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Kevin's Thoughts!

Maybe you agree, maybe you don't… find out!

Welcome and how to use this site!

Posted by Kevin on August 26, 2011
Posted in Welcome  | 1 Comment

Welcome to Kevin’s Thoughts – a blog on a variety of issues, our lives, and things we consider interesting.

Please notice the menu to your left.  Although you are welcome to scroll down and read what we post in chronological order, we believe you will find navigating through the menu to be very effective.  Of course, also feel free to use the “Search” function to your right.

This is a multi-lingual blog with myself posting in English and my wife posting primarily in Russian.  Under every post you will find a [translate] button which will allow you to translate the post into many native languages.  Do note it is a computerized translation so be very open minded.  Things like “Hope you are in good spirits” often turn into “Hope you have plenty of good alcohol.”

Please click the “1 Comment” link under this title to learn how to comment on our posts.

Добро пожаловать в “Размышления Кевина” — блог, созданный для описания разых событий, нашей жизни и тех вещей, что нам интересны.

Обратите, пожалуйста, внимание на меню слева. Вы можете просто прокрутить страницу вниз и прочитать все посты в хронологическом порядке, но мы уверены, что поиск и навигация через меню наиболее удобна.А можно воспользоваться и окном поиска справа.

Этот блог “двуязычный”, Kevin пишет на английском, а я, Evia, в основном на русском. В конце каждого поста Вы найдете кнопку [translate], которая позволяет перевести любой текст на нескольколько языков. Только учитывайте особенности машинного перевода, порой он может быть ну очень своеобразным, так что советую все же доверять больше своим знаниям языка.

We are Back!

Posted by Kevin on July 15, 2019
Posted in Welcome  | No Comments yet, please leave one

Its been a few years, and we have freshened the site up a bit. Some old favorites are gone, like the Google translate button per post – which the author no longer supports, but the site is up-to-date with the latest version of WordPress and a few new features (like automatic backups!). I have tried to keep the same simple look and feel. This will remain mostly a text site – with little fluff.

Lots to talk about, but going to focus on things on my mind: Human population and human species sustainability on our planet first and foremost. This topic is going to branch all over the place – from lifestyle to population control and other fun rather political issues to fixing whats wrong.

One quick note: I’m semi-retired now and living on our farm near Kirksville, Missouri, USA.

As always, looking forward to some good conversation and debates. Be rude, and be banned. Be thoughtful with great arguments and verfied data, and be welcomed with open hands…

A week of “vacation”

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on June 2, 2017
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one


  Thought I’d be a little bit different and just post about my week of vacationing on the farm.

Thursday, June 1st:  Get up at 6:30 and head to work.  Call Clifton Hill Lumber and ask about 1 x 8 T&G panel.  Agree on a price and too my surprise, they can delivery on Friday!   Pay the balance on some rental house repair, and confirm with a buyers agent they can tour on Friday. Web over to the post office and hold mail for a week at our St. Louis home.  Load the truck with the cat tree and a fair amount of stuff from the garage (hate taking the truck up empty). Eventually hit the road around 6pm and head to the farm.  Note gas is selling for $2.19 in St. Louis.  Stop at Larry’s Boots in Columbia (exit 121 on I-70) and tell them I want replacement for my favorite pair that finally died (leather sides separated from heel), go back to I-63, stop at McDonald’s and try their new Cherry Lemonade – yuck!  The slice of lime they put in is the only real thing that has come close to this drink.  Note Columbia gas is also at $2.19, unusual, its normally cheaper. Head north, stop for gas in Macon ($2.10/gal) and make it to the farm around 10pm.  Settled in by 11:30pm. 

Friday, June 2nd:  Wrap up some Bick work with a client.  Install final monitor that arrived during the week and rewire using longer cables that enable me some flexibility.  Try the optical cable on my Logitech 5.1 amp and get nothing.  Given the wired connections only work on 2 of the 6 channels, I’m rather disappointed.  Write Logitech a reply to my previously filed issue.  More Bick work in the early afternoon, interrupted by the delivery of the lumber – (96) 12′ and (96) 14′ boards.  Doesn’t take too long to unload, pretty much wrapped up by 4pm.  Note Wonder Woman opens today, so take the wife and see that.  Swing by Hi-Vee to see if the fruit trees are on sale yet.  Good luck, 30% off now – they were full price last week.  Evia and I decide to clear the truck out of everything I hauled up and go buy some cherries we had our eye on in the morning.  Deal with yet another real-estate agent telling me why I need him as a selling agent… bah, not until the end of the summer earliest.  Selling this house “For Sale by Owner”, having showings, don’t understand why I should pay a selling agent $4500 for their guess on a sales price and for them to spend $99 to MLS list it for me.  Start building a to-do list for the upcoming week:  Mount  A/C units in the office, mount cell-phone antenna on roof (drilling a small hole to pass the cable through), put up T&G inside, build shelves, castrate young bulls, shuffle cattle, spray hawthorns and wild roses with 2-4D, perhaps help Evia paint chicken coop, find a hose based watering system for the chickens and turkeys, buy bass fingerlings for lake and head back to St. Louis on Friday to wrap up cleaning of that house that is for sale.  Was going to mount my air-hose reel, but buyer of my purse.io order bailed on me.  Need to call Microsoft and get a license key for my latest Windows 7 box – they started putting scratch-off material over the keys, and I destroyed 3 of the 25 digits removing that material…  Watched the sunset on our fishing doc with the wife.   After sunset, we went back to the office to test antenna positions and see if the we-boost that arrived during the movie actually works.  Yep – about 20db of gain, which is nice.  Talked about where to put the AC units, and came back and started this blog post.  Going to watch an episode of House of Cards and call it a night – should be in bed by midnight.  Discovered I just about maxed out my small UPS in the office – with (2) dual xeon servers and (3) monitors running, I suck up 847 watts.  If I turn off coin mining on one of those servers, the power usage drops to 588 watts.  Load does matter!

