Category Archives: Farm

visitors

We had some pheasants in our yard today, quite a surprise because our yard is not what I’d describe as wildlife friendly right now. We don’t have much for pheasant food, the grove doesn’t really provide any substantial cover, and we have a great oaf of a dog running around all the time.  We rarely even get songbirds, let alone anything much bigger in our yard. But, two pheasants showed up and poked around the wood bin for a while. One got stuck, actually, and took a bit of beating as it tried to get out. Hopefully it didn’t do itself any permanent damage. We threw out some of our chickens’ cracked corn to see if we can draw them back, but I’m not keeping my fingers crossed, at least for the immediate future. Eventually we’ll improve our windbreak and yard landscaping to provide more feed and cover, but that’s a long-term project.

Crappy picture, taken through our glass door leading out onto the back porch.

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bucky loves the snow

We’re not such big fans of having to clean up after him.

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New barn roof

When we bought the house we knew that one of the first big projects we would have tackle would be fixing the roof on the barn.  Over time the roof had developed a couple of weak spots that began to leak quite a bit.  Although the leak had only caused minor problems with the floor in the haymow, it needed to be fixed as soon as possible.  After getting a few different quotes on different types of repair we decided to go with a new steel roof that matches the rest of the out buildings.  We hired a local contractor and his crew to do the work.  For some reason the idea of standing on a ladder holding 12ft lengths of steel roofing didn’t seem like a very safe proposition.  We figured that the saying “leave it to the professionals” applied in this situation.  Other than it taking a while to get the crew out the farm, everything seems to have turned out great.  It is certainly nice to have it done, especially because it was finished about 4 hours before our first big snow.

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the truck for newbie farmers

At the end of November, we made a last ditch effort to get a bit more fuel for our outdoor stove before snow started falling. When we gathered wood before we, thanks to various family members, had access to a truck and trailer. Not so this time. Here’s proof that you don’t need a 4×4 to get some work done. Just a dog that doubles your work by “fetching” every log you cut and a willingness to sacrifice any and all resale value of your current vehicle.

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weather recap

We’ve been extremely lax in posting for, ummm, about a month now. Here’s a few shots of the weather we’ve gone through the past four weeks or so, starting with the ice storm that was our first winter weather.

The kale survived the first few light frosts we had, but we have tried using any since the ice storm since we have plenty in the freezer. We haven’t bothered pulling it, or the broccoli that we let flower. Hopefully it won’t be too mushy of a mess when we have to deal with it in the spring.

Now, we’ve had about a foot of snow fall. The snow fence we put up under our grove didn’t seem to do much to prevent drifting in the 30-40 mph winds that accompanied the first major storm. We’ve got a killer yard for snow play, and Bucky loves charging the mini mountains that have blown in. Come on by and make a snow angel or two.

 

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compost

We rake our leaves not really to clean up the yard, but to make compost. Our yard’s leaf litter should provide a few loads, or some good mulch material. We used a leaf blower on reverse to suck up and mulch our leaves, which helps everything break down much more quickly.

We were lent a great book on composting, Mike McGrath’s Book of Compost. I think it could be very generally summarized in three points:

  1. Keep it aerobic.
  2. Keep it moistened.
  3. Keep the carbon to nitrogen/brown to green ratio (30:1) ration in check.

Making sure you have enough carbon is probably the hardest part. We’re lucky because we have all our chicken bedding. Most animal bedding, according to McGrath, turns out to be an ideal mix of carbon and nitrogen, so it composts pretty much on its own. Actually, I stirred the coop’s bedding the other day, and the stuff near the water trough was already cooking. Dead leaves are another perfect compost material, and don’t need any nitrogen or carbon manipulation either.

One of the “treasures” left on our farm was a white plastic box/shell thing. We drilled holes in the sides and bottom, stuck some pallets in as dividers, and called it a compost bin. It’s handy, since we can turn the compost from one bin into another. The chickens like to check it out too. We’ve had a wheelbarrow full of finished compost already, and used it to mulch the garlic we planted.

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autumn chores

We had a beautiful weekend, perfect for getting some fall chores done. We put up our final load of hay, raked leaves for the compost, and gathered a little wood for our supplemental wood heater.

Mark figured out how to get the wood burner working, with no singed eyebrows and just a single, spraying blowout of the water line that leads into the furnace. The burner heats water, which feeds into lines that circulate around the furnace’s air intake, pre-heating the air, (hopefully) reducing the amount of gas we have to burn. We’re still in the process of moving it all into the wood shed, and we’re guessing it’ll last at least for the year. If nothing else, at least we got a workout hauling it all.

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