Monday, March 22, 2010

Post and Beam

Glorified Flag Pole: See picture below. Actually, it is a little boom I made to lift my walls with. I found a 2inch rigid pole on our property. I clamped it to a 2x8 with some electrical clamps, tacked another 2x8 to the rim joist, and then tacked the pole to that 2x8. YadaYadaYada with a block and tackle, and some grunting a wall can be hoisted up by one's lonesome.

The picture below is a good picture of what was being lifted up- 3 posts with a continuous plate. They were all held together with a temporary heady, and some bracing boards. In all it was about 400lbs.
The block and tackle was attached to a temporary header, and well- just start pulling. There is a bit of mechanical benefit made with the two double pulleys, but still needed to use some blocking and levers.
She's started.....

Hot dog in the sock drawer, Marlene, come look at this, this boy's cheese 'bout slipped off his cracker....
But it worked! It took me about an hour and a quarter to get this up. I was pretty tired afterwards. I'd just keep levering up with a 4x4, and slipping blocking under the wall. Then I'd pull with the block and tackle, anchor the rope off, and then go back with the blocking. Eventually I got the wall up enough that I could just push it into place myself.

That was all last weekish. I had a week off from work, and unfortunately I wasted too much time with this obsession to get a 1 inch drill bit. Note: 1inch bits are actually 25.4mm, and the pegs I bought in Walpole from Scott N. are a perfect inch, tapered by a 32nd. Anyways, I ended up grinding down a speedbore and microned it till it was just under an inch. Fits tighter than a girdle on a freshening cow, now.

Yesterday I went to get the header knocked into place, and then to get the rest of that wall up. Grandpa and Marianne came by, so we got the rest of the wall up. It was a struggle with the 3 of us, and grandpa gave me a look like, "How the hell'd you get that up yourself?" The piece we picked up yesterday was about 400lbs- you want it up, not coming down on you. For the next wall I am going to have it all together and get a few to come down and make it an easier day.

The piece we got up Sunday. Joinery not bad, eh?

Full view of the framing for the East wall. All it is missing is the middle header, which I will drop into place after plumming the rest of it up, and pegging it together. Imagine all the bracing boards gone, and you'll have some pretty framing. All oak/beech with maple pegs. The post and beam will be exposed in the final product. Click for a detailed picture.

The joint looks nice. It will be snugged a hair tighter, and then will be pegged with 1inchx12inch maple pegs.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Missing Camera

Kind of hard to post a picture of the chicks this week. I do not know where the camera is. However, they are doing wonderfully. I have the wattage down to 302 watts. I started at 700 watts 24/7, and have been decreasing it readily. So now I have 203 chicks at 300 watts- so figure a watt and a half per chick per hour. The reason I am so happy at the wattage per chick is now down is twofold. One, environmentally it is good to keep our energy requirements low. Second, the cost per chick in electricity is now at one half of a cent a day. So $1.08 per day for 200+ chicks.

I found the chart below for the average electrical requirements for various electronics.

Power consumption compared

Average plasma: 338 watts
Average LCD: 176 watts
Other gear2:
PlayStation 3: 197 watts
PlayStation 3 Slim: 96 watts
Xbox 360 Elite (2007): 185 watts
Nintendo Wii: 19 watts
Xbox 360: 187 watts
Average PC: 118 watts
DirecTV HR20 DVR: 33 watts
Nintendo Wii: 19 watts
Slingbox: 9 watts
Wireless router: 7 watts

1Among 2008 and 2009 models tested.
2Tested in typical usage states (playing a game, running software)

I always feel guilty about the energy requirements of the farm, even though we use surprisingly little in energy. We use a small milk machine, my tractor will go months without needing to be started, we do not use heat lamps for the hens, fans for the cows, most of the manure is spread by the animals themselves, but still feel pretty guilty about tapping into that electrical grid for my little peep peeps. Anyways, an alternative way to look at it is that this LCD screen for the computer, and the PC itself are about the same electrical usage as the brooder.

