Missouri or Bust

UPDATE AS OF NOVEMBER 2010. November already! And it is definitely fall. We have already had 27 degree mornings. Most of the trees around here are oaks and in previous years, they just turn brown but this year they were more colorful, plus all the green grass. But, the trees are past their prime and I didn't get my camera out to get a picture. Ooops! Here is all the exciting news since last Spring.

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After a very wet spring, we got typical Missouri weather this summer. Last year it was rather mild but this year it got too hot to work outside. I love the heat, but I melt. I tried to get things done early in the day. Danny worked in his shop. We try to keep the air conditioning off as much as possible, until it gets to be over 90 in the house. It's not unbearable until it gets humid. Danny would like to have it on more but I hate having to freeze winter AND summer and we both want to save the money. We went swimming a couple of times to cool off. The small lake we go to is like bath water. Our pond is too muddy to swim in.

I am always saying that the days are too short but, in truth, the days are long enough. I just need more energy. My big summer project was revamping our old wood windows. Upon researching the project, we read that wood windows with storm windows can be just as thermally-efficient as new double-paned windows. We prefer the look of old wood windows. They are all stained wood inside the house and it would have been very difficult and very expensive to achieve the same look with new windows. So one by one, starting in the Spring, we began taking them all apart to reglaze and refinish them. Danny helped me by making the new sashes, making trim and helping when I got stuck, but I was in charge of the fussy work. We are hoping that fixing the windows and reinstalling the storms will help this winter. The cheapo storm windows are still in decent condition. Things fall apart much faster here. The house was built in 1957. I don't know how much work had been done to the windows since it was built, but the casings were so rotten we had to replace them all. All the sills were salvageable but required a little bondo and a heck of a lot of sanding. Instead of sash weights and cords, these windows have spiral spring balances which I hadn't seen before. Some were broken or missing and it was a challenge to find replacements. They were crying out for attention; the finish on the inside of the windows was worn away if it ever existed; none of them have ever had any sash locks; all the top sashes were painted shut and many of the lower sashes would not stay open on their own; most of the glazing was cracked and falling out; several sashes had to be replaced. And, boy, did they need to be washed.

Starting on the South side I worked my way around the house. I worked on the sashes in the shop and I waited until the side I was working on was in the shade to reinstall and paint.It slowed me down but gave me an excuse not to work. The north side was in shade all day, and the back is covered by the porch.

The window on the front in the dining room was a challenge. It is off the front deck, which is nice because I didn't have to use ladders, but there was a barn swallow nest over the front door (again this year). The swallows dive-bombed me while I worked for short stints. I worried that they might abandon the nest. As I worked, I watched the baby sicking his head over the edge, keeping an eye on me. The baby fledged the day after I finished working out there.

The big front picture window was a daunting task. The bottom edge of the frame on the picture window was completely rotted away. We bought a special router bit and Danny made a new frame for it, as well as sashes for the side windows and several other windows around the house.

When we finally tackled removing the front picture window in October, we were so worried we were going to break it. We were able to get it out and into the new frame without disaster. It was 1/4" glass--very heavy! I made the mistake of putting it in the frame while it was flat on the shop table. When we turned it vertically to put it back in, the glass slipped down and all the glazing compound buckled. It could have been worse--I wiped it out and did it again. Fortunately, we found less rot in the opening than we feared and we got all the sashes back in that same day.

It took until the end of October to get the last window finished.The last job was putting weatherstripping, polyurethane, and sash locks and lifts on every window. It's so nice to have them looking better and particularly nice to have windows that open and close properly. Alas, I am afraid they are going to be just as drafty. One recent windy day, I could still feeling cold air coming in from the bedroom window.

For a winter project, we are going to change out some of the moldings on the inside. We have already done the big front window and front door. We salvaged some old moldings from a friend's old abandoned house and recreated the style. I love the way it looks so much more than what was on our house originally. The beautiful window draws my eye away from my TV watching. I can't wait to do the rest of the house. But I will hate to cover them up with curtains.

