Sustainability at the Flying T Ranch


Solar PanelsOur family mission is to glorify God in all ways.  We live this out at the Flying T Ranch as we raise, manage, and use His creation in a healthy, sustainable, humane, and respectful manner.

Over the past years, we have found the “sustainable” goal to be one of the most elusive.  Sustainable practices with our livestock began with the species and breeds we chose for the farm.  Some of these have been successful, and others not so much.

For example, our first few years with Muscovy ducks were very productive.  We chose them for their hardiness and reputation for being good at reproducing and raising young on their own.  However, when we later ran into significant problems with predators, we found that they didn’t do well at all under such pressure and when we penned them for protection, they weren’t nearly as happy, and thus not nearly as productive.

Likewise, our journey towards better stewardship of the natural resources involved in producing energy for electricity and heat has been rocky at times.  Some of our ventures have been less productive than others.  However, over the past few years, we have steadily improved in this area, primarily by reducing demand.  Much of what we have done has been relatively “low-budget”: improving our energy use practices, installing energy-efficient lighting, using timers and thermostats for heat lamps during the winter and kidding season, and servicing our heating systems for instance.  Others have cost more: programmable thermostats, installing better insulation and replacing some old leaky doors, and swapping out some appliances for more efficient ones.  These have all combined to reduce our demand significantly.

Recently, we took a step towards the supply side of sustainable energy, through the installation of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system.

We originally considered solar several years ago, but at that time, it simply wasn’t affordable, and the time for us to recoup our investment was almost beyond the life expectancy of the panels and inverters themselves.  Since then, the efficiency of panels has gone up significantly, while the cost per kw has gone down as well.  Though that ratio of performance-to-cost continues to climb, we had saved the money we needed and felt we were in a “sweet spot” this year to go forward.

We approached three companies who do business in New Hampshire to evaluate our needs and potential and to submit bids.  Each of these companies came up with similar project proposals, but with a significant difference in cost.  Two of the companies particularly impressed us with their organization, professionalism, and other aspects of their proposals, and after negotiations that brought the bid down considerably, we signed a contract with Tesla/SolarCity.

Because our energy use increases in the winter (and especially in late winter during kidding) while available solar energy decreases, the system we have installed will not supply all of our needs in the winter.  However, in the summer when our energy consumption decreases while solar energy increases, we should exceed it by quite a bit.  Over the course of the year, we should come close to providing all of our electricity needs, and as we continue to lower our consumption, we hope to have a net positive yield.

As part of the project, our utility company installed a “net meter” that keeps track of electricity we draw from the grid vs what we send back.  On months that we produce more than we consume, we will receive a credit in our bill for the excess.

The system has been in operation for just over a week at this time, the calculations in our project proposal forecasted our production to be roughly equal to our consumption in April.  Weather has been relatively typical, with intervals of sunny days and complete overcasts.  We have had a day of heavy rain and two of light snow.  And the results?

Here’s a snapshot of our best day this past week:

Screenshot_20180411-094407.jpg

Now, granted, every day hasn’t been that sunny.  Our worst day was a low overcast where we only saw 7kWh of production, and the others have ranged from the 20s to the low 60s.

But, over the past week, the average has been more production than consumption, and her is what our meter looked like a couple days ago:

Meter

Yes, it’s rolling backwards from zero.  Our current meter reading is negative 111 kwh (and it’s dropped more in the past couple days).

If you’re looking to install solar (or to buy a Tesla vehicle), consider using our referral code: (https://ts.la/patrick34826).  Doing so through that link will qualify you for incentives from Tesla/SolarCity, which currently include a 5yr extended warranty for solar panels or free supercharging for certain Tesla vehicles.

Full disclosure: Doing so will give us a referral bonus (currently a credit towards our next project, which we hope to be a PowerWall battery system).

We continue working towards more sustainable and resilient practices at the Flying T Ranch, and we would love to hear from you.  What are you doing at your home and/or farm to increase efficiency, reduce consumption, and incorporate renewables?  Comment below!

Advertisements

2015 Boer Goat Kids for Sale


IMG_4725

Well, our kidding season is over – 12 kids from 5 does! – and all are growing healthily.  At the Flying T, we prefer to allow these kids to nurse on their moms for a bit over two months ’till weaning, so we are taking deposits for June transfers.  All may be registered with ABGA either as Fullblood (100%) or American Purebred (at 99%).  You can check out more information (including contact info) on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/TheFlyingTRanch or our website: http://www.flyingtnh.com

First is Phoenix, an all-red girl with dark highlights, born 3/25, offered at $350 obo.  Her sister, Chili (looking at the camera), is Reserved until after the Hopkinton Fair on Labor Day

IMG_4634 IMG_4643

Their brother, Turbo, is offered at $300.

