Friday, December 22

Skunk Funk

Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Gelleon gave us an early Christmas present last night (end sarcasm). With company on the way for the holidays, Geek Acres went into red-alert panic-mode as Gelleon strode through the house after being freshly sprayed by a skunk.

The smell in the house is noticeable to me but not over-powering. I think women have much more sensitive noses than men. Jennifer has been suffering through this ordeal with a queasy stomach to start; not a good combination.

I wasn't home when Gelleon arrived to bring the skunk funk indoors. Jennifer was occupied with something and by the time she realized it he had walked the entire house contaminating practically every room. When she did realize he had been sprayed she quickly threw him back outside and began damage control: opening windows and lighting candles and dispensing every odor absorbing or masking spray, powder, or chemical we have.

I came home to assist Jennifer as soon as I could (having been called away from next-to-last minute Christmas shopping). I did some research on the net and found several variants of the same solution (involving hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap) to get rid of the smell.

It was difficult to apply the solution to his face, where I'm sure he bore the brunt of the attack, while avoiding his eyes, ears, and nose as the directions indicated. He still stinks and remains in quarantine until the smell eventually, we hope, wears off.

In the mean time we have warned our company, her brother James and his wife Vonda, of the issue to which they got a great big laugh out of. They said they're coming anyway and can always stay at a hotel if they can't stand to be in our smelly house. Coy Dan and Glenda came up to see/smell for themselves. "Welcome to country life!" Coy Dan laughed and told us. He said he could barely smell anything other than the perfumes Jennifer had applied. Glenda said she could smell it but that it wasn't too bad. They offered up their home if we needed a place to go. Happy holidays!?!

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Wednesday, December 20


Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
One of my favorite things about our family get-togethers is the opportunity to eat some tasty Filipino food. My mother is from the Philippines where my father met her while he was in the service. On special occassions, she will bring out a speciality of hers, lumpia.

Lumpia doesn't always make an appearance at every family gathering due the labor involved in making it. Until recently, my mother has held the recipe secret but I talked her into showing me how to make it.

After a quarter century (and more) of eating her lumpia, I still had no idea what was exactly in it. Such is not the case today. I have pictures and detailed documentation on the process and I have successfully executed the manufacture of this delicious dish twice now. My lovely wife has charged me with keeping her in a supply of lumpia for the rest of our lives.

James and Vonda, Jennifer's brother and sister-in-law will be joining us for part of the Christmas holidays and I decided it's high time to share lumpia with them. Lumpia is kind of a Filipino egg-roll, but that description doesn't do it justice. I mentioned before that it's labor intensive and despite the two nights of preparation and the cursing of separating lumpia wrappers, it is worth it.

Sunday, December 17

Guarding the flock

Guarding the flock
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
We think we mostly have the dogs broken of eating the poultry as is evident in this image. I thought it was a nice picture of Dobie relaxing in the fall weather while the chickens peck all around him. The dogs generallly do their best to avert their eyes of the chickens and guineas, at least while we're looking. Occassionally though, Dobie will succomb to the urge to pounce in the general direction of an unsuspecting chicken. We think he wants to play more than anything but such a sight can cause a grown man's heart to skip a beat and chicken's hearts, I think, are much more fragile.

In other poultry related news, everyone seemed to survive the first bad winter storm without problem. The chicken house seems to have kept it's occupants nice and cozy during the cold spell. We felt so bad the first morning after the storm though, as we found one chicken who didn't make it in before we closed the door. She had icicles hanging off of her and she was huddled under the "sick bay" pen. She seemed fine though and quickly rejoined the flock when given the opportunity.

There are so many things on so many fronts going on lately that I haven't had much time or energy to post. I suspect many people are feeling the same way this time of year.

We have visitors due to Geek Acres in the middle of the week. An old college buddy and his girlfriend are going to make a quick stop at the farm on the way to see his parents for the holidays. Jennifer and I have been busy preparing the guest bedroom so that it's a comfortable place for them to rest after their journey. Jennifer's home decor skills shine again as she applied a new color to the walls that goes well with the comforter and furniture she had chosen.

This weekend, the guest bedroom will be utilized again as we play host to Jennifer's brother and his wife. They'll be stopping in for the weekend and spending part of the Christmas holidays with us. We got a little get-together planned for Saturday night which should include some delicious Filipino food!

Monday, December 4

This is a blog post

This is a blog post from my intro to Windows XP class.

Barbed Ice

Barbed Ice
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Here's yet another picture from this last winter storm. Ice had covered pretty much everything on the first night and it was quickly covered the following evening with a blanket of snow. The morning light is lighting up this ice-covered barb on the strand of barbed wire that tops our horse fence.

The dark vertical structure in the background is one of the brace posts. I want to saw off all the brace posts to a foot or so above the barbed wire, but Jennifer insists I leave them all tall. I'm not sure why she likes it, to me it appears unfinished.

Sunday, December 3

Winter Wonderland

Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Suey tromped through some of the fresh snow from the recent winter storm. I thought it was a good opportunity to break out the camera. I liked the colors in this picture. It surprised me to see such vibrant colors in this particular picture. Just off camera right the sun was rising and giving me that splash of color.

Winter Gaze

Winter Gaze
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
I snapped this photo while horses worked on a couple bales of grass hay. We've been really burning through the hay the last couple of days. Jennifer wants to make sure to keep hay in front of the horses during the coldest days so they keep their body temperatures up.

Sunday, November 26


Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Our neighbor, Coy Dan, finished repainting his John Deere 4010 tractor. I took the opportunity to take a few pictures of it before he added the front-end loader back to the tractor. Coy Dan's grandson, Tanner, was there visiting his grandparents while I took some photographs. I caught this image of Coy Dan explaining to Tanner that someday this would be his tractor. Coy Dan plans on passing on the tractor to his son Bruce, who in turn would pass it on to Tanner.

Coy Dan told Tanner to make sure his dad kept the oil changed and kept good care of it while it's his. Check my flickr stream for more photos of the tractor.

Saturday, November 25

Pair of mares

Pair of mares
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Here's a picture of Jennifer's two Percheron mares, Eve and Desi. She plans to use them for dressage and breeding. Included in their lineage is Blackhome Grandeur Lynn, who has been honored with a Breyer replica.

Thursday, November 23

Thanksgiving Activities

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Today we had my cousins Aaron and Blakely and the neighbors over for a very non-traditional Thanksgiving meal. Jennifer had basically cooked an entire traditional Thanksgiving dinner last week (and it was delicious) so we decided to go with something different. We figured everyone would be turkeyed out so we had Jennifer's famous lasagna (and it, too, was delicious). My parents, still in the Philippines, missed out on some good eats!

Aaron and Blake helped me with yet another project today as well. We had quite the assembly line going and made short work of a stack of 2x8 boards. Today we were able to close in the round pen. Now it's only missing a gate. I showed Aaron how to operate the camera, so the credit goes to him on most of the shots in the collage above. For a closer look at his work see my flickr stream.

Aaron captured a some shots of me and my power tools, of Blakely setting up the next board to be nailed in, as well as some shots of the animals playing. Dobie, who looks fairly menacing in the image, was taunting the other dogs. Aaron wandered around the house and snapped some shots of the chickens including the English game bird that is shown. He also took a quick shot of the Percheron mares.

