Showing change…

As I was busy breaking the plow yesterday I kept feeling as if we just aren’t catching up, at all..

But I was just looking at the photos I took today and comparing them to earlier in the spring…wow! There actually IS some progress.

The orange is the area that is becoming the last 300 feet of driveway, the pink is what needs to go. We’ve only cleared a small portion of the pink shaded area.

The above photo is from earlier in the spring. When I could barely even get the tractor back there.

This was this past Saturday, just prior to breaking the plow. Better, but not great.

And now, that’s where we are at. Still not great, or done but we can get both the 4 wheel drive AND the 2 wheel drive trucks back to the campsite. And able to get the pop up camper on site as well. So…when you keep looking at things too close you miss the beauty of the progress. Instead of missing the forest for the trees, I missed the driveway for the dirt.

By the way, the repaired plow..

That top bolt in the blue circle is the one designed to shear. The good news is that I always have plenty of those bolts on hand since they are the same ones that protect our bush hog pto shaft from exploding when you whack the crap out of a stump (which I am also REALLY good at doing,lol).

I’ve got quite a bit of experience with equipment, and living in the woods. Building a homestead from scratch is all new to me. I think my lesson learned this weekend was that on the homestead ( and in life) things might not look like they areyou moving along, but if you step back to look you might just be surprised.

Maria and I hope that you all have a wonderful week.

Chad

Meeting neighbors and breaking plows..

Ok, not exactly neighbors, but the nice folks in our new community.

If you’ve followed our blog for any amount of time you’ll know that Maria and I are going to be unable to live full time at the farm for a couple of years. I’ve got to finish up and retire from that silly job/ career. That will gives us a decent monthly income to help fund things a little. And, while I would love to be here now, all the time, it is still going to take a couple of years to get the house, barn, and shed built so we can live here.

So, on to the neighbors. Awhile back we met our actual neighbor that lives a cross the road. He’s a great older gentleman and his wife who have lived in their house since the 70s.

But, as we drive out here every couple of weeks to work and improve the land, we drive through our “new” community. Keep in mind that the town is 10 miles away and at the time of the 2000 census there were 1257 inhabitants. Just our kind of place.

For the last few months we’ve noticed on a sign in front of the Gretna volunteer fire department, they have been advertising a barbeque supper as part of there fund raising. Well, that was tonight. We worked on the farm all day and then washed up as best we could and went to town! It was really nice to see real hometown folks come out to support there volunteer firemen and meet with each other. The little old ladies with their hair and make up done and the little old men in their Sunday clothes. All meeting and greeting each other as if they hadn’t spoken in years. Just our kind of place.

The only people that actually talked to us were the fireman we had spoken to earlier in the day when we stopped to buy raffle tickets for a 4wd atv that they were giving away. But even in the hub bub of their big shindig, those guys remembered who we were and greeted us as friends. Just our kind of place.

So that was the wonderful part of the day. Work at the farm was good. Not too hot, and productive, until….

If you aren’t familiar with a single row, leinbach plow, they aren’t supposed to look like that.

They have one bolt in the frame that is weaker than the rest. Its designed that way for safety. Should you over tax the plow i.e. Hitting a big rock, stump, or just generally beat the tar out of it, that “shear bolt” is meant to do just that, shear. This allows the blade to rotate down and release you from whatever it was that you didn’t need to be plowing.

Maria and I had to redirect about a third of our driveway (300 feet of it) because our original path had a couple of really sharp turns. And, we started clearing the first 2 acres that will be the “barnyard”. We got brush cut and stacked, trees felled and stacked, and then I went to town…see that connection from above?

I ripped and tore my way through that dry clay soil and got about 80 percent of the stumps ripped out. Our little, 32 year old John Deere 850 was grunting and groaning, but she was getting the job done. Then I snapped the bolt. That was a perfect time to park her, get cleaned up and go meet our new community. Either in town, or 10 miles away here in the brush…its just our kind of place.

This is weekend long work trip, so hopefully I’ll have some really cool photos tomorrow. But now its time to relax by the fire and listen to the whipporwills sing in the distance.

