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Just launched a kickstarter campaign to raise money to fund scientific research around the nutritional break down of fodder at various stages of growth for our book on Fodder. Please check it out!


10/29/2014 2:54:16 AM

We have lots of plans for our farm.  Big green house.  Pump on the well.  Tall high volume water tower.  Then a sprinkler system out to the fields with the critters so that we can irrigate.  But once all that is done we want to surround the fence line with various fruit and nut trees.  Partially so that we can have these wonderful things in our diet and to sell at the farmers market.  But also so that the dropping can feed the critters that graze under the trees.  Watching youtube and then searching about for texas information and apples I found this great post.  Figured I would keep it here for later.

(1st row: Red Delicious, Sonya, Golden Delicious; 2nd row: Ambrosia, Honey Crisp, Granny Smith; 3rd row: Fuji, Jonagold, Gala  - ©iStockphoto.com)

If you are planning to add some apple trees to your landscape, now is the time to start planning for them.  Texas A&M recommends that bare-rooted apple trees be planted during the period between January 1st and February 15th and that containerized plants be planted between January 1st and March 31st.

In this post, I have listed some of the varieties that are good choices for North Texas and/or zone 8, in terms of climate and in terms of taste.  These lists include both heirloom and newer cultivars.

Everyone has a different opinion as to which are the best tasting apples.  And my favorite apple may be your least favorite, depending upon our varying tastes and whether we prefer a sweet taste, an acidic taste, or a combination of the two.  When I was trying to decide upon the types of apple trees to plant in our garden, I purchased 10 or more different varieties from several grocery stores, and I put them to a blind taste test to all the members of my family.  The highest rated ones were planted . . . after I made sure that they would perform well in the South.

Texas A&M's Tried & True - But No Guarantees on Taste Except Where Noted

Texas A&M opines that the following varieties are suitable for growing in Texas.  I have emboldened the varieties that I also personally believe have a good taste.

Gala        "Originated in 1965.  Cross between Golden Delicious x Cox's Orange.  Red striping on golden skin gives a red orange color.  Crisp, dense, aromatic flesh.  Excellent quality.  Stores well.  Large, vigorous tree.  Requires about 140-160 days from bloom to harvest.  Requires at least 600 hours of chilling." *

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Gala

Fuji                 "Developed in Japan.  Introduced in 1962.  Cross between Ralls Janet x Delicious. Bloom well.  Hard to thin.  High quality apple with a poor appearance.  Medium sized fruit with a tall, rectangular shape.  A yellow-green skin with orange to red stripes.  Crisp, juicy, white flesh with good texture.  Requires about 140-160 days from bloom to harvest.  Ripens mid-summer.  Stores well.  Vigorous, productive, somewhat bushy tree.  Needs some annual detailed pruning.  Needs pollinator.  Susceptible to Bitter rot and red mites.  Heat resistant.  Requires 400-600 hours of chilling." *

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Fuji

Granny Smith "Originated in 1868 from some discarded apples which Mrs. Thomas Smith of Eastwood Ryde, Paramatta Rive, New South Wales, Australia brought from Tasmania.  Medium to large, waxy, grassy-green fruit. Firm and bruise resistant.  Hardy, crisp, juicy, white flesh.  Fairly sweet with a somewhat tart taste.  Excellent quality eating and cooking apple.  Keeps good texture during baking, never gets mushy.  Excellent shelf life.  Very vigorous, annual bearing.  Good productivity.  Self-fertile.  Requires about 170-210 days from bloom to harvest.  Holds well in heat.  Requires about 500-600 hours of chilling.  Hardy in zones 5-8." *

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Granny Smith

Anna               "Medium-size low chill apple for South Texas only. Has a slight red blush, crisp, good-flavored fruit. Noted for heavy production." *

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Anna

Braeburn        "Red, highly flavored with an even sugar to acid balance. A heavy cropper that will usually need thinning to maintain yearly cropping." *

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Braeburn

Mutsu (Crispin)          "Developed in Japan in 1948.  Golden Delicious x Indo.  Large, round, yellow fruit.  Crunchier flesh; more juice and tartness.  Distinctive, delicate, spicy flavor.  Good dessert and processing apple.  Excellent for applesauce and cider.  Large, spreading, vigorous tree; reliable.  Resistant to powdery mildew.  Susceptible to scab, blister spot, and bitter rot.  Requires 500-600 hours of chilling.  Hardy in zones 4-8." *

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Mutsu

Pink Lady(Cripps Pink)        "A cross between Golden Delicious and Lady Williams from the Western Australian apple-breeding program.  Oblong, green fruit turns yellow at maturity and is overlaid with pink or light red.  Fine-grained, white flesh.  Thin skin, bruises easily.  Hard to train.  Ripens in October.  Blind wood problems.  Chilling requirements similar to Granny Smith (500-600)." *

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Pink Lady

Mollie's Delicious      "Introduced in 1966.  Summer apple not to be confused with Red Delicious strains.  Attractive, large fruit with unique, slightly conic shape.  Light yellow background about half covered with a red blush.  High quality flesh.  Good flavor.  Stores for about 10 weeks in refrigeration.  Vigorous, productive tree.  Fruit tends to set in clusters, requiring 2-3 pickings.  Excellent pollinator.  Some disease resistance.  Requires 400-500 hours of chilling.  Best in zones 6-8." *

Imperial Gala              "Medium sized, oval to round reddish orange fruit.  Extremely firm, very juicy, sweet, mildly aromatic, yellow flesh.  Vigorous tree with long, pliant branching." *

Royal Gala                  "Developed in New Zealand.  Matures to a bright overall red color rather than the orange red blush of Gala.  Medium size, conical to round fruit.  Bold red stripes over yellow background.  Firm, juicy, fine textured, yellow-white flesh.  Sweet, slightly tart flavor.  Compact growth habit, prolific bearer.  Requires heavy thinning to maintain fruit size and prevent biennial bearing." *

Smoothie                    "A Golden Delicious type apple with a clear skin.  They have a very tender complexion, a little dew on the fruit in the morning and they are covered with russet.  This visually makes them an undesired fruit, but if given a chance, taste good." *

Red Delicious             "Skin color varies from red to red and green stripes.  Crisp, sweet, and mild flavored.  Stores well.  Colors poorly in the heat.  **

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Red Delicious

(Personally, I do not care for the Red Delicious that I have had in the past.  Here is an interesting article on the history of the Red Delicious.

Golden Delicious        Yellow to green skin with yellow flesh and russet dots.  Sweet, juicy and fine textured.  Stores well.  Susceptible to bitter pit, bruising, and russetting.  Erratic in self-fruitfulness. **

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Golden Delicious

Holland           Originated in Texas around 1923 at the home of J. W. Kincaid of Weatherford, Texas.  Originally named Kincaid.  The apple was once an important commercial variety in Texas. It is a productive variety which ripens early to produce a large, red, flavorful apple. ***

Jerseymac       An early McIntosh type released by the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in 1971.  Tart and tender. Medium size.  Ripens in early August.

