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.

Monday, June 26

rural sunset

rural sunset
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
I had been waiting for a nice sunset to take this shot.

Sunday, June 25

sinking feeling

well repair
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
There's a feeling that only comes when you turn on a faucet and nothing comes out. I experienced this feeling late Saturday afternoon. We knew some things were probably going to have to be fixed or replaced when we bought the place, and I'm sure this is the first of many educations I'm yet to recieve.

Things could have been much worse than it turned out. Junior and Bill of Willard pump service were very friendly and helpful. He didn't mind that I wanted to snap some pictures. "Pull up a lawn chair and watch if you want" he told me. I learned that pump is 360 feet deep and that it's submerged in 140 feet of water. The pump and motor were operating correctly, however the wire that fed it power was not. It had worn through in 3 different places which caused some relays and switches in the control box to short out.

After a few wire splices, some shrink tubing, a tension arrestor, new relay, a couple hours and $250 later the well is operating normally again. Well that is except for all the sediment that's in the water still.

Saturday, June 24

fowl play

fowl play
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
We're the proud owner/caretakers of a flock of guinea keets. Jennifer purchased our baby guineas at a local swap meet. This is going to accelerate my time-table for buildng a hen house. Neither Jennifer nor I know exactly what we're doing, but it's fun to learn. We'd like to get the guineas used to us, as well as the dogs, as Hal at Ranch Ramblins has done with his. It will probably be more difficult for us to get the dogs used to the guineas though.

Technorati tags: , ,

Tuesday, June 20


Black Widow
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
I was able to snap a picture of the second black widow spider we have encountered at the farm. I'm not a fan of creepy crawly things, especially the kind with a neurotoxic venom.

I was relieved to learn that they're typically* not deadly to humans (from Wikipedia):

Although their venom is extremely potent, these spiders are not especially large. Compared to many other species of spiders, their chelicerae are not very large or powerful. In the case of a mature female, the hollow, needle shaped part of each chelicera, the part that penetrates the skin, is approximately 1.0 mm (around .04 inch) long, sufficiently long to inject the venom to a dangerous depth. The males, being much smaller, can inject far less venom and inject it far less deeply. The actual amount injected, even by a mature female, is very small in physical volume. When this small amount of venom is diffused throughout the body of a healthy, mature human, it usually does not amount to a fatal dose. Deaths in healthy adults from Latrodectus bites are relatively rare in terms of the number of bites per thousand people. Only sixty-three deaths were reported in the United States between 1950 and 1989 (Miller, 1992). On the other hand, the geographical range of the widow spiders is very great. As a result, far more people are exposed, world-wide, to widow bites than are exposed to bites of more dangerous spiders, so the highest number of deaths world-wide are caused by members of their genus. Widow spiders have more potent venom than most spiders, and prior to the development of antivenom, 5% of reported bites result in fatalities. Black widow venom spreads rapidly throughout the body and acts by causing the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in muscular contraction.

Monday, June 19

Frank the toad

Frank the toad
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
This little guy has taken up residence in Jennifer's toad house in her flower garden, that is after we placed him in it. He nearly got cemented into a post hole this weekend.

Saturday, June 17

Kentucky 31

Yesterday evening we went down to the Blakemore's place to visit. Coy Dan had recently purchased two new large combines and one was down for repairs. Having nothing to offer in the way of advice I stood back and learned. Coy Dan, his son Bruce, and our mutual neighbor Bob were "debugging" (my IT lingo, not their farm lingo) the variable speed control on the massive Allis-Chalmer machine. It didn't take long for them to identify the source of the problem. A hydraulic piston needing a little "convincing." (For the curious, the piston controlled the fluid that caused two wheels to expand away from each other or move closer to each other, effectively changing the diameter of wheel that had a belt attached. This had the effect of changing the speed that the wheel spun and that ultimately changed the speed of the entire vehicle.)

As soon as the machine was operational Bruce jumped in to finish the job. I was interested in not just the mechanics of the combine, but the entire operation. Coy Dan gladly answered all of my questions and offered up a wealth of knowledge. Since the machines were new to him they were working out all the issues while close to the shop by cutting one of his fescue fields for seed. The seed, I learned, is also know as Kentucky 31 and is popular on the east coast for lawns.

