Taking a Bath


Kavi Not Very Happy

Kavi looks how I feel. Not very happy. I feel like I just got scrubbed over or something. More troubles with my web hosting service as many of you noticed over the last few days. Email and the web sites have been up and down. More down than up in fact. Apparently a hard drive crashed in the AM at VONetwork.com and the tech team had to restore everything from backups. This took a day. Unfortunately it resulted in moving to a new IP address – geek speak for ZIP+4. That screwed up the nameservers which resulted in more downs and less ups.

So, those of you who have to deal with this sort of thing, where do you get your web hosting? I maintain about 30 domains including web sites for various family members and friends as well as my blog and NoNAIS.org. I use WHM/CPanel, PHP5, MySQL, WordPress and similar tools. I would be interested in hearing from others who have good experience with a web host. This is your chance to toot the horn of a good host. Leave links and reviews in comments.

Outdoors: 44°F/14°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 69°F/55°F

Daily Spark: Luck is what I plan, chance is what happens.

Tractor Pillow


Tractor Pillow

Years ago someone dear made me this pillow. The bit of embroidery says:

Tractor Owner’s Motto
Never let on that your tractor’s great fun.
This secret we keep from our love ones and friends.
So wipe off that grin,
Heave a big sigh,
And lament how that tractor work just never ends!

Truth be told I had never wanted a tractor or envisioned owning a one. I had thought of getting a BCS tiller perhaps with the front cutter blade, that seemed like enough. Actually the pigs do the tilling so even that is overkill.

Then in 1998 our gravity fed water line got cut by the logging equipment when we were doing field clearing above the house. Turns out the 1/2″ diameter pipe was only about 3″ below the soil surface. Since we get deep snows it never froze – no frost depth.

We priced out hiring someone to dig a trench and put in a new water line. We were shocked. For the quoted costs we could buy a tractor with a backhoe and do it ourselves! We didn’t have enough money at the time so we went through a few years of just laying the water line on the surface. That did freeze on occasion resulting in us hauling water from the spring down the road. That got old fast.

Once we had enough money we bought our tractor in early 2001. We got the biggest, most powerful beast we could afford. We knew we would find use for that extra horsepower. I was incline to get something smaller. My experienced farming uncle and cousin said get at least 50 horse power. We compromised at a 4WD 48 hp John Deere with backhoe and bucket loader.

We also got a cone seeder, rake and box scraper. The seeder has not been all that useful as our hills are too steep. Perhaps that will be useful on the future valley and high plateau fields. The rake was a waste of money for us. The box scraper is very useful for grading the roads, getting the crown right and ditching. I wish it were bigger though – ours is only 5′ wide.

The bucket loader and backhoe have been extremely useful for trenching (the original purpose), putting in fence posts, grading, moving material, terracing, toting 4×4 hay bales and all sorts of things. In addition to the fixed bucket we have a jaws bucket that can grab things – it is so powerful it can cut small trees. Very useful for picking up rocks, grabbing a scoop of fibrous material like hay bedding, etc. Adding chain hooks to the buckets, front and back, gave us a crane (backhoe) and bale mover (front bucket).

We later got forks, not cheap ones that go on the bucket and could bend it but real forks that attach to the lift arms. These are much stronger and were well worth their cost. They have allowed us to unload tractor trailer trucks of materials that have paid for their cost hundreds of times over.

So far I have resisted getting a bush hog. We have pigs and sheep who are more than willing to do those tasks, don’t roll down the steep hills, are quieter, use no petroleum and enjoy the mowing work. I don’t. Honest.

We have the wheels set out to the full 8′ width so the tractor looks like it has a huge butt. This gives it stability on our hills. I don’t like even the idea of rolling sideways. I don’t tend to drive across the hills for this reason. Facing down is best as then I can control any interesting motion by just dropping the bucket. Dragging logs downhill works fine as they tend to follow sedately.

