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Sunday, September 3, 2017

August Lost

The entire month of August has slipped by.  It not as if we were sitting idly by, lazing away the hours, languishing in the Air Conditioning while the hot summer sun beat down.  In reality, August was extremely pleasant.  We never once hit 90 degrees, which is unbelievable here.  Usually August is the most dreaded month.  The nearly persistent, howling prairie winds suddenly stop, withholding any and all relief that it would bring to any other summer day.  The air is so thick with humidity that you could slice it.  Breathing the moisture laden air is difficult enough, but the stifling heat sets the air afire and sears not only the flesh, but the lungs.  Early August is also haying season, adding dust and stirring up the pollen.   Smoke from distant prairie fires pile on the atmospheric particle load.  The rising moon in the evening glows shades of pink, orange, and salmon until it can rise high above the horizon.

This month the pollen and the smoke are present.  The dust still rose high above the prairie fields, following the haying machines.  The winds died, but the heat did not come.  This year's wet pacific weather pattern held, and blessed us with days, even low humidity days, in the mid and upper 80s.  It's been wonderful!

In comparison, the end of July, was BRUTAL.  Temperatures were in the upper 90s and UP, and the humidity was off the charts.  Of course this was the week of the Cornhusker Games.  It's a state level friendly competition for ordinary citizens of the state.  Think the people's Olympics.  I was entered into 2 events, standard pistol and olympic rapid fire pistol. Doc and The Boy were entered into the rifle competition.  I kid you not, it was HARD, made nearly impossible by the heat and unholy humidity.  The day of my competition started at 6am, 78 degrees and FOGGY.  By the time competition started it was in the 90s, and the heat index was over 115!  Despite that I came in 4th in standard pistol shooting and 1st in rapid fire.

The following weekend was the boys turn.  Of course on their day of competition it was sunny, DRY, and 78 degrees.  Doc pulled in a 3rd place in open sight rifle, and The Boy came in first in his division, open sight rifle.

Back on the ranch, August came in cooler and dry, with regular rainfall. Most of my compatriots were tending their late summer gardens and putting up tomatoes, pickles, corn and peppers, I was standing, hands on hips, shaking my head at my container garden.  Poorly, does not even begin to describe the level of success these specialty planters.  From three self-watering planters, holding 5 banana and jalapeno pepper plants, 4 cherry tomato plants, and two full sized plants, we harvested two handfuls of cherry tomatoes (those went to the birds) and a handful of peppers.  Nothing ripened quickly enough in any quantity to use for anything.  A "chilly" night in early August that sent us to 58 degrees, told the tomatoes to just give up.  And so they did.

I ripped out the plants and put in beets, carrots, and leaf lettuce in frustration.

It was looking like county fair season was going to have to rely on items canned last year after the fair was over, and I'd toss in some baked goods to top off the ribbon count.  I decided after last year's fair, that I was switching counties.  Here you are allowed entry into any county fair as long as your home county touches that county.  The fair in my home county is just too long of a drive to keep up with.  The downside is that you cannot win a grand champion rosette if you are not of the county, and only the rosette winners can represent the county at the state fair.

This year I entered several jars of pickles, apple butter, apple sauce, as well as a painting, a braided loaf of challah, and some Bavarian pretzels.  The great thing about this county is that they actually open and taste everything!  They even give comment cards with each item, which can be helpful, funny, or down right annoying- as you cannot defend your item to the judgement they make.  You just have to roll with it.  I wasn't at all happy with the pickles I entered.  They were fabulous in taste and texture, but were at the end of their shelf life at fair time, so yes, they had lost their crispness.  All of the pickles took 3rd place. Comments included - not crispy (I knew), not enough Alum (I don't use it), what's with the leaf? (I tried an old farm trick of placing a grape leaf in the jar to keep crunch- used to be well known trick.), use bottled water, not well water (I did.)

Cinnamon applesauce took 3rd place.  Comment was- looks to have molded. (UM no, the area they called mold, was a final sprinkling of cinnamon on the top so I can tell it has cinnamon in it.)

Apple butter took 2nd place - comment - Not enough allspice and clove. (UM, you are correct.  My family doesn't care for them.  I can to suit my family, not your's, judge.  So I'll live with the 2nd place ribbon.)

