Monday, April 15, 2013

Spring Time and full ponds!

Well, this is a beautiful and exciting Spring.
This is the first time that all the new ponds and swales have been "tested" and filled.
I feel much more prepared for risk of drought with at least twice the storage capacity in ponds and much improved water absorption through the new "keyline" system of swales and ponds.

Original Primary Pond

Happy Girls by the "Key Pond" that fills the "Swale" system

Cascading "Puddle Ponds" in the original stream gulley

The Key! Pond at the Key point that fills the primary swales 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Water is life!

It all starts with water.  With the drought and tough weather, this is likely more apparent than usual ;)

This first picture is of our second generation rain collection setup off of the barn roof.
The plastic drum serves as a diverter to capture the initial water off the roof that has more dust and dirt and divert it from the primary collection tanks.  The bottom of the 55 gal drum has a faucet connected to a hose to drain off for plants or stock tanks.  Once the initial "rinse" of the roof is diverted the water fills up the drum and then rises to the level where it fill the big plastic water tanks.  These black water tanks are 2500 gallons each and they are hooked together to equalize (level) as one is filled from the rain collection system.

Since we've planted so many trees, we wanted to use the pond water to irrigate in the hot Summer.  Here we setup a solar panel with a couple of deep cycle batteries to run DC pumps.  We used a small charge controller to use the solar panel for charging the batteries without overcharging them.  We have one small DC marine bilge pump to draw from a small float towards the middle of the pond.  That one fills a 1500 gallon tank.  Then we have a second small DC impeller pump that can pump the water to a much higher tank.  It can pump up to 100 ft elevation.  The upper tank is then used for irrigation and to fill a stock tank for the cows.  So far this is working very well and saving a lot of time, but we are checking on it regularly, since it's not yet completely automatic.


That's my Son-in-Law who has got this thing rigged up!

Might a future business opportunity for him :)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A busy month! .. and finally a healthy rainfall :)

It's been a very busy month with a wide range of projects.  The Permaculture site development had it's first good test with a rainstorm of over 2".  I also just finished rebuilding a better rain-collection system for the barn. This is the primary water source for the house along with a good, but low producing well.

Son, Joey, is building a straw bale room with the help of a lot of friends... who appear to enjoy playing in the mud ;)

A few finishing touches!  The clay came from a pond excavation as part of the keyline project.

We had a nice cookout with a Dutch oven over the fire.  This is becoming a pretty common weekend activity.  Usually, we use a roast, some home-made broth from our grass fed beef, add some potatoes, carrots, onions, some spices and some vino.  Slow cook it in about 2-1/2 to 3 hours adding a little liquid and rotating from time to time.  Yum-yum :)

First real rainfall since the swales and berms have been in place.  One of the new ponds is about 1/2 full now.

This is one of the prettiest spots in the keyline area and the soil is very rich.

It's hayin' time!!  We have a pretty big hay crew this year.  The trick is to keep the rookies from breaking the bales before they get stacked.  And once we get them in the barn, the kids are tempted to play on the hay bales, but if they get too rambunctious the bales get knocked over and it leaves a big mess.

That's what the straw bale addition looks like and it's a nice cool room.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bad Blogger ?

I said I'd be a bad blogger, but it's not for a lack of activity and excitement ;)

We're still at the big project with fencing, irrigation projects and a wide assortment of other farm projects.  Here's a few worth sharing.

The first couple of shots show the swales doing their job in a modest rainfall; catching the water, slowing it down and providing very good absorption.

We have all kinds of helpers ;)  This is Joey & Julia's puppy.  They are building a straw bale room addition to their cabin.

Here's a good shot of the Goslings.  They've been putting around and look pretty happy in Springtime.

We have quite a bit of sawmill work in process.  This week it started with small Red Cedar, then some big Cottonwood logs and lastly some large Walnut.

Here's the new straw-bale room framed and ready for bales.

Here's my cut of the lumber from the mill.

Sifting the clay to prepare for "cob" surface on the straw bales walls.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Old fences and new fences...

Whenever you are raising livestock, fencing is one of the most demanding, expensive and unending tasks that can make or break your farm.  I'll try to find the good country quote about fences a bit later.  But for now the Keyline project adds a new twist on fencing, or should I say curves ;)
Keylines are driven by the terrain, so they're not straight!
That goes contrary to everything we know about country fences.  This big keyline and site development means that we'll make major changes on our fences and many straight fences will be removed and new fences that wind along the keyline swales will be installed.