Jennifer presented me with my early birthday present, my very own horse. She's an old mare who's well broke; something for me to learn on. Her name is Princess, but we've decided to just call her Red. She's in pretty rough shape at the moment but nothing a little TLC won't fix. I'll postpone posting any pictures of her until we've got some nice before and after shots.

All and all it was a really nice day, and we've got so much to be thankful for.

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Monday, November 20

Labor of Love

power take off
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Our beloved neighbor, Coy Dan Blakemore, has taken apart his 4010 (I think) John Deere tractor for a good repainting. Pictured here is the rear of the tractor and the PTO (power take off). Coy Dan painstakenly repaints the tractor to its factor colors and applys brand new John Deere stickers as required.

Coy Dan bought this tractor in the late seventies and has put somewhere in the area of 5000 hours on it since then. His son, Bruce, told Coy Dan he wanted two things only from him when he died. One was a rifle, the other was this tractor.

When the assembly is complete, I'll post pictures of it before its put back to work.

My flickr photostream has more to see as well.

Sunday, November 19

Scrap Metal and Horse Clinic

This trailer load wasn't quite as lucrative as the previous one. I was, however, relieved to actually get the unsightly mess off the farm. On the trailer was several miscellaneous pieces of metal, fence, the old mail box, and the remnants of an old trailer that apparently was in the brush pile we burnt earlier in the year.

I had loaded and reloaded the trailer numerous times. I would load it with the scrap metal only to find I needed to use the trailer for some other task before I could make it to town while the metal collectors where open. I made it my goal to get that trailer unloaded (at a scrap metal buyer) this weekend and finally succeeded. I drove into Bob Scrap Metal, weighed, unloaded, then weighed again. I took my $14 and left Bob's Scrap metal with an empty trailer.

While I was avoiding getting tetanus Jennifer was attending a dressage clinic. She's forgotten more about horses than I'll ever know and she's still on the quest for more knowledge. For the uninitiated dressage is a discipline of horsemanship often referred to as horse ballet. Comparing a normal trail-ride to dressage is like comparing pick-up truck to a sports car, not because of a speed difference but the quality of control.

It'll be slow working into the dressage field. It's definitely not a sport for the poor!

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Thursday, November 16

Never Again

Jennifer just knew we could make some good extra money picking up a few black walnuts. "Good extra money" is of course a relative term. The above image is a shot of the load of walnuts we picked up around our place and the Blakemore's farm. We didn't spend really all that much time picking them up, maybe 2 hours total. By the time I had time to take it to a weighing station they were down to $10 per 100 lbs. The borrowed trailer sat for three weeks with the same amount of walnuts in it.

For the trouble, we sold our black walnut for a whopping $35! Keeping in mind that we purchased a $45 walnut picker to start off the season I guess we'll have to do it again next year to get out of the hole!

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Monday, November 13

Project Sunroom

This image represents where my normal blogging time has gone. My parents have given us an early Christmas present by helping us close in the garage to make a new bedroom (aka a place for Jennifer to keep her ever growing plant collection.

More pictures of progress will be forthcoming.

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Monday, November 6


little bittle kittles
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Do other people come up with names for their pets in addition to the "given" name? We rarely call any of our dogs by their actual names. The names we call them are the product of a slow transformation based on their name or things that rhyme with it as well as personality traits or specific incidents.

Take for example our first dog, Dobie. Dobie quickly became Dobie Doo, then Dobie Doodle, or just Doodle. He loves to lay on the couch so we started calling him a couch potato (po-TAY-toe). He also now goes by Tayto or some time Tado, and some times Tomato (because it rhymes).

Haley became Haley Bailey. That turned into Haley Bailey Boo, or now just Boo. She's also known as Belly, because of her pink belly that she likes to show off.

Gelleon, gets called Mellon, or Smellon, or Mr. Magelleon.

Suey was easily shortened to just Sue, but she quickly acquired the nickname of Toots (rhymes with Sue but has other obvious meanings).

Our dogs respond to all of their names, and frankly I don't think they care what we call em as long as we keep treating them like the own the place! Jennifer and I joke that it's their house, we just pay the mortgage.

In the same way that we call our dogs by many names, sometimes referring to all of them as potatoes (they all love being couch potatoes) I pretty much refer to all kitties as Bittles. Kitty became Little bittie kitty, bittle kittle, and finally just bittles. Picture here are 3 of our 7 bittles (including momma bittle). Soon they'll be old enough to be weaned, then we'll find them some nice homes.

Feel free to sign up now and reserve one of these cuties!

Wednesday, November 1

evening grazing

evening grazing
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
We released the horses into the new pasture this weekend and they quickly went to grazing the new pasture.

I was too slow in hanging the gate to get very many good pictures. This one I took with the help of my lovely wife, who acted as a carbon-based light stand for my off-camera flash.

Friday, October 27

Building Fence

Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
I apologize, again, for the lack of updates. I took this picture a couple weekends after we actually finished the fence.* We fenced in some pasture to the west of the driveway. The perimeter fence already existed, we just needed to add 500 feet of new fencing and a couple of gates to close it in.

I took a couple days off last week to get this done. My Uncle Bill, who builds fence for a living, my Aunt Julia, my dad, Jennifer and I each did our part. Uncle Bill provided some of the specialized tools, such as his back-saving pneumaitc fence post driver. We still managed to find some rocks every where we wanted to set a post but that didn't stop us.

Uncle Bill also brought his John Deere tractor with the auger attachment. Coy Dan, our neighbor and John Deere fan, gave us his seal of approval on the eqipment choice.

We made quick work of the 500' of 4"x2" of woven wire with a single barb strand on top. To top it off we set into the ground all 22 posts for the roundpen.

More pictures to come.

* finished is a relative word - I still have one more gate to hang, a pile of scrap metal to move, and a burn pile that needs to be moved before we let the horses out in to the new area.

Wednesday, October 11

Bird brain

chicken coop
Pictured above is another shot of our poultry housing. We get lots of enjoyment watching the birds go about their business. One of the funnier things I've noticed has led me to further understand where the term "bird brain" came from. Surely the first person to use this term had a flock of guineas to observe.

guineas ready for take-off
In this image you can see the guineas have made their way to the roofline of the shop building which acts as the barrier to the east for the other non-flying birds (the chicken hens). While the guineas are not flightless, they're certainly not the most graceful in the air. Flying always seems to be an afterthought to me when watching the guineas.

I had read that we could have both guineas and chickens in the same fenced area, and that the guineas would learn to fly out of the pen and return at night while the chickens wouldn't be able to escape the 6' tall fence. This is mostly true in our case. The guineas never seem to make one leap to flight that takes them over the fence. Instead it's a system of short leaps accompanied by flapping that takes them from the ground, to one perch, to another. In the picture above they had just made the leap from the ground to the roof of the hen house, then the hen house over to the shop building.

It's here were something funny almost always happens. One by one they will jump for a take-off from the shop building flying across the width of the fenced area each one clearing the 6' fence by less and less until the final one or two smack straight into the fence.

Now with 1 or 2 of the flock inside the pen and the remaining outside the pen they'll spend the rest of the day trying to get back together, by walking up and down the length of the fence, over and over. They're just not very smart, in my opinion. Eventually they'll get back together but they will spend hours running the fence line trying desperately to get the flock back together. To their credit, they are persistent.

