Truly a weekend to remember

Vacations are a rarity these days, especially with a toddler and a barn full of hungry animals. Thankfully, due to the grace and friendship of neighbors who agreed to take on our responsibilities we spent this past weekend on the wonderful island of South Padre. It wasn’t just a simple time alone however. We enjoyed the tremendous pleasure of a Weekend to Remember Getaway retreat by FamilyLife. It was not only a great respite from the daily grind of farm and work life, but it was indeed a weekend to remember spent with the one I love.

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Our love for each other has been a wonderful adventure these past 10 years, but in these three short days we learned more how to better apply the precepts of love, respect and honor.If you and your loved one have yet to take a weekend to remember, we highly suggest you find a way to do so. If you’d like more information about the weekend getaway, please feel free to ask us.

Or better yet, find a Weekend to Remember event near you!

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Our first open house was a great success

For the past month we’ve been preparing our farm to receive friends, both old and new. We have never prepared for such a big event and weren’t quite sure what kind of turnout to expect so we worked a little extra to prepare for a big event. Doing so was a good idea as it turned out that over the course of the day we had 49 people come through our gates.

Of course the animals were the hit of the show. The goats stood up well to the constant flow of people in and out of their pen. They even had a few small puppy visitors. I purposely kept the dogs, donkey and sheep isolated in a separate pen as you never really can tell how they are going to react.

I also spent some time in the week before the open house to cut a walking trail through our woods. This particular section of woods is one we haven’t explored much if at all because the area around it was so dense with briars and intertwined small trees. On a tip from a neighbor I bought a brush cutter attachment for my weed eater and was able to forge a very nice trail. It still needs a little work, but our visitors seemed to enjoy a walk in the woods very much.

The event seemed so well received that maybe we’ll plan to do this again next year!

 

A Weekend of Preparation – Hay for the Winter

In the recent past our friendly neighborhood farmer would cut our hay fields for us and he would reap the whole harvest as we had no need of it. Now that we have the animals it is going to be important to store up some hay for the winter. The problem was that we have no means of moving the large round bales. I mentioned this to him when he came to cut the grass this time and he said, “Not a problem. I have an old square baler that I haven’t used in years. I’ll just bale you up some of those.” And so he did! When he was done baling there were 20 large round bales and 56 small square bales on the ground.

WhirldWorks Hay Field

WhirldWorks Hay Field

First thing Saturday morning we borrowed our neighbor’s flatbed trailer and I began loading the bales. Our youngest son saw what I was doing and he was not about to be left out of the action. He climbed aboard the trailer and as I threw each bale on he would pull it into place. That was until it got to the second level and he couldn’t pull it anymore. From that point on he gave me direction in the proper placement of each bale in order to create a huge nest. Indeed we did! The bales ended up stacked three high, but at the center was an opening for the nest.

Once fully loaded, we backed the trailer to the barn, but unfortunately there isn’t a gate in the fence wide enough for a truck and/or trailer so I had to park it about 15 feet away from where it was going to be stacked. Little man tried hard as he may to carry, drag or push the bales along the ground, but despite his best determination he couldn’t help with this part. One by one I offloaded the trailer and stacked the bales under the barn overhang. They didn’t seem quite so heavy at the beginning but by about the 20th bale they began to get heavier and heavier. By the last bale I hardly had the strength to throw them to the top of the pile, but made it through and ended up with a winter’s worth of stored hay!

WhirldWorks 2016 Hay Storage

 

Highs and Lows of the 2016 Summer on the Farm

Keeping this blog up to date has been a real challenge with the combination of busy days and having no internet access on the farm as of yet. I’d love to report that we’ve accomplished a ton of monumental successes on the farm this summer, but all I can really say is that we’ve been (almost) keeping up with things.

Since our “petting zoo” has increased and our need to keep back the fast-growing grass we tried to let the animals out of their fenced pastures and graze our backyard. We met with a mixed result in that they did help keep the grass down, but their curious nature caused some damage to some of our household things on the front and back porch. We’ve decided that until we can fence off “our” space, the animals will just have to stay in their pastures.

What this means is a little more work on our part to keep the grass around the house mowed. This wouldn’t be so much of a stretch, but unfortunately within the past month both our riding lawn mower and our tractor have decided it is time for them to take a break. I’m pretty sure we can get the lawn mower back in commission soon, but the tractor is another issue entirely.

I haven’t had time to tear down the engine, but I’m pretty sure it is a substantial failure. As I was cutting grass the other day, the tractor just shut off with no indication of trouble. When I tried to restart it a steady stream of black, oily water poured out from the drain hole at the base of the exhaust pipe. I replaced the head gasket back a few months ago to fix water entering the engine, but I think from the volume of water now that there’s a far worse failure internally. Time will tell. If you’re good at working on tractors and want to give me a hand, I’d certainly welcome the help as the old diesel in our Massey isn’t familiar to me at all. There isn’t much to the simple 20HP engine, but I’m simply learning on-the-go. Of course donations for a new tractor would be even better hahahaha!

Aside from the hardships, some things have been going well. Our 4 chickens now seem to be in full gear providing us with 4 fresh, tasty eggs each and every day with few exceptions. We also had a great visit from an experienced shepherd who showed us how to catch, halter and take care of our sheep. Before I saw her grab and subdue one of our ewes I wasn’t sure it was possible because they are so strong and wild. Now that I have seen what to do I have so far been able to catch and halter one of the ewes as well as our ram. That is really going to help us take even better care of our little flock.

The goats are much friendlier and are relatively easy to manage and, according to our experienced shepherd, one of the does appears to be pregnant. Sooo…it is time to add a few more small pens to the barn in order to have space to start welcoming our zoo babies!

Here are a few pictures of our summer adventures (which can also be seen on our FaceBook page at: https://www.facebook.com/whirldworksfarm/.

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)

Destruction on the homestead

Coming home to the farm is (almost) always such a pleasure. I say almost because yesterday was not such a pleasure. As we took in the beauty along our road we approached our driveway and immediately something seemed wrong. Your eyes get used to familiar sights and when those sights are missing it can take a few moments to realize it. That’s just what we encountered.

20160720_173926~2The image stored in my mind of our front drive was missing something, then I realized what it was. Wait, where’s the big stone mailbox? It wasn’t there! As we pulled into our driveway we discovered the remnants of our once proud, stone postal pedestal. The pieces were strewn all across the drainage ditch and not a note of regret anywhere to be found.

There are, of course, a great many other catastrophes that can strike fear or anger into the heart of a homesteader, but this is not one I thought would be realistic. We know all-too-well the habits of bat-wielding fiends on a joyride to destroy mailboxes so we purposely had ours made from the same stone our home was built with. Surely nothing would be able to topple it.

That is of course unless you happen to live right across the street from another home being constructed. The large contractor vehicles that come in and out of that driveway already smashed down one side of our driveway culvert and now it appears they have managed to obliterate our mailbox.

Naturally nobody is assuming the credit for the calamity and the silly general contractor claims there was nobody working on the house that day. I say silly because it was noted by neighbors and even the sheriff deputy who drove by earlier saw workers on site.

I know I’ll get over it and we WILL rebuild. It strikes me as ironic though that we moved to the country for a little more peace and so far this construction site has be somewhat of a distraction from that goal. They’ve been building that house for much longer than it took ours to complete and as far as I know none of our contractors or sub-contractors caused damage to anyone else’s property. If they had I know our builder would have made it right, unlike this character who is covering for somebody.

Oh well, just another day in the country 🙂

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.”