Wednesday, April 16, 2008


There's nothing to do...nothing at I guess I'll blog.

I've been sick for about 5 days. I've had my fill of TV, books on tape, and blankly staring at my computer monitor. With sleeping, that's about all I've been doing of late. Oddly, I haven't even been hungry enough to eat much. But I'm finally feeling better.

Mom has a new piano student that started today, so she had me clean the family room. Since it is clean (mostly, and won't be for long) I thought I'd show y'all a picture (don't expect images of the rest of the house any time soon :-)...)

The fully open window points north.

The other big news is that there was a fire in the hoop coop last night.
Fortunately, mom was going to water the chickens when she discovered the hoop coop full of smoke, and the sawdust on top of the brooder was smoldering. Since she had a pitcher full of water in her hand, she threw it on top of the brooder. All the chickens seem fine. God's providence.

Apparently, the heat lamp bulb was touching the plywood on the top, and started the fire.

Everything has been greening up around here:And with the temperatures around 70, it definitely feels like spring.

Matthew has been working over at the Williams this week, who have 500 ewes lambing, and been gone from early morning until late night. Baxter misses him dreadfully, and hardly settles down long enough to pick at his sore (from the neighbor dog, but long story). He doesn't even know about the fire yet.

That's about all I can think of to write about, without getting into stuff like politics (ZZZzzz...).

To all, a good night.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Weird Weather

We had a very weird weather day today. I woke up to gray, but about nine the sun came out. Then this afternoon it has switched back and forth between sunshine, rain and a little hail, and just cloudy.

This morning I thew the last of the wood on the place (except for the blocks holding down the hoop-house) into the furnace, and since it's supposed to be rather cold tomorrow (snow predicted, though if we do get any, I'm pretty sure it won't stick) I thought it might be nice to have a little more before then....So I called Mr. Joe (the fellow from church who I cut wood with, and who also just and surgery on his foot last Friday) to see if he would be able to at least come with me and watch (for safety's sake we prefer to have two people around if we're doing much cutting) while I cut up some wood. Being the irrepressible, generous, strong type he is (he's also really good on crutches), he said that he'd put the new bar on his saw, and to come on over (he mentioned that the doc said he doesn't have to use the crutches all the time any more). So after I grabbed a snack and collected the extra layers I might need if it did start raining (it was about 68 degrees (20 C) at the time) and put the new bar and chain on my saw, I hooked on to the wood splitter and took off. I made it out of the drive way, down our road onto the busy road right by the freeway overpass/exit ramps and the wheel on the splitter locked up! Black skid marks on the pavement and squealing tires--the works. So I pulled off on the shoulder, and grabbed a pry bar to lift the axle, so I could spin the wheel and try to free it up. Once the tire was spinning freely, I jumped back in the truck and took off again. I made it another mile and a half (and two turns) before the wheel locked up again! It was locked up worse that time, but I managed to get worked free and limped it the last two miles (3.2 km) to Mr. Joe's place. As you may have guessed the bearing was shot. So we had to fool with that a while, and then I headed into town to get new bearings.

Now while I was driving over to Mr. Joe's and while we were working on getting the wheel bearings off, it was sunny with a lovely breeze. The peepers were singing away merrily, white puffy clouds were off in the distance, and it was plenty warm to be working in a short sleeved shirt. Then just before I left for town, there was a huge storm system practically right over us. Just came up out of nowhere. Last night we got about an inch and a half (3.5 cm) of rain, and today on the way to town it must have been raining at the rate of about an inch an hour! That didn't last long though, by the time I got back about 25 min. later it had quit. And it never rained as hard at Mr. Joe's farm as it had in town. So we put the new bearings in between a few more little showers, and took stock of the situation. About that time it started raining hard again--so we went inside. After a little while, all of a sudden it was sunny. The trees weren't even dripping. If it weren't for the puddles you'd never have known it had just been pouring. Quite strange.

So we though we could start cutting then, but another storm blew in and so we gave up and I came home. It rained on the way home, but then shortly there after it quit and was very nice and sunny again. And hasn't rained since, I don't think!

There's Michigan weather for you. Overall it was a very nice day, except it kept raining off and on. When it wasn't raining the sun generally came out. Weird weather. And no wood. We'll have to rely on the oil furnace a little bit. Oh well, in three years we've only used about 3/8 of a tank, so we're not doing too bad. I guess we'll try again tomorrow. (once again in the rain and snow!)

