Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Milk Room


It was a bright and sunny day here today. The wind is brisk now, and the snow from last night is blowing sideways out in the yard. We had a high of about 1 degree here today, but with the windchill, I think it was somewhere around -20. It's good the animals are sheltered down at the barn so aren't getting the full blast from the direction of the prevailing winds.

Slowly but steadily I've been working on the Milk Room as we call it. It's the bathroom on the main level of the house that will be used for milk bottling and storing. I will be able to move all the dish washing items from down here, up there and free up some space here. It will be much easier for me to keep things clean when they're in a separate room.

This afternoon I put in just a few of the tiles you see in the picture above. They are self sticking, vinyl, grout-line tiles from Menards. The temperature is colder than normal outside, so the temperature inside the room was below the manufaturer's recommended installation temperature. I'm looking for a little heater to put in the room just until we get the duct from downstairs installed. The walls are all done now and the floor is next on my list for that room.

I have a 31 inch stainless steel wash tank to install when the room is done that will be for all the washup after milking. Also, a couple of refrigerators to move in there, a cream separator, butter churn, lots of bottles and assorted cleaners, a cabinet, milk scale and probably a few other odds and ends as well.

I wouldn't take the time and effort to keep the milk buckets as clean as I do, if I were not that I am milking for other people.

I recently got the results from a series of tests I had done on a couple of milk samples that I sent to DQCI Services near Minneapolis, MN. I am very glad to say that the bacteria levels in our milk, are quite low. Meaning that it has an extra-long shelf life.

According to the "Raw Milk Production Handbook," the Standard Plate Count test (measures the overall bacteria levels within the milking equipment) should be less than 10,000/mL. Our milk was less than 2,500/mL.

Another test was Preliminary Incubation, or another perspective on the cleanliness of how the milk is handled. Should be less than 50,000/mL. Ours was 2000/mL.

The measure of the somatic cells in our milk was 140,000/mL. Raw milk producers like to see it below 300,000 but the commercial guys are okay at 750,000. The higher the SCC count is, the more likely it is that there is infection in the udder.

Those tests above, give me an idea of how well I have been cleaning the buckets, and how long the milk will last. I had DQCI do five tests altogether, the last two were both good and they were coliform count, and Ecoli.

Most dairies have each load of milk that they ship out, tested for different bacteria levels, and they get higher price for milk that has a somatic cell count of less than a certain amount. The government sets the standards, and the prices that the farmers get for their milk. I will be sending out samples for testing monthly, so my customers can trust that their milk is as cleanly produced.

Since I do not sell milk, I'm not under government inspection or regulation. This puts a great responsibility on me, to keep the milk perfectly clean.

It is much more motivating to have healthy cows that produce healthy milk when you talk to the person who needs real milk for whatever reason. A large bulk-milk dairy is worried about milk production and dollars rather than clean and healthy milk.
Have a good rest-of-2010!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I figured it out

Hi again!

Well, it's been a while since I wrote a blog post on here, so maybe someone happen to see it!

Winter is here in full. I have kept busy doing things that I don't get the time to do when the weather is nice. Mostly studying. Homeschool takes up most every morning, Monday through Friday, and the rest of the time we usually spend maintaining the animals and learning new things.

I've been reading The Untold Story of Milk and taking notes all the way through. It has been helpful for me when talking to customers to have a thorough understanding of the background of raw vs. pasteurized milk.

I think I've finally figured out why the government has been manipulated to restrict the sale of raw milk. It all boils down to the belief in the germ theory, rather than the "internal terrain" of your body.

The problem with the germ theory, if you go down to the very bottom line, is that you become dependant on the government to inspect, and scientists to confirm, that your food is not contaminated. I think most of us mix the two ideas together and say we got sick as a result of catching a "germ", while at the same time working to build our immune system. There still are certain viruses that go around and challenge your immune system, but the fact that they do not make everyone that is exposed to them sick, is evidence of the difference in people's immune system strengths and weaknesses. It's not only because you got the "bug".

If I am correct, then the reason that we can't sell raw milk is because: the big food companies (subsidised by the government) benefit from the drug companies, which fund the studies for their drugs, so that the scientists that ran the studies, write the textbooks that the medical professionals use, to convince the legislators that raw milk is inherently dangerous! So now anyone that needs raw milk (everybody) has to own their cow or move to a different state.

If everyone knew why to eat healthy, and didn't believe the advertising that the drug companies put out, then the big dairies couldn't sell all their "reduced-fat milk" to people, and make money on ice-cream instead.

I want to write a review of the book, so stay tuned. Very worth reading!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

First snowstorm


Winter started with about an inch of rain and then about six inches of snow. It started snowing yesterday morning and didn't quit until this afternoon, and the wind must have been about 50 mph or so. We now have four foot drifts of snow across the driveway so I think were stuck here until the plow comes. We will try to see if we can get out tomorrow morning because Jonathan needs to deliver to Bottineau in the morning and I should go to the church to vacuum in the morning too.

