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Monday, February 21, 2022 No comments

Mad cow, and Paddling about

More rain is headed our way tomorrow afternoon, but the weekend gave us a pair of not-quite-spring days: a fair measure of sun, and highs of 55°F to 60°F (12*C to 15°C, give or take). Between the farm and Omicron, we didn’t get out much, but sometimes you can find a little fun in the farm work.

Saturday, as any day in winter goes, the wife takes hay to the cows. Depending on the day and time, she takes either me or Mason with her to cut the strings (big round bales). But first, we (and DD’s boys) piled into M.O. the B.B. and went to a farm supply to get fencing. We went west, toward Ellijay, instead of east toward the retail district, because the local suppliers only had 100' rolls of mesh fencing and she wanted 350' rolls. As Mick Jagger sang, you can’t always get what you want, and they had 330' rolls. It mattered only in that her crew had spaced posts for the slightly longer rolls; she still needed three.

They dropped the rolls into the truck’s voluminous backside, using a Bobcat with a forklift attachment. I threw a ratchet strap over the triangular stack, and that was a wise move—the top roll flopped around a bit until it settled down tightly between the other two. There was also a couple rolls of barbed wire, and a bag of chicken feed (one of the renters has a small brood of layers). As usual, M.O. the B.B. went “pfft” at the load (pulling a one-ton trailer doesn’t affect the fuel mileage on that beast, it will give me 21MPG empty or loaded—seeing as the minivan gets 19MPG, that’s kind of impressive).

Pasture cattle
Oh hay! Let’s roll. (My photo)
The fun part was taking hay to the cattle. As the wife was doing her pastoral duty, Blockhead the heifer wandered over toward the hay barn. The gate was open, after all. (Wife has a t-shirt, compliments of DD, that has a sketch of a calf and the caption “Live like someone left the gate open.”)

Blockhead saw me, and froze. “What do you think you’re doing?” I asked her. She saw the open gate, and decided to press the issue by rounding the corner.

“Oh, no you don’t,” said I, and pulled the gate shut.

This is where it gets funny. Blockhead got pissed off, and bucked her way back toward the tractor. As Mik and his aunt observed, cattle are born knowing all profanity, and Blockhead used quite a bit of it through her body language.

That evening, wife made it clear that there were Things That Had To Be Done on Sunday afternoon. She repeated it before church… and Mason, somehow, was surprised to hear about it after church. This has been a long-standing trait on the wife’s side of the family, acting shocked that reality doesn’t conform to their whims, and Mason has it down pat.

Stuff to be done included:

  • Raking debris out of a chokepoint in a drainage ditch
  • Taking feed to the renter’s chickens (I don’t know how we got roped into doing that)
  • Running a couple more rolls of hay out to the cattle
  • Clearing the debris filter over the pond’s overflow pipe (a wire crate—my idea, and a rare idea of mine that the in-laws actually acted on)

Wife was like, “How are we going to get those fence rolls out?”

I suggested, “Use the hay spike on the tractor. Slide it into the hole in the middle and pull it out.”

For once, she realized I had come up with a Good Idea.

So I pulled the rolls out to the tailgate, and she carefully slid the spike in far enough to hoist the fence roll. It turned out that if I used gloves instead of bare hands, I could pull the rolls out to where she didn’t have to worry about catching the tailgate with the bottom spike. That only happened once, and the dents were already there on the tailgate. M.O. the B.B. is a work truck, not a TPC. A few scratches and dents are to be expected. In this case, I don’t think there was any damage.

Mason wasn’t needed for the hay part, although Charlie came along. He likes to bring a construction-equipment toy and play in the dirt/hay while his parents handle the details. Given the coming rain, she dropped much of one roll between the gate and haybarn, so we might have some non-mucky footing through the coming week.

After that, it was Mason’s turn, He was ranting that we gave Charlie the R/C truck he wanted, although he had guided me through the Zon’s pages to the one we got for him. (We missed the two-year anniversary of Charlie’s adoption, but made up for it.) But he came along anyway. He sat in the truck while I cleared the drainage ditch (a small tipped-over tree is catching debris at this particular juncture), but helped a lot with the chickens. The johnny boat “somehow” got bashed in at one corner of the stern, and tore it open. Mason opined that we could hammer it out and patch it with Flex Seal, and that might actually work, but it didn’t solve the immediate issue. So we clattered back home; I grabbed the inflatable kayak, but the pumps were scattered around. Wife finally found the 12V one, and I found the 120V one plus the hose in the camping box (and I don’t know why they ended up there). The hand pump is behind a pile of yard tools in the big garage, as I learned after the fact. Wife made one of her usual comments about putting stuff away, and she was right for a change. I’m not sure why it happened, though.