Wellp that's all fer now,


P.S. I've got to get another photo of that rhubarb--you can almost see it grow. It must be a foot and a half high already.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Short Post (there's a first time for everything!)

Well, just have time and energy for a short post tonight...if I try really hard maybe I can actually keep it short!

The weather has been pretty typical for April in this neck of the woods: a mix of sun and rain, and temps pretty steady in the mid 50's (12-13 C) although one day when the sun was out it got up to nearly 70! (21 C) They say it's supposed to get cooler this weekend and possibly snow...but y'all know the weather service....

There are more and more signs of spring all the time. The crocuses (spring flowers--not sure if that's the proper spelling) are finally blooming, and the daffodils are growing quite a bit too--no flowers yet though. Also the 'spring peepers' (little frogs that have really big voices!) have been singing away merrily for a week or so, probably once the water in the swamps warmed up.

The chicks are still doing fine and growing to beat the band...hard to believe they're only 2 1/2 weeks old. Most of them now have all their little wing feathers and quite a start on their tails. Fluttering to the top of the brooder no longer poses any problem--I'm glad I got the chicken wire on when I did!

The tomatoes are flourishing upstairs...I've had to raise the lights several times the past week. I could probably move them out to the hoop-house, only it's not dug up. And before I can dig it up I have to move the chicks out. And before I can move the chicks out it has to warm up enough....So for now the plants are still upstairs. The lettuce is also doing well. I actually planted some leaf lettuce and radishes out side last Saturday--pretty exciting ;-) I should get another picture of the rhubarb, its really taking off.

And finally, you may have noticed that we have different music at different times....That's because Jonathan made some random number generator that picks what music player comes up--so if you don't like the music just refresh the page and it will probably be different. (although I can never seem to get the one that has the bluegrass music that I like pretty well) He also found some new songs to put on the one player....the one song entitled "city on a hill" (or something like that) has pretty good lyrics but I wish it was something different that a "City!" Make me a lamp on a stand, or maybe a barn on a hill, but I think that the agrarian consensus is that cities are the antithesis of the ideal lifestyle. Oh, well quite good other than that. He also found some other neat ones.... so come by and take a listen...

I think that (had better be) is all for tonight,


P.S. Not to bad for a "Short Post," at least for me! :-)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Jail Birds and Chrismas in April

I originally started writing this on Thursday...but then Mom came home and needed the computer...and I haven't got back to it 'till now. So this will be kinda interesting!
And just to warn y'all...this is a rather long post, since it's two or three days of thoughts!

I couldn't decide between "Jail Birds" and "Christmas in April," for the title so I thought why not both? Anyway here it goes :-)

The Chicks are somehow getting outside. Not just outside of the brooder--they're supposed to do that. Not just out of the hoop-coop--I don't mind that too much, they're still fairly safe inside of the hoop-house. It is when they leave the hoop-house that I mind. Somehow they're getting out through some crack that I can't find (they can fit though an awfully small hole) and can't find their way back in. I've got to get some chicken wire on the coop!

Tonight I heard loud peeping, "boy those chicks are loud. I can hear them all the way out here." Well I went inside of the hoop-house and the peeping was quieter. Uh-oh! It seemed to be coming from a couple of tires that I have piled up to block holes. (apparently they aren't doing their job--I just might fire them!) I picked up the top tire, and what do you know, there were four chicks in it! Right in there with all those old leaves and water that I can never seem to get out. Did I happen to mention that the dog was with me? (That wouldn't be such a big problem except that we're not sure what he would do to chicks. I'd rather expose him to full size
chickens first. Hopefully, he'll just herd them if they get loose, after all he is mostly border collie. But there is always a chance that he likes chicken dinners (or chick snacks). And that's not a chance I'd like to take right now!) So I grabbed the dog with one hand and the wettest chick in the other. Then I held the dog between my legs, opened the door to the hoop-house, tossed the poor drenched bedraggled chick inside, and carried the dog into the house. Oh, and I should also probably say that this all was happening while the rest of the family was trying to leave to go to AWANA.

