Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pigs, Pigs, Pigs

We've been having a problem for the last month with the pigs escaping.   And it's been getting progressively worse daily.   We are using hog, goat and combination panels to keep them in a wooded area about 75' x 75'.   We've used panels since we got the pigs without a problem until this past month when the piglets realized they could get under them in places.   Then the adults started following suit.   We used logs against the fence at first without much success.  Then we started hanging cinder blocks.  That worked better but only for a while. 

It seemed they really wanted to get to the acorns so we collected them and threw them in.  Then we tried feeding them earlier in the morning.  Then we tried feeding them more.  Finally we decided we just needed to move the whole thing and reinforce it all with rebar attached to the panels to hold them down.  That would make it more work to move it so we would make it small and move it frequently to new ground for them to forage. 

A few days ago we hauled the hog panels up from the other location and my helper here started pounding in rebar.  That bright smile was,  in part,  in anticipation of actually being able to contain the pigs again and  not have to chase and herd pigs twice daily any more.

All settled in their decided smaller digs.   Yaaaa!  There are tons of acorns in there with them.  It's right under a large oak.  And given that it is such a small area they would only be here a few days.

Flash forward to the next morning.  The dogs woke me barking at the pigs that were no longer in their pen but had broken out yet again.   Malia's out in the rain helping to reinforce the pen.  We got them back in and they were out again within a half hour.   OK.... I get it.  We absolutely need electric fencing or at the very least a strand low.   I'm working on it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Building a permanent greenhouse with cattle panels - part 1

The greenhouse today - still a lot to do

Last year I decided I wanted to build a small greenhouse.  I wanted to have a place to start seedlings and be able to pot things in the spring out of the weather and then let them grow on till weather allowed them to go outside.   Since then I've also done a lot of reading about 4 season growing and decided I would like to incorporate an area in the greenhouse to do that too.   I wanted to do it as inexpensively as possible so decided cattle panels would be the way to go.   For anyone that doesn't know what they are, a cattle panel is fencing for livestock you can purchase in sections at Tractor Supply or a feed store.  It's comes in 16' lengths 52" tall.  They run about $20 each.  It's rigid and can be arched to make a structure 8' wide and any length depending on how many you use. I wanted it 8' x 12'.

Last summer I started the base.  It was hard for me to figure out because it was going to be located on a slope and I wanted a dirt floor without having to do ground work to level the area.    I also wanted to make the back end of it to be a place I could put the chickens for the winter so I lined the floor with hardware cloth so it would be predator proof.  

This was what I got done last year.

I added 3 cattle panels

To get the cattle panels on,  I start by clamping a 1" x 4"  board to the base.  I drilled pilot holes along the bottom of the board and then added 2" hex screws.  

I left the hex screws out about a 1/2" to 3/4" so  there was a gap between the base and the board so I could then slide the end of the cattle panel into the space.  The screws kept it from going all the way through to the ground.   When I got all three panels into the boards on both sides I added some  hex screws above so the cattle panels can't be raised.

Then I tightened them all using a socket wrench which makes it fairly fast compared to using a regular wrench.

The cattle panels were older and not as rigid as new ones are so they ended up leaning some.   I cut out a door way and then added a brace to straighten it out till I got permanent bracing in.  Then I added a doorway in front and in the back.

I added the tarp to keep my tools dry in case of rain while I am working on it. When both the front and back doorways are in I can add the bracing to the top by adding 2 - 12'  2 x 4's to the top of the doorways to make it strong enough to handle a snow load.  Right now the back door is only clamped. 

I did the back doorway differently.  You can also see a bit of the hardware cloth that is lining the bottom of the greenhouse.

Hope to get time later this week to finish the front and back but the pigs have been escaping daily so need to redo their situation first.  


Other post about building with cattle panels

Friday, October 22, 2010

Goats and their greens

My Alpines love their greens and browse but because they have the potential to wipe out an area of all greenery in short order they aren't allowed unlimited access to the woods.   Instead, I get it for them.