Saturday, June 3rd.  Woke up at 6am to Duncan, our bull, calling his ladies.  Went back to sleep <smile>. Going to be hot today, near 90 (actually hit 91 now that I checked).  We opted to close the windows since evenings are not as cool anymore and turned on the AC.  Cleared out the truck from the stuff I brought from St. Louis.  Cats appreciate having their cat tree back!  Went into town and bought (4) cherry trees and (2) plums as replacements for other trees that have failed in our orchard.  Picked up a couple of currants too.  Also picked up the final 2 sheets of AC plywood needed to finish the lower portion of the workshop.  Stopped at Orsheln and picked up chicken feed and something we are going to convert to a hose fed waterier for the chickens.  Also salt for the guinea pigs and pickles for us.  Came home and it was 79 inside, with the thermostat set to 75.  Not good.  Called the HVAC guy and then decided to take a look.  Power cycled the compressor and noticed no condensate.  Ah!  Had this problem before… the drain pipe gets clogged with junk and a sensor disables the compressor due to water build up.  Called HVAC guy who told me to suck  it out with my wet/dry vacuum and hurray! water is flowing.  An hour later, house was 75F.  Called the HVAC guy back and got a “Good Job” from him.  Still need him to come out and finish hooking up our heat and stove in the workshop, but that can wait until others AC’s are fixed.  Spring is over, Summer is here, and he is swamped.   Had an early dinner, a short nap, and then onto hose repair and getting the garden water system up and running.  Around 7:30 we went out to wrestle the auger onto the tractor,  Of course, had to drop off the hay fork from the back, and while we were there, moved the front fork into the hay barn.  Auger is the hardest 3 point hitch implement we have to hook up.  There are the lower 2 points, no big deal, but the upper point requires fighting the PTO shaft and the auger itself.  A good 45 minutes later we finally had it hooked, although the PTO isn’t locking, so has come off a time or two.  Since we had a bit of light left, decided to test drill a hole and ended up getting 5 of the 6 holes dug we need.  Progress on #6, but it was 9:15pm and we were rapidly losing the last of the light.  Came, washed up, grabbed a glass of water, and posted this.

Sunday, June 4th.  Evia made bacon!  Had (2) bacon and egg sandwiches and watched “Training Day” on the recommendation of a co-worker.  OK, but not great, movie.  Alas that blew the “get up early and work outside” plan, so we ended up planting the trees and currants in mid-day heat.  Of course, had to find hoses long enough to water everything and find out which survived the winter.  Most are fine for watering, but many have small cracks making them useless for any pressure application (like using a turn off valve on the end). Still need to rig self-filling water for the chickens, but at least Evia has a hose down there now – so shouldn’t have to carry water to them anymore.  Came in and took a nap with the intentions of getting up and installing the AC unit in the workshop.  Instead discovered my certificates expired on all my webservers (the stuff that allows for HTTPS instead of HTTP).  Unfortunately, had to relearn how to set those up, but believe I have them set now so that they auto-renew and I can forget about them.  Alas, that was close to 6 hours work. For any techies reading this, I’m using Let’s Encrypt with DNS authentication for SSL certificates.  Nice to have a free, open Certificate Authority.  I’m sure they are annoying the hell out of all the sites that have been charging people typically $100+/year per site (e.g. GoDaddy, NameCheap, Weebly, etc.).  At least the work was inside, but meant not much else happened on the farm.

Monday, June 5th.  I don’t understand.  We lost a day… really.  All we did was water the trees and managed to install the office AC unit (and install dedicated power runs for it and the meat room).  Somehow that blew an entire day.  Yeah, I finished upgrading my lamp, mail, and smtp servers, but that was mostly computer time, not so much so mine.  Yeah, we did get the 3-point auger hung in a tree, which will make installing it next time a LOT easier, but that was just a few minutes with Sonny’s help.  Yeah, the AC unit was installed 8 feet up on a wall, not in a convenient window (we have casement windows which are not compatible, besides a unit up high is more efficient).  But still… an entire day gone???  Oh, spent a bit of time printing out documents and filling them out out for the title company for the rental house we just sold.  Suppose that ate an hour or so, since we had problems with our printer (it wouldn’t DHCP itself, so I static IPed it).  Now its 11:15pm and time for a beer.


Tuesday, June 6th.  Spent the morning resolving a few office computer issues while Evia was in town buying supplies:  Managed to get my Unifi Security Gateway to adopt, moved one server to the workshop to reduce heat load in the office, resolved my product key issue via Microsoft support for the Windows box, and got a confirmation that Logitech will be replacing my bad amp.  Once Evia was back she insulated the AC unit with Great Stuff and we spent the vast majority of the afternoon and early evening spraying tree sprouts.  Also ordered 105 tons of 1.25″ minus gravel for our driveway.  Still have several fields to spray, but at least we have a start on it.  Locust spouts appear to be very bad this year, but also noticing a LOT more milkweed in the fields, which is great news for our monarch population (photo from June 30th, 2015 taken on our farm by John Murphy using Kevin’s cell phone.

