After working the phones Monday and Tuesday, things are really moving along at a good pace.  Hunted down a piece of 4'x8' .032 aluminum at Allied Building Supply on Route 17 in Rutherford, NJ.  It's the perfect solution to waterproofing the deer stand roof.  I really didn't want to try and get up on that small area to hammer down traditional roofing material.  This is real easy, roll it out and hammer it down.  Should last forever as long as a wind storm doesn't lift it up.  Should also allow the snow to slide off quickly once the sun hits it.  It's rolled up in the back of the pick-up waiting delivery to Red Hand.

Bennett Motor Sports has the hitch attachment for the mule and we'll pick it up on the way up to Red Hand tomorrow.

Jake and I worked from morning 'til dusk Friday and Saturday in ridiculous heat (103 degrees Thursday and 94 on Friday).  As if that wasn't bad enough the deer flies wouldn't leave us alone, pesky little buggers.  But we made excellent progress with the stand.  Framing complete, floor installed, three walls with shooting windows cut in, up and hammered in place.  Hoping to put the roof on and the back wall with the door framed and installed by the end of this coming weekend.  Will work on the stairs first though as it will make raising the roof easier.

Richie was finishing up discing the two food plot fields after he had plowed them earlier in the week.  The plowing is done to break up the root mat of growth in the fields and turn over the soil and stones.  Disc preparation chops and grinds the soil clumps further prepping the fields for seeding.
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Jake climbed onto the floor of the deer stand and took this picture of the field after Richie was done discing.  You can see the turned soil off in the distance.  This is the lower fork of the upper pasture and it consists of Manhiem loam.  Some of the best, highly fertile soil in the Mohawk River valley.  This will get planted with Imperial Whitetail Clover.  The protein content of this quality clover runs between 30-35%.  The clover is designed to hold that high protein content through the winter.  It should contribute to the overall health of our herd.

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This picture shows the view looking towards the southwest from the stand.  Behind the trees and climbing up the ridgeline lies the Grave Yard.  We gave this field it's name because of all the coyote or other predator kills we found there this spring.  Two deer and at least one turkey were ambushed over the winter as witnessed by their skeletal remains.  While it can't be seen in this pic, the field was also plowed and disced in preparation to seeding.  The soil up there is less fertile, more rocky and doesn't hold water well.  We'll plant Imperial Extreme.  It's a hardy mixture of alfalfa, chicory and clover.  It was formulated to hold up to extreme conditions.  It is especially resistant to severe drought, sorching heat and bitter cold.  Hope it lives up to it's hype.

Richie called today and got a great deal on some used farm equipment.  He bought himself a 3 point hitch attached spreader and wanted to know if he could bargin down a deal on a cultipacker for $1,000 would I want it.  He said it looked brand new so I gave him the go ahead.  Spoke to him tonight and we got it.  My 1st piece of farm equipment ... yeehaa.  We plan to look over some hay and corn equipment if I have time this weekend.  Looks like I'll be needing to build a pole barn real soon.   

Tomorrow Richie heads down to the local grainery to pick up 4 tons (8,000 lbs.) of lime and 1600 lbs. of fertilizer (800 lbs. of 6-24-24 for the clover and 800 lbs. of 17-17-17 for the Extreme mix).  Jake and I will head up as soon as we finish up on our last patient.  Marian will meet us there later in the day, with Kellen, Jess,  Ben and little Ben coming on Friday.  With all that muscle we should be able to finish the deer stand and plant the fields.  What doesn't kill ya makes ya stronger.  Guess when this is all done I'll be able to take on Hercules ... or be dead ... lol.   

 
Well the past two weekends have been insanely busy and productive.  Probably the most reassuring development has been the resolution of the snake issue.  After numerous "snake rodeos" (catch, relocate and release) the property appears to be snake free.  There have been none seen nor caught for over two weeks now.  This coming week we'll have the perimeter of the house sprayed with a repellent to keep them out in the fields where they belong, not slithering around our foundation.

