • Eaten out 38 times
  • Spent 18? nights in a hotel room
  • Taken a taxi 7 times and a train twice
  • Charged over $6k on the company credit card

BUT!

We finally have our manager in place out there and for the first time in what seems like forever, I will NOT be flying to Chicago on Sunday night! Yippee!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Coupon Freak

Jessica has a blog called "Coupon Chic" and I just call it coupon freak. Her and her friends go out and steal from the establishment and then brag about it on their website (see it here.) ANyway, it saves us a ton of money, but two can play at that game - Exhibit A:
It normally costs me $531 to fly to Chicago from Dallas round trip. Today, I found that if I fly to Chicago, then fly home from Milwaukee (where I will be anyway on Wednesday) the price is only $379. Here's the really crazy part - to fly home from Milwaukee, you actually have to fly once from Milwaukee to Chicago and then board a separate plane in Chicago to fly to Dallas. That's right, it is cheaper to fly more. I normally have to leave early from Milwaukee to drive down to Chicago - this way, I kick back on the plane and relax and it saves me over $100. Take that, coupon freaks!

By the way, I caught a mess of fish yesterday and there happened to be bass, crappy and some sort of goldfish-like perch among them. They were all small ones though - I'm still waiting on the monster.

On a separate note, redneckedness reached a whole new level yesterday when we discovered that using a wheelbarrow and a shovel in place of a canoe and paddle is not going to work unless we rig up some kind of outrigger system. We'll keep you updated - maybe next week...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Monday morning I hired our new manager here in the cesspool that is the general CHicago area. Monday afternoon I fired our new manager here...and grew to a new level of disgust for the general area.

I always used to brush off Texan's claims that "the people in TX are just so nice," but I have to say, I guess they are. In comparison to pert near everyone I meet here in Chicago Texans are as bubbly and nice as Ross the Intern. I mean, I talked to this lady at the Chicago Tollways I-Pass thingy booth today and it was like talking to Rozz (Roselyn) from Monsters, Inc. - except this lady was about half as animated and twice as sarcastic/witchy. If only this experience was just an exception to the rule. I have just plain decided that, in general, the people here are what we Texans (did I just say that?) keister-holes. For real, how can an entire region of the country be so different that they make me dislike them as a general populace?
One disclaimer, I never figured Texans to be so great until I started really dealing with Chicagoans, so maybe it is actually more like a situation where the West has nice people and Chicago doesn't? I don't remember harboring such contempt for the folks in the areas of NH, MA & ME where I also spent a lot of time or in FL where I spent some time...what's up with CHI?

So, I'm bitter and undoubtedly coming back here next week, so you'll have to forgive me. I need to do some fishing to get back to the regular me. Gimme a couple of days. I'm going home tomorrow night (or I guess it is late enough that it is later this evening - of course with the flight record coming out of O'Hare, it may just be into the wee hours of the Thurs. morn. before I make it out of here so....

Friday, August 15, 2008

Topwater

It's a rare day that I can coax a bass to hit a topwater lure....today is one of those days. I landed 2 bass and had a third one on the line when he spit the lure tonight. What a great feeling. Over the years, I have only found one other lake where I could get the bass to hit a topwater lure...

Topwater lures are different than most bass lures because kinstead of sinking down and trolling across the bottom, or being pulled under water by a special fin, they are designed to float all the way at the top. Tonight, I was using a 3" long plug with a scoop on the front that makes a "ploop" sound when you "pop" it with a quick jerk. I found that if I let it sit motionless for 20 seconds or so, then gave it the slightest tingle or two followed shortly by a solid pop, they would hit it.

Getting a bite up at the top is lots of fun and very exciting because you can actually watch when the fish hit the lure (rather than just feeling them tug on the line.) It adds a visual element to an experience that is usually far more tactile. Speaking of visual, it was a beautiful night for fishing - the water was like glass, the temperature was just right, and there was a beauty of a sunset. I hate to admit that I like Texas, but compared to what I've been getting in Chicago, this place absolutely rocks!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Farmer Joe's Plan to Solve the Nation's Problems

....and you thought we just scooped cattle dooky....


Mark your calendars folks, because you are going to want to remember the day you first heard of this plan. Here is the general idea - you take all the $$ awarded as "punitive damages" in any lawsuit and use them to balance the federal budget.

