Sunday, April 28, 2013

A great week here!

So much work got done recently, even with all the rain and cold weather keeping us from getting outdoors to do much. First, I'd like to address a few comments made on the last couple of posts, because I think it's important to keep up with the give and take my Gentle Readers and I have together.

For "Unknown," who mentioned about the glassworker here, that would be Red Fern Glass, literally just down the mountain road from me. I checked before thinking to see about a recycler around here, because I, too, thought maybe he could use it. Unfortunately, he has no use for broken mirrored glass, or window glass or tempered bakeware glass or mason jar glass or microwave turntable glass. But it's a great idea, or we both wouldn't have thought of it, so thank you!

For Brother Curt, I had insurance at Butterball, but it wasn't the greatest. And truthfully, the whole time I had it, I've had to fight with it. In the time I was insured there, I never did get my eye care or dental care cards, no matter how many times they were ordered. There's an issue with having added Quentin and our daughter (my daughter, his stepdaughter, but he is "Daddy" to her), because Blue Cross NC screwed up the effective date after Q got fired last fall. That has made a problem with a prescription Amber had in late December getting reimbursed after it wouldn't go through at all to begin with. Four months later and I'm still waiting for the paper claim folks to fix things and send me the check so that I can send it up to Mom to repay her for putting out for the thing out of her pocket. It wouldn't be so bad but it was nearly $200!

For Amand, yes, the kudzu is a pain in the behind and a bit of a nightmare to clear when it's old and the main stems are thick and woody. (I tend to cut those up for the woodpile for kindling, no waste around here if I can avoid it!) It grows like crazy and is a mess. I really hate the stuff, especially when treetops are tangled together in it and you have to take down a bunch of scrub to get the first one out of the way completely!

For Tina, yes things are going to get slowly better and Q will get back to work. Now that I'm back at Tysons, he knows it's just a matter of time before he can go back, too, and things will really get better. And I don't remember  the message I sent you but I don't think it was horribly important. Good luck on your venture, my friend! I hope it comes together for you in short order. Waiting can be so hard on a person when you've waited and waited for something, can't it?

And finally, for Harry, thank you for the link, but do please remember folks, while the article said lines could go so fast, they realistically can't. The human body can only move so fast to do certain jobs. The USDA looking for things isn't as much of a problem as the article makes out, either. At least at Tysons, we are trained to look for things like bad meat and pull it off the line for further inspection and potential disposal into the condemned barrels by line leads, so as to keep it out of the human food chain. If it's just bruised and overly discolored, it'll go off to pet food. If it's really nasty looking (some birds come in with hidden infections you don't see till you're cutting them up), then it goes into the incinerator.

Speaking of Tysons, it's great to be back. Obviously, I can't talk about how we do things because that's company confidential information, but I can say that Butterball had me doing stuff that was mostly one-handed, and I'm a lefty. So now working with both hands a LOT, my right hand and arm all the way up to my shoulder really is kind of sore. It'll pass in a few weeks, but in the meantime, my right arm aches, especially the wrist. Once my body gets used to the new range of motion stuff I'm doing, I'll be okay. Tyson is good, too, in that we have to stop the lines twice a day to do stretching exercises so that we don't hurt so much. The stretching is for ergnomic reasons, to help keep us healthier and less in pain, though it still aches some. I'm glad though, that I'm in a job where I stand up straight all day again, so I can be comfortable, instead of bent half over all day long, and end up with my back screaming at me and feeling like a bunch of hot knives are laid across it, and having my feet ache so bad that they throb all the time, quite literally, to where walking on them or just standing up hurt so much it was a miracle I could do it at all. A better, more comfortable work stance makes a big difference. I walk out of the plant tired, but not hunched over like some kind of Quasimodo!

And now for some pictures from the last couple of weeks!

Where we cut down that thorny locust a couple of weeks ago. We still haven't had time or good enough weather to get it cut up, but you can see a bit better (sort of) the old "goat pen," such as it is. It wouldn't hold a goat for nothing now, but it will make good scrap once Q gets the oomph up to go tear it down.

Another view of same. You can see  lot of the trash on the ground where we cut stuff down, but it's a lot easier to clean up without having to work around trees. I really need to get this area raked  up to make it look better once the last little bit of big trash is out of there.

No, that's not snow in the foreground. That's a piece of old carpet sitting on top of a lot of rocks. We use it to toss a lot of the brush on, as it's right next to where we cut logs for the wood pile. The pile in front of the trailer is the last of the old toolshed out back that I tore down.

