Sunday, May 28

out with the old

out with the old
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
The old mailbox on the farm had seen better days. I finally got around to replacing it today. I unscrewed it from the mount today to find a huge nest of ants taking shelter under the mail box. A can of Raid made quick work of them. I installed our shiny new mailbox and snapped the shot below. I took some photo-shopping liberties to give a little bit of a romantic feel. I kind of like how I have the long country road off in the background.

Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
I'm not really pleased with the existing mounting system, but it will work for the mean time. It currently consists of an old milk can filled with rocks and some metal supports welded to the can. The entire apparatus is wire-tied to a steel t-post driven into the ground. One of these days I'll get around to replacing the whole thing.

as little help as I could find

as little help as I could find
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
I said I could probably use a little help with cleaning out the holes, and this is about as little help as I could find. Suey is pictured here examining my handiwork.

I've got about half of the holes for the corral cleared, and it's only taken me most of the weekend. Honestly I haven't been working as much on it as I should. For one it's hot. Secondly, well there isn't a good reason, see reason one.

Saturday, May 27

Reptiles and Canines

In honor of Pablo's post today about his reptilian encounter here's a couple reptiles we encountered so far this weekend. The one above I believe is the same critter I scared out of the brush pile (when I set it on fire). I photographed him last time in the same vicinity scampering up a tree.

This morning we were moving some mulch from a pile into one of Jennifer's new flower gardens and found this guy using the mulch pile for shelter. We of course let these guys be as they'll help keep some of the less desirable critters in check.

Over the past weeks that we've been living out on the farm we've seen a number of animals. One morning I was sipping coffee on the deck before work when an armadillo came scrambling across the front yard. I rushed in to get my camera (now I just take it out on the deck with me) but by the time I got out there he was already booking it into the pasture. As often as I see them as roadkill, armadillos can really move.

We were seeing a turkey hen regularly along the western fence line but haven't in some time. The neighbor was out on his 4-wheeler spraying broadleaf killer here and there and made his way on to our place to (thoughtfully) spray some of our unwanted brush. He came across a turkey nest full of eggs near that fence line. He said if we knew it was there we would have avoided the area, and hoped he didn't get any of the spray on the nest. I think the hen must have abandoned it though, we haven't seen her in a while. It was either the 4-wheeler tracks, the broadleaf killer, or the proximity to our backyard fence where our 4 dogs patrol that probably forced the hen to abandon the nest.

We regularly hear the yipping and yelping of the local coyotes during the evening. The dogs often have a puzzled look on their faces and I wonder what they're thinking. Fiz, the neighbor dog pictured in the previously mentioned critter post, is quite the little farm dog, and has tortured and killed several ground-hogs and moles in the past few days.

Speaking of dogs we've been letting our dogs run loose when we're out working, or horsing around. Magelleon (aka Gelleon, Jello, Melon, Mr Magelleon, Mr. Melon, etc) has become quite the farm-dog. Jennifer takes him with her when she walks down to the neighbors or to see the horses. He seems to have a sense about what his role on the farm should be (protecting and watching out for his people). The local vet thought he's probably a Catahoula mix.

The other dogs haven't quite figure out the farm life. They mind well off-leash but still have a few things to learn about being a farm-dog. We had some of my cousins out to stay with us yesterday and today. Aaron and Blake wanted to show us they could do a round-off followed by a back-flip. Dobie, pictured below, wanted in on the action.

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Thursday, May 25

Horse Show Photographs

I created another blog for a friend of mine, Jim Wilder, the man behind Wilder Photography. Here I'm using all free stuff (blogger and flickr) to showcase some of the photos Jim and I took and are trying to sell at the High Plains Paso Fino Horse Show.

Sunday, May 21

Tools of the trade

You've got to have the right tools for the job if you want to do the job right. Shortly into our marriage I found myself involved in all sorts of home-improvement projects (there's a definite correlation there among other married men I have found). I always found myself needing this tool or that tool and of course they were always just out of reach.

One day I decided to buy a tool belt. Jennifer thought I looked silly wearing it (and frankly I do), but I was sure it would be worth the rules of fashion I was to break. To this day it has been one of the best additions to my set of tools. Before I start a project I think to myself the possible tools I'll need and simply load up the tool belt. Here it's pictured next to my work gloves (also indispensable but often replaced) loaded up for some light electrical work. I dropped a handful of wire ties in one pocket, some pliers, a couple screw drivers, my trusty Olfa utility knife, and wire strippers in the others.

Stuffed in one of the pockets is another super useful tool that I purchased at first for recreational purposes. I joined a couple friends on a night fishing expedition and they recommended I get a head lamp. I purchased this Rayovac model from Walmart for about 13 bucks and it has paid for itself in usefulness time and time again. It has a setting to use a white LED, red LEDs (great for the night fishing) as well as a little incandescent bulb. I didn't catch any fish to speak of but I did get come away with another great tool. It always shines the light right where I need it, where I'm looking!

