Sunday, April 25, 2010

Red Light District

Much has been arriving in the mail lately.  Fruit trees, grape vines, and now baby chicks.  They provide endless hours of entertainment for Coon the barn cat, who dreams of joining them inside their brooding pen. 

While some friends of ours were visiting, Rachel notices one of the new chicks sprawled face down on the straw.  Uh oh.  Kate sees it too, and is thinking the same thing.  Should I go and bury it now with everyone here, or just wait 'till later?   Oh -- there it opened an eye for a second.  So it's still in the process of dying.  Great.  Just then the chick springs to life and runs to the feeder.  Just a deep sleeper, apparently.

Our second ewe finally gave birth a week ago, to a single female lamb.  She had a little trouble finding the teets at first but did finally figure out how to nurse alright.  We've moved them in with the other ewe who has been roaming our orchard along with her two lambs.  Our poor ram now has no flock to attend to, and has befriended Josie the cow.  He follows her around like her calf.  Josie doesn't seem to mind, and  licks him on the head every so often.

Earlier this week, the two male lambs were hiding in a hole where I dug up a tree.  As mom walks by, they jump out and ambush her, each one immediately dropping to his knees on either side of her (they're getting big now) and latching on to a teet.  Their tails start up like the ringer on a fire alarm bell as soon as they make contact.  Mom isn't putting up with it though, and wanders off to leave them staring at each other.

One of the great things about moving to this farm is that we can do a lot of the things we've always wanted to.  That's also one of the bad things about moving here.  There's an awful lot of temptation to plant anything that interests us.  Today that was paw-paw trees, currant bushes, pecans, spruce trees (for future Christmas trees) and a buckeye tree for Henry.  Last week it was wine and table grapes, raspberries, blueberries, and more apple trees (the 20 or so we planted last spring weren't enough). This all fits in around our regular chores (milking, feeding, watering, weeding, cutting firewood, etc), which take increasing amounts of each day.

Much of the day yesterday I spent working on our horse-drawn hay mower.  One of the oil seals blew out last fall and needs replacement before I can cut anything this year.  I spent a couple hours trying to remove the threaded flywheel shaft, using ever more leverage and language to try and break it free, until I realized that I was turning it the wrong direction.  Once I was turning the right direction, it came unscrewed with barely any effort at all.  With the shaft removed I needed to replace the bushing that sits behind the oil seal (and which is probably the reason for the failed seal).  Spent another hour mangling that as I tried, unsuccessfully, to remove it.  Projects like this make me feel smart. 

The day after I returned from a business trip to Bellingham earlier this month, we drove down to Yoder's auction (about half of the Amish seem to have this name), which was a sight to behold.  There must've been over 500 buggies parked there in addition to nearly as many cars and trucks. 

This appears to be the grand-daddy of all Amish auctions, with everything from restored wringer washers by the dozen (the amish use these powered with a gasoline motor) to horses, furniture, farm tools, and ponies.  A bunch of Amish kids were flying around the field in pony carts and catching Henry's attention. 

We were there shopping for our next "car", but didn't see a whole lot of interest despite a fair number of buggies entered in the auction.  There were a couple that I thought might be worthwhile if the price was low enough, but the buggy auctioneer was so slow that I couldn't take it any more, so we finally gave up and headed home. 

Maybe it's for the better that we haven't found a buggy yet.  Since the world is ending soon, I've also thought that it might be nice to have a water source that works when the electrical grid fails.  Earlier I was thinking that a nice Aermotor windmill would be the way to go, but our location doesn't lend itself to wind power very well, and they're not particularly cheap.  

We're investigating a solar well pump, which is quite a bit cheaper than a windmil, as well as being more suitable for our location.  I like the fact that they don't need batteries, which seem to be an achilles heel in most solar power systems.  These are a bit cheaper than windmills, and could use our existing well.  The main downside is that they don't work all that well at supplying a pressure water system, so the best bet would be to install a big storage tank (more $) and pump from that.  That means no showers or sprinklers or "normal" faucets. 

We would still be reliant upon a relatively complex (and thus failure prone imho) system for our water though, so I would like a hand pump as a backup.  So maybe we should just go with that. It would require a separate well, but we could keep our decadent standard electric well pump in the mean time, and still take showers or water the garden with sprinklers until the grid goes down and the hand pump becomes our only option.

Speaking of failing electrical grids...   One of the things I really like about our house are the big maples that shade us in the summer from the east and west -- but not the SOUTH, where shade would be most beneficial..  The powerlines run accross our narrow front yard, making tall trees there a no-no.  I'm thinking that I should plant a nice sugar maple under the powerlines anyway. By the time the tree reaches the power lines (10 years?), I think they'll be out of commission.  It's like placing a bet on the demise of the grid.

Just think -- in 10 short years we could be living in a world without coal fired power plants spewing mercury and CO2 into the atmosphere.  Monsatan and the type of agriculture it spawns would crumble.  No grid means no gasoline, so we'd all be walking or using bikes and buggies.  There would be no more traffic noise from M-60 near our house.  A veritable utopia would erupt, until we realize that we can't buy toilet paper, or nails, or chicken feed, barn roofing, lumber, buggy parts or...  

I could make some really neat copper bracelets out of the old powerline wire though.