Baby Chicks in the Ohio Brooder

Ohio Brooder

On Wednesday, we put 61 Cornish Giant X meat birds into our newly built Ohio Brooder.  Last nights cold worried me that they would not be warm enough.  They seem to all be okay after five days.  As it shows in the video the chicks are very active.  They will stay in this brooder for approximately three weeks and then they will move out to the field in our pastured poultry chicken tractor.  When they are seven to eight weeks old we will begin the processing and make them available to our customers.

Stay tuned as we make more videos showing how we are raising our delicious pastured poultry for our clients.

 

Check out the video.

 

 

 

 

What Are We Lacking?

Life Well Lived

Do we all seek a life well lived?  An interesting thought occurred to me recently.   While  travelling and stopping in a bookstore, I noticed near the entrance of the store a table of books that were obviously placed there to grab customers attention and hoped to be purchased.  All the books related to health; eating, exercising, weight loss, etc.  Why is this such a popular topic?  An English high school teacher told me that books are written about subjects that are currently popular.

There are books to chose from.
There are books to chose from.

Hope and Change You Can Believe In

I began to ponder why this was such a popular subject.  Are Americans dissatisfied with their appearance or their weight, and their diets?  I think they are.  Our careers, marriages, families, and many other areas of our lives need so much help.  How many people want to but never really live their lives the way that they desire to?  Great changes can be made by merely making a decision to do so in the moment.  This is our personal power.  We all have a equal amount of it and no one has more than any other. Once a desire has been made the universe will conspire to make it happen.  Why don’t more people know this?  Sadness and disappointment follow many a man to the grave.

FiveDollarFarm will explore these topics more in-depth in the coming months.  Watch us strive to grow go food for local people.  Others will learn to do the same by our teaching.  We want everyone to have a healthy, wealthy, happy lifestyle.  Stick with us as we get full swing into the spring season and begin eating in season foods.  You won’t regret it.

Building an Ohio Brooder

Build an Ohio Chicken Brooder

This past week was difficult as all but one of us was taken down by the flu.  It was disappointing as the children were to sing on Easter Sunday morning service. They missed all the holy week practices.  We regained our strength enough to have a quiet Easter weekend at home.  We wanted to catch-up on some much needed spring farm work.  One of those chores was to build the new brooder.

I went to the local building supply store and purchased the materials I needed from the plan I devised.  Much to my delight customers were hardly to be found.  I also purchased additional lumber for the boxes that my honey wanted to use as raised beds.

Building the Ohio brooder went much faster and smoother that I had imagined. I worked on the task joyously as I reflected on what specifically the meaning of the day was for me.  Earlier my brother had stopped by to retrieve some items he left from a prior visit and our brief discussion involved some deep spiritual learning we had both undertaken.

What Is an Ohio Chicken Brooder?

 

So what is and Ohio Brooder?  As any corporate senior director would respond, “That’s a very good question.”  Searching on all the known sources does not reveal much information as to where the brooder originated by if I had to guess, I would say Ohio. I am now ready to be promoted in the corporate world to the highest level of my incompetence.

ohio brooder

Anyway, the basic idea of an Ohio Brooder is a box with four corner legs that keep it slightly off the ground so that chicks can run underneath and gain access to the heat source inside the box.  The heat source is usually a brooding lamp with the heat being retained inside the box.  I built mine with some hinges to access the inside of the box for cleaning and light bulb changes if necessary.  Nothing fancy, just need to have a place where the chicks can stay warm.  The idea is self-regulating.  they run outside to get food and water and run back under the box to keep warm.

And that’s it. With our production schedule of meat birds this season, I may build another one just like it but need to decide where to place it as a draft free area is hard to find for us right now.  The one recently build is inside the garage.

So until next time, do something for your farm or farm business everyday.

Peace, love, and farming.

 

Time Management

Ticking Away the Moments that make up a Dull Day

One of the biggest problems that we are dealing with on FiveDollarFarm right now is time management.  There is just so much to do that on some mornings after not having enough coffee we can seem lost.  This is exacerbated by the fact that we still work off farm in an operational position where planning is difficult due to constantly fighting fires.  Our primary short-term goal is to leave the off-farm job.  We hope to generate enough income from the farm to live a happy and healthy lifestyle.

time management

 

I know that the Wall Street crowd will not be pleased to hear that this is an increasing trend for many that are simply disillusioned with the status quo.  Because we have shifted our focus away from accumulation and into productive quality, we possess an alternative perspective on value and wealth.  This also assists us in making our time management more valuable because we feel we have eliminated mundane tasks, not by doing them faster or “outsourcing” them, but by making them less mundane.  When a task is done joyfully it sometimes seems more like pleasure than a chore thus he spoke, “do what you love.”

Quality Time versus Quantity Time

Yet still we find a limit to our joyful tasks with the ones that may not yet have become so joyful.  How do we deal with these? We have gone back to the basics and utilized the list of to do’s.  This time we have broken them down into three categories: short-term, mid-term, and long-term tasks.  This has seemed to work rather well for us.  We have set aside a time to discuss what should be included in the two latter categories while the short-term list is my daily direction to get to the mid and long-term task completions.

time management
Using checklists.