My painting took 1st place and a small rosette.  YAY!

The challah took 1st place and a small rosette.

The Bavarian pretzels earned a 2nd place.  Comment - not crunchy (not supposed to be), top is missing salt and is wet (Yup, you are right.  I dropped them off in a vacuum sealed bag, looking golden and salt covered, with moisture absorbing pads in the bag under the plate.  YOU opened the back and left them sit OPEN for two days before judging, where the hygroscopic salt sucked up every bit of moisture in the August air!)

A last minute entry of jalapeno peppers from the sad container garden earned a 3rd place.  Although small they were beautiful.  But sized must have been the determining factor here.

And last, but not least, a 2nd place win for my spicey and sweet kosher dill jalapeno pickle relish.

All in all a good year at the small fair.  Next year, we'll switch counties again, and be more prepared.

The second week of August saw the boy's 18th birthday.  OH MY, Oh MY....where did 18 years go?!

The entire summer seemed to fly by acting as taxi driver to our hard working computer intern.  I feel as though I wore a rut in the road driving to and from the city.

No sooner was the internship over, then it was time to pack The Boy up and move him to the University.  That was craziness in and of itself.  We clearly remember our days of moving in, the uncertainty of being ready, too afraid to admit you are scared to death, holding your breath as family drives away.  The incredible reality of growing up.  So far, so good.  He's getting along with his roommates, classes are going well, and oh ya, he's changing his major.  What freshman doesn't?!

Apple picking season soon followed.  I picked and tossed all the immature fruit from the young orchard early in June, or so I thought.  I missed two apple trees and one pear tree.  We let them go.

The apples on the Early Harvest yellow apple tree, never came of anything much. The 4 apples on the Liberty apple tree however, AMAZINGLY gorgeous and super tasty! They were both sweet and tart.  A real keeper variety.

The kieffer pears were harvested a week later, and while small, look amazing and are finishing their ripening on the kitchen counter.

We were under the path of totality for the great eclipse, just barely.  In an amazing turn for August, we were cool, and CLOUDY.  Doesn't it just figure?  Any other August we are frying under a blazing sun and couldn't beg, borrow or steal a cloud for shade.  The one day we want a clear sky, nope.  The clouds were thick enough to keep the temperatures down, but thin and high enough that the filtered glasses still allowed a clear view of the eclipse.  Totality was too faint for the filters, and because of the clouds, could not be seen without them either.  The chickens didn't care a whit about the dark.  They just kept eating as if a storm was coming and passing.  The clouds did offer us an amazing view of the approaching shadow.  It rolled in from across the country to our west before it enveloped us, leaving us in the dark with sunrise views surrounding us.  The clouds on the horizon to our north were far outside totality.  and being on a hill we could see past the great shadow to our south.  Once in a lifetime and we didn't have to go anywhere!

The girls wanted nothing to do with this massive 40 foot python.

August is also the time of the Great Molt here at the Station.  As this is a family friendly site, I shall spare our readers the images of half naked chickens running around the acreage.  Boy did they look sad.  Well, funny and sad.  Wykin and Nod are absolutely cockerels.  While they have yet to find their cock a doodle doos, they are betrayed by their saddle feathers and enormous feet and log legs.  Little Blykin is the most delicate and lovely Splash Ameraucana pullet.  She runs with the big girls and torments her brothers.  She reminds me of a little blonde sister, chasing after her big brothers- white dress and blue sash, pigtails flying.
Eggs, Pears, and White Bread

Now that we are into early September, the molt is mostly over.  They are back to laying, and the egg supply is flowing again.

August also has meant Doc has had a month of rare vacation time to use.  While he has had classes three days a week, it's left us a great deal of free time to catch up on the acreage work AND to take little day-cations here and there and around and about.

