Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Welcome Lola!

This weekend we added to our menagerie with a new dog.  Meet Lola, a 7 year old chihuahua who has been 'rehomed' to us from a local family who no longer could care for her.

She is a complete sweetheart!   We love her so much...and our little chihuahua-cross boy (Blu) is even more in love.  He has a new lease on life after twelve months of deep doggy depression.

Other farm news...
We started planting vegetables this last weekend.   It was beautiful warm weather and the soil in the raised beds was moist and warm.   Of course living in Maine means that we could still have frosts until the end of May, but we are taking a gamble.   The kids helped plants some seeds in starter jiffy pots in doors the previous week...and so we had some corn and butternut pumpkin plants ready to roll.  Bush beans went right into the soil.  Potatoes are in tires (an experiment).

After the chickens decided to attack the new garden (and we lost about half of the corn shoots) we put wire around the beds to keep them out.....an early and frustrating setback.   But we love that our chickens free range...and so we had to compromise.

I continue to read and study ways to make our farm more 'farm-like'...but have come to the realization that the primary income will always have to be my full time job, and that tinkering is about all we can do.   But its fun to tinker and dream when spring is here!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring has arrived! (yipeeeeeeeeeee)

It finally feels like spring on the farm.  After just a few weeks of warmer weather (read above freezing) the snow has now all gone and we have managed to make a start on some outside jobs.  We have started to prepare the vegetable beds, planted strawberries in front of the house, cleaned out the chickens winter coop and worked on some of the electric fencing.  The animals are happy - and when we get to wear T shirts and not ski parkers, we are happy too!

Our bathroom projects have come close to being done.   We have tested the upflush loo system and all works great!   We seem to have a leak in the water fittings behind the shower...so there is our next rainy day project :(  We have to do some trim work, add some kind of a ceiling and we are done.   Still, in the meantime it is functional so number one daughter (who is currently working in a volunteer project in Costa Rica) will not have to share a bathroom with the rest of the family :)

Now we are making plans for how to spend our little bit of savings on the farm this summer.  Fences are my plan...but we might need to rent a tractor to clean up the horse fields and maybe try and clean a spot for a riding arena.  If we had the cash we would buy a tractor...but at around $20K its not in our sights.  We don't even have the cash for repayments as yet - but we are working on that plan.  We will do without with the occasional rental to get tasks done! :)

Still...its getting warm and spring is here.  So all is happy and good on Murramarang.  Life continues to be good!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Lots of water under the bridge - and a killer winter!

I know.  I have been a slack blogger!  Sometimes life just gets in the way of communication :)

First things first

In November 2013 our wonderful tenants in Colorado signed the paperwork and official bought BluBelle Farm.  You could probably hear the shouts of joy and relief from us all over the plant.  It was such a nice feeling to no longer be the owner of the Colorado property...and leave the world of 'landlord' behind.   Yes - we learned a few lessons:

1. Don't be a landlord
2. If you are going to be a landlord, live right near the property so you can deal with things quickly and by yourself.
3. And finally, don't ever be a landlord

Still, it all worked out in the end - but it took almost five years to sell the farm and cost us more than it should to take it through to the sale.    We really did not take a financial step forward with the ownership considering the blood sweat and tears we put into the improvements.  We would have liked to walk away $50,000 better off and not break even.  But, them's the breaks!   It's gone.  It's over.  And that, my friends, is a bloody nice feeling!

Back to Murramarang

Our farm in Maine has been developing very slowly.   Two things have been hampering our movement forward. The first was not knowing when the Colorado farm would finally sell and be off our hands.  The second was money.  Added to this has been a long and bitter winter forcing any improvements being done inside.

With the arrival of our eldest daughter to stay a few months we decided that we really needed more bathrooms.  When we bought this farm we had the plumber add a second toilet in what was a strange 'cupboard' off the master bedroom.   That little room ended up being a storage room with a loo - than a real functioning bathroom.   With a lack of funds but a load of time, we scrounged the local dump each week and finally found a nice bathroom sink etc for just $1.  With a coat of paint and a new set of fittings it looked great.  We finished the walls and painted the 'cupboard' (now the "ensuite"), laid some new vinyl tiles onto the floor and then installed the renovated sink.  A few lights a fan etc and our little brown duck became a wonderful swan.