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Tuesday, October 10

When playing with barbed wire...

percherons meet quarter horses

You will get scratched. My arms are evidence of my recent weekend activities. While the barbed wire ("bob war" for the phoetenically challenged) won many battles, I won the war. The fruits of my labor are that the horses now have room to run, and run they did. As soon as they got over the fact that there was fresh green plants to munch on they began galloping back and forth and kicking their heels in the air.

Pictured above is the meeting of herds. Our two Percheron draft horses were noticed by quickly by the neighboring quarter horses. They exchanged sniffs and glances for quite some time. In addition to the room to run the new grazing area will reduce our hay requirements somewhat and keep the horses entertained.

I'm fairly confident now in my fence building abilities. I've got plenty of barbed wire left and a barely used fence stretcher. Money and time are my only obstacles to building the remaining sections, that seems to be a continuing theme.

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Tuesday, October 3

Half a dozen felines, coming right up

new kittens
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
We had six new arrivals last weekend. Our momma barn cat had this litter of kittens sometime Saturday night. We made a place for her to have her kittens atop our hay stack in the horse barn. Sunday morning I went to feed her and found the newborns and momma cat resting.

We'll probably keep one to keep momma cat company, but we'll soon be seeking new homes for the rest of them. Any takers? :)

Thursday, September 28

Hay Bunk

I'm getting much better at being handy with the tools. Last weekend Jennifer and I were cleaning and straightening around the farm when she asked me if I thought I could build a hay bunk. I thought about and decided we could probably get it done in a day. She said, "how about today?" and away we went. I didn't have to Google to look at other hay bunks and I didn't even sketch it out on paper or in 3-d software. "I'd just eye-ball it" our farmer neighbor told me once, so that's what we did.

We had previously sectioned-off part of the hay barn so the horses can use some of it for shelter. This section is also where we feed the two Percheron horses. There's a large feed bucket tied to each corner. One problem that we've been seeing is the older of the two, Des, pushes the younger filly, Eve, out of the way and generally shoves her around. During the last rain storm Eve stood out in the rain because Des wouldn't let her in the barn.

So we decided the hay bunk could help solve this problem. I built the bunk to span between two posts in the barn (including the new post I recently installed) which created two stalls separated by a self-feeding hay bunk. Now Eve can eat and take shelter without Des running her off and we have the added benefit of less wasted hay. Before we were simply tossing flakes of hay over the fence (grain was in the feed buckets).

I built it using wood just lying around. I sandwiched two 2x8 boards the length of the span between the two barn posts to use as a beam. I mounted this to each post a couple feet off the ground. I somehow managed to get it unlevel despite my use of a line-level. By the time I noticed I had already built most of the structure and decided the horses won't care plus the slight fall will drain any water that collects in the trough area (see how nicely I rationalized my mistake).

I mounted a 2x10 flat on top of the beam and added 2x8's to each side to make the trough. Up another 3 feet or so along each post I placed a horizontal 2x8 about 3 feet long on each post to form a "T" shape with the post. The ends of the "T" on each posts I connected with 2x8's the entire length of the stall. Along this span I put several short 2x8's connecting the ends of the "T" to the 2x10 attached to the beam. I left 8 inches or so between each rib of the now "V" shaped structure for the horses to pull hay through.

The following day the horses made short work of my proud hay bunk, knocking loose several of the ribs. While the nail gun made building the structure extremely quick nails were probably not the correct fastener to use in this case. I went back later and firmed the structured up with 3" screws. I've learned that any time the horse can put outward pressure on a fastener I better use screws.

I'll probably come back and edit this post with a picture as soon as I take one.

[picture added on 10/3/2006]

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Thursday, September 21

Poultry Housing

our poulty housing from the southwest corner facing north
The days are growing shorter and I'm finding it difficult to find enough time (and light) to use the camera. I felt I owed my (loyal) readership an update on the poultry housing I talked about building of so long ago.

Back in mid-July, with the help of my Dad and one of my Uncles, we completed the hen house. It was supposed to only house the guineas we had purchased. The plan was to let the guineas free range and close them up in the house at night. Of course the plan of action changed when Jennifer purchased and brought home a whole flock of chickens. Now I needed a fence for the chickens. We did decide to let a few of the bigger chickens free range. the Old English Game birds seem to be able to fend for themselves. But the rest of the younger chickens were to remain in the coop.

That was then, and I've since completed the fence. I used 2x8's for the top and bottom rails and mounted them to wooden posts I cemented in the ground. That was the easy part. Unrolling and dealing with the chicken wire proved to be a time consuming task. But with my wife's help we got it all stretched up and mounted. In the picture you can see multiple feeders and waterers (inside the coop and out). The spans between the posts are a bit long (15' for one section) and I need to reinforce the top rail. I'll do that before too long.

After taking this picture I was embarrassed by the unkept appearance of area, I'll have to work on that this weekend if it's not storming. I didn't want to wait to clean up the area before making this post, however.

The two trash cans contain chicken feed and scratch. We also store the vitamins and medication in trash cans as well. The water hose is lazily draped over the fence in order to make filling the multiple waters easier.

On a farm there never seems to be enough buckets, and at our farm it's apparently because they're all at the chicken coop. I see one in this image and I cropped out another one slight off to the left. We end up using the buckets to carry vegetable garden scraps or left over watermelon rinds to the chickens, which they happily eat up.

Each morning I wake up to let the chickens out of the house. I swing the screen door open and fasten it to the fence so it stays open then it's a mad dash to the gate on the fence with "the girls" in fast pursuit. They've become accustomed to us bringing them something good to eat and are generally very friendly. Jennifer has decided to let them all free range on occasion so I think they associate me opening the fence gate as a time to leave the pen.

The chickens faithfully return to the house to roost every night. Occasionally the guineas will decide to rest in the house for the night, but usually they're high up in the Oak and Walnut trees. Just after dark each night one of us will go close the door to the house, keeping them safe from the night-time predators. We added a screen door to help with the ventilation during the day time (when they were confined to the house awaiting the completion of the fencing). I've got a solid wood core door attached as the primary protection for that opening. The door already has a pet-door attached, so it'll be convenient in the winter for them to go in and out of.

Speaking of winter, it's already started cooling down to the 40's at night in our part of the Ozarks. We recently purchased a heat lamp and thermostat that I'll be placing in the bird house to keep them warm during the winter. Extension cords will have to suffice until I get ambitious enough to wire up the out-buildings properly. In the meantime I've closed the openings on each end to keep the draft down.

I think you can see the chickens cracking a little smile of content in the picture below, they're pretty well treated birds! We've gotten quite a bit of entertainment out of having them, but we've experienced some tragedies as well. We've lost a few to mysterious natural deaths as well as some not so mysterious predators. One confirmed kill was by Gelleon of all dogs. That chicken didn't die in vain, as all the dogs were taught a lesson. "NO CHICKEN" is the command to halt the dogs in their tracks. I've run off another neighbor's dog one morning when we heard some cacklin' so I think that dog might be the cause for the rest of the flock depletion.

Sometimes I think some of the remaining chickens are taunting our dogs. During one free-range excursion chickens were passing between Haley's legs and one jumped on Suey's back! We could see the look of extreme restraint in the dogs when something like this happens; they don't even want to make eye contact with the birds!