I would have liked it to stay dry for another week so that we could finish outside work. We still have 80 bales in the field to get to the barnyard somehow. The hoop house needs to have the plastic put on without wind and I was hoping to get the barn fixed up before the animals were put in. I'm sure we can get it all done, but it isn't as nice to work in the wet!

I have a refrigerator full of milk that someone from Minot is going to pick up tomorrow for their group. Dad and Jonathan might meet them half way and give them the milk at the republican meeting in Newburg tomorrow night.

We are all toasty warm in here with the wood stove running. That new triple wall insulated chimney works really well.

This morning I calculated how much area the cows covered this summer and figured I used about ten and a half acres of the farm total. Also, the three acre pasture in the big field produced about 46 cow-days per acre over the season. You'll understand what that means if you've read the book "$alad Bar Beef". I will be able to record how many days it is grazed next year and do the same math and see how the production increases. Hopefully with the hundreds of chickens, turkeys and the goats roaming that area, we will see a definite jump in the productivity next year.

I just ordered a few books in the mail; "Grass-fed Beef", and "The Untold Story of Milk" so I want to check out the winter grazing section of the first book and see how it might work here. I've got frozen alfalfa/grass about eight inches tall out there under the snow, but I didn't want to leave the cows out there to dig for it in this blizzard! I guess I have some reading to do this winter.

Until next time,


Monday, October 04, 2010

Driver's licence

Hi again,
This morning Dad and I went to town so I could do the road test for my driver's licence. It was at 11:20 so we headed out early so I could drive around for a bit before the test. We had checked the lights and horn but only tested the emergency brake when we were on the road a couple of miles from home, and found out that it didn't work. That is one of the requirements (says the book) for a safe vehicle. We turned around and went home to tighten it up. Dad screwed the adjuster until we thought it must have been pretty good, and then found out we turned it the wrong way. We got it cranked back the other way, a quarter of a turn at a time, and then it started to work properly. We arrived in town a few minutes early for the test and the instructor didn't even ask about that brake.
I know what you're thinking. The answer is .... Yes! I got my licence.

I drove myself over to the church to vacuum this afternoon and it was pretty quiet in the car.
This summer/fall we spent a day and a half tearing the usable lumber and metal roofing off this cattle shelter at the neighbor's farm. Some of the foundation was from the old barn that was built in the 1800s.

Andrew shot these pictures with his new Canon.

This is the end result of the work. We got about 75 good pieces of twelve foot long ripple tin (or whatever you call it), and a whole bunch of ten foot 2x6s and twenty foot 2x6s.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cutting corn, Gospel music festival, Butchering chickens, Trip to town, Apples

Finally, back to my blog! There has been lots going on and I've enjoyed every bit of it, so the blog got pushed aside for a while.

We picked our first harvest of sweet corn about a week ago and we spent an afternoon cutting it off the cobs and freezing it. We staggered the plantings of the corn so that it wouldn't all ripen at the same time so there is more for us to sell later on. We got called up by the owner of the Birchwood restaurant asking us if we would provide 70 cobs of corn for a cookout they are having there, and also asked if we would set up and sell fresh garden produce like a farmer's market for the group attending. That is scheduled for a week from tomorrow, so I hope we have ripe corn!

A week ago, Jonathan and David and I went to the Peace Gardens to hear some of the International Gospel Music Festival. Some friends of ours were performing there in the afternoon so we went after lunch and came back just in time for evening chores. We did get to jam with them after they played which was a lot of fun! We rarely get to play music with anybody so it was really fun. It gets us motivated to learn to play better when we hear other bands do so well.

Tuesday morning while we were doing chores, Dad fired up the scalder and we began butchering chickens about 9:30. Jonathan put together the "whizbang" chicken plucker from a kit and we tried it out for the first time that morning. It didn't meet our expectations at first because the belt was too loose and the pulley would slip, but it did wonders when we got it running right. After a good scald, the chicken would be dropped into the whirling plucker and in less than 20 seconds it would be plucked free of feathers! Sometimes the tail feathers would need to be pulled by hand and we had David check it over and get the pin feathers with his Leatherman, but it did a very clean job of plucking. We did one chicken at a time in it because most of them ended up dressing out at 7-9 lbs. They would make the belt slip if we did two or more. It probably can be adjusted somehow.

The next day Dad and I went to Minot with the pickup to pick up the soffit material for the house and do some other shopping. I did the driving in town and on the way there, and Dad drove home. I can get my full driver's licence anytime, but I don't drive very much so I haven't made it a priority. We are working on finishing the upstairs bathroom and making it into a milk room until we move up there. We needed a few things to be able to continue on the sheetrock and we brought back flooring and a door to close it off. When it is finished, I'll be able to keep all the things I needed for milking and cleanup along with the refrigerators and a freezer and the dishwasher and the soaps and all the cleaners up there. Then the kitchen won't be so cluttered and customers can come in and pick up their milk.

