Cold Weather

It is unusually cold here as well as everywhere else. In times like this I feel sorry for the animals. I make sure to give them extra corn because it warms them up while digesting. I like to feed close to dark so it helps them when the temps drop. The goats have all taken shelter under an old bus and the donkey must lay up next to them. The pigs have rooted their entire pasture up to a muddy mess and it has now frozen solid. It has made feeding them difficult. The trough I made they buried and I have to feed them inside the coop now through the egg door to hit a good piece of land that is not mud or rutted up frozen space. I am bringing one to the butcher this week or next. I have gotten them so big they are having trouble getting through the door (of course the door was made for a chicken coop so it is not that big and they rooted up the ground under it and it won’t open all the way because it is frozen in the ground.) The dog is the only one who seems unfazed by it. He prefers to sleep in the grass in front of the house no matter the weather. I have him a nice spot in the barn but he refuses to go in there. I managed to plant about 20 different fruit trees over the last few weeks when the weather and flu cooperated. I am excited about the potential from that. My family likes fruits more than vegetables so it could be a real blessing. I still have 4 Honeycrisp apples left to plant and 5 grapes but that will have to wait a little while. I have found a supplier of bare root fruit plants and can see the possibility of growing an orchard in the future. A $6 bare root tree can live for decades with little to no work (at least less than a garden) and I have a good spot to get a U-Pick operation going. My parents have a place in Lake Lure, NC and it is serious apple country. They introduced us to Honeycrisps and he has been trying to get one for his yard and can’t find one. He is pretty jealous. Stay warm.

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Meat Grinder

I was fished in by Google or Amazon. I had looked up meat grinders just out of curiosity and then I kept getting ads for meat grinders on everything. Then I finally had to knock the dust off the wallet and buy an electric one for $60 with free shipping on cyber Monday from Cabela’s. I have yet to try it out but I do a lot of hog hunting and can see learning how to make link sausage in my future. I have already been checking out recipes and just need some luck this week for a deer or hog. It came with a sausage stuffer tube. I also can see making a smokehouse in the future as well. I watched a good Youtube video of some guys that made some deer/hog sausage and it has got me excited about the possibilities.

My 2 best friends and I enjoy hunting and we hate spending money. I believe I have talked them into helping me convert my mini lawnmower/workshop barn into a butcher shop over the winter. It is a 16 by 16 square with a chicken/pig coop to one side. I figured we could move everything left to the back and have an 8 by 16 space to setup shop. I have a grinder and a vacuum sealer and they have a slicer and sharp knives among them. I will try and start taking pictures and posting them. Any bones left over we can give to dogs and pigs. We might even have some compost material.

Fruit Trees

I was scrolling through Craigslist and came upon a guy selling fruit trees for $6. I had bought some years ago and was a little worried when I bought them because they were bare root. Well, don’t be scared about that. I drove by the old house and the bare root pear trees I planted are still there 10 years later and beautiful. I bought 4 apples (Fuji) but was hoping to get honeycrisp but they were sold out by the time they got here. I also got 2 nectarines and 4 grapes. The wife even got her brother some 5 in 1 apples for his deer plots. I already bought 5 peach and 4 other apple trees from Home Depot. I planted 6 of them after work yesterday and hope the weather will cooperate so I can get the rest in the ground before it freezes. I am excited about the potential food sources and maybe barter or sale of the excess in the future. Picking the spot was and is the hardest part of the whole operation. It had to be in a spot I didn’t think I would need for something else that got summer sun. I picked a spot by the rode and will prolly have to cut a tree or two down to finish the project but that is part of the plan for that spot anyway. To plant them I bring some buckets of water and soak roots in those while I dig. I dig a diameter about 3 shovel heads around and put the dirt to the side. I was digging up zoysia grass so I ended up keeping the sod and adding potting soil and soil conditioner (fine mulch) to the dirt there and planting with the roots spread out. then backfill and cover with mulch. shouldn’t take long if the ground is not hard.

Thanksgiving

It was good to gather with the family. We met at my parents cabin in Lake Lure, NC. As the wife and I traveled through Asheville Wednesday night we ran into a downpour of snow on the mountains. It was beautiful even if it slowed down our progress. We stopped to just take it all in at the NC welcome station. My grandmother, parents and brother and sister had already arrived from different parts of Florida with their children. We just hung out the cabin and relaxed for a few days. We had a big turkey and ham that we ate on Thursday and Friday and we caught up on what everyone was doing. It was a good time. We did get up and leave early so we could be home in time for the Iron Bowl. We already had guests lined up to come before we remembered it was thanksgiving weekend. It was also a good time. ROLL TIDE!!!!

Multi Use Items

It is better to be able to use one thing to do two jobs. I need to make a list but just happened to think about one since we are going out of town for a couple days. I got a 5 gallon deer corn feeder with a timer. I am going to set it in the pig pen before I go so that the person house sitting won’t have to feed them everyday. I guess I could get another one and have a chicken feeder too. What are some things you use for more than one purpose?

