Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Why Ethanol isn't the Answer

Sorry, you may have expected a post like this from Larry, and not from me. But since I know most of my friends don't read Theoildrum.com, and as a matter of fact, I don't read it often (too much jibber jabber between the good bits of data, to be honest)

Click the title of this post and it will take you to the article. Well written, not full of industry jargon, or too much mumbo-jumbo. If Rolling Stone gets it... can't we all get it?

I did like this article. From Rolling Stone no less. People think Larry is nuts. He's not. The data is all here. Ethanol isn't the answer. It takes almost as much energy to CREATE it as you get by burning it. By wiping out the US farmland used for food production just to create corn for ethanol, you only replace 12% of the gas consumption. Ethanol isn't the answer, it won't save us. I'd much prefer to eat food, and ride my bike to work, then fill my SUV with ethanol and go hungry. Ethanol won't save us, we have to save ourselves. If not, we'll all be forced to any way. Oil is going away. There is a LOT of data supporting the fact that we are at peak production, if not past it. that means 50% of the available oil on good Mother Earth has already been USED. We don't get any more, unless we wait a billion years. We are going to have to learn to live without it.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
Let's start with reduce - what are you doing to reduce your usage of fossil fuels? Do you walk places that are close? Do you ride a bike to work, or use public transportation? Do you carpool, or walk to a park on the weekend, instead of drive someplace? Are you considering changing your water heater to a solar water heater? Do you support wind energy in your area?
Reuse - do you throw things away or reuse what you can? Do you wash out and reuse ziplock type bags? Do you take last week's paper grocery bags back to the store and use them again? Do you buy bottled water over and over, instead of using a filter at home and a good Nalgene bottle?
Recycle - don't toss stuff in a landfill that can be reclaimed. Compost food scraps, recycle metals, glass, plastics and papers. Sure, a lot of that stuff is DOWNcycled, or down graded for future use, but wouldn't you rather your 2-litre pop bottle became a "fleece" jacket, or became the foam in a car seat, instead of sitting in a trash heap, just sitting... Baby steps, it only takes baby steps. Be conscious of energy you use. Everything you throw away used energy to make it... must you throw it away? Do you need to DRIVe every where you go? Do you need to leave the light on in the house when you aren't home? Think about your energy usage, it's easy to make small changes... And if we all make change - we can make CHANGE together. Ethanol won't save us. We have to save ourselves.

Larry here:

LOL!!!! I DID NOT put my wife up to this. In fact, I didn't even point out the Rolling Stone's article. I knew about it because I know the guy who wrote it. Robert Rapier is possibly one of the smartest guys I know involved in the whole peak oil field. He has spent a lot of time and effort proving that just because you made 1,000,000,000 in software (Vhind Kholsa) you can't repeal the 2nd law of thermodynamics. ( You can however, use the 1st law of politics: He who has the gold can write laws that makes him more gold) Robert has a really good blog you can go read yourself: http://i-r-squared.blogspot.com/
Somehow in writing this, I managed to remove the post from the blog, luckily I had the entire text in the clipboard. What it did do, is nuke someone's comment where they ask about Biodeisel. Here is the skinny on biodeisel:

1) Biodeisel from cooking oil: HUGE winner for the guy getting the used cooking oil for free. It only works however because you are getting a big fat energy input for free. As gas prices skyrocket, cooking oil will become hugely expensive (because Corn prices will go through the roof). Cooking oil will no longer be a "give away". So this form of biodeisel is simply a knock on effect of cheap energy. When cheap energy goes away, so does this. Even so, I am all for this use. Better to use it than throw it away!

2) Biodeisel from soybeans: This is winner for the farmer. It is more effecient to grow some soybeans (in soybean land like Iowa, Colorado, and Minnisota) than it is to keep enough land in pasture to feed horses. This is mainly because the tractor only "eats" while you are running it. I think this is a great idea on the downslope of the energy curve since lots of farmers have deisel tractors. Biodeseil from soybeans is something like 4:1 energyout:energyin, so thats not too bad. It won't save our suburban driving lifestyle, but it may keep the tractors running.

The long term solution is something I am looking into for our farm. Electric tractors! Weeeee!!!!! Nice, quiet, HUGE torque. I want to find a busted up Ford 8N with an engine that doesn't work that someone would be happy for me to just take away and convert it to electric one winter.

