Dog food, Insulation & Farm Advocacy

Okay, let’s start with some mystery photos…

#1 – Mud Wasp Nest?

#2 – Trip to the Moon?

Answers to be revealed below.

Today Holly took the van in to get new studded snow tires and have the ignition fixed – minor near disaster on the way home last night but we were able to kick start it and then again this morning – it is handy living on a mountain. Turns out a piece of metal had broken off the die-cast metal shaft of the ignition assembly. The replacement was $116! Ouch. On a cost per ounce basis I thought perhaps it was made of gold but no such luck.

While Holly went in town Will, Ben and I did anatomy class – that is we butchered a pig. This one was for the dogs – as fellow farmers and herders they share in the harvest. This will keep them eating in style for a while. We cut the meat into portions and then let it freeze before boxing it up so that we don’t end up with boxes of solid lumps of meat. This is the same basic technique as freezing berries.

Some people worry about the idea of a dog eating the meat from animals that it guards. I have not found that to be a problem at all. We feed our dogs pig, sheep, chicken, duck, etc. They understand the difference between the livestock to be protected and dinner to be savored. We feed our livestock guardian dogs from the herd which seems appropriate given that they helped. This gives them better quality food and keeps the cost down for maintaining a pack. They appreciate it. Imagine: which would you rather have – a juicy ham steak or a bowl of dry dog food? They’ve been quite clear about their preference.

I’ve also heard people say that if a dog tastes blood it is ruined and will turn into a mad killer of livestock. That is not true. Even Killer Kita is gentle as can be with her livestock. It is not unusual for a puppy to kill chickens, etc in their young and powerful exuberance. In fact, chickens are the hardest animals to train dogs to since the birds are so fragile and distractingly flappy. Some dogs get it from birth and others have to learn and learn they can. You are attempting to sublimate their predator skills to peaceful farming – please don’t shoot the dog!

On the tiny cottage we removed insulation today, after having put up insulation yesterday. Actually, what we were removing was the form work insulation from the inside of the house since the cottage is now closed in and no longer needs the walls protected inside. In fact, the inner insulation actually represents a problem as it doesn’t allow the heat to get to the walls it covers. The inside is much more pleasing to the eye now that it is no longer so pink!

As we added insulation to the north wall of the cottage yesterday Holly joked that we are moving from one pink house to another. Our old house has pink siding along the south and west walls. It is quite the color. While we are putting pink on the tiny cottage, it is just insulation and will disappear behind the final siding of stonework. I look forward to starting on that project but am promising myself not to begin, as tempting as it is, until we’ve completed the whole house. The reason being that I want the outside to have a unified look. If I do the stonework in bits and pieces here and there it will be a total patchwork – ugh.

The dark marks on the pink foam above are toggles that hold the foam to the wall. We reused the same wires that are embedded in the concrete from holding on the formwork. Double functionality.

Back to the mystery photos!

The first one is concrete that pressed through the expanded metal lath on the roof our our tiny cottage. The lath catches the thin layer of concrete letting it form into a strong shell. The rough under side will provide a excellent gripping for the inner coating of light colored concrete and then plaster for the ceiling.

The second photo is spattered concrete that dripped through the lath and down to the scaffolding. For the half vault we’ve done so far, about 160 square feet, we lost about a gallon of concrete through the lath – that’s not bad. It looks like a lot but really isn’t as much as it appears to be. Will suggested that the spatter marks looked like moon craters. He is well travelled!

This shows the form work for the roof. The wooden structure of the scaffolding holds the trusses which hold the ribs which support the 661010 Welded Wire Mesh (WWM) that forms the curve and in turn supports the fiber reinforced concrete.

To put the WWM formwork in place we slid it down the edge of the bond beam (channel block) two squares (6″ each) and then locked it in place with a 2×4 rib after attaching it to the higher ribs. This produced tension on the WWM and created the curve I wanted for the form. Below the WWM and channel block in the photo is one of the windows (the bright area).

A close up of the WWM supporting the lath. In some of the photos you can see the PVA fiber reinforcing in the cement. In this section I only used one layer of 661010 WWM – the heavy rusty wires. In other areas I used more layers. In retrospect I would use either three layers of 661010 WWM or two layers of the heavier 6666 WWM to get the best curves. With the single layer I ended up having to add another rib on the fly – it worked but was not the right way. It is also important to run the ribs all the way to the ends of the vault.