We hope that you are all having as good of a weekend as we are!

Chad

The anxiety is finally over..

Well, (at least in the U.S.) my episode of Forged in Fire has aired. I would love to not give a spoiler for our international friends but I’m going to. Lol

I didn’t win. I was eliminated in the first round.

The judges were fair, knowledgeable, and gracious with their critique. I fought hard, but it just wasn’t my day.

We were tasked with making a Bowie style knife with a d guard handle from a really thick bar of 5160 high carbon steel.

Luckily, we weren’t given any weird, junk yard steel. That isn’t uncommon on this show, but it was still a thick bar.

I used a hand hammer for the majority of the time to shape my blade. I don’t know if it was nerves, or feeling the pressure of the 3 hour time limit, but I went to framming on that joker like a madman. I had a good shape to the blade, and things seem to go pretty well until the heat treat. From my perspective, the steel looked like the right color and the right temperature. When watching it on camera, it was not, and you can tell just by looking at it. I ended up quenching my blade three times to get it hardened properly. That really threw my timing off.

I then started to grind and polish it. The problem is that I went apeshit with the hammer and put some fairly deep hammer marks in the steel. Normally that isn’t a problem, you just keep grinding until they are gone and the blade is smooth. BUT!!! I was on a time limit and the quench hurdle cut into my grinding time. So, at the end of the round, my blade was not quite as finished or polished as the others.

After I came home, I made a comparable blade from the same type of steel. It take me just a bit longer than 3 hours to complete, but this is what I came up with.

I want to thank you all for reading our blog and following along with us. The outpouring of support has been wonderful.

I also want to thank Andrew, Tom, and Tim for some greatlooking competition and for our new friendships.

Jay Nielsen, David Baker, Doug Marcaica (the judges), and Wil Willis ( the host) were all absolutely great and I thank you, gentleman.

All the staff with Outpost Entertainment were absolute professionals and super impressive with the process.

But most importantly, the person I want to thank….is the person that I couldn’t do any of this without, and the person I do all of this for……my lovely, beautiful, witty, wicked smaht…Maria. Thank you, and I love you baby.

There will always be more adventures with Maria and I, we hope you come along for the ride!

All the best,

Chad

In the heat of the moment…

Today is my normal farm update day. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot to report. We did go to the farm yesterday, but it was FRIGGIN hot! With the pop up camper things are little nicer with the air conditioner. I now hook that joker up to the generator and cool things down inside. Then, work for an hour or so and then go inside to cool down.

This week it was so hot that the a/c wasn’t keeping up that well. And, within about 10 minutes of work we were both nearly exhausted and needed that break. We kept working in 10 minute increments for a couple of hours.

I was able to get 4 posts driven around the camper so we can put a canopy over it (which will give shade and help the a/c) and Maria ran the cub cadet wood chipper. It worked really well, but it is a loud, violent sounding machine.

That’s about all we go done and we were just about wiped out in the 98 degree weather and ready for naps. That’s when we got a text from one of the guys I was on Forged in Fire with. The history channel was going to show an 8 minute sneak peek of our episode at 8 o’clock. That pretty much sealed the deal on that work day. We closed up and headed back to town as fast as we could.

Watching myself on t.v. was super weird. It wasn’t even the full episode yet and its already freaking me out.


That’s me in the gray shirt, on the right, near the judge’s head, lol.

A different perspective from the show forge. Again, I have the gray shirt on…the skinniest one out there. (Sorry fellas, its true)

Tuesday night should be REALLY freaky! The full episode is going to air at 9 eastern/ 8 central.

The 8 minute sneak peek was cool, but the full episode should really be entertaining.

I also made a replica of the knife we were required to make on the show, using the same steel (having a bit more time than the competition 3 hours).

I’ll post some photos of that beauty after the show airs.

We hope that you all have a great week, stay cool, and HYDRATE!!!!

