Like a walk through the country side living on a small farm is full of daily surprises, sometimes wonderful and amazing, and other times puzzling and sad. I hope you will walk with me as I live out my dream of living on this tiny farm. You will come to know the dogs, cats, Shetland sheep and chickens that make up this farm and what goes into keeping them happy and healthy. Come and join the journey with me.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday Musings

Am I going to have to start screening what I watch, so as not to contribute to little kitty delinquency, Noah?? (He was fascinated with this show until a need for a nap overtook him...)

Today is 50 degrees! The birds are singing and there is just a tiny hint of the smell of Spring in the air. The skies are still gloomy, but once in a while the sun will attempt to break through. Yesterday was the same and the two days before that, while still crisp and cold, were sunny.

After I got off work yesterday and got home, there was much accomplished out in the yard. Granted nothing glamorous---but re-stacking the woodpile, gathering up and burning trash, and just general tidying up of all the piled up mess of winter. It was remarkable how I felt my whole attitude changing.

The ground is a muddy mess, but it's a fair trade-off for a few days!

Yesterday I finally, finally got my studded snow tires! I've had them ordered for almost two weeks (ordered the Monday after the Friday I almost ditched the truck). Each day I would call, and each day the guy would say, no, they aren't in, but they'll be here tomorrow. I believed him for about four days. Even he got fed up this week and called a different supplier, and they were indeed in the next day. Guess it's a little late in the season to be ordering them, and they are a little hard to come by. Now I have studded tires on the back and 'snow tires' on the front, and that should tremendously. Let's see if it restores my confidence..... Studded Snow Tires (2) = $180.00. Peace of mind...Priceless...

You can't hardly see them, but those beautiful little steel studs are there under the muck.

Also on the way home from work, I stopped at a local Mennonite sawmill and looked over their selection of Firewood. They have racks of wood up by the road, with a locked box, and big sign that says 'Honor System' in foot high letters. Each rack of wood is labeled according to the amount and it's worth. Mom and Dad stopped there the other day and noticed some 'slab wood' in a couple of the racks. I decided to stop and see if it was something I could use. Slab wood, for those who wonder, is what is left from the tree once it runs through the mill. It's usually covered with bark on one side and is very thin, so that it burns easily. While this stuff is green, it still would help stretch out my dwindling bits of dry wood. So I loaded up the 'ten dollar' rack and headed home. But not before sticking my ten dollar bill in the box!

It was threatening rain so as soon as I got home, I unlatched the side gate and drove the truck into the yard to unload the slabs. The balance were put on a pallet with a heavy duty tarp over them, with the rest going into the breezeway or house. If these work well, I'll probably get one more load in the next week or so.

While I had the truck close to the house, I loaded up some things that needed to go to the garage. Once I got the slabs unloaded, I worked on cleaning up and re-stacking the wood pile, so I could cover it up better. When it's cold, snowy, rainy (etc etc), things tend to get messy--wood falls or slides off here and there---and is often left where it lands. It's always a good feeling to restore order.

This morning my 'big' job was cleaning out the stove pipes inside the house. With all the green wood I'm having to burn, I knew it was time to get it done. The other night I could hear crackling in the stove pipes, and immediately shut down the dampers and got the fire suppression stick ready 'just in case'. Thankfully the creosote didn't continue to ignite, but flue fires are a real possibility with the wood heat.

This is bad...You do not want your pipes to look like this! Under the coat of ash dust is shiny black creosote.

Of course there are about a million little things I see that need done, in the light of a Saturday morning, and I found myself being distracted from one task to the next, until I realized what I was really doing. Stalling. If you haven't guessed I hate cleaning out the pipes, as it's a messy awkward job. Did I mention messy? No matter how hard I try it still ends up with ash and creosote gobs in the floor. Taking the pipes down is easy enough, but getting them back up is a challenge, as they seem to shrink, shift around or something.

Once the pipes are down, I take those two sections outside and clean them. The pipe that extends from the wall stays in, so I have to crawl up in a chair and with one foot on the stove, work the poker into the depths of the pipe, scraping and raking out the build up. I hang a plastic sack from the pipe and scrape the loose debris into that--this is what is called 'having a third hand'. (Note---there is no fire in the stove, as I let it burn out during the night so everything is cooled off). Once that is done, I scrape out the section that attaches to the stove, which is usually full of ash dust. Now put the pipes back up and clean up the mess, and it's finished! The whole time Meshach is bossing me around cause he is cold and why won't I get the fire going? Meow..meow..meow....

Fancy, technical ash/creosote removal system....

I'm hoping that there will be some nice days next week, so that my Dad can see about the outside chimney. If I know there will be some nice days, I can burn a chimney cleaner stick, which really helps loosen the buildup and much of it will fall. The only drawback is sometimes the loosened bits of creosote flakes will float up and block the chimney cap. That is why I need to have a few nice days!

I've also been washing pet bedding like mad and hanging it outside. It's been terrible trying to get this stuff washed up, since the weather has made it impossible to line dry the blankets. This is mostly Ashley and Boone's bedding. Hound dog stinky Boone is getting a bath in a little bit too, but he doesn't know it yet. Shhh...don't tell him!

Wow... I just stepped out to hang more laundry and it's nice out there. The sun is actually shinning now, and the dogs are all stretched out soaking it in.

Blue, the merino ram seems to be doing much better. Lanny (the wether) is enjoying hanging out with the ewes although he looks like a giant next to them. It's quite comical.