Dorsett Golden           "Yellow, low chill apple for South Texas only. Pollinator for Anna." *

Adina              "Large fruit, sweet with distinctive taste."  *

Ozark Gold     "Yellow, Delicious-type dessert apple. Good pollinator." *

"This apple is a cross of A1291 and Golden Delicious and was developed at the Missouri State Agricultural Experimental Station and introduced in 1970. It is similar in flavor and appearance to Golden Delicious but ripens about three weeks earlier. It bears young and shows some disease resistance but is a biennial bearer.  It is a large to very large apple with bright yellow waxy skin."  ***

Starkrimson Red         "Red, excellent quality, Delicious-type, widely planted in this Delicious area." *

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Starkrimson

*          http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/homefruit/apple/apple.html                         http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/hillcountry/Apples/varieties.html

**        The Home Orchard, C. Ingells, P. Geisel, & M. Norton, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Publication (2007)

***      http://www.bighorsecreekfarm.com/descriptions2.htm

Additional Varieties That Should Be Considered For Taste

The following apple varieties have reputations for outstanding taste and are also suited for Texas' southern climate.  You should consider growing these in zone 8.

Ashmead's Kernel     A juicy, aromatic apple with a sharp flavor that is both acidic and sweet.  It is believed that several weeks of storage enhance its flavor giving its high acid content time to balance with the sugars.  Skin is orange or reddish bronze with golden brown russetting.   It dates back to the 1700s.  ****

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Ashmead's Kernel

William's Pride          This variety is reputed to have unusually good flavor for an early summer apple.  The flesh is granular, crisp and mildly acidic.  It is typically deep red over a green background which transitions to a yellow background.  It is resistant to fire blight and powdery mildew and immune to scab and cedar apple rust.  This apple was developed by the Purdue/Rutgers/Illinois fruit breeding program.  ****

Goldrush         This variety has a spicy flavor of intense acidity and high sugar content.  It is a yellow green fruit with light russetting, sometimes having an orange blush on the sunward side.  It may keep for six months or more.  It is immune to apple scab and somewhat resistant to fire blight and powdery mildew.  It is also a result of the Purdue/Rutgers/Illinois fruit breeding program.  ****

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Goldrush

Calville Blanc D'Hiver          This variety dates back to the 16th century and is known for having a tart and rich taste described as effervescent.  It often tastes better after storage.  It has pale green skin that develops an orange color with light red dots where exposed to the sun.  It can be susceptible to scab and powdery mildew. ****

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Calville Blanc

Rubinette       An offspring of Cox Orange Pippen.  A very good sweet and sharp balance of taste.  It can be susceptible to scab and powdery mildew. ****

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Rubinette

**** The Best Apples to Buy and Grow, B. Hanson, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Inc. (2005);            see also http://www.kuffelcreek.com/favorites.htm

Varieties With Reputations As The BEST Tasting

The following three varieties are reputed to be the best tasting ever.  As I mentioned before, taste is a matter of opinion; however, it is remarkable how much is written about these varieties.  There are several caveats to growing these trees because they are better suited to more Northern climates.  Particularly, they may suffer more in our heat; they may be more susceptible to disease than the hardier varieties; and their taste qualities may not be as good as trees grown in a milder climate.  Nevertheless, if you have the space and have also already planted some of the hardier varieties listed above, you may want to take the leap and plant a few of these as well:

Newtown Pippin:        This apple is firm, crisp, juicy, and moderately acidic with a fresh taste.  Loved by Thomas Jefferson and was a prized export to England from the United States in the 1800s.  It is green in color becoming yellow to greenish-yellow with a reddish blush.  It stores well.  The tree is susceptible to scab and powdery mildew.  Also known as Albemarle Pippin ****

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Newtown Pippin

Cox Orange Pippin:   It has a crisp texture and a richly aromatic and semi-tart flavor.  It became the most popular apple in England and dates back to the early 1800s.  The skin has an orange red blush on a light yellow background.  It is susceptible to scab. ****

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Cox Orange Pippin

Esopus Spitzenberg:  This variety is rich, juicy, and more tart than sweet.  Known as another one of Thomas Jefferson's favorite apples -- along with a lot of other people.  Often ranks at the top of taste tests.  The skin is red with speckles of yellow.   This variety is susceptible to scab, mildew and canker. ****

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Esopus Spitzenberg

**** The Best Apples to Buy and Grow, B. Hanson, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Inc. (2005);           see also http://www.kuffelcreek.com/favorites.htm

Other Varieties Offered By Texas Nurseries or Suggested for Southern Climates

Some of the other varieties that I have seen offered by a few Texas nurseries or which are otherwise recommended for growing in the South, are listed below.  The nursery descriptions are included.   I am unable to offer an opinion as to the taste qualities of these varieties other than what is written here:

Einshemer:     An "Israeli variety that produces bright yellow fruits with a semi-acid, sweet flavor." +

Jonared:          "Very productive Jonathon cross.  Improved Hybrid." +

Stayman Winesap:     "Firm, crisp fruit with tangy flavor.  Good for dessert or canning" +

Flesh is "finely textured, juicy, and moderately acidic with a sprightly, wine-like flavor."  Greenish-yellow undercolor with light red stripes or crimson blush.  It can be stored for 2 to 3 months.  Can be susceptible to fire blight.  ****

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Stayman

Jonathon:        "A favorite for home orchards.  Moderately tart and crispy." +

Firm, crisp, juicy, and very aromatic flesh.  Flavor can range from mild to tart with its acidity.  Thought to be a seedling of Esopus Spitzenberg from New York.  Bright yellow overlaid by bright red skin.  Can be susceptible to fire blight.  ****

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Jonathan

Arkansas Black:         "Purplish black fruit, crisp and juicy."  ++

Hard, very firm flesh, with a course, almost woody texture.  Mild but balanced taste which is more sweet than acidic.  Resistant to fire blight and cedar apple rust but susceptible to scab.  ****

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Arkansas Black

King David:        "Resembles Winesap in appearance and taste. Many uses - pies, cider, sauce or eating fresh. Found as a chance seedling in fence row in Washington Co., Arkansas in 1893. Medium size, deep red when full ripe. Hangs on tree well. Ripens about 1st Sept." ++

Very firm to hard flesh.  Crisp and juicy with an old fashioned spicy, ciderlike flavor.  Tough skin that softens with storage or with further ripening.  Resistant to fire blight, scab, and cedar apple rust.  ****

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - King David

Grimes Golden:        The course flesh is crisp and tender with a spicy, sweet flavor.  It has a high sugar content.  Dating back to the early 1800s, it is believed to be a parent of Golden Delicious.   The skin is greenish-yellow with some russetting. ****        

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Grimes Golden

Idared:        Juicy Moderately crisp with a mild flavor that is tart to moderately acidic.  This apple is often used for cooking or cider.  Red fruit on a greenish white under color.  ****

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Idared

Mammoth Blacktwig:        Crisp, firm flesh that is juicy and mildly tart.  It is believed to be a Winesap seedling originating in Arkansas.  Fruits become sweeter as they mature.  It is red over a yellow background.  It is susceptible to scab but resistant to fire blight and cedar apple rust.  ****

Ralls Genet:        This apple is "dense, crisp, and tender with a flavor that balances tart and sweet."  It has a sweet aroma.  It dates back to the 1700s from Virginia, and it is a parent of Fuji.  It has greenish-yellow skin streaked with shades of pink, red, and crimson.  It is a late bloomer.   It can be susceptible to scab, blossom blight, and bitter rot.  **** 

