Sunday, April 25

Farmer's markets

I created a little calendar widget that lists farmer's markets near me (or somewhere close to my daily weekday commute).  It looks like I can get fresh local food nearly every day of the week.  Sunday and Monday don't have a local market scheduled but having one every other day of the week should cut down on my excuses for not buying locally grown veggies (when we don't have our own) and locally raised meat.

Wednesday, April 21

Food, Inc.

Jennifer and I just caught the tail end of "Food, Inc" on PBS and she wanted (and I had already planned) to post about it.  There are some graphic scenes and some definite food for thought (pun unintended) on the state of our country's food supply.  Find this documentary and watch it.

A link to buy it from Amazon:

Monday, April 19

LGD Update

The vote is unanimous: Jack is worth his weight in gold!  He's surely kept the coyote's at bay each night by responding to their yipping with his low rumble of a bark.  He's also chased off a fox on a couple different occasions. We've had to divide the herd into three different groups due to various feeding and breeding requirements.  Unfortunately that means Jack's presence and protection of the herd is divided by gates.

His most recent action came this last weekend when we heard a ruckus with the chickens.  I watched in shock as a fox scattered the flock of chickens in the pasture.  The commotion did not go unnoticed by Jack, he was throwing a fit on the other side of the gate.  I ran as fast as I could to let him through but by the time I landed off the deck Jack was already on the other side of the gate.  I'm still not sure how he scaled it but he did and he gave quick chase to the fox.

We praised him for doing a good job, of course.  It seemed like the chickens appreciated it as well, I swear they're usual "cluck cluck cluck" noises were interspersed with "Jack Jack Jack."

Friday, April 16

Creep feeding for goats

Creep feeding your baby goats is important to get them growing well, for that you'll need a creep feeder of some sort.  A creep is barrier that allows young animals in but keeps older ones out.  The feeder is a way to deliver an free choice feed to the babies.  Some time ago we bought two pig feeders off craigslist (for $10 each).  They're made of galvanized metal and needed new skids put on them (in the form of treated 4x4 posts) but otherwise were in good working order.  They work great for goat kid creep feeders and if you can find these cheaply, snatch them up! 

I guess the "creep" part of the feeder is the wire panels that surround it that keep the bigger goats out of it.  The 2x6's you see are set up so they sandwich the wire panel with nuts and bolts and large washers.  The section between the boards is open (I just cut the panel with bolt cutters).  This allows me to increase or decrease the size of the opening by loosening the bolts and moving the boards one way or another then tightening it back down.  I actually had to change the configuration a bit since some of the bucklings were getting as big as some of our smaller yearling does and couldn't get in.  I don't have a photo but now there's only pair of boards running horizontally but lowered so only the babies can crawl under it.  Since then we've separated the bucklings into the weaning pen where they have access to the second feeder without the need for a creep since they are the only ones in the pen with the feeder.

In this photo (taken when the feeder was in another section of pasture where a carefully propped open gate acted as the creep) you can see why these hog feeders work so well for baby goats. The center area is where you pour the feed and it supplies a trough on each side of the feeder under the slopes.  One of the biggest things you have to manage when you have goats is parasites.  One of the fastest ways your babies can get a heavy parasite load is to let them get their feet in their feed, which they will if they can.  Goats are very curious and love to climb things.  If they can get their feet in it (whether it holds food or not) they will. With these pig feeders they can just barely get their heads to the feed and as they grow they have to get on their knees to get in there, preventing them from contaminating their feed supply with parasites from their feet.  It works pretty well!

Thursday, April 15

More recycled pallet goodness

I winged together a table made from the 12' pallets I've mentioned before (first was kidding stalls from recycled pallets, then shelves out of recycled pallets for starting seeds).  I have quite a few pallets left and access to more, I plan on lining most of the walls of our 48' greenhouse with these tables to keep the plants off the floor and provide working surfaces.  I think the fact that they have slats will work well for draining away excess water.

As soon as it's all presentable I'll do a full write up on the greenhouse.  It's been a long time coming.  I mentioned acquiring the parts for the greenhouse in early 2008.  The level pad for the greenhouse didn't get created until late 2008.  In 2009 I talked a buddy into welding the greenhouse hoops to the posts I had driven.  It's now approaching mid 2010 and I might actually call it complete.  I guess I just really need to hang the door to call the structure done, but now all the fun of it's operation begins.  It just shows that persistence pays off!

