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Showing posts with label chicken houses. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chicken houses. Show all posts

Monday, November 14, 2011 2 comments

The End is Just the Beginning

Squawking chicken
Somebody pinch me. Bonus points if you’re female and I get to pinch back.

It appears that we have outlasted the chicken houses!

Tyson’s, using their usual “company store” debt-slavery tactic, demanded some rather pricey upgrades to the chicken houses to renew the in-laws’ contract. They said “nope,” and thus the last batch was scheduled to leave around the end of March. However, since the entire paycheck goes out the furnaces during winter grow-outs, the in-laws pulled the plug after the last batch left Friday night. Permit me a brief…


This leaves the farm with four empty chicken houses and still a small hill of debt remaining. Several possibilities have been bandied about for making the houses pay the rest of their way — some kind of greenhouse seems to be the idea that we all keep coming back to. It's actually not a bad idea; the houses have lights, water, heat, and ventilation. And fertilizer. Lots of fertilizer. If we replace some of the roofing tin with plexiglas, we can get some sunlight into the middle of the houses as well. I’m pushing for herbs (cooking, not smoking) as a primary crop, since the stores charge like two bucks for an ounce of leaves and they can grow like weeds under the right conditions. The agent at the ag coop that has the loan had several good suggestions for marketing and lining up customers. The upside is, you can go away for a weekend and not come back to a thousand dead chickens to pick up.

In less pleasant news, M.A.E. seems to be back at the manor. She can’t seem to pick friends who can handle her desired lifestyle, which is to spend the entire day on Facebook and do as little as possible to help around the house. She’s brought her daughter (Moptop is no longer a good moniker for her as her curls have gone for now) over for weekends and she and Mason have a great time antagonizing each other.

Gotta take the bad with the good, I guess.

Sunday, January 10, 2010 No comments

Manor Fever

Snow on fenceBetween working at home as usual on Wednesday and Thursday, and icy roads on Friday keeping me here, I’ve mostly been cooped up in the Manor with Mason. Mrs. Fetched’s mom came up to watch him when I was working, but I had him all to myself most of yesterday and Mrs. Fetched has once again bolted for the chicken houses this morning and I’m skipping church (if it hasn’t been cancelled).

Friday evening, Mr. Sunshine and his entire family (including J’s oldest from her first marriage, Kobold) came up to the manor to visit and eat — the good thing there is J makes quesadillas so we don’t have to cook. Kobold has, just in the last week, moved back from Indiana with his fiance and their 2-year old daughter (more about her later) — he left a few years ago, fed up with Mr. Sunshine and the control-freakery streak that seems to run pretty deep in that side of the family, to live with his bio-father and that side of the family. While he was up there, he picked up an affinity for farming and stepped right in to help Mrs. Fetched after Panda found more lucrative work. Mrs. Fetched and Kobold had run into a major electrical problem with the feed lines — as in, fire and flames. She described the problem to me, and I figured (from listening to her) that I had a pretty good idea what was causing the problem. Mistake #2: I said I thought I knew what it was. Since the repair dude was stuck with impassible roads between here and there, I got volunteered to see if I could fix it.

Saying “Mistake #2” above is not a misprint… Mistake #1 is one I should have learned not to make last time: assuming Mrs. Fetched has correctly diagnosed the problem. I’ve noticed in the last few months that her vision has been a bit off — I have to read fine print for her, for example — and she won’t admit there’s a problem. But I digress. When she said she “saw fire shooting out the downspout,” I wrongly assumed that she really saw it. Therefore, I was expecting a short in the motor housing, where she was expecting something actually in the feed line. Thus, up the ladder I go to inspect the wiring (she’d removed the cover earlier) and to pull the downspout bracket off the line. Seeing nothing obvious — no burned spots, no loose wires — I came down and had her hit the breaker while I looked up. There was a bright orange flash, all right, but it was down in the feed hopper… and then I saw smoke coming off the plug where the switch connects to the system. She should have seen the smoke, but more importantly, she should have taken the methodical approach and checked the easy stuff first. There is no time more wasted then time wasted in unnecessary diversions at the chicken houses.

Sad MasonNow Mason’s a pretty good kid, at least most of the time. One attribute he’s picked up from The Boy, though, is that he fights going to sleep — and last night, he did a fine job of keeping it at bay for quite a while.

He’s old enough now that he can associate things: like eating (especially a warm bottle) makes him sleepy — and does very well at communicating concepts like “DO NOT WANT!!!” without words as we know them. So he started fighting before 10, and was up way past 11 last night; it was an ultimately losing battle, but I suppose every minute staying awake is a victory of sorts…

So he was sucking his fist, which is usually the “I’m hungry” sign, so we got the bottle warmed up and gave it to him. He sucked on it for a few seconds, his eyes started flagging, then he jerked away from the bottle and squalled. Rocking wasn’t doing it either — he knows what that’s for, and doesn’t want anything to do with it. Fortunately, I have an ace in the hole. His dad liked to swing, his Aunt Daughter Dearest loved to rock, and his happy thing is getting walked around. Mrs. Fetched says I spoiled him, but I discovered it by accident when he was a few weeks old — I had him, he was crying, and I remembered his plug (pacifier, it stops up the noise… sometimes) was in the bedroom. So I carried him with me, and he stopped crying before I’d gotten to the bedroom. So when he won’t rock, he’ll still let me walk him around, and he’s settling down before I reach the bedroom. A few laps through the house is usually enough to get him calmed down enough where we can finish rocking him to sleep.

I’ve learned a few things about Mason in the last few days. I knew he catnaps through the day — anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes, and you never know how long until he wakes up — but I found that once he eats (it doesn’t make him sleepy when he just woke up) and I play with him for about an hour, he’s worn out and ready for another nap. That won’t last long… probably sooner than later, he’ll start consolidating the catnaps into a longer afternoon nap. But by then, he should be scooting around in a walker and wearing himself out.

Meanwhile, Daughter Dearest has had dorm fever — she wanted to come home this weekend, but the main highway has been closed. I think it finally got cleared out last night, so we’re going to meet for lunch.

Saturday, December 12, 2009 9 comments

Weekend Roundup [UPDATED]

Mason, innocent?Mason has been at the manor most of the week. Some nights Snippet has been here, some nights not… but this morning was the second time this week he slept until 6 a.m. I continue to hold out hope that this means he’ll soon be consistently sleeping through the night. Babies can be exhausting at times…

I guess he was somewhat of a pistol yesterday: Daughter Dearest had to go pick up Evil Lad NOT and bring him up here, which meant DoubleRed had to watch him for a few. For DoubleRed, very little can happen in her life without it turning into a crisis of one sort or another, and Mason picks up on her moods. So when Daughter Dearest got back, he was wailing with the volume at 11, DoubleRed was snarling and trying to take a test online… in short, nobody was happy. I got this second-hand from DD and Mrs. Fetched — what I did see was DoubleRed leaving the manor in a classic 8-cylinder huff; she returned just as I started writing this.

So while Mason is giving me the innocent look for all he’s worth, I’m not completely convinced. :-)

[UPDATE 13 Dec: He’s been working on turning himself over for a while now… he finally did it this morning. I got to see him do it the second time; Mrs. Fetched came out at 6 a.m. to find him on his back.]

I got home from work last night… and to Mrs. Fetched’s credit, “we need to swap a furnace at #3” was the third (rather than first) thing she said to me. Oh… did I mention that they got the houses sealed up enough to get birds? The good news was that it could (i.e. had to) wait until after supper. The not-so-good news was that we had to wait on Panda to show up, and he wasn’t able to get here until about 9. To be clear here, there are four or five furnaces in each chicken house — they hang on chains and blow hot air directly into the place. No ductwork involved.

