23 September 2008

Solar Startup Issues

The solar system got finished but on one of the first days something went wrong and in spite of the various sensors and pumps the circulator pump stopped working. Temperatures at the top of the collector reached nearly 350 degrees. So Ken put tarps up to shade it until the plumber could come and fix it. It's mostly working now, we still have some sort of air bubble or other problem if it gets too hot too fast and we are not using the heat because the storage tanks are full. Seems to go right through the emergency shutoff settings before the pumps have a chance to turn on and circulate it to the heat dump outside so we're still working on it.

20 September 2008

Cool Tool!

Every year we tear down the welded wire pens so the manure can be scraped out. Then we have to rebuild them. This usually means several days or weeks of pounding in t-posts by hand. Blisters and sore muscles are only some of the hazards of this task. This is getting very old so we went looking for some alternatives. Big hydraulic post pounders that mount on the tractor are one option but then you have to maneuver a tractor to each post location and with our rocks that could become as difficult as putting them in by hand. Then we found this tool. It's an air powered post pounder. We bought one and it appears to be working fairly well. It's still hard work to put up the fencing but we got the entire pen for the adult rams built in one morning and the ram lambs pen built in another morning.

19 September 2008

Solar Controls

With the panels up work moves back inside. Sensors, controller, expansion tanks, pumps and valves all had to be hooked up.

16 September 2008

Solar Panels On Roof

On 16 September the big day. Time to get the solar panels on the roof. Our system is designed toa have 5 panels initially but it is set up to take an extra panel if we need it later. First is getting the ropes and ladders set and the safety lines tied onto the truck on the other side of the garage.

First panel going up!

Four panels up and installed. Unfortunately one of the panels was defective and so will have to be replaced. So that ended work on the system for a while.

13 September 2008

Fall Farm Work

While the solar system was being installed we continued fall work. One task was to clean out one of the ditches. Ken used the backhoe to clean it out on 11 September. This area is where we will rebuild the pens for the rams for winter.

We have an apple crop this year and we want to try to make some cider. Our apple press is in need of work and here Ken is sandblasting the crusher parts to clean them. Some of the blades are broken so we have new ones on order. It's pretty close to done now on 13 September.

It's also time to bring the sheep in from pasture. We coated as many adult ewes as I had coats for and sent the rest and all the ewe lambs back out on pasture for a few more days. I need to get busy sewing more sheep coats before we can finish getting the girls in the barn for winter.

The two fields we planted this year had grown up in major weeds. The front one especially had hundreds of cockleburrs. In an attempt to keep them from setting seeds Ken decided to mow the entire field and hope he could kill the cockleburrs. It looked so good that he did the other field too. We've got the sheep off the field and hope that it will grow some more before winter and get fully established by next summer.

12 September 2008

Wales Trip

I was fortunate to be able to attend the Black Welsh Mountain Sheep Annual Show and Sale in Abergavenny Wales 4 September 2008. Then I got to judge and view a number of flocks culminated by my attendance at the Cadet Judges training held at Ted Williams Garth Uchaf farm in Pentyrch Wales. In between I did some touristy stuff. As I sort pictures and notes I will be posting the trip highlights here.

I will be inserting them in the blog in date order of when I did them so look at older posts for details.

More Solar Work

25 August and the heat dump loop is complete.

Next was to work on the actual panel mounting structure. First step was to get the blocks that will be used to provide the spacing for the braces installed. That got finished on 11 September. The next day the mounting structure was started.

With the blocks secured then the actual mounting frames were installed. We have very high winds at times so these mounting frames have to be especially sturdy. They are bolted through the entire roof to the main structure of the garage. By the end of the week 12 September the structure was secure.

06 September 2008

Somerset 6 September 2008

Another day with Melinda Baker. We sorted and looked at her entire flock and then got to visit two other flocks as well.

Here are Melinda's show sheep, ewe lambs and wethers.

After getting the catch pens set up we got the sheep into the pen. It was refreshing to see someone else set up pens and fences to guide the sheep rather than use a herding dog.

Here's everyone caught. We sorted sheep and discussed the good and bad points of all of them. Some were marked for butcher soon and others will be kept for a while. I really enjoyed talking to another person about their flock and had a great time.