So, often around the house I'll be sporting my ultra-fashionable leather tool belt and matching head lamp. I may look silly, and sometimes I feel silly, but I'm so much more productive!

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Saturday, May 20

Negative space

I am now the proud owner of nearly 50 3' deep by 8" diameter holes. Thats about 31.5 cubic feet of negative space I happily paid for. I hired a local guy, David Yokum, to come and drill out the holes necessary to build the corral, the cross-fencing, and the round-pen. Armed with a Bobcat and a 8" hydraulic drill Mr. Yokum made short work of the holes. It took him nearly 4 hours to drill out all the holes... it would have been nearly impossible to do it by hand (with a set of post-hole diggers that is). His rate is $50 bucks an hour with a minimum of two hours. He only charged me $175, I'm betting it was either the fine conversation we had or the Mountain Dew I offered that got me 25 bucks off! ;)

He hit near solid rock on each and every plunge of the auger, so much so that I'll still have to go back and clean out all the rock debris that remain in each hole. Only a handful of the holes came out cleanly (where there was actually enough dirt to stick to the bit when he pulled it out).

After cleaning out the holes I can start setting posts. The current debate is whether we need to cement them all in. The corral area is about 42' by 40'. I'm setting 4" treated wood posts every 8' and will tie each post together with 3 4x8 boards. I think I should probably cement (or use post-set as we did on the dog fence) on each of the corners or where I'll have gates hanging, but I think tamping will be sufficient on the rest of the posts. I'm thinking along the same lines on the round pen, it will be simiarly constructed with a 45' diameter. Any advice from more experienced horse-fence builders?

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Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
This little guy was having breakfast from the humming bird feeder we have hanging off the deck. The saying "a watched pot never boils" is equivalent to "a watched humming bird feeder never attracts humming birds."

They would only show up when I loose interest in pointing the camera at them. I had to up the ISO to 800 and capture him at 1/4000 of a sec shutterspeed in order to stop the wings from moving. The photo is cropped down from it's original size, and the grain of the 800 speed ISO is showing. Someday I'll get a faster and longer zoom lens.

Friday, May 19

Vacation work

Today I'm using a vacation day from the office. Note, though, that a vacation day doesn't translate into a day of no work. I'll be traveling for work on Sunday through Tuesday so I needed some time on the farm to get things done.

Today I'm working on our fencing. The property already has a loafing-shed style barn (sloping roof in one direction, closed on three sides, open on one). We're building a corral approximately 40' by 40' out of wood posts and 2x8 boards around the front of the barn. We can use this to contain some animals and plan on adding some modular fence panels to reconfigure as we need. We've also got several acres to enclose in barbed wire and a roundpen to build.

Today my focus has been on clearing the existing fence line of brush and the old fence. There's about 5 years of growth on the fence line, most of it grape vines and some other extremely thorny vine. The old fence posts are simply semi-straight branches off the oak and walnut trees on the land and they've got to go. We'll be replacing all the old posts on the barbed wire runs with metal t-posts tied off to 6" wood corner posts. The neighbor told us if we dig the corner's deep enough and concrete them in we won't need to brace them, so that's the plan.

All in all there's some 47 holes to be dug and several dozen t-posts to be driven. I've contacted a local skid-steer-for-hire, and he thinks he can drill out the holes tomorrow afternoon. I'm not that gung-ho for the post hole diggers!

I'm taking a break right now as I got a little hot and started to get a headache. I'm not too tired yet and it's a refreshing kind of tired. Not the type of tired I get from a day at the office, which can be mentally draining. Some types of work can be a vacation.

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Thursday, May 18

Paso Fino Horse Show

 This last weekend I assisted my photography teacher from a few years back with shooting horses (with a camera that is). The horses on display are of the Paso Fino breed, direct descendants of the horses brought over by the conquistadors. These horses were used by the conquistadors when they wanted to be seen, the equivalent of modern day cruising in a low rider. The horse has a very animated action where it steps very high and has lots of vertical movement in it's legs for very little forward motion. The ride is completely smooth for the rider though. I learned quite a bit about horses, and this breed in general. Consquently we made a little bit of money selling the photographs as well. Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 12

Wild Blue, yonder...

Yay, I'm blogging from home this morning, and over my satellite broadband connection via my Wild Blue satellite system. So far so good, though I haven't yet had a chance to doing any kind of speed testing.

I was worried that a pole mount for this satellite dish was necessary. In fact I was sure it was going to be a requirement because of all the trees nearby. So a good friend of mine helped me find a spot on the ground, within the 100 feet total cable run, that had a clear shot of the satellite.

I used Wild Blue's on-line chat feature to request the azimuth and elevation for my area but my chat-partner and service technician "Mike" they said they couldn't give that to me. I tried reasoning with "Mike" and explaining that I needed the information to make my installation easier on the installer. He refused, so I called the local installer instead.

