Friday, April 28

Quick Update

Just a quick update as I'm not at home to blog. We're mostly moved into Geek Acres, a few more things left at the old house. The closings went as smoothly as anyone could hope and we're excited to finally be out on the farm. I'm having Wild Blue satellite internet service installed on Monday. Your regularly scheduled blogging will return at that time.

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Monday, April 24

Shocked Well

A crucial piece of information came via fax today and just in time (we close in 2 days). The original well-water failed the testing so the well needed to be "shocked." The house had sat empty for years before the current owner purchased the place to fix up and apparently an idle well can be a haven for bacteria. He chemically treated the well to kill any bacteria then did a flush of the system.

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Sunday, April 23

Brush fires and the panic that ensues

One of the first neighbors of the farm we met was this little guy, Fizwad.

Fiz, as he's known, lives on the 160 acres to the west with the Blakemore's. He's a friendly little guy and I think he's going to enjoy having some canine compadres when we get our four out to the farm.

It finally appeared it was going to rain at the farm today, it has been quite dry in the area. We had brought a trailer load of garage things to unload and thought it would be a good time to burn a brush pile.

Such things make me extremely nervous. The pile was large and in close proximity to the house (you can see the deck railing in the photo), trees, and other combustable things (like a 500 gallon propane tank). My dad was with me and he was confident in his brush-pile-burning ability. Given the impending rain and the direction of the wind I agreed it would be relatively safe to burn the pile. The pile was a mixture of an old shed that was demolished, some very dry cedar, and other brush. Within 20 seconds of lighting the fire we had quite the show on our hands.

Cedar burns like gasoline: hot and quick. As soon as the fire burst into the air critters of all sorts scurried out from what was once their shelter. Several rabbits sprinted out confusedly, one making a quick left turn just before plowing into me. I was able to catch a shot of this critter who didn't take too kindly to the heat. Dad wanted to kill him but I'd rather have a few snakes around versus mice or rats. We let him climb up to into the saftey of the tree.

We watched the fire closely and wet down any embers that got away. Soon we were raking the coals and logs into a successively smaller pile. My dad and I would take turns getting close to the heat and pushing logs closer to the flames. It rained on an off while we finshed off the pile, cooling us down as well as giving me sense of comfort that we wouldn't burn the entire place down.

We were standing back taking a break when a rabbit and former resident of the brush pile started scurrying behind us. I watched as Fiz had taken an interest in the rabbit as well. The little rabbit zigged this way then that with Fiz in close pursuit. Then the rabbit did the unthinkable, he made a line straight into the burn pile, and right behind him, was Fiz.

It was like watching a movie in slow motion. We were both so stunned and it took me a moment before I began yelling at Fiz to get away. But it was too late. Fiz didn't stay long in the coals before he yelped and tore out of there (as did the rabbit). I tried to get him to come back to me so I could wash him down and check him out but he took off to the west for home.

I called our neighbors to tell them what had happened. I was worried Fiz had hurt himself. The neighbors eventually came over to show us that Fiz, while a little singed here and there, was alright. Apparently Fiz went straight to the pond for a swim before heading home. They had given him a bath and checked him out before bringing him back to apologize. I assured them no apology was necessary, we were just glad Fiz wasn't hurt.

When we were statisfied that we had burnt enough off we began spreading out the coals for a nice soaking with the hose. After creating a sufficient mixture of ash and mud we called it quits and headed for back to Springfield.

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Saturday, April 22


I blog out of sheer guilt. One of my two readers has berated me for the lack of content this past week. Daily blogging, I've been informed, must come first before all else. I promise to do my best in the future, in the mean time I give you a list of excuses for not blogging, in no particular order:

  • * we don't actually live on the farm yet, so farm activities aren't yet a daily occurance

  • * all free time is currently tied up with activies related to closing on the sale of our current home and closing on the purchase of Geek Acres (an aside: Jennifer said she couldn't think of a more appropriate name for our new home... excellent)

  • * research and purchase of a new water heater

  • * purchase, loading, unloading, reloading, returning of overkill fence posts. We went to purchase corner posts for the backyard that the dogs would be confined to. At Race Brothers we asked for 6" by 8' wood corner posts to which the lady replied "we don't have any of the six, we just have eight." Confused, I said, yeah, that's what I want, eights. It was only after unloading the posts in place that we realized, these posts are HUGE. I let them sit there for a week while I contemplated what had happened, and becuase I was too tired to load them back ON the truck.
    The lady at Race Brothers meant they didn't have any six INCH diameter posts, and I thought she meant six foot long posts. So we purchased fifteen 8" diameter, 8 foot tall posts for 255' of fencing. Our curious neighbor asked me, "exactly how big ARE your dogs." We decided to go with metal posts instead.

