The Decision Has Been Made

Our truck all loaded up and ready to go to our farm.

Our truck all loaded up and ready to go to our farm early in the morning.

As promised, I told you I would keep you up to date on what’s happening on the farm and what decision we would make as far as our housing was concerned. We have made up our minds and want to tell you what we have decided.

I think the direction we are now going to go will be a big surprise to you all, I know it was to us and was not planned at all before this trip. It all started this past week when we went to the farm in Iowa to work, mow and get our concrete slab poured in our pole barn on Monday. The trip looked promising and very productive but the first three days ended up being a total disaster.

Day One

We got to the farm Saturday afternoon to drop off some more trees to plant and stuff to store in our pole barn. We had planned to stay just long enough to unload and check things over before heading to Des Moines to spend Saturday evening out with family and friends. Everything looked good with the all the trees showing their fall colors and the pond looked nice and full from all the rains they had in Iowa this past summer. The grass and weeds around the pole barn and around the pond where pretty green and high because we hadn’t been there all summer to mow. We unloaded the stuff we had brought into the pole barn and was ready to take off when I wanted to drive down to the pond to take a closer look at the pasture grass we had planted this past spring and that is when the trouble started.

When Everything Went To Hell

I was driving around the base of our hill towards the pond and noticed things seemed a little slippery and I got out to check out the ground. When I stepped out onto the high mat of weeds and grass water squished up around my tennis shoes, about a half-inch. I thought they must have had more rain then I thought because up on top of the hill everything was dry. The truck wasn’t sinking any because the mat of vegetation was so thick and no mud was showing so I decided to continue on with some reservations from my wife, but I told her, “don’t worry honey, this is why we bought this new truck with 4 wheel drive.” I hadn’t driven 20 feet further when I hit a washout and high centered the truck and got us stuck. Apparently all the rain had created a gully that came down off our hill and I couldn’t see it from all the high weeds.

This is the picture of our stuck truck and tractor.

This is the picture of our stuck truck and tractor.

I was in trouble now, not just because I got our new truck stuck but because the wife told me not to go down there. She was madder than a wet hen and said “now what are we going to do, we are supposed to be in Des Moines in an hour.” I said, “no fear, we have a 4 wheel drive tractor that will pull us out.” We got out of the truck and started walking up the hill to our pole barn to get our tractor with my wife chastising me the whole way. I know most of you have figured out by now where this is going, but you only know half of it.

We got to the top of the hill and the weeds were chest high and my wife didn’t want to walk through them because of the cockle burr and possible chiggers, so I told her to wait here and I would bring back the tractor and new mower and cut us a path to the truck and pull it out, it will take 15 minutes tops.

Second Mistake

I started up the tractor and grabbed a heavy-duty chain and put it on the mower deck and started cutting a path towards my wife. Our new mower had a 4 inch hole on top of the deck where you can look down through to inspect your cutting blades and there was supposed to be a plastic cover on this but something had knocked it out while mowing the last time we were there. I knew this hole was there but I was in a hurry to get back to the wife and get us unstuck so she wouldn’t be as mad. I had secured both ends of the chain to the mower frame with the chain hooks but the center of the chain was free to move about. I thought the chain was far enough away from the hole and started cutting and heading towards my wife. Everything was going well when I started heading down the hill towards our truck. The center of the chain slid forward and part of it went down the hole. I heard this loud awful noise coming from our mower and I hurried up and shut off the PTO on the tractor and I felt sick to my stomach. So here I have got our truck stuck and probably just ruined our new mower, what else could go wrong? You thought my wife was mad before, you should have seen her then. I will spare you all that she said but I said, “not much we can do about it now, lets just get the truck pulled out.”

Third Mistake

I had my mind on the stupid two mistakes I had just made and probably wasn’t thinking as clearly as I should have been when I started heading towards our truck on our tractor. I took a slightly higher path on the side of the hill with the tractor so I would have less chance of getting the tractor stuck and was going to stop 10 feet short so I wouldn’t be anywhere near the washout. I was about twenty feet away when I hit a sink hole and got the tractor stuck. The tractor got stuck because the 700 lb. mower got high centered on the ground. I couldn’t believe I had done something else and should have walked the path first to check for any such hazards, but I didn’t. Needless to say my wife was furious with me now. I can honestly say I have never seen her so mad. I am sure she was thinking at that moment about her own judgment in marrying a complete idiot, and  how had she missed that until now.