We had a very wet spring and, once again, I got a late start on the garden. I finally got it tilled and planted in mid-April. I pared down the size of the garden this year since we had far too much last year. This year, using some seeds that I had started indoors and plants from the store, I planted 4 tomatoes, 2 watermelons, 4 cantaloupes, 4 cucumbers, a yellow squash, a zucchini, one pickling cucumber, 6 eggplants, 3 bell peppers, and a row each of green beans and lima beans. The onions and carrots seeds that I planted, didn't come up and I had to plant them again. This year I also tried sweet potatoes from slips. They are supposed to be easy to grow. I also had snow peas and spinach in a bed closer to the house protected by the trees. No matter how many snow peas I plant,we never get enough pods!. A patch of volunteer lettuce came up, but it and the spinach bolted before I had a chance to use much. The problem with gardens, is that everything comes in at once and we can't eat it all. Or, what we would like to eat together, don't ripen at the same time. It is hardly worth the trouble (except the tomatoes). But how can I have this much land and not have a garden. As it continued to be wet, my garden got rather water-logged and it was often too wet to keep up with the weeding. This year I used roof shingles to put down in the aisles and wood shavings from Danny's planer as mulch. This helped a lot with the weeds, but it they are tenacious and hard to stay on top of. Then it got HOT. I love hot but not to work in. There is usually enought rain that I don't have to water but not this year. Everything suffered because it was so dry.

By late August the weather cooled down to comfortable mid-80s. The garden was already starting to wind down. The tomatoes were only beginning to turn red. They weren't as good this year. I got a variety called Jet that is supposed to be less acid and good for slicing, but they just don't taste as good. I tired a different variety of green beans too that didn't fair well. Plus lima beans that just didn't put out much. The cucumbers were slowing down--they got too hot this year and were often bitter. The zucs and squash plants died off early. Probably because of the squash bugs.. The melons were mostly done. The cantaloupes were really good this year. I got so many I cut a bunch up and froze them and used them in my morning smoothies.Yum! At one point, I had 2 grocery bags of cucs going bad in the frig. The eggplants didn't get bigger than softball size but I used most of them. I started harvesting the sweet potatoes. They look pretty funny and I had to share them with some type of critter, but they taste good. Danny won't eat half of the produce, so I have to eat it all myself. I had to get creative with recipes. I made 2 batches of Ratatouille and found some fun sweet potato recipes. Unfortunately, I didn't get around to making pickles this year. The bell peppers were the last thing to come in. I had an unusual sweet orange bell that was about the size of jalapenos and they produced early and plentifully (they are in the picture with the sweet potatoes).

::  YARD
If we don't stay on top of the the yard, nature takes over quickly. Aside from mowing, we tried to concentrate on one area at a time, but I get distracted every time I walk by any of the projects I want to get done. In the spring, we got the area between the barn and the house mostly cleaned up, but by late summer we had to do most of it all over again. This Spring, Danny cut down trees all over the yard that we will be able to use as firewood. We have many catalpas, cedars, locusts and black walnuts that have sprouted up along the fence lines many-many years ago and some of them needed to go.

This September, I revamped the front planting bed. There were a couple foundation plants there already and grass that never got mowed because it is on the wrong side of the walkway. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do and I bought a bunch of plants on sale at Lowes. Because I didn't plan it well, I had 6 plants left over to find homes for. If I have a plant in a pot it will die on me in no time so I needed to get them in the ground. The 4 spirea will become a screen around the air conditioner unit. The other 2 we won't talk about.

The irises in the backyard are a continuing issue. Danny doesn't want to mow around them and there were far too many for me to keep weeded. We finally figured out a place to move some of them to. We were trying to decide what to do with the foundation from the shed which is still in the backyard. The dirt inside the walls will define a nice planting bed. I started to dig up irises to move there in the Spring. I didn't get very far before it got too hot to work. I had to clean out all the weeds and I planted a handful before other projects and the heat stopped me. The others sat in a bucket all summer. By fall, only a few were useable. And, I had a new crop of 6 foot tall weeds. After I got it clean-up again (with help from the chickens), I laid the path. I got what I could planted but the chickens keep coming in and scratching it all up. I put the gate in place as a focal point. It came from the fence down hill from it. We didn't want to put up a fence because it will block the view of the garden and hills beyond. I made a plan for a fence but we haven't had time to put it up. Next year, I will try again and I am planning to put in a birdbath/sculpture thingy and a bench.

