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  #41  
Old 07-12-2012, 07:45 PM
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I guess I take the grain thing for granted in a way, since that was always just part of the process growing up. Never really gave it much thought then, that's just how we did it and never really gave thought to the idea that you could do without it. Today, the importance of it has really sunk in and I'm devoting a lot of our resources to the restoration and maintenance of the equipment necessary to make that happen.

I will make a recommendation to you S2man; Keep an eye open for one of the old, horse drawn grain seeders that were used to plant winter wheat between the rows of standing corn. Back in the olden times, when corn was snapped by hand, it was common that the corn would not all be harvested until late in the winter. However the wheat crop for the next year needed to be in the ground by late fall, mid October or so in this area, regardless whether the corn was out or not. So, a 5 or sometimes 7 hole grain drill, usually about 3' wide, was used, pulled by a single horse, between the standing rows of corn to drill seed. IMO that would be perfect for the size operation that you have. Pull it behind your garden tractor for a 2 person operation or do a little modification on it to mount directly if you want. I think you'll have less seed loss to birds and rodents planting this way compared to broadcasting.

Threshing by hand is a pain, as I've learned threshing out this barley. I've seen plans for making a flail of sorts, powered by electric drill, inside a plastic bucket that would make the process a lot easier. I think you might also make a stationary thresher that could work even better if you had the time to tinker with it. Winnow it in front of an electric fan, or out in the driveway on a breezy day and you're there, ready to make bread or porridge or whatever.

Good luck with the sunflowers. I tried that once and the doves and some kind of little yellow bird with black wings (some kind of finch maybe?) absolutely loved them. They had the seeds picked clean in less than a week. IMO, if you have the fences in place to keep chickens in and neighbors dogs out, letting chickens free range around your yard is the only way to go. When my birds roam fee, egg production increases, the feed bill drops, and the birds are all around healthier and happier. A standard 4' woven wire perimeter fence will pretty well contain them. Also, fence around your garden to keep them out of it whenever you have things growing. Chickens love cabbage and especially tomatoes. Our plans here include, hopefully this fall, fencing a bona fide barnyard, about 2 acres or so, to let chickens run in as well as a place to winter breeding stock. If you ever go that route, just be sure that the birds have a secure place to go at night and lock them in. I 'spect the tree line behind your house contains a lot of coons that would love a free chicken dinner.
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  #42  
Old 07-14-2012, 12:30 AM
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I will definitely start watching for a grain drill.

I don't have a chicken tractor; That just popped into my head as an alternate method of removing the vegetation and preparing a seed bed. My chickens are in a mobile coop with electro-mesh fencing around them. Though they are not completely free range, I keep them on fresh pasture all the time. Once I get the place fenced, or the neighbor gets rid of that dog, they will be free ranged. We lock them in each night, and the fence keeps any predators out day and night (I enjoyed seeing the neighbor's dog learn the fence was hot).

Oddly, we don't seem to have coon's. We do have a 'possum which visits the compost pile and made a mess of the grease catch-can on the BBQ. Another neighbor has chickens in a coop/pen made of chicken wire. I know a coon or dog could go right through that, but they have had no problems, so far. We also have not had any hawk problems. I've only heard of one person in the area who had a hawk problem, but he raises bantams.

Strangely, we had more critter problems in the city than in the country. Deer, coons and squirrels were all nuisances there. I think a rabbit ate one of my cabbage plants this year; that's the extent of the damage. And some dog hair sprinkled about has kept them out of the garden since then.
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  #43  
Old 07-14-2012, 04:41 AM
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How well does the electric poultry mesh work for you? I've considered it for rotating pasture for my birds, but was kind of afraid of the price, not knowing what to expect on how well it worked. Re: chicken tractors, I have my doubts about them. My experiences with chickens confined on dirt is that while they do remove the vegetation, they also tend to pack the dirt to the point that it would still need to be tilled or something to make a usable seed bed. Not discounting the value of what the chickens can do, just saying that they probably won't give you a final product without some extra effort on your part.

I envy you not having to deal with raccoons. I've lost as many as 40 birds in one night to the blamed things. Deer nip the occasional corn stalk and have been absolute murder on our young apple trees, and squirrels raid the ear corn crib regularly, but neither really cause that much damage in the grand scheme of things. Besides, I figure whatever they eat now is just a down payment on the meal that I may want to hit them up for someday.

