Friday, December 28

Test mobile blogging from iPhone

I thought I would try out some mobile blogging.

Thursday, December 6

Automated door for chicken house

Since the chicken massacre earlier in the year, Jennifer or I (mostly Jennifer) have had to make sure to be home at dusk to close the chickens up in their house. The chickens always go in their house after dark. It' not something we really had to do anything special to make happen, which is nice.

The raccoons become active after dark though and thats when the chickens are most vulnerable. Lately it's becoming a bit of a pain to make sure someone is home right at dusk. We've had our friendly neighbors close the door on more than one occasion. So that got me to thinking of a solution to the problem. One solution which crossed our minds is to get rid of them, but then all the work of building them a home would be for nothing. Besides, we like the chickens, and it doesn't seem right to get rid of scar face after he's come back from such dismal odds (he's back to crowing even!). So I got the idea of an automatic door. Right now I open and close the walk-through door each day, but there's always stuff in the way of the door that requires a sweep of the foot. Luckily the walk through door has a dog door already installed.

A buddy of mine at work loves this kind of stuff so I posed the problem to him. At first we were thinking a rack and pinion type setup with a gear driving a rack of teath to open the door. The current plan is to use a long threaded rod in a screw-driven type fashion. The diagram here (minus the homer head) was the result of a quick brain-storming session. There have since been many revisions to the drawing (such as the fact that the bolt is currently in the way of the door). The door will probably be built using drawer slides. A nut will be welded on a bracket that can be attached to the door. The threaded rod will spin in the nut raising it up and down.

The difficulty lies in the electronics really. The specs are as follows:
  • I want the door to close and open on a timer (open at dawn, close at dusk)
  • The motor needs to stop running when the door is fully open or fully closed
  • The door must be secure when shut, gravity holding the door down isn't enough to keep a raccoon out.
With that in mind are there any guesses as to what the device pictured here does? (Sorry for the poor camera phone picture quality.)

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Monday, November 19

Dobie Do

Dobie Do
Originally uploaded by duanekeys
I took this picture of Dobie and Suey a few weeks back. Jennifer tied my flannel shirt around Dobie's neck and he had a good time with it. Our boy is doing well, despite the diagnosis. We cherish every day with our Dobie Do.

Des is home from the trainer, but we're still without a saddle that will fit her. Dressage tack is so unnecessarily expensive in my opinion. We bought a saddle sight unseen, and it turned out to not be so great. The seller threw in some synthetic stirrup leathers and stirrup irons though, and we found out the irons are of really good quality and are probably worth more than the saddle itself. Oh well, to ebay we'll go with the saddle and be happy with the irons.

Friday, November 16

From ice comes fire

from ice comes fire
Originally uploaded by duanekeys
I finally got around to burning a brush pile that I created of debris from the 2007 ice storm. I threw on several pieces of scrap lumber from various projects which really cleaned up a spot next to the garage.

Ford 600

Ford 600
Originally uploaded by duanekeys
My dad, ever the bargain hunter, found this tractor at an auction. He couldn't pass up the deal, knowing we're "farming" with out a tractor to call our own and bought it for us. He got a heck of a deal. The tractor is a Ford 600 series. I'm not yet sure on the exact model (I haven't yet seen it in-person as the tractor is having a tune up at the moment at the shop) but it does have a 3-point hitch and a PTO. From my initial research I've learned that this tractor was probably manufactured in the 50's and from the pictures my dad took, it looks to be most if not completely original. I've toyed with the idea of restoring it to it's former glory.

On the homestead we've been clearing fence lines. Fifteen years of neglect has let some nasty brush grow up in the line, making it difficult to maintain. The honey locust trees are horrible pains to remove, especially when they've grown so close together. We're actually considering running some goats on part of the pasture. Which reminds me I need to pick up the goat books I reserved at the library,,,

The rooster and flock are doing well. No more raccoon incidents. Scarface, as I'm calling the rooster, has even returned to his crowing (despite missing an eye and just looking plain ugly).

Jennifer recently rode in a dressage clinic and was very encouraged by the clinicians comments. It makes me happy to see her happy about her progress and accomplishments.

Friday, November 9

New blogs

I stumbled upon a couple of blogs worth some attention.

Woody of Woodys Rocky Ridge left a comment on my post about our Percheron mare at the trainer. He's recovering from a broken hip (ouch!) from a Belgian mare, but that's not stopping his blogging...

