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Kevin's Thoughts!

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


Winter at the farm is well… cold and boring.  The basic routine holds, we get here on Friday night (well after dark),  sleep in a bit since the sun rises late, and do what needs to be done.  Typically that is limited to feeding the cattle and running the fence lines to fix anything the deer have destroyed – maybe 4-5 hours of outdoor work a weekend. 

We have fallen into a routine of eating brats from the local HyVee for Saturday nights dinner – we are particularly fond of their pineapple ones.  Cooking them, especially when its snowing, can be a bit of challenge – since brats MUST, by definition, be done on the grill.  For the record, if it gets cold enough, propane grills don’t work, or at least not well…

Lets see, probably the three most memorable events from this winter were getting snowed in once (which the dog thought was great!).  It took me too hours to try and make it to the asphalt highway, about a mile away.  Ended up having to tow the pickup truck, with family on-board, with my tractor.  Ever time we got started rolling under its own power, we would get stuck.  Thought we would be OK – I have new M&S tires on the truck after all.  Just to make sure, I moved the truck up a few feet without problem.  Loaded the family, and spun in place.  Towed the truck a few hundred feet to the electric fence gate (mostly uphill), and managed to drive it our main gate – stuck again.  Got it onto the county gravel road and we managed to make about a 1/4 miles before we went sideways.  Walked back to farm, got the tractor, again, and towed it a bit farther.  Made it to within about 50 feet of the state highway… ALMOST couldn’t even tow it up that last 50 feet, but eventually we made it.  Of course, that meant I had to drive the tractor back to the farm and walk back to the truck – but a mile or so is just good exercise.

The next two are both Kubota RTV (seen parked next to the house) related.  We have a bad habit of leaving the keys in the tractor and RTV when we are here – its convenient, and you always have them when you need them.  Unfortunately, the RTV is Vixens (the dog’s) best buddy.  She sleeps on or under in, runs with it, barks at it, and rather demands we take it out of the storage shed the moment we arrive, even if it is 1am…  Well, apparently, while getting onboard, she rubbed against the key and turned it on.  By morning: dead battery (and another dozen hours on the engine meter, which is electric and doesn’t care if the engine is actually running, just if the key is on).  No problem… figured I’d jump it with the tractor.  Brought the tractor over and discovered that last fall I apparently ran a branch through the front grill and broke the battery.  For months, the tractor had been starting short one cell!  Not sure why, but I couldn’t jump.  Oh well, decided to focus on getting home and worry about it the next trip.

The next trip’s priority was getting into town on Saturday before the local auto shop closed (~2pm ish).  We always try to work with the local family owned stores rather than the chains, and work with Missouri chains like Orschelns vs. the Home Depots and Walmarts of the world.  Turns out this was Valentine weekend, my mother-in-law was visiting from Russia, and agreed to stay in the city with the kids so that Evia and I could have a quiet weekend together.  We made the shop by about 1pm, and was greeted by a knowledgeable young man who ID’ed the battery from 10 feet away and offered me a replacement, walking into the back and grabbing one.  Bought a charger while we were there for the RTV, and then proceeded to the movie theater – the cows could wait until Sunday.  We ended up spending the rest of the day at the theater, watching 3 movies.  Evia is a big movie buff, so this was a great day for her.  Dinner was popcorn, hotdogs, and pickles washed down with soda (and I think beer with those dogs).  Of note, this was good timing.  Although it tried, the damaged battery had given its all, and could not start the tractor.  The replacement worked fine of course and Sunday saw to the feeding of the cattle.

Finally, the last chore of the season:  Figure out why the Kubota RTV was having such problems.  It was pretty apparently that either I was having a fuel pump problem, or something was clogging the line from the tank.  I never found any reference to an in-tank fuel pump online (although surprising, Google was failing me pretty badly on help with this issue), so I decided to remove the fuel tank and take a look.  That was pretty much an all day event (given the shortness of winter days), and involved disassembling the seat area of the RTV – seat had to come out, and the head rest, and the side panels, and finally access was available to get to the tank strap bolts and work it out.  Sloshed a half-gallon or so of diesel in the tank and dumped into a bucket… and out came a small pile of semi rotted leaves!  Rinced and repeated a few times until I didn’t see anything new coming out, and put it all back together again.  RTV started right up and has been running fine every since.  Vixen was thrilled, having been quite confused on why her friend wouldn’t run with her.


Posted by Kevin Carpenter on January 3, 2015
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one


Winter days are short, our days seems shorter.

