Thursday, August 10, 2017

Farmhouse Construction Update #9 - Foundation Stablilization

The block foundation under the north wall of the house was at the very early stages of failing.  Years (decades?) of water pouring alongside the foundation due to missing gutters and poorly graded soil had a lot to do with it.

I found a technique online that let me brace it from the inside, using steel beams. The other option was to excavate outside and either pour a new concrete wall alongside the existing, or simply rebuild it.

The wall had a slight bulge in the center, approximately 3/4" over 4 feet.  By anchoring the bottoms of the beams in the basement slab and lag screwing them to the joists overhead, I should be able to stabilize the wall.





Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Farmhouse Construction Update #8

I've been working on the north wall of the addition, which is where the kitchen (and my temporary bedroom is located).  I'm removing an old sliding patio door and putting a new window in its place. I'll also change the double casement window over the kitchen sink.  New 1" rigid insulation will go outside, then some new siding.

There was water damage from decades of minimal maintenance.  Basically water was getting where it wasn't supposed to be, leading to rotting wood which in turn attracted ants.  It wasn't as extensive as on the east part of the farmhouse, but I still had to brace up the floors and start cutting rotted wood out.





(Click on any image for a larger picture)











Things can take longer than I'd like. For example I thought I could install the window(s) in one day. Once I opened up the wall and had a look at the rot, I had to fix that. To date, I've worked three long days on this project. I still have to install the kitchen window, shore up the foundation with i beams, and put on the rigid insulation/siding.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Dog, Squirrel, Tree

Carl loves to chase critters. There are a bunch of little red squirrels here, sooo...


Part way through the video my camera operator lost the plot. While making my way over to the tree I forgot what I was doing.

The way Carl has caught the squirrel before is either the squirrel tries to make a break for it and Carl catches him before he can reach safety or I walk over to the tree and “flush” the squirrel, forcing it to chose between me or the dog, which is what I did in the video.

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That plastic nailed on the tree was to keep squirrels from using the tree to climb up onto the roof of the house.  The tree was about 2 feet from the house and needed to come down.  I hired a tree service to do it, and $1150 later, the branches were gone and the trunk was in pieces on the ground.

My dad was here to stack the pieces up. Anything bigger than 8" in diameter will eventually get split. All of it will be used to heat the house after a year or two of seasoning/drying out.




I took a video of him a few seconds after taking the pics above, but it didn't make it onto my phone.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Look and See vs. Come and See

This movie, about the life of Wendell Berry, looks interesting. However for me it might be preaching to the choir.



In a odd, or maybe not, coincidence, the title is very close to this movie, which I think is the most moving, haunting anti-war movie I've ever seen.


If you look on YouTube you'll find the whole movie there.

Friday, June 30, 2017

7200 Planter Repair

The John Deere 7200 conservation planter I bought a week ago has a few minor problems and I've started working on them.

The fertilizer boxes have a metal auger and housings that were corroded by the caustic fertilizer used by the previous owner. I won't be using the highly corrosive ammonium starter that conventional farmers use, though I will still use the fertilizer boxes to apply a much milder poultry manure next to the seed.  For that I need to stop the "rot" by cleaning and repainting the affected metal parts. I'm putting in stainless steel fasteners where I can.

(click on any image to make it bigger)


Lots of scraping and grinding. Wire wheeling.


After (on left) and before (right) cleaning. For the next step to work I just needed to get rid of any loose flakes. It was still a mess.


There are 3 fertilizer boxes with a housing at each end and an auger that pushes fertilizer out each side, where it is dropped into a slit made by an opener ahead of each row.  The layout in the bottom of each box is roughly as shown in the pic above. The auger is driven by a shaft connected via roller chains to the ground wheels.


I used a product called Corroseal that converts the rust into an inert metal. To finish these off I'll put 2 coats of oil paint over them.

