Saturday, December 14, 2019

EEEWWWWW!!! The Farm Report 12-14-2019

The Farm Report 12-14-2019


Or I suppose we could subtitle this edition 'Fuzzy's Revenge.' Apparently Fuzzy didn't have a good winter last year. It was a tough winter for all of us, but for raccoons especially, judging from Fuzzy's appearance.


While I was splitting wood up in The Timber last week, I happened to look up and saw Annie Oakley proudly carrying something around.

"What the heck was that?" I said to myself.

She just chewed and chewed on it. She kept if far enough away from me that I could neither see what it was or - most importantly as far as she was concerned - take it away from her!

I figured out what it was, of course. She had become bored with wood splitting and had wandered off into the woods seeking fun and adventure. She has an incredibly sensitive sniffer, and found the remains of this dead raccoon. When I was packing up getting ready to go back down to the shop, Annie instinctively started burying Fuzzy - as I've named him - under an old cement mixer for safekeeping.

There are two things you should know about Fuzzy: 1. Annie has kept him now for about two weeks. He shows up when we're splitting at Picnic Point up in The Timber; but he has also regularly been showing up at the shop! Annie is carrying him and hiding him all over the farm. She is his best buddy - or should that be the other way around. Whatever. Fuzzy is both furry, stinky and also needs to be part of her herd. What more could a little dog want. 2. I often see people letting dogs lick their faces and sometimes even encouraging it. They will tell you a dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's so it is just fine to let them lick you in the mouth. Well B.S. to that! Right after Annie cleans her, Umm, well you know what, she chews on Fuzzy. No licking for me please, Annie.

Annie is now in day 3 of recovery from her trip to use her Free Spay/Neuter coupon at the Fremont County Vet's. She's doing just fine thank you. Actually, she was doing just fine the very next day. She would have been a great mother and would probably have had great pups - but I'm an old guy and I'm just not up to it. Unless you have a reason to breed, please spay/neuter your animals. End of sermon.

It is a quieter time at Oakdale Farm. I'm continuing to make progress restoring this old Singer Red Eye 66 sewing machine. She's a beaut!

I've added a jib crane to the log splitter to make my lifting almost a thing of the past. 

And I'll finish with a story about being in shock and fear! Annie is a 6 month old pup - translate that to read obstinate naughty lovable teenager. She gets into trouble because she knows it will get my attention. Trying to be the more intelligent one on the premises, I have attempted to outwit her. Continue reading after you've stopped laughing and have wiped the tears from your eyes. I know.... Anyway, Annie likes to chew, and the best thing I've found for her is to just let her chew on empty - repeat that - empty plastic bottles. She has a ball. They're chewy and make noise. Fun.

I repaired a chair for a neighbor just before Thanksgiving. I use a number of adhesives and techniques because that's what I am - a retired professional furniture restorer and conservator. I've got tricks up my sleeve where you didn't even know there were sleeves. Medical grade superglue is one of my 'tack welding' tricks. I used some on the chair project. I was tired and finished the job a little later than I usually work in the shop. Next morning, when I was inspecting my job, I couldn't find the superglue bottle. YIKES! Oh no! Annie hides everything. Remember Fuzzy? Well, she buries and hides all her toys and buddies. I could not find that bottle! Right on the bottle, it says 'Bonds Skin Instantly' and they ain't kiddin'. Ask my good buddy Jerry T. about the time I glued myself to a chair during a teaching demo if you want a good story. What if Annie got that bottle back out from her hiding place and chewed a hole in it!? This would be almost certain death for her. It would weld her mouth shut - instantly - and the release agent is basically acetone. No way she could survive that long enough to release her before she succumbed. I spent all morning looking. My neighbor came over to help me look. Nothing. Annie was sequestered outside the shop. Well, after lunch we found the bottle. Uncharacteristically, I had put it away in the shop fridge where I keep it. When I closed the door to the fridge that night, another bottle pushed in front of it. All was well all along! Whew!

So here's the December calendar picture. It doesn't look much different than some of the November ones. November is really our transitional month. January could be snow covered or not. Time will tell. For now, it is just pleasantly quiet and Annie and I are enjoying it.

If I don't post again before the holidays, here's me wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a happy new year from Oakdale Farm.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Game Over: The Farm Report 11-23-2019

Game Over
The Farm Report 11-23-2019

In spite of my best-laid plans for fresh salads at Thanksgiving and maybe Christmas, and possibly maybe even for the Superbowl Game in February, it isn't to be. We've had a 'Game Over' cold snap reminding us who is in charge (it isn't us) and all is done for the year. The harvest is done, the growing is done, and I'm ready for a slower easier time myself. Everything has a season, and this new slow season is being forced on me - and gladly accepted.