Think about this. Right now, in the media, some silly flight attendant is suing some silly preachers wife for assaulting her on a plane. She is seeking 10% of the preacher's wife's net worth (presumed to be millions.) The idea with "punitive" damages is to set the award high enough to "punish" the offender. In other words, in this particular case, they are not arguing that the assualt was worth 10% of the net worth, but that to be effective, the punishment should cost them 10% of their net worth. Punitive damages make sense, because if someone breaks the law, they need some sort of motivation to not do it again. Very high punitive damages serve that purpose. However, does it really make sense to give all of the punitive damages to the victims? Does it make sense for this silly flight attendant to receive millions of dollars just because she was assualted by someone rich when the flight attendant assaulted by the blue-collar schmuck with a net worth of minus $200 get absolutely nothing? No.

This system could easily be solved by simply awarding all punitve damages to a worthy cause....such as paying the federal government (lower taxes), buying better roads, importing adobtable children from poverty-stricken countries, paying for our awesome military, buying solar panels, researching aids or cancer, prop up social security, etc, etc, etc

What's the downside here? How do we get the politicians to see this?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Perspective

I spent most of yesterday filling in for a couple of no-shows in Chicago. What that meant was that I tackled a gigantic branch that was blown down in a storm in cousin Frank's back yard. It was bigger than a lot of trees and took me the whole day to get it chopped up and processed so that the city of Naperville would pick up all the branches. At the end of the day, we had 5 guys from our crew show up to assist in the final cleanup and one of them made the following comment (referring to Frank's house.) "Wow, these guys are rich." If only he had known that Frank actually (currently) owns two such houses (they are trying to sell their old one) he would have been blown away.
Frank's house is definitely very nice, but I never would have thought to classify him as "rich." It was a good reminder for me of the blessings we enjoy and to not to take things like that for granted.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wub

Iwas fixin to expound on my growing disdain for the general populace
of Chicago, but to get back to a cheery tone, let me say just this; I
do wub Jessica. I'm really looking forward to seeing her tonight.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

6 of One, 1/2 Dozen of the Other

Saw this tonight at the local (Chicago) Walgreens:














It sums up my feelings tonight on many levels.

  1. An employee (in Chicago) is threatening legal action because we are low on the type of work he wants to do (even though we continue to offer him gainful employment in a practically identical capacity.)
  2. My spite for the Chicago workforce should be apparent by now, but I am (apparently) naive enough to harbor high hopes for some of the candidates I have been interviewing.
  3. And actually a few other things of a more personal nature as well that I probably shouldn't blog about (mind you keep your mind out of the gutter as curiosity eats at you on this topic over the next few moments....it's simply decisions that are more personal in nature in topics that have presented themselves in our lives over the last few days)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

One Long (short) weekend

I haven't been writing much on my blog lately. I'm not entirely sure why, but it may be a slight case of blog burn-out. Or, it could be the fact that work has me so stressed and busy lately that I try to get away from my computer as much as I can. I don't know. Since I last wrote:

  • I spent a couple days in Chicago with my crew there jsut checking in and making recomendations on things they needed to do. The day that I got back to TX, my manager there gave me one day notice that he was quitting.
  • I booked an emergency flight to Chicago and spent Mon-Thurs there picking up the pieces, managing the crew and starting to search for a new manager. Monday night I got a whopping 2 hours of sleep (another incident with an "energy drink")
  • Friday I was so wasted that I had to get some extra sleep to recuperate and still managed to put in a day of work. Mom and Levi (my sister's son) came out to have a sleep over.
  • Saturday I fixed the water line that was causing us to not have any water (out in the hot sun - it was like 105 or something) with Jessica and the kids bringing me water every 10-20 minutes to try to prevent my untimely death. By the time I finished that and installed two ceiling fans for Jessica, I was pretty much wasted.
  • Sunday I got up early for church meetings starting at 7:15am and as soon as I got home, I booked another flight to Chicago for this evening (bet you didn't know you could do that with so little notice did ya) and I am off for another fun-filled week in Chicago. Hurray! Hopefully I will be able to find "Mr Right" there this time and he will solve all of my Chicago problems and redeem all of Chicago in my mind (right now I just can't think nice thoughts about the people/place)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Haps

We started the day at a ward pioneer day breakfast. It was good times; the kids learned to jump rope and play tug-o-war and Ginger delighted the crowds dancing to live fiddle music.
I spent most of the day pulling the head gasket on the metro engine. It was definitely blown. It looks like the block is in good shape, so with any luck and a couple of hundred dollars, that engine should be better than when we got it.
Jessica went off shopping with her friend for the evening, so her friend's husband and I were kicking around on the farm and he seemed willing, so I enlisted his help for a long-overdue shearing, worming, delousing and hoof-trimming on our Shetland ram. It was a lot of work and it is hot here, but we got him all done and had energy left over to trim the hooves on the two ewes and worm them too. Wow, what a bunch of stinky work.
Feels good to have accomplished something though...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Can anything good come out of Chicago?

