Saturday, December 31, 2016

Framing & Sheeting the Chicken Building

When last I left off a month ago, the chicken building was just bare concrete. Well a lot has changed in a month. The vast majority of my farm energy has gone into building this structure. 

Started with the West Wall

Then the East Wall

Completed East Wall

Running Rafters

 Several things got changed along the way.  The window in the west wall got moved to the south wall and then two smaller windows framed up. The east was initially six inches taller, but when I started assembling it, that got changed. It was just was too tall and hard to work on because of its height.

Horizontal Rafter Supports & Roof Extension

Fully Framed

The framing took about three weeks, then I went on to sheeting the walls to add strength before doing the roof, but with heavy rain forecast for  Christmas Day, I shifted to sheeting the roof and putting down felt to help keep the rain out of the building. Then I came back to finish up the walls. 

Roof Felt is On

Fully Sheeted

With all that done, the next step is house wrap followed by soffit instillation, window and door instillations, building up the roof, adding steel siding, running electrical wires, installing insulation, putting up internal sheeting, and painting the soffits in the spring. 

Christmas Hangover

I hope to be done soon, so I can get back to the normal winter activities of taxes, chainsawing, and planning out 2017. Until, then I got a full winter ahead of me. No time for sleeping on the job. Stay tuned for a look back at how things went in 2016 and what we are planning for 2017. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ready Set Pour - Chicken house phase one

Here we are almost to December. It has been more then two months since my last post and a lot has happened since then. The production season has wrapped up. Almost all of the Turkeys are sold. I purchased 30 bales of hay since production was down from the dry conditions we had locally.  I found a good price on hay over by Martensdale (30 miles) and hauled them back home three at a time.  
Turkeys in Pasture in early October

One of Ten Hay Loads

I am trying to build a chicken house before we get full blown winter. The big problem with the chicken house is all of the other projects that the building affects that have to get done first. First, I had to run a water line through the area the building was going in so I could have a hydrant on the west side of our main building. 

Installed Water Line

Using the same trench, I put solid drainage tile in to route the water from the south side of our main building and future chicken building away from the cattle lot. To do that, I had to expand the initial excavation and fill it in a bit to create the proper fall to route the water away. 

Helper Showing Off the Modified Trench

Getting Drainage Tile Out of Storage

After all that, it is time to make the form and actually start the building. I hauled three truck loads (my truck, not a dump truck) of concrete sand. That was around 5,000 pounds. I have a truck bed unroller that I bought years ago (and never used) that made unloading the truck surprisingly easy (I no longer regret the purchase). After that, I put in a rebar perimeter. I decided to use bagged ready mix for the project and to pour the pad in two passes. For this project, the bagged product was over $200 cheaper and doing it in two rounds made it easier for me to manage most of the project alone. 

The Basic Form

Sand, Rebar, and Moisture Barrier Installed on Half

This Would End Up Being Two-Thirds of the Concrete Needed for the Entire Project

Ready Set Pour

Both Sides Poured

With both sides poured, the next step was to pull off the forms and grade the soil back. I had to install a wood fence to keep the cows from wrecking the building once it was built and to create a safe workspace for myself. I also had to reroute and rework the power line that supplies some of the electric fence on the farm. This gave me a chance to put in a shut-off switch for that section. 

Newly Installed Shut-off Switch

I am half way through bolting down the moisture barrier and base plate. This week, I plan to pour a concrete stoop and start putting up the walls. 

Cattle Fence Installed and Base Plate Started

On the home front, Janice has been working late almost every day. She got a good promotion at work, but is still working her old job along with her new one while she gets a new person hired and trained.  I have been keeping the house running and cooking many of the meals. Janice has continued to tackle some of the remaining household projects in her scant free time. 

Janice Staining Some of the Last Windows

The kids are doing well. Our daughter is still a social butterfly and is reading more and more on her own. Our son is learning his letters at preschool and can now reliably count to twelve. 

