Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Winter Yard Scene

Gathering Winter Fuel

One of the best feelings in the world is having enough wood stored to last you a significant amount of time for your heating needs. I had promised myself that I would spend the summer months gathering wood while it was warm and there was no snow to contend with. Of course, I didn't get that done and ended up starting the winter with almost no wood to speak of. This past weekend though, I did spend a few hours cleaning the woodlot immediately in front of our house. I managed to collect enough wood to last a week or two. We use the wood in our stove downstairs. It is a large stove that keeps up with our heating needs for the most part. When it is really cold though, the furnace will still kick in overnight as the fire dies. I really want to get organized enough for next year to start collecting wood in the spring and then do small amounts of work throughout the summer to get enough wood cut and split to last the entire winter. I figure we will need somewhere around 4 full cords.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas Tree

Every year we venture out into the bush on our property to find the family Christmas tree. It is alway fun to trudge through the deep snow in the willow brush yelling to each other "here's a good one!" Of course, everyone is yelling the same thing at the same time! Eventually though we find THE one and start the drag home. This year, we had pre-scouted the tree in the fall and walked right up to it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

All Crop Combining

This is Bob D. harvesting beans near Ridgville, Indiana. Pretty cool to see these old combines working.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Cold Cows

The cows don't venture far from their feeding area anymore. With the cold temps, they pretty much huddle around waiting for the next feeding. I am giving them quite a bit more hay than usual and they seem to be keeping good weight on. The insulation they carry is amazing. They always have a thick layer of frost and snow on their backs, a strong indication of just how efficient they are at staying warm.


It is definitely winter around here. The weather is unusually cold for this time of year. While November almost always acts like winter, the temperatures are usually just under freezing for a daytime high. Right now though, and for the past week, the daily high temps. have been below minus 20! There have already been a few nights with close to minus 30 temps. At these temperatures, the equipment is impossible to start without being plugged in and the animals need extra feed. On top of these cold nights, the snow has been falling relentlessly. We have more than a foot out in our pastures now. Still though, the animals cope well. There is no shivering or apparent distress. They eat more and sleep more and that is about it. When the pigs come out of their barn for supper, they soon develop frosty beards of ice from the steaming porridge. This is Bubbles, he is growing fast into a big ole pig. He still has the funny personality that he always did, although his growing size makes him more and more docile.
The piglets are doing fine too. They are still living in the hut that they were farrowed in. Mom is gone from the pen now, so they greet me every day with excited squeals knowing that I am the food animal. Inside their hut is an infrared heater that hangs from the ceiling. They make themselves a nest of straw near the light and happily sleep. The only way you know that they are there is when you see the straw heave up and down with their breathing. The girl's name is Pumpkin Pie and the little boar is nameless. We will keep him for awhile to see how he turns out and then he will be sold as a breeding boar.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Duals on an Allis?

I am thinking of adding dual wheels to my Allis Chalmers WD45. It looks pretty cool, but actually serves a purpose too! In our area, we have some hills along with some sandy loam soil. This makes traction a problem at times when working hard at something like plowing or chisel plowing. By simply adding two more rear wheels, you can add to the weight of the rear end and add more gripping power to the ground. The fact that it looks so cool is just a benefit! This is a picture that a fellow Allis man sent me. Leon's Allis CA looks like it is ready for business. In my mind, having grown up around International Tractors like the 1086, all tractors should have duals!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Allis in the snow...

I am almost finished with the Allis for this year. I have the loader back working and the shifter has been fixed. Although, I noticed that I still cannot get it into 4th gear! This will have to be remedied before spring work starts. For now, the loader will be a great help around the farm. Moving snow and loading and unloading acquired equipment from the trailer is something that had to be man-handled until now. I still need to re-work our truck mounted snow plow to be able to attach it to the front end loader. We used the plow on our Ford Expedition, but Cindy traded that in on a Honda a couple years ago. Good timing with the current price of gas! Anyways, we always held on to the plow just in case. A set of mounting brackets for my Ford diesel is more than $200. I can easily save most of that money by fabricating a way to mount it on the loader and use it with the tractor.

Loading Facility

I am almost finished with our new loading facility. This series of pens and a chute will make the process of loading livestock for transport much easier than it has ever been. Instead of chasing animals and trying to force them into a trailer where they quite clearly do not want to be, we can simply guide them into the "V" shaped corrals that leads to two sorting pens. The second pen has another "V" guide that takes the animal to the chute. I still have to install the various gates, but I used the system this weekend to load our Highlands/Galloway cross cow "Henny". She is off now to visit her boyfriend for awhile. The pens are just the right size for our farm. Any bigger, and I feel that I would need help to get the animals sorted and loaded. Henny is quite wild and I had her loaded in about a minute and a half! Excellent! I am a little proud of the design and the ease of use although it is nothing new and plans on-line showed me how to design the catch pens and gave me dimensions for the chute. The next thing to do besides installing hardware and gates is to design and build a slide-in chute within the chute that will make the chute usable for our smaller animals like the pigs and sheep. With a chute that is cattle-sized, the sheep and pigs will easily be able to spin around and make life difficult for us.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Another View of the All-Crop/Roto-Baler

Just thought I would publish more photos of both pieces.

