Archive | April, 2015

Eggmobile Build, Part 1

30 Apr

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An Eggmobile has been on my to-do list for a while now.  Don’t get me wrong, having a dedicated building for a chicken coop is fantastic, especially during the Minnesota winter.  But a stationary chicken coop isn’t without it’s drawbacks.  If the chickens are going to run around outside of the coop then you’re going to have an awfully hard time getting anything green to grow within 100′ of the coop.  Given sufficient numbers & concentration, chickens are masters of scratching any and all plant-matter straight out of the ground.

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Any good eggmobile needs a good base to start things off, and I picked up this Minnesota running gear off Craigslist last fall for just this purpose.

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After extending out the frame to the maximum size, the brackets needed a little bit of attention. After a little bit of welding to reinforce the rear brackets, their two mounting holes were joined with a pair of paralell cuts to produce a nice 3″ long slot for the bolt to slide around in.

This ought to give the whole arrangement a little flex, letting the top “coop” part be slightly independent of the running gear. I’m afraid that, if rigidly mounted, the coop would flex too much going over undulating terrain (which we have plenty of).

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Some paint really helps it all look a little better.

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The jack holds it all relatively level while it’s being built. The main “rails” are each made of a pair of 2×6’s that are 20′ long. The cross-beams are 2×4’s that are 10′ long, held on with the help of hurricane straps. The total footprint will therefore be 10’x20′.

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The scissor trusses go up next, and will support the inner workings of the whole coop, from the roost bars in the middle, to the nest boxes on each end.

More to come as construction progresses…

Barley’s Up

29 Apr

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The barley has sprouted, the barn and tree swallows have arrived, the grass is almost ready to graze and we start our first farmers market of 2015 on Sunday.

Field Map 2015

16 Apr

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Two years into planting all of our own crops, and the acres devoted to row-crops are slowly but surely shrinking.

Field-Crops-Map-2015This year we’re down to 26 acres of crops.  The 17 acres of Barley and this year’s 6 acre slice of improved pasture have already been planted.  With a nice soaking rain forecast for this weekend we ought to be off to a great start.

Spring Planting

14 Apr

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Our “big” field (coming in at 17.5 acres) was dry enough to disc yesterday.
You can just make out the tractor on the left side of the photo.

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The fertilizer truck showed up at 6:45 today.

This was quickly followed up by another pass with the tractor, this time with a digger to work in all the fertilizer.

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After a quick trip to the co-op in the next town over to pickup our barley seed, we were ready to start planting.  The total haul for the day was 47 bags of “Lacey” barley and a bag each of meadow brome-grass, tall fescue, and medium red clover.  The grasses, legumes and 6 bags of barley are going toward a different 6-acre field that’s being converted from row-crops to improved pasture.

We planted a similar improved pasture in the other half of this particular field last year, and so far it’s the greenest thing on the farm this spring.

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While it looks awfully green from across the farm, it hasn’t grown all that tall yet.  (pliers for scale)  In spite of the warm temperatures it looks like we’re still a few weeks away from the start of the grazing season.

 

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Being devoid of a grain-drill we are currently relying on our endlessly helpful neighbor Tim to do our small-grain planting for us.  Tim showed up around noon and got started on the barley in his little Deutz tractor and Van-Brunt / John Deere grain drill.

By mid afternoon the barley was in and the other 6 acre field was prepped for planting tomorrow.

After that’s all done there will be just two smaller fields (about 6 acres each) to plant.  The remaining fields will be planted with soybeans this year, which means that we have until the end of the month before they need to be planted.

Cholcalciferol

13 Apr

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We’ve dealt with mice ever since we moved to this farm a few years back.  Mice are a bit inconvinent, but not a huge deal.  Store bags of feed in 55 gallon barrels (steel or plastic) set out a few multi-catch traps and you’re pretty much in the clear.

If only it would stay that way….

