The weather in early 2017 has been unseasonably warm, so I decided to go ahead and start the spring garden a few weeks early. I usually do not plant until after the Ides of March. With everything blooming out early and daytime highs hitting the low 80s, I decided to start planting in late February.
This garden will be special, as it uses decade old seeds. I posted a video on youtube about stockpiling seeds and then shared the video on survivalistboards, twitter and reddit. A couple of guys on reddit said made statements that seeds can not be saved.
A few weeks ago I walked around the property looking for squirrels. There were a couple of locations that had perfect squirrel habitat, but there were no signs of squirrels being in the area. There were no pine cones that had been tore apart, no half eaten acorns nor did I see any squirrels.
As I followed a creek that runs along the back of the property, the timber transitioned from pine and oak to mostly oak and iron wood. Iron wood is a tree that grows in the shade of larger trees. It does not produce any kind of nut for squirrels or deer. It is mostly used for its hard wood to make walking sticks and bows.
Several years ago a lot of the older pine trees were cut off the property. Pine trees are a renewable resource when managed properly. Several large pine trees were left on the property to so they could reseed the area. Their seedlings float in the wind and can travel several hundred feet, depending on how the wind is blowing. I expected to see oaks and ironwood, but I also expected to see pine tree saplings coming up. I was rather surprised when I did not see hardly any pine saplings.
2017 is the year I fence in several acres for livestock. I have been talking about this for several years, and this year is when I take action to put the project into motion.
One of my favorite books about medieval life, which is Life in a Medieval Village by Frances and Joseph Gies, talks about how people valued small livestock. Cattle were mainly for milk production, which was used to make cheese and butter.
In medieval times there was no way to preserve meat for long periods. If a 500 pound cow was butchered, a large amount of meat would rot and go to waste. Based on that, I am going to focus on small livestock and just a couple of cattle.
Landed a tractor powered log splitter for the farm. This is something I have wanted and needed for a very long time. An older gentleman had a log slitter he was no longer using. It had been left uncovered for so long the hoses and seal on the ram had dry rotted.
The splitter works with a pump that slips over the spline of the tractor PTO. The hoses going to and from the pump were dry rotted through and were leaking.
There is a place in Jasper Texas called East Texas Mill Supply. They can make up a new hose in a matter of a few minutes. That is where I took the hoses.
My chicken house is a mess. About a year and a half ago I set up a water barrel system inside the chicken house. It is a 35 gallon drum going to a stainless steel pan with a float. The chickens have been getting on the drum and pooping all over the top of it. When I fill the drum up chicken poop is all over the place.
Then there is the metal trash can I store feed in. It is next to the water barrel and close to a corner of the chicken house. The chickens get into the corner and lay eggs, right where chickens get on the feed barrel and poop.
There is barely any room between the feed can and the wall, but enough room for the chickens to get into.
I decided to rearrange everything.
The water barrel is getting moved outside.
The feed can is getting moved away from the wall. Now I can get in there and clean out.
The chickens are getting a laying box put in the corner.
Rather than buying an anvil, I decided to build one out of a piece of track and tie plate I found in my grandfathers old barn. The barn is maybe 75 – 100 years old and has various pieces of farm equipment in and around it.
There are various examples on youtube of railroad track anvils. A lot of them involve drilling or cutting holes in the base of the track and then securing it to a stand. Why not weld the track to a tie plate, and then bolt them to a stand? Seems to me having a wider base of the tie plate would distribute pressure while beating on the track.
I wanted something besides your typical piece of railroad track welded, chained, or bolted to a stand. I wanted something that when people see it they say “that is cool”. I wanted something that was semi-portable. So that when I build my pole barn I can move the anvil and stand to the barn.
Guineafowl are loud, not as friendly as chickens, not very smart, but for some reason they are fun to have around the farm.
In late summer of 2015 I got a dozen guineas along with some chicks. Over the course of the next few months 4 of the guineas went missing or died. I found one guinea chick dead from what I suspect was heat stroke.
Guineas are not supposed to be good parents, and that may be true. What I am seeing with my guineas, the chicks have to keep up with the flock, kinda like sink or swim. While at the same time the flock protects the chicks.
The guinea flock will run off any chicken that dares get close to the keets. Guineas do not seem to share food with the keets, but rather shows the keets where the food is at. At a week old I saw the flock taking the keets close to 100 yards from the chicken house.
The mama guinea hatched out 6 keets. A week and a half later all 6 chicks are still alive and well.
A buddy of mine has been talking about getting into blacksmithing. This got me to thinking, why not get into it myself?
I have a poor mans anvil that has been laying around the farm. Awhile back a large hickory tree and large pin oak fell on the back of the property. I have the anvil and I have something solid to build the anvil stand out of, sections of a tree trunk. All I need to do now is put everything together and pick a few odds and ends.
While looking through youtube I came across this video that discusses in great detail what is needed to get into blacksmithing. I like that the person making the video is not recommending top of the line tools. Obtain what is needed to get started on the path to blacksmithing and go from there.
