Missouri or Bust
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UPDATE AS OF APRIL 2009. Spring is springing again.

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::  COMING OUT OF HIBERNATION
Our second Spring is in the air. The lilac is budding, the grass is greening up. The air is a cacophony of bird song. Who says the country is quiet. We have seen the first vulture of spring, so it is official. We had 70 degree days in early March but it has gotten cold again. The winter wasn't bad but I'm ready for it to be over. We only had a couple of snowstorms of a couple inches each. It was generally around 0 degees in the mornings and would warm up to the 30s. As long as it wasn't windy, it could be downright enjoyable on our morning walks. We did not get the phone line trenched to the shop yet. It is a challenge running back and forth between the house and the shop across the mud with the freezing wind blowing just to talk to Danny.

My life has basically become a daily routine of cleaning dog feet and cleaning up dog barf off the carpet. Almost every time Aiko goes outside she comes back with mud caked between her toes (see picture). If the day gets above freezing, they all usually need their feet washed when they come in. Since the faucet outside is frozen during the winter, I've been using a small bucket which I put their feet in. You would think I was dipping their feet in boiling oil. Even though we do it almost every day, only Aiko has gotten slightly used to it.

Sammy and Buster spend a lot of their time outside digging and come back with dirty paws and noses. They're getting better and better at catching and eating voles. The less voles the better, I say, but then they get sick--usually in the house. The lawn is all torn up from the moles, gophers and voles, and then the dogs digging to try to catch them. Voles are new to me. I understand they are tunnel makers but I haven't figured out which tunnels are which. Voles look like field mice with short tails.

The dogs also enjoy sneaking into the pasture and eating any stinky smelling disgusting thing they find. They love eating fresh cow poop at any opportunity (which also makes them sick). It has been better since the cows were moved to other pastures but the problem will return when the cows do. Why they insist on eating things that make them sick, I can't figure out. They get more than enough food. We spoil the heck out of our dogs. Most people around here just leave their dogs outside all the time. Either running loose or stuck in small kennels. Probably because they don't like cleaning dog feet.

::  WORK
Danny was laid off from his seasonal job in October. He has spent the winter organizing the shop and working on a few projects. Aside from the shop furniture, he has made a bluebird nest box and a suet holder. But the biggest project is the chicken coop. Since we will not be able to get back for the April Build-A-Thon, we have been conducting our own build-a-thon. See the rest of the story.

MoDot has asked Danny to come back to the sign shop again starting April 1 and through the summer. I have had spotty work and not much success finding more. I am very grateful to those of you who have given me work lately. Sure, the cost of living is less here but not by much. Food and consumer goods are about the same. Gas prices are a little bit less but we have to drive farther to get anywhere.

::  PROJECTS

The days go by so quickly, it is amazing how little gets done. We have a long list of items that need fixing around here. There are a number of details left to complete the shop but they await warmer temps and cheap lumber deals. It's been too cold to work on fixing up the barn, but Danny did replace the struts in my car. And I replaced the retracting antenna that was misbehaving.

At the end of Fall, I took the riding mower out to do a last mow for the season. This is usually Danny's job and it wasn't clear to me that the oil needs to be checked each time it is used. Shortly after I started, I heard a very loud. bad noise and a big puff of smoke and the engine was dead. After pushing it back to the barn, we found a large hole in the side of the engine case. Not good. I began researching replacement engines and Craftsman wanted $1,000 for an 18hp Briggs and Stratton. That was more than the $800 we paid for the entire used mower last year. We had all winter to get it repaired so I kept my eye on a new 20hp replacement engine on Ebay. The guy had a few to sell and listed them one after the other. I bid on them until I won one at the starting bid of $300 (+ $50 shipping). Danny easily removed the old engine and put the new one on. He opened up the old engine and found the bent and broken connecting rod. Amazing what a lack of oil will do. I figured I got off fairly easily for my negligence. I will take care to check the oil from now on.

::  AUCTIONS
We have been haunting the auctions for items we still need, especially metal working tools, a torch set, and lumber for shop projects. We keep getting outbid on Acetylene sets that we find. I would think everyone around here would already have one, but the funny thing about auctions is, you can either get a great deal on used items, OR people will often pay as much as it would cost to buy new. We finally got a shop vise. It's a nice heavy one. We paid more than we wanted but still got a good deal. If Danny doesn't keep an eye on me, I often end up buying anything no one else wants. I recently bought 3 buckets of old rusty bolts, nails and screws. What's a barn without a bunch of old rusty stuff.

Earlier this winter I went to an auction to look at an old hoosier style hutch that was listed. I was thinking it would give us more storage in the kitchen. It was pretty beat-up. Painted with yellow wall paint, warped doors and water-damaged sides. I bid on it anyway not knowing what it might be worth and ended up winning it at $110. See the rest of the story.

