The WhirldWorks Shop is Open for Business!

etsy_whirld

WhirldWorks Etsy Shop!

We are proud and excited to announce that we have opened our Etsy shop and are stocking the “shelves” with wonderful, hand-crafted items for your enjoyment. Please visit our shop and while we GREATLY appreciate your patronage, we would also appreciate you adding our shop to your favorites.

WhirldWorks Etsy Shop

https://www.etsy.com/shop/WhirldWorks

 

Much love, creativity and enjoyment go into creating these items as well as into our marketing efforts. We appreciate anything you can do to help us succeed.

Advertisements

My 2016 Ornament

Since buying an entry-level scroll saw a couple years ago I have always enjoyed the limited amount of time I get to mess with it. Last year I determined that at the very least I was going to create a new Christmas ornament every year. Christmas was coming fast and I still hadn’t had the opportunity to visit my little saw.

When the cold front blew in this past weekend and the temperatures dipped below 30, I took the opportunity to do a little indoor work. I cleaned up my little shop area some and set to work on my 2016 ornament. Below is the official 2016 WhirldWorks Farm Christmas Ornament!

(The lighting wasn’t very good, but it is a yellow star with blue numbers)

c360_2016-12-21-14-14-52-505

Our Pole Barn – Two walls are up

Our Pole Barn – Two walls are up

We haven’t been faced with the frigid cold that has gripped much of the country this month so we have been able to take advantage of our weekends to continue working on the barn. The temperature did start to dip a little on Saturday, but we were able to finish the left side wall and get started on the front. On Sunday the temperature really began to fall and it also began to rain lightly as well.

We knew this might be the case so we came prepared with rain gear and mud boots. The weather didn’t stop us and we were able to get the front wall on. We also installed the sliding door, but I chose not to install the door panels. The wind was just to strong and with the walls still missing on two sides I was afraid a good gust of wind could swoop through the barn and damage the yet fully secured door.

Sometimes I wonder why it seems to be taking so long as we are ready for this project to be finished. Then I remember the sweet moments when our toddler son becomes very curious about what is going on and how he can help. We do our best to slow down and let him help as much as we can. He has helped use the drill to drive in many of the screws along the bottom row of the barn and loves to “press the button!”

A new year and a new barn

A new year and a new barn

We decided to start 2015 off on the right foot and have already begun our transition to life on the farm. The first order of business is to put up a 20×20 barn for storage and eventual housing of livestock. I spent many hours in December trying to figure out what type of structure to build, and decided a pole barn was the right choice for us. I’m no construction engineer or designer and after several attempts to decide for myself what I needed to buy, the decision was made to order a building kit from Hansen Pole Buildings. Their staff was friendly and helpful in guiding us to the right choice of style and materials.

Perhaps I was a bit naive to think I could put this thing up almost exclusively by myself in just a week. I didn’t achieve that goal, but here is a recap of the first week of construction:

DAY ONE:

Stuck before the work begins! I drove through the gate and made it about 100 feet onto the property when suddenly my truck sank into the rain saturated mud. I tried to dig it out and  put blocks under the tires, but everything I did seemed to make the situation even worse. I ended up swallowing my pride and paid a tow service to come out and winch my truck to safety.

DAY TWO:

I had set up the batter boards on a previous weekend, so all I had to do was verify that everything was still square and I began digging the holes for the 4×6 columns. The hand auger, which is a dream to use in dry conditions, struggled more than I expected in the saturated earth. I could get down about 2 feet quite easily, but when I hit the wet clay layer, it became much more difficult. Because my hand auger only cuts a 7 inch hole, I had to widen each one by ten inches with a shovel after the depth was reached.

This process was only supposed to take a little more than half the day, but it pretty much consumed the entire 39 degree day. I’m thankful for the cooler weather because those holes gave me a workout! Once all the holes were dug, I filled them 6 inches deep with hand-mixed concrete.

There were a few work delays throughout the day as trucks began to arrive with our building supplies. All but the steel shipment arrived on time, but more on that later.

DAY THREE:

Welcomed by another cold morning, I set to work setting the column posts in position. It was no easy task as each pole weighed around 100 pounds. Getting them upright, plumb and level was a chore that took the entire day. Our dog enjoyed watching me struggle all day and as much as I wanted his help, he was content to roll around in the grass and look at me.

DAY FOUR:

The morning was spent pouring concrete into the holes and making sure everything remained plumb. Because my truck had sunk in the mud on the first day, I had to unload it half way between the gate and the barn. I had planned to use our garden tractor to truck the concrete to the barn, but was hit with another setback…flat tires on the tractor. This meant loading an 80 pound bag of cement into the wheelbarrow and carting it to the barn, then mixing it there. I did this over a dozen times that day and was glad when it was over. The poles were set just before the sun began to sink below the horizon. I had really had enough sleeping in the cold, so I went home for the night to kiss my wife and youngest son…after a hot shower of course!

