Saturday, April 11, 2009

In which we work from Can until Can't, and get a heckuva lot done!

Mom and Dad showed up early this morning, carrying many buckets of paint, plus ladders and brushes and all kinds of wonderful things.

Dad spoke not a word, but went straight
to his work.

Yes, my mother is standing on
the refrigerator. I know. Didn't your mom always say not to stand on top of the fridge?
Mine too. I guess her
mom never said that.

Mom is
painting her way towards the Corner of Doom. SHE did not fall off the ladder in a
very spectacular fall involving stepstools, ladders, and blue paint in unmentionable places. That wasn't her.

That was somebody else...who stood up, washed the paint off, and then said, "damn, I wish we'd gotten a picture of that for the blog."

We continued with painting, having determined that no bones were broken, and only a rather undeserving dignity was bruised. Paint paint paint. Blue in the kitchen. Two shades of green in the living room and dining room, and more green for the bedroom. Yellow for the bathroom. Pretty pretty pretty. (I'll post pictures when the sun comes back up and I can see it in natural light!)

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the farm, the Menfolks were digging holes and putting up posts.

"Take a picture!" they said, so I did.

Tools. Don't you love tools? I love tools.

Strong men, standing by the new post for the new gate!

"Frankenstein bolts" on the bottom of the gate
post, to help keep it upright. An admirable goal, towards which we should all strive.

"Take more pictures!"
they said, so I did.

Here are the posts. They will practice their upright posture for a few days, and then we will add the gate!

After working, there is food: spaghetti with italian sausage. I made it using my usual recipe: "hmmm...tomatoes, mushrooms, are there any peppers? Excellent, I'll use one of those too, oooh, and that red wine with the tractor on the label, perfect! I'll just chop them all up while we're waiting for that dark green paint to dry, and simmer everything all together in the big pot for a few hours. "

Put away the paint brushes before opening the wine. Trust me on this.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In which tools and tractors are helpful and three hands are better than one

Today I was determined to eradicate the old fence posts that (until yesterday) were part of the barbed wire fence.

The posts themselves are fine, however, they are not the Very Tall posts I prefer to have for the perimeter fence. Also, they are all facing the wrong direction! So, out they came.

This red gadget is the t-post extractor that Jim got at the hardware store yesterday. Nifty, huh? It's SO MUCH EASIER to use this than trying to yank the posts out by hand.

Nobody else was around when I was doing this, so I used a cinderblock as a tripod for the camera to get this picture.

There were a few notable exceptions to the statement "the posts themselves are fine." Here's one of the exceptions: my neighbor Herb told me that he accidently backed the tractor over it...and then ran over it the other direction trying to get untangled from the post. Oops.

The bent posts can be hammered (mostly) straight again, but this one broke when I tried to yank it out of the ground. I wasted a few of my nicer cuss words on the broken post.

Herb saw me struggling to yank the bent posts out after I'd taken out all the un-bent posts, and he fired up his trusty tractor to come help me. Herb loves his tractor (so do I). I'd make a loop with the chain around a bent post, and then he'd lift the bucket....

(insert sound effect: whistling)

Isn't that cool?

Herb sometimes needs help hooking up attachments to the tractor, because he only has one arm. I'm happy to hop over the fence and assist, because when we're done, Herb always says, "three hands are better than one!" He makes me laugh.

He and his wife are planning to sell their place in a year or two...maybe if I keep lending a hand (or two) they won't leave?

Wrassling in the backyard of the city house was not nearly as much fun, because that yard was so tiny! Shelties love life on the farm.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

In which Spring continues spring-ing, and some trees make way for a new fence

The whole idea of Spring is definitely catching on around here.

In the flowerbeds surrounding the orchard, there are all kinds of flowers, blooming in all sorts of unexpected places...

...almost like the Easter Bunny showed up a few days early to decorate for the party!

The big task today was to clear branches away from the north fenceline...or rather, the place where the north fence line will run, hopefully very soon.

I almost forgot to take a "before" picture!

This is after. I'll pound in t-posts between the two wooden posts, and string field fencing and hotwire to keep Hana and Fiddle inside (and to keep the neighbor's horses out)!

