Saturday, January 30, 2010

A learning experience (aka a Mistake)

The seasonal creek has been flooding badly the past several years. It flows from several high points and the creek runs underneath the driveway through a culvert. This culvert was old, small and a bit crushed. We hired an excavator to clean up the creek area, dig out the old culvert and replace it. We put in a huge culvert.
Here's the problem though. It rained a lot late last fall so his work got put off until early November. He did a great job but now we have blank soil on the creekbed and had no time to get anything planted before the spring melt rushes through. Sigh... it will take more of our soil downstream.
I am investigating a prairie mix for wet areas. Perhaps incorporating a straw mat or even a erosion mat - although I'm not hip about burying a poly-tye of material in the soil. Spring will be interesting.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Working on the barn

I have been remiss in posting about the work that began in earnest on the barn after Christmas.

We have a bank barn which we estimate to be at least 100+ years old. The lower level is the old dairy barn and the upper is a haymow and storage area for farm machinery. The lower level soil side wall is made of limestone. Time and water seepage have made portion of the wall distingrate (on this photo - see to the right of Bill - that is a big hole in the limestone foundation. If you click on the photo and enlarg.e it, you can see the damage more clearly). Many of the large supporting posts have softened and rotted at the bottom. Our intent at this point is not to straighten the barn (it has a bit of a sway in the middle of the roofline) but to keep it further deteriorating further and save it as it is a grand old structure.

Bill has been thinking, researching and talking to people about this for quite a bit now. We have decided to first shore up the beams that are lacking support in the lower portion. We will then reinforce the limestone foundation by chipping out the bad areas, drilling back into the hill, tying rebar into those holes and pouring new concrete sections - some of which will angle out to push back into the old foundation. (That is all my layman's understanding of what we are doing. I'm not doing it justice.)

In this first photo in the lower portion of the barn, you can see the two black columns, which are jacks (lally columns) which when slightly raised allow the old beam to be knocked out. We'll install the new one in the middle of those two.

These are the new beams. We salvaged these from a worksite - they were destined for the landfill even though they are like new 4x4's in perfectly good, sound condition!

Here you can see Bill knocking the new beam into place between the two lally columns on the side.

Almost done with #1.

Installing #2. You'll note that on this one we didn't use lally columns. Because there wasn't an old column in this location, we didn't have to raise it slightly to knock an old one out.
We were able to get three new columns installed and I drilled and screwed them into L brackets on both the top of the column to the floor above.
I think the hardest part was getting started! I feel like we have some momentum now.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Weekend visit

We spent Saturday with Bill's brother and his lovely wife - two of our favorite people. They drove down from Minneapolis to visit. We went to the farm on Sunday morning.

It was great to bounce our farm building plans off of them as they are both creative people with great ideas. While Bill and I were driving home this morning he joked that going forward, he doesn't need to read or research construction anymore - he will just call his brother and say, hey you know anything about ____? His brother is a wealth of information.

We ate pretty local too.

Squash soup made with Squash from Pine Row Farm and peppers grown and frozen by my parents. Lamb Stew from Grass is Greener. Beets from Genesis Growers in Illinois. Blue cheese from Hook's. Greens for the salad weren't local, but they were organic from Driftless Market. I made a pound cake with Organic Valley butter, although the flour and sugar weren't local. Topped with a cranberry compote from local cranberries.

The weather this weekend was unlike anything I have ever seen. Everything was 'flocked' with frost and snow. I've seen fake flocking at the holidays, but I've never really seen the real thing like it was this past weekend. There was no sun, so everyday the flocking on the trees and grasses continued. It was spectacular.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Happy New Year!

Yikes - where did I go? Sorry, didn't mean for such a long break between posts!

Happy 2010! Wow, we hope to move in 14 months. Ghesh, we have a lot to do.

Here's the dog update. He continued to live in our backyard. His living quarters were upgraded from:

1. Laying in the dirt next to the garage
2. A rug that I laid down for him on the ground
3. A cardboard box
4. A bigger cardboard box
5. A large plastic pot that large trees/shrubs are grown in - we turned it upside down, cut an entry-door in it and screwed a large rubbermaid bin top on the top. It jutted out over the door - we joked that he now had a 'carport'
6. A small doghouse with a heater in it
7. Same doghouse with heater with blankets/rugs piled on top to help keep the heat in
8. Same doghouse with heater and a huge, heavy moving blanket over the top

It was getting really cold out. He wasn't getting nicer to me like I had hoped. I upped the ante and after we made a bunch of chicken stock from the carcases and innards in our freezer last week, I started feeding him chicken hearts. He loved them but still didn't warm up to me. It had been almost 3 weeks. He had put on weight and was looking less deathly but it was cold and despite his nice house (#8 above) it was cold out. We decided to take him to a shelter.

Here's the rub - and I learned something. None of the no-kill shelters in Chicago will take strays. But I guess after thinking about it - it makes sense. If you lose a pet - really, do you want to have to contact the myriad of shelters that are in the Chicago area? No. So all of the shelters direct strays to the City Animal Care & Control facility so that owners that have lost their pets have only one place to go to look for their pet - which also hopefully increases the chances that they will find their lost pet. And realistically, I don't know if this little guy is 'pet material'. He was pretty aggressive and snarley. He didn't warm up to me - even with chicken hearts. So we made what is hopefully the right choice and took him to the shelter where they will hold him, see if anyone claims him, and then evaluate him health and temperament-wise and then probably put him down.

I'm trying to become more realistic about this - but it is hard. Scarce resources shouldn't be used on an animal that has little to no hope to ever be a companion animal.

I gave him food and a home (well, at least a dry bed) for the last few weeks. He's not on the streets anymore. But, I do miss the little guy running around the backyard.

Oh, and yeah, I had named him. Pablo.