I started working on cleaning the oats yesterday evening. A day in the sun made all the difference. Unfortunately, the chaff and grain doesn't have a significant enough size difference to separate mechanically, and the grain is so light in weight that my winnower blows too much of it out. Hmmm... So, about midnight last night I set about building my own grain cleaner. Think air hockey table under a shaker screen. In theory, the grain shakes across the screen over the air table, which blows the chaff up enough that a vacuum hood will pull it out. The whole thing works off one shop vac, the discharge providing the lift and the vacuum pulls off the chaff. I built the air table and tested it under a spare window screen last night and was pretty pleased with the results. Now to build the frame and the shaker mechanism. The whole thing will fit on a table top, and should work well cleaning grain for human use. I figure it should be able to clean ~2 bushel an hour, hopefully to near 100%. Stay tuned for results, hopefully this weekend.

Picked the rest of the barley crop last night. Looks to be a little more than the first that I picked. Still haven't threshed it out yet, but the first bunch yielded about three quarters cup of seed, this looks like should be a little over a cup more. Looking like ~2 cups total, which would be a little better than I expected. Now, gotta get the grain cleaner built so I can get the seed separated.

Scored a pretty good find yesterday on metal shelves. A friend of mine is going out of business and was getting rid of hundreds of them, approximately 15" x 36". No supports, but I can frame those easily enough. Planning to re-work our canning racks with these. The shelves won't be as deep, but we'll be able to space them appropriate to canning jar sizes and put a lot more of them in the space. Most importantly, these won't sag like the particle board ones do, and won't be as subject to damage from moisture and humidity. Right now, we usually double stack glass jars, which I've never thought was a good idea, and still have lots of wasted vertical space. I think this will be a great improvement.
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  #44  
Old 07-14-2012, 01:53 PM
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That's a great find on those shelves. That size will be great for sorting by type of canning too. Hope to see pics when you get them finished.
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  #45  
Old 07-14-2012, 08:06 PM
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I was going to build a chicken tractor, at first. They are all the rage. But moving it every day or two to keep them on fresh pasture sounded like too much work. I suppose they might be handy for urban chicken keepers...

The electomesh fencing is working well for adult chickens. Young ones can slip through the mess, even when it is hot. I figure 1) their feathers are more insulative than a nose or a finger. And 2) I can not get a very hot fence. I keep the ground rod watered and conductive, but still have not gotten over 3000 volts on the fence. I'm working on it...
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  #46  
Old 07-14-2012, 11:09 PM
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I sure would love a pic of your setup S2man, I will be getting chickens soon. And was thanking about a chicken tractor for their safety from other critters. Would like to see an alternative. thanks
sissy
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  #47  
Old 07-15-2012, 03:44 AM
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That's about what I figured on the electric mesh. Little birds can be such escape artists. The fluffed feathers make them look so much bigger than they actually are, they seem to be able to slip through lots of places that look bird proof. Never thought about the insulative properties of feathers though. Wonder what the breakdown voltage of a feather is?

Karen; I was glad to find the shelves, but it was kind of a sad situation. Business failed after 2 years, lost a lot of money. He was headed to the scrap yard with them and I gave him better than scrap price for them because I felt bad for him. Doggone the rotten economy anyway. Probably won't get shelves put in for awhile, but I'll try to post some pix when we get them done.

Got another half inch of rain today, much needed. Worked on my grain cleaner idea for about 4 hours, enough to test the theory anyhow. It definitely works, but not quite as well as I'd hoped. I was able to remove light chaff and dust nearly 100%, but the problem is with smaller, denser materials, especially stuff that's round in shape like weed seeds, wild onion in particular. Trying to figure out how to attack this, the stuff that's left is too similar in size and weight to the stuff I want to keep, so I'm not really sure how to filter it. Hulless oats are so small and light compared to other grains, they're a little rough to work with.

Beyond that, I kinda spent the rest of the day catching up on sleep. Crashed for about a 4 hour nap this evening and didn't get much else done. I hate wasting time like that but I guess it's necessary to recharge the batteries once in awhile.
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  #48  
Old 07-16-2012, 01:17 AM
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Just finished the barley project. The test seed cleaner worked well on it since everything was so dry and clean. Final result was 1.5 cups of clean grain (volume). I counted out 20 seeds in a 1/4 teaspoon measure and they filled it exactly. So, by my calculations, 48 teaspoons to a cup, ~80 seeds per teaspoon, 1.5 cups yielded ~5760 seeds, or a return on my original seed stock of about 23:1. Pretty close to my original estimate. So, if we can repeat that next year, we should end up with ~34.5 cups or a little over 2 gallons. Repeat again and season 3 should result in ~49.5 gallons, or about 6 bushels by volume. That would easily plant 2-3 acres, or one acre with a few bushels left over to eat or save in case of crop failure or whatever.

http://www.blueriver.net/~krapgame/f...s%20barley.jpg

Nice looking little grain, isn't it?

