I just want to add in here that there are so many NRCS/Extension/USDA etc grants for going no-till and other new practices. If you're switching over, don't leave the money on the table. Make sure you do the paperwork prior to changing your practices
I don't have any plans to offer but the general outline is pretty simple, so I'll try to summarize.
First, everything is based on a single sheet of metal roofing from Lowes. That's the measurement from which everything else is based.
1 sheet of metal roofing
1x2s apx 8ft long from Lowes or lumberyard of choice.
1/4 or 1/2 hardware cloth (smaller is better because kits are suicidal)
Scrap plywood or a new sheet is handy
Some scrap 1x4s are hand for building the nest box
Take the apx 2ftx8ft section of metal roofing (the cheaper the better of course), and lay it flat. Take two 1x2s and lay them on top of the metal long ways. Cut the 1x2 s so that they are 4 inches shorter than the metal roof (overhang is crucial).
Then cut another 1x2 to build a frame from them. This shape should mirror the metal but be at least 1" shy of the edge in all directions. Now you have a rectangular frame. Build a two of these frames (one for top one for bottom).
On the bottom frame, run 1x2s the length of the frame with 1/4-1/2 inch between each one to allow for grazing (but acknowledging that if kits get out of the nursing box too soon, the slats are a death trap if they're too big). This will be the bottom. Miter each end when you trim them so that you can drag the bottom instead of it catching on the turf.
Now decide how high you want yours to be. I liked mine a little deeper, about 2 1/2 feet because does don't mess with trying to get the roof open if they can't reach it. Cut 4 1x2's in the same height and use them to connect your top and bottom. Now you have a rectangular box.
Using plywood (thinner is better!!)make a nesting box on one end. This provides structure and the nest box is mandatory, kits cannot live in the open air. Make sure to build in a hurdle at the entrance from the nest box to the open area so that kits that can't run and jump, can't get out, they will die if they get out too early so I usually used a removable hurdle that only the doe can get past and then remove it when the little buggers get big enough. One small hurdle should remain (apx 2inches) att the bottom though because I did mine 4 seasons and this helped limit the cold air in the nest box.
Once the nest box is built, take your roll of hardware cloth, screw it down with a washer and screws to the nest box, then wrap it around the length (sides) of the entire tractor back to the nest box on the other side. Washers are crucial! Get this tight, I used a makeshift brake to bend the corners because they were hard to get taunt otherwise.
Now its time to put the lid on. I liked hinges but always found that the screws let water in. The crucial thing is the overhang as you don't want water dripping anywhere in the tractor. I was amazed at how dumb rabbits are. They'd just sit there with the water dripping on their heads, then die of cold if I had let them.
My best setup included a bucket on top with 1/4 or 1/8 plastic tube to watering nipples for water and standard food box cut through the wire but the food always was a challenge with the elements so I'd suggest trying to think about how to mount the food box inside the enclosure with a way to fill from the outside without allowing rain to get at it. My system was not perfect.
Handles on both ends are crucial. I also like a drag line as my back sucks. I'll try to find some old photos but I hope this helps.
I have a lot of slopes too, and I don't go there on my tractor. The pucker factor is a great way to phrase it, and my tolerance is low!! I have the geared option and though I wanted the hydrostatic, I think geared was a better option for the amount of soil work I do. That said, I have a power reverser that makes loader work far easier than it would be. Also, as mentioned by many others, 4x4 is mandatory!
I'm going to add my rambling two cents. I have 26 acres of mostly Lodi silty clay loam. When I bought my farm I hacked at the overgrown fence lines with a variety of billhooks, hoes, machetes and a pushmower. It took me a year to clear 1000 ft of old barbed wire fence that was encrusted with all kinds of fun poison ivy and rose. My back still hurts. I lugged the chopped up barbed wire pieces to a central location as my own draft animal. The work was demoralizingly slow but felt good on the soul. I wanted to key line my property and spent the entire first two years shopping for the right tractor while doing everything manually. The two years was crucial to figuring out what I needed. Not that I got it perfect but it helped me understand what my needs would be. I needed horsepower to key line with a plow (I wound up with a single bottom plow that works great for swales). I needed material handling to really get the work I wanted to do, done. I needed to dig ponds for surge protection at the ends of my swales. I needed to maintain roads and create new ones. I needed to brush hog the property lines and the roads to maintain their access, additionally I needed to maintain any brush work I had succeeded at and go further on those old barbed wire lines.
