Monday, January 27, 2014

The majesty of a winter sunrise

There are just no words to add to such a site.  All i can say is that it is even more powerful in person.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

WEBcam on the chicks is public

I made the webcam accessible to the public, so you can watch their antics from home :)

Just go to the link above for "farm webcams" and log in with "visitor" and "farm" for password.


It works!

After a frightful night of waiting and watching the webcam....  I am very happy to report that 100% of the chicks made it through the night!  The temp outside dropped to a mere 24 degrees,  and yet the chicks stayed warm and cozy all night under the 12v heaters!

I checked once about 2:30 and was shocked to see a handful of chicks running around and eating / drinking.  But then i realized the layers next door get up at 2am yet!  So all was well.  The chicks woke up,  had a snack,  and went back to their warm beds for the rest of the night.

Finally it looks like we have a brooder setup that can handle a few hundred birds,  stay dry and warm,  and have battery backup protection in the event of power failure.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

New brooder ready to go

The chicks for our next winter laying flock have been hatching this week!  So far 80 percent of the first batch are out and healthy,  that's about 90 birds.  The first few days thru stay inside in a large bucket with heaters,  but then they move to the new brooder.
We have struggled through many designs for a brooder.  More enclosed means more cleaning,  more warmth,  but more trouble with humidity and water spills.  More open means risk from wind,  rain,  escapes.  Heat lamps caused crowding,  and a fire hazard.  On and on...  So finally we have arrived at a compromise that busy might work.
One thing that makes this harder is the scale.  When we hatch birds,  turkey or chicken,  we do 200 to 400 at a time. That's a lot of little chicks!
So this year we have a new setup just finished. It is inside one of the original permanent coops it front.  Mostly solid on 3 sides to block wind,  yet open enough to keep humidity down and plenty of fresh air.  We set up the solid panel brinsea heaters in sections of 5 heaters each.
These heaters are awseome and this year even more so.  The heater elements run of 12volts for safety.  They make no light and produce 60 watts of heat under a 2 foot square  black area. The birds natural instincts are to hide under the blackness like mom's wigs for protection or heat.
This year I wired all the panels together to a rv type 12 volt converter / Charger and 12 volt deep cycle battery.  This way the brooder had no 110 volt lines in it (for safety from shocks and fire hazard) and the Battery keeps the heat going for 2 to 4 hours in the event of a power failure!  No more rushing feverishly to crank the generator before the chicks freeze in the night if the power is knocked out for short times.  The converter automatically charges the battery and runs up to 10 heat panels just like in an rv system.
So this morning before deliveries we moved in the first 98 chicks!

Friday, January 24, 2014

You might be a farmer....

If you come home after a long day,  and find a baby chick resting comfortably in your pajamas,  in the dryer,  because it got wet.... 

You might be a farmer...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Maggie 's little miracle

Here he is...  Maggie's little boy,  sleeping peacefully on the straw.  You would b never know his birth almost killed both him and his mom.  How quickly things change!

Maggie has now rejoined the milking herd,  providing lots of healthy fresh milk for the herdshare owners. 

All is well

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Goat rodeo?

Sometimes...  Things dont go according to plan with gates and such...
Got milk?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Egg production is steadily increasing

Another good bit of news....  We finally have the hens set so that they are again producing consistently.  Some day i will write about all the changes we had to make to get things right again (mostly due to the extreme weather this fall).

We are collecting 90 to 120 eggs per day,  and on target to reach 200 in a couple weeks.  Plus we still have 2 more flocks to set up.  They will produce maybe another 80 eggs per day.  Finally we can fill orders!

The next step is retiring some of the older hens.  We are working on a high tech way of determining which are laying and which are not.  More on that later....

Both baby goats doing good

In spite of the wet cold weather,,  we are pleased to announce that both moms (Molly and Maggie) and both babies are are doing fine.  The babies are nursing well and look strong and alert. 

Sorry we have not posted pictures yet....  It has been a incredibly busy weekend.  Hope to have some pics posted here this week.  Both babies are super cute!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Life, death, rain, early, late, success, failure ... and on it goes...

What a day.  AS it winds down to an end I find myself reflecting on a very full day indeed.

Today started around 5:30 when we discovered Maggie, one of our most precious and favorite goats, was finally in labor. We thought she was in labor last saturday but nothing developed a that time.  Today was the real deal. Only... something wasnt right.  When the first baby goat appeared, it was feet first.. all 4 feet. That is not what is supposed to happen! She was already tired from at least a couple hours of heavy labor to get to that point.

We got Maggie up and walking around, which had a great effect, the baby goat went back inside and hopefully re-positioned it properly. That was the hope. Unfortunately it didnt work. When the feet appeared again it was still all 4.  So this time, with advice from our on call vet over the phone, we physically turned things around, pulling on the back feet while pushing the front feet back inside.  Finally it worked and we got hte baby goat out. Unfortunately it had been too long and was still born. We set up a heater (it had started raining and was windy by now) and let Maggie rest before the next goat started coming out.  Fortunately this one worked well and with only a little help she pushed it right not and was healthy.

In the background....  was the morning milking.

After all that excitement, failure and success... it was time to load up for deliveries. Today was (happily) a larger than normal delivery with chicken parts back in stock as well as eggs.  And off we go!

A long day of deliveries, puts us back home on the farm around 6.  Maggie and baby are fine! Also the one born yesterday to Molly (Rosemary's grandbaby).  That is a relief with all the stormy rain and wind blowing in all day.  I stood watching Maggie nudge the little goat to herself to nurse, he latch on and drink, while hte storm blows outside, reflecting on the days events. We could have lost them all today, which would have been a real tragedy. Maggie was our third goat purchased a few years ago.  She is like part of the family.