Wednesday, June 7th.  Gravel day.  Had (6) truckloads of 1.25′ minus gravel delivered today – around 90 tons.  Put a nice heavy coat over the 900′ of driveway we have, plus flared out the entrance and added a new section leading to the garage door in the workshop – plus a small pile for future use.  Its a farm… there is always a future use for gravel.  Greased the tractor between loads.  Alas, one downside of being in the middle of nowhere is that it gravel trucks almost 2 hours to go round trip.  Of course, that provided me spreading time.  Also did some fence repair, got nicely sunburned shoveling gravel, and discovered in the evening that gravel truck apparently took out the ground wire feeding electricity to the neighbors.  Fortunately, just the ground, which is redundant with the real ground.  Every pole ties to earth, which was enough to keep the lights on at the neighbors.  Anyhow, one of the big mysteries of running a farm is where all the gravel goes.  In the 10ish years we have had this place, we have put gravel down at least 4 times.  Where does it go?

Thursday, June 8th.  Cattle day… and what a LONG day.  Started out pretty well.  We isolate a field full of teenage girls into a holding area, that went reasonably well.  Then we moved the rest of the herd.  The adults were no problem at all.  The teenage boys (ok, really only 1-2 years old, but that IS teenagers for cattle) really didn’t want to leave the shade or the pond they were playing in.  Evia got the Kubota RTV stuck chasing them, so had the opportunity to becomes friends again with our tractor which we used to pull it out.  Eventually got everyone sorted into two areas.  And then, of course, there was the issue with Duncan, who hasn’t seen ‘his girls” in a couple of months.  (Intention on our part due to January and February births… we wanted to push that cycle a little latter in spring).  Naturally one of his daughters was in heat, only swift gate work finally got them separated, with him doing his best all day to get back together with her.  Processing was the really long part.  A few of the animals trotted through the head catch like it was an every day, twice a day, activity.  Most didn’t.  Imagine rowing a boat with an 8’ ore with you on one side, and a cows butt on the other, trying to get them to move forward.  I did a LOT of that today.  We finished around 9pm with 5 boys banded (a method of castration), one bull left alone (Snowdrop) because he is both cute and friendly… almost too friendly, you can’t get him to go with the others because he wants to be by you, just in case you might have a cookie for him.  In any case, he eats from our hands, and doesn’t mind having his chin/head/back rubbed – the perfect disposition for a future bull for someone.  On the other end of the spectrum, Rose, one of our original 4, is getting meaner by the year.  She charged Evia and I several times – once with Evia having to hit her on her horns with a large stick to get her to stop. Its just a challenge, she veered away all but that one time with Evia.  Still, Evia commented in frustration that we should shoot her, and bottle raise her calf.  Rose has also become a jumper, hopping fences, and worst, teaching other cattle they can do that too.  Rose got sorted back into the the teenage girl field, she will become hamburger this fall.  Anyhow, everyone except Rose and Nichole (who we think has a calf hidden, since twice she turned back into a field rather than accept a cookie and be lead in with the rest of them – and Nichole LOVEs her cookies) have been dewormed.  (We use a dung beetle friendly dewormer call Cydectin- its expensive, but better for the ecosystem)   Several animal that hadn’t been tagged or who lost them were retagged, and anyone who was never vaccinated received a 7-in-1 vaccine shot.  Duncan is now back with his ladies, although his attention is still on the one he can’t have, and we have opened the farm back up so that the main herd has access to the vast majority of it.  All the teenage girls in their field will be for sale, as will the steers, as soon as we can get some photos and ads placed.  Snowdrop will get a year or so to find a herd to bull, or, unfortunately, he too will become a steer (a castrated bull).  Problem is that it only takes one bull to service about 20 cows, and half the calves born are young bulls… thus the majority of bulls become meat.  In 6 years of calves, we have had 3 boys we considered good enough to sell as bulls:  Larry, Dias, and now Snowdrop.  Larry was actually better than our Duncan, but we didn’t want to line breed him back.  Fortunately he found a home.  Dias did not and was one of the 5 castrated today,  Snowdrop is our next hope.  Alas, EVERYONE has a bull for sale, so its tough.

