The Little Helper’s Holiday Project (Part 2)

It has been a hot couple of weeks on the Rock Farm.  We have been busy watering trees, feeding cattle and trying to stay cool.  The bush-fires have been an ever present threat.  This instalment comes from the (not so) Little Fisherman. 

Due to the weather, we have not been able to work much on the float since the other Little Helper did his last blog (The Little Helper’s Holiday Project (Part 1)).  The last couple of days have been total fire bans with one of the days even being a catastrophic fire danger day.  But the next day brought some relief.  The temperature was set to be a maximum of 28 degrees Celsius, and the fire ban had been lifted!

We decided to use the break in the weather to replace some of the rusted frames in the float.  Our replacement bar for one of the more rusted floor sections, was slightly to small and did not have the strength needed of it (Dad will take more care to purchase steel of the correct dimensions next time).  Despite this, we still managed to replace some of the other frames on the side of the float.

This turned out to also be the perfect time for me to hone my grinding skills…  Although it took a while, I managed to successfully remove one of the old bars and clean up the cuts, before cutting a new piece (A tad to long).  I also asked dad if I could weld the bar in place, but after watching him struggle to weld the thin steel we decided that I would do more harm than good.  Instead, I took my new-found grinding skills to finish making my mother’s Christmas present.

After the horizontal struts were in place, we realised that we needed to replace one of the vertical supports.  This meant that dad had to cut up some of his pre-existing welds to put the new piece in place.  Let’s just say, I don’t think that he was to happy with having to re-weld the weak steel.

Meanwhile, the little helper was cleaning up the tailgate with a wire brush and a lot of elbow grease.  After he had finished polishing off the tailgate, he proceeded to rust-proof all the exposed metal he could lay eyes on with some ‘Rust Converter’ (phosphoric acid).

A couple of days later, the weather cooled down again.  We took this opportunity to remove the fibreglass section of the roof.  This proved somewhat difficult as many of the rivets where rusted in place.  We ended up drilling out the rivets.  After some effort we got the roof down, where it now lies, waiting to be sanded, patched and painted.

All in all, we have made many very important structural repairs and have begun looking at the roof.  Hopefully the next blog will be about reattaching the roof and possibly finishing our structural repairs.  We are looking forward to being able to start re-assembling the body of the horse float soon.

The Little Helper’s Holiday Project (Part 1)

For something different, the (not so) little helpers have a school holiday project that they will work on over summer.  Not only that, they have agreed to update their progress online.       They have a tight budget to work on, but we hope to turn this old float into some pocket money.  The main priority is to make the float completely solid and safe, not just to drive on the road, but also to carry precious horses in.  Turning a profit would also be nice – and should be achievable when you’re used to earning $10 per hour….  But enough from me – over to the Little Helper for his take on the holiday project.  

 

The school days are over, and on the Rock Farm the holidays have started. It’s great to lie back, throwing a ball for a very energetic dog, whilst enjoying a smoothie that would break the world record for the most sugar consumed at once. And it’s awesome the sleep in and not wake up at six o’clock to catch the school bus. Holidays are fantastic.

They are also good to look back on the year and see what we achieved, what happened, what went wrong, and what we can do next time.  Something that I noticed about this year, is that my brother and I achieved almost nothing together. Sure, there were the days where we made catapults, swords, and things to whack each other with, but there was nothing where we did something to learn new skills. (comment from Dad – I would disagree – I love the things they have done where the didn’t even realise they were learning!).

So, these holidays we asked Dad for help, and we started a new project – horse float restoration.

There has been an old horse float down near the stables. It hasn’t been undercover and it has just sat there, rotting itself apart. With the help of Dad, the ute, and the air compressor, we got the old float up to the shed for some pretty major repairs.

We started by taking the wheels off, and after years of rust, the nuts holding the wheels on weren’t feeling like moving. Even after I stood on the tyre lever trying to make the bolts spin, the nuts stayed attached. Only Dad could undo those bolts.

After the wheels were sent rolling, we started taking out the floor. This was more challenging than we had hoped because the bolts had rusted so much there was basically nothing left of them.  The old nuts had seized to the metal frame. So, we called in Dad with the grinder. After an hour of grinding, levering, and swearing (comment from Dad – speak for yourselves!), we pulled the hardwood beams from the frame.

This was all that we could achieve at the time, because the following few days were forecast to be above 40 degrees with total fire bans in place. Sadly, taking apart the horse float involves a lot of sparks.

But there was still one thing we could do: paint scraping.

