Saturday, June 30, 2012

More planing of log walls and window finishing

Lots of work ahead of us. We decided to plane all the logs on the inside of the structure so we can finish both the window trim and logs at the same time.

walls 022

The cracks are the hard part. It takes a tremendous amount of time to get all the grey cut out where the logs meet.walls 017

The logs plane up really nice leaving the grey in the cracking. We think it adds character so are going to leave it. I don’t know if we’d have much choice anyways.walls 015walls 012This is the biggest wall. walls 011walls 008Our log builder made our window sills out of 2x8 spruce lumber. We are hoping it’s not too soft but right now we like the look.walls 007walls 003

Lots of saw dust comes from planing. We’ve had bags and bags of it. walls 026I imagine we’ll have bags and bags more. Anyone need some saw dust and wood shavings. I know where you can get some if you want to do a little planing to get it. ha.

Happy Canada Day weekend.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Head first into a manure pile

I’m not sure why I’m reporting this but somehow I managed to fall head first into our manure pile this morning.

Ringo was teasing me and his sisters so I grabbed him up and ran out side and pretended to throw him in the oozing, smelly mound that has been soaked by the buckets of rain we’ve had this past week.

Squealing and pleading he promised to be a good boy, never to tease again, and to eat all his vegetables.

After letting him go he bounded out to fill up the water trough just like he also promised. I turned and grabbed my milk pail and attempted to lift my leg over the electric fence. I’m sure it’s a definite sign of getting old but my back leg snagged the top wire and as I tumbled over head/face first into the heaping mound I wondered how I would explain the smell to Milly when I came back in the house. I thought of several explanations while in the air:

  • I put on my old cow clothes this morning
  • I milked from behind Rosebud instead of on the side this morning
  • Ferdinand finally let me ride him but I ended on my back after he bucked me off after a 2 minute ride around the pasture
  • Ringo stepped in a cow pie with his flip-flops and wiped the remnants on my gum boots. (that actually happened this morning so I wouldn’t have been stretching the truth that much)

I swear I thought of all those things while I sailed toward my eminent landing destination. I was in the air for a long time.

After wiping off a few of the drier pieces of mud and crud I disgustedly and quite humbly stood up and looked across the field to a beaming Ringo. “What happened Dad?” was all he could say. I knew he really wanted to tease me some more but he knew he was on thin ice as I’m not above dumping an almost innocent kid into a slough pit just to make myself feel better.

After milking the cow and composing myself a bit I went inside to take care of the milk. Molly sniffed around and said “why do you smell like cow so much dad?”

“I haven’t showered in a week, Molly” was my response. I thought that one up while sitting in soaking wet clothes while I was milking the cow.

There you go. Hot off the press. I smell like a cow and am getting too old to step over an electric fence.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sorry looking garden

We try hard but don’t always get the desired results. Check out our sorry garden for instance. It’s been in the ground for several weeks now and this is all we have for potatoes.

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The other stuff is kind of making it’s way but I think the quack grass is just as big as the peas. And the carrots didn’t come up so we’ll have to replant those. dog in truck 015

At least the 30 trees and berry bushes we planted this past weekend are still alive.

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I keep telling myself it’s only June but it’s hard to not be concerned when there is only a 4 month growing season.

Next year we’ll have to extend the growing season with a greenhouse or something.

Even if our garden isn’t growing all that well we still like doing it. Tinka likes coming along for the ride down to our place. She stands up the whole way and lets the wind blow through her hair.dog in truck 022

Kind of like Molly as she shoots her hair to the clouds. dog in truck 007

Molly touched the sun today she said. I asked her how it felt and she said “Hot”. So there you have it. The sun is hot.dog in truck 008

We may not be able to grow that great of a garden but we sure do know how to grow cute kids. ha.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Grey water design for a cold climate

We’ve been debating what we should do for a septic system for our new house for many months now. If we lived in Arizona or California we’d have made up our minds long ago but since we live in the frozen Canadian tundra we have been worried about the prolonged –40c weather we are famous for having.