Some of the brambles I cut down from next to the house. There's a lot less there than it seems, but there's so many dead canes and they arch all over the place, so it looks like a LOT of stuff there. They didn't fruit much if at all last year, so they're getting cut back completely if not pulling out of the ground for me, so I can plant other things here and put a new planting of brambles elsewhere.

More brambles I cut down, this pile came from around where the old shed was. The spots level enough to put a new shed, so that's likely where one will go once things are completely cleaned up.

Me and brambles and short sleeves don't get along well. You can see the scratches from carrying armloads of the cut down stuff to the burn pit.

The "yard" next to the walking path, looking toward the house. You can see that the deckside trash piule is much smaller - Q is at least trying to get out and burn some of that stuff, which is what's stirring up the wildlife! There's a lot of junk weeds I pulled out of here that got burned, that only took me about an hour to clear up all of last year's dead stuff.

Some of the logs I hauled out of where the old shed was, from off the trees that smushed it. You can see the woodpile is still growing, we are never going to be done working on it, lol. Some of the stuff I hauled up is already cut up ...

And this is what about 3-4 hours work with my little 8" Black & Decker battery powered chainsaw did for kindling and small logs. That's a LOT of wood there, I counted nearly 60 logs when I threw them on the pile.

Using one of my eventual garden tires to hold down some of the brambles I'd cut up and dragged to near the burn pit, because it was too windy to burn and we didn't want them blowing all over the yard.

More of the brambles in the pit before lighting them off.

Not sure if they are daffodils or tulips, but these are the flowers that are trying to grow out between the "goat pen" and the old sewage lagoon.

And this one I took this morning from my car on the way down the mountain road. It's the little seasonal creek that tends to flow across the road (and has created a small gully in doing so) just below our property line. Teeny waterfall!!!!!!! It sounds so neat, babbling along as the water flows across all the rocks, and looks so pretty.

So that's it for this week, hopefully all this rain will clear up so I can get outside again and do some stuff! I love my job, but I'd love to get out and work on my property, too!!!!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Changes and wildlife

Wildlife this week was awful. Snakes everywhere, though not bothering anything. I think they're basically getting flooded out some lower down the mountain because the "wet crick" that's usually dry is still going strong, and low spots in cow pastures around here are all flooded out. Least we can't gripe about no rain so far THIS year. Looks like the drought might be over, though I'm not sure it's so good for folks along the Mississippi River basin. News reports have many places in danger of some flooding, including St. Louis, MO, home of the Gateway Arch. It's a bit scary to think about the flooding, because being on a mountain, it's not something I have to deal with unless I leave the property, which is just about every day for something - work, errands, getting email on Sundays, etc.

The other bad part about the wildlife this week is that apparently, clearing up that trash pile off the deck is stirring stuff up, though I don't mind, because I can see bare dirt in places there now, and a lot of it can be burned. The boys have caught a LOT of mice this last week, and early last week, they trapped something between the bed and the wall. The bottom box spring had slid around a bit till one side was away from the wall, leaving a v-shaped gap. They chased whatever it was in there, and Bouncer, especially, was trying really hard to get in at it. I thought at first he was just denyingem sleep and being the goofball that he often can be, but Monday night, just about the time it was getting dark, he was still at it and going crazy trying to get in there. So I took the big flashlight and shone it in there. "See, Bouncer, there's nothing in theeeee -- YEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!" I had to leap up and grab the pellet gun, because there was a huge freaking RAT in behind the bed! Took seven shots to kill it since it kept moving around and driving me crazy trying to hit it, but it finally got stuck and stunned enough that for the last, seventh, pellet, I was able to pull the mattress and top box springs away from the wall, kneel on the bed, and put the muzzle right up against it's ear and blast it's little brains out.

I don't mind rats any more than the other wildlife around here. They've got more right to live here than I do, but I do prefer they keep their distance. Besides, rats can carry as many if not more diseases than other pests that can get in the house, and they do tend to bite more than the mice. So I'm a little wary about them. I did wrap it up and left it on the porch for the DNR to retrieve to check it for rabies (thank goodness, that came up negative), because I didn't want to have to worry about that. The boys got some serious praise, especially Bouncer, because he was more than willing to go in behind the bed and try to tackle the thing all by himself, and it was a good-sized rat, about a third his size. Didn't matter to him, he figured It Didn't Belong and He Was Going To Kill It. Period, full stop, that bugger was dead at his teeth and claws if he could get to it. The boys did enjoy a good sniff on the rat before I wrapped it up and put it outside.

