Friday, December 31, 2010

Back to the Business of Blogging

I have not blogged like I had planned to do. It isn't like nothing has happened but I was having a hard time writing about it. To catch you up to date, for those who don't follow me on Facebook:

I arrived in country on June 26. Signed papers to sell the house in San Antonio on June 30.

Drove to Houston, TX mid July to pack my things and get the house ready to sell. Getting the house ready was much more extensive than I thought, so I hired a handyman, who did a great job. (House sold Nov 1) I lost money on the transaction but am thrilled I sold it!

SadieAugust brought my first animal to the farm. Sadie, an English Shepherd, joined me and we immediately took a road trip to Michigan to see my Son and his family for his birthday. She was a trooper but did cry on the way there. We had a good bonding time, though.

Angus SteersSeptember brought visitors, who suggested I acquire a couple of steers to eat down the pasture, before I got the smaller animals in the Spring. I was able to find a couple of organic Angus Steers in Illinois and have them delivered to me. They will remain grass fed cattle with no hormones or antibiotics.

In September, I also took a course on goat husbandry. I learned a lot. After the class, the instructor were discussing my plans for the farm. She suggested that, since I wanted chickens, if I got chicks in the Fall, they would be ready to lay eggs in the Spring, instead of having to wait til the following Fall. ChicksThat sounded like a great idea, so I ordered some day old chicks and kept them in my garage in an empty 100 gallon aquarium.

In October, I rescued a sweet dog, who showed up at my door one Saturday morning. She is a border collie, FrecklesAustralian shepherd, who has turned out to be a most wonderful companion and can move the cattle very gently. On October 15, the chicks were a week out of being able to go into the chicken coop, when a terrible accident occured. The heat lamp set the garage on fire, while I was celebrating my birthday in Bloomington with my daughter and her family. burnt down garageI was very fortunate to have a wonderful neighbor, who noticed the fire and called the fire department. He rescued my dog and saved my house until the three neighboring fire stations put the fire out. The loss was sad, because all of my Christmas decorations, collected over 39 years were destroyed but I was so thankful that my house was still intact.

In late October, I started to run out of water, periodically. It seems the well is only supplying about 1.5 gallons per minute. It evidently never did produce a lot but it was enough to wash dishes and do laundry. It stopped doing that. I called the people who dug the well and had them come out. After a period of time it was determined that I would need a holding tank. $6,000 later, I have the tank but my problems are not totally resolved. It seems I don't have enough pressure to run my dishwasher. But that is a problem for another day.

Thanksgiving dinner was held at my home with my daughter and her family, one of my sons and his family, my former husband, his wife, an exchange student from Italy and their Morky, Sargent. We had a great time with great food provided by all.

Christmas was spent in Green Bay, Wisconsin with parents, siblings, children, grandchildren and extended families. It was truly wonderful. For me, family is everything!

This year, I am turning over a new leaf and will begin blogging like I intended to, when I first started this. I look forward to gaining more followers, as I bring in the rest of my livestock.
This year is going to be a good year!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Back in the United States

I can't believe the I am back in the United States for good. I am actually going to pursue my dream of having my own farm. While I was waiting at the airport in Bahrain, I got an email that my little girl English Shepherd had been born. She is black and white and pictures will be posted after the pups and mom have bonded. I will probably pick her when she is about 5 weeks old and is beginning to show her personnality.

As we were getting ready to land at Dulles in DC, I saw the most beautiful moon above the clouds. It would have made a fabulous picture, however we were bound with seatbelts and not allowed to get up to get cameras. I love that I arrive at the farm on a full moon.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

New Used Tractor, Part 2

I emailed the gentleman with my tractor to make sure he had received my deposit and told him I had already added the tractor to my blog. I gave him the web address. He wrote back and told me that he had something to add to my story.

Deb,

You can add this to the story.

In Sept. 2008, I delivered a L3400 kubota, bushhog, boxblade and trailer to Mark Sethre at 14332 Klass Rd. Coal City, IN.

Can you believe that?

I knew Coal City sounded familiar, then when I saw the pictures on your blog, I thought that looks familiar. I went back on my records and found the info where I had sold Mark a tractor, and sure enough, address was the same.  Mark had emailed me and told me he was moving awhile back, but what are the chances of this happening?

You have a beautiful place!

David

What are the chances of a woman in Iraq buying a farm in the middle of nowhere and then buying a tractor from the same person who sold the same tractor setup to the former owner of that same farm? Small world.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My New Used Tractor

I probably should call this farm, "Debby's Little Internet Farm." First I found the farm on the Internet, next I bought the truck on Ebay and last night I was negotiating with an individual on the Internet who sells Kubota tractors. He generally sells on Ebay. Last week, I found one of his tractor packages that looked like it might be a pretty good deal, if I could get it at the right price. I wondered if my truck could pull the tractor, loader, bush hog and trailer included in the auction, so I sent him a question on that topic. He said that the package weighed about 7000lbs and so did my truck, so I would need to have it shipped. The auction was to be over about 6am, my time, so I got up early and gave bidding a couple of shots. I didn't hit his reserve price, so even though I was the highest bidder, I didn't get it. I figured, well that is that.