That  settled, Hunter and Kaelyn headed out to collect today's eggs (9 dozen today!) while I did the evening milking.  Its great that the chickens have just started laying again after all the efforts put into them for the last 4 months. It has been a real challenge with the crazy weather this year.

After milking and putting the eggs away, a final check on everyone and its in the house for the evening.

What is the purpose of this post? not sure there is one. It has been a long emotionally draining and physically challenging day, with weather turning bad over the workload.  But its over, and all ends ok once again. Thats farming. ups and downs. The only constant is work and the cycles of nature.

The high point of the day had to be standing silent in the milking room, all this  fresh in the movie of the mind, listening to the orchestra of light rain falling all around.  A day so full.... and at the end of it there is a huge respect for nature, and the God that created it all. What a privilege it is to me manager over a tiny piece of it, to watch and enjoy the cycles of life and awesomeness of nature.

Farming... hard constant low paying work dotted with moment of soul inspiring awesomeness.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Weather down today

Centurylink is having repeated problems with the internet feeds in this neck of the woods....  So unfortunately the weather station is inaccessible for several hours,  with no end in sight. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Greenhouse Grain Sprouting in Freezing Weather

We have been struggling with the ability to sprout grain for the animals in this consistently freezing weather.  When the really cold weather hit in December, we had foot long icicles INSIDE the greenhouse! Naturally that was not conducive to sprouting grain... not to mention the constantly frozen pipes and broken valves.

But finally we have arrived at a decent setup that is working. Our average nighttime low is still 25 degrees, and yet the greenhouse has stayed just above freezing at night, and rising to the 60's day times.  THAT is conducive to sprouting :)

Here is a good example of the weather swings... you can see around 5am that the supplemental heat kicked in to give it a needed bump before freezing. (might need to expand the graphic)

The rundown:

Water Line
We insulated the incoming water feed and added an electric heat strip. Yes yes.. i know they are not rated for water hose but... it works. In a pinch you do what is necessary. When things calm down I will remove the water hose entirely and replace with an underground pipe and spigot into the greenhouse itself.

The insulated water hose coming into the greenhouse

Here you can see at the bottom, the electric connection to the pipe heater strip (among the flurry of hoses for the internal sprinkler system)

Thermal Mass
We added six 40 gallon trash cans full of water, spread out in the middle and the sunny side of the greenhouse.  These black cans of water have high thermal mass and the black soaks up heat energy more efficiently. So during the day they soak up whatever heat there may be coming in, then give off that heat slowly through the night. slowing the tempo swings to more of an average. On cold nights you can see the water in these buckets steaming!

Here are some of the full black trash cans for thermal mass. the blue buckets are full of sprouting grain

Backup Heat
As a last resort, there is a propane heater ready to kick in at the edge of freezing. We don't want to heat the greenhouse as that would be too expensive. This is just an emergency measure to prevent freezing.  as you can see from the chart above, it does kick in just a few hours past hitting 32 degrees.  this one was QUITE a challenge! the heater I chose was a non-electric propane model from mr heater. It does not take an external thermostat. It was designed for room temps, so the first night we tried it, with the thermostat set as low as it would go, it ran all night and emptied a bottle of propane.  After dismantling it, and exploratory resetting the thermostat... through hours of trial and error,  i finally got it adjusted down the the range needed.

The modified heater... you cant tell any difference, but the mechanical thermostat is set about 30 degrees colder than it was intended for. 

And of course ... every heater needs a fuel source. This is the old tank from the milking barn. 

Little Sprouts Weather Station is Active online!

NEW for 2014! We now have an official weather station that is online 24x7!  You can preview the weather before coming out, even get a special localized forecast for the next few hours.

We have been working on this for some time, but December was wrought with problems and little time.  Our local only weather station was to serve as the basis of an internet enabled station, by adding a "gateway" box. Unfortunately the first one we received was defective and had to be replaced, which took forever with the holiday shipping. Then we learned that our original weather monitor equipment was damaged in the -9 degree weather of mid December, so we had to replace that! Everything is finally up and working now as of Jan 3rd.

Details: we are using the AcuRite 5in1 sensor, mounted on our front chicken coop about 10 feet high. That feeds a wireless signal to the AcuRite Internet Bridge, which is connected to our local network and thereby the Internet through our DSL line, The combination sends updated weather every 5 seconds to Weather Underground which produces a localized forecast online for anyone to see.

We also have monitors in the greenhouse (where we sprout grains for feed year round)  and the garage (where we have our incubators running).  so that we can monitor temp and humidity of both of those locations. If the temperature of either exceeds the preset limits, a text message and/or email will be sent to us so that we can deal with it immediately.

You can even place the Little Sprouts Weather on your own webpage with HTML code from this resource:  Weather Underground Weather Stickers

Anytime you wish to see the current weather here, just go to this blog site and you will see a box on the upper right column with current weather conditions. You can click ion that to go to the weather underground history and forecast pages for our valley.

We are very excited to have this operating, both for us and for you. Weather is a VERY important factor in any type of farming. What we do is a "dance with nature" on a daily basis. We cant control the weather, so we learn to use it to our advantage and manage it's effects. You can watch this dance from the warmth of your own home now!

Here is the full current conditions:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Incubators are full!

The incubators are full!  The next winter laying flock is fully started.  There is a total of  378 eggs incubating.
This weekend we will check them to see which are not fertile (usually 10% arent)  and replace those with fresh eggs.
What a beautiful sight!