Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Fence Stopped Working

One important thing to do as a farmer with livestock is test your fence frequently. I test before I go to work. I set the sheep up in a paddock and turned it on….and it wasn’t working. So I started working my way to the charger to find the short. Not grass….my connections looked okay. The ground rod was still hooked up. Hummmm….So I started to walk the line and this is what I found:

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Oh. Well. I suppose that would do it. Oh dear, I have a tree on my fence and I’ve got to get to work! Luckily I’ve got a boss who raises horses and he understands. I’m apperently the first person to call him up and ask, “soooo…how do I safely buck a long on a high tension fence?”

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Whats kind of amazing about high tension is if its done right it doesn’t break even if a tree falls on it. Or a car slams into it. there should be spring in the wires and enough give that it can resist high impacts. But….if there is spring in the wires there is a chance bucking this log it can bounce back at me. I’ve got to cut this tree just right. First thing to do is clear limbs.

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Its SO important to get limbs off and away any log you cut. A small branch can catch your chain and rip the saw out of your hands or cause kickback. I had one very tiny baby branch catch my chain for just a second…it tried to pull the chainsaw out of my hands entirely. Scary. after I cut the branches off I moved them out of the way so i couldn’t trip on them while operating a death machine.

Next is to make a cut that will take away some of the binding forces in the tree. There are different points of tension in a downed tree. There may be points where a trees tension makes it want to sag, other parts it wants to pinch upwards, sometimes it has tension that makes the log want to swing out…bucking a log and seeing all the potential kinetic energy is a skill.

My log was not making contact with the ground. it was being suspended by the fence, so if I cut straight from the top the log would have pinched into my blade and I’d up a creek.  The other thing is there is potential spring back from the fence, so i need to release the energy slowly. I worked a few feet away from the fence for several reasons all safety related (reducing spring back, keeping chain saw away from wires, ect)

I started by making a cut on the bottom of the log almost half through. That is what I am going to aim my top cuts towards, but i can now get through the log without having to fight the pinching all the way. Next I start cutting wedges out. Again, I’m trying to prevent my chain saw from getting pinched.

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Almost through I decided to try and go the rest of the way with an axe……..but all i had was a splitting maul. Didn’t work so well so i went back and slooooowly chipped away at the wedge until there was some give and I could tell i had gotten the top of the tree cut off. Then, aw heck, why not?  went and chopped a bunch of firewood.

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It was a lovely morning workout. Now the tough part is going to be bucking the rest of the log with all those branches I can’t easily clear out. Oh yes. My fence is working again.

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A girl and her chainsaw.

Sick Pig

I noticed on last Tuesday that one of my piglets from Dot wasn’t doing well. Skinny, hunched, lethargic…I brought her inside and tried to bottle feed her, she wouldn’t eat. The I tried to graft her on to Rosie. Rosie was okay with the idea and she tried to get a teat. but the other piglets kicked her off. It was very sad to see tiny, skinny, dejected piglet with giant ears try to wander off into the darkness after getting kicked off by a mean piglet. Took her back to mom and discovered shes getting kicked off the teat she liked. She just didn’t fight back. Finally I got her inside again and she ate out of a bowl. Boy howdy did she eat! A bowl of fresh sheep milk and some quick snuggles and she went back to her mom.

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In the morning i get her to eat again, then at some point i took her into the barn to eat. The morning after i fed her in the barn I was milking the girls and i heard “nyuk, nyuk nyuk,” and look up to see little shadowy piglet feed crossing behind the barn door. Sick pig peaked in and ran over to the milking parlor. She was ready for breakfast and figured out how to get out of the fence, around the barn and over to the grub. Smart girl!  So now girly is joining me at milking time to get fed. Shes starting to grow and I’m trying to slip her solid food into the milk so we can get her going on grain.

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She just so tiny! But this evening she had some trouble slipping through the fence. She’ll come into the barn when she hears me first thing, but i haven’t started milking yet. So she runs around my feet squeaking then gives up and goes back to her mom.

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Today she’s offically figured out her name,  Leche, means milk! So I call out “Leche! Come here my little lechita!” and she comes running around the barn, through the fence, slipping through the door. I’m enjoying her quite a bit and so happy to see her growing. She is, of course, eating a fair amount of my sheep milk but I’d rather it go to a hungry baby than anywhere else.

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Tommorrow i hope to take care of the rest of the piglets and build a little creep feeder for them.