This afternoon we started on the apples that are sitting in the living room. David and Jonathan went to town for a garage sale and stopped at the person's place that we picked apples at before and they let us take them again this year. They have two trees in their front yard and the apples were already starting to fall off so we got them at a good time. Mom is using her new Champion juicer for making applesauce with them and we will probably dehydrate some and can some chunks. The apples are a little sour but they taste good if that's all we have! Our young trees have some apples on them this year but they are not producing very much yet. I was out in the orchard today weedwhipping, and saw that we are going to get plums off of some of the trees and grapes on the vines too. There were a few ripe cherries that I ate. Yum!

I guess I'll go back to apples for now. Peter

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Is that a bug I see on your nose?

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Shade tent

I put this shade tent together for the cows a few days ago. I had to stake the back end down so it wouldn't get knocked over, but the front posts are just planted on the ground. At least it makes me feel a little better about leaving them out in the paddock when it's 90+ degrees out.

Friday, July 30, 2010

My Red Hat

Hello! I'll just finish the story of the boot camp real quick here.

The last two days of the week long RBC were conducted like a normal appleseed shoot. The shooters of the boot camp were to instruct other shooters that came for the weekend in the skills they had just practiced.

Jonathan and I have been Instructors In Training for the appleseed project for about a year now and have passed the tests for each different level of IIT. This appleseed was our 4th one that we had instructed at.

While we were eating our lunch on Saturday, Jonathan and I were surprised to find that we were going to tell the story of April 19 1775 to the five new shooters as they finished their lunch. We hadn't prepared for telling it this time, but we had recited it once before to a few other instructors that told us it needed work. I told the first strike, and Jonathan told the second and third strike later on in the day. My part came out better than I expected it to, but I left out a few important parts that I forgot all about. Jonathan did better than me and it all worked out fine. The other more experienced instructors added a few things to help wrap up the story and apply it to today.

Then, Saturday evening as we were about to end the day, the shoot boss for the weekend pulled out of his box, two red RWVA hats and handed them to Jonathan and I as he explained that we had earned our Full Instructor status. Now we are on our way to becoming Shoot Bosses!


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A lesson from the Boot Camp

Hello again,
We were thankful to be able to come home for a shower and to do the chores in between each day of shooting. We left in the morning right after I milked and we got to the range about 8:30. Mom strained the milk for me and did the milk dishes for the morning milking. Thank you everybody for keeping things running after we were gone!

One of the most important things that I learned was how to apply the bullet trajectory to long distance shooting. Every bullet drops as it goes out the barrel and it drops more as it goes to farther distances. So even if you fire a good shot, you are going to miss the target unless you adjust your sights to compensate for the bullet drop. After I understood what I was doing, it was an easy matter to figure out the drop of the bullet for my caliber.

I'll quickly explain how to chart the drop of a bullet as it leaves the barrel so you can do it on your own. Zero your rifle at 25 meters and make sure you can get all your shots in about a 1 inch square. If you try to collect information from a random group, then you will get incorrect data and plot your bullet drop wrong.

Then move out to 100 yards and fire 5 rounds from prone at the center of the target. Check your target and measure the distance that the center of the five-shot group is from the target. Write it down! But don't adjust your sights. Make sure you convert all the inch measurements into Minute Of Angle measurements before you write it down. Otherwise your numbers will confuse you like they did me. (if you don't know what a MOA is, go to an Appleseed shoot!)

Then go out to 200 yards and collect the same data as you did at a hundred yards. The groups might be high or low, depending on what type of cartridge you are firing but don't make any adjustments on your sights. At the RBC we were shooting at 20" wide silhouette targets that had a backer that was about five feet square so it caught any stray shots or groups that ended up being low or high.

Then move out to 300 and 400 and as far out as you have room to shoot. You should be able to draw out a chart like this that shows how the bullet drops. Each of the verticle dashed lines is 100, 200, 300, 400 yard marks. The little squares represent each MOA up or down that the bullet traveled at each distance. As you see, at 100 yards the bullet hit 3 MOA high, then at 200 it was 1 MOA lower than before, at 300 it was right on and 400 it was 1.5 MOA low. With those measurements I can adjust my sights from where it was sighted in at 25 yards, up 1.5 MOA and make a hit at 400 yards without firing a shot! If I didn't adjust I would hit 6 inches low with this caliber.

We were told that we need to make up a bullet drop chart for each different ammunition that we own, and for each different rifle, and store the charts with the ammo so you always know the sight adjustments for it.

I have more to tell, so stay tuned for the next post!


Monday, July 12, 2010

Rifleman Boot Camp Completed!

What an exiting week! Jonathan and I were gone all day for 8 days in a row attending the Rifleman Boot Camp organized by the Appleseed project that was held in Rolla ND. We couldn't camp out there because of all the chores that need doing at home so we drove back and forth about 45 miles to the range. We started out shooting rimfire rifles at 25 meters and in two days all of the 9 shooters had scored "Rifleman" on the army qualification test at least once so we moved out to full distance. The main instructor for the boot camp wasn't able to get there until Monday night (we started Sunday morning) so the first two days were run by a different master instructor and we all learned a lot. That instructor was Don D. and he drove all the way from Kentucky to help instruct.

