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Vixen – RIP

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on August 11, 2015
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | 1 Comment


Vixen, our Bernese Mountain Dog, died today.  She had been slowing down for the past couple of months, we just attributed it to middle age (a bit under 6 years old) and the growing heat.  A week or so ago it started becoming very apparent something else was wrong.  A trip to the vet confirmed her kidneys had failed.  The vet indicated she had days, not weeks.  She stopped eating shortly thereafter and was quiet lethargic.  She would still move around the house a little bit, moving from one favorite spot to another, and could be coaxed into walking outside with some effort.

Friday night we loaded her up and took off for her favorite spot – the farm.  I ended up giving her a half hour ride in the Kubota when we got there, even though it was 11pm at night.  She always loved chasing, or running along side, the Kubota, often upset if I wouldn’t take it out of the storage shed immediately upon arrival, and knowing well it was stored there.  In any case, she seemed to like the late night ride.  We heard her walking around just a little bit last night, and she was still with us this morning.  Mid morning was very nice outside, in the mid 70s, and we put her out there.  Next time we checked her, she had crawled into the Kubota, which we had purposely parked nearby.  Around 1pm I took her for her final ride – we spent about an hour and half slowly touring the farm.  She raised her head several times, and sipped a bit more water. 

By 3pm she was breathing hard, and had stopped responding to any water, but her eyes were still bright and watching, although clearly tired.  I had placed a blanked over the top of the Kubota to keep her in the shade, but it was still nice outside, in the low 80s with a nice breeze – so long as you were not in the sun.  I went out about 45 minutes later and it was clear the end was near.  She was breathing very hard and  sporadically and her eyes had lost focus.  She had no response to water dribbled into her mouth.  I petted her, told her it was OK to go, and she took another few breaths and passed.

She is now buried by our pine trees.  She will be missed.

Epilog: When it was clear she was sick, we did a bit of research on Bernese lifespans.  I was shocked to discover it has dropped from 10-11 years two decades ago to a mere 6-8 years old now.  This breed is in trouble.  I was also surprised to find out that many other large breeds, like German Shepherds, are living shorter lives.  Not sure what is going on here.

Catching up!

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on July 26, 2015
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one


Wow!  I knew I had not posted in awhile, but I would never have guessed 3 months!  My sincere apologies!   Lets see, most of my not-so-recent posts were about building the dock.  The big news there is that the lake, which we expected to fill up over 2 years, completely filled by mid June.  This was, obviously, much faster than expected and came with its own series of challenges.  The first of which was the fear of a 5″ rain causing it to overflow!  Our cattle had free access to the entire farm during this period and naturally gravitated to that nice fresh grass growing on the dam and in the spillways.  Fortunately, the fence guy we had talked to previously came through and prioritized fencing off the lake.  That, combined with merely a few inches of rain a week, has given that grass a bit of a chance to recover.  We are going to keep the animals off for a year or so just to be safe.

Oh, we had a pair of geese come by and raise a flock of young ones while the pond was half full.  Later, after it filled, a pair of ducks came and did the same.  Kind of cool, although those geese were noisy!


For those following the deck work, here is what it looked like when I called it “finished”.  Still shy a board (can you spot where?) and shy the metal swing we put out on it.  Also shy a ladder – something I’ll be addressing next time I come out with the truck.

Will also need to treat the deck.  Thinking of using outdoor paint with sand mixed in to keep it from being too slippery. 

Adult cows ignore it, but the young ones seem to think its neat.  Alas, their hooves are tearing it up a bit.  Fortunately, they will not have regular access to it.


City work has been light (honestly, TOO light) this spring.  The upside to that is that I’ve spent a LOT of time here.  May was spent spraying things as they came into season.  Fairly early in that process was my efforts against multi-floral rose.  Easy to kill with 2-4D, it is sneaky and proliferate.  Ignore it for a year or two and you get bushes like the one in the photo.  Blown in by the wind, and dropped by birds, this is not a war I can win, but a battle I must fight every year.

After I attacked the multi-floral rose, I went after the normal thistle plants, again using 2-4D.  Going to stop doing that after this year.  The 2-4D knocks the thistle back, but doesn’t kill it.  A mix called Pasturegard does kill it however.  A lot more expensive than 2-4D (think $160/gal vs. $20/gal), and requiring surfactants to be added to the tank mix, it does seem to get the job done.  This was demonstrated when I received a panic call from Frank Oberle in June, telling me he spotted a patch of Canadian thistle – a noxious weed.  Called John Murphy, my MDC private land conservationist,  and he came out the next morning.  Sure enough, I had a patch of several square yards of the beast.  This is a plant that can spread very quickly:  Like 1 plant can cover an acre in 3 years.  Nuked it with Pasturegard, and happy to report that 4 weeks later I apparently have a complete kill.

During John’s visit, we toured the rest of the farm, and spotted a monarch butterfly on some blooming milkweed.  John shot this photo with my cell phone:


There has been other goodness as well:  we have enough berries now (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, loganberries, currants, etc.) that a breakfast or lunch of berries is no longer unusual.  Mostly its just a matter of carving out time to gather them.

