Monday, January 30, 2012

Ferdinand the bull

I waited nine months to experience helping Rosebud go through the birthing process and after all that time I missed it. I was down working on our house when Greybeard came down and said I needed to head home for the big event.

I jetted home and opened up the cow shed and to my surprise I found this little bundle of joy.

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Blast. Bad timing on my part.

Milly was coming out of the house with a pail of warm water and molasses for the new mother and she gleefully said “You missed all the excitement.”

At least one of us were there.

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Rosebud’s motherly instincts came immediately out in her and she started licking the calf clean.

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Molly was incredibly interested in the process. Rosebud wasn’t defensive or protective around us so it was really nice to have the kids there. But Molly spent the most time fussing over the calf.

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He’s a cute little tyke.

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I’ll get some pictures of him all cleaned up but thought I’d at least make the official announcement of our newest Simple Farm member: Ferdinand the Bull Calf.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What does a man know about being in labour?

I think I’ve cried wolf about Rosebud going into labour about ten times so far. Milly was quite annoyed with me one night as I woke her up and assured her now was the time. In a sleepy grog Milly adorned her –35 c garb and trudged out to the cow shed with me. Rosebud, who was in full on labour when I was out there just a few minutes previous had stood up and was quietly munching on some hay.

I swear if Milly wouldn’t have come out that dang calf would have been born. Look at Rosebud’s hind end here. It was bulging and her breathing was laboured and rhythmic.

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At least it sounded like she was in Labour. Milly just grunted at me and said “What do men know about being in labour?”

That’s become our motto these past few days. Milly often goes out and soothes and comforts Rosebud in her time of need. Milly has cleaned out Rosebuds confines about 50 times and has piled no less then 40 feet of straw in the castle for Rosebud’s comforts.

I’m still the designated cow checker in the middle of night and it seems like whenever I go out Rosebud is just about ready to explode but after about 2 weeks of checking I’ve finally figured out Rosebud’s breathing patterns in the middle of the night.

Milly is incredulous of my lack of sensitivity or knowledge and often exclaims “If you’ve ever been pregnant you’d know…. how hard it is to breathe when trying to sleep” or “how hard it is to walk” or “how much you want to eat.”

I’m sorry (and happy at the same time) to say I sure am glad I don’t know how it feels to be pregnant.

Here are some pregnancy progress pictures.

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The ligaments have receded near the tail and I can fit pretty well my whole hand in there.

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Still a bulging butt.

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I’m not sure if this looks to big but her bag is getting very large.

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More bulging butt pictures.

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Getting bigger.

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You can see the bag getting bigger here.

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Ouch, the above looks almost painful.cow progress 016

3 am in the morning checking out the cow.

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When Rosebud lays down it gets rather scary. It looks like all her insides are going to fall out. They don’t but it looks that way. Once again, “If I knew anything about labour” this probably wouldn’t scare me.

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More swelling.

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She almost looks like she’s going to tip over here. It is interesting to see Rosebud move around the pasture. She pretty well hobbles around. When she turns she takes tiny steps with legs spread out about 3 feet apart. Poor girl.

I’m guessing she is going to calve today with all the signs we are seeing.

But hey, what do I know about being in labour?

Everybody wish Rosebud luck with me.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tentative yearling

If you remember my escapades as a cowboy you can understand our yearlings uneasy feeling with me around. Here is Monkey checking me out from a distance. He actually came with that name. I would have probably named him something more fitting such as Angus or Patty.

(If you are vegan, vegetarian or of the more civilized position I sympathize. We don’t really eat a whole lot of meat. We have decided to limit our beef intake to pasture fed and finished animals from local sources. That usually constitutes $6 per lb hamburger which mostly tells you why we limit our meat intake.)cow progress 028

We’ve been checking on our cow every couple of hours for the past several days it feels like. Rosebud is progressing but she is still great with calf. One of the nice things that has happened in the progress is that Monkey and I have made friends. He even came up close and sniffed around for treats.

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As you can see, one sniff and all those nightmares came back and he started to lower those horns in defence.

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Just kidding. He’s a great pet.

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I kind of feel bad now that I’ve made friends with Monkey. He’s awfully forgiving and unsuspecting. But he’s an awfully big pet and I’m tired of $6 per lb hamburger.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What to expect when your cow is expecting

For the past several days we have anxiously been studying Rosebud’s rear end with anticipation of enlarging and swelling. We are told that’s what happens when a cow is ready to calve. I can’t honestly say what that is going to look like as both Milly and I have no experience with helping a cow to calve and have never seen this phenomenon. But we are learning what to expect when a cow is expecting.

