Archive for October, 2008

I must be losing my geeky mojo

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

These days, I earn my living writting software.  I use the C# programming language (which is nice, but has its shortcomings – that’s another post all on its own some day).  I can humbly say I know a LOT about the Windows operating system in its various incarnations.  And I’m a pretty fair hand when it comes to hardware configuration, maintenance, troubleshooting, and repair.

But I must be losing my geeky mojo.  It used to be I would search out and discover things for the simple joy of knowing about it.  I surprised myself today by finding a new tool (that I’m sure some of you…cough…Mike…cough) are probably already aware of and have been using for some time.

As a developer, I watch task manager a lot to see what is pegging my system or eating up my RAM.  If I notice my system behaving oddly or slowly, it’s almost always the first thing I check.  Usually there’s a run away process (yeah, I’m looking at you DLOClient.exe!) and I kill it and get on with life.  So if you’re like me, and you look at the process list with any frequency, I’m sure you’ve noticed a process (usually several) called svchost.exe.

Svchost.exe is used to run a bunch of different things as windows services.  Usually svchost.exe behaves itself pretty well, but sometimes one or more of the svchost processes will use an extraordinary amount of RAM.  Today was one of those times for me, and I finally got exasperated enough to find a tool that would tell me what svchost.exe was really running.

Which brings us to the tool I mentioned earlier.  It’s called ProcessExplorer.  I don’t know why the heck Microsoft doesn’t just ship this thing with Windows in the first place.  It told me everything I needed to know.  I should have searched it out ages ago.  Sigh.  I’m losing my mojo.

Anyhow, if you’re constantly checking your system processes, I highly recommend it.

Ranch happenings

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

Earlier this week Allena lost her mind saw a bargain and jumped on it, to the tune of a couple of bottle calves.  So now we have two new additions to the ranch.  I think we’re going to name them “Rib Eye” and “Rump Roast”, which will give you an indication as to why they were purchased.  Actually, it was a pretty good deal and they should be reasonably innexpensive to bottle feed, since we have excess goat milk anyway.  Not enough to just feed them that, but enough to reduce the cost of milk replacer significantly.  These two guys were purchased from our friends the Wicks who keep some Shetland sheep like we do, but are primarily dairy farmers.

So yesterday we went over to pick them up, and while we were there a semi-load of hay showed up (early).  Dominic and I tagged along with Stefan to help unload.  Turns out these big round bales were destined to become silage.  Have you ever seen a field with something like this in it:

Silage

Silage

Well, that’s silage.  Silage is just hay that still has a lot of moisture in it.  By wrapping it up in plastic, that moisture causes the hay to ferment.  As I understand it, this fermented hay is more palatable (tastes better) to the animals, and actually has a higher nutritional content.  I had always wondered how they got them wrapped up.  Yesterday I got to help with that process.  We used a piece of equipment that looks like this:

Bale Wrapper

Bale Wrapper

This is a bale wrapper, and I gotta say it’s a pretty neat piece of equipment.  As you can see in the picture, a tractor picks up an unwrapped bale and sticks it on end of the wrapper.  Then an hydrolic ram pushes it into the circular part which spins around the bale and wraps it in plastic film.  This kind makes long tubes of hay like in the first picture.  There are some that will wrap an individual bale so that they can be stacked – they end up looking like giant marshmallows.

After the hay was all wrapped up, we ordered some pizza and ate dinner with the Wicks.  Stefan asked if Dominic and I wanted to tag along while he milked, so we did.  Stefan milks about 90 head of cattle, and has a nice setup (in my opinion – not that I’ve seen many other dairy farms).  He’s set up to milk 10 cows at a time.  His parlor looks something like this (only not so big):

Milking Parlor

Milking Parlor

Ten cows come in on one side and you hook up the milkers.  These suck the milk out of the udders and deliver the milk straight to the holding tank.  While the first ten are getting milked, you bring another ten in on the other side.  As the first ten get finished, you move the milker to the cow on the other side of the aisle.  When all of the first ten are done, you let them out and bring another ten in to replace them and repeat the process.  It took about a while to milk 90 cows, but it sure was faster than milking them by hand would be! ;)

All in all an interesting day – I learned how to make silage and how to milk cows.

