Category Archives: Moving

Farming: A Career Change

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A conventional job is often described as comfortable, stable, or secure.  Whether or not that is actually accurate, it can certainly feel that way.  However, humans tend to be rather illogical about things and that perceived security may not be as secure as it feels.  Regardless, comfortable easily describes many jobs.  Routine and known things are somehow comfortable.  Branching out into the unknown can certainly be intimidating.  This is how I felt when I left the safe, familiar world of engineering and decided to buy a farm.  That coupled with my inexperience in the field of farming made it feel extra scary.  However, today I’m grateful that we pursued our dreams, even though we haven’t yet fully met all our goals.  
Here are some things to think about if you decide to consider a career change.  My experience is from engineering to farming/ranching/permaculture so that’s what I’ll share, but I suspect it could apply to more than just those specifics.  Keep in mind that I’m not giving advice, just sharing our experiences.  As my neighbor always says, free advice is worth just that anyway.  Most importantly, try to be honest with yourself throughout this decision making process or else this is a waste of time.  Be willing to consider downsides.  Don’t look at best-case income/etc unless you also consider worst case or more realistic outcomes.

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Penske Truck

We have ended up using Penske trucks for the bulk of our move.  For some reason, their prices are consistently far below U-Haul and Budget.  We have been very pleased with the trucks, but being the odd person I am, I also find them somewhat amusing.  There is something kind of pleasing about driving a large(ish) truck such as the 26′ straight trucks we have been using.  I enjoy how they carry the large theme throughout the truck – large steering wheel, large guages, and best of all, a freakishly large bright headlight indicator light.  This is the same indicator we have come to know and love, just blown up 2.5x.  I found every opportunity to use brights so I could be amused by this.  I was also amused by how the driver’s seat belt in some trucks can accommodate a driver about 6′ wide.  The seat belt socket is placed about halfway across the bench seat.  It made me think that the expected driver is very large and quite myopic.  I can almost visualize this huge guy with coke-bottle glasses lumbering to his truck, climbing the large steps and heaving himself onto the large seat under the large steering wheel.

The other thing I appreciated about some of these trucks was the constant shaking.  Of course, one expects these trucks to ride much rougher than a car, but it is amazing just how shaky some of them they are.  Things were always shaking off the seat, particularly at speeds under 50.  It is clearly much better when fully loaded, but still shaky enough to be exhausting.  I can certainly see why truck drivers have such fancy air ride seats in their cabs.  If only Penske would spring for these.  I suspect a large part of this problem is tires because some ride a bit better, but still plenty rough.

The noise level was also fairly notable.  It didn’t really dawn on me until I tried to listen to a book on CD and found that the radio couldn’t go loud enough to be heard above the din.  My son was rather dismayed to find that he couldn’t hear his DVD player, even with a blanket over his head.  Of course, the next truck was much better, so I guess it depends on the truck.  The older trucks actually seem to be quieter and more pleasant to drive.

Perhaps the most annoying thing of all is that the seat belts lock at around 45 mph in the newer trucks.  This is rather frustrating when mixed with the rough ride, because the seat belt slowly ratchets one into a locked position.  It is a good thing those gauges are in large print, because one certainly can’t lean forward while in motion!  And if one is so foolish as to unbuckle, well it is only just that they are not allowed to unbuckle until below 45 mph, of course!  It is certainly advisable not to drink too much, because a ratcheting seat belt is not a good combination with a full bladder!  Of course, given 17 hours to experiment, we did find that the seat belts could be outsmarted.  With some careful pushing and releasing, one could easily steal back 6″ and move enough to check if the freakishly large fuel gauge might be indicating a need for diesel.  Or to pick up the 6 things that shook off the seat onto the floor.