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Tuesday, September 19

Time travel

Amish Hauling Hay
Originally uploaded by chasealpha1.
I recently took a trip back in time with my wife. Jennifer needed some tack and harnesses repaired for the farm she works for. We made the trek to the Seymour, MO area which hosts a vibrant Amish community.

I'm familiar with this area, having graduated from high school in Mansfield, just 11 miles to the east, but I never really knew any Amish folks. I worked at the town's grocery store which was equiped with a horse barn. Many of the businesses in the town have hitching posts including the local McDonalds [click for an interesting juxtaposition].

The photos pictured here and that I linked to are not my own, but belong to a local resident of Webster County with a good photographic eye. I hope he doesn't mind me using the image to help tell my story. You can view the rest of his Amish set here.

Having an Amish community means having the goods and services necessary to keep the Amish choice of transportation clip clopping along. The proxmity of such establishments comes in handy when you've got draft horses (such as the farm where Jennifer works) that pull carts for entertainment using the same tack that the Amish use for working their horses. We needed to make two stops, one at the Schwartz Buggy and Farrier Shop north of Seymour on Highway C the other at Triple S Harness.

Our visit with the shop keeper at Schwartz Buggy and Farrier shop was a pleasant one. I don't know why, but I was quite surprised by how friendly he was, especially considering my wife was obviously the authority of our house on such things as horseshoe nails and buggy whips, and I knew nothing. I thought he might not think it's "woman's work."

The older gentleman who helped us made small talk about how long they had been in business and was generally a great help. Despite that, I didn't feel like I could ask him if I could take some pictures, even though there were postcards for sale picturing the business and some of their custom-built buggies.

I would have loved to snapped my own pictures. The inside of this shop was like peering back to a simpler time. Horseshoes of every size and shape lined the tightly spaced shelves. All sorts of interesting specialized tools and implements where stacked neatly in the room light only by natural light coming through the windows.

After we got what we needed from the buggy shop we went south back to the intersection of C and V and took Highway V East to 1.5 miles into Wright County. There we made our final stop at Triple S Harness shop. A young lady was working the shop for her father, who was traveling at the time. She wasn't able to answer many questions but her two younger brothers were able to find some of the things Jennifer was looking for.

I took a business card from Triple S, which made me laugh a little. No phone number of course, certainly not an e-mail address or a URL to visit. Simply "Triple S Harness" and a physical address.

It was an educational experience and the prices were quite reasonable. I'm sure that's not going to be our last trip to the Seymour area.

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Sunday, September 17


Our neighbors named their rooster, Rojo, after a song they remember from a while back. I was able to find the lyrics, but alas, no MP3 for the song has turned up:

(author unknown)

Fowler's the name, Stew Fowler! I'm a rooster. Fightin's my racket. Cock fightin'.

I came all the way from Texas across the burnin' sand
To wet my feathers in the Rio Grande.
I've hobbled for miles through Mexico,
I've come to kill a big rooster called Rojo.
(doin' it all for chicken feed)

For a country red, Rojo's wild.
His fame is spread for many a mile.
The hens all cackle when Rojo's around,
But Stew Fowler's here to put Big Red down.
(I'll give them chickens somethin' to cackle about!)

It's mid afternoon as I stand in the street
Of this Spanish town called Los Leghorn's Retreat.
At the end of the row a canteena stands
(ain't nothin' but a chicken coop)
It's plainly the haunt of an outlaw band.

The sign in the front reads,
La Grande de Nesto,
And it's there I know
I'll find my foe, the fabled Rojo.

I can hear fowl language
Comin' out of that honky tonk.
I've strut down the street, the cock of the walk.
I crow for Big Red to come out and talk.

Through the swingin' doors
Of the Grande de Nesto,
His head erect
And his tail feathers low, steps Rojo!
(I can tell he's a really bad egg)

His spurs are long and his eyes are green,
An uglier cock I've never seen.
He learned to be tough while he's in the pen,
But I know his weakness... hens and gin.

Then out of that honky tonk and up to Rojo's side
Steps the prettiest little dance hall cackler in the West, Bluestie Nuster,
The southern fried feather duster.
(Gosh she's pretty. I'd like to run my hands through that red comb of hers)

Rojo comes at me in a long lanky run.
Some people gathers round to watch the fun.
(You know, people are the strangest chickens)

Bird to bird and beak to beak
I face Rojo, and my heart gets weak.
I crow and strut and I jump about,
And then I take off and I run, cause I done chickened out.


I do not know who the author is, but Archie Campbell sang it and may have written it as well
via Traditional Music.

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Rural Sporting Events

No I'm not referring to NASCAR. I knew our shiny new mailbox that I previosly posted about would be a tempting target and it didn't take long for the local holligans to pick it out. Mailbox bashing is a popular passtime of rednecks and angst-filled teenagers. I've got half a mind to rig up some sort of wireless web camera system and lure them back but the quarter-mile to the end of the driveway presents some logistical challenges.

Jennifer of course has all kinds of ideas for vengence. Most of her ideas on the subject seem to come from the same ACME catalog that the Coyote is shopping from (think Anvils and long ropes).

But the realist in me is just going to keep the semi-bashed mailbox in place and hope that's all they've got.

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Saturday, September 16

Farm Addictions

My wife has an ailment, a sickness, a condition if you will. She has an addiction to be more precise. An addiction that causes her to obsessively collect new living things for us to feed, build shelter, and complete care for.

Jennifer found a stuffed monkey toy near the barn and wondered where it came from. Our neighbor, Coy Dan, had brought his granddaughter to see our horses (to which she said "whoa, their big!"). I rationalized that perhaps the toy had fallen out of Coy Dan's truck and that it might belong to his granddaughter. We planned on asking the neighbors about it the next time we talked to them.

In the meantime we had acquired a new resident, Cali, a pregnant calico cat. Jennifer has a bleeding heart and the sickness I mentioned. She found out about Cali through someone she works with. The cat was abandoned when a family moved out of an apartment (I just hate people like that). Cali, pregnant and very obviously near term, was left with a bowl of food near a dumpster.

Jennifer rationalized a reason to bring the poor cat home (we were apparently taking applications for a barn cat) and just like that, we're plus another mouth to feed (not to mention the kitties on the way). I joke, but it's ok by me. I had cats around growing up.

Jennifer and I had a cat previously when we lived in town. Actually, to be more correct, Dobie had a cat. Our 90+ lb Doberman had found a kitten behind our place in Springfield. The two of them would wrestle and play and the big bad Doberman was always the one to whimper and run off, never hurting the kitty.

We did decide that this cat would remain a barn cat. It will be fun to have a cat out in the barn that can be useful, assuming she can catch mice. We'll give away as many of the kittens as we can and get Cali fixed as soon as it's safe.

Jennifer had called down to the neighbors to tell them about the cat (the barn borders their property) and ask about the stuffed monkey. Glenda was happy to hear about the cat and offered to take one of the kittens to make a barn cat for themselves. We had also learned the origin of the mysterious monkey. Glenda had given it to their dog Fizwad to play with. Gelleon had probably dragged it home for Jennifer to find.

Glenda told Jennifer that she tell her husband, Coy Dan, about the cat and causally mention we had a monkey too, just to see what he would say. When Coy Dan came home Glenda gave him the news, that "Jennifer's got a barn cat and a monkey" to which Coy Dan, not at all surprised by that statement replied, "what kind of monkey?"

