Beef Short Ribs and Yellow Fat

Health Benefits of Grassfed Food stuffs

Buggers, my photo doesn’t properly show just how yellow the fat is from these super tender grass finished beef short ribs.  I buy grassfed butter from our friends, but it’s extremely expensive, so when i can, i use our home grown beef fat for cooking and flavouring.

Our cattle are fully finished on pasture only – no grain ever – which allows the fat to be high in vitamin E and betacarotenes, thus giving its yellow colour.

Absolutely tasty.  The broth will be frozen up for soup making.

Keep hydrated out there!

tauna

 

Pickin’ Blackberries!

It’s that time when the blackberries are ripening in haste.  Years and years ago, my mother-in-law, Mary, planted a few vines on the side hill beside her home.  She is gone now 3 years, but the vines have commandeered a great area.  Son, Dallas, has taken an interest in bringing them under control.  It is a daunting task since blackberry vines are notoriously prickly.  However, it will be nice.  Here you can see two bunches – one he has thinned and one still in a state of chaos and disarray.  I’m thinking that after the season, he should just mow a cross right through the middle and be done with it.

Ideally, someone would dig out the vines and transplant them, but blackberries are cheap to buy, so no use working so hard to produce your own.

Last year, i plucked about 10 gallons worth of berries before they were done producing.  Still enjoying them!

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This is the unruly bushy mess of vines.  It is starting to choke itself out and clearly i cannot harvest the ripe berries near the middle, so this needs care.

 

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This is the side that has been lovingly cared for.  It is interesting to note, that this is more productive – not only because the plants have more ‘breathing space’ if you will, but also because i can actually harvest all the fruits.

 

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Only the fourth day of pickin’ and over a gallon.  Oodles left on those vines in the center of where i cannot reach.  The birds will get those.  In fact, the birds will get all the ripe ones if i don’t harvest every morning!

Cheers!

tauna

Challenges of Solar Water Pump

THis entry will serve two-fold; one as a page in the handbook i’m assembling about my little Tannachton Farm  – not the day to day stuff, but the month to month stuff that happens each year, and secondly to address the questions received about the details about the solar pump used on my farm.  It’s been 5 years now in use and i guess the gremlins are chased out because it is working great this year – i do hope i didn’t just jinx it!

All of the pipe and tanks on the solar system are laid out on top the ground; not buried 4 feet.  Why?  When i applied for and received an EQIP organic transition NRCS government aid that was/is the protocol.

Water pipe:  black polyethylene HDPE 1.5 inch pipe purchased in 500 foot rolls.  So, i unrolled (by hand!) about 4500 feet of 1 1/2 inch HDPE black pipe over that top of the ground to the stock tanks.  The pipe is connected using Philmac fittings of the same diameter.  The use of 1.5 inch pipe eliminates a great deal of friction.  Build drive over uprights to eliminate heavy vehicles driving over pipes in gateways. imageimage

Water tanks:  10 galvanised tanks purchased from Hastings Equity Manufacturing in Nebraska.  I needed high volume tanks because of the number of animals i would be watering and i like a low profile because not only did i plan sheep at the time, but i also want my baby calves to drink – and they do.   A 2-3 foot tall tank will not allow a calf to drink for many months (because it’s not always full).  So, i went with a Hastings sheep water tank that is 8 foot diameter, one foot tall and is lightweight enough for me to move around by myself plus it holds 342 gallons of water!  Well, realistically 300, but that’s still a good amount of storage.  I have 10 of these tanks in use with no problems so far in 5 years.

The technical stuff:  It’s a Dankoff Solar pump.  Pumping through 4500 feet of HDPE pipe which are connected with Philmac fittings.   The pump house was built by MSF Farm Mike and Jeff Fries, Linneus MO.  They also assembled all the pump and installed it inside the house and attached and wired the solar panel to the top of the house to make a seamless, easy to use and move system.  To install all the workings, they also dug out to my pond drain pipe and tied into the pond and set up the shut off valves for that as well.  It was a big job.  As an aside, they also installed the solar panel on a tall pole for my electric fence.

Initially, there was one battery installed, but that is absolutely not enough.  I’m using two now and that is fine unless there is a long period of no light.  With two batteries, the pump will continue for a theoretical 90 minutes before the batteries are drained.  Once the batteries are drained, they will NOT recharge and allow the system to start again once the sun starts shining.  They must be at least a little charged before the solar panel will charge them again.  This is a protection of the system so that the pump won’t keep trying to kick on every time there is a hint of sunshine.  In my opinion, there should be a way to keep the battery from completely draining, then a meter that only allow the pump to start again when the batteries are fully charged.  So, what happens when the batteries are completely drained?  I have to undo the connections and load them into my Gator and haul them home to a charger, charge them overnight, then take them back and hook back up.  Perhaps not a big deal to most, but those batteries weigh at least 50 lbs each.