Listen folks, I know there has to be someone with half a brain in Chicago. I mean, my aunt/uncle live there and are fantastically intelligent. Where are all the rest? If I sound bitter, it is because I just got back from there last night and already today, my manager has quit on me leaving me with no choice but to return for next week to get things back in order. I need to hire someone and fast, but after two failures in a row (each lasting less than a year) I am starting to think that either:

  1. The job is undoable by human hands
  2. I have no idea how to hire good employees
  3. Chicago sucks

OK, that third one has nothing to do with it, but I had to throw it in there. Please y'all, if there is anyone out there who knows anyone who knows someonein the Chicago area who has half a brain and is looking for a job, please let me know. I'm thinking that this time I will go with intelligence and ambition over experience and technical skills. Seriously, there has to be someone who can coordinate a small team of maintenance technicians without alienating the customer and constantly getting me in trouble.......right?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sending em home

It's been great having kids here to visit (since Sunday?) but it is
also great to be back to regular. We finished off with a bang w/
tractor rides, swimming in the lake, feeding grasshoppers to a
gigantic spider, building "fireant hills" in the dust, watching a
water snake eat a rotten fish, etc.
video

Monday, July 14, 2008

Party

It's been non-stop here lately. We've been rotating nephews/cousins
with the mob over at the grandparents and the farm has not been
dissappointing.

Yesterday, we shot a rabbit for the dog, caught crawdads, saw/chased
an armadillo, played with farm animals, etc. Cousin Christopher (from
DC) had his first ride in a pickup truck and was generally just
totally blown away with the nonstop farm action.

Today the kids watched the cat eat a fresh rat, we petted the cattle,
caught bass (Logan hauled in a really nice one) shot at rabbits (no
kills) and we had a visit from Kelly and Angela.

It's been busy, but tons o fun.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Update on Sterling

Sterling is looking fine - swelling gone, but a fantastic color. Luckily today was our homestudy where the adoption agency comes by to make sure we have a suitable home for a state-child. It is always nice to have some nice color in the kids eyes when they come by :rolleyes:

As far as farming updates; I used my new angle grinder (the old Harbor Freight one imploded on me the other day so I bought a Skil-brand one - it is heavier, but has way more torque) to take all the rust off a section of pool fence (in the shop) which I had previously cut out and welded in new sections to replace the heaviest rust; and then coated it with Rustoleum primer for heavily rusted metal. It took forever to paint it (since I was using a 2" paint brush and all those little railings just take forever to paint) but it should hold up for another 15 years after I get the finish coat on (tomorrow?)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Bye Bye Black Sheep

We bid adieu to our little black shetland ewe (born on the farm a few months ago) today. She headed out to her new home at Kangaroo Kate's Pony Rides and Petting Zoo in the back of a horse trailer. It was kind of sad to see her go since she was probably the friendliest of the sheep (which is why Kangaroo Kate wanted her) but it was a calculated step to try to start reducing the shetland flock so we can focus more on the angora goats. Farewell black sheep and we hope you have fun with all the little kids around the metroplex.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Magnet for Disaster

The kids were jumping on the trampoline over at my friend Tyson's house this afternoon while I installed a new lower radiator hose on the trusty(?) Metro which we had parked there on Friday after I found a pinhole leak that has been causing us some major overheating woes. Suddenly Sterling started wailing like a stuck pig. Of course, he does this more frequently than we would prefer and has created his own little "sky is falling" situation so we merely yelled up to him that he needed to stop it forthwith. Usually, the wailing is a result of a group of children excluding him from their play or hurting his feelings or something. This time, had we only known, we would have gotten up there sooner.

