August 15, 2015 – Gus Sent Me

Had a chance to see the bro’s band this weekend.

They played at the “Pallet Party” in North Oslo MN.

The party has evolved over the years – from a bunch of marines getting together once a year, to a two day blowout with live music, lots of food, beverages, fires, and more.

The band with namesake Gus – a black bulldog.

Gus enjoying the limelight. The band was named following a wedding reception where the bride and groom could only afford a short list of open bar patrons, so the close friends and family who went to the bar and said “Gus sent me” got free drinks.

Brother Kraig on lead vocals.

Sister Julie checking out the dairy bulk cooler with assorted beverage. Was good to see the siblings and get an earful of Gus Sent Me!

August 1, 2015 – Goldfinch “Feeder”

A sunflower popped up inches from the kitchen window.

Mr. Goldfinch pulls seeds out of the sunflower and places them on the “table.”

And then proceeds to get the meat out of the nuts. A great addition to doing the dishes!

January 8, 2007 – Another Mission Accomplished

Today, after a year since the first piece was put up, the back roof of the machine shed it now roofed (or at least all I’m planning on roofing). This brings a number of benefits – no more pile of steel roofing on the ground taunting me, no more drips in the shed, and no more having to straddle two sharp pieces of metal between the legs to put on a ridge cap.

The plan is to tear off the rest of the building, or make it open to the south as the lower half is in pretty rough shape, even by my standards.

one year ago…

December 9, 2006 – More Siding

Today was the first warm day since I moved the scaffolding to the north side of the corn crib and was able to get the most challenging (highest) pieces up and start down on the other side.

Here I’m tearing down the third section high after already tearing down the fourth section high. I’ll be happy when this is done for this year. Next year we can work on the doors. It’s a bit of a time stretch to work on this in the heart of the busy season, but a day near 50 in December calls out for a job like this to get some attention.

one year ago…

November 13, 2006 – Windows (not the Bill Gates kind)

Things at the farm are in a constant state of needing attention. This summer, a couple of windows in the barn lost some panes of glass. Years ago, I would painstakingly reglaze and repoint the window panes into rotting wood, then paint – all told a job over a few days time. Then I got smarter and bought the pre-primed frames and just had a couple of coats of taping, painting, and scraping. Now, I’m a firm believer in the PVC/Vinyl windows for the outbuildings. No painting, no scraping, no waiting, just put them in. (However, I’m not a fan of them for the house!)

Here’s the broken window.

The path to the broken window from inside the barn. I was fortunate it was over the loft, so the ladder journey wasn’t as far.

Finally, the completed fix. I put two new windows in the barn – need one more for the corn crib.

In unrelated news, I was fortunate the battery to the van died in the K-Mart parking lot! I could walk in, buy a new one, and install it on a nice day. I was fortunate in it wasn’t when Linda had the van and kids somewhere on a cold, windy day.

one year ago…

August 8, 2006 – Hoophouse?

We are scheming to put up a hoophouse (actually GJ is scheming, but we’ll be happy to let her). We really don’t have much level ground left. We are thinking on the south side of the barn, shielded from the north wind and on a slightly south slope may be a good place to start. I’ve measured out a 24×36 foot space between the raspberries and peach trees.

For now, I’ve got the perimeter outlined with electric netting. We’ll first let the chickens at it to get the grass out, work it up/level with the tractor and then spread heaps of compost on it and maybe cover it with straw/cardboard to kill whatever grows up – maybe even try to solarize the area. It’s another great experiment.

May 26, 2006 – Garden and Building

Today was one of those rare days that more “farming” got done than planned. Spent the morning loading up a load for the dump and getting supplies in town and in the afternoon started getting ready to reroof the back side of the old machine shed. First task was to nail 2x4s across the roof into the rafters. The roof has a great hump (where two buildings were joined). So, I tore all the asphalt and cedar shingles to get down to the sheeting on the hump to help smooth out the hump. Got all the boards pounded in.

Even got three sheets of roofing up – about nine feet. I was hoping to get it done this long weekend, but about 3/4 done today – should be a snap!
Linda got some serious weeding done today.

