Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Saga of the Master Bath

Our home is an ongoing saga of transformation. Unfortunately, that transformation has been hard-earned and has not been quick in arrival. A case in point is the master bathroom which started its transformation shortly after we moved in several years ago when Jessica started tearing off the floral wallpaper. It sat in that state for some time, then in August of this year, we finally got all the drywall modifications completed and the texture sprayed. Since then, I hinted about the next phase in a post on this blog in September, and posted this picture:

This was the beginning of the process of installing granite countertops in the same master bath. Ironically, the hardest part of the whole project turned out to be finding the right drill bit (it is a diamond bit 1 1/4" hole saw bit - pictured below on the drill) and then drilling the two holes for the sinks through the granite tile. Here's a picture from that project that documents the little clay dams I used to retain a little pool of cooling water around the drill site while I patiently (for like an hour per hole) drilled away without exerting too much pressure. The little notched piece of wood was the "template" I used to steady the drill bit as I started the holes (to keep the bit from walking.)

In the end, I think it all turned out worthwhile and we are happy with the final product (even though it took two years plus to accomplish.) Here is the finished product:

With the sink mocked up with the new faucet on the freshly grouted tile:

And finally, with the new Ikea mirrors installed, and a matching towel bar:

By the way, stay tuned to Jessica's blog - surely she will soon get this place all decorated up and post some before/after pictures which really are quite dramatic (I think.)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Oreo The Bull

The bull in the post below is now an official resident of our little ranch. He was delivered earlier today and we decided to call him "Oreo." The other cattle were VERY excited to have a new friend and they have been chasing each other around all day long. He is still a rather small bull, and it looks like he hasn't had a lot of good grass down where he is at, but you can see that he has the potential to be a really nice looking bull.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A lot of Bull

In the ongoing saga of how to get my virgin cattle impregnated (our only bulls are too young and we are wasting precious time by not getting these cattle bred) I have made the decision that my neighbor who promised me that we could bring our heifers over to his place in August for insemination via his borrowed bull is never going to get around to letting me do that. I's actually really frustrating. It was late spring when I abandoned my aritificial insemination plans in order to wait for the free August breeding from this bull and here it is almost into January and these cattle aren't bred yet! For pete's sake we should have calves on the ground about now and we have nothing!

So, since it looks like the neighbor is falling through, I have decided to hit Jessica up with plan C. Here are the basics of plan C:
  1. Buy a $500 (or less depending on my haggling skills) registered bull off craigslist that is at least 14 months old (and hopefully proven fertile)
  2. Turn him out with "the ladies"
  3. Once he has a chance to do his thing with both the heifers (virgin cows) and the mama cow and possibly after a summer getting fat on our grass and growing additional horn length, sell him for $500 (or more depending on my haggling skills)
  4. By the time the cows drop their calves and are ready for rebreeding, Boots (our little longhorn calf) will be ready to step up into the role of herdsire and the whole saga of being short of bull will be forever over.
At this point, the plan seems flawless to me. Of course, I'm sure Jessica will have some input into this, but really, I'm thinking this could work. By the way, here's the $500 bull I'm currently looking at to fill the role of interim herd sire

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hello bacon!

Piggy Smalls was a good pig. However, he has been getting teste lately and we discovered why. While we had been informed by his previous owners that he "used to be" a boar, we found today during the butchering process that he was still half a boar. Apparently one of his testes had not dropped down and was not removed during his neutering procedure. That may account for his boarish appearance and nasty temperament.

Piggy Smalls last moments:

Getting prepped for butchery:

The kids came home in time for a quick anatomy lesson with specific attention to the inner workings of the heart.

Thanks a ton to my dad who came out to help with the slaughter/butchering. It is a big job and would have been very difficult without his help. The meat is now "aging" in ice water in preparation of Christmas Eve feasting.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Offer I Can't Refuse

Autotrader is currently running ads promoting a new program where they will make you a guaranteed offer to purchase your vehicle sight-unseen over the internet. Since liquidating my pickup truck is part of our "scaling back" plan I figured I would give them a shot. Since the truck is a "work truck" with minor damage all over (inside and out) I knew I wasn't going to be getting a huge offer from these guys, but give me a break! This is an actual screen-shot of their offer:

One hundred and nineteen dollars!?!? I could (literally) sell this truck to the scrap yard for the weight of the steel and get two or three times as much as this! What a joke! And it took me half an hour to fill out their stupid forms too.

I now am officially offering to match autotrader's offer on any vehicle because their prices are officially moronic.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Reminiscing about Christmas Dinner

Here's a shot we all love from last spring:

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's 43 degrees outside and...

...this is where Sterling and Ginger asked me if they could spend the night:

All they have for covers is their jackets. I would have let them except for they would have had to walk past the cattle at night in the dark when they figured out it was a bad idea.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Update: Dog, Cattle, Suburban

Some of you may be aware that our livestock guard dog Justin got his world ROCKED the other day. It all started with a girl...
Our friends have another livestock guard dog (female) and wanted her to be bred by Justin. She is in heat, so they brought her over to our place for a visit. Justin has been very happy with that arrangement, but she has a powerful attractive quality and is bringing in big dogs from all over the county. I didn't even know we had so many dogs around here. Anyway, the other day when we came home from partying with the Allreds I found Justin half dead and freezing out in the mud. I brought him in and set up a pen in the garage with a heater, washed him up, treated him with some 1st aid supplies and gave him warm milk to drink. He was NOT looking good that night and it broke my heart but I was expecting to be burying him the next morning.

