My summer as a free mason

No, no, no…not a Freemason; just a free mason. After the anonymous destruction of our nearly new “indestructible” mailbox it was determined that we were not going to fork over another $500 to have it rebuilt. Instead I went to Home Depot and then came home with about $20 in mortar. Thankfully I already had some basic masonry tools from some repairs to our last house.

I had never done more than a little repair work on cracked mortar before and was a little apprehensive about tackling this project. However, I’m not often afraid of new challenges on the farm so I took this one up without flinching.

Right off the bat I realized this was going to be more challenging than I initially thought. It seemed to me that it would be as simple as putting a puzzle back together. Just take the fallen pieces and put them back where they had been. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. Most of the mailbox was so completely shattered that I couldn’t figure out where the pieces had been. Because of this I couldn’t fit together the pieces that were still intact so I had to resort to a hammer and chisel in order to separate every block as well as remove all of the existing mortar. I was left with a pile of rocks that had to find their new home.

The challenge of finding pieces that fit together “just right” was hard enough, but add to that the searing Texas summer sun and I began to rethink my decision. I stuck with it though and layer by layer it began to “rise from the ashes.” I had hoped to build it up as high as I could, make it level and put the cap piece on that was still intact. Unfortunately I would have needed a small crane to pick up the top piece, so it too had to be disassembled and cleaned of old mortar.

The mailbox is back in business now although I think it looks a little more like a Fred Flintstone model rather than the tight, square beauty it once was, but the mail is being delivered again and after all, that was the end goal.

(I’ll add a picture of the finished product)

These are definitely the dog days of summer

It’s that time of year when I become particularly envious of YouTubers from more Northern climates out enjoying their gardens and the like. Here in Texas we are smack dab in the middle of the dog days of summer with day after day of temperatures near or above 100 degrees.

20160630_191932To say nothing much is getting done outside is pretty much on target. I actually enjoy getting up at 5am when it is only 80 degrees. I can get the animals out to their pastures, clean out the barn, and make sure all the critters have plenty of water before the sun comes. I duck back inside and do very little outdoors until the heat begins to wain again in the evening.

20160616_185529I was pleased with June’s hay harvest. Due to all the Spring rain our 9 acre hay field yielded 19 large round bales. We don’t need or use nearly that much with our little flock, but the farmer who cuts and bales it (and reaps the harvest) was appreciative. I’m  surprised how beautiful the field is right now since we haven’t had a drop of rain in about 6 weeks.

20160715_223544So what do people around here do when it’s too hot to work outside during the day? There’s always work to be done inside since those chores tend to get neglected the rest of the busy year. I’ve also been organizing and downsizing some of my collections that sat in storage for two years while we waited to move onto the farm. We also celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary by taking our first date in a LONG time. We enjoyed a night out in the “big” city and found some time for some uncommon relaxation during a cool moonlight cruise on the lake in downtown Austin.

There’s about a month left to go before the mercury begins its gradual drop and I’m definitely looking forward to the projects we have in store for the Fall/Winter months here at the farm. We’ll finally be putting in our garden and getting some work done in the “dark forest.”

They (don’t) call me the donkey whisperer

They (don’t) call me the donkey whisperer

Shortly after we moved onto our farm a new farmer friend donated a donkey to us. This was a “surplus” donkey they had no use for and had in all sense been running wild on his property for about two years. We really didn’t know what to expect from the donkey we named Ruth when she first arrived.

Over the past couple of months she has proven herself to be a valuable member of our farm family. She has bonded extremely well with the goats and is already showing sign of doing the same thing with the sheep. If a large donkey hanging around our other animals would help keep them safe that would be enough for the free gift. Thankfully though she has gone above and beyond mere livestock protection.

Ruth does a great job of keeping the animals together and has even served to herd them towards the barn in the evening. It is an amazing thing to watch her plod along behind the others encouraging them forward.

The one thing we had not been able to accomplish with Ruth was a level of trust between herself and humans. She has been in need of a good brushing and there are a few areas that we would like to get close to and see better in order to make sure she is healthy. Unfortunately she is so wild that she won’t allow people to get closer than about 5 feet. That was until last night and it all happened by accident.

She is so closely bonded with one of our goats that in the evening they can be difficult to separate. Two nights ago was just such a night. It was getting late and all the animals were in the barn, but I could not get little Amelia (the goat) into her pen and she kept hiding under Ruth as been her practice if she doesn’t want to do something. I had to get them apart and the only thing within my reach was a small toy rake. I picked it up and gently touched Ruth’s back to let her know I was there and wanted her to stay there. At first she didn’t seem to happy about it, but she let me keep the rake on her.