IMG_4536

Tweet, born 4/1, is a traditionally-marked female, offered at $325.  Her brother, Hercules, is our best buckling of the season and is offered at $350.  (UPDATE: SALE PENDING on Herc.  We are taking backup offers).

IMG_4651IMG_4542

Raptor is a male born 4/9 with a half-blond face (hard to see in this pic).  He and his brother Orion (hooded) are offered at $300 each.  (UPDATE: SALE PENDING on Orion, Backup Offers are being taken).

IMG_4560 IMG_4567

Kiowa, born 4/9 is traditionally-marked American Purebred, offered at $300 (UPDATE: SALE PENDING, backup offers will be taken).

IMG_4658

Her fellow triplets are brothers, Hawkeye (paint with spot on back) and Tomcat (Traditional), also offered for $300 each.

IMG_4577 IMG_4587

Piper and Dragonfly, born 4/13 are American Purebred females and are reserved until after the Hopkinton State Fair.

IMG_4669IMG_4674

2015 Kids – Part 2


Our second of five pregnant does gave birth yesterday.  A traditional red-headed doeling followed by a similar buckling.  This is a bit unusual as more often than not, bucklings are born first.  Both were very-good sized, much bigger at birth than Jessie’s three surviving quadruplets.

IMG_8194Ruby is our “loudmouth” doe, and the doeling takes after her.  The human kids have decided to name her “Tweet,” after the T-37B trainer aircraft known as one of the loudest in the Air Force inventory (it was also known as the “6,000 dog whistle” and the “Converter” because it was the most efficient machine ever made for converting fuel into noise).

Tweet’s brother has been named “Hercules,” after the C-130.  Herc is a big boy, and once he dried off weighed 11 pounds and 12 ounces, more than a pound heavier than Tweet, who was on the heavy side for a doeling (10 lbs 6 ounces).

We still have three girls left to kid, and the barn is getting full and loud!

2015 Kidding Season Begins


IMG_4365 - Version 2
The kidding season is upon us.  One of our does, Jessie, has given birth and Ruby, Samy, Gracie, and Macie are waiting to follow.

Jessie gave birth, unassisted, to quadruplets.  Unfortunately, #3 – a traditionally-colored doeling – was stillborn and could not be revived.  However, the other three – a traditional buckling and two full-red doelings – are doing very well.

Kids will be available for sale, ready to be picked up in the May-June timeframe when they are weaned.

Helicopter Ears


Macie, our doeling, doing her best impression of a helicopter:

A bit faster, and she might get enough lift to take off!

As the snow melted in this  glorious sunny day, she and her brothers ventured out of the barn to frolic.  More pictures are on our facebook page.

They’re 11 days old today and growing quickly – the largest buck is 17.4 lbs, while the smallest is 14.8.

Baby Goats Grow Quickly!


The baby goats are now 5 days old and growing quickly, already skipping around the barn (they’re saving their pasture skipping for when the snow melts).  We’ve posted more pics on our facebook page, but here are a couple of them:

 

A Different Kind of Doula


When we’re not tending the farm or homeschooling the kids, we’ve got “real world” jobs.  My (Martha’s) passion is being a childbirth educator and a doula – Greek for “servant” – a woman who comes alongside families before, during, and after childbirth.  You can read more about what I do on my webpage for my business, “A Joyful Birth.”

So today, I was a different kind of doula. I was much more involved with the wet, cuddly newborn side of birth than I usually am as we welcomed baby goats on our farm. We are relatively new to farming, but I was struck by how many similarities there are in birth among mammals.

Momma Goat with Babies

These mamas craved safety and peace as all mothers in labor do. One of the mamas appreciated my quiet presence, reaching out to nuzzle me — and then after the babies were born, she gently butted me and told me to get out. Each mama “counted fingers and toes” on her baby, licking them dry from head to toe. They also encouraged their babies to nurse when they were ready, patiently giving them time to transition from womb to world. And, like I often see with human babies, they were ready to nurse at about the one hour mark after birth. Goats have a special vocalization that they only make to their new babies. Amazing how wondrous birth is!

I am blessed to have seen birth in its completely natural state (well, except five quiet family members watching) and will ponder the lessons from today to see how I can bring that to my human doula work too.