Birds yet to Feather

You know those weeknights where you know get some goods at the farm store, you have your kids with you and the chicks are half price after Easter?

Heat Lamp Row

Of course we come home with a dozen chicks. They are full of down and fluff and rapidly transitioning to feathers. I’m excited to get them in the pasture behind the cattle to harvest the fly proteins!

What’s the biggest threat to the birds right now? A curious and energetic toddler that wants to pick them up. So they get a lid and a heat lamp in the laundry room.

Got that One Wrong

Sometimes you take a leap and it works out. Other times you miss the ledge and go tumbling down…like this time.

Craigslist ad has a 5ft rotary cutter for a good price. Looks good , runs great, has ac, ect.

Go pick it up and it’s too wide for my 5.5ft trailer. The good ol boy with the monster tractor tells me it’s called a 5ft cutter because it cuts 5ft, not because the deck is foot.

Nodding agreeably I give him the cash and strap it on the trailer, a bit janky but chipper about the deal and confident it’ll work.

She ain’t going nowhere

Turns out, she’s too big and too heavy by far. It took the wife and I 30 minutes to even unload it from the trailer.

The tractor hydraulics won’t lift her. I asked a friend helped me troubleshoot. “these two spark plugs wires are severed!” So we fix those and it doesn’t help. Check the dipstick “you need more fluid!” So we add more fluid…and no go. Check for hydraulic leaks and there are none.

Ladies and gentlemen, I messed up and bought a heavy piece of equipment. Now I can’t load on anyone else’s trailer. It’s on Craigslist now waiting for someone looking for a deal who can bring their own tractor to pick it up.

Need a Lift?

Tractors use tools that pin in place to 3 points on the back, called a 3 point hitch. Remarkably, the ancient 9n uses the same mounts and drives as category 1 tractors today. This means nearly a century of tractor tools all work together.

Meanwhile, I look at my laptop and recognize 5 different computer ports. 1 of these have been replaced with newer versions of the same port since I bought it two years ago. Engineering has changed(!)

Pulled on a trailer to be pulled on a tractor

There was a promising ad on craigslist. It had a difficult to find implement, the dirt scoop. It’s a big dumping bucket that pulls behind the tractor to scrape up earth and move it elsewhere. $150

He was recently retired and thinning out his stuff, no more horses because 30 years was enough. His wife is a decade younger and has more work to do, but he told her she could work until he was able to sell most of their things. Then they’ll switch to travel in RV all across America before settling down somewhere. It was a good conversation.

The gentleman had a high quality 6ft blade to level and grade surfaces behind the tractor, eg, can level a gravel driveway. $400.

He loaded these on the trailer with his tractor, then asked how I was going to get them off. Being new and flush with the Dunning-Kruger high, I said I would get a furniture dolly or something under it. Can’t be that heavy, right? He laughed, said hang on and drove the tractor away.

Boom lift doing yard curls

He came back with a boom lift. It is an arm that mounts to the hydraulic lift on the (back) 3pt hitch of the tractor. It makes a kind of crane out of the hydraulics.

I asked how much, he said no. I said no really, he said no it’s a gift, go use it and teach the boys how to be safe around it.

People can be a real blessing, and so I said thank you to him and then to God that night when we prayed.

…now I was confident I can get anything off this trailer, so more to come

Stone Age Tractor

Over the past year we have celebrated using goats and cattle to manage brush and grass. It’s a running joke that we could either spend 10k on a depreciating asset (tractor) and do extra work or half that on an appreciating asset (livestock) and let them celebrate doing the work.

Over the winter, we noticed the pastures cut for hay did better at growing new grass to stockpile for winter. Our property is small and doesn’t come out very economically to pay a profitable rate to hay balers. How could we cut down old growth to make room for fall growth when the livestock can’t keep up with summer growth? For sure, the push mower was off the table.

Then I get a note from my Dad:

Now the cost benefit starts to look better: it won’t loose any value, maintenance costs are low because parts are widely available, and the hard work of restoration has already been done by a trusted party.

Life lesson: it is worth listening to other people’s experience. If you asked me to consider something older then many museum exhibits last year, I would have laughed. I like history but I don’t work history. But a friend talked about restoring an Old Ford 8n (similar tractor) and getting a lot of utility from it on his land in Georgia in a passing conversation. I didn’t do anything with that data except mentally file it away. That planted a seed that these really could be a viable option. (Thanks Dave!)

So I put a new battery in and learned how to drive it.

Next up, every good tractor needs some implements, and this needs some maintenance checking when the manual comes in the mail. Updates to come!

You Do Lose Some

A good friend in the mini farming trade gave my wife and I some good council. “Sometimes you fight to save these animals, and you do. Sometimes you try and you do lose some. Sometimes they just die and you never know why.