Summer Champion:        Crisp, juicy, and moderately acidic developing a balanced flavor with old time apple taste.  It originates from Arkansas.  This is an early season apple.  The skin has pink to red stripes over a yellow green undercolor.  ****

Winesap (original):        Winelike flavor with acidity.  Considered to be sweet, tart, and juicy.   It stores well.  It originated in the early 1800s in New Jersey.  It typically is dark red in color.  ****

To read a more detailed description of this variety, please visit - Winesap

+       http://www.bobwellsnursery.com/

++     http://www.womacknursery.com/apples.html

**** The Best Apples to Buy and Grow, B. Hanson, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Inc. (2005)

Rootstock

When selecting your trees, it is very important to look closely at the rootstock upon which the trees are grafted.  The rootstock will dictate how large the tree will get.  You do not want to plant a tree that will get too big for the space in which you are placing it.  You will be very disappointed and, along with the additional work entailed, the additional pruning to keep its size in check may adversely impact fruit production.  Some of the more common rootstocks are:

Dwarf tree (6-9 feet):                            M-9 or M-26 rootstock

Semi-dwarf tree (12-15 feet):            MM-111 or M-7 rootstock

          Full-sized tree (20-25 feet):               seedling rootstock

Cross-Pollination

While a few varieties are self-fertile, you are going to want to plant at least two varieties of apple trees to ensure proper cross-pollination and fruit set.  Please note that triploid apples are essentially sterile and will not serve as a pollinizer.  If you already have crab-apples, those can often serve as pollinizers.

To ensure good cross-pollination, make sure that you have two varieties that will bloom around approximately the same period of time, e.g. early bloom, mid-season bloom, late-season bloom.

Considerations When Planting

This is not intended to be a guide for planting an apple tree.  If you are looking for that kind of guidance, I recommend that you visit this link for a pretty thorough "how-to" primer.

Nevertheless, when you plant your trees, I encourage you to add compost, Mycorrhizal fungi, and Actinovate to the backfill when you are planting.

In Texas, apple trees can be susceptible to a soil-borne fungal pathogen known as Cotton Root Rot  (Phymatotricum omnivorum).  Actinovate contains beneficial microrganisms that prevent Cotton Root Rot.

Many varieties of apples can also sometimes succumb to fire blight.  The best way to avoid fire blight is to not use fertilizer with a high nitrogen content.  Excessive amounts of nitrogen encourages fire blight.  If fire blight does show up, cut the infected branch off as soon as you can and destroy it.

Finally, in caring for your apple trees, I have found that the occasional spraying of Garrett Juice or compost tea seems to ward off problems for me.

Ideas on Nurseries

If you are looking for an instant orchard, your choices are limited.  Check now with your local nurseries to see what varieties they are or will be caring this Spring and in what sizes.  I typically only see 5 gallon containers in my local nurseries.

Bob Wells Nursery will often carry 5, 10, and 15 gallon trees, so you can try that.

Willis Orchard Company sells large trees; however be forewarned that these are going to be bare-rooted plants which can sometimes demand more TLC.   (I no longer recommend using this company as I have now discovered that they sent me several fruit trees that were completely different varieties.  For example, they sent me standard pears instead of the asian pears I ordered!!)

Edible Landscaping also sometimes carries larger sized specimen.

If you are a more patient person and are willing to plant a smaller tree, there are a lot of options out there.  Some of them include:

Texas Nurseries:

Bob Wells Nursery 

 Womack Nursery

Cummins Nursery

Caldwell Nursery 

Nurseries Outside of Texas

Raintree Nursery

Trees of Antiquity

One Green World

Johnson Nursery

Chestnut Hill Tree Farm

Stark Brothers

Grandpa's Orchard

Bay Laurel Nursery

Big Horse Creek Farm

Kuffel Creek Apple Nursery

Cloud Mountain Farm

Burnt Ridge Nursery

Greenmantle Nursery

Southmeadow Fruit Gardens

Orange Pippin Fruit Trees

Urban Homestead

Vintage Virginia Apples

Sampling Apples

Starting with your local organic grocer is a good way to explore the different flavors of heirloom apples.

You can also taste some of the less commercial heirloom varieties through these mail order companies:

Applesource

Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm

Kilcherman's Christmas Cove Farm

Lakeside Orchards

If you have planted apple trees in Texas that are bearing fruit, please post a comment and share your experiences along with your favorite varieties for Texas.
Cox Orange Pippin - ©iStockphoto.com

5/8/2014 12:02:44 PM

We have 20 red wattle feeders at a reduced rate ($150) that are available to head over to your property today.  They are 3 months old.  These guys are easy to raise and depending on how you feed them convert well.  If you are following a traditional feeding regimen you can expect a 3:1 feed conversion.  We have found that feeding them out on pasture as their primary feed source means a much slower conversion (longer growth time).

Take a look at this story for a pig that was raised on a leash and harness while being fed out.  This prior training made the animal very easy to handle for on farm processing.

http://www.friendlypastures.com/post/141/processed-our-first-red-wattle-pig

4/22/2014 4:38:26 PM

As some of you may already know I recently started a kickstarter campaign and was successfully funded (read more about the campaign)!  My campaign was to raise money for a research project I needed to have someone a scientific lab do as part of the Fodder book I am writing.  Once the campaign was funded and the money was collected I immediately ordered a bunch of different seeds.  Some of the common seeds.  And some not so common.  The whole point of my research is to build up a nutrition profile for each seed type so that we can formulate a proper diet based mostly on fodder by mixing and matching seeds for a given type of animal.   Well the seeds showed up so I built the counter top fodder system and started the sprouting process!

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To kill two birds with one stone I intended to build the counter top system as part of the research project.  Both topics are to be covered in the fodder book.  I selected some simple and cheap aluminum lasagna dishes.  They are about 4” deep and should be strong enough to be stacked in an alternating pattern like below.  This should provide the fodder enough room to sprout for at least the first 4 or 5 days.  Also, this stack pattern will provide plenty of room for good air flow to help keep any mold from getting started.

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I then took a rubber trivet and a meat flavor injection needle and proceeded to poke tiny holes in the bottom of the tray.  Notice that the holes are poked along the raised bead at the bottom to keep seeds from block the holes when draining.  Just push the tip of he needle through…not the entire body.  Remember that the weight of the wet seeds will cause the bottom of the tray to sag slightly so also put a couple holds near the center to get the final drippings out.

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The end result is to stack multiple trays (7-8) so that you can use one tray of fodder per day.  Notice that the trays are positioned on top of tray used under a drying rack for dishes.  This set up should feed a hand full of rabbits, chickens, etc.  Ask the wife before putting the trays in your bathroom (don’t worry wife…I moved this arrangement to the laundry room - too much moisture in there).

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Once this was prepped I started with the seeds.  I decided to start sprouting the Lowes brand BOSS seeds that I happened across and the Johnny’s Barley.

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I put them into my existing soak buckets (look here for how to build those).  Rinsed the dirt and debris off of the seeds.  Then I swirled them about for a bit and drained them.  I always soak in fresh clean water after having rinsed the seeds.  This should help with mold issues down the road.  I intend to soak these seeds for 4 hours.

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Once these seeds complete their soak at around 3pm today I will start another batch of seeds soaking.

