Stretching Fence

I figured it was finally time to stretch the garden fence and I had a little bit after Mass tonight.  Up to this point the fence was just draped over the posts.  I got out my home made 2×4 fence clamp and started stretching.  The clamp is simply a couple 2x4s with three holes drilled through them.  I then use nuts, bolts, and washers to clamp them around the fence.  I use the clamp and the tractor to pull the fence tight.  I tried to make sure I didn’t over tighten the fence and pull the posts out of level.  I think I succeeded.  I was able to get the whole fence stretched and attached to the wooden posts even in the little amount of time I had.  I still need to attach it to the T posts, but I can chip away at that as I have time.

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Stretching

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My set up.

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Pallet and Tarp Calf Hutch

When we decided to get the calves I knew I needed to make some sort of shelter for them so they could get out of the rain and late afternoon sun.  I didn’t want to break the bank to build it, so I started looking around at what I had to use.  I had made the sheep shed out of pallets, so why reinvent the wheel?  I set off to make a pallet shelter.  This one was going to be temporary.  At some point I plan to make a little more permanent, bigger, and maybe cement floored shelter, but not yet.  The pallets would be held in place by T posts.  So I found a few pallets the same size and some T posts.

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In order to hold the pallets securely, I need to add a piece of scrap wood to each pallet, like this…

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Once I had the pallets in place, I took a piece of cattle panel and bent it into an arc.  I attached it to the pallets one side at a time using fencing staples.

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Once both sides were attached I added the tarp.

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I used exterior grade zip ties to fasten it into place.  It is up against the fence, so the back side didn’t need any extra support.

It isn’t pretty to look at, and it won’t win any awards for engineering, but it works andit only took an hour to build.  It was free to make, as I had all the supplies already on hand, and most of those supplies can be reused again if I am careful with them when I take it apart.

I think I posted on the Facebook page a while back something to the effect of, “Pallets and cattle panels are the duct tape of the Homestead.”  Pretty accurate I think.

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Garden Pictures

I took these on a quick walk through the garden this morning.

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Tomatillos, which I know almost nothing about

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Yellow watermelon transplant

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Broccoli from seed and tomato transplants

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Cucumber transplants doing great

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Zucchini transplant

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Baby swiss chard

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Crimson beans

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Zucchini blossom close up

 

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Rabbits, Farm Day, and Too Many Blessings?

Late last week I picked up four rabbits.  They are about three months old and are Silver Fox/New Zealand crosses.  They should be good meat/pelt rabbits.  Consequently we have two male rabbits available for free to a good home.

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Saturday afternoon found us lucky enough to have some of our Homestead Harvesters group over to help with the garden. I have been trying to get as many things done as possible during the week, but there are only so many hours in my day. It is amazing how much can get done when there are many hands to share in the work.

We got the corner supports for the fence installed. This should allow me to get the fence stretched this week if I can find some time.

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We were able to get the rest of the garden planted while they were here. That included pumpkins, squash, sunflowers, multiple varieties of corn, peas, beans, kale, chard, carrots, and beets. Not only did we get all of that planted, but we got a lot of the already growing plants mulched with cut grass. Hopefully this will keep the weeds down and add nutrients back to the soil as it decomposes.

We also replaced the apple tree that had suffered from mouse damage with a cortland I had bought on clearance at Tractor Supply.

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While I had some extra muscle around I had them help me move the 8’x8′ chicken pen to the other side of the barn. While it isn’t terribly heavy, it is terribly awkward. We used the garden wagon to help us move it.

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The potatoes have been doing great and I hadn’t found time to add dirt so while I had a minute we added some grass mulch and more dirt.

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Remember those blessings falling from the sky I had talked about?  Well, Sunday was another rainy day.  Not the nice, gentle, lull you to sleep rain.  No, we got poured on.  The weather station registered 1.7″ of rain just on Sunday.  In the evening, after the rain had passed, I went to check on the garden.  I wanted to make sure it hadn’t washed away.  It was wet but it looked like it would survive.  While I was out there I heard a noise like wind rustling through the trees.  Except there was no wind.  It was all the water rushing through our woods and into the marsh.

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Monday morning we started to dry out. The garden was still really wet, but very little was still underwater. Although there is still rain in the forecast for the evening.

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I was even able to get some grass cut.  Life is good.

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Rain, Blessings from Heaven

As I was sprinting ahead of the rain drops into the house this morning after feeding the calves, I was understandably thinking about rain.

There has been a lot of rain this spring/summer.  So much so that I have really only had to water the garden after I have planted something, just to get it watered in.  And I haven’t even had to do that all of the time.  For instance, last night it started raining right after I planted the blueberries and grape vines, so that was one less thing to worry about.

Not having to drag hoses all over the Homestead is definitely a blessing, although I wouldn’t be complaining about that if it needed to be done.  Not with the droughts being experienced out west.  I have very little to complain about.

So I will continue to count my blessings, as they fall from the heavens, but I’ll be ready to start dragging hoses around when the need inevitably comes.