From this view, you can see how complete the baler is. The belts are far less than perfect and will need replacement. Belts on the combine seem fine, but who knows when it actually starts working. Bearings will need TLC. The back of the combine shows how perfect this machine is. There is next to zero rust. Paint is still ok too. Will need canvass (which seem to be rolled up inside!). It is also missing the cutting bar and teeth. That shouldn't be too bad to replace. Otherwise, I have my fingers crossed that there is very little to do.

Border Collies of the North...

We have always owned Collies, but at one point we had the best Labrador in the world. He passed away several years ago and I still miss him greatly. He was a tremendous duck dog. My wife acquired a couple sled dog harnesses from somewhere and she always used the dogs to mush to the mailbox about a mile away. She always got weird looks with her full-size dogsled and team of Border Collie and Lab! The Border Collie was always smart and she quickly figured out that if she just kept the rope tight, she could appear to be pulling but it was always obvious that Brant was maintaining all forward momentum! He would sure pull. Now our old collie is 13 and her only duty is to try not to get herself killed around the equipment. She is deaf as a post and I now have to be very aware of where she is when I am moving equipment or vehicles around the yard. Our new Collie "Tag" is almost 2 now and Cindy decided to try him out in the harness yesterday. It was amazing how quickly he learned to pull. Obviously, he can't pull any amount of weight, but it is still fun for Mrs. Schneider to go to the mail.

A Sheep Auction

As I drove to St. Paul on Friday with my load of chickens, I noticed a sign at the auction mart that stated there was a sheep auction that day. Instead of waiting around inside the truck for 5 hours for the birds to be processed, I decided to attend the auction. Cindy and I have been spending a good amount of time researching sheep and are planning on acquiring a few sometime soon. The lamb meat market is good now, and with a booth at a farmers market next year, we should be able to do well with our pork, chicken, beef and lamb sales. There was not a strong turnout of sheep at the sale. The roads were not good and I think that turned off a lot of people from attending. I missed out on bidding on a couple nice ewes, but thats ok. We will keep looking and find what we want in time. The thing we like about sheep is that they are a little more gentle on the fences and safer for the kids. It should be noted that the prices at the auction were fairly steady. Ewes of any age were going at $1.20 - $1.40 per pound and Rams, nice or otherwise were around $.60 a pound. There were a couple of buyers that bought most of the stock. I assume that they were feedlot operators. Most of the groups were in numbers that were too large for me to consider. It would of been nice to be able to pick out a few nice ewes instead of buying an entire "flock".

The Last Chicken Day!

Thankfully, this is the last shipment of pastured chickens to the processing plant. As usual, the night before, I loaded up the trailer in the field with the old Ford 2N tractor. As you can see, we have a good amount of snow now. This was the latest we have ever kept our chickens in the field. We had them on Fall Rye and had to feed alfalfa hay the last week or so as the birds couldn't scratch through the snow enough to feed properly. The birds had put on a good layer of fat, but not too much and with all the fresh greens they had to eat, they turned out beautiful. We had a chicken dinner on Sunday night and man was that a treat. There is such a difference between store bought chicken and pastured that you would never believe me. You simply have to try it for yourself.

Old Tractor...

This is the Minneapolis Moline U tractor that is in the same farmyard as the Roto-Baler. I think that the fenders are not original, but the rest seems great.

More Allis Finds!

Here is a fairly good condition Roto Baler that we found. It is sitting in an abandoned farmyard and the owner has passed away. The nephew has indicated that we can have everything in the yard as long as we take it all. There are discs, plows, seeders and numerous other pieces of equipment in varying states of decay. The roto-baler looks pretty good though. It appears to be complete and while it needs new belts and bearings etc., it shouldn't be that hard to restore to working condition. There is also an old Minneapolis U tractor that is very complete and would probably start with some fresh gas, plugs and a battery. It will be a long hard project to get the yard cleaned and hauled, but it will be worth it.

A Good Allis Weekend

On Saturday, my friend Vince and I spent a good part of the day driving the countryside looking at various pieces of equipment that he had scouted. He knew I was looking for an All-Crop combine along with a Roto-Baler and some other stuff. It ended up being a good day! We stopped by a neighbors' place who had this old All-Crop sitting in the hedgerow. We talked with him briefly and the farmer was happy to see it go somewhere with the intention of being used again. I got it for free. I didn't stop long enough to look at the serial number or anything, but I think that it is an All-Crop 72 and it doesn't look all that old. We stopped at a couple other All-Crops and they were absolutely decrepit in comparison. It is a straight cut type of combine and that is quite rare up here in Canada as our growing season is short enough to make swathing a necessity in most cases. Nowadays with improved crop genetics there are more and more straight cut varieties of grains, but back when this combine was new, there would have been many years where the crops simply wouldn't get combined. Perhaps this combine was used to harvest clover or alfalfa seed? I don't think that I will risk trying to take this combine home right now. The roads are covered in salt and Vince indicated that it might do damage to the machine down the road. We will wait until the roads are dry or spring...whatever comes first. An addendum...I have heard from several Allis Chalmers experts that this is indeed NOT a 72 model. It seems that the 72 has an auger at the head as opposed to canvass. It is either a 60 or 66. I will get the serial number and find out more details.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Still working the Allis...