Mrs. Fetched wasn’t completely sure about how to go about disconnecting a furnace from the gas line, but I sort of remembered looking at the hookups, and grabbed a pipe wrench and The Persuader (a 14" adjustable wrench) just to be sure. There was a handy nut just south of the gas cutoff, so I put the pipe wrench on, got the thing loose, started turning it… and the hose started kinking and twisting and not cooperating — like anything else in the chicken houses. With a combination of brute force and finesse, Panda and I were able to get the thing disconnected. Lifting it for Mrs. Fetched to get it off the chains was a relative breeze.

With the defective furnace off, we went to the back (which is closed off at this point) to get a working furnace. Same deal, but a little faster since we knew what we were doing. We threw it on the back of the pickup, rolled it down to where we needed it, and put it on — it only took two tries to get the hose counter-twisted enough for us to put it back on. So we plugged it in… and nothing. After some backing and forthing, Mrs. Fetched got agitated and took off, leaving Panda and I to deal with it. Figuring it was an electrical problem, we came back to the manor and got my voltmeter and a couple extension cords in case we had to plug it in elsewhere.

First, I tried the outlet. 120V. I opened the control box cover, and put the voltmeter on the AC terminals. 120V. OK, the thing’s getting power. I tried the thermostat terminals, 24V. Then I disconnected the thermostat, switched to ohms, and checked it. Open circuit.

"Make the thermostat click,” I told Panda. It was right behind us, so he did. Still open circuit.

"It’s either the thermostat or the cable,” I said.

"Mrs. Fetched said she just replaced that one,” Panda said, “but she might have done a different one and forgot.” We located a screwdriver and opened the thing up… it was packed with dust and feathers. Obviously she hadn’t opened this one up in a while. I blew the crap out of the thing…

“You think that loose wire might be the problem?” Panda said sarcastically. Someone, possibly the field man, pulled a bit too hard on it and there wasn’t much slack wire inside the thermostat. We didn’t have any pliers, but I managed to get the loose wire around the terminal and tighten it down. We plugged everything back in… and the furnace immediately coughed to life. After the high-five, we got a bit miffed at Mrs. Fetched for telling us the furnace was broke without checking the thermostat. I guess I need to send her to a troubleshooting methodology class.

Chopping WoodToday was jam-packed with all kinds of “fun.” Someone had to be here with Mason, but: DoubleRed was gone, Mrs. Fetched had to go to the bank, Daughter Dearest was going to the chicken houses with Panda, and I had to cut firewood. But since Mrs. Fetched was supposed to meet The Boy, and he wasn’t awake to answer his phone, she stayed home and I went outside. I’d located a dead tree close to the manor (identified as such by large swatches of missing bark), and found two more when I went out to cut it down. As the other two were relatively small (about four inches), I decided to tackle them first — no splitting required, just cut ’em up and they’re ready! Except for a dead branch breaking off and me stupidly standing my ground (it missed), there were no untoward incidents. The third tree was a foot across (or more) at the base, big enough to need splitting but small enough to split by hand.

After I cut that to pieces, then dropped an even larger trunk near Butthead’s dog run that I’ve wanted to get to for a while, I was pretty well worn out. I took Panda home (he came back with DD just as I was finishing up), then Mrs. Fetched and I loaded the cut-up wood onto the truck and took around to the garage. The biggest pieces, that need splitting, went under a tarp outside and the rest went in the garage where we can get to it. I think it will last until the rain stops later on Tuesday. My back was hurting pretty well at this point, so I figured I was done with the strenuous stuff for the day.

Family portrait (first draft)Somewhere along the line, when I wasn’t looking, The Boy and Snippet came in. Mrs. Fetched wanted us to do a family portrait today. Seeing as my hair was a rat’s nest, and I’d been sweating like a pig in 35-degree weather, I figured I needed a shower before anything else happened. Now earlier in the week, I started looking through a photography magazine I picked up at the grocery store a while back, and saw an ad for an iPhone app that provided remote control capabilities for DSLRs (WANT). Then, Mrs. Fetched told me she wanted a family portrait to include in the Christmas cards (WANT → NEED). I had some money sloshing around in my iTunes account, so I topped it up to where I could drop $20 for the “pro” version that lets you adjust exposure (among other things) from the iPhone. It took me a while to get the thing to talk, but when I got the cables plugged in a bit more firmly we were in business.

We took over 30 shots altogether, knocking off when the flash batteries wheezed out. After I threw out the obvious clunkers (flash didn’t fire, somebody had a “duhhh” look or was looking around), we had a dozen or so possibilities. Mrs. Fetched decided she didn’t like her green top, since the shoulders weren’t right, so we’ll be doing it again tomorrow. In this pic, I’m holding the iPhone behind Mrs. Fetched. I also took a couple shots with just The Boy, Snippet, and Mason, and one of those turned out pretty well. I think if the church ever decides to do another directory, it’ll be a breeze with the stuff I have at hand. Y'know, there’s all sorts of ads in that photography magazine for stuff I never realized I needed (and can actually afford).

So the rum has numbed my back, and Daughter Dearest wants me to cook some supper. Whatever.

Sunday, December 06, 2009 3 comments

¼ Candle, and Other Stuff

Mason, age 3 mos.Mason is three months old today, happy_birthday div 4 little dude!

He’s been working lately on grasping things. Of course, he can grab anything that touches his hand, but he’s starting to try grabbing by sight. He hasn’t quite got it down yet, but he’ll figure it out. He’s also trying to turn himself over, especially after waking up. He’s still not quite sleeping all night, but he catnaps through the day and crashes around 10pm, sleeping until about 4am or so; after a bottle and diaper change, he’s good until morning. He’s vocalizing a lot now, too.

He lurves his Auntie Daughter Dearest… of course, she’ll give him her absolute undivided attention and play with him for a good long while. We met her for a late lunch today, with one of her roomies, and they (Mason and the girls) had a fine time.

Broken bitAs I mentioned last weekend, the chicken houses are unoccupied at the moment. Mrs. Fetched and her band of hired guns have made much progress, but not enough just yet… it was kind of strange today when she didn’t go over there. If they drag this out a little while longer, maybe they can avoid having to buy gas at all this winter.

Screwdriver bits tend to not last when used heavily, it seems. I could tell this one was starting to lose some grip, then I heard a SNAP and it became like this. That might explain why Home Despot sells ’em in bulk.

What with all the stuff going on, we haven’t even had time to do our Christmas decorations. Yesterday was completely absorbed with the choir first caroling (and delivering fruit baskets) at various shut-ins around the county, then going to Amicalola Falls to perform. Mrs. Fetched and Daughter Dearest usually tackle the decorations, but neither one has been available so far. DD would have been home this weekend if it wasn’t for the minor detail of four Christmas concert performances: Thursday, Friday, and two on Saturday. We went to the Thursday performance; it went well for the first one. [Aside: the brass section of the orchestra (I noticed this in earlier concerts) has been a bit sub-par this year.] I’d do it, but I’d hear a lot of whining about it not being elaborate/large enough and it would get torn down and re-done anyway. Then again, if I went ahead and did it, then Mrs. Fetched would do it just to mark her territory. It would help if I could get into the Christmas frame of mind without being bombarded by all-day Christmas music on the radio and non-stop ads on TV… one reason I don’t spend much time with either one. Whatever happened to just adding Christmas music to the rotation and easing people into it? Shoot, even one of the local TV stations noticed… the “news” ran a segment on Grumpy Shoppers where most people said they were tired of stores rolling out the Christmas stuff before the BBQ has a chance to cool off after Labor Day.