The only three options we really have is to:

  • Go with a traditional septic tank where all water and contents head into to settle and then drains out into a septic field (we are not near city sewer or water).
  • Go with a grey water system where all of the grey water is distributed out to mulch basins and infiltration pits. This type of a system would mean we’d have to have an outhouse. Just kidding. We’d utilize what is called a composting toilet so no black water is present thus eliminating the need for a septic system.
  • Combine the two where we would have flushing toilets head out to the septic system and the grey water go out to water trees. During the winter the grey water could go into the septic system.

Well the decision has been made. We are going to go mostly all in with the grey water system for this year and not putting in a septic system in our new house. We figure that if worse comes to worse we can close up the house and find a place to rent for the winter months if we absolutely get frozen in and can’t empty the sink.

But I’m more and more convinced this is the way I want to go. I don’t want to waste my water, I hate plunging toilets (seems like every house I’ve lived in has constant troubles with flushing for some reason), and after having cows composting manure doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore and I’m excited to see what good compost does for trees and bushes.

I’m also giving myself a couple of fall back options in case I do get frozen up. I have one zone planned to head out east of our house. Using a 3 way diverter value that zone can be switched to head to the south of the house where I have another 3 way diverter valve that will head South east or South West. I’m hoping that if one zone freezes over I can change it over to the other two zones if need be while I try to unfreeze the troubled area.

Also going south is where our sun is most of the winter so it should be a little more warmer than the north side of the house.

We will probably use an infiltration system on one of the zones where the water will be deposited a little further down in the soil which will hopefully help with freezing.

We’ve been using Art Ludwig’s Creating an Oasis with Grey Water as a guide. We’ve also done a bunch of research talking with plumbers and water engineers. Most of the plumbers and people who know anything about water think we are crazy. Good thing we are super naive and think we are smarter than everyone else. ha.

I said above we are mostly all in. We are actually designing the plumbing to transfer over to a septic system just in case we have troubles with the grey water system or ever decide to sell the house and the new tenants decide they don’t want to use an outhouse.

If anyone wants to learn about grey water systems on someone else’s place come on out. I’m sure you know more than we do and can be a tremendous help with observations and suggestions.

But just remember if we have troubles in the winter you may have 5 extra extended visitors through May of next year.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Weekly update – Trees, grey water, and ice cream

It rained, drizzled, blew fiercely, and then sun came out, but was an all round ok weekend. We actually mowed the grass (more an assortment of dandelions, buck brush, stink weeds, yarrow, buffalo beans, etc.) I’ve been rebelling with the thought of having to mow my lawn. I’d rather it be more natural but don’t have a goat and I don’t feel like shoveling cow pies off my front yard so guess I’ll have to succumb to mowing the dang thing. What a waste of good grass.

Tinka 059The sky is always so great hear. It seems alive. It’s one of the best parts of where we live. Molly is practicing being a model on our favorite rock. She likes pink but it was cold so had pant on underneath as well.

Speaking of farm fashion.Tinka 055Ringo found Molly’s sweater and decided to use it while feeding the chicken in the morning.Tinka 056

He Realized I was taking picture of his pink sweater too late.Tinka 057

I never knew he was fashion conscience until he said, “Dad, you can’t put this on the blog!”

We have trees coming and berry bushes to plant. Hopefully we can get them in place so I can start on our distribution system for grey water.

I talked with a guy around here that has been doing grey water in his house since the mid nineties. He does it all year round and hasn’t had any problem with freezing. It gave us hope that it is possible. It was also nice to find a like minded person instead of having the usual snicker and eyes rolling from anyone that finds out how weird we are.

Tinka 005

We have a nice ice cream shop around here that is run by our village. It opens May long weekend and is open until September. Here is us enjoying the first ice cream of the summer. We buy the fifty cent baby cones so we can go often as our whole family can go for two dollars and fifty cents. It’s a nice treat after a hard days work.

If anyone wants to come out to mow my lawn I’ll take you out for ice cream after. I may even buy you a kiddie cone instead of the baby size.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Risk in Farming on a Small Farm

I’m not really a farmer but a good friend of mine told me the other day that he doesn’t know anyone that has cows and chickens that isn’t a farmer. I couldn’t really argue.

Over the past few months I’ve been contemplating how risky farming really is. Not like stock market volatility risk where markets go up and down on just the breathe of possible bad news. I mean actual risk where at any moment your animals can be dead and all your crops can be gone.