We bought a paddleboat this Spring. Danny got the bug from one that was advertised at an auction. We went especially to bid on it figuring we would bid as high as $100 (these can be purchased new for around $500).  There was so muchl interest in it, that we decided we would go up to $250. It ended up going for $450. We couldn't believe it. So I put an ad on Craig'sList for one and a guy called and had a nice one that we bought for $225. We wanted it to put on our big pond to fish from and to paddle around in. First, we took it to Ethel Lake (we are members of the "Ethel Lake Club"--not as prestigious as it sounds) and tooled around. It's not too much effort if both people are pedaling. After all, we wouldn't want to get too "buff".

Then we paddled around on our upper (smaller) pond. We fixed it up last fall and it had filled to capacity by early spring. A couple revolutions and we were at the far side. I wanted to know how deep it was since we stocked it with Blue Gill and Catfish this Spring. It should be at least 8' to support fish through the winter, but it is only 6' feet at the deepest spot that I could find. We wish we had spent a little more money to dredge it and make the dam higher. Hopefully, the fish won't die this winter. The frogs don't care how deep it is though and they would be happy to see the fish go.

We got an electric trolling motor cheap at an auction so we attempted to go fishing at Ethel Lake one morning. There are a couple jon boats on the shore that are available for use. The weather was threatening but we hoped it would stay North. We got the boat to the other end of the lake before the thunderstorm started heading our way, so we turned around and went home. We made it back into the truck as it started to dump.

Danny made a contraption to attach the trolling motor to the paddleboat and we took it back to Ethel. The only thing we caught were Bluegills. They are not very large but Danny caught a batch and brought them home for dinner. They are a lot of work to eat.
As Fall began, we've were trying to find time to take the paddleboat down to go fishing in our pond. The first time we fished it, when we moved in, we didn't even get a nibble and thought all that was in it was frogs--and, there were a lot of frogs. Two summers ago, we put 25 small bass in it that we caught in the neighbors pond and we wanted to see if any of them survived. We fished from the shore one day and were surprised to catch a  Bluegill. We didn't put bluegills in, so there must have been fish in it before. This time, we were happily surprised to catch at least 4 huge Big Mouth Bass. We kept 2 for dinner. We also caught and released a large Crappie. From the boat, I was finally able to find out how deep it is-it measured 12-1/2 feet at the deepest point that we found.

In the last chapter, we had decided not the rent the pasture out and try our hand at owning our own cattle. We purchased 21 steers in April to keep for the summer. The steers are pretty care-free. We probably did more than necessary. We doted on them since they are our first. Like having your first kid but much bigger and covered in flies. At first, Danny gave them grain every couple of days so they would come into the pen when we needed them to. We would go out to count them and say hi on our morning walks with the dogs. Really, all they have to do is eat and grow. One morning we only saw a couple on our walk and I started to worry that they might have gone through a fence into one of the neighbor's pastures. You know how it is, the grass is always greener... I went back out later and finally found them in the trees.

Danny took a "grazing management" class this year. It detailed a method of getting more efficient use of the pasture by dividing it into smaller units and moving the cattle through the pastures in certain intervals. It means we could run more cattle. This year, the pasture got very weedy because the cattle couldn't keep up. We really want to try this method out but it will mean buying and putting up new electric cross fencing. We are signed up for state money which is available to help with the costs, but we may have to wait another year before we can begin. We created a plan and started working on putting in the corner posts but now Danny wants to wait until the state guy comes out to take a look.

We sold the cattle on Sept. 23rd. The next owner buys them for the feed lot to fatten up some more. We didn't lose money but we didn't make as much as if we had just rented the pasture. We haven't done all the numbers yet, but it looks like we grossed about $1,600. We still need to add up all the expenses. By comparison, we made $1,500 to rent the pasture the year before. We ended up paying almost $500 in commissions which really cut into the profit margin. Still, it was a learning experience, and t was fun to have our own cattle. We never got very attached to any of them. We went to the sale barn to see them sold and I didn't even recognize them. It was hard to see how much they had grown since we saw them everyday. On average, they gained about 250 lbs. each over 6 months. Danny brush-hogged the entire property after they left. It looks much better and is more pleasant to walk through.