Another thing we haven’t had time to do is cut and split wood. We’ve done some, but it was all green and even that is starting to get used up. My chainsaw is scrod; if I could easily get hold of one (and not yanked onto some other spurious project) I could take down and/or cut up a few dead trees and fallen limbs around the manor. Lots of things I could do, actually, if I was unemployed and still had money. Oh well.

The next White Pickups episode rolls in tomorrow morning. I’ll post a conversation with Sara later in the week.

Friday, November 27, 2009 8 comments

Thanksgiving, and Thanks a Lot

Thanksgiving spreadAnother Thanksgiving, one that happened to coincide with my birthday this year (I’ve turned 17 for the 3rd time if you want to know). I was hoping — but not expecting — a little whimsy, like candles on the turkey, and that didn’t happen. But I got something much better: the in-laws behaved themselves and didn’t launch into one of their squabblefests for a change. Mrs. Fetched’s dad hasn’t had Fox Spew on this weekend, at least when I’ve been there, which makes being there a little more bearable.

Big V's prothesisThis has not been a great year for the in-laws, health-wise: Mrs. Fetched is the only one of her immediate family who hasn’t had a stretch in the hospital this year. Big V has been in twice, and not all of her came home last time. She got out of rehab just in time to join us for the festoovities, complete with an initial prosthetic foot. She made a comment about “I wish my other leg was as thin as my new one!" (Careful what you ask for, sis.)

Chicken house cobwebsThe good news: no trip to the chicken houses on my birthday. The bad news: my birthday is only one day out of 365. For me, Black Friday was an appropriate name. The poultry company started subsidizing the natural gas for the growers a year or so ago — which, given the price, is one way to keep growers from just shutting down through the winter. However, they’ve started doing some kind of pressure test to make sure the heat stays inside for just a little while longer. The houses were built in the 1980s, before and after I entered the picture here, and they’re nearly as drafty as they are filthy. They did an initial test last weekend, and they scored a 2 with a minimum acceptable score of 5 (not sure what the dimensions/units are just yet, maybe 1/10 PSI). They delayed putting in a new batch of birds, to give Mrs. Fetched another week to improve things, so it’s all hands on dreck [sic]. While a hired gun straightened out exhaust fans and sagging doors, we spent much of the afternoon inside a closed (and unlit) chicken house, seeking out spots of daylight to spray foam filler into. Mrs. Fetched and I walked around and put screws in some of the plywood that was bowing away from the studs and letting light (and cold air) in as well.

Homebrew door sealsOf course, some cracks of daylight just weren’t conducive for spraying foam into — like the large doors in front and back. Mrs. Fetched had a plan, and raw materials to execute it with: when we put wood flooring in Daughter Dearest’s room, we had to rip out the white carpet. It’s been sitting in the detached garage ever since, and Mrs. Fetched appropriated it for the chicken houses. Panda cut 6-inch wide strips of carpeting and tacked them up… so yup, the chicken houses are carpeted (but a bit askew as always).

After we knocked off, mainly for lack of material to continue, I went to the back yard to continue leaf-removal exercises, and pulled up the wild blackberry vines. They weren’t bearing that well, and I figure Mason will be running around outside by next fall, so I wanted to make sure we have a briar-free area for him. I get better blackberries from stands a little farther from home.

MasonOf course, I’m not going to let one of these go by without a picture of Mason. Daughter Dearest has been home all week, while Mason has been in and out of the manor… but he loves his aunt DD. It turns out The Boy is often unable to wake up, even with Mason in the crib next to the bed giving him the full-throated “FEED ME!!!” roar. Anyway, DD got to take care of him all afternoon while the rest of us were suffering in the chicken houses (I’ve had that privilege a couple times myself). He continues to grow, eat ever more prodigious amounts of formula, and develop. He’s starting to laugh, drooling like Amicalola Falls, and in the early stages of cutting teeth (Snippet cut teeth when she was 3 months old). His brain is wiring up at breakneck speed; you can see him taking more interest in his surroundings and he’s starting to reach for things. Anything in his hand immediately goes in his mouth, of course. Unfortunately, we’re getting more normal weather for this time of year now, so dropping him in the stroller is going to be a very occasional event until March or April.

Just think… we get to do this again tomorrow. Oh joy.

Saturday, September 26, 2009 2 comments

In the Drink, Literally

With Mrs. Fetched sidelined due to her knee injury, there are two guys she and her mom have helping out at with the chickens — one who has been around a while, and another more recent inmate at the free-range insane asylum. Call him Panda, given his general shape… Mrs. Fetched has known him all his life, he enjoys farm work, and doesn’t have a regular job to keep him otherwise occupied, so he’s around a lot. His only drawback is that he seems to get himself into potentially dangerous situations that turn out to be funny — like getting hold of wires that everyone thought were supposed to be cut off at the breaker box. As Daughter Dearest said, “I laugh at him when he gets electrocuted. He laughs at me when I fall on my butt. That’s how we roll!”

So this morning, the two guys are already walking the chicken houses, and Mrs. Fetched asked me to run down there to turn up feed spouts. These spouts dump feed into trays in between the hoppers, and they make feed more accessible to the chicks during the first week or so. After a point, the chicks get big enough to jump in the hoppers and end up scattering feed out of the trays and into the dirt, so cutting off the supply to the trays is important around this time. What with the heavy rain in the last couple of weeks, things are a little more chaotic than usual… rainwater found its way into the #2 house and all sorts of interesting cobble-jobs have been deployed to cope with that. The pump house, which supplies our rental place and (until recently) the chicken houses, had about a foot of muddy water standing in it and the overflow pipe was not letting the water out very quickly.

But I digress. While I was dealing with the spouts, and raising water lines to compensate for chick growth, Panda got tagged to get a roll of hay for the cattle (who were watching us across the fence, complaining about life in general). He had to go by the pump house to get to the hay barn, and decided to have a look at the pump house. A concrete slab, which usually goes over one of the cistern chambers, was standing against the wall — and as it turns out, partially blocking the overflow pipe. Panda went over to move the slab… not realizing that a big open pit full of water was between himself and the slab (the water was muddy and hid such minor details). One step too many, and he was suddenly up to his chin in cold spring water. He leaped right out, jumped back on the tractor, and brought the hay.

When he told us what had happened, Mrs. Fetched’s mom started laughing so hard she couldn’t stand up. I texted Daughter Dearest (on a baby-sitting gig) with the gist of things, which also cheered her up quite a bit. If he’d not been able to get out, though, it might have been a while before we found him. Fortunately, it was just another one of those incidents that are funny only because they aren’t tragic.

Sunday, April 12, 2009 4 comments

Cannibal Chickens?

How Easter afternoon is spent at FAR Manor: Mrs. Fetched grabs me, Daughter Dearest, and Sasquatch for chicken house duty.

Upon arrival, a telltale thumping noise signaled the lack of feed at the #4 house. I banged on the bin, just to make sure the feed wasn’t stuck: hollow. When Mrs. Fetched called the field man, he said “the feed mill is behind, I’m not sure when they’ll be able to get feed to you.”

“I hope it’s not too far behind,” Mrs. Fetched said to me. “There was one grower who didn’t get feed for a week last year.”

“What? What happens to the chickens?”

“After a couple of days without feed, if a chicken dies, the other ones just eat it. If you don’t get to it right away, you’ll have the bones and the feet to pick up.”