More rain today, about a quarter inch. The garden and crops are responding well to the rain. Our field corn patch that was barely chest high last weekend is now nearly head high and looking really good. Much better than I see anywhere else in the neighborhood. Tomatoes are setting well and starting to ripen. Grapes getting ripe, but very uneven. Still looking like a bumper crop though. Lots of raspberries setting on, several getting ripe.

Thinking about making a lumber purchase this week to start on the new chicken coop. I'm seeing the need to separate birds for different purposes, breeding, brooding, etc. so best just get it done and over with. With most of the farming done for a few weeks, it might be a good time to work on it.
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  #49  
Old 07-16-2012, 01:18 PM
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That barley sure does look good, kg. Kudos on that project, and good luck with it in the future.

I want a larger rabbit/chicken coop for the same reasons. But as I said in another thread, its a want, not a need. The hens will lay just fine in their portable coop.

Sissy, I'll post a pic of my set up over in my homestead thread.
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  #50  
Old 07-17-2012, 03:35 AM
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This afternoon I stocked up on more soybean meal for the pigs. Warning to anyone interested, if you need soybean meal, or corn or wheat, GET IT NOW!! 2 months ago, I was buying bean meal for ~$12.50/50#. Today it was about $17.50 and going up almost daily. It took me three stops to find a mill that had it in stock. One mill I stopped at said that corn was over $8 today and headed to >$9 by August. IIRC, he said they are now selling 50# of cracked corn for ~$13.00. I generally don't make predictions, but I will now; based on the drought and the affect (effect?) it's having on grain P&A as well as all the derivative products, it IS gonna get ugly.

Picked up my last 3 pigs from my Amish friend this evening. Had a really good visit with him. Good news is that he offered to set me up with his buyer to sell pigs next year. That would be a really nice boost in our farm income. He went over all the details and it sounds like a really good deal. I'll be seriously thinking about it. We also had the chance to discuss other things, including some of our farming techniques; I learned a lot this evening. Knowing that his community generally and he specifically takes a bit of an isolationist attitude to the happenings of the rest of the world, I did take the opportunity to discuss some of the big picture things that are going on and how that could possibly affect him. While I think his fatalist attitude will prevail with him, I think I did get him thinking about some things. While I have no doubts that his community will be minimally affected in its ability to produce food and such, I have great concerns that their pacifist ways may leave them vulnerable to English who are less prepared. I accomplished my objective, to plant a seed. How it develops is now up to him.

New pigs are home and settled in with the original 6. They seemed to have some differences to work out among themselves initially, but they were all sleeping in the same pile at dark. Guess they got it figured out.
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  #51  
Old 07-17-2012, 12:44 PM
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I never thought about it much, but always had in the back of my head "The Amish will be fine in a collapse. They won't even notice".

I forgot about their pacifist ways. Oh dear. I wonder if they would hire a gun-toting Englishman to guard them. Many of them seem to have work arounds for using machinery, electricity, etc., maybe it could apply to security, too.
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  #52  
Old 07-21-2012, 09:29 PM
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So much to do... Haven't accomplished a whole lot this week due to the rains and increased work schedule from the storms. I think we had a little over 2" for the week altogether. Really thankful for it. But it has put a bit of a damper on getting projects done.

While the ground still has some moisture, I'd like to plow down some straw stubble. Probably will do that tomorrow, or at least get it started. In light of the expected hike in food prices, I think we'll start the basement shelving project sooner rather than later. That'll be a good project in the evenings for a few days. Still haven't gone after lumber yet for the chicken coop, but that will happen soon, weather permitting. I will mark off corner post locations tonight for the chicken pen addition and see if there is enough moisture to get those dug as well. Got some junk that really needs moved first, guess we'll see how that goes. I'm designing an incubator that will do 5 trays of 40. Planning to hatch a lot of birds next year to sell and butcher. With the added coop and pen space, I think it will be easier to manage that.

Grapes are slowly ripening, but very uneven this year. Some are ready to pick, some are close and many are still green, all in the same cluster. I guess that's not uncommon, but I've never really experienced it before. We're checking them every day and will start picking when there is enough to justify it. First tomatoes ripened this week, so we'll likely be up to our ears in them in 10 days or so. Deer are really taking a toll on sweet corn. I've been trying to think how I can arrange an electric fence to keep them and later, raccoons, out. Our stored corn supply is lower than I realized so we need to protect what we can there. I think I've got an idea for it, if I still have some of those 8' posts.

