Friday, April 30, 2010

art from kassi

titled "A girl looking at the ocean"

kassiopeia age five
she is truly amazing. everything is intentional even the droplets trailing away. it is like she sees it in her mind and makes it happen. lately i have caught her poring over my art books.

hay door

are you sick of the barn yet? here is my new hay door. this baby is heavy, so heavy that i had to install a pulley to remove it from the pins to add the final center hinge.

see the pulley on the top right?

here is the east end of the barn almost finished.

just a few triangles left over the window.

the dogs found a baby wood duckling. tabitha rescued it. we called the proper people and they said try to raise it it will go wild as soon as it sees other ducks. so now we have a wood duckling. she is trying to feed it with a huge syringe. astrid was gently carrying it to her. she must have thought it was one of our chicks. crazy...

jack is ok and happily being a puppy again.

tabitha and i hung out in the barn during a heavy rain. it was fun, noisy and it smelled good. i am excited to get some progress on the barn. digging and rubble trench foundation are next.

the other end

i worked on the other end of the barn yesterday. that big opening is where we will load hay.

i just have to build and install that door and finish a few trim spots and the upper section of the barn will be done.

the next big thing will be to start the rubble trench for the slip form foundation. between the slip form rock work and the wooden top will be cob. momentum has gripped our barn and it is exciting. building with that sycamore is heavy work. each piece weighs five time more than standard pine construction lumber. i am very sore today. i can't finish the door today it is supposed to rain and i need a break anyway.

the bamboo is really shooting up. we hope this entire half circle will be a huge hedge of bamboo. eventually i'll cut a cozy little hiding spot in the middle.

blocking our house from the road will be nice. the larger bamboo is loosing it's leaves and growing new. i didn't know it did that. i wonder if the existing stalks will get any thicker as a result? the new shoots are definitely thicker. it is magic to watch this stuff grow, so quick, almost startling.

the cow, jocelyn, was playing with astrid and hurt jack. he seems ok but that was a close call. he limped around late into the evening. the cow is moving paddocks today so this won't be able to happen for a while. maybe by then the puppies will be a little quicker and not so easily accidentally hurt.

ianto is almost twice the size of jack right now. jack had worms, obviously got them before he came here. we treat that stuff naturally. since ianto didn't have them jack will have some catching up to do. astrid loves her puppies. being a puppy still herself they are kinda like her siblings yet she also treats them like her babies. i am happy for them since they seem to have richer lives with each other.

jocelyn's mother is owned by our friends and she got snake bit recently. it is very sad and she is very sick. it is almost like having a relative get sick. she was part of our family for over a year. i hope she pulls out of it with her registered calf that she is carrying.

we didn't get any planting done yesterday like i wanted. the barn competes directly with any other item in my queue. it usually wins. i love spring. i could do without all the pollen this year but spring is a glorious time.

happy spring..

Thursday, April 29, 2010

milking barn progress

monday i drove to a local saw mill and picked up a pallet of sycamore. this is dimensional one inch thick rough cut very green lumber. a pallet weighs twenty seven hundred pounds. including the weight of the trailer i topped out the towing capacity of the van. i was surprised how easily our van towed it.

we stacked it by width to make it easier to find the piece i need. it took tabitha and i the better part of an hour to unload the trailer, organize and stack it.

that is a big pile of wood.

first thing in the morning i measured my intended window and made the window box. then i had to scratch my head a while because it was barely too big to fit in the intended spot. i had to recess the window a little and i was in business.

yes i am installing a perfectly broken window. i can easily re-glaze it and i like this style of window for my barn.

it is starting to look cozy.

the kids played and helped.

here they made sail boats.

tristan was especially helpful. he knows most of the tool names and can be counted on to retrieve things based on a simple description. here he is trying out his boat.

rome got a boat too.

it is wonderful how kids can imagine a boat out of a piece of wood, a nail and a leaf. those were kind of toys i enjoyed the most when i was a kid.

toly poised to hand me screws

that is a dangerous opening.

kassi helped too. mostly she flitted from pile to pile of wood.

the day was a home schooling extravaganza. everyone learned plenty, great fun was had and i got to finish the east end of the barn.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

my peeps

we have successfully sold (taken promise and deposit for) the minimum number of birds to offset our costs. the omelays are officially in the business of selling pastured poultry.

