Tuesday, May 30, 2006

canoe trip

our neighbor tom took us canoeing sunday. the kids loved it. the water was a little low and we scraped bottom a few times but mostly it was a nice easy float. the kids loved the rapids and giggled the entire way through them. they even renamed them "the sillys." happiness abounded. when tom and i went to retrieve the trailer to load the canoes we saw our other neighbors john and pam on their bicycles. we stopped and talked they expressed an interest i accompanying us on our next canoe excursion. later that evening tabitha was talking to john and pam and decided that we needed to go again the very next day.
we borrowed the canoes because tom already had his fill--a wise choice. our new plan was to take a slower trip and fish along the way. tristan was much braver this trip wanting to hang off the back floating in the water. he made it difficult to maneuver or make any progress while he was in the water. tabitha had the fishing pole and was fishing like crazy.
tabitha caught a huge small mouth bass. it out classed the rest of our mess four fold. she was the fishing queen. we had a few snags and had to canoe over to the hook snag origin. this made extra paddling for me especially with my sea-anchor-tristan slowing all maneuvering.
the kids ran out of patience after about three hours. there were long periods of kids complaining but they mostly loved it. when we got home we cleaned the fish, picked beets and chard from the garden. we had an ozark dinner--fresh caught fish, fresh steamed vegetables from garden and fresh milk to drink. that is what life is all about. we experienced great satisfaction from that dinner being completely from our recent efforts.
i have sore muscles today and plan to take it easy.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

the garden is coming on

our tomatoes got a bad case of aphids. i mixed an organic spray that included neem oil and sprayed the plants. later that evening the neem oil separated and coagulated into a clump. the sprayer got tripped (a small boy was involved) into the on position. the pressure sprayed most of the liquid out into the yard where the device was abandoned. i went to re-medicate the plants and managed to mix a super strong batch because the clump of concentrated neem remaining in the sprayer. i merrily sprayed the tomatoes and scorched them. they started to shrivel and brown up. tabitha panicked, there was pointing of fingers and several rude comments made. needless to say most of the tomatoes narrowly survived my over medicating them.
i have been working with our neighbor doing some construction. it has been nice i get to leave the car home for tabitha and ride to work with him. he pays 50% better and i don't spend $30 per week on gas.
we were, at the drop of a hat, planning on going canoeing this morning but a friend of toms borrowed one of his canoes unbeknownst to tom until late last night. we could have still gone but it would have been too much trouble for tom and his family to accommodate us also. chuck and anna were planning on coming to visit today but that was canceled earlier due to our illnesses and tristans impending turn for the stomach virus. we'll work around here today and maybe visit the creek around lunch time for a picnic.
i am in quest of a ketchup recipe from homegrown tomatoes. we have searched the internet and know the basics but any personal experience would be appreciated.
the rootcellar hole has become the new playground for the kids, especially tristan. i have to get a load of gravel to put in the bottom to get started.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Hog pond

In January my in-laws moved to a new place. I helped him dig his pond out--I mostly watched and mike drove the scoop tractor. There were cat-tails that had penetrated the clay barrier. It held a wet mud and that was all. After we dug the muck and cat-tails it promptly rained. The pond only held a foot or so of water.
In February Tabitha decided that we need to raise some pigs for meat--another iron in the fire. After the pig commitment was made we promptly found out that we were pregnant. Mike agreed to take care of the pigs. He has a nice warm barn. The pigs were happy and grew to the bounds of their 20'by15' pen. He then surrounded his pond with 15 to 20 cattle panels and set the pigs loose.
they worked their magic. trodding the edges with their little feet, eating all the cat-tail roots and generally making a piggy mess. The pond got a chartreuse green bloom of algae and still looks really scary. Then it rained and rained. The pond held so much water that now he is concerned about overflow erosion. Rumor has it that now he can remove the pigs and the pond will hold water for many years.
the main downside is that it takes a year for the pond to become a healthy eco-system--or a swimming hole.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Root cellar

This is the begining of our root cellar. Our neighbor came over with his back hoe tractor. He dug the whole thing in a couple of hours. The roots were amazing. I could have never dug the thing by hand. He wouldn't accept cash for the work. He got a gallon of milk from us the other day and loves it. He also said that he would like to pay for milk in the future--we won't let him, of course.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Up on the beam

