Monday, April 26, 2010

Construction Update - April 26

Not a whole lot has changed lately. I met with the guy who is performing the dirt work this morning. His name is Ed Budzinsky and is actually a schoolmate of mine from Bon Accord. Good guy. We met today to finalize my wishes for the yard. There isn't much left to do...just touch up the driveway a little and expand the yard area where the house is to be located. We needed this area a little larger to accomodate the house and a circular driveway that will be on the east side of the house. This circle will allow guests an easy way to get in and out of our yard without having to backup...a skill that seems to elude a lot of people for some reason? Anyways, this will make it easy for grandma to come for a visit and it will also be easier for me to clear snow with the tractor. I can simply drive around in a circle instead of moving back and forth back and forth.

The gravel for the driveway has been ordered and tomorrow it will be delivered. The grader will still be on-site finishing the dirtwork along the ditches and putting a finishing touch on what is spread by the gravel truck.

Today I also approved the electrical line installation to the yard site. It only cost $270 and I get that back in the form of a government grant so that is a good deal. I will meet with the Fortis installation foreman sometime in the next few days and let him know where I want the lines and he will let me know if that works for him. Not quite sure what to expect for a timeline on installation.

Mrs. Schneider ordered the garage package today also. We ended up ordering the garage package from UFA instead of was cheaper. We decided to go with regular form of construction for the garage as opposed to a strawbale building. It will go up faster and easier and then we will have a place to start storing household items from our current house.

The development permit and garage construction permit were approved last week so we are good to start building something. The plans for the house are still underway with the designer/architect/engineer...but they should be ready within the next two weeks.

Busy, busy, busy.

Auction notes

I enjoy going to farm auctions. There is a very real excitement, or for lack of a better term "high" that comes when you bid on something. Even if it is a $20 box of cultivator shovels my heart starts beating heavily in my chest as I bid. The adrenelin rushes a bit and I get a little shaky holding up my number on the bid card for the auctioneer to read once I win something. Of course, the amount of shakiness is directly proportional to how much money I have just spent.

When I attend auctions I tend to just hang back and see what's out there and if the item is something that I could use, I try to come up with a limit of what I would pay for it and still consider it a "deal" that I would brag about later at the coffee shop. That is sort of my gauge for purchasing items at auction. It's funny but you never hear about how someone over paid for something at auction do you? Most people must have the same sense of guidelines for auction bidding that I do.

Every now and then though I attend an auction for a specific item that I really want to acquire. Be it a nice, shedded tractor with low hours and a fresh engine or a combine with similar features. These are the auctions where a little strategy comes in to play and the nerves are weakened just a bit. Usually, in this case what I try to do is stay out of the bidding just to see who the players are. Hopefully, the item I want is late in the auction and I have had a chance to get to know the crowd...who has the money, who is buying what. I watch for who is going over the equipment I want as the auction proceeds. Usually, the people that want to bid on something go over it with a fine tooth comb. I try to get to know the equipment prior to the auction. Almost always, you can phone the farmer and make time to go look at the tractor ahead of time. Sometimes, I already know the farmer and how he takes care of his stuff.

Now when the tractor is finally up for bid, I let a few guys bid it up and I see who really wants it. I try to let them bid up a few times and wait to see who drops out. I already know how much I am willing to spend so I try to get into the bidding near my limit, but still low enough to bid a few times. When I bid, I bid very fast and with extreme confidence trying to send a message that this tractor is mine no matter how high you want to bid against me. Of course I am not always successful and maybe I am bidding against someone who wants the equipment as bad as I do and he has more money to spend, or set his limit higher, or has no idea what it is truly worth. I bid up to my limit and hope that I have bluffed him out of trying to bid against me any further. If he bids again, I shake my head and walk out...letting the auctioneer know I am "out".

It also pays to pay attention to what the auctioneer is saying at an auction. I almost always attend auctions alone so I don't get chatty cathy and I try to stay focused on the details of the item being bid. A perfect example of this was this weekend when a typical fuel tank and stand went up for bid. I needed a tank and stand and these looked no different than any other setup. I was willing to spend up to $230 for the bid. Then the auctioneer said something curious...that the tank was full of diesel fuel! The bidding started and a few guys started throwing bids. I quickly made a calculation that the fuel in the tank was worth around $900 and that the tank and stand itself would be around $250. The bidding was slowing down at $400 and so, with three successive quick nods of my head, I had won $1150 worth of stuff for $475! When I returned to the auction site later in the afternoon to fill up my tidy tank with cheap fuel, a fellow auction attendee drove past me with his winnings and commented that he didn't know it was full of fuel...should've been paying more attention shouldn't he?

I said earlier that people don't mention the stuff they overpaid for? Well at the same auction, I let emotions get a hold of me and I ended up paying too much for a really nice set of harrows. They are worth more than I paid, but I probably could've waited for another auction and got a similar piece of equipment for less. Oh well...the best laid plans.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Farm Construction - Day 3

Just getting finished up on the rough shaping of the driveway and yard. Next will come the grader, packer and then finally the gravel. It is starting to look like a farmyard already...well, not really I suppose. But, it is easy enough for me to envision how things will look when complete.

Rain in the forecast for the next 3 days. We need it so bad it isn't funny. There are over 60 wildfires burning in Alberta today...more than 4 times the normal for April. This is ridiculous. Whoever says that the climate isn't changing has their head in the sand. When I see the rains in the midwest and central prairies, the droughts along the foothills. The intensity of winter storms along the east. Seems pretty obvious to me that things are more volatile and changing fast.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Farm Construction - Day 1

Here is a quick video on what our property looks like after Day 1. Here is the Cat D6 dozer building the driveway. He is stripping the topsoil out of the way, then he will wing the clay back up onto what will become the roadbed. After that, the topsoil will be replaced into the ditches and spread out evenly.
I will update on a regular basis the progress with construction. I am betting that this is going to be the boring part of construction for most of you. Everyone I know, is anxious to see the strawbale house be erected. It is very exciting for us though to see the differences in the property each and every day.

Ok...time to update

Sorry that it has been a while since I updated the blog. Here is what is happening. We have found our property and closed on the deal; we have started the process of getting the blueprints drawn; the permits have all been applied for; construction of the driveway and yard have started! This is all great news for us as we have been trying to sell our current location for almost 2 years.

Farming activities have also begun for 2010. It is another hot, dry spring and we are all quite afraid of the fact that another drought year is imminent. We have spent a few days now breaking or should I say re-breaking some hay land. Last year it was broke and seeded in wheat but the wheat did not germinate and the alfalfa simply overtook it. It is a little easier to break this year and hopefully we will get a good kill on the alfalfa so that whatever moisture remains available to the grain seed.

Other than that, we are busy with the multitude of planning activities that go along with constructing a new home and running a certified organic grain operation. Our flour mill is up and running too! I almost forgot to mention that. We are currently selling flour through Eat Local First in Edmonton and will begin to get our products into retail stores like Homegrown Foods in Stony Plain and others.

We have decided to forego with the decision to sell our products at farmers markets for this summer. It is just too busy of a year for us to add another project to our plates.