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Kevin's Thoughts!

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A good weekend?

Posted by Kevin on September 7, 2011
Posted in Farm & Prairie  | Tagged With: , , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

We try and spend every other weekend out on our farm.  Its a 3 hour drive each way, presuming we don’t take any detours, which we commonly do.  This was Labor Day weekend, and we planned on staying for 3 days.

On Friday, it was 95F outside.  Not exactly pleasant.  Although we sometimes leave mid-morning, with the heat we waited until after rush hour and left rather late – about 8:30pm.  The drive was uneventful (the kids fell asleep about an hour in – always a guilty pleasure) and we arrived right on time around 11:30pm.  The solar porch lights we had installed the previous trip were working!  No more needing a flashlight to find the keyhole!

Got in and did the routine things, mostly adjusting the thermostat and remembering to turn the hot water on.  It was strangely quiet…  Discovered that both the dehumidifier and electric fence charger were out.  Ends up a breaker had tripped.  Reset that and discovered the GFCI I installed on the circuit wouldn’t reset.  Groaned a bit, the GFCI was buried behind air compressors, vacuums, and other tools.  Cleaned a too small work place and replaced the GFCI with a spare.  Kids were still sleeping, all good.  Dehumidifier came on, but the charger didn’t. Not good, but its 1am now, time for bed.

In the morning I investigated the charger.  First thought was “my, this is poorly made, look – one of the plastic tabs isn’t even in place”.  Second thought was “why is this rattling?”.  Opened it up and a story was revealed:  A transformer had blown.  There were bits and pieces of copper wire that had melted into the plastic case when it blew.  Also various bits of plastic and wire were found that caused the rattle.  A bit annoyed now.  Talked with Evia and we placed the purchase of the unit between 18 and 24 months ago.  It was a big unit, we bought a large one to help burn down the weeds.  I had rather expected it to last a decade or more.  At least for the several hundred we spent, I had hoped so.

Still hot out on Saturday, pushing the upper 90s even up here (and its usually about 10F cooler at the farm than in town).  Had some breakfast tea and went to get our Kubota RTV out of the shed.  Battery was dead.  Sure enough, left the spray pump on.   Made a new operating rule:  “Disconnect appliance cords from the battery before parking.”  Annoying, but easy enough to jump.  Just had to push it out of the shed…  Learned that my shed is not quite level, with the exit doors at the high end.  Made it, but felt it in my legs the next day.  Time to go to town.  Looks like maybe we will get some rain – we need it – and that should cool things down a bit.

First stop was the local Orscheln store.  We have bought enough things there that I know the store manager’s name, although I doubt he knows mine.  Still, the farm is registered in their computer, so we get a tax break on legal farm items.  Alas, no sales on chargers today.  Vowed not to buy another Zareba brand.  The store had Gallaghers, which have a good reputation, although they are more expensive.  For instance, the “15 joule, 200 mile” Zareba sells for $350 (we got our original on sale!), a “10 joule, 250 acre, 34 mile multi-wire” Gallagher sells for $430. Discovered a long time ago that ratings are pretty meaningless between brands of most anything and typically are only useful for comparing between products of the same brand.  Didn’t want to spend $400+, thought about hooking up a backup solar powered unit.  Decided that might buy me a bit of time, but come spring I’d need the AC unit to burn those weeds.  Took out the plastic and bought the good one.  Picked up a few other odds and ends while we were there.

Next stop was Joe’s Carpet Barn.  We had been in there on the last trip and the manager was suppose to call us with a price on some flooring.  Never did, and I lost their card (as he probably did mine), so stopped in to talk to him.  Manager was gone, forceful saleslady was present.  Tried to talk us out of what we were interested in and to use vinyl flooring instead (logic was that vinyl was completely waterproof and this was going in a basement).  She might have a point, and the product she showed up actually was both less expensive and looked nicer than what we were previously looking at.  Still, vinyl has its issues:  I would have to make the floor 100% perfectly flat.  Any 1/8″ ridges in the concrete or small holes would show through the vinyl mercilessly, destroying the illusion of it being a hardwood floor (which your not suppose to install over basement floors I’m told).  It would also be best to install everything we wanted at once:  with vinyl, you pay for what they take off the role, not by the square foot or yard.  When you do a large job, often things like closets can be covered with scrape ends left over.  Down side:  we would have to strip our basement of all the beds and furniture in order to lay the floor.  Left the store with confused – but that’s life.

Evia had a kids birthday party in Columbia to attend at 5pm, so we needed to get back to the house so she could get herself and the kids ready.  Still hot out.  I fetched the tractor and installed a cover plate we had to replace.  Noticed one rear wheel appeared to be leaking, but it wasn’t too bad.  Thought about calling our neighbor, Sonny, and asking if he had jumper cables.  Opted instead to ask Evia to visit the local Home Depot in Columbia and pick up some cheap ones.  Still hot, but the clouds are coming in.  While she was busy getting ready, I unpacked the new charger and plugged it in.  First thing I noticed was that it was a LOT quieter than the previous unit.  The Zareba would tick loudly, very loudly, about once a second.  Think like a finger tapping on a glass tap to get attention loudly.  The Gallagher was very quiet.  I listened, and could hear a tick, but it was only about as loud as a wall clock.  Despite having the reputation of being the best, Gallagher still markets.  The box shows a voltage reading of 7.7KV on the display. Without a load, mine registers 6.5KV…  My fence tester shows that 6.5KV as 7.0KV though.  I need >5KV to get through the hair on my Highlands, so I was good.