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Vineyard, Blueberries, and One Cage Complete

This afternoon while Homestead Boy #3 was taking a nap I got a chance to work on the “lid” for one of the moveable chicken pens.  I have made lids like this before, and like how easy they are to remove and put back on.  I simply make a rectangular frame with the side over the middle of the pen turned flat instead of vertical.  This allows it to sit almost flush with the top.  A couple extra spacer blocks help it to stay up.  The remaining three sides are vertical and give it more security with regards to staying on.  It looks like this…

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Framed up

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Chicken wire on and ready to go

I also got the chicken wire around the outside of the bigger pen, as well as one of the strips on the top.  I still need to make some lids for that pen, hopefully in the next day or two.

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In the evening I was able to get the three grape vines and two blueberry bushes that I had bought on clearance from Tractor Supply planted.  That brings me up to 7 blueberry bushes and 13 grape vines.  I got them planted just in time for a nice rain shower to water them in for me.

Unless I find more great deals on grape vines, the vineyard is probably done for the year, and I don’t have any plans to buy any more blueberries either.  I still have the one apple tree to plant.  I actually was able to pull out the dying one it will replace getting me one step closer to getting the new one in the ground.

Until next time.

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Calves, Chickens, and Gardens, Oh My!

I feel as though I have been earning my sleep lately.  Getting up at six to feed the cows before my wife heads to work, all the activities of each day, maybe some exercising after everyone’s in bed, and I get to bed around midnight every night.  I am not sure my head even hits the pillow before I am out.  Please forgive my if my editing is off.

The calf feedings have gotten much better.  With the pivot-able cattle panel I am able to single out one calf for feeding without having all the others slobbering all over me or head butting me.  Every once in awhile a second cow sneaks in and I have to stop everything and try to get them both on the other side of the panel.  They aren’t stupid animals either, they know where they want to be and they don’t want to go back away from the food.  Most days now, I just let them sneak their heads through the gap while they eat.  This makes it much easier to back them out of the feeding area.  We are starting to wean the largest calf this week.  He is much larger than the rest and can easily be on hay/grass now.  The next two biggest will start to be weaned next week, with the last two weaning the following week.  They all are very interested in hay so they have access to that at all times.  I made a hay feeder to keep the hay up off the ground so it doesn’t get wasted.  I will post about how I built it in another post.

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Somehow this lady found her way into the cattle pen. No idea how she got in, no idea how she got out. Blandings turtle by the way.

I have been working on the garden as often as possible as well.  This week I have planted more beans, rainbow chard, and peas.  I have also trimmed the frost damaged red raspberries in hopes that they will grow back.  We have been enjoying a handful of strawberries about every other day.  Tonight I cut some leaves of lettuce and had a salad.  Nothing like eating freshly picked produce from your own garden.

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Pre wash

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Post wash and some already eaten

Tractor Supply has been clearancing their plant materials.  While I don’t need their $1 tomatoes, I did pick up another couple blueberry bushes, a few grape vines, and an apple tree to replace one of the mouse damaged ones that doesn’t look like it will make it.  Nothing like clearance sales.

I have probably mentioned in the past that one of my favorite chicken breeds is the orpington, specifically the buff.  One of my first chickens was a buff, and she was great.  When we ordered chicks this spring, I made sure to get a couple buff orpington roosters and some hens.  I also love the blue/black/splash color in orpingtons as well as the jubilee color.  I recently found a gentleman on craigslist selling some jubilee chicks for a reasonable price.  He is concerned about the bird flu and wanted to pare down his flock to a number he could keep isolated.  Bonus for me.  In order to make room for the 10 chicks I was getting from him, I sold the 6 eleven week old Rhode Island Red pullets that we had.  The kids weren’t real happy with me, but I knew as soon as they saw the new chicks all would be forgiven, and it was.  I should be able to make a decent profit on selling jubilee hatching eggs and chicks which will help the chickens pay for themselves in addition to regular egg sales.  The jubilee are about half 2 week old and half 4 week old.

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Little ones

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Bigger ones

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Just selling the RIR pullets wasn’t going to make enough room for the new chicks.  The chicks that were ordered from our feed store are quickly outgrowing the brooder in the barn so I needed to make a transitional pen for them to be outside in.  I got a really good start on that pen tonight.  I decided to make an 8’x8’x2′ pen.  This would eliminate almost all cutting except for the 2′ uprights.  I am becoming an expert in building boxes so I was able to get this one put together in less than an hour.  Then I added the roof panel and the sides.  The sides are made out of cement board that I got for free on Craigslist.  I was able to cut it with my 19.2 volt cordless mini circular saw.  It is heavy board, so I will probably have to add wheels to the back of it in order to make it easily movable.  I still need to add the chicken wire around the sides and a section of the top.  In the middle of the top, I plan to make split lids so that most of the pen can be accessed from the middle.  This design will also function as a meat bird pen when I get a batch of those.

