Thursday, June 26, 2008

Warm Up


In an effort to step backward with things (which actually for us is a step forward! :) ), and given the volatility of refined fuels, we decided to look into getting a wood burning stove. Hopefully this would be able to be used for heat as well as a place on which to cook.

In the local ad paper we were able to find a pretty big stove, which also had a smoker. I thought this would be a pretty good deal, and so we purchased it; and with the help of the men, we were able to get it moved.

We don't have a house in which to put it, and so we decided to go ahead and install it in the barn. Hopefully that would allow for warmer fellowship days during the winter; and if needed, we could even sleep next to it.

Here is a picture of it installed. We haven't really tried it, other than just a test to see if it would at least work, because, by the time I got it installed, winter was waning. However, I figure it will probably get more use this coming winter:




A quiet, tender moment...




One thing to remember is, when adding stove pipe to a roof, use lots of caulking. I thought I used quite a bit, and we're still getting a leak during heavy rains (at least, I believe it is due to the stove pipe installation).


Here is the wood pile, ready to go! These I did with a chainsaw, although I now have a double-headed axe ready for felling the old fashion way:




We are grateful once again for the Lord's provisions and resources, with this stove, and with the many trees on the land that are available to be used to keep us warm and to cook.

-- David

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Does Eat Oats, and a Kid'll Eat Ivy Too

Dave and I had probably never even seen very many goats in our lives other than at a petting zoo here and there. And any goat cheese I had ever tasted I didn't like at ALL! I never even ventured to taste goat milk thinking it would be horrible.

Well, since we've moved to Texas, we've obviously been more exposed to a whole new world of livestock and all kinds of farm animals. A family that lived up in Lubbock, TX who we have gotten to know had a herd of goats they milked daily. One day Dave and our neighbor Michael came back from a trip to Lubbock with some fresh goat milk and cheese in tow that the family had given them. I thought I would try a tiny bite of the cheese and sip of milk because they had graciously shared some with us. It was like nothing labeled goat cheese I had ever tasted. The cheese tasted like delicious cream cheese, and the fresh milk tasted just like cow's milk, only better and a bit sweeter. I was hooked!

We have heard that fresh goat milk is much more compatible to the human digestive system than cow's milk and very good for you, so we decided we might be interested in getting a dairy goat someday...... and that someday came sooner than we thought in the Fall of 2006 when our nice friends Judy (Tabletop Homestead) and her husband drove down from Oklahoma and gave Michael three goats, one of which he graciously gave to us. We got to pick Winnie:




She is part LaMancha, and they are very social animals and get rather loud and whiny if they don't have a playmate around to keep them company (play the video below at your own risk :) ). She was very vocal from the beginning, even "whiny", so we named her the closest thing to that term we could; but she has turned out to be a very friendly and hearty goat:

video


We then decided to go ahead and get a buck so Winnie could get pregnant and we could start milking her. So we bought our first Nubian billy goat, "Shatner" (after a famous "Billy"), in December 2007. Well, Winnie seemed to be in heat the day we brought him home; and he sure didn't waste any time, so she had her first kid almost five months to the day after we got him. Here is Shatner:




And we'd like to introduce their first kid born just two weeks ago in early June 2008! We've decided to call her "Minnie":




She seemed very fragile and small at first, but within a few days she was a champion nurser and running and jumping all around:

video


She has her mother's lungs, too. She has a cute little bleat that will probably get much, much louder as she gets older. Oh, boy.....


Lastly, we were also able to obtain a Nubian doe. Please meet Betsy (we kept the name from her previous owners). We also considered naming her Julia because her bleat sounds a lot like you might imagine if Julia Child were a goat. Well, just take my word for it. ;) Betsy and Shatner are roommates right now, so we think she might be getting pregnant sometime soon. Either that or we'll have to build a third goat pen right quick for Shatner to keep him away from the does:




We look forward to starting to milk Winnie very soon as well as Betsy and Minnie someday. I hope to learn to make goat cheese as delicious as our friends do, among many other items, even soap.