But it seems inevitable that where there is animal feed and water, there will eventually be rats. And sure enough, this winter the little scaly-tailed buggers made their way to our humble farm.

Now rats are a good bit harder to deal with than their smaller brethren.  They’re mostly nocturnal, they’re mostly subterranean and they’re an order of magnitude more cautious than a mouse.

All this means that they’re difficult to trap, shoot and exclude. Trust us, we’ve tried.

Furthermore, they seem to do a pretty good job of evading our barn cats and other natural predators.

It seems that the go-to solution to a rat problem is poison.  But as I’ve elucidated before, poison is not something I’m entirely keen on.  When you’ve got a farm full of pigs, dogs, cats and birds you’ve got to be pretty concerned about secondary poisoning.  All the commonly available first generation rodenticides I’ve seen carry a “moderate” to “high” risk of secondary poisoning for birds and mammals.

Even the “safest” second-generation rodenticide Bromethalin is making scientists skeptical of it’s safety.  It was beginning to look like that option was off the table too.

Thanks to the always-informative Michelle Canfield, I finally heard about a rodenticide that sounded like what I’ve been looking for.  Of course no stores in our area stock the stuff, but I was able to track it down on Amazon.

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This stuff, Cholcalciferol (brand name: Agrid3 or Terad3) is a bait with high levels of Vitamin D3.  Rodents apparently have a very low tolerance for Vitamin D (on the order of 40mg/kg) so if they eat enough of this feed (11.5 grams of the stuff, just over 1/3rd of a block) they’ll die of a Vitamin D overdose in a couple of days.

There are studies showing that the danger of secondary poisoning is negligible to non-existant in dogs[PDF], cats[PDF] and birds[PDF]. It even seems to be what the Owl & Raptor[PDF] and Organic folks are recommending.

Safe as it may purport to be, our new “organic” rat poison is locked up in tamper-resistant bait stations.  The ever-cautious rats haven’t taken the bait yet, but we’re eager to see how it works out in the next couple of days.

Trough full of Piglets

12 Apr

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The piglets are old enough to be transitioning over to feed. Today I gave them their first trough of feed in their creep area. I wondered if they’d be interested.  The answer was yes, they will be quite interested, if a bit unsure of how this eating-from-a-trough thing works.

In an effort to get another litter of piglets in the warmer months, I’m going to speed up weaning piglets.  I’ll be shooting for 5 weeks, which is not fast by commercial standards, but a fair bit quicker than the 8.5 weeks we were using last year.

The piglets will be lighter when they’re weaned, which means they’ll need the smaller “shoat” rings in their noses. It should mainly be a matter of keeping my eye on the two runts (from the same litter, guess who’s?)

Flyover

6 Apr

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I heard a strange bird today, but I couldn’t see anything new roosting in the trees.  Then I looked up a little further and saw them, a flock of White Pelicans.

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They’re likely on their way to West-Central Minnesota to spend the summer.  I hope they keep their bird-flu to themselves.

Early Spring Stuff

4 Apr

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After a bit of a cool spell, it looks like we’re back into a fairly warm dry spring.  At this rate we’ll be panting the first crops in no time.  For the past two years we’ve started the grazing season on the first week of May.  Looks like we’ll beat that handily this year, the grass is already starting to green up.

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There’s been a lot of spring cleaning, putting away all the winter equipment and dragging out all the stuff that’s been stowed away since Halloween.  It’s just about time for the clothesline to start seeing regular duty again.

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I was out moving some pigs the other day when I began to wonder why my foot felt a bit damp.  That makes a pair of winter boots, my insulated bibs and a jacket that have all recently worn to the point of failure.  Oh well, won’t need it again for a while.

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One of the new(ish) pig feeders got new skids.  One more to go.

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And not to be forgotten, the chickens have taken to falling into the distillers grains and getting stuck.  There have been 3-4 of them this past week.  Lucky for them, I’ve been around to pull them out before they get in trouble.  Silly birds.