Monday, October 31, 2011

Back In The Saddle Again

  What an awesome weekend!  I got to spend a lot of time with our new horse Bonnie and made quite a bit of progress with her.  This week has been a real test of patience as we have both been figuring out who is the "alpha" in our relationship.  I know that our little "herd of two" needs a leader and I intend for it to be me!  I've seen it the other way when the horse runs things and that's a disaster.  Up until this weekend, I've felt that I was in charge...but just barely.  This has been most evident when I had to catch her in the pasture.  There were a couple of days that I just couldn't even get close to her.  It seems like we turned a corner on Saturday with the help of one of the other horse owners at the stable.  She took Bonnie into the round pen and did some work with her.  It was really neat to watch Bonnie go from pure attitude to very cooperative.  The great part was that this lady not only kept up a running dialog of what was happening but then also let me try while she gave pointers from outside the pen.  There's nothing like a mentor to accelerate things!  I've worked a horse in a round pen before but I think that the person that told me what to do wasn't very knowledgeable either.  Their reasoning was "you just need to tire out the horse to make it easier to handle".

The results were nothing short of amazing.  I took her for our first ride in one of the small paddocks and it went great.  It's pretty obvious that she hasn't been ridden for a while but she warmed up nicely.  On Sunday, I whistled to her and she galloped across the pasture to meet me at the gate.  What a nice change!  I saddled her up and we took a few spins around the stable grounds.  She's a little spooky about water but it seemed like she got better through the day.  Riding back and forth across the yard got old pretty quick so we took off down the trails.  A beautiful day, leaves turning and the smells of autumn...I couldn't think of a nicer trail ride.

  I wish I had remembered to take some pics on the ride but I was just too absorbed in the experience; maybe next time.  We rode for about three or four miles and man was my hind end sore!  It's been about six years since I was in the saddle.  I also got out of bed this morning with very tired back muscles.  I imagine that this will get better as we ride more.

Just as an update to some earlier posts...
  Our homemade Sauerkraut hit four weeks old in its fermentation.  I didn't skim the scum off the top like I should have but I don't think it hurt it.  We had a little mold around the inside rim of the bean pot so we were just careful to avoid it when we dipped out the kraut.

I was pleasantly surprised with how it tasted.  It wasn't pucker your face off sour like the stuff you buy in the store.  It tasted a little like pickled cabbage with just enough sour in it to let you know it was there.  We only ended up with enough for about two meals so we just put it in the fridge instead of canning it.  We cooked some up with a kielbasa and it was a hit with the family.  As an extra added bonus, nobody keeled over from food poisoning.  We eat kraut once or twice a month so I think that it will be worth it to continue making it.  We need to keep an eye out for an old crock since the bean pot's shape is pretty hard to work with.
  Our other update is with the wool.  I started messing with combing yesterday and got some mixed results.  There is a real technique to this and I think I'm just starting to get the hang of it.  I ended up making three OK little roves but I have a long way to go!  I'll try to get some pics up soon.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Washing Wool

Today was a beautiful sunny day in the lower 70's so we decided to quit procrastinating and wash our wool before winter hits.  Last Christmas, my DW's presents all sort of ran toward natural fibers.  First, *C* and I made a hackle and comb set.  After seeing how much they were selling for on the internet, I decided that we would build them ourselves.  We made them out of solid oak and I was quite pleased with how they came out, especially considering that we only had pictures to go by.  Her next gift was a circular sock knitting machine.  If you've never seen one, look these fascinating devices up on YouTube.  We've played with it some but there's a real knack to actually cranking out something that resembles a sock.  Her last present was a box of Jacob sheep wool.  I have to admit that I know very little about sheep but I'm pretty smitten with this breed.  They're so unusual with their polycerate (more than two) horns and multi-colored wool.  I think that I'd like to get some when we get out to the homestead so I figured we could try some wool out first from e-bay.

  The wool came pretty well skirted when we got it.  That means that all the sticks and cockle burrs and poo were picked clean.  We decided to give it another once over.

The smell wasn't so bad once it was out of the box a while.