We then started on a whole new bathroom/laundry area in the basement.  This tested our plumbing skills as we needed an upflow toilet that would pump the waste up and into our septic outflow.  Once we worked out the new toilet process we added a sink, shower and even a hookup for a laundry tub!   We build walls, sheet rocked, added power, light, fan and more.   Quite a project indeed.  As I write we still have to paint, add the flooring and test it all :)  

Outside we still have so much snow.  Its almost the end of March and last year I had started seedlings.  This year we will not see our vegetable plots for another few weeks...and then probably will not be able to plant for a month or so after that.  So vegetables will be a late process.

Our chickens continue to produce.  The five girls give us around four eggs a day and Harry Potter the Rooster does a good job keeping them safe.  Our little hen house worked well through winter with the chickens being given run of the barn during the day.  They are now escaping to the small patches of grass and mud around the farm to forage and scratch.  They can't wait for warmer weather.

Our plans this summer involve fences.   We will not be able to get the whole place done, but I hope we can fence the top few acres with something better than the temporary electric fence so Maggie the horse is more confined.

Life is godd - and we can't wait for spring to really arrive!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Winter was white and long....and spring has officially arrived.

It is now nearing the end of March 2013...and winter weather has been here for months and no end in sight.   We fortunately escaped six weeks of the snow and cold in Australia....but have returned to a world of snow and a blizzard every other day.    Just when we think the snow is melting away we get another dump.   Fingers are crossed that we have now seen the end of it.

Spring officially arrive last Wednesday - and we woke up to a foot of new snow - but spring activities have already started.

The first task was to make a start pruning the row of apple trees on one side of the home field.  Who knows how long it has been since they were pruned (if ever).  Last year they had flowers, but set no fruit.  After watching youtube videos and reading blogs and webpages I decided I was ready to hack into them with gusto!

 I have no idea if I have done a good job - I guess this season will tell!  We have at least five more apple trees on the property - four of them are so large and must be 100+ years old.  They are really now just ornamental shade trees and we will leave them that way.

The next step was to work on getting some vegetables started.   The kids helped with planting the first seeds in containers which we have under lights in the warmish basement until the last frost has gone (in about 50 days).

Already we have broccoli sprouted - something Madie finds fascinating!  Our plan is to try Square Foot Gardening techniques this year to see if we can beat the drainage issues we had last year, make it all more kid friendly, and same us time and work.  It's a big ask, but worth the experiment.

And the final stage for now was to get back into the world of chickens.  We have bought six little girls (well 5 little girls, and a possible sixth who could turn out to be a rooster).   They are currently living in a tote under a warming light as we prepare them for life on the farm.   We will have their company for about two months before they can go outside.  So I guess that means I have two months to build a chicken coop and run....fun!

So Murramarang is starting to feel like a real farm!

The farm in Colorado continues to be a thorn in our side.  The tenants have been great - but the hassles caused by the neighbors continues to have twists and turns to cause us heartache and money.  We hope it will all be over soon and life can be a little more free of stress!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Vale to Princess Belle - 4 October 2012.

It was the saddest day our our life saying goodbye to our little Chinhuahua Princess Belle!   She finally came to the end of her time - her poor heart decided that all the drugs in the world just could not keep her happy and healthy.   After days of indecision, we finally decided that she had given up on her own life by no longer eating and so wanted to give her a dignified end to a wonderful life.

The vet and vet nurses were wonderful - even if we were sobbing messes.  We said our goodbyes and she took her last breath in the arms of he human mother who loved her more than life itself. 

In December 2012 we journeyed to Australia and took with us some of Belles ashes.   We had always wanted to take her to Australia so she could run on the beach at Durras.   In a small way we fulfilled that promise and spread some of her ashes on the most wonderful beach on the planet.

We will miss her......always.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Autumn arrives...so much has been done...