Three blacksmith essentials:
Anvil, or something hard to work the steel.
The video discusses in great detail different types of forges, different types of anvils, such as the London pattern and the European style anvil.
This type of video is exactly what I was looking for to help on my future blacksmithing endeavors.
While bush hogging through some heavy brush the front of the tractor ran into a limb and broke a weld on the radiator guard. The brush guard frame is inch and a quarter angle iron with perforated steel making the actual guard. This is probably the second or third time the weld has broke. The weld itself is fine. The issue is the leverage put on the weld with the brush guard.
My welding qualifications:
2 years experience structural steel welder.
12 years experience fabrication AMSE certified pressure vessels and shell and tube heat exchanges. I have been certified on carbon steel, chrome and stainless. I have experience fitting and working with Monel, Hastelloy, Inconel,,, and a few other alloys. The vessels and heat exchangers I built had everything from water to hydrogen to phosgene running through them, but not all at the same time.
A couple of months ago a water oak (pin oak) and a live oak fell on the back of the property. This has given me the chance to stockpile some much needed firewood.
While I have all this freshly cut oak firewood, I decided to play around with some ideas. One of those ideas is splitting firewood with railroad spikes. If someone does not have a splitting maul, 8 pound sledge or wedges laying around, what about railroad spikes?
Railroad spikes are somewhat easy to obtain. Ebay is loaded with them, then there are the flea markets, and the vast number of them laying around old farms. In the early days of logging mills, narrow gauge tracks would be built out from the mill in various directions. When the mills closed crews would pick up the tracks. Left behind were numerous bolts, plates and spikes. Using a metal detector it is common to find spikes left over from these narrow gauge tracks that went out from the mills.
How easy or difficult is it to split firewood with railroad spikes? That is what I set out to answer.
A couple of months ago a couple of oak trees fell on the back of the property. At first I was going to do a video and article about stockpiling firewood. As the project progressed, I came to the realization that the trees were symbolic of what the world needed most – love, respect and dignity.
If people would show everyone around them, everything, and the world itself those things things, everything would be better off. Our lives would be better, the world would be a better place, our families would be better, our children would be better,,, everything would be better.
The tree I was working on in the video is a water oak (Quercus nigra), also called a pin oak. The other tree that fell is a live oak. The live oak has a bunch of intertwined limbs that is going to make it rather difficult to cut up. The pin oak has a nice straight trunk with just about all of the limbs at the top. Since the pin oak is going to be easier to cut up I started with it.
Both trees fell across a washed out area next to a creek. The tree top was on the bank of the creek, while the root ball was on another bank. A Stihl MS310 was used to cut off the top and cut up the trunk. The bank was too steep to carry the logs up to the truck, so a tractor and rope was used to pull the logs up the bank.
Over the past month of or I have taken an interest in blacksmithing. One of my buddies has been talking about making knives and such. this got me to thinking about learning the basics of blacksmithing.
Rather than spend a lot of money on an anvil I have been looking at various anvils made from railroad tracks, also known as the poor man anvil.
While looking through youtube I came across this video about homemade railroad track anvils, which have had steel welded to the top and bottom. The larger anvil has a magnet on the side. One of the comments on youtube asked what kind of steel to use. The reply was AR500.
One of the things I have been thinking about is how do you mount a railroad anvil to a solid base? The video answers that question for me. A thick piece of steel is welded to the bottom of the anvil and then clips welded to the steel plate.
Very nice video about a guy who finds a piece of steel at a local scrap yard. The piece looks to be around 3 inches thick and the guy says it is 27 1/2 inches long.
What makes the video so interesting is how he builds a wood base and frame around the piece of steel. He starts out with some 2x6s and a rubber pad. He builds a base made out of wood, puts the rubber pad under the piece of steel, then builds a wooden frame. By the end of the video he has a very nice setup with slots to hold his hammers.
What I would have liked to see is a frame that could be left outdoors, such as in a polebarn. Not everyone has a nice enclosed shop to work in. Some people may have their farm supplies in a simple barn with a dirt floor.
When I moved to the farm almost 3 years ago I thought this was going to be easy. Build a nice chicken yard, build a chicken house, plant some fruit trees, and things will be off and running. Then I can work on the pole barn, barn, and fence in a few acres for goats and cattle.
Lets just say things have not been going as planned.
Fruit trees have been a failure
Either from disease, drought, drowned from too much rain,,,, whatever the reason, my fruit tree project has not gone anywhere near as expected.
A plum tree my kids and I planted several years ago died. A second plum tree is not doing anything. It is not even hardly growing.
Peach trees are not growing as expected, or died. Out of the several peach trees that were planted over the past few years, only one has grown and is producing any peaches. This year that one peach tree is not doing anything.
Fig trees died from the summer drought of 2015. June, July, August and September 2015 we got very little rain fall here in southeast Texas. I did not keep my young fig trees watered like they needed, and 3 out of the 4 died.