On Tuesday we sighted in our centerfire rifles at 25 meters (the closer set of cardboard targets in the picture above is the 25 meter line) and learned to tighten our positions and make our slings "as tight as humanly possible" to put it in The Guy's words. The Guy was the main instructor for the boot camp and kept us all learning. Nobody seems to know what his real name is because he goes by The Guy. He was kind of different, to put it nicely. He put us through a few drills like "ball and dummy" and helped me cure my flinch which started to be a problem after I used the bigger rifle for a while. Ball and Dummy is where another person (The Guy did it for me and was really good at it) helps the shooter by loading a dummy or a live round in a random pattern and watching the shooter to see that all the shots are fired "by the numbers". I was flinching for quite a few times and then he would surprise me with a live round when he thought I did everything right. My groups started out at about six MOA (inch and a half @ 25m) and after the drill, four out of five shots were in a 2 MOA group (half inch @ 25m). I even broke positions after two or three of those shots to put on a jacket and still the shots were good!
I can't remember what happened exactly on what day, but on one of the days we learned about bullet trajectory and reading the wind and the next day we went out to the full distances. Without changing our sights from the 25 meter zero, we moved to 200 yards and charted the MOA drop of the bullet there and then went out farther and so on. It confused me for the first day, so on the way home we looked closely at the targets and figured out the adjustments that I needed to make for my rear sight.

I will finish up the story sometime in another post.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Enough to do - plus more

Things are going pretty well here. All the trees are leafed out and the pastures are lush and the gardens are coming up quite well.

On Tuesday, all of us boys and Dad worked together and brought the chicken pens out to the big field and then brought the second batch of broilers out of the brooder to place in the pens. Jonathan already had the rest of his hens put in with the pullets that were in the netting and the new hoop tractor in the field behind the cows. We brought the bell waterers back to the house for cleaning and scrubbed them up so would be ready to put back in the pens. We put the turkeys out in a separate pen out there too so they have a clean place each day. The chickens are now on their way down the pasture section behind the cows adding their droppings and scratching out the cow pies. Earlier in the year I walked out to inspect the grass where the chickens were moved last year, and it was fun to notice the difference in the grass of where there was chicken manure and where there wasn't. About a foot from where the pen had been, the grass was thin, pale green and about four inches tall, but where the manure was dropped the grass was almost knee high and lush green with barely any space between the individual plants. Hopefully next year we will see a similar increase in fertility in the other field.

On Wednesday, Jonathan, David and I went to work for the insurance agent as we have been doing for quite a few weeks now. If we wanted to, he would hire us to work for him many days a week for $10 an hour, but we can't spare that much time away from home. He has asked us to do odd jobs around his house so we went as usual at 10:00 a.m. After the five or so inches of rain we got the water washed out some landscaping gravel beside his house and so he had a pile of 3/4 inch gravel dumped in his driveway for us to use in replacing the other rock. We used his john deere tractor with loader to move some of the rock and then put in some other six-inch rocks to direct the water down the stream bed and not into the neighbor's lawn. We ended the day by filling in some bare spots in his lawn and adding grass seed so it will grow back. (I just thought I'd add that he's really picky about his lawn, and everything else for that matter, so anywhere there was an inch or so of bare dirt showing we had to put more black dirt and scratch in grass seed. He fertilizes the lawn so it grows, then cuts it so it doesn't grow so tall, then waters it so it doesn't dry out etc. If it were me I'd just . . .)

Yesterday was a milk pick-up and delivery day. Jonathan went to town about 9:30 a.m. and dropped milk off and eggs to a few people and I got other milk ready for people to pick up later on. Someone came at 10:00 to pick up a gallon of milk and a few dozen eggs (he's a fire chief for a small town in the area), and then later on a man came from Minot to pick up five gallons for him and some other people from Minot (he's a lawyer or something of that sort) and he took a quarter cord of aspen wood along in his truck, and then another lady picked up her share of milk too.

Last night it rained again so the low spots are muddy again. They just started to dry out and now they are all muddy again. David and I got stuck with the truck trying to take a half-tank of water out to the cows so we had to dump it all out in order to get the trailer out. I did get water out there after going a little faster to make it through the wet spot.

I just came in after investigating what the dog was barking at out near the point. The other boys went out on the raft to swim and Samson followed along the shore and found something interesting to play with. I heard him barking the sort of exited bark like he does when he sees something so I ran out there. I found him in the brush rolling after getting sprayed by a skunk! He jumped up and followed after it again when I got there and chased the skunk into a den on the slope of the hill that goes to the lake. I didn't get to see the skunk but the sun was shining down the hole he went down so I could see a kind of vapor/mist coming out of the hole. Not a pleasant sight! I think it is the same skunk that I fired at while we were putting up the goat fence and the same skunk that killed the pullets so I would gladly have shot him this time if he showed himself.

The electricity was off for about a half hour around supper time but now it is on again. We're not sure why it was off but we are glad to have it on again.

That is all for this post,


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Why haven't I been writing?

Too busy! That's all.

Now to go do chores.


