Art of Proprietation

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Learn something new every day

I got a chance to try something today.

When I bought my tractor, had a chain hook welded on the backside of the backhoe bucket. The hooks on the top lip of the FEL bucket get a lot of use. I might use them for picking up a large log or a round bale or pulling small stumps or anything else heavy. The Backhoe doesn't have the same kind of capacity as the FEL. It also has a lot of leverage on the tractor. So I am not going to pickup the kind of weight with the backhoe hooks as the FEL.

I have had the tractor for a while but I haven't had much use of that hook on the backhoe bucket and I was wondering if I ever would. I moved a big blower with it once and is was kind of handy as the blower was bulky.

The power company came by recently, or at least their tree contractors. They have been cutting trees under the lines across the road from us. It has been a windfall of wood. But a lot of it was down a significant embankment. I could have cut it in place but the slope wasn't a great place to cut and it was a lot of trips to carry it out as individual peices. So I used the backhoe and a chain to lift and pull the the logs out in reasonable lengths. The boom cylinder doesn't have the right leverage to lift a log, particularly with the dipper stick extended much. But there is a lot of power to pull something to the tractor. And when it is in close to the tractor, I can get the boom vertical and the dipper can lift the log, craning it. It was a nice way to recover these logs. The weren't real big, 12 to 18 inch diameters and 10 to 12 feet long. Using the backhoe was a lot more fun than lugging them up by hand.

I definitely could have done it by hand. And it took a while to get the backhoe out of winter storage and onto the tractor. In part I want to do it this way to try out craning with the backhoe. If I don't try something when it is relatively easy, I may not have the skills or experience to do it when it is a necessity.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Things are a bit on edge

I have been waiting. Waiting for a new plow to arrive. Waiting for snow to melt. Waiting seeds to sprout. And most of all, waiting for a goat to pop.

I calculated our Doe goat Ruffles' due date as March 19th. Last time she was about 24 hours early and that matched previous owner's experience. To be safe, we have been prepared since the 16th or so.

When I have a goat due, I sleep out in the goat house. I should be able to check her condition before going to bed and decide if she might go before I get up, but she fooled us last time. That time at midnight I went to bed not seeing any of the "24 hour" signs. When I came out at 6 AM, she was down on the ground with a doeling sticking out of her back end showing the neck down to the doelings shoulders. Not a reassuring sight. If I had gotten up an hour later I am sure we would have lost the doeling, and maybe Ruffles, too.

Since we have so few births a year, every one is important to us. If we had lost Ruffles two years ago, we would have lost more than half our milk production and half of our genetic diversity. We also would have lost a years worth of breeding. Both Ruffles and her doeling are very important to us.

So for a week now, I have been sleeping in the goat house. It's reasonably comfortable. Although temps get down to 20f, I have a good sleeping bag, inner and outer bivy sacks and a thermorest. I am sleeping inside a dry shelter with three sides and a roof. The floor is a yeilding bed of straw and wood chips. My goats sleep there in much colder weather without complaint. There is the occasional goat attempting to snuggle up in the middle of the night, but who doesn't like to snuggle? But a week of checking on her every 2 hours during the day, sleeping out every night and needing to be prepared to intervene is starting to get old.

I am pretty sure about her due date. I kept the bucklings separate from the does during rut and only introduced them for supervised visits during the three days of each Doe's heat. So I was pretty sure who was breeding who when. It's 150 days from breeding to kidding, plus or minus a day. At least it has been till now.

The honest answer is we don't do this enough to say things are one way or another. We can only say what they were in the past. We may never get to a point where we can say "Wellll, on our farm, this is the way we do it" with any kind of a confident swagger. We'll probably never breed more than six Does. I don't think we have enough summer pasture for more of a breeding population. And since not every Doe breeds every year, it will take us a while to get to a dozen kiddings.

So, a week of this has me a little on edge. If not tonight, maybe tomorrow

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Potential to rough the viewer

09040928 Sparky and Bucklings

These are our bucklings from April 2009. A pretty pair of boys. We kept them to breed in the fall. Keeping them into the winter costs a lot of hay, but having them to breed two of our does saves $100 in breeding fees.

09092303 Bucklings

Just a warning, not everyone is going to see the happy ending in all this.

Having dairy animals has certain realities. Chiefly, without a pregnancy there is no milk. And chances are, the progeny of that pregnancy doesn't have a long term place on the farm. So, from the day they were born, the day these knives got sharpened was coming.

