Last weekend was my first weekend away from the farm since we bought it. I had a fear of being tied down to the farm for the everlasting future if I did not escape regularly from the get-go. There is always going to be something to do, something to fix, something to build, something to mow. But I still want to live my life and enjoy my horse (the reason for which we bought a farm). So last weekend, I took my baby horse to a local cross country course to try his hand at jumping some solid fences. Suffice it to say that he was awesome. If this little fellow doesn't have a future in the hunter ring like I hoped, I think he might be able to cut it as an eventer! The wonderful Erica Zerbe (http://ericazerbe.com/) took the photos for me.
For our housewarming, we invited all our friends over for a boot stomping, beer drinking, rubbish burning, good time. We spent days making lawn games, finding every item that could be used as lawn furniture, and mowing the weeds to make the lawn presentable. A massive trip to Costco also helped with the food supplies.
We were impressed with the rural dress, commitment to the party theme, and enthusiasm of our friends to get rural.
But the highlight of the whole party was the bonfire. Both chicken coops and a lot of knot weed created the majority of this fire, with a few logs from the fields thrown in for good measure. The pile was a bit bigger than last time...
And it made a bit of a bigger flame too.
The best, though, were the attempts to roast marshmallows.
These chicken coops were an eyesore. In the beginning, we had discussed with Ted about which elements of the property he would remove and which we would keep. We knew that the chicken coops were pretty ugly, non functional, and in a spot that we anticipated using for the RV (eventually). However, we used them as a bargaining chip - told Ted that we would keep them and the "garden fence" in exchange for him removing the hog pen, the yard waste, and the random pile of junk in the woods. This, we all thought, was a good deal.
What we didn't realize was what a pain it would be to demo the chicken coops. At first we had some kids come and sledgehammer it for enjoyment and exercise. While they didn't actually do much to the structure, it was super funny to see them working on the farm, wrecking things.
Chris and his buddy spent the better part of an afternoon whacking at the coops and removing whatever parts they could. Then he went at it with a sawzall and substantially weakened the structure. The final step was this lovely moment, caught delightfully on film:
And, of course, the next step (after three loads of wood in the truck) was this:
When my dad came over for Father's Day this weekend, he brought with him a present. Color samples from the paint section of Home Depot. And with them, he brought a task: what color, precisely, are the stains in the bathroom?
We decided that the tiles were a shade called "Sequoia Grove"
The toilet was "Sable Brown"
And the bathtub rust stains was "Regal Red" and the faucet stain was "Chocolate Sparkle."
Because if you can't have fun with the attractiveness of the bathroom, what else can you do?
Waffles have always been a family tradition for us. There is the annual Waffle Feast that my parents host on the day after Thanksgiving, the waffles we eat on Christmas morning, and the waffles that we use as an excuse for family get togethers. Thus it only seemed right that for our first Father's Day on the farm we celebrated with waffles.
Now granted, the kitchen wasn't unpacked, the waffle maker wasn't the Belgian one, and the toppings were more spartan than we normally have, but it was still waffles, and it was still good.
One of our least favorite features of the house was the rustic garden fence. It was directly in front of the house, was the first thing you came upon as you drove up, and served virtually no purpose as the garden inside was really just a bunch of weeds and overgrown grasses. In addition to this, we really needed the space to fit Lynda and Terry's RV, so the fence, at a minimum, had to be pulled back.
Terry took the first crack at the fence, taking out a few sections in a matter of hours.
We did realize that this was maybe not the most efficient way to remove the fence, so shortly thereafter we started sledgehammering the fence and ignoring the task of removing all the nails. This worked really well for the fence boards, but it was not very successful at removing the split rail posts. For those, we needed a little help.
Pete suggested trying to use a vehicle to tip the posts over and pull them out. This idea sounded a lot easier than digging each post out by hand, not to mention a lot more fun, so we figured we could at the very least give it a shot. As the truck was tied up with tree trimming and branch hauling to the burn pile, Pete came up with the idea of using his Prius instead... and if it worked it would be hilarious!
And, no joke, it totally worked. This must be what happens when city folk move to the country.
On this farm there is no shortage of material that needs to be burned. A few chicken coops worth of plywood and 2x4s, an entire "garden" fence made out of sticks, a drain field full of knot weed, ten truckloads of branches from trimming the roadway, and an entertainment center all made their way into the fire.
A quick discussion about the cost vs. benefit of adding more nails and metal debris to the burn piles from Ted (already strewn with metal) and we threw out the idea of removing every nail prior to burning. This action alone saved us days of labor.
The fire was accelerated quickly with the addition of a few fluids that needed to be disposed of, and we felt it did the rural zone proud.
On Saturday Chris and Terry broke down and decided to buy our first real farm toy. Chris had originally bought a push mower that can do finish work and borrowed some weed whackers from a friend to get us started, but a week into owning this place and he already knew we were fighting a losing battle. Knowing that a Kubota is on the 12 month plan and not going to be bought any time soon, we started perusing craigslist for a DR Field Mower.
We had used one of these before at Shoofly and Chris loved the ease of use, the manliness, and the actual ability to do work. He found a good deal on a 20" track 10 horsepower mower with very low hours in a nearby town and after waffling for a day decided that the math worked out in our favor to go get it.
