I like to have my animals live a low stress life that allows them to, as much as possible, exhibit their unique "wild" qualities. I don't drive my animals to food or water, I lead them to it and take the time to show them where it is. These calves I got are the most challenging animals I've had to train. They had very little human contact in the first part of their lives and are still a bit afraid of me and startle easily. I want to be able to milk these girls someday and I won't force myself upon them, which seems to be the usual method for "breaking" an animal.
I am a new farmer and am learning this myself and am employing methods based on my temperament and goals. I find animal husbandry enjoyable when the system I have designed fits the animals I integrate into it. That said, I have done all of my own killing/butchering so far and while I don't enjoy killing anything, taking responsibility for your own respectful animal raising, killing, and butchering seems to be the best way to be an "Ethical Omnivore"
Here is a video I made showing how I'm working with my calves. I hope it works!
Some pics and an update. I'm up to the course of bags where I need to start putting in the hardware for the bond beam which ended up being at 7'. I'm going with stainless banding wrapped around the last 2'6" of bag wall to hold the bond beam down. This is important because the roof will be attached to the bond beam which will hold the roof down in the event of a major wind storm.
The 300% rain that we received here in Tennessee this summer finally dried out enough where I was able to finish burying the cooltubes out into the forest. It turned out to be fairly labor intensive the way I did it as I was unable to use a machine to bury the tubes directly. The clearing I had made in the forest for the ditch was fairly well surrounded by trees making it impossible to get my backhoe in there. Also, the ditch was only 3-4' deep which required me to be very particular about getting the fill directly in contact with the tubes just right to maximize heat the transfer from the tubes to the earth.
There is no "industry standard" as yet for the installation of this system. I had to take into consideration the soil type, topography, available equipment, and budget to design my earth air heat exchange system based on the knowledge available to me at the time. I put the tubes 3-4' underground and had them exit the ground horizontally to maximize drainage. The fall in elevation from where they exit the house is 15' which made me decide use a solid, non perforated pipe as any water due to condensation would drain out of the downhill end eliminating the need for a perforated pipe. I did not want to use perforated pipe as the holes are an entry point for underground moisture. With the solid pipe making any condensation drain out only at the end of the pipe, there is no need for gravel in the ditch around the tubes. The dry-ish crumbly clay I packed around the tubes has much more surface area than gravel maximizing the contact with and heat exchange from the air through the wall of the tubes and into the earth.
Dirt has .1R value per 1 inch. I buried 2" of white beadboard insulation (the cheap stuff) on top of the 6" of dirt on top of the tubes. So the math: 2" of insulation at 5R value per inch= 10 Rvalue/.1 Rvalue per inch of dirt = 100"/12 = 8.3'+3'deep burial = 11.3' deep
Part of the plan here is to have a small dairy operation to reduce or eliminate feed costs to the birds and hogs. My animals can get what they need off pasture to survive but to be productive, they need protein and mineral supplementation. Cows or other ruminant animals more efficiently convert grasses and forage to protein, minerals, and other nutrients in the form of meat and milk, and manure. These animals fill a niche here at the farm.
Dexters make the best fit here. They are easy to find on Craigslist, not far away, and produce good quality milk and meat. You can have a 40% larger herd due to both smaller size and foraging efficiency. You can also breed them with Jerseys to produce other breeds with more milk such as the Belfair or breed to an Angus or Simmental to get better beef.
I found a guy who had Dexter registered calves and bred heifers for sale. We had a 3hour round trip to get them and they had to be rounded up and put on the trailer. We bought all 3 heifer calves and got 1 of each color.
The back mass wall is up to the 7th course of bags and another course of foam insulation is about to start. In the video I show how the geotextile is woven through the mass wall making it monolithic. This is an invention by Howard Switzer (the Architect on this project) and he calls it "continuous buttress earth-bag walls". This design eliminates the need for poured concrete buttresses and battering the walls (leaning them back) and allows for a cleaner looking straight walled interior. We have had 300% the normal rainfall this summer in TN and this has resulted in much less progess than was anticipated.
The pigs are doing well on very little feed and are grazing pasture and foraging in the forest. I move the pasture daily and the forest paddocks are rotated weekly. I have begun to open up one of the forest paddocks by cutting down the small, low quality, bent, or badly located trees. I want to let enough light in to get some grass growing to enlarge my grazing system into the forest without eliminating the browse or nut drop.