Monday, July 30, 2007

What a Weekend

OK, We're still tired from too much driving and not enough sleep this weekend, but things are still fun on the farm. Goliath has decided that we aren't such bad people, and even followed Larry out to the pasture this morning. They didn't stay long. Shortly after he left, they squiggled through the fence and headed back to the barn. Atlas, however, still thinks we're evil, and hides from us. I had to carry him out to the pasture this morning, or he never would have left his corner of the barn. We hope Goliath has a talk with him and explains that we're OK and that we are his new pack and everything is going to be good. They like sleeping in the hen house and chasing the chickens, fighting and playing with each other, and unfortunately, chewing on the electric fence (we don't have it turned on when they are around)

Hobbes, I swear, has discovered a tunnel or a cave underneath our pasture. Every morning, we think we lose him. We don't see a tail, bouncing ears, or even moving tall grass... nothing, no sign of dog. We can even walk the pasture with Grish and Athena and no sign of him. Next thing you know - there he is, bounding across the pasture. Wet and muddy, too. He found a new playground, we just can't see it. And apparently, when he's there, he can't hear us either. But he comes back eventually.

Yesterday, I took more turkeys to the garden to help me pull weeds. Larry helps me catch a few of them, and we put them in a crate and take them to the garden. Well, they hate being put in the crate. I hate carrying it, because it's scratchy and it's heavy with turkeys in it. I have to walk slow so I don't shake them up too much. So when I was done in the garden, I decided to try something... I wanted to see if the turkeys would follow me out to the pasture. It was slow going, but they did! I just had to stay within view, and answer their calls. They call to each other with a "peep peep peep" and when one would do that, I would respond the same. Everytime I peeped back, they'd come running in my direction. It was hilarious! By the time we made it about 20 feet from the fenced in area where all the birds are, they just sprinted "home", It was really the cutest thing! And so much easier than trying to fit them in a box! I'm going to try it again next weekend.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Our Killer Attack Dogs

Well, we made it. It was a long, boring drive to the eastern edge of Missouri and back in one day. I lost a shoe, we hit a huge rainstorm in the last few hours on our way home. We ate a bunch of junk, had dogs poop in the car, slept as much as we could... but we came home with two pups. We've named them Atlas and Goliath... names they can grow into I guess. These are pure bred working Great Pyrenees. Some of the signs that they are of a working line, instead of a show line are that they have grey ears, and 2 dew claws (actually, Goliath has 3 dew claws!) They come from a long line of born and bred working pasture guardians. This is what they were born to do.

They are younger than we expected, and also VERY shy with people. I think they are really afraid of Larry, and they are starting to warm up to me. I've never had a dog take this long to feel safe around me! I don't think they were ever handled by people - I think they were living with their momma and their fellow pups. So everything is brand new to them... people, car rides, a new barn, a new pasture and HIGH ALTITUDE! I think I know how they feel!
Goliath and Atlas take a break under a tree at a rest stop somewhere in Missouri, or was it Iowa? Oh who knows...
Goliath having a pensive moment in the car.

Atlas asleep in the food bowl, while Goliath is wishing he would move so he can have a snack.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Friends in the Garden

There are things you don't want in your garden - rabbits eating your lettuce, aphids eating your tomatoes, beetles eating your cucumbers... and dogs stomping through your corn. And there are things you DO want in the garden. I have 2 of them.

Our turkeys get "field trips" on the weekend to hang out in the garden with me, while I pull weeds, pick lettuce, and make sure everything is growing well. The turkeys eat bugs and have a grand time.

The turkeys are great helpers in the garden. They actually tend to follow me around. Once I sit someplace and get to work pulling weeds, they run right over, and love to eat the bugs that I upturn when pulling weeds. One of them tried to eat my wedding ring. I don't think it tasted very good!

They wander about and check things out and generally all stay close together with each other. They don't like to be separated. Someday, when they get much much bigger, I might get them to come to the garden with me just by following me out there.

Here is one taking a dust bath in my garden. Well, I HAD some seeds planted there, but I think he dug them all up. He buried himself in the dirt and took a little nap.
Hobbes even snuck into the garden (bad dog!) and I kept squirting him with water to keep him away from the turkeys so he wouldn't chase them. But for a short time, he sat right next to me and contentedly kept his eye on them. As long as he wasn't chasing them, he could stay. Here is Hobbes checking out a little turkey and the turkey checking back. There were so many yummy bugs to eat, most of them didn't even notice Hobbes and just went back to eating bugs and peeping and roaming about.