DAY FIVE:

I recruited our oldest son to come out with me and we got right to work putting soil back into the holes over the concrete and tamping it down. The next step was to get the skirting boards on straight, level and even. With my primitive set of tools this proved near impossible. I ended up buying a laser level and it helped tremendously in getting the boards to come out right. Following that it was time to notch the columns so we could install the trusses.

Now, back to that late steel delivery…I had lined up several friends for Monday or Tuesday to help me unload nearly a ton of steel, but the truck never came. It was on day five that I got a call the truck would be there about 2:30pm. I called all my friends and they had gotten busy over the course of the week and couldn’t make it out. Here I was at 2:15 and only me and my son to unload all that metal. My anxiety was getting pretty high…then…my son said, “Look, a tractor.” I told him it was quite normal to see a tractor come down our road now and then. But then he said, “Why is he trying to get into our gate?” I turned and saw a local farmer who a month previously I had struck a deal with to mow down our pasture so he could grow hay on our land. He just happened to show up 15 minutes before the steel arrived driving a tractor with forklifts! God is good, ALL THE TIME!

DAY SIX:

On day six, I had two wonderful friends come out to help with the trusses as I knew this was not a job I could tackle alone. Thankfully one of them has a great deal of construction background and he was instrumental in figuring out how to get those 20 foot wide, 3 foot tall trusses into the skinny notches 9 feet in the air. We got all of them into place and braced everything off for the night.

DAY SEVEN:

The sun shined down upon us as we spent the day installing the roof purlins. It was here I discovered a grand error on my part. Mainly due to the fact that I do not come from a construction background and am not used to reading drawings, I realized that the end trusses were level with the center truss. This was a big mistake as the purlins were supposed to install flush with the top of the center truss and extend over the end trusses for a 12 inch overhang. My mental gears began to grind trying to figure a way out of this mess. Finally I decided I would just install the purlins from truss to truss and then build out the 12 inch overhang on the external side of the end trusses. It will remain to be seen how well this does or does not work, but it was the only solution I could come up with. I doubt anything could go wrong though as our youngest son was a great supervisor. He even picked up a tool or two to help.

While I installed all the purlins, my wonderful wife cut and fit the first half of the side girts. At the end of the day it was time to clean up and return to the real world. We’ll be back to finish it up soon!

Homemade Wooden Train

As November began to draw to a close, I realized I had not yet decided what sort of wooden toy I was going to make for our youngest son as his Christmas present. In the world of wooden toys there is an inexhaustible list of possibilities. Then we found out that a very generous family member had offered to give us a set of wooden tracks from their child’s Thomas the Train set. Because we are trying with all due diligence not to fill our home with iconic characters and toys, we would need trains for the tracks. I had my answer, he was going to get a wooden toy train!

I wasn’t sure at first just how to go about this project, but then I found plans for just this sort of train here at the AOK Corral. The information on this site was exactly what I needed, but I thought it would be of added benefit to see if anyone else had built such a train. What I discovered was an entire hobby of various people experimenting and successfully building all manner of wooden trains that work on these popular tracks. Once I found a number of sites, Evan Stephens blog on wooden trains became my got resource as he lays out his designs and links to many others as well.

I started with some very basic lumber: a 1x6x8 piece of poplar, a 3/4″ pine dowel and a 1/4″ dowel.

WP_20141111_002I decided I would make an engine, coal car, two freight cars and a caboose and set out to cut the lumber to the appropriate sizes. The most difficult cut was to get a clean length of 1/4″ thick board, but witha little bit of thought and preparation I succeeded in making the cut.

WP_20141118_003Once I had the shapes cut out, I laid the engine pieces together and was very happy with how it came together.

Getting the axle holes drilled properly with the set of tools at my disposal was a bit tricky, but I created a system that was accurate and was easy to duplicate. I set a wooden fend on the base of my Dremel, drilled the holes and then bored them out with a larger bit by hand.

The longest phase, to my surprise, has been the painting. I don’t have a lot of spare time for working on this project, but found it necessary to apply the acrylic paint in several watered-down coats so as to reduce the possibility of brush stroke marks. I followed up the painting with several coats of clear Shellac. Although it took longer that I had originally planned, I am very pleased with the result.

WP_20141207_002

Baling Hay By Hand

Before we dig into today’s topic I’d like you give a quick update for those following our progress. I wish I could say there was good news on the selling of our city home, but unfortunately I cannot. For whatever reason the house remains on the market and we are anxiously awaiting a buyer. The longer this drags on, the further out our moving date will be due to the added expenses of paying for two homes. Now, with that out of the way, here is today’s topic:

Baling Hay by Hand

Our goal has always been, and probably will be for quite some time, to operate the farm as frugally as possible. Without a big purse available for purchasing things such as tractors, implements and the like, our intent is to look to the past for solving today’s challenges. One item we know we will need on the farm is fresh hay, cut and baled from our own field. Without fancy contraptions such as sickle or disc cutters and tractors, the natural solution is a hand powered solution. A suitable degree of research online yielded two devices that appealed to us. These are a hand-held scythe and a home built hand baler.