Rust, also known as Iron Oxide, is formed by a chemical reaction in which Iron oxidizes when in the presence of Oxygen and water or excessive moisture. Iron Oxide lacks many of the structural characteristics of the original Iron material and will continue to spread deeper into the material. If left alone, rust will almost always result in total failure of the panel or component affected. It should be noted that once Iron has been converted to Iron Oxide, it cannot be changed back. Thus, even if converted to a more stable compound as in the case of a rust converter, there will still be a permanent decrease in the physical properties of the component affected.
How a Rust Converter Works in Theory
Rust converters are designed to neutralize existing rust as well as prevent it from advancing its damage. The active ingredient in most rust converters is Tannin, in the form of tannic acid. This tannic acid combines with the Iron Oxide to form a more stable compound called Iron Tannate, which is typically black in color compared to the reddish color of rust. Many commercial rust converters will include both a polymer to act as a protective layer, and an additional acidic compound designed to accelerate the chemical processes related to the tannic acids. One such acid, known as Phosphoric acid may also work as a rust converter itself, by reacting with the Iron oxide and converting it to black ferric phosphate.




The drive (roller) chains - 16 for sure maybe more -  are a little rusty so I'm cleaning them with "Evaporust". Next I'll put a coat of chain oil on them and reinstall them on the planter.

I still need to hook up the planter to the hydraulics on the tractor and make sure the vacuum system, marking arms,  seed monitor, and fertilizer auger are ok.

Once everything is working I'll put it in the shed so it's ready to go for next spring.

Kim Chi

Before I started making it, at least 5 years ago in Chicago with H2 (¡Hola!), I was intimidated by all the different "recipes" online. The fact that it sits out on the counter and decomposes (safely) added to my worries.

Now I make a batch, in this case a gallon, every few months. It goes on everything. To me its nothing more than chopped veggies with salt, allowed to ferment.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Dealing with Giant Ragweed

We don't have much, thankfully, though it's coming. Whether you spray (conventional farming) or till (organic) its a problem. Breaking up the timing of tillage by growing different crops seems to be key.



The Nordells, who farm in PA, have a "weed the soil, not the crop" approach that makes sense.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

New on the Farm: John Deere 7200 Conservation Planter




I bought it a couple of days ago at a farm retirement auction and drove west 100 miles to Rogers, MN to pick it up today.

It appears to be in really good shape and won't (hopefully) take much work to get it ready for next spring.  Conservation means that it's able to do "no-till planting" of corn, beans and similarly sized seeds.  We aren't no-till; the main way to get rid of weeds in an organic rotation is to till the soil. However I'd like to start minimizing the amount of tillage for a couple of reasons.  It has benefits to soil health, and secondly, I'm hoping to reduce the number of times that I have to spend tilling the soil prior to planting in the spring. There's a small window to plant. Any extra rain means I can't till until the soil dries out which can cause a delay in planting.  Late planting leads to lower (or no) yield.


click on any pic for a larger, clearer image






Lastly, I put some paint on the 300 gallon diesel fuel tank. So many things here are beat up and falling apart it makes me feel good to push back against all the decay.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front


Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

“Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front” from The Country of Marriage, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. 1973. Also published by Counterpoint Press in The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1999; The Mad Farmer Poems, 2008; New Collected Poems, 2012.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Farm Update: Replanting Soybeans + Birds in the Yard + Sickle Mower

The first planting of beans, about a month ago, didn't take, so we'll do about 38 acres again.  First dad (76 yrs old and works like crazy) re-tilled with the field cultivator, then we planted them with the drill.  Crop insurance will cover a percentage of the loss, not sure of the numbers.  Towards the end of the video we go a little off topic, but I don't really know how to edit these things. I'm also not interested in spending the time to learn.




Here's a short video of the birds as they move around outside. At about 8 weeks old they roam around looking for, and I'm hoping, eating ticks. There is a big problem up here with Lyme disease; I check myself constantly for ticks. I can occasionally feel them crawling on me but more often than not I lift up my shirt or pant leg to find nothing. Which is good, but it starts to play with my head after a while.



I got the sickle mower that I bought at auction hooked to the tractor and so far it's working. In a week or so I'll pull it 10 miles down Highway 63 and mow the 65 acres that are in clover. It's a slow process but given the equipment we have, the best option for getting rid of weeds ahead of next years corn.

