Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sculpture Photography Challenge

I challenged myself to take pretty photos from around the farm that include the tall ceramic sculpture that our artist friend gave us.  I suspect that at least one person doesn't think they like the sculpture very much (hi, mom!).  Maybe I just need to show the sculpture from a more attractive angle.  The one above might be acceptable, since the sculpture is so far away you only know its there if you look for it.  

Does a kitten admiring a pear tree in a field of bronze grass distract you from the tall pink object in the background? 

Look, it's the same color as the pretty pink flowers on the baby peach tree!  What's not to love, right? 

I like this picture because the curled shape of the sculpture mirrors the shape of Newt's tail.  You can't deny that the sculpture gives a nice focal point from certain angles.  

Up close, the poor sculpture doesn't appear to be holding up very well to the outdoor conditions.  Watch out Newt, it looks like it could fall over in the breeze!

The peach tree flowers really are lovely, especially with a tall pink figure in the background.  

It's hard to pay any attention to the sculpture in the background when the pear tree is in full bloom.  This morning the wind and rain was blowing and it looked like it was snowing because there were so many petals blowing in the wind.  The first day the pear tree bloomed, I stepped from my car after work and the buzz of the honey bees visiting the pear tree was so loud I could feel it even before I could isolate where the buzz was coming from.  

I have to take frequent breaks under the tree to appreciate the bees and the perfume of the blooms.  It's very peaceful.  At least until guineas come by to visit!  If you want to see what I mean about guineas disturbing the calm, watch the short clip below.  What a racket!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Not Wobbly Corners

Our fence building adventures have progressed to the point of putting in the corner braces. Oooo... corner braces... right?  

It's funny how I pay attention to fences in ways I've never done before.  I've been looking closely at all the fences I drive past on my daily commute.  Now that I know an eight inch pressure treated wooden post costs seventeen dollars, and a four inch wooden post costs nearly ten dollars, I appreciate a fence in a new way.  The black wood fences that the big horse farms have all around town surrounding their fancy barns and horses are worth a bundle!  Fences made with home cut cedar logs are owned by smart farmers.  Fencing is an investment, for sure.  I wish we had more cedar trees.

Putting our corner braces together meant that we got to drill holes with a really long drill bit, use a clamp to hold the brace pieces in place, and then attach it all together with long metal brace pins.  

The brace pins are just like metal dowels, and get hammered into the holes that were drilled.  Pretty smart.    We decided it was smart of the fence supply company to post instructional videos that show a man and a woman building a fence together with simple tools.   We can do this!

Now that our vertical posts have been tamped in place, we can measure the distance between the corner post and the brace post on each side, and then cut a pole to fit between.  I timed Brandon, and he can cut a post down to size in less than a minute with his handsaw.  

To get the brace stared, Brandon drills a hole in the brace, right in the center.  

Then the pin is placed in a hole on the vertical post.  Getting the horizontal brace post to fit over the pin that's sticking out is easier with two people.  Once it's attached on one side, then the clamp can prop it up on the other side until a hole is drilled all the way through the vertical post and into the horizontal one.  Another pin is hammered in the hole, and wha-la, a corner brace is born!

Why does having wooden corners on our fence make me feel so fancy?  Like we're wealthy ranchers, instead of scrappy homesteaders.  I think once they start leaning and wobbling all over the place, it will feel more like home.

Of coarse, the whole point of investing so much into these corners is that the fence doesn't lean and get all wobbly.  That's the theory anyway.  We'll see.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

That's Not a Hose!

Look who I nearly stepped on!  I'm not sure if this is Carlos, our hopefully evicted house snake, but it could be.  This snake was long enough, but seemed a little skinny for Carlos.  Maybe after a long winter Carlos needs some fattening up! 

I stepped from my car, and as I walked toward the front door I assumed we left the garden hose laying in the yard until I got close enough to see this wasn't a hose.  Yelp!

This snake was moving really slow, despite the warm sun.  When I looked closely at it's eyes, they looked clouded over, so maybe he's getting ready for a shed and couldn't see me very well.  When I touched him, he was quick to move.  You can watch his reaction to my touch in the short clip below. 

So slithery. 

Despite lots of teasing from Brandon about my ambition to excavate the swimming pool location by hand, I have made some (okay, a little) progress by digging up the sod and top soil for the garden.  

Just look at all that clover - this is going to be great dirt for the garden, since clover is nitrogen fixer.  I'm happy to steal it for my raised bed.  

Finally, I have on of the beds filled with dirt.  I only got the top soil from about one eighth of the pool footprint, so I have lots more to keep me busy.  

Newt thinks my ambitions are so hilarious she fell down laughing.  

The chickens are too busy looking for earthworms in the dirt clumps to laugh at my puny efforts.  

Stop digging and rub my belly, please.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Pear Tree, Peach Tree, Septic Tank

The first of the little fruit trees is getting it's leaves.  The plum tree near the new fence actually looks like a little tree now, instead of a small stick.  

Puck and I are still in amazement that we have actual sunlight to play in when I get home from work.  We got used to doing chicken chores in the gloaming, so it feels luxurious to soak up some real sunlight hours after I'm home.  

The little peach tree in the front yard has pink buds!  I've never had a peach tree before.  I read that peaches in Kentucky are not very likely in most years, because they bloom so early and we typically have a late frost.  