I've become much more sensitive to the weather living the farm life. The farmer's life and daily schedule is dictated by mother nature. Combining the unpredictability of the weather with the intentions of profit-making takes a special breed.

If you've got a field of Fescue you can cut it for hay, but before it begins seeding, as the nutritional value of the hay is diminished once it's seeded out. Once that has occured all the resources of the plant are used in the creation of the seed or stored in the seed itself. Once you've let the crop seed out you're in a race with the weather. If the crop is rained on, the seed can potentially expand past it's shell. Allow it to dry out and the slightest wind can blow the seed and the profit away. This is of course what mother nature would intend.

Once Bruce had cut the field he off-loaded the seed into Coy Dan's old Dodge dump-truck. It was beginning to get dark at this point and no one had even had dinner. Thoughtfully, my wife borrowed Glenda's kitchen and prepared an excellent enchilada for us all to share.

There was a rush about everything, dinner was eaten quickly while still being polite. Bruce and Coy Dan needed to get their loads of seed off to the seed company, where they would sell it. They covered their loads with tarps so it wouldn't blow away. Leave the tarp on too long, I learned, and seed would begin to draw moisture, in which case it might not pass the requirements for the seed company.

I rode with Coy Dan in the old Dodge to the seed mill. When we arrived there was a line for the scales. We got out and rolled back the tarps. Coy Dan said they've waited into the early morning hours to sell their seed. Luckily for us, things were going much more smoothly tonight. We weighed both loads, and samples of each were taken. The we went to dump the seed. The dump truck was easy to unload of course, simply dump it on the concrete floor of a warehouse and let a font-end loader take it from there.

Bruce's load of seed was in a trailer that Coy Dan built long ago for the purpose of hauling seed. The metal floor was free from bumps and seams that would make unloading difficult. It did, however, require a little manual labor to offload. A group of local teenage boys dirty from an already long day of unloading were armed with a tractor, a rope, a sturdy sheet of wood, and little bit of gusto, went to dragging the seed out of the trailer. The seed was swept into grates below which was a fast moving conveyor belt that took the seed off for storage.

The owner showed us around the operation. I felt like I was watching a Sesame Street special on "Where grass seed comes from." In my head I could here the factory music playing as millions of seeds rushed by, up, away, and out into huge piles. Local boys were directing spreaders, pushing piles around, and directing new loads of seed into place.

By this time it was nearly midnight and Bruce's trailer was empty, so we loaded up for home. A quick re-weighing of the empty vehicles and settling up in the office and we were on our way.

I'm going to ride along again sometime, with camera in hand. Coy Dan looked at me on the way home and said "you're getting in a lot of new experiences in aren't you?" I nodded and smiled in agreement.

Friday, June 16

Triangle Rocks

triangle rocks
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
No, I'm not trying to steal Pablo's thunder by out-doing his round rocks as my triangle rocks aren't natural (I'm pretty sure of that!). They are however, and oddity. The driveway on the farm extends from the state highway we live on some 600+ feet to our front yard. All along the driveway I can find these triangle rocks, from one end to the other.

When I (well Jennifer actually) first noticed them I thought it was probably left over material from some project that the original owner had started, perhaps some tiling job or used in a mosaic. There's no other evidence of such a project though. I reasoned that there was some left over and they simply spread them around the gravel driveway to get rid of them.

This seemed a plausible reason for having them in the driveway near the house but when I was working on the new mailbox at the end of the driveway I noticed the rocks there. Upon further inspection these little triangle rocks are spread out randomly through the length of the driveway. It seems to me that it would be an awfully expensive use of rocks if that was the original intended purpose for these rocks.

Thursday, June 15

Small Town Communities

Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
My neighbor, Coy Dan, invited me to lodge on Tuesday. I attended Missouri's 7th oldest Masonic Lodge with my neighbor and enjoyed it very much. My membership is still with my original lodge in Springfield, but I'll be joining this one soon. It's amazing how quickly one can become part of a community in a small town.

When we lived in Springfield I knew the neighbors that immediately bordered our property but that's about it. In the city we had several neighbors that we didn't know the names of that slept in bed less than a 100 yards from our own. We didn't know what they did for a living, the names of their children or anything else more significant than their address and perhaps what kind of car they drive.

With less than 60 days into living on the farm our closest neighbors are several hundred yards away but we've already developed personal relationships with dozens of people.