First the Colorado farm news....

I am delighted to have found such wonderful tenants.  They are really working to make the place look great - updating fences, using the barn to its capacity, looking after the house...like WOW!  What a change from the past attempts.  Makes me happy.

But wait....the silver lining has a cloud.  It's the neighbors!  Seems that my tenants had had battles for neighbors about a number of issues...its so sad.   We have a boundary line dispute need to move water pipes and fences and overall a huge amount of stress.   Makes me very sad.

One day I hope we can get through all this and that the black clouds of this farm in Colorado will have a silver lining.    More details will come through once we are on solid ground with a few isues...for now all I can say is STRESS and its costing us a pile of money that we wanted to sink into Maine projects.  

Then the Murramarang news.....

The Farm in Maine give me a huge amount of joy.  Its a long slow process to get anything done as we share the responsibility to look after kids while one of us works on projects.  Since the last blog entry we have been working on a few issues:

Working on the kitchen....it has been out with the old and in with part of the new :)   Demolishing the old kicthn was a much bigger task than we thought.  It was built to withstand a bomb bast - and took a lot of strong arming to get out.

After a few days we managed to have it all taken out and the remains taken to the dump.  We then decided that the existing rotting window should be removed and a larger one installed.  This has brought so much extra light into the house - it is amazing!

Jen stripped off all the horrible wallpaper and we reclad some walls then painted the ceiling white and the walls a pale yellow - again to brighten up the place.

The next step was installing a new floor over the evil old tiles.  We picked up a load of flooring from a discount store that looks like old barn timbers - a little aussie gum-like in look.  After doing all the floors in Colorado, this was an easy task to get in.

We then went and ordered all new cupboards from Home Depot and started to install them to give us more bench space and functionality.  We found that we needed a new fridge in the process...as the old second hand one just kept leaking water!

The new cabinets were easy to install - even when the walls were just horrible.  The new bench tops were more difficult, but seemed to work out ok for us.

Now the big task is to paint all the cabinets and doors - a work still in progress but we hope to have completed by the end of October!

While all this was happening we decided that I really needed a better dedicated office space instead of spilling into a corner of the lounge room and garage.  The only place to do this is the basement - in which we have water issues.   So the first step was to work on the water.  We bought a dehumidifier and let it run n the basement fro around a month.  This was an amazing breakthrough - the basement lost its dusty musty smell and really dried out.   We now run the machine a few days a week - and it seems to keep the place dry.  The next phase is to install a good sump and sump pump - and we hope to do that through winter and before the major thaw (and basement flooding) season starts in spring.

We started the office space in one of the basement corners and decided to be safe, we would build up off the floor so any water that gets into the basement can flow under the floor and be captured by a sump pump in the future.  We build the stud walls and lined them with plastic, so the office is almost a plastic box.  We installed a new basement window (upside down I might add - dumb arse Gary!) in a hole that had just been boarded up with planks.

It is still a work in progress, but we hope to have it functional by the end of October - even it not really finished off completely.

We also made headway on getting the hay loft in the barn back to a working place - the doorway had be boarded over in the past.  A new door way has been made - and just needs a door and a clean up inside to have a space ready to use for storage (hay or otherwise).

So lots happening on many fronts....lets hope winter is not too harsh and we can continue to get the inside of the farm buildings finished and working!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A colorado farm update - late May 2012

A Colorado farm update!

After a failed attempt to rent over the winter and a few months being empty and on the market, we have been forced to get more renters into our farm in Colorado...at the end of the day we just diod not have the money to keep the place empty!

So we advertised on CraigsList and had a flurry of folks come and look.  One set of folks had seen the place before when the first set of renters moved in...and got back in touch.  They went out and looked and fell in love with the place.   Like all renters it seems, they have a sob story of not being able to finance a purchase, but these folks seem very determined.  They want to lay down $10K as a deposit if we will rent it to them till July next year...and then they will buy.

So, starting in the first week of June, we will have renters back into the farm.   I will breath easier that we have some income coming in....but wait for each and every call that they have had some sort of 'issue'........i hate being a landlord!