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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Greenhouse - reclaimed windows, plywood, lumber

It was a driving, Spring rain when Little man and I returned to the farm last night.  He played in the garage while I set about on evening chores.  When Zeb and Sandwich were fed and watered, the chickens fed and watered and the eggs collected, I took a walk across the driveway to the better than halfway finished greenhouse.

I stepped inside and stood between the raindrops.  The pitch of the roof is not ideal, however, it is built to the length of materials I had sufficient quantity of to make a roof.  Available window sizes were not matched to the rafter length so patching will be required with half windows or poly-carbonate sheets. She isn't square and any contractor worth his training would shake his head and walk away after looking at how she is constructed.

Another ten to fourteen hours of work will be required to put on the last of the windows for the roof, the side windows and the door.  There is a little patching on one or two broken panes and then the caulking/flashing of the roof so that it doesn’t leak like a colander but is limited to a few drips here and there.  The the windows will need a good scrubbing. When that is done, I will start seeds.  They will be started well over a month late and will be complemented with some plant starts traded for with friends and acquired from the farmers market to ensure sufficient production for our consumption and preserving.  Tomatoes and peppers will be grown all season in the greenhouse in hopes of increasing our yields.  The rhubarb that didn’t get moved out of the hoop house last fall will also stay inside until it is done producing and will get moved at the end of the summer.

Raised beds will be added on the sides and in the middle as time permits this summer and fall. Wall and roof supports will be constructed to support next winters’ snow load.  Brick flooring will be laid on top of gravel or sand for heat retention.  Shelves will be installed over the raised beds and a rain catchment system added along with a black collection barrel for additional heat retention.  There will be at least one compost pile inside for heat and I hope to obtain some poly-carbonate sheets to help protect the roof a little better.

I will post pictures of the project as it progresses throughout the summer.  She isn’t pretty, but she will last me several years to come if I keep up with the regular maintenance.  The dirt spot on the left of this picture is where the first, small greenhouse came down (there is a little bit of size difference between the two).  The only thing rotten on that were the foundation boards where it sat directly on the ground.  Most of that wood and many of the unbroken windows have been re-purposed in this greenhouse.  

Next month’s big project - the chicken plucker.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Be careful what you write about

Last night after we came to a stopping point in the work on the greenhouse and had everybody fed and watered, we sat in the lawn chairs beside the garage looking at all the spring chores that still need to be done just in the back yard.  Talking over finances with Little man splashing in mud puddles, we heard a slam.  Before either of us could react, a streak of white ran snorting across the back yard and out towards the corn field.  Sandwich had broken out the back wall of the shed and took off running.  So much for relaxing before heading in for dinner.

Little man’s father got up, cursing and swearing and headed for the shed.  Little man brought over two hammers while I grabbed the bucket of used nails and scrounged the pile of salvaged pallet wood so repairs could be made to the shed.  All the while Sandwich tore around the house and down to the corn field and back again, thrilled to just run!  When the simplest of repairs were made, I went to the garage to grab a bucket with some food leaving Little man’s father to finish the repairs.

I was able to walk right up to Sandwich; it was reassuring to see that he is no longer afraid of me.  Not so encouraging was that he had absolutely no interest in my bucket or its contents.  We made one lap around the house before Sandwich decided to join Zeb.  I was a little surprised that the fence didn’t zap him as he went through it, but my concern now was that Zeb didn’t hurt him and getting him back into his shed.  They chased each other around the pig pasture and managed not to hurt one another before Sandwich ran out through the fence again and headed into the corn field.  I retreated to the car for something to use as a snare; I hate them, but there was still dinner and a bath for Little man before Mom could start her evening indoor chores.

I chased him up from the corn field, beside the barn and across the yard, back past Zeb’s pen and into the Christmas trees.  Just as it looked like we were headed for another lap, Little man’s father stepped from behind the shed and Sandwich turned.  He walked beside the shed, up the ramp and directly into his pen.  It was good timing.  Little man’s father shored up the walls with one more board to be sure he would be safe for the night and then we headed in for dinner only a little more than an hour after we had originally planned.

This morning, Sandwich was warm and snug in his shed.  As I came back inside to finish getting ready for my off-farm job, the phone rang.  It was early, that couldn’t be good.  My neighbor just under a half mile up the road was calling to tell me that my pig was on her front lawn.  ‘Is he white or black and white?’  After all, I just checked on Sandwich, he couldn’t have gotten that far, that fast.  Zeb was out!  I knew I should have checked that fence last night.  Thankfully he went north toward my relatives and not south toward the swamp.

Little man’s father tore out of the driveway and up the hill, expletives trailing behind him.  I sent a note to work telling them I would be late, woke up Little man, changed out of my work clothes and back into farm clothes and headed up the hill to catch my other pig.  An hour later we had walked him back home.  I then waded through ice-topped, knee-deep water with calf high boots to raise the bottom wire of the electric fence up out of that water.  We checked and the electricity flowed well again.  Little man’s father repaired the fence post which had been dislodged and I walked inside bare foot on a 30 degree morning since it was warmer than walking in ice water filled boots.

At work they laughed and asked if I got my workout and if I had fun - all but the part where Zeb lifted my not so light person and carried me ten feet down the road!  This body is getting up there and I don’t bounce as well as I used to.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Meet Sandwich

Sandwich is a another rescue pig.  He was found, in February, in a small enclosure with no food, no water, no hay, and his fur was caked with mud and poop.  The hut he was in was chewed on every available corner as he attempted to garner any possible nutrition.  When he arrived on the farm, he was just over ten months old and weighed just under eighty pounds.  Normally a feeder pig reaches eighty pounds around four weeks of age.

He was scared and cowered into the back corner of the shed.  We gave him food but his fear was stronger than his hunger.  Retreating to the doorway of the shed, we watched him devour one pound of food and two gallons of water.  He licked and pawed at the dish for every last morsel of food.  A couple hours later we went back into the shed with more food and water which he again devoured.  Since he had been without food and water for so long, we didn’t want him to gorge himself and get sick.  The first two days we fed him small amounts at regular intervals.   When we didn’t notice any problems, he was put on our regular feeding schedule of twice per day.

When he thought we weren’t looking he rolled and played in the fresh hay trying to rub the mud and muck from his hair.  Unfortunately a bath in February when the temperatures are hovering below zero was not feasible.   It took about two weeks before he decided that it was OK for us to pet him.  An additional week or so passed with us being in and out of his pen before he decided he could initiate play and ask for food or attention.

Today, two months later, Sandwich has gained just over one hundred pounds.  He is happy and healthy and will join Zeb out in the pasture when fences are completed to keep the two separated and safe.  He no longer cowers in the corners but now puts his feet up on the top rail of the pen to greet you.  Food continues to be his main motivator, coming in especially handy the one time he decided he had had enough of the shed.

We are happy to give Sandwich a good home.  Later this summer Sandwich will be traded to the farmer at the end of the road for a side of beef.  Zeb will remain and with any luck we will find a gilt or sow for him soon.