August 21, 2011

Around The Homestead

Well, the calm has arrived after the storm but we're not back online. Our internet came back up four days later, but we have been unable to connect due to ethernet problems. Research to correct this has been slow, especially since I have a time limit on the county library computers. Even so I can't stop writing and documenting our homestead adventure. Until I resolve my computer issues, posts will be done at the library, and will probably be less frequent. Also I won't be able to respond to comments very quickly, nor make many return blog visits. I have always tried to do these things because I value my readers, your comments, and the sense of community we share through blogging.

As a catch up post to my week offline, here's what's been going on since my last Around The Homestead....

~ Storm Damage. Besides the computer, the other damage we had was when two of those diseased pines fell onto the new fence in our new buck browse.

Dead pine on the fence
The ones Dan didn't take down, right? Damage was not severe, fortunately.

~ Buck Browse. Speaking of, finished!

Gruffy in the new buck browse

There's about a half acre in there, enough to keep the boys happy for awhile.

~ Weather. The storm not only brought much needed rain, but also cooler, drier air. Unusual around here for August, but very welcome.

~ Rain Catchment. Though technically, we no longer have drought status, those long, hot dry spells every summer are a concern. Because of that, we've taken first steps toward our rainwater catchment system.

We bought four, food grade, 250 gallon containers. These will eventually be hooked up to two of our downspouts. Dan thinks they look kind of ugly and should be covered. I'm thinking they'd be perfect for vining plants I'd like to grow: muscadine, hops, hardy kiwi, etc. Hopefully they'll be installed by next summer so I can irrigate the areas that get the driest.

~ Chipper. Some sad news, we lost Chipper. The vet's best guess was that he had internal bleeding, but I didn't spring for an autopsy, so I don't know for sure, nor what could have caused it. Heartbreaking to be sure, but I have decided I cannot dwell on it. It's so easy to look back and think "if only I'd..." I have to keep in mind that in the natural world, death is as real as life. We can nurture life, we can support life, but in the end, we cannot control it. Dan and I believe that our job as stewards, is to give our animals the absolute best care we can, and allow them to live as natural of lives as possible, for as long as they're with us. This does not require emotional involvement, it requires a choice of will, it requires commitment.

~ Kinder breeding plans. The loss of Chipper changes these, to be sure. There aren't enough pennies in the piggy bank to buy another registered Pygmy buck, even if one were locally available. We'll just use Gruffy for both does, and see what we can work out in the future.

~ Chicks. Are growing!

Buff Orpington chicks

I've expanded their nursery area, and am gradually allowing them to mingle at will with the rest of the flock. Initially, the adults were all up at arms and chased the chicks around. Now, they just go on about their chicken business, even our rooster, with the stipulation that he will chase them away from anything his hens might want to eat.

Mama & her brood

Several of the hens have challenged Mama, but only once each. Apparently she has to reestablish her rank in the pecking order. I'm not sure what will happen when I actually try to mix the two groups permanently. I'm not sure how territorial Lord B actually is, though all the older chickens (Himself included) seem to be getting used to the chicks.

~ Oil Tank. Remember the fuel oil tank we were in the process of digging out of the ground?

Oil tank as we left it last June

Well, we racked our brains for the longest time, trying to think if the unused oil and tank itself could be useful for something else. Dan finally decided to find someone to pump it, dig it out, and haul it away. He called all the local heating oil delivery companies, spoke with secretaries, was told someone would call him back with infomation, only to never hear from any of them again. We finally saw a hand painted sign by the side of the road that said, "We pump and remove oil tanks." Dan gave them a call and they came out to take a look. They told him they'd pump the estimated 200 gallons of oil for free, because they could sell it for $1 a gallon. For the tank, they could cut it open, fill it with gravel, and fill in the hole for $500. We listened to him, both thinking, we could do those things ourselves. It was getting it out of the ground that we wanted, but he didn't want to do that. We were hoping the value of the oil would offset the cost of digging it out, but he didn't want to do that either. We parted with, "don't call us, we'll call you."

He called the next day anyway, with an "oops, I accidentally dialed the wrong number". But while he had Dan on the line, he tried to talk him into giving him that oil. Guess who didn't budge. Needless to say, the tank is still in the ground and the oil is still in the tank. We had an interested potential buyer for the oil via Craigslist, and then the storm came and the computer went out.