The Scythe

There are surprisingly numerous options available, even today. Choosing a particular style of scythe wasn’t easy but the choices were narrowed to either the American Scythe or the European Scythe. Ergonomically, the European Scythe appears to have the advantage between the two, but weight was also a huge consideration. Knowing that I am not in the physical prowess of a full-time homesteader, I believed the most important factor was to find the lightest weight, yet best rated scythe out there, that we could afford. Through my research I settled on an American Scythe composed of  the Seymour SN-9 Aluminum Snath and the Seymour 2B-42G30 30 ” Grass Scythe Blade. Combined, these two items are about 9 pounds lighter than their traditional wooden counterparts.

While on the farm and just after a hearty breakfast, I headed out to a section of our pasture that had the most consistent area of good, tall grass and set to work. Let me say that the YouTube videos out there that show people using a scythe make this look deceivingly simple. Either that or our grass is much stronger than the grass harvested in those videos. I will also attest that the sharper the blade, the easier the task. I currently do not have a nice wet stone grinder to sharpen my blade and thus had to rely on the hand-held scythe stone. The more attuned I became to the simple nuances of the stone and blade, the sharper it became and the easier it cut. Still, once I had cut about a 50×50 foot area of grass, I was done for the day. We spread the hay out to dry for several hours, then began piling it up for the next stage in the process.

The Hand Baler

Choosing a hand baling method was another interesting research project, but in the end I settled on building a version of the Pine Straw Hand Baler. This version appeared to be the prominent choice of the numerous hand baling videos and discussions I found. It also helped that the website that describes this baler included a link to plans on how to build it. I downloaded those plans and coming from a background working with engineers and designers, what they provide as plans aren’t necessarily just that. They include a picture of the baler and an incomplete list of materials needed.

Because this was to be a prototype of what is to come, provided the trial was a success, I opted to use materials I already had on hand, which included a few sheets of OSB planking. I wholeheartedly do not recommend building a hand baler from the particular parts I chose, especially if longevity is the goal, but the materials I had helped me decide how to better build a later design I have in mind.

Overall, the hand baler worked like a charm with a few caveats that have been noted for version 2.0. We piled in the hay (even our 2 year old got in on that action), compressed it with the plunger and tied it off. The very first try yielded what actually looked like a bale of hay! It wasn’t as compact as I thought it should be though, so for the next bale we added even more hay. I was concerned that perhaps the plunger might not hold up under that amount of pressure, but in the end there was actually room for more, should we so decide later.

Picture Galleries

I didn’t do a good job of videoing the action because I was more focused on whether or not this idea would work, but here are some pictures to give you an idea of the fun we had this weekend baling hay by hand:

 Cutting the Hay

Baling the Hay

The war on the homefront continues

We are battling time. We set a goal for ourselves to have our house listed on the market by Memorial Day weekend. Did I mention that we made this decision only about two or three weeks ago? We probably could have given ourselves a little more room on the calendar, but this just seemed like the right decision for both of us so we determined to give it our all to make it happen. If it didn’t (or doesn’t) it won’s be to the ruin of our plans, but it is good to have goals!

I spent most of last week building a closet in the loft room so that we can claim it as an official bedroom. I’ve never attempted something quite like this, but YouTube was may friend for several days prior to my actions. The frame went up and ended up being surprisingly level and square all around. The sheet rock went on without a hitch and after a little tape and floating, the texture went on and it got a coat of paint. I hung the door, but ran out of time to put the trim on due to the next crucial element on our timetable.

There were a few small cracks in the ceiling that have been there since we bought the house, but we decided to do the right thing and do some patching. Easier said than done! The ceiling in question is two stories high and my garage is not equipped with scaffolding. The next best thing was my tall ladder which reached the ceiling with no problem. The hitch was that when leaning against one wall or the other, I could only reach about half of the ceiling. I did my best and I can testify that drywall repair is not one of my callings. It looks okay, but you can tell someone patched it and that wasn’t what I was hoping for. Oh well, we bought it with a crack and it never bothered us, so hopefully someone out there wont be bothered by my amateur attempt to fix it.

The minute that was done it was time to get every stick of furniture out of the house so that we could have new carpet installed. We managed, in about a day, to fill our garage and sun room with a house full of furniture. The carpet was installed yesterday and when we returned from our day jobs we set to repopulating the house with our things. Amazingly what had taken at least a full day to do only took about 4 hours to undo. I believe we were so tired and delirious that we gave no thought to how exhausted we were and just got the job done!

Now it is just a matter of a few paint touch-ups here and there, some cleaning and we should have pictures of the house taken for the listing on Friday, right on schedule!

For anyone else planning to sell your home, I suggest you make your plans a little sooner than we did 🙂