Archive for the ‘Just for fun’ Category


We’re USAF, but since my brother’s in the Navy…


Occupy Movement Hits the Flying T

I walked to the equipment shed a couple days ago and found that the Occupy movement had hit our farm.

"Occupy Shed" Protest

They weren’t as persistent as protesters in other parts of the country.  By the time I’d come back from occupying my tractor seat and evicting some more Pin Cherry trees from the pastures with my chainsaw, they’d moved on.  Even though it was nice and dry inside the shed, they knew I wasn’t going to feed them there and so they went on their way to forage for food (you can learn a lot from animals).  However, one of them did leave me a symbol of their protest – a fresh egg in the corner of my tractor bay.  Sometimes protests can be so yummy.

Occupy Skillet

This got me thinking.  If the chickens represented the OWS folks, that would make them the 99% (good guys/gals) and me the 1% (evil greedy egg-eater).  But I’m not sure I want to be counted in the 1%.  Maybe I am anyhow.

Occupy Pasture

If we’re talking economic status, I definitely don’t qualify as the top 1% in the US, but I’m also not in the 15% who are below the national poverty line.  In fact, I’m probably in the top half of citizens financially because last April I was one of the only 53% who paid income taxes.

I’m also in the 37% who voted in 2010, the 6% of my generation who are military veterans (and the less than 1% who are combat vets), the 7% who hunt, the 30% who change their own oil, the 95% who don’t go much deeper under the hood than spark plugs, and the 12% who consider faith a vitally important part of our lives.

Occupy Trough

Some of these groups have more significance than others, and a lot of this is a matter of perspective.  Getting back to the financials, 5% of our population in the US is in “extreme poverty” (half the poverty line), so the rest of us are in the top 95%.  If we look at it globally, it’s an even different perspective.  A family of four in the US making $22,350 (2010 poverty rate) is in the lower 15% of the US… but they’re in the top 10% worldwide according to the Global Richlist.  If you currently bring home the US median income (over $50K), you’re a “one percenter.”  In fact, the mere fact that you’re reading this right now puts you in the exclusive 30% of  the population with Internet access.

Occupy Hammock

BTW, if you’ve never spent significant time in the “two-thirds” world, you really don’t know what poverty is.

Still, I don’t feel comfortable with this at all.  Part of it is because when I look at these percentages, what I see is that it is “us” versus “them.”  No matter what X and Y are and what distinguishes between the two of them, the X% vs Y% debates today are taking on the form of ad hominem attacks – accusing “who” instead of discussing “what.”

“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism.” – President Theodore Roosevelt

President Roosevelt was talking about the scurge of those working to assert the specific interests of “German-Americans,” “French-Americans,” “Irish-Americans,” etc into the workings of the United States.  What he insisted was that instead, we needed to work together as a union towards the interests of the nation as a whole.  To extend that idea, I believe we need to stop thinking about who is right, who deserves privileges to be bestowed or stripped, and who has or has not, and instead focus on what is right, why it is right, and how we can do right.

Occupy Barn

So, as I think about the “Occupy” phenomenon beyond my own equipment shed, only one percentage really makes sense to me.  I’m in the 100% of us who should be taking an interest in where this nation is headed.

[Edit:  The following was in my morning readings the day after I wrote this post]

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

– 1 Timothy 6:6-10

May I learn to be content.

Farmcycling Airplane Parts

Our church got a great idea to have a metal scrap drive to raise funds for the new kids’ classroom addition.  So, after we got home this afternoon, we sent the kids on a scavenger hunt to find what they could in the woods.  The church gets to build without going into debt, our woods get cleaned out, and our kids stay occupied while we get things done around the ranch… everybody wins!

A while later, they come back with the Radio Flyer filled, and empty it to start their scrap pile.

Some of this is pretty much normal stuff you might expect to find on an old farm… bolts… a can full of nails… a roll of scrap fence… an old car or tractor generator… some miscellaneous farm implement parts… even a cast iron manifold off a tractor.

But what’s that square piece of aluminum towards the upper right of the photo?

A cargo door off some kind of light aircraft.

Actually, it looks like it has a paint scheme similar to my buddy Jughead’s Cessna 170, and he does have a bit of a reputation for landing in a different location than his aircraft (the story is here – and it’s worth a read).  But I checked, and his airplane is safely in its hangar.

So now it’s a mystery.  I’m not quite sure how it got into our woods.  At first I thought it might’ve fallen from the sky (this happens from time to time – someone forgets to close the latch properly, it pops open inflight, and it gets ripped from the hinges and falls to earth, followed by the pilot’s lunch).  But then I noticed a few other pieces of aircraft aluminum in the pile.

Now I’m tempted to go look and see if the rest of the thing is out there.

[edit:  I was thinking last night… I may need to buy this from the kids and turn it into something on the farm – we are the “Flying T” after all]

On bonfires, boy scouts, and tractors…

When I was a Boy Scout, like many of my comrades, I liked to poke around the fire.  In survival school, we called the fire the “Survival Television” – throw a branch in or rearrange the logs, and you’ve changed the channel.

My wife said today that a bonfire on a crisp Fall day is one of life’s true pleasures, and I agree with her.  So today we got a burn permit from the Fire Department and spent a bit of time burning a pile of pin cherries (we’ve been slowly clearing them out of our back pasture, as they’re poisonous to horses and goats) as well as some more of the debris left by Irene a couple weeks ago.

Fires are just as fun as they used to be.