In July, we lost our black chicken to the road. Some idiot plowed her over--at least he honked first. I don't know why he couldn't slow down. I was in the backyard and I heard it. Danny saw it from the front window. Feathers everywhere. Earlier this year, we found one (of the two remaining chickens from last year) dead in the road shortly after the new chicks were old enough to leave the brooder. The price of free-ranging. One day, we chased them out of the road and on-coming traffic twice, watched as a hawk swooped down on them and then the dog next door was loose and chased and caught a few tail feathers before we stopped him.

We found an ad on Craig'sList selling roosters. We got 5 chicks this spring and had hoped one would be a rooster but we didn't luck out. We learned from last year that it is nice to have one to keep the girls company. (We picked him up just a day before we lost the one in the road.) He's a beauty! He's a bit wary around us but he takes good care of his girls. When he finds a good morsel, he makes a gurgling coo and the girls come running to snatch it up from him. It is so funny to watch his chicken dance as he woos the gals.

During the summer we were getting 4 eggs on most days. Danny ate a lot of egg salad sandwiches. They are supposed to lay 2 out of 3 days but it has slowed down now. Two of them have been molting for a month and aren't laying at all. We are down to 1 or 2 eggs a day. We had about 4 dozen in the frig at one point. I finally found a couple neighbors to buy some of the extras. Helps a little with the cost of feed. Now we only have enough for our own needs.

::  PETS
Aiko got shaved again this summer. Although she is on pain medication, she is having trouble standing up these days. Plus her sight and hearing are going. She still goes on our morning walk but we have to stay on pretty level ground. Then she basically just sleeps all day. Better than the old dog next door. She has to stay outside regardless of the weather. We are surprised that she is still alive.

Some of you already know that my kitten Dewey died this year. She was just 1 year old and got FIP. I had a feeling she wouldn't last very long--she was so impulsive. We rescued a stray kitten just a day after she died. She had wandered into the Orschlen's and the cashiers put her in a box while they tried to find her a home. When they told us she was a calico, my heart went pitter-pat. Danny said it was fate that we should take her home. She is actually a long-haired tortoiseshell. She was about 3 months old when we got her. She is 8 months old now and out-weights Kitty-kitty by at least double. (Kitty-kitty was always small and is very thin.) Abby has a round belly and and has a lot of extra skin there. I'm wondering if she might be all or part Maine Coon. She has big feet and the "lynx tips" on her ears. She meows A LOT which Maine Coon reportedly don't do. She gets along with the dogs but doesn't trust them enough to play with them. She will play with Buster's tail but he pretty much avoids her. I'm afraid she and Kitty-kitty don't get along. Kitty-kitty never liked her, but now that Abby is bigger than her, she gets picked on by Abby.

Our cats are pretty good about catching critters. There are voles, mice and shrews. The mice start coming in the house as the weather cools. Abby caught one a couple months ago (when she was just 5 months old) in the house. By the time I found it, it was pretty messed up. I put it and Abby outside. I recently watched her eat an entire Junco. There was nothing left but a couple of feathers. I wish she would stick to sparrows. We have too many of them. Sammy and Buster are good at catching voles in the field. They just pounce and gobble them up whole. I wish the cats would learn to catch the gophers. They are making a mess of the lawn.

We have a fruiting Mulberry tree just on the other side of the pasture fence. This year it has attracted a bonanza of new and different birds. The mulberries are yummy too. We can see it now from the porch since we removed the shed. We spend too much time bird-watching. There have been several birds we haven't seen before. I tried to get pictures but I didn't get any worth posting. Just some of the birds we spotted: Greater Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Phoebe, Blue Jays, Goldfinch, Baltimore Oriole, Orchard Oriole, Bluebird, Scarlet Tanager, Summer Tanager, and Indigo Bunting. I love identifying new critters and flowers.