Here’s a view down the onions and potatoes.
GJ got lots of patio blocks set around the new raised beds. It was hot and calm – a day that felt and smelled like summer. So it was the first time to Ev’s in town for ice cream after dinner.
Any guesses what this crop is?

These are Chinese cabbage and raddicchio – looks like they like the wet weather of late.

March 26, 2006 – Goat-Proofing Barn

Ok, so “goat-proofing” may be too optimistic a term for what we did today, but it sure sounds hopeful! Every once in a while, the goats climb over the feed bunks in the barn and get in the main part of the barn. Today, we put up cattle panels above the bunks to help them decide to stay on their side of the barn. Again, with goats, this is all theory.

If you look closely, you can see the panels up on the far wall. We also fixed one of the doors that the Billy knocked off, and fixed one door that had settled and did not close. So, now we are more ready to the kids – Paullina is scheduled to deliver this Friday.

March 22, 2006 – Barn Time

Today, a student from Iowa State came out to visit our barn. The class was doing a project and was looking at “Adaptive Reuse” of barns. She came out and asked some questions, took some pictures, and we lamented about the vanishing barns

Here is a collection of blog entries that show renovation in progress or other interesting local barns.

Here’s the link that shows the “before” and “after” chicken coop

Here’s some before and after of the inside of the corn crib

Outside of Corn Crib Renovation

Here’s a pretty picture of the barn in winter

Here’s some pictures of a neighborhood barn in good shape

Barn in bad shape

Here’s a really cool posting from one of our friends whose barn burned down due to lightning.

March 6, 2006 – Lots of Odds and Ends

For some reason, it seems like lots of things got wrapped up today. Finished some shelves in the corn crib and moved some of the beekeeping stuff that isn’t accessed very much.

Got almost a full load of scrap metal in the truck – old woven wire fencing, old gutters, old pipes, and leftover metal pieces from the corn crib siding. Finally getting to the point where it actually takes some hunting to get a load’s worth of junk hauled out.

Neighbor Don brought over some empty 5 gallon buckets that will help drain the fuel oil tanks in the basement. Started working on a new chicken tractor and got more 2×4’s unloaded from the truck.

Did a little spring burning along the south border.

The rationale is that if there is a wildfire in the field in the fall, having burned the dead grass will act as a bit of a firebreak to prevent the fire from moving along the fence lines. Mostly, it’s fun to play with fire. Plus with the rain last night, the grass wasn’t explosively tinder dry so it didn’t burn as fast.

February 13, 2006 – Goats and More

Today I brought Thing 1 and Thing 2 (male dairy goats born last spring) to the locker. Six of the visiting does that were “serviced” by the buck (stinky jim) at our place had an ultrasound today and 5 of 6 have at least twins. So the open doe is back for another visit.

We also got a mulberry tree cut down that was on the back of the machine shed – one of those winter extras – so that when spring and roofing season starts, it won’t be in the way.
tree saw

There’s still a lot of hauling and cutting to do, but it is at least down.

In a family note, tonight was the last forced eye-drop administration of pink-eye solution to Martin’s eyes. It took one parent to hold his body and arms, another to pry the eyes open enough to get the drops in three times a day. He never did warm up to the procedure!

February 12, 2006 – Now that Was Easy!

The kitchen remodeling is almost complete, except for the cooktop backsplash and light over the sink. I was trying to figure out the best way to build a soffit or box over the sink (there was a box spanning between the cabinets before the remodel, and I was trying to envision how a new one would fit).

We bought a fixture that had a pivot that I was going to mount to the box. We thought it would be nice to have a fixture that could move. Once we got the fixture out of the package and I had cut the first piece of oak plywood, we decided it was too nice to hide and would add more “clutter” to the room, so we just mounted the light directly above the window. The light is on a swivel and one side is opaque white, the other clear and it spins around to let whatever side down you want – light comes out of both sides.

Much faster than cutting, staining, and triming out a bunch of wood and maintains the air of airiness.

January 10, 2006 – Attic Project

The add a dormer project in the attic is about to begin. Although these pictures are hard to see, they will be fun to look at “after.”
attic east

This is the look to the east – the stairs come up in front of the window and there is already a nice rail around the stairway.

attic south

This is the look to the south where the dormer will be built. The attic is a nice space and it is fun to imagine the placement of the room, storage, closets, and built-ins.