follows is the email that we sent out to local resources that disseminate that sort of information:

Hello from Karl and Tabitha O'Melay
We have had so many people request pastured chickens that we have decided to offer them this year! We will have a limited number of birds available on three different dates this summer into fall. The first date will be in late June, and of course we will have a better idea of the exact day as the birds grow. We are offering this email as an opportunity for you to reserve the number of birds you would like in June.
To give you an idea of what our birds are:
We raise our chickens from day one with natural feeds fortified with Fertrell minerals and probiotics - nothing synthetic, ever. These chicks are the picture of health. By two weeks they are out on grass doing what chickens do. They are moved twice daily in "chicken tractors" that protect them from predators while giving them free access to grass and bugs. They are part of a biodiverse and sustainable little farm that we call home. All of these ingredients come together on the day we humanely bring them to table-ready and offer them to you. The birds weigh from 5- 10 pounds, dressed. They are bagged, whole and clean and come with their pure giblets. They are ready to eat or ready to freeze for up to 9 months. We have raised our birds this way for 5 years and feel proud to offer them to others. Pure, natural, local food!
You may reserve your birds by email or by phone, but we request a $5 per bird deposit which you can bring by or mail after sign up. The deposit helps us to raise your birds and also helps cushion the cost for you, so I hope everyone will feel comfortable with it. And the price is right- $2.50 per pound of whole bird. The birds' final weights will not be known until pick-up day, but you should have your pick from a variety of weights between 5 and 10 pounds.
I hope you will try some of our chicken. Email or call for more information or to sign up.
Please feel free to forward this email to local people who might be interested in pastured poultry.
Karl & Tabitha O'Melay
223 State Highway O
Kissee Mills, MO 65680

if you live locally we still have some bird reservations available.

on to other news my mower finally gave up the ghost. the motor is fine, still starts on the first pull. it is the metal chassis that is completely rusted through on the motor mounts. i might reinforce it, put bigger wheels on it and convert it to a brush hog suckling piglet. we need something to help manage our paddocks between tractor (real brush hog) visits.

so we went to the local bigbox building store and bought a new mower at the height of mower sales. i got one with a honda motor, i'm still tentative about that. briggs and stratton has treated me right for years and i'm prone to brand loyalty. of course it was raining when i got home and i didn't get to test my mower on any grass.

the mower is integral to our deal here. i bag all that i mow and most of it is fed to the cow. at other times of the year it makes mulch for our garden. it also chops leaves for compost or chops hay for bedding for baby chicks, nest boxes, or the hen coop floor. i have abused my old mower and it was nearly worn out before the latest catastrophic failure. if i can recondition the old one it will take the dirtier jobs and the new one can live the life of luxury.

i also needed a new wheel barrow. the old one would need more money in brazing rods, time and acetylene than to just purchase a new one. the old one will also be given a second life in a similar manner as the mower. i simply cannot be without a wheel barrow while that one is taken out of service for major reconstruction. eventually i'll have two wheel barrows around here--something i have needed for some time.

monday i go to pick up a skid of green, one inch thick plank, rough cut sycamore. it should be enough to finish my hay loft. once that is done we can start cobbing the lower half in earnest. with that sycamore i will also construct an outhouse. we hope to invite people to our farm for a cob construction workshop. we need to have a privy. i'll also be hooking up the outdoor shower so we'll be ready for guests.

the rest of the sycamore will be queued for fence planks. we want a fence of horizontal X and level top and bottoms. the entire thing should be white washed. i hope we have enough lumber for it all.


my world just got a little smaller. someone i really wanted to meet in person someday has moved on.

goodbye matty

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

compost day

today was almost entirely dedicated to compost. the nine foot space between these two pallet bins was two thirds full of compost. that large bin was starting to fall apart. so i decided to empty and demolish it. it held about six yards of compost when full. it was full before planting started this spring.

i put about half of it in the new bin on the right. the other half is this huge pile in the garden waiting to nourish our little seedlings.

over a dozen full wheel barrow loads.

then i decided that we needed a couple more bins to take the daily manure removal from the stable. i wanted them next to the stable door for easy access.

here are the new compost bins.