Building on a small success as crossing an item off the list helps to build on future successes.  This keeps us motivated to move forward with our plans and where we want to go.  One particular difficulty this can bring especially in our situation is the dependency of tasks to be completed.  For example, I need to prepare the seed starting area in the greenhouse.  The water system is not yet fully installed.  Sometimes larger projects are forestalled by the amount of time available needed to complete them, the material resources necessary and available, or the prerequisites for that particular task.

Time Management

This problem is solved by breaking larger projects down into smaller tasks to be accomplished.  For instance, all materials for the water systems project have now been purchased.   They are available when the time comes to complete that job.  Before we know it, the water system is ready and then the next task in line is completed.  Remember every now and then that it is a good idea to review previous lists of tasks.  Take note of how well you did in completing them.   Make notes of improvements that can be made the next time a similar task is attempted.  Success builds upon itself.

Let us know your time management strategies.

 

 

Capturing Solar Energy

Solar Energy Misconceptions

The picture below shows a Google Image search on the phrase “solar energy”.  As I have been saying, this is disconcerting to me because solar energy is so misunderstood.

Humans have a tendency to tear things apart and put them into pieces while ignoring the whole from a distance.  We need to have a “bigger picture” mentality in my humble but accurate opinion.  Take a step back and think about solar energy from a different perspective.  I have the idea in my mind that the idea should include sustainable agriculture.

 

When searching Google Images these images show the major misconception of solar energy.
When searching Google Images these images show the major misconception of solar energy.

Sustainable Agriculture

Why sustainable agriculture?  Because sustainable agriculture is the bigger picture that we need to better utilize solar energy.  On a small piece of land solar energy is collected in the open fields and produces grass.  But when we include cattle that are grazed with intensive management techniques followed closely behind by chicken tractors containing meat birds and free range poultry, something new begins to happen.  The bigger picture becomes more clear.  Our food is better as well as more healthy.  We can make better hay to feed the cattle in the winter.  The cattle manure makes the grass better.  The cycle will never cease unless we disrupt it somehow and for some reason.

We can quickly take a small piece of land and make it more productive, more profitable, full of health, and at the same time use it to feed many people.  The grass stores our solar energy.

Healing Ecosystems

Other problems can quickly be solved as well.  We are removing confinement operations that have a tendency to concentrate illness that puts a food source at risk.  If we also keep the production and consumption local as well, we eliminate the fuel used to transport our food across the country as it is now.

Many are starting to realize that our food system is broken.  They are searching for some other alternatives and as farmers it is our responsibility to give them better choices.  We can store solar energy and create better food at the same time.  Learning to make a system work as a whole as opposed to tearing it apart and utilizing one part or only a few is counterproductive.

What do we do now?  We educate others that solar energy is not just putting up a panel and using about twenty per cent of what we collect as a convenience or a conversation piece to establish our nobility as good earth citizens.  Going further can also mean eating locally grown and produced food, supporting local farmers markets, and being responsible with your own personal choices.

This will not happen overnight but it is happening at a faster pace as we look around.  People are demanding more options and making better choices.  When that happens, we all win.

solar energy
This garden collects about 5 times more solar energy than a solar panel ever could.

Organic Farming

Organic Certification

What exactly is organic farming?  Thank goodness the USDA has a website that defines exactly what that means.  Not really.  I find it hard to espouse and embrace the organic culture as it has been defined recently.  To think that for thousands of years humans grew food, tended animals and lived off the land without our benevolent government to tell us the correct methods is not commonly accepted.  Actually, I personally despise the certification of the food I grow and the methods of which I grow it.

All Hail Praetorian!

How is it that humans lived so long without an agency to approve of the methods of food production?  Maybe the free market had something to do with it.  Perhaps if someone produced bad food in a community, word got out that the food was no good and the locals ceased buying from that producer.  Word of mouth advertising is more prevalent today than ever with the explosion of social media usage.  When you find a good restaurant or local produce stand you surely tell your friends and family.

Production Methods

And what of the producers?  What are their motivations?  Do they wake early in the morning determined to produce the best possible product that they can? I believe most of them do.  But lately, I have met some local farmers who think it is important to have a USDA Organic label on their products.  I ask them why and the response is that it proves that the food was produced responsibly.  But does it really mean that this is the case?  I believe the jury is still out on this issue.

 

organic farming
The sun provides all the energy we need.

 

What must happen to insure the safety of our food supply?  I have given this much thought and have come up with some answers to my own questions and provided myself with some standards that I will utilize as a new farmer in my community.  Please note that the items listed below are my virtuous attempt to get to an ideal.

  • FiveDollarFarm will leave the land in better condition than we found it.
  • FiveDollarFarm will grow without the use of chemicals.
  • We will care for our animals humanely to the best of our ability.  We will not cause suffering or discomfort.
  • Thanks will be given for the sacrifice of the animals given to us for our sustenance.
  • We acknowledge that we are merely caretakers for God’s gifts to us and that they belong to him.

