Pallet fence

I needed to fence off the beehives from the rest of what used to be the chicken yard (soon to be re-fenced as a small pasture for animals), and wanted something that would provide a nice windbreak from the sometimes strong west winds we get. Pallets, t posts, and some sweat equity (always part of the equation around here) got the job done.

I still need to build a gate (where the big hole is!), and will most likely reinforce the fence by screwing the pallets together, but the nice weather over the last few days was just enough to keep the ground soft, making it much easier to drive the posts. I was able to lift most of the pallets over the posts myself (no easy feat when it’s breezy, and I’m shorter than the t posts!), and Denny assisted with the heaver pallets. Some of the t posts aren’t quite as far in as they should be due to roots and rocks, but reinforcing the pallets should help keep everything upright.

It works well as a windbreak, which will keep the bees happy, and any animals we put in that pasture won’t be able to bother the hives.

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Did it myself

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This is one of our new mineral feeders for the cows. We were looking at purchasing one, but they run about $150 or more for a decent one. My reaction? There must be plans out there to build your own, and for much cheaper. And – I was right!

Don’t be afraid to ask around to see if people have stuff lying around that they want to get rid of for free or cheap – I called our local tire repair place to ask about the tires (fully expecting to pay for them), and he said come take as many as I wanted for free. He has to pay to have them hauled off, so that was money he would save. That sure beats $30 each on Craigslist – and having to drive to Ft. Loramie!

Moral of the story? If you even think there might be a way to do it yourself – there probably is. Do the research to see if you have the time, skills, tools to make it, and compare that to what it would cost to go buy the same thing. Sometimes you’ll make it yourself, and sometimes it’s more economical to go buy it (I bought my beehives, because I don’t have the woodworking skills yet to build them).

COST BREAKDOWN:

Blue barrel – $10 off Craigslist (plus driving to Englewood)

24.5″ semi tire – free (plus driving to Covington)

4 bolts/4 nuts/8 washers – about $15 (plus driving to Menard’s, buying the wrong bolts, and stopping by the hardware store in Covington on my way home from teaching)

Labor – about 1 hour for 2 feeders

A little bit of electricity to drill 4 holes in each barrel, and to cut out the 18″ hole

Instructions – YouTube

 

Day 365 – not even close to the end

I didn’t get 365 pictures/posts for the year. Boo. But that won’t stop me from continuing the chronicle of Innisfree into 2014 (and hopefully beyond!).

It’s been quite a year, with many starts and stops, transitions and falling down, to get back up again. We have new projects to plan, current projects to refine, things to keep, things to change, and things to plain old stop doing.

Many thanks to all of you who supported our efforts, bought our products, provided feedback and ideas, talked us up to friends and family, visited us at our markets & on the farm, prayed us through the good times & bad, and helped us in all the ways you could.

Stay with us for 2014 – you help small farms survive and thrive.

Happy New Year from all of us at Innisfree on the Stillwater,

3 humans / 5 dogs / 4 goats / 10+ cats / 20+ cows / many chickens / 2 horses / 1 mule

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Day 244 – another week in the books

My part-time teaching gig began this past Monday night, so I am re-acclimating myself to being places at particular times and articulating all that Spanish that’s banging around in my head.  Added a Humanities class just to spice things up a bit (2 mornings a week), and am loving it.  It’s all those things I’m […]

My part-time teaching gig began this past Monday night, so I am re-acclimating myself to being places at particular times and articulating all that Spanish that’s banging around in my head.  Added a Humanities class just to spice things up a bit (2 mornings a week), and am loving it.  It’s all those things I’m interested in – music, dance, 2D and 3D arts, art history, theater, cinema.  And it’s hopefully giving people a wider window to the world.  Plus my class is pretty good on the participation thing, which always makes a teacher’s life easier.

So the chick coop is mostly ready to go – as you can see, the door is on, the ramps are installed!  I need to adjust the frame piece on the right – this is on corrugated siding, and it won’t lay flat for me to install the door locks.  So will pull it off, add an appropriate shim, re-install, and hopefully it will be even enough to install the locks.

And as an FYI – oak is a pain to work with.  For cutting, used the circular saw.  For drilling – punch through a pilot hole, then ready to run a screw through.  But it should last!

As to the grooves cut in the ramps, my Dremel Trio helped out with that.  We had seen a chicken coop at the fair that had grooves cut in the ramps (as opposed to nailing a small piece of wood across the ramp), and I thought that was pretty neat.  Just in case – the grooves or cross pieces of woods give the chickens something to grab on to as they go up and down the ramp. Otherwise, they slide down, and may not be able to get back up the ramp into the coop because there’s nothing for their claws to grip.