Later this week, I have to tackle the lower end of this fenceline, where the Dreaded Blackberries are growing.

I'm thinking that chainmail work clothes will not be overkill for that part of the task.

Monday, April 6, 2009

In which tools are shown, including all the Implements of Destruction

There have been a couple of questions and comments about the tools we are using to build and/or destroy stuff at the farm. Arlo Guthrie described his collection of work tools as "shovels and rakes and Implements of Destruction" ; Jim and I clearly take our work tools a few steps beyond that.

I've never worn out a pair of gloves before!

These are orchard tools, which we've used for years as trail-clearing tools. The "pirate tape" is on all our trail tools--an easy way to make sure that our tools find their way back to our truck..and the tape also makes it easier at the end of the day to locate a green tool when you've tossed it into a bunch of green bushes.

The extendible-arm loppers have a lot of miles on them, because they hang comfortably on my horse's breast collar. Same with the "sweet little saw", which has exactly the right amount of curvature to bite through vine maple branches when the person using the saw is on a tall horse! They work fine from the ground, in the orchard as well.

These tools are used for creating, rebuilding, and removing fences. The grey T-Post Pounder (also show below, in position on a t-post) slips over the top of the post. It's heavy, so the user lifts it up with those handles, and then lets it drop--the inertia and the weight of the pounder does most of the work. On really rocky ground, you can provide some "downward" muscle, but it's not needed on most of our pasture, where the dirt is pretty cooperative.

The yellow-handled thing is a bolt-cutter, that tool beloved by burglers and thieves everywhere. It's wonderously useful for cutting barbed wire!

Next to the bolt-cutters is a tool called "Those Things That Look Like Pliars That You Use to Cut Wire." Excellent for chickenwire.

Also in this picture: a measuring wheel (for getting fenceposts, trees, and whatever else moved into correct distances, if not into a straight line), a hammer, and a staple gun.

Now we come to the real Implements of Destruction:
a crow bar, a hand-auger, rubber sledge hammer, and post-hole digger.

Last, but not least, the trail tools:

garden shovel,
fire shovel,
Pulaski (my favorite trail tool--note the pirate tape on the handle!)
pick axe,
and McLeod. These don't travel very well attached to a saddle, so we usually transport these for trail work on a truck or quad.

How luxurious it seems to be able to carry them from the shop to the worksite just by walking across the yard!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

In which I meet neighbors, remove barbed wire, and get a little pink

One of the drawbacks to life in the Swamplands is that natives (like me) don't have skills for coping with sunshine.

When the gloomy clouds part for a few hours, we get all giddy and silly. We race outside without hats or sunscreen, and we stand out in the stuff as long as possible, squinting at the unfamiliar light in the sky, chattering happily with complete strangers who also lack sunshine coping skills.

That's how I met my new neighbors today. These are nice people who rarely venture outside before mid-June, as proven by the shark-belly pallor of their hands.

When the sun came out unexpectedly today, and warmed the air to an unheard-of 68 degrees (in April!) we all emerged from our insulated chrysalis enclosures and immediately banded together to talk about -- what else?-- the weather. From there, we progressed to introducing ourselves and talking about animals and fencelines and tractors and all sorts of other farmer-ish topics.

From our southern neighbors I gained permission to remove the wicked barbed wire running along our property line. Triumph!

I promptly called Jim to ask what kind of box in the shop probably contained an Implement of Destruction capable of destroying barbed wire, and (miracle) he directed me to exactly the right box.

Out I went, bolt cutters on my hip, ready to take down the wicked wire. Envision John Wayne but with wire cutters. Swagger, swagger. There's not enough room on this farm for both of us, barbed wire.

Wicked barbed wire. Imagine this, tangled around the fragile front leg of a horse....WICKED! WICKED! WICKED!

...and now: no more barbed wire. I got fewer pokes from the barbed wire today than I got from blackberry brambles yesterday...but the wire is still more evil.

Unfortunately, my ability to acquire a suntan has not improved. Folks from the Swampland don't tan--we rust. I am the poster girl for this. Pinkness is me.

But: happy!