Friday, June 9th.  Last day, need to go back into St. Louis to catch up on life there.  Today was suppose to be Fish Day…  The plan was to go to a fishery about 30 miles away and buy some largemouth bass fingerlings and complete the stocking of the lake.  Got everything ready – have a 100 gallon aqua tub which we cut a lid for out of some scrape plywood.  Even added a couple of handle.  Grabbed the aeroators and the checkbook.  I had e-mail them earlier in the week but had never received a reply.  Takes about 45 minutes to get there, and discovered a rope across their driveway.  Open “8 to 5, Monday -> Friday.  All farm pickups by appointment only!”  I didn’t spot that last part on their website.  Guess “Open 8 to 5” means they might answer their phone or do e-mail, maybe.   It was only about 2pm, so I tried calling their number and it rolled to a voice message.  While doing that, one of the owner’s wife drove by and made some calls.  Found one guy actually at the fish farm who offered to help.  Told him I need 200-250 bass fingerlings.  We filled the tub with local water, drove over to the facility, and the guy discovered they had about 10 fish left…   Left my name and number, will try calling them back next week.  Apparently they don’t actually raise the fish (or at least not all of them), but rather buy from a wholesaler in Arkansas and then resell.  The gentlemen had no idea when their next run would be.  So we packed up and went back to our farm, minus about 2 hours of time.   When I was in the office in the morning, I noticed the computer was having some problems accessing an external USB disk drive.   Seemed to be able to read it, but not write it.  I had played around with that in the morning without much success.  Windows recognized the drive, but would not enable it.  Nothing critical on the disk, just backups, a local cache of Dropbox files, and the Bitcoin blockchain – all replaceable.  Toyed with returning it, but since I had an unexpectedly free afternoon, I opted to fool around with it a bit more.  I had previously discovered that most external USB drives were just standard SATA disk with a small SATA -> USB adapter added (and for some reason, were about 20% cheaper than just buying the disk directly).  So I priied open the cover, pulled out the drive, and plugged it in direclty as a SATA drive.  Windows came up without problems and all the data was there!  That saved several days of resyncing, if in fact its fixed.  Could be it just worked because it had a long cool down period.  Will know more when Evia returns Sundaynight.  After that, ate a bite, then packed up the truck and headed back to St. Louis.  “Vacation” over.

October 22-23 Weekend

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on October 26, 2016
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one


EE Last Friday kids and I planned to participate in the fall prairie burning in our neighborhood. At 8 at morning John Murphy ( Private Land Conservationist – Adair & Sullivan Counties) called me to tell it was cancelled. I stepped outside wondering what could be wrong at that beautiful sunny morning. Apparently, wind was at the wrong direction — and smoke would go to the neighbors houses. Not prairie friendly neighbors houses. Oh well, may be this week.

Kevin came for the weekend Friday evening. Inspected the chicken coop’s new roof — good, and foaming at his future office/workshop — not so good. So yesterday, at Monday, workers came back to finish their job. They left when it was already dark!

And for our weekend tasks — we just enjoyed the weather. Looked at our fields that were burned at spring, at the trees we planted: everything looks good, except we could not find the oaks we planted at the field behind the lake, because grass is so tall!
On the way back Kubota stuck at the mud, so we walk all the way back to get the tractor. Good weather — I did not mind the good walk! 🙂
Pulled Kubota, drove to the lake, stopped there to look.
Kids noticed us from the house, Frank came down to the lake too. I went back, grabbed some bread and we fed fish in the lake. Did not see anything big though.

Had some rice for lunch and Kevin left for his work week in the town. Now weather is not so good: cloudy, windy and cold. Xena and cats are sleeping in the house all day, but chickens seem happy outside, wandering around and pecking here and there.
Filled Kubota with the fuel, to be ready for next Friday, if burning will happen this time. Oh, and Kevin connected his future office to Internet!

Chicken Coop/Kids’ House Almost Done!

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on October 20, 2016
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | 1 Comment



It is hard to believe today that only couple of days ago we had 90 F! Now it is cold, chilly outside. Xena is happy: now she could spend all the time outside. She could, but she won’t.

Because she still likes to chase chickens for fun. And chickens want to spend as much time outside the coop as they can too! 🙂

So, we have the routine: at morning Xena coming in to drink some water and sleep after her night watching job, and I ran out to open doors for chickens. They flying out like a flock of pigeons! And I don’t know if they like this cool weather or not, but they definitely like to go around and have some fun: they are pecking on bugs and grass, visiting Gabriel’s guinea pigs in their old chick days house that we build with Kevin at the beginning of the summer, hey are also checking in in dog’s house and even swinging on our big swings!

So we are really hope for more sunny, dry and warm days even if it is the end of October now!
Today the workers came to finish the roof on the chicken coop/kid’s house. Now rain will not shower chickens while they are sleep, and kids could spend nights in the second floor. They were waiting for this roof to have their own little house complete! All parts from the old playground that was destroyed by the wind few years ago we re-used to build something fun! Now you can climb upstairs and spend some time there on the hammock, reading a  book or playing a game, even listening some  music or watching a movie, because our chicken coop/kids’ house has the Internet! ( WiFi of course).


Fall Already… And Geese are Back 

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on October 18, 2016
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one


(Evia’s EditionEE in the future) Summer just flew, and beautiful flowers on the prairies were exchanged with tall, yellow grass.

Grass is good too, and our lake is blue as the October sky above it, and geese are back, and our dog Xena is not sure if she suppose to guard us from these strange loud big birds.

For kids summer continues: we still have wonderful weather, playing in the woods, climbing trees, discovering creeks and always ready to splash in the lake!



Several snakes, couple salamanders, some unusual caterpillars were caught and then released (with littlest loss).

Fourteen chickens were raised with a lot of love and attention, but also was bigger and bitter loss. Big bad raccoon attacked our chicken coop when we (and Xena!) were in town for more then 3 nights.



10 calves were born and another predator — possibly coyote — stole one of them. But others growing healthy, fluffy and as cute as only Highland calves can be!

We made several videos that I would be happy to share. Another goal we had   with kids though: to practice Russian. And most of our videos in Russian.