Still busy around the farm. We have had a bunch of snow over the past weekend. Last night was Haloween and I spent the evening re-building the shifter on my Allis Chalmers tractor. I have been spending a lot of time on this piece of machinery. I am trying to get it up and running in time for winter chores like snow removal and unloading big round hay bales. The website Unofficial Allis is a tremendous website with a great forum full of people that are extremely knowledgable and helpful. I have spent a good deal of time there asking opinions on how to fix up my old tractor. I am getting fairly close now. The hydraulic system has been re-plumbed and with new hoses and rams for the front end loader, that system is working very well. All I have left to do there is weld the control arm back on to the control valve. That will be a little tricky as it is in a tight spot and I cannot let the shaft get too hot and melt any o-rings inside the pump. A little spurt or two with the 110 volt mig should suffice to hold the arm without getting too hot. Once I get the transmission shift tower back together and re-installed I will be able to perform a good tune-up on the tractor and I might be finished! It was running rough and I noticed liquid coming from one of the exhaust ports...suspecting something wrong, I pulled the spark plug and it had been collapsed on itself somehow. There was definitely no spark there! I have new plugs now and will re-build the distributer later. These two pictures show the shifter before and after. The before picture is at the bottom actually. As you can see, it was quite worn. I built it back up with the welder and a belt sander to get it back to shape.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Piglets Are Fine

Well it was extremely disappointing to only have a litter of 2 piglets this time around. That is extremely rare and I am attributing it to the fact that I had a boar that was quite old at the time. I have since replaced him and will breed Penny to the new boar in the next month or so. If she doesn't have a good litter, then I will know that it is time to replace her. She is a nice pig to have around the farm so I hope that this was the boars' fault. The two piglets, a boar and a gilt, are doing very well. They are growing quickly and spend a good amount of time exploring the pens now. It is interesting to watch them learn from mom about rooting and eating foods other than milk. They spend a lot of time with their noses in the dirt and this is what gives them the vitamins and minerals that they require to grow strong and healthy. In a barn setting, these pigs would have to be given injections of synthetic vitamins, minerals and other goodies that I am not even sure about. Anti-biotics and other drugs are necessary just to keep the majority of them alive in those horrible conditions. I feel very good about seeing my pigs out doing what pigs are supposed to do! The plan now is to keep the gilt to add to the herd and to sell the boar. It is too bad that there weren't other littermates to choose from for both breeding and meat production, but the next litter from Prudence will be better.

Building A Corral

We need a way to better handle our animals when we are transporting. It is always a mission to try to coerce an animal into a trailer when it is clear that they do not want to be in there! I took some ideas from some plans on-line and fitted them to our needs. I spent a good amount of time this past weekend building this fence and working on the loading chute. With some strategically placed gates we will now be able to lure the cows or pigs or whatever into the corral and then hustle them up the chute into the trailer. The first to test the facilities will be our cow "Henny" and her calf "T-Bone". Henny is set to go visit her new boyfriend sometime soon and since T-Bone isn't weaned yet, he will have to go along for the ride. We are contemplating sheep for next year, the market is strong and sheep have always interested us. As you can see in the picture, it has hardly stopped raining for the past month and the corral is a mess. For the most part animals will not be in this area except to graze from time to time. I will seed this in grass next spring and we will try to keep it looking nice.

The Allis Is Apart

It turned out that I needed to re-core the tractor radiator. I broke the solder on the fittings while I was changing the hoses. I took the radiator into the shop and he said that the whole thing needed replacing or fixing. After all it is a 50 year old radiator. While I have the tractor apart, I decided to clean, sand and paint as much of it as I could. It is starting to look really good. I also changed the engine oil, replaced the hydraulic fluid and tightened some bolts and stopped some fluid leaks. I need some fittings replaced on the hyrdaulic pump before I can thoroughly test its power. I am thinking that it will likely need to be rebuilt, but have my fingers crossed. Tonight, I can pick up the new radiator and start putting the tractor back together. Over the winter, I will continue to fix the tractor up in my spare time. By spring, I will have a fully functioning WD45 for all my farm work.