My other garden friend was a surprise. I kept finding a hole in the middle of my lettuce patch. I assumed it was something burrowing from underground, like one of the many rabbits we have in the area. And then one day, I saw what was occupying the little hole.. and it wasn't a rabbit at all... but one of the large toads we see around the house. Dig away little toad, because I know he's eating lots of bugs too!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More Dogs for the Ramey's?

Anything is possible...

Since I am so good at it, I'll make a short story really long. Pictures to come later, as right now, we still have our current 4 pooches.

So we had SOME critter attack our chickens. In the first attack, they managed to kill one, and damage some others. Some bad enough that we had to separate them. One we chose to eat. Others have healed, and some have also died from their wounds. That made me very sad, and Larry VERY angry. There was talk of guns, traps, guard llamas and letting Grish and Athena deal with it. The last thing Larry wanted was more dogs. But we did some research and discussed dog breeds that are good at guarding and herding animals, as well as fighting predators. Larry made a post about such animals. During these discussions, I signed us up with the local Great Pyrenees rescue with the very teeny chance we might actually get a working dog through rescue.

The rescue group said it was a slim chance they'd have a working dog come through rescue. In the meantime, the critters came back. Coyotes? Raccoons? Who knows - but they hurt quite a few more of our chickens. One died, several were wounded, and one we ate. Some are still healing. Angry once again, we have now installed electric fencing around the pens. But how well will it work in a rain storm? Can it short out if the wind blows it into tall grass? Can a coyote jump it? Would they dare? It certainly keeps OUR dogs out!!

Then I did get an email from the rescue. This is an unpleasant story... but this reknowned Pyrenees breeder in Missouri is in some trouble. I won't go into it in case there's a slander suit - but she has to find homes for almost 100 dogs ASAP, before they could get killed. She already lost her stud horse and some other livestock. So we can't save 100 dogs, even *I* couldn't take on that. But we can save a few. So we are driving to Missouri on Thursday night to pick up our pups on Friday. These are bred and raised for guarding livestock. So we are hoping to take them in and let them guard our pasture. Of course, guard dogs need to bond to their flock, and it's sort of hard to bond with chickens... so that also means we need to get them sheep! While they are still young, we need to provide a herd they can bond with and train with, so that we can keep them as guard dogs for years to come. This could get interesting...

I always said I liked big dogs, these male pups will weigh up to 180 pounds when full grown. I am happy we can provide them with a home, and wish we could do more for this woman. I really wish we could! I'll post pictures when we get them home. And also of the sheep we'll be getting to go with them! Ridiculous!

Larry here:

So the portable electric fence has actually been very effective. We haven't lost a single animal or been attacked since I enclosed the chicken pens in a 100'x120' area. However, in the long run I was planning on using that fence to mob up the 4 footed herbivores I had planned on getting. I was going to use the other set (I got 4 lengths, using them it batches of 2) to enclose the turkey's and egg layers, who are now out the crates and roaming free in there fenced in area. If I have to enclose EVERY single bit of chicken crate... I'm going to go nuts. Its seriously increasing the pain in the ass factor of getting food and water out to the chickens. What happens when we use our neighbors 12 acres that has no fence? What happens if we lease some of the open land around us? This portable fence is great stuff, but really, it ISN'T the best solution. Dogs are. They have always been the best long term solution. I just didn't want 7 dogs! (Guard dogs like to work in teams of three)

So, because of the craziness in this poor women's life, we are getting high quality dogs that run 800 buck a pop for 100. Her dogs have killed "Panthers". I can only translate Panther as Mountain Lion since there are no Panther/Jaguars in the USA.

I didn't want sheep yet either. I feel like I'm just getting a handle on the whole chicken thing. Oh well.... at a certain point you gotta take a deep breath and trust in the Good Lord. I guess there is a reason these dogs are available now. As Mr. Burns said, "The best laid plans of mice and men oft go agoogly" I'm feeling very googly right about now, but I'll just roll with the punches.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It's not all about farming...

We are taking advantage of Colorado!

This weekend we went Rock Climbing... Note to Kristin - don't wear orange shorts when people can ONLY take pictures of your butt... We went with Larry' friend Sonja, and had a pretty good time until it started to get hot. I did burn my hands a little! Next time we get up earlier! Because you know how much Larry loves to get up early!

This is Larry being a "rock" star

And now he has made it to the top! HELLLO UP THERE!

Here is Sonja making quite a climb...almost there... where's that next hand hold?

And I discover, hmm... maybe I'm not so good at this!