We also have fluid weight in the rear wheels and 400 lb logging chains on each rear wheel – additional weight and lots of traction. These are necessary in our long icy winters so I can keep the whey road open and deliver hay to the livestock. I leave the chains on the wheels year round. That may mean a little more wear on the chains but it means less wear on the tires. The tires are far more expensive than the chains. After ten years the chains are still holding up well. I wish I had gotten chains on the front tires as they are more worn than the rear tires.

I think the poem was inspired because I have a cousin who said that tractors are cheaper and more productive than shrinks. She may be right. I have one and not the other.

There are projects we never would have done without these tools. Simply moving huge rocks and granite, building roads, gaining access to feeds have been worth it. It was right for us to get the biggest, most powerful machine in the series. I was right to get this series so the turning radius isn’t overly large. A good compromise. A good team.

Outdoors: 28°F/14°F Cloudy, SFS Glazed
Tiny Cottage: 64°F/56°F

Daily Spark: “God has no religion” -Mahatma Gandhi

Yellow Flower


A Spot of Color – Click for the Big Picture

The color seems to be draining out of the world as we move into late fall towards winter. Greys and dull browns are dominating the view in the few remaining hours of daylight. We get up in the dark and often find ourselves working by moonlight. Thankfully it has been a full Moon. This photo from the warmer days is a reminder that there is color and hope that the Sun will return.

Ben and I repaired the wiring in the van and found the two blown fuses that had resulted. Ford needs to learn about “Built for Maintenance” for their equipment – even in a huge van like ours the fuse box and other things are way too cramped.

We just got our third delivery of winter hay. Squares are all here plus two small groups of rounds. More to come. It looks like we should have enough hay for the winter even with the expanded herds. This will make the animals, and thus us, very content. Happiness is a warm, dry bed of hay.

Progress on the west shed roof continues in the south field. This is where we beamed up the other week. We should have the roof done by this weekend and then can start on the weaner greenhouse. Progress on the front of winter housing. Ecstasy is a warm, dry bed of hay behind a wind block.

Additional reading:
Portable Sow Hut
Greenhouse Walls Inner Forms
Winter Farrowing Ideas
Musical Housing
Winter Pig Dens
Winter Coop

Edit: At first I thought the flower is a chrysanthemum also called a “mum” for short. I took the photo outside one of our customer’s restaurants – the Alchemist Pub in Waterbury, VT. But sharp eyed Pablo came to my rescue and suggested that it is really a marigold and I think he may be right based on the leaves in the background.

If you like food and freedom then Fight S.510.

Outdoors: 50°F/24°F Drizzle
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/53°F

Daily Spark: “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.” -George Washington

Kale and Hardy Rape


Athena Rape

This year we broadcast frost seeded Siberian Rape (ruffled leave not shown) and Athena Kale (smooth leave above) among other things into both the new pastures that used to be forest and the old pastures. The kale and rape did great. This is a typical example.

This one happens to be across the road on the log landing where the livestock can’t get to it so it grew unfettered all summer and has set seed. It will be interesting to see if we get reseeding volunteers. We have volunteer tomatoes, pumpkins, tomatillos and other plants that are not supposed to be able to do this in our climate without human intervention. They have adapted and been selected over the years. Due to the nature of managed intensive rotational grazing some of the areas did set seed even where the animals grazed.

One of the things that was a bit of a surprise is the pigs ate the leaves of the rape and kale but left the crowns and roots to regrow – which they did. They didn’t take the main stalks until late in the season which means they ate the mature seeds – and spread them.

The specimen in this photo is about five feet tall. These are still thriving despite our many hard frosts. I like that in a plant. These cole crops are a highly nutritious browse that increased the protein content of our pastures. These along with the legumes like alfalfa, clover and the hazelnuts all make great animal feed that we can grow ourselves on our farm for our animals reducing off farm inputs. That saves money but also makes it so we know the source and quality of the feed that goes into our pastured pork.

The kale and rape did so well that I wish I had planted broccoli and cabbage.

Outdoors: 46°F/26°F Partially Sunny, Light snow flurries in the evening
Tiny Cottage: 69°F/64°F Fire

Daily Spark: