Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Stirring the Chicago Pot

A letter I recently penned to the Illinois Tollway Authority (who operates the Chicago toll roads) in response to an emailed newsletter urging citizens to obey their ridiculous 45 mph speed limits in construction zones. For those of you who have not yet had the opportunity to whine on this subject, here is a brief synopsis; they have 45 mph zones on huge 8+ lane freeways running through the city. Virtually nobody even comes close to obeying these limits:

In your recent emailed newsletter, you state, "Slow down-drive 45. Speeding is one of the major causes of work zone accidents. Reduced speed limits are in effect even when workers are not present"

This really caught my attention as I have noted that I am just about the ONLY one on these roads who obeys this law. How pathetic is it when actually driving your artificially low speed limit actually CAUSES unsafe traffic conditions as cars blast past me at 70 mph. It is ridiculous to post these speed limits to harm law-abiding citizens such as myself without providing a level of enforcement sufficient to create an incentive to obey for those who refuse to obey for principles alone. YOU ARE CREATING A SAFETY HAZARD BY POSTING THESE LOW LIMITS AND NOT ENFORCING THEM!!!!

If a lmited police budget is the excuse for the practically non-existant enforcement, then the situation is worse than I thought. The traffic fines alone from an organized traffic enforcement policy would EASILY pay for any increased patrolling expenses.

How pathetic is it that Chicagoans know that they had better slow down at the Wisconsin border because traffic laws are actually seriously enforced there?
FYI, if I ever am involved in a traffic accident on your roads as a result of my obedience to your unenforced and arbitrarily low speed limits, I will bring legal action against you for negligence. Obeying the lay should not put my physical safety at risk and currently, that is EXACTLY what is going on.

Thank you for taking the time to read an emotional letter from a concerned citizen.

For any Chicago readers who enjoy breaking the law: please let me apologize for my meddling. The 45 mph limit is clearly WAY too low, but rather than break the law, wouldn't you rather see the limit changed to something reasonable so that you could obey?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Return of the Smurf

In a very twisted turn of events, we are now the official owners of an early 90s, blue, 3-banger, geo metro. Yep, we just dropped a princely sum of no less than $900 on this bad boy tonight. Here's the description according to the previous owner:

1994 geo metro 5 speed 1.0 liter, has been a commuter all of it's life.Has heat and cold a/c. Average 43 MPG.Runs great has 193k miles.Has 30k miles on new clutch and timing belt.$1000 obo. Call 972-824-7330
Those in "the know" may remember that I drove a 91 model of this exact same vehicle (and color) all through highschool. That car also took my sister Nancy through HS and was used by my brother Mark as well. After we got married, my parents basically gave it to Jessica and I and we drove it until we were run off the road by a Durango making a right turn out of the middle lane (we were in the lane to his right.) We sold it for $600 with a badly damaged door and fenders and a bad CV joint.
Fast forward to today, and I was all smiles as I drove this bad boy down our gravel road listening to a deafening chorus of rocks as they flipped up into the undercarriage and pinged off the muffler. Friends and family familiar with the old smurf are hereby cordially invited to visit the farm at their leisure for a stroll down a gas-miserly memory lane powered by the venerable 1.0 Liter engine. This speed machine is a weedwacker on wheels baby!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Winter Expands Her Horizons

So the kids and I attended a baptism for a lady this evening. She is prolly 70 years old or so. I told the kids that once the doors opened, they could go sit up front IF they were super reverent. They were stoked and once the doors opened, they were on the way up before they were even invited - they had "front row" seats on the floor right at the edge of the pool with their little faces right about level with the heads of the lady getting baptized. It was a small service with probably 20-30 people in attendance, so just about everybody in the whole place heard it when, after the baptism was complete and they were starting to exit the pool, Winter asked, "are you really 8 years old?"
The whole place busted up laughing. When Winter came back to me, she asked me how old the lady was. I told her I didn't know and that some people didn't have the chance to get baptized when they were 8 years old. The things kids say....