But now I have a tractor, and I have to say that playing with a fire with a tractor has got to be one of the coolest things grownup boys get to do (besides using the tractor to knock the trees down in the first place, and then the chainsaw to cut them up).  Here’s a video of dropping one of the pin cherry stumps into the bonfire.

Life is good.

On Gadgets

It’s a little known fact that the managers at the local Tractor Supply Co and Home Depot franchises have recently seen the same specialist to cure the same problem. It seems their salivary glands go hyperactive anytime they see me roll into the parking lot.

If you have a small farm, you know that there are all sorts of gadgets you can buy to “help” you.  Now, I’m a gadget guy – and my wallet and I are drawn to them like bugs to a zapper – but I’m also honest with myself.  I’m firmly convinced that very few of these machines, slicers, dicers, and automatic car washers actually result in a net gain in productivity, though some of them are just downright fun (as in the “Whiz-Bang Chicken Plucker,” which we don’t currently own… yet).

What’s a Whiz-Bang?  The story about it is on the inventor’s website, with some great photos and descriptions; however, while a photo says a thousand words, a video is even more verbose.  A bit of Google-Fu gives us an example:

Where were we?  Oh yeah, why gadgets rarely result in a net gain:

Say a person makes the US median income – about $45K a year, or $22.50 per hour.  He or she takes pride in his/her lawn and edges it every week from April to September using  an old-fashioned rotary-blade manual push edger for the task, a good workout that takes an hour to complete.  By the way, we’re talking about “a person,” not me.  I don’t edge my lawn.  It’s not visible from the road, I’m not exactly sure how one edges a gravel drive, and my wife normally mows the lawn anyhow… a long story involving lions, beavers, and USAF flight training.

Back to the story.  One day at Home Depot, said person notices that the Binford 2000 gas-powered Lux-o-Edger (with patented dual counter-rotating blades of turf death) is on sale for only $250.  The sales associate expresses horror when hearing about the old-fashioned edger our person currently uses and says “This baby will do the job in half the time.”

Our gadget guy (oops – I just lost the non-gender-specific edge, I guess) buys the edger, gas can, oil, extended warranty, storage cover, and auxiliary lighting system, and laser grass illuminator, checking out for $350.  Over the two-year life of edger (exactly the length of the extended warranty), he also spends another $100 in gas and parts, bringing the total cost to about $450.  In the end, he saves 20 hours of labor (24 minus  the 4 he spends changing the plugs and oil, and sharpening the dual counter-rotating blades of turf death), which at his hourly wage is worth about $450.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to close my Macbook and go spend some time adjusting our automatic chicken coop door.  Maybe I’ll use the tractor to turn the manure pile also, since it’s so much easier than using a shovel.  Afterwards, I’ll go scrounging for a food drum for a project I’ve been considering.  I’ve already got the motor….

You might live on a farm if…

You might live on a farm if…

10.  …you normally awake before the rooster (and when he wakes up first you have an urge to reach for the duct tape).

9.  …at least once this week, you’ve been outside in PJs and rubber boots.

8.  …the dockhand at the grain store starts filling your truck with your order before you get to the counter.

7.  …some of your nightmares start with your kids yelling, “Mom! Dad!  The goats are…”

6.  …you cruise dumpsters for building supplies.

5.  …your work gloves wear out too often and always in the same place.

4.  …a police officer has stopped by your house to see if you’re the owner of a horse/goat/pig/cow/llama/emu/etc that’s gone walkabout.

3.  …you scoff when you see “Fresh grade AA” on an egg carton in the grocery store.

2.  …you shower in the evenings.

1.  …at least one member of your family has seriously thought about having you committed.

(Feel free to add your own)


A few days before we headed out on the road to our new home, we had to go to the Vet to get a health certificate, and we figured that while we were there, we’d get a few other things done as well, including floating the horses’ teeth and some other things I’ll have to write about later (because they truly deserve their own post).

With us moving all over the world, my wife got to work in a few vet clinics, including large animal care.  She talked from time-to-time about filing horse’s teeth (“floating”).  “Back in the day,” that’s how it was done – with a file.  I often wondered how exactly you file the teeth of a half-ton animal.

This day, I was finally going to see how it was done.

I’d been out of town for a month and a half, getting a start on my new assignment and setting up the house and getting it ready for the family – human and otherwise.  Martha, in the meantime, had gotten the old house ready to move (while keeping it in tip-top shape for viewings by potential buyers), gotten the kids ready to move, and gotten the horses ready to move.

In her “spare” time, she’d worked pretty much every day on teaching Jasper to get into the trailer, and though it took longer than the week Rachel had figured, she’d made it work.  Jasper was now getting in with very little complaining or balking.  This all taught me the first rule of horse trailer training: get someone else to do it.

So on the day of the vet visit, Zip walked into the trailer first (as always with no balking), and with a little encouragement, Jasper jumped right in with him.  We buttoned up the trailer, started up the truck (and at this point, felt the trailer shake a bit as Jasper realized this wasn’t the normal trailering lesson, where he got to eat for a while before being let back out into the pasture), and headed down the road the short drive to the vet.  When we opened up the door, Jasper definitely was ready to get out.

The vet visit itself went extremely smoothly, but this brings us to the whole point of this post.  Remember what I said about hand-filing teeth?  Well, it seems like 20 years of technological advancement have changed things a bit.  Below isn’t my video – I guess I need to get a Youtube channel – the characters are different, but the procedure is the same.  Don’t watch it if you’re susceptible to queasiness.

I told my kids that I expect no complaining during next year’s dental exams.