From Woody's site I noticed another kindred technology-geek living the farm life. The Transformation: DBA to Hillbilly chronicles the life of a former Database Administrator turned homesteader.

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Thursday, November 8

Dressage Saddle Lessons

We are absolutely having a heck of a time finding a dressage saddle for to fitDes. I never before considered the fact that a saddle should fit the horse's back in addition to it's rider's butt.

Jennifer has been training in dressage at Taura while leasing a horse that is stabled there. The horse's owner is graciously letting Jennifer use her saddle. Of course this saddle wouldn't even come close to fitting Des.

We found a good quality saddle locally, used, but it won't fit either. Other than that, we've been out of luck on the local scene. We used craigslist and found one in Deleware that is her size. We saw a few pictures and the price was decent, so we ordered away. Upon getting it, Jennifer noticed that there was a large "bump" on the saddle, right where her legs would be. She hasn't had a chance to try it out yet, but is sure that it's going to bother her and her horse. That's bad. After some research I learned that it's actually the stirrup bars, which is under the skirt of the dressage saddle. The bars on the saddle she's used to are recessed, and reduce the bump in the skirt.

Now we know. And maybe someone else getting into the dressage sport will find this on a search and learn from our mistake!

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Wednesday, November 7

Des at the trainer

Des at the trainer
Originally uploaded by duanekeys
Des has been at the trainer for nearly a month. She's quite the celebrity there. Everyone who visits the farm has to go by and pet her. After a week of ground work the trainer, Dan Dyke, thought she was ready to ride.

We'll be bringing Des home in the next few weeks, and Jennifer can trade that western saddle for her dressage saddle.

Sunday, October 21

Poor guy

Originally uploaded by duanekeys
We've had a varmit problem recently that's forced us to start closing the door to the chicken house each night at dusk. I open the door before I leave for work, which recently corresponds to just after dawn. Last week I discovered one of the chickens didn't make it back into the house before I closed the door and was killed on the door step of the chicken house. I felt bad about accidentally leaving one out and her getting eaten.

The following evening Jennifer and I failed to close the door right at dusk, and four more chickens suffered at the hands of what can only be raccoons. Unfortunately, our lone rooster was mauled pretty bad. I think I caught the varmits in the act when I went out to close the door. The rooster 's still around and feels well enough to do us, uh, ahem, "roosterly" duties, despite half of his face missing. We just can bring ourselves to put him out of his misery and I don't think our vet will do a rooster euthanasia.

Thursday, October 18

Too late

Originally uploaded by duanekeys
Last night a series of storms traveled Northeast, sliding just south of us. Jennifer, the dogs, and myself waited it out the basement. When the reports had the storm past us we came up to see a tornado on the horizon to the east of us. I was about 5 seconds too late to capture the funnel cloud... No damage or injuries on the home front.

Monday, October 8

Dobie Do

Dobie Do
Originally uploaded by duanekeys
We had a rough week last week. We learned that Dobie has cardiomyopathy, an enlarging and weakening of the heart. We were told our sweet boy only has at most 6 months to live. We've got him on medicine, a special diet, and lots of TLC. We're making the most of every moment until that fateful day comes.

Dobie's life has been all about beating the odds... We're hoping that continues!

Sunday, September 23


hay hauling filth
Originally uploaded by duanekeys
Geeks get dirty too! We had to haul the last cutting of the year last week. Jennifer drove the truck and trailer for the first load (with me bucking and stacking it). After we both unloaded the second load Glenda drove the truck and Jennifer stacked, while I threw it on the trailer. We hauled 166 bales all-together.

Thursday, September 13


nap time
Originally uploaded by duanekeys
This pitiful scene took place last Saturday. Jennifer was feeling the need for a nap, and so were Haley and Suey. We normally don't let the dogs on our bed, so this was a rare treat.

Tuesday, September 11

hangin' round

hangin' round
Originally uploaded by duanekeys
I counted nine frogs stuck to windows and doors one night. I think it's easy hunting for them with all the bugs attracted to lights coming through the glass. Can anyone offer a better id on these little guys?

Running by

running by
Originally uploaded by duanekeys
It seems like the summer has been a mad dash. Couple time constraints with a lack of creative urges beyond the day to day and you'll get long periods with out blog posts.

Aaron, my 15 year old cousin, spent the summer with us. We had a good time and now he's back with his grandparents and has started his first year at Central High School.

