Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Final Countdown... ...House 2.0


We are, baring some unforeseen complication, less than a week away from living in our house. In the last few weeks, we have been out there almost every day working on something house or farm related. There will still be a lot of small things to do, but the necessary items should be completed by then.  

One the farm side, the pastures have greened-up nicely and on the last day in April, I turned the cows out to graze the the east side of the farm (around 8 acres). I spent early April working on fence connectivity around the farm and getting power to the high tensile lines that went put up last fall. 

Looking Toward the House and Building from the East side of the Farm

Cattle Getting Turned Out to Grass on April 30th

Wiring& Digging under the Gates to get Power to the Boundary Fences

Wiring up the Fences so We Have Power

We have starting to get this growing season worked out. Poultry have been ordered, but we are starting a month latter then we normally would. We have only two calves so far, but several other cows are looking pretty close to calving. I hope we can can get customer correspondence out within the next two weeks, including delivery dates. We do still have some inventory left from last year (whole chickens, ground beef, tenderloin, flank steak, porterhouse steak, and, shorts ribs come to mind). We will be working with the Story City Locker this year. That will cost quite a bit more, so adjustments to beef pricing will come this year.  Beef prices have been steady for three years, but our costs have not. I am excited about the possibility of working with the Story City Locker and about new products we might be able to offer. As it currently stands, we will not have new beef ready until the September delivery, but we should be good to go for fall grilling season. Story City Locker is going to work with our left over turkeys and create some turkey garlic and basil sausages so we have something to offer customers for the summer grilling season. 

The house is coming together finally. There are so many fine details to work out, like sanding and staining trim, touch-up paint, and grading around the house. Despite all of the things left to do, I figured I would share a few pictures of where we are right now. The trim carpenters did a great job. They are some of our new neighbors and are fine craftsmen.

Kitchen in the New House is Coming Together

Egg Washing Station also Coming Tgether

Stove Propane Tank just got Delivered, to its Own Little Concrete Pad

Janice and I just put the Vanities Together Yesterday

Trim Carpenters Built the Wood Lockers in the Mudroom

Trim Carpenters Put the Stairs Together

Another Look at the Stairs

 Through this whole process, the kids of hung in there. We have really been pushing them to the limit here in the past few weeks. Our Son has obviously grown accustom to going to the home improvements stores. They have held up surprisingly well given the circumstances. During this time to, our Daughter had her fifth birthday and our Son is a week our of being two-and-a-half.

Just Another Day on the Job


The Hearth is a Great Place to Set-up the Train Set


Big Sister Trying to Read to Little Brother

Through this whole process, we have had some great help from some friends and family, from painting, to laying tile, to installing insulation, and watching the kids. Without their help, we would be weeks behind. Stay tuned as we hope to get moved in and get production up and running here within the next two weeks. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Getting Ready for Spring

It has been too long since I posted to the blog. The weather is improving rapidly and the grass is starting to really get growing. There is a lot to work going on between the house and the farm. We had our first calf this past week. We have the potential to have as many as 11 calves this year. That is a huge number and when I think about it, it is pretty intimidating. I do feel like we are finally starting to get over the hump with the cattle herd. 

First Calf of 2015

The tractor has been back on the farm for some time. I burned out the auxiliary hydraulic motor in the middle of winter and had to have that replaced. I finally got around to replacing the bucket on the tractor with the bale spear. Since it was the first time making the switch and using that spear with this tractor, it took a lot finagling, but two-and-a-half hours later it was done. 

Bale Spear Finally on the Tractor

 The other day we had freezing rain and falling temperatures that ended in several inches of snow. I was very glad to go out to the farm and find all of the cattle under roof. I finally have the capacity to do this. It is one of the little things I always felt really bad for the cattle in those conditions in the past.

 Cattle Huddling Under Cover to get out of the Freezing Rain

On the farm this year, we have several big goals. We should have a new website (finally), we will be hosting our first Practical Farmer's of Iowa field day in June for hands-on fence building (we have an insane amount of prep to get ready for this), we have to come up with a way to brood poultry, and we have more fencing work to push forward on. I would love to build a full scale chicken building, but I just don't see the budget for that right now. Other than a chicken building, finishing the inside of the cattle shed and acquiring a herd bull are also high priority items.

The house is coming along pretty well. The roof is on and the exterior is almost complete. These pictures are about a month old, as most of the house work has been focused on the inside. Wiring, plumbing, heating and cooling all got their rough in work done. The house has been spray foamed and now the drywall crew is finishing up on the inside. Next up will be painting and finish carpentry.
House Exterior in Late February

House Exterior in Late February

House Exterior in Late February

The family is doing well. Aside from a week in February, everybody has been pretty healthy this winter. Everyone is pretty excited about the new home. Thanks to my awesome wife, things are staying pretty close to schedule. 

Watching Daddy Feed Cattle


One thing I am a little conflicted over about this year running the business is being a stay-at-home dad and being a farmer at the same time. I have tried to really embrace the stay at home dad gig more while I have been in town. I make many of the family meals, do the meal planning, try to schedule some activities during the week (even if that is just going to the library). I am not sure how to balance that when the demands of farming increase. It might result in some changes as the season develops.


Lowe's Build & Grow

Lowe's Build & Grow

Lowe's Build & Grow

Biking around the Neighborhood

Reiman Gardens Indoor Butterfly Garden

Dog Sitting

Stay tuned as we get our production and delivery schedule fully hammered out. The house is coming along quickly right now. It changes quite a bit on the inside from week to week.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Let There Be House



We had an extremely mild January. This allowed us to go from piles of lumber to an almost fully put together structure in less than two-and-a-half weeks. November's weather was so cold that we were very concerned about how any progress was going to get made on the house. But three mild weeks has made a big difference.


