Equipment – All

June 12, 2016 – Thanks for Your Support! Auction Day

Auction day! The worst case scenario did not happen. There was not a thunderstorm or rain and the weather was less hot than previous days. These photos are credited to neighbor Nancy.

Gathered around the auctioneer.

Cars in the yard and lined up on the road past the top of the hill.

More stuff we don’t have to move!

Auctioneer Fred Van Metre in the red hat. Fred did a good job for us.

Martin on auction day sampling from the food wagon.

More folks looking for treasures.

We all look on as our stuff changes hands.

The view from the pergola.

Can’t give this man enough credit – good neighbor Don. Brought his loader tractor over and helped folks load up heavy stuff.

Our first couple of life-long neighbors and friends.

The sad looking eyes on the JD 2510 say it all as we depart from the farm.

June 11, 2016 – Getting Ready for Sale Day and Reminisces

I didn’t do this post justice, so it is time for a “do-over.” This will be the 2nd to last post for this blog, Now that I’ve had some time and distance, the enormity of it all is more apparent. Nearly 20 years of “stuff” off to the highest bidder. The auctioneer came out on Friday and got most of it set up. Since there was a 0 percent chance of rain, we were good to go – until about midnight Friday night when frequent lightning approached. So, armed with tarps and car headlights, we covered as much as we could. It was a fretful and rather restless night as round after round of rain pelted most of our farm-related belongings set out in the yard.

This is the remains of the boxes that were rendered useless by the all night rain – about 2 inches worth that fell.

And of course, it was a nice Iowa summer day!

At any rate, here are some photos of the auction all ready to go. As kind of a farewell, I’m going to do a bit of “what strikes Mark about the photo” for each.

Aah, Silverball, the 2002 Prizm with over 250,000 miles. Trusty commuter car and freedom for Claire and Emma for school and at summer camp. All the bikes that have not been used much since the move to a gravel road. The motorized John Deere tractor that Martin loved and hauled garden produce and other things in his own loader bucket. And the mini-horse cart that was never pulled by a horse, but was pulled by people.

What strikes me about this photo is the familiarity of the shadows on the ground. I’ve come to know the patterns of the shadows throughout the days and the seasons on the farm. A way of becoming closer to a place through observation. The tiller and single plow were great labor-savers in planting garlic and preparing beds for planting.

The bees – livestock you really don’t “own.” I think of the challenges we had on our farm due to the pervasive ground and aerial spraying around our place. We finally gave up. Our best hives were at another farm that had acres of native prairie and a buffer from the spray.

On nearly any acreage, the time allotted to mowing can be substantial. Here is the collection of mowers form years gone by. A milestone for the kids was the first time they were allowed to mow using the riding mowers.

I see the barn here. The signature outbuilding on the property. In the time we lived there, seven barns within two miles of us were destroyed. This barn is something that will soon be rare on an Iowa farm.

I think of my father in this photo. I see an old woodstove he had in a previous house, a utility trailer of his that I rebuilt, and an old boat and motor that had set idle for 20 years after plying the waters of Minnesota for my entire youth.

Raising chickens comes to mind here. The portable grain bin and old cages used to transport the chickens to the locker before we butchered them ourselves. Gonna miss those meat birds in the freezer.

The old corn crib. I love the new white roof. All the outbuildings but the barn had bad to non-existent roofs. I remember being up on the roof and calling Linda on the cell phone to come out and lift up another section, then return to the house to mind the young children until I had that piece screwed in and call again for the next piece.

This is a collection of old things I didn’t use much, save the blade for plowing snow. I am grateful we planted the maple tree for shade for the animals in the cement area. Amazing how fast it grows (or how old I am)!

I see the struggling peach trees in the back of this photo. Peaches are iffy in this part of the country, but we usually got a couple of good years from each tree, which was worth it. I also remember watching tornadoes coming out of the clouds a few miles south of here.

The piles of old dimensional lumber to the right are from the original house on the property (the mortgage company almost didn’t let us buy the property with such a hazardous building). But we took it apart board by board and had lumber whenever we needed it.

I think of friend and neighbor Nancy in this photo – the dragonfly vase she found for us. This symbolizes all the “stuff” you can’t take with you, but the significance of the relationships can never be lost.

Unfinished business. That could be said for many of the photos. There is always something else to do on the farm. I see an industrial size light fixture that was never mounted in the machine shed here.

The “lumberyard” built into one side of the corn crib, with lumber from a disassembled garage.

The tractors. There is something about driving and using an old tractor. I was lucky enough to have a classic 1947 Farmall Cub and a 1960’s era John Deere 2510 with a loader bucket. I could attach tillers, blades, and plows. On a small farm, the loader is incredibly useful.

Here’s a collection of mostly hand tools. This hearkens to thinking about the market garden work we did. It was great for the girls to see crops from planting to selling at market. This will be the second to last post on the high hopes gardens section of the blog.

September 16, 2012 – Wagons for Sale

Time to make some room in the shed and move out some things that I’m no longer using.  Following each of these items is the starting price – they will drop $50/week until sold.

corn caddy for sale

“Corn Caddy” by Heavybilt.  Mobile grain bin holds 1500 lbs of grain. Has lights and brakes.  Tires like new.  Original prices $1725, asking $850.

new idea barge wagon for sale

New Idea barge wagon, approximately 6×10 and box is about 27 inches high.  Pretty good rubber and wood in good shape.  Asking $400.


small gravity wagon for sale

Gravity wagon – not too sure how much it holds – top is about 6′ x10′.  Three tires are decent, one is bald.  Dent in front right and some small holes in box.  Asking $400.

Respond with a comment if you’d like more photos or more info.

February 5, 2010 – New Tiller!