I buttoned up the metro (the whole repair was accomplished in less than 30 minutes and he started screaming towards the very end) and walked up to the house to find that Sterling was under ice and when the ice was pulled back, his eye was almost completely swollen shut. Apparently he and Winter collided on the trampoline and he came off with the short end of the stick. Here's the result after an hour or so of ice. Notice how happy Sterling is. He was tough (after the initial wailing) but he certainly didn't want anyone thinking that he was pleased with the situation.

We have way too many pictures of Sterling with an overly swollen eye (usually from wasps.) If we keep up this rate, we are going to be able to compile a complete photo album of images of Sterling at all different ages with a swollen eye.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Musack

As you may have already noticed, I added a soundtrack to the blog. It's ironic since I usually hate a website that "sneak-attacks" you with music when you visit, but as I listen to my country station (on Pandora) I found that there are a few songs that really hit home with me and seem to kinda match what we are doing here. So, I figured I would subject you, the reader, to them. Enjoy! ...and I guess if y'all complain too much, I can just pull em down.

PS - spanks to Wendy for the link to the little snippet that allows me to customize a playlist and get it on the blog ;)

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Human Bean

They say the reason you can't buy happiness is that we, as a race, are remarkably adaptable to our surroundings. Let me explain. When things are going miserably, we adapt and make do with what we have. The folks in prison camps develop their own rules and societies and make do. At the same time, follks who have found themselves to be recipients of windfall sums of money are initially elated, but soon also adjust to the newfound riches and find that they are no happier than they were before. Studies show that happiness remains more or less constant over the long term regardless of the day to day positives or negatives that happen to us.
The other day, we drove our Suburban for the first time in a month or two. Wow - that is a nice vehicle. I guess I had forgotten about it after driving around in the metro for so long. The contrast between the two vehicles is huge, but here are a few of the most glaring differences:

  • Road noise
  • Handling
  • Height above the road
  • Cleanliness
  • Radio
  • Seat comfort
  • Did I mention road noise?

Anyway, this post is a salute to the things that bring us back down to earth and remind us of how great we have things. Heck, just having a single vehicle with money to pay for gas is a great thing. Oh yeah, and if you are waiting for "tomorrow" for things to be better, you better reconglomerate because this is it baby - it doesn't get any better than this....and even if it did, your human bean mind would just moderate your happiness right back down to where you were. Carpe diem baby!

PS - to keep the farming flavor:

- Today I wrestled a 200 lb goat to the ground and gave myself a blister by trimming his hooves with wire cutters while I sat on him to keep him down

- We found a turtle that tried to go under a low electric fence. Apparently turtles don't do well with 4,000 volts running from the top of their shells to the ground because he had a serious case of total death.

- We took Jessica's parents (here visiting from Holland) to a genuine cattle auction in Bonham. They thought it was a unique TX experience and couldn't beleive how many cattle were sold.

- I took the day as a vacation day from work, but ended up putting in a good solid 2+ hours of work anyway

- I was welding the pool fence (making repairs to rusted out areas) and while cutting out some old rusted sections, my angle grinder self-destructed - thank you Harbor Freight!

- I put in a couple of laps on the tractor around one of the last sections of pasture that is not yet mowed

- Ginger (our youngest at about 2.5 years old) can swim about 6' under water. As soon as we can teach her to put her head up to grab a gulp of air, she will be swimming all the way across the pool.

- One of the chickens climbed into Jessica's mother's lap to steal her pizza (while she was eating it) This did not go over to well as she is not a big fan of chickens and that is a little to close for comfort even for a moderate chicken-fan

- BIG NEWS around here, apparently the bachelorette got rid of the guy that Jessica says was a "playa." I'm not really sure what any of that means to us, but it is BIG NEWS around here

- I found Jessica's keys (missing for 2 months) in an old vato jacket that she had left them in out by the sheep pen. I am the big hero!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Can someone send me an email?

I'm sitting in a meeting all day and could use some entertainment...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Necked Red

Yesterday I took out a rabbit from astride the trusty John Deere lawntractor with a shotgun. It was a rolling shot which was kinda cool (I didn't stop to aim.)

Unfortunately, I am now questioning how I feel about the fact that I may have taken red-necked-ness to a whole new level. I guess we can take consolation in the fact the rabbit was dogfood rather than our entree for the day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hijacked Blog

OK, so I guess I have a new look. It's a bit off though. My tractor is actually a Ford (got some more mowing in today by the way.) Jessica's lawn tractor is a Deere though, so I guess we are OK. I have to admit though, the new format is MUCH easier on the eyes.

