Monday, February 27, 2017

February 27, 2017

What a great weekend!  We had plenty of sun and working outside was awesome.  Our big project for the weekend was bamboo trellises for the hops.  We decided to move the hops as they weren't doing much.  We felt that they were getting too much sun in relationship to the water they weren't getting (we prefer a self-service farm).  Several things came to our minds.  Move them to a spot where they can get some afternoon shade, and preferably that area might be a little more damp.  Of course, it may be more damp due to the afternoon shade.  Anyway we picked a side of our property that we get afternoon shade and went to work.  We were also keeping in mind that we needed to put them in soil that was high in compost so it would retain more water.  Warning!  If you are a perfectionist, working with natural materials is challenging.  They are not the same dimension at the bottom as the top, they are not the same diameter all over, and they are probably not exactly straight.  As my husband and I are both perfectionists, this was a VERY challenging project for us.  However, we do think it came out beautiful and was a great way to spend our weekend with breaks in between for sitting in the swing and drinking iced tea.  Other considerations for working with bamboo are that it is lightweight and hollow, which makes them more "rickety."  We found extra braces necessary, as well as we pounded some smaller pieces of bamboo in the ground (about a foot  long) and set the trellises over them.  It was also challenging that the ground we were putting them on was not perfectly flat.  We tried very hard to go with the flow, as well as to just get the job done, and not stress over the details too much, making up the design as we went along and faced each challenge.  We ended up buying some deck screws that did not have a taper at the top, 2 1/2" long that worked perfectly.  The tapered screws were causing the bamboo to split.  We also pre-drilled the holes to eliminate as much split as possible. We made the sides of the trellises 7 feet tall, and the top piece 8 feet across, as we want to be able to stand on the ground and pick the cones.  Six trellises were decided on due to having 6 varieties of hops and wanting to keep them separated.   Our idea for the area was to have trellises for the hops, make them a beautiful feature in our yard, and provide a shade structure for us and our chickens.  We feel like we accomplished all of that for around $30 for all six trellises (thanks to the Drews' family for providing the bamboo!)

The daffodils on the farm that are lining our driveway are beautiful this year. . .

Thursday, February 23, 2017

February 23, 2017

Spring seems to be in the air!  It is making want to finish old projects and be creative.  I am so glad that we finished the chicken coop watering system.  While we were working on the chicken coop, there was a hole in the side that used to be attached to a rabbit hutch.  I wanted to figure out how to make it go away and use the materials we had on hand.  Eureka!  A picture frame looks just like a window!  Since it is under a roof anyway, I decided to go check in the basement to see if I had an appropriate sized frame laying around, and I did.  Here is the before/after picture.  The after picture was taken before I put weather stripping on the inside of the glass to make it nice and tight against the outside of the chicken coop.

As I work in my home office daily, it became time to finally finish the wall that I had to look at every day.  I had installed wallpaper on the opposite wall and had the wallpaper already, so I got to work on that.  It looks so much better.

While I was working on the office, I had a nice box sitting on the desk that I use to gather our invoices until tax time.  With the new wallpaper, the busy pattern it had on it stood out like a sore thumb.  That was easy to fix.  I always keep white appliance epoxy on hand.

Life is Good!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

February 12, 2017

Busy times!  We got our beef back from the packing plant!  It filled our 15.7 cubic foot freezer.  Now to sell most of it. . .It's very tasty as we tried the ribeye steaks tonight.

We have been working on a lean-to greenhouse that is on the south side of our house.  We bought a greenhouse kit from Advance Greenhouses.  Their customer service is just awesome.  We bought the Best Buy Polycarbonate.  It arrived earlier than we thought, and the ventilation fan arrived separately.  The instructions that came with the greenhouse and dvd could have been a little better, so some of the things we put together, ended up getting re-done.  I think one of the most confusing parts was the roof glazing and the eve retainer which should have had the name Roof Glazing Bottom Plate.   When we figured it out, we ended up taking six down and having to redo them.  We do like it though and think it is a good quality greenhouse, looks nice, and it is already paying for itself by heating our house when the temperature is as low as 56 degrees.  We just open our bedroom window and turn on the ceiling fan.  It is so nice being so warm in the winter!

Since we have a busy week this week, we decided to celebrate Valentine's Day today.  We decided to to work on each other's choice of chores.  My choice was to finish the watering system for the chicken coop.  We had gotten a start on it before, but today we finished it!  The water drains from the chicken coop roof into a gutter, then to a screened barrel, then to a pipe in the chicken coop with poultry nipples in it, and finally to a clean out drain.  We are so happy to get it completed!  It will eliminate carrying water in 5 gallon buckets and having to clean out water that has been dirtied by the chickens.  Now to train them to drink from it. . .

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

January 25, 2017

Well, we have taken our first steer to the processor and are expecting a lot of beef in about two weeks.  We are going to try to sell half of it at $5 per pound dressed weight.  We must sell 1/4 or 1/2 of the steer until we get a handler's licence, so that's a lot of beef.  This steer was grown without antibiotics or hormones, in a pasture that received no chemical poisons,  pasture raised with a grain supplement.  The hay it received was also from our non-treated pasture.  The dressed weight is 595 pounds so 1/4 of that is 148.75 pounds.  A lot of beef to divide with friends and neighbors if you buy a quarter.  We were glad to successfully make it to the processor as we didn't make it the last appointment, and this time we had gotten the steer into the trailer the day before and it went out the side door.  We were not anticipating that.

We have broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, chinese cabbage, foxgloves, hollyhocks, and cosmos germinating in the greenhouse.

We have 25 meat birds coming at the end of April for a trial run, and have chosen Freedom Rangers for this first time, after many recommendations from the Growing Small Farms listserv.