The living room actually looks like a living room.  Three new leather loveseat recliners (real comfy), fireplace stonework complete and flat panel LED screen, wall mounted above the mantel.  We actually watched an old movie I have on DVD ... "Unconquered".  Entertaining with good old American values.  No cable or satellite hook-up, just a DVD/BlueRay player.  It's just enough for watching movies and hunting videos.

The deer stand is progressing at a steady rate.  With a maximum height of 16', a narrow foot print (4' x 8'), an extremely top heavy load (lumber, equipment and two hunters) and subject to strong winds blowing across the open pasture and upper field, I'm taking every precaution to stabilize and brace the framwork.  It's undoubtedly way over engineered, so it will take one helluva storm to knock it down.  Better safe than sorry.  We have some great pictures of it going up and will dedicate a post just to the stand when it's complete.

Saturday the 16th, Marian, Kellen, Jake and I attended Richie's son Matt's graduation party.  There were many parties that weekend and the next for graduation because to celebrate them any sooner would interfere with the crop planting and haying that needed to be done.  The entire community works around nature's farm clock. 

There was plenty of food and beer.  I brought along a bottle of JD since I can't enjoy beer anymore.  Matt and his brothers built a rather impressive waterslide.  It terminated in a small mud hole at the bottom of a long hill. 

The local boys had some amazing pick-ups parked near the pole barn.  Some trucks were jack-up so high off the ground you absolutely needed a ladder to get in.  I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that at least one of them had doors that were higher than my shoulders.

I met some quirky and interesting people.  John and Marilyn, a very pleasant couple who left the rat race and retired up here years ago.  John was a big game hunter with interesting stories about his safaris in Africa.  He almost got caught up in the termoil of rebellion when the rebels demanded he relinquish his kill of a Cape Town water buffalo.  His outfitter managed to finesse their way out of a tight situation when surrounded by "teens" carrying AK-47's. 

I commented on the rather unique/flashy belt buckle John was wearing.  A broad smile came to his face as he proceeded to tell me it was custom made for him in south Africa.  He unbuckled it to show that it was actually a set of "brass knuckles" with a 7" drop point blade that's hidden behind the leather of the  belt.  Whoa!  He said it was for getting out of sticky situations.  I was enjoying the JD and he joined me in a drink, straight up, my kinda guy.  He said he had just acquired a case of a bourbon called "Virginia Gentleman" and offered to get a bottle to me via Richie.  I can't wait, John said it's real nice sipping whiskey.  His wife Marilyn was a charming lady, she prefers her bourbon mixed with a Coke.

While Jake and Kellen were taking on some of the good ole boys down at the horseshoe pit, Marian and I continued to eat,drink and chat.  We were introduced to a gentleman named George.  He was adjusting to having recently lost his wife of many years.  He's another real interesting guy.  Although he said he was "retired" from the real estate and property management business, he still attends local farm auctions and is investing in more land up in the Red Hand vicinity.  He helped Richie acquire the land we were on for the party.  George owned multiple buildings with rentals of over 45 units in the NYC boroughs.  He was a wheeler dealer who made out quite well.  He invited us to stop in on his farm and to hunt it for turkey in the fall and spring.  He hunts deer exclusively.

Then the fireworks display started.  This was classic old school stuff.  A hand full of 1/2 lit rednecks towed a flatbed behind a pick-up, up the hill to start lighting them off.  They had some major rockets and mortars going mostly up.  It was when they took to launching them by holding the firing tubes that things got real interesting.  You know the old adage ... "It's funny until someone gets hurt, then it's hilarious".  Well luckily it stayed funny, no one was hurt.  However, one misguided launch sent a rocket into the party tent and another launch sent a mortar directly at Jake, Kellen and our truck!!!  Good luck prevailed as it hit the windshield of the pick-up parked in front of them and deflected it back into the air before it detonated.  The evening came to a close and even though I felt OK, one look at what was left in the bottle of Jack and it was decided I wasn't driving home. 

Jake took another woodchuck from our hay field this weekend .  He got it mid-afternoon while I went into town for supplies.  They are such a nuisance because of the large holes they make.  They burrow into the side of the small hills and because of this location, their entry holes can easily flip a farm tractor as well as a UTV or an ATV.  Very dangerous, we need to remove most, if not all, of them. 