A quick update on Justin (the LGD) - he hasn't been out of his pen since his new haircut and tonight when I brought him his food, he stayed probably 20 feet away from the fence....I'm thinking the new haircut is doing wonders for his manners :)

New Look

I felt like this blog seriously needed a make-over. Of course I didn't have permission, so we'll see if Joe likes it enough to keep it. I like the John Deere touch

-Jessica

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Therapeutic Mowing

I pulled a couple laps on the tractor tonight. There's still plenty to be done, but it was kinda nice feeling the hot air coming off the engine in the cool night breeze. Every now and then there was a pile of grass flung up on me and just when the straight line gets boring, and it seems like you are barely moving, you get to the end of your pass and have to slam on the brake on one side muscle the non-powered steering wheel to the side and swing the front end around to get realigned for the next pass. It is pretty difficult to think about work while doing that --> real nice.
The sun went down on me while mowing and when I climbed off the tractor, I could barely see the fence to climb through it. That's a good finish to a day.

PS - Jessica wants me to write about how we all went swimming today and had a good time. Winter is getting really good at swimming and Sterling is starting to take baby steps towards overcoming his phobia of water on his face. Ginger is, as always, incredibly cute and brave - she will do anything the other kids will do.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Shaving the LDG

No, it's not a new-wave dance move...it's what you do when your livestock guard dog (LGD) can't seem to remember his place on the farm. Tonight, Justin (our part Anatolian Shepard, part Great Pyrennees guard dog) got treated to the sheep-shears and a spray of flea/tick/mite killer. His long hair used to be thick enough that he could run under the electric fence around the goat-pen without getting shocked - it kind of held the wire away from his skin. This has caused him to start showing up around the house just about every day lately. An LGD who doesn't know his place is an LGD that has no place on the farm. It sounds cruel to shave him just so he can get shocked, but look on the bright side. With his new haircut, he stays cooler in the heat and he can avoid getting the boot off the farm (which is what will happen if he can't stay up there and guard the goats.)

Also, by way of closure, the ants pictured below that we found in the attic are, indeed, just that - ants. I had feared they were termites, but it turns out they are actually acrobat ants. They actually eat termites and are attracted to moist wood. That last bit is not good. We have attic vent fans that leak a bit of water if it rains real hard, so I am sure that is what they are up to. We'll have to get rid of them, but at least it is not a termite infestation.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Please Let Them Be Ants

I guess TX is a pretty insect-friendly state, but it doesn't do much to make me feel much better about finding a big ol' colony of these bad boys in my attic today while changing the AC filters :(



Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Glenn Beck Rulz

He is now saying what I have been saying:

http://www.glennbeck.com/content/articles/article/198/10801/?ck=1

In this interview, he discusses the Geo Metro and mocks modern car makers for touting their lame gas mileage when a car that came out in 1989 gets better mileage than their modern marvels. Then, to top it off, he gets a car dealer buddy on the line and that guys starts bragging about a car that gets 36 mpg. What!? How can you be proud of 36 mpg in 2008 when we had 55mpg in 1989?

Modern cars are pathetic and that's why I own a Geo Metro (with pride).

One thing of note though, you definitely aren't picking up any chicks in one of these babies.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bushhogging

We used the front end loader to lift up one side of the bushhog and prop it up on a 55 gallon drum (the safest configuration I could come up with - that thing has to weigh 400 lbs) so we could get up under there. I then used an angle grinder to sharpen the blades which were about as sharp as marble. I am not really sure just how sharp they are supposed to be (since we routinely hit rocks, tires, etc.) so I only filed them down to about sharp as a pencil eraser. Then, I hooked it up and set out to mowing the driveway edges. It worked like a charm - much better than pre-sharpening.

The only problem, of course, is that the wheel that keeps the thing at a consistent height above the ground is still broken, so I had to use the lift on the rear of the tractor to constantly adjust the height of the mower as I went over the uneven terrain. What a pain!

I should also note that shorts and crocs are not ideal bush-hogging atire, although having a bed of grass clippings between foot and croc is not altogether that bad of a sensation.