Our visit on December 5th was a whirlwind, we got here late, as usual, slept, got up and spent a few hours getting Tullia loaded into the trailer, then hauled her to a ranch about 2 hours southwest of Columbia, west of Lake of the Ozarks.  Took over 4 hours to get there.  We added a couple of hours by detouring over to visit my brother in Camdenton on the way back.  Arrived back at the farm around midnight, grabbed a half-dozen hours of sleep and headed back to the city.  Krystal’s MBA graduation was at 2pm, so not a lot of time to spare, considering we had to swing by the house, pick up my Mom, etc.

Trip on 19th was less eventful.  Weather was yucky – dark, cold, and rainy.  Typical December up here.  We managed to put hay out for the cows, and walked down by the new lake to see a bit of winter wheat sprouting.  Tried to move the dead Kubota and managed to get it a few feet.  No desire to work on it under those conditions.

Things are going a bit better this weekend.  Got here at 10pm Friday… kids having slept on the way up didn’t crash until midnight.  I ended up sleeping until 1pm – after a week of several nights of 4-5 hours of sleep.  Felt good.  Kids got headsets for Christmas so the farm house was blissfully quiet.  Followed up with a huge breakfast and a few hours of e-mail to Raissa and it was approaching 4PM!   Evia joined me outside and we moved 4 bales of hay.  Last year a bale a week was sufficient.  We have more cows this year and started out feeding 3 bales every trip (every other week), the are going through about 2.5/trip now.  Weather is suppose to drop into the single digits (and maybe go negative) next week, so we gave them an extra one.  When the weather gets that cold, they need to eat more to stay warm.  Of course, being highlands, they are still browsing most of the food in the fields – the hay just supplements that.  Did I mention they like to play with it too?  They break the bales up with their horn and spread it around for nighttime bedding.  In any case, they should be in great shape for the upcoming weather.

As the skies turned from dark grey to darker grey I attacked the Kubota.  It had sat long enough to build up a bit of fuel, enough to start it and raise the bed.  Pulled the fuel filter and again found no fuel running from the line.  Had brought an air tank with a rubble nozzle on it, and blew the line out.  An 8″ stream of diesel greeted me when I removed the nozzle.  A sight I was happy to have – it means the problem really is in the tank, not with a fuel pump, injector pump, or something equally serious – likely just some junk in the fuel tank blocking the intake line.  Temporally hooked the fuel lines back up to the filter, shy clamps that were too dark to see and leaving the fuel filter dangle rather than clamping it back.  Good enough to start it up, let it clear the air from the lines and stabilize, and run the dog.  Well, at least the dog thought that was the purpose and she was VERY happy to have her best friend moving again.  We won’t tell her I needed to let the battery charge up a bit after all the problems of the previous few visits.  In any case, the Kubota RTV is now parked back in the shed (an old 45′ overseas metal shipping container) and out of the weather, along with the tractor.  The fuel problem isn’t fixed, but is known.  Now just need to find a way to pump the tank dry and clean it out – a problem for another day (and one I think Donnie will help with).

We need to leave by noon tomorrow for more city duties:  We have a rental eviction on Monday and need to notify the sheriff first thing if the tenant is gone.  We checked the house on our way to the farm and there was still furniture in it.  Hopefully they are moving out this weekend so there won’t be a scene, but I’ll be surprised and pleased if that is the case.  This is our first eviction out of three we have done over the past 8 years that may result in furniture out on the lawn, maybe with ex-tenants sitting in it.  They have had close to a months notice this was coming, and a known a formal day and time for half of that.  Alas, that is the life we want to leave behind us.  We much prefer country life where neighbors go out of their way to help you, and anyone living within 5-10 miles or so is basically considered a neighbor.  Feels good to help them back.  Its almost a game – who can one-up the other with favors.  Not all neighbors of course, but enough of a majority that the others are consider exceptions instead of the rule.

I’ll end this with an explanation of this posts photo:  That is the new lake, now with several feet of water in it?  Not sure how many, but I’ll guess about 4-6, and about 20 to go.  The black line in the photo is about 50 cubic yards of bottom ground we saved that will be moved to augment our garden soil later.

Bye bye Larry… *sniff*

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on November 2, 2014
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one


This weekend was focused around selling Larry.

The weather cooled off.  It was a stark reminder that I meant to flush the radiator on the RTV.  Drained it, and turned the hose on to flush with fresh water – and ice came out of the hose!  Anyhow, gave it a good flush, added a bottle of Prestone radiator treatment and drove it around most of Saturday.  Last night was warmer, not quite touching on 32F.  Will drain and replacing with a proper anti-freeze mix.