Once the dog was safely inside where he couldn't to any damage (to the chicks anyway--not so sure about the house!), I managed to round up the other three chicks. Actually they were pretty cold and didn't put up much of a fight. (Also I've discovered there are great advantages to always wearing a hat: (base
ball cap type) not only dose it keep your head dry when moisture drips on you in the hoop-house, but is also acts as a great chick catching/containment device) Then I rushed to put all four under the heat lamps in the brooder--I'm praying that they won't get pneumonia. I can't imagine that the experience was very good for them.

Here a few pictures of the chicks:
In this photo you can see the eves trough feeders that a gentlemen from church helped me build. He cut out the end pieces and then we screwed them down with plumbers strap. They even have rolling handles, so that chicks (when they're heavier, anyway) won't be able to perch on them.
Here is their hoop-coop all closed up for night:-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Saturday--4/5 addendum: Last night I went out into the hoop-house and found a dozen chicks outside of their coop--and it was pretty chilly in the hoop-house. There were ten in one group on the left side of the coop (in the photo above) and two on the right side caught between the plastic on the coop and the walls of the hoop-house.

Lessons learned:
#1 Don't assume that just because you don't open up the coop, the chick can't get out. (there just like mice--can fit through an impossibly small hole.
#2 Don't wait until after dark to go out to check on the chicks--they're small enough yet to be hard to find with a flashlight!
#3 Chicks are a *lot* easier to catch when they're sleeping!
#4 As convenient as it sounded at the time, it is really best not to leave the chicken wire off of the coop to make it easier to get stuff (like the brooder) in and out--if I can get in easily, the chicks have no trouble at all! And they're trying to get out, not in.
#5 Check on the Chicks more frequently than two or three times a day

I'm beginning to get the impression that chickens aren't necessarily the smartest animals one can own. At least there were ten in the one pile, they should have been able to keep themselves fairly warm. When I threw (gently tossed?) the wretched (I mean the poor little birdies) critters back into the coop, they didn't even have enough sense to get under the brooder and warm up....sigh....
And on to the other exciting thing that happened yesterday...

My Whizbang order arrived!! Just like Christmas, only in April. It was primarily Plucker parts, but I got a couple of books too.

-----------Writing On Saturday------------

Here's what I got:

The famous feather-plate and shaft of course (precisely mounted and disassembled); a plaque telling how to reassemble it; 125 plucker fingers (from Robert); bumper sticker, caution sticker and the Fraternal Order of Whizbang Pluckerbuilders (in the manila envelope with the hand written message); the Whizbang garden cart plan book; the Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian (a gift for a friend--I got a copy for Christmas (in December!) and took me part of that afternoon and a few minutes the next morning to devour it!); and last but not least, the wonderful paper that doubled as packing material. (I have this weird thing about newspaper packing--I always try to save it and see if there is anything interesting. Some times it is the comics, or world news or something, but this time there are some really interesting articles about how much it might cost to own a milk cow, (something I'd like to do, soon if possible, which it probably isn't but one can dream....) and a bunch of other interesting stuff. I believe that this is the first paper I ever seen with one of these: (look on the bottom of the page))Is that, *gasp*, oh no, it couldn't be...could it? YES! It is a Bible verse--on a farming paper?!? What is the world coming to? I think I'll look it up online and see if they have one for our neck of the woods!

-----Have to go hang out the next load of laundry, be right back (did you see my post on Laundry?)----

OK, I'm back...where was I....

Oh, yes. The Whizbang order--it was great. Christmas in April. Oh, I've already said that. Let's see...Great service, exceptional products, I absolutely *love* the packing materials...speedy delivery...what more could you want? Autographed books you say--did I forget to mention that all of the books are signed by the author? I can't recommend this Whizbang stuff enough. It's great. It's awesome. It's (dare I say it--the word I hate to use and hear used), it's cool. (Um, perhaps I should clarify and say that's not referring to temperature ;-) )

That is going to be a fun project. Now I just need to find one of those cotton pickin barrels...there seems to be a shortage around here. If all else fails I'll have to wait 'till the *huge* consignment auction coming up here shortly (first weekend in May?) They usually have around 1,000 buyers (give or take a few hundred), plus an extra couple hundred people that just go to watch. We have quite a long list this year: from a pressure canner (or maybe two) to egg baskets and everything in between. (well maybe not everything but we do have a looong list)

Now on to other matters. (if I can think of any!)