Yesterday, he wrote me and said he had another option, if I was interested. He bought a 2009 L2800HST with 240 hours, from the original owner. It has ag tires instead of industrial, no canopy, and does not have the skid steer attach bucket. It will have full warranty until spring of 2011 and engine and driveline warranty until spring of 2012. It was still more than I wanted to pay, so I told him I was looking for a basic tractor, loader and bush hog. He came back with a much better price. It was in my ball park. I asked him if he could throw in a trailer for a bit more. He gave me a good price for that, too. I told him we had a deal and went to sleep. It was 4 in the morning and we had been writing back and forth since 1:45am.

This morning I got up and found a couple of emails from him in my junk mail folder. One telling me how to send the $500 deposit and another wondering if he had lost me. He told me that he will collect the rest of the money when he brings the tractor and I have a chance to look at it to make sure that it is what I want. He will show me how to take off and put on the attachments and he will also teach me how to drive it. I'm sure that he and I will have a good laugh before I'm finished. I really feel like someone has been watching over me.

Isn't she a lovely shade of orange?
My Tractor

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Remembering and Appreciating Life Experiences

Iraq

As my children's father used to say to them, "This is something you will remember the rest of your life." Twenty-five days and counting. I can't believe that my stay in Iraq is almost over. This has been a wonderful time in my life, even with all the trials and tribulations that I have had. I have been so fortunate to have wonderful people to work with and for, and a job that I truly love. For many years, I was too timid to try things that I didn't know how to do. Within the last ten years, I have learned that I can pretty much do anything I choose to do. I know that if I start out with a little knowledge, I will gain a lot by doing. That attitude has served me well, as I get ready to start a new life.

Leaving Iraq has proved to be a challenging experience but one I expected. The military is very concerned people, who re-deploy, might bring contraband back into the states, therefore, all packages mailed from here, through the US Postal Service are searched. I don't mean they kind of look through it, they unpack everything, wand it and repack. Being here for three years, I have accumulated stuff, lots of stuff. I have spent the last few weeks sorting, donating, trashing and packing my things. I have shipped most of it home already, ok, home isn't exactly where I shipped it, since there is no one there to get it out of the rain. I have shipped to my daughter's home in Bloomington. She has been kind enough to keep it for me until I return. I still haven't found out when I can leave. The contract is over on 30 June and I must have completed my travel to my home by that day. I work for one company and am subcontracted to another. Between the two, they make the decisions for my final travel. They seem to be having difficulty speaking to each other, so I am in limbo. Contracts seem to work like that. At the end the contractor is usually in limbo. Will the contract be renewed, will I have to find another job or like me, when can I leave?

During the time I have been here, my family and friends have been increadably supportive. My father learned how to send email and sends me messages, which mean so much to me. My sister sends emails counting down days til a vacation or now, until I leave. They have sent care packages, letters and cards. My daughter and son have taken care of my mail. On a fairly regular basis, they send me mail call, via email with all the bills and statements that pertain to my finances. Most things are automatically paid online but some are unexpected or not available online. Having them there to take care of those things has been such a blessing. When I need something and can't get it online or shipped to me here, they and their spouses get what I needed or wanted and ship it to me, often times sending artwork and pictures of the grandkids. My daughter even signed all the paperwork when I bought the house. A great friend and his wife picked up my new truck and are storing it until it is time to ship it to Indiana. Without all their support, life would have been much harder. I truly have a wonder life, family and friends. I have been truly blessed.

Here are a few fun memories from the Iraq Assistance Group, the first couple of years that I was here.
Thanksgiving
Yes, that is one of my co-workers with a mask on, hiding in the porta-potty and in the General's office. And, yes those are two other co-workers hunting him with squirt guns. Sometimes you need to lighten the tension from 12 hour days/7 days a week. They always kept us laughing.
Christmas in Baghdad

Monday, May 31, 2010

Did you give up on it or am I doing it wrong?

My sister gave the link to my blog to my dad about a week ago. I've been busy in Iraq getting ready to leave and have not taken time to write. This morning my dad emailed me to ask, "Did you give up on it or am I doing it wrong?" The answer is neither. I've been collecting knowledge.