I asked him later what he thought when Glenda told him that. He told me that he easily imagined a monkey among the dogs, the cat, the chickens, the guineas, and the horses. He said his first thought was "I wonder what the dogs think of the monkey."

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Monday, September 11

Raising to prevent razing

At some point in the last dozen years or so our beloved neighbor hooked a tractor axle on one of the 6x6 posts and broke it off at the ground. As the years have passed, the bottom of that post has begun rotting away. Gravity has been relentlessly at work this entire time and the roofline is begining to sag as you can see in the picture above.

This situation is complicated further by the addition of two Percheron draft horses with a penchant for scratching their large posteriors against vertical structures. During one rear scratching event I could visibly see the roofline move up and down and hear the metal of the siding and roof pop and bend. Of course it's time for the geek farmer to come to the rescue.

I purchased two 16' tall treated 6x6 posts at my father's surplus lumber auction a couple weekends ago. At $20 bucks each, they were a steal. I only needed one for this project but they were sold as a pair and I'm sure another use will arrise.

I consulted with Coy Dan who offered to help since he damaged it years ago (I'm sure he would have helped even if he didn't cause the issue). We decided it would be sufficient to scab the new 6x6 against the old, securing it with several bolts and a new concrete footing.

This last weekend, with the help of my cousin Aaron, we began the task of reparing and raising the barn. We dug a deep hole to accomodate the new post and concrete. I hammered several nails partially into the end of the post so that a good inch was sticking out on each nail. We set that end into the concrete. Our logic here is that will help to tie the post to the concrete and prevent the weight of the barn from pushing the post through. I needed to keep the post fairly close to verticle during this time so I temporarily tacked it to the old post.

I had purchased several gates for on-going fencing projects and made a temporary barrier to keep the horses from scratching on my new post and wet concrete. I've been letting the concrete cure for a couple days now and hopefully I can finish the project this week.

The remaining tasks include using the high-lift jack and a metal pole to jack the roofline into position. At that point I'll drill holes in both posts for the bolts and tighten the bolts into place. Releasing the pressure from the jack should effectively transfer the weight of the roof down the old pole to the bolts then to the new 6x6 post and finally to the conrete on the ground.

Hopefully this re-raising of the barn will prevent my hay-burners from razing the barn.

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Friday, September 8

Hey, hey, hay!

I continue to learn new things about which I previously had no concept. Who knew there was so much to learn about a simple three letter word: hay.

I previously blogged about our first crop of hay back in early August. We're hoping to get another cutting of the Sudan grass mix before the season is over. In the mean time we've been scraping up what little cash is available and buying hay here and there. Part of the weekend activities will include "putting up" 110 bales of and orchard grass mix, as well as 40 or so bales of Alfalfa. The Alfalfa, a legume, is a much more nutrient rich hay when compared to a grass hay like orchard grass. Less of it can be fed relative to the grass hay for the same amount of nutrition. In addition to the sweet feed grain we feed our horses Jennifer estimates we'll need somewhere around 1000 square bales to make it through the winter. This presents challenges on many fronts.

The most obvious challenge is the amount of money required to keep our animals in good health. We've put the feelers of our extensive family network out and have managed to find a good deal here and there, but we're still not completely prepared for the winter. Considering the drought conditions the area has experienced, hay is becoming increasingly expensive. In some of the local markets Alfalfa is bringing close to $8.00 a bale! We have lucked into some bales of grass hay for as low as $2, but anything times a 1000 is expensive in my book.

Another challenge is the storage. Jennifer spent much of last week cleaning out some very old hay that was in the barn when we bought the place. Our neighbor estimated some of it had been in there approaching a decade. Jennifer discarded the bales that had mold on them into a large pile to compost down. There were still several bales of Alfalfa that appear to be good. My wife decided to keep those bales and let the horses pick through them.

Her barn cleaning efforts will give us space to store another 400 or so bales but that is clearly not enough to keep the 1000 or so we'll need. It appears the shop building may be utilized for some storage space and a lean-to might need to be constructed. Yet another project to add to the list. If it comes down to it I'm sure we'll be able to borrow some space from our neighbor, but that's not something I want to impose on him if at all possible. One of his hay barns is currently where our 16' flat bed trailer loaded with the 110 bales sits protected from the weather and waiting to be put up in our barn, which brings up the final challenge, time.

I'm looking forward to my next anniversary at work (next summer) when I'll get the coveted third week of vacation. That'll help get some of the projects that have stalled simply because I'm not at home enough. "Putting up" bales, the act of unloading and stacking the hay for storage takes time, and we've been using our neighbors generosity and his barn to store the trailered hay until I can find time to unload it all.

Some day we'll have to purchase our own tractor which will solve many of the aforementioned challenges. If we had a tractor we could handle round bales of hay, which are cheaper than the square bales (by cost per volume). Additionally, round bales are ok, for a period, in the weather. When round bales are rained on they tend to shed the water off the sides. Some of the bale deteriorates but a high percentage of it is usable. Square bales, on the other hand will get soaked straight through and will quickly mold. Not something you would want to feed to your animals. Additionally, handling bales of hay with a tractor is much easier on the back than loading, unloading, and stacking by hand!

Our neighbor just recently finished his hay-related activities for the year and I had a long and interesting conversation about the process of mowing, tetting, raking, then finally bailing hay. I'll have to save that for another post.

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Wednesday, August 30


Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Coy Dan met Scott, a local farrier, at the Fair Play swap meet. Coy Dan was purchasing an old halter when Scott approached him and asked if he needed a farrier. Coy Dan told Scott that he did have a horse that needed shod, in fact he had several but wanted to make sure Scott was capable.

When I arrived home from work I headed down the hill to the Blakemore farm. Jennifer had called me and told me a farrier was coming. She had been waiting for Coy Dan to get the horses feet worked on before she started training them. I knew it might make a neat photo opportunity as well as a very educational experience. To see more of the pictures, check out my farrier pics on my flickr stream.

Jennifer and Coy Dan approved of Scott's work. Scott kept up the friendly banter while they kept him busy with 3 of Coy Dan's mares, his pony Dude, and Coy Dan's stud Cody. With a little light left he removed the shoes from Eve at our place.

If anyone is in need of a capable farrier in Southwest Missouri, I can recommend Scott. He can be reached at (417) 773-9170.

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Tuesday, August 29


I created quite a pile of brush some time ago clearing out a fence line. At the time we hadn't quite settled on where the new fences would go, and as luck would have it I placed the pile right in the middle of the next fence line I needed to build. This fence line will create a smaller area for our new horses to graze.

I needed to move the pile somewhere or burn it in place. I didn't really want to burn it in place since it was underneath some oak and walnut trees and in close proximity to the house. I had mentioned to our neighbor, Coy Dan, that I was going to have someone estimate moving it out of the way and possibly hauling it off.

Yesterday I arrived home to fin the middle of the back field. I was happy to see my neighbor and his tractor making short work of the pile. We started the pile to flame well before dark, around 6:30 PM. We all sat around enjoying the peaceful sounds of a crackling fire. Eventually Coy Dan's wife, Glenda joined me, Jennifer, and Coy Dan. She brought up making smores and before long we were trying to get close enough to the bon-fire to roast our marshmallows without roasting ourselves. The smores hit the spot.