We’ve been thinking and starting to prepare for a while about a new way of growing our crops. We want to get rid of the monolithic blocks and instead garden in four foot wide beds separated by grass/sod strips. The mental and physical energy to manage 4 foot wide steps seems easier in terms of planting and crop rotation, weeding and harvesting. I’ve been looking for a 48 inch PTO tiller for a year or so and finally got lucky today and saw one on Craiglist that was listed minutes before I saw it and was the first one in to get it.

So here it, is ready for spring.

one year ago…”First Lambs Arrive”

November 17, 2009 – Corn Caddy

Here’s the latest piece of fun farm equipment – a corn caddy – essentially a small silo on wheels.

We can use this unit to get chicken food from the co-op and move it where ever it needs to be – whether it needs to be by the layers over the winter or broilers over the summer.  I imagine with a serious pasture raised chicken operation, it would be great to bring out to the pasture to store and keep grain dry and near the chickens.  It was on super close-out at the farm store – original price $1800 marked down to $750. No more trudging through the snowbanks to the shed to get feed in the winter!

one year ago…”Can Anything Else Break Today?”

November 17, 2008 – Can Anything Else Break Today?

I’ve had these kinds of days before. The day usually starts out on good footing. Today, for example. I was able to get the to get the town job work and other minor things done in the morning and started on the day’s farm work. After about an hour of steady getting things put away for the winter, I was thinking I’m really not getting that much done. That was my first mistake.

An energy pulse from the universe said, “He thinks he’s not getting anything done, we’ll show him what that really means!”

#1 Failure: Yesterday we tested out the chick brooder we bought at the auction, and to my surprise, it worked wonderfully – even the small red bulb under the brooder worked – the thermostat worked and was even linked to an exterior white bulb that lit up when the heating element was on and went off when the heating element cycled off – pure luxury. Since we didn’t get new laying hens, ours are 2-3 years old and really slowing down, so we ordered some laying hen chicks (pullets) set to arrive tomorrow. So I moved the brooder to the brooding building, set up a cardboard shelter around it to keep drafts out and even made a partial roof.

Then the brooder never warmed up. Eventually I turned it over to see if I could see what was wrong – and either due to moving it or energizing the heating element caused it to break. Fortunately our neighborhood electrician was parked nearby in an empty grain truck, waiting for a load from the combine in the adjacent field. I asked him if there was a special way to mend a semi-coiled heating element.

He told me where to go at his place to get the tools and connectors to fix it while he got loaded and dumped his truck in town. I retrieved the tools, but the wire was just too old and brittle and kept breaking whenever we tried working with it. So, that meant dragging it out and trying scrounge up working heat lamps, bulbs and necessary extension cords and a different enclosure.

#2 Failure:  A couple of weeks ago I needed to put a new catalytic converter in on of the cars after the check engine light went on.  The light went away, but now it’s back.  I’m afraid it might have been the sensor and not the converter that was bad.

#3 Failure: The blower fan on the corn stove gave up the ghost.  Needs a new one and will need some new wiring as well.  It’s something I can do, but have to wait for the part to arrive in the mail.

#4 Failure:  One of the tractor tires was low, so I was going to start it up and move it to the air compressor.  I turned the key and pressed the silver start button and the starter cranked away weakly and I release the button and turned the key off, but the tractor kept trying to start and after about 45 seconds of cranking, the battery died.  First step was trying to recharge the battery, but the battery freaked out the chargers, so something was amiss.  By this time daylight was fading, dinner wasn’t even a thought and the kids were ready to be picked up at the bus.

one year ago…”Doesn’t Get More Old Fashioned than This”.

July 21, 2008 – Red Green Alive and Well at High Hopes!

Today’s creation is inspired by Handyman’s Corner from the Red Green TV show.

To many of you, this might look like an old, tired gas grill that missed trips to the dump over the last two years. But sometimes keeping things around too long pays off. We also have an old cooktop from the kitchen remodeling that is usable, but awkward to carry and safely use. We also like to can outside in the summer – nothing like taking the hour long boil of a batch of tomatoes outside the house on a hot summer day. Sooooo, I’m thinking the two units need to be combined…

First remove the cover and all the old propane connections and tubing.

Hmm, after the cover is gone, it turns out the cooktop won’t slide inside, so I need to get the sawz-all out with the metal blade to make the frame relatively level. Then, slip a couple of boards in where the grates used to be, screw the cooktop into the boards and the unit is almost ready.

Here’s the completed unit! Note that the duct tape concealing the joint between the cooktop and old grill is for aesthetics only – it does not provide structural support in this case.  Now we have a portable unit with wheels, a self-contained and hidden propane tank and a battery of knobs that to the untrained eye, do absolutely nothing – but I’m wondering if I could wire them to the controls of a radio and use the grill knobs for tuning and volume of a hidden radio…

one year ago…”Harry Potter and the Dilly Beans”

April 2, 2008 – Old Silver Maple Makes Way for Wind Turbine

I got a call a few days ago from the wind turbine guy saying that dependent on weather, April 11 was the day to pour the foundation for the wind turbine. Amazing as it may seem for an Iowa farm, we had a difficult time siting the turbine on our property because of all the tall trees, the 70 foot buffer from the edge of the property, and needing it reasonably close to the house. We eventually chose a site with a full northern and eastern exposure, good western exposure and poor southern exposure. I later found out that the most common wind direction is from the south, although the N-NW quadrant is the most common quadrant. In order help out the southern winds, we opted to take out one old silver maple tree and to place the turbine in the path of the hole in the trees.

Here Martin plays on the trunks of the recently felled tree. I called in a professional to cut the tree down as one main trunk was leaning towards a building and I imagined three possible outcomes (presented in most likely order of possibility). 1) tree falls wrong way 2) chain saw gets stuck in tree 3) tree falls right way.

