Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Back to Grass

Weather made to order, that is all I have to say about this week. Yesterday, the sheep and cattle went back out on the pasture. Sheep are so much easier to move then cattle.  I put a scoop of corn in my bucket (long moves are the only time I feed corn to my sheep) and give it a shake then start moving. The ram is the one you have to careful of. He will tear that bucket out of your hands and go after you if you are not careful. Anyway, the sheep are pretty easy, they follow the bucket, but the cattle have to be pushed from behind (they don't know what corn is) so there is much less control. Couple that with the fact that if and when cattle do run, they run much further then sheep. It took a bit to get all the livestock from the corral and into the pen I set-up in the orchard. From here on out, I will take the portable paddock and just build the next days paddock adjacent to the current paddock, so no corn and much less drama. There is not much grass yet so the moves will be everyday until the pasture catches up.

On another note, my neighbor Cornie got the tractor started. We had to drag it up the the road and pull start it. The starter is likely bad and the wiring is questionable. I don't really have the money to dump into the tractor right now so we parked it on a hill (no shortage of those) and blocked it there so I could use gravity to start the tractor as I rolling rolling down the hill. Not a great solution, but it is an improvement too six months of siting in the way of everything.

South Fence Line 

Fiberglass Wood Composite Post

Sunday was very productive. I finished a section of fence along the south property line. That fence line is five strands of high tensile wire with wood corners and fiberglass and wood composite posts in between.

On Sunday, I also installed a yard/dinner bell I found on craigslist.  When Janice and I were first married we got a gift jokingly labeled marital communication devise, it was a meat tenderizer. I think the dinner bell is a much better tool for that task.

Marital Communication Device

All of our chicks have been ordered. The first round of broilers arrives on April 15th, so the clock is ticking on getting the building ready for them. We still have to finalize our delivery dates, update the order form on our website, and finish the customer newsletter. We hope to have all of that done here by Monday and be ready for business.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Chipping on Other Tasks

My chainsaw blade just came back today from sharpening. Couple that with some cool, wet, and windy weather and I have been taking a break from cutting trees and putting up fence. I have a lot of projects that have been languishing. The skid loader mentioned in the last post did not materialize so those projects are on hold for a few weeks until our next chance to bring the skid loader home.

I have been working on our shop and retail space. On the retail side, I have begun painting and cleaning. The last vestiges of the previous owners have come off the wall. Spots in the drywall that are damaged are getting patched and a wall of plywood is getting painted. I have been repairing the lids on two coolers that will be able to hold 32 dozen eggs each and I hope tp have them in service soon.

Wall O Tools
On the shop side of the building, I have removed several truck accessory items and actually put them on the truck.  I have a lot of hand tools.  I started farming with some, I picked-up more at auctions, and I  I inherited many tools from Grandpa. All of the tools needed to be organized, with the hand tools pulled together in one spot so I can find them when I need them. I now have a wall of hand tools and fencing items.

Cleaning the building up is a big project and it includes constructing a new overhang to cover the doorway. It is going to take some time. I am going to move back to fence building next week with the warmer weather so the building is not likely to receive much attention.

The sheep are on the last of their hay. They will run out Sunday and will be back on pasture. I have some stockpiled forage on the north hill so the sheep will be there soon. My morning chores will get more complicated with having to move fences again, but it had to happen some time.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Snow Makes way for Progress

The snow is off the ground and progress is surging forward. This is one of the best times of year to get stuff done on the farm. There a few livestock (no broiler chickens and no turkeys) and the grazing livestock are not being rotated on the pasture yet. The snow melted very rapidly so the rivers are out of the banks. This will only affect us if we loose our primary road into town. We lost the road back in 2008. What would be a 15 minute drive into Pella will become a 50 minute drive if that road gets topped.

I have been getting a lot of help from Jim (a friend in Pella) and that has allowed for a water hydrant to get replaced, and has allowed a section of internal fence to go in. In addition, we built most of a long stretch of boundary fence. The trees have been cleared, the posts have gone in, and the first strand of five is hung. The hard work is done and the rest of it should take a few hours. It is nice to finally get some fence in. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Expect a lot more fence to go in in the coming weeks. Until the baby comes in late April, I will be clearing trees and building fence. 

Stretch of new internal fencing just put in

Replaced a broken hydrant with a brand new one

In other news, I am the board chair of the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture (INCA) and we hosted a gathering on March 13th in Perry. It went well and was well managed, but attendance was a bit lighter then I had hoped. We have new board members and are working through that transition. I have been elected for one last, one year term as board chair. I have a lot I want to get done with the organization so I can pass it on in better shape then I inherited it. 
INCA Gathering in Perry, 2010

Today, I am headed into town to pick-up a skid loader from my wife's work to use for the weekend. It is supposed to snow tomorrow and get cold for several days. I actually wanted a few cold nights. I frost seeded clover into much of my pasture when the snow melted and it just has not gotten below freezing at night. You need those cold night temperatures for the ground to freeze up during the night and thaw during the day. That allows the small round clover seed to slip into the soil enough to germinate. I hope things go well this weekend. Whatever happens, I will let you know. 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Just Me & the Chainsaw

Historically, our farm was largely open grassland with a few trees here and there. There are numerous remnant prairie species all over the farm. About 12 to 15 years ago, cattle were removed from the farm and since then, there has been little brush and tree control. At least that is until I moved in.

I have had my eye on opening up more pasture close to our buildings. The area I am working in is part of the lane that connects the north and south part of the property and is inside of the new windbreak plantings put in last spring. I have grazed part of this paddock for the last two years, but the lower part was thick with elms, brambles, and poison ivy. I will be fencing out our spring feed creek this year so many of the trees will be coming out for that project anyway. Most of what I have been removing is Chinese elms. I want to encourage the smaller black walnuts to come on. I have been piling limbs for eventual burning and stacking the trunks for possible fuel wood in the future. This time of year is just the best for tree work. I feel as close to my chain saw as Bruce Campbell must have in Army of Darkness.
Looking northwest at the cleared area from near the barn
Looking west at the cleared area from just south of the house

Chickens out enjoying the weather

In other news, I have been working on getting ready for the Iowa Network of Community Agriculture gathering in Perry. I will be co-presenting with Tai of Fox Hollow Poultry Farm about making money with poultry. I am also focused on strengthening our board and working out a plan moving forward for the organization. On the farm, Super Tom is getting better, but he is still limping a bit. A raccoon got in my shop and found a bag of acorns I was saving to plant this spring. Dispute the earlier content of this post, I love trees, just not junky trees. I especially like oak trees. I have three words for Mr. Raccoon, "IT IS ON."