Thursday, October 29, 2015

Building Mini Greenhouses for winter Fodder growing

Sprouts and fodder are a magnificent way to feed hogs (as well as poultry!). But how do you do it at scale in the winter, when its too cold to sprout grains outside? One option is to move indoors, but that takes a lot of space and expensive climate control.  Another option is to invest tens of thousands of dollars in expensive commercial fodder systems. They work great but.. what small farm can afford to pay those prices? Our answer is much simpler and very cheap.  I only hope it works!

During the fall we developed an inexpensive fodder system based on hard plastic kiddie pools.  It has served us very well, performing perfectly (except for one fixable minor detail).  What you see here is the fall version of this setup... pools under draped plastic sitting on pallets, holes in the bottom for drainage and water timers set to fill the pool once a day quickly, then drain out.

The fall fodder system
For the curious, the one change we need to make is to place the holes around the outside edge, not across the bottom. If the bottom holes plug up for any reason, its a mess! you cant get to the holes to clear them.  This happened once. Our upgraded answer is to place the holes around the outside edge at the bottom so that they are accessible for cleaning.

Back on point... what to do for winter. As the rains come here in southern oregon... the draped plastic just creates a nifty duck pond over the grain!  The cooler weather is made worse by the rain water cooling the grain and blocking the suns heat.  So now we need a way to heat the grain from the sun and keep the rain out. a mini greenhouse! Modeled after the hoops often placed over garden boxes, this seemed a great approach.

Version 1 didnt work out so well... I tried to use regular 1/2 inch PVC, with Ts placed around it to allow for uprights, then bent into a 5 foot circle. This would have fit right inside the pool while allowing easy uprights for hoops.

First attempt didnt work out well at all... broke on bending into a circle.

The problem was that while the pip would bend into a circle... the Ts were not strong enough and popped in two. Other than a great math lessons on circles, this one didnt serve for anything other than a straight line. 

On to version 2... CPVC! Much thinner and flexible. Hopefully overcoming the stiffness of half inch PVC.  
Second attempt made it into a circle, barely, with a Tee-Pee over it.
Again.. failure. Yes the pipe bent easier but the CPVC Ts were even weaker and sook split from the constant pressure of the curve.  We switched to a Tee-Pee design instead of hoops to lower the pressure from the bent uprights, but still no go.  Not strong enough. 

Version 3 was back to half inch, but with no Ts... only 2 couplers, and snap on "T"s to hold uprights. Much better! The couplers held fine, and the snap on Ts resolved the need for so many weak spots.  Getting closer, but still didnt like the difficulty building with all the stress, glue, and pressure. 

Third attempt was actually useable, almost.

I had chosen to go with this design, BUT... while in the store collecting supplies, a new idea hit me... flexible pipe! A roll of black plastic utility pip caught my eye. Yes! light, cheap, flexible, yet strong enough for this application.  an hour or so of toying with different connection options and we have a new plan!

Version 4, based on cheap plastic utility pipe rolls, snap on Ts, and hoop tops of the same pipe worked perfectly! Within an hour of building time we produced the first fully functional prototype.  It fits OVER the pool, is strong enough yet light and easy to lift and present a better angle to collect heat from the sun than a Tee-Pee design. Perfect!

Fourth attempt worked well!
The final product worked well. within a couple hours the daytime sun had raised the interior temp by at least 20 degrees! It was a warm steamy tropical sprouting environment on a chilly day. A gust of wind came by later and blew away an empty pool, but the hoop top stayed put. 

Now we will finish the rest of the pools, and hopefully document the final building process as an available E-Book that you can use yourself. 

posted from Bloggeroid

Monday, October 19, 2015

What it takes to impress a girl these days...

Guys, if you think we have it tough in this modern day of dating rules and such...  Just be glad your not in the animal world! Here is a little taste of the "dating ritual" in the pig world... doesn't look easy!

This little boar decided to try his had at winning the affections of a young gilt. What ensued was a half hour or so of this "dance". In the end.. he gave up and walked away... unsuccessful.

The Sheperd Boy

Stories of "the little shepherd boy" have always been my favorite... but honestly, they seem so long ago, so far away, in a time long gone.  yet they are stories of inspiration, comfort, and wisdom.

But perhaps those days are not so far away as we think...  on this small family farm in Oregon, the shepherd boy lives on, even today. Just like days of old, the sheep know his voice, know his safety and comfort, and run to be under his shepherding.

