Spring Equinox, 2017

  We let the pigs out to pasture today. They’ve been getting restless plowing up the winter pens getting them ready for spring planting. The north pen behind the house we are fixing up for my older brothers family (and their future yard), was already in need of a mow. After a long few months of scraping by with weeds, buried pinon nuts, malted barley, oats, blue corn beer, alfalfa, fruits and vegetables, bread, pastries, cake, and the occasional romp around in the snow searching for sparse winter grass, our little horde of mobile-fertilizing, tilling, wallowing, jumping and skipping little porkers was back at fresh grass. And oh did they love it.
And they were not the only ones loving all the awesomeness happening underground right now. While turning the mulch around one of our apple trees I found that the gophers had gone full beaver status on the roots, leaving nothing but a bare stem in the middle of deep, dark earth teaming with worms, grubs, bugs, spider eggs and bergillions of tiny, unrecognizable critters coming to life.   0320171230.jpg What are you going to do? Other of course than continue raging relentless war against the little beasts? Build snake habitats? Train cats? Full blown caddy shack perhaps? I digress. Luckily we scored some honey crisp trees the other day that will make very suitable replacements for our fallen friend, who has now been chopped and scattered in the little piece of earth he so briefly flourished in to feed the fungi that will nurture and feed the roots of his successor. The chickens are laying away and three dozen new chicks are finally out of the living room (where they resided in the stock tank next to the fireplace that holds wood during the end of winter).   We did eventually finish the well house, and set up a glass blowing studio and small shop (which occasionally doubles as a green house, silversmithing shop, or cider house). The hole in the laundry room floor lasted a whole year before I got around to relaying the three layers of floor and reinstalling the washer and dryer. We got the fence in last winter and the county inspector showed up a half hour early, right as we were unloading a horse we borrowed from a friend to demonstrate agricultural use of the land (apparently grazing pigs and chickens doesn’t count).  Now we are trudging through the process of getting all of our governmental T’s and Q’s in order and getting waylaid by county bureaucrats that inform us we cannot conduct any business from our farm or allow people to come visit because we are in a ‘residential zone’. Boogers. IMG_0131 Oh well. They pigs don’t seem to notice, so I guess we will just continue as normal. Our new Duroc boar, Gentle Ben, is getting along fine, and Big Mamma should be throwing her first litter of piglets at the beginning of summer.  Lord willing and the creek don’t rise we will have half a dozen more hogs ready for market by then, and this year you will be able to find us at the Cedar Crest Farmers Market, Roots Farm Cafe, Beneficial Farms CSA, and of course here on Polk’s Folly. IMG_4757    

The Well House…AKA Squirrelin’ Out!

El Nino is not messing about this year and its chill cuts deep. The snow is packed and the road is shot, but the birds are still out and about and we are slowly plugging away at the endless amount of projects that have been stacking up for the last 40 years. The day after Thanksgiving the temperature plummeted into the teens while we were all away at a friends house enjoying a BBQ and some ‘friendsgiving’. We returned to find the water pipes had frozen, setting off a chain reaction of failures that left us dry for several days. After the sun had come out the following day and the temperatures ruled out the possibility of frozen pipes, we set about investigating the water system housed in a 200 sq ft shack in the middle of the property, the well house. 40 years of junk, some of it quite valuable, had accumulated a thick layer of dust, and the clutter was so thick it it felt like doing ballet just to get to the back corner where the electric panel hung loosely on the metal sheet walls, and the exposed wires crudely connect to the switch that activates the well pump, which in turn fills two pressurized water tanks that feed the entire property. We discovered that the sudden deep freeze had sealed a line coming into the well house, which in turn caused the switch to continually self activate, burning out both the switch and the electric panel. The tanks in turn drained out, froze, and failed.  Guess it was about time for a new water system anyways… And while we were at it we figured the lines under the house could probably use some new heat tape and insulation, and the well house could definitely use a little touch up. If your gonna do a job you may as well do it right, no? So I bought a gas mask and some goggles, layered on the protection, and jumped right into it, figured we could have it banged out in a few days =) Crawled under the house, braving the brutal goat heads layering the floor and the millions of spiders, peeled off the old insulation, started lining the water lines with electric heat tapes, prayed every minute that I wouldn’t find any leaks, and made it almost all the way to the end when I reached a cross beam I couldn’t crawl under. Oh well. Crawled back out and switched back to the well house. We started pulling everything out. Eleven cans of wood stain, 50 lb box of the little clips you use to secure suspenders, a pottery kiln, antique paint spray gun, enough chemicals of various sorts to kill a small village, on and on. And once it was empty we figured if we came this far we might as well keep going. So we started pulling what was left of the drywall down and the little bit of insulation that had been mostly converted into rats nests as well. Patched up the giant gapping holes in the metal, sheared up a few of the wooden supports, took down all the old electrical conduit and random crap and and swept out mounds and mounds of dust and rat shit and even some disintegrated rodent poison bags that they probably don’t sell anymore for safety reasons. Mean while my parents bought themselves a new washing machine and offered to let us take the old one, and seeing as how every day we were coming away covered in the accumulated dust of decades it seemed like a good idea. So we pulled the old washer, which barely worked, and deposited it in rust’n’piece. But when we went to bring the new one in we noticed that the floor was slanting pretty hard to the outside wall and seemed a bit too flexible for our liking. So we thought we would just take a peek, see what the trouble seemed to be…. We discovered that the slight slant was due to the fact that the foundation of the house was sinking into the dirt. To be fair ‘foundation’ is probably too generous. It was just one 4×4. This part of the house must have been added on later, as you can see the original siding of the house on one side. And whoever did this addition must have been practicing some marijuana mechanics, because its pretty janky. Worse yet, when the foundation started to sink years ago, instead of fixing the problem someone layered some 2×4 and 1×4 down and just laid a new floor over it that at least looked flat. So now we have a huge hole in our floor. Oops. The bright side is it gave us access to the last bit of water pipe I couldn’t reach before, and even better we discovered that there is a septic line running right by their, so we can add in some drains for a proper wash room! Squirrel…   Back to the well house. Seeing as how we had put so much effort into gutting the thing, we thought it would be wise to take the opportunity to convert it into some sort of useable space. So we packed in the insulation, got our resident electrician (our brother Hambone) to wire up the whole building for 110 and 220, new breaker box to control all of the power in all the out buildings, hardwired light fixtures, the works. Then we took a crack at hanging drywall and started finishing it out. Its not quite there yet but we are getting close. Now back to the house, and the giant gapping hole in the floor. First we cut out some siding so we could get under the wall, jacked up the entire wall until it was almost even, dug out some holes, stacked cinderblock underneath the walls, and poured cement into the blocks to create a solid foundation. Unfortunately while we were waiting for the cement to cure (takes a suprisingly long time when you are getting hit with snow storms every few days), the wall started to peel off of the building. So we made an attempt to lag the wall back to the building, but the wood is so ancient it won’t hold the bolts. And seeing as there are no solid foundation blocks to anchor off of we find ourselves at an impasse. TBC…   In other news the county has informed us that we have till the 3rd week of January to have out property completely fenced in and have either animals on the property or a signed contract saying we will be buying animals or we will be rezoned as residential, which would mean up to 1000% increase in our property taxes. So the first batch of pigs will be coming soon.. Hopefully quickly followed by chickens. If anyone wants to help run fence this weekend Ill buy the beer…