Just a few weeks ago we bought sixteen chicks that were four weeks old. We were super excited as the breed was right and we got them for $2 a piece. We built a chicken tractor that was secured by chicken wire. The very next morning we came out and all the chicks were gone except for the four remaining stiff bodies.

Our chicken tractor was a good learning experience.

It wasn’t really the money we lost but the time lost really is the pain. We are now hatching our own chicks in an incubator. So in maybe two months we’ll be back where we were the night before the chicks got eaten up. We are learning to be much more careful with all that is under our watch and care as it is much easier to do that than to try to pick up the pieces of a careless happenstance.

What are some of the risks involved in Farming?

Let me name a few:

  1. Animal death-chickens dying or being eaten
  2. tarps blowing off hay pile
  3. hay spoiling due to tarp blowing off
  4. Eggs breaking or chickens eating eggs
  5. Milk spilling – cow kicking bucket
  6. Shed blowing away – wind is a terrible problem here
  7. Crops not growing- weather, pests
  8. Can’t harvest crops- rain spoils hay on ground after being cut down
  9. Pests eating crops- deer eating hay and garden. Marmots eating garden
  10. Prices of crop fluctuate-One year we can get top dollar for hay, the next year we can’t give it away
  11. Breaking down of equipment-All of the profit on crops can be lost with one piece of equipment being damaged. If equipment is broken crops can’t be brought in.

I know some farmers that do quite well with farming one type of crop. However, it scares me to death with the thought of putting all my eggs in one basket. I don’t really think a small family farm can succeed long term by only having one type of income producing potential.

************If you are not a geeky numbers person or care about financial theory you may want to skip this next discussion***********************

In business management the risk can actually be quantified. In summary all business options have risk. Some transactions have more risk than others. Because of the risk involved there must be a higher potential return to offset the inherent risk. If a transaction has lower risk the return may have less upside potential but because it is a more sure thing people will choose that type of transaction because they can actually sleep at night because they don’t have to worry if they will have to sell the farm in the morning because they lost all of their money.

When deciding on which option is best for a company there is actually some fancy financial formulas to determine what is the best options to choose based on the risk of the transaction.

I’m sure I could come up with some fancy excel spreadsheet that analyzes the type of option along with the beta coefficient but I’ll save that for another day.

**************************************

So what is the answer to minimizing risk?

I guess I’d have to agree with the business theory of diversifying risk. If all the farm income come from one type of crop or animal I’d suggest diversifying activities until the farm has multiple ways to bring in money.

A fully functioning small family farm may look like the following:

20% of income from cash crop such as grain, barley, or other planted seed

20% from animal income – Cow, goat, chicken, etc. Either selling animals or the animals byproduct

20% from custom farming- using your equipment to harvest other farmers crops (if you aren’t going to use on your own crops 100%)

20% from farmers markets or CSA boxes

20% from off farm work- I only say this as most small time farmers have an off farm job that helps pay for the expenses on a farm

I just made the above scenario up but the idea is to not have all the income coming from one source. Some years may really pay off being in one type of crop or animal but in reality, one bad year could wipe out 10 good years of farming. With risk diversified a farm can withstand a bad crop year if other income sources pick up the slack.

I’ve kind of taken the advice from our good Real farming friends, The Greens. This is how they have become successful farmers. Mr. Green even made the plunge to quite his off farm job to farm full time. He still uses the above strategy when he’s deciding what farming activities he will participate in for each coming year.

The Greens have the following streams of income:

  1. Cows
  2. Chickens
  3. Turkeys
  4. CSA boxes
  5. Farmers Markets
  6. Pigs
  7. Off farm antique store
  8. Soap making

One last thing that needs to be mentioned about risk in farming. The minute a farmer has to go into debt to start, expand, or continue operations the risk automatically sky rockets. In my opinion I would warn any farmer against the temptation to go into any type of debt for whatever reason. It’s a trap. Don’t fall for it. Let me repeat:

GET OUT OF DEBT or STAY OUT OF DEBT

Milly says I’m being pretty preachy for someone who isn’t even a real farmer, so I guess I’ll stop.

For any of you REAL or fake (like me) farmers did I miss anything on risks in farming?

What do you do to minimize risk in your farming ventures?