Since I shot the pics, we took off the duals (the outside tires). They're good for added traction when you want to till, but when they're off its easier to mow. (They don't trample the grass ahead of part of the mower.)


Click on either of the images to make them bigger.



Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Moving the Birds Outside

My nephew George and my dad came to the farm to help move the birds from the brooder to the outdoor coop. Now that their feathers are in they can manage the cold nights. After getting acclimated to their new home they'll start wandering around the farm eating, I hope, ticks!



For some reason, to see a clearer image of any of the pictures below, you'll need to click on it --









Friday, May 26, 2017

Auction Buys

I bought a New Idea model 255 sickle bar mower and a 300 gallon diesel fuel tank.  After putting a new hydraulic cylinder on it and giving it a "tune up", I'll use the mower to cut weeds on the 65 acres that's in clover.  By cutting them before they go to seed, I'm hoping to reduce the amount of tillage I'll need to do next spring/summer.

The tank will get a coat of rust converter paint, a couple of new fuel filters, and a final coat of John Deere green.

Kind of amazing what you can move with ropes and chains.



Thursday, May 25, 2017

Planting Corn

We hire out the corn planting, as right now we don't have a planter!

He is using a John Deere 12 row model 1770.

This has a been a very cold, wet spring and the corn is going in late. We'll see how that affects the yield.




Monday, May 22, 2017

Trying to Dry Out a Field


We try to plant our corn by May 1st. This year has been wet and cold, but there was a small window last week and we missed it.  So, in between the rain, my dad (Gramps), is hoping that by running the field cultivator over this ground the wind will dry it out so we can plant it tomorrow.   The ground is sandy and well drained. It's supposed to rain in the afternoon, so we'll see. 

I had tilled this piece (roughly 30 acres) with the field cultivator almost three weeks ago. The soybean residue on it from last years crop was incorporated fairly easily into the soil.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Heavy Weather



The neighbor's rain gauge says we got 5" of rain.

I like the distorted images.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Baby Birds in Brooder



The birds - guinea fowl, chickens, ducks, geese and a lone turkey - are about a month old. In a week or two they'll have enough feathers to stay warm at night and I'll move them outside for the summer.  I'm counting on the guineas to eat enough ticks to spare me from Lyme disease.  I find myself checking twice a day for ticks; at this point I've only found 3, but I think there will be more as it warms up.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Farmhouse Construction Update #7

I said in the video that it was 0º.  Make that temp 32º (F).  My "mistake" means that my project of learning to think in degrees Celsius is working!  

I won't be able to work on the fireplace until June, when my friend Andy plans on coming up from Chicago to help me.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Repairs to the rotary hoe

The axles and shafts they spin in were fused together after decades of sitting outside and being exposed to the elements. I needed to get them apart and spinning freely.



By putting a piece of 3/4" x 1/8" strap in the slit I cut in the outer tube, the outside tube's diameter increased just enough to allow the rusty inner pipe to move freely.





I put some grease on the tire shafts and put them back in the sleeves. Now it's time to take the hoe up to the John Deere dealer and have them lift it off the trailer. Then I'll pull it, on the newly functioning tires, back to the farm.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

New Piece of Tillage Equipment - Rotary Hoe

Dad (Gramps?) found this piece at an auction and thought I'd be interested.  I brought it home yesterday.









Not sure where I read the thing weighs 3000 lbs. That seems a little on the high side.

In the video I mentioned a problem with the 7140 (the big red tractor). I found out what was wrong with the hinge - a connecting pin had sheared off! No idea how that happened, though the hinge on the other side of the hood had been repaired before with a bolt.  That's how I'll fix it. I drilled out the old 1/2" diameter shaft then, despite having piles of assorted fasteners here, I'm headed to the hardware store for the right bolt.





Sunday, March 19, 2017

Back in Turtle Lake - Tour Time

¿Qué tal? I finally got a new camera, one that shoots clear movies.

Hope to start working on the farm projects soon. (Y continuo trabajando en mi español)