I suspect what will actually happen: every evening until the feed truck arrives, I’ll help to dump feed from the other houses into a tractor bucket and unload it up at #4. The mental image of cannibal chickens will make this task somewhat less burdensome.

Saturday, April 11, 2009 4 comments

After the Storm

I just wanna see the love in your eyes,
After the storm has passed through and gone.
— Crosby, Stills, & Nash

And the cleanup begins:

Snow on Tuesday, tornadoes on Friday. Even the weather is psycho on Planet Georgia. But I’ve always said that the weather here has attitude. Getting home from work became an adventure starting around 6 p.m. — up to this point, there had been clouds, light rain, and the occasional streak of lightning to make things interesting. As I came into town, the skies opened up and the first piece of hail spanged off the windshield. I made a quick detour to the gas station and waited it out under the overhang… not the best idea I ever had, perhaps, but it was the idea of just about everyone else behind the wheel. I just thought it first. Fortunately, I wasn’t trying to keep the car dry: the wind brought the rain under there with us. Some hail came in with the wind; some bounced off the pavement and landed on the car

Album 88 started barking the EWS alerts — they couldn’t get through a song without at least one coming in. The first one was for a storm forming over Reinhardt and heading south of town. Since I knew Daughter Dearest was on her way to the manor, I called her, got her voice mail, and told her to be careful coming home.

After a couple of minutes, the hail let up and the real fun began. As I signaled my turn onto my own road, an SUV at the stop sign flashed her lights at me. I stopped long enough to find out that there were trees down across the road. Fortunately, there’s another way in, past the in-laws’ place, so I gave that a shot. Nope! trees both in the road and getting ready to fall. Third way around: more of the same. Some of the trees here were not in the road only because the power lines were holding them up. At this point, I called Mrs. Fetched (no answer), the house (no answer), and her mom. Third time’s the charm.

“Looks like I'm not going to get home,” I said. “I’ll try to find a place to hole up for the night.”

“Yeah, well the power’s out here. Trees are down everywhere. Mrs. Fetched is sitting in the truck, waiting for the hail to stop.”

I called Daughter Dearest, getting her this time. “Don’t bother trying to get home,” I said, “you can’t get there. Just meet me in town and we’ll come up with something.”

“I’m already home.”

“Oh… well, you won’t be getting out, then.”

DoubleRed called: “I’m up in Blue Ridge, taking refuge in a church. The tornado was coming right at me and the only reason I got inside was because the cleaning lady just happened to show up. Then four more people came in right behind me." With all the FAR Manor denizens accounted for, my inner Sheltie laid down and took a nap.

Shortly after this, I returned to the intersection where I’d first planned to turn off, and a guy in a car with Florida plates waved me down. “How can I get to the lodge from here,” he asked. “The road is blocked.”

“All the alternates are blocked, too,” I said. “There’s one more chance, but it’s out of the way.”

“Can you take me that way?”

“Sure… I live that way too. Let’s try it.” I led on, reminding myself to go a little slower than conditions would allow… from getting behind a few, I’ve learned that Florida drivers aren’t much used to curves. There were trees down in the road this way, too, but fortunately they left enough room to squeeze past. At one point, it got really foggy, and I slowed way down… figuring this would be the perfect place to drop a tree. I was right, but not immediately. At one place, there was an old guy with a pickup truck, cutting a tree off the side of the road. I shouted him a thanks, but he didn’t hear me above the saw. Eventually, I reached my turn and sent the follower on his way, hoping that his last five miles were navigable.

The first thing Mrs. Fetched said to me as I came in was, “Change your clothes, we need to get a generator started down at the pump house.” She also gave me time to grab the lantern from the shelf in the garage and light up the living room. There’s a large (10KW) diesel gennie at the pump house, but nobody ever goes down and runs it to keep the starter batteries charged… so it’s never ready when it’s needed. The chicken house generator has a gadget that keeps the batteries topped up and the coolant warm and circulating, so it doesn’t have these problems, but the evil little boogers need water too. They have a small (4KW) portable gennie that can run the chicken house pump; it leaves the renters high & dry but they have drinks in the fridge. To my amazement, it started without much protest once I remembered to turn on the fuel… it ran a little rough at first, but the gas in it was old and that didn’t surprise me much. What also didn’t surprise me was the lack of an extension cord with 240V connectors; there was a 120V cord there so I scrounged a couple of the other plugs off unused equipment and got it going. Hooray, no die-off to deal with in the morning! We swung by the chicken houses and Mrs. Fetched turned the lights on so the birds would get up and drink.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Fetched’s mom was on the horn to the guys who installed the old Air Force surplus gennie at the pump house. I’d tried the starter switch when we were down there, and it didn’t even click, so we assumed the batteries were dead. They promised to grab a pair of fresh batteries and come down… and I got tagged to drive them down, since their truck isn’t 4-wheel drive. I had plenty of time for a sandwich before they arrived, then went on down. All quiet at the pump house: in the intervening hour and a half or so, the portable had used up the old gas. “Well, with any luck, that won’t matter,” I said. They popped in the new batteries and hit the starter button: after a little chugging, it coughed to life and spun up… and kept right on spinning up. The voltage meter, which is supposed to read 140V, swung all the way to 300V.

“It’s not supposed to be running this fast, is it?” I yelled above the roar.

“No!” he grabbed the “shutter” (throttle) and pulled back, bringing the engine down much closer to where it was supposed to be… but as soon as he let go, it spun up again. Then he smelled antifreeze and cut it off entirely. To make a long story slightly shorter, the gennie was toast: the governor was shot, the radiator had a pretty good leak, and a voltage regulator was kaput. Seeing that the thing’s a WW2 vet, finding repair parts for it would be rather difficult. I took them on back, then got a can of gas and a funnel to get the little generator back online. Mrs. Fetched later turned off the lights, figuring the chickens would have gotten enough water, then turned it off for the night.

My wind-up flashlight performed much better than I’d expected… I thought it would run a half-hour, but it ran for two hours (perched on my shoulder as I started Rama Revealed) and was still going strong when I went to bed. The power came back on around 11 this morning, so we won’t have that to deal with tonight. Just have to get up early-early for sunrise service…

Saturday, March 28, 2009 10 comments


When you’re running down the street, and your
hair is on fire… people get out of your WAY!”
— Richard Pryor

As I was shoveling down a bowl of cereal this morning, Mrs. Fetched asked me, “Do you want to help me with the chickens?”

“Sure,” I said, “as long as I can get to a junkyard by noon to get a jack and fake spare for the Civic.”

“Oh yeah.” I mentioned this need somewhat earlier in the week. I once had these things, but Daughter Dearest’s Civic did not and I’d rather have me stranded than her. While I have new tires on the Civic at the moment, that doesn’t mean I won’t catch a nail or just wear ’em out later on.

So while she was getting ready, I called a junkyard about a half-hour from the manor, and got no answer. Their Yellow Pages ad included a website, so I pulled that up… and found they’re not even open on Saturday. (That would explain their not answering the phone.) “Try the mechanic,” Mrs. Fetched suggested. “He might have some in his bonepile.” I have that number in my phone already, so I tried it and got the same no-answer. Having struck out, I went with Mrs. Fetched.

While we were there, she tried unsuccessfully to start the incinerator. This is a normal occurrence when it has been raining, especially as much as it has this week. “Do we have any gas?” she asked. We did, since I’d filled a pair of 1-gallon cans last weekend; one had 2-stroke mix in it, but the other was straight gas. She sent me home to get the gas while she raised a curtain that had many gallons of rainwater trapped in the folds.

When I returned, she had me pour about half the gallon into the incinerator (which is nearly full of dead chickens). “Did you bring a match?”

