My cabin in the woods

In 2011 one of my regular customers asked me to help build  a new loafing shed for his dairy set up.  The first phase of the project  was for him to tear down an old limestone barn, dating from the 1800’s.  Wish I would have taken a picture.

There is something about old limestone buildings that stirs something in me.  I asked him what he was going to do with the old stone…long story short.  He gave it to me.  13  dump truck loads worth.  The only investment I had, was my time and the fuel it took to haul it home….

So this pile of limestone has been sitting there patiently waiting for me to do something with it…

That something has finally begun to stir…

We have a quiet spot out in the windbreak that looks north… In June, the wild black raspberries make an appearance.

One of my favorite places.

It is very easy to slough off the clamor when I’m out there.

I’m thinking I’ll just run a garden hose and a drop chord out there for some basic creature comforts…Murphy bed, barn beam interior, small loft.  16 ft by 20 ft tops/ with a small front porch like this….

 

I plan to do this on the cheap, using all recycled materials.

Want to help?

Think… Thoreau/ Walden/ tiny house…

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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Picking green beans in the rain

It had been thundering for the past half an hour, and then it started to rain.

I was out in the garden picking green beans Tuesday night.

I could feel the anger slowly melting  away.

In the Christian tradition, there is a thought that goes like this….Be angry but do not sin…do not let the sun go down on your anger.

The word sin has all but disappeared in the work a day English language.

Too bad.   It  literally means  “to miss the mark”… a word picture of a faulty bow (bow and arrow) that doesn’t  shoot straight…shoot an arrow with this bow and it will inevitably veer to the left or right.

So there I was grousing a bad attitude about something I could not shake.  I did not want to have a bad attitude but i did…. If I told you what it was that had me vexed, you wouldn’t believe it.  Doesn’t matter. problem was, I could not shake it. Tried everything I knew…

And then it started to rain….and the bad attitude just sort of dissolved…. Not sure how that works, but I like it.

Pause.

Stopped by my mom and dad’s yesterday morning for coffee. They are both in their 80’s….still live on the family farm.  Dad was outside pushing a riding lawnmower onto a trailer.  I got there just in time to help him finish.

I cherish moments like that,  all the more of late… There has been a slew of obituaries in the local paper of people I know….most of them my parents age or younger.

My favorite moment yesterday  happened just before I left.  I asked dad about the young farmer who had recently purchased an adjacent farm dad used to farm.

(I’m scratching my head wondering how that math works…farm ground around here is still in the $5000, to $6000 per acre range, and with current corn and bean prices, dad lost money last season farming that same ground).

Dad said...”The younger generation has never experienced what can happen when the bottom drops out.  I have.  You never forget those things.. I would be very careful just how much debt you take on right now.  One of the salesman in the local John Deere  store told me this week, they are looking at a long term gradual decline in sales, just like back in the 1980’s…”

Listening to my dad validate my concerns did something for me.

It helped me to feel grounded.

Picking green beans in the rain and having coffee with my parents gave me a sense of being grounded.

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When you hear that term “grounded,”   what does that mean to you?  What are some ways that happens in your life?  I want details.

DM

One ton of fresh compost

The keeping of bees….continued

Honeybee nuc.

I noticed a lot of bee activity the past couple of days on the outside of the new nuc, so I texted my bee mentor Mike last night.  (This nuc is a small box with 5 bee frames in it.  It was split off the main hive a month ago.)  Mike suspected they had probably outgrown their new home and it was time to move the bees into a regular bee hive box.

He wished me luck. 🙂

Up until now, the only thing I have personally done with the bees is open the hives and peek in….

Bees go to bed relatively early, so once most of the bees were back in the hive, I taped their front entrance shut then carried it down to the new hive.  The thing was a lot heavier than I anticipated.  It had to weigh at least 50 pounds.

Inside of this little box was  20 pounds of honey and thousands and thousands of honeybees…

Opening the lid on the nuc box felt just like opening a Christmas present.

Mike had been correct.

The bees had outgrown their space. The frames were thick with crawling bees, and once I started prying the  frames out of the box, the pitch of the hum changed. It doubled, then tripled in volume.

They were TICKED OFF.

(My first thought was, I sure hope this bee outfit is all it is cracked up to be.)