Jennifer came to the difficult decision to sell Socks, our Sport-Pony Dressage Horse hopeful. Socks was approaching three years in age and had not yet received the training she needed to reach her potential. Jennifer sold her to Laura Alms, owner of a dressage training facility in southwest Missouri. There socks will have a chance to train and develop in the sport of dressage, instead of remaining a pasture ornament.

Jennifer found a video on Youtube of an amazing freestyle dressage performance. This amazing display of horsemanship and training makes the horse dance!

We're in the middle of working with another local horse trainer to break Des (pictured) to ride. Time and other pressing priorities have prevented us from progressing her training as well.

Friday, August 24


Originally uploaded by duanekeys
This is what 12.64" inches of rain in just a few hours will do to a country driveway. Last weekend the town of Walnut Grove and our home experienced flash flood conditions. The fast moving water washed huge sections of our driveway away. Pictured here is a section close to the house, it was worse towards the road. The best way I can describe it is that it looked like an aerial view of the grand canyon. I added my keys for scale in the lower right hand corner of the picture here.

Thankfully, our neighbors took it upon themselves to dump some rock on our driveway that they had left-over from repairing their driveway and spread it out for us.

Saturday, August 4

Pictures are worth...

Originally uploaded by duanekeys
My previous attempts at showing the landscaping were less than good. Here's a better shot of the fruits of some of our work this summer. More can be seen in my flickr stream. The heat lately is horrid. But most of the hard outdoor work is done. The biggest worry is over: the barn is full of hay. Turns out our barn will hold about 400 bales of hay. Perfect for two horses eating less than a bale a day total. We don't have to worry about getting hay until the same time next year.

Thursday, July 12

Goodbye, Red

old girl
Originally uploaded by duanekeys
We had to say good bye to Red last weekend.

We found Red was loosing control of her rear legs and called the vet. The doctor drew blood and spinal fluid predicting Red had Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis. She pumped Red full of steroid and pain medicine and told us she should stabilize long enough to get the results back. When the vet left Red was able to get around, though it looked like her rear was drunk. We learned that the treatment for EPM was going to be expensive and Red might not ever fully recover. We decided that we owed it to her anyway.

By the next day Red had gotten worse. She was completely unable to stand and just laid in the corral. We called the vet and she confirmed that it was indeed EPM. The vet came out and informed us that the disease had progressed too far for the treatment to be effective. We had to make that awful decision.

Many tears where shed as we said goodbye to the old girl. I take some comfort knowing that she's grazing greener pastures now.

Monday, June 18


Originally uploaded by duanekeys
I thought at least one of my readers would enjoy this picture...

Semi-monthly update

I removed the previous post that contained the embeded slideshow. I'm not sure what I was thinking doing so for the bandwidth deprived or high-latency blessed such as myself. Instead I'll feature a picture or two from the Fourth Annual Walnut Grove Pickin in the park. The event featured 11 blue grass or country bands. All the proceeds from the event go to the O'Sullivan Lodge #7 charity fund, which puts money right back into the local community.

Pictured at right are the Blue Mountain Classics. This group had quite the following in the 70's. The story goes that someone offered to build them a theater when Branson only had two theathers. They all had day jobs after all! They consider this event an annual reunion show.

I met a couple other local photographers as well and we traded notes and tried out some new techniques with our combined gear. I'm looking forward to collaborating with them more in the future.

Life on the farm has been busy. My cousin, Aaron, has moved in for the summer. We're having a good time and getting some things done as well. We desperately need to take some time for a recreational outing. Can anyone recommend a good river float in these parts that isn't too congested or a mini Mardi Gras?

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Tuesday, May 22

Botanical Beauty

Before we bought the farm.

Progress on the addition this winter.

My lovely wife's addition of bontanical beauty.

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Saturday, May 19


I very much needed a break from work (of the office sort) so I took Friday off this last week. That gave me a whole day to myself to immerse my mind in in everything Geek Acres. I ended up working on my tan while riding the mower, edging and otherwise just cleaning up some unsightly messes. I felt much better after seeing some semblance of order around the farm. [after I posted this I noticed, I wrote about the same subject a year ago.]

Today two of my old high school buddies made it out to the farm today. It's been a while since I had seen Luke or Sean, and I was glad to get a chance to catch up with them. It's funny how your best friends can easily slip back into the role despite how time has caused us to go our seperate ways.

Coy Dan baled the winter wheat off our front field today. It yielded 18 round bales. Not too bad really, considering the frost that killed nearly everything. He's in his summer mode of constantly being in a mad dash. I offered to help run a tractor, I'm sure he'll call on me if he needs the help. He's recently spotted "army worms" destorying fields. He's been forced to spray for them or in some cases cut the fields in hopes of salvaging what he can.

