Missouri or Bust

UPDATE AS OF APRIL 2010. Spriing is springing again. We are offiicially ranchers. The projects never end.

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As the evenings began to get colder, Danny put in a fire pit and we sat in the backyard around a big campfire. It was really pleasant. Just like camping, but with a bathroom and a soft bed. The moon was so bright we didn't get to see many stars. On a dark night here, the stars are amazing.

With the onset of spring, we have used it a couple more times. On April 19 the weather was so beautiful. We sat outside after cutting firewood in the afternoon and watched all the birds. Everything is getting so green and all the trees are leafing out. You wouldn't believe all the shades of green. Then we had a fire in the fire ring in the backyard and watched the sun go down and the moon and stars. Listened to the coyotes, frogs, the whip-poor-wills and owls. This optimizes why we are here. I wish we could share it with you.

We spent the first week of Danny's "vacation" working on replacing the roof. There was a lot of extra work because we also had to replace all the soffits and fascia. We worked on the backside first. There was supposed to be no chance of rain from the previous Friday through the next weekend but the radio reported a 20% chance so we decided we better get the tar paper up. It was a good thing we did because it began to rain around 7pm. It didn't rain too much, but we sure are glad we got it covered and that it didn't decide to rain earlier that week. That whole side had been wide open all week.

The shingles went up quickly with the help of a nail gun. The metal patio roof on that side made a nice scaffold. But we ended up trashing it by walking on it and now there are a whole bunch of holes in it. The other side was not as easy. We built a small scaffold on the deck side but the other side we had to use ladders. Why does it always seem more slippery when there is nothing to stop you from sliding. The front side was more work with the gable end in the front. I was also trying to clean up mud dauber nests off the rafters and insulation. I also had to replace nasty old insulation and clean up all the dirt. It was a challenge to get the rows to line up on at the top of the gable roof and we ended up having to pull off a couple of rows. In addition, we had to tear down the old brick chimney. To save time, we got it down below the roofline and finished the rest from inside the attic after the roof was done. We finished up the front side just as the rain started coming down and it was getting cold and pretty slick. We quickly covered the peak with tar paper and put the ridge vent on a few days later after the rain let up.

We finally just had new seamless gutters installed which will hopefully help keep some of the water out of the basement. We had the worst time trying to find someone to put up gutters. We called everyone within 50 miles and only one guy called us back but he never showed up.

No leaks. On to the next project. We removed the wall between the living room and dining room to make more room to install the wood-burning stove. It seems kind of ironic since the wood-trimmed opening was one of the features we liked when we looked at the house, but heat takes priority and it is now easier to walk through. The existing walls are plaster over gypsum lath. There was a difference in the ceiling heights between the 2 rooms and we spend days adding more and more topping to try to hide the bumps. Looks okay in the right light, if you don't look too hard.

I had an energy audit performed by the Electric Co-op. They will pay half of up to $1000 in energy improvements. There was only 6 inches of insulation in the attic, and 16 is recommended for our climate. So we bought a bunch of blow-in insulation and borrowed the blower added another 10 inches. The difference was immediately noticeable. The house stayed much warmer over night by up to 10 degrees. It was also recommended that we spray-foam the rim joists in the basements. That difference was less dramatic. Once we finally got the wood stove going the house was actually too hot, especially at night. By the time we got everything done, winter was almost over. We used all of our firewood that we had cut plus we had to buy 2 more truckloads. Most of it went to heat the shop since it only has a wood stove and the house has a gas furnace. We have already started cutting firewood for next winter. When we cleaned the pasture, we got a big pile of old fence posts to cut up.

Danny spent the rest of the winter in the shop working on projects. First, he built a custom cherry bookcase for a co-worker as an xmas gift for his wife. He finished it just in time.

Next he built the rest of the doors for the barn. We finally got them up in March. It is so nice to have doors that open and close. It took all my strength to open and close it and part of the old door had completely broken off. There was one point during the winter when the ground had expanded under both doors and the only way in and out was through the little side door.

After the doors were finished Danny returned to a pet project he had started earlier. He customized a design for a Purple Martin house that he found on-line. Using a plywood framework, he added siding, mock windows, porches and shingles. It ended up weighing over 50 lbs. It was a challenge getting it up on the post in the backyard. Harder still is keeping the starlings out. Danny has to get the tractor out and our tallest ladder to reach it and pull the nesting material out. We were so happy to see Martins come to check it out but they haven't stuck around. It looks like we will be forced to trap and "dispatch" the Starlings before the Martins will stay. I made a trap but they haven't fallen for it yet. Earlier, we had one fall down each of the stove flues into the stoves. I'm sorry now that we set them free.

My little winter projects include restoring an old electric fan that we got at an auction for $5. It was from an auto shop and absolutely filthy but functional. I looked up old fans and this one is post-war and not that collectible but I like the looks of it and it should come in handy.

In February, I finally put up shelves in by office closet and organized that mess. Then I made a simple cherry wall shelf for my lantern collection that has been sitting on the floor for 2 years. Amazing how long it takes to unpack and really get moved in.

I finally started welding. Just a little project to start, but it is taking forever. We finally got a torch set-up on Craig's List after having been repeatedly outbid at auctions for the last 2 years. Now I just have to figure out how to use it. Danny wants to use it to cut up the big metal scrap to make it easier to haul away. I will miss it all. What kind of farmstead doesn't have a bunch of old rusty metal things lying around.

::  SNOW
This year we was the snowiest since we have been here. On January 6, we got a couple inches of snow and nasty blowing winds and snowdrifts. Danny worked 2 days plowing. A couple of days later, there were just little patches here and there. After that, we got just about 5 inches with deeper drifts, but so soft and fluffy. The temps hang around 6 degrees outside most of the time. Aiko's feet get jammed with snow and she has trouble walking. One would think, with how furry she and her feet are, that they would be built for snow.