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One side built

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Two sides built

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A box

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Roof panel added

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Sides on

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Reverse angle

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My favorite way of holding a board when I don’t have a helper

I will be posting more on the chicken pen build as well as some of the other projects I have built recently as time allows.  Until then…

 

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New Computer Has Me Up and Running

FedEx just dropped off my new computer from Dell.  This will make three computers in a row that have been Dells.  I have bought them all refurbished and the previous two have lasted an average of seven years a piece.  If this one lasts anywhere near that long I will be a happy man.

This will make getting posts on the blog much easier, although I am not sure it would have mattered lately as I have been so busy from sun up until sun down.

Speed recap… steer feedings have gotten easier, I have made a couple things for the steer pen, I bought and sold chickens today, and I am hoping to get a few more rabbits soon.

More details to come.

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Peaceful Easy Feeling

Today was a great day, though it started a little rough. I woke up to feed the cows this morning as usual. This feeding may have been the roughest. They all know what the bucket means and it is no holds barred, cow MMA to get to it. Everyone else was asleep so it was just me, no boys to even help distract some of the other calves. I pretty much used every part of my body to box out the four calves who weren’t feeding, minus the one arm I was using to hold the bucket. Not only do they try to go through you, but they slurp all over you looking for milk. Cow kisses may sound fun, but not so much.  I know you’ve all heard of Crossfit, but I think a tougher workout could be called Cowfit. 

Then we had our three oldest’ last day of baseball. The kids love playing baseball, and I love coaching them and the other kids, but I am ready to have my Saturday mornings back so I can get things done around here. 

This afternoon we celebrated Homestead Boy #3’s birthday with family. Being our fifth child this shouldn’t surprise me, but his first year flew by. 

This evening, before going out for the evening feeding I got a comment on the blog from my good friend Laura about making a smaller pen to feed each individual calf so as to not take a bath in cow slobber. I had been thinking about that myself but her comment pushed it to the front of my mind. The best and simplest way I could figure with my setup was to take a cattle panel and hang it on one of the existing T posts as a pivot. I could then swing it out and hang it on a newly placed T post. It gives me just enough room to feed one calf and keep the others out. The best part is it will swing out of the way while not in use so I don’t have to remove it. I still have to use the empty bucket to convince the just-finished-eating-calf to leave the feeding pen, but I didn’t feel like I needed a bath when feeding time was over. 

With a little time left before needing to get the kids to sleep I headed for the garden to get the pepper starts planted. Homestead Boy #2 helped for a bit, and Homestead Girl #1 helped the entire time. In all we planted 42 pepper plants of 4 or 5 varieties. 

Yesterday I happened to find time to get the cucumber and watermelon starts planted. I also found several ripe strawberries that the kids thought were the best ever, and they were pretty tasty. I also got three grape vines planted. Tractor Supply had them on clearance for $4.99 so I couldn’t help myself. The vineyard is up to ten living plants with one I think I am going to need to have replaced. Homestead Girl #2 “helped” plant the watermelon. Between yesterday and today I have planted all of the starter seeds. 

  
The cows were pretty content before bed. 

  
Have I mentioned how much I love my life?

  

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The Cow Says Moo, Quite Loudly

Yesterday evening was mostly uneventful. The steers nibbled some hay and mostly ignored me every chance they could. And they didn’t say much.  I set the alarm for 6:30 so I could feed them before the kids were awake. Nice plan, right. 

Well the kids took turns getting up throughout the night, and the cows are used to their first feeding around 3, so that is when they started making noise. 

Let’s take a quick break and talk about how loud cows can be. I knew in my head that cows can be loud. At the rodeo when we are camping the rodeo bulls can be extremely loud. Even here at the homestead we have a herd of beef cattle about a mile away.  If we are standing outside on a calm day, we can hear them bellowing. That’s loud. 

So this morning when the cows’ bellies told them it was time to eat they weren’t quiet about letting me know. Finally around 5:30 I headed to the barn with a bucket full of warm water. I mixed 5 quarts of milk replacer and added in 5 quarts of milk that we were given to help ease the steers’ transition off milk. 

The first feeding was an interesting experience. I was expecting to be able to hold a bucket in each hand and feed two calves at a time. Not so much. I had to feed one at a time and use my off arm to fend off the rest of the calves. All the while getting slobbered on by the calves trying to get to the bucket. The only major hiccup was that calf #4 wanted nothing to do with me or the bucket. I ended up chasing him around the pen trying to get him interested in the bucket while fending off the rest of the calves. Then I figured if I put the lead rope on him and took him out maybe he wouldn’t have to worry about the other calves. Well that was a complete, total, and abysmal failure. He did not like the lead rope at all. After reentering the pen I finally cornered him and grabbed him around his belly with one arm while stuffing the bucket in his nose. That finally worked and he slurped down the milk. 

It was amazing how quickly they drank down the bucket of milk. The two quarts of milk/replacer disappeared in about ten seconds. 

One feeding down, forty something more to go. 

  

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