Speaking of fuel, I found the gauge most frustrating.  I think it is built specially to punish those who like to fill up only when very low.  The gauge moves very slowly between full and 1/2.  It moves slightly more quickly from 1/2 to 1/4.  It picks up the pace from 1/4 to 1/8.  Once you reach 1/8, it absolutely plummets!  I ended up at 1/4 about 20 miles from home, with a sleeping son.  I decided not to fill until the next station since he was asleep and I didn’t want to disturb him until the last minute.  Well, I neglected to remember that it was 2AM and many stations are closed.  So, when I reached the station 10 miles later, I found myself at 1/8 tank with a closed gas station and 10 more miles to go.  “Well, never mind, it is only 10 miles”, I told myself.  I quickly regretted that decision as I watched the gauge quickly dip down to E within a few miles.  At this point, there wasn’t much choice, so I very gingerly continued on home, coasting whenever possible.  I did make it, but topped off from a can before filling up.  I found that I must have had just a few ounces left by that point.  I’ll bet the truck was gloating — “yeah, that’ll learn him”!

If nothing else, the memories from the Penske trucks will be a good reminder of how painful moving can be!  However, sometimes it is just worth it!



Craiglist experience

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In order to downsize as much as possible prior to the end of the move, I’ve been posting as much stuff on Craigslist as I can.  While this is an amazing tool, it is also greatly frustrating.  I’m always amazed that people seem to fall into categories and are really pretty predictable.  You can often tell from the start what you are looking at.  I’ve found that one thing that filters people is to allow email questions only.  For some reason that is hard for an “email guy” to understand, typing an email seems quite a lot more difficult than picking up the phone, thus pre-weeding those who call about everything that is even remotely interesting to them or possibly a neighbor, friend, long-lost cousin, or co-worker.

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Kansas Hail Storm

We have had the “pleasure” of many trips across I-70 this summer.  I use the quotes because it seems that KS weather along I-70 is nearly always lousy.  I mean no disrespect to KS, but that corridor really doesn’t make me long for KS.  We encountered strong winds on most trips, some thunderstorms and even a nearby tornado.  However, the most exciting was easily the hail storm that my son and I drove through.

We were nearly to the CO border at around dusk on a seemingly beautiful day, making good time and watching a distant thunderhead, wondering when we’d drive into the rain.  Suddenly, a wild gust of wind hit with no warning.  We were pulling a horse trailer and the sudden intense wind was enough to push us over for a nice examination of the other side of the road.  Seconds later, the hail started.  It was small at first, maybe pea sized, but almost immediately increased to around golf ball sized.  Visibility instantly decreased to a few feet and it sounded like shotgun blasts inside the truck.  I seriously questioned if the windshield would hold, but it did.  I took the first exit, hoping for an underpass to shelter the truck and trailer but there was no room so it seemed best to just continue slowly.  I quickly found that moving at even a few miles per hour was too much most of the time.  The rain and hail were coming so fast that it felt like even the road was moving.  We varied between a complete stop and creeping along.  At one point I stopped, thinking something didn’t feel right.  When the storm let up a bit, I found that we were on the shoulder heading straight for the very deep ditch.

After what seemed like an eternity but was really only about 15 minutes, the hail stopped and just the rain continued.  My son timidly peeked out from under his blanket and asked if it was all clear.  At this point, the road was covered with a couple inches of hail stones and was extremely slippery, so we decided to pull off at the next exit and assess that damage.  It was no surprise to find that the truck was covered in large dents, both side mirrors were broken, and all of the trailer lights had been completely destroyed.  I should mention that I was borrowing my parents’ truck because my truck was in the shop having the fuel pump replaced when I had to leave.  It made it even more painful knowing it was a borrowed vehicle that had been destroyed.

After encountering this storm, my son had a hard time sleeping on these long trips.  He finally admitted that awakening from a sound sleep surrounded by dark and the sounds of gunshots had him very worried of a repeat.  I really couldn’t blame him!  When I look back at excitement like this, I’m even more grateful to be done moving!  However, even with experiences such as this, it was worth it!

Ah vehicles and our good friend Murphy

Last Thursday, the family all headed down to Trinidad, CO (sex change capitol of the US… who knew?) to pick up a small horse trailer.  We had been looking in Colorado Springs and Denver, but apparently July is the hot month for buying horse trailers.  So, we ended up making the longer drive.  We weren’t too upset since it was a nice little outing for the whole family.  Thanks to my friend Erika for encouraging me to get a crew cab pickup!  We arrived without a hitch around noon, so the kids talked us into eating at Sonic.  Certainly not our first choice, but this was Trinidad, remember.  😉  After lunch, we met the seller, Mike, at McD’s.  He said he’d lead us to his ranch because there were some gates to open.  Never did we expect to find a gated community of ranches!  The gates to open were the gate to the area and a gate on his driveway.