To give you an idea of how many bees there were, you can buy them by the pound (live)…a 3 pound container holds about 10,000 bees.  I’m guessing there were between 20,00 to 30,000 in that box.  The new queen has been busy the last month.  We learned in class last winter she can lay between 1000 and 2000 eggs per day…

Just wow

Here is a picture some of you may not have seen that I took back in June of a frame full of bees in the main hive:

Frame of honeybees and honey

Doing all of the switching around of the bee frames last night without anyone else present was a rush.  I feel like I hardly know anything, and yet, just like anything else, I have to start somewhere.

Few years ago, I had a woman stumble across my farm blog who makes her living raising vegetables.    You could sense the contempt she had for my lack of knowledge in her one and only comment.  The only experience I had gardening growing up was one year, dad decided to cover the potatoes with a pile of old hay, rather than bury them in the dirt.  I remember pulling back the hay, later in the summer, and seeing all of the new potatoes on the top of the ground. That is it.  The rest of my gardening knowledge has been acquired through reading, and a few conversations with more experienced gardeners…and I still feel like a newbie.

 

I am a teacher.  I love to mentor, especially in the construction field.  SO, when I am on the receiving end of someone teaching me, something new (like bee keeping, or gardening)  I can tell a good teacher from a bad teacher in 2 minutes.

It’s 95% attitude.

 

 

Making diamonds

I love hearing stories about what my kids are up to…heard this one this morning. DM

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“We decided to move our business here because of you!”  the young woman told my daughter yesterday with a grin.

(Daughter works behind the counter @ a local pharmacy.)

Daughter didn’t know who this person was, and had a puzzled look on her face.

Lady smiled and continued…

“Well, we are new to the community, and you stopped by where I work back on March 21st in celebration of World Down Syndrome Day, with those lottery tickets.  Your attitude really touched me.  I asked you if you  worked outside the home and mentioned you worked here…  My husband and I wanted to start doing business here because of you.”

Three years ago, our third grandchild was born.

Shortly after his birth, it was determined he had Down Syndrome.   The first several weeks of his life  were touch and go.  Even to this day, there are medical issues he is having to deal with related to Downs….

None of us really know how we will respond to  life’s challenges until we are in the middle of it.  Our daughter and her husband have decided to  celebrate the birth of their little boy by passing out lottery tickets in honor of him and raise awareness of those who have been blessed by down syndrome each March 21st.  (Those are her words)

Kasen celebrated his third birthday last week.  He is a hoot.  Loves to hang out with his dad, and grandpa when they cut firewood. He loves to sit on my lap and listen to Scottish drum music. His dad is a fire fighter, Kason has already been adopted by the local fire department as one of their own.

 

Kasen during one of his stays in the  Intensive Care Unit

Kasen and his new toy chainsaw

 

Life is good.

If you don’t want to watch all 9 minutes of that Scottish drum music (see link)  jump ahead to about 7 minutes…that last song is Kasen and my favorite. 😉 DM

 

Here and now I’m in the fire,
In above my head
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh
Being held under the pressure,
Don’t know what’ll be left
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh
But it’s here in the ashes
I’m finding treasure

He’s making diamonds, diamonds
Making diamonds out of dust
He is refining in his timing
He’s making diamonds out of us”

From the song Diamonds by Hawk Nelson

Schools Of Thought

“Well, I want it done right!”  Dave told me yesterday. He sounded a little exasperated   We were talking about how to proceed with tiling his shower.

I told him at the beginning of his project, I have done four tiling projects so far.  If I didn’t know something I would not fake it.  I do know who to ask most times if I have a question. Tiling is not rocket science, although there is more than one way to do things.

Yesterday, the plumber on the job, (who has also tiled),  made some suggestions I had never heard of before on how to fabricate the shower base from scratch.  Talk to three tilers and you’ll probably get three different  approaches.

Same goes with bee keeping. It is not an exact science.  We have a local  husband and wife  who both wanted to be bee keepers. Both wanting to do things right, had strong (different) opinions on what that looked like.   They decided each needed their own hives to manage.  End of conflict.

Side note…we opened our  hive last Sunday.  There were (9) new queen cells forming….

Talk to three different bee keepers and you will probably hear three different approaches to what to do next…..