Spent an interesting week with some help:  One of my wife’s Ukrainian parents were in town.  The father did not understand our culture well (“Why do you have grass lawns?”  To mow them… and fertilize and water them so the grass grows quicker so we can mow more often…)  (“Nice pond in your backyard (subdivision retention pond).  Do people fish in it?”  Yes, but they throw the fish back…)  He had a point, sometimes we are a bit odd…  The concept of having cows and not milking them was odd to him as well, but he had some farming background, so we decided the two of us would head up to the farm and spend a few days working, to be joined by Evia and the kids a few days later.  The challenge?  He didn’t speak much English.  The solution… more or less… a “speak and translate” program on my iPhone.  That worked somewhat well, although there was a 30-60 second delay per attempt.  “Nick” is a few years older than I am, and we worked each other to death.  I found out afterwards that he presumed he would be helping for a few hours a day.  We got up at 8 and worked until 8 for 4 days straight.  A few times we took time off for an afternoon tea, but not always.  I was told that he collapsed for a couple of days after getting back home.  I did too!  That said, we did get the frame up for the chicken coop/playhouse.  This will be a replacement for the kids old playhouse, which the wind had blown over twice.  It supported my weight as I took it down, but anything near the ground was pretty rotten.  Reusing a lot of the special parts, like the slide, rock wall, climbing rope, etc.  We will have room for about 40 chickens when we move out here.  Until then, it will make a nice little storage shed, and the kids will enjoy their 2nd floor playhouse.  Alas, that is still a project in progress.

Wife and I came up, just the two of us, for the 4th of July weekend.  We worked on the Chicken Coop a bit, and sprayed some more.

This weekend was mostly checking in, and sleeping in the rain.  We have had a LOT of activity going on – so much so my neighbor joked we might not know where to stop when we came up.  In the past 3 weeks:

  • The old, barely holding together, southern barb wire fence was mostly replaced with new 12″ woven wire fencing.  Rather unique is our use of pure hedge post for that project – the way things used to be built.  We literally have folks stopping to look at it.  It should last 40 years, at least.  All class 3 galvanized wire and staples.
  • Our old barn was torn down to make way for a new one.  I had salvaged a lot of cattle panels off the old one, and pulled a few post out in the process – they were mostly rotten.  I suspect the old barn would have collapsed within a few years if we had not torn it down.
  • More fencing projects were completed – we now have a run between our southeast field and our south field without needing to run the cattle through the lake field.  We also added a 5th wire to the fence along the Shoop property – that looks a lot better than the electric wire I added to keep our cattle from jumping it.
  • A new 30×40 pole barn has been constructed where the old barn was.  That still has a bit of tweaking to do, but is under roof.  This is large enough that I could store 64 round (6’x6′) bales of hay under roof if I put them 2 high.  I seldom stock more than 48, so will have some extra space.  We are adding a pair of gates, and some additional railing on the open side, so that we can herd a cow or ten in there should we need some temporary place for them (like if someone gets sick and we need to call a vet).
  • My office/workshop (24’x48′) has been raised and put under roof.  Windows and doors coming this week.  We just had the shell built.  I will finish off the inside.  A power pole was placed at the beginning of July, and Donny ran underground cable from it to the back of the workshop last week.  He also connected water to a freeze-proof spigot that is in the workshop side of the building.  That is there in case I want to wash down the floor.  Lots to do on this project, but the “bones” are built.  Amongst other things, I should be able to use it to store a lot of furniture when we move, until the new house is complete.
  • The same Amish folks that built the pole barn and workshop put a roof over the working section of my cattle corral.  They did a GREAT job – I couldn’t be happier.  We grossly over-sized that so that I can now place the trailer under roof, and have a nice dry spot to store implements.

The only downside to all the new buildings is that my metal storage shed is now an eyesore.  Suspect I’ll empty it and move it behind the workshop.  Then use it for something other than to store the tractor and Kubota RTV in.  Well, at least I’ll move it.

Coming back next Tuesday afternoon.  The Amish are suppose to finish things up on Wednesday and would like to be paid (10% down is all they required to do the work!).  Hoping to get some more work done on the chicken coop.

Long day, short post.

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on April 23, 2015
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one


Woke up after a night of strange dreams (ex-employer asked me back, ex-coworker complained I sold him a stolen car, etc…) and realized today MIGHT be my last working day.  50% chance of rain tomorrow – if that happens, and its anything substantial, I’ll be shutdown from doing much on the dock.  The lakeside is just to steep to be able to work safely if its muddy.  Anyhow, put in 8 1/2 hours today, getting out there about noon, and working until 8:30pm.  Started in a heavy coat, shed that by 1pm, lost the light flannel an hour after that.  Thought about losing my t-shirt but didn’t want to scare the cows.  Ended the day in the t-shirt even though it was 57 out.  Such is life when your doing labor.  It felt a bit cool, but not cold.