“I didn’t think we’d need one,” I said. “You can just hit the igniter and it should get it going.” She hit the switch…

FOOM!!! Fire belched out the smokestack and blew the access hatch off the front (the latch has been broken for a long time). I found this highly entertaining, really the high point of a morning that involved dealing with both heavy rain and stinky chicken houses, and vocalized my appreciation. “I’m glad you enjoyed that,” she groused. “It scared me.” Well, sure… but nothing happened we weren’t expecting. By this time, the rain was slacking off.

After finishing the last chicken house, we came outside to find Mrs. Fetched’s mom. Suddenly, the “we don’t have to take hay to the cows” became “we have to take hay to the cows.” Grumble. At least it had stopped raining. But the 12:30 ending became a 2:30 ending, involving me locking the keys in the truck and having to go to the in-laws to get the spare (at least Mrs. Fetched now had something to be amused about). So we went back to the incinerator and Mrs. Fetched again tried to get it going, with no success.

“Do you think we can pour some more gas in there?” she asked. There was a little smoke coming out of the stack, but no obvious fire.

“I suppose.”

“Well, be careful!”

I obliged, splashing some gas into the main opening. With no bark-back, I commenced to pour some more in. With about a quart left, I was thinking “that should be enough—”

FOOM!!! For a moment, all I saw was flame, then the normal picture returned. I’d jumped about three feet to the left; Mrs. Fetched squawked and got out of her jacket (one sleeve was on fire); the gas can was lying on its side, also burning at the nozzle end. She put out her jacket, and I slapped my head to make sure I wasn’t doing a Richard Pryor, then grabbed the can and flung it into the gravel where it continued to burn. With the immediate danger past, I started laughing — I’m sure if we’d gotten video, it would have been worthy of Jackass.

“That wasn’t funny!” Mrs Fetched said, then started laughing too.

I felt my hair. “It’s singed!” which, somehow, made things even funnier. “I guess I’ll have to get another haircut.”

“Nah, it doesn’t look too bad.” My hands both had all the hair singed off them as well, and there were tender spots on my left hand and on my forehead above my right eye. (Good thing I wear glasses all the time.) Mrs. Fetched’s jacket didn’t even look singed; I think maybe a little gas splashed on it and she put out the fire before it scorched the material.

Meanwhile, the gas can continued to burn in the gravel. “Do you think it will blow up too?”

“I don’t think so,” but all the same we backed the truck up and watched it finish burning up from a few dozen yards away. Once the flames mostly died down, I grabbed a shovel and put out the molten remains before dousing it in a convenient mud puddle and then carrying it to the dumpster.

And we never did get the incinerator started, although we tried for nearly half an hour afterwards.

I suppose you could say we were very lucky. On the other hand, if we actually were lucky, we wouldn’t be dealing with chicken houses. :-P

Sunday, February 22, 2009 4 comments

Scope Creep, and Other Incidentals of Weekend Life

Yesterday morning, Mrs. Fetched asks me oh-so-innocently: “Would you like to come with me? I just have to give the cows one bale of hay and talk to one of the guys.” As long as I’ve been married, I fall for this line every time. We’re not even out of the driveway before her phone rings… it’s Jimmy down at the chicken houses.

In the high-tech world, this is so common they have a phrase for it: scope creep. A project is humming along, on time and on budget, when someone goes, “Hey, can you make it do X?” and a manager says, “I was talking to a customer, and they’ll commit to 100,000 units if it will do Y.” Next thing you know, just like with anything that starts with “all we have to do is” at FAR Manor, you’ve added A and E and working on B, C and W, and R and B, and me and the chimpanzee agree… but I digress. This one was unique in that we actually dropped one of the original parts; it was warm enough that the cows didn’t need more hay.

So the next three hours were spent tightening down louver vents, fixing a broken roof corner, incidentally finding (by smell) and tightening a leaky gas regulator. We broke for lunch and Mrs. Fetched unloaded me, seeming to recognize that there were things I wanted to get done today (as well as things she wanted me to do and couldn’t have me do them otherwise). Besides, somewhere in the morning festoovities, I came up with some lower back pain. I’m not sure where it came from — I wasn’t doing any heavy lifting except to haul the occasional armload of wood into the living room — but it (or more likely, the other chore which I will mention shortly) was enough to release me.

The primary thing I wanted to get done this weekend was to have a look at the garden spot out back and decide how I wanted to set it up. The only compass in the house that I could find was one on the end of a survival knife, and it’s a Tates compass (as in, “he who has a Tates is lost”), but I got it to mostly behave and used the afternoon sun to get a rough confirmation of directions. By 4 p.m., I had a pretty good idea of where afternoon shade would fall and thus a fair idea of what should go where. The spot is like twice as large as I want to deal with, which is good because I can use half of it at a time and swap sides every couple of years. I need to run pipe from the kitchen drain down to it for irrigation (it’s all downhill, which is helpful) and bang up some kind of tool shed. After that, it’s one part water, two parts sunshine, three parts prayer.

Having a good visual on what ground is to be broken next month, I went on to the task at hand: re-attaching a fallen duct under the old place. The renters probably figured it out the way we did when we lived there… felt cold air coming out of the vent. Mrs. Fetched, ever helpful in these matters, made sure there was a roll of Gorilla Tape out where I could find it. I gathered up a trouble light and two extension cords. The fun part is that there’s 2–3 feet of clearance under there, and breathing through your mouth is a fine way to invite fiberglass and whatever else to come visit. I only lost the light once, when the cord tangled up, but got that fixed and managed to crawl over pipes and wires and under support trusses to get to the problem spot. Judging from the packaging tape still stuck to the duct, I’d been here before. 10 minutes to prepare, 10 to crawl in, 10 to fix it, 10 to crawl out (chasing out the renters’ stupidog that wanted to see what was going on), 10 to make sure the cover was on good & tight. Then 20 minutes for a shower.

Last Sunday of the month means potluck day at church. Mrs. Fetched fixed lasagna, presumably using up the rest of the kotijuusto. She and DoubleRed want me to make another batch so they can tackle a cheesecake. OK…

Tuesday, January 06, 2009 15 comments

When Animals Annoy

Being at FAR Manor, an in-law freakout wasn’t necessary to cut my staycation short and get me home — they were right there, after all.

The last few days, basically the weekend, was spent being farm labor. The poultry company decided to try putting four houses’ worth of chicks in two houses, the idea being it would cost much less on heat and they could move half of them after they got a little bigger. Sounded great on paper, but the crowding caused a rather large die-off — about 3000 chickens per house, more than usually die in an entire grow-out, croaked in the first week. Thus, much of the weekend was spent getting the other two houses ready; Sasquatch and Jar Jar were there to help as well. But a chicken house screw-up, as long-time readers probably know, is not unique or even much noteworthy.

Saturday afternoon, I was getting ready to take a nap when Mrs. Fetched piped up: “Call Dad, ask him if he’s going to feed the cows and see if he needs you to help him.” ARRRRRRGH!!! The timing is… incredible. How do they do that, and how do you make it stop? Anyway, the drill is that the helper goes down in the truck to open the gates. So I went on… and found eight cows already in the hay barn. I opened a gate and cussed them out, which got two of them out right away. Six to go… I climbed up over the hay, nearly falling down a hole of unknown depth once, and cussed out the other ones. Three of them left right away, leaving the three all the way down at the far end. I climbed across the hay and got them moving… and the $#!@$%!!! stupidogs chased them right back in! Lather, rinse, repeat. By the time my father-in-law got there with the tractor, I was entertaining thoughts of butchering a cow with my bare hands and BBQ’ing it on the spot, and launching dogs in a trebuchet to entertain myself while the beef was cooking. We got the dogs away, got the cows out, and fixed as much of the fencing as we could before it got too dark to see. I hadn’t planned on making any New Year’s resolutions, but I thought about resolving to eat more beef this year.