The WWM you can see is form work. It gets removed once the roof is completed. There is additional WWM and rebar embedded in the concrete above the lath. The reason for needing more support than anticipated, and thus adding the extra rib on the trusses, was that I was trying to encapsulate both the lath and the embedded layer of WWM. This used a lot more concrete than I anticipated. When we built the piglet hut using this technique I only used the lath and fiber concrete – no WWM in the vault aside from the WWM formwork which I removed after a couple of days of curing. I subsequently drove our tractor over the piglet hut with no ill effect. It is much easier to apply the first thin layer of concrete with no WWM on top of the lath. Even worse was the 1/2″ spacers betwe
en the encapsulated WWM and lath. This made it so that the initial coating of concrete was significantly thicker and heavier before I began getting cured strength.

In retrospect I would go back to just the lath on the WWM forms without embedding the top layer of WWM. I would skip the spacers and the embedded WWM in the initial shell. I’m not sure if I would put the WWM in the subsequent layer of the shell or not. The PVA fibers and shell are amazingly strong. As I mentioned, we drove our tractor over the piglet hut, that is about 9,000 lbs plus the full bucket loads of gravel. In addition to that weight there is the dirt that is burying the piglet hut vault – it is a very strong roof! I’ll be doing more small test structures to explore this more next year.

On a totally different topic… Last night we attended the Rural Vermont meeting on meat. Anne McClure gave a presentation about on-farm slaughter. The focus was for poultry, not our forte, but it was an interesting meeting and I got to meet some other people who I only seen as names before. In a nut shell, if you produce fewer than 1,000 meat birds a year you can do your own processing for direct to consumer sales but not for restaurants or stores. For that you need state (or USDA) inspection. What is interesting is that poultry is treated very differently than other meats with its own set of exceptions and regulations. How odd.

One of the big issues was that the Vermont Agency of Agriculture is proposing a mobile slaughter unit for poultry. The cost is about $80,000(?). People seemed to generally dubious about the value of something like that and generally supporting changing the regulations to better allow on-farm slaughter rather than spending so much money on the mobile unit.

There is a survey the Agency of Agriculture sent out on the mobile unit but apparently they didn’t get much response so they extended the deadline. My guess is that the problem is two fold: 1) it’s a rather busy time for people, 2) people are not very trusting about the Department of Agriculture and don’t want to come to its attention. The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, the USDA and other state agriculture departments really need to work at really representing the majority of people and regain the trust they’ve lost.

Here’s some link dropping of people I met at the meeting…

Sharon Z. was there who is very active in fighting against NAIS.

Larry Faillice of Three Shepherds Farm who had their sheep stolen by the USDA and who’s wife Linda wrote the book about the incident – “Mad Sheep: The True Story Behind the USDA’s War on a Family Farm” (at Amazon) was there.

Doug Flack of Flack Family Farm was there and I got a chance to ask him some questions.

George Schenk of American Flatbread was there. He made the suggestion that

Paul and Sally who are vegetable farmers that I know from fighting NAIS were there but I have no link for them.

Nancy Turner of Vermont Localvore was there although we did not speak, I just recognized her from her web photo (I think).

There were other people there who I didn’t know – no slight intended! I just don’t get out much.

I would encourage people in Vermont to consider joining Rural Vermont whether you farm, homestead or consume (or all three!). They need members to do their mission and you need representation in the process of government that is getting all to invasive and burdensome for people trying to raise their own food or farm.

If you are in another state, or country, then find out what your local advocacy group is and join so you have input. If you know your local group, leave a link here – I’ll also transfer it over to where I’m doing an article on this. Remember, the biggest thing you can do to help is Buy Locally while still thinking globally.

If you’re in Vermont or New Hampshire also check out Vital Communities. Two national sites for local food to check out are Local Harvest and Eat Wild.

My wife’s current favorite saying:
“I didn’t lose my grip on reality, I let go. -WJ

Outdoors: 26°F/7°F Overcast
Farm house: 56°F/48°F
Tiny Cottage: 34°F/46°F

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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2 Responses to Dog food, Insulation & Farm Advocacy

  1. Patti says:

    Looks like your roof will give the mice something to hang on too :):)

  2. PV says:

    I thot maybe you had gotten a teliscope and had a pic from the moon or some thin.

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