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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Projects and Treasure

Between bouts of the craziness; football games, the beginning of a new school year, volunteering, gardening, the fair, and all the little things that seem to gang up on us and steal time away, we managed to sneak away and find little escapes.  Occasionally, I managed a small project or found a little treasure to add to a growing collection.
The not so small project is one that is hovering over my head like an elephant.  Now that's an image, isn't it?!  We have 4.5 acres that has been hayfield, but I don't like the look of the scraggly hay.  I don't like having to wait to have it mown in August for cattle hay.  And I really don't like the hiding places it affords to predators and deer.  After it was hayed the last time, I decided to keep it mowed.  I started by splitting the field in half and mowing one half each time I did the yard, about every ten days.  But it was far too thick in places for those areas to wait almost 20 days between mowing, so now I just mow it all at once.

It's a tricky mow.  There are hidden holes that will jostle you right out off your seat.  The whole thing is a giant three sided bowl with steep areas, if not cut correctly, make you feel like you're going to slide right off your seat. I've tried many patterns of cutting to find the right path for both sanity and safety.  I finally figured out that just mowing east and west and west and east is just fine, if not tedious.

So now we have a stunning, clean, well manicured 4.5 acre PASTURE.  Pasture means critters.  Do you know how many critters I can put on 4.5 acres?!  A LOT!  The mind goes wild with miniature cows (wouldn't those freak out the cattle next door), horses, sheep, llamas, or alpaca.  The rolling green field needs, nay DEMANDS, critters!

(We can't say that we weren't warned that chickens are "gateway" livestock ~Doc)

But if you are going to have livestock, you need a place to put them.  I am NOT building another large structure.  Design, yes.  Help, yes.  Supervise, yes. Pay for, ugh, yes.

I have auditioned several local out building companies.  One never returned my call.  One wasn't interested in doing a building that was ONLY 30x30 feet. One has been not only very nice and patient, but also comes highly recommended by friends that have also used them.  I had a design in mind and actually found out that a neighbor down the road has the same building.  Upon checking it out, I was sold.  We did find out that for only a little more money we could upsize it to 30x40 feet.  So it is silly not to.

The free space of the pasture is a large square.  We had planned to put the barn on the Northwest corner and then eventually run a fence from one corner of the barn, around the pasture (with a few access gates thrown in) and back to the other corner of the barn.  The problem was the slope of the land.  The landscaper that came out to give us an estimate on the pad for the structure hesitated.  When he did I knew it was going to be far too much work, which translates to time and money, for this project.  He would have to use twice as much dirt as normal to build up an area large enough for the building requirement.  I looked at him and said, "tell me the ONLY place on my whole property even close to being level enough is where I have my garden."

He looked over his shoulder at the 1200 square feet of meticulously fenced and manicured garden and said, "yep."


So, dear readers, I spent the whole next three days taking apart the garden. 

 This of course brought about a great deal of debate amongst the flock.  While they were all for me taking out the annoying fence, thereby shortening the waddle from the coop, around the fence, and through the narrow 5 foot wide gate to the deliciousness, they were a bit befuddled by the open freedom.  Once a quorum was reached, they voted that it was a good thing and while I dug out what seemed like a million concreted cedar posts they ripped out field peas, devoured mint plants, dug grubs, and tried to race my shovel into the hole with their delicate little necks.

Even more fun prevailed when I took the tractor and removed an 8 inch deep layer of mulched hay, exposing a whole hidden world of ants, pill bugs, worms, grubs, greens, and best of all, dusty bathing dirt!  When I used the tractor to move the three compost piles, you would have thought I announced a dress sale in the basement of a 1950s movie.  I swear I actually heard the chickens squeal with delight upon exposing all the goodies that were hiding beneath compost.  Not to mention all the old tomatoes that made a run for it when I lifted the pile!

When it was time for them to go to bed Wednesday night, they looked like a poor woman two weeks overdue.  They could hardly waddle for having played outside all day, and filling their crops to almost dragging.  We saved on the chicken feed bill this week!
Playing in the invisible barn.