Even if I never get a peach, it's nice to have something with pretty pink blooms so early in the spring.  

The big pear tree right outside the front door it beginning to bloom too.  In town, the streets are lined with bright white Bradford pears, but it seems our pear tree blooms a little bit later than those.  

There are thousands of buds, but only a few are open.  

The peonies that I transplanted from our old house are sending bright red shoots up from the ground. I'm so glad to see some color in the world!

The grass has been greening and growing too.  The chickens and I took a little walk to explore a wet spot in the field I recently noticed when walking on our trail.  As I suspected, it's water flowing on the surface from the septic tank leach lines.  Gross.  The ground looks a little gray, and I could detect that classic gray water anaerobic smell.  

At least now I know where the septic tank drains to.  Considering our saturated clay soil and the unknown age or condition of the septic tank, I can't say that I'm surprised to find a squishy spot in the field.  Thankfully it's not right in the yard, or near the little stream stream.  I'm also thankful that we don't have a flush toilet.  It's gross enough to know the shower, sink, and washing machine water is pouring into the grass.  I have day dreams about a gray water wetland treatment system, but that's a project for a later time.  

I can't go anywhere on the farm these days without an entourage of guineas.  You would think I would feel more flattered.  I'm pretty sure the guineas days are numbered here.  Joe said he would add them to his flock, since they are damaging my calm.  Or I could make that guinea pot pie I've been dreaming about.  They make noise constantly now.  I'm not sure if they are twitterpated from the spring weather, or if this is their natural state, but they have helped me appreciate the gentle clucks from my hens and the infrequent crows of my rooster.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

Girls and Boys

The chicks that were delivered in the mail at the end of the December, are old enough now that I can tell who is a boy and who is a girl.  The boys are behaving more like boys - they play fight and lunge at each other.  I heard the first attempt at a crow yesterday, but it sounded a little more like someone sat on a whoopee cushion than the call of a proud rooster. 

These are some of the barred rock chicks.  The one of the left, which is darker and has a smaller comb is a female (looks just like Mrs. Hall!).  The one on the right is bigger, lighter color, and his comb is more red and more impressive.  

This is a buff orpington and Easter egger sandwich.  The yellow buff orpington on the far right is a girl (she hardly has a comb at all), and the yellow bird with a dark red comb on the far left is a boy.  The Easter eggers are the hardest to tell apart since they all have small combs and big beards.  I've spent more time than I should admit to watching them though, so I'm pretty confident that all but one of these is a girl, despite their beards.  

Since all but one of the boys is destined for the freezer, and initially I was sure these pretty black and white Easter eggers were boys, I was excited to finally determine that she is a she, after all.  I have two with this white head to black tail pattern.  Directly behind her is a girl barred rock, and the one in the back is a boy.

Two girls.  

Boy, girl, girl, boy.  

This one looks like a girl, but behaves like a boy.  He's the only one with a name, so far, so I'm pretty sure he will be the rooster I keep.  Welcome, Cogburn!  

Newt gets a little jealous when I pay too much attention to the chickens.  

Sorry, Newt, you have to figure out how to get down all by yourself!  

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spring Break Fence Posts

Last week was spring break for the university where Brandon teaches. Instead of a vacation for his time off, we did something even more exciting, and started building a fence. We had to do some research on how to build a fence, and spent quite a bit of time tromping around our fields placing flags and pulling string.  Our final fence design is approximately half and acre (six hundred feet of fencing) on the back northwest corner of our property, attached to the corn crib.   

The blue tractor implement, which I think is for moving pallets, made a handy cradle for hauling the heavy fence posts to the field.  

The frequent rain made the ground squishy, and the tractor made nice ruts in the grass.  Brandon tried to stay on the edges of the fields as much as possible, so we didn't make tracks in our pasture.  Hopefully our future mammals will appreciate our efforts.  

This is the farthest fence corner from the house and barns.  We left enough room between the posts and the edge of our property to drive the tractor and mower.  We debated putting the fence right on the property line, which would make a nice boundary marker, but in the end we decided we would rather be able to walk or drive on the outside of our fence and still be on our own property.  This should give room for planting fruit trees on the outside of the fence too, so the fruit can fall in for the animals, but they can't chew on the trees.  

In one day, Brandon dug at least nine holes with the post hole diggers, and made them as deep as he could.  We watched a dude on youtube demonstrate how to dig a three foot post hole by hand, and he stood in a grassy field on soil that was so loose it gently fell from his tool with each scoop.  He had a deep hole in minutes.  This was not our experience!  Our tight clay sticks to the blades of the tool with such suction that my job was to take a stick and scrape it off after each scoop.  The wet clay is sticky, and heavy, and every once in a while there would be a huge stone that we would have to break in pieces with a heavy breaker bar in order to get the whole deeper.  Judging by location of Brandon's sore muscles, I think this is a good workout for the shoulders.  

Our fence design uses a wooden corner post and a wooden brace post to each side.  We also used wooden posts and braces where we want gates, and a wooden post in the center of the fence on each of the long sides.  The rest of the fence line will be held with metal t-posts that get pounded into the ground.  

We placed orange flags every fifteen feet between the corner post to mark where the metal posts will go.  

To make the wooden posts level and sturdy, we have to tamp dirt back into the holes around the base.  Most of our holes filled with water, so this is a messy job.  I finished two.  Only fifteen more to go!
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