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Wednesday, May 2

Catch up post

 Time for a quick catch up post. Pictured here is the wheat field out in front of the house and the view to the north. I took this image in a lul between rain showers.

  • The sump pump in our basement quit a couple weeks ago. We don't use our basement much and it took a day or two for us to notice the three inches of standing water. The basement is unfinished but there was some of our junk got wet

  • My dad and I built some shelves and hung some cabinets in the garage/shop building. I finally got it all organized.

  • There are still some brush piles to dispose of, perhaps a BBQ an bonfire is in order?

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Tuesday, April 24

Rojo's Belated Funeral

Rojo's open casket
Last fall, I posted the lyrics to the song Rojo about a red rooster. Our neighbors had named their red rooster Rojo in honor of this Archie Campbell song. I ended up finding a copy of the recording on ebay and purchased it for 99 cents. I gave the record to Coy Dan for his birthday.

This is an account of Rojo that as you can tell by the title ends is his belated funeral. Stay with me on this one...

Rojo's harem, as we called them, included several hens that Jennifer had brought down to keep him company. The pen they called home was a converted dog kennel. We added a wire top to keep them safe from varmits and they made themselves at home in the dog houses and on roost we built. Later in the year we decided it was getting too cold for the chickens to remain in that pen so one afternoon Jennifer and Glenda decided to move them to our house. They hadn't figured out yet what to do with Rojo, however, since we had roosters of our own. Jennifer and Glenda didn't want Rojo to get hurt by our roosters, so they left him in the pen by himself, just until the following day when we could figure out what to do with him or build him suitable shelter.

Coy Dan delivers the rooster eulogy

This was what Coy Dan called the first mistake that led to Rojo's demise. According to him, Glenda and Jennifer had broken poor little Rojo's heart by taking all his girls away.

That night, the wind had a biting cold to it. Rojo, exposed to the cold wind, stubbornly stayed perched on the roost where he and his harem spent most nights, only now he was alone (with a broken heart). Glenda, so well-intentioned, hung a blanket up as a wind-break.

Coy Dan can hardly keep a straight face explaining how this was the second and final mistake that killed Rojo: the blanket had a print on it of a wolves.

So Rojo, cold, alone and unloved, and now psychologically tortured by a giant wolf head in front of him had died in the night. While a necropsy was never performed either he died from this or more accurately "something got him" (which by the state of his body was much more likely).

Glenda and Jennifer were pretty broken up about Rojo's death. Coy Dan and I make light of the whole episode, but Glenda, Jennifer, and the Blakemore grandchildren really did become attached to Rojo and missed him immediately. More than a few tears were shed. Glenda asked Coy Dan to take care of the body so he did. We didn't see Rojo again.

Since that fall every time Rojo had come up Glenda would speak fondly of the rooster then close with "..and Dan probably just threw him on a brush pile somewhere." She couldn't have been further from the truth. Each time she would say this, Coy Dan would say nothing.

That day Rojo died, Coy Dan had built a casket and kept Rojo frozen in a deep freeze until two weekends ago. He was waiting for a chance to get his son, Bruce, and all of us over to have a proper funeral for Rojo. We celebrated Glenda's birthday and Rojo's funeral that night with Bruce singing Amazing Grace (and trying to keep a straight face)!

Bruce sings Amazing Grace for Rojo

Coy Dan is definitely committed to seeing a joke through. He once told me a series of jokes that on their own weren't that funny. The combination of all the jokes, (properly told several days apart) made for a good laugh. This one tops the cake however.

Glenda laughing

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Friday, April 13

Spring teaser

Kite flying
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
This photo was taken in late March when it appeared Spring was here to stay. Pictured is our neighbor's granddaughter, Brianne. In the background are the woods to the north of our home. (I was able to get both a family member and the woods for my faithful reader Dianne!).

Since this photo was taken we've had a cold snap that has ruined lots of crops that were fooled by the spring tease as well. During that snap we were covering and uncovering plants that we had recently planted. Jennifer works at Hilltop Gardens in Ash Grove and gets a deal on plants. She jokes that since she spent so much time there I just said she should ask them for a job.

I'm Published Photographer

I gave my photos of the ChIPS event to the lodge and they ended up writing a story and using a couple shots in the Ash Grove Commonwealth.

