One of the main projects i had planned for this year was to spray brush. Truly had hoped to cover the entire farm, but there is just so much that between regular work and windy or rainy days – well, i did get quite a lot done actually and i’m pleased. My focus did switch to completely covering (spot spraying) the west 160 and that was accomplished by July 1. It is important to keep track of that date because three years from then, the farm can be used to grow certified organic crops. Weed and brush management from now on will have to be by brush hogging and intensive grazing. One of the ironies of ‘certified’ organic is that i can’t chemically treat individual plants even once for three years, but i could burn all the fossil fuel i want mowing them down. But rules are rules.
So to finish the project also means to clean up and put away the tools used. My 30 gallon spray tank and pump were purchased new at Orscheln’s this year and i hope to get several more years’ use out of it. Their brand name is Country Tuff and it has worked flawlessly all season. I did switch out the coiled hose for a straight one we already had – i just didn’t like the coiled one.
For the chemical, the easiest and most effective in my opinion is Crossbow. i buy it by the case (4 gallons) at a cost of $200.46 at Butterfield & Associates Grain in Meadville, MO. Mix half gallon to 30 gallons of water and you are ready to go. This spring and summer, I sprayed about 1200 gallons of mixed spray. That’s about 45 hours worth of spot spraying.
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 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.
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.
replace plugs in tanks
replace plug in water filter
Install batteries and connections
Wash off solar panel
Remove any wasp nests from inside enclosure
Make sure ground wire is in place
Turn on water at pond to make sure good flow, then turn off.
Connect pipe to pond outlet and flush, then connect to inlet valve
Turn on pond water, water will come out outflow valve – you will get wet
Connect outgoing pipe to outflow valve
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.
Finally, flushing out the end of the line before connecting to tank float assembly. Connect and allow tank to fill.
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
Unplug the pump, shut off solar panel access, place arm in ‘off’ position
Shut off water from pond
Remove pipe from shut off valve
Using channel lock pliers or some such, remove large nut from the bottom of the water filter
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!
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.
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.
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.
Quick trip to my farm to shift the cows across the road.
Yes, i was just there yesterday, but discovered that I had grossly overestimated the amount of forage the cows would have, so they had to be moved today.
Ready to shut off the valve from the pond.
Turned off – notice the grove in the head of the bolt – it is now turned perpendicular to the water line – this tells us it is turned off.
The overflow pipe will just pull out (the white one).
Once it is out, then if the hole in the bottom of the tank is not plugged, the water will flow out through the buried pipe.
Water rushing out from the tank through the buried pipe into the ditch about 20 feet away from the tank.
Tank drained as low as it will go.
The system has a leak back design, so the water in the pipe with the float will drain back and not freeze.
Took Dallas with me just in case my temporary netting decided to take flight in our 33 mph gusting winds. But all went well; he wouldn’t have needed to go, but sure gave me extra peace of mind. Taking out mineral,
shutting gates, and draining a water tank took us 55 minutes. Driving up there and back takes 1 hour 15 minutes. Obviously, I usually plan to spend more time up there to justify the trip.
Waiting patiently for me to get out of the way!
And moving on! Took about a minute for 210 cows, replacement heifers, and 130 calves to move across!
This continued wet, cool, muddy spring is a bit hard on the calving season. A few, thankfully very few, calves are showing a bit of milk scouring since the forages are too high in protein this year. Most are fine. However, I did have to bring a calf in tonight. He is small and with his mum milking good and the protein levels higher than normal in the forages, he has been weakened by milk scours, so he’s been lying about too much and now has maggots in his navel around the penis. He’s pretty droopy, but i still had to throw a rope on him, then heft his squirmy self into the back of the Gator. Tied him up and headed home. He rode quietly (probably terrified!), but perked up when i dragged him out back onto the ground. I gave him an antibiotic and sprayed his navel area really well with screw worm spray – that started the maggots to wrigglying out. However, I don’t know how deep inside they are, so i’ll have to keep washing it out and spraying the area. Hopefully, i’m not too late to save him.
Although, I shifted the cows/calves to a new paddock, i had to leave the old one open because the baby calves were not keen on crossing the muddy ditch. As they get hungry and their mums go back for them, they’ll eventually come across, but I will need to check for stragglers in a day or two.
My temporary paddock divisions using polywire are no longer needed, so I reeled up the one that was in the cows’ fresh paddock tonight.
Tuesday morning is the day for mustering the cattle, so I’m down to the wire to get prepared. This morning, I’ve hauled up and unrolled four more bales of hay for the cows to chew on while they wait overnight for the muster into the corral. I walked up through the sheep and found a baby lamb bound up in the electric woven wire fence – dead of course and shorting out my fence. Plus, there was a dead ewe right at the edge of the pond! Who knows what the matter was with that – she was not stuck in the mud – just dead. So both of those animals were pulled away from those areas.
I’m grinding numbers into the Ritchie ear tags for the older and bigger replacement heifer calves while the younger and smaller ones will have smaller Z-tag calf tags. These will number 400-499. All replacement heifer numbers start with 400 because the calves were born in 2014. These tags will hopefully stay in their ears for their lifetimes, this way I know how old they are.
When my corral was expanded, one of the gates was not finished with a hook, so I did that this morning. Didn’t take long and sometimes it’s those little things that really make a job go more smoothly.
Once a few electrifiable tapes and netting were in place, the cows and calves are moved forward towards the corral. Tomorrow, I’ll move them in even closer.
Well, what actually happened was that my Gator jammed between gears and I was stuck! Thankfully, Allen had time to come up and rescue me. He rocked the Gator while I tried changing the gears – it finally gave and I was able drop it into neutral so it would start. It even moved into forward although stiffly. While I was waiting on Allen, I walked over the hill and opened the gate and called the cows – they’ll just have to find their way at their leisure and I’ll make sure they are moved forward tomorrow.
Once, the small generator is tracked down, fuel changed, and it is running good, then I’ll be back to making ear tags. Should be ready for Tuesday morning.
But, this afternoon, we’ll be enjoying surprise birthday parties for my uncle and cousin!
As past stories of people breaking their legs trying to do the very thing I plan to do are flashing through my memory banks, I jump in anyway and although it hurt like the devil with bruising and bumping abounding, (once I stomped the brake and stopped, the pain from those bumps came pouring into my nervous system and I had to stop and let it pass before moving on), I managed not to break anything – praise Yah!
The John Deere Gator has suicide doors and thankfully, when I exited the machine to shut the gate, I had left the driver’s side door open. This at least gave me the opportunity to jump in as it picked up speed heading down hill towards trees and a deep ditch. Running as fast as a 52 year old out of shape woman can, I caught up with it and a bit ahead so I could dive in through the open door. Remember with suicide doors I have to plan to jump be in front of the door, then adjust speed so I end up going the opposite direction to land in the seat of the forward moving Gator.
Needless to say, the lesson from this week is to ALWAYS set the parking brake. ALWAYS!