Went to bed Sunday night, hoping to get some sleep and get a good start back at work. But at 4:30 a.m., I was awakened by a plink plink plink sound from the bathroom.

“Oh, crap,” I said, waking Mrs. Fetched. “The toilet’s backing up.” I got up, not putting on my glasses, and went to see if I was right and how bad it was going to be. The water level was normal, but there were what looked like two “floaters” in the bowl. But… one was swimming.

“It’s a rat!” I bellowed, and slammed down the lid. “Or two of them!”

“How big?” Mrs. Fetched asked. “And how did they get in there?”

“I don’t know.” I was already looking for something heavy to sit on the lid, in case one of them managed to get to dry porcelain and tried to get out, and found a magazine rack. I dropped that on and went back to bed. I considered flushing for a moment, but was afraid it might clog the drain… and who’s to say it wouldn’t climb right back up?

“How do you think they got in?” Mrs. Fetched asked again.

“No clue… but I haven’t seen any rat droppings in the house. Maybe they got in through the drain vent — or maybe it was a squirrel that got in — and they came up from below.”

A thunderstorm an hour later pretty much put the kibosh on my getting any sleep, especially when Mrs. Fetched’s alarm went off at 6 (she had to be there to greet the chicken moving crew). Since the plink noises had quit a while back, I figured whatever it was had drowned, but I wasn’t taking any chances — I slipped a piece of glass between the lid and bowl, then raised the lid to find:

Dead squirrel in toilet

One small squirrel, not exactly alive. I grabbed the fireplace tongs and a bucket, and got it back outside where it belonged. I also managed to feel a little pity for a brief moment… but that was all. Not only had he taken a third of my night with him, he’d gone crawling into someone else’s den.

Only at FAR Manor.

I’m sure if I stuck my face in a squirrel’s nest, I’d get it bitten and scratched. Think of it as evolution in action.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 8 comments


The #4 chicken house ate a main breaker this evening. As usual, I had to waste an entire evening doing nothing to solve the problem. Well… I tried, anyway. The in-laws really need to standardize on equipment — like using the same type of breaker panel in all four chicken houses, so they only have to have one kind of main breaker in the spares kit.

This was the first time I was stuck trying to replace a 200-amp main breaker. It wasn’t pretty. Now if they’d actually had the right kind of replacement, I might have been able to swing it. But the closest thing they had was a breaker that ASSumed the “service” cables came in from the top, and the broken breaker was a side-entry type. After wasting about two hours of my life, a real electrician came by and jury-rigged the top-feeding breaker to work. Maybe, just maybe, the whole barking thing won’t burn down tonight or tomorrow (“they” carry the chickens off come Wednesday).

So I’ve crawled into a bottle of rum for the evening, and it’s getting hard to type. Consider this a placeholder until I get the next FAR Future episode done… which, if there isn’t Yet Another Major Problem, should happen tomorrow (Tuesday) evening. (Dang, it’s already 1 a.m. Make that this evening.)

Sunday, June 01, 2008 9 comments

Some Sunday Musings

Unidentified plantThis plant kind of sums up my feelings about many events at FAR Manor: it came up in an odd place, nobody has any idea where it came from, cutting it down just seems to encourage it, and after a while you just want to sit back and see what it’s going to do.

To give an idea of the scale, the highest part is nearly six feet high. It sprang up from under the cross-ties between the driveway and the back yard, and it doesn’t look like anything else we’ve planted. The bulbs like of look like onions until they tear open, and it’s obvious that it’s some kind of flower.

Same plant, close up of opening clusterNow that I’ve given up trying to kill it, I’m looking forward to seeing what it looks like when it opens up. It would be nice to know what it is, though. Help?

Speaking of weird things, The Boy had his first public performance last night. He’s officially part of the band after their concert last night, but they had him come along and do a solo piece by way of introduction. He wanted us to be there, we wanted to be there (and get video for his Myspace page), but as usual the chicken houses got in the way. He called just before he was to go up on stage, and Mrs. Fetched said he sounded really excited. He’s supposed to have an outing in the 'burbs later this month, so we’re going to go to it.

Chicken houses… what would a weekend be without them getting in the way? They’re bringing a new flock in tomorrow morning (as in, early tomorrow morning) and so there are certain things to be done to prepare. One of those is to run feed — and it would have really helped if they’d brought feed Friday night like they were supposed to instead of 5 p.m. yesterday. We managed to run feed through one last night (which is why The Boy had to perform without us), and everyone else is over there doing the other three now. Being the song leader at church sometimes has its advantages; I can’t just blow off church.

I’ve been needing to do some drill work, and Mrs. Fetched reclaimed the drill I put together when cleaning up the fireplace insert, so I’ve been needing to do something. Home Despot had a sale on Ryobi drills (with two batteries) for the same price as it would have cost to order a new battery online for my Skil, so I went ahead & got it. I hate doing that, but I can still get a Skil battery later.

Sunday, March 09, 2008 8 comments

FAIL, Chicken House Style

Or: How My Saturday was Shot to Hell for Me

I knew it wasn’t a good idea to agree to help with the chickens today, but Daughter Dearest and The Boy were both ready to help so I was pretty much stuck. When I got to the back of #2, one of the feed line motors wasn’t running and I assumed it was electrical. Mrs. Fetched told me different: a bolt had gotten into the feed line (sloppy maintenance at the feed mill) and we were pretty much stuck doing something about it. Amazing, how she manages to “forget” about these things until I’ve already signed up for a quick morning tour. Scope creep isn’t just an engineering plague.

Broken feed lineAfter figuring out that it wasn’t electrical, we took the guard off the motor reset switch and Mrs. Fetched managed to finally make it click. “I’m going to just plug it in for a second,” she told me. “You listen and see if you can figure out where it bangs.” It took all of two rounds of that to find it. When we started looking, it was obviously b0rk3d.

DiscontinuityNaturally, this couldn’t be close to the motor. After dorking with stuff for a while, and not solving anything, I asked Mrs. Fetched, “So what do we do?”

“We call Wesley,” she said. Wesley is a chicken house repairman — yes, there is such a thing. It requires electrical, welding, and mechanical skills, as well as a high tolerance for ammonia and dust. We broke for a late lunch (since we had a late breakfast) and Wesley showed up just as we were heading back to try to prepare for battle.

Kinked AugerWith a little help from us, they took the feed line apart at the break (it's a series of tubes, with a twisted screwy thing inside — you know, like the Internet) and pulled the auger out. We quickly found the auger was pretty seriously kinked — again, the Internet similarities are amazing. (And look! they both eat up all your free time!) After attempting to straighten it, he got the tools.

Cutting the augerI assumed that we’d have to replace the entire auger. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. Cut out the kinked part, braze in a new piece, and put it all back together. But first things first: cut the sucker. A Dremel tool with a cutting wheel did the job, with plenty of drama.

BrazingThey had brought a piece of replacement auger line with them, along with a brazing rig (large oxyacetylene torch) and a jig to hold it together while putting it to the torch. The actual repair actually didn’t take very long — indeed, it was probably the quickest part of the entire procedure. Isn’t that usually how it goes?

Once the auger was repaired (and cooled off), the rest was anti-climatic. Replace the broken pipes, feed the auger line through, and hook it back up to the motor.