My DW may have found a few pieces from the nether end!  She was a trooper though.  We did quite a bit of research on how exactly to wash the wool and got a whole spectrum of methods ranging from Ruth on BBC's Edwardian Farm just chucking it into a stream to numerous "serious" wool people taking temps with thermometers and using special soaps.  We kinda split the difference.  Two common pearls of wisdom that we found over and over were that you have to have the water hot enough to melt the naturally occuring lanolin in the wool and that you can't agitate the wool too much or you'll end up with felt.  First, we filled a five gallon pail with water as hot as I could stand putting my hand into and added a generous amount of dish soap.

We gently put the wool into the hot water, taking extra care to not agitate it too much.

Without shaking things up too much, I just kept gently pushing the wool back under the water as it floated up until it was time to lift it out and let the nasty water drain.

At this point, you may be noticing the color of the water as it's draining out.  It was a lovely color of brown and I do mean brown.  I suspect that it was a combination of lanolin, dirt and, oh yes, POO!

This is what the water looked like after the first wash...

And then the second was a little better...

And the third was better still.  After three more rinses without soap, the water didn't look too bad.

We took the wool out of the final rinse and laid it on a couple of metal garden fence sections to dry.  I figured that it was a good way to get air underneath to help it along a bit.

As of this evening, the wool looks great.  It's fairly clean, except for some small pieces of grass and these should come out when we comb it.  The white portion of the wool is really brightening up as it's drying and I couldn't find any sign of felting.  *C* and I ended up having to move it into the garage since it's supposed to rain tonight.  All in all we were really happy with how it turned out...poo and all!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bonnie and Applesauce

  Mission Accomplished!  Bonnie came home yesterday.  I don't know who was more stressed, me or her.  Evidently she's only been trailered a couple of times in her life.  It took three of us to get her into the trailer using a bucket of grain, a butt rope and a lead rope.  She didn't act scared but she was really stubborn.  Her previous owners had me all freaked out, saying that we should only take her out in an extremely controlled environment with lots of hands.  We got her all buttoned up and hit the road.  I have got to get a tape on her to guesstimate how much she weighs.  I could really feel the difference in the truck and the trailer springs were creaking up a storm!  The trip home was pretty uneventful.  I stopped for gas when we were about 20 miles from home (couldn't resist $3.12) and opened the feed bunk door to talk to her.  She seemed cool as a cucumber so that went quite a way toward calming my jangled nerves down.  We got to the stable and I went to find the on-site caretaker to help me get her out.  I took the front and he took the back and what do you know?  Bonnie backed out of the trailer and stepped down just like she'd been doing it all her life.  We put her in the paddock with five other horses and what a sight!  All six of them were running around the pasture with Bonnie in the lead, getting to know each other.  She had her tail flagging like she thought she was an Arabian.  I've never seen a draft horse galloping at speed except for the jousts at Renaissance Festivals; what an awesome sight.  Now comes the fun part.  Horses have been missing from my life for a while due to my Naval career, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

  A couple of days ago, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things.  They had apples for sale at 49 cents/pound.  We couldn't resist that and bought about 10 pounds to make applesauce.  As we were picking out the apples, we talked with a lady that was doing the same thing.  She recommended freezing instead of canning since it's a lot easier and keeps better (as long as the power stays on).  We got home and started peeling our hearts out.  Luckily we had a little helper.

*E* was having a ball sucking on the apple cores.  He looked like a chipmunk with all of the bits in his cheeks.  I think apples are probably his favorite food in the whole world...takes after Dada I guess.  The sauce smelled INCREDIBLE while it was cooking.  Does anything smell more like fall than apples, cinnamon and cloves?  We ended up with four ziploc bags of chunky sauce and  it should taste great with some Kielbasa and our homemade kraut that's only a couple weeks away.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Back from Dak

  Hey all!  Got back yesterday morning after driving 24 hours straight from our homestead in North Dakota to Cinci  and dragging the horse trailer.  It was a pretty uneventful trip except for a tire blowout in Minneapolis...AGAIN.  I don't know what it is with this trailer and Minneapolis.  At least this time it happened during the day and only took ten minutes to fix.
  Our new flatbed trailer worked out well and we were able to get a lot of stuff moved out there.  My dad and I were able to run wires up from the batteries, through the wall and to the new fridge.  There was quite a bit of head scratching as we tried to figure out the 90ish year old structure of the house and its many lathe and plaster walls.  In the end, the refrigerator worked out great.
  Next we tackled the wood cookstove.  The original intention was to go for the corn stove but we couldn't find any corn that was ready to burn in the area.  The wood cookstove ended up being a better choice any way because, Duh, I was able to cook on it and I had quite a bit of seasoned wood ready to go.  Dad and I swept the chimney first and ended up taking about five or six pounds of coal soot (and one dead bird) out of it.  We got the old "Majestic" hooked up and fired her up.  The heat was nice since we had two nights below freezing and the rest not much higher than that.