However, this year, once i got it all going, i’ve had no shut down now for over a month.  Very happy.

Elevation:  the solar pump, panel, pressure tank, and housing are all located below the pond at about 817 feet above sea level.  There seems to be little loss of pressure to the furthest point of 3480 feet undulating between 817 and 874.

Water Line Elevation
The pale purple line is the one the elevation profile outlines – the solar pump at the base of the pond is the starting point.

My system is all fair weather and above ground.  This means that i wait until there is no freezing in the forecast before firing it up.

Spring preparation:

  1. replace plugs in tanks
  2. replace plug in water filter
  3. Install batteries and connections
  4. Wash off solar panel
  5. Remove any wasp nests from inside enclosure
  6. Make sure ground wire is in place
  7. Turn on water at pond to make sure good flow, then turn off.
  8. Connect pipe to pond outlet and flush, then connect to inlet valve
  9. Turn on pond water, water will come out outflow valve – you will get wet
  10. Connect outgoing pipe to outflow valve
  11. If there are no leaks in the system, at this point just keep moving down the line as water flushes out the pipe and reconnect at each connection.  It is important to flush the lines because i can guarantee there will be some mud and mice which have built homes in the line over the winter.
  12. Finally, flushing out the end of the line before connecting to tank float assembly.  Connect and allow tank to fill.
  13. Just about guarantee that the tank will not be level, so you will have to watch it fill and make any float adjustments.  If it cannot be kept from leaking over the side, shut off water valve at the tank.  Either drain the tank (oh yeah, be sure to put the plug in the tank before filling) via tank plug or leaving it for the cattle to drink down.  Use a 2×4 or some such to level the tank.

 

If the solar supply cannot be checked everyday,  always let the cattle have access to a gravity fed water supply below a pond or to the ditch if there is water running there.  When the weather gets hot, the cattle cannot be allowed to be without water.  If this does happen, let them into a pond lot so they can all drink at once.  Be vigilant and thoughtful as to water supply.

Fall shut down and drain: BEFORE freezing weather arrives

  1. Unplug the pump, shut off solar panel access, place arm in ‘off’ position
  2. Shut off water from pond
  3. Remove pipe from shut off valve
  4. Using channel lock pliers or some such, remove large nut from the bottom of the water filter
  5. At this point, walk outside the gated enclosure, then to the north and find the connection.  Remove it using two channel lock pliers.  You will get wet, but once detached, quickly pull the pipe towards the ditch to the east.  Water from all the pipe will come rushing out!
  6. While that is happening, go back to the pump and remove outflow and inflow pipes from fittings.  Making sure there is no freeze points.  Remove plugs from tanks as indicated and make sure they drain.
  7. Remove connections from batteries and take the batteries home to a warm place.  Don’t allow a discharged battery to freeze.  They can discharge in the winter without you knowing.

 

 

Solar Water System 2014 (8)
The little trailer is all set and hooked up to the water system.  Solar panel on top is 550 watts and available as part of this system that Mike Fries, Linneus, MO builds.   My panel is set below a pond with the bank to the west.  This means that sunlight in the fall can be very iffy in the late afternoons.  Consider shutting it down as needed.
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Another view of the trailer.  The pump does not fill this pictured tank; it is fed by gravity flow from the pond above.
Solar Water System 2014 (5)
Very handy – nay, imperative, to have quick coupler with individual shut off at each tank.  This allows for flushing of the line all the way to the tank and also allowing the ability to shut off the tank when not in use.  This assembly easily screws into the Philmac 1.5 inch female adapter.
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Nice flow through the valve – flushing and checking before quick coupling to the hose to the float assembly in the tank.
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Full flow fill through pipe and into tank makes for 6-7 gallon fill per minute.  Float arm and tank assembly all put together by MSF Farm, Linneus, MO.
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Morningstar TriStar Solar Controller
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I keep a photo of the wiring configuration inside the pump house because i can’t remember from year to year how to wire it up properly!  Good grief – the battery recommends ‘team lifting’!  Where am i going to get a team?  I gotta pack that sucker myself up, out and around, and lift into the Gator.

 

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Dankoff Solar Pump from MSF Farm

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Flotec pressure tank

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All the above photos are the insides and working parts – MSF Farm will put this all together for you based on your own situation.