And Now Chickens

I am attempting a farm that is a conventional traditional farm with a bit of observational permaculture. An important part of this is poultry. All poultry have their pluses and minuses. Chickens eat most bugs, but don’t usually go after the big fat Oregon slugs. I could get ducks for that, but they tend to eat my grass and seedlings. I like turkeys, but they are a little big and scary and I don’t know how to raise them. All of them need a good house to roost in at night. My last chickens died 3 from predators (at dusk even!), 2 from an illness compounded with the cold and the last hen flew the coop and moved in with the neighbors chickens (shes quite a little producer, too!).

Being that I don’t have a good setup yet, and haven’t figured out where to build a sturdy coop I was planning on just getting some broilers and put 6 weeks into them and eat them.

But my mother had different plans. Cute chicks at the farm store for only $2? Why not! I came home one night after work to find my defunct chicken tractor from last year filled with little chicks. And I was about to go on a week long business trip…i can’t let my babies die!

I don’t have a brooder, don’t know how to brood…something about a heat lamp, 95 degrees and no drafts. So I did some research and found out about Ohio Brooders. Basically, a short box with a light bulb that allows the chicks to self regulate their heat needs as they feather out.  So I found a scrap piece of plywood, some 1x4s and some scraps for legs, mounted a porcelain base and tee da! had a brooder that wouldn’t be a fire risk for a matter of dollars, small enough to fit in the chicken tractor.

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Food is on the outside so they are encouraged to leave the heat. In about 3 weeks these guys feathered out.

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Tabitha LOVES watching the chicks. She doesn’t go after them, but can sit for hours just watching. I finally let these guys out to forage a little and called Tabitha over. She ran up and when she realized the chicks were out she stopped dead in her tracks. “BABIES!” She was so careful to not scare them and layed down calmly to watch them. Some maybe shes not a sheep dog but a chicken dog.

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So these gals are growing fast, however, they are layers. I wanted meat chickens. So I needed to build another chicken tractor and brooder. Same style. Lightweight tractor so its easy to move. I got them before it was completed so they spent a day and a half in a tub with a heat lamp. Lots of people do this, so i figured for a day it should be fine anyway, it was better for them to be out of breezes, right? The ammonia built up quickly and I found one dead. Almost like it had been crushed.The chicks were having a hard time regulating the heat and i think may have gotten hot and huddled in the corner. Or the ammonia. Something. So I finished the tractor right fast and moved them in.

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They took to the brooder quickly. They had ground to scratch, but warmth, too. They seem much happier and healthier in outside with a brooder.

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The first few days I let them have the food inside just because i was concerned after loosing one. Then I put it out of the box and they are doing great! I just need to move the tractor to give them clean ground. They seem happy, healthy and energetic. I REALLY recommend this style brooder.

 

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I picked up chicks while on break at work. I brought them into the shop and set them up with a lamp. My boss was okay with it, he understands where I’m coming from.

We had ordered a big lunch of Popeyes chicken the day before. As we opened the box of 60 piece fired chicken I looked in and thought, “Goodness, thats alot of lives taken in those boxes. thats 4 or 5 chickens worth!” In my mind, there was alot of death involved to make that fried chicken meal that no one else thought about. I appreciated those chickens, but was more determined to raise my own and give them good lives while I could.

So one of my co-workers came back from eating the chicken left overs and was complaining there wasn’t any chicken left! My boss and I started giggling. “Erika has some chicken!”

“Yeah, I have some. Though it might be better to wait a bit longer for it…but I got LOTS of chicken.”

Poor guy was so confused until we pointed to the little box of chicks. He had never really seen chicks before and was both facinated and terrified. Most of all he was upset that I was going to kill them one day. “Why don’t you just let them live, give them names and buy your chickens from the store?”

“Because I want them to be raised in a pleasant and happy environment.”

“But its mean to kill them. just get your chicken from the store!”

“Its the same thing. Chickens die to become a chicken at the store.”

“But they are so cute!”

“So are the store chickens.”

“No they arn’t”

“Yes, this is the same breed. Your Popeyes chicken you just at was a cute little chick at one time.”

“But…they shouldn’t be killed. You shouldn’t kill them, I mean. They should be allowed to live until they are grandparents.”

“Dude, these are special meat chickens, they get sick if they live too long.”

“What? no. just let them get old.”

Sigh. This is the part where i had to break it down as simple as possible. “Listen. The mama and dada chicken are two different kinds of chickens and when they are bred together they make a SUPER CHICKEN that grows really fast, but then dies young.”

“Oh. You’ve got super chickens?”

“Yes, so they need to be slaughtered young.”

He still didn’t get it and contended I was being mean. Later I heard him looking at them going “Super Chicken!”