4/6/2014 11:14:05 PM

I am very happy to report that the seeds for the research in my fodder book have been ordered.  I ordered a large variety of various seeds.  I of course got the regular common seeds.  And I got a few other interesting seeds.  With any luck these will get here soon and I can start growing the samples straight away in the small home system I have planned for the book (a kitchen sink style system).

Here are the seeds that we picked up for our first set of samples.  These were all ordered on Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

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I was unable to locate BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds) at my regular seeds supplier which is high on my list for findings.  Oddly enough, while at lowes picking up our fodder room supplies, I found BOSS being sold as bird seed.  I am not sure if it is sproutable…but will find out very soon. 

I will let you know as we make progress on our fodder room (all the supplies were purchased for that today) or as the seeds come in.  Either way - exciting times on the farm.

4/1/2014 1:43:00 AM

You are probably first wondering what kickstarter is.  And secondly, why would I do it again, whatever it is.  Kickstarter is there to help all sorts of people with great ideas share their passions with the masses in the hopes that you can crowd fund what it is you are trying to do.  In our case, I decided to write a book about fodder.  How to build a system for growing fodder.  The metrics involved in growing fodder.  The different types of fodder to be grown.  How to maintain the system.  How to scale the system as you take on more animals.  And most importantly how to formulate the proper diet for your animals with fodder.  In my case, I am doing the research for my farm.  So it made sense to put those findings into book form and share it with the world.  But as it pertains to the hard science on this topic - I was curious if others would share in the cost to determine the nutritional breakdown of the various components to fodder.  A task I planned to outsource to the local college Texas A&M.  I received 31 backers and $1,150 in 30 days.

How to get started

The only thing you really need to get started with KickStarter is an idea that fits into their guidelines.  Your idea must be a “project”.  And it must fit into one of the approved categories.

A project is something with a clear end, like making an album, a film, or a new game. A project will eventually be completed, and something will be produced as a result.

The categories are Art, Comics, Dance, Design, Fashion, Film, Food, Games, Music, Photography, Publishing, Technology, and Theater.

There are a lot of things that can’t be hosted on KickStarter.  Look here for more on that.

But once you know what your idea is and that the idea is acceptable by KickStarter guidelines all that is left is to tell your projects story.  This is done via their easy to use authoring tools. 

Give your project a name:

(book) Fodder - from one pound of seed to ten pounds of feed

Upload the avatar for your project.  Which should be catchy or tell the story of your project.

Photo-main

Come up with a twitter length pitch that is somewhat memorable:

Fodder is a climate independent way to reliably feed farm animals for less. I am compiling my findings into a book on this new topic.

Fill in the body of your campaign with their dumbed down WYSIWYG editor.  In our case I told the reader who we were.  Then I gave them a summary for what we were doing.  I wrote the problem statement.  Then I wrote the solution to that problem.  And with that information in hand I proceeded to educate the reader on what exactly fodder was.  If the reader made it this far, I then got into what was being produced by the project.  And I answered the most important part - what does the contributor get.  Probably one of the most important parts of the project set up is the risks and challenges area.  State your fears for the project and your approach to navigate them.  These are fears that should be easy for the reader to digest and the solution to them should always be known.  Never state “This is going to be really hard” …and I have no idea how to get around it.  Because that is basically stating your haven’t thought your project out well enough!

Next you need to set up your rewards.  These are the pledge break downs.  For a $5 donation you will get this.  There needs to be a fair amount of variance in your rewards.  Some people only have $5 and would love to back you.  So include something at that range.  Try to make the thing you are making (a book in my case) part of some of the rewards.

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And probably the most important thing for setting up your project is wiring in your bank account via Amazon payments!  This allows you to connect your bank account to Amazon.  Then connect Amazon to KickStarter so that if you are successful you can get at your funds almost right away.

You can also track traffic through your project which is fun to look at.  I used google analytics which is a free way to do web analytics.  I like the country report when I do things such as this.  People from all over the world came to see my KickStarter campaign!  Exciting.

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Getting the project approved

My first idea was to come up with a fodder system that could be sold to the masses.  As I started tinkering with this idea I realized that this project would be hard.  I didn’t yet have all the experience required to do this sort of a project.  As I built the campaign around this idea I quickly learned that I had a lot of research to do.  And as I did more and more of that research I realized that there was a hole in the data that I needed in the places that I could easily tap into for research.  And more importantly I noticed that there was room in the market for a book on the topic.  A book is simply a time investment where as building a physical thing is soo much more. 

KickStarter allows you to share your campaign before it is approved to get your target audiences feedback before going live.  I used this tool often and it helped me realize I was not yet focused in my first few passes.  It also helped me see things that I wasn’t paying close attention too.  Here is an example from a buddy of mine.

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This made me want to pivot to writing a book.  And more importantly target the funding of some pointed research I needed to do for one of the chapters in my book.  And that was around the nutritional break down of various types of seeds used in growing fodder.  This information wasn’t out there for all to see.  And it is the most important thing for animal growers to know so that different diets could be built by the numbers.  This was it!

I quickly re-wrote my campaign and shared it out to some industry folks and friends.  I assimilated their remarks and did some more polishing.  Then I submitted my campaign for approval.

All campaigns go through a review process by the staff of KickStarter.  I had a few iterations with them.  They are there to help you be more successful.

Finally I got the green light. 

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I sat on my project for another week.  To this point I didn’t have a video.  And the KickStarter school tells you that having a video goes a long way to getting you noticed and getting your campaign funded.  I really meant to make a video.  I just never got around to doing it.  Finally, after sitting on the approved campaign for a week and change I decided to make it live.  I have near 1,000 friends on Facebook and am fairly tied into many groups that would be interested in this topic.  And I would classify myself as a social butterfly.  And with that I barely got my project funded! 

Make the video!

During an active campaign

I pressed the green launch button at 3:22am (I couldn’t sleep for the past week up to this point).  Once I green lighted my project the timer started ticking. 

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I immediately went to all the Facebook groups I am part of and politely spammed the crap out of them. I made a nice little post talking up my project.  In minutes after going green and before I finished my first round of spamming I received my first “new backer” email.  Exciting!

At 3:48am my first backer showed up!

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Along the way I received a couple of messages from potential backers.  I was immediately notified of questions to which I responded as quickly as possible.

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I was able to track the funding via the project dashboard.  Where it was at.  And more importantly where it needed to be.

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They also have a great timeline at the bottom of the dashboard to help you track each and every activity through out the project.  When a comment happened.  When each funding event happened.  Etc. 

In addition to tracking a project, you can also use your existing backers to help spread to the work.  This is done with project updates.  You can send little notes to keep your backers inspired and to help you along the way.

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As you can see from the backer report, it was slow going initially.  I did some posts here and there.  But I didn’t want to be overly spammy.  So once a week to the major groups I followed and no more.  But then we got down to the wire.  I started to panic.  I didn’t think I was going to make it.  So I got into a mode of share share share.  And as a result we were able to get over the line about 24 hours prior to the end of the campaign.  Talk about cutting it close.

Once the campaign is successfully funded

Once the campaign is funded you get notified.  They are very good about keeping you in the know!

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As you can see in the email above - funding will be available in the next few weeks.  So I didn’t bother to check my amazon account just yet.  Well as it turns out those funds are available nearly right away!  They deposit each backers transaction one at a time.  And as soon as that transaction goes through they withdraw their bit of that money.  So a lot goes in and a little goes out.  I also noticed that there are a few attempts to collect where the backer’s payment method didn’t go through.  They apparently try to collect every 48 hours until it goes through…and they nag the backer via email to update their payment info.  I only had a couple of folks fall into that category.  Oops!