Pastured Chickens

It occurred to me that I have not taken any pictures of the chicken pens. There are about 100 chickens left in our fields in three separate pens. Next year the plan is to make the pens much much larger and try to cut down on the work load of looking after so many pens. Feeding and watering takes a long time as it is and the more pens there are the harder it is. We would like to produce up to 1000 broilers next season. We will have to see how the construction of the pens goes this winter...that will determine to a large extent how many birds we order. Right now, the remaining birds are penned in a small field of Fall Rye. I planted the Rye in August and it is still extremely green even though we have had several hard frosts so far this fall. On a daily basis I drag the pens to new patches of grass and make sure the water is clean and full along with the food troughs. These birds are scheduled for processing on November 3rd. This was our longest broiler season so far...we started brooding chicks in early April!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The New Tractor

Over the weekend I picked up the newest addition to the "fleet" of Gold Forest Farm implements and vehicles. It is a 1954 Allis Chalmers WD45. It came with the original Freeman front end loader, a snap couple 3 bottom plow, a snap couple tiller and a rear blade. It was only $1000 and I grabbed it quickly before someone else did. I thought it was a good deal and certainly worth more than what I paid. It looks to be in half decent condition although right now it is fairly ugly with bad paint and quite a few oil leaks here and there. I need to do a tune up on the engine and I will replace some of the leaking seals and gaskets over time. This is the tractor that I will regularly use for farm work so even though it is killing me to have it look so terrible, I will probably wait for quite some time before I paint it. I would also like to use it for before I spend a whole lot of time and money fixing it up. If it is a lemon, I would like to know that now and focus energy elsewhere. The most pressing thing to do with it now is to hook up the missing alternator and fan belt and then trouble-shoot the slow/weak loader. I will need the loader this winter for handling snow. From there, I will give the engine a tune up and re-build the carb or whatever is causing it to 'pop' and backfire.

I am excited about this tractor. My Grandfather owned several Allis Chalmers tractors and the WD45 is the tractor that I first learned to drive. I can remember sitting between my Dads legs and steering while we plowed. I was probably 8 or 9 years old. From time to time he would yell over the engine noise to "keep it straight"!
For its size, the WD45 is a poweful tractor and easily handles a 3 bottom plow. I will use it for most of the field work since the Ford N is less than half the horsepower. Almost all of my existing implements are 3pt. hitch; so, I will need to fabricate some sort of 3pt. hitch for the Allis as it is equipped with a "snap couple" type of implement hook up system. I have an idea in my head to use the existing snap-couple hook up and some manufactured lift arms to connect to the original lift arms of the Allis. We'll see how far I get with that idea in the coming months of winter. The shop will be busy this winter!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

My Friends' Combine

This is a friend who lives along the coast of BC. He operates a small diversified farm and uses this old Massey 35 combine each year to harvest small fields of oats and other grains. It looks like the old combine works really well although I can feel the "itch" just looking at the picture! I get itchy with grain dust while I am inside the cab of my 503 let alone the open station of the 35 being so close to the table. It is a neat old combine and the perfect size for a small, diversified farm.

Inside the 8550

The AC 8550 is a fairly easy tractor to drive. The controls are well thought out and handy. I was pulling a relatively small cultivator, but I was breaking pasture/hay land that hadn't been dirt for years. The roots were thick and the ground was compact. The goal for the day was to simply create some 'scratches' in the soil to allow the tiller to come along next and really get things worked up. I would say that overall, I accomplished more than just scratching the surface. There were some spots with thick grass where the shovels would dig in and we just skidded along the surface, but those were isolated spots. This is what I saw each time I looked back.

The Allis Chalmers 8550

Time for Fall field work. I have been busy over the past while cultivating fields in preparation for next years' seeding. First, I was helping with Vince's field work. He acquired a new piece of property and I spent a day going over it with the cultivator. One of Vince's tractors is an early 80's Allis Chalmers 8550. I believe that this was the largest tractor that AC produced. It is big!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Piglets Have Arrived!

Last night 'Penelope' was in her hut and wouldn't come out to eat. This is somewhat unusual for her and when I checked her udder, she had lots of milk! I went back to the house and mentioned to Cindy that I thought she was close. Sure enough, this morning as I was walking past her hut to feed the chickens out in the field, I heard some squeaking from within. I checked quickly and there were two that I could see. I am unsure if she was still in the middle of labour, but I hope she has more than 2! When I get home from work I will check again and see what is up and report more. In the meantime, I had a chance to take a quick picture before I left her for the day.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Another Picture of Digging Potatoes

Here is another shot of the potato digger in action. As I mentioned earlier, the tractor wouldn't go slow enough. In a perfect situation, the slower travel of the digger would result in less soil going up the chain conveyor and allow more soil to fall through...this would leave the potatoes more visible on the surface. As it was, I had the N in first gear and about half throttle...this was still too fast and any less throttle would bog the little tractor down. We had to dig through the dirt a little to find the potatoes, but still, it was a lot better than digging them all by hand! I do have plans to try to find another tractor this winter. I need a 30-50 hp tractor with more gears to choose from. I am planning to farm more land next season and have struck a deal with a neighbor for an additional field of about 5 acres. I know this is a small chunk, but it is a start and I hope this will lead to some networking whereby I can obtain some more fields.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Time for a little hunting...

