Rebuilding the Dam

A couple years ago, we tried to build a small earthen dam to stop debris from the woods from being washed out into the pastures during spring rains / snow melt. That attempt didn’t hold.

Here is the completed earthen dam a couple of years ago before it was tested.

Instead of rebuilding the earthen dam to completely block the water by holding it back, I decided to fortify the remaining piece of earthen dam with a water-permeable dam instead. By creating a water-permeable dam, the water would still flow through the dam out into the pastures, but the leaves, rocks and tree limbs would remain in the woods leaving the fences and pastures undamaged after the water subsides and avoiding the need for any time spent on clean up. The dam should slow the flowing water, causing the debris to stop while the water would continue seeping slowly through the dam out into the fields.

The same view of the dam today (including the water-permeable portion where it was previously washed out). It has been so successful that plants have been able to establish themselves over the dam as they are not washed away during heavy rains.

But what could we use to make the water-permeable dam? It would need to allow water through yet be sturdy enough to generally hold its shape under pressure from the flowing water without itself washing away.

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A New Kid on the Farm

Last spring, we added 2 new goat kids to the farm.

This year, we added another new kid, this time a *human* kid.

Sticking with the same naming convention as last year (T for the first names for goat twins Tori and Tessi), say hello to Teddy! Teddy was born in mid-February during a snowstorm.

Teddy supporting the local team by wearing his Syracuse University hat.
Teddy getting ready to leave the hospital and head home to the farm.

Teddy is growing quickly and doing very well. I’m sure he will be out in the fields helping take care of the animals very soon.

Teddy takes a quick nap with his first Teddy Bear after a long day of eating, crying and sleeping.
Teddy “celebrates” Tax Day 2019.
Teddy in his sun hat meeting the goats (in this case, Butterbean).

Heat from the Earth (Part 2)

As we are well into wintry weather for the year, here are some more details about our geothermal heating system.

See the earlier explanatory post about the installation process outside the house here.

Heat from the Earth

In addition to the bore holes and “moat” outside the house, there was also a bit of work inside the house for the changeover to a geothermal heating system. Following the lines from outside, the first step was creating a path for the heating loops into the house.

Here is a picture of the manifold where the lines enter and exit the house.

There are 5 entry lines and 5 exit lines. This covers 5 different heating loops. Each of the 5 heating loops has the cold water leave the house, travel to the bore holes and go down and back up two 75-foot bore holes per loop to absorb heat from the ground and then travel back into the house.

This is the pump unit that circulates the water from inside the house, through the heating loops outside and back into the house to the heat pump.

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Yaks!

Last month, a local county agricultural council sponsored their annual farm fest, where a number of local farms are open on a weekend day for free tours / open house. It just so happens that one of the farms open for tours was only ~3 miles away so we decided to stop by.

Although only a few miles away, the farm isn’t directly visible from the road, so we had no idea that they raise…  yaks!

Here is a picture of one of their yaks:

An adult female yak.

We learned that yaks are a triple threat – they are raised for milk, meat and fiber. The farm was selling yak sliders and yak yarn and fiber products during the open house.

According to the farmer, yaks are smaller than typical beef and dairy cows – the adult females are typically only 500 to 600 pounds. Adult male yaks (domesticated) can weigh in at 900 – 1,200 pounds. For reference, typical beef cattle bulls can reach closer to 2,000-3,000 pounds (but are often slaughtered younger so are usually seen at lower than full weight).

Here is a close-up shot so you can see their shaggy fur coat. Their fiber is used to make yarn and then into whatever product from there. The farm was selling knit yak products such as winter hats.

An imperial yak (I think).


Yaks come in a variety of color patterns. A black yak is called an imperial yak. A yak that is white and black is called a royal yak.  There are also somewhat rare golden yaks that are all light brownish in color.

A royal yak.

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Random Photos from Spring / Summer 2018

Earlier this year in the spring I took a hike up our mountain to clean up any trash or debris that had blown onto our property over the winter.

I collected a handful of empty soda bottles (probably originally left by hunters on neighboring properties), some plastic bags, and 2 deflated balloons.

I also found a few other things in the woods:

There was a deer skeleton just onto our property. It may have died naturally over the cold winter, or it may have been shot and injured by a hunter and the hunter couldn’t track it. It appears to be the skeleton of a young buck – the antlers only have a few points.

A deer skeleton in the woods.

Deer skull with antlers still attached.

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Heat from the Earth

Long time readers will recall that we installed a geothermal heating system to replace our old heating oil furnace.

