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!