When I took some classes years ago, called Introduction to Theology, I had a teacher that I really liked.   I remember covering the topic of  end times.  The technical term is Eschatology.  I found out there were at least (3) major schools of thought, with subsets even within that.  We covered all three, thoroughly. At some point, the teacher shared with us where he was at in his understanding and why, but  it never felt like he was  trying to manipulate me to get me to a certain understanding.

I appreciate intellectual integrity, and don’t respond well to manipulation, lying or snark.

I have a strong independent streak. (Just ask my wife) 🙂

I use the same approach when it comes to politics,  social issues and life in general.  I used to meet with a friend on a regular basis over coffee to talk about local history.  Sometimes our conversations would drift  into  politics and current events.  We were polar opposites in some respects, (He was an anarchists I am not. 🙂  He served on the board  of the ACLU/ absolutely hated Christians, organized religion, had served a tour of duty in Vietnam,  which left him with another whole set of issues, I did not.  But… we shared a love of local history,  both grew up on a farm, and worked real hard at showing each other respect when we talked.

I had (and still have) a genuine intellectual curiosity, to try to understand why and how he was coming to some of his conclusions.    I had (and have) absolutely zero interest in getting into a pissing match conflict with someone about some issue.  It is hard enough to get along and communicate effectively in the context of a healthy marriage…why in the world would I go looking to take a spin on the crazy cycle with the rest of the world…it ain’t going to happen.

Crazy cycle: a word picture for getting into a fight where you just go round and round and nothing is resolved.

 

Second year  we were married, we went to a marriage workshop.   One of the topics was how to have a good fight.  Don’t you just love that title! 🙂

Conflict in and of itself is not always bad.

It is possible to express anger in a healthy way.  It does not have to be destructive.

When seeking to resolve a conflict…try to stay on topic.  If the issue is conflict about money, then don’t go off on bunny trails about other unresolved issues.

Schedule a time when you can talk ..ie.  Wife and I have found, Saturday morning is a lot better time than right before bed to talk about money problems.

Don’t garbage dump, get historical, or hit below the belt (name calling, bringing up old wounds, etc.)

Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements…better to say, “I am angry because”, rather than, “You make me angry….”

So much of communication is nonverbal…ie. eye contact, tone of voice, etc. Don’t get into a conflict over the phone, via the internet, letter, etc. It is hard enough to really hear what the other person is saying in person.

Any other thoughts on conflict, difference of opinions, etc?  I really appreciate those of you that take the time to read these ramblings.

Later! DM

 

 

 

Of Grit and Bone 6/10/2017

Read this earlier post if you’re curious about the title (Of Grit and Bone)

Monday evening of this week I had an encounter with a raccoon.

Back story: We have (4) laying hens.  I separated one of them from the rest of the flock recently because they had started to  peck on her.   In case you’ve never been around chickens, they really do have a pecking order and they can be vicious.   The chicken they were picking on is my personal favorite. She is a broody hen….(the impulse to sit on her eggs until they hatch.) That trait has all but disappeared from most chickens. As chicken breeds have been genetically manipulated and bred for specific traits (ie. fast growing for meat, or designed to lay lots of eggs, etc) one of the  unintended consequences has been they have lost their motherly inclination… Things are not any better when it comes to the roosters… by and large, they  have forgotten how to do their courting and mating rituals and  become brutish….Historically, farm chickens would do courting and mating rituals (much like a prairie chicken or wild turkey).

It is really rather disturbing.

Anyway, I went out before dark to lock up the broody hen and there in the doorway to the hen-house, was a raccoon. It  ran into the small area with my broody hen sitting on the perch, not three feet above.  I’ve never heard such a scream, and I’ve been around plenty of raccoons over the years.  It sounded almost demonic. Another (5) minutes and the hen would have been history.  I ran back into the house to grab my 12 gauge, but by the time I returned, the raccoon had escaped into the bowels of the barn.

 

Thursday morning, I got sucked into the middle of a domestic dispute.   Husband and wife were going at each other right in front of me.…and in an unguarded moment, I said something to the wife. She looked so broken and humiliated and said something about him doing this in front of me…

That was a mistake.

I know better….

Yesterday morning I wound up in the ER.   Got nicked by my skill saw on my forearm.  Could have been much worse.  Forty five minutes and three staples later I was back in the saddle.

After my trip to the ER, I crawled  into a 4 ft high attic  to move loose, dusty  insulation.  Temperature was forecast to climb into the 90’s  so wanted to get that part of the project done while it was still cool.