Anyhow, made some progress.  Walkway deck is in, and 3 of the 4 outer support boards are in on the main deck.  I have to pull one pole out about an inch and a half to have a shot at things being square.  Oh, speaking of square, I’m reasonably satisfied with the 26 foot walkway.  Its about a 1/2 inch out of square over those 26 feet.  A professional should have done better, but not too bad for an amateur.  Built a bit of scaffolding to help.  Looks like I’m going to end up with a spare pair of 2x12x20′ boards – I think of something to do with those on the next project (a combination chicken house and kids fort).

If the rain holds off a day, I should get the decking on the main deck and perhaps the handrails up.  Then all that is left is trimming the 6×6 post even, and painting all the decking with some sand filled pant (to make it less slippery).  Once the main deck is done, it won’t matter if the pond fills, I’ll be done with all the below future water level steps.

Better day.

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on April 22, 2015
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one

Put in about 5.5 hours of labor this afternoon.  Went out around 1:30pm and worked until 7pm.  All the post are in!  The mail rail boards for the walkway are also in.  That is the last of the 16′ 6×6 work, and the 20′ 2×12 work.  In theory it gets easier now… although I still need to put in the 2×12 edge boards for the deck itself – while standing on temp. scaffolding I have to build.  Kind of need to get that done tomorrow, so I can remove some temporary support boards that may well go under water if we have another good rain.  I should get all the cross members in to support the decking down the walkway tomorrow too.  With luck, three sheets of Advantech will go down and we will at least be able to walk out aways (ok, 24′ to be exact).

Not as wiped as I was yesterday, but the lumber was lighter, and I wasn’t fighting mud.

By the way:  this project is being built using a tractor powered auger (gets the pilot holes drilled, but not one of them was drop in ready, all needed to be at least trimmed, and some virtually redug, for proper post alignment), my fathers old Sears Craftsmen level – its missing a bubble or two, but otherwise is fine – a set of Rigid 18V power tools (drill/screwdriver, circular saw, reciprocal saw (“saws-all”), a blunt nose shovel, a post hole digger I’ve had forever, and a 3/4″ length of iron pipe I used for tamping and just a bit of sweat.

Weather is strange.  I believe it was about 45F this morning, and got up to about 65F (perfect weather:  t-shirt and a light flannel which protects my arms a bit).  Just weird to start the day in a coat, strip down to a T-shirt for part of it, then need a light cover for evening.

I can’t say the cows are ignoring me.  They keep an eye out when walking by, but I don’t seem to be disturbing them.  Now if Larry was here, he would be hanging with me all day.  Miss that guy.

How to make a hard job near impossible…

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on April 21, 2015
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | 1 Comment


So left off heading for the gate to meet Evia and the kids.  It was a wonderful night – a bit hazy for stargazing, but the perfect temperature.  I took the Kubota to the gate and laid out on the front seat and just stared at the sky.  Saw a couple of planes – amusing how you need to look a 1/4 sky ahead of where the sounds comes from.  One shooting star.  No satellites, which was a bit surprising, but the view from the front seat is limited.  Everyone arrived about 15-20 minutes later.

Saturday was a light day.  We did haul a bunch of lumber down to the dock site and cut some to desired lengths.  Mostly toured the farm and reveled in everything greening up.  Saturday night the rain set in for real and continued on and off most of Sunday.  We caught up on our cattle registrations online.  Ended up logging 10 animals in the official American Highland Cattle Association database – or at least filled out the paperwork to have them entered.  Its a manual process, and they will auto-bill our credit card for those we actually registered.  We don’t register any of the males unless they are the rare perfect specimen, like Larry was.  However its still important to get those males entered into the database for tracking the productivity of the mothers.  Then it was off to dinner.  Gabby loves King’s Buffet – and in fact, had her first adult food there when she was two:  Egg drop soup.  She still loves it.  So there we went.  Prices are going up, but the kids are getting older too.  I remember when I could feed all (4) of us there for $22+tip, now its $32+tip.  Of course, that was 8 years ago…

Monday was lost.  I spent a bit of time wandering around outside, but everything was down right soggy.  And COLD! (relatively speaking)  All of my 3′ deep post holes were filled to the top with water.  And… the lake rose visibly.  The water is now almost up to the post I put in a couple of weeks ago.  The area I was driving my tractor in to dig those holes is underwater.  Glad I came out when I did, otherwise the dock wouldn’t be.  I did finalize the purchase of my weather station.  Have I mentioned that?  Everyone who is online around here uses Wunderground.com for their weather information (its not as radical as it sounds, its owned by the Weather Channel).  What does make it unique is that it integrates data from over 100,000 Personal Weather Stations across the USA.  The nearest station to our farm is over 10 miles away.  I’m fixing that.  Just bought a Wireless Davis Vantage Pro2 Plus weather station with all the bells and whistles, including solar irradiation, UV level, and with a 24 hour fan aspirated Radiation Shield (important for “in the shade” temperature readings) – with upgraded sensors.  Thanks Bick!  (Its nice to have a bit of pocket money to play with).  Anyhow, the folks I bought it from deserve a plug, so Thanks Robert (who helped me through a lot of options).  Robert and his wife run:  www.rainmanweather.com. Very nice people.