The nice thing was that even though I brought my propane burner, I never fired it up.  I definitely had to plan ahead when it was time to cook since things took longer to heat and you really had to have different kinds of fire for different situations.

Somebody had painted the stove in the past and boy did it stink when the paint burned off.  I'm going to have to give it some good old fashioned stove black when I head back out there to bring back the finish.  The nickel trim had been painted gray somewhere back in this stove's past as well.  Happily, as I used it more and more, the paint started wearing off and the nickel started showing through.  It didn't look too bad but we'll have to see.

  I ended doing some work with the old horse teamster down the road.  He's 86 and needed some help getting some hay bales stacked in his loft.  He kept right up with me...pretty impressive.  I think that his farm and horses keep him young.  He had an old horse drawn McCormick #6 mower that I had looked at when we were there this summer so we ended up trading my work and a couple of bucks for the mower.

Here's what it looked like when I was finished with it.  Everything was froze on it but one wheel when I got it.  My dad has been using a 50:50 mix of acetone and power steering fluid to break stuck parts free for a while so I thought that I would give it a try.  Here's a picture of the gearbox before I started.

  I have to admit that this stuff is nothing short of a miracle.  After about six hours I had every piece lose and turning on the mower.  It has been sitting for about 50 or 60 years so I was really impressed.  This makes our fourth piece of horse drawn equipment, along with the fancy cart, dump rake and forecart, so we're on our way.

  And finally, there were deer everywhere!  The farmer behind us was combining his corn so I think he had the deer all stirred up that were hiding in his field.  We had some in the woods right out one of the south windows of  the house.

You have to look for them in the pic but they're there.  It was pretty neat!

Friday, October 7, 2011

The road train is pulling out

  Taking a little break while my DW is out running some last minute errands before I go.  I've been spending the last week or so working over our truck and setting it up to haul our new monster trailer.  This is a big step toward our permanent move next year as it gets some of our larger items out to the homestead.  The manifest reads as follows...

My little Nissan truck (we call her Cranky Pants) that I've had for years and has about 285,000 miles.  She's starting to get tired but still gets around 20mpg on the highway and is a nice size when we don't want to break out the behemoth F-350.  I just don't have the heart to get rid of her so along she comes.

My Ducati and my DW's Ninja motorcycles.  I feel like we've both outgrown these toys and they'll probably just turn into barn ornaments, especially living on dirt roads, but they're so old that they probably don't have much value if we chose to sell them.

Our old IH throttle governed motor.  It's only one and a half horse power and weighs a lot but it just oozes cool.  I don't know if it has the guts to drive the old cordwood saw out at the farm but I think that it would be a neat semi-permanent set up instead of running a tractor over to the saw when it's time to cut wood.  If not, we'll use it to run our third well which still has a working pumpjack on it.

Our Aeromotor B-702 windmill and about half of its 60' steel tower.  The mill has a 10' fan and will eventually be used to pump water up from the house well.  This sucker is HEAVY and took up quite a bit of space.

  This whole evolution has been quite demanding thus far but thankfully everything has gone pretty smoothly and we were able to hit all of our planned milestones.  This is what I like to call the "road train"...

  This flat bed is quite a bit longer than the fifth wheel horse trailer we hauled this summer.  Since it's a bumper pull, I had to rig a weight distribution hitch.  I've never used one before so this was definitely a new experience for me.  I was amazed at what a difference it made in how the whole thing rides. 
  I'm jumping off tomorrow so we're kinda sad around here.  It's the first time that my DW and I have been apart since I got out of the Navy.  It'll be good to get the homestead straightened up a little for the winter so we aren't playing catch up when we head out there next summer.

  Oh, here's a gratuitously cute picture of baby *E* playing in the grass out at the farm this summer.  Couldn't resist!