Now what do we do? I happened to bring along my phone book and in it I had a farmer’s name that lived close by that I had let his cattle onto our farm before we put our fence up. I called him and told him of our predicament and if he could bring his tractor and pull us out I would give him a hundred bucks. He said he couldn’t make it because he was in his bean field cutting beans but would call his cousin who also lived close by and get his tractor and pull us out. He cousin arrived and his big John Deere tractor and pulled us out with ease and we paid him his 100 bucks and then I noticed I had cracked the bumper on the new truck when I had gotten stuck. We started the hour-long trip to Des Moines about 45 minutes behind schedule with a very gloomy outlook unlike the good feeling we had when we first arrived and was looking forward to happy time in Iowa. My wife didn’t talk to me almost the whole way to Des Moines. We pulled into the Marriott Hotel downtown Des Moines and what a sight we must have looked to the valet. Our new truck was totally covered in mud with a cracked and partially hanging down front bumper, you couldn’t tell it was new. I stepped out of the truck in my mud caked blue jeans and ruined tennis shoes and they probably thought the Beverly Hill Billies had come to stay.

Our craked and hanging bumper.

Our cracked and hanging bumper.

In my next post I will tell you about the other two days and what we are now going to do.

Posted in Farm Report | 20 Comments

Farm Update


This is a picture of my gg grandparents log cabin where they lived and raised a 7 children. This cabin was located just 10 miles from our current farm.

This is a picture of my gg grandparents log cabin where they lived and raised a 7 children. This cabin was located just 10 miles from our current farm.

First off, I want to apologize for not posting anything for a while. Lately, I have been feeling like a ship with out a rudder. It’s because I can’t make up my mind on what type of housing we want to build on the farm when we start to build a year from now. My wife said she is fine with the what ever we build so its just me who can’t decide. I know a lot of you follow this blog because of the pole barn house that we have planned to build from the start, and we still might build it, but it hasn’t always been my first choice for housing. I have always loved log homes like my great great grandparents built in 1865 in the picture above. I just thought the price of these would be out of the picture for us, but after a lot of research I have found some options that make it more affordable to us. It will still cost at least 30,000 more to build than a pole barn house, mostly because of the basement we would put under the log home.

This classic look of an old log cabin from yesteryear.

This classic look of an old log cabin from yesteryear.

This log home is from Meadow Valley Log Homes out of Wisconsin and for about 47,000 they will deliver this to our location in Iowa and build just the log walls, second floor log floor joists, and log stairs. It will look a lot like the pictures below when they get done.

03-08-02b 03-08-02e

Before they come there to build the home my wife and I would have to build the subfloor deck and porches on our basement foundation like below

Then after Meadow Valley built the shell, we would have to put in the rafters, roof sheeting, and roofing material and then put in the windows and doors. We are planning to start this next September and we would have to get it weather tight before winter hits.

This option is only affordable if we do the rest of the work ourselves. My only concern is will my 60-year-old body be up to the task.

I still don’t know which direction we are going to go yet, but I know time is running out and I will have to make up my mind one way or the other by the end of October this year. I will keep you all informed.

Posted in Farm Report | 20 Comments

Whats Killing Our fruit Trees?

Peach Tree Bore

Peach Tree Bore

What’s killing our peach and cherry trees? That’s the question I asked myself when we were at our farm late last March and I noticed our peach and cherry trees were under a lot of stress. With me just learning to be a farmer I had no idea what it could be.  So when we went home I started researching online and found the most likely culprit was the Peach Tree Bore. When we went back to the farm again in May I looked for the signs of the Peach Tree Bore and sure enough… that’s what was causing the damage.

In this post I will show you what the peach bore looks like and the signs to look for and what you can do to get rid of and prevent them from harming your trees.

What is the Peach tree bore?

The peach tree bore is a moth that looks like a wasp that lays eggs in the  ground at the base of your fruit trees.  Once the eggs hatch out as a larve that looks like a skinny grub, it burrows into your tree trunk just below ground. They like stone fruit trees which are all fruit trees that have a pit in the center of the fruit, like nectarine, plum, cherry, and of course peach. It usually won’t kill a mature tree but if your trees are very young like ours it can kill them.

peach tree bore larvae

peach tree bore larvae


What to look for

The first thing you may notice is your trees may look like they are under stress or dying. The two cherry trees looked like they had died but sprouted again down towards the bottom of the tree trunck. The peach trees started growing water sprouts to get more leaves to help support it. When a young tree does this it is a sure sign that it is under stress from something.