About 20 minutes after we plugged the Gallagher in, it turned off!  So did the microwave and dehumidifier plugged in!?!  Circuit breaker and GFCI were fine, as was the next socket over.  Now this was odd.  Pulled that next socket out.  All looked ok.  Went to push it back in and the microwave beeped, the dehumidifier started, and the charger came alive (sigh of relief, would have hated to have a problem after 20 minutes!).  20 minutes of pushing, probing, wanting to punish that blasted beeping microwave, and I found the problem.  The white wire leading from the socket to the rest of the circuit was burned.  Apparently that wasn’t quite as tight as the other connections and I’m guessing when the charger blew, the surge heated that connection and loosened it.  Cut off the burned wire and reseated it.  Circuit was fine the rest of the weekend.

While making dinner I heard the rain start.  Wonderful!  We have a tin roof and I LOVE the sounds of the rain.  Decided this was a good time to work on the Temple Grandin style (see post in the books section) cattle handling facilities.  Paper, pen, and compass in hand (can you believe I couldn’t find a pencil?) I started work.  Half a dozen drafts, and four hours later I was happy.  System could probably handle over 100 cattle at a time vs. the dozen or three I’ll have, but it was pretty!

In the morning I used the tractor to jump the RTV, noticing that it was downright chilly out!   Evia was successful in finding cheap, 8 guage, booster cables.  Could never actually jump a car with those, but with a bit of patience, they charged the RTVs battery enough to get it started.  Good news was that they would be just fine for jumping the Prius if we ever needed to – it only requires 12Vs to run the electronics and starts the car from its primary battery pack when it feels like it.

Still cold mid day, we checked the thermometer in the car and it was 65F out!  We had gone from Summer to Fall overnight.

Decided to low cut the grass around the house.  Dropped the brush hog down and started that chore.  Discovered that although I had no problems driving the tractor and brushhog over some 3/4″ PVC above ground pipe I had leading to the water trough, doing so with the brushlog lower ate the PVC.  Amazing how fine it ground it up too!  Fortunately, PVC pipe is both cheap and easy to fix.  Evia agreed to finish mowing, and to cut around the fruit trees for the first time with the brush hog.  She went slow, but got the job done without killing any trees! I repaired PVC…

When Evia was done, I opted to use the brush hog to clean up around the bee hives.  First pass in front was not a problem, the bees didn’t seem to care.  Cooler weather combined with it being mid-day (when most were out collecting) made me think I had it made.   Turned around to make another pass behind the hives and I discovered the bees had another idea.  Felt one on my hair, than saw one sting my right ring finger, then another under my eye.  Blasted path to escape was uphill and I was on a tractor – no fast way to get anywhere.  Used my hat to try to discourage them (bad idea by the way, but it feels right) while I tried to escape.  Still had several on me by the time I got in the house.  So much for bees having a 30 foot “zone” around their hives – our house is a good 400 feet away and they were still coming after me (or at least the ones that found me were).  Noticed a blister had formed on the ring finger.  Within an hour, I was wishing I had taken that ring off (I still wear a promise ring on I had exchanged with Evia before we were married on that hand).  Took some anti-histamines in hopes of checking the swelling.  Within an hour, those had knocked me to sleep.

Evia called about an hour after that.  She wanted help restringing our new electric weed wacker.  Guy at the farm & home store we bought it from said to just strip off about 18 feet and feed it through the holes and use the winder.  Evia had taken the unit apart (which in theory was unnecessary), but I sure couldn’t see how twine was suppose to go through the spool – there was a shaft in the way.  Our owners manual was missing what was apparently suppose to be the “how to rewind” supplement (compliments of the farm & home having the unit assembled for us (and on display until we picked it up)).  My mind was drugged, I couldn’t think.  I gave up, but heard Evia using it outside about 20 minutes later.  Apparently with this unit you cut TWO lengths of twine, insert an end in each hole (aligning some arrows first), and then wind.  Very easy once you know what to do…  Me, I was out for the night.

Monday morning found the pain gone in my hand, but it was still very swollen.  I could, at least, turn the ring, so it was improving (in fact, its almost back to normal, but not quite, today as I post this, 3 days later).  Alas, the eye was still swollen about 1/4 shut.  Rather annoying.  Feed the cows some treats and basically lazed around.  Did go on a short tour of the farm.  Mixed results on some fence line spraying I had done 2 weeks early, and now a bit too late to try again.  Will have to hit them in the spring.  Decided to go visit Sonny, but he wasn’t home.  Found myself looking at the area where I wanted to put the cattle facilities.  Happen to have the plan with me (was going to get Sonny’s thoughts), and had some flags in the back of the Kubota, so tried laying it out.  About an hour later, Sonny came by to say “hi”.  Two more hours later and we had it figured out more or less.  Going to have to pull the plan forward about 30 feet to avoid cutting down some oak trees, but that is ok.  At least it appears to fit.

Went back to the house to be reminded that cool weather does not mean no sunburn.  Apparently those three hours were enough to “help” me with my tan a bit more.

We wrapped up and prepared to come home.  I parked the Kubota and put the tractor back in the shed.  Noticed that tractor tire had decreased a bunch – its going to be flat by the time I get back there.  Its leaking slow, so hopefully I can just inflate it, but I suspect its going to need its 4th tube in 4 years.

So?  What do you think?  Good weekend or bad?




Temple Grandin – Humane Livestock Handling

Posted by Kevin on September 7, 2011
Posted in Farming Books  | Tagged With: | No Comments yet, please leave one

I highly recommend anyone who is considering having cattle, or who has them and is willing to learn how to lower their stress levels, obtain the following book:

Temple herself has a wonderful life story. I found it both educational, reflective of our society, and heart warming. Ah, this is new, apparently you can watch it on demand from Amazon for $3.99. Not bad! Pretty sure we got it from Netflix. 1 hour, 49 minutes, released in 2010.