the one on the right was filled from turning another demolished bin. that compost will be ready for our fall garden. the pink door is because i opened an old can of paint that couldn't be resealed. i painted a few other things around the farm. i hate to waste paint.

ianto and jack have settled in nicely.

this morning we planted red raspberries.

yesterday we planted tomatillos. they are a little more hardy toward cooler temps than tomatoes.

they are just to the left of the bean arch in this photo. here they are from the other angle.

i also hooked up one of the manifolds to the soaker hoses.

i put the hoses and manifold (four way splitter) on tarp to suppress weeds and expose any leaks that always appear throughout the summer.

our giant bamboo has just started to show. it comes a little later than the smaller local bamboo.

our ginko tree is looking healthy.

in the background is a cover crop of winter wheat and my huge pile of compost.

tabitha made a bamboo gate.


our beets are up and doing nicely.

beets = good

our wisteria likes the new bamboo trellis.

the new toy

because work is play.

as most of you know, i enjoy environmentally conscientious methods of construction. my root cellar is a prime example. although i am not a hippie zealot, well, i might be deep in my soul. nonetheless i construct many things like my chicken coop out of standard materials. i confess that most of the materials for the coop were either free and recycled or seconds and very cheap.

this is the summer of the milking barn. our heifer is due in september and we have solemnly sworn that she will be milked in a barn. to that end, we need to finish the barn and we want to make it out of cob-construction. cob is like sculpting your structure out of clay, literally.

cob needs to be protected from the elements else it will eventually wash away. we plan to lime plaster our cob barn. lime plaster is messy, potentially wasteful and caustic stuff. that is why we needed a stucco sprayer. stucco is usually made from cement but lime, earth and papercrete plasters are interchangeable materials for this applicator. i wish i had this baby when i was making my ferrocrete shell for my root cellar. it would have made short work of the initial shell support structure.

my mortar sprayer arrived yesterday. this thing is elegant and seems robust. i might have to try it at bobs house first since he has a huge compressor. i want to see this thing really preform before i hook it up to my little compressor. i might have to invest in a larger compressor than i originally intend.

i can't wait to try this thing. my new label plaster sprayer will highlight it's use.

Friday, April 16, 2010

beans in the garden already?

planted in the garden to date.
potatoes, which aren't coming up yet and might never.
beets, little plants almost an inch tall two rows.
onion plants, two rows they have taken well.
pole beans, yes we planted our beans already.

after observing the extended forecast we couldn't resist.

since our first year here we have been making arbors for our beans. the first year we tried to make it out of bamboo. although it was like a work of art it wasn't strong enough for heavy wet pole beans. our next year we started using cattle panels to form the arch. this has been a glorious thing. it provides a shady avenue to the back of the garden. initially the beans are like low hanging fruit. it is a delicious morning stroll.

this is the season that bamboo shoots with blazing speed. here one is skewering two oak leaves.

our bamboo hedge should finally offer substantial privacy this year.

today we mulched between the strawberry plant beds.

there are many blooms we are hopeful of a big harvest. the black raspberry brambles are doing nicely in their relative confinement.

we put down landscape cloth then a thick layer of wood chips.

this is our new grain storage.

these drums should pay for themselves in bagging fees within a few visits to the mill. they seal so well that i can tip them on their side and roll them around full of grain. originally they held tomato paste.

here is what we are using the snow fence for.

it is chicken proof and we want to keep the girls in the lower paddock away from the garden and yard.

their paddock is so large that they don't really try to get into the upper paddocks or yard.

i had to move the red farm gate to improve our chicken proofing

the new broiler chicks have arrived.

they look very slick and healthy. i like our new hatchery so far.

the upper paddock is looking very healthy this year.

some of our tomato seedlings are looking leggy. i put a fan on them to encourage stem strength.

tabitha's new additions to the root cellar are blooming.

we also started to mulch around the fruit trees.

this is last years tomato bed covered with leaves, plastic then cattle panels. i did that in the fall. soon we'll peel it back and see how our soil fared.

i still have to paint the new arbor.

other gardening duties have superseded it's final cosmetics.

kassi posed, asked me to take this shot and wants to put it on her blog.

kassi walked around with me while i took photos for this post. looking back through them it makes me feel like we have an idyllic farm for a child to grow up in, i hope so.
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