Mike turned out to be a really nice guy.  He was a retired police man from Wisconsin, who had just purchased an old dairy outside Green Bay.  He’s going to winter in Trinidad and enjoy the lush summers in WI.  The funny thing is that he also looked a bit in southern MO but settled on WI to be close to family.  We talked for quite some time before actually getting down to business, but finally ended up taking the trailer with us.

The drive back was uneventful but HOT.  We saw 110 near Trinidad and more like 105 near Pueblo, but we kept on trucking in the AC.  On the south side on Colorado Springs, we decided to take Circle drive to stop at Harbor Freight for some moving blankets.  And thus began our adventure!

After waiting for rush hour traffic to pass, I stepped on the gas and noticed that the truck had stalled.  “Weird”, I thought and tried to start it again.  Well, suffice it to say that starting and running wasn’t on the Silverado’s “mind” at this point, but we did manage to limp into the parking lot of some small school.  At this point, I was feeling very grateful that we had AAA service.  And then I remembered that I forgot to send in our membership payment in June.  I did some quick work on a phone and soon had that paid up, while still on hold with AAA to report the problem.

Finally, an operator came on the line and informed us that yes, the truck was covered for towing, but the trailer would have to be left.  Furthermore, only 1 passenger was allowed in the tow truck, so we should call friends or a taxi.  This leaves me a bit concerned about future break downs.  Do you really get a taxi in the middle of nowhere, NE?  Or interstate 60mi from any town?  I guess AAA would suggest no passengers ever travel with the driver, which really does make a lot of sense (ahem).   Anyway, our focus turned to the trailer.  We would have just left it, but the parking lot was a locked one and it was getting close to closing time.  We started wracking our brains and finally called Buckley’s Homestead Supply to ask for a friend’s number.  Ed answered and said unfortunately he couldn’t come since he was along watching the store, but Niko was in the store.  Ed said Niko had a “new” farm truck and was willing to come help out.  This from a guy that I had met only once before.  Niko is a cob artist in Colorado Springs who is often found at Buckley’s Homestead Supply.

After getting off the phone with Niko, Jason the tow truck driver showed up.  We disconnected the trailer and got the truck ready to go.  About this time, Jason asked how we were going to get all 5 of us home.  I said I’d call a cab or Janelle and the kids could walk to a close McD’s.  He suggested it would be far better to have everyone ride in the truck instead.  “Really?  Is that OK”, we questioned him.  “Sure”, he said, “I do it all the time”.  So, we agreed to this, feeling a little unsure about it, but not wanting to wait for a cab.  About this time, Niko showed up to take the trailer.  After some consternation about having a 1 7/8″ ball on his truck and not being able to get my 2″ ball off, we decided to just use the smaller ball for the short tow.  Yes, I know it wasn’t very safe but we were at our wit’s end!  Lights worked on the first try and off went Niko with our trailer.

Jason told the kids and I to climb into the truck.  He wanted us in the truck before loading.  Janelle decided to ride up front, holding the baby (eek).  At this point, Jason informed us that we would all have to duck down since this wasn’t, errr, quite, ummm, approved.  Oh my.  For any of you thinking that doesn’t sound bad, please head out to your pickup now and try ducking down such that you are not visible from outside.  Holy muscle cramp, batman!  Now, please hold that position for 40 minutes while swaying through rush hour traffic in an overheating tow truck (yes, even the tow truck almost broke down).  We did finally make it home and the truck was safely delivered to Black Forest Auto (the most awesome shop.  Thanks, Eric).  We are now waiting to have the fuel pump replaced, a common, expensive Silverado failure.

I’m still in awe that Niko was so kind to haul the trailer for us.  What a lifesaver and what a great guy.  Thanks, Niko!  We were able to pick up the trailer the same night using our old beater farm truck.  It hauled it back albeit a bit slowly.  Whew, what a day!  Just in time to head back to MO!