Sunday, June 13, 2010


I just had to say that about store-bought butter. It's really tastes awful now that we have been used to homemade butter! I guess it is probably the lack of taste in store-bought butter that is the issue. It just makes your bread feel like somebody spread grease on it and it is white as a sheet of paper. It makes me shudder to think of the cow(s) that it was milked from.

We had to save cream for a few people at the beginning of the month, and then we needed the milk for other local people, and then our semi-regular person from Minot let us know that he was coming so we had to send milk with him so we didn't have enough cream for butter. I guess we're caught up now, so we are making butter again.

Today we went over to Metigoshe Ministries to help them set up quilts for an upcoming auction. There were about 150 different quilts from churches that donated them to the center for them to make money on. I heard that last year the top bid on one of the quilts was . . . take a guess . . . $34,000 dollars! That is some money for a quilt! There were all sorts of sizes and designs that we had to fold and hang on the beams in the church.

Then, since today was the only sunny break in the weather forecast we went and mowed two people's lawns. We weren't able to get them done on time earlier in the week, and tomorrow it is supposed to rain too, so we needed to get them done.

Mom just said the cows were staring at her while she was taking clothes off the line and they looked like they were begging to be let out to pasture again. I need to go do that now. . .


Saturday, June 05, 2010

Cuts - Bags - Discharges - Fertilizes

On the top of the circular blade protector on our self-propelled lawnmower it says "Cuts, Mulches, Bags". That may be fine for mowing someone else's lawn, but how about a lawnmower that fertilizes!

We ran the animals through the "nursery research plot" to take down the grass that was getting out of control. It would be a tough job for the weedwhipper but in one day, here's the results.


Monday, May 31, 2010

The nicest set of letters I've ever seen!

Tomorrow I will send the first set of bills to cow-share owners for them to pay boarding for the third quarter. It is the only first of many invoices that will be sent, Lord willing! We have begun to use QuickBooks for our customer database and it works really well to organize accounts and invoices and much more.

Friday, May 28, 2010



The past few days it rained and thundered off and on so there are water puddles all over the yard. We don't have a rain gauge that works but by looking at how much water is in buckets we probably got at least two inches. There was hail in some of the storms along with heavy downpours. The animals are all happy to be out now after grazing in between raindrops and the goats spent most of their day in the barn because they don't like getting wet.

We are waiting to hear from a group of people that are coming for a "field trip" to our farm from the Minot AFB but they might have to cancel their camping trip because it is too wet. They haven't informed us if they are, or aren't coming yet.

Over the past few days we had the cows fenced in over the septic drain field beside the house to eat the 10 inch grass that was growing there. It is hard for us to mow that spot because there is still humps of dirt left there from when it was installed so it's easier to set up a portable fence.

Yesterday we sold another goat to someone from the Devils Lake area that had bought two kids from us a few weeks ago. They wanted one that was milking so they bought an adult doe. This spring we sold ten of the goats that we had to people who contacted us. One of those was a 35 pound kid that went to an Italian person from Bottineau. We brought it down to the slaughter house for him to have it processed.

Another thing worth mentioning is that Mom got a really nice Champion 2000+ juicer! I think it is a more commercial version of the normal Champion juicer. It is going to really speed up the tomato and applesauce processing jobs! We made some raspberry sherbert from one of the recipes that came in the manual and it was really tasty. I can't wait to see how it works on other vegetables and fruits. We can make nut butters too with it.

Suppertime! . . .


Monday, May 24, 2010

Solution for ringworm

I just thought I'd write a quick post about the skin fungus "ringworm" that we had in the beef cow.
It showed up in circular red scabs on his neck and head just about a week ago but it has now cleared up and is healing fast. A book I would recommend for a lot of information on minerals is "Natual Cattle Care" by Pat Colby. Anyway here's the recipe we used on ringworm from that book:

1 pint apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons copper sulfate

I jut rubbed it onto the scabs with a paper towel in the morning before they went out to graze. It looked a lot better that same day but I applied it again the next morning anyway.
Ringworm will only be a problem in cows that are low in copper so we try to make sure that the free-choice mineral feeder is always available for the animals. We get copper sulfate locally in the form of root killer for septic systems at the local farm store. It is a blue crystal and can be poisinous if they eat too much of it.

Correct levels of copper, as well as other minerals, will also prevent Johne's disease and Brucellosis. Also, worms can't live in an animal that has the right amount of copper. A few years ago we had some pretty shaggy looking goats (reddish brown curled hair instead of glossy black on their sides) and offered them a nibble of copper sulfate for the first time. In two weeks their coats were all shiny and they have stayed that way most of the time since. Copper is a must!


Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday evening report


I would have liked if we had gotten a little more rain today. It did sprinkle for a few hours this morning but it didn't last long. The sun is out now and you can't tell it rained a bit.

Today I set up a few strands of wire in with the piglets to teach them to respect it. It's kind of fun to watch them sniff it for the first time and then get shocked. They usually learn pretty fast that it is better to stay on one side than the other. This year we bought six pigs from the neighbor north of us to raise and have deposits from customers reserving four of them. Last year we were only able to buy two from him because he had sold out on the rest. Pigs are pretty easy to grow and they are fun to watch. They stretch out in the shade and grunt happily and get to be pretty friendly after a while. Samson has been making friends with them through the fence but they are still a little shy of people. We give the pigs spare milk that has been in the refrigerator too long after we have taken the cream off and whey.