January 7, 2006 – April Day in January

Today it was so warm, the kids were running around in short sleeves outside for a bit. Barn cleanup called us today in the warm weather. We’ve had a few more goats than usual with Billy “the stud” at High Hopes. We didn’t realize it was quite so deep.
The doors are narrow, and there is no way to get equipment, other than the “Armstrong pitchfork” in to help cleanup. The cleanup is simple, scrape the stuff out, load it into a two wheel cart,
cleanbarn and haul it away.

It is a rather dreadful job when it lasts more than a couple of hours or so, and this job helped me make friends with it by thinking of it in a new way. Rather than the drudgery of sraping and cleaning it out, like many things at our farm, we like things to have multiple uses.

The good part of barn cleanup is fertilizing the fruit trees and gardens. I used to have to truck the stuff in, now it was a direct trip from the barn to the soil in one trip – mush more efficient than driving and reloading the stuff and then distributing. So, most all of the garden space, fruit trees, and raspberries have been fertilized, and there is some to spare in the compost pile.

January 6, 2006 – Slice of Sunshine

We’re going on two weeks without sun. It came out for a peek this evening and for about 15 minutes a few days ago, other than that, it’s been two weeks since we’ve seen it. The good part is that it has been warm, most of the snow is melted; the bad part it the clouds get monotonous after a while.

Today we finished cleaning up the attic and began to clean out one of the sheds that hasn’t seen attention since we moved in. This space was full of old lumber.
Here it is in the truck destined for the burn pile or storage racks in the corn crib. This is a little under half the haul.

December 18, 2005 – Neighborhood Barns #2

Not all the barns are in as good shape as the Aberdeen Angus barn of yesterday. This barn is in exactly the same place (first place on the right) as our place and the Aberdeen Angus barn on three consecutive roads.
jessup barn

This barn is typical of what happens as farms get bigger and fewer people live on the land. This place is rented out and not kept up very well. Old barns are becoming more rare. Since we’ve moved in, there have been two barns within a mile that have been bulldozed and burned. There’s a group dedicated to saving the disappearing barns, the Iowa Barn Foundation.

December 17, 2005 – Neighborhood Barns


This barn is just off the blacktop two miles west of our place. The top line says “Homeland” the bottom line says “Aberdeenangus Cattle.” I like it when people paint the name of their farm or their favorite breed on their barn. I didn’t immediately recognize what “Aberdeenangus” meant, as it wasn’t familiar to me.

A quick google search reveals the name to be “Aberdeen Angus” (the space between Aberdeen and Angus makes all the difference). The cows are originally a small, stocky lowline breed from Scotland. Here’s a bit of history about the Aberdeen Angus from New Zealand. It’s also listed as one of the most rare breeds according to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Now, I have another mission to find out the history of this farm and if any of these cattle remain.

December 7, 2005 – Snow on the Roof

The cold snap continues – we are about 25 degrees below normal – lows in the teens below zero. The snow has stayed on the barn nearly a week now – this is longer than any of the last few winters.
Usually, snow is soon followed by a warm day and it doesn’t take much of a warm day for the metal barn roof to shed its load of snow – usually in one or a few big “Swooshes” when the snow slides off in one big avalanche. You don’t want to be near the barn when that happens – it would knock you over and bury you. I’ve been lucky enough to see it happen a time or two. The first time it happened, I heard it and couldn’t figure out what made the noise until I saw the big piles of snow by the barn.

November 27, 2005 – Shed Roof

I’ve completed one side of the shed re-roof and I think I’m done unless the weather continues mild into early December. The first step was to pound 2×4’s horizontally on the roof into the rafters and through all the shingle layers. I had to put a few 2×4’s vertically to try to take some of the bigger swales out of the roof. These give me a footing on the rotting roof and give a solid surface to screw the metal roofing into.
From up on the roof, you can see the boards.
The plan for this building is to save the part that has a new roof and build a new structure in the footprint of the part to be torn off and put in doors in one of the new sections on both sides so animals can go through or be restricted to one side or the other. It will give us many more options than we have now.

