I woke this morning happily anticipating the finishing of the lil barn and the moving of the buck goats. Each day now for quite some time Glen and I have been working towards that end and each day when we begin we think that day will be the day its done. It hasnt happened yet. The temps have been cold sometimes well below 20 making the days long and slow. We’ve had to take many breaks to get warm or to put the screw gun battery back on its charger to warm it as the cold temps cause it to go dead further slowing the progress. We’ve had to work creatively too as some things were not square, some materials needed were buried in the lumber piles under frozen tarps and sometimes things just didnt go as planned for other reasons. Today turned out to be one of those days. When I finally pried myself from my very warm cozy blankets and came downstairs to begin the day and await Glens arrival to help with the barn I found a very very cold house. I had actually been so tired from the work yesterday that I had slept over long again rising at 7am and had not gotten up to fill the stove in the middle of the night. The thermometer read 43 degrees inside. I headed for the coffee pot to make a fresh one but when I got to the sink and turned the water on nothing happened. Great. The pipes were fetched up likely from forgetting to drip them all night and because Id let the fire burn down. I nuked the cup I had left in the pot and then headed to the bathroom to check those pipes and get a gallon of stored water from tub which now acts as my water jug storage spot as its no longer hooked up to the plumbing. I found the bathroom cold water pipe frozen too. I grabbed my blow dryer and extension cord from its place hanging on the cellar door, plugged it in and let it rest on the cold water pipe to the bathroom which is located behind the tv in the living room. Usually this is the spot that it fetches up and if the blow dryer is put on it for just a lil bit it will unthaw in very short order. I turned the lil heater on in the bathroom to warm that room up and then headed for my nuked cup of coffee and my computer hoping the dryer would do the work for me while I had my morning wake up time. After about a half hour I decided I should probably restart the fire and also that I would clean the fire box as it needed it first. That was when the second surprise of the day struck me. On the way up and out with the second shovel full of ash I noticed light coming from a crack fair in the center of the stove originating in the collar and running down the back of the stove. For the third time the word “Great!” escaped my lips. This was the third time in the hour since I had awakened. I was begining to think I should just go back to bed and had the weather been warmer and the consequences for doing so just a bit less I might have. I knew though that if I did the pipes would likely burst, the animals, especially the cows, would be unhappy and likely troublesome, I would just be a day further behind in the work, and the house would be that much colder when I woke with that many fewer hours of daylight to solve the problem before the temperature began to drop for the night possibly lower even than now. I decided to sulk over a cup of the now fresh pot of finished coffee and google wood stove repairs instead but I made sure to get dressed for the day of outdoor work first including my ziploc bags inside my boots and my wool hat. I then got my coffee and settled in for an education on wood stove repairs do’s n donts and the safety of such a repair. I did not like any of what I found. Most sites and referances I found suggested welding repairs were the way to go but I have no money for a welder and didnt even know who to call for that. I also found most people stating a stove with a crack straight through was not safe no matter how it was repaired. That led me to decided to wait unitl Glen arrived so that I could enlist his help to retrieve the smaller version of my current stove which Mother and I had stored in the outhouse shed some 20 years ago. I finished my coffee and began the chores around the barnyard. I needed to retrieve the drop light from the barn where we’d left it the night before upon stopping work anyway so that I could use it in the dark of the basement to find the fetch in the frozen pipes. The last time Id gone down there was just a couple of weeks ago and Id used a flashlight which had died the same time my boots had cleared the entrance to the crawl space leaving me in the dark on my back with half a house just inches from my face. I was not happy. I had to finish thawing the pipe in the furthest corner of that space with a dam lighter, had frozen one hand holding the dryer and burned the thumb on the other holding the lighter. This time I thought Id be smart and get the drop light but figured I might as well feed all the animals along my way to the barn first. Glen arrived and helped making that go much faster. I headed to