One journey took us across the great southern wind farms to an antique store featured on a local television show.  A long and scenic journey to a shuttered shop and a yard filled with no trespassing signs.  According to the village post office, the owner is hardly there, nor the shop hardly ever open.  Wonderful.  Upon leaving the village, we came across an amazing brickyard, where they not only make custom bricks for construction but carved brick art, and murals.
State Fair One Man Band

We have been to the state fair, where we saw giant cattle, had an incredible meal, walked for miles, and managed to stay away from the worst of the fried foods.
Topographic elevation map of the State.
Everything on a Stick

We wandered hither and yon, to and fro, just enjoying the day and visiting places and driving down roads we've never been down.  It's been really fun.
The old bee hive firing oven.

Long Horn
Time rolls on, and now we Welcome September.  We still have some painting to do on the new barn and some Fall chores to accomplish.  (We still do not have a fence on the pasture.)  But for the most part, you can feel the countryside winding down for season.  The early corn is being harvested, and the remaining stalks are starting to yellow.  Soon the beans will yellow and dry out and the fields will be full of harvesters being followed by the gulls.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Mulberry Season 2017

Mulberry season seemed to never want to start this year. Our Spring was wonderfully, and perfectly, wet and warm, but not too warm.  When it came time for the Mulberry tree to bloom, it just exploded in a solid mass of delicate pink-white blossoms.  It was stunning.  The bees and flies had the good sense to hang out and feast on the bounty.

The blooms faded and the leaves began to creep from their hiding places in the branches.  It was only a matter of time before little green globules, resembling mini brains, would start to appear, swell and turn from green to red, to electric red, and finally a deep, juicy purple.

In years past, the berries were almost 2 inches long and half an inch wide.  I was looking forward to minimal picking for maximum volume yet again.  Oddly enough, the berries remained small.  The weather was perfect, but with the increased rainfall I expected plump fruit.  I guess perfect weather in our world results in small, but tasty, fruits.

Regardless, the berries DID ripen and it was time to harvest for some goodness to happen in the Station kitchen.  Two years ago I spread out clean yard sheets and shook the branches.  The fruit fell on the sheets and was then dumped in a 5 gallon bucket.  Unfortunately, sticks, twigs, spiders, leaves, spiders, unripe berries, spiders, aphids, spiders, and spiders ALSO fell up on the sheet.  I left the bucket in the garage overnight to allow the bugs to crawl out, mostly.  Sigh.  I washed and rinsed and repeated and picked until the only thing left in the bucket was berries.  From that I made mulberry jam, seeds and all.

I really wasn't in the mood for all that again.  I figured I would rather PICK berries into a berry bucket and spend that time, rather than hunched over a pail of creepy crawlies.  Donning my most holey, paint stained, sun bleached yard attire and a black and white polka dot bandana, I hosed myself with DEET from the knees down.  Hey, I'm picking berries not feeding deer flies or ticks.  I slung my old berry bucket over my forearm and started picking.

The purple lasts for days.  

It's amazing how the white berry bucket screams food to the hens.  (Their treat bucket happens to be of the same Orange Sherbet heritage as my berry bucket.)  So as I am picking, I am being serenaded by the humming, whining of 20 large birds that want what I have, and three loudly peeping chicks who don't know what I have, but if everyone else wants it, it must be good.  All this despite the fact that I am standing on a carpet of fallen berries from a windstorm the night before.  HEAVEN FORBID they eat dropped fruit.  They want picked fresh.

Don't worry, they didn't starve to death. But I wasn't going to stand there and hand feed the little darlings my berries either!

8 cups of fruit later, I had had enough of the bugs, spiders, and chickens who while keeping my legs fly and tick free, sure did a number on my pedicure.  (They LOVE to peck at bright toe polish.)

THIS YEAR -- MULBERRY SYRUP - we rarely use jams and jellies, but we DO use syrup as we have breakfast for dinner often.

The berries were brought inside and washed several times over with cold clean water and dumped into my largest enameled iron pot.  I added water until the berries were under 3 inches of water and set the gas high enough for the berries to make it to a slow boil.  I let them boil for 30 minutes gently, and then plunged my immersion blender into the fray and pureed the whole thing, seeds, stems and all.  I let this slowly simmer for another two hours, stirring when I thought about it.  I also kept a spatter screen on the top to catch any bubbles and to keep in some of the moisture.

