Archive | October, 2012

October goings on.

29 Oct

We got the new chicks and all, but they really don’t take much time or care at this point.  Check their feed and water once a day and then find something else to do.

My mother and sister decided to come pay us a visit on Friday and Saturday.  They even managed to bring along Ada’s older (by 1 week) cousin Henry for some happy-grandmother-double-baby-cuddle-time.


The corn has all been harvested after a three day delay due to rain.


I’ve been walking the fields with the dogs and the baby gleaning some of the corn that’s been missed by the combine. I’m running out of room in my 35 gallon trashcan.  This ought to entice some squirrels to hang out near the house this winter, thereby providing the dogs with plenty of entertainment.


Callina started her job last week at the Mayo Clinic, leaving me home alone with Ada.  I’m not getting a whole lot done during the day, but she’s cute enough to make up for it.


Did manage to get this beast fired up. The lower floor quickly went from our normal 65 degrees up to 75.  The fan technically works, but is so noisy that it needs to be replaced.  For now a small fan in the corner is all that’s neccessary.


It’s starting to get cold at night, lows around 28.  Out of an abundance of caution, I bought a snowblower.  Sure it’s a year younger than I am, but it was meticulously maintained and it’s big enough to do our driveway without taking all day.

Something don’t add up

25 Oct

So help me out here. Math was never my favorite subject, but over the years I’ve managed to do some passable adding and subtracting.

Here’s what I just don’t get: 80 acres in Iowa sells for $21,900 per acre.  Man! And I thought some of the land up here in Minnesota was expensive (I’m sure some of the flat ground in the SW part of the state is very pricey).  But how on earth is anyone going to make money farming land that’s so expensive?

This leads to my arithmetikin’

Current price of Corn: $7.42/bushel.  (We’re optimistically assuming that prices will stay at their current near-record levels, though just a few short years ago, 2006 to be exact, they were $2.50/bu or so).

10-year Average yield of the best Iowa farmland: 180 bushels/acre. (We’re assuming here that the market is rational and that the highest-priced land is the highest-producing land).

So 1 ac * 180 bu/ac = 180 bushels of corn per year.

180 bu * $7.43 = $1337.40 of gross income per acre.

So we’re going to take it easy on the buyer (and me, looking up the statistics) and not even factor in the costs of production, even though Iowa State Extension provides them. I don’t know enough about the corn-growing game to parse the data they provide. At any rate, even if it costs us nothing to grow and harvest the corn, we’re left with:

$21900 (purchase price per acre) / $1337.4 (income per acre per year) = 16.37 years until the investment breaks-even.

For what it’s worth:

Seller, Henry Boelsma, a longtime Sioux County farmer, said he was “very happy” with the sale.

Green Cows

23 Oct

This was posted today over at the blog “What If?” and while interesting in it’s own geeky way, I though it makes quite a strong argument for eating meat.

If cows could photosynthesize, how much less food would they need?

If you saw the world’s cattle population in silhouette, they’d have an overall cross-sectional area of about two thousand square kilometers. By contrast, about 3% of the world’s surface area is cultivated, which means that (given rough estimates of geographic distribution of farmland) our crops easily intercept over a thousand times more sunlight than our cattle—which is why grazing is a good strategy.

Veganisim seems to me to be quite a first-world problem.  Sure, we could grow lots of vegetables and tofu if we cultivated all the millions of acres of pasture land that we currently graze in this country, but who’s going to do all the work?  We’re already facing a shortage of farmers. Since we don’t have enough farmers to do all the work, we use some yummy animals to help us harvest some of that solar energy.

New Chicks!

21 Oct

The Zumbrota Postmaster gave me a 7am wake-up call on Thursday morning, letting me know that she had a very loud box at the post office with my name on it.


My box from the hatchery had arrived with the farms first livestock inside: 50 Delaware Pullets, 6 Rhode Island Red Roosters, 6 White Rock Roosters.

Earlier in the Summer I ran into a few problems with the first iteration of our home-grown broilers.  The Dark Cornish x Orpington crosses were too dark and the pullets didn’t get big enough to make good broilers.  I’ve been thinking of using Delawares for a while now, having stumbled upon this article about Cornish x Delaware Broilers last year.   The method in the article isn’t what I’ll be doing, as they seem to describe using normal Cornish x Rock Broilers to breed with their Delawares, but at least they’re having some success with the Delaware genetics.




For me Delawares seem to be the best choice for breeding both layers and broilers.
Delawares are said to lay very well and they have just a bit of the “barring” from their Barred Rock ancestors. This means that if I cross them to a Rhode Island Red rooster, the offspring will be sex-linked (red female chicks, white/barred male chicks) which should be helpful when trying to hatch my own laying flock.  Bonus points for Delawares and RIR’s both being excellent layers.