 

 

 

organic farming

 

Soon we will explore in more detail the solar energy that is available to us and how we understand it and use it to our advantage.

 

Seed Starting Methods

Seed Starting

It’s that time of year when I can barely contain my enthusiasm over the coming spring.  Not to mention the fact that it is tax refund time and bonus time while I still work off the farm.  However, the seed catalogs have been filling the mailbox for sometime now and I have perused the best websites for my seed selection.

I have already ordered some and germinated some of my earlier crops (brassicas) such as cabbage, spinach, some lettuce, broccoli, and herbs.

seed starting
The seed starting trays are on a heating mat to provide the correct temperature for germination.

I also have used a newer method ( new for me) in the greenhouse where I created a containment area with old unwanted hay bales and filled it with horse manure.  I then built a simple table frame with furring strips across the top to hold 1020 flats that have mostly soil blocks in them.  The table is covered by plastic which is supported by pvc hoops.  The heat contained within provides the temperature for seed germination.

 

How exciting.  I used this idea after watching a YouTube video of “Muddy Fingers Farm” in New York.  I believe there location is colder than mine here in Pennsylvania.

Now that the table is built in the greenhouse, this weekend will be consumed by soil preparation and soil block making to fill the table with the goodies that all the locals crave after a winter such as ours.

Filled with fresh horse manure, the table uses composting heat to aid in seed germination.
Filled with fresh horse manure, the table uses composting heat to aid in seed germination.

Heat From Manure

This year we are using the soil block maker purchased from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  The first time I used this I failed horribly and was discouraged.  But my second attempt after correcting for soil moisture content and screening my materials yielded very nice and uniform blocks.  My mixture consists of well composted horse manure, decomposed double-ground hardwood bark mulch, perlite, and a touch of vermicompost.  The ratios are not necessarily important so don’t get hung up on them.  You’ll know a good soil when it’s in your hands and if you don’t, keep trying until you do.  Make sure you have plenty of moisture so the blocks will form.

I bought two different sizes, 2 inch square and the 3/4 inch.  I also bought the dimple kit for the 2 inch square.  This makes a cube in the top instead of the dimple so that the smaller block can be “transplanted” into a larger block when the time comes.  Brilliant!

seed starting
These soil blocks are handy to make and use and 50 fit nicely into a 1020 flat.

If you try any of these ideas let me know if you were successful. Have a great spring.  Just go out and plant something and play in the dirt.  It’s good for your soul.

 

 

Sunshine Driving

A Burst of Joy!

Last Thursday while driving to an appointment just before noon, I was positively enthralled with the bright winter sunshine and crisp temperatures.  As I drove through the countryside nearing midday, I noticed the angle of the sun gaining ever so slightly higher in the sky.  What a great and positive feeling I experienced as I thought about the coming spring and all the activities that we would be undertaking on our farm.

A Good Start

It has already begun, making spreadsheets for planning the pastured poultry production schedules, building new processing equipment, purchasing supplies.    Building a new brooder, building three new chicken tractors are some of the projects we will complete.

We have burned through two cords of wood and have one remaining.  Hopefully our oil tank has been filled for the last time this year but the propane will require one more visit from our local propane provider.  The sun now streams into the family room at the perfect angle to prevent the room from getting too cold.

The New Greenhouse

Our project this weekend was building our seed starting area in the new greenhouse.  We built a holding type area out of older unused hay bales and filled the interior with fresh horse manure.  We constructed a crude 2” x 4” frame and tacked some furring strips onto it.  This will be the table where the seeds trays and soil blocks will have the warmth to germinate our first seeds this week.  The top is covered with PVC hoops and plastic sheeting to retain heat.  This was a great idea that I saw on a YouTube video of the Muddy Fingers Farm in New York.  It saves money on electricity and reduces our environmental footprint in the process.

Seed starting area built from hay and fresh horse manure in greenhouse.
Seed starting area built from hay and fresh horse manure in greenhouse.

 

 

Still More Plans

Another important project that is coming up as soon as the weather breaks, is the completion of the water line from the surface well to a pressure tank in the greenhouse.  We will also need to run supply lines to the two main growing areas.  Time and money is what I always say.  Excitement abounds about the work will be doing.

Check back soon as we post our successes and show you how and where great food comes from.

 

Go Nautral!

Great Start for 2016

Here at FiveDollarFarm we are excited about the coming year.  Not even this Nor’easter could get us down.  We are getting ready for a great year with our new greenhouse and all the great food we are going to grow here.  We’ve been perusing the seed catalogs to determine what we will be growing this year.  We will be trying our hand at making soil blocks to cut down on waste.

We are very busy with our core product line this year which is our pastured poultry.  The chicken tractors will be updated with a few new ones to be made.  We currently have one brooder and have plans to add one more and rehabilitate the one we are using now.  Stay tuned for our new and improved order form and additional information about when the  poultry will be available.

Enjoy the pictures.

 

Wishing well beside the main house at FiveDollarFarm.
Wishing well beside the main house at FiveDollarFarm.