Our Summer in Pictures

The kittens are at a very cute stage. Here is Fluffy posing in the flowers on the front porch. Fluffy’s mom is Midnight, the grandma and head matriarch of the other cats. She is a peacemaker. Whenever the male cats get into a fight, Midnight streaks across the yard and breaks up the fight. It is always interesting to watch.

Farm boys don’t need to work out at the gym. They do their weightlifting with slightly larger weights! What you don’t see is that the tractor is hooked up to a trailer with several ton of gravel on it which made the front of the tractor lighter.

We made hay stacks again this summer. In spite of modern technology, hay stacks are one of the best ways of preserving hay and makes a fun family project. Most hay today is crushed when it is cut to speed the drying process. Unfortunately, the crushing process also releases the vitamins in the grass, similar to what happens when grain is cracked or ground into flour or feed. If built properly around a pole, the hay stack sheds rain with only the outer 4 inches or so being affected by the weather. This year we used the conveyor to make the hay stacks which made the work much easier. We were also encouraged with the significant improvement in the soil and the amount of hay. Two years ago, this same pasture made only half as much hay.

Last week our sons Nathan, Daniel, and Joel purchased some more Texel sheep from a farm in Michigan for breeding stock. We left Thursday evening about 7:00 pm, drove through the night and arrived at the farm in Michigan at 8:00 am. With three drivers and beds in our conversion van, we were able to take turns sleeping. We returned home again Friday night about 11:00 pm.

Nathan purchased this Texel ram in Michigan to improve the genetics of his flock of sheep. Note how exceptionally wide the ram’s chest and front legs are. He is wide the whole way back. From the rear he resembles a pig with wool. The Texel breed is a heavily muscled breed that does very well on grass alone. They are also known for their superior meat quality and naturally lean meat. Two years ago in England, a Texel ram lamb set the world record for the highest priced sheep at £231,000 ($324,647). Nathan, 18, owns most of the sheep on our farm. You know a guy likes sheep when he puts all his money into buying sheep rather than buying a car!

Flowers of summer – a Stargazer Lily

Preparing for Winter – Local Energy

For the last 17 years our family has used wood as our primary heating source. Not only is firewood a local, renewable energy source, it is also a relatively clean fuel. That seems surprising when you see the smoke going out of the chimney. However, there is something that has to be taken into consideration. If wood is left to rot or is ground up into mulch and left to decompose, gases are released into the atmosphere. If the amount of greenhouse gases that are released from decomposing is subtracted from the emissions from burning the wood, wood turns out to be a relatively clean fuel as compared to fuel oil. Unlike wood, oil that is left in the ground does not pollute the environment. It is when oil is burned that it creates pollution.

I found a good resource on the internet on how to make improvements to a wood burning stove to make it more efficient and produce less smoke. It is http://www.aprovecho.org/  On the right side of their website are the links to several free publications that they have. Using the principles in those publications, I designed a heat exchanger that replaced our existing stove pipe. The heat exchanger is about four feet high and 11 inches in diameter. The lower 15 inches is an insulated section where escaping unburned gases are ignited and burned. Just above that section, an 8 inch pipe draws in room air from the back. The 8 inch pipe goes up the center of the heat exchanger and is open at the top into the room, allowing heated air to flow into the room. The smoke from the wood stove travels in the space between the 8 inch pipe and the 11 inch pipe. The smoke exits out the back of the heat exchanger into the chimney.

The heat exchanger works better than what I had hoped. It has reduced the amount of smoke produced, but even better, it has almost doubled the heat output of the wood stove. It is free heat that we have been losing up the chimney! What is important to me too is that Cathy likes the design which is not as overbearing as the ones on the Aprovecho.org website which use big 55 gallon drums for the heat exchanger. Attached is a picture of the heat exchanger.

One of the things that is important in heating with wood is to make handling the firewood as easy as possible. In the picture you will see the wood box that we built last year and is working well for us. It is essentially a hand truck style wood box that has large casters on the front which allow the wood box to be rolled back against the wall with the opening to the front. The wood box can be tipped back like a hand truck to make it easy to take out to the wood pile, load it up, and bring back to the house. We have two wood boxes so that we can have plenty of wood and don’t have to go out in the rain or snow and get wood.

Woodstove Heat Exchanger

A Cheap "Air Conditioner" When Working Outside

A simple way to stay cool this summer when you have to work outside in the heat is to first wet your shirt under the faucet, wring it out, and then put it on. The evaporation of the water will keep you cool. If you start working with a dry shirt and then get hot enough to sweat your shirt wet you never really feel cool. A shirt wet with water feels much cooler and more comfortable than a sweaty, sticky, smelly shirt.