Framing the Basement

First Floor Framing

Rafters Going Up

Sheeting Going On the House


Windows & Doors Going In

Many of the windows going into the house have been in storage for over ten years. The house itself is something we have been working toward for around twelve years, and I will admit that there is something very rewarding about finally watching it take shape.  It is also exciting to take the next steps forward as we move into plumbing, electrical. HVAC, siding, and roofing. 

Outside of the house, not a lot of activity has been going on around the farm. I continue to put two large round bales out every four to five days. I had to invest in two new hay rings as the old one was worn out. They certainly are not cheap, ouch.

Cattle Eating Hay out of Two New Hay Rings

The tractor hydraulic system has been giving us fits ever since the new clutch went into the tractor. It started with the control valve block on the back hoe started leaving all over. Unfortunately, that part is crazy expensive, so it is not getting fixed any time soon. It is possible to just unhook the backhoe from they hydraulic system, so it really is a manageable problem. However, recently the auxiliary hydraulic pump started to fail. Since that pump controls the loader (needed for hay moving, and gravel and dirt smoothing and moving), it needs to be fixed. Fortunately, it appear to be about a fifth as expensive as the valve block to fix. It was already been an expensive end to 2014, and having this problem already is not a great thing for early 2015.



Leaky Control Valve Block


Leaky Auxiliary Hydraulic Pump

I did make some progress finally getting power hooked up to our fences. There is still many more connections to make and two more gates to dig under, but it is a start. 

Energizer is Running Now

Burying Insulated Power Line Under a Gate

The kids continue to get bigger with each passing week. We celebrated Christmas as a family together with my Sister's family, my Father, and my Grandmother. It was not the same without my Mom there. It has been almost a year since she passed, but her presence was always a big part of Christmas and the holiday just is not the same without her. 

Bringing a Gift for Grandma

 If it has Wheels, He is Onboard

Playing at the awesome New Ames Library

Showing off Designs She Just Made on Her Chef's Hat & Apron

I think that is it for now. Will the tractor get fixed, the house get steel shingles, and there be more pictures of the kids? Stay tuned to find out.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Never Want to Do That Again, but I am Thankful

I never want to move again. Not just move, move all of the cattle, which means prepping the new site for cattle which equals fence, water, power, and the act of physically moving 21 animals 65 miles. I never want to move a the stuff a farm accumulates over seven years. Feeders, waterers, tools, trailers, fence panels, chicken pens, etc. I also don't want to, but will have to move all of our freezers, product inventory, and not to mention our household possessions, again.

Moving the Chicken Pens to The New Farm

A Load of Freezers Headed to Ames

This process started in September, when fence building went from a need to an urgent need. Let me just say, we have awesome friends. Many of whom sacrificed repeated weekends to help build and repair fence. Together we ran several hundred feet of high tensile fence, installed three gates, and repaired 2/3 of the entire south side fence on the new farm. That entailed removing obsolete wood and steel posts, and replacing them with steel posts, and re-hanging the wire. And doing it in weather that was not pleasant to work in.

Nate, Jared, and I Building a Corner Brace

On November 1st, we lost access to our old pasture and had to move our cattle to the new place. That meant four trips back and forth, and catching all of the animals so we could make the trips. If you have seen my handling facilities, you would know that they are not remotely up to the challenge. The whole process was pretty miserable.

Catching cattle in the Cattle Shed Proved the Easiest Way to Load Cattle



Unloading the First Load of Cattle at the New Farm

When we moved the cattle, our water system was nonexistent so I spent several weeks racing to install a water system only to have to reinstall half of it again, because of a critical failure. Thankfully, the cattle were able to get water out of a draw the whole time, even with the crazy cold November weather.

Cobett Waterer Installation

Water Pipe Installation

Functional Cobett

 We Have a Leak

 Exploratory Digging of Leak Reveals a Large Connection Failure

Primary Spot Cattle Have Been Drinking From the Waterway


Janice Running a Rented Mini-Excavator During Second Water Pipe Installation


Instead of moving house and farm stuff, I was spending a great deal of time working on a water system, which then led into November deliveries for Thanksgiving, and the water system again to replace the massive failure. This all compressed the amount of time we had available to move down to a few days and resulted in a frantic mess. On top of that, we learned that the new owner was going to destroy every building on the farm, except the chicken building and start over. So there was a bit of an additional scramble to salvage some additional items because of that.

Bye Bye Home

Needless to say, the children were stressed out by the move and the new household that we setup in Ames. Of course, we were also very stressed out and strained by the whole process. Janice was not only moving, but prepping to present her final group project for her MBA, and coordinating contractors on the new house. Despite all of the stress of the past 8 weeks, I am thankful for a few things.
After Several Weeks, Janice and I Finally got an Evening Together

First, I am thankful that this move is in the past, seriously thankful. Second, I am thankful that Janice and I love each other as much as we do, because I sure pushed her to the limit (actually past quite a bit). Third, I am thankful that we have awesome friends and family, like Nathan, Rob, Tom, and Jen for helping us move household items, like Audra, Jeremy, and Michael for wiring our building,  like Jared, Adam, Nate, Jeremy, Rob, and Michael for helping with fence building, and Jared, Amanda, and Darvin for helping watch the kids. A special thanks to Jared and Adam for spending successive weekends out on the farm building fence well into the night. Lastly, I am thankful that things are starting to normalize a bit and that new routines are finally starting to get set-up.

Helpers Loading the Livestock Trailer


Stay tuned as we hopefully start to frame a house this week and look at doing some December deliveries.

The Basement is Fully Poured and Framing Should Begin Soon