I then lined my largest colander with a clean flour sack (remember, my flour comes in real live flour sacks).  I put the colander above another large pot.  I very carefully poured the mulberry puree into the flour sack and then tied it closed and hung it over the juice pot. DO NOT SQUEEZE the juice from the bag.  You'll end up with cloudy juice.

Measure the liquid volume of the juice and add that much sugar to the juice.  9 cups of juice=9 cups of sugar

Stir the sugar in and place the whole thing over a low heat and simmer until the sugar dissolves, and the syrup get thick.

Cool slightly, bottle and refrigerate.  You COULD place it in canning jars and boiling water bath preserve it.  But I just made enough syrup this year for the refrigerator.  I simply tuck it into those useless back corners.

In mid July, I repeated the process with CHERRIES, LOTS of cherries and made cherry syrup for ice cream, soda, and pancakes/waffles! Make sure you remove the pits BEFORE you add the water.

You could do this with any fruit.  The difference between fake store bought flavored syrups and the real deal is night and day!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

And........We're Back.

Merciful Heavens! It's been 10 WEEKS since I've last bombarded you with news from the Station!  You must have thought we washed right off the face of the Earth.  Or maybe with the last post being about dense, really dense fog, you thought we joined the land of Brigadoon, and wouldn't be back for another 100 years.

Well, apparently someone crossed the bridge, because here I am!

"Where on Earth did you go?" you may ponder.  We we last posted in early May, we were still far from the trials of the end of the school year, planting was still just a pipe dream, and Ellie had just hatched out some seriously cute puffballs.

Then my computer died. She didn't go quietly either.  She started making some odd grumblings, which became screeching, and the clever Boy backed up the whole mess on an external hard drive for me before the screeching became screaming.  Oh wait, that was me.

One morning Blanche just would NOT turn on again.  She had processed her last photo, laughed her last at my horrific spelling errors, posted her last blog entry, and spun her last whirl on her hard drive.  She went dark, and never returned.  RIP old Blanche.

Now if you know me, I loathe relearning technology.  I dread getting a new cell phone. Heck, I dread it when the cell phone just updates and slightly changes.  At the Station, we call that shaking mom's snow globe.  I learn something, or where something is located and I don't even have to think about where things are, I just do it.  When it changes, it rattles my brain and my world and I kind of just shut down.  Now my whole computer was gone.  It was just too much to think about.  I didn't NEED a new one at the moment, so I put it off.  After all, I do have a smartphone and much of what I need to do can be done on that.  So that would do for a bit.

"BUT WAIT, you have a surface pro!" you exclaim.  I DID!  The Boy figured out he could use it for his calculus class to take notes and do math problems with the stylus instead of the keyboard, and it disappeared down into his techie cave, like the island of misfit toys, or maybe more like Sid's room from Toy Story, never to be seen by me again. So.....

A little bit turned into a while, which turned into a fortnight, then a month.  I watched The Boy researching bits and bobs for building his computer for University from the plug up and just froze.  I watched him researching models for his own laptop and just about went into a panic.  I distracted myself with chickens, The Boy's graduation, company, farm projects, more chickens, art projects, and June's Mulberry season.  I certainly couldn't be expected to go into Best Buy and shop for laptops with Purple Hands and FINGERS, now could I?  The rains came, the pasture grass grew and needed constant mowing.  Then there was the 4th of July, Doc retired and went on leave and his office needed cleaned and packed, more mowing, and company, a mind numbing heat wave, practice for the Cornhusker Games, participating in the Cornhusker Games.  Time was just flying.

By this time, my affair with my smart phone was drawing thin. Don't get me wrong Dear Samsung phone.  You are handy as an alarm clock and for checking my email, twitter, and glimpses for what passes as news now as I am out and about.  But when it comes to long postings, reading books, or uploading photos to email or the internet I was calling it quits.  My eyes were tired.  My arms were taking on the pose of an internet savvy T-Rex.  Something had to be done, and quick!

A glance at the Sunday circulars online for Dorm supplies for the boy, and something caught my attention.  Something I had not yet considered in my quest to save my eye sight and re-enter the digital world, a Chromebook.  A SIMPLE solution!  I can get to the internet.  I would have a large screen.  I'd be able to get my photos from my cameras to the website and work on the blog again.  PLUS, I'd have storage to the cloud and could work online and off.  DEAL!