I bought a 50hp 4x4 JD 4700 used as hell. It had 3000 hours on it when I bought it from a third tier dealer who had purchased it at auction from a Graveyard. It had been a gravedigger. The platform was factory mated with a backhoe and that is what sold me on it. I immediately sent it to the JD dealership to fix old hydraulic lines, and to get everything back into field ready condition. It cost me $20k used and I put another $2500 into it with repairs and a replacement tire.
Pros: Big enough to do almost everything I need, more so usually. I can put the backhoe on and haul as big a scoop of topsoil as I can grab in the front end loader without worry of toppling. I can mow with my backhoe and it looks like finish mowing, I can tiptoe around all of my obstacles and manicure my land decently. I can dig 8 ft down with my backhoe and grade decently with my front end loader.
Cons: My neighbors will hay my fields if I ask, but the tractor can't safely carry the roundtables, they're huge and it just isn't safe. It can lift them but I'm not comfortable. I occasionally regret not going with the larger platform JD that has the same size wheels front and back, they're more competent in the field. The backhoe option meant that the tractor didn't come with a 3pt hitch setup, this was a much bigger problem than I dismissed it as being when I bought it! 20 year old parts matching isn't straightforward and is damn expensive. Being old, my tractors joints are all loose. I didn't realize it but every front end loader and backhoe joint wiggles and sways in an unproductive way. That being said, I save 20k off new.
Some thoughts for those contemplating buying a tractor. I wish I had a BCS also. I have a high tunnel and this tractor is not appropriate for it. I mow with my zero turn now that I've tamed the land with my 4700. I would not want to be without the ability to jump in and go dig a hole, or scoop up something, or grab a telephone pole out of the ground, this capacity has helped me turn motivation into action. $25000 is a ton of money. I took out a 4 year loan to buy it. I was able to pay it off early but it was $400 a month and that was not easy on top of everything else. $25000 would have gotten me 1/6th of the way to paying off my farm. This was a serious tradeoff in time for debt. My tractor could be slightly bigger. I thought I was buying too large, I wasn't. I could easily go back and decide to buy the same HP but larger platform JD, the functionality would have paid off and the prices were similar, I was just intimidated.
Thanks for all the ideas everyone. I'm building a pit system with a hood that I used in another life for BBQ. I am building the pit so that I can load and unload with my front-end loader. Any similar designs out there or people with experience with this, please share.
Kevin, thank for posting! If you have time for a followup tangent I am trying to brainstorm on ways to bring my soil ph up for Truffle production on the East Coast of the US (Blue Ridge Mountains VA). The prescribed culture for truffle production calls for 7-8.5ph and my soil sits at a beautiful and even 6. Your post about Biochar struck me as a much better solution than annual liming. I wonder if there is knowledge out there about long term impact of ph change on biochar addition to soil. Any thoughts?
I fuse glass in kilns. I have a few thoughts that may or may not help. If the collector could be used to heat a plate of salt that could then be used to heat a kiln with an electric controller to take the temp to apx 1500 f it would grant you control. Keeping the glass at 950f for an hour after melting will anneal the product. I'd personally try to take an old ceramic kiln and retrofit it with a heating plate that could be accessed by a diagonally drilling into the kiln. I'm not sure how a controller would work but being able to anneal the product when you're done is mandatory and keeping control over the glass temp is as well.
Your exterior needs a lime coat. If there isn't a positive flow of moisture towards the outdoors then what you see is exactly what will happen. The lime will wick the water out of the structure and walls keeping them in much better shape. Clay is not an appropriate finish for exteriors in any environment aside from deserts.
My two cents. I just bought a used year 200 John Deere 4700 with a front end loader and backhoe. I've had it for two days and put 10 hours on it. I cannot tell you how much I have gotten done in two days. This is the best thing to happen to my farm yet! I've slaved for a year and a half trying to clean up and start up my farm on hand labor and I warrant to say that in the last two days, I got just about as much done, without nearly as much backache. That being said, I'm in hock to the bank for the next 5 years.
I get this question all the time at my ceramics studio and the answer is always either give up on it or call Sotheby's. If you're willing to pay 100's of dollars for ceramic repair on the clay level then go for it, otherwise accept the FACT that once broken, a ceramic body will never be healed into as strong and foodsafe a manner as its condition was.
also, I'd like to at least explore the Living water Sepp talks about in his most recent book. I'd love to see a system of a loop between a solar still, storage, piping and finally back to the solar still.