  • * assisting with installation of new fence posts, and fence. My Uncle Bill does fencing for a living and came out to install 5' tall, 2"x4" rectangle welded-wire fence for the dogs, with resonably sized metal posts for corners and braces.

  • * removal of old water heater and installation of previously mentioned new water heater

  • * moving the BBQ grill from old home to new home to be used to cook dinner on Friday night (Uncle Bill and his helper Ed began setting corner posts Friday day-time)

  • * stopping at Sonic in Willard at 9:30 PM to get burgers for a tired and hungry Uncle Bill and Ed since all plans on making it to the farm in time to cook dinner went to pot

  • * stopping at a friend's in Willard to store meat and condiments for previously mentioned BBQ in friend's freezer since plans to stop at friend's house at a resonable hour to pick up old refridgerator to be used as secondary fridge at the farm also fell through (the primary kitchen fridge is still at our old home in Springfield)

  • * delivering Sonic burgers at 10:00 PM to starving Uncle and friend

  • * staying up to midnight playing Scrabble with cousins who've been drafted to help on the farm on occasion

  • * being consumed by grattitude to parents who help and love more than I could have ever hoped for

  • * taking delivery of house-warming gift from parents (see previous excuse for not blogging, and picture of house-warming gift below)

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Monday, April 17

Farm Plans

On a previous post, Hal, of Ranch Ramblins asked:
If you get a chance, I'd be interested in hearing about your plans for horse facilities. Do you plan to pasture Socks, or stall him? And finally, do you plan on doing any riding?

So many questions, so little time! :)

First, the lay of the land:

We've got 10 acres of mostly pasture. The current owners have oats on the land and will be harvesting in late May or June, so that will slow our fencing plans. That's all good and well as we'll have our hands full with typical moving expenses, let alone farm improvements.

The perimeter is already fenced with barbed wire. To the east of our land is the local saddle club. We'll have 24 hour access to a lighted arena, perfect for Jennifer's training plans, but I'm getting ahead of myself...

The house peeks out from the grove of Walnut and Oak trees. To the south of it is the shop building, which requires some work including pouring a concrete floor and installing some good overhead doors. On the Western edge below the grove of trees is the loafing shed. The image resolution isn't the greatest so I've drawn in where it is.

We plan on fencing (yellow) the two pastures and creating a run from one pasture to the other behind and around the house. The blue lines mark the areas for gates. The area fenced in to the west of the house is what we're caling the backyard, the area for our dogs. They've not got any country sense, although we'll probably try to let them out when were doing chores. I plan on building the hen house (for the guineas) on the west side of the shop building.

We'll be dividing the loafing shed into different sections for different uses. It's a good sized shed, the current ownder has a trailer, a bailer, and several bales of hay stored in it. We'll block off the South section for the horses, we'll keep hay in the middle section, and the north end will be shelter for the bottle-calves we plan on getting. The calves will have access to the run around the house and the front pasture.

My scale on the image is completely off but I'll be constructing a round-pen in the general vicinity that I marked for Jennifer to train. Socks, and other horses evantually, will be confined to the smaller pasture. We'll supplement their diets with hay and grain.

Jennifer is an accomplished horseperson. In fact, she was once a rodeo queen and went to school on a rodeo scholarship! :) After a little bit of time getting back in the saddle, literally, she'll start training horses again.

We'd eventually like to build a big barn with some horse stalls, probably east of the house in the big pasture. There are so many things to plan and consider. I'm already planning on running water from the well close to the loafing shed where I can water the horses and the calves at once. I've got grand ideas of a wireless network accessible throughout the farm (looks like satellite internet it is). The neighbors have expressed interest in getting a broadband connection, perhaps I'll be helping them get connected to my network!

All in all, we think we're going to love it.

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I ran into this guy while mowing the backyard. He was kind enough to pose for me for a while.

There was a moratorium on horse blogging for me until Jennifer could officially be the first to blog about socks and post pictures. Check out her description of this weekend on her blog, Ramblings of a Flower Addict.

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Sunday, April 16

Only two more weekends

Jennifer and I left Springfield relatively early on Saturday for a day at the farm. Only this weekend and next remain before we move into the house and there are still some little things to be done. Jennifer planned on spending her time painting and I was to tackle cleaning out the kitchen cabinets and replacing light switches and outlets with a more color coordinated set.