I have been reading about things for the farm. I've gone to tractor forums read and asked questions about tractor types, makes and models, bush hogs and loaders. I've been checking tractor web sites looking at prices, HP, PTO, transmissions, engine size and drive. Based on what I have read, I know the class that I need and the initial attachments I want. I even know the engine I want. Now to find one that will fill my needs and not break the bank. I don't want to be cheap but I don't need new either. I've decided to contact my neighbor, (a recommendation from my brother-in-law, who is checking for tractors in Wisconsin), to see what he recommends, as far a service and reliability for our area.

Then there is the livestock preparation. I have a very long reading list. I am finding that Raising Goats For Dummies is very good. I was able to confirm that I want Nigerian Dwarf goats and I am learning about diet and housing. I also have Raising Chickens For Dummies, which I hope is just as informative. I know you can't learn farming from books but I hope it will give me a leg up from starting cold. This summer and fall will be used to get the farm ready for livestock; making sure fencing is sufficient, housing is available and pasture areas are safe and garden preparation. After reading a blog about a fenced garden, which was still overrun by rabbits, I needed to rethink my fencing preparation. I love that there are so many people blogging about their farms with their trials and successes. The trials help me to know how to, hopefully, prevent some of my own and their successes show me what I have to look forward to.

This last month is both going to fast yet is not long enough. Pretty soon, I will actually be doing, not dreaming. I hope I am ready.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Getting Closer

Realizing that I have only 44 days until I return to the States, I decided that I had better start getting some things into place. I sold my Ford F-350 truck when I came to Iraq and have been looking on and off for a replacement vehicle. I loved my F-350 but it just didn't get enough miles per gallon. I will probably still have to work outside the farm for a while and being that the farm is in the middle of nowhere, I will have to travel 30 to 50 miles to work, if I can't find anything closer.

Now, I am one who likes a bargain. Some people would call it cheap, I prefer thrifty. I have been searching Craigslist Bloomington for a small truck. I found a beauty a couple of months ago but it was really to early to buy something, since it would be a long time before I could pick it up. Last Friday, I decided to check out Ebay. I found this sweet little red truck, a Ford Ranger. It was close to the end of the auction with a very low bid. I thought about it all day, checking the values of a truck of that year, features and mileage and finally decided I would really like to have the truck. I emailed a friend, who only lives about 10 miles from the seller. I asked him if he could pick it up and store it until I got back, if I won the auction. He assured me it would be no problem. That was my green light to bid.

I am no stranger to Ebay and tend to wait until the end to bid. No sense getting other bidders all excited. I set my price and go for it. Since I am in Iraq and the hours are set in Pacific time, that meant the auction wouldn't be over until 3:00 am. Should I stay up waiting or go to sleep hoping to hear the alarm. Knowing my sleep patterns, I chose sleeping on and off with an alarm. It wasn't very restful but I was ready at 2:50 am for my first bid. It was at my low limit. There were three other people, who had bid and maybe one had automatic bids to go higher than mine. I typed in my number, hit enter and waited. A few seconds later, it showed me to be the highest bidder. There were still about five more minutes to the auction. Because the bid was so low, yet, I was sure someone would bid again.I decided to wait a few more minutes and put in another bid about two minutes from the end. Normally, I would wait til there were only seconds left and then put in a bid, but the internet here is pretty slow and sometimes stops all together. I didn't want to take the chance that someone would outbid me. I really wanted this truck. I put in my final bid and waited until the auction had ended. The web page declared me the winner. I would have jumped up and down but I didn't want to wake my roommate...

So, here she is, my 2004 Ford Ranger XLT 4X4 Fx4. Not as good as a sheep or goat but more necessary.

 My new red truck
Now, I just need to locate a tractor and a trailer...

Friday, May 14, 2010

The First Look

The time has come to start my blog. I thought it would be fun to journal my progress becoming a steward of the land. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time but hadn't seriously thought I could do it. The last three years, as a contractor in Iraq proved to me that I could do anything I put my mind to. I may not always do it right the first time but I can learn. That is exactly what I plan to do.

Last week, I finally got to travel to Indiana from Iraq to see the little farm that I purchased with the help of my daughter, Michelle, and her video camera. I found it on the Internet and thought it was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. It seemed to have just the right amount of land for me to be able to keep up. The

house,
House
cabin,
Cabin
barn
Barn
and ponds

were everything I had ever wanted in a property.

I asked my daughter, who lives about an hour away, in Bloomington, if she would go take a look and make sure that nothing horrible was hidden from the pictures and description. She contacted me and let me know that she had taken video of the place and put it on You Tube. It looked wonderful, so I took a leap of faith and made an offer. A month and a half later, I was the proud owner of my little farm.

I have a lot of plans for this little farm. There will be chickens, goats, Shetland sheep, bee hives, a garden and of course my two English Shepherds. After seeing the farm, I am beginning to think that my 12 hour days, seven days a week in Iraq were a vacation.