Sunday, January 31, 2016

Telephone Troubles

We've had a service tech from Verizon out three times since the beginning of December. The process of calling to report a problem is not very user friendly. It is nearly impossible to talk to a live person. The computer runs a test on your line and tells you if the problem appears to be in your house or on the line outside. The first time we called the computer said the problem was outside. Great, so send someone to fix it. Yup, in 8 days. Ok, so he fixes the problem. Hmmm, two weeks later we can make calls but can't receive any. Call again, computer says the problem is inside our house. Really? We tested the outside line at the port in the junction box in the basement. Couldn't receive any calls there so the problem is in the outside line. Computer asks "Do you still want a service call placed? If the problem is in your house you will receive a bill." Why, of course we want a service call because we know the problem is outside. OK, another 8 day wait for a service call. My husband takes off work and they never show up. Finally, three more days later the tech comes, says the line coming into the house has a short in it and he replaces the line. Phone now works great, thanks.

Fast forward another 2 1/2 weeks. A tractor trailer (one of many) gets lost and ends up trying to turn around in the intersection at our house. He is told to turn around at the next intersection since it is a little larger. After he turns around and is heading out he snags our new phone line. Rips it off the house, out of the basement, and pulls the junction box off the joist it was attached to. Now we once again have no phone and now also no internet. Another service call to Verizon. Guess what? The computer says the problem is in our house! Really!!!! I was thinking it had something to do with the large coil of phone line in our neighbor's front yard that used to be attached to our house. Amazingly, the computer says someone will come to fix our phone in two days! And they actually show up when scheduled! The tech puts up a line, puts a splice before the house so that will break off first if the line gets snagged again, but puts the old junction box, which is now broken, back up in the basement. We no longer have a port to test the line, so no way of knowing if the problem is outside or inside the house the next time the phone stops working.

Unfortunately, where we live we have no choice in phone or internet service providers. There is also no cable. And our cell phone reception is a bit sporadic inside the house so we really do need a landline, unless you like talking with your head up against a window. Wonder how long it will be until we need to make another service call?

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Day After

We had a little over two feet of snow from the blizzard and had a lot of digging out to do on Sunday. Luckily Alan bought a big snow blower with the plan of digging paths back to the animals. The tractor he has been plowing with just doesn't do well on our steep hills so the blower was to replace that. The snow blower worked great. I have paths just about everywhere!
The snow blower also did a great job clearing the drive up to the barn and our driveway.  Alan thinks his plow would not have been able to deal with this much snow. Unfortunately, the snow blower can't get into the chicken pen to clear that out.
This chicken usually jumps the fence every morning and spends the day scratching around outside. She jumped up onto the snow, squawked a whole lot, then spent about an hour sitting on the fence. She never did leave the pen.
The chickens and ducks were much happier when they could get around a bit.
The rams weathered the storm well in their huts. They have made a path down to the gate but haven't ventured beyond. I shoveled them a big circle to hang out in outside their hut and they've been getting extra hay. The ewes only know that the edges of their outside pen have snow; other than that they seem unaffected by the blizzard.

The worst faring animals in the snow were our barn cats. A few hours before the blizzard wound down one of our barn cats was spooked and ran up into the woods. He was having a very hard time getting through the two feet of snow but wouldn't turn around. We tried to find him but between the steep slope, the thicket of brush he ran through and the deep snow we just couldn't follow him. We didn't see him at all yesterday either, but this morning he was back! Other than being hungry he doesn't seem any worse for the experience, and his brother seems much calmer now that his brother is back.

Now we just have to hope the snow melts off the roof soon.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


This winter has been incredibly warm, but I like a bit of snow. The weather forecasters have been all over the place with this storm's predicted snowfall. We started with the first flakes around 7 last night. When I went out this morning to feed this is what met me at the patio door.
That's an open door. We had about 10-12 inches already on the ground when I was feeding. And we really need to get some weather stripping for the bottom of the big barn doors. There were two foot tall drifts in the barn from snow blowing in under the doors. The wind is the big problem. By the time I walked back to the house from feeding I could barely see my foot prints. Many snow drifts were over my knees. Now the forecasters are saying we will get a total of 23-30 inches.

Yesterday was spent getting the animals as ready as they could be for the storm. The barn overhang we had built last spring is a lifesaver. No longer must I shovel out in front of the doors to get them open so the sheep can go out. I fenced in the area directly under the overhang after we had all the wet weather. We were starting to get hoof problems with all the mud. Now the ewes are walking around in dry straw and discarded hay.

The rams are hanging out in their shelters this morning. Yesterday I moved one of the calf hutches so it would block the northeast side of the shelter, where the wind was supposed to be coming from during the storm. They have been hanging out in both the calf hutch and the shelter and staying cozy. Extra hay this morning for them!

The chickens are probably the most miserable. Usually they hang out under their coop but the snow has blown under there and they aren't too thrilled about staying inside the coop.