By 10:00 at night Coy Dan and Glenda were heading home. Despite the recent rains, Jennifer and I were both weary of leaving the still burning fire unattended overnight. All it would take is one errant spark to hit the hay barn to ruin the day and more. So I volunteered to watch over it. I backed my pickup truck into the field and armed myself with a water hose, an air mattress and my sleeping bag.

It was a peaceful sleep, when I got it. I periodically woke up to check the fire. I gave up watching over the pile of embers around 4:45 in the morning this morning and put it out with the hose. That's when I headed into the house to try and get ready for work. I ended up needing a little more rest and was a little late to work this morning.

Those who know me were already trying to deduce what farm catastrophe occurred to make me miss. Luckily there wasn't any catastrophes to speak of, but I'm tired none-the-less.

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Thursday, August 24

The flock is back on active duty

Guinea Flock
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
I awoke this morning to feed the animals and was happy to see the guiena flock busily scratching away. As Pablo commented on the previous post, perhaps they were roosting to high for me to see with my flash light.

Wednesday, August 23


Jennifer inadvertently let a couple guineas out, so she let them all out. I read somewhere that after several weeks of being in an enclosure they would imprint on the hen house as "home" and return each night to roost. Since I haven't completed the chicken yard around the hen house we had to cage all the chickens in order to leave the door to the hen house open.

The guineas didn't go far the entire day, staying within site of the hen house, so we thought things were going pretty well. When I got home they were busily going from one part of the yard to another. They'd stop and scratch and make all kinds of noise then quickly move to another part of the yard. It was entertaining to watch them.

My Aunt Julia, who has a flock of her own, told me that her and Uncle Bill usually just had to wait until after dark and go close the door on their hen house and all the birds would be quietly roosting in the safety of the building. So tonight as dark approached we watched to see if they would go in by themselves.

They did get very close, in fact a few went in momentarily, but the flock seemed to want to settle outside the door. We tried shooing them in, but that didn't work. We tried placing one or two in to coax the rest in and that didn't work. So we decided to try it Aunt Julia's way. We both went in and about 9:45 PM I went out to check on them.

They're gone. MIA. No where to be found. I hope I have better news in the morning.

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Monday, August 21

OK, Corral!

Jennifer and I moved into the farm in late April and after four months of country living many projects have been started but few of them completed. I'm proud to say that I did complete the corral project, well at least phase 1 of the project anyway.

It's a bit of a running joke at work that software projects will always have an ellusive phase 2 (or more). This is where features initially thought to be "must-haves" are pushed off to a later date in order to meet a deadline or resource constraint. Much is the same in the farm project world. I had originally imagined a much more elaborate corral system, complete with reconfigurable sections for different needs. As in the software world, I needed to prioritize the fundamental features and focus on delivering them first due to time and resource constraints. Other "must-haves" had become "would-be-nices".

Having never built fence on my own, many valuable lessons were learned in this project and my loyal readership will hopefully benefit from my mistakes. First and foremost: while your four-legged animals won't care if everything is square and true all your visitors of the pipedal primate orders will immediately notice and comment on crooked things.

I originally laid out the corral with spray paint and mason's line, being sure to mark where I wanted the post holes on the line with spray paint. However the holes, to no fault of the auger operator, didn't stay perfectly centered. So when I began concreting in posts they were no longer on the centerline. At the time it seemed to make sense to start on one end and work to other. I carefully made sure each post was vertically level then set it in concrete. I was so pleased with my progress I continued on around the corral setting each post vertical and cementing it in. It took an outside voice (my wife) to point out how crooked of a line the posts made. I blew it off and made a comment that it didn't matter. In fact it didn't affect the operation or diminish the utility of the fence. Even if it did it was too late! I was reminded about how crooked it was each time someone else too a look at it (the neighbor, my Dad, my wife, my Dad).

Lesson learned: set up your corner posts first, pull your string and then set line posts based on the string from corner to corner.

Another lesson learned wasn't so much as embarrasing as it was exhausting. I mentioned before that the barn was built of hand-sawn oak right off the land and surrounding places. What I learned is weathered and seasoned oak must be one of the hardest substances on Earth, second only to diamond, I think. I wanted to attach the 2x8's to the barn to connect the barn to the first line post. I had purchased 4" coated screws and charged up my trusty 16.8 volt Craftsman cordless drill.

I began to get frustrated after the third or fourth stripped out screw (on the very first board). I remember by that time it was getting into the heat of the day and I decided it was a good time to quit on that project for a while. It was such frustrations that led to the many start and stops of the project and the overall lenghty implmentation.

In addition to stripping out the screws, it seemed like my drill didn't have enough umph behind it to get the job done. At least that's how I rationalized it to myself. I ended up borrowing a more powerful DeWalt hammer drill from a friend of mine. When I pulled it out to use I noticed it had a funny square shaped bit. It was then that I noticed the box of screws had a label stating the screws would work with with a phillips bit (which I was previously using) or a square-tipped bit.

I tried the square bit and the more powerful drill and with some effort I was able to get the screws to drive. After some experimenting (putting the square bit on my drill) I learned that the square bit was the key. It still took considerable effort to drive each screw, and my charge didn't seem to last quite long enough, so I resigned myself to only putting in one screw for now and coming back with the other two screws per end to hold it securely.

Lesson learned here: read the directions, even on something so simple as a box of screws.

The effort required to attach each 2x8 into the treated 4" wood posts was very tiring. The steps necessary to complete each section was lengthy. First measure the distance between center on each post. Then drag board off the pile and set it on the saw horses. Measure (twice) and cut the board and repeat that process for all four boards. I initially didn't work on this project unless I had the help of two strong teenage cousins of mine, the pace by myself was demotivating. Having help made the dragging of the boards from one place to another much quicker, as we could pipeline our efforts (one dragging, one holding, and me measuring and cutting). Having help also made the next step possible as I hadn't figured out a way to hold the boards up by myself while securing it. It took at least two of us to hold each end on the carefully measured mark and secure the board.

My next valuable lesson came in creating a set of jigs to correctly position the crossboards on the posts. The first board up from the ground was 8", the second was 5" above the first, then 8" to the next, and again 8" above the third to the fourth and final board. The measuring, marking, and holding of each crossboard was time-consuming, and could only be completed by at least two people. After we made the jigs which where simply scrap 2x8's cut to length, I could hang the boards myself. I just placed one 8" board on the ground agains each post, set the crossboard on top putting pressure against the posts and attached the board to the post. I repeated that process on up the post setting the scrap pieces on top of the newly attached board.

Lesson learned: work smarter not harder.

Flash forward to this last weekend when I set a personal goal of finishing four more sections of fence, hanging three gates, and adding the remaining fasteners to each board. This time I was armed with a Rigid Pneumatic Framing Nailer. I set the nailer to rapid fire where I can hold down the trigger and a nail fires each time contact is made with the board. I made short work of several sleeves of nails and in no-time the boards were securely mounted. The nailer made it so attaching the boards was no longer the bottle neck in the process. Had I been in possesion of this tool 4 months ago the project would have flown by.

So the exahusting lesson learned here that I allueded to earlier.: the right tools make all the difference in the world.

The picture above was taken this evening and started as 4 shots that where stitched together with some software (thus the ghosting of Desi as she moved about the corral). It's taken from the bed of my truck as I panned from left to right. It looks so simple in the image, and indeed it's not that big of a project. But none-the-less it's something I'll be proud to see put to use.