I thought about and researched what bag material would be the best to use and what would be the easiest way to fill it with minimal help. Most of what I saw on the internet for earthbag building was a large group of hippies with coffee cans filling earthbags (in my opinion) very slowly or people using various stands to hold open and fill individual bags and place them one at a time. Neither one of these options would work for me as I have only a few people helping me and the idea of lifting and placing individual bags for a wall that will be 130' long x 2' wide x 10' tall seemed impossible. I decided to go with woven polypropylene rolls which I got in four 1000' rolls. I had to make my own invention for loading up to 70' of tubing on, holding it up for filling and releasing the filled bag into a form. I will be a bit vague as to the exact specs for building the thing as I may offer a set of plans for sale if there is any interest.
In my travels on the internet, I tried to find an industry standard working model for installing a ground coupled heat exchanger that I could copy and found that it doesn't exist. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on how this system should operate which led me to the conclusion that the design is very site specific.
In my situation, I have a hot, humid climate that I most need to mitigate, a limited budget, a bulldozer, fairly easy to dig clay subsoil, much slope in all directions (both away from the house and towards), all connected to a home which will be off grid and will not have the power required to run a dehumidifier at night.
I went with 6" non perforated corrugated flexible pipe and chose to bury them 170' from the house. From various studies, you get diminishing returns after 130' so this should be adequate. There is 20' of drop from the house so I am not concerned with the pipes not draining properly. I used corrugated because in the flat walled pipe, the air separates into layers and a slow moving layer forms on the inner surface of the pipe and the hot, humid air flows through that layer of slower moving air directly into the home. The goal of this system is to have as much of the air as possible come into contact with the inner surface of the pipe which is directly in contact with the ground to create the greatest amount of heat and humidity transfer so a bumpy inner wall over distance helps this process .
Integrating swales into an area which will be fenced for rotational grazing changes the requirements for fencing in several ways. First let me define some terms. A Swale is a ditch on contour which is used to stop and soak water, stop erosion, and provide a uncompacted mound which is good for growing trees. Rotational grazing is an animal and land management strategy which attempts to maximize the productivity of a grazing scheme while regenerating and improving landscape, improve animal health by grazing an area once in a minimum of 21 days to break pest cycles and allow regenerative growth of forages, reducing or eliminating feed and fuel and labor inputs and the making of hay, and distributing urine and manure evenly throughout the system in a way that is beneficial to the land and animals.
In the picture below, I show the system I installed on the farm and have been moving pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and rabbits through it. I wrote the word for each item in the color it is drawn in. As you can see, the swales have fencing on both sides to keep large animals from degrading the earthwork while allowing the smaller animals access to them. The birds are beneficial to the swales, they are too light to degrade them and they forage on and fertilize them. Fencing on both sides adds initial cost, labor, materials, length and complexity. It results in a system that day to day, is very user friendly and lays nice on the landscape because it follows the natural contours of the land. When the trees I planted on the swales are more mature, it will result in shade being distributed throughout my pastures, changing the species of grasses which can survive and providing shade to my animals and habitat for wild animals and insects.
In my setup, the animals have access at all times to a 110 gallon spring fed water tank, a simple rain shelter, a wooded loafing area near the water for shade, a 2 acre forest paddock rotated weekly, and the laneway which connects all the paddocks with one of the gates open and a new section of pasture daily. To clarify, I have one of the red gates open to one of the paddocks and after that I have a temporary fence with polyrope and step in posts run perpendicular to the paddock that I move 30-50' back daily. When I reach the end of a paddock (the side furthest from the red gate), I open the next paddock in the rotation and close off last one. I feed a small amount of grain, eggs, and molasses in the central area to keep them occupied while I move the fencing. I can get this "chore" done in 15 minutes and is all the pigs need in a day. I don't need to clean up poop, carry water, change bedding, and my animals are staying very healthy with no worming or vaccinations.
In late summer, I intend to leave some of the paddocks to grow to their full height and let them stand into the dormant season. I will then creep graze through this standing forage in the winter. I may not be able to have as many animals this way, but I won't need to buy or store hay, nor buy the expensive equipment and buildings and fuel and time and labor to make it and put it up. Not making or buying hay and holding to your winter carrying capacity increases the profitability of a farm according to modern grazers such as Jim Gerrish author of "Kick the Hay Habit" and "Management Intensive Grazing".
See the posted video for a better visual explanation. Enjoy!
The wall is up to the second course of bags and the first course of foam insulation with vapor barrier is up. In the video, I discuss the geotextile and where I plan to run the cooltubes.