Life of a Farm Blog

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Archive for March, 2007

Spring Flowers

Monday, March 26th, 2007

Another week has come and gone here on the farm. Madison has had me out digging flowers. Now that the truck is fixed and it’s warmer, we’ve been driving down to the creek a couple miles past the farm so the kids can skip rocks and that’s where Madison found her flowers. There are old home places along the banks of the creek and lots of them have flowers growing abundantly. The kids call it Lilly Valley. That means Dad gets the shovel those that we need at our house. Garett doesn’t get too into the flowers, so he browses around for other treasures or picks up trash. Kind of strange to pick up trash, but he does. He says people are littering and destroying the earth. Hard to argue with that. So usually we come home with flowers and trash. It’s good for the kids to get out in the woods.

It’s time for garden tilling to get busy. I tilled 3 on Friday afternoon. Don’t make a lot of money at it, but at least it helps buy fuel. At $2.60 a gallon I can use the help. I thought I would have some trouble starting the 6000 after running it out of fuel, but all I had to do was loosen the fuel prime pump and pump a few times and it took right off.

The kids and I volunteered for the museum in Stearns this weekend. The Stearns Coal & Lumber Company owned the local school building and had given the school district free rent since about 1925. A couple years ago the school board decided to restructure and close 3 of the older schools and build new and bigger schools. Problem is they closed the small schools that were achieving the higher test scores. I’m convinced schools are a business and it’s not about teachers or kids anymore. Things have certainly changed here since my grandmother taught for over 30 years. At any rate the Coal company didn’t want the building anymore since it’s in such bad shape so they donated it to the McCreary County Heritage Foundation. The museum is part of that foundation, so they got anything left in the building that they could use. We spent 2 days moving shelves, tables, books, and trophy cases that were all left behind to be thrown in the landfill. As they say- one man’s junk, another man’s treasure. In this case it’s one school’s junk, a museum’s treasure. I’m disgusted with the vandalism that has been done to the old schools here. Somebody has stolen almost all the copper wire and broken countless windows. It’s a shame we don’t have better law enforcement here. That and that people don’t have morals enough not to destroy others property. Hopefully the Heritage Foundation will do something with the building, but I have my doubts. It would take millions to renovate the place and I know they don’t have that kind of money.

I’ve spent countless hours on the phone and in the bush with contractors talking about and getting bids for the poultry houses. I have never felt so much pressure in my life. Farm Credit wants a general contractor to be hired to do it all. Problem is the total job bids are coming out way higher than the total of the individual bids. I could save probably $50,000 over the scope of the project by being my own general contractor. The excavation costs that the general contractors are throwing at me are over $15,000 more than the excavators bid. I see why it costs so much to build now. It’s not just a simple matter of hiring it done. You have to hire someone to hire it done and they want to inflate everything about 15%. In a project with a scope of $700,000 it can get out of hand quick. I can see where this whole deal could go sour very very quickly.

On a high note, I see there are going to be some changes to the UK basketball program. I can’t help but believe Tubby was told it was time to go. I just can’t see a guy leave the best job in college ball for Minnesota. I just hope we can lure either Bruce Pearl up from Tennessee or John Calipari from Memphis. I’d be happy if Pat Riley wanted to come back to his alma mater too.

Well tons to do so I’ll close for now………be sure to check out the pics I’m adding to the site.

March Madness

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

Earlier this week the temps got into the 80′s and we even sat outside after dark to take in the warm night air and listen to the frogs. Now temps are dropping toward the 40′s and they say we could see snow flurries tonight. Great, as if we all weren’t sick enough. I hope all the plants we’ve set out can take the cold. That’s the bad part of setting out your garden early. If you do get a freeze sometimes you lose what you’ve started. So far we’ve put out 2 kinds of potatoes, onions, peas, brocolli, cauliflower, and cabbage. We also started some seeds inside for tomatoes and peppers. My older brother Paul and his wife are planning to come visit a lot this summer and help in the garden. Previously they had tried to garden a little in Owenton where my mom and dad have a small place. Since mom’s going to be here we decided they should just come here and help in our garden instead of planting their own.

Garett has been helping me feed every evening I’m home. We made a deal that if he’d help me keep the goats from stealing the cows feed I’d jump on the trampoline with him. He gets his stick and stands by the door. When the goats try to come under the door he taps them on the head. He calls it whack-a-goat. I’m proud of the kids for helping with the farm like they do.

I’m embarrased to admit I ran the 6000 out of fuel tilling. I guess I just got caught up in the moment and never looked at the gauges. The fuel gauge plainly says empty. On a good note though I think I’ve finally got the truck fixed, and my dad fixed my pallet forks that I bent loading railroad ties. Check out the pics of his modifications. Anyone with the pin type quick-attach pallet forks should consider this. The truck took 2 fuel pumps. Seems the cab chassis models have a weird design that has the back tank pump fuel into the front tank and then the front tank supply the engine. Both of the pumps on mine were bad. The front one was working part of the time but not at good pressure. All this stalling and cranking ate up one of the batteries and the starter. So after 2 fuel pumps, a PMD, a battery, and a starter it has finally run for a significant length of time. Only one problem left. I bought an Advance auto parts starter and the nose on the starter is a little different than the original and it is causing the dust sheild to hit the flywheel under load. So I’ve got to take the starter back off and either shim it or re-engineer it. It will have to warm up before I do though.

