January 17, 2010 – Sausage or Sprinkles?

The following Christmas card offered a great point of discussion in our family.

I looked at it, thought of who it was from, and said, “What great humor to put little smokie sausages in a cookie cutter for a Christmas card!”  However, more conventional eyes saw red sprinkles, not sausages in the cookie cutter, which makes more sense, but isn’t nearly as much fun as a giant cookie cutter full of sausages.

one year ago…”This is the Nice Day?”

January 16, 2010 – Need to Cut Metal With Circular Saw?

Here’s another handyman hint.  Don’t want to buy an expensive metal cutting diamond-tipped blade for your circular saw!  Just run an old, dull wood blade installed backwards on the saw.

This blade has cut through many pieces of metal roofing/siding, and it is finally time to retire it.  But no need to throw the dull wood blade away – it will last through many metal cutting episodes.  Be warned that it is very loud and wear ear protection!  My Dad would be happy to see this saw – still cutting 22 years since giving it to Linda for her wedding shower!

one year ago…”Photo Friday – Meditation”

January 15, 2010 – Winter Wonderland

The overnight delivered the perfect conditions for sharp, needle-like frost, known as hoarfrost.  The delicacy of this phenomena is in its fragility and inability or survive wind or sunshine – two common elements of winter.

farmhouse in frost

The house looked like a Christmas card.

hoarfrost on barbed wire

It added more barbs to a piece of barbed wire…

frosty pump handle, hoarfrost on pump handle

and added needles to this pump handle.

one year ago…”New Record Low at High Hopes Gardens”

January 13, 2010 – Chickens in Nest Box

This year, I thought I’d try to occasionally post some everyday farm scenes that have become routine to us, but probably not for everyone.  Today it is to the chicken coop.

chicken on nest box

Here’s a laying hen (as opposed to a broiler, which is raised for meat).  Generally in the first few hours of the morning, the hens will hop into a nest box where they feel a bit protected, and lay an egg.  They prefer to lay an egg in a nest box where there is already an egg.  They are trying to make a clutch of 10 or so eggs to sit on and raise into more chickens.  Unfortunately for the chickens, we come each day and take the beginnings of the clutch and they have to start all over the next day.

egg clutch

This is what might have been under the hen had I disturbed her – this is from a different box.  We often get asked how you can get eggs without a rooster – hens will lay eggs whether or not there is a rooster around – only difference being if there is not a rooster, all the eggs will be infertile and will never hatch.

one year ago…”Lab Results Are In

January 12, 2010 – Cheap Chicken Heater

It seems like all the chicken waterers we buy do not last long enough for what they cost (at least in my eyes). The plastic waterers with a built in heater are either nearly impossible to fill, or if they do get unplugged or there is a power outage in cold weather, they are cracked and useless. There are also heated metal bases, which don’t seem to last more than a couple years and cost 40-50 bucks.

So, it’s time to enter the world somewhere between  Red Green and Eli Whitney.  I took the two non-working old metal base heaters,  used the cord from one, attached an outdoor electric box, socket, and heavy duty light bulb inside the top base, drilled holes in the bottom base to drain water if any dripped in, and connected them together with a combination of sheet metal screws and Gorilla tape.

Here’s the completed base hard at work in the coop.  I’m thinking it might not be a bad idea to wrap some of the metal-foil bubble insulation around the unit and the waterer – at about -10 this one still freezes up.

one year ago…”PFI Conference Wrap-Up Part 2/Nellie’s Gone “

January 9, 2010 – Take Homes from This Year’s PFI Conference

It seems every year after attending the PFI conference, something gives us pause to re/consider changing part of the farm or what/how we farm, meet some new innovative people, and get a chance to swap stories. This year was no exception.

There was a great variety of topics – I attended sessions on nut trees, farm energy, imagining the farm and farming 25 years from now, a workshop centered around writing about your farm from a noted writer, Mary Swander, and of course met some new people, some not so far from our place.

One thinking point that came across is partially summed up with the following quote, “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”- Charles R. Swindoll.

Fred Kirschenmann was one of the speakers and what follows is a distillation of his presentation, after which he asked how all the farmers in the room could change their operations in light of future oil costs at $300 barrel (China now has more cars than the US) and more frequent severe weather events, (see 500 year Iowa floods in 1993, 2008). The answers, of course, lead to the thought of crisis disguised as opportunity.

one year ago…”Ice Landscape”

January 8, 2010 – Practical Farmers of Iowa Annual Conference

This weekend is the Practical Farmers of Iowa Annual Conference, held again this year in Marshalltown at the Community College.

Here’s the sign point the way to parking.  It was a very cold evening/day, as it has been the last week or so, struggling to get above zero.

The snowbanks and drifts make it look like, well, somewhere farther north and colder than Iowa.  Tomorrow, som ruminations/reflections from the conference.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday# 149″

January 6, 2010 – 2009 Skystream Results

Now that the year is over, it’s time to look at the Skystream wind turbine production results.

Month kWh Produced
by Turbine
kWh Used
by house/farm
Jan 334 1275
Feb 368 1109
March 482 899
April 570 961
May 433 782
June 210 693
July 177 867
Aug 146 923
Sept 130 801
Oct 411 889
Nov 343 686
Dec 462 1183
2009 Totals 4068 11549

For the year, the Skystream produced 4068 kwH, an average of 339 kWh per month. The farm and household used 11,549 kWh, an average of 962 kWh per month. The Skystream produced 35.2% of our energy. Our historical average electrical use the ten previous years before the turbine and newer appliances was 1255 kWh/month – resulting in an average reduction of 333 kWh per month due to new appliances and awareness.

The interesting point is that our monthly consumption has dropped almost the exact same amount (333 kWh less per month) as the average 2009 turbine production (339 kWh/month). The point being that our efforts to upgrade to energy efficient appliances has resulted in nearly exactly the same amount of savings as turbine generation. So the take-home story is that even if you are not able to add an alternative energy system to your home, you can still reach the same energy savings by using energy-conserving appliances!

We hope our electric usage drops further next year, as we hope to put in a more efficient water heater. We also will produce more with the addition of another turbine still coming at a date TBD.

one year ago…Upcoming Practical Farmers of Iowa Meeting”

January 4, 2010 – Emma’s 2nd Wood Project

You may remember the beautiful cutting board Emma made as her first big wood shop project.  Her next project was to replace the fiberboard white shelf above the sink that had seen its better days.  She was very reluctant, if unwilling to be photographed with the shelf.

But ol’ Dad pulled one of the oldest tricks out of the book and captured her in the mirror! The shelf, of course, turned out well with nice details like routed edges and solid wood construction.

one year ago…”Old Machine Shed Demolition Begins”