This shows the view of the tree before it was cut.

The view of the sky after the tree falls. Now it is my job to cut it up into firewood and haul the branches to a bonfire pile.

one year ago…”Willows in the Ground”

December 21, 2007 – New (to me) Camera!

I used to have a nice SLR camera (Canon AE-1) that I bartered for a bunch of Christmas trees back in college. I loved that camera – while climbing a mountain in Utah, it became separated from me and bounced down a snowfield in its case a couple of thousand feet and lived to tell about it.

I started with point and shoot digitals for the last few years, and was waiting to save up for a new digital SLR, but could never quite justify the cost with other expenses.

My current point and shoot was starting to be on its last legs, so I bought this Canon S2 on Ebay for about 1/4 of the list price. Since the S3’s are out, all the folks that need the latest and greatest jettison their old stuff – but it is in perfect shape and I appreciate that on this model I can attach filters, wide and telephoto lenses and have manual control if I so wish.
one year ago…

November 14, 2007 – One Step Closer to Wind Turbine

We are one step closer to getting a residential wind turbine at high hopes gardens!  We had a site visit by an installer and now are waiting for a more final estimate.  If all goes well, it could be up in late spring/summer.  The following bit of information was very interesting to me.  It shows the wind speed and direction over the course of a year.  The site also has monthly charts to see how direction and speeds change over the course of the year.  The site is a branch of the ISU Agronomy Department, of all places! They have the charts for 17 cities in Iowa.

I was very surprised that the most common direction of wind is from the south, although the most common quadrant direction is from N to W.  I’m a bit of a closet weatherman (I think all farmers are) and am impressed how much data can get crammed into a simple graphic like this one.

Here’s a picture from the manufacturer’s web site of the turbine.  It is a Skystream 3.7. We may have to trim the tops of some old silver maples and maybe take down one behind the chicken coop.  More on that later.

one year ago…

August 6, 2007 – Step into Another World

There’s a place in downtown Melbourne that hides its secrets well.  “Vern’s Implement” always has a yard full of old farm equipment along with an accesssory lot along side the road on the way to our place.  In the past, I’ve bought a thing or two from Vern.  He’s also got a small retail store complete with the old general store type wood strip floor, big wooden entrance door, and a couple of aisles of different size bolts, nuts, etc. in old wooden bins. A while back, I had a hard time finding a certain length bolt in a 5/8 width – not at big box stores, not at True Value – all the while, the right one was sitting at Vern’s.

Back in the shop it really changes.  I swear Vern doesn’t like to work on equipment made much past 1950.  I thought I might get him to work on my ’47 Cub, but he has other work he evidently enjoys more and said he didn’t have time.  (I don’t think he likes mundane repairs.)  He also has an older solar array on the front of his house – probably from the 70’s – so he is obviously a tinkerer.

Here he is, looking at a steam-powered, steel-wheeled tractor from the early teens.  He has fabricated missing parts, rebored what needs to be re-bored, and finally painted it.  It’s a massive hunk of machinery – you can see the back steel wheels are about 5 feet tall.  It takes about two hours of burning before the engine is ready to go.

This shows the back of the tractor and some of the gears – there is one “gear” – forward and back. This is in the way back of his shop and to get there, is like traveling through a tractor graveyard, with all kinds of other tractors in various states of repair/restoration – it’s got the feeling of an old blacksmith’s shop.  I’m sure there are other places like this (at least I hope so) but they are getting rarer by the day.

one year ago…

August 5, 2007 – And So It Goes…

Yesterday (doesn’t really matter what day!) brought a common occurence on the farm – something not going according to plan.  This isn’t particularly compelling story, but typical. Had some weed-trimming to do, so in the more relative cool of the evening (if 85 degrees and 75 degree dew point can be called cool) I set out.  I had previously outrigged the weed whip with a head that was a chain, so it really cut tough weeds and nascent mulberries, and lasted a long time – over a year by now.  It finally needed to be replaced and so I tried to turn the screw that kept it in place and it wouldn’t budge, even with penetrating oil and some time (as it is getting dark and no work is getting done).

Finally, the head breaks off the screw, so more extreme measures are needed.

Between a bench vice and a vice-grips, I was able to get the shaft of the screw out and replace the head.  The replacement head had a better design, which didn’t rely on a single screw to come out, but used the whole cutter head assembly to tighten onto the shaft. I guess the good news was I had a replacement head on time, but it was still not until after dark that the repair was made.  But at least it is ready to go for another day.

one year ago…

July 16, 2007 – New Tractor Tire

Usually 9 days away fror the farm leaves A LOT to do upon our return. However, we are getting better at it, by working extra hard the weeks beofre we leave to get as much done as we can. We were fortunate (or not) that there was not any rain while we were gone. Very few weeds grew and no need to mow the brown grass.

The first order of business was to take care of a leaking tractor tire. When I bought the tractor it had one new tire and an old one. The old tire finally started leaking a few weeks before vacation, and required frequent filling. It also had the fluid in to give the tractor weight and not freeze in the winter – that was hard on the rim (rust) and I don’t really need that extra weight – so I called the on-farm tire service – they came and sucked out the fluid and replaced the tire. It sure beat trying to jack up the tractor, remove the lug nuts, get the wheel off…

one year ago…

June 6, 2007 – Corn Transfer

Lots of little projects were completed today.  In getting ready for a couple of tons of chicken food to be delivered, we had some leftover corn from the corn-burning stove season in the gravity wagon that we needed to move to make room for the chicken feed.  The gravity wagon is the easiest to get a few buckets of feed at a time with, so we transferred it to a different wagon. 
Here, Emma is controlling the door to fill the bucket (we don’t have a corn auger)

Loading it in the tractor bucket – about 15 buckets per scoop.