Back to Blue...he is now getting two pounds of mixed grain a day (divided into a.m. and p.m. feedings). He won't eat the hay I give him, although I suspect he is still munching on the big round bale. However I bought some alfalfa hay cubes for him, which he can't eat, unless I bust them with a hammer. He will eat them then. Does anyone know if alfalfa pellets would constitute enough roughage for him, if he isn't eating hay? It would be fantastic if they did so I could switch him to that and just feed out the hay cubes to the rest of the sheep that have good teeth. Save me some time breaking up the cubes! I may be just being imagining things but he looks to me like he is putting on a bit of weight.

Well, I better get out into that sunshine before it hides again. It's peaceful at the moment in the house with 'kitty quiet time' evidently in effect. Two in front, one behind the stove. Two in the closet and two on the bed. Sage is up poking around into something though. (Yes..I do periodic head counts, especially when I'm using the washer! ha...)

Purple Finch at the Feeder...

Have a great weekend! Hope you are getting a little taste of Spring in your neck of the woods too.


Star said...

That sounds like one busy Saturday Tammy! Would you be better off with a chimney sweep's brush for the pipes? Interesting to me because I've never had a wood burner. Is the creosote in the green wood? and sticks to the pipe when burning? I think that's what you meant. I know about coal and the way it clogs up a chimney here in England. When I was small we always had to have the chimney sweep in every year before the winter started.
Hope you got all your tasks done.
Yes, we are just beginning to see signs of Spring here, notably lots of pretty snowdrops, oops, don't mention the word snow!
Blessings, Star

Vicki Lane said...

Oh yes, we are having sun here too ... and doing some cleanup as well.
I've done the rubber glove patrol around the house for all the dog poops revealed when the snow melted. (Old Molly won't travel very far in the snow.) And there are all the spider webs suddenly revealed in the house . . . and best of all, I saw a pair of bluebirds!

Happy weekend!

Joanna@BooneDocksWilcox said...

I don't know about sheep but alfalfa pellets are a little too rich for male goats, they can have a little but not too much. Are you suspecting that something is wrong with the hay? maybe it got mildewed?

Sun has been out today, and is welcome to stay.

Tammy said...

Star--warmer weather sure makes me more motivated! I do have a wire brush with extendable poles for the outside chimney, but I fear I'd create an even bigger mess inside if I tried to use it on the pipes inside. Creosote is basically caused when you have a fire that kind of smolders along and never gets very hot (green or wet wood being a big culprit). The pipes or chimney never get really hot so when the smoke hits it, it solidifies and attaches to the pipes/chimney and turns into creosote. From what I understand your coal fires can do much the same thing. The trick with wood is to have a dry seasoned wood to burn,the fire burns hotter and helps keep things cleaner. Although having your chimney cleaned out once a year (like you had yours) at least is still very important.
Ah..the lovely Spring 'poop patrol':-) It's amazing how it ,er, piles up. But your bluebird reward was exciting.
Joanna--It's the same with male sheep too as they are prone to urinary calculi from rich feeds, so I rarely grain the rams/wethers. However, since Blue is nine and basically is skin and bones, I've just been giving him whatever I can to try to get the weight on. It's just kind of one of those situations--danged if you do..danged if you don't. I think the hay I've given him is fine. It's the 'good stuff' square bales that I save for the ewes that are lambing. My thoughts are his teeth as just not good enough to adequately chew up the hay... It's just so hard to know what the best thing to do is.

Angie said...


Good move on getting the studded tires! We might have more moving in on us, weather wise. I hope the weather men are wrong though! The only job you can be wrong 1/2 the time and still have a job (Ha).
My uncle used to chimney sweep on the side. I'm not sure how he does it but he used to do that during winters because he does yard work during all summer. Not a fun job at all I bet!
It was lovely having the sun out and feeling good temps for a change. Thank you Lord for your blessings!


Pat in east TN said...

We have had a beautiful couple of days here and it has inspired me to get some outside work done (some trimming of bushes, Bermuda grasses, AND 'poop patrol' too), and some inside work done as well. Funny what some semi-warm weather and sunshine can do for a persons soul!

Michelle said...

Tammy, you ARE inspiring! You just "git-er-done," whatever it is that needs doing.

Glad you're getting some decent weather now. We are in the middle of spring, if the weather and flowers are any indication. It's too early, and bodes badly for summer, but lovely nonetheless.

Kathy said...

Tammy, I think Blue might handle the pellets OK for a while. You bring up the point that he's 9, so I know you're trying to think of everything to get weight back on him. Keep in mind that there could be something unseen going on there too re: weight loss.
I feed timothy pellets to the boys and Loki, but "sprinkle a salt-and-pepper" of alfalfa leaf right now while they are healing. I very, very rarely grain any of the boys - BUT, I'm talking about know...the breed where high quality feeds can be like throwing gas on a woodfire with these primitive breeds. Blue is not a Shetland though, and that may work in your favor. If he's not touching hay at all I don't think you have much choice. One thing you can do with the hay cubes is soak them in hot water to soften them, add a dollop of molasses and see if that will work for him. If he scarfs it up, all the better.
It's amazing what soaking feed does for the older ones.
I will keep him and you in my thoughts today.

Kathy said...

And I love the photo of the finch...

We're having a foot of snow today. :( It's starting to get to all of us, being house/barn bound. One of the chickens kept pecking at some wood in the barn, in boredom I'm sure.
The photo reminded me of the finches we get here and how cheerful their songs are.

Good onya, mate...for cleaning the woodstove. Just be careful, even with studded tires. Ice is the great leveler of all vehicles. ;)