10022721 Butchering Knives

I used a pistol for the actual deed. I have used other methods, and this was the first time I used a pistol, but the pistol is probably the best method for me. It has the downside of introducing lead shot into the carcass. But I am probably not dedicated enough to do anything with the brain anyway. I borrowed a semi auto ruger .22 target pistol that uses long rifle rounds. A pistol gave me a lot more freedom of movement than my rifle and it was nice knowing there would be an immediate second shot if I needed it. I didn't though, they both went down with one shot behind the ear each. I led them up to the arch with grain and they we eating a little grain treat when I killed them so there was never any stress. They were never conscious of anything being wrong.

10022725 Bleeding Buckling

I used the Arch of the Garden gate to hang and bleed out the carcass. Hanging for the skinning and rough cuts helps keep the meat clean. Most of the skinning I do with the mini chef knife looking knife. The blade length is good and it holds an edge well. The utility knife on the end is good for separating joints. It has a thick strong blade and the serrations go through cartilage nicely. Down at the house, most of the work is with the boning knife.

10022731 Skinning buckling

I did the skinning and the rough cuts with it hanging. That's a change from what I have done in the past and it worked out much better this way. It meant I could piece it into a clean bucket to carry it down to the house. Carrying down the whole carcass would have been awkward. I separated it into the four legs, two sides of ribs, neck roast, the hips and chops.

10022734 Buck in a bucket

Down in the kitchen, I completely deboned it. Last time we cooked the meat on the bone. With the ribs it was a detractment from the meal trying to find the meat on the bone. It was a curry in a thick sauce. So this goat I deboned everything but the neck.

I was a little surprised in the yield. 28 lbs before I deboned it. Heck, it's not that much bigger than a good sized turkey. And I am pretty sure the live animal was close to 100 lbs. He was 11 months old. Not much in the way of fat, but that is what I would expect from a goat.

It's not a pleasant task, but a necessary one if we are going to continue to keep goats for Dairy.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Melting out

We are well into the spring melt. Daytime temps are getting into the 50s and night time temps are in the 20s. We have melted out in areas that get good sun. Some years the shadowed areas might have snow until late May, but I don't think we will this year. It's been a light winter for us. We had warm temps into the middle of December and we are melting out in the begining of March. I like winter, really cold temps keep things dry and easy work. It's the in between times when the humidity comes up with the temperature and the mud thaws that feel uncomfortable. Humid air at 45 degrees feels a lot colder than dry air at 5 degrees. To me at least.

When the snow melts out, all the grass is layed down and with the foliage gone, it highlights all the short cuts we might have taken last fall. It's a good chance to find forgotten items before the rush of spring growth. It's easy for me to get motivated to clean things up after the winter low time.

I got the tractor out and turned the compost pile. I don't pay a lot of attenntion to the compost over the winter. But with the warmer temps, I wanted to get things moving along. Rollong the pile remixes the material with the compost organisms, airates it and moves the material that had been on th outside of the pile to the inside. This remixing puts the right pieces together for active decomposition back in the middle where it will have a chance to heat back up.

I have put a tarp over the north side of the pile. The north side doesn't get as much sun, the tarp will help keep it warm. It will also keep some of the spring rain off it. Rain will cool the pile and too much rain will slow down the decomp. Grabbing a handful of compost, I should be able to squeeze and see water glisten between my fingers. But water running when I squeeze signals too much water. Right now, I am most worried about too much water because it will cool the pile. As the spring warms up, I'll keep an eye on it. If the pile starts to get dry, I'll remove the tarp or make a double peak to form a V to catch and retain water in the pile. I did see some steam come off this pile, but most of the pile was pretty cool. I probably should have had the tarp on all winter. But I didn't have any tarps available earlier. But less than optimal decomp over the winter won't be that much of a problem. We won't need this compost until October or November, so there is plenty of time to bring it along.

Our other big pile that I started early last summer is pretty much ready now. It is well mixed and the bits have mostly broken down to unrecognizeable peices. The larger wood chips are the only thing still identifiable. When the market garden has dried out, we'll use this compost to build up the beds.

Another spring task is to deal with brush piles. We will probably burn the piles inside the market garden. The ones on the outside I am more like to take to my brush dump where I am letting it decompose on their own.

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