At the end of the summer Danny let me go to an auction alone. I was pretty good until bidding started on an item I hadn't even noticed. I was in the market for a rototiller but this item intrigued me because it had several attachments. I won the bidding and then wondered if I had just paid $60 for a bunch of old scrap metal. See the rest of the story.

We have witnessed several real estate auctions. One house in Marceline went for $5,000. Sure it was small and needed lots of work, but the lot is worth more than that. Recently a pair of homes in Brookfield went for $11,000 and $9,000. They also were small and needed work, plus they were RIGHT next to the railroad tracks with a motocross course across the street.

::  HEAT
We didn't get our firewood cut before summer ended but there was a pile of old wood intended for fence posts on the ridge that lasted awhile. Danny cut down a dead elm tree that we have been using since. Unfortunately, although it looked dead, most of it was not dry. We won't be needing it much longer. Danny's shop only has the wood stove for heat. In the house, we removed the wood stove in the basement that we used last year because Danny thought it was no longer safe. We replaced it in December with a beautiful used Hearthstone soapstone wood stove that I found on Craig's List. But we have not been using it because it needs a new door gasket. And, apparently an unfinished basement is the worse place to put it since 50% of the heat is wasted. We have been trying to figure out where we can put it upstairs. I have a place for it on the remodel plan but that will be awhile. So we have been using the propane furnace all winter. It is a good thing we purchased 500 gallons last spring while the price was low.

::  HOME IMPROVEMENT
We have completed several projects on the house since the last update. At the end of the last update we were waiting to get the septic put in. The plumbing company trenched across the yard and dug and installed a septic tank and dug out a 30x30 foot lagoon. We were late for taking advantage of last summer's wet year and hoped that the lagoon would fill past the discharge pipe before the first hard freeze or we would have big problems. We used more water then we usually do, and we siphoned water out of an old cistern to try to fill it up. The rains did a good job. It is finally up to the overflow with the rains of early March.

Our next job was fencing it to keep the cows out before they returned. It took a surprisingly long time--almost a month--to finish the 210 feet of fence. We used the old 3-point post hole digger we bought when we got the place, on the tractor to dig the holes for the corner posts. Then the tractor made short work of pushing in the intermediate steel posts. Danny made a fancy gate for it. The ground around it is still bare but my father sent us a bunch of wildflowers seeds and I think this would be a great place to plant them.

The kitchen sink and washer line had been running to the front of the house and the plumbers tied that in with the rest of their work. It was our responsibility to tie in the bathroom plumbing. We started it just in time. The very morning we planned to start, the toilet backed up and flooded the bathroom and basement. We had a little trouble getting the old cast-iron apart and taking the fitting off the shower drain. Once that was done everything we had dry-fit glued up quickly. We couldn't find our hole saws so Danny had to run to the store to buy one so we could drill the toilet vent pipe through the joists. Still, we had a functional bathroom by that evening. The toilet ended up too close to the back wall so I had to cut a hole in the wall to get it in. Just another additional to our classy country style. (I just saw the same effect at one of the houses up for auction).

::  FISHING
It is hard to get fresh fish around here unless you catch it yourself, which Danny enjoys anyway. We got permission from the neighbor to fish in her pond. All we caught were little bass under 8" long. We were told the lake was overstock since it had not been fished in a long time. We were told it would be best to take the little ones out since they out compete everything else. We decided to just put them in our pond rather than kill them and by the end of Summer, had put 25 small bass in our pond. Hopefully the bass will reduce the bullfrog population. We also purchased some minnows in hopes to improve the quality of the water. Don't know if any made it through the winter. Hopefully this year we will catch some fish we can actually eat.

::  ANIMAL UPDATES
The cows came back in the fall. One of the bulls was looking very thin and was often off by himself. We told Sam about him. But one frozen morning we found the bull dead and up to his chest in mud in the draw below the dam. You could still see the strain in his face from struggling to get out. It is too steep to get him out so there he remains. He is still frozen but has lost his eyes and ears. It won't be long before he gets very stinky.

Sadly, Bootsie did not make it through the winter. She finally got used to the dogs and begin to come inside when it started getting cold. Unfortunately she really wasn't box trained. She did at least go on the basement floor instead of in the house. We tried to fatten her up with wet food which she loved but she did not improve. It was difficult for her to walk and go up and down stairs. She was often breathing heavily. When we finally took her to the vet, he suspected feline leukemia. He gave us some antibiotics for her wheezing but she did not improve so I took her to be put down in November. She will be missed. She was a very sweet cat. I guess feline leukemia is a guessing game--who will get it, who will carry it, whether vaccination does any good. We will have to wait and see if it will affect Kitty-Kitty.

Life just rolls on. We still love being out in the country. It is getting warm enough to sit on the back porch and watch the birds fly and the garden grow. Also check out my portfolio website: I Like It Design.com.

CHAPTER 6