Finally, dumping it into another wagon.
one year ago…

June 2, 2007 – Most-Used Piece of Equipment on the Farm

The humble garden cart gets my vote for the most indispensable piece of equipment on the farm.  We bought one of the Vermont Carts new and picked up another at an auction.  They are the best money ever spent on the farm.  We’ve had one ten years and it is still works as well as the day we put it together.  It is sturdy, very easy to push, fits through gates easily, tips, and can haul hundreds of pounds if need be.

Now there is an alternative – the guy who brought the world the whiz-band chicken plucker has published plans to make your own cart.

one year ago…

June 1, 2007 – “New” Equipment

Here’s the “new” belly mower for the farmall cub.  Well, “new” is a relative term when you are adding bling to a 1947 tractor.  Having a green mower under a red tractor will add a certain festive color aesthetic!

The Farmall is in need of some shop time, so the functionality of the new mower might not immediately be known.  The good folks at Morning Sun farm alerted me to this mower, and I was able to get it from a retired John Deere guy who now spends his time buying and selling equipment.

It’s a lot heavier than it looks – it sure was nice to have the 2510 and loader to lift it straight up out of the pickup and onto the ground.

one year ago…

May 23, 2007 – Gearing Up for Soap-Making

We’re getting ready for the first soap-making episode of the season this upcoming weekend. Last year I made a couple different styles of soap molds and the one with the hinges to open up the mold after the soap has hardened was a runaway favorite with the soap alchemists.  So, today, I made a couple more.

The bottom piece is a mold all ready to pour soap.  The top shows a mold extended, as you would unfold it after the soap had hardened.  The smaller pieces can slide wherever you’d like in the mold, depending on how much soap you have to pour.  The small slit on the right side is where a soap cutter can slide in to cut the soap.

one year ago…

May 11, 2007 – Little Projects

Today some nagging things were completed. I’ve long disliked the placement of the metal machine shed on the property (it predates our arrival on the farm). It presents a wall of steel driving into the farm, blocks the view of the pasture to the east and is generally ugly. I’ve always wanted to put up some greenery, so to help the hops we planted as an experiment, I put up a 16 foot cattle panel on end. It was a bit trickier than I anticipated, needed to get the tractor loader out to lift it into place.

The hops can grow 30 feet tall, so even this seemingly tall structure is still undersized. If it works out, we will add sections in future years.

I also got the deck on the small trailer built – I made the deck detachable using pins to hold it to the frame, so I could take advantage of the trailer’s variable length. This deck was built in the short position – when I build a longer deck, I’ll just have to pull the 4 pins, extend the trailer and swap out decks.

I also got 80 or so feet of Christmas trees fenced off in the pasture. 
one year ago…

May 7, 2007 – Trailer Guy

My old small trailer broke last week, so it was time for a replacement.  I happened upon this one that was on close-out from Farm-Tek, usually $250, marked down to $112.  I was pleasantly surprised with the sturdiness of the frame and thickness of the angle iron used to make it.

It can vary in length from 60-92 inches.  My next move is to make a deck for it (maybe a couple of different lengths) and begin hauling.  I do have a weakness for trailers/wagons.  I have the same weakness for spring/fall jackets.  I’m guessing it’s better than having a weakness for cars/trucks and scotch!

one year ago…

May 2, 2007 – Tree Mulching

The tree planting is the easy part! Now comes the mulching. We mulch because I think it may be less work in the long run and we don’t have to use herbicides and worry less about watering in dry periods. Today was the good mulching day. The fastest equipment was put into force today. Below is an old animal chute that I rigged up to hold mulch. It pulls with the tractor, drives over the rows and holds enough mulch for about 180 feet of row.

I also have some old barge wagons that I use, but they aren’t quite as handy. But these contraptions are nice since I can load them up in the late fall so they are ready to go in the spring. Today, I ended up getting 60 trees covered in the morning. Last Monday I got 35 trees done and suffered from equipment failure, equipment stuck in the mud, and smaller-scale haulers. The temperature was near 90 on both days, along with up to a 30 mph wind, so I spent some time watering as those are about the worst conditons you could imagine for newly planted trees. Now I’m on the lookout for a small low, trailer that the garden tractors can haul – the one I got at an auction 8 years or so ago to use to put the stock tank on to drag water on, was one of the equipment failures when the axle snapped (with an empty load, thank goodness).

one year ago…

January 21, 2007 – Snow At Last

We finally have a blanket of white after a winter of brown. The last week we’ve had two snowfalls. Just enough to warrant trying out the tractor with the blade for clearing snow.

It sure beats shoveling! I’ve still got some learning to do with the equipment, but right now it is a novel activity. This snow was folled by still and warm – not the usual howling wind, so it is once again nice to be outside.

one year ago…

January 7, 2007 – Gathering Mulch

The tractor came in handy again today. There was a small pile of the good mulch at the pallet factory, so I ended up with a couple of pick-up loads of “A” mulch – about 45 cu ft (not quite 2 cubic yards) for free. The pre-tractor method was to move it from the pickup and throw it 4-5 feet over the top of the wagon by hand with a pitchfork.

Now, It gets pushed once from the truck to the loader. (The loader is about an inch wider than the bed, so I can’t scoop it right out of the truck.

Then from the loader to the wagon. The wagon is still in the barn and this is the view from the tractor seat.

one year ago…

January 5, 2007 – Keeping the Cub in Use

It’s been a while since the ’47 Farmall Cub was used with the new tractor on the farm, so moving some cattle panels out to the pasture was just the job as it is lighter than the JD and the ground is soft. It starts right up and runs like new.

I love this little tractor – even the smell of the exhaust hearkens back to another time.