Sunday morning the folks came to pick up Larry.  As expected, it was easy to get the herd to come over (definition of easy:  Walk to the top of the ridge and call “Come on girls!”.  30 seconds later a herd of cattle was walking my way…)  Fairly easy to get Duncan and Larry separated in our corral area, and eventually Larry separated from Duncan.  Folks came, backed up their trailer and Larry walked right up to it…  Stepping up into it was another story however.  My 80 year old neighbor came by to watch and we invited him to join us and make suggestions.  His comment:  “Rope him and pull him in!”.  That is pretty much what we did – looped some rope over his horns and pulled from outside the trailer through the front bars.  I pushed from the back.  Pretty easy really, although not exactly an gentle exercise.  We used the trailer doors to push as well and eventually he stepped up.  Last two feet went a few minutes later and that was that.  Got a check and they drove off.  Gabby was crying, Evia and I had a sniffle or two.  Going to miss him.  Good news is we can visit next year when we go to the Celtic festival.

It was touching that Larry’s Mom and Dad come to see him off:

The kind folks interesting in Larry came by this weekend.  Larry was, of course, his adorable self.  Their visit, and bringing the family up to date on the lake construction, was pretty much the focus of the weekend.

I did drain the Kubota RTV’s fuel tank.  Thought the diesel fuel tank opening was enough to see around in and perhaps get my arm in to feel around.  Perhaps when I was 18 that would have worked, but not anymore.  Fortunately Evia’s arm did fit!  Although she claimed she didn’t feel anything, her swishing around freed up whatever was blocked… what little fuel that was left in the tank started running out the fuel line.  I took the advice of the dealer and used my compressor to blow out the fuel line as well.  The diesel itself looked clean.  Added a can of SeaFoam just to waste some money, and siphoned the fuel back in.  Tada!  RTV is working again, at least for now.

One photo of that campfire being made from the previous post:

Lake Construction Photos

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on November 2, 2014
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one

What a difference a week of work will make.  The photo above was taken about 3:45pm on October 9th.  If you look hard, you can see a bit of earthwork through the trees about a third of the way across from left to right.  That is an area the lake folks cleared in order to shoot elevations and give me a good estimate on construction cost.

Here it is around 12:45pm on the first day of clearing.
And two hours later…
And around 10am the next morning, with the first brush piles still smoldering.
Dusk on the 18th of October, wrapping up the brush pile burnings.  I like to think of this as a country campfire – about 20′ in diameter.
And two week later, on November 2nd, around noon – with the mulch having just been spread over the yesterday’s seeding.  Now we just need a lot of rain (which is suppose to start tomorrow!).  Oh, to put things to scale… the black pipe with the two red flags will be the water level:

10/4-11/2014:  A week at the farm

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on November 2, 2014
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one


Well, work was suppose to light, just awaiting some RFP results, and it looked like it would be a great week to spend on the farm. Of course, the kids were in school, and Evia was working, so it was a solo week, but that was ok.  Unfortunately, working from the farm works too well…  I averaged about 2-3 hours a day of farm work, 6-8 of regular work.

The main goal for the week was to get the new lake area ready for the construction crew.  Amongst many tasks was the removal of some old fence lines.  I now have a new respect for those fences and the people that put them in.  The image to the left is one of those post.  My tractor can easily lift 2000lbs of rock in its bucket – and I almost could not pull these post out of the ground.  By the end of the day, I had broke the chain under the strain.  Each post took over a half hour to rock out of the ground.

By the way, that chain in the photo is about 6″ above where the post was in the ground.  All the rest of that 10′ Osage Orange (sometimes called Hedge) post was underground.  No wonder those old fence last lifetimes…  We are guessing that post has been in the ground about 30 year, and the outer 1/4″ or so of the wood was rotted.

Our Kubota RTV started having some problems too.  It would be running fine, then seriously hesitate, like it was out of fuel.  Tried replacing the fuel filter, and that worked!  For an hour…  Found it odd that when I removed the fuel filter diesel didn’t run out of the line.  Minor observation, but noted.  Called the dealer but couldn’t get any definitive ideas – they were not even aware if the tank had a low pressure pump or not.  They did suggest blowing out the fuel line.  I spent some time looking things over, and couldn’t find any wires that would indicate a pump, just some light duty ones that I believe are used for the fuel gauge.   This was rather troubling, since doing 121 acres on foot is just a bit too much exercise.