Ah, yes....It's spring break 'round here (not for us--we work through snow days and spring break and get done the first part of May. Or at least we used we're doing more interesting things like planning gardens and raising chickens (or working on the computer for Jonathan--he's sorta apprenticed to a lady down it Tn, doing websites and stuff) more than bookwork, although we're still doing some of that (unfortunately?). But what spring break means is that everyone in the neighborhood is going on vacation. And we get to watch all of their animals. Across the road I'm watching three geese (one of which is setting on a nest) one beagle (the lab ran away just before they left), a couple of half-wild cats, and who knows how many chickens (20 or 30?). The good part is we get to keep the eggs--some 8 or 10 a day. The bad news is we have no idea of what to do with all the eggs! (we also got one goose egg--from the other goose that is not near as dedicated to sitting on a nest as the other one. I think there must be one male--he's always hissing at me. I just hiss right back, had lots of practice with my cat and all :-) ) Then the neighbors just to the West of us are leaving some time today--we'll get their dog, Macy, an English Springer Spaniel, she's fun to have around. She's come over a few times to play with Baxter--works good I throw the Frisbee, Macy fetches it (requiring little effort from me) and Baxter chases her all over creation while she's getting the frisbee (you see Baxter won't bring them back, so you have to chase after them yourself). And then up the road a ways some other folks left yesterday--I need to run up once a day to feed and water the dog.

When I was out with the last load of laundry the sun was just coming up over the trees:
That is one of my favorite spot to take pictures. I have quite a collection of shots taken from about that same place.

The other day there was a beautiful earth revolving too [you surely realize that the sun doesn't rise--the earth revolves) so here is the sun rise (I mean "earth revolving ;-) ]:
It was pretty chilly that morning--the ice in one of those ubiquitous gray tubs:was quite thick:

----Time for another laundry break----

Ok, Back again....

I just have one more thing to tell y'all about (I think just one)...I wrote this paper for school (actually we call them "news summaries"--take a story out of the newspaper or off the internet and then rewrite it. The original article was in the Lansing State Journal. It's about the rising corn prices. I wrote it once using the "rules" for school and then rewrote it in "blogger" style--interesting I thought. I think I like the "blogger" style better :-) I blogged about writing for school and the program we use here, it's down a ways so you'll have to hunt for it, but it's there :-) Here are the two versions for y'all to compare; first the strictly rewritten (no opinion--just the facts):

The Prices are Up
by Matthew Potter

[6]Food prices are rising. [1]This is primarily because of the skyrocketing cost of corn. [2]Amid expected shortfalls, corn has reached a record setting six dollars a bushel. [5]While this is roughly a thirty percent increase, the commodity stockpiles are dwindling, and the demand—for animal feed and bio-fuels—is ever increasing. [1]The current price jump is partly due to the U.S. Government’s prediction that American farmers, who are the world’s largest suppliers of corn, will “plant sharply less of the crop in 2008.” [4]Relying on past and present research, the USDA projects that only 86 million acres of corn will be planted—an eight percent drop. [3]Additionally, cold wet weather across much of the Corn Belt is expected to delay planting, once again raising prices. [1]Higher corn prices will mean high food and meat costs, as producers pass on their expenses to the consumer. Prices are going up!

Rewritten from Corn prices hit new high; $6-a-bushel mark likely to push rising costs of food, alternate fuel, by Stevenson Jacobs of AP LSJ 4/4/2008 Page 8D

The "[3]" are sentence opener numbers--[1] Is a subject opener; [2] is a prepositional opener; [3] an "-ly" or adverb opener; [4] an "-ing" or "-ed" opener; [5] a adverbial opener; [6] is the ever popular Very Short Sentence a.k.a. VSS. We also have to work in a who/which clause; an adverbial clause, strong or dual verbs; strong or dual adjectives and a "-ly" word (like "absolutely"). And I forget what all else.

