Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Barn raising Swamp billy style

When the Amish raise anything they gather up a bunch a hardworking serious guys to life heavy poles, but since I don't like to ask for help and since I once helped carry a twenty six foot long Ibeam with a bunch of San Francisco's finest homeless people I figured I would do this alone. After that I felt as if I had regrettably participated in the ultimate group lifting experience. I went after this swampbilly style.

One end of the old garage collapsed years ago and has been about five feet off the ground in the center ever since. So I gathered up all the car jacks I could find and went to work.  I'm not sure why I had to do this today, but I guess I figured that after all the time spent hauling junk out of this thing I would be mad as hell if it collapsed and I had to get a bull dozer or a gallon of gas to get rid of it.  I'm not sure if this is the right way to lift a wall and the Fedx guy who dropped off a package was giving my funny looks.  Of course it could have been the angle that the bottle jack was at or the PJ Harvey playing on the CD player.

Of course I underestimated how much I would have to jack it up so I ended up having to move the third jack back and forth. I had to raise each end, add more blocks, and reset the jack.  After a lot of creaking and moaning I got the whole thing back up into place and onto some spiffy new 4x4 posts.  I probably should have bought some concrete piers to set them on, but as it is I went over my forty dollar budget by four bucks.
Tonight though I am happy.  I got the thing back up and didn't even have a jack slip out and crush my face. Sweet.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sip and Seed and then some

This is a Sponsored Post written by me on behalf of All opinions are 100% mine.

The more I live here the more I realize that the more you support your wildlife the better. The birds serve a purpose just like everything else. I put up this great bird feeder we got just the other day. I like being able to have the option to put either water or food in this feeder. We had thousands of Robin Red Breasts in the yard this winter and I couldn't afford to feed all of em, but I could put water out. During the rainy parts of the year there is really no need to put out extra water so there may be time we fill both silos with bird seed. We actually fill our bird feeders with chicken scratch. Since we always have a bag in the house and it only cost ten bucks for a fifty pound bag this saves some cash. When my wife first told me we could use chicken scratch I said I didn't think birds would eat it and she had to remind me that chickens are, in fact, birds. Tasty juicy birds that go well with just about everything.

Hopefully this year our blue berry bushes will produce more and we may get another one of these Sip and Seed feeders to put near them. The guy at the blue berry farm told me that the reason he has feeders and a certain kind of bird house is because that kind of bird will drive out the ones that eat the blue berries. I will have to ask him what kind of birds they are and copy the bird houses that he has on posts at the end of his blueberry rows. I would have never thought I would be much of a bird watcher, but as I notice them more I actually find them interesting. This fall there were some birds eating out of my deer feeder that were almost neon green. That is the only time I have seen them and I find myself looking for the different kinds of birds.

sip & seed birdfeeder

When my youngest realized that I was filling up bird feeder she demanded I fill the bird feeder she made in preschool last year. She wanted to know if she could make a pretty bird feeder like the sip and seed when she got older.

Visit my sponsor: Bring all the birds to your yard

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Come and take It

This is Western Weekend in Tyler County. Yesterday was parade and rodeo day, so we took the kids to both. They had a great time--they love seeing all the horses and wagons. The back road that we take to town is one of the paths the trail riders take into town so we even got our own private parade before the main event. There are probably a few dozen wagons that people build to look like covered wagons except they use truck tires and weld the frame out of tube steel.

Besides parades I'm not really sure where people ride these things. Most of them are part of trail riding clubs, but I don't know where these trails could be. After the parade, the fairgrounds have a rodeo with bullriding, roping, and group riding. For the entertainment of the adults, they also have a goat scramble where kids chase a goat and get a trophy if they manage to catch one. Our youngest tried this to no avail. Even more entertaining is what they call mutton bustin'. Take a bunch of six year old volunteers, slap on helmet, and put them on the back of a very unhappy sheep. Within seconds the kid is face down in the mud. You just can't that in the city.