A quick to trip Best Buy with price matching from Amazon and I have a brand spanking new internet accessing box thingy, with a big screen and BIG keyboard.  So I am back readers! I'm not sure you're out there reading, but if you are, the post are about to begin again!

Thank you for checking on us via email and for your patience!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Keeping the Chickens' Feet Dry

A few weeks ago, it rained.

Okay, it rained a lot.  Mostly the rate of just shy of one inch per hour, but peaking at almost four inches per hour (2 1/2 inches during a forty-minute period).
The run got wet.  Well, half of it did.  You'll recall that we extended the run; the bottom of the framing connecting the two halves acted as a small dam.
Most of the chickens were smart enough to go to the dry side of the run.
The problem is that, while the Oo-de-lally Egghouse is above the pasture, it's still downhill from the other half of our property.  When the rain falls on our land, it goes downhill (as water is wont to do), and much of it finds its way to the coop and run.  The coop is on stilts; the run isn't.  An inch per hour of rainfall is a little over 27,000 gallons per hour per acre.  The Oo-de-lally sits below three acres.  Not all of the runoff will find its way to the run, but enough did.  And the rain kept coming.  As Andy the rooster was deciding which hen would join him on the ark, Caryl and the Boy bailed water, getting 8" deep water down to 5" and then drilled a few drain holes in the run's frame to let the water out.  Then they dug an impromptu trench to divert some of the water coming down the hill.  In the height of a thunderstorm.  And in their pajamas with bright yellow slogger boots.
(Where was I?  Well, it being a Friday, I was at work, quite dry.)

A couple of days later, once everything was dry again, it was time to put in a more permanent water management system:  a French drain.  The French drain wasn't invented in France, but is named after its inventor, Henry French.  It's basically a permeable pipe surrounded by gravel to allow water (but nothing solid) to enter the pipe and flow away.  Shortly after we moved to Dunrovin Station, we found terra cotta "weeping tile" pipe segments that were probably part of a French drain at the bottom of the pasture and installed around the turn of the 19th/20th Century, to keep the ground from getting too waterlogged for agricultural use.  For our French drain, we used perforated polypropylene flex pipe with a "sock" to act as a filter to keep out solids.

The supervision crew helping to evict the trench's residents.
First things first:  the trench had to be made longer, wider, and deeper.  After a while, I took a break from digging to move the excavated earth to other places in the acreage that needed recesses filled in.  Use a potato fork to move the sod/clay from the pile into a trailer behind the smaller tractor, haul it to where we needed it, dump it, and shovel out what wouldn't pour out of the trailer.  I think there were five trailer loads.  And then I went back to digging with Caryl.  Early on, we regretted not getting a backhoe for the larger tractor.  When we were within an hour of finishing the trench, I reflected on the most efficient motion I'd found, and realized that the tool we really needed (other than a backhoe) was the flat blade of a pick-ax.  By that point, though, we weren't going to make an hour drive round-trip for a pick-ax.  Embiggening the trench took all morning and half of the afternoon.

Playing "X-Wing Pilots," making
their run down the Death Star trench.
Now the gravel.  We had a pile of pea gravel left over from the summer of 2015 when we had a walkway (and a few other features) put in, and the landscaper's material of choice was pea gravel.  As a walkway's surface, pea gravel acted like a fluid and was soon replaced with concrete.  Similarly, most of the other features missed the point of what we were trying to accomplish, and so we dug them out a few months later.  Leaving us with a large pile of pea gravel.

By the wheelbarrow-full, I moved the pea gravel from the pile to the trench.  Caryl spread out a bed of pea gravel, and we laid the sock-encased flex pipe on top of the bed.  Then pea gravel around the pipe, and finally covering the pipe.  Filling in the trench went much faster than digging it out, maybe about an hour.

The completed French drain

A couple of weeks later we had our next downpour -- not as bad as the one that started this project, but enough that we were eager to confirm that the French drain drained.  There's no reason it wouldn't; we just wanted to see it.  And sure enough...
The left side of this picture is the downhill side; the mud you see is detritus from digging the trench. It looks wet, from rain falling upon it, but that's it.  The right side is the uphill side.  You can clearly see water on the surface, water that fell further uphill and ran down the hill to this location.