Linda took me out for dinner at the Phoenix Cafe in Grinnell – it was an enjoyable evening with good food.

one year ago…

January 3, 2007 – New Gate

Another 50 degree day. The kids are back in school. Once again the “Cone of Silence” can descend upon the household. Got down all the Christmas lights and removed the hanging door hardware from the old corn crib doors for re-use with new doors and started next year’s burn pile with the Christmas tree and old wooden doors.

Took a walk with Linda in the back pasture and started thinking about possible uses. So many options! Will keep you posted.

Got one rotting gate replaced.

This is a home-made design using a piece of a wire panel and treated lumber. It’s an original design and works quite well as affixing the panel lends lots of sturdiness to the gate. The heavy-duty gate pin on the bottom with a regular hinge on top adds to the strength and simplicity.

one year ago…

August 20, 2006 – Today’s Bounty

Fellow scavenger and bargain hunter neighbor calls me about 5:00 yesterday and informed me of this “rummage sale” at a former small state nursing home. Everything was for sale, but nothing was marked – it was make an offer.

The best bargain, I think, is an 8 ft long stainless steel table.

I did a quick check on e-bay and found a used one for $650.00, so I’m probably all right on that one. They wouldn’t sell me the stainless 3-section sink off the wall though.

I also got a couple of 5 foot bakers racks with about 5-6 shelves, two gym style locker towers, a CD player, some food service items (cookie sleeves, portion cups) and cases of old food for chicken food – chow mien noodles, oatmeal, ice cream cones and a bunch of other things. Total bill for everything $72.00.

It was a sad place – all the old beds, institutional-type furniture and dormitory-type rooms – even some people’s personal effects were boxed up in a closet – clothes, tapes, Christmas decorations etc. It was as if the place was closed suddenly and everything was just left as it was.

July 5, 2006 – Working with the Cub

Today’s entry doubles as this week’s Photo Friday Contest entry. This week’s theme is “Summer.”

I had just a little bit of raking to do today on the buffer strip in the neighbor’s field. I borrowed the neighbor’s rake and hitched up the Farmall Cub to rake the oat straw.

Nothing says summer like making hay on a hot day.

June 30, 2006 – Martin/Daddy Matching Tractors!

Today is Martin’s 5th birthday. Many of his loved ones went together to get him a battery-powered scoop tractor, just like dad’s!

He’s having great fun helping around the farm – moving mulch, carrying tools, straw, or whatever else needs to be hauled.

He has not yet mastered the art of backing up with a trailer – maybe another day.

We also got for more lambs today.

Here’s Emma with one of the lambs. Now we have a total of six.

June 28, 2006 – Grain Grinder

A few years back I bought this grain grinder on E-bay.

It works great for small quantities and grinds a range from coarse to flour. We use it occasionally, like today when we need some creep feed for our bottle lambs and all the feed in the farm store was laced with anti-biotics. So, we have to make our own.

Here’s a sample of the coarse grind. It takes about 15 minutes to grind up about 50 lbs of corn.

June 21, 2006 – Longest Day of the Year

Well, it’s over now – from here on in the days get shorter! Neighbors had a summer solstice gathering with potluck, fire, singing and everybody was invited to share a piece of poetry or other thought.

I’m hoping to save a bunch of time on wood chips this year. Rather than driving to pick up and load and unload by hand – the utility trimming truck came to the farm, I can load them with the tractor loader.


I saw these guys last week and asked them to dump at my place, but they never showed – they came this week and to entice them back they got a carton of freshly-picked strawberries!

June 13, 2006 – Martin Behind the Camera

I gave Martin the camera the other day and let him click away. Here’s a few of his photos.

We’ve got an old granary that was dragged out into the pasture – this is a piece of metal that was tacked on the corner at one time that the wind has seen fit to detach.
One of his favorite subjects is the “scoop tractor.”

I think one of dozens of pictures of the tractor will be sufficient!
There’s hardly ever pictures of the cameraman so Martin took this picture of me.

June 10, 2006 – Auction Day

I went to an auction for the first time in a long time today. It was a tough call as it was really cool (in the 50’s after a week of 90’s), so putting up ceiling insulation in the attic (without windows) was also calling. But I decided to go, in part, because it was raining and I thought the crowd would be a bit thinner. The auction is an annual event to raise money for the Mid-Iowa Antique Power Show. I can get there on all gravel roads, so it is good to drag things home. Most of the morning there were three auction rings going at once until they got to the big machinery.

I thought this old guy was a character (he was driving the auctioneer’s truck around). I don’t know how I managed to get a picture of him without a cigarette in his mouth!

There were hays racks full of treasure or junk, depending on your perspective. Here they are showing the merchandise up for bid.
The bidding gets hot and heavy as the ring men point out who has high bid. I ended up spending most of the day there and hauling things home at 15 mph.

Here’s a nice collection of burlap and seed bags – all bags $8.00. These were my favorites. Good local color from a Grinnell company – the town where we go to Farmer’s Market. I think one could more than pay back my entire bid price.

A nice pile of Dekalb seed corn bags.

More local color with these seed bags from Lynnville, Iowa.

I couldn’t pass up these metal emblems ($10) from John Deere tractors. They came along with a couple of side rails for a John Deere 2010 (whatever they are!)

This is an old animal chute. I bought it for the wheels and frame to make another trailer type. (A steal at $5)

Here’s a classic old wagon for whatever. Just needs one new tongue and groove floorboard on the bottom ($100).

Finally, a 6 foot blade that is VERY heavy, ready for use on the tractor ($30). I’m very pleased with this piece and especially the price.