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Tuesday, April 10

Answers to queries

Traffic on this blog is nothing spectacular, but I do get some interesting search queries. I'll try to address some of them as best as I can here:

horses hurting themselves with round bale feeders: Well I don't have any direct experience with this, but I have learned horses will do the damnedest things. Last year I went out to feed and found we were one horse short. I eventually found that Eve had wedged herself between the back of the barn and the barbed wire fence. She was going after some tasty plants for sure. She managed to squeeze herself past several tree trunks, which sprung back in place, holding her in. This episode was proof positive of the calm nature of the Percheron breed. She just stood there while Coy Dan helped us cut the fence away to free her.

guineas and chickens together: I have sad news to report for some: we gave the guineas away. Our guineas did in fact coexist with the chickens quite well. We grew tired, however, of their constant squawking, and the rooster of the bunch started flying after Jennifer. The last straw came when Jennifer found them taking a dust bath in one of her flower beds. They went to a good home however, neighbor Bob loved hearing them, so now they're at his place!

why do the amish have rocks in wires cornering their property? This is an excellent question, and by no means am I an expert on Amish folk or their fencing techniques. I can tell you though that fence corners made of wire filled with rock are not unique to the Amish. This area of the country has some very rocky soil. Driving around our rural area you'll spot pile after pile of rocks that have been picked off the fields for generations. Some people choose to create corners out of the rocks, I would guess, simply to put them to use. Plus I would think it makes for a pretty good stationary object to stretch fence against.

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Call out

Coy Dan
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
I've learned I have some regular readers that enjoy keeping up on the goings-on in our neck of the country. Coy Dan and Glenda said a few of their more internet-saavy family members are frequent readers of my blog. I hope they've enjoyed reading about our adventures and the many lessons Coy Dan and Glenda have taught us.

Coy Dan had no idea what types of of stories I was telling about him. I think he thought I was poking fun at him and his country ways. Any of my readers know that's not true however. I'd like to encourage any anonymous folks to come forth and identify yourselves, especially if you're related to the fellow pictured here. Reading and responding to comments is half the fun of this blog!

Monday, April 2

Rick, rack, chord


Creating this type of structure is something that I've been spending quite a bit of time on. I haven't yet measured how much wood we have, but there are several stacks like the one shown above strategically placed through out the farm. Strategically placed in this case was some place close to where the wood had fallen and was subsequently cut.

Firewood should pretty much be a commodity item in these parts next year, but in the event you find yourself negotiating a price for firewood, you should be familiar with the different terms used to describe they quantities. A "chord" of wood is 128 cubic feet of neatly and tightly stacked wood. No more no less. A rick or a rack usually describes one sliver of a chord, but to me, is a useless measurement since the wood lengths in the stack vary depending upon who cut it. I found this site to have a good explanation of the measurements.
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Tuesday, March 20

Spring Fever

My wife was quoted in the News-Leader, and I just stumbled upon it searching for information on Walnut Grove on the net...

Monday, March 19

Bakers dozen

bakers dozen
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Production is up on the farm. With 22 hens, Jennifer is collecting 12-14 eggs a day. All of the neighbors are staying well stocked with farm fresh eggs and the chickens might actually start paying their own way as far as their feed goes. They'll never pay off the mortgage on their house and yard though!

Face Off

Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Haley would spend all day staring through the chicken wire if we let her. The chickens are oblivious to the implied threat (sometimes they peck at her and Dobie through the wire).

Thursday, March 15

Geek Acres Sunrise

Geek Acres Sunrise
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
I took this a few mornings ago before heading to work. These colors only laste a few minutes before the sun rose over the horizon and lit up everything.

Saturday, March 10

Child ID Program

Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Friday night I helped with the ChIP program hosted by O'Sullivan Lodge #7. I took a few photos of the event, you can find the slideshow here. The ChIP program gives parents a useful tool in the event that their child becomes lost or is abducted. I heard it said best when a lodge member said "hopefully it's a little work for nothing!"

Monday, March 5

Progress all around

Jennifer and I made some real progress on the farm this weekend. On Saturday we took 9 chickens to the Bolivar sale barn. We had way too many roosters per chicken so the flock needing a little thinning. Also, a few of the hens were able to fly out of the pen and had started wreaking havoc in the gardens where things are starting to come up. Now we're down to 22 chickens and 2 roosters.

We found time on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning to clear brush. I've gotten pretty good a sharpening my chain-saw and thanks to our neighbor, Coy Dan, I've learned a few techniques on the chain-saw that make the work much easier. I was able to cut up all the large branches that were in the front, side, and back yard. Jennifer and I (mostly Jennifer) also raked the side yard of the thousands of tiny sticks and fragments of trees left over from the ice storm. We burned several neat little piles of brush and stacked next year's firewood.