Pigs are doing really well. They come running to greet when they see you coming now and will let you scratch their ears while they eat. I sort of pity city folks that never have the opportunity to interact with farm animals. Whether the chickens or pigs, just taking a few minutes to sit and watch them do their thing really takes the stress out of a long day.
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  #53  
Old 07-22-2012, 12:44 AM
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Don't forget I have some 8' posts and a driver....
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  #54  
Old 07-22-2012, 04:05 AM
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Thanks, Patience. We'll probably need to get together on that shortly. Not sure that they can be driven now though. I started digging post holes for the chicken pen this evening. The first 6" or so wasn't bad. After that it was like trying to dig concrete. I dug as far as I felt like, then filled the holes with water to soak until tomorrow and will go do it again. I figure it'll take 4-5 rounds of this to get them deep enough. I'd hoped that the ground would have taken in more moisture than that, but guess I didn't really expect it either.

Started re-arranging existing shelves tonight in the basement. One shelf cleared, ready to move out of the way, then we can clear the 2nd and put its contents on the first one. Once that's done we can start construction, probably Monday evening. It's getting overwhelming, seeing all these tasks that we should have done years ago, knowing they needed done years ago, and now realizing they all are top priority, get them done yesterday important. Oh well, only one way to get them done now; one step at a time.
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Old 07-22-2012, 10:50 PM
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The pigs are finally in the big lot. Talk about a happy little bunch of piggies! Hopefully they'll stay happy enough to not try to find a way out through the fence. Now they've got 1/3 acre of pond to wallow in and an acre and a quarter of mixed pasture to graze. I was going to try to get a few pix to share, but by the time we got them all out of the truck they had disappeared into the underbrush around the pond. I'll get some pix in a day or two.

Otherwise we spent the day doing mundane maintenance. The yard is mostly all mowed and we got a bunch of stuff picked up that we've been working around for several weeks. Kind of warm again today so unfortunately we didn't hit it quite as hard as we intended to. Hoping to catch a second wind and get a little more done this evening.
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Old 07-27-2012, 02:16 AM
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Still putting in more hours with the day job than usual, so not getting as much done around the homestead as I'd like. Weather is miserable, fairly high temps and high humidity. Thankfully we've been getting some rains which are really helping the garden and the corn crop. It's almost embarrassing, our corn is tall, green and healthy while all the other corn in the area is dry and brown on at least the bottom third or more, some of it is starting to break over. If we can keep getting the half inch or so rains every week for the next month or so, I'm expecting to have a really good crop.

Current picture of the corn patch; http://www.blueriver.net/~krapgame/f...eldjul2012.jpg

This evening I replaced all the knife sections in the mowing machine. The test run afterwards was impressive. High humidity in tough fescue near about dark and I couldn't run fast enough to get it to clog up. In good conditions I think it will cut like it ought to now.

Pig are doing great. No escape attempts that I know of so far, they seem content to spend their days rooting around the pond and wallowing in the mud. I check on them every evening when I get home. They know my voice and come out of the weeds to visit when I'm there. They won't quite come up to be handled, but very nearly will. I did take some pictures the other night with the intention of sharing, but they came out too dark to really be interesting. I'll try again this weekend.

Grapes are on the verge of being ready to pick. Probably will get the first batch this weekend. They've got a sweet initial taste, but still have a pretty tart aftertaste that I'm hoping will eventually ripen out. Planning to can a lot of grape juice this year, my best guesstimate is that we'll have ~5 bushels to pick before we're done.

The worst problem that we're having this year from the dry weather is with all the varmints. Deer are still visiting the sweet corn about every night, although the new daily damage seems to be decreasing. Of greater concern are the red tailed hawks that have found our chickens. Two young hawks are around the area almost every day, usually sitting on power poles watching for whatever out in the pasture, but tonight I heard a commotion from the chickens and guineas and looked just in time to see a hawk flying low over the pen. I don't think they got any birds, but the ladies were definitely upset by their visit. Not exactly sure what I'll have to do about that situation yet. Also, based on reports from neighbors, I'm expecting a lot of trouble with raccoons when the sweet corn gets near ready, although I've had the least trouble with them in the chicken barn this year that I've had in several years. Guess we'll see.
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Old 07-28-2012, 09:57 PM
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Sounds good, kg. Congrat's on the steady, if small, rain. We got 1.5" out of some showers last Wednesday. But the weather man says we need 10" to get out of our drought status. Probably time to irrigate again...