After the auction it is off to Bruce Springsteen. More about that tommorrow…

May 28, 2006 – Cleanup Begins

We spent a bit of time cleaning up this afternoon. We put the tractor to good use. The limb that fell on the machine shed was to big for me to budge, so… loader tractor to the rescue.

A chain, a tractor, no problem. We loaded a hay wagon with branches from the yard. Here is a photo Martin took of Linda unloading the wagon.

Stay tuned for pictures some day soon that Martin took today.
Here is the little guy on the biggest limb that we loaded on the burn pile.

It is probably not noteworthy to all you long-time farmers out there, but having the ability to lift up and move a log like this is just a treat and saves the back!

May 22, 2006 – No Flame Decals on that Tractor!

Today, the tractor was ready to be picked up at the John Deere Dealer after they fixed the problem that filled the crankcase with gasoline. They didn’t have the ticket written up, so they let me drive it home without paying for it (yet).

They drove it out of the shop and noticed some gasoline was leaking around one of the newly installed parts. They went to fix it and the service man was fiddling with it for a few minutes, when he suddenly runs away from the tractor and grabs a fire extinguisher to put out the flaming engine block! I’m sure that flaming tractors in the lot are not good for advertising! It was extinguished in moments. The gas that was leaking out was ignited when a wrench arced across a wire that was missing its plastic coating.

After it was all fixed, I had a 12 mile or so tractor ride home. I lost my fondness for ever participating in the “Great Tractor Ride Across Iowa.” Twelve miles was enough.

I’ll leave you with one picture for today – the minty new growth on the concolor fir.

The last 2 weeks, the trees have really taken off with spring growth – some of the black cherries and bur oaks already have grown 4-6 inches.

May 20, 2006 – Saturday on the Farm

It’s another keeper of a day. Lots of little things today. Planted a dozen peppers, spent half the morning in town getting lumber and running errands. Built a waterproof top for the gravity wagon that is storing chicken feed. We had some makeshift tarps over it before and a few leaks in the shed found their way in, so it was time to make a permanent solution out of leftover pieces of steel roofing.

Also got some planting in –

Martin is helping Mom plant her Mother’s Day flowers. Linda made three batches of soap – among them what looks like a better goat milk effort than the first time around.

May 15, 2006 – Bye-Bye Tractor

The tractor ran strong and without any hint of problems until the last time. Now the crankcase has filled with gasoline and is dripping out the dipstick hole. Time for professional attention. Here it is getting loaded on the semi for a trip to the local Deere shop.

I wished I had a picture of the red Farmall Cub pulling the green out of the shed! Having this is a little like children, whatever happens, you’re stuck with them.

Today was a good day. The weather held off. Our first bulk order of broiler feed arrived – one ton loaded directly in the gravity wagon. I was able to get all layers of light-affirming goodness to the hardwoods planted last year in the pasture. Round one was with hands, pulling weeds around the trees. Then the weed whacker to a bigger distance, then the riding mower for between the rows, finally the push mower for the spots the big mower can’t get to. It was good to get something started and completed in one day. Also got about 1/3 of the raspberries weeded.

This evening a student from Grinnell College called wanting to bounce ideas about starting a co-op to provide food for the college food service. It’s a struggle to create a new food system and it was good to hear a young voice working so hard to make it happen.

May 10, 2006 – Things that Need to be Fixed

I heard a saying this week. There are two kinds of buildings/equipment on a farm. Things that need to be fixed and things that need to be fixed now! Today was one of those days. A few days ago the pipe between the muffler and catalytic converter dropped off, today the tractor started spitting black smoke and misfiring and leaking gas, and the riding mower hydrostatic transmission seems stuck. There are better days, but this is not one of them!

April 24, 2006 – Boys and Their Toys!

Today was a day long in coming – the arrival of a scoop tractor to high hopes! Isn’t it a beauty? It’s a 1967 John Deere 2510 with a nearly new Westendorf loader, a category 2 three point hitch, and wide front end. I’d been looking at tractors for a while and finally found this one. The arrival of a tractor ranks in importance somewhere between a new car and new house.

The next three pictures are a story of three photographers. The picture above was taken by Emma.

Mark took this picture.

Here’s Martin’s picture! As a young boy, he made sure to get all tractor and cut the people off the top!

I’m excited about the tractor for a number of reasons, not the least of which is my back. Lots less lifting and moving of heavy things with the back. Able to move a big bale when the time comes. Many folks made the tractor possible – “financing” by Grandma Jo, pre-sale inspection by Linda’s Uncle Wayne, and finally driving the beast home by Two Friends Farm. Curiously, the tractor was for sale about 16 miles away alongside Hwy 330. As we were driving it home, Claire was coming home from Des Moines with her TAG teacher, Grandma Jo and her partner for History Day competition at the State Historical Center in Des Moines and they passed us and waved wildly!

Also got five new apple trees grafted from the old near-dead tree in our yard onto new rootstocks courtesy of Two Friends farm. I just put them in the garden for this year to get established. It’s a very early apple – mid-July and makes great sauce and is in the right season to make raspberry-applesauce.

April 17, 2006 – Fence Repair

Neighbors Don and Phyllis came over today to check the fencelines after winter. They cruise around the pasture in this nifty ATV. Martin was lucky enough to get a ride for part of the trip.

We had just a few places to shore up along the farmstead.

Here’s a place where a corner post wrapped in woven wire cracked at ground level.

After I pulled all the fencing staples, Martin singlehandedly drove it down to the burn pile, dumped it, and pushed the empty cart up the hill!

Here’s the fix. Now, I know replacing a wooden post with a steel one is not generally good practice – Don did offer to come put a new wooden post in, but this entire fence needs to be reconfigured, but the steel post was an 8 footer, and it leans on a couple of feet of cement at the base, so I tried to cheat a little. By the end of the day, the cows were over.
In continuing signs of spring, the “automatic waterer” for the chicken coop was hooked up (a 55 gallon barrel of water outside, hosed into the coop), the fence between the shed and barn put up and the last of this round of R-board stub wall pieces cut and pushed up in the attic.