Unlike the Dogwood parade next week that has floats people make, the main decoration for the western parade is shiny western clothes and flags. Texans love flags. Most Texans will tell you that you Texas is the only state that can fly its flag at the same height as the U.S. flag, but according to Wikipedia, the source of all true wisdom and knowledge, this is an urban legend. All state flags can be flown at the same height. Checking out the wiki for the Texas flag, I did find the flag I want, which is a flag with a star and a cannon with the phrase "Come and take It" across the bottom.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A place of their own

They grow up and move out so fast seems like just yesterday they were in the house chirping all freaking night. Oh, that was yesterday. They have survived their first night outside. I'm not sure how cold it got last night, but we hung a light inside the enclosed part of our new chicken tractor. Probably for a week or so they will be able to all crowd inside this one. This week I will build another one so that we can divide them as they get bigger. Finding how many we can have in each one will be the key. Three in each one eventually seems right, but it is hard to tell. The hardest part at this point will be moving the tractor without smooshing a baby chick. They seem to be happy to have dirt and grass at their feet. Last time we had chicks it didn't take long after this age for the different breeds to turn on each other. I had no idea that even hens could be so aggressive.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The big attraction

Like most small towns there ain't squat to do in Woodville. This weekend was the Heritage Festival that they hold ever year at Heritage Village which is a couple miles out of town. Luci took the girls and they wandered around the old buildings and learned about traditional arts and crafts and saw some singing and dancing. Heritage Village is a collection of building maintained by the towns historic society that contain items from the early settlement of the area. I think there is around twelve buildings in various condition that include the typical school house, jail cell, barber shop and work shop buildings. My personal favorite is the building full of Buggy's.

Every time we go I think about my grandfather taking us to the museum he worked on in Delano. Every time we went as kids it felt like the first time. I can remember my grandfather telling the story of how the sheriff almost shot the mannequin in the general store when checking on a reported break in. I remember helping to move toilets and unstick doors when they brought in a new building while I was visiting. Not much to speak of I think I have the clearest picture in my mind of the jail cell, one of the oldest in California, which was like a tiny log cabin with a small window covered by iron bars inside and out. The door weighed a ton and peering inside the only thing you could really see was an army of spiders.

The kids enjoyed seeing how a loom works and how candles were made as well as the ever popular shingle splitting. I know they have seen the same demonstrations every year, but they always seem interested. Maybe because they see it from a new perspective every year as they grow up. Fourth of July, Heritage Festival, Dogwood Weekend and anytime someone visits from out of town usually require a trip to heritage village. Seems like Halloween would be a great time to go to a place like this I know I could scare the bejeezes out the kids with stories of the old man who still haunts the old saloon to this very day. They always fall for that one.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I'm like carbon Switzerland

I got this Email this morning.


thank you so much for participating in our initiative and making your blog carbon neutral! Your tree will be planted next month by the Arbor Day Foundation. We thank you for the support!


"Make it green!"-team

Now I can finally stop laying awake a night worrying about the amount of carbon created by my blog.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Empire of Dirt

It looks like giant mole came burrowing under the highline yesterday. On my way down the road yesterday to the kids to school this guy pulls up beside my truck and waves for me to roll down the window. He works for Texas Drainage and they are cutting out the ditches (never under estimate the importance of a good drainage ditch) and he wants to know if I need any dirt can they dump some on our property. I didn't realize how much "some" dirt means. When I came home for lunch they told me that they had dropped of one load, this load. If I hadn't come home they would have dropped off another four or five. It will take me quite a bit a time to move all this. Most will be used to fill they road, although it would be a good idea to mix in some gravel. The rest I guess we will use as a base for our raised beds.

Monday, March 15, 2010


With the little fella's growing up fast we had to have a place for them to wait for their day in the pot. The chickens we have now get let out of the coop most days freely running around the yard scratching and pooping. This works pretty good, but sometimes they wander off during the day or just don't come back when it gets to be dark. The chickens were just got will spend their days in one of these chicken tractors were building.