Yesterday we mowed a lady's lawn for the first time this year and got to try out the new grass trimmer which sped up the trim work. We will continue to mow once a week for her until the grass slows down in the summer. Yesterday morning when Jonathan went down to town to deliver eggs/milk he helped a relative of a neighbor move some things to the neighbor's place. He also brought back some things that they had given us. We got a bunch of garden tools, a spade (always need more of those!), two push-type seed planters, a bunch of assorted things and most interesting of all (to me) was a bunch of steel rod posts and a full shopping bag of rod post insulators! I just recently needed more of them so this was clearly God's hand moving once again. We are thankful for all the things we have gotten this spring. Almost every thing we have needed has come into our hands in one way or another, and the things we still need are sure to come as well.
Until next time,

Sunday, May 16, 2010

How to set up a portable electric fence - cheap and simple. Part 2: Posts and Insulators

How to set up a portable electric fence - cheap and simple. Part 2: Posts and Insulators

Posts come in different styles and sizes, but they serve the same purpose. To hold the conductor at the correct height, and insulate the conductor from the ground.

Types of posts:

Even for a portable electric fence, it is sometimes useful to put a wooden post in for a corner that needs extra support. I like to use oak saplings about 4-6 inches in diameter for these but aspen wood or other softer woods will work temporarily (they may last 3-4 years before they rot and break off). A post 5 feet long buried in the ground a foot and a half will be just right to hold the nail-in insulator about 30-36 inches off the ground, about the right height for a cow's nose.

A steel post is quicker to install than a wooden one but will need an anchor steak to brace against the tension of the wire if it is too much for it. Two types I use are T posts and 3/8 re-bar cut four feet long. The T post works good for a slight curve in the fence line, if it isn't too sharp of a bend, or for a corner if it is braced. The re-bar works best for supporting the conductor between T posts. Use rod post insulators for the re-bar and T post insulators for the T posts.

I don't have much experience with fiberglass posts, but I have read that they tend to break off when the weather is cold and definitely aren't as stiff as metal ones.


For the portable reel-based electric fence I'm describing, the only posts and insulators I use are the re-bar posts with their screw-on insulators. Of the different brands of insulators that I have tried out, I like the Red Snapp'r (Zareba) for their easy on and off design, but I like the latest ones from Premier for their ability to screw on tightest. Red Snapp'r insulators are guaranteed not to break, but I've seen them bend pretty far out of shape. Dare insulators are more solid feeling than Red Snapp'r, but they are harder to get on and off. I have never had an insulator break. Round corner insulators need a loop of stiff wire to attach them to the post and so far I like the Red Snapp'r brand because of the groove in the center that keeps the wire from slipping sideways. Sometime I would like to try the type of corner insulator that you don't have to thread the conductor through before attaching to the post. That would speed up the corners and work well for the portable set-up.

When a re-bar post has too much tension sideways (like at a corner - see picture above), I use a loop of twine and a small stake for support. A short piece of cattle panel bent over at the top or a pole barn spike bent over works for this.
To carry all my fence making supplies and the posts I use an old golf club bag slung across one shoulder and that helps me a lot. In the pocket in the side I keep extra support stakes and the voltage tester and more twine and assorted insulators. It speeds up setting out fence lines because I can take and replace a post from the bag with one hand while holding the reel of wire in the other.
The picture is of a corner of the fence where the cows would come to get water on their way down the hill to the barn. The animals always have a path open for them to go back to the barn if they want to or if I need to herd them back before I milk. You can see that the grass on the left side of the picture hasn't been disturbed and is growing back after being grazed only once. There is a wire dividing that part off until it is ready to graze again.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Garden update - Floating row covers

The weather has been so nice for the past few days so I've been out of the house most of the time so it is nice to take the time now to write a blog post.

This afternoon Dad and I planted eight more rows of corn in addition to the seven or eight that are already planted. We are trying out a new thing this year with floating row covers. It works like a green house but it is not plastic and you just lay it out over the plants and loosen it up as the plants grow. The material is kind of like thinly woven cloth so water can go right through it but it still helps warm the ground beneath (the main reason it was hard for us to use plastic row-covers is because we didn't have any way to water it without taking all the plastic off).

This is some corn that was planted in the hoop house. It is already about three inches tall. We planted it April 20th and used the row cover on that also. The weeds grow nicer under the cover too!

Here's some peas that I planted not too long after the snow melted.

We have been receiving quite a few phone calls about an ad that we put in the Bottineau paper advertising raspberry and strawberry plants for sale and listing a few other products as well. Today the owner of a bar in town called and wants to buy some of everything we have for his family and pay to have us deliver it to the bar for him. He will be sending us an order for it sometime soon so hopefully he will be a regular customer. Jonathan delivered eggs to some people and milk to a few cow-share owners in town this morning.
Always something going on!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

How to set up a portable electric fence - cheap and simple. Part 1: making a reel

How to set up a portable electric fence - cheap and simple. Part 1: making a reel

This system works best for a single strand cow fence, but it also works well for goats if you use two or three strands.