I worked 20 plus feet in the air most of the day Thursday. I was a bit scared at first but I told myself that I've been in worse height situations plenty of times. I am naturally kind of scared of heights but have mostly overcome my fear through internal brainwashing. I just keep telling myself everything is fine until I get distracted enough by the job that I forget that I'm in any danger. I like facing my fears and overcoming them.
When I was a child I was scared of most everything. Eventually I got it in my head that I needed to start to overcome my fears and it has been a continual process ever since. I remember having night terrors as a two and three year old. They mostly involved me climbing our stairs from the basement in slow motion trying to escape dinosaurs. I remember being completely stricken with fear during the day every time I would climb the stairs. I always ran up the stairs as fast as I could. I hated being the last one in line to go up. It was far too slow and my dreams usually involved not being able to scream while being attacked. I could have been easily ambushed during such a slow ascent while not being able to scream, no one would be the wiser.
Tristan has inherited my night terrors--sometimes he wakes screaming. I attribute it to having a creative imagination at a very young age. My consolation about his night terrors is that we still co-sleep. I recall never wanting to sleep alone. This was especially troublesome for my sister since I wet the bed until a comparably late age. Sleeping separate is a recent development for our species and I believe that is another reason why we are becoming more detached from our surroundings. Actually, I ended up co-sleeping with my sister, most every night, eventually if not right away. I have a special attachment to my sister probably because of it. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind I know that my sister would protect me and loves me deeply--and I her.
Yesterday three of us set an entire timber frame wall and rafter in the great room. Great is for great-big room. It is beautiful and excellent to see it how it goes together.
I'd like to bring up the ridge beam that I cut months ago and possibly set the vertical posts for the milking shed. Having recent timber frame experience has given me incentive and the skills to finish our milking shed.
Yesterday I came home to visitors--it is nice to have guests. I played with all the kids. They play together very nicely. Tristan and Peyton exclude Drew in some of their games which I wish didn't happen but they'll have to work that out themselves. I also mowed more of the yard. There is still more to mow today. The yard looks so much better freshly mowed. Hopefully we'll also finish planting the garden--it should be dry enough.
Happy Mothers day tomorrow.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

It's a boy

i admit it, i was wrong. i guessed it was a girl. i might hear the end of it by the time he is born. Actually I'm happy to see a healthy baby in there. We have chosen a name Ptolemy Gustav wren o'Melay. The name Ptolemy just came to us in epiphany fashion. It is off the beaten bath as far as names go but has great historical significance. Most notably an Egyptian pharaoh and a Greek astronomer.
it is so exciting.
i also got a gasoline powered lawnmower. No big deal you say? Well, if you could see our over-grown lawn you'd think otherwise.
I'm timber framing today. Exciting business.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ultrasound tomorrow

We have an appointment for an ultrasound tomorrow. I hope to find a healthy baby and of course it would be nice to findout the sex. It is exciting and gives a sense of accomplishment. We will finally choose the name and start calling her/him by it.
I finished the automatic waterer for the chicken tractor. It is ready to go. Mike came over and moved our barn/shed into place with his propane tractor (king of the hill).
Merlin, the calf, got out last night and had his fill just before milking time. tabitha got a quart--one sixth of her usual gallon and a half. It was a bad cow conspiracy. We fixed the segregation problem. Gates were exchanged and attached with stronger locking mechanisms. Tomorrow morning will be better.
we covered our asparagus with composted manure--some of the tips were breaking the surface. Our fruit trees got a layer of manure too. I emptied half or our compost bin and turned some (in progress) compost into the vacant half. Then the freshest compost got turned into that vacant spot--the shit shuffle. We'll have plenty of finished compost ready for the 'all red' potatoes when their covering time comes. It should be in about two weeks.
My new tiller has been ripping through shear pins like there is no tomorrow. This soil is so rocky it is amazing. The safety shield has several dents and scrapes. I have taken to putting the rocks across the street to extend the approach to my mailbox. We get all our mail at the p.o.box but someday we might want to change that.
we planted new tomatoes in the newly removed, killed by hail, spots. Yes, this morning was a fairly violent thunderstorm.
We also have aphids on our tomatoes. We have been trying everything, this last effort included neem and peppermint. We are really trying to stay away from the pesticides. We'd like to claim all natural/not-certified-organic.
we have got several gallons of milk in the fridge. tabitha has successfully made butter and we have been drinking the milk like crazy.