For breeding broilers, the Delawares have a history of being used for meat production.  Before the Cornish X Rock took over the broiler market, Delawares were commonly used to cross with New Hampshire’s for broiler chicks (Indian Rivers).   My big problem is what do I breed them with?  Dark Cornish are out because their dark feathering will carry over into the chicks, and while they do have large breast muscles, they don’t get big enough to make reasonable broilers (at least for the pullets).  Unfortunately, the big four companies that control the broiler market don’t make it easy to get ahold of  the larger, white production-Cornish birds that they use as the base for their Cornish-Rock cross.

The Rock half of that equation is a bit easier to come by though.  White Rock are still easy to come by, and they are noted for their rapid growth.  We’ll see how they do crossed with the Delawares, I’m sort of nervous about coming out with a “razor-breasted” bird without the Cornish influence, but time will tell.  If it becomes an issue I still have 3 Cornish x Orpington hens that I should be able to get some white chicks out of…

More Free Food!

18 Oct

As I mentioned last week, shortly after moving in we happened upon quite the haul of free food around the new farm.  Pumpkins, squash and apples, namely.

Well, on Tuesday my dad dropped in to visit us, and we promptly put him to work.


You see, dad was in the area for a job-interview, and my dear mother sent a few things with him, including a food mill. I took it as a subtle hint that we might want to go pick a few more apples and get making some applesauce.


We got the whole crew out (dogs, wife and baby included) and picked all the apples we could reach. Then we picked all the apples our rakes could reach.
On the way in, dad noticed a few strange-looking plants in the pasture behind the chicken coop. We stopped and picked some leaves. After a lot of smelling and a bit of discussion, we decided that it’s probably Parsley, and we picked a bunch for the Thanksgiving meal that’s a mere 5 weeks away now.


We’re getting quite a pile of this stuff on the kitchen counter.


Working on the Barn

17 Oct

We’ve been at the Zumbrota farm for a week and a half now, and I’ve been hard at work on many house-related projects. There’s the obligitory cleaning and unpacking, and then there are the fixer-upper projects.
In the midst of all that I managed to sneak out to the barn for a while and make a spot for the new chicks that should be coming tomorrow.
The barn is an old dairy barn that is right behind the house. Unlike the house, however, the dairy barn hasn’t had much in the way of maintenance in the past….well, it’s been a while.


The thing with the chicks is that they’ll need a nice enclosed room that drafts and predators can’t get to. It’ll also need electricity, but the barn already has that.
There just so happens to be a smallish somewhat-suitable room in the back corner of the barn. Sure it’s full of manure, loads of old lumber and an old drinker-bowl hooked up to some galvanized pipe.


Oh, and it has a set of exterior doors that have certainly seen better days.


The back wall of the barn is below grade, and has several cracks and some buckling. Nothing too bad, but I’m not gonna mess with fixing all that just yet…


Step one of the Barn remodel, scoop out all the poop. (no need for a picture of that, right?)

Step two, rip out all the old lumber, including the doors and door frames, as the frames were rotted off at the bottom.


Step three, jack up the top of the frame and replace the frame.


Step four, new doors, latches and all that jazz. Snazzy no?


The final product: a nice warm, safe spot for the chicks when they get in tomorrow.



Oh, and somewhere in there I made a little 3’x3′ hover-brooder for the little fellas.


With all that done I think I’m gonna go get some sleep. The post office is supposed to call real early when the chicks get in.

Hazards of living in an old house.

13 Oct

As my lovely wife noted on Facebook yesterday, I spent an inordinate amount of time changing 3 lightbulbs last night.
We’ve got these lovely little recessed can-lights in the ceiling over the fireplace but I was just certain that they were using incandescent bulbs.


Being the good hippie that I am, I can’t go more than a week in a new residence without changing out every incandescent bulb I can find to a nifty new CFL’s.


Anyway, as I disassembeled my way into the old can-lights I finally got to the ancient (150w!) Incandescent bulbs that were in there, but from there, things quickly went south.

The damn bulbs snapped off at the base (on all three!), leaving the metal threads stuck in the socket.  After attacking the three stuck bases with a pair of needle-nose pliers they were all successfully freed, though broken glass did carpet the floor afterward.  If only that were the end of my problem…


The old bases were brass/bronze (or some alloy thereof) and caused a bit of galvanic corrosion with the steel socket sleeve, making both the ceramic ring that holds the socket in place, and the new CFL bulbs almost impossible to screw on.  I eventually persuaded them all to screw in to place with a generous dab of dielectric grease and a few choice words.

After more than a few hours wrestling the new lightbulbs into place, Callina informed me that the dishwasher wasn’t working right.  It got all the dishes hot, but there was no sign that it actually got them wet, and therefore no sign that they were actually cleaned in any sense.

A short trudge down to the basement revealed that the water was indeed turned on, but the basement floor was wet…. Curious…


Turns out we had a curious/stupid/bored mouse or two living under the cabinets in the not-too-distant-past.  One of the buggers managed to gnaw almost completely through the water line for the dishwasher, and not the easy-to-get-to one either.  This mouse decided to gnaw through the 3/8″ rubber hose that snakes all around the side of the machine, so you have to take the whole machine out to replace the little chewed bit.

