If there is one life lesson I’m supposed to be learning this turn of the karmic wheel, its patience. Patience with people. Patience with projects. Patience with myself. Because once I’ve decided to do something, I want it done yesterday.
Ever seen that funny post floating around on Facebook of late? Men: if you ever wanna know what a woman’s mind feels like, imagine a browser with 2,857 tabs open. All. The. Time. Yup, that’s me. And this year, two of those browser windows were irrigation system and quonset hut.
We got a bid on putting in a pump and pipe to tap the irrigation ditch that runs along the road in front of your house in late February. We pay for the irrigation water. Paying for it is not optional. But we had no way to get the water from the road all the way to the back of our property about 700 ft away. Someone had started to put in a weir box, probably 15 years ago, which was now partially covered with dirt and weeds, rotting wood and rusted rebar. It was hard to even know what was down there.
It took forever to find the right company to even answer the question about how we needed to proceed, several conversations to explain that we were not a big ag operation and we did not need to run the entire system at once (nor was there enough water to do that anyway). So, no, we didn’t need a 25 horse power pump, we needed a 5 horse power pump.
We DID need to contact the power company, have them evaluate the closest transformer for additional load and put in a new post and run a line to power the pump (house electric box is several hundred feet away, so believe it or not, a new post/line was a better option). This had to be coordinated with the irrigation company so we got a pump with the correct “phase”, electrically. We rented a trencher and bought PVC pipe and ran it to the back of the property. We bought a giant hose and a big “gun” sprinkler. Eventually, they came out and installed the pump and the electric to make it go.
And then…it didn’t work, due to several issues I won’t bore you with. In the end, we convinced the irrigation company to reinstall the pump the way my husband had originally suggested back in March, along with a few other modifications. They charged us for parts, but not labor, because it was now OCTOBER and we had missed an entire growing season of irrigation. And miracle of miracles, it works. We FINALLY have a way to get irrigation water to our back field. Now I’m dreaming of giant pumpkins back there. Or an orchard. Or, for right now, a whole lot more grass and a whole lot less star thistle and other weeds.
The quonset hut we bought used about this time last year. We needed an additional building to house ducks, chickens, turkeys and rabbits so that the goats and sheep could have the horse stalls in the winter. Through a friend, we heard about this quonset hut that had been set up at a county fair 15 years ago by a company trying to sell quonset huts. It was a display model.
A man bought the display model for $5,000. He loaded it onto a flat bed trailer, and there it sat until he died. His son inherited it. We bought it for $2,500. We rented a large U-Haul to transport it from Spokane to Walla Walla. It came with three instruction manuals and huge buckets of nuts and bolts. Written on the outside envelope of the manuals was the dimension 24′ x 32′.
We were never able to confirm with the manuals the length of the building. Width, 24 feet. Length = ?. The company had long since went out of business (can’t imagine why given that they forgot to include stuff like dimensions in their instruction manual)! So we went with what was written on the envelope. We got a building permit, which necessitated having an engineer evaluate the structure and write a letter to the county confirming that it would take the snow load ($300), and having the county price the building at $30,000 (they get a percent of the value as part of the permit cost – NICE).
We contracted with a local farmer friend of mine who used to have a concrete business to pour the foundation. We solicited friends and neighbors to help put up the structure. We unloaded, dusted off 15 years of crud and bolted together 150 arch pieces (each arch has 5 pieces – 4 long and one short). We used scaffolding and ropes and a lot of cussing to get the spaghetti noodle arch pieces vertical and in place and bolted to their neighbor. We struggle with weird pieces we were not quite sure what to do with (we assume they were part of the original display, which would not have been set up on a foundation). We have many discussions over what appear to be visually clear but verbally opaque instructions. We drank beer and bought sandwiches and pizza and said thank you thank you thank you to friends and neighbors. Oh, and when I say “we” I mostly mean my husband. He’s a saint. I was off caring for animals and growing produce and making soap through a lot of this.
And then, and then…wait for it…we were one arch short. The building was 24′ x 30′, not 24′ x 32′. If we had counted the 150 arch pieces and done the math, we would have realized it. BOY am I sorry I didn’t count those arch pieces. So…time goes by. My cement guy is also a farmer, and he’s buried in farm work until October. He is finally able to come out and pour a new footing at the end of the building. (While he’s here we have him pour all of the cement “grout” in between the arches. This puppy isn’t going anywhere, ever). We put the end wall up. It’s a bit short in length, but we don’t care. We use treated lumber to make it fit. The pieces are a bit tight. We use clear plastic roofing material to create a side light/door in the end, so there is still some light in the building when the front door is closed.
It’s a beautiful thing. The dirt floor is covered with wood chips we’ve had stored in a horse trailer since we rented a chipper and shredded them this spring. More straw will go down on top. The ducks and turkeys have already been moved. We’ll work on building some internal structure and moving rabbits and chickens this next week. Fabulous! Especially because we didn’t separate the rams from the ewes this year and assume our sheep have bred early, and so will be having babies while it is still cold out.
Meanwhile, I had my last farmer’s market on Sunday October 27th. It was a great year. I haven’t crunched the numbers yet, but I estimate my sales increased by about 20%. And in the last few days I’ve made Tomatillo Ketchup from a bag of frozen tomatillos and green chiles that I’ve had since the summer of 2012, a batch of Peach BBQ Sauce using Apricots I froze this June (because I didn’t have time to deal with them), and this Immunity Syrup, the components of which I’ve been collecting from various natural food stores (including some bought on a quick trip back to Durango Colorado and some from Butterfly Herbs in Missoula Montana), and a bottle of elderberry syrup I made and froze last fall. I ended up substituting lemon balm for the nettle. I have lemon balm coming out of my ears, and have not located a local nettle patch. Lemon balm is good for upset stomach and headache, and is used topically for cold sores, which says to me that its got some antiviral properties.
Now THAT’s progress!
Next up, ripping out all of the tile and this old barely functioning wood stove (it will go live in the shop), and installing a new wood stove and new surround. Cause you know, I’ve still got 2,852 browser windows open!
We’ve hated this set up since the day we moved in. The stove is ugly. It doesn’t meet EPA requirements for a wood burning stove in Washington. The tile is ugly and doesn’t go with anything in the house. The mantle is too close to the pipe. And the gold trim…blech. We pried out the orange and green tiles that were on the front of the stove with a screwdriver, the first week we moved in. I’ll post an after picture when we get it done. The installer comes today to assess how much of the old system can be reused.
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2013, where things are always getting checked off the list, just never as fast as I would like. But we’re grateful to have warm shelter for all of our critters, including ourselves!