Now that I’m done writing up this entry, my system is down. 😦  It seems calves hit the fence near a tank which allowed them to bump the float and the water was overflowing which caused the  batteries to be drawn down – yup, i’ve got them in the back of the Gator, brought home, and now charging.

Such is life!

Cheers

tauna

On the Road

I think i forgot to reblog this – Nathan is now back in the US and busy, busy, busy as usual.

Enter Wonderland

For all those who thought I would have travel updates: my bad! Here’s the first of my summaries from this semester.

Ironic that the first travel post I’m going to make is about the end of my semester, but it is what it is.

Thursday, May 18 represented my last full day in Salamanca. After many tearful goodbyes and vise-like hugs, I pulled myself away from the lovely friends of En Vivo to grab a couple hours of rest before collecting my bags and making my way to the Salamanca estación de autobuses. A few friends were there. Some, like me, were boarding. Others came to say goodbye. Tears had run dry by this point, so instead we exchanged bittersweet smiles as the bus pulled away. It was over.

A few hours later I found myself lost in Madrid Bajaras, searching for a Ryan Air check station. Aftr listening to…

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Israeli Salad

As soon in the spring that i can source good veggies, i start making my Israeli Salad.  I eat a whole batch nearly everyday that i can through the growing season until the veggies get yucky again.

My recipe is simple:

1 green pepper chopped
1 tomato chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 cucumber chopped
2 tablespoons dried cilantro or parsley (double that if using fresh)
1 teaspoon Real salt (double this if you are sweating a lot and need salt)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil

Stir it all up.  As with most veggies and fruits – room temperature is best for lovely flavours.

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Second Pass & Broadcast

With the first pass May 15, 16, and 17 behind me, several very light rain showers, and a few days of drying out, I was ready to get to that second tillage pass and get the annual seeds in the dirt!.  Thursday,  May 25, 2017, I spent 4 hours with the Howard Rotavator 600 and was pleasantly surprised that, for the most part, the John Deere 4250 tractor worked along nicely at A2 speed vs A1.  This effectively increased my speed from 2.1 mph to 2.6 mph.  And it showed up in the final tally for sure!  The second pass on the same 18 acres, instead of taking 12 hours as before, only rang up 7 1/2 hours.  Nice.  Admittedly, i could never make a farmer (row cropper); how do those guys run those things for hours on end, daylight to dark, day after day.  I was thankful, i could distract myself for a while, at least on the long rows, by chatting (private message) with my son, who was at a cafe in Spain, and texting about soil conditions with a friend who was farming another part of my farm with 120 acres for organic soybean production.  I finished up with the second pass on the 26th.  It was also seeded on the 26th.

When i was about 2/3 rds completed, Allen came with a huge bag of premixed annual seed to fill the hopper on the Einboch power seeder and harrow.  He finished all 18 acres in about 4 hours, counting a couple stoppages due to hoses plugging.

So, time spent so far:

Mixing seeds – 1 hour

Tractor – first pass – 12 hours

Tractor – second pass – 7 1/2 hours

Tractor/Seeding  – 4 hours

A couple of ways to figure the cost of establishment.

One is to figure my actual costs and assign an hourly rate for our time plus wear/tear/depreciation on the tractor and implements.  And the other is to use custom rental rates which are figured by the acre.

  1. Total man hours spent – 24.5 hours at $??/hr
  2. Tractor costs for 23.5 hours at $??/hr
  3. Seed cost
  4. Fuel costs – 23.5 times 7.7 gph = 181 gallons @

Or using machinery rental rates (which is what i’m going to do since i don’t know the above costs!)

  1. tractor and rotavator – 36 acres times $20/acre = $720.00
  2. tractor and seeder/harrow – 18 acres times $15/acre = $270.00
  3. Seed costs – $31.56 per acre is what i ordered – HOWEVER, i am informed that Allen actually put on about half again as much, so i will multiply that amount by 1.5 for a per acre cost of $47.34.  The additional seed will hopefully pay off in increased forage yields.  So total seed costs are $$852.12.

Buckwheat 6# @ $ .90/lb

Lespedeza 6# @ $1.00/lb

Pearl Millet 5# @ $1.05/lb

Oats 12# @ $ .28/lb

Cowpeas 6# @ $ .90/lb

Sunflower 5# @ $.45/lb

Red Clover  2# @ $1.95/lb

Total expenses then amount to $1842.12 or $102.34 per acre.  That’s a lot and does not include the 2 tons of lime i had applied in April at a cost of $66/acre.  It’s tough to say this all has to be recouped in one year or one grazing because the lime will be there for the rest of my life and the tillage will have long term effects in loosening the soil as well as eradicating the toxic endophyte infected fescue.  With so many variables, counting the cost, or rather, measuring the increase or lack thereof, in the short run, is very difficult in ranch renovation.