I’m not sure most people will be all that anxious to see the pictures that I have on display for the next few days as the pictures will probably relate to the back end of a 1000 lb pregnant lady.

You have been warned. If you read past this line it is of your own volition and I have no liability if any of you fall nose first into your keyboard from a faint head.

This is a picture of Rosebud’s rear end as of a few days ago. If you can’t figure it out, that is Rosebud’s tail and her manure factory below that. It’s not usually swelled like that or nearly as colourful.

house winter 033I hope Rosebud will forgive me from posting such indignant and immodest pictures of her. house winter 034

Another way we are told you can tell when a cow is ready to give birth is by the ligaments between her tail and hip bone. These ligaments are supposed to relax and a large hollow is supposed to develop. It’s getting there. The ligaments used to be near the start of the tail and have now receded to where my fingers are touching.

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As most feminine creatures the mammary glands are supposed to swell. After a few months without milk we now see her bag swelling and expanding. It’s a site for sore eyes. Not sure if Rosebud feels the same way.

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We made it past a cold snap without having to deal with a calf. At 6:16 pm a few nights ago the temperature gauge stopped working at –30 c. I hear it got down to –35 c that night. It’s sad when –14 c feels like a nice spring morning. We hear cows have a tendency to calve when a big storm comes through so we feel very fortunate that we didn’t have this happen in –30 degree weather.

I’ll keep everyone informed about Rosebud’s progress. Hopefully soon I’ll be telling how I helped Rosebud to breathe slowly and bounce softly on a birthing ball.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Claiming territory on the farm

Maddox brought his two hound dogs down to inspect our work this past weekend. It just so happened that Gus left his pouch right in the middle of hound dog territory.

I’m not sure what Gus did to get that pouch back on but I’m sure Gus’s wife didn’t know his hands had been touching hound dog drizzle.

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I told Maddox’s wife about the whole event and she said “He’s lucky he didn’t get the triple treatment. One dog will pee on something then the other dog will pee on it then the original dog will come around for another go.”

Nothing like staking your claim on another man’s property.

The above event reminded Milly’s whole family of the time their black lab staked his claim on a visiting salesman at their front door. The salesman was so intent on his sales pitch he didn’t even notice the 100 lb dog claiming him for his prize. All the little kiddies were busting up laughing while Greybeard didn’t even crack a smile…until after he gave the salesman a nice stiff arm see you later and shut the door with a grin and said, “Did you see what Zeus did to that poor guy?”

Now that’s really staking your claim.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Pouring cement for our basement

The big day finally came to get our basement floor poured.

We have been looking for someone that would let us work with them on this pour as we’ve wanted to be involved in all aspects of our house building but it just hadn’t worked out yet.

Our luck finally changed when we got a hold of our friend Gus to come and help finish some stuff on our place we just needed to get done.

Gus can’t pour cement. He’s poured sidewalks that benefit from a ruff edged appeal and he’s really good at pouring Diet Pepsi but what is really fortunate for us is his dad is one of the most respected contractors around our area.

Gus’s dad (Red – New addition to Who’s Who) is retired if you ask his Gus’s mom (Maple) but Gus somehow managed to pull Red out of retirement to put on a show.

Red came out to the place the day before to prep for the pour. After giving me a talking to on how I laid the rebar and insulation he pulled out his equipment and got to work.

He used and instrument to calculate all the heights of every location of our floor.

He then put these stakes down the middle of the floor and attached the metal clips shown below. These clips hold a 2x4 at the proper height so we could then skreet (some fancy term for moving a 2x4 back and forth leveling the cement even with the height intended for the floor) the cement.gable end 006

We then ran a chalk line around the perimeter so we knew what height to skreet the cement to on the walls.

gable end 004Here are a bunch of other cement pouring tools. You can see the float that is used to smooth the cement after it’s skreeted. It’s the tool that looks like a broom in the top right of the picture below.gable end 007

I asked Red how many basements he’s poured over the years and he said “Probably 100”. I guess I’m 101.  Red and Gus sat around doing math on the wall to estimate how much concrete to order for the pour. My floor was a little uneven from one end to the other so it was rather difficult to get a precise measurement.

You can see the metal pegs if you look carefully every six feet or so.    gable end 005     gable end 002

The next morning we got to the house at 6:30 am to finish up getting ready for a 7:30 am pour.