The local installer was happy to give me the azimuth and elevation for my location. I showed them how to use Google Maps over the phone so they could see an aerial view of all the trees at our place. They decided Google Maps was going to be a great tool for their business, and they were happy to have me try to find a spot to mount the dish before they arrived.

Having the azimuth and the elevation we used a surveying compass to look through and find a visual reference point on the ground. Then we mounted my camera on the tripod and placed it over the spot we were standing, leveled it, and aimed it at our reference point.

To get the elevation we made a homemade sextant with a speed square and a torpedo level. Placing the level straight up and down through the origin and the degree mark we were interested in gave us a plane to butt the camera lens up against. We adjusted the camera's tilt on the tripod until it matched the plane of the speed square, which gave us the correct elevation. Then we just looked through the camera and if dead center was clear sky, we were good.

We found a spot in the yard to mount a pole that could accommodate both the Wild Blue dish as well as the two dishes necessary for DirecTV. I decided I was going to let the installer dig the trench, as my weekends and evenings so far haven't proved to have enough time for me to make renting a trencher and getting several future trenches built possible (at least for now), despite my best intentions.

It turned out, however, that he Wild Blue installer was able to get line of sight on the roof for his dish. The DirecTV installer had already been here and informed us that we would need to cut trees down to get both dishes to have line of sight... Jennifer didn't like that one bit.

One dish for DirecTV shares the same azimuth and elevation as the Wild Blue dish, 220 degrees on the compass and 41.5ish degrees elevation, but the second DirecTV dish needs line of sight at the 146 degree mark on the compass. That's a pretty wide range and we've got tons of trees near the house. The location of the Wild Blue dish on the roof can't get a clear line of sight to that 146 satellite, there's an Oak tree in the way. So a-pole-mounting I must go for the two remaining dishes.

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Monday, May 8


I apologize for the recent neglect of this space. We are still without an internet connection at home, however the blue sky installers will be at our house this morning. I've authorized trenching and a pole mount if necessary to get a clear line of site. I am hopeful they can figure it out without me having to cut a tree down and have them make a second trip. The installers said they've only failed to get a installation done due to line of sight one time, let's hope I'm not the second.

My father had a lumber auction this weekend, and I went down to help as well as to potentially buy lumber for the round pen I previously mentioned. The treated lumber all went too high for my tastes, so I ended up with no lumber at all for the trip. Instead I was given a little souvenir, so I can remember what a bundle of lumber does look like.

For more on that story see my other non-farm related blog, Minutia.

Some how time keeps slipping away, and along with money it's my most valuable resource right now. I don't mind the hard work it's going to take to get the farm into shape, but it doesn't seem like I have enough time recently to do so. I will simply have to schedule some vacation time soon to get over the initial hump of cleaning out fence lines neglected for five years as well as building new cross fences, cleaning out barns, and a number of other projects.

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Tuesday, May 2


In order to get the Farm productive, one of the first things that we need to do is build a roundpen for Jennifer to train horses. The local farm supply store has a 60' diameter roundpen made of metal panels for just under $700. After some initial searching I understand that these inexpensive metal pens are not for serious training and breaking of colts.

Another option could be to build one of wood. I happen to have a source for lumber relatively inexpensively (way less than retail), so this might be a good option. I used Google's Sketchup tool to design one of 4x4 posts and 2x6 boards.

The question is, though, is this going to be strong enough? I initially designed it with 8' overall spans from post to post. Jennifer question whether that was enough to hold a 1200 pound animal? I must admit my ignorance and consult the audience.

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Monday, May 1

Internet Delay - Weekend Update

I called on Friday to confirm the Wild Blue installation but ended up confirming my fears. A "clear view of the southwestern sky" is needed, something I don't have with the grove of Walnut and Oak trees that surround the house. It appears I'll be doing some trenching next weekend to bury conduit and cable to a pole mounted version of the Wild Blue Satellite.

So my loyal readers will have to endure another week of sparse posting until I get that accomplished. However, having to rent a trenching machine means I'll jump start a couple of other projects that require burying lines. I'm going to take Hal of Ranch Ramblins up on his advice to plumb in water out by the barn, as well as dig a drench to bury the gas line where I would prefer the propane tank to be (the neighbor will help me move the tank with his tractor).

This weekend was busy. We are completely moved out of the old house. I did leave the Arbor which I'll go back and get this weekend. I didn't want to attempt to untagle it from the rose bushes without Jennifer's assistance. The projects on the house are centering around making it livable and simply unpacking boxes. I was lucky to find socks and shoes late last week, but things are starting to come together.

We built a fire Friday and Saturday night in the fireplace. What a joy it is to just sit with my wife and watch the fire and to listen to that distinctive crackling sound you get from burning a log.

Also, many thanks to my friends and family who assisted us in our move.

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