Garreth and I took a few days off to go Antelope hunting last week. It was fun to be out of the house together and I had been successful in a draw for a trophy Antelope in southern Alberta. I have never hunted with a rifle before, but being a bowhunter, and very familiar with the area we were to hunt, I suspected that our hunt would not last very long. I was correct. We drove for 5 hours to the zone we were allowed to hunt. We then sought the landowner to give us permission to hunt and found him in his truck overlooking a vast prairie landscape with a small herd of Antelope visible in the distance. After a brief conversation, Garreth and I snuck a couple hundred yards to the crest of a hill where we could be at least a little closer. I steadied the rifle and began searching through the scope for the buck. At first I couldn't see him, but soon spotted the tips of his horns bouncing towards us from behind a distant hill. Garreth and I became very still as he approached to within 150 yards and stood perfectly broadside. I whispered if Garreth was ready and he nodded "yes". I have to admit that the crosshairs of the rifle scope were vibrating a little with excitement, but it was nothing compared to the panic of being within 20 yards of your prey with a bow in your hands. I pulled the trigger and the buck went down instantly. Our hunt was over. We spent the rest of the evening, cleaning and cutting Antelope meat and then drove home the following morning. It was a good little trip.

Digging Potatoes

It was finally time to harvest our small field of potatoes. There have been a couple of killing frosts over the past 2 weeks and the tops had died off. I had hoped that the skins of the potatoes had set enough to avoid damage going through the digger. I have an old horse-drawn digger that has been modified by a previous owner to be pulled by a tractor. The N did a pretty good job, although a tractor with more hp and a lower gear would have worked better. We ended up with somewhere around 600 pounds of Russian Blue and Banana Fingerling potatoes. The kids followed behind the digger collecting the potatoes that were left laying on top of the newly dug soil. We put all the potatoes in a wagon and brought them back to the house to be stored in the cold room downstairs.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Another Chicken Day

I took another load of chickens up to St. Paul for processing last Friday. As you can see in the picture, it was terribly rainy that day and has been for more than a week. I used the tractor to pull the trailer from the field where the chickens are instead of the truck. The truck is much heavier and I didn't want to risk getting stuck or making a bunch of damage to the field of Fall Rye.

Harvesting has ground to a halt and the ground is too wet to do much of anything lately. I have been tinkering around the farm here and there, but other than that, I have been enjoying a bit of a rest. Still though, with winter coming fast, it would be nicer to be out getting the harvest complete and finishing some other tasks around the place that are weather dependant. We had a killing frost on Sunday night...that means that the potato tops are now dead or dying. I can go ahead and harvest potatoes anytime after this coming weekend. Tonight, Cindy is renting a one-man auger for installing some fence posts. I have to finish my new pig pen before it snows.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Small Farm Canada

This publication is self-explanatory. It is a great magazine that has many different articles geared towards homesteaders and small farmers. I was honoured to have an article published in the magazine in the latest issue. It is simply an article about winter feeding tactics for pigs.
I don't think I can scan the article to show everyone, I will have to check on that.

If you scan WAY WAY down the page, you will see the little blurb about my article.

Monday, September 11, 2006

New Doors

I finally decided to take on the task of building barn doors. Until now, and for the past 5 years, our barn has been without doors and doesn't look all that great. The wind carries the rain and snow into the building and the sunlight still wreaks havoc on the rubber tired implements and tractor. Most importantly though, Mrs. Schneider wanted doors. I thought about how best to accomplish this task. The openings are 10x10' and so that effectively ruled out plywood as I would have to piece together sheets or buy special 10' boards. I decided I would try to build a door using 1x6 rough cut spruce in a more traditional type of door. I was worried about weight, but I bought some BIG hinges and went ahead. Admittedly, I am probably the worst carpenter in the world. Nothing I have ever tried to build with wood has worked out terribly well. I just don't seem to have the patience for fitting things together properly. Give me a cutting wheel and a welder any day.
I layed out the boards side by side on the ground until I had the desired width and then snugged them together while screwing braces on the back side in a "Z" shape. To my surprise, and with considerable effort, the door came out square and even! A quick measure and a run with the cirular saw...and then a mighty heave to get it up there and I had half a barn door mounted. I was impressed enough that I duplicated my efforts and got the other half built and mounted in a very short time. The only screw-up was that I ran out of lag bolts to secure the hinges...I thought I had more than I actually did. I substituted a small hinge with wood screws for the time being. The door works well and looks really good in my opinion. I still need to mount a door stop on the header to stop the door from swinging inwards as far as it does, but that will not take long.
I still have two more openings to go before I am done. I will take it day-by-day and when I find some time, I will finish the doors this fall.

Weekend Tasks

I spent the weekend busy as usual around the farm. On Saturday I was combining for most of the day down at Vince's place. We were still combining oats. These were the oats that I had swathed last weekend. We had had hot dry weather all week so the combining went really well. I was in second gear with the variable speed kicked up a couple notches...as far as a 1968 combine is concerned, I was flying! Still though, it was a little disheartening to watch Vince's much newer John Deere 8820 going past me on a regular basis. It was like the first time marathoner, so proud to have trained so hard to be there in the first place only to watch the entire field of runners filing past one after the other throughout the race! No surprise though, the JD has almost three times the capacity and a 280 horsepower diesel compared to my 105 hp gas engine.