Checking out Their Pumpkins

Flying Her Kite

My last post introduced our farm puppy, Meeka. As a border collie, she was a difficult dog to manage as she would herd or chase anything. We tried to work with her, but she ultimately got struck by a car in mid-November. We are willing to give this one last try. This is the two month old female great Pyrenees that we picked up today. The name is still being debated.

Great Pyrenees Puppy

Trying to Go For a Walk

I think that is it for now. Hopefully, it won't be so long between posts, and hopefully we can get get that chicken building moving along.  Until next time, thank you for reading, and stay tuned. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

School On, New Puppy, & Peak Production Time

It has been a while since have checking in. For the most part, summer with two kids at home is a time spent primarily just keeping up. Now that school has started, my Daughter is in 1st grade and my Son just started preschool, there has been a bit more time to push projects along and catch-up. We also picked up a new puppy. Meeka was born on a farm and is a border collie and rat terrier (?) cross. She is a four-month-old ball of energy.

Son at Preschool

Daughter Playing with New Puppy

Meeka the Puppy

The first thing to get caught up on was getting birds out of the brooders and into pens and the sunshine. This meant getting a new pen built for the new laying chickens  (37 of them). I built this new 8x8 chicken; it should accommodate 40 birds or around 15 to 20 turkeys depending on age.

New Brooder Frame

New Brooder With Steel

Moving New Brooder Out To Field

Moving Layers Out to Pen

We also got turkeys ranging inside a poultry net barrier. The hard part has been getting them to use their portable roost at night.

Turkey's Ranging

Lastly, we got the 180 broilers in the brooder outside this week. Now the brooder is empty for the year.  That puts us at peak production for the year.    

Daughter Helping to Move Turkeys

 Filling-up the Pen

Peak Poultry (Broilers, Layers, Turkeys)

Peak Poultry (Broilers, Layers, Turkeys)

We also have two beef going into the locker this week. So we have pretty much everything available and if if it is not available, it will be soon. Stay tuned and we will try to keep you posted as we progress into the fall. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Cattle Clean-up Crew and a Looming Concern

It is no secret that it has been dry this year. I am very happy to say that we got 1.7 inches of rain last night. This following the 0.9 inches of last week is the most rain we have seen since the big rain storm in December. This storm also brought some wind and dropped a few trees here and there. One of the trees that fell was an ancient and battered silver maple.

Lost a Chuck of One of the Old Silver Maples

There is an old grove of these ancient silver maples just west of the house. There are also two old depressions in the soil on either side of the grove. What we know about this grove is that there used to be a pioneer farm out there. Some of the community elders remember being told as children that there used to be a farm on that hill. We believe the depressions  in the soil to be old root cellars or ice houses. I have encountered a square headed nail while planting service berries in the area. 

With the cows only grazed for two months before I decided to pull them back to the lot and let the grass recover. These last two storm have me hopeful that we can continue to catch rain and we can get back to grazing within the next two weeks.

Send in the Clean-up Crew

We just got beef back from the locker and are starting to do deliveries. I am a little concerned about sales this year. Having moved once before, I know that sales take a big hit after a move as our customer base adjusts. I am a little more concerned because of our lack of real internet. It makes it hard to reply to customer emails, update our webpage, update pictures of our product on the Iowa Food Cooperative, create blog posts. In general it makes running our kind of business very very challenging, as if it was not hard enough. It is still early, and we will see what comes of the next few months, but I would be lying if said I was not a little worried.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Round One Leaves & Round Two Arrives

I must admit that in nine years of raising poultry I have never had a batch of chickens as challenging as this first batch of meat chickens. After talking with other producers who have had similar problems, we believe it is probably pneumonia. This was likely brought on by the cool spring and rapid temperature fluctuations that followed. The subsequent heat only aggravated things as the birds developed. All told 79 birds made it to the locker from a starting batch of 183. Those that did make it to the locker we smaller then I would have liked even after eleven weeks of development, where a normal batch is completed in eight to nine weeks. Couple that with the incredibly dry conditions, which has now forced us to start feeding the cows hay, and this year pretty disappointing so far on the farm side of things.

