Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Getting Ready for Spring

It has been too long since I posted to the blog. The weather is improving rapidly and the grass is starting to really get growing. There is a lot to work going on between the house and the farm. We had our first calf this past week. We have the potential to have as many as 11 calves this year. That is a huge number and when I think about it, it is pretty intimidating. I do feel like we are finally starting to get over the hump with the cattle herd. 

First Calf of 2015

The tractor has been back on the farm for some time. I burned out the auxiliary hydraulic motor in the middle of winter and had to have that replaced. I finally got around to replacing the bucket on the tractor with the bale spear. Since it was the first time making the switch and using that spear with this tractor, it took a lot finagling, but two-and-a-half hours later it was done. 

Bale Spear Finally on the Tractor

 The other day we had freezing rain and falling temperatures that ended in several inches of snow. I was very glad to go out to the farm and find all of the cattle under roof. I finally have the capacity to do this. It is one of the little things I always felt really bad for the cattle in those conditions in the past.

 Cattle Huddling Under Cover to get out of the Freezing Rain

On the farm this year, we have several big goals. We should have a new website (finally), we will be hosting our first Practical Farmer's of Iowa field day in June for hands-on fence building (we have an insane amount of prep to get ready for this), we have to come up with a way to brood poultry, and we have more fencing work to push forward on. I would love to build a full scale chicken building, but I just don't see the budget for that right now. Other than a chicken building, finishing the inside of the cattle shed and acquiring a herd bull are also high priority items.

The house is coming along pretty well. The roof is on and the exterior is almost complete. These pictures are about a month old, as most of the house work has been focused on the inside. Wiring, plumbing, heating and cooling all got their rough in work done. The house has been spray foamed and now the drywall crew is finishing up on the inside. Next up will be painting and finish carpentry.
House Exterior in Late February

House Exterior in Late February

House Exterior in Late February

The family is doing well. Aside from a week in February, everybody has been pretty healthy this winter. Everyone is pretty excited about the new home. Thanks to my awesome wife, things are staying pretty close to schedule. 

Watching Daddy Feed Cattle

One thing I am a little conflicted over about this year running the business is being a stay-at-home dad and being a farmer at the same time. I have tried to really embrace the stay at home dad gig more while I have been in town. I make many of the family meals, do the meal planning, try to schedule some activities during the week (even if that is just going to the library). I am not sure how to balance that when the demands of farming increase. It might result in some changes as the season develops.

Lowe's Build & Grow

Lowe's Build & Grow

Lowe's Build & Grow

Biking around the Neighborhood

Reiman Gardens Indoor Butterfly Garden

Dog Sitting

Stay tuned as we get our production and delivery schedule fully hammered out. The house is coming along quickly right now. It changes quite a bit on the inside from week to week.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Let There Be House

We had an extremely mild January. This allowed us to go from piles of lumber to an almost fully put together structure in less than two-and-a-half weeks. November's weather was so cold that we were very concerned about how any progress was going to get made on the house. But three mild weeks has made a big difference.

Framing the Basement

First Floor Framing

Rafters Going Up

Sheeting Going On the House

Windows & Doors Going In

Many of the windows going into the house have been in storage for over ten years. The house itself is something we have been working toward for around twelve years, and I will admit that there is something very rewarding about finally watching it take shape.  It is also exciting to take the next steps forward as we move into plumbing, electrical. HVAC, siding, and roofing. 

Outside of the house, not a lot of activity has been going on around the farm. I continue to put two large round bales out every four to five days. I had to invest in two new hay rings as the old one was worn out. They certainly are not cheap, ouch.

Cattle Eating Hay out of Two New Hay Rings

The tractor hydraulic system has been giving us fits ever since the new clutch went into the tractor. It started with the control valve block on the back hoe started leaving all over. Unfortunately, that part is crazy expensive, so it is not getting fixed any time soon. It is possible to just unhook the backhoe from they hydraulic system, so it really is a manageable problem. However, recently the auxiliary hydraulic pump started to fail. Since that pump controls the loader (needed for hay moving, and gravel and dirt smoothing and moving), it needs to be fixed. Fortunately, it appear to be about a fifth as expensive as the valve block to fix. It was already been an expensive end to 2014, and having this problem already is not a great thing for early 2015.

Leaky Control Valve Block

Leaky Auxiliary Hydraulic Pump

I did make some progress finally getting power hooked up to our fences. There is still many more connections to make and two more gates to dig under, but it is a start. 

Energizer is Running Now

Burying Insulated Power Line Under a Gate

The kids continue to get bigger with each passing week. We celebrated Christmas as a family together with my Sister's family, my Father, and my Grandmother. It was not the same without my Mom there. It has been almost a year since she passed, but her presence was always a big part of Christmas and the holiday just is not the same without her. 

Bringing a Gift for Grandma

 If it has Wheels, He is Onboard

Playing at the awesome New Ames Library

Showing off Designs She Just Made on Her Chef's Hat & Apron

I think that is it for now. Will the tractor get fixed, the house get steel shingles, and there be more pictures of the kids? Stay tuned to find out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Never Want to Do That Again, but I am Thankful

I never want to move again. Not just move, move all of the cattle, which means prepping the new site for cattle which equals fence, water, power, and the act of physically moving 21 animals 65 miles. I never want to move a the stuff a farm accumulates over seven years. Feeders, waterers, tools, trailers, fence panels, chicken pens, etc. I also don't want to, but will have to move all of our freezers, product inventory, and not to mention our household possessions, again.