Needless to say, it was a very exciting purchase and we were anxious to get to work with it. On Sunday, we spent the morning gathering wood and rubbish for burning on the last day before the summer burn ban was enforced, meaning that the pretty new mower had to sit inside, unused.
And while I say that Chris was excited to use the mower, I might point out that I could barely keep my hands off it and was the first one to have a go at using it. The mower made short work of the "garden" and once the weeds were knocked down it started looking like a real lawn!
It was amazing how much better things started to look when the grass was a uniform length! Then I ventured over into the weeds and brush by the drain field and started working on that while the boys tended the bonfire. This was more challenging, but even more rewarding.
The day ended with a reasonable amount of the knot weed on the drain field pulled, burned, and mowed. Some more consistent mowing and the yard will start looking respectable again.
We knew that propane was going to be a potential issue, as the previous owner had rigged a system of 5 gallon propane tanks to the water heaters to avoid paying for a full tank of propane.
Doing this, we figured, likely had messed with the connection between the house and the tank and had caused some damage. Pacer initially told us that we would not be able to get the tank inspected for damage and subsequently refilled until the end of the month, which would have left us without heated water for another two weeks.
This is one of those situations where being married to a lawyer is useful - a secondary call later and the inspector was scheduled to come out the following morning. The inspector was aghast - the previous owner had bent several important pipes and cut off a connection that was integral to create a junction for the 5 gallon tanks (all the while, there is a connection where it would have been simple to connect a smaller tank to the main one). He did leave us a lovely folding chair that was originally used to hold the small canisters of propane, so score one for the lawn furniture!
Much grumbling of both husband and inspector later, we have propane running into the house and water that does heat up. This, however, made it apparent that our gas stove is not currently working... but that is another project for another day.
The house, when we did our final walk through, had water. Like legitimate, warm, working water. The house, on the day we closed, did not have water, of any form or temperature. What happened next was the first of our real introductions into the mind of the man from whom we bought this property.
Initial inspections showed that there was possibly no electricity going to the pump house, so a call to PSE was first on the agenda.
PSE calls back and says nope, the power is hooked up, it must be a problem on our end. We then get the phone number of Ted, the previous owner, who tells us that "vandals" stole the wiring for the pump, and that must be the problem. Clearly if there was vandalism, Ted did it himself.
Pete, Kate's dad, takes this as a opportunity to work on some of the less than correctly installed features of the well.
Evidently it is a bad plan to have the pressure switch and pressure tank 300 feet from each other (hint: this kills the expensive metal chunk in the ground... this becomes important later).
Luckily we had the number of the local well guy - the same one who drilled this well in 1971 - thoughtfully given to us by the neighbor. We call the well guy - hereinafter referred to as "the Texan" - and after a long, drawn out conversation with his wife, schedule a looksie for the next morning at 9:30 am.
Terry cancels all of his appointments for the next day and loiters around the property waiting for the Texan to arrive. At around 2 pm, with no sign of him and no response on his cell phone, Terry finally gets through to the wife, who has no idea where the Texan might be. At about 3pm, he is reached on his phone and he arrives a little over an hour later.
He does a quick assessment, says there is likely one of two problems, and for both of them we need to pull up the pump. Our choices are: pump is broken or wiring is broken. Neither is good, but both are fixable. We agree to have the pump crew out the next day (hopefully on time this go-round) to check out the pump.
The next morning the well truck arrives. It is the best the 1980s had to offer. Went well with our pump house and assembly.
Gage and his no-so-much English speaking friend (green hoodie) arrive to pull the dead gear out of the hole, anticipating an easy fix.
Dead pump. Note the pump is made of a pump (upper portion) and motor (lower portion). This will be important later. The well head is on the left.
As they pulled out the pump, the guys noted that the piping for the water was... less than sufficient. What should have been either rigid PVC or stainless tubing was actually a flimsy tubing that was easily bent. Decision #1 was to replace this tubing with stainless when the new pump was put in.
Decision #2: The previous pump was probably fried when Ted installed the pressure tank in the house instead of next to the well. We choose to put in a replacement pump. It was installed at noon. Pressure tests along the line show that the pressure tank is not reaching full PSI of 80 and is instead capping out at 70. Gage and friend attempt to call the Texan for the next four hours to establish probable cause. Texan advises that the pump might be the wrong horsepower, despite the pump being brand new. Gage and friend pull the pump, verify that it is correct, reinstall, and call the grumpy Texan again. This time the Texan advises that the motor specs and the pump specs might not match. The pump is pulled again. Gage and friend install a new, matching motor and reinstall down the hole. Problems persist as the pump should be able to reach 113 PSI. It still caps out at 70. Extensive diagnostics continue for several hours, including pulling the pump several more times to verify bits of information. The crew finally quits around 9:00 pm.
At this point, we started looking for leaks along the line, and Terry broke out the divining rods. He located the water lines, but we didn't find any leaks. This was verified by the fact that pressures stayed steady at 70 PSI from the well head to the house.
The resolution, as it stands right now, is to pull the pump out (for the sixth or so time) and send it to the manufacturer for study. It is advertised as being able to get to 113 PSI, but isn't operating to capacity, and even the Texan couldn't figure it out. We do have running water, albeit at 40/60 PSI instead of the 60/80 that we should have.