And then what?

As my funding has only gone through and I am just now collecting the funds I don’t yet have the full picture of the after process for a successful campaign.  I do know that I need to create a survey for each of my rewards that requires input.  This will allow me to collect t-shirt sizes and shipping addresses.  And then depending on when the reward is ready I can ship it to the backer right away in some cases.  Or take care of that later.  …as long as I deliver by the date set forth in the campaign. 

Also, as I now have 31 new followers (some of which I know aren’t actually interested in anything pertaining to fodder…but instead just “help’n a brotha out”) so I shall continue to chat with them via this campaign tool.  Let them know as I make progress with the project.

Ultimately I need to get started building my research samples.  And I need to get to finishing all the easy chapters so that when I have the data from my research I can write the two hard chapters around the research results and how to formulate a proper diet plan for your animals.

What to do differently?

  1. Make 1 video per week:  Why you ask?  Videos can be funny.  They can be engaging.  They get to your point without the reader having to read…they just watch and listen.  New content keeps people interested.  They share videos.  Videos can go onto other social networks and get traffic there.  You can teach in a video on the topic you are pushing on your potential backers.  You can SHOW progress in a video.  Definitely going to make a bunch of lo-fi videos next time.
  2. Market more aggressively every day to more than just facebook: I have to admit it.  I was very lazy on this campaign.  Probably because whether I got the project funded or not I was going to do it for myself.  I love writing.  I love teaching.  I love sharing.  And I really love to know as much as I can on a topic prior to implementing it.  This campaign wasn’t a do or die for me.  I can’t imagine how I would have done had I joined more than just local groups.  Or if I had joined other networks.  Or wrote an article for a major magazine publication in exchange for my campaign in their pages.  Lots of marketing opportunities I just didn’t pursue.
  3. Keep the focus small:  In my campaign I pitched my book and the research.  Next time I might just pitch the research as part of a bigger something.  And have several smaller campaigns that make the whole.  I have seen people fund their entire farm…one small project at a time.
  4. Be even more creative with the rewards:  This is hard.  You want to give something valuable..but not costly.  If I had a campaign that needed hundreds or thousands of backers 8 different t-shirt options wouldn’t be the way to go!
  5. Focus up front: I went through a couple months of gyrations on this project.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  But I wasted a lot of time creating the campaign only to tear it down and start over again.  This time isn’t free.

The book on fodder

If you are interested in the book I am writing - head on over to LeanPub where I am writing it out in the open. 

You can buy it now and get all the updates in the future for free as I publish them (almost weekly updates).  And as I am self publishing this book…it is very low cost!

http://www.leanpub.com/fodder

Fodder cover page

3/24/2014 4:38:41 PM

While we have not yet taken on the challenge of maintaining a dairy animal on our farm just yet, we did have a chance to help a neighboring farmer build a stanchion this weekend.  A stanchion is basically a clean and safe place to milk your animal.  It keeps the animal in a controlled environment where they won’t feel terribly stressed (which impacts the milk that is delivered).  It is semi confined to keep the animal from moving about too much.  And it takes them up off the dirty ground which helps control the quality of the milk that is collected in that it helps keep dust from being kicked up during the milking process. 

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Many designs for a stanchion locks the animals head into place.  They also have collapsible internal walls to squeeze the animal in place to remove their ability to move at all.  We chose not to create a neck locking mechanism or squeezing walls…but can easily add it to our design if we need it later.  Instead we built a walk through stall with a raised deck that the cow can enter and leave without backing up and that should provide enough comfort for the cow while she is there that we shouldn’t need the capability to heavily restrict her movements.

Lets take a quick look at the build!

We started by digging 6 holes with standard post hole shovels.

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We quickly realized that the ground was hard enough to require the jack hammer.  So one of us used the jack hammer to loosen up the ground while the other removed the dirt.  This was much faster.

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Everyone got involved in this part.

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After thinking a bit more about the weight of the cow I decided to add another three holes down the center of the deck.  This may be over built…but better to have and not need than need and not have!

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With the holes dug we started to stand up the posts.  They say measure twice and cut once.  I suggest that the same rules apply to making things level and plumb.

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We chose to get the majority of the stall built prior to putting the cement in the post holes.  This proved to be a wise choice as we were able to tweak the design as we went.  But, it meant that we need to anchor the posts to the side of the barn to help keep them from moving as we built.

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With one sides posts plumbed up and the bottom board in place we were able to start the other side.

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We anchored the other sides posts to the first sides posts to take advantage of their anchoring to the barn wall.

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We now had our four corners and the first part of the floor supports in.

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The cows were very curious about our tinkering.

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Then we put in the middle posts of both walls in and started putting in the floor cross supports.

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Next we installed the center posts to take the brunt of the cows weight.  Obviously these holes weren’t entirely in the center…oops!

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By this time we actually had to pause for the cows night time milking.

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Then I filled the holes for each post with water.  And slowly trickled in the quickcrete post cement mix.

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Then we were able to put the floor boards in.  These boards were spaced with the thickness of standard “one by” material.  …about 3/4” or so.

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Here is a pic of the “Omish” me.  I feel like there is a barn raising in my future!

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Next we installed a “butt rope” similar to those found in a horse trailer.  We pounded two eye bolts into place to get them started.  Then twisted them in.  On one end we anchored a chain with a standard lock link.  And on the other end we attached a clasp. 

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Then all the “support” boards were removed.  The side rails were attached.  And a door was built.

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We also attached header boards to connect the posts to add strength.

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I will have to get some close ups for the doors locking mechanism.  It is basically a long L shaped piece of metal that slides in two metal hoops.  It slides through another eye bolt.  This is a quick and easy lock that is out of the way from the cow.

The structure was largely complete.  We still intend to wrap the bottom boards with a 2x12” board just to make it look better and keep people from banging their shins on the edges.  Plus a coat of paint.  And possibly a surface finish to the floor to add some texture.

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Then came the fun part.  The cow that my friends bought was a 5 year old factory cow.  It was not used to being led on a halter or milked by hand.  It was hard enough to get ahold of the cow let alone walk her into this new fancy stall we built.  We led her into the barn with some sweet feed.

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And let her nose around to check things out and get comfortable with the space.

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Then we started to ask her to pay more attention to the stall.

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And that is where I stopped taking pictures!

She was happy to eat as you see in the picture above.  But she wasn’t about to just walk in.  So it was time to get a rope attached to her halter.  That took a bit as she wasn’t terribly used to humans.

Once we had her on the lead rope I applied what I know from training horses.  Ask for a little and immediately give a rest and a reward for giving any sense of positive action.  This meant if she took a step forward she got feed and love and praise.  If she put one foot into the stall she got feed and love and praise.  Pretty quickly we got her half way in.  Then all the way in.  We closed the butt rope behind her and closed the door in front of her.  We kept her in the stall for less than a minute.

To be clear, the first attempt required me putting pretty good pressure on her halter and my friend applying some pressure from the back end.  This wasn’t a “come on you can do it” sort of moment.  It was work.  Each iteration there after got easier.  Notice the tight line to the halter.