6 hours on the tractor later with the rake and harrow, and what is left is a clean, almost flat, hard packed earthen base for the pad for the new barn.  The pad guy will come in the next few weeks to raise up the earth to prevent water from racing down my hill and THROUGH the barn.  I am sad to see the garden go.  I don't think they'll be one next year, but I will be planting some sorghum, sunflowers, and some kushaw squash on the hillside. 

kushaw squash
Speaking of the hillside, I have one area that cannot be taken down with the mower.  It is raised so the septic line far, far beneath it is protected, but the mower bottoms out on it when I go over it.  So the solution was simple: fill it with something else.  Right now the grass is short, but I'll let it get tall.  It is also filled with wildflower seed.  The blue and the orange houses mark the limit area for the mower.  Since I took this photo, I've added two more.  But that's enough. Our little Norwegian village on the hillside. I just love the brightly, happy colored buildings during both the green and white seasons!

Speaking of brightly coloured buildings.  On a recent 'should have bought a squirrel' drive home, I spotted far in the distance BLUE!  You have to understand this is very conservative country.  People are comfortable with traditional building colors and rarely let their adventurous side show.  Sure there are RED barns, but those are SO traditional, that they may as well be the more common, brown, umber, sienna, grey, or white colors so frequently seen across the countryside.  So to see BLUE was an eye turner during the raw umber landscape sheering of the bean harvest.  I HAD to see this spread up close.  Luckily a grid system state makes that relatively easy.  Imagine my surprise when I came across not just the blue barn, but also a stable, cow shed, machine shop, chicken coop and OUTHOUSE! They were all the deep bright blue of a swimming pool liner! 

On a recent trip to Wayne (more on that later), we also came across not one, but TWO HOMES painted in the same teal as our Oodalolly Chicken coop, and one PINK schoolhouse!  I guess the bleak landscape does occasionally drive the bold and creative to go for the color in their life!

Pretty empty out here, eh?

Now it's time for a couple of projects INSIDE the house.

Project 1:  I had a brilliant idea late at night for a little corner that was just screaming for SOMETHING to fill it.  My solution was to hang a saucer from each of my china sets.  I use English plate hangers which are hidden from view, unlike the traditional ones with 4 grabbing fingers and springs you traditionally use.  I've used them for years with great luck and highly recommend them if you have plate or platters to display.  Following the directions is key to these hangers. You can find them online and at Hobby Lobby.

Project 2: A few weeks ago, a local hardware store tweeted that they were using a chick feeder (a new one with the bottom still attached) as a wall mounted holder for their dry erase markers in their employee areas.  WHAT A GREAT IDEA!  I certainly didn't want to drop the change on a NEW one, but you can always find a USED OLD one at antique shops and flea markets.  In fact, I found this on super clearance at a shop because the base had been lost.  I don't need the base!  For $1, and a quick spray of clear coat to preserve the rust patina, I have a large holder for my fountain pens, dip pens, and alcohol pens!  It's hanging with a simple loop of jute.

Project 3:  I have no idea.  I found this tiny photo at an antique store in a pile of at least 1000 old photos that had been tossed in a box.  This little antique store was amazing and the prices were still great as it was still a little-known shop.  It was, however, not in a good part of town....AT ALL.  I saw the photo on one trip, but didn't buy it then.  The image haunted me for a week until I could get back again.  She was still there. So for $1, she came home and sits on my studio desk behind UV-shielded glass.  For the time, that was one expensive outfit, let alone the cost of getting a photo done.  It was probably taken in July to boot! LOL.  Just look how adorable and proud she is.  I wonder who she was, and what became of her.  Just an amazing photo.

Project 4: I have a long standing tradition of letting things sit at my regular haunts.  I'm at them enough, that if they are still there a month later, I'll either buy it, or wait another couple of weeks.  This project/treasure was one of those times.  This amazing pen and ink watercolor of an old homestead was buried in the front room of Liberty House in Seward.  I'm in town once a week to deliver eggs and pester Pat.  I kept being drawn to this picture. 
The heavily molded, gold gilded frame wasn't even close to my style, and the white mat - well most of you know how I feel about framing things in white.  Then there was the price. Ya, way out of what I wanted to spend.  With Liberty house still for sale, after two months of looking at this picture, I finally asked Pat about it.  I told her I didn't want the frame and did she want to buy it back and re-sell it.  It turns out she had a customer that WANTED the frame, but didn't want the picture.  So I managed to get the picture for a wonderful price and left the frame there for the other buyer.  A quick trip to Hobby Lobby's frame shop and the print is now in its new forever spot on a new homestead! Just look at how that black mat makes those colors sharp and pop!