Met with Richie on Sunday morning to go over the selected fields to be plowed.  Hoping to prep and seed them within the next two weeks.  Then a basic clean-up, pack-up and we were headed off back to N.J. and our real jobs. 
 
The past weekend was rather uneventful.  Jake needed a break for some personal time and Kellen had other obligations, so Marian and I headed up to Windham last Thursday night to straighten up after the 4th of July festivities.  In the morning, Mar cleaned up the Windham house while I worked the property.

I coupled up the flatbed trailer and then it was off to Oneonta to pick up the lumber.  I figured out that with the tailgate dropped down on the pick-up, I could stack the 16' long 4x4s on the trailer and into the truck bed.  Ratcheted tie downs kept the beams from sliding into the bed walls on turns.  The rest of the lumber fit neatly on the trailer.  A little breakfast, then over the river and through the woods to Red Hand Ranch we go.  Too bad the big bad wolf wasn't waiting on us.  He'd look good mounted on our wall.
 
Upon arrival, we drove across the hay field down to the new bridge.  It was not going to be possible to safely tow the trailer over the bridge without risk of getting off the stone road.  Leaving the road to swing out a wide enough turn could put me back into the mud and the last thing I wanted was a stuck truck and/or trailer with just Marian there to help.  So, I unloaded the 16 footers and concrete blocks, then back to the garage to unload and store the rest of the lumber and the generator.

As I unloaded, Marian couldn't stop herself from cleaning up the house.  She's a trooper considering her injury.  She's also a stickler about the place even though me and the boys tell her it's just a "hunting camp".  She still insists on keeping it all real nice.  The stone work is all finished on the fireplace, the flat screen installed  and the garbage compactor in place.  Some minor loose ends that I need to get on the contractor to finish up and we're finally done.  Can't wait to head up this weekend and after working on building the elevated deer stand, relaxing in our new living room, watching some DVDs.


 
SIGHTS
Three jakes on a late afternoon walking through the upper field looking for seeds and bugs for a final meal before flying up to roost for the night.  Whitetails grazing in a new cut field.  Song birds foraging the tall wetland grasses.

Hay.  Hay.  And more hay.  It's everywhere as the first cut starts to wind down.  The fields have various looks.  Tractors of all sizes and colors (colors are distinct to each make ... ie. John Deere green, New Holland blue, Farmall red, Cub Cadet yellow, etc.), while cutting decks, balers and hay wagons adorn the fields ( a traffic jam up here is getting stuck behind a tractor pulling a load of hay).  Some fields are complete, the hay is fully harvested and they are greening up in preparation for the next cutting that will commence sometime at the middle to end of August.  Some sit with equipment still in them as the work continues.  Some fields are in windrows so the breezes of summer can age and dry the cuttings before baling.  Some are dotted with bales in cubes, but mostly baled in wheels, either way a beautiful sight.  The wagons are like huge children's wagons, pulled mostly by tractor, some by pick-up.  And the barns are bursting out with hay bales filled to the rafters.

Corn.  More precisely ..... corn fields.  Despite the late planting due to the continuosly heavy spring rains, the fields are coming into their own.  Some stalks approaching 4' in height with cobs starting to show.  The precision of the rows allows for large equipment to service the fields (sprayings and fertilizing) without damaging the crops.  More eye candy for me as I drive the country roads. 

Pastures.  Large grassly expanses with herds of beef cattle or dairy cows lazily grazing most of the day.  The pastures are always fenced, mostly with barbed wire but some with the new low voltage electric fence.  The look of old rusted barbed wire is my preference, but the shiny new top wire for the electric fence is certainly not intrusive to the view.  Somewhere in the pasture, usually near the farmhouse, lies the barn and the silos.  Some new, some old.  Some freshly painted, most weathered.