It’s always best to test your repairs before buttoning it all up… otherwise, something is sure to go w0rng. Fortunately, everything was doing what it was supposed to:

And that was how my Saturday afternoon went. I could think of a couple zillion things I’d rather have been doing… and at least three or four that I actually could have been doing. All indoors… it was cold and windy with snow flurries and at least the chicken houses are warm.

Sunday, December 30, 2007 9 comments


swollen right kneeI must have whacked my knee a good one the other day at the chicken houses. It started hurting a bit the night before last; it woke me up around 4:30 and I took a couple Advil to make it quiet down a bit. This evening, it was noticeably swollen and Mrs. Fetched finally realized I had some issues with it. She’s made me all comfy in the living room, dropped an ice pack on the knee, and even ran an extension cord so my MacBook would have da jooz.

I can kind of walk on it if I keep it straight. If I don't move the joint, it doesn't hurt that much.

The pain isn’t worth two lousy days away from the chickens. If I’d done it earlier, and gotten a week off? Maybe.

Thursday, August 16, 2007 6 comments

The Solo, 3-Day, No Guilt Weekend

Over the years since moving to the free-range insane asylum, I have come to dread August. The heat is bad enough on its own, but it stresses the chicken houses because everything has to be running — fans and foggers — just to keep the birds alive. Large electrical devices running in the same area as a high-pressure water spray actually works (it has to), but an undetected crack in a PVC pipe or wiring insulation is going to soon be detected under those conditions. And given the situation, repairs can’t wait for a convenient time… it has to be dealt with now. Even when everything is working properly, Mrs. Fetched is constantly over there to raise or lower curtains and open/close doors (ventilation vs. insolation), start or stop the fogger lines… always something.

Add in the usual things that go wrong (and Murphy is the god of chicken houses), and August adds up to one miserable month. I can count on arriving home to find there’s some problem that must be addressed, almost before I can get my helmet and jacket off. For example, this week the downpipe fell off a feed hopper and dumped four tons of feed that had to be scooped or shoveled up.

So it’s not surprising that the best part of August is the one weekend that we escape the manor. Mom has a summer cottage in the North Carolina mountains; they spend the entire month there and we generally come up for a weekend to visit. It’s a much-appreciated break, especially since it’s often 15 degrees cooler there than here. But when Mrs. Fetched’s mom hosed her knee last week, Mrs. Fetched lost her substitute chicken rancher. She bailed out, then Daughter Dearest bailed out (“I need to stay and help Mom”). I’d already taken Friday off as a floating holiday, and I don’t get to see my relatives very often.

As if I needed any further excuse, the phone rang at about 6 a.m. this morning. When the phone rings at FAR Manor before 8, I immediately know: 1) It’s one of Mrs. Fetched’s relatives; 2) It’s not good news; 3) I’m going to be involved somehow. This morning, it was Big V on the line. P.O.D., her son and Splat’s older brother, got busted for 90 in a 50 zone while passing a car with great enthusiasm on his new GSX-R 600. As I’m the only other person in the family with a motorcycle endorsement, I get to bring the bike home while Big V is getting him out of the clink.

The bike was already on the tow truck when we got there, but when Big V gave a name and address, they knew we were the right people and rolled it back off (but she still got to pay the $100 tow bill). So on the 30 miles or so home, I learned why people ride those bikes so fast: your hips and back start hurting, and you have to ride fast just to where you’re going and get OFF the damn thing.

So I’m definitely looking forward to getting out of here for a few days. But now that I’m going by myself, I can ride my own motorcycle. It’s not nearly as uncomfortable as a crotch rocket.

Monday, January 29, 2007 3 comments

The Bane of My Existence

Look upon its evil and tremble! Approach only with your nose held firmly shut against its stench! Tarry not, lest you find your weekends sacrificed to its endless need!

(It's a pretty recent shot, judging from the debris on the north side.)

Friday, September 08, 2006 No comments

Escape from FAR Manor! (Vacation, day 1)

Note: Depending on when I can find a tube (the Internet is a series of tubes, you know), these posts may appear later than their dates. I'm going to backdate them to the day I wrote them.

OMG. If all vacation days were like this one, I’d just work. As it is, I may end up being the exception and saying I wish I’d spent more time at the office. At least there’s a happy ending.

You know it’s not going to be a wonderful day when the phone rings at 5 a.m. and you find that the power is out. In the course of things, we found that the house phone was out as well, but the office phone that woke us up obviously wasn’t. But I digress. When I picked up the phone, the line was dead — in my sleep-deprived state, I forgot that phone has a flaky hook switch. I also didn’t catch details like the night light and clock-radio being dark. It took flipping two light switches, and nothing happening either time, for it to penetrate my thick skull.

“Power’s out,” I told Mrs. Fetched on the way to the bathroom. “Did you forget to pay the electric bill?” (Being half-asleep does little to stop my lame attempts at humor.)

“It is?” she mumbled.

In the bathroom, I could hear the alarm from the chicken houses… seems the situation was more widespread.

“That must have been Mom, then,” said Mrs. Fetched (a good bet; nobody else would call us at 5 a.m. unless it was a wrong number or a prank). “I need to go start the generator.” The chicken houses have backup power, which helps to keep them, you know, alive during a power failure.

I lay awake while she was gone, not from choice, until she returned. I knew that a major feed incident in #1 had all but buried a feed hopper, and I’d already volunteered to help shovel feed in the morning. So when she said she was going to start that at 6-ish, I said, “I’ll come. I’m not going to get back to sleep anyway.” A little breakfast, and away we went. After making a dent in the pile, we did the daily walk-through. That took us to about 10:30.

After a shower, I sat down to check email and what all my blog-buddies are up to, and my smellphone rang. My boss. “Those documents you uploaded to the intranet are coming back ‘File Not Found’.” Serves me right to trust anything built or maintained by IT — just because it worked that last X times doesn’t mean you should ever trust it to work this time. I checked my work email, found another person with the same problem, then turned off the VPN and emailed everyone from my home account. Lotus Farking Notes is still screwing up attachments, which it has been doing for the last few months now, and now the web-based client I’ve been using has been following suit at least for forwarded attachments. Words to live by: in a crisis, don’t depend on IT. Or: “IncompetenT” begins and ends with IT. (OK, rant off.)

Noonish, we went out to eat. On the road, Mrs. Fetched started in about me calling the insurance company about the load we’re taking about against my life insurance. That reminded me about other calls I wanted to make: activate my debit card, order a new battery for my iBook, and let the phone company know the business line was acting up again — the hum was loud enough Thursday night to kill the DSL.

By the time we got home, The Boy had returned from his job and I was about dead. He went with Mrs. Fetched to shovel feed, and I crashed for a couple of hours, waking up about an hour later than I wanted (and just as Mrs. Fetched returned).

Her Imperial Highness was put out that I hadn’t made my calls yet. I’d committed the Ultimate Sin of inconveniencing her: she expected me to take M.A.E. to work; it was 4 p.m. and I had to make the calls now. Never mind that the one she wanted was to Alabama and thus gave me an extra hour. I could have called from the car, but she was already in high dudgeon and even less inclined than usual to listen to reason. Fine: I used the time to make the calls (check’s in the mail, debit card active, battery ordered) and get stuff together (i.e. packing for vacation). The fourth call, to the phone company, never happened. Just to make sure, I took an old phone out to the interface box and plugged it in the test jack. No hum. Loosening and tightening the screw terminals cleared it all up.

What with one thing and another, I didn’t make good my escape from FAR Manor until about 6:30. I stopped in Cleveland to pick up some essentials, and learned that I was in a dry county. I thought such things no longer existed… but then I remembered the sorry excuse for a Pretendersent we have these days….