I'm following because I rely on spring water for drinking water. I've had a well dug, they had to go 700 feet to get over 6 gallons a minute but I have 500 feet of water line to access that well as it will serve two homes. Anyway, long story long, I'd like to setup a bulletproof solar still for the spring because the water is so reliable. I'd really rather drink from it if I can help it. That being said, I'm surrounded by farmers who might not share my no spray approach and I'm downhill from a tire dump. I worry about contaminants and would love to UV the shit out of everything.
To add in my two cents. I bought 26 acres in November. Recently I've been out clearing fence lines with a hoe, a push mower and a shit ton of sweat equity. I'm sure the neighbors are cracking up at me out there with my push mower. That being said, a neighbor is mowing and baling my hay in exchange for part of it. I don't even have a truck yet because I sold it to beef up my down payment. I'm currently just bootstrapping it with a hand me down mini van and my urban implements. I've been dragging old barbed wire out by hand. Rolling old field finds like pallets to a central burn pile. Basically, without machinery its a huge pain in the ass. With machinery it will be a huge pain in the ass but go more quickly. For me its about not having the cash, if you have the cash I'd do it. For now though, I'm sleeping very soundly
Thanks everyone. I'm on 26 acres but only trying to raise enough for myself until I retire and have more time for large scale. I i've raised the small-scale greens before and done a lot of research for the bio intensive techniques out of John Jevens organization. I had good success with the growing I have a lot of problem with the holding took way too much labor made about six loaves of bread off of 100 hours of labor it was the least efficient thing I've probably ever done . So I'd like to work on a plan to scale up a bit now that I have my farm and I'm here hopefully forever so any suggestions as far as threshing machinery for small scale that doesn't involve rebuilding a chipper
R Scott wrote:Keeping access to water is the only real winter issue for most people.
Can everyone who's raising rabbits share their waterer preferences. I'm raising on pasture and fight the freezing all winter, I currently use buckets with poly lines and nipples but once they freeze they're shot for days.
Wyatt Barnes wrote:I do remember someone saying that tumbling in a cool dryer with short pieces of wood to work the hide would make it pliable. Didn't get a chance to try it myself so I have no first hand experience with it.
Not sure but sounds like a good idea. I'm getting a separate washer and dryer just for pelts, if I can find them cheap enough. The problem is though, I feel like some sort of permie approach should get applied to this. To me it just feels like I'm about to recreate 1970's tech, on grid. What is there for a permie approach here??
Um, or build your own kit. I'm relatively certain that there is a reason that the 1983 Mother Earth News article entitle "How to tan a rabbit hide" is consistently referenced. I have a freezer full and 15 days until I move to my farm, I'll get back to you on my personal testing.
My two cents, plant native wetland plants via seed. Do a little earth moving to get it into a pleasing for,. Ecologically speaking, is it up or down from the functional wetland? Let the plants and fungi bioremediate it for you. Smooth it out, dig some canals for edge effect and plant it, setup some sprinklers and let it become totally wetland allowing for the plants to use up the chemical fertilizers.
Hello from the other (west) side of Afton, otherwise known as Harrisonburg. I'd personally explore a relationship with a farmer to have them hay your fields for you, and keep half the hay. Hay is great if you're doing anything. Mulching!!! Imagine an acre with square bales set end to end and left to rot for a few seasons! Google Ruth Stout (spelling?) for strawbale gardens. I'd be very tempted personally to run chicken tractors on it personally but it sounds like you're looking for less labor?
The heads go to the dogs (dear God they love them), the intestinal tract goes to the garden. I don't compost anymore because of the off gassing loss so I just bury in my garden plots that are in ley. That way I get the nutrients back to the soil but don't risk food contamination due to the 1-3 year timeline of the leys.
I can tell you what I have done, in hopes it will help you with a very similar situation. First, you're on the right track with drainage though its terribly exhausting work. If you can find a source for backfill (gravel, rock etc) then use it to backfill your drainage ditches. Worst case scenario use the leaves under tons of sticks, they'll help hold the drainage ditches in place for a few years until they decompose, then you've got compost! I'd suggest using the fill from the drainage ditches/paths to put on top of a layer of leaves already applied to your beds. In fact, I use my paths (the drainage ditches) as compost piles, my back hurts enough, hauling to and from a compost pile doesn't appeal. Once you've got the structure of your 'field'/'garden', now you're ready for a soil test. Likely greenstone sulphur and soft rockphosphate applied to the soil prior to mulching with all those leaves. Your soil tests will lead you in the right direction. Once you've got all that in, now its time to plant buckwheat, alfalfa, rye etc. You're after roots making their way into the clay for you! Do you have pigs? Pigs plus leaves might really make some quick work?