Livestock.  Cows and cattle predominate the region.  But there are numerous and  sometimes unique other species.  Horses, ponies, donkeys and mules.  All sizes and shapes from burly plow horses and mules to trim riding steeds.  The local Amish are expert are trading and caring for horses.  They also produce some fine handcrafted leather for working and riding.  Goats, sheep, pigs, lamas and even elk! are raised in the surrounding areas.  Chickens, ducks, domestic "heritage" turkey and geese are also farmed for meat and eggs.  Dogs and cats roam the properties patrolling the grounds for mice and other vermin. 

Wildlife.   Most importantly eastern wild turkey and whitetail deer.  Both of whom we hope will grace our dinner plates.  Woodchucks, bobcats, fishers, porcupines, black bears, squirrels, coyotes, rabbits, field mice, pheasants, quail, grouse, song birds, chipmonks, weasels, honey bees, frogs, snakes and on and on.  And oh yeah bugs,  especially those annoying flies and mosquitoes.

Signs.   Unique signs.  I've already written about the sign at the Herkimer Fair Grounds stating "No weapons past this point".  Official and unofficial signs.  The unofficial ones are basically people expressing their feelings about things.  A large conspicuous homemade billboard on a local farm warning "An armed man is a citizen, an unarmed man is a subject".  Being a believer in the SECOND AMENDENT, you know I love that one.  Seen painted on the tailgate of a Ford F-150 "If Chevy is the heartbeat of America we'd all be dead".  Now thats funny, owning an F-150 myself,  I love that one too.  Our favorite breakfast eatery is filled with whimsical country sayings.  I particularly like "I was so far behind I thought I was first".  It's refreshing up here in the country, no political correctness, just honest opinions.  People speak whats in their hearts and minds.  You may not agree with it or even like it, but you know where they stand.     

SOUNDS
A tom booming a gobble to attract a hen.  A tom booming a gobble to ward off a rival.  A tom booming a gobble responding to you call.  Breath taking when you're in the woods.

Cows mooing in the evening.  So loud you'd think they were right next door, oh yeah, they are!!!

The sound of wind and feathers as a bird hovers around your blind.

A deer that startles the hell out of you as it sneaks in from behind.  The crunching of underbrush and a snort, or was it a sneeze, less than 10' to your back.  Magical.

A grouse drumming in the hard woods.

Songbirds singing in the meadows.

Fields and forests awakening at dawn.
 
eese squaking at dusk.

Farms coming alive in the morning.  Roosters crowing.  Diesel tractors rumbling.  Machinery clinking and clanking.

The radio playing Bug Country.

The crack of a rifle or the boom of a shotgun. 

Thunder rolling through the valley.  Rain keeping rhythm on the roof.  Water in the creek gurgling over the rocks.

The blare of the radio alert signal, followed by the National Weather Service warning all to take measures for severe thunderstorms and "quarter-sized" hail.  Or that a cyclone is imminent.  Or that dangerous flooding is rising.

The sound of our own voices as we build a jigsaw puzzle on the dinner table. 

The quiet.  The utter lack of any human sound as darkness sets in.  The crickets chirping, the bull frogs bellowing, a barn owl hooting.  Incredibly soothing, complete relaxation, a feeling of balance and harmony.  Can this be the voice of God?  After all we're up in God's country.

 
Well Jake, Marian and I spent a productive few days at Red Hand before heading down to Windham for a 4th of July celebration.

Jake and I arrived on Wednesday night so that we could meet with contractors early the next morning.  Sure enough, 7:30 AM Thursday morning, as I'm making a cup of coffee, up pulls a flat bed with a small Deere backhoe on the back.  Richie and his son Matt were right on time to assist us with digging the footings for our soon to be constructed elevated deer stand.  The stand will allow us to cover the entire ridge and the upper pasture all from one location. 

Last year we set up 2 ground blinds on the upper rim of the field on opposite ends.  The field was covered but not the ridge.  We learned the hard way that it wasn't enough.  Kellen and I missed an opportunity at what looked like a nice 8 pointer that had come in from behind Jake's blind and proceeded up the ridge.  This year we'll be set up on the lower edge of the pasture with full views of both field and ridge.  However, there will be 2 disadvantages with this set-up.  First, we'll be shooting uphill instead of  the level/slight downhill orientation we're accustomed to.  That means an adjustment for bullet drop that we must calculate and compensate for in our firing solution.  Second, we'll be looking into the sun.  This will probably be the greater issue as we monitor the terrain for whitetails.  Polarized, UV protected, quality sun glasses will be "de rigueur".  Then a direct shot into the sun will surely challenge our marksmanship. 