Before departing civilization we made an obligatory stop at Lowe's to pick up supplies. Prior to entering the store we had to wait in the Explorer for a few minutes to let some heavy rain pass. Once in the store we could hear the downpour continue. This area is in dire need of moisture so we were glad to have it, though we could only hope there would be some at the farm.

The drive out was beautiful. Jennifer drove and I had the pleasure of taking in the scenery. The clouds had parted to the east and rays of light were streaking through the morning storm clouds. I told Jennifer she might have to pull over so I could get a picture but there's not a great place to do so. I hoped that the formation would be intact when we arrived at the farm.

Once at the farm I was glad to see the clouds were going to cooperate for the photo but my happiness was replaced with annoyance when I realized I left the camera in Springfield. Oh well. When either one of us is impatient on the farm one of us will tell the other "you've got 50 years to [fill in the blank]." There'll be more time for pictures.

We set off into the area behind the house. The house sits in a about a two acre area of mature trees. Perfect for shade gardening that Jennifer has become fond of. She spent last weekend transplanting some of the hundreds of Iris that have been spreading along where the former back yard ended (and where we plan to end the fenced in area for the dogs).

I was looking for what I now recognize as a Mayapple. I was reading another fantastic Missouri blog, Roundrock Journal, and saw Pablo's post about Mayapples. One of his commenters noted:
may apples and morel mushrooms (when spotted) are frequently in the same area.
The last time we were at the farm I notice the Mayapples but didn't know their value in pointing to the elusive but tasty Morel mushroom. We poked around several stands of Mayapples but came up empty-handed. It appeared to us that farm only received a light rain--just enough to settle the dust. We both concluded that there probably wasn't enough moisture yet for Morels.

We went on about our task inside the house. I would occasionally stop and lie down in the master bedroom with the windows open and just listen to the wind blow through the trees. No sirens, no traffic, no anything, just the wind through the trees and an occasional bird. Jennifer (of course) told me I've got 50 years to listen to the wind and that we had a long list of tasks. So back at it we went. It wasn't long before I had wondered out on the deck and I could see our neighbor to the west working on his farm.

Coy Dan had noticed me standing there and drove his dodge work truck up to the fence line. His granddaughter was with him and Brianne had something to tell Jennifer, that she had a new colt and that she wanted us to come see it. That was all it took and I found myself chasing Jennifer through the gate and down to Coy Dan's horses.

We spent quite a bit of time chatting and talking with the neighbors, about horses, and animals, and relations, and computers and the internet (I'll be helping them with those endeavors I'm sure).

We're going to enjoy being neighbors with such nice people and "vistin'" whenever we like. The little colt (which I understand now in general farm parlance can apply to a newborn female or male foal, in this case it was a female or a filly) was a cutie. Several times Coy Dan told Brianne to get in there, pet the colt and bond with it. Jennifer informed me later that this is very good for a young horse to become familiar and comfortable with people.

It wasn't before long we found ourselves riding in Coy Dan's old pick-up heading to where he keeps the rest of his horses. He wanted to show Jennifer a filly he is going to sell. As soon as Jennifer laid eyes on "Socks" it was love at first sight. I'll leave it to Jennifer to give a proper description, but she was pretty, and quite friendly. Again I regretted not having the camera. It appears we'll be horse owners in the near future, and that's not a surprise to me (or anyone really). I think Jennifer, Coy Dan, and the horses are going to get along just fine.

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Wednesday, April 12

Good Resource: Ranch Ramblins

I ran across a great site that is doing exactly what I'm trying to do here. Ranch Ramblins chronicles the life of a Hal (the rancher) and his wife, Retta, on their hobby farm in the Ozarks. Other than already being retired it sounds almost exactly like my wife and I.

From the "a little bit about the rancher" page:
Hal is a former businessman who, along with his wife Retta, are enjoying their retirement in the beautiful Ozarks of northern Arkansas. Hobby ranching, computer activities, conservation and land management occupy Hal’s time, while equestrian activities and animal (and husband) care account for Retta’s time.

Both of us share an interest in photography, both underwater and terrestrial.

Hal has a keen interest in personal computing, as well as most things in the high-tech world, although he is perpetually a few years behind the cutting-edge. He thinks of himself as a jack-of-some-trades, and a master of none.

