Archive | September, 2014

I’m Rolling, I’m Rolling, I’m Rolling on.

23 Sep

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We’ve got our longstanding water woes pretty much licked around here.

There are approximately 5400′ of new above-ground water lines installed on the farm in the past week, which took an awful lot of unrolling. Eighteen 300′ rolls of polyethylene pipe unrolled to be exact.

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Sometime last year (who can even remember that far back?) we applied for an EQIP grant through the USDA NRCS.  This particular grant is a cost-share program that helps pay for some of the infrastructure that’s needed to get set up for rotational grazing. In our case, we are on our way to having the fences ready, but we badly needed water.

After completing the application and getting accepted (grants are awarded on a county-by-county basis) we then had a lengthy delay while we all waited around for the farm-bill to pass.  After that debacle was behind us, the NRCS guys got down to drawing up a watering system for our farm and turning us loose with a map and a parts list.

We brought all the pipe and fittings home and got to work unrolling all the pipe and getting everything hooked up.

The Agri-Fit fittings go together pretty slick, especially the Plasson quick-couplers.  We first saw the quick-couplers at a farm in Northern Missouri and we’ve waiting to get our hands on some ever since.

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The one thing that they don’t give much guidance on is the hydrant connection for the watering system. They pretty much give you one of the M18 3/4″ female adapters and leave you to figure it out on your own.

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This is the “official” version of our hydrant connector.  it’s a Hose-bib connector going to a full-port 3/4″ ball-valve with a 45° elbow that the Agri-fit fitting screws onto.  After our “official” version is checked off by the NRCS, I’ll be switching it over to a “real-world” hydrant connector, which will mainly involve a short section of flexible 3/4″ reinforced rubber hose to connect the brass fittings to the polyethylene pipe.  The problem with the official version is that the poly pipe is very rigid and subject to expansion and contraction.  Not a good combination when you’re dealing with a relatively fragile hose-bib connection.  I already broke one hose-bib connection putting the dang thing on.  Good thing I bought an extra one.

Anyhow, out in the field we’ve got two portable 155 gallon water tanks that connect to the Quick-connectors through a hose.

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When we moved to the farm two years ago there were two reliable sources of water on the entire farm, a livestock waterer and a hydrant (less than 100′ apart).

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Now we’ve got:

2 permanent livestock waterers

3 hydrants

10 portable tank connections

 

It’s a little too late this year for the new watering system to make a huge difference, but next year is going to be a good year for grazing.

Our cows are never going to be more than 700′ from their water, which will mean a big improvement in their manure-distribution on pasture.  They also won’t be walking all the way across the farm, leaving bare erosion-prone paths through the pastures.  This also means that we can get down to some actual rotational-grazing, giving our pastures a chance to rest before they’re grazed again.

 

I’ll leave you with my soundtrack for the past week.

End of Summer Crunch

11 Sep

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As busy as it seems around the farm in the spring, it’s got nothing on the end of summer. Combine the culmination of markets with wrapping up summer projects and the beginnings of the has-to-be-done-before-winter projects and you’ve got quite a workload.

So in the midst of all the bustle, what’s been going on?

Well, on the 29th of August, our spotted sow Dottie had her second litter of piglets.

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She had 13, of which 8 survived. Thirteen is a great number, but I’m not as thrilled that she laid and/or stepped on 4 of them (one was stillborn).  Either way we came out with 8 healthy piglets, which is good enough.

 

About a week later our gilt Annette had her first litter of piglets.

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Annette had 12 piglets, 2 stillborn, with all the rest of the 10 are still alive and kicking.  Even though it was her first farrowing, Annette was by far our best mother.  She laid down to give birth at 10am, gave birth to the last piglet at Noon, and didn’t get up to eat or move around until 5pm.  Her piglets had a solid 5 hours to nurse and sleep next to mom’s belly without the slightest danger of being stepped on or laid on.

I’m going to be keeping a gilt out of one of the last two litters to replace one of our Large Black sows and Annette is making a strong case for keeping one of her daughters.

Now that all the piglets are all over a week old, they’ve been ear-notched and castrated (at least the boys were) and they’re all running around together, giving their mothers a headache, no doubt.

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All the other pigs are in the pastures around the house, enjoying a nearly endless buffet of acorns.

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The laying hens are being weeded through, any that we suspect of eating eggs are placed in chicken prison to await their fate.

Coincidentally, we have some stewing hens for sale…

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I witnessed a bit of bee-on-bee violence.

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The new SDS drill was put to good use, breaking the concrete slab under the automatic-waterer in half (quarters really) to allow us to pull it out with the tractor and re-pour a new concrete pad.  The other half of the pad was torn out earlier when all the well-work was done.

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The poor SDS got another workout, this time a 5″ hole through the foundation of my house.  I’m holding what is, by far, the largest single chunk of concrete to come out of a 5″x8″ hole.  Most of it came out of dust, which means it was a very slow, loud process.

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But why would you want a 5″ hole in your foundation?  More on that later…