We also put up a Purple Martin house in the backyard that Danny built over the Winter (See picture in last chapter). We were so thrilled when we saw the first Martins checking it out. Unfortunately none of them stuck around and it is a constant battle to keep the Starlings out. Then the Bluebirds started building nests in it and we had to chase them away. The Starlings can go but I hate to discourage the Bluebirds. They are so beautiful and beneficial. We have put up Bluebird houses but the house sparrows chase the Bluebirds away. We try to chase the sparrows away but they are persistent. Still, I'm pretty sure the Bluebirds raised 2 families in our nestbox this season. We saw many Martins check out the house this season and hope next year some will move in to stay.

Fall is the best time to have a fire in the fire ring in the backyard and watched the sun go down. We had a glorious sunset and a sliver of a moon. The coyotes and owls provided background music.

::  BUGS
In the sidebar are some of the critters I captured on my camera this year. I wasn't able to get a picture of the hawk moths that were buzzing around the honeysuckle just like hummingbirds in the early summer evenings. I was leaving the outside light on in the morning this fall, trying to attract a particular giant moth that I want to see--The Regal moth. Danny saw a dead one at work last year. I would also like to see its caterpillar, called the Hickory Horned Devil and get pictures. Maybe next year. I found a dying luna moth on the lawn recently. It got away before I get a pic. I haven't seen one since I was a kid in Marin.

On June 9, Danny shaved my head. I had gotten my haircut earlier in the Spring but it was still too long and hot. I always wondered what I would look like without hair. Danny has been shaving his head for the last 2 years. I loved the way it felt and ran my hand over my head all of the time. The worst part was that the deerflies that would land on my head on our morning walks. Danny was entertained as he watched me flailing my arms to chase them away. By August my hair was about an inch. A little more normal-looking and a little more protection from sun and flies but it still keeps me cool. Now, it has grown to about 3 inches. Easy to care for and will help keep me warmer this winter.

There were plenty of auctions this season. This is our major entertainment and excuse for not working on the homestead. In March, we bid on and won a good trailer. This has come in handy for taking scrap metal to the recyclers. It is also a good spot for junk to accumulate.

We went to an auction for the lumber that was advertised We were disappointed with what was there, but we did get quite a few good deals. I bought 2 small tables I didn't need for $1. and a brand new garbage disposal for $1. I got a little wall shelf for $4 to put my wind-up toys that haven't had a home for almost 3 years. Danny got a bucket of latches for $1, a bucket of Simpson brackets and door hinges for $25.--a fraction of their value. I bid on a desk lamp--something that I have been needing. It was put together with a hedge trimmer and this other guy outbid me. Since he just wanted the trimmer, he gave me the lamp for free. I love auctions!

At another auction, we were looking for a brush cutter to clear the fence lines and steep slopes that the mower can't get to. My electric string cutter is inadequate for even keeping up with the yard. I got a small gas weed eater at an auction but we haven't been able to get it running. One auction had one advertised, but it turned out to be cheap and old. I ended up getting a pile of rocks there for $4--Danny is so tolerant. The next auction had a DR top-of-the-line model. It cost $4000 new. It was more than we needed or could afford. We hoped it might go cheap but it went for over $3000. It was the last item auctioned off. Fortunately it wasn't a big auction. I bought a bunch of cement blocks for $10 and Danny got a new bench grinder for $10. I found the DR walk-behind trimmer I had been looking for, on Craig's List. It was in Iowa and we drove halfway to Chicago to get it. A fun day trip but we were exhausted and worried about the poor dogs who had been stuck in the house all day.

We recently went to a goat auction just to see what is out there. I still really want goats but we will not be ready to buy any unless we get better fences.

::  WORK
It is nice to have Danny home. He is keeping busy working in the shop or on the many projects on his list. He worked for a friend for a couple days, cutting alfalfa. And on another occasion to dig post holes. He is becoming quite the farmer. He is on the roster to push snow again this winter for MoDot. It is supposed to be a snowy winter this year. I hate to wish for snow but a buck is a buck.
I've had sporadic work which gives me lots of time for house projects--but no money to pay for them--the eternal dilemma.
So check out my portfolio website: I Like It Design.com and tell your friends.

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