Saturday, November 26, 2011

Welcome Eleanor Ivy to the world!

At 7:54am EST yesterday morning, Eleanor Ivy came into this world just as pink and healthy as could be in all of her 8lb 1oz, 21-inch-long glory. Mother and baby are doing great, and she'll be coming home later today.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

New farm truck

So I love trucks. I especially love old trucks. You know the kind... the ones that you can stand in the engine compartment while changing the carburetor. Yeah, those.

I've owned a 1974 Ford F100 for about 7 years now, and it's been great to me. It helped us move most of our belongings up this mountain, and it's still alive and kicking. It's not fast, it's not good on gas, but every time some moron smashes their shopping cart against it in the grocery store parking lot, I don't even flinch. I don't think I could ever own a car with shiny paint. It would drive me nuts.

Anyway, my truck is great and all, but it's a 2-wheel drive, so it can't haul stuff across my property, especially with all the rocks and mud out there.

So I was looking at getting an ATV for hauling and transporting stuff around. Once the garden is made, we'll need something like that to haul veges back to the house. Plus, there are always chores to be done around the barn, and it's about an acre out from the house.

I looked on Craigslist and eBay Motors for something cheap, but for the life of me I couldn't find anything under $2500, and those were all 250cc 2WD! The 4WDs were all in the $5-7k range, even for used!

So then I thought it might be best to just look for a small old Ford Ranger or Chevy s-10 with 4WD instead. I don't care what the body looks like, I don't care if the heat works, but it must run and have working 4WD. Heck, I don't even plan to take it off the property, so insurance or registration isn't even an issue.

I found a few on Craigslist and finally bought what I think is a good deal. It's a 1987 Ford Ranger 4x4 with a toolbox, big tires, and it's mechanically sound all around. I only paid $1600 for it, which is way cheaper than any ATV. Plus it can haul a trailer, has more storage space, heated cab, CD stereo, 33" tires, 3" lift, larger engine (2.9L V6) and I can get parts for it a whole lot cheaper than ATV parts. I'm pretty happy with this truck, although it's funny that I own three cars now (all Fords!), and I paid a combined price of $3100 for all three of them. But that's just the way I like it.

The donkeys aren't crazy about the intruder

What's funny is, coming from the Chicago area, I can't believe I got something like this for so cheap, and it doesn't have see-through floorboards or an engine about to fall through the frame from rust rot. I don't want to jinx anything, but I think I got a good deal, and I'm excited to see how much fun I can have with it. Er, I mean, how much work it can do... yeah, that's it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Oh, the weather outside is... bipolar

Seriously. It's 45 degrees one day, 75 the next. I guess I shouldn't complain though; it could be 45 every day.

Anyway! We've had a busy week so far. Sarah and I planted four apple trees, two peach trees, and four blueberry bushes on Sunday. The next day she went to the doctor for her prenatal check-up and they told her to chill out with the physical work. Personally, I think it makes for a good story later on when she can say she helped plant six trees while almost nine months pregnant, right?


I've finally set up the rabbit cages how I want them in one room of the barn, and the chickens are roaming free now. I did have a tiny incident with three chickens being eaten by something that crawled in through a hole in a wall, but I still have 18 chickens, and a more secure coop wall. Hopefully those little birds last through the winter and start laying in the spring.

The chickens at 5 weeks old, basking in the sunlight

I also did some really detailed planning of the garden plot. We have a 250' x 120' fenced pasture that we're going to section off into one large 220' x 100' plot, with a path going around three sides. Within that inner plot will be sectioned off into four 110' x 50' plots. Here, let me just show you my sketch:

The bottom right corner will start out as a pig pen, while the top right corner will be cover crop. Both left sides will be garden, and then each year I'll rotate everything counterclockwise. So this gives me enough time to build the inner fences, plan companion crops based on what we want to grow, build compost bins on each side (the little boxes with "CP" in them), get pigs, build the pig house, and anything else that needs to be done there. Four months should be plenty of time to do all of that, right?

Which brings me back to Sarah being nine months pregnant! The doctor says they may induce her this weekend if all goes well, so for the first time since we moved her, the newest addition won't be a farm animal!

Needless to say, I'm quite excited.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Embrace the poop, and other things I've learned out here in the first month

We've now been in this house technically (sleeping in our bed) for a month now, and I've learned quite a bit already. I don't expect I'll ever stop learning, but these first few years will be learning from my mistakes. Sometimes that's funny and makes for a good story, but most of the time it's embarrassing or sad.

So, what are a few of the things that I've learned so far?
  • Dogs are not natural protectors. They're natural predators.
  • There are many, many stray dogs in the country, and you'll probably never find their owners. So don't feed them, because they'll become your problem quickly.
  • Buying baby chicks in October is not the best idea, because you have to pay to keep them warm with a heat lamp and space heater for a few months. That gets expensive.
  • Donkeys need to be halter-trained before they can be fixed.
  • Un-fixed donkeys are not much good for anything but studding-out.
  • 80% is full capacity on a house's propane tank.
  • Teenagers in the middle of nowhere still drive down the street blasting rap music in brightly-colored, tricked-out small cars. There's no escaping that.
  • Country roads are more dangerous to dogs than suburban streets.
  • Family-owned hardware stores and feed stores are way more fun than Home Depot or Tractor Supply.
  • Same goes for restaurants.
  • Establishing a water plan for the animals is very important. You can't realistically keep filling water bottles, jugs, dishes, and tubs several times every day, unless you're just really bored. Automated waterers are a God-send.
  • Embrace the poop. You will get it on you at some point. That's why there's soap and water.
  • You'll be called "honey" and "sweetie" a lot more.
  • It's so gorgeous out here and I feel more at home than ever.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

R.I.P. Geist

As anyone who follows this blog knows, I love animals. Living in apartments and in city homes most of my adult life has made it hard to have large animals that I like, such as dogs.

This last June, we picked up Geist as a 7-week-old puppy. It's the first time I'd ever raised a puppy from that young, but we were determined to raise her right, teaching her commands and how to be a good watchdog for our family. We took her to the dog park to make sure we socialized correctly. We walked her around the block several times a day. Sarah and I were excited about our first dog together.

Geist was a good dog, even though she was a bit over-the-top with her enthusiasm for nipping at other dogs. She listened to every (ok, almost every) command I gave her and always had a smile on her face for that next treat.

At about 8:15 this morning, Geist was struck by a car on our county road and killed instantly. I was in my office at the time and just let her out to relieve herself for the second time that morning since waking up. She was just spayed last week, so we'd been letting her out on the leash to prevent injury to the stitches, but this morning I thought she's probably ready to start exploring the yard again on her own.

I heard when she got hit and I heard the car just keep on going. They didn't slow down, they didn't hit their brakes... they just kept on going. Geist didn't yelp, and when I found her, it was pretty obvious that it was an instant death. I was out the front door and by her side within 20 seconds of it happening, but I didn't get to see the car.

I'll miss Geist, and I won't lie to you... I cried when I was burying her in our yard. She was the dog we bought to transition from city life to country life. We bought her in anticipation of having a big farm, even though at the time, we didn't even have a farm in mind yet. We raised her in the house, then she stuck it out in a 10-by-10 kennel in the yard of the old house for about two months or so until we were completely moved into the new house, and she was grateful for every minute of it. She barked when someone knocked at the door and she always had so much excitement for life.

We only had her for four and a half months, but we learned a lot from her.

Rest in Peace, girl.