Monday, May 08, 2006


Negotiations with the company that I was, and still am, hoping to work for have slowed to a snails pace. Ben, my current boss, has expressed a desire to hire someone that can travel (all over the Midwest) and work for weeks at a time. That is not the job for me. I need to be around my family daily. Ben certainly wouldn't pull any rug out from under me but it is best for him (and I) if I were to move on--he said it in a much nicer way. I told (said desirable company) my situation and need to extend my efforts to finding something else (hint, hint). No takers there. I guess my current solar experience skill set is a difficult sell for those higher up the corporate ladder.
I can easily do the proposed job way above expectations and put something together that would make them a decent profit using existing manufacturing infrastructure and distribution network.
I have spent a bit of time having meetings, working on proposal type stuff and continually offered my recent solar experience. I can design and build a working manufacturing proposal that would make selling the new "solar division" easier to the higher-ups but it is too much work to do while I'm trying to make money at another job and do my back-log of work around here. I don't believe there has been any lack of good faith but I still feel discouraged none-the-less.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

chicken tractor

we finished building the chicken tractor today. it is made out of 10 pieces of electrical conduit, 10 feet of 1 1/2" PVC, 10 feet of 4" pvc, some scrap corrugated steel roofing and the chicken wire. it should last quite a few years assuming it doesn't get damaged by feisty children. it cost us around $35 to make. my hands are sore from wiring the chicken wire to the conduit. have a few new blisters and several little cuts. it took a little longer than it should have because i designed it on the fly.
it sits directly on, and is open to, the ground giving the chickens access to the grass and dirt. it is light enough to move around the yard so the chickens can mow our lawn and fertilize it at the same time. they will live there full time once they are old enough. the unit is ten feet by ten feet by 18 inches tall. i have yet to finish the automatic waterer. i need a small piece of hose.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


my website finally has a new home--thanks to donna. i uploaded my resume and made it the first page. the rest of it will have to be parsed through later. our cob plans have changed so much that i won't put that back up until i make the changes. it is cold and rainy here today. we were planning on doing a bit more planting but the ground is too wet. i'm off to get more supplies for the chicken tractor.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


this is what heaven smiling on our farmstead looks like.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

thanks for the salsa ideas

we'll try them all and decide which one works the best. the first tomatoes that don't get immediately eaten will get the salsa test. contributors will automatically get sent a sample of their "selected" recipe. if the salsa doesn't make the grade then said contributor will be getting "their salsa" for every holiday henceforth.
just kidding....

anyway, we are excited to try to make salsa. our garden will be our life very soon. the kids each got a cherry tomato plant from the heirloom seed festival. tristan meticulously choose the tomatoes for kassi and himself. tabitha had to read him every description and show him a photo of each. he is so much like his mother in some ways.

the cow is going to kill me. the stress over each and every thing is too much. there is so much invested in that cow that it consumes our life. i realize that there is no gain without pain but this pain-to-gain ratio isn't balancing out and won't anytime soon.

one of our friendly neighbors got a barn/shed for us. he said he'd trade two cords of wood for it. it is 10 feet by 12 feet and is in pretty good shape. it will be a good place for hay, milking paraphernalia and gardening tools. we need to get it moved into place (it is on skids).

Monday, May 01, 2006

heirloom day

this is my lovely wife tabitha. she is really starting to get that pregnant woman glow. not that she isn't normally lovely but there is something about being pregnant makes tabitha glow.
we had a fun time at the festival. we bought a new hoe for the garden. yes it is pricey but tabitha really wanted it and mothers day is just around the corner. it might seem silly to spend twice as much on a hoe as necessary but gardening should be a pleasure and having the right tool makes it all that much better. these hoes are made from recycled agricultural tempered steel and are hand crafted. tabitha was outside after milking--hoeing every errant weed in our spring garden.
i am in quest of a can-able salsa recipe. the kids love salsa and we will hopefully have a bounty of tomatoes. my goals are to can over 200 jars of plan canned tomatoes and 100 jars of the yet to be discovered perfect salsa. many have suggested, including farmgirl, that we use the canned tomatoes to make salsa on the fly with fresh ingredients. yes that is a real possibility but the difference between making and having a ready made snack for the kids is huge. there are so many moments during the day that the kids need a snack and there isn't time to really make one.
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