The most noteworthy thing of the whole affair was when all the sudden the tractor stopped, wheels still spinning, then stalled out. It took me a few moments to realize that the bucket on the front end loader had dug into the ground in the hillside I was approaching. Oops. Fired her back up, reversed out of it, and lifted the bucket a bit to continue. Good times.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Cock-A-Doodle-Doo

I saw an ad for free roosters up near Tulsa today ( I drove up there at 4:00am this morning) so I stopped by and grabbed a couple on my way home. They are really beautiful animals and we are excited to see if we can get chicks growing on their own here - that would be kinda fun. It was dark when I got home so no pics, but we did cut the wingfeathers on all the chickens since one flew over the fence and got eaten by our dog (that dog's days at this farm are seriously numbered - he is taking the first train outta here and lucky he isn't getting treatment .22)

On an unrelated note, it looks like H. Clinton is getting ready to take the ol' heave ho. I am very excited about that. Now, if the 'O' gets elected, I won't be able to complain because I have just been asking for anyone but the 'H'. We have simply just had too much of Clinton/Bush lately and the one thing that I can agree with Obama on is his slogan on "Change." Clinton/Bush are like the dirty skidded underwear that certain unnamed kids are constantly leaving strewn about the place.

On a second unrelated note, is there any sort of prize for the ugliest blog format on the web? Cause, I have to be winning right?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Farm Mechanics

Roscoe is looking to get his farm work merit badge for scouting when he visits us this summer. We figure there is going to be PLENTY of mechanic work around here. This weekend, we knocked out a big one, but there is still lots to be done.

Sat. morning the kids and I picked up the rebuilt lift cylinders for the front-end loader. We got them installed, and after a few gallons of new hydraulic fluid (I think it still needs another gallon or so) it was working great. Here's the evidence as we used the FEL to lift our brush hog into the back of the truck (to haul it into town to consult with the hicks about how to fix it):















FYI, a brush hog, (AKA bush hog) is a field mower that runs off the PTO on the rear of the tractor. This particular version cuts a 5' swath which sounds great until you run it across a field a few times. It takes FOREVER to cut a field with 5' swaths at a time. It is supposed to have a big wheel on the rear of it (the part that is jutting out towards the cab of the truck) that runs along the ground behind it as you mow to keep it from scalping the pasture. Well, the shaft that the wheel is mounted to is SEVERELY worn and after consulting with a few old farmers, we determined that the shaft is just too far worn to allow it to function properly. It binds up and the wheel doesn't track in a straight line and is always trying to turn while the tractor goes straight which causes it to break off. In fact, the last time we mowed, it was grandma that knocked the wheel off the brush hog. It has been sitting around for months waiting for its turn on the never-ending list of things to do around here.


We also did a bit of fishing and pulled in these bass (in addition to some other smaller bass and some bluegill):














The one on the top is actually a pretty sizeable fish (fat!) We ended up turning them loose instead of eating them though.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sale Barn

Here I sit at the Okmulgee sale barn. It's the Thursday night auction
and as I drove home from Tulsa I saw all the trucks and couldn't help
but stop. It is prolly a good thing that I only have a $5 bill or I
might be tempted to bid on something which I would then have to stuff
in the back of the metro for the 2.5 hour trip home. That stank could
take a long time to work out of the car.
Anyway, to Jessica - my apologies for stopping, I couldn't resist.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dreaming of Fencing

We hit a major milestone today - I have retaken the shop. The animals have retreated and I have a firm foothold.

Ever since they started dropping offspring, we have had a mother (or two) living in the shop. Most recently, it was the shetland ewes and the cat. As of today, they are all gone. We finally got the fencing around the upper pasture goat proof (or so we think) and got all the goats moved up there with Justin (the livestock guard dog who is now old enough to be on his own, with the goats - and away from the chickens.) The goats didn't even "test" the electric portions of the fence (there are 2 "hot" wires in front of a 5-wire non-electric horse fence) but poor Justin, who had never experienced electric fence got a couple of shocks-of-a-lifetime. What with the ground being wet from recent rains, that fence is cranking out a full 5,000 volts (I measured) and since 4,000 is enough to knock you on your keister, I can understand why (both times) when he got shocked he yelped for a full 30-seconds. Anyway, the good news is that with the fence at full power, the animals can test it, get a good lesson and then once it dries out and the fence isn't as potent, they won't be anxious to test it anymore.