This recording thermometer inside the greenhouse pretty much tells you everything you need to know about what the fall season has been like. I was running the air conditioner October 7, and running the furnace (my new boiler!) about 3 weeks later. We actually recorded 1 degree F the night this low showed up inside the greenhouse. Then that day was super sunny and look what happened when I didn't open the doors for ventilation. Yep, frozen veggies - steam cooked. Oh well....

OK, so maybe I'm not all done yet. The Sweater Pan Spinach just laughed at the temps and kept right on growing. I'm using the Kratky hydroponic system with the spinach - low input, low maintenance; just plant and grow. Anybody can do this anywhere. Spinach pasta for Superbowl? Maybeeeee.

Beauty is where you find it, and I thought these frost bitten, worn out Euonymus leaves were really pretty. My Dad always called them 'Unanimous' bushes just to be funny. Euonymus alatus seems pretty formal. That bush that turns bright red in the fall and has square stems is another way to describe it. A rose by any other name....

If you're keeping count, this is supposed to be the typical November picture of the farm from my office window in the shop building. I have tried to take the shots at about the same time of day each month, and from the same spot. Those shadows were supposed to say, 'The light is getting dimmer each day. The seasons, they are achangin'.' 

Or is this the stereotypical November picture? It was taken the day after the first one. Yes, that is snow and ice, kids.

More verification. AC first of October, Furnace by the first of November; make a note.

Annie is growing up. She still thinks I need a leader - Her! - and she likes her comforts. This old junker chair is her favorite place to watch and make sure I'm busy getting things done. This is not photoshopped. She likes her arm rests and uses them often. She can be kind of a comedian sometimes; sometimes not though!

So speaking of real comedians! This is my neighbor, Ron's son Shawn. He is the real deal and has the bumps and bruises to prove it. I put this pic in here for two reasons: One - watch Shawn perform at the National Federated Bull finals if you can. (If you go to my Facebook page, I have a shared link to it. The finals are December 6 and 7 in Sedalia, Missouri.) I hope they stream it so I can watch too. Two - Shawn's son is Tate. Tate worked for Joyce a couple of summers and is like our added on Grandson. Tate's girlfriend's parents raised Annie Oakley and that's how I came to have her. Maybe the clown blood is really there? Anyway, Shawn is a great guy, and he's just as naturally funny as his dad. Both are just my naturally good neighbors - once in awhile they actually shoot a deer on Oakdale Farm.

What the...??? When I came home from church last week, here is what I found when I went to the shop to let Annie out. It was strung all over the place.

Somehow in her boredom, she found a spare roll of Mylar bird-scare tape with extra sparklies on it. She must have spent all morning chasing up and down the wood shop with that roll. I now know more about Annie: She is a religious Republican. I learned several months ago (she will be 6 months old next week) that she was probably a Republican. How? Well, at the time she was spending her early evenings indoors with me. I enjoy watching Rachel Maddow's political commentary show. (She is, after all, Dr. Rachel Maddow, the Rhode Scholar with a Ph. D. in political science from Oxford. I learned a long time ago that the dumbest thing I could do was to be the smartest guy in the room. You never learn anything with that setup! Plus, Joyce would get pretty agitated with her presentations, too. And that made it all the more fun for me. Just sayin'.) By the time Rachel started her rants, Annie would get agitated. When I started taking her out to the shop where it was quiet for the evening, she would settle down. So, I knew that she must be a Republican - or a really active little Texas Heeler pup who was too stimulated by the sounds and lights of the TV. It is more fun to think of her as an ultraconservative Republican though. Religious? Well, I now also know that she is religious and likes to decorate here living spaces for Christmas. That's the only reason I could figure out that would make her want to spread Mylar sparklie bird tape all over the place while I was sitting in church praying for her. She was getting ready to put up the Christmas decorations and garland - if only she had thumbs....

Annie has been taking Lumberjack In Training classes from me. Or would that be Lumberjenny? Whatever it is, Annie likes to go logging with me in the timber. She knows I always need supervision. Look at that focus. Every time I look up, she's watching me  with that intensity burning holes at whatever she is staring at. No wonder they can push livestock around.

Here is my new log splitter setup. 

It is probably against the law and will void every warranty, but I also put a jib crane on it so I don't have to lift or pull any logs to the splitter.

Just in case you might want one for yourself, here's how I did it.

A bolt-on bumper hitch receiver is the key. That and welding on a piece of hitch tubing to the bottom of the jib crane. This is how an old single guy like me living alone on the farm entertains himself. And I like it that way, too, thank you.