The trees are greening up nicely, and the places that got cleared out last summer and fall are showing some grass and such growing up among all the leaves, so some greening of the ground is taking place, too. I do wish Quentin felt up to doing more. Some have asked what's going on with him and why I don't mention him lately. In all seriousness, he's going through a major bout of depression over the lack of a job, and jobs here are not always that easy to find. It's also difficult for him to job-hunt, because he lacks computer skills, and most places want you to use a computer to fill out an internet application (something else we lack), so while he's doing some things around the place, like the general housework, he's also feeling kind of helpless and morose and just generally depressed, so he spends a lot of time sleeping or playing games on his PS2 to make the time pass. Sadly, he has almost seven months before he can rehire at Tysons, where he wants to go back to. So he's not a lot of help lately and it's a bit hard on me to have to be on top of everything and responsible for everything, too. But we are making it.

And it's going to get better. I found out a couple of weeks ago that Butterball was going to be cutting hours for the spring and even more for the summer, to the point that we couldn't have survived on what I'd bring home. It almost was going to not be worth going in. I knew my rehire wait period for Tysons (long story why I left there, not my fault, but what I get for following protocol and having a supervisor who was a misogynist), so I stopped at the gas station on the way home one day a couple of weeks ago to call the local hiring center and see if they could tell me. If I'd known my wait time was up last summer, I would have never hired in at Butterball and would have just rehired at Tysons. Because I finally got off Butterball early enough one day that I hightailed it to the Tysons hiring center and put in my application. I took the plant tour Wednesday (meant taking a day off Butterball, and we can't really afford that, but I had to do it to have a chance at getting hired). I was going to go to Butterball for a few hours work that afternoon, but after the tour, they asked me to come back that afternoon for my interview and physical, and since I'd found out that Butterball was closing early again anyhow, I said the heck with it and went back for the interview. Got through that and the physical, and got offered to start tomorrow (Monday) with Tysons.

So the great news that I mentioned last week is that I am no longer working for Butterball (I quit Friday at the end of the day), and am officially employed by Tysons again. Better pay ($12.40 an hour within a couple of weeks), guaranteed 40 hours a week on first shift, better benefits, cheaper insurance (and better), closer to home by seven miles one way, and still close enough to a grocery store that I can pick up fill-in stuff during the week if need be. I have to have Quentin go get my last check from Butterball, because they don't do direct deposit on final checks, and then we'll have to go to Wal-Mart to cash it because our bank is in Branson (we like the bank and refuse to change just because we can't get to the branch easily), but that's ok. Tysons does direct deposit, too, and they have you fill out the paperwork for it right off at the interview, so you get your checks in the bank from the get-go instead of having to wait a few weeks for them to get it all straightened out.

This extra money means that even with only one paycheck, we'll be able to do things a bit more now. The well will be developed finally, and I'll be able to spend a bit each week on stuff for the garden now, too! And we'll be able to get fencing done, and more clearing of brush and trees since we can afford gas for Quentin's chainsaw for the big stuff. And so much more.

Mentioning my chainsaw reminds me, that little thing is a blessing. I think I've mentioned before, it's a great little tool for a battery-powered chainsaw. You wouldn't think it has the power it does. For getting our kindling cut up, it does a bang-up job way faster than the hand saw ever did. Plus if we need something trimmed in place, it does it a lot faster and easier. Kudzu can't stand up to it for nothing, it's just that tough. Now, I have found out that as long as I'm not cutting oak or the thorny locust up (some of the hardest wood we've got on the place), the battery will last three or four hours of cutting and trimming. If I'm doing the really hard woods, or bigger stuff, the battery will last maybe an hour, because it just takes so much more torque to get through the wood. I have cut four-inch logs with it with no problems, though, other than I had to get the chainsaw file out yesterday and sharpen the blade. It was getting a bit dull, and it needed dealing with.

(Thank goodness for autosave ... I accidentally closed out my browser where I was typing this from scratch this week without posting. Didn't lose anything though, so that's all good!)

And now it's time for me to dump my gazillion emails and get a few groceries and head home. See you next time, hopefully with photos!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A good week for me!

This has been an extremely good week, despite some crazy weather and a spring cold. My sinuses have been draining like mad all week, and are finally drying up, thank goodness. I like breathing for some reason. *grin* The weather overall hasn't been horrible, but there was a bad cold snap the other night where temps got down to freezing again. BRRR! Made for a cold drive to work the next morning!

Speaking of work, there's something in the work's to fix the problem of not making enough to survive as easily as I'd like on what I'm making right now, but I don't want to talk about it and spoil the possibilities. I'll tell all the juicy details if things work out as I hope they will.