An hour on the road, a half hour spent grabbing groceries (and a fruitless search for beer), ten minutes to check in, twenty to unpack: at 8:30, I called home to let everyone knew all was well (except for the beer).

I fixed a sandwich for supper and entertained myself with some music out of my iBook and reading some ancient (older than me!) Bell System Practices about maintaining 197/198-type switches (those old step-by-step boogers — am I a geek or what?). Then… blessed sleep.

Two glorious weeks of vacation, the first two-week vacation of my working life. I’ll be bouncing back & forth for a few days to FAR Manor, but Mrs. Fetched will join me here for a couple of days starting Wednesday. Next Saturday, off to Solar’s for a week in Florida.

Monday, June 26, 2006 No comments

Weekend Wash-out

I should have known better than to think I was going to spend Saturday at the resort. My first hint should have been the phone starting to ring about 7:30 on Saturday morning — and I’ve let the in-laws know (several times, with various amounts of strength) that they should leave us alone until 9. I didn’t mind taking a turn at the chicken houses in the morning — Daughter Dearest had a headache and I would be enjoying the rest of the afternoon. Before we left, I threw some bread into the machine on the dough cycle, to take care of when we got back.

But as we were wrapping up, her dad came by and asked if I could help with putting an extension on the standpipe in his pond, to raise it up another foot or so. I really didn’t want to, but I’d told him some time back that I would help with that so I was pretty much stuck. Besides, I figured I could still light out right after we finished, and spend the rest of the afternoon and early evening taking a well-deserved mini-break. This pipe thing didn’t turn out so well: he had the extension bolted inside a much larger pipe; the pond water would flow up from underneath and out the extension, but the larger pipe stuck up a few more inches so debris wouldn’t have a chance to clog the outflow. Great idea on paper, but it added about 50 pounds to the weight. To make a long story short, the boat drifted backwards as I was trying to left the assembly into place and the whole thing ended up at the bottom of the pond. I was a lot more upset about it than he was; he said he’d get his grapple and try to pull it out later.

So it was time for Mrs. Fetched to deliver the coup de grace. She handed me a faucet repair kit and told me I had to fix the kitchen faucet at the rental place. $#¡+!!! Like these people are freeking paying rent anyway, more than once a whenever it won’t impact their cigarette budget. I wrote off the day and went to fix the sink.

“Oh, you can go tomorrow after church,” she reassured me. “Hey, we’ll all go after church.” Riiiiiiiiight. Like it wasn’t going to rain. I went ahead and took the photos for work that I’d figured to take Sunday, and then we all went bowling (which was actually an excuse for Daughter Dearest to meet up with a kid that she’d talked to online). The bowling outing went OK, although we would have been better off quitting after two games. The kid’s Dad, it turns out, knows a lot of the same local folks Mrs. Fetched does; we ended up yakking all evening nearly to midnight. While we were out, the rain started rolling in and lightning nailed the DSL box that I thought I’d unplugged.

Sunday morning dawned as expected: threatening. The sky pretty much opened up on us on the way to church; my little Civic hydroplaned a couple of times but I kept the car straight and the speed down, getting there without incident. It pretty much rained hard all through the service, when it wasn’t pouring even harder. We had no idea how hard until we started heading home.

Less than a mile from home, the SUV in front of us stopped and turned around. Once he cleared his bulky self out of the way, we saw why: a tree down across the road. Two ways to go around, and the shorter way involves a dirt road for a stretch. I turned around and headed back, flashing my lights at oncoming cars to warn them of impending unhappiness ahead.

All the creeks were flooding over; one usually scenic pasture on a sheep farm was especially wetter than normal. Crossing a large creek, it looked scary even though the water was still well below the road... and this is what the crossing looked like several hours later. The next creek was even scarier at that time; it was over the road a couple of inches. In one of the less intelligent moves I’ve made since moving up here in the first place, I put it in low gear and crossed it (without incident). There was another tree down just before the driveway, but the sheriff’s office had some prisoners clearing it and they finished shortly enough.

“Resort delayed is resort denied,” I told Mrs. Fetched.
“Hm. Well, you can go next weekend.”
Like I believe she meant it. July 4 weekend? The place will be packed even if I was allowed away from FAR Manor. Even now, it doesn’t do to dwell on it much... anger doesn’t solve anything for me.

Rain gauges were full, so we got at least six inches of rain in the space of a few hours — after six weeks of nearly no rain at all. Making up a rain deficit is one thing, making it up all at once is another.

But the nightmare was only beginning. Whatever wind there was in the storm blew copious amounts of rain into two of the chicken houses... unless it just went under the foundation and came up from below. Oh, and we had to shovel our driveway out of the road. Already in “I just don’t care anymore” mode, I basically shut off my brain and did whatever I was told until it was time to leave.

I might feel differently about things if I felt like I was getting support through the week — things like supper waiting when I got home from work (which pretty much makes everything else possible around here), things either clean or nobody griping about them not being clean, or if I thought anyone had any respect for projects that I would like to work on from time to time. But the way things are, everyone seems to think that I’m obligated to them from 7a.m. Saturday morning to 11p.m. Sunday night. There’s not going to be a repeat. One way or the other.

Sunday, April 23, 2006 2 comments

A bit stiff this morning...

Current music: John Eddie - Jungle Boy

Rule #1: It’s always going to take more effort than you think.

Facing the house, the yard to the left of the sidewalk has always been a bit raggy-looking compared to the other side, which is fairly lush Bermuda (and some kind of violet run wild out of the flower bed, but that’s another story). Looking a little closer, I found that it’s pretty well overrun with some kind of moss (it doesn’t get much sun).

I got the iron rake out and attacked. It worked better than I thought; the moss came up but the grass (and other weeds) stayed put. But it was a long, tedious process — the rake would get clogged up with moss and I’d tonk it out into the driveway. The pile behind the raked area got alarmingly large very quickly.

About halfway through, I called Daughter Dearest down, who was (to say the least) highly reluctant to leave her computer nest for fresh air and dubbayou oh arr kay. She protested the bugs would eat her; they weren’t bothering me but I got the repellant out for her anyway. After trying a couple of ways, we settled on me loosening the moss with the iron rake and her using the leaf rake (and later on, a blower) to get it into the driveway. Toward the end, I found the best way to do it was to push/pull the rake back and forth across the moss, instead of just pulling it. I hope I won’t need it for future reference, but at least I hit on that as I got to the most moss-infested quarter of the yard. That pile is almost all moss, from about 400 square feet of yard. Sheesh.

So we ended up with a huge pile of moss in the driveway. After trying to carry it off a rakeload at a time, I grabbed the tarp off the woodpile and we were able to cart it off in two loads. DD, at this point, said she was “whupped” and left. Not that seeding & feeding is all that difficult, although I ran out of daylight while spreading the straw across the area.

And so, as I was about to settle down last night, write this, then go to bed — Mrs. Fetched’s mom called to inform us of a wiring problem at one of the chicken houses. I was ready to fling the phone down the hall, needless to say. Her brother, Mr. Sunshine, did most of the work while I mostly held a flashlight. Splicing a 240-volt line doesn’t take too long, especially when the breaker is off and there’s plenty of slack in the line. Replacing a 50-amp breaker (it protects a sub-panel that runs the feedline motor among other things), especially when you don’t have a replacement at hand, takes a little longer. As usual, “only a few minutes” was an hour and a half. If we win one of those huge lotto jackpots, I swear I’ll pay the Air National Guard to use those chicken houses for live-ordinance target practice while I get video.


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