On Saturday morning, I did manage to get one irritating problem corrected. On my old tidy tank, the hose was leaking every time I used it. I had to stick the hose end deep into whatever tank I was filling to avoid losing fuel onto the ground. I went to the UFA store and picked up a new hose...then I thought I may as well install a filter. It didn't take long to install, but it wasn't a cheap R&R either. It is an older tank with 3/4 inch hose fittings. The only filter fitting I could find was 1". I needed some pipe fittings and teflon tape to make everything come together. It is a much longer hose now too...I don't have to get quite so close to whatever I am filling anymore.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The 503...a blur of activity

This photo didn't really work out. With the flash on, all you could see was the inside of the cab...with the flash off, it was dark enough to be blurry. Still though, it is kind of an interesting photo...I like it!

The 503 at home

Here is a picture of my new 503 at home in a field of oats. I am excited to have a combine and it is quite a bit of fun to use this old piece of machinery. The 503, at the time it was new, was the largest combine in the world. It is still big enough! I plan to fix it up and keep it running for another 30 years or more.

The New Combine

I picked up my new combine last Thursday. My Uncle Ren gave it to me. It is a late 60's International 503. It is in very good working condition and I was trying to figure out a way to get it home. I had to get it from his farm near Gibbons Alberta to my place more than 50 miles away. I really didn't want to drive it that far, but with the extreme high cost of transport in Alberta right now, trucking was out of the question. I took the day off work and bit the bullet...I packed a lunch and a thermos of coffee and decided to try driving it home no matter how long it took. I was surprised at how little time it actually took. I drove it home exclusively on gravel roads and 4.5 hours later I was home! The combine ran fine and I had absolutely no troubles. There were some concerning times, when I had to go down steep hills and across bridges...these combines are belt driven and are very large and heavy...if a belt breaks on a hill, you have a runaway on your hands. On Friday, I went over it with the grease gun, replaced some lights and prepared for the next leg of the journey which was to my friend's farm down near Thorsby (about 1/2 an hour by truck). This would be a shorter drive, but much more dangerous with many hills and rivers to travel over. Still though, the combine ran perfectly and in 2.5 hours I was there ready to help him with his harvest of over 800 acres of organic grain.
I started actually combining on Sunday afternoon. I started on a field of oats. The combine ran well enough, but we think that it isn't running fast enough. Vince is ordering me a new spring for the governor so hopefully that will fix the problem. We have perfect weather for grain harvesting right now. I spent the whole day Monday helping Vince and it was terribly hot. I ran the swather for most of the day while the dew dried and then later in the afternoon, I started combining again. The 503 overheated a few times (again probably due to the lower rpm problem). Later in the evening when things cooled down a bit, I went along without a hitch.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Collecting Hay

Summer is almost over and it is time to start getting ready for our long winter of feeding animals. To that end, we have purchased 100 2nd cut alfalfa bales. They are certified organic and are very rich. We will mix this hay with our grassy organic hay from our own land when we feed the cows. The pigs will eat this rich alfalfa hay as it sits. I will run it through the hammer mill and then mix it with the grain chop. I can feed it dry, but they much prefer it when I mix it with warm water. It makes a great smelling green porridge! Very tempting. We only got 72 bales on this load. Tonight I will drive to the farm and pick up the remaining 28. I do need a bigger trailer. Usually, I would take the big Ford diesel for a job like this, but I have the insurance off it for the time being and didn't think to reinstate it for this week of hauling hay.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Seed Drill Ready To Go

I spent a good part of Sunday working on the new Seed Drill. I needed to get it degreased, washed out (Organic regulations) and then I had to tackle the missing drive chain and broken seed housing. The first thing I did was take a trip to the local Ag Store (UFA) where they were mostly likely to have chain in stock. Sure enough, they had exactly what I was looking for...only $50!!! Next, I needed some sort of epoxy and some bolts for the seed housing repair. I settled on JB Stick Weld, a putty epoxy that you knead in your fingers and apply. I needed something that wouldn't run into the cracks and mess with the rotating seed dispenser. It seemed to work really well and set up hard in a matter of only a few minutes. Actually, before I applied the epoxy, I clamped the housing together and drilled and bolted it tight. There were still some gaps in the cracks, but that was OK because I knew the epoxy would fill them. Actually, I was glad for the gaps, thinking that perhaps they would give the epoxy something to 'grip'.
Figuring out how to separate that chain was an excercise in futility. That is the thing that is missing on my farm...some old-timer who knows second nature, how to do these basic chores. After much deliberation, it occured to me that I could bend the link a certain way, give it a few blows with the hammer and it would pop apart...success! I got the chain down to the correct length, got it on the sprockets and that part was done.
Chain was on...seed housing was fixed...a quick wash and degrease and I had a fully operational seeder for the back of the N. Now all I need to do is find some seed. For whatever reason, I am having one heck of a time finding both Fall Rye and Buckwheat seed right now. I don't need the buckwheat this fall, but I sure need the Fall Rye. I have placed many calls and the organic farmers I am talking with are all having the same problem. Why more people don't grow it for seed is beyond me considering the demand amongst organic farmers. I can't wait to take the seeder out to the back field to get it earning its keep.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Broke Seeder Part

Here is a better view of the part that I broke. I assume that it is cast aluminum and it is quite thin. Any ideas out there for how I can fix this? There is a sliding cam that needs to fit into this housing and it does need to have the strength to resist the turning of said cam. Still though, I don't think it needs to be tremendously strong or they would have made it thicker to begin with. I have been told that perhaps some sort of epoxy would work.

