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.