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More Births

Yesterday, our other shetland ewe had a coal black baby-ewe with whitish ears and a white/black spotted one (this time a little ram with little horn buds started already.) How exciting - we just went from 3 shetlands to 6 shetlands in about a week.
Then, to top it off today, one of Jessica's cats had 5 little kittens this afternoon. Good times.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bull B Gone

Finally, after months of feeding and caring for these 2 longhorn bulls
on a daily basis, they are gone! They're at the Fannin County
Livestock barn waiting for Monday's auction. It was (again) a fiasco
getting them into the trailer, but it feels great to have them gone.
We also sent off the last llama today, so it was a good day from a
point of herd reduction. I had ANOTHER blowout on the trailer
(luckily in town) and paid another $20 for another used tire. How
much of this can I take before I 'splurge' on a decent set of tires?
Place your bets now.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Day in the Life of A Weasel

Tonight the two older kids had T-ball practice in Leonard:
When they make the kids run (not sure why they do that) they send them out in a big line which quickly morphs into a big pack. The kids run to a designated point, then turn 180 degrees and run back. The turn is practically a guaranteed collision....but I digress... Sterling always runs with his head turned to the side looking at all the other kids. He is 180 degrees away from having his "eye on the prize" and could care less about how fast he is going. When he actually looks where he is going, he is much faster. I guess it is a "tell" of his overall personality.

We then picked up hay:
There is a place on the other side of Leonard where they were selling some hay. It "used to be horse quality" hay, but was old and somewhat water-damaged, so it is now "cow quality" which is fine for our cows, goats and sheep. With all the green grass we have here, we don't really need hay, but if a drought hits, hay prices will hit the roof and we will be introuble, so I figure why not stock up in the time of plenty? We gave $12 for 12 bales (a good deal) and loaded up the truck with them and the real prize for the night - a free plastic 55 gallon drum. It will make an excellent livestock feeder once modified.

When we got home we unloaded the hay at our remote shed:
Sterling and Ginger stayed in the truck watching The Cat In The Hat on DVD while Winter climbed on the newly forming hay stack and played with the dog. On the way out, she "ran interference" and opened/closed the gates (for us to drive the truck through) quickly before the cattle could escape.

It was still light, so we hit the lake:
I had dug some real nightcrawlers out of some poop-filled hay that our recently-delivered animals had been using as bedding after giving birth. The chickens loved that I scratched it up and the nightcrawlers were (what I thought would be) the perfect bait. Apparently it was too late, or perhaps the kids splashed the water too much, but we had no bites.

It was soon dark, so we came inside:
The kids finished their dinner (why is it that kids will eat 3-hour old ramen noodles, but not freshly cooked vegetables?) and then we had ice cream before brushing teeth and hitting the sack with pleasant dreams of a fun-filled day with Grandma coming to take them to their T-ball games.

Duckling Learns to Fly

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Lamb Pics

Since the dad looks the same as the mama, we're not sure where this color came from...

Early Arrival

Yesterday around 5:00pm, we found a new little speckled lamb out in the pasture. Our Shetland ewe was due sometime this week, but my calculations had her scheduled for closer to Saturday, so this little lamb is a bit early.
Happy B-day to the very first livestock animal conceived, gestated, and born on the farm! (see this post:

Anyway, I'll get pics up soon, but this little lamb is really something. She came from 100% blonde (for lack of a better word) parents and she is black with white spots....don't ask me?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Kids New Favorite Pastime

...dragging sticks/shovels/pipe/whatever behind the truck. I'm not sure what is so fascinating about it, but both Winter and Sterling think it is the coolest thing ever. They sit on the tailgate and just drag stuff on the ground as we drive out to feed the cows. Simple pleasures.

Oh yeah, I caught a couple pound bass yesterday in a brief between-chore fishing break :)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Pre-first Impressions

I met a guy who has been subcontracting for me for several years for
the first time this week in Tulsa. It was strange on several levels
to be talking to a complete stranger (by appearance) who sounds like
an old friend. This is not something rare for me in my line of work.
I have several contractors who have been woorking for me since 2004
that I still have never met. I also met a contractor in Tulsa who I
have been speaking with for a couple of weeks. He mentioned that I
sound older than I look and that my voice sounds like one from
'someone bigger.'
It's always interesting to hear other people's impressions of you
based on the sound of your voice alone. In my case, I think sounding
older/wiser probably helps me in negotiating with these folks.
Changing gears a bit, my dad has neotiated a deal on a motorcycle for
the farm. I am VERY excited about the prospect of some mechanized
mayhem, but wonder just how excoted to get. Do I dare daydream about
a newer and decently sized bike? Or should I resign myself to a
moped-looking, dilapidated, piece of junk that will require more
wrenching than riding? Here's where I am roght now w/ my pre-first
impression. I, guessing it's an early 90s model, 125cc with a few
tears in the seat, needing a carb rebuild, but mostly in good shape.
We'll know within a few days.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Thunder Storms