With the goats in the upper pasture, I turned the ewes with their kids out with the ram in the middle pasture. I consider the lower pasture an electric fence "training pasture" since the perimeter fences are strong enough on their own, but there is one section of electric for them to "learn" about fences with. After a couple of weeks with that, they should be learned enough to move up to the upper pasture too.

On an unrelated note, I took the hydraulic cylinders for the front end loader on the tractor in to "Push'n'Pull" (cool name for a hydraulic shop eh?) to have them rebuilt. My jaw about hit the floor at the price - $160 each! Dad and I had tried to find new surplus units that would work, but couldn't really get any the right size, but dad-gum, at that price, I think next time I might look harder. The good news is that with any luck, the front end loader could be fully operational by this weekend (fingers crossed.)

One last thing. A while back, I bought a small yard trailer for behind lawn tractors at a flea market for $20. It has a 4' x 4' dump bed and while old, is kinda cool. The tires were flat, but I hooked it up and hauled the kids around a bit as we did chores. They loved it and I figure it has to be more gas efficient than firing up the truck right? Maybe.....

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Slaughter

Well, a 30.06 definitely did the job. In fact, it dropped him like a sack of potatoes. I never did take the time to look to see where it hit (it was so close range that the sighting in was undoubtedly off on the rifle) but he sure didn't complain. That was good - I was a bit nervous about traumatizing the other animals if it wasn't a clean kill.
Anyway, killing him was the easy part as it turned out. We hung him off some 4X4 posts on the back of my truck to skin and dress and that took forever. By the time we moved the carcass to the shop to a board for butchering, my back was killing me from bending over all day. Anyway, it is done, the meat is cooling in icy salt water and tomorrow morning after some welding on my free smoker/BBQ, we should be in business for the party.
The only question I have is...how much could we have bought this meat for? It seems like an awful lot of trouble....

Friday, May 23, 2008

D-Day

This evening, our meat goat has an appt. with a 30.06 rifle. We are having a party for my Dallas maintenance team out at the farm and the goat is the main item on the menu. It is going to be an interesting couple of days as we slaughter, process, and then BBQ that goat. We're planning to cook him whole if we can, but I am kind of unsure of exactly how that is going to take place.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What's been going on since the 10th?

Well, here's a synopsis:

  • The ebay auctions ended and the Shetland fleece sold for $6.50 and the two Angora fleeces brought in nearly $50 together.
  • I put the Shetland sheep up for sale on craigslist so we can focus on angoras
  • I worked through a sinus infection
  • I spent 2 days working from my parents house to supervise/translate for my friend Luis as he finished the drywall mudding in a new kids-room in their house
  • I spent a couple days in Tulsa on business
  • I spent a couple days in Phoenix on business (my old HS buddy T. Romney and I reminisced and schemed until 2:00am - I left his house at 4:00am for the airport)
  • I am currently going through a mild-case of traumatic stress syndrome on account of my job which has ballooned from a high-stress-but-manageable level to a high-stress-and-I-am-pulling-my-hair-out-and-crying-myself-to-sleep level

Sorry to leave you (the loyal reader) in the dark, but things have been a bit hectic here lately.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Lunker

Yesterday I realized that since the 10th falls on Saturday, my acounts payable for work was due on Friday. It was way too late to make that, so I worked a deal with corporate to get it in today for their check run on Sunday. What a great way to start a weekend :(
We had already planned to go camping with dad, and though I considered bagging that, we went through with it. The kids were up late around the campfire (yummy smores, but the fire was really too much for an 80 degree night) and then we slept in dad's old trailer and were awaken by the kids way too early. After monkeying around in the woods, shooting some stuff, and eating breakfast, we headed out around 10. By the time we got home, I was way tired and had to take a nap, so I reallly didn't even start working till like 3 or 4. Here's the good news, I got a large portion of the AP done, but couldn't get the web-based program to work that would have allowed me to put in the other 6-8 hours of work to finish it. That's right, due to a computer problem, I got my Saturday back and proceeded to while it away fishing with keith Taylor in our lake.
The fish were biting! We were bringing in fish after fish and every time my count would catch up to his, he would land another one to best me. Then, Keith hooked into a real lunker of a bass. We caught several good sights of him and he was BIG. Unfortunately, he went into some real thick weeds and Keith ended up pulling the hook out of his mouth befoire he could get him out of the weeds. So now I have a mission - I have to catch that bad boy!