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Sunday, August 20

Four inches to a hand

Pictured here is a group of Percheron draft horses being led to the barn early Saturday morning. I included my wife in the crop to give the viewer a sense of scale (Jennifer is 5'3" tall). I was aware the "hand" measurement for horses, that is 4" to a hand. I learned also that the hands are measured from the ground to the withers, which is the top of the front shoulder.

Upon moving to the farm I was first introduced to the neighbor's quarter horses. Not accustomed to being around farm animals even quarter horses looked quite large to me. Coy Dan's horses are in the 14.5 to 15.5 hand range or about 5' to the top of the front shoulder. Add into that the length of the horse's neck and head and I have to look up a ways to see into the eyes of one of these beautiful animals.

When Jennifer started working at the local draft horse farm, she described the horses as very large, in the neighbor hood of 17 to 18 hands or 6' to the withers. I'm not sure why the hand measurement was created. To me it's confusing. Eighteen hands is a lot of hands to be sure, and of course it's only to the shoulder. But despite the accuracy of the measurement I still had a tough time trying to get a sense of how big the Percheron horses really are with the hand measurement. It would have been simpler for someone to tell me it's about 8 or 9 feet in the air to the top of their head. Now that sounds big. Add into that the weight (close to and sometimes over a ton) and you really get a sense of their size.

Incidentally, Jennifer has acquired a Percheron draft horse and we'll soon be bringing her home. Desapina, or Desi, and Socks will call our nearly completed coral and barn home (one more gate to hang). A complete post on the coral will follow it's completion including all of my very valuable fence and corral building lessons.

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Friday, August 11

Morning Light, Not So Light Horses

pre-sunrise over Geek Acres
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
The days are getting shorter and it's later and later it seems before the sun rises. I took this photo a few days ago in the pre-sunrise light at Geek Acres. Don't be fooled by the cloud cover, we've seen very little rain. Our place seems to be a true geographical oddity when it comes to precipitation, we always just seem to get missed.

My honey-do list continues to grow and the amount of daylight hours to accomplish the necessary tasks grows smaller. Jennifer is happily working away training horses at a near by draft horse farm. I suspect we'll be the owners of a very friendly draft horse filly in the near future. Jennifer and I have been married for over 3 years and this week I finally witnessed her training horses, her first love (before she met me of course!).

Wednesday evening I went along with her when she planned to work with the most stubborn mare. Gala, is 2200 lbs of Percheron attitude. I watched as Jennifer wrestled her into the roundpen (at the draft horse farm, I still have yet to complete ours). The roundpen is made of temporary panels stitched together with chain. The equipment is barely sufficient for a horse of normal size and stature and quite weak and small for the draft horses, and Gala knows it.

Jennifer began her running around in the circle but Gala insisted on testing every panel for weakness. Each time she would stop and test a panel Jennifer would holler, yell and put the horse back into the pattern. OK, not quite the horse whisperer (horse hollerer, maybe?), but the concept is the same (more on the horse whisperer in a moment). At one point the giant horse decided she had enough and was getting out of the pen. I had to run to the outside of the pen and motion for her to get back in the pen. A whip waved in her direction (but never actually touched her) assisted with our convincing. I repaired that section of the pen as quickly as I could as Jennifer continued Gala going round and round.

Eventually the horse showed the tell-tale signs of submission. Well, tell-tale to Jennifer that is, I didn't notice anything but the massive amount of dust that a ton of horse running in a circle can generate. Jennifer told me she was looking for Gala to start chewing and drop her head and that she knew Gala was ready to admit who was now boss. Soon after Jennifer was leading her around the farm like a well trained dog.

I was impressed.

On the horse whisperer technique: I told Jennifer, after watching her work, that for a horse person watching the horse whisperer must be like me watching a movie that features a "computer hacker." To the layman, it's amazing, but for the indoctrinated, that's just how things work. The horse whisperer has simply added a dramatic aspect and marketed himself well.

Monday, August 7

Baled out

Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Pictured here is our neighbor Coy Dan in one of his trusty John Deere tractors. Coy Dan was baling our first crop of "green graze" or Sudan grass mix. As with the rest of the country it's been near drought conditions and exteremly hot. The approximately 6.5 acres that produced 14 round bales of oat hay in late may only managed to yield 11 bales of the Sudan. That was a pretty dissappointed sight for us.

We went partners with Bruce, Coy Dan's son. Bruce and Coy Dan provided some seed and the equipment to no-till the seed in exchange for half of the hay. We also agreed to sell our half to Bruce, which at this point just barely covered the cost of the seed we bought.

This farmin' business is quite the gamble. Coy Dan, being the experience farmer, has several places rented out to produce hay this year. In a typical year he completes his haying activities by July 4. This year, with the drought conditions he's still haying, into August to get enough hay to last the winter. I suspect many farmers didn't plan as well as our wise neighbor and will be in a pinch when the laws of supply and demand catch up to hay prices this winter.

More fair pictures

tickets please
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
I made another trip to the Ozark Empire Fair. Take a looksee at the photo set here.

Saturday, July 29

Ozark Empire Fair

fair lights
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
I walked around the Ozark Empire Fair yesterday after work. My wife is working as a trainer for one of the draft horse show exhibitors, so I spent some time in the barn while they scrambled to and fro between shows. I missed the only time Jennifer was in the ring as it was much earlier in the day.

I took a few pictures while there. You can see them here. I didn't take near as many as I planned. It was much too hot in during the day light to walk around with my camera strapped to my neck. Then after sitting in the barn for a while waiting for dark I was ready to head on home. I stopped outside the ride area to take this 20 second exposure of the rides going round and round.

The Ozark Empire Fair is definately an experience. I'm sure it doesn't differ much from the typical fair. You've got the standard fair exhibits including a petting zoo and other ag-related activities. Inside the air-conditioned E-plex, you'll find different businesses pedddlin' their wares or politicians glad-handing and kissing babies. The grandstand usually has some fairly big-name acts playing. Smaller acts are playing on other stages or booths through out the fair.

Standar fair fare, of course, includes corn-dogs, lemonade, and funnel cakes, among many other not-so-good-for-you but tasty-once-a-year-treats. I had a foot long corn-dog and a large lemonade for dinner. At $9 bucks it's one of the more expensive meals I've treated myself to in a while!

Friday, July 28

The other side of the fair

Last night I went to the fair grounds where my wife is preparing to assist with showing Percheron Draft horses in the fair. It was an interesting behind the scenes look at the fair a day before it opens. The rides were all in place but only lit by the dim street and parking lot lights of the fair grounds.

I'm always fascinated with new sub-cultures that I encounter. Fair exhibitors, specifically those exhibiting livestock, live in a whole other world. Campers and RVs lined the north parking area of the fair-grounds while in the barns people are busy with last minute grooming and care of their prize-hopeful animals.

At least in the horse barn, most people set up camp in stalls near their horses. It's apparently necessary to stay close to the animals to protect them from overly competitive people. My wife told me of a time her friend's horse was poisoned before a big show. Some people will do anything to win.

Tonight and tomorrow I plan on attending the fair, mostly to watch my wife compete, but I also plan to take lots of pictures. The recent rain ought to make for interesting reflections of the fair rides.