A quick into town, and I was back with a new 3/8″ hose and a bar of rat-poison.  Problem solved.

In spite of the few problems we’re mostly unpacked at this point.  We’ve got a functional living-room and a real-live kitchen with all our long-lost appliances and stuff in it.  The bedrooms and bathrooms are mostly together, at least they’re functional.

I’ve heard that my Dad will be coming up to visit us on Tuesday, so I’ve got two projects that need to get done by then: Clean up and repaint the woodstove, and get a place in the barn ready for the 3 hens he’s bringing with him.

A walk around the farm and a mystery building

11 Oct

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I went out for another walk around the farm today….

These walks are getting pretty frequent thanks to a certian 2-month-old who seems to think that she has no need for a nap. She resists the wiles of the bouncy seat, she scoffs at the calming-action of the swing.  She is learning to overcome the sleep-inducing power of a car-ride.   But she has no power over a walk.
Strap the little girl in the Ergo-carrier-thingamajig, take but a few steps, and she’s as good as asleep.


Of course it looks like some big fat guy is walking around the farm, but hey, whatever gets the baby to sleep….

Anyhow, we headed to the back NW corner of the farm today, past an old treestand on the fenceline.


And up to the top of the hill, one of the tallest hills around, to get a view of the whole town of Zumbrota.


It’s a bit strange being on a farm that’s this close to town. Given, there are plenty of farms in the same relative proximity, and even some that are closer, but I sure haven’t been on any of them. Not that proximity is a bad thing, but it’s going to take a certain amount of getting used to.

On the way back, Cinco struck a pose on top of the hill.


On the way back I stopped by what I’ve been calling the “Hog Barn” because I was initially under the impression that it was a building for swine. But now I’m not so sure…
It’s got electricity coming in from the barn on overhead wires, and a propane regulator just above the door.


The ceiling is low, a little over 6′ tall, and made of slatted boards with straw filling in the gaps.


Lots of electrical outlets, light bulb bases and even a timer to control it all. But no sign of what the propane was used for…


The loft has a door at each end, but is empty, save for a bit of straw between each of the rafters.


The interior is very plain. No partitions (except for the hasty one made of pallets that was used temporarily) and no other animal-specific infrastructure (nest-boxes, roosts, nipple-drinkers, water-bowls)
There is one shelf in the place with a 1968 vet-supply calendar and a few old syringes. That’s it.


The real kicker is all the South-facing windows with a few little-tiny doors.


This building is a mystery to me. It seems like it might be an old chicken coop, especially with the tiny doors (like this one)
But the lack of any nest-boxes or roosts would mean that could only have practically supported chickens raised for meat, and I’m not sure how much of that went on around here in the early half of the 20th century.

Anybody else have any ideas?

Free Food!

10 Oct

I’ve been taking walks around the farm with the dogs to get them (and me) a bit of exercise and fresh air.  A day spent in the car, followed by several days playing hide-and-seek with all of your kitchen appliences and utensils dosen’t make for an ideal diet.

Anyway, on our walks so far we’ve seen quite a bit of wildlife.  I saw a ring-neck pheasant run across our front yard and the dogs scared up a dozen turkeys near the pond in back.

As we were coming back from a walk we came upon what I’m calling the “Horse Barn” because there were some horses kept there in the past and they apparently liked chewing on this particular building.

So as we were fighting our way through the weed-choked lot below the horse barn, I noticed something on the ground.


Turns out there is something of a volunteer pumpkin, acorn squash and butternut squash patch below the horse barn.


I skipped the few that were past their prime, but I managed a haul of 5 pumpkins, 1 acorn squash and 2 butternut squash, with plenty more squash out there to bring in.

This morning I took a walk to the Southern edge of the property to mentally-inventory the current fences, and came upon a big apple tree that is LOADED with apples.  We briefly discussed making applesauce, but I’m not sure if it’ll happen in the midst of all the unpacking.

Either way, the pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving dinner are taken care of.

On the road (again…)

9 Oct

After a good nights sleep on Saturday night after the “Minnesota or Bust” festivities had concluded, I got on the road to Zumbrota.

I headed up with our two dogs in advance of the movers, to get the keys to the house and be ready for the moving crew at 8am.
We loaded up the car with dog-beds and a U-haul trailer hauling all the miscellaneous stuff the movers wouldn’t take (including the new woodstove) and headed up Highway 63.


After fighting a spot of car trouble on Saturday, I finally had it fixed by Noon on Sunday, and the car was doing fine. The dogs, despite never having been on an 8 hour car-ride, did fine too.
We made sure to take a bit of time to stop and grab a bite to eat.


And streeeeetch….


And chase some geese.


We finally arrived at around 7pm, and we unloaded the trailer and settled in for the night. The dogs had their dog beds, but I had to scrounge up something to sleep on. Turns out that you can make a passable bed with: a yoga mat, a towel, an infant crib mattress, a comforter, and a nursing pillow.
Who knew?


And first thing the Monday morning (OK, well, about 9:00) the cavalry arrived.