Dave had built a shelter for each of our two goat fields to house and protect our increasing number of goats from the elements and predators. Similar to the chicken tractor, the sheds are built to be portable to adjust to changing high wind patterns and other factors. We had some high south winds recently and one of the sheds was blown completely over. Thank God none of the goats were injured. One of the sheds blew over again and Dave was a bit frustrated. In the process of putting it back in place, Dave pulled up the pallets on which the goats rest in the shed and found that a cute little rattlesnake had been in cohabitation with our goats. Dave sent me running for the shotgun; and after I returned with it, he took it out in one shot. But we realized if the goat shed had not turned over we might not have discovered the rattlesnake, another reason to never question the circumstances God allows in our lives. Thank God. We have since found a way to anchor down the sheds but have them remain portable:




Another thing that has been interesting for us has been to watch the behavior of the goats. Winnie is our little diva who makes sure you know it's all about her all the time. Goats are stubborn, selfish and determined much of the time, which is where we figure the term "kids" originated when referring to many children today. It reminds us that God refers to the unsaved as goats and the saved as sheep in the Bible: Matthew 25:32-33,34,41: "And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world...Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Both were created, elect and unelect, to be what they are, according to God's will: Rom 9:21: "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" Goats are stubborn and will continue in their stubbornness, even to the end; whereas sheep, which are apparently gentle, compliant and easily trainable, will hear Christ's voice when they are called: John 10:27: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.". It appears that one of the reasons God, in all His wisdom, placed animals on the earth was to visually show us spiritual realities. Dave is thinking about getting some sheep someday, partially to use the wool for various items but also to have another visual reminder of God's teachings.

We pray that, by God's graces and mercies, we will be those who hear His voice and follow when He calls.

We are thankful for the Lord allowing us these daily observations and exposure to each of these species here on the farm as excellent reminders of the spiritual types in the Bible.

Susan

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Barn

In planning our homestead, I figured we needed a barn and had some ideas as to what it might look like. I envisioned the barn to be a place to temporarily put all of our stuff that we had brought with us from California so that we wouldn't have to pay storage anymore; I thought that our camper needed to get out of the elements to protect the investment and shield us a little from heat and wind, and so I wanted the barn to have "overhangs" big enough to cover our camper; I wanted it to be big enough so that we could use it for any other housed homesteading things we might need (a place to put hay, to have a tool bench, to be able to work on automobiles, to house animals, etc.) without having to build multiple buildings for each; I thought, since we needed it tall enough to be able to cover the camper, I would like the inside to be tall enough to allow for a loft level; and I wanted to be able to back up the tractor and our cattle trailer from the side of the "overhang" to store them and protect them from the elements as well. The way I saw it, this building would be the central and most important structure for our farming. These were the parameters for a barn with which we proceeded.

In the beginning to look at how to do this, I considered many different paths: building it ourselves from scratch, buying a steel building kit, hiring someone to build one, etc. After struggling with designs and my inabilities in the area of construction, plus in wanting to have something very sturdy and not susceptible to termites, we decided to go with a metal building. I looked into having one built, but it just seemed very expensive; and so we decided to go the steel building kit route, which would save us money in labor and also give us the opportunity to do the work ourselves. We began the search.

After much investigation, we found a supplier we liked. Through the process of ordering and working with this vendor, there were delays with design issues, and things seemed to just "come up". We were starting to wonder what the Lord had in mind, but tried to trust Him. Lo and behold, after some time, apparently the vendor had a sale price on an I-beam construction version of the building we wanted for the same price as the original design. This would eliminate any center posts, a concept which I liked; and it was supposedly structurally better. Plus, this allowed us unlimited hight on the ends of the lean-to's (the "overhangs"), and would guarantee enough space to allow our camper to park under one freely. Further, it would allow for the lean-to areas to be free from having walls so that the tractor and other things like that could be backed up under the lean-to from the side. This was exactly what I had in mind, and sounded like a no-brainer; and so we went with this. However, by this time we were some 9 months or more into the ordering process. Still, we wanted to trust the Lord and were thankful that the delays led to what apparently was a better situation.

During that time, Sue and I got out there to try to begin prepping the site:





In trying to prepare for the concrete and studying about foundations, I soon discovered that doing the concrete ourselves was probably not the best way to go. I really felt that the concrete foundation was probably the most important part of the building process and needed to be done correctly, as building on a good foundation seemed imperative (Matt 7:24-25). We started to look for concrete contractors but had difficulty in finding one to help us, but we kept looking.

Finally, delivery day for the barn came, and it was on a Monday. It had snowed during the weekend, and so the delivery big-rig could not make it to our barn site. Plus, there was a miscommunication in how the materials were to be removed from the big-rig: I thought they were going to do it, and that was not the case. So, after calling forklift rental companies with no success, I called our neighbor Homer, who graciously sent one of his workers with his tractor to get the items off of the truck. We were thankful for the blessing of our neighbor's good will and for the help of the men in the community:




Well, in examining what was delivered, which included several approximately 42 foot steel I-beams, it started to become apparent that putting this together was not going to be that easy. We would need cranes and crane operators, lifts, etc., etc., which all started to add costs. And so, coupled with the fact that we still needed the concrete to be done, we started to look for steel building contractors.

