Friday, July 25, 2008

I went over to MOFGA's fairgrounds today to check on our sheep again. We've had no end of trouble with our fence in this rotational grazing experiment, but we seem to have it sorted now. The ground there before the recent storms was bone dry, so no ground connection would work, and we were trying to use two panels of a short kind of fence with a positive-only system. We cut out that stuff out after the 3rd or 4th escape and are just using the Premier 48-inch built-in ground fence. Sheep are generally happier if they are securely fenced, and so are we.

This tarp-covered chicken tractor was modified as a shelter but the frame proved rotten and it as you can see the structure was troubled a good deal by the storm winds, so we will replace it soon with a purpose built movable sheep shelter and provide MOFGA with a new chicken tractor to replace the bad one, most likely a super-sized version of Sara's field-proven design here.

Tuesday is build-day for these two projects. The lumber is coming from Peter Baldwin's famous apple-ladder mill and experimental sustainability site, where from time to time Unity students go to seek either employment or ideas. Peter thriftily makes his apple-ladders out of big-toothed aspen, Populus grandidentata, which many loggers cannot tell apart from quaking aspen. Big-tooth aspen has relatively high quality lumber for making apple ladders. Quaking aspen, Populus tremuloides, known as "popple"or "poplar" in Maine, does not. So once Peter has taught his suppliers to tell the difference, they get to sell a log they thought came from a "weed tree" and he gets very inexpensive raw material for apple ladders. I use his reject lumber all the time for projects because it's a) cheap b) strong. c) withstands rot surprisingly well, and d) supremely local. All of which surprises guests to the farm who don't know these are two different trees.

There's also a photo of the kind of graze thats available there, a nice mix of grasses with red and white clover. Quite a bit of bluegrass which is stemmy, but otherwise not bad stuff. A lot of the graze there is dry, though, or was until the storms, and sparse or stemmy.

The last photo is an experimental solar thermal system being built at MOFGA by Jay, a local solar designer and contractor. He plans to make a home-built trickle collector of massive but cost-efficient size on these racks, and connect it to the interior heating for the MOFGA barn. A very interesting experiment, and one you can be sure I'll watch, since it could be cookie cuttered by any decent carpenter, and won't cost a lot. I like that kind of approach.

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