the barn to feed the cows and get the drop light but when I opened the doors newly installed yesterday with their shiny new hinges, lock bolts, and handles my mouth dropped. There in the stall were Weezy Moo Cow and Buddahcup looking all innocent with a myriad of stolen items. From the assortment of things I found in their stall it became apparent to me very quickly that only one had escaped to retrieve what it thought were tasty treats and then had brought them back to the stall to be sampled by the other cow who had not escaped. It seemed as though once all the items were taken back the escaped cow reentered the stall and together they both partook in the sampling of said items. Now I know you are thinking Im nuts for thinking this but you have to understand the facts. The sliding crossbar was only partially removed leaving a very small area to get out, all the items that were taken were stored too far away from the stall for a cow who only partially got out to have reached them no matter how long its tongue was, and half of the items were stored against the furthest wall from them behind an assortment of other tools such as the chop saw, when I arrived at the barn both cows were in the stall with the stolen items and last but not least I apparently dont have normal acting cows! Oh my God werent I some pissed off. The brand new box of staples Id gotten only the night before was now boxless and all the neat long rows of staples were now a jumbled up mess in rows of five strewn about the barn floor and the stall. The bag of parts for the slider door was opened, chewed and its contents strew about the stall with one cow standing on a wheel. The fifty pound sack holding the cranberries which had been so carefully opened to preserve the sack for future use was now only half its size due to the fact the top half had been eaten away while hardly any of the crans had been taken out. The hammer handle was intact but was a slimy gooey mess. My last box of screws which I had carefully rationed in the hopes there would be enough to finish framing the goats pen was empty in the stall with not a screw in it and half the box eaten and there between the two cows who looked at me with those huge innocent eyes framed in long lashes was my DROP LIGHT! It was obvioulsy nevah gonna work again as its cord was not chewn threw but rather crushed beyond recognition and most certainly unsafe for use.
By the time I had most of the stolen items gathered up and back out of the cows stall Glen arrived daring to see what all the hollering was about. I had been scolding the cows none to softly as I cleaned up the mess. Both of them were backed into the furthest corner of their stall attempting to stay clear of me as they discovered rather quickly I was in no mood what so ever for affectionate head buts and no amount of wet scratchy kisses were going to put the crazy french woman back in my hip pocket. Even Buddahcup seemed to know she had crossed a line and didnt bother to try her usual Black Angus stubborn head bobbin one step advances on me like she usually does when she wants her own way. No sa! Them two highly encouragable cows stayed right backed up to that wall and didnt come out of the corner till I was clear of their stall with the remnants of my tools. They did their best to woo Glen when he arrived thinkin surely he would give them grain and pats but he didnt. He was disgusted as well because by this time Id discovered the chop saw had also fallen victim to which ever one had gotten out. It had been locked down and setting on its table all nice and level when we finished work yesterday. Now it was all askew having presumable been used as a scratching post. Nothing on it was level or set to angle but thankfully the locks somehow remained unbroken which to both of us is still a mystery. For anyone who is not used to a chop saw and its locks I can tell you that thumbs are usually needed to set them in place or remove them thus enabling the angle of the saw, the length of the arm, and the tilt of the saw to be changed. Im still scratchin my head over that one. Mercifully they had left its cord alone so that was in tact as well. There was an entire folgers can full of tiny paneling nails, small screws, assorted nails and such dumped over and strewn about in the hay and frozen cow patties which took us an hour to pick up even with a magnet. We found many but not all of the screws in a pile near the doors, and other tools strewn about as well. We emptied everything out of the barn before leaving to work on the frozen pipes and wood stove issues as we were afraid when our back were turned they would get out again to wreak more havoc. We even took the as of yet untouched grain can out leaving the cows with nothing not even a stick of lumber to wonder at its taste. I had no idea cows were more trouble than goats. I thought they were all cute and docile like the moo cows from California in them commercials. I guess I thought wrong.
