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Kevin's Thoughts!

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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.