Since jessica commandeered the goat shed for her chicken project, the
goats have been back out in the cold. After driving home from Tulsa,
I headed out to the shop and started on a new shed for them. Jessica
joined me after awhile (Lost must have been over?) and we worked
together on it as it really poured down outside. We got the frame
done, hung 2 sheets of metal roofing on it and hauled it out for the
animals (even though it has no sides on it yet). At least this way
they are out of the rain. It sure was nice working in a (semi) dry
and lighted shop. I'm thankful for that.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Chainsaw Man

I spent most of the day driving to Tulsa today. I spent most of the
rest of it cutting the stumps of broken tree limbs for a new customer.
That was a real nice break from the normal montony of work. looks like a nice place to live, but the roads need work.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

At least it is still there...

$27.50 for a used tire later and I was able to make the 9:00am appointment to sell a llama at the farm. Wow.

Later, Jessica and I went to an auction (a first for both of us) and then after the kids were done with T-ball, Sterling, Ginger and I stopped by the feed store. Sterling asked for a baby duck, so, what could I do. We now have a duck on the farm.

Now for the good news. The patch I installed on my rubber boot (after sewing up the big tear) seems to be holding marvelously and it is even water proof! I know that because I just dangled my booted feet in the lake while catching up a mess of Crappie with the kids. Nice!

Glutton for ?

I guess I do this to myself, but is there no cure? I headed out at
about 9p to Richardson to remove/take 120' of free chainlink fence.
The idea is to use it to close off part of our property line.
Well...after losing a tire on the stocktrailer on the freeway (and not
stopping) I got to work pulling the fence. It wasn't too bad I
guess. The worst was where trees had grown through it. It was kind
of cool to be prepared though with all the tools I needed. It sure
stinks not to be prepared with a spare wheel. I limped over to Plano
and am crashing here tonight. The rim made it seemingly unscathed.
The wheel on the other axle must be holding it up or something.
Anyway, it is late and I have a TON of stuff to do night.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Ebbing the Livestock Flow & Heading for Tulsa

We bid adieu to 3 ewes, 3 kids, and 3 rams tonight. These were the ones that we picked up for free a few weeks back (for the most part - actually the 3 kids were born here at the farm and one of the rams is the shetland ram that was one of the first animals we got on the farm.) We traded them off in a cash + hay deal to some guys who came out and picked them up tonight. This helps us to stay more closely in line with our plans to raise quality animals of a specific type rather than a mishmash of mutts. We still have the shetland sheep and the angora goats.
The hay we got is the easy to handle "square bale" (they are actually rectangular) and we picked up about 20 or so. That should make it a bit nicer for Jessica to move hay around when she needs to if I am not around.
The guys came over relatively late (and stayed even later shooting the bull and trying to convince us to sell them a llama at a rock bottom price - which we didn't go for.) Sterling thought it was a real treat to be able to stay up later than the other kids and ended up staying up till about 10:30 (he normally goes to bed at 7:30) so he is going to need a serious nap tomorrow. He enjoyed riding on the running boards of the stock trailer of the guys who came to pick up the sheep, on top of the hay in the back of the truck, and generally just hanging out and feeling special because the other kids were in bed.
On an unrelated note, we received good and bad news today. We were awarded a contract to provide a full-time maintenance guy in Tulsa for a large property management company in Dallas. We normally wouldn't do that in such a remote location, but we are hoping to wow them with our mad skills and convince them to let us handle all their maintenance in the D/FW area (which would be awesome!) Anyway, that's the good news - the bad news is that this maintenance guy in Tulsa is going to be reporting directly to me so I will now be doing business trips to Tulsa (does this remind any of my siblings of their childhoods when their father was on business in Tulsa?) Tulsa is just close enough (~200 miles) that it will make more sense for me to just drive there than to spend an hour and a half driving to the airport (68 miles,) then wait an hour for the flight and check in, then fly for half an hour, then get a rental car, etc. So, it looks like I'll be getting the opportunity to take in the scenery of N. TX and S. OK in the very near future (like next week.) I wonder if I might be able to convince my father to take a road trip with me?