My Project Last Night

This is the new seeder that I bought. Well...as you can see it is definitely not new...new to me though. It is a Midwest One Way Disc seeder. Actually, it is quite ingenius for how simple it is. As the discs rotate in the soil, a chain (that is currently missing) turns the sprocket that drives the rotors in the seed compartments. As the rotors turn, seed is dispensed into the tubes that are located between the discs. The seed drops and then are covered in soil by the discs. It is so simple and basic and yet fairly clever. The old fellow that I bought the unit from had it for 40 years or so and never used it as a seeder! He had it for working summer fallow. As a result, the shaft was steadfastly rusted and wouldn't turn. Heat and oil and penetrating fluid and a lot of banging and clanging around managed to get it to turn. However, without taking it completely apart I had no idea where it was bound. I finally forced it enough that one of the seed housings broke and then I knew where the problem lay. The good news is that only one assembly was rusted solid...the bad news is that the cast aluminum housing split. Now I have to figure out how to weld cast aluminum (or braise it). I have no idea what to do at this point in time, but I will ask around and figure it out. Once I get the seed housing fixed and continue lubricating the shaft, I will have a usable old seeder for behind the N.
One other fascinating aspect of this seeder is the lifting mechanism. It is a big ole heavy thing that normally the Ford N 3pt. hitch hydraulics wouldn't be able to handle. The lift arms actually hook on to the seeder and when you lift them, a cable and pulley system pulls the wheel at the back of the seeder down, thereby lifting the entire set of discs off the ground. This of course disables the seeding action and allows you to transport the seeder between fields. I will post a picture of the seeder in action once I get it unloaded from the trailer and hooked up to the N.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Happy Girl

I moved both sows into their farrowing field. I am hoping that they are now both bred. The farrowing field is approximately 100' x 100' and has a good mix of grass pasture and bush. There is a large amount of shade and rich pasture full of dandelions and clover and grass. It has been vacant for several months and when I put the girls in there this weekend, they were in hog heaven! They grazed for a few hours and then slept soundly for many more hours! I think they were happy to be away from that pesky young boar who was always nudging them around.
Bubbles is still in his field, but it has been greatly expanded with the removal of the electric fencing. It is about the same size as the farrowing field and is where the corn was growing. He is very busy now destroying corn stalks and grazing away happily. The cows and llamas are in the large field beside him and when they come up for water, he has company.

The Farrowing Hut...another view

Here is a view of the roof opened. You can also see the carpet flaps that allow the pigs access to and from the hut. When I last farrowed at the end of January, I hung a heat lamp from the peak. That, combined with the body heat of all those pigs, made it very comfy in there!

The Farrowing Hut

This is the first farrowing hut I built. It functions nicely, but with my really big sows, it is slightly undersized. It is approximately 8' x 6'. For a gilt or a younger sow, it would work perfectly. Still though, it is the only one I have at the moment and will have to make due for at least one more farrowing. I used the Ford tractor "the N" to drag the hut back to the yard from the Deer Field over the weekend. It was in need of some repair from the time that I dragged it out to the Deer Field! I built a transport skid for it and that works a little better instead of just dragging it by itself. When I built the hut, I did install small skids on the bottom but I have discovered that they are much too small for my rough ground.
When the hut was first constructed, I considered a few things. Number one, I wanted a slightly assymetric design to the hut. I wanted more of an angle on one side so that the piglets would have more room to get out of the way. With the slope of the roof, the sow is restricted by height in trying to lie down right against the wall...did that make sense to you?! For instance, if the wall were vertical, there would be no restriction to her laying right up against the wall and squishing her pigs. With the sharper slope, the pigs can squeeze up against the wall and escape being crushed when 'Mom' comes in to rest or nurse.
The other consideration I had was the fact that sows with very young piglets are very protective of their young and won't hesitate to come at you fast if you try to handle them right in front of her nose. I decided to hinge one side of the roof to allow me to sneak peeks at the piglets or to grab them when I need to without the sow being able to get me. She enters from the flaps at the front of the hut and typically sleeps with her nose facing the front. If I open the hinged roof slightly, I can gain access to the piglets if I have to. It works well enough. In warm weather, I can also prop the roof open to allow for ventilation.
The hut has no floor in it. The sow, when she is ready to give birth, will gather many mouthfulls' of straw and build her nest within the hut. Once the hut is no longer being used, I simply drag it to another location where it is needed.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A Jar of Honey