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What else happened this week?  More canning of apples and tomatoes and green beans (they’re still blooming?!!)

And our chickens look like someone did a bad job plucking them.  This poor birdy is scraggly all over.  Some have just lost their neck feathers, some just on their backs between their wings.  They look really sad right now.

2013-08-29 17.27.06Another week of farmers markets, and it was pretty stinking hot and humid for our afternoon markets.  This is my view at Vandalia:2013-08-30 15.05.12

The red tent on the left has salsa (new vendor, didn’t get a chance to try their product), then we have Muddy Truck Patch with some great veg (and mums for those of you who need some fall decor).  Rinaldo’s – simply amazing baked goods (breads of all types, sweets, soft pretzels…), and next to them is Rue Farms from Springfield with their delish potato chips (several varieties and no salt chips available).  And looks like some coffee and mugs in the foreground.  :)

Seriously, this is a great market to patronize if you’re anywhere near Vandalia on Fridays from 3-7.  Fruit, veg, soaps, baked goods, coffee, honey, food trucks, artisans.

And if we needed another sign besides the cicadas that fall is coming, check out the goldenrod.  2013-09-01 19.17.23

 

Day 244 – another week in the books

My part-time teaching gig began this past Monday night, so I am re-acclimating myself to being places at particular times and articulating all that Spanish that’s banging around in my head.  Added a Humanities class just to spice things up a bit (2 mornings a week), and am loving it.  It’s all those things I’m interested in – music, dance, 2D and 3D arts, art history, theater, cinema.  And it’s hopefully giving people a wider window to the world.  Plus my class is pretty good on the participation thing, which always makes a teacher’s life easier.

So the chick coop is mostly ready to go – as you can see, the door is on, the ramps are installed!  I need to adjust the frame piece on the right – this is on corrugated siding, and it won’t lay flat for me to install the door locks.  So will pull it off, add an appropriate shim, re-install, and hopefully it will be even enough to install the locks.

And as an FYI – oak is a pain to work with.  For cutting, used the circular saw.  For drilling – punch through a pilot hole, then ready to run a screw through.  But it should last!

As to the grooves cut in the ramps, my Dremel Trio helped out with that.  We had seen a chicken coop at the fair that had grooves cut in the ramps (as opposed to nailing a small piece of wood across the ramp), and I thought that was pretty neat.  Just in case – the grooves or cross pieces of woods give the chickens something to grab on to as they go up and down the ramp. Otherwise, they slide down, and may not be able to get back up the ramp into the coop because there’s nothing for their claws to grip.

What else happened this week?  More canning of apples and tomatoes and green beans (they’re still blooming?!!)

And our chickens look like someone did a bad job plucking them.  This poor birdy is scraggly all over.  Some have just lost their neck feathers, some just on their backs between their wings.  They look really sad right now.

2013-08-29 17.27.06Another week of farmers markets, and it was pretty stinking hot and humid for our afternoon markets.  This is my view at Vandalia:2013-08-30 15.05.12

The red tent on the left has salsa (new vendor, didn’t get a chance to try their product), then we have Muddy Truck Patch with some great veg (and mums for those of you who need some fall decor).  Rinaldo’s – simply amazing baked goods (breads of all types, sweets, soft pretzels…), and next to them is Rue Farms from Springfield with their delish potato chips (several varieties and no salt chips available).  And looks like some coffee and mugs in the foreground.  🙂

Seriously, this is a great market to patronize if you’re anywhere near Vandalia on Fridays from 3-7.  Fruit, veg, soaps, baked goods, coffee, honey, food trucks, artisans.

And if we needed another sign besides the cicadas that fall is coming, check out the goldenrod.  2013-09-01 19.17.23

 

Day 225 – i heart sawzall

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We have 2 chicken houses – one for the laying flock, and the other for the chicks when they arrive.  In anticipation of getting a load of hens to supplement and replace our aging layers, we needed tocut a hole in the “peep coop” for the little nuggets to get outside to their own little grassy area.  Part 1 is now complete – there’s a hole in the coop.  Now we need to frame it, build a latching door, and install an inside and outside ramp for the nuggets to get over the foundation (they will be too little to just hop up and over – it’s about a 5″ jump from the inside, and about a 7″ jump down to the ground outside!).

So I got to play with the Sawzall today and cut a hole through the siding and wood building.  It’s a little difficult (at least for me) to keep the blade going in more-or-less a straight line, especially when cutting on the horizontal.  But it’s a reasonably even hole, and once it’s framed and there’s a door, I hope it doesn’t look too awful bad!

