Archive | August, 2013

A Batty Idea

28 Aug

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So I’ve already built two bat houses, but I bought the materials to build another one.  A big one.

The two that I already built are fairly large, but once you’ve seen some of the truly huge bathouses, a little dinky one just won’t cut it. Apparently bats agree, as larger bat houses have higher occupancy rates than small bat houses. Makes sense for an animal that’s a colony-nester.

Bigger colony = better.

OK, so maybe the huge bat houses are a bit ambitious at the moment, but it’d be nice to make something a bit larger than the 4-chamber houses that I already have.

Of all the larger bathouses I’ve seen, I like the BatCan the best.

bat can

It’s PVC, so it’s pretty much indestructible. I like indestructible.
The problem is that 12″ PVC is pretty darn expensive. And hard to find.  I can’t recall ever having seen caps for 12″ PVC, and a quick google search sent me into sticker shock: $66 for a DVW cap, or $350 for a schedule 40 cap!  Ouch!

If only I could find something that’s large, impervious to moisture, easy to work with and preferably free.


But where would I find something like that?


25 Aug

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So it’s getting fairly hot here.

The summer has been pretty mild so far, but the next 3 days are all going to be in the nineties.

The pigs are not fans of the nineties.


Trixie, like the other pigs, has taken up a new hobby: wallowing.
They wallow early in the day, then retire to the cool concrete floor of the barn.


This old concrete water-trough seems to be their favorite spot to wallow. I’ve seen as many as 5 pigs crammed in that trough at once.
There is an old pipe that used to fill the tank from the now-defunct cistern. I’ve been keeping a few inches of water in the bottom of the trough. The pigs have gradually wallowed out quite a lot of the dirt that had filled the trough up to the top.
It’ll be interesting to see how far down it goes…

Hauling Mega-Water

24 Aug

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I get to haul around a lot of 5-gallon buckets.

Chickens, Turkeys and Pigs all need to be fed and watered.

Pigs are close to the barn, Turkeys are close to the big stock-tank.

The chickens, however, aren’t near any source of water. That means convincing myself each morning to haul one or two 5-gallon buckets of water up the hill to the chicken coop. Not much fun.


So how to get more water up there faster?


Fill barrel in the tractor bucket.


Siphon the water into the Mega-Waterer.

Repeat next month sometime.

Good Summer for Barn Swallows

22 Aug

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There are at least 100 of them up there.
That’s 100 free farm-workers who focus exclusively on eliminating flies & mosquitoes.

Doors & Gates

22 Aug

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So I just finished up this gate today for the second (or third?) time.


In the midst of a barn cleanup, I tore the gate off it’s rusted-solid hinges back when we first moved in.

Then another gate was hastily erected when we needed a bigger space to brood chicks.

Last week, the temporary gate came down with the whole brooder setup. The area behind the gate is being re-purposed to be the feeding area for the hogs. No flimsy gate would survive much interaction with a curious pig.

The old gate was salvaged, the nails beaten out, the hardware removed and rebuilt with 3″ screws. It now swings on three 8″ hinges with a slide bolt to latch it shut. The gate is tall enough to keep out chickens, tight enough to hold a pig, and with all the 2×6’s it’s made from, strong enough to handle cattle.

As the saying goes “build ’em bull-tough and hog-tight.”

But it’s not just toughness, because a few days after finishing the gate up, I realized that the gate swung the wrong direction.

I spent part of the day yesterday fixing the error.

Totally worth it.

Over the course of the past few months, I’ve probably spent 8-10 hours on this single gate. It may sound like a lot, but if hung in the right place and hung correctly, the gate should be in place for the next 50 years or so. That means that the for the rest of my working life, I shouldn’t have to worry about this gate. No worries if it’ll be taken down by a pig or cow, no aggravation from securing gates with wires or chains.

Gates and doors that don’t work easily are a pet peeve of mine. Unfortunately, bad gates and doors abound on this farm. I’m up to 16 doors & gates repaired or replaced this year. That’s 16 gates and doors that I don’t have to worry about keeping stock in or critters out.

I save a few seconds and some aggravation every time I use one, which means that I get my chores done more quickly and am more likely to go visit the animals throughout the day. More interaction, more chances to observe, more chances to spot the sick animals or broken equipment before a situation develops.


Only 35 more doors & gates to go.


Bat Houses!

8 Aug

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I’ve been very pleased to see a few bats flying around the farm after nightfall.

Bats, after all, eat plenty of insects which means that they’re welcome guests at Green Machine Farm.

For starters, I downloaded the 4-chamber nursery bathouse plans [PDF] from Bat Conservation International and got building.

Being a nursery house, it will hopefully help the bats reproduce more.  They’re going to need it with the threat of White Nose Syndrome hanging over their collective heads.  Bats don’t hibernate in Minnesota to my knowledge, especially in bat houses, so the bat houses shouldn’t be a place where WNS would be transmitted.


Once built and painted, up the ladder it went, to the south side of the barn.  There are only a few good sites to place bat houses on our farm buildings, as there aren’t that many South-facing walls.


While I was up there, I did notice some funky business going on under the eaves: Sparrow nests.


As previously noted, I don’t exactly like sparrows. Invasive species and all that…
So they needed to be shut down. Tearing out the nests is easy enough, but how exactly to prevent them from nesting there again?

Expanding spray foam. It’s possibly the best stuff ever.


Nesting sites denied.


Bat house hung.

Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the bats to move in.

Flying Chicken Pens

7 Aug

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I was a bit surprised this morning when I walked out to feed the turkeys and saw one of the two now-empty chicken pens resting on it’s roof.

Sure, there was a little storm last night, but the forecast didn’t warn of anything spectacular like last time.

Oh well, at least we removed the chickens for their long ride to the processor the day prior.  At least there weren’t 75 bewildered chickens to catch.


Once righted, the damage wasn’t that bad. Reattach a few sheets of coroplast and it’ll be good as new.

Unfortunately, on it’s maiden flight, the flying chicken pen managed to plow into the other empty pen. It looks a bit uglier.


Oh well, just another few things for the to-do list.

Keep Free-Range Legal (.com)

2 Aug

We’ve launched another website to quarter all of the FDA-free-range-egg-nonsense:

Please excuse it’s unfinished state.

It’s just a little single-handed crusade against the FDA.  No big deal.

Go forth, click, share and eat plenty of free-range eggs!