When we had finally emptied the barn and got to work dealing with the frozen pipes. I didnt want to wait to long to fix them because I was afraid they would get worse and burst. I didnt have a drop light to use so I opted to open the bulkead doors for light. This plan worked pretty well but I still needed a lighter in the furthest corner to thaw the bathroom pipe out. The kitchen piped turned out to be the main pump line and thawed in a matter of seconds as I comfortably sat on the bottom step holding the blow dryer to it. Once the pipes were thawed I re-secured the bulkhead doors and we moved on to getting the spare wood stove out of the outhouse shed. In order for us to get to the stove I had to first clean and semi organize the jumbled pile of tools, cans of nails, plant pots, empty bags, and such that had since fall been rifled through several times by goats, cows, and even chickens and then unceremoniously re piled in the corner of the shed to make room for hay, grain, and shavings bags. My lil outhouse shed once was an organized and painted clean lil space but after the animals got to it this fall and winter it became a space full of haphazard piles of stuff. I cleaned organized and re stacked what I could leaving most of it for later as the task at hand of providing heat was more important than that of a clean shed and then we took the stove out. We inspected it in the daylight and I was not to happy with what I found. First off it was half the size I remembered it to be and second it looked to be only a lil bit more sound if not worse off than the larger one in the house with a crack in it. I became unsure of what to do but in the end decided no crack versus crack won out and we took it to the house. We set the lil stove on the floor in front of the hearth and larger stove and it suddenly became all the smaller. I looked at that thing and wondered how on earth Mom and I had even marginally heated this house with it when I was in college. People sometimes marvel at how I make things from nothing or how I make due with next to nothing and I wonder what on earth they are talking about. To me its just what I do. Its just life right? Looking at that stove I remembered back to the night I came home from college and could see my breath in the house when I walked through the door. I found Mom bundled under half the blankets in the house wrapped in her puffy blue bathrobe with a pee pot at the end of the bunk. It was January and cold as hell but she had decided it was the time to have a chimney installed and so we had no heat and no running water. She informed me it was only for three short days. I told her she was nuts and went back to the college to sleep in the warm lounge in a very uncomfortable chair. Having grown up like that though is what allows me to live the way I do now. So the house was 43 when I got up. I slept good. So the pipes were frozen. I knew how to thaw them and thankfully there were no broken ones but if there had been I knew how to fix them and would have one way or another. So the stove is cracked and I have to put in another one and half the day was gone already from dealing with deviant cows. I just got another cup of coffee, continued to exclaim somone must be getting a rest if God was using me as his jester for the day and went on about my way of dealing with wood stoves. I needed a place to store the now defunct wood stove which led to cleaning the back wood shed. This was a task on my to do list but not my emergency list and so I hadnt gotten around to it yet. It felt good to be getting it done and now if I need to use it in an emergency for my Daisy Mae to have her kids in I can. In the process of clean it too we found the missing wired cutters Ive been searching for for over a month with no luck. It would have been dificult indeed to finish the buck goats pen in the new barn without them so another plus in the unplanned chaos of the day. When the shed was cleaned and we were about to take the stove out and replace it with the old one I decided at the last minute not to go ahead as planned. Instead I decided to attempt a repair with the furnace cement and see if I could make the stove go a lil longer. I just couldnt see how the house was going to heat with the older tinier stove. We put the old stove in the woodshed, I sealed the crack the best I could with the furnace cement and then proceeded to take advantage of a cold chimney and took the time to clean it. When all was said and done it was 6:30pm and 54 degrees in the house as I re lit the stove. We gratefully sat at the table to have fresh coffee and a long rest break. We both heard a very odd noise coming from outside and reached for the door at the same time thinking maybe the cows had busted out and were in trouble or something but it turned out it was just the hens cackling. Glen went and checked but there were no eggs. Id already gotten three for the day and am happily up to my first dozen of the new year. I guess the girls were just telling us they were going to bed or something. We never did get back to work on the barn projects and seeing as how it was now dark and we were both exhausted it was decided that we would put the tools back in the barn and work on it again tomorrow. In order to keep the encouragable cows under control I nailed the sliding cross bar shut so they couldnt move it. We did not put any grain or crans back in the barn and only part of the tools which we again stacked against the furthest wall away from the stall. It is my hope that the cows do NOT get into any more trouble tonight. We shall see come day light I suppose. The wood stove has been runnin fine tonight and the house is now 63 degrees as I write this. I am not burning it that hot just yet and would rather go to sleep with an extra blanket or two with the faucets drippin than to worry about a house fire because I wanted it warmer. On the upside a lot of good things happened today even if not planned and who knows maybe God just wanted me to clean the chimney today I dunno. It certainly did need it.