The water that would've continued to run downhill instead fell into the gravel, passed into the pipe, and drained away to

The End

Sunday, April 2, 2017

By Golly It IS a Barn!

Well, believe it or not, the barn is finally finished.  At least on the outside, by the company.  There is, as there always is, work to be done by us.  Work on an acreage is never really done.  The exterior landscaping and drainage needs fixed.  The interior stall walls need lined with heavy duty, kick worthy, wood.  The stall walls need built and the ever present storage solutions need planned and executed.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's step back to last year.

As you may remember I finally got the nerve up to buy the barn. I immediately had the pad built, while the weather was still cooperating.  Then we had to wait for the barn to be delivered. That took a little longer than I had planned, but I am glad it did, as it gave me a chance to recover from the shock of paying over double the highest estimate for the pad. 

One barn, some assembly required.

The barn was delivered in a nice, neat LITTLE pile in the lower driveway at the end of January.  It was so small that it really was hard to believe that it contained enough materials to build such a huge structure.  With the pile in the driveway, the anticipation of the build grew.  And Grew.  And GREW.  AND GREW.  Well, this was just getting annoying.  I knew time was ticking on our decent dry weather.  And the weather had to be dry to work on this hill, on dusty virgin earth.  I knew the further we got into February and March the higher the change for BIG snows and long stretches of piddling rain.  Then there is the wind.  If you think that it's windy on a normal day in Nebraska, you should see it in late February and the month of March.  You could fly elephants out here.

Tick Tick Tick

January turned into February and the days continued to tick by.  How long of a wait was it for them to start on the barn from time of delivery?  I had no idea, but as weeks passed, I was getting more and more anxious about the weather, which up until now had been abnormally dry and snow free.  As we passed Valentines Day I started to get really antsy, after all, some of our biggest snows are in February. 
They are always deep, terribly wet, and take forever to melt.  I finally called on February 19th and found out that we were on the work board for February 21st!  FINALLY! After waiting at home the whole previous week to just show up, it was nice to have a goal in sight.  I was told when I bought the building that it would take 4-5 full days to finish.  So yay! In a week, I'd have my barn!

SNORT! (That would be TOO easy!) 

Anyway, on the morning of February 21st, as promised, three wonderful guys in a truck hauling a seriously large trailer with large earth manipulating equipment showed up bright at early at 815am.  They stood around, like most country boys do before work starts, by surveying the land, hands in pockets, chawing the fat, pointing, and nodding to each other.

  Once that most important task of the day was complete, the proceeded in unloading all the large equipment and set forth in drilling some ridiculously LARGE holes in my perfectly flat barn pad. 

As we are in a permitted county, our barn poles had to be set over 5 feet deep on concrete and IN concrete.  It is these incredibly large posts that support the whole structure, not the earth.  Turns out that just across the road, which is another county, they have no such regulations and the posts are only a couple feet down and backfilled.  It is far cheaper to be sure, but I know the long term effects of structure-rattling winds.  I joke that someday I might end up with another out building on the property when a neighbors barn blows onto mine, like a wayward party bouncy house.

I went inside to bake espresso chocolate chip cookies.  After all, a well fed worker is a happy worker.  I was amazed to hear from the builders that no one has ever brought them food before.  Well, THAT won't be happening here!

While one pair of men drilled 24 inch diameter holes, the third added support pieces to trusses, built posts, and organized parts for future build days.  By the end of day one, my pad was poked full of 42 giant holes.  It was clear that until these portals to the netherworld were filled, the girls would NOT be free ranging at night.

Speaking of the girls, all of the commotion proved to be ridiculously exciting for them.  They would spend HOURS in their giant picture window watching the men and trucks do whatever silly things it was that they were doing. 

Day 2, 22nd of February, was a slower day.  The morning was spent doing small parts assembly while waiting for the county inspector to show up and declare, "yes, those are the right number of holes and yup, they're deep 'nuf".  After he left, the men continued to assemble posts and slid them into their proper holes.  At the end of the day, it looked like a crazy game of twizzle sticks. Today was hot Bavarian Pretzel Day.

