Sunday, March 30, 2008

Manure contemplations

March 29, 2007
on the road in New Zealand

March 29, 2008
celebrating the building of a kickass work bench

Yesterday, I shoveled poo out of a barn for the first time in my life. There is something inherently contemplative about this activity - perhaps it's the idea that shoveling shit ranks low on life's ambition list.

Well, I got to tell you - I LOVED IT! Except, I was a bit concerned that the dry poo was kicking up a lot of dust. As I was inhaling it, I asked Bill if we should be worried about diseases - could I get bovine encephalitis from horse poo???



After getting silly questions and the need to say "bovine encephalitis" out of the way, I started thinking about how we got to be shoveling shit in our barn in Indiana on a weekend. A year ago we were in New Zealand, having just tried pâté for the first (and last) time.

Photos of March 29, 2007:
We were drinking lots of wine, eating fancy cheeses and trying not to worry about the jobs in DC that (for various political reasons) we were both very possibly going to lose - imminently. My job involved working on outreach materials - convincing people to get involved with an organization I hated...a different kind of shoveling shit.

Photos of March 29, 2008:

Working in our barn yesterday afternoon, I realised I felt infinitely better about how I spent that day than I ever did after a day of work in DC. Three cheers for literal poo shoveling!

Friday, March 28, 2008

We have syrup!

Here are some photos of syrup day, which was last Friday. We started with 36 gallons of sap that had been collected since February, and ended with just under a gallon of syrup. It took 10 hours, a lot of wood, stirring and beer, but was well worth it.

Our syrup is just a touch thinner than the commercial stuff and is super yumm-o.

Gallons waiting to be boiled:

Intense supervision of the boiling sap is necessary:

This is what the pans looked like at the end of the day. The boys had a two pan system - cold sap went into the staging area in the front pan, which was difficult to keep at a boil. When it was sufficiently warmed, it was transferred by a kitchen pot to the back pan, which was kept good and hot by the fire all day. You can see how dark the near-syrup is after 10 hours of boiling, compared to the newly poured sap. Incredible!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Seems like a good time to start to redo the fireplace. First step - demolish existing hearth. 3/4 inch thick marble tiles are nice on the front. On the back, you know, right next to the stovepipe that exceeds 1000 degrees, what do we find... Is that wood??? Why yes it is little Timmy! Plywood and 2x4s!!! Awesome.

Well, the bottom of the hearth looks pretty nice, looks like maybe they set the tile on another piece of plywood, laid that down... hopefully we can just pry it up and move it, right...?

Oh... They set the tiles directly onto the hardwood floors? Oh.... well. I guess at least we know the minimum size of our new hearth.

On a side note, she thinks my tractor is sexy!

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Friday, March 14, 2008

New Roof Preview

We've been waiting for 3 days in a row that are above freezing and dry so we could get our roof replaced. Our roofers seem to think those days are soon! We had materials delivered today.

Here is the current roof in it's hideous glory. Please note the ghetto-fabulous flashing.

Also, something appears to be growing...

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Things I didn't do

I've had the flu, which sucks. So I haven't been doing much around the house, but we have had some progress. Our garage door was caved in on the top, which was great for the raccoons, but not so great for us.

So, we got a new one! The day after this was installed we saw confused smammal tracks in the snow leading up to the door.

We're up to about 30 gallons of maple sap. Our plan is to boil it down in two weeks.

We had some help from back east two weekends ago. Scraping paint:

Standing around in the basement, doing man things:

And installing a new thermostat. This is the wicked cool old one. Notice it is set to 60 degrees. That's normal and probably why I got the flu.

We now have lots of mercury to play with if anyone has any experiments in mind.

And the new, programmable thermostat!!! Modeled by Bill in his new glasses:

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Terrible titmouse

No one seems to be able to get along with the titmouse on this feeder. Not the goldfinches, not the nuthatch.
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Wintertime woodies!

Three types of woodpeckers making themselves very noticeable out in the yard:

The fiesty little downy,

The noisy and huge pileated, making himself a new cavity in a large oak tree,

And the rather silly red bellied woodpecker. This guy's new name is "Baldy"... He flew into our window, left a lot of his read head feathers behind, still hanging out in the yard, seems to be doing ok, but he is awfully funny looking now. Will post before and after pic if the opportunity presents itself.

There is also ample evidence of yellow bellied sapsuckers on the property, but we'll have to wait until spring for them to return.
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Saturday morning bird blogging.

Lots of activity at the feeder this morning, as usual. Here are some of our favorite residents:
Sal the Cardinal.

The nuthatch likes to eat corn on the cob.

a rare moment of peace between a goldfinch and a titmouse. These guys don't normally like sharing a feeder.

Chickadee on the wing.

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