Today was interesting.  I woke up at 7:30am to the sound of the ice-maker discharging a chunk (did I mention its really quiet here?).  Evia took the dog with her, so its REALLY quiet now.  No cat, no dog, just me this week.  Although I wanted today to be full of dock work, since hopefully things had dried out some, I decided to roll over and sleep just a bit more.  Woke up at 11am!  Made some brunch, checked email, posted a few things on a game site I’m stuck on, and made it outside about 1pm.  Worked until 7pm.  Almost double my typical dock period.  That gets us to today’s topic:  How to make a hard job near impossible…

You would think having holes full of water would be a good thing – should soften the dirt, make it easier to trim the holes, etc.  Right?  Well, I bailed out the holes with a slightly modified milk jug.  Then plunged in my post-hole digger.  Nice soft mud, east to grab.  AH What?  Why won’t this mud come off the post-hole digger blades?  Oh, right… its Adair County mud.  The slickest, stickiest, substance know to mankind (or at least to me).  Ok, so now every posthole digger full of mud needs to be banged, repeatedly, on the ground – or cleared with my tamper pipe (a 4′ length of 3/4″ iron pipe with and end-cap – perfect to compressing the ground after back filling holes – and kind of handy for moving cattle with leverage – although we bent it doing that) – or my boot.  So what is normally a 15 second operation of filling the post hole digger and dumping it is now taking a minute or two.  But that wasn’t the bad part…

The bad part was positioning the poles in the holes.  Normally this is work, but not as bad as carrying them.  Ware long sleeves, wrap your arms around the 6×6 treated lumber pole, and lift with your legs. Ignore the inevitable bruises.   With a 16 foot one, its work, no doubt.  This hole had a 12 foot one – shouldn’t be a problem right?  Remember that sticky mud.  Give it all you got… doesn’t matter.  Mud holds it in place.  I did manage to move the pole about 3 times (out of the typical 6-9 adjustments to get one aligned with everything else).  With each success there was this massive SUCKING sound, as the mud slowly let go of its prey.  Tried removing as much as I could.  Didn’t matter.  Gave it all I had, and still couldn’t move it most of the time.  Eventually broke down and used a chain and the tractor to free the bloody thing – three times – before I got it positioned right.  Easy on the back, but time consuming to move the tractor, wrap the chain, raise the bucket, position the pole, knock the chain free, etc.  Bottom line:  I spent TWO HOURS positioning one pole.

Over the next 4 hours, having learned my “The power of Mud” lesson, I positioned (2) 8′ foot poles (still had mud issues, but they were light enough to overcome, and I cleared as much mud from the bottom of the holes as I could before I dropped in the pole), and drilled, positioned, and locked in the first two of the “other side” of the walkway.  The first was a 16 foot pole – about all this old man can carry, the second was blessedly only a 12 footer.  Started using some of that lumber Evia and I cut up on Saturday.  Some of that was spacing/support board – cut to exactly 4′ 11″ – the distance between the outside edges of the poles along the future walkway.  Figured on using one per set of poles to hold them in place, ended up using two:  one at the base to establish the rough orientation and hold it, the other right below the 2x12x20 that is tied into the right hand post.  That second one will end up doubling as a support brace for the left hand 2x12x20 main support beam.  I have to tell you, mere clay, in the bottom of the two new holes I drilled, was downright wonderful to post hole out after working with the mud.

Ended up calling it quits at 7pm.  Normally I do about 3-4 hours of hard manual labor, like lifting 16′ 6×6 treated lumber poles, but since I lost Monday, I was enthused.  Seriously feel it now.  This message is being brought to you compliments of a half-empty glass of Jim Beam Bourbon.  Bourbon has several advantages over Tylenol:  1)  Its faster  2)  The pain is really lessened  3) You don’t care about what pain remains nearly as much.  Downside:  Can’t use it on a regular basis.  Well, you can, but then you need a membership to AA.  It will be interesting to see if I can move in the morning.  If I can go back to 3-4 hours a day, I can see having this dock finished before I leave – or nearly so.

I’m back!

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on April 17, 2015
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | 2 Comments


Lets see…   Some noticed that I reduced the font size from enlarged to normal.  Leave me a comment if you care one way or another. 

Last week didn’t end on Thursday.  I had a friend from work swing by to scope the place out for turkey hunting.  He came Friday and spent the night.  I pulled out two packages of Filet Mignon’s and cooked those on the grill for dinner.  They were from the steer we slaughtered last year and were absolutely delicious.  Fortunately Steve liked his like mine:  medium rare.  So we had filets for dinner, and filets and eggs for breakfast.  He left late morning, after visiting the cows (this post’s picture).  Unfortunately, he didn’t hear any turkey, but I think he had a good time.  I discovered that with a bit of salt, the filets were almost as good cold, right from the fridge.  That was lunch and dinner!  Grass fed, grass finished, wonderful!

Sunday had a social visit from my MDC private land conservationist, and more work on the fishing dock.  Weather has been weird – pretty chilly in the mornings (mid 40s F) warming up to a pleasant 65F-70F about 3pm.  I’ve been doing most of the dock work from around 3pm until 7:30pm-8pm.