I made my living as a furniture restorer. I've gotta have something old to be working on. I found this 1879 Singer Model 15 sewing machine in the basement. I think it was my Aunt Dorothy's. The drawers were chock full of walnuts the mice had packed away. It will be fun to get it going. I'm not much of a tailor, but I'm great with old machines. Let it snow!

Then I looked up the other afternoon and WHAMMO! we had a double rainbow over the farm.

I'm sure my son, Chad could put these two pictures together for us, but I can't.
The double rainbow went all the way over the farm from end to end. So how could anything be wrong? All is well. Eat more turkey, Eat more pie - and don't forget to set your bathroom scales back 10 or 15 pounds Wednesday night. The truth can be an obstacle to happiness sometimes.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Cider Time: The Farm Report 10-25-2019

Cider Time

The Farm Report 10-25-2019

It is late October, and the apples are as sweet as they will ever be. Time to get out the little cider press and make some cider!

This little press came to me from a contact at NAFEX - North American Fruit Explorers. That is a specialty interest group I belong to. This press was abandoned behind a shed that was destined to be demolished by a bull dozer. It had trees growing up through the flywheel, and the wood was all but gone. The press screw was frozen in place with rust. My Dad and I chopped it out of the 'jungle' that had grown up around it, and hauled the remains home to the shop. We rebuilt the wood with white oak using what was left as pattern plans. The pomace tubs are original, the bottom boards are new. It has not been approved by OSHA.

Step One: Get out the ranger and go pick apples.

The red ones are Macs, Sops of Wine and Chieftains. There are a couple of 'Susie's Apples' in there too. Susie was a friend of my wife, Joyce's. Her son, Preston, was interested in learning how to graft fruit trees at the time. Susie said she didn't know what kind of apple it was, but it was a good one! It had been on her parent's farm and she had grown up with it. She was right; it is, indeed, a 'good one.' Fortunately, we got the grafts to 'take' and now we have a wonderful tree. Sadly, both Susie and Joyce are no longer with us, but we have Susie's Apple in Joyce's Windmill Orchard to remind us of both of them.

I planted Joyce's Orchard with the idea of recreating a turn-of-the-century (20th) farm homestead orchard. I have selected apple varieties accordingly, although not exclusively. These are Porter, or also known as Yellow Pearmains. They are insipid as a desert apple. They do add a lot of sweetness to the mix though.

This apple is Kidd's Orange Red Pippin. It is super - super! - tart. It makes the cider 'zippy.'

Don't 'nerd out' on me. I do like to be casual, but I also like to know what's going on. Thanks to modern technology and cheap imports, I can afford a refractometer to measure the sugar in my fruit juices. The ones we used in my chem classes way back when cost over a hundred dollars. This one cost me $17 bucks. It is plastic, but it is fine for me - and guess what. It gives you surprises. Those tart Kidd's were the sweetest by far. The tongue is sometimes fooled by the acids in fruit. Delicious with or without a meter....

Annie likes here apples, too. Which does she prefer? Of course the answer is simple: the one I have at the moment.

Out in the garden it is fall cleanup time. This is the remains of the cucumber row. Annie thought it was her job to pick up every spent cuke and drag it off to somewhere else - and bury it! It kept her busy all afternoon. Next year, we'll have cukes growing in strange places, I think.

It seems like I can't write a farm report without some bad news. This one is no exception. See those two long rows of potatoes? There is also another one you can't see. It is half as long. 'Spuds for all,' you say.

Nope. This is it. I don't think I even got my starter back. I usually expect between 200 and 300 pounds of potatoes from those rows. This year, I got just about 35 pounds. What went wrong? Japanese Beetles set in on the plants at exactly the wrong time. Next year! Next year I will be much more proactive with the Japanese Beetle Treatments. 

Over in the greenhouse, the Hydroponic Strawberry Patch system in installed and in operation. I do have a few strawberry plants in it, but the rest are cold weather salad greens. I thought it would be good to try a little shake-down on something like spinach first. The bucket on the end holds the water and fertilizer. There is a little pump in it that circulates the solution.

The pipes are connected in pairs so that the solution goes down one length then spills into the next lower one, and around and around until the water gets back to the bucket for another round. And around and around.

As an old guy with a bum back, I'm always looking for ways to get jobs done without heavy lifting. I'm adding an official Harbor Freight pickup crane to the toolbar armory for the tractor and splitter. There is a cable winch that goes on this gizmo, and a set of log tongs on the end of that. I'll show you more later. But it is time to go to the timber logging! We've had a hard freeze and the bugs and weeds are gone. Time to start getting serious about cutting and hauling wood.

The best part is that it all folds up for easy carrying and storage. It is mounted on a 2-inch receiver hitch so I can just pull a pin and take it off one tractor and put it onto another one. (Yes, you need to have more than one tractor.... That's the law in Iowa for old guys.)