To be honest, I am so over using the wire brush and chisel. After scraping every single piece of paint off, every side, every corner, we could finally put down the brush and smile. But that’s only the start. We still need to put the rust preventer on that Dad got us, and then paint, replace the rusted beams, put the floor back in, redo the wiring, replace the springs, check it all works, and make it look nice.

We have some more to do, but due to the heat we can’t progress at the moment. So for the time being, we can go back to our smoothies, and relax.

 

The end of our time with sheep… for now

You may recall that in September we took stock of our options and after looking at the long term forecast, we sold our Wiltipoll ewes (https://rockfarming.com/2019/09/28/the-hint-of-rain/) .

Our gorgeous lambs were brought into some small paddocks near the house and were weaned onto grass and pellets.  Being hand fed, and so close to the action, they soon became very quiet, and would come running towards you – especially if you were carrying a bucket.

We trialled letting them out into the main paddocks, however this turned into a disaster.  As our property was set up for horses, nearly all the paddocks are fenced in plain wire.  The sheep had the run of the place – however decided that the grass was greener on the other side of the fence, specifically the neighbour’s paddocks.  Whilst the lambs were easy to catch (with the use of a bucket), we were wasting a lot of our time retrieving them.

So we made the decision to sell the lambs too.

Twelve of our lambs went to a friend’s place and are now being spoilt on his hobby farm.  To transport them, we parked the horse float in the lamb’s paddock for a couple of days and started feeding them in there.  On the day of the move, we simply sprinkled some oats on the floor and they all marched inside – making it all too easy to pull up the tail gate and take them to their new home.

The youngest and by far the smallest, but rapidly growing girl, nicknamed Runty, went back to other friends who looked after all our sheep during the last school holidays.  She must have made an impression (or Mark and Mell are suckers for a cute face).

Sadly our time with sheep has come to an end… for now.  We have enjoyed raising sheep, with all their challenges, since they joined the first Rock Farm back in 2015.  With a bit of luck – and a bit of time working on the fences, I am sure sheep will become part of our farm again.

Making rain… of sorts

With the new (second hand) carport meeting our 80% completion rule, the strong hot dry winds brought another project into sharp focus.  With much of the state affected by catastrophic bush fires, and with no rain on the medium term forecast, we critically looked at our bush-fire plan, and decided to make a few changes.

We upgraded the water pump on our mighty AU falcon ‘fire truck’.  We had previously stored the tank on a trailer, but the falcon struggled to tow the trailer having no weight over its back wheels.  A new larger capacity Honda fire pump with a 6 metre suction hose also allows us to fill the tank from a dam or the creek.  As a bonus, I can hold the hose in my right hand and water our new trees from the driver’s seat, making that job a lot easier too.

The falcon fire pump upgrade was an easy fix, however the next part of the project was much more complex.

We wanted to install a sprinkler system on the roof of the house.  The first step was to come up with a plan.  Using our CAD (cardboard aided design) template, we came up with a plan for a series of sprinklers that would maximise coverage.  Noting that our worst fire weather comes from the west, we biased the sprinkler sites to the west of the house to allow for drift.

Initially I wanted to install a galvanised steel system, however with a roll of 1 inch rural pipe hanging on the shed wall, I decided to use resources to hand.  What I forgot to factor in was the cost of the compression fittings.  I spent a few minutes at Bunnings laying out the fittings in order to make sure I had all the bits I needed.

A couple of early mornings work, and I had the fittings in place and all the pipe laid out.  The 1 inch pipe was a bit difficult to work, but I soon had it tamed and looking reasonably neat.  The one advantage of a flat roof is that you can’t see much of my work from the ground!

The water comes from our house water tank, which uses a petrol pump to transfer water to our shed tanks, which supply the house.  I simply traced the pipe and installed a T piece and a couple of valves to allow water to be diverted onto the roof of the house when required.  I was a little nervous when I started up the pump for the first time, but I was more than happy with the results.

The pump is the same model Honda as is on the back of the mighty AU falcon.  The Honda small engines are unbelievably reliable, and easy to start.  The whole family are able to start the pumps – which make me far more comfortable this time of year.

One important element of our fire plan acknowledges that if there is a fire nearby, there is a very good chance I won’t be around to do much about it.  Lending a hand last weekend with our local brigade reminded me how many volunteers give thousands of hours protecting the property of strangers.  And how many volunteers also provide logistic support – it might have been late when we took a break in at Braidwood, but we left with full bellies.

Unfortunately I can’t make it rain – but what I can do is hopefully lessen the impact of one of the consequences of ongoing drought – bush-fire.