April 12, 2006 – Flamer!

Late today, the wind finally stopped blowing enough to try out the borrowed flame weeder.

Here, I am trying to fry the border between the sod and the new raspberry patch before the new berries are planted. I’m not too sure how it will work on grass, I imagine it will need a few treatments. Hey, who says organic gardening isn’t thrilling. The thing sounds like a jet plane and you don’t need a big budget Hollywood action movie to use a flamethrower! Many people use them to knock down young weeds before their crop germinates or in the case of corn, even after the corn has germinated. I also got some cardboard and mulch spread on part of a garden and weeded around some of last year’s Christmas trees.

Martin and Linda work on the raised beds in the herb garden. If you look behind them, you can see I also started putting in the patio blocks around the future raised beds.

Finally, here is another shot of spring – this shows last year’s cranberries along with this year’s new growth.

March 18, 2006 – Full Farm Press

This afternoon we engaged everybody in completing some tasks. Martin and Linda scrubbed the chicken waterers.

Claire and I destroyed the old composter, separated the composted from the uncomposted and put the new composter around the pile. Linda and Emma cleaned out chicken doo-doo from the hog barn.

Claire taking out the last of the rotted wood from the “temporary” composter we built when we moved in nine years ago.

Claire putting the cedar slats to separate the “done” from “undone” sections in the new composter.
Early this morning, the buck goat went to the sale barn. In the evening we were recipients of a wonderful St Patties dinner at Two Friends farm, featuring real corned beef, Irish soda bread, potatoes, cabbage and goat milk cheesecake!

February 26, 2006 – Replacement Composter Done

I drove home this morning, so after unpacking and the like, didn’t have too much time for farming, other than taking a walk around the farm with Linda looking at it with slightly new eyes, finishing the household composter, and getting a small load of mulch from the pallet plant.

I tired of driving on the interstate on the way home, so I got off at hwy 20 and started zipping south and east on county roads for diversion. I was really struck with two things – all the hog confinements and the rural poverty. I don’t know if it just looks worse in this brown season – or if it was the contrast between the overflowing life of the conference attendees and their hope for a self-directed future and the run-down and abandoned farmsteads. It made me sad that forces have run so many off the land and that an alternative exists that many have yet to try/are unable to try.

February 7, 2006 – Sheep Composter

Two Friends farmer Steven sent me this link for a great small animal composter. This will be of great use on our farm to dispose of the entrails from butchered sheep and goats as the locker does not keep them because the rendering truck that picks up hogs and cattle will not pick up sheep and goats. I always dread butchering day because it means digging a big hole in the ground by hand and covering them up. This will also be useful for the chicks/chickens that die before market weight. All in all, it will be a great labor/time saver. I just have to get to town to buy the wood.

My camera came back from Canon with a new lens assembly – so more photos will soon be part of the blog once again.

February 5, 2006 – Mulch Ready

Couldn’t help but get a little bit of farm work done today. Retrieved a pickup and trailer load of mulch for the trees. It’s great that it’s free and only 4 miles away. Here’s the wagon safely tucked in the shed ready to haul the mulch to the trees in the spring. Now, if I only had another three trailers!

It’s nice to get this stuff ready for spring.

January 20, 2006 – Farm Bell

One of the nicest “extras” we bought for the farm is a real farm bell. We ordered it from Lehmans – an Amish catalog and store full of basic homestead and farm tools, including lots of non-electric devices.

farm bell
We have pretty strict rules about the bell. It is really loud and is not supposed to ring just for fun. If we are out somewhere on the farm and the kids need us for something, they can ring it. Likewise, if the kids are out playing and we need them to come in for dinner or some other reason, we ring the bell. If you hear the bell, it means, drop what you are doing and come home. It even works on the loud, windy days.

You may notice the bright and sunny 50 degree days are now gone and snow is back.

January 1, 2006 – Open Source Cattle Panel Feeder

Computer geeks have “open source” software, meaning collaborative, free software instead of software controlled by a company, like Microsoft. But I digress as a point of departure for “open source cattle panels.” Fellow sustainable sojourner Steven Smith brings this design for a hay feeder to our farm.

There are many uses for cattle panels – someday I’ll devote an entire section of my web site to the many designs and uses, but for today – it’s a hay feeder. Here’s a first look at the feeder.panel feeder

Here’s what it looks like full of hay.
panel feeder

The design is simple and flexible – cut a panel the long way however wide you’d like it, leaving a little stub from the wires to insert into an existing vertical panel. Take another piece of wire and make it the length you’d like, and bend “hooks” in it to connect from the vertical panel (in this case, the board that makes the top of the fence). These can be quickly moved as needed.

November 23, 2005 – Good Neighbor/Unrelated Tragedy

During the big storm about a week ago, we lost one of the posts of the clothesline. Now, we use the clothesline a lot and this fact must not be lost on our neighbor. He noticed the line was not upright and just happened to be driving by with his tractor and post hole digger attached and stopped by to dig a new hole.

It saves a lot of time with the hand post-hole digger!

He told us a story of a 35 year old man who borrowed someone else’s tractor and post hole digger and went out himself to put in a new fence line just last week in the northern part of Marshall county. The next day, the tractor was found, with the post hole digger still spinning, and the man found dead about 100 yards away, missing his arm at the shoulder. I just hate to think of it.