Project 5: Containing the Posts.  No, I'm not scaling back on my internet postings.  Just like any acreage, we have a huge stockpile of various posts; fence, garden, snow, electric, and horse.  For the past two years we have been using a simple storage method - cram them in the corner.  This caused some problems.
The first of which was the post you wanted was never accessible.  I swear they knew you were coming and would crawl deep into the pile, behind the rustiest heaviest posts.  When you finally found the one you needed, it would grow arms and legs and grab on to anything it could on the way out of the pile.
The second problem was stability.  These posts are heavy, rusty, and sharp. The constant worry that one or more of them would suddenly get a hankering for squishy pink flesh was ever present.  To try to curtail their appetite, we placed a large plastic trashcan in the corner to hold the largest of the offenders.  This was soon full, and five gallon buckets joined the organizational line up.  Posts were being shoved willy nilly into whatever bucket would accept them.  This brought us back to problem #1.

Then it happened.  This past week, upon opening the large overhead door, I heard the most terrible screeching sound.  It turns out the Roughneck plastic trashcan wasn't so rough after all.  It had split and tipped over, taking dozens of 8 foot steel posts with it.  As it fell, it decided that the floor would be lonely without company, and it caught all the other posts in the surrounding 5 gallon buckets.  Since there would be nothing to eat while it was down there, it took this year's sorghum harvest along for the ride.  UGH.

Upon opening the door, I was now privy to the world's largest, sharpest, lockjaw inducing game of pickup stix.  I needed to come up with a way to contain/organize/store these beasts.  I should have taken a before shot, but I was distracted by the disaster.  What I came up with is sturdy, actually has MORE storage room than the buckets, and keeps the beasts sorted and accessible. It only took me 3 hours too!

Project 6: Less of a project, and more of an adventure.  I was heading to the next town over to deliver eggs and there was a large red pickup off the side of the road with its hazard lights on.  When I was about 200 yards away, he pulled out onto the road.  This usually means that they are the lead vehicle for a large combine or slow double long grain hopper.  So I slowed down, and just as I crested the hill, I saw no machinery, but I did see a herd of horses on the road.  UGH.  Stray livestock.  Good country neighbors don't turn their back on stray livestock.  Someday it might be yours. 
So for the next hour and 15 minutes this total stranger and I slowly used our trucks to herd lost horses.  The alpha stallion was HUGE.  I have NEVER seen an Appaloosa as big as he was.  Where he went, the others followed.  The guy in the red truck was pretty sure what field they escaped from (2 miles away) and who the owner was, but didn't have his contact number.  So over and through barren bean and corn fields, over broken fences, and ditches and down the center of a few dirt roads went the 5.  Once they got moving they knew what direction they wanted to go, so the beasties have done this before.  At one point, we got them near the pasture fence and Mr. Red Truck undid the fencing to let them back in.  The lead stallion would have none of it.  They turned on him and headed back my way.  Putting the truck in reverse for half a mile to the intersection to run interference, the herd followed my truck and at the intersection turned East.  They trotted about  a quarter of a mile down the road and just stopped.  It was then I saw the hidden cut in the high grass.  THE TRAILER entrance!  I parked the truck, and slowly walked past 5 flighty, weighty animals and prayed the gate didn't have a lock on it.  It didn't, just twisted wire.  Pulling the gate open and blowing a mighty whistle, the alpha came running, the rest of the herd following.  Phew! I earned that McD's Frappe!

For our next adventure, I'll take you to Wayne with us! See you then!


  1. My you have been busy! I love the image of the chickens charging into the opened garden area :)

  2. I love reading your blog, you have so much adventure girl.

    Love the chook photo, the girls are beautiful xx