Sometimes I feel like this tree; just split in the middle and folded over. This sort of tree is also known as a widow maker. I cut wood for fun and an excuse to spend the day outside in one of the most sacred shrines I can imagine. The woods are my special place. Don't worry kids, I won't be cutting on this one for awhile. I'm safety conscious about things like this - plus I'm not into pain. After all, if something bad would happen, it would be MY FOOT that log would land on. No thanks. So, think good thoughts and I'll be careful; but I'm going into the woods to play! All is well at Oakdale Farm.

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Truth About Puppies: The Farm Report 10-14-2019

The Truth About Puppies

 The Farm Report 10-14-2019

These were my 'new' shoes just 2 weeks ago! The truth about puppies is that they CHEW ON EVERYTHING!

Annie is an Aussie/Heeler and that means heels? right? Well, for Annie, it also means tongues of my shoes - which are a lot easier for her to grab. She herds EVERYTHING! I recently read someone who said that heelers make terrible guard dogs. Why? Because they will let EVERYBODY come into the house. The problem is that they won't let ANYBODY leave the house. Once you're part of her 'herd', well Buddy, you're in for the duration if she has anything to say about it - and nobody gets out!

My socks are all full of holes, too. Typical of the breeds she's from, they 'nip' at about anything that moves. Annie is constantly trying to push and control everything that moves here at Oakdale Farm; including me. So far, although she has punched my socks full of holes, she has NEVER touched my skin. I was amazed at how she could do this. Then, one sunny morning, the light rays hit her little muzzle and 'Voila!' I understood. She has a super special row of 'curb feeler' whiskers all around the front of her muzzle. She works by feel, not by sight. This picture doesn't do them justice; but let me tell you - getting her to hold still just long enough for even this picture was a challenge. I think I took about a dozen before I got one that told the story and was in focus. Annie is a mover!

Here's a little humor at her expense. you'll have to zoom up the picture to get the full effect. Annie is toothless! She is about 14 weeks old now, and she is losing her front teeth. It is hilarious to see. She looks just like a kid who wants 'her two front teeth' for Christmas. I think she would whisthel when she talkth if she could talk.

All the herding breeds, Aussies, Aussie Heelers, Heelers, Border Collies - all of 'em - are nippers. It is how they get great big ornery cows to move when they want them to. They are not biters, unless it is encouraged and (better) discouraged. They instinctively pinch. They are not for little kids. Little kids that move fast need herded - at least in these dogs' brains. My neighbor's young grand daughter Natalie can command Annie, but she is a rare special person. These young dogs are not for little kids. And while I'm at it, these dogs are not house dogs either! Annie can't stand the extra stimulation of the TV in the evenings. It makes her hyper. She needs her 'alone' time to rest. She has no ability (much like my sons when they were little - sorry boys) to put herself down for a nap. If I'm up and going, she has to be going, too - even when she's tired. She gets crabby but she keeps going. AND, like my boys, she gets herself into more and more trouble until I eventually break and put her in her kennel - out in my shop. Then she will settle down and rest. After that, we're all happier.

Oakdale Farm in October.

We have had a re-naming at Oakdale Farm. The rooster formerly known as 'The Jerk III' Mr. Rooster is now known as 'NoodleSoup'. Yep, he's started to feel his 'oats' and is attacking. No spurs yet, but plenty of attitude. It makes an ideal pass time for both of 'em though. Annie likes to annoy the rooster, and the rooster obliges. Annie will go right up to him and make eye contact.

Then look away. I've seen her do this a thousand times. 'Oh! I didn't realize you were there,' she seems to say.

When NoodleSoup starts his attack, Annie drops down to the ground as low as she can go.

Then at the very last moment, she is out of there like a shot. She is SO FAST it defies NoodleSoup and they go in for another round. It keeps her occupied sometimes for an hour or more. Just a dance, not an attack - at least on Annie's part.

Annie may not be the best compost grinder, but she is probably the happiest one you'll ever find!

AAAARRRRRGGGG! Up in the greenhouse, I found my new little White Boston Lettuce seedlings like this the other day. Almost all the leaves were eaten off - by a damned grasshopper! I started over....

The electric linemen are the saviors and heros of the day out here. He's fixing my electricity in the rain! During an electrical storm! THANK YOU!!! We had a major lightning storm the other day. Annie and I were just going out the shop door to check on the storm when lights flashed and we heard a big 'Capow!' Annie's front end was out the door when this happened. Her front end passed her back end on the way back inside when it went off. It was funny to see, but man was that a zap!

I have had absolutely beautiful fall roses from Joyce's Rose Garden. Thanks, Nancy, for the beauty and the sweetness.

Other'n that, all is well at Oakdale Farm.