Once I got Amelia into the pen I decided to try the rake again. I put it gently on her back and began to scratch her back. She remained nervous, but obviously enjoyed the sensation. We did this for about ten minutes and I let her be. The next night I tried it again and she was much more relaxed and really enjoyed it. I decided to be a little braver and got within a foot of her side and reached out my hand. Her muscles twitched the second I touched her, but she didn’t move. I put the rake away and approached her again and she let me put my hand on her again. It felt great to be able to finally make that connection with her!

This morning, just to see if it had been a fluke, I tried it again and she let me rub her back. I’m not sure if she will let me do so outside the confines of the barn, but it is a huge step forward for her and for us.

The farm is finally our home

We have dreamed, stressed, planned, prayed and hoped for this for so long now that it almost seemed as if it may never arrive. During the week prior to Easter we took several trips with our belongings to the new house and on Holy Saturday we enlisted the help of several great friends and moved the remainder of our belongings. There was so much activity that when we woke up Sunday morning in preparation for Easter we realized we had indeed arrived. The farm is now our home!

The following week was spent moving boxes to and from each and every room. Because much of our belongings had been in storage for more than 2 years it was almost like Christmas morning with the opening of each box. We each found things we had either forgotten about or thought were lost. The week flew by with little sleep, but there still remains quite a bit to do. Thankfully the furniture is in place and most of our clothes are where they belong.

We didn’t stop there though as on Friday we welcomed our first two animals to the farm. They’re two young Nigerian Dwarf doelings named Amelia and Harriett. The week had been quote a bit busier than we had anticipated and the goat shed wasn’t even half completed when the goats arrived. We worked fast and furious on the shed in order to provide the goats some security at night and by midnight they were tucked in safely way.

Saturday was spent with more unpacking and a few finishing touches on the goat shed. We took some time to slow down and have a nice dinner of grilled pork chops and a warm campfire under the stars. It was fun to look at our fire pit and realize that it had been the first thing we had “built” when we first bought the land. We spent many a night around its warmth and now it is behind our house!

On Sunday we took a “Sunday Drive” to find some bluebonnets and took some great pictures of our youngest son among the beautiful backdrop of Spring flowers. Soon after church I drove to a new friends farm and picked up a donkey. Ruth, as we later named her, seemed happy in her new home. She was pretty wild and had little contact with people before coming to our farm, but I was able to get within 5 feet of her by the end of the day. I hope it won’t take too long for her to warm up to us enough to be able to brush her down and check her out better.

That is all for now, as if it isn’t enough for one week! 🙂

 

Almost there and fundraising

I can barely believe that our nearly three year journey will come to fruition in just a couple of weeks! Our house is almost complete and we will be calling the farm our home by the end of March.

We have been genuinely satisfied with our choice of a house construction contractor, Bland Construction. We have run into very few issues in the building process and even those were handled quickly and satisfactorily. I know had we chosen one of the other contractors we received bids from that this process would never have gone so smoothly and probably with less quality that those at Bland have provided.

houseOnce we get moved in, our next task is to begin bringing in the livestock, but before we can do that we need to finish fencing in the barn are where our new critters will call home. As such, we launched a GoFundMe campaign to help raise the money we need for fences, animals and all the associated accoutrements involved. Almost all of the fence posts are in the ground and we have all the fencing we will need to close it up. If you would like to financially help us out we would be extremely grateful as the cost of building and traveling between our city and future homes have been considerable.

We’ve been doing our research on the kind of sheep and goats we plan to acquire, but the process is one of those daunting tasks that we want to get right. My wife is very excited about the sheep and her plan is to purchase some Delaine Merinos for their wonderful wool. The goats are my project and I’m still wavering between dairy Nubians, meat Boers or a combination of both.

In other news, we did take a weekend off from working on the farm back in February in order to attend the Mother Earth News Fair in Belton, Texas. There were a lot of great exhibitors there, but I most enjoyed the presentations by Joe Salatin and Wranglerstar. We also had the opportunity to meet the Wranglerstar and Homestead Kids families in person. It was a wonderful day of “downtime learning” and friendship.

Whirld Wide Wednesday – Homesteading in Chile, South America

Many, many years ago while serving in the United States Navy, I had the opportunity to sail completely around the continent of South America. As you can imagine I saw and experienced a great many things in those many nations. Several of our port calls were in Chile and the memories of that country still ring fresh in my mind. For years I planned to return to Chile sometime after my Navy service.

Of course that dream never came true and while I have no regrets about not making that move, I still think what life might have been like had I actually achieved that dream.

Recently I came across a family that sold everything they owned in the United States and moved to a small homestead in Chile. They have a YouTube channel that explains their decision-making, cultural adaption and a lot about Chile itself. If you would like to learn more about this daring adventure, consider watching and subscribing to their channel:

Chile Expat Family Introduction

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!”