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Then we opened the gate and I walked her out for a quick break.  Then we started again.  We did this three or four times.  And less effort was needed each time.

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Ah-ha.  Here you can see the door latch we installed.

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It is clear to me that this cow is going to get the hang of these humans real quick.  She loves her ears being scratched.  And she seems to love the attention.

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Update!

I spoke with the owner of the cow this evening.  As it turns out, after having her training this afternoon she was very happy to walk into the stall this evening for milking.  The stall worked great.

3/24/2014 2:24:47 AM

Not too long ago we built a fodder system for one of our neighbors.  We built it in the same manner that we built our first MVP fodder system.  But it was built as any version two product is - based on the learning's from the first system.  Since then the system has had some further improvements applied to it.  Specifically it was ported from a sump based system to a fresh water system.  It is now fully automated short of filling the trays with seeds.

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Here are the first posts around this system:

http://www.friendlypastures.com/post/125/2nd-edition-fodder-system-update

http://www.friendlypastures.com/post/123/fodder-system-take-2

My friend has since added a fresh water tank with a standard stock tank auto filling system using a float valve.  The water input is hooked directly to the bath tub faucet.   And the float valve keeps the tank full of fresh water.

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The pump was then moved into the fresh water tank.  And as soon as it is time to soak the fodder system, the pump kicks on via the electric timer (as before).  As the water is sucked into the fodder system, the float drops with the water level, and the house pressurized water is turned on to fill the holding tank.  The fodder system now always has fresh water and enough of it to keep the fodder happy.

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This means that the chore of emptying the sump tank no longer exists.  But even more importantly than making the system have less steps to take care of it, fresh water means healthier and easier to grow fodder.  Mold issues are easier to manage as well.

Great job Devin!

3/11/2014 5:28:16 PM

We recently had the opportunity to be a part of processing the first pig from our farm.  This in and of itself was exciting.  But getting the opportunity to taste some Red Wattle was what we were really looking forward too.  Up to this point we have had faith that the meat will taste better than corporate pork.  We did lots of research prior to buying into this breed.  And Red Wattle shows up at the top of every list put out by top chefs all over.  But now we can answer the question “what does it taste like” with confidence.  It is awesome!

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From all the meat that was rendered from the 200lb pig that was processed we received some shoulder cuts and some head sausage.  Notice how nicely marbled this meat is.

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We quickly fried them up in a pan with no added seasoning.  Just pork to see what the meat actually tasted like.

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Perfectly browned.

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Notice that Red Wattle really isn’t “the other white meat”.

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This particular specimen wasn’t grass fed or pasture raised.  So it did come with a tad bit more fat than we are expecting from animals raised on our property.  Not that fat is bad…mmmm!

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The kids asked us “are you cooking Porky?”  …the name our friend gave her pig.  Yes.  “I don’t want to eat Porky!”.  We asked that each child at least try one bite of this pig.  “That bite is too big!”  One bite.  “MMMM…that’s good”  …pork is all gone.

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Farm raised pork and eggs.

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We have lots of piglets on the property if you are interested in having us raise some for you!

3/10/2014 3:54:12 AM

We have had one freeze after another here in Texas.  As well as a series of rains.  This has forced us to keep our fairly new born piglets up at the barn to do everything in our power to keep them alive through the nasty weather of late.  Unfortunately this is bad for a couple of reasons.  1) There is nothing friendly about keeping critters in the barn and not on pasture.  2) The barn is now destroyed with mud soup all over the place.  Time to haul the mamas and their babies out to the paddocks.

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(family members - click the photo above for your albums)

To take the pigs out to the field is a special ordeal.  Pigs are generally ok with loading into the trailer.  After all, the trailer is full of food and a pig is always driven by food.  But, as a pig farmer there is really only one thing you must know about pigs.

“You can get a pig to go where ever it wants too!”

Knowing this we do our best to ensure that there is only one path between a barn stall the back of the trailer.  We start by backing the trailer into the barn in such a way that it is very hard to go around the trailer.

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Once we have the channel created, we put some plywood in the trailer to keep the food from falling through.

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As soon as the food hits the floor it starts a chain reaction of frantic pig overdrive as they begin to test their boundaries.  FOOD?  DID I HEAR FOOD?

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The kids all climb to their view of the slightly controlled chaos that is about to begin.

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And then we let them out.  A sea of pork came flowing from their stalls.

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And went every which way.  Especially the opposite way from where we wanted them to go.

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They eventually realized where the food was and headed this way.

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And then slipped under the trailer to try to get out of the barn entirely.

Of course there are no photos beyond that point as there was a lot of yelling and swearing from all involved.  They are too big to fit under the trailer thankfully and turned around.  They all loaded up eventually.  Then we had to catch the 20 or so babies that were squirting everywhere.  Thankfully the babies don’t leave their mamas grunts so they are eventually easy to catch.

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As you can see the barn expansion was sort of stopped in its tracks in order to house all the piggers through the cold.  And they destroyed their areas!  But I am sure they had fun doing it.  And we lost zero pigs to the cold…just to clumsy mamas.

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With everyone loaded and the barn put back to normal we were able to catch a few fun photos of the pig families and ours.

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Then it was time to get moving.  We had to get the mamas and their brood out to paddock number one.  With a trailer attached to the dually this means we had to go to the back paddock and drive up (can’t make the turn into paddock one..need to fix that).

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On the way out to the paddocks the babies took advantage of their mamas which are pretty much done with the whole nursing thing.

 

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The entire way out to the paddock the kids were singing “doh a deer, a female deer, ray…”

Once we got the trailer into the appropriate paddock we got ready to let the piggers out.

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Lets those piggers free into the friendly pastures that await.

With all these pigs back in the field it was time to turn some attention to their housing.  Thankfully we still had their house from the first night in our first big freeze.  We turned it 90 degrees so that the opening didn’t open to the uphill stream bed where all the rain runs.  We then covered the leading edge of the house with dirt to help direct the flow of water around the house.  Then we put down a rail road tie in front of the house to keep more water out.  And we loaded up the inside of the house with more fresh fluffy dirt and hay.  They should be good now!

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And by “we”…I mean ME, Jess, and the boys!  No…the kids aren’t the only ones that work on this farm.  I just have a hard time slinging dirt and taking selfies with a duck face or that stupid tongue thing kids do these days!

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Quick check up on the pig families.  Looks like everyone is good to go.

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Until next time folks!  Farmer Andy signing off…

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3/10/2014 1:51:53 AM

If you have been following us in our journey as fledgling pig farmers you would know that we started by reaching out to our friends for investments to purchase our first breeding pigs.  With that money and our own we purchased a boar and two sows.  We then also inherited a friends boar and three more sows.  This quickly brought our sounder up to 7 breeding animals.  As soon as the pigs were of age they got right too it and started breeding like rabbits (oddly enough none of our rabbits have made babies yet!!!).  Out of the first batch of piglets, each of our investors was too receive a full size pig (2-300lbs) that they could take to a butcher to be processed as payment for their initial funding.  We also had some friends purchase a baby to be raised out on their property.  This pig great much faster than our other piglets.  And so…it went to processing first!

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Mrs. Porky was raised in a 10 x 20 stall.  She was fed an unending supply of cracked corn, bread, eggs, milk, and various kitchen scraps.  Needless to say she had a very healthy layer of corn based fat built up on her and she grew and grew.  At around 200lbs she was taken to a friend of the owners for an old school processing.