I need to get fertilizer on the fields here and the 38 acres I have leased. Once I get the truck fixed right and can catch a rain coming I’m going to do that. Last year we put almost $1000 worth of lime and fertilizer on the 38 acres and got about 100 rolls first cutting and countless squares on the second cutting. There is so much more profit in squares I hope I can get the help to do more of them this year. I want to buy a new square baler, but I keep telling myself I can’t justify spending the money if I’m not going to be able to get help putting in the squares. I’d hate to have a new square baler and still end up having to roll. Just doesn’t seem like folks want to work anymore.

Farm Credit let us know yesterday that they were willing to do the loan on the chickenhouses for the equity in the farm. Makes me wonder if they weren’t bargaining all along just trying to keep themselves in a more secure position. Worst part is now I’m second guessing myself as to whether or not to go this route. It will destroy 2 of my dreams for this farm. One to have a pumpkin patch for the school children to visit and the other my plan to build a house at the most secluded spot on the farm someday. On the other hand it would mean that the farm could finally be profitable. That and I could finally get out of Kingsford Charcoal. The cancer rate surrounding employees at the plant over the last 20 years is alarming to say the least. Most folks don’t live to collect their pensions for very long. Although Clorox has taken steps to reduce the dust, it simply isn’t enough. I find it very interesting that companies are able to subject you to dust that has been shown to cause “occupational lung disease” and never suffer any penalties.

March is even more depressing for us Kentucky basketball fans! I’m sure some programs would be thrilled with a record and a #8 seed in the tournament like we have, but this is Kentucky. The winningest program in all of college basketball. What Rupp built here is slowly being torn apart. One can only hope that the changes that need to be made to keep UK competitive will be made. If the AD isn’t going to do it then he should go too. Actually I think he should go anyway. The only up side to this tournament year is Rick Pitino has Louisville playing like the 1996 Kentucky squad. That’s probably the only praise Ky will get all tournament and the praise is to a team from 10 years ago.

Well, keep checking back. The fun is only begining for the year here!

Good and Bad

Monday, March 12th, 2007

Well this week has been good and bad. We got part of the garden started. I took the 6000 over and tilled a couple of the spots we used on Wednesday morning. Then Thursday afternoon we set out cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce. I’m hoping we can get the potatoes and onions in the ground this week too. Think I’ll plant a row of peas too. It helps to get an early start. The bad part of this week was that I put the $400 piece on my truck that was supposed to fix it, but it didn’t. The thing ran perfect for almost 30 minutes and then I shut it off. While we were setting out the plants on Thursday BJ came to pick up the kids. She was talking about how she missed gardening so I said just jump in here and help. When we were done I said I’d plant potatoes if I had them. She volunteered to go get the potatoes in my truck since I had it fixed or so I thought. She got to the end of the road and it died on her and wouldn’t start back. Somehow it’s running itself out of fuel.

On top of the truck driving me silly, all the kids have had the flu for the past few days. Ended up missing a day of work to get them to doctors appointments. They’ve got this new medicine Tamiflu that I have to fight them to get them to take it. Evidently tastes really bad.

I sure got a good scare the other night. A neighbor called to tell me I needed to make sure the horses were all in. Seems someone’s horse was running the neighborhood. Thank goodness mine were all where they should’ve been. I wasn’t as lucky a couple years ago. The Domino’s pizza guy stopped to ask if I knew anyone with horses. I knew when I saw him it couldn’t be good, because I hadn’t ordered pizza. I told him I had 4, why? His reply was well there are 4 standing in the road down there. Nothing as fun as chasing animals in the middle of the night.

We heard back from Farm Credit on our chickenhouse loan application. They want a substantial down payment plus the lien on the whole farm. I don’t know that we want to do that. I hate the thought of losing everything if something goes bad. It would be different if it wasn’t family land. Another tough decision to make.

The front deck on the double-wide is done. It looks really good! I hope I can afford to get the back one started soon. On the front we went 10×17. On the back we plan on going 16×20. They’ll both have lots of room to sit and go in and out.

Saturday BJ brought the kids down to fly kites. She brought my nephew JT too. We’ve ceratinly got good places to fly kites. We had the whole field full of kids running around with their kites.

In the latest issue of Hobby Farms magazine I noticed that there is reference to the fact that Mahindra will be adding implements to their lineup. It said they are going to have cutters, tillers, box and scraper blades, landscape rakes, boom poles, bale forks and spears, and even a potato plow. I think there is more to come too, like disc harrows. It will be interesting to see how these do. I know I’m going to pick up a disc harrows in a few weeks and I hope Mahindra has one available by then.

Well lots to do, so I better get at it……….Be sure to check back soon for new posts and while you’re here check out the pics I’ve added.