November 7, 2005 – Lulled Asleep?

It was another day 20 degrees above normal. Morning was work and errands and this afternoon could do some “farming” outside. The weather has lulled me, but the calendar says Nov 7, so I started getting the farmstead ready for winter – took in some of the electric netting fence and rigged up a hanging holder (to keep mice out of it in the winter), cleaned up gardens some.

More does came over to visit Billy goat today. After school, Emma helped me put pound the 2×4’s on the roof of the old machine shed. I like to string the 2×4’s across the roof before putting the steel roofing on. It gives the steel something firm and reliable to attach to and it offers me safer footing on the roof. I’m using giant spikes to get through the asphalt and old cedar shingles to find the rafters. It’s about 50-50 whether I hit a rafter and it’s helpful to have a pair of eyes in the building to see if the nail was off right or left.

Emma did that with great cheer, despite having stuff falling from inside the building – including something she caught in her eye. She did have a good day, as her new flute arrived today.


November 6, 2005 – Corn Crib Done Until Spring

I’ve completed the goal to get one side of the corn crib sealed from the elements so I have a place to store lumber instead of boards scattered about in nearly every building. It looks kind of silly this way, but now it is on to roofing part of the old machine shed. I also have some work inside the crib, getting the other interior half to have usable space by removing some of the cross-members that were used to hold the walls in when there was corn pushing against the sides. These buildings were solidly built and it is the squarest of any of the outbuildings.

Doing the partial side (and the opposite side as well) took much longer than the entire west side. Lots of cutting and ladder work on these sides. I’m not sure my ladder will reach to the top of the building – we’ll find out next spring. I’m now looking for a solar-powered light. It will be dark in there after it gets all wrapped up and I don’t envision ever needing a lot of power in there, so small solar panel and battery may be perfect for lighting instead of an overhead or underground electrical supply.

October 26, 2005 – Corn Crib Project

Now that the steel has arrived, I am beginning work on the corn crib. This fall, I’m going to put steel siding on about half the building and do the rest next year. I built some racks inside one section of the crib to store lumber and need to keep the water and snow out – so I’m closing up one side and parts of two other sides.
Here’s the crib before (but notice the nice roof from year’s gone by!)
Everything flowed today and it was an easy job (no windows or doors and only one piece to cut). I could have used more than 1 1/4 people (Martin could hand me a drill when I was holding the unfastened pieces in place, but that was about it). I just have part of the top two rows of screws to put in and the west side will be done.

September 26, 2005 – Simple Things

There’s a million things (ok maybe that’s a slight exaggeration)that are on the list. Many of them are not difficult – it’s just that only one can happen at a time. The last few days, I’ve been working on one of those “I’ll get to it someday” projects – making some more shelving in the machine shed. This section of wall was particularly unkept – so I bought some shelving frames and scrounged the shelves from leftover wood and wood salvaged from torn-down buildings. The result is 14 or so feet of five levels of storage. It is especially useful for all the additional beekeeping equipment joining us this year.

September 10, 2005 – Game Day and Chicken Coop

Hawkeye faithful can go back to the store and return the “IS Who” t-shirts after mighty the Iowa Hawkeyes fell to the Iowa State Cyclones 23-3. Here are the girls with their game day attire.

But much more important than the game, was Grandpa Dave’s complete rewiring of the chicken coop, including complete tear-out of existing wires and fixtures. We added a fuse box, outlets, and lights to a side that had no lights. Now after-dark egg-gathering will not require as much angst. In addition, we will have an additional place to brood chicks.


June 14, 2005 – Kitchen Floor

The kitchen is almost done – I’ve got the trim up and floor in. All that remains is the light/light panel above the kitchen sink.

Here’s a before and after:

We installed a cork floor in the kitchen, in part to have a warm and soft floor and one made of renewable materials. I am disappointed with the floor. I would not recommend the type of cork flooring I bought. It is warm and soft, but it is not very “tough.” I can gouge out a piece if I try hard enough with my fingernail. The floor has three layers – a cork underlayment – some other fiber middle and a top of cork with the top a thin layer of finish and color. It is the first experiment gone awry in the remodeling project so far. It is holding up well for the first month, but I am not confident of future hardiness.