Every day or so we will move this portable coop so they have access to fresh grass and bugs and the massive amounts of poop will be spread out amongst various parts of the yard in desperate need of free fertilizer. Right now were thinking maybe three chickens to a tractor, maybe four. We figure this is a much better deal than they would be offered in a massive chicken factory. I call it a factory simply because I don't know what you call em. I know the raw chicken flesh filling grocery store meat isles didn't come from anything that could be called a farm and I am pretty sure a chicken ranch is only legal in certain parts of Nevada.

I figure if you include the 2x2', plywood and poultry netting we will spend about twenty five bucks making one of these. The sheet metal roof will salvaged from the old barn, but if we had to buy that we could chuck on a another ten bucks. A whole chicken ready for roasting is about seven, so only about four or five chickens have to die for us pay for our investment. With real estate and the stock market in the crapper that's a return you can't beat.

Can I deep fry em yet?

Twenty new little pooper's came home with us this weekend. We took the kids to Tolars feed store and bought some new chicks and bag of starter feed. They chicks will stay in the house in a couple dog crates for a few days till they are able to deal with the temperature changes a little bit. The kids are very excited and want to play with the bunch of em. After a while I found the girls sitting in front of the cage trying to come up with names for all twenty. I told them that pets have names and live inside. Farm animals live it outside anonymously. I told the girls if they wanted to give names they could be things like "and dumplings" or "noodle soup" or "fried" anything you throw the word chicken on either side and come up with dinner.

We are not sure how many of these will be laying hens and how many will be lunch. On the same day we brought these home Luci found someone wanting to sell twenty broilers for a buck each to get rid of them. Next weekend we should be getting those. How many of those will go straight to slaughter is not clear yet, but the soil at the LongBranch Ranch may run red with blood. The only real question is should we let the little guys watch so they know what's coming or leave them in peaceful ignorance.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Growing Taters

I have no idea if I cut up these seed potatoes the right way, but I am going to let em dry and plant them none the less. I was told I need to check to see if the moon is in root or flower or some such thing in the farmers almanac. I am not really putting much faith in that sorta thing, but it's tradition so I will give a look.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A fat sack of seed

Seeds and bees are two things I never gave much thought to until I started trying to grow food in the garden, but you can't grow squat without either one. Today I got this pack of seeds in the mail from Hometown Seeds I can't decide if am going to chuck it in the freezer or open it up and plant the whole lot of em. When you look around at homesteading or gardening sites you come across quite a few places selling "survival seeds". The idea is you keep these on hand in case of some type of crisis that shuts down the supply chain so you can start your own garden. The pack I got is forty bucks for enough seeds to plant a 3/4 acre garden which is three times the size I have. Our garden was quite a bit of work so I imagine that would be enough for us.

We live in the boonies and should something happen that we couldn't get out of here we would need to fend for ourselves. Sounds silly, but just after Hurricane Rita it was a about a week before we could buy gas. Not to minimize the Hurricane, but in the scheme of things it was a small localized disaster. Should a large scale catastrophe happen on the gulf coast it could take even longer. Even if we couldn't get out for a couple weeks that mean a loss of income we could partially make up for growing our own food. Now I am not a survivalist. I don't plan on building any bunkers and although I have always secretly wanted a pistol grip AK, I don't plan on stockpiling weapons, but I can't see anything wrong with a having a little extra supplies laying around.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The unexpected rodeo

I lived in Las Vegas for ten years and during that time I think I missed out on the chance to see a pretty wild sporting event. The National Finals Rodeo happens every year in Vegas and the city swarms with cowboy hats. Living out here in the country there isn't much to do so when something is going on you go. The kids insist upon it. Be it parade, fair or rodeo you go. I was skeptical at first, but even the small rodeo that happens on a the small grounds next to the airport is impressive. Growing up in the city I had never seen a rodeo before and TV does do the size and power of the animals justice. I wouldn't even think a getting on one those monster size things they ride in the NFR. I don't know if they have a goat scramble for the kids at the National Finals Rodeo in Vegas, but I know that everybody would have a great time. Buying tickets to any event in Las Vegas can be pricey, but the NFR is good deal for the money. When you figure it cost like sixty bucks to see Blueman Group do the same show you saw last year you can't go wrong with NFR tickets.

National Finals Rodeo tickets for sale