We were all ready to go as the cement truck pulled up. Everyone had his job assignment and mine was the most unskilled position they had. I was to move the plywood planks into position so the wheelbarrow guys could deposit the cement into the proper place.

You’d think I could manage that. It’s not that hard to move planks around right? Gosh, I felt like I was disappointing everyone with my uneducated, unintelligent placement of every board. Red was yelling at me for my total lack of ability. The wheelbarrow guys just groaned as I made the boards as unlevel as humanly possible. Gus saw my dismay and started cheering for me whenever I laid a board correctly. I hate to say it but I’m glad I don’t have to do that for a living. I’d never survive. I’d have to retake board laying 101 like five times before I’d ever be promoted to a position that had any skill needed.

During all the commotion a bunch of distant memories came rushing back as I thought about an early time when I worked for Red pouring concrete. My employment didn’t last long as I was uncoordinated back then as well. I’m surprised Red didn’t fire me on this job even if it was my basement.gable end 021

We got done the basement and the cement truck driver poured the remaining concrete on our gravel pile. I swear there was about a pop can of concrete left over. Gus was saying how lucky we were. Red just said “that’s about how much I figured would be left over" in all seriousness. I guess when you are good you are good.

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We now have a basement floor.

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Gus was leaving a broom finish on our outside walkway. He also left a memento on the walkway.

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One more thing to check off our list. We are really glad this is done as we can now move in all our earthly possession into our own place. There isn’t a door yet on the basement so maybe we’ll have to do that first but hey, we are almost there.

Windows, gable end, and dormer

We had Gus’s crew down this week to help on the house. Milly headed south to get our windows with Doc’s trailer and Gus and the Gang started installing.

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We are doing cedar soffit and cedar shingles to cover the gable end walls.

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This is a normal sight. Gus on the ground inspecting the work being done all around him.

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In his defense he did pour our basement with his dad and they were finishing the concrete while we were working on the gable ends.

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Gus left me to my own devices on this dormer. That's not entirely true. We did the soffit together and he left me to do the cedar shingles on the dormer.

You can see the benefits of Milly’s hard work in trying to get our house positioned due south. The sun comes in the windows most of the day and warms up the house quite nicely. We just need to get windows in the main floor now. We are still waiting to get those cut in.

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There was a lot of cutting to do which Milly and Molly did all afternoon. Molly, our two year old, sat and ate cookies and handed me stuff out the window. It’s fun to see the little ones be excited to help build our house.

We are a pretty good team. Anyone need expert cedar shingle installers? We hire out two year old out at $30 an hour. She’s worth her weight in gold. As you can see, we tired her out today.

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Back to a few more pictures.gable end 035

The picture below is my favorite. You can see the cedar soffit really well along with the finished look.

gable end 036 It was a fairly good week in relation to the house. I think we are onto insulation next. Might be a good idea as the weather looks to finally be turning cold. We’ve been very blessed so far with how good the weather has turned out this year.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Radiant infloor heating in the basement

We’ve spent the past couple of weeks getting prepared to have our basement poured. We put 2 inch rigid insulation on the ground after covering it with 6 mill poly.

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We then laid rebar every 2 feet in a grid pattern. All the contractors around here gasp and moan when they hear we did rebar instead of wire mesh. I’ve hear both arguments for wire mesh versus rebar and we chose the later. Hopefully the house doesn’t fall down because of it which sometimes seems like the likely scenario according to some people.

Our good friend and plumber pulled out his pex distributing contraption. It worked really well to spread our 700 feet of line.

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We put in three zones and laid out the line about every foot all around the desired areas.

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We attached the lines with plastic ties on every cross piece of rebar which is ever two feet.

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The three zones all end at our mechanical room. The plumber attached a pressure test and we pumped up each line to around 110 lbs pressure.

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I’ve been told the lines will have around 8 to 15 lbs pressure when the system is up and going. Which is good as one line is leaking right now and I don’t think we are going to fix it.

roof 133I’m just kidding, kind of. There is a leak but it’s at the end of the line so it will be easy to fix. Anyone notice anything odd in the completed system above? As you can see there is three zones. The pipe above is made for six so three of them are capped or ready to add a few more zones for our main floor.

We are hoping to do something neat for our system like we’ve found here at builditsolar.com. We’ll see if we are that brave and handy when the time comes to actually set the system in working order.

We are hoping to pour the basement this week if all our duck line up in a row.