You will need:
  1. Spool(s) with wire
  2. Posts and insulators
  3. Small anchor stakes with twine
  4. Live trunk line as a power source

Making a reel for wire

Some places sell a nice reel for rolling up wire but they cost about $20 so I made my own.

Parts list
2 - 12 x 12 inch 3/8 plywood circles
4 - 2x2s 4 inches long
1 - 3/4 inch plastic pipe 8-10 inches long PVC might work or black poly pipe but I used some PEX floor heat tubing and it worked perfect.
1 - 3/4 inch plastic pipe 1 inch long
1 - heavy gauge wire 8 inches long
handfull of screws and a 1 1/2 " pan head wood screw with a washer

Directions for assembling your spool
Cut out the two circles of plywood 10-12 inches in diameter and the four 2x2s. Set the two plywoods together and drill 1/4 inch holes spaced about 3 inches apart and 3/4 of an inch from the edge all the way around the spool (make a mark across the edges of the wood so that you
can align the two in the same position later on).

Drill a hole through both pieces in the center, just large enough for the plastic pipe to fit snugly (really tight is best). Next, sandwich the 2x2s on end between the plywoods so that they are all 2 inches from the outer edge. Use wood screws for these joints and add a little glue if you have some.

Insert the plastic pipe through the hole in the center until one inch of it sticks out the other side. Opposite the side with the most pipe sticking out, screw the pan head screw with the washer through the 1 inch section of pipe into the spool side, about 2 inches from the edge, and tighten into the spool. This serves as a handle to assist in rolling up the wire. Now you can wind up as much wire as you want onto the spool. To keep the wire from unrolling, take the heavy gauge wire (a section of cattle panel bent over at the top is what works the best for me) and insert it through the holes in the plywood. Put an insulated handle on the end of the wire and your spool's done!

To put handles on a plastic spool, I use carriage bolts with nuts and washers. Drill the holes in a corner of the ribs so that the head of the bolt and the washer will catch the rim of the plastic and not slip off when tightened.

Any questions? Another post will describe the use of this spool.


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Always Improving

Yesterday was mostly overcast and it rained off and on all day. Dad cut up some bridge planks for me and we put them in the barn to keep the milking area cleaner. I used to have straw on the floor, but that could easily get in the milk so wood is better.
This afternoon I cleaned out the 450 gallon water tank and put it on the trailer for use in watering the animals. We use the tank to haul water to fill up barrels near the chickens or for the cows when they are on pasture. I cut another plastic barrel in half with the saws-all and brought them out to the paddocks and filled them up so now everything is set for my rotational grazing set-up.
Tomorrow will be a busy day but maybe Thursday afternoon I will try to put both the cows out on grass. They will be able to walk down the hill to the barn when it's time to milk.
Our transplants are doing really well. This year we used all our own mix of potting soil and fertilized the seedlings with manure tea. They have all done really well, except some of the cayenne peppers didn't come up at all.
I was looking at a website this morning and thought it was easy to follow in understanding more about why raw milk is so much better for you than 'cooked' milk. We are going to have to try making kefir with some!


Friday, April 30, 2010

Busy springtime

I finally got a chance to blog now that it just rained a little bit. This afternoon we were out cleaning up a yard for someone on the Lake. We have been working on things here at the farm as much as possible while at the same time helping to rake lawns, wash decks, clean gutters etc. There is lots going on this time of year.

A few days ago I wrote a long blog post about what I had been up to, but then blogger lost it and now I can't remember what all I wrote about (I lost it all when I clicked "Publish"!).

This morning Jonathan went to the post office and picked up a few hundred broiler chicks. He has them all doing well in the brooder now. He hasn't lost any of the ones purchased so far and hopefully he will not lose any. There is also another 75 layer chicks in a separate brooder too that are doing well.

On a different topic, we bought a brush cutter/grass trimmer from a neighbor yesterday. We had prayed a few days ago that we would be able to find a good deal on a professional size weed eater and a few days later noticed an ad in the paper advertising one! We got a good deal on it and it is in good condition even though it is 11 years old. It had only been used five times and it works like new right now. Mom also got a $200 pasta machine for $25 at the neighbors too. We tried out the brush cutter this afternoon while working on the goat fence out in the field. It works real slick!

More coming later...


Monday, April 19, 2010

Appleseed weekend

This last weekend went well here with the appleseed shoot. We had someone that had attended the Appleseed here last August bring a troop of boy scouts up to participate. We were kind of wondering how easy they would be to teach (most of them were probably 10-12 yrs old) and how well they would pay attention, but it worked out real well. There was another friend and his son that came at noon but had to leave about 4:00 so they didn't catch all that went on. Another homeschool dad and his three sons from Stanley came and stayed for the whole day and ate supper with us before heading home. There were a few people signed up to shoot on Sunday, but no one showed up! The instructors (Jonathan, Chris, and I along with the shoot boss Alex) did some shooting on our own and I tried out a rifle with aperture sights and scored 223 points. I don't think I could have done that well with the cheap factory open sights on my 22.