Here is Hunter... leading our sheep back home from almost a year of off-site grazing.  It took a few minutes, but they remember him... and the feed bucket he carried. They ran to meet and follow him, to wherever he would lead them.  It was awe inspiring to watch these animals follow their shepherd so willingly, so enthusiastically.

If we, as humans, could only follow our shepherd as well, with excitement and total trust.

Now available at Whistling Duck Farm Store!

We are very pleased to announce that Little Sprouts meat products are now available at Whistling Duck Farm Store in Williams, beginning this week!

Whistling duck is a leader in locally grown foods, both what they produce on farm and what they bring in to the community from other sources. We are proud to be part of their quality hand picked products!

If your in the Williams area, please stop by and thank them for carrying our meats (sausages, ground, chops, etc) and pick up a few to try!

Where: 12800 Williams Highway (Hwy. 238), about 25 miles from Medford and 13 miles from Grants Pass. If coming from the Medford direction, we’re 6 miles past the town of Applegate, on the left side of the road. If coming from the Grants Pass direction, we’re 1/2 mile past the turnoff to Water Gap Rd., on the right side of the road. Either way, be sure to stay on Hwy. 238 and you can’t miss us!
When: Monday-Friday 10 am to 7 pm, Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 5 pm.
Phone 541-761-6772

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Everyone is back home

What a week we have had! Last monday we discovered that we had to unexpectedly but immediately move all our animals back to the home farm on Dodge road. That was a chore! Emergency fencing, logistics, feed, water, all had to be dealt with without notice. But.... It all worked our after several very long days. All of the sheep and hogs, plus llama and horse. Are back safe and sound.

Amazing how quickly things change in life! But by God's grace, we made it through.

posted from Bloggeroid

Newest fodder / sprout setup

We have taken the fodder / sprout system to a new level... Attempting to keep these hogs in fresh live feed in between seasons of garden produce. We needed a way to produce several trash barrel size feedings per day. Well here it is!

Plastic children's swimming pools, sitting on pallets. We drilled about a dozen holes in each pool for drainage. Then last a water hose in the pool, in a timer. The timer runs water once a day, long enough to almost fill the pool (about 30 minutes) The holes let the water slowly drain out. There two pools together on a set of 5 pallets. Lastly, each set of two is covered with 6 mil greenhouse plastic and tucked under.

The end result is a system that sprouts and grows fodder quickly in large quantities. Each pool will hold about one barrel of grain, or about 40 gallons worth. The tinner fills with water daily to keep the grain wet and growing and clean while the hikes allow the water to drain and seeds to sprout. The pallets keep the holes open for drainage. The plastic sheet keeps stray animals out and holds heat to sprout sooner.

When ready to feed (2 days for sprouts, 4 for fodder) , it's easy to shovel into barrels and feed to hogs, chickens, or whoever. Then just refill with dry grain and go again.

The results are fabulous, Nutrition unmatched, and easy to manage.

posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sausage Sample Packs available now

When you just cant decide which sausage to go with, or you want to try something new, or just want to save some cash... the new Sausage Sampler Pack is the way to go!

We now offer two packs.. one mild and one spicy. Here is what is inside:

Mild Sausage sampler pack

  • 1 lb Mild Breakfast Link
  • 1 lb English Bangers - Traditional (with crackers)
  • 1 lb English Bangers - Gluten Free

Spicy Sausage sampler pack:

  • 1 lb Spicy Breakfast Links
  • 1 lb Hot Italian dinner sausage
  • 1 lb Garlic and pepper dinner sausage

With either one the price represents about 10% off the individual prices, so you save money, get a variety, and maybe try something new!

You can order these  starting today.. in the online store, click here

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Corn harvest time

It's finally time to pull the corn stalks, and boy are those pigs happy!

When we grow corn, it's not just for one or two ears from each stalk. That had always seemed a waste to me... 6 to 8 footy tall, thick stalks for just a couple little ears of corn. Well here at little sprouts we don't do it that way. We see more value in that huge stalk than in those tiny ears. So we grow corn FOR the stalk, and if the ears develop... that's icing on the cake. But either way, a row of corn stalks is magnificent pig food.

The trick is to let the stalks grow and mature until they just start to dry out... then pull the entire stalk and feed. Its like an 8 food fudge sickle! Of course... they quickly learn about those yummy ears and go for them first. They will desperately rummage through each and every stalk looking for ears, consume them asap, and then settle in for a nice meal... its like eating dessert before dinner.