Day 3, the 23rd of February, was spent setting each individual post upright, level and plumb, pouring in concrete, and backfilling with 1 inch limestone.  At the end of the day, with the winds picking up force, it was decided that it would be a good idea, a really good idea to add support braces for all the posts.  I think they were beginning to realize that I wasn't kidding when I said it got WINDY, really WINDY up here.  Today was Dark Chocolate Espresso Brownies.  While delivering said brownies, I thought it would be a grand idea to let them know where the doors and windows would be going so they could mark the spots on the horizontal beams for future reference.  It was then that I noticed that I was SHORT one window.  Since I was supplying the windows myself, it called for a last minute run to the only store in town that carried them, a 2.5 hour round trip.  I informed them of the impeding doom of the weather forecast and told them to call me in the morning before they made the 45 minute drive up to my place.  At 3:45pm, I bid them farewell, and headed to the window shop.  Halfway down the hill, it started to rain.  On the drive home, the rain changed to soft slush balls, pretending to be lazy hail.  By the time I got all the way up the hill, the slush was freezing rain.  For the next three hours we had freezing rain.  Then Mother Nature thought it would be more fun to put 5 inches of heavy WET snow on top of all that ice.

Day 4, 24th of February.  Having spent until the wee hours of the morning sending weather reports in, I was looking forward to a nice sleep-in knowing that it was far to wet out to work on the barn. At 8:15am, I was awoken by Doc informing me that the barn crew was outside.  My normal three guys, plus two I had never met.  UGH.  It was at this point that I staggered to the kitchen in disbelief and watched through the bay window as they tried to plod around the pad on a bobcat, sinking their tires 6 inches deep as they went.  Supplies and parts stored on the ground were now invisible to crews and the scissor lift crushed the hidden frame of one of the large bay doors.  After about an hour of trying to work, and standing around gabbing, hands in pockets, they decided to leave for the day.  I told them it would take several days to melt the snow and then dry back out.  So I told them that before they LEFT the office (which had received NO snow at all that night), to call me to see if we were dry enough to work on that new loose dirt pad.  Nodding in agreement, they slinked back down the hill.

We spent the next week incredibly windy and warm.  Just the right conditions to not only eat away the snow, but to help dry out the dirt.  By the 3rd of March we were dry again.  The hens were happy to be out and running amok, but the winds which would gust from 40-60 mph were hindering the next phase of the build, lifting up and attaching the trusses.  Some wind was OK, but blowing a gale just wouldn't do!

Day 5, 8th of March, Joe and Kevin arrived promptly at  8:15.  Today they would be lifting the trusses into place and placing all the support bracing in .  It really was starting to look like a barn.  While it was nice out, almost 50, the brisk wind made it feel below freezing. Bundled up, I hovered near-by while they put up each truss, waiting until I could get to the last one.
  After Joe tipped the last truss onto the skid steer, I nailed a cedar bough to the top and had each of them sign the truss on the inside facing portion at the top.
  They took great delight in the fact that I wanted them to sign their work, no one had ever cared before.   Before the day was out, I not only had all the wood structure up, but I had windows as well!  Today I made Cardamom, cinnamon, almond blondies.

Day 6, 9th of March.  Excitement ruled the day when I saw Joe and Kevin putting up the very first piece of steel siding.  Sure, I planned this odd color scheme and had seen the panels laying in piles on the lawn, but to actually see it UP where it belongs would be the moment of truth.  AWESOME!  It looked just as I wanted it to, like dark old wood.  The panels were large, measuring 3 feet across and were not pieced, but the full length needed.  Once-empty, stick framed walls were quickly covered.  Each new panel that went up provided another break from the wind. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies kept them warm and moving.

Day 7, 10th of March, Today the wall closest to the house was put up, and the window installed.  It was now that I could get the true scope of the barn from the house and how it would look from here on out.  I loved it!  By the end of the day I had 3 walls, but no roof.  The weather threatened snow.  I was mortified at the thought of a 1200 square foot bath tub filling with snow, wetting the floor and then being covered with a roof, never to really deeply dry.  Gratefully, all of the snow and rain stayed to our far North keeping us bone dry, albeit too windy to install a roof.  I don't remember WHAT I baked on that day.