We met the owners of this pig in the morning.  Got her into a large goat cage.  And drove to their friends house.

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As a halter broke pig, she was a very well mannered girl.

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Quite content in her cage she took a little coaxing to get her out.

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We walked her around a bit.  Let her much some grass.  And in general just enjoy life for another 30 minutes or so.  This was also to calm her down as much as possible prior to putting her down.

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Then we walked her next to a tree where she was too be processed.

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Then a 22LR later and she was up in a tree.

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We quickly un-did her skin and started to separate it from the very thick layer of fat she had.

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Once we got the skin down around the neck we took the head off.

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Then we removed her insides.  And cut her in half.

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Then as quickly as possible we got the carcass situated in an ice box to cool her down.

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She barely fit.

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Then came the hams.

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The right tool for the job this time around was a reciprocating saw.

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Too the cooler.

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More ice.

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Silly girl playing with the trotters!

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While this was going on the head was being prepped for head sausage.

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Then we had to take off.  I will get the rest of the pics from this day and post about the fine cuts later.

3/1/2014 1:24:03 PM

A neighbor of ours has sold his house.  He is basically done with the life of having property.  Well, the work of having property.  He decided to leave Texas and head back to Florida for walks on the beach.  As he no longer needed his stuff he decided to have an everything must go sale.  A buddy and I went in on a convertible trailer.  Part flat bed.  Part stock trailer.  Perfect for small time ranchers like us who need a flat bed near daily and a stock trailer now and then.

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The first major task for us was to get some hay for the horses.  This meant that we needed to take the top off.  Uh oh…no where to put it!  I know – hang it from the barn rafters (hope that old barn holds).  Backed it in.  Hung it up.  Ratcheted it off.

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And we will NEVER do that again!  Poor old barn didn’t know what we were doing to it!

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Then off we went to get some hay.

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Four bales at a time is way better than two!

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The horses didn’t know what it was that we were doing unloading huge piles of food at night.  But they couldn’t wait to get into it.

 

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And the kids couldn’t help but play in the hay as well.

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Going up!

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2/24/2014 1:41:24 AM

That special thing happened that as a fish tank owner you never want to have happen.  Especially if your fish tank is in the house.  The bottom of the tank developed a small crack over time.  And a persistent drip drip drip leak started to puddle all over our floor.  Let’s fix that real quick shall we?

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I thought that the Rubbermaid series of “tanks” as we texans like to call them were pretty tough.  As it turns out they need to be sitting on a large flat surface with zero variance in order to be able to support they weight of 300 gallons.  I had the tank sitting on a series of bricks but not enough bricks to truly support the bottom of the tank.

First order of business is to capture and transport the fish to a smaller holding tank so that we can clean and patch the larger tank.  I had the kids bring in one of the 150 gallon stock tanks from the field.  Then we relocated some of the existing water.  Then we moved the baby fish in their net tank.  And then the large fish were moved over.

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Here you can see that we have an exposed cement floor in the room that the big fish tank was in.  Getting it emptied and relocated made an even bigger mess in that room

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Once we got the tank outside we scrubbed it out and let it dry.

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Oddly enough, we are still growing veggies in our grow beds.  We haven’t had the pump on for a couple of months now due to the cold (save the fish!!!).

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Here you can see one of the three cracks that had started.

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I found a water proof marine grade epoxy specifically for repairing fish tanks.  The nice thing about this two part epoxy is that it comes in a self portioning ejector.  Squirt a little out and mix it up with a putty knife.  No need to measure the ingredients.

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Then squish the epoxy into the cracks with the putty knife.  And let it dry for a few hours.  For cracks like these you could potentially clean the crack with the water in the tank, mix it, and squish into the crack under water.  I haven’t tested that theory though.

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I will let you know how well this works once I get the tank set back up.

2/5/2014 10:51:24 PM

I recently posted about the new fodder system I built for my buddy.  But as that system was literally just built I had no fodder pictures to show you.  It has now been a full week since that new system has been in use.  And we now have some updates to share.  On the first yield we got 6 pounds of feed from 1 pound of seed.  AWESOME!

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This hydroponic fodder system was installed in my buddies spare bathroom in the bath tub.  It is strange to think but that is where a lot of people put their fodder systems.  It sort of makes sense as you would never need to worry about leaks or over flows or occasional splashes.  Here is the system with four days of seed in the trays.  You can see the root mat taking over on the third shelf from the top.

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My buddy loves his new fodder maker!

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Here is a close up of day 4 growth.  Lots of happy roots.  The seeds were put down a little thick the first time around (1/2” of seeds is all that is needed).

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I went back today to see how his system was progressing.  I was happy to see that his day 7 trays were looking amazing.  No slime and no mold.  I did see a couple mold spots in some of his other trays (and noticed his fan was no longer deployed!).  More on that in another post.  Check out this impressive mat.

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And for all those that say that light doesn’t have anything to do with fodder I am always amazed to see how when fodder is deprived of light it is often found stretching as hard as it can to get to a light source.  Look at how the back of the tray is exposed but the front is totally hidden.  Granted this could be not as much water, etc.  But water doesn’t dictate the direction the blades of “grass” grow in.

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The best part of this entire system though…when I got to their house their young girl says “Mr. Andrew Siemer…would you like to go see our fodder system?”  She speaks amazing well for her age!

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I was impressed to see how many seeds had sprouted given that the seeds were layered in so thick!

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Here is the system with 7 days worth of seed in it.

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While there I added two additional 1/2” branch lines with 1/4” hoses to each tray.  This will get the water to the trays faster to shorten the water cycle.  Little tweaks as we go!

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In this video you can see how the combination drain/overflow drain works great.  I am really impressed with this and as it was a fraction of the cost of a commercially available unit I think I might stick with this design.  We do need to get a float valve hooked up to his bath tub faucet though so that the system always gets fresh water.  Then we will drain the tray water directly to the bath tub drain.  Using stale starchy water is one of many things that leads to mold in your fodder.

The verdict?  I am always amazed at how well this stuff grows.  On the first 7 day growth in this system we got some amazing results.

The base weight of a tray is 1.11 pounds.

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A tray with the fodder in it is 19 pounds.  That is 18 pounds of fodder.  Or 36 pounds per day!  Awesome.

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And as for the conversion rate?  The container we used to measure the dry seed weight with was 2 pounds.

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With 4 cups of seed in the container we tip the scales at 3.11 pounds.  About 1 pound for 4 cups of seed.  12 cups of seed in a tray is about 3 pounds of seed.

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This works out to roughly a 1:6 ratio.  Or one pound of seed to six pounds of feed.  Not too bad at all.

2/5/2014 9:05:52 PM

Last year, towards the holiday season, we had advertised that we would be processing chickens.  Somewhere along the line we met an FFA dad that had some turkeys that would be ready for processing soon.  I was willing to get them done prior to the holidays but they were not quite the right size just yet.  So we agreed that I would process them at a later date and that he would call me when they were ready.  He called!

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By the time this dad had called me I had long since forgotten to think about the turkey processing we had discussed.  As soon as I looked at the history of this conversation I immediately remembered that he had 8 turkeys and would give us half of them for processing all of them.  This sounded like a great deal to me.  When will they be ready?