Symptomatic Position

We pulled this lady goat out of the herd. Her FMCHA scores indicated a storm of parasites running riot in her system. After some treatments, we found her unable to stand and consistently holding her head backwards. This was new and needed more research.

Jenny drilled down and discovered Listeriosis. It’s a bacteria in a goat system that takes advantage when the body is weak, and it attacks the brain stem. You can try to treat this condition with penicillin injections, and we tried that every six hours for the next 3 days and nights, along with hand feeding and watering. It didn’t work.

Sometimes you do lose some.

Piles of dirt from new holes, that’s what playgrounds are made of.

Workshop Upgrades

Safety signage is an important part of any shared working space. When it’s just me in the shop, I know how to use tools safely and I don’t need to put signs up. The moment it becomes a shared workspace, safety and organization requirements change.

Recently the boys have started working in the shop to build and design (glue and glue and glue) As they continue to develop and sharpen their skills, they’ll take a bigger footprint and use more tools.

Creative development space

The big challenge is getting my co workers to clean up after themselves. Maybe I’ll get some of the signs for that later. But first…

Life lessons come early

Keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings. The mystery of nature must never be underappreciated.

Be advised

Hat tip to Accuform for quality signage.

The Power of No

Last year was our first venture into livestock. It’s been a learning experience and I encourage everyone to at least try it at some point. We were blessed by our first goat purchase being out of someone’s backyard, they were very helpful and informative about what is healthy and what is not, and yes, theirs were healthy.

We’ve bought other goats from commercial operations, turns out we bought some problems but nothing debilitating. We’ve bought from other midrange production farms that took hours to get to but provided quality doelings (not yet bred girls) at a reasonable price.

This recent experience was different. Text the guy from Craigslist, he confirms most of our questions. Good price and good deal. So we load up the kids, drive the hour out there. Find we find out the seller doesn’t live here, he just bases his sales here because it’s close to Fort Worth and brings his stock down from Oklahoma.

Friendly guy, very happy to talk about his animals and his extensive experience and credentials with livestock. Hail-fellow-well-met approach to selling.

But as we listen, we hear about his problems with his herd. How the worms are always there and no one can get rid of them. How this pathogen is always there too, but these ones are healed up…nope, nope, nope.

When you run your own operation, you are responsible for what comes on the property. The easiest way to prevent pestilence in the pasture is to never bring it onsite. After watching the final doeling emit a bloody stool, we said no, thank you and left.

It’s a good word, the word No. I hope my son’s and daughters learn it early. Better to make a round trip and pickup pizza (when did a large pizza get so small??) on the way home then bring hours of problems and death back to the home.

Wood Chips – Biomass in a Truck

You have that moment when you look at your phone while it is ringing. You don’t know the number calling and it’s a neighboring area code. Me, I hit the screen call button and move on. Maybe you answer it to talk to Emily about your car warranty expiring.

The next instant after the caller hangs up, a Signal note comes through from one of our wonderful neighbors: “hey I gave your number to a tree service looking to dump mulch they may be calling you soon.”

As fast as possible I call that number back, and sure enough, Bright Tree Service answers and is happy to drop a dump truck of mulch. They are six minutes away.

Where are we going to put a dump truck of mulch??

Right on target!

It’s a lot of mulch. I figure 3-4 hay bales worth of volume. Restoration agriculture takes advantage of bio mass from outside sources, particularly when it’s low cost. Free is very low cost. This saves on fuel consumption, landfill waste, and squandered natural resources. Here at the farm it will help preserve water, build soil, and provide hours of high quality exercise while we move it about.

Racing the sunset with mulch

We had planned on buying $140 worth of mulch this month to use in the garden. Not only did a tree service dropping it off save the cash, it saved three hours worth of travel and unloading time.

Using mulch to fill in the low spots. This is an attempt to reduce weeding this year.

Stymied by the Velocity of Water

In the fall last year we put a lot of work into pulling the shingle roof off the house. Insurance wouldn’t cover it and it was just waiting for a storm to destroy it.

I installed a metal roof with a radiant barrier underlayment. I am looking forward to seeing how the energy savings stack up this summer. If nothing else it’s nice to not worry about a roof for the next 50 years.

Copper rooftop, meet eggshell gutter.

The project was to install gutters on the roof top capture the water running off the roof, rather then water carving deep channels under the foundation. The plan is to harvest the water into a rainwater collection system and use the sweet, sweet rainwater for the garden and livestock applications.

A whole line of gutters installed.

First line of gutters installed and…nope. Not going to work. The water coming off the rooftop is moving so fast is just zips right over the top of the gutters.

The next phase of this project will be building out the eves with wood to increase our installation surface area, and then moving the gutters up closer to the actual rooftop.