Here are some shots of the hogs enjoying the corn harvest.

posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Final patch if seeds in the ground

We finally finished the new winter garden patch! Woohoo! Todays chosen crop is rutabagas.

Each of these patches is 8 or 9 rows, 200 feet long. That's about a third of a mile all together, or about 9000 to 10000 plants. Not bad!

In the ground we have about 10,000 plants of each of:


The system we developed this summer works pretty well. This allows us to go from. Plain soil to seeded with drip lines and ready to sprout in about 2 hours per patch. That's with 2 adults working (and some number of children)

Next we can move to the back pasture garden. The patches that held cabbage, melon, beets, and cucumbers are cleaned out, tilled, and almost ready to become a winter garden.

posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Invitation to come weed the gardens

We are extending an opportunity to anyone that wants to spend a day or just a few hours in the fresh air and sunshine connecting with your earth and your food.  Yes.. its WEEDING time!

We have plenty of sprouts up, and a good amount of tiny weeds.  this is an "on your knees, use your hands" type of job to carefully remove the weed sprouts from among the vegetable sprouts.

If you would like to take part, just contact us through email or phone and let us know when you wish to come. We are open to all hours day or night, weekday or weekend.

here are some examples of the before and after

Purple Cauliflower after weeding

Purple Cauliflower before weeding

Can you see the heirloom turnips?

There they are after weeding!

Growing Carrots - The Little Sprouts way

Growing Carrots is tough.. perhaps one of the hardest vegetables  for us to grow.  The seeds are tiny, light, flat, and need to be planted right at the surface of the ground, not buried, but kept moist constantly until sprouted and established.

Hmmm... that's a tall order! especially in this southern oregon intense dry heat.

So, we have come up with a method I'd like to share.. works for me. Seems odd, sure... but it works!

There are a few steps to this plan:

1. Finely tilled soil - if the soil is too rocky, the seeds cant stay near the top surface. The seed bed must be pretty flat, fine, even soil.

2. Lightly covered seeds - I have tried the "sprinkle on the top" and it doesnt work as well as "lightly covered". On our seeder, we do not dig a trench for planting, instead we let it drop the seeds on the ground untouched, then the chain dragging over the seeds do enough to cover it.  Think of it as lightly mixing the top surface of the seedbed, not truly "planting".

3. Cover the seeds with toilet paper -  actually 2 ply works best! Toilet paper is unique because it is so thin and light that it will "stick" to moisture to stay in place, it will allow air and light through, but hold moisture along the surface... effectively evening out the water / moisture applied.  2 ply is the perfect thickness to accomplish this but then "dissolve" into the dirt as the seedling emerge in a week or two.

4. Water frequently but lightly - We use drip irrigation for watering, so I set the timer to a short time, frequently in the beginning, and as the sprouts emerge slowly change to a deep watering less often.

   To arrive at these times I do a test.. see how long it takes for the water to fill the empty drip tape lines with no end cap on.  For 80 yard lines at 10 PSI fed by 40PSI, that equals about 10 minutes. This time needs to be at least tripled to arrive at the length of water cycle.  tripling allows for the time needed to fill the line between watering to become a negligible part of the overall water time, thus watering evenly from end to end.

Next set the frequency at the time required for the ground to almost dry out during the daytime sun.  Right now, this is about 4 hours.

So, the timer starts at watering 30 minutes every 4 hours, from sunup to sundown. (not overnight).

After a couple weeks, the sprouts are strong enough to have slowly migrated to watering for an hour every day. If the weather turns colder, its every 2 days.

When the plants are reasonably big and strong, this time shifts to 3 hours, every 2 to 3 days. This gives a good deep watering, with enough time for the surface to dry out in between.

The trick here, is the toilet paper.  We even built a tool out of PVC pipe  that holds a roll of paper at the bottom, has a raised handle, and an arm with a guide at the top. This way... we can lay the seeds in, lay the drip tape on top. Then we use this tool with a roll of toilet paper on the bottom roller, place the drip tape between the guides at the top, and simply walk. The arm with the guide hold the drip tape in position over the seeds are you walk, the paper rolls out along the ground directly underneath, and as the drip tape falls on the rolled out paper, it is "cemented" in place by the little drop s of water left in the drip tape from initial firing.  This way, as fast as you can walk you can lay out a straight single line of TP across the seeds, lay the drip tape in the center of the top, and ready to go!

Who knew... Toilet Paper is the answer to growing carrots! At lease... our answer.

The rows to the left were laid by hand, before the tool

The last row on the right was with the tool perfected.