Allena beat me to the punch

Monday, October 6th, 2008

You can see pictures of the kitchen floor on her blog: http://thethreeringranch.com/allena/?p=355

After two weeks, still no kitchen

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

I’ve been quiet here on the ol’ blog for a couple of weeks.  Mostly because I’ve been very busy.  Not the good kind of busy either.  The bad kind of busy, that involves a lot of work and a lot of money.  We’ve spent the last two weeks and several hundred dollars fixing our kitchen, and will probably spend the next two (or more) weeks and more than another thousand dollars finishing what we’ve started.

It all started with a little soft spot in the floor.  We didn’t think much of it – probably a little dry rot.  Then the spot got bigger (fairly quickly).  I crawled under the house, and really didn’t see anything alarming.  My mom was coming to visit, so we decided not to do anything until after she left.  Once mom was gone, we decided to pull up the vinyl flooring in the kitchen and take a better look at what was going on.

Words can not well describe what we found.  I have pictures, that will be uploaded later – a photo essay of the rebuilding of our kitchen.  Anyhow, underneath the vinyl is a layer of sheathing – about a 1/4 inch thick sheet of very smooth plywood.  It was damp, and moldy.  Very damp and very moldy.  We decided to pull up some of the sheathing.  Underneath the sheathing was a layer of vinyl tile – it’s not unusual to have multiple layers of floors – more mold on the vinyl tiles, so we pulled up some of those.  Underneath the vinyl tiles was a layer of particle board, and it is this layer that has spelled doom for our kitchen.

Now, maybe you’ve never seen what happens to particle board when it gets wet.  It goes through a process.  First it soaks up water like a sponge and expands.  Then it will spread the water around.  Then it will disentegrate.

So, we pulled up – or rather scraped up – some of this rotted, disentegrating, moldy particle board, and finally found the original sub-floor, which is a layer of plywood.  Plywood makes a good subfloor – it’s generally water resistant and very sturdy.  However, when you have a sponge, er…water soaked particle board, laying on it for who knows how long, it does eventually break down.  Hence the soft spot in the floor.  The plywood was wet and moldy and rotten (none of which was visible from underneath).

We did some more investigating.  Turns out our cabinets had some significant damage to them too.  Behind the oak facing, guess what they’re made out of?  Ding ding ding! That’s right – particle board!  The cabinetry had a contact-paper-like lining all over the inside of it.  We pealed this off and suddenly we could see all this water damage to the cabinets.

More investigation lead us to conclude that our dishwasher had been leaking.  The water was leaking underneath the topmost layer of vinyl flooring – we NEVER saw any water on the floor.

So we called the insurance company, ’cause this was not going to be a case of “pull up the vinyl and replace a few square feet of sub-floor that’s dry-rotted” afterall.

Though the insurance did not pay for the floor, it fortunately did pay for the cabinets.  Cabinets are expensive.  Really expensive.  And the labor to replace cabinets is really expensive.  So, by doing it ourselves we will have enough to replace the cabinets and the floor.

By the time it was all said and done, we removed the entire kitchen floor, about half of the dining room floor, and nine of the floor joists under the floor.  Imagine an 8 foot by 15 foot hole where the kitchen used to be.  We also replaced half of the wall that was behind the sink/dishwasher.  Not the left half or the right half of the wall.  The bottom half.

After two weeks of ripping out and replacing, we now have a structurally sound kitchen and dining room floor again.  Still remaining is the replacing and rebuilding of cabinets, and the finishing of the flooring since right now it is just bare sub-floor.

Tearing all of the damage out was depressing, since it just kept going and going and going…  The next two weeks will be better I think, since what we’re doing now is more like re-modeling, and our kitchen will look nice and new when we’re done.

Photos soon!