We were at Table Mesa in Golden... the home of Coors Brewery. And if anyone ever wonds why Larry and I prefer microbrewed beers... maybe it's because beer coming out of a place like that seems a lot less appealing...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The House / The Farm

OK, people keep asking for pictures of the house, instead of just pictures of chickens... so here are some for you!!
Sorry for the ghetto style boxes on the front porch. TOo lazy to move them. Note the flag on the front porch. Around here, people have to ask me what it stands for.
This is our backyard. And not only that, but a dog and a cat getting along? NO, not just any dog, it's DITKA and a cat! Everyone is happier out here!
Here is the barn and my garden beds. We're having fresh salad today!
This is what I see in the morning when I get up to water the garden. A pretty sunrise over the neighbor's pasture
OK, I couldn't help it. This is Huckleberry, the one month old foal that lives next door. He's starting to spend more time outside, but he and his mom are still separated from the rest of the horses while he figures out his feet... and that grass is yummy, and he should eat it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Our Horse Visitors

OK, enough about eating chickens. I wanted to show you our horse visitors. Until we get our own sheep or cows, we are letting the neighbors use our pasture for their horses.

Margaret is the wonderful woman who used to own our home. She is currently living with our neighbors, and we are gladly letting her horses hang out on our pasture.This is Wiley. Wiley is Margaret's pony. He's a very nice horse. He's grown quite patient with Hobbes and Athena running about!

This is Angel, Picasso and Donny. These are Miniature horses. Picasso gave Grish a little kick in the knee... which has made Grish a little more appreciative of the horses. We are hoping he'll give Hobbes a nudge, too. We'd rather Hobbes learned his lesson from a mini, instead of being kicked by Wiley (or Eddie, the Palamino next door).

This is Starlight and Lazarus. Hobbes stood still for a few moments while Starlight gave him a sniff or two. These really are miniature horses! Hobbes is NOT standing on a mound... After this, Hobbes proceeded to run around behind Starlight, causing her to take off in a jog. Of course, when the horses run away from Hobbes, they are just trying to get away from him. He, of course, thinking they are just really large playmates, runs after them thinking this is a fun game. I usually have to call him in, as I don't think the minis like being chased!

OK, one chicken picture. These guys are a little older than 4 weeks now. aren't they fat little things? Piggies, too. I had just filled their feeder and they came running over before I was even done.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The chickens are not pets

So after our little incident last week... the other injured red chicken had died. She just gave up, even though I tried to help her, and she passed on her own. We haven't had any returns from the critter that did the damage, but it did kill 2 of our egg laying reds. The one with the amputated wing is doing well, but we are going to have to clean up the wound tonight just to help keep her healthy. She's still keeping Tweety company in the barn. The Turkeys have been let out of their little pen and are sharing a barn stall with Tweety and the wingless-one.

Our first attempt at slaughtering, dressing, and eating our home grown chickens came friday night. Larry decided the one with the torn up chest was most likely going to get an infection and really not be able to recover. We'd never be able to put her back out to pasture, so we thought we'd eat her.

I know, this is so very hard for most of you to handle. But remember, that the chicken you buy in the store is the very same chickens we are raising. They are killed, too. They are de-feathered, dressed, and processed and sent to the store. At least our little chicken got a hug and a pat on the head before the end was done. I decided to watch. I know it was his first, and it might have been horrid. But it wasn't Tweety... it was a nameless white chicken. Which is why Larry says they aren't pets and I am not to name them. Aside from Tweety, I won't be naming any more of the whites, that's for sure. So I helped. I held the chicken while Larry did what he did. I even helped pick a few feathers. I couldn't do the dressing, and I made Larry cook her. But we did eat her. And that was my first lesson in killing chickens, and a small glimpse at what lies ahead.I look forward to having food on the table, but I know that I will NOT name any more white chickens, and I will NOT name any of our turkeys. I also know that when time comes to process Tweety, I won't eat her, either.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Wild Animals

I've got 1 dead red, 1 wounded red (I hope she recovers.... bit in the ass), 1 white that is going in the fryer tonight (ripped the skin off the breast), and 1 white that may or may not survive (I had to amputate about 1/2 of her wing.... if she beats an infection, she will be fine, if not, into the stew pot.... minus the wing of course)

No, I won't be putting up pictures. Maybe I'll put up a picture of the bent cage and the blood on the 2x4, but I don't see a need to put up a picture of a bird's ripped up wing.