On February 5 we more had snow. This was the first time the snow was soft enough to form a ball. While Danny went out and pushed snow, I built a snowman. The first since we've been here and since I was very young. The temperatures were just under freezing. Usually the weather is too cold for the snow to hold together. I love this snow. So fluffy. We got about 3 inches.

We got another soft snow on February 8 to add to what was already on the ground. We ended up with around a foot altogether. It was so beautiful but hard to walk through. We took our morning walk on the road. I trekked along the shoulders in the snow for the added exercise. Danny laughed whenever I hit a deep spot and sunk up to my knees.

::  PETS
In December, Sammy got hit by a car. She got a huge gash in her butt. She spent the weekend at the vet and spent a good month recuperating. She got a bunch of stitches but luckily, she didn't have any broken bones or internal injuries. What pisses me off the most is that whoever hit her, just drove away and I didn't find her for up to an hour after it happened. You could tell by the traces of blood at the stoops that she went to all three doors looking for help. Danny was in Macon. When I found her, I scooped her up and packed her in the car, grabbed my phone and the phone book. I had to call 3 vets before I found one that was available. Danny met me at the highway and took her to the vet. I calmed down after Danny made me realize that since she wasn't bleeding profusely we had time. It has been difficult teaching the dogs to stay off the road. After the accident, Sammy started chasing any truck that passed. I think she is over that now though.

Of the 6 chickens we started with last year, we are down to 2. In October, the neighbors moved out in preparation for the installation of a basement for a new modular home in place of their old single-wide. Just prior to moving they got 2 puppies that he had running loose. The pups didn't start roaming until their owners moved away and left the pups on their own. We would take them on walks with our dogs in the morning but then they would hang around our house. The female looked particularly thin and hungry. One day they chased the chickens and we chased the pups home. Later that day they had come back and caught and killed one of the buff hens. We called the owners and the pups have been chained up since. It is pitiful listening to them cry. We lost the next black hen to a coyote. The chickens were wandering out back to the corral. We were down to three. 2 hens, and a rooster. They don't lay much in the winter and we actually had to buy eggs. When the weather was very cold we kept them in the coop. The rooster's comb was getting frost-bitten. One day, we found him dead in the coop. Still don't know why. Then there were two. The last two stayed in the coop on snowy days and roam all over when the weather was better. The snow slowed them down on occasion. They often cross the road to get to the other side. they spend a lot of time in the barn taking dust baths and hopefully eating bugs. They seem to get along better now that it is just the two of them. Before this the black hen had been rather mean to the buff hen. Since the weather has improved, they have both really been cranking out the eggs.

We bought a new batch of 4 chicks this year to replace the ones we lost. We were hoping one would be a rooster but it doesn't look like we got one. We spent more time touching and picking up these guys in hopes that they would be easier to catch when we needed to. They are currently sharing the coop with the older hens, but we keep them separate at night. During the day the hens roam around as usual and the pullets stick together and haven't strayed far from the coop. It won't be long before we have more eggs than we know what to do with.

We finally got our cattle last on April 15. 21 steers. We spent the week before putting up a fence around the upper pond to keep the cattle out. Last fall we had some dirt work done to fix the erosion that was caused by cattle. We need to prevent it from getting messed up again by fencing it off. Barbed wire is a challenge. We both had many, many scabs on our arms and legs. Before that, we spent the nicer days in March cleaning up and moving around all the old metal, wood and debris in the pasture. I have separated what I could without looking too much like a hoarder into piles in the barn. The rest Danny has been recycling for scrap. It's surprising to see how much money a truckload of old rusty metal can bring in.

The cows are pretty easy so far. We've had them over a week. We are probably doing more than necessary. We dote on them since they are our first. Like having your first kid but much bigger and covered in flies. Danny has been giving them grain every couple of days so they will come into the pen when we need them to. We go out and count them and say hi on our morning walk with the dogs. All they have to do is eat and grow. The grass is getting so long already.

The Starlings aren't the only squatters at the Martin house. After chasing Starlings all morning the bluebirds started building nests in it one afternoon and we had to chase them away. I hate to discourage the Bluebirds. They are so beautiful and beneficial. We have Bluebird houses but the house sparrows have taken over. We try to chase the sparrows away but they are persistent. We made the mistake of allowing the sparrows to proliferate by feeding them and letting them nest in the barn. We have set a trap for them in order to reduce the population to help the bluebirds.

Nature is cruel. I have found two dead Bluebirds in the yard and pasture so far this season. I don't know how they died. There was hardly a scratch on them that I could see. And Dewey caught a Wren the other day but by the time I took it away from her, it was a goner. Dewey is a great little mouser. She catches numerous voles but doesn't eat them. She leaves them mangled all around the yard. She also finds mice in the basement and brings them into my office, while I am working in the morning, to play with. She lets them get away and I have to catch them and take them out. Kitty-kitty does her fair share of damage. Then while Danny was mowing the front yard, he accidently ran over two baby bunnies. They just hunker down instead of running. Why mommy rabbit thought it was a good idea to make a nest in the front yard with people, cats and dogs running around all the time, is a mystery.

::  WORK
Danny didn't get hired again as a seasonal for MoDot. They have run out of money and are cutting everything back. Now that the cattle are settled in we will have to find some way for him to make some money. Jobs are next to impossible to find.
I am not working nearly enough. It is so hard finding new clients. That is the hardest part of freelancing. All the projects around this place slow me down from looking harder. Fortunately, the clients I do have, are life savers for me.
Also check out my portfolio website: I Like It Design.com.

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