If   you would look at our beautiful prairies, animals, birds and us and listen nature sounds mixed with our voices and background music, you are more then welcome to “visit” us that way! 🙂

Spring, now summer (and instincts)

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on August 7, 2016
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one


Life continues here.  Now that both kids are being homeschooled, they (and Evia) are free to spend the entire summer here.  In fact, I suspect they will stay until the first snow, and perhaps even longer.

Evia is trying her hand at chickens and currently has a flock of about a dozen.  The chicken coop/play house is roughed in but awaiting tin and a roof.  Apparently I finally found my limit – I simply can’t figure out how to put the sheeting up on the rafters by myself.  Pain getting old.  Anyhow, the flooring on the 2nd floor (the playhouse area), serves to keep the chickens mostly dry during rains.  They are interesting creatures, eager to leave the coop in the morning, free ranging about 25 yards during the day, then return to the coop at night, pretty much on their own.  Evia just opens the door in the morning, and scoots a few in at night before closing them up.  We are cautious with Xena, since her “playing” could easily kill one.  Still, she seems more protective than anything else.

Speaking of Xena being protective – that seems to be her primary instinct.  Xena is a Caucasian Ovcharka (Caucasian Shepherd) – a breed from Eastern Europe.  She is pretty nocturnal, seeing her job as protecting the farm at night.  She has finally figured out not to bark at her echo, which helps (lol).  Frank, our youngest son (now 8) is her primary charge.  If Frank is outside, Xena is generally with him.  Frank walks from the lake to the house, Xena escorts him then returns to the others at the lake.  If we take a ride in the Kubota, she will lead – making sure the path is safe. Yesterday I was brush-hogging some paths, she led, and at one point spotted a calf about 30 feet in front of us. This particular calf is currently blind, due to something called “Pink Eye” (it will hopefully recover at least partial sight in a few weeks).  If you have the stomach for it, expand and zoom into the calf’s head and you will see the problem.  “Devils Eyes” would be a more appropriate name…  Anyhow, Xena went up to it, and physically pushed the calf out of the path of the tractor.  Good dog.

I’m suffering my third round of Poison Ivy this year – worst year ever.  This round is pretty mild, just blisters on my forearms, between my fingers, on only one foot, and around one eye.  The eye is the worst part (currently typing with a poultice covering it).  Hopefully I’ll get past this in another week or so.

Met with a spray foam insulation guy yesterday.  Going to get 3 inches of closed cell foam sprayed on all the walls and ceiling for the workshop.  Once that is done, I’ll be ready to wire it up, install interior walls, and carve out an office.  The workshop side will receive a LOT of stuff we currently have piled up anywhere there is space – like excess bee hives, the honey extractor, construction tools, farm chemicals, etc.  This guy also does roof repair, so tongue-in-cheek I mentioned I had a roof problem and took him to see the chicken coop:  “See… no roof!  This is a problem!”.  He laughed and agreed he could probably help (and tin up the sides).  It will be nice to call that project a wrap.  Hopefully all of that work will be completed by the end of the month.

Off to make soap with Gabby tonight.  We spent last night playing around on soapcalc.net until we came up with a formula that she likes:  25% Coconut Oil, 30% Olive Oil, 20% Beeswax, 25% Beef Tallow.  This mornings first step is to render some some beef fat into Tallow!  Should be ready to make the soap this evening.  Like making steel, there are 7 major factors into blending the oils to make a soap, and they tend to conflict with each other (most creamy soaps are not bubbly, and some highly conditioning soaps don’t clean particularly well), so its a balancing act.  FYI: Steel making has a similar trade-offs between things like toughness, flexibility, ability to grind an edge, ability to keep an edge, etc.  Its why stainless steel knives are initially sharp, but a real problem to resharpen once they dull (and all knives dull).  A good carbon steel knife (non-stainless levels of carbon) is a softer metal – it will dull sooner, but is easy to sharpen (but also needs to be kept dry since it will rust).  Alas, that is a whole different post.  I will leave with one comment:  If you value your knives – hand wash and dry them, never put them in a dishwasher.

About “our” geese…

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on April 26, 2016
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one

Every so often, we actually do get to relax and just listen to nature…

When we built the lake a year ago last fall, we had a pair of geese come and call it home, even though it was only half full.  They had a clutch of young ones, four of which made it to flight size.

This spring we had (2) large and (4) somewhat smaller geese return.  Probably fantasy, but I like to think its the same family.  The younger ones stuck around for a bit, then went off on their own.  The pair of larger ones have once again claimed the lake for their spring home.

What surprised me was what I heard right at dusk…  A flock of geese were flying overhead, yelling as geese do.  To my surprise, our two responded, and it was in an entirely different tone.  The flock yelled at a higher pitch I guess, the residents at a lower… and it was coordinated.  Flock, residents, flock, residents, etc.  The flock eventually circled, landed, and presumably spent the night.  It came across as “Anybody down there?”, “Yes, its safe here!”, “Where are you”, “Down here, come and rest.”, back-and-forth until the flying flock had landed.

We have had a few traveling ducks rest up on the lake this year but not stay.  Last year, a few weeks after the geese moved on, we did have a some come and raise a clutch.  Hope that happens again this year.

The photo below is an early dusk shot, the one below it is cropped and blow up a bit.  Sorry for the graininess.

Spring – repair time!