Speaking of which, another task was to confine the cattle to the south end of the farm, so they would not be in the way of the lake construction crew (cattle are rather curious animals and will want to explore anything new in their home – like water line flags which are apparently great fun to pull out of the ground).  So… one successful task was to run a new electric fence line and to bar a small passage around the backside of our house area (we have a 30′ wide passage between the property line and our house fence – rather narrow in country terms).  Mission was a success, and I managed to get all the cattle migrated.  Life was good.

We have been making some progress selling a few of our cattle, namely Larry (gentle, lovable, Larry – Duncan’s son) and Tulia (our best heifer – the daughter of Duncan and Nichole).  Both had interest from folks we met at the Celtic Festival in Buffalo Mo a few weeks earlier.  The gentlemen interested in Tulia came by Friday night – and for some reason the entire herd panic’ed.  We have seen them run a few hundred feet before, but they took off in a stampede.  Where did they go?  Over 600 feet across a field, into that narrow passage, around the corner, and down along the fence.  The woven wire electric barrier I put up didn’t have a chance, they busted right through it and didn’t stop until they hit the lake construction zone (which had a couple of days of work done by then).  Neighbors called.  Workman called.  They had never seen my herd stampede before (and for good reason!  They never had before!).

So, the guy interested in Tulia and I got to walk (remember, the RTV was very sick), and walk, and walk.  We did find Tulia, merrily chowing done on some tree leaves now available compliments of bulldozer work.  Good news, he left a deposit.  <smile>

Next morning, at twilight, I hear a couple of cows panicking.  Be it in English, or Cow, the message was clear: “Baby!  Where are you!”  By 6:30am I had enough light I could see the grass and fences, so went out to see what the problems was.  I was a bit concerned, there was a LOT of coyote howling the previous night.  Ends up just two little ones on the wrong side of a fence.  Didn’t take too long to shoo them a couple hundred yards and get them reunited with Moms.  By then the sun was up enough to actually see and the morning mist has leaving.  About half the herd was back in the southern field.  Found 4 more yearling in the eastern field and moved them.  The rest of the herd was together and I managed to get them moving – thought it was going great, was almost to the field I wanted them in when they doubled back on me through the woods.  *sigh* All told, about 3 hours of walking through knee deep grass – figured I’d feel that in a day or two, and I was right…

Anyhow, gave up on the cattle.  Fixed the woven wire, which they normally respect, and saw some testing it and leaving it alone.  Had to give up on merging the herd.  We decided to leave another temporary woven wire line down, hoping they would merge together, but I was out of time and need to head back to the city.

Did stop at the local Farm and Home on the way back and picked up a 17 gallon tin bucket and a kerosene syphon – figured I’d use it on the next trip to drain the RTV’s full tank and see if there was a screen clogged or something similar.


ps.  One of the tasks during the week was to have a set of ball-joints replaced on the pickup truck.  Dobb’s in St. Louis quoted me $1100 to do the job, including an alignment afterwards.  Apparently their books claimed it was 6 hour job.  Hunter Tire in Kirksville got the truck at 8am, called at 11:30 and said it was done.  Charged me $237 – actual cost for parts, not inflated, something like 2 hours of labor, and $60 for the alignment (included in the $237).  Did have to make an appointment at Hunter the week before – well worth it.

Made it back finally… and it doesn’t want us to leave!

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on September 15, 2014
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | 3 Comments


We had wonderful weather this weekend.  Both days were in the 60s.  The lake planning is coming along with some tree clearing likely to happen in the next week or so – just enough to get some good elevation shots so that dam yardage can be figured and a solid budget set.

Spent most of Sunday hauling hay.
  30 bales this year, hopefully it will be enough.  Alas, I didn’t stop to take a photo, so this weeks image is from December of 2012.  At 1500-2000lbs each, that is about all the tractor can handle.

Of some “such is life” news:  Most of the temporary electric fence we put in and some clearing we cut will all be going under water eventually, and under bulldozer even sooner.  Next task is to remove most of what we have built in the last year down there.

Today is Monday, and I’m posting from the farm?  Why?  Because when we went to leave last night the Prius failed us.  All the warning lights came on, and I mean ALL of them, even the break light even though it wasn’t engaged.  Tried resetting the computer, tried rebooting via disconnecting the battery.  Nada.  Ended up hauling it into town on a neighbors flatbed trailer.  Its sitting at the Prius dealer now awaiting diagnosis.  Went to rent a car and Enterprise was out… waiting for a call from them as well.  We may be here a while, as in days, not hours.

8/23/2014 Planning… mostly

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on August 30, 2014
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one


Hot weekend.  Spent most of it either planning or with the cows. 

On the planning front, we reached out to the USDA NRCS Soil Conservation Technician in Kirksville and fed him some ideas.  He came back on Monday with this posts photo.