Day 8, 11th of March. Today the final wall was put up and the winds allowed the roof, complete with double-bubble insulation, to go on--well, most of it.  They weren't able to put  the top vent on.  Brownies again.

Day 9, 12th of March A Sunday.  Joe showed up alone to build the doors so they could be hung quickly the next day.  He was only there a couple hours, but he went home with a full plate of raspberry buckle.  The roof looked incredible!  Looks just like a wood barn with an old rusted tin roof.  Of course it looked so good that it decided to snow. It was only two inches, but I was SURE that the guys wouldn't bother to come out on Monday morning.

Day 10, 13th of March.  I was wrong.  At 8:15 am, there they were.  They hung the doors and worked on the trim around the porch.  I was SURE they weren't going to get the roof vent on.  I was wrong again.  They could smell the end of the project.  Joe went up on the roof with a broom and cleared all the snow and slush and carefully plotted his way up.  The vent and its bird filter went on rather quickly. Dark chocolate cake with Italian boiled icing.

Day 11, 14th of March.  There were still many odds and ends that needed to go up.  Trim needed precision hand cut, which takes more time that you think it should.  Minute folds and snips ate away most of the day.  Shortly after lunch, I got them to hang up my barn sign.  They loved it.  I LOVE it and it LOOKS AMAZING!  I am very glad that I didn't go with true stark white for the background color. 

Day 12, 15 March, the project finished with the hanging of the Cleary clover sign, which I originally wasn't going to have them put up at all. The Cleary clover is a giant white sign with a bright green clover, which would look like a bulls-eye on the side of a dark brown barn.  I decided that if we could get rid of the white then it should go up.  I left the packing plastic on and cut away the portion over the white and leaving the plastic covering anything that was green in place as a mask. I primed the white and then sprayed it a matching dark brown.  When it was dry, I peeled off the plastic and sealed the whole thing with several coats of spray poly.  It turned out great and even the guys were impressed with how good the matching sign looked.  And with that, that's all she wrote.  The construction of the barn is finished.

12 days of work spread out over 23 days.  I guess the timeline was brought to us by the same people that bring us football minutes.
The photo makes it look like the coops and the barn are on top of each other, but they really aren't anywhere close.
(snow melting on the roof)

The day after they left I moved the remaining 8 tons of limestone from the driveway to the door area of the porch to thwart the mud and re graded the whole area around the barn to remove the ruts and debris left from construction.  With that dirt I built up the back ramp, alternating layers of dirt and gravel.

The next day would bring a delivery of 16 TONS of topsoil.  I didn't buy the good stuff. 
I regret that.  It was wet, and really clumpy.  It was hard to move and impossible to spread  and level.  Working with it, I knew exactly why the guy that built the barn pad spent/charged me the extra money to use the GOOD dirt!  The next 16 tons that I built, I ordered the good stuff.  They day just flew by scooping, dumping, and leveling that magical gold out.

The inside of the barn now had a floor that went all the way to the baseboards of the structure.  It turns out the pad wasn't as level as it looked and one side had to be built up almost 8 inches.  Remember, the posts hold up the barn, not the dirt.  I then built 2x4 frames for the floor of the barn and staked them to the ground where the animal stalls would be.  These areas would remain dirt, and the framing would keep the gravel and stone I was about to put down from invading this area.

The next morning brought a dump truck with 15 tons of 2.5-inch driveway rock.  This would be the base of the barn floor and would be rolled and compacted into the dirt.  This stuff was a pain in the rump to spread.  The tractor could only do so much and it would NOT be moved with a rake. The only way it really wanted to be moved was to swipe it one way or another with the side of your foot.  I can't tell you how old that got in a hurry.  That afternoon 15 TONS of rake-friendly, 1-inch limestone was delivered.  That was placed on top of the larger gravel and worked in.

Rain was expected for the whole following week, so places outside missing gravel got a pile and just left to be worked to its final position later.

I did take the rainy weather opportunity to put down clover and grass seed, but ran out of time to put down hay. 

So there you have it.

I still need to finish the inside and paint the posts and doors and call the fence guy and build stalls, but besides that..... LOL.