Thursday, February 24, 2011

Field Progress

We're still slowly working toward having an endless supply of free hamburger.

Okay, maybe that's not the right way to put it.  We want to be able to answer "right here!" when someone asks, "Where's the beef?!?"

Before winter set in, we'd successfully ripped out an old fence along the road, and put in wooden H-frames and corner posts, plus a wood post ever 100 feet along the run, and most of the steel t-posts. We have a few more t-posts to plant, once the ground is softer, and then we need to stretch the fence and attach it to the posts. We won't even talk about the 1100-foot run of sagging fence that needs torn up and redone (with posts closer together and, um, maybe something sturdy like an H-frame somewhere along there.).

So far gravity irrigation has been the method of watering, beginning along the ditch and flowing north - which is a full quarter-mile to the property line - and it hasn't ever resulted in even coverage. We've tossed around the idea of putting in some other irrigation method - certainly not as cheap or easy as gravity - and things seem to be coming together.

We bought about 1000 feet of aluminum mainline pipe from a big farmer/rancher in the area. Hubby works on his pivots frequently, so was comfortable calling him up to ask about it. It's dented in spots, and parts need outright replaced, but at $1/foot, it was a good deal.

We plan to put this pipe down the centerline of the field - north/south, equidistant between the side fences.  There are valves at the end of each segment of pipe (30' or 60'), and we can attach a hose (not a garden hose. More like a fire hose) from that to a Big Gun. These bear similarity to the little back-and-forth sprinklers you might use in your lawn, but are as long as your arm or more. And the price for just one? Easily four-digits.. Hubby can get a good deal on a used one from work, but he dug around and found four smaller-style units (still bigger than lawn sprinklers) that we hope might work instead. They were castoffs from people upgrading and instead of getting rid of them, he drug them home... :]

Hubby did some math (take THAT, teachers who thought he'd amount to nothing!) and figured out the size and strength of pump we'd need, and we got one from his work - for a good price. :)  You may think that since he's worked there for ... 11 years, that we'd have gotten some of these deals before now, and made some other changes farm-wise... Well, it hasn't ever really worked out that way, so I'm grateful that the grace is there now. :)

We began to really think through how we might power that pump. You can see from the property sketch that the water for the field is nowhere near the power for the house. Years ago I'd called the power company to see what we'd have to do to get power up there in case we wanted to water more suitably, and I think the first thing the gal said was "a new pole to start, that'll be $700." We didn't have any real plans, and we certainly didn't have any real money either, so I choked and stopped her right there. Hubby used google earth, then a real-live measuring tool, and we measured from our electric meter base way out to where we'd want the pump. It was a good 1000+ feet, and he did more math (boo-yah) to figure out what kind of wire we'd need (going underground with wimpy wire will lose amperage* or voltage* or something like that). He got a soft quote from his boss (not sure if this was retail price or employee price) at somewhere around $2/foot. *choke*  Suddenly the power company didn't sound too bad.  I called them and met with a guy to look at where/what we needed, and we do NOT need a pole (well, we need our own meter-base pole, but that's not the power company's job). They will hang a transformer* and stuff for single-phase* electricity for probably under $200! [update: $348. Don't blog about your chickens before they hatch.] We have to put in a pole, wire up a meter and all that, have it inspected and they'll hook us up and we'll be good to go. Oh, and among the businesses listed on the little paper he gave me where we can get a utility pole? Hubby's work. :)

We need somewhere to pump out of; a pond or can (a big corrugated pipe segment with a bottom that can sit in the ground). Cans are hundreds of dollars sometimes, but Hubby found an old nasty one that had sat in the corner of the shop yard at work. It had been used for dirty oil or something (I better scrub that out if we want to be at all organic, eh? :) ), and he got it for $25.
The Eventual Plan

So. We're making progress, though I have no idea whether it's nearly enough or not. We have pipe, pump, sprinkler heads, can. We need hose(s), a power pole/meter base, to install the can, etc. This is in addition to finishing the fences, building and figuring out portable electric fencing, oh, and buying cows. THAT'S a whole other hurdle to jump. Where do we buy them? What kind? How will we get them here? How will we know if they're growing well? How will we know if there's anything wrong? What if the grass grows faster than the cows and we need to mow? Where do we get a mower? How do we mow? Will we bale it? Where will we store it? What if the cows don't like the forage? How will we know when they're 'ripe'?  What if we want to go camping for a few days? I'm trying to take it one step at a time, but you can see I can get overwhelmed easily. :]

Will it happen this year? I don't know. Just this irrigation switch has me surprised, both that we're doing it, and that it's coming along. I'm trying to trust God that He knows what we need and when we need it, and will supply for those needs as he has all these others. :)

*Note, I have no real idea what I'm talking about here.


Anonymous said...

Cows!!! How exciting!!

It looks like everything is coming along very nicely. I will pray that it continues for you in this new adventure.

Oh man, if I could remember anything about my Army job training, I could tell you all about current, voltage, single phase/3 phase electricity, transformers, and much much more. But since I haven't had to use that stuff at all in the last 4 years, it was brain dumped and replaced with sewing techniques and slow cooker recipes :)

EllaJac said...

Ha! Yes, that must be it. That lobe is being used for sewing and recipes.. Of course! Now I don't feel so inadequate; thanks Lisha! :)