Our next stop was to evaluate the ram lambs that belong to Dr. Peter Holden. I didn't get any pictures there but Melinda and I ended up with the same sheep as the number 1 and 2 ram lambs and also agreed on the poorest ones. We had a few differences in the middle ranks but I felt good about my explanations and also could see what she was looking for in her sheep as well.

Melinda had arranged for us to visit Lyn Cockerill and see her flock of Black Welsh.

05 September 2008

Somerset 5 September 2008

My next stop was at Melinda Baker's farm in Shepton Mallet, Somerset. She had to work part of the day on Friday so her husband kindly took the day and took me around to play tourist.

This is the chapel of the Marston house that belonged to the Earls of Cork and Orrey. The Manor is now a corporate headquarters.

This is Longleat house, an Edwardian Manor that belongs to the Marquis of Bath. Much of the land is now a safari park but we didn't go in because of the rain.

This is another lovely manor house.

We then headed to the small village of Frome. Here is one of the roads.

In Frome we stopped at the museum and they had a book with weaving drafts. Frome was a center for tweeds and fine worsteds and I would have really loved to see the weaving book and go through it. There were samples of the cloth and the full weaving draft and sett listed. I hope they will consider documenting and publishing this valuable book.

We didn't go in but I liked the looks of this traditional pub.

My second castle was Nunney Castle, a French style 14th century moated castle

This was probably part of the original stables and castle outbuildings but is now owned separately.

Our tourist stuff done we went back to the farm. There I met Mrs. McGregor and her daughter. They had come to pick up a ram lamb they were buying from Melinda. We first adjourned to the house for tea and to fill out all the required movement paperwork. The UK is much more restrictive about documenting animal movement than the US. Every sheep is double tagged and all movements on or off the farm are documented.

The ram on the right is the one that was sold.

Here is another picture of him.

Melinda's ram lambs, and her yearling ram and a wether buddy in the back.

I particularly liked this ram lamb. Unfortunately he is of the lowest scrapie resistance and was under a mandatory slaughter order. The UK requires that all group 4 and 5 rams are slaughtered. In the US nearly all of our sheep would be slaughtered because we have so few of the resistant genotypes here. Of my own 27 adult rams only 4 would be acceptable to keep in the UK.

This is Lovel Jumping Jack her yearling ram. He has the preferred style of UK horns, much thinner and longer than ours and more closely set to the head.

They loaded the ram into the back of their SUV and tied his head to the headrest. It was a most unusual way to haul a a sheep.

We had planned to look at Melinda's ewes in the yard individually but it was raining hard and we decided not to move them in. We did go see them in the pasture and we talked about their good and bad points and what the senior judges will be looking for.

Thus ended my first day of flock visits.

04 September 2008

Black Welsh Show and Sale 4 September 2008

In the pens ready to be judged.

Ted Williams with his ewe entry.

Julia Patterson with her ram.

Judge Matthew Evans checking the turn of a ram's horns.

Adult Ram class

E.O Williams with his ram
Another nice older ram.
And another.
And a very nice boy with wide spread horns.

Checking the shoulders.

Checking the back and loin area. This is the shearling ram class.

Ram lamb class.

Judging Will Workman's ram lamb.

More ram lambs.

And still more ram lambs.
From right to left Chris Garn, Patricia Laws, Will Workman, E.O Williams and then I am not sure who the next handlers are as I got pictures of the sheep not the people.

The top three, first place winners in each class. From front to back. Julia Patterson with her winner adult ram. Patricia Laws with her shearling ram winner and E.O. Williams with his winning ram lamb.

The breed Champion Patricia Laws and her ram Hounsley Joker sired by Abbotstone Colin. Sold for 440 guineas.

Reserve is E.O Williams with his ram lamb Wenallt Kenchester sired by Wenallt Endevour. Sold for 390 guineas.

Pen of ewes before the auction.

Rams before the auction.

Pen of ewes being sold in the auction.

The auction ring.

Will Workman's ewes he bought at the auction. I had to find the best head out of this batch as part of my judges training.

Driving with Melinda Baker and her husband to Somerset where I was staying for the next few dys.

White horse on chalk hills.

View into Melinda's ram pasture out the window of my room.