Around here, I've gotten a lot done. Had some help to get one good-sized tree down near the midden heap, because it's in the way of where I want the chicken coop to go. It's all trimmed up and part of the main trunk was cut to logs by my neighbor/buddy who helps in exchange for homemade cookies. This week's "payment" was peanut butter with peanut butter chips and Reeses Pieces in them. Yummy. I do love to bake, and I'll be glad when things get far enough along that I have a propane pig up here for a real stove/oven and an on-demand water heater. Course, that means having the water to a point that I have a deep-well pump installed for the water heater. I can do just the stove for a start, with a shutoff and a stub off the main pipe to later add on the water heater. I think these things out, because I know it's not always  good idea to go for the whole thing right off. All my projects have to be done in bits and pieces.

Which reminds me, the Merlot started getting torn to pieces this week, too. One end has had a good chunk of the siding taken off, and while I'd love to save the insulation and paneling and studs and all for rebuilding into a chicken coop ... it's going to mostly get burnt in the burn pit. It's all too degraded and brittle, and the studs have some serious dry rot, the insulation has some mold (yes, I'm wearing a mask working on the thing, mold is nasty stuff to deal with), and the paneling is just plain nasty. So it's going to get scrapped as much as possible and the rest burnt to get rid of it. I also got a lead from the metal scrapyard in Harrison where I take my scrap, about a place near them that might take all the broken glass around here off my hands. If so, it's a few more bucks if they'll pay for it. If not, it's not that far out of the way to dump on them when on a regular scrap run. I need to call them Monday, because I didn't get home from errands early enough today to look up the number and call them before they closed.

I also spent some time burning some brush and a lot of those blackberry brambles that didn't set fruit last summer. The ones I cut down are the bunch alongside the house behind the deck. There isn't as much there as I thought there was, because most of the canes are around twenty or so feet long and just arch up and over all over the place. They're so long and have been let go for so many years, the ends of the canes have tipped over and started rooting to make new canes. Yeesh. There's a ton of dead canes in there that just add bulk. They come out pretty easily but good night there is a LOT of that stuff. So about  half of the stuff is gone now, cut down and hauled off to the burn pit and lit off. WHOOSH. Nothing like burning a bunch of green scrub and watching it go up in smoke. I'm beginning to become a bit of pyromaniac when it comes to clearing this place up.

As I write, the trees are greening up, what grass there is is green and growing, and the wildlife is doing well. The birds are singing "my tree!" all day long, I've seen salamanders/geckos and rabbits and mice and SKWIRLS!!!! all over the place. The boys really aren't too happy with the skwirls. They'd like to go catch them, especially Bouncer, but the little furry buggers just sit there outside the window and scold the kitties for even thinking such a thing as coming outside to chase them. I'm not sure what's funnier, the cat's expressions when the skwirls are scolding them, or the skwirls sitting on the stair rail chattering in the front window. The place is starting to look better with every little bit that's done to clean it up, and I find myself often waking up to wonder what the weather will be when I get home from work so I can see about getting outside and getting something done, no matter what I decide my project of the day is.

I tend to skip around between three projects, cutting down trees and scrub brush and brambles and getting them burnt or in the woodpile, clearing up the nasty trash all over the place (including picking up all the scrap metal and chucking it in one of the trash cans I keep around for that purpose), or tearing apart the Merlot. I love working on all of them, and I skip around to keep from getting bored on any one project, so things get looking better in spotty activity, but the spots tend to be about 25 to 30 square feet at a stretch for a day's work on things, which with work and errands and getting email and the little grocery shopping I have to do all meaning I get anywhere from an hour to three hours a day to work around here. I halfway joke that I have two jobs - the one that gives me a paycheck and the farm, and truthfully, with as many hours as I put in here to get things cleared up and ready to do what I want, it is a second, part-time, job. It just doesn't give me a paycheck yet.

And even evenings when it's dark don't get wasted. Between knitting myself socks, crocheting yet another afghan, and working on my doll clothes patterns that I'll eventually be putting on Ravelry to sell (and hopefully on a webstore one of these days), I'm busy then, too. This past week, I spent time on the computer putting together a spreadsheet for all my seed catalogs. Basically, I went through and found all the things I'd LIKE to have, and made some notes in the spreadsheet about price and supplier and such, then sorted it out by the different things (like all the varieties of corn sorted together, and so forth), and deleted the ones that were duplicates with the higher prices. Turns out that my favorite place is, as always, a perennial favorite, Pinetree Garden Seeds. There's several places that will get some business, but a few catalogs just got tossed into the burn pile because I didn't have anything that I wanted from them that I couldn't get somewhere else for less. I'm NOT that interested in paying $3.50 or more for a teeny packet of seeds. Most of what I'm going for is heirloom, or at least open-pollinated.