Farm flooding 5

You can see here what is called water sprouts that are nothing more than many small branches that sprout out from the limbs of our peach trees.

If it looks like your trees are under stress dig into the ground at the base of your tree and look for a clear jelly like substance that will be covering an entrance hole of the larvae. If you see this then you know it is from the peach tree bore.

How we treated our trees

The first thing I did was locate several entrance holes of the larvae and I used an old fishing jig I had in my tackle box and I straightned out with a pair of pliers and I jabbed into the holes to kill the larvae.

Use a small wire or a straightened fishing hook like I did hear to kill the larvae.

Use a small wire or a straightened fishing hook like I did hear to kill the larvae.

Now if we lived there this is all I would have to do.  I could keep watch over the trees and check on them to make sure no other larvae are boring into out trees so I keep our fruit pesticide free… but we don’t so I have to resort to using chemicals until the day we move there.

What we used to kill the Peach tree bore.

What we used to kill the Peach tree bore.

I used Borer-Minor Killer by mixing 1 ounce to a gallon of water and I poured it all over the tree and around the base on the ground to help kill any larvae that I might not have killed with my fishing hook. Believe me when I tell you, I don’t like using any insecticide at all but since we are not there to constantly watch over our trees I felt I had to resort to this to help protect our investment in these trees.

Me watering some of our fruit trees on our farm with the Borer-Minor insecticide.

Me watering some of our fruit trees on our farm with the Borer-Minor insecticide.

The best defense against the peach tree bore is to have healthy trees, but our trees were under stress from last summers drought they had in Iowa and that caused our trees not to produce much sap and this allowed the Bore to bore into our trees and the tree didn’t have enough sap flowing to drown the larvae. If we could have been there to water our trees last summer we probably wouldn’t have this problem.

I don’t know if our peach and cheery trees are going to make it but it was a lessoned learned. At least we know now what we are up against and will do a better job of protecting our trees from here on out.


Posted in Gardening | 9 Comments

I don’t have Lyme Disease

I am happy to report I don’t have Lyme Disease. I got the blood work information yesterday and it was negative. I am happy about that because lots of times there is no full recovery from it. It was a big enough scare I plan on using deepwoods off with deet every time we go out on the farm from here on out. My wife has been bugging me about that anyway, epically after I got into some chiggers and shared those with her:)

The bad news is, this means I just have bad arthritis which there is no cure. I also don’t know why I don’t have any energy. Maybe its like what I chalked it up to in the first place, old age and being over weight. I am sure if I could loose these extra pounds it would help tremendously.

I am home now laid up from work because I slipped on some urine on the platform at one of our train stations and fell and twisted my ankle. I will at least be laid up until Wednesday of next week. Its all just part of the many dangers of being a train conductor in Chicago.

Looking at the bright side, maybe I will have some time now to finish some post that I have started.

Posted in Ramblings | 13 Comments

Lyme Disease

My friend Tom and his Sheep.

My friend Tom and his Sheep.

My friend Tom who lives by our farm called me the other day and told me he was diagnosed with having Lyme Disease. He had been having many medical issues for the last several years and doctors he had been seeing, missed diagnosed on all ailments and his health never improved.. He was searching the internet to see what could be causing  his problems and his symptoms were like Lyme Disease. He mentioned this to his doctor and then did a blood test and he was found to have the disease. He said he is now taking megdoses of antibiotics and said he is feeling better then he has in a long time and hopefully he is on the road to full recover. Not everyone responds and recovers from the disease.

Tom is not the only friend that I know that has gotten Lyme Disease in Iowa. Another friend was turkey hunting the spring before last,  near our farm and had gotten bitten by a tick and noticed a red bullseye rash had developed at the spot he was bitten.. He got his self  checked and was lucky he had gotten  diagnosed early.

I tell you this because I too have found ticks on  me on several occasions  when we go to our farm and I am having some symptoms that could be from the disease. Last fall I had  gotten bitten by chiggers on our farm and wrote about it in my post titled “Chiggers a hard lesson learned” At the same time I found some ticks too.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease

One of the first symptoms is a red bullseye rash at the area where you were bitten. I didn’t notice any red bulls eyes but with all the chigger bits I had, I might have missed it or in about 20% of the cases no bulls eye developed.