To do this, Ijust go for a short walk through the woods with their blue container stopping to stripping a limb here and a limb there of the leaves they so love. It really takes no time at al to fill the container this way.  Next I hit the garden.  I trim the turnips, collards and rutabaga's and cut some fresh orchard grass.  Mix it all together and viola!  Goat salad to for 2 hungry alpines.

I clip the container to their hay container so it doesn't get tipped over and lunch is served.  They are quite funny when they see me in the woods.  They start baaaaing and calling to me and run to the gate to greet me when I get there with their full container.  Mind you, they always have hay and alfalfa pellets available and they also get some grain daily but they truly do love the container of  fresh greens best of all.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Looking back on this season

A bouquet from Malia's trip to the mailbox

Malia is home again after a month of public school.  Yea!!!!!  I had no idea how much help she is to me.  Well I did but sometimes we need a reminder.   I need to do a whole post on homeschooling versus public school one of these days.   Both last year and this year she's gone back for the first month to give it a try.   Next year that isn't an option for her.   She would be going to middle school and this grandmother isn't up for the transition from homeschooling to public school in those challenging middle school years.  The good part of her short stints in school like this is we both get to measure her progress with her age group academically and socially.  She's doing well.  I wish more parents were able to do this.  I feel blessed I am in a position to do this.  I know this isn't the case for everyone.

The veggie garden this year was successful in some ways and not in others.   The squash bugs certainly took their toll.  Only one lone Hubbard pulled through.  It was from a new shoot  grown after the battle was semi won.   The tomatoes mostly did well.  Roma's best, Better boys next with Beef master coming in last.   The peppers were terrible this year for a variety of reasons.   I had bought only 3 varieties; bell, ancho's and jalapenos.  I wanted habeneros too but couldn't find them.   My bells ended up being 1/2 bell and 1/2 cherry.   I have no idea what to do with the cherries so I threw most of them out until later in the season when I decided to freeze them whole until I could figure something out to do with them.  I'm still working on that.  The bell's really didn't produce all that well but the jalapenos did great.  The ancho's were practically tree's getting over 4' tall.  They would have done better had I gotten them in earlier and watered more. They had lots of peppers but they were small.

The butternut squash did outstandingly well.  As advertised, they held up well to the squash bugs and kept on producing through it all.  These are just a couple of the ones that are still out there ripening.  I have picked quite a few.   I now need to find recipes to use them all.  Mostly I love it boiled like potatoes and mashed.  I've never been a fan of it halved and baked although it is much easier than peeling it and boiling it.

The pea's Malia planted were ridiculous.  I believe the variety was Layton.   I wrote it down and will look later but they never got taller than 6 - 8 " tall.  

They've got these tiny little 1 1/2" pods on them with one or two pea's in them.   Yikes.  I would need an acre for just her and I at that rate.   The field pea's in my green manure are coming up normally and are about  2 - 2 1/2" tall now so it's the variety, not the soil.

The turnips I threw out into the squash patch in early August are doing well. They were planted for their greens for the goats and pigs.  There is also crimson clover, field pea's and orchard grass in there.  Later the pigs will be housed here for winter and can root it all up.  

This one has a bit of room around it so actually has some substance to it.   Most of them are much closer together because they weren't really being grown for their roots.

Most of the roots look more like this one.

The cool moister weather has given us another blooming time from the Clematis plant and the variegated miscanthus is now blooming as well.

In Aug. I cut this back to the ground because I was going to divide it and move it so I could better enjoy the Harry Lauder Walking Stick behind it.   I didn't get it moved but I learned something from the exercise none the less.  I always cut this back in the spring and then let it grow all season.   By this time of year though a rain will split it leaving it rather disheveled looking because it's so tall.   I've tried tying it up to hold it together with limited success.   Cutting it back in Aug though it's still very attractive now with plenty of blooms and because it's shorter it holds up to the rain.   I will always cut it back in Aug. from now on. 

The goats and the pigs need to be moved to their winter area's in the next few days which means building new housing for them.   Tina's still giving us 5 quarts of milk a day.   The pigs are enjoying all the acorns.  We have an abudance of them too due to the dry summer.   Mother natures way of ensuring the tree's.   Dry weather = more fruit.  Works with your tomatoes too.
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