The large brush piles still remain as the wind was too strong to burn the bigger piles. Jennifer would like very much to rent a chipper but I think our money and time is better spent. It would be many truck loads of practically free mulch to off-set the cost of a chipper for the weekend. There's still more sawing and stacking to do, however, as I haven't yet tackled the back pasture.

We also made progress on the home remodel. Knock on wood, but I think the room addition might actually be complete this week. We tackled the cedar shingle siding and thanks to Bob Vila's tutorial on cedar shingle siding (and my buddy Larry), it's looking pretty good. All that's left is some trim on the interior, sealing the new tile, finishing the shingles, and building the steps and benches on the deck.

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Friday, March 2


Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
Four years ago yesterday, Jennifer and I embarked on a journey.

To my wife, I love you!

Tuesday, February 27


Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
I've been working on a website for a local horse farm. I'm not quite ready to show the results. One of the more challenging aspects of this website is gathering useable pictures. I like this photo and the owner's liked the position of the horse. It shows off her "suspension" I was told. I wasn't happy with the background as the grass is still brown and there is a car by her head. Taking photos of horses is a pretty challenging thing. Beyond the normal mechanics of shutter speed, aperature, and composition you have to include the crap shoot of the horse's position.

Thursday, February 22

Growing bittles

Growing bittles
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
The bittles have done some growing up since I last posted about them. We ended up keeping two of the 6 kittens out of the litter. Two different people I work with took 3 of them and a local person took another. After the holidays passed we figured our chances of giving them away were limited.

The two left we named Spits and Oliver. Spits was always hissing and spitting at us when we approached, but he's gotten over that. We had a tought time catching Oliver when they were smaller and living basement. Now all three (the two kittens and momma cat) have made the barn, and the whole farm really, their domain. Both Spits and Oliver have warmed up to us. Spits no longer spits and and Oliver will come up to us purring. Their momma is quite the accomplished hunter. Jennifer has seen her carrying off many prey, from mice and rats to moles.

Saturday, February 17

Catch up

I haven't seen much of Geek Acres in the day light for the last several weeks. The weather has been miserably cold since the ice storm and there's still much to do in the way of cleaning up limbs and stacking future firewood. I've had to do some travelling for business and there have been quite a few late nights and weekends lately that have prevented any picture taking or story telling.

My trusty Stihl MS 180C will be put through it's paces as soon as the sprint at work is over. I went ahead and purchased and extra chain and had the original sharpened. I bought the sharpening guide and file for my chain last summer but I apparently need a bit more practice. It still didn't cut very well after my attempt at sharpening. Considering it's only $3 to sharpen the chain, I'll just let the professionals at the True Value in Ash Grove do it for me. I've only used it long enough to move some limbs from gates and fences.

Our helpful neighbor Coy Dan couldn't take that there was still a limb resting on the house a couple weekends ago and showed up with log chains and his chain saw. My dad, my cousins, and I tried our best to remove the large limb from the roof right after the storm, but with the amount of ice on the roof we thought it best to leave it until there was some thawing. A large portion of a limb was wedged against the roof and what remained of the trunk. Coy Dan and I chained the limb up against the trunk and start cutting a little bit at a time off. We used ash from the fireplace on the roof for traction and placed a sheet of plywood under the limb in case it came loose.

A little at a time we cut sections off until all the weight of the limb was being supported by the chain and the trunk remains. Then we chained the top of the trunk to his truck and put tension on the tree pulling away from the house. Slowly we made cuts in the trunk until we saw slack in the chain then we used the truck to pull the rest of it over.

Since then we've continued work on the new room and added the majority of the deck. My camera isn't getting much use and I'm feeling guilty for that. I'll try to do better.

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Thursday, January 25


We recieved power yesterday evening! Things can begin returning to "normal" now.

Lesson's learned:
- Jennifer was right to worry and want to prepare by stocking up on water, food, etc. I'll never again doubt her! (Have said that before?) I did learn a new term for mob shopping that occurs before a storm: "french toast panic."

French Toast Panic - [french /toʊst/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciationtohst pan-ik] - noun - The fear instilled by winter weather that causes normally rational people to run to the closest grocery store and purchase bread, milk, and eggs.

- I should have installed a gas water heater like everyone said I should when I replaced the old electric water heater.