Day 191 – chicken condo

IMG_0306Another of our Speckled Sussex hens has decided to go broody.  In the yard, under some tall grasses.  I found her yesterday and thought she was dead – she didn’t move when I nudged her with my foot, and there were flies buzzing around her.  Great – a dead chicken in the yard.  Happily, we discovered she was quite alive, thank you, and brooding about 7 eggs.  We lifted her off the nest, set her to the side, and checked the eggs with the ovascope.  Looks like a few of them are viable, and so as to not stress her out, we put her back on the nest and I went to get the “nesting condo” – a Sterilite tub with a hole cut in the side for the hen to get in and out.

Some of the other chickens (and the Sussex rooster) thought this was all very interesting, and proceeded to mill around the box, jumping up on the top to see if there was anything fun up there.  They soon got bored and wandered off.

She seems to be doing well, and we’ll keep checking to see if there are any chicks in the next 21 days.

 

Day 143 – honeysuckle

143We have a lot of honeysuckle around the farm.  I know a lot of people flip about “invasive plant” and whatnot, but we’ve actually discovered a use for it that we hope to practice over the next years – coppicing.  Coppicing is making fence by weaving thinner/more supple bits of vine around thicker pieces of vine.

Here’s a picture of what a coppice fence can look like, and the website I found it – if you Google “coppice fence”, you’ll see that there are many ways to make this type of fence.

Post image for How to Make a Hurdle Fence

I’m pretty sure this is going to take a lot of practice, patience, and materials.  But with as much honeysuckle as we have, getting materials won’t be a problem.

 

Day 96 – calf sorting

Once a year, we sort out the 5-8 month old calves to band for steers and pen up to sell to people who want ot have a cow for their own herd or want to feed a steer out for beef.

There is a process: pen all the herd in the barn, sort out the cows that stay, run the calves into a pen, run them out one at a time to be weighed, then ear tagged and banded (if it’s a bull calf). Of course, that’s a simplified version of the process. And there are so many variables – weather, number of people helping, and not least, the calves themselves. Some are calm, some are feisty, some can be downright mean.

This year, we got them penned up and the first few got through the process with minimal fuss, for calves. We have some new tools that make the process safer and more efficient, and those tools were working.

Then the wheels fell off. Long story short, we stopped the process because someone was going to get hurt. The 8 calves for sale are still penned up with all the hay they can eat, and have calmed down a lot since this afternoon.

angusIn the end, we’re all a little bruised and a lot sore.  We’ll take what happened this year, make adjustments for next year, and do it all over again.  Cattle (heck, running a farm in general) keep us on our toes in more ways than one, because there are always things we can’t control, from birth to sale.

It’s pretty quiet out there now.  Some of the momma cows are a little uncomfortable, if they were still nursing one of these calves, and the calves themselves aren’t sure what just happened.  But they have a load of hay, so eating will keep them busy.  And we’ll see what it all looks like in the morning.

And a giant thanks for our family and friends who came over to help – it does take a village!

 

It’s all fun and games until the wheel falls off

Ok, maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but it’s hard to feed cattle when the only tractor we have that can move bales develops a flat tire–probably a broken bead due to the unforgiving frozen terrain of the barnyard. Of course, that whole event started because our bale wagon has been frozen to the ground […]

Ok, maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but it’s hard to feed cattle when the only tractor we have that can move bales develops a flat tire–probably a broken bead due to the unforgiving frozen terrain of the barnyard. Of course, that whole event started because our bale wagon has been frozen to the ground for two weeks.

The flat tire event precipitated two hours of breaking apart round bales stored in the barn by hand and throwing them down into the mangers I repaired over the summer. Let me tell you how much fun 3000 pounds of hay is…

There is a moral to this story, though, that is more than complaining about things going wrong.

First, there is the moral of always be ready to improvise. Contrary to the popular idea, improvisation is more than just figuring a solution on the fly. Sometimes, it means having a plan ahead of time (like having hay in the barn and mangers that can hold it) and thinking about what could go wrong.

Second, there is the moral of learning from one’s mistakes. Having gotten the bale wagon stuck, I now have a whole new plan for how to place said wagon in the coming year so that it doesn’t get stuck.

Third, there is the moral of having the right equipment for the job. Our little Kubota is an amazing tractor, but we’re beating her up moving 7,500 pounds of hay every three or four days. It’s good to do things as inexpensively as possible, but don’t incapacitate yourself by underdoing what needs to be done.

Adapt, improvise, overcome: the morals of the sustainable farm.

DLH