Replace my name and Jennifer's name in that paragraph and it's stunning how much is true. Jennifer is the horse lover and Duane is the computer geek. Both of us are photogs.

Be sure to check out his adventures, his latest entry, "In this corner", the story of a continuing saga of rancher versus rodentia, had me laughing out loud.

I hope this blog can become half as entertaining and informative.

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Tuesday, April 11

Farm Vocabulary: Seed Drill

Like any field of specialization farming has it's own lexicon. As a geek I'm used to tossing around terms that put a glassy-eyed look on the faces of others. Sentences such as this are commonplace during my normal day:
On one of our 8 Linux LPARs we have a PHP-based application that gets data from a MySql database which has an ODBC connection over the VLAN to the DB2 database on the OS/400 side.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. I'm fighting off the deer-in-the-headlights look as my wife is in her element. When Jennifer and I first met the current owner of the farm they quickly broke into farm parlance. I, the unindoctrinated, stood by and started to consciously use skills I remember learning in elementary school. I listened closely to try and get meaning from terms I had never heard based on the context in which they being used. The more times they said something, the closer I felt I became to understanding.

Bruce, the current owner, told us that he drilled oats into the pasture and he planned on harvesting it in late May or early June. He offered to drill whatever we wanted back in after he harvested the oats. The discussion continued down the path of a good pasture crop for horses but at this point I wasn't entirely sure I grokked the concept of the seed drill. My first idea of what a seed drill is and how it might operate seemed pretty inefficient (think one guy, power drill, bag of seeds, and ten acres). You can see in the picture that the oats (while still very small in the picture) are fairly regularly spaced and in nice, neat rows. It would be a lot of work to drill them in one at a time! Obviously, it's not done this way.

I found this useful wikipedia article on the seed drill:
The seed drill was invented in the West by Jethro Tull in 1701: It allowed farmers to sow seeds in well-spaced rows at specific depths. Prior to this farmers simply cast seeds on the ground, by hand, for them to grow where they landed (broadcasting). Some of the broadcast seeds were cast on unprepared ground where they never germinated, germinated prematurely only to be killed by frost or died from lack of access to water and nutrients.

This invention gave farmers much greater control over the depth that the seed was planted and the ability to cover the seeds without back-tracking. This greater control meant that seeds germinated consistently and in good soil. A further, very important consideration in the days before selective weedkillers was the ability that drilling afforded, to hoe the crop during the course of the growing season.

Over the years seed drills have become more advanced and sophisticated but the technology has remained substantially the same. The first seed drills were small enough to be drawn by a single horse but the availability of steam and, later, gasoline tractors saw the development of larger and more efficient drills that allowed farmers to seed even larger tracts in a single day.

Recent improvements to drills allow seed-drilling without prior tilling or otherwise preparing the soil. This means that soils subject to erosion or moisture loss are protected until the seed germinates and grows enough to keep the soil in place.

So I've got one term in the bag, and we'll be talking more later about what we decide to drill back into the land.

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Sunday, April 2


This weekend Jennfer and two of my cousins (Blake and Aaron) went out to the farm to straighten up some things. Though we haven't yet closed on the property we've already been given the go ahead by the owner's to do some painting and cleaning.

The boys and I tackled clearing the shop building of years and years of leaves and garage garbage (mufflers, engine valve stems, beer bottles, etc.). It was dirty work but the shop building is in much better shape now. We plan on pouring a concrete floor at some point and adding overhead doors.

We also spent some time clearing the backyard of leaves and brush. It was here that we encountered the dreaded tick. We came back into Springfield in the evening and I went into the bathroom to check for ticks. I was infested! Ok, maybe not infested but there were 4 or 5 on me. I had to have Jennifer check me out. This did not make for a happy geek.

So in typical geek fashion we have to figure out a way around the problem of ticks. The solution is to get some guineas. Jennifer and I did some searching and we came upon some neat sites covering caring for and raising guineas. Frits Farm has some interesting reading on the friendly fowl including a step by step guide for raising guineas and pictures of different hen houses.

Unlike chickens guineas won't destroy gardens whiling eating undesireables like ticks, Japanese beetles, and other critters. The sound like an interesting animal to get to know and can help solve a problem at the same time, naturally.

That's one thing I've been looking forward to, the constant state of learning I'll be on the farm. Most associate geeks to technology, and while typically that's true I think true geeks just like to learn how to solve new problems. I think I've got tick problem all figured out. As soon as we get out on the farm I'll probably be building a little hen house and we'll be in the market for some keets (baby guieneas).

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