~ Electrical Project. We've made a little progress. Dan got the new circuit panel installed in the utility room.

We aren't ready for the circuits yet because of the wiring that has to be done for the kitchen remodel. After that we can get the power company to come out and do their thing, getting us hooked up and getting the meter moved, this time with proper amperage to the house (which is currently 60 instead of the customary 200).

~ Chicken Waders. I finally had another volunteer venture into the chicken wading pool!

Wading Ameraucana

This is one of my two Ameraucana hens. She didn't do it to cool off, nor because she saw the Delaware and Barred Holland do it. She did it because some grain was in the bottom and she wanted it! She decided she didn't like getting her feet wet however, and abandoned her grain recovery mission. With cooler temps, even the water dish doesn't get waded in these days.

Off the top of my head, that's about all I can think of. I'll try to get some garden, harvest, and preservation updates up. Also, we've started working on the kitchen! I'm very excited about that and can't wait to show you. More on that soon.


Angie said...

I hope you achieve connectivity at home soon. Electronics trouble-shooting is always a time sink for me. I'm sorry to read about Chipper but agree with your viewpoint.

Are the little black chicks growing larger than the yellow or was that a camera angle trick? (Sorry for not recalling the breed names)

Leigh said...

Thanks Angie. Yes, the size difference of the chicks is camera angle.

Tami said...

Glad to hear that the homestead is doing well, all in all. Sometimes up, sometimes down...usually sideways though...&;)

Tom Stewart said...

I have a sugestion for the oil. This idea comes from "Scroungeman" and sounds like a good way to recycle oil.
Take 1 gallon of oil, 1 gallon of water and 1/4 cup of "Dawn" dish sope. Pour into a sprayer and mix (do not shake, you do not want suddes!) The "Dawn will allow the oil and water to emulcifY (SP?). What do you do with it, use it as a wood preserviter! The "Dawn and oil will penitrate the wood and the water will evaporate.
Scroungeman swears by this and will use it on hay wagons, farm trailers ECT.
Give it a try, It just might work!

Trixi said...

Wow, things are progressing nicely around your homestead. I am sorry about the loss of Chipper. Sometimes farm life is so hard.

luckybunny said...

The hen is too funny walking in the water :) We've had horrible storms lately too - haven't been able to get online, one thunderstorm after another. Sorry about the tree on the fence, not the best part about storms. I enjoyed going around the farm and catching up on what's going on:)

Susan said...

Sorry about the loss of Chipper. It's always hard to loose beasties, especially when you can't find an easy explanation. I know - in the last month I've lost several, from what we call DSS (dead sheep syndrome - no real symptoms except for an animal that is no longer alive).

The chicks look great! I'm getting eggs from about half of the chicks I got back in April. Nothing like fresh eggs, is there?

Hope you get your internet problems figured out soon!

Crustyrusty said...

Be careful with your water catchment; the translucent plastic lets in sunlight and can contribute to algae growth.

Nice blog, BTW. Lord willing, Momma and I will be trying the same thing on 10 acres pretty soon :-)

Cat Eye Cottage said...

A lot going on and a lot to handle for sure. We would like some cooler drier weather. So sorry about Chipper.

Renee Nefe said...

So sorry to hear about Chipper. :(

Perhaps you can sell the oil and find someone who wants to take the tank on Craigslist? Funny how that guy really wants your oil though...sounds like it's really worth more than just a buck per gallon.

I hope you're back online soon!

BrokenRoadFarm said...

Sorry to hear about is never easy to lose one. I am glad that you made it through that storm "relatively" unscathed. Hopefully you will be able to solve your ethernet problems and be back online soon!

CaliforniaGrammy said...

So sorry about losing Chipper— that's never easy.

I'm amazed that the guy is perfectly willing to pump out your oil for free so he can make some money, but refuses to help you get the tank out. Now that's just not a fair trade at all. Unvelievable!

Leigh said...

Tami, LOL. Sideways is good, right? ;)

Tom, that's an excellent suggestion. Thanks! I'll pass that on to Dan. Wood preservative is something else we're trying to figure out.

Mrs. Trixi, thanks. It helps to look at the positive, doesn't it?

Donna, you too? And you're so far from us! Still, I hope all is well with you and yours.

Susan, I'm sorry to hear about your sheep! Try as hard as we might, but some things still can't be figured out, can they?