As I drive through town on the way home, each car that I pass greets me with a wave that I politely return.

Monday, June 12

Rainbow over Geek Acres

rainbow over Geek Acres
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Hal at Ranch Ramblins posted a picture some time ago of a rainbow he saw on his farm. I was excited to try and duplicate his efforts when I saw a rainbow late in one evening. I liked the results, but not as much as Hal's.

This weekend was busy as usual. Saturday I helped my father at one of his furniture auctions. Saturday evening we enjoyed some excllent bluegrass and country/western music at the annual Walnut Grove Pickin' in the park.

Sunday started out to be mostly a day of leisure, but we ended up starting a few projects as well. No progress yet on the corral, round pen, or fencing, but more to come on that this week and weekend. At the advice of Coy Dan, our neighbor and much more experienced farmer, we'll be getting a load of pea gravel to make the concrete go further. I've decied to take the advice of many and concrete in each post.

Saturday, June 10


John Deere
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Some things you can't truly learn the meaning of until you've moved out in the country. For example, breakfast is in the morning, dinner is during the noon-hour, and supper is always in the evening.

What it means to be neighborly is something I thought I knew but have since learned the true meaning. In all honesty meeting the neighbors, the Blakemore family, and getting to know them is one of the things that sold us on buying the farm. Our neighbors have all but legally adopted us as family. For example, the tractor pictured here I used yesterday afternoon and again this morning at dawn (how's that for becoming a farmer) to drill sudan grass into the pasture. "Drive it like you own it" Coy Dan told us when he handed us the keys.

Deere Music
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.

It's not uncommon for us to walk down the hill to the neighbor's place. They're keeping Jennifer's horse, Socks, until I get our corral and fence finished. Jennifer likes to go down and visit Socks and the new foals. We also like to enjoy a glass of sweet tea in the shop building or on their patio and talk Coy Dan and Glenda about the horses, the condition of the hay fields, or to listen to Coy Dan's bluegrass band practice.

Friday, June 9


Classic Vermont
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Jennifer and I returned home from Vermont on Wednesday. Her brother Joe was married to Kim. We photographed the wedding, you can see the slideshow here. Or check out the rest of our Vermont pictures here.

Friday, June 2

Striking a pose

Striking a pose
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
This week two of my cousins, Blake and Aaron, spent some time with Jennifer and I on the farm. Jennifer and I enjoy having them out, they're great entertainment and a consistent reminder that life is about smiling, learning, and growing. Blake was striking a pose for me while I had my camera. Aaron thought some of Blake's poses were pretty funny. To protect the innocent, and the guilty (Blake), I didn't post some of the funnier ones!

The triple threat of Jennifer, Blake, and Aaron tackled several projects on the farm while I was at work this week. For one Blake and Aaron cleaned out all the post holes for me.

Jennifer has begun work on a new flower bed and so far the results are really nice (as is typical with Jennifer's work in the garden). I'll be posting photos of the progress as it comes. I taught Blake how to run the tiller to mix in the load of compost they unloaded on the area.

Brothers are funny
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
The funny thing about that statement is before Jennifer and I were married I didn't know the slightest thing about gardening and I sure didn't know how to run the tiller.

I purchased our trusty Craftsman front-tine tiller from my Uncle Walter for $75. It was a heck of a deal. I wished that Jennifer had been taking video of the first time I tried to use the tiller. We lived in a duplex at the time and decided to put in a small garden. Jennifer cautioned me, "you really have to hold on" she said. I took her advice very seriously. I started the tiller up. I tilted the tiller back and pulled the lever to start the tiller turning.

Remembering her words I put a death grip on the handles. I wasn't going to let go of this tiller for anything. Jennifer's advice was sound, however, slightly incomplete. The more important part of the instructions should have been something like "brace yourself because it's going to want to take off." I lowered the turning tines into the ground with some significant force and the handles in a white-knuckle grip. Immediately the tiller took off across the back yard. The ground had never been tilled so the tines just acted as wheels with very good traction and with my good grip I found myself running behind it. I ran a few yards before letting go, thus stopping the tiller. I looked over to find my wife nearly doubled over with laughter.

I think I did a better job of explaining to Blake on how to use the tiller. Of course Jennifer telling the story of my first time using it gives a person a little more preparation than she gave me.