Now here is the "blogger" style (with some opinions and extra facts slipped in):

A Corn Driven Economy?
by Matthew Potter

Food prices are rising. And it’s mainly due to corn. Yes, this one little plant is now receiving national attention. Over the past few years corn prices have been going up, but now they have reached the $6-a-bushel mark—that’s a record! While that is roughly a 30% increase, stockpiles are dwindling and the demand (both for animal feed and bio-fuels) just keeps going up. The U.S. government actually helped ignite this fuse leading to higher prices by predicting that American farmers (the folks who produce the largest share of the world’s corn) will plant “sharply less of the crop in 2008.” In fact, the USDA projects that only 86 million acres of corn will be planted—a drastic 8% decrease from last year. Also helping matters immensely, the cold wet weather plaguing the Corn Belt may delay planting, once again driving prices up. And since corn syrup is in practically everything, from pop to ketchup, prices of a lot of things will no doubt rise corn prices. Additionally, most animal feed is corn based, so the price of meat and animal products will skyrocket as well. It seems like corn is driving our economy. Prices just keep going up and up an up….

Rewritten from Corn prices hit new high; $6-a-bushel mark likely to push rising costs of food, alternate fuel, by Stevenson Jacobs of AP LSJ 4/4/2008 Page 8D

So there you have it....Which to you like better?

Well, better get to work....

Take 'er easy (or not, I suppose!), and never forget "no rest for the wicked, and the righteous don't need none!" (from Uncle Billy on Mitford)


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Nice Fall Day (Oh, It's Spring?!?)

It was a cold, gray, windy day. Quite a nip in the air. And boy, was it windy. Really, really windy. Like 40 or 50 mile an hour gusts windy. (you get the idea?)

Well this morning I awakened to my dear Mother telling me that the plastic was loose on the hoop-house. (for the umpteenth, no gazillionth, time) Did I mention that the chicks are out there?!? And did I say that there is (or rather used to be) probably half a ton of rocks holding the plastic down?!? And did I tell y'all that it was rather windy?!? It was almost a disaster. Thankfully, the chicks didn't seem to suffer too much under their brooder in the hoop-coop (which is inside of the hoop-house) PTL!!) So I dashed out there (after throwing on some clothes and dragging myself out of bed (Umm, better reverse the order on that :-) ) --I did mention that somehow I stayed up till mid-night last night? And this was shortly after seven?--I dashed out and assessed the damage. A lot of damage. Almost enough to collect the
wind damage insurance we don't have on the thing.

Well, it was way too windy to do much other than pull down the first layer of plastic and batten it down as well as we could and go back in and wait. And did I mention that it was quite cloudy and depressing? (and very windy!) And that the weather last night called for Sun to day?? Anyway, not the best start to the day! This afternoon the wind finally died down to a gentle breeze of about 15 or 20 mile an hour gusts, and Jonathan helped me get the second layer of plastic back over the hoops (several of which are now displaced and/or broken) and weighted down with about six or eight 150+ pound blocks of wood per side. (those hard maple blocks that I didn't get split yet sure came in handy to day)
So now we have the blocks of wood and all of the rocks we started with on there. Now I think (hope/pray) that anything shy of a tornado can't do much more damage. We definitely need some design improvements--more metal to start! (we don't have any in the current flawed design)

(With all of these *great* things happening to our version of a hoop-house, y'all probably can't wait 'till I tell y'all how to make your own! It would work great someplace that never gets over a 2mph breeze. Seriously though, maybe you can learn with us from our mistakes, and not make as many yourself! When the plastic stays on it seems to work well--our rhubarb has leaves about 5 or 6 inches across and the really greening up. )

The chicks are doing well (getting quite big, and growing lots of feathers), I really do want to get some pictures posted of them out--they're really a riot. Our new entertainment is to dig up a few worms and dangle them by the brooder 'till one of the chicks grabs it and runs off. Then all the rest will chase after the one with the worm. Kinda like football or something. It's really great if you get about 6 or 8 chicks with worms and the others chasing. In and out of the brooder, into the corners, (there are a few that are really good at stealing the "ball,") and ever out of the coop into the general hoop-house! Maybe I can even figure out (read get Jonathan to figure out) how to post a video of them--no promises though. I just ordered a batch of meat birds too, should arrive May 19th. Now I need to think about getting more feed...

Tonight, after supper, Dad went out to watch the show. And then we played Frisbee (using ice cream pail covers) with the dog. Kinda hard in gale force wind. It was just like a day in late October or early November. Felt just about
like time for deer season ;-)

That's all for now,