Rolo (our white dog) Playing With the Locker Dog on Processing Day

There is still a lot of the production season left, and I hope things can correct themselves. Our second batch of birds arrived this week, consisting of 60 turkeys and 37 layer pullets. The turkeys are the same number as last year and will be with us for at least the next sixteen weeks. This is the first time we have had laying chicks around since before our Son was born.  We are finally trying to get our layer population back up so we can sell eggs as freely as we used to.  It will be six months before they start really laying eggs, so they will likely start right around Christmas (the first time our first batch of layers laid an egg was Christmas Eve). I also have to build a permanent structure for the birds, that I still would really like to get a start on yet this Summer. 

Brooder Tanks Sterilizing in the Sun

Chicks Have Arrived

Sixty Turkeys in Their Tank

Thirty-five  Layers in Their Tank

Elsewhere on the farm, we did take two beef to the locker two weeks ago, so we should have a nice selection of beef and chicken available at our July & August delivery days, which start next weekend. If you are interested in ordering and have not done so yet, hit us up here. I hope to see all of you soon at a delivery site in your town. Until then, take care. 

Chicken Inspector

Tired Little Guy

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Early 2016 Update

Sorry for the great length of time between posts. Not having regular internet at the house is painful.  It is very hard to conduct business with no hard-wire internet available to us.  We started grazing a month ago in early May. The grass greened up early, but was slow to grow back to grazing height. 

Cattle out on Grass Again

We had seven calves this spring, the same as all of last year, despite removing three of our older larger cows in 2015. We sold three young heifers as breeding stock this spring and were able to pay off the tractor.

Last of Our Seven Spring Calves

Three Heifers Sold for Breeding Stock

We started chicks in April, but we had issues with the first batch. They started off fine, but after a few weeks, they did not really get any larger eventually started dying a few at a time. We struggled to find a source of this stress on the birds, but ultimately moving the birds outside once the night temperatures finally warmed up did the trick. At this point I think the problem might have been associated with illness that was caused by covering the brooder tubs because it was pretty cool this spring. We will change out the brooder set-up for the layers and the turkeys coming in a few weeks. 

Chicks in the Brooder

Rolo (the new dog) Watching the Chicks in the Outdoor Pen

I have continued to work on tree planting and tree removal on the farm. I am planting another 100 serviceberries on the farm. That brings us up to around 200 serviceberries planted on the farm. 

Serviceberries Waiting to be Planted

I spent much of the winter cleaning up trees in the pasture. We have a fair number of cedar, osage orange, and Russian olive trees. I might leave a few the hedge and cedar trees that I can trim up as long they are male trees. The early thaw made the process harder as the frozen waterways were being used to drag brush up, down, and across them. 

Burning One of the Brush Piles

Frozen Waterway = Brush Hauling Highway

We need to build a chicken house this year for our new layer flock. Before I get the pad poured, I need to run a waterline through that area. We started that project, but it is not done yet and still needs to be hooked up to the existing water line. 

Putting in a Hydrant on the New Waterline

Around the house, we got Janice's hammock up. It is her favorite place to read. It has been almost 15 years since it has been up for Janice to use. I am glad to see her using it again. Our daughter had her sixth birthday party a few weeks ago, now Kindergarden is behind her and school is out for summer. Our son is getting bigger everyday. He is three-and-a-half now and in a lot of ways finally hit his terrible twos.  

Janice in Her Hammock

Daughter's Birthday Part with Cousins

Stay tuned and we will try not to be such strangers. I look forward to seeing our customers again starting again in July with a full inventory of beef and chicken. 

Nermal wants to Play with the Radio