April 30, 2005 – When will Spring Come Back?

Another freeze last night – record low on this date was 33 until last night’s 31. Most of the day was in the 40’s and windy again. Got two tanks full of water distributed so all the pine trees got watered. We use water off the roof of the barn that goes into a big tank.
water tank
Here’s Emma helping water the trees out in the field.
emma watering

We got just a few more things planted in the garden before the wind sucked the energy out of us.

Girls went to a a dog show in the morning and earned money for their 4-H club by scooping doggy-do from the show rings. This evening some friends from the farm class came over and vaccinated and turned the boys into no chance of being daddies.

April 27, 2005 – The “Upstairs Basement”

Shortly after Martin learned to talk, he referred to the attic as the “upstairs basement.” I thought that was a great way to describe what an attic is if you don’t know that word. It contains virtually the same stuff as the basement. I wonder if any grad students out there have done any studies on the likelihood of certain items being stored in the basement or attic.

At any rate, today was another lousy cold, windy day (but it would be a great day to have a windmill). Martin and I took a load of scrap metal to the landfill for recycling (old bent fence posts, old woven wire, pots, lamps, fence bracing). It’s always nice to get rid of that stuff and think you’re not on the slippery slope to junky farm.

As it looks like we may be re-roofing and adding a dormer to the attic, that means it is time to clean out the attic. It’s one of those tasks that you can work for three hours and an untrained eye would see virtually no difference. For all the attic voyuers, here’s a peak into ours.

attic 1

Martin was occupied playing with old toys and looking through old photo albums. There is one nice part about the existing attic – the old handrail around the stairway. It is nicely finished but the attic is not. Did they give up?
attic 1

I brought down all the framed photos we took off the walls in the main room before we remodeled last summer (It may be time to put them back up).

April 6, 2005 – Material Handling

It tried to storm all day, but the storm just hung and hung to the southeast, with barely more than a brief promise of rain.

Material handling is a vastly under-estimated (at least by me) part of the farm. Moving stuff to the farm, off the farm, and around the farm takes about as much time as anything. A testament to this is all the types of contraptions with hitches farmers have to move things – hay wagons, manure spreaders, grain wagons, stock trailers, flat trailers, and the list goes on. Today I hauled three pickup loads of old hay from a neighboring farm to use as mulch for the garden. I also made two trips to town to haul the rest of the cattle panels that were not reserved for us – so I put the boat carriers on top of the truck and brought home 19 at a time.

I just need a day to catch up (I know this is a fantasy for 1 day) – catch up on planting and mulching the 10 unplanted chestnut trees, to update the business plan, to get more stuff in the garden, to begin looking at cleaning up the attic for the construction this summer, finish the tile around the upstairs tub, put in the kitchen floor. I fear that lawn-mowing season will soon arrive and take a couple of more hours out of the week. Linda promises me a day off from work where all the kids will be gone and we’ll have a day to catch up sometime this month.

March 31, 2005 – The Court at High Hopes

Now that we are on the cusp of the NCAA college basketball championship, it’s time to show the world one of the best home court advantages in the known universe. Sure, they talk about Hilton Colieum, Phog Allen Fieldhouse – but for my money, they all pale in difficulty when compared the Court at High Hopes! Not only is this an intimate setting, but the off-court distractions are unlike any other.

The court is a bit narrower than a regulation court, so there is literally no out of bounds. Bouncing the ball off the side walls is not only allowed, but encouraged. In essence, it combines racquetball and basketball in one game. It is a much quicker game as the ball never rolls too far away before coming back into play.

The Court at High Hopes is the center of an old-fashioned corn crib. We cleaned out the junk and the court has a nice cement floor, shelter from the wind and sun from the slatted sides meant to keep corn on the cob in, while allowing air in to dry the corn.

We put the hoop up a couple of months ago and look forward to many games.


March 26 2005 – More Snow

Photo courtesy of Emma! She is captivated how the roof barn and sky melt together! I’m calling this the “Robin Snow” meaning the last snow of the year (typically after the robins return, we get at least some snow). Now we are less confident that the goat is near due after talking to the vet during a pet visit.