We found a local one who would do the whole thing for what was the best price of any of the ones at whom we looked. And thus began the process...

Here is some concrete prep:




And the concrete pour:




It's just like Tinker Toys!





Or a jumbo Erector Set!




Here's the building framed:




Here's Sue giving everyone an early welcoming!




The home stretch...





Thanks to the Lord for His provisions:




Apparently, the living quarters have been established!! (look carefully)




Move day!!!

How many people get to drive their house by their own heifer calf?






Ahhhh.....




We have been thankful to be able to host gatherings here and allow folks to fellowship.


This barn process took approximately 16 1/2 months from first dirt prep to our moving. It's interesting to see the thought patterns throughout and how each seemed to invariably lead to a subsequent decision, which in the end brought us to where we ended up; but in looking back, this might not necessarily have been the path we would have taken given what we now know. It appears that if we were to go back to one of the original plans of having someone come out and just build it, it would have ended up costing about the same, and hopefully would have taken less time and caused less headache. There were points along the way where we stepped back to reconsider our current position with the idea of cutting our losses, selling the barn kit, and starting again; but between costs and time it appeared we needed to continue as it was going. Still though, through it all, we do not want to discount in the slightest God's perfect will in things; and so we learned not to question delays or how this all turned out, and tried to learn what else the Lord might be teaching us, including continually questioning ourselves and our motivations, in the hopes, with God's help, that our carnal man be subdued.

Amen!


We are grateful once again for the Lord's provision, eternally, spiritually, and temporily. May we never rely on our own storehouses, but always and forever rely on His storehouse of graces and mercies.

-- David


Saturday, June 7, 2008

No Plunger Needed


In preparation for moving from the Bunker's land up to our own, we thought it might be a good idea to have our outhouse in place. Outhouses have seemed to be the way to go (no pun intended) out here in the country. They don't use any water; you don't need a septic system in place, just a big hole; and the outhouse never stops up! We have discovered too that the Lord has granted some sort of worm creature that "processes" the "material" in the hole, thus prolonging the need to dig another one.

Most of the people on the land have used the backhoe to dig their outhouse holes, although at least one family did it by hand.

One problem with using the backhoe is that the hole becomes dug out at the ends, and so you end up with a hole elongated by some 8 feet or more. In previous outhouses, this has been dealt with by putting covered palettes or the like next to the outhouse over the exposed parts of the hole, but this had mixed results and often allowed water to get in. So, in designing the base for our outhouse, I decided to include in the base structure something to cover those parts of the hole, which you see in the following picture. I also added large eye hooks in the ends of the landscape timbers (which show left to right in the picture) so that with a tractor or maybe truck and a chain I could hopefully move the outhouse when needed. Further, I needed to slide the frame (which shows top to bottom in the picture) a little to the right along the landscape timbers so as to center it over the actual hole where the toilet seat would be. All of the wood in the base is treated wood, which better resists damage due to it touching wet soil:




Here is the covered base frame:




Copying the structural design of the side walls from our neighbors', the Antes, outhouse, I built similar wall frames. For the roof, instead of roofing tin to cover the plywood, I used metal flashing, which costs less:




The next two pictures show the structure with the siding, and a window and screened ventilation on the top for better air flow (so as to help reduce odor). For the screening, I decided to use aluminum window screening instead of nylon, which hopefully will last longer:





Here is the completed inside. Although you can't see it, in the seat box I put more metal flashing all around the inside to protect the wood from getting "moisture" (and other "whatnots") on it, which should help preserve the wood longer and reduce long-term odor as well and be easier to clean if necessary:




And here is a more hygienic way of "marking my territory":




The very top picture of this post is the completed outhouse painted (which Sue did a wonderful job of doing). Also, I built up dirt around the base frame to try to seal it to keep the rains out of the hole.

All in all, the outhouse works well in this environment; you just have to get used to the idea a little. With proper ventilation, odors are lessened; and the outhouse is generally maintenance free.

We are thankful to the Lord for this provision He has allowed us.

-- David


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Gary's Growth?

I guess Gary must have really been listening to Michael's latest sermons:

The Biblical Case for the Beard, Part 1:    Audio  :  Sermon Notes
The Biblical Case for the Beard, Part 2:    Audio  :  Sermon Notes




Good job, Gary!

-- David