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on April 25, 2016
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | 2 Comments

I know its been awhile since I posted.  Can’t seem to find a decent photo to use.  Today I wanted to use a photo of a 3/4″ brass elbow.  Why?  Because in February it broke… 4 feet underground,  It was used to connect one of our hydrants to our water main.  Why did it break?  No idea.  It worked fine for 7 years.  ITS SOLID BRASS!  It should have lasted another 50 years at least.  So… what to do when its February, your hydrant has ice coming out of it, and the ground is frozen?  Only one thing to do… turn off the water to the farm.  Good news, with the ground frozen, it didn’t leak TOO much, about $30 worth of water a weekend.  So we learned to turn it on the morning after we arrived, and to turn it off when we left.  In February…  The permanent fix was to have a neighbor come over that is wise in the ways of such things, have him check the hydrant (just a few bolts to disassemble it and check seals – these things are made to be serviced), and finally to conclude something was broken below ground.  Then wait until spring, bring over a track hoe, and dig a 8×12 hole around the hydrant.  Turned on the water, and the problem became obvious.  One $12 fitting later, and a bit higher pile of dirt around the hydrant, and everything is fine…  until the next thing breaks.  Oh, why didn’t I post the photo?  Lost the bloody thing.  Had it in the Kubota and apparently it bounced out.

Oh, I didn’t mention I lost a hydrolic hose on the tractor back in January.  How did I know?  Duel trails of yellowish stuff in the snow that seemed to be following the tractor.  Of course, I never look back to see such things, but I was hauling hay, and noticed on my return trip.  It didn’t seem to be TOO bad of a leak, until I actually got out and found it.  Given that the tractor lives on hydrolics (like steering, breaking, transmission, and all the attachments) – running out of hydrolic fluid would not be good.  Fortunately, like most things farm built – a tractor is designed to be fixed.  Removing the broken hose took all of about 5 minutes  Cost about $40 to have a new one made at the local auto repair parts store – not too bad.  Oh, one reason we shop (and probably spend a bit more) at the local stores instead of the chains is because, unlike the chains, they do things like make tractor hydrolic hoses!  So how much hydrolic fluid did I lose?  Well, I thought about 2.5 gallons… I could have sworn the dip stick said it was full, but this weekend the tractor felt “funny” and I found out it needed ANOTHER 2.5 gallons.  Now being 5 gallons short of anything is not a good thing, however this is a farm tractor, a real farm tractor… hoses break in the field.  Its important to be able to get home when in the field.  This tractor has a 59 quart hydrolic capacity… (almost 15 gallons) its designed to survive a hose break – at least for awhile.  Cost a fortune come service time, but beats walking home.

Spring time is also burn time.  Spent one day up here helping a neighbor burn his field.  Spent the next trip helping a couple of neighbors burning their fields, and they came by to help me burn a small one I had ready.  Spent the NEXT trip burning two of my own fields, and almost losing control of one of those.  Fortunately, that is what neighbors are for… a quick call with the message “Donnie!  Losing one!  Come quick!” and he showed up…  We decided the best thing to do was light a backfire and just burn the entire field.  It was ready… it needed it… that probably should have been the plan all along.

But this post is somewhat about repairs… so I should mention I burned through the clutch plates on my tiller.  These are the sacrificial plates on the ~40HP Power Take Off (PTO) shaft that powers the tiller.  Should the tiller pick up a rock and stop spinning, its a REALLY good idea to have something that will slip – because that PTO will not stop.  Seriously, for just a moment, its the most dangerous item on the tractor.  Have it turned on, and catch a shoelace in it, or wrap a piece of a jacket in it – and you life if about to change forever, and not in a good way, presuming you live through it.  Rule #1 is to ALWAYS turn off the PTO before getting off the tractor.  Remember, 4 horse could draw and quarter a grown man… the tractor has 40.  Anyhow, I found out those clutch slip disk are rediculously expensive – like $40-$70 EACH (and it takes 2 for my model) depending on where I shopped – about half the cost of the entire clutch assembly.  Guess nobody repairs things anymore.  A few hours on the internet, and I found them for about $10 each – and bought an extra set for next time.  Oddly – none of the three local stores I would normally go for stocked them – so I didn’t feel too bad buying them online and not paying extortion pricing.

Spring time is also calving time.  So far we are up 6 newborns.  Seriously hoping for 3 more between now and August.  Last year was bad… only 5.  Any cow that hasn’t given birth in 2 consecutive years gets to have a fall appointment with the butcher.  Cruel?  Nah, its just business.  They are here to give me new ones every year.  After 2 years, its clear they are not earning their keep.  That said, we are really hoping Nichole comes through.  She has our herds best genetics and structure wise is everything we could hope for.  Alas, she last delivered on 2/17 of 2014…

Both Frank and recently Gabby are being home schooled now.  This gives us a bit of flexibility.  I was on hold awaiting some late RFI submissions at work, so could take a 5 day weekend.  Evia arranged for a friend to stop and care for our cats – so off the farm we went last Thursday, returning home tomorrow evening (Tuesday).  We planted 125 sapplings (typically 1 year old trees) from the MDC nursery two weeks ago.  This trip we did the remaining 75, plus three carry overs we potted from last year.  We took most of Sunday off as a day of rest.  Today we working on the playhouse/chicken coop.  Most of the siding it up now, shy a bit of patchwork at the top.  I have no idea how we are going to roof it – I’m sure there is a clever way to raise 4×8 sheets of 5/8″ decking up 14-16 feet and have it stay on a slanted roof while being screwed in – but I’m coming up clueless.  I may have to punt and call in for help.  Maybe.  Going to think about it for another few weeks before I give up.
Tomorrow morning is an early trip into town.  I’ll buy the family breakfast at the local pancake house (no, not a chain!), then head to Home Depot for things they only have (and to return a Rigid shovel whose handle broke because they didn’t bother to use straight grained wood), MFA for spare hydrolic fluid and grease, Orschein’s for some bulk nuts and bolts, and the gas station for some high octane gas I need to clean my drip torches (used for those prairie burns).