All the best, 

Chad

Forged in Fire airing

Maria and I took a wonderful trip to NYC back in April of this year. The purpose of that trip was so I could compete on the History Channel show “Forged in Fire”.

If you aren’t familiar, a competition between 4 blacksmiths who are given a piece (or pieces) of steel and are tasked with forging a blade with certain parameters. They are only given 3 hours to complete that task. After the first round, one of the smiths is eliminated. The remaining 3 smiths are given another 3 hours to fit and finish a handle on the knife. Then those three blades are tested and one more smith is eliminated. The remaining two are sent home for 5 days to create a weapon from a historical period. They then return and have those blades tested. The winner is given the title of “Forged in Fire Champion” and a cue k for $10,000.

It’s been a few months since I competed and I’m not allowed to talk about the outcome of the show, but I can say that I’ll be on the show. My episode is airing next Tuesday, July 25 on the History Channel.

If you’ve got no plans next Tuesday night, feel free to sit back and watch the show. I think it should prove to be entertaining.

Maria and I hope that everyone has a great week!

Chad

Always a student..

I started blacksmithing / bladesmithing about 4 years ago. I couldn’t find anyone to teach me, so I am completely self taught. Reading, YouTube videos, and trial and error were my teachers. Lots and lots of trial and error. I started with some ornamental work with plain mild steel. I tried to utilize a lot of scrap metal to keep the cost down and to keep some things out of the trash. As my knowledge progresses I have learned more and more about metallurgy. Learning the characteristics of different types of metals is super important. Up until April of this year the only real, known steel I used was 1095. It’s a good, standard knife steel.

In April I had the opportunity to compete on the History Channel show Forged in Fire. Which, by the way, will be airing on July 25th. So if you want to see 4 goobers making knives, me being one of them, tune in to the History Channel. It should be interesting.

Anyway back to steel. On the show we used 5160. It’s a harder and more finicky steel than I’m used to. But competing in general was a great experience and I learned a lot from some really great smiths. This week, I ordered some D2 and O1 steels to learn and experiment with. These are both considered “tool steels”. They are very hard and much more difficult to forge and heat treat.

That blade is the one I made here at home with a piece of 5160 to see if I could forge it as well as I did on the show.

I love to learn new things and working these two new steels is interesting. You can see on the label for the D2 it says air hardening. That throws a whole new wrinkle into heat treating. Leaving out a liquid quench!

I decide to make a little knife for my lovely Maria. I’ve been meaning to make one for her to use around the house and the farm. 

For the handle I used some balsam fir needles that came from her home state of Maine set in some epoxy resin. For the blade, I used a little of the O1 and that little thing came out super sharp!

This post is getting a little wordy, so I will wrap it up. The kukri blade in the first photo (5160 steel) should have the handle finished by tomorrow evening. Maybe I’ll write a little post with photos of that one.

If you don’t have any plans on July 25th, sit back, relax, and watch some entertaining competition on the History Channel.

All the best,

Chad

Our part time home…

Things are picking up slightly after the collecting crazy week. 

With the addition of the new/used pop up things are a lot more comfortable in the woods. Maria and I like to rustic camp, but when you are digging stumps, cutting brush, grading a road, etc etc all day it is really nice to be able to sit down at a table to have supper, and a nearby air conditioned bed to lay your head. This is much easier than driving 7+ hours round trip with several hours of back breaking work stuffed in the middle.

Yes, I know that the awning is crooked. That was my first time putting it out. Lol

One great advantage to staying here overnight is seeing the beautiful sunsets here on the farm.

Maria had to come up late, so I got to cook supper. I know, I know, its not the healthiest meal, but it was delicious!

Before I left town, Maria packed up all kinds of groceries and goodies. I really love that woman and truly have no idea what I would do without her. 

It is starting to really look and feel like we have a homestead starting, instead of just owning 18 acres of brambles.

Until next time, have a great day and I am going to ENJOY the absolute cool, quiet sleep of the exhausted.

Chad

Another kukri kind of day..