September 7, 2005 – New Farm Toy

It’s an exciting day when a new piece of equipment comes to high hopes. This old flare wagon found its way home tonight.
flare wagon

To many it may look like an old rusty wagon, but to me it is full of possibilities. I could fill it with extra corn for the corn stove, fill it with custom-ground layer food, or use it to store mulch for next year’s tree planting. It has a great John Deere running gear (wheels and axles), good rubber, and the box does not have holes. It even has a hydraulic lift to tip it up to pour contents out the back.
I picked it up at Vern’s Implement in Melbourne. He’s got a field full of junk and not junk and a shop in town where he tinkers with old tractors and goes to auctions and sells equipment to help pay for his restoration habit. Anybody who’s driven by Melbourne has seen the place. He’s also got solar panels (a lot of them) on his house.

August 16, 2005 – New Mower

I’ve made an upgrade in mowing from the old riding tractor to the not-so-old mower. They are both green. This one when you turn a tight circle leaves about a 6-8 inch circle of uncut grass. The old one left about 6-8 foot circle. Mowing time is probably cut in half. The first time I rode it, I thought I might need some Dramamine to prevent getting dizzy from whipping around the trees.

May 25, 2005 – Playground

This is one of those well-meaning projects that drags on and on. Last year we thought it would be great to get Martin a playground with a swing, slide, tower, and monkey bars. So last June 30, he got the playground in a box – a stretch for a 2 year old to make the jump from the box of hardware and lumber to a playground. Picking up the lumber was the most weight the truck ever hauled – I was worried something would break the whole way home. We got some of the pieces together fairly quickly – it was the landing pad that took forever – it was neither fun nor ever a top priority to dig out a 20×30 area six inches deep to place the wood chips (I’ve come to learn to make things at ground level, rather than build up).

At any rate, it was about 3/4 dug out by the time the ground froze last winter and this spring is a big gardening and planting time, but I want to have it up by his birthday THIS YEAR. So a burst of digging this weekend and the better part of a day today got the landscape fabric spread, wooden border put in, and wood chips spread. We built most of the tower today.

We were in a bit of a quandary trying to tip the tower up with only dad and Martin. We gambled and won that we could pull it up with the tractor and a chain (the possibilities were the tower would just drag on the ground and not lift up, the tower would lift up and promptly keep going to tip back the other way). The good outcome happened, it lifted and did not tip toward us from the momentum of tipping up. Martin spent most of the day with me, fetching screws, talking non-stop, and asking for the slide to be put up. He seems genuinely excited and must sense it is finally coming together.

May 10, 2005 – Ye Olde Trailer II (steel and musical)

Here’s the trailer with all the old wood ripped off. Looks mighty fine, don’t ya think? trailer

Today’s paper has a segue from my trailer to musical trailers – a big story about Trailer Records. Trailer Records is a small indie (started in a mobile home) record label producing Iowa artists – Greg Brown, Bo Ramsey, Brother Trucker, etc. It’s interesting that the commodification and lack of diversity in farming is also present in the commodification of music – as Dave Zollo explains in the story.

I loved his discussion of keeping the “Iowa Sound” alive – a sound Zollo describes as “a sound that arose from Iowa’s proximity to the Mississippi River and its status as a gateway to the West, with different socio-cultural crossroads. You’ve got country music, blues and folk music, all with long and rich histories here.” Although Iowa may be most famous musically now for metal-mongering, chart-topping Slipknot, there’s something to be said for the mix of blues, folk, and country that somehow defies categorization (and therefore no play on Clear Channel).

For a heap of good music that defies Clear Channel, visit Miles of Music and make sure to scroll down and listen to some of the samples.

May 5, 2005 – Ye Olde Trailer

I’ve had this old trailer in a corner of the farm for the last 7 years or so. It collects srap metal until I have enough to go to the dump. It literally has not moved for 7 years until this week. trailer

I’ve started to disassemble it for possible retro-fitting as a new trailer. We need a canoe trailer to haul canoe and “stuff” on vacation. The plan is to take all the old wood sides off this trailer and bring it into a welding shop to see if we can add a longer tongue and removable racks for the canoe (perhaps even a removable long tongue so the long tongue is only on when hauling the canoe).

This trailer is a hand-me down trailer from my Dad. I used to hate this trailer because it meant more work! It was the wood hauling trailer and Dad would cut up the trees in lengths as long as my brother and I could drag out of the woods, then we’d load them up and bring them home. Having the trailer meant we weren’t done when the pickup was full. I guess I’ve adopted some of his practices as the girls now groan when I say we need to go get more free wood chips.

I’m hoping this is the first of many pictures of the trailer on the road to re-use!

April 1, 2005 – No Fooling

I guess I’m just still not all myself yet and unable to think of a clever photo or story to commemorate today. Stay tuned for next year. We put the last bucket of corn in the stove tonight – it’s supposed to be our last below freezing night for the forecast period.

Got the tiller attached to the lawn tractor this afternoon.

Putting this beast off and on is one of my least favorite seasonal chores. It’s an older belt-driven model, so the mower deck first needs to come off, then the tiller and all belts and nuts and bolts attached. It’s unwieldy and usually leads to at least one bloodletting. Even worse is my ambivalence towards tilling. I really would like to get to a totally mulched and undisturbed garden, but change is slow and this year I have an alfafa patch to till up for flowers.

This turkey vulture got the chicken’s attention – it’s amazing the way they skee-daddle when the bird of prey shadow flies over.

turkey vulture

March 19, 2005 – Worn Out

If not for a phone call, I was about out for the night on the couch I’m finally tuckered out. Another class day. Today we had a volunteer with a 25-ft 5th wheel trailer offer to help us haul the 100 cattle panels (4 gauge gridded wire fence sections 16 feet long) that Linda had paid for and reserved earlier in the week. In the age of sparkling customer service, only 68 were there today. So that means another trip some other time. It’s time for bed.