So its wouldn’t be fair to end without at least one photo…believe it or not, our kids have been swimming in the lake this weekend, in April.  They have been testing the water, often getting in waste deep, since February.  Now its a daily ritual to go down for a swim near sunset.  Xena, our puppy (yeah, only 9 months old with another 15 months of growing), goes in neck deep, but hasn’t taken a swim since her first adventure as an ~10 week old.


Posted by Kevin Carpenter on January 3, 2016
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one


This is Martha.  Of all the cattle we have handled, Martha was the most challenging to get caught in the head catch.  The photo is the result of try 7, where we paid a LOT of attention to things like her foot placement.

She has never been a problem to get into the squeeze chute, but actually capturing her by the head has been an issue.  You see, she discovered on her first pass that if she puts her head back, and pushes with her chest, the gates can’t catch her – or at least once they try, her shoulders are already free and its easy to just walk through.

This hasn’t been an issue for vacinations, deworming, etc. – those things could happen with her being behind the gate.  However for ear tagging and tatooing, we needed her as seen.

Very happy with the Powder River Herdmaster catch.  Its a bit different than most, where the operator (that is typically me) has to close the gates down on the cattle as it passes through, and then hold it shut.  Instead, this unit’s default position is closed and I actually have to hold it open to let the cattle through.  That came in VERY handy today.  She got caught low, on her knees.  All I needed to do was crack it open a bit, she stood up, and I let go.  As she struggled a bit, the head gate just ratcheted down (no worries – it has limits that prevent it from choking the animals).  Eventually she stepped back, and the final few inches closed.

Its odd mostly because of the number of attempts we made, but also in that Martha is otherwise pretty easy to handle.  As much as we would like to, with 20+ cattle we can’t hand tame them all – we have tried and it simply gets dangerous due to the older adults getting pushy.  That said, the cattle pretty much care less if we are near them (like 6 feet near), and often we can get right up to them (at least until they notice <smile>).

Oh well, this weekend we sold Aurora to the Hertels.  That makes Martha the last of her generation to be on the market.  Now we get a break until April when the process starts all over again.  We have (3) castrated males, including one that should be ready for slaughter come spring, one pure white male we are hoping to sell as a bull (he is really well put together), Martha, and (4) soon to be year old heifers to sell in 2016.

Learned a January farm lesson today:  Net wrapped hay does not unwrap well when covered with an inch of ice and snow.  Its shreds pretty good though.  Fortunately, starting this year, our new hay is stored under cover, so that won’t be an issue once we use up our 2 year old stuff.

2015 Wrapup

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on December 28, 2015
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one

Well… the loss of Vixen was a major blow to the family, but we have moved on.  After a month or so, we started our search for a new puppy.  We spent a lot of time looking at breeds related to Bernese Mountain Dogs, except with longer expected lifetimes.  For those that know me, you know we didn’t take this search casually, and spent a huge amount of time learning about the breeds we were considering, including joining several breed groups.  Found out that there are at least as many “rare” breeds as AKC registered ones – many that come from a single breeder.  Lost some faith in AKC – apparently once accepted there, the money flows… and when the money flows, people cut corners, and focus on appearance vs. little things like lifetimes and health.  A classic example is the beloved German Shepherd:  You can find puppies from $100 to $3500+ and cost doesn’t guarantee quality (although its an indicator).  Bottom line is that German Shepherds now, in general, have a lot of health problems due to indiscriminate breeding, like early onset (think age 2-3) of crippling hip dysplasia.

So what to do?  Well… we looked at a number of the more rare breeds where the breeder appeared to care about health and longevity.  We looked at Native Indian Dogs (more of a mutt selected on behavior and health vs. appearance – absolutely a “recreation” effort), the American Native Indian Dog (apparently a recent knock off to capitalize on the name), American Alsatian (a promising cross but with a 18-24 month waiting list), Great Pyrenees (bone cancer and hip dysplasia common), Australian Cattle Dogs (a maybe when we live on the farm, but too active for our life today), Australian Shepherds (came really close – especially the tri-color that looked a lot like Vixen), Czechoslovakian Wolfdog (great health, long life, but needs a LOT of attention, e.g.  you better be willing to plan your life around the dog), and the usual others (setter’s, huskies, etc.)

We landed on a breed my wife was familiar with:  The Caucasian Shepherd, aka. the Caucasian Ovcharka – an eastern European breed.  Our puppy is now approaching 6 months old and weighs a good 80 pounds – about half-way to her final weight.  She is destructive mostly due to her size – just moving around she can knock things over.  Like Vixen, she loves the farm, but does not chase vehicles and generally prefers to stay by the house.  In fact, when we are out walking, once she find the road to the house we will often lose her as she goes back.  During her first visit, a week after we got her at 10 weeks of age, she followed us to the fishing dog, sat down, looked at the water, and jumped in.  Evia almost lost it seeing her brand new puppy two feet under water, but surface she did and promptly swam back to the bank.