As the country celebrates its independence, Maria and I are doing what we love on this holiday. She is busy sewing away making some tie dye letters. I finally lit the forge after a couple of weeks of not swinging a hammer. This is what came from that.

I started with a good piece of 5160 high carbon steel.

I thinned it some in the belly of the edge.

Then I shaped the point, and the clip. The ricasso and tang then needed to be curved.

Then to the grinder! Working out the remainder of the edge geometry and get out some of those damned hammer marks. You’ll hear me talk about those whenever my episode of Forged In Fire airs.

Once that’s all worked out then it was time for the heat treat.

I did the finish grinding and decided to put a thin fuller along the blade. This one is pretty thin and doesn’t serve much purpose  other than a decorative groove.

Now to decide on a handle material. I’ve got some different species of wood on hand, but I can’t decide.

I will leave that up to you. Let me know what you think a good handle material would be for this knife, either natural or synthetic. I love to hear the creative ideas of others so lets hear your thoughts!

I know this one isn’t directly homesteading related, but Maria and I wear many hats. Lol

All the best,

Chad

First harvest ever!!!

Maria and I stopped at the farm for just a bit on our Smokey and the Bandit run to Illinois and back. When we were there Maria noticed that the blackberries were starting to ripen. She decided that on the next trip she was going to pick some and make some jam.

So, when we took the camper and other materials up, she got to picking. Granted, a lot of the ripe ones had been snacked on by the deer, but she still got a about a 1/2 a bucket full. They were great to eat right off of the vine, but she wanted to jam them up.

I don’t know the recipe because I’m terrible at anything cooking related, but I got to eat some!

We had breakfast for supper the other night and Maria made some great eggs, sausage, and layer biscuits with her AWESOME jam on them.

I’m not normally a big sweets eater, or even a big fan of jam, but this stuff is amazing!

So this was the first harvest of anything for us on OUR farm and it feels really good. We still have about 13 acres of thick briars covered with unripened berries so I’m sure we will have more wild blackberry jam. I might even learn to help make it.

Have a great week and we’ll see you on the next update.

Chad

Making some progress..slowly

We have had our land since the first of the year and things have been moving very slowly, but they are moving. This week we got to move some of our new treasures up there. These things should help some with our progress.

The trip up this time was super stressful for me. We took both trucks and pulled trailers with them both. Maria had the new truck (named Ernie) pulling the pop up, and I had the older truck (named Bert) and pulling the utility trailer that I’m pretty sure was overloaded. I had well over 1000 pounds of gravel, the home built landscape rake for the tractor, and a pretty good sized wood chipper.

Maria had only pulled a trailer one other time, and that was just a cross town. She did a fantastic job on this 3.5 hour trip, but I was really nervous. I followed her and had to watch her, her trailer, traffic, my overloaded trailer all at the same time. Whew!

We made it though, without incident and got to work. The first thing was to put down the recycled carpet and this load of gravel.

It doesn’t look like much,but that’s a good bit of gravel. I really do think that the carpet technique will help stabilize that soil when it rains.

Next was to get the camper and chipper moved to there new homes, 1000 feet back. I spent some time with the rake and blade smoothing out the dirt driveway before moving them.

I then hooked up the camper to the tractor and SLOWLY pulled to the back.

That spot looks a little rough, but on the next trip I plan on mowing and sprucing up the “campsite” area.

Maria then got to work picking the remaining ripe blackberries that the wildlife hadn’t eaten.

I continued to work on grading the rest of the driveway to prep it for more carpet and gravel. There are still a few rough spots, but they are getting better.

I am planning on one little revision to the driveway. We’ve got two turns that are a little sharp so I’m going to change the angle for a more direct approach.

The one thing I was REALLY happy about was that we could finally drive something other than the tractor the full lengths of the driveway. So now it’s starting to look like a homestead, and we’ll be able to stay overnight a lot easier. Next trip is setting up the camper, landscaping the campsite, and start chipping the massive amounts of brush we’ve cut.

We hope you all have a great weekend, be safe and we’ll see ya on the next update from the overnight stay on the farm!

Chad