- I should have listened to Jennifer and had the wood furnace inspected before we needed it!

- It's hard to beat family and friends when you're in need.

Thanks to everyone for their support, and to those still in the dark, hang in there!

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Wednesday, January 24

Day 12

It's day 12 without power. Not much new to report. The image above is of our back yard and wellhouse. Some people wake in the morning and put a pot of coffee on, hoping aroma of brewing coffee will wake them. I wake and make my way to the well house where I pour another 5 gallons into the generator. I would much more prefer the smell of coffee over the smell of gasoline to wake to.

I added additional pictures to my flickr account that show the damage around our home. You can find the slideshow here.

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Tuesday, January 23

Powerless, Day 11

We remain powerless... and without electricity for 11 days now. We can see lights on the horizon in every direction which is both promising and frustrating. Jennifer spoke to someone at Southwest Electric who said he cannot promise or predict when we should get power, but he would be surprised if we didn't have it by the weekend.

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Monday, January 22

Livin' the Dream

It's day 10 without power. Jennifer and I are trying to keep our good humor but gets tough sometimes. Exhaustion from the routine (add wood, add fuel, add wood, purchase fuel, add wood, move wood closer to house, add fuel) plus the news on Friday that it could be "two to three more weeks" really brought our spirits down for a while. We haven't heard that news report again on the radio, but it's what I've set our expectations on now.

As a matter of fact, we rarely hear news out of the Southwest Electric Cooperative. It's completely understandable that they cannot generate a time-table, however consistent updates to the news outlets would help to dispel rumors and provide a sense of progress. The local radio station continue to give updates on numbers of poles down, number of customers without service, but it's always a crap shoot to hear anything from SWEC. The latest from the SWEC site:



Efforts to restore service to Southwest Electric Cooperative’s members as quickly as possible continues. We continue to have several locations without power ranging from the Bolivar, to Buffalo , to Pleasant Hope, to Fair Grove area, with some additional areas north of Bolivar and Buffalo . Additional crews and trucks arrived overnight bringing the man power total up to 157 additional personnel and 75 extra trucks working on the lines.

Southwest Electric Cooperative has several members asking for a definite answer as to when their power will be restored. Please understand that a storm with damage of this magnitude makes it impossible for us to accurately place specific time estimates on the power restoration.

Remember, just because you have not seen a crew in front of your house does not mean they are not working on your line. It does no good to repair a line that has no power running to it. Repairs are focused on the main power lines first from the substations, then to the secondary and individual lines going to houses and subdivisions.

We are still dealing with large amounts of broken poles and wires laying on the ground across our system. Power is being restored daily but if you are still out of power, continue to make plans for several more days, and please have patience while progress is being made.

Our phones are continuing to be answered 24 hours a day, everyday. All our phone lines are open however, with the number of phone calls coming into the offices it may take several attempts to get through. Member service personnel may not be able to give an accurate time of power restoration but they will be able to report your outage information. Please remember to have your account number or pole location number ready before calling in.

We can see lights on the horizon to the east, south, and west of us. I'm very much looking forward to the call to come home and hook up the breaker box again.

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Friday, January 19

Country Vocabulary Lesson

On the way to Springfield, I called our neighbors to see if they needed anything:

Me (to Coy Dan on the phone): Do you need anything from Springfield, we're headed that way?
Coy Dan: Naaw, I think we're OK.
Me: OK, let us know if you do need anything.
Jennifer (to me in my other ear): Glenda said they needed bread.
Me (to relaying the info to Coy Dan on the phone): Jennifer said that Glenda needed bread. Did she get bread?
Coy Dan: Lord I hope not!
Me (confused, to Coy Dan): OK...
Jennifer (to me in my other ear): He probably doesn't want the wheat bread she's been buying.
Me (to Coy Dan): Is it because she bought wheat?
Coy Dan: Oh! That kind of bread!

It was only after I hung up and recanted the conversation to Jennifer and she started laughing that I realized what was so funny. A homophone for "bread" that Coy Dan probably uses on a more regular basis than I is "bred".

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Thursday, January 18

Ice storm update

I took the image above of our first fall fire back in October. Little did I know we would really be putting it through it's paces in the coming winter. We've burned quite a bit of firewood now and are on the hunt for more. The limbs and trees that have fallen near us will provide lots of wood but it's too green to burn on it's own. My dad, who has gone above and beyond what anyone could expect to help us out, is on the look-out for firewood east of us where the ice storm was less damaging. Pickup-loads in the Springfield area were going for $175 (when they're normally in the $50 to $75 range).