Sunday night rained and things were pretty messy down at the dock, so I did a few “rainy day” chores, like fixing my tank sprayer and making a parts shopping list.  Went into town mid-morning and bought what I needed for my next trip, and headed home to do our taxes…  Evia and I set a new record doing the taxes on Tuesday – only 6 hours (plus the 1 or so I did much earlier).  I had donated most of my salt water aquarium stuff in 2014 to the Wonders of Wildlife zoo in Springfield Mo.  I knew I’d need an appraisal (30 years of hobby ending in a 5000 gallon tank resulted in a lot of stuff, and related aquarium stock) and a detailed receipt from the zoo – which I had.  I didn’t know that I would need them both to sign a common document (for 8283 if I recall).  E-mails went out on the 14th, and fortunately both replied the next day, coordinating to get me a mutually signed document.  Off the to post-office we went!.  Discovered that post offices don’t stay open late on tax day anymore, or at least most of them don’t.  Apparently there was ONE in downtown St. Louis and ONE in downtown Kansas City.  Wednesday was syncing up with a repair guy to see how the rental house we have been working on since January was coming along.  Ended up needing a couple more days, but was really close.  Bad rental time, good sales time – and prices were finally back to a bit over what we paid – so called my realtor and started the process of getting it listed.  Friday morning was signing off on that listing contract and heading back to the farm. 

How does all that tie into “Life on Carpenter Farm”?  We realized a few years ago that we would not continue my aquarium hobby on the farm – it just wasn’t a fit.  Once we made that conclusion, it just became a question of when to shut it down, not if.  I made that call last spring – left a message with one of my profession friends (New England area), he dropped a note to a professional list (which I have hosted for him for a decade or so), and within hours we had takers.  So one “city life” aspect shutdown.  Likewise for the rental home.  We have six around the St. Louis area (3 in Wentzille, 2 in Ofallon, 1 in Florissant).  Our ex next door neighbor of a decade ago was a real estate agent, and she talked me into taking a home equity loan out against my primary house and using it to buy smaller rental homes.  She made money, we have lost over $40k since we started the business 8 years ago.  It has to go if we are going to move to the farm full time.  Alas, we got in at exactly the wrong time – just before the housing crash.  Things are just now coming back for some of the homes.  Once we sell them, then my debt drops, the home equity loan gets paid off, and we will be in much better shape financially to come out here.

Anyhow, Friday late morning, everything was done in town, and I headed back out to the farm.  Of course, our dog wouldn’t let me out of the house unless I brought her as well.  She has great aspirations out here, but her age and body condition is catching up with her.

Today had me fixing the water feed line to the summer water trough, and working on the dock until sunset.  Managed to remove some temporary guide lumber and installed the first 20′ 2×12 deck support – and sink one more 12′ post (after having to post hole dig it clear of course).  Evia and the kids are expected soon – perhaps with a cat (or two?).  Think I’ll go wait for them out by the front gate.

Bachelor this Week:  Thursday

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on April 10, 2015
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | 2 Comments

Ugly weather today:  Cloudy, windy,  scattered rain.  I’m officially sore and scrapped up:  both shoulders are bruised and scraped from working with the 16′ 6x6s.  Called it a day of rest – will likely go into town and stock up.  I have a bit of an emergency:  I finished the last of my whiskey last night!

Today was fish delivery day.  Harrison Fishery was suppose to be out between 11am and noon.  Got a call at 11:30 that they were having truck problems.  I grimmenced when I heard that – I used the same excuse back in the 70s when I worked the for plant nursery and trucks got overbooked.  In any case, they claimed they would be out around 4pm.  Got another call at 2:15pm asking for directions.  They are about 45 minutes away, but it didn’t show up until 3:45ish.  They came in a huge truck, not surprising since water is rather heavy.  I had ordered 3lbs of fathead minnows and 3lbs of golden shiners for our upper pond that was reworked a few years ago.  Figured I’d turn that into a bait pond.  6lbs of fish fit in a 5 gallon bucket with a bit of water.  Apparently good enough for a 5 minute shuttle down to the pond in our RTV.  No way was that truck going over the fields without getting stuck.   So $57 for bait fish for life – not bad.

2nd order was for the new pond:  12lbs of fatheads, 12lbs of shiners, 800 2″-3″ bluegill, 200 2″-3″ redear sunfish – and it all fit in (3) 5 gallon buckets?   Definetly saw the minnows and shiners, and spotted some sunfish jumping out.  No clue if there were a 1000 of them though.  That was $558 worth of fish in those 3 buckets, many that jumped or spilled on the way down to the lake.  Think we recovered most of them.  Of course, some didn’t make it – like buying minnows at a bait shop – some die of shock.  I counted dozens of dead ones, mostly shiners, but not hundreds.

$75 in delivery charge and I managed to spend $690 for 4 buckets of fish.