Chicken Brooder

I will have to take a picture later and add it. Let me start off by saying that scrap lumber is your friend. I tore down an old concession stand at a football field and have used the the scraps from it on several projects. The chicken brooder was one of them. I was going to have 100 so I wanted it to be big so I made an 8 by 8 base. I have dogs and live in the country so I also have foxes, coyotes, skunks, possums, etc so I decided to lift it up a few feet so I used a couple 4 by 4 posts cut in half as legs. I really liked not having to bend over to check on everything and it being lifted kept the critters out of it. I wanted a slanted to roof to keep rain from settling on it and had some 12 foot metal panels. I could have cut them off but I chose to keep them so I would be in shade and have a dry place to stand while reloading the feeders and waterers. I made 2 swinging doors that opened out from the center and used the cross pieces and another piece of scrap wood to lock it in. I will have to show a picture on that. It worked out well. I left an opening at the top for ventilation and then would cover the whole thing in a tarp on cool nights.

I would do a couple things differently. I would make a wire mesh floor so the droppings would go through and not become a mushy mess. I drilled holes in the bottom for drainage but it would get clogged. I added shavings but as the birds got bigger the floor sagged. I would add a drip system so I could just fill a 5 gallon bucket without having to get in there. I would also add some kind of feed drop so I didn’t have to go in and out all the time. I used 2 heat lamps and a radiant heater to keep it warm and it all worked out.

Chicken Butchering

My son is 12 and his friends love coming to the house to have some room to run around and play with the animals. I happened to be butchering a few chickens one day when 3 of them came over. They were fascinated that I was going to kill it and eat it. They all wanted to kill one. I obliged. I caught 2 chickens and let 2 of the boys use an ax to do the deed. The chickens got spooked and we ended up shooting one because the other boy was upset that he didn’t get to do it and I was afraid he was going to hurt himself running around chasing chickens. The process got the usual oohs and ahhs. They jumped and ran when the chickens did their back flips. It was all going pretty good until I tried to get them to skin and gut them. The biggest and oldest started getting queasy when I started skinning it and had to go in when I pulled out the organs. The others just watched with a sense of awe. They listened as I told them which organs I was holding and paid attention the entire time. I fed the organs and skin to the pigs and explained that we try to use everything we can for something. I was a little disappointed they wouldn’t process them but at least I got them thinking about the process. They went in the house and explained it to the one who was feeling queasy about it in full detail. So much so that he left and went to my mother in laws for refuge. Good times. The chicken turned out great we did a couple beer butt chickens and boiled and canned the rest.

Fence training goats

IMG_20141120_161053_454I bought my father in law a goat years ago to add to his collection. It was a bottle baby and would even sit in your lap. Good thing it was small. Over time he figured out how to smell the electric pulse. He would then rock back and forth in time with it and then jump through without getting shocked. Unfortunately, the other goats then followed his lead. He ended up selling all but one he couldn’t catch and lived for a while as a free range goat. When I started back in the goat business I did not want to break the bank on wire fence.  I found a continuously charged fence charger. Basically, it always is shocking, no pulses. When I brought goats in they tried to walk through it and got laid out falling on their side while getting shocked. It sounded awful but they were ok after a couple minutes. Only one goat tried it twice but he didn’t go for three. The one I found is not good for big areas or wet weather but just to train them it was great. If they start getting brave on the pulse charger I switch it out for a few days.

What not to do cont.

I had a little cash and was wanting a tractor badly. I went to an equipment auction up the road at my house. There were probably a dozen tractors for sale. I didn’t want to spend a lot and hadn’t really started any projects but just knew I would need one someday. I decided I would bid on a little MF 1010. I think it had 17 hp and would have enough hp for a 4 ft bush hog.  I got it for around $1000 and did use it to take out some brush before the hydraulic pump went out.  I ended up selling it and losing a couple hundred dollars and feeling burnt. I am no mechanic so I should have brought someone along to check it out before spending money on it or I should have bought new. I waited a few years and ended up buying a brand new LS tractor with 38 hp and a loader. I have loved it since I got it. I am 6’3″ and a former college offensive lineman so I was used to just picking everything up by hand. I have figured out I was getting older recently after hurting myself a few times. I use that loader more than I ever realized was possible. I pick up trailers with it when tires need changing, move chicken coops, haul fencing supplies and push in Tposts, and my favorite is hauling scrap metal off and loading it with the loader. I loaded an old car that weighed 4400 lbs onto a trailer with it.  I also ordered a toothbar for it and can clear saplings and brush with it. I guess I have 2 points. 1 before buying something get someone to check it out if you don’t know how to fix it. 2. If you buy a tractor get the loader.

What not to do cont.

This will be a short one completely because of the weather yesterday. Do not wear your nice work shoes to feed the pigs in the dark after a day of rain followed by a day of 30 degree weather. I got home late after my sons basketball game and went to feed without changing my khakis and sperry’s and stepped in the soft mud/poop mixture and nearly lost a shoe and definitely will stain my pantleg. I thought for a minute I was going to get frostbite as the icy water worked its way through my sock. However, I am way too tough for that.

On that thought though I would like to recommend a product. I am totally not paid for this. I spent $100 on a pair of muck boots a few years back. I was coaching football and it was literally raining 3-4 days per week and we were always in mud. I live in Alabama so it was really more like red clay pits we called a practice field after the second week. I couldn’t dry my sneakers fast enough to have a pair of dry shoes for practice so I broke down and spent the money for the mucks thinking I was spending way too much. It ended up being wet the whole year and we even played the last game with the visitor sidelines partially under water. I wore that pair for 3-4 years until my dog got a hold of them and chewed the neoprene off. I have since replaced them and wear them daily in the winter around the house and hunting. Great boots.