For scale, the light blue rectangle in the upper left is our house.

Lots of things to think about regarding the lake.  Size, of course, relates directly to cost.  There are limits as well on size both from a maximum dam size, but also from the potential for water to back-flood onto a neighbors land (mostly down in the lower right).  I’ve reached out to that neighbor to see if he cares if our mutual ditch remains filled with water.  Add to that a 4 acre limit based upon our GRP contract with the government, which could, with work, perhaps be expanded, and a 5 acre limit before additional engineers need to be brought in.
  In fact, the local NRCS guy can do dams up to 20 feet tall (measured from the lowest point at the bottom of a ditch to the spillway).  The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a limit of 35 feet (measured from the bottom of the drain pipe to the top of the dam – couldn’t have two agencies actually agree on how to measure a dam height could we?) before structural engineers have to be involved.  Between those two any plans just need to be bump up to an NRCS engineer.  Can’t forget about impacting existing erosion control structures on the land – the NRCS cares about those.  The Missouri Department of Conservation also cares about flooding out prairie ground they help establish – although that is just a money reimbursement issue (and small dollar at that).

Also spent time thinking about our future chicken coop.   We are going to build a 10×20 foot one – large enough to house about 40 chickens year round, although we highly expect that number to vary.  Found some good, simple, plans that take advantage of the low crowding that number represents (yeah, 5 sq/ft per chicken is about 5X more space than commercial places use, but also represents 1/5th the problems.)  I need to find a source of straw for bedding, although I would image hay would work.  You don’t want to use hay for dog or horse bedding because of flees and other bugs, but in a chicken coop – those bugs are just free food.  Spread out like they will be, they will scratch through the bedding looking for bugs and mix their droppings in the process.  End result is a clean smelling chicken coop and an annual supply of outstanding fertilizer for the garden.  Currently thinking of making it two stories with the top floor being a play area for the kids, with slides and climbing ropes and whatnot.  We had a nice one of those playsets for the past few years, but the local winds have knocked it over a few times.  I’m thinking we would be better off using it for parts than trying to repair it again.

Cow time was mostly socialization and getting photos.  We are at our target capacity of cattle now, and need to start selling some.  Weekend goal was to get photos to use for that sale.

Past two trips

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on August 23, 2014
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | No Comments yet, please leave one


Sorry for not blogging during our past two trips.  On our third one now since my last entry, and am awaiting the telephone guy to come with a new router, but that is this weeks report that I’ll post later.

Now that Mom is on the mend, and independent again, we have been free to resume our regular every-other-weekend travel.

Both of the past trips have been focused on “catch up” – doing the maintenance things we HAD to do.  This includes watering of some potted trees that managed to survive without us (the pots are sunk in the ground, which hopefully helped) and fence work.  Electric  Fence work was the predominate effort, with Evia weed whacking like crazy to reduce shorting and me running around looking for shorts.  My shorts com

Not to little, not too big…

Posted by Kevin Carpenter on July 6, 2014
Posted in Still alive in 2019  | 3 Comments


Cute right?  That is Martha, born 3/18/14 on the left and my Daughter “Gabby”, going on 8.  Unfortunately, that is NOT an exit from the cattle chute, but rather just a 6″ or so gap between two frame sections.  Martha’s head made it through, but not without taking off some paint.  The rest of her didn’t have a chance.  Took us awhile to get her to work herself free, first one year, then another.  You would think a ~14 week old calf would be easy to work – wrong.  I made the mistake of trying to block her escape in our cattle run – and she plastered me against one of the walls.  I have the marks on my back to prove it…

Anyhow, to the subject of this post:  if she was a few weeks younger she would have been able to back out easily.  A few weeks older and she never would have gotten her head through.  They grow up SO fast.


On the other end of the scale is Borka.  He is a 1550lb Steer overdue for butchering.  The plan was to do him this spring, but our spring didn’t quite work out as planned.  All I can say is that I’m real happy we didn’t buy the lighter duty squeeze chute.  And no, I’m not standing in a hole – Borka’s back is well over my 5’10” shoulders.

Anyhow, today was “cattle day”.   We moved them last  night into the field with the corral (last years project, although it still needs work).  Today was weighing, pour on dewormer (scratch one $100 bottle of dewormer, but its the dung beetle friendly type), castration banding and association tetanus antidote injections for two of the boys.

We are up to 23 head of cattle now, feeling like the herd is just about the right size.  We will need to find a home for Larry, Borka has an appointment we need to make, and if the new butcher is fair, we will be selling Curly and Moe for meat.