Crustyrusty, good point. Likely we will end up painting the tanks. Very exciting about your 10 acres!

Candace thanks. I'll send you some of our cooler weather. Of course we still get up to the upper 80s or 90, but it's cooler than it has been!

Renee, we had the same idea about craigslist, but will have to wait until the home computer gets fixed. :(

BRF, so glad to hear you didn't get any storm damage. My ethernet problem is likely the card itself, not the software like Dell tells me. Will know for sure soon, thanks to Ubuntu Forums.

CA Grammy, thanks. Yes, that guy was very amazing. More amazing, he didn't get that we didn't think it was fair to just give it to him to sell and keep all the profit. His response to that was that it cost something to pump it out. Maybe he would have to rent the pump. :0

badgerpendous said...

Glad to hear that most of the damage from the storm is minor. Hope you're back up and internetting soon!

Kids and Canning Jars said...

I love the update. The chickens are beautiful! Sorry about Kinder. I am glad you are recovering from the storm. We know the drill. I am trying to make up for lost time with my blogging buddies. Now that home school routines are starting I am in front of the computer more and will try to comment and post more often. We have traveled and had family move in with us. So, I am seeking repentance. I hope all is well with you all, Melissa

Leigh said...

Badgerpendous, thanks! I finally figured out I need a new network card. That, hopefully Friday!

Melissa, so good to hear from you! Sounds like your life has been very busy indeed. Hope things get back to "normal" for you soon!

Andrew said...

Yeah, the rainwater tanks are turning out critical this year. This spring I installed a 330 gallon tank from They were the only place I could find that had the green plastic kind and would ship to Virginia. Had to pick it up from Old Domion Freight in Wytheville. I was concerned the white plastic wouldn't last quite as long to UV exposure and it would be a little more subtle than white sitting on top of the hill. I would have gone for the kind you got if I had run into them first. By the way, were did you find those? For some reason I end up with a lot of dust in my rainwater. One poor mouse crawled the wrong way down the inlet pipe and drowned. I'm only using it for garden watering so far, would definitely put a good filter on it if I were going to drink it. Mine didn't come with hardware to neck the lower outlet pipe down to a 3/4" garden hose so I had to go to Lowe's and get a 2" to 3/4" pvc adapter and a brass ball-type boiler drain. I like those better because a 1/4 turn opens the valve all the way. The standard hose knob takes a while to unscrew to full open and I have a problem with the one of that kind on the house leaking. It's been good enough to keep a few green beans and tomatoes going. The western end of Grayson has missed EVERY chance of rain for over a month now. The river and Carroll and Smythe all get it. And now a hurricane has drifted out of reach.

Andrew said...

Well, I had looked into home methods of pressure treatment. I learned that they supposedly stopped using the real toxic stuff in commercial pressure treated wood back in 2006. A lot of the home solutions seemed to involve soaking the wood in a solution of some sort of salt for several days and letting the wood soak it up. The forest products people at VT had a link to this presentation:
The problem is that any sort of soluble compound that you might soak your wood in will leach out of wood in any application that frequently gets wet (your siding).
I found mention earlier this year about applying heat to the surface of the wood after it had soaked up a certain solution. Not really charring it but getting it up high enough that the compound in the solution actually chemically bonded and formed a non-water soluble boundary that would greatly reduce leaching. I think it is the equivalent of taking an iron and ironing the wood. I can't find that article at all now. Sorry. But that's the concept.

More documentation identifying home wood preservation is here:
Boric acid (borax) seems to be a common theme in wood preservation of earlier centuries and its fairly non-toxic to us. As noted though, it is alkaline and if used in garden boxes might change your pH as it leaches.

Leigh said...

Andrew I'm just getting back online (after installing a new network card) and wanted to thank you for your comments and the information. Very helpful, both about the rain water and the wood preservatives.

Dan's hoping to get started on our water recycling system after we finish the kitchen (which may take awhile :).

I appreciate the wood preservative links too. This is another area of need and concern.

m said...

We have two tanks like yours, which we bought in 2000 when extending our house. They are heavy to move, even empty, so make sure you build a good strong base for them. The breeze blocks we used have sunk, the wood underneath has rotted, and we could do with emptying ours and re-positioning them. We had to replace some fittings this year, and used hose-pipe system parts, which we found easy to install.