Friday, August 7, 2015

Progress on projects

While I was in Portland a couple weeks ago, Don was incredibly busy. Not only do we still have large outstanding orders for tankards...

...but there are endless projects we want to accomplish before the snow flies.

Lately we've been stepping outside in the mornings and feeling the breath of fall in the air. The blistering heat we've had all summer appears to be finished, and the days are (thankfully) cooler. This morning it was a decidedly brisk 40F. We don't get much by way of autumn color around here, but what little we get is already setting in.

In other words, time's a-wastin'. Gotta get some stuff done.

The most obvious change I noticed when I got home from my trip was thirty tons of hay in the barn -- a wonderful sight. Thanks to the diligence of a neighbor who is always on the lookout for good hay prices (and who has a flatbed trailer, so we pay him to haul for us), we got this hay for a wonderful price.

Thirty tons is more than enough to get us through the winter; but since we feed the animals in the bull pen year-round, we like to have extra on hand.

We've had a freaky weird summer, much hotter and drier than normal, and all the crops are accelerated. Farmers were cutting hay in June rather than July or August. At the moment hay prices are still a bit high; but we're going to keep an eye on things, and if prices come down as we think they might, we may obtain another thirty tons and tarp it as a hedge. In other words, get another year's worth of hay. Under "bleep" conditions, animals can eat two-year-old hay, though of course it will lose some of its nutritional value.

Another project he accomplished was cleaning out the bull pen. Unlike the lovely feed boxes Don built under the awning by the barn, we still fed the bull (and any animals we tucked in with him for breeding or companionship) over the fence. Needless to say, this was wasteful and resulted in an ever-growing mound of buildup. Additionally, it meant the animals fed outside regardless of rain or snow, so any leftover hay quickly became inedible.

As the mound rose higher, we had to tie cattle panels (some call them hog panels) to the pen rails so the bull couldn't jump over the top. Clearly this massive mound of hay/manure buildup was a problem we needed to address.

So while I was in Portland, and while the rest of the herd was in the pasture, Don let the bull and companion cows into the adjacent paddock (we call it the "feed lot") and closed them out of the bull pen. He opened the gate to the woods, pulled the tractor around into the bull pen, and started hauling out that mound of old rotting hay. My goodness, what a difference to see bare ground once more.

He made an enormous pile on the edge of the woods. In a year, two at most, this will decompose into beautiful "black gold," perfect for gardens.

Recently he's started another project in the bull pen: expanding the shed to accommodate more animals.

Once the expansion is done, he'll build feed boxes inside the sheds to keep the food (and livestock) dry in inclement weather. Obviously this will make things more comfortable for the beasties, as well as be more efficient with hay.

Don also plans to build an enclosed awning outside the bull pen with access to the sheds, so we can feed from inside instead of feeding in rain or snow.

Other "must do" projects before winter is to install gutters on the barn so the feedlot and bull pen don't get saturated in mud. We also want to build another chicken coop -- this one in the yard -- as additional protection for the ladies. Time will tell whether we can get everything done before the snow flies, or if some things must wait for spring.

Incidentally, this is how a farm is built: bit by bit, little by little, project by project.


  1. Nice find on the hay and good luck with the building projects. You're right farms are built one project at a time until you get them jst the way you want em.

  2. Wow, you and Don are real workers. It is refreshing to see that real AmeriCANS still exist. We visit your Web site every morning to get a dose of inspiration.

    OK Montana Gal, what is on our To-Do List today?
    Montana Guy

    1. We've been splitting and stacking firewood for 2 weeks (about a 3 year supply) so I say it's time for a little R & R--Montana Gal

  3. Here in the UP of Michigan, we are also having some odd weather this year. Lot of rain in april and may. then pretty average in june. July was hot and dry. 3 weeks with no measurable rain. I bought a 300 gallon fluid tank from a local farmer so I can expand my rain water catchment system. If this project works out ok I am thinking I will add another one. they are only $50.00. I hope you get all your projects done. one at a time.

    Carl in the UP

  4. That Don. He's handier than a shirt with two pockets. By the way, if you miss being miserable we can send you some hot and humid from Memphis.


  5. Here I thought it was cold here, central wa. Our yard looks like fall with leaves everywhere.
    We are getting some veggies from our small garden beds.

  6. Patrice, can you tell me which issue of Backwoods home has the article about the feed boxes in it and can you also tell me how you plan on keeping the gutters from breaking off under a snow load. Love the updates. God bless your work.

    1. The feed box article should be in the next forthcoming issue of BWH. Regarding gutters, Don has thought long and hard about how to do them so they don't break under a snow load -- I'll be posting abundantly when he gets started on them.

      - Patrice

  7. excellent progress.
    keeping the mud down will be a great help.

    on the early fall, we were outside a few evenings ago and i smelled autumn in the air. daughter noticed it ,too.

    i'm awaiting jackie clay atkisson's fall beaver dam depth report. her beavers are inerrant.

    hay- better too much than not enough. i think we're building up to one of the times of climate shift when winters are longer and colder and springs are wet.
    laura ingalls wilder - the long winter.

    greenhouse of some sort a good project to consider.

    someone was gathering old windows from renovations-- greenhouse or cold frames. free materials, but you live too far for it to be a help. maybe some city friends can scrounge up some windows if you are interested.

  8. I thought 49F was cool this morning. I was down at the ranch ten miles N. of the Columbia River. Got up at 4: 00 to bale straw and long sleeve shirt felt mighty good. At the home place 75 mile further north the market garden is slowing down. Only have carrots and spuds left. Not wishing you a bad winter, but we sure need snow this year. No snow, no irrigation water, no crops. Sounds like you folks are getting the necessary work accomplished. Keep up the excellent work.

  9. We have lots of projects to tackle here too before winter, but thankfully Georgia winters are not nearly as harsh! The listis always never ending on a farm....

  10. Wow, I was excited about the cool mornings here in Georgia in the 70s last week. 40 is deep winter down here!

  11. 96, 100, 98, our days aren't cooling down yet here in KS. We have seen more rain this year, than in 3, it's been wonderful. Lost our garden to the deer this week, even the part protected by wire fencing, it was totally disheartening. I called the closest 'you pick' farm near to me, and he said they had lost 3 lots of beets, and that the deer had eaten 200 watermelons in the last week. Between the weather and the creatures, it's almost impossible to put up any stores. I did get 13 quarts of pickles put up a week ago, thank goodness. I need triple that to last a year, but I'm greatful for what we did get. Glass half full I always say, makes living a bit more pleasant. Your homestead is looking really nice, too, btw. I'm glad you made it home safe and sound, and sorry business was so slow after making the long trip.