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Greased up and ready to go!
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Greased up and ready to go!
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On the long rows, i can distract myself by chatting through Facebook with my son, who was in Spain, and texting my friend who is farming another portion of my land about soil conditions.  Lot of talk about the negative aspects of multitasking, but we all do it and it works.
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Seen here the second pass.
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Wasn’t just a plethora of big rocks this machine dug up.  Boy howdy, this made quite a clatter!  Thankfully, it did not do any damage and i was able to easily unwind this heavy chain from the shaft.
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Allen, my husband, moving along quickly with the Einbach seeder/harrow.  I gotta keep plugging along or he will overtake me!
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Einboch PneumaticStar – Pro Grass Seeder/harrow
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After the Einbock Pneumatic Seeder/Harrow passes.
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Seeded 26 May, no rain, but took this photo this morning, the 1st of June, and it can already be rowed, but ya gotta hold your head just right to see it.
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Close up of some of the forages emerging – very exciting!  Only 5 days in the ground.

The plan is to have something to graze in 60-75 days. This will depend large part on moisture.  We are getting pretty dry now already and need a rain.  I will post updates.

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Here’s a shot of my seed mix in the machine.

By the way, you noticed i’m not including costs associated with photography and blogging.  It’s a good way to force me to sit down and keep a log of expenses, time, and results.  Hopefully, it will help others as well!

Managing soil, water, and animals properly and privately goes a lot further than politically motivated government regulations written by people who are far removed from soil and weather.

Cheers!

tauna

The Big Till

As a first step of my endophyte infected fescue eradication and pasture renovation project, today was the big day of tillage.  My husband had purchased a Howard Rotavator 600, which is 10 foot wide sod-cutting and chewing machine and the soil (actually just dirt, it’s in pathetic condition) it’s been through gave it a real workout.  Even the tractor couldn’t keep up and i had to sidle over and only take 2′-5′ bite of new sod at times, especially going up hill.  This first pass took place on May 17-18, 2017.

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Here my husband has been running the equipment to make sure everything was working.  I’m getting ready for my dual.  Operating new equipment is always an uneasy step for me!
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The ‘soil’ more like dirt because it’s so dead is very compacted and lots of clay making for a lot of overlapping.  I even killed the tractor a couple times because there was simply not enough power to pull the machine.  I quickly learnt how much ‘bite’ the machinery could take so the John Deere 4250 would not be overwhelmed.
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The Howard Rotavator 600.  Here’s a link to a video of the rotavator in operation.
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My soil hasn’t been tilled since at least the early 1960’s.  It’s compacted with little to no life in it.  Just dirt.  The  hope is to allow water and other nutrient infiltration to encourage forage growth.  This is an example of first pass.

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One pass tillage next to existing stand of grass.  Serious clay content.  Methinks some of this worked up harder than if i took down the gravel road!

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Plenty of big rocks (these are some of the smaller ones) to make the machine go ‘klunk’!
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My office for a total of 8 hours.  Allen ran it for about 4 hours. 

All in all, i mapped out about 18 acres actually tilled.  There are about 25 acres total in the area being renovated, however, because of the steep slopes, several acres are left alone to serve as grassy waterways.  I wonder, however, as hard as the ground is, if the tilled portions won’t actually hold and stop more water than the hard pan waterways.  Hmmm.

So far, 12 hours spent (1.5 acres per hour) tilling, but not counting time servicing tractor and machine or time spent getting to/from the farm.  Tractor uses about 7.7 gallons diesel fuel per hour, so 92.5 gallons there.  Second pass should take a bit less time, but we’ll see!

We received a big storm last night with about an inch of rain, so the second pass won’t happen for a few days – depending on weather.  Allen will be right behind the second rotatiller pass with the Einbach harrow/seeder and my selected annual grass mix.

Per acre healing forages:

  1.  6 lbs buckwheat
  2.  6 lbs lespedeza
  3.  3 lbs pearl millet
  4. 12 lbs oats
  5.  6 lbs cowpeas
  6.  5 lbs sunflower
  7.  2 lbs red clover

These were chosen for their prolification, adaptability to poor soils, nitrogen fixing, and low cost as well as providing excellent grazing in 60-75 days.

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Grass waterways left to slow water during rains until the rest has forage established.
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Not a clear photograph, but a better idea of leaving waterways.
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On the far slope, the rows would have been so short that a lot of time would have been spent just turning around, so i chose to strip till through and across low and high spots.  Time will tell if that was the right decision.
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View from my office. 😉

Faith, Family, Farm

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