Monday, July 28, 2008


We’ve been mighty busy over the last several weeks working on the ranch out here in Montana. We’ve hauled nine loads of refuse to either the dump or the recycling company; the loads have ranged from 2200 pounds up to 4000 pounds. We’re down to a fewer number of small piles that still need to be hauled into the Billings. I wasn’t sure we’d ever find the end of the trash piles and I’m sure that when the tall grass is gone we’ll find more garbage hiding, waiting for us to load and haul.

The little house we are planning to renovate is finally cleaned out! Sadly, we came to the realization that we would not be able to do very much construction work on it this year. We emptied and sorted all of the stuff that had been stored inside: furniture, paperwork, bottles, jars, and other household accessories. We then removed all of the drywall, the floors, the doors, and the trim. We had a structural engineer who specializes in historic homes come out and evaluate it and to our delight, he said it was in unusually good structural condition, particularly given it's age of probably 100 years or more. It doesn't look like much, I know, but it will!

As an interim solution to our current “camp living” situation, we had the idea of converting an old lambing barn into a bath house. It’s only 12’x16’ but it will have all the amenities of a small home: toilet, vanity, shower, washing machine, bed, and refrigerator. The major stuff such as roofing, electrical, and plumbing are complete and the toilet, sink, shower, and floor are in as well. It’s amazing how special it feels to have a toilet that flushes. The shower is nice as well, not only for me, but also for everyone that spends any time around me!

We even made time to throw in a flagstone patio out front, made from slate collected around the property.

One of the summer's big projects was to upgrade all of the electrical services on the ranch. Everything was brought to current code requirements and the service was expanded to several new areas. Our houses and outbuildings are no longer unsafe.

The main shop also got a shiny new roof! I liked the aesthetics of the cedar shingles that we had to cover up, however the rain and sunshine that could be seen or felt from the inside were not so desirable.

In our efforts to practice sustainable grazing, we decided to lease our pasture to some neighbors that need a place for 28 pairs (cows with their calves) of Charolais cattle . This decision meant I had to do a bit of fencing, so I spend about four hours today working on the fence that forms the boundary around our 80 acres of paradise.

Earlier in the summer, the plan was to mow the four or so acres around our outbuildings, orchard, and corrals, but the grass grew so fast we didn’t have time to pick up the junk and tree limbs. As I drove home one night, I noticed our neighbor tossing hay to his sheep because he had run out of grass for them to eat in his pasture. Perhaps I didn't need to mow it, but could lease it to our neighbor for his sheep--sheep make great lawnmowers! The neighbors came down to check it out and agreed that there was a lot of good grazing to be had. So now I’ve also got to fix that section of fence. It seems like no matter how much we get done, there’s always more to do out here in Big Sky Country. Sorry for posting so few pictures, more to come! I've got to get out and move some water!


Michael Watts said...

I'll ask the obvious: where are photos of inside the bath house?

Jon said...

We'll put some up when I get my tools out of there, it looks like a tornado hit it at this point.

Jarkko said...

You guys are making great progress there. Especially like the idea of being able to benefit from neighbors' cattle and sheep. Who upgraded electrical stuff up to code, you or did you buy the service? Tell you what, there is always something to do when you live on a farm of any kind and anywhere. :)

Kate said...

Hi Jarkko,
We hired out the electrical work to a local outfit in concert with the electrical cooperative we pay for service. The work we had done was pretty major so we had to have the power shut off completely at the nearest transformer. Lines were moved, new meter loops installed, new main breaker boxes, etc.
Indeed, it has been alot of work and much more yet to do!