It took the better part of two hours…..reminded me of my days on the farm mowing bales of hay.  You would be covered with dust and chaff…absolutely no air movement.

Good thing I love my job 🙂

This morning my siblings and I went out for breakfast with my parents.  Dad celebrated his 85th birthday today.  What a gift to still be able to hang out with both of my parents.  I don’t take it for granted we  get along.  That even came up in passing while we talked. One of the branches of our family is relatively well off financially, but lots of interpersonal conflict. Before the old man died, he owned  7 farms.  Take a 160 acres farm @ $8,000 an acre times (7)…you get the idea.

How was your week?

Describe it in 10 words or less.  DM

Dealing With The Public

When I walked up to the Lowes contractor desk on Wednesday, I sensed tension….a lot of tension. (I am pretty sure I know why, but I am not at liberty to talk about it here.)

It had been a long morning for me as well.  My brain was fried.  I had one of those small projects where the homeowner hovered over me while I worked.   The icing on the cake was when it came time to collect.

Back story…

This was a small job.  The guy (let’s call him Bob) had been in the hospital for 6 weeks, almost died.  I worked for Bob last year.   In spite of his  sometimes cantankerous personality,  he’s grown on me, and when I heard he was seriously ill, I stopped to see him while he was still in the hospital a few weeks back.   He expressed a desire to have a little 16 by 16 deck built and wondered if I would have time  this Summer.

My thought was,  the guy had almost met his maker, and this was a great way to give him a little encouragement, so I worked his project into my schedule ASAP. Tuesday of this week we built the deck. Got done a day sooner than I had projected.  Asked him if he wanted me to come back on Wednesday because I had allocated two days for his project.

“That would be great,” he told me!

His parting comment to me when he handed me the check Wednesday was, ” Boy, I didn’t realize this deck was going to be so expensive.”

(When I work for Bob, it is on a time and material basis…he buys his own materials and I work by the hour.)   I looked at him and thought, you have got to be kidding me..….

He didn’t get the area ready for the deck like I had suggested…so in addition to building the deck, we also ended up leveling off and packing 6 ton of lime. That shot an extra hour and 1/2  the first day.

Here’s a picture of the deck after the first day:

And here is a picture of the finished product:

So Wednesday after lunch, went from Bob’s place directly to Lowes to order material for landscaping job to be done later this Summer….

Did I  mentioned I was tired? 😉

I asked one of the ladies standing @ the counter if I could set up a delivery for 100 bags of red mulch, 80 landscaping blocks and matching caps.

Well, they didn’t have enough red mulch to  do my order…they did have another product on hand but that would be another $.67 per bag…= $67 more… and this was a bid job…..oh well.

Because this was going to be a larger order, I asked if there was any chance they could work with me on the delivery charge?

The lady said she would have to ask the store manager…which she did, and he said, they would deliver for $25. (a $40 savings for me.)

“Could she  match the $3 price?” 

“Well I will have to check with the store manager again.”  she said.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said.  (I just wanted to get things ordered and head home.)

There was some confusion @ the counter, as they tried to ring up the order.  They could not find me in their system  as a contractor.   I get regular e-mails from corporate, so I was pretty sure I was.

I could see one of the older estimators sitting @ his desk listening to me try to get things sorted out and he said, “Why don’t you just come here to my desk and I will help you.”

I had all of my notes with me, from when I’d originally looked up Lowes prices on-line…(the red 2 cubic mulch at that time was selling for $2.50 a bag…not $3 and certainly not $3.67)

So he and I  found the skew numbers for everything…and sent me on my way.

When I got home, I realized he’d sold me the mulch for $2.50 a bag.  He didn’t ask the store manager.  He just did it…a $117 savings and I did not raise my voice.  I didn’t whine, I didn’t rant.  I didn’t say, that’s not fair….nothing.  I was too tired to do any of that…. 🙂

There is definitely a lesson in all of that somewhere  😉

My heart goes out to those of you that work with the public on a daily basis…not just one cranky old codger @ a time (like me and “Hovering Bob”)…but dozens of personality types a day.

It has to get exhausting.

Guess who I am going to work with next time I need to get an estimate from Lowes…

Be nice to the customer service reps, the receptionists you talk  to, and yes, even the medical bill collectors. (I have a story about that I could tell you, but this is already getting way too long.)

Have a good weekend. DM