The kittens are happily ensconced in the barn, with all the food and water they need/want. And the birds are chowing down at the feeders, making for some very interesting kitty television.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Adding Planks to a Paneled Door

The little side door to the garage had a great little window but was old, out of square, and a little too small. The old doors with planks on one side and a paneled door on the other side are a cool design and would shore up the old door. We also needed to change the swing of the door. You can just make out the doorknob on the right hand side of the door. The door swung out into the bush. We wanted the door to swing in like a proper door.
When Alan squared up the door jamb he needed to add a bit to the door so it would fit. He also made it mostly square again.
Then he added the planks to the door. The panels were slightly recessed from the door frame so he had to pack those out.
The planks are joined with a ship-lap joint and each plank gets planed for a little V-groove.
Then the planks are glued and clamped to the panel door.
The planks around the window get trimmed out and a little sill was added.
Plotting out the nail pattern took a while. I wanted a diamond pattern, but couldn't have a nail too close to the edge of the door, in a seam, or in a knot. The pattern also needed to work out so that a single row could go across the boards above the window. A 4x7 diamond pattern worked out just right.
Then the pattern was scribed into the wood with a nail.
Each point where two lines intersect had a hole drilled,
and then a nail hammered in.
Unfortunately, the old wood of the paneled door did not take kindly to having a cut nail hammered in.
We had planned on using longer nails and clinching them over on the paneled side of the door but at the last minute Alan decided to not clinch the nails and bought shorter nails. We don't know if the longer nails would have made a difference, but drilling a deeper hole did make a difference. A little putty and paint and you won't be able to tell there was a problem.
The door is now hung and weather-stripped. The latch wasn't supposed to arrive until the 13th but showed up on our door step on the 9th.
All we need now is the dead bolt installed and a coat of paint I am hoping that the scribe marks will just barely be visible once the door is painted. Really, we will use a solid stain.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2016 Goals (and How to Build a Cattle Panel Structure)

2016 is here and I want to write down a plan for the year so I can visualize all we need/want to accomplish.  Seeing everything we got done in 2015 was very eye opening; hopefully, we can be as productive in 2016.

In the farming realm, I need a larger shelter for the rams in the south pasture. We had the ram lambs there this summer and they did fine in the two calf hutches. But Mercer and Elwood are just too big to be in the hutches together. A portable temporary shelter was on my list of 2016 projects. Isn't it great when you write a list and can immediately cross something off? This past weekend we built a hoop house and covered it with tarps.
The larger calf hutch is on the right in the picture above. The new shelter, to the left, is made of an 8x8 frame and two cattle panels. Some bracing, front and back, help to stiffen the structure. A tarp across the back is secured with zip ties through the grommet holes and a couple of screws and washers through the grommets at the base.
The back is covered by an 8x12 tarp. The main body of the shelter is covered by a 12x 16 tarp, the front and back overlapping. On the back we threaded a piece of poly rope to pull it tighter and hold it on.

With the second tarp on and the hay rack and mineral trough mounted, the boys are all set for winter weather.
The rams have quickly gotten used to finding their hay in a new place. Elwood was a little territorial at first but is now OK with sharing the space with Mercer.

Four of my ewes are due the first week in March so I need to figure out a better system for lambing jugs. I have a couple of ideas inspired by systems I saw at the lambing clinic and Cornell's Sheep and Goat Symposium. Using hog panels to make smaller pens, approx 5x6, I figure with three or four extra jugs the sheep should be fine.

Our new pasture area in the upper pasture needs to be seeded and I want to over seed a lot of the other pastures. Need to find some bulk orchard grass seed.

We have been using a 250+ gallon water reservoir for rainwater collection off the barn. I have been using a hose to water the veggie garden and orchard. A gravity fed irrigation system would be very useful and a time saver. Most irrigation systems sold in catalogs assume a pressurized water system but I did find a few references to using a gravity fed system. This blog post has a great design and the system would easily work with my set up. So I am adding a gravity fed irrigation system for the main garden to the list of goals for 2016.

The barn addition we had built last year is supposed to have a corner turned into a storage/wool room. With all the other things Alan wants to get done, I see this as a low priority.

A carry-over from 2015 is finishing up the garage. The third bay needs doors. Alan is almost done with the side door. And I would like to paint the whole garage. That will give us an idea if we like the color palette we are thinking of using.

Our poor little foot bridge over the stream desperately needs to be replaced. We are still discussing plans though. We need to cross about 8 feet and also raise up about 2-3 feet. I want to be able to take the wheelbarrow over the bridge but also don't want it to be slanted and become slippery when it is wet or icy.

One big project I have been waiting a while for is my root cellar in the basement. One third of our basement still has a dirt floor and there is a perfect spot for a root cellar. There is a small window in the northeast corner for ventilation and the floor where the root cellar will go will remain dirt. The rest of the area will get a poured concrete floor instead of the plastic that is there now. We have a cat who thinks peeing on plastic is great. Before we can pour the floor though, the floor above needs to have new joists and supports placed. We'll probably find a bit of rotten sill while we're at it.

Alan also has plans to build the mudroom addition this year. That will give us a covered access to the garage from the house and a service entrance from barn and outside chores instead of right into the living room. The mudroom addition will also include a walk-in closet from the area that will become the master bedroom.

I think this is a pretty ambitious list so it will be interesting to see how much we accomplish and what else comes along that gets added.

Monday, January 4, 2016


Finally, winter temps are here. Today didn't get out of the 20s. So, a great day for harvesting. I spent about an hour all bundled up digging parsnips, carrots and beets.
The chickens appreciated all the tops. I also pulled up some swiss chard and some weeds for the chickens. They had a pretty good day.