Came inside and played a bit of Rimworld – a rather addicting simulation game with basic graphics, but amusing when your tired and sore.  Dog and I went into town about 7pm and stopped at Orscheln for PVC glue and cat food, MFA to fill up the truck, Home Depot for some steel pipe and 25lbs 2.5″ star head deck screws (~$100 – those things are expensive, but great.  I use the 3.5″ ones for most of my 2×6 work.  The corral is built with them!), Walmart of T-Shirts (ran out of clean ones), and finally Hy-Vee for bread, (2) TV dinners, and whiskey.  Made it back home in horrible weather – 50F, sleeting rain, and winds strong enough to make it hard to open the truck door.  Got inside and found my phone:  Tornado warns all along the Missouri/Iowa border (which we are maybe 30 miles from).

Fed the cat, who was very grateful (we ran out of food we brought from home that morning).  Read the directions for conventionally cooking the TV dinners and was surprised it would take 45 minutes AFTER pre-heating the oven.  Think this might have been the first time I’ve used the oven – it had that “first time” smell for 10 minutes as it heated up.  Not sure how a 1lb “Hungry Man” TV dinner is suppose to feed a hungry man – was very glad I bought 2.  Perhaps the fact that the only thing I ate that day was two slices of toast might have had something to do with it.  Bought my first JIm Beam Bourbon – not bad.  Logged a bit more time on Rimworld and called it a night.

Oh, noticed my slightly sore knee was more than slightly sore – I limped through most of the stores this evening.  Apparently twisted my neck a bit too, it was sore on the left side.  Good day to rest up.

Good and bad news today.

First the good news:  Found baby #3, looks like it was born a few days ago.  Rain has mostly passed us by so I’ve managed to get a few hours in each day on the dock.  Not pushing that – its heavy straining work.  No sense in overdoing it and risking injury.

Probably the best news is that our new butcher came through with flying colors.  Yield from our carcass was 69.5%, including the bones in the steaks and soup meat.  This was one large steer we had slaughtered – at least 1500lbs, perhaps 1650lbs.  Hanging weight was 955lbs!  We received about 665 lbs of meat from that, which is excellent.  Our previous butcher, based on his last work for us, would have delivered 455lbs…  Of course, we don’t use that one anymore!   Anyhow, it feels like we are back in business and ready to direct sell cattle for meat.

Just to talk business for a moment:  every animal is different, but typically we would sell a Highland steer around 900-950lbs (did I mention the one we just had slaughtered was huge?  It was a different, larger, breed).  Using typical ratios, a 950lb steer would hang around 550lbs, and yield about 350lbs of meat.  Cost of the steer, slaughtering, and processing (butchering and packaging) would run about $1800 for a price per pound of around $5.15 for everything from T-Bones and sirloins to ground beef.  One gets a surprisingly few steaks per animal, a lot of roast, a fair amount of very meaty soup bones, and about half ground beef – more if you don’t want as many roast or soup bones.  Liver and heart are optional.  If you buy, you need to write 2 checks:  One to us for the animal, another to the butcher for processing.  We will arrange the slaughtering, the butcher shop will call about 2 weeks later and ask how you want it processed (steak thickness, soup bones vs. hamburger, roast, etc.).  We need to know if you want the liver and heart (or any other organ meat) before slaughtering.  You need to drive to the butcher in Purdin, Mo. and pick up your meat.  The butcher will pack 50lb seed bags with your VERY frozen meat, so you need to make sure you have room for 7-8 bags in your vehicle and plenty of freezer space at home.  Your refrigerator freezer, even if you have a side-by-side, will NOT due.  The 13 bags I came home with today would have nicely filled my 20 cubic foot chest freezer.  Alas, it was not completely empty, so I actually overflowed into our refrigerator/freezer and pretty much abandoned all hope of sorting the steaks from the roasts.  ps.  We have 2 steers that should be at our target weights, ready for slaughter upon sale. 

Why the double checks and requirement for you to blow a day driving?  USDA rules.  We can sell you a live cow, and arrange for butchering, but can not sell you meat unless its processed at a USDA plant.  There isn’t one close, and even if there was, we would need to load the animal and drive it to plant and have it slaughtered there.  That would result in some bruising, a lot of stress, and fear in the animal.  Using the Purdin State Inspected butcher is a much more humane process: They come to our farm, drive out to the field the animal is in, and drop it right there.  One moment its munching grass, the next moment its gone – no fear, no stress.  The hassle is the price of doing this humanly, the benefit is you get grass fed, grass finished beef that was NEVER EVER fed antibiotics (we do vaccinate), with zero stress slaughtering.  So better tasting beef that is much better for you (This meat is leaner than corn fed with a slightly yellow fat, which I’m told is the beta carotene’s and other nutrients associated with a naturally fed animal.)  Highlands grow slower than Angus and many other breeds, so the meat has a finer texture to it as well.  Of course, no growth supplements are fed either.  Basically it takes us about 2.5 years to raise a steer to slaughtering weight vs. about half of that for a corn fattened Angus.  We believe the net result is worth it, even if the beef may be a bit more expensive than buying from some.

The owner of the processing plant is a nice older man.  I’m guessing its his daughter that works there helping out.  She could use a bit of customer focus training….  Maybe she was just having a bad day today… not sure.  Lets just say she was gruff and leave it at that.

