Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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

“Tommy” by Rudyard Kipling


This is one of my all-time favorite poems, and I thought I’d post it for a change of pace.

“Tommy”

by Rudyard Kipling

I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,
But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;
But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,
The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,
But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.

You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

We’re on Facebook


Nothing spectacular for most folks, but the Flying T now has its own Facebook page.  Please stop by!

(Mis) Adventures in Long Distance Horse Trailering, Part 4


Our oldest daughter got tired of waiting for me to finish the story, so here is her account of the next day, after the horses had enjoyed a couple days’ break from trailering. Her words start here:

Aww, Dad, you stopped right before the best part!

Anyways, while Dad and Mr. G were hitching up the trailer and whatnot, my siblings, our friends, and I decided to take a walk with the horses in the G’s field. This was partly for our exercise and partly so that Mr. Anti-Trailer wouldn’t see the scary metal box that these crazy humans made him stand in.

FREEEEDOMMMMMM!!!!

After a little while, Jasper decided to walk off, pulling my sister so hard that she dropped his lead rope. We recaught him and walked on.

When we returned, the two G girls were each proudly walking a horse (with help). While I put Zip’s trailer halter on, the youngest of our friends, who was scratching Zip’s neck, much to his snorty pleasure, looked up a me and said, “I think I’m addicted to horses.”

Horse hugs

We pushed all the stuff we’d used back into the trailer (five or so bales of hay make it hard to do this), and took out our trusty Handy Stick. We knew we were ready for anything a twelve-hundred pound horse with a sharp pair of hooves could throw at us.

As usual, we weren’t.

Jasper usually knows that Mom is boss. But, it depends on her tone of voice. If she says “Mister Jabba-Wabba baby, do you wanna get in da twaiwer?” then he will refuse for the rest of the session. If she says “Come on, buster. Let’s get in,” he says “Whoa. She means business here.” (OK, I’m exaggerating – Mom never talks to him like a baby – but she did learn to be firmer with him).

Who's longing who?

At least, that was how it happened in Texas when our feisty steed knew he was going to only have to stay in there, with his haybag full, for five minutes or so. But this day he said, “Wait a second. I’m not wearing my rope halter. I’m wearing the web one with the blue fuzzy things on it. and everybody’s hugging each other like they’re leaving. You know, I think I’m staying in there for a while. Nope, not gonna do it.”

Bllpbllpppptt!!!!! That's what I think about trailers!

With that, he threw out buck and a rear, and galloped off over our friends’ lush lawn. A fairy-tale picture, I know, a Horse with a long mane running, free, over a green meadow.

That is, until you notice the dangling lead and the fact that your fairy-tale mount is gamely crossing a road and going for those tasty flowers in the neighbor’s yard.

Mom, Dad and I ran after him, shaking the treats. Jasper said, “Uh-uh. I know where you’re taking me.”
Mom and Dad cornered him by going around opposite sides of the neighbor’s house, and Dad finally caught his lead rope. Jasper hung his head.

Dad now took over. After longing the escapee for a few minutes, he tried to lead Jasper into the trailer. Jasper refused.

Let me deviate from the plot. May I say that sweet old Zip had been waiting patiently in said trailer for about half an hour, now?

We longed Jasper whenever he refused to get in the trailer. After a long time (our friends, after seeing Jasper’s various bucks, kicks, and rears, decided to watch from afar) we finally got him in.

Drat! Foiled again!

We were headed to Ohio. More adventures were in store.

On the road again!

What Does Free Range Mean?


You can do an Internet search of “cage-free” and “free-range” eggs or chickens and see that there really aren’t a whole lot of legal requirements to claim those titles. 

"Free Range" Chickens at a Factory Farm

“Free range” at the Flying T means that as soon as our chicks and ducklings are safely able to live in the outdoors, we let them roam the farm. 

Rhode Island Red Free-Ranging at the Flying T

  Most of the chickens return to the coop at night to roost, and the ducks to the barn (some chickens may choose to hang out with the ducks in the barn, especially Henny Penny, aka “Chuck the Chicken Duck”), but otherwise they are out foraging for insects, bugs, spiders, worms, seeds, and plants during the majority of the day.  We don’t use pens or cages except in special circumstances (in order to quarantine new or young birds for a short time to ensure biosecurity, or to separate an injured bird to keep it from getting pecked, for instance). 

Chickens hanging out on a woodpile at the Flying T

 

Mocha foraging with her flock at the Flying T

 This does pose some risks (like predators) and costs.  We can only select breeds that are suitable for free-ranging.  Many “production” strains have many of their natural free-ranging, brooding, self-preservation, and other habits bred out of them so that they spend as much energy as possible either into growing meat on their bones or eggs to lay.  We believe the benefits, however, are worth it.

 Benefits:

  1. Free-range eggs have up to 4-6 times the Vitamin D, 1⁄3 less cholesterol, 1⁄4 less saturated fat, 2⁄3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, and 7 times more beta carotene than factory-raised eggs.  (article)
  2. Free-range ducks and chickens are miracle-workers when it comes to controlling ticks, barnyard flies, grasshoppers, and other pests.  This reduces the need for pesticides, which is not only better for all the animals on the farm… it’s healthier and better for us as well!  (citation and another). 
  3. Free-range birds are healthier than factory birds, and their meat has a firmer and more flavorful nature, and encourages us to return to more traditional harvesting, preparation, and cooking methods (read this article for good information and ideas).
  4. While factory birds are selectively bred to discourage broodiness (a female bird’s instinct to nest, incubate, and raise her own young) because a broody hen doesn’t lay eggs, our breeding plan actually encourages broodiness, allowing us to sustain the flock.
  5. A broody free-range hen will raise her own chicks/ducklings.  If you’ve ever raised either (we have… and actually, we are doing it again), you know it’s a lot of work and attention that could get spent elsewhere.  Our hope is that with our breeding plan, this is the last batch we have to hand-raise!
  6. Though we offer free-choice supplemental feed (especially in winter), free-range birds require a lot less of this, reducing our costs.  And since they don’t spend as much time in their roosts, clean-up is a lot less time-consuming also (instead, they spend a lot of time fertilizing our pastures and lawn).
  7. Free-range birds don’t tend to fight like confined birds, which is why even “cage free” and some “free range” factory birds have the tips of their beaks cut or burnt off. (citation)
  8. Finally, it’s just peaceful and enjoyable to watch birds range over the farm, stopping from time to time to peck at food, or chasing a dragonfly across the pasture.

Our website is live…


… not finished, but live!  Check it out at http://www.flyingtnh.com (or click on the link to the right).