My dad and my cousins came out last night to help hook the generator directly into the well house and clear limbs around it so we now have running water. The water heater is electric so we're still without the convience of the water faucet handle on the left, but it's a start. Finding the plug that fits the generator was quite a challenge. My dad stood in line at Sutherlands for an hour to find out they would only sell him the plug if he bought the generator from them (which we did not). I will not be shopping at Sutherlands anymore.

The night before my dad and I wired in the heat-a-lator. You can see the vents of the heat-a-lator in the image above. A fan pulls in air through the bottom vents, circulates it around the firebox, then blows out the warmed air through the vents on top. It's helping keep the house near the 55-to-60 degree mark, good enough with a few layers of clothes or several blankets on the bed.

I haven't slept longer than 2.5 hours at a time in the last 6 days, I've set my phone to alert me to throw wood on the fire every 2.5 hours. I then wake at 5 AM to fill the generators and make the drive to work to shower in the locker room. I'm looking forward to getting power back permenantly so I can get a continuous 8 hours of sleep and a hot shower in my own home. Until then we'll make it and continue to count our blessings.

*Note: for those who might be concerned, we completely removed the appliances we've wired in from the rest of the house's electrical system. There will be no back-feeding of power into the lines should our power be restored. I will have a bit of work to wire things back together when we do get power, but that's a chore I'm looking forward to.

Monday, January 15

"Plum Give Out"

Ice Storm
Originally uploaded by duanekeys.
"Plum give out" were the words of our neighbor, Coy Dan, when I asked how he was doing. I can certainly echo the sentiment. None of our loved ones were hurt during the recent ice storm but there's plenty to clean up after. Several mature trees came down all around our home. There's at least two large sections of trees are resting on the roof of our house. We're without power and will be for sometime I suspect. Several sections of fence are destroyed but we still have enough standing to keep the horses in.

We are managing to stay warm huddled around the fireplace at night. I borrowed a generator from my dad, and we plan on trying to wire in the well house to get water working. I hope everyone else is faring well!

Looking on the bright side of things, we've got plenty of firewood (though it's a bit green).

Friday, January 12

Time passes so quickly when you're having fun or you don't seem to have enough time to have any fun. Geek Acres lately has had less of an emphasis on geek and more on acres! We're still working on our room addition where we converted our 2-car garage into a new bedroom. Our goal to have it finished before the holidays has come and gone but we're still working on it. This picture doesn't represent it's current state either. The ceiling is textured as are the walls. Jennifer has already painted the closet/tack room as well as the new bathroom. This weekend we plan on laying tile and working on trim. In the meantime I've taken on additional responsibilities at work, started teaching, and got myself involved in some website creation projects.

We lived through the skunking and things are back to normal as far as the scent of the house. The dog door in the mud-room is a blessing and a curse at the same time. We spend lots of time cleaning up after our pups but in the end we both feel it's worth it. We don't have to schedule doggie breaks and the dogs are much happier being able to go outside as they see fit.

One day this last fall Jennifer had moved two of the horses into the backyard fence area where the dogs normally do their business. She reasoned that the mares would make short work of the grass and therefore we wouldn't need to mow. The horses kept trying to get on the deck so Jennifer had to block access to it to keep the mares from going up the steps. After that commotion the big girls were content to eat some of the green grass in the back yard.

Meanwhile, Jennifer went in to feed the dogs. Our dogs get measured amounts of Science Diet dog food: light large breed for the chubby girls and regular large breed for the boys. We usually have to keep any eye on them while they eat or else the girls will shove the boys from their food and eat it too. While Jennifer watched the dogs eating their dinner one of the Percheron mares stuck her giant head in through the dog door. Suey was nearest to the door. She was in mid-chew when the big black head poked through the doggie door and she nearly choked on her dog food trying to get a surprised bark out of her mouth. Jennifer laughed about that one for quite a while. I imagine the look on Suey's face was pretty funny.

We managed to give away all but two of the kittens. Oliver, Spits, and Momma Cat are now at home in the barn. We did have one little incident, again with the dog door, as Momma Cat made her presence known in the house late one night. Jennifer and I were both sound asleep when we heard a Meow from the master bathroom (which has an entrance to the mudroom where the dog door is). We both jumped out of bed to prevent the dogs from going at the cat, but luckily, they slept through the whole thing. I tossed the cat back outside and locked the door shut. I don't think Momma Cat has forgiven me for that yet.
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