Saturday, May 28, 2016

Personal Challenges - a new chapter

This has been an eventful week for us personally. Something worthwhile to share.

For the first time in my life, at 54 years old, I find myself without a regular income from outside sources.  If you recall, we have been building hte farm while I am still employed part time with an out of state company. That situation has come to and end now, somewhat but not totally unexpectedly, and I am technically unemployed except for the farm.

It is a challenge, as the farm has not grown yet to a size that replaces the outside income... which leaves us personally in a bit of a bind.  All of the retirement funds and investments have been routed into the farm to get it going and keep it going through the last several years, so cash flow is tight!

I dont consider this an "emergency" because, at the end of the day, God is in control.  There comes a time when you have to demonstrate the "I trust in God" claims, and this seems to be our day.  I look at this as more of a "chapter change" than anything.. time to turn the page.

The farm is not expected to change, if anything we will be pouring more energy into it in the immediate future, to increase the income as much as possible.

I recall a part in one of Joel Salatin's books talking about how they started... when he and his wife had to make the choice to end their day jobs and go full time on the farm. It is a scary, dangerous, but necessary choice. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to build a farm to be a full time income, without full time labor put into it.  I can fully relate to this.  The trick though, is doing this at the right time. Too soon and the cash flow wont be there, spelling disaster.  Too late and you miss the window of opportunity.  Just right, and it is a painful but short lived period.

Is this our time to make the switch? I dont know yet. The next few weeks will tell.  At this point we are exploring options and waiting to see which doors God opens to us.

We ask for your prayers for wisdom as we forge through these unfamiliar waters... that our steps are guided by holy providence and we end up in a place meant to be.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Turkey flock growing

the turkey hatching is going ok. There is about 55 turkey hatched now, with only a couple more coming. This batch had a lower hatch rate, probably because the weather back when they were laid left the eggs dirtier than normal. But its not too bad. Almost 50% live birds. The next batch is in the incubator and I suspect we will see more like an 80% hatch rate.

There is one white turkey again! Hope its a female!

Time to get another indoor brooding bucket. These little guys are crowded with so many arriving at once. They will stay inside for a good week before moving to the outdoor brooder this time of year.

posted from Bloggeroid

Friday, May 20, 2016

Bacon is back in stock! Order yours now!

YES! finally, we have a good supply of our famous Little Sprouts Bacon... heavily smoked uncured unflavored bacon! Nothing added, not even salt! This is all thin sliced, in 10 ounce packages.

Why nothing added?  so that you can do whatever you want with it! Add flavor by just defrosting the bacon, add flavoring either in the bag or in the pan, and cook! It can be as easy as laying out the strips in a pan or tray, sprinkling with salt, black pepper,  and any flavors you wish (mustard, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, red pepper, etc etc.

Bacon usually doesnt last long in stock, so we recommend getting as much as you can when its available.

(Bacon is requires a paid seasonal farm membership to purchase.  We can work with you on this)

To order your bacon for home delivery, just look for it in the PORK section of the online store! here:

First 14 Turkeys arrive!

Here are the first 14 turkeys hatched out and happy for this year.

Aren't They just so cute!!!!

As of this morning, there are a total of 51 hatched and healthy.

After about a week inside, they will be moved to our outside brooder for the next stage...

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Drip Irrigation / Sprouting System - The water delivery system

We have "perfected" our version of a drip irrigation system this year. As you may have seen through the blog posts, we have spent 3 years developing this system, and finally have a complete system we are happy with! We are considering manufacturing these for retail sale for home gardeners and small farms.

What is so special about this system?

  • It is easy to setup  for use, and easy to break down to store
  • It provides a complete system, start to finish.
  • It supports sprouting as well as growing
  • It is easily adaptable to your garden area
  • It is easily changeable year to year
  • It provides up to 6 zones of independent water control
  • It supports full flow to each zone for maximum coverage ability
  • It allows for wide or narrow spacing of lines (rows)  and intermix sizes if desired
  • It is inexpensive!