Moving the Chicken Pens to The New Farm

A Load of Freezers Headed to Ames

This process started in September, when fence building went from a need to an urgent need. Let me just say, we have awesome friends. Many of whom sacrificed repeated weekends to help build and repair fence. Together we ran several hundred feet of high tensile fence, installed three gates, and repaired 2/3 of the entire south side fence on the new farm. That entailed removing obsolete wood and steel posts, and replacing them with steel posts, and re-hanging the wire. And doing it in weather that was not pleasant to work in.

Nate, Jared, and I Building a Corner Brace

On November 1st, we lost access to our old pasture and had to move our cattle to the new place. That meant four trips back and forth, and catching all of the animals so we could make the trips. If you have seen my handling facilities, you would know that they are not remotely up to the challenge. The whole process was pretty miserable.

Catching cattle in the Cattle Shed Proved the Easiest Way to Load Cattle

Unloading the First Load of Cattle at the New Farm

When we moved the cattle, our water system was nonexistent so I spent several weeks racing to install a water system only to have to reinstall half of it again, because of a critical failure. Thankfully, the cattle were able to get water out of a draw the whole time, even with the crazy cold November weather.

Cobett Waterer Installation

Water Pipe Installation

Functional Cobett

 We Have a Leak

 Exploratory Digging of Leak Reveals a Large Connection Failure

Primary Spot Cattle Have Been Drinking From the Waterway

Janice Running a Rented Mini-Excavator During Second Water Pipe Installation

Instead of moving house and farm stuff, I was spending a great deal of time working on a water system, which then led into November deliveries for Thanksgiving, and the water system again to replace the massive failure. This all compressed the amount of time we had available to move down to a few days and resulted in a frantic mess. On top of that, we learned that the new owner was going to destroy every building on the farm, except the chicken building and start over. So there was a bit of an additional scramble to salvage some additional items because of that.

Bye Bye Home

Needless to say, the children were stressed out by the move and the new household that we setup in Ames. Of course, we were also very stressed out and strained by the whole process. Janice was not only moving, but prepping to present her final group project for her MBA, and coordinating contractors on the new house. Despite all of the stress of the past 8 weeks, I am thankful for a few things.
After Several Weeks, Janice and I Finally got an Evening Together

First, I am thankful that this move is in the past, seriously thankful. Second, I am thankful that Janice and I love each other as much as we do, because I sure pushed her to the limit (actually past quite a bit). Third, I am thankful that we have awesome friends and family, like Nathan, Rob, Tom, and Jen for helping us move household items, like Audra, Jeremy, and Michael for wiring our building,  like Jared, Adam, Nate, Jeremy, Rob, and Michael for helping with fence building, and Jared, Amanda, and Darvin for helping watch the kids. A special thanks to Jared and Adam for spending successive weekends out on the farm building fence well into the night. Lastly, I am thankful that things are starting to normalize a bit and that new routines are finally starting to get set-up.

Helpers Loading the Livestock Trailer

Stay tuned as we hopefully start to frame a house this week and look at doing some December deliveries.

The Basement is Fully Poured and Framing Should Begin Soon

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Poultry Wrap-up

Busy is too simple a word to describe how we have been recently. It has been more then a month since my last post, but we have been hurtling toward some large deadlines and that has taken most of my faculties to keep on top of.  I will discuss them soon in another post.

In the last two weeks, we have taken 180 broilers, 65 turkeys, and have picked-up one beef and 5 lambs from another locker. Needless to say, our freezers are packed with product right now. It is good to be on the back side of everything at this point and it has allowed me to focus much more attention on moving cows to the new place.

I past years, we have used a movable roost for the turkeys, but this year I decided just divide off the area around out lean-to (lambing barn) and run the turkeys in at night. So for weeks I was herding them in at night so they could be out of the elements and not have to use so much energy to stay warm at night. 

Herding the Turkeys inside

A Panoramic Shot of the Turkeys inside the Lean-to

There is always a part of me that misses the turkeys. They form a bond with me since I have cared for them since they were pullets.  I am reminded of Wash on Firefly when he says, "Curse your sudden, but inevitable betrayal." I get over it pretty fast when I remember, I am not caring for or buying feed for all of those turkeys any more. 

I did get that second chicken pen rebuilt and put into operation. It took longer then I would have liked,  but we have rebuilt both of our primary chicken pens this year. That was something I was hoping to do after I move, but it did not work out that way. Now I have to move two ten by twelve pens. Both pens are built pretty ruggedly, but will have to be turned up on their side for transit, because they are too wide to be legal on the roads. 

Initial Framing for New Pen

Both Chicken Pens Full of Broilers

The kids have been handing in there while we have been pretty busy. My Daughter and I took a weekend day Janice had class to work on pumpkins. I has just listened to the H. P. Lovecrafts "The Call of Cthulhu" ready by the Your Turn Go Podcast, so we did a Cthulhu inspired pumpkin.

Cleaning out the Pumpkin

Posing with Cthulhu Pumpkin

My Son, is rapidly approaching two years old and is leaving that fun toddler stage gradually. That being said, he is playing a bit more physically and is saying quite a few more words. He still loves his dump truck a lot. 

A Little Closer

A Little Bit More


That is it for this short catch-up. I will try and fill you in more about the new place, and the help we have received from some of our awesome friends. Stay tuned.