These pictures are from the first night. Notice the two teeth marks on the opposite side of his leg from the big gash? I could see his tendons in his leg and he is lucky it is just the skin that was ripped. The next day, we saw a big pit-bull-looking dog that I think was the perpetrator. Those ones on his leg make the cut under his eye look like nothing at all.
Anyway, as of today, he is doing great and is limping around tripod style. We really like this dog. This was his first night spent indoors and he actually held his bodily functions until we let him out of the garage for a potty break - no training and he is housebroke!

I thought this was a fun picture of Winter and Sterling playing in the hay while we fed the cattle and goats.
About our Suburban - the other day while we were hauling Jessica's harp around between performances, the Suburban made some funny sounds and was acting like the E-brake was on and grinding while driving. I thought I could hear noises when I put it in gear too, so I figured the transmission must be full of loose pinball machine parts and ready for the junkyard. We parked it (which, in turn led to the damage to Jessica's harp which you can read about here: Harp Tragedy) and had a auto shop come pick it up. The good news is that they couldn't get the problem to replicate. I asked them to go ahead and drop the pan off the transmission to change the fluid and look for loose/broken parts and it came back with a clean bill of health! At this point, I am thinking a rock or something got stuck in a brake caliper or something and that we are in the clear! Hooray! We were feeling blessed that a $1,500 transmission repair bill wouldn't throw us into bankruptcy, but now we feel even more blessed to be able to apply that $1,500 to something more effective for our family plan.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fun w/ my truck

I wrote this post at 2:00am on the 5th - I was just finally able to get my reports that were due to Corporate. Something about my VPN not hooking up....

Anyway, earlier that day, I snapped a couple of fun shots:

This is what is left of a ton of decomposed granite that will be serving as the underlayment for our new granite paver patio. Notice that it the outer 4" or so is frozen - it was a real pain getting that part broken to get the stuff unloaded.

This is what filled the truck as soon as the granite was out of it. All those branches are the results of my newest hobby - trimming trees! I don't know what it is, but I really have to say that I love to cut branches off trees (no surprise there) to sculpt them into new and better looking versions of their old selves (the surprising part.) Anyway, if you are going to be around on new Years Eve, come on by because this stuff will all be flaming high.

Is this a Jed Clampett load or what?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

An Original Thought?

Believe it or not, we are pert near (that's Texas slang for "just about") ten years into this brand new century. Time really flies, and it is amazing how fast technology, too, has changed in those few short years. What I want to know, however (aside from the reason why not a single politician nor environmentalist has proposed synchronized traffic lights to cut greenhouse gases, reduce dependency on foreign oil, reduce the need for add'l road construction, etc) is why it is, in this brand spankin' new century of rapidly advancing technology, that we can't figure out a way to harness that technology to communicate better with our politicians. Bear with me here as a simple farmer lays a communication brainstorm into "the cloud."

What if there was a or something... where any regular Joe from anywhere, USA could post a suggestion for viewing by the entire world. Then....any John Doe and any of his friends could view said suggestion and give it a thumbs up, or thumbs down (or rate it according to some other system.) Suggestions with the highest ratings would be automatically sorted into a summary page with the most highly favored suggestions for the country. Politicians could make their own assessments of the suggestions and go from there. What have we got to lose? How insignificant would the costs of such a program be? How great are the potential benefits? Let's harness the power of the masses in such a way as was never imagined by the founders of this great country - let's take advantage of Al Gore's invention here!

Heck, my cousin Bill could prolly have the code for a basic version of this website written and published to the "ennernet" (as the locals call it) within an hour or two. All he lacks is the official URL and Obama's blessing in a national speech.

Here are my basic plans for the site:
  1. There would really need to be some sort of login system - something as simple as Ebay's or Craigslist's would be fine I think...but if you really wanted to go nuts, it could incorporate some sort of requirement for a social security number matching the name you submit or something
  2. There could be different categorizations for each suggestion (like environmental reform suggestions, health care reform suggestions, legal reform suggestions, etc) On top of the categorized suggestions, there could be a category for "most popular suggestions" or something similar to aggregate the best of the best of all categories.
  3. People could "lobby" for their suggestions on popular TV shows, advertisements, Twitter, etc.
  4. There would have to be a moderator of course to weed out non-productive suggestions, but there would have to be some accountability on that (like publishing the deleted suggestions on a separate list)
Wouldn't it be great to throw something like this out there and just see what our collective wisdom allows to rise to the top? The only reason (I think) a system like this doesn't already exist is that there is no money in it. We have the capability, why not use it?

Disclaimer: My motives for desiring such a system are selfish and stem from a prideful suspicion that I myself, a lowly farmer actually may have a suggestion or two that this country could benefit from, but which are lost in the volume of mail that my representatives receive and is likely never even viewed by them.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Driving Back From Abilene

Here's the view from Abilene this morning:

Luckily it wasn't affecting the road and there was no ice - I am safe and sound at home now.