Sunday, February 28, 2010

7 lbs 14 oz New Farm Hand

Silas Spencer came into the world and our family at 0010 this morning. He's our second son, and we're blessed to have him. Mom and baby are doing fine.
Welcome little guy!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Building Soil

So after work today I rushed back to get a little work done before I had to pick up Simmey and get supper ready. So I spent an hour or so cutting down trees, trimming the trunks and carrying them down hill to line the hillside veggie beds - 8 beds, 60-50ft long & 4 ft wide. I got curious to see what my soils been up to. I ran chickens over the beds in tractors last fall and before that added a good bit of compost and manure in the spring. So here's what's happened in the meantime.
So you can see the mixing that's occurred thanks to worms and other critters. The reddish bits are clay, the black is composted organic matter that's become soil. Not bad considering the erosion issues and the fact that 2 years ago this was straight clay.

Wonder what it'll be like in 5 or 6 years?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Pawprints Don't Lie

So one benefit of all the snow lately is that it's helped me find where Feta, our female Pyrenees, has been getting out of the pasture.
Our big male, Alfredo, is too scared of the fence, but Feta is a notch or two smarter than Fredo, and always seems to find our fencing weaknesses. This time it was a high spot in the fencing were she's been able to slip under the hot-wire. Apparently I'd noticed this spot a while back, but I must not have had any insulators on me, because as you can see below, the t-post is definitely insulator poor. I fixed the problem, we'll see what Feta finds in the next week or so!

Incidentally, Feta doesn't get popped because of her ridiculously thick coat, which insulates her not only from the cold, but from conducting electricity. I just look at her a sheep/goat proofing our fence - she's practically wearing a fleece.

The snow sure does make the pasture pretty, but I still can't wait for summer!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Freezing Chicken Stock

So we've just about exhausted our supply of meat chickens we put up last year, in fact, we only have 3 left. Next year, I'd like to put up around 60 birds for our own use.

We try to get the most from our birds. Mostly, we'll brine then roast them. We'll eat a bird from dinner then pick it clean. Our son, Simmey, who's nearing two, really likes to gnaw on chicken legs and wings - I think it helps with the teething. The bones go to make stock, and the chicken skin and fat from roasting as well as the fat and scum skimmed from the stock-making goes to the guard dogs in the pasture. After we've milked everything from the bones, they go to the dogs who live up by the house. Considering the feathers and other parts are composted, nothing leaves the farm. Pretty neat.

I've started freezing stock in Mason Jars, an idea I got from Throwback at Trapper Creek. I can just set it on the counter the morning that I need it and let it thaw away. As we use up pickles, the jars get reassigned for stock. It's a great use for spent lids.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Community Woodshed Raising

We had a group of guys over for a workday this past weekend to help me get a woodshed up. They're all volunteers, and the only thing they got paid was some bratwurst. Each one of these guys is rock-solid, and they're the kind of guys that make you feel honored to watch your son grow up around. But on to the nuts and bolts...err rafters and nails of the shed.
The shed is a lean to built onto the side of our shop. It is made almost entirely of recycled materials - the only thing not recycled were one 2x6 rafter and the nails in the nail gun. It's 24 ft long and 10 ft wide. Total cost, including lunch was around 120 bucks.
One of our friends is a professional carpenter/generally awesome stud. His oversight made for a high quality job.For supports, we used cut up telephone poles that I salvaged from some construction work at my job. The poles were extremely heavy. They're also creosoted pretty well -the poles were first put up in 1981, but have stood the test of time. The creosote is pretty critical, b/c as you'll see below some of the poles went into wet ground, it took a good bit of manhandling to get them into place.
Some spots were wetter than others, and into the wettest spots, the most heavily creosoted poles were placed and concreted in place. 2x8 nailers were put up onto the shop wall and the rafters hung from them (sans roofing). Once the rafters were up, the fascia went up and the rafters were attatched. The pic below is kind of confusing. The fascia and the rafter are around 1/16 in too short, so we're pulling the fascia into the rafter.
My boy Simmey (left) and one of our neighbors boys, spent the day chasing ducks, catching chickens, teasing turkeys - generally just terrorizing poultry. There were a lot of boys running around having a great time- a great sight.
The finished product. I put the sheeting on on Sunday in about 2 hours. The sheeting, like the lumber was salvage from a chickenhouse teardown. Good thing I got it up when I did, as it snowed the next day.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

State of Arkansas May I? Part 2

I wrote HERE about my efforts dealing with the State Hwy Dept to get an easement to build a bridge on the edge of our property boundary with the state to gain vehicular access to our hillside pasture.

The results were mixed. The guys that came out were pleasant, and in my opinion, reasonable. There are rules that they have to abide by. So here's what we worked out.

When they built I-540, the state put up a gate showing an old drive at the foot of our pasture, the state will recognize that as a common use access, much like the road to our house. The issue is how to get to that gate, and how to cross the creek.
The common use access can be seen just to the left of my elbow

Any use of a bridge will require a hydrological study by a civil engineering firm (ie. spend lots of $ for someone to tell me all the things that I already know) and be built to their standards. I'd also have to create a bond for the state to hold...etc, etc, etc. There's a valid point here though, that a bridge that gets swept away will tumble down creek and become the state's problem - as happened further south of here when a guy built a huge concrete bridge and it tumbled downstream into a state bridge off Hwy 71.

The state has no problem with me driving through the creek though, as long as we concrete the crossing point to mitigate erosion and they have a hand in the planning. They'll even let me use shale outcroppings from my land to build the road. Pretty reasonable. On top of this, I think there's a bedrock shelf about 6 inches in the current crossing spot, so we may be able to avoid concreting in the streambed all together.