Here are the components, each explained

Feeder Piece
This is the feed for a zone, or section.  at the far right is a hose connection, for a regular water hose to connect from the automated valve to the zone.  Next is a ball valve, which allows full flow when open but provides a quick easy way to turn off the zone when necessary.  Next comes a pressure reducer. It is important to keep drip lines at a constant pressure, but to run zones far away from the control valve, you want hte valve to work on full pressure. So we put the pressure reducer at the zone inlet, after the valve. This provides much better flow than having a pressure reducer at the source.  It ends at a right angle, which allows for proepr row spacing between zones, and  a nipple to connect to the header pipe. 

Header Pipe
This is the basic feeder pipe. You connect as many as these as necessary by simply screwing them together, to create the length of header pipe required.  You disconnect at the end of hte season for easy compact storage. Each header pipe is the length of a narrow row, providing 2 feet of space between them. The T at the right end has a connector to securely tie into the drip tape. One end of the header pipe is a female 3/4 inch and the other is a male 3/4 inch.  The threads are covered with thick teflon tape to make them not stick when the threads are together for the season. 
 A Completed Zone
Here is the compelte zone of 8 lines. on the far right is the feeder section, then 8 header pipes screwed together, and a simple 3/4 inch end cap to finish it.  The 3/4 inch pipe provides plenty of flow to drive long lines (we use lines about 100 yards long) and yet the whole assembly can be quickly dismantled for compact storage. IT can be changed into any length required by adding or removing header pipes.  Sicne this operates at low pressure (10psi) it doesnt leak even with the pipes barely screwed together (the teflon tapes helps here too)
 The Extension Pipe
This is an extension pipe. It is simply a 3/4 inch pipe with a male connector on one end and female on the other. You use this when you want extra row spacing for those viney things like watermelon or pumpkins.  You can easily have some rows close spacing, and others wide spacing, within the same section. This is a mix and match system to create whatever you need.  Pretaping the male end with teflon makes assembly and dis-assembly easy.

The end result is a quick easy system to arrange to fit your space,  high flow, good pressure across long hoses from the control valves, easy secure connections to the drip tapes, preset spacing that is adjustable easily, and easy disassembly at the end of the season for storage.

We normally use 8 to 12 lines per zone, the number depending on the length of the lines and available water flow. The control valve (covered in a later blog post) provides precise control of up to 6 zones from a central spot, plus fertilizer application, water filter, and water hammer protection. It all runs on battery and is fed by a single 3/4 water hose from your water source.  Each zone can be programmed for independent watering, and up to 2 zones can run at one time. more details on this coming later when we get pictures of this years setup.

Meet Walter "the Weeder" - Chemical Free Weed control - automated!

Walter has arrived!  Walter the little sprouts weeder robot!

If you remember last year, we toyed with the idea of heat based biological safe weed control . And those tests were quite successful! You can browse through the blog post and see our test plot of using heat to treat the ground before planting.. and the huge difference it made in subsequent weeding.  The use of heat killed sprouted weeds, but also weed seeds, so that the newly planted veggies have little competition during their critical first few weeks.  It is a great no chemical way of weed control!

But ... the down side, our first attempt was VERY labor intensive. So much so  that we actually gave up half way through. We had mounted a propane infrared heater behind a metal 4 wheel wagon and manually pulled it along. Way too heavy, way to slow. Not practical even for the weeding savings.

So.. this year.. we made WALTER! we gave him a name because watching this little guy work is like watching a robot. He slowly plods along burning the weed seeds in the ground as you sit back and watch . Its a BEAUTIFUL thing!

So here is how he works.. We have a few pictures and a couple videos to explain the design. The basic setup is :

  • Pulling engine
    • a 120 volt winch mounted to a pallet
    • a long metal cable (340 feet!) of a very thin diameter
    • some safety switches
  • Burning platform
    • a 120,000 btu propane heater mounted on metal skids
    • a wooden cart on skids to hold the propane tank
    • some safety switches
  • Safety features
    • the pulling engine has a pipe that works to kill the winch when the burning platform gets close enough
    • The burning platform has a pipe that hits the pallet when it gets close and kills the propane burner
That's Walter! Just line him up, turn him on, and for the next 35 to 40 minutes he patiently burns the ground on a 340 foot row.  The ground is hot, very hot, so hot that a foot behind Walter, you can not hold your hand against the ground. I have not measured, but suspect it is about 120 degrees , and probably about 150 to 200 under the burner.  Hot enough to penetrate a quarter to half inch and kill many weed seeds, but not hot enough to kill the subsoil organisms underneath. 