So the construction began with site planning for the location of the 4 footings we were going to dig and then pour in concrete.  At the suggestion of one of our patients, we used plastic foundation forms called Big Foot Systems.
 
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The forms come in various sizes depending upon the job at hand.  We used the BF-28 (3.25 cubic feet).  With the help of Richie, Matt and their backhoe, we dug holes below the frostline and set the Big Feet into place.  Richie and Matt left to attend to other business and then return later, while Jake and I drove the Mule back to the house.  Meanwhile, back at the house the snake exterminator had arrived.  Due to all the rain many of the farms, including ours, were experiencing an abundance of snakes. 

SNAKES ... I hate 'em.  Some primeval phobia deeply ingrained in my psyche.  Seeing them slithering around the window wells of the house was not inducing comforting thoughts.  They may already be inside!!!  Yikes!!!  It's why Jake and I came up alone last night, Marian refused to come into the house until we addressed the snake issue.  I had been taking them out with the blade of a shovel if I found them near the house, but the exterminator was now here to see if they were inside and what to do next?  An examination of the basement, window wells and cellar rafters revealed no snake signs nor any skin molts.  So far the house was secure, wish I knew that sleeping here last night.  Outside was another story.  We needed to conduct a snake round-up.  We captured 7 in total and put them into an old 5 gal. pail so "Jason the snake man" could remove them from the area.  Additional sticky traps were set with return visits planned for  Jason or one of his men to continue the round-up.  Then a barrier chemical spray is used around the perimeter of the house to keep them away.  We were also told to keep the grass cut down real short to decrease habitat and prey (mice).       

Inside, Tim and Cliff from Yerdon Construction were continuing with the stone work for the fireplace.  As much as I wanted to burn wood for heat, a gas insert seems to make the most sense.  A trip up to Herkimer to the stove and fireplace store is in the near future.  Tim offered to give us the use of his cement mixer to pour our footings.

Jake, meanwhile, drove the Ford F-150 up to the construction site and he unloaded 1600 lbs. of concrete bags.  He picked me up then headed into Richfield Springs to rent a generator so we could run the mixer out in the field.  We picked up the generator and loaded it along with the cement mixer and 20 gals. of water into the bed of the F-150 and headed over the bridge back to the build site.
A long day of mixing then pouring concrete and we had our footings in the
ground.  The blind construction should start this upcoming weekend after we put
together the lumber order and pick it up.
But still more work was on the agenda.  Richie, Matt and a cousin who's name I've forgotten returned with the bucket loader and hoisted the southwestern bridge (it was lifted in the bad flooding this spring and had floated down stream) and managed to locate it back onto the masonary walls on opposite sides of the creek.  The extreme weight of the bridge almost caused the collapse of the creek wall flipping the bucket loader and Richie into the stream.  We took it all in stride as is the way up here.  Richie once again invited us to Matt's graduation party in 2 weeks, in fact he had Matt get us the "formal" invitation.  You can tell that we both like one another and working together.  He is hankering we will "party" together.  I'm looking forward to a down home, country celebration.  He did offer one word of caution and I quote ... "it might get a little wild".  We'll fit right in.

Marian arrived Thursday afternoon and we took an evening trip up to New Hartford to check out Gander Mountain.  Jake and I looked into some seed for food plots, then headed home.  Next morning started with yet another gun shot as we culled an additional woodchuck from the hay field.  A little later that AM, the leather loveseats/recliners were delivered.  Finally we'll have a living room.  As soon as the furniture was in the house, we straightened up the place and headed to Windham for some 4th of July antics.  Hmmm the Kasa's, Leto's, Goode's and O'Neill's ... "it might get a little wild".