The photos above are from the middle of December – a balmy day in the upper 60s (maybe low 70s?).  Unusually warm for December, most of my neighbors commented they were hot in two layers and T-shirts abounded.  Xena (the new puppies name from the TV series (Gabriel’s friend after all!)) is working out very well, except she is proving harder than expected to fully housebreak.  She really seems to “get” the farm, is not in the way when we work the cattle, and we think she even understands when we are herding and tries to help – at least she stood halfway between Evia and I and held her ground as we moved some.  Encouraging.  Definitely a  protection breed (not a guard dog – she cares less about property, cares a lot about her family) she lets us know when we have kids cutting through our yard in the city (and subsequently, that appears to be happening less often <smile>).  Very much a routine dog – she wakes us every morning at 6:30am.  OK, enough about our dog.

Farm life has been busy.  We have sold 6 cattle (Moe, Curly, Stark, Missy, Lora, and Carolin), and have a deposit on Aurora.  That happened via 3 separate weekend visits and pretty much dominated those weekends (so scratch 1.5 months of posting here!).  Our first sale of the season was to a very nice couple that live in southern Missouri and market Highland Beef as their specialty – they were looking for slaughter ready, or almost ready, animals and really helped us out by buying all of ours.  Our next visitor ignored my directions (and warning not to trust their GPS) and figured their new all-wheel drive vehicle could go anywhere – and it did, until it hit a muddy dirt road.  Spent half a day towing them about a half-mile to gravel with my tractor.  They committed to buying 2, but I never heard back from them.  Tractor still has at least 40lbs of mud on it.  *sigh*  The third family came from Kansas looking for two animals and left with three!  Even with some final rounding up they were here and gone in just a few hours – the quickest we have ever sold animals.  Our deposit is sight-unseen, which is unusual, but the buyer seems content.  They will come and get Aurora in January, weather permitting.

Working the animals for our visitors has provided us with some insights into our recent fencing project.  Good news – everything done is just fine.  We did come up with some improvements in the way of additional fence sections.  Tested it out using electric ribbon fence (very visible, did not need to energize it) and have gone over it with our fencing guy.  Not sure if he is done installing the permanent version or not, but doesn’t matter, he will get to it eventually.

Spending a lot of email time working with the Missouri Department of Conversation and US Fish and Wildlife making plans for more field work.  Basically we have laid out burn plans for the next few years, along with some chemical work and additional seeding plans.  The new seeding will be focus on forbs, especially milkweed (their is a US Monarch Butterfly habitat renewal program providing assistance funding), which will help boost our Monarch population, should help my bees (presuming they make it until spring), and perhaps will integrate a few native warm season grasses to some mostly cool season fescue fields.  Fescue remains the enemy – nothing wrong with cool season grasses, and in fact I need 40-50 acres of it for spring and winter feeding – but fescue itself is a problem.  Fescue was introduced to US farmers from Europe in the early 1800s.  In 1931, a new variety was promoted by the University of Kentucky and quickly spread in the 40s and 50s and “Kentucky 31 Tall Fescue” became a household name. Today fescue currently provides primary ground cover for over 35 million acres in the US – including a lot of roadside grass.

Alas, nature loves diversity and abhors mono-culture and 35 million acres is functionally one big mono-culture (listen up corn and soybean growers…).  All that fescue became home to the same fungus that causes ergot (alkaloid poisoning) on cereal grains.  So the worlds best super-grass, exceptionally drought tolerant, growing in the widest range of temperatures of just about any other grass, and providing abundant amounts of forage almost year-round is now toxic.  Feed it to a pregnant horse and it will abort.  Feed to cows and their only grass (and most fields are almost pure fescue) and the cattle won’t gain weight as fast as they should, can suffer gangrene in their feet during the winter, heat stress in the summer, etc. etc. etc.

Alas, fescue doesn’t fight fair (like a lot of things in nature) and releases chemicals that are toxic to other plants as well – so once a field is growing a heavy covering of fescue, little else (shy multi-flora rose and the like), tends to become established.  Add to that haying pressure (often done in the middle of the summer when warm seasons are actively growing) and fescue wins.  Control is difficult.  Ideally you would spray with Roundup twice a year for a couple of years and start over.  On flat ground, a favorite technique is to convert to soybeans (Roundup ready!) until no fescue is seen, then replant in desirable species.  Can’t do that on my hillsides however.  Longer term, I’m hopeful.  I’ve noticed fields that I have NOT hayed for 6+ years are starting to inter-seed with the native grasses.  Apparently the natives can fight back, given enough time and a chance.

A little painful news:  About a month ago we had our first light ice-storm at the farm.  We arrived just as the ice was forming and I fell HARD on the walkway up to the house.  Evia found my glasses and cell phone several feet from my body.  Sprang my back.  Survived on OTC drugs until Monday and went to urgent care.  Great legal drugs and 16-20 hours of sleep a day for a week and I became somewhat functional.  I think I bruised a rib – there is still a sore-to-the-touch spot on my lower rear right rib, although I can now at least sneeze without shooting pain.  Anyhow, that completely blew that weekend.

Sometimes we spend Christmas at the farm, but this year Nastya came home for a two week visit and arrived Saturday night, so missed our regular every-other weekend.  We will go out on January 1st though for a longish weekend.