Filling the Grain Bin Better

We buy grain for the pigs in two ton batches, delivered to us by the good folks at Cold Springs Farm in Sharon Springs.  Our grain handling system is extremely inefficient, but it has the dubious virtue of being low cost.  About $250 in tin and plywood for a two-ton grain storage box. A “real” grain handling system would have a hopper bin with a pneumatic fill-pipe so grain could be blown right into the bin.  And then the grain would flow down through the hopper’s funnel into an auger to drop the grain into… Read More

A Good Idea at the Time

“Fella I once knew in El Paso, one day he took all his clothes off and jumped in a mess of cactus. I asked him the same question, why?  He said it seemed to be a good idea at the time.” Steve McQueen, This Magnificent Seven Driving around the other day I passed a corn field sign.  Folks from non-farming areas might not be familiar with field signs.  Seed companies get attention by having their sales representatives advertise the particular variety growing in a field.  (They usually wait to see if the… Read More

Bovine Phrenology

We tend to view phrenology and the larger idea of physiognomy as quaint curiosities, worn out ancient concepts akin to geocentrism or flat-earth theories.  But evidence keeps cropping up that there might be something to it after all, at least for livestock.  The original reasoning behind physiognomy is totally insupportable, but there is a body of evidence that suggests that physical appearance can be correlated with behavior and temperament. The ancients liked to use physiognomy to characterize humans, but contemporary science best supports the use of physiognomy to characterize animals.  That makes some sense, since wild animal breeding… Read More

Buried fence

We had the misfortune of placing one temporary fence on the north side of the bale grazing pasture in the perfect area for both snow drifts and ice accumulation.  The fence in question is picketed on 36″ plastic stakes, with polywire strung at the top clip.  The field adjacent to the fence is usually wet due to a series of seeps.  So we’ve got a situation where each snowfall drifts along the fence line.  The seep water flows over and through the drift, freeing it into a hard ice block.  The ice is now… Read More

Eating Ashes

Our pigs love to eat the ashes from our wood burning (after they cool a bit of course).  We don’t have any pig husbandry books from the 18th century or earlier, but wood ash and charcoal are commonly recommended in many old farming references.  Wood ash seems to have been used as a cure for all kinds of swine illnesses.  Several old books indicate ash improved feed efficiency and increased bone strength.  Generally, hardwood ashes were preferred over softwood.  We haven’t been able to find any recent research that digs into the biology and… Read More

Fire and Ice

On nights like this when it is going down to -20 degrees and the wind is gusting at 40mph, we welcome heat in any form we can get it.  Of course there is the wood stove, but it’s nice to have supplemental heat from a bottle, too.

Fine Feathered

The humidity and temperature overnight worked together to deposit a feathery coating of hoar frost over the windward sides of branches and fence wires.  Even exposed snow banks were covered in fingernail-sized flakes of frost.  The frost disappeared soon after the sunlight strengthened, but it was a great sight while it lasted.  I’m not a meteorologist, nor do I play one on TV, so I found this blog helpful in differentiating between hoar frost and rime ice. Enjoy the view.

Aristotle’s Milk

“Males have more teeth than females in the case of men, sheep, goats, and swine; in the case of other animals observations have not yet been made” – Aristotle, History of Animals, Book II, Part 3 “[A] calf cannot thrive on pasteurized cow’s milk” – http://www.realmilk.com Q:  What do these quotes have in common? A:  They are both easily testable claims which have been accepted as truth by many people.  And I’m convinced that neither claim is valid. For all that Aristotle got right, the dental example above is probably the most oft-cited error… Read More

Move em out

Today we watched the cattle plow across the fields as we moved them to a new set of hay bales.  (Sorry, once again cell phone pictures don’t do well with anything superimposed on a snowy background.) The cattle move through deep snow with equanimity.  Being a quadruped has its perks.  It was pretty slow going for the humans.

Sumac and Questionable Linguistics

Around these here parts, the prevalent pronunciation for sumac is shoo’-mak.  We’ve also encountered that pronunciation among some Midwesterners.  A few dictionaries list shoo’-mak as an secondary pronunciation and soo’-mak as the primary, but it is curious that the sh supplanted the s locally.  The Amish around here also “shoo”, so I wondered if this was a German pronunciation.  Google Translate’s audio pronunciation tells me the German word is “sumach”, with the leading s pronounced like the letter z in English.  So that theory probably doesn’t work, unless there is more to the story based… Read More