Additionally, we are planning some pastured pigs for around that time to join the pasture in a multi-species rotation to add to the pasture health, as well as to the health of all the animals.  Lots of stuff going on, as we are planning for me to go full time farmer this year.

We have ordered a lean to greenhouse to expand our greenhouse space and put it in a convenient location.

Monday, January 9, 2017

January 9, 2017

Snow - It's beautiful, but it has it's good and bad points on the farm. . .

When you have a greenhouse that is covered in plastic film, you have to make sure the snow does not accumulate to the point that it tears up your greenhouse.  So we had to go out and knock the snow down.  It was nice to have time to put dirt into pots and plant our lettuce in the greenhouse for later transplanting.

Of course, there's also the animals to feed and water, just like any other day.  We are trying to train our big steer to get into the horse trailer, so we have started feeding them there.  The snow can be slippery and treacherous, and we have extra considerations for the animals, such as more food to help them generate heat and making sure we break the ice on the stock tanks as well as we are dumping hot water in to keep it thawed out a while.

My husband really appreciates the time off from work to be able to catch up on small things like repairs.  This time he replaced the pressure switch on the air compressor, fixed a small leak on the toilet and other small repairs.  I am so  glad he is so handy!  He also likes being able to slow down and drink some hot apple cider. We also liked planning the garden and our shopping trip in the Fedco seeds catalog for those seeds we needed to replenish.  I really like Fedco as they test for GMO seeds and they are reasonable.

I have a hard time slowing down, and tend to get bored.  I do a lot of cooking when it is cold, it seems.  Reading books on homesteading are also at the top of my list, as I am currently studying pasture raised pigs and multi-species rotational grazing.  I also enjoyed finally getting around to painting the calf we added to the nativity scene this year.  Every year we try to add any new animals to the nativity scene that we have brought to the farm.  This year we added the Black Angus steer and the Brown Swiss Calf (in representation of all our Brown Swiss calves.)  I could not find a Brown Swiss calf, so I ended up buying a calf and painting it  to look like our calves.

Friday, December 30, 2016

December 30, 2016

Tralah, tralee, today's my birthday, lucky me.  I'll give my animals a treat, for each what he likes best to eat. . .(From The Jolly Barnyard , children's book.)

So today for my birthday we got to work on a project I wanted to work on, and that is refurbishing the greenhouse.  One, I sometimes have skin problems in the winter and can get sun in the greenhouse, and two, I want to get so much better at starting our plants from seeds.  I would really like a rocket mass heater in the greenhouse, but we shall see. . .In the meantime, the plastic on the ends of the greenhouse had deteriorated to the point of not being there, so today we replaced it with UV resistant plastic (like has lasted on the body of the greenhouse.)

We had an appointment to take one of our steer to be processed.  However, we couldn't get either of them into the trailer to go.  We had bought a two horse trailer (since it will be rare that we are transporting more than one full grown steer at a time).  We had parked it in the pasture to let them get familiar with it.  We thought they would follow us onto it when we were holding a bucket, but that didn't happen.  We are now feeding them in it every night, so we will see if that helps get us to our next appointment on January 23rd.

For insurance, we bought some materials to put together to make a bud box.  While we put it together
ourselves (much cheaper than buying a sweep gate set), we seem to have so much money in cattle (with fencing, trailer, bud box, feed, etc.), we are hoping perhaps the 20th one will pay off?  Anyway, the cattle have certainly been entertaining.   They even figured out how to open the gate to the pasture.  So in the end, we were worried about the cattle letting our dogs out of the fence. . .lol

The front pasture was not looking too green this time of year, so we had to move the cattle to the back pasture where there was a lot more green from different forage (our growing area).  We were worried that they would not have enough pasture, so we expanded the fence by putting a large gate in the growing area and adding a line of solar electric fence off to one side.  It seems to work well.  We watched as the cattle received their "training", as we were worried the day before when we were building it and they ran right through it and tangled it up and broke a few of the step-in posts.

We also had to get another stock tank for the back area, as we got tired of emptying and moving just one.

As far as equipment for ourselves, our kids surprised us with some protective gear for our feet for Christmas.  They are steel toed Wolverine hiking boots.  What thoughtful presents!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

December 10, 2016

Sad news.  One of our calves died.  This particular calf has been a little different since we got him.  Always slow, napping all the time, and apparently when we put him in the pasture, he couldn't function on his own, even though we were feeding him every night, and there was plenty of grass to forage on during the day.  We had no warning, as he came to dinner the night before, and when he didn't come to dinner the next night, we went looking and found him laying down in the pasture, not raising his head.  By the time the vet got here, he was dead.  So very sad.  Our neighbor helped by coming over with his skidloader and digging a hole for us.  A depressing week for my husband and I, as I had fed this calf three bottles a day for about ten weeks.  Of course, when life goes away, it is depressing no matter what you have done.  I hate it when learning comes in this form.

On the positive side, we have finished the calf barn and my husband has decided that it needed some lights, as it gets so very dark so early, and when my husband arrives home from work, it is already dark.  We usually go together to feed the cows.  So he wired up the barn with DC wiring as the barn is remote from the house.  We will run it from a battery that will be charged with a photovoltaic panel.  We made the decision to put a spring wound timer for the switch, so when we go out there, we can turn on the timer which gives us enough time to fill up the bunkers and give the calves some extra time so they can see to eat, without us having to go back to shut it off.

We used a lawn and garden tractor battery due to cost, and the small light requirement we think we will need.  We have not put up the photovoltaic panel yet, but we plan to mount that on the roof of the calf barn to charge the battery.   We know we can get one from our neighbor, so it is only a matter of going over and getting one.  My husband did such a good job, it works like a charm.  After he was done, he went back and banded the wires together with zip ties to increase the neatness of the look.