Now the bad news:  Found baby #4 – dead.  Not sure who the Mom was.  I’m thinking it was Rose, since she was hanging around, but when I checked the records, she last gave birth on 7/1/14 – so would be due to give us another one for a couple of months.  Gestation for cattle is 9 months, with a 28 day cycle,  just like for people, and usually it takes 2-3 months after birthing before the cow gets pregnant again.  So… we have a mystery.  This is our first confirmed loss.

Bachelor this week… Monday report

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on April 7, 2015
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one


Monday was a bit of a day of rest.  Rain is moving in for most of the week, which is going to hamper the pond dock work.  The ground I’m working on is heavily sloped – perhaps a 30 degree angle, although it varies a lot.  Two days of wind and the surface is dry enough for the tractor to maneuver without concern.  However a bit of rain turns it into very slick and sticky clay.

Still managed to accomplish a few things:  Called the fish guy for Thursday delivery of our initial pond stock.  We are stocking fathead minnows and shiners in the little 1/2 acre pond.  That will become a bit of a bait pond, and a refugia, beyond its primary duty as a water supply for the cattle.  During heavy rains, some minnows and shiners will be washed down into the main pond, providing an everlasting supply in case things get out of balance.  For the main pond (~4 acres when its full, perhaps 1 now) we are stocking those plus some bluegill and redear sunfish.  In 2016 will will add bass, channel cats, and crappie.

We could stock at a heavier rate and add the bass this fall, but are opting to use time to our financial advantage.  Its real easy to spend thousands on stocking fish in order to have a fishing pond sooner rather than later.  I prefer hundreds and later…

Have hopefully made progress fixing the bed cover on the pickup truck.  The metal trailing edge of the fiberglass rolling cover broke free.  This is the edge we normally handle the cover with, so pretty much made the cover useless.  Found some slow drying, extra strong Loctite glue that I’m giving a try with.  I’ve had this problem in the past, and used a silicon based glue, but it only lasted a year or two.  Hoping this will be more permanent.  Alas, it takes 36 hours to reach full strength, so will avoid using it until Wednesday.

I did manage to get a few more boards up on the dock before it started to drizzle.  Nothing much, just some spacing and alignment guides in preparation for drilling the next set of holes.  Needed my plumb bob, which was in the house, and decided that was a good excuse for calling it a day.  Besides, Tad (my boss) had called and asked if I could participate in a client call around 5:30pm, and I didn’t want to miss that.

Call went well, although followup required a couple of hours of evening work for Tad and I.  Unfortunately my Internet connection started acting up:  dropping, taking 5+ minutes to reestablish itself, then dropping again 5-15 minutes later.  In the city, one would call an 800 number, provide various levels of identification, go through a front line help desk, perhaps be given the sage advice of “Please power cycle the box – that should clear it up” (which, of course, I did after the first issue), etc.  Out here in the country, I called Jason, who works for the phone company, at his home, and was greeted with a “Hello Mr. Carpenter, how are things going?”.  He offered to come out Tuesday morning (actually, now… typing this while I wait for him). 

Gotta love country life: Lumber yards that apologize if they can’t deliver (for free) the same day, and don’t require a signature “because I forgot to grab a pen and you always pay your bills”.  Telephone/Internet support that is perfectly happy when customers call them at home in the evening.  Neighbors that watch out for your house and property – because its the right thing to do.  Auto mechanics that actually charge you the real price for parts and actual time spent fixing something – not some inflated book time.  Hardware stores where the staff knows you name… (oh, and there actually is a helpful staff).  And of course, peace and quiet (except for the bullfrogs, and now the geese).

Why the cat photo?  Everyone loves cat photos!  Now if I could just teach him to stop walking on the keyboard…

Spring Break (for Dad)

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on April 5, 2015
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one


Found myself between assignments at work, so opted to spend a week plus up at the farm.  Packed the kids, dog, and my cat in the truck and come up Thursday morning, April 2nd.  Believe this is the first time I’ve mentioned my cat… Starting at the beginning of the year my wife, Evia, began fostering cats for one of the do-not-kill shelters.  We typically have 3 in our laundry room.  Not ideal for them, but a LOT better than sitting in a cage – and they get some socialization with the kids playing with them, as well as a few neighbors kids.  Often kittens, sometime full grown cats.  On off weekends, when we are not at the farm, Evia takes them up to Petsmart who hosts adoption sessions.  Normally one or two of them will be adopted, and a day or two later, the leader of this effort will drop off replacements.  Well, my cat, Midnight, was a black kitten.  First time I went in to visit that batch, this black kitten jumped on my shoulders and settled in wrapped around my neck.  Somehow found myself spending more time with that batch than I normally do.  The weekend before valentines day, Midnight went with the rest of them to Petsmart… and came home.  Apparently there were 7 black cats there that weekend.  Evia presented him to be as my valentines gift.  I didn’t complain.  In Evia’s circle, this is called a “Failed Foster”, where the foster family ends up formally adopting the cat.  Obviously, that can’t happen too often…  In any case, Midnight spends most of the day with me and travels with us to the farm now.