Anyway. We clattered back down to the pond, and I inflated the kayak while Mason did a little fishing. He got a nibble or two, but no fish. But he was good and ready to hop in when I told him to help me carry the kayak down to the water. We put it next to the dock, took off our shoes, climbed in (one at a time), and I found being slightly off-center was an invitation to ship water. But we paddled out to the overflow pipe, and I cleared off the debris while Mason kept the kayak away from the drain handle.

But we weren’t done yet! We paddled over toward the pump house, where the overflow feeds the pond. Remember, the air is cool, and the water is cold. Mason got the worst of the dripping off the paddles. But we did get a good (if algae-encrusted) five-gallon bucket out of the pond, floating there since Kobold had let it fall in.

We got back to the dock, clambered out, and Mason decided he wanted to solo around the pond. He had been helpful, so why not? He got in, we maneuvered back around the dock, and of course I got pics (and video).

Wife didn’t approve of me letting him solo in the pond, but that kayak has five air chambers—any one of which would keep him afloat long enough to get the fifteen feet (five meters) to shore. Not to mention the seats, attached only with two clips and velcro, and that would have made seven levels of redundancy (two seats). It certainly won’t hurt to bring a couple of floatation devices for future trips, though. And a couple of towels.

After deflating the kayak, we clattered on home. I put the wet stuff in the big garage to dry out, then we got supper. Charlie was already 90% asleep, and he seriously overreacted to dropping some books on his foot as he tried to kickstart his bedtime routine.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022 1 comment

You know it’s mid-February…

…when the daffodils start blooming. This clump is just across the driveway from the front yard.

A good reminder that winter doesn’t last forever. Better days are coming, and more rain for Sector 706 in the short term. At least we’ve had a week and a half to dry out after the last deluge.

I got Mason to get up all the stuff he’s strewn around the back yard, and got all of the outdoor toys in the garage or under the gazebo. The boys are off for “winter break” until Tuesday; I never did think to take a day or two off work, but that won’t stop them from coming upstairs (still, it’s not as distracting as co-workers yapping on phones all around me in the office).

It has been warm enough to get the grill out. Sizzle has one of those pellet-feed smokers with the phone app, and it has eliminated the “not quite done” issues in his BBQ game. Me, I just go with the dual-chamber (gas on the left, charcoal on the right) grills. I did a couple of sirloins from the pasture last week, and it was some of the best steak I’ve had in ages. I didn’t sear it, but Sizzle handed me an 11" cast iron griddle he had left out on the deck to rust up. I took a wire cone brush on a drill to it, to get most of the rust, then followed it up with soaking in Coke overnight. That left the ultra-fine rust residue, and I got that off with a Brillo pad. A couple rounds in the oven with a thin coat of Crisco, and it looks a lot better than it did when I brought it home.

So I can toss it on the gas side of the grill to get it good and hot, and put pretty sear marks on the next meat I grill, or maybe cook bacon and/or sausage on it. I’ll probably take it with next time we go camping, too.

Are you seeing signs of spring? Or getting neglected stuff ready to use again? Comments are open!

Thursday, February 10, 2022 No comments

Sunset over FAR Manor

 …and when I say over, I mean over.

I launched the drone, high (23m, according to the flight log) above the trees to get an unobstructed view of the mountains to the west. You can see the tree platform in the back yard at the bottom center. The light-colored horizontal strip left of center is one of the chicken houses equipment storage sheds.

We’ve been getting pretty sunsets all week, but this was the first evening I had the presence of mind to get an aerial shot. There was a little wind, enough to make it tricky bringing the drone back down, and for the second time I’ve had trouble getting a good GPS lock pre-launch. (The workaround is to turn off the GPS switch on the side of the controller, get the drone up about 20 feet/6m until it finds some satellites, and turn it back on.)

There has been plenty going on, but I’ve often had a hard time motivating myself to share it. I’ll try to do better.


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