On Thursday the 15th, Dad and I went down south to Napoleon ND to meet with a legislator there about the upcoming bill to eliminate all regulation of homeschooling in ND. We met in the back room of the Napoleon auction barn for the meeting. Mr. B was there with us and after the meeting, we watched the auction for a bit. That was the first livestock auction that I've ever watched so it was fun to see how it works. Mr. B explained the process so we could follow along.

We had a delicious lunch at the Bs before the meeting! Thank you Mrs. B! Before heading home we loaded up a steer we bought from them and started back. We got back home late so Jonathan had to milk for me again.
The next morning we let the cow out from the trailer and into the fenced spot near the barn to keep it until the grass gets longer. It seemed to us that the pen would hold most any animal, at least if they were as easy to keep in as the milk cow, but we found out differently a few hours later. It doesn't take much for a 600 lb calf to walk over a CATTLE panel supported only by T posts every 6 feet.
I was going to go check on him about an hour after we left him in the pen and saw that he was out in the 4 strand electric goat fence beside there. I guess he wasn't used to electric fences and walked out through the wires like it was nothing. Jonathan circled around to try to chase him back towards the barnyard, and I headed through the bushes to the pond, trying to cut him off. When I had made my way along the bank beside the pond I spotted the cow ahead about 100 yards. I didn't want to chase him faster by continuing behind him so I cut out to the "big field" and Jonathan and I started down the four wheeler trail that connects the neighbors and our properties. We didn't catch any sight of him there, so Jonathan went to get the car and went to 19th to see if he could see where the cow might cross the road. I followed the edge of the pond for a ways and then came across a spillway between the two lakes where the tracks of the cow were plain enough heading southeast towards the road. I followed for a bit and then lost the trail and didn't find it again so I went out to the road where Jonathan had the truck and trailer.
I hopped on the hood and we rode down the road until we saw the tracks of the cow crossing the road about a 1/4 mile from 43. We went up to the pavement to turn around and spotted the cow trotting east, down 43 about 300 yards away. We drove up beside him and he turned into the yard of a house there and then we chased him back the way he had come. Dad was out in the car and Andrew and David were with him.
We lost the cow into the trees on the side of the road on the way back up 19th but somehow he managed to be in the yard when Dad and I drove in. He dove into the bushes again and Dad followed him while I went to get Andrew to bring the truck and trailer and to get the rope. When I got back I found where Dad had been following him, and helped herd him towards the barn again. The cow crossed the "beaver inlet" and I tried to get across as well by balancing on some fallen logs and stumps. I made my way about half way across but then came to a dead end (no more trees to walk on) so I had to jump in the water that was about three feet deep. I waded across and then stomped up the steep hill on the other side with my boots full of water. After making my way to the "clump of trees overlooking the valley" my boot snagged on some barbed wire so I had to go back and put it on again. I was pretty tired of running now but the cow looked as if it might take off again and I needed to be in front of him. He then turned and broke through the electric fence near the barn and seemed to be pretty happy there. He then went out again and around the other side of the barn where he walked into the barn through the door. We trapped him in there and put him back in the trailer until we could set up a better pen for him. Now he's happily chewing his cud in a pen on the SW side of the barn. I guess his name is Jefferson Davis, or Jeff or Jeffery.
We plan to show him how an electric fence is supposed to work before sending him out to pasture! He has settled down now and we are glad to have a beef to raise.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An inexpensive wire strainer


If you have ever put up electric fences before, you probably see how helpful it is to use a wire tightener. A loose fence doesn't look too nice. I used the store bought ratchet strainers but when you need to tighten four or more strands it gets expensive. They cost $5 each at Nodak. I came up with one now that seems to work fine and only cost me about fifty cents.

The sides are oak so they should last a while. If not, I can aways paint them before installing them on the wire.

We are pretty much all set with the range for this weekend. We piled a few logs behind the targets where we saw the bullets hitting, so I think that will solve the ricochet problem. It looks like it will be a more fun Appleseed shoot than usual. There will be a few memorial volleys fired at 3:00 on one of the days in honor of the men that died in the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19 1775. With over 100 Appleseed's going on across the country, and all firing their volleys at 3:00, I'm sure there will be thousands of rifle shots ringing out at one time! I think the shoot boss will also be handing out a few new fliers and people will do a few Red AQTs with a different course of fire. I'm looking forward to it. I have memorized the "1st Strike" and am supposed to tell that on Saturday if is all goes like usual. The 1st strike is as much as I can remember of the events leading up to the first musket shots fired on the Lexington Green, including Paul Revere's ride and a bunch more.
We will see if anyone brings their centerfire rifle to shoot this weekend. That is why there is more logs on this end for the higher powered bullets to get stuck in (hopefully!). This morning Jonathan was on 101.9, our local radio station, advertising the Appleseed shoot this weekend. We listened at home and it sounded really good! He was on the air for 5 minutes.