We all use a lot of electricity, and think little of the consequences of that source. So on the farm I want to keep that low, not pass the cost on to customers, and keep our overhead low.

On a fun note- the snow is completely melted off our field. Has been for some time. Going to start brush cutting out some of the wild roses that have grown along the field edges. There is about 600 feet on the west side of the field that needs to get cut out. The field edge has grown out about 15 feet from the wall- about 1/5th of an acre. There are also two downed poplars in the back field. I didn't get to cut them up last year. Going to snip them up so we can bale that area this year.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Third Week Chicks

Another week for the chicks. None were lost last week, which is awsome. Added a screened window to the brooder to allow vapors to leave. The chicks have been scratching the deep bedding well. Manure has mixed through the layers of sawdust instead of becoming capped and wet on top. Pretty happy about that. Tomorrow morning though they are going to get a few inches of fresh sawdust. A lot of the chicks look like they have ruffled feathers. Generally not a good sign. It can mean they are stressed, lacking something in diet, in need of sun, etc. So I want to start with some new bedding, put in a uv daylight for the day. I have been feeding them vegetable cuttings from the college: tomatoes and watermellon today. They run away from it at first, and then make idle pecks at the pieces until they realize they are edible.

Next week going to work on opening up the brooder in the day so that there will be even more airflow, and for the ability of the chicks to come out to an unheated alcove. I want to acclimate them away from the lights continuously, and let them get some real light, winder and air now. Still nervous because this is the first time I am starting chicks in the winter. So far going well. I check on them everynight before I go to bed. Allows me to sleep through the night without worrying.

Future plans: The chickens have been an asset on the farm, and I would like to see their presence continue and increase. (both layers and meat birds) So I was in the barn today, and realized that the roof is taking on at least some water- the sheathing was damp. So at some point the roof will have to be replace. Not the biggest deal. I can at least give it a pitch now, but if I am going to go through that trouble, then I might as well jack part of the building up, knock out the westward foundation, and dig in a walk out basement. And if I am going through that trouble then I might as well take down the westward wall, extend the South/North walls by about twenty feet, have a hell of a basement in the barn, and get that much more in the barn. And if I am going to go through that....

The idea is to build an area to house pigs underneath the barn. The land is sloped so that a walkout basement would not be terribly difficult to do. The barn drains into this area already. I'd like to rework the drainage so that it will empty into a cistern instead of making a wet field area. This will give an awsome farrowing area of piglets under the barn. If the concrete is poured so it slopes gently southward, then their pens/living area will be dry. The upstairs of the barn will be mostly for hay storage. However, I want the south facing part of the barn to be used for the chicken brooder. We'll start nearly a thousand birds this year. We're getting to a number of birds where it is unrealistic to rely upon the same housing as when we started batches of 100. Additionally, when you start a lot of birds your overhead gets divided by that much more. For example, if it costs 2,000 to do the brooder conversion in the barn, then that cost gets divided by the 1000 birds we need to raise, and the extra 500-1000 we'd like to sell each year. The costs get spread out very quickly.

I think we do well on our farm because we realize how to cut costs while still staying productive, and then passing those savings onto our (beloved) customers. i.e. I had two pigs that were not growing well. Instead of pushing them, and having expensive pork, we sold them to a family at a lower price. They got inexpensive pork, we were relieved of a burden. We use the same halfway house for our meat birds and pullets to save money/get high quality birds. We start extra chicks in the spring in fall, two seasons where we want extra manure for fields/gardens, and rotate the poultry through field/garden areas. We save on fertilizer, and the CSA sees that in the price of the vegetables. It works.

Anyways, I want to build the seed starting greenhouse on the south face of the barn. This way we're collecting a solar mass to help heat the brooder, and give the chicks real sunlight. Secondly, we can use the same woodboiler or propane burner to heat both the seed start house and the brooder. That way also the two areas that I'll be working with, at the same time of the year, will be adjacent. Also, if there is a heating/power problem then the backup can be used for both.