Archive | March, 2016

2016 Crop Plans

25 Mar

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We’ve just wrapped up our crop planning for the year, and here’s what it looks like.

2016-Crop-Map

This year, at least on the crop map, we’re going to look like an awful lot of other farms around here: planting corn & beans.

True to form, we will be doing things a bit differently than most.  Sure, the soybeans we’ll be planting are the same-ol’ same-ol’ variety that we planted last year, but soybeans require processing (roasting specifically) before they can be fed to livestock, so we plan on selling our beans at the local feed mill just like everybody else.

The corn is a different story.

With all of the pigs, chickens and turkeys that we raise, we end up buying a fair amount of corn.  And we know something that many other farmers are just beginning to figure out: there is a lot of demand out there for critters that are fed a non-GMO diet.  I see a lot of farmers online (I’m looking at you r/farming) who can’t seem to accept this new reality.

It seems that they’d rather spend their time complaining that:

A.) consumers don’t know what’s best for themselves

B.) they can’t make any money farming

The solution seems pretty straight forward to me, just grow what people want to buy and you’ll solve both problems (radical, I know).

So this year we’re getting into the non-GMO corn game.  Nobody around here sells non-GMO corn, so this is the only way for us to get some to feed our critters.  We’re putting 12 acres into corn this year, which should yield 1,980 bushels if we get the same yield that we did the last time we grew corn. That’ll put a pretty big dent in our feed bill.

 

A photo posted by Andrew (@greenmachinefarm) on

I was very pleased to find out, upon crunching all the numbers, that the non-GMO corn we’re planting ought to come out a little cheaper than the last corn crop we planted. It’s said that when planting non-GMO crops you save some money on seed, but spend more on chemicals (herbicide & pesticide) making the non-GMO crop more expensive.  That might have been the case for us if we weren’t following a better crop rotation.

2016 corn crop (non-GMO) following soybeans

Seed: $49/acre

Chemicals: $125/acre

Fertilizer: $62.42/acre

Total: $236.93/acre

 

2014 corn crop (GMO) following corn

Seed: $116/acre

Chemicals: $49/acre

Fertilizer: $238/acre

Total: $403/acre

 

Crop rotation saved us a fair bit of money on the fertilizer, beans fix nitrogen into the soil which means the crop that follows beans needs less fertilizer.  But even if the fertilizer was the same the non-GMO corn would only be $9/acre more than GMO corn.  The savings on seed is almost enough to offset the increased spending on chemicals.

So that’s the plan.  It’s only a plan on paper at this point, so we’ll see how it works out as we transition to farming in the dirt later this spring.

Spring Baby

21 Mar

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Springtime on the farm = Babies.

Usually that means piglets, chickens and such, but this week it means that we have a brand new human.

Meet Arlo, he’s 3 days old and fairly adorable (I’ll admit to a slight bias in this regard).

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We decided that since we’re getting the hang of raising livestock, we’d give raising humans another shot.  Baby humans take quite a bit more care and feeding, but they’re supposed to be pretty cool.  This particular human came in a bit smaller than his sibling at “only” 9lb 5oz.  His mother is grateful.

And I’ll leave you with a little game I like to call “Father or Son?”

babycollage

 

Hoop Bender

10 Mar

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If you’ve spent much time online looking at sustainable ag and/or garden-y type stuff then you’ve probably ventured upon a myriad of uses for bent-up pieces of metal tubing.  Hoops they call them.

Hoops are made into all kinds of fun stuff like row covers, high tunnels, livestock shelters and the like. You can find some commercially-made hoop benders out there, but a hoop bender is pretty simple.  For being so simple, there should be a plethora of how-to’s out there on the internet showing how to make one, right?  Nope.

So here you go: make yourself a hoop bender.

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Step 1: Math.

Figure out what size hoop you need.  In my case I wanted a hoop with an 8′ diameter.  You may assume that you can build a hoop bender to a nice 4′ radius and that the resulting hoops will be 8′ diameter.  But you would be wrong.  How do I know?  Well, just trust me, it won’t turn out like that.  It will make a dandy 10′ diameter hoop though.

So if a 48′ radius = a 10′ hoop (48/10=4.8)

To get the correct size for an 8′ hoop, you just take 8*4.8=38.4

38.5″ seems like it ought to be just the ticket for a 8′ hoop.

Now, with all the math out of the way, get a nice sheet of something.  Maybe OSB, it’s cheap and strong.  Oh, and while you’re at it round up some scraps of 2″ scrap lumber.  I used a bunch of 2×6 scraps.

A photo posted by Andrew (@greenmachinefarm) on

Trace out an arc of the proscribed diameter (38.5″ in our case) on a half sheet of OSB, and start laying out your scraps of 2″ lumber to cover up said arc.

Draw another arc of the appropriate size on top of the 2″ lumber and start cutting away the excess.

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Place all the little 2″ peices back on the OSB in the right order and get to gluing and screwing them down.  My operating assumption is that glue and screws should be strong enough for bending 1.375″ chain-link top rail.  It does a bang-up job bending 3/4″ EMT conduit.

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The last order of business is having something on one end to hold the tube as it’s bent.  I opted to cut a small slot near the end and thread a large hose clamp through.  Good enough, I’ll double it up later if it looks like the top-rail might need more to hold it.

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Secure your brand-new hoop bender to the work surface of your choosing (clamps or screws ought to do the trick) and get bending.

Mega-Waterer v2.1

3 Mar

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As much as I wanted to like the new Mega-Waterer 2.0, it was giving me problems.

Despite my best efforts, the freezing continued to be a problem.

The first (and likely most important) step in mitigating this problem was to move the waterer away from the windows and doors.  This makes filling it a bit more of a pain, but it’s not so bad when you’ve got a new fancy filler thingie.  Windows and doors are convenient for filling, but they have a nasty tendency to let a lot of cold air in, especially in a drafty chicken coop.

Then there were the hardware updates:

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The body of the waterer assembly all got a nice layer of foam insulation.

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Followed by a few layers of duct tape.  As I have found out the hard way, chickens will absolutely destroy any unprotected insulation in approximately 2.4 seconds.  Any visible insulation is history, so apply duct tape liberally.

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Inside the reservoir a few reliability improvements were made as well.  The water pump was secured to the hose with an excessive number of zip-ties.  The other end of the hose was secured to it’s fitting with a screw.  Without all the extra fasteners the whole thing tended to disassemble itself at inopportune times.