Some pictures of "Walter the Weeder"

The burning platform, first run. As you can see below, we actually had to change the pull method from the sides to the middle back, becasue this one caught too much dirt by digging in too low in the front. The changed version below worked much better

Propane tank on the holding platform with skids. There is room for two tanks, but used only one today.  The cable attaches on the right of the picture to pull it. The rod at the bottom is the burner safety setup. AS the platform approaches the pallet of the pulling engine, the pipe hits the pallet, slides through the pvc housing, and hits the switch, which turns off the propane burner.

Closeup of the burner safety switch. The pipe gets pushed from the left, through the pvc housing, and the end (wrapped in duct tape) hits the switch (covered with a pad of duct tape). The contact is enough to flip the switch, but then the pipe keeps pushing back without breakinging anything. This allows the burner to turn off long before the winch quits pulling, making synchronizing the two easier. 

View of the burning platform from the front.  The plywood plate on the bottom right of the pic is where the winch safety switch hits the platform to kill the winch. 

Walter in operation! This is the full 330 foot row.  Can you see the pallet??

The updated setup. Instead of a wire down both sides, we put a eye hook in the center of the wooden platform, and ran a wire from the two burner skids through the eyehook That keeps everything going straight and adds just enough up pull to keep the burner from digging into the dirt. 

Closeup of the updated pull system. 

This is a closeup of the winch safety switch on the engine platform. The pipe is inside the pvc housing going to the right, and the end of the pipe is a big ball of foam, wrapped in duct tape. As the rod gets pushed inside the housing from the approaching platform, it slides in  and hits the switch mounted in the brown housing. That switch kills the winch. It takes a few seconds to come to a stop, so the end of the pipe is about 3 inches of foam, plus the actual switch is mounted with a half inch of foam between it and the housing. That provides enough play to keep everything stable, but let the winch come to a halt without breaking anything. 

Engine pallet platform from the burner side That cable going off the bottom is 340 feet of 1/16 inch metal cable. Safety strength is about 100 lbs, enough to pull the burning platform but small enough to fit all that cable on the winch pulley.  The rocks are added weight to keep the pallet from moving towards the burning platform. It takes about 50 lbs to keep the pallet stable. 

Another view of hte pulling engine. The original winch controller is still attached and works, to manually pull the cable in when necessary.  the plywood plate on the upper right is the plate that the burner safety switch hits to kill the burner when it approaches the pallet. 

And now the fun part! a video of Walter working away!

This first video is the burning platform moving. It takes about 40 minutes to complete the 340 foot row. The speed changes of course as the winch winds up the cable, which is a problem to be solved next year.  This is the speed at the far end, when it is just starting. 

The next video is the winch engine pulling. The cable actually wrapped up quite nicely! The motor didn't get too hot running that long, since there is only about 50 lbs being pulled. 

The last video I tried to capture the safety switches running at the end of the row to safely shut Walter down. First the burner safety switch activates to turn off the burner, then the winch switch activates to shut it down to a rest.  I started the video a little late, so its hard to see the first switch activating, but its there in the first 2 seconds. 

UPDATE! Here is a better video of the end of a row showing the safety switched working

Overall we are VERY pleased with Walter... He performed beautifully with only the one small change. I would love to get some temp readings if we have time.. but the priority now is getting these seeds in the ground. 

We may be making Walter available for rent, to anyone local that wants to use heat weed control in your own garden. If you are interested, contact us and lets talk. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Back home

We finally arrived Back home on the farm today, after a somewhat unexpected 2 week trip. I say somewhat unexpected because we had indeed planned a short trip to San Diego where my oldest son got married. But that short trip turned into a major 2 week adventure for a whole list of reasons!

Good to be home now!

Please excuse our silence here, and in email or voicemail. It will take a bit to get caught up and to get things back in stock.

Good to be home!

posted from Bloggeroid