Saturday, October 20, 2012

7th Week (October 8, 2012)

This week I talked my wife into spending her only vacation of the year in Fergus Falls,  with me attending my Sustainable Food Program and the Energized Fencing Workshop on Saturday.  I am sure all the girls reading this blog are wondering where they can find a husband like that.  We started Wednesday at Seven Pines Farm. My Wife tried her hand at milking.  This was something she had not done since she was in junior high and back on the family dairy farm in Darlington.

After milking and other chores we walked out to the pasture to check on the sows and their new pigs which were born last night.  The day old pigs were already had their eyes open and walking around some.  Mostly they were interested in eating.

Here is a cow pie that was torn apart by chickens eating grubs.
Having chickens follow cattle in the rotation has the added
benefit of reducing flies.

On the way back we walked by the pasture that the chicken mobile was in and noted how well the hens had tore apart the cow pies, spreading the manure around.  Note the difference shown in the two pictures below.

Cow pie before chickens

Another task that was worked on was halter breaking the two calves.  This is done by first putting on a rope halter, tying it to something solid to let the calf get use to the halter as well as take some of the pull out of the calf.  The next step was to lead the calf around.  Most of the time was spent going in a circle as you turn into the calf when ever it refused to move.  It was a little bit like training a dog to heal. One of the niche markets Seven Pines is considering entering is selling family milk cows.  So a well trained people friendly cow will be important.

Later in the day while Jeri was helping dig potato's with Linda I helped Kent with loading and hauling compost from last winters deep bedding area in the winter pasture.  The winter pasture is a field tucked into the trees where Kent uses a lot of straw through the winter to provide dry warm bedding for the dairy cows.  In the spring the bedding area is scrapped into a pile and allowed to compost.  Then in the fall (now) the nutrient rich compost is loaded into the manure spreader and spread on the pastures and fields.  Now I can add driving tractor to spread compost to the list of fun skills I have been picking up in this program.

Thursday morning we were at Paradox bright and early.  Unfortunately we were only early enough to catch the end of the goat milking but did catch the milking of the two dairy cows.  After that we helped with chores  and moved the Hibe out to the pasture.  (Cow Herd + Goat Tribe = Hibe)  Then we set up a new grazing area for Fabio (the horse), took down some temporary fence, checked on the new 14 baby chicks that had unexpectedly hatched.  When chores were done we headed for Faith Haven for class.
Here's Jeri pretending she is Heidi and tending the sheep and goats.

Although this looks like Heidi's mountain cabin it is really the
shed that the new chicks are living.  Since the chicks were unexpected
and late in the year Tom and Sue needed a safe warm place for them
to live until they get old enough to make it outside in this winter.
Taking Fabio to his new pasture for fresh grass.
Sorting the dairy Hibe from the rest of the menagerie to bring them out to their pasture

The rest of Thursday was spent at Faith Haven for Artisan Foods and Farm Ecology classes.  We worked on homesteading skills like canning green tomato pickles, rendering lard (and learned about other types of fat you can make), making butter, making chai tea, grinding wheat flour, and using the flour to make Irish bread. We also made curried squash soup for Saturdays fencing workshop.

The batch of sweet green tomato pickles in the
 foreground is soaking in a salt brine.  In the
 background the group is working on a batch
of spicy hot green tomato and pepper pickles.
Both batches were canned using
 a hot water bath.  The sweet pickles were made
with cider vinegar and the
 hot bath used white vinegar.
Grinding whole wheat flour with a hand mill.

This bread was very tasty.  The real unfortunate part of this day was
that my wife found out I was not totally helpless in the kitchen.

Making butter.  When complete the butter was very yellow.
this was due to using milk from from cows that are only fed grass.
The butter went well with the bread.
Friday morning was out at Bluebird Gardens were we learned about folio spraying, making compost tea, and      we helped finishing the clean out of a couple of the high tunnels, and spread some worm casting's that will be mixed with the soil prior to planting a green manure cover crop in the high tunnel the next time we are here.

Compost tea brewer

One of the sprayers

Friday afternoon was Farm Skills and finishing up the demonstration fence for Saturdays Energized Fencing Workshop.  One of the items we have to complete after every Farm Skills Class is a log of what we did in the class each day.  The following is my log from Friday.

10-12-2012 Farm Skills Class Log for Dan Fabian

In today’s Farm Skills class, we completed work on the fence that will be used for demonstrating various fencing techniques and styles for the October 13, 2012, Energized Fencing Workshop hosted by the Sustainable Food Production Program.  The following items were installed to complete the demonstration fence: 
  • Installed upper wire:  Upper wire was installed from gate (terminus) to floating diagonal brace (terminus) with two in-line strainer/springs to match lower wire.  One half way between the deadman brace corner and the mule corner (both are pass threw corners) and one between and closest too the H-brace (pass through) and the Floating Diagonal (terminus).
  • Installed ground rods:  Three 6-ft ground rods were installed 10-ft apart, directly under the fence wire.  Rods were driven in with only 4-inches left above ground.  Length of HT wire was installed between rods, connecting to tops of rods using a clamp (wire looped up and down into clamp).  Location of ground rods was selected based on being in a low area that appeared to have the best soil moisture (indicated by reed canary grass and near by cattails).  Good soil moisture is important for making a good ground connection.  Site selection is especially important for periods of dry weather.
  • Connected top and bottom wires to finish circuit and trenched wire under gate:  Top and bottom wires were connected using long crimp sleeves (double crimps) were the wires terminated at floating diagonal corner and using clamps at the gate.  The trenched wire under the gate was connected using the same clamps.  Trench wire consists of an insulated wire placed in a plastic tube (for additional protection) and buried 18-inches under the gate.  The trench wire allows the gate to not be hot and to be open without shutting down power to the rest of the fence.

Gate trench wire

Wire connection at diagonal brace corner

Wire connection at gate
  •  Installed gate:  Two types of gates were installed.  A 4-ft pipe gate and a wire gate.  The pipe gate was installed using two bolt through fence gate hinges.  (as opposed to lag stile screw in hinges).  The pipe gate was leveled by adjusting the bolts on either side of the fence post.  A single poly wire gate was also installed for demonstration purposes.  This consisted of a length of poly wire tied to the fiberglass post (or an insulator) on one end and a spring loaded handle on the other.  The insulated handle has a metal hook through it which carries current when hooked to fence to close the gate.  Note when unhooked gate wire is not energized but fence stays hot due to wire trenched under gate.
  • Energized and tested fence:  Once the fence was completed we hooked the energizer up to the fence.  The negative (green wire) to the ground posts and the hot (red wire) to the fence.  The energizer was solar powered.  Fence was tested using two different types of meters and there was approximately 7.4 kV through the line when meter was ungrounded.  When the grounded meter was used it showed about 8.2 kV.  Fence was shorted on a steel T-post to demonstrate loss of voltage due to insulator breaking and fence wire coming in contact with steel post.
  • Installed temporary interior fence:  Single wire temporary interior fence was installed to demonstrate dividing pasture into smaller paddocks for rotational grazing.  Several different types of step-in posts were used.  Poly wire was used with plastic handle ends to hook to fence.  Interior was energized by using a jumper wire to the HT energized fence.   Another method used was to tie to line post in contact with an already hot wire.  Saturday morning the interior fence was revised to demonstrate using a lane for moving cattle in a rotational grazing system.  Key component was a separate reel of polywire that was extended through subsequent paddocks to continue the lane.

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