A little help from my brother for new post holes along the keylines...

Everyone's in on the action :)  Kateri (10) is showing how a farm girl can get it done!
Some cross fences have to go, and new ones put in place along the alleys.

Untwisting old rusted twisties ;)  I think she's got the technique.

OK, I found it in an old Cowboy's guide:

Our Wild West  "cowboys guide to life"

- Don't name a pig you plan to eat.

- Country fences need to be horse high, pig tight, and bull strong. 

- Life is not about how fast you run, or how high you climb, but how well you bounce.

- Keep skunks and bankers at a distance.

- Life is simpler when you plough around the stump.

- A bumble bee is faster than a John Deere tractor.

- Words that soak into your ears are whispered, not yelled

- Meanness don't happen overnight.

- Forgive your enemies. It messes with their heads.

- Don't sell your mule to buy a plough.

- Don't corner something meaner than you.

- It don't take a very big person to carry a grudge.

- You can't unsay a cruel thing.

- Every path has some puddles.

- When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.

- The best sermons are lived, not preached.

- Most of the stuff people worry about never happens.

- Don't squat with your spurs on.

- Don't judge people by their relatives.

- Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.

- Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you'll enjoy it a second time

- Don't interfere with something that ain't botherin' you none.

- Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.

- It's better to be a has-been than a never-was.

- The easiest way to eat crow is while it's still warm. The colder it gets, the harder it is to swaller.

- If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin'.

- If it don't seem like it's worth the effort, it probably ain't.

- It don't take a genius to spot a goat in a flock of sheep.

- Sometimes you get and sometimes you get got.

- The biggest troublemaker you'll probably ever have to deal with watches you shave his face in the mirror every morning.

- If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.

- Don't worry about bitin' off more'n you can chew; your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger'n you think.

- Only cows know why they stampede.

- Always drink upstream from the herd.

- If you're ridin' ahead of the herd, take a look back every now and then to make sure it's still there with ya.

- Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.

- Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back in.

- You can't tell how good a man or a watermelon is 'till they get thumped.

- Never miss a good chance to shut up

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Little kids playing in the grass

These little girls are very recent additions to the farm; not the one on the left ;)  They are only a few days old and almost could get lost in the weeds.  I'm sure the mamas will make it look like less of a jungle very soon!

These are Oberhasli dairy goats and both newborn kid goats are girls.  Rose (5) likes to feed them and play with them.

In the middle area of our site development we are planting an orchard with fruit trees and edible plants.  This is Kathy's area and it's right in the middle of the action.  It has very rich soil since it's at the bottom part of the bowl.  We are just beginning a very large fencing project with both temporary electrical fences and more permanent ones.  One trick to the contour lines is that they're not straight, so the typical country fences are not a perfect fit.  We'll still use "H" posts at the ends to provide strength for tension, but the wires cannot be stretched as tight.  More intermediate posts can help.  It is worth the trade-off because the trees will get a lot more water in the ground, and as the rows of trees and bushes grow they will actually serve as somewhat of a barrier.  The plan is to graze the cattle through the bigger alley ways (50' spacing) between the tree lines and rotate them daily if possible.  That is best for the grass, the cattle and the and overall.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

What is a "Keyline"?

Here's a direct quote from Wiki:

"Keyline design is a technique for maximizing beneficial use of water resources of a piece of land. The Keyline refers to a specific topographic feature linked to water flow. Beyond that however, Keyline can be seen as a collection of design principles, techniques and systems for development of rural and urban landscapes. Keyline design was developed in Australia by farmer and engineer P. A. Yeomans, and described and explained in his books The Keyline PlanThe Challenge of LandscapeWater For Every Farm and The City Forest."

In our site development, it's a contour line/channel or slightly sloped to "capture" water, slow it down and increase water absorption in the ground.

Here are a couple of keyline "swales" and "berms" to channel the water along the contours on our farm.
This morning's rainfall was a good first test of this water management system.  We planted about a thousand trees in rows just below each swale (ditch) and berm (mound).  As the trees grow larger their root systems will benefit greatly from the improved water absorption.