Wednesday, April 14

Goat feeding

I mentioned before we are scheming a better way to feed the goats where the feeding person can stay on one side of a fence and have all the goats get access to the feed simultaneously. Why this is important is demonstrated in the following video.  Before you watch, a couple things to keep in mind:
  • The barn in the background was the only barn close to usuable for animals when we bought the place.  It was originally a shed style barn (closed on three sides open on one).
  • My wife has a proven history of buying animals first then giving me an extremely tight deadline in which to construct adequate shelter for them (usually before impending weather, etc).  Other examples of hastily built things to solve animal related "challenges" include:
    • My post "fowl play" which led to, "Poultry Housing,"
    • Acquiring horses (which we have since sold) lead to modifying the previously mentioned barn with a hay bunk
    • Our first kidding season brought the need to close up the barn in the background (rapidly), I mentioned this need in a post titled "Kids!"
  • Frugality is a necessity on the farm; you make due with what you have.
  • This is on the "back side" of our property, and can't be seen from the road
  • I will be taking this hodge-podge of materials down and doing it "right" before this winter.
The point I'm trying to make is, I know the barn in the background is ugly, and someday soon I'll fix it right.  For now it works.  We try very hard to keep our place tidy and neat and I'm always embarrassed by the sight of this barn.  I don't want to enforce the stereotype that goats, and people with goats, have to be dirty and have an unkempt place.

That said, enjoy the video of my feeding of the goats.  Notice I start with a slight juke towards the far feeders before dumping in the near one and I've perfected the spin move out of traffic (twice in this feeding)!  This was actually a pretty tame feeding.  Jennifer and I have managed not to fall down (yet) during such a feeding, but I'd like to avoid it by building that system I mentioned before (if I can figure out how it was built).

Monday, April 12

It's all done but the cryin' (and the payin')


The barn was officially completed today.  And in conjunction, there is power to the greenhouse as well.  I only have to hang the door and begin building benches and tables in the greenhouse.  This last weekend Aaron and I finished mounting all the fans and louvers and wiring all up to a thermostat, it all worked on the first try, I was so proud!

There's a bit of backfill work left to do and in the barn, aka the goat palace/Taj Mahal, I will start work on building kidding stalls and wiring up circuits for heat lamps and a couple overhead lights.  There will be some delay (as we gather the finances) before we pour a concrete pad for the feed room and milking area.  In the interior of the barn against the wall that you see under the shed area will be the stalls.  On the opposite wall will be hay storage and a future spot for a concrete pad to build a feed room and milking area.  Under the shed area itself I am planning on building a feeding system I saw once in a video on the internet, I have since not been able to find it.  It allowed the people to stay on one side while distributing the grain evenly into half a large PVC pipe rotated towards the person.  The video demonstration show that when all the grain is ready the pipe is rotated towards the goats which allows them all simultaneous access. I'll explain why this important in a future post, but rest assured, how we do it now is organized chaos at best.

Wednesday, April 7

Heat wave

Wow, our farm projects are dragging on but there's a solid chance the barn will be complete THIS weekend, and the greenhouse will be completely functional.  There's still no doors on the greenhouse and it's getting over 100 degrees during the day, today the thermometer maxed out past the 120 degree mark.  I'm not so sure about the accuracy of this thermometer, but it is indeed noticeably hotter in the greenhouse than the 80's we've been experiencing. At night, with the doors open it's been consitently 10 to 15 degrees warmer in the greenhouse.  If I can get the exhaust fans going this weekend I think I can keep the temperature at a productive level.  Before fall comes I can add the additional heat storage in the form of 55 gallon drums of water.

Today I had to leave work early to take care of some construction missteps.  The first and most pressing was running new buried cable to the well house from the pole.  Our dirt work guy accidentally cut one leg of the 220 volt line.  It wasn't buried very deep by the previous homeowners and he was just doing some finish work for us on top of the soil, so I can't really blame him.  Running water is a very important thing on a farm with animals, they simply cannot be without.

The second semi emergency was patching where some nicks were created in the new buried power lines going to the barn (and by this weekend, the greenhouse).  We started this project back in January when the trenching was done.  We laid in the power and water but had to quickly cover the water lines to avoid a freeze that was coming, which meant burying the cable, and the water before it was run to it's final destination.  When we started the project back up they had to dig to find the water line and the cable, and in the process put some gashes in the heavy duty 100 amp cable.  We're going to have the line buried for the last time in the next few days but we had to repair the gashes before then.

Sunday, April 4

I bought this little mix/max thermometer from Hummert to satisfy my curiousity on the temperature swings in the greenhouse. This photo above was taken this morning. The overnight low according to NOAA was in the mid forties and the greenhouse only got down into the mid fifties even with no doors and large openings where the fans should be mounted.

I was only able to make a litte progress on the rest of the greenhouse list today. There were too many other priorities today to tackle first. My cousin Aaron and I had some fence to build and a gate to install. The new barn has a loafing shed off one end that opens to our east pasture so we cut the fence there to allow access for the goats. This was a good time to add a much needed drive through gate. The position on the existing gates where poorly chosen I learned after some time. Oh well, live and learn.

I plan on documenting the temperatures each day (min and max of the greenhouse as well as the rest of the local environment) in a spreadsheet. Eventually I'd like to have this done by some sort of automated system. The data should help me determine impact of various changes. For example I plan on lining the north wall with black drums of water as a large thermal mass to level off the temperature drops at night. I have a feeling the rock base is already providing some of that benefit now, as well as providing good drainage.

Saturday, April 3

And Cue the Hallelujah Music

The plastic is on!  There are still a few things yet left to do, but this is huge.  More to come tomorrow I hope.