I was worried about hawks because several of our neighbor's have netting on top of their chicken runs. But my friend in the next county said she has never had a problem. The folks we bought replacement pullets and cockrells from had 300 free ranging chickens. They said they've only seen one hawk attack, and the hen fought it off. We're feeling good because our favorite rooster leads the hens right into the coop whenever a buzzard flies over. We assume he'll do the same if he sees a hawk. Boy, he gets upset when one of the hens doesn't follow him. lol

Oh yeah, a neighbor raising Bantams looses a lot to hawks, and another friend in Kansas lost a bunch of young friars. But those are all small birds. Sounds like full-sized chickens should be safe around here. Harvey Ussery reports in his book, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, seeing hens and a goose attack a hawk which went after a young 'un. Sounded like the hawk got the worst of it.
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Old 07-29-2012, 01:20 AM
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I've always been concerned about hawks S2, but have never had a problem with them. I always thought it was because of all the trees in the chicken pen, since hawks usually seem to prefer to make "dive bomb" attacks and all the trees I think frustrate that strategy for them. Regardless, I've not seen any evidence that they've been successful yet, but we're still keeping an eye on them.

Had planned to get a bunch of pasture and such mowed today and hopefully start plowing under wheat stubble. Instead, I spent most of the day dealing with tractor problems. Guess I got some dirty fuel somewhere along the way and it has a fuel line partially plugged. Got it cleared once and ran a couple hours before it started acting up again. I'll make another effort tomorrow and if it still isn't resolved, I think I'll just invest in a couple feet of new fuel line and replace it.

Spent a little time visiting with the pigs. More just watching them really. Interesting seeing how they behave in nature; completely different than I remember the pigs we had growing up that were kept in confinement. Took them a big bucket of leftovers from DWs peach canning efforts today, as well as leftovers from breakfast and lunch. That was a big hit!

As I said, DW spent the day canning peaches. I think she brought home a little over a bushel this week from the U-pick farm where she works in the fall, as well as a big box (20# maybe?) of blueberries. Cool thing is that she gets them at half price as an employee. Tomorrow we're going to try dehydrating the blueberries. Not sure how many jars of peaches she got done today, but the counter looked pretty full when I was last in the kitchen.

Grapes are getting closer, but most of them still aren't quite there yet. We'll probably make a very selective picking tomorrow. Looking forward to fresh grape juice!

Sweet corn looks terrible but I believe we'll have a few bushels in about 10 days. Ears are small but the ones I looked at are filled out pretty well. Three small patches this year, about 1200 row feet each planted 10 days apart. The first two are pretty sad looking but number 3 looks really good. We should get >10 bushels from it, maybe 3-4 bushels off each of the other two. Hopefully that'll be enough for us and for my parents. Deer completely ate theirs, I think they picked <25 ears total.

Tomatoes also getting ripe. I think we cut back to 40 or so plants this year, but they seem to be doing very well. I know we need to can chili sauce and salsa, not sure what all else DW has planned. Probably will also can a lot of tomato paste again.
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Old 07-30-2012, 12:02 AM
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Finally found and fixed the fuel blockage problem this afternoon. Spent the rest of the evening mowing off the hog lot and the foxtail and ragweed in the spelt and wheat patches. Most everything you can see from the road now is mowed and almost looks respectable. Need to get the back pasture now and finish the new property and the mowing will hopefully be done for awhile.

While mowing, and looking at the weeds that are coming up, I see that several areas of the farm are starting to get pretty poor. Lime this fall is becoming a priority. I know the place hasn't had a complete coverage of lime in at least 30 years. If everything works out, some friends have just started construction on 3 turkey finish barns, and I've put in a word for all the turkey litter they care to spare so the whole place will get a liberal coating of that next spring. Hopefully that will drop the price of the fertilizer bill next year to near zero.

Since we've got 2 diesel tractors that we rely on very heavily, I'm thinking I ought to pick up a good book on diesel mechanics. I've worked on and rebuilt gas motors for years so I'm not too scared of diesels, but there are just enough differences that it might be good to be better armed with a little more knowledge. Again, like with the combine, a mechanical problem that needs fixed will really show any shortfalls a person has with regards to being self reliant.

Trying to make a little freezer space in anticipation of the beef in a few weeks, so we dug out a turkey and a couple small pork roasts. They just came off the smoker. Now we'll have to eat smoked barbecue all week. I hate that..
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Old 07-30-2012, 02:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KarenBC View Post
Boy do I feel for ya..yep I do. If ya'll need help with that smoked meat eh, I'm pretty sure we could help.
We'd be tickled to have 'ya! Bring an appetite and come on down.
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