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Monday, July 24

Lessons of Farm Life

I feel I owe more of an explanation for the previous post on poison ivy. Here are a few lessons I have learned recently on the farm:

1. Listen to your wife, she's usually right (I've learned this one before, but I always forget).
2. Never clear brush in shorts. No matter how hot I think I'll be it will be better than suffering through poison ivy on your legs.
3. When you're wife says you should wear pants while clearing brush, see lesson 1 and 2.

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Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy
Originally uploaded by DSP (Digital Soft Paw).
In search of remedies... Post em if you got em. In the mean time I'll be sitting on my hands to prevent scratching.

Friday, July 21

From minis to giants and other goings on

Jennifer started working at a local Percheron Horse Farm as a trainer. It's slightly comical as she once worked with minutare horses (just slightly larger than our dog, Dobie) and now she's working with giant draft horses. It's hard work for sure, but she's enjoying the heck out of it.

There's a show coming up so it's pretty much work 7 days a week to prepare for the show. That means the farm's all mine this weekend. I plan on working more on the hen house. I snagged a small air nailer from my buddy Tim that I can use to build the roosts and the nesting boxes. Jennifer aqcuired more hens and a rooster so I've got a little pressure on me to complete the project.

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Thursday, July 20


We had good intentions building a fenced in backyard in which to keep the dogs. But after many sessions calling Gelleon back we had become resigned to the fact that Gelleon was going to find his way out of any enclosure and he had good farm sense and could take care of himself. I've seen him scale a 6ft chainlink fence to get out then again to get back in when we lived in Springfield. Since on the farm he has been making trips at his will to visit the neighbor dog.

The other night he came home covered in blood. After the initial panic wore off Jennifer was able to determine it was only his ear that was cut. Apparently dog ears bleed profusely and the blood on the floors and walls supported this fact. Jennifer (having experience working in a vet's office) bandaged him up as best as she could. The following day Gelleon made a trip to the vet and got the cut cauterized. We were told to super glue it shut as necessary.

Just a few nights later Gelleon, who was out another romp with his buddy Fizwad, came home. He jumped up on the couch with me and I felt a warm liquid on my leg. I knew it was hot outside, and he was definitely panting, but I didn't think it was that hot! Then I noticed that the warm liquid was crimson in color; he was bleeding all over the place. I took him in the bathroom and set him in the tub. I assisted Jennifer in cleaning his wound and trying to get the bleeding stopped long enough to put more super glue on it. Once the glue was dry we let him go.

That lasted for one shaking of the head. Blood was sprayed all over the washer and dryer, and we started the routine again. This time though, I wanted to secure his ear to his head. The image below shows the results of that effort. I used the top of a garbage bag box to secure his re-superglued ear in, then secured the cardboard to the rest of his head.

Gelleon hasn't left home since. I think his pride has been damaged too much to go hang out with Fizwad... for now.

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Monday, July 17

Gut check

I was just sure that moving to the farm and having a mile-long list of physical activities to be performed daily would counteract the 8 hours of sitting I do a day. I just knew that activities like digging holes for posts, building fence, feeding poultry, and clearing fence lines would make the old pants a little looser.

Somehow, this has not materialized. While I am sure I am burning more calories and sweating on a daily basis I believe that must all be offset (and then some) by the gallons of sweet, sweet, sweet-tea I have been consuming.

For those that may not be aware, sweet-tea can only be made properly by adding the sugar while the tea is still hot. Thus allowing the sugar to completely dissolve into a molten sugary goodness. Then and only then should it be poured over ice cubes and consumed in the hot and humid Ozark's summer. It is not the same (repeat not the same) as adding sugar to your already iced-tea. All the sugar goes to the bottom (unless you stir fast enough before drinking to suspend the sugar in the solution). If you've not tried it (and I have encountered "Yankees" who have not), do so. Oh, and it takes about a cup of sugar per gallon or more to your tastes. You do the caloric math!

In an effort to control any more horizontal growth of the midsection, to which my genes have a disposition towards, we have started drinking sweet-tea sweetened by artificial sweetener. In addition to this already drastic measure, we're trying to excercise and eat better overall. That's tough now, as living in the country and experiencing the country life involves constantly being offered sweet tea, deep fried foods, and delicious baked goods on a regular basis.

I did find a neat little site, FitDay, to keep a journal of calories as well as activities. My first day of keeping track of what I ate really surprised me, as I was making a conscious effort to "eat right." I stand corrected.

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Saturday, July 15

Fowl Progress

Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Our fowl are growing in numbers and size. Jennifer has now acquired some chickens in addition to the guineas so the building formerly known as the guinea house is now the hen house. I took this picture while the guineas were in the temporary hutch outside the hen house. I have completed varmit-proofing (to the best of my abilty) the hen house. But since we acquired chickens I'll be building a yard for the yard birds around the hen house. I resisted having chickens but the crow of our neighbor's rooster Rojo was too much to resist for my loving wife. She bought the chickens and brought them home while I'm at work. We decided to free range the guineas but not the chickens. I've learned the chickens can be much more destructive on Jennifer's flowers and landscaping.

Below is a pic of the hen house. I've still yet to cut out the windows, screen in the windows (with hardware cloth), build nesting boxes, or places to roost in the hen house, but I'm getting closer. More pictures will follow as I complete the project.

hen house
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.

Wednesday, July 5

Summer time holidays in the country

homemade ice cream
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
This weekend was packed full of rural weekend goodness. On top of that it was a summer-time holiday weekend, which means only one thing in these parts: home-made ice cream.

We joined our neighbors, the Blakemore's, for their annual 4th of July shin-dig. It was also a birthday celebration, Great Grandma Blakemore was somewhere between her mid twenties and her mid seventies. We enjoyed 100% pure angus beef burgers (straight off the Blakemore farm) as the main course. The supporting roles included Jennifer's raspberry vinegarette salad, with blue cheese crumbles, red-onion, candied walnuts, and pickled beets. I love that salad. The encore was the homemade ice cream, bananna, with a slice of Jennifer's Choclate Zucchini cake.

The rest of the weekend was not without events. Saturday and part of Sunday I spent with my father and my Uncle Walter building a hen house for our guineas. Many thanks to Hal, of Ranch Ramblins, for his excellent post and guided tour of his hen houses. I gleaned quite a bit of information that will help me improve upon our little building. The structure is complete, however it still requires some finishing touches (nesting boxes, windows cut out, etc). We built the entire building, 8x6 feet by 8 fee tall on one side sloping down to seven feet on the opposite end, at my dad's warehouse. He's got plenty of lumber (he deals in surplus things, lumber being one of them). We then loaded it on a flatbed trailer with fork lifts and I hauled it home.

The 80 miles pulling the building home didn't do much for my miles per gallon spreadsheet, but we got it home intact. Coy Dan was nice enough to come over and unload it for us using his tractor and front-end loader.

On the fourth, we joined the Blakemores on an adventure to the city of Fair Play's swap meet. What started as a simple quick trip turned into an all day affair involving the aquisition of half a dozen chickens, one rooster, and the construction of a poultry yard at the Blakemore's. More on that to come.

All in all it was a great weekend, and I was sad to hear my alarm clock (that is my dog Sue, she has no snooze button) go off this morning to have me rise and get ready for work.

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Friday, June 30

treat time

treat time
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Three out of the four dogs particpate in sitting, before getting the treat. Dobie's apparently too good to sit, he knows he'll get a treat anyway. I took this shot using my new off-camera lighting kit. More practice to come.