Thursday was travel day.  We had GREAT weather, sunny and warm.  Put out what will probably be the last of the hay, unless we get a freak snowfall.  Swapped out the front hay fork for the bucket.  Started filling the water trough after dumping some new gravel under it and leveling it out better than I did last year.  Checked for leaks and thought I heard one, but decided to check again later at night, when the trough would be full, and the pipes under more pressure (sure enough, went out with a flashlight around 11pm – nice and quiet, no kids stomping in the grass and going “hey Dad?” every 30 seconds, and found a cracked fitting).  Took the kids for a rid in the RTV and checked everything out.  Discovered we have TWO new calves.  Neighbors had reported on the 31st, another appears to have been born a day or two later.  Ran the dog, several times.  Basically enjoyed the day.

Friday was a bit of a sleep in, followed by a trip into town for brunch.  I had my usual steak and eggs (and hashbrowns and toast!), the kids had pancakes.  Went into Orscheln to pick up a few things (new ball for my tractor, a replacement pin for the RTV’s hitch which somehow fell off, a bag of T-Post insulators, and some truck bed spray I want to try on the cattle scales to make them less slippery).  Also wanted to pick up a few boxes of lag bolts for assembling the fishing dock with – and had Kenn, the manager, tell me he was being snubbed by the local nuts and bolts guys – he apologized, but couldn’t even order them for me.  Ran up to PEJepson lumber, whom I placed a $3K lumber order with earlier in the week, and added their entire supply of (123) 3/8″ 3.5″ galvanized lag bolts and washers to my order.  I was expecting to have that lumber order delivered early next week, but to my surprise they told me they were coming out later that day!  (and they did…)  Friday evening Evia arrived a bit later than I expected.  Actually texted her and got a “be there soon” reply.  Apparently we have different definitions of “soon”, with her arriving about 2 hours later after going into town and doing some shopping for the weekend supplies.  No big deal… Earlier in the day Frank and later Gabby had come over to the coral where I was working and gave me a hand.  I went back there when I expected Evia to arrive so I could open the gate for her, and ended up having a lot of time to look at the corral and figure out what I wanted to do next.  At sundown, I gave up and went back in. 

Saturday started with a surprise call from the Fence Guy – a gentlemen I’ve been trying to get to come out for about 2 years.  Eventually enrolled the help of my neighbors.  Between them mentioning me at every opportunity and/or eventually make it to the top of his list, he called.  Showed up about 30 minutes later and we spent a pleasant 2 hours touring the farm and reviewing the fencing plan I had sketched up previously and provided him.  Sounds like he is going to be able to do it all (new southern woven wire/hedge post perimeter fence, new pasture fences, and fencing around the new pond (all integrated together in one master plan of course!)) and will be complete by the end of May.  This is an effort that should last at least 30 years, so well worth doing right.  Rest of the day was spent reworking parts of the corral with Evia’s help – we ended up pulling 4 post and repositioning them to tightening up the squeeze section so the cattle would go into single file mode quicker.  As originally laid out, we found ourselves having a lot of jostling for position, often with cattle jams.  Hopefully this will reduce that problem.  Between Friday and Saturdays work we also installed an inside wide to tighten things up a bit – we are trying to prevent them from doing anything other than single file through most of the run.  Ends up being off by a couple of inches is enough to cause problems (e.g.  at 31″ they will try and push past one another, at 28″ they wont…).  Hopefully the rail will do the trick.

Sunday – Evia and the kids go home tonight.  Evia put the roast I took out of the freeze on Thursday into the slow cooker – good meal tonight!  I wrote the previous post this morning while eating a late breakfast.  Went and finished a new slide gate for the corral after that.  Evia is working on her kitchen garden.  I came in and decided to make this post!  Going to have to drill the base holes for the fishing dock today – apparently we have a lot of rain.  It was muddy down there Friday and Saturday, put apparently the winds have dried it out to where I can get the tractor in.  Might be my last chance, rain is forecast much of the coming week, and once this ground goes underwater, it will be a lot harder to drill!  So… guess I’ll end and go do that.

More later, I’m up here soloing it all week… if having a cat and dog with me qualifies as soloing.

OK – quick edit:.  Added the photo of the first flower of spring around here up at the top of the post.  Below is the results of our afternoon effort.  The water level will be about 5 feet below the top of those 6×6 posts once the pond fills.  The deck itself should be a foot or two above water level, which means during flood it will go underwater briefly. 

Don’t like it when we are rushed, but with rain foretasted as a possibility most of the week, we really needed to get this in today.  If you look at the tractor marks in the ground, I went right up to the current waters edge, and sometimes just a bit beyond.  One or two good rains and the pond will rise to where I wouldn’t have been able to do this – at least not from the angle I did it from.  The deck will be 8’x12′ with a 4′ walkway out to it.  If the weather permits I’ll get all the post in this week and most of the cross bracing.  FWIW – setting a 16′ treated 6×6 is pretty much my limit for what I can do by myself.  Its a lot easier to work these things with two.  Of course, the tops will be trimmed even when done and will serve as post for the handrails.

Oh, last but not least:  We have a pair of Canadian Geese visit us yesterday.  They where still hanging around today.