I feel glad that I found an open-pollinated Acorn Squash, as I love Acorn. It's called Ebony Acorn, and comes from Kitchen Garden Seeds. And I found that summer squash I was looking for from overseas, and it turns out it's a Lebanese heirloom called Coosa. There are some other heirlooms I want to get to try, like a brown slicing cucumber called Brown Russian and a melon called Collective Farm Woman, both being Ukranian heirlooms offered by Cooks Garden. Surprisingly, I found Ghost Chili seeds, aka Bhut Jolokia, from Territorial Seeds. I don't eat hot peppers but this area has a good chunk of hot pepper lovers, not the least being the Hispanic and Marshallese people that come to the area for work. Bhut Jolokia peppers are 300 times hotter than a jalapeno, and earned a spot in the 2007 Guiness Book of World Records as the worlds hottest pepper on the Scoville scale. So just for yucks, I want to grow some and see if they'll sell at the farmer's markets around here. There've just gotta be some people who watch various shows on the food network and travel channel (like Man vs. Food), and who try to delude themselves that the things just CAN'T be all that hot, and they just gotta try 'em. Heehee. I'm mean, I am.

So that's it for this week's news. See you next weekend!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

It's SPRING!!!!

Officially!!! I have trees with green leaves on them,

daffodils I didn't know I had growing (forgot to take a picture of them, oops), and a whole mess of trees cut down and some cut up.

I have found out that a lot of the trees growing around the house are thorny locust. Good for burning, not so good to keep me from being scratched up by the blasted thorns on the things. But there is a LOT of the stuff around the homestead acre so there's going to be a lot of it going into the woodpile. I also found what I was told was once a "goat pen," but it's not much of a pen. Rusty stock fencing, very rusty t-posts, and of all things, the gate and one section of fence are made of old bedsprings with the coverings off. Well, at least it'll make for some good scrap.

The Merlot is starting to come apart inside. A lot of junk is getting hauled out and dumped into the burn pit and torched along with the brushy trimmings off the trees I'm cutting down that aren't worth anything as far as firewood, so that's getting cleared up to be able to tear apart the darn thing. The next problem is to start taking the outer siding off and scrapping it. Thank goodness I've got the tin snips, because the big parts have to be cut down to fit into the trailer to be hauled off to the scrap yard for a bit of extra cash.

Work's kept me busy, but not too busy, as it's getting to be warm weather slowdown and less hours. I don't like the shorter checks, but as long as I get at least 30 hours a week, I can make it through without a major problem. What I do like is the extra time I have to spend doing things here, so I can get a lot more done. Like all those frigging soda cans that just got dumped off the deck and which have slowly been getting buried in the ground as the earth shifts due to the local freeze/thaw cycle. I've had to dig out a few with fingertips to be able to toss them into the scrap trashcan by the stairs.

I do need to get the rest of that wood cut up from in where I want to put the midden heap, but I didn't quite get all the trees I cut down that are laying there all cut up today because the battery on my little chainsaw ran out of juice. I have a sadry over that ... I was in the middle of cutting up a small tree trunk when it ran out of juice. But I can't gripe too much because I'd been out there for the better part of three hours cutting stuff up and chucking it into the woodpile and burn pit before it lost its oomph. So a LOT of stuff got cut up.

I love this little thing. No vibration, no excessive noise, it shuts off as soon as I let off the trigger, and it cuts up a lot of stuff a lot faster than the hand tools. Mind, I do love hand tools, and they have their uses, but for speed, power tools have their place, too. And since I'm the only one doing things now, I need speed. So what if all I can cut up really is smallish stuff. I kid you not, that chainsaw allowed me to cut up about two days worth of small logs in three hours. It's a lot more than I used to be able to do with the hand saw. Wheee!!!!

So since it's spring and I don't want to waste a lot of time that can be spent outside getting stuff done, I'm  outta here. See you next time!

A different view of the "goat pen" area where I cut down a bunch of thorny locust yesterday. Lots more trash to clear up came to ligt, but it sure looks lot better and different than it did.

This is where the midden heap is going to go, next to the easement. It's also right next to the driveway, and the rocks were already there. I've still got a few trees that were growing there to cut up for firewood and brush to burn, but it came along quite well yesterday.