Here are a few more details about the geothermal thermal system and the installation process.

A geothermal heating and cooling system is essentially a heat pump system that uses the relatively constant temperature underground to move heat from one place to another. The systems are also sometimes called ground source heat pumps.  In the winter, the system pulls heat from the ground and moves it into the house. In the summer, such a system can move heat from the house to the ground. Because our house does not have air ducts and instead relies on baseboard hot water radiators, our system is currently set up only for heating, though the ground loops and the heat pump can be used for cooling in the future if we make a few changes inside the house.

Our system is a closed loop system – meaning water (plus a type of antifreeze) is circulated in a loop of piping from the house to wells underground and then back up to the house to start the loop over.

The loop piping in the backyard before installation.

Our installers used a specialized German drilling rig that can fit in tighter spaces compared to some truck based drilling rigs. It was able to move right into place in the backyard for drilling.

The specialized German drilling rig.

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Cookies!

Every year for the holidays, I make several varieties of cookies to share at my workplace. The most common are chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The “secret” recipe I use is actually basically on the back of the bag of chocolate chips with a couple of small modifications.

  1. Beat 1 cup (2 standard sticks) of butter, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated white sugar until creamy.  I prefer to use unsalted, uncultured pasture butter, but other butter works well.
  2. Beat in 2 large eggs, one at a time, until well blended. I prefer to use farm fresh eggs from free range hens for the extra bright orange egg yolks.
  3. Add in 2 Tablespoons water and 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract and then blend well. This is a difference from the “traditional” recipe – the traditional only uses 1 teaspoon of vanilla.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. For the flour, I sometimes use 1 cup of whole wheat white flour and 1 1/2 cups of normal flour to add a little more chewiness to the structure of the cookies.
  5. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the butter/sugar mixture.
  6. Stir in one normal bag (12 oz) of chocolate chips. For a little more sugary taste, use milk chocolate chips. For a more traditional, use semi-sweet chips. For other options, try mint chocolate chips or other flavors.
  7. Once the dough is prepared, try to not to eat all of it raw! If you succeed in not eating all of the dough raw, roll the dough into teaspoon size balls and place on a baking sheet about 2 to 3 inches apart. The greater amount of whole wheat flour that you use allows you to space the cookies closer together as the whole wheat flour helps the cookies stay more compact while baking while cookies made with white flour tend to expand a bit more while baking.
  8. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 8 or 9 minutes. Note that the traditional recipe calls for 12 to 15 minutes but that makes the cookies too crisp for my liking. Also, at around minute 6 and again when removing them from the oven, I smash down the cookies with a spatula to keep them thin and prevent the middle from fully cooking.
  9. After a few more minutes on the baking sheet, remove the cookies to cool on wire racks. Usually the cookies are still droopy and some may fall between the wire racks – this is as intended. Once fully cooled (or even before), the cookies will be deliciously soft and ready to eat.

Continue reading for the peppermint candy cane cookie recipe.

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How to Build a Tack Box in 3 Easy Steps

Horses have a lot of paraphernalia. To store it all, a horse owner usually has at least 1 tack box. As we have a horse, we were in need of a tack box to store at least some of our horse’s tack at the stable.

I decided to try and see if I could make a tack box instead of buying it. It turned out to be very easy with 3 easy steps (and a 4th optional step if desired).

Step 1: Search all of your property (especially outbuildings and old barns) for an old tack box or trunk and select the one you want to use.

I started by checking the piles of items in hayloft to see if there were any old trunks or crates that could serve as the starting point for a tack box. It turned out that there was a dusty, old, broken trunk in the hayloft. The base was mostly intact but the hinges were broken and had ripped off the box. I found the missing lid nearby.

Here is the old, broken box from the hayloft.

I brought it down from the hayloft and dusted it off. There were some faded and stained portions on the exterior, but other than the broken hinges, it was overall in pretty good shape.

Now that you have your basic tack box located, it’s time to move to Step 2.

Click through for the rest of the steps.

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Photos from the Farm – Summer 2017

Here are some nice photos from the farm and nearby areas from late spring and summer 2017. Hope you enjoy!

The barn and pasture on a foggy day.

Here is a picture from a boat ride on Cayuga Lake – which is the second largest finger lake in Central New York. The rest of the pictures all come from our farm from various angles.

Sunset over the lake.

Sunlight breaking through the fog in the morning.

Sunset at the farm.

The cows grazing on a summer day.