I'm pissed. This was either an interrupted attack or an investigation attack. Simply because no chickens were removed. The wire at the bottom of the cage is bent a little, I figure the attacker tried to pull the birds out through the wire. I also suspect there were 2 attackers.... 1 to chase the birds into 1 corner of the pen and the other to bite them when they piled up. This all points towards the coyotes that live behind us. I was cool with them till they decided to try to eat my chickens. So now 1 (or 2) of them is a dead coyote walking and I'm looking at getting a Komondore, Akabash, or a Maremma. Totally what we need, another dog. Sigh. Anyway, I guess I'm sleeping out in the field tonight with Grish and Athena and a 12 Gauge.

In the long run, Grish and Athena are unlikely to get the job done. They have been socialized to be pets. I have faith that if I got into a fight either of them would jump in a whoop some ass. Athena, being the bully she is, might actually be a pretty good bet to keep coyotes away. She is kinda small though (60-75lbs) and if there if it is pack of coy-dogs (or dogoytes) I'd rather not risk her by herself. Grish is simply too old and his knee is too bad to ask him to fight a wild animal. So its Athena to wake me up and me to do the killing.

I think a pair of Akabash's or even GSD that I run through Shutzhund training would be an outstanding long term solution. The problem with that is that its almost a year before I would be willing to risk even a pair of GSD's outside vs the coyotes alone. The other problem is that they need to socialized with their herd animals at 8 weeks old.... and I don't own any lambs yet. That was next years project. So what do I do now? I'm not worried about the reds, they will go into a mobile egg laying facility soon that will be surrounded by electric poultry fence. Coyotes are unlikely to jump this after it shocks them on the nose once, so the reds ought to be ok. I think for the broilers I will order my electric fence sooner than later. I was planning on getting electric fence that reels up like a fishing line. You can quickly move this around to make instant pasture divisions. The plan was to use this to force the sheep to graze the patch of land immediately in front of the chicken pens so that the chickens could then go on the short grass. (I can't drag a chicken pen on the 2-3 foot grass I've got) I guess I need it now.

Once a predator gets a taste of livestock, they come back, mostly because livestock is pretty stupid and easy to kill. I can catch a chicken..... I can barely SEE a jackrabbit before it is up to 30mph and into the tall grass and don't even get me started on the things I've seen the antelope in the backyard do. Its a shame that these coyotes have to die, but then again, its only a coyote. If it was a wolf, I'd be calling the State game warden to come trap it and take it away. Coyotes are like pigeons.... humans encroachment has only seemed to help them since they can tolerate us better than the things that used to beat them down (like lions and wolves)

Chickens out to pasture, 1 week old turkeys, my garden and a bad night

Well, the chickens are a little over 3 weeks old, and they are out to pasture! We have 2 of these pens so far, and all the little guys get to poke around in the grass and eat bugs and seeds - and fertilize this patch of land that will soon be my greenhouse!!

The turkeys are now a week old, and they are so sweet. Look at the guy in the middle... he's sleeping on his feet! It must be rough eating, drinking and sleeping all day long. Sheesh.

The big on in the back - that's our Tweety. She's still in with the turkeys. We actually moved her back to a hospital pen today (more on that later) because the turkeys sometimes fight with each other. But they peck at Tweety too, and she just sits there and puts up with it. Poor girl.

Larry's not the only one with things growing! These are my endives! I planted a bunch of stuff late, so it's no surprise I'm not getting 100% success... but so far what is growing strong is the endive, radishes, cucumbers, zucchinis, cantaloupes, corn and salad greens. YUMMMY!

Now for the bad news - we are out in the country. And everyone has been telling Larry that his pens aren't going to keep all the predators out. We had 4 or 5 uneventful nights. But this morning - something did some damage. No chickens got out, and we don't think an animal got in, but something either got some paws through the wire, or a snout. We found one dead red chicken (poor thing!) and 2 severly damaged whites. 1 white and 1 red had their tails bitten - the white seemed OK. The red was a little shaken, so she's in the hospital pen too. NO, no pictures of these guys. We got them inside, but we have one with a missing wing, and one with his chest tore up a bit. We'll just say they will probably be dinner this weekend... a few weeks early. But they might not last long the way they are, and it may be more humane to put them under.

So Larry is getting a shot gun - and he is sleeping outside tonight with Grish and Athena. We've been debating a LOT about what to do... talking of Llamas (they can be guard animals, depending on your predators) getting Great Pyrenees or Maremmas to train as guard dogs, or for now, just setting traps at night to catch the coyote/coydog/raccoon/fox that might be fussing with our food. All I know is it wasn't my dogs!! Ditka is much more interested in rooting through my compost pile than dealing with those chickens...