While it was totally unplanned (some of our normal and new eager helpers were bummed they didn’t get to come help – sorry!) but needed to be done soon we scheduled it for the upcoming weekend.  He dropped the birds off that Friday evening in a goat cage.

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They were pretty birds.  A tad small after the monsters we processed for the holidays (these birds were 20lbs wet at best, the monsters were 55lbs!).  But over all a very healthy bunch.

We got up the next morning and set up a lite kitchen. 

I have to comment here that the kitchen was largely set up by my older son Drake.  He has become a real go getter of a man.  I asked him to get the fire pit set up so that we could get the scalding pot warming up.  He took it upon himself to do that, set up the tables, tubs, hoses, etc.  Love that boy!

We got the knives all sharpened up and put out the cutting boards.

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Then we set up the killing station but removed the road cones as the turkeys wouldn’t fit them.  And spread some shavings to absorb some of the blood (great for composting if anyone wants it!!!).

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No plucker as the plucker motor laughed at me the last time I tossed a wet 60lb bird in it.  Need a turkey plucker.  But we got the rest of the tables and water systems in place.

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Then we caught and hung our first bird.

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“Ugh…what’s going on here?  I don’t understand!?”

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“Oh snap…ok I get it now.  YOU SUCK!”

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One quick and quiet slice.  And then he was sleeping.

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We did this part over and over again.  Two big birds at a time.  We are getting quite efficient at this station.

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Everyone had their job.  And without the plucker in action it was all hands on deck to pluck the birds clean.

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Logan was doing heads and feet this time (and teaching me how).

Eventually a featherless bird made it to my table.

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The cats and dogs enjoy “processing” days.  They get all the scraps that don’t quite make it to the trash cans.

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I love that everyone now knows how to do this type of work.  And while it was chilly – after having done this in 28 degrees – we all know that chilly isn’t worth complaining about as it just isn’t that bad (comparably).

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After a couple of hours we were finally able to bring them in for final QA, weighing in, bagging, and labeling.

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We kept one of the birds alive to finish her out a bit more.  We will likely have this post again in the near future.

1/26/2014 6:07:06 AM

A buddy of mine finally decided to take a look at fodder as a way of minimizing his feed costs for his cattle operation.  He picked up a how to build a fodder system manual for $30.  We got to talking.  And I convinced him into letting me build him a system with near double yield at almost half the cost.  This post will outline the initial build.

This build allowed me to rectify some of the issues I encountered on my first fodder build.

http://www.friendlypastures.com/post/33/feed-your-animals-more--higher-quality--all-organic-food--for-less

Some of the issues in the previous system:

  • Pump size to feed individual lines per each tray, 24 trays in all
  • Leaky drainage
  • Plumbing complexities
  • Flimsy trays

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I wanted to use the pros of the previous system:

  • Easy build
  • Small foot print
  • Low cost
  • High output
  • Attainable by all
  • Scalable

With my marching orders in hand my buddy and I headed off to home depot to get 100% of the parts needed.  No online orders.  No visits to specialized hydroponics shops. 

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I kept the HDX shelf system as the base of the build.  2 of these shelf systems with the legs cut in half create a very strong multi-shelf system that is entirely water proof and very easy to assemble.  I used a previously cut leg as a template for the legs.

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The shelving went together very quickly this time around.  As you can see in the background…I have done this once before!

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Then I added cedar 1x2s to create the lift in the shelf to ensure that the tray drains appropriately.

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We will be using 28qt containers instead of 10x20 trays.  These trays measure 23x16.25.

Efficiencies gained with these new trays:

  • much more durable, heavy duty plastic
  • 24 10x20 trays provided 33sq/ft of fodder growing space, 16 of these trays provide 42sq/ft
  • this system has one less tray to clean and one less tray to seed each day

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To make this system easier than the previous one we are going to try a top fed, trickle down design.  This will mean we have two water outputs into the top trays, which then drain from one tray to the next. 

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The next difference that was made in this system is in the drainage system used.  Instead of just drilling holes in the ends of the trays we opted for something more stable.  A simulation of a commercial product widely used on other fodder systems.

The greenish colored drain mounts near the bottom of the tray and allows water to flow out immediately.  However, just in case the green drain clogs up, you mount the black drain next to it which allows for an emergency overflow drain.  This keeps your trays from flooding all over your fodder room.  This pairing costs around $9.00 plus shipping.

Instead I opted for a set of products to yield the same functionality.  I used terminal adapters and an o-ring.  Each was less than 50 cents.

I then applied the drill press to the male adapter.  This gives me the trickle flow I need to go from tray to tray.  But I also get the emergency overflow drain with the open top of the 1/2” adapter.

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The idea of this system is that I will be able to flood the trays on the top.  They will fill quickly and overflow into the trays below filling them as well.  Then the pump will go off and a slow cascade effect will happen.  If this doesn’t quite work as planned I can easily and quickly fall back to a standard PVC drain pipe set up and pump water to each shelf separately which will then flow directly to the sump. 

With the drain parts fabricated I then moved on to prepping the trays.  I need to drill a hole in each tray to accept the drain fitting.  I located the position of each trays hole by determining where on the shelf the tray sat.  I wanted to align the drain fitting with the holes in the shelf under the tray.  This way the fitting would pass through the shelf and drain into the under-lying tray.  I found that each hole didn’t quite sit in the center of the tray.  Also, as I had some trays leaning towards the front and some towards the back, there were different measurements for each tray depending on if the tray was in the front or back, left or right.  It was consistent from there.

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I wrote down the measurements for each.  For the back trays I measured 3 1/2” in from the back of the tray and 6 1/4” from the side of the shelf.  The front was also 6 1/4” in but 4 5/8” from the back.  This keeps all the trays flush to the back of the shelf unit.

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With the measurements located on the trays it was time to drill the holes.  I originally started with a new style of super aggressive spade bit (paddle bit).  It has a screw tip instead of just a bit and wavy outside blades.  This was way too aggressive for getting through thin plastic and tore up my first couple of holes.  Running the blade in reverse though provided very smooth results.

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Then I threaded the male portion of the adapter into the tray directly.  This gets the small holes as close to the bottom of the tray as possible.  Next came the o-ring.  Then I spun the female adapter on somewhat tight.  Just don’t squish out your o-ring.

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In order for the shelves with the adapter protruding out of the bottom to sit nicely on the shelves I needed to remove a slot on each shelf.  This allowed the drain to sit beneath the surface of the shelf.  Also, as the tray was sloping towards this hole in the shelf it means the trays will lock into position and not easily fall of the shelf.

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Once the trays were sitting on the shelves I needed to turn to the plumbing.  I dropped the pond pump into the sump tank.  Then cut a section of 1/2” pond hose that went from the pond pump to about half way up the shelf unit.  That is where I wanted to add the redirect valves so that we could use the pump to feed water to the shelves, or to empty out the sump tank.  With two ball style valves, it is pretty easy to do this.

With both shark bite valves point up you know that the water is going to the shelves above.  If they are pointing to the right then the water is going to be pushed out of the system entirely so that you can easily change the sump water.

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Tomorrow I will do a wet test to see how it cycles without seeds.  Then I will deliver it to my buddies ranch and get the timer all configured.    Then we can do the first planting.  We will have some fodder pictures in the next fodder update.

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