The next thing that one might experience is to have flu like symptoms a week or more after the bite. I had flu like symptoms about 10 days after I had the chigger bites,  I did a post “The New Gander Hill Pond” and mentioned it towards the end of that post when we were back at our farm 10 days after the chigger bites.

Another symptom is what they call Lyme arthritis and this usually happens in the knees. I have been having almost constant knee pain since around the first of the year. I have just been writing it up to arthritis and old age but nothing seems to help it.

Me watering some of our fruit trees on our farm

Me watering some of our fruit trees on our farm

The last symptom I have is I have been very fatigued and wasn’t sure why. I just chalked it up to working 12 hour days and not being as young as I used to be. With my knees hurting and me being so tired I was having lots of doubt whether I was going to be able to build our pole barn house once I retired.

I don’t know if I have Lyme disease but will let all know when my blood work comes back.

Posted in Ramblings | 8 Comments

How To Plant a Food Plot for Deer, Turkey, Geese and Ducks.

This is an old barn on I 80 that we always go by when we go to our farm in southern Iowa.

This is an old barn on I 80 that I have been meaning to take a picture of when we go by it on our way to our farm in southern Iowa. I finally did it this trip.

To plant a food plot for deer, turkey, geese and ducks all you need is some good soil, good seed and the proper amount of moisture and you too will be successful in a planting a great food plot for wildlife.

When we planted our pasture seed along  the area where we had our pond dug out we had not planned to plant a food plot for the local wildlife but that is exactly what we have done. When we went to our farm recently and pulled up and looked at our pond we could see lots of new green grass and at least 4 geese and a half-dozen ducks eating our new pasture like they were at an all you could eat buffet.

We planted a good mixture of grasses like tall fiscue, orchard grass, prennial rye grass, Alfalfa, White Clover, Red Clover, and Timothy for our area around our pond.

In this picture you can see the good mixture of grasses like tall fescue, orchard grass, Perennial Rye grass, Alfalfa, White Clover, Red Clover, and Timothy we planted around our pond.

When we got down to the area we planted to inspect it better, we saw lots of tracks from deer, turkey, geese, ducks and many more animals we didn’t recognize and it looks like all have been dining on our new grasses. We don’t mind seeing lots of wildlife eating our grass. That is what we look forward to seeing when we move there, but wished they would have waited some until the roots on the grasses had a chance to grow deeper so when the animals eat the grass it wouldn’t pull the grasses up by roots and all.

This pasture would have been better if the local wildlife would have let it get established more.

This pasture would have been better if the local wildlife would have let it get established more.

The animals thought we planted it all just for them, we are not complaining, it’s all good and has turned out well. We even planted another 40 lbs of seed but not sure we will get the required rain to make it germinate. I guess time will tell.

We couldn’t mow down around our trees that are planted on our bottom ground because of the recent flooding and it was still to wet and muddy. We did mow up on our building site and we did find some troubling things going on with our fruit trees and I will do a post about that soon. Until then enjoy some more pictures of our recent visit to our farm and of the old barn at the top of the page.

Click on all pictures to enlarge them.

Gander Hill

If you look closely, you will see 3 geese that retreated to Gander Hill when we came down to look at our grass. I am sure they have done that many times to avoid predators on our farm.

Gander Hill Pond

This is how it all used to look around our pond this time of year before we had our pond dug out and piled the dirt around the pond.

North Pasture

Our North pasture is looking good after we mowed it this past fall.





Posted in Farm Report | 6 Comments

Flooding Update

Our grass seed has started to grow.

Our friend Tom took this picture this past week and it shows our grass seed has started to grow.

My friend Tom went to our farm this past week to check on our grass seed to see if any has come up and I am happy to report not all was lost because of the flooding. He said there is a lot of green grass growing all over the Levy where we planted the seed and even places where we didn’t. As you can see from the photo above, grass is growing where we didn’t plant it. It was probably blown there from the strong winds or the flooding not sure which. Grass seed needs to be kept moist to help it germinate and with all the rain they have had there these past several weeks has created perfect conditions for this to happen.

The area left of our pond doesn't look to have flooded.

The area left of our pond doesn’t look to have flooded.


Posted in Farm Report | 10 Comments