Here is a jar of honey from our farm. This is the label I created using Logo Design Studio. I simply printed the logo on standard Avery labels. It worked well. Now that the honey has settled and has been filtered, it can be bottled and go to market. We will sell our honey directly from the farm as opposed to a Farmer's Market or some other method.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Look at the corn now...

it is really getting up there! I am exactly 6 feet tall and it is a good foot or more over my head. It is healthy and strong and I am happy with it in all respects except that I won't get any corn from it!!! Oh well...sometimes experiments just don't work. Here it is August 14th and I have a month of growing season left at most. The corn still hasn't extended the flowers. I am unsure what that is called, but I know that you need the flowering in order for pollination to occur and the cobs to form. There is just no way that all of that is going to occur in the next month. I knew it was a long season corn, but I still thought that there would be the odd stalk that matured earlier than the rest. Doesn't look like that will happen now. I will leave it grow and see what happens, but in the end, I will have to open the gate and let the cows and pigs have at it. Next year I will plant a shorter season corn and try again in another field.


I spent a few hours mowing over the weekend. I had promised to mow a neighbor's pasture and did that on Saturday. It was cattle grazed and had patches of Canada thistle that needed to be knocked down. On Sunday, I decided to mow around our place since I already had the mower hooked up to the N. The mower is an old unknown brand rough cut mower or "Brush Hog". It has two very heavy hinged blades that rotate at a relatively slow speed compared to a regular lawn mower. These heavy blades plow through anything that the tractor can drive over. Saplings and heavy grass are quite easily handled. I use it to mow our trails along with the meadow by the pond where our Christmas trees are growing. I planted the trees at a distance apart from each other that would allow me to easily drive the tractor between the rows. I have to keep the grass cut around the trees or they will not develop into proper looking Christmas trees. Also, the heavy grass would rob the young tree of sunlight and water and nutrients. In an ideal world, I would fence the area and find an animal that I could trust to not eat the trees as they grazed. This would save on gas and better utlize the wonderful grass that grows down by the pond.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Final Product

Here is a 20 pound bucket of Certified Naturally Grown honey. It is a rich golden colour this year...last year, it was definitely a lighter colour. I am not sure why the difference, but it has to do with what flowers the bees visited and also the fact that the frames of honey comb darken with age and therefore, the honey also darkens. I personally like the darker colour of honey, but it is interesting to note that the lighter honeys demand higher prices commercially. In different parts of the world honey comes in a multitude of colours...some of it is dark brown. Alberta is one of the leaders in the world for honey production. There are hives everywhere!

The Old Extractor

This is the extractor in operation. The photo makes it look like it is spinning much faster than it actually is. Really, it doesn't take a fast spin or a very long spin in order to get all the honey out of the frames. There is a large valve at the bottom that, when opened, allows the honey to drain once it is out of the frame. I was looking for an extractor when I saw this one advertised in a local paper. I went to see it and it was in near perfect shape and very old. I am thinking that it was built sometime in the 40's or 50's. It works the same as it did the day it was built and I intend to look after it so that my grandkids can use it if they want to.

A Frame of Honey

This is what a full frame of honey looks like as it comes out of the hive. It looks white because there is a thin layer of bees' wax that covers each individual cell full of honey. This is called "capping". Once the cappings are removed, the honey is ready to be extracted with centrifugal force in the antique extractor.

Extracting Honey!!

Well, I was about 3 weeks late in getting the honey out of my hive. It was just one of those things where I couldn't get organized enough to get it done. Cindy finally picked up some containers and I finally found a few hours to try to get the job done!

The first step in extracting our honey was to get the bees out of the way! What I do is take the boxes (supers) full of honey and bees and set them aside and on their sides. When the 'hive' is re-orientated on its side and exposed to the light and open air, they will vacate. At the same time, I replace the full supers with empty ones to give the bees room to start filling comb again. After I take the full boxes off and tip them on their sides, I simply wait for a couple hours to let the residents get out of the way!

The next step was to actually take the honey from the comb. This is the fun part. The frames are taken out of the supers one at a time and I cut the cappings off. The cappings are simply the "corks" that the bees put over the honey to let it cure and keep it safe for later. Once I have the cappings removed with a long knife, I can place the frames into the old extractor.

Once all four frames are placed into the extractor I just spin the handle for a few seconds. It doesn't take more than 30 seconds or so of spinning to get all the honey out. Once one side is extracted, I flip the frames over and spin them again to empty the other side.

Last night I only managed to get one super extracted. It was cold and rainy...about 15 degrees celcius. The honey wouldn't flow very well at that temperature and it took a long time to have it go through the sieve and into the large buckets. I need to put the raw honey into disinfected buckets to let it settle out any foreign particles and impurities. The air bubbles rise to the top and the particles fall to the bottom. In a few days, the honey will be ready to bottle.

It is amazing honey...when it is fresh you can still smell the flowers! It tastes wonderful that I can tell you!