Finally March

Monday, March 5th, 2007

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All is well here on the farm. Everything is growing and I can see the grass starting to green as every day goes by. March seems to always be when you know you’ve made it through the winter. That’s good because I am down to only 4 rolls and about 40 square bales of hay. I wouldn’t want any of the animals to get hungry. I have increased the amount of grain I’m feeding and cut back on the hay. It’s almost time to start spreading fertilizer on the hay fields. I like to spread as early as the weather allows to take advantage of all the spring rains. Usually around Valentines Day, but it was just too cold for me this year. Now if it will dry up I can spread. Hopefully the old saying “If March comes in like a lion it will go out like a lamb” holds true.

We had lots of rain and high winds all day and night. I like the rain, it makes good reading weather. Mom got me a great book – Into The Wild. I highly recommend it. It will really make you think about life. I spent most of my off time inside going over all the literature I picked up at the NFMS. The kids got me a subscription to Farm & Ranch Living. I’m usually not much on things if they aren’t informative. However I like this magazine because of its diaries from folks like me and all the great pictures. Not to mention I love the historical stuff in it. How could you not enjoy something you’ve seen your kids save their nickels and dimes for though.

The children seem to be getting bigger before my very eyes. This shift I work has me away from them more than I anticipated. I’ve worked late a lot on Mondays and Tuesdays and only see them for a few minutes on Wednesday and Thursday mornings. That’s 4 days a week and I feel so bad on Saturday from being up all night that I know I’m hard to get along with. Garett seems to miss me more than the others. He made me promise I would watch Open Season with him tonight. We’re making plans to go to Finley’s Fun Center at least one Sunday a month too. They like to play all the games and get Dad out on roller skates. Last Sunday I was so tired all I wanted to do was sleep. I did let them drag me out to get them a hamburger and go to the book store. While we were out they wanted to drive around and look at how low the lake was. When it warms up we’re gonna go walk in the lake bed. It’s real interesting, things are uncovered that haven’t been seen in a very long time. I read in the newspaper that the river in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area here in the county is at levels not seen since impounding the lake.

Won’t be too much longer until the pigs will be ready to eat. Someone asked me a few days ago did I not feel bad about killing these animals. I tried to explain that I do the very best I can by them for the time they have here. I see to it that they aren’t hungry, thirsty, or unhappy and that they have a warm dry place to sleep. I think that’s a whole lot more than you can say for the animals that have been raised commercially. So I bet my hamburger had a happier life than their hamburger. Also there are some animals on the farm that don’t have to worry about life ending anytime soon if I have my way about it.

I got a call at work the other night from BJ. Her grandparents needed hay moved again and she used the 6000 to move it for them. I asked her why she didn’t just go ahead and not worry about calling. Her reply was she was calling out of respect, it wasn’t right just to do it without talking to me first. I kidded her that she sounded crazy and that scared me because she never respected me when we were married. She says that’s not true, but I think it is. I think Papaw Staley might have changed his mind about not ever needing 4wd. When I told him I was buying a 4wd tractor, he told me he’d never buy a 4wd because if it was that bad he’d hire a bulldozer to clean it up for him. With all the freeze and thaw this year I think he sees how handy 4wd is.

We’ve made the decision on the poultry houses. Drumroll please……We have applied for the loan to try it. A cool million in all. I don’t know if we’ll get the money, but we’re going to try it. We talked and talked about it and it finally came down to try it, but leave ourselves an out. By that I mean, leave ourselves a way to sell out without selling the whole place. We’ve found a distant ridge that is almost perfect for them. When we sold the timber the loggers flattened it and used it for a skid yard. It’s at the end of a county road so it won’t intefere with this part of the farm at all. I’m not overly enthusiastic about it, but my dad wants to partner up and do something when he retires for good. I want to be home on the farm with the kids evenings. Both my mom and BJ have pledged to help. I had made the decision not to do it if it was going to be in my back yard or front yard. The site played a huge role in the decision for me. I’ve talked to lots of people who both recommend it and don’t and from everything I can gather it’s good for me. I’m young, hence not taking too big a risk with health insurance, retirement, and just plain dying broke. I’m a hard worker and most of all I want to be here on the farm 7 days a week 24 hours a day. I think that’s the biggest asset of this whole venture. I have a burning desire to farm and make this place profitable so my children don’t have to work in a charcoal factory. Add that to the support I’m receiving from my folks and I honestly believe we can make this thing work.

The log house is absolutely amazing with the new windows. Replacement windows are worth every penny. We’re almost done with all the improvements to it. All that’s left is a little hemlock siding on it and the barn, and some finish work inside. We’ve spent just over $20,000, but I bet the place will appraise $60,000 higher. The best part is my mom is so happy with the house. I haven’t seen her happy since we lost my youngest brother. He’s buried here at Bethel Baptist Church and I know she is grateful to finally be close to him. It really bothered her being in Owen County and him being here.

Kenny (the contractor) is starting the front deck on the double-wide as I write. I’m sure the kids will be happy. Every morning when the bus comes they’ve been hopping out the front about 3 feet to the ground like paratroopers. Madison has the most trouble with it. For her it’s like jumping from above her head.

Well lots to do……Be sure to check out the pics I’ve added here……Hope to hear from you…..Check back soon!

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